Tag: alana barba

2021 VFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Revamped state league returns after lost season

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition returns this weekend, with a revamped structure seeing the season run concurrently with that of the AFL Women’s (AFLW). As somewhat of a reserves league to aligned sides in the top flight, the VFLW features 12 teams in 2021, including Port Melbourne after the Borough took on Richmond’s license. Round 1 sees fixtures spread evenly over Saturday and Sunday, starting at Arden Street as North Melbourne hosts Port Melbourne.

North Melbourne vs. Port Melbourne
Saturday February 27, 10:00am
Arden Street Oval

North Melbourne welcomes competition newcomer, Port Melbourne to the VFL Women’s on Saturday morning as the two sides open season 2021 at Arden Street Oval. While still a proud standalone club, the Borough has taken on Richmond’s VFLW license and will thus have access to Tigers players who miss out on AFLW selection. Likewise, North Melbourne’s top flight alignment will see some senior listed Kangaroos line up in the blue and white each week.

The likes of Richmond forward Christina Bernardi and Melissa Kuys will be among the experienced names set to lead the Borough’s efforts, while an all-Richmond half-back line of Hannah McLaren, Sarah Sansonetti, and Laura McClelland should prove difficult to budge. Murray Bushrangers graduate Sophie Locke is another exciting young talent in Port’s side, named in the back pocket.

New Roo Katelyn Cox is set for a reserves outing in North’s midfield, lining up next to Meagan Kiely and Bethany Lynch with Lexi Hamilton a handy ruck to be roving under. Nikki Wallace, another with AFLW experience lines up in defence and Brooke Brown gets a gig at the other end of the ground. Brown was taken by North Melbourne as a surprise father-daughter selection in 2020.

Expect North Melbourne’s hardness and pressure around the ball to be a real feature, as Port looks to bring an exciting transition style to the fore in what should be a competitive start to the 2021 season.

Geelong vs. Collingwood
Saturday February 27, 12:00pm
Deakin University, Geelong (Waurn Ponds)

AFLW-aligned sides Geelong and Collingwood go head-to-head at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds on Saturday afternoon, looking to start their campaigns on the right foot. Both sides boast a strong mix of youth and experience in their Round 1 lineups, with the Cats benefitting significantly from their alignment to the top flight when it comes to the young talent at their disposal. Collingwood, of course, remains the reigning premier after the 2020 season was scrapped.

Among the exciting brigade of up-and-comers, Olivia Barber has been named at full forward and will spearhead the attack alongside skipper, Michelle Fedele. Paige Sheppard is poised to make her return to football in the hoops, named among an exciting midfield with Cats AFLW youngsters Laura Gardiner, Darcy Moloney, and ruck Rene Caris having all gained experience at senior level.

Collingwood’s tall stocks should trouble the Cats, particularly up forward. Senior ruck Bella Smith takes up the full forward spot with Sarah King set to take the first bounce, while Imogen Barnett is another to watch in Collingwood’s front half. Smith’s former Norwood teammate Matilda Zander looms as an exciting addition from the SANFL, with the Magpies’ forward depth pushing Amelia Velardo to half-back.

The Magpies will look to adopt a similar gameplan to their AFLW side, looking to take the game on in transition with an exciting handball style while also taking hold of the game when required. Geelong will also play an attacking brand, with youthful exuberance and instinct also poised to come into the Cats’ thinking.

Carlton vs. Casey Demons
Saturday February 27, 2:00pm
Princes Park

Another all-aligned clash takes place at Princes Park as Carlton and Casey Demons lock horns, rounding out Saturday’s fixtures. The Blues have hit the reset button on their VFLW program and will look a very fresh side this year, adopting a strong youth focus to help feed their AFLW squad. Casey also has strong ties to its AFLW-aligned team in Melbourne, with a fit and strong Demons unit out to prove just how fruitful their preseason has been.

The Blues will be led from the back with skipper Ally Bild lining up next to vice-captain Jen Lew across half-back, while Carlton-listed speedster Charlotte Hammans completes the line. Coming down from Cairns, Jasmine Ware is another to watch in Carlton’s defence, while Akayla Peterson looms as a high-upside type at the other end. Carlton draftees Winnie Laing and Paige Trudgeon will also get some run into their legs in the front half.

Casey captain Samantha Johnson is her side’s major off-season coup and will anchor the midfield alongside first year Melbourne midfielder, Megan Fitzsimon. Both will benefit from the ruckwork of Maggie Caris, while an all-Melbourne half-back line of Mietta Kendall, Isabella Simmons, and Irishwoman Lauren Magee should prove exciting to watch. Brenna Tarrant also features at full back, with three senior games under her belt this year.

With new coach Peter Mercoulia also embedded in Melbourne’s coaching staff, Casey will look to play fast and put heavy scoreboard pressure on. Carlton is led by a new coach of its own in Luke O’Shannessy, who should be able to extract great things from the Blues’ young talent with his vast pathways experience.

Western Bulldogs vs. Hawthorn
Sunday February 28, 10:00am
Whitten Oval

The Western Bulldogs kick off their 2021 campaign at home as Hawthorn rolls into town on Sunday morning, looking to take a big scalp early. The Bulldogs have built one of the best young AFLW lists, with the vast array of talent spilling into its reserves side and making for an exciting squad on paper. The standalone Hawks are also strong on youth, but have attracted some big-name experience with Bec Goddard set to take the reins as head coach for the first time since 2018.

An embarrassment of riches sees the Bulldogs’ forwardline stacked with five AFLW-listed talents, including Isabella Grant, Gemma Lagioia, and the experienced Lauren Spark. Mary Sandral is the lone VFLW-listed player to start in attack, though the likes of Nicole McMahon (ruck), skipper Riley Christgoergl (half-back), and vice-captain Katelyn Betts (centre) will be consistent VFLW figures this year. Under McMahon, the likes of Isabelle Pritchard, Brooke Hards, and Britney Gutknecht should be served well in midfield.

Some well-renowned names in female footballing circles will provide invaluable experience to Hawthorn’s fledgling side, with stalwart Meg Hutchins poised to take on a number of roles aside from her forwardline listing, while Abbey Holmes is a tough body at the contest who will rotate forward through midfield. Skipper Jess Trend is another with AFLW experience who should impact greatly, while Northern Territory recruit Dominique Carbone has serious potential. She is set for her VFLW debut on the same weekend the Darwin Buffettes play finals back home.

The Hawks should prove a well structured side under Goddard and will be sure to crack in hard, though the abundance of promising young options for the Bulldogs will be incredibly tough to overcome. Should they not rely on too few, the Hawks will be ultra competitive in the face of the Dogs’ rawness and fierce style.

Essendon vs. Southern Saints
Sunday February 28, 10:30am
The Hangar

Essendon is set to unveil its shiny new facilities at The Hangar on Sunday morning, hosting the Southern Saints in what should be a competitive clash. Gunning for an AFLW license, the Bombers remain standalone but have built a strong list with more continuity than other sides heading into 2021. The Saints have their St Kilda alignment to lean on, but are looking strong in their own right after a solid preseason.

Anchoring Essendon’s side will be skipper Georgia Nanscawen, who is part of a terrific spine in the red and black. Cecilia McIntosh lines up down back, while Courtney Ugle provides some grunt, and Mia-Rae Clifford gets a fresh start up forward. Of the up-and-comers, Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba have already performed well in the sash, with a host of young prospects set to filter through Essendon’s lineup as the season progresses.

Tara Bohanna (full back) and Deanna Jolliffe (rover) will lead the Saints out as co-captain Frankie Hocking has not been named. Georgia McLean is one to watch off half-back having crossed from Casey, while Poppy Kelly and Alice Burke are the only St Kilda AFLW players to feature in the lineup – both named on the interchange bench ahead of three emergencies from the senior squad.

The Saints have not put a ceiling on their potential and promise to open the game up with unpredictable ball movement. The Bombers’ continuity as a group and greater poise with such experience could well play a factor in this clash, with both sides backing their cohesion after so long away from competitive action.

Darebin vs. Williamstown
Sunday February 28, 11:30am
La Trobe University, Bundoora

Pioneer club, the Darebin Falcons take on Williamstown in Round 1’s closing fixture on Sunday, set to play out at La Trobe University in Bundoora. Both proud standalone clubs, these two sides will be made up purely of VFLW-listed talent early on before gaining access to NAB League and potentially even AFLW talent as those seasons are run and done. The two sides already faced off during preseason, with Williamstown winning by 11 points at the same venue.

Led by the returning Stephanie Simpson, Darebin has a bunch of leaders set to build the standards under coach Mitch Skelly. In defence, Gena Lawson-Tavan is one who promises to do exactly that as vice-captain, while fellow leaders Cherelle Byrne (centre) and Alyssa Mifsud (full forward) are other leaders littered up and down the spine. One Falcon to watch is Stephanie Elarmaly, a youngster who has come through Darebin’s youth system.

2019 premiership coach Penny Cula-Reid crossed from Collingwood after her flag triumph, and takes over an exciting standalone squad. Skipper Erin Meade has locked in a spot at half-back, with reigning best and fairest winner Megan Williamson set to resume her midfield duties. Asha Price and Eliza Straford should be good value up forward, while Scarlett Dunell, the sister of former Seagull Sam lines up in defence.

There is often a great unknown around the standalone sides, especially after so long away from competitive action, but the two sides will know each other well after their preseason meeting and will get a good assessment of their 2021 chances in this bout.

Image Credit: Kelly Defina/AFL Photos

Youth set to take next step in VFL Women’s competition

TWELVE players who received AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but missed out on being picked up by clubs will test themselves in the new-look Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition starting this weekend. Of the 12 players, five of them remain on NAB League lists as top-agers, whilst the others are purely focused on their VFL Women’s commitments in 2021.

Carlton have a trio of players who received Draft Combine invites last year, in Gippsland Power duo Nikia Webber and Shanara Notman, and Oakleigh Chargers defender Amber Micallef. Webber and Notman have received a couple of Combine invites in the past, with the key position talents strong overhead and both having represented Vic Country in the past. Notman played Round 1 with the Power, but is also a skilled basketballer. Micallef stepped up in 2020 to provide great outside run albeit in only the two games she was able to play, becoming a crucial cog in the Chargers’ rebound.

The other team with multiple 2020 AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites is Southern Saints, with Dandenong Stingrays teammates Zoe Hill and Abbey Jordan both in the red, white and black for season 2021. The duo are still on the Stingrays’ NAB League Girls lists and made a strong start to the season last round, with Hill a Vic Country Under 18s key position defender at bottom-age level, and Jordan a speedy winger who has been moved inside to increase her versatility this year.

Another player still on a NAB League list but is testing herself at state league level is Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae who will suit up for Hawthorn in 2021. The hardnut inside midfielder had a massive Round 1 game for the Power, but has moved closer to the city for work this year and will look to join the likes of form Power player, Maddi Shaw at the brown and gold.

Meanwhile Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher will head to Collingwood, with the 2020 Eastern Ranges captain already having an impact in her two games at NAB League level this season. A fierce onballer, Meagher will have no troubles stepping up to the level and will be one to watch through the onball brigade at the Pies.

Another inside midfielder and former NAB League captain stepping up to the VFL Women’s in 2021 is Brooke Hards who will play with the Western Bulldogs this season. The Bendigo Pioneers co-captain last year and Vic Country Under 18s representative as a bottom-ager two seasons ago will look to bring a similar fierce attack to the Bulldogs midfield as another country player who has moved closer to the city for studies.

Calder Cannons’ Alana Barba will once again head to Essendon after not being able to get out on the park last season, but still earning a Draft Combine invitation as a 19-year-old. A tackling machine like Hards, Barba has grown through the Vic Metro program and will team up alongside a heap of current Calder Cannons players who will don the red and black this year. She is joined at the Bombers by Bendigo Pioneers’ Jemma Finning who was impressive in a new role at half-back last season, and has been back at the Pios thus far in 2021.

Having quite the pathway, Courteney Bromage has returned to Victoria after a stint in Queensland last year, with the ex-Carlton talent trying out at Port Melbourne. She will provide plenty of experience for the league’s newest side as they look to have an impact from the get-go.

Speaking of travelling, there will be a sister act at North Melbourne, with Jayde Hamilton the other Draft Combine invite from last year. Representing Eastern Allies as a bottom-ager in 2019, the inside midfielder will join sister and ex-Gold Coast Suns tall Alexia Hamilton at the Roos in 2021.

There are also plenty of current NAB League Girls who have been named on various VFL Women’s lists for the upcoming season. Essendon VFL Women’s have been flushed with an array of Calder talents, including AFL Women’s Academy members Georgie Prespakis and Tahlia Gillard, as well as the likes of Kasey Lennox, Neve Crowley, Grace Dicker, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell. The Bombers also have recruited Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell. Another Calder talent in Peppa Poultney has opted to stick with her junior club and follow into Darebin Falcons’ VFL Women’s program.

Geelong has unsurprisingly recruited a number of Falcons to its list, with Renee Tierney already lightning up the NAB League Girls with a couple of big outings in the opening two matches. Defender Annie Lee and midfielder Tess Craven are also among the Falcons best performed in the opening couple of games and could easily have an impact at state league level. They are joined by Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ Chloe Leonard who has also been in great form.

Eastern Ranges Isabelle Khoury, Matilda Hardy and Jess Grace have all signed on to Hawthorn’s VFL Women’s list, whilst Darwin Buffettes talent and former Central Allies representative Dominique Carbone has also decided to head to the Hawks this season. A former and current Murray Bushrangers duo of Kate Adams and Sophie Locke will run out for Port Melbourne, while Geelong Falcons’ Zoe Garth will test herself at Williamstown.

Other current NAB League Girls players on lists include Oakleigh Chargers’ Kalarni Kearns who will head to Collingwood, and Western Jets’ Nikita Wright will suit up for the Western Bulldogs. One name who might fly under the radar but has switched states is Collingwood’s Matilda Zander who has finally made her way to the Pies from Norwood after attempting to do so last year before the full state lockdown went into place.

With plenty of young talent on show in the VFL Women’s competition, there is plenty to get excited about across the league, and it all kicks off on Saturday.

2020 AFL Women’s Draft preview: The next crop of young stars to find homes tonight

TONIGHT up to 61 players will live out their AFL Women’s dreams when the 14 clubs select the players to fill out the 2021 lists at the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Like most years, the AFL Women’s Draft still has state-based selections with Adelaide (South Australia) and GWS GIANTS (New South Wales) having sole priority to players that nominate that state. In Queensland (Brisbane and Gold Coast) and Western Australia (Fremantle and West Coast) the teams will split the players, whilst the remaining 10 teams will fight over the Victorian pool. The one major change is that there is only a Victorian pool, not split into Metropolitan and Geelong, so the Cats do not have priority on those from the region.

Richmond holds the all-important first pick in the draft which is expected to kick off from 7pm. There are a number of players the Tigers could select, but the frontrunner is Northern Knights’ star Ellie McKenzie, an inside midfielder who can play just about anywhere on the field and has been a proven talent for a number of years now.

[ … Ellie McKenzie feature … ]

Western Bulldogs traded up from Pick 3 to Pick 2 to ensure they could nab the second best player in the draft, with Tyanna Smith high up there in contention. The Dandenong Stingrays’ star has very few flaws in her game and has elite acceleration and a match-winning ability. The other one in contention if the Dogs opt to go tall could be another Northern Knights’ star in Alyssa Bannan as another forward option, as she can play tall or small and even push up into the midfield.

[ … Tyanna Smith feature … ] | [ … Alyssa Bannan feature … ]

Also in the mix for the top Victorian picks are Sandringham Dragons’ Sarah Hartwig, a rebounding defender who could fill the need at Melbourne with Pick 5. Whichever player is left of the trio, expect the Saints to pounce on with Pick 6 in what showcases the elite top-end talent of this year’s group. Another possibility for the pick could be Northern Knights’ Jess Fitzgerald if the Saints choose to add extra midfield class to their side.

[ … Sarah Hartwig feature … ] | [ … Jess Fitzgerald One to Watch  … ]

West Coast and Adelaide also have top five picks coming in at picks three and four, with the Eagles having a decision to make whether they go high-flying Shanae Davison from their own aligned-Academy or if they look at someone like Sarah Verrier, a Peel Thunder talent with a great blend of inside-outside traits or Bella Lewis a hardened midfielder who has been sensational this year. The Crows are expected to be a little more predictable, with Teah Charlton the standout prospect, though given they have a monopoly on the South Australian nominees, they can select anyone in any order.

[ … Shanae Davison feature … ] | [ … Sarah Verrier feature … ] | [… Bella Lewis … ] | [ … Teah Charlton feature … ]

Gold Coast becomes the first Queensland team into the draft at Pick 7, and with players still able to nominate the Gold Coast and Brisbane zones, a Suns Academy member such as Annise Bradfield, Daisy D’Arcy, Maddison Levi or Beth Pinchin could be among those in consideration. For the Lions a pick later, Zimmorlei Farquharson looms as the standout youngster in the group.

[ … Annise Bradfield … ] | [ … Daisy D’Arcy feature … ] | [ … Maddison Levi feature … ] | [ … Zimmorlei Farquharson feature … ]

The final pick inside the top 10 is Geelong and they have the most interesting selection with the top group likely off the board, it is an even balance of players they could choose from. If they opt to go local – knowing they do not have priority – then perhaps the skill and class of Falcons’ Darcy Moloney could be an option. If they want to go a little taller, then Isabelle Pritchard could head down the highway from the Western Jets and provide a strong inside presence, or they could look to a proven big-game performer in Northern Knights’ Fitzgerald.

[ … Darcy Moloney feature … ] | [ … Isabelle Pritchard feature … ]

Western Bulldogs become the first team to make their second selection at Pick 11, which is effectively Pick 6 from the Victorian draft. If they went Smith in the first selection, they could look to go taller here and look to someone like Bulldogs’ supporter Pritchard or perhaps consider Murray Bushrangers’ key forward Olivia Barber. If they went for Bannan with their second selection, perhaps Fitzgerald is one to join the ranks as yet another Knight, whilst the likes of classy forward Bella Eddey or outside mover Mimi Hill could come into consideration through the first round.

[ … Olivia Barber feature … ] | [ … Bella Eddey feature … ] | [ … Mimi Hill feature … ]

Carlton enter the draft at Pick 12, and the names already raised in Fitzgerald, Hill and Eddey could be around the mark, though if they want to add an inside midfielder, then perhaps Falcons’ Laura Gardiner could be a suggestion. North Melbourne are next up and will also be keen to add another midfielder to the ranks, and try and predict what Melbourne (Picks 15 and 17) and Western Bulldogs (Pick 16) are going to do. If the Dees did not end up with Hartwig, then they could look at Dandenong Stingrays’ Zoe Hill with a selection, or if Pritchard has somehow slid, she is another defensive option.

[ … Laura Gardiner feature … ] | [ … Zoe Hill feature … ]

The West Australian teams squeeze in between the Victorian ones, with Fremantle likely to grab one of Verrier or Bella Lewis at the pick. Both are Fremantle-aligned and the Dockers know they can have an immediate impact in last year’s unbeaten side. The Eagles could look to Davison – if not already taken – or the classy Mikayla Morrison with this selection, or go for the ready-made Nyra Anderson at Pick 18.

[ … Bella Lewis feature … ] | [ … Mikayla Morrison feature … ] | [ … Nyra Anderson feature … ]

The last team to enter the draft is Collingwood with Pick 19 the Magpies’ first selection. Expect that to be Tarni Brown because on talent alone she is a top 10 pick, so the black and white army will gladly use their first pick on the Eastern Ranges’ jet. They will look to add some more midfield options, and she adds some extra speed and class to the team. Expect Alice Burke to be read out at the Saints’ Pick 24 – again great value – otherwise anything else is a bargain.

[ … Tarni Brown feature … ] | [ … Alice Burke feature … ]

The draft crop becomes so even outside of that top 20, with so many talented players fighting for spots on AFL Women’s lists. Ash Woodland and Georgia Nanscawen are readymade prospects who can impact immediately at AFL Women’s level, whilst Alana Barba, Shanara Notman, Nikia Webber, Amber Ward and Mattea Breed are all talls who have an extra year of experience as over-agers. Not holding a Draft Combine invite per say, South Australian duo Rachelle Martin and Matilda Zander would be a couple of others on clubs radars as ones who can make an immediate impact.

Some former basketballers who have crossed to football in the last 12-18 months are Amelia Velardo, Annabel Strahan and Carly Remmos, whilst Jess Matin (cricket) and Charlie Vandenberg (hockey) are among others who have forced high-level careers in other sports. Queenslanders, Christine Okesene, Brooke Spence, Laura Blue and Lucy Single are others who have transferred from various codes over the years.

From a Victorian perspective, among other names in various midfield positions are outside midfielder, Abbey Jordan and Joanna Lin, inside midfielders, Brooke Hards, Olivia Meagher and Winnie Laing, balanced midfielders Eliza McNamara, Megan Fitzsimon and Maeve Chaplin. Meanwhile the standout ruck is Maggie Caris.

Up forward, Renee Saulitis is the most dangerous small forward, whilst Isabella Simmons is a taller option, and Abbi Moloney a rapidly improving player. In defence, Ash Snow has great speed, while the likes of Jemma Finning, Mietta Kendall and Amber Micallef have all produced great seasons. As some raw talents, Alice O’Loughlin and Alice Astbury have had glimpses in the few games they have played, whilst Grace McRae and Daisy Walker have been valuable across multiple positions though predominantly in the middle.

From South Australia, Indy Tahau is the other star top-ager who is likely to join her South Adelaide teammate Charlton at the Crows, whilst for NSW/ACT,  Murray Bushrangers’ Abby Favell, midfielder-defender Emily Pease and surprise packet Kiara Beesley were among the Draft Combine invites. From the Northern Territory, top-ager Stephanie Williams leads the charge and has nominated Victoria, while Freda Puruntatameri – who played some games for Calder Cannons – and mature-ager Janet Baird have all caught the eye.

Out west, mature-agers Sarah Wielstra (25 years-old) and 20-year-olds, Ella Smith, Rosie Walsh and Jess Low all earned combine invites. Meanwhile from the top-age group, twins Brianna and Mikayla Hyde have impressed moving into the midfield this season, while leading forward Maggie MacLachlan is another player in contention to be drafted.

[ … FOR FULL FEATURES ON MORE THAN 80 PLAYERS HEAD TO OUR AFLW FEATURES PAGE … ]

TEAM-BY-TEAM PICKS:

Adelaide: 4, 45, 47
Brisbane: 8, 37, 38
Carlton: 12, 28, 36
Collingwood: 19, 25, 26, 31, 33
Fremantle: 14, 30, 46
Geelong: 10, 20, 21, 27, 39
Gold Coast: 7, 23, 50, 54, 57, 58, 60, 61
GWS: 9, 29, 42
Melbourne: 5, 15, 17, 35, 41, 48
North Melbourne: 13, 22, 44, 49, 55
Richmond: 1, 43, 52
St Kilda: 6, 24, 34, 40, 51
West Coast: 3, 18, 32, 53, 56, 59
Western Bulldogs: 2, 11, 16

Even spread of talent to lead Cannons in 2020

CALDER Cannons’ NAB League Girls list was finalised last last week as the Craigieburn-based side prepares to head into the 2020 season. Reaching the 2019 Grand Final before ultimately falling a win short at the hands of the Northern Knights, Female Talent Coordinator Russell Humphrey said there was roughly around a 10-player split across top, middle and bottom-age players. With a different coaching group coming on board, Humphrey said he is feeling more comfortable ahead of his second season in the role.

“It helps going around again,” Humphrey said. “I had a little bit of a handle on it beforehand but being in the coordinator’s chair you’ve got to have a bigger handle on it and I’ve gone out last year and watched a fair amount of local footy which I’ll do again this year just to see what’s out there. “With our list (compared to the boys) it’s a little bit harder because our season starts before the local season starts so it only gives them three or four weeks before our season finishes so it’s a little bit difficult that way. “We rely a little bit on going out and watching them during the year and things like that.”

Last year the Cannons had two players drafted, with captain Georgia Patrikios going in the top five to St Kilda – and already earning a Rising Star nomination – and Krstel Petrevski picked up by Melbourne later in the draft. Humphrey said Patrikios’ influence on the club as captain had been profound.

“It was interesting for Georgia, at the start of the year she hurt her ankle so it made her work a little bit harder to go through the injury issue, getting right and then to start playing,” he said. “I think that because of that, it gives her a good understanding of what’s required going into AFLW. I know that when she played state footy she played very well for Vic Metro and then when she played for Essendon VFLW she played well there as well so she gave the girls an understanding of what’s required and I think a lot of the top-agers followed that. “Krystal got drafted, Alana Barba, Felicity Theodore and Terira Fry and Zoe Hardiman all ended up playing VFLW footy, and Makeisha Muller as well. “At Williamstown, North (Melbourne), and Essendon. So I think that group was dragged along by themselves and the results showed with them all playing VFL footy. “Getting two drafted was fantastic, if we got three it would’ve topped it off.”

While Patrikios has already made an impact in her first game, Humphrey said Melbourne fans had plenty to look forward to with Petrevski when she gets her chance to don the red and blue.

Competitive, competitive, very competitive young lady,” he said. “Does the right things, everyone knows the story about her moving from Halls Creek, down to Sydney and then across here to Melbourne, that in itself shows resilience. “And I think that’s what they’ll get, they’ll get a hard-working person that understands what’s required.”

The future looks bright for the Cannons, who regularly have past players – such as Patrikios and Petrevski – dropping in at training to keep them informed of what’s happening in the world of AFL Women’s. Former Cannon, Sarah Dargan is an assistant coach at the club, which has plenty of future talent on the list at Under-17 and Under-16 level coming through.

We were lucky last year, we got an exceptional group of Under-16 players who are now Under 17s,” Humphrey said. “And like it does in the boys, it goes in circles like that and we were just lucky to get that group of probably 10 quality Under-16 players. “We’re hoping that the development of our top-age players this year sort of drags them along as well, the 17s came back in better shape than maybe previous years and I think that’s experience for them, learning what’s going on a bit more. “Around the whole competition the 16s and the 17s are now getting a better idea of what’s required when they come back from their 16th year to their 17th, and 17th again to 18th.” We don’t want to rely on our 17s but they will be part of the going forward.”

For such a young group to make the grand final was huge, but Humphrey said the Knights were too good on the day, and did not enable the Cannons to play with the same freedom they had against an equally strong Falcons side.

It was for our playing group, reward,” Humphrey said. “For the coaching group it was reward. “I know the work that they had put in to get to the final, to beat Geelong who are a quality side and had quality people around them, to be able to get past them was probably more important for the girls than the grand final. “That’s no disrespect to Northern because they played great footy on that day but that high of beating Geelong, it was hard for our girls to get back up and play Northern, and Northern didn’t allow us to play the footy that obviously we played the week before. “It was an exciting time for (the players), making the finals and then winning the game against Geelong and leading into grand final week we were positive but unfortunately we just couldn’t get the chocolates at the end of the day, but Northern were a quality side and so were Geelong. I think the competition’s getting closer and closer every year which is fantastic.”

The name that has been and will regularly be touted is Georgie Prespakis, the younger sister of Carlton’s Rising Star Madison, who is still a year away from being draft eligible. In one game against the Rebels last year, the Under-16 talent booted seven goals after moving to full-forward in the second quarter. Humphrey said while the hype was genuine, the Cannons had plenty of players to watch from that age group that were worthy of the same praise.

“I think we all get excited with Georgie and I understand that,” Humphrey said. “We don’t have any expectations on her, we just expect them to play.” The hardest part for Georgie is being a bottom-ager and how well Maddy (Prespakis) is going, the scrutiny on her is a fair bit from this sort of forum (media). “I think we’re missing out on Tahlia Gillard who’s in the Academy, Neve Crowley, (Emilia) Yassir, Kasey Lennox, Peppa Poultney that played in the Vic Metro 16s – we’ve got a group of six to eight players in that group who are possibly draftable, again they have to do the work and we have to do our end. But everyone’s all about talking about Georgie a lot and I understand that but I think they’re missing some quality players there. “Tahlia Gillard is 186cm tall and her birthday’s at the end of the year so she doesn’t turn 17 until December.”

Those names are still a year away from being draft-eligible, and to focus on this year’s crop, Humphrey said there were certainly some to keep an eye on.

“I think you’ll find that Laura (Cocomello) will play in the midfield, probably mid-forward. “Kiara (Delia) will probably play down back and through the middle as well. “Tamsyn Crook we’re going to probably start her off down back and let her play one position instead of throwing her around – similar to what the boys will do with Cody (Brand) – and just let her give her a spot down back and let her hold down centre half-back for a while. That’s not to say she won’t go forward or won’t go in the middle but we’ll probably look at her beginning down back.”

The Cannons have managed to have a top five pick in the first three years of the system, with Chloe Molloy, Monique Conti, Prespakis and Patrikios all going early in the AFL Women’s drafts. In 2020, the Cannons have a more even top-age spread without a clear standout.

“I think that’s a great call, (in) our top-agers we don’t have the standout,” Humphrey said. “We have a top-age group that’ve worked pretty hard and there’s no outstanding sort of touted draft prospect. “But I think again if we do the job properly with the coaching and everything else, we’re hoping again to get one or two (drafted). “Our aim is obviously to get minimum one a year so if we can do that, that’ll be great. It’s an even group, most definitely. “And we’ve brought a couple of girls in who’ve never played NAB League footy or TAC Cup footy before, top-agers so that’ll be interesting to see how that goes. “But again if they’ve got the talent, you need to have a look at them and give them the opportunity so that’s what we’ll do.”

The Cannons will bring in a couple of 19-year-old’s with Grace Dicker coming back after a year off to recover from a shoulder injury sustained in 2018, as well as Freda Puruntatameri who spent some time at Essendon VFL last season having travelled down from the Tiwi Islands. With Matthew O’Connor now taking the reins of the girls’ side, the team has a different leader, but a similar game style to the previous year. In preparation for the year ahead, the Cannons will head up to Yarrawonga to face Murray Bushrangers, before another match against Western Jets the following Friday in a lead-up to their Round 1 clash.

Calder takes on Northern in a grand final rematch, played on Saturday, February 29 at RMIT Bundoora.

Barba tackles any challenge thrown her way

DEFENSIVE pressure has been the barometer that Calder Cannons’ Alana Barba sets every week, with the ferocious midfielder striking fear into the hearts of opposition players when they have the ball in her area. The tenacious talent from Roxburgh Park averaged 7.1 tackles per game for the Cannons in the NAB League Girls competition, and considering what her improvement was at the start of the season, it is a remarkable feat.

“Just getting to every single contest (is an improvement I want to make),” Barba said at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day in the pre-season. “I’ve had a hard time doing that so I just want to improve on that, that’s my main focus.”

For Barba, she has always been involved in and around the code, having risen through the pathways to land at the Cannons, and admitted it was quite an eye-opener compared to local football with the elite pathway getting the recognition it deserved.

“I’ve been playing since I was little, but only came to Calder Cannons three years ago and from there, it’s just built up,” Barba said. “It’s (playing with Calder) a great experience. “It’s a new experience, it’s at a higher standard so you really have to push yourself to get in line with all the girls as well.”

Like many AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls, Barba said it was the social element that kept her in the sport, while she was always determined for her and which club she played for, to continue to improve throughout the season.

“I think just the connection we have with all the girls is just, our friendship is something out of this world, that’s the best part about it,” Barba said. “I think just to be successful and to develop as a whole.”

Along with her tackling feast in the NAB League Girls, Barba earned a place in Vic Metro’s squad for the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, where she averaged 3.3 tackles from 6.7 disposals. Then, if anyone questioned whether she could apply the same defensive pressure against senior bodies for Essendon’s Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) side, then she answered that emphatically. In three games for the club, Barba laid 4.3 tackles per game from 6.8 disposals, making her total across all three competitions and impressive 5.8 tackles from 10.1 disposals.

Now Barba is ready for the next step-up with her focus set on the AFL Women’s, which could become a reality at next week’s AFL Women’s Draft.

AFL Women’s Draft Combine: Player Summaries

AFTER the 2019 AFL Women’s Draft Combine list of names were announced earlier in the week, we take a look at each player who was nominated, with a quick summary and link to their profile. Check them out below:

2019 AFLW NAB Draft Combine Nominees

NSW/ACT: [3]

Georgia Garnett (East Coast Eagles)
* Eastern Allies captain, member of the GWS GIANTS Academy and a player from the GIANTS heartland of western Sydney

Eloise Hiller-Stanbrook (Dubbo)
* Tireless ruck who averaged 14 hitouts per game at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships

Brenna Tarrant (East Coast Eagles)
* All-Australian in 2019 and a crucial key defender who can move up the ground, also from western Sydney heartland

QUEENSLAND: [8]

Georgia Breward (Coolangatta)+
* Suffered a season-ending injury last year but showed plenty of talent and determination

Isabel Dawes (Maroochydore)
* Classy, smart forward who made All-Australian last year in her middle-age year

Dee Heslop (Yeronga South Brisbane)
* Consistent player who has been reliable in the defensive half and uses the ball well

Tahlia Hickie (Coorparoo)+
* Ruck prospect who played as an over-ager at the championships and performed strongly

Lily Postlethwaite (Maroochydore)
* Dual All-Australian and state captain, super talented midfielder

Taylor Smith (Bond University)+
* Tall target who presented well during the championships up forward, another overage player on the list

Serene Watson (Bond University)
* Another dual All-Australian from Queensland who provided a reliable marking target in the defensive half, repelling opposition attacks time and time again

Tarni White (Coorparoo)
* Returned from an ACL injury to show some promising signs at the championships and has plenty of upside

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: [4]

Montana McKinnon (South Adelaide)
* Dual All-Australian ruck and dual Most Valuable Player (MVP), South Australian and Central Allies captain, South Adelaide premiership player… the list of accolades is unbelievable. Top ruck in the draft crop

Hannah Munyard (South Adelaide)
* Smart user of the footy with elite athletic traits, premiership player at South Adelaide predominantly through the midfield

Madison Newman (West Adelaide)
* One of the top rebounders in the draft crop, an All-Australian in 2019 and consistent as they come

Jaimi Tabb (Woodville-West Torrens)
* Tackling machine who thrives on the contest and has shown a capability to also win the ball on the outside as well

TASMANIA: [1]

Mia King (Launceston)
* Super talented mover through the midfield with burst speed, King won the Eastern Allies’ MVP for the carnival to go with her All-Australian selection. North Melbourne have first priority being Tasmanian

VIC COUNTRY: [10]

Teagan Brett (Murray Bushrangers)
* Small midfielder who came of age in the championships, playing well on the outside and getting the ball from midfield into attack

Millie Brown (Murray Bushrangers)
* Potential Geelong father-daughter selection, Brown was superb across the championships in defence until injury ruled her out of the final game. 2019 All-Australian

Luka Lesosky-Hay (Geelong Falcons)
* Accumulator who just finds the football and works hard into space, a key cog in Geelong Falcons’ midfield with Lucy McEvoy

Lucy McEvoy (Geelong Falcons)
* Hard to even begin with the accolades, but a three-time All-Australian, dual Best and Fairest, premiership captain, Vic Country MVP… just a star and unbelievable leader who has captained for three years at the Falcons

Sophie Molan (GWV Rebels)
* Natural born leader who captained the Rebels this year and is as versatile as they come, can play anywhere and was a 2019 All-Australian

Shanara Notman (Gippsland Power)
* A late bloomer after having last year off, she can play up either end and is strong in the air and very good athletically

Paige Sheppard (Geelong Falcons)
* Raised her draft stocks at the championships with a terrific carnival following on from a consistent year in the NAB League Girls

Brooke Vernon (Dandenong Stingrays)
* One of Dandenong’s best in the NAB League Girls this year, playing as a rebounding defender who is as good in the air as she is at ground level

Nikia Webber (Gippsland Power)
* Tall forward who can also play through the midfield, Webber is an elite kick of the footy, arguably the best in the draft crop with accuracy and penetration

Ella Wood (GWV Rebels)
* Uncompromising midfielder who loves the contested side of footy and relishes winning the hard ball with great courage

VIC METRO: [15]

Alana Barba (Calder Cannons)
* A tackling machine who stood up particularly later in the year, emerging as a genuine draft chance with great defensive pressure

Molly Denahy-Maloney (Sandringham Dragons)
* Athletic ruck who captained Sandringham Dragons this year and held up Vic Metro’s ruck division in 2019

Elisabeth Georgostathis (Western Jets)
* Captain of Western Jets and one who always puts her body on the line, Georgostathis was another who raised her draft stocks at the championships with important moments in big games. Can play anywhere on the field too

Isabella Grant (Western Jets)
* Potential Western Bulldogs father-daughter, she is able to play midfield or forward and can take a grab and hit the scoreboard

Britney Gutknecht (Northern Knights)
* Known for her goalkicking last year, Gutknecht became an inside midfielder this year and was a key player in the Knights’ premiership side

Gemma Lagioia (Oakleigh Chargers)
* Classy user of the football who can play anywhere on the ground, she was able to develop her inside game at the championships to add another string to her bow

Laura McClelland (Eastern Ranges)
* One of only three Vic Metro All-Australians, McClelland can play anywhere on the ground and is strong in the air and capable of kicking terrific goals

Nell Morris-Dalton (Northern Knights)
* One of the most consistent players this season, Morris-Dalton had a massive end to the NAB League Girls season and is so strong one-on-one, particularly in the air

Gabrielle Newton (Northern Knights)
* Dual All-Australian, Northern Knights premiership captain and one who is almost copied and pasted into the best every week, Newton hardly puts a foot wrong and has played literally everywhere on the field from the ruck to all thirds of the ground given her athletic talents

Georgia Patrikios (Calder Cannons)
* Overall MVP of the championships, Patrikios led her Calder side to a grand final and has the best agility of any player in the draft crop. Uses the ball well and is a dual All-Australian too

Marguerite Purcell (Sandringham Dragons)
* Speedy winger who has developed rapidly this year playing for the Dragons and earned a spot on Vic Metro’s list for the championships, holding her own there

Sarah Sansonetti (Northern Knights)
* Reliable defender who stood up in the NAB League Girls Grand Final for Northern and just does the job week-in, week-out

Cleo Saxon-Jones (Western Jets)
* Key forward who is a strong contested mark and powerful set shot at goal, she thrived on one-on-one situations at the championships

Felicity Theodore (Calder Cannons)
* Fierce tackling runner who just works hard all day and attacks the footy and ball carrier with vigour, able to play up either end and provide great defensive pressure

Nicola Xenos (Oakleigh Chargers)
* Talented running defender who uses the ball well off half-back and makes good decisions with ball-in-hand

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: [4]

Sophie McDonald (Claremont)+
* Key defender who repelled opposition attacks and was able to set up attacking plays after some goal-saving moves deep in defence

Emma O’Driscoll (Swan Districts)*
* Did not play up on the Gold Coast, but O’Driscoll is a reliable defender who has good positioning and high level smarts

Roxanne Roux (East Fremantle)
* Exciting key forward who has a massive vertical leap and could become a human highlight reel with her long kicking, goal sense and work rate; another All-Australian

Mim Strom (South Fremantle)
* Really stood out in the ruck as a key player who not only worked well at stoppages, but at ground level and around the ground, providing an impact – 2019 All-Australian too

+Overage player (ie. born 2000)

2019 AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitations announced

FORTY-five players have been invited to the 2019 AFL Women’s NAB Draft Combine, with 25 from Victoria – where eight of the 10 AFL Women’s clubs are based, with Queensland (eight) the next highest. Four players from both South Australia and Western Australia have been invited, as have three from NSW/ACT and one from Tasmania. Among the invitees are five overagers (eligible last year), as well as two father-daughter potential selections in Isabella Grant (Western Bulldogs) and Millie Brown (Geelong). Players who are already pre-listed to clubs such as Gold Coast’s Ellie Hampson, West Coast’s Mikayla Bowen and St Kilda’s Molly McDonald and Isabella Shannon were not included in the invitations.

The combine will be held from October 1-3 to align with the AFL Under-18 National Combine. Western Bulldogs hold the first pick in this year’s AFL Women’s Draft.

Extended content on the invitees will come later in the week.

2019 AFLW NAB Draft Combine Nominees

NSW/ACT: [3]
Georgia Garnett (East Coast Eagles)
Eloise Hiller-Stanbrook (Dubbo)
Brenna Tarrant (East Coast Eagles)

QUEENSLAND: [8]
Georgia Breward (Coolangatta)*
Isabel Dawes (Maroochydore)
Dee Heslop (Yeronga South Brisbane)
Tahlia Hickie (Coorparoo)*
Lily Postlethwaite (Maroochydore)
Taylor Smith (Bond University)*
Serene Watson (Bond University)
Tarni White (Coorparoo)

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: [4]
Montana McKinnon (South Adelaide)
Hannah Munyard (South Adelaide)
Madison Newman (West Adelaide)
Jaimi Tabb (Woodville-West Torrens)

TASMANIA: [1]
Mia King (Launceston)

VIC COUNTRY: [10]
Teagan Brett (Murray Bushrangers)
Millie Brown (Murray Bushrangers)
Luka Lesosky-Hay (Geelong Falcons)
Lucy McEvoy (Geelong Falcons)
Sophie Molan (GWV Rebels)
Shanara Notman (Gippsland Power)
Paige Sheppard (Geelong Falcons)
Brooke Vernon (Dandenong Stingrays)
Nikia Webber (Gippsland Power)
Ella Wood (GWV Rebels)

VIC METRO: [15]
Alana Barba (Calder Cannons)
Molly Denahy-Maloney (Sandringham Dragons)
Elisabeth Georgostathis (Western Jets)
Isabella Grant (Western Jets)
Britney Gutknecht (Northern Knights)
Gemma Lagioia (Oakleigh Chargers)
Laura McClelland (Eastern Ranges)
Nell Morris-Dalton (Northern Knights)
Gabrielle Newton (Northern Knights)
Georgia Patrikios (Calder Cannons)
Marguerite Purcell (Sandringham Dragons)
Sarah Sansonetti (Northern Knights)
Cleo Saxon-Jones (Western Jets)
Felicity Theodore (Calder Cannons)
Nicola Xenos (Oakleigh Chargers)

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: [4]
Sophie McDonald (Claremont)*
Emma O’Driscoll (Swan Districts)*
Roxanne Roux (East Fremantle)
Mim Strom (South Fremantle)

*Overage player (ie. born 2000)

AFLW U18 National Championships wrap

VIC Metro had an undefeated run in the championships, dominating across the board after coming into the Queensland series with a win over Vic Country. Every other team fought hard at each contest in what was a mostly even carnival played in a variety of conditions. We recap how each side fared and shed light on some of the better performers throughout the competition.

Central Allies (2-1)

Results:
Eastern Allies 4.8 (32) def. by Central Allies 5.6 (36)
Western Australia 5.2 (32) def. Central Allies 1.4 (10)
Queensland 4.5 (29) def. by Central Allies 5.0 (30)

MVP: Montana McKinnon

The Central Allies put up a solid performance at the championships, coming away with close wins over Eastern Allies and Queensland. The only chink in the armour came from Western Australia on the Wednesday, where they struggled to find connections across the field to go down by 22 points. The players who stood up time and time again were the likes of Teah Charlton and Jaimi Tabb who both imposed themselves throughout the Championships with good marking and strong tackling. Montana McKinnon was awarded the MVP for her work across the field, defensive presence and clever use of the footy while Tayla Hart-Aluni provided plenty of excitement with her dash across the ground. Tegan Usher showcased their strength taking some strong grabs throughout the series while using the ball well by foot. There was plenty to like about the Allies who grew as the competition went on finding stronger connections and creating good space to hit each other on the lead.

Eastern Allies (0-3)

Results:
Eastern Allies 4.8 (32) def. by Central Allies 5.6 (36)
Vic Country 6.6 (42) def. Eastern Allies 2.0 (12)
Vic Metro 11.9 (75) def. Eastern Allies 0.3 (3)

MVP: Mia King

Eastern Allies lost each of their three games only kicked six goals, but were competitive in both of their first two matches. Their closest match was their opener against the Central Allies, going down by four points but putting on a solid performance in a game they could well have won given they dominated the last quarter for forward 50 entries, and clearances for the game. The likes of Abby Favell, Mia King and Georgia Garnett were exceptional for Eastern Allies across the week. Favell was solid throughout the Championships going in hard at each and every contest, laying strong tackles and winning her fair share of the ball. Meanwhile King was awarded MVP honours for her efforts across the competition credit to her get in and go mentality and clean hands around the stoppages. Jayde Hamilton worked tirelessly across the matches, while Jordyn Jolliffe also played an imposing role when on the field. Brenna Tarrant was another player who stood out across the tournament.

Queensland (0-3)

Results:
Vic Country 9.7 (61) def. Queensland 3.1 (19)
Queensland 1.5 (11) def. by Vic Metro 4.5 (29)
Queensland 4.5 (29) def. by Central Allies 5.0 (30)

MVP: Ellie Hampson

Similar to Eastern Allies, Queensland failed to put a win on the board from their three matches but were in each of their matches. An inaccurate one point loss to Central Allies was likely the most painful for the side, which had plenty of opportunities to get in front but could not capitalise, whilst they were in the game for three quarters against the undefeated Vic Metro. The Maroons had plenty of talent with the likes of Zimmorlei Farquharson providing an exciting prospect in the forward line with her athleticism, football nous and speed. Every time she went near the ball something electric happened sparking plenty of enthusiasm from the crowd. Meanwhile the likes of Lily Postlethwaite and Isabel Dawes were equally as impressive throughout the Championships. Their class and skill in and around the contest was second to none extracting the ball and using it effectively. Charlotte Hammans also displayed her ball winning abilities throughout the series to have an impact for her side along with Serene Watson who proved to be crucial for Queensland at times. Another key player for Queensland and the MVP was Ellie Hampson who imposed herself at each and every contest using her body well to win the ball and bomb it out of congestion but unfortunately it was not enough to register a win for Queensland.

Vic Country (3-0)

Results:
Vic Country 9.7 (61) def. Queensland 3.1 (19)
Vic Country 6.6 (42) def. Eastern Allies 2.0 (12)
Western Australia 3.5 (23) def. By Vic Country 3.7 (25)

MVP: Lucy McEvoy

Vic Country came away a solid contender in the Championships, notching up three wins with their best, a come-from-behind win on Friday against Western Australia while they racked up a 42-point win against Queensland earlier in the week. Country stood up when challenged backing themselves in the contest and fighting their way out of trouble thanks to the likes of MVP winner Lucy McEvoy who took the game on at every opportunity. The highly skilled player showed her versatility playing in each area of the ground and having a profound impact while the likes of Tyanna Smith and Sophie Molan also worked hard to win the ball. Middle-ager Olivia Barber was exciting for Country who valued her height and versatility throughout the Championships hitting the scoreboard more than once and constantly providing an option inside 50 with her marking strength. Renee Saulitis provided a spark up forward with her dynamic movement and goal sense while Millie Brown was also impressive across the series providing good run and carry off the back half. Shanara Notman had a number of highlights, hitting the scoreboard while Darcy Moloney also worked tirelessly for Vic Country winning the ball and creating forward forays.

Vic Metro (3-0)

Results:
Vic Metro 8.3 (51) def. Western Australia 5.4 (34)
Queensland 1.5 (11) def. by Vic Metro 4.5 (29)
Vic Metro 11.9 (75) def. Eastern Allies 0.3 (3)

MVP: Georgia Patrikios

Vic Metro were by large the most dominant of all the teams in the series, winning their first two matches by solid three-goal margins before posting a dominant 72-point victory over the Eastern Allies on Friday to close out their tournament. They oozed strength and skill across the field making them tough opponents throughout the Championship. Metro have no shortage of ball winners with the likes of Gabby Newton and Georgia Patrikios both able to burrow down and extract the hard ball credit to their clean hands, slick movement and footy awareness. Ellie McKenzie offered plenty of spark with her brute strength and speed to evade would be tacklers and move the ball down the field with ease while the likes of Nell Morris-Dalton and Cleo Saxon-Jones relished the good ball movement from the strong midfield. Morris-Dalton and Saxon-Jones hit the scoreboard more then once throughout Championships thanks to their accuracy in front of goal while Emily Harley also made her presence felt in the forward half. Laura McClelland showed her versatility throughout the series while Felicity Theodore used her speed to create good space for Metro. Alana Barba played her role for Vic Metro while the likes of Gemma Lagioia and Elisabeth Georgostathis bobbed up for patches throughout the Championships to impact the play.

Western Australia (1-2)

Results:
Vic Metro 8.3 (51) def. Western Australia 5.4 (34)
Western Australia 5.2 (32) def. Central Allies 1.4 (10)
Western Australia 3.5 (23) def. By Vic Country 3.7 (25)

MVP: Mikayla Bowen

Western Australia were one of the most exciting sides all week, producing some impressive performances but unfortunately only getting the one win on the board against the Central Allies on Wednesday. Though they put both Vic Metro and Vic Country through their paces, they lacked consistency at times which was ultimately the catalyst for their defeat. WA showed glimpses of brilliance moving the ball with pace and precision down the field but lapses such as the start of their clash with Vic Metro, and the second half against Vic Country cost them from going undefeated this year. In saying that there were plenty of star players for the Black Ducks who proved that they have what it takes to match it with the best and cause headaches for opposition teams. Roxanne Roux left her mark on the Championships taking some huge grabs and putting her body on the line time and time again to win the hard ball. Roux showed great elevation throughout the Championships to contest the ball in the air but also following up her work at ground level. Mim Strom was crucial for WA with her impressive taps and strength in the ruck providing her side with first access to the ball with the likes of MVP winner Mikayla Bowen reaping the rewards of her work. Bowen had an impressive Championship showcasing her clean hands in close while Nyra Anderson dazzled with her pace and tackling intent. Taylor Pescud, Rebecca Viney and Mikayla Morrison all had their moments for Western Australia going in hard when necessary to extract the ball.

AFLW U18 Championships preview: Vic Country vs. Vic Metro

VICTORIA’S top under-age female footballers lock horns in the final game of the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships Series One. Vic Country takes on Vic Metro at Avalon Airport Oval tomorrow, with both sides packed to the brim with talent. After facing off in the NAB League Girls competition all year, the best of the best now team up for state pride as they prepare for Series Two of the competition up on the Gold Coast in a fortnight. We take a look at both sides and analyse the key strengths of the teams.

Note: The game will be live streamed via the NAB League website with commentary from Under-18 and VFLW commentator Matthew Cocks, and Draft Central Chief Editor Peter Williams.

VIC COUNTRY

B: 10. Sophie Locke – 22. Millie Brown – 30. Daisy Smith
HB: 19. Brooke Vernon – 14. Abbey Chapman – 15 Isabella Shannon
C: 12. Tyanna Smith – 23. Lucy McEvoy – 13. Molly McDonald
HF: 3. Paige Sheppard – 27. Shanara Notman – 24. Isabella Simmons
F: 4. Renee Saulitis – 25. Olivia Barber – 9. Darcy Moloney
R: 29. Maggie Caris – 11. Brooke Hards – 5. Luka Lesosky-Hay
INT: 21. Sophie Molan – 1. Elise Vella – 28. Georgia Howes – 18. Kate Douglass – 6. Laura Gardiner – 16. Renee Tierney

Vic Country is unsurprisingly packed with 2018 premiers and 2019 finalists, Geelong Falcons, with nine of the 24 players named in the Country squad from the Falcons team. Given exciting forward Mia Skinner is injured, their representation could well have reached double figures for the Aasta O’Connor-coached side. The aspects to like about Vic Country will be their defence, hardness at the ball and the X-factor up forward.

1. Defence

The Country side has two genuine lockdown talls who can also provide some rebound in Abbey Chapman and Kate Douglass, while Millie Brown – named at full-back is an offensive defender with a terrific set of hands and can push up into the midfield to provide support. Brooke Vernon was the best rebounding medium defender this year and having her at half-back will be an asset, while seeing Isabella Shannon named in the back half is a surprise, but just shows her versatility having played mostly through midfield and up forward. She does have the capacity to drop back into the hole in defence, and no doubt she will be required to do so with the tall Metro attack likely to stretch the defence. Sophie Locke will likely lock down on a smaller opponent – perhaps Nicola Xenos or Jess Fitzgerald when forward – while Daisy Smith can do the same, although she is more likely to play tall. Given the height and marking ability of the Metro side, they might need three talls in defence to counteract Metro’s strength in the air.

2. Hardness at the ball

If you look at the starting five midfield of Brooke Hards, Luka Lesosky-Hay, Tyanna Smith, Lucy McEvoy and Molly McDonald, the first thing that comes to mind is – you would not want to be an opposition midfielder. They attack the ball hard, and will rack up the contested ball and is an area they can exploit Metro. Smith has a point of difference with her pace, as does the outside run of Elise Vella coming off the bench, but the speed that Metro possesses will trouble the Country side. It is why winning it at the coalface is so important, and McEvoy, Hards and McDonald in particular will not take a backwards step, being captains and potential future captain of their respective NAB League girls clubs. With Maggie Caris in the ruck, the midfield will get first look at it more often than not, and that midfield also includes the likes of Sophie Molan and Laura Gardiner coming off the bench, as well as Paige Sheppard and Darcy Moloney who can rotate through there, as can Shannon and Brown.

3. X-factor up forward

The named Vic Country forward line is almost one to watch for 2020, with four of the six starting forwards not eligible to be drafted until next year. The two exceptions are Shanara Notman – an exciting key position player with a huge leap and terrific hands, who has spent time in defence this year for Gippsland Power after sitting out last year – and Paige Sheppard – who is one of the better kicks in the team, setting up forward plays with great precision kicking and vision. Otherwise, the remaining four still have plenty of time to develop, with Olivia Barber one of the most exciting key forwards coming through, able to make the right leads and clunk marks, just needing to iron out her set shots at times. Isabella Simmons is a tall prospect with good athleticism who roams up to the wing and can play tall or small at ground level, while Darcy Moloney and Renee Saulitis are clever forwards who if you give them an inch will take a mile. Moloney has spent time in the midfield for the Falcons this year, while Saulitis has also proven to be a more than capable defender, so versatility is something the Country side has in spades. The forward line has the nice balance of talls and smalls, and of course chuck in Renee Tierney and Georgia Howes off the bench – Howes will also share the ruck load with Caris – and there is plenty of scoring potential there.

VIC METRO

B: 2. Felicity Theodore – 28. Isabelle Pritchard – 14. Laura McClelland
HB: 22. Sarah Hartwig – 20. Sarah Sansonetti – 12. Alice Burke
C: 8. Mimi Hill – 13. Britney Gutknecht – 17. Georgia Patrikios
HF: 26. Gabrielle Newton – 29. Cleo Saxon-Jones – 24. Isabella Grant
F: 15. Alyssa Bannan – 23. Nell Morris-Dalton – 4. Nicola Xenos
R: 27. Molly Denahy Moloney – 3. Gemma Lagioia – 21. Ellie McKenzie
INT: 19. Marguerite Purcell – 5. Elisabeth Georgostathis – 34. Jessica Fitzgerald – 10. Alana Barba – 18. Emma Horne – 9. Bella Eddey

Vic Metro will head into this game pretty confident following their win over Vic Country last year as arguable underdogs. This year they will likely go in as favourites, but it is predicted to be a tight contest. There are quite a few reasons for their favouritism, but the forward line marking ability is the number one aspect, while others include their speed, and intercept marking.

1. Marks inside 50

The Metro side has a dynamic forward line, with many incredibly athletic at ground level and can impress in the air or at ground level. The two that are the genuine key position players – Cleo-Saxon Jones and Nell Morris-Dalton – are arguably the two best contested marks in the competition this year, and throwing them into attack with Gabby Newton, Isabella Grant and Alyssa Bannan means the attack has a massive advantage for high balls coming in. The Vic Country defence will need to be on their guard with the forward line also capable of pushing up the ground and rotating through the midfield with any one of those five capable of playing as a key position player, while all have the possibility of giving a chop out in the ruck. Nicola Xenos is the sixth forward, who adds more speed at ground level and can also play out of defence or along the wing. Emma Horne, Jess Fitzgerald or Bella Eddey are all named on the bench, and the trio can add that smaller element to the forward mix, particularly Eddey who can play tall or small with plenty of X-factor.

2. Speed

Having already spoke about Vic Country’s advantage on the inside, Vic Metro’s advantage is on the outside, and particularly with speed. Most of the starting midfield has serious wheels, with Gemma Lagioia, Ellie McKenzie and Mimi Hill all capable to taking off on runs. Georgia Patrikios is the most agile player in the competition, so expect her to use her trademark sidestep to get around opponents, while Britney Gutknecht can also get herself out of trouble. While Country does have more hardness on the inside, McKenzie and Gutknecht will form the same bond they did in the Knights’ premiership side, looking to extract the ball out to their runners, or take the game on themselves. Fitzgerald is another who adds to the speed and is one of the best kicks in the side, while Marguerite Purcell also adds some outside run. Alana Barba was one of the most prolific tacklers in the NAB League Girls competition, so she will assists Gutknecht and McKenzie rotating off the bench, while Elisabeth Georgostathis will likely spend time through the midfield and rotate with Alice Burke off half-back. If the Vic Country midfield gets on top on the inside, do not be surprised to see Georgostathis and Burke thrown into the middle with Gutknecht or McKenzie to add some extra grunt. Molly Denahy Moloney will hope to counteract the leap of Caris, but does have her when it comes to around the ground, with Denahy Moloney one of the better athletes among the talls.

3. Intercept marking

We talked about the strength in the air in attack, but the embarrassment of riches down back in terms of the three tall defenders is a luxury that Vic Metro has. Sarah Hartwig and Isabelle Pritchard are arguably the two best intercept markers – along with teammate Sarah Sansonetti and Country duo Brown and Chapman – and they will likely pick off anything that comes their way. They can all play as rebounding defenders or to shut down their opponent, with Sansonetti the top shutdown tall, while Hartwig is the top rebounding tall. The mix can be swapped around depending on how games play out at the championships, but to have the three – two of which are middle-age and will form the key defensive partnership next year – is something Metro coach Nathan Burke will love. With running machine Felicity Theodore and Alice Burke also back there, the Metro team have speed and defensive pressure that can run down forwards heading into goal. Laura McClelland is more often known for her ability in the forward half, but she can mark the ball and find space well, adding to the height in defence. As mentioned, Georgostathis is another player who might rotate through the defensive mix, while Barba is also known to drop back into defence at times, allowing for some versatility for the Metro coaching staff.

Scouting notes: NAB League Girls – Grand Final

IT was a massive NAB League Girls Grand Final with Northern Knights coming out on top as 30-point winners over Calder Cannons. In an exciting day of action, there were certainly plenty of standout performances on the big stage. Here are our opinion-based scouting notes on a mix of the most outstanding players on the day, and others selected in the Victorian sides for this year’s National Championships.

Northern
By: Sophie Taylor

#3 Nell Morris-Dalton

True to her number, Morris-Dalton kicked three goals to ultimately lead her side to victory, providing a great target inside 50 and showing off her clever movement into space to advantage of the ball. Her marking ability was solid inside 50, while a great passage of play saw her kick the only Knights goal for the second quarter from their first inside 50 of the term. Showcased her ability to free herself from opposition, getting off the body to take control of the space.

#6 Alyssa Bannan

Bannan was on fire early, kicking her first goal within minutes of the first bounce to open Northern’s account for the afternoon. Also all but cemented victory for Northern with a goal right in the goal square in the late stages of the match for the final score of the game. Other than her accuracy in front of goal, Bannan showcased her good run and carry and pressure on the ball carrier, causing messiness when Calder headed inside 50.

#14 Jess Fitzgerald

Player of the Match, Fitzgerald put on a solid performance well deserving of her title in what was a strong shared effort for the Knights. Her five tackles contributed to the great pressure her side put on the Cannons, while her clean marking ability allowed her a shot on goal – and though going through for a behind, put in the hard yards to gain back possession. Also showed some good game smarts to handball under pressure out of a pack to carry the ball forward.

#18 Sarah Sansonetti

Sansonetti was good one-on-one, putting constant pressure on her opposition as she forced intercepts and crowded the space. Had a solid kick but was intercepted on a few occasions, though was fortunate the rest of Northern’s defensive unit was also standing up. Also put her quick hands into practice on the wing, handballing to a passing player in better space, also marking well under the pump to clear the ball back out of defence.

#21 Ellie McKenzie

McKenzie was solid, taking a good contested mark early for a snap on goal, rewarded for her efforts with the ball going through the big sticks. Had a good eye to kick inside 50 to Morris-Dalton on her own in a similar position to McKenzie’s first goal, while her marking ability was exceptional with six to her name. Had a great run down the far wing late in the match, showcasing her speed and ability to free herself from opposition players and fitting in about seven bounces as she coasted from the defensive 50 into attack.

#22 Britney Gutknecht

Gutknecht had a solid match, picking up an equal-second 14 disposals for the Knights in a shared effort across the ground. Her five tackles and five handballs proved necessary through midfield, gaining ground as she found her way clear to get the ball out of congestion courtesy of her two-way running ability and skill scooping up the ground ball. Also had a chance on goal from 40m out but bounced through for a behind.

#23 Gabby Newton

Had some great passages of play, continually pressing the ball forward as she used the space to create options and opportunities down field. Her 15 touches were put to good use, using her body to get hands on the footy. Took some good contested marks as well as being a pivotal ball mover with two inside 50s and two rebounds as she appeared to be everywhere on the ground at once. Good awareness of not just the ball, but also of her opposition and teammates as she kicked cleanly to advantage and shared the load.

Calder
By: Taylah Melki

#2 Felicity Theodore 

Good intercept mark in the first term but was relatively quiet. Her move up forward was inspired able to showcase her strong hands to take important marks. She took two good grabs in the fourth quarter and presented well up at the footy. She showcased her quick hands under pressure and desire to win the ball throughout the game.

#11 Alana Barba

Barba was strong around the contest for the Cannons applying good tackling pressure and making her presence felt across the ground. She was involved involved early and used her clean hands to dish off handballs to passing teammates. Barba won her fair share of the footy and covered the ground well, she consistently went in hard at the ball and stood up in a strong tackle. She tracked the footy well at ground level and imposed herself on the contest when the ball came her way.

#21 Georgia Patrikios 

Patrikios worked tirelessly throughout the game leading her side with her clean hands, impeccable vision and never say die attitude. She used her quick hands and willingness to play on to spur the Cannons into attack. Patrikios showcased her ability to read the play well almost taking a good mark when the ball was coming out of their attacking 50. She used her impressive long booming kick into the forward 50 to create scoring chances for her side. She took a good intercept mark early in the third quarter and applied strong pressure laying solid tackles throughout the game. Clean pick up off the ground to keep the ball moving and had good body positioning to win the ball for the Cannons. Quick hands out of defence and good control of the ball. She showcased her speed going for a good dash through the middle of the ground to kick into the forward 50 and create a scoring opportunity.

#31 Krstel Petrevski

She had a relatively quiet game and was well kept by the Knights but she still had her moments of magic working hard to win the ball and using her body well to out position her opponent. She showcased her slick hands with a clever handball into space and worked her way into the game in the third term. She utilised her long kick to push the ball forward and create options for the Cannons.  

#41 Georgie Prespakis

Prespakis was a key player for the Cannons throughout the game with her desperation, strength and clever use of the ball an important feature of her game. She showcased her clean hands and impressive strength to shake off a tackler and dispose of the ball to Patrikios. She showcased her emotion midway through the second term getting into a scuffle with that only sparking her ferocity and intensity for the rest of the match. she really built herself into the game with her good forward pressure and ability to win the ball time and time again. She was clean off the deck and won her fair share of clearances around the ground. She patrolled the defensive end well sticking to her player and showcased her ability to read the play, wining the ball one on one credit to her footy smarts. Good vision to kick to space and use her impressive evasive skills to dodge opponents and then dish the ball off on the wing. Prespakis worked tirelessly all game and showed good elevation and control of the footy. Consistently used her body well and won plenty of the footy across the ground with clever linkup play with Patrikios throughout the game. A real standout for the Cannons in a difficult loss.