Tag: amber ward

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 4 – Saint Smith sustains shining performance

ROUND 4 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season reverted back into it’s three-day stretch over the weekend, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition and establish their roles in each team. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared across the latest set of fixtures, focusing on players in every match under 21 years of age and from the most recent draft crop.

St Kilda vs. Geelong

St Kilda shook off a youthful Geelong outfit on Friday night to kick off Round 4, with a star Saints draftee continuing to prove her worth. Number six pick, Tyanna Smith has somewhat flown under the radar thus far but is as consistent a performer as any draftee this year, especially after notching her third 16-disposal performance in four games. Having slotted seamlessly into her side’s midfield, it seems inevitable that Smith will soon be recognises with a rising star nomination. Why not now?

Laura Gardiner became Geelong’s newest debutant in the same game, registering three disposals and breaching either arc in her work on the outer. Fellow first year players Stephanie Williams and Olivia Barber also retained their places in the senior side, with the latter again showing some promise as the Cats were kept to just one goal for three terms. She finished with a minor score from her six touches and one mark.

Carlton vs. Richmond

Carlton scraped home in a thriller on Saturday afternoon, overcoming a horror start to beat Richmond by five points at Princes Park. Mimi Hill has was the Blues’ first selection in last year’s draft and continues to be their pick of the first year players, contributing some excellent moments on the wing. She finishes with 13 disposals and two marks, showing great poise and clean hands in the process.

Daisy Walker again featured for Carlton after her Round 3 debut and was under the pump down back. She registered virtually identical stats to her maiden outing (four kicks, three handballs) but also stepped up to the plate with four tackles. Number one pick Ellie McKenzie was also excellent for Richmond, proving all-class on the ball as she gathered 14 touches and four marks rotating through midfield.

Fremantle vs. Gold Coast

Fremantle flexed its muscle in the second half to see off Gold Coast on Saturday, extending the Dockers’ unbeaten streak once more. First round selection, Sarah Verrier finished with three disposals and four tackles, but had a moment she will never forget in the third term when she slotted her maiden senior goal. The 18-year-old kicked truly after earning a holding the ball free kick inside 50.

An inexperienced Gold Coast side fought hard and was within striking distance for half of the game, but could not match Freo’s firepower with its only score, a goal, registered in the first term. Lucy Single got her hands dirty for the Suns with seven tackles, while Maddison Levi laid four in her six-disposal display. Meanwhile, Daisy D’Arcy had it three times as the young Suns continue their learning curve.

North Melbourne vs. Collingwood

Saturday night’s Marvel Stadium blockbuster saw Collingwood swoop on North Melbourne, with the Magpies holding their highly-touted opponents goalless to remain undefeated. Collingwood father-daughter coup, Tarni Brown continues to impress in black and white, cementing her spot in the side with another 13 touches (11 handballs), two marks and three tackles.

Joanna Lin has enjoyed a three-game stretch since debuting for the Magpies and managed her highest disposal haul (five) in this game, while Bella Eddey produced the same numbers for North Melbourne in what was a tough day forward of centre for the Roos. Having played all four games so far, she is another to have cracked a top side to good effect.

Brisbane vs. Adelaide

Two South Australian draftees featured as Brisbane and Adelaide locked horns in Sunday’s all-important clash at Hickey Park, which the Crows took out. Lions debutant Indy Tahau was promising in her maiden appearance, managing a mark among her eight touches. Teah Charlton has shown flashes of brilliance for Adelaide, but did not produce too many more highlights for her reel in a six-disposal outing up forward.

Western Bulldogs vs. Melbourne

Whitten Oval has proven a fortress for the Western Bulldogs this season and they claimed another big scalp on home turf after beating Melbourne on Sunday. Number two pick, Jess Fitzgerald continues to shine with her scoreboard impact and fierce two-way attack, booting a pair of crucial goals among her 12 touches while also laying eight tackles. Teammate Sarah Hartwig is also growing in confidence and managed 13 disposals, including two marks and two rebound 50s.

The Demons did not quite click up forward, at least from a conversion standpoint, but it was not for a lack of trying. Star draftee Alyssa Bannan again troubled the scorers, just not in the majors column as she snared a behind from her three disposals and two marks. Further afield, Eliza McNamara is another draftee to have grasped an early senior opportunity and finished with nine disposals and four tackles this time out.

GWS vs. West Coast

Greater Western Sydney (GWS) made it two wins on the trot by overcoming West Coast on Sunday, boosted by the return of a key draftee. Tarni Evans is the player in question and added some spark to the Giants’ lineup in her first game back from suspension. She finished with 12 disposals, three rebound 50s and a couple of tackles in a swift reminded of her value.

Bella Lewis continues to be thrown in the deep end for West Coast and again stood up to the rigours of senior midfield play, finishing as her side’s highest ball winner (16 disposals) behind a raft of Giants. The 18-year-old also dug in for a career-high nine tackles, defying her frame. 19-year-old Amber Ward also chimed in with six touches, as the South Australian remains among senior calculations.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 3 – McKenzie arrives at the double

ROUND 3 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season went ahead over a four-day stretch after even more late fixture improvisation, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared over the weekend, focusing on the players under 21 years of age from the most recent draft crop.

Geelong vs. Western Bulldogs

In a fixture which feels like it was so long ago, 2020 number two pick Jess Fitzgerald again lit up the field in a Western Bulldogs win. The Northern Knights graduate was a little quieter throughout the game than in her opening two outings, but sealed the game for her side with a highlight reel running goal late in the piece to leave onlookers with their jaws to the floor.

Somewhat flying under the radar, fellow Bulldogs draftee Sarah Hartwig was again impressive, rebounding confidently off half-back and up to the wing. Geelong tall Olivia Barber continued her promising start to life at the elite level, clunking a terrific contested mark and proving mobile in her work up forward. Northern Territory native Stephanie Williams was also lively in patches, but kept to four touches and two tackles.

Greater Western Sydney vs. Gold Coast

Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney (GWS) again did battle in horrendous conditions, with the Giants prevailing on the back of greater experience and class. It showed on the team sheet too, with no under 21 draftees from last year taking the field, but 19-year-old Georgia Garnett making her debut. On the other hand, four of Gold Coast’s young first year players were selected with Janet Baird making her maiden senior appearance.

The Territorian was relatively quiet with two disposals, with all of her fellow under 21 draftees – Maddison Levi, Lucy Single, and Daisy D’Arcy kept to under 10 touches each. Nonetheless, each of them got their hands dirty in the wet conditions as they were spread on all three lines, displaying the green shoots Gold Coast will require to get on the board this season.

St Kilda vs. Carlton

Carlton got on the board for the first time in 2021 with a steady victory over the competitive St Kilda Saints, with players making their debuts on either side. Daisy Walker became the Blues’ second 2020 draftee to crack the senior team and looked lively in defence with her speed on the rebound. Jessica Matin, a promising junior cricketer, also broke her duck and had a couple of touches for St Kilda.

Elsewhere, the Saints’ prized pick in Tyanna Smith was again impactful from midfield with 11 disposals, four marks, and six tackles, but came up against some pretty stiff competition in the Carlton engine room. After a very good showing last week, Mimi Hill was kept to just six touches for the Blues but looks settled in the starting lineup on a wing.

Melbourne vs. North Melbourne

One of the best AFL Women’s matches of all time saw Melbourne get the hop on North Melbourne with a captivating nine-point win. The cream rose to the top but there was still some young talent roaming Casey Fields on the day, with Melbourne continuing to blood Alyssa Bannan and Eliza McNamara. Both had promising spurts in the red and blue, while North’s prized draftee Bella Eddey booted a goal from her six touches – five of which were handballs.

Adelaide vs. Fremantle

Fremantle and Adelaide locked horns at Norwood Oval on Sunday, with the Dockers coming away 30-point victors and handy premiership favourites. Their mature members were fantastic as ever, but that did not stop the likes of Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Hyde from providing a glimpse into the future.

Verrier was typically assured in defence and played to her strengths with all nine of her disposals coming via foot. Hyde was not far behind on six touches and a couple of marks, also playing her role in the win. For Adelaide, Teah Charlton lit up the final term with some exciting passages, exploding in forward charges to eventually end with 14 disposals and five tackles.

Richmond vs. Collingwood

A trio of 2020 draftees all secured their maiden senior goals on Sunday as Collingwood defeated a fast finishing Richmond by 17 points at Punt Road Oval. Richmond’s number one pick Ellie McKenzie was at the forefront, snaring a double which included a three-bounce effort consistent with her junior form. She was outstanding, finishing with 12 disposals and five tackles.

Collingwood ruck Bella Smith stood up in the absence of Sharni Norder, taking on the primary ruck duties and fighting hard against in-form opposition. Father-daughter coup Tarni Brown booted her first goal and was matched by Joanna Lin, but both players were relatively quiet otherwise. Brown was the pick of the pair, finishing with eight touches and seven tackles.

Brisbane vs. West Coast

Brisbane roared back into top spot with a 45-point win over West Coast, dominating after half time and flexing its muscle. Courtney Hodder was the sole under 21 draftee from last year in the Lions’ lineup and continued her lively start to the season, finishing with 12 disposals and five tackles as she constantly looked to break forward quickly.

Bella Lewis was arguably the pick of West Coast’s young first year players, ending up as her side’s second highest ball winner with 15 touches. Her ability to cleanly win the contested ball and constantly burrow in suited the Eagles’ first half intensity. Shanae Davison popped up in the front half for four disposals, while Amber Ward had double that tally up the other end to go with three rebounds.

Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

SANFLW season preview: North Adelaide

FOR the first time in the clubs history, the North Adelaide Women will enter the fresh campaign with targets on their backs, having won every match en route to premiership glory last season. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis threatening to derail pre-season preparations, coach Krissie Steen is confident the Roosters squad has what it takes to defend their crown.

“Pre-season has been pretty good,” said Steen. “We lost about five weeks of pre-season around Christmas (due to COVID regulations), but we (North Adelaide) have a really strong coaching and high performance panel. So although COVID had a big impact on the pre-season, it’s still been a positive one.”

The club was tasked with the challenging task of replacing ten players from their premiership-winning side in the off-season, headlined by Ashleigh Woodland (drafted by Adelaide), Katelyn Pope, Amber Ward and Lauren Gauci (all of whom signed on with West Coast).

However undoubtedly the biggest void will be left by midfield ball-magnet Anne Hatchard, who is set to spend the bulk of the season at AFLW level with the Crows. Hatchard was a joint-recipient of the SANFLW best and fairest award last season, sharing the honour with West Adelaide star Rachelle Martin. She also won the Crows club champion award and was named best on ground in the SANFLW Grand Final, collecting an impressive 34 disposals, eight tackles and seven clearances.

“We certainly have work to do,” Steen said of the absences. “Losing 10 players from the Grand Final team is hard but we loose players to AFLW clubs every season. It happens just about every year, so we’ll be fine.”

Given the high turnover the squad has endured over the off-season, Steen said it hasn’t been difficult to keep players motivated following the successes of last year.

“Half of them are new, so the motivation is already there,” said Steen. “Last season we won just about every individual award so its hard to replicate or improve on that, but it’s more about looking for individual improvement. “We have to keep improving and make a commitment to consistently be better.”

Steen identified new recruit Tayla Thorne and prominent half-back Erin Sundstrom as being amongst several standout performers throughout the pre-season.

“The usual suspects have been impressive,” added Steen. “Katelyn PopeLauren Daniel and Cristie Castle have been great for us for a couple of seasons now.”

Steen also heaped praise upon dangerous forward Kelly Barltrop, who was unlucky to be left out of last seasons Grand Final side. One of the SANFLW’s most productive forwards, Barltrop kicked 26 goals in 2019 and was simply an unfortunate victim of North Adelaide’s incredible strength last year.

“Kelly responded to the call very well,” said Steen. “She’s gotten to work and looks to be in the best shape of her career. She looks super fit and that’s a real credit to her resilience, for not dropping her head and instead looking to use it as motivation for this season.”

The Roosters also have an array of young talent on the list ready to step up and impact consistently at the top level. The list of talented youngsters includes bottom-ager Hannah Ewings, top-ager Kate Case, and a host of developing over-agers in Julia Clark, Jorja Eldridge and Andie Zbierski.

The Roosters will commence their title defence with a Grand Final re-match against arch-rivals South Adelaide under lights at Cooper Stadium on February 26. The club has been slated to play three home and away matches at their Prospect Oval home ground in 2021.

Picture credit: SANFL / Deb Curtis

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 2 – Fitzgerald adds to Bulldogs’ bite

ROUND 2 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season got underway after some late fixture improvisation, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared over the weekend, focusing on the players under 20 years of age from the most recent draft crop.

Western Bulldogs vs. Carlton

The Western Bulldogs’ stunning upset win over Carlton brought some of the most promising young pups to the fore, none more so than Jess Fitzgerald. The number two pick pumped her side with a team-lifting goal in the second term, followed by her best double cobra celebration. Fitzgerald’s 15 disposals, four marks, and intensity inside forward 50 made her difficult to ignore for a Rising Star nod this week, a richly deserved honour for the Northern Knights graduate.

Sarah Hartwig was the other Bulldogs draftee afield, doubling her disposal output from last week with 10 touches and five marks. The defender set up well behind the ball and utilised her trusty left boot to send the Dogs into attack on the rebound. Carlton’s top draftee, Mimi Hill also had a good night at the office, finishing as her side’s second-top ball winner with 19 disposals – 16 of which were handballs. The winger provided good run and was typically handy at ground level for the Blues.

Collingwood vs. Geelong

Both Collingwood and Geelong blooded fresh talent in their clash at Victoria Park on Saturday, building on the debuts handed to their respective draftees in Round 1. Geelong tall Olivia Barber stood out immediately, nabbing her first senior goal in unconventional style within the first minute of the game. She finished with six touches, joined by fellow debutant Stephanie Williams up forward. The Territorian had five touches and a couple of tackles, including a nice run-down effort early on. Darcy Moloney remained in the Cats’ lineup after cracking it immediately, ending with five disposals.

Collingwood also continues to put trust in its rising prospects, with Joanna Lin the latest first-year player to earn a senior gig. She joined fellow 2020 draftees Tarni Brown and Amelia Velardo in the Magpies’ winning side, though all three players were kept to under eight disposals. Undrafted free agent Bella Smith also held her spot in the Round 1 team, improving her output with seven disposals and two marks from defence.

Melbourne vs. Richmond

Melbourne midfielder Tyla Hanks might have earned the second Rising Star nod in the end, but she had good competition for the honour on Saturday. Teammate Alyssa Bannan broke the game open against Richmond within a couple of minutes, booting back-to-back goals in the second term for her first major scores in senior football. Bannan’s former Northern Knights teammate Ellie McKenzie was outstanding in the yellow and black, finishing with 15 disposals and three marks as Richmond’s second highest ball winner.

The number one pick has quickly become arguably Richmond’s most impactful player behind Monique Conti, taking the game on along the outer with terrific speed and confidence. Back in the red and blue, Eliza McNamara backed up her excellent AFLW debut with nine kicks and four tackles, while Megan Fitzsimon also kept her spot and managed virtually identical stats to her first outing with five kicks, three handballs, and two tackles.

North Melbourne vs. St Kilda

St Kilda pushed North Melbourne in a competitive outing at Arden Street Oval on Sunday, with prized draftee Tyanna Smith again impressing after her outstanding Round 1 performance. The 18-year-old again found the goals and collected 16 disposals, while also laying seven tackles for the Saints. Renee Saulitis was another opening round debutant to retain her spot, managing three touches in her second appearance. The Roos also maintained some youth in their squad, with their top picks Bella Eddey and Alice O’Loughlin building on their maiden appearances. Both players managed under six touches in the 26-point win.

Brisbane vs. Gold Coast

Brisbane’s record-breaking win over Gold Coast proved an insightful telling of the Lions’ maturity and progression, while also laying bare the improvement to come from the Suns’ youthful side. 20-year-old Brisbane rookie Courtney Hodder was again outstanding for the victors, bringing her speed and line-breaking ability to the fore in an exciting 12-disposal performance.

Top Gold Coast draftee Annise Bradfield went down with what looked like a serious injury in the third term, rubbing salt into the wound of the 62-point loss. Maddison Levi laid six tackles to go with as many touches of the ball, with Daisy D’Arcy managing the same amount of disposals and Lucy Single collecting nine touches on a tough day for the inexperienced Suns.

GWS vs. Adelaide

Things did not exactly go to plan for top-end GWS draftee Tarni Evans on Sunday. Not only did the Giants go down by 47 points, but Evans faces a week on the sidelines after she laid a dangerous tackle on Ailish Considine. The 19-year-old’s driving tackle from behind forced Evans’ Adelaide opponent off the field, with Considine playing no further part in the game. Meanwhile, Crows young gun Teah Charlton was again promising up forward, notching another eight touches and laying four tackles as her side excelled in the front half.

Fremantle vs. West Coast

A rain-soaked Western Derby hardly made for the best spectacle to showcase young talent, but there was a good amount of up-and-coming performers in action at Fremantle Oval as the Dockers won out by nine points. Freo draftees Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Hyde finished with nine and eight touches respectively, while star Eagles newbies Bella Lewis and Shanae Davison were kept to under half-a-dozen disposals each in the soggy conditions. Lewis still got her hands dirty, laying five tackles. Undrafted free agency coup Amber Ward built on her Round 1 showing, with the 19-year-old repaying the Eagles’ faith in her.

Featured Image: Bulldog Jess Fitzgerald earned a Rising Star nomination in Round 2 | Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images via AFL Photos

2021 AFLW Preview: West Coast Eagles

WEST Coast’s inaugural AFL Women’s campaign was hardly a cakewalk, but the Eagles will be hoping for a more competitive effort in 2021 with a year of experience under their belts and some promising additions made to the squad. Set to be led by Emma Swanson once again, the West Australian side has plenty of room for improvement and can do so steadily in year two.

2020 RECAP

The Eagles were rooted to the bottom of Conference B despite getting on the board with a shock maiden win over the Western Bulldogs in Round 4. A 1-5 record was the final tally for the expansion side, which was drawn against three finalists and just one fellow first-year team. Scoring was a sore spot for the Eagles, ranking last for points scored, while their percentage of just 32.1 was another competition low. The latter discrepancy also showed in West Coast’s points against column, which was only trumped by the winless Richmond. The Eagles had no All Australian representatives, though the consistent efforts of Swanson and Dana Hooker through midfield were particularly outstanding.

NEW FACES

A relatively heavy turnover of players sees nine fresh faces land at the Eagles’ nest, headlined by the signing of former Western Bulldogs midfielder, Aisling McCarthy. The Irishwoman was acquired with help from a priority draft pick concession from the AFL, which was swiftly utilised in this deal. Having proven her worth over two seasons with the Dogs, McCarthy is set to bolster her new side’s engine room with the potential to also impact up forward. Tayla Bresland was also added during trade period, bolstering the Eagles’ backline having crossed from Fremantle.

A bumper draft crop was headlined by gun West Australian midfielder, Bella Lewis, who was snapped up with pick three. The Claremont product should slot straight into West Coast’s starting lineup; poised to feature through midfield credit to her work-rate, or up forward with her turn of speed and skill. Swan Districts high-flyer Shanae Davison will also look to crack early selection, promising to provide a bit of spark inside forward 50.

WAFLW coup Julie-Ann Norrish is another who should come into Round 1 calculations, selected at pick 32 in the draft from WAFLW club East Fremantle. 31-year-old former netballer Andrea Gilmore was also selected on draft night, adding athleticism and raw versatility to the club’s tall stocks. Having initially gone unselected, North Adelaide pair Lauren Gauci and Amber Ward were given opportunities in WA, while Demi Liddle comes in to replace the injured Ashton Hill.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Key trade coup, McCarthy looms as one to watch for the Eagles, set to take on a greater amount of responsibility through midfield among her new side’s emerging lineup. The Irishwoman has showcased a promising rate of development and performed consistently last year for the rebuilding Bulldogs, putting her in good stead to do exactly that with West Coast. McCarthy’s mature frame will take a ball winning load off the likes of Swanson and Hooker, while her ability to rotate forward and find the goals boosts the team’s scoring dynamic. The latter will also allow young stars like Lewis and Mikayla Bowen to rotate through the engine room with greater frequency.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

The Eagles will look to surprise a few sides with their improvement in 2021, and much of that will come down to their ability to compete through the engine room. Swanson and Hooker are already established AFLW stars who will be aided by the ever-improving McCarthy, while Bowen now has a season of experience under her belt and Lewis will look to make a splash early. Add winger Niamh Kelly, the ruckwork of Parris Laurie, and even more moving parts to the mix, and West Coast’s midfield has a nice balance with plenty of dynamism.

QUESTION MARK

It is no secret that West Coast lacks the firepower of more established teams. Hayley Bullas was the Eagles’ leading goalkicker last year with just two goals in a side which averaged 11 points per their five losses and just three more when their Round 4 win is included. The Eagles were thrice held to one goal and only managed more than two in that standalone win, meaning there is plenty of work to do to improve the competition’s least damaging attack. West Coast’s batch of recruits should go a ways to helping the cause, and midfield competitiveness will also become a factor in keeping the ball locked into the front half.

FINAL WORD

While West Coast will be expecting to build on its maiden season, a sharp incline to finals contention still seems a little out of reach. Becoming competitive each week and ticking over more than one win should prove a more realistic step forward for the Eagles, who have a developing list with a couple of key strength areas but also plenty of room for improvement.

Image Credit: Daniel Carson/AFL Photos

2020 AFLW Draft review: West Coast

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with West Coast, a team that had the one win over in the west last year and whilst did not manage to get going too much in their debut season, was able to bring in some more experience to the lineup and position itself well heading into the draft.

West Coast:

#3 – Bella Lewis (Claremont/Western Australia)
#18 – Shanae Davison (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
#32 – Julie-Anne Norrish (East Fremantle/Western Australia)
#53 – Andrea Gilmore (Claremont/Western Australia)
#56 – Amber Ward (North Adelaide/South Australia)
#59 – Lauren Gauci (North Adelaide/South Australia)

West Coast had a balanced draft, picking up a couple of young stars, some experienced West Australian talents and a couple of SANFL Women’s premiership talents. They managed to get three teenagers all up, and three that have had more experience under their belt as they look to rise up the ladder in 2021.

The Eagles’ first pick in the draft came at Pick 3 when they snapped up Claremont’s Bella Lewis. The hard midfielder who can also play at half-forward had an outstanding year that came off a memorable AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships last year. A member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, Lewis is one who will join fellow tough nut, Mikayla Bowen in the middle and really create headaches for opposition sides.

Fellow AFL Women’s Academy member Shanae Davison caught attention with her massive hanger earlier in the year, but the Swan Districts product put in a consistent season all up, showing clean hands in the air or at ground level, even in challenging conditions. She will likely play forward with an eye to work into the midfield in the coming years, but is an exciting talent for the future.

Julie-Ann Norrish was consistency personified in the WAFL Women’s competition this year. The East Fremantle defender was a persistent rebounder for the reigning premiers, hardly putting a foot wrong with her intercepting and running ability. Good one-on-one with her positioning and reading the ball in flight, expect her to walk into the starting side.

Andrea Gilmore is a former West Coast Fever netballer who turned her attention to football of late and was a train-on player with the club. The 31-year-old forward/ruck is a towering presence at 183cm and has terrific athleticism. Needing a forward target, the Eagles could look to Gilmore to make an immediate impact, providing further depth to that end after completing a consistent season with Claremont this year.

The Eagles passed their final two selections, but ended up using them on North Adelaide duo, Amber Ward and Lauren Gauci. Ward is an over-age tall defender with a powerful kick and great hands that make her a brick wall at centre half-back. Like Norrish, she could slot straight into the back 50 and provide some resistance for the Eagles, earning a spot after year another brilliant year in a premiership-winning SANFL Women’s outfit.

Gauci was alongside her with the slick ball user also in the back 50. The 23-year-old is one who loves to run off intercept possessions and played in the Roosters’ defence alongside Ward and former Eagle Talia Radan. The glowing reviews gave the Eagles enough to select the pair and allow them to move west together.

Overall the Eagles managed to grab some extra depth in both the front and back halves as well as elite midfield talent which will hold them in good stead for the future.

Picture: West Coast Women’s Twitter

South Australian draftees double as AFL Women’s lists are finalised

FOUR more South Australians made their way onto AFL Women’s lists over the last 48 hours to round out the last of the players to enter the competition for 2021. Norwood’s Bella Smith, South Adelaide’s Tahlia Meyer and North Adelaide duo, Amber Ward and Lauren Gauci were all offered AFL Women’s contracts as part of the post-draft selections.

Smith was the first to be announced as an additional signing following the four passes from the AFL Women’s Draft, chosen to reunite with former Redlegs coach, Steve Symonds at Collingwood. Earlier yesterday, Meyer filled the vacant spot at St Kilda, whilst both Ward and Gauci prepared to head west as they were signed by West Coast.

The quartet followed on from Teah Charlton, Rachelle Martin and Ashleigh Woodland (Adelaide) and Indy Tahau (Brisbane) who were drafted on Tuesday night. It meant eight South Australians were drafted, with grand finalists, North Adelaide and South Adelaide making up three apiece, with one each from the other finalists, West Adelaide and Norwood.

Smith is a reliable key position player who can fill a role at either end, though has predominantly played as a centre half-back this season. Her strength overhead and ability to clunk grabs has been a highlight for her, playing in her second season at the level after coming through the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships where she represented the Central Allies.

Meyer was one of the most underrated players in the SANFL Women’s competition with her ability to link up in transition superb. She did not always win as much of the footy as others, but rarely wasted it, with her ability to hit those 45-degree kicks going inside 50. Her skill and decision making was superb and she has very much earned a place at the top level.

Ward is a tall defender who like Smith, was strong in the air and has a great ability to rebound. After an impressive top-age year last year, the North Adelaide defender took her game to another level in 2020, and along with her intercepting ability was able to utilise her penetrating kick to advantage. Still a teenager, Ward is only one year out of the draft class and showed the benefits of playing an extra year at senior level.

Gauci has become another reliable defender for the Roosters, with her slick footskills often used coming out of defence. She has proven to be a talented ball winner and one that teammates are happy to get the ball in the hands of. A member of the stringent Roosters’ back six, Gauci is also capable of playing up the field, and will provide some reliability with ball-in-hand.

Overall the four inclusions to the AFL Women’s provide their respective clubs with readymade players and will no doubt do everything to stake their case for a Round 1 spot. Furthermore it shows the talent on show in the SANFL Women’s and why it is such a prestigious competition.

Picture: West Coast Eagles Twitter

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

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Adelaide Crows & GWS GIANTS

THE AFL Women’s Draft is fast approaching and in the lead-up to the draft, we take a look at each of the AFL women’s sides in pairs and see what they might look for, and who might be available with the selections they have. Kick-starting our series are the two sides who have a monopoly on their states in Adelaide Crows and GWS GIANTS.

Adelaide Crows – South Australian pool

Draft selections: 4, 45, 48

Off-season summary:

Adelaide is in the box seat next season and should be another contender for the 2021 flag. After a 2020 season interrupted by multiple injuries, the Crows will regain two of the best players in the competition in Erin Phillips and Chelsea Randall, whilst saying goodbye to retirees, Jess Foley, Courtney Cramey, Courtney Gum and Sophie Li. Maisie Nankivell also retired to focus on her netball with the Adelaide Thunderbirds, while Nicole Campbell and Jaimi Tabb were two delistings after one season.

In return, the Crows welcomed back a trio of South Australian players with Jess Sedunary (St Kilda), Lisa Whiteley (GWS GIANTS) and Hannah Munyard (Western Bulldogs) all completing trades home. The movements left three available spots on the Crows’ list, and conveniently those picks are 4, 45 and 48.

A draft look:

When it comes to South Australia, it is hard to look past South Adelaide’s Teah Charlton as the standout player from an under-age perspective. She has a bag of tricks and is as dangerous overhead as she is at ground level, knows where the goals are and can play through the midfield or forward line, and even been tested in defence at times. Put simply, in an open draft – ignoring the zoning – she would be taken in the top 10, so expect her to be the likely first selection for the Crows.

With the two remaining picks, Charlton’s Panthers’ teammate Indy Tahau would be the next one to look at, likely to follow her teammate – and last year’s first selection and fellow Panther Montana McKinnon – into the AFL Women’s. Outside the two clear under-age standouts, over-ager defender Amber Ward is a rock in defence and could be called up for a chance at the elite level, whilst South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s leading goalkicker, Ashleigh Woodland has also earned a Draft Combine invite.

Woodland has already tasted the AFL Women’s, after the 22-year-old played four games for Melbourne in 2019 after being a free agent selection in 2018. Putting together a superb season in front of goal for the Roosters, expect Woodland to not only be on the Crows’ radar, but other clubs as well if they have not already looked into the dangerous talent. More mature-age talent that continues to shine at SANFL Women’s level includes Campbell, and train-on players Rachelle Martin and Czenya Cavouras who showed they were in the Crows’ considerations as next best post-draft.

GWS GIANTS – NSW/ACT pool

Draft selections: 9, 29, 42, 53

Off-season summary:

Greater Western Sydney (GWS) GIANTS had a relatively quiet off-season, with just three players retiring in Ellie Brush, Ingrid Nielsen and Maggie Gorham last month. The sole trade the GIANTS made welcomes Katherine Smith to the club, replacing the experience lost by Whiteley heading to the Crows. Smith had been an important player for Melbourne, and the GIANTS also picked up picks 29 and 42, whilst parting with picks 25 and 39 in the process.

With a massive 25 players re-signed to the club and only three departures, it leaves three spots for the GIANTS to select players, holding selections nine, 29 and 42 in the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft, with Pick 53 also belonging to them. Much like the Crows, the pick selections matter little given they can handpick the players who have nominated for their NSW/ACT zone.

A draft look:

The GIANTS had a fairly unpredictable draft last year with a number of surprises, including the rapidly developing Gorham from Canberra with their first pick. This year they have some more young guns through the AFL Women’s National Academy who have put their hand up and earned Draft Combine invites, but as we saw with Brenna Tarrant, players can end up in other states.

Looking at those AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites, there are five who have stood up, four of whom have been Academy members this year. Three of those Academy members have risen through the pathways together in Tarni Evans, Emily Pease and Jayde Hamilton who could all be among the consideration for the top 10 pick. Evans is a contested marking player and one who has been touted as a future star since her Under 18s days, while Pease is a running half-back-cum-midfielder, and Hamilton a contested ball-winning talent.

All three have different skillsets and then you can factor in the other two players to receive AFL Women’s National Draft Combine invites – Abby Favell and Kiara Beesley. Favell is an elite runner with strong decision making skills and a high work rate, while Beesley is a former acrobat who is running around with Southern Power and who has a great blend of strength and speed, and more than capable overhead.

Like last year, the GIANTS could end up picking a handful of local players they have been watching through the AFL Sydney and AFL Canberra competitions, but there is enough talented youth there to put their hands up to go to the next level.

Picture: Hannah Howard/SANFL

SANFL Women’s season review: North Adelaide

NORTH Adelaide is the next team up in our South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season review series as we look at the eight sides in reverse ladder order and how their 2020 seasons went down.

Position: 1st
Wins: 12
Losses: 0
Draws: 0

2020 IN A NUTSHELL

Perfect. There is no other way to realistically put it. North Adelaide had an unblemished season with a 12-0 record and earning the minor premiership, and then the real thing with back-to-back wins over incumbents South Adelaide in the qualifying final and grand final. The victory was a role reversal from the year before, and whilst Krissie Steen‘s chargers had their challenges throughout the year, the Roosters met every challenge and deserved the premiership.

AFL WOMEN’S ALL-STARS GAME REPRESENTATIVES:

Amber Ward

An over-age defender with great hands and a booming kick, Ward showed she is well in contention to be drafted this year after receiving an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitation. Often stationed at centre half-back, Ward was a reliable figure back there, combining well with teammate Kristi Harvey as the anchors in the defensive 50.

Cristie Castle

A sneaky forward who could push up the ground, Castle could hit the scoreboard or set up scoring opportunities for her teammates. She generally used it pretty well in the forward half of the ground and always looked damaging when the ball was in her vicinity. Providing good defensive pressure as well, Castle was a strong team player.

Erin Sundstrom

Joined the Roosters this season coming back from Queensland and provided good dash coming out of defence. She possesses a long kick and was able to get them out of trouble on a number of occasions, and provided an extra intercepting target in the air back there.

Julia Clark

A versatile small who could play at either end, Clark has established herself in the Roosters best side over the past two years playing nearly every game. She played a role in defence for the grand final and is a top-ager who has developed well in the system.

Ashleigh Woodland

Won the league’s goalkicking and showed she is a class above at state level. Is one who spent a season on Melbourne’s AFL Women’s list and was one of four players to earn an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite. She is strong above her head, an accurate kick for goal, and able to hit targets around the ground and play through the midfield, or even in defence.

Kristi Harvey

A rock on the last line, Harvey nullified opposition forwards whilst providing aerial strength to intercept and pump the ball out of the back 50. Did not mind getting into the ear of opposition forwards, and left nothing out on the ground with her attack on the ball, re-establishing herself as one of the most reliable defenders in the competition this season.

Katelyn Pope

Possessing some serious wheels, Pope’s ability to take the game on and break the lines really made a point of difference for the Roosters this season. Often playing off a wing or drifting at half-forward, Pope could beat anyone in a foot race and if she got goalside, it was almost game over for any opponent. She could hit the scoreboard or set others up in a really impressive year.

Jorja Eldridge

Played a couple of games this year for the Roosters coming from the country area in Whyalla with a basketball background. She has versatility to play at either end and showed good development being able to crack into the Roosters side given the strength of the unit.

Rayne Rivalland

A developing talent with a year left until she turns 18, Rivalland will no doubt feature more often next season as a rebounding defender who can be switched forward if required. She has some good athleticism and takes the game on, reading the ball well in flight based on her All-Stars game.

Lauren Gauci

Rounded out the back six nicely and added a point of difference as that smaller runner who was a reliable executor by hand or foot. She looked to shoot a dagger down the wing or open up the game, and did take the game on from time to time as well. Provided good offence while being accountable at half-back.

Kate Case

Another middle-age talent who earned a spot in the All-Stars squad playing forward, and has a bit of zip about her. She might not be tall, but has talent and continues to develop strongly. As someone who can come in and play a small forward’s role or further up the ground, Case will be one to watch in 2021 after an impressive grand final.

Andie Zbierski

Another country-based player who plays predominantly as a defender. She is highly competitive and reliable as they come. She might not have a huge amount of SANFL Women’s experience, but she showed in the games she did play that she has a high scope to develop.

OTHERS WHO STOOD OUT:

  • Anne Hatchard
  • Britt Perry
  • Talia Radan
  • Lauren Daniel
  • Hannah Ewings
  • Leah Tynan
  • Bek Rasheed

Like South Adelaide, this list could go on forever with that many contributors across the board. There is a reason the Roosters won the premiership, and whilst Anne Hatchard dominated the midfield in every game and was the clear standout winning the equal league best and fairest with best on grounds in every match, she was far from alone. Teenage talent Hannah Ewings has another two years until she is draft-eligible despite being one of the best in the competition already, whilst the experience of Lauren Daniel, and the introduction of ruck Bek Rasheed through the middle was great. Throw in AFL Women’s players Britt Perry up forward and Talia Radan down back, and the side had virtually no holes in it.

Summary

North Adelaide capped off a perfect season with a premiership, winning every game and successfully bouncing back from the 2019 defeat in the decider. They had help from some AFL Women’s talent, but it was the next core of players, and the youth coming through that held up the side and ensured that their bottom six was stronger than any other side in the competition.

Picture: SANFL / Deb Curtis