Tag: amelia velardo

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

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

AFL Women’s draftee watch – Round 1: Nine of the top 10 make their debuts

ROUND 1 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season was won and done across four enthralling days of action, with a number of fresh faces making 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.

Carlton vs. Collingwood

Collingwood picked up an upset victory over its most fierce rival on Thursday night in a tense season opener, with three members of the Magpies’ 2020 draft haul making their debuts in black and white. Father-daughter selection Tarni Brown got her first taste of senior footy, making a steady start to life in the big league with nine disposals and two tackles.

Amelia Velardo donned Collingwood’s famous number five on her debut, fittingly the same amount of football games she has played – ever. The Western Jets graduate featured among a strong Magpies forward-line, but could not quite find the goals. 19-year-old South Australian coup Bella Smith also made her first appearance, a steep rise having been picked up as an undrafted free agent.

Mimi Hill was one of four Carlton debutants on Thursday, but the only one out of her side’s most recent draft intake. The former Oakleigh Chargers captain is already one of Daniel Harford‘s favourites and was productive moving forward from the outer, gathering 12 disposals in a promising maiden appearance for the Blues.

St Kilda vs. Western Bulldogs

St Kilda unveiled all four of its 2020 draftees in a Friday night victory over the Western Bulldogs, headed by number six selection Tyanna Smith. The Dandenong Stingrays standout was terrific on debut, slotting seamlessly into the Saints’ midfield and providing plenty of drive going forward. Among her 16 disposals was her first AFL Women’s goal from a quick chance inside 50, putting the cherry on top of her game.

One of the great feel-good stories out of Round 1 was Alice Burke making her debut against the Dogs, who are coached by her famous father, Nathan. Alice’s Saints got the result, as she got a taste for senior football coming off the bench. Renee Saulitis was the other 18-year-old Saints draftee to feature and looked relatively comfortable on the ball for her seven disposals.

The Bulldogs had a couple of exciting new faces make their mark too, with youth a key feature of the developing squad. Number two pick Jess Fitzgerald found the ball eight times and was lively on the attack from midfield, even earning a shot on goal for her side. Sarah Hartwig‘s game was better than her five touches suggest, with the versatile defender impacting on the intercept and constantly looking to rebound via her long left boot.

Gold Coast vs. Melbourne

Gold Coast and Melbourne put out the most total draftees of any matchup in Round 1, with seven in the Under 20 bracket as the Dees made a winning start to the season. Gold Coast blooded its first round draftee in Annise Bradfield, along with three other 18-year-old recruits. Along with Bradfield, Maddison Levi and Daisy D’Arcy were kept under 10 disposals, while Lucy Single had it 13 times in the loss.

Melbourne also unveiled its first pick as Alyssa Bannan donned the red and the blue up forward, managing a shot on goal and two marks among her five disposals. Megan Fitzsimon also got a crack first up, and Eliza McNamara put her hand up for rising star honours with an impressive 18-disposal display on debut. The tough Sandringham Dragons graduate lived up to the hype attached to her in preseason and looks to have already cemented her spot in the hardened Demons side.

West Coast vs. Adelaide

West Coast promised to throw its top young draftees straight into the deep end and did exactly that as number three pick, Bella Lewis featured in the cut and thrust of midfield. While the Eagles went down comfortably to Adelaide in the end, Lewis was a bright spot in the engine room alongside second year star Mikayla Bowen, while high-flier Shanae Davison featured further afield.

Teah Charlton was Adelaide’s sole representative in this category, with the fourth picked player in last year’s draft notching eight disposals and laying seven tackles. Her dynamism and explosiveness up forward bodes well for plenty of highlights to come, though she was unable to find the big sticks on debut.

Geelong vs. North Melbourne

Top 10 pick Darcy Moloney faced a baptism of fire in her first outing for the Cats, as they went down by 62 points to the rampant North Melbourne Kangaroos. Moloney managed six touches as the lone debutant in the hoops, among a young side which was outdone for strength and size.

Bella Eddey had a debut to remember as she snared her maiden senior goal in North’s big win. The Sandringham Dragons product, dubbed ‘Silk’, also gathered six disposals. Alice O’Loughlin was the other North draftee to feature, cracking the team first up but finding just two touches as an abundance of established stars ran the show.

Richmond vs. Brisbane

All eyes were on Punt Road Oval as number one pick Ellie McKenzie made her AFLW debut for Richmond, but the result did not go her way as Brisbane’s mix of youth and experience came up trumps. The Northern Knights graduate featured on a wing for the improving Tigers, showing glimpses of her best to finish with 12 disposals and four marks. 19-year-old draftee Luka Lesosky-Hay also made her senior debut in the yellow and black, kept to just three touches. The Lions did not field any of their 2020 draftees.

Fremantle vs. GWS

Both Fremantle and GWS handed debuts to their 2020 first round draft picks as the Dockers shook off their brave opponents after half time at Fremantle Oval. Sarah Verrier gathered five disposals for the team in purple, showing plenty of skill and class across half-forward in her short spurts on the ball. Tarni Evans showcased her running power with some terrific efforts on the outer for GWS, with versatility also a key part of her upside. She finished with nine disposals and two clearances.

Image Credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images via AFL Photos

2021 AFLW Preview: Collingwood Magpies

COLLINGWOOD is on a mission to go deeper in the AFL Women’s finals after a promising first season under a new head coach, bouncing back from a last placed finish in 2019.

2020 RECAP

After a disastrous 2019 season which saw the club handed the wooden spoon with just one victory to their name, new coach Steve Symonds turned it around in 2020 for the black and white to play finals for the first time. Brianna Davey lived up to all expectations crossing from arch rivals Carlton, having an impact throughout the season, while Jaimee Lambert had an unbelievable season to win the club best and fairest. Had in-form defender Ash Brazill not torn her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) against Melbourne, it is not against the realms of possibility to suggest Collingwood could have gone even deeper than falling to North Melbourne by a kick in the elimination finals.

NEW FACES

The Magpies lost a couple of key players over the off-season, particularly Sarah D’Arcy and Sarah Dargan who both headed to Richmond, while Aliesha Newman (Melbourne) and Abbey Green (North Melbourne) came to the club. Whilst not like-for-like, the Magpies targeted size and speed in the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Father-daughter selection, Tarni Brown, and Joanna Lin provide the outside class and skill, while Amelia Velardo, Abbi Moloney and Bella Smith add height to the side. Talented sports star Imogen Purcell also joined the club to add natural athleticism to the mix.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

There are plenty to keep an eye on, but perhaps none more exciting than the versatile Chloe Molloy. Expected to return forward like she did in her junior days and in her return season off a long-term injury in 2020, Molloy will be better for the run last season and expected to continue her form from her debut season. Now four preseasons in at the Magpies, the high X-factor marking talent has all the ability to tear games apart and will be crucial in hitting the scoreboard regularly.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

The Magpies showed rapid development from 2019 to 2020, even with the loss of Brazill midway through the season, and Molloy returning from injury having missed so much football. The likes of Sharni Layton, Sarah Rowe, Mikala Cann and Alana Porter all made huge strides last season, and throw in career-best seasons from experienced duos of Brittany Bonnici and Steph Chiocci, it is little wonder why the Magpies could get it done.

QUESTION MARK

Consistency is the big question mark for the Magpies in 2021. Their best was by far good enough to challenge the best sides, as shown by their upset of Carlton, and pushing Fremantle and North Melbourne all the way in finals. Unfortunately it was more lapses within games that cost them, having had chances to win those close ones, and then having the disappointing outing against Melbourne in Round 4. If they can iron out that consistency, particularly four quarter consistency, then they are a side to watch this season.

FINAL WORD

Collingwood is more than capable of challenging the big sides in 2021, and while D’Arcy in particular will be a massive loss for the black and white, they have recruited and drafted well, and will hopefully be at full strength again for a finals tilt.

Picture credit: Kelly Defina/Getty Images

2020 AFLW Draft review: Collingwood Magpies

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 Collingwood, a side that reached finals for the first time in its history last year and aimed to target height, as well as speed and class, in this year’s draft.

Collingwood:

#19 – Tarni Brown (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
#25 – Amelia Velardo (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
#26 – Joanna Lin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#31 – Abbi Moloney (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#33 – Bella Smith (Norwood/Central Allies)

Collingwood had another fairly big off-season with a number of changes including the departures of Sarah D’Arcy and Sarah Dargan, whilst bringing in Aliesha Newman and Abbey Green from Melbourne and North Melbourne respectively. The changes – which included a number of retirements – allowed the Magpies to end up with five picks in the draft. Knowing their father-daughter selection in Tarni Brown was a top 10 pick on value, the Magpies traded back to gain extra value out of matching the bid, and then worked their way into have four more picks in the space of nine selections. This year they had a Vic Metro focus, taking talls Western Jets’ Amelia Velardo and Sandringham Dragons’ Abbi Moloney, while also selecting Oakleigh Chargers’ Joanna Lin. Passing on their last selection, the Pies then went and picked up Bella Smith from Norwood to provide some extra height up either end as the interstate recruit.

Brown was long touted as a prospect to follow in the footsteps of her famous father Gavin, and brothers Callum and Tyler and join the Magpies. With superb athleticism and an ability to shrug tackles, she is clearly one of the standout prospects in the AFL Women’s Draft and represents huge value for Collingwood at Pick 19. She is one who could step right up to play at the top level sooner rather than later.

Another player who has been playing most of their life is Moloney, with the Dragons tall a strong mark and had a great start to the NAB League season booting eight goals in three games. She could have been a father-daughter selection to the Western Bulldogs thanks to father Troy playing with Footscray, but has instead made her way to the Holden Centre. She becomes that additional tall target along with Velardo, who by comparison, has had very little time in the sport. She only started last year when choosing to train with the Western Jets over continuing her basketball career and it paid off with a couple of big games for the Jets in 2020. She played as an undersized ruck but expect her to be a forward/midfielder for the Magpies.

Lin has also been a relative newcomer to the sport, with only a couple of seasons in NAB League after a season at local level. She has come on in leaps and bounds, and uses the ball well and creates run in transition from half-back to the wing and going forward. A player you can trust with ball-in-hand, she adds some more class to the line-up alongside Brown. Finally, Smith’s addition as another tall provides versatility for former and now reunited coach Steve Symonds, who chose the Norwood prodigy as an option to throw either back or forward. She has had an enormous season at centre half-back for the Redlegs which could free up others at Collingwood to go forward, but she can also play as that leading target too.

Collingwood has been able to address its needs out of this draft, with some established football names, as well as some newcomers, and expect them to all set the standard during the off-season.

2020 AFLW Draft review: Club-by-club picks

THE dust has settled on the exciting 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Over the next week we will be delving into each club’s selections and detailing more information about those players who earned places at the elite level. Below we have listed each club’s selections from last night’s draft if you are waking up to check out who your newest stars are.

Adelaide:

#4 – Teah Charlton (South Adelaide/Central Allies)
#45 – Rachelle Martin (West Adelaide)
#47 – Ashleigh Woodland (North Adelaide)

Brisbane:

#8 – Zimmorlei Farquharson (Yeronga South Brisbane/Queensland)
#37 – Indy Tahau (South Adelaide/Central Allies)
#38 – Ruby Svarc (Essendon VFLW)

Carlton:

#12 – Mimi Hill (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#28 – Daisy Walker (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#36 – Winnie Laing (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

Collingwood:

#19 – Tarni Brown (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
#25 – Amelia Velardo (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
#26 – Joanna Lin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#31 – Abbi Moloney (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#33 – Pass

Fremantle:

#14 – Sarah Verrier (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)
#30 – Mikayla Morrison (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
#46 – Tiah Haynes (Subiaco)

Geelong:

#10 – Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#20 – Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#21 – Olivia Barber (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
#27 – Stephanie Williams (Geelong Falcons/Darwin Buffettes)
#39 – Carly Remmos (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

Gold Coast:

#7 – Annise Bradfield (Southport/Queensland)
#23 – Sarah Perkins (Hawthorn VFLW)
#50 – Maddison Levi (Bond University/Queensland)
#54 – Janet Baird (Palmerston Magpies)
#57 – Lucy Single (Bond University)
#58 – Elizabeth Keaney (Southern Saints VFLW)
#60 – Daisy D’Arcy (Hermit Park/Queensland)
#61 – Wallis Randell (Bond University)

GWS GIANTS:

#9 – Tarni Evans (Queanbeyan Tigers/ACT)
#29 – Emily Pease (Belconnen Magpies/Eastern Allies)
#42 – Libby Graham (Manly Warringah Wolves)

Melbourne:

#5 – Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#15 – Eliza McNamara (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#17 – Maggie Caris (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#35 – Megan Fitzsimon (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
#41 – Mietta Kendall (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
#48 – Isabella Simmons (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

North Melbourne:

#13 – Bella Eddey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#22 – Alice O’Loughlin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#44 – Georgia Hammond (Darebin Falcons VFLW)
#49 – Brooke Brown (Launceston)
#55 – Amy Smith (Aberfeldie)

Richmond:

#1 – Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#43 – Tessa Lavey (WNBL)
#52 – Luka Lesosky-Hay (Geelong Falcons/Richmond VFLW)

St Kilda:

#6 – Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
#24 – Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#34 – Renee Saulitis (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#40 – Jacqueline Vogt (Southern Saints VFLW)
#51 – Pass

West Coast:

#3 – Bella Lewis (Claremont/Western Australia)
#18 – Shanae Davison (Swan Districts/WA)
#32 – Julie-Anne Norrish (East Fremantle)
#53 – Andrea Gilmore (Claremont)
#56 – Pass
#59 – Pass

Western Bulldogs:

#2 – Jess Fitzgerald (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#11 – Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#16 – Isabelle Pritchard (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

2020 AFL Women’s Draft: Full Order

A MASSIVE year both on and off the footy field has culminated in the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft, with a huge amount of talent set to pull on the gear next season. Here are all 61 picks, with the predicted number one selection Ellie McKenzie getting the nod as expected.

Round 1

1 Richmond – Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

2 Western Bulldogs – Jess Fitzgerald (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

3 West Coast Eagles – Bella Lewis (Claremont/Western Australia)

4 Adelaide Crows – Teah Charlton (South Adelaide/Central Allies)

5 Melbourne – Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

6 St Kilda – Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)

7 Gold Coast SUNS – Annise Bradfield (Southport/Queensland)

8 Brisbane Lions – Zimmorlei Farquharson (Yeronga South Brisbane/Queensland)

9 GWS GIANTS – Tarni Evans (Queanbeyan Tigers/ACT)

10 Geelong – Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

11 Western Bulldogs – Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

12 Carlton – Mimi Hill (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

13 North Melbourne – Bella Eddey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

14 Fremantle – Sarah Verrier (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

15 Melbourne – Eliza McNamara (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

16 Western Bulldogs – Isabelle Pritchard (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

 

Round 2

17 Melbourne – Maggie Caris (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

18 West Coast Eagles – Shanae Davison (Swan Districts/WA)

19 Collingwood – Tarni Brown (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

20 Geelong Cats – Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

21 Geelong Cats – Olivia Barber (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

22 North Melbourne – Alice O’Loughlin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

23 Gold Coast SUNS – Sarah Perkins (Hawthorn VFLW)

24 St Kilda – Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

25 Collingwood – Amelia Velardo (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

26 Collingwood – Joanna Lin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

27 Geelong – Stephanie Williams (Geelong Falcons/Darwin Buffettes)

28 Carlton – Daisy Walker (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

29 GWS GIANTS – Emily Pease (Belconnen Magpies/Eastern Allies) 

30 Fremantle – Mikayla Morrison (Central Districts/Western Australia)

 

Round 3

31 Collingwood – Abbi Moloney (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

32 West Coast Eagles – Julie-Anne Norrish (East Fremantle)

33 Collingwood – PASS

34 St Kilda – Renee Saulitis (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

35 Melbourne – Megan Fitzsimon (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

36 Carlton – Winnie Laing (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

37 Brisbane Lions – Indy Tahau (South Adelaide/Central Allies)

38 Brisbane Lions – Ruby Svarc (Essendon VFLW)

39 Geelong – Carly Remmos (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

40 St Kilda – Jacqueline Vogt (Southern Saints VFLW)

41 Melbourne – Mietta Kendall (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

42 GWS GIANTS – Libby Graham 

43 Richmond – Tessa Lavey (WNBL)

 

Round 4

44 North Melbourne – Georgia Hammond (Darebin Falcons VFLW)

45 Adelaide – Rachelle Martin (West Adelaide)

46 Fremantle – Tiah Haynes (Subiaco)

47 Adelaide – Ashleigh Woodland (North Adelaide)

48 Melbourne – Isabella Simmons (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

49 North Melbourne – Brooke Brown (Launceston)

50 Gold Coast Suns – Maddison Levi (Bond University/Queensland)

51 St Kilda – PASS

 

Round 5

52 Richmond – Luka Lesosky-Hay (Geelong Falcons/Richmond VFLW)

53 West Coast Eagles – Andrea Gilmore (Claremont)

54 Gold Coast Suns – Janet Baird (Palmerston Magpies)

55 North Melbourne – Amy Smith (Aberfeldie)

56 West Coast Eagles – PASS

57 Gold Coast Suns – Lucy Single (Bond University)

58 Gold Coast Suns – Elizabeth Keaney (Southern Saints VFLW)

59 West Coast Eagles – PASS

60 Gold Coast Suns – Daisy D’Arcy (Hermit Park/Queensland)

61 Gold Coast Suns – Wallis Randell (Bond University)

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

Velardo makes switch to footy after decade-long basketball success

FOR many it might be a move that you want not expect to see coming. Talented basketballer Amelia Velardo had played high-level competitive basketball for up to a decade and it had been her main focus throughout her sporting career. A school captain at Overnewton Anglican Community College and juggling her Year 12 studies, it was always going to be a year of big decisions.

But one of the biggest came prior to the start of 2020 when Velardo decided to stop shooting hoops, and instead focus on kicking goals in a sport that she had not really spent a considerable amount of time in. Luckily for the Western Jets youngster, she had the support of her family in making the big switch, and it allowed her to invest herself in the new sport and everyone could see her passion for it.

“I mean, it was definitely a really big decision for me because basketball has always been my whole life,” Velardo said. “My family have always been incredibly supportive. “No matter what I wanted to do really. “When I started to bring it up, mum and dad were so supportive. “And it helped me this whole year and even just last year, kind of getting myself into the footy scene. So they’ve been amazing.”

“Like I said, they’ve supported me no matter what I wanted to do,” she said. “They could see that I was really keen on just giving it a go, and I mean, I have nothing to lose by giving it a go really. “And even after training for a few games just being in the footy environment, they could see how much I was just loving it. “So they were great supports really.”

Velardo was quite literally a Rising Star in basketball, winning that award for her club, Keilor Thunder in the Big V competition. She received a Most Valuable Player (MVP) in a grand final and she captained her side to a premiership a couple of years back in the youth league. So why the change and why football?

“I kind of lost a little bit of a spark for (basketball) and then footy started becoming more of a a prominent thing in my environment, with school sports,” Velardo said. “And I gave it a go here and there. I just loved every second of it when I was playing. “I had that fire in my gut to really pursue it. “I just I started loving it, so I thought I’m gonna give it a go and definitely have loved every bit of the transition into it.”

Standing at 176cm, Velardo was thrown into the ruck across her three games for the Jets, but often acted as a “fourth midfielder” around the stoppages, having to compete against much taller opponents. In her final game, the undersized Velardo had to go up against the 189cm Maggie Caris as the Jets went down to the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. Velardo played her part though, racking up an equal match-high 25 disposals, as well as eight tackles, five hitouts, two inside 50s and four rebounds. Asked what it was like competing against the taller players in the ruck, Velardo said it was “definitely tough”.

I mean with the Jets list I was one of the taller ones in the group, however I wasn’t the tallest but still, amongst them,” she said. “So that’s where I kind of fit in there for the first games. “And it was definitely tough. “Coming up a few of the other girls, even in the last game, and played against Maggie Caris who had a good 20 centimetres on me. “But I also think it was really good, in a sense, having it pretty short career in footy. “I think it definitely help me to develop some more strategy.

“There were some times where I got up and I wouldn’t jump. “I just wait for it to be tapped to me, develop different strategies, more around the ball. “Like you said as an extra midfielder. “That’s the kind of the role I played. It was really tough, but I just think it was, almost a blessing in disguise to help me become more familiar with that midfield kind of role.”

Velardo finished the three games with an average of 18 disposals. five hitouts, five tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds per game which seemingly had her take to the game with ease.

“I’ve always loved all sports,” Velardo said. “Footy’s always been some part of my life. “We’ve always been avid followers, with the AFL and I’ve always kicked in the backyard with dad and my brother, so the skill set with kicking in the hands was always kind of there for me and I kind of just developed it a little bit more. “But, I think I’ve always kind of adapted to situations that I think one of the things I really made my goal.

“My role was to, just constantly ask for feedback from coaches each quarter, each training,” she said. “So I think that’s why that constant feedback I was asking for, I was able to develop, I think faster than I thought. “And definitely with the three games, I changed a lot. It was a little bit of surprise, because it’s obviously just still getting used to it all. “I’ve always kind of been able to pick up things pretty quickly, especially when I’m asking for feedback.”

Aside from a “couple of weekends” playing Auskick when she was younger, there was a school football tournament back in Year 9 that Velardo took the opportunity to participate in. Despite not having had experience in the sport, she ended up “MVPing” the tournament. But aside from winning the award, she was presented with a gift that she would treasure over the next few years.

“The award actually came with a Sherrin,” Velardo said. “And that was kind of my first actual Sherrin footy. “I like to use that every day now. “It’s torn and wrecked now I’ve had it for that long but I think that was pretty special receiving that. “And I think aside from winning, that just the experience of that game kind of kicked off the possibility that there could be something here.”

There certainly was something there as Velardo opted to take a chance on a sport she loved from that experience, rekindling the memories from that tournament. After several advances from friends, Velardo decided to finally give football a shot and it has already proved to be a winner with the Jets talent.

Still looking to build areas of her game such as her marking, Velardo said she can take advantage of a lot of one-on-one contests in the air given her basketball background, but just needed to stick a few more grabs. As for her strengths, she rated her composure with ball-in-hand and ability to see things down the ground and assess the situation around the stoppages well.

Unfortunately her season came to a grinding halt with the NAB League Girls postponed and then cancelled due to the global pandemic. It was tough on the teenager who had finally found her calling and had her sights set on making a career out of the sport.

“It was pretty heartbreaking really,” Velardo said. “I was absolutely having time my life, and they’re playing and everything was fantastic. “But I just started really settled in and find my feet in the role. “And even in the next few weeks, my coaches were talking now going start playing more of a midfielder role. “So it was pretty shattering. “It just killed me not being able to keep going.

“I just loved it so much, so it was really, really hard when it finished. “Especially even with school not having that sport outlet. “That’s always been in my life. “It was just really hard,I just want to get back into it as soon as we can. “No matter what I’m playing. “I just really miss it.”

The only positive out of the time off has been Velardo’s ability to really focus on her Year 12 studies, having a lighter burden to juggle. It has not stopped her missing the game she loves, but has been following Carlton – the team she supports in the AFL – during the lockdown period. Her greatest inspirations include Erin Phillips – an elite talent who has taken a similar pathway to Velardo albeit later in life – and then those closest to her.

“I’d probably have to say my parents that are closest (inspiration), and that’s that’s a bit cheesy, but dad especially taught me everything, with kicking and all that,” Velardo said. “I do love all sports and I can pick up all sports pretty quickly, but he’s always the one who taught me the fundamentals of the game. “We always sit and watch Carlton on the weekend and watch them play, and he always took him to the footy when I was younger as well. “Both my mum and dad have just been massive supports and taught me to follow what I love to do and just take a chance, and just show resilience and develop all those things as well.”

As for the next step in her football career, whether it is running around at the elite level, or at a state or local level, Velardo just wants to make the most of her choice to move into the sport.

“I really just want to learn the game as best up as best I can really,” she said. I want to develop great knowledge. “And at the end of the day, just become the best footballer I can. “Obviously in the long run be really successful at a club. “Obviously everyone’s goal is to win the premiership at some stage, but my immediate goal is just to be the best player I can be really and learn as much as I can from as many different people as I can. And just enhance all different aspects of my game.”

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Western Jets

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at the final side in our series, the Western Jets who filled each of the won-lost-drawn columns with a mixed bag start to the season.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: defeated Bendigo Pioneers by 22 points
R2: drew with Murray Bushrangers
R3: lost to GWV Rebels by 25 points

The Jets got to experience the highs, lows and everything in between across the opening three rounds of the season. Western started off with an impressive win over Bendigo Pioneers, could not be split when they faced Murray Bushrangers, and then after a strong start, were just overrun in the second half against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Isabelle Pritchard (22.7 disposals, 3.3 marks, 1.7 hitouts, 7.3 tackles, 3.5 inside 50s, 3.3 rebounds)

The top age AFL Women’s National Academy member was her side’s leading ball winner over the first three rounds and seemed to be everywhere on the ground. After becoming a really consistent half-back in 2019, Pritchard showed she can play through the midfield and used her taller and stronger frame to win the ball at stoppages and get it forward for her teammates to score. A prominent tackler as well.

Montana Ham (20.3 disposals, 5.0 marks, 2.7 tackles, 4.0 inside 50s, 3.7 rebounds, 1 goal)

One of a number of bottom agers, Ham looked more than capable of matching it against her older peers, having a number of highlight reel moments in the opening few rounds. She finished the three games with plenty of stats across the board, including more than 20 touches and five marks per game, having some of the strongest hands going around. Her goal from 50m against the Rebels in Round 3 was one of the best of the competition.

Amelia Velardo (18.0 disposals, 5.0 hitouts, 4.7 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s, 2.0 rebounds)

Playing the tough gig of undersized ruck, the new top ager seemed to take everything in her stride and was one of the Jets’ top four performers across the first two rounds. She did her best in the ruck, but then would dominate her opponent once the ball hit the ground, showing off great athleticism and the ability to cover ground and offer herself as a target around the field.

Charlotte Baskaran (20.3 disposals, 2.0 marks, 6.0 tackles, 3.7 inside 50s, 2.7 rebounds)

One of the best ball users and decision makers in the competition, the bottom age talent still has a couple of years to run in the system and will be one to watch in the future. She often comes off half-back and takes the game on, and more often than not is able to hit targets in situations very few can. A player expected to rotate around the ground in coming years, but once she has time and space, can do some real damage to the opposition.

Caitlin Sargent (9.7 disposals, 3.0 marks, 4.0 tackles, 1.7 inside 50s, 4 goals)

The forward getting on the end of the most opportunities from her teammates, Sargent booted four goals in her three games, and then would also work hard up the field to create opportunities for others. She would go on searching leads and then apply pressure to the opposition, and as a middle ager still has a year to run in the program. She played eight games last season, but has already made noticeable improvement from her few games in 2020, so another to keep an eye on in 2021.

Others who have stood out: Nikita Wright, Ciara Singleton, Jemima Woods, Sarah Golding

A top ager in Wright and an overager in Singleton come into the list after strong starts to the season, with Wright working hard through the midfield and Singleton being a reliable option in defence, whilst pushing up the ground to pump the ball inside 50 on a number of occasions too. Woods and Golding are both middle agers who have another year to run in the system, and both showed good signs to start 2020.