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Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 6

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition treated us to an extended weekend of fixtures in Round 6. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

A quiet game compared to her usual lofty standards, Rowbottom’s influence on the game still can’t be understated as she demanded a run with player around the ground throughout the game. Despite this, she still found ways to impact, especially up forward where she was played as the main target, able to hit the scoreboard for her troubles. Still had moments of brilliance where she’d get away from her player and win the clearance, leaving everyone in her dust. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Just finds ways to outdo herself throughout the game as it goes on. It felt like she was adding a new string to her bow each quarter with her ball winning early impressive, then adding her speed the next quarter, then adding her overhead marking the next and finally adding her composure in the final quarter, not that any of those were weaknesses earlier on, but became more apparent as the game went on. Really reads the play well and puts herself in great spaces all the time, highlighted by a patch in the third quarter where she got an intercept mark, kicked it back forward and then got another one intercept mark when Sandringham worked it back out. Worked hard throughout the game, with her two-way running being a desirable trait. 

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Has some really eye catching moments, especially around stoppages, where her in-and-under, unrelenting hunt of the ball, mixed with her burst of speed and equally quick use of the ball by hand, is a real strength. This game she had a presence as a forward as well, taking a few good grabs and setting up some good inside 50 opportunities with her kicks.

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Had a solid game splitting her time through the midfield and up forward as a deeper target. Did some good things in the first three quarters around stoppages in particular, where her acceleration was hard for Sandringham to deal with, but it was in the final quarter when the pressure started mounting that she really stepped up and shined, getting involved all around the ground with her in close pressure work, and taking a particularly crucial contested mark to slow down play and run down the clock in the final two minutes, showing a deep understanding of the game and how to deal with those situations. 

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Has been a consistent contributor in the Chargers defense and this game was no different, with her tendency to leave her opponent and making contests 2-on-1 in her teams favour, and her confidence to attack incoming balls at ground level and in the air, she’s a very well rounded attacking defender, that doesn’t neglect her defensive responsibilities. She stood up in the big moments, especially in the final quarter as Sandringham were clawing themselves back into the game.

#4 Alexandra McCulloch (Oakleigh Chargers)

Stood up again in the Oakleigh backline, where her willingness to back herself was on show, flying for marks in packs and taking on opponents when tucking the ball under her arm and running with it. Her reliability throughout the game allowed other Oakleigh defenders such as Brooke Vickers to run off their opponents to impact further up the ground, which made her a very valuable part of the win.

#10 Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons)

Had some really good moments, especially with ball in hand, where she’d use her agility to get around multiple opponents and then getting the ball to a teammate. Not overly crash and bash with her ball winning, but she’s very capable of winning a contested ground ball with her poise around contests, which means that more often than not she’s in a good position to handball off to a teammate effectively 

# 18 Mia Zielinski (Sandringham Dragons)

It’s hard to believe this was just her second game at this level, just plays in such a confident and assured manner, confident to take on opponents in a foot race, on the ground or in the air. Her aerial work is superb, rarely dropping a mark and not wasting a single disposal, she became Sandringham’s main target inside 50, flying for everything, very much one to watch for the 2023 draft. 

#11 Tayla Jones (Sandringham Dragons)

Despite playing as a winger, she got involved quite a bit down deep in defence, where she was winning herself a few free kicks through getting to the ball first. Followed up her kicks if they went wayward which obviously made her teammates much more assured. Further up the ground she was punishing Oakleigh for missed kicks when she was in the area, sweeping up loose balls and delivering accurately to teammates.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Followed up her brilliant game against Gippsland with another big performance against a physically stronger midfield, where her athleticism and footy IQ held her in good stead for the game, often selling candy or side stepping opponents with ease then delivering a long accurate kick forward or handballing off to a teammate on the outside, it really looks like her confidence is growing game by game. Was one of the main dragons to take that step up in the final quarter to get them within a kick.

OTHERS:

In such a well rounded performance there’s plenty of others worthy of a mention. From the victors, Erin Woodford and Lily Hart played a big role in pushing their side through for a win. Jemma Rigoni was also good around the ground, getting a goal in her usual forward spot but pushing up and impacting in the midfield, with talented bottom-ager Ameille Smith also having an impact up forward and in the ruck. Sandringham’s winger Charlotte Ryan won plenty of it and did some damage with her signature speed, Pia Staltari was again thrown around in all 3 sections of the ground, but used it well wherever she was. Abby Thompson was a solid aerial presence in defense with captain Kiana Lynch creating plenty going forward.

 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWS GIANTS ACADEMY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#36 Ally Morphett (GWS GIANTS Academy – but also Murray Bushrangers)

It must have been weird for Morphett lining up against her NAB League teammates, but she certainly had no qualms making an impact in the game. The opening bounce saw the ruck punch a thumping ball forward into the path of her teammates, and then had a number of shots on goal in the opening term. Her set shot from 50m shanked to the right and was intercepted, then her quick snap on goal was good, but went to to the left and stayed in. She kept putting her body on the line and winning her fair share of the ball, thumping it forward. She took a really strong overhead mark, clunking the ball and her ball movement inside 50 led to a goal.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Cynthia Hamilton (GWS GIANTS Academy)

A standout throughout the match for the GIANTS Academy providing run all over the ground. She played between the wing, forward and even dropping back into defence, finding plenty of the ball and keeping it moving in transition. Her work rate was a feature of her game, and she stepped up to kick two goals in the match; the first when she went to full-forward midway through the term thanks to a quick kick running back to it, and then booted a second goal in the third term with a snap out of nothing. Hamilton had a courageous marking attempt in the forward 50 and would continue to run hard throughout the match to be one of the GIANTS’ standout players.

#11 Jayde Hamilton (GWS GIANTS Academy)

Just cracked in for four quarters, and having been one of the AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitees from last season, and someone who has already debuted at VFL Women’s level, Hamilton showed her experience and ball-winning abilities. She can tend to throw the ball on the boot at times, but her vision and timing of handballs is quite good, able to release at the right point. She reads the stoppage work well and can get forward for some shots on goal.

#30 Jessica Whelan (GWS GIANTS Academy)

A lovely kick of the ball, Whelan has great technique and and played between midfield and forward, with a few eye-catching highlights. She laid a fierce tackle in the middle of the ground in the opening term, took a great intercept mark on the wing and hit a low dart of a pass inside 50 in the third term which led to a goal, then earned a 50m penalty to have a set shot from the goalsquare and made no mistake.

#31 Hayley Macdonald (GWS GIANTS Academy)

Booted two goals in the game and looked lively inside 50. She arguably could have finished with more majors, given her first set shot from 20m out straight in front missed to the right. She kicked her first early in the third term with a great snap around her body, and continued to present throughout the second half. Early in the fourth quarter Macdonald kicked her second, able to get her boot to the ball in the goalsquare to double her output.

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

Having some sort of season is the outside talent, with her speed and ball-winning capacity on show. At times she just needs that extra touch of composure or awareness to know she has more time than she thinks she does, but when she is up and going it is impressive. She is strong overhead and is not afraid to take on the opposition, at one stage evading two players, but then getting caught by the third. With her athletic traits and aggressive play with ball-in-hand, Smith is perennially an eye-catching player and has some attractive traits to her wing role.

#22 Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

An important player in the Bushrangers’ defensive setup, Hay generally uses the ball well aside from the odd kick, and is always mopping up deep in defence. She is a strong interceptor and takes the game on with running meterage, and then puts her body on the line such as a great smother to save a goal in the third term. She was clean off the deck and able to quickly transition from the pickup to a smooth handball in the final quarter, having put together and impressive overall performance.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

Another strong performance from the bottom-age talent with a penetrating left boot. She showed clean hands at ground level and her usual defensive pressure, with her sidestepping ability to get on her left side and then wind up with a powerful pass always something to enjoy. Skepper is able to take some strong overhead marks and cover the ground well, laying tackles in each of the thirds of the ground, and it is about refining the left boot to match the execution with the technique. Whilst she courageously went up for a mark late in the game, she landed a little awkwardly and was rested.

#46 Zara Hamilton (Murray Bushrangers)

Working with tandem with Smith as the prime ball mover in transition, Hamilton played an impressive game from both an offensive and defensive standpoint. Often she would apply pressure to the opposition to force a turnover such as a dropped mark inside defensive 50, and when she had the ball used it fairly well. Not afraid to use some athleticism to sidestep and opponent and kick long, Hamilton set up a goal to Olivia Cicolini who made no mistake from a free kick in the third term.

OTHERS:

Sophie Trewartha was impressive for the GIANTS, while Eleanor Bishop won plenty of the footy, and the likes of Georgie Jaques and Anita Manning were also solid. For the Bushrangers, Kristy Whitehead, Mindy Quade, Bonny McKean and Chloe Locke worked well in defence, and Mikayla Jones was also among the better players on the day for the losing side.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#7 Jessica Doyle (Sydney Swans Academy)

Whilst Doyle might be lightly built, she certainly packs a punch and plenty of talent with her work in the forward half. Working between midfield and forward as one of those taller mids who can provide a marking target inside 50, Doyle has that X-factor about her that catches the eye. She got the ball rolling for her side against the momentum in the first term with an important goal, then stepped up with her side’s third major of the contest, to finish with the two goals from an equal team-high 19 disposals. Moving well around the ground, Doyle was a key playmaker, driving the ball inside 50 on multiple occasions.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#20 Ella Heads (Sydney Swans Academy)

An absolute rock in defence, Heads was a terrific one-on-one opponent, and took a number of strong intercept marks. She would then take the game on and either go for a run or use her composure to go back and search out a target. As the defence was under siege early, Heads did well to hold the fort up and team up well with the likes of Ruby Sargent-Wilson, and think through the defensive transition into attack.

#10 Ruby Sargent-Wilson (Sydney Swans Academy)

Did not need to win a heap of the ball to have an impact, with five rebound 50s from 10 touches. She popped up from time to time during crucial moments, and was one of the Swans’ best on the day. She used the ball well by foot and was composed when she won it, often weaving away from an opponent to provide teammates with something to run onto.

#19 Maddy Hendrie (Sydney Swans Academy)

Hendrie was someone who caught the eye due to her movement in transition, putting the ball into dangerous spots going inside 50. She was not afraid to get her hands dirty with a number of tackles, and even had a chance on goal but missed. Winning the majority of her touches at ground level, Hendrie was a key playmaker in the front half for the Swans throughout the day.

#13 Danika Spamer (Sydney Swans Academy)

A tough competitor who won her fair share of the ball, Spamer laid the equal most tackles for the Swans and really dug deep at the clinches. She was able to extract the ball from the stoppage and keep it moving, and whilst still developing some areas of her game, she showed she could win the ball and cover the field really well, winning possessions in each third of the ground.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

The Draft Central Player of the Week was absolutely sensational with a competition season-high 31 disposals on the day. She was everywhere, even kicking a goal off a step from just inside 50 to keep the Falcons in the contest, and popped up constantly around the ground. On a number of occasions she just could not quite hold onto a few marks so could have had even more of the pill, but her complete work rate saw her pick up five or more marks, tackles, inside 50s and rebounds just to give a bit of an indication of just how impressive she was in the match. On the most in-form players in the 2021 season.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Another consistent performer with clean skills and balance, Schaap worked in tandem with Craven throughout the match to ensure the game was controlled out of the midfield. Whilst the Falcons ultimately fell short of victory, Schaap was someone who would put her body on the line, then create her own space and use it well in transition. She was often the player cracking in under multiple opponents to win the contested ball, and then applying her own defensive pressure.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

Continuing what has been a consistent season, Simpson is the third player in the trio of ball-winning midfielders, and used her strength to advantage in the contest. She was able to win the loose and hard balls, and thump the pill forward to give teammates best chance. At times she can rush with her disposal, but knows how to win the ball and how to protect the ball at ground level, as well as aide with defensive support.

#33 Taiya Morrow (Geelong Falcons)

Really stepped up in defence with the absence of Annie Lee to team up with Elizabeth Dowling back there. She was someone often mopping up on the last line of defence, and then clearing the ball through a long kick to half-back. She put together a four-quarter performance and really came into her own during the match, and is an underrated player in the Falcons’ back six, completing their array of consistent defenders.

OTHERS:

For the Swans, it really was an even team performance, with rucks, Eloise Morgan and April Devine catching the eye, while Kahli Gilchrist and Isadora McLeay also stood out. For the Falcons, Dowling was her reliable self in defence, while Gabbi Featherston and Mia Van Dyke were impressive, as was Analea McKee who played her best game of the season, and Ash Van Loon was fierce before coming off with an injury.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Hamish Spence

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

King finished off her third game in eight days among the best players on the ground once again. Her poise, speed and timing were impressive in the tough conditions, but she still managed to match it around the contest with her 16 disposals and six tackles. One thing that stands out in King’s game is her intent to keep the ball alive and move it forward. While it doesn’t always come off and can result in the occasional mistake, her attacking mindset would have North Melbourne (the AFLW club with her draft rights) excited.

TOP PERFORMERS:  

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Gaffney’s enjoyed a strong 2021 campaign this year, but Saturday’s game was her finest performance to date. Her gut-running and agility were a luxury for the Devils, as they could distribute the ball to her on the outside and get it away from the contest, where it lived for large parts of the day. She played a typical wingers game, covering the whole ground and racking up plenty of possessions with her line-breaking speed, ultimately finishing with 20 disposals, four tackles, three inside 50s and three rebound 50s.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

Starred at ground level and on the inside, making an impact at every stoppage she attended. Her contested game style was perfectly suited to the congested conditions at Dial Park, with Webster often distributing the ball from the bottom of the pack with her 11 handballs. She racked up 20 disposals in total and kicked a goal, continuing the excellent form that has seen her named in Draft Central’s Team of the Week for the second week in a row.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

It was another great game for Maurer through the midfield, but it was the impact she made up forward that will turn some heads. She was the only multiple goalkicker for the game; her first was a set-shot after being hit-up on a lead, and the second was a classy running goal out of the contest. If Maurer can keep adding this element to her game, it will serve her well going forward. She was also tough as usual around stoppages with her 18 disposals and six tackles, constantly absorbing tackles to hand the ball off one of her teammates.

#49 Charlotte Vandenberg (Tasmania Devils)

Was the most dominant ruck on the ground, easily winning the ruck battle with her game-high 17 hit outs. Dandenong rotated several different players against her, but Vandenberg didn’t lower her standards or tire out, asserting her physicality at each contest. What was equally impressive was her follow-up and second efforts at ground level, her six tackles represent her want to impact the game even after the ball’s been bounced.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

She worked tirelessly all game for the Stingrays, finishing as their leading possession getter with 19 disposals, despite playing out of the forward line. She pushed hard up the ground and used her speed to provide an option for her side, as evidenced by her game-high nine inside 50s. She had three scoring shots on goal, before finally getting some reward for effort with the last goal of the game.

#38 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

Was arguably Dandenong’s best midfielder in defeat on the weekend. She looked comfortable around stoppages in the wet conditions, constantly pushing past players and forcing her way through packs. While Emily Shepherd being out due to injury was a blow, it gave Crank a chance to step up in her absence, an opportunity she fully embraced with her 18 disposals.

#34 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)

Another key contributor through the middle, Richards impressed with her toughness and competitiveness around the ball. She featured at most stoppages and made an impact with her 12 disposals and three tackles. She didn’t seem to push forward as much as she has done in the past, possibly signalling a more midfield centric role moving forward.

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Hill continued her excellent form marshalling the Stingrays down back, reading the ball beautifully, despite the wet conditions, and keeping Tasmania’s forward line in check. She kept the likes of Amy Prokopiec accountable after Prokopiec kicked the first goal of the game, while impacting the contest in her own right with her 13 disposals, three tackles and three rebound 50s.

#27 Charley Ryan (Dandenong Stingrays)

She didn’t gather as much of the ball as some other players, but Ryan made an impact whenever she had it in her hands. Every one of her nine disposals was effective and laced with class, which stood in the tough conditions on Saturday. She drove her side’s attacks up forward with six inside 50s and wasn’t afraid to work defensively with her six tackles.

OTHERS:

Aprille Crooks (18 disposals and three rebound 50s) and Priscilla Odwogo (15 disposals, five tackles and five rebound 50s) were Tasmania’s two main movers out of the backline, constantly cutting off the ball and sending it back out. Amy Bissett was an important link-up forward, gathering 14 disposals and three inside 50s in a strong performance. While her fellow winger, Meghan Gaffney, took most of the attention, Madison Brazendale (15 disposals and five tackles) was good in her own right on the opposing wing. Abbey Jordan (17 disposals and two inside 50s) was strong through the middle for Dandenong, matching it with some of the Devils’ best onballers around stoppages. Jemma Radford (nine disposals, two inside 50s and two rebound 50s) and Mackenzie Eardley (13 disposals, six tackles and two rebound 50s) held up down back and constantly rebounded the ball. Olivia Robinson (13 disposals, five tackles and three inside 50s) was influential at half-forward, working up the field to impact the contest and applying constant pressure.

 

GWV REBELS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Positioned on the wing for the day, she really showed off her workrate and game reading ability, drifting into the backline to provide assistance down there, getting herself in the best spots to take intercept marks, but also pushing forward to provide pressure and scoring opportunities. It’s particularly impressive how aerially, even if she doesn’t hold the mark she’s never beaten with the follow up at ground level, where she’s composed and measured with her ball use as well.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Really impressive work creating drive from the backline and setting up outside of forward 50 to get the ball straight back in, making it difficult for the Jets to set themselves up defensively again. She showed she understands the game at a high level as well, always doing all she can with the ball in hand, like going for runs, but never pushing it and overestimating what she can do, that mixed with the distance and penetration of her kick can be really damaging.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Coming into the midfield from her usual back flank role, it was a seamless transition for Leonard who topped the disposal charts for the day. All the same attributes that make her such a danger off of half back; her speed, kicking and game sense, were well on show throughout the day as she was often standing beside the Jets Montana Ham around stoppages, and looked to do well in nullifying her whilst getting a lot of it herself. Her tackling around stoppages was really good as well, making it hard for Jets to break free at any stage 

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

Had an amazing game playing mostly as the main target for the Rebels inside deep 50, showing her potential to be one of those midfielders that can effectively rest forward. Standing at just the 166 cm, you would’ve thought she was 10 cm taller the way she was flying for every mark and getting a couple of them. It was her work at ground level and in congestion that was most impressive, able to dance around opponents to set up teammates going forward, or handball to an oncoming runner.

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

The top ball winner for the Jets, Baskaran was her usual composed and classy self throughout the game, with her ball use highly effective and damaging, which played a big part in the Jets second half surge. I really liked that she very rarely just kicks it down the line, she’s always looking to move the ball inside or across for a switch, making it easier for her forwards to get effective shots if they mark it.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

There’s something very entertaining about watching Ham run straight through stoppages to get the ball moving forward with a long bomb, and she’s just so hard for opponents to stop from doing it. Particularly impressed with how she set up behind the ball for the game, taking on a more defensive focus than we usually see from her, she really effective in creating contests rather than letting the rebels just go end-to-end

#6 Stella Bridgewater (GWV Rebels)

Lined up at centre half-forward to start with, but played one of those games where she could very well have been a midfielder as well, was just everywhere and involved in every area of the ground. Has some really good athletic traits which make her a difficult matchup, either faster or stronger than the opponents rotating on her throughout the game.

#52 Krystal Russell (Western Jets)

Improves more and more every game which is really good to see, and against the Rebels she started putting really direction and distance on her taps, putting it a few meters out in front of teammates already on the move, with her teammates rarely having to slow down for the ball. Her follow up work is good when it’s called upon as well.

OTHERS:

Lili Condon battled hard in the midfield all day for the Rebels, winning plenty of ball, with defensive duo Molly Walton and Stephanie Glover also putting in a good shift in the defensive half for the Rebels, while Kalani Scoullar won the most hitouts across the round. For the Jets, it was some regular contributors in Jemima Woods, Paige Ryan and Stephanie Asciak that battled hard all day in different areas of the ground, with all doing a lot of their work in the midfield.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

It’s kind of ridiculous that she can play half of the game away from the rover roles but still have such a high disposal count and impact everywhere around the ground. It’s obvious she’s been playing more forward and defense in the last couple of weeks, and her output hasn’t dropped at all which is a really great thing to see. Was really impressive especially when playing in the backline, with her willingness to attack the footy and move up the ground playing a big part in Calder’s constant pressure and ball movement forward. Throw in some of her usual side steps and composure under pressure and it was a top level performance where she made essentially no mistakes.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Had a good game in the ruck where she was tested against one of the best in the comp. What you’re getting with Gillard is a ruck that, even if she doesn’t win the tap her follow up work is unmatchable, with work below her knees being a major strength for someone as tall as she is. Throw on top of this her ability to impact up forward or around the ground as a really good aerially presence and user of the footy and she’s such a valuable player, which was on show against Power.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#25 Lily Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)

Her run-and-carry is a delight to watch, she’s got a good mix of power/strength as well as composure to understand what her limits are, so it was rare to see her get herself into trouble despite her tendency for that run-and carry. She’s really accountable in defense, even on the occasion her opponent does win the ball they won’t get an easy disposal afterwards with her tackling and relentless pressure. With more time in the midfield, I have no doubt she’ll become one of the stronger stoppage players in the competition.

#5 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

She has such a high impact with her disposal that even without racking up big numbers she’s one of the most damaging players during any given game, and her switch to the forwardline after spending the last few games as a defender proves that with her game high 3 goal haul. A really impressive part of her game was how much she worked up the ground as well, then worked harder than her opponent in transition to impact the play. Another impressive part of her game was her marking, taking a good contested mark in the first quarter.

#10 Olivia Manfre (Calder Cannons)

She’s been on the verge of having a breakout game for a couple of weeks and all it took was a game where she got a really good run in the midfield to do it. A lot of what she’s displayed up forward with her leading patterns, disposal skills and footy IQ shined in the midfield as well, making really good runs around stoppages to get in the best positions, and could then get the ball to outside runners or kick it forward.. She still had her stints up forward as well, getting a goal for her efforts, showing that she’s got that capability of a midfield/forward split going forward.

#2 Reese Sutton (Calder Cannons)

In a similar sense to Manfre she’s been on the verge of a breakout game for a couple of weeks, and with increased midfield time she took it with both hands, her footy IQ on display around stoppages where she does well to put herself where the ball is going to be. Her kicking is a real delight, finding the better options more often than not with well weighted kicks.

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Super impressive through the midfield all day, with her burst of speed in particular looking good coming out of stoppages or contests, always followed by a quality kick forward or handball to an outside team mate. Once again was impressed by her two-way running, where she’d be involved in the forwardline, and then pop up in the backline a minute later when Gippsland got a turn over.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Looking at her play a game, and she just understands it at a really high level. Despite not racking up huge numbers she has really good moments throughout the game where her game sense and footy IQ are on display with her positioning or runs she’s making, especially when reading the ball off of the rucks hands. Her disposal skills under pressure were also really impressive, and contributed to some really good passages for Gippsland

#1 Sunday Brisbane (Gippsland Power)

Really crafty midfielder, who despite her size isn’t afraid to get involved  in the contested side of the game, and that relentless attack on the ball is really advantageous for Gippsland, especially with her handballing being at a good level, even with Calder tightening up on her later on.

OTHERS:

Gippsland had a few admirable performers despite the loss, with Courtney Fletcher winning quite a bit of ball around the ground. Tall duo Matilda Van Berkel and Grace Matser were solid in defense and the Ruck respectively and Grace McRae still impacted well despite having a quieter game than usual. The Cannons had plenty of others that performed their role well, Zali Friswell again being a good ball winner and contributor in other areas around the ground, bottom-ager Abbey McDonald continues to work into her role as rebounding defender really well, and winger Mia Briedis was winning it plenty.

 

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Appleby was again promising in patches for the Knights, with her speed and running ability evident but not dominant over the course of a highly contested game. She could have been the perfect player to break the contest open on the outside and threatened to do so with ball in hand. Her class shone through with clean takes and use in possession, especially during the third and fourth quarters as Northern began to arrest momentum and mount its extraordinary comeback.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

The best player afield and at 15 years of age, one who has already set the bar high with many seasons left to prosper in the underage pathways. Jordan was a constant figure at the stoppages, using her zippy turn of speed to burst away with ball in hand and thrust Northern onto the front foot. She dug in hard despite her diminutive stature and was the standout performer across four quarters, while also standing up in the clutch moments. Her third term goal gave Northern a sniff, and her second put the Knights within striking distance during term four, capping off what was an outstanding individual performance which inspired her team to victory.

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

Eastern’s most outstanding performer on the day, Sherar worked furiously hard to ensure her side would boss the midfield battle early on. All bar one of her 16 disposals were kicks, highlighting Sherar’s ability to gain meterage from the coalface and make an impact where it matters most. Her marking prowess was also on show and the Ranges coaches would have been pleased by her work-rate to not only win possession in all areas of the ground, but to also tackle hard when required. After kicking the second goal of the game, Sherar was set up for a big day and followed through.

#15 Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)

With everything to gain late in the contest, Northern pulled the trigger and sent Delgado into the centre bounces – a move which ultimately played a massive part in the final result. Previously, the reliable top-ager was seen intercepting and rebounding in her usual defensive post, which proved key to Northern remaining a chance to turn around and win. At 173cm, her presence was then felt through midfield where she willed the ball forward and booted a crucial goal at the start of term four to spark Northern’s game-winning charge.

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Another of the 2005-birth brigade, Pisano continues to find the goals for Eastern and impact games up forward. An impressive 14 of her 15 disposals came via foot, and five of them were inside 50 entries, showcasing the creative threat that Pisano presents. Her two goals came with a touch of class and were taken in quick succession during the first term, helping Eastern skip out to what should have been a defining lead. The 15-year-old has plenty of time to develop further and potentially try her hand up the field, but looks so comfortable at the level as a forward.

#22 Ella Smallacombe (Northern Knights)

One of Northern’s key factors up forward, Smallacombe, or ‘Big Brush’ as she is referred to by teammates notched a career-high 17 disposals as she worked hard up the ground to provide a viable target and help link the Knights into their attacking 50. She may not have found the big sticks in this outing, but moreso played to a role which allowed Northern to keep its forward momentum going and have someone who could skilfully deliver the ball into dangerous areas.

#44 Grace Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

One of the competition’s most exciting ruck prospects, Campbell was able to showcase her athleticism and raw ability on the ball in this outing. At over 180cm, her aerial nous is an obvious strength and she brought it to the fore with a game-high 19 hitouts to go with three eye-catching marks. She is one of the few players who can take the ball at its highest point, but not one to admire her work for long, Campbell also showed a knack for playing on straight away and moving through traffic like a much smaller player. She missed the chance to cap off a promising outing with scoreboard impact, with one guilt-edge chance to put Eastern back ahead during the fourth term drifting into the post.

OTHERS:

Both sides had a raft of handy contributors during the day, with plenty of hard workers placed on each line. Eastern had the likes of Jess Grace and Isabelle Khoury return from VFLW duties with aplomb, while Grace Walsh was strong in defence alongside Cadhla Schmidli, and Bridget Deed was reliable in midfield. Northern leader Teleah Smart was also busy in the engine room, aided by the combativeness of stand-in ruck Monique Ramsay. Lulu Beatty was another to impress, while Rylie Wilcox was lively inside 50 and Trinity Mills popped up for a couple of clutch goals.

NAB League Girls Round 6 preview: Academy teams arrive for bumper clashes

ALL four Northern Academy teams will arrive in the NAB League Girls competition, with the Sydney Swans, Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns playing in Victoria, while GWS GIANTS meet the Murray Bushrangers in Lavington, New South Wales.

In a huge boost for the NAB League Girls, the clash between Geelong Falcons and Sydney Swans Academy, and the double-header featuring the Queensland Academy teams and Northern Knights and Eastern Ranges, will not only be streamed via the NAB League app, but also feature live commentary. We preview all the Round 6 games below.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWS GIANTS ACADEMY
Saturday, March 13 @ 10am
Lavington Sports Ground

The first NAB League Girls game of the year to be played in New South Wales takes place between Murray Bushrangers and GWS GIANTS Academy. It also marks the first game of what will be four across the weekend, introducing the Northern Academy sides to some Victorian opposition. Murray Bushrangers are yet to win a game in the NAB League Girls, and their AFL Women’s Academy player Ally Morphett will suit up in the orange and charcoal against the Bushrangers’ other towering ruck in Lily Kozuharoff. After making her debut for North Melbourne VFL Women’s last week, Jayde Hamilton will be back at Under 19s level, roving the taps and going head-to-head with bottom-age jet Keeley Skepper onball.

Grace Hay is a critical inclusion in defence for the Bushrangers, teaming up with the likes of Mindy Quade, Chloe Locke and Kristy Whitehead forming a strong half-back line. They will need to contain teammate Lily Sharp who also switches jumpers for this clash, while Hayley Macdonald slotted three goals in the big 49-point win over Sydney Swans Academy a fortnight ago. She was named best on ground in that victory, with Sophie Trewartha another impressive forward on the day, Eleano Bishop and wing Brodie Mowbray others named amongst the best. India Lehman will take to the field for the GIANTS against her Bushrangers teammates, while Murray will look to in-form wing Aurora Smith to go head-to-head with Jessica Whelan in a matchup to watch. Zara Hamilton, Sophia McCarthy and Olivia Cicolini are others who can create scoring opportunities for the home side.

Murray has the experience at this level, but the real contest will be the interesting factor watching the GIANTS Academy making their debut at NAB League level with a number of Bushrangers to face off against their NAB League teammates.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY
Saturday, March 13 @ 11am
Deakin University Waurn Ponds

Heading much further south, another Academy team arrives in Victoria for a clash against the red-hot Geelong Falcons. The Falcons are 3-0 so far this season and have taken care of all their opponents thus far. Sydney has played two matches against the GIANTS Academy, splitting the results with a 20-point win, before a 49-point loss. Given Geelong could take out the entire title, this will be a great challenge for the Swans to partake in as they hit the field for the first time at NAB League Girls level. The Falcons head in without the in-form Annie Lee in defence, or leading goalkicker Renee Tierney up forward as they look to continue their stints at VFL Women’s level. Otherwise the Falcons will be relatively stable across the field and look to continue their form against the Swans.

The Falcons midfield of Tess Craven, Ash Van Loon, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson has been rock solid this year, and will be hard to beat. It will be a fantastic test for the likes of Ruby Sargent-Wilson and Hannah Cerezo who both stood out in the Academy matches recently. Up forward, Jessica Doyle slotted four as the sole AFL Women’s Academy for her state, but also the only one in the match. She will be the crucial player to watch up forward, though Willow Smith, Kyla Tracey and Jade Jarrett have all proven to be scoring options for the red and white side. Elizabeth Dowling will be the player her teammates look to with distribution outside the defensive 50, while Analea McKee and Ava McKeegan will look to drive the ball down the field from half-back. Ingrid Houtsma provides some X-factor on the win, and Mia Van Dyke has been thrown forward for this game, with reliable targets, Lucy Were and Gabbi Featherston making life difficult for the opposition. Other Swans who impressed in the Academy games include Kiara Beesley – who received a Draft Combine invitation last year – Maddy Hendrie, Ella Morris, Kahli Gilchrist and Ella Heads who will hope to make a good impression in this encounter.

Geelong is one of the teams to beat this season, but the Swans will get a great hitout ahead of next month’s AFL Women’s Under-19 Championships.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 13 @ 12.30pm
Penguin Reserve

Playing in the third state for the day’s action, Tasmania Devils host Dandenong Stingrays at Penguin Reserve. The Devils are coming off back-to-back wins in Victoria after their narrow defeat at the hands of Oakleigh Chargers a fortnight ago. If there is one team that can sympathise with them about losing to the Chargers in a nail-biter it is the Stingrays, who went down to the Chargers by a solitary point a week ago. Tasmania sits at 3-1 for the season, while the Stingrays have one less game under their belts for a 2-1 start, but could draw level with a win here. The Devils really ran out the final term against Bendigo Pioneers last Saturday, then managed to restrict Western Jets to just one point, meaning in their last seven quarters, the Devils’ defence has conceded just one behind. That will be important against a dangerous Stingrays’ forward line that contains Amber Clarke (three goals against Oakleigh) and the rotating Ashleigh Richards and Mackenzie Eardley who can be thrown there too.

Much like the Devils, the Stingrays have a really strong defensive outfit, with Eardley and Zoe Hill the twin towers in the key positions and the likes of Jaide Anthony and Jemma Radford providing the run. Amy Prokopiec has looked lively up forward this season, with her season-best four goals coming in Round 1, while Amy Bissett and Amy Edmand have also proven to kick multiple goals in a game through tight contests. The Devils midfield has been firing on all cylinders, withe speed of Perri King, class of Claire Ransom and hardness of Ella Maurer providing a nice balance on the inside. Given the Stingrays will be without the injured Emily Shepherd, it will be up to Richards and Felicity Crank to step up with Abbey Jordan in that onball group. Aprille Crooks, Priscilla Odwogo and Jemma Blair can provide the run out of defence for the Devils, while Meghan Gaffney never stops running.

This has all the hallmarks of being a thriller and being at home, Tasmania Devils might have the slight edge, but it is hard to look past the Stingrays who are just as well balanced as any side, but it shapes as the match to watch this weekend.

 

GWV REBELS vs. WESTERN JETS
Sunday, March 14 @ 11am
MARS Stadium

Taking to the field for their second game in four days, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels will host the Western Jets – who only have a six-day break themselves – at MARS Stadium on Sunday morning. The Rebels trialled key forward Ella Friend on a wing and she has been named there again in what could be an absolute blockbuster of a matchup against Jets’ talent Charlotte Baskaran. The one-on-ones across the ground are superb, with Lilli Condon set to go up against Montana Ham, and though the height difference might be substantial, neither player will take a backwards step. Paige Scott booted three goals against the Bendigo Pioneers on Wednesday, her second three-goal haul of the year, and will be the danger player inside 50. The smaller defenders in Paige Ryan, Laura Elliott and Kate Maxwell have done well in moving the ball in transition, and will need to stem the flow of inside 50s from the Rebels midfielders.

Up the other end, Nyakoat Dojiok is a brick wall with her ability to read the ball in flight and intercept mark a treat, and Molly Walton is one of the more consistent bottom-age talents running around back there, already tasked with the kick-in duties. Chloe Leonard could slot back onto half-back, but will start onball against Trinity Skenderis, while Ally Trigg and Tahlia Meier both have the capacity to roll from the midfield forward. Kensley Ward has brought the defensive intensity up forward in her two games thus far, while Caitlin Sargent and Jemima Woods are the key forward targets inside 50. Krystal Russell has enjoyed a strong debut season as well through the ruck, and will go head-to-head against Kalani Scoullar.

If the Rebels get up, they move to 3-2 for the season, while the Jets sit at 1-3 currently and would join the Rebels with a 2-3 record if they can topple the home team up in Ballarat.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. CALDER CANNONS
Sunday, March 14 @ 11.30am
Ronald Reserve, Morwell East

Over east, Gippsland Power host Calder Cannons with the home team searching for its first win of the season, while the Calder Cannons are hoping to go back-to-back after a strong win over Northern Knights 10 days earlier under lights at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The Power have become comfortable at Ronald Reserve in Morwell East, with this fixture being their third consecutive match at the venue having played Northern Knights and Sandringham Dragons there in recent weeks. The Power put in their best effort last week against the Dragons, with their lowest losing margin of 58 points, but also slotting three goals in the process. The battle to watch will be in the midfield where Grace McRae could go head-to-head with fellow hard nut Emelia Yassir, while Yasmin Duursma and Macie Gilmour go up against Olivia Manfre and Reese Sutton onball. Georgie Prespakis has been thrown forward in a huge one-on-one contest with Lily-Rose Williamson which will be a great test for the bottom-ager given she possesses similar powerful traits.

Shanara Notman returns to the Power side to provide that tall intercepting target in defence, but could also be thrown forward, with Matilda Van Berkel and Holly Booth named in the key position forward spots though both have become reliable defenders in past years. Indiana Makai has been in good form of late, with Sunday Brisbane and Calder’s Mali McLeod also capable of taking grass with ball-in-hand a long a wing. Neve Crowley will be a crucial key tall for the Cannons up forward, with Alisa Magri (three goals against Northern) and Jessica Zakkour both damaging options inside 50. Up the other end, Kasey Lennox is rock solid at full-back, while Zali Friswell and Tahlia Gillard have both been named on the bench but can roll on and play in multiple positions, quite usually relieving the midfield.

Calder Cannons will be looking for a big win here, but Gippsland will be up for the fight, it will just be about keeping possession and getting the ball forward to their keys, then trying to capitalise on the transition.

 

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. BRISBANE LIONS ACADEMY
Sunday, March 14 @ 12.45pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora

In the first of a double-header at La Trobe University, Northern Knights will host Brisbane Lions Academy in what is poised to be a fantastic contest. The Lions Academy might be underrated, but they have three AFL Women’s Academy members out on the park, with Maggie Harmer, Mikayla Pauga and Bella Smith all running out for the Lions in their first NAB League Girls game. Harmer and Pauga will start through the midfield, though the latter could go forward and join Smith in the front six, while Harmer is more than capable of dropping back and being a reliable rebounding defender as well. The Lions have plenty of versatile players in their outfit, with Chelsea Chesterfield and Lucia Liessi both able to front up in the forward line, but will start in defence for this match.

The Knights have been able to create plenty of marking targets inside 50, with Megan Girolami enjoying a fantastic season this year, and the likes of Ella Smallacombe and Simone Mooney being the key talls in there. Trinity Mills has been a tough player to contain, while wings Maykaylah Appleby – Northern’s AFL Women’s Academy member – and Brooke Plummer have created driving runs and pumping the ball inside 50. Grace Wake returns from injury for the Knights for her first game of the season, teaming up with Tarrah Delgado in the back 50, while Ava Jordan has been a sensational find as an 05-born talent this season. An injury to Maeve Chaplin last week means she will miss out, but the Knights have plenty of depth through the side. Other Lions youngsters who have impressed in the Queensland colours or at QAFL Women’s level before include Macie Brown, Tiarna Jericho and Izzy Kotatis, while Phoebe Baird battling with Appleby as two smooth movers will be a matchup to watch.

Northern will be favourites for this clash, but Brisbane Lions could be the pick of the Academy sides this weekend, so if there is to be an upset, it could be this one.

 

EASTERN RANGES vs. GOLD COAST SUNS ACADEMY
Sunday, March 14 @ 2.45pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora

In the second game at the revamped La Trobe University, Eastern Ranges will hope to bounce back from their first loss two weeks ago when they take on the other Queensland Academy side in Gold Coast Suns. The Ranges will be without Olivia Meagher who will continue her stint at Collingwood’s VFL Women’s side tonight against Western Bulldogs, which means another midfielder will need to try and contain Queensland’s top draft prospect in Teagan Levi. The sister of Gold Coast’s Maddison, Levi is a terrific inside midfielder who can play in multiple roles, but will bullock the ball out of the stoppage with good burst and power. She is hard to match up on, but Bridget Deed looks to be the one set to go head-to-head with her. The Eastern midfield is a strong one, with in-form ruck Georgia Campbell, and midfielders Keeley Sherar and Ruby O’Dwyer both in good form ahead of this clash. A trio of Ranges return from VFL Women’s duty with Isabelle Khoury (wing), Matilda Hardy (half-forward) and Jess Grace (interchange) all named for the clash.

The Suns have some great talent across the board, with key forward at QAFL Women’s level Jasmyn Davidson named at full-back for this clash showing off her versatility. Up the other end is Lily Tarlinton, with her and Faith Alchin filling out the key position posts. Keyshia Matenga has speed to burn and expect her to come off the bench to roll onto a wing against either Khoury or Jorja Livingstone, while twins Laquoiya and Litonya Cockatoo-Motlop provide a family bond within the team. Alyssia Pisano is a name to keep in mind for the future as a damaging ball user in side 50, while Caitlin Thorne is another Suns player named at half-forward who could create some havoc inside 50.

Eastern Ranges have shown to have the depth to beat most teams and will be favourites here, but led by Levi, the Suns will hope to win plenty of clearances and get the ball forward for scoring opportunities.

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 2a & 5

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition treated us to a week-long stretch of fixtures which included Round 5’s action, as well as a host of make-up games from Round 2. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

CALDER CANNONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Starting on the wing and then moving to half back, Appleby took the most of her chances with the ball and showcased her trademark run and carry. She stood up as an aerial threat as well, especially around the backline, which made it difficult for Calder to get quality entries inside 50 later in the piece.  

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Proved she can continue to put out really high quality performances even when being tagged, still being a dangerous stoppage player throughout the night. Her composure with ball in hand really did look a class above, especially in the early stages of the game, where she just took that extra half second to fully balance herself before a kick or see a teammate a little further out to handball to. Her confidence in taking opponents on was again a highlight, stepping around oncoming tacklers with ease and then delivering well to a teammate.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

After missing the game against the Pioneers she was thrown straight back into the Number 1 Ruck duties, looking comfortable throughout and leading the hitouts for the night. It’s a cliche in footy but having a ruck height player that plays as another midfielder is a luxury for any team, and Gillard is the perfect example of that, with cleanliness below her knees and good agility, her follow up work from her taps is elite. Her read of the play makes her a really good loose player down the line, who can then utilise her kick to set up teammates going forward.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Her work rate was a real highlight throughout the game, would regularly be seen involved in the backline and then get the ball near the forward line a minute or so later. Particularly impressed with her marking overhead around the ground as well, even under immediate pressure, she would just back herself to hold it even against a spoiler. Had her regular zip about the ground.

#8 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

A workhorse throughout the day, she is another one that positioned herself well behind the ball and took some good grabs that turned into quick and damaging transition plays. Showed off her speed when chasing players and looking to win the ball, where her skills with it were more often than not very good. She even got herself an impressive run from the defensive 50 mark to the other end of the centre square, taking three bounces along the way.

#15 Mali McLeod (Calder Cannons)

Just understands how to play the wing role really well, did not make a poorly timed run all day, or allow herself to ever be too far from the play, she presented well as a switch option and swept up a lot of spilt balls, then utilising her accurate kick to get the Cannons going forward.

#7 Teleah Smart (Northern Knights)

Took no time to get back into it after missing the game against Gippsland, once again showcasing her speed and agility around the midfield by weaving out of stoppages with ball in hand to deliver it to a teammate up the field. Weights her kicks well for teammates to just run onto and take it in the hands easily.

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

It really is admirable that a player of her size gets in and under as much as she does, to the effect she does, and then backs her speed against opponents two years her senior. Her game sense and skills are top notch as well, getting involved in a lot of transitional play from the backline to get Northern moving quickly.

#33 Megan Barnes (Northern Knights)

Moved from her regular defensive post into the midfield and stepped up into the new role. She was particularly impressive on the inside of contests, winning plenty of contested ball and moving it out to the other Northern rovers, or pouncing onto an opponent that won it when they did.

#29 Tallia Pulcino (Northern Knights)

Worked hard on the inside all day and presented as a consistent and reliable ball winner around stoppages and contested areas for Northern. Punished the cannons when she was left unattended around stoppages or managed to get herself free of an opponent, where her ball winning ability and quick hands gave Northern good opportunities.

OTHERS:

Tannah Hurst and Tarrah Delgado were again really solid pillars for Northern in defence cutting off a lot of Cannon’s attacks by pushing off their opponents to help out other teammates or attack a ground ball. Phoebe Nelson was impressive on the wing throughout the game as well, showing some good bursts of speed. Calder had a lot of players contribute well throughout the game, with bottom-aged duo Abbey McDonald and Tahlia Read good in defence and midfield respectively. Alisa Magri’s game high three goals ultimately proved the difference on the night, proving to make the most of every opportunity she got.

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

The Oakleigh skipper returned what was ultimately a game-winning performance; proving ominous on-ball in what was a highly contested scrap, before rotating forward and booting a pair of crucial goals. She was involved in plenty during the opening stages and bullied her opponents through midfield, showcasing great strength to stand up in and burst away from tackles throughout. Rowbottom’s contested marking was another key feature, with two taken deep inside 50 from teammates’ set shots and resulting in goals. She also helped herself for a couple of big clunks around the ground and was essentially impactful wherever she went.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Reid led all comers once again and was simply everywhere at times, credit to her footy smarts and work rate. Starting on the wing, she would often trust her midfielders to win the centre clearances and took up attacking positions as the ball flowed forward. Reid also worked the other way to win plenty more possessions, especially when Oakleigh was struggling to clear out of defence. It meant some of her kicks were rushed, but Reid always gains good meterage. She was also tried at the centre bounces and impacted much of the play. Wherever the ball went, Reid was waiting.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

In what was very nearly a game-winning performance, Clarke booted three of Dandenong’s four goals. They came in a flurry too, with her first a monster bomb from range off the outside of the boot during the second quarter. Having started in midfield, she was stationed deep forward in term three and added two more goals to put Dandy ahead, with no defender able to combat her pace and smarts. Her anticipation and quick bursts of brilliance were a joy to watch, but only just fell short of delivering Dandenong a win.

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Hill is one of the better readers of the game as far as NAB League defenders go, and she showed exactly that in another terrific outing. Her intercept marking was on point whenever Dandenong seemed to be bombarded with forward 50 entries, allowing for opportunities to break the other way. She was found out a touch when attempting to move the ball on quickly and was caught in possession as the pressure gauge rose, but ultimately proved an important dual-repellant in defence and easily one of her side’s best players.

#4 Alexandra McCulloch (Oakleigh Chargers)

Perhaps one who has flown under the radar a touch among Oakleigh’s star-studded squad, McCulloch’s consistency and reliability in defence is becoming hard to ignore. A nice size and with good athleticism, she is aggressive in her ability to intercept mark and pressed up well to cut off Dandenong’s forward forays. McCulloch proved she can position well, mark, and then rebound while also pitching in with goal-saving tackles and solid work at the fall of the ball.

#10 Abbey Jordan (Dandenong Stingrays)

The Dandenong co-captain brought a much-needed hard edge to the game, transforming as she crossed the white line and giving it her all for the Stingrays. She has shown promising improvements in key target areas this season, moving into the midfield to win more contested ball and also snapping up a nice overhead mark early on. She was moved to half-back at times and pushed the ball forward well from there, but her physicality at the contest was arguably the most pleasing side to her game – including a little scrap after being dumped hard in a fourth term tackle. Her intensity matched the high stakes of the match.

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Stationed in her usual half-back slot, Vickers was one of the more important figures in Oakleigh’s system. She took up attacking positions as the Chargers defenders pressed hard up to halfway, allowing her to use her class on the ball to enter attacking areas once possession changed hands. Her ability to sweep up and rebound is excellent, with one-percenters like tackling pressure and smothers also coming to the fore in this outing.

#44 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays) 

Anthony was an important part of Dandenong’s surge during the second and third terms, rotating through midfield and defence to good effect. She popped up for a couple of nice intercepts when stationed as a spare behind the ball, but was also busy around the stoppages when given that opportunity. She gets a big tick for taking charge when it mattered, among others.

OTHERS:

Dandenong co-captain Ashleigh Richards was productive in midfield and up forward, gifted a goal in the final term which put her side ahead. Felicity Crank was another strong contributor for the Stingrays, while Mackenzie Eardley showed her versatility to swing forward after starting in defence. The likes of Taylah Morton and Jorja Jackson were lively inside 50 for Oakleigh, with Amanda Ling and Eliza James hard at it through midfield and Ameile Smith an important ruck-forward figure.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Just slotted into a variety of roles and managed to have an influence in each third of the ground. On a number of occassions she took a couple of strong marks overhead, then displayed her athleticism with a clever sidestep in the third term and nice kick forward. She played as deep as full-forward, and dropped back into defence to intercept at times such was her range across the field. Unfortunately she missed the second game in four days, but certainly had an influence in the loss for the Pioneers.

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

As a metres gained player, King certainly has an influence on the game regardless of how much she wins it. On the weekend she found plenty of it with 21 touches, but it was more her drive forward and putting pressure on the opposition defence that stood out. At times she was forced into rushing a kick or uncharacteristically dropping a mark from her reliably strong hands, but her second efforts and work rate would see her make up for it. When she did find space on the outside, she would hit up a teammate in space, and in the second term was able to snap around her body at speed to get the ball into the danger zone. Her footy smarts in tight also allowed her to quickly tap the ball out between opponents to a teammate on the outside.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#5 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)

A clear standout for the Pioneers and put together a massive four-quarter effort. She kicked the opening goal of the game on the run late in the first term, and was a huge reason why the Pioneers skipped out to a quarter time lead. At times she still rushes her kicks, but her work inside and athleticism to break away from the contest is fantastic, and she just keeps cracking in, often winning free kicks for her efforts be it a run-down tackle or being caught high. Boasts really strong athletic and defensive traits, and capable of hitting the scoreboard.

#30 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

Showed her ability to play across all thirds of the ground like Slender, starting up forward and having an number of shots on goal. Her first chance was a nice kick but touched on the way to goal, before she launched just before the quarter time siren with the long-range attempt sailing through. Then she was thrown back into defence later on and had an influence, providing plenty of run out of the back 50 and winning plenty of the ball through midfield as well. She provided good defensive pressure and an interceptor at half-back as well.

#41 Tegan Williams (Bendigo Pioneers)

As a bottom-age player, Williams has a nice collection of traits that will hold her in good stead for her draft-eligible year next season. She is good in the air or at ground level, can use the ball well by hand or foot, and can read the ball in flight which is important. Standing in defence, Williams was thrown up forward, but can be used through the middle, and is composed under pressure to get her hands free from congestion. One player who is versatile and able to be deployed in multiple areas and someone to watch next year.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

In a game that at times was scrappy and hard-fought, Ransom just brings that touch of class and composure, and it stands out on the field. The bottom-ager is able to cleanly win the ball at ground level or via hands, and then dish it off quickly to the right option. Also possessing a damaging sidestep, Ransom is a lovely kick of the ball and knows how to weight her kicks which usually do a truckload of damage. Ransom is one of those players you notice when she has 10 touches, the fact she topped the match with 23 shows she has the ball-winning capacity, and her inside 50 entries and outside run is what makes her quite the developing prospect.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

The work rate of Gaffney must be off the charts as she just covers the ground so well, running hard on the outside to win the ball, take grass and put it forward. Even if she does not win it, she works over to support her teammates and offer a link in the chain going forward, and her first quarter in particular was an impressive one despite her team being down.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

Seemed like the best game of the NAB League Girls this season for Webster, who stepped up for a season-high 16 touches, but remained fierce with her tackling ability. Not afraid to lock the ball in and add that element of defensive pressure, Webster’s run on the outside, particularly from half-back, was able to drive the ball forward, as she pushed up to a wing and kept a high defensive line to put pressure on the Pioneers’ defence.

#3 Amy Bissett (Tasmania Devils)

A genuine natural footballer, Bissett has high-level footy smarts and just knows where the goals are. She booted 2.2 against the Pioneers, with a second term goal coming off the back of clean work at ground level and putting it through the mdidle. Her final quarter goal was just 29 seconds into the term, as she sidestepped an opponent and made it look easy, which started the ball rolling for the Devils to blow out the margin. Defensive pressure is the next step for Bissett, but her offensive work and creative thinking is very good.

OTHERS:

Emma Gilligan was a reliable force out of defence for the Pioneers, while Scarlett Orritt, Lexie Moss, Lila Keck and Keely Fullerton showed the future of the team with some strong efforts in tight and on the outside, winning their fair share of the ball. For the Devils, Ella Maurer gets to ball-winning positions, while Madison Brazendale, Aprille Crooks and Maisie Edwards also had a number of highlights throughout the day.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#26 Grace McRae (Gippsland Power)

Just keeps cracking in and winning the hard ball, but her defensive work – 10 tackles – is the standout. She refuses to let the opposition get an easy loose ball, and puts her body on the line time and time again. Even found some space at half-back in this match to run the ball forward, and is able to pump it to space for her quicker teammates to run onto. Another four-quarter performance from the inside midfielder.

#40 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)

Just dominated through the ruck, towering over her respective opponents, and she showed confidence a few times to grab it out of the ruck and clear it herself once she realised there was no opponent going up with her. She provided an option across the ground and showed good running capacity, and won a number of free kicks for being held at times just because of her influence on the game. Really building some good form of late, and critically winning a fair chunk of the ball and being used by her teammates in transition which is often rare for rucks.

#25 Lily-Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)

Rotating between the midfield and defence, Williamson has that blend of power and speed she uses to fend and shrug off tacklers, and is getting better at knowing her limitations in regards to when to stiff-arm the opposition. She was a standout early in the match for the Power, dropping back and mopping up forward forays from the opposition, and also laying great tackles in the back 50. Her highlight came in the final term when she ran out of defence, took several bounces, evaded a player and fended off another, running over 40m to kick inside 50.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Earned our Draft Central Player of the Week for Round 5 and it is easy to see why, with a dominant performance that saw her collect eight more disposals than anyone else on the field. But unlike some players who stat-pad, you noticed every time Hurley collected the ball because it was often out of a stoppage, or running hard in space and driving the ball forward. It could be from a centre stoppage, inside 50 or from a defensive 50 ball-up, but regardless of where she was, she read the taps – often off Matser’s hands – and then accelerated away in style. She had a flying shot in the opening term but missed, though that was one of seldom blemishes in an outstanding game where she danced around opponents and kept being aggressive with her run and ball use.

#3 Charli Murphy (Sandringham Dragons)

A five goal haul is impressive in anyone’s books, and Murphy was just too strong one-on-one for her opponents inside 50. She kicked the opening goal of the game two minutes in from a snap at close range, then kicked her second through pure strength nine minutes later. She set up a scoring opportunity with a nice kick later in the term, but would kick her third midway through the second term with the outside of the boot. A fourth goal came in the opening two minutes of the final quarter 15m out with a set shot, then a strong mark thanks to good positioning five minutes into the final term netted Murphy her fifth goal courtesy of a 30m shot on a slight angle.

#37 Ebony Angelopoulos (Sandringham Dragons)

Played the role of small forward perfectly, kicking three goals and providing good defensive pressure close to goal. She was caught once trying to get away from an opponent, but other than that, hassled and harassed defenders with implied pressure. Angelopoulos slotted her first goal from a set shot 14 minutes into the first term following good protection of the ball drop, then snagged her second later in quarter two with a strong mark and another set shot. Her third game late in the third term with a crumbing goal at the top of the square to cap off a good day out.

OTHERS:

Gippsland Power’s Yasmin Duursma had a strong game on the inside to lead all-comers for the Power in disposals, while Matilda Van Berkel was great in defence, and Courtney Fletcher and Sunday Brisbane tried hard throughout the match. For the Dragons, Keely Coyne, Kiana Lynch, Emma Stuber and Pia Staltari all had impressive moments, as did J’Noemi Anderson, and debutant Mia Zielinski who slotted two goals.

 

WESTERN JETS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils): Spent more time forward than usual given the short turn around from the game against Bendigo Pioneers. Her overhead marking for a midfielder is a key asset to her game and makes her a danger around the ground, along with her ability to read the ball in the air and off rucks hands she gets in the right position consistently. A particular highlight that showcased this was the opening goal of the game, where she got the clearance from a forward 50 stoppage and snapped the goal quickly. Her kicking on the run is reliable and makes that Tasmania transitional play even more deadly.  

TOP PERFORMERS:

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

Moves really well with ball in hand and never appears rushed by pressure or even her team mates telling her to kick, it goes a long to making every disposal of hers damaging and a good fit for Tasmania’s fast transitional work, especially with her willingness to kick to inside 45 options coming out of defence and going into forward 50.

#8 Paige Ryan (Western Jets)

Stood up in Westerns defence throughout the day as a hard at it, no nonsense sort. Very aggressive in her pursuit of the ball and ball carrier which makes her difficult to beat one on one and even harder to get away from. Was tasked with taking kick-ins for majority of the game, where she’d often run in 10-15 meters and then kick the ball long out of 50. 

# 38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

The perfect example of how to play as a taller inside midfielder, Ham just doesn’t stop going for the ball or tackling opposition ball winners, but she’s always present and impacting the play. Her clearance work is excellent, with her being hard to tackle as well she’s a force in the midfield and often gets her clearance kicks close to the goal square, making it hard for opposition to get quick goals. 

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Classy throughout the day, with her positioning around the ground at such a high level it is not hard to see why opponents pay so much attention to her. Her kicking penetration and placement is really impressive as well, with her ability to weight her kicks differently for different team mates a big asset

#6 Madison Brazendale (Tasmania Devils)

Impressed in the second half of the game in particular where her work in the midfield and around the ground was valuable going forward. Has a good level of composure with ball in hand that leads to her getting good quality disposal

# 7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Positioned on the wing for the day she had a really good showing, often being the best option for Tasmania moving out of the backline, where her speed was eye-catching and led to a lot of Tasmania inside 50’s. 

OTHERS:

Jemima Woods worked hard in the Jets forward line, and even pushed into the Ruck at times where she competed well. Laura Elliott also worked into the game for the Jets in the backline, becoming more of an obstacle in the second half. Amy Bissett and Jemma Webster were dangerous in the Tasmanian forward half, with Priscilla Odwogo and Aprille Crooks consistent pillars in their defence, working aggressively to shut down any Western attack

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Tried in a few different roles, Friend’s key traits came to the fore everywhere she went. Arguably the best contested marker in the league, she clunked a series of impressive grabs at centre half-forward and around the ground to help set the Rebels on the right foot. She showed good work rate to help out in defence when stationed on a wing, proving there are many strings to her bow apart from the obvious forward craft.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Another of the Rebels’ best performers on the day, Dojiok positioned masterfully across half-back to intercept time and time again. Her reading of the play and ball in flight proved outstanding, allowing for those important intercept possessions before inciting her patented burst on the rebound. As usual, Dojiok was able to gain good meterage with surges down the corridor, but is still improving her end product with more direct kicks to targets down the line.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

Scott was arguably best afield and was part of just about everything the Rebels forged forward of centre. She would have had a serious case of leather poisoning in the first half with the rate of possessions she gathered, working hard up the ground before also beating her opponent back to goal. Scott’s confidence was clearly at a high as she went about trying to kick goals in all sorts of ways, not afraid to take on opponents and back her own ability. Some of her ‘what-if’ moments were a little frustrating though, sometimes caught doing a little too much and burning teammates in promising positions. With even more development over another year of NAB League, Scott has the potential to become one of the competition’s most damaging forwards.

#30 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

Arguably the Pioneers’ best player on the day, Di Donato showed her class moving forward from midfield. Heralded as one of the best kicks in the Bendigo squad, she used the ball well on both sides when necessary and looked dangerous when afforded opportunities inside forward 50. She found the goals for Bendigo and could have added more to her scoring tally, if not for a poster on the run. Overall, her class stood out among a raw and inexperienced Pioneers outfit.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

The diminutive midfielder went about her work in typical fashion, finding plenty of the ball and looking to drive the Rebels forward from the contest. She is always a good link in congestion and began to get busy on the outer as well, using her running ability to cover good ground and help GWV open the game up in transition.

#27 Jayda Richardson (Bendigo Pioneers)

One of the few experienced members of Bendigo’s lineup on Wednesday, it was no surprise to see Richardson moved to the most important positions on the ground. When GWV got an early surge on, she was stationed in defence to try and provide a cool head back there. She did well to help repel the Rebels’ attacks and use her marking ability to stop those drives in their tracks, but it was no easy task for the top-ager. A tick for her versatility after already contributing well up forward this year.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Donning the long sleeves, Leonard worked to find the ball and got into some promising positions when in possession. The 19-year-old operated off half-back and into the midfield as play opened up, winning the ball with good authority and confidence before looking to move it forward with class.

#3 Eve Cail (Bendigo Pioneers)

It is rare to see a 14-year-old running out in an Under 19 competition, but the 2006-born Cail held her own in what was her fourth outing for the Pioneers. This was arguably her best performance to date, digging in hard to win her own ball and proving relatively unfazed by the intensity shown around each contest. One to watch for the future.

OTHERS:

GWV had plenty of terrific contributors, with the likes of Tahlia Meier and Melina Ciavarella dangerous up forward, while Olivia Leonard also got busy. For the Pioneers, Charli Dorrity was busy out of defence, Keely Fullerton remained crucial in transition, and Tegan Williams played a bit of everywhere including the ruck.

NAB League Girls Round 2a & 5 preview: Footy feast sees six games across seven days

IN a very different footballing landscape, change has become something that everyone has had to deal with in one way or another, and in 2021, the NAB League Girls competition has managed to find a way to make up for lost time. The Round 2 fixtures which were cancelled due to Victoria’s snap lockdown will be played over a few weeks, in midweek fixtures, including three of the six matches over the next six days. These three matches will coincide with the three regular Round 5 matches which were scheduled to take place anyway, meaning fans will be able to attend all six games across six different days.

CALDER CANNONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Thursday, March 4 @ 7pm
RAMS Arena, Craigieburn

Kicking off the long weekend is the first of the Round 2 rescheduled fixtures with Calder Cannons hosting Northern Knights at prime time on a Thursday night. It is arguably not what the grand final rematch of 2019 was expected to be, but the teams will be able to strut their stuff in the first night game of the season. Daylight savings help the players with light for most of the match, though expect both these teams to have to adapt to the conditions – much like the ever-changing fixture. Both these sides come in with 2-1 records, having both lost to Oakleigh Chargers, whilst both have also accounted for Sandringham Dragons. On the weekend, Calder scraped across the line in a thrilling comeback against Bendigo Pioneers, whilst Northern put Gippsland Power to the sword in Morwell East.

After their respective Round 1 matches, coming into the initial Round 2 fixtures, it was seeming like Calder Cannons were red-hot favourites for the grand final rematch. Having just taken care of Sandringham Dragons while the Knights were blitzed by Oakleigh, it was no better time for the 2019 runners-up to strike. A week – let alone two – is a long time in football, with a stirring final term from the Cannons up at Epsom Huntly saving them from back-to-back losses since that Round 1 win. The Knights on the other hand booted three goals in six minutes against the Dragons in the opening term of their Round 3 encounter, and have not stopped kicking them since, winning both their games by large margins. Megan Girolami is the in-form player of the competition, booting nine goals from her two games and seems to be the lucky charm the Knights needed since the Round 1 defeat.

The Cannons defence is well-balanced across the board, with Kasey Lennox the rock at the back, and Peppa Poultney and Neve Crowley both capable of dropping back and helping out, while Tahlia Gillard can play at either end. It will need to be a team effort to try and contain the Knights’ forward line which includes the likes of Trinity Mills (three goals on the weekend) and Ella Smallacombe, who have become leading targets inside 50. Maeve Chaplin copped a knock early in the win against Gippsland Power and sat out the entire second half as a precaution, but has been named to face the Cannons. She is crucial in there to face the likes of Georgie Prespakis and Emelia Yassir who win plenty of the ball in close. Maykaylah Appleby returns to the side in a crucial inclusion for the Knights to provide some extra run, whilst for the Cannons, Zali Friswell will join Gillard, Prespakis and Yassir in the middle to form a deadly onball combination.

This is set to be a cracker, and it will come down to whether or not Calder can control the ball through the midfield to limit the supply to Northern’s damaging forwards, or if the Knights can use the ball well enough going forward to isolate the well-organised Cannons defence.

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Friday, March 5 @ 7.45pm
Linen House Centre, Seaford

A top-of-the-table clash between unbeaten sides, Dandenong Stingrays and Oakleigh Chargers takes place at prime time on Friday night down at Linen House Centre in Seaford. The Stingrays have only played the two games but have not put a foot wrong, accounting for the Western Jets and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels in Rounds 3 and 4 after a bye in Round 1, and the lockdown in Round 2. Oakleigh Chargers easily saw past Northern Knights in the opening round, then took out one of the title contenders in Calder Cannons, before having to fight tooth-and-nail on the Apple Isle after Tasmania Devils took it right up to them for four quarters in an absolute epic contest. Now the sides come in unblemished, and with ridiculous depth across all the lines, making it a must-watch contest from the get-go.

The Stingrays come in with one of the strongest back six combinations going around. With Zoe Hill and Mackenzie Eardley holding down the fort – and the latter also going forward and kicking two goals last week – and Jaide Anthony in ripping form, Dandenong is hard to score against. Brooke Smith provides the classy run out of the back half, while in the front half, Amber Clarke has the speed to burn and hits the scoreboard as well. The Chargers do not rely on one source for goals, with Ameille Smith slotting three in the opening game, and Holly Kenealy being the key scorer with three of her own on the weekend in a low-scoring contest. Stella Reid has impacted the scoreboard off a wing, while Charlie Rowbottom can do it all from the inside midfield.

The matchup to watch has to be between two of the most in-form midfielders in the competition in Rowbottom and Emily Shepherd, who have natural ball-winning skills and the ability to go forward and have a huge impact on the scoreboard. With Amanda Ling and Abbey Jordan sharing similar athletic traits, there are plenty of matchups throughout the middle to keep an eye on. In defence, Brooke Vickers has been a reliable player, while Reid has been one to drop back and provide an extra number when required, which might be so against a Stingrays outfit that can attack quickly. Jemma Radford leads the Stingrays goalkicking with four majors in her two games, whilst Clarke and Ashleigh Richards have both slotted three this season.

It is near-impossible to predict a winner in this one, the Stingrays are at home which might give them the upper hand, but one thing is for sure, this is set to be a beauty, and based on form, one of the potential grand final previews.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS
Saturday, March 6 @ 2pm
LaTrobe University, Mill Park

Nothing is better for motivation than coming within a whisker of a huge upset but falling narrowly short. Luckily for spectators heading to LaTrobe University on Saturday, both these teams are in a similar boat. Bendigo Pioneers looked about a goal away from being home against Calder Cannons, only for a stunning last term fightback and the Cannons to storm home with three majors and the win in what was a brave, but ultimately disappointing loss for the players who showed just what they were capable of. No doubt during the week what they achieved for three quarters will have been emphasised, and they will be ready to go against a Tasmania Devils outfit that pushed the unbeaten Oakleigh Chargers to the limit. Perhaps the most impressive aspect was the fact the Devils were smashed by the Chargers to the tune of 102 points 12 months ago, and they were neck-and-neck with them to the final siren this year.

Tara Slender continues to defy the realms of positional possibilities, after the key defender turned key forward developed into a midfielder on the weekend where she racked up a round-high 28 disposals. It showed the high-end Vic Country prospect can be utilised in any role, and it helped nullify the impact of the Cannons midfielders. Against the Devils, she will likely be added as a target again, but Tasmania have some quick players who can move the ball in transition, led by Perri King and Claire Ransom in the mid-forward half of the ground. The key for the Pioneers will be winning the ball at the stoppages and using it well when extracting it, with the likes of Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson – when rolling through the ruck – those contested ball winners.

Up forward, Amy Prokopiec booted four goals against Gippsland Power in Round 1 and can be a danger against most opposition, with a potential head-to-head with the in-form Tegan Williams something to keep an eye on. Some of the more in-form players over the first few weeks for the Pioneers include Jemma Finning and Octavia Di Donato in the back half, as well as Drew Ryan and Lily den Houting who know how to find the football. Tasmania’s Ella Maurer had a strong performance with 20 touches in Round 4, whilst Meghan Gaffney and Madison Brazendale accumulate the ball on a regular basis. Candice Belbin has been used to distribute in the back half, while Aprille Crooks is another defender who can play up the ground as well.

Another 50/50 contest, it is hard to pick which side gets up in this game, with both teams clearly improved on their 2020 seasons, and it means that for one of them, they will grab their second win of the season.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Sunday, March 7 @ 12pm
Ronald Reserve, Morwell East

Two winless sides clash on Sunday in a midday battle at Ronald Reserve in Morwell East. The Sandringham Dragons are rested and ready to go after a break in Round 4, having lost to Calder Cannons and Northern Knights in Round 1 and Round 2 respectively. They now make the trek down the highway to face a Gippsland Power side that is coming off three consecutive losses to start the season. The 62, 114 and 72-point losses do not look favourable on paper, but for patches throughout those games the Power were able to remain competitive and match it with the opposition. That being said, with lapses costing goals, it is hard to win games, and Gippsland will be hoping another home game at Ronald Reserve will help them push the Dragons here.

The Dragons will see this as a crucial game to win and kick-start their season given the busy schedule coming up which will feature a Wednesday night fixture against Dandenong Stingrays in a couple of weeks. Pia Staltari has been a ray of consistency for the Dragons, coming out of defence and being a steady head with ball-in-hand. She will be tasked with clearing the defensive zone, given the Power can match the Dragons on the inside with bigger bodies such as Grace McRae and Lily-Rose Williamson, which could mean more clearances and inside 50s. While the Power have strength, the Dragons have speed, and a number of outside players who can run the ball in transition such as Kiana Lynch, Keely Coyne and Charlotte Ryan.

Bridie Hipwell has been a huge loss for the Dragons as that bigger body at the stoppages, and against the Knights, it was the likes of Chaplin who took full advantage. Gippsland Power will be favoured to get first hands to it at the stoppage through Grace Matser who played her best NAB League game last week, while Sofia Hurley and Chloe Saultry will bring the tackling pressure required in there. Ebony Angelopoulos will look to get on the end of a few goals, leading the team with three majors and key forward Charli Murphy having two. The Power have only booted the two goals, but have some promising talent coming through for next year led by Williamson and Yasmin Duursma in midfield.

Sandringham Dragons are favourites in this one given the team’s respective losses, but Gippsland should be able to get first hands on it through the ruck and bigger bodies inside, so it will be up to how they use the ball going forward that will be key.

 

WESTERN JETS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS
Monday, March 8 @ 11am
RAMS Arena, Craigieburn

Preview to come Sunday.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GWV REBELS
Wednesday, March 10 @ 6pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve, Epsom

Preview to come Tuesday.

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Round 1

A NEW NAB League Girls season means even more fresh coverage of the elite pathways, with the weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delving into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. Round 1 produced plenty of highlights as players returned to competitive action for the first time in 11 months. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting opening set of fixtures.

EASTERN RANGES vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Michael Alvaro

STANDOUTS:

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

In a game which was tense and tight for the best part of three quarters, Busch was a reliable outlet for Eastern in the back half. The bottom-ager notched eight rebound 50s – an equal round-high – among her 14 kicks and 16 disposals overall, providing a cool head amid the arm-wrestle that ensued. In what was her NAB League debut, the bottom-ager proved she is up to the level and built on outstanding preseason testing results in the agility and endurance categories.

#11 Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges)

One of the more unlucky players not to be drafted as a top-ager last year, Meagher has returned to the Ranges’ program again looking to become a real leader through midfield. She was a steady ball winner on the day, collecting 16 touches and pumping the ball inside 50 four times. Perhaps the most pleasing part of Meagher’s game was her defensive acumen though, highlighted by a monster 10 tackles.

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

Eastern’s leading disposal winner on the day, Deed was another to put up some impressive numbers in a winning effort. Like Meagher, her 21 touches were complimented well by two-way efforts in the form of an equal competition-high 11 tackles. She was able to penetrate either arc and popped up in just the right areas to allow the Ranges to push onto the front foot after absorbing some pressure.

#25 Cadhla Schmidli (Eastern Ranges)

In just her second NAB League outing, Schmidli showed marked improvement from her debut last season to finish as one of the round’s most valuable defenders. Armed with a handy vertical leap and good height, she was able to clunk three marks and set Eastern going the other way with three rebound 50s among her 10 kicks for the day. Her efforts were enough to feature in the Draft Central team of the week.

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Despite ending up on the losing side, Baskaran was able to showcase all her class in a performance fitting of the Draft Central player of the week mantle. Still just 16 years old, the bottom-ager’s potential is scary and she looks to have gone to yet another level in 2021. The versatile midfielder finished with 28 disposals (23 kicks), five marks, 11 tackles, and eight inside 50s as the best player afield and one to watch for next year’s draft. Her skill on either side combined with a strong ball winning capacity make her a damaging prospect.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

The ever-impactful bottom-ager was near her explosive best in Round 1, utilising her frame to dig in and win the ball at ground level, while also showcasing terrific aerial prowess. She was one of the better Jets in the first half and finished with 15 disposals, taking four marks and penetrating either arc a combined five times. Along with Baskaran, Ham is a standout bottom-ager in the Western region.

#52 Krystal Russell (Western Jets)

Another NAB League debutant and one who really impressed in her ruck duties, Russell was a real standout for the Jets. Her competitiveness both in the ruck contest and otherwise was conveyed in her stat-line which included 11 disposals, three tackles, six inside 50s, and 23 hitouts. The bottom-ager has good scope for improvement and a strong base to build upon after her promising performance against multiple Eastern rucks.

OTHERS:

Among the players who earned plaudits from the Eastern staff, Keeley Sherar (10 disposals, four tackles) played a role, while the game’s sole multiple goalkicker in Scarlett Potter was key to ensuring the Ranges compiled a winning score. Midfielder Jorja Livingstone also achieved solid numbers with 16 disposals, 15 of which were kicks. For the Jets, Trinity Skenderis (13 disposals, six tackles) got her hands dirty in midfield alongside Paige Ryan (11 and eight), while Caitlin Sargent also showed good signs.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

The talented ruck was among the Bushrangers best on the day, racking up10 disposals, three marks, two tackles and 13 hitouts. As a versatile player, Morphett is someone who can have an impact up forward and she slotted a goal, but also had the five inside 50, driving the ball there when she could. At 188cm, she looms a problem for most opponents and is incredibly tough to beat overhead.

#27 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Playing in the forward half compared to her usual defensive role, Slender was still among the best on the day. She might have missed a couple of chances on goal with two behinds, but she was able to have an impact and push up the ground and rack up 16 disposals, three marks and five inside 50s. Impressively, she also laid six tackles to show off her natural defensive capabilities, and it will be interesting to see if she remains forward in Round 2 or goes head-to-head with fellow AFL Women’s Academy member Ella Friend up the other end.

STANDOUTS:

#5 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)

Returning as the new top-ager, Snell needed to make an impact and she certainly did that, slotting two goals from 18 touches. Those two goals really built the momentum for her side, both coming in the second quarter to give the Pioneers a buffer at half-time. She is no stranger to goals, having kicked a bag as a bottom-ager a couple of years ago against Gippsland Power, but it was not only her offensive work, but her defensive work that was noticed with 10 tackles as well.

#26 Jayda Richardson (Bendigo Pioneers)

While Snell started the momentum, Richardson built on it, effectively closing out the contest in the opening few minutes of the second half. Richardson slotted back-to-back goals, and in the blink of an eye the game was all but over. She finished with nine disposals and six tackles, as well as racking up nine hitouts which was mighty impressive for a 174cm player against taller opponents.

#2 Lila Keck (Bendigo Pioneers)

Coming into a new season, there are always bottom-agers who come into the team with a lot of unknowns, but from the start Keck has proven she can compete against much older opponents. The 15-year-old racked up 14 disposals, but possibly the most eye-catching aspect was her tackling – laying 11 tackles – which considering not only her age, but standing at 160cm is something to prove she is not afraid to crack in and have a go.

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

Having played a couple of games last year, Smith stepped up in her first game of 2021 to be the Bushrangers’ top player on the day. As a draft-eligible talent, she roamed around the ground to finish with 16 disposals, two marks, five tackles and seven inside 50s. Her ability to drive the ball forward ranked second overall across the league from Round 1.

#6 Lily Sharp (Murray Bushrangers)

Touted as one to watch this season by the Bushrangers coaching staff, Sharp is one who managed to find the ball through the midfield and also have chances when forward. Whilst she finished with two behinds, she picked up 15 touches, three marks and two inside 50s in the process, and will be a crucial cog in Murray’s onball brigade this season.

#22 Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

A player not eligible until next year’s draft, Hay is also an incredibly talented netballer. On the football field, she thrives in defence, and picked up 15 disposals – 12 kicks, whilst recording four rebounds and four marks. Murray has a lot of talented players for next year’s draft, and Hay fits the bill as she continues to improve and should have more continuity in season 2021.

OTHERS:

Bendigo had a wide range of contributors across the board, with Nalin Moore (16 disposals, six inside 50s), Bryde O’Rourke (14 disposals, one goal) and Drew Ryan (14 disposals, three marks and four rebounds) among the top disposal winners. For the Bushrangers, Mikayla Jones had the equal most touches on the ground with 18, while Kristy Whitehead (15 disposals, three marks), Chloe Locke (15 disposals, three marks, five tackles and five rebounds) and Keely Skepper (12 disposals, five tackles, two inside 50s and three rebounds) were also busy.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

The speedy midfielder rotated between the middle and up forward and played an impressive game. Many of the midfielders at the stoppages were inside ball winners, but King provided that touch of class, reading the taps well and sprinting away to gain separation on her opponent. There were a couple of times where she might have done a touch too much and got herself into trouble, but was lucky not to be pinged. Her aerial work was as impressive as her ground work, taking a great mark up forward and later setting up a goal in the final term with a quick burst out of a stoppage to open space, allowing Ella Maurer to run into an open goal.

STANDOUTS:

#24 Amy Prokopiec (Tasmania Devils)

It was hard to look past Prokopiec for best afield honours in an even day. She started the game on fire with two first quarter goals and could have had a third. Whilst renowned for her marking and powerful kick, she actually conjured up her first major off the ground, beating her opponent to the ball and kicking it through off a slight angle. Her second came from a marking contest and slotting the set shot, before finishing the game with four. The best of the lot was her last one, which came from a snap around the body under pressure as it curled home brilliantly. Having played as a defender in the NAB League 12 months ago, her work up forward was more eye-catching and she was not afraid to crash packs. Had she managed to nail all her shots, she could have easily had half a dozen goals.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

Ransom is one of those eye-catching players who just shows enough to remember the impact she has had on the game. Early on she got front position in a marking contest and then quickly moved the ball on to get it over the back and goalside for her teammate. She showed equal amounts of offensive and defensive pressure, with a running goal from inside 50 off the back of hard work in the first half indicative of her effort. One passage of play that might not be on the highlight reel but was crucial, was applying enough pressure when Gippsland was running it out of defence as she ran over to lock the ball up and force a stoppage against two opponents. It showed she stayed active even when the team was well in control.

#3 Amy Bissett (Tasmania Devils)

Finished the day with a couple of majors and looked dangerous in the forward half. Her first goal came in the second term and she quickly had a flying shot on the run not long after that missed to the right. A third term “fresh-airey” in the goalsquare was able to be viewed with a laugh in hindsight as Kara Hennessy finished off the work there, and then Bissett made up for it with a remarkable running goal in the fourth term. Taking off from the forward side of the wing, Bissett ran through the middle of four Gippsland Power players, and with the help of teammates shepherding, ran all the way to the goalsquare to slam it home and put the nail in the coffin of the game.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Felt she provided some spark through the midfield and added extra speed, particularly when Perri King was playing forward. She would create separation from her opponent, and her quick hands and decision making helped her through midfield. Occasionally she would kick to space more so than directly to a teammate, but her ability to still put it to the right spots, especially at pace was impressive. Her second efforts were similarly noticeable.

#26 Grace McRae (Gippsland Power)

The standout four-quarter player from the losing side, she just never gave in and willed herself to contest after contest. McRae had a clean pickup early in the game, and went about suffering leather poisoning as she won the ball in each third of the ground. Winning a free kick for a great tackle in the first quarter, she slotted what would be Gippsland’s only goal from the set shot. Despite Tasmania gaining control around the ground, McRae continued to battle hard and had a number of crucial possessions with a low and sharp kick inside 50 to a lead, and then showed great strength to fend off Perri King and boot the ball forward in the third term.

#35 Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power)

Having to play as an undersized ruck after Grace Matser suffered an injury in the first half, Van Berkel proved to be a strong target around the ground. She clunked a number of big grabs, and would even steal it out of the ruck contest to bomb it forward. Had a snap on goal after moving out of traffic inside 50 but it just missed early in the game. Overall she provided strength around the contest and up forward and was hard to beat one-on-one.

#1 Sunday Brisbane (Gippsland Power)

Much like McRae, Brisbane just gave it a real red hot crack for four quarters against the odds. Despite being smaller than her opponents, she was not afraid to lay a number of big tackles and put her body on the line when required. Brisbane provided dash out of the backline and through midfield, and took a good intercept mark at half-forward. At times when under pressure she could rush a bit, but had extremely quick hands at ground level.

OTHERS:

Holly Booth worked tirelessly on the last line to provide some rebound and run in a difficult match for defenders, Shanara Notman was busy around the ground, Lily-Rose Williamson showed fierce intent with her tackling and fend-offs, while Taylah Bourne also stood out for the Power. Olivia Smith was great early in the game for the Devils through midfield, while Charlie Vandenberg was clean around the stoppages with her ruck craft, in what was a really even team effort. Ella Maurer, Jemma Webster and Aprille Crooks were among others who found plenty of the footy for the visitors.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

A marking machine to put it lightly. Friend is one of the best marks going around, and not only when she finds the space. So clever at creating separation on her opponent and timing her leads to perfection, she also managed to pull down some huge grabs, including one against three opponents. She showed a nice vertical leap when going for her marks, and her decision making was good. A couple of times her set shots just fell a touch short which caused the defence to have numbers back and clear, but in terms of her ability to win the ball, once the hands went up it was a done deal.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Having seen her progress over the last few years, you can see the fundamentals of Dojiok’s game have really improved. Her kicking in particular was quite good, including one low pass at top speed along the wing. She still has areas to work on such as one-grab marks and decision making at times, but on a number of occasions she backed herself in and took charge to burn off opponents and fend them away to break down opposition defensive zones. A really exciting player.

STANDOUTS:

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

The best on ground in my opinion, Craven was on from the first bounce until the final siren. She just kept finding the pill and did a bit of everything in the front half. Craven showed courage in going back with the flight in the second term to almost mark 15 metres out from goal, and then was used in a distributor role going inside 50 to hit up a number of targets such as Renee Tierney and Ingrid Houtsma. A late shot on goal that was almost the game-winner just hit the post on its way through but showed her quick instincts to put boot to ball.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Lee is a defender who had a nice balance between aerial and ground ball work. She has clean hands to beat her opponent in the air, but is happy to get those hands dirty with run-down tackles likes she did on Lilli Condon when the pressure was up in the final term. She just finds space and plays that interceptor role perfectly, knowing when to push up the ground and when to stay back. She has a fantastic tackling technique and can hit targets over short and long distances. Overall a consistent effort back there.

#39 Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)

One-on-ones are Tierney’s speciality and it showed when isolated inside 50. She was able to swing the momentum back in the Falcons’ favour during that third term by kicking back-to-back goals through marks and set shots. Her kicking is reliable, and she could have had another one or two from snaps, but her marking is on point. Tierney also showed good defensive pressure which is what you want to see from your key forward and it will be exciting to see her push up the ground and impact the midfield with her strength at ground level.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

A natural ball winner who just keeps on finding the ball wherever she goes. Working overtime around the ground, she reads it at stoppages and finds it in close where she distributes out to her teammates. The big moment came in the final term, where after missing a flying shot on goal earlier in the quarter, she had a quick snap which sat up perfectly with a nice bounce against two Rebels defenders to get home and seal the match.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

The Rebels’ best four-quarter performer and she never stopped trying. At times she was under pressure and could rush her kicks, but when she had the time and space, particularly trying to move the ball on quickly from the kick-out, she was able to grab some metres and drive her team forward. Always courageous and gets straight back up from a bump, she produced a lovely pass into Tahlia Meier to set up a goal. Her inside 50s in particular stood out and she was able to create some scoring opportunities.

#27 Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)

A debutant who really stood out, the 2004-born Walton was a player who excelled in her one-on-ones. Her work rate and second efforts were also good, which was exemplified when she intercepted a ball in defensive 50, unfortunately turned it over, but then worked hard to slide in and retake the grab again. Once Leonard pushed up the ground, Walton was tasked with the kickouts and gained some serious meterage. Her one-on-one duel deep with Tierney to stop a goal just metres from the line was a huge step in her first game.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

The small midfielder just kept battling on across the four quarters and she always brings a consistent effort. Condon is able to keep the ball in front of her, and then gain separation from her opponent and kick long inside 50. She won the ball in each third of the ground, and had great second efforts. One time later in the match she was caught before she could dispose of it, and had a flying shot on the goal that missed, but for the most part, she kept finding it and pumping it forward to aide her team’s scoring opportunities.

OTHERS:

It was a really even team performance across the board for both sides, with the likes of Gabbi Featherston, Lucy Were and Ingrid Houtsma all impressing for the Falcons in the forward half, and defence in the second half for Houtsma. The Rebels had a balanced load with the likes of Paige Scott and Ally Trigg consistent throughout the contest.

CALDER CANNONS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

It was a typically high-level performance from the reigning NAB League Girls best and fairest winner, involved in everything for the game while showcasing her athleticism and superb skills on both sides of the body – it was a complete game. Outside of her well executed kicks, handballs and tackles, Prespakis did a lot of the small things really well; standing up in tackles, enacting second efforts, evading opponents and applying tackling pressure were noticeable parts of her game as she troubled the Sandringham midfield all match. Her work around stoppages was very high level, punishing Sandringham every time she was left unattended.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

The AFL Academy member looked dangerous all game, regularly rotating through the ruck and as a deep forward. Her best work was done when playing ruck, having no trouble winning taps, but also posing a marking threat around the ground. She set herself up well outside of the forward 50, ensuring every Sandringham exit had to be perfectly executed to get past. Her performance was wrapped up with a nice contested grab in the goal square leading to a goal in the last quarter.

STANDOUTS:

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Was a dangerous midfielder for the Cannons all day, utilising her speed well to win clearances and get the ball moving forward quickly. Her kicking and decision making were well on display all day, often switching the ball across the ground or taking riskier inside kicks to get the Cannons moving forward. Her work in transition was a particular highlight, showing off her two-way running and concentration during games.

#19 Peppa Poultney (Calder Cannons)

Rotating through the ruck and forward line with teammate Tahlia Gillard, Poultney’s dominance in the ruck went a long way in securing the Cannons’ win for the day, getting good direction and placement on her taps to the advantage of her midfielders.

#15 Mali McLeod (Calder Cannons)

Her work on the outside and on the wing made her a threat to Sandringham throughout the day, reading the play well to get herself in the best possible positions around stoppages and contests. Her game awareness was on show in the second quarter, when she made a brilliant lead to get a shot right in front of goal.

#4 Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons)

Stationed at full back for the day, Lennox held strong against various opponents and did a lot of work to keep opposition forward Charli Murphy from getting any easy possessions. She’d often drift off her opponent and assist teammates in marking contests, especially during the second quarter when they were most under siege.

#10 Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons) 

2022 draft eligible Hipwell was impactful throughout the day, showcasing her athleticism by often taking the game on with her speed and getting out of traffic with her agility. Boasting a long and accurate right-foot kick, she was a vital part of many Sandringham attacks from the midfield. She set up Sandringham’s first goal with a run from the half-back line and a long kick inside 50. She was unfortunately injured in a tackle early in the third quarter and stretchered off, sitting out the remainder of the game.

#26 Chloe Saultry (Sandringham Dragons)

Was a workhorse in the midfield for Sandringham all day, ensuring Cannons players weren’t winning any easy ball at stoppages or around the ground. She also got herself involved in attacking plays, utilising her long kicking to get the ball forward quickly. A free kick and 50-meter penalty in the fourth quarter saw Saultry get herself on the scoreboard as well.

#30 Pia Staltari (Sandringham Dragons)

Playing mostly at half-back, her work with ball in hand was brilliant, showing off her long and accurate kicking which tested the Cannons structures all day. She moved into the midfield for a bit of the last quarter and won herself plenty of the ball, proving that if needed, she can fill a whole in there with ease. Was classy throughout the day, particularly with her composure down back.

#2 Keely Coyne (Sandringham Dragons)

The leading ball getter for the Dragons did a lot of work to be an option around the ground. Playing a high half-forward role, she’d often be on the outside of contests and stoppages waiting for quick handball out, or offering an option as a switch kick for her teammates.

OTHERS:

Charli Murphy worked hard in the forwardline all day, presenting strong leads but ultimately being beaten by more athletic opponents or being crowded in two-on-one marking contests. Kitty Smyth battled in the ruck all day against a taller and more experienced duo. Ebony Angelopoulos had her opportunities in front of goal, kicking one but missing two others while still being a danger to the Calder defence. Isabella Rowland was hard at it in defence with her fierce tackling. 2022 draft eligible talent, Tahlia Read got herself on the scoreboard with a goal, as well as being a strong tackling presence around the forwardline.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Appleby had a solid game for Northern. Starting on the wing, she found herself getting plenty of opportunities to run, carry, and use her long kick to set up team mates. One particular highlight came in the second quarter, where she managed to get a run through the middle, taking three bounces and having a shot on goal that unfortunately fell short. She was vital during the third quarter in the Knights’ attempts to transition from defence to offence, commanding teammates to shepherd for her as she attempted to continue her run and carry.

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

In a standout performance the AFL Academy member, Rowbottom showed why she’s one of the top prospects for this year’s AFLW Draft. Splitting time between the forwardline and midfield, she managed to have an impact everywhere she went. She was dominant around stoppages, often running through multiple opponents with the footy and getting the ball long to set up an Oakleigh opportunity. Rowbottom’s ability to stand up and break free of tackles was particularly impressive, often outplaying or out muscling two opponents at a time. When forward, she looked consistently dangerous as the main target for Oakleigh down deep, getting herself two goals on the day. One was when she out-marked Knights defender Tarrah Delgado right on the goal line, once again showing how strong she is in so many areas of the game. In the third quarter she was playing as a deep forward and was the target of a lot of Oakleigh’s attacks. One particular instance saw her in a two-against-one situation, where she managed to get the ball to ground and tap it to the advantage of teammate Ameille Smith, who ran into an open goal and scored.

STANDOUTS:

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Was one of the Knights most prolific midfielders on the day, playing a complete game with plenty of defensive work around the contest as well as winning plenty of ball for herself. Her long kicks away from stoppages caused some trouble for Oakleigh in the third quarter. She moved into the backline in the final quarter and did well to help both in the air and at ground level.

#15 Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)

Her read of the ball and the game was excellent all day, often out-positioning opponents in contests to win them, or putting herself in the perfect spot to stop a goal or incoming attack. Her work rate also shone through, often playing higher up the ground as an interceptor and doubling back to be the last line of defence if the ball was going towards the Knights’ defensive 50, away on the other side of the ground from her.

#7 Teleah Smart (Northern Knights)

Spending most of the day in the midfield, Smart was a headache for the Chargers – utilising her burst of speed and accurate kick where possible, while also constantly applying tackling pressure when the Chargers were in possession. Her final stat line may not be kind, but the co-captain was lively when called upon.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

The left-footer split her time between defence and the wing in a well-rounded performance. She was a threat heading forward, getting involved in plenty of strings of play during the last quarter around the ground, getting herself two goals for her efforts. She was a headache for Northern in the third quarter as well, proving a threat around Oakleigh’s backline and ensuring any spilt ball was heading back out. Her play of the day came in the final term, when she latched onto a ball over the back, shrugged off a would-be tackler and slotted the goal with great class.

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

James split her time up forward and through midfield for the game, showcasing her versatility by playing both inside and outside. She was a strong ball winner and threat around stoppages for Oakleigh, particularly in the second half where her link-up play with Charlie Rowbottom led to plenty of Oakleigh inside 50’s. Her speed and carry out of congestion was a particular highlight.

#15 Ameille Smith (Oakleigh Chargers)

Smith enjoyed a superb forwardline performance, leading the game with three goals. Her leading was strong, going straight towards the ball carrier and when she wasn’t the target, her work rate was just as good at ground level. Having made the most of her opportunities inside 50, Smith was one of Oakleigh’s more impactful players.

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Had a great day out and got involved every time the ball entered her defensive 50. Her evasiveness and willingness to take opponents on lead to her showing good run and carry ability, as well as her kicking which is a strong-suit of her game. Her positioning behind the ball meant she won plenty of intercept possessions and made it hard for any Northern attack to properly eventuate. Her understanding of the game was well represented, pushing high up the ground when the ball was inside forward 50 and being an obstacle for Northern when trying to rebound

#4 Alexandra McCulloch (Oakleigh Chargers) 

Played in a similar style to teammate Brooke Vickers with a strong understanding of the game, pushing herself up the ground and causing Northern difficulty when they were on the rebound. She also played well deep down in defence when Northern got forward quickly and breached the 50-metre arc.

#5 Mia Clift (Oakleigh Chargers)

Positioned on the wing, Clift showed a strong understanding of the outside role, being an option for team mates when they came out of defence and providing deep and quick inside 50’s for her forwards. She possesses a good initial burst of speed which gave her plenty of time to work with when moving forward.

#11 Ruby Vanden Boom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Dominant in the ruck all day, her tap work was vital to Oakleigh’s midfield dominance and constant pressure towards forward 50. Her follow up work was also noticeable when Northern got possession from the taps, as she applied plenty of pressure on their midfielders.

OTHERS:

Amanda Ling fared well as an inside midfielder for the Chargers with her burst of speed being a big strength. Erin Woodford was lively up forward, getting a few smothers and tackles with her persistent pressure. Taylah Morton did well when she had the ball and was another in a long list of strong contributors for the Chargers. Brooke Plummer worked hard along the wing and in the guts for Northern, and Tallia Pulcino’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed, with her defensive work helping Northern throughout.

NAB League Girls Round 1 preview: Undefeated 2020 sides to face off in huge round of action

AT least one of the three undefeated sides from the 2020 NAB League Girls season will extend their winning run to 18 months or more, when the competition returns this weekend. Starting tomorrow, the NAB League Girls will have six games across four different venues – including one double-header – in a new footballing landscape for 2021. For Dandenong Stingrays, they will have to tack on an extra week to their extended break that saw the 2020 season come to an unfulfilled end last year, after they were handed the bye. For the 12 other teams, it will be a chance to start the season off on the right note. For the likes of Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, they look to continue what they started last year, having not lost since 2019, or in the Knights’ case, the 2018 grand final.

Eastern Ranges vs. Western Jets
Saturday, February 6 @ 12pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

In what is officially the first NAB League Girls game in almost 12 months, Western Jets will cross the West Gate Bridge and head down to Kilsyth Recreation Reserve where the Eastern Ranges will be waiting for them. These teams last played way back in Round 4, 2019, when the Ranges easily accounted for the Jets by 43 points. A dominant second half where they booted 6.2 to 0.0 saw them run out 7.4 to 0.3 winners, with Olivia Meagher picking up 17 disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s.

Meagher has been named for the match tomorrow, with last year’s captain to play as a 19-year-old prospect in 2020. She is the only Ranges player from that match to remain on the list, whilst a trio of then 15-year-old talents in Caitlin Sargent, Trinity Skenderis and Jemima Woods – as well as now top-age and over-age talents respectively, Nikita Wright and Ciara Singleton – all remain on the Jets’ list having played in that match.

Looking at the teams, the match will be won and lost in the middle, with the Jets having some great height, whilst the Ranges have speed to burn. That is not to say the respective teams do not have the opposite as well, but they are damaging in their respective areas. For the home team, Jorja Livingstone was a player who really shone last year and is a clean ball user and able to work her way out of stoppages. She will team up with the likes of Meagher and Bridget Deed in the middle, roving Georgia Campbell‘s taps. Up forward, Matilda Hardy, Jade Hutchison and Isabella Khoury are ones to watch, whilst Saskia Nannes will be a potential big improver with more matches after having the season cut short last year.

For Western, their under-age group is brimming with talent, though now with extra experience, Sargent, Skenderis and Woods will be among those to watch. Montana Ham and Charlotte Baskaran present as two of the top 2022 prospects, with Ham’s versatility and size through the midfield hard to match, while Baskaran’s run and carry – as well as her elite use by foot – will provide a one-two punch that is always difficult to combat.

This is a game that could go right down to the wire, and difficult to predict with so many new players, but Eastern might have the upper hand at home.

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.15pm
JC Lowe Oval, Yarrawonga

From the east to the far north, Murray Bushrangers will host Bendigo Pioneers in a terrific spectacle for the country regions at Yarrawonga. Both these teams have a talented tall in the AFL Women’s Academy which makes things exciting. These two teams have also not played since March 30, 2019 when the Pioneers – during their most successful season to-date – toppled the Bushrangers by 14 points in Wangaratta.

That day it was Annabel Strahan (now Bulldogs) who had 20 touches, seven tackles, five inside 50s and a goal) and Brooke Hards (17 disposals, three marks, 11 tackles, four inside 50s and three rebounds) who teamed up to cause havoc on the Bushrangers, while Millie Brown (now Geelong) racked up 27 disposals and six rebounds, and Abby Favell (22 disposals, five marks eight tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds) were the best for the losing side.

A then 15-year-old Ally Morphett had 11 disposals, two marks, 14 hitouts and two inside 50s, with the now AFL Women’s Academy member looming as the key player for the Bushrangers. Bendigo’s Academy member Tara Slender also played in that match, picking up seven disposals and having six hitouts, though the pair are unlikely to spend too much time one-on-one considering Slender will roll through a key position role and Morphett will be one of the dominant rucks in the competition.

Looking at the overall squads, Murray’s defence is strong given the likes of Mindy Quade and Kristy Whitehead provided plenty of run down there – though could be utilised further up the ground this season. Lily Sharp has been touted as one to watch by the Bushrangers’ coaching staff following a big off-season, and Keeley Skepper remains one of Vic Country’s top talents for 2022. Kate Adams returning as co-captain and providing experience and strength in the midfield will also be important.

For the Pioneers, Slender could be the top Vic Country prospect this year and will always be difficult to beat in the air, with the Pioneers’ captain not having to shoulder the ruck load given Madeline Marks‘ efforts in 2020. She will have her hands full against Morphett but it could be a fascinating battle, while Jayda Richardson, and now top-age talents Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning provide much needed experience to a really young Pioneers outfit.

Murray is excited about the depth of its squad in 2021, and while the Pioneers have some great young talents coming through, the extra experience for the Bushrangers – and what they started to show last year – should have them favourites at home in Yarrawonga.

Gippsland Power vs. Tasmania Devils
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.30pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In a battle between two teams that are building exciting programs, Gippsland Power “hosts” Tasmania Devils at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The furthest south east side travel up the highway to welcome the league’s newest team that only managed to taste one game in Victoria last year. The Devils had a rough introduction to the NAB League Girls competition – though the improvement from their brutal loss to Oakleigh Chargers to being competitive for the most part against Eastern Ranges has plenty of people buoyant about what they could produce in 2021.

These teams have never played before, and both have younger lists, sprinkled with some top-age and over-age experience. Key position players Camilla Taylor and Shanara Notman are the 20-year-old allowances in those sides, and have the size to cause a matchup dilemma for their respective opponents. Tasmania Devils have the sole AFL Women’s Academy member in this match, with the speedy Perri King looking to breakdown the Power’s zones and create some important run and carry for her side.

Aside from King, Amy Prokopiec remains a player to watch, having predominantly played as a last-line defender in previous seasons for the Devils, but became a reliable goalscoring threat in the TSL Women’s for Clarence. Other players who stood out 12 months ago include Jemma Blair, Aprille Crooks, Chelsea Thomas, Zoe Bourne and Meghan Gaffney. Having received an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite without managing to get on the park in the NAB League Girls, Charlie Vandenberg will get a great opportunity in the ruck and rotating forward with Taylor against one of Vic Country’s top ruck prospects.

Grace Matser is going to be difficult to stop, with the ruck battle set to be a duel within the match not to be missed. As the only Power player above 180cm, she will look to control the airways. The Gippsland midfield has some nice depth to it, with Grace McRae returning to the fold after being unlucky to miss out on the draft in 2020, and will get a good chance to play consecutive games this season. Matilda Van Berkel is another one with experience and able to play a number of roles, while Holly Booth and Sunday Brisbane are among those tipped to cause problems for the opposition. One name to remember for next year is Lily-Rose Williamson who has come through the V/Line Cup program and been one ready to step up at the level.

This game is as 50/50 as they come, so as is often the case in 50/50 games, we will lean towards the “home” team in Gippsland Power, though Tasmania Devils will be keen to sniff out their first win in the competition.

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Deakin University – Geelong

The final country game of the round occurs down in Geelong at Deakin University when the Falcons host the GWV Rebels. Much like the earlier two Saturday games, these two teams last played back in Round 4, 2019, when the Falcons – on their way to another finals series and coming off a premiership in 2018 – defeated the young Rebels by 36 points at City Oval in Ballarat. Luka Lesosky-Hay (31 disposals), Darcy Moloney (23) and Lucy McEvoy (22) all suffered leather poisoning and showed why they were capable of playing at the top level, whilst Nekaela Butler picked up 21 disposals and had six rebounds bravely defending for the home team.

There are a sprinkling of players from that day that remain on the lists in 2021, such as AFL Women’s Academy member Ella Friend, and Chloe Leonard and Crystal Summers (GWV Rebels), and Zoe Garth, Renee Tierney, Poppy Schapp and Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong). Those players will provide great experience for their respective sides in that clash, in what is sure to feature some of the best talent in the NAB League Girls competition.

The Falcons might not have an Academy member, but have plenty of developing young players, with Dowling a presence in the back half but can play anywhere, Annie Lee beside her in defence, Keeley Hardingham controlling the ruck, and Mia Van Dyke a bottom-age prospect who will be one to watch for next year able to roll through the midfield. Geelong has always been a team flushed with depth, and 2021 appears to be the same, with no shortage of talent across all three lines.

Alongside Friend – who will be that taller marking target at half-forward – Nyakoat Dojiok is the other AFL Women’s Academy member on the Rebels’ list. The running defender could start off half-back or roam along a wing depending on the team’s needs, able to add that mix of power and acceleration to breakaway from would-be tacklers. Leonard returns to the club as a new top-ager and one who will settle down the defence, while Stephanie Glover, Lilli Condon and Summers are some of the names to watch in the match.

Geelong have had such success over the past few years, it is hard to look past them at home. The Rebels will provide a great contest, but we will find out where both these teams are at following the Round 1 encounter.

Calder Cannons vs. Sandringham Dragons
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In the first double-header of the year, a star-studded Calder Cannons outfit hosts an ever-growing talent base in the Sandringham Dragons. The last time these two met was in 2019 back in Round 3, as the Cannons went on to make the grand final that year. They only scored two behinds in the first half and trailed by five points at the main break, before booting the last four goals of the game to win 4.8 (32) to 1.3 (9) over the Dragons at Trevor Barker Oval.

Alice Burke (St Kilda) and Sarah Hartwig (Bulldogs) were among the top players for the Dragons, whilst it was Georgia Patrikios (St Kilda) and Krstel Petrevski (Melbourne) who shone from those who have been drafted. Best on ground that day was Georgie Prespakis who lit it up with 23 disposals, three marks, eight tackles, four inside 50s and two rebounds. The now-Cannons captain will look to have an equally big impact this year, while Emelia Yassir, Kasey Lennox, Alisa Magri, Zali Friswell and Neve Crowley are just a handful of the talented names who also played as 15/16-year-old talents on that day.

The Cannons have proven to have such great development over the past few years, and all the above names along with Mali McLeod, Peppa Poultney and Jessica Zakkour makes them a rock solid team across the board. Though their opponents are no slouches either. Back in the 2019 clash, now-captain Kiana Lynch, as well as the likes of Charli Murphy, Summer Trim, Emma Stuber, Isabella Stutt, Ebony Angelopoulos and Chloe Saultry all took to the field, so the Dragons have a core of players with plenty of experience under their belt.

Murphy will provide that marking target up forward, while Lynch will lead a host of bottom-agers with future potential. Bridie Hipwell and Sofia Hurley are just a couple of names who still have another year to go after this one, but are becoming key players in the Dragons outfit going forward. They made great strides last season and play what would be considered the benchmark team in the competition first-up here.

Calder Cannons deserve to be favourites for the overall title, so it is hard to tip against them in any game. The Dragons will be up and about and likely to be among the contenders this season too, so buckle up for an exciting contest.

Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers
Sunday, February 7 @ 12.45pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Wrapping up the weekend might just be the tightest of the lot, with both Northern Knights and Oakleigh Chargers going undefeated last year, and technically the Knights are still the reigning premiers from 2019. Both these sides had a host of players drafted in 2020, with the Knights having the first three Victorian players taken in the draft. These two sides played back in Round 2, 2019, when they played out a thrilling draw in what would be the only match where the Knights did not collect the full points that season.

Future AFL Women’s talents, Ellie McKenzie, Britney Gutknecht, Gabby Newton and Alyssa Bannan were the best for the Knights, while Mimi Hill, Joanna Lin, Alana Porter and Emily Harley all shone for the Chargers. Also playing that day was now AFL Women’s Academy member, Maykaylah Appleby who leads the Knights charge in 2021, with Teleah Smart, Mikayla Plunkett, Jessica Simpson and Tallia Pulcino among the current-listed Northern players running around that day.

Appleby is the one to watch this season, but the Knights have brought back a host of top-age players such as Plunkett, Pulcino, Maeve Chaplin, Trinity Mills and Gulia Ceravolo, so have plenty of experience to guide the next crop of Knights talents. Some names to watch this year aside from the above group with a point to prove are the likes of defender Tarrah Delgado and ruck Georgia Kitchell who showed some promising signs in the short 2020 season.

The Chargers had the likes of Taylah Morton, Kalarni Kearns, Charlie Rowbottom, Eliza James and Emma Chamberlain running around in the draw with the Knights, and have been growing some phenomenal depth of late. Rowbottom is the AFL Women’s Academy talent and if she crosses paths with Appleby, it will provide plenty of highlights. Add in the likes of top-ager Amanda Ling, middle-ager Stella Reid, and bottom-ager Rianna Thiele, and the Chargers have built an exciting list.

Another 50/50 split game that could go either way. It is hard to look past the Knights’ success rate, but what the Chargers were starting to do last year, the depth is among the best going around so Oakleigh could become the first team to knock off Northern in almost three years.

Crooks loving the football journey

TASMANIAN talent, Aprille Crooks “definitely would take it with two hands” if presented with an opportunity in the AFL Women’s competition, but her main goal for football is to just have fun and push herself to be the best player she can be.

The Launceston Football Club talent is into her second year at the Tasmania Devils, having played Australian rules football for four seasons now. With a family heavily invested in the sport, it was only a matter of time before the midfielder decided to follow her father and sister into the oblong-ball code.

“I watched my dad play football all through my life so for 17 years I watched him play,” Crooks said. “I watched my sister get into it, and I left my dancing and netball to play football. “I’ve had amazing opportunities with it and everything playing at Launceston Football Club and this is my second year here at Devils.”

Crooks played both of the Devils’ games last year before the NAB League Girls season was cut, running through the midfield. Averaging 5.5 disposals a game, Crooks showed off her unbelievable defensive strengths, laying a whopping eight tackles per match, including a game-high nine tackles against Eastern Ranges.

It it then little surprise to hear that the defensively-minded Crooks “loves to lay a good tackle”. She also rates her speed as a strength, and combined with her tackling pressure, helps her be aggressive towards the ball both to win it, and win it back from the opposition.

“I really want to improve hitting my targets in my kicks and everything,” Crooks said of what she hoped to build on in 2021. “Looking for my best option and really getting in there when there’s a stoppage.”

Crooks thrives on getting in and under through an onball role, but she is equally able to play off a wing, a role she has a familiar understanding of from when she first started her football journey.

“I am a midfielder, it’s a good role and everything, I do love to play the wing as well,” Crooks said. “Generally because that’s what I played my very first year of football and that’s what I got drilled into me, is how to play that role. “But coming into the middle I love it, and it’s a really good time.”

Having come through the pathway over the past four years, Crooks immediately noticed the step up when she took on Oakleigh Chargers and Eastern Ranges in the NAB League Girls.

“It’s definitely such a step up from Launceston to Devils, the work rate and the intensity and the talent from all these girls here is just incredible,” Crooks said. “I had a really good transition through my football. “My dad was my coach and he really pushed me and everything, I had good connections through Devils and everything, it was really smooth but definitely a step up from your club football.”

While the journey itself has been enjoyable, it is the social connections that have kept Crooks around.

“Definitely all the girls I’ve met through the sport (are what’s kept me around),” Crooks said. “Having my dad as motivation as well, he’s really pushed me to go with my football, and it’s just so much fun, why wouldn’t you want to come back?”

Crooks said her father was “definitely” her greatest inspiration in the sport.

“Yeah he is my idol in football, what he’s done and everything is absolutely incredible and I aspire to be like him,” she said.

As for her goals this season and long-term, Crooks said she “honestly just wants to play football” after such an interrupted 2020 season.

“I really just want to get out there and play as many games as possible with Devils and really show them what we’ve got,” she said. “Just go as far as I can, I’m not necessarily striving for AFLW or anything, but if that was an opportunity, definitely would take it with two hands and go for it, but just to have fun with it, really push myself and go out there.”

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Tasmania Devils

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 league’s newest side, Tasmania Devils who had a tough first-up game against Oakleigh, before showing masked improvement in the Round 3 loss to Eastern Ranges.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: Bye
R2: lost to Oakleigh Chargers by 102 points
R3: lost to Eastern Ranges by 57 points

On face value the results might not look pretty, but Tasmania’s improvement from Round 2 to Round 3 was noticeable. The Devils were connecting more going forward and even managed to kick their first goal in NAB League Girls, whilst maintaining the defensive pressure. Keeping the opposition to just one goal in two of the quarters was a massive effort for the side from the Apple Isle.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Amy Prokopiec (10.0 disposals, 1.5 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 4.5 rebounds)

The sole AFL Women’s National Academy member was the standout player from the first couple of rounds, being a reliable player in defence and the sole person to average double-figure touches. Anchoring the side on the last line, Prokopiec is good one-on-one and backs herself coming out of defence, having the nine rebounds in the opening two matches. One to watch next season as a top ager.

Perri King (7.0 disposals, 4.5 tackles, 2.5 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds, 1 goal)

Another middle-ager who wrote herself into the history books becoming the first ever Tasmania Devils NAB League Girls (as a full-time team) goalkicker. She converted the major with a clever snap and has been quite impressive throughout games, working hard between the arcs and setting up plays in transition.

Camilla Taylor (5.0 disposals, 10.0 hitouts, 11.0 tackles, 2.0 rebounds)

The overage ruck was a tackling machine in the opening two rounds, often tapping the ball down and immediately tackling the opposition if they tried to shark it. She provides a calming presence and great experience around the stoppages, and showed natural leadership when on the field.

Jemma Webster (8.0 disposals, 1.0 marks, 3.0 tackles, 2.0 rebounds)

Caught the eye with some of her dashes out of defence, and while she might not have won a heap of the ball, had some impressive moments. She averaged a couple of rebounds per game and was able to use her afterburners to get away from opponents, running from the back 50 into midfield. One of Tasmania’s top-age prospects.

Meghan Gaffney (8.0 disposals, 1.5 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s)

She might be smaller at 155cm, but the middle ager showed she has plenty of zip, recording the most inside 50s of any player on her team in the opening two matches. She won her fair share of the ball and would often get away from the opposition, having an impact on the contest and being one of Tasmania’s more prominent players through midfield.

Others who have stood out: Aprille Crooks, Angelica Clark, Zoe Bourne, Jemma Blair

The even spread of performers across the Tasmanian team is evident with a mixed group primarily middle or bottom agers. Clark is the sole top ager in the others who have stood out category, laying seven tackles per game. Crooks has been just as fierce around the ball carrier with eight tackles per game, while fellow middle agers, Bourne and Blair have provided good support by working hard back into defence.

Oakleigh runs away with record-breaking win on historic day

OAKLEIGH Chargers flexed their NAB League Girls title-contending muscles in Tasmania Devils’ inaugural match, winning by a record 102 points at the picturesque North Hobart Oval on Saturday. Despite the Devils never giving up and constantly harassing the opposition with great defensive pressure, the result was never in doubt from the second term when the Chargers piled on seven consecutive goals on their way to a 16.8 (104) to 0.2 (2) victory.

The opening nine minutes were quite competitive with both sides having a crack and the Devils restraining the high-scoring Chargers with fierce tackling and working hard with their positioning, leading at one stage with two early behinds to one. Tasmania was doing well in the ruck thanks to Kara Hennessy, but were struggling to get it past halfway after that start. Amy Prokopiec did well one-on-one deep to knock a ball out of bounds deep in defence to save a goal. After a missed snap shortly after, Oakleigh finally broke through for the opener of the game in the tenth minute with a great snap off Mia Clift from a contest. Despite Tasmania for the most part keeping the Chargers at bay, Oakleigh’s relentless attack eventually paid dividends, with Lucja Boyd-Singer kicking a ripping goal out of nothing off a pack on the tightest of angles a few minutes out in the last couple of minutes of the term. Tasmania’s endeavour was terrific, but with Oakleigh’s pressure now matching the Devils, the execution still needed work and that was the difference between the two sides. In the end the Chargers led by two goals in a quarter that both sides could be pleased with given the Devils had held them up for the majority of the term, whilst Oakleigh had finally got reward for effort in the last six minutes.

Whilst the Devils waited almost 10 minutes for their first goal in the opening term, they waited less than a minute for Eliza James to convert a set shot from close range. It was the work of captain, Mimi Hill who side-stepped an opponent and kicked to James’ advantage just outside the goalsquare. Less than a minute later a second goal was on the board and Taylah Morton had her first by shrugging off an opponent and kicking truly on the run. Some great defensive work from Stella Reid won the ball back with a forward 50 tackle and it was almost snapped up with an intercept mark by Liana Freestone but it bounced off her hands to the fortunate Rianna Thiele who needed a few steps and snapped around her body for another and all of a sudden the margin was out to 30 points just five minutes into the second quarter. Soon Reid was paid off for her hard work with a goal of her own off the left boot after Boyd-Singer handballed to her in space and she nailed it without hesitation. Good positioning from Charlie Rowbottom earned her a free kick 15m out from goal after a stray arm caught her high and Oakleigh’s seventh major was on the board at the eighth minute mark of the quarter. Reid had a chance for another but rushed the kick and put it through for a behind, but fortunately had another chance just seconds later where the ball floated into the forward line where she happened to be standing and she marked and goaled. The last five minutes of the term was well defended by the Devils and it took a special effort from Rowbottom again to stand her ground and put one through deep in the pocket despite being dragged down by her Devils’ opponent. The Chargers scored just one more behind – a rushed snap from James – for the term, and already had an imposing total to their name at 9.4 (58) to 0.2 (2).

The signs were ominous early in the third of the trend continuing with Morton having an early snap but was bumped off it for just one behind. The ball continued to spiral in and full credit to Prokopiec whose running in the defensive goalsquare saved what looked like a certain Chargers goal by nullifying the contest and forcing a ball-up. Moments later Morton received a free kick 35m out straight in front and it never looked like missing with the forward putting it straight through for her second just three and a half minutes into the term. Despite the scoreboard overwhelmingly in the visitors favour, Tasmania’s desire and desperation never wavered and it took the Chargers some special efforts to score with an unbelievable snap from Amanda Ling on the boundary which sailed through for Oakleigh’s eleventh with still nine minutes remaining in the third term. The likes of Camilla Taylor and Jemma Webster were trying to create some movement out of defence with the pair combining through Taylor’s hitout to the running Webster kicking long down the wing. Whilst it may not have amounted to anything it is these little passages of play that suggest with more experience the Devils will be an exciting team. Another goal-saving tackle from the Devils, this time from Jemma Blair – who was a little unlucky not be rewarded – showed the desire was still there and the Chargers could not just waltz away with the win. Hill almost drilled one home for her side off a terrific running play but it drifted to the left. Less than a minute later however, Sarah Morley added her name to the goalkickers list with a nice passage of play and kick off a few steps for the Chargers’ twelfth. To close out the quarter the Devils again held firm defensively and restricted the Chargers from scoring.

The final term got underway with the Chargers leading by 77 points and no doubt eyeing off the potential of a triple-figure score. The Devils’ defensive pressure was not going to make it easy for them with often multiple players wrapping up their Chargers’ opponents. Another special effort from Morton off a step with a neat snap brought up her third of the contest around the same time as she had converted her second in the last term. A fortunate ball over the back of a pack midway through the term handed Thiele her second goal in a monty with a soccer off the ground from point blank. A courageous marking attempt from Webster would not have gone unnoticed from her teammates in the middle of the ground, putting her body on the line to spoil and force a turnover from her opponent. Despite getting the ball to half-forward, Oakleigh went end-to-end and Ling kicked her second off a quick set shot and the Chargers were 96 points up with three and a half minutes remaining. Even with two and a half minutes left, Angelica Clark ran down Hill who was charging forward to boot long inside 50 and then an equally impressive effort deep in the forward pocket from Perri King almost created a scoring chance but the kick inboard unluckily bounced off Olivia Smith’s hands and the Chargers cleared it. In the last minute of play the ball went forward and finding space was Morley who took a step and snapped a goal to bring up the ton and help Oakleigh to a 102-point victory.

Hill finished the match with a game-high 20 disposals and two inside 50s finding plenty of it in close, whilst Rowbottom was the top player on the ground with 17 touches, three marks, five tackles, three inside 50s and two goals. Thiele also booted a couple of majors off 15 touches and laid eight tackles, whilst Morton ended up with three goals from five scoring shots to go with 12 touches and three tackles. Ling had 14 touches and three inside 50s to go with two goals, whilst Kalarni Kearns finished with 19 hitouts to accompany 11 disposals. For the Devils, Prokopiec worked hard on the last line and had a team-high nine disposals, two inside 50s and three rebounds, while Webster showed some dash on her way to seven touches, three tackles and three rebounds. Taylor recorded11 hitouts and laid a match-high 13 tackles, whilst Aprille Crooks finished with seven tackles in a strong defensive effort.

TASMANIA DEVILS 0.2 | 0.2 | 0.2 | 0.2 (2)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.2 | 9.4 | 12.7 | 16.8 (104)

GOALS: 

Tasmania: Nil.
Oakleigh: T. Morton 3, S. Reid 2, A. Ling 2, S. Morley 2, C. Rowbottom 2, A. Ling 2, E. James, M. Clift, L. Boyd-Singer.

ADC BEST:

Tasmania: A. Prokopiec, C. Taylor, J. Webster, A. Crooks, A. Clark
Oakleigh: C. Rowbottom, A. Micallef, T. Morton, R. Thiele, A. Ling, M. Hill

DC Medal:

5 – Charlie Rowbottom (OC)
4 – Amber Micallef (OC)
3 – Taylah Morton (OC)
2 – Rianna Thiele (OC)
1 – Amanda Ling (OC)