Tag: ash van loon

2021 NAB League Girls preview: Preliminary Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls premiership contenders have been whittled down to four after an enthralling opening week of finals, with the knockout bouts setting up this week’s preliminary final stage. As the postseason draw remains split into Country and Metro pools, Saturday’s double-header at Avalon Airport Oval will decide which regions are left standing to play off for ultimate glory.

In the day’s opening game, minor premier Oakleigh will look to flex its muscle against the Eastern Ranges, after both regions progressed through the elimination round in style. The Chargers remain the team to beat having dropped just one game this season, but Eastern cannot be counted out after knocking off the reigning premiers.

Looking at the Country equation, the third and fourth ranked regular season sides mixed it up last week to create an intriguing matchup this time around. The Geelong Falcons and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels are those teams in question, both with some terrific top-end talents to be showcased at midday.

We preview both fixtures with a look at form and the key matchups.

METRO POOL

Oakleigh Chargers vs. Eastern Ranges
Saturday May 8, 10:00am
Avalon Airport Oval

Top seed, Oakleigh Chargers will lock horns with Eastern Ranges to decide which side will represent the Metro regions in this year’s NAB League grand final. The Chargers have set the benchmark in 2021 having only lost once during the regular season, but have not yet been able to test themselves against the Ranges. Eastern finished as Metro’s second-ranked team with its 6-2 record, with either loss coming to fellow finals contenders. Both teams are on win streaks, with the Ranges riding high on four-straight victories, while Oakleigh returned from the break well to get up twice in the last fortnight.

Oakleigh’s squad dynamism will be a feature to watch in this clash, with many of their top-end talents able to shift and impact across multiple lines. Skipper Charlie Rowbottom is often at the heart of their cause, starting at full forward in recent weeks before bullocking her way into the game through midfield. Stella Reid is also among the starting forwards and has added a goalkicking string to her bow this season alongside Eliza James. Another in that midfield-forward rotation could be Amanda Ling, who is so tough and consistent at ground level. Further afield, ‘Chook’ Brooke Vickers and Charlotte Van Der Vlies run the wings, as Charlotte Taylor forms the centrepiece of a sturdy defence.

If there is one Metro region which can compete with Oakleigh for inside midfield strength, it may be Eastern. The one-two punch of Bridget Deed and Keeley Sherar has been wonderful to watch, with the likes of Jorja Livingstone benefitting on the outer. Isabelle Khoury has also entered the centre bounce mix, which is capped off by athletic ruck Georgia Campbell. Tilly Hardy and El Chaston, who have both gained VFLW experience this year, are forward threats, along with competition leading goalkicker Alyssia Pisano. The 15-year-old talent has proven she is not afraid of the big stage and can kick a bag if afforded too much leeway.

The minor premiers should rightly enter as the favoured side in this match, but will be given a good shake by Eastern’s competitiveness and even spread across the ground. It all starts with the midfield battle, which should prove a tight one, as both teams like to make an impact at the contest. Whichever side can get on top at the coalface and provide greater opportunities for the match-winners in the front half, will go a long way to being crowned this year’s top Metro region.

COUNTRY POOL

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Saturday May 8, 12:00pm
Avalon Airport Oval

The Geelong Falcons and GWV Rebels battle it out at midday on Saturday to decide which team will not only be crowned the top Country region in 2021, but also progress to this year’s NAB League grand final. Both teams took out higher ranked opposition in last week’s elimination final round, with Geelong powering past Dandenong while the Rebels caused a momentous upset over top seed, Tasmania. The Falcons got the better of their weekend rivals all the way back in Round 1, winning by 10 points on home turf in what was a competitive hitout throughout. Plenty has change since then though, and there will be plenty of confidence bouncing around both squads given their recent exploits.

Geelong was pegged as one of the teams to beat during preseason and have not disappointed, boasting high-level talent on each line. Starting in defence, the Falcons are rock-solid with the likes of Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling among those who repel nicely across half-back, impacting aerially and with their disposal. Up the other end, Renee Tierney is the spearhead with dynamite athlete Gabbi Featherston ahead of her as another marking target. At ground level, Poppy Schaap has rolled forward a lot more in recent weeks and Zoe Garth is impartial to a goal. Delivering the ball to them often times is Tess Craven out of the middle, who will once again be supported by bottom-agers Charlotte Simpson and Ash Van Loon at the centre bounces.

GWV lays claim to a head of top end prospects, with arguably none more exciting that its two AFLW Academy members Ella Friend and Nyakoat Dojiok. The pair are capable of bookending this lineup with aerial dominance, but Friend is wonderfully versatile and could well end up waxing with Dojiok in defence. Last week’s match winner, Paige Scott is capable of tearing the game apart at any moment, named in midfield but likely to head forward where Tahlia Meier is also a threat. In the middle, Kalani Scoullar makes for an imposing ruck figure, while Lilli Condon is as hard-working as they come with her run and ball winning ability at ground level. Add the experience of Chloe Leonard to that midfield rotation, and GWV are ultra competitive.

If their Round 1 meeting is anything to go by, this clash should be an absolute belter. Geelong is a side which seems to be peaking at the right time, with their form built on a wall-like defence and reliable figures where it matters most, complemented by forwards who consistently convert. The Rebels have the potential to be equally as damaging on their day and will look to control possession, but should be tested well in their usually strong aerial department. This is a clash where you cannot rule either side out, and both should bring a true finals intensity to the fore.

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Elimination Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition rolled on into finals action over the weekend, with three games played on Saturday and one on Sunday. 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 AFLW 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.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve 

AFLW Academy:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Unsurprisingly Prespakis lead all comers for disposals for the day. She often sharked first possession off the rucks’ hands and then followed up with her classic long kicks forward, or the drew in opponents to handball it off to a teammate she just relieved of pressure. The real highlight of her game was how well she competed on the inside against one of the strongest midfield groups in the competition, racking up a game high 12 tackles and showing she wasn’t letting the Chargers mids walk it out of stoppages easily. Spectators were fortunate enough to see her and fellow AFLW Academy star Charlie Rowbottom go head-to-head at times, with each of them getting a few bragging rights moments through the contest.

 #18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Started the day as the deepest Calder forward, with the coaching staff looking to take advantage of the Chargers’ lack of height in defensive 50. She competed well when the ball entered attacking 50 and interestingly, despite being 190 cm, she looked at her best when the ball hit the ground as she followed up extremely well to get quick hands up to teammates. Unfortunately she dropped a few marks she would’ve usually held, perhaps due to the increased pace and pressure of finals. 

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Finding herself split between the midfield and forwardline evenly across the contest, Rowbottom’s influence on the game, particularly through the midfield, can’t be overstated, with her burst of speed being difficult for Calder to deal with. She looked to move the ball by hand a lot as opposed to blindly kicking the ball which led to some nice passages of play for Oakleigh. However, you could say she was too team centric at times, looking to pass off inside 50 most of the time she got it which kept Oakleigh off the scoreboard more than they could’ve been. A real point of difference is her overhead marking which she got to display a couple of times, taking one particular pack mark that, despite getting tackled by Georgie Prespakis, resulted in a dangerous inside 50.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Consistently found ways to show off her burst of speed and agility, weaving through packs and getting away well weighted kicks forward, or handballing to teammates under less pressure. The hard working midfielder provided plenty of spark around stoppages. She found her way around the ground as well, with a defensive focus to her game, getting down back to help out her team under siege, where she even managed an impressive intercept mark which led to a dangerous piece of transitional play that almost resulted in a goal.

#8 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

Has possibly flown under the radar this season with Prespakis and Yassir arguably flashier, but Friswell’s contribution to the strong midfield trio has been monumental throughout 2021 and the game against Oakleigh was no different. She returned a rounded game where she did everything well; unselfish with her ball use, looking to find teammates in space to spread Oakleigh’s defence, and switching the ball across the forward 50 often to create a bit of chaos. Similar to other teammates, her hybrid style of play in the midfield made Calder dangerous, able to crack in and win the contested ball and clearances, but also just as capable at holding her space and receiving a handball out the back or when running past.

#4 Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons)

Putting in arguably her best performance for the year, Lennox had a game to be proud of as a key defender. Usually playing on Oakleigh’s resting midfielders like Charlie Rowbottom or Amanda Ling, she adjusted to each opponent promptly and looked assured throughout the contest, not conceding a goal at any point. Taking the kick-ins for the day, she’d always run the ball out 15-20 meters and then kick a long bomb well out of the defensive 50 in an attempt to get Calder moving quickly in transition.

#15 Mali McLeod (Calder Cannons)

Getting her highest disposal count for the season in the contest, McLeod chose the right game to show her proficiency as a winger. Often the target of the kick-ins for Calder, or playing on the ‘dead wing’, McLeod was always an option, putting herself in the right spots all day to receive the ball on the outside and holding her space well. She also used the ball well by foot, looking to spot up targets in more central parts of the ground or inside 50.

#39 Abbey McDonald (Calder Cannons)

Playing in all thirds of the ground, McDonald showed that she’s got the scope to play anywhere going forward, and at a high level. She’s proven throughout the season that she understands how to play her role, and works well within the Calder structure to adjust what she does to suit her teammates. When she gets the ball, she just uses it so well, never asking too much of her teammates with well weighted kicks or handballs put just in front for them to run onto. As a 2004 birth, she’s one that looms as a major part, in any area of the ground, of the Cannons’ 2022 campaign.

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Ling had a performance to remember. Whilst not winning as much of the ball as she usually does, the moments she had with and around it were extremely influential. What was perhaps most impressive was her lateral movement, even under pressure, able to maintain top speed even when evading opponents. It wasn’t uncommon to see her run straight towards opponents and then take a side step, with the opponent unable to do anything about it. She used the ball well to follow up on those side steps too, hitting a few kicks to the top of the goalsquare to give her teammates the best opportunity to score.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing forward for what felt like the entire game, Reid didn’t let that hurt her disposal numbers. Pushing up the ground to act as a high-half forward link up player, she was involved in everything in the front half of the ground; taking marks, winning loose balls and setting up teammates. She was also one of two multiple goalkickers, with the opportunity to get two or three more on the board as well, but she chose to move the ball on to better positioned teammates showing a sense for teamwork – a common theme amongst the Oakleigh squad that played a big part in the win.

#31 Sarah Morley (Oakleigh Chargers)

Putting in her best shift for the year, Morley was one of the benefactors from the team focus that the Oakleigh squad played with, getting involved in some chain bits of play that led to either her getting on the scoreboard or her team getting a scoring opportunity. Morley threw herself at everything, not letting the Cannons defenders have anything easy, while also taking a couple of nice marks that led to her setting up teammates for shots on goal. 

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Perhaps most impactful in the final quarter where she got an extended run through the midfield, James’ burst of speed, agility and toughness at the footy were real sparks to keep Oakleigh going forward consistently through the middle of the ground. She did well to win first possession off of the ruck taps and then quickly handball off to teammates under less pressure. If she got it in space herself, she measured her kicks well, looking to get them more central. 

#37 Charlotte Van der Vlies (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing in her usual wing role, Van der Vlies was able to impact contests on her side of the ground well, generally winning the contest by getting the ball herself, or putting in a bump/shepherd that allowed a teammate to get it out and keep going forward. She proved a nuisance for the Cannons defence, often at the fall of the ball when they rushed a kick out of the Chargers’ forward 50, using the ball well by foot to get it central or back inside 50.

#23 Caitlin Matthews (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing an underrated role in the defensive 50 for the Chargers, Matthews was impressive in her defensive craft; winning one-on-ones with a spoil, or drifting across and impacting contests to get the ball loose and then follow up at ground level. From there, she picked it up cleanly off the ground and then got distance behind her kicks outside of defensive 50. She was also confident to push off her opponent and just sit behind contests to quickly pick up spilled balls.

OTHERS:

For the victors, the influence of defender Erin Woodford can’t be overstated, winning multiple two-on-ones in the final quarter to stop Calder scoring, and doing well to nullify Gillard throughout the contest. Lily Hart was again a big part of the midfield for the Chargers, as Mia Clift and Charlotte Taylor were impressive as rebounding defensive options. For the Cannons, Trilby Sheppard did well in defensive 50, whilst Reese Sutton was also lively through the game, having some good moments in the forward half.

EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Declan Reeve

TOP PERFORMERS:

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Put in a solid performance in what will be her last NAB League appearance. Chaplin’s strength on the inside and around stoppages is one of her standout traits, being able to win contested possession without much issue even with opposition hanging off her. This goes hand in hand with her composure and smooth moving through traffic to make her a really damaging ball winner, where she’ll win it, get free and kick well forward. When playing a role in the defensive 50, she has natural defensive nous, with just little things like standing goal side of her opponent or having an arm across them giving her the advantage when the ball comes in.

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

It has become glaringly evident that Jordan is a seriously good ball winner through the midfield, and she’s only going to get better. Despite being shorter than most, she’s got such a hunger to win the footy that leads to her being involved in everything. She manages to get the ball in contested situations and work her way out to give it off to a teammate under less pressure. What’s most impressive is her tendency to move the ball on by hand, it’s not uncommon for the highest ball winners in NAB League to look to bomb long, so that composure and maturity at such a young age is an extremely good trait. 

#23 Lulu Beatty (Northern Knights)

Had a difficult job through the game with the ball constantly around the Northern defensive 50, but Beatty held up under the pressure to be arguably the best defender on ground. She positioned well in contests to be at an advantage almost every time, giving her the best opportunity to use the ball well going forward and start a dangerous counter attack. Pushed up the ground as well to help lock the ball inside the Northern forward 50, setting up just outside to create a contest with Eastern players waiting for a rebound. 

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Continued her goalkicking ways from the home-and-away season, booting three on the way to a brilliant victory. Two of her goals came at vital moments; when the game was still there to be won by Northern, it was Pisano that would step up and put the nail in the coffin after having missed a few easier shots earlier on. It wasn’t just the goals that impressed and impacted from Pisano, she was able to push up the ground and win possession as far as the defensive 50 mark, following up with her trademark penetrating left-foot kick, usually a good 35-40 meters down the line. Her work through traffic was also eye-catching, able to side step her way around opponents to get separation.

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

The super athletic ruck had a day out for Eastern, playing a big part in their ability to get first hands on the ball and clear it forward to keep pressure on the Northern defence. She has developed and improved her ruck craft throughout the season. Having the athletic advantage more often than not, she’s worked on her tap work to be one of the premiere rucks in the league in that regard, putting it right in front of her teammates every time.

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Has improved game on game, and it has led to her being one of the standout defenders in the competition, with her ability to run both ways and offer plenty in both offensive and defensive play making her a consistent part of the Ranges’ transitional passages. Her ball use around the ground is exceptional, composing herself before getting the ball to a teammate, usually further up the ground. She was involved in one particular bit of play, where she won a one-on-two at the top of the defensive 50, swept up the loose ball and delivered long to a teammate, who then kicked it onto Alyssia Pisano for her third goal of the day. 

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

The major ball winner for the contest, Deed was constantly involved in play around the ground. However, what was most noticeable was her work rate to get down and assist in the backline, with her positioning in particular being the key reason to her good performance, even getting herself some quick uncontested intercept marks during the latter stages in the game. She was strong on the inside as a ball winner that fed out to other midfielders or kicked long forward into dangerous spots.

#5 Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges)

Playing arguably her best game of the season in her standard wing role, it was Livingstone’s endurance running and ability to work both ways that stood out and put her name in contention for best on ground. She held her space really well throughout the game, being a much needed outlet for the Ranges as seemingly everyone else on the ground wanted to get into the contested scraps.

OTHERS:

Keeley Sherar, Ruby O’Dwyer and Isabelle Khoury were all big parts in the Ranges’ win, bringing spark around the midfield. El Chaston was a dangerous forward target, setting up a few of the goals, whilst Grace Walsh was consistent down back. For the Knights, Phoebe Nelson, Riley Wilcox and Teleah Smart all had good moments in the midfield and around the ground, all bringing positive run to Northern’s side.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

TOP PERFORMERS:

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Since returning from the Under 19 Championships matches, Schaap has played extended stints forward to great success, again getting on the scoreboard against Dandenong, but playing a much more team orientated game, looking to pass off essentially every time she got the ball rather than take the shot herself. She found a good balance between pushing up the ground acting as an extra midfielder, and staying down forward as a crumber which played a big part in the Falcons’ dominance, with her natural ball winning and quick hands in-close opening the game up often and leading to scoring shots for Geelong.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

A game to put on the resume, Craven showed that she has the ability to impact the scoreboard heavily when allowed a little more freedom to move forward. Her first of the day came just 30 seconds into the match from about 40 meters out, after getting the clearance, handing it off and getting it back straight away. Her ball use was at its usual high standard, being one of the few to look to use the width of the ground rather than always moving straight forward, finding unopposed teammates that allowed them to get a clearer path forward. She looked to be a handy outlet option for her teammates as well, getting into the short inside 45 spots and often being used, then hitting teammates up to keep the chain going.

#9 Ash Van Loon (Geelong Falcons)

Played as the most permanent part of Geelong’s midfield for the game, with her positioning around the ground, especially stoppages, being the highlight for her. She’d manage to win the first possession off the rucks’ hands and then flick it off by hand to a teammate that was already close to top speed, giving the Falcons quick ball movement entering the forward half of the ground. Used it well by foot as well to hit some good targets, even when under pressure.

#15 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Featherston benefitted from the quick ball movement coming forward at times, making her a dangerous figure. As a player that possesses great speed and athleticism in general, she was able to react quickly and leap to try and take the ball high or quickly turn and run onto a ball over the top, beating her opponent in the foot race. She used the ball well, hitting targets in better spots than her if she wasn’t in a good position to go for goal, but also comfortable to back herself in and take some shots herself. Acted as the relieving ruck for the game as well, with the previously mentioned athleticism coming out.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

The 2022 Geelong and St Kilda father-daughter prospect is the embodiment of an inside bull, utilising her strength and relentless hunt on the footy to win the contested ball and get it going forward by foot. She also looked good with her marking, providing contests with her bodywork really solid in those marking jostles, nudging players off balance to get the advantage as the ball flew in. 

#31 Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)

Fresh off her VFLW debut with the Southern Saints, Radford returned to Dandenong looking more confident and happy to take the game on. As she has so often done this year, Radford was thrown about into all areas of the ground as Dandenong tried to plug the holes as they popped up. Looked good with her positioning all day, making herself a genuine option wherever she was, then using the ball well when she got it – proving well balanced between kicking and handballing. Looked most impressive in defence where she made plenty of contests to stop certain Geelong goals, and rebounded well. Radford also got herself on the scoreboard for her hard work. 

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looked the most aerially dangerous in Dandenong’s defence and moved the ball out of defensive 50 with speed, looking to take the game on with her run-and-carry at times, then delivering a long kick forward into space for the forwards to run onto. Hill was defensively sound throughout, making opposition forwards work hard with their leading and work at ground level to win the ball.

#44 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looked solid as a rock for Dandenong in defence, being one of the few defenders that were happy to push up out of the defensive 50 and impact further up the ground, which led to her taking some impressive runs on the wing and delivering inside 50 with her well weighted kicks, even getting herself on the scoreboard as a reward for effort. She used the ball well coming out of defence too, looking to spot up targets rather than bomb down the line, in an attempt to stop Geelong’s constant stream of inside 50s.

OTHERS:

Zoe Garth and Ingrid Houtsma were also good for Geelong Falcons, with Garth getting a goal playing predominantly as a high half-forward and Houtsma playing the wing role well before going off in the fourth quarter, after a rough tackle. Annie Lee looked assured in defence when it came down, often pushing out to impact play on the wing. For Dandenong, bottom-agers Felicity Crank and Olivia Robinson looked solid and worked hard all day, playing a variety of roles but still popping up everywhere. Ashleigh Richards also had some good moments playing mostly forward. 2023-draft eligible tall Bianca Lyne was the standout in the ruck all day, leading the game for hitouts and regularly jumping higher than her opponents.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

Had another strong performance throughout the four quarters by winning her fair share of the ball in-close and extracting it out of the stoppage to try and get it forward. Once again it was her tackling pressure that really shone in the match, and whilst she might have rushed some of her earlier kicks, she put in a good kick to Amy Prokopiec in the second term, and worked hard moments later to slide in and mark the ball 35 metres out straight in front. Whilst the set shot fell short, she continued to push hard throughout the game and had one of the last inside 50s of the game.

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Rotating between forward and the wing – and even dropping back into defence to provide an aerial presence at centre half-back, Friend was one of the more prominent players in the game. A couple of times both she and Paige Scott led to the same spot which saw the ball knocked to ground, but Friend was incredibly lively up the ground, setting up Scott and her teammates inside 50 with scoring chances thanks to her booming left boot. Continually looking to thump it deep, Friend kept winning the ball through the midfield.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Providing good run out of defence and positioning herself well in the back 50 to gobble up any high balls, Dojiok was a difficult player to stop in transition. Her bombing down the field was hit and miss in terms of accuracy, but her ability to just get in the right spots to intercept and then drive it forward as she has all season was uncanny. She ran all game long and became a real problem for the opposition forwards who had to try and stop her in the air to try and contain her, which they focused on doing later in the game.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#1 Brooke Barwick (Tasmania Devils)

The pocket rocket 15-year-old looked experienced beyond her years, having some eye-catching plays throughout the match. In particular, during a couple of back-to-back plays in the third term where she won the ball on the wing and drove it forward on multiple occasions. For a smaller player she has a fierce attack on the contest and is not afraid to get stuck in, making for plenty of upside in her game.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Was particularly busy early, winning plenty of the ball. She provided hard running and fierce defensive pressure, taking a couple of good marks and spreading into space to move the ball in transition. She showed good strength at one stage to fend off an opponent and handball inside 50, as well as taking a good mark late in the game at the top of the forward 50. Had a fair impact on the contest as a whole.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

The classy midfielder used her clean hands through the middle and composure under pressure to be one of the best Tasmanians on the day once again. Her ability to have the footy smarts whilst being tackled on the ground in the goalsquare to firstly keep the ball in, and then give it off to the moving Prokopiec to kick a goal from point blank was terrific. Ransom herself kicked a clever early goal to get the Devils on the board, and then had a flying shot in the fourth term which just bounced into the post. As a whole her attacking plays were impactful from the get-go. She did get caught once holding the ball which is very rare, but otherwise had another impressive performance.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

Covered the ground really well, winning the ball in the midfield, attack and in defence. She showed off her deep long kick going inside 50, and then worked hard on the outside to receive the handball and keep running. In the fourth term, Maurer won a free kick at half-forward but her kick was smothered, though she kept pushing and finished the game with a well-balanced array of touches all over the field, as well as high-level defensive pressure.

#23 Charlotte Dennis (Tasmania Devils)

Played a rock solid role in defence, especially when the Rebels had the ascendancy, standing up under pressure and taking a number of strong marks, then moving the ball out of the danger zone in transition. Perhaps her best moment was a courageous grab with contact coming in the third term, backing herself to win the ball and save a potential goalscoring chance for the opposition.

#24 Amy Prokopiec (Tasmania Devils)

Was a really lively forward and could have had a huge day out, finishing with 2.3 for her troubles from eight touches. Forgetting the stats, her impact on the game was certainly high, working hard to lead to spots and then doubling back to try and worry the opposition on the last line. She kicked a goal from the square thanks to a handball from Ransom, then kicked a second with a set shot 30 metres out straight in front, a quarter later. Taking a couple of strong grabs in the second half, Prokopiec uncharacteristically missed a couple of chances, including one late in the contest, but could be proud with the work rate she produced.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

Good players stand up when the game is on the line, and while Scott booted the four goals to put them in front, Condon’s last term – in particular the last 10 minutes – was absolutely outstanding. She had a flying shot on the goal herself which missed, but her ability to keep running hard throughout the entire match, including when many were tiring was unbelievable. She seemed to find space with ease and brought as much defensive pressure as she did offensive work. Showing clean hands on the inside, Condon had the ball on a string and was really influential throughout the match, but was particularly noticeable when every touch mattered late in the game.

#2 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)

Stepped up with another strong performance after a good one in Round 9. The talented midfielder had a powerful kick early in the game from half-back to the wing and then pushed deeper back to smother a set shot on goal which forced a ball-in. Her intensity at the contest earned her a number of free kicks, and she teamed up well with Condon by extracting the ball from in-close to get it outside. A huge tackle on Ransom when very few can catch her was impressive, and she finished with a solid four-quarter effort with some nice plays in each term.

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

The match-winner and like she did for Vic Country, showed just what she is capable of when on-song. Kicking the team’s four goals, Scott could have had an even bigger day out with three behinds as well. She played a lot deeper than she has in other outings, often utilised as the player to isolate one-on-one deep, and she took advantage of her strength and footy IQ to create separation from her opponent – be it one-on-one, on the lead, or getting to the right place for an uncontested grab. After three goals in the space of five minutes during the second term, she capped off her day with a fourth from 25 metres out in the third term, narrowly missing one after a tough mark shortly after.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Consistent as they come, Leonard was again easily one of the Rebels’ best, laying some fierce tackles and just bullocking her way on the inside to win the ball and get it out to teammates. She provided good run when on the outside and covered the ground well by winning the ball in all thirds of the ground. She stood up in tackles and won free kicks for her attack on the contest, and just did what she had to do in crunch moments to be a leader amongst the group and really impact the contest.

OTHERS:

From Tasmania’s standpoint, Jemma Webster, Priscilla Odwogo, Aprille Crooks and Candice Belbin all had some impressive moments throughout the match, while Charlie Vandenberg worked well around the ground early. For the Rebels, Stella Bridgewater, Jorja Jones and Ally Trigg had some nice moments throughout the game, Kalani Scoullar took control at the ruck stoppages, and Molly Walton was reliable when needed in defence.

2021 NAB League Girls: Elimination Finals wrap – Scott-inspired Rebels secure finals boilover

FINALS time rolled around in the 2021 NAB League Girls competition, with the four elimination bouts bringing a terrific atmosphere and some fantastic football to the fore. The action kicked off with a Metro double-header on Saturday morning, which saw Oakleigh and Eastern set up their preliminary final meeting, before Geelong romped to a big win over the highly-fancied Dandenong Stingrays, and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) inflicted an inspired upset on enemy territory the following day.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.1 | 3.3 | 4.5 | 5.6 (36)
CALDER CANNONS 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.4 | 3.5 (23)

By: Declan Reeve

In a fiery contest to open up the NAB League Girls finals series, the Oakleigh Chargers came away 13-point victors over the Calder Cannons, allowing them to continue on their finals campaign. The highly contested nature of the game led to plenty of stoppages, giving viewers ample opportunity to see Victorian pick one fancies Charlie Rowbottom and Georgie Prespakis line up head-to-head, each winning their fair share of clearances and ball around the ground. 

The Chargers were buoyed by a great all-round team performance; Rowbottom was a big influence through the midfield and up forward, with teammate Amanda Ling also rotating through the two areas of the ground to great effect. Stella Reid and Sarah Morley both kicked two majors when goals were hard to come by. Caitlin Matthews and Erin Woodford worked well in tandem in the defensive 50 for the Chargers, both winning crucial contests in the final term.

For Calder, it was a lot of the usual suspects stepping up; Prespakis, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell were again influential around the ground, working hard to assist their team in defence. Abbey McDonald was played in all thirds of the ground and continued to be a strong contributor wherever she ended up, and winger Mali McLeod had one of her best performances to date. Kasey Lennox was instrumental in defence for Calder, with her efforts keeping the game within arms reach at times. It was to no avail in the end, as the Cannons’ season came to an end.

GOALS:

Oakleigh: S. Reid 2, S. Morley 2, C. Van der Vlies
Calder: E. Nickolaus, G. Prespakis, R. Sutton

DC BEST:

Oakleigh: S. Reid, C. Rowbottom, A. Ling, C. Matthews, E. Woodford, S. Morley
Calder: G. Prespakis, E. Yassir, Z. Friswell, K. Lennox, A. McDonald, M. McLeod

EASTERN RANGES 2.3 | 2.3 | 2.6 | 5.9 (39)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.5 (11)

By: Declan Reeve

The Eastern Ranges booked themselves a match up against the Oakleigh Chargers in the second week of NAB League Girls finals, after pulling away from the Northern Knights in a 28-point win. Despite what the scoreboard may say, the game was a constantly tight, with the feeling that Northern was still very much in the game as both teams had periods where they’d be on top of the arm wrestle.

The Ranges had plenty of contributors in the victory, arguably none more so than Alyssia Pisano who ended the game with three goals. The midfield did well to continue piling on pressure, with Bridget Deed, Jorja Livingstone, Keeley Sherar and Ruby O’Dwyer winning plenty of it and getting involved defensively. They were well served by ruck Georgia Campbell who looked strong around stoppages, while Mia Busch was a strong rebounding option, coming out of defence to impact the ball further up the ground. 

Northern will be happy with the performance of midfielders Ava Jordan and Maeve Chaplin who won plenty of the ball, with Chaplin finding her way into the backline later in the piece. Defender Lulu Beatty looked strong aerially and on the ground, not afraid to push up the ground and back her kicking skills to get Northern in dangerous spots. 

GOALS:

Eastern: A. Pisano 3, R. O’Dwyer, G. Wilson
Northern: E. Smallacombe

DC BEST:

Eastern: A. Pisano, B. Deed, M. Busch, J. Livingstone, R. O’Dwyer, K. Sherar
Northern: L. Beatty, M. Chaplin, A. Jordan, R. Wilcox, P. Nelson, G. Kitchell

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 1.0 | 2.1 | 4.1 | 6.1 (37)
GEELONG FALCONS 3.2 | 5.3 | 6.9 | 10.12 (72)

By: Declan Reeve

A fast-starting Geelong Falcons side caught Dandenong Stingrays off guard from the get go, finishing the game as 35-point victors on Saturday afternoon. The Stingrays were unable to keep Geelong from scoring, stacking on 17 additional scoring shots after the first quarter. The effort sees the Falcons continue their finals campaign against the GWV Rebels next week.

The Stingrays, despite the loss, were well served by a few. Defensive trio Jaide Anthony, Jemma Radford and Zoe Hill battled hard all day, looking to create anything they could out of the defensive 50, with Olivia Robinson, Felicity Crank and Ashleigh Richards playing big parts in the midfield and forwardline, not afraid to push up the ground and help out the defensive half.

The Falcons, unsurprisingly, had plenty of contributors in the impressive victory, with Tess Craven and Poppy Schaap the major ball winners through the middle of the ground and up forward. Gabbi Featherston was also lively in the forward half, rotating through the ruck at times. Ash Van Loon and Charlotte Simpson were consistent workhorses through the midfield, putting in impressive performances that suggest the Falcons are in good hands next year with these two at the forefront. 

GOALS:

Dandenong: A. Richards, T. Gatt, F. Crank, M. Williamson, J. Radford, J. Anthony
Geelong: M. Van Dyke 2, T. Craven 2, G. Featherston 2, P. Schaap, Z. Garth, R. Tierney, C. Adams

DC BEST:

Dandenong: J. Anthony, J. Radford, Z. Hill, F. Crank, A. Richards, O. Robinson
Geelong: T. Craven, P. Schaap, A. Van Loon, G. Featherston, C. Simpson, Z. Garth

TASMANIA DEVILS 1.0 | 3.1 | 4.2 | 4.4 (28)
GWV REBELS 0.0 | 3.2 | 4.3 | 4.5 (29)

By: Peter Williams

The GWV Rebels have triumphed in an epic upset one-point victory over Tasmania Devils, reversing the result of just a week earlier to win from fourth spot in the semi-finals of the Vic Country pool. The Rebels did not make the most of their chances last week, but they certainly started to capitalise down at Windsor Park in Launceston, as Paige Scott ran rampant booting four goals – including three in less than five minutes during the second term – to be the difference between the sides.

Lilli Condon had a massive last term to cap off another sensational day, while Chloe Leonard and Tahlia Meier were ever-present in the midfield, and Nyakoat Dojiok and Ella Friend provided marking targets in the back half of the ground. For Tasmania, the midfield of Claire Ransom, Perri King and Ella Maurer ticked along nicely, while Charlotte Dennis was rock solid on the last line, and Amy Prokopiec kicked 2.3 in what was an impressive, hard-working effort up forward. In the end, the Rebels just held on, 4.5 (29) to 4.4 (28) to advance through to face the Geelong Falcons in the Country final next week.

GOALS:

Tasmania: A. Prokopiec 2, C. Ransom, M, Edwards
GWV: P. Scott 4

DC BEST:

Tasmania: C. Ransom, P. King, E. Maurer, A. Prokopiec, C. Dennis
GWV: P. Scott, L. Condon, C. Leonard, T. Meier, N. Dojiok

PRELIMINARY FINALS FIXTURES

Metro Pool:

Oakleigh Chargers vs. Eastern Ranges
Saturday May 8, 10:00am
Avalon Airport Oval

Country Pool:

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Saturday May 8, 12:00pm
Avalon Airport Oval

2021 AFLW U17s Championships: Metro complete the double with strong second half

VIC METRO have made it two from two in the AFL Women’s Under 17s Championships, with an impressive 11-point win against their Country counterparts at Warrawee Park on Tuesday afternoon, with the final scores being 5.3 (33) to 3.4 (22). Despite the loss, Country looked much improved from their showing on Good Friday, with the return of Under 19s squad members Octavia Di Donato and Mackenzie Eardley shoring them up in defense. Metro were without three of their best from the previous clash, with Charlotte Baskaran, Sofia Hurley  and Bridie Hipwell not taking part as they prepare for their debut performance for Vic Metro 19s against Western Australia on Thursday.

With three of their main midfielders out, the Metro starting midfield looked a lot different to what they did in the last match, with two 2023 draft eligible talents in Ava Jordan of the Northern Knights and Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges) moving in to fill the gap, along with Brooke Plummer, a teammate of Jordan’s at the Knights. 

Unsurprisingly, the first quarter was an arm wrestle for control from each side, neither team having control for very long. No one managed to get a goal, with the defensive efforts of both sides extremely good, swarming on any defensive 50 entry to create an outnumber and force it out, Metro’s Mia Busch and Abbey McDonald along with Country’s Grace Hay, Molly Walton and Eardley were noticeable standouts in this regard, and were well rewarded for their efforts with Metro midfielders Pisano, Plummer and Charlotte Taylor working hard to move the ball forward, and their Country counterparts Di Donato, Felicity Crank and forward Ash Van Loon involved in Country’s attacks, seeing the quarter end 0.1 (1) apiece.

After a goalless and heavily contested first quarter, the second started off with a bang, seeing Country’s Mia Van Dyke getting on the scoreboard in the first minute, sweeping up a spilt mark and snapping from about 30m out to get the first of the game, following up with her second later on in the quarter, positioning well to take an uncontested mark in the goal square in transition and put it straight through the middle. Despite going into half-time goalless, Metro looked good in the quarter with Rylie Wilcox and Charlotte Van Der Vlies involved in plenty for Metro in the midfield and Lulu Beatty standing up often as a last line of defense. For Country, Olivia Robinson, Bianca Lyne and Charlotte Simpson were instrumental in giving country the 2.2 (14) to 0.2 (2) lead.

Metro decided that it wanted to be invited to the goal kicking party in the third term, piling on four goals in what would ultimately decide the game. The first being a highlight reel goal for Jemma Rigoni, who is a Melbourne Father-Daughter prospect for next year, running onto a kick from Lily Hart, beating Country’s Hay and Di Donato in a foot race, taking a bounce and slotting it from about 30 out. McDonald was up next, capitalising on a dropped mark on the goal line from Hay to get Metro’s second, not even three minutes after the first. Not done there, McDonald bobbed up again later in the quarter, this time spoiling an attempted switch across goal from Country, following up at ground level, weaving past an opponent to throw it on her opposite foot and dribble it in for her second. A nice bit of team play from Metro saw Wilcox get herself on the board with a soccer goal just before the siren, ending the quarter with Metro leading 4.2 (26) to 2.3 (15).

The fourth quarter began with a Metro clearance forward, where, through some teamwork, the ball ended up with Reese Sutton who was able to snap herself a goal from about 30m out to give Metro a 17-point lead. The rest of the quarter was a scrap with neither side able to really grab clear control. Country got on the board with five minutes to go, with a Simpson kick forward from a stoppage getting to Eardley who was able to put it through for Country’s third goal, seeing the quarter, and the game, end 5.3 (33) to 3.4 (22) Metro’s way.

There were a lot of girls that really stepped up and marked themselves as ones to watch for next year, with the defensive trio of Eardley, Hay and Walton looking good throughout the day and stopping plenty of Metro goals. The 2023 draft eligible ruck Bianca Lyne was impressive with her work against the much taller Metro combo. Yasmin Duursma also had some good moments where she showed her composure along the half-back line and through the midfield.

For the victors, it was hard to look past Pissano and Wilcox as major players in their victory, with their strengths up forward translating into the midfield. McDonald was also very impressive all game, but looking particularly dangerous up forward after spending all year in defense. Eastern Ranges trio Busch, Laura Stone and Scarlett Potter were solid throughout the game as well, with Plummer also outstanding.

VIC METRO 0.1 | 0.2 | 4.2 | 5.3 (33)
VIC COUNTRY 0.1 | 0.2 | 2.3 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS:

Vic Metro: A. McDonald 2, J. Rigoni, R. Wilcox, R. Sutton
Vic Country: M. Van Dyke 2, M. Eardley

DC BEST:

Vic Metro: A. Pissano, R. Wilcox, A. McDonald, B. Plummer, M. Busch
Vic Country: G. Hay, M. Walton, B. Lyne, O. Di Donato, Y. Duursma

TOP PERFORMERS:

Vic Metro:

#9 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

It seems a permanent move into the midfield is inevitable in her future, with so many athletic traits of hers standing out, largely speed and agility, that saw her have some really dominant patches throughout the game because no one else was able to match her in that regard. Her kicking has been noted before, but was next level during this game, hitting some 45 meter pinpoint passes that were vital in Metro’s transitional play, and on the rare occasion she could not find space to compose herself, her bombs out of backs were getting the same distance or more to create contests further down field. Also had really clean and quick hands on the inside, where she could get the ball back after giving it off and burst forward.

#6 Rylie Wilcox (Northern Knights)

After missing out on the Good Friday clash, Wilcox came straight in and looked very good at the level. Splitting her time between the forward line and midfield, it was her speed and ball use that stood up above all else, able to outrun opponents and cleanly take ground balls with one grab, without breaking speed, it’s no coincidence that as she got into the game Metro looked more and more in control. It was also impressive to see her workrate to follow up, getting to her kicks to help out at ground level or try and receive a handball from her teammates. After missing a set shot early in the third it was fitting that her natural crumbing ability got her one later on, to reward her all round top performance.

#2 Abbey McDonald (Calder Cannons)

Skipper for the day and the only Metro player also apart of the U19s squad, she has done everything she can to put her name up for selection against Queensland next month. Instrumental in the first quarter in repelling Country attacks from defence, thanks to her ball use in transition leading to a few inside 50 marks for Metro that unfortunately did not result in goals, but she was ever present in the areas Country rebounded out to, creating contests every time. When she moved up forward she kicked two impressive goals that came from turnovers she forced, showing her defensive work does not stop even when she’s up forward, and that she has got a really good sense for goal inside 50, making her a dangerous player in there.

#11 Brooke Plummer (Northern Knights)

Has been mainly used on the wing at NAB League level, but dealt with her switch to a more inside role really well, making solid runs in attempts to win clearances, and showing she’s not afraid to get in and win her own ball. Usually a player that will kick far more often than handball, it was good to see her mix it up and use her hand skills in close to open up the game to more well measured kicks rather than bombs out of the packs.

#12 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Positioned well behind the ball to take a few intercept marks or impact opponents who were looking to get uncontested marks, making it a genuine scrap at the Metro defensive 50 line or sometimes a little further up the wing. Her ball use was also at it’s high standard going forward, hitting leading targets well or looking to switch the play out of defense to loose options.

#10 Charlotte Van der Vlies (Oakleigh Chargers)

Moving into a full time midfield role in the absence of some teammates moving up to 19s on Thursday, her tenacity and attack on the football meant the absence was barely noticed, not afraid to throw her body around to knock opponents off the ball to win it herself. It was also good to see her get involved in open play, looking to be an option further up the field or laterally for her teammates, then using it well going forward. 

#8 Paige Ryan (Western Jets)

Whilst she did not win a whole lot of the ball, her workrate and pressure work was noticeable, especially in the first and fourth quarters where the game was highly contested and scrappy. She was stationed on a wing and was always there at the fall of the ball when it was on her side, often neutralising three-on-one situations with a spoil or a tackle on Country midfielders. Worked back to the defensive 50 to create outnumbers as well, where her tackling was again on display.

Vic Country:

#21 Bianca Lyne (Dandenong Stingrays)

Was mostly against a ruck who had 12cm in height on her, but her leap and aggression in the ruck contests saw her win most of the hitouts around the ground and in the centre, not afraid to put the knee up and go through her opponent. Her follow up work at ground level was also super impressive, winning ground balls well and moving like a slick midfielder when she had ball in hand.

#7 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

Was thrown about in quite a few different positions, playing mostly midfield but also being put into the backline or forward line depending on where the team needed her, she was consistently a cool headed and composed presence with the ball in hand, who could control the tempo well and almost directed teammates where to go with her disposal.

#19 Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

Playing as a deeper defender, it was Hay’s safe hands that impressed the most, taking some crucial intercept marks at half back, or even contested marks in the goal square to stop a certain goal, she was a very solid bookend for Country throughout the day and countered the high bombs inside 50 that Metro were forced into at times really well. Despite making a few costly errors in the third quarter, it did not detract from her game, as she was still confident and composed in her marking and subsequent ball use in the final quarter.

#20 Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)

Was a strong part of the Country defence for the game, being the one to take the smaller and quicker forwards, her defensive skills were on show, able to neutralise a lot of contests where she didn’t have the advantage, and even win some, where she’d kick long out of defense to either a Country outnumber or a pack.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Came into the game mostly in the second half where she was able to assist in defense a lot more, and her natural ball winning and positioning meant she was a strong contributor in keeping Metro’s score relatively low for the opportunities they had. Was not afraid to take some more daring options with her disposal which was good to see.

AFL Women’s Under 17 Championships: Metro too strong for Country

VIC Metro’s firepower proved too much for Vic Country in the opening game of the AFL Women’s Under 17 Championships, as the home team ran away with the contest by 35 points. Vic Metro booted four goals to zero in the first half, and whilst Country did not manage to put through a major over the opening two terms, they hit the scoreboard in the third quarter to keep the deficit at a straight four goals. Metro had no interest in making it a close finish however, closing out the game with two final quarter goals to win, 8.5 (53) to 2.6 (18).

Alyssia Pisano slotted two goals in the victory, with the skilful bottom-age left footer always looking classy around goals. The power-packed midfield of Sandringham Dragons duo Sofia Hurley and Bridie Hipwell, Western Jets’ Charlotte Baskaran and Calder Cannons’ Abbey McDonald – who are all bottom-agers in the Under 19s Metro squad – took control and led the way early despite Vic Country’s talented ruck Kalani Scoullar – also in the Under 19s squad – standing out at the taps. Keeley Skepper, Felicity Crank and Ash Van Loon did their best through the midfield for Country, whilst Lily-Rose Williamson caught the eye out of defence, and the defensive trio of Grace Hay, Molly Walton and Olivia Leonard were also strong.

Also impressive in the front half of the ground for Metro was Reese Sutton, while Ava Jordan and Charlotte Taylor looked strong on the wings getting the ball inside 50. Mia Busch stepped up to continue her good form for Eastern this season, while Kiera Whiley was another bottom-ager who showed her future potential. For Country, Mia Van Dyke played forward and had some eye-catching moments, while Charlotte Simpson and Grace Chapman also had a number of notable moments that featured in our Top Performers.

VIC METRO 2.2 | 4.3 | 6.4 | 8.5 (53)
VIC COUTRY 0.2 | 0.3 | 2.4 | 2.6 (18)

GOALS:

Metro: A. Pisano 2, K. Coyne, J. Rigoni, S. Potter, R. Sutton, A. Jordan, P. Ryan.
Country: L. Keck, K. Scoullar.

DC BEST:

Metro: A. Pisano, S. Hurley, M. Busch, B. Hipwell. C. Baskaran, A. McDonald
Country: K. Skepper, L. Williamson, K. Scoullar, A. Van Loon, G. Hay, C. Simpson

 

TOP PERFORMERS:

VIC METRO

By: Declan Reeve

#1 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

Playing a bit of a different role for Metro, as an outside midfielder or small forward, rather than a rover like at club level, she took the change in her stride and had a really good display, looking particularly dangerous in the forward line as a pressure forward. That consistent pressure, and willingness to win her own ball as she’s done with the Knights, got her on the scoreboard, to reward her hard work.

#2 Abbey McDonald (Calder Cannons)

Played a really big part of Metro keeping Country goalless, especially in the first quarter where the pressure was consistently on from the midfield, where her ball reading and willingness to meet the ball gave her every opportunity to win it and kick it long forward. She was often rushed into a quick kick forward which made her usual high quality kicking look a little worse than usual, but it did not stop her from having a high impact going forward.

#5 Reese Sutton (Calder Cannons)

Had a really consistent showing, making herself a consistent option going forward for Metro, often being spoiled by taller opponents, where she’d follow up at ground level and beat them to get the ball to teammates. She really shined in the 3rd quarter where it felt like she was involved in everything that happened in the Metro forward half, getting herself a goal for her hard work.

#6 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Maybe not her most prolific game, but Baskaran showed exactly what she was expected to show, with her kicking and ability to hold her space on the outside of contests and then time her run well to receive a handball, being highlights from her game, still working hard to pressure opponents and help teammates if she did not get the ball herself. As the game went on she got more opportunities to get the ball and highlight that damaging kick, also winning clearances from most stoppages she was around when she did not have an opponent on her.

#9 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Made the forward half her own for Metro with her work at ground level and around marking contests excellent, showing natural forward craft beyond her years. She also was not afraid to put her hand up as a marking option in the forward line, making short and dangerous leads towards the ball carrier, this was highlighted when she made a lead 15 meters away from Bridie Hipwell, where she marked the Hipwell kick and converted the goal. In the second half she pushed a bit more up the ground in a high half forward role, where her speed and penetrating left foot kick were too difficult for country to deal with at times, taking bounces and weaving around her opponents.

#12 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

A reliant pillar in the Metro defense for the game, Busch was really impressive with her tendency to attack a loose ball coming in or drift across and impact contests inside the defensive 50, with her follow up work, particularly her kicking, being a strength for Metro in transition, and set up a lot of chains going forward. She was trusted with the majority of the Metro kick ins, where she’d take a good 15-20 meters and then kick it as far as she could, reaching the wing and giving Metro a really good opportunity to get it forward.

#17 Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons)

Being a taller midfielder, she was often looked for by her teammates when moving the ball out of the backline, to take marks and get the game moving with her speed and deadly kicking. She was also a dangerous winner on the inside, with some real highlight moments where she’d win a contested ball, evade a couple of opponents and then get out into the open to deliver a long kick forward. There were times where she got caught trying to do too much, but those were rare.

#18 Kiera Whiley (Western Jets)

Very similar to Busch in their strengths and play styles, Whiley found herself up the ground and competing for contested ground balls a lot more. She showed a great work rate and second efforts, often following up her own kicks and impacting the contests wherever they ended up at down the ground.

#19 Charlotte Taylor (Oakleigh Chargers)

One that perhaps flew under the radar coming into this game playing only the two NAB League games, her work along the wing was superb all day, being a taller wing, she’s naturally an aerial threat around the ground, playing as a link up type, and delivers the ball long with a penetrating kick forward, often to a dangerous spot that would lead to shots on goal.

#24 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

As expected she had the ball on a string and was extremely dangerous around stoppages, with her speed and ability to weave through traffic just being too much for any Country midfielder to keep up with, allowing her to get relatively uncontested kicks forward. There were times where she’d look to handball to teammates in close, realise she was not under immediate pressure, and then run around a couple of opponents to then deliver a kick forward. With such an all round performance, she’s no doubt put her hand up to be playing in the Under 19s at some point in the upcoming fixtures.

 

VIC COUNTRY

By: Peter Williams

#1 Lila Keck (Bendigo Pioneers)

Looked lively deep inside 50, and the bottom-age talent has some great defensive attributes to go with her athleticism. She had a shot in the opening term running into goal but missed to the right, then snapped from the pocket on a tight angle around her body in the third quarter to get her team going for the second half.

#6 Lily-Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)

Clearly one of the most eye-catching players going around, Williamson shows no fear with her aggression and willingness to move the ball on quickly. Whilst sometimes her regular fend-offs can get her into trouble, when it pays off she is hard to stop. Her power and speed combination make her such a dangerous prospect, that while she has aspects of her game to sharpen up, she has no issues finding the football and tucking it under her arm before running forward. Strong overhead and a thumping kick, Williamson has great raw talent.

#10 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

Continued her great recent form for the Stingrays through the midfield, often opposed to a quality opponent from the metro midfield, but capable to of dropping back and helping out the defence where possible as well. Early in the match she showed good composure to kick under pressure from deep in defence to half-back and was one of the more consistent ball users when winning the pill.

#11 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

Always has a crack in the midfield and was most notably very vocal in there. She teamed up well with her Falcons teammate Ash Van Loon, and used her strength and clean hands in there to win the ball. She is able to rack up the pill almost unassumably, but has a long boot on her that can clear the ball inside 50.

#12 Olivia Leonard (GWV Rebels)

One of the more consistent players across four quarters, Leonard showed her one-on-one ability on a number of occasions. She took a good intercept mark in the second term, and won a free kick one-on-one in the back pocket, as well as showing desperation to rush the ball across the line to save a likely goal. With her fierce tackling on display, Leonard played a solid game for Country.

#15 Ash Van Loon (Geelong Falcons)

The tackling machine was where the ball went and looked comfortable in the midfield against quality opposition. She is quick to get the ball to her boot and has clean hands on the inside to match her fierce desperation with her tackling pressure. Van Loon had a great kick out of the middle under pressure in the third term and was always lurking about the stoppages trying to free the ball from congestion.

#16 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

A standout performer from Country, unsurprisingly backed up her best on ground in the Under 16s match a couple of years ago with being amongst the top performers in the Under 17s version. Winning plenty of the ball through midfield, spreading to the outside and thumping long by foot, Skepper was able to provide plenty of meterage with her kicks and win the ball for more than her fair share. Sometimes she could not quite get on her trusty left foot and was forced to rush, but showed off her versatility by even going to full-back in the final term where she used good body positioning to win the ball at ground level, and was also tasked with the kickouts.

#19 Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

Another one of the reliable Country defenders who did plenty, Hay was the pick of the trio with plenty of body-on-body pressure, able to stick with her opponent given her speed on the lead. For a taller player, Hay has enough athleticism to win the ball at ground level and close down opposition leads, but had a bit of bad luck with a perfect spoil in the first half, only for Metro to crumb and kick a goal. She showed good composure with ball-in-hand to rush it over the line.

#20 Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)

The other defender who has come on in leaps and bounds this year, Walton stepped up alongside Hay and Leonard to be a driving force out of the back 50. She was clean with her hands and present around the ball to provide some movement in transition, doing well throughout the game to work hard against the flow and contribute for her side.

#25 Mia Van Dyke (Geelong Falcons)

Given the strength in defence, the versatile Van Dyke played forward, and whilst she did not register a goal in the match, certainly caught the eye on a number of occasions. She soccered off the ground early in the match for a behind, then nudged her opponent under the ball well to have a shot on goal, only to miss again. She pushed up the ground to play on the win through the match, and kicked long on a number of occasions, taking a good strong intercept mark in the final term.

#30 Kalani Scoullar (GWV Rebels)

One of the top performers of the past month, Scoullar’s high-volume hitouts came to the fore again with her strength around the contest and clean tapping to her teammates. Whilst the opposition did try and shark her taps on a number of occasions given her dominance with her clean hands, Scoullar was also able to move well with hard work around the ground. She ran onto the loose ball in the third term to kick a major from the goalsquare, then playing forward presented as a target, taking a couple of marks and winning a free kick for her troubles.

AFL Women’s Under 17 Championships teams: Vic Metro vs. Vic Country

VIC Metro and Vic Country have named their Under 17 squads ahead of today’s 2021 AFL Women’s Under 17s Championships. The sides will play twice, with the first being at Trevor Barker Oval, and the second being a yet to be confirmed date in May. The game today will start from 10am, with a stream via the AFL Women’s website.

Oakleigh will lead the Metro charge with six representatives, ahead of Western Jets and Sandringham Dragons with five and four respectively. The sole Metro Under 17s player selected in the Under 19s squad for Game 1 was Montana Ham, while Jets’ teammate Charlotte Baskaran, as well as Sandringham Dragons duo Bridie Hipwell and Sofia Hurley, and Calder Cannons’ Abbey McDonald were also named in the extended Under 19s team. Among the 2005-born players (2023 draft-eligible) are Eastern Ranges duo Alyssia Pisano and Laura Stone, Northern Knights’ Ava Jordan and Western Jets’ Kiera Whiley.

Dandenong Stingrays unsurprisingly have the most of any side, with so much bottom-age talent filtering through, they make up almost a third of the Vic Country team. Seven representatives will don the ‘Big V’, while Bendigo Pioneers and Geelong Falcons have four apiece. Gippsland Power, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Murray Bushrangers round out the list with three apiece as well. Of the players also on the Country Under 19s list, Bendigo Pioneers’ Octavia Di Donato and Murray Bushrangers’ Keeley Skepper. An Under 17s talent – GWV Rebels’ Kalani Scoullar was also included on the Under 19s list.

All those on the Under 19s lists are naturally ones to watch, whilst outside of those, of the top-agers in the Under 17s grade, Western Jets’ Paige Ryan and Krystal Russell, Sandringham Dragons’ Keely Coyne, Oakleigh Chargers’ Charlotte Taylor and Mia Clift and Northern Knights’ Brooke Plummer have been in good form this season, whilst Gippsland Power’s Lily-Rose Williamson and Yasmin Duursma, Geelong Falcons’ Charlotte Simpson and Ash Van Loon, Bendigo Pioneers’ Tegan Williams, Dandenong Stingrays’ Felicity Crank and Brooke Smith, and GWV Rebels’ Molly Walton are among the names to keep an eye on from Country

VIC METRO:

Calder Cannons [2]: Reese Sutton, Abbey McDonald
Eastern Ranges [3]: Alyssia Pisano, Scarlett Potter, Laura Stone
Northern Knights [3]: Brooke Plummer, Ava Jordan, Lulu Beatty
Oakleigh Chargers [6]: Mia Clift, Ruby Vanden Boom, Jemma Rigoni, Charlotte Van Der Vlies, Lily Hart, Charlotte Taylor
Sandringham Dragons [4]: Keely Coyne, Bridie Hipwell, Tayla Jones, Sofia Hurley
Western Jets [5]: Charlotte Baskaran, Paige Ryan, Kiera Whiley, Montana Ham**, Krystal Russell

Note: Montana Ham has been selected for the U19s match

VIC COUNTRY:

Bendigo Pioneers [4]: Lila Keck, Octavia Di Donato, Bryde O’Rourke, Tegan Williams
Dandenong Stingrays [7]: Olivia Robinson, Grace Chapman, Felicity Crank, Brooke Smith, Bianca Lyne, Charley Ryan, Ella Watts
Geelong Falcons [4]: Kara Stacey, Charlotte Simpson, Ash Van Loon, Mia Van Dyke
Gippsland Power [3]: Alisha Molesworth, Yasmin Duursma, Lily-Rose Williamson
GWV Rebels [4]: Olivia Leonard, Jenna Burke, Molly Walton
Murray Bushrangers [3]: Madison Gray, Keeley Skepper, Grace Hay

NAB League Girls Round 7 preview: Country games on show, while Power and Bushrangers battle for first points of the season

A BATTLE of the two winless sides, Gippsland Power and Murray Bushrangers, as well as the Sandringham Dragons and Western Jets must-win contest will be the two commentated games streaming on the NAB League app this weekend. The matches are all set to be beauties with plenty of 50/50 contests and difficult to predict how they will go down in Round 7 of the NAB League Girls competition.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 20 @ 12.30pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve

Backing up from an impressive Wednesday night victory under lights at Casey Fields, Dandenong Stingrays make the trek up the highway to Epsom Huntly Reserve to take on Bendigo Pioneers. After snapping their two-game losing streak, the Stingrays have moved to 3-2 on the table, with a chance to join Calder Cannons on 4-2 fo the season if they get the win against the Pioneers. For Bendigo, they could move back within four points of the top eight sides and remain in contention for finals, having lost four straight games since their Round 1 win over Murray Bushrangers.

Captain Tara Slender is anticipated to return for the Pioneers for the big clash, with Octavia Di Donato and Tegan Williams among the more in-form players at the Pioneers in her absence a couple of weeks back when they last ran out on a Wednesday night themselves against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at Epsom Huntly. Jayda Richardson has been utilised all over the field, while the Pioneers will be hoping to regain some of their top talents back from injury at some point, with Jemma Finning and Madeline Marks also out of the last game due to injury.

Dandenong Stingrays have now adjusted without midfield gun Emily Shepherd in there, and with Jaide Anthony also out of the side due to concussion – and will miss this clash – they have seen others step up. Charley Ryan was sensational for the Stingrays in the win against the Sandringham Dragons mid-week, while Zoe Hill showed she could play at both ends, and Ashleigh Richards and Amber Clarke looked ever-dangerous inside 50. Add in Abbey Jordan and Felicity Crank who are finding plenty of the ball of late, and the Stingrays have a well-balanced list.

Dandenong will head in as favourites against the Pioneers following the Stingrays’ defensive efforts during the week, though with the Pioneers back at home, they have the capacity to push any side as they showed a few weeks back against Calder Cannons.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Saturday, March 20 @ 12.30pm
Highgate Reserve

A bottom two clash of the sides yet to grab a win in season 2021, at least one of the Gippsland Power and Murray Bushrangers must take home some points in this round. The Power have been gradually building over the first month, and – with the exception of their 114-point smashing at the hands of Eastern Ranges – have reduced the losing margin each week, whilst adding more scores on the board. The Bushrangers have been pretty solid across the season, competitive through most parts of the game, but just having a quarter or two here or there that sees the opposition add quick goals to blow out the margin. With the two teams to face-off, it will be fascinating to see who two young teams go at it.

The ruck battle immediately catches the eye, with Grace Matser and Ally Morphett set to go head-to-head in a clash of different styles. Matser has been finding more of the ball and moving well around the ground, while Morphett is hard to stop when she gets front position in a marking contest with safe hands. Key defender who can also play up the other end, Matilda Van Berkel has enjoyed a strong top-age season, while midfielder Grace McRae just keeps winning the ball. She will have a great battle on the inside with Keeley Skepper who has been building nicely in her bottom-age year, whilst Aurora Smith has been one of the most consistent players this season out on the wing.

Sunday Brisbane, Yasmine Duursma and Lily-Rose Williamson have provided the Power with plenty of run from defence and through the midfield, and they will be important in trying to bring the ball down in transition. The Bushrangers have a strong defence when it is all together, with Chloe Locke, Mindy Quade and Grace Hay among those capable of playing both offensive and defensive roles. Murray will look to Olivia Cicolini who has now kicked three goals in two games as a potential goal-scoring option, with Morphett also capable of dropping deep and converting set shots. Kristy Whitehead and Courtney Fletcher are among others who have impressed for their respective sides, often helping out in the back 50.

It is hard to pick a winner in this game because both have progressed throughout the year, but one thing is for sure, the winner will have plenty to celebrate.

 

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. WESTERN JETS
Sunday, March 21 @ 10.15am
RSEA Park

An early morning game at RSEA Park pits Sandringham Dragons up against Western Jets in a must-win match for both sides with just two rounds remaining after this game. They are both 1-4 for the season and a loss will ned their chances of a finals birth, while a win puts them back in the conversation if they can build the momentum in the final fortnight. Both these sides come into the game off the back of low-scoring losses, with the Jets getting close to the GWV Rebels, and the Dragons pushing the Chargers before losing out to the Stingrays midweek.

Scoring will be a premium for these sides who have stacked up well defensively, but, with the exception of Sandringham’s win over Gippsland – has seen them both restricted from putting big scores on the board. The Dragons have the capacity to score big when they get the fast ball inside 50, with Charli Murphy (eight goals) and Ebony Angelopoulos (seven) being among the top goalkickers in the league. Mia Zielinski has slotted four goals in three games to be a talented Under 16 player and a third option in attack. For the Jets, they have shared their goals around, with Annie Gray and Caitlin Sargent both slotting three goals apiece, while Kensley Ward and Montana Ham have the two each.

Charlotte Baskaran combines with Ham as some of the better metres-gained players in the competition, with the head-to-heads against the likes of Charlotte Ryan and Tayla Jones who provide the same run for their sides. Sofia Hurley and Kiana Lynch win a lot of ball on the inside, with Hurley able to burst out of the stoppage, but also win the ball back through tackling. Now having two games under her belt, Bridie Hipwell will be looking to make a statement here, while the defensive duo of Abby Thompson and Ella Schiberras were steadfast against the tie on Wednesday night. The Jets will be looking to bring the ball quickly in transition, such as Paige Ryan in defence and Jemima Woods up forward and through the ruck.

Another 50/50 game, the winner is difficult to pick, but both teams can move the ball pretty quickly which makes for an exciting game.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Sunday, March 21 @ 11.00am
Deakin University, Waurn Ponds

Down the highway at Waurn Ponds, the Geelong Falcons will be keen to put last week’s disappointment behind them, when they were beaten by newcomers Sydney Swans Academy. The Falcons were without key bookends, Renee Tierney and Annie Lee who played in the VFL Women’s match, but were just not able to generate enough effective scores to take down the determined Swans. Northern Knights are coming off a spirited come-from-behind win over Eastern Ranges following a tight loss to Calder Cannons the week before. Northern will hope it can bring the same momentum into the start of the game against the Falcons rather than rely on a late final quarter flurry to grab the points.

The Falcons midfield brigade of Tess Craven, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson has been one of the most consistent trios running around, with Ash Van Loon being the most dominant tackler in the NAB League Girls competition. She came off sore last match, but the Falcons have plenty of depth across the field with Elizabeth Dowling and Taiya Morrow in defence, and Gabbi Featherston and Lucy Were in attack. Keeley Hardingham and Analea McKee both had strong games in the Swans’ loss, while Ingrid Houtsma missed out on the match and is another player to watch going forward.

Northern Knights’ Under 16s talent Ava Jordan has put together a really promising debut season this year, being one of the most consistent ball-winners through midfield. With Maeve Chaplin missing through injury, Jordan stepped up through the midfield against the Ranges, teaming up well with Tarrah Delgado who switched from full-back into the middle late in the game. Brooke Plummer has provided some great run and carry on the outside, and having Ella Smallacombe, Trinity Mills and Megan Girolami up forward as targets, gives the Knights midfield – including AFL Women’s Academy member Maykaylah Appleby – players to look for inside 50.

Geelong Falcons will be hungry to bounce back in this game, while the Northern Knights will be riding high on their last quarter from Round 6, and keen to back it up from the first bounce in Round 7.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Sunday, March 21 @ 11.30am
MARS Stadium

The last game to kick off for the round is the big clash between GWV Rebels and Oakleigh Chargers at MARS Stadium. The Rebels will be hoping a home ground advantage can sway the game in their favour against an unbeaten Chargers outfit that has completed every challenge thrown at them. Oakleigh looks down on the rest of the competition with five wins from five games, while the Rebels have won three of five – including their past two – and will be heading in as underdogs to try and take down the premiership favourites.

Oakleigh Chargers have an array of midfield talent, led by inside ball-winner and powerful forward, Charlie Rowbottom who has not only been one of the better contested players, but has gone forward and kicked crunch goals, slotting six majors in five games this season. On the outside, Stella Reid has done a wealth of work across the ground, and slotted into half-back or half-forward when required as well as the wing where she predominantly plays. She has also hit the scoreboard with four majors, third behind Rowbottom and tall, Ameille Smith (five goals) in that areas. Up the other end, Alexander McCulloch and Brooke Vickers have won their fair share of ball and driven it outside 50, while Amanda Ling has become another prominent ball-winner for the Chargers.

The Rebels are a well-balanced side with great versatility, and have had some outstanding performers this season. A massive 11 players have averaged more than 10 disposals this season, with 10 of them playing at least four games. Chloe Leonard has patrolled the half-back line with Nyakoat Dojiok, while Lilli Condon has been a reliable accumulator in close and spreading well. Up forward, Paige Scott keeps kicking goals and now has eight to her name, while Tahlia Meier is averaging a goal a game, and their forward line spread has enabled Ella Friend to play up on a wing. Molly Walton has been a find for the Rebels on the last line as well, able to bring the ball from the danger zone to safety in her bottom-age season.

Oakleigh Chargers head in as favourites, but the GWV Rebels are every chance of causing an upset if they can continue their recent form and even team spread across the field.

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.

Stat Leaders: NAB League Girls Round 4 – Lee, Slender rack up the stats

ROUND 4 of the 2021 NAB League Girls season again saw six high quality games completed, with top performers from five of the fixtures and six different teams leading the stat charts this weekend. With fixture shuffling and plenty of football to be played in the coming fortnight, some players lifting their level at a great time.

Two players topped multiple categories over the weekend, with Geelong Falcons defender Annie Lee putting in a Draft Central Player of the Week performance, and Bendigo Pioneers’ Tara Slender returning with a bang after she missed a week due to the new concussion protocols.

Lee led the competition for kicks (19) and rebound 50s (10) in a dominant display from defence, while Slender mixed her time between multiple roles to accumulate round highs in disposals (27) and marks (10). Lee was not far behind Slender with 22 touches and eight marks, as Slender fell just short of Lee’s kick record with 18.

Both players had teammates also feature on the stat leaders list, with Ash Van Loon (Geelong) and Jemma Finning (Bendigo) working hard during their respective outings. Van Loon laid a monstrous 15 tackles to bring her season average close to 10, while Finning finished level with Tasmania’s Ella Maurer on a round-high 12 handballs.

Elsewhere, Northern Knights forward Megan Girolami dominated inside 50 against Gippsland with six goals, but saw the Power’s Grace Matser achieve a top hitout count of 23 in the same game. Dynamic Dandenong prospect Emily Shepherd ranked highest for inside 50s (nine), rounding out the Round 4 stat leaders.

ROUND 4 STAT LEADERS

Disposals:
Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers) – 27

Kicks:
Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons) – 19

Handballs:
Jemma Finning (Bendigo Pioneers) – 12
Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils) – 12

Marks:
Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers) – 10

Tackles:
Ash Van Loon (Geelong Falcons) – 15

Inside 50s:
Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays) – 9

Rebound 50s:
Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons) – 10

Hitouts:
Grace Matser (Gippsland Power) – 23

Goals:
Megan Girolami (Northern Knights) – 6