Tag: ashleigh brazill

2019/20 AFLW off-season review: Collingwood

IT was a disappointing 2019 season for Collingwood, with a combination of rebuilding through youth and unlucky losses culminating in a Conference wooden spoon. The Magpies were competitive in all their cross-conference games and were unlucky not to potentially get an extra couple of wins, but ultimately could not match it with sides for the full four quarters. After a massive influx of youth walked into the club at the start of last season, it was a different approach 12 months later as Collingwood poached the player of the trade period by securing arch rival Carlton’s captain, Brianna Davey for most of the Magpies’ picks. With pick two and AFL Women’s Rising Star Chloe Molloy also returning after missing the entire 2019 season, the Magpies effectively have two elite talents walking into the Round 1 side.

Aside from Davey, Collingwood had a relatively quiet off-season, with Darcy Guttridge and Iilish Ross departing to expansion clubs, Cecilia McIntosh retired, while the Magpies also delisted a further five players. One of those – Jordan Membrey regained a spot on the Magpies’ list, picked up in the recent AFL Women’s Draft alongside Oakleigh Chargers’ speedster Alana Porter who spent the VFL Women’s season on Collingwood’s list, fellow speedster Machaelia Roberts, former GWS GIANTS’ player Ebony O’Dea and Casey Demons key utility, Kaila Bentveltzen. While the AFL Women’s season was fairly disastrous in terms of wins and losses, the VFL Women’s side took home the premiership, with plenty of AFLW-listed players standing out across the year. That belief, along with the vital inclusions are likely to spur the Magpies on to move up the ladder in season 2020.

OFF-SEASON CHANGES:

IN: Brianna Davey (Carlton), Aishling Sheridan (gaelic), Kaila Bentveltzen (Casey Demons VFLW), Alana Porter (Oakleigh Chargers), Ebony O’Dea (GWS GIANTS), Machaelia Roberts (NT Thunder)
OUT: Darcy Guttridge (St Kilda), Iilish Ross (Richmond), Cecilia McIntosh (retired), Nicole Hildebrand, Melissa Kuys, Georgie Parker, Holly Whitford (delisted)

2020 TEAM LIST:

Sophie Alexander
Jordyn Allen
Kaila Bentveltzen
Britt Bonnici
Ashleigh Brazill
Lauren Butler
Mikala Cann
Sophie Casey
Steph Chiocci
Sarah D’Arcy
Brianna Davey
Sarah Dargan
Erica Fowler
Emma Grant
Georgia Gourlay
Eliza Hynes
Jaimee Lambert
Stacey Livingstone
Katie Lynch
Jordan Membrey
Chloe Molloy
Ebony O’Dea
Alana Porter
Machaelia Roberts
Ruby Schleicher
Maddie Shevlin
Kristy Stratton

Rookies: Sharni Layton, Sarah Rowe, Aishling Sheridan

POTENTIAL 2020 SIDE:

B: Sophie Casey – Stacey Livinstone – Jordyn Allen
HB: Ash Brazill – Ruby Schleicher – Maddie Shevlin
C: Britt Bonnici
HF: Steph Chiocci – Sarah D’Arcy – Sarah Dargan
F: Chloe Molloy – Sophie Alexander – Katie Lynch
R: Sharni Layton* – Brianna Davey – Jaimee Lambert
INT: Eliza Hynes – Emma Grant – Mikala Cann – Georgia Gourlay – Ebony O’Dea
EMG: Sarah Rowe* – Kaila Bentvelzen – Lauren Butler

DEPTH: Erica Fowler, Jordan Membrey, Alana Porter, Machaelia Roberts, Kristy Stratton.

The Magpies’ best 21 is more stable than many other sides, with the draftees likely having to force their way into the side being later picks. Given O’Dea’s links with Steve Symonds through Norwood, the former GWS GIANTS midfielder could well play a specific role within the team and could be a Round 1 starter. The Collingwood defensive back six is pretty settled, with about the last two spots able to be rotated between a number of players, but the likes of Livingstone, Schleicher, Brazill and Casey are pretty set, with Allen and Shevlin able to fill there, or in each of the other thirds on the ground. Bentveltzen has transformed into a defender and could stake a case for a starting role, while Molloy can play at either end. We have her up forward with D’Arcy and Alexander who are the two locks inside 50, while captain Chiocci showed she can play that defensive half-forward role with scoreboard impact as well. Dargan and Lynch fill out the front six because of their upside and rotational ability on wings or through the middle.

The onball brigade is an interesting one. Given Layton’s form at VFLW level, she might well be given first crack at the ruck role, but it is expected they could play the two rucks and Collingwood’s number one ruck from last year – Hynes – will rotate both through that position and up forward. The three midfielders are fairly straight forward, with Davey, Lambert and Bonnici all offering different aspects to the team. The last five to seven spots between the bench and emergency is tough to pick, with the remainder of the list fairly even, and the newbies in Membrey and Roberts already readymade for senior football, while Porter will take some time but could get some games later in the year. Gourlay and Cann made our bench because of their continued improvement at VFLW level and the upside they have, while Grant is a terrific team player likely to be given an early crack to maintain her spot in there.

Weekend wash-up: AFLW – Round 6

WITH just one round left in the 2019 AFL Women’s home and away season, Round 6 was a week of highs and lows for a number of sides, as Conference A continues to dominate the competition. We saw some teams keep their finals hopes alive, while others were struck down with further disappointment after a difficult season.

Geelong 2.1 (13) defeated by Fremantle 6.13 (49)
By: James Halley

Fremantle has moved one step closer to securing itself a preliminary finals spot after a resounding 36-point win over Geelong at GMHBA Stadium. The Dockers kept Geelong scoreless in the second half to win 49-13.

The Dockers’ tenacious Kiara Bowers was on track to beat Ebony Marinoff’s AFLW tackle record, with 13 at half-time. However, Bowers was moved further forward in the second half and her tackle pressure dwindled as a result. It was not all good news for Fremantle, as the side struggled to kick straight, registering 13 behinds. Meanwhile, defender Alex Williams was assisted from the ground in the second term with a suspected knee injury.

Geelong’s Meg McDonald could stand tall after she was dominant in the backline once again, proving her worth in the side after missing out on making a team list in 2018. The Cats will need to put in a better performance next round, with a win ensuring a preliminary spot and a loss making them sweat on results.

The Cats will face GWS next Friday night in a do or die clash, while Fremantle will face North Melbourne who would also want to win to secure a finals birth.

Collingwood 5.1 (31) defeated by North Melbourne 7.11 (53)
By: Nikki Jamieson

North Melbourne’s premiership dream has been kept alive following their defeat of Collingwood in game one of the double header at Marvel Stadium. Collingwood, who continue the season winless, kept pace with the Kangaroos for the majority of the first half, only to let them get away as North Melbourne really found their rhythm.

Britt Bonnici was an absolute star for Collingwood, swiftly neutralising 2018 best and fairest winner Emma Kearney’s influence on the game. Bonnici had the game-high of 21 possessions and laid 10 tackles for the Pies. Teammates, Jaimee Lambert and Ash Brazill also had commendable performances with 20 and 18 disposals respectively.

In what was sure to cause more pain to Collingwood fans and teammates alike, defected stars such as Jess Duffin, Emma King, Jasmine Garner and Mo Hope had little remorse against their old side. Garner had a promising game, kicking two crucial goals and laying four tackles. Best on field for North Melbourne, however, was Jenna Bruton with 19 disposals and six clearances. Bruton was a major implementer of many of the Roos’ key scoring moments throughout the match.

In Round 7, Collingwood will have their last chance to get a win for the 2019 season as they face off against the Brisbane Lions at their home ground of Victoria Park. North Melbourne travel to Fremantle Oval to play the Dockers in what could prove to be a crucial final attempt to qualify for finals for both teams.

Western Bulldogs 6.2 (38) defeated by Melbourne 5.9 (39)
By: Sophie Taylor

It was a scrappy game at Marvel Stadium to end the double header, as the Bulldogs hosted a Melbourne side that was ready for payback after the Dogs’ two-point 2018 victory that knocked the Demons out of finals for the second year running. With a dominant start from the Dees and strong middle quarters from the Dogs it was difficult to see who would take home the four points, before Melbourne managed a goal in the dying minutes to produce a one-point win.

Despite a good start from the red and blue, the Dogs took charge when the game mattered, leading for most of the second half. Melbourne’s efficiency with the ball suffered as the Bulldogs took advantage of momentum, piling on relentless pressure through the midfield and the Dees’ forward 50. Meanwhile, Melbourne suffered in the penalty department, only picking up 10 frees for the game compared to the Dogs’ 24, with the disparity in free kicks further contributing to the Dees’ struggles downfield.

In the scrappy affair it was the ever reliable Karen Paxman who stood up for the Dees, notching up 24 touches, seven tackles and a goal. Elise O’Dea was next best for Melbourne, with 21 disposals and eight tackles to her name. Ellie Blackburn picked 22 disposals, while Monique Conti managed 20 touches and seven tackles. Bulldog, Kirsty Lamb notched up the most tackles for the day, with ten. Tegan Cunningham redeemed herself in this matchup after a disappointing day against the Dogs in 2018, kicking two goals, with her second for the match the sealer.

The final round of AFLW will see the Western Bulldogs host Carlton next Sunday at VU Whitten Oval, while Melbourne will take on Adelaide at their home at Casey Fields in a bid to keep their 2019 finals hopes alive.

Adelaide Crows 9.5 (59) defeated GWS GIANTS 4.3 (27)
By: Taylah Melki

The Crows asserted their dominance once again, coming out all guns blazing and scoring three goals in the opening term. The GIANTS failed to score a goal in the second half credit to the defensive pressure of Adelaide, while the Crows piled on more pain throughout the course of the game credit to their ability to hit the scoreboard, eventually winning by 32 points.

The usual stars stood tall for the Crows with the likes of Erin Phillips and Ebony Marinoff leading the way for their side. Phillips chipped in with a goal while amassing 24 touches proving her dominance across the field, while Marinoff racked up 24 touches and 10 tackles credit to her attacking play. Stevie-Lee Thompson made her presence felt up forward nailing three goals while Danielle Ponter also displayed her ability to hit the scoreboard with two majors. Ponter does not need a lot of the footy to be damaging, proving her accuracy by foot. Chelsea Randall and Angela Foley also starred for the Crows, accumulating plenty of the footy and going in hard to win the ball.

For the GIANTS, the likes of Alicia Eva stood up in what was a difficult outing for her side. Eva racked up the touches and was not afraid to go in hard and win the footy, showing her experience and class around the stoppages. Ellie Brush was also a key player for the GIANTS with her clever kicks. Cora Staunton and Christina Bernardi both hit the scoreboard with a major but were unable to capitalise on all of their opportunities in front of goal, both missing a shot on goal.

In the final game of the home and away season the Crows will face the Melbourne Demons at Casey Fields while the GWS GIANTS take on the Cats at UNSW Canberra Oval.

Carlton 6.7 (43) defeated Brisbane 4.3 (27)
By: Brandon Hutchinson

After a shaky start to 2019, Carlton have since turned their season around with a win over Brisbane at home and a move to the top of the table in Conference B. While Brisbane led at the end of the first, Carlton’s offensive push turned the tables in the second with a three-point lead entering the main break – leaving Brisbane with a goalless second quarter. Brisbane managed to kick a goal midway through the third, but the effort stood small next to Carlton’s three as they bullied their way through Brisbane’s defence. The final quarter was a wrestle for Brisbane as Carlton held on to a comfortable 16-point win against a tough outfit.

Madison Prespakis had another stellar performance for the Blues, leading with a game-high 27 disposals on the way to 69 AFL Fantasy Points. Fellow rookie, Brooke Walker also impressed with a season-high 12 disposals and her first two career goals. Tayla Harris (two goals, eight disposals, two marks and four tackles), Darcy Vescio (one goal and 13 disposals) and Tilly Lucas-Rodd (one goal, 10 disposals and four tackles) also impressed in front of goals.

For Brisbane, Nat Exon was a great defensive utility, laying nine tackles with 17 disposals on her way to a game-high 98 AFL Fantasy Points. Kate Lutkins (20 disposals, five marks and seven tackles) and Alexandra Anderson (20 disposals, six marks and six tackles) both impressed through the middle, while first-year, Jade Ellenger kicked two goals in her first game. Emily Bates also continued her stunning season with a team-high 22 disposals, three marks and five tackles.

Heading into the final round, Carlton are set to face reigning premiers, Western Bulldogs, at VU Whitten Oval for the last game of the regular season, while Brisbane come up against a winless Collingwood outfit at Victoria Park, looking for a chance to join finals footy.

AFLW previews: Round 1

AFTER a busy few months of training following the conclusion of the VFLW season, eight AFLW sides are primed and ready to tackle 2018 as they strive for the ultimate goal – a premiership. Each week AFL Draft Central will preview the weekend’s matches and look ahead to what is set to be an entertaining sequel to the inaugural 2017 season.

Carlton vs. Collingwood

Friday February 2
7.45pm
IKON PARK

It was the game that set the bar for the whole AFLW competition in its inaugural season last year. Carlton and Collingwood were meant to go head-to-head at Olympic Park, but the game was moved to Ikon Park. This ended up being a blessing in disguise, as crowds from all over Victoria and beyond, flocked to the historic ground to witness history being made. Expect even more fans to arrive at Princes Park on Friday night, in anticipation of what these two spearheads can deliver in 2018. But forget the big names, the players to watch will include one of last year’s joint TAC Cup Best and Fairest winners. Former Calder Cannon, Chloe Molloy will be making her presence known in the forward line, after renowned forward,
Moana Hope was named in the midfield. However, you won’t be seeing dual-code athlete, Ashleigh Brazill suit up for the Magpies, as hamstring tightness kept her out of the side. This is good news for former Calder Cannon and U18 Vic Metro representative, Sarah Dargan, after a solid pre-season has earned her opportunity to showcase her speed and clever ball use on the AFLW’s biggest stage.

Melbourne vs. GWS

Saturday February 3
5.05pm
CASEY FIELDS

This match sees former VU Western Spurs gun, Ashleigh Guest suit up against her old side. Guest left behind life in Victoria to play with the Giants this year, but without much luck, as the Giants walked away with the wooden spoon in the inaugural AFLW season. Now, with an opportunity to start fresh at the Dees, Guest and her teammates will be hoping to kick-start their season with a victory. But the Giants won’t be a walkover this year, after upsetting minor premier, Brisbane, in January’s practice match. Pick 17, Tanya Hetherington has been thrown straight into the deep end, as the Giants have trusted in her to play a solid defensive role at full back. Melbourne captain and Darebin Falcons gun, Daisy Pearce will start at full forward, so all eyes will be on Hetherington at the first bounce. But expect her and former Calder Cannons coach, Alicia Eva to provide some much-needed speed in the middle of the ground for GWS. As for Melbourne, Tegan Cunningham has trained the house down in the pre-season and has been rewarded with a role in Melbourne’s elusive forward line.

Adelaide vs. Brisbane

Saturday February 3
7.15pm
NORWOOD OVAL

This match could perhaps be even bigger than the opening match, as 2017’s grand finalists go head-to-head in an exciting grand final rematch. Despite losing their 2017 marquee player, Tayla Harris, the Lions have plenty of talented youngsters that can take her place in 2018. Former Yeronga junior, Jordan Zanchetta will be out to prove that she has what it takes, after recovering from an ACL injury. At Norwood oval, she’ll have the opportunity to play alongside and complement captain, Emma Zielke in the midfield. But she’ll have to break through one of the toughest back-lines in the AFLW, as the likes of former Salisbury star, Sarah Allan and 2017 Northern Territory recruit, Stevie-Lee Thompson are fit and firing for the 2018 season. Allan will be joined by her sister, Jessica, who was recruited at pick eight in the 2017 AFLW draft. Expect her and former Gungahlin Jet, Rhiannon Metcalfe to combine ruck duties in Adelaide’s opening match, which could begin the story of another stellar season for the Crows.

 

Western Bulldogs vs. Fremantle

Sunday February 4
4.35pm
VU Whitten Oval

Expect the Dockers to put up a huge fight in their season-opener, after a disappointing 2017 season saw them finish second-last on the ladder. Recruited from East Fremantle, Ashlee Atkins will be hoping to help the Dockers improve on the scoring front. The 24 year-old can play in the midfield, but is more renowned for her goalkicking, so be sure to keep an eye out for the electric forward on Sunday evening. For the home side, expect a big debut from high draft picks, Isabel Huntington and Monique Conti. After both having stints at Melbourne Uni, these talented players will now have the opportunity to play together in Bulldogs colours. Huntington was ridiculed by injury last year, and will be seeking a fresh start in season 2018, and there’s no better way to do it then to secure a win at the Western Bulldogs’ spiritual home.

Young talent on show in AFLW

Julia Montesano & Taylah Melki 

WITH the second AFLW season kicking off; more hype, talent and excitement surrounds the competition. The marquee players will play their role once again, but this year it is all about showcasing the young talent of the league. This AFLW preview looks at some of the top stars in the competition with an eye on the best youngsters to cast your eye over throughout AFLW 2.0.

Adelaide Crows

With the inaugural premiership under their belt, the Crows will look to continue their success in 2018. With a star-studded line-up, such as goal-kicking machine Sarah Perkins and the AFLW Best and Fairest winner Erin Phillips, the Crows could easily find their way into another grand final. Through the recruitment of talented up-and-coming youngsters, the Crows have further bolstered their highly talented team. Keep an eye out for Jasmyn Hewett, who showed her athleticism at the AFLW Draft Combine. Former Salisbury jet, Jess Allan could dominate the ruck role, and is known to take an impressive contested mark. Allan represented the Allies in the U18 National Championship and was the vice- captain in the U18 All Australian Team in 2017, making her a huge threat in the competition.

Young player to watch: Jasmyn Hewett

At pick 16, the Adelaide Crows have secured the damaging utility/ruck Jasmyn Hewett. With an impressive 2017 season, winning the 2016/2017 NTFL Women’s Rising Star Award and being the runner up in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Women’s Most Valuable Player Award, the Crows would have been silly not to snap Hewett up. The former NTFL St Mary’s player showed her extreme athleticism at the AFLW Draft Combine, placing within the top 10 in all physical tests. More impressively though, standing at 184cm, Hewett came second in the Yo-Yo test, vertical jump and the 2km time trial.

Predicted ladder position: 1st

 

Brisbane Lions

With the premiership in sight in the 2017 season, the Brisbane Lions fell marginally short, losing to Adelaide in a close encounter. The Lions claimed top spot on the ladder, winning six out of the first seven games, and drawing the final game of the home and away season. But with the likes of star forward, Tayla Harris leaving the club, the Lions may be in for a more challenging year, as shown in their shock 50-point loss to GWS in January’s practice match. The news of a fully fit Jordan Zanchetta, who recovered from a devastating ACL injury could help add to the depths of the Brisbane midfield, with her evasive skills and clean ball use. Sophie Conway also made an impressive statement in the practice match, showing her good skills, and even slotted through a goal.

Young player to watch: Kalinda Howarth

Kalinda Howarth’s football talents range from her clean ball use and strong hands, to her explosive speed. Howarth is a talented medium-sized forward who uses her damaging pace to get herself into strong scoring positions. Recruited from the Coolangatta Bluebirds, Howarth starred in the National Under 18 Championships for Queensland and went on to make the All-Australian Under 18 team, thanks to her impressive all-round skills.

Predicted ladder position: 7th

 

Carlton Blues

After their sell-out win over Collingwood, the Blues were touted as early premiership favourites, and set up for a big year. But tough losses against Melbourne and Fremantle crushed Carlton’s hopes of being crowned as the inaugural AFLW champions. 2017 leading goal kicker and Darebin Falcon gun, Darcy Vescio will be a hot favourite to turn her team’s fate around, after kicking three goals in the Blues’ practice match against the Bulldogs. But the recruitment of 2017 TAC Cup Girls Best and Fairest joint-winner, Bridie Kennedy could revolutionise the ruck role in the competition. The former Dandenong Stingrays vice-captain impressed with her athletic rucking and killer endurance in what was a tough TAC Cup season.

Young player to watch: Georgia Gee

Former Beaconsfield junior, Georgia Gee was snapped up by the Blues at pick 12, after a stellar season with the Dandenong Stingrays in the TAC Cup last year. The impressive midfielder has a huge advantage to continue on her merry way, having the opportunity to play alongside a familiar face in fellow Stingrays teammate, Bridie Kennedy. Gee is no stranger to success, after winning three premierships in a row with her junior club, Beaconsfield. She first represented Vic Metro in 2014, and hasn’t looked back since, donning the big V again in 2016, and playing in the AFLW U18 State of Origin match last year.

Predicted ladder position: 3rd

 

Collingwood Magpies

The Magpies got off to a rocky start in 2017, after a disappointing loss to arch-rivals Carlton on the opening night. Losses in the next two games stopped Collingwood from making the finals, but they will be hoping to come back with a vengeance in season 2018. With the loss of Nicola Stevens to Carlton, Alicia Eva to GWS and young gun Darcy Guttridge to injury, the Magpies will be hoping that the depth of their list will stand up. The recruitment of talented netballer, Ashleigh Brazill, who is renowned for her speed, defensive pressure and clean hands will be a good inclusion for the team. Keep an eye out for the pairing of goal-kicking dynamo, Moana Hope, and the 2017 VFL Women’s joint leading goal-scorer, Chloe Molloy, who could help spark a more dynamic and accurate forward line for the club. Medium defender Iilish Ross is sure to turn heads with her excellent rebounding ability.

Player to watch: Chloe Molloy

Chloe Molloy impressed with her accuracy in front of goal and her ability to turn the game on its head in last year’s TAC Cup Girls competition. The former Calder Cannon and Diamond Creek forward made her early draft selection easy through winning multiple awards after her stellar season. She claimed the VFL Women’s Rising Star Award and was a joint winner of the TAC Cup Girls Best and Fairest. Molloy also won the VFL Women’s goal kicking award in the 2017 season, making her a player to watch in the upcoming season. At the age of 19, Molloy’s skills in front of goals could help gift Collingwood with the finals berth they desire, after falling short in the inaugural season.

Predicted ladder position: 5th

 

Fremantle Dockers

Fremantle was a team that surprised many, after somehow going in as premiership favourites prior to the inaugural AFLW season. But despite being under the leadership of former Melbourne assistant coach, Michelle Cowan, Fremantle’s first and only win didn’t come until Round 6, in a shock win over the Blues. The news gets worse for the Dockers, as former Ellenbrook Dockers junior, Kellie Gibson, is likely to miss the entire AFLW season after playing at Adelaide as a marquee last year. Other notable misses include former Bullcreek Leeming junior, Beatrice Devlyn (4-6 weeks) and Kirby Bentley (season), who appeared for the Allies in a 2016 State of Origin match.

Young player to watch: Emily McGuire

Emily McGuire was one of three players to be recruited from the Swan Districts, after a standout 2016/ 17 season. The 19-year-old represented Western Australia as an U18 representative, and was a part of the Western Australia Women’s Football League (WAWFL) premiership team. McGuire, a versatile forward, is a much-needed coup for the Dockers, after the side had a disappointing 2017 season in front of goals.

Predicted ladder position: 8th

 

GWS Giants

The luckless Giants finished at the bottom of the table in 2017, after securing just one win against Melbourne in Round 5. Although former Sydney University midfielder, Nicola Barr and Mosman Swans recruit, Erin McKinnon impressed with Rising Star nominations, they couldn’t carry the Giants over the line. But GWS have gotten to work in the off-season, bolstering its list with Calder Cannons premiership coach, and Melbourne University’s 2017 Best and Fairest winner, Alicia Eva. Eva has already snapped up the role as the GWS vice-captain, giving her an opportunity to display her leadership on the field, and allow the Giants to have a better run at the premiership cup in 2018.

Young player to watch: Pippa Smyth

Standing at 180cm tall, Pippa Smyth will be a hard woman to bring down! The versatile ruck-forward was recruited from the Nelson Bay Marlins, after giving up netball to have a go at dominating with the Sherrin. After topping the 20m sprint with her blistering speed in the AFLW draft combine, the 22 year-old showed what sets her apart from the typical ruckman. Smyth will give GWS a much-needed boost in the height department, after the Giants’ small-sized team struggled to break through the corridor and project the ball into the forward line in 2017.

Predicted ladder position: 6th

 

Melbourne Demons

After finishing third in the AFLW inaugural season, the Demons could be in for another successful year, with the likes of Darebin Falcons trio, Daisy Pearce, Mel Hickey and Karen Paxman raring to go. Former Mornington life-saver, Claudia Whitfort will be hoping to help the Demons surpass the five wins they achieved in 2017. Whitfort has shown that she’s got oodles of talent, displaying her great speed and athleticism. The trade period also allowed for former Carlton forward Bianca Jakobsson to cross over to the Demons. The addition of Jakobsson could help bolster the club’s forward line with her strong marking ability and versatility.

Player to watch: Eden Zanker

After an impressive 12 months, the Melbourne Demons would have been thrilled to pick up Eden Zanker at pick six. The big key forward from the Bendigo Pioneers can take a strong mark, and was one of the leading goal kickers in the National Under 18 Championships. Zanker was also named in the AFLW U18 All- Australian team due to her accuracy in front of goal. Living in a small town, Natya, roughly 60km from Swan Hill, Zanker’s dedication and love for the sport is undoubted as she travels kilometres on a weekly basis just to make it to games.

Predicted ladder position: 2nd

 

Western Bulldogs

The Western Bulldogs’ 2017 season didn’t exactly go to plan, as they only came away with two wins for the season. Star marquee and Darebin Falcon, Katie Brennan struggled with injury throughout the year, but if there’s a change of fate this year, Brennan could give Carlton’s Darcy Vescio a real run for her money in front of goals, after being the joint leading goal kicker in last year’s VFLW season. The Bulldogs are probably one of the most experienced teams in the AFLW, with the likes of Melbourne University midfielder, Ellie Blackburn and Darebin defender, Aasta O’Connor playing in the side since the days of the AFL Women’s exhibition matches. Expect these experienced players to play a huge role in developing former Sandringham Dragon and number one draft pick, Isabel Huntington, as well as dual-code former Calder Cannon, Monique Conti.

Young player to watch: Monique Conti

For the sports fanatics out there, Monique Conti is a name you might well be familiar with already. The former Calder Cannon not only dominates the midfield on the footy field, but also dominates on the basketball court. At 16 years of age, Conti played in the Australian FIBA U17 basketball world championship team, and currently represents the Melbourne Boomers, who just fell short of the Townsville Fire in the WNBL Grand Final series. But now, she has a chance to bounce back on the footy field, and complement the likes of Ellie Blackburn and fellow dual-code athlete, Emma Kearney in the midfield. The 18-year-old has an innate ability to linger around the contest, and burst through the pack at key moments, which is the X-factor that could project the Bulldogs into the top half of the ladder.

Predicted ladder position: 4th