Tag: ashleigh woodland

2021 SANFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Grand Final rematch opens season

AFTER a shorter-than-usual wait for the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition to restart due to the delayed 2020 season, the eight sides are ready to go in 2021 starting tonight.

NORTH ADELAIDE vs. SOUTH ADELAIDE
Friday, February 26 @ 6.30pm
Coopers Stadium

What better way is there to open a new SANFL Women’s season than with a grand final rematch? The opening game of the double-header at Coopers Stadium sees North Adelaide take on South Adelaide in a massive clash. The Roosters will be able to unfurl the flag against the Panthers, which should give both teams plenty of motivation. It is worth noting that they will be without a number of AFL Women’s talents which means others will have the chance to step up in their place.

Full-forward Kelly Barltrop will be hungry for success after being unlucky to miss out on last year’s flag, while Kristi Harvey has been named at centre half-forward. With league best and fairest winner Anne Hatchard and leading goalkicker Ashleigh Woodland both playing for the Crows in the AFL Women’s the Roosters will need to look for others to play a role. Jaimi Tabb has crossed from the Eagles to Roosters, while Glenelg ruck revelation Soriah Moon will now pull on the Panthers’ jumper. Providing a formidable tag-team with Montana McKinnon, South should get first hands to it, and with a midfield containing the likes of Czenya Cavouras and Nicole Campbell, they will be hard to beat.

Gypsy Schirmer is the young gun to watch from the Panthers with the half-forward an excitement machine, whilst the same can be said for reigning Rising Star Hannah Ewings who will have added responsibility this season. Throw in Leah Tynan and Lauren Daniel through the onball, and the likes of Cristie Castle and Brianna Arthur able to rotate between midfield and forward, and the Roosters have plenty of options. It will be great to see full-back Sarah Wright return for the Panthers, with both her and Lauren Clifton providing some great stability in the defence.

This match is hard to predict, with either team capable of getting up, and both have a great history of just getting the job done. Just for the home fans the edge might go to North, but there is something about the South lineup that looks ready to strike.

NORWOOD vs. WEST ADELAIDE
Friday, February 26 @ 8.15pm
Coopers Stadium

The second match of the double-header is predicted to be just as good, with reigning preliminary finalists West Adelaide locking horns with the side they dispelled in the elimination final, Norwood. West Adelaide have a huge opportunity to make the next step up, with such a large contingent of state league players remaining at the club, and then bringing in some serious talent such as key defender Sharnie Whiting from Carlton.

The youth of West Adelaide cannot be stated enough, with Zoe Venning a standout in terms of this year, and then over the next two years, the Bloods have Keeley Kustermann and then Lauren Young respectively who both loom as great talents. Venning will start off half-forward and look to push into the midfield, while Kustermann will form a new partnership with South Adelaide’s Natalie Gibbs off half-back with Madison Newman likely to have Crows AFL Women’s duties this season. The 15-year-old Young has been thrown into the deep end to start in the midfield, potentially on the experienced Sophie Armitstead.

Norwood have an array of young talent themselves, with Alana Lishmund named on a wing, and Jade Halfpenny surprisingly named in defence after making her name as a leading forward predominantly last season. Tesharna Maher is a new name in the Norwood line-up, having crossed from Eagles over the break. Melanie Elsegood is a player to stop for West, with the Norwood defence looking strong, as Isabel Martin has been named back there, while the likes of Jess Macolino will come off the bench to have an impact.

West Adelaide could well be the team to beat this season, and therefore should be favourites in this game, but Norwood has some exciting young talents as well to watch out for, in what should be an entertaining game.

STURT vs. GLENELG
Saturday, February 27 @ 10.40am
X Convenience Oval

Fast forward to Saturday and two sides looking to make a strong start to the season after missing finals do battle in Sturt and Glenelg. The Double Blues were actually strong defensively last season, but they just struggled to score at times, whilst the Bays were ultra-impressive in some games, and then just not themselves in others, so will be eyeing off some consistency in 2021. It will be a big game for Caitlyn Swanson who has cross from the Double Blues to the Bays this season and will come off the bench in Round 1.

Glenelg has some some developing talents to watch out for, with top-ager Brooke Tonon alongside over-ager Madisyn Freeman at half-forward. They will be looking to create some run and carry going inside 50, with the likes of Tamsyn Morriss and Sam Franson transitioning from the wings. Looking strong as outside movers, Tessa Kohn has been slotted in at half-back after being predominantly an inside midfielder last season, while Lucy Armitage will never take a backwards step and is also in defence. Without Ebony Marinoff and Eloise Jones the Bays will need other midfielders to step up, but they have the depth there.

The Double Blues have some of the best young talent running around, and the depth through the key position options is showing, with Zoe Prowse now running around as a midfielder instead of ruck. The 180cm talent has the athleticism to beat much smaller opponents, and she will provide a point of difference at ground level. Alex Ballard looks set for a move into the midfield, while other over-agers such as Hannah Prenzler (half-back) and Isobel Kuiper (half-forward) will be better for another season. Add in top-ager Georgia Swan at centre half-forward, and the inclusion of Eagles’ Chloe Forby, and the Double Blues are starting to build some firepower.

It will be another tough match to pick, and without Georgia Bevan – having been picked up late to Gold Coast Suns – more will fall to the likes of Maya Rigter for Sturt, but they have the young talent to get it done. One cannot discount Glenelg though, as they have some great outside movers.

CENTRAL DISTRICT vs. WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.25pm
X Convenience Oval

The final match of the round takes place with Central District hosting Woodville-West Torrens in a battle of the league’s two newest clubs. Though now into their third seasons, both the Bulldogs and Eagles are becoming well established, and if 2020 is anything to go off, they should be more competitive again. Without a heap of AFL Women’s talent last season, both these sides are well adapted to being without that top level experience, which puts them in good stead to have plenty of developing young guns coming through the programs.

The Bulldogs were one of the more exciting teams in 2020 even if their results may not have shown it. They were willing to run the ball forward, and with the need for speed, were taking it up to sides. Latiah Huynh is a perfect example of the way the Dogs play – with speed and tenacity, as well as confidence – and teaming up with fellow youngster Lauren Breguet in the forward half, Central District will look to share the load outside of notable goalkicker Katelyn Rosenzweig. Eagles’ key position utility Kiana Lee has been named at full-back with Anastasia Falkenberg another reliable talent in defence, as is Jamie Parish.

The midfield battle will be just as intriguing with new captain and reigning best and fairest winner Shelby Smith leading the Bulldogs onball, and the likes of Caitlen Teague and Lauren Smith in there. A couple of experienced recruits in Paige Allan and Nicole Mark among those inclusions into the Bulldogs’ line-up, while Madison Lane is a top-age talent with reliable foot skills from defence, while Demi Sonneman is always one to watch coming out of the back 50. A big inclusion for the Eagles is former South Adelaide raw ruck/forward prospect Brooklyn Kraft who will make her debut amongst a host of new faces coming out of the local leagues, while Kiley Green has made the move from the ACT and been named at centre-half back. Charlotte Dolan and Jovanka Zecevic are others to keep an eye on in the match for the Eagles.

Central District has beefed up its side in 2021, with more experience to settle the youth down and the Dogs could start favourite in this one, though the Eagles are always tough to score against.

Picture credit: SANFL

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Vintage Phillips drags Crows back onto winners list

A VINTAGE Erin Phillips performance propelled Adelaide back onto the winners list on Sunday, as the Crows handed Brisbane its first loss of the season to the tune of 12 points. Phillips booted the first two goals of the game and a late sealer as Adelaide won out 6.9 (45) to 5.3 (33), moving level on points with the Lions with three wins and a spot well within the top six.

Phillips’ more permanent move forward proved a masterful tactic, as the two-time league best and fairest wasted no time in setting up a defining lead for her side. Her goals were supported up the other end by a first term shutout, which set the tone for Adelaide’s win. The gap proved too far for Brisbane to bridge thereafter despite constantly chipping away and lingering within a goal for most of the final term.

While the Crows did not relinquish their lead throughout the contest, conversion rate remains an area of improvement for the victors who put up an inaccurate 6.9 from their wealth of clear-cut chances. Ashleigh Woodland was a main culprit with 1.4, but her six-pointer came at an ideal time as she reestablished Adelaide’s two-goal buffer right on the half time siren.

The Lions comes away licking their wounds in more ways than one, with a couple of potentially key injuries further scuppering their promising early-season run. Gun youngster Lily Postlethwaite and defensive leader Shannon Campbell both went down in the first half, with the seriousness of those knocks still yet to be fully confirmed.

Emily Bates finished as Brisbane’s leading ball winner with 19 disposals, two ahead of Greta Bodey. The latter also contributed two second half goals which gave the Lions every chance of snatching a victory. Orla O’Dwyer and Ally Anderson were also productive moving forward in the maroon, blue and gold, while defender Breanna Koenen proved pivotal in defence with 14 touches, four marks, and four tackles.

Phillips was far and away the best player afield; finishing with 21 disposals, eight marks, five inside 50s, and four goals. Only Ebony Marinoff saw more of the ball with 28 touches, while fellow midfield maestro Anne Hatchard notched 19 of her own. Woodland was a threat up forward despite her inaccuracy, and skipper Chelsea Randall proved her worth to the side with 13 disposals and seven marks on her return. She may come under match review scrutiny after a heavy bump on Bodey, though.

The freshly minted Round 5 fixtures see Brisbane turn around first for another crucial clash, set to face Fremantle in Western Australia on Saturday. Meanwhile, Adelaide is due to return home to take on St Kilda at Norwood Oval on the Sunday.

BRISBANE 0.0 | 3.0 | 4.1 | 5.3 (33)
ADELAIDE 2.5 | 4.6 | 5.8 | 6.9 (45)

GOALS:

Brisbane: G. Bodey 2, D. Davidson, C. Hodder, T. Smith
Adelaide: E. Phillips 4, A. Woodland, R. Forth

DC BEST:

Brisbane: G. Bodey, B. Koenen, A. Anderson, E. Bates, O. O’Dwyer, I. Dawes
Adelaide: E. Phillips, E. Marinoff, A. Hatchard, C. Randall, E. Jones, A. Woodland

Featured Image: Adelaide’s Erin Phillips celebrates one of her four goals | Credit: Glenn Hunt/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Credit: (Retrieved via) Melbourne FC

Lacklustre Dees eaten alive by hungry Dogs

It was a disastrous day for an inaccurate Melbourne, outplayed by a sharp shooting Western Bulldogs side on the prowl at VU Whitten Oval in front of a capacity 3180-strong crowd. Whilst both teams traded blows and went goal-for-goal early, it was the Bulldogs that ultimately came away with an excellent 6.1 (37) to 2.11 (23) victory to win their third match on the trot and really kickstart their season. 

The impatient Dees had their work cut out for them from the get-go, struggling to make use of their talls inside 50 and missing the ever reliable Kate Hore who was a late omission. While it was the red and blue that dominated inside 50s early, keeping the footy locked in their front half, a coast to coast flurry from the Bulldogs saw the red, white, and blue boot the first major of the day from their first inside 50 – a set shot from Kirstin McLeod – and maintained constant pressure on the Demons. Whilst a Karen Paxman goal minutes later more than evened the ledger given the Dees’ peppering of the left and right posts, minor missed opportunities became the theme of their day as they failed the apply the scoreboard pressure they so desperately needed.

Another couple of even quarters kept the match flowing up and down the field, with both sides finding the big sticks a couple of times and Izzy Huntington the first to boot two. But while Melbourne were keeping in touch with plenty of hunt on and off the ball, it was the Dogs that had the upper hand in front of a passionate home crowd, and with the Hampson-Hardeman Trophy on the line, it was the underdogs that stepped up when it counted, with the four goal to nil second half more than enough to run over the tired-looking and lacklustre Demons.

A final quarter flurry from the Dogs and a couple of gutsy plays saw the Dees rendered goalless after three quarter time and run down by the feisty Dogs who relentlessly attacked and fought tooth and nail for the footy. Rushed kicks were the side’s downfall, especially when it counted in the latter stages, as the Bulldogs manned up and disrupted the play, roving seamlessly and plucking off some unbelievable marks in an impressive victory at Whitten Oval.

Whilst she was kept quiet for much of the match, Ellie Blackburn was the star of the show in the final quarter, booting a crucial goal to go with her 16 touches – down from her typical output – and seal the deal for the Bulldogs, also leading the side for disposals in a shared team effort. Jess Fitzgerald joined Huntington in the multiple majors club, booting two of her own to go with 12 touches and eight tackles, whilst Kirsty Lamb (12 touches, six tackles) and Bonnie Toogood (seven tackles) were excellent applying physical pressure. For the Dees, Paxman stole the show with 27 touches and a goal, whilst Shelley Scott slotted the side’s second major from her 16 disposals and six marks. Maddi Gay (19 disposals, four tackles), Tyla Hanks (16 and seven) and Lily Mithen (16 and five) also proved critical around the ball but to no avail as they were eaten alive by the hungry Dogs.

The Western Bulldogs will return to the kennel once more next round, hosting GWS Giants on Saturday afternoon, while Melbourne will look to bounce back against Collingwood on Sunday at Victoria Park.

WESTERN BULLDOGS | 1.0 | 2.1 | 4.1 | 6.1 (37)
MELBOURNE 1.4 | 1.6 | 2.8 | 2.12 (24)

GOALS:

Western Bulldogs: J. Fitzgerald 2, I. Huntington 2, E. Blackburn, K. McLeod
Melbourne: K. Paxman, S. Scott 

DC BEST:

Western Bulldogs: J. Fitzgerald, K. Lamb, E. Blackburn, I. Huntington, B. Toogood
Melbourne: K. Paxman, T. Hanks, M. Gay, L. Mithen, E. Zanker

Credit: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Staunton stunners see Giants step past Eagles

Veteran Greater Western Sydney (GWS) forward Cora Staunton proved the difference in her side’s 20-point win over West Coast on Sunday, booting four of the Giants’ seven majors to help seal their second win on the trot. With the game on the line after a goalless third term, the Irishwomen came up clutch with two goals in as many minutes during the final stanza to ultimately ice the 7.6 (48) to 4.4 (28) victory.

While Staunton’s two goals were the only majors seen in the second half, the game opened up with a flurry of scoring. A combined 7.3 (45) made for the second-highest first term total in AFLW history, setting the platform for a hotly contested match. Both sides were up to the challenge and cracked in hard as the game endured at a high pace.

But as has often been the case throughout the Eagles’ short history, scoring dried up and they fell away late to allow the Giants’ experienced heads to take control when it mattered. A fourth quarter knee injury to boom recruit Aisling McCarthy has potential to further sour West Coast’s winless season, adding to its already mounting injury toll.

Game-changer, Staunton finished with 4.2 from her 16 disposals and two marks, proving she still has it at 39 years of age. She was the lone multiple goalkicker on the day, while Alyce Parker was unsurprisingly atop the disposal charts with 25 touches. Partner-in-crime Rebecca Beeson had it 22 times and laid eight tackles, while the likes of Nicola Barr (16 disposals, six marks) and Alicia Eva (18 disposals) returned solid outings.

Young midfielder Bella Lewis led all comers for the Eagles with 16 disposals and got her hands dirty with nine tackles, as did Tayla Bresland (seven). Skipper Emma Swanson again led from the front with 15 touches, while the likes of Maddy Collier, Ashlee Atkins, and Mikayla Bowen were all productive and also snared a goal each in the loss.

West Coast’s search for win number one in 2021 lands back home next week as the Eagles host Gold Coast in another winnable fixture, while GWS takes on a red hot Western Bulldogs outfit on the road at Whitten Oval.

GWS GIANTS 4.2 | 5.3 | 5.4 | 7.6 (48)
WEST COAST 3.1 | 4.1 | 4.3 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:

GWS: C. Staunton 4, J. Dal Pos, T. Mackrill, R. Beeson
West Coast: A. Atkins, P. Laurie, M. Bowen, M. Collier

DC BEST:

GWS: C. Staunton, A. Parker, R. Beeson, A. Eva, N. Barr
West Coast: E. Swanson, A. McCarthy, B. Lewis, T. Bresland, M. Bowen

SANFLW season preview: North Adelaide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: SANFL / Deb Curtis

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 3 preview – Four of the top six lock horns on blockbuster weekend

ROUND 3 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season sees two sets of undefeated sides lock horns to find out whose ‘0’ will go, while teams just outside the top six battle to emerge as finals threats. As was the case last time around, fixtures have been shuffled and one matchup – between Brisbane and West Coast – is on hold. But with a couple of mouthwatering clashes and one Victorian grudge match set to go down, there is still plenty to look forward to from this weekend’s action.

Note: All start times are local.

GEELONG (14th, 0-2) vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS (7th, 1-1)
Friday February 12, 7:10pm
Kardinia Park

History will be made in red, white, and blue on Friday night as the Western Bulldogs’ first ever father-daughter selection, Isabella Grant makes her AFLW debut against Geelong at Kardinia Park. The daughter of 341-game Bulldogs champion, Chris missed all of her maiden season through injury, but comes into a winning side in place of the injured Bailey Hunt (calf). Her team will be sniffing out a positive record here, especially seeing that Geelong is currently bolted to bottom spot after losses of a combined 91 points.

The Cats have made a couple of changes, with the experienced Bec Goring called up to help bolster her side’s defence, while mature-age coup Nicole Garner also comes in for her senior debut. The pair’s additions come at the expense of youngsters Darcy Moloney and Georgia Clarke. Having lost handily to premiership fancy North Melbourne at home in Round 1, the Cats will be keen to make good on their advantage this time around and give fans something to cheer about.

The Bulldogs’ youthful exuberance and counter-attacking nature may pose some problems for Geelong, especially given the home side has only scrounged three majors in its first two outings. The Cats are also known for their young talent, but that has seen them fall away in lapses of concentration after positive periods. That could be a worrying factor if they don’t get up or stay level early, because we all saw how the ‘Dogs came back with force against Carlton last week.

Tip: Bulldogs by 13

GWS (11th, 0-2) vs. GOLD COAST (13th, 0-2)
Saturday February 13, 3:10pm
Blacktown International Sportspark

Two sides coming off hefty losses will look to get off the mark for season 2021, when Greater Western Sydney (GWS) hosts Gold Coast in Blacktown on Saturday afternoon. The Suns were kept to the lowest-ever AFLW score (two points) last time out in a one-sided Q-Clash, which should serve as fuel enough for this game. GWS went down to somewhat a rival of its own in Adelaide last week, making this a clash between two winless teams in desperate need of a confidence boost.

An improved Suns forwardline saw hardly any of the ball last week, but showed in Round 1 that when given the opportunity, goals will come. GWS has also had trouble moving forward with its fluency on the ball – or lack thereof – underselling the dominance of Alyce Parker and Rebecca Beeson at the clearances. Whichever team can click into gear quicker and find its groove in the front half should coast clear for a much-needed maiden win.

Tip: Giants by 5

ST KILDA (8th, 1-1) vs. CARLTON (9th, 0-2)
Saturday February 13, 5:10pm
RSEA Park

Carlton faces a tricky must-win fixture as it rolls into Moorabbin to take on St Kilda on Saturday night, with both sides poised outside the top six. Touted as a premiership chance coming into the season, the Blues have stumbled in two surprise losses with short bursts from opposition sides hurting them in the long run. The Saints loom as another tricky test having beaten the Blues’ last opponent and remained competitive against North Melbourne a week later.

Perhaps mercifully, the Carlton looks likely to call upon the recently recovered trio of Lucy McEvoy, Mua Laloifi, and Gab Pound, who would all normally feature in the starting lineup. While McEvoy will prove another classy midfield choice, the latter two should shore up the backline. Sturdiness will be important against an improve Saints attack, spearhead by Caitlin Greiser.

The midfield battle will also be an interesting one, with the likes of McEvoy and Maddy Prespakis locking horns with in-form St Kilda jets Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith. The hardened ball winning ability of Carlton’s pair against the classy running Saints should form an intriguing matchup of styles. Making the most of their impact will be key for either side, especially after their respective faults up forward thus far.

Tip: Blues by 15

MELBOURNE (4th, 2-0) vs. NORTH MELBOURNE (2nd, 2-0)
Saturday February 13, 7:10pm
Casey Fields

A mouthwatering contest between two undefeated Victorian sides goes down at Casey Fields on Saturday night, as Melbourne takes on North Melbourne. The Roos have been near-flawless across the opening two rounds; first dismantling Geelong on the road and then pulling away from the plucky St Kilda last week. Melbourne has found its grove after slow starts in both of its opening two fixtures, but now faces easily its toughest test to date.

While the Roos are renowned for their vast avenues to goal, Melbourne has proven somewhat of a surprise packet through its seemingly revitalised attacking nous. The engine room has played a big part, with Tyla Hanks slotting in seamlessly alongside Karen Paxman and Lily Mithen, but North is known to boss the ball and bat incredibly deep. A Kangas midfield quintet of Emma Kearney, Jenna Bruton, Jasmine Garner, Ash Riddell, and Ellie Gavalas has proven unbeatable across four quarters thus far, and will be tough to top.

The ruck battle will be another area of interest given how much class lies in either sides’ midfields, with Melbourne’s Lauren Pearce set to tackle an in-form Emma King. King, who has also rediscovered her scoring form, averages nearly double her opponent’s hitouts, but aide from rotating key forward Eden Zanker will likely even the contest up.

Tip: Kangaroos by 11

ADELAIDE (3rd, 2-0) vs. FREMANTLE (5th, 2-0)
Sunday February 14, 12:40pm
Norwood Oval

The round’s second top six clash sees Adelaide do battle with Fremantle at Norwood Oval, with the two undefeated teams battling to maintain their perfect records. Freo’s nine-game unblemished run has continued on from last season and while a tense derby only saw them get up by nine points with two majors on the board last week, the Dockers look every bit the premiership contender. Adelaide is right up there as well, emphatically returning to form in 2021 with the chance now to prove just how serious its flag tilt will be.

The Crows’ elite ball winners in Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard, and Erin Phillips will be difficult to match, while the dynamic wildcard that is Chelsea Randall could prove a game-breaking factor in roles at either end. A heap of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Fremantle’s Kiara Bowers in midfield, though a greater team spread up and down the spine is more the Dockers’ go.

It is no secret that Gemma Houghton poses a massive threat up forward alongside Sabreena Duffy, while Janelle Cuthbertson has been an absolute rock down back. With running power on the outer and many avenues to goal, Freo should have little trouble managing a winning score. Adelaide will again look to its midfield to fill out the scorebook, while the likes of Danielle Ponter, Ashleigh Woodland, and Teah Charlton loom as individuals who can break the game open.

Tip: Dockers by 1

RICHMOND (12th, 0-2) vs. COLLINGWOOD (6th, 2-0)
Sunday February 14, 3:10pm
Punt Road Oval

A late fixture shuffle sees traditional rivals Richmond and Collingwood go head-to-head on Sunday afternoon, set to provide some nostalgia to fans at Punt Road Oval. The Tigers are still out to claim their first points in the competition having shown signs of improvement thus far, but ultimately fallen short of better opposition. Collingwood looms as another difficult test, currently holding up the top six with a perfect 2-0 record.

The two sides have not yet met in the women’s competition, making for a fresh start and opportunity for either team to grab bragging rights. Collingwood’s rejigged forwardline which boasts Chloe Molloy and Brianna Davey benefitted last week with the inclusion of Sarah Rowe, and will again be in good shape to overpower the opposition. Conversely, scoring continues to be a sore spot for Richmond despite the dominance of Monique Conti in midfield and promise of Ellie McKenzie on the outer.

Tip: Magpies by 33

Note: The Brisbane Lions vs. West Coast Eagles fixture is TBC.

Featured Image: Western Bulldogs’ Isabella Grant (right) with her famous father, Chris | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Dees dismantle Suns with five-goal second term

MELBOURNE Demons have opened their season with a win on the road, toppling Gold Coast Suns by 21 points at Metricon Stadium yesterday. Led by a dominant duo of Karen Paxman and Lily Mithen, the Demons started slowly but recovered to win, 9.2 (56) to 5.5 (35) in front of more than 1900 fans.

The original fixture had the Demons at home against Adelaide, but despite the Sunshine State being a fair distance from Casey Fields, Melbourne was determined to make it a home away from home. It did not look that way early when Jamie Stanton converted a goal in the first 30 seconds of the match. Six minutes later and Leah Kaslar had the Suns’ second and the margin was out to 12. It took until past the midway point of the quarter before known goalsneak Kate Hore finally put through a major, and when Tegan Cunningham converted her first of the 2021 season, the scores were level again. A strong pack mark from Gold Coast recruit Sarah Perkins in the dying seconds of the term resulted in her new side taking a seven-point lead into quarter time.

The second quarter belonged to the visitors though, as Melbourne piled on five goals, starting with an Eden Zanker major in the opening minute of the term. Krstel Petrevski and Shelley Heath provided spark at ground level and brought up their first goals, while Cunningham kicked another and when Hore converted her second in the final minute, Melbourne was out to a 22-point lead at the main break. Petrevski became the third multiple goalkicker with a major six minutes into the term, which meant the Demons had kicked 6.1 to 0.2 since quarter time, turning a seven-point deficit into a whopping 28-point lead in just 26 minutes of action.

Brittany Perry finally broke the drought for the home side a couple of minutes later, only for Mithen to counter with another major for the red and blue. Perkins kicked her second to prove her worth as a target inside 50, but despite their best efforts, the Suns had only shaved the half-time deficit by one point to 20 at the final change.

Needing a miracle, Leah Kaslar had a chance but missed, and in what was an anticlimactic finish – though more than suitable for Melbourne – the teams only managed the one behind apiece in the final term for the siren to sound with Melbourne winning 9.2 (56) to 5.5 (35).

For the most part it looked like Paxman might rack up a record with 19 disposals at half-time, to finish with 25, as well as three marks and four tackles, while Mithen picked up 22 disposals and two marks to go with her goal. Tyla Hanks and Eliza McNamara battled above their heights to pick up 18 touches and lay six tackles between them, with McNamara’s debut one to remember. Jacqueline Parry (17 disposals) and both the Pearces – Daisy and Lauren – were also impressive, racking up 15 touches.

The Suns had a number of impressive players, with Stanton leading the way thanks to 18 disposals, three marks, two tackles and a goal, while Alison Drennan had 17 touches and nine tackles. Bess Keaney starred on debut herself with 15 disposals and six tackles. Looking ahead to Round 2, Gold Coast travel to Victoria Park on Saturday for an afternoon game, while Melbourne hosts Richmond at Casey Fields in the evening game.

GOLD COAST  3.1 | 3.3 | 5.4 | 5.5 (35)
MELBOURNE 2.0  | 7.1 | 9.1 | 9.2 (56)

GOALS
Gold Coast: Perkins 2, Stanton, Kaslar, Perry.
Melbourne: Cunningham 2, Hore 2, Petrevski 2, Zanker, Mithen, Heath.

ADC BEST 
Gold Coast: 
Stanton, Perkins, Keaney, Drennan, Ahrens
Melbourne: Paxman, Mithen, McNamara, L.Pearce, Cunningham, Hanks

Picture credit: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Picture credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Phillips and Randall lead the Crows to a winning start

By: Tom Cheesman

Adelaide has produced a dominant second half to run away convincing 38-point winners against a young West Coast side at Mineral Resources Park. Premiership superstars Erin Phillips (23 disposals, five tackles, five marks, two goals) and Chelsea Randall (19 disposals, three marks, three tackles) led from the front and were a class above throughout the contest. Once numerous other premiership Crows stepped up in the second half, the Eagles struggled to get the ball into their forward 50 and could not overcome the Crows’ immense tackling pressure.

Chelsea Biddell gave her side a strong start when she collected the ball cleanly in congestion and kicked the first major of the match from 30-metres out. Draftee Ashleigh Woodland followed this up by kicking a nice snap goal with her first kick for the club, which was one of many impressive signs she showed on the day. Captain Randall, who missed the entire 2020 season with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, started the game at half-forward and made an immediate impact by providing a focal point for her side and continually moving the ball forward. West Coast’s quarter went from bad to worse when Brianna Green exited the field with an ankle injury after a heavy collision in a marking contest. Najwa Allen’s ball movement out of defence was a highlight for the visitors early, as was their pressure game.

The Crows led the tackle count 25 to 14 at the first break, which was particularly important because this was an area that they struggled in last season. This was led by debutant Teah Charlton, who had a remarkable six tackles in just the opening quarter. West Coast started the second term with more aggression and won plenty of contested balls at centre clearances and around the ground. The Eagles got their first goal through Mikayla Bowen after a nice pass from Shanae Davison, but Woodland immediately responded with her second after some clean ball movement from Randall. An uncharacteristic poor turnover from ex-Giant Lisa Whiteley led to some great counter-attacking play from Ashlee Atkins, which Niamh Kelly used her pace to get on the end of and kick her first goal in AFLW. Just minutes later, Kellie Gibson had a golden chance to bring the Eagles to within a point but missed the running shot on goal. Phillips was a sole shining light for Adelaide in the second term, as she was powerful in the contest and turning around opponents very crisply on the outside.

The Crows were lucky to go into the main break with a five-point lead given West Coast’s dominance in that term. Early in the third, Phillips received a 50-metre penalty for an encroachment by the woman on the mark and kicked truly from the goal square. Encroachment 50-metre penalties were a theme of the day in AFLW, as Gold Coast were penalised heavily for them in their match against Melbourne earlier in the afternoon. Just minutes after kicking her first, Phillips kicked another goal, this time on her left after cleverly selling some candy in congestion. Adelaide’s pressure up forward continued to cause problems for the Eagles, as Charlton and Woodland created another turnover and the latter found Marinoff by foot for another major. Speedster Eloise Jones was tripped inside 50 and kicked truly after the siren to give Adelaide a 32-point lead at three-quarter time.

The Crows dominated the inside 50s again early in the last term but missed a few opportunities to extend their lead. This was until Phillips won a free kick on the 50-metre arc and found Ailish Considine with a nice pass, who kicked Adelaide’s eighth goal from 30 metres out. Although no more goals were kicked for the rest of the match, Gibson was dangerous up forward late and created some chances for the Eagles in the closing minutes. Former Bulldog Aisling McCarthy (15 disposals, two marks, seven tackles) and Emma Swanson (17 disposals, 11 tackles, two marks) were two shining lights for the Eagles throughout the contest. The Eagles will look to rebound next week against the relocated GWS Giants on Saturday at Norwood Oval. Meanwhile, Adelaide will look to build on their impressive second half when they take on Fremantle in a Sunday blockbuster.

WEST COAST 0.1 | 2.3 | 2.3 | 2.6 (18)
ADELAIDE 2.1 | 3.2 | 7.5 | 8.8 (56)

GOALS:
West Coast: M. Bowen, N. Kelly 1.
Adelaide: E. Phillips 2, A. Woodland 2, C. Biddell, E. Marinoff, E. Jones, A. Considine 1.

ADC BEST:
West Coast: E. Swanson, A. McCarthy, D. Hooker, A. Atkins, M. Bowen, N. Kelly
Adelaide: E. Phillips, C. Randall, N. Allen, E. Marinoff, N. Gore, T. Charlton

Opinion: Could the AFL Women’s 2021 season be the most competitive yet?

IT is still just over two months until the first bounce of the 2021 AFL Women’s season, but the excitement is growing. The abrupt end to the 2020 season – with no premiership awarded and indeed no last two weeks of finals – left a mixture of disappointment and wondering of what could have been in many minds of AFL Women’s fans. Once the initial disappointment was over, clubs got to work on either re-signing, trading or heading to the draft in what has set up a more even competition next year.

The top sides will contend again, and whilst Fremantle and North Melbourne showed that they arguably deserved to be in the 2020 decider, they were pushed by opponents at times, and those opponents will be battling for a spot. The young pups at the Western Bulldogs and talented bunch at St Kilda will also improve, and even the cellar dwellers in Richmond and West Coast have made net gains over the off-season. Realistically the only club likely to fall next season – through design in many ways – is Melbourne, as the Dees play the long-term game as we have seen with the Dogs who are now building back up the ladder. Here are the contenders, outside chances and rebuilders:

CONTENDERS:

Fremantle

At the top of the list is the side that went unbeaten in 2020 and have no reason not go go there again. They have a really strong defensive unit, and consistent midfield, as well as an attacking front six that were able to regularly hit the scoreboard. Throw in another year of Roxy Roux and the X-factor of Mikayla Morrison and Sarah Verrier, and despite being one of the teams to beat, the West Australian team remain as one of the best in the competition.

North Melbourne:

Similarly to Fremantle, the main loss over the off-season was Jess Trend, though the Roos just continue to stock up on incredibly talented players. They went to the draft and someone like Bella Eddey will slot into an already potent forward line, which was hard to contain. The Roos were pushed by the Magpies in the elimination final, which will give them extra motivation to improve. It is hard not seeing North Melbourne up there at the pointy end of the season.

Adelaide:

The resurgence of the Crows will be swift. They might not have had the year they wanted, but it was no wonder with their two best players out on long-term injuries and a number of others having delayed preseasons. They have added readymade talents in Teah Charlton, Ashleigh Woodland and Rachelle Martin who will compete for spots from Round 1. It would not be unreasonable to think with all the inclusions and returnees, the Crows are favourites again.

Carlton:

A Grand Final two seasons ago and finals last season, the Blues were the only team to knock off North Melbourne last season. You cannot help but feel they are within touching distance of the premiership cup, and have an abundance of youth to go with their talent. Do not forget they added someone called Elise O’Dea over the off-season, and if that elite talent was not enough, they stocked up on captains in Mimi Hill and Winnie Laing from the NAB League who will stop at nothing for success.

OUTSIDE CHANCES:

Collingwood:

It seemed not that long ago that there was a mass exodus at the Pies and people were wondering what the future held. In 12 months the Pies managed to turn it around and surprise with a good 2020 season to almost stun North Melbourne in the elimination final. The loss of Sarah D’Arcy among others will hurt, but they have picked up some versatile players in the draft, and with Tarni Brown joining her brothers at the Magpies, it will be an exciting time for Magpies fans who need something to cheer for next year.

Western Bulldogs:

This might seem like a surprise, but trust me when this group has enough development, they will go through the roof. The amount of sheer X-factor, upside and versatility in the team that added to its stocks at the draft table again, the Dogs can go deep and if you like an outside chance winning the flag, the Dogs could be that bet. They added Jess Fitzgerald, Sarah Hartwig and Isabelle Pritchard to the ever-growing list of former Vic Metro stars, and they will push for spots early on. Expect them to be the most exciting team running around.

Geelong

On paper the Cats have the cattle to compete against the best sides, and added some unbelievable talents in the AFL Women’s Draft, such as Darcy Moloney and Olivia Barber. They have not lost a great deal over the off-season with Mel Hickey of course retiring with big shoes to fill in the captain’s absence. The Cats have a well-balanced list and honestly there is no reason they should not be an outside chance for the flag. Their young talents might need another year, but feel they have the jump on the other expansion sides thanks to that extra season.

Brisbane:

A little more outside than the others, but have enough talent to contend if they all click. It will be a competitive group wherever the Lions land as they will be placed with Gold Coast Suns and both should be fairly even. Zimmorlei Farquharson is the draftee to watch next season with her high-flying ability and ground level work, but let us not forget that Lily Postlethwaite, Isabel Dawes and co. will have another year of experience and ready to take the Lions back to the decider.

GWS GIANTS

Arguably the hardest team to place, because they are always competitive, but just off the pace of the top teams. With another year into the younger players such as Alyce Parker, and then adding in Tarni Evans amongst the top teenagers coming in, they should do enough to put themselves in a position to compete against anyone. Whether or not they have enough top-end talent to knock off a Fremantle or North Melbourne, it is yet to be seen, but they make it into this group.

ANOTHER YEAR NEEDED:

St Kilda

Without a doubt the Saints will be in the next bracket in 2022, but for 2021, they will be in a similar position to the Dogs last season. They might not get the wins on the board that they deserve all the time, but they have more than enough talent to worry any side on their day. Once their young guns develop – adding the likes of Tyanna Smith, Alice Burke and Renee Saulitis to an already talented list – they will be a scary proposition. They will fast-track their development in the AFL Women’s too.

Gold Coast

The other expansion team from last year that showed promising signs and made finals, the Suns might be somewhat unlucky not to be in the next bracket up, but depending on the pool they land in, and the finals structure, they still might need the extra year. They have the talent to step up again, with Annise Bradfield coming in and Sarah Perkins providing experience through the draft. It would not be a shock to see them push sides for a finals spot, but willing to give them an extra year to do it.

REBUILDERS:

Melbourne

For the first time since the start of the AFL Women’s, the Demons are in full rebuild mode. They were always thereabouts in terms of competing for a flag, but just could not get it done. Going down this route is the right avenue, particularly with the drafts always getting stronger. The Demons have added some great youth through the draft, led by Alyssa Bannan, and might suffer a few more losses next season than past years, but will reap the benefits long-term.

Richmond

The winless Tigers added some much needed experience to help Monique Conti through the midfield over the break, then grabbed Ellie McKenzie with the top pick in the draft. The Tigers opted for an immediate experience boost, and seem to have everything in place to be more competitive in 2021. In saying that, the other teams are still ahead of them, but the Tigers will not be the easy-beats of 2020 with the trio of Sarah‘s in Hosking, D’Arcy and Dargan among the inclusions next year.

West Coast

The team out west will step up next season to be more competitive in 2021, but have not been able to add as much experience as the Tigers. Bella Lewis and Shanae Davison are a couple of young guns who will have an immediate impact if given the chance, and add to the growing list of young talents like Mikayla Bowen. They are still firmly in the rebuilding phase, but the Eagles should show further signs of development in 2021 and will be one to watch in the future.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture: West Coast Eagles Twitter

2020 AFLW Draft review: Adelaide Crows

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We begin the countdown with Adelaide Crows, one of two teams with a monopoly on their chosen state.

Adelaide:

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

The Crows rewarded great form in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition by picking up equal league best and fairest winner, Rachelle Martin and leading goalkicker, Ashleigh Woodland. The experienced pair have both tasted AFL Women’s football before, with Martin being a train-on partner for the Crows who managed to play due to the 2020 injury crisis, whilst Woodland was on Melbourne’s list in 2019.

The pair join the clear standout South Australian prospect in Teah Charlton who was no surprise to join the tri-colours in the draft, coming off a few great years with South Adelaide in the SANFL Women’s and South Australia and Central Allies at the Under-18 Championships. All three players could play from Round 1 if required, and with the Crows having a number of injured players returning, they should be flag favourites.

Adelaide’s depth is unbelievable, and what makes these three selections so great is the fact that they can slot in across multiple positions. One would expect Charlton to play forward and then push up the ground to impact through the middle, but her clean hands and ability to hit the scoreboard is a feature of her game. The teenager oozes X-factor and you can just see her adding an extra element to an already stacked forward line.

Martin is predominantly an inside bull, which is where she does her best work and expect her to play, but she can also play inside 50 and be that pressure forward to add to the class around her. Her second and third efforts are as good as anyone’s, and she is a fierce tackler who is not afraid to bring down opponents. Expect her to work well with fellow SANFL Women’s league best and fairest winner Anne Hatchard in midfield, as well as Ebony Marinoff as another big tackler.

Woodland is one who will easily step up at AFL Women’s level and has that experience from training in an elite environment at the Dees, and coming back to state league level and dominating, she is ready to cement herself in the best side. She will likely play forward as a leading target, but depending on how the Crows utilise Eloise Jones, Woodland could also play off half-back – as she did through the South Australian All-Stars game – or through the middle as a natural ball winner.

There was never any doubt that Adelaide would emerge as big winners from the draft, but the Crows have added three players who can immediately step up and play a role in the best side for prolonged periods of time, with Charlton a star of the future.

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

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

Adelaide Crows – South Australian pool

Draft selections: 4, 45, 48

Off-season summary:

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

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

A draft look:

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

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

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

GWS GIANTS – NSW/ACT pool

Draft selections: 9, 29, 42, 53

Off-season summary:

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

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

A draft look:

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

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

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

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

Picture: Hannah Howard/SANFL

SANFL Women’s season review: North Adelaide

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

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

2020 IN A NUTSHELL

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

AFL WOMEN’S ALL-STARS GAME REPRESENTATIVES:

Amber Ward

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

Cristie Castle

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

Erin Sundstrom

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

Julia Clark

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

Ashleigh Woodland

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

Kristi Harvey

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

Katelyn Pope

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

Jorja Eldridge

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

Rayne Rivalland

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

Lauren Gauci

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

Kate Case

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

Andie Zbierski

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

OTHERS WHO STOOD OUT:

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

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

Summary

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

Picture: SANFL / Deb Curtis