Tag: bella lewis

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 5 – McKenzie earns Rising Star nomination

ROUND 5 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season boasted a couple of blockbuster fixtures and results, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition and establish their roles in each team. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared across the latest weekend, focusing on players in every match under 21 years of age and from the most recent draft crop.

Geelong vs. Richmond

A historic Friday night clash saw Richmond claim its first ever AFLW victory, easily accounting for the winless Geelong at Kardinia Park. Number one pick Ellie McKenzie continued her stellar maiden season with another fine performance, showcasing her trademark run-and-carry en route to collecting 16 disposals, five marks, four inside 50s and a goal. She earned a Rising Star nomination for her efforts. Geelong forward Stephanie Williams was the other under-21 draftee afield, but managed just three touches and two inside 50s as her Cats were trounced.

Western Bulldogs vs. GWS

The Western Bulldogs made it four wins on the trot with another strong showing, this time overcoming Greater Western Sydney (GWS) on Saturday afternoon. Number two pick Jess Fitzgerald was the pick of the draftees, notching 12 disposals and four inside 50s while also laying three tackles as she rotated forward through midfield.

Teammate Sarah Hartwig, who has also played every game in 2021, worked to put the ball into advanced areas with her five touches, penetrating the attacking arc thrice from the outer. Prize GWS draftee Tarni Evans managed five disposals of her own, also laying a tackle and taking a mark.

Fremantle vs. Brisbane

Brisbane snapped Fremantle’s 11-game winning run on Saturday, putting the Lions firmly into premiership calculations – if they were not already. In a game where defensive structure shone, Lions rookie Courtney Hodder worked well to break the lines and kicked 1.2 from her seven disposals. She also stepped up to the finals-like atmosphere, registering seven tackles. Indy Tahau clunked three marks in her second senior outing, while classy Freo youngster Sarah Verrier spread her six touches evenly by hand and foot.

North Melbourne vs. Carlton

Carlton may have fallen short of the desired result against North Melbourne on Saturday night, but it was not for a lack of trying from first year star Mimi Hill. The Oakleigh Chargers graduate was one of the Blues’ best and very nearly dragged them back into the contest with two final quarter goals. She finished with 13 disposals, three marks and three inside 50s from the wing.

Daisy Walker enjoyed her third-straight outing since debuting, notching a career-high eight touches from defence. North Melbourne’s Bella Eddey has not missed a game this season and again featured in spurts for the Roos, ending on seven disposals, one mark, one tackle, and one inside 50 as her side ran home strongly.

Adelaide vs. St Kilda

Adelaide flexed its muscle with a comprehensive win over St Kilda, meaning their flag tilt is well and truly back on track with two-straight wins. Teah Charlton has shown glimpses of brilliance in her five games thus far, and again came through with a patch of quality form. She snared her first two career goals within five minutes during term two, accelerating the Crows’ lead with a couple more highlights for her reel.

Tyanna Smith maintained her consistent form for the Saints with another 13 disposals, also showcasing her two-way effort with nine tackles. Renee Saulitis made her return to the senior lineup and was steady with six touches and a couple of marks as the Saints were overpowered by a fearsome side.

Collingwood vs. Melbourne

Collingwood soared to the top of the ladder and dumped Melbourne out of the top six in one fell swoop on Sunday, sending a huge statement to the rest of the competition. Tarni Brown was the pick of the young draftees afield, gathering 14 disposals, four marks and three tackles as she continues to establish herself as a bonafide senior footballer. Joanna Lin (four disposals) also featured once again up forward for the Pies.

Alyssa Bannan and Eliza McNamara continued their streaks in the Melbourne side, but could not quite turn the Dees’ fortunes around. Bannan booted two behinds from her haul of four disposals, while McNamara dug in for nine touches, three marks, and two tackles as she continues to impress in red and blue.

West Coast vs. Gold Coast

West Coast finally got on the board in 2021 after holding on to beat Gold Coast by a single point in the round’s final fixture. This game had the most under 21 draftees afield by far with a total of seven, headlined by Eagles midfielder Bella Lewis. The gun ball winner had 14 disposals and seven tackles, while teammate Amber Ward (10 disposals, three rebound 50s) also performed well and Demi Liddle came back into the side.

Maddison Levi was prominent early for Gold Coast but could only manage to make three behinds of her form. She finished with seven disposals and six tackles. Daisy D’Arcy had a career-high disposal haul of 11 and also laid eight tackles, while Lucy Single managed eight touches and Wallis Randell had seven on debut.

Image Credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images via AFL Photos

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 4 – Saint Smith sustains shining performance

ROUND 4 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season reverted back into it’s three-day stretch over the weekend, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition and establish their roles in each team. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared across the latest set of fixtures, focusing on players in every match under 21 years of age and from the most recent draft crop.

St Kilda vs. Geelong

St Kilda shook off a youthful Geelong outfit on Friday night to kick off Round 4, with a star Saints draftee continuing to prove her worth. Number six pick, Tyanna Smith has somewhat flown under the radar thus far but is as consistent a performer as any draftee this year, especially after notching her third 16-disposal performance in four games. Having slotted seamlessly into her side’s midfield, it seems inevitable that Smith will soon be recognises with a rising star nomination. Why not now?

Laura Gardiner became Geelong’s newest debutant in the same game, registering three disposals and breaching either arc in her work on the outer. Fellow first year players Stephanie Williams and Olivia Barber also retained their places in the senior side, with the latter again showing some promise as the Cats were kept to just one goal for three terms. She finished with a minor score from her six touches and one mark.

Carlton vs. Richmond

Carlton scraped home in a thriller on Saturday afternoon, overcoming a horror start to beat Richmond by five points at Princes Park. Mimi Hill has was the Blues’ first selection in last year’s draft and continues to be their pick of the first year players, contributing some excellent moments on the wing. She finishes with 13 disposals and two marks, showing great poise and clean hands in the process.

Daisy Walker again featured for Carlton after her Round 3 debut and was under the pump down back. She registered virtually identical stats to her maiden outing (four kicks, three handballs) but also stepped up to the plate with four tackles. Number one pick Ellie McKenzie was also excellent for Richmond, proving all-class on the ball as she gathered 14 touches and four marks rotating through midfield.

Fremantle vs. Gold Coast

Fremantle flexed its muscle in the second half to see off Gold Coast on Saturday, extending the Dockers’ unbeaten streak once more. First round selection, Sarah Verrier finished with three disposals and four tackles, but had a moment she will never forget in the third term when she slotted her maiden senior goal. The 18-year-old kicked truly after earning a holding the ball free kick inside 50.

An inexperienced Gold Coast side fought hard and was within striking distance for half of the game, but could not match Freo’s firepower with its only score, a goal, registered in the first term. Lucy Single got her hands dirty for the Suns with seven tackles, while Maddison Levi laid four in her six-disposal display. Meanwhile, Daisy D’Arcy had it three times as the young Suns continue their learning curve.

North Melbourne vs. Collingwood

Saturday night’s Marvel Stadium blockbuster saw Collingwood swoop on North Melbourne, with the Magpies holding their highly-touted opponents goalless to remain undefeated. Collingwood father-daughter coup, Tarni Brown continues to impress in black and white, cementing her spot in the side with another 13 touches (11 handballs), two marks and three tackles.

Joanna Lin has enjoyed a three-game stretch since debuting for the Magpies and managed her highest disposal haul (five) in this game, while Bella Eddey produced the same numbers for North Melbourne in what was a tough day forward of centre for the Roos. Having played all four games so far, she is another to have cracked a top side to good effect.

Brisbane vs. Adelaide

Two South Australian draftees featured as Brisbane and Adelaide locked horns in Sunday’s all-important clash at Hickey Park, which the Crows took out. Lions debutant Indy Tahau was promising in her maiden appearance, managing a mark among her eight touches. Teah Charlton has shown flashes of brilliance for Adelaide, but did not produce too many more highlights for her reel in a six-disposal outing up forward.

Western Bulldogs vs. Melbourne

Whitten Oval has proven a fortress for the Western Bulldogs this season and they claimed another big scalp on home turf after beating Melbourne on Sunday. Number two pick, Jess Fitzgerald continues to shine with her scoreboard impact and fierce two-way attack, booting a pair of crucial goals among her 12 touches while also laying eight tackles. Teammate Sarah Hartwig is also growing in confidence and managed 13 disposals, including two marks and two rebound 50s.

The Demons did not quite click up forward, at least from a conversion standpoint, but it was not for a lack of trying. Star draftee Alyssa Bannan again troubled the scorers, just not in the majors column as she snared a behind from her three disposals and two marks. Further afield, Eliza McNamara is another draftee to have grasped an early senior opportunity and finished with nine disposals and four tackles this time out.

GWS vs. West Coast

Greater Western Sydney (GWS) made it two wins on the trot by overcoming West Coast on Sunday, boosted by the return of a key draftee. Tarni Evans is the player in question and added some spark to the Giants’ lineup in her first game back from suspension. She finished with 12 disposals, three rebound 50s and a couple of tackles in a swift reminded of her value.

Bella Lewis continues to be thrown in the deep end for West Coast and again stood up to the rigours of senior midfield play, finishing as her side’s highest ball winner (16 disposals) behind a raft of Giants. The 18-year-old also dug in for a career-high nine tackles, defying her frame. 19-year-old Amber Ward also chimed in with six touches, as the South Australian remains among senior calculations.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

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

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 4 preview – Victorian crowds return for blockbuster fixtures

RETURNING crowds are set to light up some blockbuster fixtures in Round 4 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season, with four top-six foes locking horns while inaugural sides Melbourne and Western Bulldogs play off for the Hampson-Hardeman Cup. The ladder is beginning to take shape with four teams remaining undefeated and another four still out to claim their first points, but things can change very quickly in the middle order – starting this weekend.

Note: All start times are local.

ST KILDA (9th, 1-2) vs. GEELONG (14th, 0-3)
Friday February 19, 7:10pm
RSEA Park

Geelong will be out to break its duck in season 2021, but faces a tricky task in doing so as an away trip to face St Kilda awaits on Friday night. The Saints got on the board at the first time of asking this year but have fallen short of strong opposition since. Still, a third outing at their home of RSEA Park in four rounds should serve them well against their winless visitors from up the highway.

Both sides are set to blood debutants, with another of Geelong’s 2020 draftees in Laura Gardiner named on the bench for her maiden senior appearance, replacing Rebecca Goring (managed). St Kilda injury replacement Rebecca Ott is the game’s other debutant, brought in as part of four total changes for the Saints. While they will miss the likes of Molly McDonald (quad) and Nadia von Bertouch (foot), defender Bianca Jakobsson is among the relieving inclusions.

The Cats rank last for points scored and while the Saints have not been all that flash in converting up forward either, they should have enough firepower to boot a winning score. Geelong’s defence is known to be reasonably reliable though, so capitalising on the midfield battle will be key to either team getting on top.

Tip: St Kilda by 10

CARLTON (8th, 1-2) vs. RICHMOND (11th, 0-3)
Saturday February 20, 3:10pm
Princes Park

Traditional rivals Carlton and Richmond lock horns at Princes Park on Saturday, with the hosts eager to shake off a rough start and begin their push towards finals. A premiership hopeful coming into the season, Carlton dropped its first two games but got back on track last week and will fancy its chances against the winless Tigers. Richmond has shown some added bite in 2021 though, shoring up in defence and streaming forward more dangerously.

The Tigers have conceded no more than seven goals against some stiff opposition across the first three rounds, but have a lingering sense of rawness when it comes to their efficiency in attack. A total score of seven goals and 17 behinds does not make for good reading, and such impotence will likely prove costly against the more polished Blues, who are also quite bullish in defence.

Carlton’s strong midfield is set to play a factor too, led by reigning league best and fairest, Madison Prespakis. She may well find herself matched up by former-Blue Sarah Hosking at the centre bounces, with star Richmond ball winner Monique Conti arguably her side’s biggest threat in that department. The Blues’ dynamism and depth across the ground will also prove telling, especially if Richmond put together a good patch.

Tip: Carlton by 28

FREMANTLE (2nd, 3-0) vs. GOLD COAST (13th, 0-3)
Saturday February 20, 2:10pm
Fremantle Oval

Fremantle will fancy its chances of extending its record winning run to 11 matches on Saturday afternoon, when the Gold Coast Suns come to town looking for their first points this season. The Dockers have been in irresistible form, picking up from where they left off in 2020 with three-straight wins – including a crucial one against Adelaide last week in what was their first true test for 2021.

After a promising start against Melbourne, Gold Coast has registered a combined 10 points in its last two outings; first suffering a Q-Clash drubbing and then being edged by GWS in torrential conditions. Needless to say, scoring is a sore point for the Suns, but they have decent stock in a forwardline led by Sarah Perkins, should the ball get there. That is not to mention All Australian Kalinda Howarth, who is yet to register a goal this season.

They will need all the firepower they can get to match that of Fremantle, who have an array of scoring options. Spearhead Gemma Houghton was held relatively well last week but still managed to live up to her two-goal average, while the likes of Sabreena Duffy and Kara Antonio have also proven handy avenues forward. Gold Coast will have its hands full in midfield as well, though the reliable partnership of Jamie Stanton and Alison Drennan should provide some resistance to the Kiara Bowers juggernaut.

Tip: Fremantle by 45

NORTH MELBOURNE (5th, 2-1) vs. COLLINGWOOD (3rd, 3-0)
Saturday February 20, 7:10pm
Marvel Stadium

Marvel Stadium hosts one of the games of the round as Victorian powerhouses North Melbourne and Collingwood do battle on Saturday night. Returning fans should be treated to a mouthwatering spectacle, with the elements set to play no factor in hindering North Melbourne’s slick ball movement by foot, or Collingwood’s flowing run-and-gun style under the Marvel Stadium roof.

The Magpies should come in with a great deal of confidence having passed every test put in front of them thus far, but this will easily be their biggest challenge yet. While they dropped points last week, the Kangaroos have the advantage of competing in one of the competition’s most high-level encounters, ever, putting them in good stead for this potential finals sighter.

Collingwood midfield brigade is one of the few which could well match it with North Melbourne at the centre bounces, with ball magnets Jaimee Lambert, Brittany Bonnici, and the dynamic Bri Davey all averaging over 19 disposals. North Melbourne’s depth runs a touch deeper though, with Emma Kearney, Ashleigh Riddell, and Jenna Bruton among five Roos to average over 16 touches. The other two, Jasmine Garner and Ellie Gavalas, have also booted five and four goals respectively.

Tip: North Melbourne by 5

BRISBANE (1st, 3-0) vs. ADELAIDE (6th, 2-1)
Sunday February 21, 12:10pm
Hickey Park

League frontrunner, Brisbane hosts Adelaide on Sunday afternoon in another game of the round contender, making for Brisbane’s first top six assignment this year. The Lions have been flawless thus far, albeit against three of the bottom four teams, with the league’s most potent attack and stingiest defence. Adelaide went down to Fremantle last week, but has shown its quality as a bonafide premiership threat. This, another clash of contenders, will prove telling.

The Lions’ key forward partnership of Dakota Davidson and Jesse Wardlaw has produced a combined 12 goals this season, as teams have struggled to combat their one-two punch. Add to that the speed of Greta Bodey (five goals) and Courtney Hodder at ground level, and Brisbane’s attack has plenty of bases which need covering.

Adelaide will always back its midfield, consisting of Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard, and Erin Phillips to set it on the right foot, while a defence set to be bolstered by skipper Chelsea Randall should combat Brisbane’s firepower well. Having been thrown deep forward with good success last week, Phillips looms as a handy wildcard for the Crows who were incredibly wasteful inside attacking 50 last week. They will need to be on song to kick a winning score in this one.

Tip: Brisbane by 3

WESTERN BULLDOGS (7th, 2-1) vs. MELBOURNE (4th, 3-0)
Sunday February 21, 3:10pm
Whitten Oval

Pioneer clubs Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will play off for the Hampson-Hardeman Cup at Whitten Oval on Sunday afternoon, with just one game separating them so far this season. Nathan Burke‘s young pups have been ultra impressive in registering their 2-1 record, but the hardness and class of Melbourne’s undefeated side should prove a steep mountain to climb.

The Dees’ new-found scoring power and free-flowing style has been built on the back of some continued solidity in midfield, with stalwart Karen Paxman reliable as ever in 2021 alongside Lily Mithen and Tyla Hanks – all of whom average over 20 disposals per game. Up forward, a tall attack led by Tegan Cunningham has been difficult to counter in the air, while Kate Hore continues to damage at ground level.

Bulldogs skipper Ellie Blackburn has been inspirational as ever this season, dragging her side over the line on two occasions and leading the Dogs for disposals, clearances, inside 50s, and score involvements. She is also top of the tree alongside Izzy Huntington for goals (both four), with the latter a contested marking phenomenon. Plenty of young guns, including Jessica Fitzgerald will have to step up for the Dogs here in what looms as an extremely daunting task.

Tip: Melbourne by 24

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY (10th, 1-2) vs. WEST COAST (12th, 0-3)
Sunday February 21, 5:10pm
Blacktown International Sportspark

Round 4’s final game sees Greater Western Sydney (GWS) hosting once again against the winless West Coast Eagles, who have proven quite plucky in patches this season. The Giants broke through last week with a 10-point win over Gold Coast, another winless side, to get some points on the board, but West Coast has thrice fallen short of the mark against quality opposition.

This presents as the Eagles’ best chance to get on the board so far in 2021, with a solid half of smothering tackling pressure against Brisbane fresh in their memory. The problems for West Coast have come via a lack of efficiency and class inside forward 50, while the Eagles’ defence has also conceded the most points of any side this season.

Young guns Bella Lewis and Mikayla Bowen have tried hard alongside Emma Swanson and ruck Parris Laurie at the centre bounces, but will be tasked with combating the dominance of powerhouse GWS pair Alyce Parker and Rebecca Beeson. Both have been among the top three disposal and contested ball winners in the first three rounds, but have seen their hard work come unstuck further afield. The Giants should be able to see the game out better on the basis of experience, but will have to be wary.

Tip: GWS by 11

Image Credit: (Retrieved from) North Melbourne FC

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 3 – McKenzie arrives at the double

ROUND 3 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season went ahead over a four-day stretch after even more late fixture improvisation, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared over the weekend, focusing on the players under 21 years of age from the most recent draft crop.

Geelong vs. Western Bulldogs

In a fixture which feels like it was so long ago, 2020 number two pick Jess Fitzgerald again lit up the field in a Western Bulldogs win. The Northern Knights graduate was a little quieter throughout the game than in her opening two outings, but sealed the game for her side with a highlight reel running goal late in the piece to leave onlookers with their jaws to the floor.

Somewhat flying under the radar, fellow Bulldogs draftee Sarah Hartwig was again impressive, rebounding confidently off half-back and up to the wing. Geelong tall Olivia Barber continued her promising start to life at the elite level, clunking a terrific contested mark and proving mobile in her work up forward. Northern Territory native Stephanie Williams was also lively in patches, but kept to four touches and two tackles.

Greater Western Sydney vs. Gold Coast

Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney (GWS) again did battle in horrendous conditions, with the Giants prevailing on the back of greater experience and class. It showed on the team sheet too, with no under 21 draftees from last year taking the field, but 19-year-old Georgia Garnett making her debut. On the other hand, four of Gold Coast’s young first year players were selected with Janet Baird making her maiden senior appearance.

The Territorian was relatively quiet with two disposals, with all of her fellow under 21 draftees – Maddison Levi, Lucy Single, and Daisy D’Arcy kept to under 10 touches each. Nonetheless, each of them got their hands dirty in the wet conditions as they were spread on all three lines, displaying the green shoots Gold Coast will require to get on the board this season.

St Kilda vs. Carlton

Carlton got on the board for the first time in 2021 with a steady victory over the competitive St Kilda Saints, with players making their debuts on either side. Daisy Walker became the Blues’ second 2020 draftee to crack the senior team and looked lively in defence with her speed on the rebound. Jessica Matin, a promising junior cricketer, also broke her duck and had a couple of touches for St Kilda.

Elsewhere, the Saints’ prized pick in Tyanna Smith was again impactful from midfield with 11 disposals, four marks, and six tackles, but came up against some pretty stiff competition in the Carlton engine room. After a very good showing last week, Mimi Hill was kept to just six touches for the Blues but looks settled in the starting lineup on a wing.

Melbourne vs. North Melbourne

One of the best AFL Women’s matches of all time saw Melbourne get the hop on North Melbourne with a captivating nine-point win. The cream rose to the top but there was still some young talent roaming Casey Fields on the day, with Melbourne continuing to blood Alyssa Bannan and Eliza McNamara. Both had promising spurts in the red and blue, while North’s prized draftee Bella Eddey booted a goal from her six touches – five of which were handballs.

Adelaide vs. Fremantle

Fremantle and Adelaide locked horns at Norwood Oval on Sunday, with the Dockers coming away 30-point victors and handy premiership favourites. Their mature members were fantastic as ever, but that did not stop the likes of Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Hyde from providing a glimpse into the future.

Verrier was typically assured in defence and played to her strengths with all nine of her disposals coming via foot. Hyde was not far behind on six touches and a couple of marks, also playing her role in the win. For Adelaide, Teah Charlton lit up the final term with some exciting passages, exploding in forward charges to eventually end with 14 disposals and five tackles.

Richmond vs. Collingwood

A trio of 2020 draftees all secured their maiden senior goals on Sunday as Collingwood defeated a fast finishing Richmond by 17 points at Punt Road Oval. Richmond’s number one pick Ellie McKenzie was at the forefront, snaring a double which included a three-bounce effort consistent with her junior form. She was outstanding, finishing with 12 disposals and five tackles.

Collingwood ruck Bella Smith stood up in the absence of Sharni Norder, taking on the primary ruck duties and fighting hard against in-form opposition. Father-daughter coup Tarni Brown booted her first goal and was matched by Joanna Lin, but both players were relatively quiet otherwise. Brown was the pick of the pair, finishing with eight touches and seven tackles.

Brisbane vs. West Coast

Brisbane roared back into top spot with a 45-point win over West Coast, dominating after half time and flexing its muscle. Courtney Hodder was the sole under 21 draftee from last year in the Lions’ lineup and continued her lively start to the season, finishing with 12 disposals and five tackles as she constantly looked to break forward quickly.

Bella Lewis was arguably the pick of West Coast’s young first year players, ending up as her side’s second highest ball winner with 15 touches. Her ability to cleanly win the contested ball and constantly burrow in suited the Eagles’ first half intensity. Shanae Davison popped up in the front half for four disposals, while Amber Ward had double that tally up the other end to go with three rebounds.

Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Lions reclaim top spot with roaring third term

BRISBANE has reclaimed top spot on the AFL Women’s ladder after a five-goal third term saw the Lions run out 45-point winners against West Coast at Hickey Oval. In the competition’s first-ever Monday night fixture, the home side was tested early but absorbed all of the Eagles’ first half pressure to then slingshot it back at them thereafter in what ended up a comfortable 10.5 (65) to 2.8 (20) result.

Having booted 15 goals and conceded just one across the first two rounds, Brisbane was hounded by West Coast in the first half but somehow managed to scrounge a one-point half time lead. It was a case of the Eagles ruing missed opportunities, particularly in the opening quarter as the Lions found it all too easy to score once they broke out of their own half.

While West Coast’s pressure gauge was at an all-time high, the lack of scoreboard impact proved telling once Brisbane clicked into gear. A flurry of three Lions goals immediately after half time broke the game open, and eventually broke the Eagles once that feat was extended to five. The difference; Brisbane was ruthlessly clinical with their territorial advantage, while the Eagles lacked the polish to make good on theirs.

There were some key individual performers and breakout stars across the board, with arguably none more impressive than Brisbane tall, Taylor Smith. The 21-year-old finished with five marks and three goals from her 11 disposals in an exciting display, proving a good barometer for Brisbane’s eventual scoring flow.

Dakota Davidson was strong early and snared two majors to now head the competition’s goalkicking charts. Veteran Lauren Arnell led all comers with 18 touches in a vintage display, as the likes of Sophie Conway (15 disposals), Nat Grider (15), and Ally Anderson (14) all stood up when it mattered. Kate Lutkins and Breanna Koenen were important down back when the pressure was on, while Greta Bodey and Orla O’Dwyer worked to break the game open in the second half.

In what was largely a front-loaded effort from the Eagles, Aisling McCarthy (17 disposals, one goal) gave her all rotating forward from midfield, much like Parris Laurie did in the ruck. Young midfielders Bella Lewis and Mikayla Bowen were both promising in patches with their attack on the ball, with skipper Emma Swanson solid and Imahra Cameron a shining light up forward.

With Round 3’s fixtures run and done, the next set of games lie just around the corner. Both sides are set to play next on Sunday, with Brisbane back home to take on Adelaide while West Coast travels once again to face Greater Western Sydney in Blacktown.

BRISBANE 1.0 | 3.1 | 8.5 | 10.5 (65)
WEST COAST 1.5 | 2.6 | 2.6 | 2.8 (20)

GOALS:

Brisbane: T. Smith 3, D. Davidson 2, G. Bodey, A. Anderson, J. Wardlaw, L. Arnell, E. Bates
West Coast: A. McCarthy, A. Gilmore

DC BEST:

Brisbane: T. Smith, L. Arnell, S. Conway, A. Anderson, K. Lutkins, G. Bodey
West Coast: A. McCarthy, P. Laurie, E. Swanson, M. Bowen, B. Lewis, I. Cameron

Image Credit: AFL Photos

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 2 – Fitzgerald adds to Bulldogs’ bite

ROUND 2 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season got underway after some late fixture improvisation, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared over the weekend, focusing on the players under 20 years of age from the most recent draft crop.

Western Bulldogs vs. Carlton

The Western Bulldogs’ stunning upset win over Carlton brought some of the most promising young pups to the fore, none more so than Jess Fitzgerald. The number two pick pumped her side with a team-lifting goal in the second term, followed by her best double cobra celebration. Fitzgerald’s 15 disposals, four marks, and intensity inside forward 50 made her difficult to ignore for a Rising Star nod this week, a richly deserved honour for the Northern Knights graduate.

Sarah Hartwig was the other Bulldogs draftee afield, doubling her disposal output from last week with 10 touches and five marks. The defender set up well behind the ball and utilised her trusty left boot to send the Dogs into attack on the rebound. Carlton’s top draftee, Mimi Hill also had a good night at the office, finishing as her side’s second-top ball winner with 19 disposals – 16 of which were handballs. The winger provided good run and was typically handy at ground level for the Blues.

Collingwood vs. Geelong

Both Collingwood and Geelong blooded fresh talent in their clash at Victoria Park on Saturday, building on the debuts handed to their respective draftees in Round 1. Geelong tall Olivia Barber stood out immediately, nabbing her first senior goal in unconventional style within the first minute of the game. She finished with six touches, joined by fellow debutant Stephanie Williams up forward. The Territorian had five touches and a couple of tackles, including a nice run-down effort early on. Darcy Moloney remained in the Cats’ lineup after cracking it immediately, ending with five disposals.

Collingwood also continues to put trust in its rising prospects, with Joanna Lin the latest first-year player to earn a senior gig. She joined fellow 2020 draftees Tarni Brown and Amelia Velardo in the Magpies’ winning side, though all three players were kept to under eight disposals. Undrafted free agent Bella Smith also held her spot in the Round 1 team, improving her output with seven disposals and two marks from defence.

Melbourne vs. Richmond

Melbourne midfielder Tyla Hanks might have earned the second Rising Star nod in the end, but she had good competition for the honour on Saturday. Teammate Alyssa Bannan broke the game open against Richmond within a couple of minutes, booting back-to-back goals in the second term for her first major scores in senior football. Bannan’s former Northern Knights teammate Ellie McKenzie was outstanding in the yellow and black, finishing with 15 disposals and three marks as Richmond’s second highest ball winner.

The number one pick has quickly become arguably Richmond’s most impactful player behind Monique Conti, taking the game on along the outer with terrific speed and confidence. Back in the red and blue, Eliza McNamara backed up her excellent AFLW debut with nine kicks and four tackles, while Megan Fitzsimon also kept her spot and managed virtually identical stats to her first outing with five kicks, three handballs, and two tackles.

North Melbourne vs. St Kilda

St Kilda pushed North Melbourne in a competitive outing at Arden Street Oval on Sunday, with prized draftee Tyanna Smith again impressing after her outstanding Round 1 performance. The 18-year-old again found the goals and collected 16 disposals, while also laying seven tackles for the Saints. Renee Saulitis was another opening round debutant to retain her spot, managing three touches in her second appearance. The Roos also maintained some youth in their squad, with their top picks Bella Eddey and Alice O’Loughlin building on their maiden appearances. Both players managed under six touches in the 26-point win.

Brisbane vs. Gold Coast

Brisbane’s record-breaking win over Gold Coast proved an insightful telling of the Lions’ maturity and progression, while also laying bare the improvement to come from the Suns’ youthful side. 20-year-old Brisbane rookie Courtney Hodder was again outstanding for the victors, bringing her speed and line-breaking ability to the fore in an exciting 12-disposal performance.

Top Gold Coast draftee Annise Bradfield went down with what looked like a serious injury in the third term, rubbing salt into the wound of the 62-point loss. Maddison Levi laid six tackles to go with as many touches of the ball, with Daisy D’Arcy managing the same amount of disposals and Lucy Single collecting nine touches on a tough day for the inexperienced Suns.

GWS vs. Adelaide

Things did not exactly go to plan for top-end GWS draftee Tarni Evans on Sunday. Not only did the Giants go down by 47 points, but Evans faces a week on the sidelines after she laid a dangerous tackle on Ailish Considine. The 19-year-old’s driving tackle from behind forced Evans’ Adelaide opponent off the field, with Considine playing no further part in the game. Meanwhile, Crows young gun Teah Charlton was again promising up forward, notching another eight touches and laying four tackles as her side excelled in the front half.

Fremantle vs. West Coast

A rain-soaked Western Derby hardly made for the best spectacle to showcase young talent, but there was a good amount of up-and-coming performers in action at Fremantle Oval as the Dockers won out by nine points. Freo draftees Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Hyde finished with nine and eight touches respectively, while star Eagles newbies Bella Lewis and Shanae Davison were kept to under half-a-dozen disposals each in the soggy conditions. Lewis still got her hands dirty, laying five tackles. Undrafted free agency coup Amber Ward built on her Round 1 showing, with the 19-year-old repaying the Eagles’ faith in her.

Featured Image: Bulldog Jess Fitzgerald earned a Rising Star nomination in Round 2 | Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images via AFL Photos

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

ROUND 1 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season was won and done across four enthralling days of action, with a number of fresh faces making their mark on the competition. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared over the weekend, focusing on the players under 20 years of age from the most recent draft crop.

Carlton vs. Collingwood

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

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

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

St Kilda vs. Western Bulldogs

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

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

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

Gold Coast vs. Melbourne

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

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

West Coast vs. Adelaide

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

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

Geelong vs. North Melbourne

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

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

Richmond vs. Brisbane

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

Fremantle vs. GWS

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

Image Credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images via AFL Photos

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 1 preview – Traditional rivals to open the show in Thursday night blockbuster

AFL Women’s makes its long awaited return tonight, with teams hungry to make up for lost time and rectify the ‘what-ifs’ left in 2020. Traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood take the season-opening honours once again, with plenty of heat expected to come out of that clash at Princes Park. A fixture shake-up on the eve of season proper sees a few matchups altered, but Round 1 will still be stretched across a bumper four days of footballing action. We preview all seven games, capped with a prediction to (hopefully) aide your footy tipping campaign.

Note: All start times are as of AEDT

Carlton vs. Collingwood
Thursday January 28, 7:15pm
Princes Park

Carlton and Collingwood return to the season-opening slot in a clash which is sure to produce plenty of fireworks at Princes Park. The Blues are yet to lose to their fierce rivals in said fixture, but suffered a shock loss to the Pies on home turf in their Round 2 meeting last year. Carlton is a hot favourite to secure premiership glory in 2021, but will be tested by an emerging Collingwood side which went incredibly close to knocking off North Melbourne in last year’s finals.

The clash will be made all the more intriguing as Carlton spearhead Tayla Harris resumes hostilities with dour Collingwood defender Stacey Livingstone, who labelled the star goalkicker “useless” at ground level after their battle last year. Gun Pies utility Bri Davey is also set to face her old side for the first time, which she used to captain, poised to spend more time up forward. Chloe Molloy is another set to swing into attack, with both players capable of breaking Carlton’s usually sturdy defence.

Reigning competition best and fairest, Maddy Prespakis will inevitably attract plenty of attention in the engine room, but should have a good amount of support in the form of new recruit, Elise O’Dea. The former Demon is one of four debutants for the Blues, who will be without Lucy McEvoy. Collingwood father-daughter coup Tarni Brown is another debutant to watch, thrown straight into the senior side in her maiden campaign.

The Pies are a team to watch in 2021, but the Blues will be incredibly difficult to beat, especially with a point to prove.

Tip: Carlton by 10

St Kilda vs. Western Bulldogs
Friday January 29, 7:10pm
RSEA Park

The Western Bulldogs take on St Kilda once again in Round 1, with the Saints keen to make good on last year’s result. The expansion side brought football back to Moorabbin in its maiden campaign and exceeded expectations, while the young pups failed to register another win after its opening round triumph but spawned plenty of green shoots.

Youth promises to be a key feature of the clash, with number two pick Jess Fitzgerald poised to make her senior debut for the Dogs while St Kilda’s prime selection in Tyanna Smith could well run against her in midfield. Both are quick off the mark, have a terrific inside/outside balance and can find plenty of the ball, adding to either teams’ exciting young stocks.

Also pending selection is the debut of Saints father-daughter recruit Alice Burke, the daughter of Bulldogs coach Nathan. Having coached her and an abundance of other players set to take the field on Friday night, Burke will soon be on the other side. 2019 draftees Gabby Newton and Georgia Patrikios are also set to meet in midfield, while Saints leading goalkicker Caitlin Greiser could well prove a difference-maker in the closely matched contest and many eyes will be on Izzy Huntington, who is expected to swing forward with more frequency this year.

The Saints arguably turned out the better side last year and a season of experience will do wonders for them, but the Bulldogs’ potential is relatively untapped and could again carry them over the line here.

Tip: Western Bulldogs by 1

Gold Coast Suns vs. Melbourne
Saturday January 30, 3:10pm
Metricon Stadium

Melbourne will travel to face Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium in Saturday’s first fixture, making for a meeting between experience and emergence. The Suns were another expansion team to exceed expectations last year by qualifying for finals, but still proved a rung off the true premiership contenders. Melbourne’s hardened core carried it to a breakthrough postseason feature, which the Dees made good of with an epic come-from-behind victory over GWS.

The visitors have already named three debutants, with prized draftee Alyssa Bannan set to line up in the forwardline while Eliza McNamara and Megan Fitzsimon add some more youth to the starting side. Speaking of, Tyla Hanks is one to watch for Melbourne as she prepares to spend more time in the engine room having cut her teeth as an impact forward.

Gold Coast has plenty of youth to boast as well, but also added a good amount of experience in the off-season. Former Saints Sarah Perkins and Alison Drennan are both quality players and leaders; with the former slotting straight into her new side’s leadership group and the latter set to provide another reliable figure in midfield. Scoring looks a key area of improvement for the Suns, and these two should aid that with presence inside 50 and forward momentum respectively.

Gold Coast rattled a few of the top sides last year and have the youthful exuberance to do exactly that to Melbourne on home turf, but the Dees are always a tough team to beat and should have enough prime movers to seal victory.

Tip: Melbourne by 5

West Coast vs. Adelaide
Saturday January 30, 5:10pm
Mineral Resources Park

West Coast begins its second AFL Women’s campaign at home as Adelaide comes to town looking to start its year on the right foot. The Eagles struggled last season but managed to scrounge a memorable maiden win and have made the markers of improvement for 2021. Adelaide, technically still the reigning premier, timed its premiership hangover perfectly as everything which could have gone wrong, did in 2020. The Crows finished sixth in Conference A with just two wins, but had many a setback along the way.

At its core, the Crows’ squad is still elite and will be buoyed by the return of some outstanding talent. Skipper Chelsea Randall is set to slot straight back into the defence after her long-term knee injury, while a fully fit Erin Phillips looms ominously as a midfield/forward option. In their absence, the likes of Sarah Allan and Anne Hatchard produced All Australian seasons, though the Crows will sweat on Ebony Marinoff‘s availability as the ball magnet looks to overturn her monster three-game suspension.

It is no secret that West Coast’s strength lies in the midfield, which will be bolstered by trade coup Aisling McCarthy and prime draftee Bella Lewis. The promising pair will be thrown straight into the deep end, but have experienced movers in Dana Hooker and captain Emma Swanson to wax with through the engine room – all under the ruckwork of Parris Laurie. Scoring has been a sore point for the Eagles though, and Adelaide can do plenty of that.

With plenty to prove in 2020, the Crows loom as a fearsome force which could quickly rise back to the AFL Women’s summit. West Coast remains a step off the competition’s best and arguably its greatest weakness works into Adelaide’s hands, with the Crows’ scoring ability key to taking the game away from their opponents here.

Tip: Adelaide by 25

Geelong vs. North Melbourne
Sunday January 31, 12:10pm
GMHBA Stadium

Geelong hosts North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday afternoon, gunning for a return to finals action in season 2021. North looms as stiff opposition first up though, with the Kangaroos keen to strike gold while their remarkably deep squad remains hungry and intact – especially after missing out on premiership opportunities in their first two top flight campaigns.

The hosts went back to the well of local talent once again at this year’s draft, introducing a couple more gun midfielders in Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner with their top 20 picks. Caution surrounds Nina Morrison‘s return but Denby Taylor is poised to slot back into the lineup after her own injury woes, while Olivia Purcell has a full preseason under her belt and will again look to mix it with the game’s elite midfielders.

Geelong will need to be on its game in the engine room considering how deep North Melbourne’s midfield crop runs, with skipper Emma Kearney joined by Jasmine Garner, Jenna Bruton and co. The former two are also scoring threats from the middle and add to North’s firepower, while the returning Jess Duffin is another big name which will steady the Kangaroos in defence.

The Roos won by 46 points in the same fixture last year, but should be in for a more competitive dig if Geelong can manage to turn its spurts of form into four quarter showings. They should still be too strong for the young Cats.

Tip: North Melbourne by 9

Richmond vs. Brisbane
Sunday January 31, 2:10pm
Punt Road Oval

Richmond’s hunt for premiership points continues into year two, starting with a home outing against Brisbane on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers went winless in their inaugural AFL Women’s campaign and, needless to say, will hope to avoid the same fate by getting on the board quickly in 2021. The developing Brisbane side proved many doubters wrong in 2020 and made finals, but must win games like these to achieve the same result this time around.

Incoming Tigers coach Ryan Ferguson will have 2020 number one pick Ellie McKenzie at his disposal, along with a raft of experienced inclusions. Foundation Blue Sarah Hosking is an important addition to the engine room, while Sarah D’Arcy could be one to boost their key position stocks as the Tigers look to become a more competitive force.

Brisbane looks a much more settled lineup having been ravaged during the expansion era, with a core of foundation players leading the charge ahead of some promising young talent. The front half spearheaded by Jesse Wardlaw looks exciting, while Kate Lutkins‘ defensive troops make the Lions hard to crack. Having started so well last season, the Lions will be out to put wins on the board early once again and push for more finals experience. They should be too strong here, but expect to see the Tigers fight.

Tip: Brisbane by 15

Fremantle vs. GWS Giants
Sunday January 31, 4:10pm
Fremantle Oval

The final game of the round sees GWS travel to take on Fremantle at Fremantle Oval on Sunday, looking to break the Dockers’ undefeated streak which dates back to 2019. The Giants have faced many a challenge over the offseason, including relocation, but showed last year that they can stand up against the tide. The Dockers are a force to be reckoned with, especially on home turf, and will again be a bonafide premiership contender – if not, the favourite.

The Dockers’ free flowing style and many scoring threats should cause Giants coaches a few headaches, though the visitors’ experience will count for plenty in resisting the inevitable pressure Fremantle will apply. It all starts with Kiara Bowers in midfield, while the dynamic duo of Sabreena Duffy and Gemma Houghton is always difficult to stop up forward, along with Ebony Antonio on the outer.

Those kinds of attacking threats should be too much for the Giants to handle, especially in the current context and in front of home fans. It is the kind of game Fremantle is expected to win, but GWS will be plucky.

Tip: Fremantle by 21

Featured Image: Carlton captain Kerryn Harrington (left) and Collingwood’s Bri Davey (right) are set to face off in Thursday night’s season opener | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

2021 AFLW Preview: West Coast Eagles

WEST Coast’s inaugural AFL Women’s campaign was hardly a cakewalk, but the Eagles will be hoping for a more competitive effort in 2021 with a year of experience under their belts and some promising additions made to the squad. Set to be led by Emma Swanson once again, the West Australian side has plenty of room for improvement and can do so steadily in year two.

2020 RECAP

The Eagles were rooted to the bottom of Conference B despite getting on the board with a shock maiden win over the Western Bulldogs in Round 4. A 1-5 record was the final tally for the expansion side, which was drawn against three finalists and just one fellow first-year team. Scoring was a sore spot for the Eagles, ranking last for points scored, while their percentage of just 32.1 was another competition low. The latter discrepancy also showed in West Coast’s points against column, which was only trumped by the winless Richmond. The Eagles had no All Australian representatives, though the consistent efforts of Swanson and Dana Hooker through midfield were particularly outstanding.

NEW FACES

A relatively heavy turnover of players sees nine fresh faces land at the Eagles’ nest, headlined by the signing of former Western Bulldogs midfielder, Aisling McCarthy. The Irishwoman was acquired with help from a priority draft pick concession from the AFL, which was swiftly utilised in this deal. Having proven her worth over two seasons with the Dogs, McCarthy is set to bolster her new side’s engine room with the potential to also impact up forward. Tayla Bresland was also added during trade period, bolstering the Eagles’ backline having crossed from Fremantle.

A bumper draft crop was headlined by gun West Australian midfielder, Bella Lewis, who was snapped up with pick three. The Claremont product should slot straight into West Coast’s starting lineup; poised to feature through midfield credit to her work-rate, or up forward with her turn of speed and skill. Swan Districts high-flyer Shanae Davison will also look to crack early selection, promising to provide a bit of spark inside forward 50.

WAFLW coup Julie-Ann Norrish is another who should come into Round 1 calculations, selected at pick 32 in the draft from WAFLW club East Fremantle. 31-year-old former netballer Andrea Gilmore was also selected on draft night, adding athleticism and raw versatility to the club’s tall stocks. Having initially gone unselected, North Adelaide pair Lauren Gauci and Amber Ward were given opportunities in WA, while Demi Liddle comes in to replace the injured Ashton Hill.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Key trade coup, McCarthy looms as one to watch for the Eagles, set to take on a greater amount of responsibility through midfield among her new side’s emerging lineup. The Irishwoman has showcased a promising rate of development and performed consistently last year for the rebuilding Bulldogs, putting her in good stead to do exactly that with West Coast. McCarthy’s mature frame will take a ball winning load off the likes of Swanson and Hooker, while her ability to rotate forward and find the goals boosts the team’s scoring dynamic. The latter will also allow young stars like Lewis and Mikayla Bowen to rotate through the engine room with greater frequency.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

The Eagles will look to surprise a few sides with their improvement in 2021, and much of that will come down to their ability to compete through the engine room. Swanson and Hooker are already established AFLW stars who will be aided by the ever-improving McCarthy, while Bowen now has a season of experience under her belt and Lewis will look to make a splash early. Add winger Niamh Kelly, the ruckwork of Parris Laurie, and even more moving parts to the mix, and West Coast’s midfield has a nice balance with plenty of dynamism.

QUESTION MARK

It is no secret that West Coast lacks the firepower of more established teams. Hayley Bullas was the Eagles’ leading goalkicker last year with just two goals in a side which averaged 11 points per their five losses and just three more when their Round 4 win is included. The Eagles were thrice held to one goal and only managed more than two in that standalone win, meaning there is plenty of work to do to improve the competition’s least damaging attack. West Coast’s batch of recruits should go a ways to helping the cause, and midfield competitiveness will also become a factor in keeping the ball locked into the front half.

FINAL WORD

While West Coast will be expecting to build on its maiden season, a sharp incline to finals contention still seems a little out of reach. Becoming competitive each week and ticking over more than one win should prove a more realistic step forward for the Eagles, who have a developing list with a couple of key strength areas but also plenty of room for improvement.

Image Credit: Daniel Carson/AFL Photos