Tag: bella smith

2021 VFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Revamped state league returns after lost season

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition returns this weekend, with a revamped structure seeing the season run concurrently with that of the AFL Women’s (AFLW). As somewhat of a reserves league to aligned sides in the top flight, the VFLW features 12 teams in 2021, including Port Melbourne after the Borough took on Richmond’s license. Round 1 sees fixtures spread evenly over Saturday and Sunday, starting at Arden Street as North Melbourne hosts Port Melbourne.

North Melbourne vs. Port Melbourne
Saturday February 27, 10:00am
Arden Street Oval

North Melbourne welcomes competition newcomer, Port Melbourne to the VFL Women’s on Saturday morning as the two sides open season 2021 at Arden Street Oval. While still a proud standalone club, the Borough has taken on Richmond’s VFLW license and will thus have access to Tigers players who miss out on AFLW selection. Likewise, North Melbourne’s top flight alignment will see some senior listed Kangaroos line up in the blue and white each week.

The likes of Richmond forward Christina Bernardi and Melissa Kuys will be among the experienced names set to lead the Borough’s efforts, while an all-Richmond half-back line of Hannah McLaren, Sarah Sansonetti, and Laura McClelland should prove difficult to budge. Murray Bushrangers graduate Sophie Locke is another exciting young talent in Port’s side, named in the back pocket.

New Roo Katelyn Cox is set for a reserves outing in North’s midfield, lining up next to Meagan Kiely and Bethany Lynch with Lexi Hamilton a handy ruck to be roving under. Nikki Wallace, another with AFLW experience lines up in defence and Brooke Brown gets a gig at the other end of the ground. Brown was taken by North Melbourne as a surprise father-daughter selection in 2020.

Expect North Melbourne’s hardness and pressure around the ball to be a real feature, as Port looks to bring an exciting transition style to the fore in what should be a competitive start to the 2021 season.

Geelong vs. Collingwood
Saturday February 27, 12:00pm
Deakin University, Geelong (Waurn Ponds)

AFLW-aligned sides Geelong and Collingwood go head-to-head at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds on Saturday afternoon, looking to start their campaigns on the right foot. Both sides boast a strong mix of youth and experience in their Round 1 lineups, with the Cats benefitting significantly from their alignment to the top flight when it comes to the young talent at their disposal. Collingwood, of course, remains the reigning premier after the 2020 season was scrapped.

Among the exciting brigade of up-and-comers, Olivia Barber has been named at full forward and will spearhead the attack alongside skipper, Michelle Fedele. Paige Sheppard is poised to make her return to football in the hoops, named among an exciting midfield with Cats AFLW youngsters Laura Gardiner, Darcy Moloney, and ruck Rene Caris having all gained experience at senior level.

Collingwood’s tall stocks should trouble the Cats, particularly up forward. Senior ruck Bella Smith takes up the full forward spot with Sarah King set to take the first bounce, while Imogen Barnett is another to watch in Collingwood’s front half. Smith’s former Norwood teammate Matilda Zander looms as an exciting addition from the SANFL, with the Magpies’ forward depth pushing Amelia Velardo to half-back.

The Magpies will look to adopt a similar gameplan to their AFLW side, looking to take the game on in transition with an exciting handball style while also taking hold of the game when required. Geelong will also play an attacking brand, with youthful exuberance and instinct also poised to come into the Cats’ thinking.

Carlton vs. Casey Demons
Saturday February 27, 2:00pm
Princes Park

Another all-aligned clash takes place at Princes Park as Carlton and Casey Demons lock horns, rounding out Saturday’s fixtures. The Blues have hit the reset button on their VFLW program and will look a very fresh side this year, adopting a strong youth focus to help feed their AFLW squad. Casey also has strong ties to its AFLW-aligned team in Melbourne, with a fit and strong Demons unit out to prove just how fruitful their preseason has been.

The Blues will be led from the back with skipper Ally Bild lining up next to vice-captain Jen Lew across half-back, while Carlton-listed speedster Charlotte Hammans completes the line. Coming down from Cairns, Jasmine Ware is another to watch in Carlton’s defence, while Akayla Peterson looms as a high-upside type at the other end. Carlton draftees Winnie Laing and Paige Trudgeon will also get some run into their legs in the front half.

Casey captain Samantha Johnson is her side’s major off-season coup and will anchor the midfield alongside first year Melbourne midfielder, Megan Fitzsimon. Both will benefit from the ruckwork of Maggie Caris, while an all-Melbourne half-back line of Mietta Kendall, Isabella Simmons, and Irishwoman Lauren Magee should prove exciting to watch. Brenna Tarrant also features at full back, with three senior games under her belt this year.

With new coach Peter Mercoulia also embedded in Melbourne’s coaching staff, Casey will look to play fast and put heavy scoreboard pressure on. Carlton is led by a new coach of its own in Luke O’Shannessy, who should be able to extract great things from the Blues’ young talent with his vast pathways experience.

Western Bulldogs vs. Hawthorn
Sunday February 28, 10:00am
Whitten Oval

The Western Bulldogs kick off their 2021 campaign at home as Hawthorn rolls into town on Sunday morning, looking to take a big scalp early. The Bulldogs have built one of the best young AFLW lists, with the vast array of talent spilling into its reserves side and making for an exciting squad on paper. The standalone Hawks are also strong on youth, but have attracted some big-name experience with Bec Goddard set to take the reins as head coach for the first time since 2018.

An embarrassment of riches sees the Bulldogs’ forwardline stacked with five AFLW-listed talents, including Isabella Grant, Gemma Lagioia, and the experienced Lauren Spark. Mary Sandral is the lone VFLW-listed player to start in attack, though the likes of Nicole McMahon (ruck), skipper Riley Christgoergl (half-back), and vice-captain Katelyn Betts (centre) will be consistent VFLW figures this year. Under McMahon, the likes of Isabelle Pritchard, Brooke Hards, and Britney Gutknecht should be served well in midfield.

Some well-renowned names in female footballing circles will provide invaluable experience to Hawthorn’s fledgling side, with stalwart Meg Hutchins poised to take on a number of roles aside from her forwardline listing, while Abbey Holmes is a tough body at the contest who will rotate forward through midfield. Skipper Jess Trend is another with AFLW experience who should impact greatly, while Northern Territory recruit Dominique Carbone has serious potential. She is set for her VFLW debut on the same weekend the Darwin Buffettes play finals back home.

The Hawks should prove a well structured side under Goddard and will be sure to crack in hard, though the abundance of promising young options for the Bulldogs will be incredibly tough to overcome. Should they not rely on too few, the Hawks will be ultra competitive in the face of the Dogs’ rawness and fierce style.

Essendon vs. Southern Saints
Sunday February 28, 10:30am
The Hangar

Essendon is set to unveil its shiny new facilities at The Hangar on Sunday morning, hosting the Southern Saints in what should be a competitive clash. Gunning for an AFLW license, the Bombers remain standalone but have built a strong list with more continuity than other sides heading into 2021. The Saints have their St Kilda alignment to lean on, but are looking strong in their own right after a solid preseason.

Anchoring Essendon’s side will be skipper Georgia Nanscawen, who is part of a terrific spine in the red and black. Cecilia McIntosh lines up down back, while Courtney Ugle provides some grunt, and Mia-Rae Clifford gets a fresh start up forward. Of the up-and-comers, Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba have already performed well in the sash, with a host of young prospects set to filter through Essendon’s lineup as the season progresses.

Tara Bohanna (full back) and Deanna Jolliffe (rover) will lead the Saints out as co-captain Frankie Hocking has not been named. Georgia McLean is one to watch off half-back having crossed from Casey, while Poppy Kelly and Alice Burke are the only St Kilda AFLW players to feature in the lineup – both named on the interchange bench ahead of three emergencies from the senior squad.

The Saints have not put a ceiling on their potential and promise to open the game up with unpredictable ball movement. The Bombers’ continuity as a group and greater poise with such experience could well play a factor in this clash, with both sides backing their cohesion after so long away from competitive action.

Darebin vs. Williamstown
Sunday February 28, 11:30am
La Trobe University, Bundoora

Pioneer club, the Darebin Falcons take on Williamstown in Round 1’s closing fixture on Sunday, set to play out at La Trobe University in Bundoora. Both proud standalone clubs, these two sides will be made up purely of VFLW-listed talent early on before gaining access to NAB League and potentially even AFLW talent as those seasons are run and done. The two sides already faced off during preseason, with Williamstown winning by 11 points at the same venue.

Led by the returning Stephanie Simpson, Darebin has a bunch of leaders set to build the standards under coach Mitch Skelly. In defence, Gena Lawson-Tavan is one who promises to do exactly that as vice-captain, while fellow leaders Cherelle Byrne (centre) and Alyssa Mifsud (full forward) are other leaders littered up and down the spine. One Falcon to watch is Stephanie Elarmaly, a youngster who has come through Darebin’s youth system.

2019 premiership coach Penny Cula-Reid crossed from Collingwood after her flag triumph, and takes over an exciting standalone squad. Skipper Erin Meade has locked in a spot at half-back, with reigning best and fairest winner Megan Williamson set to resume her midfield duties. Asha Price and Eliza Straford should be good value up forward, while Scarlett Dunell, the sister of former Seagull Sam lines up in defence.

There is often a great unknown around the standalone sides, especially after so long away from competitive action, but the two sides will know each other well after their preseason meeting and will get a good assessment of their 2021 chances in this bout.

Image Credit: Kelly Defina/AFL Photos

2021 QAFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Grand Final rematch to take place in blockbuster opening round

A GRAND final rematch in the last game of the round caps off a big week of action for the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Women’s competition that begins tomorrow.

BOND UNIVERSITY vs. MAROOCHYDORE

Two top four sides that impressed in the regular seasons last year but just fell in the semi-final stage will do battle in the opening round of the QAFL Women’s season. Bond University finished on top of the table, but went down to a rampaging Yeronga South Brisbane in the semis as the Devils marched to the premiership. Meanwhile Maroochydore suffered defeat at the hands of Coolangatta Tweed after winning their elimination final in the week before.

Mikayla Pauga is the key player to watch having crossed from Maroochydore to Bond University over the off-season, and will now lead the Sharkettes onball brigade. The midfield group of Georgia Brehmer and Shannon Danckert makes it a tough group to beat, while Annie Muir on the wing is another talented midfielder who can bring the need for speed. Lily Tarlinton is a tall option to provide a target inside 50, named at full-forward for the clash.

For Maroochydore, a number of the AFL Women’s talents will not be avaialble so they will be looking to the likes of Brianna McFarlane and Chloe Gregory through midfield to give the Roos a spark with talented youngster Bella Smith named in the middle as well. Up the other end, Rianna Maloney and Brooke Matheson have been named as crucial forwards, and former Calder Cannons talent Makeisha Muller has joined the green and gold.

Bond University have enough experience in the lineup to suggest they will be difficult to beat, but Maroochydore still has talent even without its AFL Women’s players.

 

WILSTON GRANGE vs. UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND

Next up on Saturday afternoon is a battle between two sides who finished in the bottom three of the competition last year. University of Queensland did make finals, but were knocked out by Maroochydore at the elimination stage, whilst Wilston Grange fell short of the post-season series by four points to be one behind the Red Lionesses in seventh.

The game should be evenly balanced, with Ruby Svarc a name to watch for the Gorillas out on a wing. She will provide the team with some great run and carry, and team up with fellow midfielders, Kylie Welsh, Mackenzie Findlay and Kaitlyn Day in the Round 1 team, with Abby Hewett and Brooke Sheridan named amongst the forwards.

Megan Hunt is a crucial player to have at state level and she will run out with the University of Queensland in the clash, while developing talent Tiarna Jericho has been named at centre half-back. Lucinda Benjamin and Grace Brennan are two of the targets inside 50 for the visitors, while Jane Childes on the outside is likely to have a great head-to-head with Svarc.

It is hard to pick a winner in this game with plenty of state league players on both sides, as well as a couple of young players to watch for.

 

COORPAROO vs. ASPLEY

Playing in the finals last season, Coorparoo will be keen to start off on the right note against an Aspley Hornets side that failed to claim a win in 2020. Ther teams are fairly fresh with some familiar names, but also some fresh faces which will make it difficult to predict how the game is going to go. The Hornets in particular have a few key talents to keep an eye on ahead of the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships in April.

Lucia Liessi is a young gun who will be key for the Hornets. She has been known to play in defence such as the AFL Women’s Under 18 All-Stars game last year, but has been named in a forward pocket for this clash. Off half-back, Isabella Kotatis, Lucy Pengelly and Hayley Moore make a young developing trio, while Courtney Daniec showed last season she is rock-solid in midfield. Phoebe Baird coming off the bench is another to keep an eye on from the wooden spooners who will no doubt be an improved side in 2021.

For the Kings, Lucy Blue remains a crucial player after being in contention to be drafted last season, but missed out, she has been named in the back pocket to potentially play on Liessi. Renee Teys will head up the followers with Jenae Govan and Jessica McLean in the midfield, while Danielle Cox is one of a number of forward options named in the side. The depth of the Kings is obvious with Macie Brown named off the bench.

Coorparoo will be favourites given the team’s respective formlines last season, but Aspley have a lot to like, particularly in the youth department so do not be surprised if the Hornets cause an upset.

 

YERONGA SOUTH BRISBANE vs. COOLANGATTA TWEED

The QAFL Women’s competition might have saved the best until last for Round 1, with a grand final rematch between Yeronga South Brisbane and Coolangatta Tweed. The Devils will be able to unfurl their flag in front of home fans against the team they upset last season in the decider. Coming all the way from fourth they managed to grab the title in a memorable game.

Given Brisbane’s impressive showing in the AFL Women’s this season, both these sides still have plenty of experienced talent, with young gun highlight-reel Zimmorlei Farquharson ready to back up her efforts in last year’s finals series and kick off 2021 on a big note. Lucy Bellinger is another Devils player to watch, though there are no shortage of them, with Madison Goodwin, Emmii-Lee ZankerClose, Christine Okesene and Lexia Edwards among those anticipated to impress in Round 1 of the competition.

The Bluebirds have their own stacked side, with Kitara Farrar set for a big year after having injury interruptions during her time in the AFL Women’s. Beth Pinchin was one who received the call-up to the AFL Women’s via the draft last year and will only get better as the weeks go by, while Keyshia Matenga, Sophie Ure and Ahlani Eddy are other players who have come through the State Under 18s program over the journey. The Bluebirds are going to be a contender once again, and will want to grab this scalp.

Yeronga South Brisbane have to be favourites given their X-factor up forward and the special occasion, but Coolangatta Tweed have so much young talent that is more than capable of spoiling the party.

Picture credit: RF Photography

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

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 AFLW Preview: Collingwood Magpies

COLLINGWOOD is on a mission to go deeper in the AFL Women’s finals after a promising first season under a new head coach, bouncing back from a last placed finish in 2019.

2020 RECAP

After a disastrous 2019 season which saw the club handed the wooden spoon with just one victory to their name, new coach Steve Symonds turned it around in 2020 for the black and white to play finals for the first time. Brianna Davey lived up to all expectations crossing from arch rivals Carlton, having an impact throughout the season, while Jaimee Lambert had an unbelievable season to win the club best and fairest. Had in-form defender Ash Brazill not torn her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) against Melbourne, it is not against the realms of possibility to suggest Collingwood could have gone even deeper than falling to North Melbourne by a kick in the elimination finals.

NEW FACES

The Magpies lost a couple of key players over the off-season, particularly Sarah D’Arcy and Sarah Dargan who both headed to Richmond, while Aliesha Newman (Melbourne) and Abbey Green (North Melbourne) came to the club. Whilst not like-for-like, the Magpies targeted size and speed in the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Father-daughter selection, Tarni Brown, and Joanna Lin provide the outside class and skill, while Amelia Velardo, Abbi Moloney and Bella Smith add height to the side. Talented sports star Imogen Purcell also joined the club to add natural athleticism to the mix.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

There are plenty to keep an eye on, but perhaps none more exciting than the versatile Chloe Molloy. Expected to return forward like she did in her junior days and in her return season off a long-term injury in 2020, Molloy will be better for the run last season and expected to continue her form from her debut season. Now four preseasons in at the Magpies, the high X-factor marking talent has all the ability to tear games apart and will be crucial in hitting the scoreboard regularly.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

The Magpies showed rapid development from 2019 to 2020, even with the loss of Brazill midway through the season, and Molloy returning from injury having missed so much football. The likes of Sharni Layton, Sarah Rowe, Mikala Cann and Alana Porter all made huge strides last season, and throw in career-best seasons from experienced duos of Brittany Bonnici and Steph Chiocci, it is little wonder why the Magpies could get it done.

QUESTION MARK

Consistency is the big question mark for the Magpies in 2021. Their best was by far good enough to challenge the best sides, as shown by their upset of Carlton, and pushing Fremantle and North Melbourne all the way in finals. Unfortunately it was more lapses within games that cost them, having had chances to win those close ones, and then having the disappointing outing against Melbourne in Round 4. If they can iron out that consistency, particularly four quarter consistency, then they are a side to watch this season.

FINAL WORD

Collingwood is more than capable of challenging the big sides in 2021, and while D’Arcy in particular will be a massive loss for the black and white, they have recruited and drafted well, and will hopefully be at full strength again for a finals tilt.

Picture credit: Kelly Defina/Getty Images

2021 AFL Women’s Academy squad announced

TWENTY aspiring AFL Women’s future draftees have been named in the 2021 AFL Women’s Academy, which was announced yesterday. The Academy primarily features players who were in the Academy as middle-age talents, though a number of inclusions have been made.

Off the back of a superb season with grand finalists South Adelaide, talented forward Gypsy Schirmer was included on the list, named as one of the top South Australian talents for the 2021 AFL Women’s Draft alongside Zoe Prowse in our 2021 AFLW Under 18s Ones to Watch last month. Also making the list was Launceston midfielder Perri King who made the Academy after stepping up for the Blues in the Tasmanian State League (TSL) Women’s competition, having made history as Tasmania Devils’ first goalkicker in the NAB League earlier this year, while Devils’ teammate Amy Prokopiec was a member of the Academy last year.

Also included in the new list was Claremont forward Amy Franklin who has unbelievable athletic traits and is as good at ground level as she is in the air. Named as the third top West Australian for next year, Franklin joined West Australian hopefuls, Courtney Rowley and Charlotte Thomas in the Academy. Up north, Ashanti Bush had an impressive Northern Territory All-Stars match to earn a spot in the Academy with the talented forward being the sole representative for her state next year. The Northern Territory have a number of talented prospects coming through in future years, however.

The final inclusion to the squad was NSW/ACT forward Jessica Doyle out of Manly-Warringah who joins Murray Bushrangers’ Ally Morphett as the other state representative in the 20-player squad. Once again when it comes to representation, Maroochydore leads the way with three representatives – Maggie Harmer, Mikayla Pauga and Bella Smith – while Bond University’s Teagan Levi is a clear standout prospect for the Sunshine State, looking to join sister Maddison at the elite level.

The Victorian portion of the Academy has been left untouched from 2020 given the playing cohort has not been able to show its wares this year. Calder Cannons’ Georgie Prespakis – one of the clear front runners for the top Victorian selections – is an unbelievable talent and will be highly sought after to join sister Maddy in the AFL Women’s. Cannons’ teammate Tahlia Gillard has the ability to play up either end as a talented tall, whilst the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels duo of running defender/wing Nyakoat Dojiok and mid/forward Ella Friend return to the Academy.

Keep an eye out for Bendigo Pioneers’ Tara Slender who looms as one of the most impressive key position options in this year’s draft, with the rebounding tall capable of playing both offensive and defensive roles. Rounding out the Academy are Charlie Rowbottom – sister of Sydney Swans’ James – out of the Oakleigh Chargers, as well as slick ball user and outside midfielder, Maykaylah Appleby from the AFL Women’s football factory at Northern Knights.

The AFL Women’s Academy take part annual high-performance camps, of which will include an induction program in January, training with AFL Women’s clubs over the summer, and partaking in a high-performance camp and match in July. It also enables the athletes to have access to a wide variety of high-performance coaches and medical staff who work at the elite level.

2021 NAB AFLW Academy

Jessica Doyle (Manly-Warringah/Swans NSW/ACT)
Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/Giants NSW/ACT)
Ashanti Bush (Darwin NT)
Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore/Lions Qld)
Teagan Levi (Bond Uni/Suns Qld)
Mikayla Pauga (Maroochydore/Lions Qld)
Bella Smith (Maroochydore/Lions Qld)
Zoe Prowse (Sturt SA)
Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide SA)
Perri King (Launceston Tas)
Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels Vic Country)
Ella Friend (GWV Rebels Vic Country)
Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers Vic Country)
Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights Vic Metro)
Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons Vic Metro)
Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons Vic Metro)
Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers Vic Metro)
Amy Franklin (Claremont WA)
Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder WA)
Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco WA)

2021 AFLW Under 18s Ones to Watch

NOW the curtain has closed on the 2020 AFL Women’s off-season period, we turn our attention to the next group of budding stars across the country who will be vying for a spot on an AFL Women’s list. We have named 25 players who have already shown some great signs in their bottom and middle-age seasons, as well as a number of others to watch out for in 2021.

Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

A name that has been circulating for a number of years now, it is hard to believe the all-round talent was robbed of what she could potentially do in her middle-age year. She looked more than comfortable at the level in her bottom-age year as a 16-year-old and caught plenty of attention with a seven-goal haul against Greater Western Victoria Rebels. Taller than her sister – AFL Women’s league best and fairest winner Madison – Prespakis is hard at it, has great athleticism and is ridiculously strong one-on-one. A highlight-reel package nearly any time she steps out on the field, Prespakis is a future star and could play just about anywhere, but expect her to play inside midfield and rest forward.

Teagan Levi (Bond University/Queensland)

The sister of recently drafted Gold Coast Suns’ talent Maddison, Levi is 11cm shorter and plays onball rather than forward. Her athletic traits are similar to that of Georgia Patrikios in the way that she can seamlessly get herself out of trouble by wrong-footing and side-stepping opponents with ease. Not only is she able to beat them in congestion, she can run and take the game on down a wing, and then when the opponent wins it, she is the first to lay a strong tackle. Similar to Prespakis, Levi has so many weapons and is as effective defensively as she is offensively, and is the standout Queensland prospect for next year and in the clear top few talents running around.

Courtney Rowley. Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder

Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

A player who has been building very nicely over in Western Australia over the past two seasons and then was the most impressive of the middle-agers in the WAFL All-Stars game. A really smooth mover, Rowley often plays off a wing and knows how to distribute the ball so well, winning Peel Thunder’s League best and fairest last year as a 16-year-old competing against senior opponents including AFL Women’s talents. Whilst she had more support in 2020 as the Thunder rose from wooden spooners to premiers in a remarkable turnaround, it is hard not to admire what the talented midfielder could be in her top-age season next year.

Zoe Prowse (Sturt/South Australia)

The standout ruck prospect in next year’s draft, Adelaide will have another promising talent on their radar in Prowse. Winning Sturt’s best and fairest award this year, Prowse was just about the best in nearly every game she played for the Double Blues, particularly in the second half of the season. Despite standing at just under 180cm, Prowse has ridiculous athleticism with a high vertical leap and is almost like a fourth midfielder. She can get down and apply second and third efforts to ground level players, and is one who could also play forward if required. With great ruck nous, she can outwork her opponents around the ground, and it was easy to see why she was the sole South Australian AFL Women’s Academy member in her middle-age year.

Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

An absolute star in the making. Capable of playing midfield or forward, Rowbottom just knows how to set scoring opportunities up in transition. The sister of Sydney’s James, Rowbottom has similar ball-winning abilities and defensive attributes, but has a lot to offer offensively as well. She showed in the Chargers’ win over Tasmania that she is not only able to hit the scoreboard herself – kicking two goals – but set up a number of chances for her teammates. One that will really surprise in 2021 as a leader for the Chargers.

Charlie Rowbottom. Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)

With quite a few tall defenders in this year’s AFL Women’s Draft, Slender would be putting her hand up as potentially the pick of the bunch. Her intercepting capability and reading of the ball in flight is exceptional, and while she did miss her middle-age year, Slender is one who could catch the attention pretty quickly. Having played alongside some Vic Country representatives in the past – and playing at Under 16s level for her state – Slender is good in one-on-ones and looms as a key lynchpin for the Pioneers. It would also not be too surprising to see her take a similar transition to Isabelle Pritchard and move into the midfield given she has the traits to slot right in there.

Makaylah Appleby (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

Class personified. Appleby has managed to catch the eye on more than a few occasions over the past few seasons despite playing in such a stacked team at the Northern Knights. She often played off a wing or provided run on the outside like during the 2019 NAB League Finals Series. Appleby is now the top prospect at the Knights for the upcoming season as a member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, and as a damaging ball user, Appleby is one that teammates want to get the ball in the hands of in order to create scoring opportunities up the field.

Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco/Western Australia)

A dangerous forward half player with clean skills and a nous for goals, Thomas is the other AFL Women’s Academy member from Western Australia in her middle-age year along with Rowley and has a big future. Playing in an experienced team like Subiaco, Thomas was able to still stand out, regularly hitting the scoreboard. Standing at 175cm, Thomas has good size and good hands and having made her League debut in 2020, big things are predicted for 2021 with a lot of AFL Women’s talent, and more experienced heads around her.

Nyakoat Dojiok. Picture credit: Draft Central

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

A player who is not afraid to take the game on and really take it to the opposition is GWV Rebels’ Dojiok who has been developing year-on-year over the last few years. Playing as a 15-year-old a few years back, Dojiok is one who when she gets going is hard to contain, and she has that rich blend of power and speed. She is utilised best as that outside runner, playing off half-back or along a wing, but is eye-catching in the way she plays and the way she can bring teammates into the game. Entering her top-age year, expect her to see even more midfield time as she has some seriously great traits.

Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

A player who might be flying under the radar that has some casual NAB League Girls watchers reaching for the team lists next year is Dowling. An incredible talent who showed progression in her two games this year, she has only managed to fly under the radar due to the enormous amount of talent coming out of the Falcons’ football factory. She played in defence as a bottom-ager then got time more up the field last year, and expect her to play through the midfield in 2021. She can play anywhere, at that hybrid 171cm-plus size and can be too athletic for talls and too strong for smalls, Dowling is one who should not be forgotten when talking about Vic Country prospects.

Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)

The standout NSW/ACT prospect for 2021, Morphett is the sole AFL Women’s Academy member from her state. The developing 189cm-plus ruck is one who improved from her bottom-age season and it would have been fantastic to see her going up against the Melbourne-drafted Maggie Caris if their teams had met in the NAB League Girls before the season ended. She is commanding overhead and able to drift forward if required, Morphett is one of the few NAB League Girls prospects to play this year. Representing Belconnen Magpies in the AFL Canberra League, Morphett finished second in the league best and fairest, and then won best on ground in the Magpies’ premiership win. Not bad for a 17-year-old and she is one anticipated to take a huge step in 2021.

Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore/Queensland)

Stood tall at senior level in the QAFL Women’s competition for the Roos and is one of a remarkable three players in the AFL Women’s Academy from the side. Harmer showed in the Queensland All-Stars game that she looms as a strong prospect in 2021 with her overhead marking, read of the play and powerful kicking standing out in a tight game. A member of the Brisbane Lions Academy, Harmer is 170cm and could play at half-back as that intercepting rebounder, or through the middle, seemingly able to break down opposition defences on transition by getting in the way and then pumping it long.

Maggie Harmer. Picture credit: Deion Menzies, Highflyer Images

Amy Franklin (Claremont/Western Australia)

If we are talking upside, then Franklin, not too dissimilar to her West Australian namesake, has plenty of that for the future. A tall marking forward, Franklin has speed that makes smaller opponents envious, and standing at 180cm, she is big enough to outmark most opponents. Still quite raw and lightly built compared to more experienced WAFL Women’s defenders she came across, Franklin is one that once the ball gets goalside, you can almost put the glasses down. Terrific athleticism and one who is threatening to be an even bigger threat in 2021, she is yet another exciting tall forward to come out of Western Australia.

Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

If you are talking upside and potential in next year’s AFL Women’s Draft crop then take 186cm Gillard as an example. Only turning 17 in December this year, the key position utility can play in all three lines, starting off as a key defender, spending time up forward and has the size if required to play ruck. For a player of her size, Gillard is so good at ground level and able to create something out of nothing. While she is still a raw and developing talent, she is another from the Cannons’ program who has already had plenty of NAB League Girls experience that will only make her better.

Ella Friend (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

A second GWV Rebels player making the list, Friend did not get many chances this season to show what she is capable of, but what she did in that short space of time was quite remarkable. Another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, Friend looked comfortable in the tight contest against the Western Jets back in Round 3, racking up a ton of the ball – 19 touches – and having a real influence in the forward half. Not only that, but she iced the game for the Rebels with a match-winning goal, and provided as much offence (six inside 50s) and defence (five tackles) to suggest she is a gamechanger and one to look out for next season.

Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

Made her debut in the NAB League Girls competition and just has that X-factor about her that makes you sit up and take notice. Elite acceleration out of the stoppage and some really top-end traits, Livingstone came into the Ranges’ midfield and assimilated easily that it was hard to believe she was not a top-ager. Behind the experienced Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown, Livingstone was the next biggest performer onball, and with another preseason behind her, it will be exciting to see just what she can produce with her athletic traits and ability to get forward and look dangerous.

Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

Yassir is just a fierce competitor who can play through the midfield or as a small forward. Standing at just 161cm, Yassir defies her size and is not afraid to take on bigger opponents, laying multiple tackles and is a contested ball winner. She stood up during Calder’s NAB League Girls finals series as a bottom-ager in 2019, and started strongly in 2020. She will have a bigger role in 2021 and has a bucketload of talent that will have opposition players wary of when she is in the zone.

Mikayla Pauga (Maroochydore/Queensland)

Another small forward and member of the AFL Women’s Academy, Pauga might just stand at 161cm like Yassir, but packs plenty of punch as a damaging forward. The second Maroochydore player in this list, Pauga finished second in her club’s goalkicking with 13 majors in 14 games, and was a clear standout. With an eye for goal and a large endurance base that sees her outwork opponents, Pauga is one who could step up again in 2021 and will be one to watch at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships having shown her wares at senior level in the QAFL Women’s already.

Zoe Venning. Picture credit: SANFL

Zoe Venning (West Adelaide/South Australia)

A hard-nosed midfielder/forward from West Adelaide, Venning came on in leaps and bounds throughout her second season in the red and black. She became a crucial member of the Bloods’ midfield, playing between wing and forward, though her attack on the ball shows she can easily translate into an inside midfielder. Providing great assistance to equal league best and fairest winner, Rachelle Martin as well as young talent Abbie Ballard, Venning is one who is dangerous around goals. She is still developing some areas of her game such as her kicking, but her work rate and intensity in play is superb.

Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

A reliable key defender for the Cannons, Lennox is a fourth member of the Calder side to make this list, and shows just how strong their top-age group will be next season. Lennox is one who is good at ground level for a taller player, being one of the most dominant rebounders in the competition to start the 2020 NAB League Girls season. As a player who stood out on the big stage of the 2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final, Lennox is not afraid of big moments, and will team up well with Gillard as a couple of talls in a really strong Cannons outfit.

Amy Prokopiec (Clarence/Tasmania)

The sole Tasmanian prospect in the AFL Women’s National Academy, Prokopiec became one of the standout defenders for Tasmania Devils, albeit in just a handful of games in her bottom and middle-age years. As she showed with Clarence in the TSL Women’s competition this year and in the Tasmanian All-Stars game, Prokopiec is capable of playing at either end, and becoming that versatile tall utility. As a long kick and strong overhead, she is a crucial cog in the both the Roos and Devils sides, and will be hoping for a full season next year to test herself against the best in the NAB League Girls.

Amy Prokopiec (right). Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide/South Australia)

There are quite a few talls in this list with potential, and Schirmer is another one who just has that look about her that she could be in for a big 2021. In her middle-age season with reigning premiers South Adelaide, she acquitted herself well and while she did have some really outstanding performances, even when she was quieter, there was always a moment or two within games where you could see she was capable of kicking a couple of goals and winning the match for her side. Not far off 180cm, Schirmer can push up to a wing or even in defence, but she always looks damaging inside 50 and a real target for her teammates to kick to.

Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

A good size and capable of hitting the scoreboard, the 176cm James is a damaging prospect. She showed in her two games this year how she has developed both her offensive and defensive traits, and even as an Under 16s player for the Chargers, stood up in nine games and booted five goals. As one of a number of Chargers who were able to provide support to the top-end talent this year, James is another leader in the group to standout in her own top-age year in 2021.

Alana Lishmund (Norwood/South Australia)

Was a prominent member of the Norwood side in her debut SANFL Women’s season, then really stepped up as one of the best in the All-Stars match last month. She is predominantly a forward talent who can push up the ground into the midfield, and then play high or deep forward when required. A reliable kick for goal, she has that X-factor about her inside 50 and can be a leading or crumbing target, playing taller than her 166cm size, and one who will be another South Australian jostling for a spot as one of the more prominent talents in the state.

Alana Lishmund. Picture credit: AFL Media

Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)

A multi-sport talent for the Stingrays, Anthony also has that something special about her game playing as a forward. She can play at either end, and has progressed through the pathway from V/Line Cup to the NAB League Girls. One who has shared her football journey with cricket duties – she has only managed the five games for the Stingrays – she knows how to hit the scoreboard and provide a presence. Despite standing at just 166cm, Anthony plays like a taller forward and finds space, and will be a top talent to watch out for from the Stingrays in 2021.

Others:

Maroochydore’s Bella Smith is another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy who stood up for Maroochydore this season in the QAFL Women’s, whilst Georgia Hutton and Caitlin Thorne are a couple of Gold Coast Academy members who showed some top-end traits during the All-Stars match.

The South Australian group has been sensational with plenty having senior experience, led by South Adelaide’s Lauren Clifton who stood out in the All-Stars match up forward. Central District’s Madison Lane, North Adelaide’s Kate Case, Glenelg’s Brooke Tonon and Woodville-West Torrens’ Jamie Parish are others who have been ones to watch at SANFL Women’s level this season.

Over in the west, Chloe Reilly remains a dangerous forward option for East Fremantle with her work at ground level and around goals, whilst Swan Districts’ Emma Nanut, and South Fremantle trio, Tayla Whincup, Taylah Cruttenden and Poppy Stockwell are also great talents.

Looking to the NAB League and there are plenty of names to throw up, but a few in the mix include Mikayla Jones (Murray Bushrangers), Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays) and Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons) who have shown to be natural players in their respective areas. From the Vic Metro perspective, Peppa Poultney (Calder Cannons), Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers), Caitlin Sargent (Western Jets) and Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights) were terrific this year, while a host of middle-age Sandringham Dragons got their starts and will no doubt produce a number of surprise packets alongside their elite bottom-age talents.

Perri King is another Tasmanian prospect behind Prokopiec to watch, making history as the Devils’ first goalkicker last season and will be keen to build on that again. From Northern Territory, there is a heap of great young talents coming through from 2022 onwards, with one 2021 draft prospect being Georgia Johnson, a 160cm talent from Waratah who stood out in the NT All-Stars match last month. Playing in defence, she was one to take note of as she regularly mopped up and got the ball down the field for Team Hewett.

Alongside the top-age talents, a number of over-age talents who missed out on being drafted this year will no doubt be trying to stake their case against be it via the NAB League or state leagues, including Brooke Hards, Jemma Finning and Annabel Strahan (all Bendigo Pioneers), Zoe Hill, Abbey Jordan and Jess Matin (all Dandenong Stingrays), Ash Snow and Maeve Chaplin (both Northern Knights), Amber Micallef (Oakleigh Chargers), Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges) and Grace McRae (Gippsland Power) who all received AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but were unlucky to miss out.

In Western Australia, Maggie MacLachlan (Subiaco), Brianna Hyde and Mikayla Hyde (both Swan Districts) head into 2021 as over-agers, while mature-agers Ella Smith and Jess Low (both Claremont), Rosie Walsh (East Fremantle) and Sarah Wielstra (Swan Districts) are others who missed out on the AFL Women’s Draft but will remain ones to watch.

Elsewhere, Northern Territorian Mattea Breed continues to develop for Norwood in South Australia, whilst Abby Favell (Murray Bushrangers), Jayde Hamilton (Queanbeyan Tigers) and Kiara Beesley (Southern Power) were draft combine invitees from NSW/ACT.

In Queensland, Beth Pinchin has shown great resilience as a mature-ager coming back from multiple injuries, while Courtney Bromage and Brooke Spence are other mature-agers who caught attention this year. Christine Okesene, Ebony Peterson, Laura Blue, Chloe Gregory and Madison Goodwin were also in the mix this year with Draft Combine invites so will be kept on close watch in 2021. The other two players to receive AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but miss out were the exciting Freda Puruntatameri (Calder Cannons/Northern Territory) and Charlie Vandenberg (Wynyard/Tasmania) who have plenty of development left in them.

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: Collingwood Magpies

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 continue our countdown with Collingwood, a side that reached finals for the first time in its history last year and aimed to target height, as well as speed and class, in this year’s draft.

Collingwood:

#19 – Tarni Brown (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
#25 – Amelia Velardo (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
#26 – Joanna Lin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#31 – Abbi Moloney (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#33 – Bella Smith (Norwood/Central Allies)

Collingwood had another fairly big off-season with a number of changes including the departures of Sarah D’Arcy and Sarah Dargan, whilst bringing in Aliesha Newman and Abbey Green from Melbourne and North Melbourne respectively. The changes – which included a number of retirements – allowed the Magpies to end up with five picks in the draft. Knowing their father-daughter selection in Tarni Brown was a top 10 pick on value, the Magpies traded back to gain extra value out of matching the bid, and then worked their way into have four more picks in the space of nine selections. This year they had a Vic Metro focus, taking talls Western Jets’ Amelia Velardo and Sandringham Dragons’ Abbi Moloney, while also selecting Oakleigh Chargers’ Joanna Lin. Passing on their last selection, the Pies then went and picked up Bella Smith from Norwood to provide some extra height up either end as the interstate recruit.

Brown was long touted as a prospect to follow in the footsteps of her famous father Gavin, and brothers Callum and Tyler and join the Magpies. With superb athleticism and an ability to shrug tackles, she is clearly one of the standout prospects in the AFL Women’s Draft and represents huge value for Collingwood at Pick 19. She is one who could step right up to play at the top level sooner rather than later.

Another player who has been playing most of their life is Moloney, with the Dragons tall a strong mark and had a great start to the NAB League season booting eight goals in three games. She could have been a father-daughter selection to the Western Bulldogs thanks to father Troy playing with Footscray, but has instead made her way to the Holden Centre. She becomes that additional tall target along with Velardo, who by comparison, has had very little time in the sport. She only started last year when choosing to train with the Western Jets over continuing her basketball career and it paid off with a couple of big games for the Jets in 2020. She played as an undersized ruck but expect her to be a forward/midfielder for the Magpies.

Lin has also been a relative newcomer to the sport, with only a couple of seasons in NAB League after a season at local level. She has come on in leaps and bounds, and uses the ball well and creates run in transition from half-back to the wing and going forward. A player you can trust with ball-in-hand, she adds some more class to the line-up alongside Brown. Finally, Smith’s addition as another tall provides versatility for former and now reunited coach Steve Symonds, who chose the Norwood prodigy as an option to throw either back or forward. She has had an enormous season at centre half-back for the Redlegs which could free up others at Collingwood to go forward, but she can also play as that leading target too.

Collingwood has been able to address its needs out of this draft, with some established football names, as well as some newcomers, and expect them to all set the standard during the off-season.