Tag: bella smith

PODCAST EXPLAINER | 2021 AFLW Phantom Draft

IN a Final Siren Podcast and Draft Central first, the team ran a “live” Phantom Draft for the upcoming AFL Women’s Draft. Assuming the role of the 14 list managers/recruiters, Peter Williams, Michael Alvaro and Declan Reeve selected pick-by-pick each of the clubs through to the end of the draft, and named others in contention. Each of the team’s selections were determined by list numbers or confirmed total selections clubs intended to take, with the podcast recorded prior to Geelong’s pre-listed players yesterday. Club-by-club comments from the Draft Central team member who selected for the team is included.

Note: All individual selection are the opinion of the selector at the time and do not necessarily represent club views nor those of the other individual selectors.

 — FINAL SIREN PODCAST 2021 AFLW PHANTOM DRAFT

 

Zoe Prowse

ADELAIDE:

#17 Zoe Prowse (Sturt)
#20 Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide)
#34 Brooke Tonon (Glenelg)
#47 Zoe Venning (West Adelaide)

Peter Williams says …

“As the sole team in South Australia currently, Adelaide’s selections are less tactical in the sense as there is not another opponent to deal with, but also knowing that nailing each pick when there is draftable talent that misses out makes it all the more difficult. The two AFL Women’s Academy members in ruck Zoe Prowse and speedy utility Gypsy Schirmer offer great versatility across the ground, with one of the big improvers this season, Brooke Tonon being the defensive option with great offensive abilities. The fourth selection gets a little trickier, but I opted for Zoe Venning after a sensationally-consistent year and offers that hardness around the ball and up forward. Others I considered were fellow teenage AFLW Draft Combine invites, Abbie Ballard, Lauren Breguet and Tahlita Buethke.”

Maggie Harmer

BRISBANE:

#18 Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore)
#35 Mikayla Pauga (Bond University)
#50 Abby Hewett (Wilston Grange)
#64 Bella Smith (Maroochydore)
#70 Christene Okesene (Yeronga South Brisbane)
#72 Steph O’Brien (University of Queensland)

Peter Williams says …

“Brisbane has an unbelievably strong Academy from which to hand pick players for this year’s AFL Women’s Draft. The two AFL Women’s Academy members in half-back/wing Maggie Harmer and high half-forward Mikayla Pauga were easy selections as top talents coming through the state program. Abby Hewett is as versatile as they come and offer great value at Pick 50 to be able to roll through any position, with inside midfielder Bella Smith a steal at Pick 64. Rounding out the half a dozen players, state captain Christene Okesene can immediately have an impact as a half-back with a powerful boot and strong one-on-one, whilst cross-coder Steph O’Brien earned an AFLW Draft Combine having had a successful state career in netball and really putting herself in the frame to be selected in the elite level Australian rules football. In terms of others considered, whilst we did not include mature-agers from other states who could have nominated Queensland, the likes of Georgia Nanscawen or former Queenslander Matilda Zander are others who might be ones on the board to take post-draft.”

Tess Craven

CARLTON:

#10 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
#11 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)
#23 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)
#26 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)
#40 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Michael Alvaro says …

“The Blues are currently in some serious need of midfield depth and with this crop of Victorian talents, obtain a great balance of styles. Through trading, Carlton is in a great spot among the Victorian pool with its first two picks and at number 11, Tess Craven was too hard to pass up. The Geelong Falcons standout is a tough ball winner at the coalface, but also works hard to accumulate around the ground and makes great decisions. She’s a no-fuss type, and suits Carlton’s robust midfield mix. With Tayla Harris and Al Downie gone, Tahlia Gillard is a key position option who may be in high demand and was snapped up early as a result. At 190cm, she is a dominant kind of ruck who can also roll forward and remain relevant aerially. The Blues quite often dip into the Metro pool and after the success of Mimi Hill, may look at a couple more Oakleigh Chargers products in Brooke Vickers and Eliza James. The former likes to get forward off a wing or half-back, while the latter is an athletic midfielder-forward who offers dynamism and goal threat in either post. Rounding out the crop, Carlton may look towards its Northern link and give Maeve Chaplin her chance, after she earned a VFLW berth in the Blues’ reserves this year. She’s another versatile type who offers inside depth in midfield, but also great composure in defence.”

Keeley Sherar

COLLINGWOOD:

#30 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)
#32 Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges)
#33 Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons)
#63 Tegan Cunningham (Melbourne AFLW)

Peter Williams says …

“Collingwood has a strong affiliation with taking Eastern Ranges midfielders, and at Pick 30, Keeley Sherar was the top player on my draft board. Capable of being that smooth mover on the inside similar to ex-teammate Tarni Brown, Sherar was joined in the side by inside midfielder and also Collingwood VFLW representative, Olivia Meagher. The 19-year-old put in a body of work this year to earn the call-up, with another mature-ager in Tegan Cunningham taken with the final pick. The fact Cunningham nominated the draft after retiring shows a level of certainty that she will be picked up, and the Pies needing a strong marking key forward could do with Cunningham’s experience down there. A raw talent who is good in the air with great athleticism is Ingrid Houtsma, who was too good at Pick 34 to ignore and joins the black and white. Others considered were Collingwood VFL talents, Matilda Zander and Imogen Barnett, with Gippsland Power ruck Grace Matser a chance at Pick 63 to provide the ruck support whilst developing at the club.”

Amy Franklin

FREMANTLE:

#14 Amy Franklin (Claremont)
#31 Dana East (Swan Districts)
#38 Makaela Tuhakaraina (South Fremantle)
#46 Bella Mann (Peel Thunder)
#60 Tessa Doumanis (Claremont)
#69 Pia Staltari (Sandringham Dragons)

Declan Reeve says …

“Fremantle are already a well rounded side, fortunately allowing a bit of freedom with their selections with West Coast getting first dibs at some of the upper end talent. Fremantle’s first pick ended up being Amy Franklin after West Coast selected Courtney Rowley, with Franklin’s versatility to play up either end in a key post and overall athleticism adding to their stocks of exciting talls. Dana East can come in and learn on the job from Kiara Bowers as an inside midfielder, with her hands in close bound to make the outside receivers happy. Makaela Tuhakaraina will provide a lot of speed in the forward line or on the wing. Bella Mann is a strong intercept marker down back and Tessa Doumanis is the teammate of Franklin at Claremont, able to get herself on the scoreboard with ease. Pia Staltari is a utility with good skills and speed that she uses to impact in all roles. With so many picks there were plenty of players that came into consideration at various times, Chloe Reilly was one I really thought about with picks 31 and 38, as well as Beth Schilling and Matilda Dyke for some key defensive reinforcement.”

Georgie Prespakis

GEELONG:

#2 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
#7 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)
#9 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)
#15 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)
#52 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)
#65 Olivia Fuller (Geelong VFLW)* (in podcast)
#65 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

Declan Reeve says …

Geelong has a strong draft hand, giving them the opportunity to load up on some of the top talents available in the Victorian pool, leading to me taking who I felt was the best player available with the first 4 selections. Georgie Prespakis is arguably one of the best female draft prospects the competition has seen to date, doing everything she could, including winning the NAB League best and fairest at 16, in the lead up to the 2021 draft. Both Stella Reid and Ella Friend are versatile left footers who have played in all thirds of the ground this year, providing ‘plug and play’ options for Geelong, with Friend being Key Position height. Nyakoat Dojiok is an athletic prospect that has improved game on game, providing run out of the backline for GWV Rebels and Vic Country. At the two later suggestions, Elizabeth Snell was a value selection with her athletic profile, two way running and experience all key features of hers, as well as Geelong VFLW Ruck Olivia Fuller to provide some depth in that area. I strongly considered locals Tess Craven and Annie Lee with picks 7 and 9, as well as Elizabeth Dowling, Zali Friswell and Grace Matser with the last two selections, with all enjoying solid NAB League seasons. With Fuller being announced as a pre-draft selection, I opted for Friswell with the replacement pick.”

*Note: The podcast was recorded prior to Geelong announcing Fuller as a pre-draft selection, which would make her ineligible for the draft, in which case Declan selected Zali Friswell post-recording as the next on his list*

Charlie Rowbottom

GOLD COAST:

#1 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
#6 Teagan Levi (Bond University)
#8 Madison Goodwin (Yeronga South Brisbane)
#30 Grace Mulvahil (Southern Districts/NT)

Declan Reeve says …

“Gold Coast are bound to have a good draft between their NT and Queensland Academy zones, as well as arguably the best prospect of the draft Charlie Rowbottom, nominating for Queensland, making their selections relatively easy. Rowbottom was the first selection, with her athleticism and ability to impact in the midfield and up forward two of her key strengths that will allow her to play early on. Academy member Teagan Levi will offer a lot of zip in the midfield, with her agility sure to cause some headaches for opposition at the next level. Following on the athletic prospects was Maddison Goodwin, who set a new all-time standing vertical jump record at the recent Queensland State Combine. To wrap up the draft I went with NT defender Grace Mulvahil who will add a touch of composure and aerial strength to their defence. Key position academy pair Giselle Davies and Casey Wynne were considered for the later two picks after solid QAFLW seasons.”

Ally Morphett

GWS GIANTS:

#37 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)
#56 Jess Doyle (Manly-Warringah)
#67 Brodee Mowbray (Southern Power)
#71 Georgie Fowler (East Coast Eagles)

Declan Reeve says …

The GIANTS selections were pretty straight forward given they won’t be competing with other clubs for players in the NSW/ACT pool. Ally Morphett was first up, with the GWS Academy ruck, a contested beast who can outmuscle opponents well to win taps and marks up forward. Jessica Doyle was the Swans Academy captain but will spend at least the early stages of her career in the charcoal and orange, bringing clean ball use and consistent scoreboard impact with her. Browdee Mowbray is a two way running midfielder who loves to tackle and Georgie Fowler is an exciting forward who can hit the scoreboard well. Key position prospects Maddie Hendrie and Teagan Germech were also considered with the last two picks as the other combine invitees from the region.”

Georgia Campbell

MELBOURNE:

#42 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)
#44 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)
#49 Imogen Milford (Casey Demons VFLW)

Declan Reeve says …

“Melbourne invested heavily in the trade period bringing in established talent in exchange for early draft picks, making their selections some of the more interesting with all of them coming from the third round onwards. Georgia Campbell made the decision to nominate for Melbourne under the father-daughter rules, despite also being available for the Western Bulldogs under the same rule, and will more than likely chew up their first selection come draft night. Campbell is arguably the best ruck prospect in Victoria, and her supreme athleticism means she’s got the scope to play a variety of roles with the right development coaching. Winger Maykaylah Appleby possesses great speed and confidence with ball in hand to take the game on, whilst Casey Demons tall Imogen Milford is mobile on field and knows where the goals are, ending the season as runner up leading goal scorer in the VFLW. I also considered Zali Friswell and Ashleigh Richards with the final two picks for additional midfield support.”

Emelia Yassir

NORTH MELBOURNE:

#13 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)
#19 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)
#28 Meagan Kiely (North Melbourne VFLW)
#45 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)
#59 Sarah Skinner (North Melbourne VFLW)
#68 Kim Rennie (Western Bulldogs)

Peter Williams says …

“North Melbourne have some talented Tasmanians coming through their junior and senior ranks, which made the last few selections fairly easy. Top 10 in my Power Rankings, Perri King would be a steal at Pick 45, with fellow Tasmanian and North Melbourne VFLW talent Sarah Skinner also earning a call-up the elite level after some terrific consistency this year. VFLW skipper Meagan Kiely, whilst not eligible under the Tasmanian connection, would be one in serious consideration to make an immediate impact in the middle at AFLW level, and like Skinner has been sensational at state level. The first two selections were more tricky with North potentially needing some talls, but with Kim Rennie coming with the last pick, I opted to go at the other end of the scale and picked up Emelia Yassir and Poppy Schaap who are two hard nuts with clean hands and capable to creating inside 50. I considered going fellow clean user Brooke Vickers, GWV defender Nyakoat Dojiok or Falcons defender Annie Lee with the two early selections as well. Other Tasmanians who might come into consideration include Ella Maurer and Jemma Blair who both had time with the Kangaroos in the VFLW program.”

Tara Slender

RICHMOND:

#5 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)
#16 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
#55 Sophie Locke (Port Melbourne VFLW)
#57 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)
#66 Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges)

Michael Alvaro says …

“With two picks at the top end and a few late selections with which to extract value, Richmond has the chance to bring in a really strong crop. With pick five, third in the Victorian pool, the Tigers would likely be stoked by the opportunity to take Tara Slender. The Bendigo Pioneers standout is a modern day prototype, able to play any position at 175cm. She could come into the side as a key forward or defender, with potential to provide some important long-term cover in the midfield. Speaking of, Aurora Smith adds terrific running power at pick 16. The Murray Bushrangers best and fairest is quite balanced, but looks more comfortable on the wing and would allow a player like Ellie McKenzie to attend more centre bounces. The acquisition of Sophie Locke looms as a familiar one and would be a great story after she was overlooked in her initial draft year. Another Murray product, she found her spot up forward for Port Melbourne in 2021 and is lively around goal. GWV midfielder/defender Chloe Leonard suits the Richmond way and could be one who plays a role early at the next level, while Eastern Ranges winger Jorja Livingstone rounds out the crop as a potential father-daughter choice. Richmond may purely look towards midfield depth in the first round, or some late key forward support to mix up the above combination.”

Amanda Ling

ST KILDA:

#4 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)
#12 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)
#36 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)

Michael Alvaro says …

“While this three-player haul may look relatively straightforward, St Kilda is perched in a position which requires a lot of hard thinking. With pick four, the second of the Victorian pool, there are a bunch of prospects in the pipeline. With the need of midfield depth in mind and given the style of young stars Tyanna Smith and Georgia Patrikios, Amanda Ling seems like the perfect fold for them. Best afield in Oakleigh’s NAB League premiership triumph, Ling is a 19th year talent with great desire and work-rate at the contest, where her clean hands and sound decision making shine. The Saints could also get a handy slider with pick 12, and there would be high value in selecting Jaide Anthony in this range. The tough Dandenong Stingrays defender was Vic Country’s Under 19 MVP and plays above her 166cm standing with courage and athleticism. She would also maintain the strong link between Dandenong and St Kilda. Down the order, GWV small forward Tahlia Meier could be one the Saints look at with goals in mind, given her knack for finding them. They could also go down the route of targeting a taller type to support Caitlin Greiser, with mature-agers Tegan Cunningham and Leah Kaslar potentially up for grabs.”

Courtney Rowley

WEST COAST:

#3 Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder)
#21 Sarah Lakay (Swan Districts)
#24 Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco)
#41 Chloe Reilly (East Fremantle)
#53 Emily Bennett (Claremont)

Peter Williams says …

“West Coast has a really strong draft hand, with three of the first four selections in the West Australian pool. Weighing up between tall and small with the first selection, I opted to go Peel Thunder’s Courtney Rowley to add that touch of class to the midfield with the Eagles, and then back up with a couple of taller options in ruck Sarah Lakay and versatile talent Charlie Thomas. All three are different prospects and add a dynamic mix to the team. Versatile small Chloe Reilly represents value as one who could improve in the future and has strong hands and a booming kick, much like Emily Bennett out of Claremont. Both are highly competitive, and Bennett has put together a consistent season for me to pick her up with the final selection for the Eagles. Amy Franklin is a clear consideration for the first selection, in which case it would trigger a different set of next selections, with Dana East being that pure midfield option. Beth Schilling was another potential pick-up late in the mix as well.”

Annie Lee

WESTERN BULLDOGS:

#22 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)
#25 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)
#27 Brooke Hards (Western Bulldogs VFLW)

Peter Williams says …

“The Western Bulldogs selections were not what I expected coming into the draft, but in the end I opted for best available with each selection. Having three picks so close together, it was a case of waiting and seeing who was on the board at the time and snapping up the respective highest players on my Power Rankings. Whilst Geelong might have overlooked the Falcons in this draft much to my surprise, I was more than happy to pick up my ninth ranked player Annie Lee at Pick 22, with my 15th ranked talent Gabbi Featherston at Pick 25. The Falcons duo can provide some great excitement up either end, and provide some good aerial support despite not being key position players. Featherston can also chop out in the ruck despite being sub-170cm, which is an area the Dogs might look for given the departure of Kim Rennie. With the final selection I went internal and picked up the 20th ranked player in my Power Rankings in Brooke Hards, having played every game for the Bulldogs this season and her versatility to play across the field, along with her athleticism like Featherston, will provide great scope for the future. I strongly considered taking Brooke Vickers with the first selection, whilst Keeley Sherar and Ingrid Houtsma were others in the mix, as was Maeve Chaplin and Maykaylah Appleby to follow on the recent trend of Northern Knights at the Bulldogs.”

Smith taking things “week by week”

POWERFUL prospect Bella Smith has proven herself as one of Queensland’s top draft chances in 2021, but is taking a steady mindset into next week’s big day. The Maroochydore midfielder has been aligned with the Brisbane Lions Academy and there are plenty of former ‘Roos to look towards for inspiration in the same pathway.

“At this point in time I’m just taking everything week by week and just trying to play well in my QAFL games,” Smith said during the season. “But the end goal is definitely to get drafted.”

As a member of this year’s AFLW Academy intake, Smith has picked up plenty of elite standards along the way and got the chance to meet up with her fellow academy members earlier in the year. Queensland’s Under 19 Championships clash with Vic Country also served as a handy “experience”, with Smith notching 14 disposals and five marks despite her side’s 54-point loss.

“It was an interesting game,” she said. “I was very excited for it all, but at the end of the day they were definitely a better side than us. It was still a great experience and good to see friends that we’ve known from the (AFLW) Academy as well.

“(The Academy) is awesome. It’s such a good experience to get around girls that are like-minded. We got to catch up all together not too long ago down in Melbourne.”

At that point in time, Smith had hoped the national academy would be able to play their then-postponed game together, though it never came to fruition. Instead, she honed her craft back home with Maroochydore in a QAFLW campaign which yielded a finals win.

Described by Queensland Talent Manager Mark Browning as a “very, very tough inside mid (who) loves the contest”, Smith says strength and power are her go-to traits. While she is a terrific handler and distributor on the inside, she is still working on her outside game and improving the all-important fundamentals of kicking.

“(I’m looking to improve on) everything really,” Smith said. ” But I’ve been working a lot on my kicking. I’ve been doing work outside of training with Enhanced Football, he’s been helping me over the season on my kicking.”

Cracking the next level would mark another great chapter in Smith’s footballing story, which began at eight years old when she topped up for her brother’s local side.

The likes of Belle Dawes and Lily Postlethwaite have already stepped up from Maroochydore to the Brisbane Lions’ AFLW squad, can Smith be the next Roo to bounce to the bigtime?

QAFLW Player Focus: Maggie Harmer and Bella Smith (Maroochydore/Brisbane Lions Academy)

DESPITE a loss in their Round 13 QAFLW fixture against the undefeated Bond University, AFLW Academy and Brisbane Lions Academy members, Maggie Harmer and Bella Smith, put in strong performances to further solidify their placing as two of the most promising Queensland prospects for the upcoming AFLW Draft. Having both impressed in the recent U19 AFLW Championship fixture against Vic Country, Harmer as a defender and Smith more through the midfield, Brisbane fans will be more than happy to see the two of them make the step up.

>> MIKAYLA PAUGA PLAYER FOCUS

PLAYER PROFILE:

MAGGIE HARMER | MAROOCHYDORE
12/04/2003 | DEFENDER

Making a name for herself as a reliable defender, who plays well above her 170cm height against taller opponents, Harmer is perhaps most well known for her aerial work and clean ball use out of the defensive 50. In the recent Under 19s AFLW National Championships match against Vic Country, she took five marks in the defensive half on her way to getting named in the best, being trusted with kick ins duty for majority of the game.

BELLA SMITH | MAROOCHYDORE
5/10/2003 | UTILITY

Able to fill a role in all thirds of the ground, Smith credits her strength as one of her best traits, but also shows great speed and ball winning ability. It is clear to see why she is able to impact in all areas of the ground. Racking up 14 disposals in the recent U19 AFLW National Championships match against Vic Country, Smith was one of the better users of the ball, often looking to switch play, highlighting her footy smarts.

 

Q1:

Harmer

Stationed in her usual role in the defensive 50, Harmer was involved early on as she spoiled a few marks around the 50-metre mark, not being afraid of running off her opponent to create an outnumber. Harmer’s ball use was often strong, generally handballing to a runner from behind rather than kicking to 50/50 options.

Harmer finished the quarter with 3 Kicks, 3 Handballs and 1 Mark in a very respectable first term where she had some crucial moments with her ball use out of the defensive 50 and work rate to create contests.

Smith

Starting the quarter in the defensive half as a player that pressured opponents well and forced some turnovers for teammates to take advantage of, whilst Smith was good in defensive 50, it was when she got her rotation into the midfield where she thrived, often in the best spot to win clearances and making herself an option as a switch kick to open up the game going forward.

Coming out of the first term with 3 Kicks, 2 Handballs, 1 Mark and 1 Centre Clearance Smith was more involved than her stats suggest, applying pressure and keeping her opponent accountable as a midfielder.

 

Q2:

Harmer

Again in the backline with Maroochydore under a little bit more pressure than the previous quarter, Harmer took majority of the kick ins, where she would run out and kick the ball past the front of the centre square, even taking a bounce at one stage in a remarkable show of confidence. She gave away a harsh free kick for in the back early in the quarter.

Collected 3 Kicks, 1 Handball, 1 Tackle, 1 FA in the second quarter, continuing to create outnumbers in the defensive 50 to stop Bond University scoring as much as they could have.

Smith

Got involved in the same ways off the ball she did in the first quarter, applying pressure on opponents with the ball to force them to rush disposals and not hit targets. Despite not landing a couple of tackles she never let it get her confidence down, working continually hard and eventually getting rewarded later in the quarter, catching an opponent for holding the ball.

Finished the quarter with 2 Kicks, 3 Tackles and 1 FF she wasn’t quite as prolific in collecting the ball in the second, but looked even more dangerous in the second with her tackling and pressure work.

Bella Smith running away from her opponent.

Q3:

Harmer

Harmer moved up to be the sole kick-in player for Maroochydore, doing the same work as in the second quarter with her running out of the square and looking to get the ball far up the ground. She did the same audacious bounce as the previous quarter, but unfortunately got caught by an opponent when it slipped past her, doing well not to concede a free kick.

Getting 3 Kicks, 1 Handball and 1 Mark, for the quarter, with her four disposals all being effective ones and fairly damaging, and seemingly learning from her mistake with the bounce, she adjusted and did not attempt it again.

Smith

A move into a midfield and forward line split rather than the backline paid dividends for Smith in the third, winning more of the ball and being a driving force in getting Maroochydore forward with her ball use and ability to get around opponents. Seemingly gained more confidence around stoppages the longer she spent in the midfield.

Ending the quarter with 4 Kicks, 1 Handball, 1 Mark, 1 Centre Clearance and 1 Clearance, Smith saw a good return stats wise for her extended time in the midfield, without seeing a drop in her pressure work either

Q4:

Harmer

With the game coming to a close and Bond University looking increasingly likely to win, Harmer never dropped her effort, seeing her end as one of the more vital players for Maroochydore, with her ball use getting better and better as the game went on. With just the one blemish for the quarter being another harsh in the back call.

4 Kicks, 2 Handballs, 1 Mark and 1 Free Against, was the return for Harmer in the final quarter, which was arguably her best performance across the game, linking up well with teammates to keep Bond from scoring as much as they could have.

Smith

Looking increasingly more confident on the inside of the contest and around stoppages, especially in the forward half, with her pinpoint handballing leading to inside 50s and scoring opportunities.

The final quarter return for Smith was 1 Kick, 3 Handballs and 1 Clearance, with most of her work done in the forward half, she still applied that pressure she had shown through the whole game.

Maggie Harmer looking to make a lead at half-back.

SUMMARY:

Harmer: 20 Disposals, 12 Kicks, 8 Handballs, 3 Marks, 2 FA

Getting a high return for a defender, especially one that often played deep, Harmer put in a good performance despite the loss, and her kicks from opposition behinds were often put into good spots to result in inside 50s, with Bond’s team setting up well behind the play to stop that eventuating. Although only holding three marks, she flew for everything that was in her area, showing that with some assistance on her marking technique she’ll be an even bigger aerial threat.

 

Smith: 16 Disposals, 10 Kicks, 6 Handballs, 2 Marks, 3 Tackles, 1 FF, 2 Centre Clearances, 2 Clearances

Being thrown about in all thirds of the ground, Smith was able to maintain a consistent level of pressure, whilst chiming in with quality disposals when she got it. Her strength and speed around stoppages was a big advantage over her opponents, unable to be matched for speed when she locked on to a loose ball. With those strengths, her game is sure to translate well to the next level.

Top Performers – AFLW U19 Championships: Vic Country vs. Queensland

WELCOMING Queensland into the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, the country’s most northern competitor on the eastern seaboard took on the undefeated Vic Country at Port Melbourne on the weekend. Whilst Country came away with the big nine-goal win, we took a look at number of the performers who impressed on the day.

VIC COUNTRY:

#1 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)

A standout small forwards performance on a big stage, Meier’s sense in the forward line with her crumbing and kicking for goal got her three majors for the day, proving that she can be opportunistic, but also win her own ball around packs, following up with her high class speed and agility to get into a goal kicking position. Read the ball well as it came inside 50, able to hit the front and centre of packs often, but time the run so she could get the ball if it spilled over the back easily. Pushed up into the midfield in the later stages of the game where that same speed and agility was a real weapon in getting the ball moving forward.

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

Traditionally one that plays on the wing and waits patiently for the ball to come out to her, Smith showed that, if required, she may well have a future on the inside as well, with her willingness to put her head over the footy and not move even with incoming front on pressure, being a big part of Country’s ability to force turnovers as she hunted every loose ball that came outside the Country forward 50. She also found ways to impact around stoppages, timing her runs well to be a go to handball option, where she’d follow up with some really well placed and weighted kicks to get Country into space. Her ball use going inside 50 was pivotal at times, almost forcing her teammates to lead to the right spots with her kicks. 

#7 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

Having already proved her versatility in the NAB League campaign and previous VIC Country outings, Di Donato once again showed she’s able to have a big impact regardless of where her magnet is. Starting the game in the midfield where she looked to position and move well, especially around stoppages, Di Donato was one that provided as an option almost every time, encouraging teammates to use her as a switch option or a shorter kick inboard. When she went for her stints up forward it did not seem to impact how far she got up the ground, still applying pressure and winning plenty of ball in the midfield, but also working hard when the ball moved forward to get to the front of contests and be a handball option. This hard work and positional nous resulted in two goals for the bottom-aged prospect. 

#9 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

Coming in to the game as the leading goal kicker for Country, Scott found herself drawing a fair bit of attention from the Queensland defense, always having an opponent by her side regardless of where the ball was. This forced the bottom-ager to change up her style a little bit, as she looked to push up the ground more than usual and impact around the wings, presenting as a leading option when the ball was on the defensive 50 arc and creating contests to stop Queensland getting easy repeat entries. Still managed to impact inside 50 with two goals, one of which was a real show of power, as she equalised a two on one contest, holding her feet and out running two opponents, taking a bounce along the way, and kicking it straight through. 

#14 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

The Vic Country MVP, Anthony was one of the standout performers for the game with her defensive principles, especially positioning, playing a big part in the big margin, as she got front position in every contest to consistently intercept balls that were rushed forward, willing to push up the ground to win those intercepts high up on the wing and keep the pressure on the Queensland defense. Able to win one-on-ones consistently, even the marking contests, it became evident that Queensland eventually looked to avoid the side of the ground she was on when in transition, pushing Anthony deeper down back to make some goal stopping plays in the final quarter.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Whilst not an overly flashy player, the reliability of Leonard as a running defender, with her attack on the footy and kicking, played a big part in how Country looked to move the ball out of the backline, with Leonard getting involved with her pressure work and positioning, to get the ball going for Country. Not just relying on her kicking for the game, Leonard had multiple occasions where she won a loose ball and assessed the options all around her, finding a handball laterally or backwards to a loose teammate who’d be able to run and kick the ball further than Leonard would have been able to herself.

#16 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

Skepper looked good throughout the contest when she was running into packs, winning the ball and then running free, with her speed being one of her bigger weapons of the game, she’d get enough separation on her opponent to win the ball relatively uncontested when it spilled out to her, and follow up with her long kicking forward. What impressed most was the penetration and speed of which she delivered most of her kicks, with one particular play in the third quarter seeing her get onto the end of some transitional work by Country, run it up the wing and deliver the perfect kick up forward to a leading target

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Friend has been thrown about into almost every position this year across the NAB League and National Champs, but may have just put the debate of where she plays best to bed with a stellar performance as a defender. Her marking has always been a strength but looked flawless against Queensland, able to position herself well to take a couple of uncontested marks, but also holding onto some contested grabs well, despite being caught behind on occasion. Used the ball well when she got it, often looking to switch it from the backline, or look direct for a leading target when in the forward half. Looked to assist teammates to create an outnumber in contests, or come in as an easy release handball option.

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Arguably her best performance in the Country guernsey, Slender got involved early with her hunt for the footy in the front half impressive, jumping on any opponent with the ball in her area, even winning a free early for holding the ball, and following up with a well placed kick inside 50. That ball use and pressure work, especially second and third efforts, continued to be a highlight for the game, looking a consistent threat in the forward half, and whilst she didn’t get on the scoreboard she was able to set up a couple with that previously mentioned ball use at a high level even under pressure. It was also good to see that she was taking some contested grabs in the forward half. 

QUEENSLAND:

#2 Abby Hewett (Wilston Grange)

A hard at it and uncompromising midfielder, Hewett’s relentless attack and hunt of the ball, and ball carrier, caused some turnovers that had the potential to be really damaging had it not been for the work of the Country defense. Whilst not a massive clearance winner herself, she negates her opponents impact by getting the front position, allowing her to pounce on any opponent that may win the ball. She also displayed some good bursts of speed, running down a couple of opponents in open play, and occasionally backing that speed to go on runs herself. 

#3 Mikayla Pauga (Bond University)

Playing as a more defensive midfielder for majority of the contest, Pauga was another Queensland midfielder that made getting clean possession out of stoppages difficult for Country, able to read where the play was most likely to go and position herself to be in the way of the opponents running to get there. She did take the opportunity to win the ball herself though, often being the midfielder to collect it when Country won the hitout.

#4 Charlotte Mullins (Aspley)

The bottom-ager was a standout performer in the forward half for Queensland, despite not getting on the scoreboard it was often due to her hard work that Queensland looked like scoring multiple times against the grain of play. She pushed up the ground with confidence, impacting with her tackling to win free kicks on the half back line, then use the ball well to hit leading targets coming at her, or put it to the advantage of teammates when they were outnumbered. She also led well and hard herself, taking a few good marks without breaking stride.

#6 Bella Smith (Maroochydore)

Appeared to be one of the smarter users of the footy through the game, with her willingness to move the ball by hand and look for wider options opening the game up for Queensland really well, especially in the first half. When not using it by hand, Smith was proactive in looking to get the ball moving with switch kicks, putting the ball in front of teammates to run onto if they weren’t in an optimal position for the kick. She also held her own in contested situations really well, keeping her feet even in an outnumbered situation to keep battling for the ball and making it difficult for country to move out. 

#7 Teagan Levi (Bond University)

Giving Gold Coast fans something to smile about after a tough AFLW season, Levi was convincingly one of the top few most impressive girls on ground, and showed she is close to a complete package in terms of a draft prospect. Lining up in the midfield all game, Levi was a presence around stoppages with her speed, agility and ability to find the ball all combining to see her win plenty of it, where she’d follow up with her pinpoint handballs or penetrative kicks forward to find options up to 50 meters away. She got to the right spots around the ground, able to be at multiple contests in a row to win the ball and hand it off to a teammate. A real showcase of her speed came in the third quarter, where she ran from centre wing to the defensive 50 arc to tackle Country’s Paige Scott for a holding the ball free kick.

#10 Alana Gee (Mackay Saints)

One of the cleaner players on field, the bottom-ager Gee showed qualities awfully similar to her last names sake, Carlton’s Georgia Gee, with exceptional ball use, movement through traffic, speed and game sense all strengths she showed consistently throughout the contest. It was also impressive to see Gee’s workrate around the ground, whilst not one to go in and get the footy, she’d still push down to the backline to be a switch option down deep, or a back handball release option, then use her kicking and speed to get the ball out, often switching it to the other side of the ground. She showed that speed off a few times, with a piece of play in the early stages of the game seeing her taking on an opponent, taking two bounces and kicking inside 50. One of the rarer traits in football and one Gee possess, she looked comfortable kicking with either foot through the game, reliably getting the ball where it needed to be.

#15 Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore)

The Lions Academy member worked into the game as it went on, winning most of her disposals in the second half. Despite what might be considered a slower start, she still provided plenty of security in the defensive 50, laying a couple of goal stopping tackles to keep the contest tight early on. The second half saw her become more prolific with winning the ball, taking some intercept marks higher up the ground and using the footy well to give Queensland dangerous inside 50 entries. When she won the ball down deep she still used it well, often looking to switch it across the ground to utilise the space.

#24 Lucia Liessi (Aspley)

Whilst not being a flashy player, Liessi was a valuable member of the Queensland defense, with her importance growing each quarter, being one of the few that did not tire or get worried with the pressure. Her workrate and tackling pressure was immense, forcing sprayed shots and turnovers from the Country forwards with her ability to close down space and carrel them into tight spots.

Class shines through as Vic Country dominate Queensland

IT was a clinical four quarter performance from Vic Country, never taking the foot off the pedal on their way to a 76-22 triumph on Sunday afternoon in the winners’ final game of the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. Breaking away in the second term, Country were dominant on all facets of the ground, maintaining control of the ball for majority of the game, and were given free reign for most of the contest. There were brilliant goals up forward and their back six were as solid as you could ask, as they constantly found a way to extract the ball and thwart Queensland attacks.

The game started in seriously contested fashion, with neither side able to break free. The ball lived in the 50m arc for either side, with each fantastic play of transition football followed up by scrappy, hard-fought contests. The drought was broken by Tahlia Meier, who booted VIC Country’s first goal. They say good things come in twos, as Country kicked their second shortly after through Zoe Garth, and suddenly Queensland found themselves on the back foot. Queensland were able to conjure a response through Imogen Evans, and suddenly the momentum looked to sway the other way. The game remained contested, until a late goal on the run from Paige Scott saw Country take a handy lead into the first break.

The remainder of the game was dominated by Country, as they never gave their opponents enough of the ball to hurt them on the scoreboard. In the midfield, the battle was even for a lot of the time, but it was Country’s ability to rebound from the defensive 50 that hurt the opposition. Queensland entered the game with an extremely tall defence, and this was an advantage early in the game, with plenty of long bombs cut off. Country quickly adapted to this, as they constantly lowered their eyes when entering the forward line to great effect. The final quarter saw a slight fightback from Queensland and they ended up producing an equally as effective fourth term, but the final margin still remained at 54 points.

Defender Jaide Anthony was fantastic all day with 19 disposals from the backline. Her spread from contests was something to marvel, as she was constantly an outlet option for her side, finishing off a remarkably consistent 2021 campaign. Up forward, Meier booted three goals in a strong outing, while Scott was dangerous all day. Aurora Smith (15 disposals, two clearances and three inside 50s), Chloe Leonard (14 disposals, seven tackles and four rebound 50s) and Octavia Di Donato (12 disposals, four marks, two inside 50s, two rebound 50s and two goals) were also among Country’s best.

For Queensland, Teagan Levi (16 disposals, six clearances) fought hard all day to provide a spark for her side, alongside Abby Hewett (16 disposals, eight tackles and eight clearances in the midfield. Alana Gee (17 disposals, six marks, three tackles and four inside 50s), Lucia Liessi (18 disposals, six marks, four tackles and two rebound 50s) and Bella Smith (15 disposals, five tackles, three inside 50s and two rebound 50s) were also among the best.

While Vic Country’s AFLW U19 Championships come to close, Queensland face off against Vic Metro in the final game of the carnival next Saturday at Metricon Stadium from 10:45am.

VIC COUNTRY 2.0 | 6.1 | 10.2 | 12.4 (76)
QUEENSLAND 1.1 | 2.1 | 2.3 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS:

Vic Country: Meier 3, Scott 2, Di Donato 2, Garth, Schaap, Featherston, Richards, Tierney.
Queensland: Evans, Tarlinton, Sheridan.

DC BEST:

Vic Country: J. Anthony, T. Meier, A. Smith, C. Leonard, O. Di Donato
Queensland: T. Levi, A. Hewett, L. Liessi, A. Gee, B. Smith

Top Performers: Queensland Under 19s vs. Coorparoo

IN a midweek training hitout, Queensland’s best and brightest young stars took to the field against Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Women’s side Coorparoo in a match prior to their AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships campaign. The Queensland side defeated Coorparoo 12.10 (82) to 0.2 (2) in a one-sided contest, in four 15-minute quarters with no goal umpires. We took note of some of the Top Performers of the Queensland side for the winners. All notes are opinion-based of the writer.

AFLW ACADEMY:

#3 Mikayla Pauga (Lions)

Might have the best hands of anyone going around, with absolute lightning handballs in close that not only set up one goal, but two goals in the second half. First was a great handball to keep it in in the third term on the boundary line to get it to Lily Tarlinton for a major, then the next term she barely breezed past it with a slick handball to Abby Hewett for a goal. Her running out of midfield going forward, and her footy IQ and smarts were incredible and she is the type of player you want the ball in the hands of all day, every day.

#6 Bella Smith (Lions)

Strong at the contest playing on the inside, she sometimes rushed the disposal when moving, but her contested ball ability was outstanding. She just ripped the ball at ground level to clear it, and kept winning it in close using her bigger frame to advantage. She proved hard to bring down in a tackle and charged at every stoppage, and even had a chance on goal through a snap in the third term.

#7 Teagan Levi (Suns)

If Pauga’s hands are among the cleanest going around, then Levi’s vision and kicking are right up there with anyone in the draft crop. Twice she stopped, propped and looked inboard with a slicing pinpoint pass to open up the game and hit a target, including setting up a goal to Lily Tarlinton. She has the inside ball-winning ability to match her decision making and cleanliness, able to win clearances and get it forward, bullocking her way through traffic. She did bite off too much at one stage in the fourth term, with multiple Coorparoo players dragging her to ground for a holding the ball call.

#15 Maggie Harmer (Lions)

Did not have a great deal to do in defence, with some good defensive pressure early, but had a quieter game due to the circumstances of the way the match went, but still got around and provided effort.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#2 Abby Hewett (Lions)

A nice little pocket rocket who slotted two goals on the day, with the first being a clever snap in the pocket midway through the second term, and another one from a clean kick on the run early in the fourth quarter. She worked hard up the ground to help run the ball out of defence later in the fourth quarter, and positioned herself well when the opposition was in possession.

#4 Charlotte Mullins (Lions bottom-ager)

The bottom-age talent really showed promising signs as a player for next year, missing a couple of chances before becoming third time lucky midway through the second term. She had an early shot on goal which missed to the right, then laid a great tackle, had a clean snap but also missed to the right in the second term, then finally snapped truly at the 12-and-a-half-minute mark. She showed clean hands at ground level, and whilst she did drop some marks, has some great promising signs for the future.

#10 Alana Gee (Suns bottom-ager)

Provided the run and carry in transition that broke down the opposition’s defensive zone, and was not afraid to take the person on the mark on. She shrugged off an opponent early in the match, then had a few touches in the third term getting it forward, and almost sold herself into trouble in the last running towards goal, but managed to get boot to ball.

#11 Brooke Sheridan (Lions bottom-ager)

Three goals on the day for the clever bottom-age forward. She kicked her first in the opening term, sliding in 30m out to mark and nail the set shot without ever looking like missing. She almost had a second not long after with a clever snap off hands, but it missed to the right. A quieter second term was followed by a huge third quarter, as Sheridan booted two goals in two minutes, both within 20m of the goal, including one as a crumb in the goalsquare. Very clean at ground level and an exciting talent for next year.

#12 Phoebe Baird (Lions)

Provided great running along the wing to get the ball forward, and had a particularly big second term with her ability to win it on the wing and drive it forward. She had a set shot on goal from 40m out following a 50m penalty, but it fell short and hit an opponent’s back. She worked hard in transition even when she did not win it, so was an exciting one to keep an eye on.

#14 Kadie Fletcher (Lions bottom-ager)

Another bottom-age standout who played well off half-back and pushing up the ground, Fletcher used the ball fairly well aside from one poor effort in the third term. She took some great intercept marks and then produced a lovely kick from the middle going forward to set up a scoring opportunity for her team.

#16 Laquoiya Cockatoo-Motlap (Suns)

Sensational kicking, she was able to nail a terrific pass from the wing into the middle in the second term, and then had a number of repeat entries in that quarter which led to an Abby Hewett goal. She used good bodywork one-on-one and was able to pump it inside 50 in the third term to set up another major for a teammate.

#20 Litonya Cockatoo-Motlap (Suns)

Just as impressive as her sister, Litonya possesses some high-level traits such as her vision to kick to the wing to hit a target under pressure. She ran hard all game long and showed good strength in the forward half, using clean hands to shovel it out to teammates, as well as a nice kick going inside 50 following good bodywork one-on-one in the third quarter. She lead out in the fourth term using her speed to mark, then turned and hit-up Lily Tarlinton with a great pass.

#22 Faith Alchin (Suns)

Had a really busy start to the game and kicked the opening goal very early in the match thanks to a clever kick in play that bounced through the open goal with no defenders there. She produced a lovely low bullet to Brooke Sheridan to set up another goal for the Queensland side and had another chance herself in the third term. She charged through a forward 50 pack to get the ball out by hand, then was thrown into the ruck in the fourth term for something different.

#26 Lily Tarlinton (Suns)

Used her size and experience inside 50 to be the dominant target for the Queensland side. She slotted three goals and realistically should have had five, which showed how much of an impact she had. Whilst being a target early, it was a great mark of a pinpoint pass from Teagan Levi that set up her first goal, a set shot straight in front. She kicked her second from a snap exactly a quarter later, then finished off with her third – also a snap – later in the term. Tarlinton showed she could produce at ground level as well as on the lead, taking a strong mark in the fourth term 35m out but her set shot was touched on the line. She had a chance late in the game to snap her fourth, but opted to handball to Macie Brown for a goal.

OTHERS:

The Davies sisters in Giselle and Fleur both had some nice moments at respective ends, with Fleur providing a target up forward and having a couple of chances, while Giselle held up strong in defence. Alongside her, Lucia Liessi tried her best with providing run though not needing to do a great deal, while Ella Smith, Imogen Evans and Kalista-Jayne Shiner showed promising signs through midfield, and Macie Brown and Keyshia Matenga were lively inside 50.

Picture credit: Russell Freeman/AFL Photos

2021 VFLW Round 9 preview: Youngsters set for debut as AFLW talent filters back

SEVERAL NAB League Girls players make their Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s debuts in Round 9, as more AFL Women’s talents filter back to the state league competition.

ESSENDON vs. CARLTON
Saturday, May 1 @ 11:00am
Windy Hill

In the opening game of the round, Essendon and Carlton clash at Windy Hill in a weekend that will see plenty of opportunities for the rivals to go head-to-head. Ruby Svarc is a crucial in for the Bombers returning after spending her season in Queensland with the Brisbane Lions, and she could well be given the job on Grace Egan who makes her return to state level for the Blues. Searching for a win against a pretty impressive Bombers outfit this season, Carlton has also added Abbie McKay to the side, with the likes of Daisy Walker and Charlotte Hammans steady in the defence. Georgia Nanscawen has overcome the injury that kept her out for the past couple of weeks, whilst Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell is back for another week, with Pioneers teammate Jemma Finning named as an emergency and expected to make a VFLW debut in the coming weeks. The Bombers will be favoured in this clash with the return of Nanscawen and playing at home.

DAREBIN vs. PORT MELBOURNE
Saturday, May 1 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

Two teams at opposite ends of the ladder clash at midday, with the one-win Darebin team taking on a Port Melbourne side coming off its first loss to Casey Demons last week. After gaining Jess Dal Pos back from AFL Women’s last week, the Falcons will be keen to give it all they have against a pretty strong Borough outfit. Nicole Callinan has been an important inclusion for Darebin this season, with Stephanie Simpson and Samara David targets up forward. The Borough just have so much depth, and an incredible forward line led by key targets, Sabrina Frederick and Emily Harley, and reliable source of goals from Sophie Locke. Sophie Molan has returned to state level for the visitors, with GWS GIANTS’ Katherine Smith also set to make her debut for Port Melbourne, in a team that has some how found a way to get stronger. Given the inclusions for the Borough, it is hard to see them dropping this game, but it will be a great test for the Falcons.

GEELONG vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, May 1 @ 1:00pm
Deakin University Waurn Ponds

In the longest road trip of the season for the Western Bulldogs, the back-to-back winners take on an in-form Geelong outfit who remain in contention for a top two spot in this season. Since the AFL Women’s season has concluded, the Western Bulldogs have not mucked around with rotating their elite talents, and whilst Elisabeth Georgostathis rotates out of the side this week, the visitors will welcome back Isabella Grant, Isabelle Pritchard and Annabel Strahan, while Jess Fitzgerald has cheekily been named as an emergency so could well be coming into the side soon. Western Jets’ Jemima Woods comes back into the team after her three-goal debut a fortnight ago, and she will be joined by Caitlin Sargent (four goals in NAB League last week) and Trinity Skenderis. The Cats have kept a strong midfield, but have brought in Amy McDonald, whilst giving Sophie Van de Heuvel a rest. Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner still form a dominant group in there, and with Stephanie Williams, Georgia Clarke and the return of Richelle Cranston up forward, the Cats have plenty of firepower. This is a really tight game, and Geelong should be favourites, but the strength of the Bulldogs team means the visitors could cause an upset and make it three wins on the trot.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, May 1 @ 2:00pm
Arden Street

Casey Demons showed what they are capable of last week by rolling Port Melbourne to inflict the Borough’s first defeat of the season, whilst North Melbourne dominated Carlton, keeping the Blues to just one goal for the game. With the teams coming into good form, on paper it looks to be a great match but the Demons have really stacked their side with AFL Women’s talent, as Libby Birch, Brenna Tarrant and Shelley Heath are named in defence, Eden Zanker joined Maddison Gay in the midfield, and Alyssa Bannan and Casey Sherriff are up forward. The Roos have mostly kept a consistent lineup of players on the cusp of AFLW footy, though Beth Lynch is an important cog in defence. Bella Eddey is getting some extra minutes running around for the VFLW team, whilst Jayde Hamilton returns from the AFLW Under 19 Championships to play alongside sister Alexia. If North Melbourne can get up in this one it will be the Roos’ best scalp of the season, but with Essendon sniffing around Casey’s recently acquired fourth spot, the Demons must hold onto the place by winning this one.

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, May 1 @ 2:00pm
Downer Oval

Williamstown is the next challenger up to try and knock off Collingwood as the undefeated Magpies rose in the final term to see off Essendon and grab another win in Round 8. The Magpies have plenty of reasons to get up in this game, with 2019 premiership coach Penny Cula-Reid behind the helm of the 2019 wooden spooners side this season. She will have her work cut out for her against a red-hot Magpies lineup, which features both Amelia Velardo and Aliesha Newman who copped knocks last week but have recovered to play. Abbi Moloney returns to the side with Joanna Lin, Maddi Shevlin and Imogen Purcell among the other Collingwood AFLW talents outside the two key forwards in Sophie Alexander and Bella Smith. The Seagulls have some terrific VFLW talent, with Erin Meade, Megan Williamson, Aimee Whelan and Ruby Tripodi among the in-form players in the competition, but it will be whether or not they can make the most of their chances as the Pies will give their forwards plenty, particularly after the form of Marla Neal last week who shone in the win at The Hangar. Hard to see the Pies dropping this one, though the Seagulls are strong defensively and will not make it easy for them.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. HAWTHORN
Sunday, May 2 @ 10:00am
Trevor Barker Oval

The standalone Sunday fixture pits the sixth placed Southern Saints in a must-win fixture against Hawthorn who got up in Meg Hutchins‘ 250th match last week. The Saints cling onto the lowest finals spot – albeit with plenty of time left in the season – and will need to win this one to give themselves some security there. However the Hawks have some tall targets in Hutchins and Tamara Luke up forward, with the dangerous Kristy Stratton and Jessie Williams capable of kicking multiple goals. Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae makes her debut for the brown and gold following the conclusion of the NAB League Girls’ season, with another former Gippsland leader in Maddi Shaw running around for the brown and gold. Georgia Bevan, Alison Drennan and Nadia von Bertouch have plenty to prove in this game as they look for another chance at AFL Women’s level, with the latter two having played for the Saints at this level earlier this season. For the Saints, they went down to the reformed Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval last Friday and will look to bounce back with Tara Bohanna and Renee Saulitis providing that tall and small option inside 50. Alice Burke and Tahlia Meyer rack up the ball each and every week, and Hannah Stewart has been enjoying a nice season this year at VFLW level. This game could go either way with the Saints ranked higher, but the Hawks are forming a really strong list as the season goes on.

QAFLW Player Focus: Smith’s star quality evident ahead of Coorparoo clash

YOU couldn’t watch Maroochydore’s Round 7 QAFL Women’s match against Aspley and not be amazed by Bella Smith.

From the very first bounce, the hard running midfielder was in everything. From a brutal don’t argue, to a goal saving tackle, the first quarter belonged to Smith, and she didn’t slow down from there. Her spread from a stoppage was excellent as she worked to provide an option for teammates whenever she didn’t have the ball in her hands (which wasn’t too often). She displayed a quality that catches the eye; the ability to grab a game by the collar and make it her own. It’s a talent not seen too often, and one that is likely worrying her Coorparoo opponents ahead of this weekend’s matchup.

Smith is simply a midfielder who does it all. She hunts the footy, she tackles, she runs hard and most importantly, she plays to her strengths. Not a noted goalkicker, Smith often puts in the hard yards getting the ball into the hands of the forwards, allowing them to take the shots. A memorable moment from the first quarter saw Smith spread from the stoppage, receive the ball, then proceed to conjure a Dustin Martin-like fend off that put her opponent the ground. It was a moment that drew a collective gasp from the crowd, as Smith then dished the ball inside 50 to set up a shot on goal for her teammates. It was reflective of her entire day, strength, hard work and a little bit of magic.

She will be a hard player for Coorparoo to contain, simply due to how hard she works from contest to contest. Her coverage of the ground was unmatched by any other midfielder in the Round 7 contest. She works remarkably hard to receive the ball, and when she gets it, her strength and smarts make her quite difficult to tackle. She shrugged off opponents on plenty of occasions, and she always keeps her arms free.

By the time the second quarter rolled around, Aspley midfielders were very cautious of Smith’s ability to impact the stoppage, resulting in Smith having a shot on goal after a holding free went her way. While the attempt unluckily hit the inside of the post, it was a testament to Smith’s ability to make other players worry too much about her and not enough about the ball.

The only visible flaw in her came was her own aerobic undoing, as she looked tired at times, but this was only due to the fact that she had worked so hard previously. Still, when the ball was in dispute, she found another gear and was able to work hard and get to the contest to provide another number for her side. If she continues to put in performances such as the one she displayed in Round 7, it will continue to prove difficult for opposing players to minimise her impact on the game. Not only does she find plenty of the ball, she also damages the other team when she uses it. In the third quarter, she found the ball on the wing and then broke the game open with an excellent inboard kick that found a teammate on the run.

Maroochydore have a star on their hands here with Smith. In Round 7, she affected the contest more than any other player on the ground and was clearly best on ground. This looked like the emergence of a star, and if she can do it again against Coorparoo, she will have established herself as one of the premier midfielders of the competition.

Picture credit: Sunshine Coast Daily

2021 VFLW Round 8 preview: Anzac Day rivals lock horns at The Hangar

ANZAC Day matches take centre stage, along with a Friday night blockbuster at Whitten Oval, in what is anticipated to be a fantastic round of Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s action for Round 8 of the competition.

WESTERN BULLDOGS vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Friday, April 23 @ 7:30pm
Whitten Oval

A mammoth win last Sunday afternoon against Darebin saw Western Bulldogs jump from eleventh to eighth on the VFL Women’s table, and draw to within four points of the top six. They will have plenty of percentage to catch up on after some disappointing losses, but the team that currently holds sixth spot is their opponents on Friday night, the Southern Saints. The Saints have a healthy percentage thanks to a similar belting of the Falcons back in Round 5, which had actually snapped a three-game losing streak. They did go down to the unbeaten Magpies last week, so will be seeking to bounce back against the Dogs in this clash. Tara Bohanna is a key player for the Saints, booting eight goals in seven games to be within reach of top spot on the table. Valerie Moreau and Gabbi De Angelis have both slotted four majors, to give the Saints a pretty potent forward line. Alice Burke ran rampant last week with 35 touches, whilst the dangerous Renee Saulitis is another small who can inject pace and class around goals. By comparison, Mary Sandral leads the Dogs’ goalkicking with the four majors, but was injured during the clash against the Falcons, On debut Western Jets’ Jemima Woods slotted three majors, though it is expected she will return for the NAB League Girls’ final clash. Danielle Marshall hit the scoreboard last week, while the return of Nell Morris-Dalton and Eleanor Brown to complement the side was important. Last time they were under lights the Dogs had a shocker against the Magpies, but expect them to be much better here against the Saints in what should be a thrilling contest.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, April 24 @ 10:00am
ETU Stadium

The top of the table Port Melbourne host Casey Demons in an early Saturday morning clash. The Borough saw off their greatest challenge to-date last week, overcoming Carlton from several goals down to remain undefeated from seven matches. The Demons, led by Imogen Milford who slammed home six majors, were too strong for Hawthorn despite the Hawks’ best efforts at Box Hill. If the Demons can continue that form – with more AFL Women’s players available – expect them to really give the ladder leaders a run for their money. Only Port and Collingwood have scored more than the Demons this season, which makes them a potent attack led by Milford (12 goals), while Niamh McEvoy (five) and Brenna Tarrant (five from Round 1) all damaging. Eliza West is the in-form midfielder, having collected more touches than any other player this season at an average of 22.3 disposals, as well as 4.3 tackles. Being able to hit the scoreboard with four majors makes her a threat forward of centre, and the Borough will need to be aware of that, whether it is the likes of Philippa Peschke or Mel Kuys who might be opposed to her. Sophie Locke is second on the goalkicking charts but has been recovering from injury, whilst Emily Harley (five goals) and Cleo Saxon-Jones (four) have been hitting the scoreboard in less games, while Sabrina Frederick has scored two majors in each of her matches thus far. The Borough should be favourites at home, but the Demons have enough talent to bring in that could worry the ladder leaders.

DAREBIN vs. GEELONG
Saturday, April 24 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

Back-to-back home games for Darebin Falcons gives the standalone side a chance to jump off the bottom of the table with a win in this contest. The Falcons knocked off North Melbourne a fortnight ago, but felt the pinch of a Dogs side that recalled a number of AFL Women’s talents in Round 7. They have to find a way to knock off a red-hot Cats outfit that will have similar AFL Women’s numbers to the Dogs last week, with most of those players being able to hit the scoreboard. Geelong has only lost to the top two sides, and has won their past three matches to sit fourth overall, percentage behind Essendon. with Casey Demons not too far behind, the visitors cannot afford to take the Falcons lightly. Olivia Barber is a goal-scoring threat when in the side having kicked six goals in just two games, whilst regulars, Claudia Gunjaca (five), Stephanie Williams (five) and Georgia Clarke (four) can also do damage. Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner and Carly Remmos will be the future of the AFL Women’s side and are teaming up well through the VFLW midfield, while Tamara Smith leads all-comers with tackles, and Paige Sheppard is one of the most prominent ball-winners in the league. Nicole Callinan is the one to stop for the Falcons, averaging 23 disposals, six marks and 5.5 tackles working hard in the back 50 and pushing up the ground to try and drive her team forward. The Bulldogs premiership player has been a welcome addition to the side, with Sidney Cubasch returning last week and likely to assert herself in the ruck, Samara David impressed around the ground having also kicked the five goals this season, while Stephanie Simpson might not have hit the scoreboard last week against a strong Bulldogs defence, but slotted four the previous week. The Falcons will leapfrog Hawthorn – if the Hawks lose on Sunday – but it will be a very tough ask with Geelong in ripping form and expect the Cats to continue that form in Round 8.

HAWTHORN vs. WILLIAMSTOWN
Sunday, April 25 @ 10:30am
Box Hill City Oval

Two of the bottom three clash in what could be one of the closest matches of the round. Hawthorn has been pretty impressive this season and arguably undeserving of eleventh on the ladder. They pushed the Demons last week and can leapfrog the Seagulls here with a win, having averaged more points than their opponents, but also having conceded a lot more as well. Each week Bec Goddard manages to bring in AFL Women’s talent, as Georgia Bevan, Kristy Stratton, Tamara Luke and Nadia von Bertouch have all swapped their colours to return to their roots of the brown and gold, or with the ties to Goddard. Whilst not having massive ball-winners, the Hawks have been able to develop some young talent through the list, such as renowned tackler Dominique Carbone, and a plethora of Eastern Ranges players such as Isabelle Khoury, Matilda Hardy and Eloise Chaston. Jesse Williams is the danger up forward, and with Stratton in for her second game in the brown and gold, expect her to be a second prong of attack up there. Williamstown on the other hand do not have a reliable source of goals, though Aimee Whelan and Gabrielle Biedenweg-Webster have each snagged three majors. A total of 14 players have hit the scoreboard in the 2021 season, including prominent ball-winners Ruby Tripodi and Megan Williamson, while Erin Meade continues to provide great run out of defence, and will hope the Seagulls can propel themselves to their third win. With the extra experience coming into the brown and gold though, the Hawks should get up at home.

ESSENDON vs. COLLINGWOOD
Sunday, April 25 @ 11:00am
The Hangar

The traditional Anzac Day rivals will clash at The Hangar before fans head south to the MCG for the AFL men’s edition, with the VFL Women’s clash to provide just as much intensity between the clubs. A potential finals preview looms with the second placed Pies still unbeaten from seven games, coming up against the third placed Bombers who are 5-2 from their season, and building some great form in the middle of the season. The Bombers have been without their spiritual leader for the last game and a half with Georgia Nanscawen on the sidelines. She averaged 23 disposals and 10.2 tackles in her six games, to be a barometer in the side. Alana Barba and Courtney Ugle have stepped up in her absence, while Federica Frew (eight goals) and Natalie MacDonald (five) have been important up forward with Mia-Rae Clifford (eight). With the NAB League Girls returning this week, expect the Bombers to be without a couple of key youngsters in Zali Friswell and Kasey Lennox, though Elizabeth Snell and soon-to-be Jemma Finning have just the one game remaining in Pioneers colours. The Magpies have been ticking along nicely and now will be able to heavily rotate their AFL Women’s talent if they choose to do so, with the likes of Bella Smith (eight goals in four games), Amelia Velardo in defence and Abbi Moloney (two in three) among those running around in the side. Imogen Barnett has been the standout VFLW-listed Pie with eight goals in six games, while Caitlin Bunker (16.3 disposals, 6.6 tackles) and Matilda Zander (14.3 disposals, 4.1 tackles) are others who have stood out.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. CARLTON
Sunday, April 25 @ 12:00pm
Arden Street

The later Anzac Day clash is between another couple of AFLW-aligned clubs in North Melbourne and Carlton. The Roos have enjoyed playing a string of games at Arden Street this season, and whilst they have only won the two games from seven matches, have been steadfast in developing their VFLW-listed talents rather than pouring in AFLW-listed players just for the points. The Blues have been fairly similar, though they were able to bring in some players in recent weeks such as Maddy Guerin, who has been a cut above at the level, averaging 21.7 disposals, 3.3 marks and 7.0 tackles from her three games. Jennifer Lew has been an impressive VFLW-listed Blue with 18.5 disposals, 5.3 marks and 4.3 tackles, whilst Courtney Jones has slotted eight goals in five games, and Akayla Peterson has been utilised at both ends of the field for five goals in seven games. Throw in Serena Gibbs (three in four) who has been supporting Jorja Borg in the ruck, and the form of Winnie Laing this season, and the Blues have a solid team across the board. North Melbourne on the other hand, have had some really consistent ball-winners, but just not enough consistent games to put together wins. Brooke Brown has been sensational up forward with eight goals in four games, while ex-Sun Alexia Hamilton, and Tasmanian Sarah Skinner have both been enjoying outstanding seasons in the blue and white. Meagan Kiely and Molly Eastman both average 20.4 disposals and more than four tackles per game to share the load with Skinner, while Airlie Runnalls and Katelyn Cox are other consistent ball-winning talents. Carlton arguably have the upper hand after pushing Port Melbourne last week, though the development of the Roos will hold them in good stead for the future.

Milford’s half dozen grabs VFLW goalkicking lead as Smith remains top tackler

IMOGEN Milford‘s six-goal haul during Casey Demons’ win over Hawthorn on the weekend has seen the forward grab top spot on the VFL Women’s goalkicking leaderboard. The 21-year-old tall has slotted 12 goals in her seven games, but really helped chalk up her numbers in 2021 with the half dozen majors in Round 7.

Milford now holds a three-goal lead over Port Melbourne’s Sophie Locke who has missed the past couple of games through injury, and then seven players are on eight goals apiece. Among them are the likes of AFL Women’s listed pair Brooke Brown (North Melbourne) and Bella Smith (Collingwood) who have achieved that feat in just four games each.

In terms of ball-winners, Casey Demons Eliza West has taken over in the absence of the injured Georgia Nanscawen, as West averages 22.3 disposals per game. She has picked up 12 more disposals than her nearest rival, Geelong’s Paige Sheppard, with North Melbourne trio, Meagan Kiely, Molly Eastman and Sarah Skinner surrounding Nanscawen to round out the top six disposal winners.

In terms of tackles, Tamara Smith is the only player to reach 80 so far this season, with the Geelong midfielder laying 81 tackles at an average of 11.6 per game. Port’s Courteney Bromage is not far behind with 74, ahead of Williamstown’s Ashlea Melnikas, and Nanscawen – who has a game and a half less than her rivals – in fourth. Sheppard also features inside the top 10, averaging 7.6 tackles per game.

In terms of rucks, Collingwood’s Sarah King has put down 141 hitouts, overtaking Casey’s Maggie Caris (135) who missed a match two games ago. Darebin Falcons’ Sidney Cubasch and Western Bulldogs’ Nicole McMahon have arguably been the two top performing rucks this season, and they faced off on the weekend, with the end result seeing them both finishing the round on 128 hitouts at 21.3 per game.

Darebin’s Samara David holds the lead in terms of marks, taking 32 this season at 4.6 per game, one more than Kiel. Southern Saints’ forward/ruck Tara Bohanna has the 29 marks in season 2021, ahead of Geelong’s Claudia Gunjaca, North Melbourne’s Airlie Runnalls and Western Bulldogs’ Simone Ruedin.

In terms of Draft Central (DC) points – the basic AFL Dream Team calculations without free kicks factored in – Bohanna and Kiely are the top players to have played every game, with 72 DC points thus far for the 2021 season. Skinner (66), West (64), Sheppard (64) and Eastman (64) are the others with more than 55 points and have played every game, whilst Nanscawen is up at 68 per game from her five-and-a-half matches. Brenna Tarrant‘s five-goal haul in Round 1 has netted her the highest pure DC point total with 92 from that game, whilst Jess Matin (87) and the returned Nicole Callinan (81) rounding out the top three.