Tag: brooke hards

Smith and McKenzie lead DC Medal count in postponed NAB League Girls

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition players, staff and families wait for confirmation on whether or not any more football will go ahead due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Draft Central thought it would update the leaderboard of the DC Medal count we have been taking throughout the first three rounds of the season. While we had hoped that this would end up being a full season count, there are two clear leaders who have emerged from the pack. It might have been difficult with some teams only playing two games compared to three, but no player that played two games could have caught the equal leaders even with a full five votes in a hypothetical third game.

Dandenong Stingrays’ Tyanna Smith and Ellie McKenzie lead all-comers in what could realistically be the end result of the Medal count, which means in the inaugural DC Medal, two players will share the award. Both players polled 14 votes in their first three games, including two best-on-grounds and one four-vote game to ensure that no one else could catch them. If the season is potentially called off in the future, then both the players will be announced winners. Two of the stars of the competition, Smith has helped Dandenong Stingrays to a ripping start in the NAB League Girls season, with her side winning its first two games against Eastern Ranges and Calder Cannons, before running into a McKenzie-inspired Northern Knights outfit in Round 3. The Knights’ co-captain was sensational and picked up her second best on ground to tie with Smith in the same game after the Stingrays speedster picked up the four votes.

After the two clears in McKenzie and Smith clears is another Northern Knights player, and a couple of Sandringham Dragons. McKenzie’s teammate and forward, Alyssa Bannan sits three votes behind in third with 11 to her name and the player responsible for picking up the best on ground votes back in Round 1 against Calder Cannons for McKenzie to receive the four. Rounding out the top five are Sandringham Dragons’ duo, Sarah Hartwig (10 votes) and Alice Burke (nine) who were both enjoying terrific starts to the season. Behind the top five are a pack of players all on eight votes, including Western Jets’ duo, Montana Ham and Isabella Pritchard, Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher and the only player who has played the two games inside the top 10 – Laura Gardiner. Calder Cannons’ Georgie Prespakis and Sandringham Dragons’ Winnie Laing sit on seven and six votes respectively.

DC Medal:

[14] Tyanna Smith (DS), Ellie McKenzie (NK)

[11] Alyssa Bannan (NK)
[10] Sarah Hartwig (SD)
[9] Alice Burke (SD)

[8] Laura Gardiner (GF), Montana Ham (WJ), Isabelle Pritchard (WJ), Olivia Meagher (ER)
[7] Georgie Prespakis (CC)
[6] Winnie Laing (SD)

[5] Jess Fitzgerald (NK), Charlotte Baskaran (WJ), Tarni Brown (ER), Alice Astbury (GWV), Grace Hay (MB), Charlie Rowbottom (OC), Bella Eddey (SD), Mimi Hill (OC)
[4] Grace Dicker (CC), Abbi Moloney (SD), Maggie Caris (GWV), Amber Micallef (OC), Kasey Lennox (CC), Alice O’Loughlin (OC), Brooke Hards (BP), Darcy Moloney (GF), Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
[3] Amelia Velardo (WJ), Jemma Finning (BP), Isabella Khoury (WJ), Taylah Morton (OC), Zoe Hill (DS), Eliza James (OC), Mackenzie Eardley (DS), Poppy Schaap (GF), Jessica Zakkour (CC)
[2] Elizabeth Snell (BP), Megan Fitzsimon (GP), Matilda Hardy (ER), Ella Friend (GWV), Rianna Thiele (OC), Annabel Strahan (BP), Tarrah Delgado (NK), Emily Shepherd (DS), Amelia James (OC), Georgia Grimmer (DS), Matilda Van Berkel (GP), Eliza McNamara (SD)
[1] Freda Puruntatameri (CC), Perri King (TD), Amber Clarke (DS), Kate Adams (MB), Amanda Ling (OC), Annie Lee (GF), Zali Spencer (MB), Jorja Livingstone (ER), Shanara Notman (GP), Renee Saulitis (GWV)

 

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Bendigo Pioneers

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team and how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. We begin with Bendigo Pioneers who while they did not record a win in the opening three rounds, still had a number of standout players.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Western Jets by 22 points
R2: lost to Sandringham Dragons by 44 points
R3: lost to Calder Cannons by 43 points

Yet to register a win, the Pioneers have shown better signs than the scoreboard might suggest and were in games for portions of it, particularly in Round 1 against the Jets. They have had quite a few players who have provided a real edge to the team, but even from three games, have had injuries and unavailabilities impact.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Annabel Strahan (16.7 disposals, 1.7 marks, 5.3 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 2.7 rebounds)

The co-captain has enjoyed a terrific start to the season thus far, playing predominantly through the midfield, but also getting back to help out the defence. In particular against Sandringham Dragons in Round 2, Strahan played deeper in defence to try and nullify the opposition’s scoring, before returning to the midfield in Round 3. She leads the team in disposals and has lifted her disposal averaged by six, as well as two extra tackles from last year.

Brooke Hards (16.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 7.0 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds)

The co-captain missed the Round 3 match against Calder Cannons, but showed in the first two rounds why she won the club best and fairest last year as a middle-ager. She attacks the ball and ball-carrier with fierce intent, and has built on her experience representing Vic Country (where she averaged six tackles there) to really step up to another level thus far. So far she is ranked second for average disposals and first for average tackles, laying seven per game after a whopping 9.9 last season.

Jemma Finning (15.0 disposals, 2.7 marks, 4.7 tackles, 0.7 inside 50s, 3.3 rebounds)

Can play in multiple positions but has looked really handy coming off half-back and leads the team in rebounds. She also finds plenty of the ball, racking up a team-high 20 disposals in the last match against Calder Cannons, while maintaining a 3.3 rebounds per game average. Her numbers have lifted from last season where she played through the midfield, already amassing more rebounds than she did in 2019, while her disposal average, marks and tackles are also up in 2020.

Elizabeth Snell (11.5 disposals, 1.5 marks, 7.5 tackles, 2.5 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds)

After missing Round 2, Snell returned to the team in Round 3 and was everywhere with her defensive pressure, laying a massive 10 tackles to go with 17 touches in the loss. She is able to balance between playing offensively and defensively after playing as a forward last season. She snagged five goals against Gippsland Power as a middle-ager last year, but has spent time up the field thus far, winning the ball through midfield and providing plenty of defensive pressure to the opposition.

Madeline Marks (8.3 disposals, 1.0 marks, 14.7 hitouts, 5.7 tackles)

The middle-age ruck has been a hard worker for the Pioneers this season, not only winning the taps (14.7 per game), but also getting the ball at ground level and providing an option in transition. She stands at 178cm and is able to lay some big tackles on opposition players who try to shark her taps, and is one of the big improvers this season after getting a taste of it last season, where she played three games as a bottom-ager.

Others who have stood out: Rachael Stubbings, Dakota Villiva, Tara Slender and Maeve Tupper

The Pioneers have had a good group of players who have stepped up at times and played multiple team roles across the ground. Stubbings has been a natural ball winner in the back half, Villiva has provided a target up forward, Tupper has provided a presence in midfield and Slender has plenty of upside as a rebounder.

NAB League Girls preview: Round 3 – Undefeated sides clash on Saturday

A COUPLE of undefeated games open the weekend in a top three clash between Northern Knights and Dandenong Stingrays at RMIT Bundoora, before the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels tackle the Western Jets in Ballarat. The Sunday trio of games has a couple of sides searching for their first wins of the season with Calder Cannons and Bendigo Pioneers going head-to-head and Eastern Ranges hosting Tasmania Devils, while Gippsland Power returns from a week off to face the breakeven side of Sandringham Dragons.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

Round 3 – 14/03/2020
11:00am
RMIT University Bundoora

A top three clash between the second placed Dandenong Stingrays and third ranked Northern Knights opens the round with the Stingrays having had impressive wins over Eastern Ranges (50 points) and Calder Cannons (18). The Knights also knocked off the Cannons the week before (six points) before enjoying a more comfortable win over Geelong Falcons (25). Both sides have made a number of changes, with Saige Bayne returning to the side after a long layoff, while Georgia Grimmer and Jemma Radford are also back into the side up opposite ends of the ground. The Knights have also made a number of changes to the side in anticipation for the clash with at least four confirmed changes and an additional three added to the extended bench. Already the head-to-head that could decide the result is between in-form forward, Alyssa Bannan (seven goals) and reliable defender, Zoe Hill inside the Knights’ forward half. An equally eye-catching matchup will be Knights’ co-captain Jess Fitzgerald going head-to-head against Dandenong star, Tyanna Smith with the pair sharing similar skill and footy IQ making it a must-watch clash. Abbey Jordan has been thrown around a bit this season but now the Stingrays captain is in attack to potentially lock the ball in at every opportunity, while Maeve Chaplin‘s ability at half-back should provide some good run. In the midfield, Ellie McKenzie and Ash Snow will provide power onball, while Amber Clarke and Emily Shepherd have added speed to run the ball down the field. The Knights will be favourites but the Stingrays have shown an ability to run the ball and not back down from a challenge.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. WESTERN JETS

Round 3 – 14/03/2020
11:30am
MARS Stadium

In a second game between undefeated sides, fourth placed Western Jets travel to Mars Stadium to meet the sixth placed GWV Rebels from 11.30am. Both these sides have some great young talent coming through and the Jets have had a win against Bendigo Pioneers and a draw with Murray Bushrangers over the first two rounds, whilst the Rebels’ come-from-behind victory against Sandringham Dragons in Round 1 was their only game so far this season following a bye in Round 2. Renee Saulitis proved the get-out-of-jail free card in Round 1 with a couple of last quarter goals to sink the Dragons, and she has been named back in her damaging position inside 50. Fellow AFL Women’s National Academy member, Isabella Simmons is also in the forward half, while Maggie Caris will look to take advantage of the height difference over the Jets’ smaller ruck division. Amelia Velardo has the athleticism to get the job done at ground level even if she does not win the tap and provides a “fourth midfielder” around the stoppages. Alongside her is top-age AFL Women’s National Academy member, Isabelle Pritchard who is coming off an impressive 25-disposal game last week, as is Charlotte Baskaran who plays off half-back but can push up the ground to impact the midfield. In the middle of the ground is fellow bottom-ager Montana Ham who has been the Jets’ best across the two games this season. Caitlin Sargent has been a target inside 50 for the Jets, while she will likely have Rebels’ Crystal Summers for company after the defender was a star in Round 1 for the Ballarat-based side. The Rebels’ half-back line is quite strong with Nyakoat Dojiok providing speed and dare out of defence, while Lilli Condon impacts the game through the midfield and up forward. At home the Rebels have an advantage, but both sides have an entertaining brand of end-to-end football.

GIPPSLAND POWER v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
12:00pm
Morwell Recreation Reserve

With three games on Sunday, the first is a clash between Gippsland Power and Sandringham Dragons at Morwell Recreation Reserve after the game was moved from Churchill. The Power will be well rested after a spirited fight against Geelong Falcons in the opening round and a bye in Round 2. The Dragons on the other hand let slip a real chance in Round 1 with inaccurate kicking to go down to the GWV Rebels, before bouncing back with an impressive win over Bendigo Pioneers last week. Back at home, the Power showed their have a number of strengths through the ruck and in defence, and if they are able to quell the Dragons’ scoring or force them into making mistakes, then they are a real chance of victory. Sandringham impressed last week and have plenty of ball-winning midfielders who step up when required and if they convert their chances inside 50, then they will go a long way to taking home the points in the contest. Matilda Van Berkel was best-on for the Power in their Round 1 win over Geelong Falcons and will look to take advantage against the Dragons. The key for the Power will be to try and win the clearances against an experienced Dragons midfield, as captain Winnie Laing, Alice Burke and Bella Eddey round out a strong starting core. Megan Fitzsimon is the Power’s sole AFL Women’s Academy member, but Grace McRae is another player not afraid of winning contested ball, while Lily-Rose Williamson is a bottom-ager to watch over the coming years. Shanara Notman is a strong overhead mark and will look to chop off any Dragons forward thrusts, while Leyla Berry had a successful return in Round 1 after taking the 2019 season off. Sarah Hartwig has been named on the wing for the second successive week, while Eliza McNamara provides forward pressure inside 50, and key target Abbi Moloney booted three goals in the Dragons win last week and could be one to watch.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. CALDER CANNONS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
1:00pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve

Calder Cannons hits the road to face Bendigo Pioneers from 1pm at Epsom Huntly Reserve on Sunday. Last year’s grand finalists are yet to get a win on the board, but have had a tough draw to open the season, falling to reining premiers Northern Knights, and a vastly improved side, Dandenong Stingrays in the first fortnight. The Pioneers are also yet to taste victory with losses to Western Jets and Sandringham Dragons in the opening couple of rounds. Given the loss of co-captain Brooke Hards for the clash, Bendigo will be up against it taking on a determined Calder side that could well have won its two games had it had a bit more luck. The Pioneers do welcome back Elizabeth Snell into the fold with the midfielder/forward adding some class and skill to the midfield group, while Annabel Strahan has pushed up into the midfield after being a reliable source in the back 50 last week. Tara Slender and Jemma Finning provide good intercept and rebounding capabilities, while Madeline Marks has had an impact through the ruck this season. The Cannons have a strong combination named at the key defensive posts with Kasey Lennox and Tamsin Crook, while Crook is also able to rotate with AFL Women’s National Academy member, Tahlia Gillard who will start forward as both can play at either end. Georgie Prespakis, Laura Cocomello and Jessica Zakkour have all been in good form this season, while Emelia Yassir is a clever forward who can push into that midfield rotation. Calder should breakthrough for its first win, but the Pioneers do have the home ground advantage which counts for something.

EASTERN RANGES v. TASSIE DEVILS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
1:00pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

At the same time as the Bendigo game, two sides searching for their first win battle it out at the newly renovated Kilsyth Recreation Reserve. The Eastern Ranges will enjoy playing where they train and welcoming the less-familiar Tasmania Devils will give them a huge confidence boost. The Devils were overwhelmed by a rampaging Oakleigh side that could well contend for this year’s NAB League Girls flag in Round 2, marking a tough initiation to their first full-time season. The Ranges had a bye in Round 2 after a 50-point defeat at the hands of another undefeated side in Dandenong Stingrays. Given the experience the Ranges have at the NAB League level – making the finals last season and pushing the Northern Knights in the preliminary finals – they should have the wood over the competition newcomers, though the Devils’ defensive pressure was impressive despite the heavy Round 1 defeat. Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown provide hardness and class in equal measure on the inside, while Jorja Livingstone showed impressive athleticism bursting out of stoppages in the Round 1 loss. Key target, Jess Grace has been named at full-forward, while three players will make their debut in the game for the Ranges. Amy Prokopiec could not have done much more at full-back last week, saving a number of goal-scoring opportunities for the Chargers, and she along with Camilla Taylor provided some composure in the match. Jemma Webster provided some speed out of defence in Round 2, while Kara Hennessy rotated through the ruck and could be a target inside 50 for the Apple Isle based side.

NAB League Girls Team Selection: Round 3 – Undefeated sides open round

TWO rounds down and the early stages of the NAB League Girls season is starting to shape the ladder. At the top end of the table, second placed Dandenong Stingrays travel to RMIT Bundoora where reigning premiers, Northern Knights play their third consecutive game. In that game, Saige Bayne returns after injury last season, while the young talented tall, Georgia Grimmer slots back into the side with both teams making multiple changes. The Jets will also head into their clash with the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels undefeated after a win and a draw, with the Rebels winning their opening round encounter before a bye last week has them fresh for the weekend.

Gippsland Power also hosts Sandringham Dragons at Morwell after the venue changed from Churchill. The Power have had a break after their Round 1 loss, while the Dragons bounced back from an unlucky Round 1 defeat to knock off the Bendigo Pioneers. Speaking of the Pioneers, they are back at home but will be without co-captain Brooke Hards, as they regain important mid/forward Elizabeth Snell for the clash against Calder Cannons. In the final game of the round. Eastern Ranges return off a bye to try and get a win on the board following a 50-point loss in Round 1, while the Tasmania Devils travel to Victoria for the first time this season and will be better for the run against Oakleigh Chargers last week. The Chargers, Murray Bushrangers and Geelong Falcons have the bye this round.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

Round 3 – 14/03/2020
11:00am
RMIT University Bundoora 

Northern Knights

B: 40. T. Hurst, 15. T. Delgado, 12. J. Ventura
HB: 9. M. Chaplin, 2. S. Fell, 5. G. Wake
C: 11. M.  Appleby, 14. J.  Fitzgerald, 30. M.  Plunkett
HF: 7. A. Bennett, 6. A. Bannan, 19. M. Molenberg
F: 25. T. Mills, 31. M. Ramsay, 29. T. Pulcino
R: 20. G. Kitchell, 21. E. McKenzie, 32. A. Snow
Int: 27. O. Bandera, 33. M. Barnes, 10. M. Girolami, 18. L. Jatczak, 1. P. Nelson, 24. J. Nursey, 13. C. Papadimitriou, 4. B. Plummer

In: L. Jatczak, O. Bandera, J. Ventura, T. Pulcino, M. Girolami, J. Nursey, C. Papadimitriou
Out: E. Smallacombe,  G. Ceravolo,  J. Simpson,  A. Woodward

Dandenong Stingrays

B: 35. W. Argus, 70. M. Eardley, 31. J. Radford
HB: 13. J. Hillas, 52. Z. Hill, 59. B. Smith
C: 27. C.  Ryan, 21. T.  Smith, 61. E.  Shepherd
HF: 44. J. Anthony, 46. G. Grimmer, 71. J. Matin
F: 10. A. Jordan, 47. A. Carroll, 34. A. Richards
R: 28. P. Canning, 5. J. Smith , 49. A. Clarke
Int: 18. S. Bayne, 26. C. Blair, 2. K. Byrne, 1. Z. Mayall, 38. P. Stone
Emg: 67. M. Baker, 64. G. Chapman, 7. B. Enno

In: G. Grimmer, P. Stone, S. Bayne, J. Hillas, K. Byrne, J. Radford
Out: R. Clemow, S. Vudiniabola, P. Wilson-Macdonald, M. Layfield, O. Robinson, P. Swayn

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. WESTERN JETS

Round 3 – 14/03/2020
11:30am
MARS Stadium

Greater Western Victoria Rebels

B: 31. S. Bridgewater, 36. M. Adamson, 17. L. Fitzgibbon
HB: 30. N. Dojiok, 19. C. Summers, 15. C. Leonard
C: 12. V.  Jewell, 1. L.  Condon, 2. T.  Meier
HF: 20. E. Friend, 25. P. Scott, 32. I. Simmons
F: 6. M. Ciavarella, 21. I. Cullenward, 9. R. Saulitis
R: 35. M. Caris, 23. A. Astbury, 27. I. Hill
Int: 29. C. Booth, 22. C. Hopkins, 14. Z. Larkins, 39. C. Stevens, 3. A. Trigg
Emg: 26. E. Aitken, 8. J. Jones, 7. R. Pickles

Western Jets

B: 31. M. Klaumanns-Moller, 37. A. Anthony, 45. E. Lavanda
HB: 9. C. Baskaran, 46. C. Singleton, 32. A. Strathairn
C: 11. S.  Asciak, 38. M.  Ham, 10. P.  Trajkovski
HF: 19. O. Forsythe, 27. C. Sargent, 4. T. Skenderis
F: 24. L. Elliott, 42. J. Woods, 7. A. Gray
R: 39. A. Velardo, 22. I. Pritchard, 41. N. Wright
Int: 18. I. Choate, 44. S. Golding, 25. M. Huta, 8. P. Ryan, 3. C. Tyrrell
Emg: 2. S. Cutajar, 49. E. Kiely, 29. K. Leare

In: M. Klaumanns-Moller, K. Leare, I. Choate, E. Kiely
Out: K. Maxwell, N. Ajaimy

 

GIPPSLAND POWER v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
11:00am
Morwell Recreation Reserve

Gippsland Power

B: 3. M. Gilmour, 19. H. Booth, 16. A. Hardwick
HB: 31. L. Berry, 33. S. Notman, 24. N. Williams
C: 15. C.  Bailey, 12. M.  Fitzsimon, 2. A.  Guy-Toogood
HF: 1. S. Brisbane, 29. L. King-Church, 18. C. Fletcher
F: 21. M. Shingles, 32. C. Turner, 27. P. Tracey
R: 35. M. Van Berkel, 26. G. McRae, 25. L. Williamson
Int: 11. P. Bell, 17. P. Fleming, 34. L. Guastella, 14. J. Halsall, 10. J. Sochackyj
Emg: 9. T. Bourne, 4. I. Bradford, 36. B. Finnegan

Sandringham Dragons

B: 29. L. Mitchell, 18. J. Stolz, 6. T. Pastore
HB: 50. P. Staltari, 8. S. Trim, 44. D. Walker
C: 25. S.  Hartwig, 30. W.  Laing, 26. C.  Saultry
HF: 47. K. Lynch, 10. B. Hipwell, 22. E. McNamara
F: 24. N. Borg, 40. A. Moloney, 15. S. Hurley
R: 9. M. Mottram, 28. A. Burke, 33. I. Eddey
Int: 65. E. Angelopoulos, 55. L. Enders, 11. T. Jones, 41. N. Morris, 3. C. Murphy, 52. A. Stranger, 45. E. Stuber, 27. B. Wallace

In: A. Stranger, T. Pastore, M. Mottram, B. Wallace, E. Angelopoulos
Out: L. de Gleria Cade, K. Smyth

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. CALDER CANNONS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
1:00pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve 

Bendigo Pioneers

B: 15. L. den Houting, 43. R. Stubbings, 33. J. Oborne
HB: 30. A. Donnelly, 32. T. Slender, 25. J. Finning
C: 16. D.  Crighton, 2. A.  Strahan, 24. M.  Elliott
HF: 39. O. Di Donato, 29. E. Gilligan, 38. D. Villiva
F: 22. T. Hopkins, 35. A. Barber, 46. N. Kelly
R: 37. M. Marks , 1. E. Snell, 44. H. Stewart
Int: 40. T. Davidge, 21. I. O’neill, 10. F. Pearce, 41. T. Petrusma, 23. B. Reidy, 11. M. Tupper
23P: 18. S. Orritt

In: F. Pearce, N. Kelly, T. Petrusma, I. O’neill, T. Davidge, E. Snell, D. Crighton
Out: J. Richardson,  E. Bell,  N. Mafi,  B. Hards,  A. Thompson

Calder Cannons

B: 24. K. Delia, 4. K. Lennox, 15. M. McLeod
HB: 5. N. Crowley, 11. T. Crook, 23. G. Dicker
C: 8. Z.  Friswell, 38. L.  Cocomello, 27. E.  Nickolaus
HF: 22. S. Meyers, 18. T. Gillard, 31. F. Puruntatameri
F: 39. A. McDonald, 6. K. Reid, 3. E. Yassir
R: 19. P. Poultney, 41. G. Prespakis, 1. J. Zakkour
Int: 25. A. Magri, 37. T. Newman, 34. T. Read, 12. R. Smith, 9. M. Styles, 2. R. Sutton

In: A. McDonald, K. Reid, T. Newman, T. Read, R. Smith, E. Nickolaus
Out: O. Manfre, C. Clayton , I. Rowland , M. Briedis

 

EASTERN RANGES v. TASSIE DEVILS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
1:00pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve 

Eastern Ranges

B: 17. M. Kendall, 39. G. Woods, 36. R. O’Dwyer
HB: 43. B. Deed, 1. C. Smith, 29. M. Di Cosmo
C: 19. S.  Humm, 48. I.  Khoury, 13. J.  Hutchinson
HF: 34. M. Hardy, 46. E. Chaston, 3. J. Livingstone
F: 30. I. Pollock, 25. J. Grace, 10. K. Ridley
R: 28. G. Campbell, 21. O. Meagher, 26. T. Brown
Int: 23. J. Dunning, 35. L. Hilton, 24. S. Nannes, 11. L. Peacock, 49. C. Wilsmore
Emg: 42. C. Barics, 8. R. Hall, 55. G. Wilson

Tassie Devils

B: 23. C. Dennis, 24. A. Prokopiec , 1. C. Lovell
HB: 16. E. Maurer, 29. J. Blair, 15. J. Webster
C: 6. T.  Bortignon, 22. A.  Clark, 7. M.  Gaffney
HF: 31. A. Auton, 18. H. Baldwin, 11. P. King
F: 10. K. Mills, 26. K. Hennessy, 5. B. Oates
R: 21. C. Taylor, 27. A. Crooks, 4. R. Mitchell
Int: 3. A. Bissett, 12. Z. Bourne, 2. E. Dixon, 25. L. Freestone, 14. S. Griffiths, 9. C. Ransom, 13. O. Smith, 19. C. Thomas

In: S. Griffiths, C. Thomas, E. Dixon

2020 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 2

IN a new-look amalgamation of Draft Central‘s Team of the Week and player notes, we name our Round 2 NAB League Girls’ Team of the Week and explain why each player has been chosen. The 24-player team returns with three emergencies this year and all notes are opinion-based of the individual Draft Central writer. For Round 2, Dandenong Stingrays leads the way with four players in the side, followed by Round 2 winners, Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons all had three, whilst the two drawn sides in Murray Bushrangers and Western Jets, as well as Geelong Falcons also had three. Calder Cannons and Bendigo Pioneers had one representative with the former also earning an emergency, whilst Tasmania Devils had the one emergency after their big loss in their inaugural game.

BACKS:

Kasey Lennox (CC) – 14 disposals, 3 marks, 1 tackle, 6 rebounds
Calder’s top player on the day, Lennox was a lynchpin at half-back where she was able to rebound time and time again and run the ball out of the back 50. She won her fair share of possessions with 14, but had the six rebounds which was crucial in her side staying in the contest for as long as it did. The Cannons have a strong defence and Lennox is a key cog in that unit.

Zoe Hill (DS) – 11 disposals, 3 marks, 3 tackles, 5 rebounds
A rock in defence and not only does she beat her opponents one-on-one, but she provides offensive rebound and usually hits her targets out of the back 50. Rarely looking stressed on the last line, she is one of Dandenong’s most important players given her role and she played it brilliantly on the weekend.

Annie Lee (GF) – 18 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 7 rebounds
Was a rock in defence despite the overwhelming force of the ball coming in, and recorded the most rebounds on the day of any player. Often getting back under pressure, Lee was able to win plenty of the ball and propel it forward. Still only 16, the 168cm player has a nice offensive game to go with her defensive capabilities.

HALF-BACKS:

Grace Hay (MB) – 19 disposals, 7 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 8 rebounds
The standout Bushie on the day, Hay was instrumental in ensuring Murray came away with some points. With the game tight and on the line, it was the defence that stood out, and Hay was a massive part of that with 19 disposals. seven marks and eight rebounds. Across the course of the day, Hay refused to let her opponent get the better of her, and really stood tall amongst a whopping 36 inside 50s and was a huge reason why Murray drew.

Annabel Strahan (BP) – 18 disposals, 3 marks, 4 tackles, 1 inside 50, 5 rebounds
A solid option for the Pioneers in a tough match, Strahan was the leading disposal winner for Bendigo off half-back with her ability to find the footy a real credit to her vision and willingness to take on the play to win ball back. Collecting five rebounds, she lead the way with her tenacity and ability to hit up targets to propel the footy downfield.

Sarah Hartwig (SD) – 20 disposals, 6 marks, 7 tackles, 1 inside 50, 2 rebounds
With class and speed to match, Hartwig is a real instigator on the field, ready and willing to get right into the contest and is able to cleanly hit up targets with her clever ball use. Her tackle count was among the best on field, leading the charge for the Dragons while her overall dominance off the half back created plenty of opportunities for the side to run away with the win.

CENTRES:

Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – 25 disposals, 7 tackles, 3 hitouts, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Another prolific day for the AFL Women’s Academy member who laid an impressive seven tackles in the Jets’ draw with Murray. She had a game-high 25 disposals on the day and was a dominant inside player throughout the contest with her clean hands and creativity. Whilst in this team she has been forced out to a wing given the strength inside, she would be a handy player with her skills and run.

Tyanna Smith (DS) – 29 disposals, 5 marks, 7 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 1 rebound
The star of the show on the weekend and another Best on Ground performance with her ability to burst away from the contest and  impact the game with her slick skills. Smith earned out Draft Central NAB League Girls Player of the Week award for her unbelievable effort which saw her rack up 29 touches, seven inside 50s, five marks and seven tackles despite being closely watched by the opposition at stoppages. The standout player from teh weekend and a natural match-winner.

Montana Ham (WJ) – 23 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 2 hitouts, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound
Another standout on the day for Western in the Jets’ draw with Murray, Ham provides great run through the midfield and is able to pump the ball long inside 50. She has that touch of class and with some extra height compared to other midfielders, she has as much ability above her head as below it. Can just about play anywhere and still has a couple of years in the program which is exciting.

RUCKS:

Ally Morphett (MB) – 9 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 15 hitouts, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
There was a noticeable low in hitouts across the competition as ruck duties were shared around, but what earned Morphett the spot as the starting ruck was her ability to cover the ground. She can play as a key forward, but her work rate on the weekend was strong, also picking up a number of rebounds and inside 50s to go with her 15 hitouts and in a game where the performance was evenly spread, she did well.

Ellie McKenzie (NK) – 17 disposals, 5 marks, 3 inside 50s, two rebounds
Judged the Knights’ best in their win over the Falcons, McKenzie was a star through the midfield with her power and class around the ball. She was able to pump the ball forward and win it across all areas of the ground. Her offensive game really got the Knights going and were able to set up opportunities inside 50.

Laura Gardiner (GF) – 31 disposals, 3 marks, 9 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 5 rebounds
Racked up a competition-high disposals for the second consecutive week and was prominent on the inside with 31 touches, nine tackles and an even five inside 50s and five rebounds. Those kind of numbers are hard to ignore and she is easy to spot on the inside with her ability to get the ball out to teammates and set them up with quick handballs. Having a ripping start to the season.

HALF-FORWARDS:

Bella Eddey (SD) – 22 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 goals
Eddey put up an impressive effort against the Pioneers, proving a key target both inside 50 and up the ground with her clean hands, and putting goals on the board to establish a clear option in the forward line. She used her body well to bring ball to ground while her tackling pressure was up there, winning precious ball back when required.

Alyssa Bannan (NK) – 14 disposals, 8 marks, 5 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
Another outstanding performance from the tall forward who clunked a whopping eight marks to go with her 14 touches and two goals. She booted five majors last week, but her work rate up the ground and ability to use her clean hands and footy IQ to her advantage is a strength. She also laid five tackles which is a huge bonus for a taller player who is predominantly impressive in the air.

Charlie Rowbottom (OC) – 17 disposals, 3 marks, 5 tackles, 1 hitout, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
The talented middle-ager was best on ground in Oakleigh’s victory over Tasmania, constantly popping up with two goals from 17 touches and laying five tackles. She moved between the midfield and forward lines well and not only converted some chances of her own, but also set up her teammates. Her work close to goal was clean and she always looked like she was going to create something special.

FORWARDS:

Taylah Morton (OC) – 12 disposals, 3 tackles, 3 goals
Had a huge impact close to goal and was rewarded with three majors against Tasmania. She often got to the right spots and had a number of chances, three of which she converted as well as a couple of behinds that could have made it an even bigger haul. She provided a dangerous option at ground level and was able to be a key part of the Chargers’ front six in the big win.

Abbi Moloney (SD) – 10 disposals, 5 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 3 goals
With an ability to hit the scoreboard, Moloney proved she has the means to be a real danger inside 50 if left unattended. While she did not rack up the possessions, she used the footy well and proved she can do more than just provide a tall option inside 50 with her clean hands making her a real key cog in the forward line, while her ability to kick straight certainly helped out the Dragons.

Jessica Matin (DS) – 14 disposals, 5 marks, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
A danger close to goal, Matin also works up the ground and can get it inside the 50, with her work rate often leading to a payoff on the scoreboard. After missing a couple of gettable chances last week, Matin booted a couple of majors in Round 2 and acts as well as a deep smaller forward or higher up the ground getting the ball in and allowing forwards to run into space.

INTERCHANGE:

Kate Adams (MB) – 19 disposals, 3 marks, 6 tackles, 1 inside 50, 4 rebounds, 1 goal
The versatile utility put in a strong performance and managed to get the work done through midfield, in defence and up forward. She has the the athletic capabilities to be a slippery customer in close, but the hardness to win the ball back from an opponent as shown by her six tackles. She works hard when playing in the back half, and can go forward and be damaging around goal as well.

Charlotte Baskaran (WJ) – 25 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Another strong performance from the bottom-ager who found plenty of it in Western’s draw with Murray. She can play off half-back or through the middle and allowing her to use her skill and footy IQ to set up teammates is an advantage for the Jets. Despite having another couple of years in the program, Baskaran has already shown smarts beyond her years and will be an exciting prospect to watch develop in the future.

Tarrah Delgado (NK) – 14 disposals, 4 marks, 5 rebounds
The Knights’ top defender on the day, Delgado was able to repel a number of attacks, particularly during the middle stages of the game when the Falcons were trying to get on top. Forced back deep at times, the Knights defender held up strongly, and along with her teammates, kept a potent Geelong forward line to just one goal for the day.

Amber Micallef (OC) – 14 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 2 inside 50s
One of Oakleigh’s best on the day. Micallef was able to balance her offensive and defensive abilities on her way to a strong 14 disposals and six tackles. She was ever-present in an even team performance and was constantly harassing the opposition throughout the four quarters despite the result being well beyond doubt.

Darcy Moloney (GF) – 25 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
The Geelong Falcons’ midfielder found plenty of the football despite the loss, racking up an equal-third highest achievement of disposals for the round with 25. She tried her best throughout the four quarters and whilst the efforts did not get the ‘W’ on the scoreboard, she was as hard of a worker as anyone else on the field.

Emily Shepherd (DS) – 18 disposals, 4 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Arguably the second best behind Smith, Shepherd just goes about her business and keeps working hard throughout the four quarters. She won the second most touches on the ground in Dandenong’s win over Calder and was able to provide some run through the middle and work well with the other Stingrays mids to get the ball forward and set up scoring opportunities.

EMG:

Georgie Prespakis (CC) – 17 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
The most unlucky player not to make the starting line-up, Prespakis had a solid game after being rundown a couple of times in the first half. She showed her competitiveness by nailing a couple of opponents as well with fierce tackles, whilst getting around the ground and doing her thing and bombing it long either out of danger or into the danger zone inside 50. Kept running throughout the contest.

Amy Prokopiec (TD) – 9 disposals, 1 tackle, 1 hitout, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
This could have gone to a number of Tasmania players who could have squeezed into the starting line-up, but ultimately it is difficult when involved in a 100-point loss. In saying that, Prokopiec was terrific down back, working well as a leader of the group with Camilla Taylor who also could have earned a spot here. Prokopiec’s defensive ability and toughness make her difficult to beat one-on-one and she is not afraid to put her body on the line for her side.

Rianna Thiele (OC) – 15 disposals, 3 tackles, 1 hitout, 3 inside 50s, 2 goals
Another Chargers player who could have squeezed into a competitive forward line, Thiele stood out with her work at ground level and just popping up at different times with some nice work around goals. She kicked two of her own majors and put it into positions to assists teammates which helped her side get to the position it was in by the end of the game.

DRAFT CENTRAL’S NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 2

B: Kasey Lennox (CC) – Zoe Hill (DS) – Annie Lee (GF)
HB: Sarah Hartwig (SD) – Annabel Strahan (BP) – Grace Hay (MB)
C: Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – Tyanna Smith (DS) – Montana Ham (WJ)
HF: Bella Eddey (SD) – Alyssa Bannan (NK) – Charlie Rowbottom (OC)
F: Taylah Morton (OC) – Abbi Moloney (SD) – Jessica Matin (DS)
R: Ally Morphett (MB) – Ellie McKenzie (NK) – Laura Gardiner (GF)
INT: Kate Adams (MB) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ) – Tarrah Delgado (NK) – Amber Micallef (OC) – Darcy Moloney (GF) – Emily Shepherd (DS)

OTHERS CONSIDERED:

The strength of the midfield group this round was ridiculous to try and squeeze into a team, needing to maintain the balance of players across other lines as well. The next in line to come into the team included Northern Knights’ Ash Snow, Dandenong Stingrays’ Amber Clarke and Sandringham Dragons’ Winnie Laing who were all close to making the cut. Also on the short list from a midfield perspective were Calder Cannons’ trio Laura Cocomello, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell, Murray Bushrangers’ duo Mikayla Jones and Lily Sharp, Bendigo Pioneers’ duo Brooke Hards and Maeve Tupper, Sandringham Dragons’ Alice Burke and Oakleigh Chargers’ Kalarni Kearns. Those who kicked goals and were considered included Sandringham’s Sofia Hurley, Oakleigh’s Amanda Ling and Western’s Caitlin Sargent, while Tasmanian duo Jemma Webster and Camilla Taylor were also in consideration.

Sandringham too strong for tackle-heavy Bendigo

SANDRINGHAM Dragons bounced back well from their Round 1 loss to come out impressive winners against Bendigo Pioneers, rocketing into fifth with the 44-point victory.

It was a hard and fast start for the Sandringham Dragons, peppering the posts but to no avail early, denying Bendigo any opportunity at scoring but missing chances at extending a solid margin. The sole goal of the quarter to Abbi Moloney (her first of three) was sandwiched by minor scores on either side, with the Dragons influential across the ground but not making the most of it inside 50. Sandringham’s defensive unit was hungry for the ball, making it tough for Bendigo to get clean hands to the footy. But while Bendigo had a tough time marking, especially under pressure from the Dragons, their tackling intensity was dialled up to 100 and collecting 10 more tackles overall thanks to the side attacking the ball well at ground level.

Dragons had a much better start to the second, with a lucky goal from Isabella Eddey putting her first on the board early in the second to stem the flow of behinds before backing it up with her second for the day moments later, at the end of an impressive chain from the centre bounce. While Sandringham had a much better quarter, so did Bendigo, collecting their first of the day to Tara Slender who took a great grab for a set shot. But despite continuing with the same tenacity for the rest of the quarter, the Pioneers had a tough time getting the ball cleanly inside 50 thanks to smothering defensive pressure up the ground from the Dragons. 

The third term saw the pressure from the Pioneers lift a notch, with each side only putting the one behind each on the board in an overall defensively minded quarter. Dominating the hitouts at half-time thanks to a dominant combination of Madeline Marks (13 hitouts, 11 disposals) and Abbey Barber (11 hitouts) the Pioneers side began to limit Sandringham’s clean disposals and denying them chances at breaking away from the pack to clear the footy, limiting precious run down the field for the Dragons and enabling Bendigo to put more pressure in their offence. 

The final quarter saw Sandringham well and truly run away with it, finding the goals with relative ease after a tough slog in the third. While Bendigo’s tackling pressure was monumental, Dragons worked through it with their cleanliness to break through the pack and clear the ball out to open space. While the Pioneers had some good chances defensively to turn the tables and propel the footy back up the field, messiness in the midfield allowed Sandringham too many opportunities intercept marking, rendering Bendigo unable to get out of the back 50.

In an all-round dominant performance from Sandringham, there were a number of key players who got the job done. Eddey’s two goals sparked the side into action while her 22 touches, six tackles and four inside 50s proved vital to run the ball downfield alongside ball magnets Sarah Hartwig (20 disposals, seven tackles, six marks) and Winnie Laing (22 touches, three marks, three tackles, three inside 50s), while Alice Burke also put in a strong effort with 19 touches and six tackles. For the Pioneers, the effort on field far outweighed the scoreline, with three players picking up seven tackles apiece proving the defensive pressure across the field. Brooke Hards and Dakota Villiva (both 15 disposals and seven tackles) were influential stopping easy access through the midfield, while Annabel Strahan was the side’s top ball user with 18 touches, five rebounds, four tackles and three marks in a solid all-round effort. While the goals dried up for Bendigo after Slender’s major, the side still put in a solid effort that was not indicative of the scoreline

Next round Sandringham travel to take on winless Gippsland Power on Sunday morning at Churchill Football Ground while Bendigo host last season’s grand finalists, Calder Cannons on Sunday afternoon at Epsom Huntly Reserve.

SANDRINGHAM 1.5 | 5.5 | 5.6 | 7.10 (52)
BENDIGO 0.0 | 1.0 | 1.1 | 1.2 (8)

GOALS

Sandringham: A. Moloney 3, I. Eddey 2, S. Hurley, B. Hipwell.
Bendigo: T. Slender.

ADC BEST

Sandringham:  I. Eddey, S. Hartwig, W. Laing, A. Burke, A. Moloney
Bendigo: A. Strahan, B. Hards, D. Villiva, R. Stubbings, M. Marks 

DC Medal:

5 – Isabella Eddy (SD)
4 – Sarah Hartwig (SD)
3 – Winnie Laing (SD)
2 – Annabel Strahan (BP)
1 – Alice Burke (SD)

2020 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 1

IN a new-look amalgamation of Draft Central‘s Team of the Week and player notes, we name our Round 1 NAB League Girls’ Team of the Week and explain why each player has been chosen. The 24-player team returns with three emergencies this year, and it was an even spread across the board. All notes are opinion-based of the individual Draft Central writer. Round 1 winners, Oakleigh Chargers, Northern Knights and Geelong Falcons all had three players in the Team of the Week, while fellow winners, Dandenong Stingrays, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Western Jets had two apiece. Narrow losers in Round 1, Calder Cannons and Sandringham Dragons had two each as well, as did Gippsland Power, while Bendigo Pioneers, Eastern Ranges and Murray Bushrangers had the one representative. Factoring in emergencies, Oakleigh Chargers had the most players overall with four, while Sandringham and Western moved up to three.

BACKS:

Crystal Summers (GWV Rebels) – 13 disposals, 5 marks, 3 tackles, 1 inside 50, 6 rebounds
The rebounding defender was lively throughout the contest, being a constant threat coming off half-back and pushing up the ground to be a key reason behind the Rebels’ success on the weekend. She was calm and composed with ball-in-hand and generally made the right decisions as one of the standouts.

Mindy Quade (Murray Bushrangers) – 9 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 1 inside 50, 8 rebounds
Her vision off half-back and spotting the ball in transition was a highlight, as she stood up under fierce pressure from the Chargers during the Bushrangers’ loss. She was often the first to intercept and disrupted the offensive flow inside defensive 50.

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels) – 10 disposals, 3 marks, 7 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Always having more impact than the statistics might suggest, Dojiok had a number of impressive runs down the ground and took the game on with eye-catching speed and evasion. She still has plenty of development left in her, but has clearly improved over the past couple of seasons and is hard to stop when she gets going.

HALF-BACKS:

Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons) – 14 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebounds
The standout player on the day despite being on the losing side, Hartwig was a force in defence with a number of intercept marks and rebounds, with one passage of play in particular standing out where she hit the ball at full speed, collected it cleanly, sidestepped an opponent and kicked neatly inside 50.

Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays) – 9 disposals, 2 marks, 5 tackles, 4 rebounds
The centre half-back certainly stood tall in the back six despite being a bottom-ager, taking a number of contested grabs, or providing a contest where she was able to calmly clear the ball under pressure. She also laid a massive tackle to win a free kick and it led to her side kicking a goal off that chain of possessions.

Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets) – 19 disposals, 1 mark, 7 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 5 rebounds
A clean user of the ball, Baskaran would roam up and down the ground providing great service between the arcs and dropping back to help her defenders with the natural half-back another bottom-ager in the side.

CENTRES:

Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons) – 28 disposals, 6 tackles, 2 inside 50s
She was a force in midfield for the Falcons during their win, often releasing teammates in space with her run and carry and quick handballs to open up passages of play down the field. A dominant player early, Moloney finds space where very few can and is quick to release by hand or foot, and equally as damaging defensively, laying some big tackles.

Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays) – 26 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebounds, 1 goal
Absolutely outstanding performance, particularly in the second quarter where she constantly attacked going inside 50, then snapped one of the goal’s of the round close to the boundary line. Also did a number of defensive things right with some big tackles around the ground.

Mimi Hill (Oakleigh Chargers) – 29 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 5 inside 50s
The captain starred in her side’s big win over Murray with a second-high round of 29 disposals, and was often seen pumping the ball inside 50, showing clean hands and precision disposal. One of the top performers across the entire weekend.

HALF-FORWARDS:

Jessica Zakkour (Calder Cannons) – 18 disposals, 2 marks, 8 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds, 2 goals
Rotated between midfield and forward, often sneaking out the back to find space and capitalise, whilst showing some terrific defensive pressure. Was arguably Calder’s best in the narrow loss to Northern, and found plenty of the football while laying eight tackles.

Montana Ham (Western Jets) – 19 disposals, 7 marks, 2 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
Got our full votes for her performance in Western’s win over Bendigo, looking impressive across the ground with her movement and ability to drive the ball forward in transition. She seemed to be everywhere on the ground and despite being a bottom-ager racked up a game-high 19 touches, and had the play of the game with a multiple-bounce effort down the wing kicking forward which almost led to a goal.

Eliza McNamara (Sandringham Dragons) – 20 disposals, 3 marks, 8 tackles, 6 inside 50s
Played between midfield and half-forward, McNamara had the most disposals on the ground in Sandringham’s loss to the Rebels. Her defensive pressure and running ability is elite, and she just keeps pushing throughout the four quarters to try and do everything she can for her side. She worked tirelessly for the Dragons applying tackles and looking inside 50.

FORWARDS:

Alice O’Loughlin (Oakleigh Chargers) – 18 disposals, 3 marks, 1 inside 50, 3 goals
Her timing and speed off the mark caught the eye inside 50, making the most of her opportunities in front of goal. She used the space around her well to find the football and took advantage of the loose ball inside 50 to capitalise with three majors.

Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights) – 11 disposals, 4 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 5 goals
Kicked a round-high five goals and looks a good candidate for one of the top goalkickers this season, taking a number of good grabs with her vertical leap and athleticism the highlight. It was clear that defenders cannot allow Bannan to get goalside or she will create something out of nothing with a couple of clever snaps close to goal adding to her tally on the day.

Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons) – 24 disposals, 3 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 goal
Started forward and roamed up the ground to be the third highest disposal winner with her ability to lay some strong tackles and show a high work rate. She just pushes time and time again across four quarters, and was rewarded with a goal, while setting up a number of teammates with scoring opportunities.

RUCKS:

Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power) – 15 disposals, 6 marks, 4 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 2 rebounds, 28 hitouts
The standout Gippsland Power player in the loss to Geelong Falcons, Van Berkel had to step up to play ruck and was ultra-impressive with a round-high 28 hitouts, as well as finding plenty of the football around the ground with strength overhead and an ability to cover the ground well with hard running.

Brooke Hards (Bendigo Pioneers) – 18 disposals, 4 marks, 7 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
The Pioneers’ co-captain picked up where she left off last season, being a shining light in her side’s loss to the Jets. Hards was constantly getting involved either offensively or defensively, and was fierce around the stoppages. She had a team-high 18 touches and as she has become known for, laid a truckload of tackles in the process.

Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons) – 38 disposals, 1 mark, 14 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 1 goal
Our Draft Central Player of the Week for Round 1, Gardiner was simply unstoppable with a ridiculous 38 touches and 14 tackles, pumping the ball in time and time again, and helping free up her teammates around the ground. She ran at a 50 per cent balance between kicks and handballs, and while most of her touches were often in possession chains, her work rate showed just how much she works around the ground.

INTERCHANGE:

Jess Fitzgerald (Northern Knights) – 15 disposals, 1 mark, 2 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
Last year’s best-on in the grand final started her 2020 year with a strong performance, moving well around the ground and showing off her speed in close and precision kicking. She possesses good footy IQ and was one of the best Knights on the day during their win over the Cannons.

Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers) – 18 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 1 goal
Showed clean hands and vision by propelling the ball inside 50 and finding targets in there with a massive seven inside 50s. She also provided plenty of defensive pressure with strong tackling and forcing errors from the Bushrangers, working well through the midfield to drive the ball in transition.

Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges) – 16 disposals, 2 marks, 4 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
It was not a great day for Eastern, but Meagher never gave in as she battled and bruised her way through four quarters for her side. She showed great leadership and tried to will her side on, laying crunching tackles and bumps, often bouncing straight up or off opponents with a hungry desire to win the ball. Meagher also tried getting the ball down the field to set up scoring opportunities and was a standout for her team.

Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights) – 12 disposals, 4 marks, 3 tackles, 4 inside 50s
Another player who had a great impact that stats might suggest, McKenzie kept battling on the inside and then going forward with her strength and power a highlight during Round 1. She adds a great dimension to the Knights’ midfield and she was able to win the ball in tight, extract it and get the ball out, going on a couple of short runs to try and break down the opposition defensive structures.

Shanara Notman (Gippsland Power) – 11 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 5 rebounds, 2 hitouts
The Gippsland Power overager showed why she was a terrific choice to come back as a 19-year-old player this year, standing tall in the face of a wave of Falcons attacks, with great strength in the air and ability to move the ball out of defence. She sold a bit of candy in the process and was rock solid back there in defeat.

Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons) – 19 disposals, 1 mark, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
The highly-touted prospect had a solid game to start the season, not often getting too much free space, but still finding her fair share of the ball through the midfield. She was thrown around into different positions but still had an impact, and her work rate between the arcs was really impressive.

EMERGENCIES:

Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons) – 15 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 3 rebounds
The potential St Kilda father-daughter selection stood up in big moments and makes the trio of most unlucky to miss players after a solid performance. She can play just about anywhere and is able to break up the play with her ability to find space and short kick to teammates on angles to disrupt the opposition’s zones.

Amelia James (Oakleigh Chargers) – 19 disposals, 1 tackle, 3 inside 50s, 6 hitouts, 2 goals
We could have included a heap of Oakleigh Chargers and James was the next one in line after an impressive two-goal performance inside 50. She is in her top-age year and showed she can pinch-hit in the ruck as well.

Amelia Velardo (Western Jets) – 16 disposals, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 4 hitouts
An eye-catching player across the ground and new into the team, Velardo showed some good athleticism coming out of the ruck at times and had a really busy start to the game in Western’s win against Bendigo. She was able to drive the ball forward and be amongst it in close, often firing out quick handballs to teammates in space.

DRAFT CENTRAL’S NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 1

B: Crystal Summers (GWV) – Mindy Quade (MB) – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
HB: Sarah Hartwig (SD) – Mackenzie Eardley (DS) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ)
C: Darcy Moloney (GF) – Tyanna Smith (DS) – Mimi Hill (OC)
HF: Jessica Zakkour (CC) – Montana Ham (WJ) – Eliza McNamara (SD)
F: Alice O’Loughlin (OC) – Alyssa Bannan (NK) – Poppy Schaap (GF)
R: Matilda Van Berkel (GP) – Brooke Hards (BP) – Laura Gardiner (GF)
INT: Jess Fitzgerald (NK) – Eliza James (OC) – Olivia Meagher (ER) – Ellie McKenzie (NK) – Shanara Notman (GP) – Georgie Prespakis (CC)
EMG: Alice Burke (SD) – Amelia James (OC) – Amelia Velardo (WJ)

OTHERS CONSIDERED:

It was a really even round of performances this weekend, with a number of players making the shortlist for the team but just missing out. Among them were Calder Cannons’ duo Tamsin Crook and Emelia Yassir, Sandringham Dragons’ duo Winnie Laing and Pia Staltari, GWV Rebels’ duo Renee Saulitis and Lilli Condon, Northern Knights’ Ash Snow, Geelong Falcons’ Elizabeth Dowling, Bendigo Pioneers’ Jemma Finning, Eastern Ranges’ Jorja Livingston and Dandenong Stingrays’ Georgia Grimmer.

Jets fly high with dominant second half

WESTERN Jets have opened the season with a win for the first time in their history, downing Bendigo Pioneers by 22 points at Queen Elizabeth Oval. The win on the road was set up by a terrific second half, where the Jets’ defensive structures held up and kept the Pioneers scoreless, while adding 2.4 themselves in a half that could have been even more fruitful with a few gettable shots missing. Despite having three players directly drafted from their top-end list last season, the Jets showed they have a lot of young talent coming through to support their sole AFL Women’s National Academy member, Isabelle Pritchard with the likes of 15-year-olds Montana Ham and Charlotte Baskaran, and new top-age inclusion, Amelia Velardo.

The Jets scored their first goal less than a minute into the match with Olivia Forsythe winning a free kick and converting truly, only for Bendigo’s Billie Reidy to respond with an answering major a few minutes later. The home side soon hit the front with new inclusion, Natasha Kelly standing her ground and using good body work to turn around and kick a goal on the run from the square. Just as it looked like Bendigo had the momentum midway through the first term, Caitlin Sargent popped up with two goals in as many minutes, one from a great snap and another from a free kick to hand the Jets a six-point lead at the first break. Kelly had a chance for her second major early in the second quarter fending off an opponent, but instead handballed to a free Octavia Di Donato in the goalsquare who turned around and made no mistake. Another free kick to the Jets – this time through a 50m penalty – gifted Forsyth her second from point blank range. Kelly again had another chance to score with a great mark inside 50, but it fell just short and was rushed across the line. Heading into half-time, the Jets were again a goal clear of their opponents.

Little did onlookers know, the rushed behind in the second term would end up being the Pioneers’ last score of the game as Western added two more goals to its total, first through a Jemima Woods goal nine minutes into the third term. They were not without a number of chances though as Ham went for a run down the wing with multiple bounces and almost led to a goal had it not been for a goal-saving tackle from the Pioneers. Trinity Skenderis also had a couple of chances in the third term, with a set shot going into the player on the mark, but she got the goal she was looking for in the final term, earning another 50m penalty and kicking from the top of the goalsquare. The margin arguably could have been greater too, with Sargent having a chance for her third from the top of the square five minutes into the last, but could not get it done, spraying it to the side. Throughout the game it was hard not to notice Bendigo Pioneers’ co-captain Brooke Hards who did all she could to will her side across the line. Along with Jemma Finning coming out of defence, and co-captain Annabel Strahan also finding plenty of the ball, they worked hard through the four quarters but would ultimately come up short against a really impressive Western outfit.

Ham finished the day with a game-high 21 disposals, six marks, six inside 50s and three rebounds for her troubles, while Velardo had some eye-opening moments with her movement and ability to ruck and then rove her own plays. She had 16 disposals, nine hitouts and three inside 50s, constantly putting pressure on the Bendigo defence. Baskaran was a welcome addition coming from the back half and pushing up to the wing, always getting to the right positions and finishing the match with 19 touches, seven tackles, three inside 50s and four rebounds. Pritchard showed once again why she is rated so highly, finding the ball in all three areas of the ground, starting through the midfield, drifting forward to have a shot on goal, then holding up the defence in the last term. For the Pioneers, Hards was the clear standout with 18 disposals, three marks, six tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds, with her competitiveness showing in the final term when she gave away a free kick but she could not have done much more. Finning (13 disposals, two marks, three tackles and four rebounds), Strahan (15 disposals) and Maeve Tupper (11 disposals, three marks and four tackles) found plenty of the ball, while Kelly impressed far more than her four touches might suggest given she set up a couple of scoring opportunities as well as kicking a goal herself.

Next week the Jets are at RMIT Bundoora, where they take on Murray Bushrangers, while the Pioneers head up to Craigieburn for a clash with fellow Round 1 losers, Sandringham Dragons to try and get on the board in season 2020.

BENDIGO PIONEERS 2.0 | 3.1 | 3.1 | 3.1 (19)
WESTERN JETS 3.0 | 4.1 | 5.3 | 6.5 (41)

GOALS:

Bendigo: B. Reidy, N. Kelly, O. Di Donato.
Western: C. Sargent 2, O. Forsyth 2, J. Woods, T. Skenderis.

BEST:

Bendigo: B. Hards, J. Finning, M. Tupper, A. Strahan, N. Kelly
Western: M. Ham, C. Baskaran, A. Velardo, I. Pritchard, C. Sargent

DC Medal:

5 – Montana Ham (WJ)
4 – Brooke Hards (BP)
3 – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ)
2 – Amelia Velardo (WJ)
1 – Isabelle Pritchard (WJ)

NAB League Girls preview: Round 1 – New talent to shine in opening round of action

NAB League Girls action is back on the agenda this weekend with a grand final rematch among a host of expected tight contests with all sides back on level pegging at 0-0 to start the season and hoping to kick-off their seasons with wins.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. CALDER CANNONS
Saturday, February 29, 10:15am
RMIT University Bundoora

The first game of the round is a fitting opener to the new NAB League Girls season, with Northern Knights hosting Calder Cannons at a refurbished RMIT University ground in the 2019 Grand Final rematch. The Knights had five players drafted last year, with the remainder signed up for state league level football in 2020, while the Cannons just had the two, but had a number of players on the periphery. Both these sides have plenty of talent with the Knights potentially a year ahead in development, finishing runner-up in 2018 before winning last year, while the Cannons made the grand final last season, and will be hoping to build on that this year. The Knights have five players in the National AFL Women’s Academy, led by Ellie McKenzie and last year’s grand final best on ground medallist, Jess Fitzgerald who are both amongst a strong midfield core. Fellow Academy member, Maeve Chaplin is also named onball, while Maykaylah Appleby will run down the wings as the sole middle-age Academy member. Alyssa Bannan is a leading target and strong overhead named at centre half-forward, and a battle with the likes of key backs, Tamsin Crook and Tahlia Gillard – the latter of whom is in the AFL Women’s Academy too will be a match-up to watch. The name that will always catch the eye is Georgie Prespakis, a 2021 draft prospect and sister of Carlton Rising Star, Madison. She is capable of anything and her battle with McKenzie will be intriguing. The Cannons also have some serious depth at their disposal, with Emelia Yassir and Kasey Lennox another couple of youngsters who made their debuts last season and looked at home. With Freda Puruntatameri playing with Palmerston in the NTFL Women’s competition up forward for the Cannons, there is plenty of X-factor there too.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Saturday, February 29, 11:30am
City Oval Ballarat

Up in Ballarat, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels host the Sandringham Dragons in a battle between two sides who should improve on their 2019 placings. Both sides have a number of AFL Women’s Academy member with the Rebels (five) and the Dragons (three) both having some serious top-end talent. The Rebels have a strong spine with Maggie Caris likely to be the top ruck in the competition this year with her height and tap work causing problems for the opposition. Renee Saulitis has played up forward and down back, but is named in the middle, with her athleticism and ability to sidestep opponents a feature of her game. Along with Isabella Simmons who has also been named through the midfield, all three Academy members are very different and add varied elements to the game style. They will face an equally impressive midfield of Dragons’ captain Winnie Laing, potential St Kilda father-daughter selection, Alice Burke and Bella Eddey who provide a real hard edge to the onball brigade. Sarah Hartwig is one of a couple of premier rebounding defenders, reading the ball in flight so well and able to create a lot of offensive run while nullifying her opponent defensively. Playing at half-forward is Eliza McNamara who is a tackling machine and elite runner, who will work her opponent over, while Abbi Moloney lines up at full-forward to try and clunk a few grabs by outmuscling her opponent one-on-one. The Rebels will look to run the ball out of defence through Nyakoat Dojiok who is a 2021 draft prospect in the Academy, while Chloe Leonard has been named at full-forward for the Rebels who will look to have a spread of goalkickers rather than a dominant target.

GEELONG FALCONS v. GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, February 29, 12:00pm
RMIT University Bundoora 

After its first finals loss last season, Geelong Falcons return to the NAB League Girls with a hunger to get back to the heights of 2018, starting off the 2020 season with a clash against Gippsland Power. The Power have a lot of players who were able to run out last season and will be more experienced in 2020, so they will no doubt look to push the Falcons who have plenty of young players themselves. Geelong’s duo of Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner will be damaging through the midfield as the Falcons’ two AFL Women’s National Academy members. Joined in the middle by basketballer Carly Remmos, the Falcons have a strong foundation to continue the success of past years. Elizabeth Dowling is a name that will be raised over the next couple of years, and along with Renee Tierney as targets up forward and Poppy Schaap‘s defensive pressure, the Falcons are in a good shape going forward. Mia Van Dyke is one of a number of prospects who have come through the club’s V/Line Cup program and despite being just three days away from being a 2023 draft eligible prospect (only turned 15 in December), she is one of a number who have come through the pathway with some high wraps from the coaching staff. Gippsland has some familiar names in its line-up, led by midfielder and AFL Women’s Academy member, Megan Fitzsimon. She, along with Grace McRae forms a strong midfield duo in there, and will compete strongly for the contested ball. In defence, Shanara Notman returns as a 19-year-old named at centre half-back and will provide some good rebound there, right alongside Leyla Berry who played for the Power back in 2018. On the other flank is a familiar Power name with Yasmin Duursma (sister of Port Adelaide’s Xavier), while when talking about bottom-age talent, Lily-Rose Williamson is one who will be a standout along a win having starred for the club through the V/Line Cup in past years.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 29, 12:50pm
Queen Elizabeth Oval 

Turning the attention to Bendigo, the Pioneers host Western Jets in a curtain raiser to the AFL Women’s clash between Richmond and Geelong. Bendigo has the one official AFL Women’s National Academy member in key defender Tara Slender, but have a midfield that will trouble opposition onballers. Brooke Hards and Annabel Strahan have both been named onball and the co-captains will provide a hard-edge to the midfield and be difficult to beat there. Along with Maeve Tupper who has some impressive athletic skills and great goal sense when up forward, the midfield is a strength for the Pioneers. Jemma Finning has been named at half-back to provide some run out of defence with Slender, while up forward, Hannah Stewart is a target inside 50 as a 19-year-old. The Jets have opted to throw rebounding defender, Isabelle Pritchard into the midfield to counteract the Pioneers’ onball and develop her game even further. Along with bottom-age tall, Montana Ham and Nikita Wright in the middle, the Jets have some good height and ball-winning ability in there with upside. A highly rated bottom-ager with Ham is Charlotte Baskaran who is considered elite with her foot skills and decision making, so will be one to watch coming off half-back where she has been named. Both these sides are going to go close to winning in this tight contest with a fair few bottom-agers on show, though Bendigo should be more prepared after their top-agers had consistency through the team as middle-agers last season.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS v. EASTERN RANGES
Sunday, March 1,  11:00am
Holm Park Recreation Reserve 

In a rewind to 2018, Dandenong Stingrays and Eastern Ranges return to Holm Park in Beaconsfield to open their seasons on Sunday. While both played different opponents on that day two years ago, they will both be hoping for more ideal temperatures than the 37 degrees on that day. The Stingrays are coming off a solid season in 2019. just missing out on finals, while Eastern reached the post-season series and pushed eventual premiers, Northern Knights all the way in the preliminary final clash. The Stingrays’ standout prospect in 2020 is Tyanna Smith, with the AFL Women’s National Academy member having the combination of speed and strength in the middle, which she will use to burst out of the stoppages and create scoring opportunities for her team. Abbey Jordan showed last season she can win the ball through the middle, while young talls, Jaide Anthony and Georgia Grimmer up forward provide a glimpse into the future for the Stingrays having come through the V/Line Cup program. Down back, the ever-reliable Zoe Hill is alongside Jemma Radford, while Serene Vudiniabola comes highly rated as an overager who played school footy last year and is tied to Old Haileybury. Eastern Ranges pack a punch in the midfield as well, with Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown the club’s two AFL Women’s Academy members. With ruck, Jess Grace likely to get first hands to them more often than not, the contested ball-winning Meagher and slick Brown will give their forwards some nice feeds inside 50. Matilda Hardy has been named at half-forward as one to watch, while Mietta Kendall is a reliable source of calmness in the back pocket, and Lily Peacock named as one to watch with her run along the wing.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Sunday, March 1, 1:00pm
Norm Minns Oval 

The final game of the round is another curtain raiser, this time for the Collingwood and Richmond AFL Marsh Series clash at Wangaratta. A big crowd is expected in attendance for the game, with two teams expected to improve in 2020 to battle it out. Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers both had some superb performances last season, but had to iron out some consistency issues at times. Both having a number of talents coming through the ranks this season, the Bushrangers had a lot of middle and bottom-agers last season who have progressed through to the next year of their youth careers. The Charges had five players drafted and will be looking to replace them through a team approach. The Chargers have three players in the AFL Women’s National Academy with captain Mimi Hill and middle-ager Charlie Rowbottom named on-ball to rove the work of ruck, Kalarni Kearns. Also in the midfield is Joanna Lin on the wing, working the ball forward to an even front six. The Bushrangers have a two-pronged tall attack with AFL Women’s Academy members, Olivia Barber (top-age) and Ally Morphett (middle-age) rotating between ruck and forward. Abby Favell is a natural ball winner and will rotate between midfield and forward, while Kate Adams is another player who can be slippery around the stoppages and find the goals when inside 50. Keeley Skepper showed last season in the Under 16 Championships that she has a lot of upside, while a number of players on both teams loom as surprise packets in what could be one of the games of the round.

Belief growing at the Pioneers

BELIEF is a powerful motivator in any walk of life, and the Bendigo Pioneers’ NAB League Girls program is one that has building on and off the field over the last few seasons. In 2019, the Pioneers Girls’ program showed how they had grown from the previous year, winning four games – three more than the previous year – and being more competitive throughout each game. Pioneers’ Talent Manager Stephen Sharp said the girls’ confidence had increased throughout their time in the program.

“Yeah, look they no doubt did (grow in confidence), and they had an extra year in the system,” he said. “When we first came in we deliberately didn’t have any bias particularly around age in preference of playing the older girls. “If the younger girls were better and we thought they had the potential to grow, we’d pick them. “In the first year or two we were a bit that way and then as they’ve got a few games under their belt – the 17s or the 18s last year might have been in the system for a couple of years, where it wasn’t about just trying to win games, it was about trying to develop kids and develop the list so we could be more competitive.”

Sharp said the club’s development as a whole had been “absolutely good” and they would continue with the same method under a different coach this season. Cherie O’Neill has taken over from Shawn McCormick who has coached the past three seasons. O’Neill has been involved with the boys’ program for the past couple of seasons so has the understanding of the organisation and its intricate workings.

The Pioneers will be a young group in 2020, with Sharp noting that the club picks the best possible players who trial over the off-season, rather than opt for a top-age heavy list.

I think we’ll go for a list of about 35-40 and I’m guessing there’ll be about 10 or a dozen top-age girls and there could be as many as 17/18 17-year olds,” he said. “We might have four 15-year-old girls that’ll play that’ll be approved on application, that’ll play in our futures games. “But they’re better than some of the 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds. “So that’s why we’re playing them, and to give them a little taste.”

He said as with the boys’ program that selection would come down to weighing up both natural talent and athleticism, rather than age.

“There’s no point taking top-age girls again through who aren’t at the level,” Sharp said. “So the changes we’ve made, particularly with athletic profiling is that the girls that can run and have that athleticism and vertical leap that can still play – they’ve still got to be able to play – they’re going to get to more contests, they’re going to keep us in the game.”

The Pioneers have one player in the AFL Women’s National Academy – tall defender Tara Slender – who Sharp said is a perfect example of someone who has developed throughout the Pioneers’ program from V/Line Cup through to her first season of NAB League last year as a 15-year-old.

“She’s a great example,” Sharp said. “She went to the Academy up in Darwin recently and she’s quite well-equipped with other sports as well. “She’s an impressive kid, a really good kid who’s really committed and dedicated and she trains hard. “(In terms of) athletic profiling she’s what you need to be able to play today’s game at NAB League girls and AFLW, she’s the prototype – she’s your model there of what girls need to aspire to and she’s great at training so we’re looking forward to watching her play. ” She’s really committed to it, loves it, and if you put the work in you get the result.”

A late bloomer in terms of her age, Slender does not turn 17 until November, but she has proven to stand up at each level required. In her eight games last season, Slender averaged 11.4 disposals, two marks and three rebounds playing off half-back. With two full years left in the system, she is someone who will have plenty of development left in her.

But Slender is not the only player Sharp said spectators should watch out for with a number of top-age talents showing their skills last season as both footballers and leaders.

“We had a couple of girls last year in Brooke Hards and Elizabeth Snell who both played at the nationals in Queensland in July,” he said. “They’re both training really well, Elizabeth’s down here (Bendigo) and Brooke’s still up in Mildura so she’ll just travel down. “It was remarkable what she did last year, she left at 4:00 on Saturday morning to come to our trial games in Bendigo to watch the girls play – she didn’t play. So that’s the commitment there, it’s a return trip in the day equivalent to a drive from Melbourne to Sydney. “She’s (Hards) clearly our role model/leader.”

Asked if the trio would cover each third of the ground in similar positions to last year with Slender in defence, Hards in midfield and Snell up forward, Sharp said it was likely.

“I think so, I think we’ll spread them fairly evenly,” he said. “It is a development program and Tara will play in different roles but she’ll probably predominantly be at half-back where she’s pretty comfortable and reads the play and can intercept and use her left foot effectively. “You don’t want them all on-ball, there’ll be a spread, because otherwise you break down in those lines and then kids don’t develop. “And part of their development is to play them in different roles as well so they can experience those roles.”

The only confirmed overager at this stage – with list finalisation still ongoing – is Hannah Stewart, a talent from New South Wales who has also shown a remarkable dedication to the sport she loves.

Hannah Stewart, who played in the National Championships in Queensland at that same time with the Eastern Allies – she’s a girl from Hay, in fact she was down at training last night from three and a half hours away,” Sharp said. “She would normally train in Swan Hill, which is only a four hour return trip. “She’s our only 19-year-old at this stage we think, I don’t know whether we’ll apply for another one or not, but she’s an elite kick and a good player.”

Sharp said across the list there were a number of potential surprise packets in 2020, including Maeve Tupper – who at 155cm showed she has no problem finding the ball with 15.9 disposals per game last year. Developing talent Madeline Marks and potential Melbourne father-daughter selection in Tegan Williams (David, 67 games) are also exciting prospects heading into the season.

“We’ve got some girls who have tested really well and we use that as a bit of a measure, it’s always an assistance. There’s a young girl who is really good athletically and she’s learning the game so we’re probably going to include her to take her to the next level, a young girl locally who’s showed some good things and has a really good attitude, because attitude counts for a lot. “We think the girls are in a pretty good position.”

Bendigo has one of the toughest challenges in the NAB League competitions with its network far and wide across hundreds of kilometres. Like some of the other country teams, the Pioneers have multiple bases to try and limit the travel and workload on the players, and Sharp said he is often amazed at what the players do to play at this level.

We’ve got four big bases in Mildura, Swan Hill, Echuca and Bendigo,” he said. That way we can actually provide an opportunity for the girls, give them a good reason to come to training. “So if they’re only within an hour of Mildura, an hour to Swan Hill or similarly probably half an hour or 40 minutes to Echuca, it just gives them an opportunity to actually be able to come in.”

One example was a new player in list contention with plenty of talent, but due to family work commitments struggled to get to training. Sharp said the club was always willing to accomodate in situations where possible.

“We’ve got a girl in Ouyen who may well be one of our better players, or she’d be in our best half a dozen, she’s only bottom-age, but hasn’t trained once but she came to the trial game and discussions were around ‘We can’t list her’. “But we need to understand the circumstances, she’s a girls from a multicultural background, I met with her dad who speaks broken English and said to him the other day, we want her to continue but she needs to train. “He works every day, he works late and he starts early and he’s a hard worker so he can’t get her from Ouyen to Mildura so we’re working on a plan to get her to train one night a week, because then I can justify selecting her, because I can’t not select her, “She’s that talented and she works hard. “There’s all these obstacles, it’s just the way it is.”

Off the field, Bendigo has already had a number of changes with the new coach working alongside Pioneers boys’ coach and director of coaching, Damian Truslove who was also appointed over the off-season. O’Neill is also on a part-time role rather than previously being casual or volunteer – emphasising the growth of the youth program. The Pioneers have also said they will look to appoint a female wellbeing coordinator to further grow the program.

On the field, Sharp said the team was looking to have a good balance of attack and defence heading into 2020, as well as some key fundamentals.

I think it’s just making sure the girls have a good understanding of their offensive and defensive structures,” he said. “While we don’t heavily emphasise or haven’t done a lot of work on that, it’s the key part to what we do at training in regard to contested ball and where we get to receive it or where you get to defend it. So it’s a fairly simple format that Damian’s drawn up … and he works with Cherie who’s our new female coach so that we mirror it and all have a similar style. “So we haven’t done a lot of work on that, we’ve done a lot of work on fundamentals, just being able to mark, kick, handball, taking the ball cleanly below you knees so they’re the things we’ve mostly been working on.”

Bendigo Pioneers kick off their campaign on Saturday, February 29 at Queen Elisabeth Oval against Western Jets, before a trip to Highgate Recreation Reserve the following Saturday to face Sandringham Dragons.