Tag: brooke hards

2021 Ones to Watch: VFLW-listed talents impressing

TEAMS have entered the final month of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season and NAB League Girls and AFL Women’s players are now regularly filtering through teams. With the AFL Women’s Draft always a talking point, it is worth remembering some of the VFL Women’s listed players who have held their spots and had really promising seasons. Whilst the below does not include everyone, there are a few names from each team named to keep an eye on.

COLLINGWOOD:

The Magpies have no shortage of VFL Women’s listed talent to keep an eye on. Imogen Barnett has been a powerful force up forward, slotting 11 goals in nine games and not only averaging the three marks, but the 2.7 tackles per match as well. In defence, Jasmine Ferguson is having a terrific season playing on some quality forwards, having really developed each season since her initial days with Gippsland Power. Marla Neal through the midfield has had a purple patch and is as hard as they come, whilst midfielder/forward Matilda Zander has kicked the seven goals and provide the speed and defensive pressure that could see former Norwood mentor Steve Symonds opt for the talented small.

GEELONG:

The Cats’ AFL Women’s talent has certainly been a driving force through the midfield this year, but a couple of hard-at-it midfielders in Paige Sheppard (20.2 disposals, 6.0 tackles) and Tamara Smith (17.5 disposals, 10.8 tackles) are doing their chances no harm with great in-and-under work and spreading to the outside. Claudia Gunjaca is another one who has really caught the eye this season, whilst defender Breanna Pratt has been amongst the best VFL-listed talents for the Cats.

PORT MELBOURNE:

Ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Sophie Locke has developed into an exciting forward who has an eye for goals and would be one that needs to be in consideration to step up, whilst injury replacement player Hannah McLaren continues to be a standout ball-winner at VFL Women’s level. Add in ex-Richmond forwards Emily Harley and Cleo Saxon-Jones who are searching for new contracts, and the Borough have some talents with experience that could step up and earn new contracts with other clubs.

CASEY DEMONS:

Eliza West has enjoyed an incredible season with the Demons and is a readymade talent if given the chance to step up. Grace Buchan has not missed a beat since crossing from the Magpies and has been reliable ball user in the back half, whilst Imogen Milford has been the dominant goalkicker this year. Emma Humphries has the AFL Women’s experience in the past to slot straight into a contender if required.

ESSENDON:

Georgia Nanscawen should be the top pick when it comes to selecting mature-age talent out of the VFL Women’s, as a genuine best 21 player at AFL Women’s level when fit. She is averaging 23 touches and almost 10 tackles, including a game where she was injured early. Fellow midfielder, Alana Barba remains on the radar for her attack on the contest and around the ground, whilst Courtney Ugle and Eloise Gardner are among a host of Bombers players that have traits which could be utilised at the next level.

SOUTHERN SAINTS:

A tall versatile option, Tara Bohanna has been a reliable source of goals for the Saints, able to roll through the ruck as well as provide strength in the air and on the ground for 16.2 disposals, 4.3 marks, 4.5 tackles, 7.4 hitouts and more than a goal a game. A mature-age midfielder Hannah Stuart is one for the immediate-impact group, averaging almost 18 touches and six tackles as a tough inside ball-winner, whilst Gabbi De Angelis has always had some special traits since coming through the Eastern Ranges, and Valerie Moreau is one of a number of Saints enjoying good seasons.

WESTERN BULLDOGS:

The AFL Women’s contingent has definitely bolstered the Western Bulldogs’ squad, but in terms of mainstays only two players have played every game. Brooke Hards has been utilised in a multitude of positions and settled at half-back of late whilst rotating through the midfield, possessing great pace and game-breaking ability across the ground. Simone Ruedin is as reliable as they come, and if a club was locking for a rock-solid defender, there have been few better this season. Ruck/forward Molly Denahy Maloney has some eye-catching traits that might catch the eye, whilst Katelyn Betts has shown versatility and hardness around the ball.

HAWTHORN:

The Hawks have a plethora of recently delisted AFL Women’s players that could slot all over this list, with Tamara Luke, Alison Drennan, Kristy Stratton and Georgia Bevan among the long list of talents with prior AFLW-experience. From a VFLW-listed perspective, Jessie Williams‘ development up forward with seven goals in 10 games, as well as young gun and speedster Dominique Carbone and consistent talented midfield Olivia Flanagan among those with some exciting traits to keep an eye off.

NORTH MELBOURNE:

North Melbourne has promoted quite a lot of its VFL Women’s talent this year, with Meagan Kiely and ex-Darebin talent Molly Eastman among the names that the club, or other clubs might consider for the pure ball-winning consistency. Perhaps the most damaging one could be forward-cum-midfielder Sarah Skinner who not only can wreak havoc inside 50, but go inside and find a truckload of the ball as well. Alexia Hamilton is an ex-Sun who has been reliable in the ruck and as a forward target who might earn a call-up.

CARLTON:

Akayla Peterson has been a standout this year, able to play in a multitude of roles, booting five goals playing up forward and in defence, and being able to slot in anywhere. Jorja Borg has been a dominant ruck through that role, while defender Ally Bild is only about to turn 22-years-old and has made strides since crossing from the Magpies. She only played the four games this season, but Jennifer Lew‘s impact in defence was noticeable for the Navy Blues, averaging 18.5 disposals and 5.3 marks in that time.

WILLIAMSTOWN:

The Seagulls might not have had a lot of AFL Women’s experience prior to the GWS GIANTS joining forces, but have had some reliable ball-winners. Megan Williamson is a player who could step up as a readymade inside midfielder, while it is hard to look past the influence that Erin Meade or Aimee Whelan can have on a game, whilst Elizabeth McGrath had almost 60 hitouts recently against one of the premier rucks in the competition.

DAREBIN FALCONS:

Gena Lawson-Tavan has been a rock in defence for the Falcons this season playing every game alongside Samara David who has been one of the premier markers of the competition, also booting five goals in 10 games. Sidney Cubasch has been a reliable ruck option each week she has played, while Victoria Blackwood is still young and developing – only turned 21 in December last year – and really stepped up this season.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 10

A HEAP of young prospects continue to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. As the NAB League season draws to an end, Round 10 saw plenty of young talent scattered across each state league side. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in or have recently graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 10

Hawthorn second-gamer Grace McRae was one of the more impressive current NAB Leaguers to ply their trade at senior level in Round 10, collecting 21 disposals and laying nine tackles in the Hawks’ win over Darebin. Eastern Ranges graduate Jenna Richardson was also solid with 10 touches, as Maddi Shaw and Chloe O’Malley also contributed in brown and gold. For Darebin, Calder Cannons tall Peppa Poultney turned out for her second game and managed nine hitouts.

A good number of Western Jets products continue to get a look-in for the Western Bulldogs, making an impact in their new side’s win over Carlton. Second-gamer Stephanie Asciak earned votes for her nine disposals, while Nikita Wright had 12 and took three marks, and Caitlin Sargent registered two behinds up forward. Former Bendigo Pioneers skipper Brooke Hards continues to be a mainstay in red, white and blue, as Marnie Jarvis enjoys an extended run for Carlton.

Geelong’s winning streak rolled on with a sixth-straight triumph on Saturday, this time over Essendon. The likes of Paige Sheppard (18 disposals, four marks) and Tamara Smith (16 disposals, 10 tackles) again made an impression among a host of AFLW-listed talent. For Essendon, Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba each managed 15 touches, with the latter also booting a goal. Bendigo Pioneers top-ager Jemma Finning also made her debut in the sash with five disposals and five tackles.

Despite going down in an upset loss to Southern Saints, Port Melbourne managed to field some promising youngsters on Saturday. Dandenong Stingrays pair Jaide Anthony (10 disposals, four marks) and Ash Richards (one goal) made their debuts, playing against NAB League teammate Jemma Radford. Emily Harley was named best afield for the Borough as one of a few former NAB Leaguers in this game to have also been drafted. Meanwhile, Gabby De Angelis impressed for the Saints with 15 disposals, four marks, and five tackles.

In Collingwood’s big win over North Melbourne, tall utility Neve O’Connor took on some added ruck duties to finish with a game-high 23 hitouts, far and away her best return in that department for 2021. North was served well by Ciara Fitzgerald (13 disposals, three marks), as Jayde Hamilton earned consecutive appearances, and Tasmanian Camilla Taylor made her return.

Casey was served well by a couple of young talls in Bridie Winbanks (30 hitouts) and debutant Grace Matser (16), while the latter named among her side’s best players. Emma Horne also got her hands dirty for the Demons with six tackles, while Ruby Tripodi was among Williamstown’s better performers as a bunch of GWS-listed talent hit the state league.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 9

A HEAP of young prospects continue to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. While the NAB League finals commenced, Round 9 saw plenty of young talent scattered across each state league side. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in or have recently graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 9

Essendon’s thumping win over Carlton saw a quartet of graduates get their hands dirty in the red and black. Bendigo Pioneers midfielder Elizabeth Snell continues to impress, with 12 disposals and nine tackles capping her latest effort. Meanwhile, Alana Barba matched the Country coup for tackles, as Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Tamsin Crook each managed nine touches. For Carlton, Marnie Jarvis also worked hard for seven disposals and seven tackles.

Not only did Port Melbourne return to the winners list this past weekend, but Sophie Locke also returned to the scoresheet with 1.2 from 14 touches against Darebin, in what was her second game back. Recently delisted Richmond forward Emily Harley showed her worth with a bag of four goals, as fellow former AFLW players Cleo Saxon-Jones and Bridie Kennedy both contributed six disposals in the win.

Geelong inflicted the round’s biggest margin of victory with a 75-point drubbing of the Western Bulldogs, who fielded two debutants. Current Western Jets prospects Caitlin Sargent (nine disposals, one goal) and Trinity Skenderis (five disposals) ran out alongside fellow NAB Leaguer Jemima Woods, while mainstay Brooke Hards played a defensive role on Stephanie Williams. For Geelong, Tamara Smith (17 disposals, eight tackles, two goals) and Paige Sheppard (22 disposals, one goal) were among the standouts.

The Casey Demons were also big winners on Saturday, with tall Bridie Winbanks playing an important role. She managed 29 hitouts, while Emma Horne seeing the ball six times throughout. In North’s blue and white, Jayde Hamilton returned to the fold after representing the Allies and GWS Academy, while Ciara Fitzgerald had eight touches and laid two tackles.

A hardened Collingwood side trounced Williamstown in Saturday’s final fixture, but it was the Seagulls who fielded the more NAB League graduates. Among them, tall talent Tahlia Merrett (seven disposals, three tackles, eight hitouts) was named her side’s best, while midfielder Ruby Tripodi also featured in the votes for her eight disposals and 10 tackles.

Sunday’s standalone fixture saw the Southern Saints get past Hawthorn, with the Hawks fielding a debutant in the fighting loss. Gippsland Power product and Vic Country representative Grace McRae was the player in question, managing 11 disposals and five tackles. Chloe O’Malley (11 disposals, five tackles, one goal) was also impressive in the brown and gold, as Jenna Richardson and Maddi Shaw also featured. For the Saints, Gabriella De Angelis, Amelia Peck, and Grace Hodder all turned out once again.

Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 8

A HEAP of young prospects are now filtering through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. Despite the NAB League’s resumption, Round 8 saw plenty of young talent scattered across each state league side. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in or have recently graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 8

The Western Bulldogs are turning their season around, having notched a third win after defeating the Southern Saints by 18 points on Friday night. Brooke Hards (10 disposals, four tackles), who has played every game for the Dogs this season, was one of their best and only graduates afield in her relatively new defensive role. Molly Denahy-Maloney was the other in this category, notching four touches and six hitouts.

The Saints had some promising young talent scattered across their side too, headlined by the debut of Dandenong Stingrays defender Jemma Radford. She earned votes in the loss for her 12 disposals and six marks, getting better as the game wore on. Tall Amelia Peck was another to impress with 18 touches and four marks, while Grace Hodder had it 16 times and laid five tackles.

Casey brought Port Melbourne’s unbeaten run to an end on Saturday, trumping the Borough by 41 points on the road. Forward Sophie Locke made her return and fared well with 10 disposals, but could not quite find the goals. Recently delisted Richmond forward Emily Harley also found it 10 times, as Bridie Kennedy and Kate Adams also got a run for Port. Emma Horne (seven disposals) and Bridie Winbanks (six hitouts) were Casey’s representatives in these parameters.

Geelong’s top four surge roared on with a thumping win over Darebin Falcons, seeing the Cats move to an impressive 6-2 record. Paige Sheppard was among the votes for Geelong, finishing with 18 disposals and five marks as her terrific return season continues. Tamara Smith also found a good amount of ball, working hard for 20 touches and nine tackles in the famous hoops.

On Sunday, Collingwood got the points in a traditional Anzac Day matchup with Essendon, as the Magpies continue to set the competition benchmark. Olivia Meagher started well in black and white, and finished eight disposals. Essendon continues to blood a good amount of youth, with Elizabeth Snell (14 disposals, five tackles) and Eloise Ashley-Cooper (17 disposals, five tackles) both terrific, while Calder products Grace Dicker (12 and seven) and Alana Barba (11 and three) were others who proved productive.

Hawthorn picked up its second set of points on the weekend after downing Williamstown by 16 points, meaning the Hawks’ two wins have come against fellow standalone entities. Jenna Richardson got among the votes in her side’s victory, while it was no surprise to see Ruby Tripodi again do the same for Williamstown. In North Melbourne’s thumping win over Carlton, Ciara Fitzgerald took three marks in her 12 disposals, as Marnie Jarvis and Taylah Kolevski found touch in the Blues’ loss.

2021 VFLW Round 8 wrap: Dogs move within range of top six as Casey topple Borough

PORT Melbourne suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of a stacked Casey Demons outfit, while Western Bulldogs continued to make their move towards the top six, defeating Southern Saints under lights to kick off Round 8 of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition.

>> VFL WOMEN’S PAGE

WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.0 | 1.4 | 2.8 | 4.10 (34)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 0.2 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 2.4 (16)

Under lights at Whitten Oval, the Western Bulldogs well and truly made up for their last game in the same time slot earlier in the season, taking care of the Southern Saints by 18 points. It was a crucial win for the Bulldogs, who moved to within percentage of the top six, and despite not scoring in the first term, booed three goals to one in the second half to secure the 4.10 (34) to 2.4 (16) victory. They arguably could have won by more with 14 scoring shots to six, though it was the impressive work of Nell Morris-Dalton and Danielle Marshall up front who did the damage, slotting two majors each. Elisabeth Georgostathis and Ellyse Gamble combined for 48 disposals, whilst the defence of Simone Ruedin, Sarah Hartwig and Brooke Hards were instrumental in the win. Angelica Gogos had another strong game in her second match back, while for the Saints, debutant Jemma Radford stood tall with some nice highlights. AFLW-listed players Molly McDonald and Alice Burke were busy, as Tahlia Meyer also feasted upon her debut in the VFLW side, sharing 53 disposals with Burke. Deanna Jolliffe was named best on for the Dogs, kicking one of their two goals, while Rebecca Neaves was also impressive in the loss.

>> MATCH STATISTICS

>> Bulldogs out of the dog house and off the leash

GOALS:

Western Bulldogs: N. Morris-Dalton 2, D. Marshall 2.
Southern Saints: K. Ripari, D. Jolliffe.

BEST:

Western Bulldogs: E. Georgostathis, A. Gogos , D. Marshall, E. Gamble, S. Ruedin, A. Scott.
Southern Saints: D. Jolliffe, M. McDonald, R. Neaves, M. Bertuna, J. Radford, A. Burke

PORT MELBOURNE 2.2 | 2.4 | 3.4 | 4.4 (28)
CASEY DEMONS 2.0 | 3.4 | 7.6 | 10.8 (68)

A dominant second half has helped Casey Demons inflict Port Melbourne’s first loss of the season, piling on seven goals to two after half-time to win by 40 points. The Demons trailed by two points at the first break, but hit the front by the main break with the only goal of the season term, before pulling away to win, 10.8 (68) to 4.4 (28). Alyssa Bannan made a successful debut at VFLW level with three majors, countering that of her experienced opponent down the other end in Sabrina Frederick who caused headaches for the Demons defence with the first two goals for her side. Fellow Demons AFLW-listed players in Maddison Gay (22 disposals) and Jacqueline Parry (20) also slotted in seamlessly, as Eliza West (21 and eight tackles) and Megan Fitzsimon (18 and six tackles) continued their good form this season. For the Borough, Olivia Barton and Mel Kuys led the way, having 18 and 17 disposals respectively, and laying four tackles apiece. Elizabeth Wilson kicked the other goal for the home side off 14 touches and 18 hitouts, while Phillipa Peschke and Sarah Sansonetti were lively.

>> MATCH STATISTICS

GOALS:

Port Melbourne: S. Frederick 3, E. Wilson.
Casey Demons: A. Bannan 3, E. Humphries 2, S. Johnson, J. Parry, S. Fairchild, I. Milford, K. Thompson.

BEST:

Port Melbourne: P. Peschke, S. Frederick, S. Sansonetti, S. Locke, C. Dyett, M. Kuys
Casey Demons: E. West, I. Milford, S. Fairchild, M. Fitzsimon, A. Bannan, S. Johnson

DAREBIN 0.2 | 0.3 | 1.5 | 1.5 (11)
GEELONG 1.2 | 3.6 | 6.6 | 11.9 (75)

Geelong Cats took a little while to get going, but then put the foot down against the last placed Darebin, running out 64-point winners at Bill Lawry Oval. The Cats led by a straight kick at quarter time and 21 points at half-time, before piling on 8.3 to 1.2 in the second half, including five goals to zero in the last term in order to secure the 11.9 (75) to 1.5 (11) victory. The AFLW contingent of Sophie Van De Heuvel (25 disposals, nine tackles and a goal), Laura Gardiner (24 disposals, 10 tackles and two goals) and Darcy Moloney (22 disposals, seven tackles and a goal) all had plenty of the footy, as Olivia Barber slotted three goals from 15 touches and six marks. Claudia Gunjaca, Georgie Rankin and Paige Sheppard were also among the best as the Cats continued their red-hot recent form. For the Falcons, Jess Dal Pos returned from New South Wales to put up 21 disposals, four marks and five tackles, and aid AFLW-experienced talents in Nicole Callinan (18 disposals, four marks and 11 tackles) and Alyssa Mifsud (14 disposals, six tackles and 17 hitouts). Hayley Munro, Ellen Buckley and Ashleigh Gunn were all named among the team’s best in the loss.

>> MATCH STATISTICS

GOALS:

Darebin: H. Munro.
Geelong: L. Gardiner 3, O. Barber 3, D. Moloney, S. Van De Heuvel, M. Boyd, A. Johnson, G. Clarke.

BEST:

Darebin: A. Mifsud, N. Callinan, J. Dal Pos, H. Munro, E. Buckley, A. Gunn
Geelong: O. Barber, C. Gunjaca, G. Rankin, B. Beckley, P. Sheppard, D. Moloney

HAWTHORN 1.1 | 3.2 | 3.4 | 5.6 (36)
WILLIAMSTOWN 0.2 | 0.3 | 1.6 | 2.8 (20)

Hawthorn leapfrogged Williamstown out of the bottom two with its second win of the season, getting up by 16 points at Box Hill City Oval on Sunday. The Hawks kicked the first three goals of the game to lead by 17 points at half-time, and whilst the Seagulls did manage to keep touch – and kick two of the last four goals – it would not be enough as the brown and gold saluted at home, 5.6 (36) to 2.8 (20). Dominique Carbone kicked a couple of majors and really impressed across the ground, as did key position player Tamara Luke (one goal). It was no surprise to see in her 250th game of senior footy that Meg Hutchins was a standout, while Sophie Bolding was named best on ground. Jenna Richardson and Chloe Bain were also named among the winning side’s best on the day. For Williamstown, Erin Meade was yet again outstanding, as Eliza Straford and Ella Baxter‘s strong seasons continued. Elizabeth McGrath and Gabrielle Biedenweg-Webster kicked the two goals for their sides, but it would not be enough in the end.

>> MATCH STATISTICS (will be updated once completed on the app)

GOALS:

Hawthorn: D. Carbone 2, T. Luke, E. Mcilvena , A. Malander.
Williamstown: G. Biedenweg-Webster, E. McGrath.

BEST:

Hawthorn: S. Bolding, T. Luke, M. Hutchins, D. Carbone, J. Richardson, C. Bain
Williamstown: E. Meade, E. Straford, E. Baxter, R. Tripodi, A. Whelan, L. Suleiman

ESSENDON 1.3 | 1.3 | 2.4 | 4.4 (28)
COLLINGWOOD 1.0 | 1.1 | 3.3 | 5.8 (38)

Collingwood has held off a determined Essendon at The Hangar, thanks to a strong second half, and in particular final quarter which saw the Magpies boot the last two goals of the game to win by 10 points. The Bombers looked strong early, but could never shake the Pies, and despite Mia-Rae Clifford booting an early goal in the fourth term to cut the deficit to one, the Magpies kicked away with the next two to blow it out to 15 points before a late consolation prize made the final scores 5.8 (38) to 4.4 (28). Collingwood welcomed back some of its AFL Women’s talent, with Sophie Alexander being a threat in the air, clunking seven marks from 17 touches, and while she did not hit the scoreboard in a major way – two behinds – she shared the load inside 50 with Imogen Barnett (13 disposals, six marks and one goal), Matilda Zander (13 disposals, one goal) and Aliesha Newman (12 disposals, one goal). Marla Neal was a clear standout for the Pies though, racking up the ball at will with 28 touches, as well as laying 14 tackles and a slotting a goal, while Jasmine Ferguson (12 disposals, four marks) and Caitlin Bunker (20 disposals, four marks) did well throughout the match. For the Bombers, Cecilia McIntosh dominated in the first half on her way to 22 disposals and six marks, as Eloise Ashley-Cooper (17 disposals, three marks and five tackles), Elisabeth Hosking (14 disposals, eight tackles), Eloise Gardner (12 disposals) and Elizabeth Snell (14 disposals) all stood strong. Clifford’s three goals from nine touches, three marks and five tackles threatened to change the game.

>> ELIZABETH SNELL PLAYER FOCUS

>> MATCH STATISTICS

GOALS:

Essendon: M. Clifford 3, E. Mackay.
Collingwood: M. Zander, A. Newman, B. Smith, I. Barnett, M. Neal.

BEST:

Essendon: C. McIntosh, E. Ashley-Cooper, M. Clifford, J. Davies, E. Gardner, K. Heil
Collingwood: S. Alexander, M. Neal, J. Ferguson, M. Shevlin, K. Lee, S. King

NORTH MELBOURNE 4.1 | 4.5 | 4.9 | 6.11 (47)
CARLTON 0.0 | 0.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 (6)

North Melbourne has won its third game of the season in style, proving too strong for Carlton, and keeping the Blues to just one goal in the match. It was the second time in three rounds that the Blues kicked a goal or less after pushing Port Melbourne in between, but on the day, North Melbourne’s four first-quarter goals were the difference during the 6.11 (47) to 1.0 (6) victory. Sarah Skinner‘s unbelievable form continued with a whopping 32 disposals, five marks, five tackles and a goal, teaming up perfectly with those in the back half, as Meagan Kiely (26 disposals, four marks and seven tackles), Molly Eastman (22 disposals, five marks and five tackles) and Bella Eddey (22 disposals, five marks) all finding plenty of the ball. Daria Bannister slotted two goals from 20 touches and 10 tackles in her return to the level with Eddey, while Annalise Vine who switched to the Roos from the Hawks played her best game of the season with 16 disposals and seven marks. Brooke Brown was named best-on by the Roos coaching staff for her 16 touches and nine marks. For the Blues, Teresa Zampaliogne had a team-high 20 disposals as well as five tackles and three marks, while AFLW-listed talents, Charlotte Hammans (19 disposals) and Winnie Laing (18 and six tackles) were both busy. Eliza Wood was named the Blues’ best with 15 disposals, eight marks, three tackles and a goal, while Paige Trudgeon (11 disposals, six tackles) and Bry Gurr (16 disposals) were also busy despite the loss.

>> MATCH STATISTICS

GOALS:

North: L. Wright 2, D. Bannister 2, S. Skinner, N. Celebre.
Carlton: E. Wood.

BEST:

North: B. Brown, M. Eastman, D. Bannister, J. Mourney, S. Skinner, K. Price
Carlton: E. Wood, C. Hammans, P. Trudgeon, T. Zampaglione, B. Gurr, W. Laing

Bulldogs out of the dog house and off the leash

A FORTNIGHT is a long time in football, and for the Western Bulldogs, the past two weeks have seen their fortunes change from bottom two side in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, to potential finals contenders. Prior to the past two weeks, the Western Bulldogs had not won a game since Round 1, losing five consecutive matches to head into the Easter break with a 1-5 record. Fast forward two weeks later, and the Bulldogs are still behind the ledger, but at a much more manageable 3-5, and only percentage outside the top six.

So, what was the catalyst for the change?

It would be easy to say that the injection of AFL Women’s talent is a massive part of it. The Western Bulldogs season finished by the Easter break, so the likes of Eleanor Brown, Gemma Lagioia, Isabelle Pritchard, Isabella Grant, Nell Morris-Dalton, and on Friday night, Elisabeth Georgostathis and Sarah Hartwig filtered through the side. But all bar the standalone sides in Darebin and Williamstown have the flexibility to bring back their AFLW talent, and therefore the team still relies a lot upon its VFL Women’s talent.

Statistically, the Bulldogs do better when they can move the ball by foot and transition between defence and offence. Thanks to Nicole McMahon in the ruck, the Whitten Oval-based side will hardly ever lose the hitouts. In fact, just the once has she lost the hitouts to a direct opponent in Collingwood’s Sarah King, and the Bulldogs were smashed that day, going down by 60 points. Molly Denahy-Maloney is the young up-and-coming ruck to help McMahon in that department, but with her overhead marking and athleticism, she has been deployed predominantly as a forward. But considering the inside 50s were 48-9 in an almost unheard off discrepancy, the home team was lucky not to suffer a worse defeat. The other match where the Bulldogs lost the hitouts was against Port Melbourne where McMahon was not playing.

Indeed, games are said to be won and lost in the midfield, and that is true for the Bulldogs. Whilst clearances are not tracked, there is a correlation between winning clearances and getting inside 50s. Against Hawthorn in Round 1, the Western Bulldogs had 20 more inside 50s and forced the Hawks to be chasing them all day (Hawthorn had 43 more tackles). Most importantly, the Bulldogs finished with a 65.9 per cent kicking ratio from their disposals.

When they are able to use the ball by foot 63 per cent or more, the Bulldogs are 3-1. The only exception was in the loss to Port Melbourne, where, despite going down by 35 points, showed that there was some improvement by sticking with the Borough for large periods of the match. Even the statistics reflected that the teams were fairly even, with the home team on that day just getting nine more looks inside 50.

So where do the Western Bulldogs’ strengths lie?

The defence of the Bulldogs has stood up time and time again this season, even in the disappointing losses. Simone Ruedin is having an outstanding season in the back 50, and remains one of the most consistent performers in the competition. The move of traditional midfielders, Brooke Hards and Katelyn Betts into defence has also proved to be a turn of fortune for the Bulldogs.

Betts was a prime mover onball during the first half of the season, and Hards predominantly played forward but has now gone back to her Under 16s days of playing off half-back after spending several years in her preferred position of inside midfield – where she made Vic Country – at Bendigo Pioneers. The pair have complemented the work of the AFL Women’s talents returning, with Brown and first Grant and then Hartwig filling out the other running positions.

Katelyn Betts bursting away against Darebin.
Brooke Hards using her speed against North Melbourne.

Up forward, the return of Morris-Dalton helped straighten the side up in the past couple of weeks, with Mary Sandral also able to be supported with an extra tall down there, though unfortunately Sandral was injured during the win against Darebin. The class of Lagioia  teaming up with the speed and toughness of Amelia Van Oosterwijck in the forward half provides a well-balanced unit.

Perhaps the biggest return in the past fortnight was that of Angelica Gogos, who has averaged 20 disposals and five tackles playing through the midfield. Ellyse Gamble‘s first game against the Saints was also a massive boost, racking up a game-high 27 touches, five marks and two tackles in that match. Then it is these returns of players that flow on to help lift those around them, such as Danielle Marshall who has slotted 5.2 in the past two weeks after 0.2 in the prior two weeks. Having more entries inside 50, and having the flexibility to push up the ground has aided them.

The Bulldogs have also brought in a few youngsters along the way, with Jemima Woods slotting three goals in the win over Darebin on debut, and the Western Jets season is now done and dusted, with teammates Nikita Wright and Stephanie Asciak among others who could return to the team if selected. Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ Lilli Condon is another who looked very comfortable at the level, and speedster Nyakoat Dojiok who is among the potential Rebels to debut at state league level in the final month and a half once the Rebels season is over.

Lilli Condon gets her kick away against Port Melbourne.
Jemima Woods celebrates one of three goals on debut.

What do they need to do to keep it going?

Having the flexibility to rotate through their AFLW talent is important, not only for those players match fitness, but for filling little gaps that the team might not be able to fill with the VFLW-listed talents. A perfect example was Hartwig who provides that intercepting ability combined with the run and carry. The Bulldogs best interceptors are talls, whilst the best runners are smalls, where Hartwig provides the best of both worlds. The class of Lagioia and the hands and leading work of Morris-Dalton, as well as the poise and smarts of Brown make the Bulldogs well-stocked across all thirds of the ground.

The top-performing VFLW-listed talent of Betts and Hards in defence should be allowed to use their mix of power and speed respectively to breakaway and take grass to drive the ball forward. Both are capable of using the ball well when in space, and with the tall targets now inside 50, the Bulldogs have players to aim at. Eliza Morrison is another versatile talent in the forward half who has enjoyed a solid season in 2021, whilst the ruck is an area the Bulldogs will always take control in. If their midfield can win the ball and limit the flow into the defensive 50, then they will be every chance to knock off top sides on their day.

WESTERN BULLDOGS RUN HOME:

Round 9: vs. Geelong @ Deakin University
Round 10: vs. Carlton @ Whitten Oval
— Below fixtures to be confirmed —
Round 11: vs. Essendon @ Windy Hill
Round 12: vs. Southern Saints @ Whitten Oval
Round 13: vs. Casey Demons @ Whitten Oval
Round 14: vs. Collingwood @ Victoria Park

The Western Bulldogs do not have the easiest run home, with Carlton being the only side outside the top six. They face five of the other top six sides, so will truly earn a finals spot if they can win enough games. Hungry to overturn losses to Geelong and Collingwood – their worst two performances of the season – the Bulldogs get the first chance of revenge this Saturday down at Deakin University this weekend, before first-time clashes with Carlton and Essendon. One would think the Bulldogs need to win at least three, but more likely four games in order to make finals, but if they do not, it will be the start of the season that cost them.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 7

A HEAP of young prospects are now filtering through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. Round 7 saw plenty of talent scattered across each side and a few players make their debuts. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in or have graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 7

Collingwood maintained its unbeaten streak with a win over the Southern Saints on Saturday morning, with Eastern Ranges standout Olivia Meagher enjoying an extended run in the side. She had 11 disposals, laid three tackles and picked up votes for the Magpies in their seventh win. For the Saints, Gabby De Angelis notched 12 touches, while fellow pathway graduates Amelia Peck and Grace Hodder each found the ball nine times.

Essendon boasted a host of current and former Calder Cannons products in its win over Williamstown, with the young brigade making a real impact. Zali Friswell booted two goals to feature among the Bombers’ votes with Kasey Lennox, as former Cannons Alana Barba (11 disposals) and Grace Dicker (10) also fared well.

Meanwhile, country coup Eloise Ashley-Cooper racked up a team-high 17 disposals, while current Bendigo Pioneers standout Elizabeth Snell laid 10 tackles in the sash. For Williamstown, Ruby Tripodi was again superb as she found the ball 20 times, but could only manage two behinds among them. Megan Williamson had it 16 times, booting a goal and laying nine tackles to feature among the Seagulls’ votes.

Casey and Hawthorn treated fans to a relatively high-scoring spectacle, with the Demons coming out on top and the Hawks continuing to blood exciting youth. The Eastern Ranges representation was high in brown and gold, as Ruby O’Dwyer (12 disposals, four tackles), Isabelle Khoury (11 disposals, seven tackles, one goal), Eloise Chaston (six disposals, five tackles), and Tilly Hardy (five disposals, four tackles) all continue to acclimatise to the level alongside graduate, while Jenna Richardson (eight disposals) also impressed.

Emma Horne was arguably Melbourne’s pick of the NAB League products, notching nine disposals and finishing with four tackles. Versatile tall Bridie Winbanks managed two disposals and eight hitouts, as 19-year-old former Dandenong Stingray, Harmony Thomas also ran out for the Demons.

Geelong’s top four charge rages on, as the Cats kept North Melbourne at bay in Sunday’s opening bout. Paige Sheppard was again terrific in the hoops, racking up 22 disposals to go with seven tackles and four marks. Tamara Smith had it 14 times and got her hands dirty with eight tackles, as current Geelong Falcons guns Annie Lee and Renee Tierney returned to the fold. Ciara Fitzgerald had 10 touches for North, while 20-year-old Tasmanian Camilla Taylor collected seven on debut.

The Western Bulldogs returned to the winners list with an emphatic victory over Darebin Falcons, with a continued injection of youth and AFLW-listed players aiding their cause. Western Jets’ Jemima Woods had a memorable debut with three goals, running out for the first time alongside Stephanie Asciak. GWV’s Lilli Condon celebrated her first win at the level with 11 disposals and five tackles, as Brooke Hards and Molly Denahy Moloney continued their runs in the side. For Darebin, youth product and Calder ruck Peppa Poultney entered the fray with 10 disposals and a couple of marks.

The final game of the round saw Port Melbourne come from behind to edge Carlton on home turf, seeing the Borough remain top of the table. Recently delisted Richmond AFLW tall, Cleo Saxon-Jones finished with 11 kicks among her 12 disposals, as former Carlton utility Bridie Kennedy had 10 touches, and current Oakleigh forward Taylah Morton matched that output, but could not quite snare her maiden goal.

For Carlton, Northern Knights graduate Marnie Jarvis collected 12 touches and laid four tackles, as Amber Micallef had it a handful of times and Murray Bushrangers standout Kate Adams came in for her fifth game – ending with three disposals for the third game running.

2021 VFLW Round 7 wrap: Dogs break five-game losing streak

WESTERN Bulldogs are back on the winners list in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition after snapping their five-game losing streak against Darebin Falcons on the weekend. The Dogs scored the highest score of any side this year with 14.9 (93), having only scored a total of 136 points in the opening five rounds. Collingwood and Port Melbourne remained undefeated after the latter executed a remarkable come-from-behind win over Carlton, while Essendon, Casey Demons and Geelong all kept touch with the top two after important victories over lower-ranked opposition.

SOUTHERN SAINTS 2.0 | 3.1 | 3.1 | 4.2 (26)
COLLINGWOOD 0.2 | 3.2 | 4.3 | 6.5 (41)

Collingwood has overcome a slow start to put the Southern Saints away at Trevor Barker Oval and remain undefeated from seven games. The Saints fired early to kick the first two goals of the game, but the Magpies took control with two goals in less than seven minutes in the second term to hit the front and never surrender the lead. The Saints kept pushing and did get within a point – and even within three points in the dying minutes of the match – but a couple of late majors to Bella Smith sealed the 15-point win for the Magpies, 6.5 (41) to 4.2 (26).

Smith’s three goals from 12 disposals and five marks was a highlight, with fellow ex-Norwood talent Matilda Zander again being productive with 16 disposals and nine tackles. Maddie Shevlin was the clear standout in terms of ball-winners for the black and white, as she amassed 25 disposals and four tackles. Jasmine Ferguson (18 disposals, five marks and seven tackles) and Caitlin Bunker (16 disposals, two marks seven tackles) won their fair share of the ball, while Abbey Green booted two majors and Olivia Meagher impressed at the level once again. For the Saints, Alice Burke went haywire with 35 disposals, seven marks and two tackles in a massive effort, whilst Madison Capsalis (25 disposals, six marks and nine tackles) and Molly McDonald (19 disposals, five marks) were not far behind. Poppy Kelly (15 disposals, 30 hitouts) had a day out in the ruck, as Tara Bohanna continued her good form in front of goal with 10 disposals, five marks, four tackles, six hitouts and two majors.

GOALS:

Southern Saints: T. Bohanna 2, J. Vogt, N. Robertson.
Collingwood: B. Smith 3, A. Green 2, A. Moloney.

BEST:

Southern Saints: M. Capsalis, T. Bohanna, L. Burke, M. McDonald, J. Vogt, V. Moreau
Collingwood: B. Smith, O. Meagher, J. Ferguson, D. Hallett, J. Guy, M. Shevlin

ESSENDON 1.4 | 2.5 | 3.7 | 6.9 (45)
WILLIAMSTOWN 0.0 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 2.3 (15)

Essendon has notched up another win, this time by five goals over Williamstown despite some inaccurate kicking early on. The Bombers had 10 scoring shots to three in the opening three quarters, but only led 3.7 to 1.2, before kicking 3.2 to 1.1 in the final term to run away with the contest by 30 points.The Seagulls battled hard throughout, matching the Bombers in most areas, but could not quite have enough scoring chances to overrun them.

Calder Cannons youngster Zali Friswell kicked the first major of the game to finish with two goals from six touches and nine tackles for the home team, as Federica Frew was best-on thanks to 16 disposals, three tackles and 2.2. Eloise Ashley-Cooper (17 disposals, six tackles) and Natalie Macdonald (17 disposals, five marks) were both busy, while Cecila McIntosh, Mia-Rae Clifford, Eloise Gardner and another Cannons youngster in Kasey Lennox were also named among the best. For the Seagulls, Ruby Tripodi had 20 disposals, five marks and two tackles, as Erin Meade (19 disposals, three marks and four tackles) and Aimee Whelan (18 disposals, 11 tackles) were also productive. Eliza Straford and Ella Baxter were also named in the Seagulls’ best after double-figure disposals and impact in the game.

GOALS:

Essendon: F. Frew 2, Z. Friswell 2, M. Clifford, A. Barba.
Williamstown: A. Whelan, M. Williamson

BEST:

Essendon: F. Frew, C. McIntosh, M. Clifford, E. Gardner, K. Lennox, Z. Friswell
Williamstown: E. Straford, E. Baxter, A. Whelan, E. McGrath, S. Dunell, M. Williamson

HAWTHORN 3.1 | 4.3 | 5.3 | 7.5 (47)
CASEY DEMONS 3.2 | 6.4 | 9.6 | 9.6 (60)

A six-goal haul from Imogen Milford has guided the Casey Demons to a tight 13-point victory over Hawthorn to stay in touch with the top four sides. The teams were evenly matched early in the game with Milford booting two in the first term, her third early in the second, then in the space of three minutes between the final moments of the second term and third minute of the fourth term, added another two goals, with her sixth midway through the third term blowing the lead out to a massive 32 points. The Hawks stormed home with 3.2 to 0.1 from that point onwards, but it would not be enough, going down 9.6 (60) to 7.5 (47).

Milford finished the day with 16 disposals, four marks, nine tackles and 6.1 for her troubles, as Eliza West continued her dominant ball-winning spree in 2021 with 28 disposals, three marks, six tackles and one goal. Maggie Caris impressed through the ruck with 22 hitouts to accompany her 11 disposals, while Shree Fairchild and Meg Macdonald were also named among the Demons’ best in the win. New (and former) Hawk Kristy Stratton made an impact in her first game back for the brown and gold since been delisted by Collingwood, picking up 16 disposals, laying five tackles and kicking a goal. Catherine Brown racked up 17 disposals and four tackles, with Dominique Carbone and Olivia Flanagan also busy, and Emily Gilder named best for the brown and gold.

GOALS:

Hawthorn: T. Luke 2, M. Hutchins, J. Williams, I. Khoury, K. Stratton, D. Carbone.
Casey: I. Milford 6, S. Johnson, E. West, I. Simmons.

BEST:

Hawthorn: E. Gilder, T. Luke, O. Flanagan, C. Bain, K. Stratton, I. Khoury
Casey: E. West, S. Fairchild, I. Milford, M. Macdonald, M. Caris, S. Johnson

GEELONG 2.1 | 4.5 | 6.6 | 7.6 (48)
NORTH MELBOURNE 0.0 | 1.0 | 3.2 | 5.2 (32)

Geelong did enough to post a solid 16-point win over North Melbourne at Queen’s Park, winning the first half to build up a 23-point lead at the main break. The Cats were challenged in the second half, but managed to stop the Roos from piling on too many majors, and while the visitors did cut into the deficit, the home team got up, 7.6 (48) to 5.2 (32).

Olivia Barber booted three goals from 16 touches, five marks and nine hitouts in a promising performance, as Laura Gardiner found the ball at will thanks to 27 disposals and 11 tackles. Paige Sheppard (22 disposals, four marks and seven tackles) and Sophie Van De Heuvel (22 disposals, four tackles) also found plenty of the ball. Claudia Gunjaca booted a couple of majors off 12 touches, three marks and five tackles, while Darcy Moloney was another Cats AFLW-listed player who hit the scoreboard off 14 touches and four tackles. Meagan Kiely was the top ball winner for the Roos with 23 disposals, seven marks and eight tackles, ahead of Sarah Skinner (22 disposals, five marks and five tackles). Fellow Tasmanian Brooke Brown kicked the three goals from 17 disposals up forward, while Alexia Hamilton was also impressive through the ruck with 14 disposals, 14 hitouts and eight tackle.

GOALS:

Geelong: O. Barber 3, C. Gunjaca 2, D. Moloney, M. Maguire.
North: B. Brown 3, L. Wright, A. Runnalls.

BEST:

Geelong: P. Sheppard, L. Gardiner, C. Gunjaca, O. Barber, M. Maguire, S. Van De Heuvel
North: B. Brown, A. Hamilton, S. Skinner, M. Kiely, A. Runnalls, R. Hicks

DAREBIN 1.0 | 2.0 | 3.0 | 4.0 (24)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 6.1 | 7.4 | 9.8 | 14.9 (93)

The return of a number of AFL Women’s listed players helped the Western Bulldogs boot the highest score of the season and snap a five-game losing streak in the process. Slotting six goals to one in the opening term, the visiting side all but won it in the opening 20 minutes. The Falcons were strong over the next couple of quarters, refusing to give in and keeping touch with the Dogs, before a five goals to one final term blew the margin out to 69 points as the Bulldogs won 14.9 (93) to 4.0 (24).

Angelica Gogos returned for her first game this season and had an impact with 23 disposals, six tackles and a goal, teaming up well with the classy Gemma Lagioia (22 disposals, three marks and 2.2). Eleanor Brown also came into the side and kicked a couple of late goals after being an interceptor in the back half, finishing with 16 disposals, seven marks and two majors. Western Jets youngster Jemima Woods made a sterling debut with three goals, the same as Danielle Marshall, while Mary Sandral slotted the two goals. The Dogs also did well defensively with Gogos one of three players – with teenagers Brooke Hards (nine tackles) and Lilli Condon (five) – who recorded their fair share of tackles. Ex-Bulldog Nicole Callinan racked up a match-high 29 disposals, 10 marks and five tackles, with Samara David capitalising on her chances up forward with three goals, and Ashleigh Gunn lively with 18 disposals, five marks and three tackles. Lauren Camilleri was the benchmark for tackles with 10, while Cannons’ youngster Peppa Poultney stood up with 10 touches and two marks playing mostly forward and pinch-hitting in the ruck.

GOALS:

Darebin: S. David 3, A. Caddy.
Western Bulldogs: J. Woods 3, D. Marshall 3, G. Lagioia 2, M. Sandral 2, E. Brown 2, A. van Oosterwijck, A. Gogos.

BEST:

Darebin: S. David, A. Gunn, P. Poultney, K. McNiece, M. Huta, V. Smiljanic
Western Bulldogs: A. Gogos , K. Betts, A. Tessari, G. Lagioia, M. Sandral, E. Brown

PORT MELBOURNE 0.0 | 3.2 | 6.4 | 7.4 (46)
CARLTON 3.0 | 5.1 | 6.3 | 6.4 (40)

Port Melbourne faced its stiffest task to-date in the VFL Women’s 2021 season, having to overcome a 13-point deficit to Carlton late in the third term – after trailing by three goals at quarter time – to eventually come from behind and win by a goal. The Borough kicked the winning goal six minutes into the final term when Claire Dyett converted a major and then the home team held on in a titanic struggle to take home their seventh win of the season, 7.4 (46) to 6.4 (40).

Phillipa Peschke had the most touches for the winners with 22 disposals, three marks and 10 tackles, teaming up well through the midfield with Mel Kuys (20 disposals, three marks and three tackles. Ex-Blue Bridie Kennedy shone against her former side with 10 disposals and five tackles, while Dyett, Elizabeth Wilson and Courteney Bromage were all named among the best. Sabrina Frederick kicked another two goals from 13 touches and three marks, while Oakleigh Chargers’ teenager Taylah Morton had the 10 touches and three tackles in the win. Maddy Guerin won plenty of the ball for Carlton in defeat, picking up 21 disposals, seven marks and nine tackles, while Paige Trudgeon (12 disposals, seven tackles) and Charli Linssen (16 disposals, four tackles) also stood out. Amelia Klingbeil laid a whopping 12 tackles, while Olivia Madden (17 disposals) and Winnie Laing (14) also found their fair share of the ball.

GOALS:

Port: S. Frederick 2, C. Dyett, E. Wilson, H. Bailey, N. Borg, A. Tanner.
Carlton: A. Peterson 2, S. Lawrence, B. Gurr, C. Jones, E. Mangan

BEST:

Port: B. Kennedy, C. Dyett, E. Wilson, C. Bromage, A. Tanner, B. Ousley
Carlton: P. Trudgeon, C. Linssen, M. Guerin, C. Hammans, S. Lawrence, A. Klingbeil

2021 VFLW Round 7 preview: Dogs and Darebin eye off second win in bottom two clash

A BOTTOM two clash between Western Bulldogs and Darebin Falcons will see the winner escape the bottom of the table, whilst the Southern Saints and Collingwood clash for a second time and are set to have a beauty of a contest.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, April 17 @ 10:00am
Trevor Barker Beach Oval

Despite Collingwood joining the rest of the Victorian-based AFL Women’s teams in being eliminated from the finals series, the Magpies have resisted massive changes to the state league side, with Bella Smith and Joanna Lin among those included in the forward half, with other existing AFL Women’s players including Maddie Shevlin, Abbey Green, Amelia Velardo, Imogen Purcell and Abbi Moloney in the team. They currently sit undefeated at the top of the table, with a tough clash down at Trevor Barker Beach Oval against the Southern Saints. Dandenong Stingrays tall Zoe Hill is set to make her debut for the side, alongside the likes of other teenagers in Alice Burke and Renee Saulitis who have established themselves in the side. Molly McDonald is a huge inclusion for the Saints at half-back to create some run, and with Tara Bohanna and Gabriella De Angelis up forward, the home team certainly has the capacity to inflict the Magpies’ first loss of the season. Eastern Ranges youngster Olivia Meagher is among the ones to watch in the black and white, as the Magpies eye off making it seven straight wins.

ESSENDON vs. WILLIAMSTOWN
Saturday, April 17 @ 11:00am
The Hangar

One of the teams looking to keep in touch with the top two sides is Essendon, after the Bombers came from behind to defeat Hawthorn last week at Box Hill. They managed to do it without star midfielder Georgia Nanscawen who succumbed to injury early in the match, and they will need to do it again without her, relying on the likes of Alana Barba, Courtney Ugle and Eloise Ashley-Cooper in the midfield. Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell returns to the red and black in a five-day turnaround from a successful outing for Vic Country, with Calder Cannons duo Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell remaining in the side. Williamstown stand between Essendon and the Bombers’ fifth win, with the Seagulls not far off the top six despite having just the two wins from six games. The midfield trio of Ashlea Melnikas, Megan Williamson and Aimee Whelan will be hard to beat, with Scarlett Dunnell up forward and Erin Meade in defence among the others to keep an eye out for in the blue and gold. Even without Nanscawen, Essendon will be favoured to get up here at home, but the Seagulls will give them a run for their money.

HAWTHORN vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, April 17 @ 11:30am
Box Hill City Oval

Speaking of Hawthorn at Box Hill, the brown and gold are back again, this time hosting a Casey Demons side looking to bounce back having lost their past two games to the Magpies and Cats. The home team was able to include some AFL Women’s talent last week with the entire half-back line having that experience in Georgia Bevan, Tamara Luke and Nadia von Bertouch. However perhaps the most interesting inclusion is former Magpie Kristy Stratton who has been named on the bench after playing for the undefeated Pies throughout the season. Much like Luke and von Bertouch, she has moved to the Bec Goddard-coached Hawks. Up the other end, Meg Hutchins has been a terrific leader with some youngsters inside 50, such as Eastern Ranges’ co-captain Eloise Chaston who kicked the only goal for her side last week. Matilda Hardy is back into the team with Isabelle Khoury and Ruby O’Dwyer some Ranges to hold their places, while Northern Territory talent Dominique Carbone is another one to watch for the home team. For the Demons, Maggie Caris, Megan Fitzsimon, Mietta Kendall and Isabella Simmons are among the future of the red and blue having been picked up in last year’s draft, whilst Emma Humphries‘ experience is crucial, much like defender Alison Brown in the back 50. Casey should be too strong, but the Hawks will give it a red hot crack at home.

GEELONG vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Sunday, April 18 @ 11:30am
Queens Park

Some Vic Country youngsters will return for the Cats as they field their strongest side to-date in the Round 7 encounter against North Melbourne. The Cats will be keen to keep in touch with the top two, and should do so against a Kangaroos side that is 2-4 and coming off a loss to the previously winless Darebin Falcons. Annie Lee and Renee Tierney return to the Cats’ VFL Women’s side after playing on Monday, with the side well stacked with AFL Women’s talent. Rene Caris, Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner and Sophie Van De Heuvel in the midfield is the future AFL Women’s midfield, whilst Georgia Clarke, Olivia Barber and Stephanie Williams in attack makes the Cats a potent team when in transition. The Kangaroos remain without a great deal of AFL Women’s talent, instead focusing on the development aspect of the side with Amy Smith and Brooke Brown a couple of listed players in attack, while Sarah Skinner is always a threat inside 50. Molly Eastman and Tarni Nestor will try and contain the Cats’ forward line, while Katelyn Cox will have a great battle with Moloney and Gardiner throughout the day. Geelong should take the match fairly comfortably being at home with a pretty impressive outfit.

DAREBIN vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Sunday, April 18 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

A potential match of the round at the other end of the ladder is the one between Darebin Falcons and Western Bulldogs, with both sides sitting at 1-5 for the season. A loss here will really hurt finals hopes, whilst a win keeps the victor in the hunt if they can build momentum in the second half of the season. Coming off a four-goal haul to help her side over the line, Stephanie Simpson will be looking for much of the same for the Falcons. It will be a tough ask against the strongest looking Bulldogs defence all year, with AFL Women’s talents, Eleanor Brown and Isabella Grant, the consistent rock in Simone Ruedin, speedy teenager Brooke Hards and natural ball-winner Katelyn Betts, both of the latter whom have moved into new roles of late. Up the other end, Nell Morris-Dalton has returned to the fold, with Gemma Lagioia and Amelia van Oosterwijck also there, and Isabelle Pritchard rounding out the AFL Women’s contingent. For the Falcons, ex-Bulldog Nicole Callinan was impressive in her first game back and will be a key player in the defence alongside consistent defender Gena Lawson-Tavan. Up the other end, Alyssa Mifsud kicked three goals a couple of rounds back, so between her and Simpson, they have the potential to put some high scores on the board, while Calder Cannons’ Peppa Poultney is another youngster in the side. The Western Bulldogs side is arguably the strongest of the year and should take care of Darebin, but the Dogs cannot afford to take the Falcons lightly.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. CARLTON
Sunday, April 18 @ 2:00pm
ETU Stadium

Port Melbourne will look to continue its winning streak up against Carlton at ETU Stadium, with Cleo Saxon-Jones named at full-back this week. Up the opposite end is Sabrina Frederick who slotted two goals on debut against Western Bulldogs last week, and will look to provide the smalls of NAB League-listed talents Kate Adams and Taylah Morton in there, whilst Mel Kuys through the midfield is a crucial player. Ex-Carlton talent Bridie Kennedy is back into the side to take on her former team, while Pip Peschke and Courteney Bromage are other key midfielders to watch. Carlton has got a solid contingent of AFL Women’s talent in the team, with Serena Gibbs, Courtney Jones and Winnie Laing all named inside 50, while Charlotte Hammans and Maddy Guerin are up the other end. Akayla Peterson has been named in the back pocket in the opposite side to Ally Bild in a strong last line, while over-age talent Amber Micallef and ex-Northern Knights speedster Marnie Jarvis are also in the side, named on the bench. Port Melbourne should have too much about them at home, but the Borough will be wary of a Blues outfit wanting to lift their efforts from last round when they went goalless against the Magpies at Victoria Park.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 6

A HEAP of young prospects are now filtering through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. Round 6 saw plenty of talent scattered across each side, and we take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently play in or have graduated from the NAB League, performed.

Essendon welcomed a couple of fresh faces to the fold as it trumped fellow standalone side, Hawthorn by 14 points on Saturday morning, The Bombers called upon current Calder Cannons guns Kasey Lennox (defender) and Zali Friswell (midfielder), who enjoyed solid runs in their debuts. They ran out alongside former Cannons Alana Barba and Grace Dicker, the former of whom has established a key role in the team.

Hawthorn also had a NAB League product make her debut, in Eastern prospect Ruby O’Dwyer. She was one of three current Ranges to run out in the brown and gold, with Jess Grace and Isabelle Khoury returning for their second games at the level. Khoury, a likely type up forward, was named among the Hawks’ best players.

The Southern Saints notched their third win of the season, also on Saturday morning, as they defeated Williamstown by 10 points on home turf. Gabby De Angelis booted two goals in the winning effort, while Ruby Tripodi claimed full votes for the Seagulls as she continues her stellar season. Promising forward Tahlia Merrett also returned after nearly a month out.

Despite another heavy loss, the Western Bulldogs continue to present strong opportunities to their young players, headlined this week by Molly Denahy Maloney. The tall was named best afield for the Dogs in their loss to Port Melbourne, while debutant Lilli Condon proved lively at ground level and Nikita Wright returned to the fold. Former Bendigo Pioneers skipper Brooke Hards fared well in a new role, trialled in defence and matching up on Borough first-gamer, Taylah Morton.

Elsewhere, Bridie Winbanks featured in the votes for Casey as the Demons went down by two points to a Geelong side boasting the likes of Tamara Smith and Paige Sheppard. Collingwood remains undefeated after keeping Carlton goalless on Sunday, with Olivia Meagher getting an extended run while Amber Micallef and Marnie Jarvis ply their trade in navy blue. Ciara Fitzgerald again found the goals as North Melbourne went down to Darebin, in the Falcons’ first win for the season.