Tag: caitlin greiser

Saints fire up to deal further damage to lowly Cats

CROWDS returned to Victorian AFL Women’s matches on Friday night as St Kilda hosted Geelong to open Round 4, with the Saints well and truly getting the points on the board at home at RSEA Park in Moorabbin in a hotly contested clash, 7.9 (51) to 3.4 (22).

It was very much a midfield-dominated game in the early stage of the match, with the visitors unable to apply the forward pressure required to get on the board despite a couple of early opportunities and both sides using their pressing defence. An excellent bomb forward directly into the hands of Caitlin Greiser proved the Saints were there to play, with the star forward booting her first of the evening, and despite a couple of nervous moments in the latter stages of the quarter, it was the Saints that prevailed in a tight contest to lead at the first change, albeit by a meagre five points. 

The tight contest continued in the second, with both sides applying a wealth of defensive pressure and denying any easy clearances. But an early 50-metre penalty and goal from Richelle Cranston saw the Cats take a one-point lead, with the physical contest showcasing plenty of talent as the experienced names across the ground piled on the pressure as much as the young stars of the game. Quick ball movement was the theme of the quarter with both teams under a wealth of pressure, but a couple of missed opportunities from both sides kept the scores low as the match fired up. 

But whilst the Cats, led from the back by Meg McDonald, piled on the defensive pressure to continuously propel ball outside of their back 50, the defensive unit from the Saints had a setup and stuck with it, forcing the ball back forward with Kate Shierlaw and Darcy Guttridge looking dangerous around the pack. Some more patient kicking allowed the Cats to get some separation through the midfield to drive forward, but a defensive flood back from the Saints made life hard as the two sides could not be separated. Rosie Dillon and Olivia Purcell both had the game on their terms throughout the first half, proving strangleholds for their respective sides.

Tilly Lucas-Rodd made her presence felt early in the second half with a couple of excellent forward forays, but the Saints’ efforts went unrewarded inside 50 as inaccuracy forward continued to plague the home side, controlling the airways but unable to capitalise. A quieter first half from Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith was quick to change as the young firecrackers were in everything to start the second half, while it was Shierlaw who finally managed to break through the Cats defence, booting a cracking running goal to extend the lead to 10 points. A Bella Shannon goal extended the Saints to an 18-point lead, with the Saints peppering the scoreboard as the tired-looking Cats struggled to stop the Saints through the midfield. What looked like a certain goal from Geelong’s Steph Williams was spoiled by the Saints’ backline brigade, as the momentum had well and truly turned. A Greiser goal after the siren was the icing on the cake to finish off an excellent quarter for the Saints, with a whopping 25-point lead at the final change, rendering the Cats scoreless.

Despite a lighting issue at RSEA Park, the final quarter continued with Geelong flying out of the blocks with nothing to lose. Once more it was the likes of Patrikios and Smith creating the goods around the ground with their excellent one-two punch, with a beautiful spearpoint kick to Jacqui Vogt being rewarded with a 50m penalty and goal, whilst a third Greiser major add further insult to injury as the scoreline extended to 37 points. A maiden Georgie Rankin goal lessened the margin a fraction as the Cats put their first goal on the board since the five-minute mark of the first, and while it was followed by a Phoebe McWilliams goal not long after, it was too little, too late from the Cats. A Kate McCarthy major well and truly put the nail in the coffin for Geelong, as they head home with a fourth straight loss to start the season.

What started out as a hard fought slog turned into a slaughter, as the Saints piled on the pressure for an excellent 29-point victory. Rebecca Webster and Amy McDonald led all-comers in the loss, racking up 24 and 21 touches respectively, while it was Lucas-Rodd who led the Saints charge with19 touches. But the combination of Patrikios (17 disposals, two tackles) and Smith (16 and 11) continues to work wonders, with the duo using their game smarts to mop up the competition. Greiser equalled her personal best with three goals on the board from nine touches and three marks, while Nat Exon and McDonald both piled on the physicality with six tackles apiece.

ST KILDA | 1.1 | 1.3 | 4.9 | 7.9 (51)
GEELONG | 0.2 | 1.2 | 1.2 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS:

St Kilda: C. Greiser 3, I. Shannon, K McCarthy, J. Vogt, K. Shierlaw.
Geelong: R. Cranston, P. McWilliams, G. Rankin.

DC BEST:

St Kilda: R. Dillon, T. Smith, G. Patrikios, T. Lucas-Rodd, C. Greiser
Geelong: R. Webster, O. Purcell, A. McDonald, M. McDonald, S. Van De Heuvel

Image Credit: AFL Photos

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Giants outlast Suns in wet conditions for maiden 2021 win

THE Greater Western Sydney Giants finally put a win on the board on Saturday afternoon, defeating Gold Coast Suns in a rain-affected encounter at Blacktown International Sportspark, 2.6 (18) to 1.2 (8). Both teams were coming into this match off the back of comprehensive Round 2 losses, and while the Suns pressed hard after a tough first quarter, it was to no avail in the wet weather as they failed to put a major on the board until the final minutes of the match.

In an excellent start to the match the Giants were just about unstoppable, hogging the footy as Alyce Parker and Bec Beeson could not be separated from the action, as Taylah Davies and Alicia Eva slotted early goals to open proceedings and put some space between them and the traveling Suns. While the Suns were relatively composed running out of half back and dominated the marking contest, led by Jade Pregelj who collected a number of rebounds and Alison Drennan who piled on the physicality, the side could not clear the footy through the tightly contested Giants as a clogged midfield continuously sent the ball soaring back inside 50. While the tides changed in the second, with a clear scoring end coming to fruition as the Suns piled on the offensive pressure, the away side just could not pile on the scoreboard intensity they needed with the footy continuously rebounding between Lauren Ahrens and Elle Bennetts. A 15-point margin at quarter time only slightly changed to 16 points as the main break came around, with both sides failing to put a goal on the board.

Whilst the weather cleared up in the second half, the slippery conditions remained as frantic footy was played through the midfield and a tight one-on-one defence from both sides denied any easy chances for clearances. While the Suns denied the Giants a single goal after the first term and Jamie Stanton finally broke the drought with a Suns goal in the last minutes of the match, it was a tough slog for the Suns in a much tighter encounter than the scoreline suggested.

The trio of Parker (24 disposals and five tackles), Beeson (23 and seven) and Eva (15 and one goal) was impressive as ever, while Haneen Zreika was unstoppable early to finish with seven tackles and opposing rucks Erin McKinnon and Lauren Bella racked up 20 hitouts apiece. The Suns’ physicality was excellent with Drennan (22 disposals, 12 tackles) combing well with Serene Watson and Hannah Dunn (eight and seven tackles, respectively) while Ahrens and Stanton were also solid.

Image Credit: AAP/Dan Himbrechts

GWS GIANTS | 2.3 | 2.5 | 2.6 | 2.6 (18)
GOLD COAST SUNS | 0.0 | 0.1 | 0.1 | 1.2 (8)

GOALS:

Giants: T. Davies, A. Eva
Suns: J. Stanton

DC BEST:

Giants: A. Parker, R. Beeson, E. Bennetts, A. Eva, B. Tully
Suns: A. Drennan, J. Stanton, L. Ahrens, M. Levi, S. Watson

Credit: Getty Images

Experienced Blues overawe Saints

The second match of the evening saw the Saints host the Blues at Moorabbin, in the first crowd-less matchup of the round. Perfect conditions in Melbourne saw the home side get off to the perfect start, as Caitlin Greiser would not be rendered goalless for the second straight round and put the first goal through for the match with minute left in the quarter as the Saints dominated the early stages. With Greiser taking centre stage up forward for the Saints, the Blues would not be left wondering what could be playing an extra back to lighten the load of the likes of Mua Laloifi, but Greiser’s beautiful gather and goal from an angle well and truly outclassed the Blues backwoman on return from injury, allowing the Saints some breathing space and a slight seven-point upper hand heading into the first change.

But it was not all doom and gloom for Carlton, as the side picked up their game as the second term rolled around with two shocking weeks behind them and no desire to head in that same direction once more, as the side well and truly took advantage of the blustery wind to pile on the scoreboard pressure in the second quarter. It took only a perfect start from Elise O’Dea who was sent forward to do what she does best, hitting the scoreboard quickly and seeing the rest of the side pick up their game immediately as Maddy Prespakis got in on the action with a snap out of the back of a contest, and seeing a couple of excellent chains of handballs keep the footy moving fast down the field, evading Saints’ possession. While it was the experienced Blues cohort that got the show on the road in the second quarter, it was the young talent that lifted in the second half as Prespakis was aided by Grace Egan, Georgia Gee and Abbie McKay, with the latter two finding much more of the footy as the match opened up. A Kate Shierlaw purple patch – including the Saints’ second goal – was cut short as the tall was briefly sent off the field for a head knock, whilst the likes of Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith were influential around the footy, matching up well against the Blues’ talent but unable to apply the offensive pressure the side so sorely needed.

A tough contest was had in the final term, and while the Saints proved they were more than capable of taking the game on, it was not enough as the Blues had the momentum and wind going in their favour. Whilst the Saints midfield and back-end worked in overdrive to push the footy forward once more, the Blues shut down the centre corridor and minimised options on the wing to continuously propel the footy back inside their attacking 50. Nic Stevens‘ second goal of the game – a soccer off the ground from within the square – well and truly put the ice on the cake for the then-winless Blues, as the side ran home with a solid 6-4 (40) to 2.4 (16) victory.

For the successful Blues, Prespakis and Egan led the way with 24 touches apiece, combining for eight tackles between them while McKay was not far behind with 17 touches and seven tackles alone. O’Dea had her best match in the navy blue, piling 21 disposals onto her season tally and booting the side’s opening goal, while Jess Hosking and Breann Moody were solid as ever. For the Saints, Patrikios was excellent with 20 disposals and five tackles, while Hannah Priest (18 disposals, six tackles and five marks) and Rosie Dillon (14 disposals and nine tackles) were also solid targets around the ground.

ST KILDA | 1.1 | 1.2 | 2.4 | 2.4 (16)
CARLTON | 0.0 | 3.1 | 5.1 | 6.4 (40)

GOALS:

St Kilda: C. Greiser, K. Shierlaw
Carlton: N. Stevens 2, L. Brazzale, M. Downie, E. O’Dea, M. Prespakis

DC BEST:

St Kilda: G. Patrikios, R. Dillon, H. Priest, K. Shierlaw, T. Lucas-Rodd
Carlton: M. Prespakis, G. Egan, E. O’Dea, A. McKay, J. Hosking

Credit: Getty Images

Dees triumph thanks to second term

demolition

Melbourne reigned supreme in an almighty top four battle as the Demons came from behind to claim an emphatic nine-point win over North Melbourne 9.6 (60) to 8.3 (51). Both sides headed into the Round 3 match undefeated but Melbourne proved their status as a powerhouse side in the AFL Women’s competition. highlighting their attacking mentality and peppering away at the goals in the second term to flip the script.

Despite multiple chances throughout the opening term the Dees struggled to find their kicking boots early while North Melbourne nailed the first two goals of the game. With the ball spending majority of time inside 50 for Melbourne, the Demons finally struck their first major as the clock ticked down to quarter time reducing the deficit to three points at the break. That momentum trickled into the second term as the Demons showcased their ability to link up with handballs and weave their way forward to steal the lead and slot four consecutive goals. Tegan Cunningham and Jackie Parry inspired the comeback second term with the pair combining for four goals in that quarter alone, showcasing their ability to get the job done both in the air and at ground level with Parry roving the pack and slotting a nice goal to really give Melbourne the ascendancy heading into half time.

Melbourne stretched the lead out to as much as 25 points before the Kangaroos tightened things up in the third term to pile on the scoreboard pressure and nullify the influence of the Dees. With a number of key cogs in the blue and white, the Roos found a way to be damaging as Daria Bannister picked up the slack with two goals in her side’s four goal term. But sensing a momentum switch, the Demons regathered their composure in the final stanza to keep North Melbourne at bay, trapping the ball inside 50 despite the margin getting as close as three points with only moments to spare.

It was the usual suspects for the Kangaroos that stood up in the contest as Jasmine Garner took the game into her own hands as shown through her mammoth 15 disposals, 12 tackles and two goal effort. Emma Kearney chimed in, amassing 16 touches while also slotting a timely goal to keep the Roos within touching distance of the Demons. Ashleigh Riddell was a key contributor with her 17 disposals as was Kaitlyn Ashmore who managed to find plenty of the footy thanks to her 16 disposals and two tackle performance. Jenna Bruton threw her weight around laying six tackles to accompany her 14 touches while Bannister kept the scoreboard ticking over banging home two majors.

For the Demons, Karen Paxman was a force to be reckoned with directing traffic and picking up a game-high 25 disposals. Paxman was involved in just about everything and made full use of her physical nature to match up against Kearney through the middle while on the goal-scoring front Cunningham was proving too big and too strong, outmuscling her opponents and kicking true out the front. Cunningham finished with two goals for the game as teammate Parry impressed with her three majors. Youngster Tyla Hanks provided that element of run and carry across the ground picking up 23 touches and nine tackles as Kate Hore was a real livewire with 15 touches and three marks. Maddison Gay made her presence felt recording seven tackles and 16 disposals in the win with Lily Mithen also a key playmaker for the Dees amassing 21 touches.

MELBOURNE | 1.3 | 7.4 | 8.4 | 9.6 (60)
NORTH MELBOURNE | 2.1 | 3.1 | 7.3 | 8.3 (51)

GOALS:

Melbourne: J. Parry 3, T. Cunningham 2, S. Scott 2, K. Hore, K. Paxman
North Melbourne: J. Garner 2, D. Bannister 2, G. Campbell, E. Kearney, S, Abbatangelo, I. Eddey

DC BEST: 

Melbourne: K. Paxman, T. Hanks, L. Mithen, M. Gay, T. Cunningham,
North Melbourne: J. Garner, E. Kearney, A. Riddell,  J.Bruton, K. Ashmore

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 3 preview – Four of the top six lock horns on blockbuster weekend

ROUND 3 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season sees two sets of undefeated sides lock horns to find out whose ‘0’ will go, while teams just outside the top six battle to emerge as finals threats. As was the case last time around, fixtures have been shuffled and one matchup – between Brisbane and West Coast – is on hold. But with a couple of mouthwatering clashes and one Victorian grudge match set to go down, there is still plenty to look forward to from this weekend’s action.

Note: All start times are local.

GEELONG (14th, 0-2) vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS (7th, 1-1)
Friday February 12, 7:10pm
Kardinia Park

History will be made in red, white, and blue on Friday night as the Western Bulldogs’ first ever father-daughter selection, Isabella Grant makes her AFLW debut against Geelong at Kardinia Park. The daughter of 341-game Bulldogs champion, Chris missed all of her maiden season through injury, but comes into a winning side in place of the injured Bailey Hunt (calf). Her team will be sniffing out a positive record here, especially seeing that Geelong is currently bolted to bottom spot after losses of a combined 91 points.

The Cats have made a couple of changes, with the experienced Bec Goring called up to help bolster her side’s defence, while mature-age coup Nicole Garner also comes in for her senior debut. The pair’s additions come at the expense of youngsters Darcy Moloney and Georgia Clarke. Having lost handily to premiership fancy North Melbourne at home in Round 1, the Cats will be keen to make good on their advantage this time around and give fans something to cheer about.

The Bulldogs’ youthful exuberance and counter-attacking nature may pose some problems for Geelong, especially given the home side has only scrounged three majors in its first two outings. The Cats are also known for their young talent, but that has seen them fall away in lapses of concentration after positive periods. That could be a worrying factor if they don’t get up or stay level early, because we all saw how the ‘Dogs came back with force against Carlton last week.

Tip: Bulldogs by 13

GWS (11th, 0-2) vs. GOLD COAST (13th, 0-2)
Saturday February 13, 3:10pm
Blacktown International Sportspark

Two sides coming off hefty losses will look to get off the mark for season 2021, when Greater Western Sydney (GWS) hosts Gold Coast in Blacktown on Saturday afternoon. The Suns were kept to the lowest-ever AFLW score (two points) last time out in a one-sided Q-Clash, which should serve as fuel enough for this game. GWS went down to somewhat a rival of its own in Adelaide last week, making this a clash between two winless teams in desperate need of a confidence boost.

An improved Suns forwardline saw hardly any of the ball last week, but showed in Round 1 that when given the opportunity, goals will come. GWS has also had trouble moving forward with its fluency on the ball – or lack thereof – underselling the dominance of Alyce Parker and Rebecca Beeson at the clearances. Whichever team can click into gear quicker and find its groove in the front half should coast clear for a much-needed maiden win.

Tip: Giants by 5

ST KILDA (8th, 1-1) vs. CARLTON (9th, 0-2)
Saturday February 13, 5:10pm
RSEA Park

Carlton faces a tricky must-win fixture as it rolls into Moorabbin to take on St Kilda on Saturday night, with both sides poised outside the top six. Touted as a premiership chance coming into the season, the Blues have stumbled in two surprise losses with short bursts from opposition sides hurting them in the long run. The Saints loom as another tricky test having beaten the Blues’ last opponent and remained competitive against North Melbourne a week later.

Perhaps mercifully, the Carlton looks likely to call upon the recently recovered trio of Lucy McEvoy, Mua Laloifi, and Gab Pound, who would all normally feature in the starting lineup. While McEvoy will prove another classy midfield choice, the latter two should shore up the backline. Sturdiness will be important against an improve Saints attack, spearhead by Caitlin Greiser.

The midfield battle will also be an interesting one, with the likes of McEvoy and Maddy Prespakis locking horns with in-form St Kilda jets Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith. The hardened ball winning ability of Carlton’s pair against the classy running Saints should form an intriguing matchup of styles. Making the most of their impact will be key for either side, especially after their respective faults up forward thus far.

Tip: Blues by 15

MELBOURNE (4th, 2-0) vs. NORTH MELBOURNE (2nd, 2-0)
Saturday February 13, 7:10pm
Casey Fields

A mouthwatering contest between two undefeated Victorian sides goes down at Casey Fields on Saturday night, as Melbourne takes on North Melbourne. The Roos have been near-flawless across the opening two rounds; first dismantling Geelong on the road and then pulling away from the plucky St Kilda last week. Melbourne has found its grove after slow starts in both of its opening two fixtures, but now faces easily its toughest test to date.

While the Roos are renowned for their vast avenues to goal, Melbourne has proven somewhat of a surprise packet through its seemingly revitalised attacking nous. The engine room has played a big part, with Tyla Hanks slotting in seamlessly alongside Karen Paxman and Lily Mithen, but North is known to boss the ball and bat incredibly deep. A Kangas midfield quintet of Emma Kearney, Jenna Bruton, Jasmine Garner, Ash Riddell, and Ellie Gavalas has proven unbeatable across four quarters thus far, and will be tough to top.

The ruck battle will be another area of interest given how much class lies in either sides’ midfields, with Melbourne’s Lauren Pearce set to tackle an in-form Emma King. King, who has also rediscovered her scoring form, averages nearly double her opponent’s hitouts, but aide from rotating key forward Eden Zanker will likely even the contest up.

Tip: Kangaroos by 11

ADELAIDE (3rd, 2-0) vs. FREMANTLE (5th, 2-0)
Sunday February 14, 12:40pm
Norwood Oval

The round’s second top six clash sees Adelaide do battle with Fremantle at Norwood Oval, with the two undefeated teams battling to maintain their perfect records. Freo’s nine-game unblemished run has continued on from last season and while a tense derby only saw them get up by nine points with two majors on the board last week, the Dockers look every bit the premiership contender. Adelaide is right up there as well, emphatically returning to form in 2021 with the chance now to prove just how serious its flag tilt will be.

The Crows’ elite ball winners in Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard, and Erin Phillips will be difficult to match, while the dynamic wildcard that is Chelsea Randall could prove a game-breaking factor in roles at either end. A heap of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Fremantle’s Kiara Bowers in midfield, though a greater team spread up and down the spine is more the Dockers’ go.

It is no secret that Gemma Houghton poses a massive threat up forward alongside Sabreena Duffy, while Janelle Cuthbertson has been an absolute rock down back. With running power on the outer and many avenues to goal, Freo should have little trouble managing a winning score. Adelaide will again look to its midfield to fill out the scorebook, while the likes of Danielle Ponter, Ashleigh Woodland, and Teah Charlton loom as individuals who can break the game open.

Tip: Dockers by 1

RICHMOND (12th, 0-2) vs. COLLINGWOOD (6th, 2-0)
Sunday February 14, 3:10pm
Punt Road Oval

A late fixture shuffle sees traditional rivals Richmond and Collingwood go head-to-head on Sunday afternoon, set to provide some nostalgia to fans at Punt Road Oval. The Tigers are still out to claim their first points in the competition having shown signs of improvement thus far, but ultimately fallen short of better opposition. Collingwood looms as another difficult test, currently holding up the top six with a perfect 2-0 record.

The two sides have not yet met in the women’s competition, making for a fresh start and opportunity for either team to grab bragging rights. Collingwood’s rejigged forwardline which boasts Chloe Molloy and Brianna Davey benefitted last week with the inclusion of Sarah Rowe, and will again be in good shape to overpower the opposition. Conversely, scoring continues to be a sore spot for Richmond despite the dominance of Monique Conti in midfield and promise of Ellie McKenzie on the outer.

Tip: Magpies by 33

Note: The Brisbane Lions vs. West Coast Eagles fixture is TBC.

Featured Image: Western Bulldogs’ Isabella Grant (right) with her famous father, Chris | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 2 preview – Pioneer Blues and Bulldogs open Pride Round

PRIDE is the theme of Round 2 in the 2021 AFL Women’s season, as the competition holds its inaugural Pride Round. The Western Bulldogs and Carlton, who have previously hosted annual Pride matches, will open the weekend’s action on Friday night as the remaining fixtures fall into place after multiple shake-ups. Remarkably, all seven games are set to go ahead in the rejigged round, with results as important as ever among the continual pandemic-produced unpredictability.

Note: All start times are local

Western Bulldogs vs. Carlton
Friday February 5, 7:45pm
Whitten Oval

Western Bulldogs and Carlton kick off Pride Round at Whitten Oval on Friday night, marking a historic and important event on the AFL Women’s calendar. Both sides remain searching for their first wins in 2021 after opening round losses, with a dreaded 0-2 start awaiting the team which goes down once again.

Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke has enacted four changes to the side which lost to St Kilda, with young pups Gemma Lagioia and Britney Gutknecht among the casualties. Carlton has been forced into just one change, as key defender Mua Laloifi misses through the updated concussion protocols and is replaced by Jess Edwards at half-back.

Laloifi’s absence may open the door for the Dogs to excel in attack, leaving Charlotte Wilson to shoulder a heap of intercept work against a forwardline spearheaded by Izzy Huntington. But the ball will have to get there first, with Carlton’s hardened midfield out to prove a point having been definitively blitzed by Collingwood in the second term last time out.

Tip: The Bulldogs are slowly finding their feet, but the Blues should come out firing after a shock loss. Wet weather will play a factor in the margin, Blues by 11.

Collingwood vs. Geelong
Saturday February 6, 3:10pm
Victoria Park

A fixture shuffle has seen Collingwood and Geelong land each other in Round 2, with football returning to the Magpies’ spiritual home of Victoria Park on Saturday afternoon. The Cats are coming off a 62-point drubbing at the hands of North Melbourne, while Collingwood opened the season with an impressive upset victory over traditional rival, Carlton, making for very contrasting formlines.

The Magpies’ midfield was excellent last time out and a new-look forwardline featuring Chloe Molloy and Bri Davey looks poised for more success in 2021. One of the Cats’ best lines is its defence though, with skipper Meghan McDonald supported well by the likes of Maddy McMahon, Amy McDonald, and Millie Brown.

Collingwood will be without recruit Aliesha Newman after she was handed a one-week ban for her sling tackle on Carlton’s Laloifi, but the Pies’ confidence should be sky high nonetheless. On the other hand, Geelong will have to quickly pick up the pieces to recover here, especially after an impotent display forward of centre in Round 1.

Tip: Collingwood looks set to be one of the big risers in 2021 and while Geelong has potential, its young side will likely work in peaks and troughs. Another trough here for the Cats, Pies by 23.

Melbourne vs. Richmond
Saturday February 6, 5:10pm
Casey Fields

Riding the wave of a Round 1 win, Melbourne hosts Richmond at Casey Fields on Saturday night looking to go two from two. Both sides took on Queensland teams last week but came out with contrasting results; as the Dees clicked into gear after quarter time to trump Gold Coast, while Richmond could only hang with Brisbane for a half before giving way in a five-goal loss.

The Lions may have uncovered a continued area of weakness for Richmond after tagging Monique Conti out of the first half, with Melbourne’s engine room typically an area of depth and prosperity. The Dees should again thrive in the midfield battle, though look for the likely tussle between first year jets Ellie McKenzie and Eliza McNamara to provide great entertainment on the outer.

Melbourne could quickly stake its claim for another finals berth should it string together some early wins, but the Tigers have shown signs of improvement and will hardly go down easily. Still searching for their maiden AFLW win, the Tigers have plenty to play for and will hope to avoid being the league’s cellar dweller for a second year running.

Tip: Melbourne looks a side determined to keep touch with the true premiership contenders, but cannot be caught lacking against the hungry Tigers. Still, the red and blue side should be too good all around the ground, Dees by 27.

North Melbourne vs. St Kilda
Sunday February 7, 1:10pm
Arden Street Oval

North Melbourne will be out to build on its formidable early form, if possible, when St Kilda rolls into Arden Street Oval for their Sunday afternoon clash. The Roos set a high ceiling with their maiden 2021 performance, which yielded the greatest opening round percentage in AFL/AFLW history. St Kilda is also in winning form, though having shaken off the Western Bulldogs in Moorabbin.

It is no secret that North Melbourne bats a ridiculously deep midfield, boasting arguably the most damaging brigade of ball winners in the competition. St Kilda’s young pair of Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith will do their best to match the forward run-and-carry of North’s prime movers, especially after such promising showings last week.

North Melbourne has plenty of avenues to goal, with rotating ruck Emma King back to her scoring ways after three goals last week, while the Saints also showed they will not be entirely dependant on spearhead Caitlin Greiser to kick a winning score. Matching the Roos’ firepower will be tough, but could be manageable depending on the conditions and North Melbourne’s mood.

Tip: St Kilda will likely provide a much greater test for North and should stick with them in patches, but do not quite have the stock to go with a switched-on blue and white outfit for four quarters, Roos by 21.

Brisbane vs. Gold Coast
Sunday February 7, 2:10pm
Hickey Park

The second-ever AFL Women’s Q-Clash is set to go down on Sunday afternoon, as the Lions and Suns meet at Hickey Park having initially been poised against Victorian opponents. The makeshift fixture should provide fireworks, with last year’s inaugural all-Queensland dig ending in an enthralling draw, meaning bragging rights are well and truly up for grabs here.

Brisbane will look to replicate last year’s early run of form with a second win on the trot, while Gold Coast is still out to open its account for the season after an opening round loss to Melbourne. Both sides boast some terrific young talent, with the Lions’ Isabel Dawes fresh off a best-afield performance, and Gold Coast’s Kalinda Howarth hungry to hit the scoreboard after a goalless outing last week.

The experience is also there, headlined by Brisbane’s strong foundation crop – which may soon be bolstered by Jess Wuetschner – and opposed by Gold Coast’s new-look forwardline, which features vice-captain Sarah Perkins. Jamie Stanton and Alison Drennan will have plenty to do in midfield against the Lions’ strong ball winners, making for an intriguing clearance battle.

Tip: You can never count the fighting Suns out, especially with their youthful exuberance, but the Lions look a slight step ahead and should come away with bragging rights over their neighbours. Lions by 10.

GWS vs. Adelaide
Sunday February 7, 5:10pm
Blacktown International Sportspark

GWS is back home after a well-travelled preseason, set to host Adelaide at Blacktown International Sportspark on Sunday evening. Both teams were thrown into isolation after Round 1 and have undergone improvised solo training sessions for most of the week, which will inevitably show in how either side adjusts to the disruptions thrown their way.

Adelaide looks like quickly returning to its fearsome best in 2021, with the Crows’ many stars aligning to win big las week. Erin Phillips will hope to again take hold as she gets a clean run at it, while some added dynamism in the potential moving parts of Chelsea Randall, Ebony Marinoff, and Sarah Allan will give GWS plenty of headaches.

The Giants have showcased their fighting spirit and have the experience to give the Crows a good run here. An even five-goal loss to Fremantle in Round 1 was less than ideal on a pure results basis, but some strong contested work in the first half should put GWS in good stead to compete against top sides, like Adelaide, for periods of time.

Tip: Revenge will be in mind after GWS ended Adelaide’s finals hopes last year, and the visitors should have too much grunt going forward from midfield. Crows by 26.

Fremantle vs. West Coast
Sunday February 7, 4:15pm
Fremantle Oval

The Western Derby is on in Round 2 after last-minute confirmation of the bout came today, with Fremantle and West Coast set to lock horns in the weekend’s closing fixture. Akin to players in the Adelaide-GWS clash, both teams have been limited training-wise with just an hour of exercise permitted under Western Australia’s lockdown laws.

Freo looks every bit the powerhouse last year’s undefeated run suggested, maintaining their winning streak with a powerful Round 1 victory. West Coast looks an improved side despite falling well short of Adelaide in the end. While the Eagles managed 2.6 (18), the Dockers excelled with 8.10 (58) in their opening fixture.

That immense gap in scoring should again prove telling, with Fremantle’s dynamic and game-breaking forward movers in Gemma Houghton and Sabreena Duffy difficult to keep down, especially as Kara Antonio and Kiara Bowers move the ball forward with class from the outside and inside of midfield.

Tip: Fremantle has the early bragging rights in this rivalry and will likely continue to hold as much after Sunday’s clash. With too much going forward, Dockers by 40.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

Saints win thriller over Dogs as youth shine

THE return of Friday night football for 2021 did not disappoint, as St Kilda and Western Bulldogs went head-to-head at RSEA Park in the AFL Women’s competition. Both teams came into the game with some new faces and plenty of youth, and they were on from the get-go. Both teams started hard and fast and maintained that intensity for the entirety of the game. The difference was the Saints took most of their opportunities on goal, and came out nine-point winners, 8.3 (51) to 6.6 (42) despite the late quarter pressure from the Bulldogs.

The match started with a bang, as first gamers Tyanna Smith and Jacqueline Vogt linked up to get the ball deep in the Saints forward line, where a free kick and 50 metre penalty was given to Caitlin Greiser, which resulted in an early lead for the Saints. The remainder of the quarter was an arm-wrestle from both sides, with every player being swarmed as they collected the ball and very few easy opportunities. Bonnie Toogood, Ellie Blackburn and Kate Shierlaw managed to find enough time in the chaos to get themselves on the scoreboard midway through the term. The rest of the quarter was a stalemate with both sides’ defensive strength shown, rebounding everything that came their way. Another free kick and 50 metre penalty to the Saints saw young gun Georgia Patrikios get on the scoreboard, and Isabel Huntington responded with a strong lead and goal with 30 seconds to go, giving the Dogs the lead into the second quarter.

The second quarter saw the Saints take control of the game, with goals to Darcy Guttridge, Smith and Vogt they dominated the scoring with the Dogs only registering two points for the quarter. Dogs defenders Lauren Spark and former Magpie Katie Lynch did well to limit the amount of damage the Saints could do. The Dogs came into the second half of the game with a new level of intensity and pressure, noticeably causing more headaches for the Saints than the previous quarter, sometimes overzealous giving away a string of frees which, luckily for them, did not result in any St Kilda goals for the quarter. The Saints defence was again rock solid despite constant pressure, only conceding one goal – from Huntington – right on the siren, after a very nice mark over the top of a pack.

After a quiet third quarter, scoring wise the fourth was bound to be a bit more busy, with the Dogs chasing an eight-point lead. The final term did not disappoint, as the intensity from both sides took another step up. Greiser kicked the first goal of the quarter, marking the ball in the goal square and increasing the scoreboard pressure. The next two goals came from Toogood and Blackburn to get the Dogs within two points with four and a half minutes to go. Once again the pressure and intensity from both sides lifted with the game on the line, but the Saints composure with the ball late would see them get a late goal from Guttridge following the ball over a marking contest into the goal square and putting the Saints ahead. The last minute of the game was played in the Saints forward half to see them win their first of the 2021 campaign.

Patrikios ended up getting the most of the ball on ground with 23 disposals and a goal, followed closely by Blackburn (21 disposals, two goals and five tackles) and Tarni White (20 disposals and seven marks). Rosie Dillon was a big contributor to the Saints pressure around the contest, coming out of the game with nine tackles to go with her eight disposals, while Berry led the dogs with six tackles. Another story coming out of the game was Alice Burke, wearing her father Nathan‘s famous number three at the red, white and black, getting the points over her dad.

The Dogs will face a determined Carlton side in the opener of Round 2 at Whitten Oval on Friday night, whilst Saints will have a longer break, coming up against North Melbourne at Arden Street Oval on Sunday afternoon.

 

St Kilda | 3.0 | 6.0 | 6.2 | 8.3 (51)
Western Bulldogs | 3.3 | 3.5 | 4.6 | 6.6 (42)

GOALS:
St Kilda: Greiser 2, Guttridge 2, Patrikios, Shierlaw, Smith, Vogt
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn 2, Huntington 2, Toogood 2

ADC BEST
St Kilda: Patrikios, White, Phillips, Smith, Greiser.
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Huntington, Lamb, Toogood, Lynch.

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

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

Note: All start times are as of AEDT

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Carlton by 10

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Western Bulldogs by 1

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Melbourne by 5

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Adelaide by 25

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: North Melbourne by 9

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

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

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

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

Tip: Brisbane by 15

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

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

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

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

Tip: Fremantle by 21

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

Draft Central’s 2021 AFLW season predictions

WITH the 2021 AFL Women’s season bouncing down tomorrow night, the Draft Central editors have penned their predictions for this year’s proceedings. Below are our favourites in the premiership race, the potential risers and sliders, leading goalkicker candidates, rising star contenders, and the competition best and fairest contenders.

>> SCROLL to see our full predictions

Among the trends, three of the four tipsters predicted grand final heartbreak for North Melbourne, with Fremantle the favourite choice for premiership glory. Carlton and Adelaide were also tipped for top two finishes, with the Crows also a popular selection in the riser category after their disappointing 2020 campaign. Melbourne and GWS will be out to prove the Draft Central crew wrong, selected twice each as this year’s most likely slider.

In terms of individual honours, Carlton midfielder Madison Prespakis was backed to take out consecutive best and fairest awards, with Bulldogs skipper Ellie Blackburn and Collingwood gun Jaimee Lambert also in the conversation. Another in contention is North Melbourne’s Jasmine Garner, who was also a surprise leading goalkicker tip. Iconic Carlton high-flyer Tayla Harris was the most popular choice though, while Chloe Molloy could prove a shrewd pick as she looks to swing forward this year.

It was no surprise to see the 2020 number one pick, Ellie McKenzie backed most often for the rising star award, with other identified challengers including former Northern Knights teammate Jess Fitzgerald and fellow NAB League graduate Tyanna Smith. All three were taken within the top six selections and are primed for full seasons of first team football.

Outside of the nominated entires, Fremantle’s Kiara Bowers will almost inevitably feature highly in the league best and fairest count, while Karen Paxman is also a good shout depending on how Melbourne fare this time around. North skipper Emma Kearney is still considered by many to be the competition’s best player, while Adelaide ball magnets Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff (if cleared), Erin Phillips, Bri Davey, Monique Conti, and Dana Hooker could also be thereabouts. Do not be surprised to see young guns Alyce Parker and Olivia Purcell move into the elite category too, if they had not already.

2020 regular season leading goalkicker Caitlin Greiser was surprisingly overlooked for the same award by our editors this time around, while dynamic Fremantle duo Gemma Houghton and Sabreena Duffy. will be sure to trouble the scorers aplenty. Brisbane spearhead Jesse Wardlaw should be up there again alongside teammate Jess Wuetschner, while North’s Emma King will hope for an improved season in front of goal, Kalinda Howarth is always dangerous, and Kaitlyn Ashmore should not be forgotten either. Geelong’s Phoebe McWilliams is another in that boat, primed for a big season.

SEASON PREDICTIONS

Michael Alvaro
AFL(W) Draft Editor

Premier: Carlton
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: GWS
B&F: Jaimee Lambert
Leading goalkicker: Tayla Harris
Rising star: Jess Fitzgerald
Headline: Morrison makes a midseason splash as Cats push for finals

Taylah Melki
Managing Editor

Premier: Fremantle
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: Melbourne
B&F: Madison Prespakis
Leading goalkicker: Tayla Harris
Rising star: Ellie McKenzie
Headline: Prespakis wins back-to-back best and fairest awards

Sophie Taylor
Senior Editor

Premier: Fremantle
Runner up: Carlton
Riser: Collingwood
Slider: GWS
B&F: Madison Prespakis
Leading goalkicker: Jasmine Garner
Rising star: Ellie McKenzie
Headline: Dees dump doubters to make finals

Peter Williams
Chief Editor

Premier: Adelaide
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: Melbourne
B&F: Ellie Blackburn
Leading goalkicker: Chloe Molloy
Rising star: Tyanna Smith
Headline: Triple treat for Crows as Adelaide wins third flag

Featured Image: Madison Prespakis is the clubhouse best and fairest favourite | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

2021 AFLW Preview: St Kilda Saints

ST KILDA’S inaugural AFL Women’s campaign produced some notable highlights as the Saints brought football back to Moorabbin, with solid building blocks now in place for an improved second season. Another promising draft crop and handy additions during trade period will only add to the Saints’ emerging squad, which will again look to knock on the door of finals in 2021.

2020 RECAP

As one of the better performed expansion sides, St Kilda finished fifth in the stronger Conference A at 2-4. Losses in the first two rounds were quickly forgotten as the Saints upset foundation club, Melbourne by five points to open Round 3, making for a memorable maiden win. A heartbreaking one-point loss to Fremantle followed, but showed that the Saints could hang with the best on their day.

They would be rewarded for competitive form with another victory in Round 6 after keeping Richmond goalless, capping off a very respectable first crack at the top flight. Leading goalkicker and joint best and fairest, Caitlin Greiser was the sole Saint to earn All Australian honours, also finishing one spot ahead of fellow first year gun Georgia Patrikios (equal-third) in the Rising Star voting.

NEW FACES

Having already formed a solid foundational core, the Saints picked up another couple of established players to accompany their exciting draft hand. The dynamic Bianca Jakobsson was a terrific coup, but has recently undergone surgery to repair a broken collarbone sustained in a scratch match on the eve of season proper. Jayde Van Dyk was the other trade acquisition, set to help shore up the defence after crossing from Carlton.

Tyanna Smith headlined St Kilda’s draft effort and will likely prove an absolute steal at pick six. The Dandenong Stingrays graduate adds to the Saints’ exciting young midfield with her searing pace and capacity to play both inside and outside. Father-daughter selection Alice Burke was another value pick at 24, again bolstering her new side’s engine room with toughness and great tackling pressure.

The versatile Renee Saulitis was another shrewd selection, able to add some spark going forward and allow the Saints’ second year guns to perhaps spend more time in midfield. Southern Saints recruit Jacqueline Vogt rounded out St Kilda’s draft hand, with Tahlia Meyer taken after the fact and Jess Matin getting her chance in place of Irishwoman, Clara Fitzpatrick.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Prized draftee, Smith is one to watch for St Kilda, especially after the level of performance from the likes of Patrikios, Molly McDonald, and Isabella Shannon in their debut seasons. Smith represents the next generation of talent which has taken over the competition of late and only adds to St Kilda’s exciting young depth. Her athletic traits blend nicely with high-level skill and good balance in midfield, pointing towards the kind of upside which could see her prove to be one of the top two players of her draft class.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

The Saints are fierce and love to compete. Headed by a strong, established leadership group and backed by competitive youngsters with plenty of class, the Saints are well balanced in terms of their squad profile and have plenty of players who can come in and push highly-fancied opposition. Peta Searle‘s side suffered a season-high loss of 25 points in 2020, while also going down by just 13 points to the reigning premier and a single score to the undefeated Fremantle. If they can continue to rattle established teams and lean on the experience of year one, these Saints could well exceed expectations.

QUESTION MARK

A relatively heavy turnover of players means the Saints will be tested for squad cohesion and depth, but they have proven strong in the face of such challenges thus far. Scoring may be an area of concern with not much in the way of firepower aside from Greiser and the 30-mark cracked just once last season – against the winless Richmond. Kicking a winning score will be key to not just competing with the top sides, but getting the better of them on any given day.

FINAL WORD

St Kilda showed up in its maiden AFL Women’s season and proved plenty of doubters wrong with strong performances each week. A couple of wins is a solid base to work off and notching at least one more in 2021 would be a decent pass mark with finals contention in the Saints’ sights. Should they again bind together to overcome injury disruptions, this exciting young unit could cause a few big upsets.

Image Credit: AFL Photos (Retrieved from St Kilda FC)

Top 5 AFLW matches to look forward to in 2021

AS the AFL Women’s (AFLW) clubs continue their preparation for the 2021 season, AFLW fans eagerly await the announcement of the fixture. The only hints provided so far came from AFL Chief Executive Officer Gil McLachlan last Friday, when he anticipated that the season will commence in early February with nine home and away rounds and three weeks of finals.

Here are the five matchups that we hope to see in the fixture when it is finally released.

1. FREMANTLE v NORTH MELBOURNE

A matchup between the two best teams of 2020 is an absolute necessity for 2021. Fremantle went undefeated in 2020 and the Kangaroos only lost once – to Melbourne in Round 1 – but we never got to see these sides face each other during the season. Among many other dream matchups on the field, the midfield battle between Jasmine Garner and Kiara Bowers would be thrilling. Had COVID-19 not forced an abrupt end to the season, we probably would have seen these two sides battle it out in the 2020 Grand Final. It would be fitting to open 2021 with the matchup that should have concluded last season.

2. ADELAIDE v CARLTON

These two sides produced one of the best matches of the 2020 season when Carlton came out on top by eight points at Richmond Oval. Led by superstars Darcy Vescio and Maddy Prespakis, the Blues were too skilful for the Crows in the second half. However, Adelaide was undermanned due to injuries, including anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears that kept premiership stars Chloe Scheer and Chelsea Randall out for the season. They will both be returning to the field in 2021 and should lead Adelaide back into finals contention. The Crows have also recruited Jess Sedunary, Hannah Munyard and Lisa Whiteley from other clubs to strengthen their stocks, while Carlton got the prized signature of former Melbourne co-captain Elise O’Dea to bolster their midfield. Both sides will look stronger on paper and it would be fascinating to watch another clash between the 2019 AFLW Grand Finalists.

3. COLLINGWOOD v NORTH MELBOURNE

A rematch of last year’s semi-final between these two sides would be a must-see affair, as it was arguably the match of the year when the Kangaroos just got over the line by two points. Britt Bonnici was brilliant on the day in a losing side, as were Jaimee Lambert and Bri Davey. These Magpies stars will be hoping to attain their club’s first finals win in 2021, and they would certainly love another opportunity to defeat the side that eliminated them in 2020. That will be easier said than done against the star-studded Kangaroos, who will be hell-bent on contending for their maiden AFLW premiership in 2021.

4. FREMANTLE v ST KILDA

These two sides played out a classic contest in 2020 when the Dockers got over the line by one point, and there is no reason why a clash between them in 2021 could not be just as good. While Fremantle have one of the best sides in the competition, St Kilda is also building strongly on the back of young stars Georgia Patrikios, Caitlin Greiser and Nicola Xenos. Despite not winning the 2020 matchup, this was when the young Saints developed the belief that they could match it with the best. They would love to go one step further and upset the Dockers in 2021.

5. CARLTON v COLLINGWOOD

The list would not be complete without arguably the biggest rivalry in AFLW, Carlton and Collingwood. Carlton has been the more successful AFLW side over the journey, but Collingwood appear to be on the way up after making their first finals appearance in 2020. Magpies defender Stacey Livingstone added plenty of spice to their rivalry following their 15-point defeat of the Blues last year when she said in an interview, “you’ve just got to stop [Tayla Harris] in the air, that’s her game. If you can do that, she’s useless.” This is the type of spirited commentary that fans love to see from players, as public sledging only adds intrigue to the competition. Let’s hope that we see more aggression and trash-talk between these two sides in 2021, as the lead-up to the match could almost be as entertaining as the contest itself.

For more AFLW news, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

AFLW: Players to watch from your club in 2021 – Part 3

As we lead into the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central is highlighting the top players to watch from each club. Here is part three of the series, this time taking a look into four of the bottom sides in 2020 which will look to move up the ranks this season after combining for just four wins last season.

Richmond: Ellie McKenzie

There is always major pressure on pick one of the draft in any sport, and this is no different for McKenzie. Richmond did not win a game in 2020, so they will be hoping that McKenzie adds a spark that can propel them away from the bottom of the ladder. She has great versatility, with proven capabilities as a midfielder and a half-forward. Her kicking ability on both sides and elite fitness level set her apart from the other draft prospects, so look for these qualities to shine through at the Tigers in 2021.

St Kilda: Caitlin Greiser

Despite having just one year of AFLW experience, Greiser is already one of the most exciting players to watch in the competition. Her ability to change any game within minutes is quite incredible, as she has an imposing presence up forward and can kick crucial goals at any stage. She finished second in AFLW’s 2020 leading goalkicker award with ten goals in six matches, which was particularly impressive considering her Saints only won two of their six games. Greiser averaged nine disposals, two marks and three inside 50s as well, and she made the AFLW All-Australian side for her efforts. The 21-year-old will attract many fans through the gates at Moorabbin – if possible – in 2021.

West Coast: Isabella Lewis

Lewis was taken with pick three in October’s AFLW Draft and will immediately improve the Eagles’ midfield stocks. The youngster from Claremont has elite running power, speed and applies plenty of pressure. Lewis thrives at the contest, enjoys the physicality and is always willing to take the game on. It will be entertaining to watch her make an impact for West Coast in her debut season.

Western Bulldogs: Gabby Newton

The number one pick in 2019’s national Draft, Newton was one of the Bulldogs’ most prominent young guns. She played every game, averaged 13 disposals and led her club in tackles with a highly impressive 42 in six matches. Newton also ranked second at the club for contested possessions and marks while sharing responsibilities up forward and through the midfield. Expect her to take her game to another level and impact the scoreboard more in 2021.

Part 1 // Part 2