Tag: charli murphy

NAB League Girls Round 8 preview: Penultimate round for last pre-championships showing

ROUND 8 of the NAB League Girls marks the final round before a break with the Easter weekend and AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships taking place over the next couple of weekends. One more round will be completed later in the month, with finals to take place after that for the top four teams in the metropolitan and country regions.

EASTERN RANGES vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Saturday, March 27 @ 10:00am
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

Up first to open the weekend is an all-metropolitan battle between the Eastern Ranges and Sandringham Dragons. The Ranges are back at home at Kilsyth for an early start against the Dragons, with back-to-back wins against Calder Cannons and Tasmania Devils since capitulating in the final quarter against Northern Knights. They head in as strong favourites against a Dragons side that has been unlucky in recent weeks, pushing the undefeated Oakleigh Chargers and going down to Western Jets by a point either side of the loss to Dandenong Stingrays at Casey Fields. They still remain at 1-5 from six games compared to the Ranges’ 4-2 record.

The Dragons defence has held firm in recent weeks with Chloe Saultry dropping back with Kiana Lynch to win plenty of intercept possessions and drive the ball up the ground. They will need to do just that with the dangerous forwards of Alyssia Pisano and Scarlett Potter, as well as Matilda Hardy running around in there. In the midfield, Bridie Hipwell and Sofia Hurley are likely to face the consistent Bridget Deed and Keeley Sherar in there, whilst up forward, Charli Murphy and Ebony Angelopoulos have the goal-scoring ability, and will lock horns with one of the more consistent defences featuring Grace Walsh, Cadhla Schmidli and Mia Busch.

 

CALDER CANNONS vs. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, March 27 @ 10:30am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Also up for an early start, Calder Cannons host Western Jets at Highgate Recreation Reserve. Live commentated via the NAB League app, the match will be the first of a double-header at the ground, with the NAB League Boys up at 1pm. The Cannons sit at 4-2, with the Jets at the opposite 2-4, but both have had plenty of close results over the journey. Western held on in a thriller against Sandringham Dragons at a wet RSEA Park last week, while the Cannons suffered defeat at the hands on Eastern Ranges at Highgate. While the Cannons are sitting pretty for finals, they will want to make sure they take the points her to secure the spot with Western the only team that can mathematically knock out one of the top four sides.

Charlotte Baskaran and Montana Ham have been in exceptional form of late, with the former heading onball to win a lot more touches in close. The forward line functioned well despite only kicking the two goals last week, with Jemima Woods and Kiera Leare in particular standing out, and Kensley Ward looking dangerous. Up against the Cannons, they have the likes of Kasey Lennox and Kiara Delia back there to settle them down, but it is the midfield battles that will be the ones to watch. Georgie Prespakis, Emelia Yassir, Zali Friswell and and Olivia Manfre all present worries to the opposition, whilst the ruck battle between Tahlia Gillard and Krystal Russell will be another head-to-head to watch.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Saturday, March 27 @ 12:30pm
Prospect Park, Launceston

Returning home to the Apple Isle, Tasmania Devils will have another tough challenge, this time up against the Northern Knights. Both sides are at 4-2, with the Devils having gone down to Eastern Ranges at Craigieburn last week in a make-up of the Round 2 fixture, whilst the Knights impressed in a big win over Geelong Falcons at Deakin University. Northern has found form since their Round 1 disappointment, posting four wins in five games and taking their win-loss record to 4-2 from six matches. They will have their hands full with a Devils outfit that is yet to be blown away, going close in both losses to Oakleigh Chargers and the Ranges, whilst taking care of Dandenong Stingrays on the Apple Isle.

The Devils have a really deep midfield that has held them in good stead this season, led by Perri King and Claire Ransom through the middle and running forward, the likes of Meghan Gaffney, Ella Maurer and Jemma Webster have all enjoyed strong seasons to-date. Amy Prokopiec has proven she can kick multiple goals up forward, and Amy Bissett is another goal-scoring threat inside 50. The Knights have plenty of goal-scoring threats of their own with bottom-ager Megan Girolami, Trinity Mills and Under 16s talent Ava Jordan – from the midfield – all able to hit the scoreboard. Maykaylah Appleby and Brooke Plummer provide the hard running on the outside, and Tarrah Delgado has been someone who can play on the last line or mix it up by being thrown into the middle.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, March 27 @ 2:30pm
Deakin University, Waurn Ponds

Hoping to snap a two-game losing streak – unfortunately both at the very venue they hope to snap it at – the Geelong Falcons host Oakleigh Chargers at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds. The Falcons went down to Sydney Swans Academy a few weeks back, then suffered a loss at the hands of Northern Knights last week, and just need to refocus for the Round 7 clash. It will be a tough assignment though, coming up against the red-hot Oakleigh Chargers who are yet to drop a game and will be hungry to add another victory to their name.

The Falcons have a consistent side across the board, with a midfield core of Tess Craven, Charlotte Simpson and Ashleigh Van Loon providing the heat in close, and Poppy Schapp rotating through and adding clean hands and pressure around the ground. The Chargers have a stacked midfield as well, as Charlie Rowbottom and Stella Reid provide the inside and outside talent, whilst Amanda Ling is winning the ball at will currently. With Brooke Vickers having an impact all over the ground, the Chargers are in a good spot going forward. Geelong will look to Renee Tierney and Lucy Were to hit the scoreboard and apply pressure to the Oakleigh defence, whilst Keeley Hardingham could take control in the ruck, and Annie Lee and Liz Dowling drive the ball out of defence. Oakleigh have Alexandra McCulloch and Taylah Morton up opposite ends to provide some run and class as well in a strong unit.

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Sunday, March 28 @ 11am
Trevor Barker Oval

In the first of a double-header at Trevor Barker Oval, Dandenong Stingrays host Murray Bushrangers from 11am on Sunday, which will feature live commentary via the NAB League app. The Stingrays will look for their third consecutive win against a Bushrangers outfit who got up for their first points of the season against Gippsland Power last week at Craigieburn. Whilst finals is likely to be just out of their grasp unless results go favourably their way, the Bushrangers do have three matches remaining to close the gap on some rivals. This game will be a tough one against a Dandenong side that accounted for Sandringham Dragons and Bendigo Pioneers in the past week and a half.

Dandenong Stingrays will be keen to welcome Jaide Anthony back from concussion to shore up a defence that was already doing its job pretty well, keeping the Dragons to just three behinds at Casey Fields. Jemma Radford and Zoe Hill will be key players in the absence of Mackenzie Eardley in defence, while the midfield and forward options will look different without Abbey Jordan, Ashleigh Richards and Amber Clarke in there. The Bushrangers defence is also able to contain sides, keeping the Power goalless in their clash, and only conceding one behind. Mindy Quade, Grace Hay and Kristy Whitehead can all win the ball in the defensive half of the ground, whilst the form of wings, Aurora Smith and Zara Hamilton is impressive. Keeley Skeeper in the midfield has also continued her bottom-age form, whilst Lily Sharp and Olivia Cicolini both hit the scoreboard multiple times last game. Dandenong will look to Felicity Crank through the middle to win her fair share of the footy.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY
Sunday, March 28 @ 1:00pm
MARS Stadium

Their season delicately poised at 3-3 from six games, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels come up against a side that will have a lot of unknowns entering the match in the Northern Territory Academy. For the Top End side, it will be a chance to get a run around against a quality Victorian opposition ahead of the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships on the Gold Coast when they team up with NSW/ACT and Tasmania to create the Allies. The Rebels have been a solid mid-table team with some great wins, and then falling to the top sides to enter the contest with a 50 per cent win-loss record.

The Rebels will test a number of their players giving the likes of Ella Friend, Chloe Leonard and Nyakoat Dojiok will be out for this match. Lilli Condon is one natural ball-winner who could be key for the Rebels to get up in this one, as Molly Walton has been a shining light as a bottom-ager in defence. For the Thunder, Bella Clarke comes into the side off experience at state level before, and from her WAFL Women’s debut last week, as ex-Calder Cannons forward Freda Puruntatameri has been named in the ruck. Kaitey Whittaker is one to watch inside 50, whilst one of the biggest names to keep track of is Grace Mulvahil who has a prestigious junior career in the NTFL Women’s Premier League, and will lineup at half-back. Ashanti Bush at half-forward can also kick multiple goals, while Oakleigh Chargers’ J’Noemi Anderson will represent her state in this clash.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER
Sunday, March 28 @ 1:30pm
Trevor Barker Oval

With the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships five days away from the Sunday clash between the Bendigo Pioneers and Gippsland Power, both teams will be without their representatives. Both these teams have just the one win between them, with the Pioneers’ coming in Round 1 against the Murray Bushrangers, and have since had a lot of close outings but are yet to be successful. A one-point defeat to the Stingrays last week had them agonisingly close, and will be hoping to get over the line in this one.

Both teams will be without some of their top talents ahead of the championships, with Grace McRae and Grace Matser both out for the Gippsland Power, whilst Tara Slender, Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning will miss for Bendigo Pioneers. In their place, Maddy Marks returns for her second game back, teaming up with Tegan Williams as the key forward targets. Jayda Richardson and Drew Ryan are in the midfield alongside Country emergency Octavia Di Donato, while Lily den Houting and Lila Keck have been named up forward. For the Power, Lily-Rose Williamson will look to lead from defence, with Matilda Van Berkel thrown into the ruck in what will be a small team for the Power. Yasmin Duursma is still in midfield, whilst Jordan Sochackyi has been named in a forward pocket. After injuring herself last week, Sunday Brisbane has been named as an emergency for the Power.

NAB League Girls Round 7 preview: Country games on show, while Power and Bushrangers battle for first points of the season

A BATTLE of the two winless sides, Gippsland Power and Murray Bushrangers, as well as the Sandringham Dragons and Western Jets must-win contest will be the two commentated games streaming on the NAB League app this weekend. The matches are all set to be beauties with plenty of 50/50 contests and difficult to predict how they will go down in Round 7 of the NAB League Girls competition.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 20 @ 12.30pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve

Backing up from an impressive Wednesday night victory under lights at Casey Fields, Dandenong Stingrays make the trek up the highway to Epsom Huntly Reserve to take on Bendigo Pioneers. After snapping their two-game losing streak, the Stingrays have moved to 3-2 on the table, with a chance to join Calder Cannons on 4-2 fo the season if they get the win against the Pioneers. For Bendigo, they could move back within four points of the top eight sides and remain in contention for finals, having lost four straight games since their Round 1 win over Murray Bushrangers.

Captain Tara Slender is anticipated to return for the Pioneers for the big clash, with Octavia Di Donato and Tegan Williams among the more in-form players at the Pioneers in her absence a couple of weeks back when they last ran out on a Wednesday night themselves against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at Epsom Huntly. Jayda Richardson has been utilised all over the field, while the Pioneers will be hoping to regain some of their top talents back from injury at some point, with Jemma Finning and Madeline Marks also out of the last game due to injury.

Dandenong Stingrays have now adjusted without midfield gun Emily Shepherd in there, and with Jaide Anthony also out of the side due to concussion – and will miss this clash – they have seen others step up. Charley Ryan was sensational for the Stingrays in the win against the Sandringham Dragons mid-week, while Zoe Hill showed she could play at both ends, and Ashleigh Richards and Amber Clarke looked ever-dangerous inside 50. Add in Abbey Jordan and Felicity Crank who are finding plenty of the ball of late, and the Stingrays have a well-balanced list.

Dandenong will head in as favourites against the Pioneers following the Stingrays’ defensive efforts during the week, though with the Pioneers back at home, they have the capacity to push any side as they showed a few weeks back against Calder Cannons.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Saturday, March 20 @ 12.30pm
Highgate Reserve

A bottom two clash of the sides yet to grab a win in season 2021, at least one of the Gippsland Power and Murray Bushrangers must take home some points in this round. The Power have been gradually building over the first month, and – with the exception of their 114-point smashing at the hands of Eastern Ranges – have reduced the losing margin each week, whilst adding more scores on the board. The Bushrangers have been pretty solid across the season, competitive through most parts of the game, but just having a quarter or two here or there that sees the opposition add quick goals to blow out the margin. With the two teams to face-off, it will be fascinating to see who two young teams go at it.

The ruck battle immediately catches the eye, with Grace Matser and Ally Morphett set to go head-to-head in a clash of different styles. Matser has been finding more of the ball and moving well around the ground, while Morphett is hard to stop when she gets front position in a marking contest with safe hands. Key defender who can also play up the other end, Matilda Van Berkel has enjoyed a strong top-age season, while midfielder Grace McRae just keeps winning the ball. She will have a great battle on the inside with Keeley Skepper who has been building nicely in her bottom-age year, whilst Aurora Smith has been one of the most consistent players this season out on the wing.

Sunday Brisbane, Yasmine Duursma and Lily-Rose Williamson have provided the Power with plenty of run from defence and through the midfield, and they will be important in trying to bring the ball down in transition. The Bushrangers have a strong defence when it is all together, with Chloe Locke, Mindy Quade and Grace Hay among those capable of playing both offensive and defensive roles. Murray will look to Olivia Cicolini who has now kicked three goals in two games as a potential goal-scoring option, with Morphett also capable of dropping deep and converting set shots. Kristy Whitehead and Courtney Fletcher are among others who have impressed for their respective sides, often helping out in the back 50.

It is hard to pick a winner in this game because both have progressed throughout the year, but one thing is for sure, the winner will have plenty to celebrate.

 

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. WESTERN JETS
Sunday, March 21 @ 10.15am
RSEA Park

An early morning game at RSEA Park pits Sandringham Dragons up against Western Jets in a must-win match for both sides with just two rounds remaining after this game. They are both 1-4 for the season and a loss will ned their chances of a finals birth, while a win puts them back in the conversation if they can build the momentum in the final fortnight. Both these sides come into the game off the back of low-scoring losses, with the Jets getting close to the GWV Rebels, and the Dragons pushing the Chargers before losing out to the Stingrays midweek.

Scoring will be a premium for these sides who have stacked up well defensively, but, with the exception of Sandringham’s win over Gippsland – has seen them both restricted from putting big scores on the board. The Dragons have the capacity to score big when they get the fast ball inside 50, with Charli Murphy (eight goals) and Ebony Angelopoulos (seven) being among the top goalkickers in the league. Mia Zielinski has slotted four goals in three games to be a talented Under 16 player and a third option in attack. For the Jets, they have shared their goals around, with Annie Gray and Caitlin Sargent both slotting three goals apiece, while Kensley Ward and Montana Ham have the two each.

Charlotte Baskaran combines with Ham as some of the better metres-gained players in the competition, with the head-to-heads against the likes of Charlotte Ryan and Tayla Jones who provide the same run for their sides. Sofia Hurley and Kiana Lynch win a lot of ball on the inside, with Hurley able to burst out of the stoppage, but also win the ball back through tackling. Now having two games under her belt, Bridie Hipwell will be looking to make a statement here, while the defensive duo of Abby Thompson and Ella Schiberras were steadfast against the tie on Wednesday night. The Jets will be looking to bring the ball quickly in transition, such as Paige Ryan in defence and Jemima Woods up forward and through the ruck.

Another 50/50 game, the winner is difficult to pick, but both teams can move the ball pretty quickly which makes for an exciting game.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Sunday, March 21 @ 11.00am
Deakin University, Waurn Ponds

Down the highway at Waurn Ponds, the Geelong Falcons will be keen to put last week’s disappointment behind them, when they were beaten by newcomers Sydney Swans Academy. The Falcons were without key bookends, Renee Tierney and Annie Lee who played in the VFL Women’s match, but were just not able to generate enough effective scores to take down the determined Swans. Northern Knights are coming off a spirited come-from-behind win over Eastern Ranges following a tight loss to Calder Cannons the week before. Northern will hope it can bring the same momentum into the start of the game against the Falcons rather than rely on a late final quarter flurry to grab the points.

The Falcons midfield brigade of Tess Craven, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson has been one of the most consistent trios running around, with Ash Van Loon being the most dominant tackler in the NAB League Girls competition. She came off sore last match, but the Falcons have plenty of depth across the field with Elizabeth Dowling and Taiya Morrow in defence, and Gabbi Featherston and Lucy Were in attack. Keeley Hardingham and Analea McKee both had strong games in the Swans’ loss, while Ingrid Houtsma missed out on the match and is another player to watch going forward.

Northern Knights’ Under 16s talent Ava Jordan has put together a really promising debut season this year, being one of the most consistent ball-winners through midfield. With Maeve Chaplin missing through injury, Jordan stepped up through the midfield against the Ranges, teaming up well with Tarrah Delgado who switched from full-back into the middle late in the game. Brooke Plummer has provided some great run and carry on the outside, and having Ella Smallacombe, Trinity Mills and Megan Girolami up forward as targets, gives the Knights midfield – including AFL Women’s Academy member Maykaylah Appleby – players to look for inside 50.

Geelong Falcons will be hungry to bounce back in this game, while the Northern Knights will be riding high on their last quarter from Round 6, and keen to back it up from the first bounce in Round 7.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Sunday, March 21 @ 11.30am
MARS Stadium

The last game to kick off for the round is the big clash between GWV Rebels and Oakleigh Chargers at MARS Stadium. The Rebels will be hoping a home ground advantage can sway the game in their favour against an unbeaten Chargers outfit that has completed every challenge thrown at them. Oakleigh looks down on the rest of the competition with five wins from five games, while the Rebels have won three of five – including their past two – and will be heading in as underdogs to try and take down the premiership favourites.

Oakleigh Chargers have an array of midfield talent, led by inside ball-winner and powerful forward, Charlie Rowbottom who has not only been one of the better contested players, but has gone forward and kicked crunch goals, slotting six majors in five games this season. On the outside, Stella Reid has done a wealth of work across the ground, and slotted into half-back or half-forward when required as well as the wing where she predominantly plays. She has also hit the scoreboard with four majors, third behind Rowbottom and tall, Ameille Smith (five goals) in that areas. Up the other end, Alexander McCulloch and Brooke Vickers have won their fair share of ball and driven it outside 50, while Amanda Ling has become another prominent ball-winner for the Chargers.

The Rebels are a well-balanced side with great versatility, and have had some outstanding performers this season. A massive 11 players have averaged more than 10 disposals this season, with 10 of them playing at least four games. Chloe Leonard has patrolled the half-back line with Nyakoat Dojiok, while Lilli Condon has been a reliable accumulator in close and spreading well. Up forward, Paige Scott keeps kicking goals and now has eight to her name, while Tahlia Meier is averaging a goal a game, and their forward line spread has enabled Ella Friend to play up on a wing. Molly Walton has been a find for the Rebels on the last line as well, able to bring the ball from the danger zone to safety in her bottom-age season.

Oakleigh Chargers head in as favourites, but the GWV Rebels are every chance of causing an upset if they can continue their recent form and even team spread across the field.

NAB League Girls Round 2b & 7a preview: Casey Fields and Highgate to host midweek fixtures

IN a split first couple of nights, we take a look at the two games on Wednesday and Thursday night, with the Calder Cannons and Eastern Ranges game to be previewed on Thursday. Tonight it is Dandenong Stingrays up against Sandringham Dragons.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Wednesday, March 17 @ 7.30pm
Casey Fields

The first clash of the week takes place tonight and it is another Round 2 fixture that was missed during the Victorian snap lockdown, so both the Dandenong Stingrays and Sandringham Dragons will have to double-up over the weekend. The Stingrays will face Bendigo Pioneers up at Epsom Huntly on Saturday afternoon, while the Dragons will be up bright and early for a head-to-head with Western Jets at RSEA Park on Sunday morning. These teams come into the clash with 2-2 and 1-3 records respectively, though the Dragons won well against winless Gippsland Power, and pushed the undefeated Chargers all the way in the past two weeks, whilst the Stingrays are coming off tight losses to Oakleigh Chargers and Tasmania Devils back-to-back.

Emily Shepherd will remain a key out for the Stingrays, with the inside midfielder injured before half-time during Dandenong’s loss to Oakleigh 12 days ago. She will watch on as the likes of co-captains Ashleigh Richards and Abbey Jordan look to control the tempo, while the versatile Jemma Radford has been named in the middle. Expect the Stingrays to rely on their rotations, with Zoe Hill and Mackenzie Eardley holding down the fort in the key position defence slots, though Eardley has been known to swing forward in the second half and hit the scoreboard. A player that has no problem hitting the scoreboard is Amber Clarke, who has been piling on multiple scoring shots every week. She remains the danger player inside 50 for the home team, while Charley Ryan and Grace Chapman are others to keep an eye on.

For the Dragons, Bridie Hipwell returned last week after missing several weeks through an ankle injury sustained in the opening match, but with no Shepherd onball, she will be a crucial addition to the side for this game. Sofia Hurley is arguably one of the most in-form players in the competition of late, and is dominating around he stoppages, and spreading well. With Keely Coyne having a great season, and the forwardline duo of Charli Murphy and Ebony Angelopoulos combining well, the Dragons are quite consistent across the board. Mia Zielinksi is a real young talent to keep an eye on up forward, having already hit the scoreboard multiple times in her first two games, whilst Pia Staltari, Kiana Lynch and Tayla Jones are among the other players who have impressed thus far this season.

The game is a 50/50 match and under lights at Casey Fields should make for an amazing atmosphere. Dandenong should have the upper hand, though the Dragons have proven to have a versatile forward line that could do a lot of damage.

CALDER CANNONS vs. EASTERN RANGES
Thursday, March 18 @ 7.00pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

The second midweek clash of the round sees the start of Round 7 and the Calder Cannons up against Eastern Ranges at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The Cannons have strung three consecutive wins together since dropping their Round 3 game to Oakleigh, and accounted for Bendigo Pioneers and Northern Knights in tight contests, as well as a strong victory over Gippsland Power. Eastern Ranges on the other hand sit with two wins and two losses, starting the season off in good form with a victory over Western Jets, followed by a thumping of Gippsland Power. Since they they have gone down to Geelong Falcons and Northern Knights with the latter game of those results being one they let slip after being in control for most of the match.

Calder comes into the lineup with an incredibly strong side that just keeps ticking over the wins. The midfield of Tahlia Gillard, Georgie Prespakis, Zali Friswell and Olivia Manfre will be a tough one to combat, with Mali McLeod’s run on the outside, and the rotation of Emelia Yassir and Jessica Zakkour ensuring the Cannons bat pretty deep across the ground. In terms of talls, the Cannons have the reliable Kasey Lennox at the back, and Neve Crowley – who booted three goals in the last match out – up front alongside damaging smalls in Alisa Magri and Reese Sutton. As one of the most balanced sides that can scrap away and tick over the wins even when the game is not going their way, the Cannons will be favourite heading into the clash.

Eastern Ranges also have plenty of depth through the midfield with Bridget Deed, Jade Hutchinson and Isabel Khoury roving to Georgia Campbell whose contest with Gillard will be the matchup to watch on the night. Eastern have an advantage on the outside with the class and skill of Jorja Livingstone and Keeley Sherar who move the ball quickly and can impact the contest heavily. Up forward, Alyssia Pisano has already proven to be a damaging player when she gets on that left foot, with Scarlett Potter and Matilda Hardy also forward threads. In defence, Cadhla Schmidli and Mia Busch have performed at a high level, whilst the Ranges will also bring in a debutant with Ayla Cosgrove coming into the team for the game.

The midfield battle in particular will be fascinating to watch. The Cannons just keep getting it done, whilst the Ranges will be hungry to turn it around and make up for last week with a big four-quarter effort.

2021 NAB League Girls TOTW: Round 2a / Round 5

DUE to the ever-changing fixture and spread out nature of Round 2 in the NAB League Girls, this week’s Draft Central Team of the Week covers the three Round 5 matches, as well as the three completed Round 2 matches, Calder Cannons vs. Northern Knights, Tasmania Devils vs. Western Jets and Bendigo Pioneers vs. GWV Rebels. With some players playing two games and other teams not playing any, it made for a challenging week to select 24 players in the Team of the Week. In particular, the midfield squeeze was really felt, with so many quality performances seeing a couple slide into half-forward.

Six of the 10 teams that took to the field in the completed matches received three players apiece in our Team of the Week, with winners Calder Cannons, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, Oakleigh Chargers, Sandringham Dragons and Tasmania Devils all having a trio of players in there. Narrow losers Dandenong Stingrays had three players as well, while other losing sides Bendigo Pioneers and Western Jets had two apiece, and Gippsland Power and Northern Knights had the one each.

In the combined Team of the Week, Sandringham Dragons’ Sofia Hurley earned the captaincy following her best on ground performance, and subsequent Draft Central NAB League Girls Player of the Week nomination in her team’s win over Gippsland Power. Hurley is joined in the side by forwards Charli Murphy (five goals) and Ebony Angelopoulos (three), with this week’s front six a pretty formidable outfit. Their opponents Gippsland Power had the sole player in the side with ruck Grace Matser having a day out with her ruck work and around the ground effort.

The only team to grab two wins over the weekend and be the beneficiary of the vice-captain nod was Tasmania Devils, with Claire Ransom handed that honour for her two outstanding performances where she collected nine Draft Central Medal votes in those outings. She will slot into half-forward such is the strength of the midfield, with AFL Women’s Academy member and teammate, Perri King out on a wing. Teammate Jemma Webster makes her debut in the side after a strong performance off half-back for the Devils. Their victory over the Western Jets was despite the efforts of Paige Ryan who knocked up a whopping 13 rebounds in easily a league-high this season, and Montana Ham in midfield was also influential with her stoppage work.

GWV Rebels had the win over Bendigo Pioneers last night, with Paige Scott‘s three goals earning her a place inside 50, with key forward Ella Friend – who also played on the wing – back at centre half-forward. Lilli Condon rounds out the Rebels trio with a spot on the bench after another promising effort from the tenacious midfielder. The Pioneers suffered the two defeats to Tasmania and Western, but had the two players who made the side in Octavia Di Donato (centre half-back as the second tallest player there) and Elizabeth Snell (interchange). Tegan Williams also made the side again though this time as an emergency, alongside Dandenong Stingrays’ Abbey Jordan and Oakleigh Chargers’ Brooke Vickers.

Speaking of Dandenong and Oakleigh, their Friday night thriller yielded 25 per cent of the team with three players from each side making it in. Stingrays defenders Zoe Hill and Jaide Anthony were superb on the rebound, wile Amber Clarke almost single-handedly dragged her side over the line with three goals. Oakleigh’s Charlie Rowbottom kicked two clutch goals, while Stella Reid had the ball on a string and could be named anywhere but finds herself at half-forward, and Alexandra McCulloch at half-back. Rounding out the side from the night before was Calder Cannons’ jet Georgie Prespakis on a wing, along with teammates, Tahlia Gillard and Alisa Magri who both made the bench, and Northern Knights’ Ava Jordan who is an exciting prospect for a couple of years time.

DRAFT CENTRAL TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 2A / ROUND 5

B: Paige Ryan (WJ) – Zoe Hill (DS) – Jaide Anthony (DS)
HB: Alexandra McCulloch (OC)- Octavia Di Donato (BP) – Jemma Webster (TD)
C: Georgie Prespakis (CC) – Sofia Hurley (SD) (c) – Perri King (TD)
HF: Stella Reid (OC) – Ella Friend (GWV) – Claire Ransom (TD) (vc)
F: Amber Clarke (DS) – Charli Murphy (SD) – Paige Scott (GWV)
R: Grace Matser (GP) – Charlie Rowbottom (OC) – Montana Ham (WJ)
INT: Ebony Angelopoulos (SD) – Lilli Condon (GWV) – Tahlia Gillard (CC) – Ava Jordan (NK) – Alisa Magri (CC) – Elizabeth Snell (BP)

EMG: Abbey Jordan (DS) – Brooke Vickers (OC) – Tegan Williams (BP)

2021 NAB League Girls R2a wrap & R6a preview: Rebels topple Pios as Dragons and Chargers face off in midweek fixture

THE flexible NAB League Girls fixture has meant a number of midweek games take place, so in this article we wrap up last night’s contest which saw the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels defeat Bendigo Pioneers at Epsom Huntly Reserve, as well as preview the big clash between Sandringham Dragons and Oakleigh Chargers at RSEA Park.

BENDIGO PIONEERS 0.0 | 0.1 | 1.5 | 1.5 (11)
GWV REBELS 3.2 | 5.5 | 7.5 | 10.8 (68)

GOALS:

Bendigo: O. Di Donato.
GWV: P. Scott 3, M. Ciavarella, Z. Larkins, J. Jones, A. Trigg, R. Stephens, L. Jordan, T. Meier.

DC BEST:

Bendigo: O. Di Donato, C. Dorrity, T. Williams, K. Fullerton, J. Richardson
GWV: P. Scott, E. Friend, L. Condon, M. Walton, N. Dojiok

The GWV Rebels moved to 2-2 for the 2021 NAB League Girls season, bouncing back from a heavy loss against the Dandenong Stingrays to post a big win of their own. In a rescheduled Wednesday night fixture between the Rebels and Bendigo Pioneers, the Rebels were just too strong as their big guns fired to win by 57 points. A brave Bendigo outfit – missing the likes of AFL Women’s Academy member Tara Slender and top ball-winner Elizabeth Snell – was competitive at different points, but some missed opportunities in front of goal hurt.

It was all the Rebels early, as they dominated possession and put the defence under siege. The Pioneers back six held up well with Charli Dorrity and Octavia Di Donato among the early ball winners, and Tegan Williams having a stint in the ruck. Paige Scott had the ball on a string throughout the game, but the first quarter she practically brought her own footy, as the Rebels went out to a 20-point lead. That extended to 34 points by the main break, though the Pioneers had picked up and were providing more attacking footy. The third term saw the home team get on the scoreboard through Di Donato who almost had a second major when she was thrown forward, but the Rebels still won the quarter to extend the lead out to 36 points.

Three goals in the final term to the Rebels put an exclamation mark on a wonderful performance, winning 10.8 (68) to 1.5 (11) in a real even effort across the board. Scott finished the match with three majors, while Ella Friend‘s work between half-forward and the wing was a standout. Lilli Condon kept finding the footy in close and Nyakoat Dojiok and Molly Walton were relentless in defence. For the Pioneers, Di Donato was impressive across the four quarters, as Dorrity, Williams, Keeley Fullerton and Jayda Richardson also caught the eye with their performances.

Both teams will get somewhat of a break until Saturday, March 20 when the Pioneers host Dandenong Stingrays at Epsom Huntly Reserve, 12.30pm. The Rebels take to MARS Stadium the day after to lock horns with Oakleigh Chargers from 11.30am.

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)
4 – Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)
3 – Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)
2 – Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)
1 – Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Thursday, March 11 @ 6.30pm
RSEA Park

A blockbuster Thursday night fixture between Sandringham Dragons and Oakleigh Chargers takes place from 6.30pm at RSEA Park Moorabbin in a match anticipated to provide plenty of future talent. The Dragons grabbed their first win of the season with an impressive victory over Gippsland Power at Ronald Reserve on Sunday, and the Chargers withstood their greatest challenge thus far against Dandenong Stingrays to post back-to-back single-digit victories in the 2021 NAB League Girls season.

The Dragons will hope to welcome back inside midfielder Bridie Hipwell for the clash having sustained an ankle injury back in Round 1. Hipwell is a crucial part of the Dragons makeup, particularly as that bigger body on the inside to go head-to-head with Charlie Rowbottom. The latter continued her great form in the Chargers’ victory over the Stingrays, kicking two goals in clutch moments to stand up when it counted. Stella Reid suffered leather poisoning in that match, as she racked up a ridiculous amount of touches and work rate far surpassed anyone else, winning it in all thirds of the ground. She has a chance to go up against the likes of Dragons’ talent Sofia Hurley who had the ball on a string herself against the Power, and earned our Draft Central Player of the Week for Round 5.

Pia Staltari has been a neat user coming off half-back, with Chloe Saultry and Kiana Lynch providing that inside presence. With Keely Coyne, Emma Stuber and Tayla Jones also adding great depth and run to the midfield group, the Dragons have no shortage of developing talent. Even up forward, Charli Murphy slotted five goals last start, and Ebony Angelopoulos managed three, while debutant Mia Zielinski made a promising start with two majors from three scoring shots in the win against the Power. For the Chargers, Eliza James, Amanda Ling and Brooke Vickers have all been crucial players in their respective areas, while Alexandra McCulloch caught the eye under Friday night lights with her best NAB League performance against the Stingrays.

If the defence of the Chargers can hold firm like it did against the Stingrays, then they will be hard to beat, while up front they just find players to kick goals with Ameille Smith and Holly Kenealy both kicking three goals in different games, and Taylah Morton always dangerous close to goal. The Chargers’ forward line is helped out by the rotating midfielders, while the Dragons have some reliable targets to kick to, both in the air and winning it at ground level. The undefeated Chargers will be favourites for this clash, but if Hipwell returns for the Dragons, expect it to be a fierce contest on the inside.

Stat Leaders: NAB League Girls Round 2a & 5 – Ham, Reid make their mark

THE LAST five days have seen as many NAB League Girls games played out over said time, completing Round 5 and making up for some lost Round 2 fixtures. A number of top performers stood out across the extended run of matches, translating to some formidable numbers on the stat sheet. We take a look at this week’s stat leaders.

Two players topped multiple categories during the five-day stretch, with Oakleigh’s Stella Reid and Western’s Montana Ham racking up huge numbers in impactful performances. Reid notched a season-high 29 disposals as her Chargers scraped home by a point over Dandenong, while Ham laid 11 tackles in the Jets’ loss to Tasmania. Both players also achieved round-high inside 50 counts of seven, as Paige Ryan pumped forward 13 rebounds.

Tasmania played twice within three days and picked up consecutive wins to boot, making their Victorian travels all the more fruitful. Speaking of, Perri King racked up a competition-high 20 kicks not once, but twice as her Devils won out over Bendigo and Western. Fellow Tasmanians Claire Ransom and Madison Brazendale featured atop the handball and inside 50 charts respectively.

In front of goal, Charli Murphy stood head and shoulders above the rest with a haul of five-straight majors as Sandringham thumped Gippsland on Sunday. In the same game, Power ruck Grace Matser had the week’s most hitouts for the second time running with 23, while Matilda Van Berkel‘s six marks put her level with a trio of Bendigo Pioneers in that stat. Those three players were Tara Slender, Emma Gilligan, and Octavia Di Donato.

Find the full list of Round 2 and 5’s stat leaders below.

ROUND 2a/5 STAT LEADERS

Disposals:
Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers) – 29

Kicks:
Perri King (Tasmania Devils) – 20

Handballs:
Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils) – 15

Marks:
Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers) – 6
Emma Gilligan (Bendigo Pioneers) – 6
Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers) – 6
Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power) – 6

Tackles:
Montana Ham (Western Jets) – 11

Inside 50s:
Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers) – 7
Montana Ham (Western Jets) – 7
Madison Brazendale (Tasmania Devils) – 7

Rebound 50s:
Paige Ryan (Western Jets) – 13

Hitouts:
Grace Matser (Gippsland Power) – 23

Goals:
Charli Murphy (Sandringham Dragons) – 5

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 2a/5 wrap – Quick turnaround puts Tassie back on track

A STRETCH of five games in as many days saw Round 5 of the NAB League Girls season completed, while a couple of Round 2 make-up games were also on the agenda. Tasmania made the most of a quick turnaround to register consecutive wins in no time, while Oakleigh remains undefeated after the game of the season as Calder and Sandringham also registered points. All that, and more in our weekly wrap.

CALDER CANNONS 0.2 | 1.3 | 4.5 | 4.5 (29)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 | 2.3 (15)

GOALS:

Calder: A. Magri 3, H. Cashmore
Northern: T. Mills, S. Mooney

DC BEST:

Calder: G. Prespakis, T. Gillard, Z. Friswell, E. Yassir, A. McDonald
Northern: A. Jordan, T. Pulcino, M. Barnes, T. Hurst, T. Delgado

The first reshuffled Round 2 fixture saw Calder Cannons overcome the Northern Knights by 14 points under lights on Thursday. It was a hotly contested game throughout, with neither team giving the other an easy go at anything. The Knights dominated possession and disposal counts, but it was ultimately the class and composure of the Cannons that saw them come out on top.

Georgie Prespakis was unsurprisingly the standout for Calder in the engine room, shaking an attempted tag to top the disposal count, even finding herself playing off half-back at times as well. Over-ager Tallia Pulcino topped Northern’s disposal charts alongside 2023-eligible Ava Jordan, both working hard through the midfield all game. Cannons’ Alisa Magri snagged herself three goals for the game to help spearhead her side to victory.

Round 6 sees the Cannons taking on the winless Gippsland Power at Ronald Reserve in Morwell on Sunday morning, while the Northern Knights will play the Brisbane Lions Academy at La Trobe University in their first NAB League game, later on the same day.

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder)
4 – Ava Jordan (Northern)
3 – Tahlia Gillard (Calder)
2 – Tallia Pulcino (Northern)
1 – Megan Barnes (Northern) 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 0.0 | 1.0 | 3.1 | 4.2 (26)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.1 | 2.2 | 3.3 | 4.3 (27)

GOALS:

Dandenong: A. Clarke 3, A. Richards
Oakleigh: C. Rowbottom 2, T. Morton, K. James

DC BEST:

Dandenong: A. Clarke, Z. Hill, J. Anthony, A. Jordan, F. Crank, A. Richards
Oakleigh: C. Rowbottom, S. Reid, A. McCulloch, B. Vickers, E. James, T. Morton

Oakleigh Chargers defeated the Dandenong Stingrays by a single point in Seaford on Friday night, as the two flag fancies locked horns for the game of the season thus far. In what was a tense and highly contested affair, the cream ultimately rose to the top as Oakleigh held on to win 4.3 (27) to 4.2 (26).

The Chargers skipped away early before three-consecutive Amber Clarke goals gave Dandenong the ascendancy. Having absorbed a heap of pressure, Oakleigh hit back and snuck ahead via the boot of Charlie Rowbottom, who popped up at the clutch moments with a couple of big contested marks and resultant goals.

Rowbottom was again best afield with her important work rotating forward through midfield, while Stella Reid led all comers with 29 disposals. Alexandra McCulloch and Brooke Vickers were important figures down back, as the likes of Tayla Morton and Jorja Jackson were lively inside attacking 50.

Clarke very nearly proved Dandenong’s hero with three of the Stingrays’ four goals, leading from the front as Zoe Hill and Jaide Anthony thrived in defence, and Abbey Jordan added some grunt in midfield. Unfortunately, star Stingray Emily Shepherd was helped off during the second term and played no further part in the game.

Dandenong’s next assignment comes against a red-hot Tasmania Devils outfit on the Apple Isle in Round 6, while Oakleigh is set to face Sandringham in somewhat of a regional rivalry.

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh)
4 – Amber Clarke (Dandenong)
3 – Stella Reid (Oakleigh)
2 – Zoe Hill (Dandenong)
1 – Alexandra McCulloch (Oakleigh)

BENDIGO PIONEERS 2.3 | 2.3 | 2.3 | 2.3 (15)
TASMANIA DEVILS 0.2 | 2.5 | 2.7 | 7.7 (53)

GOALS:

Bendigo: E. Snell, O. Di Donato
Tasmania: A. Bissett 2, K. Hennessy, A. Prokopiec, M. Edwards, E. Maurer, B. Barwick

DC BEST:

Bendigo: E. Snell, O. Di Donato, T. Williams, T. Slender, S. Orritt, E. Gilligan
Tasmania: C. Ransom, J. Webster, P. King, M. Gaffney, A. Crooks, A. Bissett

Tasmania Devils overcame a slow first quarter to tighten the screws and restrict the Bendigo Pioneers from scoring in the last three quarters for a memorable 38-point victory at La Trobe University. The Pioneers flew out of the blocks in the opening term with Elizabeth Snell and Octavia Di Donato getting on the board to see the Pioneers race to a 13-point quarter time lead. Little did anyone know, their score would not increase after quarter time, as the Devils came to play for the rest of the match. Despite kicking the last seven goals of the game, only two of them came in the next two quarters – with the third term yielding none – for a narrow four-point final break lead. The floodgates opened up in the last quarter as Tasmania piled on five-straight majors to run out 7.7 (53) to 2.3 (15) victors.

In a game that fiercely contested, Claire Ransom was clean and composed with ball-in-hand, using it well around the stoppages, while Jemma Webster and Perri King created their own space from the back half going forward. Meghan Gaffney was particularly busy in the first half, while Amy Bissett slotted two majors, and Amy Prokopiec was close to having another day out, but just missed a couple of chances. The Devils had a fairly even team performance across the board on the day. For the Pioneers, Snell put in a four-quarter effort to be their best, while Di Donato and Tegan Williams held up in the back half – with Di Donato also spending time forward early – and Tara Slender was her usual reliable self all around the ground.

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Claire Ransom (Tasmania)
4 – Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo)
3 – Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo)
2 – Jemma Webster (Tasmania)
1 – Perri King (Tasmania)

GIPPSLAND POWER 1.0 | 2.0 | 2.0 | 3.2 (20)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 4.2 | 7.2 | 10.4 | 12.4 (76)

GOALS:

Gippsland: H. Booth, H. Woolfe, P. Tracey
Sandringham: C. Murphy 5, E. Angelopoulos 3, M. Zielinski 2, J. Betts, P. Staltari

DC BEST:

Gippsland: G. McRae, G. Matser, M. Van Berkel, L. Williamson, Y. Duursma, I. Makai
Sandringham: S. Hurley, E. Angepoulos, C. Murphy, J. Anderson, C. Ryan, P. Staltari

Sandringham Dragons are on the board in season 2021 following a comprehensive 56-point victory over Gippsland Power in Morwell East. The game started off relatively evenly with both sides kicking goals through Charli Murphy and Hayley Woolfe respectively, but the scoreboard began ticking over for the visitors as they piled on six consecutive goals before the Power scored a late one to cut the half time deficit to 32 points. The dominance continued in the third term with three more majors going the way of the Dragons, before an early Holly Booth goal in the final term got the Power back on the board, prior to the Dragons finishing off with a 12.4 (76) to 3.2 (20) victory.

The tall-small duo of Murphy (five goals) and Ebony Angelopoulos (three) was a damaging one, often creating space and providing either a marking target or defensive pressure inside 50. Sofia Hurley was a standout best on ground though, dominating around the stoppages and often reading Grace Matser‘s taps who took control at the ruck stoppages. For Gippsland, Grace McRae was as reliable as ever, whilst Matilda Van Berkel and Lily-Rose Williamson tried hard in defence. The depth of the Dragons was on show though, with the likes of J’Noemi Anderson, Pia Staltari and Charlotte Ryan all having impacts on the game, as Mia Zielinski slotted two goals.

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Sofia Hurley (Sandringham)
4 – Ebony Angelopoulos (Sandringham)
3 – Charli Murphy (Sandringham)
2 – Grace McRae (Gippsland)
1 – Grace Matser (Gippsland)

WESTERN JETS 0.0 | 0.1 | 0.1 | 0.1 (1)
TASMANIA DEVILS 2.1 | 2.4 | 4.6 | 5.9 (39)

GOALS:

Western: Nil.
Tasmania: A. Edmand 2, P. King, B. Barwick, A. Prokopiec

DC BEST:

Western: M. Ham, P. Ryan, C. Baskaran, J. Woods, C. Tyrrell
Tasmania: P. King, C. Ransom, M. Gaffney, M. Brazendale, J. Webster

Tasmania made it two wins in three days against the Western Jets in their reshuffled Round 2 fixture on Monday, in a remarkable effort where they lead from the first goal. Despite having less than 48 hours’ rest, the Devils looked to control the game for most of the day, rarely conceding a mark inside defensive 50 and transitioning well on their way to the 38-point victory.

Perri King and Claire Ransom were the major players for Tasmania all day, controlling the tempo of the game with ball in hand and being consistent ball winners in the midfield and, in King’s case, up forward as well. For the Jets, star bottom-ager Montana Ham battled hard all day through the midfield, whilst fellow 2022 draft eligible talent Paige Ryan was a shining light in the Jets’ backline.

Western Jets next come up against GWV Rebels at MARS Stadium on Sunday morning, while Tasmania will welcome Dandenong Stingrays to Penguin Reserve on Saturday afternoon in Round 6.

DC Medal Votes

5 – Perri King (Tasmania)
4 – Claire Ransom (Tasmania)
3 – Montana Ham (Western)
2 – Paige Ryan (Western)
1 – Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania)

2021 NAB League Girls: 5 Memorable Moments – Round 2a/5

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition continued with a five-day string of fixtures, playing out Round 5 and making up for some of the postponed Round 2 matchups. In continuing our new weekly series, we take a look at the most memorable moments from each match; whether they be game-defining feats, big marks, glorious goals, or otherwise. There has been plenty of eye-catching action over the last few days, as the best Victorian girls churned out another batch of impressive feats.

Calder Cannons vs. Northern Knights

Mooney opens on the money

By: Declan Reeve

In what was always expected to be a close and physical contest, either attrition or individual moments of brilliance would help break the game open as Northern met Calder. It was the latter to start off, as Knights bottom-ager Simone Mooney got her side on the board. She got on the end of an Ella Smallacombe kick in the first quarter, about 30 metres from goal, before pushing off a Calder defender and slotting the first major of the game. Way to set the tone.

Dandenong Stingrays vs. Oakleigh Chargers

Amber gives Dandy the green light

By: Michael Alvaro

There were plenty of players afield capable of winning the game off their own boot as Oakleigh and Dandenong went head-to-head, and while it ended up being Charlie Rowbottom for the Chargers, Amber Clarke was very nearly the Stingrays’ hero. Having set up a two-goal buffer, the Chargers were pegged back by Clarke in the second and third terms. She was most impactful when stationed deep inside 50 during the third quarter, putting her side ahead in a flash with consecutive goals to dramatically turn the tables. Finishing with three of Dandenong’s four goals, Clarke’s efforts were far from fruitless in the loss.

Bendigo Pioneers vs. Tasmania Devils

Di Donato’s siren-beating goal

By: Peter Williams

It might not have been their day, but Octavia Di Donato‘s siren-beater from long range was an effort difficult to forget. With Bendigo having a lot of the play in the opening term and leading by just seven points, Di Donato grabbed the ball and threw it on her boot. The favourable bounce and help from the wind saw it get through right at the final moment for the Pioneers in what was a high moment for the home team prior to the Devils hitting back.

Gippsland Power vs. Sandringham Dragons

The Murphy and Angelopoulos show

By: Peter Williams

Sandringham Dragons forwards Charli Murphy and Ebony Angelopoulos had days out in front of goal against Gippsland Power, slotting eight of their team’s 12 goals in the big win. It was the first half that really set them up with Murphy booting three of her five, and Angelopoulos slotting two of her three, which at that stage was combined for five of the Dragons’ seven majors to half time. They all but ended the contest in that opening half with their strength and body positioning in the marking contest, and helped the Dragons secure their first win of the year.

Western vs. Tasmania

Tassie teamwork makes the dream work

By: Declan Reeve

A quick turnaround did little to wilt Tasmania’s energy and creativity against Western, and this small snippet of excellence proved as much. The Devils’ Amy Edmand tapped down cleverly to an oncoming Amy Bissett, who crumbed the play perfectly before sending a deep kick inside 50 that eventually led to Tasmania’s second goal. The synergy is there for the Devils in 2021.

NAB League Girls Round 2a & 5 preview: Footy feast sees six games across seven days

IN a very different footballing landscape, change has become something that everyone has had to deal with in one way or another, and in 2021, the NAB League Girls competition has managed to find a way to make up for lost time. The Round 2 fixtures which were cancelled due to Victoria’s snap lockdown will be played over a few weeks, in midweek fixtures, including three of the six matches over the next six days. These three matches will coincide with the three regular Round 5 matches which were scheduled to take place anyway, meaning fans will be able to attend all six games across six different days.

CALDER CANNONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Thursday, March 4 @ 7pm
RAMS Arena, Craigieburn

Kicking off the long weekend is the first of the Round 2 rescheduled fixtures with Calder Cannons hosting Northern Knights at prime time on a Thursday night. It is arguably not what the grand final rematch of 2019 was expected to be, but the teams will be able to strut their stuff in the first night game of the season. Daylight savings help the players with light for most of the match, though expect both these teams to have to adapt to the conditions – much like the ever-changing fixture. Both these sides come in with 2-1 records, having both lost to Oakleigh Chargers, whilst both have also accounted for Sandringham Dragons. On the weekend, Calder scraped across the line in a thrilling comeback against Bendigo Pioneers, whilst Northern put Gippsland Power to the sword in Morwell East.

After their respective Round 1 matches, coming into the initial Round 2 fixtures, it was seeming like Calder Cannons were red-hot favourites for the grand final rematch. Having just taken care of Sandringham Dragons while the Knights were blitzed by Oakleigh, it was no better time for the 2019 runners-up to strike. A week – let alone two – is a long time in football, with a stirring final term from the Cannons up at Epsom Huntly saving them from back-to-back losses since that Round 1 win. The Knights on the other hand booted three goals in six minutes against the Dragons in the opening term of their Round 3 encounter, and have not stopped kicking them since, winning both their games by large margins. Megan Girolami is the in-form player of the competition, booting nine goals from her two games and seems to be the lucky charm the Knights needed since the Round 1 defeat.

The Cannons defence is well-balanced across the board, with Kasey Lennox the rock at the back, and Peppa Poultney and Neve Crowley both capable of dropping back and helping out, while Tahlia Gillard can play at either end. It will need to be a team effort to try and contain the Knights’ forward line which includes the likes of Trinity Mills (three goals on the weekend) and Ella Smallacombe, who have become leading targets inside 50. Maeve Chaplin copped a knock early in the win against Gippsland Power and sat out the entire second half as a precaution, but has been named to face the Cannons. She is crucial in there to face the likes of Georgie Prespakis and Emelia Yassir who win plenty of the ball in close. Maykaylah Appleby returns to the side in a crucial inclusion for the Knights to provide some extra run, whilst for the Cannons, Zali Friswell will join Gillard, Prespakis and Yassir in the middle to form a deadly onball combination.

This is set to be a cracker, and it will come down to whether or not Calder can control the ball through the midfield to limit the supply to Northern’s damaging forwards, or if the Knights can use the ball well enough going forward to isolate the well-organised Cannons defence.

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Friday, March 5 @ 7.45pm
Linen House Centre, Seaford

A top-of-the-table clash between unbeaten sides, Dandenong Stingrays and Oakleigh Chargers takes place at prime time on Friday night down at Linen House Centre in Seaford. The Stingrays have only played the two games but have not put a foot wrong, accounting for the Western Jets and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels in Rounds 3 and 4 after a bye in Round 1, and the lockdown in Round 2. Oakleigh Chargers easily saw past Northern Knights in the opening round, then took out one of the title contenders in Calder Cannons, before having to fight tooth-and-nail on the Apple Isle after Tasmania Devils took it right up to them for four quarters in an absolute epic contest. Now the sides come in unblemished, and with ridiculous depth across all the lines, making it a must-watch contest from the get-go.

The Stingrays come in with one of the strongest back six combinations going around. With Zoe Hill and Mackenzie Eardley holding down the fort – and the latter also going forward and kicking two goals last week – and Jaide Anthony in ripping form, Dandenong is hard to score against. Brooke Smith provides the classy run out of the back half, while in the front half, Amber Clarke has the speed to burn and hits the scoreboard as well. The Chargers do not rely on one source for goals, with Ameille Smith slotting three in the opening game, and Holly Kenealy being the key scorer with three of her own on the weekend in a low-scoring contest. Stella Reid has impacted the scoreboard off a wing, while Charlie Rowbottom can do it all from the inside midfield.

The matchup to watch has to be between two of the most in-form midfielders in the competition in Rowbottom and Emily Shepherd, who have natural ball-winning skills and the ability to go forward and have a huge impact on the scoreboard. With Amanda Ling and Abbey Jordan sharing similar athletic traits, there are plenty of matchups throughout the middle to keep an eye on. In defence, Brooke Vickers has been a reliable player, while Reid has been one to drop back and provide an extra number when required, which might be so against a Stingrays outfit that can attack quickly. Jemma Radford leads the Stingrays goalkicking with four majors in her two games, whilst Clarke and Ashleigh Richards have both slotted three this season.

It is near-impossible to predict a winner in this one, the Stingrays are at home which might give them the upper hand, but one thing is for sure, this is set to be a beauty, and based on form, one of the potential grand final previews.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS
Saturday, March 6 @ 2pm
LaTrobe University, Mill Park

Nothing is better for motivation than coming within a whisker of a huge upset but falling narrowly short. Luckily for spectators heading to LaTrobe University on Saturday, both these teams are in a similar boat. Bendigo Pioneers looked about a goal away from being home against Calder Cannons, only for a stunning last term fightback and the Cannons to storm home with three majors and the win in what was a brave, but ultimately disappointing loss for the players who showed just what they were capable of. No doubt during the week what they achieved for three quarters will have been emphasised, and they will be ready to go against a Tasmania Devils outfit that pushed the unbeaten Oakleigh Chargers to the limit. Perhaps the most impressive aspect was the fact the Devils were smashed by the Chargers to the tune of 102 points 12 months ago, and they were neck-and-neck with them to the final siren this year.

Tara Slender continues to defy the realms of positional possibilities, after the key defender turned key forward developed into a midfielder on the weekend where she racked up a round-high 28 disposals. It showed the high-end Vic Country prospect can be utilised in any role, and it helped nullify the impact of the Cannons midfielders. Against the Devils, she will likely be added as a target again, but Tasmania have some quick players who can move the ball in transition, led by Perri King and Claire Ransom in the mid-forward half of the ground. The key for the Pioneers will be winning the ball at the stoppages and using it well when extracting it, with the likes of Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson – when rolling through the ruck – those contested ball winners.

Up forward, Amy Prokopiec booted four goals against Gippsland Power in Round 1 and can be a danger against most opposition, with a potential head-to-head with the in-form Tegan Williams something to keep an eye on. Some of the more in-form players over the first few weeks for the Pioneers include Jemma Finning and Octavia Di Donato in the back half, as well as Drew Ryan and Lily den Houting who know how to find the football. Tasmania’s Ella Maurer had a strong performance with 20 touches in Round 4, whilst Meghan Gaffney and Madison Brazendale accumulate the ball on a regular basis. Candice Belbin has been used to distribute in the back half, while Aprille Crooks is another defender who can play up the ground as well.

Another 50/50 contest, it is hard to pick which side gets up in this game, with both teams clearly improved on their 2020 seasons, and it means that for one of them, they will grab their second win of the season.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Sunday, March 7 @ 12pm
Ronald Reserve, Morwell East

Two winless sides clash on Sunday in a midday battle at Ronald Reserve in Morwell East. The Sandringham Dragons are rested and ready to go after a break in Round 4, having lost to Calder Cannons and Northern Knights in Round 1 and Round 2 respectively. They now make the trek down the highway to face a Gippsland Power side that is coming off three consecutive losses to start the season. The 62, 114 and 72-point losses do not look favourable on paper, but for patches throughout those games the Power were able to remain competitive and match it with the opposition. That being said, with lapses costing goals, it is hard to win games, and Gippsland will be hoping another home game at Ronald Reserve will help them push the Dragons here.

The Dragons will see this as a crucial game to win and kick-start their season given the busy schedule coming up which will feature a Wednesday night fixture against Dandenong Stingrays in a couple of weeks. Pia Staltari has been a ray of consistency for the Dragons, coming out of defence and being a steady head with ball-in-hand. She will be tasked with clearing the defensive zone, given the Power can match the Dragons on the inside with bigger bodies such as Grace McRae and Lily-Rose Williamson, which could mean more clearances and inside 50s. While the Power have strength, the Dragons have speed, and a number of outside players who can run the ball in transition such as Kiana Lynch, Keely Coyne and Charlotte Ryan.

Bridie Hipwell has been a huge loss for the Dragons as that bigger body at the stoppages, and against the Knights, it was the likes of Chaplin who took full advantage. Gippsland Power will be favoured to get first hands to it at the stoppage through Grace Matser who played her best NAB League game last week, while Sofia Hurley and Chloe Saultry will bring the tackling pressure required in there. Ebony Angelopoulos will look to get on the end of a few goals, leading the team with three majors and key forward Charli Murphy having two. The Power have only booted the two goals, but have some promising talent coming through for next year led by Williamson and Yasmin Duursma in midfield.

Sandringham Dragons are favourites in this one given the team’s respective losses, but Gippsland should be able to get first hands on it through the ruck and bigger bodies inside, so it will be up to how they use the ball going forward that will be key.

 

WESTERN JETS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS
Monday, March 8 @ 11am
RAMS Arena, Craigieburn

Preview to come Sunday.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GWV REBELS
Wednesday, March 10 @ 6pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve, Epsom

Preview to come Tuesday.

NAB League Girls Round 3 preview: Teams return after quick fixture switch

A SNAP lockdown and subsequent quick team swap later, and the NAB League Girls competition is set to return tomorrow for Round 3 of action. The Round 2 matches have been postponed, though with the border restrictions coming into play and 14 days quarantine required for any person from Victoria to enter Tasmania, it meant the Devils could not play their road trip against Eastern Ranges. Instead the Ranges will suit up as if Round 2 had have gone ahead, playing Gippsland Power, albeit as a home game at Kilsyth rather than on the road at Morwell East.

CALDER CANNONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, February 20 @ 10am
Highgate Recreation Reserve, Craigieburn

First up in Round 3 is a battle of two heavyweights who are considered serious title contenders in the NAB League Girls competition. Calder Cannons have an array of talent from AFL Women’s Academy members to talls and smalls who provide balanced depth across the field. Oakleigh Chargers also have great depth, and disposed of the Northern Knights quite easily in Round 1, showing off a number of young players who stepped up to the mark. Both these teams head in off the back of a win following the Cannons’ strong second half showing against the Dragons a fortnight ago.

The onball matchups could be where the game is won and lost with AFL Women’s Academy members, Tahlia Gillard and Georgie Prespakis, as well as talented ball-winner Emelia Yassir named for the Cannons there. Ameille Smith – who snagged three goals on debut up forward last week –  has a massive task up against Gillard, while Amanda Ling and Charlie Rowbottom make it a dream contested bout. The potential matchup between Rowbottom and Prespakis in particular will catch eyes as two of the top Vic Metro prospects going head-to-head.

Outside the midfield, both teams have plenty of depth, with Stella Reid having an outstanding game in Round 1, playing off a wing but able to float back to half-back and assist there. She takes on Mali McLeod who is one of a number of Cannons with plenty of talent, such as the key defence post of Kasey Lennox and Neve Crowley. With Oakleigh having dangerous smaller forwards such as Taylah Morton and Jorja Jackson inside 50, the ball entry could be key as to how the game pans out.

In Round 1, Oakleigh proved the second most efficient with ball-in-hand, averaging 22 disposals and four inside 50s per goal in the Chargers’ win over the Knights. Calder adopted a handball-oriented style against Sandringham, with the teams two of the top three with lowest kick-to-handball ratio. Defensively the Cannons hit the contest hard, ranked third overall for tackles in Round 1 – laying 92 tackles – while the Chargers produced just the 50 as they played some impressive disposal-footy to keep the ball off their opponents and use their outside run.

This game will be more contested, but it will be particularly interesting to see which team can get the game on their teams for longer. Both have an abundance of talent, and it sets up as a potentials finals preview.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, February 20 @ 10am
Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve, Bendigo

Heading further north, a double-header at Epsom Huntly Reserve in Bendigo takes place for four of the country teams to do battle. In the first game, Bendigo Pioneers and Geelong Falcons lock horns in a chance to start the 2021 season with a 2-0 record. The Pioneers came to play on the border up against Murray Bushrangers, taking care of business by 16 points, while Geelong Falcons ground out a win against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at Deakin University on the Sunday, in what was an entertaining contest.

What Round 1 showed is both these teams can find their own footy, with Geelong ranked first overall for disposals and handballs, while Bendigo ranked first for kicks. The Pioneers adopted a kick-dominant style, where they produced 104 more kicks than handballs for a competition-high 73.6 per cent kick-to-handball ratio. The Falcons were lower at 61.1 per cent, but they balanced their style, also ranking second for kicks behind the Pioneers for the round. Both the teams also impressed in the air, with the Falcons ranking first for marks, and Bendigo third, while they were also top five for tackles. Bendigo was the only side to finish the round top five in both inside 50s and rebounds, while Geelong really took control in the ruck, ranked in the top five for hitouts, with Bendigo lowly in that area.

This week it will be Madeline Marks‘ chance to arrest some of that Falcons’ dominance in the ruck, coming up against Keeley Hardingham who got first hands to it against the GWV Rebels in Round 1, teaming up well with Analea McKee as both combined for 31 hitouts. Marks and Jayda Richardson did the majority of the ruck work for the Pioneers, having stiff opposition in Bushrangers talent and AFL Women’s Academy member, Ally Morphett. Also roaming around in the midfield with some experience are the likes of Elizabeth Snell and Lily den Houting, while fellow top-age returnee Jemma Finning can roll through the midfield too after coming off half-back. The Falcons shone bright on ball last week, with Tess Craven and Poppy Schaap racking up a truckload of the ball, as did the versatile Charlotte Simpson.

Ingrid Houtsma has been named on a wing after playing both centre half-forward and centre half-back in Round 1, showing off her versatility as a taller player. The Geelong forward dynamic is really damaging, with captain Lucy Were, contested marking specialist Renee Tierney, and the quick Gabbi Featherston all offering different aspects to the front six. One key player who could assist at either end not named is Tara Slender, with the AFL Women’s Academy player missing for Round 3. Instead the younger Pioneers will be required to step up, with bottom-agers Tegan Williams and Octavia Di Donato providing good rebound. Lila Keck showed some promising signs in Round 1, and the forward line of the Pioneers will come up against the likes of Elizabeth Dowling and Annie Lee who both impressed in Round 1.

Geelong Falcons have a well-balanced side and would be tipped to win here, especially with Bendigo missing Slender. Though based on Round 1, the Pioneers will put it up to the Falcons and do have the home ground advantage.

EASTERN RANGES vs, GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, February 20 @ 12pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve, Kilsyth

One of the few teams to actually be benefited from the Round 2 bye was Gippsland Power, with ruck Grace Matser – injured in the first round – not named for Round 2 against Eastern Ranges, but a week later and the talented tall is ready to go in the Kilsyth clash which is crucial coming up against the talented Georgia Campbell. The Power were a bit rusty up against a Tasmania Devils side that was structured and ruthless credit to a few less restrictions over the past 12 months, while the Ranges showed just how good they could be with transition, conceding the most inside 50s to the Jets (33), but only conceding the one goal.

The Ranges defence held up well, with Mia Busch and Cadhla Schmidli both starring in the back six, rebounding and running it out to form a formidable combination back there. Grace McRae was the sole goalkicker for the Power in Round 1 and she is tough to match up on be it in the midfield or forward line with her strength and one-on-one ability. Leesa Guastella has been named as a forward target this round, and Matilda Van Berkel showed she could do it all from key forward option to stand-in ruck after Matser’s injury, but has been named in defence this round.

Further up the ground, both teams have some speed with Sunday Brisbane winning plenty of it and showing her bursts coming off half-back and along the wing, with Poppi Fleming providing run on the other wing. With Jorja Livingstone being one of the top outside ball movers in the competition, the Power will look to provide their own run out there. Inside the battle between McRae and Olivia Meagher could be a great one as two top-age hardnuts battle it out. Isabelle Khoury and Bridget Deed will also lock horns with Lily-Rose Williamson and Yasmin Duursma in midfield, which promises to be a fantastic battle. Up forward, Scarlett Potter, Matilda Hardy and Alyssia Pisano are among the goal threats for Eastern, whilst the likes of Holly Booth, Van Berkel and Taylah Bourne will look to contain them.

Eastern Ranges will be favourites heading into the Round 3 clash after their impressive win in Round 1, but the Power showed they could match it with sides for long periods of time, and always gave it a crack for four quarters.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 20 @ 12pm
Bluescope Steel Centre, Hastings

When talking about long breaks, look no further than Dandenong Stingrays, who, after already having 11 months off and then an extra week due to the bye, postponed their first match back in 2021 until Round 3 of the competition. The Stingrays finally are able to run out in the NAB League Girls, hosting a Western Jets side no doubt determined to capitalise on their opportunities when they meet in Hastings. The Jets recorded the most inside 50s of any side in Round 1 (33), but could only muster the one goal. It did show their midfield has the capacity to take control and run the ball forward, giving their front six the best chance to put scores on the board.

Delivery inside 50 will be crucial against arguably the best defence in the competition. Top-ager Zoe Hill and bottom-ager Mackenzie Eardley are strong in the air and provide a contest when the ball gets to ground. Both players will cause headaches for the opposition, with Western’s sole goalkicker in Round 1 – Jemima Woods – set to do battle with Vic Country representative, Hill. Also back there for the Stingrays are Jaide Anthony and Brooke Smith who have the versatility to push up the ground as well. Caitlin Sargent adds another target for the Jets against the stringent defence.

Western’s strength lies in its midfield and ball movement down the field with Charlotte Baskaran having a field day to earn our Draft Central Player of the Week nod after a sensational 28-disposal game on the wing. Teaming up with fellow bottom-ager Montana Ham, the Jets have some serious talent and kicking ability, to try and pinpoint targets inside 50. Trinity Skenderis and Leah Spargo also provide some hardness on the inside, while the Stingrays have Ashleigh Richards and Emily Shepherd who know how to win the contested ball then spread to the outside, whilst also not forgetting the speed of Abbey Jordan who will be playing a new role on the inside this season.

This match is set to be a cracker, and the Jets will want to get off to a strong start having the match practice in, but the Stingrays will be hungry after an extended break on top of the already unimaginable period away from football. Dandenong is one of the challengers for the title so should be favourites, though the game is set to be one of the matches of the round.

GWV REBELS vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Saturday, February 20 @ 12pm
Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve, Bendigo

In the second game of a double-header at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve, the GWV Rebels take on Murray Bushrangers in a battle of two Round 1 losers. The Rebels were gallant in defeat, in a match that could have gone either way against one of the top teams going around in Geelong Falcons, while the young Bushrangers, with a number of debutants and bottom-agers, fell to Bendigo Pioneers at Yarrawonga. For at least one of these teams, they will break the duck and get their first points, and it sets up for a fascinating contest.

The Rebels showed last week they are focusing on a kick-first mentality, finishing Round 1 with a no-nonsense 73 per cent kick-to-handball ratio. Despite being well beaten in disposals, the Rebels only had five less inside 50s, and had four more rebounds. They averaged around 44 disposals per goal, and 6.8 inside 50s, which is still fairly strong across the board. Murray were good defensively with their rebounding and holding up, they were just beaten in disposals, and out-tackled with the Pioneers laying 90 tackles to 55. Having had that experience in the bank, expect the Bushrangers to come out fierce in this one.

Morphett will look to take full control when in the ruck for the Bushrangers, who have a hardened midfield group. Bottom-ager Keeley Skeeper and Mikayla Jones will go head-to-head against the smooth-moving Nyakoat Dojiok and hard nut Lilli Condon for this match, while Aurora Smith and Zara Hamilton will look to control the wings for the Bushrangers. Ella Friend is the danger for the Bushrangers’ defence, with Molly Kennedy named as her direct opponent to start, though the contested marking talent is hard to beat in the air or at ground level. Mindy Quade and Chloe Locke are among a host of defence-first Bushrangers who provide rebound as well, while up the other end, Kate Adams and Kristy Whitehead provide some experience, as does Lily Sharp who has been named at full-forward. The battle at half-forward between Adams and Chloe Leonard, and Whitehead and Molly Walton could be some of the best on the ground, with the two Rebels players their best last week.

GWV Rebels were arguably the best of the losing sides from Round 1, so should be favourites here with a great mix of talents across the ground. The Bushrangers have some great youngsters coming through, and will get better with every game.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Sunday, February 21 @ 10am
Trevor Barker Beach Oval, Sandringham

The standalone Sunday game is also between two sides that tasted defeat in Round 1, with Sandringham Dragons and Northern Knights doing battle at Trevor Barker Beach Oval. The Dragons went down to Calder after a good defensive showing in the first half, while the Knights lost their first game since the 2018 grand final, heavily beaten by Oakleigh Chargers in the second game of a double-header at Craigieburn.

In those matches, both teams were beaten statistically, though the Dragons did rank fourth in handballs for the round, and recorded the highest handball-to-kick ratio across the competition of 45.7 per cent. The Knights just could not get the ball inside 50, with just 16 entries, whilst the Dragons had their chances, but the Cannons defence proved up to the task. One area where the Knights are likely to have the advantage is in the hitouts, where Georgia Kitchell stood up well to help her side to rank first overall for Round 1, whilst the team also finished third in the rebounds.

Sandringham will still be without Bridie Hipwell who was injured in the first round, though is not too far away from returning to the action. The Dragons do get back a talented runner though, with Tayla Jones coming into the side after missing Round 1. She could go head-to-head with either AFL Women’s Academy member Maykaylah Appleby, or Brooke Plummer who provided some much needed run on the other wing. The Knights defence was one aspect that never gave in through the Round 1 loss, and led by Tarrah Delgado – who was a standout talent – and Maeve Chaplin – who provided run across the ground – will be key players once again. A battle between Delgado and Charli Murphy could be a great one to watch with the key forward starved of too many chances from the first match, whilst Keely Coyne stood out across half-forward on debut. Pia Staltari and Emma Stuber coming off half-back and Sofia Hurley through the midfield are among some other Dragons who could be key players in the game.

Both these teams will be hungry for a win, and going off Round 1 form, Sandringham have the upper hand. The Knights will be keen to bounce back from a rare loss and should take control in the ruck, but it will be the midfield where the game is won and lost.