Tag: charlotte thomas

2021 AFLW U19 Championships state preview: Western Australia

IN the second of our 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships state preview, we take a look at Western Australia, a team that has a real mix of talents from athletic talls, to hard-at-it midfielders, and key position options in abundance. The 31-player squad will take on South Australia on Sunday, before locking horns with both Victorian sides on the Gold Coast in the toughest draw of all the states at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. The Sandgropers have three AFL Women’s National Academy members, and a number of 2002-born talents who are still in the draft frame, as well as some unbelievable bottom-agers who are pushing their way up for their first draft-eligible year next year.

2021 WESTERN AUSTRALIA AFLW U19 CHAMPIONSHIPS SQUAD:

#1 Sarah Lakay (Swan Districts/East Perth)
#2 Amy Franklin (Claremont/West Perth)
#3 Matilda Dyke (Claremont)
#4 Lauren Wakfer (South Fremantle)
#5 Beth Schilling (Peel Thunder)
#6 Naomi Wilson (Peel Thunder)
#7 Ella Roberts (Peel Thunder)
#8 Ashleigh Reidy (South Fremantle)
#9 Bella Edgley (East Perth/Swan Districts)
#10 Millie Jones (South Fremantle)
#11 Aisha Wright (Peel Thunder)
#12 Emily Gunton (Peel Thunder)
#13 Darcy Clements (South Fremantle)
#14 Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco)
#15 Bella Mann (Peel Thunder)
#16 Emma Nanut (Swan Districts)
#17 Mel Hardy (Swan Districts/East Perth)
#18 Dana East (Swan Districts)
#19 Brianna Hyde (Swan Districts)
#20 Jade Briggs (Peel Thunder)
#21 Emily Bennett (Claremont/West Perth)
#23 Tara Stribley (Swan Districts)
#24 Jaide Britton (Peel thunder)
#25 Chloe Reilly (East Fremantle)
#26 Mylee Leitch (East Fremantle)
#27 Makaela Tuhakaraina (South Fremantle)
#28 Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder)
#29 Naomi Baker (Swan Districts)
#30 Tajah Griffiths (Peel Thunder)
#31 Kayla May (Swan Districts)
#32 Poppy Stockwell (South Fremantle)

QUICK SUMMARY:

Western Australia has eight 2002-born players, 14 2003-born talents and nine 2004-born representatives to round of the 31-player squad. As has been the case given the lost (or in Western Australia’s case, reduced year) last season, there are a number of 19-year-old talents who are right in the frame for clubs to look at. Brianna Hyde actually has the rare stance of playing at a championships, way back as a 16-year-old in 2018-19. Both Hyde and Nyra Anderson – who has been named for the South Australia clash – will provide the experience required for state-by-state battles. While we will highlight a few 2003-born talents, the player across the board to watch is forward Ella Roberts, with the 16-year-old – and a December-born no less – star already having clutch moments such as winning the WAFL Women’s Grand Final off her boot by converting important majors. AFL Women’s Academy member Charlotte Thomas has been injured this season and is yet to run out for Subiaco, but will be raring to go for the Queensland fixtures in a few weeks, while Hyde herself is recovering from injury.

FIXTURES:

R1 vs. South Australia (March 28 @ Flinders University Stadium)
R2 vs. Vic Metro (April 12 @ Metricon Stadium)
R3 vs. Vic Country (April 15 @ Metricon Stadium)

FIVE TO WATCH: (2003-BORN)

Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder)

A silky player who has velcro-like hands on the move and a penchant for hitting targets with ease going forward. Think Georgia Patrikios with her run and carry, as well as balanced skills and decision making. Her coach Steve Markham said he would like “to have four or five of her because she can play all over the ground, but I love her on the outside because she runs and spreads and delivers inside 50″. For the first game she has been named onball given her extraction ability, and whilst Rowley is quite light, she generally makes the right choice by hand or foot, and is a player who will be comfortable taking charge to enter the ball going forward. An eye-catching player through the midfield. Another of the AFL Women’s Academy members in the West Australian squad.

Amy Franklin (Claremont)

As versatile as they come, Franklin is one of those talls who are almost unfairly athletic for her size, but it is what makes her so damaging at 177cm. Unlike some taller players who once the ball is at ground level in space they might be out of the contest, Franklin has terrific speed which will often see her not only beat a smaller opponent to the ball, but create greater separation from her. Traditionally a forward, Franklin has spent some time in defence – and even splitting halves at either end during the WAFL Women’s some games – but named on the bench for game one, it will keep the opposition guessing. An AFL Women’s Academy member with Rowley, Franklin is known for her contested work in the air, powerful set shot and by far, her athleticism for a tall.

Chloe Reilly (East Fremantle)

Much like Franklin, Reilly is a versatile talent who plays far taller than her 163cm might suggest. At first glance at her style, Reilly looks 170cm-plus easily with her competitiveness in the air, strong hands and fearlessness to have a crack at anything. Building her consistency across games, Reilly’s best is incredibly eye-catching and she can pull some some good marks – quite often on the lead with some nice pace – or snap goals out of nothing. Having spent time bulking up over the summer, Reilly is prepared for a big carnival against any opponent thrown her way, and has been deployed up both ends this season after plying her trade as an exciting forward last year. A powerful kick who is reliable with her set shots.

Makaela Tuhakaraina (South Fremantle)

A new addition to the WAFL Women’s competition this season, Tuhakaraina comes from a rugby background and possesses some unbelievable athletic traits. Her elite speed and agility is hard not to notice when out on the field, with her power and strength to mow down opponents a feature of her game. She might be new to the code from a game sense, but with such raw talent, she will be a pocket rocket that packs a punch, as the 158cm speedster will look to lock horns with a strong inside midfielder. One of the players that has the greatest upside given the amount that may be untapped, she will be one to watch at the carnival.

Sarah Lakay (Swan Districts)

One of the most exciting to watch battles will be Lakay up against Zoe Prowse in Adelaide, because Lakay has the athleticism to go with Prowse, and loves a tackle from a second effort as well. She will have the height advantage over nearly any opponent by standing at 186cm, and her athleticism for her size is enviable, not afraid to be made a link in transition. She can play forward or back as well as through the ruck, but expect her to be handed the keys to the ruck division, rotating in with bottom-age talent Lauren Wakfer, as the pair showcase their around-the-ground work just as much as their ruck nous. Another developing talent with upside.

OTHERS:

Charlotte Thomas would very easily be on the list above as an AFL Women’s Academy member, and possessing some great skills and versatility, but is still returning from injury. In terms of other 2003-born players, forward Bella Edgley has been ultra consistent in kicking a goal every game in the WAFL Women’s as one of the big improvers, whilst in defence, Melisha Hardy and Emma Nanut will provide strength one-on-one and drive the ball out of the back 50. Key position talent Beth Schilling has the capacity to roll through the ruck, but is a competitive player who is not afraid to get her hands dirty. From a top-age perspective, co-captains Hyde and Jaide Britton will lead by example, whilst Dana East is arguably the most consistent Academy member in the WAFL Women’s this season, in what was her debut year after stepping up from local football. Emily Bennett is a hardened defender with a powerful kick.

SQUAD STRENGTHS:

  • Athleticism
  • Contested marking
  • Forward X-factor
  • Defensive one-on-ones

Western Australia will certainly be an eye-catching team, but it is the Sandgropers balance across the board from its talls to smalls that make it so damaging. Unlike South Australia who only have a few players above 175cm, Western Australia have four above 180cm, and another three at 175cm-plus. The athleticism and work around the ground of Lakay and Wakfer in the ruck will be a strength, but the talls can also pull down contested marks, with Franklin, Roberts and Edgley all strong overhead. They have that forward X-factor with other bottom-age talents in Mylee Leitch, Ashleigh Reidy and Aisha Wright all exciting at the feet of the keys, whilst defensively, Bennett, Hardy and Matilda Dyke will be hard to beat one-on-one. Tara Stribley is a wing who has plenty of X-factor and upside for next year.

In terms of an area where they are inexperienced is potentially inside 50. With the game on Sunday featuring four starting bottom-age forwards, the front six inside 50 is quite raw and developing, where as a lot of the defenders in the other sides have the extra experience and will look to use that in contested situations. The forward line has the capacity to break the game open and really excite everyone watching, but they will have to overcome players who are superb at reading the ball in flight and will not allow them much space to run.

LAST WORD:

Western Australia is going to be an exciting team to watch, with plenty of bottom-agers coming through, and some seriously improved talents over the last 12 months. It will be a tough draw for them to play both Victorian sides and South Australia, but they will not be afraid to take it up to them, and no doubt provide plenty of running and talent around the ground, with athleticism that could worry those sides.

Picture credit: Owen Davies/Peel Thunder

NAB League Girls Round 4 preview: Unbeaten sides to go head-to-head across Super Saturday

NAB League Girls action is back for a second consecutive week – unfortunately for the first time this season due to the Victorian snap lockdown – but it provides teams with a couple of instant classics, as well as sides that are battling for their first wins of the season.

EASTERN RANGES vs. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, February 27 @ 10.30am
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

Two unbeaten sides go head-to-head in the early Saturday morning game when Geelong Falcons travel east to take on Eastern Ranges at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve from 10.30am. The Falcons are coming off back-to-back wins over Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Bendigo Pioneers in the opening rounds, while the Ranges put Gippsland Power to the sword last week with a record-breaking 114-point win after getting past an inefficient Western Jets in Round 1. Both these sides come into the game as two of the most in-form teams which spells the potential for a classic.

The Ranges’ midfield is a real strength with the likes of Bridget Deed and Olivia Meagher providing inside contested grunt work, and the class of Jorja Livingstone on the outside providing the run. Inside 50, Alyssia Pisano has become a revelation with four goals last week following a promising Round 1 debut, and the bottom-age prospect is shaping as a top-end talent for 2023. Georgia Campbell was outstanding in her effort against Grace Matser last week, and will look to hold down the fort again coming up against Keeley Hardingham of the Falcons, whilst Geelong have a number of inside midfielders themselves with Tess Craven, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson always having a crack in there.

Up forward, Renee Tierney has already kicked six goals in two games, with captain Lucy Were, and the dynamic Gabbi Featherston capable of anything when inside 50. It will be up to the Ranges’ defence to try and contain the Falcons forward six, with Cadhla Schmidli and Mia Busch having promising starts to the 2021 season. Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling up the other end have been impressive at flanking Mia Van Dyke to be a dominant half-back line, intercepting nearly anything that comes their way. The Ranges will need to be smart with their ball use, and pinpoint their passes inside 50 to ensure the best efficiency going forward.

The game is neck and neck, with the Final Siren podcast team split, with Geelong marginally ahead 2-1 in the tipping, though it genuinely could go either way.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Saturday, February 27 @ 11.30am
Ronald Reserve, Morwell East

Two sides looking for a big effort are out at Morwell East when Gippsland Power heads back home to host Northern Knights. It will be their first game at the venue this season following the Round 2 home game with the Eastern Ranges being flipped around and played at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve instead. The Power will be looking to put in a more competitive effort in Round 3 after a 114-point defeat at the hands of Eastern Ranges last round, and will look to do it against a Northern Knights side that looked pretty good against Sandringham Dragons in Round 3. The Knights were blown away by Oakleigh Chargers in Round 1, but responded last week, and Gippsland will look to do the same in this clash.

The Power have a strong inside midfield group, led by Grace McRae who is a natural ball-winner. She will need to lead the way with hard ball gets against a Northern side that feasted on it last week thanks to the work of Maeve Chaplin. Lily-Rose Williamson is another inside body that will help extract the ball from the contest, whilst Matilda Van Berkel can play anywhere from midfield, ruck to key position and was the main interceptor in defence last week. Sunday Brisbane and Yasmin Duursma are happy to run the ball forward and that is where the Power can take advantage, with the Knights missing AFL Women’s Academy member Maykaylah Appleby from the clash.

Matser has a chance to take control in the ruck with dominant hitout specialist Georgia Kitchell also missing the game, though the Knights have plenty of depth to step up. Ella Smallacombe and Megan Girolami were busy last week combining for five goals, and the likes of Van Berkel, Holly Booth and Courtney Fletcher will have their work cut out for them. Expect Tarrah Delgado to continue her form and be a rock in defence, while Brooke Plummer will step up to bring that outside run on a wing and become the key playmaker in the match.

Northern are favourites after last week’s effort, but missing a couple of key personnel could make it a little tougher, but should still get the job done. Gippsland have the strengths to match it with Northern on the inside, with the battle between McRae and Chaplin the highlight.

 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.15pm
Cathedral College, Wangaratta

Up north, Murray Bushranger host Western Jets in a battle of two winless sides looking to get on the board in season 2021. The Bushrangers went down to Bendigo Pioneers in the opening round, then lost out to GWV Rebels in Round 3. The Jets were unlucky not to capitalise against Eastern Ranges in Round 1, before just falling short against Dandenong Stingrays in Round 3. Heading into this game, the Jets will be keen to make almost-there become success.

Grace Hay returns for the Bushrangers having to juggle her football and netball commitments which immediately strengthens the Bushrangers’ back six and provides another strong ball user out there. She will team up with a half-back line featuring the strong hands of Molly Kennedy – due for a great battle with Jets’ Caitlin Sargent – and Chloe Locke who both can provide some offence to go with their defensive work. Mindy Quade at full-back is another strong player who can win one-on-ones regularly, and use her powerful boot to clear the area. Going head-to-head with Jemima Woods, the Bushrangers’ talls will need to quell the Jets’ targets inside 50.

Two of the more in-form wings could go head-to-head in Charlotte Baskaran and Aurora Smith, with both having outstanding games in the opening two rounds. Montana Ham and Keeley Skepper are two of the most promising prospects for next year and will likely lock horns in the midfield, while Krystal Russell will look to take full advantage in the ruck with Bushrangers’ AFL Women’s Academy member Ally Morphett out. The Bushrangers still have scoring options in the likes of Kristy Whitehead and Sophia McCarthy, while Kate Maxwell and Laura Elliott were good in defence last week.

The Jets are favoured in this contest, but some of the one-on-ones should be fantastic to watch.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. CALDER CANNONS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.30pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve

From two winless sides to two with a 1-1 record, Bendigo Pioneers host Calder Cannons in a much anticipated Round 4 matchup. The Cannons were arguably the team to beat given their two AFL Women’s Academy members and host of likely Vic Metro talents, but were just outclassed by an incredible Oakleigh Chargers outfit last week, after knocking off Sandringham Dragons in the opening round. Bendigo took out Murray Bushrangers in the opening round, but then suffered defeat at the hands of Geelong Falcons in Round 3, so will be looking to make up for that loss with a huge scalp here.

Tara Slender returns from a concussion precaution that kept her out of the Pioneers’ Round 3 loss, and will play a crucial role at centre half-forward. It forces one of Neve Crowley or Kasey Lennox to make sure she has a close-checking key defender on her, with Tegan Williams seamlessly slotting into Slender’s role up the opposite end of the ground. Bottom-ager Lila Keck, as well as top-ager Lily Den Houting have been named inside 50, and could provide scoring options for the home team. Meanwhile up the other end, Alisa Magri and Jessica Zakkour could be targets inside 50 for the Cannons.

The ruck battle between Madeline Marks and Peppa Poultney will be a fascinating one, with the Pioneers midfield getting a huge challenge to try and contain the Cannons’ onball group. Georgie Prespakis and Zali Friswell will head in with Emelia Yassir this week, while Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson will line up with Chantelle Mitchell to try and take control in there.

The Cannons will go in as strong favourites, but the Pioneers are back to full strength with Slender returning, and if they can get on top in the midfield, anything is possible.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.30pm
Twin Ovals

After missing out in Round 2, Tasmania Devils return to Twin Ovals for their first home game of the year. They take on Oakleigh Chargers who 12 months ago, took them to pieces in a triple-figure victory on the Apple Isle. Fast forward to 2021, and the Devils are a stronger, more cohesive unit that are coming off an impressive 12-goal win over Gippsland Power in the opening round. Oakleigh Chargers are a different group altogether and right now the benchmark of the competition, which gives Tasmania a great chance to measure themselves against the top team.

The Devils were able to have high efficiency going forward in Round 1, with Amy Prokopiec slotting four goals – including two in the first quarter – against the Power, while Amy Bissett also nailed a couple of majors. Having Charlie Vandenberg take the first ruck spot has enabled Camilla Taylor to be another target inside 50, while the midfield group of Perri King, Ella Maurer and Claire Ransom was terrific against the Power. Now they meet the most dominant group in the league, with Charlie Rowbottom, Amanda Ling and Eliza James on-ball, and Stella Reid tearing it up on the the outside.

Tasmania will need to ensure the Oakleigh midfield does not get off the chain as the Chargers can score quickly and heavily when given the chance, especially with Jemma Rigoni and Ameille Smith being targets inside 50. Charlotte Thomas and Candice Belbin are some of the defensive options back there for the Devils, whilst up the other end, Brooke Vickers has been a source of run and carry for the Chargers. If Oakleigh can get the ball forward, they have an abundance of smalls running around at the feet of the talls, such as Taylah Morton who could hit the scoreboard.

Overall, the Chargers have passed every test thrown at them and deserve to be overall favourites. The key to this game is seeing how much the Devils have progressed in 12 months, and if they can cause a huge boilover in front of their home fans.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS VS. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Sunday, February 28 @ 11.30am
MARS Stadium

The standalone Sunday game is a must-watch, with the GWV Rebels sitting 1-1 and the Dandenong Stingrays 1-0 after a delayed entry into the competition. The Stingrays were due to return to the competition in Round 2, but Victoria’s snap lockdown pushed it back a week, where they took care of the Western Jets in a competitive match. The Rebels had a similar clash in Round 1 going down to the Falcons, before they put Murray Bushrangers to the sword in a seven goals to two first half last week at Epsom Huntly, then steadied in the second half to record a strong win.

The Rebels are one of only two sides – with Calder Cannons – that have two AFL Women’s Academy members, and this week Nyakoat Dojiok has been named beside Ella Friend in the half-forward line. With Dandenong’s abundance of strong defenders, it provides the Rebels midfield with another target to use, and Dojiok is more than capable of taking on opponents at ground level. Mackenzie Eardley will have a huge job on the contested-making Friend, while Tahlia Meier works hard both ways and will need to hit the scoreboard whilst being aware her opponent Brooke Smith can do damage the other way. Zoe Hill, Jemma Radford and Jaide Anthony are all capable of intercepting in the back 50, so the Rebels will need to be good with their ball use.

In midfield, Amber Clarke has been thrown there alongside last week’s Draft Central Player of the Week Emily Shepherd, and top-age talent Abbey Jordan. The trio of Paige Scott, Lilli Condon and Crystal Summers worked well for the Rebels in Round 3, and they will lock horns in a fantastic battle of inside midfields. Chloe Leonard is the key for the Rebels off half-back, though Molly Walton has also made a splash for the Rebels in her debut season, and they will have to rebound the Stingrays’ attacks, with Ashleigh Richards one to watch inside 50 who could do some damage.

This is a 50-50 game and both these teams have such a well-balanced list. The Stingrays might be able to get the job done due to their intercepting firepower, but the Rebels have plenty of attacking options. Expect it to be a tough, low-scoring game.

WAFL Women’s to return on February 20

THE wait for the return of the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition is almost over, with the 2021 season fixture released this week and teams set to do battle from the weekend of February 20. Initially touted to start next weekend, the season was pushed back a week, with the 2021 WAFL Women’s Grand Final to be played on the weekend of July 3.

Before that though, the six teams – Claremont, East Fremantle, Peel Thunder, South Fremantle, Subiaco and Swan Districts – will face off in 15 rounds, where they will play every other team three times, and have two league-wide byes along the way. The earlier fixture allows those players from Fremantle and West Coast AFL Women’s teams to continue match fitness whilst trying to force their way back into the sides, while also enabling the entire season to wrap up prior to the 2021 AFL Women’s Draft which has been touted to be moved a couple of months earlier than its annual October date.

Round 1 kicks off with reigning premiers Peel Thunder able to unfurl the flag at David Grays Arena up against the previous premiers, East Fremantle. Runners-up Subiaco will head to play last year’s wooden spooners, South Fremantle at Fremantle Community Bank Oval, while Swan Districts hosts Claremont at Steel Blue Oval. Fans will not have to wait long for a WAFL Women’s Grand Final rematch, with the Thunder and Lions set to do battle in Round 2 on the weekend of February 27.

The two bye weekends are on April 3 and May 15, with the 2021 AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships to be played in the second week of April as well. For those interested in some young guns to watch for the upcoming season, it is hard to look past Peel Thunder jet, Courtney Rowley who has been a strong performer at the level for a number of years now. Coming into her top-age year, Rowley is touted to be the top West Australian talent, with the smooth-moving skilful outside player one who shares similar traits to St Kilda’s Georgia Patrikios.

Another player to keep an eye on is Subiaco’s Charlotte Thomas, with her ball use sublime playing off half-forward. She is so clever around goals and can hit the scoreboard, but also push up the ground and have an impact as well. Speaking of hitting the scoreboard, Amy Franklin is a 180cm key forward who can clunk grabs, but then cause sleepless nights for defenders because when the ball hits the ground she can burst away with great acceleration for a player of her height.

A number of other names to keep an eye out on include East Fremantle’s Chloe Reilly who has terrific goal sense and knows who to take marks, whilst Peel Thunder’s talent does not stop at Rowley, with Bethlyn Pasco and Beth Schilling also amongst the talent there. Swan Districts’ Emma Nanut was a reliable source of composure in the back half for the Swans last season, but is versatile just about anywhere, while South Fremantle’s Tayla Whincup and Poppy Stockwell are other names to remember throughout the 2021 WAFL Women’s season.

Some over and mature-age talent to remember include Subiaco’s Abbey Dowrick – sister of West Coast’s McKenzie – as well as Claremont’s Jess Low and East Fremantle’s Rosie Walsh, who all earned AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites last year. Swan Districts’ Nyra Anderson remains a natural ball winner, while her teammate Sarah Wielstra is an example of a player who came a long way in a short time and will be one to watch this year.

Picture credit: Owen Davies/Peel Thunder

2021 AFL Women’s Academy squad announced

TWENTY aspiring AFL Women’s future draftees have been named in the 2021 AFL Women’s Academy, which was announced yesterday. The Academy primarily features players who were in the Academy as middle-age talents, though a number of inclusions have been made.

Off the back of a superb season with grand finalists South Adelaide, talented forward Gypsy Schirmer was included on the list, named as one of the top South Australian talents for the 2021 AFL Women’s Draft alongside Zoe Prowse in our 2021 AFLW Under 18s Ones to Watch last month. Also making the list was Launceston midfielder Perri King who made the Academy after stepping up for the Blues in the Tasmanian State League (TSL) Women’s competition, having made history as Tasmania Devils’ first goalkicker in the NAB League earlier this year, while Devils’ teammate Amy Prokopiec was a member of the Academy last year.

Also included in the new list was Claremont forward Amy Franklin who has unbelievable athletic traits and is as good at ground level as she is in the air. Named as the third top West Australian for next year, Franklin joined West Australian hopefuls, Courtney Rowley and Charlotte Thomas in the Academy. Up north, Ashanti Bush had an impressive Northern Territory All-Stars match to earn a spot in the Academy with the talented forward being the sole representative for her state next year. The Northern Territory have a number of talented prospects coming through in future years, however.

The final inclusion to the squad was NSW/ACT forward Jessica Doyle out of Manly-Warringah who joins Murray Bushrangers’ Ally Morphett as the other state representative in the 20-player squad. Once again when it comes to representation, Maroochydore leads the way with three representatives – Maggie Harmer, Mikayla Pauga and Bella Smith – while Bond University’s Teagan Levi is a clear standout prospect for the Sunshine State, looking to join sister Maddison at the elite level.

The Victorian portion of the Academy has been left untouched from 2020 given the playing cohort has not been able to show its wares this year. Calder Cannons’ Georgie Prespakis – one of the clear front runners for the top Victorian selections – is an unbelievable talent and will be highly sought after to join sister Maddy in the AFL Women’s. Cannons’ teammate Tahlia Gillard has the ability to play up either end as a talented tall, whilst the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels duo of running defender/wing Nyakoat Dojiok and mid/forward Ella Friend return to the Academy.

Keep an eye out for Bendigo Pioneers’ Tara Slender who looms as one of the most impressive key position options in this year’s draft, with the rebounding tall capable of playing both offensive and defensive roles. Rounding out the Academy are Charlie Rowbottom – sister of Sydney Swans’ James – out of the Oakleigh Chargers, as well as slick ball user and outside midfielder, Maykaylah Appleby from the AFL Women’s football factory at Northern Knights.

The AFL Women’s Academy take part annual high-performance camps, of which will include an induction program in January, training with AFL Women’s clubs over the summer, and partaking in a high-performance camp and match in July. It also enables the athletes to have access to a wide variety of high-performance coaches and medical staff who work at the elite level.

2021 NAB AFLW Academy

Jessica Doyle (Manly-Warringah/Swans NSW/ACT)
Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/Giants NSW/ACT)
Ashanti Bush (Darwin NT)
Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore/Lions Qld)
Teagan Levi (Bond Uni/Suns Qld)
Mikayla Pauga (Maroochydore/Lions Qld)
Bella Smith (Maroochydore/Lions Qld)
Zoe Prowse (Sturt SA)
Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide SA)
Perri King (Launceston Tas)
Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels Vic Country)
Ella Friend (GWV Rebels Vic Country)
Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers Vic Country)
Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights Vic Metro)
Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons Vic Metro)
Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons Vic Metro)
Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers Vic Metro)
Amy Franklin (Claremont WA)
Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder WA)
Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco WA)

2021 AFLW Under 18s Ones to Watch

NOW the curtain has closed on the 2020 AFL Women’s off-season period, we turn our attention to the next group of budding stars across the country who will be vying for a spot on an AFL Women’s list. We have named 25 players who have already shown some great signs in their bottom and middle-age seasons, as well as a number of others to watch out for in 2021.

Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

A name that has been circulating for a number of years now, it is hard to believe the all-round talent was robbed of what she could potentially do in her middle-age year. She looked more than comfortable at the level in her bottom-age year as a 16-year-old and caught plenty of attention with a seven-goal haul against Greater Western Victoria Rebels. Taller than her sister – AFL Women’s league best and fairest winner Madison – Prespakis is hard at it, has great athleticism and is ridiculously strong one-on-one. A highlight-reel package nearly any time she steps out on the field, Prespakis is a future star and could play just about anywhere, but expect her to play inside midfield and rest forward.

Teagan Levi (Bond University/Queensland)

The sister of recently drafted Gold Coast Suns’ talent Maddison, Levi is 11cm shorter and plays onball rather than forward. Her athletic traits are similar to that of Georgia Patrikios in the way that she can seamlessly get herself out of trouble by wrong-footing and side-stepping opponents with ease. Not only is she able to beat them in congestion, she can run and take the game on down a wing, and then when the opponent wins it, she is the first to lay a strong tackle. Similar to Prespakis, Levi has so many weapons and is as effective defensively as she is offensively, and is the standout Queensland prospect for next year and in the clear top few talents running around.

Courtney Rowley. Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder

Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

A player who has been building very nicely over in Western Australia over the past two seasons and then was the most impressive of the middle-agers in the WAFL All-Stars game. A really smooth mover, Rowley often plays off a wing and knows how to distribute the ball so well, winning Peel Thunder’s League best and fairest last year as a 16-year-old competing against senior opponents including AFL Women’s talents. Whilst she had more support in 2020 as the Thunder rose from wooden spooners to premiers in a remarkable turnaround, it is hard not to admire what the talented midfielder could be in her top-age season next year.

Zoe Prowse (Sturt/South Australia)

The standout ruck prospect in next year’s draft, Adelaide will have another promising talent on their radar in Prowse. Winning Sturt’s best and fairest award this year, Prowse was just about the best in nearly every game she played for the Double Blues, particularly in the second half of the season. Despite standing at just under 180cm, Prowse has ridiculous athleticism with a high vertical leap and is almost like a fourth midfielder. She can get down and apply second and third efforts to ground level players, and is one who could also play forward if required. With great ruck nous, she can outwork her opponents around the ground, and it was easy to see why she was the sole South Australian AFL Women’s Academy member in her middle-age year.

Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

An absolute star in the making. Capable of playing midfield or forward, Rowbottom just knows how to set scoring opportunities up in transition. The sister of Sydney’s James, Rowbottom has similar ball-winning abilities and defensive attributes, but has a lot to offer offensively as well. She showed in the Chargers’ win over Tasmania that she is not only able to hit the scoreboard herself – kicking two goals – but set up a number of chances for her teammates. One that will really surprise in 2021 as a leader for the Chargers.

Charlie Rowbottom. Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)

With quite a few tall defenders in this year’s AFL Women’s Draft, Slender would be putting her hand up as potentially the pick of the bunch. Her intercepting capability and reading of the ball in flight is exceptional, and while she did miss her middle-age year, Slender is one who could catch the attention pretty quickly. Having played alongside some Vic Country representatives in the past – and playing at Under 16s level for her state – Slender is good in one-on-ones and looms as a key lynchpin for the Pioneers. It would also not be too surprising to see her take a similar transition to Isabelle Pritchard and move into the midfield given she has the traits to slot right in there.

Makaylah Appleby (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

Class personified. Appleby has managed to catch the eye on more than a few occasions over the past few seasons despite playing in such a stacked team at the Northern Knights. She often played off a wing or provided run on the outside like during the 2019 NAB League Finals Series. Appleby is now the top prospect at the Knights for the upcoming season as a member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, and as a damaging ball user, Appleby is one that teammates want to get the ball in the hands of in order to create scoring opportunities up the field.

Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco/Western Australia)

A dangerous forward half player with clean skills and a nous for goals, Thomas is the other AFL Women’s Academy member from Western Australia in her middle-age year along with Rowley and has a big future. Playing in an experienced team like Subiaco, Thomas was able to still stand out, regularly hitting the scoreboard. Standing at 175cm, Thomas has good size and good hands and having made her League debut in 2020, big things are predicted for 2021 with a lot of AFL Women’s talent, and more experienced heads around her.

Nyakoat Dojiok. Picture credit: Draft Central

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

A player who is not afraid to take the game on and really take it to the opposition is GWV Rebels’ Dojiok who has been developing year-on-year over the last few years. Playing as a 15-year-old a few years back, Dojiok is one who when she gets going is hard to contain, and she has that rich blend of power and speed. She is utilised best as that outside runner, playing off half-back or along a wing, but is eye-catching in the way she plays and the way she can bring teammates into the game. Entering her top-age year, expect her to see even more midfield time as she has some seriously great traits.

Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

A player who might be flying under the radar that has some casual NAB League Girls watchers reaching for the team lists next year is Dowling. An incredible talent who showed progression in her two games this year, she has only managed to fly under the radar due to the enormous amount of talent coming out of the Falcons’ football factory. She played in defence as a bottom-ager then got time more up the field last year, and expect her to play through the midfield in 2021. She can play anywhere, at that hybrid 171cm-plus size and can be too athletic for talls and too strong for smalls, Dowling is one who should not be forgotten when talking about Vic Country prospects.

Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)

The standout NSW/ACT prospect for 2021, Morphett is the sole AFL Women’s Academy member from her state. The developing 189cm-plus ruck is one who improved from her bottom-age season and it would have been fantastic to see her going up against the Melbourne-drafted Maggie Caris if their teams had met in the NAB League Girls before the season ended. She is commanding overhead and able to drift forward if required, Morphett is one of the few NAB League Girls prospects to play this year. Representing Belconnen Magpies in the AFL Canberra League, Morphett finished second in the league best and fairest, and then won best on ground in the Magpies’ premiership win. Not bad for a 17-year-old and she is one anticipated to take a huge step in 2021.

Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore/Queensland)

Stood tall at senior level in the QAFL Women’s competition for the Roos and is one of a remarkable three players in the AFL Women’s Academy from the side. Harmer showed in the Queensland All-Stars game that she looms as a strong prospect in 2021 with her overhead marking, read of the play and powerful kicking standing out in a tight game. A member of the Brisbane Lions Academy, Harmer is 170cm and could play at half-back as that intercepting rebounder, or through the middle, seemingly able to break down opposition defences on transition by getting in the way and then pumping it long.

Maggie Harmer. Picture credit: Deion Menzies, Highflyer Images

Amy Franklin (Claremont/Western Australia)

If we are talking upside, then Franklin, not too dissimilar to her West Australian namesake, has plenty of that for the future. A tall marking forward, Franklin has speed that makes smaller opponents envious, and standing at 180cm, she is big enough to outmark most opponents. Still quite raw and lightly built compared to more experienced WAFL Women’s defenders she came across, Franklin is one that once the ball gets goalside, you can almost put the glasses down. Terrific athleticism and one who is threatening to be an even bigger threat in 2021, she is yet another exciting tall forward to come out of Western Australia.

Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

If you are talking upside and potential in next year’s AFL Women’s Draft crop then take 186cm Gillard as an example. Only turning 17 in December this year, the key position utility can play in all three lines, starting off as a key defender, spending time up forward and has the size if required to play ruck. For a player of her size, Gillard is so good at ground level and able to create something out of nothing. While she is still a raw and developing talent, she is another from the Cannons’ program who has already had plenty of NAB League Girls experience that will only make her better.

Ella Friend (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

A second GWV Rebels player making the list, Friend did not get many chances this season to show what she is capable of, but what she did in that short space of time was quite remarkable. Another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, Friend looked comfortable in the tight contest against the Western Jets back in Round 3, racking up a ton of the ball – 19 touches – and having a real influence in the forward half. Not only that, but she iced the game for the Rebels with a match-winning goal, and provided as much offence (six inside 50s) and defence (five tackles) to suggest she is a gamechanger and one to look out for next season.

Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

Made her debut in the NAB League Girls competition and just has that X-factor about her that makes you sit up and take notice. Elite acceleration out of the stoppage and some really top-end traits, Livingstone came into the Ranges’ midfield and assimilated easily that it was hard to believe she was not a top-ager. Behind the experienced Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown, Livingstone was the next biggest performer onball, and with another preseason behind her, it will be exciting to see just what she can produce with her athletic traits and ability to get forward and look dangerous.

Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

Yassir is just a fierce competitor who can play through the midfield or as a small forward. Standing at just 161cm, Yassir defies her size and is not afraid to take on bigger opponents, laying multiple tackles and is a contested ball winner. She stood up during Calder’s NAB League Girls finals series as a bottom-ager in 2019, and started strongly in 2020. She will have a bigger role in 2021 and has a bucketload of talent that will have opposition players wary of when she is in the zone.

Mikayla Pauga (Maroochydore/Queensland)

Another small forward and member of the AFL Women’s Academy, Pauga might just stand at 161cm like Yassir, but packs plenty of punch as a damaging forward. The second Maroochydore player in this list, Pauga finished second in her club’s goalkicking with 13 majors in 14 games, and was a clear standout. With an eye for goal and a large endurance base that sees her outwork opponents, Pauga is one who could step up again in 2021 and will be one to watch at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships having shown her wares at senior level in the QAFL Women’s already.

Zoe Venning. Picture credit: SANFL

Zoe Venning (West Adelaide/South Australia)

A hard-nosed midfielder/forward from West Adelaide, Venning came on in leaps and bounds throughout her second season in the red and black. She became a crucial member of the Bloods’ midfield, playing between wing and forward, though her attack on the ball shows she can easily translate into an inside midfielder. Providing great assistance to equal league best and fairest winner, Rachelle Martin as well as young talent Abbie Ballard, Venning is one who is dangerous around goals. She is still developing some areas of her game such as her kicking, but her work rate and intensity in play is superb.

Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

A reliable key defender for the Cannons, Lennox is a fourth member of the Calder side to make this list, and shows just how strong their top-age group will be next season. Lennox is one who is good at ground level for a taller player, being one of the most dominant rebounders in the competition to start the 2020 NAB League Girls season. As a player who stood out on the big stage of the 2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final, Lennox is not afraid of big moments, and will team up well with Gillard as a couple of talls in a really strong Cannons outfit.

Amy Prokopiec (Clarence/Tasmania)

The sole Tasmanian prospect in the AFL Women’s National Academy, Prokopiec became one of the standout defenders for Tasmania Devils, albeit in just a handful of games in her bottom and middle-age years. As she showed with Clarence in the TSL Women’s competition this year and in the Tasmanian All-Stars game, Prokopiec is capable of playing at either end, and becoming that versatile tall utility. As a long kick and strong overhead, she is a crucial cog in the both the Roos and Devils sides, and will be hoping for a full season next year to test herself against the best in the NAB League Girls.

Amy Prokopiec (right). Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide/South Australia)

There are quite a few talls in this list with potential, and Schirmer is another one who just has that look about her that she could be in for a big 2021. In her middle-age season with reigning premiers South Adelaide, she acquitted herself well and while she did have some really outstanding performances, even when she was quieter, there was always a moment or two within games where you could see she was capable of kicking a couple of goals and winning the match for her side. Not far off 180cm, Schirmer can push up to a wing or even in defence, but she always looks damaging inside 50 and a real target for her teammates to kick to.

Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

A good size and capable of hitting the scoreboard, the 176cm James is a damaging prospect. She showed in her two games this year how she has developed both her offensive and defensive traits, and even as an Under 16s player for the Chargers, stood up in nine games and booted five goals. As one of a number of Chargers who were able to provide support to the top-end talent this year, James is another leader in the group to standout in her own top-age year in 2021.

Alana Lishmund (Norwood/South Australia)

Was a prominent member of the Norwood side in her debut SANFL Women’s season, then really stepped up as one of the best in the All-Stars match last month. She is predominantly a forward talent who can push up the ground into the midfield, and then play high or deep forward when required. A reliable kick for goal, she has that X-factor about her inside 50 and can be a leading or crumbing target, playing taller than her 166cm size, and one who will be another South Australian jostling for a spot as one of the more prominent talents in the state.

Alana Lishmund. Picture credit: AFL Media

Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)

A multi-sport talent for the Stingrays, Anthony also has that something special about her game playing as a forward. She can play at either end, and has progressed through the pathway from V/Line Cup to the NAB League Girls. One who has shared her football journey with cricket duties – she has only managed the five games for the Stingrays – she knows how to hit the scoreboard and provide a presence. Despite standing at just 166cm, Anthony plays like a taller forward and finds space, and will be a top talent to watch out for from the Stingrays in 2021.

Others:

Maroochydore’s Bella Smith is another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy who stood up for Maroochydore this season in the QAFL Women’s, whilst Georgia Hutton and Caitlin Thorne are a couple of Gold Coast Academy members who showed some top-end traits during the All-Stars match.

The South Australian group has been sensational with plenty having senior experience, led by South Adelaide’s Lauren Clifton who stood out in the All-Stars match up forward. Central District’s Madison Lane, North Adelaide’s Kate Case, Glenelg’s Brooke Tonon and Woodville-West Torrens’ Jamie Parish are others who have been ones to watch at SANFL Women’s level this season.

Over in the west, Chloe Reilly remains a dangerous forward option for East Fremantle with her work at ground level and around goals, whilst Swan Districts’ Emma Nanut, and South Fremantle trio, Tayla Whincup, Taylah Cruttenden and Poppy Stockwell are also great talents.

Looking to the NAB League and there are plenty of names to throw up, but a few in the mix include Mikayla Jones (Murray Bushrangers), Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays) and Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons) who have shown to be natural players in their respective areas. From the Vic Metro perspective, Peppa Poultney (Calder Cannons), Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers), Caitlin Sargent (Western Jets) and Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights) were terrific this year, while a host of middle-age Sandringham Dragons got their starts and will no doubt produce a number of surprise packets alongside their elite bottom-age talents.

Perri King is another Tasmanian prospect behind Prokopiec to watch, making history as the Devils’ first goalkicker last season and will be keen to build on that again. From Northern Territory, there is a heap of great young talents coming through from 2022 onwards, with one 2021 draft prospect being Georgia Johnson, a 160cm talent from Waratah who stood out in the NT All-Stars match last month. Playing in defence, she was one to take note of as she regularly mopped up and got the ball down the field for Team Hewett.

Alongside the top-age talents, a number of over-age talents who missed out on being drafted this year will no doubt be trying to stake their case against be it via the NAB League or state leagues, including Brooke Hards, Jemma Finning and Annabel Strahan (all Bendigo Pioneers), Zoe Hill, Abbey Jordan and Jess Matin (all Dandenong Stingrays), Ash Snow and Maeve Chaplin (both Northern Knights), Amber Micallef (Oakleigh Chargers), Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges) and Grace McRae (Gippsland Power) who all received AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but were unlucky to miss out.

In Western Australia, Maggie MacLachlan (Subiaco), Brianna Hyde and Mikayla Hyde (both Swan Districts) head into 2021 as over-agers, while mature-agers Ella Smith and Jess Low (both Claremont), Rosie Walsh (East Fremantle) and Sarah Wielstra (Swan Districts) are others who missed out on the AFL Women’s Draft but will remain ones to watch.

Elsewhere, Northern Territorian Mattea Breed continues to develop for Norwood in South Australia, whilst Abby Favell (Murray Bushrangers), Jayde Hamilton (Queanbeyan Tigers) and Kiara Beesley (Southern Power) were draft combine invitees from NSW/ACT.

In Queensland, Beth Pinchin has shown great resilience as a mature-ager coming back from multiple injuries, while Courtney Bromage and Brooke Spence are other mature-agers who caught attention this year. Christine Okesene, Ebony Peterson, Laura Blue, Chloe Gregory and Madison Goodwin were also in the mix this year with Draft Combine invites so will be kept on close watch in 2021. The other two players to receive AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but miss out were the exciting Freda Puruntatameri (Calder Cannons/Northern Territory) and Charlie Vandenberg (Wynyard/Tasmania) who have plenty of development left in them.

2020 WAFL Women’s season preview: First bounce finally here for West Australian hopefuls

A NEW season of the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition kicks off this weekend with six sides ready to do battle across the course of the season. Last season East Fremantle inspired by Lou Knitter Medallist (best on ground in the grand final) Gabby O’Sullivan, defeated Swan Districts by 23 points on the big stage. In wrapping up last year’s awards, Subiaco duo Hayley Miller and Danika Pisconeri shared the Dhara Kerr Award as the joint best and fairests throughout the season.

Round 1 of the new season sees the Swans facing off against Peel Thunder in the first match of the new season, while Subiaco and Claremont go at it later in the afternoon. The competition’s newest side – East Fremantle – join the fold on Sunday when they host the reigning premiers in a baptism of fire.

ROUND 1 FIXTURES:

Saturday, July 18:

Peel Thunder vs. Swan Districts (David Grays Arena, 12pm)
Subiaco vs. Claremont (Leederville Oval, 5.15pm)

Sunday, July 19:

South Fremantle vs. East Fremantle (Fremantle Community Bak Oval, 2pm)

Peel Thunder vs. Swan Districts

The teams faced off three times last season with the Swans getting the upper hand twice. In Round 4, Swan Districts won 11.5 (71) to Peel Thunder’s 4.1 (25), though two weeks later at the same venue – Steel Blue Oval – the Thunder held the Swans to just 1.5 (11) as they romped to a seven-goal victory. Later in the season upon returning home, Peel Thunder was no match for Swan Districts as the visiting side dominated with a 68-point triumph.

From Peel Thunder’s perspective, the player to watch is AFL Women’s National Academy member, Sarah Verrier. The midfielder loves the contested side of the game and will hope to dictate proceedings in this game, but there are a number of talents on the Swans’ side as well. Mikayla Morrison and Shanae Davidson are both Academy members too and will front up in the black and white this year, while another name to keep in mind is Emma Nanut. Outside of Verrier, Peel Thunder have a few more names to keep an eye on, with young talents such as Jade Briggs, and those ready to impact an impact at League level through their debuts in 2020 include Bethlyn Pasco, Courtney Rowley and Beth Schilling.

Subiaco vs. Claremont

After an early stumble on the road, Subiaco defined itself as the superior team in this head-to-head last season. The Lions went down to Claremont by seven points at Revo Fitness Stadium back in Round 4, but then kept the Tigers to just four behinds in the next two matches in Rounds 6 and 14, whilst booting an almost identical 8.6 and 8.5 in those games to win by 50 and 49 points respectively.

Looking at some of the young guns to watch out for in this game, Abbey Dowrick – the younger sister of West Coast’s McKenzie – has been one rising through the pathways over the years and will suit up for the Lions, as she goes head-to-head with Isabella Lewis‘ Claremont. Lewis is another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, and she has a number of promising teammates such as Jessica Low, Emily Bennett, Amber Goodwin-Wissink and Rachel Ortlepp, while Amy Franklin is another name to watch as a potential riser this year at League level. For Subiaco, Kia Buckley, Caitlyn Walker and Claire Ortlepp are others to watch alongside Dowrick, while Charlotte Thomas is another to keep an eye on for the future.

South Fremantle vs. East Fremantle

The most intriguing match of the weekend may well be this contest with the reigning premiers surely heading is as strong favourites to get up over the league newcomers. Though South Fremantle will have the home support, it will no doubt be tough for the Bulldogs who have no past history to go on. Last season was the first official year the league has come under the WAFL brand, and the Sharks will be keen to build a dynasty and start the season off with a win.

The reigning champion have some good young talent to accompany its experience such as Rosie Walsh and Hayley O’Donnell, while Chloe Reilly is a player who has the potential to make an impact at League level in 2020. For the Bulldogs, Shakira Pickett is a name who will no doubt show plenty of talent, teaming up with the likes of Tayla Whincup, Taylah Cruttenden and Poppy Stockwell who have been earmarked to make an impact this year. It will be an exciting introduction for South Fremantle and give the Bulldogs a real ideal of where they are at when taking on the Sharks.