Tag: chloe leonard

2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year

GRAND finalists Geelong Falcons and Oakleigh Chargers, and losing preliminary finalists Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels have led the way with the 2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year. The trio have combined for 11 players in our 24-player side, with other losing preliminary finalist Eastern Ranges, as well as finalists Tasmania Devils and Calder Cannons, and Western Jets each having two players apiece. Dandenong Stingrays and Northern Knights were unlucky to only have the one player this year, with the other non-finals sides in Murray Bushrangers, Sandringham Dragons and Gippsland Power having the one, and Bendigo Pioneers not having a first team representative.

Calder Cannons’ Georgie Prespakis has been named captain of our NAB League Girls Team of the Year after a record eight nominations this year. The potential top pick will share leadership duties with Geelong Falcons’ Poppy Schaap, who after six nominations, was handed the vice-captaincy. Prespakis is joined in the side by ruck/forward and fellow AFL Women’s Academy member, Tahlia Gillard. The Falcons have the equal most representatives in the team, with consistent midfielder Tess Craven, key forward Renee Tierney and defender Annie Lee all making the starting side in the most represented side in the starting 18.

Rounding out the starting onball group is another AFL Women’s Academy member in Perri King, with the Tasmania Devils talent standing up this season through the midfield. She will team up with bottom-age talent Claire Ransom in our Team of the Year, whilst another onballer who has also played on the wing at the start of the year and previous years, Charlotte Baskaran is one of two Western Jets representatives. Montana Ham is the other Western representative in the first team, making the half-forward flank. On the other wing to Baskaran is Murray Bushrangers’ best and fairest winner and Vic Country representative Aurora Smith who was the best pure wing this season.

Looking deeper forward, Oakleigh Chargers’ dynamo Charlie Rowbottom has been named at full-forward where she often starts games before rotating through the midfield. She is one of three Chargers in the team, alongside Stella Reid (half-back) and Amanda Ling (interchange) who have both been consistent performers this season. Also deep forward is the Dandenong Stingrays’ sole representative in what was a real even team spread this year for the Stingrays, as Amber Clarke makes the side having impressed both midfield and up forward. In the other forward pocket is the youngest member of the team, 2023-draft eligible talent Alyssia Pisano, who had four Team of the Week nominations and also won the leading goalkicker award in her debut season, named in the side along with teammate and bottom-age defender, Mia Busch.

The remainder of the defence features a couple of GWV Rebels in Chloe Leonard and Nyakoat Dojiok, with a couple more in Lilli Condon and Paige Scott also squeezing onto the bench in a huge result for the club this season. Northern Knights’ Maeve Chaplin slots into half-back where she is capable of playing, as the sole representative for the Knights. The last two players rounding out the bench are sole representatives in Sandringham Dragons’ Sofia Hurley and Gippsland Power’s Grace Matser, with the latter being the rotating ruck with Gillard in the side.

The 24 players who missed out on the Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year were automatically filled into the Draft Central Second Team of the Year, with special mention to Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell, Oakleigh Chargers’ Brooke Vickers and Calder Cannons’ Emelia Yassir who were named as the emergencies for the starting team.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE YEAR:

B: Chloe Leonard (GWV) – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV) – Mia Busch (ER)
HB: Maeve Chaplin (NK) – Annie Lee (GF) – Stella Reid (OC)
C: Aurora Smith (MB) – Perri King (TD) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ)
HF: Poppy Schaap (GF) (vc) – Renee Tierney (GF) – Montana Ham (WJ)
F: Alyssia Pisano (ER) – Charlie Rowbottom (OC) – Amber Clarke (DS)
R: Tahlia Gillard (CC) – Georgie Prespakis (CC) (c) – Tess Craven (GF)
INT: Lilli Condon (GWV) – Sofia Hurley (SD) – Amanda Ling (OC) – Grace Matser (GP) – Claire Ransom (TD) – Paige Scott (GWV)

EMG: Elizabeth Snell (BP) – Brooke Vickers (OC) – Emelia Yassir (CC)

The remaining 24 players filled out the impressive Second Team of the Year, with five emergencies who were the next ones just outside the squad – and received two Team of the Week nominations – all named as emergencies. These were Northern Knights duo Tannah Hurst and Ella Smallacombe, Dandenong Stingrays’ tall Mackenzie Eardley, and ruck duo, GWV Rebels’ Kalani Scoullar and Western Jets’ Krystal Russell. Captaining the side is Snell with Yassir being the vice-captain as two of the emergencies of the first team.

Eastern Ranges have four players in the side with Georgia Campbell, Keeley Sherar, Bridget Deed and Cadhla Schmidli all making the Second Team, the equal most of any side. Dandenong Stingrays also have four players in the side, as defenders Zoe Hill, Jemma Radford and Jaide Anthony – who all have VFL Women’s experience – squeeze into the back six. The leadership combination of Snell and Yassir have a teammate each in the side, with bottom-ager Octavia Di Donato, and midfielder Zali Friswell both in the starting teams.

The Gippsland Power have two players in Matilda Van Berkel and Lily-Rose Williamson, as do the GWV Rebels, with Ella Friend and Molly Walton making it in. Murray Bushrangers’ duo Ally Morphett and Keeley Skepper, and Northern Knights duo Tarrah Delgado and 2023-draft eligible Ava Jordan all represent the Second Team, with Vickers being the sole Oakleigh representative, and the team having no Falcons due to all four nominees making the First Team.

Tasmania Devils are represented by the two players in Jemma Webster and Amy Bissett, while Jemima Woods rounded out the 24-player squad by being named in the opposite forward pocket to Bissett. Sandringham Dragons did not have a representative in the side.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS SECOND TEAM OF THE YEAR:

B: Jemma Radford (DS) – Tarrah Delgado (NK) – Zoe Hill (DS)
HB: Molly Walton (GWV) – Matilda Van Berkel (GP) – Jaide Anthony (DS)
C: Jemma Webster (TD) – Zali Friswell (CC) – Brooke Vickers (OC)
HF: Elizabeth Snell (BP) (c) – Ella Friend (GWV) – Octavia Di Donato (BP)
F: Jemima Woods (WJ) – Georgia Campbell (ER) – Amy Bissett (TD)
R: Ally Morphett (MB) – Keeley Sherar (ER) – Emelia Yassir (CC) (vc)
INT: Felicity Crank (DS) – Bridget Deed (ER) – Ava Jordan (NK) – Cadhla Schmidli (ER) – Keeley Skepper (MB) – Lily-Rose Williamson (GP)

EMG: Mackenzie Eardley (DS) – Tannah Hurst (NK) – Krystal Russell (WJ) – Ella Smallacombe (NK) – Kalani Scoullar (GWV)

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Preliminary Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls grand finalists were decided on Saturday, via an enthralling double-header at Avalon Airport Oval. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 6.10 (46) def. EASTERN RANGES 1.9 (15)

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Starting each quarter up forward as she has done for the past few games, Rowbottom continues to be a commanding presence wherever she lines up on field. She lead well in the forwardline, and whilst not always holding the mark she would generally knock it to the advantage of teammates to run onto. When she got a clean opportunity inside forward 50, she was far more keen to pass it off to other teammates than take shots herself. She showed off her power around stoppages and on the inside with some good burst to run onto and win the contested ball, even delivering a few fend-offs in the third quarter. She came out comfortably on top over any player that tried to run with her through the midfield, able to cover the ground and work hard to get back and help in defence better than her opponents.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Looked dangerous in the forward 50, with her past two games having been good performances, just missing the finishing touch at times. James looks really good with her leap, and whilst not dragging in every mark, she managed to get a touch on more often than not, tapping it to players on the ground. She is no slouch with her own work at ground level either, having a few clean one-grab pick ups in the forward 50.

#33 Jasmine Fleming (Oakleigh Chargers)

It is unbelievable to think that this was just her second appearance at this level. Looking comfortably one of Oakleigh’s best players and biggest ball winner for the game, Fleming was a force through the midfield. Her work around stoppages was particularly good, winning the first of the day with a good burst of speed straight through the pack, before continuing that throughout the game. She had one of the plays of the day where she won the ball on the wing, took a bounce whilst burning an opponent and kicked it to the top of the 50, then ran past to receive the handball and then delivered it well to Charlie Rowbottom, who unfortunately missed the goal. That precision kicking and hard running for handball receives was a constant through the game, making all of her disposals damaging.

#16 Erin Woodford (Oakleigh Chargers)

After an impressive showing last week against a taller Calder forwardline, Woodford followed up, playing a crucial part in the backline. She positioned well behind the play, taking a few intercept marks without much issue before looking to kick long forward to numbers. Woodford also positioned well in contests to get front position, meaning she could run onto the ball if it was spoiled by opponents.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Having moved up forward for gradually longer stints over the season, it appears Reid is fully comfortable as a mainstay in the Chargers’ forwardline now, becoming a regular and reliable goal kicker, and target in the forward 50. Her leading patterns are impressive, particularly given she does not need much time or space to make things happen, reacting quicker than her opponents to get to good spots without much pressure, while also working them over. She was also good at looking for teammates inside 50 rather than blazing away.

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Busch has been a highlight for Eastern over the season and continued to live up to that against the Chargers, once again showing exceptional positioning behind the ball. She constantly moved towards it to get an intercept possession higher up the ground, taking it at speed and then kicking forward, looking to put it in front of leading teammates. The bottom-ager moved into the midfield in the final quarter and looked more than comfortable, suggesting a positional switch for season 2022.

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

Whilst she struggled to have the impact around the ground she has become renowned for, Campbell took advantage of her superior athleticism in the ruck to win almost every ruck contest she was involved in, with a game high 27 hitouts being her biggest return for the year. Even though she did not win a whole heap of ball around the ground, her follow up work around stoppages was impressive, getting low a few times and firing out handballs to teammates running past.

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

A few factors have set Sherar out as a prospect for this season, with her burst of speed and ability to find the ball two of them. She managed to show those off once again in her last NAB League game for the season. What was also impressive from Sherar was the fact she was an aerial threat around the ground, showing off an impressive leap when required. While she seems to favour kicking, her hands in close are really impressive, with the ability to spot teammates through traffic and find a way to get it to them.

OTHERS:

Alexandra McCulloch was impressive in defence for the Chargers, almost playing as an extra midfielder at times with how high she got up the ground. Amanda Ling and Brooke Vickers, whilst not as prolific as usual, were still influential for Oakleigh in the win, as was Charlotte Van der Vlies. For the Ranges, Bridget Deed was a strong winner on the inside for the day, offering assistance in defence as well. Matilda Hardy had arguably her best performance for the season on the wing, having some moments where she showed off her pace.

GEELONG FALCONS 5.6 (36) def. GWV REBELS 3.4 (22)

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV)

Had a difficult day looking for ways to get in it, being thrown about from the forwardline, to the wing, to the backline on multiple occasions. Although she struggled to get much of the ball or show off her usual high-level marking, Friend still commanded a player constantly on her and used the ball well when she did find it.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)

Starting the game in her usual backline role, Dojiok tried her best to intercept and impact the ball to different levels of success early on. She nabbed one particularly memorable intercept possession in the second quarter along the wing, where she went for a run and bombed it deep inside forward 50 to give GWV a chance to score. She moved into the midfield for a short period in the second half which worked wonders for her, and the Rebels, winning the contested ball with ease as a taller player through the engine room. She even got herself a goal for her troubles. That move looked to have given her confidence, as she returned the backline and looked far more assured and confident in her attack on the ball.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

It may have been her final game of the year at NAB League level, but fans and recruiters alike should be excited that we get one more year of Scott with the Rebels. After an impressive showing in the Country representative games, she came back to the NAB League in hot form, kicking five goals prior to the match with Geelong. She started the game in the midfield, winning the first clearance with ease and setting the tone for a really strong display. She continued to show her strengths, taking some contested grabs as a forward and looking dangerous on the lead. What was most impressive about this game was her increased work-rate and intensity, where her second and third efforts got her a second goal. In that instance, she dropped a mark but followed up with a tackle, knocking the ball loose and then putting it through the middle. She looked strong as a contested ball winner, running in and bursting out of the pack, then kicking long to get space.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Would have to be the form player of the competition currently, and is timing her run superbly as she helped book the Falcons spot in the grand final next week. Craven showed off immense stoppage craft all game, as one who regularly timed her runs to hit the ball with speed when it left the rucks’ hands, taking advantage of knowing where the ball was going each time. Once she started, she looked near impossible to stop. It has been noted previously that she is good at hitting those shorter kicks rather than bombing long, and she continued doing that this game, looking for and finding those kicks that would’ve been no more than 15 or 20 meters. They put the Falcons in a better spots to move forward. Craven showed she knows when to handball or kick as well, balancing well between them and not being overly reliant on either skill.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

A really consistent ball winner and strong inside player for the game, Simpson’s strength and ability to stand strong in tackles was extremely impressive. She would also get her arms free in those situations, where she was able to handball off to a teammate in space, or throw it on the boot to keep the Falcons moving forward. She was sound defensively around stoppages as well, regularly wrapping up Rebels players that broke free with the ball.

#2 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)

Meier is one of those zippy small players that just excites with her speed, agility and work-rate around the ground, especially the forward 50. That work-rate was highlighted constantly, as she kept going for second, third, and fourth efforts when around the ball, and it led to some almost moments in the forward half, where she almost broke away and got a goal at times, but the Falcons’ defensive setup kept her from snaring a major score.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Leonard has been one of the most consistent performers for GWV this season, and she stood up through the midfield for them against the Falcons in what will be her last game for the Rebels. Leonard positioned well throughout the game, sweeping up or marking uncontested hack kicks forward from the Falcons, but also attending stoppages to be a handball receive option before delivering well measured kicks forward.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Schaap struggled to get into the game early, held well by the bottom-aged Rebel Molly Walton in the first quarter, not something she has had to deal with of late. It did not last long though, as Schaap started to work more and more up the ground to get involved outside the forward 50, impacting every contest she was near – either winning the ball herself or laying a tackle to get it to spill for a teammate. Once again she looked good using the footy, with her quick hands to teammates in space particularly impressive.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Lee continued on from her good home-and-away season form. As arguably the biggest aerial threat afield, she punished the Rebels early on when they attempted to kick inside 50 without penetration behind their kicks. As usual, she used the ball effectively by foot as well, being another one that looked to move the ball into more central spots to open up the ground going forward.

OTHERS:

Molly Walton and Lilli Condon were two more that stood up at times through the contest for GWV, with Walton continuing to be an essential part of the Rebels’ defence and Condon showing off her speed and inside ball winning. For the Falcons, there were plenty of others that contributed well. Kara Stacey and Ash Van Loon were two that went through the midfield at times and provided a bit of spark. Renee Tierney was opportunistic in the forwardline, rewarding well placed kicks from midfielders and hitting the scoreboard.

2021 NAB League Girls: Preliminary Finals wrap – Chargers, Falcons reach decider

THE Oakleigh Chargers and Geelong Falcons progressed to the 2021 NAB League Girls grand final with respective wins in the weekend’s preliminary finals bouts. In a double-header at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday, the Chargers lived up to their minor premier tag to advance in dominant fashion over Eastern, while the Falcons were impressive in their ability to hold off a plucky Greater Western Victoria (GWV) outfit. We recap both games from what was a super Saturday of elite talent pathways action.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.3 | 2.6 | 4.9 | 6.10 (46)
EASTERN RANGES 1.4 | 1.5 | 1.7 | 1.9 (15)

Oakleigh Chargers became the first side to qualify for this year’s NAB League Girls grand final, via a convincing 31-point victory over Eastern Ranges. The minor premiers found themselves behind at the first break, but began to flex their muscle thereafter by keeping the Ranges goalless across three terms, while pouring on scoreboard pressure with 12 more scoring shots of their own. Ultimately, the 6.10 (46) to 1.9 (15) result only officially confirmed Oakleigh’s status as the top team in this year’s Metro pool, with eyes now on the top gong overall in next week’s decider.

Winning skipper Charlie Rowbottom lead her side superbly, rotating through the midfield from up forward to finish with 18 disposals, seven tackles, and three marks in a bullocking display. Fellow midfielder-forwards Eliza James (15 disposals, two goals) and Stella Reid (13 and two) were also impactful throughout Oakleigh’s charge, while second-gamer Jasmine Fleming topped her side’s disposal count with 22, including four inside 50s. Down back, Alexandra McCulloch and Erin Woodford were resolute, helping restrict the Ranges to just one major. Bottom-age jet Jemma Rigoni may be a bad luck story on the injury front, having ended the game on crutches.

Eastern was served well by a bunch of reliable figures, including Keeley Sherar in midfield. She found the ball 14 times but won it in important areas and looked to make each touch count. Mia Busch was kept busy in an under-siege defence, leading all comers with 24 disposals and seven marks in what was an exciting sighter for next year from the rebounding ace. Grace Walsh also played an important hand in a tough role down back, while the likes of Tilly Hardy (15 disposals) and Bridget Deed (18) worked hard, as did athletic ruck prospect, Georgia Campbell for 27 hitouts.

Oakleigh’s near-unblemished season rolls on to the big dance, with Geelong awaiting. The Falcons are the only side to beat the Chargers in 2021, so redemption may well prove a theme in Oakleigh’s effort. On the other hand, Eastern’s year comes to an end but the Ranges can be proud of a campaign where it seemed the squad extracted the best out of itself, finishing as the second-ranked Metro side.

GOALS:

Oakleigh: E. James 2, S. Reid 2, T. Morton, S. Morley
Eastern: G. Wilson

DC BEST:

Oakleigh: C. Rowbottom, E. James, J. Fleming, E. Woodford, S. Reid, A. McCulloch
Eastern: K. Sherar, M. Busch, G. Campbell, M. Hardy, G. Walsh, B. Deed

Eastern's Georgia Campbell competes with Oakleigh's Kalarni Kearns in the ruck

GEELONG FALCONS 1.1 | 3.6 | 5.6 | 5.6 (36)
GWV REBELS 1.0 | 1.1 | 3.1 | 3.4 (22)

Geelong Falcons held off a gallant GWV Rebels side on Saturday to earn top honours in the Country pool and advance to this year’s NAB League Girls grand final. The Falcons rode out tense moments and spurts of momentum belonging to the Rebels, making better of their own opportunities to come away 14-point victors. That theme was most evident during term three, where GWV looked like breaking back into the game, and potentially ahead, but could not quite overcome Geelong’s mix of class and solidity. A goalless final quarter saw the result finish 5.6 (36) to 3.4 (22) in favour of Geelong, with neither team losing any admirers for their efforts.

Falcons midfielder Tess Craven may well be the finals MVP at this point after another outstanding outing, leading all comers with 24 disposals and five marks, as well as three behinds. Aiding her in the engine room, Charlotte Simpson also ticked over 20 touches and Ash Van Loon got her hands dirty with 11 tackles in a typically strong display. Annie Lee (17 disposals, five marks) proved resolute as ever down back, as the forward combination of Renee Tierney (two goals) and Poppy Schaap (18 disposals, seven tackles, 1.2) caused plenty of headaches for the opposition.

GWV had an even spread of contributors, with leaders like Chloe Leonard (14 disposals, eight tackles) and Lilli Condon (12 and five) stepping up to the plate. Nyakoat Dojiok also ran through midfield and managed to kick a rare goal to give her side a momentary lift. Tahlia Meier proved dangerous forward of centre, as did dual goalkicker Paige Scott who got even busier once shifted to the forwardline. Down back, the presence of Molly Walton (13 kicks, six rebound 50s) was also important in helping repel some of Geelong’s attacks, while Kalani Scoullar commanded the ruck with 37 hitouts.

Geelong’s second grand final appearance in four seasons will pose a difficult task against Oakleigh, though the Falcons have already knocked off their future opponents in 2021. Having peaked at an ideal time, the Falcons are a good chance to go all the way. GWV’s incredible finals run comes to an end, having toppled Tasmania in week one and given the Falcons a red hot run in their final appearance.

GOALS:

Geelong: R. Tierney 2, P. Schaap, C. Adams, Z. Garth
GWV: P. Scott 2, N. Dojiok

DC BEST:

Geelong: T. Craven, C. Simpson, A. Lee, P. Schaap, R. Tierney, A. Van Loon
GWV: P. Scott, T. Meier, C. Leonard, N. Dojiok, K. Scoullar, M. Walton

Geelong midfielder Tess Craven fires off a handball

2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year squad

FOLLOWING the conclusion of the 2021 NAB League Girls season, Draft Central has named its extended 48-player squad for its Team of the Year. The 48 players are comprised of those NAB League Girls talents who compiled the most Team of the Week nominations throughout the season, with three or more nominations earning automatic selection into the squad, and then the majority of the two or more nominations also earning a place in the squad.

From here the 48-player squad will be divided up into two teams – the Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year and the Second Team of the Year, recognising the efforts of the most consistent performers in 2021. The players with the most nominations will earn the captaincy and vice-captaincy for the Team of the Year, with the team to be released line-by-line on social media.

Of the team-by-team nominations, finalists Eastern Ranges and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels have the most with six players, ahead of fellow finalists, Dandenong Stingrays (five). Four of the remaining five finalists had the four representatives with Oakleigh Chargers, Geelong Falcons, Calder Cannons and Tasmania Devils having a quartet of players in the squad. Northern Knights had the three as the other finalist, while Murray Bushrangers, Gippsland Power and Western Jets had the three players. Bendigo Pioneers (two) and Sandringham Dragons (one) had the least representatives, mostly due to injuries or absences to key players – such as Tara Slender and Bridie Hipwell – at different points during the season.

In terms of constructing the Team of the Year, those players with four or more Team of the Week nominations will automatically make the side. With 16 players having received four or more nominations, they will be the centrepieces in the side, and the remaining eight players chosen from the other 32 available players. Those not selected in the Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year will be in the Second Team.

Of the 48 players, 33 are eligible for the draft, in their 18th or 19th year this season, with a further 13 eligible for the draft next year and remarkably, two players – Alyssia Pisano and Ava Jordan – not eligible until the 2023 AFL Women’s Draft. There was also a minimum five-game limit for players to make the squad, with the likes of Emily Shepherd just missing out due to injury having played just the four games (prior to finals).

Bendigo Pioneers [2]: Octavia Di Donato, Elizabeth Snell
Calder Cannons [4]: Zali Friswell, Tahlia Gillard, Georgie Prespakis, Emelia Yassir
Dandenong Stingrays [5]: Jaide Anthony, Amber Clarke, Felicity Crank, Zoe Hill, Jemma Radford
Eastern Ranges [6]: Mia Busch, Georgia Campbell, Bridget Deed, Alyssia Pisano, Cadhla Schmidli, Keeley Sherar
Geelong Falcons [4]: Tess Craven, Annie Lee, Poppy Schaap, Renee Tierney
Gippsland Power [3]: Grace Matser, Matilda Van Berkel, Lily Rose-Williamson
GWV Rebels [6]: Lilli Condon, Nyakoat Dojiok, Ella Friend, Chloe Leonard, Paige Scott, Molly Walton
Murray Bushrangers [3]: Ally Morphett, Keeley Skepper, Aurora Smith
Northern Knights [3]: Maeve Chaplin, Tara Delgado, Ava Jordan
Oakleigh Chargers [4]: Amanda Ling, Stella Reid, Charlie Rowbottom, Brooke Vickers
Sandringham Dragons [1]: Sofia Hurley
Tasmania Devils [4]: Amy Bissett, Perri King, Claire Ransom, Jemma Webster
Western Jets [3]: Charlotte Baskaran, Montana Ham, Jemima Woods

The 2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year and Second Team will be announced next week in the lead-up to the NAB League Girls Grand Final.

2021 NAB League Girls preview: Preliminary Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls premiership contenders have been whittled down to four after an enthralling opening week of finals, with the knockout bouts setting up this week’s preliminary final stage. As the postseason draw remains split into Country and Metro pools, Saturday’s double-header at Avalon Airport Oval will decide which regions are left standing to play off for ultimate glory.

In the day’s opening game, minor premier Oakleigh will look to flex its muscle against the Eastern Ranges, after both regions progressed through the elimination round in style. The Chargers remain the team to beat having dropped just one game this season, but Eastern cannot be counted out after knocking off the reigning premiers.

Looking at the Country equation, the third and fourth ranked regular season sides mixed it up last week to create an intriguing matchup this time around. The Geelong Falcons and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels are those teams in question, both with some terrific top-end talents to be showcased at midday.

We preview both fixtures with a look at form and the key matchups.

METRO POOL

Oakleigh Chargers vs. Eastern Ranges
Saturday May 8, 10:00am
Avalon Airport Oval

Top seed, Oakleigh Chargers will lock horns with Eastern Ranges to decide which side will represent the Metro regions in this year’s NAB League grand final. The Chargers have set the benchmark in 2021 having only lost once during the regular season, but have not yet been able to test themselves against the Ranges. Eastern finished as Metro’s second-ranked team with its 6-2 record, with either loss coming to fellow finals contenders. Both teams are on win streaks, with the Ranges riding high on four-straight victories, while Oakleigh returned from the break well to get up twice in the last fortnight.

Oakleigh’s squad dynamism will be a feature to watch in this clash, with many of their top-end talents able to shift and impact across multiple lines. Skipper Charlie Rowbottom is often at the heart of their cause, starting at full forward in recent weeks before bullocking her way into the game through midfield. Stella Reid is also among the starting forwards and has added a goalkicking string to her bow this season alongside Eliza James. Another in that midfield-forward rotation could be Amanda Ling, who is so tough and consistent at ground level. Further afield, ‘Chook’ Brooke Vickers and Charlotte Van Der Vlies run the wings, as Charlotte Taylor forms the centrepiece of a sturdy defence.

If there is one Metro region which can compete with Oakleigh for inside midfield strength, it may be Eastern. The one-two punch of Bridget Deed and Keeley Sherar has been wonderful to watch, with the likes of Jorja Livingstone benefitting on the outer. Isabelle Khoury has also entered the centre bounce mix, which is capped off by athletic ruck Georgia Campbell. Tilly Hardy and El Chaston, who have both gained VFLW experience this year, are forward threats, along with competition leading goalkicker Alyssia Pisano. The 15-year-old talent has proven she is not afraid of the big stage and can kick a bag if afforded too much leeway.

The minor premiers should rightly enter as the favoured side in this match, but will be given a good shake by Eastern’s competitiveness and even spread across the ground. It all starts with the midfield battle, which should prove a tight one, as both teams like to make an impact at the contest. Whichever side can get on top at the coalface and provide greater opportunities for the match-winners in the front half, will go a long way to being crowned this year’s top Metro region.

COUNTRY POOL

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Saturday May 8, 12:00pm
Avalon Airport Oval

The Geelong Falcons and GWV Rebels battle it out at midday on Saturday to decide which team will not only be crowned the top Country region in 2021, but also progress to this year’s NAB League grand final. Both teams took out higher ranked opposition in last week’s elimination final round, with Geelong powering past Dandenong while the Rebels caused a momentous upset over top seed, Tasmania. The Falcons got the better of their weekend rivals all the way back in Round 1, winning by 10 points on home turf in what was a competitive hitout throughout. Plenty has change since then though, and there will be plenty of confidence bouncing around both squads given their recent exploits.

Geelong was pegged as one of the teams to beat during preseason and have not disappointed, boasting high-level talent on each line. Starting in defence, the Falcons are rock-solid with the likes of Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling among those who repel nicely across half-back, impacting aerially and with their disposal. Up the other end, Renee Tierney is the spearhead with dynamite athlete Gabbi Featherston ahead of her as another marking target. At ground level, Poppy Schaap has rolled forward a lot more in recent weeks and Zoe Garth is impartial to a goal. Delivering the ball to them often times is Tess Craven out of the middle, who will once again be supported by bottom-agers Charlotte Simpson and Ash Van Loon at the centre bounces.

GWV lays claim to a head of top end prospects, with arguably none more exciting that its two AFLW Academy members Ella Friend and Nyakoat Dojiok. The pair are capable of bookending this lineup with aerial dominance, but Friend is wonderfully versatile and could well end up waxing with Dojiok in defence. Last week’s match winner, Paige Scott is capable of tearing the game apart at any moment, named in midfield but likely to head forward where Tahlia Meier is also a threat. In the middle, Kalani Scoullar makes for an imposing ruck figure, while Lilli Condon is as hard-working as they come with her run and ball winning ability at ground level. Add the experience of Chloe Leonard to that midfield rotation, and GWV are ultra competitive.

If their Round 1 meeting is anything to go by, this clash should be an absolute belter. Geelong is a side which seems to be peaking at the right time, with their form built on a wall-like defence and reliable figures where it matters most, complemented by forwards who consistently convert. The Rebels have the potential to be equally as damaging on their day and will look to control possession, but should be tested well in their usually strong aerial department. This is a clash where you cannot rule either side out, and both should bring a true finals intensity to the fore.

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Elimination Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition rolled on into finals action over the weekend, with three games played on Saturday and one on Sunday. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve 

AFLW Academy:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Unsurprisingly Prespakis lead all comers for disposals for the day. She often sharked first possession off the rucks’ hands and then followed up with her classic long kicks forward, or the drew in opponents to handball it off to a teammate she just relieved of pressure. The real highlight of her game was how well she competed on the inside against one of the strongest midfield groups in the competition, racking up a game high 12 tackles and showing she wasn’t letting the Chargers mids walk it out of stoppages easily. Spectators were fortunate enough to see her and fellow AFLW Academy star Charlie Rowbottom go head-to-head at times, with each of them getting a few bragging rights moments through the contest.

 #18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Started the day as the deepest Calder forward, with the coaching staff looking to take advantage of the Chargers’ lack of height in defensive 50. She competed well when the ball entered attacking 50 and interestingly, despite being 190 cm, she looked at her best when the ball hit the ground as she followed up extremely well to get quick hands up to teammates. Unfortunately she dropped a few marks she would’ve usually held, perhaps due to the increased pace and pressure of finals. 

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Finding herself split between the midfield and forwardline evenly across the contest, Rowbottom’s influence on the game, particularly through the midfield, can’t be overstated, with her burst of speed being difficult for Calder to deal with. She looked to move the ball by hand a lot as opposed to blindly kicking the ball which led to some nice passages of play for Oakleigh. However, you could say she was too team centric at times, looking to pass off inside 50 most of the time she got it which kept Oakleigh off the scoreboard more than they could’ve been. A real point of difference is her overhead marking which she got to display a couple of times, taking one particular pack mark that, despite getting tackled by Georgie Prespakis, resulted in a dangerous inside 50.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Consistently found ways to show off her burst of speed and agility, weaving through packs and getting away well weighted kicks forward, or handballing to teammates under less pressure. The hard working midfielder provided plenty of spark around stoppages. She found her way around the ground as well, with a defensive focus to her game, getting down back to help out her team under siege, where she even managed an impressive intercept mark which led to a dangerous piece of transitional play that almost resulted in a goal.

#8 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

Has possibly flown under the radar this season with Prespakis and Yassir arguably flashier, but Friswell’s contribution to the strong midfield trio has been monumental throughout 2021 and the game against Oakleigh was no different. She returned a rounded game where she did everything well; unselfish with her ball use, looking to find teammates in space to spread Oakleigh’s defence, and switching the ball across the forward 50 often to create a bit of chaos. Similar to other teammates, her hybrid style of play in the midfield made Calder dangerous, able to crack in and win the contested ball and clearances, but also just as capable at holding her space and receiving a handball out the back or when running past.

#4 Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons)

Putting in arguably her best performance for the year, Lennox had a game to be proud of as a key defender. Usually playing on Oakleigh’s resting midfielders like Charlie Rowbottom or Amanda Ling, she adjusted to each opponent promptly and looked assured throughout the contest, not conceding a goal at any point. Taking the kick-ins for the day, she’d always run the ball out 15-20 meters and then kick a long bomb well out of the defensive 50 in an attempt to get Calder moving quickly in transition.

#15 Mali McLeod (Calder Cannons)

Getting her highest disposal count for the season in the contest, McLeod chose the right game to show her proficiency as a winger. Often the target of the kick-ins for Calder, or playing on the ‘dead wing’, McLeod was always an option, putting herself in the right spots all day to receive the ball on the outside and holding her space well. She also used the ball well by foot, looking to spot up targets in more central parts of the ground or inside 50.

#39 Abbey McDonald (Calder Cannons)

Playing in all thirds of the ground, McDonald showed that she’s got the scope to play anywhere going forward, and at a high level. She’s proven throughout the season that she understands how to play her role, and works well within the Calder structure to adjust what she does to suit her teammates. When she gets the ball, she just uses it so well, never asking too much of her teammates with well weighted kicks or handballs put just in front for them to run onto. As a 2004 birth, she’s one that looms as a major part, in any area of the ground, of the Cannons’ 2022 campaign.

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Ling had a performance to remember. Whilst not winning as much of the ball as she usually does, the moments she had with and around it were extremely influential. What was perhaps most impressive was her lateral movement, even under pressure, able to maintain top speed even when evading opponents. It wasn’t uncommon to see her run straight towards opponents and then take a side step, with the opponent unable to do anything about it. She used the ball well to follow up on those side steps too, hitting a few kicks to the top of the goalsquare to give her teammates the best opportunity to score.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing forward for what felt like the entire game, Reid didn’t let that hurt her disposal numbers. Pushing up the ground to act as a high-half forward link up player, she was involved in everything in the front half of the ground; taking marks, winning loose balls and setting up teammates. She was also one of two multiple goalkickers, with the opportunity to get two or three more on the board as well, but she chose to move the ball on to better positioned teammates showing a sense for teamwork – a common theme amongst the Oakleigh squad that played a big part in the win.

#31 Sarah Morley (Oakleigh Chargers)

Putting in her best shift for the year, Morley was one of the benefactors from the team focus that the Oakleigh squad played with, getting involved in some chain bits of play that led to either her getting on the scoreboard or her team getting a scoring opportunity. Morley threw herself at everything, not letting the Cannons defenders have anything easy, while also taking a couple of nice marks that led to her setting up teammates for shots on goal. 

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Perhaps most impactful in the final quarter where she got an extended run through the midfield, James’ burst of speed, agility and toughness at the footy were real sparks to keep Oakleigh going forward consistently through the middle of the ground. She did well to win first possession off of the ruck taps and then quickly handball off to teammates under less pressure. If she got it in space herself, she measured her kicks well, looking to get them more central. 

#37 Charlotte Van der Vlies (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing in her usual wing role, Van der Vlies was able to impact contests on her side of the ground well, generally winning the contest by getting the ball herself, or putting in a bump/shepherd that allowed a teammate to get it out and keep going forward. She proved a nuisance for the Cannons defence, often at the fall of the ball when they rushed a kick out of the Chargers’ forward 50, using the ball well by foot to get it central or back inside 50.

#23 Caitlin Matthews (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing an underrated role in the defensive 50 for the Chargers, Matthews was impressive in her defensive craft; winning one-on-ones with a spoil, or drifting across and impacting contests to get the ball loose and then follow up at ground level. From there, she picked it up cleanly off the ground and then got distance behind her kicks outside of defensive 50. She was also confident to push off her opponent and just sit behind contests to quickly pick up spilled balls.

OTHERS:

For the victors, the influence of defender Erin Woodford can’t be overstated, winning multiple two-on-ones in the final quarter to stop Calder scoring, and doing well to nullify Gillard throughout the contest. Lily Hart was again a big part of the midfield for the Chargers, as Mia Clift and Charlotte Taylor were impressive as rebounding defensive options. For the Cannons, Trilby Sheppard did well in defensive 50, whilst Reese Sutton was also lively through the game, having some good moments in the forward half.

EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Declan Reeve

TOP PERFORMERS:

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Put in a solid performance in what will be her last NAB League appearance. Chaplin’s strength on the inside and around stoppages is one of her standout traits, being able to win contested possession without much issue even with opposition hanging off her. This goes hand in hand with her composure and smooth moving through traffic to make her a really damaging ball winner, where she’ll win it, get free and kick well forward. When playing a role in the defensive 50, she has natural defensive nous, with just little things like standing goal side of her opponent or having an arm across them giving her the advantage when the ball comes in.

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

It has become glaringly evident that Jordan is a seriously good ball winner through the midfield, and she’s only going to get better. Despite being shorter than most, she’s got such a hunger to win the footy that leads to her being involved in everything. She manages to get the ball in contested situations and work her way out to give it off to a teammate under less pressure. What’s most impressive is her tendency to move the ball on by hand, it’s not uncommon for the highest ball winners in NAB League to look to bomb long, so that composure and maturity at such a young age is an extremely good trait. 

#23 Lulu Beatty (Northern Knights)

Had a difficult job through the game with the ball constantly around the Northern defensive 50, but Beatty held up under the pressure to be arguably the best defender on ground. She positioned well in contests to be at an advantage almost every time, giving her the best opportunity to use the ball well going forward and start a dangerous counter attack. Pushed up the ground as well to help lock the ball inside the Northern forward 50, setting up just outside to create a contest with Eastern players waiting for a rebound. 

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Continued her goalkicking ways from the home-and-away season, booting three on the way to a brilliant victory. Two of her goals came at vital moments; when the game was still there to be won by Northern, it was Pisano that would step up and put the nail in the coffin after having missed a few easier shots earlier on. It wasn’t just the goals that impressed and impacted from Pisano, she was able to push up the ground and win possession as far as the defensive 50 mark, following up with her trademark penetrating left-foot kick, usually a good 35-40 meters down the line. Her work through traffic was also eye-catching, able to side step her way around opponents to get separation.

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

The super athletic ruck had a day out for Eastern, playing a big part in their ability to get first hands on the ball and clear it forward to keep pressure on the Northern defence. She has developed and improved her ruck craft throughout the season. Having the athletic advantage more often than not, she’s worked on her tap work to be one of the premiere rucks in the league in that regard, putting it right in front of her teammates every time.

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Has improved game on game, and it has led to her being one of the standout defenders in the competition, with her ability to run both ways and offer plenty in both offensive and defensive play making her a consistent part of the Ranges’ transitional passages. Her ball use around the ground is exceptional, composing herself before getting the ball to a teammate, usually further up the ground. She was involved in one particular bit of play, where she won a one-on-two at the top of the defensive 50, swept up the loose ball and delivered long to a teammate, who then kicked it onto Alyssia Pisano for her third goal of the day. 

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

The major ball winner for the contest, Deed was constantly involved in play around the ground. However, what was most noticeable was her work rate to get down and assist in the backline, with her positioning in particular being the key reason to her good performance, even getting herself some quick uncontested intercept marks during the latter stages in the game. She was strong on the inside as a ball winner that fed out to other midfielders or kicked long forward into dangerous spots.

#5 Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges)

Playing arguably her best game of the season in her standard wing role, it was Livingstone’s endurance running and ability to work both ways that stood out and put her name in contention for best on ground. She held her space really well throughout the game, being a much needed outlet for the Ranges as seemingly everyone else on the ground wanted to get into the contested scraps.

OTHERS:

Keeley Sherar, Ruby O’Dwyer and Isabelle Khoury were all big parts in the Ranges’ win, bringing spark around the midfield. El Chaston was a dangerous forward target, setting up a few of the goals, whilst Grace Walsh was consistent down back. For the Knights, Phoebe Nelson, Riley Wilcox and Teleah Smart all had good moments in the midfield and around the ground, all bringing positive run to Northern’s side.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

TOP PERFORMERS:

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Since returning from the Under 19 Championships matches, Schaap has played extended stints forward to great success, again getting on the scoreboard against Dandenong, but playing a much more team orientated game, looking to pass off essentially every time she got the ball rather than take the shot herself. She found a good balance between pushing up the ground acting as an extra midfielder, and staying down forward as a crumber which played a big part in the Falcons’ dominance, with her natural ball winning and quick hands in-close opening the game up often and leading to scoring shots for Geelong.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

A game to put on the resume, Craven showed that she has the ability to impact the scoreboard heavily when allowed a little more freedom to move forward. Her first of the day came just 30 seconds into the match from about 40 meters out, after getting the clearance, handing it off and getting it back straight away. Her ball use was at its usual high standard, being one of the few to look to use the width of the ground rather than always moving straight forward, finding unopposed teammates that allowed them to get a clearer path forward. She looked to be a handy outlet option for her teammates as well, getting into the short inside 45 spots and often being used, then hitting teammates up to keep the chain going.

#9 Ash Van Loon (Geelong Falcons)

Played as the most permanent part of Geelong’s midfield for the game, with her positioning around the ground, especially stoppages, being the highlight for her. She’d manage to win the first possession off the rucks’ hands and then flick it off by hand to a teammate that was already close to top speed, giving the Falcons quick ball movement entering the forward half of the ground. Used it well by foot as well to hit some good targets, even when under pressure.

#15 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Featherston benefitted from the quick ball movement coming forward at times, making her a dangerous figure. As a player that possesses great speed and athleticism in general, she was able to react quickly and leap to try and take the ball high or quickly turn and run onto a ball over the top, beating her opponent in the foot race. She used the ball well, hitting targets in better spots than her if she wasn’t in a good position to go for goal, but also comfortable to back herself in and take some shots herself. Acted as the relieving ruck for the game as well, with the previously mentioned athleticism coming out.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

The 2022 Geelong and St Kilda father-daughter prospect is the embodiment of an inside bull, utilising her strength and relentless hunt on the footy to win the contested ball and get it going forward by foot. She also looked good with her marking, providing contests with her bodywork really solid in those marking jostles, nudging players off balance to get the advantage as the ball flew in. 

#31 Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)

Fresh off her VFLW debut with the Southern Saints, Radford returned to Dandenong looking more confident and happy to take the game on. As she has so often done this year, Radford was thrown about into all areas of the ground as Dandenong tried to plug the holes as they popped up. Looked good with her positioning all day, making herself a genuine option wherever she was, then using the ball well when she got it – proving well balanced between kicking and handballing. Looked most impressive in defence where she made plenty of contests to stop certain Geelong goals, and rebounded well. Radford also got herself on the scoreboard for her hard work. 

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looked the most aerially dangerous in Dandenong’s defence and moved the ball out of defensive 50 with speed, looking to take the game on with her run-and-carry at times, then delivering a long kick forward into space for the forwards to run onto. Hill was defensively sound throughout, making opposition forwards work hard with their leading and work at ground level to win the ball.

#44 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looked solid as a rock for Dandenong in defence, being one of the few defenders that were happy to push up out of the defensive 50 and impact further up the ground, which led to her taking some impressive runs on the wing and delivering inside 50 with her well weighted kicks, even getting herself on the scoreboard as a reward for effort. She used the ball well coming out of defence too, looking to spot up targets rather than bomb down the line, in an attempt to stop Geelong’s constant stream of inside 50s.

OTHERS:

Zoe Garth and Ingrid Houtsma were also good for Geelong Falcons, with Garth getting a goal playing predominantly as a high half-forward and Houtsma playing the wing role well before going off in the fourth quarter, after a rough tackle. Annie Lee looked assured in defence when it came down, often pushing out to impact play on the wing. For Dandenong, bottom-agers Felicity Crank and Olivia Robinson looked solid and worked hard all day, playing a variety of roles but still popping up everywhere. Ashleigh Richards also had some good moments playing mostly forward. 2023-draft eligible tall Bianca Lyne was the standout in the ruck all day, leading the game for hitouts and regularly jumping higher than her opponents.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

Had another strong performance throughout the four quarters by winning her fair share of the ball in-close and extracting it out of the stoppage to try and get it forward. Once again it was her tackling pressure that really shone in the match, and whilst she might have rushed some of her earlier kicks, she put in a good kick to Amy Prokopiec in the second term, and worked hard moments later to slide in and mark the ball 35 metres out straight in front. Whilst the set shot fell short, she continued to push hard throughout the game and had one of the last inside 50s of the game.

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Rotating between forward and the wing – and even dropping back into defence to provide an aerial presence at centre half-back, Friend was one of the more prominent players in the game. A couple of times both she and Paige Scott led to the same spot which saw the ball knocked to ground, but Friend was incredibly lively up the ground, setting up Scott and her teammates inside 50 with scoring chances thanks to her booming left boot. Continually looking to thump it deep, Friend kept winning the ball through the midfield.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Providing good run out of defence and positioning herself well in the back 50 to gobble up any high balls, Dojiok was a difficult player to stop in transition. Her bombing down the field was hit and miss in terms of accuracy, but her ability to just get in the right spots to intercept and then drive it forward as she has all season was uncanny. She ran all game long and became a real problem for the opposition forwards who had to try and stop her in the air to try and contain her, which they focused on doing later in the game.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#1 Brooke Barwick (Tasmania Devils)

The pocket rocket 15-year-old looked experienced beyond her years, having some eye-catching plays throughout the match. In particular, during a couple of back-to-back plays in the third term where she won the ball on the wing and drove it forward on multiple occasions. For a smaller player she has a fierce attack on the contest and is not afraid to get stuck in, making for plenty of upside in her game.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Was particularly busy early, winning plenty of the ball. She provided hard running and fierce defensive pressure, taking a couple of good marks and spreading into space to move the ball in transition. She showed good strength at one stage to fend off an opponent and handball inside 50, as well as taking a good mark late in the game at the top of the forward 50. Had a fair impact on the contest as a whole.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

The classy midfielder used her clean hands through the middle and composure under pressure to be one of the best Tasmanians on the day once again. Her ability to have the footy smarts whilst being tackled on the ground in the goalsquare to firstly keep the ball in, and then give it off to the moving Prokopiec to kick a goal from point blank was terrific. Ransom herself kicked a clever early goal to get the Devils on the board, and then had a flying shot in the fourth term which just bounced into the post. As a whole her attacking plays were impactful from the get-go. She did get caught once holding the ball which is very rare, but otherwise had another impressive performance.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

Covered the ground really well, winning the ball in the midfield, attack and in defence. She showed off her deep long kick going inside 50, and then worked hard on the outside to receive the handball and keep running. In the fourth term, Maurer won a free kick at half-forward but her kick was smothered, though she kept pushing and finished the game with a well-balanced array of touches all over the field, as well as high-level defensive pressure.

#23 Charlotte Dennis (Tasmania Devils)

Played a rock solid role in defence, especially when the Rebels had the ascendancy, standing up under pressure and taking a number of strong marks, then moving the ball out of the danger zone in transition. Perhaps her best moment was a courageous grab with contact coming in the third term, backing herself to win the ball and save a potential goalscoring chance for the opposition.

#24 Amy Prokopiec (Tasmania Devils)

Was a really lively forward and could have had a huge day out, finishing with 2.3 for her troubles from eight touches. Forgetting the stats, her impact on the game was certainly high, working hard to lead to spots and then doubling back to try and worry the opposition on the last line. She kicked a goal from the square thanks to a handball from Ransom, then kicked a second with a set shot 30 metres out straight in front, a quarter later. Taking a couple of strong grabs in the second half, Prokopiec uncharacteristically missed a couple of chances, including one late in the contest, but could be proud with the work rate she produced.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

Good players stand up when the game is on the line, and while Scott booted the four goals to put them in front, Condon’s last term – in particular the last 10 minutes – was absolutely outstanding. She had a flying shot on the goal herself which missed, but her ability to keep running hard throughout the entire match, including when many were tiring was unbelievable. She seemed to find space with ease and brought as much defensive pressure as she did offensive work. Showing clean hands on the inside, Condon had the ball on a string and was really influential throughout the match, but was particularly noticeable when every touch mattered late in the game.

#2 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)

Stepped up with another strong performance after a good one in Round 9. The talented midfielder had a powerful kick early in the game from half-back to the wing and then pushed deeper back to smother a set shot on goal which forced a ball-in. Her intensity at the contest earned her a number of free kicks, and she teamed up well with Condon by extracting the ball from in-close to get it outside. A huge tackle on Ransom when very few can catch her was impressive, and she finished with a solid four-quarter effort with some nice plays in each term.

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

The match-winner and like she did for Vic Country, showed just what she is capable of when on-song. Kicking the team’s four goals, Scott could have had an even bigger day out with three behinds as well. She played a lot deeper than she has in other outings, often utilised as the player to isolate one-on-one deep, and she took advantage of her strength and footy IQ to create separation from her opponent – be it one-on-one, on the lead, or getting to the right place for an uncontested grab. After three goals in the space of five minutes during the second term, she capped off her day with a fourth from 25 metres out in the third term, narrowly missing one after a tough mark shortly after.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Consistent as they come, Leonard was again easily one of the Rebels’ best, laying some fierce tackles and just bullocking her way on the inside to win the ball and get it out to teammates. She provided good run when on the outside and covered the ground well by winning the ball in all thirds of the ground. She stood up in tackles and won free kicks for her attack on the contest, and just did what she had to do in crunch moments to be a leader amongst the group and really impact the contest.

OTHERS:

From Tasmania’s standpoint, Jemma Webster, Priscilla Odwogo, Aprille Crooks and Candice Belbin all had some impressive moments throughout the match, while Charlie Vandenberg worked well around the ground early. For the Rebels, Stella Bridgewater, Jorja Jones and Ally Trigg had some nice moments throughout the game, Kalani Scoullar took control at the ruck stoppages, and Molly Walton was reliable when needed in defence.

2021 NAB League Girls: Elimination Finals wrap – Scott-inspired Rebels secure finals boilover

FINALS time rolled around in the 2021 NAB League Girls competition, with the four elimination bouts bringing a terrific atmosphere and some fantastic football to the fore. The action kicked off with a Metro double-header on Saturday morning, which saw Oakleigh and Eastern set up their preliminary final meeting, before Geelong romped to a big win over the highly-fancied Dandenong Stingrays, and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) inflicted an inspired upset on enemy territory the following day.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.1 | 3.3 | 4.5 | 5.6 (36)
CALDER CANNONS 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.4 | 3.5 (23)

By: Declan Reeve

In a fiery contest to open up the NAB League Girls finals series, the Oakleigh Chargers came away 13-point victors over the Calder Cannons, allowing them to continue on their finals campaign. The highly contested nature of the game led to plenty of stoppages, giving viewers ample opportunity to see Victorian pick one fancies Charlie Rowbottom and Georgie Prespakis line up head-to-head, each winning their fair share of clearances and ball around the ground. 

The Chargers were buoyed by a great all-round team performance; Rowbottom was a big influence through the midfield and up forward, with teammate Amanda Ling also rotating through the two areas of the ground to great effect. Stella Reid and Sarah Morley both kicked two majors when goals were hard to come by. Caitlin Matthews and Erin Woodford worked well in tandem in the defensive 50 for the Chargers, both winning crucial contests in the final term.

For Calder, it was a lot of the usual suspects stepping up; Prespakis, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell were again influential around the ground, working hard to assist their team in defence. Abbey McDonald was played in all thirds of the ground and continued to be a strong contributor wherever she ended up, and winger Mali McLeod had one of her best performances to date. Kasey Lennox was instrumental in defence for Calder, with her efforts keeping the game within arms reach at times. It was to no avail in the end, as the Cannons’ season came to an end.

GOALS:

Oakleigh: S. Reid 2, S. Morley 2, C. Van der Vlies
Calder: E. Nickolaus, G. Prespakis, R. Sutton

DC BEST:

Oakleigh: S. Reid, C. Rowbottom, A. Ling, C. Matthews, E. Woodford, S. Morley
Calder: G. Prespakis, E. Yassir, Z. Friswell, K. Lennox, A. McDonald, M. McLeod

EASTERN RANGES 2.3 | 2.3 | 2.6 | 5.9 (39)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.5 (11)

By: Declan Reeve

The Eastern Ranges booked themselves a match up against the Oakleigh Chargers in the second week of NAB League Girls finals, after pulling away from the Northern Knights in a 28-point win. Despite what the scoreboard may say, the game was a constantly tight, with the feeling that Northern was still very much in the game as both teams had periods where they’d be on top of the arm wrestle.

The Ranges had plenty of contributors in the victory, arguably none more so than Alyssia Pisano who ended the game with three goals. The midfield did well to continue piling on pressure, with Bridget Deed, Jorja Livingstone, Keeley Sherar and Ruby O’Dwyer winning plenty of it and getting involved defensively. They were well served by ruck Georgia Campbell who looked strong around stoppages, while Mia Busch was a strong rebounding option, coming out of defence to impact the ball further up the ground. 

Northern will be happy with the performance of midfielders Ava Jordan and Maeve Chaplin who won plenty of the ball, with Chaplin finding her way into the backline later in the piece. Defender Lulu Beatty looked strong aerially and on the ground, not afraid to push up the ground and back her kicking skills to get Northern in dangerous spots. 

GOALS:

Eastern: A. Pisano 3, R. O’Dwyer, G. Wilson
Northern: E. Smallacombe

DC BEST:

Eastern: A. Pisano, B. Deed, M. Busch, J. Livingstone, R. O’Dwyer, K. Sherar
Northern: L. Beatty, M. Chaplin, A. Jordan, R. Wilcox, P. Nelson, G. Kitchell

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 1.0 | 2.1 | 4.1 | 6.1 (37)
GEELONG FALCONS 3.2 | 5.3 | 6.9 | 10.12 (72)

By: Declan Reeve

A fast-starting Geelong Falcons side caught Dandenong Stingrays off guard from the get go, finishing the game as 35-point victors on Saturday afternoon. The Stingrays were unable to keep Geelong from scoring, stacking on 17 additional scoring shots after the first quarter. The effort sees the Falcons continue their finals campaign against the GWV Rebels next week.

The Stingrays, despite the loss, were well served by a few. Defensive trio Jaide Anthony, Jemma Radford and Zoe Hill battled hard all day, looking to create anything they could out of the defensive 50, with Olivia Robinson, Felicity Crank and Ashleigh Richards playing big parts in the midfield and forwardline, not afraid to push up the ground and help out the defensive half.

The Falcons, unsurprisingly, had plenty of contributors in the impressive victory, with Tess Craven and Poppy Schaap the major ball winners through the middle of the ground and up forward. Gabbi Featherston was also lively in the forward half, rotating through the ruck at times. Ash Van Loon and Charlotte Simpson were consistent workhorses through the midfield, putting in impressive performances that suggest the Falcons are in good hands next year with these two at the forefront. 

GOALS:

Dandenong: A. Richards, T. Gatt, F. Crank, M. Williamson, J. Radford, J. Anthony
Geelong: M. Van Dyke 2, T. Craven 2, G. Featherston 2, P. Schaap, Z. Garth, R. Tierney, C. Adams

DC BEST:

Dandenong: J. Anthony, J. Radford, Z. Hill, F. Crank, A. Richards, O. Robinson
Geelong: T. Craven, P. Schaap, A. Van Loon, G. Featherston, C. Simpson, Z. Garth

TASMANIA DEVILS 1.0 | 3.1 | 4.2 | 4.4 (28)
GWV REBELS 0.0 | 3.2 | 4.3 | 4.5 (29)

By: Peter Williams

The GWV Rebels have triumphed in an epic upset one-point victory over Tasmania Devils, reversing the result of just a week earlier to win from fourth spot in the semi-finals of the Vic Country pool. The Rebels did not make the most of their chances last week, but they certainly started to capitalise down at Windsor Park in Launceston, as Paige Scott ran rampant booting four goals – including three in less than five minutes during the second term – to be the difference between the sides.

Lilli Condon had a massive last term to cap off another sensational day, while Chloe Leonard and Tahlia Meier were ever-present in the midfield, and Nyakoat Dojiok and Ella Friend provided marking targets in the back half of the ground. For Tasmania, the midfield of Claire Ransom, Perri King and Ella Maurer ticked along nicely, while Charlotte Dennis was rock solid on the last line, and Amy Prokopiec kicked 2.3 in what was an impressive, hard-working effort up forward. In the end, the Rebels just held on, 4.5 (29) to 4.4 (28) to advance through to face the Geelong Falcons in the Country final next week.

GOALS:

Tasmania: A. Prokopiec 2, C. Ransom, M, Edwards
GWV: P. Scott 4

DC BEST:

Tasmania: C. Ransom, P. King, E. Maurer, A. Prokopiec, C. Dennis
GWV: P. Scott, L. Condon, C. Leonard, T. Meier, N. Dojiok

PRELIMINARY FINALS FIXTURES

Metro Pool:

Oakleigh Chargers vs. Eastern Ranges
Saturday May 8, 10:00am
Avalon Airport Oval

Country Pool:

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Saturday May 8, 12:00pm
Avalon Airport Oval

2021 AFLW U19 Championships match preview: Vic Metro vs. Vic Country

THE all-Victorian battle at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships is not to be missed, with stars across all thirds of the ground and Metro going head to head with Country in a massive game at Trevor Barker Oval, Sandringham from midday tomorrow. Country has named its lineup for the Round 1 clash of the championships, whilst Vic Metro has listed its squad for the match, though the lineup provided here is predicted/potential.

LINEUPS:

VIC METRO:

B: Cadhla Schmidli – Kasey Lennox – Kiana Lynch
HB: Brooke Vickers – Tarrah Delgado – Pia Staltari
C: Maykaylah Appleby – Maeve Chaplin – Stella Reid
HF: Emelia Yassir – Neve Crowley – Keeley Sherar
FF: Eliza James – Tahlia Gillard – Montana Ham
R: Georgia Campbell – Charlie Rowbottom – Georgie Prespakis
INC:  Jorja Livingstone – Bridget Deed – Chloe Saultry – Charlotte Ryan – Zali Friswell – Amanda Ling

VIC COUNTRY:

B: Jaide Anthony – Mackenzie Eardley – Chloe Leonard
HB: Elizabeth Dowling – Nyakoat Dojiok – Annie Lee
C: Ella Friend – Grace McRae – Aurora Smith
HF: Amber Clarke – Tara Slender – Poppy Schaap
F: Gabbi Featherston – Renee Tierney – Tahlia Meier
R: Grace Matser – Tess Craven – Elizabeth Snell
INT: Jemma Finning – Ingrid Houtsma – Abbey Jordan – Ashleigh Richards – Paige Scott – Emily Shepherd

QUICK SUMMARY:

Looking across the line-ups, the sides have strengths in different areas, with Vic Metro’s midfield, and its size and key position talent among its strength, whilst Vic Country’s defence is its strongest line, but also its balance and even spread of players providing different roles. Metro has picked a team that has stars across multiple lines, whilst Country have the talent in there, but have also picked players that are unique in the way they can fill a role within a certain team, and very few players are too similar. The midfield battle will be crucial, whilst both sides have versatile players who can fill multiple positions.

 

FIVE KEY QUESTIONS:

Can the smaller Vic Country midfield match the bigger-bodied Metro side?

Both midfields are strong and talented, but it is clear straight away that Vic Metro has a midfield of taller, bigger-bodied players that will look to take advantage of the smaller Vic Country midfield. Tess Craven, Elizabeth Snell and Grace McRae have been named to start onball for Country and they will not take a backwards step up against the taller Charlie Rowbottom, Georgie Prespakis and Maeve Chaplin. The bigger bodies inside will help Metro around the contest in getting it out, so the smaller Country mids will have to use their extra few quick steps – particularly Snell – in extracting the ball from the contest.

How will all the Vic Metro midfielders fit in the side?

The Metro midfield is so deep, they have around 15 players who would call the midfield their preferred position. The question mark will come over how they fit them all in, and some have been learning other roles over the past month or so in order to impact the contest. Kiana Lynch and Chloe Saultry have been holding firm in defence for the Dragons, with the likes of Keeley Sherar and Emelia Yassir both capable of starting forward and hitting the scoreboard. One would expect the sole bottom-ager in Montana Ham to play forward and be a marking target, whilst Pia Staltari, Stella Reid and Brooke Vickers have been playing off flanks throughout the year in between pinch-hitting in the midfield from game-to-game. One thing is for sure, midfield rotations will not be a problem for Metro.

Can Grace Matser work over the Vic Metro tag team through the ruck?

The hard-working and endurance-based ruck of Grace Matser will have her work cut out for her in this game, being the only pure ruck in the team for Vic Country. The Gippsland Power player can run all day, and she will need to, up against the equally mobile Georgia Campbell and Tahlia Gillard who will get breathers forward when the other is rucking. Even outside those two the Metro side has talls that can jump in, while for Country, they are a shorter side, and might just get the likes of Mackenzie Eardley and Renee Tierney up opposite ends to help give Matser a chop out and save her running. Either way, a big game awaits for the ruck.

Where are the key strengths in each side?

Whilst neither side has a “weak” line, the strongest third for Country is its defence, whilst Metro’s strength is in its midfield. Metro’s four AFL Women’s Academy members in Georgie Prespakis, Charlie Rowbottom, Maykaylah Appleby and Gillard could lineup as a midfield group with the two inside ball-winners, outside runner and ruck. They will likely have first hands to it given their aforementioned strength and size in there, whilst Country will be well set up behind the play to prepare for inside 50s. The metro forward line has some quality talls, as well as midfielders who will play the role of forwards, which will give the Country defence – of whom all have good footy IQ – an advantage. They need to bring the ball to ground, but are equally comfortable in intercepting in the air, particularly Elizabeth Dowling, Annie Lee and Nyakoat Dojiok.

How can each team exploit the other?

Vic Country can use its well balanced lineup to keep it simple and each player play their role they are used to at NAB League Girls level. Looking at the side named, there is no-one in the team out of position from where they have been playing, which immediately means there is little to learn. Some might play a little deeper than they have been, but it is easily adaptable, and the players are versatile. With every forward a different type of player, the Country forward line is so well balanced and impressive. Metro can try and take control to exploit the smaller Country team, and with longer boots on them, Metro can put pressure on the famed Country defence, and really aim to put the ball into the danger zone regularly.

 

FIVE KEY MATCHUPS:

Grace Matser (Country) vs. Georgia Campbell & Tahlia Gillard (Metro)

As previously mentioned, this matchup could be a massive one, with Matser the sole number one ruck in the side, and will no doubt be ready for a great challenge on the day. Both Campbell and Gillard move well around the ground and are not afraid to take a bounce before distributing, and then go deep forward and provide a marking target. First hands will be crucial in the midfield, so the winning ruck can try and aid their midfields with clean hands.

Maykaylah Appleby/Stella Reid/Jorja Livingstone (Metro) vs. Ella Friend/Aurora Smith/Ingrid Houtsma (Country)

The need for speed and class on the outside is crucial, and both these teams have some talented players likely to roll out on the wing. Appleby is the Academy member who has the experience in big games, while Reid has been in ripping form, capable of playing anywhere. Livingstone is another wing who has that touch of class in moving the ball in transition, whilst the height of Friend and Houtsma – as well as the versatility – and the speed and ball-winning nous of Smith, will make it a couple of matchups to watch.

Georgie Prespakis/Charlie Rowbottom/Maeve Chaplin (Metro) vs. Tess Craven/Elizabeth Snell/Grace McRae (Country)

The smallest Metro midfielder is the same height as the tallest Country midfielder, which shows a bit of a size differential in there. Whilst Rowbottom is 10cm taller than any of the others, each of the players are likely to have an advantage in size over their respective opponents. A total 18cm different in favour of the Metro side is impressive, but it is also the strength in there which will look to win the ball in contested situations. McRae, Craven and Snell are all renowned tacklers and quick with ball-in-hand to exit stoppages, which is where they have the advantage. Prespakis, Rowbottom and Chaplin can all roost the ball and can back their talls inside 50 if they bomb it from a stoppage.

Tara Slender (Country) vs. Tarrah Delgado (Metro)

It might not be the matchup Metro send to Country’s top prospect, but Delgado is the most reliable in the air one-on-one, and is the only tall in the Metro defence who could go with Slender no matter where she goes. The Northern Knights tall has played in defence, attack and through the midfield, so it would be less rotations for Delgado to just try and nullify the well-balanced Slender, whilst the Bendigo Pioneers tall will no doubt play a number of roles on the day, and be tough to stop in the air or at ground level, but Delgado is the most suitable matchup.

Amber Clarke (Country) vs. Pia Staltari/Kiana Lynch/Zali Friswell (Metro)

One of the danger players across the ground is the speedster in Clarke who opens up the space behind herself so well to run into open goals and hit the scoreboard regularly. It will be tough to find a matchup for speed, with Staltari and Lynch likely to be rolling through the back half of the ground. In terms of athletic traits, perhaps the regular midfielder Friswell is the closest in terms of speed, finishing 10th in the preseason 20m sprint, to try and combat Clarke’s clear top billed ranking what was 0.6 seconds quicker than anyone else.

 

OVERALL:

The match is set to be a cracker, with both sides littered with talent and among the top teams in the championships as they are each year. Last time they faced off back in 2019, Vic Metro got the job done, so Country will be hungry to reverse the result here. The Country side has enough balance across the board to really worry Metro, whilst Metro has the top-end talent, particularly in the midfield and key position to stretch the Country side, making for an absolute beauty of a contest.

2021 AFLW U19 Championships state preview: Vic Country

WE move into the third of our AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships squad previews, taking a look at Vic Country ahead of its first match against Vic Metro tomorrow at Trevor Barker Oval. The 24-player squad for that match has been named with a number of bottom-agers alongside some draft-eligible and 19-year-old talents.

2021 VIC COUNTRY SQUAD FOR VIC METRO CLASH:

#1 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)
#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)
#5 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)
#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)
#8 Jemma Finning (Bendigo Pioneers)
#9 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)
#10 Abbey Jordan (Dandenong Stingrays)
#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
#12 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)
#13 Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)
#14 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)
#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)
#17 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)
#19 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)
#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)
#21 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)
#22 Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)
#23 Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons)
#24 Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons)
#25 Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)
#26 Grace McRae (Gippsland Power)
#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)
#29 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)

QUICK SUMMARY:

Vic Country has a balance of 19, 18 and 17-year-olds across the squad, with seven in their 19th year, four in their 17th year and the 13 draft-eligible players this year. A number of these players have pulled on the ‘Big V’ at Under 16s level, with Renee Tierney and Elizabeth Snell named in the initial Under 18s squad back in 2019, but due to the top-age preference, did not end up making the final squad. Both will be out to have an increased role alongside the likes of Abbey Jordan, Grace McRae and Jemma Finning who all received Draft Combine invites last year. Among the bottom-agers to watch, Dandenong duo Mackenzie Eardley and Amber Clarke have already caught the eye, with Emily Shepherd a game in back from injury, and Paige Scott the one non-Dandenong bottom-ager having provided plenty of firepower inside 50. After Vic Metro, Country will host South Australia and Queensland more than a month apart with the schedule rejigged due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Brisbane.

FIXTURES:

R1 vs. Vic Metro (April 2 @ Trevor Barker Oval)
R2 vs. South Australia (April 12 @ TBC)
R3 vs. Queensland (May 23 @ TBC)

FIVE TO WATCH: (2003-BORN)

Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Vic Country’s standout prospect this year, Slender is the most versatile player in the state, and possibly across the country. Having already ticked off her work as a key defender in past years, Slender has been deployed as a key forward, and even through the midfield this year to play any role required and do it well. A whopping 28 touches against Calder Cannons through the middle showed she can adapt in any situation, and is as balanced as they come with an ability to win the ball in the air or at ground level. Slender can use it will by hand or foot, and has been named as a key forward for the game against Metro with Ella Friend pushed up to a wing, though both will likely rotate and be those marking targets.

Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Boasting some of the strongest hands going around, the contested marking key forward has been utilised on the wing of late, and that is where she has been named for the big clash against Metro. Despite being that key position size, Friend has good athleticism which makes her just as damaging at ground level, and can crumb her own work down there. She is creative and can set up plays in the forward half, and has a long raking kick that can travel long distances either on the run or via the set shot. She is someone who can slot in anywhere around the ground, though expect her to rotate between midfield and forward where she can have the greatest impact with her strength and marking.

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

The third AFL Women’s Academy member in the Country side, Dojiok has lightning acceleration, mixed with power that makes her difficult to contain. Once she takes off, the Rebels defender builds her speed with such force, she can run through players, as well as around them. She was a raw talent coming into the system as a 15-year-old a few years back, but has rapidly developed her game, and now finds plenty of the football and can even push up to a wing, charging away and providing great drive in transition. Expect Dojiok to take plenty of grass throughout the championships, breaking down opposition defensive zones.

Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

One of the most consistent players this season, Craven is arguably the in-form midfielder of the Country team. She might even be one of the youngest alongside 19th year prospects, Jordan and Snell onball. She has clean hands and just creates scoring opportunities for her side, cracking in and able to extract the ball from the contest and get it inside 50. Her work rate is a feature of her game, and she often has the ball in a string. As someone who seems to step up for the occasion each week, it is hard to see her not finding plenty of the pill, but will have a tough assignment up against a star-studded Vic Metro midfield.

Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

A former Academy member with plenty of talent, Anthony is another versatile player capable of playing at either end. She has settled into defence as her best spot, and returned after missing a couple of games due to concussion. She is consistent across the board, able to use her footskills well, take intercept grabs and create opportunities in transition, moving the ball well from deep in defence going forward. She adds that composure and leadership in the back 50, and alongside a host of other quality defenders, the Vic Country defence is unbelievable and good luck to any team trying to score against it.

OTHERS:

The Vic Country defence is nothing short of elite, and the strongest third on the ground of the side. With Anthony and Dojiok back there, Geelong Falcons duo Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling will provide the intercept and run with Dojiok, while bottom-ager Eardley and Rebels ball-winner Chloe Leonard will make it a well balanced side. Up front, the mix of power (Gabbi Featherston), speed (Amber Clarke) and tackling pressure (Poppy Schaap) is equally as impressive, whilst Grace Matser will look to take control in the ruck. The hardness of McRae and Snell will match well with the outside run of Aurora Smith.

SQUAD STRENGTHS:

  • Elite defence
  • Balance, picking a team for a plan
  • Versatility
  • Inside ball-winning hardness

The elite defence has already been mentioned, but the overall team as a whole is really well balanced. There are not too many of the one type of player which helps, and the front six is a group that could work well as a unit without impacting the way others play. The six forwards are all so different in their footballing abilities, whilst the defence have that accountability. Versatility is the key, and that is what the side certainly offers, with so many players able to play across multiple lines.

Whilst Metro might have the class onball, Country will have no fears about cracking in, and they have the talent across the board that can win it and make life difficult for the opposition. Tahlia Meier, Ingrid Houtsma and Ashleigh Richards are other forward options who can roll through there and create scoreboard pressure, or in the case of the latter two, push up and impact the midfield.

LAST WORD:

Vic Country could be the team to beat this year, just on balance alone. Vic Metro has some unbelievable prospects, but Country’s depth across the board and the strength from defence to attack is terrific. They will be a difficult team to score against, and all three opponents will find the going tough, with the successful South Australians going to have a cracker with Country in Round 2 of the championships.

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.