Tag: Chloe Molloy

2021 VFL Women’s: Finals Week 1

THE first week of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s finals action brought plenty of excitement with close encounters leaving many fans sitting on the edge of their seats with nervous anticipation. In the end it was Collingwood that made their way straight into the semi-final while Casey were knocked out of the race for the premiership.

Collingwood 4.2 (26) defeated Geelong 2.8 (20)

The top of the table Magpies proved why they were the minor premiers and reigning VFLW champions, getting the job done against Geelong by a mere goal in an absolute thriller. The Pies found their kicking boots early, nailing two goals in the opening term and suffocated Geelong’s movement and penetration up forward as they only slotted one major. This intensity continued into the third for the Magpies as they forged ahead to keep the scoreboard ticking over. It was a different story for the Cats however and despite having their fair share of chances they simply could not capitalise, registering just four points for the term.

Holding a 10-point lead at half-time Collingwood were looking to inflict more pain but Geelong youngster Rene Caris had other plans kicking a much needed goal to keep her side within striking distance. But the Pies were not about to lie down as the ever-reliable and crafty Chloe Molloy bobbed up at the right time to bang one home herself and re-establish that 10-point ball-game. More inaccuracy for Geelong left them on the outer as they tried to creep back into the game with the final quarter culminating into a make or break 15 minutes of action. Collingwood simply could not find the big sticks and subsequently did not hit the scoreboard while the Cats had a peg at the goals but could not guide them home. In the end it was the Pies that got the chocolates with some last line defence and never-say-die attitude getting them over the line.

It was another solid outing for Mikala Cann who led the black and white brigade with her 20 disposal and five tackles as Molloy showcased her class with 18 touches and a major to her name. Lauren Butler was influential racking up 14 disposals as both Marla Neal and Amelia Velardo found their share of the footy with 13 touches apiece. Velardo also impressed with her aerial ability taking seven marks as Neal imposed her physicality with eight tackles. The goal-kicking duties were well shared for the Pies as Caitlin Bunker, Olivia Meagher and Ebony O’Dea hit the scoreboard alongside Molloy. For the Cats it was their youngsters that paved the way as Darcy Moloney and Caris managed a major each. Olivia Fuller was the most prolific ball winner collecting 22 touches, six tackles and an impressive 36 hitouts. Rebecca Webster was also amongst the thick of things with her 20 possessions while Renee Garing found her groove picking up 19 touches.

Casey Demons 5.2 (32) defeated by Essendon 5.5 (35)

It was a see-sawing affair to say the least as the Bombers just scraped over the line against Casey Demons. There was no shortage of twists and turns throughout the battle with Casey holding the early ascendancy in what turned out to be a low-scoring opening term before Essendon switched on in the second quarter to blow the socks off their opponents. A huge three goal to nothing term all but set them up for the win as they generated some real momentum heading into the second half.

But momentum meant nothing as the Demons came out with a point to prove in the third quarter. Held scoreless in the second, Casey quickly answered the call off the boot of Alyssa Bannan. The youngster managed two goals in a matter of minutes to bring the Demons back to life and although the Bombers slotted a major of their own the momentum had well and truly changed hands. It was a tantalising final term of action with the Demons up and about and hitting the lead thanks to a Shelley Heath goal but that was short lived as the Bombers unleashed through Lauren Aherns to steal the win.

Bannan had the kicking boots on for Casey finishing the afternoon with two majors to her name while Tahlia Fellows also slotted a goal of her own. In terms of major ball winners it is hard to go past Eliza West who seemed to have the ball on a string with her 23 touches and six clearances as Casey Sherriff also got busy picking up 20 disposals. Jacqueline Parry imposed herself around the contest with her 18 disposals as Brenna Tarrant racked up 17 possessions to accompany her five tackles. There was five individual goal scorers for the Bombers with Aherns slotting the sealer and racking up 19 touches as Alana Barber showcased her wares slotting a major and walking away with 18 disposals and a whopping 11 tackles. Youngster Tara Slender also hit the scoreboard as Georgia Nanscawen and Cecilia McIntosh starred with ball in hand racking up 28 and 20 touches apiece.

 Port Melbourne 3.5 (23) defeated by Southern Saints 7.15 (57)

The Southern Saints claimed a comfortable 34-point win against Port Melbourne on Sunday afternoon to progress to the next stage of finals. The Borough had the upper hand in the opening quarter pegging away at the goal posts and opening up a handy one-goal lead. But the tide slowly started to turn in the second quarter with the Saints trapping the ball inside their 50 and peppering away at the goals. They piled on two goals to none in the second term as they skipped out to a nine-point lead.

With the momentum behind them it was time for the Saints to put the foot down and that they did. An early miss from Tyanna Smith was quickly made up by Jess Matin who nailed her first major for the game to extend the lead for the Saints. From there on out the Southern Saints continued to build and forge ahead. They kept Port Melbourne to one goal for the entire second half while they piled on four. They could have won by more if they were accurate in front of goal with the Saints registering seven behinds in the last term alone as fatigue started to kick in for both sides.

It was a tough day at the office for the Borough but that did not stop Olivia Barton from digging in as she racked up 15 disposals, all of which were by foot. Ellie McKenzie was also amongst the top performers for Port Melbourne finishing with 13 touches and three clearances to her name as Cleo Saxon-Jones got busy across the ground with her 12 disposals. Emily Harley, Sophie Locke and Brooke Vickers were the three goal scorers for the Borough while for the Saints Matin and Tara Bohanna slotted two each. They also topped the table for possessions collecting 20 apiece as Matin dug in deep at the coalface credit to her six clearances. Gabrielle De Angelis also found plenty of the footy with 18 touches and a goal. Hannah Stuart was never far from the ball amassing 18 disposals as teammate Rebecca Neaves registered 17 touches and four marks in the win.

Photo credit: Essendon VFLW Twitter

PREVIEW | 2021 VFL Women’s Finals: Week One

THE 2021 VFL Women’s finals series has arrived, with the top six teams set to battle it out for premiership glory after 14 enthralling home-and-away rounds. After a year away, the competition was reformatted to see the AFLW and NAB League seasons run concurrently with Victoria’s state league, seeing players from both the aforementioned leagues filter into all 12 teams in different ways.

This year’s finals campaign sees three sides take part in their maiden finals series, with Port Melbourne among them at the pointy end of its inaugural VFLW season. Reigning premier, Collingwood remains the hot favourite to take out this year’s flag, having become just the second-ever team to go through the regular season undefeated. We preview all three of the week one fixtures, with comment from key players of each team.

>> SCROLL for the finals fixture tree

2ND ELIMINATION FINAL

Casey Demons vs. Essendon
Saturday July 3, 12:00pm
Casey Fields

Records:
Casey – 4th, 8-6, 155.96%
Essendon – 5th, 8-6, 155.95%

2021 H2H:
Round 2 – Casey Demons 3.4 (22) def. by Essendon 4.7 (31) @ Casey Fields

Last 5:
Casey – 2-3
Essendon – 2-3

It is only fitting that Casey and Essendon begin their respective maiden VFLW finals campaigns against each other, as they lock horns at Casey Fields on Saturday afternoon. This is the tightest matchup of the lot after 14 home-and-away rounds, with the two sides boasting equal 8-6 records and separated by just 0.1 per cent on the ladder. They are also both 2-3 across their last five outings, with their only previous meeting in 2021 seeing the Bombers salute to the tune of nine points at the same venue.

Plenty has changed since then, though, according to Demons midfielder Eliza West.

“[Essendon] was so physical and I think it surprised us and we weren’t ready for that level of physicality,” West said. “But now after playing for a little while we’ve obviously improved on that because we’ve had to focus on it, and I think coming into the game this week that’ll be a big point for us. We’ll go in ready to play hard and win the footy.”

Bombers skipper Georgia Nanscawen, who has enjoyed a stellar season in the engine room, says calling the matchup close is “pretty spot on.”

“Our matchup against them earlier in the year was a very close game,” Nanscawen said. “When you look at the ladder, I think there was 0.1 of a percent [difference] or something. You can’t get much closer than that so it should be a cracking game.”

While they are incredibly closely matched, there remains a key point of difference between these two adversaries. Essendon is the lone purely non-AFLW aligned team to feature among this year’s finalists, making for another landmark to be “proud” for Nanscawen and her standalone squad of Bombers.

“I’m really loving my time at the Bombers and for our first finals campaign as a club, it’s certainly special to be a part of,” she said. “To be the non-aligned club shows that we can match it with those aligned clubs and hopefully we can have a good finals series.

“We’ve come back refreshed after the break, we’ve had a really good couple of weeks and we’re feeling great so I think anything can happen on the weekend.”

While the Bombers may not be able to lean on its own group of currently senior-listed stars, its emerging crop of youngsters has plenty of fans and pundits alike eager to see how they fare. Having blazed her own trail through the NAB League pathway with Calder Cannons, Essendon forward Alana Barba is excited to see what the next generation can produce come finals time.

“It’s really exciting to see some of the prospects coming through,” Barba said. “A lot of them have done pretty well on their debuts, and going up against the bigger bodies they’ve held their ground and they’ve really come in strong. “It’s exciting to see where they go in the future, whether that’s at the Bombers or anywhere on an AFLW list, they’ll do well.

“I guess I try and take them under my wing a bit because I’ve come through the same pathway as them. But they hold their ground pretty well and they’re very keen as we all are, so it’ll be exciting to see how they go.”

Nanscawen also pointed towards an AFLW draft pick one candidate for her choice of a potential “difference maker”.

“We’ve got Georgie Prespakis who had a great game last week,” she said. “That was her second game for us and she’s improved across the two games already, so we’re pretty excited to see what she can do in a finals series.”

On the flip side, Casey will field up to 10 AFLW-listed players on Saturday and have been able to take plenty from the senior Melbourne side – including an exciting gameplan. Demon Ally Kirkwood says her side is excited for the opportunity to implement it throughout the finals campaign.

“I think the gamestyle we want to play is really exciting,” Kirkwood said. “It’s definitely something the Melbourne AFLW girls implemented and it worked for them through finals. “Unfortunately they didn’t make the grand final but I think we will. That’s what’s really exciting for us; we’re all prepared to play [the gameplan], we’ve been training it for the whole season and we’ve gotten really good at it.”

In terms of the key players to watch for Casey, Kirkwood gave West a good pump-up while standing by her side on Monday’s finals launch day. West had a player of her own in mind, and both promise to provide the sort of ball winning intent that Casey is looking for this weekend.

“Eliza West… she’s always there in those [clutch] moments and it’s really great that we have her here at the club,” Kirkwood said.

“We rely on a lot of players in all areas of the field but I really think Meg McDonald,” West followed. “Since she’s come into being an on-baller, she’s added another level of  physicality and toughness. She lays hard tackles, she plays her role really well and I think she’s helped us a lot. “She’ll be one to look out for because it’s hard to beat her – if she’s tackling you, it’s hard to break one of those tackles so good luck to whoever it is.”

QUALIFYING FINAL

Collingwood vs. Geelong
Saturday July 3, 12:00pm
Holden Centre

Records:
Collingwood – 1st, 14-0, 297.1%
Geelong – 2nd, 10-4, 174.3%

2021 H2H:
Round 1 – Geelong 6.6 (42) def. by Collingwood 7.2 (44) @ Deakin University
Round 14 – Collingwood 3.5 (23) def. Geelong 0.4 (4) @ Victoria Park

Last 5:
Collingwood – 5-0
Geelong – 3-2

Collingwood and Geelong face off for the second time in as many weeks on Saturday, opening the 2021 VFLW finals series with a top of the table clash. The two sides jostled in two close encounters during the 2021 regular season, with the Magpies coming out on top amid their 14-0 campaign. Having completed the home-and-away rounds unbeaten, the reigning premiers became the second-ever side to do so and are in the box seat to defend their crown. But the Cats have proven their credentials as a top-tier team, sneaking into second having consistently found a way to win.

Geelong deputy-vice captains Breanna Beckley and Tamara Smith both spoke towards a strong team-oriented culture which included players listed at AFLW level, the NAB League, and local competitions. With the big job of overturning two previous losses to Collingwood at hand, Smith said her side has “so much more to give.”

“We’ve just got to keep playing our way, our style of footy and back our girls in,” Smith said. “Between the start and end of the season our girls would’ve changed and they’ll probably change again going into next week.

Beckley supported the notion, and hopes it’ll be a case of third time’s a charm for the Cats heading into Saturday’s clash, putting previous results behind them.

“We dropped a couple early against really good sides but it was good to see we had the fight from the start,” Beckley said. “Now coming up against Collingwood [in Round 14], although it wasn’t the result we wanted, I think we still held our own and kept them to a pretty low score as well which was really helpful.

“One of our biggest things that we pride ourselves on is our culture. “What we as a leadership group have tried to instil in the girls is that we’re all here as one no matter where you’re coming from – whether that’s AFL, VFL or local leagues. “Culture is the biggest thing no matter how old you are or your background, and it’s something we’ll keep priding ourselves on towards finals.”

With senior, state league and junior competitions running concurrently in 2021, the Cats have also benefitted from having a number of high-level NAB League graduates filter through the team. Smith was particularly glowing in her review of them, while Beckley knows the Falcons products well having worked with the program as talent manager.

Chloe Leonard’s a big one,” Smith said. “She’s played three games for us, we love Chloe. It’s just the good vibes she brings, she’s so confident but she just asks questions and is always wanting to learn. “You give her something to do and she just does it, plays her role so well.

Annie Lee had a few games with us, she takes strong marks down back. She’s a bit quieter than Chloe but it’s the same thing, she just plays her role and slots into the team.

Renee Tierney played a couple of games as well, she played against Southern Saints in a really wet game but she just held her own, backed her skills in. “It’s awesome to have those NAB League girls through because as much as they’re there to learn, they also have so much to give so it’s a really good opportunity for them and for us.”

While the spades of talent across a good range of age groups would make it easy to individualise parts of the squad, Smith maintains the Cats will rely on a team effort, rather than look to a few to get the job done.

“Obviously we have really talented girls in the side and ones which will step up, but as a whole I think we’re all ready for the challenge,” she said. “That’s one thing, if we can all step up together it’s going to make a huge difference across the ground. “I don’t think that we should be relying on just one girl to get the job done or have an outstanding game, if we can all lift and do our part for the team that’s where you get the job done.”

Collingwood also has a raft of stars which will look to make a difference on Saturday, none more so than unbelievably timely inclusion, Chloe Molloy. The dynamic senior-listed forward qualifies for finals after playing just one game in 2021, and will be one of the (up to) 10 AFLW players afield for the Magpies. Should she line up in attack, Molloy could form a deadly partnership with competition leading goalkicker Imogen Barnett and boom recruit Matilda Zander.

Up the other end, Lauren Butler also returned just in time to qualify for finals, while Mikala Cann carries in terrific form through midfield. With such a strong senior-listed and VFLW core, promising NAB Leaguers like Stella Reid and Eliza James look to have been squeezed out, though tough midfielder Olivia Meagher has been named on the Magpies’ bench.

1ST ELIMINATION FINAL

Port Melbourne vs. Southern Saints
Sunday July 4, 2:00pm
ETU Stadium

Records:
Port Melbourne – 3rd, 10-4, 128.7%
Southern Saints – 6th, 7-7, 115.2%

2021 H2H:
Round 10 – Port Melbourne 4.4 (28) def. by Southern Saints 8.7 (55)

Last 5:
Port Melbourne – 2-3
Southern Saints – 3-2

In Sunday’s standalone finals fixture, Port Melbourne enters its maiden finals campaign against the Southern Saints having enjoyed a remarkable inaugural VFLW season. After starting the year with a blistering 7-0 run, the Borough ended their regular season at 10-4 – good enough for third spot having occupied one of the top two places for nine rounds. Most intriguingly, one of those losses came at the hands of their weekend adversaries. The Saints have gone 7-7 thus far and went 2-2 after that win against Port, but did enough to claw onto sixth spot and earn a finals berth.

Saints co-captain Deanna Jolliffe says her side is “[peaking] at the right time” after two promising wins in the run-in to Sunday, while youngster Melanie Bertuna outlined the desired approach to knocking Port off for a second time.

“I think our last two weeks of footy have really proved what we’re capable of,” Jolliffe said. “Hopefully we can just continue to play the same sort of footy that we have over the last couple of weeks and bring that in on Sunday against Port Melbourne.”

“Playing a really strong four quarters of footy [is what it takes to beat Port Melbourne],” Bertuna said. “Just not dropping off our pressure and sticking with it the whole game, sticking our heads down and getting the work done.”

The same four-quarter approach was also a theme in Borough captain Melissa Kuys‘ path to victory, as her side looks put together the high-level form they previously found on a more consistent basis. As a leader in Port’s first VFLW finals campaign, the experienced utility is also proud of how much development the competition newcomers have shown this year.

“We just need to play four quarter of good footy,” Kuys said. “We’ve been playing patches unfortunately in the last couple of weeks so we’ve just got to bring that brand of footy we know we can play for longer than them, and hopefully we’ll get the job done.”

“At the beginning of the season we probably [didn’t] think that we would’ve gotten this far, so it’s super pleasing that we are where we are. “It’s been a lot of hard work but we’re super excited to have our first finals.”

Both sides have also had a raft of promising NAB Leaguers come through the respective programs, with a bunch set to line up for either team on Sunday. Having gone through the pathway herself, first year Port Melbourne player Olivia Barton said they have been “really good contributors” overall.

“We’ve loved having the NAB League girls come through,” Barton said. “They’ve all brought something special to the team in their individual ways and obviously our senior players have been really good with teaching them the ropes.”

Jolliffe gave similar praise to the Saints’ next generation of talent, while also giving a nod to the AFLW-listed players who have “lifted” the squad in an all-round learning experience.

“I think the [NAB Leaguers] bring a lot of depth to the team,” she said. “With their young bodies and they’re able to get in and under the ball and they’re just keen to learn and always striving to do better. “I think that also brings a lot of culture to our team because we want to do better for the them, and also want to be able to teach them things.

“Since the AFLW girls have joined our training sessions the intensity has definitely lifted, there seems to be a lot more voice out on the field. “The experience they bring is second to none so we’re all just enjoying that and learning from them as much as we can.”

As the Southern squad looks to implement its ferocious and unsociable “Saints footy”, Jolliffe and Bertuna promise there won’t be any one player carrying their effort.

“The way we’ve always played is Saints footy,” Bertuna said. “Every week that’s always what we want to come back to and play our way, so we’ll come out strong, respect the team we’re going up against and bring our best.”

Kuys and Barton identified a couple of key difference-makers among the Port Melbourne squad, though the spread of contributors is set to be just as even.

“I’d probably go with Courteney Bromage,” Kuys said. “She’s a player that gets in-and-under and she really uses her body and that inspires me to go harder.”

Claire Dyett on the wing,” Barton said. “She’s always going hard at the ball and running hard for us both ways, so she’d definitely be one to step up. Her heart’s right in the team so she’d definitely do it for us.”

Via: VFL

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

Thomas well supported during injured season

SUBIACO’S Charlotte Thomas would have no doubt preferred to have run out in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition more than once this season, but unfortunately has not been able to get on the park due to a wrist injury. The AFL Women’s Academy member has certainly had the runs on the board in previous years to have her well and truly in the draft mix, but it has still not been the easiest year.

Thomas thanks the rehabilitation staff at Subiaco, as she eyes a proper return to full fitness. Initially there was hope she would make it back in time to represent Western Australia at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, but it was not to be. However, the talented teenager still have an important role.

“I was running water yesterday (against Allies) so that was good to stay involved but really grateful I still got to come and get around the girls and support them,” Thomas said.

Her journey started quite young, involved in backyard kicks with her family, Thomas said it was only natural she followed her brother into Australian rules football as it was a sport that always came natural to her.

“I have an older brother four years older than me,” she said. “He played Auskick and was kicking with dad in the backyard and it just felt normal to just join in with him. “So started playing Auskick when I was pretty young like six-years-old.”

Fast forward from her days at Auskick, and Thomas found herself at Subiaco, where she has played plenty of matches in the WAFL Women’s League side, praising the Lions for their professionalism and experienced teammates who have helped in her development.

“It’s been really good,” Thomas said. “Down at Subi, all the AFLW girls there, really good experience training with them and playing a couple of games with them. “A really good club down.”

Having shown serious potential from a young age, Thomas has been a member of the AFL Women’s Academy, something that the Subiaco youngster has been “really good”.

“(It’s) just a great base of coaches and support network that I can really rely on and get information from,” Thomas said.

With her kicking and skills named amongst her strengths – as well as reading the ball well and having the footy smarts to know the play before it happens – Thomas said she had a key area of improvement in mind in order to continue developing.

“Probably just my overall fitness and strength,” she said. “(I) just want to get a bit stronger around the contest.”

When looking at her inspirations over the journey, Thomas said a trio of AFL Women’s players in Collingwood’s Chloe Molloy, West Coast’s Bella Lewis and Fremantle’s Gabby O’Sullivan were all talents that she looked up to throughout her career due to the way they went about their football. One day. Thomas said she hoped to join them in the AFL Women’s ranks.

“Hopefully get drafted and just play the best that I can throughout my career and have a good, long healthy career hopefully playing AFLW,” she said.

2021 VFLW Round 13 preview: Future stars return as teams limited by border restrictions

THERE might not be crowds this weekend, but the stakes are as high as ever for the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s teams, as the penultimate Round 13 finally gets underway after a three-week hiatus due to the Victorian lockdown. Three teams cannot be moved out of the finals race – Collingwood, Geelong and Port Melbourne – though only one of the latter two can secure a double-chance.

The other three spots are up for grabs, though Casey Demons and Essendon effectively need one win to book their spots – with the Demons even needing to just not be smashed in their final two matches to make it given their ridiculously high percentage. Western Bulldogs currently holds sixth spot and is the most in danger of missing out, taking on the Magpies and Demons, needing at least one win – but potentially two – to grab a finals place with Southern Saints, Carlton and North Melbourne all knocking down the door.

HAWTHORN vs. GEELONG
Saturday, June 19 @ 12:00pm
Box Hill City Oval

A battle between traditional rivals, Hawthorn and Geelong takes place at Box Hill City Oval from midday tomorrow. The Hawks unfortunately not only need to win their games and have results go their way in other matches, but realistically need a draw in one of the Southern Saints games and the other three teams around them – Western Bulldogs, Carlton and North Melbourne – to lose in the game that isn’t a draw. Geelong on the other hand need to keep winning in order to book a double chance, with third placed Port Melbourne just percentage behind and ready to earn a spot against Collingwood in the qualifying final if the Cats do slip up.

Both teams have past and present AFLW talent, with Rene Caris, Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner forming a huge midfield for the Cats. The Hawks have some experience tall timber with Meg Hutchins, Tamara Luke and Sarah Perkins among the names in the side. In terms of AFLW Draft hopefuls, Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae returns for another game in the brown and gold, joining Eastern Ranges’ Bridget Deed, Keeley Sherar, Isabelle Khoury, Eloise Chaston and debutants, Cadhla Schmidli and Sarah Humm in the side. For the Cats, Chloe Leonard returns to the blue and white hoops again, named on the bench for this match, whilst Jess Foley, Madelyn Keryk and Madisen Maguire are among the other Cats experienced talents.

COLLINGWOOD vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, June 19 @ 12:00pm
Olympic Park Oval

It might have been a long time for football to return, but luckily for the Magpies, they sewed up top spot and their third consecutive minor premiership last round. They can now play the role of managing players leading into finals, with Chloe Molloy, Jaimee Lambert, Sophie Livingstone and Sophie Casey among the outs for Round 13. In come the younger group in Amelia Velardo, Abbi Moloney and Alana Porter to face a hungry Western Bulldogs side needing a win. The Bulldogs can put themselves in pole position for a finals spot with an upset win, and have not held make in doing so with their team selection.

The Bulldogs have a mix of AFLW and NAB League Girls talents, with the midfield of Jess Fitzgerald, Britney Gutknecht and Isabelle Pritchard, as well as Isabella Grant, Gemma Lagioia and Sarah Hartwig around the ground, there is plenty of top-end talent that could cause a boil-over to the top of the table Magpies. From an AFLW Draft perspective, potential Top 10 pick Ella Friend is back in the side with Rebels’ teammates Lilli Condon and Tahlia Meier, whilst Brooke Hards and Simone Ruedin remain the only players to not miss a game for the red, white and blue. The Magpies have a couple of top talents making their debuts too, with Stella Reid and Eliza James – both out of the Oakleigh Chargers’ program – coming into the black and white stripes whilst another AFLW Draft Combine invitee in Olivia Meagher is also in the team. With six players in Draft Central’s recent AFLW Draft Power Rankings playing in the game, it is a must-listen via WARF Radio.

The Magpies deserve to be favourites as an unbeaten side, but the Western Bulldogs could arguably have the stronger team on paper for this clash, so it should be a really big contest.

>> AFLW Draft Power Rankings

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. ESSENDON
Saturday, June 19 @ 1:00pm
Downer Oval

Across at Downer Oval, Williamstown and Essendon will look to control the elements and the game, when the Bombers hit the road for a must-win clash. They take on the bottom two sides in the last two rounds and need just one win, so have the easiest draw in the final fortnight. They still need to get it done though, and the Seagulls still have plenty about them coming up against a Bombers side with a lot of talent. Another potential Top 10 selection in Tara Slender will make her debut in this game for the Bombers, with the Bendigo Pioneers’ utility named at centre half-forward.

Slender will join Calder Cannons’ Emelia Yassir, Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell in the starting team, with the experience of Georgia Nanscawen, Cecilia McIntosh and Mia-Rae Clifford across the three lines. Williamstown have had some consistent performers over the time, but the current border restrictions between Victoria and NSW/ACT has limited the GWS GIANTS AFLW players from taking part. The likes of Erin Meade, Scarlett Dunnell, Aimee Whelan and Megan Williamson have all enjoyed solid seasons and will be looked upon to step up in what is ultimately a tough game for them. Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper are recent NAB League Girls graduates and will be keen top put their best foot forward to impress, while the Bombers as a whole just have to win. Williamstown can play the role of party pooper in this game, and have the advantage of knowing the ground well.

CASEY DEMONS vs. DAREBIN
Saturday, June 19 @ 2:00pm
Casey Fields

Casey Demons are a win away from booking a spot in the VFL Women’s finals series, and providing the last placed Darebin do not roll them by a considerable amount, the Cranbourne-based team can potentially secure a home final in the process. They have a mix of past and present AFLW talents – including some recent delistings hoping to earn a second chance – whilst the Falcons will rely on some youngsters and their VFL Women’s players to try and cause an upset at windy Casey Fields.

Former Carlton player Winnie Laing and ex-Roo Kate Gillespie-Jones are lining up for Casey this weekend following their recent delistings from the Blues and North Melbourne respectively, alongside Mietta Kendall who is hoping for another chance in the red and blue, and then the most recent addition to the Demons’ rookie list in midfielder Eliza West. The latter has been a prominent ball winner for the VFL Women’s side and earned a promotion, whilst Imogen Milford is one player with plenty to prove after receiving an AFLW Draft Combine invite. Shelley Heath, Eliza McNamara and Megan Fitzsimon are also in the side, though there is an abundance of VFL Women’s talent in the team for the clash with the Falcons. Darebin have the experience of Nicole Callinan and Alyssia Mifsud who have played at the top level, but otherwise have the NAB League Girls talents of Trinity Mills and Peppa Poultney, as well as another former NAB League Girls player in Katelyn Hazlett. Samara David and Stephanie Simpson have enjoyed impressive seasons up forward, whilst Victoria Blackwood and Gena Lawson-Tavan are reliable players with Callinan in the back 50. Expect Casey to be too strong, but Darebin will be keen to cause an upset.

CARLTON vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Sunday, June 20 @ 11:00am
Ikon Park

A virtual elimination final in many ways, the loser of Carlton and Southern Saints will need to rely on other results in order to make finals, with the Blues in particular having a line put through their name given the percentage difference. If the Saints lose, they will need the Bulldogs to also lose to the Magpies in order to make the finals, or if they win and the Bulldogs win, it will come down to the final round. The Blues cannot overtake the Bulldogs unless they win big and the Bulldogs lose, but it will keep them in the finals hunt with a clash against Williamstown in the final round.

Carlton know the stakes by winning the match, with Lucy McEvoy named once again alongside some AFLW talent in Daisy Walker and Charlotte Hammans. They do have a lot of VFLW talent in the side still, with Amber Micallef, Ally Bild, Jennifer Lew and Jorja Borg among those who have had some impressive moments this season. Northern Knights duo Maeve Chaplin and Tara Delgado are in the side again to try and stake their claims ahead of the AFLW Draft, while ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Teagan Brett returns to the Navy Blues. The Saints have not fully confirmed their side at the time of publishing, but they were favoured to take it up to the Blues, with Alice Burke, Tyanna Smith, Jess Matin and Alice Burke all named in the side that narrowly went down to Western Bulldogs last round. Dandenong Stingrays’ Jemma Radford has really held her own in the side, with Sandringham Dragons’ Pia Staltari and Emma Stuber among those on the extended list for the Saints.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Sunday, June 20 @ 1:00pm
ETU Stadium

Completing Round 13 of action is a game with plenty on the line for both teams in different ways. Port Melbourne is gunning for a second chance if the Borough can get up and hope Geelong loses, whilst North Melbourne can keep their hopes of finals alive with an upset win on the road at ETU Stadium. Much like Williamstown with the GIANTS, the Roos have been impacted by not being able to utilise their Tasmanian contingent, which has meant plenty of changes for the blue and white stripes. Port Melbourne on the other hand have not held back in their selection, with experience and young guns galore in what will be an exciting contest.

Roos captain Meagan Kiely is based in Victoria and the Tasmanian talent will look to continue her ripping form this season teaming up with Brooke Slaney and Reni Hicks in midfield. They have a tough job with Ellie McKenzie making her VFLW debut for the Borough, and Courteney Bromage and Mel Kuys rounding out a strong midfield. The Port Melbourne bench is as exciting as one could be, with Dandenong Stingrays duo Jaide Anthony and Ashleigh Richards, and Oakleigh Chargers duo Amanda Ling and Brooke Vickers – all who received AFLW Draft Combine invites – playing in the match. Sarah D’Arcy also makes her debut up forward for the Borough, alongside Emily Harley and Sophie Locke. The Roos will have Alexia Hamilton through the ruck and Jayde Hamilton and Elisha King up forward, whilst Molly Eastman and Beth Lynch are among those likely to create some run out of defence for the visitors in the Sunday afternoon clash. The Borough have the advantage at home and can snuff out the Roos’ finals chances with a win, but North have proven to put up a fight most weeks so should give the game a shake.

2021 VFLW Round 12 preview: Finals on the line for several sides

THREE rounds remain and some results could ultimately determine finals spots, with last chances in play for a couple of teams, and a top against bottom clash featuring this weekend in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition.

ESSENDON vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Saturday, May 22 @ 10:00am
Windy Hill

Potential top pick Georgie Prespakis has been named for Essendon in a game where the Bombers can lock up a finals spot, and snuff out North Melbourne’s chances at the same time. The Roos will make history with a record 11 Tasmanians in the side, and a debutant in fellow AFL Women’s Academy Perri King making her debut at VFLW level against Prespakis. Joining King in the side for their second games are Ella Maurer and Jemma Blair at opposite ends, whilst fellow Tasmanians, Sarah Skinner and Meagan Kiely make it a distinct Apple Isle feeling through the middle. They will have a huge job containing the midfield combination of Prespakis, Georgia Nanscawen, Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper of whom the latter trio have been in great form at the level. The forward line of Daria Bannister, Meg Sinclair, Camilla Taylor and Mia King adds to the Roos’ Tasmanian presence, with Calder’s Kasey Lennox, as well as Zali Friswell and Emelia Yassir up the other end among the talented juniors running around in the red sash.

CASEY DEMONS vs. PORT MELBOURNE
Saturday, May 22 @ 10:30am
Casey Fields

Fresh off a best on ground performance in the NAB League Girls Grand Final, Amanda Ling will run out for Port Melbourne in the Borough’s clash with fellow finals-bound side, Casey Demons. The Oakleigh Chargers midfielder will join AFL Women’s talents Katherine Smith and Kodi Jacques, and past AFL Women’s talent Mel Kuys in the midfield, up against an equally stacked onball brigade of AFL Women’s midfielders Megan Fitzsimon and Casey Sherriff, and ball-winning star Eliza West. The Borough have other youngsters including Oakleigh Chargers’ Taylah Morton and ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Sophie Locke in the forward pockets, whilst the Demons have a stacked outfit including AFL Women’s stars Eden Zanker and Libby Birch, and young guns Brenna Tarrant and Eliza McNamara. Potentially the match of the round, both these sides are coming off disappointing losses, and both will be keen to make amends against quality opposition.

CARLTON vs. GEELONG
Saturday, May 22 @ 11:00am
Ikon Park

Following an upset win over Casey Demons, Carlton return home to Ikon Park against a Geelong side that cashed in its get out of jail free card in the final term last week. The Cats were in real danger against the Southern Saints, but managed to step up with four late goals to get over the line in fantastic style and remain in the top two. This week they take on a Carlton side that is as strong as it has been all season, featuring a core midfield of Lucy McEvoy, Abbie McKay and Grace Egan, as well as Maddy Guerin and Daisy Walker. Northern Knights’ full-back Tarrah Delgado will make her VFL Women’s debut with the Blues, joining teammate Maeve Chaplin in the side, in what will give the consistent talents a good run at state league level. For the Cats, the AFL Women’s midfield of Rene Caris, Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner and Sophie Van De Heuvel is unbelievable, while Olivia Barber has built some great form this season, and the likes of Tamara Smith and Paige Sheppard are also playing well at the level. Expect Geelong to really step up here, but the Carlton midfield is just as good making there plenty of terrific head-to-heads to watch.

DAREBIN vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, May 22 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

A top against bottom clash featuring Darebin Falcons and Collingwood at Bill Lawry Oval has the potential to be one-sided, but the Falcons will be hoping that a draw against Williamstown has helped build some momentum into the game. Collingwood are rotating through their AFL Women’s talent, and Chloe Molloy, Elise O’Dea and Stacey Livingstone both play their first VFLW games this season, whilst Jaimee Lambert is back for her second game of the year. The Magpies team looks stacked and should be too strong for a Falcons outfit, though Georgia Hammond comes back into the club as the tall target up forward, forming with Samara David, Stephanie Simpson and teenager Trinity Mills. Jess Dal Pos is the prime mover in midfield and could have a tantalising head-to-head with Molloy in there, while Sidney Cubasch will look to take control in the ruck. The Falcons have some good experience in there including Nicole Callinan, but expect the Magpies to have too much depth across the field.

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. HAWTHORN
Sunday, May 23 @ 11:00am
Downer Oval

In the first of two matches on Sunday, Williamstown hosts Hawthorn in a huge Sunday morning clash at Downer Oval. The Seagulls are coming off a draw with Darebin, whilst the Hawks had their wings clipped by North Melbourne at Box Hill last week. Coach Bec Goddard just keeps finding AFLW talent to slot into the lineup, and this week Sarah Perkins returns to the club having missed the second half of the AFLW season due to injury. The key forward will team up with Chantella Perera and Kristy Stratton, whilst Jessie Williams has been a damaging goalkicker all season. In defence, Meg Hutchins announced she would hang up the boots at the end of the season, meaning the versatile legend will likely have just three games remaining in her career. Alison Drennan, Georgia Bevan and Nadia von Bertouch are among the other AFLW experienced talents running around in the brown and gold, while Eastern Ranges’ Keeley Sherar, Bridget Deed and Eloise Chaston retain their spots in the side. The Seagulls have some GWS GIANTS talents such as Emily Pease and Lisa Steane, whilst Sydney Swans Academy member Jess Doyle will look to hit the scoreboard alongside Gold Coast’s Bess Keaney up forward. Erin Meade and Aimee Whelan are in good form this year, with Elizabeth McGrath set to have a great contest with opposing ruck Tamara Luke. Hawthorn should win this game, but no doubt the Williamstown breeze will make life difficult in front of the big sticks.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Sunday, May 23 @ 12:00pm
Trevor Barker Oval

The final match of the round is the most important for the league as a whole, with the result potentially determining the finals series. Southern Saints hold sixth spot as it stands, but are only percentage ahead of the seventh placed Western Bulldogs. In reality, that percentage will be too difficult to make up for the Bulldogs or other chasing sides, so as long as the Saints win two of the last three – playing North Melbourne and Carlton in the final two rounds – they will get there. The Bulldogs can temporarily grab sixth spot with a win here, though they would need to knock off Casey Demons and Collingwood in the final fortnight – or hope the Saints lose to one of the other teams – in order to stay there. The Saints are not mucking around with a number of elite young talents through the midfield including Tyanna Smith and Georgia Patrikios – the latter of whom returns for her first VFLW game this season. Molly McDonald has been named off half-back, whilst Tarni White makes her VFLW debut for the Saints. All things considered the midfield battle will decide the result, with the Bulldogs having Jess Fitzgerald, Britney Gutknecht, Isabelle Pritchard and Elisabeth Georgostathis running around. Molly Denahy Maloney returns from injury to start in the ruck, whilst full-back Simone Ruedin has been named at full-forward, and forward Danielle Marshall has been named at full-back. Western Jets quartet Caitlin Sargent, Jemima Woods, Stephanie Asciak and Nikita Wright will provide the NAB League Girls factor, with the Saints focusing on VFLW talent for this game, such as the in-form Tara Bohanna, whilst Jayde Van Dyk makes her debut in defence for the red, white and black. This game could go down to the wire, and will have plenty riding on it.

Davey and Bowers crowned best and fairest at 2021 W Awards

THEY were the two favourites coming into the night, and in the end, Collingwood’s Brianna Davey and Fremantle’s Kiara Bowers have capped off fantastic 2021 AFL Women’s seasons by sharing the league’s highest individual honour at the W Awards last night. The pair polled 15 votes apiece, one ahead of Western Bulldogs’ Ellie Blackburn and GWS GIANTS’ Alyce Parker.

Davey averaged 23.8 disposals, 4.8 clearances and won almost 50 per cent of her possessions in a contest, which earned her the AFL Players Association’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). Bowers averaged the 21.1 disposals, 11.0 tackles and 6.5 clearances per game, coming second to Davey in the AFLPA MVP Award.

The Magpies co-captain led her side to its first finals win this year, and had a remarkable finish to the season which saw her claim three consecutive best-on-grounds between Rounds 4-6 to take the lead by Round 5 and stretch her lead out to four votes with three rounds remaining.

Bowers drew within a vote in Round 7 and Monique Conti kept in touch with a best on ground effort for the Tigers. Whilst none of the trio would poll in the penultimate round, it led to a tense final round, which saw Bowers pick up a vote in the final round’s loss to North Melbourne. Davey did not poll in the final two rounds, but had done enough to hold on and share the award with the tackling machine.

A late burst from Melbourne’s Karen Paxman and Parker saw them finish inside the top five, with Blackburn polling three in the final round to add to her early lead where she got out to a two-vote advantage after Round 4.

AFLW LEAGUE BEST AND FAIREST:

Brianna Davey (Collingwood) 15 votes
Kiara Bowers (Fremantle) 15 votes
Ellie Blackburn (Western Bulldogs) 14 votes
Alyce Parker (GWS GIANTS) 14 votes
Karen Paxman (Melbourne) 13 votes

Brianna Davey accepts her league best and fairest. Picture credit: AFL Twitter

AFLW ALL-AUSTRALIAN TEAM:

B: Sarah Allan (Adelaide) – Meg McDonald (Geelong)
HB: Ruby Schleicher (Collingwood) – Kate Lutkins (Brisbane) – Janelle Cuthbertson (Fremantle)
C: Monique Conti (Richmond) – Kiara Bowers (Fremantle – vc) – Georgia Patrikios (St Kilda)
HF: Jasmine Garner (North Melbourne) – Katie Brennan (Richmond) – Ellie Blackburn (Western Bulldogs)
F: Erin Phillips (Adelaide) – Chloe Molloy (Collingwood)
R: Breann Moody (Carlton) – Brianna Davey (Collingwood) – Alyce Parker (GWS GIANTS)
INT: Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide) – Brittany Bonnici (Collingwood) – Darcy Vescio (Carlton) – Karen Paxman (Melbourne) – Emma Kearney (North Melbourne)

Six debutants and two five-time winners highlighted the 2021 AFL Women’s All-Australian team. North Melbourne’s Emma Kearney and Paxman were both named on the interchange, making it the fifth – maximum – time the pair have achieved the honour. At the other end of the scale, a couple of Pies in Brit Bonnici and Ruby Schleicher made their debuts alongside fellow inaugural AFL Women’s players Breann Moody and Katie Brennan. Fremantle’s Janelle Cuthbertson and the youngest member of the squad, second year player Georgia Patrikios rounded out the half dozen first-timers.

Davey was named as captain with Bowers nominated as vice-captain in the team, whilst Davey’s Magpies were represented the most in the side with four players – Davey, Bonnici, Schleicher and Chloe Molloy – whilst the premiers Brisbane Lions have just the one player in the side – best on ground in the 2021 AFLW Grand Final, Kate Lutkins.

AFLW RISING STAR:

Tyla Hanks (Melbourne) – 48 votes
Ellie McKenzie (Richmond) – 32 votes
Mikayla Bowen (West Coast) – 22 votes
Tyanna Smith (St Kilda) – 19 votes
Nat Grider (Brisbane) – 10 votes

Melbourne dynamo Tyla Hanks capped off a fantastic year by taking out the 2021 AFL Women’s Rising Star Award. The former Gippsland Power midfielder topped the leaderboard with 48 out of a possible 50 votes, finishing 16 votes clear of Richmond number one pick, Ellie McKenzie. West Coast’s Mikayla Bowen polled 22 votes to round out the podium, followed by St Kilda’s Tyanna Smith and Brisbane’s Nat Grider.

LEADING GOALKICKER:

Darcy Vescio (Carlton) 16 goals
Gemma Houghton (Fremantle) 14 goals
Chloe Molloy (Collingwood) 14 goals
Katie Brennan (Richmond) 14 goals
Dakota Davidson (Brisbane) 13 goals

The one award that was no surprise coming into the night was the leading goalkicker, with Vescio becoming the first two-time winner of the accolade. Having taken out the award back in the inaugural season of 2017, the clever forward doubled up with a 16-goal season in 2021. She finished two goals clear of Molloy, Brennan and Fremantle’s Gemma Houghton, with Brisbane’s Dakota Davidson rounding out the top five thanks to 13 goals.

Image credit: AFL Women’s

Pies last quarter flurry steals victory after Roos mid-match turnaround

COLLINGWOOD has survived an epic qualifying final at Victoria Park, defeating North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos by just six points to advance through to record its first ever finals victory. Twelve months ago these sides went hammer and tongs at each other for four quarters with the Roos getting up in a thriller at Ikon Park, but fast forward 12 months and it was the black and whites – in front of fans at the Magpies’ spiritual home – that saluted, 7.8 (50) to 7.2 (44). The match had a case for one of the games of the season considering the stakes and the topsy-turvy nature. The Magpies took the early ascendancy, then the Roos looked to run away with it, kicking five consecutive goals – and six of seven – only for Collingwood to storm home in the final term and boot the last three goals of the match to record the most memorable of wins and advance through to next week’s preliminary final against Brisbane.

Key forward Sophie Alexander got the home team up and about early with a goal in the third minute, only for former Pie, Jasmine Garner to counter that with a major of her own five minutes later. It already meant the Roos had more goals on the board than their last match against the Magpies when they could only manage eight behinds in a disappointing loss at Etihad Stadium. Soon Chloe Molloy made her impact known with Collingwood’s second, and by the time Jaimee Lambert hit the scoreboard, the margin was out to 14 points and the crowd was excited. Both these teams were backing themselves to run and move the ball quickly, turning defence into offence. A couple of early behinds for the Magpies in the second term was punished by the Roos through Beth Lynch and Sophie Abbatangelo in the space of 90 seconds, cutting the deficit to just three points at the main break.

Whilst the half-time break might have been long enough for teams to reset, for North Melbourne it was just rolling on from the second term, as Abbatangelo kicked her second within 90 seconds, and the Roos were in front for the first time in the match. Lynch converted a second to match her teammate with a clever snap following a free kick, and then Ash Riddell made Sharni Norder pay following an error through pressure with the tackle, as the tightest of set shots proving no problem for the pocket rocket. With Riddell’s goal, it meant the Roos had slotted five consecutive goals in effectively 20 minutes and were out to a 13-point lead with just a few minutes remaining in the third term. Creating something out of nothing, Alexander got boot to ball in a stoppage off a Molloy kick forward, but no sooner had she cut the deficit to seven points, it was back out to 14. Emma King let the home team off with a missed shot 25m out straight in front, but Daria Bannister was not going to make any mistake from point blank range when she crumbed the ball off a pack in the goalsquare.

The largest margin of the game was 14 points, with the Kangaroos now holding a firm advantage in the match and had one foot in the preliminary final. The Magpies needed something, and it came off the boot of Kristy Stratton, who slotted a crucial major less than four minutes into the match. Molloy missed a chance on goal on the run, but the Magpies were trying to play on at every chance, whilst the Roos were trying to control the tempo with possession football. What no one expected was for Molloy to dig deeper than even she had before, pulling out a trick that was unbelievable, snapping quickly under pressure and a right angle bounce that went over the head of the last Roos defender to bounce home and cut the deficit to just one point with 10 minutes to play. North Melbourne rushed it to the Roos’ end, but the Collingwood defence was up to the task and instead got the visitors on transition, booting it to Molloy inside 50, and her presence forced two Roos to spoil, and fortunately for the Magpies, the second black and white player was Tarni Brown who crumbed the ball and ran into an open goal to slam home a major and put her team in front.

After hilariously snapping a goal up the wrong end earlier in the match, Brown made sure she was headed to the right end when she crumbed it cleanly, ran into the open goal and put her side five points up. Alexander had a chance to make it a double-digit lead but missed with a couple of minutes left, making some wonder if the six-point difference might result in a draw. Luckily for the timekeepers it did not, as the Magpies desperately held on despite the Roos’ efforts to move the ball quickly, and Collingwood enjoyed its first finals win, and at Victoria Park to advance through to the preliminary final against Brisbane next week at the Gabba.

Brianna Davey had a ridiculous game, with 31 disposals, four marks and nine tackles, a clear best afield in the match. Despite a quiet first three quarters, Brittany Bonnici worked into the game in the final term with some great one-on-one contests to finish with 16 disposals and three marks, whilst Lambert shook off a knock in the third quarter to return to the field in the final term and end the game with 15 touches, two marks, three tackles and a goal herself. The usually-accurate Aisling Sheridan booted three behinds from 13 disposals and seven marks, whilst Stacey Livingstone (13 disposals, three marks and two tackles) and Ruby Schleicher (11 disposals, three marks) were steady as always in defence. Brown (12 disposals, three tackles), Ash Brazill (11 disposals, two marks and two behinds) and Alexander (10 disposals, three marks and two goals) were amongst the best for the winners.

Riddell was the standout Roo with 22 touches, three marks, three tackles and a goal, as her partners-in-crime, Emma Kearney (19 disposals, three marks and three tackles), Kaitlyn Ashmore (17 disposals, two marks and two tackles) and Jenna Bruton (13 disposals, three marks ad three tackles) were all busy. Garner (16 disposals, five marks, nine tackles and a goal) was right up there with Riddell, having an enormous impact on the game, whilst Ellie Gavalas (11 disposals, four marks and three tackles) and Vivian Saad (11 disposals, two mark s and seven tackles) brought the heat around the ball. Unfortunately for North Melbourne though, the loss meant the end of 2021, and the Roos will begin the planning for 2022.

COLLINGWOOD 3.2 | 3.4 | 4.6 | 7.8 (50)
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0 | 3.1 | 7.2 | 7.2 (44)

GOALS:

Collingwood: S. Alexander 2, C. Molloy 2, J. Lambert, K. Stratton, T. Brown.
North Melbourne: S. Abbatangelo 2, B. Lynch 2, J. Garner, A. Riddell, D. Bannister.

DC BEST:

Collingwood: B. Davey, C. Molloy, S. Livingstone, R. Schleicher, J. Lambert
North Melbourne: A. Riddell, J. Garner, E. Kearney. K. Ashmore, J. Bruton

Picture credit: Getty Images

AFL Women’s finals preview: Melbourne and Collingwood to host qualifiers

NINE huge rounds of AFL Women’s action has culminated in the closest finals race of the league’s history, with the 2021 season proving hugely exciting with more and more developing players making their mark and the entire competition kicking up a notch this year. With a tight finish and the first six-team finals series in the competition’s five-year history, hopes are high with realistically all six clubs in with a chance of taking out the trophy this year. With minor premiers Adelaide Crows and runners-up Brisbane Lions handed a week off credit to finishing within the top two, just two matches will play out on Easter Saturday.

Melbourne vs. Fremantle
Saturday April 3, 1:05pm
Casey Fields

Expect another huge clash between the Demons and Dockers to open the qualifying finals proceedings, with the two sides only just split the last time they met. An explosive first term from the Dees set the tone on enemy territory as the Dockers appeared stunned, struggling to connect up the ground or find the big sticks. But a scrappy second half from the Dees saw Roxy Roux lead the charge as Freo came knocking and booted 4.3 to Melbourne’s 1.0 to trail by just five points, with missed chances and the footy inside 50 on the siren telling the story of a disappointing game for Fremantle.

Realistically, both sides are more than capable of coming home with a win in this match, although the Dees’ first chance for finals footy at home at Casey Fields could be a real gamechanger given their continued dominance on home turf. They also have a 4-1 win record across the past five rounds, with four straight wins – a confidence-boosting 44-point blasting of St Kilda before downing fellow top six sides Adelaide, Freo and Brisbane – to complete the season. Comparatively, Fremantle’s past few weeks have not been much to be too excited about, with losses to Melbourne and North Melbourne, as well as a tight four-point victory over Carlton. However, a huge 11.9 (75) to 1.2 (8) victory over West Coast in Round 6 shows just how much the side is capable of, so there should be no discounting the Dockers when they get in the groove.

For the Dees, Daisy Pearce is a definite out for the Dees in a huge blow for the side after the veteran went down in the early stages of Round 9. Karen Paxman and Tyla Hanks have starred for the side this season through the midfield with Lauren Pearce‘s past few rounds proving just what she is capable of and Eden Zanker and Kate Hore always dangerous around the footy. For the Dockers, Kiara Bowers is the one to stop given her ability to impact the play whilst Hayley Miller, Steph Cain and Ebony Antonio have all impressed throughout the season. Gemma Houghton and Roux can spark their side into action in a split second.

Records:
Melbourne:
7-2 (4th)
Fremantle: 6-3 (5th)

Last 5:
Melbourne: 4-1
Fremantle: 2-3

2021 meeting:
Round 8
– Melbourne by 5

Most goals:
Melbourne:
Kate Hore (11)
Fremantle:
Gemma Houghton (14)

Collingwood vs. North Melbourne
Saturday April 3, 3:10pm
Victoria Park

Last time these two sides met, a crunching battle was expected with the results overturned by a fired-up Magpies outfit which rendered North Melbourne goalless for the first time in the side’s short history. The Kangaroos allowed the Magpies to get off to a stellar start, and whilst they limited the scoreboard impact in the second half it was not quite enough with inaccuracy and an inability to shut down the Pies’ plethora of midfield standouts. But expect a very different North side this time around, having learned from their mistakes and lost just one match since then – to fellow top side Brisbane in Round 8 –  while the Magpies narrowly missed out on the minor premiership with a Round 9 loss to Adelaide.

Like the other match, both side have plenty to prove coming into this contest and both are more than capable of flying out of the blocks and producing an epic win. Both sides boast a wealth of scoring prowess and viable options across the field, with star players scattered throughout and more than capable of stepping up in the big moments. Realistically, this match will be won and lost through the midfield, with North’s hardened types needing to serve ball on a silver platter up forward and evade the Magpies’ stellar defence, with the black and white leading the competition for the least points conceded. That being said, an even spread of forward firepower from the Roos could be hard to stop.

For the Pies, the trio of Bri DaveyJaimee Lambert and Britt Bonnici has been key throughout the season, able to all rotate across the ground and create forward forays, whilst Chloe Molloy is one to watch out for inside 50 and Stacey Livingstone is a consistent barricade down back. As for North, the combination of Ash RiddellJas Garner and Emma Kearney never fails to withstand pressure and will be a real match for Collingwood’s mids. Kait Ashmore and Emma King are up there for effectiveness with ball in hand, while the Roos will hope to welcome back Jenna Bruton following a one-match ban for rough conduct.

Records:
Collingwood: 
7-2 (3rd)
North Melbourne: 6-3 (6th)

Last 5:

Collingwood: 3-2
North Melbourne: 4-1

2021 meeting:
Round 4
 – Collingwood by 20

Most goals:
Collingwood: Chloe Molloy (14)
North Melbourne: Jasmine Garner, Daisy Bateman (8)

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Crows down Magpies to secure minor premiership

THE Adelaide Crows secured the AFL Women’s minor premiership on Sunday afternoon, downing Collingwood by 14 points and showcasing just how well they can shut down their opposition. Whilst the Magpies showed glimpses of their usual form, the Crows capitalised on their home advantage and piled on the pressure across the ground, coming away with the 4.7 (31) to 2.5 (17) victory.

The Crows earned a week off during the first week of finals for their effort, with a solid first quarter effort credit to the team’s spread across the ground and smothering pressure both on and off the ball. A couple of early majors to Justine Mules and Ash Woodland set the tone as Anne HatchardEbony Marinoff and Erin Phillips controlled movement around attack, and while a Jaimee Lambert major kept the Magpies in it during the first, it was all Crows for the remainder of the match as they piled on the offensive pressure.

A huge second quarter saw Adelaide put on a defensive masterclass, locking the Pies out of their attack and forcing turnovers and stoppages aplenty when they entered. The tight contest remained as the Crows missed a couple of chances, but an early Hatchard goal kept the side well ahead of the Pies with a huge second half expected. The Magpies really lacked their usual spark, and while Lambert, Bri Davey and Britt Bonnici kept on driving forward, applying their typical physicality, a concussion to Sophie Casey following a collision with Stevie-Lee Thompson put the side down a player with little momentum heading into the remainder of the match.

The final term saw an early goal from Chloe Molloy spark a bit of excitement into the Magpies, but while they took advantage of their renewed energy to keep in the match, three behinds showed just how tight the Crows defence remained despite putting 0.2 on the board themselves. A 29 per cent efficiency inside 50 saw the Magpies rue their missed chances, with a big week of finals footy coming up.

For the minor premiers, Hatchard (22 disposals, six marks, one goal) and Marinoff (18 disposals, six tackles) led the way as Chelsea Randall, Phillips and Woodland (booted 1.2 from eight disposals) were also named amongst the best and Teah Charlton put a major on the board. The Magpies’ usual suspects earned top honours again, with Lambert (25 touches, eight tackles) and Davey (22 and eight) wreaking havoc but unable to translate on the scoreboard, as Bonnici and Ruby Schleicher piled on 22 touches apiece.

The Magpies will host the second qualifying final on Saturday afternoon, taking on North Melbourne in what should be a tantalising contest. Adelaide earns the qualifying week off and will host a semi-final in two weeks time.

ADELAIDE 2.2 3.4 4.5 4.7 (31)
COLLINGWOOD 1.1 1.1 1.2 2.5 (17)

GOALS
Adelaide: A. Hatchard, J. Mules, A. Woodland, T. Charlton
Collingwood: J. Lambert, C. Molloy

BEST
Adelaide: A. Hatchard, C. Randall, E. Marinoff, E. Phillips, A. Woodland
Collingwood: B. Davey, J. Lambert, B. Bonnici, S. Chiocci, S. Rowe

Picture credit: Getty Images

By: Sophie Taylor

Picture credit: Getty Images

GIANTS TEST BLUES AS DARCY GOES BANG

By: Sophie Taylor

FOR two sides looking to get one more win on the board to finish out the home and away season, only pride was on the line as the GWS GIANTS and Carlton Blues went head-to-head in their last match of the season. While Carlton was out of the running for finals contention following North Melbourne’s win on Saturday, it did not stop the side from putting a tough effort out on the field – something they required, with the GIANTS looking to make one last jump up the ladder. But the Blues only just got over the line in a result that was befitting of their disappointing season, coming away with a tight 4.8 (32) to 4.7 (31) win on the road.

Cora Staunton set the tone early and proved the GIANTS would not relent easily with a goal in the opening minutes, but that was all the GIANTS fans would get for the opening term as the Blues tightened up defensively, creating stoppages and limiting the side’s movement. A Darcy Vescio goal to add to her highlights reel saw the Blues spark into action offensively toward the end of the term, but with a one-point ball-game at quarter time there was still plenty to work on. Maddy Prespakis and Bec Beeson were the predominant ball carriers for their respective sides as Alyce Parker also put on a show.

But the side’s momentum was slashed when Staunton once again opened the second term with another major to edge a lead, seeing a string of behinds before Brooke Walker broke the trend with a major to steady the ship. Two more behinds were made by the Blues before Lauren Brazzale extended the Blues lead but it was a frustrating affair as Carlton continued to waste chances to capitalise on their clear momentum. With a 13-point half-time margin the Blues had plenty of chances to run way with it but lacked potency once more, though they were fortunate that the GIANTS also missed chances. It continued to be the Staunton and Vescio show as Staunton kept GWS driving forward but missed the remainder of her three attempts on goal, while Vescio made history booting her 16th goal of the season, winning the goalkicking award for 2021 and becoming the first AFL Women’s player to boot over 15 goals in a season.

It was not enough though as the Blues slowed down in the final quarter, with Tait Mackrill putting her second goal on the board to go one-point down and keep the GIANTS in the hunt with under 10 minutes left on the clock. But defensively, both sides plied their trade well to ensure the tight encounter went down to the wire, with neither side able to create scoring shots as the Blues ran out with the narrowest of wins to complete their season.

For the GIANTS, Beeson’s 27 disposal, four mark and four tackle game saw her lead the charge as Parker (26 and six tackles) plied her trade and Staunton was dangerous up forward booting 2.4 from 13 touches. For the Blues, Prespakis’ 27 touches were crucial as co-captains Katie Loynes (eight tackles, two behinds) and Alison Downie (three rebounds, three tackles) played their last game in the navy blue, putting out solid performances.

GWS GIANTS 1.0 2.1 3.5 4.7 (31)
CARLTON 1.1 3.8 4.8 4.8 (32)

GOALS
GWS Giants: C. Staunton 2, T. Mackrill 2
Carlton: D. Vescio 2, B. Walker, L. Brazzale

BEST
GWS Giants: A. Parker, R. Beeson, C. Staunton, A. Eva, T. Mackrill
Carlton: M. Prespakis, K. Loynes, D. Vescio, J. Hosking, K. Harrington

Picture credit: AFL Photos

Saints punish disappointing Eagles to end season on a high

By: Liam Badkin

ST Kilda has finished its AFLW season in style, while West Coast enters its offseason with plenty to ponder after falling to the Saints in the final game of the home and away season on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles led the visitors by less than a goal at quarter time, but a four goal to nil second quarter saw the Saints stamp their authority on the contest, running away with the win 11.10 (76) to 3.2 (20).

West Coast started the game in style, with rookie Grace Kelly combining with sister Niamh to open the game’s scoring with a blistering goal on the run. The Eagles looked to take control of the game for the majority of the opening term, before the Saints answered through All-Australian forward Caitlin ‘G-Train’ Greiser to bring themselves back into the contest. With a margin of just four points in favour of the Eagles after a quarter of football, it looked as if the 809-strong crowd would be treated to a close game. The second quarter changed this, as the Saints hit their straps and the Eagles began to fall apart. Goals to Greiser, Jess Matin and Molly McDonald saw St Kilda break the game open, while the Eagles were scoreless for the quarter to see themselves on the end of a 22-point deficit at the main break.

The Eagles started the third term with promising signs, resulting in a second goal to Grace Kelly to cut the margin to 18 points in what looked to be the beginning of a comeback. This hope began to fade as former basketballer Tyanna Smith kicked a remarkable goal to keep the Eagles at bay. With a bandage around her forehead, Smith skilfully tapped the ball to her advantage before gathering and shrugging off a tackle and kicking the goal of the day from a tough angle. The goal proved to be a steadier for the Saints as they entered the final break with a 27-point lead over their opponents. The final quarter was decided shortly after it began as the Saints kicked three goals in three minutes through Darcy Guttridge, Kate Shierlaw and Georgia Patrikios to put the game away and finish their 2021 season in style, taking home the win by 56 points.

For the victors, there were excellent performers all over the ground in a clinical performance, but the midfield duo of Patrikos (30 disposals and a goal) and Smith (24 disposals and a goal) clearly stamped their influence on the game. The Saints were electric through the middle and the pair had plenty to do with this. Meanwhile in the forward line Greiser and Matin combined for five goals to give opposition defenders a constant headache. The only negative for the Saints came in the form of a head knock to forward Jacqui Vogt. For the Eagles, Mikayla Bowen (22 disposals and five tackles) and Belinda Smith (18 disposals) battled bravely in what proved to be a tough day at the office.

With both teams failing to qualify for finals, this match up would be their farewell to the 2021 season, as they look ahead to improve and rise up the ladder next year.

WEST COAST 2.0 2.0 3.0 3.2 (20)
ST KILDA 1.2 5.4 6.9 11.9 (76)

GOALS
West Coast: G. Kelly 2, M. Caulfield
St Kilda: J. Matin 3, C. Greiser 2, M. McDonald, T. Smith, D. Guttridge, K. Shierlaw, G. Patrikios, C. Whitfort

BEST
West Coast: M. Bowen, B. Smith, A. Atkins, G. Kelly, K. Orme, M. Ward
St Kilda: G. Patrikios, T. Smith, J. Matin, D. Guttridge, C. Greiser, C. Phillips, K. Shierlaw

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: GWS creates GIANT divide to bottom five sides

GWS GIANTS have won their fourth game of the season to sit eight points clear of the bottom five sides, albeit with some Sunday fixtures to come. The GIANTS won in a low-scoring arm-wrestle against Geelong, which saw just one goal kicked after quarter time, and none in the second half, to secure a seven-point victory at GMHBA Stadium. The 2.4 (16) to 1.3 (9) victory was a hard-fought one, but the battle of defences held up well with the game primarily a battle between the arcs.

Haneen Zreika was on the board early with a goal just four minutes into the match to give the GIANTS an early advantage. This was quickly countered within three minutes from Cats key forward Phoebe McWilliams, in what was shaping to be a potential high-scoring contest. However across the next 65 minutes, just one goal was kicked, coming off the boot of reliable goalkicker Cora Staunton in the second minute of the second quarter. That goal quickly split the difference between the sides that had been level with 1.1 apiece at the first break.

Staunton’s goal put the Giants up by six, with a Darcy Moloney behind four minutes later cutting the half-time deficit to five. Neither team could manage to break the deadlock from there, with the GIANTS adding three points to their total in the third term, and then the Cats returning the serve in the final quarter with a solitary behind through Richelle Cranson for the match to end seven points to the favour of the visiting GIANTS team.

It was an even match across the board, with contest after contest, and the Cats marginally ahead by seven in disposals (207-200), with both teams managing the seven shots on goal, with the GIANTS having one more inside 50 entry (24-23) in another low count. It further emphasised the battle between the arcs, with the teams almost identical in both contested and uncontested possessions, while the Cats took six more contested marks (10-4) despite having 10 less overall marks (35-45). The GIANTS certainly had more opportunities for goals with eight of those 45 marks inside 50, to the Cats’ two, whilst the forward pressure and around the ground was in the Cats’ favour with 68 tackles to 54, of which the forward 50 tackles went 13-12 in the blue hoops’ favour.

The GIANTS dominated the hitouts 36-12, with the clearances being relatively even, though marginally in the GIANTS favour, 23-20. This was helped by the performance of Erin McKinnon (21 hitouts) and Jess Allan (11 hitouts) who took control across the ground. Through the midfield, the in-form Alyce Parker dominated with a match-high 25 disposals, as well as five marks, four tackles, five inside 50s and two rebound 50s, also drawing five free kicks for her efforts. The usual suspects in Elle Bennetts (18 disposals, three marks, three tackles and two rebound 50s), Alicia Eva (18 disposals, three marks, two inside 50s and three rebound 50s) and Rebecca Beeson (15 disposals, two tackles and two inside 50s) were again prominent.

For the Cats, Amy McDonald recorded the most disposals with 21, as well as a whopping 11 tackles, and four inside 50s, while her namesake in Meghan McDonald was not far behind with 19 disposals, six marks, two tackles and six rebound 50s. Julia Crockett-Grills (17 disposals, three marks, seven tackles, two inside 50s and two rebound 50s) and first-year player Laura Gardiner (17 disposals, 11 tackles and two rebound 50s) were also productive in the loss. Rebecca Webster (14 disposals, four marks and three rebound 50s) and McWilliams (12 disposals, three marks and four inside 50s) were others who aided in the Cats remaining in the hunt at respective ends of the field.

GEELONG 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.2 | 1.3 (9)
GWS GIANTS 1.1 | 2.1 | 2.4 | 2.4 (16)

GOALS:

Geelong: P. McWilliams.
GWS: H. Zreika, C. Staunton.

DC BEST:

Geelong: A. McDonald, M. McDonald, L. Gardiner, J. Crockett-Grills, R. Webster
GWS: A. Parker, A. Eva, E. Bennetts, E. McKinnon, R. Beeson

Picture credit: via GWS GIANTS website

Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos

MAGPIES SWOOP PAST SAINTS AND BACK ONTO THE WINNERS LIST

COLLINGWOOD emphatically returned to the winners list on Saturday with a 47-point victory over St Kilda at Victoria Park, solidifying the Magpies’ top two status. A hot start from the home side set an ominous tone, with the Magpies leading at every break and keeping the Saints goalless for two terms across the 8.11 (59) to 2.1 (13) thumping.

It was pure domination from Collingwood, who the early bossed possession and restricted eight Saints players to a grand total of zero touches to quarter time. Meanwhile, Aliesha Newman enjoyed an electric start in black and white with two goals in the first few minutes, though her side spread the scoring well over four quarters despite some greater St Kilda resistance.

Georgia Patrikios proved one of the lone four quarter performers in St Kilda’s tri-colours, leading the charge alongside fellow young gun Tyanna Smith as a heap of more senior players were kept below their usual standards. The Saints now sit 12th with two wins on the board, as Collingwood’s minor premiership tilt heats up.

Newman finished with three majors as the game’s most damaging goalkicker, while Chloe Molloy bagged a double for the winners. Brittany Bonnici led all comers with an equal game-high 29 disposals, with other usual suspects in Bri Davey and Jaimee Lambert also finding plenty of ball. Ruby Schleicher was again outstanding in defence, as Sarah Rowe made a successful return to senior action.

Patrikios also notched 29 touches as the Saint’s best player afield, with Molly McDonald overcoming her slow start to also fare well in the losing team. Smith was another solid performer in black, white and red, as were the likes of Hannah Priest and Rosie Dillon. The Saints may fancy a rebound win as they take on West Coast next week, while Collingwood faces Adelaide in a high stakes battle.

COLLINGWOOD 3.3 | 4.6 | 6.1 | 8.11 (59)
ST KILDA 1.0 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 2.1 (13)

GOALS:

Collingwood: M. Newman 3, C. Molloy 2, J. Lambert, S. Layton, J. Lin
St Kilda: J. Matin, J. Vogt

DC BEST:

Collingwood: B. Davey, J. Lambert, B. Bonnici, R. Schleicher, M. Newman
St Kilda: G. Patrikios, M. McDonald, T. Smith, H. Priest, R. Dillon

Image Credit: Jono Searle/AFL Photos

LIONS ROAR TO HISTORIC GABBA WIN

BRISBANE claimed its first ever victory on the Gabba turf, overcoming North Melbourne by 15 points on Saturday afternoon to make it four wins on the trot. The Lions were marginally behind at the first break but fought ahead thereafter, booting two goals in the third term and sealing it in the fourth to take out an important 4.11 (35) to 2.8 (20) result.

The Lions looked happy to be back home despite the wet conditions and some inaccuracy in front of goal, marching on towards a potential top two finish with a terrific pressure game and structural solidity. While North held on for much of the day and was within striking distance, an eye-catching Courtney Hodder goal sealed victory for Brisbane in the final term.

Hodder was among the six single goalkickers for the day, as the likes of Isabel Dawes and Emily Bates excelled for the victors. Experienced heads in Kate Lutkins and Emma Zielke played important roles across the defensive half, while Orla O’Dwyer again proved lively up the other end.

North Melbourne’s typical brigade of ball winners again went to work, with Jenna Bruton (26 disposals) leading all comers as Ash Riddell, Jess Duffin, and Emma Kearney all also ticked over 20 touches apiece. Their ball winning prowess counted for little in the grander result, as North was kept relatively quiet inside forward 50.

BRISBANE 1.2 | 1.8 | 3.9 | 4.11 (35) 
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.3 | 1.4 | 2.5 | 2.8 (20)

GOALS
Brisbane: D. Davidson, J. Wuetschner, S. Conway, C. Hodder.
North Melbourne: Abbatangelo, Bateman.

BEST 
Brisbane: I. Dawes, K. Lutkins, E. Zielke, E. Bates, O. O’Dwyer
North Melbourne: J. Bruton, E. Kearney, A. Riddell, J. Duffin