Tag: claudia gunjaca

2021 Draft Central & WARF VFL Women’s Team of the Year

WHILE the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition could not quite have the full stop it desired in terms of a grand final, Draft Central’s Peter Williams and Women’s Australian Rules Football (WARF) Radio’s Peter Holden have combined to name a 2021 VFLW Team of the Year.

As part of the Team of the Year there were a few requirements for the selection process:

  • The player must not have been on an AFLW list earlier in 2021;
  • Players that were drafted who were not on an AFLW list earlier in 2021 were automatically included; and
  • The player must have predominantly played VFLW, not joined mid-season from a NAB League club.

In total, the side is made up of 22 players, including a 16-player starting side – to resemble the realism of the VFLW, as well as having six bench players to round out the squad. In terms of club representation, North Melbourne had the most with four players, whilst finalists Geelong and Essendon finished with three. Minor premiers Collingwood and other finalists Casey Demons, as well as Hawthorn had two apiece, with the remaining six clubs having one player each in the side.

BACKS:

Simone Ruedin (Western Bulldogs) – Jasmine Ferguson (Collingwood)

On the last line were two of the most reliable defenders in the competition. Jasmine Ferguson showed enough to earn a call-up to the AFL Women’s after North Melbourne selected her in the AFLW Draft, whilst Simone Ruedin won the Western Bulldogs’ best and fairest award and was a mirror of consistency all year in defence, before swinging forward late in the season.

HALF-BACKS:

Molly Eastman (North Melbourne) – Meg Hutchins (Hawthorn) – Erin Meade (Williamstown)

A couple of captains steady the ship at half-back, with Hawthorn veteran and champion player Meg Hutchins named at centre half-back in her farewell season. She was outstanding in defence, or up forward when she provided a marking target down there, whilst Erin Meade led from the front for the Seagulls. She was one of the most prominent rebounders whilst still finding plenty of it, whilst North Melbourne’s Molly Eastman also had an outstandingly-consistent season.

CENTRES:

Eloise Ashley-Cooper (Essendon) – Meagan Kiely (North Melbourne) – Annabel Johnson (Geelong)

A couple of AFL Women’s draftees and a best and fairest winner line up in the middle, with the first mature-age VFLW selection in the draft being that of Geelong’s Annabel Johnson. She has been named on a wing in this Team of the Year after being taken at Pick 15, whilst North Melbourne skipper Meagan Kiely was selected later in the draft by Richmond. Leading the competition in disposals and marks, it was an easy decision to include Kiely in the Team of the Year. Rounding out the centreline was Essendon’s Eloise Ashley-Cooper who won the Bombers’ best and fairest amongst a host of strong contenders.

HALF-FORWARDS:

Claudia Gunjaca (Geelong) – Alana Barba (Essendon)

Another couple of players who have earned the chance at the elite level, did so outside the AFLW Draft. Geelong leader Claudia Gunjaca had a sensational season, and the Cats used their extra mature-age selections for internal talent, and picked out the strong marking forward. Catching the eye across the ground, the new AFLW Cat is joined in the line by Bomber-turned-Sun Alana Barba. The former Calder Cannons talent finally earned a crack at the elite level on her third go, and was one of the most consistent Bombers all year between midfield and half-forward.

FORWARDS:

Imogen Milford (Casey Demons) – Imogen Barnett (Collingwood) – Sophie Locke (Port Melbourne)

Two more AFL Women’s draftees and a third who came close courtesy of a AFLW Draft Combine invite round out a damaging forward line. The two leading goalkickers in the competition in Collingwood’s Imogen Barnett and Casey Demons’ Imogen Milford both earned spots on AFLW lists. Barnett will remain in the black and white in 2022 but at the top level, while Milford will replace red with white and head to Ikon Park to run out with Carlton next year. Port Melbourne’s Sophie Locke completes the forward line after leading the goalkicking in the first half of the season and looking dangerous inside 50.

RUCKS:

Olivia Fuller (Geelong) – Eliza West (Casey Demons) – Airlee Runnalls (North Melbourne)

A midfield that contains five draftees will be hard to beat, and it made it easy for us to select the starting core. Ruck Olivia Fuller was the one tall timber picked up in the AFLW Draft – albeit prior to it by the Cats – so she earns the starting ruck spot. Also onball is Casey Demons’ Eliza West who found out she would be playing AFLW earlier than her peers after being picked up as a rookie prior to the draft, and then Airlee Runnalls chose to cross the Nullabor to take up a role with Fremantle next season. West and Runnalls were among the most prominent ball-winners in the competition with Kiely, while Fuller was a strong target throughout the ruck and around the ground.

INTERCHANGE:

Georgia Nanscawen (Essendon) – Tara Bohanna (Southern Saints) – Sarah Skinner (North Melbourne)  Akayla Peterson (Carlton) – Nicole Callinan (Darebin Falcons) – Catherine Brown (Hawthorn)

Completing the team of 22 with six on the bench are players from six different clubs, including three sole representatives from Southern Saints, Carlton and Darebin. Southern Saints’ Tara Bohanna was the sole AFLW draftee on the bench, only named there due to the already impressive height in the forward line, with the new Gold Coast Suns recruit capable of pinch-hitting in the ruck too. Carlton’s Akayla Peterson was among the most versatile types, with Darebin Falcons’ Nicole Callinan providing great experience for the wooden spooners and winning the best and fairest off seven games. Essendon’s Georgia Nanscawen had yet another huge year for the red and black, with North Melbourne’s Sarah Skinner and Hawthorn’s Catherine Brown also prominent for their respective sides.

EMERGENCIES:

Aimee Whelan (Williamstown) – Jorja Borg (Carlton) – Marla Neal (Collingwood)

The three closest players to squeezing into the 22 were a range of sizes and positions. Carlton’s Jorja Borg was among the top rucks in the competition and therefore earns her place as an emergency, with Williamstown’s Aimee Whelan winning a club best and fairest and unlucky not to make the squad but was next best. Collingwood’s Marla Neal flew under the radar throughout the 2021 season, but put together consistent efforts each and every week through the middle for the ladder-leading Magpies.

2021 DRAFT CENTRAL & WARF VFL WOMEN’S TEAM OF THE YEAR:

B: Simone Ruedin (WB) – Jasmine Ferguson (COL)
HB: Molly Eastman (NM) – Meg Hutchins (HAW) – Erin Meade (WIL)
C: Eloise Ashley-Cooper (ESS) – Meagan Kiely (NM) – Annabel Johnson (GEE)
HF: Claudia Gunjaca (GEE) – Alana Barba (ESS)
F: Imogen Milford (CD) – Imogen Barnett (COL) – Sophie Locke (PM)
R: Olivia Fuller (GEE) – Eliza West (CD) – Airlee Runnalls (NM)
INT: Georgia Nanscawen (ESS) – Tara Bohanna (SS) – Sarah Skinner (NM)  Akayla Peterson (CAR) – Nicole Callinan (DF) – Catherine Brown (HAW)

EMG: Aimee Whelan (WIL) – Jorja Borg (CAR) – Marla Neal (COL)

2021 VFL Women’s Grand Final cancelled

AFTER multiple attempts to play out the final game of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season, the AFL has officially pulled the pin on the competition, meaning the 2021 season will join 2020 as years without an official premier. Collingwood and Geelong had both reached the grand final and were hopeful of playing off at some stage to determine a champion, but with the inconsistent community lockdowns, it had become too difficult.

Aside from the obvious restrictions of lockdowns preventing fans from celebrating a grand final, and the difficulty in finding a suitable venue that met requirements, the fact that neither team had played in over a month – Geelong July 31 and Collingwood July 10 – meant the sides would need suitable time to prepare for a match to determine a premiership. Collingwood being situated in metropolitan Melbourne was particularly impacted by the community lockdowns, with regional Victoria getting a couple of reprieves to train, though on a whole both sides have had limited opportunities.

In the end it was the clubs who confirmed to the AFL saying it would prove too difficult to field a VFL Women’s team given the lengthy break and preseason requirements for the AFL Women’s listed players, as well as those needing post-season treatment such as surgeries. It is heartbreaking for both sides, and particularly unfortunate for the Magpies who went through the season undefeated as minor premiers, and defeated Geelong three times – including in the first week of finals – to reach the decider. None of their head-to-heads were blowouts however, and the Cats were confident of a fourth time lucky had they been given a chance.

Collingwood VFL Women’s captain Caitlin Bunker said she was proud of the group that produced the Magpies’ third consecutive minor premiership season.

“Our whole group is absolutely devastated that we won’t be able to play the VFLW Grand Final this year and have the opportunity to play for the Premiership in front of our Collingwood fans, but we understand and are supportive of the decision,” she said. “The decision was best to ensure for the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and the broader community. “Having missed last year’s season and having to adapt with further lockdowns this year has been hard for our players, coaches, staff and fans who have all shown immense dedication and commitment to our program and the competition.

“For the third season in a row, Collingwood were crowned minor premiers and remained undefeated throughout the season and finals series. While our group is disappointed that we won’t have the opportunity to play the Grand Final, I’m still extremely proud of what our group has been able to achieve in 2021.”

Geelong VFL Women’s captain Claudia Gunjaca said the Cats were heartbroken, also understood the bigger picture.

“As a group, we have remained hopeful and focused throughout the uncertainty and while it’s not the outcome we were hoping for, we understand and support the decision that’s been made,” Gunjaca said. “As disappointing as it is, it doesn’t take away from how proud we are of what we’ve been able to achieve this season.”

AFL Head of Talent Pathways and State League Competitions Tristan Salter expressed sadness at the decision after what had been a terrific and resilient year of football.

“The rebel VFLW Competition has been a foundation league in Victoria for many years and an exciting pathway for young girls. The 2021 season has been a challenge to everyone connected to football. The AFL is very proud of how all VFLW clubs, players, officials, supporters and corporate partners managed through a difficult year and kept their communities connected,” Salter said.

“To play 90 VFLW games during a COVID-interrupted season is a testament to the resilience and commitment of the whole industry – all clubs, players, coaches, umpires and officials. “Our clubs and the League have made a difficult decision and we sympathise with their players and coaches and their legion of fans and supporters. Everyone is aligned and united in this decision and we will come through this together.

“In 2021 we celebrate 40 years of women’s football in Victoria and we reflect on the contribution of all women to our great game. Participation for women and girls has exploded and the VFLW has added a vibrancy and excitement to our game that we have sorely needed in these challenging times. “We congratulate all clubs on a successful year of football and look forward to returning for the 2022 season.”

Planning will commence for the 2022 VFL Women’s season, with the next year anticipated to start earlier than usual to align with the pushed forward AFL Women’s competition.

Picture: AFL Photos

2022 AFLW early look: Geelong

IN an early look at the upcoming AFL Women’s 2022 season, Draft Central delves into each of the 14 clubs over the next three weeks ahead of preseason commencing. Next up is Geelong, a team that will suit up with a new coach in 2022 after being the lowest ranked Victorian team in 2021, picking up just one win – in the final round – to be 13th overall on the ladder.

LAST SEASON:

Position: 13th
Wins: 1
Losses: 8
Draws: 0
Points For: 164 (14th)
Points Against: 408 (12th)

It was a forgettable season for Geelong finishing in 13th overall, and also through missing players due to injury such as Nina Morrison and for the most part, Olivia Purcell, leaving the Cats exposed. They averaged just 18.2 points per game in season 2021, the lowest of any side, which prompted them to search for forward options in the AFLW Draft and off-season. Whilst not a heap to smile about last season, the Cats did pick up a win in the final round against fellow winless team Gold Coast to avoid the wooden spoon and provide hope for the future with a lot of Cats getting their chance at AFLW level in 2021.

OFF-SEASON:

Ins: Chantel Emonson (Melbourne), Chloe Scheer (Adelaide), Olivia Fuller, Claudia Gunjaca, Annabel Johnson (Geelong VFLW), Georgie Prespakis, Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons), Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons), Rachel Kearns (Gaelic)
Outs: Olivia Purcell (Melbourne), Aasta O’Connor (retired), Maddie Boyd, Kate Darby, Nicole Garner, Rebecca Goring, Mia Skinner, Richelle Cranston (delisted)
Inactive: Millie Brown, Denby Taylor

Geelong will head into the 2022 AFLW season with significant change after a big off-season. The largest loss was 2020 club best and fairest winner Purcell departing to join rising club Melbourne, with the Cats able to move up the draft order and pick up Chantel Emonson as an experienced replacement. The Cats will also be without fellow former Vic Country representatives Denby Taylor and Millie Brown who will sit out the 2022 season, leaving some gaps in defence. Along with Aasta O’Connor retiring and Richelle Cranston among six delistings, the Cats will be missing a fair chunk of experience for the upcoming year. Chloe Scheer‘s recruitment should give Geelong fans plenty to smile about, with the talent able to dominate up forward or through the midfield and is exactly what they need as a young player with experience. Picking up the best available Victorian prospect in Georgie Prespakis, and her Calder Cannons teammate Zali Friswell will give the midfield a much needed boost, as will rewarding the Cats’ VFLW footballers in Annabel Johnson and Claudia Gunjaca who were incredibly impressive in 2021. Olivia Fuller presents the immediate solution for O’Connor’s departure in the ruck as Rene Caris looks to take over the reigns full-time, whilst Gabbi Featherston adds an extra dimension up forward, and former Gaelic player Rachel Kearns is some raw X-factor for the blue and white hoops.

2022 TEAM LIST:

Olivia Barber
Rene Caris
Georgia Clarke
Julia Crockett-Grills
Chantel Emonson
Gabbi Featherston
Zali Friswell
Olivia Fuller
Laura Gardiner
Renee Garing
Claudia Gunjaca
Danielle Higgins
Jordan Ivey
Annabel Johnson
Rachel Kearns
Maddy Keryk
Madisen Maguire
Darcy Moloney
Amy McDonald
Meg McDonald
Maddy McMahon
Phoebe McWilliams
Nina Morrison
Georgie Prespakis
Georgie Rankin
Carly Remmos
Chloe Scheer
Sophie Van De Heuvel
Rebecca Webster
Stephanie Williams

KEY QUESTIONS:

  • Can Geelong improve their win-loss record in 2022 off the back of a big AFLW Draft haul?
  • Can Georgie Prespakis have a similarly immediate impact at Geelong as her sister Maddy did at Carlton?
  • Could Chloe Scheer prove to be the recruit of the year if she can be that extra target inside 50 the Cats crave?

PREDICTION:

Geelong is now at the bottom staring at the climb up the mountain. The Cats on paper had unbelievable young talent last year, but a combination of factors including injury, did not help their cause. Once again Geelong has a side that on paper has a really impressive starting lineup, but the losses of Purcell, Taylor and Brown in particular will hurt, so the weight of expectation on their first round picks, as well as Scheer will be particularly large as to where they end up next season. Few fans would be expecting finals given the jump they would need to make, but if they can pick up a few more wins and really challenge the premiership contenders, then the Cats can build the foundations for bigger and better things in 2023 and beyond.

Picture credit: Matt Roberts/AFL Photos

Cats culture the key to VFLW success

GEELONG’S all-in, one-club culture is a key reason for the club reaching the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Grand Final according to deputy vice-captain Breanna Beckley. The Cats had a disappointing AFL Women’s season, collecting just the one win in the final round against fellow winless side Gold Coast Suns, but have turned it around in the VFLW season to face the undefeated Collingwood.

“I think just our culture and our team is just the biggest thing,” Beckley said. “I think from staffing group to players I think it has been unreal on and off the field, what we can do together and I think it really shows how we play together on the field. “We’re not there individually, we’re there to work together and put a good game together.”

Geelong last reached the VFLW Grand Final in 2019, when it went down to Hawthorn, but took out the minor premier Magpies on their way to the last match of the season. The Cats knocked off Collingwood at the very stadium they will run out on Sunday – ETU Stadium – which will give them confidence. When asked about being able to turn the tables on the Magpies having lost to them three times this season, Beckley said there was not much the Cats needed to do as they had been tight contests previously.

“Yeah I think they have been very close. I don’t think there’s too much tweaking we have to do to get things right. But I think a couple of things internally, change of play and that sort of thing,” she said. “Hopefully we can do that and hopefully get the win.”

The Magpies have had to wait 29 days between matches since defeating Essendon in the semi-finals. Geelong got back out for a competitive match last Saturday where they booked their grand final spot following an impressive second half against the Bombers. Whether or not it is an advantage is yet to be seen, but Beckley and her teammates are pleased they got a competitive match in.

I guess it could be (an advantage),” Beckley said. “I think Essendon are strong competition, the physicality is a big thing and hopefully an advantage that could work for us on the weekend.”

As for the underdog tag, Beckley said her teammates had “nothing to lose” and it was a “huge” opportunity. Whilst no one had managed to defeat the Magpies in 2021, both sides start equal at the first bounce, and the Cats were up for the challenge. The leader said she was looking forward to seeing what acting skipper Claudia Gunjaca – one of three Cats to be drafted into the AFLW in the most recent AFLW Draft – could produce, and was her key player to watch.

It’s always a tough one. There will always be people who are finals players,” Beckley said. “But I think Claud’s (Gunjaca) our stand-in captain had a ripper last week and hopefully she can do it again. “I think she can take some good marks and will be one to watch.”

Beckley said the impact of the AFLW players coming back to the VFLW program had been sensational, with their attitude and support first rate. She said the trio of players set to step up to the elite level next season had throughly deserved it and she was looking forward to what they would produce there.

“The girls are absolutely amazing and I think a credit to them that they can just come in and still be themselves,” she said. “We’re still trying to achieve the same thing. “Especially for our girls who got drafted, they’re such superstars on and off the field, just a credit to them and their AFL should shine in the next few years.”

Looking at the opposition, Beckley said AFLW spearhead Chloe Molloy would be a definite target to keep a close eye on with the “superstar” capable of taking over a match. She said whoever was awarded the job to nullify her would have the confidence of their teammates.

I don’t think they’d shy away from the challenge,” Beckley said. “I do think whoever does go on her will do a great job and we back them in every time so yeah it will be a good contest.”

Geelong was due to face Collingwood at ETU Stadium on Sunday with the match starting from 1:15pm, but Victoria’s latest snap lockdown has put a spanner in the works.

Development always the key for whole club Cats

GEELONG fans have had quite the contrasting seasons when comparing the AFL Women’s 2021 campaign with its VFL Women’s counterpart. After winning just the one game – and that coming in the final round of the season against an equally winless Gold Coast Suns – the AFL Women’s side headed into the AFL Women’s Draft and Trade Period to plug holes and develop players to step up to the next season.

The VFL Women’s side was perfect platform to not only develop readymade players, but give further exposure to the Cats’ younger players only a year or two into the system. Fast forward to the end of the season, and they have not only ticked that box, but drafted three mature-age players from the program, and reached the 2021 Grand Final.

“That’s the exciting thing I think for the whole club is that you know, a lot of the first year players of AFLW have got a huge amount of experience this year,” Geelong VFL Women’s head coach Andrew Bruce said ahead of the VFLW Grand Final. “To get to play a finals series, against really good opposition, you know both teams have AFLW talent in it so going up against really good opposition and it can only benefit going forward.”

When asked what it meant for the younger players who had stepped up to AFLW level, but the season had not gone to plan, Bruce said it was great to see them getting more confidence at state league level, and the influence the likes of Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner, Sophie Van De Heuvel and Rene Caris had on the group was profound.

“We came in this year, and we were all about our biggest thing is development and making sure that you know, the girls are better at the end than they were at the start, and we really wanted to enjoy the experience,” Bruce said. “So that’s been a big thing for us. “Yeah, the AFLW girls didn’t get the season that they wanted. “But, you know, when they’ve been in our group, they’ve been absolutely brilliant.”

Geelong picked up ruck Olivia Fuller, and versatile talents Claudia Gunjaca and Annabel Johnson through the compensation pre-draft selections for Fuller and Gunjaca, and with its last selection in the AFL Women’s Draft in Johnson’s case. The trio entered the VFL Women’s finals series as VFLW listed players, and will run out on Grand Final Day as AFLW listed ones. For Gunjaca especially, the moment will be extra special as the acting captain of the Cats in the big match.

“Nothing has changed for them,” Bruce said. “You know, they’re super excited to get on the list and really deserving of that opportunity. All three of them have been brilliant in our group this year. “We’ve been lucky enough since the AFLW season finished to have a good connection with the AFLW team. “The three girls have been great all year and were great on the weekend and we expect the same this week.”

Bruce said the weekend’s hard-fought win over Essendon hard the Cats well placed to take on a Collingwood outfit that would have not played in 29 days since winning their semi-final over the Bombers. While Bruce said it was hard to say whether the extra game, or the extra long rest would be more beneficial, the Cats coach said he was backing in his players – just like opposing coach Chloe McMillan was for the Magpies – to get the job done.

“Yeah, we’re feeling really good,” he said. “We had one training session last Thursday. “It was probably our best session for the year. “Chloe said the same thing, which is fantastic. “And obviously the game against the Bombers on the weekend. It was nice and physical and the girls got a lot out of it. “So now we get an opportunity this week.”

The teams are ranked first and second for defence through the year, which is something that the sides have prided themselves on. Bruce said statistics meant little on game day, especially with both forward lines “dangerous” if given enough time and space. One such player in the Cats forward line is Georgia Clarke, who slotted three goals in the win over the Bombers, but came off with soreness prompting some worries. Bruce clarified she copped a knock to her back but would be right to play this weekend.

Now the challenge for Bruce is being able to turn around the three losses to the Magpies – albeit all tight contests – and make it fourth time lucky on Sunday.

“I think our last game in that very first final we had a really good game,” Bruce said. “We’re really confident that our best football, is very close to Collingwood’s best football and l think it will be a really tight game.”

AFLW draftees: How they fared in VFLW Preliminary Final

GEELONG advanced through to the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Grand Final with an impressive victory over Essendon in the preliminary final. In that game, there were seven recently drafted players who will step up to AFL Women’s level next season and we took a look at how they performed. All notes are the opinion of the writer.

ESSENDON:

#24 Tahlia Gillard

Stats: 5 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 16 hitouts, 1 clearance, 3 rebounds

The towering ruck/forward predominantly provided a target inside 50, and then rotated through the ruck with Simone Nalder. On a number of occasions, Gillard showed her height through a one-on-one marking contest, able to stand over her opponents and pull down marks by snatching it over the top. She had a couple of shots from those marks inside 50, for one behind and one falling short. There was a moment she would probably like to forget where she dropped a chest mark inside defensive 50 which resulted in a tackle, subsequent throw against, set shot and goal in the third term, but Gillard kept pushing hard throughout the four quarters.

#40 Emelia Yassir

Stats: 6 disposals, 3 tackles, 1 clearance

Was a predominant handballer given a lack of space in the hot finals atmosphere, she showed good strength in the second term to rip the ball from a contest close to the line and show quick hands to dish it off well. She earned a free kick from Darcy Moloney in midfield at one stage to begin a team move in transition and set up a scoring chance in that quarter for Alana Barba to kick a behind.

#43 Georgie Prespakis

Stats: 17 disposals, 12 tackles, 7 clearances, 4 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 1 goal

One of the best on the ground, and gave Cats fans some bittersweet feelings. Along with Georgia Nanscawen and Ruby Svarc, Prespakis was the key resistance for the Cats, racking up game-highs in tackles (12), clearances (seven) and inside 50s (four) to not only win it at the coalface, but drive it forward for goal-scoring opportunities. When the Bombers needed a response late in the first term, Prespakis was the one to give it with a clever snap around her body to get her side on the board. Her fierce tackling was a standout of her game, and she was able to move through clearances well, extracting it out and down the field for her teammates on the outside.

#47 Zali Friswell

Stats: 4 disposals, 1 marks, 1 tackle, 1 inside 50

Played forward and worked really hard, but once again was not in her most dominant position – onball. One passage of play which showcased Friswell’s athleticism was her gut running through the middle in the second term, and put it long inside 50 for Barba to run onto and kick the Bombers’ second goal. Whilst not able to hold some of her marking opportunities, Friswell kept presenting, though did only finish with the four touches in what was a tough day for Bomber forwards.

GEELONG:

#13 Olivia Fuller

Stats: 14 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 35 hitouts, 2 clearances, 3 inside 50s

The standout ruck on the ground amassing 35 hitouts, but it was Fuller’s spread around the field that caught the eye. She was strong overhead and was able to provide a target at both half-forward and half-back, taking a strong intercept mark early in the match and pumping it forward. At ground level, Fuller laid a number of strong tackles to be a dominant defensive player.

#42 Annabel Johnson

Stats: 16 disposals, 4 marks, 1 tackle, 1 clearance, 2 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50, 1 goal

After a slower start, Johnson got busier as the game progressed and found more of the ball around the ground. Aside from a rushed kick – after a nice spin out of trouble – on the wing which went out of bounds, Johnson hit the scoreboard with a monster goal from just inside 50. It was a terrific set shot and ignited her game and her second half was quite productive. Johnson was neat with ball-in-hand off half-back and then even did the defensive running well, marking on the goal line to stop a Barba snap from going through.

#60 Claudia Gunjaca

Stats: 19 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 1 hitout, 2 clearances, 6 inside 50s

An eye-catching performance and one of the Cats’ best on the day, Gunjaca started forward and was strong with her leading and aggressive at the ball carrier. Her aerial work matched her ground intensity, and she picked up a fair amount of disposals (19), marks (four) and tackles (five), and most importantly, was able to put plenty of passes inside 50 (six). She was great at reading the ball in flight, taking back-to-back intercept marks at half-forward in the first term. On a couple of occasions, Gunjaca also spun out of trouble to kick the ball forward and moved well in traffic.

2021 VFL Women’s Preliminary Final Preview: Geelong vs. Essendon

A GRAND Final spot is on the line tomorrow when Essendon hosts Geelong at Windy Hill in the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s preliminary final. Collingwood awaits the winner in the grand final, and has been waiting for a few weeks now after a fortnight out of football due to the Victorian lockdown. It has meant the AFL Women’s Draft has come and gone, and put a number of players in an unusual situation of playing against the team they have been drafted to for the 2022 AFL Women’s season.

ESSENDON vs. GEELONG
Saturday, July 31 @ 12:00pm
Windy Hill

In the preliminary final we find the second placed Cats having to travel to the fifth placed Bombers as part of a quirk in the unusual VFL Women’s finals series. Geelong lost to Collingwood in the quarter finals, as Essendon upset Casey Demons, unlocking a double-chance for the Bombers who had to use it when they also fell to the unbeaten Magpies. Meanwhile Geelong kept its hopes alive by taking down Southern Saints in the do-or-die semi-final, but now head north to Windy Hill where they look to get another crack at Collingwood in the 2021 VFLW Grand Final.

Last time they met: Geelong 5.9 (39) defeated Essendon 2.4 (16)

In a four-quarter performance, Geelong kicked away at Deakin University to draw or win every quarter against the Bombers. Sophie Van De Heuvel and Richelle Cranston booted two goals apiece as the Cats kept Essendon goalless in the first half, and then extended their 15-point final break lead to a 23-point full-time margin. Claudia Gunjaca and Rene Caris were deemed the best for the Cats, whilst Alex Morcom, Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba, the latter of whom kicked one of the Bombers’ two goals, were among the best for the red and black.

Who are the AFL Women’s draftees?

The two with the strangest circumstance will be Top 10 picks, Georgie Prespakis and Zali Friswell. Both Calder Cannons products, playing for a team after being drafted by another was always going to be strange enough, but the fact the two Essendon VFLW talents are lining up against the Cats – the team they will play for next year – adds an extra unusual dimension to the mix. Prespakis has been named in Essendon’s ominous midfield, while Friswell has been named at half-forward.

Tahlia Gillard is also running around in the red and black after being picked up by Melbourne, while Richmond’s Emelia Yassir is also playing for the Bombers. Both will be expected to rotate through the forward line, with Gillard chopping out in the ruck. For the Cats, it is a little more straight forward, with Olivia Fuller and Gunjaca picked up prior to the AFL Women’s Draft as compensation selections, and Annabel Johnson drafted with Pick 15, the Cats’ last selection in the draft.

Essendon also has Elizabeth Snell (Western Bulldogs) on its list, but Snell has been named as an emergency, whilst Tara Slender (North Melbourne) was not selected. Similarly for the Cats, Annie Lee (Carlton) was not picked for the clash, but other draft hopefuls who unfortunately missed out on being picked up in Renee Tierney and Chloe Leonard (both Vic Country representatives) will don the blue and white hoops. For the Bombers, Vic Metro representative Kasey Lennox is another Calder Cannon named in the side.

Where will the game be won?

Both sides have star-studded midfields, with Georgia Nanscawen arguably the best player not on an AFL Women’s list, teaming up with top Victorian pick Prespakis, and fellow AFLW experienced talent Ruby Svarc. Barba rolls through the onball group. with Courtney Ugle providing some pace, and Ashley-Cooper another prominent player in there.

For the Cats, they have an AFL Women’s midfield, with Van de Heuvel, Darcy Moloney and Rebecca Webster roving to the recently upgraded Fuller. Add in Laura Gardiner off the bench, and the likes of Tamara Smith who can roll through there, and both sides have some serious talent to win around the stoppages.

Who will win?

Geelong deserve to be favourites, they finished higher, took control in the last game and have enough AFLW experience to hold the Bombers at bay. But the Essendon midfield is as good as a VFLW midfield gets, and the youth around the ground more than makes up for it. The Cats have more AFLW experience, particularly inside 50, but the Bombers share the goals around and no doubt Mia-Rae Clifford is a player who will be keen to impact the scoreboard for the red and black against her former side.

2021 Ones to Watch: VFLW-listed talents impressing

TEAMS have entered the final month of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season and NAB League Girls and AFL Women’s players are now regularly filtering through teams. With the AFL Women’s Draft always a talking point, it is worth remembering some of the VFL Women’s listed players who have held their spots and had really promising seasons. Whilst the below does not include everyone, there are a few names from each team named to keep an eye on.

COLLINGWOOD:

The Magpies have no shortage of VFL Women’s listed talent to keep an eye on. Imogen Barnett has been a powerful force up forward, slotting 11 goals in nine games and not only averaging the three marks, but the 2.7 tackles per match as well. In defence, Jasmine Ferguson is having a terrific season playing on some quality forwards, having really developed each season since her initial days with Gippsland Power. Marla Neal through the midfield has had a purple patch and is as hard as they come, whilst midfielder/forward Matilda Zander has kicked the seven goals and provide the speed and defensive pressure that could see former Norwood mentor Steve Symonds opt for the talented small.

GEELONG:

The Cats’ AFL Women’s talent has certainly been a driving force through the midfield this year, but a couple of hard-at-it midfielders in Paige Sheppard (20.2 disposals, 6.0 tackles) and Tamara Smith (17.5 disposals, 10.8 tackles) are doing their chances no harm with great in-and-under work and spreading to the outside. Claudia Gunjaca is another one who has really caught the eye this season, whilst defender Breanna Pratt has been amongst the best VFL-listed talents for the Cats.

PORT MELBOURNE:

Ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Sophie Locke has developed into an exciting forward who has an eye for goals and would be one that needs to be in consideration to step up, whilst injury replacement player Hannah McLaren continues to be a standout ball-winner at VFL Women’s level. Add in ex-Richmond forwards Emily Harley and Cleo Saxon-Jones who are searching for new contracts, and the Borough have some talents with experience that could step up and earn new contracts with other clubs.

CASEY DEMONS:

Eliza West has enjoyed an incredible season with the Demons and is a readymade talent if given the chance to step up. Grace Buchan has not missed a beat since crossing from the Magpies and has been reliable ball user in the back half, whilst Imogen Milford has been the dominant goalkicker this year. Emma Humphries has the AFL Women’s experience in the past to slot straight into a contender if required.

ESSENDON:

Georgia Nanscawen should be the top pick when it comes to selecting mature-age talent out of the VFL Women’s, as a genuine best 21 player at AFL Women’s level when fit. She is averaging 23 touches and almost 10 tackles, including a game where she was injured early. Fellow midfielder, Alana Barba remains on the radar for her attack on the contest and around the ground, whilst Courtney Ugle and Eloise Gardner are among a host of Bombers players that have traits which could be utilised at the next level.

SOUTHERN SAINTS:

A tall versatile option, Tara Bohanna has been a reliable source of goals for the Saints, able to roll through the ruck as well as provide strength in the air and on the ground for 16.2 disposals, 4.3 marks, 4.5 tackles, 7.4 hitouts and more than a goal a game. A mature-age midfielder Hannah Stuart is one for the immediate-impact group, averaging almost 18 touches and six tackles as a tough inside ball-winner, whilst Gabbi De Angelis has always had some special traits since coming through the Eastern Ranges, and Valerie Moreau is one of a number of Saints enjoying good seasons.

WESTERN BULLDOGS:

The AFL Women’s contingent has definitely bolstered the Western Bulldogs’ squad, but in terms of mainstays only two players have played every game. Brooke Hards has been utilised in a multitude of positions and settled at half-back of late whilst rotating through the midfield, possessing great pace and game-breaking ability across the ground. Simone Ruedin is as reliable as they come, and if a club was locking for a rock-solid defender, there have been few better this season. Ruck/forward Molly Denahy Maloney has some eye-catching traits that might catch the eye, whilst Katelyn Betts has shown versatility and hardness around the ball.

HAWTHORN:

The Hawks have a plethora of recently delisted AFL Women’s players that could slot all over this list, with Tamara Luke, Alison Drennan, Kristy Stratton and Georgia Bevan among the long list of talents with prior AFLW-experience. From a VFLW-listed perspective, Jessie Williams‘ development up forward with seven goals in 10 games, as well as young gun and speedster Dominique Carbone and consistent talented midfield Olivia Flanagan among those with some exciting traits to keep an eye off.

NORTH MELBOURNE:

North Melbourne has promoted quite a lot of its VFL Women’s talent this year, with Meagan Kiely and ex-Darebin talent Molly Eastman among the names that the club, or other clubs might consider for the pure ball-winning consistency. Perhaps the most damaging one could be forward-cum-midfielder Sarah Skinner who not only can wreak havoc inside 50, but go inside and find a truckload of the ball as well. Alexia Hamilton is an ex-Sun who has been reliable in the ruck and as a forward target who might earn a call-up.

CARLTON:

Akayla Peterson has been a standout this year, able to play in a multitude of roles, booting five goals playing up forward and in defence, and being able to slot in anywhere. Jorja Borg has been a dominant ruck through that role, while defender Ally Bild is only about to turn 22-years-old and has made strides since crossing from the Magpies. She only played the four games this season, but Jennifer Lew‘s impact in defence was noticeable for the Navy Blues, averaging 18.5 disposals and 5.3 marks in that time.

WILLIAMSTOWN:

The Seagulls might not have had a lot of AFL Women’s experience prior to the GWS GIANTS joining forces, but have had some reliable ball-winners. Megan Williamson is a player who could step up as a readymade inside midfielder, while it is hard to look past the influence that Erin Meade or Aimee Whelan can have on a game, whilst Elizabeth McGrath had almost 60 hitouts recently against one of the premier rucks in the competition.

DAREBIN FALCONS:

Gena Lawson-Tavan has been a rock in defence for the Falcons this season playing every game alongside Samara David who has been one of the premier markers of the competition, also booting five goals in 10 games. Sidney Cubasch has been a reliable ruck option each week she has played, while Victoria Blackwood is still young and developing – only turned 21 in December last year – and really stepped up this season.

2021 VFLW Round 10 wrap: Bulldogs remain in the top six hunt

ROUND 10 of the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition saw three sides claim wins by over nine goals, as the top six continues to solidify. Outside challengers are lingering though, headlined by the Western Bulldogs who beat Carlton to remain within striking distance of those all-important finals places. All six fixtures were played out on Saturday this past round, making for an intriguing set of results as the state league action begins to heat up. With senior-listed guns and NAB League talents continuing to filter through, things are building nicely with four rounds left to play.

>> ONE-STOP SITE: VFLW page

HAWTHORN 3.0 | 4.3 | 7.5 | 10.9 (69)
DAREBIN FALCONS 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 (7)

Hawthorn registered its second win in three weeks, dismantling the Darebin Falcons to the tune of 62 points at Box Hill City Oval on Saturday morning. The Hawks kept their opponents scoreless after the opening term and proved relentless in the second half, pouring on six goals from 10 scoring shots to run out comfortable winners, 10.9 (69) to 1.1 (7). The result sees Hawthorn sit two games outside of the top six, but with the best bottom-six percentage.

Kristy Stratton led a kettle of nine Hawks who found the goals, finishing with two in a best afield outing. The likes of Tamara Luke (24 disposals, 37 hitouts) and Alison Drennan (24 disposals, nine tackles) were also impactful in the win, while second gamer Grace McRae featured in her side’s votes having won 21 touches and laid nine tackles in brown and gold.

Hayley Munro was Darebin’s sole goalkicker on the day, as the ever-reliable Kath Roe topped her side’s disposal charts with 21 (17 kicks) in a gallant display. Victoria Blackwood‘s good form continued for the Falcons, as did that of Alyssa Mifsud. Meanwhile, Annalyse Lister showed no let-up in the heavy loss, laying a whopping 19 tackles for the Falcons as they dropped to 1-9 at the foot of the ladder.

GOALS:

Hawthorn: K. Stratton 2, A. Bush, K. Cox, K. Newton, N. von Bertouch, P. McWilliams, T. Luke, C. O’Malley, D. Carbone
Darebin: H. Munro

BEST:

Hawthorn: K. Stratton, G. McRae, K. Newton, A. Drennan, J. Richardson, T. Luke
Darebin: K. Roe, G. Lawson-Tavan, V. Blackwood, A. Mifsud, A. Lister, S. David

WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.4 | 1.9 | 2.11 | 4.14 (38)
CARLTON 1.1 | 1.2 | 3.2 | 3.6 (24)

The Western Bulldogs’ top six charge got back on track with a 14-point win over Carlton, in what was a high-stakes clash at Whitten Oval on Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs constantly threatened to break clear in the low-scoring tussle, but their inaccuracy kept Carlton in the contest. Having led at every break, the home side managed to double its goal tally in term four to come away 4.14 (38) to 3.6 (24) winners, sitting just a game outside the top six.

The continued flow of AFLW talent into the state league again proved prominent, with first year Bulldog Jess Fitzgerald putting in a best afield performance from midfield. She topped her side’s disposal chart with 21 alongside Gemma Lagioia, while Eleanor Brown earned full votes from her coaches with 20 touches and eight marks. Second-gamer Stephanie Asciak also got a look-in for the votes, as the Western Jets product notched nine disposals.

Unsurprisingly, the midfield duo of Grace Egan and Abbie McKay played a crucial role for Carlton, as another senior-listed jet in Maddy Guerin led all comers with 32 disposals (28 kicks). Steph Lawrence finished as the game’s sole multiple goalkicker with two majors, while Natalie Plane could only manage two behinds from 13 touches in her first game at the level for 2021.

GOALS:

Bulldogs: E. Morrison, S. Ruedin, K. Betts, C. Moody
Carlton: S. Lawrence 2, S. Gibbs

BEST:

Bulldogs: E. Brown, E. Vale, A. Gogos, E. Morrison, G. Lagioia, S. Asciak
Carlton: G. Egan, A. McKay, M. Guerin, S. Lawrence, E. Honybun, B. Gurr

GEELONG 0.3 | 2.5 | 3.7 | 5.9 (39)
ESSENDON 0.0 | 0.2 | 1.4 | 2.4 (16)

Geelong’s winning streak extended to six games on Saturday, as the Cats accounted for Essendon to the tune of 23 points at Deakin University. The deadlock of a goalless opening quarter was broken by a pair of majors to the hosts in the following period, with Essendon taking until term three to get on the board in a major way. Geelong maintained the scoreboard pressure though, boosting up to second spot with the 5.9 (39) to 2.4 (16) victory.

Sophie Van De Huevel was terrific in the hoops, booting two goals from 19 disposals, with Richelle Cranston finishing as the only other multiple goalkicker afield. Claudia Gunjaca gained full votes from the Geelong staff, as Renee Garing and Rebecca Webster led all comers with 23 disposals apiece. Garing also laid a game-high 13 tackles, while tall prospect Rene Caris led her side for hitouts with 16.

Essendon skipper Georgia Nanscawen continued her brilliant season and was the only Bomber to tick over 20 touches, with goalkicker Alana Barba among a trio of players to reach 15. Eloise Ashley-Cooper was also in that group alongside Gold Coast’s Lauren Ahrens, while Alex Morcom played an important role for her team in the loss.

GOALS:

Geelong: S. Van De Heuvel 2, R. Cranston 2, O. Fuller
Essendon: A. Barba, L. Stepnell

BEST:

Geelong: C. Gunjaca, R. Caris, J. Foley, S. Van De Heuvel, R. Webster, M. Keryk
Essendon: A. Morcom, E. Ashley-Cooper, A. Barba, M. Anthony, E. Hosking, G. Nanscawen

PORT MELBOURNE 0.1 | 2.3 | 3.4 | 4.4 (28)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 3.3 | 5.4 | 8.4 | 8.7 (55)

Southern Saints remain a game clear in the top six, after knocking off Port Melbourne by 27 points on enemy territory in the upset of the round. The Saints stamped their authority early with a three-goal to nil opening quarter, before adding another three majors in the third term to set up an even five-goal lead at the final break. It proved a bridge too far for the Borough, who dropped just their second game, 8.7 (55) to 4.4 (28).

The efforts of Alexandra Hynes (eight disposals, 10 tackles, 17 hitouts) was recognised with full votes from her coaches, as the Saints proved their finals credentials. Meanwhile, Hannah Stuart and Alice Burke both notched over 20 disposals as expected, as Tara Bohanna booted a game-high two goals from her 18 touches, and Rebecca Neaves also got on the scoresheet. Hannah Priest played an important role, clunking five marks and laying six tackles to go with 17 disposals.

Emily Harley, one of Port’s four individual goalkickers, was named best afield for her side, while Hannah McLaren registered an equal game-high 21 disposals. Dandenong Stingrays pair Jaide Anthony (10 disposals, four marks) and Ash Richards (three disposals, one goal) also had their moments on debut, as Richmond-listed midfielder Maddy Brancatisano fared well in her first VFLW appearance for 2021, with 17 touches and four marks.

GOALS:

Port Melbourne: A. Richards, C. Bromage, E. Harley, H. Bailey
Southern Saints: T. Bohanna 2, T. Meyer, T. Kearns, R. Neaves, K. Ripari, A. Harris, M. Capsalis

BEST:

Port Melbourne: E. Harley, J. Anthony, M. Brancatisano, H. McLaren, M. Kuys
Southern Saints: A. Hynes, A. Burke, H. Stuart, T. Bohanna, K. Ripari, H. Priest

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0 | 2.1 | 2.1 | 2.1 (13)
COLLINGWOOD 5.3 | 6.6 | 9.9 | 10.15 (75)

Collingwood’s unblemished run rolled on with a comprehensive 62-point drubbing of North Melbourne at Arden Street Oval, making it 10 wins in a row for the black and whites. Signs were ominous as the Magpies posted five goals to one in the first term, while taking advantage of the scoring end once again after half time as the Kangaroos failed to add to their total, making for the lopsided 10.15 (75) to 2.1 (13) final scoreline.

A trio of Magpies snared two goals each, in Sophie Alexander, Imogen Barnett, and Georgia Ricardo. Alexander could well have finished with a bag, having also registered three behinds. Mikala Cann managed a game-high 28 disposals, but it was Jennifer Guy (15 disposals, one goal) who was adjudged her side’s most valuable player in the big win.

Meagan Kiely had her usual say with a team-high 23 touches, as Molly Eastman was the only other ‘Roo to notch over 20 disposals. Tall recruit Alexia Hamilton made an impact with 13 disposals, 17 hitouts and one of her side’s two goals, while Airlie Runnalls and Nadia Moore also returned solid shifts as North fell to 3-7, with their hopes of making finals getting slimmer.

GOALS:

North Melbourne: A. Hamilton, L. Taylor
Collingwood: G. Ricardo 2, S. Alexander 2, I. Barnett 2, L. Durante, K. Colborne-Veel, M. Cann, J. Guy

BEST:

North Melbourne: N. Moore, A. Hamilton, M. Eastman, R. Hicks, A. Runnalls, S. Skinner
Collingwood: J. Guy, S. Alexander, I. Barnett, M. Cann, E. Jackson, H. Bowey

WILLIAMSTOWN 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 (0)
CASEY DEMONS 1.0 | 3.1 | 6.4 | 9.5 (59)

Casey became the first team to hold its opponent scoreless throughout an entire game in 2021, defeating Williamstown by 59 points on Saturday night at Downer Oval. Despite being buoyed by GWS-listed talent, the Seagulls were soundly beaten by a finals-bound outfit which poured on six goals from 11 scoring shots after half time. The Demons now sit pretty in fourth after the 9.5 (59) to 0 triumph.

Maddison Gay finished with a game-high three goals and Eden Zanker led all comers with 25 disposals for Casey, but it was Casey Sherriff (16 disposals, two goals) who claimed best afield honours in the win. Meg McDonald also hit the scoreboard from her 20 touches, as Gippsland Power talent Grace Matser got in the votes with seven disposals and 16 hitouts in her state league debut.

Lisa Steane had a team-high 18 disposals as she suited up for the Seagulls, also laying nine tackles. The likes of Elizabeth Keaney (17 disposals) and Georgia Garnett (14) also impressed in their maiden outings, while mainstays Ella Baxter and Aimee Whelan stood up in what was a tough outing for Williamstown.

GOALS:

Williamstown: Nil
Casey: M. Gay 3, C. Sherriff 2, J. Parry 2, A. Kirkwood, M. Macdonald

BEST:

Williamstown: E. Baxter, L. Steane, E. Graham, E. Keaney, G. Garnett, E. Straford
Casey: C. Sherriff, E. Humphries, M. Macdonald, A. Brown, G. Matser, M. Gay

2021 VFLW Round 8 preview: Anzac Day rivals lock horns at The Hangar

ANZAC Day matches take centre stage, along with a Friday night blockbuster at Whitten Oval, in what is anticipated to be a fantastic round of Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s action for Round 8 of the competition.

WESTERN BULLDOGS vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Friday, April 23 @ 7:30pm
Whitten Oval

A mammoth win last Sunday afternoon against Darebin saw Western Bulldogs jump from eleventh to eighth on the VFL Women’s table, and draw to within four points of the top six. They will have plenty of percentage to catch up on after some disappointing losses, but the team that currently holds sixth spot is their opponents on Friday night, the Southern Saints. The Saints have a healthy percentage thanks to a similar belting of the Falcons back in Round 5, which had actually snapped a three-game losing streak. They did go down to the unbeaten Magpies last week, so will be seeking to bounce back against the Dogs in this clash. Tara Bohanna is a key player for the Saints, booting eight goals in seven games to be within reach of top spot on the table. Valerie Moreau and Gabbi De Angelis have both slotted four majors, to give the Saints a pretty potent forward line. Alice Burke ran rampant last week with 35 touches, whilst the dangerous Renee Saulitis is another small who can inject pace and class around goals. By comparison, Mary Sandral leads the Dogs’ goalkicking with the four majors, but was injured during the clash against the Falcons, On debut Western Jets’ Jemima Woods slotted three majors, though it is expected she will return for the NAB League Girls’ final clash. Danielle Marshall hit the scoreboard last week, while the return of Nell Morris-Dalton and Eleanor Brown to complement the side was important. Last time they were under lights the Dogs had a shocker against the Magpies, but expect them to be much better here against the Saints in what should be a thrilling contest.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, April 24 @ 10:00am
ETU Stadium

The top of the table Port Melbourne host Casey Demons in an early Saturday morning clash. The Borough saw off their greatest challenge to-date last week, overcoming Carlton from several goals down to remain undefeated from seven matches. The Demons, led by Imogen Milford who slammed home six majors, were too strong for Hawthorn despite the Hawks’ best efforts at Box Hill. If the Demons can continue that form – with more AFL Women’s players available – expect them to really give the ladder leaders a run for their money. Only Port and Collingwood have scored more than the Demons this season, which makes them a potent attack led by Milford (12 goals), while Niamh McEvoy (five) and Brenna Tarrant (five from Round 1) all damaging. Eliza West is the in-form midfielder, having collected more touches than any other player this season at an average of 22.3 disposals, as well as 4.3 tackles. Being able to hit the scoreboard with four majors makes her a threat forward of centre, and the Borough will need to be aware of that, whether it is the likes of Philippa Peschke or Mel Kuys who might be opposed to her. Sophie Locke is second on the goalkicking charts but has been recovering from injury, whilst Emily Harley (five goals) and Cleo Saxon-Jones (four) have been hitting the scoreboard in less games, while Sabrina Frederick has scored two majors in each of her matches thus far. The Borough should be favourites at home, but the Demons have enough talent to bring in that could worry the ladder leaders.

DAREBIN vs. GEELONG
Saturday, April 24 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

Back-to-back home games for Darebin Falcons gives the standalone side a chance to jump off the bottom of the table with a win in this contest. The Falcons knocked off North Melbourne a fortnight ago, but felt the pinch of a Dogs side that recalled a number of AFL Women’s talents in Round 7. They have to find a way to knock off a red-hot Cats outfit that will have similar AFL Women’s numbers to the Dogs last week, with most of those players being able to hit the scoreboard. Geelong has only lost to the top two sides, and has won their past three matches to sit fourth overall, percentage behind Essendon. with Casey Demons not too far behind, the visitors cannot afford to take the Falcons lightly. Olivia Barber is a goal-scoring threat when in the side having kicked six goals in just two games, whilst regulars, Claudia Gunjaca (five), Stephanie Williams (five) and Georgia Clarke (four) can also do damage. Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner and Carly Remmos will be the future of the AFL Women’s side and are teaming up well through the VFLW midfield, while Tamara Smith leads all-comers with tackles, and Paige Sheppard is one of the most prominent ball-winners in the league. Nicole Callinan is the one to stop for the Falcons, averaging 23 disposals, six marks and 5.5 tackles working hard in the back 50 and pushing up the ground to try and drive her team forward. The Bulldogs premiership player has been a welcome addition to the side, with Sidney Cubasch returning last week and likely to assert herself in the ruck, Samara David impressed around the ground having also kicked the five goals this season, while Stephanie Simpson might not have hit the scoreboard last week against a strong Bulldogs defence, but slotted four the previous week. The Falcons will leapfrog Hawthorn – if the Hawks lose on Sunday – but it will be a very tough ask with Geelong in ripping form and expect the Cats to continue that form in Round 8.

HAWTHORN vs. WILLIAMSTOWN
Sunday, April 25 @ 10:30am
Box Hill City Oval

Two of the bottom three clash in what could be one of the closest matches of the round. Hawthorn has been pretty impressive this season and arguably undeserving of eleventh on the ladder. They pushed the Demons last week and can leapfrog the Seagulls here with a win, having averaged more points than their opponents, but also having conceded a lot more as well. Each week Bec Goddard manages to bring in AFL Women’s talent, as Georgia Bevan, Kristy Stratton, Tamara Luke and Nadia von Bertouch have all swapped their colours to return to their roots of the brown and gold, or with the ties to Goddard. Whilst not having massive ball-winners, the Hawks have been able to develop some young talent through the list, such as renowned tackler Dominique Carbone, and a plethora of Eastern Ranges players such as Isabelle Khoury, Matilda Hardy and Eloise Chaston. Jesse Williams is the danger up forward, and with Stratton in for her second game in the brown and gold, expect her to be a second prong of attack up there. Williamstown on the other hand do not have a reliable source of goals, though Aimee Whelan and Gabrielle Biedenweg-Webster have each snagged three majors. A total of 14 players have hit the scoreboard in the 2021 season, including prominent ball-winners Ruby Tripodi and Megan Williamson, while Erin Meade continues to provide great run out of defence, and will hope the Seagulls can propel themselves to their third win. With the extra experience coming into the brown and gold though, the Hawks should get up at home.

ESSENDON vs. COLLINGWOOD
Sunday, April 25 @ 11:00am
The Hangar

The traditional Anzac Day rivals will clash at The Hangar before fans head south to the MCG for the AFL men’s edition, with the VFL Women’s clash to provide just as much intensity between the clubs. A potential finals preview looms with the second placed Pies still unbeaten from seven games, coming up against the third placed Bombers who are 5-2 from their season, and building some great form in the middle of the season. The Bombers have been without their spiritual leader for the last game and a half with Georgia Nanscawen on the sidelines. She averaged 23 disposals and 10.2 tackles in her six games, to be a barometer in the side. Alana Barba and Courtney Ugle have stepped up in her absence, while Federica Frew (eight goals) and Natalie MacDonald (five) have been important up forward with Mia-Rae Clifford (eight). With the NAB League Girls returning this week, expect the Bombers to be without a couple of key youngsters in Zali Friswell and Kasey Lennox, though Elizabeth Snell and soon-to-be Jemma Finning have just the one game remaining in Pioneers colours. The Magpies have been ticking along nicely and now will be able to heavily rotate their AFL Women’s talent if they choose to do so, with the likes of Bella Smith (eight goals in four games), Amelia Velardo in defence and Abbi Moloney (two in three) among those running around in the side. Imogen Barnett has been the standout VFLW-listed Pie with eight goals in six games, while Caitlin Bunker (16.3 disposals, 6.6 tackles) and Matilda Zander (14.3 disposals, 4.1 tackles) are others who have stood out.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. CARLTON
Sunday, April 25 @ 12:00pm
Arden Street

The later Anzac Day clash is between another couple of AFLW-aligned clubs in North Melbourne and Carlton. The Roos have enjoyed playing a string of games at Arden Street this season, and whilst they have only won the two games from seven matches, have been steadfast in developing their VFLW-listed talents rather than pouring in AFLW-listed players just for the points. The Blues have been fairly similar, though they were able to bring in some players in recent weeks such as Maddy Guerin, who has been a cut above at the level, averaging 21.7 disposals, 3.3 marks and 7.0 tackles from her three games. Jennifer Lew has been an impressive VFLW-listed Blue with 18.5 disposals, 5.3 marks and 4.3 tackles, whilst Courtney Jones has slotted eight goals in five games, and Akayla Peterson has been utilised at both ends of the field for five goals in seven games. Throw in Serena Gibbs (three in four) who has been supporting Jorja Borg in the ruck, and the form of Winnie Laing this season, and the Blues have a solid team across the board. North Melbourne on the other hand, have had some really consistent ball-winners, but just not enough consistent games to put together wins. Brooke Brown has been sensational up forward with eight goals in four games, while ex-Sun Alexia Hamilton, and Tasmanian Sarah Skinner have both been enjoying outstanding seasons in the blue and white. Meagan Kiely and Molly Eastman both average 20.4 disposals and more than four tackles per game to share the load with Skinner, while Airlie Runnalls and Katelyn Cox are other consistent ball-winning talents. Carlton arguably have the upper hand after pushing Port Melbourne last week, though the development of the Roos will hold them in good stead for the future.