Tag: courtney rowley

WAFLW Round 2 wrap: Swan Districts dynamic forwards run away with 53-point victory

SWAN Districts have reminded the rest of the West Australian Football League Women’s (WAFLW) competition just how dangerous their forward line can be, putting together a complete performance during a 53-point victory over South Fremantle. The Bulldogs showed last week they were a much-improved team on their wooden spoon efforts of 2020, but despite their defence holding up throughout the first half, eventually were overwhelmed by the amount of inside 50s.

From the get-go it was clear the Bulldogs were up for the challenge, though the game was going to be played on Swan Districts’ terms. Mikayla Hyde needed only a couple of minutes before she snapped through a major returning to the team after playing for Fremantle in the AFL Women’s. Her clever goal got the team going, though the next would not come until the final minute of the term. The amount of inside 50s for the Swans was enormous, and full credit to the South Fremantle defence for holding up, but eventually some Nyra Anderson broke the drought, winning a loose ball in the pocket, then with some help and a one-two, received the ball and put through a major.

Pia Durk and Ella Higgins were doing what they could for the underdogs, but the midfield of Swan Districts was overwhelming. Jess Cox was dominating in the air and at ground level one-on-one, Tara Stribley was providing the touch of outside class, and Dana East roaming up from half-forward was being that link in transition. Despite their dominance – and an early goal to Bella Edgley in the opening few minutes – Swan Districts only led by 22 points at half-time.

That was soon going to change in the second half, though it did not look like it at first, as the Bulldogs were keeping the ball more in midfield than in defensive 50 for a change to the first two quarters. Once it went deep inside 50 though, the Swans were just too good. East kicked back-to-back goals to drive the nail into the coffin of the Bulldogs and lead by a game-high 37 points and a blowout was threatening. Luckily for South, the Bulldogs would not go scoreless as a terrific play in the final 90 seconds from Ashleigh Reidy to Aaliyah Ugle and into Lauren Vecchio resulted in a running goal.

It was reward for effort after holding up so well defensively in the first half. Unfortunately for the home team, that would be about it as Swan Districts really stepped up the pressure in the final term to run rampant. A number of chances went begging early for the visitors, before Anderson kicked her second eight minutes into the quarter. It triggered something special from Edgley who somehow managed to dribble a goal under pressure from deep in the pocket. With 90 seconds left in the match, Anderson led out strongly off a perfectly weighted Stribley pass, went back and slotted the goal for a memorable 53-point win, 8.11 (59) to 1.0 (6).

East was named best on ground by the Swans coaches, while defender Aimee Ralph, Cox, ruck/forward Sarah Wielstra and Edgley were also named among the bests for their efforts. Durk and Higgins were standouts in a losing side, while Reidy, Makayla Cocking and Casey Byrne were also named in the best for South Fremantle.

In the later Sunday game, Claremont held off South Fremantle by keeping them goalless for 67 of the 72 minutes of their Round 2 clash. Both the Tigers and Sharks are well suited to low-scoring hard football, and that was exactly what the game presented fans with. Sara Lewis – who would later be sidelined for the game due to injury in the second half – kicked the opening major of the game five minutes into the first quarter. Despite having their chances throughout the game, the Sharks would only scored three behinds for the game, as Claremont would boot 2.5 over the next two quarters.

Chloe Reilly‘s work in defence was outstanding, particularly in the first half when the Tigers were rallying to hit back, but could not seemingly score. Sharks captain Ashleigh Gomes set the tone for her team with a run-down tackle on Sarah Garstone early in the second quarter, but Garstone would get one back by hitting a leading Amy Franklin inside 50 who found Jacinta Valentini 30m out. Valentini made no mistake with a slight angle, slotting the goal and handing her side the lead with a few minutes left in the half.

The second half was a real arm-wrestle with Rachel Ortlepp being a rock in the back 50 throughout the match, and Ella Smith was picking up the pieces for the Tigers in midfield. The East Fremantle defence – led by Alex Williams and Kim Boulton – was unflappable. The issue for the visitors was scoring, which they could not seem to come up with a solution for despite their best efforts. Instead, a Sasha Goranova snap in the final 20 seconds of the quarter gave the Tigers a little breathing space, and it ended up being enough in the 2.5 (17) to 1.3 (9) victory.

Ortlepp was an impressive player in the Claremont defence, while Andie Payne, Brooke Whyte and Queensland import, Amy Fortescue also caught the coach’s eye during the team’s win. For the Sharks, Ann McMahon, Sharon Wong and Brianna Green were named amongst the best in the loss.

The other match saw Peel Thunder flex their muscles with another big win, defeating Subiaco by 44 points in a grand final rematch. After four consecutive losses to the Lions in the WAFLW, the Thunder have won their last two matchups, and it was partners-in-crime Kate Bartlett and Ella Roberts up to mischief inside 50.

The pair slotted seven goals between them as their athleticism, goal sense and overall forward craft was overwhelming for the home side, as Bartlett booted 4.2, and Roberts managed 3.0. Bailey Molloy could have joined them with a big haul, but slotted the 1.4, while youngster Aisha Wright kicked an important goal, as did Greta McKinley. For the Lions, they had four individual goalkickers in Amy Hunt, Kia Buckley, Tarnica Golisano and Courtney Guard.

Cassie Davidson led from the front with her Peel side, while Abby Barnden and Ebony Bilcich also impressed the coaches, and Courtney Rowley‘s outside run, and Bartlett’s scoreboard impact earned nominations in the bests.

A blockbuster match between the top two unbeaten sides in Peel Thunder and Swan Districts is the must-watch match of Round 3, while Claremont and Subiaco hope to improve their 1-1 records when they go up against respective winless opponents, South Fremantle and East Fremantle.

Picture credit: Tony Lendrum Photography

2021 WAFL Women’s Round 2 preview: Grand Final rematch opens action

ROUND 2 of the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition kicks off with a Saturday night and early Sunday morning fixture to help with the heat, as a number of young guns aim to state their claims against experienced opposition.

SUBIACO vs. PEEL THUNDER
Saturday, February 27 @ 6pm
Leederville Oval

A grand final rematch kicks off Round 2 of the WAFL Women’s, with reigning premiers Peel Thunder unfurling their flag last week, then grabbing their first points of 2021 with an impressive win over East Fremantle. Now they come up against a Subiaco side looking to also go 2-0 after surviving a late fightback from South Fremantle in the last quarter of their Round 1 encounter.

Ella Roberts picked up where she left off in 2020 last week, booting two first half goals before being locked down by the Sharks in the second half. Subiaco knows just how dangerous she can be, so expect another tough day for the teenager who will learn to deal with extra attention. Fellow young gun Courtney Rowley showed good signs in Round 1 and will look to build on that for Round 2, providing a crucial run-and-carry on the outside. Beth Schilling provided a target up forward for the Thunder in Round 1, and throw in Jade Briggs and Kate Bartlett, and the Thunder have heaps of X-factor inside 50. Tanisha Anderson and Jaide Britton are another couple of talents to watch out for, with Britton named as co-captain for Western Australia ahead of the Under 19 Championships.

Despite the Thunder getting up in the grand final last year, Subiaco had won all of the previous four clashes against the Thunder, and will be hoping to restore that back in this game. They have some young talent of their own with Claire Ortlepp off half-back and Jamie Rust up forward. Captain Tarnica Golisano will also give a four-quarter effort, whilst Fremantle AFL Women’s injury replacement player Maggie MacLachlan has been named for the game. Similarly, Kia Buckley and Abbey Dowrick have both been named on the bench with the hope they can return to the side.

Both these sides have some terrific young talent, as well as some crucial state league and top-level experience, so expect it to be a terrific match, though Peel Thunder will be favourites after stamping their authority in Round 1.

 

SOUTH FREMANTLE vs. SWAN DISTRICTS
Sunday, February 28 @ 9.30am
Fremantle Community Bank Oval

Two sides that were on opposite sides of the coin in nail-biting encounters do battle in the second Round 2 clash, with South Fremantle hosting Swan Districts at Fremantle Community Bank Oval. An early 9.30am fixture provides fans with a way of avoiding an averse weather conditions like the Swans suffered through during their six-point low-scoring win over Claremont last week. The Bulldogs lost the points, but certainly lost no fans in a spirited fightback against Subiaco in the final term only to fall short.

Pia Durk in the midfield has been touted as one to watch this season for the red and whites, with Lauren Vecchio the ever-reliable leader onball. Poppy Stockwell returns to the side as a crucial forward option, while Ash Reidy and Tahlia Holtze are others for the Bulldogs who have been named at opposite ends on the flanks. South Fremantle coach Beau McCormack said in the preseason that ex-rugby player Makaela Tuhakaraina is one to keep an eye on in 2021. Zoe Huggett booted three goals in the narrow loss last week and will be a key target once again inside 50.

Swan Districts are a young side, but have plenty of upside, with Dana East and Jessica Cox among the developing talents at the black and whites. They provide the inside presence with ruck Sarah Wielstra getting better by the week as a ruck/forward, while Tara Stribley is the outside distributor needed for that touch of clash. Bella Edgley was the difference for the Swans in Round 1, with her two goals because crucial in challenging conditions, while Jamie Henry is another young talent who will play in defence with the likes of experienced backs, captain Emily McGuire, and Lauren Osborne.

Swan Districts will be favourites to continued South Fremantle’s losing streak, but the Bulldogs showed terrific signs last week and been at home, they know anything is possible with the talent they have brought into the club.

 

CLAREMONT vs. EAST FREMANTLE
Sunday, February 28 @ 1pm
Revo Fitness Stadium

The final game of the round takes place at 1pm on Sunday when two Round 1 losers face-off. Claremont went down in a narrow loss to Swan Districts last week, whilst East Fremantle was competitive early, but ultimately overwhelmed by the end against a dangerous Peel Thunder outfit. The Tigers will be hungry for more success in 2021 after just letting the game slip despite having chances, while the Sharks will need to overcome the loss of Rachel Ashley to injury which was one of the turning points in the game last week after the returning utility booted two goals from full-forward.

East Fremantle have a balance of youth and experience on the field, but are a very different-looking side to 2020. Rosie Walsh returns to the side after missing Round 1 and will look to take up a ruck role teaming up with Laura McClelland who stepped up to League football last week. Sharon Wong provided the four-quarter consistency you expect from her, while Ashleigh Gomes and Kahra Sprylan will be some of the crucial talents in adding experience to the Sharks’ lineup. Chloe Reilly has been named to start in defence again, with the forward taking on fellow West Australian Under-19 State Academy talent Amy Franklin in a huge head-to-head. With Alex Williams named in a back pocket and Sara Lewis up forward, the Sharks having marking targets at both ends.

For the Tigers, Rachel Ortlepp was a source of rebound last week, and she will go head-to-head with another young talent in Zoe Gillard. West Coast’s Sophie McDonald has been named to suit up for the Tigers this week for some crucial stability in defence, while the onball brigade of Ella Smith, Jess Low and Sasha Goranova are as hard as they come. Up forward, Franklin is always an imposing figure with her marking and athleticism, while Jacinta Valentini and Sarah Garstone also have State Academy experience. The Tigers are a well-balanced squad with Brooke Hongell showing some promising signs up forward last week and will be keen to capitalise more in this match.

Claremont seem to be set for a win after getting so close last week, but some important inclusions for the Sharks mean they will be more competitive for longer.

Picture: WAFL

Top Performers: Around the Country – WAFLW Round 1

IN the first week where multiple Under 18s competitions have run, we introduce a new article titled ‘Around the Country: Top Performers’. For this week we take a look at the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition and see who impressed on the weekend, with a focus on West Australian State Academy members or Draft Combine invitees from last year.

>> NAB League Girls Top Performers from Round 3

WAFL Women’s:

With two games footage accessible, we viewed Peel Thunder’s win over East Fremantle, and Swan Districts’ victory over Claremont and noted down the top performers.

Jade Briggs (Peel Thunder)

A quick thinker with quick disposal and a lovely left foot, Briggs is a danger inside 50. She finished with two majors including a long goal that flew over the back of a pack. Her vision and placement in the match was impressive as well and is yet another Peel talented teenager.

Bella Edgley (Swan Districts)

Edgley always looked busy inside 50 with raw talent. Her first few kicks inside 50 went astray to defenders, but she was looking dangerous. Then she took a strong one-on-one mark and converted the set shot from 35m out, before dribbling home a second goal from a tight angle. Rushed a flying shot in the third term to kick it out on the full, but certainly caught attention with her X-factor.

Amy Franklin (Claremont)

Like a blank canvas, Franklin is a player with high potential and one who could go far given her attributes. She has high-level athleticism for a tall forward, and while she can clunk her marks, she is even better at ground level, as she showed in kicking the first goal of the game by bursting away and taking a few bounces to kick a major from point-blank range. A powerful kick, Franklin is not afraid to get her hands dirty, spoiling an opponent in her attacking goalsquare front on but only connecting with the ball to try and kick it off the ground but ran out of space.

Jess Low (Claremont)

One of the AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitees last year, Low has used the extra preseason to prepare for an extra season of building on her game. She had a terrific game on the weekend and was constantly involved in midfield. Low cracks in hard and puts her body on the line, and is not afraid to lay some big tackles on opponents. At times her kicks went a bit wide and missed targets, but her disposal is becoming more consistent, with a clean kick inside 50 in the fourth term to a teammate on the lead.

Emma Nanut (Swan Districts)

Plays traditionally in defence but can have an impact further up the field, Nanut won her touches in a variety of positions. She is one who assesses her options before disposing of it, she attempts inboard passes to open the game up. Nanut did well in a one-on-one close to the line in the fourth term to avoid a late goal going the way of the Tigers.

Rachel Ortlepp (Claremont)

A reliable defender already tasked with the kick-out duties, Ortlepp just mopped up her team’s messes in the back half and was consistent with her ball-use. Even though she did fumble a mark at one stage in the third term, her recovery to pick it up and give it off was crucial. A real rock, deep in defence that could also push up and provide a high line. Ortlepp also showed good penetration with her kicks.

Chloe Reilly (East Fremantle)

Did not have a huge impact on the game, but a telling moment came 13 minutes into the third term where she slid in to take a good mark just inside 50. Known for her set shot goalkicking, Reilly kicks through the ball, though the ball fell marginally short. Over the off-season Reilly has added size to her frame in order to compete even better in one-on-one contests.

Ella Roberts (Peel Thunder)

Wow, just wow. It is hard to comprehend what the talented 16-year-old is able to do at such a young age, especially given she only turned 16 in December. Her ability to read the play, sidestep more experienced opponents, clunk contested marks and slot miracle goals, she is a human highlight reel who is not eligible to be drafted until 2023, but will be worth the wait. Roberts kicked two goals in the first half and set up some more before being tagged by the opposition before she could get any more off the chain. An elite talent.

Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder)

Just had her moments on the weekend, and while she is lightly built, is just clean and clever, able to work through traffic with minimal fuss. She had a few chances on goal in the final term but missed, though her highlight came earlier when she was being tackled but still got a handball off to a teammate which enabled them to have a shot on goal. A top prospect for 2020.

Beth Schilling (Peel Thunder)

An athletic ruck who showed some promising potential. Her competitiveness in the air with a good vertical leap was noteworthy, and her attack on the football was great. She had a couple of shots on goal that either fell short or she opted to pass, but as a raw talent she showed some good signs coming through the Thunder program.

Tara Stribley (Swan Districts)

The outside player provided some good run and carry across the ground, and is incredibly quick to put the boot to ball, A couple of times her kicks forward were picked off by the opposition half-backs, but then showed her skill later on with a lovely kick from half-back to bend around her body and hit a target as Stribley was being bumped. Possesses terrific acceleration which she loves to use.

 

Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder

WAFLW Round 1 wrap: Peel Thunders to opening round victory

REIGNING premiers Peel Thunder unfurled the flag and then unleashed their potential – albeit after a comical mishap in hindsight – to win by 32 points over a vastly-different East Fremantle side on the weekend. Opening up the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition, the Thunder and Sharks were set to battle in repeat of last year’s preliminary final. On both occasions the Thunder emerged victorious, and this time it was 8.7 (55) to 3.5 (23).

After celebrating their 2020 WAFL Women’s flag in front of home fans, the Thunder players were so delirious they actually went to the wrong end of the field, with the defenders and forwards needing to switch and re-evaluate. Within 46 seconds, East Fremantle had a goal on the board through returning Sharks talent, Rachel Ashley. It would be the first of two goals for the talented utility who was moved forward after previously playing in defence.

After the first minute of mayhem for the Thunder, the reigning premiers steadied and took full control of the match, starting with a clever snap from Kate Bartlett and then one from star bottom-ager Ella Roberts. Having announced herself in last year’s grand final, the 16-year-old again came to the party for Peel, booting two ridiculous goals – one from long-range into the breeze and another in the second term under pressure tight on the boundary – and having an array of eye-catching moments.

East Fremantle locked down on her in the second half to limit her influence, but they could not contain the entire team, as Roberts was just one of three multiple goalkickers. Bartlett slotted three – including a final term ripper that was arguably the goal of the day to seal the match – and fellow youngster Jade Briggs booted two. With Ashley icing up a hamstring in the second half, the Sharks struggled to find avenues to goal, and aside from Ann McMahon kicking a consolation major in the fourth, went a full 36 minutes without a goal.

Roberts was clearly among the best-on in the first half before being tagged in the second half, with fellow youngsters Briggs, Courtney Rowley and Beth Schilling all showing some serious talent. From a more experienced point of view, Katie-Jayne Grieve and Nel Baxter were also impressive, as was Tanisha Anderson coming off half-back.

For the Sharks, Kate Inglis-Hodge stood out, with Amber Kinnane, Sharon Wong, Hayley O’Donnell and debutant Mylee Leitch having some impressive moments. While East Fremantle showed some potential, the loss of their experience due to AFL Women’s showed a team bringing through plenty of new faces.

The other two matches provided a couple of thrillers as Swan Districts ground out a narrow six-point win over Claremont in hot conditions yesterday afternoon. The Swans got up 2.6 (18) to 1.6 (12) at Steel Blue Oval, with the teams both going goalless in the second half. Claremont did hit back with three behinds to one, but the Tigers not taking their chances really hurt.

Young gun Bella Edgley showed some promising signs with a couple of second quarter goals – one from a set shot and another from a tight angle – to be the chief destroyer for the home team, while AFL Women’s Academy member Amy Franklin showed off her athleticism to get goalside and take plenty of grass on her way to slamming home the opening major of the day.

Franklin was a standout up forward as a target and roaming up the ground, whilst Jess Low was everywhere on the day. Emily Bennett had a great day out for the Tigers, while Rachel Ortlepp and captain Ella Smith also won their fair share of the footy despite the loss.

Swan Districts had a real even team performance across the board, with Bianca Webb and Mikayla Hyde showing off their AFL Women’s experience with great defensive efforts and athleticism respectively. Youngsters Tara Stribley and Emma Nanut had some great moments, as did 15-year-old Jamie Henry, while Emily McGuire was rock solid as usual in the back half, and Sarah Wielstra provided a tall target inside 50.

Meanwhile an inaccurate Subiaco escaped with the win against a fast-finishing and much improved South Fremantle. While the Bulldogs did not manage to breakthrough for their maiden victory, they certainly gave the Lions a scare, piling on three goals to three behinds in the final term, only to fall short by three points.

Casey Byrne was the standout goalscorer on the day, slotting home three majors for the losing side, while Ella Higgins and Lauren Vecchio both added goals to their name. Maggie MacLachlan looked to have benefited from a preseason at AFL Women’s level, kicking two majors for the winners, while Amy Hunt and Jamie Rust both slotted one apiece.

WAFL Women’s Round 1 results:

Peel Thunder 8.7 (55) defeated East Fremantle 3.5 (23)
Subiaco 4.13 (37) defeated South Fremantle 5.4 (34)
Swan Districts 2.6 (18) defeated Claremont 1.6 (12)

Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder

Peel prepares for 2021 after “whirlwind” season

TWELVE months ago, Peel Thunder was coming off a wooden spoon with bucketloads of young talent and little expectations on them ahead of the 2020 West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s season. Fast forward to 2021, and the Thunder have turned from the hunter into the hunted, having experienced a “whirlwind” of a season to storm from last to first and claim their inaugural WAFL Women’s premiership.

For Peel Thunder coach Steve Markham, it has been a remarkable past 12 months, but there was little time to rest on their laurels as the reigning premiers got back to work for the new season which had been brought forward to run concurrently with the AFL Women’s.

It’s been a whirlwind to be honest, obviously we’ve had the flag and then the season was brought forward,” Markham said. “The girls really haven’t had a break but there’s the excitement and energy around the place has been unbelievable. It’s been really, really exciting.”

“We’ve got the (West Australian) State Program on and we’ve got 12 girls engaged in that at the moment. “Obviously Demi Liddle and Sarah Verrier got drafted so it’s been really successful for us and we’re building for Round 1 next week.”

Like every football team in the country, Peel Thunder was forced to alter its plans over the past 12 months, and managed to manoeuvre its way through the challenges of a global pandemic to lift the premiership cup. With the threat of COVID-19 still in the air, Markham said his side was prepared to adjust with the times and what ever was needed to evolve.

“It’s always evolving,” he said. “Obviously last year we had COVID so we went into the pods. “This year it’s been a challenge in a respect it was hard getting the whole squad together as the state girls are up at state, and the South West girls only come up once a week. “So we do have to do repetitive drills a little bit so we’re all on the same page and get to how each other’s playing.”

“Nothing too much, last week was obviously shut down with COVID. “The girls are engaged, we gave them a running plan, we have a chat group through Messenger and they’re all posting what they’re doing and the repertoire and the team harmony in there has been really, really good. “It shows that they’re all engaged and ready so they’re all in a pretty good place.”

At this stage just two players – Shannon Whale and Kate Ditchburn – from the premiership-winning side will not be around in 2021, with Aisha Wright to step up from the State Academy as a key inclusion, alongside former State 18s player Kerrilee Brown. Others who Markham has earmarked as “inclusions” are those who have either missed years through injury – such as Shantae Freeman – or those who predominantly played Rogers Cup but will have an increased role – such as Beth Schilling.

Markham said young gun Bella Mann will have a greater chance to impact this year as well, after promising signs later in the year for the Thunder, but one player expected to take another step forward in her development is top-age young star, Courtney Rowley. When asked what role the versatile Rowley could play, Markham admitted he wished he did not have to choose.

“Yeah Courtney’s an interesting one, I’d like to have four or five of her because she can play all over the ground, but I love her on the outside because she runs and spreads and delivers inside 50,” Markham said. “We’ve used her a little bit last year forward when she copped an injury and she was able to hit the scoreboard.” So at points we’ll drift her forward and she’s done some impressive things inside 50, so we’ll throw her around a little bit this year and just see what suits us best on the day.”

Coming off a flag, the overall balance of the team is clearly strong enough to be a contender, but for Markham, he said the squad prided itself on its defence, and described them as “hard to score against”.

“I think our backline was strong last year, we obviously lose Demi Liddle and Shannon Whale but the replacements in Kerrilee Brown and a couple coming through is going to be really strong, it’s going to be hard to score against. “So I think that will be a real strength, and with Ella Roberts up forward and KP (Kira Phillips), Jaide Briggs I think our forward line looks pretty potent, but I think our defence will be rock solid.”

Markham said the side had been counting down the days until Round 1 for the best part of a couple of months. Now the first match was just over a week away, and he said his team – which would face perennial challengers East Fremantle in Round 1 – was “really excited and ready to go”.

“We’ve done a really big preseason, the girls really didn’t have much time off, they only had about six weeks, so for some of them that week was good for them,” he said. “I think we’re in a pretty good place, you never know where the opposition is at, but playing East Freo as the premiers the year before, if you can challenge East Freo at any time you’re going pretty well so we’re excited to have them first up.”

Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder

WAFL Women’s to return on February 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: Owen Davies/Peel Thunder

2021 AFL Women’s Academy squad announced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 NAB AFLW Academy

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

2021 AFLW Under 18s Ones to Watch

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

Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

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

Teagan Levi (Bond University/Queensland)

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

Courtney Rowley. Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder

Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

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

Zoe Prowse (Sturt/South Australia)

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

Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

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

Charlie Rowbottom. Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)

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

Makaylah Appleby (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

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

Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco/Western Australia)

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

Nyakoat Dojiok. Picture credit: Draft Central

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

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

Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

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

Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)

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

Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore/Queensland)

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

Maggie Harmer. Picture credit: Deion Menzies, Highflyer Images

Amy Franklin (Claremont/Western Australia)

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

Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

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

Ella Friend (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

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

Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

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

Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

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

Mikayla Pauga (Maroochydore/Queensland)

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

Zoe Venning. Picture credit: SANFL

Zoe Venning (West Adelaide/South Australia)

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

Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

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

Amy Prokopiec (Clarence/Tasmania)

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

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

Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide/South Australia)

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

Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

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

Alana Lishmund (Norwood/South Australia)

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

Alana Lishmund. Picture credit: AFL Media

Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)

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

Others:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anderson stars as Under 18s get job done over WAFL Women’s

WESTERN Australia’s brightest young stars put on a show and made the most of their opportunities to come away with a 17-point win over the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s All-Stars side in terrible conditions. The Under 18s All-Stars held up well defensively considering the WAFL Women’s side maintained large portions of forward half possession but could not capitalise on the scoreboard with just one goal from eight scoring shots. It was the work of over-age talent Nyra Anderson who was a clear best on ground, starring for the winners and showing her strength and clean hands at ground level.

Along with Anderson, middle-ager Courtney Rowley had a massive first half, and another young talent in Jaide Britton had a huge second half, to assist Anderson and help the teenage side get over the line. For the WAFL Women’s team, Tessa Doumanis was lively up forward and should have had a few more than her one major, as well as had a hand in a few other scoring chances. Along with Doumanis, Sarah Garstone tried hard out of defence, while Tiah Haynes and Chloe Wrigley were also prominent.

Rowley had a huge first term for the Under 18s, seemingly everywhere on the ground and winning it with ease. Despite her performance in the back half and along the wing, it was the All-Stars who looked dangerous early with back-to-back behinds after a rushed behind and missed set shot from Deni Broadhurst had them with the early lead. Liusaidh Gilchrist had a great spoil at half-back as the Under 18s were attacking through the likes of Amy Franklin and Rosie Walsh, but it would be a nice contested mark from Chloe Reilly that earned the first set shot on goal.

Her set shot looked good in the driving rain, but cannoned into the post. It changed the momentum of the game however, as Shakira Pickett and Anderson were busy around the stoppages. Garstone was doing her best under pressure but the wall at half-forward was set up for the Under 18s to control forward half possession. After not much movement on the scoreboard, it took a nice snap from Emily Bennett out of nothing with an open goalsquare to seize the moment and hand her side the quarter time lead.

The second term was almost a counter contrast early after it took 13 minutes for the first goal in the opening quarter. This time, it was some magic out of the middle from Mikayla Morrison leading to a nice Poppy Stockwell mark not long after who made sure of her set shot from 30m out straight in front. It was scrappy, contested footy considering the conditions, but Lou Knitter Medallist, Wrigley was working hard on the inside. Breanne Spencer was a rock in defence with a number of intercept marks, and despite Rowley having a massive game at half-back, it would be the All-Stars who responded on the scoreboard.

Doumas won the ball nine and a half minutes into the term, sidestepped an opponent and was helped via a Zoe Gillard shepherd to put one home off her slick left boot. The WAFL Women’s were back within a kick at half-time with Maggie MacLachlan and Brianna Hyde both having some great defensive moments to keep the opposition at bay considering the possession dominance in that term.

The third term started like the second ended, with the WAFL Women’s team having plenty of chances attacking. Sara Wielstra and Jayme Harkin combined for a quick snap on goal and then Wrigley had one two, but both failed to register a score. A costly 50m penalty handed Dana East plenty of meterage and the Under 18s’ first look forward, but the WAFL Women’s defence was again up to the task. Rowley looked to set Anderson a task in a one-against three contest, but the 19-year-old seemingly did well, bringing it to ground and then using her clean hands off the next stoppage.

Anderson was not only working into the game, she was having a huge say in it. A sharked ball by Grace Wilkie at half-forward saw her pump it inside 50 midway through the term to a one-on-one. In slippery conditions, Anderson kept her feet and just managed to get boot to ball for it to dribble home and extend the lead out to 10. MacLachlan nearly had a goal of her own with a quick snap which missed, but it was Anderson again who bobbed up with a great effort against two opponents at ground level to collect and calmly spin, giving off the handball to the loose teammate in Lauren Quaife who kicked the easiest of goals for her side with two minutes on the clock.

The deficit could have been even greater for the WAFL Women’s side had it not been for Garstone’s intercepting in defence, with the Fremantle delistee certainly putting her hand up to be reconsidered. With a 17-point deficit to their name, the WAFL Women’s team needed something special in the last term, but much like the second term, it was all the Under 18s early. Britton was having a purple patch with a number of good touches, and Franklin pushed forward again had a snap but just missed to the right. Another rushed behind followed and it was the Under 18s peppering the goals now with consecutive behinds.

In the nine-and-a-half-minute mark of the final term, Reilly tried something special off the outside of the boot in the forward pocket, but was touched off the boot before it sailed home. It was her side’s fourth consecutive behind, but they were all but home and hosed. Despite this, the WAFL Women’s side rallied in the last seven minutes to have multiple scoring opportunities that had they gone through, could have seen them steal the win. Unfortunately despite Doumanis having a couple of set shots, and handing a couple more off, all four set shot chances either fell short or missed marginally.

In the end, the Under 18s made more of their goal scoring chances and were the only side to kick multiple goals in a term. Despite neither team kicking a major in the final term, it was tense and hard fought with both sides giving it a red hot crack in challenging conditions. With the AFL Women’s Draft Combine coming up, those players invited will be keen to put their best foot forward after another strong outing in what is their last of the season.

U18S ALL-STARS 1.1 | 2.1 | 4.2 | 4.6 (30)
WAFLW ALL-STARS 0.2 | 1.3 | 1.3 | 1.7 (13)

GOALS: 

U18s: E. Bennett, P. Stockwell, N. Anderson, L. Quaife.
WAFLW: T. Doumanis.

ADC BEST:

U18s: N. Anderson, C. Rowley, J. Britton, E. Bennett, A. Franklin
WAFLW: T. Doumanis, S. Garstone, T. Haynes, C. Wrigley, J. Low

Picture: AFL Photos

Two goals in two minutes from 15-year-old Ella Roberts sends Peel into its first WAFLW Grand Final

A MATCH-WINNING performance in the final term by 15-year-old Ella Roberts has helped book Peel Thunder a spot in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s Grand Final. The talented teenager who does not turn 16 until December, broke the game open in the last seven minutes to slot two terrific goals and help her side record a 9.1 (55) to 5.8 (38) victory over reigning premiers East Fremantle in the preliminary final. She was one of many players to stand up when it counted, as the young Thunder outfit was able to answer each challenge set down for them by the experienced East Fremantle outfit, and ran out the stronger side to book a rematch with Subiaco next week.

It was East Fremantle that started stronger, kicking with a breeze that enabled the Sharks to control play in their forward half. The Thunder had just two inside 50s for the quarter – the first and last of the term – and could not put a score on the board. The Sharks could, but seemingly wasted some golden opportunities to put together a strong first term lead. They booted 1.4, with the first goal coming in the 14th minute after three behinds. A nice kick inside 50 was well read by Rosie Walsh who ran onto it, grabbed it cleanly goalside and put it home from 15m out.

Cassie Davidson and Tanisha Anderson were holding up well in defence, whilst Gabby O’Sullivan was looking her usual dangerous self, even if she had contributed the couple of behinds. Shot after shot just missed for East Fremantle, and despite their dominance, and the work of Sharon Wong around the ball and Madeline Ross, Lily Bird and Ruby Schleicher through the middle and half-back respectively, East Fremantle only held a 10-point lead at the first change.

It had been a dire scrap in the opening term with Peel holding on against a fierce East Fremantle attack, but that soon changed with a nice kick in from youngster, Courtney Rowley who hit up Krystal Carter inside 50. Carter was awarded a free kick for in the back, then went back and drilled the shot just three minutes into the contest. Schleicher was continuing to do well in her one-on-one, but a couple of unlucky moments for the Sharks – which saw Schleicher rested on the bench and Katelyn Catalano come hobbling off – allowed Peel to take some control.

Schleicher’s opponent Kate Bartlett stepped up against a smaller opponent to mark off an Ebony Bilcich kick inside 50 then convert an important goal in the ninth minute of the term to give her side the lead for the first time. Her confidence was sky high, and a moment later she read the horrible bounce for Schleicher better, scooping it up and spotted a loose Bailey Molloy all alone 40m out. Molloy went back and nailed the set shot too, and midway through the term, Peel was really cooking. But the Thunder were not done just yer.

Three minutes later, ongoing pressure from the Peel forwards forced a quick kick from a Sharks defender to go out of bounds and Bartlett sprinted to the boundary line to receive the free kick. From 50m she wheeled around and launched home, with the pack misreading the kick to fall short and it bounced over the back and home without a hand to it. All of a sudden, Peel was 13 points up and making East Fremantle pay for the wasteful first term.

It was not all bad for the Sharks, who got one back after new inclusion, Jessie McDonald got lively and hit up O’Sullivan leading out 35m from goal. The talented forward made no mistake with the set shot, just escaping the hands on the line and with five minutes to play, the margin was seven points. O’Sullivan almost had another goal after taking advantage from a Walsh free to play on, but uncharacteristically went for the dribble and missed for her third behind of the day. It followed on from a Larissa Versaci miss moments earlier, and despite East Fremantle doing all the attacking late, it was Peel that would emerge five-point leaders at half-time.

Determined to make the most of the wind the second time around, McDonald again got busy, with clean hands to handball over her shoulder between two Sharks and hit up the running O’Sullivan. With her fifth scoring shot of the day, O’Sullivan made no mistake on the run and put it home to return the lead to the reigning premiers. The first six minutes belonged to East Fremantle as the visitors continued to pepper the goals and lock the ball inside 50. Once the game opened up, Peel raced it down and Carter won a free kick at the top of 50 and kicked to a pack.

Reading the ball off hands, Peel’s leading goalkicker Kira Phillips – who had not touched the ball prior to that moment – snapped off the right quickly to put through another major for the Thunder and Peel took back the lead. It was Peel’s turn to take control of the forward half possession, but East Fremantle turned defence into offence, only for Ashleigh Gomes to get a horrible bounce and the Thunder clear to safely. Phillips almost created something out of nothing with a kick off the ground late in the term going to the Bartlett-Schleicher duel, which saw a free kick awarded for holding to the latter.

East Fremantle went forward, and Chloe Reilly managed to find Bird inside 50 who kicked to the top of the square where McDonald roved the ball to perfection and kicked her first of the game with three minutes remaining in the quarter. Setting up the last three Sharks goals, the debutant looked dangerous every time she went near it. Now holding the lead by a couple of points, East Fremantle added another goal for good measure after the siren with Sara Lewis paid a free for being held in the ruck stoppage, and sent it home to stretch the lead to eight at the final break. Unfortunately for Sharks fans, that would be the last score of the day for the reigning premiers.

The final term belonged to Peel Thunder, as East Fremantle made a positional change with O’Sullivan moved to a wing and playing a defensive kick-behind-play role to help with the Thunder breeze. In what was symbolic of the quarter to come, Roberts had a pinpoint perfect kick to Phillips who won a free kick 35m out and kicked a goal just over a minute into the quarter and immediately the Thunder were back within two points. East tried to attack, as both sides were willing and Maddy Ross came off after a heavy collision, while Kimberley Bowey took a few crucial intercept possessions dropping back to help the defence.

But the weight of numbers and forward pressure eventually won out for the Thunder, with another youngster in Rowley spotting Phillips one-on-one and hit her up well. The strong marking forward made no mistake for her third goal of the contest and Peel was back in front, albeit by just four points. Midway through the term, Jade Briggs – who had been getting busy through the second half in particular – had a snap off her left for it to trickle through for the Thunder’s first behind of the day. The margin was five points and the game was crying out for a hero from either side to break it open.

Enter 15-year-old Roberts. In the 14th minute of the quarter, she bustled her way forward, the ball was collected by Bartlett who with lightning hands, dished off to Roberts and off a step from 40m put it through and the Thunder players erupted. East Fremantle would need two goals to win, but Peel was still not home, they needed another. So Roberts delivered again. Scooping the ball up from 45m, under immense pressure from the Sharks, the talented teenager put it on the boot off a couple of steps and it curled around the post in an effort even better than her first. There was jubilation everywhere as the Thunder players mobbed her and even the coaching box and fans were starting to believe.

East Fremantle tried to attack in the last few minutes, but the work of Shannon Whale and Davidson in defence resulted in some vital intercept marks. The red-hot Roberts was thrown into the middle and then won a couple of touches in defence helping there. A late scuffle broke out in the Sharks’ forward pocket as tensions rose, but Peel was able to do enough to defuse the situation, and the game, by taking time off the clock. As if fittingly, Roberts would have the last kick of the game at half-back, kicking long as the siren sounded and Peel Thunder was through to their first ever WAFL Women’s Grand Final in just their second season.

PEEL THUNDER 0.0 | 4.0 | 5.0 | 9.1 (55)
EAST FREMANTLE 1.4 | 2.7 | 5.8 | 5.8 (38)

GOALS:

Peel Thunder: K. Phillips 3, E, Roberts 2, K. Bartlett 2, K. Carter, B. Molloy.
East Fremantle: G. O’Sullivan 2, R. Walsh, J. McDonald, S. Lewis.

ADC BEST:

Peel Thunder: E. Roberts, C. Davidson, C. Rowley, K. Bartlett., K. Ditchburn
East Fremantle: G. O’Sullivan, R. Schleicher, J. McDonald, S. Wong, K. Bowey

Picture: Owen Davies/Peel Thunder