Tag: daisy pearce

AFL Women’s Preliminary Finals preview: Final four sides set to face off for grand final spots

THE AFL Women’s competition has reached its penultimate week of action, with only the top four sides remaining in the race for the 2021 premiership. Fremantle and North Melbourne were eliminated in last weekend’s qualifying matches, setting up what should be a cracking day of football. Two sides refreshed after a week off and two sides looking to keep their momentum rolling following wins last weekend have fans around Australia ecstatic for the preliminary finals ahead. Will top two sides Adelaide and Brisbane justify their positions on the ladder, or will Collingwood and Melbourne do Victoria proud and make their first grand final?

ADELAIDE vs. MELBOURNE
Saturday April 10, 2:10pm
Norwood Oval

Following a strong finish to the season, the Crows ended the home and away season on top of the AFLW ladder. This earned them a week off and the home ground advantage in Saturday’s prelim final. Their spot on top of the ladder also comes with a target on their backs, as they are the team to beat – a feat the in-form Demons will be looking to achieve in this match, with recent history on their side. When these sides last met, the Demons upset the Crows by 28 points in a convincing win. This result will give them confidence as they enter Saturday’s match with the underdog tag.

The Crows will be looking to apply the same pressure to their opponents that was applied to them the last time these teams met. The Demons put the Crows under constant and fierce tackling pressure as they ran out 28-point winners. The Crows will be using this as motivation, and if their midfield can grab control of the game as expected, it will be hard for the Demons to repeat the result earlier this season. Either way, expect a close contest as both teams will be fighting to the final siren to secure a spot in the grand final.

Melbourne will be without Daisy Pearce who injured her medial cruciate ligament (MCL) in the Dees’ Round 9 match against Brisbane and missed her side’s qualifying final victory over the Dockers. She remained on light duties at training on Thursday and was ruled out last night to face the Crows. Apart from Pearce, both sides have no unexpected niggles or issues, with the only players ruled out being on the long-term injury list.

The midfield battle will be the key matchup, with Adelaide’s midfield famously elite amongst the competition with a combination of Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard and Erin Phillips. This trio often have a large say on the result of their games, but Melbourne have proven their engine room is more than up to the task. Led by veteran on-baller Karen Paxman, the Demons have the capability to match the Crows in the middle and will be looking to do exactly that on Saturday.

Records:

Adelaide: 7-2 (1st)
Melbourne: 
7-2 (4th)

Last 5:

Adelaide: 4-1
Melbourne: 4-1

2021 meeting:

Round 9 – Melbourne by 28

Most goals:

Adelaide: Erin Phillips (12)
Melbourne: Kate Hore (11)

BRISBANE vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday April 10, 4:10pm
Hickey Park

Despite top four finishes, both teams finished the season in less-than-ideal form. The Lions and the Pies both lost their final game of the season, but the similarities end there. The Pies pulled off a stunning win over North Melbourne last weekend, kicking three goals in the last quarter to pull of a heist and knock the Kangaroos out of the finals series. They will be looking to keep this momentum going but face a tough task against an experienced Brisbane outfit. The Lions have been in this position before, looking to make their third grand final appearance since the competition’s birth in 2017. They have stars all over the field, and earning a home ground advantage is a massive help. Refreshed after a week’s break, this Lions team will be refreshed and hungry to advance.

Last time these teams met in round seven, it proved to be a thrilling clash that went down to the wire. Moved from Brisbane to Victoria due to COVID risk, neutral ground VU Whitten Oval delivered strong winds that made things tough for both sides. The Lions just came out winners by three points, and two Pies players were injured in the process in what proved to be a costly game. Both sides will reflect on that result and should conditions permit, improve on their performance.

Both sides are quite fortunate on the injury front, with each side only ruling out one player each. For the Lions, their relatively clean bill of health continues, with only Lily Postlethwaite unfortunately ruled out due to an ACL tear suffered earlier in the season. For the Pies, they emerge from last week’s win with no fresh injuries. While Lauren Butler will miss this week’s match, she may recover in time for next weekend should the Pies advance, while Sophie Casey has returned from a concussion.

Lions tagger Cathy Svarc will likely once again have her eye on negating the impact of star Pie Bri Davey. When the two sides faced off in round seven, Svarc held Davey to only 14 disposals, well below her usual output. Davey can have a huge impact on any game given free reign, and the Lions will be keen to prevent this from happening.

Records:

Brisbane: 7-2 (2nd)
Collingwood: 7-2 (3rd)

Last 5:

Brisbane: 4-1
Collingwood: 3-2

2021 meeting:

Round 4 – Brisbane by 3

Most goals:
Brisbane:
Dakota Davidson (13)
Collingwood: Chloe Molloy (14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last 5:
Melbourne: 4-1
Fremantle: 2-3

2021 meeting:
Round 8
– Melbourne by 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last 5:

Collingwood: 3-2
North Melbourne: 4-1

2021 meeting:
Round 4
 – Collingwood by 20

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

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Lions set up potential top of the table clash

By: Peter Williams

BRISBANE Lions have set up a potential top of the table clash with Collingwood – provided the Pies win today – after grabbing their fifth win of the season against GWS GIANTS yesterday. The Lions were a touch inaccurate, booting 7.13 (55) to 2.5 (17), but it was enough to secure the comfortable 38-point win and temporarily move into top spot. With five individual goalkickers for their seven goals, the Lions shared the goals around on the afternoon, and moved to a 5-1 record heading into the final three rounds of the season.

Dakota Davidson was quick off the mark, scoring a goal in the opening two minutes of the match to get the visitors up and about early. New recruit Courtney Hodder soon added her first at the 12-minute mark with a remarkable effort close to goal in tight space under pressure, and Jess Wuetschner in her second game back converted one, and the Lions were out to an 18-point lead with a few minutes remaining in the first term. The quarter time margin – which extended by one from that point courtesy of a Hodder behind – was 20 points, and the Lions were already looking in control of the match.

That only increased in the second term, as Isabel Dawes scored an early goal two minutes into the quarter, and fellow youngster Jade Ellenger drove the dagger in further with a fifth individual goalkicker in the match. When Davidson snagged her second of the contest late in the quarter, the margin had blown out to 39 points, and would by 41 by half-time. The GIANTS were unable to put one through the big sticks, while the Lions were sharing the ball around going inside 50 and reaping the rewards of doing so.

Dawes kicked her second major of the game again early in the third, as the six-and-a-half minute mark ticked past and Brisbane was out to a 49-point lead. It was at this point, the GIANTS began to rise. Katherine Smith was the first to respond two minutes later, and the goal drought was broken. Whilst the GIANTS would not kick another major until the final stanza through Emily Bennetts, they restricted the visitors to just three behinds in the final half an hour of action. The dried up scoring mattered little for the Lions however, as they claimed the important win.

Davidson snagged two goals from 10 disposals, four marks and five tackles to be lively in the first half, while Dawes managed the 11 disposals and four tackles to go with her two majors. Emily Bates was the top disposal winner for the Lions, picking up 20 touches, three marks and three tackles, while fellow midfielder Ally Anderson, and All-Australian defender Kate Lutkins racked up the 19 disposals. Tahlia Hickie was influential in the ruck, and Wuetschner was again lively, kicking a goal from 12 touches, three marks and four tackles.

For the GIANTS, Alicia Eva picked up 22 disposals, four marks and two tackles, ahead of Britt Tully (19 disposals, three marks and three tackles). Young gun Alyce Parker was again busy across the game with 16 disposals, two marks and six tackles, as was Rebecca Beeson (16 disposals, four tackles) and another rising star talent in Georgia Garnett (15 disposals, three marks and three tackles). Bennetts not only kicked the final goal of the game, but had 15 disposals and five marks to boot as well. Brisbane Lions set their sights on Collingwood next Sunday at Hickey Park, while the GIANTS head to RSEA Park on Saturday to clash with the Saints in what are both expected to be tight contests.

GWS GIANTS 0.1 | 0.2 | 1.3 | 2.5 (17)
BRISBANE 3.3 | 6.7 | 7.11 | 7.13 (55)

GOALS:
Greater Western Sydney: Smith, Bennetts.
Brisbane: Davidson 2, Dawes 2, Hodder, Wuetschner, Ellenger

DC BEST:
Greater Western Sydney: Eva, Parker, Beeson, Bennetts, Garnett
Brisbane: Davidson, Lutkins, Bates, Dawes, Anderson

Picture credit: via Adelaide FC

ADELAIDE SEND WARNING SHOT WITH RECORD-BREAKING WIN

By: Tom Cheesman

ADELAIDE has continued its strong run of form with a 70-point smashing of Gold Coast at Norwood Oval on Saturday afternoon. The Crows held their opponents scoreless in the first and third terms while piling on 13 goals of their own for the match, an AFLW record. Adelaide controlled the inside 50s (41-19) and were far more efficient with their disposals inside 50 (56 to 37 per cent). Stevie-Lee Thompson (17 disposals, two marks, one goal) provided plenty of run and carry all day for the Crows, while Anne Hatchard (21 disposals, seven tackles, one goal) and Ebony Marinoff (20 disposals, eight tackles) were influential in the midfield. Superstar Erin Phillips and Danielle Ponter kicked six goals (and had 10 scoring shots) between them, while Alison Drennan (29 disposals, seven tackles) and Kalinda Howarth (18 disposals) worked tirelessly for the visitors.

There were major injury issues for both sides in the opening minutes of the contest. First, Adelaide small defender Nikki Gore courageously flew from the side into a marking contest and went down with a suspected ankle fracture. Two minutes later, Gold Coast midfielder Jamie Stanton‘s ankle buckled underneath her when she laid a tackle in her side’s defensive 50. She was taken from the ground on a stretcher and was seen on crutches after the match. Once the match got going, Sarah Allan immediately set the tone for Adelaide in defence. She made a significant impact defensively but also initiated some counterattacking ball movement with effective forward handballs off half-back. Hatchard was able to kick the Crows’ first after a perfect pass from Phillips, and captain Chelsea Randall soccered through her side’s  second soon after.

For the fourth consecutive week, Adelaide held their opponents scoreless in the opening term. Regardless, it was not all doom-and-gloom for the Suns early. Howarth was classy with her ball use coming out of congestion, Kate Surman found plenty of the ball, and Tori Groves-Little took some spectacular marks up forward in her first quarter of the season. The Suns looked positive at the start of the second term, as Daisy D’Arcy found Leah Kaslar on the lead for their first goal of the day. However, the Crows noticed that the Suns were within a goal and quickly got the game back on their terms.

Ash Woodland earned a free for a hold and kicked truly from 30 metres out, and then Chloe Scheer set up Ponter for her first. Second-gamer Rachelle Martin redeemed herself after dropping a mark inside 50 by applying relentless forward pressure, earning a free kick and snapping her first goal in AFLW. Gold Coast’s only chance to score was from centre clearances at this point because, much like St Kilda last Sunday, they were unable to cleanly move the ball out of their defensive 50 through Adelaide’s zone.

In stark contest, Adelaide ran the ball out of their defence very easily, picking holes in Gold Coast’s defence at will. After Ponter and Phillips kicked back-to-back goals, Gold Coast won a centre clearance and got a late goal through Surman. Although Surman and Drennan had a whopping 33 touches between them at the main break, the Crows held a convincing 30-point lead. Ferocious Adelaide player Scheer extended her side’s lead at the start of the third by earning a free and putting through a set shot. Phillips set the ground alight when she unloaded a huge barrel off half-back, but unfortunately for the home fans it went straight to Elizabeth Keaney, who took several intercept marks in the third term. Thompson continued her impressive performance by running onto a loose ball and drilling the Crows’ ninth, and it was very clear that the Suns had no answers on how to stop Adelaide’s momentum.

After some relentless pressure from Teah Charlton and Woodland, Phillips earned a free for being blocked in a marking contest and kicked her second. Things soured for the Crows at the end of the third term, as Hannah Button dislocated her shoulder while reaching to lay a tackle and left the field in the hands of trainers. Adelaide did not slow down to start the fourth, continuing to pepper the goals and refusing to let the ball out of their forward half. This led to Ponter kicking another, this time from a forward 50 stoppage. Soon after, a duck through traffic and clever handball over the shoulder from Phillips set up Ponter for her fourth.

On the other side, all of Gold Coast’s forward movement came through Groves-Little, who got little-to-no support at that end of the ground. When Crows captain Randall got on the end of some unselfish ball movement from Phillips and Thompson to kick her second, Adelaide’s score moved to 85 points, just one behind shy of the highest score in AFLW history (12.14.86 by the 2018 Western Bulldogs). As Adelaide went for the record, the Suns were finally able to lock the ball in their forward 50 for an extended period. Sally Riley had some good moments during this stretch, but the Suns failed to capitalise on her hard work and only added one behind to their total.

After a late end-to-end transition by the Crows, Dee Heslop laid a brilliant tackle on Ponter in the goal square to save a certain score and keep the Bulldogs’ scoring record intact. Regardless, it was a percentage-boosting win that Adelaide’s coaches will be pleased with as they move into the final three rounds of the home and away season.

Next week, Adelaide hit the road to face Melbourne at Casey Fields on Saturday night. Meanwhile, Gold Coast will aim to get their first win of 2021 when they take on the Tigers in a Friday night clash at Metricon.

ADELAIDE 2.1 | 7.2 | 10.5 | 13.7 (85)
GOLD COAST 0.0 | 2.2 | 2.2 | 2.3 (15)

GOALS:
Adelaide: D. Ponter 4, E. Phillips, C. Randall 2, S. Thompson, A. Woodland, R. Martin, C. Scheer, A. Hatchard.
Gold Coast: L. Kaslar, K. Surman.

DC BEST:
Adelaide: S. Thompson, E. Phillips, D. Ponter, A. Hatchard, E. Marinoff
Gold Coast: A. Drennan, T. Groves-Little, K. Howarth, K. Surman, S. Riley

Picture credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

DEES DOWN SAINTS TO KEEP SEASON ALIVE

By: Sophie Taylor

IT was a tight encounter between Melbourne and St Kilda on Saturday night, with both sides looking to get back on the winners list this season after big losses last round. It was the Demons that got a confident and comfortable percentage-boosting victory on the board on home soil at Casey Fields, running out 9.12 (66) to 3.4 (22) victors, credit to a consistent four-quarter effort.

The Dees were on the offensive from the get-go, driving forward and flooding the 50m to lock the ball in attack. It appeared the Melbourne coaching staff were not afraid to switch things up a bit heading into this matchup, with a couple of shaky matches over the last few weeks making for a different approach in the forward line. A classy kick from Maddi Gay hit Daisy Pearce on a lead at the top of the square with the Dees legend putting the first goal of the game through, before minutes later Alyssa Bannan rid herself off her recent goal drought with an excellent running goal to put a second on the board. The Saints were still yet to make it inside their own 50m though despite piling pressure on through midfield, with the Dees making it tough to clear the footy. Gay and Tyla Hanks were never far from the footy as Sainters Tilly Lucas-Rodd and Cat Phillips contested well, while Kate Shierlaw also kept on the pressure around the ground, rarely beaten.

The remainder of the first was hotly contested with Melbourne unable to put a third major on the board despite locking the footy inside 50, and leading 14-0 at the first change. A huge inside 50 from Georgia Patrikios started the second quarter, surging the footy forward, and while it did not work to the Saints’ favour, the effort paid off with the Saints given a couple of chances to put on the scoreboard pressure, all to no avail. An excellent run down midfield from Hanks earned a free kick down field for a late push in the back, with a goal right in front from Shelley Scott undoing all the hard work the Saints had done early to lock the footy inside 50. While she was well held early, Patrikios fired up in the second quarter, throwing herself at the contest and doing everything she could to pile on the pressure around the ground.

The Saints strung some great minutes together in forward 50 as Nat Exon finally put the Saints on the board, reducing the margin and seeing the Saints build up their confidence with a couple more attempts coming in thick and fast but to no avail. The Dees’ midfield was on fire, and led by Hanks and Karen Paxman, they were crucial in quickly and efficiently driving down the centre. A free kick to Tegan Cunningham kept the scoreboard ticking over, seeing an 18-point half-time margin and an intense contest brewing.

A huge first few minutes of the third quarter saw plenty of argy bargy from both sides, with a tough battle through the midfield and Melbourne’s midfielders doing the trick to drive the footy forward, while St Kilda’s defence was just staying ahead of the pack to maintain possession. Lauren Pearce continued her excellent first half efforts utilising her height and footy smarts, before an excellent passage from Eden Zanker saw the forward kick directly to Daisy Pearce at the top of the square once more, before another goal to Bannan saw the second half kick off to an eerily similar way to the beginning of the match, though this time seeing a 31-point margin with 10 left in the third quarter. 

A goal to Jackie Parry saw the Dees extend their lead further, with the remainder of the match played on Melbourne’s terms as Caitlin Greiser was moved down back to help work the Saints back into the match but to no avail as Rosie Dillon, Rhi Watt and Hannah Priest continued to throw themselves into the contest. But it was a second scoreless term for the Saints, trailing by 39 points at the final change. The Dees needed a percentage boost ahead of the remaining three rounds of the season, and that’s what they got as the Saints failed to close the margin.

Zanker continued her solid work across the ground, putting a couple of behinds on the board and worrying the Saints but ultimately unable to find the big sticks, before Eliza McNamara topped off an excellent effort with her maiden goal. A maiden Claudia Whitfort goal reduced the margin a fraction but it was not enough, with the Dees creating a highlight reel up forward with their continuous hunt on the footy, and Kate Hore joining the party inside 50 with some slick skills towards the latter stage of the match. A Tamara Luke goal with just over two minutes of the clock did plenty for the Saints’ work rate but unfortunately not enough to really shake the Dees, with the home side running out 44-point winners credit to a solid four quarter effort.

For the losing side, Priest, Patrikios and Phillips were the leading ball-winners with 17 disposals apiece, and combining for 15 tackles between them. Dillion picked up 12 touches and eight tackles, whilst Watt (15 touches and five marks) also proved crucial. For the Dees, Lauren Pearce was a revelation in the ruck with 22 touches, 21 hitouts, four tackles, four marks and a behind, whilst Hanks (22 and four tackles), Zanker (23, eight marks and three behinds) and Paxman (24 touches)  were also heavily involved in the contest. Daisy Pearce booted her two from 13 touches and six marks, whilst Lily Mithen and Scott piled on the pressure with six tackles each.

The Dees will have their work cut out for them in the remaining three rounds of the season, currently sitting just outside the top six and matches against Adelaide (second), Fremantle (fourth) and Brisbane (first) awaiting. They host Adelaide during the same Saturday evening timeslot in a week’s time, whilst the Saints host the Giants in the early Saturday timeslot at RSEA Park.

MELBOURNE | 2.2 | 4.3 | 7.6 | 9.12 (66)
ST KILDA | 0.0 | 1.3 | 1.3 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS
Melbourne: D. Pearce 2, A. Bannan 2, S. Scott, T. Cunningham, J. Parry, E. McNamara, K. Hore.
St Kilda: N. Exon, C. Whitfort, T. Luke.

DC BEST
Melbourne: L. Pearce, T. Hanks, D. Pearce, E. Zanker, M. Gay
St Kilda: H. Priest, G. Patrikios, C. Phillips, R. Watt, R. Dillon

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Adelaide lock down St Kilda to claim one-sided victory

ADELAIDE has moved into fourth position on the AFLW ladder with a 53-point drubbing of St Kilda at Norwood Oval on Sunday afternoon. In what was arguably the Crows’ most complete team performance of the season to date, they had contributors all across the ground and dominated the inside 50s (47-8), contested possessions (110-80) and centre clearances (7-4).

Najwa Allen was a standout for the home side, providing plenty of drive off half-back and halting many of St Kilda’s forward thrusts. Ebony Marinoff (23 disposals, nine tackles) and Anne Hatchard (15 disposals, four marks) were powerful at the stoppages, while superstar Erin Phillips (21 disposals, five marks, one goal) showed her usual class in the midfield and up forward. Georgia Patrikios (24 disposals, three marks, three tackles) was exceptional all day for the visitors.

It was a hot footy early, as both sides applied strong tackling pressure and did not allow the other any space. St Kilda defender Bianca Jakobsson was fantastic in the opening term, as she repelled several of Adelaide’s attacks and showed poise with ball in hand. Kate Shierlaw was prominent early as well, but the Saints struggled to get the ball into their forward 50. Chloe Scheer was busy at the stoppages for the Crows, as was Marinoff, who had four tackles in the first quarter alone. Less than 30 seconds before the quarter-time siren, Phillips earned a free kick for a high tackle and kicked the Crows’ first to give them a nine-point lead.

While St Kilda’s pressure dropped off after the first break, Adelaide’s forward 50 pressure increased to new heights. This meant that they were creating many opportunities, with Randall eventually capitalising and kicking the Crows’ second with a nice snap. Soon after, number four pick Teah Charlton shrugged off a tackle and kicked her maiden AFLW goal. Charlton kicked her second just minutes later, proving once again how comfortable she is competing at AFLW level in just her fifth match. Defenders Lisa Whiteley and Sarah Allan continued to be brick walls for Adelaide at half-back, while Eloise Jones and Justine Mules supported them by providing some outstanding run and carry down the wings. Nadia von Bertouch laid a brilliant tackle on Caitlin Gould to save a certain goal, as Adelaide’s lead stayed at 30 points going into the main break. At half time, the Crows led the inside 50 count 29 to 2.

Adelaide’s pressure continued to be too much for the Saints in the third term, especially when they were exiting the defensive 50. Danielle Ponter kicked her first for the day after earning a free kick 15 metres out from goal, then Ashleigh Woodland extended the Crows’ lead with a nice checkside from the pocket. This was Woodland’s fifth goal for the season, a fantastic start to her career in Crows colours. Shierlaw gave Saints fans something to cheer about at the end of the term when she got on the end of some nice ball movement from Patrikios and kicked St Kilda’s first goal for the day.

Ex-Saint Jess Sedunary rubbed some salt in the wound at the start of the last when she kicked truly from a set shot. Despite this, St Kilda played much better in the final term. They started to control the ball well and were much more effective by foot, finding gaps in Adelaide’s zone as they chipped the ball around. The problem was that, outside of Patrikios, the Saints could not facilitate much attacking play through the middle of the ground. In her 32nd AFLW game, Mules made Adelaide fans even happier when she took a contested mark and kicked her first ever AFLW goal from a set shot on a tight angle. From there, St Kilda created some chances but could not kick straight in front of goal. The Crows ran out comfortable winners.

In Round 6, Adelaide will plan on making it three straight wins when they take on the winless Gold Coast at Norwood Oval on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, St Kilda will come up against Melbourne in what should be a fascinating clash at Casey Fields on Saturday night.

By Tom Cheesman

ADELAIDE | 1.3 | 4.6 | 6.10 | 8.13 (61)
ST KILDA | 0.0 | 0.0 | 1.0 | 1.2 (8)

GOALS:
Adelaide: T. Charlton 2, J. Mules, J. Sedunary, E. Phillips, C. Randall, D. Ponter, A. Woodland 1.
St Kilda: K. Shierlaw 1.

ADC BEST:
Adelaide: E. Marinoff, N. Allen, A. Hatchard, E. Phillips, J. Mules, S. Allan.
St Kilda: G. Patrikios, B. Jakobsson, R. Dillon, T. Lucas-Rodd, C. Phillips, H. Priest.

Image credit: Getty Images

Image credit: Michael Klein

UNDEFEATED MAGPIES OUTCLASS INACCURATE DEMONS

Collingwood showcased their development in a huge clash against Melbourne, which was ultimately do or die for the red and blue side needing to prove they were capable of holding up under pressure. The Pies well and truly got their revenge on the Demons at Victoria Park, running down Melbourne for an excellent 35-point win 7.7 (49) to 1.8 (14). With this win on the board and given Fremantle’s loss on Saturday, the Magpies remain the only undefeated side on the ladder with five straight on the board.

It was the Chloe Molloy and Bri Davey show as the hot Pies ran down the inaccurate Dees, taking advantage of the young side’s slump in form and punishing Melbourne for its inability to put pressure on the scoreboard. Whilst a slow start from both sides set the scene, it was a huge second quarter that not only put Collingwood on the map, but also on the right path as Melbourne struggled to contain the Magpies’ engine room. Molloy’s work rate and ability to find the scoreboard was punishing for the Dees, who defensively could not compete despite continuous efforts from the usually impenetrable Libby Birch and Daisy Pearce. Molloy finished with three goals and partnered well with Davey who booted two of her own to go with a match-high 25 disposals, and whilst Melbourne certainly had its chances – most remarkably in the third, when the Dees lifted but could only manage 1.4 despite dominating possession and momentum – it was not enough as the Magpies commanded control in another three-goal quarter to finish the match. 

Despite sitting out the remainder of the match after a hit to the shoulder in the final quarter, Molloy’s influence could not be quelled as she head to be a three-way equal-leader on the goalkicking leaderboard for the season with nine majors to her name. Britt Bonnici and Jaimee Lambert also proved to be ball magnets in the tough contest with 23 and 21 touches respectively, whilst Melbourne’s Tyla Hanks continued her terrific form with a 22 disposal, six mark and six tackle effort. Lauren Pearce was the lone goalkicker for Melbourne and also nabbed 15 touches, whilst Karen Paxman was kept relatively quiet with 19 touches, and Kate Hore (17 touches), Maddi Gay (12) and Alyssa Bannan were amongst those who failed to hit the scoreboard with two behinds apiece. Collingwood’s Jordan Membrey unfortunately went down with a knee injury, seeing her season in doubt. The Magpies will host fellow in-form side Western Bulldogs next round once more at Victoria Park, whilst Melbourne host St Kilda on Saturday evening.

COLLINGWOOD | 1.1 | 4.3 | 4.4 | 7.7 (49)
MELBOURNE | 0.1 | 0.2 | 1.6 | 1.8 (14)

GOALS:
Collingwood: C. Molloy 3, B. Davey 2, A. Sheridan, M. Cann
Melbourne: L. Pearce

BEST:
Collingwood: C. Molloy, B. Davey, B. Bonnici, S. Livingstone, J. Lambert, R. Schleicher
Melbourne: T. Hanks, K. Paxman, S. Scott, L. Pearce, K. Hore, L. Mithen

 

Image credit: Daniel Carson / AFL Photos

EAGLES SNAG MAIDEN 2021 WIN IN CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH SUNS

The last match of Round 5 saw the West Coast Eagles pile on the pressure in a tight contest with Gold Coast, gaining ascendancy early and fighting to remain ahead in the 5.4 (34) to 4.9 (33) victory. This win registered the Eagles’ first for the season, and whilst this encounter was bound to see one of the winless sides put points on the board, both teams were tested in a highly offensive contest.

A three goal first quarter from the Eagles well and truly got the ball rolling, but Gold Coast proved they were capable of standing up to the onslaught with an improved second term to limit West Coast’s chances and apply their own forward pressure, rewarded with a goal to go into the second half trailing by eight points and well within their chances. Second year Eagles talent Mikayla Bowen was everywhere throughout the contest, taking the game on and drawing Maddy Collier and Emma Swanson into the fray as the trio piled on the pressure through midfield. Defensively, Lauren Ahrens proved once more how dangerous she can be with 19 touches, five marks and three rebounds, limiting the Eagles from finding avenues to goal after the first quarter as Alison Drennan (14 disposals, 11 tackles) and Jamie Stanton (14 touches, six tackles and 1.3) also switched on across the ground following the first quarter barrage from the Eagles.

Whilst the Suns showed some really good signs, hunting the footy and propelling the ball forward consistently – finishing with 34 inside 50s to the Eagles’ 20 – they were ultimately unable to capitalise under pressure. Sarah Perkins and Kalinda Howarth piled on second half goals for the Suns but it was to no avail, and while Stanton’s snap in the last minutes of the match could have spelled trouble for the Eagles, it was not to be as the Eagles ran out one-point winners in tight circumstances. 

Next round, Gold Coast will continue on the road for a fifth straight match when they look to upset Adelaide on Saturday afternoon, whilst the Eagles will take on Fremantle for the second time this season on Sunday.

WEST COAST | 3.1 | 3.1 | 4.3 | 5.4 (34)
GOLD COAST | 0.4 | 1.5 | 3.7 | 4.9 (33)

GOALS:
West Coast: M. Bowen, I. Cameron, M. Caulfield, G. Kelly, K. Orme
Gold Coast: K. Howarth, A. Parker, S. Perkins, J. Stanton

BEST:
West Coast: M. Bowen, E. Swanson, G. Kelly, M. Collier, I. Lewis, C. Perera
Gold Coast: L. Ahrens, J. Stanton, K. Surman, L. Single, L. Bella, A. Drennan

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Dees dismantle Suns with five-goal second term

MELBOURNE Demons have opened their season with a win on the road, toppling Gold Coast Suns by 21 points at Metricon Stadium yesterday. Led by a dominant duo of Karen Paxman and Lily Mithen, the Demons started slowly but recovered to win, 9.2 (56) to 5.5 (35) in front of more than 1900 fans.

The original fixture had the Demons at home against Adelaide, but despite the Sunshine State being a fair distance from Casey Fields, Melbourne was determined to make it a home away from home. It did not look that way early when Jamie Stanton converted a goal in the first 30 seconds of the match. Six minutes later and Leah Kaslar had the Suns’ second and the margin was out to 12. It took until past the midway point of the quarter before known goalsneak Kate Hore finally put through a major, and when Tegan Cunningham converted her first of the 2021 season, the scores were level again. A strong pack mark from Gold Coast recruit Sarah Perkins in the dying seconds of the term resulted in her new side taking a seven-point lead into quarter time.

The second quarter belonged to the visitors though, as Melbourne piled on five goals, starting with an Eden Zanker major in the opening minute of the term. Krstel Petrevski and Shelley Heath provided spark at ground level and brought up their first goals, while Cunningham kicked another and when Hore converted her second in the final minute, Melbourne was out to a 22-point lead at the main break. Petrevski became the third multiple goalkicker with a major six minutes into the term, which meant the Demons had kicked 6.1 to 0.2 since quarter time, turning a seven-point deficit into a whopping 28-point lead in just 26 minutes of action.

Brittany Perry finally broke the drought for the home side a couple of minutes later, only for Mithen to counter with another major for the red and blue. Perkins kicked her second to prove her worth as a target inside 50, but despite their best efforts, the Suns had only shaved the half-time deficit by one point to 20 at the final change.

Needing a miracle, Leah Kaslar had a chance but missed, and in what was an anticlimactic finish – though more than suitable for Melbourne – the teams only managed the one behind apiece in the final term for the siren to sound with Melbourne winning 9.2 (56) to 5.5 (35).

For the most part it looked like Paxman might rack up a record with 19 disposals at half-time, to finish with 25, as well as three marks and four tackles, while Mithen picked up 22 disposals and two marks to go with her goal. Tyla Hanks and Eliza McNamara battled above their heights to pick up 18 touches and lay six tackles between them, with McNamara’s debut one to remember. Jacqueline Parry (17 disposals) and both the Pearces – Daisy and Lauren – were also impressive, racking up 15 touches.

The Suns had a number of impressive players, with Stanton leading the way thanks to 18 disposals, three marks, two tackles and a goal, while Alison Drennan had 17 touches and nine tackles. Bess Keaney starred on debut herself with 15 disposals and six tackles. Looking ahead to Round 2, Gold Coast travel to Victoria Park on Saturday for an afternoon game, while Melbourne hosts Richmond at Casey Fields in the evening game.

GOLD COAST  3.1 | 3.3 | 5.4 | 5.5 (35)
MELBOURNE 2.0  | 7.1 | 9.1 | 9.2 (56)

GOALS
Gold Coast: Perkins 2, Stanton, Kaslar, Perry.
Melbourne: Cunningham 2, Hore 2, Petrevski 2, Zanker, Mithen, Heath.

ADC BEST 
Gold Coast: 
Stanton, Perkins, Keaney, Drennan, Ahrens
Melbourne: Paxman, Mithen, McNamara, L.Pearce, Cunningham, Hanks

Picture credit: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Picture credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Phillips and Randall lead the Crows to a winning start

By: Tom Cheesman

Adelaide has produced a dominant second half to run away convincing 38-point winners against a young West Coast side at Mineral Resources Park. Premiership superstars Erin Phillips (23 disposals, five tackles, five marks, two goals) and Chelsea Randall (19 disposals, three marks, three tackles) led from the front and were a class above throughout the contest. Once numerous other premiership Crows stepped up in the second half, the Eagles struggled to get the ball into their forward 50 and could not overcome the Crows’ immense tackling pressure.

Chelsea Biddell gave her side a strong start when she collected the ball cleanly in congestion and kicked the first major of the match from 30-metres out. Draftee Ashleigh Woodland followed this up by kicking a nice snap goal with her first kick for the club, which was one of many impressive signs she showed on the day. Captain Randall, who missed the entire 2020 season with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, started the game at half-forward and made an immediate impact by providing a focal point for her side and continually moving the ball forward. West Coast’s quarter went from bad to worse when Brianna Green exited the field with an ankle injury after a heavy collision in a marking contest. Najwa Allen’s ball movement out of defence was a highlight for the visitors early, as was their pressure game.

The Crows led the tackle count 25 to 14 at the first break, which was particularly important because this was an area that they struggled in last season. This was led by debutant Teah Charlton, who had a remarkable six tackles in just the opening quarter. West Coast started the second term with more aggression and won plenty of contested balls at centre clearances and around the ground. The Eagles got their first goal through Mikayla Bowen after a nice pass from Shanae Davison, but Woodland immediately responded with her second after some clean ball movement from Randall. An uncharacteristic poor turnover from ex-Giant Lisa Whiteley led to some great counter-attacking play from Ashlee Atkins, which Niamh Kelly used her pace to get on the end of and kick her first goal in AFLW. Just minutes later, Kellie Gibson had a golden chance to bring the Eagles to within a point but missed the running shot on goal. Phillips was a sole shining light for Adelaide in the second term, as she was powerful in the contest and turning around opponents very crisply on the outside.

The Crows were lucky to go into the main break with a five-point lead given West Coast’s dominance in that term. Early in the third, Phillips received a 50-metre penalty for an encroachment by the woman on the mark and kicked truly from the goal square. Encroachment 50-metre penalties were a theme of the day in AFLW, as Gold Coast were penalised heavily for them in their match against Melbourne earlier in the afternoon. Just minutes after kicking her first, Phillips kicked another goal, this time on her left after cleverly selling some candy in congestion. Adelaide’s pressure up forward continued to cause problems for the Eagles, as Charlton and Woodland created another turnover and the latter found Marinoff by foot for another major. Speedster Eloise Jones was tripped inside 50 and kicked truly after the siren to give Adelaide a 32-point lead at three-quarter time.

The Crows dominated the inside 50s again early in the last term but missed a few opportunities to extend their lead. This was until Phillips won a free kick on the 50-metre arc and found Ailish Considine with a nice pass, who kicked Adelaide’s eighth goal from 30 metres out. Although no more goals were kicked for the rest of the match, Gibson was dangerous up forward late and created some chances for the Eagles in the closing minutes. Former Bulldog Aisling McCarthy (15 disposals, two marks, seven tackles) and Emma Swanson (17 disposals, 11 tackles, two marks) were two shining lights for the Eagles throughout the contest. The Eagles will look to rebound next week against the relocated GWS Giants on Saturday at Norwood Oval. Meanwhile, Adelaide will look to build on their impressive second half when they take on Fremantle in a Sunday blockbuster.

WEST COAST 0.1 | 2.3 | 2.3 | 2.6 (18)
ADELAIDE 2.1 | 3.2 | 7.5 | 8.8 (56)

GOALS:
West Coast: M. Bowen, N. Kelly 1.
Adelaide: E. Phillips 2, A. Woodland 2, C. Biddell, E. Marinoff, E. Jones, A. Considine 1.

ADC BEST:
West Coast: E. Swanson, A. McCarthy, D. Hooker, A. Atkins, M. Bowen, N. Kelly
Adelaide: E. Phillips, C. Randall, N. Allen, E. Marinoff, N. Gore, T. Charlton

2021 AFLW Preview: Melbourne Demons

ONE of the most consistent sides in the competition, there is no doubt Melbourne have a great team at their disposal with plenty of gamechangers amongst the playing group and exciting talent in their midst. But a mass exodus and flurry of young newcomers in 2021 could see a highly different campaign this season, with many wondering what is next for the Demons and whether they can take that next step in the competition.

2020 RECAP

The Dees took a great step forward in season 2020, launching their maiden finals campaign and winning some excellent matches while they were at it, including a three-point come-from-behind cliffhanger over GWS GIANTS in the semi-final, a 59-point blitz against West Coast Eagles and a 20-point victory over fellow finalists, Collingwood. But losses to newcomer St Kilda and star-studded Carlton did the side no favours, while a constant injury cloud seemed to hang over the club with Ainsley Kemp, Shae Sloane and now-Blue Maddy Guerin sidelined with respective season-ending anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, and both Lily Mithen and Lauren Pearce missing in action throughout the season in patches. Factor in Daisy Pearce’s return from having twins in 2019, and the side exceeded all expectations to finish third in Conference B and on the overall ladder in 2020. Quiet achiever Shelley Scott won the club’s Best and Fairest, while influential trio Karen Paxman, Libby Birch and Goal of the Year winner Kate Hore were all selected for the 2020 AFL Women’s All-Australian team.

NEW FACES

Melbourne welcomed a flurry of newcomers for 2021, adding six new faces during the 2020 AFLW Draft, following a huge trade period in which six experienced names departed the club. The Dees rocketed up the draft order though, leaping into top 10 contention – top three in Victoria – and picking up six young guns – Alyssa Bannan, Eliza McNamara, dual athlete Maggie Caris, Megan Fitzsimon, Mietta Kendall and Isabella Simmons – who will help drive the side into the future. The Dees also picked up a third Irish recruit in Lauren Magee to join the likes of Niamh McEvoy and Sinead Goldrick, who joined the club for 2020.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

With so many talented players at their disposal, any number of Melbourne’s players could be the key link in season 2021. But with big departures across the field, this could be Tyla Hanks’ year to really take the midfield by storm after playing much of her first few seasons up the ground. The 2018 draftee will now enter her third season after showing plenty of promise across her first few seasons, and with an excellent turn of speed and sticky fingers, Hanks’ work rate and impact around the ground are unquestionable.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

While the Dees seem to be one of those sides that continuously sits outside finals contention over the past few seasons, something that could give the side a boost is their consistency. From finishing third in the first two seasons, to sitting fourth overall during the first conference season in 2019 and making finals in 2020 – again finishing overall third if we were to combine the two conference ladders, Melbourne certainly has the ability to remain a clear contender, especially given the talent at their disposal with Mithen, Hore and Eden Zanker all making clear strides last season. But consistency means nothing though if there is no development, so fans will hope for another step forward this season.

QUESTION MARK

Realistically, the main question mark hovering over the Dees in 2021 is how they will fare after losing a heap of experience over the off-season. The loss of goalsneak Aliesha Newman was one thing, but former co-captain Elise O’Dea also departed the club for Carlton – as did Guerin, with both players looking for a fresh start – sees a loss of depth through the midfield and driving forward. Factor in the additional losses of stalwarts Bianca Jakobsson, Harriet Cordner and Kat Smith, and the Dees have quite a few significant holes to fill. 

FINAL WORD

The fact that they have been unable to go that one step further over the past few seasons could be detrimental to the side as it looks to navigate a new season with a flurry of new faces. That being said, the Dees no doubt have the talent at their disposal, but will just need to create some more consistency through a much younger midfield this season. Expect the hunger to well and truly be there after an incomplete season, and a competitive playing group in 2021.

Image Credit: Michael Willson via AFL Photos

Lifelong dream close to realisation for determined Smith

IN a couple of weeks, passionate footy fan Tyanna Smith is set to live out a lifelong dream of reaching the elite level. The talented midfielder who starred for Dandenong Stingrays and Vic Country over the past few years is among the top prospects heading into this year’s 2020 AFL Women’s Draft, but her road to the top was not completely smooth sailing.

The former basketballer had to turn away from football for a period of time due to the lack of options and instead focus on hoops rather than goals. The moment the AFL Women’s pathway opened up, Smith’s dream was alive once again.

“I started playing footy when I was quite young,” Smith said. “I kind of grew up around it when I was younger and then played two years of Auskick and then went on to play one year of Under 9s with the boys. “Then I stopped playing after that, played basketball for about six years and didn’t play any footy.

“Then about four years ago I think I joined our local Beaconsfield team again in the Under 18 girls. “I’ve been playing there for four years and then from then went up in the ranks, playing Stingrays this is my fourth season. “Then I was lucky enough to get chosen for the Under 16s Vic Country team and then Under 18s Vic Country.”

Whilst meeting plenty of friends on the court – some she has also shared the football field with – Smith knew her calling was always Australian rules and she was never going to turn down the opportunity to play at the highest level.

“Obviously I went to play basketball because there wasn’t any opportunities for girls to play AFL at that time,” Smith said. “I kind of aimed to play basketball and then footy opened back up and ever since I was a kid I wanted to play AFL professionally. “I just knew as soon as that opened back up that it was definitely what I wanted to do.”

Juggling multiple sports can often be a challenge for any aspiring athlete, but Smith said there were only a couple of years where the spots crossed paths.

“I think I only played two years when I was playing both,” she said. “I had to give up representative basketball so I just played domestic for a couple of years as well as footy. “That was pretty tough, I’d go from a footy game then I’d go to a basketball game within the same day. “It was definitely full on, but it was really fun. It was definitely worth it.”

Smith said she was thankful for her journey to-date, having travelled through the more traditional pathway once she returned to football. She transitioned from local footy at Beaconsfield to the Stingrays and then Country. While she concedes she is not the loudest player on-field, past leaders at the Stingrays helped her develop more of a voice and guide the younger players.

When you start off young, your’e a bit intimidated by the older girls but we had some great leaders and role models in the team when I was younger and I think that really helped me this year like you said we had a lot of younger girls,” Smith said. “Even though I’m not the loudest or most outspoken person, I still chose to be as much of a leader on the field and a role model for the younger girls as much as I could.”

The journey through the pathway led Smith to represent Country up in Queensland where she starred as a middle-ager for her state on grounds such as Metricon Stadium.

“Yeah that was a really, really good experience,” Smith said. “We had a great bunch of girls and we really bonded as a team up there and it was really cool to play on Metricon and stadiums like the AFL plays on. “It was really professional and a really cool experience.”

Her performance as a 16-year-old in the NAB League and Under 16 Championships led to her being named in in the AFL Women’s National Academy – a feat that “shocked” the teenager – and backed it up by retaining her spot in her top-age year.

“That was really cool actually,” Smith said. “I was in it bottom-age and top-age so think when I was bottom-age I was pretty shocked actually that I made that, but it was really cool to go through that for two years and do that at the highest level and they have the best people there. “It was just a really great bunch of girls aiming towards the same thing.”

Smith is currently juggling a part-time job at Kmart, her Year 12 studies and her footy, of which the latter has been a big part of her life the last few years. She said she finds it “fun” keeping herself busy rather than not doing anything. With big expectations on herself this year, Smith said she takes it all in her stride and uses football as a motivation to get better in every possible way.

“Yeah definitely I would say my life is very footy-orientated,” Smith said. “But I think that I can switch off quite well and pretty easy with that stuff. “It doesn’t stress me out too much and I think other things footy, like watching footy, training those sort of things, it just sort of fuels me in a good way.”

Smith has never been short of on-field and off-field inspirations in her time, with both her family and trailblazers of the women’s game among those she looks up to. Not only has she been a keen observer of the AFL Women’s since its inception in 2017, but has enjoyed watching past Eagles’ teammates rise through the ranks.

“Probably my biggest inspiration are my parents,” Smith said. “I think everything they do for me has just helped get me to where I am today.

“When it (AFL Women’s) first started, I was a massive fan of those pioneer girls so Daisy Pearce, Katie Brennan, those first ones. Also the most recent times probably Monique Conti and there’s been a couple of girls from my local club in Tyla Hanks and Georgia Gee who got drafted so I think that’s really cool to get to play with role models who have been drafted.”

Her local footy and NAB League footy collided a couple of times, playing at Holm Park in Beaconsfield, a ground the Eagles and Stingrays midfielder is very familiar with over the past few years.

“Our (Stingrays) first game was there as our home game which was pretty cool,” Smith said. “That’s my local club’s home ground as well so I know the ground pretty well which helps. “But yeah it was really cool to be able to play Stingrays footy on that ground. “Obviously my family could get to that because it was close, so it was really cool.”

It was on that ground where she kicked a miraculous goal from the pocket in Round 1 this year against Eastern Ranges. With not much angle and pressure all around her, the talented leader got ball to boot and put through a contender for goal of the year. When asked the thought process for kicking a big-time goal like that, Smith said it was “probably mostly instinct”.

“At the end of the day when it’s in the balance and it’s quite tight at that stage,” she said. “I knew that as soon as I had the ball in my hands I just had to make the most of my opportunity and soon as I saw the goals open up I thought that I have to do this for my team and thankfully it paid off.”

Possessing elite speed and footy IQ, Smith has been one of the most consistent players in terms of overall game, with very few weaknesses. But that has not stopped her wanting to improve all aspects of her game, but one area in particular has been a focus.

“I think a big thing for me is contested marking,” Smith said. “I think that’s one thing that can definitely set the game apart with who can take a big contested mark. “I think that’s really valuable so really trying to work on upper body strength and stuff like that to make it happen.”

The COVID-19 break has not been ideal for any Victorian footballers, unable to get out on the park, but for Smith, it has been a chance to work on those areas and still have the chance to build her fundamentals further.

“I think I’ve taken the time we’ve had off to improve those sort of things and doing stuff that I probably wouldn’t get to do at training as a group,” Smith said. “A lot of strength and gym work as well. “Me and dad go down to the footy oval and mum as well, and we do a lot of skill work stuff as well which has really helped.”

Looking forward, the likely high draft pick has her sights set exactly where she has had them for most of her life – the AFL Women’s Draft – but she remains grounded and focused, setting little goals at a time.

“I probably don’t try to look too far into the future, I just try to stay in the moment and set little goals that are achievable with a short amount of time” Smith said. “Then look to the next thing, I don’t try to look too far into the future and set massive goals.”

Watch out for one of the next big stars coming through the ranks after a sensational body of work throughout her junior football career.

Shanara Notman – Grasping opportunity through adversity

GIPPSLAND Power prospect Shanara Notman is somewhat of a coach’s dream; versatile, raw, hard-working, and made of leadership material. The 19-year-old narrowly missed out on being drafted last year, and had pegged her 2020 campaign as one which would help garner the experience and game sense required to make the step-up to an AFL Women’s list.

Setbacks have come thick and fast for Notman and her fellow draft hopefuls in a rollercoaster year, but the talented tall has formed a habit of making good on each opportunity to arise across her young footballing career.

She hyperextended her knee five minutes into last year’s NAB League season, but recovered in time to warrant selection in the Vic Country Under 18 squad. It was during the weeklong carnival in Queensland where Notman thrust her name into draft contention, swinging up forward and even through the ruck after cutting her teeth off half-back for Gippsland.

Being overlooked from those dizzying heights would have put many AFLW hopefuls on the back foot, but not Notman.

“Straight after the draft I quickly contacted Chelsea Caple, our talent manager at (Gippsland) Power,” Notman said. “Less than an hour after the draft, my permit for the 2020 season had been approved for Power, so I was going to go in as a 19-year-old. We had an awesome preseason this year and I put in so much effort to get there.”

The effort looked to be paying off, as Notman, with VFLW and representative experience under her belt, returned a couple of outstanding performances at the start of this year’s NAB League competition. But with that season, along with every other league across Victoria written off in due course, Notman found herself facing yet another hurdle.

“We got two games in this year, we had an awesome camp run by our coach, Scotty (Armour)… but since the news about not playing anymore, then hopefully playing later in the year, which obviously got cancelled too, it’s been a bit heartbreaking,” she said.

Notman (left) in action for Vic Country during the 2019 AFLW Under 18 National Championships

Notman is a talented multi-sport athlete, though the art of hurdling has become more of a mental battle in such “chaotic” times.

“To stay motivated, it’s been full of ups and down this year,” she said. “I’ve been fully committed to going to the gym or going for a kick with a few mates who are local and play VFL with us (in line with COVID-19 lockdown regulations of the time). “But it’s an incredibly difficult time, especially because you’ve got to rely on yourself, not your teammates and coaching staff to keep you motivated.”

With lockdown restrictions eased in regional Victoria in mid-September, Notman says she “can’t wait” to get back to some form of normality and group training as soon as possible.

“I find it easier to train with a group of girls than to train by myself, it just keeps you more motivated,” she said. “I’m lucky enough to have one of my best mates, Breanna Pratt, she plays with me at VFL and she lives really close-by so I can go for a kick with her. I’ve got a home gym set up just to keep fit, too.”

“I’m a really social person… I always chat to the Power girls, just helping out the younger ones. “I’m looking forward even in the future to going back down to Power, helping out there and doing whatever I can to help the girls out.”

As the second-eldest member of Gippsland Power’s current squad, Notman has naturally become a leader among the group – despite only featuring in the elite footballing pathway for two years. Having leant on the likes of Daisy Pearce and Gippsland Power graduate, Tyla Hanks during her time at the Casey Demons, the youngster was especially driven to set an example at the start of her over-age NAB League campaign. Earning the vice-captain tag only made it official.

“I was lucky enough to be named the vice-captain of Power this year alongside Grace McRae, who was our captain,” she said. “I was really putting in with that leadership role as I was (one of) the oldest girls on the team – me and Leyla Berry were the over-agers. I was putting in the effort to lead the girls because we’ve got some 15-year-olds and a pretty young group. It was a really exciting time.”

“Girls like Tyla Hanks from the Power, she’s awesome… I trained with the Melbourne girls at the start of the year, with Daisy Pearce and that. They’re great leaders and they help all the NAB League girls come through. They’re just amazing.”

Shanara Notman in action for Gippsland Power. Source: AFL Media

Given Casey’s ties to Melbourne’s AFLW side, Notman has jumped on the Demons’ bandwagon in support of her VFLW teammates, as her beloved Hawthorn does not yet lay claim to a women’s team. But it’s not just players who have mentored Notman throughout her path less travelled by, as the aforementioned Caple, Armour, and former Gippsland Power stalwart, Peter Francis have also played big roles in seeing her through to this point.

“I’m always in contact with Chelsea Caple and Scotty Armour,” she said. “They’re really good mentors for me, they’ve always been there for the last two years and they’ve really encouraged me to be my best… staff like Peter Francis really helped me get into footy, he was a big help at (Gippsland) Power.”

“At Casey I’ve got our assistant coach Troy Hemming, he’s from Warragul so I’m always giving him a call to go for a kick here and there and just catch up.”

As for the ideal path forward, Notman is looking to harness her versatility and play as high a level of football as possible. There lies somewhat of a Plan B as well, as the 19-year-old plies her trade full-time as a support trainee at Drouin Secondary College in the PE and sport and recreation realms.

“The ideal path will obviously be to start playing footy again next year. But my overall goal will be to one day just play footy at the highest level possible and just enjoy footy,” she said.

“I feel like my best position would be running off half-back. Especially at the Power this year, that really benefitted me… (but) it’s really exciting to be versatile and just play wherever the coach wants you to play.”

“If the draft doesn’t go as I hope this year, hopefully VFL actually goes ahead next year and I’ll just keep playing at Casey because I’m really enjoying that.”

At the time of writing, the 2020 AFLW combine testing and All-Stars game in Victoria were cancelled, leaving the October 6 draft as Notman’s next major point of call.

Draft Central’s Top 50 AFLW Players 2020: #25-21

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially come to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In this edition, we look at the players ranked from 25-21. This part of the countdown features some exciting stars who have not yet hit their peak despite playing some exceptional footy thus far, bookended by a couple of experienced marquee names who continue to impact the competition.

#25 Daisy Pearce (MELBOURNE)

7 GAMES AVE: 14.9 disposals, 2.9 tackles, 2.7 marks, 1.7 rebounds

The 31-year-old Daisy Pearce returned to the game in 2020 to much fanfare after giving birth to twins last February, doing the impossible and ultimately returning to her pre-baby form – albeit in a different position. Playing off the half-back, Pearce bolstered the Dees’ stocks with her speed and intensity in defence, teaming up with Libby Birch to make a formidable defensive wall. With just under 70 per cent disposal efficiency, Pearce led from the back with her silky ball movement and vision up the ground. While Pearce’s numbers may have dropped this season, it was  somewhat down to her change in role, slipping into the defensive mindset well and becoming a general off the half back. Her resilience to get back on the field is remarkable while her read of the play was crucial coming into Melbourne’s inaugural finals series this season.

#24 Chloe Molloy (COLLINGWOOD)

7 GAMES AVE: 13.3 disposals, 4.6 marks, 2.3 tackles, 1.9 inside 50s, 6 goals

Chloe Molloy’s return to the footy field could not have been better, with the talented 2017 draftee pulling on the boots once more and showcasing her skill from the very start of the season. Booting six goals in seven games – including a bag of three against the Bulldogs in Round 5 – Molloy had no issue finding the footy, averaging 13.3 touches and providing a confident and reliable marking target up the ground thanks to her ability to free herself from her opposition or crash the pack. Her consistency and ability to get hands to the footy enabled her to set handy plays in motion for her teammates while her run and carry down the ground and impressive vision allowed her to be a real thorn in the side for any team she came across. 

#23 Kate Hore (MELBOURNE)

7 GAMES AVE: 12.7 disposals, 3.9 tackles, 3.3 marks, 2.4 inside 50s, 5 goals

The talented Dees forward had a spectacular year, rounded out by a Goal of the Year Award that was testament to her constant drive inside 50 and ability to apply pressure both on the player and the scoreboard. Migrating further up the field in 2020, Kate Hore was one of a number of Demons who had no issue with accuracy in front of the big sticks, and was a handy target up forward able to have an impact both in the air and at ground level. In her best season yet at the club, Hore boosted majority of her stats this season – namely booting four more goals than her 2019 form – and racked up 3.9 tackles per game proving she is a constant threat in and around the footy, unafraid of the contest and able to crumb the ball with ease to her advantage.

#22 Phoebe Monahan (RICHMOND)

6 GAMES AVE: 17.2 disposals, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 tackles, 2.7 marks

Richmond backliner Monahan made the switch from GWS GIANTS ahead of the 2020 season and with the numbers she racked up this season there is no doubt that she flourished in the Tigers environment. The 26-year-old racked up an impressive 6.8 rebounds for the season to go with almost three marks as she put in her best effort to block the footy from entering the Tigers’ back 50. While Richmond did not win a game in their inaugural season, without Monahan’s link from the back end up the ground the results could have been far worse, with the speedy contested player working well through congestion to average 17.2 touches, driving through the midfield to propel the footy forward. Monahan’s form saw her blow her 2018 and 2019 form completely out of the park, playing all six matches for the Tigers and racking up the numbers as she did so.

#21 Ellie Blackburn (WESTERN BULLDOGS)

6 GAMES AVE: 17.3 disposals, 4.2 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s, 2.2 marks

With an average of 17 disposals across her AFLW career, Western Bulldogs captain and stalwart midfield-forward Ellie Blackburn is as consistent as they come. She continued her impressive form since the AFLW’s inception with another stellar season behind her, albeit a frustrating one for Bulldogs fans with the side only managing one win from its six matches. The impressive ball-winner continued her winning form however, and was a constant threat with ball in hand thanks to her ability to make something out of nothing and transition the footy through the midfield with ease. Blackburn is rarely fazed by the contest, and while she only put the two goals on the board this season, she put her ball-winning skills to good use in other areas, aiding her teammates and forming a crucial link through the midfield. Her tackling pressure also releases some of the load from her teammates, with her 4.2 tackles per game and 2.2 marks creating opportunities further up the ground.

2020 Top 10 AFLW matches: #1 – Mithen saves Demons from finals hell

IN a new countdown, Draft Central recalls the Top 10 AFL Women’s games for season 2020, ending with our top pick which saw Melbourne claim a dramatic come-from-behind finals win over GWS via the boot of an unlikely hero. On the road and in their first ever post-season match, the Demons had to raise hell to come out on top.

The match-up produced an opening term befitting of the tense nature of finals time, with both sides going goalless but the contest hot as GWS snuck ahead 2-1 in a scoreline reminiscent of a soccer game.  GIANTS skipper Alicia Eva made her presence felt early on, snapping through the point to put her side ahead while also getting some attention back after pummelling high into Melbourne star, Karen Paxman. The home side looked set to find the big sticks first when Rebecca Privitelli juggled a mark deep inside 50, but her kick held up in the breeze and proved easy picking for the Melbourne defence to prevent a score altogether.

It took a strike from Lily Mithen, who had never previously kicked a goal in her four-year AFL Women’s career to see the first set of six points tick over, converting from a tight angle to put Melbourne ahead after earning a free kick. The excitement was only made more evident in the absence of a crowd, with her teammates duly getting around her. Despite holding territory at what looked like the scoring end, the Demons almost saw their opponent go coast-to-coast in the last 10 minutes, but Aimee Schmidt pulled her shot badly while streaming into goal. She made amends for the miss with a wonderful effort in the final minute of the half, though, benefitting from a spill created by Privitelli at ground level and snapping home the GIANTS’ first major. The buffer was back to just a sole point at the main break, with the famed premiership quarter ahead.

After a tense opening few minutes, Jess Dal Pos earned a free kick within the forward 50 arc and converted a booming set shot to put GWS back in front. It would prove the catalyst for what seemed like a game-breaking run for the GIANTS, owning the term with 2.3 while holding Melbourne scoreless. The GIANTS may have again spurned some guilt-edged chances in front of goal, but another major in the final minute – this time via Cora Staunton and a lucky falcon – had the home side dreaming of a would-be preliminary final berth. The GIANTS were 14 point to the good come the final turn, a margin which exceeded the score Melbourne had put on the board to that point.

The failure to convert in front of goal would come back to haunt GWS though, and Shelley Scott’s accurate set shot gave the Demons a sniff with seven-and-a-half minutes left to play. The pressure only mounted as Adelaide premiership star and 2020 injury top-up player Sarah Perkins slammed home another major, bringing the margin to within a goal. If Melbourne’s pressure hadn’t already set the alarm bells ringing, then the scoreboard would have for GWS. No warning could prevent what eventuated, as Mithen took a terrific one-on-one mark with a tick over a minute left on the clock, and remarkably converted the shot to give her side the lead once again at the ideal time. The final siren would sound with Melbourne once again heading inside forward 50, and scenes of jubilation ensuing.

The cream rose to the top for Melbourne, with all the usual experienced suspects having their say. Daisy Pearce led her side’s disposal count with 22 from defence alongside 15 from Libby Birch, while elite midfield mover Paxman notched 20. The aerial presence of Lauren Pearce and Eden Zanker proved valuable for the winners, but it was Mithen’s two goals which undeniably made her the hero in just her third outing for the season. For the GIANTS, Alyce Parker was at her usual best with a game-high 23 disposals, aided by Rebecca Beeson and Haneen Zreika. The likes of Eva, Schmidt, and Tait Mackrill had what-if games going forward, with their chances adding to the unfortunate statistic of GWS losing despite managing two more scoring shots. The Dees were poised to go on into the preliminary final round, but of course saw the season cut short and a remarkable run, ended.

GWS GIANTS 0.2 | 1.4 | 3.7 | 3.8 (26)
MELBOURNE 0.1 | 1.5 | 1.5 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS:

GWS: A. Schmidt, C. Staunton, J. Dal Pos.
Melbourne: L. Mithen 2, S. Scott, S. Perkins.

ADC BEST:

GWS: A. Parker, R. Beeson, E. Bennetts, H. Zreika, J. Allan
Melbourne: K. Paxman, L. Birch, D. Pearce, L. Mithen, E. Zanker