Tag: daisy pearce

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

2020 Top 10 AFLW matches: #8 – Saints shock unbeaten Dees

IN a new countdown, Draft Central recalls the Top 10 AFL Women’s games for season 2020, moving onto our #8 which saw St Kilda’s historic inaugural win against the then unbeaten Melbourne. Heading into the Round 3 contest, Melbourne had stunned premiership favourites, North Melbourne in the opening round before accounting for the Western Bulldogs in Round 2. St Kilda had gone down to the Bulldogs in the Saints’ first ever match in the league, before losing in a spirited fight on the road against the reigning premiers, Adelaide.

It was a history-making performance by the Saints claiming their inaugural AFLW win and stunning the lacklustre Demons in the meantime. The start was relatively even with an inaccurate Melbourne booting 1.4 to 1.0 in the opening term, with that sole goal proving to be the Dees’ only one of the game. The low-scoring match came down to a strong second half effort from the Saints, who well and truly took advantage of Melbourne’s inaccuracy in front of goal. 22 Under 22 forward Caitlin Greiser impressed booting two goals for the Saints, including the parting blow midway through the final term, using her clean hands and strength to evade Melbourne’s defence and well and truly steal the show. While Melbourne had a heap of experience at its disposal, the Saints went in hard for the footy and outshone the Dees who simply could not convert.

This year’s Best First Year Player, Georgia Patrikios continued her impressive form through the midfield, collecting 15 touches while teammates Tilly Lucas-Rodd and Olivia Vesely topped the disposal count at 16 apiece and high pressure duo Nat Exon and Rosie Dillon combined for 14 tackles. While the Melbourne unit failed to play its typical game – down to constant pressing defence from the Saints cutting off options forward, they still had a plethora of solid performers despite Shelley Scott kicking the Dees’ lone goal in the first quarter. Formidable and experienced trio in Karen Paxman, Elise O’Dea and Daisy Pearce combined to be a formidable force with Paxman taking home the most possessions in the game with 26. O’Dea was not far behind with 20 while Libby Birch and Maddi Gay also found their fair share of the footy but it was not enough to change the end result.

As history would have it, Melbourne still reached the 2020 AFL Women’s finals series, winning a classic contest against GWS GIANTS before the season was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Saints would win another game and not only avoid the wooden spoon in their Conference, but finish above fellow newcomer West Coast, and foundation side Western Bulldogs as well, the team that knocked them off in the opening round.

ST KILDA 1.0 | 2.0 | 2.0 | 3.1 (19)
MELBOURNE 1.4 | 1.5 | 1.8 | 1.8 (14)

GOALS:

St Kilda: C. Greiser (2), D. Guttridge.
Melbourne: S. Scott.

BESTS:

St Kilda: C. Greiser, T. Lucas-Rodd, G. Patrikios, O. Vesley,
Melbourne: K. Paxman, E. O’Dea, D. Pearce, S. Scott

2020 AFL Women’s season review: Melbourne

MELBOURNE earned its first-ever finals berth in 2020 after years of near-misses, claiming a thrilling maiden post-season win in the process to cap off its successful season. Under the tutelage of Mick Stinear, the seasoned Demons side notched four wins despite enduring harsh spates of key injuries and absentees throughout the year, as they enter their premiership window. The return of skipper Daisy Pearce and elevation of Sarah Perkins to the senior squad buoyed the Dees at different points in the year, with the squad’s ability to adapt into makeshift situations its key feature. Relive the highs and lows of Melbourne’s campaign, with a nod to its most outstanding players in our season review.

RECORD: 3rd (B), 4-2 (1-0 finals), 164.5%

RESULTS:

R1: defeated North Melbourne by 2 points
R2: defeated Western Bulldogs by 12 points
R3: lost to St Kilda by 5 points
R4:
defeated Collingwood by 20 points
R5:
defeated West Coast by 59 points 
R6:
lost to Carlton by 16 points
SF: defeated GWS by 3 points

A stirring Round 1 upset over pre-season premiership fancy, North Melbourne set the ball rolling in an ideal way for Melbourne, and it was backed up by another solid win against the youthful Western Bulldogs in Round 2. But the early momentum was brought to a halt as the Demons unforgivably went down to St Kilda in a low-scoring affair, with subsequent wins over Collingwood and West Coast helping them make the ground back up. For all that good form in consecutive wins, Carlton put another loss on Melbourne’s record via its strong defence, but it was soon forgotten as the Dees romped home to snatch a thrilling finals victory against GWS.

SEASON HIGH: Mithen rescues the Dees from finals hell

There were many highs to choose from among the key moments in Melbourne’s year – knocking off North Melbourne in Round 1, and the returns of Pearce and Perkins to name a couple – but none of them come close to this triumph. Staring a finals defeat in the face with over two goals to make up at the last change, the Dees leant on an unlikely hero to save the day. Enter Lily Mithen, who booted her first two career goals to help her side claim an incredible comeback win at the death in an instant finals classic.

SEASON LOW: Going down to expansion side, St Kilda

For the many lofty heights have come some pretty devastating lows for Melbourne supporters over the years, and this one came out of nowhere. After two impressive wins to open the year, Melbourne was expected to feast on winless expansion side, St Kilda. Instead, the Demons could only muster 1.8 as the Saints came from behind at the final break to claim an incredible upset win – the first in their short history. Melbourne’s tendency for losing winnable games had reared its head once again in a costly lapse.

FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:

Karen Paxman (21.3 disposals, 71% efficiency, 3 marks, 4.1 tackles, 5.6 clearances, 2.3 rebound 50s, 3.4 inside 50s, 337 metres gained)

After becoming Melbourne’s prime midfield mover in the absence of Pearce last season, Paxman continued her incredible run of form to stake her claim as one of the competition’s elites. A deserving All Australian squad member, the durable engine room operator led the league for clearances, and her club for disposals, contested possessions, inside 50s, rebound 50s, and metres gained in a remarkable campaign.

Daisy Pearce (14.9 disposals, 69% efficiency, 2.7 marks, 5.7 intercept possessions, 2.9 tackles, 1.7 rebound 50s, 1.6 inside 50s)

Arguably the greatest women’s player of all time prior to the AFL Women’s era, Pearce returned to competition in emphatic style, appearing in all seven games as skipper of her side. Utilised in a slightly different role off half-back, the 31-year-old showcased her terrific skill on the ball in the defensive half and was named in the All Australian squad. Still got it.

Kate Hore (12.7 disposals, 3.3 marks, 3.9 tackles, 2.4 inside 50s, 5 goals)

The third of Melbourne’s All Australian squad members is Hore, who maintained her high standard of performance in another terrific AFLW campaign. The skilful forward continues to find avenues to goal having booted five as her side’s equal-leading goalkicker, but also works hard up the ground to provide avenues into the forward half. Has not missed a beat since her 2018 debut.

Libby Birch (12.1 disposals, 3.6 marks, 6.4 intercept possessions, 1.6 tackles, 2.1 rebound 50s)

Melbourne’s boom recruit coming into 2020 was Birch, and the defender delivered on her already impressive reputation. The former-Bulldog slotted in seamlessly to the Demons’ back five, leading her new side in intercept possessions across all seven games. Birch was the perfect partner in crime to Peace in defence, intercepting with ease and combining with the champ in transition.

Elise O’Dea (14.3 disposals, 1.9 marks, 3.9 tackles, 3 clearances, 2 inside 50s)

The foundation Demon was once again a reliable outlet for her side through midfield, providing that hard inside edge through the engine room alongside the likes of Paxman. O’Dea’s numbers may have been slightly down in comparison to other years, but the former-captain’s value comes through in her selfless work around the ball and undeniable leadership qualities.

THE YOUNG GUN:

Tyla Hanks (10.4 disposals, 1.3 marks, 4.7 tackles, 1.4 inside 50s)

The Demons may possess somewhat of an ageing list, but also lay claim to one of the competition’s most exciting young guns in Hanks. After steadily entering the elite level in a forward role throughout her rookie season, the Gippsland Power graduate enjoyed more midfield minutes this year, and led her side for tackles while showing plenty of promise.

THE MAKESHIFT RUCK

Eden Zanker (10.3 disposals, 1.9 marks, 3.6 tackles, 11 hitouts, 1.7 inside 50s, 4 goals)

Zanker was one to step up and shine in the wake of Melbourne’s desperate injury situation, adding ruck craft to her game while also remaining a threat up forward. In the absence of Lauren Pearce, the 20-year-old used her sizeable leap at 183cm to lead her club for hitouts, and booted four goals during her time inside forward 50. Another promising youngster who thrived in a different role.

THE SPEARHEAD:

Shelley Scott (11.1 disposals, 4 marks, 3.7 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s, 3.6 score involvements, 5 goals)

While she may stack up at the same height as fellow leading goalkicker, Hore, Scott played the more traditional key forward role of the two this season. The 170cm spearhead’s five goals made for an equal career-best haul, and her work as a marking target was sensational. Scott led the club for marks (including contested) and score involvements in an impressive season.

VERDICT:

Melbourne is perhaps one of the sides which would have been most disappointed by the shortened season given its ageing list, the fact it had beaten North Melbourne, and that it had not yet faced Fremantle. The premiership window seems to remain ajar, but time may run out soon as the next generation takes over from foundation players. Still, the Demons were right up there at their best and should be in for another tilt at finals next year.

AFLW stats analysis: Semi-finals – How the four last standing got there

IT was a story of two tales with the matches between Melbourne and GIANTS along with North Melbourne and Collingwood, being decided by three points or less, while the clashes between Carlton and Brisbane, and Fremantle and Gold Coast were blowouts. The first game of the finals series saw North and Collingwood score a combined 10 goals, while the Dees and Giants managed seven between them. The final game of the round saw the Blues and Lions notch up eight goals collectively. The outlier however seemed to be the Dockers verse Suns. With majority of matches only recording a collective maximum of 10 goals, Fremantle single handily took account for that, proving to be unstoppable in front of the big sticks with a whopping 12 goals while the Suns only registered one major for the match.

Carlton:

The Blues showcased their strong ball movement and ability to hit the scoreboard on Sunday winning the game with ease. They controlled the flow of the game winning the disposal count 236 compared to 181. Carlton simply did not allow Brisbane any easy access to the footy leading the way in both kicks 148 and handballs 88. They won just about every major key performance indicator registering five more marks 42-37 and won the inside 50 battle 39 to 20 which in turned reflected their accuracy sitting at 36 per cent compared to 25. Georgia Gee proved to be a hot option in front of goals with three goals while dynamic forward duo Tayla Harris and Darcy Vescio managed to get on the scoreboard with one goal each. Despite winning, the Blues will be hoping to improve on their accuracy kicking eight behinds compared to six goals, meaning they could have had a big day out if they were on target.

Fremantle:

The Dockers proved that scoring was no issue on Saturday consistently peppering the goals and trapping the ball inside 50 racking up 39 inside 50s compared to the Suns’ 26. Fremantle had 20 shots on goal with 12 of them being majors highlighting just how efficient they were inside the forward arc going at 51 per cent. Leading goal kicker Sabreena Duffy made no mistake in front of the big sticks converting three goals from her 11 touches while the likes of Kate Flood, Gemma Houghton and Gabby O’Sullivan shared the load inside 50 with two goals apiece. The Dockers ability to find a target in front of goal and move the ball quickly was a key component of their game play able to move the ball with ease. It was a complete performance by the Dockers who made it look easy throughout their clash however when it came to ruckwork they will want to gain more dominance losing the contest 18-29.

Melbourne:

It was a hard-fought slog for Melbourne who did just enough to get over the line despite losing pretty much all of the key performance indicators. The main thing that set Melbourne apart was their conversion rate sitting at 44 per cent compared to GWS’ 27 per cent. The Dees also just won the tackle count 60 to 59 highlighting their ability to hunt both the ball and player while most importantly they made the most of their opportunities in front of goal notching up four goals compared to three. When it came to goal scorers Lily Mithen was the standout player shooting truly with two majors to her name while both Daisy Pearce and Karen Paxman were the major ball winners. Although the Demons got the win, they struggled for accuracy inside 50 unable to capitalise on their chances and failed to generate momentum coming out of the back half with 17 rebound 50s.

North Melbourne:

Much like Melbourne, North prevailed in a tight game running out two-point victors. The Kangaroos were hot inside 50 with nine scoring shots compared to seven and 28 inside 50s to 20. The Roos while they were not overly efficient managed to trap the ball inside the forward arc and create scoring opportunities. In terms of defensive pressure, North Melbourne showcased their physicality racking up 11 more tackles with 58 to 47. Ash Riddell led the way on the field racking up the touches while Emma Kearney also plied her trade winning the footy at the coalface and laying strong tackles. The Roos could not get the ball in their hands losing the possession battle and struggled to take a mark something they will be hoping to address next season.