Tag: Dandenong Stingrays

2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls Player of the Week: Round 3

DANDENONG Stingrays bottom-ager Emily Shepherd has earned the Draft Central NAB League Girls Player of the Week Award for Round 3 after a best on ground performance against Western Jets. In a fitting handover from Round 1 where Western Jets’ Charlotte Baskaran took out the honour, a player on the opposition team won it the next week.

Shepherd picked up 23 disposals, three marks, eight inside 50s, laid six tackles and booted 2.2 on the day to be the clear best on ground and earn a nomination for the award. Running simultaneously was Under 16s talent Alyssia Pisano who booted four goals from 14 disposals in Eastern Ranges’ massive win over Gippsland Power who was the other incredible individual effort nominated this round.

Shepherd thrived in the Stingrays’ first game of the year after a bye in Round 1 and then the five-day Victorian lockdown forced her, and her teammates to wait another week. She was ready to go once the ball was bounced though, putting out her career-best game. In 2020, Shepherd averaged 11.3 disposals, 2.0 marks, 2.7 tackles and 1.7 inside 50s and looms as a crucial mover having taken over the role from now St Kilda AFL Women’s player Tyanna Smith in the midfield.

New Dandenong Stingrays coach Nick Cox said Shepherd was among the top performers over the preseason, saying most of the list had “come back in a really good spot”. The NAB League Girls fixture is set to be flexible this season, but at this point, the Stingrays head to Ballarat to take on Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at MARS Stadium on Sunday.

NAB League Girls Player of the Week:

Round 1: Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)
Round 2: Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)

 

>> Dandenong Stingrays 2021 season preview

>> Emily Shepherd player page

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS AT THE COMBINE INTERVIEWS:

Skill and pace the key for Stingrays

THEY might have to wait an extra week to finally taste NAB League Girls action for the first time in 11 months, but the Dandenong Stingrays will be ready to go when it happens.

The Stingrays have a Round 1 bye this weekend, then host Sandringham Dragons at Frankston Park on Saturday, February 13 from 11am. For new coach Nick Cox – who has previously taken the reins at the boys – it was an exciting time, and the team would be ready for the first bounce.

“They’re excited about it obviously,” Cox said. “We’re lucky we’ve got Round 1 off, we’ve got a bye so we’ll get a few extra training sessions into them, but they’re really enthusiastic in the game sim stuff that we’re able to do. “But we’re looking forward to the games and seeing how they go there. Their enthusiasm there is another level to the boys that I’ve seen, so I can’t wait to see what they can produce.”

For Cox the role is one that is not too dissimilar to when he coached the boys’ side, and now it is about juggling and adapting both of the Stingrays’ elite junior squads.

“I was thinking about it over the weekend, last weekend after our first week at training,” Cox said. “It’s going to be a lot different but I’m actually excited and can’t wait for it. “I know every coach will say that, but just the dynamics of being back in a box and coaching gameday will be something that’s been missed by us all, but thank goodness that our country at least is getting back to some sort of normality, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The last 12 months have been challenging for every club, and the Stingrays are not immune to that. Cox said the onus was put on the players to ensure they were ready to hit the ground running once the group training returned following the lifting of lockdown protocols.

“There was a fair bit put back on the girls over the break to make sure they follow their program,” Cox said. “At the end of the day, the ones who make it are the ones who have intrinsic motivation and come back after doing it all themselves. “The difference is we’re doing a lot of things differently, education via Zoom calls, that kind of stuff, so we can get as much training into them when we see them. “It’s been different, but we have to work with it. “Everyone’s in the same boat so we’ve got to try and make them better by the time Round 1 comes.”

It might have only been a couple of weeks, but Cox admitted the feeling around the club was buoyant as the players could sense that games were not far away.

“The preseason has been wonderful so far, we haven’t had the girls back in for that long,” he said. “I think it’s been a couple of weeks, so they’ve come back in good condition and obviously follow their programs over the break. “It has been pleasing thus far, the energy and enthusiasm that they’re showing at training.”

Speaking about the 2021 NAB League Girls list, Cox said there were “a lot” of impressive preseason performers.

“I’ve been really impressed with our two 19-year-olds coming back from an AFL/VFLW preseason at St Kilda in Abbey Jordan and Zoe Hill,” he said. “Some of our bottom-agers, Amber Clarke‘s been exceptional, and probably one to continue to watch. “Emily Shepherd, Mac (Mackenzie) Eardley, our top-ager Ash Richards has been great, come back in a really good spot.

Jaide Anthony who was in the Academy last year, unfortunately didn’t make it this year has come back well, we’ve got some girls who have been quite impressive and we’ve been looking forward to seeing what they can produce in a couple of weeks time.”

Having that balance between the new top-age, middle-age and bottom-age players will make it a juggling act for the clubs, and with Dandenong having talent across all three years, Cox said the team would do its best to try and showcase everyone’s talent.

Obviously the 18 and 19-year-olds will get more of an opportunity early, but it’s still our role to showcase talent,” he said. “If a 17 year-old is better than an 18-year-old then we’ll put them on the park and get them ready for next year. “But there is a balance to give the 18 girls an opportunity, but if they’re not up to speed it’s like any elite program, others will jump ahead of them. “It will be what it will be.”

As for a style, the Stingrays have enough talent around the ground to provide some impressive and eye-catching ball movement. Cox listed speed and skill as two of the key areas that his squad seemed to be flushed with across the board.

We’ve got some girls who kick the ball exceptionally well and I think we can utilise that,” he said. We’ve got a little bit of pace, we’ve got a pretty good all-round mix. “But I think the two things would be our speed and our ability to execute really well. “I know that is simplistic, but they are two of the things I’ve been impressed with as a coach thus far in preseason.”

Your questions answered – Draft Central’s pre-draft Q&A

YESTERDAY we asked you to send in all your last-minute questions ahead of the 2020 AFL Draft to be answered on our YouTube channel, with those initial enquiries touched on during the Q&A session which you can find here, and linked below. The questions spilled over after the time of recording but not to worry, AFL Draft Editor Michael Alvaro is on hand to get to all of your pressing questions ahead of draft day.

Q&A:

Q: Do you think it’s worth Fremantle trying to move up the draft order and chase a key position forward? Maybe trade Pick 12 and a future first rounder to try and get a Logan McDonald, or that kind of talent? – From Christopher on Facebook
A: Hi Christopher, there was certainly plenty of early talk surrounding whether Fremantle would look to trade up and snare McDonald in particular. That has cooled of late and it is difficult to see the Dockers having enough to trade up into the top three-to-five picks while also keeping their current NGA talents in mind. A key position player could well still come into consideration with Pick 12 nonetheless.

Q: Is Noah Gadsby a chance of going? – From Zac on Instagram
A: There are plenty of Geelong Falcons products in draft contention, Noah Gadsby being one of them. He missed out on a draft combine invite but will be known to clubs having been part of the Vic Country state academy hub and blitzed preseason testing.

Q: Is Tahj Abberley any hope of being drafted? – From Nathan on Instagram
A: Hi Nathan, Tahj is a player the Draft Central team has rated highly for a long time. He seems to have done all he could this year in terms of performance, but this year’s draft presents a tough squeeze at the back-end. His form at each level and nice blend of traits should have him in the mix, even for other clubs should Brisbane opt against taking him on.

Q: Where will Fraser Rosman be selected? – From @8phila on Instagram
A: Fraser Rosman looms as quite a prospective pick out of this year’s crop, but has all the raw athletic traits which clubs will love. He looks like a later pick or ideal rookie option given how few runs he has been able to put on the board, but his upside and potential may see a club jump early at the tall forward/wingman.

Q: How are Clayton Gay and Will Bravo looking in the draft? – From Zac on Instagram
A: These are arguably Dandenong’s best prospects in 2020 and both shape as players with nice traits to develop at the next level. Clayton is a versatile type who can play up either end and is more of a natural footballer in the way he goes about it, good smarts and footy IQ. Will has greater athletic traits, but is still developing other areas of his game. They are both different players, but expect them to be in the mix in the late stages of the draft or rookie draft.

Q: What pick is Tanner Bruhn going? – From Harris on Instagram
A: Bruhn is poised among such an interesting bunch at the top-end, and his final placing could change drastically depending on which clubs jump on midfielders within the top 10. He could potentially land between picks six and 10, or even slide into the teens – but unlikely any further.

Q: Who is the best ruck prospect and where will they go? – From Arjun on Twitter
A: Riley Thilthorpe could be considered the best ruck prospect, but sees himself as more of a key forward and second ruck option. He has been linked with Adelaide’s first pick and the overall top 10. Elsewhere, West Australian Shannon Neale is a second round chance with nice upside as a lean ruck/forward, while Max Heath could bustle his way into contention after showing massive preseason improvement.

Q: Are rumours of Will Phillips wanting to stay in Victoria going to push him down to Essendon’s picks? – Arjun on Twitter
A: There are plenty of rumours which fly around at this time of year. There is not too much to suggest Phillips poses a massive flight risk, which is often attached to Vic Metro prospects. He could join former Oakleigh teammates Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson at Gold Coast, and is certainly a top five talent.

>> Watch the video Q&A below

Positive Jordan goes above and beyond in search of AFLW dream

WHEN you set your mind to achieving a goal, you promise to do everything you can do to do it. Many might not live up to it, but for Dandenong Stingrays’ captain Abbey Jordan, it is fair to say she is not leaving one stone unturned in her pursuit of playing AFL Women’s.

Naturally a positive person, Jordan experienced the highs and lows of 2020 like any other person, but has never lost the faith in terms of what she is capable of, and what she believes she can achieve with her football.

“I was pretty heartbroken to start off with obviously because I thought I’ve been in this team for five years and my last year is getting cut short,” Jordan said. “I was pretty devastated to start off with, but I thought the season was still going to come back so I was just training really hard and I was trying to get around to all the girls and ensure they were still feeling alright and they were still getting out on the field. “But then when I heard it was cancelled, I was really heartbroken.

“(I thought) I don’t know if they’ve had a proper look at it or how the draft’s going to go, but I’ve been training really hard. “I sort of took my emotions onto the training field and I would just run really hard and really just try and better playing for myself not for anyone because when I heard when the draft was going ahead and I had been chosen for it (combine), I was like ‘oh my god my hard work has finally been paid off’ I’m so happy I still have a shot at this.”

Indeed the news that Jordan had been invited to the AFL Women’s National Draft Combine was a huge boost, but it came after receiving what was a mood-altering text in class during the lockdown period.

“I was in English class homeschooling on my laptop and then I got a text and that was before I found out I made the draft combine, I had an interview first,” Jordan said. So I got a text and I was like ‘oh it’s just a spam number or something and I checked it and it was like ‘hi this is the [person] from the [AFLW club], we’d love to have an interview with you’ and I was like ‘oh my god’ and I started cheering up in the middle of class.

“I had to turn my camera off because I was so excited and I was like “Mum I just got a text from [AFLW team] footy club!” and I was so excited, all the joy just got put back into my life and I just started thinking all about footy again and I was like “omg I can’t believe this has happened”. “It was pretty good news for that day.”

From that moment on, it was just the extra boost the Stingrays’ captain needed to have the faith that her AFL Women’s dream was not yet over.

“I started doing a lot more research and watching all the AFLW teams and I had a whiteboard next to my desk and it was supposed to be for my school goals and I just changed it for my footy goals,” Jordan said. “Then I really started hammering down my left and right foot back up, even though I was training I wanted it perfect again. “I was going down to the footy oval pretty much every night and working every night. “I was trying to train for the combine until that was cancelled, it has been ups and downs, but it’s still been a positive journey for me.”

Jordan’s road to the draft started some time ago when she decided to head to Rye with her sister where the pair would begin their football journeys. Originally a dancer, Jordan gave footy “a shot” and then the siblings came first and second in both their club and the league best and fairests, with Abbey coming out on top in both.

“We were like ‘oh we’re sorta kind of good at this’ and then I went to a couple of interleague teams and then I made Dandenong Stingrays when I was about 15,” Jordan said. It was a big jump to start off with just because it wasn’t really step by step for the Peninsula girls. It was sort of like local, rep and into the TAC Cup or the NAB League.

“It was a pretty big jump but I was just so excited for everything,” she said. “I remember all the coaches saying all the time all that the other girls are so stern when they play, but when you’re (Jordan) running around the field you have the biggest smile on your face, you’re like the bubbly player out on the field. “Everything was just so exciting for me when I first started and it still is.”

Jordan possesses some terrific athletic traits such as her speed, as well as her strength overhead which makes her a perfect outside option. She has been gradually improving her clean hands at ground level, and building her composure with ball-in-hand.

“Although I have my speed, sometimes I don’t slow down in the last couple of steps so I might fumble the kick or something so I really need to work on composing myself in the last couple of steps and hitting up the target,” Jordan said.

The word ‘composure’ is one that has been in her vocabulary for many years, even if it took her a while to remember it. It was hard to forget when Stingrays’ captain turned AFL Women’s Magpie, Jordyn Allen – who Jordan named as one of her inspirations alongside Georgia Walker and Brooke Vernon – kept reminding her each training session.

“I remember I think it was (the 2018) Stingrays season Jordie said this word but I could never remember what word it was, and every single training I’d be like ‘what was that word you told me?’ and so the word she told me to practice in my games was composure,” Jordan said. “I’d always forget it, but it’s still been a big thing for my footy because she’s helped me out a long the way.”

Now it is a key focus for Jordan, who hopes to join the trio of Allen, Vernon and Walker in the AFL Women’s, with the quartet all hailing from the Rye Football Club.

“We’re all Rye girls, we’ve all played together at Rye and it was sort of like Georgia Walker got drafted and then Jordie then got drafted and then Brooke got drafted and then hopefully I’ll be next in line,” Jordan said. “But I remember us girls used to talk about it and we’d dream about it if maybe we’d all get drafted to the same team, like we all come from Rye and we’d all been through Stingrays and imagine if we all ended up on the same AFLW team. “It’s good and we all play very versatile roles in football.”

Leading into the 2020 season, Jordan was confident of having a strong season. Her 2019 one was “pretty good” and from a team perspective, she considered it “really good” but concedes there is one thing she wished she could change.

“The only thing is I took it for granted in hindsight now,” Jordan said. “I didn’t realise it would be my last full season of Stingrays, because I remember all the top-age girls and how well they came together this year and how much of a improvement they had made and stuff, and I had played with them in the last game as well. “I think I took it for granted a bit, I was thinking I would play a whole top-age season, so I didn’t take it as well as I should in hindsight.”

Over the off-season the winger was determined to do everything she could at being the best player she could be. As a top-ager and one of the most promising players in the side, Jordan was hoping, but not expecting to get the captaincy. Then, a pre-season camp and an early morning announcement changed her season.

“It was really overwhelming to start with because I didn’t think I was going to get it,” Jordan said. “I thought T (Tyanna Smith) was going to get it and I thought ‘there’s no way I’ve got this’ and so we had a camp day, we got there at about 5am in the morning and right in the middle of the day they brought everyone into the clubrooms and we had a big meeting and they were like ‘oh we’d like to announce Abbey Jordan as the captain of Stingrays’ and I was like ‘oh my gosh is this real? Like did they get the names mixed up?’. “I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face that day. “I feel like I really support the team really well and I was so happy and it was one of the big goals I wanted to achieve so I was so grateful that day.”

From a team perspective, Dandenong started strongly winning two of their first three games before the season was called off, which was disappointing for Jordan and her teammates as she believed they had what it took to go deep in 2020.

“I remember the year before I made Stingrays we went down and watched the grand final they played at Frankston Oval and I was like ‘oh my god I can’t wait to do that one day’ and unfortunately for the last couple of years we haven’t been able to make it, but this year with the bottom-agers coming up and the middle-agers we had and I’d been working with the top-agers for so many years,” Jordan said. “I was like ‘oh I feel like we can definitely have a crack at making the granny this year’.

“The start of our season started off so strong, having two wins out of three and the third one being pretty close. “I felt like our team this year really moulded together well. “I feel like this team if we made it all the way through I reckon we would have had a really good shot of the grand final.”

As an Under 16s Vic Country representative, a three-time league best and fairest and four-time club best and fairest for Rye, Jordan has had her fair share of accolades at junior level. She captained the interleague team in 2016 and vice-captained the V/Line side a year late. Constantly involved in leadership roles, it was no surprise to see her dedicated to her craft during the time off, focusing on her skills and sprint work.

Jordan has her own personal goals that she sets each time she trains, indicating the work ethic she has. It could be as simple as hitting 20 targets on her opposite left foot before going into her standard training, and then build to bigger goals. Now there is one goal that is less than a week away and there is little doubt in how much it would mean to Jordan if her name was to be called out at next week’s AFL Women’s Draft.

“It would actually be my dream, and one I think about every single day when I’m going to sleep at night and I’m thinking ‘oh there’s only 10 days left, nine days left’,” Jordan said. “It would mean the world to me, it’s what I’ve been training for ever since I started footy and just making it up the ranks and finally making it and knowing all my hard work has actually paid off. “Because every day after school, people are like ‘oh what are you up to?’ and I’m like ‘oh I’ve got training and training again’ but it would just be like the biggest achievement I’ve ever made. “I’ll probably cry on the night if I get drafted but it would be incredible.”

Dual-sport Matin keen to find right balance

AS a talented cricketer and footballer, Dandenong Stingrays’ Jess Matin is eyeing off a way to juggle both sports into the future. Having already represented Victoria at the cricket Under 18 National Championships as recent as this year, the Stingrays small forward earned an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite after impressing in the few NAB League Girls games this season.

“Ideally I would love to juggle both,” Matin said. “Even when I was playing local footy, it was still a big part of my life and vice versa. “You manage to split between the two sports whenever you play the other one in a way. “Ideally I would like to continue both, because … cricket’s played a big part in who I am and all that. “If I do take footy as it is, I’d still want cricket there because it’s a part of me.”

Having spent considerable time in the forward pocket for the Stingrays in 2020, Matin kicked four goals in three games and looked lively in her first proper season at NAB League level. That is not to say she had not come form a successful footballing background, winning five premierships with Beaconsfield, as well as three best and fairests in a side that featured current AFL Women’s talents Tyla Hanks and Georgia Gee, as well as Vic Country’s top prospect this year, Tyanna Smith.

“I’ve always played footy, that has never changed,” Matin said. “I’ve played since I was under 9s with the youngest age group, I’ve played my whole life. “Then I started playing cricket afterwards and that took up a lot of time because I made the under-age Vic squads. “Then with the footy I put it off I guess because I would have cricket in the winter and the summer, and the footy went for a little bit of the summer. “I guess I didn’t feel I could the manage the load for both all-year round so I didn’t pursue the Rays’ stuff.”

That changed as she soon changed as Matin decided to give Australian rules a crack at trying to get to the elite level, enjoying the toughness and fast-past nature of the sport. She was also overwhelmed with the support from her Stingrays’ teammates as she entered the program as a top-ager.

“Yeah it was good,” Matin said. “I only knew like a couple of people so I had to get to know people and they were really welcoming all the top-agers and all the girls. “They were really supportive and all welcoming. “They made me feel like I belonged.”

While Matin played small forward for the Stingrays, she ran through the midfield with the Eagles, citing her ability to read the game quickly, and use the ball well when in possession among her strengths. Having had her only NAB League Girls season cut short, Matin still used the time to work on other areas of her game.

“During this break I’ve worked on my fitness because I knew it was one of my weaknesses,” Matin said. “Not having the running ability I probably should have, so trying to improve that and become a little fitter than I was.”

Aspiring to be an elite sportsperson, Matin said entering 2020 she did not have any particular aims with her football, but wanted to excel however far she got.

“At the start of the year I didn’t really have any expectations on what I just kind of just joined it because it’s a good opportunity for me and to take the next step with my footy and I guess I never really thought of specific goals per se,” Matin said. “Just take every opportunity and be the best I can be in every situation that presents to me in the future.”

While many have been left in limbo over the season’s cancellation, Matin said the season cancellation allowed her to refocus and take a break, which is something she has seldom had over the years as a dual-sport players.

“Yeah it was kind of a weird feeling because I’m normally busy all year around doing one sport,” Matin said. “Then that got cancelled and the preseason hadn’t started yet and it’s been relaxing because I’ve had a mental refresh because I haven’t had to have my brain on during training and all that. “

So it’s kind of good on the mental front and then just over the break, you know just improving my running and improving my strength and doing anything I can to stay fit, to stay active because that’s the worst thing you can do in a break like this. “Just kind of sit around all day and not get your blood circulating and that.”

Looking back on her football career, Matin was able to pinpoint one particular moment amongst the rest that stood out, and it featured a Stingrays’ teammate at local level.

“I’ve had a few good ones (memories), we’ve been pretty successful as a local team,” Matin said. “We’ve won many flags like that. “One flag a couple of years ago, can’t remember which one. “What Tyanna Smith did, she kicked a goal just before the siren just by the buzzer which was a pretty good feeling because we were up and then they came back and it was just hard-fought from there so just to sneak over the line was such a good feeling.”

Having won the multiple premierships and best and fairests, as well as a few player of the series for different cricket competitions, and being the leading wicket-taker at the Under 15 National Championships for Victoria, it is easy enough to see Matin pulling on the whites as easily as the footy boots. If all goes to plan in the future for the talented teenager, she could be the next Jess Duffin.

Hill finds her voice at Stingrays

DANDENONG Stingrays defender Zoe Hill admits she started the program back in 2017 as a softly-spoken 15-year-old who was still new to football. After all, the year prior was her first season running around with the oblong ball, crossing from basketball to play with some friends at Mt. Eliza. Fast forward three years, and Hill has been able to find her voice through confidence and credits the Stingrays and Vic Country program for enabling her to do that.

“Well I started playing basketball domestic and then I moved up to rep basketball and played for Frankston Blues,” Hill said. “Then a lot of my girl friends were playing footy and I was like ‘oh that sounds pretty cool, seems pretty contact’ because I’m pretty aggressive when I play sport. “So I think I started playing domestic footy for Mt Eliza in 2016 and then the year after is when I got picked up by Stingrays and then it just went on from there.”

Yeah that (Under 16s Vic Country) boosted my confidence a lot more and made me realise that maybe I am a better player than I actually thought I was,” she said. “That made me strive to work harder and train harder and get the best place I could so I could develop further.”

Hill admits that, the support of her Stingrays teammates and coaching staff, gave her the confidence to speak up and lead others. It led her to become a vocal component of Dandenong’s backline in the NAB League Girls competition.

When I first started because I was new, I didn’t really speak much,” Hill said. “I was pretty quiet, I didn’t really feel like I should speak. “But as I got into higher level of footy, I started to use my voice a lot more and that’s when coaches realised I have some good qualities for leadership.”

Like many of her cross-coding cohort, Hill said it was initially a bit daunting getting into football because of the competitiveness, but it did not take long for her to adapt.

Yeah it was definitely a massive jump just how competitive everyone was and just how much more skilled they were,” she said. “But I felt like I fit in pretty easily because I had the skills from basketball and just developed pretty quick with the girls.”

Hill has become renowned as a key position defender who does not only nullify her direct opponent, but can provide offensive rebound out of the back half. Despite her obvious ability inside the defensive 50, Hill had not always been a key defender.

“For my local club at Mt Eliza, I usually played onball because that was the best use for me on the field,” Hill said. “And then once I moved up into high level so Dandenong, they placed me in the backline and that’s when I started to get pocketed into that position because they saw that I worked well and I had the qualities for that position so that’s when they kept me there.”

Hill recognises her second and third efforts and aggressiveness at the contest as some of her major strengths. Her attack on the ball and new-found voice help her lead both by her actions and her words. These traits, coupled with her intercept marking – that she credits crossing from basketball – has allowed her to become a damaging prospect.

Along with those strengths, Hill said her peripheral vision and ability to read the play and know when to intercept was important, but she was still looking to work on her kicking, being a latecomer to the game.

“I got brought into the game later than everyone else so that’s a skill that I never really got to focus on, so I’ve had my coaches work on that with me,” Hill said. “That’s one of the biggest areas I need to work on.”

In the shortened 2020 season, Hill increased her tackling pressure for her numbers to rise to an average of five per game from her three matches, an impressive feat for a defender who is often involved in aerial contests. It further backed up her claims of second and third efforts being a key area of her style.

“That’s (tackling) something that I love doing and that’s my favourite thing about footy, tackling,” she said. “Just from last year, even with training I started working on that and that’s when I started increasing my tackle count this year, which is unfortunate it had to get cut short I guess but that was a main thing to my game this year.”

Indeed the NAB League Girls season and AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships were cut short and cancelled respectively, leaving Hill like many other aspiring draftees, in a state of uncertainty and disappointment.

“I was devastated, just not being able to see the girls,” Hill said. “Not having that team aspect in my life anymore, so I just have to motivate myself and get myself into running on my own. “That’s when I started to get into running and training on my own and having to motivate myself but yeah it was massive. “It was part of my life taken away.”

Hill has been able to keep motivated with her sights set on the upcoming AFL Women’s Draft. With the new found voice and belief in herself, Hill knows she has what it takes to make it to the next level, it just takes hard work. Extra inspiration are the three Stingrays drafted last year in Molly McDonald, Isabella Shannon and Brooke Vernon who led the way for the middle-agers like Hill.

The Stingrays defender, who has won a local league best and fairest, as well as two Mt Eliza best and fairests and a best on ground in a grand final – one of two premierships which she marked as one of her favourite memories – has done plenty in her short football career. Now she is looking long-term to hopefully get picked up in the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft and take her game to another level and beyond.

“(I) Definitely (set) long-term (goals) so I can look to the future and know that I can strive to and throughout the whole year have to try my best and achieve them which this year was to make the draft,” she said.

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Port Adelaide Magpies vs. Dandenong Stingrays

OUR next All-Star Team battle makes for another intriguing quarter final clash, set to play out between powerhouse South Australian and Victorian clubs, in the Port Adelaide Magpies and Dandenong Stingrays respectively. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Collingwood champion and current coach Nathan Buckley (Port Adelaide), and fan favourite goalkicker Brendan Fevola (Dandenong).

These clubs are seeded third (Port Adelaide) and sixth (Dandenong) respectively, with the competition getting as tight as ever. Our proposed Stingrays squad outvoted Central District and West Adelaide, while Port’s path to this stage came through Peel Thunder and the Gippsland Power. The winner will qualify for the semi finals, set to face either South Fremantle or the Geelong Falcons.

>> SCROLL TO VIEW THE FULL TEAMS

TALKING POINTS

THE DEFENSIVE STRUCTURES:

You’ll be hard-pressed to not only find a pair of defences with more talent, but also two sets of six with a better balance than what Port and Dandenong have to offer. They match up so well in size, skill, and versatility, with not one player out of place.

A big tick for the Magpies’ selections is the amount of class apparent, with the flankers and pocketmen all sublime users of the ball. Brownlow medalists Gavin Wanganeen and Andrew McLeod are both just as capable further afield, but fit in nicely alongside Geelong great Corey Enright and Crows cult figure Graham Johncock. Aside from the Wakelin brothers up the spine, the only real knock on Port’s defence is its lack of height, though the defensive combativeness of Enright and Johncock makes up for it.

Dandenong’s back six ticks a lot of boxes too; with a couple of true key position players who can also swing up the other end, a small lockdown option, a runner, a sharp user by foot, and an enforcer. Trent Croad and Justin Leppitsch are the tall options, with Adam McPhee providing added physical presence, while Austinn Jones and Chris Newman are club favourites who can both break the lines and mop up at ground level. Add Michael Hibberd‘s classy ball use on the rebound, and you have a pretty complete defence.

While Port Adelaide’s troops may just take our vote on a pure player-to-player comparison basis, Dandenong’s mix makes them difficult to look past. This is a tough one.

SILK VS. RUNNING POWER:

There are many effective ways to quickly gain meterage, whether it be through efficient disposal, pure running power, or a combination of the two. In reviewing some of the outside movers on either side, it seems they may differ slightly in their attacking methods. For Dandenong, the likes of Lachie Whitfield, Adam Treloar, Dylan Shiel, Tom Scully, and Travis Johnstone all provide a great mix of speed and endurance, able to transfer the ball forward or provide outlets in transition through sheer gut running. Treloar, Shiel, and Johnstone in particular are known to carry the ball, while Scully is your outside endurance machine, and Whitfield boasts arguably the best balance of the lot.

For Port, it’s the silk that shines through. The near-untouchable pairing of McLeod and Wanganeen can carve up the opposition and set up attacks from the back half, combining their speed with phenomenal skill. Enright, too, has a good balance in his game to provide a similar rebounding quality. The quality remains further afield, as both Burgoyne brothers are prolific decision makers with ball in hand, and Byron Pickett a damaging momentum generator. If that kind of class can’t get them through, the Magpies can match Dandenong’s run through midfield too, with Buckley and Craig Bradley able to accumulate and break lines all day long.

THE FORWARD BALANCE:

The ledger may be quite even in an array of areas, but finding small flaws is key to separating such well-matched sides. When viewing the Dandenong forwardline, it may seem like a high-level bunch on paper, but to us it’s only half-perfect. The twin talls in Fevola and Tom Lynch make for an elite combination, especially with Stephen Milne at their feet. But the remaining forwards – Treloar, Shiel, and Shane Savage – just don’t fit the bill in their given positions, despite being great players elsewhere.

This is especially evident when compared to Port Adelaide’s balance, which boasts two true key position targets, but a more complete array of ground level players. Alan Didak and Lindsay Thomas are very crafty in front of goal, while Peter Burgoyne and Brett Ebert are much more true half-forwards. It makes for a better structure up forward, and gives the Magpies a big tick in that department despite Dandenong’s weight of talent on paper.

SUMMARY:

There is plenty to like about both sides, which is exactly why they both feature among our top six seeds. A superior ruck department and serious running power steals some points for Dandenong, but we feel the greater balance and overall class of Port Adelaide’s team is enough to nab our vote in this matchup.

Which All-Star Team do you think would win?
Port Adelaide Magpies
Dandenong Stingrays
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Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Dandenong Stingrays vs. West Adelaide

OUR next All-Star Team battle is between Victoria and Adelaide, as the Dandenong Stingrays and West Adelaide face-off. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Carlton full-forward, Brendan Fevola (Dandenong Stingrays) and Adelaide champion, Mark Ricciuto (West Adelaide).

TEAMS:

These clubs are seeded sixth (Dandenong Stingrays) and 11th (West Adelaide) respectively, forming another Round of 16 clash in our draw. The winner will qualify for the quarter finals, set to face the Port Adelaide Magpies.

STRENGTHS:

The Stingrays have a number of strengths, but it is hard to look past the spine. With Trent Croad and Justin Leppitsch holding down key defensive positions and Tom J. Lynch and Fevola being the twin towers up forward, they have enough talls to control the airways. Further to that, they have one of the best small forwards of all time in Stephen Milne, and a ridiculously deep midfield with Matthew Boyd, Luke Parker and Nathan Jones providing the hardness, and Lachie Whitfield, Adam Treloar and Dylan Shiel providing the run.

The West Adelaide starting 18 is very strong, particularly in midfield and defence. Ben Rutten and Sam Fisher form a stingy key position pairing down back, supported by the likes of Rory Laird and Beau Waters among the six. It gets even better in the engine room, led by skipper Ricciuto, who is joined by fellow Brownlow medalist Adam Cooney on the ball. Adelaide 300-gamer Tyson Edwards is also among the action, while Shaun Rehn was a straightforward choice for the ruck duties.

WEAKNESSES:

The Stingrays do not have too many weaknesses in the line-up with a real honest group of players across the field. If you were to be picky, you would say another small forward or two would be handy, because aside from Milne and Shane Savage – who realistically has been turned into a defender – the Stingrays are relying on their midfielders to rotate up forward.

Scott Welsh featured as an 188cm centre-half forward for the Bloods, though he has swapped with Rhys Stanley up forward, and pure excellence of Tony Modra. While the starting 18 is very solid, West Adelaide’s bench depth is decent, but does not feature as many world beaters.

SUMMARY:

Both these sides have elite key position talent and would have some dream matchups across the field. Dandenong has a bit more depth and a better balance across midfield and in defence, while the Bloods have a more potent small forward line. Expect the Stingrays to win, but it would be close.

Which All-Star Team are you picking?
Dandenong Stingrays
West Adelaide
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All-Star Team of the AFL Draft Era: Which club is the best of the best?

EVERY year, a new crop of AFL Draft talents rise up and make waves at AFL level. Some clubs such as Calder Cannons and Geelong Falcons are referred to as ‘footy factories’. Others are less well known, but nonetheless vital in providing players with their start to the AFL.

Over the past couple of months, Draft Central has gone through all of the NAB League, SANFL and WAFL clubs and tried to determine the best 24-player squad for their respective clubs. The captains and vice-captains were determined by the public through Instagram voting. Now, it is up to the public to decide which All-Star Team is the greatest of the lot. That’s right, the 30 teams from Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia are going head to head in a knockout draw.

Which teams are competing?

NAB League [12]: Bendigo Pioneers, Calder Cannons, Dandenong Stingrays, Eastern Ranges, Geelong Falcons, Gippsland Power, GWV Rebels, Murray Bushrangers, Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers, Sandringham Dragons, Western Jets
SANFL [9]: Central District, Glenelg, North Adelaide, Norwood, Port Adelaide, South Adelaide, Sturt, West Adelaide, Woodville-West Torrens
WAFL [9]: Claremont, East Fremantle, East Perth, South Fremantle, Peel Thunder, Perth, Subiaco, Swan Districts, West Perth

How will it work?

Each day at 10am, we will publish the two All-Star Teams of the AFL Draft era, and the public will be able to vote through the article, Facebook and Twitter, with the overall winner moving through to the next round.

Given there are 30 teams, two sides who we have picked out as the top two seeds – East Fremantle and Geelong Falcons – will have the bye in the opening round, with the other 28 teams seeded appropriately similar to the All-Star Player voting (3rd against 28th, 4th against 27th etc.).

Who is up first?

The first All-Star Team battle is between a couple of metropolitan sides who we have seeded 16th and 17th in the draw. They both have some absolute elite stars, but Calder Cannons and Western Jets will begin the voting on Monday. They will be followed by the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Eastern Ranges on Tuesday, before a cross-state clash sees third seed Port Adelaide Magpies tackle Peel Thunder.

Classic Contests: Coffield winner sees Knights sink the Stingrays

Featured Image: Robert Prezioso/AFL Media/Getty Images

CLASSIC CONTEST

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in our series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at another clash between the NAB League rivals to complete our full series, and today’s battle is between the Dandenong Stingrays and Northern Knights. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2017, when the Knights hosted their county counterparts in an early-season heart-stopper.

2017 TAC Cup, Round 6
Saturday May 6, 10:30am
Preston City Oval

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 0.1 | 5.3 | 6.3 | 10.9 (69)
DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.6 | 5.7 | 7.12 | 9.12 (66)

GOALS:

Northern: J. Shea 4, N. Coffield 2, J. Petruccelle, S. Binion, O. Stapleton, B. Gillard
Dandenong: 
T. De Koning 3, J. Nanscawen 3, R. Piper, L. Young, H. Clark

BEST:

Northern: J. Shea, J. Petruccelle, O. Wilson, S. Binion, J. Grace, M. Andrews
Dandenong: 
A. Paterson, T. Murphy, J. Davies, T. Dekoning, B. Williams, W. Hamill

Draftees in action:

Northern: Nick Coffield, Jack Petruccelle
Dandenong: Hunter Clark, Tom De Koning, Tom Murphy, Lachie Young, Sam Fletcher, Bailey Williams, Will Hamill

>> Scouting Notes: 2017 TAC Cup – Round 6

There wasn’t much splitting the Northern Knights and Dandenong Stingrays as they readied to face-off in Round 6 of the 2017 TAC Cup season. Both regions sat comfortably in the top eight with 3-2 records, but were searching for their first set of consecutive wins having struggled to string together consistent form to that point. Barring a draw, one of the two sides would do so in this game.

A bunch of top-end junior talent missed out on taking to Preston City Oval for the clash, with Northern going in without Patrick Naish and Tom McKenzie, while the likes of Aiden Bonar, Luke Davies-Uniacke, and Oscar Clavarino were among Dandenong’s glaring top-age absentees. Still, quality remained in the form of Nick Coffield and Jack Petruccelle for the home side, with Hunter Clark and Tom De Koning among the most promising Stingrays to feature in the line-up.

Boasting arguably a greater depth of talent, the Stingrays sought to take toll as they began proceedings kicking towards the slightly advantageous end. Two majors was the best they could manage from eight scoring shots, though keeping Northern goalless helped to build a handy quarter-time buffer. After breaking five goals ahead in the second term, that lead was slashed in the as Northern piled on its first five goals to remain just four points adrift at the main break.

The game began to close up a touch in the third period as Dandenong looked to consolidate. The Stingrays boasted a 15-point lead at the last break, and stretched it to 21 in the final term, but the Knights weren’t done yet. Having only managed six goals across the first three quarters, Northern sunk home four late majors to snatch a memorable home victory, with Coffield swinging forward to claim the winning goal. Pressure machine Ollie Wilson also stamped his impact, with the most important of his 11 tackles coming in the dying stages as his Dandenong opponent ran into an open goal.

Jamison Shea was named best for his four-goal performance in the navy, black, and white. Petruccelle was lively with 20 disposals and a goal, while Coffield finished with two majors from 22 touches, and the likes of Mitch Andrews (32 disposals, 12 marks) and Braedyn Gillard (23 disposals, 10 tackles) also made an impact. Angus Paterson was Dandenong’s best with seven marks down back, followed closely by the likes of Tom Murphy (29 disposals) and De Koning (three goals). Fellow draftees Bailey Williams (19 hitouts) and Will Hamill were also named among the best, while Clark racked up 34 touches and laid seven tackles in the loss.

After finally claiming consecutive wins, the Knights would go on to add just three more for the remainder of the season. They finished eighth at 7-10-1, losing convincingly to Oakleigh in their elimination final dig. Dandenong (12-6) improved to third come the end of the regular season, and while the Stingrays pulled off a terrific finals win over Eastern, they were knocked out by eventual premier, Geelong one game away from the Grand Final.