Tag: eliza james

2021-22 AFLW early look: Collingwood

IN an early look at the upcoming AFL Women’s 2021-22 season, Draft Central checks out each of the 14 clubs over the next three weeks ahead of preseason commencing. Next up is Collingwood, a team that kept rising up to within a kick of a grand final, competitive all the way to the end.

LAST SEASON:

Position: 3rd
Wins: 7
Losses: 2
Draws: 0
Points For: 362 (7th)
Points Against: 190 (1st)

After getting a taste of finals in 2020, Collingwood’s rise from 2019 wooden spooners continued into 2021 with seven wins from a possible nine games and a third placed finish. The Magpies might have been lower scorers than other sides (ranked seventh overall), but their defence was better than anyone else in the league, led by the likes of Stacey Livingstone and Ruby Schleicher, who conceded a measly 21.1 points per game throughout the season. Under second year coach Steve Symonds the Magpies came agonisingly close to toppling eventual premiers Brisbane a week before – after a sterling come-from-behind win over North Melbourne in the elimination final – in what was another spirited effort indicative of their season.

OFF-SEASON:

Ins: Sabrina Frederick (Richmond), Alison Downie (Carlton), Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers), Eloise Chaston (Eastern Ranges), Imogen Barnett (Collingwood VFLW)
Outs: Maddie Shevlin (Richmond), Abbey Green, Sharni Norder (retired), Kristy Stratton (delisted)
Inactive: Jordan Membrey

After such a wonderful season, the Magpies did not need to go to the off-season to fetch too many needs, but were required to replace some height with both Abbey Green and Sharni Norder retiring. It meant the Magpies lost two of their key position players, which saw the black and white stripes facilitate a deal that sent Maddie Shevlin to Richmond in exchange for Sabrina Frederick. When veteran Blue Alison Downie was left without a contract, the Magpies snapped up the Carlton ruck to add immediate firepower to the area. Collingwood then headed to the draft with three consecutive picks in the Victorian pool, picking up a couple of players who had already played for the Magpies in the VFLW in Eliza James and Imogen Barnett – the latter of whom won the competition’s leading goalkicker – as well as Eastern Ranges and Hawthorn VFLW forward Elose Chaston, adding plenty of dimensions inside 50 to increase the scoring potency of the club.

2021-22 TEAM LIST:

Sophie Alexander
Jordyn Allen
Imogen Barnett
Brittany Bonnici
Ash Brazill
Tarni Brown
Lauren Butler
Mikala Cann
Sophie Casey
Eloise Chaston
Steph Chiocci
Brianna Davey
Alison Downie
Erica Fowler
Sabrina Frederick
Eliza James
Jaimee Lambert
Joanna Lin
Stacey Livingstone
Chloe Molloy
Abbi Moloney
Aliesha Newman
Ebony O’Dea
Alana Porter
Imogen Purcell
Sarah Rowe
Ruby Schleicher
Aishling Sheridan
Bella Smith
Amelia Velardo

KEY QUESTIONS:

  • Can Sabrina Frederick get back to her best and be the additional key forward the Magpies need to go all the way?
  • Will the stringent defence be able to repeat its stranglehold on the competition in 2021?
  • Going all the way in the VFLW has gained extra experience for the younger AFLW members, what impact will that have on the 2021-22 season?

PREDICTION:

Collingwood was the highest-finishing Victorian team last season and with the changes to the squad lists, there are no reasons why they cannot get there again. Their defence is untouched, they have replaced the talls lost to retirement, and then filled their one perceived area of improvement inside 50 with scorers, and have a well-balanced team list that could be a contender. The Magpies have always provided a challenge over the past two seasons, and with continual players stepping up when required and playing their role each week, the team is capable of a big future, and expect the Magpies to be thereabouts again in 2021-22.

Picture credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

Bunker excited to lead new group out as Magpies eye back-to-back VFLW flags

ONE of only three Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s listed talents in black and white who could become dual premiership players, captain Caitlin Bunker is excited for Collingwood’s grand final clash with Geelong. Having suffered defeat to the Cats three years ago to bow out of the race in straight sets after finishing minor premiers, Collingwood bounced back the following year to win a flag in 2019. After a global pandemic cancelled the hopes of going back-to-back immediately in 2020, the Magpies returned to the field in 2021 as hungry as ever, and have this time gone through undefeated.

“It’s very different,” Bunker said of comparing the 2019 and 2021 seasons. “It was a very different group in 2019. “You know with new people, a new coach and with a season which was cancelled in between, it actually feels like it’s a whole new level of exciting for me.

“But also as I said with this group there’s so many new girls who haven’t actually had the chance to experience finals footy at the VFLW level and we’re all so excited this new group to come together last year and we weren’t given that chance to play, so we’re just so excited, a real opportunity and we get to finish off this season.”

Whilst it is true that the Magpies and Cats both have an opportunity to finish off their seasons, Collingwood heads into the 2021 VFL Women’s decider after a unique 29-day rest since their semi-final victory over Essendon. The Cats have only played the one game in that month-long period as well – also defeating Essendon – but that was last Saturday, giving them a nice touch-up ahead of the big game. For Bunker, the wait has made it challenging, but she is looking on the bright side.

“I think it’s mainly just excitement,” Bunker said of how she was feeling ahead of the weekend. “I mean it’s been a month building up waiting for this moment, the game was meant to be in early July. But the anticipation is really exciting. “We’ve been working hard even though we’ve had a break. “It’s just a really good opportunity that we get to play out the grand final. “Obviously last year the whole season was cancelled so I think we’re all feeling pretty grateful and excited about the chance.

“We’ve still got together on Zoom, and we’ve still met up with each other and been able to have that discussion about our game. “But also we’ve been challenging each other on Strava and going for kicks in our radius with each other and just making that connection as teammates, but also keeping our footy skills up.”

The Magpies and Cats have faced off three times, with Collingwood winning all three, and going through the season without a blemish. Twice, Geelong has got within a kick of the top ranked offensive and defensive side, with Geelong ranked second overall for defence, and finishing second on the ladder. Can the Magpies ensure they finish the Cats off for a fourth time?

“Yeah absolutely, I have to back our group in,” Bunker said. “We’ve played some phenomenal footy all year, but not too much will change for us. “I think we’ve had a process and it’s worked for us every game this year. “I actually don’t think we’ve seen our best footy this year so I’m looking forward to watching our group put that together this weekend.”

Since their last game, three VFLW-listed Magpies have been drafted into the AFL Women’s. Jasmine Ferguson was picked up by North Melbourne, with competition leading goalkicker Imogen Barnett, and livewire forward-midfielder Eliza James remaining in the black and white stripes. When asked about James and the impact she has had on the group since stepping up from the Oakleigh Chargers, Bunker said it was impressive what she has been able to do.

“‘EJs’ an absolute superstar. She played a couple of games with us earlier this year and I mean she was exciting to watch,” Bunker said. “I’m sure you’ve seen her run, her attack on the footy, her ability to finish goals. “She’s someone who’s going to make a huge impact at AFLW level when she’s given that opportunity, but the thing I’m most excited about with the girls who were drafted in the last week were whether they’re playing or not, they’ve just got around the group and they’re just excited to be there.

“I think that’s because of the strong culture and bonds we have at Collingwood and I think you can see that with the AFLW girls who come through to play with us at the VFLW level. “We all play together, we train together, and it’s just exciting to hear the excitement from the AFLW group not just the VFLW group. “But yeah, I can’t wait to see what EJ brings this weekend. She’s a confident kid who’s got an elite kick and she’s going to be exciting to watch this weekend.”

As for a player to watch, Bunker said there was a midfield teammate flying under the radar who had produced an outstanding regular season, who could be a huge key to the Magpies’ success.

“I mean Jazzy, Imo and EJ all got drafted and I think they’ll all play their roles this weekend, but someone that stood out for me this season and someone who has maybe who has been overlooked is Marla Neal,” Bunker said. “She’s one of our midfielders, she’s one of the hardest working players I’ve ever played with. “She’s tenacious, she’s a team person, she plays her role week-in, week-out she’s been building to this moment so I can’t wait to see her this weekend.”

Collingwood locks horns with Geelong at ETU Stadium from 1:15pm on Sunday to determine the 2021 VFL Women’s premier.

2021 AFLW Draft: Club-by-club wrap

THE 2021 AFL Women’s Draft saw 59 players enter the top flight on Tuesday night, with a mix of the nation’s most promising youth, undeniable state league guns, and some recycled elite level talent making up the selections. We recap the hauls from all 14 clubs, and there still may be more to come yet with Carlton and St Kilda opting to pass their final picks, while Geelong’s Millie Brown has been placed on the inactive list.

Adelaide:

#17 Zoe Prowse (Sturt)
#20 Brooke Tonon (Glenelg)
#34 Abbie Ballard (West Adelaide)

Adelaide picked up a three-pronged haul of local talent, spearheaded by another tall in Sturt’s Zoe Prowse. The 177cm ruck has been developing her craft in other positions given the Crows’ strong stocks in said department, but offers great athleticism, aerial ability, and value at their first pick. Three selections later, Adelaide went with a bolter to secure Glenelg prospect Brooke Tonon, a half-back/winger with tenacity and plenty of drive on the outer. Rounding out the crop was Abbie Ballard, a top-age midfielder who remarkably stepped up to skipper West Adelaide in its SANFLW grand final this season, setting the tone with her pressure and contested work.

Brisbane:

#18 Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore)
#35 Bella Smith (Maroochydore)
#46 Mikayla Pauga (Bond University)
#53 Luka Yoshida-Martin (University of Queensland)
#58 Lucinda Puller (Bond University)

Brisbane hauled in a handful of Queenslanders to top up its premiership squad, headlined by three players originally out of the Maroochydore Football Club. The Lions featured with the final pick of the first five rounds, starting with Maggie Harmer at number 18. She’s an intercept defender who can roam further afield, where inside midfielder and pick 35 Bella Smith likes to operate. Fellow Lions Academy graduate Mikayla Pauga was next off the board, a forward-midfielder with natural footballing traits. Brisbane then dipped into the mature-age pool by selecting Luka Yoshida-Martin and Lucinda Puller out of the QAFLW. The former was an exciting forward asset in the University of Queensland’s premiership side, while the latter hails from an elite soccer background and typically plays at the other end of the field.

Carlton:

#10 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)
#11 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)
#23 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)
#26 Imogen Milford (Casey VFLW)
#39 Pass

Poised nicely with two close pairs of picks in the first and second rounds, Carlton stuck to its word by targeting the best available talent, some midfield running power, and forward-line depth. Classy Geelong Falcons defender Annie Lee was first up at pick 10, fitting the ‘best available’ description having slipped passed the Cats’ early picks. She’s a great reader of the play, distributor, and avid Blues fan. Another in the latter category is Keeley Sherar, who was snapped up with the very next pick. Her burst out of the stoppages and athletic upside make for some exciting viewing through midfield. A second Vic Metro representative in Brooke Vickers opened Carlton’s second round account, with the forward-running winger potentially an apt replacement for fellow Oakleigh product Mimi Hill while she recovers from injury. Mature-age forward Imogen Milford was taken at pick 26 out of the VFLW, having booted 19 goals in 15 games for Casey. She could be a readymade replacement for Tayla Harris as Serena Gibbs continues to develop.

Collingwood:

#29 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)
#32 Eloise Chaston (Eastern Ranges)
#33 Imogen Barnett (Collingwood VFLW)

With three selections poised close together, Collingwood nabbed a dynamic crop of players. Eliza James was first up at pick 29, an Oakleigh premiership player who continues the Magpies’ strong connection with the NAB League region. She’s an athletic midfielder-forward who can take a strong mark and hit the scoreboard. A surprise selection came at pick 32 as Eastern Ranges captain Eloise Chaston was snapped up. She’s another dynamic type up forward who boasts a booming kick and moves smoothly. With the very next pick, Collingwood promoted VFLW product Imogen Barnett to its senior list, after she led the competition’s goalkicking for the undefeated Magpies.

Fremantle:

#14 Amy Franklin (Claremont)
#31 Dana East (Swan Districts)
#38 Makaela Tuhakaraina (South Fremantle)
#44 Airlie Runnalls (North Melbourne VFLW)
#52 Jessica Low (Claremont)
#57 Sarah Wielstra (Swan Districts)

Fremantle brought in an equal-high haul of six players on draft night, including five local talents out of the WAFLW and elite talent pathway. Athletic key position utility Amy Franklin was difficult to pass up at pick 14, serving as a player who can get it done aerially at either end of the ground. Fellow state Under 19s representatives Dana East and Makaela Tuhakaraina were next off the board in the 30s, offering inside ball winning class and incredible speed up forward respectively. The Dockers pulled off a Victorian coup with VFLW product Airlie Runnells landing at pick 44. Fremantle liked the 23-year-old’s running ability having broken down her VFLW footage. Jessica Low (pick 52) and Sarah Wielstra (57) rounded out the selections, dipping back into the local pool. Low can play a variety of positions and finally gets her chance as a senior player, while Wielstra offers some forward-ruck support for Mim Strom.

Geelong:

#2 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
#7 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)
#9 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)
#15 Annabel Johnson (Geelong VFLW)

It was no surprise to see Georgie Prespakis head to the Cattery at pick two, and the classy midfielder will be joined by fellow Calder Cannons graduate Zali Friswell. Geelong will hope the two can form a strong centre bounce partnership amid its rebuild, with the two already a very familiar combination. The Cats then picked local with their last two picks, dipping into the Falcons and VFLW talent pools. Athletic forward Gabbi Featherston came at pick nine, with her leap and massive upside at 169cm proving too hard to ignore. 20-year-old multi-sport athlete Annabel Johnson was the Cats’ fourth first round selection, again adding to her new side’s midfield depth.

Gold Coast:

#1 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
#6 Teagan Levi (Bond University)
#8 Ashanti Bush (Hawthorn VFLW)
#30 Giselle Davies (Bond University)

All eyes were on Gold Coast with pick one and it was no surprise to see Oakleigh Chargers premiership captain, Charlie Rowbottom selected first. The powerful midfielder-forward is a contested beast at 179cm and is equally damaging bursting away from stoppages as she is taking big grabs inside attacking 50. Local product Teagan Levi joined her sister Maddison at the Suns with pick six, again adding great athleticism and skill to the engine room. A second Suns Academy graduate in Giselle Davies joined at pick 30 to add some key defensive support, but not before Northern Territory native Ashanti Bush was taken at pick eight. Bush is a damaging forward who also plied her trade with Hawthorn in this year’s VFLW.

Greater Western Sydney:

#37 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)
#49 Jessica Doyle (Sydney Swans Academy)
#55 Brodee Mowbray (Southern Power)
#59 Georgie Fowler (East Coast Eagles)
#60 Casidhe Simmons (UNSW-ES Bulldogs)
#61 Erin Todd (Inner West Magpies)

The GWS GIANTS took the equal most draft selections into the night, and utilised them all, including redrafting Erin Todd with the final selection. The first two picks went as many predicted, with Murray Bushrangers tall and GIANTS Academy member Ally Morphett heading to the club with Pick 37, followed by Sydney Swans Academy member Jess Doyle with the second selection at Pick 49. The pair provide completely different attributes, but make a couple of immediate inclusions in the forward half of the ground. The GIANTS then picked up tackling machine Brodee Mowbray out of the Southern Power, with talented forward Georgie Fowler a big improver in AFL Sydney this year, and former heptathlete Casidhe Simmons being a surprising and unique pick, selected with Pick 60 to round out the large GIANTS’ haul.

Melbourne:

#41 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)
#42 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)
#45 Alison Brown (Casey VFLW)

Melbourne selectors and fans alike had to wait a while for their first pick, but knew what was coming with father-daughter selection Georgia Campbell landing at pick 41. The athletic ruck-forward is an absolute steal at that range, bringing enormous upside and potential to her post. The Dees went tall again with the very next pick, snapping up Campbell’s Vic Metro teammate Tahlia Gillard out of the Calder Cannons. Gillard uses her 189cm frame to advantage in the ruck but is also versatile enough to roll forward and clunk big marks. Rounding out the trio was mature-ager Alison Brown, a player with experience at two different AFLW clubs. Originally a Blue and then a Saint, she comes out of the Demons’ VFLW program where she settled in defence but showed good versatility.

North Melbourne:

#13 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
#19 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)
#28 Kim Rennie (Western Bulldogs)
#43 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)
#51 Jasmine Ferguson (Collingwood VFLW)
#56 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

The third side to take six selections in the 2021 draft, North Melbourne picked up some absolute bargains and a strong mix of experience and youth. The youth came early with Geelong Falcons midfielder Tess Craven taken at pick 13, a wonderful addition to the Roos’ already strong midfield who can crack in at the coalface, but also works hard to accumulate and make good decisions around the ground. Tara Slender may well be the steal of the draft at pick 19, with the athletic tall able to play at either end or through midfield. She may take some time to settle at senior level, but her best is elite. The Roos finally secured Kim Rennie‘s services at pick 28, having not struck a deal with the Western Bulldogs during trade period. She brings some much-needed key position experience and strength. Perri King and Ella Maurer were the Tasmanians North Melbourne opted for; King is arguably a first round talent with a terrific blend of class and tackling grunt in midfield, while Maurer is another midfielder with promising traits. Collingwood VFLW product Jasmine Ferguson landed between them at pick 51, showcasing the Roos’ intent in gaining mature talent en route to premiership contention.

Richmond:

#5 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)
#16 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)
#48 Meagan Kiely (North Melbourne VFLW)
#50 Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons)
#54 Akec Makur Chuot (Richmond)

Richmond addressed its need for midfield depth with four fresh faces, and the redrafting of defender Akec Makur Chuot. Oakleigh Chargers premiership player Stella Reid came at pick five, with the utility offering consistent ball winning prowess, running power, and scoreboard presence on each line. Fellow Vic Metro representative Emelia Yassir matches the Tigers’ tenacity and is a handy addition at pick 16, providing class at ground level. Richmond then went for a mature-ager in Meagan Kiely with pick 48, who proved too good to overlook after a stellar VFLW campaign with North Melbourne. She’s ready to slot straight into midfield. Geelong Falcons winger Ingrid Houtsma was the last fresh selection at pick 50, brining a good deal of athleticism and versatility to the mix.

St Kilda:

#4 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)
#12 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)
#36 Pass

St Kilda was in and out of this draft in a flash, taking two first round selections before passing at pick 36. The Saints sured up their forwardline with the selection of Ella Friend, a contested marking phenom out of the GWV Rebels who can also roll up to a wing. She could prove a great fold for Caitlin Greiser at 175cm. At pick 12, Ashleigh Richards keeps the Dandenong-St Kilda link alive as somewhat of a surprise selection, though she has proven herself at every level. The 17-year-old can rotate through midfield from the forwardline and has great footy smarts, as well as her obvious versatility and leadership quality as the Stingrays’ 2021 co-captain.

West Coast:

#3 Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco)
#21 Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder)
#24 Beth Schilling (Peel Thunder)
#40 Sarah Lakay (Swan Districts)
#47 Emily Bennett (Claremont)

West Coast pulled off arguably the night’s first surprise by snapping up Charlotte Thomas with pick three. The AFLW Academy member only played one game this year due to a wrist injury, but had previously shown enormous talent at 175cm with her clean skills and reading of the play. Courtney Rowley was a steal at pick 21, the third of Western Australia’s pool, and is a bundle of energy on both sides of midfield. Tall stocks were next on the agenda as the Eagles took Beth Schilling and Sarah Lakay. Both are athletic, with Schilling more of a key defensive type, while Lakay is a developing forward-ruck. Emily Bennett got her chance at pick 47 after missing out last year, proving hard to deny after a consistent campaign. The rebounding defender capped off a strong haul for the Eagles.

Western Bulldogs:

#22 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)
#25 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
#27 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)

Having previously featured heavily at the top end of the draft, the Western Bulldogs got to sit back and watch others select first in the Victorian pool, ending up with three high value picks within the 20s. Two of them were 19th-year talents who came back after being overlooked in 2020, starting with Amanda Ling. The Oakleigh Chargers midfielder was best afield in her side’s NAB League grand final triumph, and is a tenacious worker on the inside with clean hands and a sound work rate. Elizabeth Snell (pick 27) was the other 2002-born prospect to land at the Kennel, bringing a touch of speed and great character to the midfield-forward rotation. In between those selections, Murray Bushrangers best and fairest Aurora Smith slid to pick 25, proving a high-value choice for the Bulldogs. She balances her game well on both sides of midfield and again has a handy burst of speed, adding to her level of consistency.

Image Credit: Gold Coast SUNS via Twitter

2021 AFLW Draft: Every club’s selection

THE 2021 AFL Women’s Draft saw 59 players enter the elite level; from the fresh faces out of elite junior pathways, to state league guns who finally get their chance, and even a few mature-agers who have earned second chances in the top flight. There were plenty of surprises throughout the eight rounds of selections, but as expected, Oakleigh Chargers midfielder-forward Charlie Rowbottom was the first player picked and will soon jet up to join the Gold Coast SUNS.

Check out the full order of selections below, with plenty of analysis and club-by-club breakdowns to come on Draft Central.

ROUND 1:

#1 Gold Coast – Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
#2 Geelong – Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
#3 West Coast – Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco)
#4 St Kilda – Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)
#5 Richmond – Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)
#6 Gold Coast – Teagan Levi (Bond University)
#7 Geelong – Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)
#8 Gold Coast – Ashanti Bush (Hawthorn VFLW)
#9 Geelong – Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)
#10 Carlton – Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)
#11 Carlton – Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)
#12 St Kilda – Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)
#13 North Melbourne – Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
#14 Fremantle – Amy Franklin (Claremont)
#15 Geelong – Annabel Johnson (Geelong VFLW)
#16 Richmond – Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)
#17 Adelaide – Zoe Prowse (Sturt)
#18 Brisbane – Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore)

ROUND 2:

#19 North Melbourne – Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)
#20 Adelaide – Brooke Tonon (Glenelg)
#21 West Coast – Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder)
#22 Western Bulldogs – Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)
#23 Carlton – Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)
#24 West Coast – Beth Schilling (Peel Thunder)
#25 Western Bulldogs – Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
#26 Carlton – Imogen Milford (Casey VFLW)
#27 Western Bulldogs – Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)
#28 North Melbourne – Kim Rennie (Western Bulldogs)
#29 Collingwood – Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)
#30 Gold Coast – Giselle Davies (Bond University)
#31 Fremantle – Dana East (Swan Districts)
#32 Collingwood – Eloise Chaston (Eastern Ranges)
#33 Collingwood – Imogen Barnett (Collingwood VFLW)
#34 Adelaide – Abbie Ballard (West Adelaide)
#35 Brisbane – Bella Smith (Maroochydore)

ROUND 3:

#36 St Kilda – Pass
#37 GWS – Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)
#38 Fremantle – Makaela Tuhakaraina (South Fremantle)
#39 Carlton – Pass
#40 West Coast – Sarah Lakay (Swan Districts)
#41 Melbourne – Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)
#42 Melbourne – Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)
#43 North Melbourne – Perri King (Tasmania Devils)
#44 Fremantle – Airlie Runnalls (North Melbourne VFLW)
#45 Melbourne – Alison Brown (Casey VFLW)
#46 Brisbane – Mikayla Pauga (Bond University)

ROUND 4:

#47 West Coast – Emily Bennett (Claremont)
#48 Richmond – Meagan Kiely (North Melbourne VFLW)
#49 GWS – Jessica Doyle (Sydney Swans Academy)
#50 Richmond – Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons)
#51 North Melbourne – Jasmine Ferguson (Collingwood VFLW)
#52 Fremantle – Jessica Low (Claremont)
#53 Brisbane – Luka Yoshida-Martin (University of Queensland)

ROUND 5:

#54 Richmond – Akec Makur Chuot (Richmond)
#55 GWS – Brodee Mowbray (Southern Power)
#56 North Melbourne – Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)
#57 Fremantle – Sarah Wielstra (Swan Districts)
#58 Brisbane – Lucinda Puller (Bond University)

ROUND 6:

#59 GWS – Georgie Fowler (East Coast Eagles)

ROUND 7:

#60 GWS – Casidhe Simmons (UNSW-ES Bulldogs)

ROUND 8:

#61 GWS – Erin Todd (Inner West Magpies)

Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Draft Central AFLW Draft Power Rankings – Nationwide: July 2021

AFTER releasing the Draft Central AFLW Draft Power Rankings – Victorian Pool last month, we have gone one step further to include the entire nation. Not only will the Power Rankings feature the Victorians from last month, but the top stars from across the country to give an indication of where they might be rated if the AFL Women’s Draft was truly national. Note that the Power Rankings to do not take into account any draft selections, and are more an opinion-based ranking system on the draft prospects.

We have also not included any players who have previously been on an AFLW list, just undrafted or now draft-eligible players. Please note the rankings are the opinion of the author.

>> Draft Central AFLW Draft Power Rankings – Victorian Pool: June 2021

 

Georgie Prespakis

#1 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
13/03/2003 | 168cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Ball-winning, tackling, quick hands, footy IQ

The most consistent prospect across the board and has been touted as a star from her debut as a 15-year-old two and a half years ago. There she dominated up forward with 13 goals in 10 games, averaging a massive 22.6 disposals and 5.6 tackles to win the league best and fairest at just 16 years of age. Her numbers have remained consistent going into the middle, and whilst she almost always gets close attention from the opposition, Prespakis is a renowned tackler with 8.8 per game in her top-age season. Her ball winning ability and strength to win the pill at the stoppage and extract it away, as well as have an impact forward of centre, are among her strengths. In terms of improvements, sometimes she can rush the kicks around her body, but she is able to get to enough repeat stoppages, to have more influence than most others.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #1

AFLW Draft notes:

There was always the weigh up for Geelong between Prespakis and Rowbottom with the pair the two clear standout Victorian talents. Now that Rowbottom has opted to go to Queensland, the Cats are expected to pounce on Prespakis with Pick 2.

Charlie Rowbottom

#2 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
22/01/2003 | 178cm
Inside Midfielder/Tall Forward

Key strengths: Contested marking, tackling, strength, upside

The powerful, tall inside midfielder has already proven to be a difficult player to try and contain across four quarters, able to win a game off her own boot when up and about. So strong in the air and at ground level, Rowbottom averaged 7.1 tackles to go with 17.6 disposals and 2.8 marks in season 2021, also booting 10 goals in 11 games. Whilst long-term the sister of Sydney’s James will become a midfielder, expect her to be a tall forward who can kick multiple goals in a game. Her upside is one of the best in the draft crop, and her versatility makes her damaging. Her kicking both in-field and on goal is an area of improvement, but her ability to do all the hard stuff – from winning the ball, tackling and clunking the important marks – more than makes up for the ironing out process that will happen with time. An exciting talent for the future.

State-based Pool Ranking (Queensland): #1

AFLW Draft notes:

Rowbottom pulled off the surprise of the AFL Women’s Draft when it was announced she would nominate Queensland, opening the door for Gold Coast with Pick 1. Expect the Suns and new coach Cameron Joyce to be thrilled to pick up Rowbottom with Teagan Levi to bolster the midfield.

Teagan Levi

#3 Teagan Levi (Bond University/Queensland)
14/08/2003 | 169cm
Inside Midfielder

Key strengths: Athleticism, strength, kicking, game sense

Touted as the top Gold Coast Suns Academy member, Levi has been an exciting talent for a couple of years now. A bottom-age AFLW Academy member, Levi has all the traits to become a really dominant inside midfielder. A more precise kick than the top two Victorians, Levi also has the athleticism to boot, and whilst she does not have the versatility that Prespakis and Rowbottom have yet, Levi is such a complete inside midfielder with high-level footy smarts that will enable her to add more strings to her bow as she develops. Unfortunately, Levi only got the one AFLW Under 19 Championships game, picking up 17 disposals, six clearances, five tackles, two inside 50s and two rebounds in Queensland’s loss to Vic Country.

State-based Pool Ranking (Queensland): #2

AFLW Draft notes:

Levi was hot favourite to be selected with Pick 1 until Rowbottom nominated Queensland, but it will not matter to the talented midfielder, with the pair set to help fast-track Gold Coast’s rebuild up the AFLW ladder.

Courtney Rowley

#4 Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)
24/09/2003 | 167cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Speed, clean hands, marking, kicking

Heading west for the fourth placed spot, Peel Thunder’s Courtney Rowley is similar to Levi with a more outside than inside ability. Whilst the talented teenager proved she could also play inside at the AFLW Under 19 Championships, her ball use and athleticism lends itself to be a slick outside talent who can go inside when needed a la Georgia Patrikios. With such a well balanced profile from her ball use, evasion, overhead strength and versatility – being able to play in any third of the ground – Rowley is definitely one of the more complete players going around. Ready to step straight up to senior level having already won a club best and fairest at Peel Thunder at 15-years-old and played through back-to-back premiers sides – though only won the one flag due to injury late this season – Rowley can compete against bigger-bodied players.

State-based Pool Ranking (Western Australia): #1

AFLW Draft notes:

Despite being the standout West Australian talent in our eyes, West Coast will weigh up whether to go tall or small with the first pick, with Amy Franklin the other considered. Rowley is very deserving of the first West Australian selection, but if not, then her name will be off the board at the next WA pick to the Dockers.

Zoe Prowse

#5 Zoe Prowse (Sturt/South Australia)
03/07/2003 | 177cm
Ruck

Key strengths: Athleticism, versatility, clean hands, tackling pressure

Able to get it done in the air or at ground level, Zoe Prowse is just as capable at any role thrown at her. Whilst traditionally being a ruck credit to her athleticism and clean hands, Prowse has trialled as a midfielder at SANFLW level, and also up forward as a marking tall. Able to clunk big grabs, and if not, bring the ball to ground and lay fierce tackles, Prowse is the most complete ruck in the draft. Despite standing a touch under the average ruck height at 177cm – in fact two centimetres smaller than midfielder Rowbottom – Prowse more than makes up for it with her vertical leap. Having the ruck smarts to get the ball to advantageous spots for her teammates, expect the Sturt prospect to be really clean when getting her chance at AFLW level.

State-based Pool Ranking (South Australia): #1

AFLW Draft notes:

Adelaide do not need to compete for any players, and whilst curve balls can be thrown at state-based drafts, expect Prowse’s name to be the one the Crows look to first as the player who has been the most consistent over the past few years.

#6 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
03/11/2003 | 175cm
Tall Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, contested marking, footy smarts, positioning

Despite a somewhat interrupted season for the AFL Women’s Academy member, playing only the five games due to injury and AFLW Under 19s Championships commitments, Slender still showed why she is a top-end prospect; stepping up from her role as a rebounding intercept defender, to be a forward and midfielder this year in a remarkable display of versatility. Arguably the NAB League Girls’ Most Valuable Player for her side, the Pioneers were a far better team with her in it, and averaging a massive 4.2 marks as well as 5.2 tackles along with her 16.2 disposals shows she has no trouble winning the ball in the air, one-on-one or at ground level. A natural leader co-captaining the Pioneers, Slender could fill any role at AFL Women’s level and has some great upside for the future as well.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #2

AFLW Draft notes:

Slender is one of the most unique and versatile players in the AFLW Draft crop. Whilst the first handful of picks might be midfielders, Slender has already shown she can roll through the midfield if need be, and should not be off the board too long.

#7 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
10/09/2003 | 173cm
Medium Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, spread, skills, goal sense

A natural ball-winner with a slick left foot and smooth-moving ability, Reid has proven she can play on all three lines of the field. Starting off half-back and pushing up to a wing, Reid finished her season up forward and ended up slotting 15 goals in 11 games, including three in Oakleigh’s premiership win. She averaged 1.4 goals for the season from 20.1 disposals, 4.5 marks and 3.2 inside 50s per game, looked to as a key player to move the ball in transition. She used it well by hand or foot and was able to find space with ease. Multiple times a game Reid would make you wonder how she got in so much space even when tearing it up, but credit to her work rate and smarts to be able to find the open space and then punish the opposition through either her disposal or on the scoreboard.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #3

AFLW Draft notes:

Much like Slender, Reid is as versatile as they come, but from an outside sense. She can play at half-back, half-forward or on a wing, and hits the scoreboard regularly, and that will appeal to clubs. It is anticipated she will be in the first half-dozen Victorian picks alongside her teammates Rowbottom and Amanda Ling.

Ella Friend

#8 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
30/12/2003 | 175cm
Tall Forward/Wing

Key strengths: Contested marking, mobility, upside, penetrating kick

The top contested marking player in the draft crop, Friend will be a highly sought after talent for her ability to not only clunk the big grabs, but use her penetrating left boot in both the midfield and forward lines. Transitioning from centre half-forward to a wing in the second half of the season, Friend showcased her mobility and her knack for for winning the ball in multiple areas of the field. Only two days away from being a bottom-ager, expect Friend to have plenty of upside left in her and would be a great target for a team needing a key target up forward who can also work hard up the ground. She averaged the 16.0 disposals, 4.3 marks and 2.9 tackles per game in the 2021 season, and slotted two goals on debut for the Western Bulldogs’ VFLW side. A good size at 175cm to play anywhere on the ground.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #4

AFLW Draft notes:

Friend is the dominant key position forward available in the draft, and with safe hands and athleticism to move up the ground, she could easily be considered in the first couple of selections. With the Cats on the lookout for a tall and having multiple picks in the region, she will no doubt be on their radar.

#9 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
20/11/2003 | 166cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Kicking, marking, courage, footy IQ

A really smart player who knows the game well and reads the play behind the ball, Anthony was a member of the AFL Women’s Academy as a bottom-age talent last year. She showed why through an outstanding yet interrupted season, copping a couple of concussions – including in Vic Country’s win over South Australia at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships – to still perform at a high level. She won Vic Country’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, and proved through her actions to be an incredibly courageous player. Whilst standing at 166cm, Anthony is not afraid to go up in the marking contest and bring the ball down, and when she does have ball-in-hand, her kicking is outstanding. A talent who teammates can trust with ball-in-hand, and she has spent time up forward as well at times, kicking a goal in the Stingrays’ loss to the Geelong Falcons in finals.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #5

AFLW Draft notes:

The Vic Country MVP winner is one of the better ball users in the Victorian crop and with Carlton among those with back-to-back picks early, Anthony could be a player the Blues look to in order to fill that need.

Amy Franklin

#10 Amy Franklin (Claremont/Western Australia)
04/02/2003 | 177cm
Key Position Utility

Key strengths: Athleticism, overhead marking, versatility, upside

The other West Australian vying for the first picked from the state is the high-upside, talented tall in Franklin. Able to pull down some strong grabs at either end of the field, Franklin has athleticism rarely seen in a tall and is a marquee talent long-term. Still raw in some areas and looking to improve her ground balls, Franklin’s ability to mark, turn and go, not only able to keep distance on opponents but often create separation, is remarkable for a player of her size. She has a long kick and is able to hit the scoreboard regularly when inside 50. Whilst still able to impact in defence, and is more than capable of taking on a task at either end of the field, she looms as a future key forward, and her forward craft is very good, able to judge the ball in flight, outbody her opponent then get goal side to kick majors.

State-based Pool Ranking (Western Australia): #2

AFLW Draft notes:

No doubt Franklin will come into consideration for West Coast’s first selection given how hard talented, athletic key position players are to find. If the Eagles swoop on Rowley, expect the Dockers to very quickly read out Franklin’s name, and a pairing of Franklin and Roxy Roux is nightmare-fuelled for any opposition defence.

Jess Doyle

#11 Jess Doyle (Sydney Swans Academy/NSW-ACT)
15/09/2003 | 170cm
Medium Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Clean hands, one-on-ones, competitiveness, forward craft

The smooth-moving Sydney Swans Academy member out of the Manly Warringah Wolves has that touch of class about her whether it is inside 50 or through the midfield. Possessing clean hands and an ability to create space for herself, Doyle can win the ball on the lead or at ground level and do a lot of damage. Eyeing off improving her endurance for the future, her competitiveness and forward craft inside 50 makes her such a talent for the future. Still plenty to learn, expect her to play from early on to fast-track her development against senior bodies as she has already developed at a rapid rate competing at the next step up from local football through the AFLW Under 19 Championships. One to watch for the long-term and no doubt one that the Swans will be eyeing off when they enter the league.

State-based Pool Ranking (NSW-ACT): #1

AFLW Draft notes:

Without Sydney having a team as of yet, the talented Doyle falls in the GIANTS hands for now, and will be an incredible steal given the GIANTS do not have a pick until the third round. Expect Doyle to either be taken with the first or second pick, depending if the GIANTS opt for their own Academy talent in Ally Morphett first.

#12 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
23/12/2003 | 163cm
Inside Midfielder

Key strengths: Clearances, accumulation, consistency, footy IQ

Arguably the best pure inside midfielder in the Victorian pool, Craven has had quite the season for the Falcons. She won the Falcons’ best and fairest award, averaging 21.1 disposals, 4.4 marks, 3.3 inside 50s, 2.0 rebound 50 and 3.9 tackles, then played the two games with Vic Country for 20.5 disposals, 6.0 clearances and 5.0 tackles. She is an inside ball winner and one who can extract it out of the contest going forward. She is smaller than other inside midfielders at 163cm, but she can gain separation at the stoppage and has the footy smarts to be able to use the ball well under pressure. She is also clean and gets her hands dirty at ground level, which is something that stands out in her game at any level.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #6

AFLW Draft notes:

Geelong holds the number one Victorian pick in the draft crop, and whilst they do tend to look to local talent, expect them to gamble Craven will be there with their next selection. Having multiple picks inside the first round, the Cats could bring Craven in straight away to step up, but the question will be whether another club such as St Kilda or Carlton look to pounce and derail the Cats’ plans.

#13 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
09/07/2002 | 161cm
Inside Midfielder

Key strengths: Clean hands, acceleration, endurance, work rate

The first 19th year prospect to feature in this list, Ling has had an outstanding season and shown why the move to an Under 19s competition was important. Despite standing at just 161cm, she is hard to bring down, very slippery in tackles and always able to get her hands free. She is really clean with her hands, and can burst away with a mix of acceleration and endurance, capped off by a high work rate through the midfield. She averaged 17.9 disposals, 2.2 marks, 6.5 tackles and 3.2 inside 50s in season 2021 for the Oakleigh Chargers, whilst playing the two games for Vic Metro thus far, averaging 16 disposals and six tackles. Already managing a game at VFLW level for Port Melbourne and not looking out of place, Ling showed she is a big-game player by taking home the best afield medal in the 2021 NAB League Girls Grand Final.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #7

AFLW Draft notes:

Expect Ling to be the bolter of the AFLW Draft. Whilst long considered inside the Top 10 Victorian prospects at the close of the NAB League Girls season, the 19-year-old Ling could well be taken second in the Victorian pool with St Kilda strongly considering the young gun. If they choose not to, it is hard seeing her slip past Carlton with the Blues’ back-to-back picks given Ling’s obvious appeal and meeting their clean inside needs.

Annie Lee

#14 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
28/08/2003 | 169cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Marking, rebounding, consistency, composure

The reliable rebounding defender barely put a foot wrong all season and was a player her teammates could rely upon to use the ball well out of defence. Her strengths were clearly her intercept marking, where she latched onto 5.1 marks per game to go with 16.9 disposals and 4.5 rebound 50s. Already she has managed the two games at VFLW level, and was outstanding for Vic Country in her three games, holding up the fort in defence well and providing some good rebound with almost five rebound 50s per game there. At 169cm she can play against tall or small opponents because she reads the ball well in flight and shows good composure when with it. As a whole, Lee just ticks a lot of boxes in terms of what she is capable of doing.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #8

AFLW Draft notes:

One would think Geelong would be eyeing off Lee as another home grown talent, but with so many Falcons and other clubs ready to pounce, it will be interesting to see where he lands. Very consistent and in our Phantom Draft lasted to the Western Bulldogs at Pick 22, which anything in that range is a steal. Expect her to be snapped up earlier, however.

#15 Perri King (Tasmania Devils/Allies)
25/08/2003 | 170cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Acceleration, tackling, clearances, accumulation

The sole Tasmanian AFL Women’s Academy member has the best balance between offensive and defensive capabilities, not only able to average 19.7 disposals and 4.2 inside 50s, but she amassed a whopping 9.4 tackles per game for the Devils in the NAB League Girls competition. On debut for North Melbourne VFLW she laid another seven tackles to go with 15 touches, and had the 10.5 tackles with 14.5 disposals, at the AFLW Under 19 Championships. But there is more to King than just ball-winning and tackling, with the athletic talent able to burst out of the stoppage and extract from tight situations. At times could add a touch more composure with her kicking, but her upside compiled with her well-balanced, two-way running is what makes her an outstanding prospect and rounding out the top 10.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria/Tasmania): #9

AFLW Draft notes:

Whilst King fits a different nomination under the Tasmanian group, she is still included in this as the ninth top prospect for the state. All that means is that North Melbourne – who can take her at any stage given the Tasmanian link – will walk away with a steal. In the Phantom Draft she was taken at Pick 45 as an example of where she could go in the draft, but ignore the number, she is right in the mix among the top players.

#16 Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore/Queensland)
12/04/2003 | 170cm
Medium Defender/Wing

Key strengths: Reading the play, intercepting, marking, athleticism

The talented Maroochydore prospect and AFL Women’s Academy member is a well-balanced talent who has a mix of offensive and defensive traits. She reads the ball well in flight, is able to hold onto grabs and is able to drive the ball forward in transition. Setting up at half-back, Harmer is a good size at 170cm to beat most opponents one-on-one, and whilst she is hoping to build her ground ball ability more, her aerial work is strong. A handy athleticism with a balance of speed, agility and endurance make her hard to stop, and she is someone who can roll onto a wing and then provide that key link moving the ball inside 50, able to pinpoint passes well. There is a lot of upside with Harmer making her one to watch for the long-term as well as the short-term.

State-based Pool Ranking (Queensland): #3

AFLW Draft notes:

With the top two Queensland pool talents in Rowbottom and Levi heading to the Suns, Harmer is in the mix to be the first called out for the Brisbane Lions on AFLW Draft night. Along with Mikayla Pauga, Harmer is also an AFLW Academy member and one whop has shown great signs over the years, so expect no hesitation from the Lions to bring her into their senior program.

Gypsy Schirmer

#17 Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide/South Australia)
18/02/2003 | 178cm
Tall Utility

Key strengths: Acceleration, goal sense, contested work, overhead marking

A versatile tall with terrific athleticism, Schirmer is capable in all thirds of the ground, Starting as a forward throughout her bottom-age years, Schirmer proved she could be damaging around goal be it winning possession in the air or at ground level. Over the past 12 months, Schirmer pushed into the midfield, predominantly on the wing, but also won plenty of contested ball in close. Being able to win the hard or loose ball, Schirmer then went into defence late in the year for South Adelaide where she showcased her breakneck acceleration and was able to create fast ball movement in transition. Expect her to be more of a forward to start with at the top level, but the AFL Women’s Academy member certainly has potential to become a midfielder long-term.

State-based Pool Ranking (South Australia): #2

AFLW Draft notes:

Much like Prowse, Adelaide can select Schirmer unopposed, and as another AFLW Academy member and player with high upside, expect her to be one the Crows snap up with their selections.

#18 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
13/12/2003 | 165cm
Wing

Key strengths: Speed, work rate, accumulation, outside game

The premier pure wing in the NAB League Girls competition bounced back from a quiet game against Vic Metro in the AFLW Under 19 Championships, to really dominate in her final two outings against South Australia and Queensland. She knows how to find the ball and is a natural running wing which she showcased all year for Murray Bushrangers. Another player whom given an extra month would be a bottom-ager, really impressed in her draft-eligibly year, averaging 20.7 disposals – almost double what her prior two seasons were. She drove the ball inside 50 four times per game, and had more than two rebound 50s per match as well, providing great run and carry down the wing going forward, something that really caught the eye on a regular basis.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #10

AFLW Draft notes:

Smith is one of the best outside running options in the draft, and one would expect a team like Carlton or Richmond to look at the Murray talent, with her finding a home somewhere in the first two rounds given her unique traits and ability to break the game open from that specialist wing position.

#19 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
01/09/2003 | 182cm
Ruck/Key Forward

Key strengths: Ruck work, mobility, forward presence, high impact

The upside for father-daughter eligible prospect Georgia Campbell is quite impressive, with the talented ruck able to rest up forward for parts during games due to Eastern Ranges’ abundance of rucks. There she was still able to kick five goals in eight games to go with her 20.9 hitouts, and also slotted a goal for Vic Metro while averaging a higher 12 disposals, and 12 hitouts at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. The Western Bulldogs supporter is eligible to go to the Dogs, or Melbourne, and will be nominated in the near future. She has great mobility for a ruck and can get around the ground and be an option, and also provide a good presence when inside 50 which makes her difficult to contain.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #11

AFLW Draft notes:

Already signed by Melbourne after the Western Bulldogs supporter opted for the Dees, Campbell will be taken with Pick 42 in the draft – the Demons first – under the father-daughter matching rules. It will be one of the steals of the draft given in an open draft, Campbell could well have been snapped up in the first round.

#20 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
07/01/2003 | 175cm
Tall Defender/Wing

Key strengths: Speed, power, reading the play, intercepting

The running defender has some seriously eye-catching traits with her combination of acceleration and power making her hard to slow down when she is up and about. A traditional half-back, Dojiok can read the ball in flight with ease and float across contests to intercept, or drop into the hole when a high ball comes into defence. She knows where to stand when the play is headed towards her and her metres gained are massive compared to a lot of her contemporaries. She is often a get-and-go player, always looking to move on the ball, and whilst her kicking at times needs sharpening up, her development over the past few years at the Rebels has certainly improved and makes her one of the better intercept defenders going around.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #12

AFLW Draft notes:

The athletic defender will attract plenty of attention as the quickest half-back with height available in the Victorian pool. She could end up with her VFL Women’s side the Western Bulldogs, though Richmond is another side that is in the Dojiok range that could look for speed and see her as a tall midfielder of the future.

Mikayla Pauga

#21 Mikayla Pauga (Bond University/Queensland)
10/04/2003 | 161cm
Medium Forward

Key strengths: Clean hands, ground balls, acceleration, game sense

The Maroochydore talent moved to Bond University under the Riewoldt Family Scholarship to study, and has enjoyed a more consistent 2021 after being plagued by injuries of late. She has the class and cleanliness by hand or foot to do a lot of damage in the forward half, and whilst Pauga needs to build her endurance, she has high footy IQ that makes her read situations well when roaming inside or outside of the forward 50. Able to win the ball aerially or at ground level, Pauga is one who had more of a decision on her hands that most Queenslanders having made the move to the Gold Coast despite being in the Brisbane Lions Academy, but has opted for the Lions zone, continuing her pathway through the club over the years.

State-based Pool Ranking (Queensland): #4

AFLW Draft notes:

Having nominated Brisbane as her zone, Lions staff and supporters will be relieved and pleased to pick up the AFLW Academy member be it with their first or second selection alongside fellow AFLW Academy Harmer.

#22 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
25/09/2003 | 160cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Contested work, aggression, disposal, high impact

Bursting onto the scene as a 15-year-old during Calder Cannons’ run to the 2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final, Yassir played 11 games in her debut season to hold her own against much older opponents. In her top-age year, Yassir lifted her numbers to 16.7 disposals, 3.9 tackles and 3.1 inside 50s to be a crucial player in the Cannons’ forward half of the ground. Her contested work and aggression around the football makes her a player that would do anything to win the football and shows a high level of football nous, along with high impact in the games. She will generally use it well going forward, and whilst she might only be the 160cm, could settle as a midfielder or defensive forward with her traits and skillset.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #13

AFLW Draft notes:

Yassir is a player who could go first or second round depending on the club’s needs. She has a lot of potential for the future and might be one Carlton looks to with its back-to-back picks, with North Melbourne and Richmond around the right region, and even the Western Bulldogs having a few selections together.

#23 Brooke Tonon (Glenelg/South Australia)
19/09/2003 | 166cm
Medium Defender/Wing

Key strengths: Athleticism, kicking, aggression, versatility

After being a bit-parts player all over the field for Glenelg in her bottom-age year, Tonon found her home off half-back and playing up on a wing at times. Her ability to read the game, win the ball and use it well out of defence became her niche, and she went on to have a sensational year, cementing her place in the Bays’ best side and winning a SANFL Women’s flag in the process. Whilst her AFLW Under 19 Championships was cut short following a red card from a tackle, Tonon showed enough to suggest that she has built a profile more than capable of stepping up to the next level both with ball-in-hand and off the ball.

State-based Pool Ranking (South Australia): #3

AFLW Draft notes:

After the two AFLW Academy members, the Crows have quite the decision on their hands, but on form in 2021, Tonon is a player who has arguably stepped up the most to be third in the ranks with her clean ball use and decision making off half-back or further afield. Included in the Academy as a late entry post-championships, the medium defender has plenty to like for the future.

Gabbi Featherston

#24 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
12/11/2003 | 169cm
Medium Forward/Ruck

Key strengths: Vertical leap, penetrating kick, aggression, upside

Standing at 169cm you would not expect someone to be listed as a ruck, but such is Featherston’s leaping ability that she has indeed become a secondary ruck at NAB League Girls level. Pinch-hitting in there to average 4.3 hitouts per game, Featherston is at her most dominant around the half-forward line where she can lead out, clunk grabs and show great courage in the air or at ground level. Whilst she could improve her composure around goal – she had plenty of chances that were opportunities which went begging – her ability to have so many chances and create opportunities is impressive. She is a raw talent with plenty of upside, and with a long, penetrating kick and strong hands, she is a valuable addition to any forward line.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #14

AFLW Draft notes:

Featherston has the potential to be a bolter or slider in the draft depending on where clubs see her. She has enormous potential given her athletic traits, and ability to play anywhere. Geelong might want to bring in another Falcon, though with so many Falcons in the pool, Featherston might be on that a team such as North Melbourne or the Western Bulldogs look to for a forward option. No doubt Collingwood with their three consecutive Victorian pool picks would be considering a player with her skillset too.

#25 Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco/Western Australia)
05/09/2003 | 175cm
Tall Utility

Key strengths: Kicking, clean hands, reading he play, decision making

Had it not being for a pesky wrist injury ruling out her 2021 season, Thomas would undoubtedly be higher on this list. Luckily for the tall talent who predominantly plays forward and can roll through the midfield, she has plenty of runs on the board. An AFLW Academy member, Thomas is the third one from Western Australia in the Academy, and as she showed in her bottom-age year, uses it so well with precise ball-use and decision making. Able to assess the situation well, Thomas is a player who could slot in anywhere on the field, and whilst she has spent most of 2021 recovering, she will be right to go for the start of the AFLW season.

State-based Pool Ranking (Western Australia): #3

AFLW Draft notes:

With Rowley and Franklin expected to go in the first two spots, Thomas will likely be the next name to be read out, though if the Dockers were willing to put all chips in based on previous years form, then Thomas could end up second, otherwise it is expected she will head to the Eagles with West Coast holding three of the first four selections.

#26 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
28/07/2003 | 153cm
Small Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Clean hands, goal sense, composure, accumulation

A really impressive small midfielder, Schaap might be the smallest one going around at 153cm, but she packs a punch and has some unbelievable traits. Her best trait is her clean hands, rarely making a fumble at ground level and able to dish off to teammates in order to create goal-scoring opportunities. As a forward, Schaap slotted eight goals in nine games, often finding space where few could to snap around her body in big moments. She also slotted three goals in her three Vic Country games at the AFLW Under 19 Championships, and laid plenty pf tackles along the way. Her defensive pressure is right up there with her other key strengths, though it is hard to look past her ball-winning skills, composure and goal sense, and is a perfect pressure forward who can push up into the midfield.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #15

AFLW Draft notes:

Another Geelong Falcon who the Cats could look to bring through the program, but is a target for anyone looking for a clean forward inside 50. The Kangaroos, Tigers and Bulldogs all have picks in Schaap’s expected draft range, and might consider the reliable talent.

Meagan Kiely

#27 Meagan Kiely (North Melbourne/VFLW)
15/12/1994
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Footy IQ, kicking, clean hands, consistency

The first mature-ager and VFLW player to make it into the Power Rankings, Kiely would have to be one of the favourites for the Lambert-Pearce Medal after a dominant display for North Melbourne this season. Relocating from Tasmania, the Roos would be keeping a close eye on the 26-year-old, who could slot straight into any midfield with her natural ball-winning skills, work rate and leadership. As good as any readymade midfielder outside the AFLW, the North captain has lead the competition across disposals and marks this year, showing she can win it at the coal face, or on the outside, with her clean hands and kicking impressive, but most of all her footy IQ shining through. Averaging a massive 22.8 disposals, 4.7 marks and 5.6 tackles from her 12 games, she is the premier VFLW player at this stage.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #16

AFLW Draft notes:

Despite hailing from Tasmania, Kiely is now relocated to Melbourne, so falls under the Victorian rather than Tasmanian zone. Regardless of the fact she will not be a free hit for the Roos, North Melbourne would be certainly considering bringing their VFLW skipper up to the AFLW program, but there will likely be one or two clubs in the mix for an immediate midfield boost. Carlton and Collingwood are two sides that could grab another midfielder with one of their many picks.

#28 Dana East (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
10/06/2002 | 167cm
Inside Midfielder

Key strengths: Inside game, clean hands, acceleration, contested ball

The most consistent of the West Australians throughout the entire WAFL Women’s season, East shot up into draft projections early in the season with some outstanding performances for Swan Districts. The inside midfielder is just so clean with her hands on the inside, and thrives on the contested ball, shovelling it out to teammates, or tucking it under the arm and bursting away with her quick first few steps. She has offensive and defensive pressure in equal measures, and is someone who can impact a game from the midfield. East has also spent time resting forward and can hit the scoreboard, though she is a future inside midfielder with a great balance of inside and outside traits. After the AFLW Academy members, East looms as the safest option, but also the one that could slot straight in if required, even with some areas to iron out such as her kicking consistency.

State-based Pool Ranking (Western Australia): #4

AFLW Draft notes:

Regarded highly in the West Australian State Academy, she could be paired up with Rowley through the midfield at the Eagles, or might slide to Fremantle’s next pick if indeed the Dockers go tall with Franklin. Either way, East is one who would be top of mind for both West Australian clubs, and is someone who could impact from early on in her AFLW career.

Brooke Hards

#29 Brooke Hards (Western Bulldogs/VFLW)
19/07/2002 | 167cm
Medium Utility

Key strengths: Footy smarts, versatility, athleticism, kicking

The former Bendigo Pioneers co-captain is the second VFLW player to feature. The soon-to-be 19-year-old excelled as an inside midfielder at junior level, but chose to step up to VFLW level where she improved on the areas that saw her overlooked. Hards moved to the outside playing every role under the sun from forward, to back and wing, able to win the ball and most importantly build up metres gained with her run and carry. Boasting enormous upside and great footy smarts, when able to get-and-go, Hards is damaging with ball-in-hand and has well-balanced athleticism, mainly her acceleration. While her numbers might be lower than at junior level, her game-impacting moments have been higher making her a valuable prospect.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #17

AFLW Draft notes:

Like a number of VFLW performers, showed more signs in the last couple of rounds, and much like North Melbourne with their VFLW performers, the Western Bulldogs would have her among their thoughts to bring up from the VFLW to AFLW program after playing every game this season. Providing versatility and speed around the ground as well as the ability to impact through the midfield, Carlton or Collingwood are other clubs that might look at a talent with an extra year of senior experience.

#30 Sarah Skinner (North Melbourne VFLW)
15/10/1999
Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Forward craft, accumulation, versatility, consistency

Another VFLW player who might not have earned a Draft Combine invite but simply has to be in the mix to be drafted is a second Tasmanian playing for North Melbourne in Skinner. She has transitioned from being a forward and the TSLW’s best player and consistent talent, into one of the best in the VFLW, showing she can lift at any level. Still only 21-years-old, Skinner has had some huge numbers since primarily staying in the midfield, picking up 18.1 disposals, 3.8 marks and 4.8 tackles for the Roos. It is her ability to play forward or through the midfield and adapt to the play, creating goal scoring opportunities for either herself or her teammates. Skinner is a plug-and-play typer who the Roos would be considering, but other teams would have to be keeping an eye on too.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria/Tasmania): #18

AFLW Draft notes:

Travelling over from Tasmania each week has proved valuable for Skinner who has had a sensational year for the Roos in the VFLW. As a player the Roos can take towards the back-end of the draft, Skinner is a valuable talent who adds both midfield and forward prowess, and much better value than what North Melbourne would pay in an open draft.

Abby Hewett

#31 Abby Hewett (Wilston Grange/Queensland)
12/04/2003 | 162cm
Medium Utility

Key strengths: Contested ball, clearances, goal sense, versatility

There might not be much of Hewett at 162cm, but the talented utility can play anywhere on the field. She knows how to win the ball inside or outside, reads it well in the air or ground level, and whilst she does her best work in close, can play as an outside player too. There are questions over where she will slot in at AFLW level, and she does have to learn to find the ball more often, but that is only because she can do so much damage with ball-in-hand, be it winning it in close and distributing it to the outside, using it in transition, or finding it close to goal and hitting the scoreboard. Whatever she ends up becoming, Hewett is one of the more underrated prospects in this year’s draft given Queensland’s lack of AFLW Under 19 Championships, but no doubt the two Queensland clubs eyes are all over her given her performances at QAFLW level.

State-based Pool Ranking (Queensland): #4

AFLW Draft notes:

A Brisbane Lions Academy member, Hewett will likely be a third or fourth option for the Lions with Bella Smith being the other Academy member having had an impressive season this year. Brisbane has its own zone to pick players from, so the Wilston Grange product will find a way there, and it will be interesting to see how the Lions chose to utilise her.

#32 Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
20/11/2003 | 176cm
Tall Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, X-factor, athleticism, marking

A player with plenty of upside, Houtsma becomes the remarkable fifth Falcon in the top 18 players showing just how deep the Falcons’ side was this season. She does not need to win a lot of the ball to have an impact, her Houtsma’s athleticism across the ground as a 176cm enabling her to play on a wing, or in a key position player at either end. Strong overhead, and able to win it at ground level, Houtsma attacks the ball at speed on a lead, and generally uses it well when in possession. Still ironing out consistency within games, the versatile utility has already spent time at centre half-back, centre half-forward and on the wing, which is a huge feather in the cap for the teenager.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #19

AFLW Draft notes:

Much like her Falcons teammate Feathertson, Houtsma is one who could bolt or slide given her raw attributes, but she has a lot to like about her game. A player who could be taken second round onwards, Houtsma represents value for any side that picks her up given her size, athleticism and versatility. Geelong might look at her, with the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda bringing plenty of youth through their programs, and Collingwood looking for a versatile tall.

#33 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
12/12/2003 | 190cm
Ruck/Key Forward

Key strengths: Mobility, versatility, size, athleticism

The towering ruck/forward AFL Women’s Academy season makes it into the top 20 on the back of a solid overall season. Whilst she still needs to work on clunking more grabs above her head, Gillard’s work around the ground and ability to get to repeat contests for a ruck and running as a midfielder is really impressive. Often towering over her opponents, Gillard moves incredibly well, and is a tall that teammates are not afraid to use in transition, as she rotated between the ruck and full forward to average 11.3 disposals and 14.1 hitouts, as well as a couple of inside 50s per game. A December birth, Gillard has plenty of upside that with time could develop into a damaging tall.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #20

AFLW Draft notes:

With Campbell already off to the Dees, Gillard looms as the best ruck prospect in the Victorian pool. She can play as a key forward too, and standing at 190cm, she is also clearly the tallest prospect in the AFLW Draft pool. Whilst still rounding out her game, Gillard is one who clubs could pounce on early, with the AFL Women’s Academy member having developed over the past few years, and has plenty of scope for the future. Carlton could be prime for Gillard as a tall target, with Western Bulldogs also likely to want to grab a tall, whist Collingwood would snap her up pretty quick if available given she fits the Magpies’ exact need.

Sarah Lakay

#34 Sarah Lakay (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
20/02/2003 | 186cm
Ruck

Key strengths: Ruck work, vertical leap, marking, defensive pressure

The standout West Australian ruck and a big improver in this year’s AFLW Draft crop, Lakay has come a long way in the past 12 months. From a basketball background, it is no surprise to hear of Lakay’s athleticism, and it was certainly no shock to see her smash the vertical jump records at the recent AFLW Draft Combine. Lakay is a high leaper with clean hands and great upside, able to tap the ball to advantage for her teammates. She is strong overhead, and good at ground level with great defensive pressure, and despite needing to improve her endurance to impact for longer, Lakay has plenty of potential to become a first choice ruck at AFLW level at 186cm.

State-based Pool Ranking (Western Australia): #5

AFLW Draft notes:

West Coast will likely use one of its two picks in the second round to pick up Lakay, especially if paired up with Rowley and Thomas. If the Eagles land Franklin, Lakay may slip to the Dockers who are more than happy to add another talented tall to their list, but both clubs would be very keen to pick up the athletic ruck.

#35 Bella Smith (Maroochydore/Queensland)
05/10/2003 | 167cm
Inside Midfielder

Key strengths: Strength, power, contested ball, clean hands, inside game

The fact Smith is potentially the sixth best player in the Queensland pool speaks volumes for the state and its footballing programs. The hardened inside midfielder could easily be rated in the top few, such is the evenness of the overall pool, with her inside game the second best behind top pick, Levi. She does not quite have the outside game that others do, but her contested ball-winning ability, clearance work and strength is what makes her the player she is. Able to dominate on the inside and extract the ball to the outside, Smith is the prototype inside midfielder and one who could play from early on in her career. She has the power to create separation from her opponents, and can distribute well by hand when exiting the congestion.

State-based Pool Ranking (Queensland): #6

AFLW Draft notes:

Another Brisbane Lions Academy member, it does not matter what order the Lions take them in, but they have a plethora of great youngsters to pick up, and Smith will only add to their inside brigade.

#36 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)
11/11/2003 | 188cm
Ruck/Key Forward

Key strengths: Ruck work, penetrating kick, contested marking, competitiveness

Whilst the rucks so far in this Power Rankings have been athletic talents who utilise their around the ground speed and vertical leap to impact the contest, whereas Morphett offers a different skillset. Whilst able to still leap high, it is her body positioning and strength that helps her beat opponents, and despite not being as athletic as some of the others, she is the best contested mark of the rucks, and her competitiveness in the air or at ground level is superb. The other way Morphett has an advantage is her ability to play forward, where she can clunk contested marks and unleash her penetrating kick to effect. Being a part of the GIANTS Academy and NSW-ACT zone, Morphett is one who fits a need for the GIANTS as another tall, and would be more likely to start as a key forward and pinch-hit in the ruck.

State-based Pool Ranking (NSW-ACT): #2

AFLW Draft notes:

The GWS GIANTS may well read Morphett’s name out first given the Murray Bushrangers talent is the top pick in their Academy, but either way her name will come off the board, with the AFLW Academy member a player capable of impacting from early on, and working alongside Erin McKinnon at the GIANTS.

Keeley Sherar

#37 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
29/10/2003 | 170cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: X-factor, upside, clearances, tackling

The Eastern Ranges talent was one who really stepped up in 2021 after only managing the one game in the shortened season last year, so not much was known about what she was capable of. Sherar not only stepped up to be a prime ball-mover for the Ranges – particularly in the absence of Olivia Meagher in the second half of the season and Tarni Brown after she was drafted last year – but earned a Vic Metro jumper for her troubles. Averaging 14.8 disposals, 3.4 inside 50s and 4.8 tackles, Sherar is a forward runner with great tackling skills and extraction out of the contest, can move the ball quickly and get it inside 50 well to set up scoring opportunities. One to watch who can add a point of difference to a midfield.

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #21

AFLW Draft notes:

At this stage it is hard to work out where players might end up, with Sherar heading to the Pies in our Draft Central Phantom Draft. Eastern Ranges have a good relationship with the Magpies, and expect Collingwood to consider the midfielder, with Melbourne having some good value picks, and St Kilda also looking for a midfielder on the inside with some good pace to send Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith to the outside.

#38 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
06/03/2003 | 171cm
Medium Defender/Wing

Key strengths: Skills, composure, versatility, reading the play

A medium defender who runs off half-back, hits up targets and then roams along a wing, Vickers is a player with some great upside, and is another Oakleigh Chargers’ premiership player. She averaged the 13.5 disposals, 3.3 tackles and a well-balanced two inside 50s and rebound 50s per game, such was her ability to cover the ground. The Chargers did not see as much of it in their defence as other teams, so Vickers had to hold a high line at times and be that kick behind the ball ready to intercept. She is not a renowned marker, but she is one to receive the handball and go, and uses the ball well in transition. Still developing areas of her game, as an overall prospect Vickers has some great talent

State-based Pool Ranking (Victoria): #22

AFLW Draft notes:

Like Sherar, it is difficult to exactly calculate where Vickers might land given the amount of even talent at this point in the draft, but the skilful defender and outside runner is likely to have a number of possibilities. The Western Bulldogs, Collingwood and Melbourne are all teams that like to play quickly with speed, so Vickers would be a name to watch out for there.

#39 Zoe Venning (West Adelaide/South Australia)
04/11/2003 | 168cm
Inside Midfielder/Forward

Key strengths: Contested ball, inside game, defensive pressure, endurance

Venning is a player who enjoyed a terrific season, not only standing out for West Adelaide in the SANFL Women’s, and representing South Australia at the AFLW Under 19 Championships, but picking up a host of accolades along the way. Venning won All-Australian honours as well as the West Adelaide best and fairest – claiming the latter ahead of teammate and league best and fairest winner Lauren Young – to be one of the more consistent players all season. With the Crows having so much strength at their disposal, and a smaller draft pool, Venning is one who has shown enough to be on a list, and it will come down to list spots and preferences. Her inside game and defensive pressure is superb, and whilst still working on her kicking, Venning has improved over the past couple of years, and has a great balance of athleticism between endurance, speed and agility to impress at the top level.

State-based Pool Ranking (South Australia): #4

AFLW Draft notes:

Following the announcement of the finalised AFLW Draft order, Adelaide only had three selections in its hand, and Venning is considered the fourth one in these rankings. However it indicates where Venning would go in an open draft, and could easily be sourced by interstate clubs, or indeed picked ahead of one of the other three if the Crows find the need for Venning’s role.

Makaela Tuhakaraina

#40 Makaela Tuhakaraina (South Fremantle/Western Australia)
23/08/2003 | 158cm
Small Utility

Key strengths: Acceleration, agility, power, defensive pressure

A raw potential player with huge upside, Tuharakaina is another West Australian who has come on in leaps and bounds the past 12 months. Cementing her self in South Fremantle’s best side from a rugby background, Tuhakaraina’s acceleration and agility is hard to beat, and the combination might be the best of anyone in the AFLW Draft pool. Despite standing at 158cm, Tuhakaraina is able to do a lot of damage by breaking up the opposition defensive zones, and she can play in any third of the ground. Often up forward running from a high half-forward inside 50, Tuhakaraina is still developing fundamentals of her game which is understandable, but her power and ability to burn off opponents gives clubs a raw canvas to work with going forward. With her defensive ability and offensive switch to burst away, she is a talent who will naturally catch the eye.

State-based Pool Ranking (Western Australia): #6

AFLW Draft notes:

Both clubs could do with her athletic profile, and she is ranked sixth here in this Power Rankings, but she could easily go higher with what she could become. Tuhakaraina might not have the game-on-game consistency of some of the others above her, but her sheer talent and upside would have both West Coast and Fremantle assessing their options.

Others:

Victorian Pool:

Holding the next two places in our rankings from Victoria are GWV Rebels’ Chloe Leonard and Northern Knights’ Maeve Chaplin. Top-age talents Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell and Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher are thereabouts, as is Port Melbourne’s Sophie Locke, and AFLW Academy member Maykaylah Appleby. GWV Rebels’ Tahlia Meier, Oakleigh Chargers’ Eliza James, Gippsland Power’s Grace Matser, Calder Cannons’ Zali Friswell, Geelong Falcons’ Elizabeth Dowling and Dandenong Stingrays’ Ash Richards are others in contention.

Western Jets’ Jemima Woods, Casey Demons’ Imogen Milford, Eastern Ranges’ Cadhla Schmidli and Northern Knights’ Tarrah Delgado round out the AFLW Draft Combine invites who have the most interest. From a non-Combine invited look, Essendon’s Alana Barba, Collingwood duo Imogen Barnett and Matilda Zander – and as an outside roughy after a good year Marla Neal – are those who might be considered to make the step up, as North Melbourne’ Molly Eastman and Southern Saints’ Tara Bohanna have also enjoyed good seasons.

The Power Rankings do not include past AFLW players who are a chance of regaining a chance such as retirees who have backflipped to return playing such as Tegan Cunningham and Leah Kaslar, and ex-North Melbourne now Essendon VFLW skipper Georgia Nanscawen. Hawthorn VFLW also have plenty of players worthy of another chance, with the likes of Georgia Bevan, Nadia von Bertouch and Kristy Stratton among those in the brown and gold able to step in and make an immediate impact. Kate Gillespie-Jones and Winnie Laing both crossed from their respective clubs to run around with Casey Demons in the hope of being redrafted.

From a Tasmanian perspective, top-age talents Ella Maurer and Jemma Webster, as well as consistent draft-eligible talents Jemma Blair, Amy Prokopiec and Amy Bissett would be among those who have done the most to put their hands up for North Melbourne (and the wider Victorian pool).

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN POOL:

South Adelaide speedster Tahlita Buethke, Central District powerful forward Lauren Breguet and small forward/midfielder with the deadly left foot in Abbie Ballard are all very even in terms of whether they might get called up to the Crows or a club takes a look interstate. Ruck Leah Cutting is one you would expect to attract interest from interstate with Collingwood, Western Bulldogs and the West Australian teams always able to add another tall to the mix.

WEST AUSTRALIAN POOL:

East Fremantle’s Chloe Reilly is next in line out west, with mature-age left foot forward Tessa Doumanis, defender Emily Bennett and slick utility Melisha Hardy among the even contingent being considered. Peel Thunder duo Bella Mann and Beth Schilling have good scope for improvement, with Swan Districts duo Emma Nanut and Nyra Anderson and Claremont’s Matilda Dyke the other West Australians to keep an eye on. Norwood’s Jade Halfpenny has chosen West Australia as her nominating state and would be in the Top 60 overall as that athletic forward/midfielder, whilst VFLW talents North Melbourne’s Airlie Runnalls and Geelong’s Theresia Meissner are among the others having nominated the state. Sandringham Dragons’ Pia Staltari has nominated the state she grew up in and could be a slick ball user off half-back or on the outside for one of the West Australian sides.

QUEENSLAND POOL:

Giselle Davies is in the next few in our Power Rankings, with the Queenslander a member of the Gold Coast Suns Academy, and could even be taken in those first few picks. The Suns also have access to the Northern Territory talent including AFLW Academy member Ashanti Bush, and talented, athletic Grace Mulvahil who also would have made it into the Top 50 of the Power Rankings. The 20-year-old Bella Clarke received a Combine invite, as did mature-age Madison Goodwin and Steph O’Brien, whilst Brisbane Lions Academy members Christine Okesene and Casey Wynne are also in the mix to be picked up after their invites.

NSW-ACT POOL:

In our Phantom Draft, top-age tackling machine Brodee Mowbray found her way to the GIANTS and would be next in line with the talented forward in Georgie Fowler. The GIANTS have a number of late picks and with no competition for the Pool, could look to other top-age talents Maddy Hendrie or Teagan Germech who also received and AFLW Draft Combine invite.

PODCAST EXPLAINER | 2021 AFLW Phantom Draft

IN a Final Siren Podcast and Draft Central first, the team ran a “live” Phantom Draft for the upcoming AFL Women’s Draft. Assuming the role of the 14 list managers/recruiters, Peter Williams, Michael Alvaro and Declan Reeve selected pick-by-pick each of the clubs through to the end of the draft, and named others in contention. Each of the team’s selections were determined by list numbers or confirmed total selections clubs intended to take, with the podcast recorded prior to Geelong’s pre-listed players yesterday. Club-by-club comments from the Draft Central team member who selected for the team is included.

Note: All individual selection are the opinion of the selector at the time and do not necessarily represent club views nor those of the other individual selectors.

 — FINAL SIREN PODCAST 2021 AFLW PHANTOM DRAFT

 

Zoe Prowse

ADELAIDE:

#17 Zoe Prowse (Sturt)
#20 Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide)
#34 Brooke Tonon (Glenelg)
#47 Zoe Venning (West Adelaide)

Peter Williams says …

“As the sole team in South Australia currently, Adelaide’s selections are less tactical in the sense as there is not another opponent to deal with, but also knowing that nailing each pick when there is draftable talent that misses out makes it all the more difficult. The two AFL Women’s Academy members in ruck Zoe Prowse and speedy utility Gypsy Schirmer offer great versatility across the ground, with one of the big improvers this season, Brooke Tonon being the defensive option with great offensive abilities. The fourth selection gets a little trickier, but I opted for Zoe Venning after a sensationally-consistent year and offers that hardness around the ball and up forward. Others I considered were fellow teenage AFLW Draft Combine invites, Abbie Ballard, Lauren Breguet and Tahlita Buethke.”

Maggie Harmer

BRISBANE:

#18 Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore)
#35 Mikayla Pauga (Bond University)
#50 Abby Hewett (Wilston Grange)
#64 Bella Smith (Maroochydore)
#70 Christene Okesene (Yeronga South Brisbane)
#72 Steph O’Brien (University of Queensland)

Peter Williams says …

“Brisbane has an unbelievably strong Academy from which to hand pick players for this year’s AFL Women’s Draft. The two AFL Women’s Academy members in half-back/wing Maggie Harmer and high half-forward Mikayla Pauga were easy selections as top talents coming through the state program. Abby Hewett is as versatile as they come and offer great value at Pick 50 to be able to roll through any position, with inside midfielder Bella Smith a steal at Pick 64. Rounding out the half a dozen players, state captain Christene Okesene can immediately have an impact as a half-back with a powerful boot and strong one-on-one, whilst cross-coder Steph O’Brien earned an AFLW Draft Combine having had a successful state career in netball and really putting herself in the frame to be selected in the elite level Australian rules football. In terms of others considered, whilst we did not include mature-agers from other states who could have nominated Queensland, the likes of Georgia Nanscawen or former Queenslander Matilda Zander are others who might be ones on the board to take post-draft.”

Tess Craven

CARLTON:

#10 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
#11 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)
#23 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)
#26 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)
#40 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Michael Alvaro says …

“The Blues are currently in some serious need of midfield depth and with this crop of Victorian talents, obtain a great balance of styles. Through trading, Carlton is in a great spot among the Victorian pool with its first two picks and at number 11, Tess Craven was too hard to pass up. The Geelong Falcons standout is a tough ball winner at the coalface, but also works hard to accumulate around the ground and makes great decisions. She’s a no-fuss type, and suits Carlton’s robust midfield mix. With Tayla Harris and Al Downie gone, Tahlia Gillard is a key position option who may be in high demand and was snapped up early as a result. At 190cm, she is a dominant kind of ruck who can also roll forward and remain relevant aerially. The Blues quite often dip into the Metro pool and after the success of Mimi Hill, may look at a couple more Oakleigh Chargers products in Brooke Vickers and Eliza James. The former likes to get forward off a wing or half-back, while the latter is an athletic midfielder-forward who offers dynamism and goal threat in either post. Rounding out the crop, Carlton may look towards its Northern link and give Maeve Chaplin her chance, after she earned a VFLW berth in the Blues’ reserves this year. She’s another versatile type who offers inside depth in midfield, but also great composure in defence.”

Keeley Sherar

COLLINGWOOD:

#30 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)
#32 Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges)
#33 Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons)
#63 Tegan Cunningham (Melbourne AFLW)

Peter Williams says …

“Collingwood has a strong affiliation with taking Eastern Ranges midfielders, and at Pick 30, Keeley Sherar was the top player on my draft board. Capable of being that smooth mover on the inside similar to ex-teammate Tarni Brown, Sherar was joined in the side by inside midfielder and also Collingwood VFLW representative, Olivia Meagher. The 19-year-old put in a body of work this year to earn the call-up, with another mature-ager in Tegan Cunningham taken with the final pick. The fact Cunningham nominated the draft after retiring shows a level of certainty that she will be picked up, and the Pies needing a strong marking key forward could do with Cunningham’s experience down there. A raw talent who is good in the air with great athleticism is Ingrid Houtsma, who was too good at Pick 34 to ignore and joins the black and white. Others considered were Collingwood VFL talents, Matilda Zander and Imogen Barnett, with Gippsland Power ruck Grace Matser a chance at Pick 63 to provide the ruck support whilst developing at the club.”

Amy Franklin

FREMANTLE:

#14 Amy Franklin (Claremont)
#31 Dana East (Swan Districts)
#38 Makaela Tuhakaraina (South Fremantle)
#46 Bella Mann (Peel Thunder)
#60 Tessa Doumanis (Claremont)
#69 Pia Staltari (Sandringham Dragons)

Declan Reeve says …

“Fremantle are already a well rounded side, fortunately allowing a bit of freedom with their selections with West Coast getting first dibs at some of the upper end talent. Fremantle’s first pick ended up being Amy Franklin after West Coast selected Courtney Rowley, with Franklin’s versatility to play up either end in a key post and overall athleticism adding to their stocks of exciting talls. Dana East can come in and learn on the job from Kiara Bowers as an inside midfielder, with her hands in close bound to make the outside receivers happy. Makaela Tuhakaraina will provide a lot of speed in the forward line or on the wing. Bella Mann is a strong intercept marker down back and Tessa Doumanis is the teammate of Franklin at Claremont, able to get herself on the scoreboard with ease. Pia Staltari is a utility with good skills and speed that she uses to impact in all roles. With so many picks there were plenty of players that came into consideration at various times, Chloe Reilly was one I really thought about with picks 31 and 38, as well as Beth Schilling and Matilda Dyke for some key defensive reinforcement.”

Georgie Prespakis

GEELONG:

#2 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
#7 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)
#9 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)
#15 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)
#52 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)
#65 Olivia Fuller (Geelong VFLW)* (in podcast)
#65 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

Declan Reeve says …

Geelong has a strong draft hand, giving them the opportunity to load up on some of the top talents available in the Victorian pool, leading to me taking who I felt was the best player available with the first 4 selections. Georgie Prespakis is arguably one of the best female draft prospects the competition has seen to date, doing everything she could, including winning the NAB League best and fairest at 16, in the lead up to the 2021 draft. Both Stella Reid and Ella Friend are versatile left footers who have played in all thirds of the ground this year, providing ‘plug and play’ options for Geelong, with Friend being Key Position height. Nyakoat Dojiok is an athletic prospect that has improved game on game, providing run out of the backline for GWV Rebels and Vic Country. At the two later suggestions, Elizabeth Snell was a value selection with her athletic profile, two way running and experience all key features of hers, as well as Geelong VFLW Ruck Olivia Fuller to provide some depth in that area. I strongly considered locals Tess Craven and Annie Lee with picks 7 and 9, as well as Elizabeth Dowling, Zali Friswell and Grace Matser with the last two selections, with all enjoying solid NAB League seasons. With Fuller being announced as a pre-draft selection, I opted for Friswell with the replacement pick.”

*Note: The podcast was recorded prior to Geelong announcing Fuller as a pre-draft selection, which would make her ineligible for the draft, in which case Declan selected Zali Friswell post-recording as the next on his list*

Charlie Rowbottom

GOLD COAST:

#1 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
#6 Teagan Levi (Bond University)
#8 Madison Goodwin (Yeronga South Brisbane)
#30 Grace Mulvahil (Southern Districts/NT)

Declan Reeve says …

“Gold Coast are bound to have a good draft between their NT and Queensland Academy zones, as well as arguably the best prospect of the draft Charlie Rowbottom, nominating for Queensland, making their selections relatively easy. Rowbottom was the first selection, with her athleticism and ability to impact in the midfield and up forward two of her key strengths that will allow her to play early on. Academy member Teagan Levi will offer a lot of zip in the midfield, with her agility sure to cause some headaches for opposition at the next level. Following on the athletic prospects was Maddison Goodwin, who set a new all-time standing vertical jump record at the recent Queensland State Combine. To wrap up the draft I went with NT defender Grace Mulvahil who will add a touch of composure and aerial strength to their defence. Key position academy pair Giselle Davies and Casey Wynne were considered for the later two picks after solid QAFLW seasons.”

Ally Morphett

GWS GIANTS:

#37 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)
#56 Jess Doyle (Manly-Warringah)
#67 Brodee Mowbray (Southern Power)
#71 Georgie Fowler (East Coast Eagles)

Declan Reeve says …

The GIANTS selections were pretty straight forward given they won’t be competing with other clubs for players in the NSW/ACT pool. Ally Morphett was first up, with the GWS Academy ruck, a contested beast who can outmuscle opponents well to win taps and marks up forward. Jessica Doyle was the Swans Academy captain but will spend at least the early stages of her career in the charcoal and orange, bringing clean ball use and consistent scoreboard impact with her. Browdee Mowbray is a two way running midfielder who loves to tackle and Georgie Fowler is an exciting forward who can hit the scoreboard well. Key position prospects Maddie Hendrie and Teagan Germech were also considered with the last two picks as the other combine invitees from the region.”

Georgia Campbell

MELBOURNE:

#42 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)
#44 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)
#49 Imogen Milford (Casey Demons VFLW)

Declan Reeve says …

“Melbourne invested heavily in the trade period bringing in established talent in exchange for early draft picks, making their selections some of the more interesting with all of them coming from the third round onwards. Georgia Campbell made the decision to nominate for Melbourne under the father-daughter rules, despite also being available for the Western Bulldogs under the same rule, and will more than likely chew up their first selection come draft night. Campbell is arguably the best ruck prospect in Victoria, and her supreme athleticism means she’s got the scope to play a variety of roles with the right development coaching. Winger Maykaylah Appleby possesses great speed and confidence with ball in hand to take the game on, whilst Casey Demons tall Imogen Milford is mobile on field and knows where the goals are, ending the season as runner up leading goal scorer in the VFLW. I also considered Zali Friswell and Ashleigh Richards with the final two picks for additional midfield support.”

Emelia Yassir

NORTH MELBOURNE:

#13 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)
#19 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)
#28 Meagan Kiely (North Melbourne VFLW)
#45 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)
#59 Sarah Skinner (North Melbourne VFLW)
#68 Kim Rennie (Western Bulldogs)

Peter Williams says …

“North Melbourne have some talented Tasmanians coming through their junior and senior ranks, which made the last few selections fairly easy. Top 10 in my Power Rankings, Perri King would be a steal at Pick 45, with fellow Tasmanian and North Melbourne VFLW talent Sarah Skinner also earning a call-up the elite level after some terrific consistency this year. VFLW skipper Meagan Kiely, whilst not eligible under the Tasmanian connection, would be one in serious consideration to make an immediate impact in the middle at AFLW level, and like Skinner has been sensational at state level. The first two selections were more tricky with North potentially needing some talls, but with Kim Rennie coming with the last pick, I opted to go at the other end of the scale and picked up Emelia Yassir and Poppy Schaap who are two hard nuts with clean hands and capable to creating inside 50. I considered going fellow clean user Brooke Vickers, GWV defender Nyakoat Dojiok or Falcons defender Annie Lee with the two early selections as well. Other Tasmanians who might come into consideration include Ella Maurer and Jemma Blair who both had time with the Kangaroos in the VFLW program.”

Tara Slender

RICHMOND:

#5 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)
#16 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
#55 Sophie Locke (Port Melbourne VFLW)
#57 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)
#66 Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges)

Michael Alvaro says …

“With two picks at the top end and a few late selections with which to extract value, Richmond has the chance to bring in a really strong crop. With pick five, third in the Victorian pool, the Tigers would likely be stoked by the opportunity to take Tara Slender. The Bendigo Pioneers standout is a modern day prototype, able to play any position at 175cm. She could come into the side as a key forward or defender, with potential to provide some important long-term cover in the midfield. Speaking of, Aurora Smith adds terrific running power at pick 16. The Murray Bushrangers best and fairest is quite balanced, but looks more comfortable on the wing and would allow a player like Ellie McKenzie to attend more centre bounces. The acquisition of Sophie Locke looms as a familiar one and would be a great story after she was overlooked in her initial draft year. Another Murray product, she found her spot up forward for Port Melbourne in 2021 and is lively around goal. GWV midfielder/defender Chloe Leonard suits the Richmond way and could be one who plays a role early at the next level, while Eastern Ranges winger Jorja Livingstone rounds out the crop as a potential father-daughter choice. Richmond may purely look towards midfield depth in the first round, or some late key forward support to mix up the above combination.”

Amanda Ling

ST KILDA:

#4 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)
#12 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)
#36 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)

Michael Alvaro says …

“While this three-player haul may look relatively straightforward, St Kilda is perched in a position which requires a lot of hard thinking. With pick four, the second of the Victorian pool, there are a bunch of prospects in the pipeline. With the need of midfield depth in mind and given the style of young stars Tyanna Smith and Georgia Patrikios, Amanda Ling seems like the perfect fold for them. Best afield in Oakleigh’s NAB League premiership triumph, Ling is a 19th year talent with great desire and work-rate at the contest, where her clean hands and sound decision making shine. The Saints could also get a handy slider with pick 12, and there would be high value in selecting Jaide Anthony in this range. The tough Dandenong Stingrays defender was Vic Country’s Under 19 MVP and plays above her 166cm standing with courage and athleticism. She would also maintain the strong link between Dandenong and St Kilda. Down the order, GWV small forward Tahlia Meier could be one the Saints look at with goals in mind, given her knack for finding them. They could also go down the route of targeting a taller type to support Caitlin Greiser, with mature-agers Tegan Cunningham and Leah Kaslar potentially up for grabs.”

Courtney Rowley

WEST COAST:

#3 Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder)
#21 Sarah Lakay (Swan Districts)
#24 Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco)
#41 Chloe Reilly (East Fremantle)
#53 Emily Bennett (Claremont)

Peter Williams says …

“West Coast has a really strong draft hand, with three of the first four selections in the West Australian pool. Weighing up between tall and small with the first selection, I opted to go Peel Thunder’s Courtney Rowley to add that touch of class to the midfield with the Eagles, and then back up with a couple of taller options in ruck Sarah Lakay and versatile talent Charlie Thomas. All three are different prospects and add a dynamic mix to the team. Versatile small Chloe Reilly represents value as one who could improve in the future and has strong hands and a booming kick, much like Emily Bennett out of Claremont. Both are highly competitive, and Bennett has put together a consistent season for me to pick her up with the final selection for the Eagles. Amy Franklin is a clear consideration for the first selection, in which case it would trigger a different set of next selections, with Dana East being that pure midfield option. Beth Schilling was another potential pick-up late in the mix as well.”

Annie Lee

WESTERN BULLDOGS:

#22 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)
#25 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)
#27 Brooke Hards (Western Bulldogs VFLW)

Peter Williams says …

“The Western Bulldogs selections were not what I expected coming into the draft, but in the end I opted for best available with each selection. Having three picks so close together, it was a case of waiting and seeing who was on the board at the time and snapping up the respective highest players on my Power Rankings. Whilst Geelong might have overlooked the Falcons in this draft much to my surprise, I was more than happy to pick up my ninth ranked player Annie Lee at Pick 22, with my 15th ranked talent Gabbi Featherston at Pick 25. The Falcons duo can provide some great excitement up either end, and provide some good aerial support despite not being key position players. Featherston can also chop out in the ruck despite being sub-170cm, which is an area the Dogs might look for given the departure of Kim Rennie. With the final selection I went internal and picked up the 20th ranked player in my Power Rankings in Brooke Hards, having played every game for the Bulldogs this season and her versatility to play across the field, along with her athleticism like Featherston, will provide great scope for the future. I strongly considered taking Brooke Vickers with the first selection, whilst Keeley Sherar and Ingrid Houtsma were others in the mix, as was Maeve Chaplin and Maykaylah Appleby to follow on the recent trend of Northern Knights at the Bulldogs.”

PREVIEW | 2021 VFL Women’s Finals: Week One

THE 2021 VFL Women’s finals series has arrived, with the top six teams set to battle it out for premiership glory after 14 enthralling home-and-away rounds. After a year away, the competition was reformatted to see the AFLW and NAB League seasons run concurrently with Victoria’s state league, seeing players from both the aforementioned leagues filter into all 12 teams in different ways.

This year’s finals campaign sees three sides take part in their maiden finals series, with Port Melbourne among them at the pointy end of its inaugural VFLW season. Reigning premier, Collingwood remains the hot favourite to take out this year’s flag, having become just the second-ever team to go through the regular season undefeated. We preview all three of the week one fixtures, with comment from key players of each team.

>> SCROLL for the finals fixture tree

2ND ELIMINATION FINAL

Casey Demons vs. Essendon
Saturday July 3, 12:00pm
Casey Fields

Records:
Casey – 4th, 8-6, 155.96%
Essendon – 5th, 8-6, 155.95%

2021 H2H:
Round 2 – Casey Demons 3.4 (22) def. by Essendon 4.7 (31) @ Casey Fields

Last 5:
Casey – 2-3
Essendon – 2-3

It is only fitting that Casey and Essendon begin their respective maiden VFLW finals campaigns against each other, as they lock horns at Casey Fields on Saturday afternoon. This is the tightest matchup of the lot after 14 home-and-away rounds, with the two sides boasting equal 8-6 records and separated by just 0.1 per cent on the ladder. They are also both 2-3 across their last five outings, with their only previous meeting in 2021 seeing the Bombers salute to the tune of nine points at the same venue.

Plenty has changed since then, though, according to Demons midfielder Eliza West.

“[Essendon] was so physical and I think it surprised us and we weren’t ready for that level of physicality,” West said. “But now after playing for a little while we’ve obviously improved on that because we’ve had to focus on it, and I think coming into the game this week that’ll be a big point for us. We’ll go in ready to play hard and win the footy.”

Bombers skipper Georgia Nanscawen, who has enjoyed a stellar season in the engine room, says calling the matchup close is “pretty spot on.”

“Our matchup against them earlier in the year was a very close game,” Nanscawen said. “When you look at the ladder, I think there was 0.1 of a percent [difference] or something. You can’t get much closer than that so it should be a cracking game.”

While they are incredibly closely matched, there remains a key point of difference between these two adversaries. Essendon is the lone purely non-AFLW aligned team to feature among this year’s finalists, making for another landmark to be “proud” for Nanscawen and her standalone squad of Bombers.

“I’m really loving my time at the Bombers and for our first finals campaign as a club, it’s certainly special to be a part of,” she said. “To be the non-aligned club shows that we can match it with those aligned clubs and hopefully we can have a good finals series.

“We’ve come back refreshed after the break, we’ve had a really good couple of weeks and we’re feeling great so I think anything can happen on the weekend.”

While the Bombers may not be able to lean on its own group of currently senior-listed stars, its emerging crop of youngsters has plenty of fans and pundits alike eager to see how they fare. Having blazed her own trail through the NAB League pathway with Calder Cannons, Essendon forward Alana Barba is excited to see what the next generation can produce come finals time.

“It’s really exciting to see some of the prospects coming through,” Barba said. “A lot of them have done pretty well on their debuts, and going up against the bigger bodies they’ve held their ground and they’ve really come in strong. “It’s exciting to see where they go in the future, whether that’s at the Bombers or anywhere on an AFLW list, they’ll do well.

“I guess I try and take them under my wing a bit because I’ve come through the same pathway as them. But they hold their ground pretty well and they’re very keen as we all are, so it’ll be exciting to see how they go.”

Nanscawen also pointed towards an AFLW draft pick one candidate for her choice of a potential “difference maker”.

“We’ve got Georgie Prespakis who had a great game last week,” she said. “That was her second game for us and she’s improved across the two games already, so we’re pretty excited to see what she can do in a finals series.”

On the flip side, Casey will field up to 10 AFLW-listed players on Saturday and have been able to take plenty from the senior Melbourne side – including an exciting gameplan. Demon Ally Kirkwood says her side is excited for the opportunity to implement it throughout the finals campaign.

“I think the gamestyle we want to play is really exciting,” Kirkwood said. “It’s definitely something the Melbourne AFLW girls implemented and it worked for them through finals. “Unfortunately they didn’t make the grand final but I think we will. That’s what’s really exciting for us; we’re all prepared to play [the gameplan], we’ve been training it for the whole season and we’ve gotten really good at it.”

In terms of the key players to watch for Casey, Kirkwood gave West a good pump-up while standing by her side on Monday’s finals launch day. West had a player of her own in mind, and both promise to provide the sort of ball winning intent that Casey is looking for this weekend.

“Eliza West… she’s always there in those [clutch] moments and it’s really great that we have her here at the club,” Kirkwood said.

“We rely on a lot of players in all areas of the field but I really think Meg McDonald,” West followed. “Since she’s come into being an on-baller, she’s added another level of  physicality and toughness. She lays hard tackles, she plays her role really well and I think she’s helped us a lot. “She’ll be one to look out for because it’s hard to beat her – if she’s tackling you, it’s hard to break one of those tackles so good luck to whoever it is.”

QUALIFYING FINAL

Collingwood vs. Geelong
Saturday July 3, 12:00pm
Holden Centre

Records:
Collingwood – 1st, 14-0, 297.1%
Geelong – 2nd, 10-4, 174.3%

2021 H2H:
Round 1 – Geelong 6.6 (42) def. by Collingwood 7.2 (44) @ Deakin University
Round 14 – Collingwood 3.5 (23) def. Geelong 0.4 (4) @ Victoria Park

Last 5:
Collingwood – 5-0
Geelong – 3-2

Collingwood and Geelong face off for the second time in as many weeks on Saturday, opening the 2021 VFLW finals series with a top of the table clash. The two sides jostled in two close encounters during the 2021 regular season, with the Magpies coming out on top amid their 14-0 campaign. Having completed the home-and-away rounds unbeaten, the reigning premiers became the second-ever side to do so and are in the box seat to defend their crown. But the Cats have proven their credentials as a top-tier team, sneaking into second having consistently found a way to win.

Geelong deputy-vice captains Breanna Beckley and Tamara Smith both spoke towards a strong team-oriented culture which included players listed at AFLW level, the NAB League, and local competitions. With the big job of overturning two previous losses to Collingwood at hand, Smith said her side has “so much more to give.”

“We’ve just got to keep playing our way, our style of footy and back our girls in,” Smith said. “Between the start and end of the season our girls would’ve changed and they’ll probably change again going into next week.

Beckley supported the notion, and hopes it’ll be a case of third time’s a charm for the Cats heading into Saturday’s clash, putting previous results behind them.

“We dropped a couple early against really good sides but it was good to see we had the fight from the start,” Beckley said. “Now coming up against Collingwood [in Round 14], although it wasn’t the result we wanted, I think we still held our own and kept them to a pretty low score as well which was really helpful.

“One of our biggest things that we pride ourselves on is our culture. “What we as a leadership group have tried to instil in the girls is that we’re all here as one no matter where you’re coming from – whether that’s AFL, VFL or local leagues. “Culture is the biggest thing no matter how old you are or your background, and it’s something we’ll keep priding ourselves on towards finals.”

With senior, state league and junior competitions running concurrently in 2021, the Cats have also benefitted from having a number of high-level NAB League graduates filter through the team. Smith was particularly glowing in her review of them, while Beckley knows the Falcons products well having worked with the program as talent manager.

Chloe Leonard’s a big one,” Smith said. “She’s played three games for us, we love Chloe. It’s just the good vibes she brings, she’s so confident but she just asks questions and is always wanting to learn. “You give her something to do and she just does it, plays her role so well.

Annie Lee had a few games with us, she takes strong marks down back. She’s a bit quieter than Chloe but it’s the same thing, she just plays her role and slots into the team.

Renee Tierney played a couple of games as well, she played against Southern Saints in a really wet game but she just held her own, backed her skills in. “It’s awesome to have those NAB League girls through because as much as they’re there to learn, they also have so much to give so it’s a really good opportunity for them and for us.”

While the spades of talent across a good range of age groups would make it easy to individualise parts of the squad, Smith maintains the Cats will rely on a team effort, rather than look to a few to get the job done.

“Obviously we have really talented girls in the side and ones which will step up, but as a whole I think we’re all ready for the challenge,” she said. “That’s one thing, if we can all step up together it’s going to make a huge difference across the ground. “I don’t think that we should be relying on just one girl to get the job done or have an outstanding game, if we can all lift and do our part for the team that’s where you get the job done.”

Collingwood also has a raft of stars which will look to make a difference on Saturday, none more so than unbelievably timely inclusion, Chloe Molloy. The dynamic senior-listed forward qualifies for finals after playing just one game in 2021, and will be one of the (up to) 10 AFLW players afield for the Magpies. Should she line up in attack, Molloy could form a deadly partnership with competition leading goalkicker Imogen Barnett and boom recruit Matilda Zander.

Up the other end, Lauren Butler also returned just in time to qualify for finals, while Mikala Cann carries in terrific form through midfield. With such a strong senior-listed and VFLW core, promising NAB Leaguers like Stella Reid and Eliza James look to have been squeezed out, though tough midfielder Olivia Meagher has been named on the Magpies’ bench.

1ST ELIMINATION FINAL

Port Melbourne vs. Southern Saints
Sunday July 4, 2:00pm
ETU Stadium

Records:
Port Melbourne – 3rd, 10-4, 128.7%
Southern Saints – 6th, 7-7, 115.2%

2021 H2H:
Round 10 – Port Melbourne 4.4 (28) def. by Southern Saints 8.7 (55)

Last 5:
Port Melbourne – 2-3
Southern Saints – 3-2

In Sunday’s standalone finals fixture, Port Melbourne enters its maiden finals campaign against the Southern Saints having enjoyed a remarkable inaugural VFLW season. After starting the year with a blistering 7-0 run, the Borough ended their regular season at 10-4 – good enough for third spot having occupied one of the top two places for nine rounds. Most intriguingly, one of those losses came at the hands of their weekend adversaries. The Saints have gone 7-7 thus far and went 2-2 after that win against Port, but did enough to claw onto sixth spot and earn a finals berth.

Saints co-captain Deanna Jolliffe says her side is “[peaking] at the right time” after two promising wins in the run-in to Sunday, while youngster Melanie Bertuna outlined the desired approach to knocking Port off for a second time.

“I think our last two weeks of footy have really proved what we’re capable of,” Jolliffe said. “Hopefully we can just continue to play the same sort of footy that we have over the last couple of weeks and bring that in on Sunday against Port Melbourne.”

“Playing a really strong four quarters of footy [is what it takes to beat Port Melbourne],” Bertuna said. “Just not dropping off our pressure and sticking with it the whole game, sticking our heads down and getting the work done.”

The same four-quarter approach was also a theme in Borough captain Melissa Kuys‘ path to victory, as her side looks put together the high-level form they previously found on a more consistent basis. As a leader in Port’s first VFLW finals campaign, the experienced utility is also proud of how much development the competition newcomers have shown this year.

“We just need to play four quarter of good footy,” Kuys said. “We’ve been playing patches unfortunately in the last couple of weeks so we’ve just got to bring that brand of footy we know we can play for longer than them, and hopefully we’ll get the job done.”

“At the beginning of the season we probably [didn’t] think that we would’ve gotten this far, so it’s super pleasing that we are where we are. “It’s been a lot of hard work but we’re super excited to have our first finals.”

Both sides have also had a raft of promising NAB Leaguers come through the respective programs, with a bunch set to line up for either team on Sunday. Having gone through the pathway herself, first year Port Melbourne player Olivia Barton said they have been “really good contributors” overall.

“We’ve loved having the NAB League girls come through,” Barton said. “They’ve all brought something special to the team in their individual ways and obviously our senior players have been really good with teaching them the ropes.”

Jolliffe gave similar praise to the Saints’ next generation of talent, while also giving a nod to the AFLW-listed players who have “lifted” the squad in an all-round learning experience.

“I think the [NAB Leaguers] bring a lot of depth to the team,” she said. “With their young bodies and they’re able to get in and under the ball and they’re just keen to learn and always striving to do better. “I think that also brings a lot of culture to our team because we want to do better for the them, and also want to be able to teach them things.

“Since the AFLW girls have joined our training sessions the intensity has definitely lifted, there seems to be a lot more voice out on the field. “The experience they bring is second to none so we’re all just enjoying that and learning from them as much as we can.”

As the Southern squad looks to implement its ferocious and unsociable “Saints footy”, Jolliffe and Bertuna promise there won’t be any one player carrying their effort.

“The way we’ve always played is Saints footy,” Bertuna said. “Every week that’s always what we want to come back to and play our way, so we’ll come out strong, respect the team we’re going up against and bring our best.”

Kuys and Barton identified a couple of key difference-makers among the Port Melbourne squad, though the spread of contributors is set to be just as even.

“I’d probably go with Courteney Bromage,” Kuys said. “She’s a player that gets in-and-under and she really uses her body and that inspires me to go harder.”

Claire Dyett on the wing,” Barton said. “She’s always going hard at the ball and running hard for us both ways, so she’d definitely be one to step up. Her heart’s right in the team so she’d definitely do it for us.”

Via: VFL

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

2021 VFLW Round 14 wrap: Saints clinch finals spot as Hawks end on high for Meg’s final game

IT went right down to the final day of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season, but the Southern Saints clinched the sixth spot in the finals series after winning against North Melbourne, grabbing back their place which was temporarily lost after the Western Bulldogs upset Casey Demons on Saturday. Geelong almost slipped up a double chance when it lost to Collingwood, but the Hawks came to the rescue to send off veteran and football legend Meg Hutchins in style, defeating third placed Port Melbourne in a huge result.

DAREBIN 0.0 | 0.2 | 0.2 | 0.2 (2)
ESSENDON 3.3 | 5.3 | 7.9 | 7.10 (52)

Essendon finished its regular season off on a high, running away with a 50-point victory over wooden spooners Darebin. Despite the Falcons restricting the inaccurate Bombers to only the two goals in the second half, Essendon proved too strong overall, claiming a big 7.10 (52) to 0.2 (2) win at Bill Lawry Oval. Jessie Davies slotted three goals from seven disposals, whilst the midfield of the bombers dominated with 12 more clearances. Lead by Georgia Nanscawen (23 disposals, seven clearances, nine tackles and four inside 50s), second gamer and potential top AFLW Draft selection Georgie Prespakis (24 disposals, seven clearances, nine tackles and three inside 50s) and the reliable Alana Barba (23 disposals, six clearances, 11 tackles and three inside 50s), Essendon proved too strong for their opponent. Bombers debutant Tahlia Gillard also looked comfortable with nine disposals, two marks and 13 hitouts, whilst Calder teammate Emelia Yassir was amongst the best with 18 touches, four inside 50s  and three tackles. For the Falcons, Alyssa Mifsud had 15 touches, seven clearances, six hitouts and four rebound 50s in a huge effort, whilst Kathleen Roe and Nicole Callinan (both 12 disposals, five tackles and three rebound 50s) were strong in defence. Sidney Cubasch (32 hitouts, four tackles and eight disposals) was busy in the ruck.

GOALS:

Darebin: Nil.
Essendon: J. Davies 3, M. Clifford, G. Nanscawen, T. Crook, S. Nalder.

BEST:

Darebin: K. Roe, S. Cubasch, K. Hazlett, S. David, S. Padovano, E. Buckley
Essendon: A. Barba, E. Yassir, T. Gillard, G. Prespakis, S. Nalder, C. Ugle

COLLINGWOOD 0.1 | 1.2 | 2.3 | 3.5 (23)
GEELONG 0.3 | 0.3 | 0.3 | 0.4 (4)

Collingwood completed an undefeated season in the VFL Women’s competition, knocking off second placed Geelong by 19 points at Victoria Park in a curtain raiser to this weekend’s qualifying final. The Magpies won off the back of staunch defence, restricting the Cats to just four behinds for the game, whilst kicking three majors from eight scoring chances themselves. Mikala Cann was a clear best on ground performer, putting up 30 disposals, eight clearances, 11 tackles, five inside 50s, three rebound 50s and a goal in the win. Matilda Zander (20 disposals, six tackles, three marks and five rebound 50s), Georgia Ricardo (16 disposals, four tackles, three clearances and a goal), Ebony O’Dea (15 disposals, three marks, four tackles, three inside 50s and two clearances) and youngster Eliza James (13 disposals, five marks, three tackles, three inside 50s, two clearances and a goal) all impressed in the win. Olivia Fuller was named best-on for the Cats in her role through the ruck with 12 disposals, 27 hitouts, six tackles, three clearances and three inside 50s. Sophie Van De Heuvel (18 disposals, four tackles, six clearances and seven inside 50s), Renee Garing (19 disposals, 12 tackles) and Paige Sheppard (15 disposals, six marks, seven tackles and three clearances) all impressed as well, with Maddie Boyd trying hard on her way to 11 touches, three marks, five hitouts, five tackles and four rebound 50s.

GOALS:

Collingwood: M. Cann, E. James, G. Ricardo.
Geelong: Nil.

BEST:

Collingwood: I. Purcell, A. Newman, E. James, M. Zander, M. Cann, E. O’Dea
Geelong: O. Fuller, S. Van De Heuvel, M. Boyd, P. Sheppard, R. Garing, C. Leonard

WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.2 | 3.6 | 3.9 | 5.10 (40)
CASEY DEMONS 0.1 | 3.1 | 4.1 | 4.4 (28)

Whilst in hindsight the win was not enough for the Western Bulldogs to secure a finals spot, they did end their season on a high with a two-goal win over Casey Demons. The Bulldogs had a fight on their hands for the most part, with inaccuracy again plaguing the home team, but two last quarter goals saw them kick away and grab the 5.10 (40) to 4.4 (28) victory. Elisabeth Georgostathis was best-on with 24 disposals, nine clearances, five marks, five tackles and six inside 50s, whilst Britney Gutknecht had the 25 touches, five tackles, two clearances, two marks and three rebound 50s, and Gemma Lagioia booted two goals from 20 touches and four inside 50s. Danielle Marshall (18 disposals, four marks and five rebound 50s) and Brooke Hards (seven disposals, six tackles, two inside 50s and three rebounds) teamed up well in defence, and Nicole McMahon (12 disposals, two marks, 25 hitouts, three clearances and three rebound 50s) covered the field well. Eliza West topped the Demons’ disposal count with 24 touches, nine tackles, six clearances, four inside 50s and two rebounds, whilst Nicole Hales (20 disposals, seven rebound 50s) and Alison Brown (20 disposals, six rebound 50s) were both impressive in defence. up the other end, Casey Sherriff had 19 touches, eight marks, six inside 50s and a goal, whilst Jacqueline Parry snagged two goals from 17 touches and five marks.

GOALS:

Western Bulldogs: G. Lagioia 2, S. Ruedin, M. Sandral, T. Skenderis.
Casey Demons: J. Parry 2, C. Sherriff, A. Bannan.

BEST:

Western Bulldogs: E. Georgostathis, G. Lagioia, N. McMahon, D. Marshall, T. Skenderis, T. Meier
Casey Demons: C. Sherriff, N. Hales, S. Heath, E. West, G. Matser, E. Horne

HAWTHORN 1.1 | 2.2 | 6.4 | 8.4 (52)
PORT MELBOURNE 3.0 | 4.5 | 5.7 | 6.8 (44)

In one of the upsets of the season and a phenomenal performance from Hawthorn, the Hawks stepped up in Hutchins’ last game to secure a memorable eight-point victory over the third placed Port Melbourne. The stakes could not have been higher for the Borough with a double-chance on the line, but Hawthorn brought its A-game to the match and booted six goals to two in the second half to run over the visitors at Box Hill and claim an 8.4 (52) to 6.8 (44) win. Jessie Williams was the key player up forward, slotting three goals from 12 disposals, two marks and three inside 50s. Tamara Luke had 20 touches, 33 hitouts, nine clearances, six marks, five tackles, two inside 50s, three rebound 50s and a goal in a huge all-round effort, with Hutchins named best on in her final game thanks to 12 disposals, two marks and a goal. Grace McRae (13 disposals, five clearances and six tackles) and Isabelle Khoury (nine disposals, six clearances, seven tackles, three inside 50s and a goal) were among the youngsters who stepped up and had an impact around the stoppages. For the Borough, Aurora Smith made her debut and had the nine disposals, two clearances, three inside 50s and three tackles, whilst fellow NAB League Girls talents Amanda Ling (11 disposals, three marks, 10 tackles and four inside 50s) and Brooke Vickers (15 disposals, two tackles and two rebound 50s) were also impressive. Sophie Locke slotted two goals from 13 touches, as Cleo Saxon-Jones impressed in defence with five rebound 50s from 11 touches.

GOALS:

Hawthorn: J. Williams 3, I. Khoury, D. Carbone, M. Hutchins, T. Luke, S. Perkins.
Port Melbourne: S. Locke 2, C. Dyett, E. Harley, M. Kuys, A. Edmonds.

BEST:

Hawthorn: M. Hutchins, K. Sherar, I. Khoury, J. Williams, J. Richardson, T. Luke
Port Melbourne: A. Ling, C. Dyett, E. Harley, A. Edmonds, O. Barton, L. McClelland

SOUTHERN SAINTS 2.3 | 3.4 | 4.9 | 8.12 (60)
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.2 | 3.3 | 3.3 | 3.4 (22)

After a tight first half, Southern Saints kicked away to defeat North Melbourne by 38 points and book a VFL Women’s finals spot. The Saints lead by just a point at quarter time, but 5.8 to 0.1 after the main break – including four goals in the final term – resulted in the home team celebrating with an 8.12 (60) to 3.4 (22) win and securing sixth place on the table. Tara Bohanna slotted three goals from 25 disposals, eight marks, seven hitouts and three inside 50s, teaming up well with the dangerous Gabi De Angelis (24 disposals, nine marks, three tackles, eight inside 50s and two goals) for the bulk of the scoring. Tyanna Smith (23 disposals, six marks, six tackles and four inside 50s) and Hannah Stewart (22 disposals, three marks, six clearances and four inside 50s) were also busy, as Rebecca Neaves and Francesca Hocking both had 12 disposals and combined for nine rebound 50s. Capping off a simply remarkable season, North skipper Meagan Kiely might have saved her best to last. Racking up 36 disposals, 11 marks, three clearances, four inside 50s and six rebounds, Kiely was simply unstoppable around the ground. She teamed up well with Airlie Runnalls (33 disposals, nine marks, five clearances, four tackles, five inside 50s and a goal), whilst Sarah Skinner also slotted two goals returning to the team, along with 17 disposals, seven marks and four inside 50s. Jess Mourney was steadfast in defence with 17 touches, six marks and four rebound 50s.

GOALS:

Southern Saints: T. Bohanna 3, G. De Angelis 2, A. Peck, J. Matin, T. Kearns
North Melbourne: S. Skinner 2, A. Runnalls

BEST:

Southern Saints: T. Smith, H. Stuart, G. De Angelis, T. Kearns, R. Neaves, T. Bohanna
North Melbourne: A. Runnalls, M. Kiely, J. Mourney, S. Skinner, R. Hicks, A. Hamilton

WILLIAMSTOWN 1.0 | 1.2 | 2.4 | 2.4 (16)
CARLTON 2.1 | 4.2 | 6.5 | 6.7 (43)
Carlton has capped off its VFL Women’s season with a win, securing seventh place on the final ladder. Whilst it was four points out of the top six, the Blues showed they could compete with the best teams at times, and were able to account for Williamstown by 27 points. Only leading by seven points at the first break, the Blues kicked four goals to one after quarter time to win, 6.7 (43) to 2.4 (16). Jennifer Lew finished with 20 disposals, four marks, seven tackles, four inside 50s and a goal in a best on ground performances, whilst the likes of Akayla Peterson (17 disposals, three marks, six tackles, five clearances and four inside 50s) and Jorja Borg (13 disposals, 39 hitouts, four tackles) were also impressive. Olivia Madden slotted two goals in the victory, whilst young talent Maeve Chaplin was also named in the Blues’ best. Ashlea Melnikas had 24 disposals, five clearances, eight tackles, four inside 50s and two rebounds, sharing the high disposals with Ruby Tripodi (23 disposals, five clearances and five tackles) and Aimee Whelan (21 disposals, seven clearances, nine tackles and four rebound 50s. Erin Meade was once against a standout thanks to her 21 disposals, seven clearances and four rebound 50s, whilst Megan Williamson had 10 tackles and five clearances from nine disposals.
GOALS:
Williamstown: E. Meade, C. Leighton.
Carlton: O. Madden 2, S. Lawrence 2, C. Hammans, J. Lew.
BEST:
Williamstown: R. Tripodi, E. Straford, E. Meade, E. Baxter, P. Nash, A. Whelan
Carlton: J. Lew, A. Peterson, J. Borg, A. Klingbeil, O. Madden, M. Chaplin

The Graduates 2021 VFLW – Round 13

AFTER a long-awaited three-week break, the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition returned to action in Round 13, with several sides ruled out of finals contention, whilst others secured their spot in the post-season series. A number of NAB League Girls made their debuts in the competition, as we took a look at how they performed, as well as some of the others who have graduated the elite junior competition.

Geelong held off Hawthorn in a tight battle between the rival clubs, with the Hawks’ plethora of Eastern Ranges talents getting a run around. Isabelle Khoury (12 disposals, eight tackles) was the pick of the bunch, with current teammates Cadhla Schmidli (seven disposals), Eloise Chaston (six disposals and one goal), Keeley Sherar (six disposals, six tackles), Bridget Deed and Sarah Humm all donning the brown and gold.

Former Ranges player Jenna Richardson had the 13 disposals, six marks and four tackles in an impressive effort, whilst Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae (12 disposals, four tackles) and Northern Territory young gun Dominique Carbone (nine disposals, three marks and five tackles) also impressed. For the Cats, ex-Murray midfielder Tamara Smith continued her impressive season with 13 disposals and seven tackles, while former Falcon Paige Sheppard (nine disposals, two marks, three tackles and a goal) and current GWV Rebels utility Chloe Leonard (seven disposals) also played in the tight contest.

Collingwood dominated the Western Bulldogs in the second half on their way to a huge 64-point victory, and had plenty of young talents coming through. Oakleigh’s Stella Reid (13 disposals, two marks) and Eliza James (10 disposals, three tackles) both held their own in the contest, with former Gippsland Power defender Jasmine Ferguson standing up on the last line, and Olivia Meagher also playing through some early soreness to finish the game.

The Western Bulldogs had a trio of GWV Rebels return to the side, led by Ella Friend (seven disposals), Lilli Condon and Tahlia Meier (both five), with Western Jets midfielder Trinity Skenderis picking up the eight touches and ex-Bendigo Pioneers skipper Brooke Hards laying 13 tackles and having three clearances from her four kicks.

Another former Bendigo skipper in Megan Williamson ran around for the Seagulls again laying five tackles with her five touches, whilst the current Bendigo skipper was on the opposite side – Essendon – with Tara Slender making her debut, picking up six touches, two marks, three tackles and a behind. Calder Cannons’ Zali Friswell booted a goal from three scoring chances for the Bombers, as Calder teammates Emelia Yassir (13 touches, seven tackles) and Kasey Lennox (seven disposals, two marks) also impressed.

Former Cannons Alana Barba (17 disposals, 11 tackles), Grace Dicker and Lauren Caruso also played in the match, with ex-Bushrangers talent Eloise Ashley Cooper picking up 10 touches and laying four tackles in the win.

A couple of former NAB League talents in Emma Horne (seven disposals) and Bridie Winbanks (five disposals, 12 hitouts and five tackles) ran around in Casey Demons’ win over Darebin. For the Falcons, Northern Knights duo Trinity Mills (11 disposals, five marks and four tackles) and Mikayla Plunkett (10 disposals, two marks and eight tackles) were named the best for the losing side. Calder Cannons’ Peppa Poultney and Katelyn Hazlett were among he present and former NAB Leaguers to pull on the Darebin jumper.

Southern Saints enjoyed a tight win over Carlton to give themselves best chance at a finals spot, and they had a number of young guns running around. Sandringham Dragons’ duo Pia Staltari (nine disposals, four tackles) and Emma Stuber both got their chance at VFLW level, whilst Jemma Radford had another game coming out of the Stingrays’ program. Ex-Ranges forward Gabi De Angelis had 15 disposals, two marks and nine tackles, whilst former Chargers tall Amelia Peck booted a goal from eight touches and four marks. Ex-Stingray Grace Hodder continued her stint at senior level for the Saints.

The Blues welcomed back Northern Knights duo Maeve Chaplin (10 disposals, five tackles) and Tara Delgado (six disposals, two tackles), while ex-Charger Amber Micallef stood up with 11 disposals, three marks and three tackles in the loss.

Port Melbourne had no shortage of young stars running around in its big win over North Melbourne, lead by Oakleigh Chargers’ Brooke Vickers (13 disposals, two marks) and Dandenong Stingrays’ Ashleigh Richards (11 disposals, four marks and a goal). Chargers’ Amanda Ling had another impressive outing with 10 touches, three marks, four tackles and a goal, whilst Dandenong Stingrays’ Jaide Anthony (seven disposals, two marks) and ex-Bushranger Sophie Locke (seven disposals, two marks and five tackles) also worked hard. North Melbourne had GIANTS Academy hard nut Jayde Hamilton back onball for nine touches, four marks and three tackles.

2021 VFLW Round 13 preview: Future stars return as teams limited by border restrictions

THERE might not be crowds this weekend, but the stakes are as high as ever for the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s teams, as the penultimate Round 13 finally gets underway after a three-week hiatus due to the Victorian lockdown. Three teams cannot be moved out of the finals race – Collingwood, Geelong and Port Melbourne – though only one of the latter two can secure a double-chance.

The other three spots are up for grabs, though Casey Demons and Essendon effectively need one win to book their spots – with the Demons even needing to just not be smashed in their final two matches to make it given their ridiculously high percentage. Western Bulldogs currently holds sixth spot and is the most in danger of missing out, taking on the Magpies and Demons, needing at least one win – but potentially two – to grab a finals place with Southern Saints, Carlton and North Melbourne all knocking down the door.

HAWTHORN vs. GEELONG
Saturday, June 19 @ 12:00pm
Box Hill City Oval

A battle between traditional rivals, Hawthorn and Geelong takes place at Box Hill City Oval from midday tomorrow. The Hawks unfortunately not only need to win their games and have results go their way in other matches, but realistically need a draw in one of the Southern Saints games and the other three teams around them – Western Bulldogs, Carlton and North Melbourne – to lose in the game that isn’t a draw. Geelong on the other hand need to keep winning in order to book a double chance, with third placed Port Melbourne just percentage behind and ready to earn a spot against Collingwood in the qualifying final if the Cats do slip up.

Both teams have past and present AFLW talent, with Rene Caris, Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner forming a huge midfield for the Cats. The Hawks have some experience tall timber with Meg Hutchins, Tamara Luke and Sarah Perkins among the names in the side. In terms of AFLW Draft hopefuls, Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae returns for another game in the brown and gold, joining Eastern Ranges’ Bridget Deed, Keeley Sherar, Isabelle Khoury, Eloise Chaston and debutants, Cadhla Schmidli and Sarah Humm in the side. For the Cats, Chloe Leonard returns to the blue and white hoops again, named on the bench for this match, whilst Jess Foley, Madelyn Keryk and Madisen Maguire are among the other Cats experienced talents.

COLLINGWOOD vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, June 19 @ 12:00pm
Olympic Park Oval

It might have been a long time for football to return, but luckily for the Magpies, they sewed up top spot and their third consecutive minor premiership last round. They can now play the role of managing players leading into finals, with Chloe Molloy, Jaimee Lambert, Sophie Livingstone and Sophie Casey among the outs for Round 13. In come the younger group in Amelia Velardo, Abbi Moloney and Alana Porter to face a hungry Western Bulldogs side needing a win. The Bulldogs can put themselves in pole position for a finals spot with an upset win, and have not held make in doing so with their team selection.

The Bulldogs have a mix of AFLW and NAB League Girls talents, with the midfield of Jess Fitzgerald, Britney Gutknecht and Isabelle Pritchard, as well as Isabella Grant, Gemma Lagioia and Sarah Hartwig around the ground, there is plenty of top-end talent that could cause a boil-over to the top of the table Magpies. From an AFLW Draft perspective, potential Top 10 pick Ella Friend is back in the side with Rebels’ teammates Lilli Condon and Tahlia Meier, whilst Brooke Hards and Simone Ruedin remain the only players to not miss a game for the red, white and blue. The Magpies have a couple of top talents making their debuts too, with Stella Reid and Eliza James – both out of the Oakleigh Chargers’ program – coming into the black and white stripes whilst another AFLW Draft Combine invitee in Olivia Meagher is also in the team. With six players in Draft Central’s recent AFLW Draft Power Rankings playing in the game, it is a must-listen via WARF Radio.

The Magpies deserve to be favourites as an unbeaten side, but the Western Bulldogs could arguably have the stronger team on paper for this clash, so it should be a really big contest.

>> AFLW Draft Power Rankings

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. ESSENDON
Saturday, June 19 @ 1:00pm
Downer Oval

Across at Downer Oval, Williamstown and Essendon will look to control the elements and the game, when the Bombers hit the road for a must-win clash. They take on the bottom two sides in the last two rounds and need just one win, so have the easiest draw in the final fortnight. They still need to get it done though, and the Seagulls still have plenty about them coming up against a Bombers side with a lot of talent. Another potential Top 10 selection in Tara Slender will make her debut in this game for the Bombers, with the Bendigo Pioneers’ utility named at centre half-forward.

Slender will join Calder Cannons’ Emelia Yassir, Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell in the starting team, with the experience of Georgia Nanscawen, Cecilia McIntosh and Mia-Rae Clifford across the three lines. Williamstown have had some consistent performers over the time, but the current border restrictions between Victoria and NSW/ACT has limited the GWS GIANTS AFLW players from taking part. The likes of Erin Meade, Scarlett Dunnell, Aimee Whelan and Megan Williamson have all enjoyed solid seasons and will be looked upon to step up in what is ultimately a tough game for them. Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper are recent NAB League Girls graduates and will be keen top put their best foot forward to impress, while the Bombers as a whole just have to win. Williamstown can play the role of party pooper in this game, and have the advantage of knowing the ground well.

CASEY DEMONS vs. DAREBIN
Saturday, June 19 @ 2:00pm
Casey Fields

Casey Demons are a win away from booking a spot in the VFL Women’s finals series, and providing the last placed Darebin do not roll them by a considerable amount, the Cranbourne-based team can potentially secure a home final in the process. They have a mix of past and present AFLW talents – including some recent delistings hoping to earn a second chance – whilst the Falcons will rely on some youngsters and their VFL Women’s players to try and cause an upset at windy Casey Fields.

Former Carlton player Winnie Laing and ex-Roo Kate Gillespie-Jones are lining up for Casey this weekend following their recent delistings from the Blues and North Melbourne respectively, alongside Mietta Kendall who is hoping for another chance in the red and blue, and then the most recent addition to the Demons’ rookie list in midfielder Eliza West. The latter has been a prominent ball winner for the VFL Women’s side and earned a promotion, whilst Imogen Milford is one player with plenty to prove after receiving an AFLW Draft Combine invite. Shelley Heath, Eliza McNamara and Megan Fitzsimon are also in the side, though there is an abundance of VFL Women’s talent in the team for the clash with the Falcons. Darebin have the experience of Nicole Callinan and Alyssia Mifsud who have played at the top level, but otherwise have the NAB League Girls talents of Trinity Mills and Peppa Poultney, as well as another former NAB League Girls player in Katelyn Hazlett. Samara David and Stephanie Simpson have enjoyed impressive seasons up forward, whilst Victoria Blackwood and Gena Lawson-Tavan are reliable players with Callinan in the back 50. Expect Casey to be too strong, but Darebin will be keen to cause an upset.

CARLTON vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Sunday, June 20 @ 11:00am
Ikon Park

A virtual elimination final in many ways, the loser of Carlton and Southern Saints will need to rely on other results in order to make finals, with the Blues in particular having a line put through their name given the percentage difference. If the Saints lose, they will need the Bulldogs to also lose to the Magpies in order to make the finals, or if they win and the Bulldogs win, it will come down to the final round. The Blues cannot overtake the Bulldogs unless they win big and the Bulldogs lose, but it will keep them in the finals hunt with a clash against Williamstown in the final round.

Carlton know the stakes by winning the match, with Lucy McEvoy named once again alongside some AFLW talent in Daisy Walker and Charlotte Hammans. They do have a lot of VFLW talent in the side still, with Amber Micallef, Ally Bild, Jennifer Lew and Jorja Borg among those who have had some impressive moments this season. Northern Knights duo Maeve Chaplin and Tara Delgado are in the side again to try and stake their claims ahead of the AFLW Draft, while ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Teagan Brett returns to the Navy Blues. The Saints have not fully confirmed their side at the time of publishing, but they were favoured to take it up to the Blues, with Alice Burke, Tyanna Smith, Jess Matin and Alice Burke all named in the side that narrowly went down to Western Bulldogs last round. Dandenong Stingrays’ Jemma Radford has really held her own in the side, with Sandringham Dragons’ Pia Staltari and Emma Stuber among those on the extended list for the Saints.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Sunday, June 20 @ 1:00pm
ETU Stadium

Completing Round 13 of action is a game with plenty on the line for both teams in different ways. Port Melbourne is gunning for a second chance if the Borough can get up and hope Geelong loses, whilst North Melbourne can keep their hopes of finals alive with an upset win on the road at ETU Stadium. Much like Williamstown with the GIANTS, the Roos have been impacted by not being able to utilise their Tasmanian contingent, which has meant plenty of changes for the blue and white stripes. Port Melbourne on the other hand have not held back in their selection, with experience and young guns galore in what will be an exciting contest.

Roos captain Meagan Kiely is based in Victoria and the Tasmanian talent will look to continue her ripping form this season teaming up with Brooke Slaney and Reni Hicks in midfield. They have a tough job with Ellie McKenzie making her VFLW debut for the Borough, and Courteney Bromage and Mel Kuys rounding out a strong midfield. The Port Melbourne bench is as exciting as one could be, with Dandenong Stingrays duo Jaide Anthony and Ashleigh Richards, and Oakleigh Chargers duo Amanda Ling and Brooke Vickers – all who received AFLW Draft Combine invites – playing in the match. Sarah D’Arcy also makes her debut up forward for the Borough, alongside Emily Harley and Sophie Locke. The Roos will have Alexia Hamilton through the ruck and Jayde Hamilton and Elisha King up forward, whilst Molly Eastman and Beth Lynch are among those likely to create some run out of defence for the visitors in the Sunday afternoon clash. The Borough have the advantage at home and can snuff out the Roos’ finals chances with a win, but North have proven to put up a fight most weeks so should give the game a shake.