Tag: elizabeth dowling

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.

2021 AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Tall/Medium Defenders

AFTER announcing the inaugural AFLW Draft Power Rankings Victorian Pool, Draft Central is starting a new series – Positional Analysis. It takes a look across the nation and those players within a certain position, and the impact they have. Next up is tall and medium defenders, where the defender position is the more prevalent area for utilities and we have just looked at those above 160cm. Some defenders who are considered utilities will be in other AFLW Draft Positional Analysis. All opinions are of the individual author.

>> AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Rucks

>> AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Tall/Medium Forwards

#1 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.

>> Jaide Anthony VFLW Player Focus

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

Key strengths: Aerial ability, reading the play, kicking, footy IQ

The clever AFL Women’s Academy member is a Brisbane Lions Academy aligned player who has been a reliable talent in defence. Having also showed her wares in the midfield at times, Harmer predominantly is utilised as a rebounding defender who wins her own ball through intercepting opposition forward thrusts. Against Vic Country, Harmer had 15 disposals, five marks and five tackles, one of the shining lights in a big loss for the Sunshine State. Hoping to improve her ground ball work given her ability in the air, Harmer is a talent who knows how to position herself one-on-one in a contest, pull down the ball, then use it well coming out of defence to hit the long kick to an open target. She has the footy smarts to be able to make good decisions under pressure and knows when to go, or when to hold.

>> Maggie Harmer QAFLW Player Focus

#3 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.

#4 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.

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

Key strengths: Athleticism, kicking, aggression, versatility

Having predominantly settled in at half-back, Tonon is a player who can realistically play anywhere on the field, as she did in her debut SANFL Women’s season last year. The Glenelg premiership players has come on in leaps and bounds over the past 12 months, and has a nice balance of offensive and defensive traits. She can win the ball in the back 50, use her speed and evasion to propel it in transition, and then also win it back from the opposition through fierce tackling. Tonon’s versatility is key to being able to slot into any role, but the way she is able to get into the right spots and be able to hit targets down the field is valuable. One of the South Australian talents who did her chances no harm at SANFL Women’s or AFLW Under 19s level, where she averaged 15.5 disposals, 3.5 tackles and 2.0 rebounds from her two games.

>> Brooke Tonon SANFLW Player Focus

#6 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.

#7 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
01/02/2002 | 168cm
Medium Defender/Midfielder

Key strengths: Consistency, accumulation, work rate, tackling

As safe a player as you could find, Leonard’s 2021 season was consistency bonafide. She hardly put a foot wrong all year for the GWV Rebels, averaging 19.4 disposals, 2.4 marks, 7.1 tackles and 4.0 rebound 50s playing between half-back and through the middle. Possessing courage and a hard edge with a high work rate, Leonard kept cracking in for four quarters every game and was amongst her team’s best players regular. A 2002-born talent who missed out last year, Leonard certainly stepped up this season, and has already made her VFLW debut, and looked good out of defence for Vic Country with 4.7 rebound 50s to go with 14.7 disposals and 5.0 tackles.

#8 Elizabeth Dowling
31/07/2003 | 171cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Defensive pressure, rebounding, aggression, reading the play

The Geelong Falcons defender has been a player who has progressed through the Falcons’ V/Line Cup program through to the Vic Country team and been a rock solid member in defence for a number of years now. In her Under 16s season, Dowling played nine games and showed plenty of potential, and has hardly missed a game since outside of Vic Country commitments, averaging around 11 disposals, four tackles and two rebounds per game. Not a huge marker, Dowling prefers to spoil and also win the ball one-on-one at ground level, or lay a strong tackle to wrap up the opponent or get it out to a teammate. She is able to use the ball consistently out of the back half, and is one who always puts her body on the line.

#9 Emily Bennett (Claremont/Western Australia)
26/12/2002 | 170cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Overhead marking, defensive pressure, rebounding, kicking

The Claremont rebounding defender might be a 2002-born player, but she only scrapes into the 19th year by five days. A traditional footballer who just does everything right, Bennett is strong overhead, good at ground level and provides both the defensive pressure and offensive run required of a half-back. She puts her body on the line, and when having the chance of disposing of it, will generally use it well, with a lovely long kick down the field. By her own admission, endurance was a key improvement for her this season, but her consistency and weight of numbers across the WAFL Women’s and then AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships – where she averaged an eye-catching 16.3 disposals, 3.3 marks, 5.3 tackles and 4.0 rebound 50s – earned her a well-deserved AFLW Draft Combine invite this year.

>> Emily Bennett feature

#10 Grace Mulvahil
18/04/2003 | 172cm
Medium Defender/Utility

Key strengths: Kicking, acceleration, evasion, work rate

The Northern Territory talent has been a junior star in the NTFL Women’s competition, becoming the second youngest player to win the best on ground in the senior grand final last year. She also won the Rising Star award, and has been touted as a talent to watch for many years. Still developing and constantly getting better, Mulvahil’s standout trait is her kicking, able to pinpoint passes around the ground both under pressure and when in space. Her acceleration off the mark, and evasion makes her hard to stop, with a high work rate to boot. Standing at 172cm, Mulvahil is a good size to play as a half-back or even push up to the wing, but knows where the goals are too if thrown forward. She averaged the 10.5 disposals, 2.0 marks and 3.5 tackles at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, holding her own against stronger opponents and providing great run for the Allies.

OTHERS:

There are so many quality defenders it is hard to limit them down, with a plethora of West Australian talent that could easily squeeze into the top 10 such is the evenness of the group. Swan Districts’ Emma Nanut, Peel Thunder’s Bella Mann and Beth Schilling and Claremont’s Matilda Dyke all provide various traits and defensive options of all sizes. In the key defensive slots, Northern Knights’ Tarrah Delgado and Eastern Ranges’ Cadhla Schmidli are other Victorian talents, with Queensland duo Christine Okesene and Giselle Davies providing the run and height respectively that could interest the Sunshine State clubs.

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

IN a Draft Central first, the inaugural edition of our AFL Women’s Draft Power Rankings highlights the some of the top AFL Women’s Draft prospects ahead of the 2021 draft on July 27. Between then and now there will be the two editions of the Power Rankings; this one a final one ahead of the draft following the state-based combines and completion of a number of state league competitions. 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.

For this Power Rankings, we have focused purely on the Victorian pool, so does not include those likely to zone to other states due to the limited teams and selections in those states. 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.

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.

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.

#3 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.

#4 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.

Ella Friend

#5 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.

#6 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.

#7 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.

#8 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.

Annie Lee

#9 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.

#10 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.

#11 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.

#12 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.

#13 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.

Emelia Yassir

#14 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.

#15 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.

#16 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.

Meagan Kiely

#17 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.

#18 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.

#19 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.

Brooke Hards

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

Key strengths: Footy smarts, versatility, athleticism, kicking

The former Bendigo Pioneers co-captain rounds out the top 20 in our Power Rankings and 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.

#21 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.

#22 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.

Maeve Chaplin

#23 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
22/08/2002 | 167cm
Inside Midfielder/Defender

Key strengths: Inside work, clearances, strength, reading the play

A dominant ball-winner who became the focal point of the Knights’ midfield brigade this year, Chaplin is a natural contested ball winner, and someone who can slot straight into an inside midfield. Only playing VFLW post-NAB League Girls, Chaplin has managed the three straight games for the Blues at the level, also juggling Vic Metro commitments as well. Able to play off half-back as she did in past years, Chaplin did it for Vic Metro, whilst playing the inside ball winner for the Knights. She averaged the 17.3 disposals and 5.0 tackles, with a lot of her possessions coming in close, and then working hard to spread to the outside and thump the ball forward to give her team the advantage.

#24 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.

Elizabeth Snell

#25 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
14/03/2002 | 165cm
Inside Midfielder/ Medium Forward

Key strengths: Tackling, speed, evasion, forward craft

After not getting a Draft Combine last year, Snell stepped up to have a huge season with the Bendigo Pioneers, showing off the traits she has always had, but with greater consistency week to week. The thing with Snell has always been having some seriously top-end traits when it comes to her athleticism – particularly her speed and evasion – and tackling pressure, but it is about building on other areas of her game such as her accumulation and kicking. Whilst her kicking is still an area to keep building on, her numbers went through the roof this year, averaging 20 disposals to go with her 8.8 tackles per game, prompted by a move into the midfield. She showed she can handle any level, averaging 16.5 disposals and 8.5 tackles for Vic Country, and 12.8 disposals and 8.0 tackles for Essendon VFLW. Simply a tackling machine.

#26 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
01/02/2002 | 168cm
Medium Defender/Midfielder

Key strengths: Consistency, accumulation, work rate, tackling

As safe as a player as you could find, Leonard’s 2021 season was consistency bonafide. She hardly put a foot wrong all year for the GWV Rebels, averaging 19.4 disposals, 2.4 marks, 7.1 tackles and 4.0 rebound 50s playing between half-back and through the middle. Possessing courage and a hard edge with a high work rate, Leonard kept cracking in for four quarters every game and was amongst her team’s best players regular. A 2002-born talent who missed out last year, Leonard certainly stepped up this season, and has already made her VFLW debut, and looked good out of defence for Vic Country with 4.7 rebound 50s to go with 14.7 disposals and 5.0 tackles.

#27 Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges/Collingwood VFLW)
21/12/2002 | 157cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Contested work, balance, strength, accumulation

Another player who went back to her NAB League Girls club Eastern Ranges after missing out on being drafted despite a Draft Combine invite, Meagher spent three games with the Ranges before making the transition into Collingwood’s VFLW team. There she improved her versatility to play inside and outside after being a dominant contested ball-winner for the Ranges in 2020. She is damaging forward of centre, and despite not having high mark numbers, she is strong overhead for her sub-160cm size. She is someone who could play in transition between midfield and forward, and is a fierce player with a great attitude and would be one the Magpies – or another team – could consider calling up to their AFLW list.

#28 Sophie Locke (Port Melbourne VFLW)
24/04/2001 | 166cm
Medium Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, goal sense, high-impact, one-on-ones

Much like Hards, Locke has transformed her game at VFLW level with Port Melbourne, but in a different way. Playing as a reliable lock-down defender who had enough traits to suggest she could develop into a more offensively-minded player, Locke switched ends from her days in defence with the Murray Bushrangers and Vic Country, to become a prominent forward for the Borough this season. A year off did not impact Locke who showed she can be damaging inside 50 and has the capacity to play at both ends, averaging the 9.3 disposals, 2.2 marks and 1.1 goals per game. She was even further ahead prior to a mid-season injury, leading the competition goalkicking at that stage, and before the return of the AFLW players. Received a Draft Combine invite for her season.

Zali Friswell

#29 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
30/12/2003 | 165cm
Inside Midfielder/Forward

Key strengths: Kicking, balance, footy smarts, defensive pressure

A well-balanced midfielder who thrives on the inside of the contest, Friswell has been thrown around all over the field across multiple levels. She has played as a forward for Essendon VFLW and as a back pocket during her game with Vic Metro, but the midfield role is where she is best suited to. The impact difference is noticeable, with Friswell genuinely among the better midfielders in the draft crop, averaging 15.6 disposals, 6.9 tackles and 2.9 inside 50s for the Cannons in the NAB League Girls. Only two days away from being a bottom-ager, Friswell has nice balance, uses the ball well and good footy smarts to hit pinpoint passes down the field. If drafted to be a midfielder, then Friswell is an exceptional talent.

#30 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
18/07/2003 | 171cm
Wing

Key strengths: Athleticism, speed, upside, hurt factor

The AFL Women’s Academy member continued her trajectory of showing some serious highlights, whilst still trying to build some consistency in her game. Not a huge ball winner, Appleby usually has at least one run down the wing with a couple of bounces a game to break open the opposition zones and rack up the metres gained. She moves well, uses the ball well and really hurts the opposition when she gets it. If she begins to get it more consistently, then she will be an even bigger threat, but on the outside, Appleby has strong hands and can impact playing off a wing.

OTHERS IN CONTENTION:

The evenness of the AFL Women’s Draft in the Victorian pool makes it very difficult to judge, but expect some of the taller options to be considered such as Gippsland Power ruck Grace Matser, key defenders Tarrah Delgado and Cadhla Schmidli, and versatile talents Neve Crowley and Jemima Woods thereabouts. Geelong Falcons’ Elizabeth Dowling is one of the more reliable defenders running around, with Ash Richards, Tahlia Meier and Eliza James the forward options in the mix. From a VFLW standpoints, Casey Demons’ forward Imogen Milford, Collingwood’s Matilda Zander, and Essendon’s Alana Barba are also considered as ones to keep an eye out for in the upcoming draft.

2021 NAB League Girls preview: Preliminary Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls premiership contenders have been whittled down to four after an enthralling opening week of finals, with the knockout bouts setting up this week’s preliminary final stage. As the postseason draw remains split into Country and Metro pools, Saturday’s double-header at Avalon Airport Oval will decide which regions are left standing to play off for ultimate glory.

In the day’s opening game, minor premier Oakleigh will look to flex its muscle against the Eastern Ranges, after both regions progressed through the elimination round in style. The Chargers remain the team to beat having dropped just one game this season, but Eastern cannot be counted out after knocking off the reigning premiers.

Looking at the Country equation, the third and fourth ranked regular season sides mixed it up last week to create an intriguing matchup this time around. The Geelong Falcons and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels are those teams in question, both with some terrific top-end talents to be showcased at midday.

We preview both fixtures with a look at form and the key matchups.

METRO POOL

Oakleigh Chargers vs. Eastern Ranges
Saturday May 8, 10:00am
Avalon Airport Oval

Top seed, Oakleigh Chargers will lock horns with Eastern Ranges to decide which side will represent the Metro regions in this year’s NAB League grand final. The Chargers have set the benchmark in 2021 having only lost once during the regular season, but have not yet been able to test themselves against the Ranges. Eastern finished as Metro’s second-ranked team with its 6-2 record, with either loss coming to fellow finals contenders. Both teams are on win streaks, with the Ranges riding high on four-straight victories, while Oakleigh returned from the break well to get up twice in the last fortnight.

Oakleigh’s squad dynamism will be a feature to watch in this clash, with many of their top-end talents able to shift and impact across multiple lines. Skipper Charlie Rowbottom is often at the heart of their cause, starting at full forward in recent weeks before bullocking her way into the game through midfield. Stella Reid is also among the starting forwards and has added a goalkicking string to her bow this season alongside Eliza James. Another in that midfield-forward rotation could be Amanda Ling, who is so tough and consistent at ground level. Further afield, ‘Chook’ Brooke Vickers and Charlotte Van Der Vlies run the wings, as Charlotte Taylor forms the centrepiece of a sturdy defence.

If there is one Metro region which can compete with Oakleigh for inside midfield strength, it may be Eastern. The one-two punch of Bridget Deed and Keeley Sherar has been wonderful to watch, with the likes of Jorja Livingstone benefitting on the outer. Isabelle Khoury has also entered the centre bounce mix, which is capped off by athletic ruck Georgia Campbell. Tilly Hardy and El Chaston, who have both gained VFLW experience this year, are forward threats, along with competition leading goalkicker Alyssia Pisano. The 15-year-old talent has proven she is not afraid of the big stage and can kick a bag if afforded too much leeway.

The minor premiers should rightly enter as the favoured side in this match, but will be given a good shake by Eastern’s competitiveness and even spread across the ground. It all starts with the midfield battle, which should prove a tight one, as both teams like to make an impact at the contest. Whichever side can get on top at the coalface and provide greater opportunities for the match-winners in the front half, will go a long way to being crowned this year’s top Metro region.

COUNTRY POOL

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Saturday May 8, 12:00pm
Avalon Airport Oval

The Geelong Falcons and GWV Rebels battle it out at midday on Saturday to decide which team will not only be crowned the top Country region in 2021, but also progress to this year’s NAB League grand final. Both teams took out higher ranked opposition in last week’s elimination final round, with Geelong powering past Dandenong while the Rebels caused a momentous upset over top seed, Tasmania. The Falcons got the better of their weekend rivals all the way back in Round 1, winning by 10 points on home turf in what was a competitive hitout throughout. Plenty has change since then though, and there will be plenty of confidence bouncing around both squads given their recent exploits.

Geelong was pegged as one of the teams to beat during preseason and have not disappointed, boasting high-level talent on each line. Starting in defence, the Falcons are rock-solid with the likes of Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling among those who repel nicely across half-back, impacting aerially and with their disposal. Up the other end, Renee Tierney is the spearhead with dynamite athlete Gabbi Featherston ahead of her as another marking target. At ground level, Poppy Schaap has rolled forward a lot more in recent weeks and Zoe Garth is impartial to a goal. Delivering the ball to them often times is Tess Craven out of the middle, who will once again be supported by bottom-agers Charlotte Simpson and Ash Van Loon at the centre bounces.

GWV lays claim to a head of top end prospects, with arguably none more exciting that its two AFLW Academy members Ella Friend and Nyakoat Dojiok. The pair are capable of bookending this lineup with aerial dominance, but Friend is wonderfully versatile and could well end up waxing with Dojiok in defence. Last week’s match winner, Paige Scott is capable of tearing the game apart at any moment, named in midfield but likely to head forward where Tahlia Meier is also a threat. In the middle, Kalani Scoullar makes for an imposing ruck figure, while Lilli Condon is as hard-working as they come with her run and ball winning ability at ground level. Add the experience of Chloe Leonard to that midfield rotation, and GWV are ultra competitive.

If their Round 1 meeting is anything to go by, this clash should be an absolute belter. Geelong is a side which seems to be peaking at the right time, with their form built on a wall-like defence and reliable figures where it matters most, complemented by forwards who consistently convert. The Rebels have the potential to be equally as damaging on their day and will look to control possession, but should be tested well in their usually strong aerial department. This is a clash where you cannot rule either side out, and both should bring a true finals intensity to the fore.

2021 NAB League Girls preview: Elimination Finals

AFTER nine rounds of home-and-away tussles, the 2021 NAB League Girls season rolls on into its first week of finals. The eight qualifying teams hail from two seperate pools, with four from the Metro regions and four from the Country selection, including Tasmania.

Oakleigh Chargers, who finished first in their pool and top overall, will take on fourth-ranked Metro side Calder, while the Northern Knights’ premiership defence goes on the line against Eastern Ranges. Both games will be played in a Saturday double-header at Warrawee Park, Oakleigh.

On the Country side of things, top-ranked Tasmania faces the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels in a standalone Sunday fixture on the Apple Isle. The Devils’ and Rebels will go in already knowing their next opponent, as Dandenong and Geelong lock horns on Saturday afternoon for what looms as the game of the weekend.

We preview all four games with a look at form and the key matchups.

METRO POOL

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS (1st, 7-1) vs. CALDER CANNONS (4th, 5-3)
Saturday May 1, 10:00am
Warrawee Park, Oakleigh

Two of the competition’s premier teams tussle when Oakleigh Chargers and Calder Cannons open this year’s finals series on Saturday morning. While Oakleigh’s top-end talent has seen it charge to frontrunner status, Calder had long been poised as a finals fancy coming into the season. The two sides’ Round 3 meeting saw Oakleigh prove its credentials with a 16-point win on the road, via a three-goal to nil fourth quarter. This time around, the Chargers are on their home deck and come in having dismantled Gippsland by 100 points post-break. Calder’s run in is less ideal having lost to Geelong last week, making for two wins in its last four games. Oakleigh also lost to Geelong in Round 8, but won in every other outing this season.

Where it’s won: 

Calder boasts enormous strength down the spine; with Kasey Lennox down back, Tahlia Gillard rotating forward from the ruck, Neve Crowley able to swing up either end, and Georgie Prespakis leading a balanced midfield trio which includes Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell. There is an enormous amount of experience and class within that group alone, with all six part of the Cannons’ 2019 grand final side.

Oakleigh also has a strong engine room, but the dynamism of their squad as a whole could prove key here. Charlie Rowbottom can kick goals when resting forward, Brooke Vickers is a terrific generator of momentum from half-back or the wing, and Stella Reid is a consistent ball winner who can play on each line. The flexibility of those key players, along with a raft of up-and-comers makes the Chargers an ominous force moving forward. Speaking of, keep an eye out for Jasmine Fleming and Ameille Smith. Fleming made a stunning debut last week, while Smith returned from injury with aplomb in the same game.

Marquee matchup: Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers) vs. Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

It is only fitting to pit these two up against each other, having recently waxed to good effect in Vic Metro’s midfield. Both captains of their respective sides, expect to hear their names in close proximity for a long time yet as they loom as the top two picks in the Victorian draft pool. They may well feature in close proximity to each other on the field too, despite Rowbottom being named at full forward for Oakleigh. She is known to rotate deep and hit the scoreboard, but will likely be key to setting an early tone for her side against a well-balanced Calder midfield. Prespakis is the centrepiece there, with unmatched ball winning ability and two-way relevance. In their Round 3 duel, Rowbottom finished with 18 disposals, 11 tackles and five inside 50s, while Prespakis had 20 touches, 18 tackles, and four inside 50s. Let’s see who takes centre stage this time out.

EASTERN RANGES (2nd, 6-2) vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS (3rd, 5-3)
Saturday May 1, 12:00pm
Warrawee Park, Oakleigh

The Eastern Ranges will be out for redemption when they lock horns with Northern Knights on Saturday afternoon, with the Metro rivalry producing a couple of thrilling contests in the last three seasons. Northern remains the reigning premier and will look to continue its defence here, having ranked third in the Metro pool with a 5-3 record. Eastern bested them in that aspect to finish second at 6-2, but one of those losses crucially came at the hands of their weekend opponents. back in Round 6, the Knights came from nowhere to snatch an eight point victory over Eastern, aided by a four-goal final term. The result should be fresh in the memory of both sides, who come into this clash on the back of solid Round 9 victories.

Where it’s won:

The midfield. If their Round 6 meeting is anything to go by, this game rests on which side can wrestle momentum in the engine room. Eastern beat Northern in that department for three quarters of their earlier clash this year, but came unstuck as Northern moved Tarrah Delgado on the ball and got on top at the death. The Knights did not have Maeve Chaplin to rely on in that match, so she is a key inclusion to lead the line alongside Teleah Smart and Ava Jordan, who had 24 disposals and two goals in Round 6.

The Ranges have a good bunch of ball winners who have been ultra consistent this season, with Bridget Deed and Keeley Sherar among the key movers who can benefit from Georgia Campbell‘s ruckwork. All three were impactful last time out against the Knights, with Campbell combining with Jess Grace to win 35 hitouts, while Deed and Sherar finished atop their side’s disposal chart.

Experience may also play a factor, with Grace among a handful of Ranges to have gained VFLW experience with Hawthorn this year. Of course, Northern will claim their own ascendancy in that regard with the same number of players from their 2019 premiership team set to line up once again on Saturday.

Marquee matchup: Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges) vs. Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

With the midfield battle so important to this result, what better place to look for the marquee matchup. Put forward here are two 167cm inside types who can win their own ball and set the tone for their side. Deed has averaged 19.4 disposals and 5.8 tackles across eight consistent games in 2021, while Chaplin has played seven times for averages of 17.1 and 4.9 in the same categories – though was twice rubbed out with injury in those outings. Both players are fresh off representing Vic Metro at the Under 19 National Championships and worked back into form nicely upon the NAB League’s return. Expect to see them in the thick of things at the coalface.

COUNTRY POOL

DANDENONG STINGRAYS (2nd, 5-3) vs. GEELONG FALCONS (3rd, 5-3)
Saturday May 1, 2:30pm
Shepley Oval, Dandenong

Potentially the game of the weekend sees Dandenong Stingrays shape up against Geelong Falcons at Shepley Oval, rounding out Saturday’s fixtures. Both sides finished their regular seasons with 5-3 records, but remain one of the rare pairs not to have crossed paths since 2019. The Stingrays made a hot start to their 2021 campaign with three-straight wins, but have since gone 2-3 in their last five outings. That third loss came last week to Northern, with the silver lining a competitive hitout on the eve of finals. Geelong looks to be in terrific shape having become the only team to beat Oakleigh in Round 8, before returning to knock off Calder last week. The Falcons have lost some winnable games too, but are always a massive threat at full strength. Whichever team survives is in with a great chance at taking out the ultimate glory, among a tough group of competitors.

Where it’s won:

Both sides are strong on each line, but boast particularly sturdy defences. Among Dandenong’s back six, it won’t be hard to miss (and mistake) key pillars Zoe Hill and Mackenzie Eardley, while Jaide Anthony makes a welcome return and Jemma Radford also comes back into the side having gained some VFLW experience. Those are just names among the starting group, with plenty more movers likely to rotate back and help blanket some lively Geelong forwards.

For the Falcons, the combination of Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling is a real star turn, with their mix of intercepting and rebounding proving a nice catalyst from the back. Again they are just a couple of outstanding figures in the wider structure having recently served Vic Country in a similar fashion. Whichever defence can resist the attack which comes their way for longer, while also providing the better spark in transition, will likely come away as the winner.

Marquee matchup: Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays) vs. Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Another pair of midfielders in the marquee matchup slot, these two have often proven the prime ball winners for either side. They are virtually identical in height and while Shepherd is a year younger, just as capable of starring at this level. Part of Dandenong’s leadership group, Shepherd has played five games in 2021 for averages of 17.8 disposals, 3.2 tackles, and 4.8 inside 50s. It is worth noting, she came off injured in Round 5 and was rotated heavily upon her Round 8 return. Last week, she notched 24 touches in a terrific outing.

Craven has two more games under her belt and is an ultra consistent figure; averaging 21.7 disposals, 3.0 tackles, and 3.3 inside 50s this season. Not only does she win the ball at the coalface, but also works around the ground to have an all-round impact. Shepherd, who seems to have so much time on the ball, can also rotate forward and tends to make things happen.

Tasmania Devils (1st, 6-2) vs. GWV Rebels (4th, 3-5)
Sunday May 2, 12:30pm
Windsor Park, Launceston

The Tasmania Devils will take part in their first-ever NAB League Girls final this weekend, taking on the GWV Rebels on Sunday afternoon. The Devils earned the right to host on the back of a remarkable campaign, showing marked improvement to register a 6-2 record and top the country pool. While GWV finished ninth overall, the Victorian side snuck into the postseason as the fourth-ranked country side. You won’t have to look too far back to see how these teams stack up against each other, as they played just last week. The Devils won that game by 23 points, meaning this clash looms as somewhat of a reverse fixture. Tasmania’s winning streak is also now at four games, while the Rebels will have some work to do to bring their three-game losing skid to an end.

Where it’s won:

This contest looms as an interesting one in terms of styles – it goes without saying that whichever side can play the game on their terms for longer will likely win, but it rings true here. The Devils have shown they are a potent unit, managing scores of over 35 points on six occasions this season. They move the ball well in transition and may look to dismantle the Rebels in that way again. GWV plays a slightly different style and was shown to kick-mark, or kick long more than Tasmania last week. The Devils used the ball far more by hand in that outing, so will have a good idea of what works and how they can break open the usually congested finals feeling. GWV also has some strong aerial players, which come into effect when the ball is kicked in long. At ground level, both sides are tough and are not afraid to get their hands dirty defensively.

Marquee matchup: Amy Prokopiec (Tasmania Devils) vs. Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

On paper, this is one of the best pure matchups across the entire round of action. Named alongside each other on the team sheets, Prokopiec and Dojiok have already had a sighter against one-another. Tassie Devils forward, Prokopiec has been a reliable figure for her side, booting 10 goals in her seven games and being held goalless just once. She snared 2.2 last week and looked dangerous having been overlooked for Allies selection. Fresh off her carnival with Vic Country, exciting Rebels defender Dojiok had 18 disposals and five rebound 50s last week. A kick-first player who also marks well and gains serious meterage, it is little wonder why she was included in the AFLW Academy this year given her potential. She will again be a key player for GWV here, matched up against a player similar in size and in just the right position for both players to truly test themselves.

2021 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 9

IT was as if the competition saved its best until last, with the Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Week for Round 9 being the toughest one yet. Without a doubt, cutting the shortlist from 34 names was a difficult one, and even then, the individual midfield performances – and high-scoring goal efforts – made it incredibly tricky to determine a final 24-player squad. In the end, 12 of the 13 full-time NAB League Girls sides were represented in the team, with three winners earning three players in the side, and the other four winners – and two narrow losers – earning the two players, while the remaining losing sides had one or less in the tightest squeeze for spots.

Given the amount of votes handed to both players in our Player of the Week, we opted to go with co-captains for Round 9, as Murray Bushrangers’ Keeley Skepper and Tasmania Devils’ Perri King were bestowed that honour. Skepper was joined in the side by teammate Aurora Smith, as well as forward Olivia Cicolini, while King’s teammate Shania Saward made her debut in the side at half-back. The midfield was a stacked one this week, with Western Jets’ Charlotte Baskaran named onball, while forward Caitlin Sargent‘s four majors resulted in her slotting in at centre half-forward. Lilli Condon rounded out the onball group, while Tahlia Meier made the team on the bench.

Oakleigh Chargers’ triple digit win over Gippsland Power saw three players named in the side, with Jasmine Fleming and Charlie Rowbottom combining for five goals, Fleming on debut. Amanda Ling also kicked three in a different role to her usual onball one and earned a place in the side, whilst opposition ruck Grace Matser slotted into her spot once again. Also up forward was Geelong’s Poppy Schaap, joined in the side by teammates and defenders, Elizabeth Dowling and Annie Lee who hold down the key position posts again. The other forward was Dandenong Stingrays’ co-captain Ash Richards, with Felicity Crank named up the other end in a back pocket.

Also named in the starting squad was defender Tannah Hurst of the Northern Knights, with Maeve Chaplin no stranger to the side, making the team yet again. From the Eastern Ranges, Mia Busch slotted back onto a half-back flank, with Keeley Sherar named on the star-studded bench. Rounding out the bench was two individual nominees from their respective teams, with Calder Cannons’ Georgie Prespakis and Sandringham Dragons’ Bridie Hipwell both impressing despite losses.

This week’s emergencies were GWV Rebels’ Nyakoat Dojiok, Calder Cannons’ Emelia Yassir, and the sole Bendigo Pioneers representative in the 27, in defender Drew Ryan. But the names making the original cut of 34 included Eastern Ranges’ Ruby O’Dwyer, Murray Bushrangers’ Sophia McCarthy, GWV Rebels’ Ella Friend, Sandringham Dragons’ Ebony Angelopoulos, Tasmania Devils’ Claire Ransom, Geelong Falcons’ Renee Tierney and Dandenong Stingrays’ Emily Shepherd.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 9

B: Tannah Hurst (NK) – Elizabeth Dowling (GF) – Felicity Crank (DS)
HB: Mia Busch (ER) – Annie Lee (GF) – Shania Saward (TD)
C: Aurora Smith (MB) – Lilli Condon (GWV) – Keeley Skepper (MB) (c)
HF: Jasmine Fleming (OC) – Caitlin Sargent (WJ) – Poppy Schaap (GF)
F: Olivia Cicolini (MB) – Charlie Rowbottom (OC) – Ash Richards (DS)
R: Grace Matser (GP) – Perri King (TD) (c) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ)
INT: Maeve Chaplin (NK) – Bridie Hipwell (SD) – Amanda Ling (OC) – Tahlia Meier (GWV) – Georgie Prespakis (CC) – Keeley Sherar (ER)

EMG: Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV) – Emelia Yassir (CC) – Drew Ryan (BP)

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 9 wrap – Finals places locked in

THE ultimate 2021 NAB League Girls home-and-away round was completed over the weekend, with finals fixtures locked in as each region returned after nearly a month away from competition. For some teams, Round 9 presented the opportunity to finish their season of a high, while those in the postseason hunt were able to get back up to speed on the eve of finals. Catch up on the action from all seven games in our weekend wrap.

GEELONG FALCONS 3.3 | 3.3 | 5.5 | 7.6 (48)
CALDER CANNONS 0.1 |  1.4 | 3.5 | 4.5 (29)

By: Declan Reeve

One of the most important matches in regards to finals for the round did not disappoint for viewers, as Geelong Falcons continued their good pre-break form to topple Calder Cannons by 19 points. The Falcons ended with 7.6 (48) to 4.5 (29) against a determined Calder side, who despite the scoreboard looked right in it throughout the contest, with some passages of slick ball movement through the midfield.

With a total of 16 girls playing for Country or Metro in the recent U17’s and U19’s representative games between these two sides, it comes as no surprise that the game was entertaining viewing, with both teams having plenty of contributors throughout the game. 

The Falcons can thank Renee Tierney and Poppy Schaap for their multiple goals, with Schaap also noticeable around the ground as a pressure player and ball winner. Ingrid Houtsma also bobbed up at some crucial moments, using it well along with midfielder Tess Craven who again found ways to control the tempo. Elizabeth Dowling and Annie Lee were rock solid in defence, moving it well into the middle of the ground, with bottom-aged defender Taiya Morrow also taking some strong intercept marks.

The Cannons were unsurprisingly served well by the ever consistent midfield trio of Georgie Prespakis, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell who all battled hard around the ground to create anything they could. Bottom-agers Tahlia Read and Abbey McDonald also had good performances splitting their time between the forwardline and the midfield, both showing that they’re ready to step up into a more permanent move next season, whilst Jessica Zakkour contributed two goals for Calder.

GOALS:

Geelong: R. Tierney 3, P. Schapp 2, K. Hardingman, I. Houtsma
Calder: J. Zakkour 2, O. Manfre, G. Prespakis, 

DC BEST:

Geelong: E. Dowling, P. Schapp,  I. Houtsma, T. Craven, R. Tierney, A. Lee
Calder: G. Prespakis, E. Yassir,  T. Read, A. McDonald, Z. Friswell, J. Zakkour

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons)
4 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
3 – Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)
2 – Poppy Schapp (Geelong Falcons)
1 – Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons)

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.1 | 3.3 | 5.3 | 7.3 (45)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 3.0 | 6.1 | 6.3 | 9.5 (59)

By: Michael Alvaro

The Northern Knights flexed their muscle ahead of the most important stage of their premiership defence, defeating the highly fancied Dandenong Stingrays by 14 points on Saturday. While the Knights lead at every break, three-goal efforts in the second and fourth terms saw them break away at crucial stages, especially after the Stingrays cut the margin to a single straight kick at three quarter time. In the end, the reigning premiers notched a terrific pre-finals win on the road, 9.5 (59) to 7.3 (45).

Both sides had an even spread of contributors, comprising of usual suspects and prospects on the rise. Maeve Chaplin returned from an excellent Under 19 national carnival in good form, enjoying more time around the ball with Ava Jordan. Tannah Hurst stood up in an important repelling role, while tall Phoebe Nelson clunked five marks and the 2005-born Molly McErlain notched her best performance to date. Three Knights finished with two goals, as Rylie Wilcox snared one and performed well.

For Dandenong, bottom-age standout Emily Shepherd led all comers with 24 touches in a top outing, while Ashleigh Richards booted two majors from her 15 touches and five marks. Elsewhere, Felicity Crank‘s rich vein of form continued, as Abbey Jordan and Charley Ryan pitched in well, and Mikayla Williamson and Sarah Hosking also earned votes from the Stingrays staff for their efforts.

In the first week of finals, Northern will take on Eastern Ranges on Saturday afternoon at Warrawee Park, while the Stingrays will host Geelong Falcons in a second-straight game at Shepley Oval.

GOALS:

Dandenong: A. Liddle 2, A. Richards 2, C. Blair, H. Monk, B. Lyne
Northern: C. Laurie 2, T. Mills 2, T. Smart 2, L. Jatczak, R. Wilcox, M. Girolami

DC BEST:

Dandenong: A. Richards, E. Shepherd, F. Crank, M. Williamson, A. Jordan, S. Hosking
Northern: M. Chaplin, T. Hurst, P. Nelson, A. Jordan, M. McErlain, R. Wilcox

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)
4 – Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)
3 – Tannah Hurst (Northern Knights)
2 – Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)
1 – Phoebe Nelson (Northern Knights)

GWV REBELS 1.2 | 1.5 | 2.6 | 2.6 (18)
TASMANIA DEVILS 2.0 | 3.0 | 4.0 | 6.5 (41)

By: Declan Reeve

In a rare contest where the two sides will be facing each other again just a week later, Tasmania Devils knocked off the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels by 23 points, for what they’ll be hoping is the first of two wins over their opposition. The result secured the top spot in the Tasmania/Victoria Country pool for the Devils, earning them a match against the fourth-placed Rebels in the first week of the NAB League Girls finals series. The final scores were 2.6 (18) to 6.5 (41).

Amy Prokopiec was well assisted by her midfield teammates, with Perri King, Claire Ransom, Olivia Smith, Meghan Gaffney and Ella Maurer all performing well through the contest against a strong and contested GWV midfield group, along with Shania Saward who impacted up either end. The Rebels had their fair share of contributors as well, with Lilli Condon and Tahlia Meier standing up through the midfield, using their speed to get the ball moving. Nyakoat Dojiok and Molly Walton were solid in defence all day, rebounding and intercepting well whilst Ella Friend was also strong when down there, but also played on the wing and through the midfield at times.

GOALS:

GWV: P. Scott, Z. Larkins
Tasmania: A. Prokopiec 2, A. Bisset 2, E. Maurer, G. Clark

DC BEST:

GWV: L. Condon, T. Meier, E. Friend, N. Dojiok, M. Walton
Tasmania: P. King, C. Ransom, O. Smith, S. Saward, A. Prokopiec 

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Perri King (Tasmania)
4 – Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)
3 – Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)
2 – Claire Ransom (Tasmania)
1 – Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

EASTERN RANGES 0.0 | 3.1 | 5.2 | 5.2 (32)
NORTHERN TERRITORY 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 (7)

By: Peter Williams

Eastern Ranges have secured a comfortable 25-point victory over Northern Territory Thunder to lock up seconds spot in the metropolitan pool as a result. After the Thunder got the jump on the Ranges thanks to a goal from Madison Harris in the first term, it was all Eastern from then on, scoring 5.2 to 0.0 for the remainder of the game. The Ranges led by 12 points at half-time, and kicked on to win by just over four goals.

Georgia Wilson slotted two majors for the winners, while Jorja Livingstone joined regular scoreboard contributors Alyssia Pisano and Matilda Hardy as goalkickers. Keeley Sherar was her productive self, as Ruby O’Dwyer, Bridget Deed and Livingstone all found plenty of the footy. Georgia Campbell and Jess Grace took control to dominate the ruck, while Mia Busch and Isabelle Khoury were also impressive.

For the Thunder, Djimila Totham was named best-on for her defensive work, while Tatyana Perry and Shanoah Leedie were also impressive with Allies representatives, Kasey Marsden and Grace Mulvahil, and past representative Bella Clarke. The result marks the end of the two-game campaign for the Thunder, whilst the Ranges will go on to play Northern Knights in the first week of finals next weekend.

GOALS:

Eastern: G. Wilson 2, J. Livingstone, A. Pisano, M. Hardy
Northern Territory: M. Harris

DC BEST:

Eastern: M. Busch, K. Sherar, R. O’Dwyer, B. Deed, J. Livingstone
Northern Territory: D. Totham, K. Marsden, T. Perry, B, Clarke, G. Mulvahil

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)
4 – Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)
3 – Ruby O’Dwyer (Eastern Ranges)
2 – Djimila Totham (NT Thunder)
1 – Kasey Marsden (NT Thunder)

WESTERN JETS 4.0 | 5.1 | 7.6 | 8.8 (56)
BENDIGO PIONEERS 0.2 | 0.3 | 0.4 | 1.6 (12)

By: Michael Alvaro

Western Jets capped off their season with a belting win over the Bendigo Pioneers on Saturday afternoon, soaring 44 points to the good by the final siren of both sides’ campaigns. The Jets lead from the first goal and hardly gave the Pioneers a sniff at the other end, keeping them without a major score until the final term. Forward firepower was a key factor for the winners, with their 8.8 (56) total one point shy of a season high, while notching their best defensive effort to restrict Bendigo to 1.6 (12).

Bottom-age gun Charlotte Baskaran returned alongside Montana Ham from Under 19 representative duties in fine form, leading all comers as both players made a sizeable splash. The marking of Caitlin Sargent was a feature up forward as she booted a game-high four goals, while the dynamic Jemima Woods snared two. Usual defender Ciara Singleton also got on the board with skipper Leah Spargo, while Trinity Skenderis, Kiera Whiley, and Laura Elliott were also solid in a terrific team effort.

For the Pioneers, it was an almost-day for 2006-born prospect Lucia Painter, who managed three behinds from 12 disposals in just her second NAB League appearance. Drew Ryan and Octavia Di Donato were among Bendigo’s best and led the disposal count, as the likes of Jemma Finning, Scarlett Orritt, and Tegan Williams also stood up at times in the heavy loss.

GOALS:

Western: C. Sargent 4, J. Woods 2, L. Spargo, C. Singleton
Bendigo: C. Mitchell

DC BEST:

Western: C. Baskaran, C. Sargent, M. Ham, J. Woods, T. Skenderis, C. Singleton
Bendigo: L. Painter, D. Ryan, O. Di Donato, S. Orritt, T. Williams, J. Finning

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)
4 – Caitlin Sargent (Western Jets)
3 – Montana Ham (Western Jets)
2 – Jemima Woods (Western Jets)
1 – Lucia Painter (Bendigo Pioneers)

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 4.3 | 8.8 | 15.9 | 15.11 (101)
GIPPSLAND POWER 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.1 | 0.1 (1)

By: Declan Reeve

The final game of the year for Gippsland Power ended in a disappointing loss to ladder leaders Oakleigh Chargers at Warrawee Park, with Oakleigh holding the Power goalless for the game and scoreless for the first half in an unforgiving performance. The comprehensive display saw the Chargers run out 100-point victors, 15.11 (101) to 0.1 (1).

In an impressive display of teamwork, the Chargers had a total of nine individual goalkickers, as Charlie Rowbottom and Amanda Ling led the way with three each. Rowbottom in particular looked dangerous all game, she could’ve had five or six had she been more accurate in front of goal, with Stella Reid and debutant Jasmine Fleming also getting multiple goals for the Chargers.

The Power, despite not having any goalkickers, will be proud of the work of Taylah Bourne in the defensive 50, along with Grace McRae in the middle, not giving up despite the margin. Looking strong for next year, bottom-aged pair Yasmin Duursma and Leesa Guastella were also impressive throughout with their efforts.

GOALS:

Oakleigh: C. Rowbottom 3, A. Ling 3, S. Reid 2, J. Fleming 2, E. James, A. Smith, H. Kennealy, K. James, B. Vickers
Gippsland: Nil

DC BEST:

Oakleigh: J. Fleming, C. Rowbottom, L. Hart, A. Ling, E. James, B. Vickers
Gippsland: T. Bourne, G. McRae, L. Guastella, Y. Duursma, T. Angwin, A. Guy-Toogood

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Jasmine Fleming (Oakleigh Chargers)
4 – Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
3 – Lily Hart (Oakleigh Chargers)
2 – Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)
1 – Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers) 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 2.5 | 5.9 | 8.10 | 9.11 (65)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 0.0 | 2.1 | 4.1 | 5.3 (33)

By: Peter Williams

Finishing the season in style, Murray Bushrangers won three of their last four games to head into the post-season with plenty to take from 2021. The Bushrangers proved too good for Sandringham Dragons, having 20 scoring shots to eight and piling on nine goals to win by 32 points up in Wangaratta. With the Bushrangers’ strongest side on the park all season – also thanks to the return of Cassidy Mailer from a long-term injury – the Bushrangers booted five goals to two in the opening half, and led by 33 points at the final break, holding that margin firm to secure the 9.11 (65) to 5.3 (33) victory.

Olivia Cicolini was damaging up forward with another three goals to her name alongside Sophia McCarthy, while Vic Country representatives – and top two in their best and fairest award – Aurora Smith and Keeley Skepper – also shone in the victory. Allies representative Ally Morphett had a day out in the ruck, while Lucy Anderson was also named among the Bushrangers’ best. For the Dragons, Bridie Hipwell stood up in defeat, with Ebony Angelopoulos being the key goalkicker with three of her team’s five majors. J’Noemi Anderson, Ella Schiberras, Kiana Lynch and Natasha Morris were also named amongst the Dragons’ best in the loss.

GOALS:

Murray: O. Cicolini 3, S. McCarthy 3, T. Gray, K. Skepper, C. Mailer.
Sandringham: E. Angelopoulos 3, M. Mottram, L. Mitchell.

DC BEST:

Murray: K. Skepper, A. Morphett, A. Smith, O. Cicolini, S. McCarthy
Sandringham: B. Hipwell, E. Angelopoulos, J. Anderson, E. Schiberras, K. Lynch

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)
4 – Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)
3 – Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
2 – Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons)
1 – Olivia Cicolini (Murray Bushrangers)

NAB League Girls Round 9 preview: Final round to determine post-season order

THE FINAL round of NAB League Girls action gets underway over the weekend with six games played across Saturday, and a standalone Anzac Day fixture on Sunday. With the eight teams already locked in for finals – and only the ladder order able to change – it means a number of contests have important outcomes, whilst for others, it marks the end of the 2021 season.

Perhaps the most intriguing matches are early tomorrow, with the first three games all deciding the makeup of next week’s finals series. In the metropolitan pool, Calder Cannons sit third, but could leapfrog Eastern Ranges with a victory over Geelong Falcons at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The Falcons are locked into third spot in the country division, so will either play Dandenong Stingrays or Tasmania Devils in the first week of finals. If the Falcons win, it will effectively secure the metropolitan finals series, with Oakleigh Chargers taking on Northern Knights, and Eastern Ranges taking on Calder Cannons. If the Cannons win, they will temporarily take second spot awaiting the Eastern ranges result.

If the Ranges take care of Northern Territory later in the day, the Ranges will regain second spot, and even temporarily have top spot in the pool, though Oakleigh take on Gippsland Power and will be expected to get the points there to grab the minor premiership. Assuming that happens, the metropolitan pool is set anyway, with Oakleigh taking on Northern and Eastern taking on Calder, with just the home team to be determined from the day’s results. If the Knights win, they still grab fourth on the NAB League Girls metropolitan pool, but also lock in the country finals fixtures too. If Dandenong Stingrays defeat the Knights, then the Stingrays temporarily go to the top of the country division, and the onus will be on Tasmania Devils to defeat the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels for the top spot.

The Rebels themselves are locked into fourth in the country division, and in a fixture quirk will face Tasmania in the first week of finals again – for the second consecutive week – if they lose to the Devils. If they defeat the Devils, and the Stingrays knock off the Knights, the Rebels will instead face the Stingrays in the first week of finals, and the Devils will lock horns with the third placed Falcons. The Chargers and Ranges are predicted to win their respective games, which if they do that, will remain in the same finals spots as they sit heading into Round 9. The two remaining games – Western Jets and Bendigo Pioneers, and Murray Bushrangers and Sandringham Dragons – have no bearing on the finals series with the teams all preparing for their final game of the season.

For the teams out of the finals race, it will be one last chance for their players to get a run at NAB League level before transitioning into the VFL Women’s, local leagues or for some, the final matches of the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships.

CALDER CANNONS vs. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, April 24 @ 10:00am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell return to the side after a stint with Essendon VFL Women’s, and the Cannons’ Metro contingent also return to the side. Abbey McDonald, Georgie Prespakis and Friswell round out the onball ground, with Darebin Falcons’ Peppa Poultney coming back after a solid performance in the Falcons’ loss to the Western Bulldogs. The Falcons have also loaded up on talent with Poppy Schaap, Tess Craven, Gabbi Featherston, Renee Tierney, Ingrid Houtsma, Elizabeth Dowling and Annie Lee all returning to the side after their AFLW Under 19s commitments, with Tierney and Lee also gaining great experience through Geelong’s VFL Women’s side.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Saturday, April 24 @ 11:00am
Shepley Oval

The midfield battle between the Stingrays and Knights will be fascinating with Abbey Jordan, Felicity Crank and Emily Shepherd going up against Maeve Chaplin, Ava Jordan and Teleah Smart. Stingrays’ Zoe Hill returns after her debut with the Southern Saints, while Georgia Kitchell is back in the ruck for the Knights. Dandenong’s Jaide Anthony will be one crucial omission following her concussion suffered last week at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, while Jemma Radford is making her debut with the Saints.

GWV REBELS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS
Saturday, April 24 @ 12:30pm
Warrawee Park

Tasmania Devils will blood a couple of debutants for their match against the Rebels, as Ruby Pacey and Kiira Johns come into the side. Their Allies contingent, led by Perri King, Ella Maurer, Meghan Gaffney and Claire Ransom through the midfield are back in action, with goalsneak Amy Bissett the threat inside 50. The GWV Rebels have also brought back their Vic Country representatives, with Paige Scott hot off a three-goal game against South Australia, and Ella Friend, Nyakoat Dojiok, Tahlia Meier and Chloe Leonard all returning. Lilli Condon also comes back to NAB League Girls level after a couple of games with the Western Bulldogs VFL Women’s side.

WESTERN JETS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS
Saturday, April 24 @ 1:00pm
Avalon Airport Oval

The result might not have a bearing on the finals series, but both the Western Jets and Bendigo Pioneers are set to to try and win the final game of the season. The Pioneers will be without Elizabeth Snell (Essendon), but otherwise will have a fairly strong outfit, with Tara Slender returning from the championships after playing forward. She will lineup at centre half-back in this game, with other Vic Country representatives, Jemma Finning and Octavia Di Donato also there, alongside bottom-age and Under 16s talents, Tegan Williams and Lila Keck respectively. For the Jets, Montana Ham and Charlotte Baskaran are back in the midfield, with Jemima Woods coming back to NAB League Girls level after three goals with the Western Bulldogs last week, and Stephanie Asciak also testing herself at VFLW level.

EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY
Saturday, April 24 @ 1:00pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

A host of AFLW Under 19s representatives and VFL Women’s players will return to the Ranges outfit, taking no changes after Northern Territory who upstaged the Rebels just prior to the break. Isabelle Khoury, Matilda Hardy, Eloise Chaston and Ruby O’Dwyer all return from Hawthorn’s VFL Women’s side last week, while Jorja Livingstone and Georgia Campbell were among the Eastern Ranges’ representatives at the recent carnival. The Thunder will look to make it two from two with Bella Clarke standing out in the opening game, as did Georgia Johnson, though they will be without key goalkickers, Freda Puruntatameri and Ashanti Bush. Other Allies representatives in Grace Mulvahil and Kasey Marsden are named in defence.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, April 24 @ 2:15pm
Warrawee Park

The top of the table Oakleigh Chargers have brought in Vic Metro representatives, Charlie Rowbottom, Amanda Ling and Stella Reid straight into the team with Rowbottom named in the forward pocket, and the other two in the midfield. Eliza James showed she can be dangerous inside 50, and whilst her kicking boots were not quite on in Metro’s narrow in over Western Australia, she certainly got to the right spots and has to be watched carefully. The Power welcome back Grace Matser and Grace McRae who missed the club’s first win against Bendigo Pioneers due to Vic Country duties, while Sunday Brisbane returns from an injury she sustained a while back against Murray Bushrangers. Alisha Molesworth impressed at Under 17s level for Country, with Yasmin Duursma another Country bottom-ager to keep an eye on, while Charlotte Van der Vlies and Brooke Vickers are others who have impressed this year for the Chargers.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Sunday, April 25 @ 1:00pm
WJ Findlay Oval

Murray Bushrangers welcome back bottom-age talent Cassidy Mailer for her first game of the season coming off a long-term injury. With the Bushrangers putting in arguably the strongest team they have all season – with the Vic Country and Allies representatives all lining up – they will be keen to put in a great showing ahead of their final game against the Dragons. Ally Morphett in the ruck, with Aurora Smith and the in-form Zara Hamilton on the wings, Keeley Skepper in the midfield, and plenty of depth and strength around the ground, and the Bushrangers are a good chance in this game.

Top Performers: 2021 AFLW U19s Championships – Monday, April 12

A COUPLE of big contests at Avalon Airport Oval yesterday saw Vic Country come away with a victory over South Australia, before Western Australia posted a win over the Allies in the second AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships clash. We were on hand to take note of just some of the top performers from each state. All notes are opinion-based of the individual writer.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA vs. VIC COUNTRY

SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

By: Michael Alvaro

#1 Laitiah Huynh

A player who has come on leaps and bounds in 2021, Huynh continued her promising form and provided a spark for South Australia in the forward half. The diminutive mover has a few key weapons; speed, tackling, and ground level efforts. She put all three to good use on Monday with plenty of efforts where she would be first to the loose ball, and look to take the game on before heading inside 50. She was sometimes caught in those agile little bursts, but was an important driver of momentum for her side. While Huynh did not find the goals herself, she assisted Jade Halfpenny’s second term major and had a shot touched on the line in the third quarter. Was in the wars late on after a heavy collision or two, exemplary of her efforts all day.

#3 Kate Case

While not as outwardly prolific as others, there were a few plays from Case which saw her defy her size in defence and really catch the eye. She built into the contest by mopping up cleanly at ground level and doing the basics well, but had her shining moments in the second half. The first was an effort to out-mark star Vic Country tall Tara Slender from behind during term three, before later laying a holding the ball tackle on her and pushing the electric Paige Scott off a ground ball. Her strong work was noticeable, and matched the intensity of the game.

#5 Lauren Breguet

Somewhat of a surprise packet on the day, Breguet was one of the many hard-at-it South Australians to have an impact at the contest. She started the day on a perfect note, booting the game’s first major score after winning a free kick close to goal. She would go on to show nice movement and bustling bursts through congestion, while also digging in for repeat efforts delivered at a high intensity and speed. She was moved into the centre bounces in the second half and continued to display similar traits, returning a really solid performance overall.

#7 Brooke Tonon

Tonon was a terrific rebounder for South Australia off half-back, with the qualities she has so often shown up on a wing translating well to the improvised role. She constantly moved to good spots across the defensive 50 to either cut the ball off herself, or receive handballs which would allow her to run the ball forward. The Glenelg talent also took on the kick-in duties early, before eventually being moved onto the wing. Tonon’s day ended early on an unfortunate note, as she was red carded for a sling tackle on Vic Country’s Jaide Anthony, which saw her taken off on a stretcher during the final term. While there did not seem to be any malice in the act, the movement and end result had plenty of on-lookers concerned.

#8 Charlotte Dolan

Dolan was another to provide some seriously strong contested work, with the defender-turned-forward proving hard-at-it throughout the game. Her competitiveness and defensive pressure around the ball were impressive, adding another dimension to the South Australian forwardline which sough to lock the ball in and take toll. Dolan delivered some hard knocks and laid punishing tackles, making good on her selection in the side despite being moved away from that more familiar defensive post.

#9 Tahlita Buethke

Buethke is a player with the tools to be a top prospect, but still looks to be working on putting them to use all at once. Employed mostly in the forwardline, the South Adelaide utility showcased her speed to present well up to centre half-forward, gaining separation from her opponent and competing aerially. She also used her turn of speed when breaking from further afield, proving difficult to stop in full flight. Under the pressure of Vic Country, Buethke was a little fumbly at ground level and did not have as much time on the ball as she would usually enjoy. She was eventually moved into the midfield and continued to show promise there. A courageous mark going back with the flight of the ball was her highlight of the day, during the second quarter.

#10 Zoe Prowse

Arguably the premier ruck of this year’s draft crop, Prowse was just about the best player afield in a losing side. Starting at the centre bounces, her sizeable leap made for some eye-catching hitout wins, which normally consisted of taps forward of the contest for midfielders to run onto. Prowse’s physicality at the stoppages was also handy, and she even had a couple of nice moments running with the ball. Perhaps the most promising feature from the 177cm prospect was her ability to dominate the airways with contested marking around the ground. She dropped back on numerous occasions to help relieve with a grab inside defensive 50, while also forming wall at the attacking arc and providing a reliable target down the line. Adding some polish to her disposal, particularly by foot, may be the next step forward for the AFLW Academy member.

#11 Zoe Venning

One of the mainstays through midfield for South Australia, Venning is just about the ideal operator coaches would look to rely on and provide a contest throughout the game. Often the first player to get hands on taps or ground balls, she accumulated a good amount of possessions; often dishing out to teammates on the move or quickly bustling away to fling a long kick forward. Her work rate was impressive in both attacking and defensive aspects, as she looked to chain possessions together as the game opened up, while also inflicting her usually strong tackling pressure. That kind of theme doubled as Venning had a couple of eye-catching breaks going forward, but also made herself accountable with some relieving work in defence. Overall, a solid outing as expected.

#16 Georgia Swan

The South Australian co-captain had her moments forward of centre, and could well have finished with a couple of majors for her work during the third term. Swan’s first big moment of the day was a nice mark in front of AFLW Academy member Nyakoat Dojiok, which is no mean feat against the competitive defender. She then had an impact closer to goal in that third quarter; with a composed step back and flying shot going on to hit the post, and her swift step around a player on the mark resulting in another attempt on goal.

#24 Keeley Kustermann

Usually an assured defender with terrific foot-skills, Kustermann spent plenty of time in midfield and won herself a good amount of ball before moving back during the second half. She consistently got among the action at stoppages and was able to drive her side forward by foot, hitting targets up at centre half-forward after breaking through the congestion. Her late move to defence showcased the versatility which has Kustermann pegged as one of SA’s best prospects for next year. She formed a typically sturdy wall across the backline and was able to relieve pressure multiple times with shrewd intercepts.

#28 Jade Halfpenny

Halfpenny was one who built into the game well and had some really nice moments, especially during a purple patch of sorts in the second term. She got on the board with a well-finished dribbler off the outside of her boot, before heading into the midfield and playing the anchor role at stoppages. From there, she found a decent amount of ball for a taller prospect and was able to boot it forward off the back of packs. Halfpenny rotated forward again and was sighted taking a strong overhead mark in the final term.

#30 Lauren Young

Be prepared to hear plenty about this West Adelaide prospect in years to come. The 2005-born midfielder required an exemption to play at this year’s Under 19 carnival, and has seldom looked out of place. She is already a great size at 179cm and handles the rigours of competing against more mature opponents with aplomb. On Monday, Young was everywhere at times, using her frame to win the ball in midfield and working up both ends to have an aerial impact. Having started at the centre bounces, she copped some attention from quality Vic Country defenders when resting forward, but still managed to look like the most dangerous player afield as the ball entered her area. Her kick penetration was on show as a key trait, though sharpening her short-range game and finishing on goal are skills which will come in time.

 

VIC COUNTRY:

By: Peter Williams

#2 Aurora Smith

Had an outstanding performance across the match, winning plenty of the ball and providing that trademark run NAB League Girls spectators have become accustomed to. The Murray Bushrangers wing drove the ball forward on a number of occasions and even showed she was not to take on much taller opponents, crunching opposition ruck Zoe Prowse in a fierce tackle. She set up the winning goal to Paige Scott running inside 50.

#5 Elizabeth Snell

Was incredibly busy in the first half, having an number of early touches and driving the ball forward inside 50. A couple of her kicks were rushed, but she kept pushing and attacking the contest hard, also attacking the loose ball or an opponent with ball-in-hand. She spread well to win the pill on the wing late in the game, and applied the defensive pressure throughout the match.

#9 Paige Scott

Threatened to do a lot of damage in the first half, then came through with the goods in the second half. Effectively won her side the game getting on the end of great midfield chains down the field, kicking three consecutive goals in the second half, the only player to score a major in the half. Her first major came four minutes into the third term in the goalsquare where she booted the ball into Geelong with a powerful statement, then kicked a goal from a free kick, and finished it off five minutes into the fourth term by kicking her third off a set shot. She had a chance for a fourth in the goalsquare but could not quite collect, which combined with a couple of quick snaps towards goal in the opening term, Scott could have had an even bigger day out.

#12 Gabbi Featherston

Applied some fierce defensive pressure around the ground and set the tone early with a fantastic run-down tackle through the middle. She had a powerful kick from a set shot outside 50 to the danger zone, and looked dangerous when she went near it. She kept her defensive mindset strong throughout the match and remained switched on.

#13 Emily Shepherd

Had quite a lot of the ball early in the match with a number of high kicks around her body. She placed the ball to the right spots more often than not, even if they were not exact precision. She had a shot on goal through the same kicking action but missed to the side, then did hit a pinpoint kick inside 50 in the second term.

#14 Jaide Anthony

Backed up her first game over a week ago with another terrific job against South Australia. Unfortunately her day ended when she was stretchered off after being on the receiving end of a fierce tackle. Prior to that she was mopping up plenty of ball inside defensive 50 and driving it out to the wing. At one stage she competed against multiple opponents, not only able to spoil, but also tackle one on the line and force a throw-in.

#17 Annie Lee

Reliable as ever, Lee was one of a number of defenders who kept mopping up and being an important cog in the back 50 for the Country side. She took a good intercept mark on the defensive side of the wing in the first term, and then was able to dispose of the ball quickly under pressure at different points throughout the second half. She provided some good running off half-back and worked well to clear the danger zone.

#19 Nyakoat Dojiok

One of Vic Country’s best with her dare and run from defence, she kept taking grass by tucking the ball under her arm and going for it. She even found herself at half-forward during the second term, running inside 50 and aiding in a goal to Renee Tierney. Then she was back on the goal line in the third term, playing the role of party pooper with a terrific spoil which would have handed Laitiah Huynh goal of the day. Finishing off, Dojiok won a crucial contested ball in the defensive 50 and kicked clear to the middle.

#23 Elizabeth Dowling

Played with real intent throughout the match, Dowling was best described as ‘fierce’ for her attack on the ball and the ball carrier. She laid some big tackles, but also did the one percenters in the backline, taking a strong mark deep in defence in the second term, and provided some offensive run off half-back as well.

#26 Grace McRae

The dominant ball winner for the Country side, McRae racked up the ball with ease across all four quarters and was a consistent player throughout the match. She would get the ball forward and her short kicking game was noticeably more effective, also working hard around the ground to win the ball time and time again. She produced a quick snap around her body to get it inside 50 in the fourth term, and always went hard at it to extract it from the contest.

#28 Tara Slender

A mixed bag of a day from the star utility, who looked dangerous on many occasions, kicking a goal in the first term thanks to a great tackle and free kick to nail the set shot from a slight angle 30m out. She won a free kick in the third term but missed the set shot out on the full, and early in the match also kicked a behind from the goalsquare whilst under pressure. She presented well throughout the match and almost clunked a few more marks, but then her day ended early when a stray elbow to an opponent saw her receive a yellow card.

 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA vs. ALLIES

WESTERN AUSTRALIA:

By: Declan Reeve

#1 Sarah Lakay

Showcased her athleticism when she was in the ruck, often out-jumping Morphett to make a genuine contest at stoppages, able to hold her own when Morphett initiated contact as well. It was her work when she was resting forward that really made her stand out, with her marking being really strong, taking a contested mark on the goal line in the second quarter to kick her first, and then another in the final term after a good piece of team play further up the field. It wasn’t just the ball falling into her lap either, she made some strong leads throughout as well, and whilst not rewarded she opened up spots for teammates to lead into in the process.

#2 Amy Franklin

Having spent time at both ends, but predominantly forward in the WAFLW, Franklin lined up at centre half-back for Western Australia, where she was able to show off some really good positioning being on the ball and down the line, where her strength and leap led to her taking some impressive intercept marks when the Allies were coming in hard. Earlier on in the piece she found herself caught behind a couple of times, but her acceleration meant that she was able to get close enough to spoil any marking attempts. Unfortunately went off with what appeared to be a head knock in the final quarter.

#4 Lauren Wakfer

Really came to life in the second half of the game when Lakay moved to a more permanent forward role and she got an extended run at playing as the main ruck for WA. Despite conceding eight centimetres to Morphett, she did not let that stop her, utilising her elite leap to get over and higher than Morphett and continue to give her midfielders first use around the ground. It was good to see that she’d get her knee on Morphett’s hip regularly to give her an extra boost and keep Morphett below her. Her work at ground level was also exceptional, competing with small midfielders well, tackling strongly and then delivering long and high kicks forward when she won it.

#5 Beth Schilling

She would not have had a whole heap of the ball, but she had some impressive moments where she would push off her opponent to take a grab in front of another opponent and send the ball back out for WA to get going forward again, or she’d leave her opponent to cover for a teammate she’d tell to push up and impact the ball, sacrificing her own game for the betterment of the team. Also took most of the kick ins for WA where she would play on and deliver long outside 50, generally to the advantage of WA with numbers.

#7 Ella Roberts

Roberts was one of the standouts for WA despite their even contribution across the board. Setting up as the team’s centre half-forward, and regular target around the ground, the bottom-ager’s marking above her head was just one of many impressive weapons she brings to the table, even managing to take a juggling one-handed contested mark in the third quarter. It was a common sight to see her working hard up the wing to be a link up player for WA out of defence as well, with a highlight in the first quarter being her getting the ball on the centre of the wing, taking on an opponent with a run and three bounces, then delivering to a teammate waiting in the goal square perfectly for their second goal. Whilst she did not quite have that highlight every time she got the ball, she was confident and composed with taking opponents on and delivering well to leading forwards throughout the contest.

#11 Aisha Wright

Unsurprisingly was another impressive small forward for WA that just found ways to get involved in the forward half and could never be counted out of a contest, with her speed and evasiveness being a difficult combo for the Allies defence to nullify, this being made even more obvious with her getting an impressive snap from close to the boundary line in the third quarter.

#15 Bella Mann

Another WA defender that really nailed her role within the team and played a vital part in the victory and keeping the Allies off the scoreboard. Mann impressed with her positioning in the backline, seemingly always where the ball was entering to take some really strong intercept marks and rebound effectively, with her contested marking being one of the best on ground throughout the game, she was truly the biggest issue for the Allies going forward.

#20 Emily Bennett

Bennett played an underrated but vital role in the victory for WA, splitting her time between the rover role and half back, her natural sense of the game meant she was dangerous particularly around stoppages in the midfield and as a half back cutting off Allies attacks, holding onto marks even with incoming pressure or contact. A big highlight came at the beginning of the game, where she followed up a tap won by Allies’ Ally Morphett, running directly at the ball and oncoming pressure, and as soon as she collected the ball she fired out a lighting handball to her teammate running off the back line, to set up an early scoring opportunity.

#24 Jaide Britton

Really wanted the ball as much as she could get it, but did not let her get sucked in and break structure to hunt for it which kept WA strong around the ground. Made herself a genuine option for every ball, either running past teammates for a handball to get some momentum behind the disposal, or leading out wider to give WA the option to switch and spread the Allies. When she was targeted by teammates she marked well, working hard to get in front of opponents to take it on the chest.

#28 Courtney Rowley

Put on what can only be described as a complete performance in the WA engine room, regularly rotating between the rover and wing spots to keep the Allies midfielders guessing, managing to maintain a high level impact in either spot. Super classy throughout the game, with an incredible sense of what’s going on in the game, predicting what opponents are going to do and shifting herself accordingly, it was a regular occurrence to see her move out of a big contest with the ball in her hand, and then deliver out wide to a teammate with a darting kick, or a really well placed handball for her teammates to run onto. When she was out in space, it was her speed and follow up work that impressed, with a particular highlight in the 3rd quarter being her taking an impressive mark high over her head, handballing to a teammate, getting it back after running with her for 20 metres, and then handing off again to a teammate in a good scoring position, with that sort of workrate to assist teammates not common amongst this age group, it was just one of the many things that helped her stand out.

#27 Makaela Tuhakaraina

As one of the smaller players taking the field, it is no surprise that her agility and work at ground level is a big part of her game, and an advantage on most of her opponents, but it is her breakaway speed that is often paired with the agility that catches the eye more than anything else. It was entertaining to see so often that she would come in from the side to win a ground ball, then burst away and out of the pack to kick long forward to the advantage of teammates.

 

ALLIES:

By: Peter Williams

#4 Cynthia Hamilton

The clear standout midfielder for the Allies, Hamilton put together a terrific four quarter performance from the first bounce to the final siren. She laid some mammoth tackles to win free kicks, going in hard each and every time she went near it. In the second term one of those tackles also earned her a subsequent 50m penalty for mark encroachment and she nailed the set shot from 25m out. She had the ball on a string and kept pumping it inside 50 to be the one to catch the eye through midfield.

#6 Meghan Gaffney

Always a hard worker, Gaffney once again covered the ground with ease. She spread the ball around the ground to win the ball in each third, taking a good mark at half-back and kicking to the wing, winning the pill through the midfield, then had a set shot in the third term sliding in to mark, but her running shot went to the right.

#7 Jess Doyle

As clean as they come, Doyle treated the conditions like they were a dry, sunny day, backing up her efforts for Sydney Swans Academy against Geelong Falcons in the NAB League Girls. She provided some great run and hit the scoreboard with a couple of goals to be the Allies’ most damaging forward. She kicked her first off the ground eight minutes into the second term pouncing after reading the ball well off the contest. She then kicked a second around her body with her clean pick up off the deck. She hit the post in the final term, and missed a set shot after a great mark on the lead, but set up a goal to Ashanti Bush in the process thanks to a nice kick inside, remaining lively throughout the match.

#9 Claire Ransom

Another clean player in the wet, Ransom won plenty of the ball both on the outside and in one-on-one and whilst she did not have it all her own way as she has at NAB League Girls level, she still produced some highlights. Her running in transition and clean kicking caught the eye and used the body well against an opponent on the wing in the second term.

#11 Perri King

After a quieter start to the match, King worked into it in the second half with a strong clearance early in the term. She kept running hard throughout the match and found more of the football, and tried to open the game up with passes inside. She still applied her trademark defensive pressure in the game and made life difficult for her opponents at stoppages.

#16 Ella Maurer

Won plenty of the ball in midfield and was consistent in close, using clean hands to get the ball out to running teammates on the outside. She amassed touches throughout all four quarters and just remained involved in there to play that key inside role and try and get her team back on top. An overall solid performance across the board from the midfielder.

#19 Maddy Hendrie

Had a tale of two halves in terms of her marking, but she was still one of the most consistent players across the game for the allies. She was clunking grabs left, right and centre in the first half, including a number of intercept marks to either save goals or attacking forays and rebound it out. In the second half she slipped a few up, but still attacked the contest hard with second efforts, and provided some good run out of defence going forward.

#25 Isadora McLeay

Playing deep in defence, she had a couple of standout moments such as her one-on-ones and spoiling right on the line. There were a couple of instances in the first term where she spoiled or rushed the ball across the line to save would-be goals, and then took a terrific intercept mark in the third term. In the final quarter she went forward, took a mark and converted a set shot goal.

#30 Ally Morphett

Announced herself with a big thump in the opening ruck bounce, then would use her strength around the ground to win the ball in tight. She gave away a free kick in the third term for an overzealous tackle, but won a clearance later on, then got back to take a strong mark at half-back and provide a target around the ground for the Allies.

2021 AFLW U19 Championships match preview: Vic Metro vs. Vic Country

THE all-Victorian battle at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships is not to be missed, with stars across all thirds of the ground and Metro going head to head with Country in a massive game at Trevor Barker Oval, Sandringham from midday tomorrow. Country has named its lineup for the Round 1 clash of the championships, whilst Vic Metro has listed its squad for the match, though the lineup provided here is predicted/potential.

LINEUPS:

VIC METRO:

B: Cadhla Schmidli – Kasey Lennox – Kiana Lynch
HB: Brooke Vickers – Tarrah Delgado – Pia Staltari
C: Maykaylah Appleby – Maeve Chaplin – Stella Reid
HF: Emelia Yassir – Neve Crowley – Keeley Sherar
FF: Eliza James – Tahlia Gillard – Montana Ham
R: Georgia Campbell – Charlie Rowbottom – Georgie Prespakis
INC:  Jorja Livingstone – Bridget Deed – Chloe Saultry – Charlotte Ryan – Zali Friswell – Amanda Ling

VIC COUNTRY:

B: Jaide Anthony – Mackenzie Eardley – Chloe Leonard
HB: Elizabeth Dowling – Nyakoat Dojiok – Annie Lee
C: Ella Friend – Grace McRae – Aurora Smith
HF: Amber Clarke – Tara Slender – Poppy Schaap
F: Gabbi Featherston – Renee Tierney – Tahlia Meier
R: Grace Matser – Tess Craven – Elizabeth Snell
INT: Jemma Finning – Ingrid Houtsma – Abbey Jordan – Ashleigh Richards – Paige Scott – Emily Shepherd

QUICK SUMMARY:

Looking across the line-ups, the sides have strengths in different areas, with Vic Metro’s midfield, and its size and key position talent among its strength, whilst Vic Country’s defence is its strongest line, but also its balance and even spread of players providing different roles. Metro has picked a team that has stars across multiple lines, whilst Country have the talent in there, but have also picked players that are unique in the way they can fill a role within a certain team, and very few players are too similar. The midfield battle will be crucial, whilst both sides have versatile players who can fill multiple positions.

 

FIVE KEY QUESTIONS:

Can the smaller Vic Country midfield match the bigger-bodied Metro side?

Both midfields are strong and talented, but it is clear straight away that Vic Metro has a midfield of taller, bigger-bodied players that will look to take advantage of the smaller Vic Country midfield. Tess Craven, Elizabeth Snell and Grace McRae have been named to start onball for Country and they will not take a backwards step up against the taller Charlie Rowbottom, Georgie Prespakis and Maeve Chaplin. The bigger bodies inside will help Metro around the contest in getting it out, so the smaller Country mids will have to use their extra few quick steps – particularly Snell – in extracting the ball from the contest.

How will all the Vic Metro midfielders fit in the side?

The Metro midfield is so deep, they have around 15 players who would call the midfield their preferred position. The question mark will come over how they fit them all in, and some have been learning other roles over the past month or so in order to impact the contest. Kiana Lynch and Chloe Saultry have been holding firm in defence for the Dragons, with the likes of Keeley Sherar and Emelia Yassir both capable of starting forward and hitting the scoreboard. One would expect the sole bottom-ager in Montana Ham to play forward and be a marking target, whilst Pia Staltari, Stella Reid and Brooke Vickers have been playing off flanks throughout the year in between pinch-hitting in the midfield from game-to-game. One thing is for sure, midfield rotations will not be a problem for Metro.

Can Grace Matser work over the Vic Metro tag team through the ruck?

The hard-working and endurance-based ruck of Grace Matser will have her work cut out for her in this game, being the only pure ruck in the team for Vic Country. The Gippsland Power player can run all day, and she will need to, up against the equally mobile Georgia Campbell and Tahlia Gillard who will get breathers forward when the other is rucking. Even outside those two the Metro side has talls that can jump in, while for Country, they are a shorter side, and might just get the likes of Mackenzie Eardley and Renee Tierney up opposite ends to help give Matser a chop out and save her running. Either way, a big game awaits for the ruck.

Where are the key strengths in each side?

Whilst neither side has a “weak” line, the strongest third for Country is its defence, whilst Metro’s strength is in its midfield. Metro’s four AFL Women’s Academy members in Georgie Prespakis, Charlie Rowbottom, Maykaylah Appleby and Gillard could lineup as a midfield group with the two inside ball-winners, outside runner and ruck. They will likely have first hands to it given their aforementioned strength and size in there, whilst Country will be well set up behind the play to prepare for inside 50s. The metro forward line has some quality talls, as well as midfielders who will play the role of forwards, which will give the Country defence – of whom all have good footy IQ – an advantage. They need to bring the ball to ground, but are equally comfortable in intercepting in the air, particularly Elizabeth Dowling, Annie Lee and Nyakoat Dojiok.

How can each team exploit the other?

Vic Country can use its well balanced lineup to keep it simple and each player play their role they are used to at NAB League Girls level. Looking at the side named, there is no-one in the team out of position from where they have been playing, which immediately means there is little to learn. Some might play a little deeper than they have been, but it is easily adaptable, and the players are versatile. With every forward a different type of player, the Country forward line is so well balanced and impressive. Metro can try and take control to exploit the smaller Country team, and with longer boots on them, Metro can put pressure on the famed Country defence, and really aim to put the ball into the danger zone regularly.

 

FIVE KEY MATCHUPS:

Grace Matser (Country) vs. Georgia Campbell & Tahlia Gillard (Metro)

As previously mentioned, this matchup could be a massive one, with Matser the sole number one ruck in the side, and will no doubt be ready for a great challenge on the day. Both Campbell and Gillard move well around the ground and are not afraid to take a bounce before distributing, and then go deep forward and provide a marking target. First hands will be crucial in the midfield, so the winning ruck can try and aid their midfields with clean hands.

Maykaylah Appleby/Stella Reid/Jorja Livingstone (Metro) vs. Ella Friend/Aurora Smith/Ingrid Houtsma (Country)

The need for speed and class on the outside is crucial, and both these teams have some talented players likely to roll out on the wing. Appleby is the Academy member who has the experience in big games, while Reid has been in ripping form, capable of playing anywhere. Livingstone is another wing who has that touch of class in moving the ball in transition, whilst the height of Friend and Houtsma – as well as the versatility – and the speed and ball-winning nous of Smith, will make it a couple of matchups to watch.

Georgie Prespakis/Charlie Rowbottom/Maeve Chaplin (Metro) vs. Tess Craven/Elizabeth Snell/Grace McRae (Country)

The smallest Metro midfielder is the same height as the tallest Country midfielder, which shows a bit of a size differential in there. Whilst Rowbottom is 10cm taller than any of the others, each of the players are likely to have an advantage in size over their respective opponents. A total 18cm different in favour of the Metro side is impressive, but it is also the strength in there which will look to win the ball in contested situations. McRae, Craven and Snell are all renowned tacklers and quick with ball-in-hand to exit stoppages, which is where they have the advantage. Prespakis, Rowbottom and Chaplin can all roost the ball and can back their talls inside 50 if they bomb it from a stoppage.

Tara Slender (Country) vs. Tarrah Delgado (Metro)

It might not be the matchup Metro send to Country’s top prospect, but Delgado is the most reliable in the air one-on-one, and is the only tall in the Metro defence who could go with Slender no matter where she goes. The Northern Knights tall has played in defence, attack and through the midfield, so it would be less rotations for Delgado to just try and nullify the well-balanced Slender, whilst the Bendigo Pioneers tall will no doubt play a number of roles on the day, and be tough to stop in the air or at ground level, but Delgado is the most suitable matchup.

Amber Clarke (Country) vs. Pia Staltari/Kiana Lynch/Zali Friswell (Metro)

One of the danger players across the ground is the speedster in Clarke who opens up the space behind herself so well to run into open goals and hit the scoreboard regularly. It will be tough to find a matchup for speed, with Staltari and Lynch likely to be rolling through the back half of the ground. In terms of athletic traits, perhaps the regular midfielder Friswell is the closest in terms of speed, finishing 10th in the preseason 20m sprint, to try and combat Clarke’s clear top billed ranking what was 0.6 seconds quicker than anyone else.

 

OVERALL:

The match is set to be a cracker, with both sides littered with talent and among the top teams in the championships as they are each year. Last time they faced off back in 2019, Vic Metro got the job done, so Country will be hungry to reverse the result here. The Country side has enough balance across the board to really worry Metro, whilst Metro has the top-end talent, particularly in the midfield and key position to stretch the Country side, making for an absolute beauty of a contest.