Tag: emily bennett

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.

WAFLW preview – Round 15: Final round takes place

AFTER an interrupted 2020 season, the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition had a relatively unscathed year, with only a round missed and previously a brief lockdown in preseason stopping them from having a complete run at it. Now the teams are suiting up for the final regular season round, with the four finalists decided, but plenty still on the line in terms of pride as well as a mental advantage heading into finals.

The match of the round is two finalists up against each other with second placed Peel Thunder travelling to third placed Claremont in what could be a preview of a finals head-to-head at some point. The Tigers are coming off a one-point loss to Subiaco, whilst the Thunder became the first team to topple Swan Districts this year last weekend. Despite the different form lines from the penultimate round, expect this clash to go down to the wire.

Both Katherine Bennett and Emily Bennett are among those unavailable from the Claremont lineup, as Sophie McDonald and Kate Orme return to provide some extra experience. For the Thunder, Sabreena Duffy is out of the game with Demi Liddle, whilst an extended bench comes in, which includes the likes of Hannah Church and Tajah Griffiths. With plenty of great head-to-heads across the field, it will be fantastic to see just how the match goes down.

Tessa Doumanis and Amy Franklin starred up forward for the Tigers booting two goals each for Claremont’s entire goals haul, and will have to be tightly watched this week. The Thunder defence which includes the likes of Beth Schilling, Ebony Dowson and Cassie Davidson is remarkably hard to score against, and the forward line of Ella Roberts, Kate Bartlett and Kira Phillips is even more potent. Claremont has an equally reliable defence thanks to McDonald, Sarah Garstone and Rachel Ortlepp back there. Through the middle, the head-to-head of Mikayla Western and Sarah Verrier could be huge, with Orme taking on Western Australia’s Under 19s co-captain Jaide Britton on the other wing.

The sole Saturday game sees fourth placed Subiaco and fifth placed East Fremantle do battle, but because Subiaco toppled Claremont last week, the result is effectively a dead rubber in terms of finals calculations. Roxy Roux and Gabby Radojkovich are crucial inclusions for the Sharks, as the Lions are keeping everyone guessing with an extended bench that features Taylisha Brown and Dahna Lee among others. Roux has been named in the centre against Tarnica Golisano which is a massive battle, whilst the Sharks’ forward line of Rosie Walsh, Alex Wiliams, Chloe Reilly, Madeline Ross and Radojkovich is a dangerous one. The Sharks have an incredibly strong midfield in Lara Filocamo, Tiah Toth, Maggie MacLachlan and Golisano in what should make for a fascinating close battle.

The final match of the round features a top-against-bottom clash, with the minor premiers Swan Districts coming off its first loss of the season to Peel Thunder, whilst South Fremantle is yet to taste victory in two seasons. The Swans will be without the likes of Mikayla Hyde, Steph Cain, Mel Hardy, Bianca Webb and Emma Nanut for the clash, with Naomi Baker, Tara Stribley and Nyra Anderson among the young talents coming into the Swans’ outfit. South Fremantle has named an extended bench with Kiara Templeman, Nikita Hart, Nikita Little and Melissa Silcock on it.

The Swans do not have a weakness across the ground and expect the midfield of Jess Cox, Dana East and Brianna Hyde to take control, with Sarah Lakay rucking. A huge battle between Lakay and next year’s draftable talent Lauren Wakfer could be huge around the stoppages, with Wakfer and fellow ruck Mim Strom named up forward with other young talents, Makaela Tuhakaraina and Ashleigh Little. Jaime Henry is fresh off an impressive Under 17s couple of clashes with the State Academy, and joins Emily McGuire and Aimee Ralph in that reliable back five.

Picture credit: WAFL

WAFLW wrap – Round 14: Subiaco claims last finals spot with one-point win over Claremont

SUBIACO has secured the last finals spot in the 2021 West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s, after coming from behind to down third placed Claremont in a nail-biting one-point contest. The Lions booted the opening goal of the game, but then conceded the next three, trailing by 14 points at half-time. They kicked three of the final four goals however to run over the top of the higher ranked opponents and maintain a two-game and percentage gap on fifth placed East Fremantle with only one game remaining.

In what was billed as a tight contest by two likely finals combatants, it lived up to expectations, with a goal in the opening two minutes going the way of the visitors. Tiah Toth hit-up Kia Buckley straight in front of goal for the youngster to convert and hand her side the early lead. Claremont took control after that though, with plenty of forward entries and capitalising in front of the big sticks.

The dominant duo of Tessa Doumanis and Amy Franklin were having it on a string once inside there, with Doumanis almost kicking one on the run – though it bounced into the post – then handing one off to Franklin who took a bounce and nailed it in style. Doumanis then took her chance by sidestepping an opponent to get back on her trusty left foot and put one home, before Franklin kicked a third, beating two opponents in marking contest, getting it to ground and keeping her feel to slam it home. Up the other end, McKenzie Dowrick had a set shot in the final 90 seconds but missed, to make it a straight two-goal ball game.

Both defences held up well in the second term and neither side could really take control. Emily Bennett and Jess Low were among those standing out in the game, and Claremont captain Ella Smith rued an open goal chance that came off the side of the boot. The Tigers kept attacking in the final few minutes, but the Subiaco defence was outstanding, as Claire Ortlepp held her own.

Subiaco made its move in the third term with a couple of goals to cut the deficit to just one point at the final break, with an end-to-end play 10 minutes into the term through Holly Hyder to McKenzie Dowrick and then Madi Wilkens running into an open goalsquare. Amy Hunt put one through after a great mark off a well-weight Liana Burchell kick inside 50, as Hunt played on to just get the distance with the open square. Both sides had some chances, but the quarter mostly belonged to the Lions, as Smith’s early set shot fell short, and the Tigers were held scoreless for the term.

It set up an exciting fourth quarter which lived up to expectations, as Doumanis steadied the ship for Claremont’s first since the opening term in the opening couple of minutes. With the lead out to seven points, the Tigers were able to kill time off the clock thanks to the reliable Bennett and the defence, while Emily Elkington and Sarah Garstone were also having strong impacts across the ground. Buckley was lively for the Lions, as her attack on the contest was particularly noticeable. In fact, she was the one who got the ball to Hyder who had a shot from an almost-identical spot to Franklin in the first term, but the ball sat up on the line and was rushed through to make it a straight kick.

With the time ticking down and just over five minutes left, Dowrick took a terrific contested pack grab and made no mistake from 40m out to level the scores. Claremont was now under pressure as Subiaco was coming hard, with Low and Mikayla Western both trying their best to get it forward. Up the other end, Jamie Rust laid a massive tackle to keep it up the forward end, then Bennett won a two-on-one to lock it inside defensive 50 without a goal out the back. A quick kick from Dowrick for a behind put the Lions up by a point, and holding the lead for the first time since early in the game.

With four minutes on the clock, both sides were desperate in their attack on the footy, as Claremont had some chances in the final couple of minutes. Garstone pushed up to keep the pressure on, Western tried to dance around an opponent but was dragged down, and eventually the Subiaco defence won out, got it down to open space, and a Dowrick tackle on the attacking side of the centre square held the ball up for a turnover and the final kick to be sent inside the Lions’ forward 50 as the siren sounded for a memorable 4.4 (28) to 4.3 (27) win.

CLAREMONT 3.1 | 3.3 | 3.3 | 4.3 (27)
SUBIACO 1.1 | 1.1 | 3.2 | 4.4 (28)
 

GOALS:

Claremont: T. Doumanis 2, A. Franklin 2.
Subiaco: K. Buckley, M. Wilkins, A. Hunt, M. Dowrick.

DC BEST: 

Claremont: E. Bennett, J. Low, T. Doumanis, E. Elkington, S. Garstone
Subiaco: K. Buckley,  T. Toth, M. Dowrick, H. Hyder, J. Ritchie

In the other WAFL Women’s results, Peel Thunder handed Swan Districts their first loss with a comprehensive 21-point win at David Grays Arena, whilst East Fremantle easily accounted for the winless South Fremantle by 70 points in a bottom two clash.

In the top-of-the-table clash, Peel kept Swan Districts to one behind in the second half whilst extending their half-time lead of seven points to 21 with 2.3 themselves. Kate Bartlett continued her awesome season with a couple of majors, as Kaitlyn Hayes, Cassie Davidson and Sabreena Duffy were all named in Peel’s best. Sarah Wielstra kicked a goal and was named the Swans’ best, as Kloe Taylor (one goal), and Eliza Gelmi were also among the losing side’s top players.

There was never any chance for the Bulldogs in their clash as the Sharks put the foot down from the opening bounce, piling on six goals straight to nothing in the opening term to effectively win the game by quarter time. They kept the foot down over the next two terms to lead by 72 points at the final break, but a spirited final term from the visitors – kicking 1.3 to 1.1 helped them cut the deficit to 70.

The Sharks had five multiple goalkickers, with Rosie Walsh and Chloe Riley among those players, while Kahra Sprylan and Gabby O’Sullivan also slotted two apiece and were named among the best with Philipa Seth. For the Bulldogs, bottom-age ruck Lauren Wakfer was a standout, as Liusaidh Gilchrist (one goal) and Ebony Clarkson were also impressive.

In the final round of the season, Subiaco hosts East Fremantle on Saturday, before Claremont and Peel Thunder go head-to-head on Sunday, followed by a top-against-bottom clash between Swan Districts and South Fremantle.

 

Picture credit: via WAFL

Bennett enjoying season after “difficult” 2020 season

WHEN your first draft-eligible year rolls around and you are in the State Academy, the AFL Women’s Championships are the pinnacle of state representation. For Claremont’s Emily Bennett, last year – her second in the Academy – was meant to be the year where she tested herself against the best in the country and put her best foot forward.

Instead, like most of the country, travel was restricted, seasons were cut short, and the championships completely abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fast forward 12 months, and Bennett has finally got to represent her state, running out in each of the three games for Western Australia at the championships.

“It (2020) was definitely difficult because it was my second year of state was last year and I was so keen to just smash it out and it was like a year I was hoping for because I could have been drafted last year as well,” Bennett said. “It was pretty tough, because fitness had dropped off because I didn’t have many people to train with so I’m glad it’s happening this year, but it was definitely hard.”

Bennett cited fitness as an ongoing improvement she could make to her game, to be able to “last the full game”, whilst her ability to clunk grabs and run off half-back – be it through or around people – as some of her impressive traits.

“I would say my main strength would be my clean hands, so being sure I’m still able to get some clean marks and under foot I’d say it’s definitely one of my strengths, going through people,” Bennett said.

The talented teenager was like many other sports-mad people growing up, testing herself at a variety of sports before focusing on Aussie rules where she progressed from local football to her WAFL Women’s club.

“I started footy when I was in Year 7 so high school,” Bennett said. “It was just a fun carnival and I was playing netball, basketball and I did a little bit of athletics at the time. “I just thought I’d give it a go, loved it, so I started at my community club and then got invited to go to West Perth, one of the WAFL clubs and have been recently playing for Claremont for League.”

Bennett said while the step up to League might have been daunting, the fact she had entered the State Academy prior to playing a game made the transition all the more easier for her to adapt and feel like she belonged at the level before stepping on-field.

“I was quite a fresh player only having four years behind me,” she said. “It was pretty nerve wracking, but getting in the State Academy before League, I felt really ready and it was such a great experience.”

Being able to not only train with the State Academy, but to travel to South Australia and Victoria with them to finally get a taste of the national carnival, Bennett said she enjoyed every minute of it, and was as much about having fun with like-minded people as it was about developing to be the best possible player.

“I would say all the time it’s such a fun place, people to play with, being able to play with people you can trust because they’re just all so elite and they’re all such nice girls,” she said. “It’s definitely what I look forward to and come back each year and do the same.”

As for her inspirations, Bennett said she had to thank her parents for enabling her to achieve what she had so far, and if she can make it to the top level, it would be as pleasing to somewhat repay the faith as it would be exciting for Bennett herself.

“Mum and dad, I would just love to show them what I got,” she said. “I want to prove to them, they’ve always been there for me in any sport I’ve ever done. “They’re definitely people who inspire me.”

As for her goals in football, naturally AFL Women’s is the ultimate goal for the tough defender, but if her career remains at WAFL Women’s level, then Bennett will still have the one goal within her control – becoming the best footballer she can.

2021 WAFL Women’s Round 10 preview: Sides return after forced cancellation

AFTER Round 9 matches were unable to go ahead due to the state lockdown, the Round 10 teams – which saw the return of the State Academy talents and more AFL Women’s players – were largely left the same with a few odd movements.

Up first is Peel Thunder taking on East Fremantle with the former stacked with returning talent and the latter also including some serious excitement. The reigning premiers have been able to bring their State Academy talent in recently named Most Valuable Player (MVP) Ella Roberts, with Courtney Rowley, Jaide Britton, Bella Mann, Beth Schilling and Aisha Wright all back in the side. Add in AFL Women’s talents in Sabreena Duffy, Sarah Verrier and Katie Jayne Grieve and the home team is absolutely stacked. Nel Baxter is another to return and slot straight onto a wing opposite Rowley as Chloe Wrigley has been named onball, while Roberts joins Grieve, Kira Phillips and Kate Bartlett inside 50, and Verrier is named off half-back with Cassie Davidson, Tanisha Anderson and Ebony Dowson among the players back there.

The Sharks have been able to add their two State Academy talents back into the side after the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships in Chloe Reilly and Mylee Leitch, while Anjelique Raison is another young gun returning for the match. Gabby O’Sullivan will be a massive boost to the Sharks in the second half of the season, as will Philipa Seth up the other end, with the pair coming in alongside experienced forward Sara Lewis. The Sharks had to make six changes last week with Rachel Ashley and Gabby Radojkovich among the outs, though one name who has quietly snuck into a forward pocket is Roxanne Roux, who is a tall target that might just worry the Peel Thunder defence. If she can get off the chain with her athleticism and AFLW experience, then watch out.

The match of the round has to be the top of the table battle between the undefeated Swan Districts and one of the Swans’ biggest threats in Claremont. The Tigers have added in their State Academy players with Emily Bennett and Matilda Dyke going straight back into defence, and Amy Franklin named in her preferred position up forward. Matilda Sergeant and Jasmin Stewart come back to state level with captain Ella Smith returning alongside ruck Matilda Husband. The midfield featuring Jess Low, Sasha Goranova and Hayley Bullas is a major strength for the Tigers, while Dyke and Sophie McDonald holding the key position defence roles alongside Bennett, Rachel Ortlepp and Laura Pugh, while Amy Fortescue is one out from Round 9 to 10 selection sheet named as an emergency. Claremont have the talent to win the ball in the midfield and give their forwards first chance, but the Swans lineup is absolute A-grade and are the premiership favourites right now.

Swan Districts has also been able to roll out the welcome mat for plenty of inclusions as the State Academy members return for Round 9. Dana East, Nyra Anderson, Melisha Hardy, Sarah Lakay, Emma Nanut and Tara Stribley are all back into the side which has an extended bench, as AFL Women’s-listed players Kellie Gibson and Bianca Webb all return as well, Caitlyn Appleford is the other including of the 11 changes to the Swans, with the entirely new midfield of Lakay, East, Webb and Gibson will flank the damaging Mikayla and Brianna Hyde on the wings. The reliable Emily McGuire is at half-back, with young gun Jaime Henry also there while Jess Cox and Kloe Taylor are among the other young talents coming through the team, and Sarah Wielstra named up forward. The Swans will be keen to have a win over the Tigers and all but lock up top spot this season.

In the final game of the round, Subiaco hosts South Fremantle in a battle of  fourth against sixth. South Fremantle has also allowed for a ton of chances, as Makaela Tuhakaraina and Lauren Wakfer return from State Academy duties, with Sarah Wright also back on the extended interchange. Lauren Vecchio has come in to provide some extra experience, and Lara Rodin-Zimdahl, Cali Hunt and Ashleigh Little are the others to be coming back into the team. The Bulldogs will be heavy underdogs against an unbelievably strong ladder leaders lineup, though the forward line of Little, Wakfer, Ebony Clarkson and Tuhakaraina combining with Zoe Huggett, and then through the midfield Pia Durk, Kiara Templeman and Aaliyah Ugle will be one to watch, and particularly great experience for the younger South Fremantle players.

The Lions have not been forced to make any changes back in Round 9, and have instead recalled some experience in Hayley Miller, Ange Stannett, Beatrice Devlyn and Ashtyn Cowie. The midfield battle will be fascinating with Jess Ritchie in the ruck as Tarnica Golisano, Abbey Dowick and Lara Filocamo will look to win first possession. Kia Buckley, Jamie Rust and Madi Wilkins are among the talents forward of centre for the Lions, and Claire Ortlepp and Jayme Harken those holding up in defence. Maggie MacLachlan has been named on an extended interchange, and the depth of the Lions is clear in a game they should win to create separation from the bottom two sides and look towards finals footy.

WAFL WOMEN’S ROUND 10 FIXTURES:

Peel Thunder vs. East Fremantle
Claremont vs. Swan Districts
Subiaco vs. South Fremantle

Top Performers: 2021 AFLW U19s Championships – Thursday, April 15

THE AFL Women’s Under 19s Championships concluded for three sides yesterday, as Western Australia, South Australia and the Allies all completed their final matches, while Vic Metro will head to Queensland on May 29 in its final match of the carnival. We cast our eyes over the two games in challenging conditions at Trevor Barker Oval and noted down some of the top performers. The notes are the opinion of the individual writer.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA vs. VIC METRO

WESTERN AUSTRALIA:

By: Declan Reeve

#2 Amy Franklin

Chopped and changed from defence, to forward line, to defence, and back to forward line, Franklin didn’t let the inconsistency in position effect her game, continuing to be an imposing figure up either end, with her athleticism a big weapon. Her speed when caught behind to make up ground and spoil the mark was really impressive in the backline, this did not happen too often however as her positioning was really good, making it herd for Metro to get marks inside 50. Up forward she had a lot of attention on her, but was unmatchable, even for smaller opponents, when the ball hit the ground, outrunning anyone that challenged her, even scoring an impressive goal off the ground on the run in the final quarter.

#4 Lauren Wakfer

After an impressive performance against the Allies in the ruck, Wakfer assumed the number one ruck mantle for the clash against Metro, coming up against a much taller Tahlia Gillard, Wakfer set the tone early winning the first hitout to put the ball in front of her teammates. This continued early on in the game, with Wakfer able to get front position when initiating contact and put the ball close to her feet, where she let teammates win it and put a shepherd in to protect them. Also looked good up forward, taking some nice marks on the lead and then putting it in front of teammates to create scoring shots. 

#7 Ella Roberts

Just dominant throughout the game, playing in the forward line and spending a little bit of time in the midfield, you’d be forgiven for thinking there was one of her in every section of the ground. Her work rate up and down the ground was insane, getting herself involved in play in her defensive 50, winning the ball and sending it out long to a free teammate, without fail, to get WA moving forward, or being that link-up option herself pushing up onto the wing and connecting well with her defenders to mark high up the ground. That work rate extends to her defensive efforts inside 50, with a highlight in the first quarter being her tackling a metro o opponent, having the ball spill out to another Metro player, where she then smothered that player’s kick with a dive. After missing out on a goal against the Allies, she got herself on the scoreboard twice, being the only multiple goal kicker, with her first coming from a contested mark and about 40 meters out in the second quarter, and her second being a similar setup in the last to put WA within a goal with just 3 minutes to go. Very deservedly got the WA MVP for the championships, an accolade that she will have the opportunity to retain at the championships next year. 

#8 Ashleigh Reidy

Ferocious pressure and tackling in the forward half of the ground, where her athleticism, particularly her speed and agility, helped her close down on opponents with intensity, following up with smart ball use to teammates. 

#11 Aisha Wright

Another electric forward half player for WA, Wright has all the makings to be a special player at the next level, with her speed and agility being two exciting aspects of her game to watch. Her work rate when the ball is there to be won is immense, often seen pushing up the ground, and winning a loose ball to then deliver inside 50, putting it in front of teammates to run onto.

#18 Dana East

Moved well through traffic in the midfield, finding ways to get on to the end of the ruck taps and then deliver the ball forward with well weighted kicks, or out to runners, with her quick and clean hands in close and under pressure really impressive, especially in the dying stages of the game where it was on the line, she was also a strong tackling presence in close through the midfield, stopping a few promising Metro clearance attempts. Set herself up well on the outside of the forward 50 and took some opportune marks to send it back in quickly.

#20 Emily Bennett

Found herself lining up more in the backline than midfield and was a really strong presence for WA, with her push from the backline on loose balls being really strong, where she would win it and deliver it well to a teammate, usually on the inside. She bobbed up at vital moments, with one particular time being a chest mark on the goal line to stop a certain Metro goal.

#25 Chloe Reilly

Reilly cracked in hard all day, even though she was thrown around positionally, she was not allowing that to impact her performance across the four quarters. Won a lot of the inside ball and followed up with long kicks forward, to the advantage of her forwards or to spots that WA players were at, showing her understanding for the WA structure. 

#27 Makaela Tuhakaraina

Utilised that blistering pace in the forward half to create a lot of opportunities and exciting moments, with one of those being a goal, and WA’s first, where she ran onto a long kick over the top of a pack, turned on the jets, took a bounce and put it through. Something that was really impressive to see in her game was how good she was at holding the ball up to draw in opponents, waiting until the right time to handball off to a teammate that had less pressure because of her work drawing those opponents in.

 #28 Courtney Rowley

Genuinely feels like there is nothing she does not do well, coming head-to-head with two of the best inside ball winners in the Champs, despite being newer to the inside role Rowley did not back down, taking it right up to her opponents to win a lot of ball and then handball to more outside teammates on the run. When she got on the outside herself, her usual speed was on show, happy to take on opponents and then deliver a well weighted kick forward, or a handball to a teammate further up the ground. Worked hard defensively as well, often going into the backline and applying pressure or winning the ball and getting it out.

VIC METRO:

By: Michael Alvaro

#3 Charlotte Ryan

Stationed almost exclusively on the wing, Ryan played one of her best games to date. The Sandringham Dragons product was busy all day, particularly in the early stages where she found a heap of ball and tried to drive Metro forward. She hit a couple of targets going inside attacking 50 by foot and won key ground balls on the outer, keeping her side in the contest. Overall, a really solid display to build on.

#4 Emelia Yassir

The diminutive ball winner played a strong role in Metro’s midfield rotation and enjoyed plenty of minutes around the action. Among a familiar centre bounce combination with a couple of Calder Cannons teammates, Yassir found a good amount of ball at the coalface and used it craftily by hand. One of the more pleasing aspects of her play was her work rate and repeat tackle efforts, which helped set the tone as the classy Metro movers went to work going forward.

#5 Amanda Ling

Another of the small ball winners in Metro’s engine room, Ling’s outstanding work rate and ability to get to repeat contests came to the fore on Thursday. She even managed to get on the scoreboard with a goal in the second term, finishing nicely from about 15 metres out to thwart Western Australia’s momentum. She was one to do all the tough stuff and dig in at ground level, showing clean hands and quick reflexes to flick out handballs to her runners. Add six tackles to the mix, and it was a relatively complete game from the midfielder.

#9 Maeve Chaplin

Once again reverting back to her defensive duties, Chaplin was a cool head in the back half and showcased her best traits. She displayed great composure on the ball, a neat point of difference in the fast-paced contest, especially in tough areas to work out of. She was not afraid to baulk an opponent to find more space before delivering neat kicks, with her efficiency quite high on the day. Chaplin’s positioning was also sound, as she read the play well to intercept, and also marked an Ella Roberts snap in the goalsquare, relieving pressure on the last line.

#12 Georgie Prespakis

Unsurprisingly Metro’s leading ball winner once again, it is remarkable the consistency Prespakis has been able to produce at such a high level. As a permanent midfield figure, the pick one contender was a class above at the contest, able to dig in to win her own ball despite heavy opposition attention at ground level. With clean hands, she would extract, slide out of tackles and flick out cleanly instead of blazing away long by foot, which was a nice adjustment for some previous form. She lifted a touch in the third term to help Metro break away, but was just as important throughout the contest. A couple of goals could have been the cherry on top of her figures on the day, but Prespakis was just unable to find the big sticks with two behinds.

#13 Eliza James

A key figure in Metro’s forwardline, the usual midfielder showed nice signs of adjustment to her relatively new representative role. She used her strength in one-on-one situations to compete both aerially and at ground level, while also presenting well as a viable target. She was particularly lively to start, but could not quite convert a couple of set shots inside 50, while a snap fell short. She would have a couple more shots but failed to register major scores in the second and third terms, and began to look more lively again in the fourth. Having finished with four behinds from about a half-dozen attempts, it was a day of ‘almosts’ for James, but her work to create such opportunities was notable.

#15 Stella Reid

Having won the ball at a terrific rate all year, Reid did so again and was impactful going forward from her familiar wing position. One of the many terrific Oakleigh Chargers prospects this year, she worked up and down the ground to accumulate and get her side going on the front foot. Reid again gained good meterage with her run and finished with classy use on her favoured left side, often proving a chain in Metro’s movement down the line.

#16 Brooke Vickers

The half-back/winger better known as ‘Chook’, Vickers rotated between the two roles and contributed some handy touches throughout the day. Starting in defence, she was able to provide her usual run on the rebound got into dangerous positions up to the front half of the ground. In her rotation onto the wing, Vickers continued to build a wall behind Metro’s forward 50 and was noticeable when the ball was loose in space, where she would often be first to it to mop up cleanly.

#18 Charlie Rowbottom

Metro’s skipper led from the front with an ominous display from midfield, constantly bustling her way forward with unstoppable straight-line strength. The Oakleigh Chargers product notched four clearances and eight inside 50s, indicative of her style of play. She was able to put her side on the front foot with irresistible burst from congestion, pushing aside would-be tacklers and often disposing of the ball with opponents still hanging off her. Rowbottom’s overhead marking was also on display, impacting around the ground with a couple of trademark contested clunks.

#24 Sofia Hurley

Coming into the Under 19 lineup after a dazzling 17s display, Hurley was able to bring some of her key strengths to the fore. She rotated through a supremely talented midfield and held her own, winning the ball at a good rate and constantly using her turn of speed to break away from congestion. Her ability to work into space within a flash was handy for Metro on the attack, and she made a couple of dangerous runs towards the forward 50, but could not quite find the end product.

#27 Montana Ham

One of the prime prospects in next year’s draft crop, Ham was not afforded the midfield minutes she enjoyed last time out, but still looked lively up forward. The Western Jets standout used her strong frame to rip the ball free inside 50 and have a say both in the air and at ground level – despite only clunking one mark. She ended the day with three behinds, but handed off to Georgia Campbell for a goal assist in term three and looked hard to beat in contested situations.

#28 Georgia Campbell

Having come to prominence this year as Eastern’s primary ruck, Campbell has adjusted well to playing more permanently up forward for Vic Metro. She started inside attacking 50 and again showed her willingness to compete at ground level, before rotating into the ruck in term two. She would pop up again in the third term with a nice goal on the fly, and really rose with her aerial work in the last quarter. Her clean hands were terrific in those marking situations, complimenting her athleticism well.

ALLIES vs. SOUTH AUSTRALIA

ALLIES:

By: Declan Reeve

#4 Cynthia Hamilton

Followed up her game against WA with another superb performance in the engine room, earning herself the Allies MVP medal for the Championships. Her grunt and pure aggression at the football was vital for the Allies, winning the contested ball and bombing it long for the Allies forwards to quickly take advantage of. Her defensive work, especially tackling, was phenomenal throughout the contest, with that previously mentioned aggression and relentlessness earning her plenty of free kicks for catching opponents holding the ball, one of which getting her a goal in the first quarter.

#7 Jess Doyle

The Sydney Swans Academy captain and AFLW Academy member showed good marking prowess throughout the contest, finding a way in front of her opponent often to take it cleanly on the chest or out in front. Although Doyle did not end up getting herself on the goal scorers list for the game, she did plenty to attempt to set up her teammates, selflessly looking to involve them in the game in any way she could. When in open play with ball in hand, she oozes class, with an incredible ability to get around opponents or stand up in tackles to deliver a handball to an outside runner, when she herself gets free, her left foot will more often than not find a teammate on the lead.

#11 Perri King

Another AFLW Academy member in the Allies team for the game, King started like a bull out the gates, with tackling pressure and intensity a theme of her game from the get go, amassing a massive 15 tackles for the game. There is no questioning her defensive workrate even from the midfield. It was not just defensive pressure however, she won herself plenty of the ball, generally following up with a long kick to the Allies advantage in the tight contest.

#15 J’Noemi Anderson

Whilst not racking up a whole heap of the ball, Anderson had some really good passages of play where she influenced the contest heavily. Her marking was good when the ball was in her area, taking a particularly good grab in the 4th quarter where she pushed past an opponent to take it on her chest and have a shot at goal. It was also impressive to see her desire to spread by disposing of the ball laterally or look for inside 45 options.

#16 Ella Maurer

Had a really good showing from more midfield minutes than she had gotten against WA, positioning well around stoppages to find herself winning the ball or getting a handball receive from a teammate pretty often, where she’d run her distance without taking any major risks and deliver the ball inside 50, setting up a couple of scoring opportunities that unfortunately went unrewarded.

#20 Ella Heads

Was involved in a lot of play in the defensive half of the game, but really came up big in the final quarter when the game was on the line and SA were surging forward, able to take one particular commanding mark over an SA forward, slow down the play and then hit short option to continue chewing up the clock. Earlier in the game, her attack on the ball and ability to create contests even when outnumbered was impressive, and played a big part in the mid-game deadlock.

#25 Isadora McLeay

Playing as the Allies deepest defender, there were plenty of times where she impacted contests or the ball within the goal square that kept the Allies in front for the game, able to position well in marking contests and intercept deep inside defensive 50, then use the ball cleanly coming out so SA didn’t have repeated opportunities.

 #30 Ally Morphett

Came up against fellow AFLW academy member Zoe Prowse in the ruck and probably broke even through the course of the game, with both having little periods of dominance in the ruck, it was an exciting battle to watch unfold, with Morphett being especially good when she could initiate contact in the ruck to knock her opponent out of the contest and demand first position. There were a few times where she just ran straight through the contest to punch the ball long and then try to run onto it out of the centre, making her look very dangerous.

 SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

By: Peter Williams

#1 Laitiah Huynh

Completing an impressive championships, Huynh came off half-forward, and after a quiet first term – mainly due to the ball being locked up the other end – she hit the ground running in the second term and was one of the better players in the final three quarters. She laid a great tackle early in the second term, and then showed off her cleanliness at ground level to pick it off the deck and dance through her opponents. She took a strong mark at speed in the third term, then had a one-touch play again at ground level on the wing, easily darting onto her right side before an opponent could get a hand on her. In the end, Huynh had a match-high five inside 50s, as well as the second most tackles on the ground (eight).

#4 Madison Lane

The standout small defender on the ground, Lane overcame a one-on-one loss in a marking contest to Cynthia Hamilton – who kicked a goal – to put in a steadfast effort and mop up time and time again in the back half. Symbolic of her team, after that first quarter, she was able to compose herself and not only find the ball, but get it out of danger moving it well down the ground. She recorded a match-high eight rebound 50s, which was three more than any other player on the ground. She attacked the ball well at ground level, tracked it and kept pushing hard to drive it down the field and hold up the Allies, restricting them to just six behinds after quarter time.

#6 Gypsy Schirmer

Really prominent early and showed clean hands in wet conditions, dropping back to help the defence as well. The AFL Women’s Academy member had a better game than against Vic Country on Monday, and was just that smooth-moving option on the outside. She used short chips or quick handballs to keep it moving, and whilst at times the pressure and conditions forced her into handballing, she was able to have a fairly consistent performance throughout the match and be one of the most prominent ball-winners on the ground.

#8 Charlotte Dolan

Back into the midfield after a stint up forward in her previous games, Dolan had an impact with her fierce tackling and contested ball-winning ability. Teaming up well with Zoe Venning on the inside, Dolan was able to win a number of clearances, particularly late, which were influential in crunch moments. It was her clean pickup and quick kick in the path of Lauren Young to kick a goal for South Australia to put them within six points late in the game. She did not mind having a scrap throughout the game with a couple of opponents, and certainly played her best game of the championships back in her more familiar midfield position, cracking in hard and having a go.

#10 Zoe Prowse

Was everywhere in the first half, particularly first term as she made her mark around the ground trying to wear down opposition fellow AFL Women’s Academy member, Ally Morphett. While Morphett got up over Prowse due to the 12cm height difference at throw-ups, Prowse was clever to avoid too many one-on-ones with the stronger Morphett, and instead use her high endurance base to cover the ground and work her opponent over. The Sturt ruck got worked over by the opposition with some fierce tackles, and even dropped behind the ball later in the game, but clearly took the chocolates in the ruck battle and was one of the more prominent ball-winners on the ground as well.

#11 Zoe Venning

Conditions that suited her and her inside game, Venning played the way you would expect with her hands good in close, and plenty of contested possessions and tackles, She kept attacking the ball hard and was one of the clear four-quarter performers for South Australia, doing well on the inside and then working hard on the outside. In the fourth term, she won a 50m penalty for being slung to the ground and kicked a crucial set shot goal from the goalsquare with six minutes left to give her side a glimmer of hope late.

#15 Alana Lishmund

Played her best game of the championships after building each game, taking a strong mark at half-back and providing the run from the defensive half of the ground and along the outside. She spread across the ground and formed an option to use in transition and was able to win a number of touches through that, as well as being one of the more prominent tacklers on the ground.

#19 Alex Ballard

Played up forward this game, and had an ‘almost game’ though was still very impressive. She kicked the one goal right before the quarter time siren with a kick across her body, then had a couple of chances over the next two quarters, with a quick kick rushed, and another from a set shot that just drifted to the left. She was strong in the air and at ground level, taking some great marks and laying some fierce tackles, definitely improving on her game a few days earlier up the other end, and showing off her versatility and strength in this outing.

#20 Hannah Prenzler

The co-captain was a reliable source from half-back with her composure and strong decision making impressive. She did not need to win a lot of the ball to have an impact, and she was able to settle the team down in defence, and keep the opposition from scoring, whilst providing some run in transition going forward. One of the side’s top rebounding forces on the day, and a crucial cog in the back six.

#30 Lauren Young

There comes a point where you run out of superlatives to describe a performance, and Young had done that by the third quarter, let alone almost dragging her team across the line in the final term. To finish with 37 disposals at this level is unheard of, but to do it as a 15-year-old who had to get special permission, is absolutely remarkable. Best on ground by a long way despite being on the field with so many quality players, Young took an array of strong intercept marks, was crucial in not only rebounding the ball out of the back 50, but getting it forward in transition and being a leading option. Her coverage of the ground is elite, and her hands overhead and clearance ability unbelievable. She looked like the one to stand up when required, and did so with a crunch goal in the final term with five minutes remaining, and almost took another grab with about three or four opponents spoiling her. Impressively, it was not just her offensive output that shone, but her defensive aspects as well, and it was hard to fault that kind of performance in any way, shape or form.

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.

Top Performers: AFLW U19s Championships – South Australia vs. Western Australia

WITH the top talent of South Australia and Western Australia on display at Flinders University Stadium, we cast our eye over some of the top performers on the day from both sides in the opening match of the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. The notes are the opinion of the individual writer.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

#1 Laitiah Huynh

Played arguably the best game of her career, not only stepping up to the level, but being one of the best on ground throughout the match. Huynh was involved early and buzzing around half-forward, pushing up the ground and then dropping back, having a number of either scoring chances or creating scoring chances for her teammates. Whilst she did not managed to kick one herself, she was certainly lively, and both her attack on the footy and tackling pressure was really impressive. She showed her experience having played at the championships two years prior, by lifting and winning quite a lot of the ball and shovelling it out to teammates with clean hands, or kicking long down the line. An outstanding performance.

#4 Madison Lane

A rebounding machine in the back half, Lane played a part in bringing the ball down the field in transition and was able to exit the back 50 on a number of occasions. She was good one-on-one, but mostly it was her positioning to read the ball in flight, and she became one of a number of eye-catching defenders to save the day. It was almost an unheralded performance in a real team effort, but Lane was certainly impressive with her drive and strength to come out of defence time and time again.

#6 Gypsy Schirmer

The AFL Women’a Academy member showed a high work rate around the ground to win the ball in all thirds of the ground. She helped out defence early in the game winning a few crucial touches, and then made Western Australia pay for a turnover inside 50 in the second term. Picking the right spot 25m out from goal, Schirmer marked a quick kick from the pocket uncontested and slotted through the home team’s second. Later in the term, Schirmer produced a goal-saving run-down tackle, but unfortunately for her side, the ball was soon turned over and resulted in a goal anyway. Late in the match, Schirmer had the IQ to realise when she was going to receive contact in the back pocket after a mark and earned a 50m penalty for her troubles to chew more time off the clock.

#7 Brooke Tonon

Provided plenty of run and carry around the ground, particularly from defence. She mopped up on the last line a number of times and would thump the ball to safety, and push up to hold a high line when required. In the final term Tonon got on the front foot and was proactive with her positioning to keep pressure on the West Australian defence and get it long to the danger zone inside 50. It was her involvement midway through the term that was her best play though, mopping up again in defence at half-back, she started a play that ended in a goal to Keeley Kustermann in the play of the day.

#9 Tahlita Buethke

Provided some great run on the outside, always looking to break the lines and break down the opposition defensive structures. From early on, Buethke was willing to take risks, and whilst sometimes she would get closed down, she would always look for the chance to give-and-go and move it on quickly in transition. The South Adelaide talent just played a consistent game throughout with deft touches.

#10 Zoe Prowse

Up there with best on ground calculations alongside Laitiah Huynh, Prowse took control in the ruck and gave her midfielders first use. Her experience against quality opposition – including Montana McKinnon a week earlier – showed when she just positioned herself well and was able to negate Sarah Lakay early. Lauren Wakfer gave her some issues early, before Prowse again adapted and was the standout ruck on the ground. Needing to put in a strong performance given South Australia’s lack of ruck options, she certainly did just that and her second efforts and tackling was on display.

#11 Zoe Venning

Might not have had the space that some others that caught the eye did, but one could not underestimate the incredible role she did on the inside. Opposed to AFL Women’s Academy member Courtney Rowley for the most part, Venning cracked in and made sure the smooth mover did not have it all her own way. She would win the ball in close and shovel it out to teammates on the outside, picking the right exit to create a running chain from transition. She almost had a goal assist to her name with a clever outside-of-the-boot kick to the running Georgia Swan. At one stage Venning tried to fend off the bigger Matilda Dyke who brought her down, and then an early flying shot in the final term was intercepted, but her work throughout the game was strong.

#15 Alana Lishmund

Played a metres-gained type role with her kicking, having a number of thumping kicks from midfield and forward, and attacked the ball with gusto. She had a flying shot herself a couple of minutes into the final term, but it went out on the full, though she kept driving it inside 50. Much like Venning she was often in the thick of it, and even if she did not win it, she kept her running and work rate high throughout the match.

#19 Alex Ballard

Played the role of goalkeeper to a tee, dropping back on the last line and clunking no less than three goal-saving marks. Her positioning and footy IQ was quite impressive, and while she was one of a number of defenders to hold up the fort well, she was certainly memorable for her marks, including a couple of Ella Roberts shots, and one off Ashleigh Reidy who was so confident it was through she started celebrating. The Sturt defender was able to really stand up throughout the match and be a reliable interceptor down in the back 50.

#20 Hannah Prenzler

Captained the side and played a really consistent four-quarter game. Her third quarter was particularly memorable with a number of intercept marks and possessions, and aside from one poor kick that skewed off the side of the boot, Prenzler was able to run-and-carry and drive the ball out of defence. She was a steady head and composed throughout, often having to match up on the tricky Ella Roberts, but managed to always put the West Australian under pressure, and worked well in tandem with her fellow defenders to link up with the midfield out of the back 50.

#21 Lauren Clifton

Opened the account for South Australia in the sixth minute off a Georgia Swan pass and converted the goal on the run to get her team up and about. Whilst primarily stationed in the back half of the ground in the SANFL Women’s, Clifton showed off her versatility, and she did well to put the ball inside 50 in the third term for Sarah Branford to ry and run onto. The South Adelaide utility could have had her second goal with a snap in the goalsquare, but the handball from Laitiah Huynh was deemed a throw. Overall played her role as a forward, and sometimes the deepest forward.

#24 Keeley Kustermann

Went into the middle from the first bounce and did not look overawed in there, matching up with some tough competitors. She might not have had the space she is sometimes afforded to running off half-back, but certainly got involved throughout the contest. Kustermann had a flying shot five minutes into the second term but hit the post, then courageously put her body on the line to be crunched by a leading Ella Roberts, but force a spill at half-back. In the final term, Kustermann sealed the match getting on the end of the play of the day, marking well in front of goal and converting the set shot to give her state the breathing space it needed.

#28 Jade Halfpenny

A lively player in the front half of the ground, Halfpenny primarily played forward but did rotate into the midfield, such as after Western Australia’s first goal in the second term. The Norwood tall immediately got the clearance from the stoppage, and then really stepped up in the final few minutes, taking a strong mark, being involved in a one-two and then getting it to Laitiah Huynh in the pocket. The pair almost combined again inside 50 in the third term, but neither could cleanly get boot to ball under the pressure, though Halfpenny did have her chance with a flying shot and subsequent push earning a free kick, but her 25m set shot on a 45-degree angle went through for a behind. A really good performance across the board.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA:

#3 Matilda Dyke

An absolute rock in defence, working in tandem with Beth Schilling to intercept and drive the ball out. She went up to marking contests and provided physical pressure, or picked off intercept marks with ease. When Zoe Venning tried to fend her off, Dyke was having none of it and laid a fierce tackle to win the free kick, and the Claremont defender maintained the standard throughout the match. She intercepted a flying shot from Venning early in the fourth term, and was just getting to the right positions time and time again to impact the play.

#5 Beth Schilling

One of the top West Australians working in tandem with Dyke, Schilling showed off her athleticism in the back 50 both in the air and at ground level. Often going up against stronger key position players in the WAFLW, Schilling was often opposed to smaller, lighter opponents and she was able to capitalise with her athletic gifts. Teaming up well with Matilda Dyke in defence, Schilling provided plenty of rebound, but also defensive pressure such as her outstanding run-down tackle on Sarah Branford in the back pocket which saved a certain goal. She took another great intercept mark in the back pocket in the final term to cap off a great day at the office.

#7 Ella Roberts

The best on ground for the visitors and threatened to kick a bag all day long. Found herself under pressure every time she went near it but kept leading out and clunking grabs throughout the fourth quarter. Came off a little sore in the fourth term, but came back on and kicked the goal of the day with a terrific snap from the third row that bent around and hit a right-angle bounce in the goalsquare to put her side back within a kick. Many might have thought it to be lucky, but the Peel Thunder bottom-ager knew exactly what she was doing with the snap, having had three shots from a similar angle early in the mark, all of which were marked in the goalsquare. The dominant tall up forward, Roberts might have only finished with the one goal, but could have easily have had four if not for the steadfast South Australian defence.

#8 Ashleigh Reidy

Played forward and certainly held her own with some classy movement and attack on goal. She had a great first term getting involved early and then snapped what she through to be a miracle goal from deep in the pocket. Both the hands went up to celebrate with a teammate, but no sooner had they embraced that they realised Alex Ballard had marked on the line. Reidy had another chance in the third term with a great sidestep and kick towards goal but was again picked off on the line, this time by Jamie Parish.

#18 Dana East

Good in close, a lot of the Swan Districts work was not as visible to spectators as it can be in the WAFLW, shovelling the ball out of the congestion with clean, quick handballs. One of Western Australia’s best, East had a big third term to try and drive the ball forward, and she was often spotted running hard on a wing to receive as well. One who kept her work rate high and hands clean, East consolidated her inclusion with a really consistent performance.

#20 Emily Bennett

A real standout for Western Australia, Bennett won plenty of the ball in contested and uncontested situations, but also predominantly as an intercept player. She used her body well in marking contests, and hit the contest hard, playing a four-quarter performance. Her ability to see-ball and get-ball be it in the air or ground level was admirable, and she provided plenty of drive out of defence alongside Beth Schilling and Matilda Dyke. She sometimes pushed up to the wing to hold a high line and would apply a tackle or bump to advantage her team, and the Claremont defender certainly stood up in big moments.

#23 Tara Stribley

The smooth-moving wing was clean and quick on the outside, looking to bring the ball forward on a number of occasions, particularly through the mid-quarters of the game. She had a quick snap two minutes into the third term but missed, and then had a second chance moments later through another snap, but that was rushed over and a free kick given to Tamsyn Morriss for a push in the goalsquare anyway. The highlight of her game was her huge run down the middle in the third term, with the home fans screaming she had run too far, but she showed what she could do with her ducking and weaving. Won a free kick midway through the final term for being thrown off it, and moments later Ella Roberts kicked a remarkable goal.

#24 Jaide Britton

The Peel Thunder talent played a consistent game and led from the front as she captained her state in the match. Britton was often seen coming off half-back or along the wing and just using composure when assessing options. She received the ball off Ella Roberts in the first term and had a flying shot she thought was home, only for it to hit the post on the way through and be declared a behind. Britton just kept her work rate high from the start and was there to aid her defence when required, then work hard in transition to bring the ball forward.

#27 Makaela Tuhakaraina

Started off in a blitz, winning a lot of the ball representing her state in Australian rules football for the first time. The South Fremantle prospect had no fears stepping straight onball, and attacked the ball fiercely in there. She might not have been as prolific as some other midfielders across the game, but if judged by moments, then Tuhakaraina might have had the best of the lot. Winning it at half-back with 30 seconds left, Tuhakaraina sensed the urgency and took it upon herself to charge down the ground, weaving and sidestepping opponents to bomb the ball to half-forward. Whilst two kicks later the siren sounded and the Sandgropers could not put one through, the run had given them a chance and impressed everyone watching on.

#28 Courtney Rowley

The AFL Women’s Academy member played her role on the inside, and was clean and balanced with the ball at ground level, and able to find some space to mark on the outside, or win a free kick. She had the first clearance out to Nyra Anderson who was on the wing, and was really lively throughout the opening term. She used clean skills and good decision making throughout the match, ending up being the only Academy member out there for the visitors with Charlotte Thomas and Amy Franklin not playing. She was one of a number of consistent midfielders through the middle and showed her class on the day.

South Australia wins thriller in opening AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships match

SOUTH Australia has held off a determined Western Australia by six points in the opening game of the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships on Sunday. The two states clashed in perfect conditions at Flinders University Stadium, and given the teams boasted strong defences, it was no surprise to see the match was a low-scoring slog, but one that provided plenty of highlights. After getting out to a two-goal lead in the second term and then again midway through the last, South Australia could never quite shake the Sandgropers until the final siren, winning 3.5 (23) to 2.5 (17).

Indeed, even the final kick of the day – a quick siren-beating snap from Melisha Hardy – threatened to change the script, though it ended up falling short in her bid to level the scores on the buzzer. More than once it looked like South Australia had the game on its terms, but the West Australians refused to give in, and the defence held up against fierce pressure, with their counterparts down the other end doing the same when forwards had golden opportunities.

Lauren Clifton opened the scoring five and a half minutes into the match after a great Georgia Swan pass, with WA missing a couple of chances through Ella Roberts and Jaide Britton. Roberts would end up having plenty of chances throughout the day, with three attempted shots on target marked in the goalsquare or on the goal line.

When a coach-killing turnover from a rushed kick in the back pocket found an uncontested Gypsy Schirmer 25 metres out straight in front, the AFL Women’s Academy member made it two from two for the home club South Adelaide, and then kicked a behind on the run five minutes later for the Croweaters to be out by 11 points late in the quarter. East Fremantle’s Chloe Reilly saved the day with a goal from a turnover herself, converting the set shot a few minutes out from half-time and cutting the deficit to five points at the main break.

The third term was an armwrestle with neither team able to put one through the big sticks. The home crowd was getting animated at some of the 50/50 calls going the way of the visitors, and when Laitiah Huynh‘s quick hands to Clifton in the goalsquare was deemed a throw, the grandstand was up and about at the missed opportunity. There were run-down tackles galore through the match, including a huge one from Beth Schilling on Sarah Branford, which even eclipsed Roberts’ effort in the first term on Tamsyn Morriss running into goal.

South Australia had the early momentum in the fourth term, peppering the goals with some flying shots from Alana Lishmund, Lauren Breguet, Jade Halfpenny and Huynh who all tried their luck. That was until the play of the day, from defence to attack, starting with Brooke Tonon, involving Julia Clark, Charlotte Dolan, Swan and then Keeley Kustermann on the end of the chain. The West Adelaide bottom-ager made no mistake with the set shot goal, converting the major and handing her side what looked to be a match-winning 11-point lead.

Roberts had other ideas however. A freakish snap from the pocket four minutes later – which many could not believe – bounced on a right angle and through the goals. However she had multiple shots that were identical earlier in the match, but this time the goalkeepers in Alex Ballard and Jamie Parish were not there to stop her. A Huynh behind made it six points with four minutes on the clock, and tensions both on and off the field were high.

The Peel Thunder tall in Roberts was marking everything late in the game, then even roved Zoe Prowse‘s tap and kicked towards the square to try and kick her second, but Parish was there to mop it up again. The final minute saw a clever play from Schirmer, aware her frustrated opponent was going to knock into her back late made sure it was a 50-metre penalty and chewed more time off the clock. When Prowse bombed it inside 50 up the other end with 30 seconds left, many were ready to celebrate.

This time, it was Makaela Tuhakaraina who had other ideas. Having played a solid game on debut for her state in the code, the South Fremantle elite speedster just burned through the defence, taking a couple of bounces and weaved her way to the middle, amazing even the South Australian fans. She hit up captain Britton who put the ball towards Roberts and the quick snap inside 50 – after a momentary fumble – went to Hardy who snapped a second before the siren sounded, but it went high and wide, not getting enough distance or penetration on the kick to level the scores.

Picking best players across both sides was near impossible, with Prowse being outstanding in the ruck, Huynh great up forward, particularly in the first half, and Zoe Venning and Kustermann clean around the ball. Halfpenny kept being a thorn in the opposition’s side, whilst Ballard, Hannah Prenzler and Brooke Tonon all drove the ball out of the defensive 50 time and time again.

For the losers, Roberts was hard to miss with her game-breaking ability, but her Peel Thunder teammates in Schilling, Courtney Rowley and Britton were all solid across four quarters. Matilda Dyke on the last line intercepted plenty of footy, while Tara Stribley created some run and carry on the outside, and Emily Bennett was terrific at half-back.

All in all, both sides would have plenty to take out of the game and will be well prepared to head to Queensland in a fortnight where South Australia takes on the home state and the Allies, while Western Australia faces both Vic Country and Vic Metro.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA 1.1 | 2.2 | 2.2 | 3.5 (23)
WESTERN AUSTRALIA 0.2 | 1.3 | 1.5 | 2.5 (17)

GOALS:

South Australia: L. Clifton, G. Schirmer, K. Kustermann.
Western Australia: C. Reilly, E. Roberts.

DC BEST:

South Australia: Z. Prowse, L. Huynh, Z. Venning, A. Ballard, H. Prenzler, G. Schirmer
Western Australia: E. Roberts, B. Schilling, C. Rowley, J. Britton, M. Dyke, E. Bennett

2021 AFLW U19 Championships match preview: South Australia vs. Western Australia

AFTER more than 18 months without an AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, the adjusted Under 19 Championships kick-off tomorrow with South Australia up against Western Australia. It will be the first match of the Round 1 fixtures that also feature Vic Country locking horns with Vic Metro, before the four sides – along with host state Queensland and the Allies – battle it out at Metricon Stadium on April 12 and 15.

South Australia come into the match with plenty of experienced inside talents and outside runners with great speed. Their defensive pressure and abundance of running defenders are other highlights of the squad that will hold them in good stead. For Western Australia, they have a dynamic and versatile line-up, with plenty of goal-scoring options, and contested marking talents who are strong one-on-one.

SA DEFENCE vs. WA ATTACK

B: Jamie Parish – Hannah Prenzler – Madison Lane
F: Ashleigh Reidy – Ella Roberts – Bella Edgley
HB: Tamsyn Morriss – Alex Ballard – Brooke Tonon
HF: Aisha Wright – Chloe Reilly – Mylee Leitch

There is plenty of X-factor in the front six for the Sandgropers, with Ella Roberts a bottom-age marking target with great athleticism and quick speed off the mark. She can pull down contested marks and snap remarkable goals, leaving the opposition in awe of ways to contain her. Hannah Prenzler has been named to potentially take her on first, with the Sturt talent able to read the ball well in flight, and will want to stay in front of her opponent given Roberts’ speed on the lead. Bella Edgley and Chloe Reilly are the other marking targets inside 50, with Madison Lane smaller than Edgley, but smart at ground level, whilst Alex Ballard will be an even match with Reilly in the air. Glenelg duo Tamsyn Morriss and Brooke Tonon will look to provide the run off half-back against a couple of youngsters in Mylee Leitch and Aisha Wight, while Jamie Parish will look to use her strength against Ash Reidy in the other pocket.

SA ATTACK vs. WA DEFENCE

HF: Laitiah Huynh – Georgia Swan – Tahlita Buethke
HB: Bella Mann – Beth Schilling – Emily Bennett
F: Lauren Breguet – Lauren Clifton – Jade Halfpenny
B: Emma Nanut – Matilda Dyke – Melisha Hardy

Up the other end, a small South Australian forward line will look to get the ball to ground and use their speed, with the forward entries crucial to the success of the Croweaters. Western Australia have the advantage in the air, with many of their defenders more than capable one-on-one, and taller than their respective opponents. Jade Halfpenny is the key tall inside 50 for the home team, and she has been named in a forward pocket against Melisha Hardy. The Swan Districts defender is good one-on-one, and whilst she has some toe, Halfpenny might have her in that regard, so will be better to utilise her speed on the lead. One-on-one Hardy will be difficult to beat, whilst Emily Bennett and Matilda Dyke are others in the same boat. Tahlita Buethke will have the speed in her matchup, with Lauren Clifton also having that advantage despite predominantly playing up the other end at SANFL Women’s level. Lauren Breguet returns after a couple of weeks off due to concussion, and she will have a great battle one-on-one with Emma Nanut, whilst Laitiah Huynh and Bella Mann are both tackling, fierce players who will not take a backwards step. Beth Schilling will have too much height in the air for Georgia Swan, but the Sturt forward will look to compete and bring the ball to ground and create scoring opportunities.

SA MIDFIELD vs. WA MIDFIELD

R: Zoe Prowse – Lauren Young – Zoe Venning
R: Sarah Lakay – Courtney Rowley – Makaela Tuhakaraina
C: Kate Case – Keeley Kustermann – Gypsy Schirmer
C: Naomi Baker – Dana East – Jaide Britton

The midfield battle has a massive number of not-to-be-missed one-on-ones. Regardless of who lines up on who, it will be a classic contest. Lauren Young is the youngest player on the field at 15-years-old but will have the height advantage over her rivals, and ironically is two centimetres taller than her ruck, Zoe Prowse. The Sturt tall has a great leap and will look to take advantage, but has an equal in that regard with Sarah Lakay incredibly athletic and nine centimetres taller than the South Australian. Both have similar attributes but Prowse has more experience and will cause headaches with second efforts around the ground. Lakay will look to get clean taps to the advantage of her teammates to stop Prowse applying pressure as that “fourth midfielder”. The battle between Zoe Venning and Makaela Tuhakaraina will be one that provides plenty of punch. Both have an incredible appetite for contested ball, and will not take a backwards step. Tuhakaraina has the upper hand in athleticism with elite speed and agility, but Venning is no slouch either, consistent across the board. She has more runs on the board as well, with her opponent coming from a rugby union background. Venning will have the footy smarts to go forward and impact the scoreboard there.

Courtney Rowley and Dana East will take on the West Adelaide youngsters in Young and Keeley Kustermann. Rowley and Kustermann both have terrific kicking skills and great balance, whilst East is terrific inside the contest with clean hands, able to distribute the ball to teammates on the outside. Young is developing her game with great ability in the air and around the ground, and will be too tall for her respective opponents around the ground and is the tallest South Australian in the match. Prowse will have to use all of her energy to battle against multiple opponents, with Lakay likely to receive support from Schilling and South Fremantle’s Lauren Wakfer, whilst Prowse will rely on Halfpenny and Jorja Eldridge as potential back up options. On the wings, AFL Women’s Academy member Gypsy Schirmer provides that elite speed, and Sandgropers co-captain Jaide Britton will look to contain her whilst getting the ball forward in transition herself. On the other wing, Kate Case and Naomi Baker both share similar traits with the ability to move the ball in transition and play off flanks as well.

SA INTERCHANGE vs WA INTERCHANGE

SA INT: Alana Lishmund – Jorja Eldridge – Julia Clark – Charlotte Dolan – Amelie Borg – Sarah Branford
WA INT: Lauren Wakfer – Emily Gunton – Tara Stribley – Emily Boothman – Amy Franklin – Nyra Anderson

The depth of both sides is impressive, though the bench talent goes in the favour of Western Australia, with AFL Women’s Academy member with Amy Franklin keeping the opposition guessing able to play up either end. Tara Stribley is easily a starting wing on any given day and will provide terrific run on the outside. Nyra Anderson is a goal-scoring machine and has come in due to injuries and is a 2001-born talent who is making her mark at WAFL Women’s level year after year. Developing ruck Wakfer, as well as fellow bottom-agers Emily Gunton and Emily Boothman round out the interchange. For South Australia, they have a host of fierce tackling talents there, led by Norwood’s Alana Lishmund, North Adelaide’s Julia Clark and Woodville-West Torrens’ Charlotte Dolan. Eldridge has the versatility to play in multiple positions, as does Amelie Borg who gets her chance as a bottom-age tall. At the opposite end of the height scale, the tenacious Sarah Branford will provide skill and decision making in the forward half.

OVERALL:

The game is set to be a thriller, with the teams really strong in different areas. It is predicted to be mild temperatures, but no rain at this stage, so the talls of Western Australia should be strong if the inside 50s are to their advantage. South Australia have the strength on the inside to win the ball forward, but cannot afford to hack it inside with the Sandgropers’ ability to intercept so well, and be in front position on their opponent. Once the ball hits the deck, the South Australians will be favoured, but a lot of the match will be determined by the midfields. The midfield that can take full advantage and get the ball forward in terms of quality rather than quantity will automatically be well placed to take out the match.