Tag: emma kearney

Draft Central 2020 top 50 players: #1 Jasmine Garner

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially coming to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In the final edition of the countdown and taking out the Draft Central Top 50 Players crown, it is no surprise that Jasmine Garner takes the cake after a formidable year in the blue and white stripes. The North Melbourne star had a phenomenal season winning the AFL Players’ Association most valuable player (MVP) award for her efforts while also being named in the All-Australian squad.

#1 JASMINE GARNER

AVERAGES: 20.1 disposals, 4.6 marks, 4.1 inside 50s, 4.7 tackles, 1.1 goals

2020 proved to be the season of Jasmine Garner with the midfielder taking the competition by storm with her brute strength mixed with her finesse. She was simply unstoppable with ball in hand, able to hit a teammate lace-out time and time again and was a real barometer for the side. Garner was a key reason for the Kangaroos’ success throughout the season, guiding them through the challenging moments and most importantly standing up under pressure when it counted.

Constantly hungry for the footy, Garner’s eyes would almost light up when a contest was near, sniffing out the challenge and inserting herself in the battle, often winning the footy and disposing of it effortlessly. Garner was a real workhorse across the ground, not afraid to put her body on the line to win the pill, making her presence felt in every situation possible. Her general football understanding was second to none able to position cleverly to either elicit an attacking foray or drop back to help in defence.

Garner was constantly on the move and looking ahead to create the next play or be the link in transition, often resorting to her solid and sturdy kick to do the damage. She averaged an impressive 20.1 disposals per game credit to her high level of endurance and ability to stay on-ball for large amounts of time. Not only was she clever by foot but so too by hand, able to fire off a handball under pressure or flick it to a teammate in space showcasing not only skill but her spatial awareness.

There is no denying that Garner was a threat in all aspects able to hit the scoreboard with ease averaging a goal a game. She was incredibly crafty inside the forward 50 able to lead up at the footy and take a mark testament to her strong hands while also able to crumb off the ground and find her way to the big sticks. The North Melbourne star proved to be a handful for opposition teams often bursting out of the pack leaving them behind while she ran rampant across the ground.

Her chemistry with teammates Ash Riddell, Emma Kearney and Jenna Bruton also allowed Garner to play her game and help direct traffic whether it be in the middle or at a throw-in. The former Collingwood player has well and truly cemented herself as an integral cog in the Kangaroos outfit as shown in Round 5 where she blew Adelaide out of the water with her explosiveness. Garner shone true in that clash racking up an impressive 24 touches, seven marks and four tackles while nailing two majors to cap off what was a stellar performance by the Draft Central number one.

Draft Central’s 2020 Top 50 AFLW players: #4 Emma Kearney

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially come to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In this edition, we enter the final four with one of the competition’s most decorated players, and a leader who continues to set the benchmark as she pushes for a second AFLW premiership.

#4 EMMA KEARNEY

7 GAMES AVE: 20.6 disposals, 3.4 marks, 4.4 tackles, 4.1 clearances, 4.1 inside 50s, 2 rebounds 50s, 0.4 goals (3)

Coming off a premiership and league best and fairest award in 2018, there would have been no better player to choose to lead an incoming AFL Women’s side than Kearney, who continues to perform as one of the competition’s elite midfielders. In 2020, that is arguably still the case. At the forefront of North Melbourne’s second campaign, she would lead the Roos to their maiden finals appearance and victory after they finished top of Conference A at 5-1.

The Kangaroos were the preseason premiership fancies and more often than not lived up to the lofty standard set, in large part credit to the consistency of Kearney and her unmatchable on-ball brigade. The skipper did not lead her side in any key statistic this year – an absolute rarity – but was right up there across the board, impacting each game with help from the likes of Jasmine Garner, Ashleigh Riddell, and Jenna Bruton.

Kearney twice achieved a disposal high of 26, dropping below 20 just twice across her seven outings. Even in her season-low effort of 12 touches in Round 3, she managed to prop her stats back up with three goals to prove her well-roundedness, and that you simply cannot keep a good player down.

All Australian honours came Kearney’s way for the fourth consecutive year as one of three Kangaroos in the final side, and the decorated veteran also took home some silverware come North Melbourne’s awards night. The gun midfielder placed second in her club best and fairest, but was also recognised as Shinboner of the Year and Best Clubwoman, proving her value extends further than pure on-field brilliance.

It seems there is plenty left in the tank for one of the league’s pioneers, with a flag for North Melbourne surely at the forefront of Kearney’s upcoming goals. The depth and maturity of her side suggests it is well within the premiership window, and it would only be fitting if she could lead the Roos into the history books.

Draft Central’s 2020 Top 50 AFL Women’s Players: #11 – Ash Riddell

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially come to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In this edition, we look at number 11 in our count, a midfielder whose 2019 season was curtailed by injury but made up for it in a big way in 2020.

#11 ASH RIDDELL

7 GAMES AVE: 21.3 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.6 tackles, 3.9 inside 50s, 1.0 rebounds, 1 goal

Having finally earned her chance after spending time in the VFL Women’s program with Melbourne University, Riddell has played some impressive football in her first nine games at AFL Women’s level. Picked up by North Melbourne in 2019 and making her debut, Riddell burst onto the scene quickly for one of the league’s newest sides.

Unfortunately that dream debut would only last another week, as Riddell would suffer a long-term injury to rule her out of the rest of the 2019 AFL Women’s season. With a strong VFL Women’s season behind her where she averaged 27.6 disposals, 4.2 marks, 5.8 tackles and booted six goals in 10 games, Riddell would enter 2020 fully fit and raring to go.

It showed in her performances as she not only came back where she left off in 2019, but went to another level. Alongside unbelievable talents in Emma Kearney, Jasmine Garner and Jenna Bruton, Riddell held her own and more as one of the side’s premier ball winners all year. After only playing less than two full games in 2019, Riddell featured in all seven of the Kangaroos’ matches to average 21.3 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.6 tackles and 3.9 inside 50s working hard in the midfield.

Her season earned her a spot on the 2020 AFL Women’s All-Australian team bench, and she finished third in North Melbourne’s best and fairest award – just five and four votes off Garner and Kearney respectively. Her lowest disposal count for the season was 18 against the GIANTS in Round 2, and finished each game with remarkable consistency, including averaging 23 disposals, 4.8 marks and 6.2 tackles in the final three games of the season.

At 24-years-old, Riddell has plenty of improvement left in her, and while the youth coming through are some of the best talent in the league, it shows that before the pathway system were fully developed, there were still plenty of stars biding their time in the state leagues.

Draft Central’s 2020 Top 50 AFLW Players: #20 – Jenna Bruton

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially come to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In this edition, we look number 20 in our count, a hard-working midfielder who is not afraid to burrow in despite her size. 

#20 JENNA BRUTON (NORTH MELBOURNE)

7 GAMES AVE: 17.4 disposals (10.3 contested), 2.1 marks, 5.7 tackles, 3.7 clearances, 1.6 rebound 50s, 2.1 inside 50s

After earning the inaugural North Melbourne best and fairest award to go with All Australian honours, Jenna Bruton had set lofty standards to live up to in 2020. But the diminutive midfielder maintained her outstanding form in a campaign good enough for fourth place in the club best and fairest, and recognition in the extended All Australian squad.

Part of an immensely talented ‘Roos midfield quartet, Bruton was pushed out of the centre circle at times this season upon the return of Ash Riddell, but still managed to have an impact at the stoppages when starting on the outside. Her work rate to impact the play going both ways showed, averaging 17.4 disposals and 3.7 clearances per game while also leading her club for tackles and breaching both arcs regularly.

The 24-year-old has quickly solidified her status as a key member of the Kangaroos’ line-up after crossing from the Western Bulldogs, where she won a premiership in her debut season of 2018. While stars of the competition like Emma Kearney and Jasmine Garner may earn most of the plaudits, Bruton’s high-intensity style and work rate help to set a winning tone for what has been a successful expansion side to date.

She may stand at just 158cm, but is usually hard to miss as she buzzes around the ground and crashes in for the ball, with her impact on the contest often right up there with the best. That is where Bruton will aim to get, excelling from providing a supporting cast role to being one of the elites.

 

2020 Top 10 AFLW matches: #2 – North Melbourne take the win in epic battle against Magpies

IN a new countdown, Draft Central recalls the Top 10 AFL Women’s games for season 2020, moving onto our #2 which saw North Melbourne wage a massive comeback against Collingwood for a 5.4 (34) to 5.2 (32) semi-final win at Ikon Park. It was both sides’ inaugural AFL Women’s final, making the outcome that much more intense.

It was an intense battle from the get-go with the two sides unable to be split throughout the first quarter, and while each quarter saw a new intensity brew for each side, it came down to the last seconds of the game. The ball was still in the Magpies’ forward half with a minute remaining on the clock and much of the momentum, but a Jasmine Garner intercept mark at half-back in the last 15 seconds of the game helped keep the Roos’ premiership hopes alive. Both teams started well, booting a goal apiece before the first change thanks to North’s Daisy Bateman – through an uncharacteristic error from Magpies veteran Stacey Livingstone – before the Pies bounced back, cleaning up their act as Jordan Membrey got on the board for her first of two. Terrific Magpies efforts saw ball magnets Britt Bonnici, Jaimee Lambert and Bri Davey be their typical threatening selves, unafraid of the contest and doing anything they could to find the footy. While the Kangaroos had much of the momentum in the early stages of the match, again booting the opening goal of the second, they were unable to stay in control with the Magpies hot on their heels, as a punch over the line from Sharni Layton spoiled an almost certain goal which could have seen results go very differently. Collingwood kicked their way ahead with flair and energy, building off their efforts and booting three goals in just over five minutes through the middle of the quarter to be well in control of the Roos coming into half time. 

But the see-sawing affair continued in the third as the Kangaroos took back some control, booting two and keeping the Pies scoreless to get ahead by three points with 15 minutes left on the clock. Defensively both sides were constant and consistent, with Kaitlyn Ashmore and Livingstone rebounding continuously and providing threatening shadows in defence, storming down their opposition at any opportunity. Ash Riddell continued to hold strong with Ellie Gavalas and captain Emma Kearney, with the trio building their way to dominate at stoppages always getting first hands to the ball. A massive and closely contested final quarter was a testament to the skill-level running amock on the field, with neither team able to penetrate their forward with ease to pile on the goals, instead having to work their way around the field poking at defensive holes to puncture. Both teams managed just the one goal in the final quarter and to the Pies’ detriment was the loss of best on ground, Bonnici, who came off for an untimely concussion test – but fortunately sneakily returned later in the quarter to bolster the Pies’ ranks once more. With less than 20 seconds on the clock, one last roll of the dice saw the Magpies kick to a Layton-Emma King one-on-one but it was Garner who came over the top to take the match-saving mark and win the game for her side by just two points.

Riddell picked an equal game-high 22 disposals for the Roos, as well as five marks and six tackles, while Garner (15 disposals, five marks and five tackles), Kearney (17 disposals, four tackles) and Gavalas (13 disposals, three marks, six tackles and a goal) all impressed afield. For the Magpies, Bonnici was the best-on with 20 disposals, three marks and three tackles, while Lambert and Davey combined for 44 disposals, 11 marks and 10 tackles in the loss. 

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.1 | 2.3 | 4.4 | 5.4 (34)
COLLINGWOOD 1.0 | 4.1 | 4.1 | 5.2 (32) 

GOALS:

North Melbourne: S. Abbatangelo, S. Wright, K. Ashmore, E. Gavalas, D. Bateman.
Collingwood: J. Membrey 2, M. Cann, S. D’Arcy, C. Molloy.

ADC BEST:

North Melbourne: A. Riddell, E. Gavalas, E. Kearney, J. Garner, J. Bruton, K. Ashmore
Collingwood: B. Bonnici, B. Davey, J. Lambert, S. Chiocci, C. Molloy, J. Membrey

Prespakis claims best and fairest in second season

CARLTON’S Madison Prespakis has capped off a remarkable 2020 AFL Women’s season by taking out the League Best and Fairest Award at tonight’s W Awards ceremony. While the feeling amongst the room might have been different compared to a packed house at a gala event, Prespakis and the other winners were no less deserving of their awards.

The second-year dynamo has collected just about every award there is to collect, already being a dual best and fairest, dual All-Australian and Rising Star winner. The former Calder Cannons skipper and top five pick has not put a foot wrong in two seasons with the Blues, averaging 20.1 disposals, 2.3 marks, 3.1 tackles and booting 10 goals across 16 games.

Prespakis won the award with 15 votes with Fremantle Dockers star Kiara Bowers just three votes behind. In at third was the Kangaroos’ Emma Kearney on 11 votes while Anne Hatchard and Jenna Bruton managed 10 votes apiece to round out the top five.

The awards did not stop there with former number one pick Isabel Huntington taking out the Rising Star award. Huntington might be the feel-good story of the 2020 W Awards. Having to overcome various injury setbacks including long-term knee injuries, Huntington repaid the faith the Bulldogs showed in her by selecting her with Pick 1 back in the 2017 AFL Women’s Draft. She had only managed the five games prior to 2020, but doubled that amount this year and averaged 13.0 disposals, 4.8 marks, 2.6 tackles and 3.4 rebounds. It was enough for her to earn All-Australian honours this year.

Caitlin Greiser has known since the season’s conclusion that she would receive the Leading goal kicker award, booting 10 goals in her debut season. The former Western Jets talent missed out on being drafted when she played as an overager, but then crossed from Melbourne University to Southern Saints where coach Peta Searle saw enough to offer her a senior list spot. Coming from a soccer background, Greiser did not look overawed on the big stage, with a season-best three majors against Richmond, and the winning goal against Melbourne to spur the Saints onto victory in both those matches.

Announced the night before, the other major achievement bestowed upon 21 of the league’s finest was the All-Australian team. The team featured 11 debutants in Sarah Allen (Adelaide Crows), Libby Birch (Melbourne), Isabelle Huntington (Western Bulldogs), Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood), Olivia Purcell (Geelong Cats), Caitlin Greiser (St Kilda), Kate Hore (Melbourne), Sharni Layton (Collingwood), Kalinda Howarth (Gold Coast SUNS), Alyce Parker (GWS GIANTS) and Ash Riddell (North Melbourne). Along with the debutants, two players maintained their unbeaten streak in the league’s best side with Karen Paxman (captain) and Emma Kearney (vice-captain) handed leadership roles for making a remarkable fourth-straight team.

The full team is below:

2020 Top 10 AFLW matches: #6 – Demons cause opening round upset over flag favourites

COMING in at number six of our Top 10 count of the best AFL Women’s games for season is the Demons first round win over premiership favourites North Melbourne in a nail-biting contest at Casey Fields. Here’s how we recalled the game:

Melbourne has claimed a huge scalp in the opening round of the AFL Women’s 2020 season, downing one of the premiership favourites in North Melbourne at Casey Fields. In a see-sawing contest, the Demons scored the final goal of the game courtesy of Eden Zanker, in a low-scoring and blustery affair to win 3.4 (22) to 3.2 (20).

A warm and windy day at Casey Fields not only welcomed the return of AFL Women’s to the south-eastern suburbs of Victoria, but also the return of Melbourne captain, Daisy Pearce. The Dees’ skipper was playing her first competitive match since 2018, and started at half-back, winning an intercept possession straight off a clearance and getting in the thick of it early. Young gun, Tyla Hanks set the tone with a great tackle in the opening minute at half-back, but the going was tough early with both side’s defences standing up with the blustery conditions doing plenty to impact the inside 50 entries.

It took until the fifth minute when Kaitlyn Ashmore mowed down a Melbourne opponent close to goal and won a free kick 15m out on a 45 degree angle. The breeze did not pose a problem for the talented utility who slotted the first goal of the match. The Roos might have surprised a few by recruiting mature-age Western Bulldogs VFL Women’s recruit, Ellie Gavalas with their first pick, but she showed exactly why they brought her in with some great tackling ability, as did Melbourne Uni recruit, Tahni Nestor with a huge run-down tackle on Zanker to win a free kick. Ashmore’s forward work was looking good with a strong lead and mark about 35m out, but opted to pass which was spoiled.

With only their third inside 50, Melbourne’s Tegan Cunningham took a big contested mark, but her kick got caught in the breeze and fell short. An end-to-end play by the Roos saw Daisy Bateman mark on the 50m line, and knowing the distance was beyond her, looked for options. Luckily though, her opponent took a step too far on the mark, and Bateman was awarded a 50m penalty, converting the major from the goal square to put her side 12 points up with the quarter into red time. The home team was attacking fiercely late in the term, but back-to-back 50m penalties for mark infringements brought North Melbourne back to within goal-scoring range. The kick on goal fell short, and Gavalas nearly got her first major with a quick snap but missed to the right and the siren sounded with the Roos 2.1 (13) to Dees’ 0.0 (0).

Now with the wind at their backs, the Dees could start to mount an offensive themselves. A huge moment came in the sixth minute when Kate Hore produced a perfectly timed run-down tackle as her opponent went to clear the danger out of defence. The ball never connected with her boot and Hore converted the subsequent set shot from straight in front 30m out. Melbourne was on the board just over 20 minutes into the match.

The game was predominantly being played in Melbourne’s half, with the Demons constantly putting pressure on the Kangaroos’ defence. It worried the visitors into giving away a stoppage free to Elise O’Dea in front of goal, but her set shot drifted to the left courtesy of the strong breeze. Melbourne’s ‘Old Firm’ of O’Dea, Pearce and Karen Paxman were standing up and leading the side across the three lines, while the the speed and excitement of Hore and Shelley Heath inside 50 was piling on the pressure for the home side.

Hore was best-on for her impact in the game, pressuring an opponent to force the ball out of bounds and win a free kick deep in the pocket. Her set shot missed, but she would soon put her side in front with the last meaningful play of the quarter, after Zanker’s dribble attempt fortuitously bounced away from the goal, but also a North Melbourne opponent and bounced straight into the arms of the running Hore who converted from point-blank range.

Melbourne had a simple task against the wind – try to clog up the scoring to avoid North Melbourne holding an unassailable lead heading into the last term. For the first four minutes, nothing was able to penetrate past the last line of the Dees’ sturdy defence. With so much experience back there, they were able to work the ball out of the danger zone time and time again. Though the first meaningful chance came via a holding free to Emma King about 35m out straight in front. Her shot looked on target for the most part, but drifted to the left for one behind and levelled the scores.

While Pearce might have been the headline return story for the match, North had one of its own too, with Ash Riddell returning for just her third game after missing the rest of last season after going down in Round 2. She was in the right spot at the right time goal-side to receive a quick handball from Jasmine Garner to snap around her body and put it through with a celebration worthy of a vital match-turning goal. The Roos would need at least one more and now allow the home side to get one on the board of their own if they were to hold enough sway to restrict the opposition in the final term.

The match had shades of last year’s thrilling encounter, and while Cunningham had the chance to put her side back level with a tight shot from the boundary, it went to the right.  Melbourne was attacking fiercely in the dying minutes of the third term to try and get one against the flow, but North kept repelling time and time again, including a potentially match-winning tackle from Bethany Lynch inside defensive 50. The Roos led by five points at the final break, but the Dees would have the all-important win to try and reverse the 2019 result at this venue.

While North did all the attacking early in the fourth term, it was Melbourne’s ability to run and find space that was the difference in the end. Every player was in the Kangaroos’ half and it led to an end-to- end play by the Dees for Zanker to be all alone inside 50 to run into an open goal and put the Dees in front by a point. Melbourne had multiple chances to really ice the game over the next few minutes, but could not seem to put through the final dagger as the North defence stood up time and time again.

The Kangaroos kept trying to pump it long out of defensive 50, but the Demons set up behind the ball so every kick down through midfield was being picked off by the experienced Demons defenders. Both teams were desperate and the Roos coughed up another free kick and with 20 seconds remaining, the Demons were able to lock the ball up enough to win the game by just two points in a thrilling contest.

The 2018 Most Valuable Player (MVP), Emma Kearney finished with 20 touches and nine tackles, shaded by Riddell who was arguably the best on the ground after quarter time, racking up 20 disposals, five tackles and booting that timely third quarter goal, while Jenna Bruton laid 11 tackles and was fierce throughout the four quarters. Aside from Hore (13 disposals, two marks, three tackles and two goals) who was outstanding in crunch moments for the Dees, Paxman and O’Dea (both 15 disposals) and Pearce (12 disposals) were terrific.

MELBOURNE 0.0 | 2.2 | 2.3 | 3.4 (22)
KANGAROOS 2.1 | 2.1 | 3.2 | 3.2 (20)

GOALS:

Melbourne: K. Hore 2, E. Zanker.
Kangaroos: K. Ashmore, D. Bateman, A. Riddell.

ADC BEST:

Melbourne: K. Hore, D. Pearce, K. Paxman, E. O’Dea, S. Heath, T. Hanks
Kangaroos: A. Riddell, E. Kearney, J. Bruton, E. Gavalas, D. Hardiman, K. Ashmore

2020 AFL Women’s season review: North Melbourne

NORTH MELBOURNE was perhaps the side most unlucky to miss finals last year after a scintillating start to life in the AFL Women’s competition, but bounced back beautifully in 2020 to finish top of Conference A at 5-1. Coach Scott Gowans proclaimed his side was in the premiership window during preseason and the Roos’ mature-age heavy draft haul backed that statement up before another impressive on-field campaign. With four All-Australian squad members littered across a talent-rich side, the Kangaroos were one of the final four flag fancies before the season was cut short. Relive the highs and lows of North Melbourne’s second AFLW tilt, with a nod to its most outstanding players.

RECORD: 1st (A), 5-1 (1-0 finals), 227.2%

RESULTS:

R1: lost to Melbourne by 2 points
R2: defeated GWS by 18 points
R3: defeated Richmond by 56 points
R4:
defeated Gold Coast by 13 points
R5:
defeated Adelaide by 42 points 
R6:
defeated Geelong by 46 points
SF: defeated Collingwood by 2 points

A shock Round 1 loss to Melbourne was far from the ideal start North Melbourne would have been after, but perhaps served as an omen given how 2019 premier, Adelaide also went undefeated after losing in its opening fixture last year. From that point, the Kangaroos were near-flawless in dismantling their next six opponents, with three wins over 42 points and only one side getting within a two-goal margin. North’s many avenues to goal made them one of the league’s most dominant attacking threats, with no score falling below five goals after Round 1 with service from a dominant midfield.

SEASON HIGH: Finals glory… just

It is not to say that North Melbourne was not made to earn any of its regular season victories, but having done so with such ease at times, the Kangaroos’ epic two-point win over Collingwood in their semi-finals clash had hearts racing. Down by almost two goals at the main break, the valiant Roos rallied to get the jump heading into the final break and held on in a nail-biting fourth term to win through to the would-be preliminary finals. An instant classic, against a foundation team no less.

SEASON LOW: The Round 1 boilover

With this the sole blemish on North Melbourne’s record for the year, it was a relatively straightforward choice to be the Roos’ low point. But if there is ever a good time to lose, it proved to be in Round 1 for the Kangaroos, with the entire regular season left to make up the points and fulfil their pre-season plaudits. After bouncing to an early lead and again snatching it at three quarter time, North were jumped in a tense final term as Melbourne proved it would also be a contender in 2020.

FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:

Jasmine Garner (20.1 disposals, 4.6 marks, 4.7 tackles, 3.4 clearances, 1.6 rebound 50s, 4.1 inside 50s, 335 metres gained, 8 goals)

Earned the AFLW Most Valuable Player (MVP) award today after a career-best campaign where she led the competition for marks, and her club for contested possessions, score involvements, and inside 50s. Having levelled up her endurance, Garner made the switch to midfield and proved a game-breaker, able to find bucketloads of the ball and still hit the scoreboard as one of the league’s most damaging players.

Emma Kearney (20.6 disposals, 3.4 marks, 4.4 tackles, 4.1 clearances, 2 rebound 50s, 4.1 inside 50s, 354 metres gained, 3 goals)

The skipper was at her reliable best in 2020 and while she may have proven animated in the face of opposition attention, was supported well through the engine room throughout another strong season. Seldom is Kearney kept out of the contest, and even when she was not having her usual impact on the ball, found a way to have a say – as proven in her three-goal effort against Richmond. The one-time league best and fairest is going nowhere, and remains one of the true elites.

Ash Riddell (21.3 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.6 tackles, 4.3 clearances, 1 rebound 50, 3.9 inside 50s, 359 metres gained)

After suffering a long-term injury in just her second AFLW appearance last year, Riddell returned with a clean bill of health and had an enormous impact on North Melbourne’s midfield. An absolute ball magnet, the diminutive mover led her side for disposals, clearances, and metres gained from a host of capable teammates, earning All Australian squad recognition in the process. Proved she was more than just fold for Kearney and Garner in the engine room.

Jenna Bruton (17.4 disposals, 2.1 marks, 5.7 tackles, 3.7 clearances, 1.6 rebound 50s, 2.1 inside 50s)

Another zippy small among North Melbourne’s midfield brigade this season was Bruton, who despite her 158cm frame, brought the heat at stoppages as a reliable two-way outlet in the engine room. The fourth of North’s All-Australian squad members, Bruton covered plenty of ground in 2020 and impressively led the Kangaroos for tackles and intercept possessions in another consistent year – her third at the elite level and second at Arden Street.

Kaitlyn Ashmore (7.7 disposals, 2.3 marks, 2.9 tackles, 1.7 inside 50s, 9 goals)

The inaugural Brisbane Lions forward stood out as North Melbourne’s leading goalkicker in 2020 with a career-high haul of nine majors across all seven games. A dangerous figure inside 50 who simply makes things happen, Ashmore proved her nous around the big sticks with bags of three and four goals this year, but was rubbed out for most of the game against GWS with concussion. Has sticky hands and great goal sense, making her a pleasure to watch.

THE SHREWD RECRUIT:

Ellie Gavalas (13.3 disposals, 1.9 marks, 5.4 tackles, 2.1 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 232 metres gained)

North Melbourne turned heads by selecting the 24-year-old with pick 10 in last year’s draft on the back of just one (albeit outstanding) VFLW campaign, but the Tasmanian repaid the faith in spades with a terrific debut season. A round-ball convert, Gavalas steadily acclimatised to the Kangaroos’ midfield, becoming a reliable figure at the stoppages who possesses clean hands and a hard edge. Kicked her first goal in the final game of the season – not for a lack of trying – as great reward for effort.

THE UTILITY:

Kate Gillespie-Jones (12 disposals, 2.9 marks, 4 tackles, 2.4 hitouts, 2.4 inside 50s, 3 goals)

Dominant key position players take time to develop, and after making great strides upon making the switch to Arden Street last year, Gillespie-Jones furthered her reputation in 2020. The 179cm utility was employed mostly as a forward target across all seven games, but enjoyed stints further afield and in the ruck to highlight her flexibility. Her three goals, all in seperate games, made for a career-best haul, with the tall’s work to follow-up her improving aerial efforts compounding her influence on games. Combined well with Ashmore and Sophie Abbatangelo inside 50.

VERDICT:

The Kangaroos are an experienced and hardened unit which could well have taken out this year’s premiership. While we will never know what could have been, one thing that remains almost certain is that this side will remain a contender in 2021. Boasting one of the league’s best midfields and a forwardline with multiple prongs, there is a lot to like about the Kangaroos going forward.

2020 AFL Women’s season review

UNPRECEDENTED is what the fourth edition of AFL Women’s was in every sense, with the skill level and fanfare growing, but uncharted circumstances cutting the season short – twice. While we may only have been graced with six of the scheduled eight regular season rounds and one exhilarating week of finals, there is plenty to unpack from what was a truly special chapter in the women’s footy story. We bring you all the key stats and winners, the highs and lows of each teams’ season, and the leading candidates for the premiership, MVP and Rising Star awards in our 2020 season recap.

CONFERENCE LADDERS

Conference A

1st – North Melbourne (5-1, 227%)
2nd – GWS GIANTS (4-2, 123%)
3rd – Brisbane (3-2-1, 107%)
4th – Gold Coast SUNS (2-3-1, 101%)
5th – Geelong (2-4, 81%)
6th – Adelaide (2-4, 80%)
7th – Richmond (0-6, 36%)

Conference B

1st – Fremantle (6-0, 155%)
2nd – Carlton (5-1, 152%)
3rd – Melbourne (4-2, 165%)
4th – Collingwood (4-2, 154%)
5th – St Kilda (2-4, 91%)
6th – Western Bulldogs (1-5, 73%)
7th – West Coast (1-5, 32%)

Combined

1st – Fremantle
2nd – North Melbourne
3rd – Carlton
4th – Melbourne
5th – Collingwood
6th – GWS GIANTS
7th – Brisbane
8th – Gold Coast SUNS
9th – St Kilda
10th – Geelong
11th – Adelaide
12th – Western Bulldogs
13th – West Coast
14th – Richmond

FINALS RESULTS

North Melbourne 1.1 | 2.3 | 4.4 | 5.4 (34)
def.
Collingwood 1.0 | 4.1 | 4.1 | 5.2 (32)

GWS GIANTS 0.2 | 1.4 | 3.7 | 3.8 (26)
def. by
Melbourne 0.1 | 1.5 | 1.5 | 4.5 (29)

Fremantle 2.3 | 5.5 | 8.6 | 12.8 (80)
def.
Gold Coast 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 (10)

Carlton 1.0 | 2.2 | 4.6 | 6.8 (44)
def.
Brisbane 1.2 | 1.2 | 2.3 | 2.3 (15)

STATS LEADERS

Disposals:

Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood) 156
Anne Hatchard (Adelaide) 152
Ashleigh Riddell (North Melbourne) 149
Karen Paxman (Melbourne) 149
Madison Prespakis (Carlton) 149

Marks:

Chloe Molloy (Collingwood) 32
Jasmine Garner (North Melbourne) 32
Kate Lutkins (Brisbane) 31
Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide) 31
Kerryn Harrington (Carlton) 31

Tackles:

Kiara Bowers (Fremantle) 99
Katie-Jayne Grieve (Fremantle) 51
Jacqui Yorston (Gold Coast) 48
Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide) 47
Brittany Tully (GWS) 46

Goals:

Sabreena Duffy (Fremantle) 12
Caitlin Greiser (St Kilda) 10
Jesse Wardlaw (Brisbane) 9
Kaitlyn Ashmore (North Melbourne) 9
Kalinda Howarth (Gold Coast) 9

Inside 50s:

Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood) 32
Emma Kearney (North Melbourne) 29
Jasmine Garner (North Melbourne) 29
Ashleigh Riddell (North Melbourne) 27
Hayley Miller & Kiara Bowers (Fremantle) 25

Rebound 50s:

Phoebe Monahan (Richmond) 41
Stacey Livingstone (Collingwood) 29
Lauren Aherns (Gold Coast) 24
Jade Pregelj (Gold Coast) 24
Kate Lutkins (Brisbane) 23

Clearances:

Karen Paxman (Melbourne) 39
Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood) 32
Emma Swanson (West Coast) 30
Ashleigh Riddell (North Melbourne) 30
Olivia Purcell (Geelong) 30
Madison Prespakis (Carlton) 30

Hitouts:

Lauren Bella (Gold Coast) 130
Sharni Layton (Collingwood) 120
Breann Moody (Carlton) 117
Mim Strom (Fremantle) 114
Jessy Keeffe (Brisbane) 114

ROUND-BY-ROUND HIGHLIGHTS

Round 1: Dees take out the premiership fancy

Round 2: SUNS shine for historic opening win

Round 3: First-ever Q-clash delivers a thriller

Round 4: Carlton’s vengeance in grand final rematch

Round 5: Dockers take out Lions to remain undefeated

Round 6: Bulldogs bring it to Freo in instant classic

Semi Finals: Mithen’s maiden goals save Dees from finals hell

TEAM HIGHLIGHTS

Adelaide: The successful return of Erin Phillips

Brisbane: Going nowhere – knocking off the Crows in Round 1

Carlton: Delivering a baptism of fire for Richmond

Collingwood: Nabbing its first-ever win over Carlton after four tries

Fremantle: The barnstorming Round 6 win over the Western Bulldogs

Geelong: Pipping Richmond in a shootout for its opening win

Gold Coast: Picking up its first set of AFLW premiership points at home, Round 2

GWS: Knocking off the reigning premiers away from home

Melbourne: A spirited finals victory against all odds, off the boot of Lily Mithen

North Melbourne: Holding on for its maiden finals victory against the Magpies

Richmond: Marquee recruit Sabrina Frederick boots the club’s first goal

St Kilda: Beating-out the more experienced Melbourne for its maiden AFLW win

West Coast: Kicking its highest total to knock over the Dogs in a thriller

Western Bulldogs: The emergence of their young stars

TEAM LOWLIGHTS

Adelaide: Injuries plaguing a rather lacklustre premiership defence, never got going

Brisbane: Running out of legs – finishing with four-straight losses

Carlton: Losing to the old enemy for the first time in history

Collingwood: The heartbreaking knee injury to Ash Brazill

Fremantle: Being stripped of the chance to go undefeated throughout a whole season

Geelong: Nina Morrison’s second ACL injury in as many seasons

Gold Coast: A dismal finals showing

GWS: Getting pipped at the post on home turf come finals time

Melbourne: Going down to an expansion team in Round 3, and a spate of injuries

North Melbourne: The Round 1 hiccup, could have been disastrous

Richmond: Six losses by over 20 points, take your pick

St Kilda: Throwing away what would have been a huge win over Fremantle

West Coast: Setting the record for the lowest-ever AFLW score (later beaten)

Western Bulldogs: Being beaten by West Coast in a streak of five losses

MVP CANDIDATES

Seldom do midfielders miss out on this kind of award, and the candidates for season 2020 prove no different. With that being the case, midfielders with a difference have garnered the centre of attention in this debate of late – those who can find the goals, have big tackle numbers, penetrate each arc, or dominate the clearances. Each of the six names put forward have extra strings to their bow, making them the standouts for season 2020.

Kiara Bowers – At the heart of Fremantle’s success this year was Bowers, a seasoned ball winner who is as tough as they come. The Dockers midfielder was impactful going both ways; getting her hands on the ball for a club-high 123 disposals (17.6 average), as well as a record-breaking 99 tackles (14.1 average) to show her dominance on the defensive end. Given her impact around the ball and Fremantle’s unbeaten run, it is hard to see her not featuring in the votes for most games.

Jasmine Garner – This was a true breakout year for Garner, who took her game to the next level on the back of an improved running game. Moving further afield into midfield, Garner was able to rip games apart with her knack of finding the ball, combined with shrewd timing in her forward movement to also find the goals. She was second in the league for score involvements (32) and first in marks (32), showing her impact around the ground.

Jaimee Lambert – Has a case for being the best player in the competition right now, and is again a player who just keeps on getting better. Lambert was dominant in every sense of the word, possessing an unmatched ability to find the ball at the contest (league-high 156 disposals, 84 contested), while also providing a source of inspiration going forward with a club-high 29 score involvements and 32 inside 50s. Lambert stood up when it mattered this season, and was near-unstoppable in full flight.

Karen Paxman – Having taken over as Melbourne’s prime ball winner in the absence of Daisy Pearce last year, Paxman continued to stake her claim as the competition’s premier clearance player in this campaign. In proving as much, Paxman collected a league-high 39 clearances, and was equal-third for disposals (149, 21.3 average) as the fuel for the Dee’s engine room. Her prominance in Melbourne’s four wins makes her a strong candidate, without the fanfare of others.

Madison Prespakis – The 2019 Rising Star winner is an out-and-out superstar in just her second season, and continued to build on her already impressive resume. Prespakis continually put her side on her back at the important moments, stamping her status as the Blues’ prime ball winner despite resisting heavy tags most weeks. The nuggety midfielder led her club in a range of key stats, and also found the goals on three occasions.

Others to consider – Alyce Parker, Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard, Emily Bates, Emma Kearney, Ashleigh Riddell

RISING STAR CANDIDATES

Grace Egan – Richmond would be kicking themselves for not matching the Blues’ bid for Egan at last year’s draft, with the physical midfielder going on to have a stellar debut season. Egan instantly became a key part of Carlton’s midfield, winning the ball with ease and going hard at it. Earned her nomination in Round 4 with 18 disposals, six marks and four tackles in Carlton’s big win over Adelaide.

Caitlin Greiser – The ‘G-Train’ lit up Moorabbin in the Saints’ inaugural AFL Women’s campaign, comfortably leading their goalkicking with 10 majors across all six games. After a goalless debut, Greiser found the big sticks in every other outing, and earned her nomination on the back of two goals in St Kilda’s first-ever win – including an absolute boomer from around the 50m arc.

Isabel Huntington – In a surprise to many, Huntington had not yet earned a Rising Star nomination in her three years as a Bulldog, with the former number one pick still eligible for the award given the fact and her age. A reliable figure in the Dogs’ back five, Huntington returned a consistent campaign and earned her nomination in Round 6 with 15 disposals and six marks as the Dogs almost knocked off Fremantle.

THE PREMIERSHIP GOES TO…?

Could’ve – Despite Fremantle being the only undefeated side, Carlton and North Melbourne could have argued a strong case for taking out the premiership, and were due to clash in the preliminary finals. Both holding 5-1 regular season records, the Blues and Roos overcame early-season hiccups to prove themselves as contenders. And let’s not forget Melbourne, who snuck into the second week of finals and could have produced anything after a daring escape against GWS. But given Carlton’s form, adaptability, finals experience, and dominance around the ball, they are this year’s ‘could’ve’.

Should’ve – Fremantle is the obvious candidate here given it was the only undefeated side left and topped the overall ladder. In trumping all-comers, the Dockers proved they were the competition’s benchmark, and were capable of knocking off the best the league had to offer. Case-in-point – beating the Lions in a top-of-the-conferences clash. If there was to be a winner, it should’ve been Fremantle.

Would’ve – Again, it is easy to go with Fremantle as the ‘would’ve’ been winner given its unmatched record, but how the teams would’ve matched up is something we will never know. Fremantle did not play against Melbourne, North Melbourne, or Carlton during the regular season, leaving it as an unknown. North Melbourne’s status as premiership fancy coming into the year would’ve put it in good stead, while Carlton’s defensive counter to Fremantle’s attack would have been interesting to see. Another preliminary final loss to Melbourne could also have been on the cards for the Dockers, too, so it is anyone’s guess as to which team would’ve won. May we find out next year.

 

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

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

Carlton:

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

Fremantle:

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

Melbourne:

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

North Melbourne:

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