Tag: erin phillips

2021 AFLW Preview: Adelaide Crows

ADELAIDE will aim to catapult itself back into premiership contention after an injury-riddled 2020 season. Head coach Matthew Clarke has made some major changes to his coaching staff, with club greats Scott Thompson and Tom Lynch joining the panel. The trio will restock Adelaide’s side with a number of returning premiership stars.

2020 RECAP
The Crows finished sixth in Conference A last year, winning just two of their six matches. Premiership players Chelsea Randall and Chloe Scheer missed the entire season with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructions, while Deni Varnhagen and superstar Erin Phillips only played three matches between them as they returned from their own respective knee issues. Injuries to several other players meant that the Crows were forced to blood more and more youngsters as the season progressed. Adelaide’s two wins came early in the season against St Kilda and Geelong, two sides that did not qualify for finals in 2020. Realistically, the Crows just struggled to move the ball from end to end and failed to apply enough pressure on opposition sides.

A shining light throughout 2020 was midfielder Anne Hatchard, who won their best and fairest and made the AFLW All-Australian side after averaging 25 disposals, six tackles and three inside 50s per game. Tackling machine Ebony Marinoff was effective alongside her at the clearances, but the pair did not get much help from the Crows’ wingers or forwards, particularly late in the season. Sarah Allan was the side’s other strong performer, as she led Adelaide’s defence well and was rewarded with a spot in the All-Australian side.

NEW FACES
Lively forward Jess Sedunary returns to the club after playing one season for expansion side St Kilda. Sedunary was a premiership player for the Crows in 2017 and is a proven goalkicker at senior level. Although she is coming off a broken fibula and may take some time to reach full strength, she will bring a wealth of leadership and experience to the group. Former Giant Lisa Whiteley will be an important addition to the Crows’ defence, while young winger Hannah Munyard, who has good pace and skills, provides some much-needed depth after playing three games for the Bulldogs in her debut season.

Draftees Teah Charlton, Rachelle Martin and Ash Woodland are three readymade recruits that should make an immediate impact for the club. Charlton, taken with pick four in the AFLW Draft, is a talented midfielder and half-forward from South Adelaide with goal sense, effective ball use, overhead marking ability and aggression. Expect her to be in the running for the NAB AFLW Rising Star Award. Midfielder Martin won the South Australian National Football League Women’s (SANFLW) 2020 best and fairest award (alongside Hatchard) and played a match for the Crows last year as an injury-replacement player. Flexible utility Woodland gained AFLW experience for Melbourne in 2019 before winning North Adelaide’s best and fairest award last year in a premiership side. She also won the SANFLW Leading Goalkicker award in 2020.

With Randall, Scheer, Varnhagen, Hannah Button, Rhiannon Metcalfe and Phillips all set for full seasons this year after serious injuries in 2020, they can be considered ‘new faces’ as well. On the other hand, Adelaide loses veteran Courtney Gum along with premiership players Jess Foley, Courtney Cramey and Sophie Li to retirement.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021
Chelsea Randall is the one to watch. She is arguably the most courageous defender in AFLW and her skills, leadership and football IQ were sorely missed last year. With Randall positioned alongside Allan and Marijana Rajcic in defence, Adelaide should prove very difficult to score against.

Justine Mules is the other Crow to keep an eye on. She finished third in Adelaide’s 2020 best and fairest count after averaging 11 disposals, two tackles and two inside 50s per game. The two-time premiership player has shown continuous improvement since her debut season and looks set to have a major impact on a wing in 2021.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT
Two words: premiership experience. With 19 premiership players on their list, the Crows have more of these than any other side in the competition. This experience will prove valuable in finals, and it is well known that the Crows’ top names are made for the biggest stage. With numerous young players rising up the ranks and some veterans nearing the end of their careers, the hunger to recapture premiership glory should be there as well.

QUESTION MARK
Adelaide’s lack of depth is their biggest question mark. This was exposed last season following injuries to their franchise players, as the young Crows struggled to hold up their end of the bargain. However, this experience could prove valuable for the inexperienced players as they should now be more comfortable competing at senior level. Additionally, the inclusions of Sedunary, Whiteley, Munyard and the draftees should help improve their depth.

FINAL WORD
A line-up that includes Randall, Marinoff, Hatchard, Phillips and Allan is a scary proposition for any opposition side. The Crows have elite talents all across the ground and should catapult back into finals contention, but it is unclear whether they are truly premiership contenders. Fremantle, North Melbourne and Carlton were the best sides in 2020 and deserve favouritism ahead of the Crows at this stage.

Much of Adelaide’s hopes depend on the fitness and agility of the seasoned players returning from injury. Their forward line was the main area that struggled last year, as they often failed to lock the ball inside their forward 50 and relied far too heavily on Stevie-Lee Thompson, Eloise Jones and Danielle Ponter. The returns of Scheer, Phillips, Sedunary and Button should help spread the workload in this area.

We we will learn more about the Crows’ premiership aspirations when their season gets underway on the 30th of January against the Demons.



For more AFLW news and analysis, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

Picture: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

2021 AFLW 10 under 10 to watch: #4 Chloe Scheer

IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We continue the countdown at number four with Adelaide’s Chloe Scheer.

The talented forward is the second Crow in our countdown, following on from midfield sensation, Nikki Gore at number seven. Scheer averages a goal a game having booted eight in as many matches, all of which came in the 2019 AFL Women’s season. Unfortunately for Scheer, her ninth game was put on hold after injuring her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the 2019 AFL Women’s Grand Final.

Whilst many remember Erin Phillips‘ ACL injury in that match, Scheer also went down in a bittersweet day for the Crows where they claimed their second flag by defeating Carlton, but lost two unbelievable players to long-term injuries. Scheer is one to watch in 2021, having signed a two-year contract following the 2019 season.

Unfortunately for Scheer, the ACL tear was not the first ACL she had suffered, having done her knee late in the 2017 season. That year she was one of North Adelaide’s best players throughout the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s, and was named in the initial AFL Women’s Under 18s All-Australian squad.

The injury delayed her journey to the AFL, with the teenager then set to miss the 2018 season. Instead being a one-club state, the Crows waited a year for Scheer to recover, then picked her up with selection 37 in the 2018 AFL Women’s National Draft. She rewarded them with a great 2019 season prior to injury striking, and will be hoping to pick up where she left off.

While two ACL injuries is always a cause for concern – on opposite knees – Scheer has the determination and resilience to bounce back and play a crucial role in 2021. She returned to local football last year with Payneham Norwood Union to get match fitness in ahead of the AFL Women’s season this year. Now just under two years since she injured her knee, Scheer is ready to carry on from where she left off and add to her eight games.

A known high-flyer with goal sense and X-factor, Scheer is one of a number of talented Crows who will make their front six the most exciting in the league, and everyone will be hoping the talented youngster can get a clean run at an AFL Women’s career.

Picture credit: Adelaide Crows

2021 AFLW 10 under 10 to watch: #7 Nikki Gore

IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We continue the countdown at number seven with Adelaide’s Nikki Gore.

Being a one-club state and the most successful club in the AFL Women’s history, there are plenty of Adelaide talents yet to really stamp their authority at the elite level. The club is brimming with depth, more so than just about any other club, and it is especially difficult to crack into the midfield of the Crows, with so much experience rolling through there. For recently turned 20-year-old Gore, the 164cm midfielder is one who could really make the transition from prospective talent into star quality.

The eighth selection in the 2018 AFL Women’s National Draft made her debut in Round 6 of the 2019 season, and has managed seven games in her two seasons, booting two goals. Having emerged through the South Australian pathway – playing in a premiership with Christies Beach and then back-to-back flags at South Adelaide – the ball magnet is no stranger to success. It has been Adelaide’s success that has kept the talent biding her time in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition.

Gore is a huge tackler which matches her offensive attributes, not afraid to throw herself at the contest and win the hardball, as well as spread to the outside and use her unbelievable pace to burst away from congestion. Having only played the one game in the Crows’ second premiership season of 2019, Gore started to establish herself in the AFL Women’s side more often, earning six games in 2020, where she averaged the 6.5 disposals.

Her preferred role is on the inside, but when the likes of Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff are there, it makes it difficult to have permanent minutes onball. However with Erin Phillips returning to have a proper full season, the likes of Gore playing through the midfield allows the talented Phillips – and players such as Eloise Jones who can play midfield – to play forward and use their strength overhead to dominate opposition defenders.

Whilst South Adelaide fell short of the flag in 2020, Gore was a key contributor to the side, particularly once the competition resumed later in the season, and the midfielder never took a backwards step. With the youth at the Crows continually growing – now including South Adelaide teammates such as Hannah Munyard and Teah Charlton – Adelaide is a huge chance to win its third flag, and the likes of Gore stepping up will only help achieve that goal.

Successful basketballer Eldridge focuses on footy

FORMER national representative basketball player, Jorja Eldridge made a decision last year to give up years of basketball and focus on an Aussie rules career. The talented baller had been playing since she was 11-years-old and represented the South Australian state country team on five occasions, then went to a national championship a further three times. Despite this, Eldridge realised the lack of opportunities in the sport and went down a different path.

“In the middle of last year, the middle of 2019, was my last national tournament as a top-age under 18 player,” Eldridge said. “So from there, there’s not too many opportunities from basketball. “Other than like the under 20 state team, which includes SA country and metro. “But from there, I kind of fell out of love with the game and then, yeah, one of my mates was just like, ‘Oh, do you wanna come trial for this football? like, play in a Whyalla combined girls’ team?’. “So I did that. “And then yeah, from there, I loved it. I got more into the system, I have just been getting better from then.”

While her decision to change codes was one thing, playing at a North Adelaide Under 17 girls carnival in Port Augusta in August last year was another. The Roosters liked what they saw and Eldridge slotted into the youth side.

“I played in the Under 17 North Adelaide team in 2019 mainly as a centre half-back and then I was selected in the Under 18s state squad and ended up being in the M36 before COVID happened,” she said. “Then I was also travelling for the women’s North Adelaide team. “But from there, I made the train-on squad and then moved up into the squad during the COVID time. “And then the shut down of the SANFL season happens. “But then when it came back, I actually debuted in Round 5 in 2020 and also played in Round 6.”

Whilst she might have had a lack of senior experience heading into the season, Eldridge worked hard during the COVID-19 pandemic break to earn a debut and finish with two games playing for the undefeated Roosters in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s.

Yeah, honestly, it was quite a surprise to me,” Eldridge said of her selection. “But I did work extremely hard in the COVID off-season time, because I thought I might as well try as best as I can. “And then even if I didn’t get a game, I was planning on moving to Adelaide next year and hoping to get more into it. “Then from that Krissie (Steen, North Adelaide coach)… I got a FaceTime call from North Adelaide on a Wednesday night when they were announcing the team and yeah I made the team for my first game, so that was pretty exciting for me.”

Travelling from Whyalla to Adelaide is around a four-hour drive, something that is never easy. Luckily for Eldridge, she had supportive parents and they had familiarised themselves with the drive due to the teenager’s basketball commitments.

“It definitely has that drive that will kill you, and especially when I was playing basketball, my national trainings were actually at Murray Bridge. So that was even further,” Eldridge said. “We had to go, but then because of the basketball, my parents were used to doing that. “So then they were more than happy to do that with football as well. “So even though I’ve got my licence and I am 18 they’re still taking me down because they love it. “Just as much as I do.”

While Eldridge had made a decision that the 2019 basketball season would be her last, she decided to still take to the floor for one last dance prior to her big move to the capital city.

I actually wasn’t going to (play another season),” Eldridge said. “So when I was playing football, I was just playing football. “I did play netball locally but if I ever like the two games I played (clashed), I just missed out on playing netball that weekend. “But I wasn’t going to play another season of basketball. “But it’s just recently started, and I am playing one last season before I moved to Adelaide next year. “But that’s that’s just at a local level. “That’s not anything higher.”

Basketball has also helped Eldridge adapt to football with a number of different traits she was able to transition from the court to the field.

“My strength, I would say as, like, my agility, my athleticism and my speed and I actually do have good hand-eye coordination as well,” Eldridge said. “So I’m able to use those skills that I’ve developed over the years to then put that into it Just the football aspect. “It is a different knowledge of the game. “Definitely there are some parts of similar like, but basically like in defence, if you’re like man on man or, if you like, in zone like, it’s kinda similar. “But yeah, it’s definitely some things that I mean to keep looking into more for football to strengthen my knowledge of the game.”

For Eldridge, the COVID-19 pandemic put her new footy career on hold for a while, and while she admitted it was “difficult” during that time, she was determined to make the most of the time off and come back better than ever.

It was probably harder for the girls who started off playing in the season because I didn’t have my game until after the COVID break,” Eldridge said. “However, we still did zoom calls with Krissie and the strength and conditioning coaches and we had our road running and strength programs made up that we still had to continue with and I think that’s why I did get a run because I followed through with those schedules and what she wanted us to do. “And I worked closely on my skills and yeah, I think I have definitely improved my fundamental skills over the course of that time as well.”

The debutant said while she was new to the sport and did not have a huge inspiration from a football perspective, she admired the likes of Tayla Harris and Erin Phillips. As for her journey, she could not be more grateful for the path she had taken, and owed it to a number of people and clubs who had supported her along the way.

“I would also like to thank North Adelaide, particularly Sambo (Emma Sampson) and Krissie for the amazing opportunities they’ve given me. “When I actually couldn’t go down and train with North Adelaide, I was luckily enough to train with the Roopena football club in Whyalla. “And then my local club, my family club was North Whyalla who actually sponsored me for the 2020 season of North Adelaide.”

Eldridge is currently studying her Certificate IV in Fitness as she aspires to become a personal trainer. By making the move to Adelaide, she will extend her knowledge in the area by studying exercise physiology. But the additional benefit of the move would be closer to Prospect Oval where she can focus on her football and trying to cement herself in the side each week.

“Next year, I’m wanting to really concentrate on getting in every game in the SANFLW like in the North Adelaide team. and from there, I’ll see where it takes me,” Eldridge said. “But I would really love to play in the AFLW whether that’s starting the end of next year. “So the start of the 2022 seasons or maybe it might be a little bit longer because I’m still only new to playing.”

Picture: AFL Media

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Adelaide Crows & GWS GIANTS

THE AFL Women’s Draft is fast approaching and in the lead-up to the draft, we take a look at each of the AFL women’s sides in pairs and see what they might look for, and who might be available with the selections they have. Kick-starting our series are the two sides who have a monopoly on their states in Adelaide Crows and GWS GIANTS.

Adelaide Crows – South Australian pool

Draft selections: 4, 45, 48

Off-season summary:

Adelaide is in the box seat next season and should be another contender for the 2021 flag. After a 2020 season interrupted by multiple injuries, the Crows will regain two of the best players in the competition in Erin Phillips and Chelsea Randall, whilst saying goodbye to retirees, Jess Foley, Courtney Cramey, Courtney Gum and Sophie Li. Maisie Nankivell also retired to focus on her netball with the Adelaide Thunderbirds, while Nicole Campbell and Jaimi Tabb were two delistings after one season.

In return, the Crows welcomed back a trio of South Australian players with Jess Sedunary (St Kilda), Lisa Whiteley (GWS GIANTS) and Hannah Munyard (Western Bulldogs) all completing trades home. The movements left three available spots on the Crows’ list, and conveniently those picks are 4, 45 and 48.

A draft look:

When it comes to South Australia, it is hard to look past South Adelaide’s Teah Charlton as the standout player from an under-age perspective. She has a bag of tricks and is as dangerous overhead as she is at ground level, knows where the goals are and can play through the midfield or forward line, and even been tested in defence at times. Put simply, in an open draft – ignoring the zoning – she would be taken in the top 10, so expect her to be the likely first selection for the Crows.

With the two remaining picks, Charlton’s Panthers’ teammate Indy Tahau would be the next one to look at, likely to follow her teammate – and last year’s first selection and fellow Panther Montana McKinnon – into the AFL Women’s. Outside the two clear under-age standouts, over-ager defender Amber Ward is a rock in defence and could be called up for a chance at the elite level, whilst South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s leading goalkicker, Ashleigh Woodland has also earned a Draft Combine invite.

Woodland has already tasted the AFL Women’s, after the 22-year-old played four games for Melbourne in 2019 after being a free agent selection in 2018. Putting together a superb season in front of goal for the Roosters, expect Woodland to not only be on the Crows’ radar, but other clubs as well if they have not already looked into the dangerous talent. More mature-age talent that continues to shine at SANFL Women’s level includes Campbell, and train-on players Rachelle Martin and Czenya Cavouras who showed they were in the Crows’ considerations as next best post-draft.

GWS GIANTS – NSW/ACT pool

Draft selections: 9, 29, 42, 53

Off-season summary:

Greater Western Sydney (GWS) GIANTS had a relatively quiet off-season, with just three players retiring in Ellie Brush, Ingrid Nielsen and Maggie Gorham last month. The sole trade the GIANTS made welcomes Katherine Smith to the club, replacing the experience lost by Whiteley heading to the Crows. Smith had been an important player for Melbourne, and the GIANTS also picked up picks 29 and 42, whilst parting with picks 25 and 39 in the process.

With a massive 25 players re-signed to the club and only three departures, it leaves three spots for the GIANTS to select players, holding selections nine, 29 and 42 in the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft, with Pick 53 also belonging to them. Much like the Crows, the pick selections matter little given they can handpick the players who have nominated for their NSW/ACT zone.

A draft look:

The GIANTS had a fairly unpredictable draft last year with a number of surprises, including the rapidly developing Gorham from Canberra with their first pick. This year they have some more young guns through the AFL Women’s National Academy who have put their hand up and earned Draft Combine invites, but as we saw with Brenna Tarrant, players can end up in other states.

Looking at those AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites, there are five who have stood up, four of whom have been Academy members this year. Three of those Academy members have risen through the pathways together in Tarni Evans, Emily Pease and Jayde Hamilton who could all be among the consideration for the top 10 pick. Evans is a contested marking player and one who has been touted as a future star since her Under 18s days, while Pease is a running half-back-cum-midfielder, and Hamilton a contested ball-winning talent.

All three have different skillsets and then you can factor in the other two players to receive AFL Women’s National Draft Combine invites – Abby Favell and Kiara Beesley. Favell is an elite runner with strong decision making skills and a high work rate, while Beesley is a former acrobat who is running around with Southern Power and who has a great blend of strength and speed, and more than capable overhead.

Like last year, the GIANTS could end up picking a handful of local players they have been watching through the AFL Sydney and AFL Canberra competitions, but there is enough talented youth there to put their hands up to go to the next level.

Picture: Hannah Howard/SANFL

Panthers’ Kraft finds right balance

HAILING from South Australia, Brooklyn Kraft is an exciting young prospect who is hoping to leave her mark on the football world with her ruck craft and hard work. Although still relatively fresh to the football world having only picked up the sport in Year 8, Kraft has some undeniable raw talent, something her teachers saw and encouraged her to pursue.

“At Victor, my old high school, there was a carnival – my teachers invited me out to it because they noticed my athletic ability. I played there and after that they made a football Academy at my school to play against football teams up in Adelaide,” she said.

When asked about what aspect of footy Kraft liked the youngster struggled to put a finger on just one area, noting both the on-field and off-field bonuses of playing footy.

“I like how like there’s so many different skills you can put into football like marking and handballing… I like the team culture around it, like it’s nice,” she said.

Standing at 182cm, Kraft makes full use of her height able to compete in the air and most importantly ply her trade in the ruck, an area she believes to be one her strengths. However a downside of her height is her mobility, something the 17-year-old hopes to improve on as she develops as a player.

“Probably my rucking like tapping the ball, marking and kicking,” she said. “In the future I want to improve my tackling probably and just around the ground movement.”

In her short career the South Australian has already tasted her fair share of success being part of the South Adelaide premiership winning side in 2019 at the ripe age of 16, a moment she recalls fondly despite all the nervous jitters and cold weather.

“Very nervous when I went out there, very like new to me and I only had played I think three games before that so I was very surprised that I got chucked in the grand final team. It was very cold, (but) it was so exciting when we won two in a row as well, at the club everyone was getting around that,” she said.

In her first grand final appearance the youngster looked to fellow up and comers in Montana McKinnon and draftee hopeful Teah Charlton to help guide her through while also leaning on the experience and smarts of their captain, Lauren Buchanan given her relative inexperience especially when it came to performing on the big stage.

“Montana McKinnon and Teah Charlton, she’s always a good player to look up to and Lauren Buchanan our captain she’s very nice.”

Prior to picking up the oblong ball, Kraft plied her trade on the netball court before making the hard decision to put down the bib and permanently work on her ruck craft with South Adelaide, with time commitment a huge factor in her decision.

“I quit completely now because it was getting too much with the trainings colliding with football training,” she said. “Sometimes I would have to call up netball and ask, if it was getting close to the finals as well I’d have to ask and say I have an opportunity to go out with South and train and sometimes they’d be like yeah, some of the times I had to commit to the netball.”

Having played nine games at SANFLW level this season, Kraft has steadily developed and relished the game time with South Adelaide. Last year Kraft made the move from her local stomping ground in Victor to be closer to her football and reduce the amount of hours spent on the road.

“We used to live down in Victor so we had to do a lot of travel but last year we moved up here and started renting,” she said. “Yeah (it is) much easier to get here to football. It saves a lot of time travelling. Back when I was living in Victor it was like probably an hour drive up so maybe four hours a week driving because it was back and forth.”

Travel was not the only thing Kraft had to balance, highlighting the toll on fitting in schoolwork around her heavy workload.

“Schoolwork has been pretty hard to balance. Just been getting used to managing it like training nights I would probably work a lot at school and then just have the training night,” she said.

When asked about her goals for the future there was one thing in mind and that was to “get drafted and play in the AFLW”, something that could become a reality for the South Australian product. Kraft also indicated her desire to play alongside two-time premiership player Erin Phillips with the youngster making mention of her sheer class and star power.

“Her skills are so good, just everything, her fitness, she’s just an amazing footballer.”

Halfpenny continues Norwood family legacy in search of dream

TALENTED forward Jade Halfpenny never thought of herself as following her father Warren into Australian rules football, but her switch from basketball to Australian rules football enabled her to become one of a number of special family ties in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition.

A number of players made their debuts in Round 1 of 2020 donning the colours that their famous fathers did such as Bek Rasheed (North Adelaide) and Shelby Smith (Central District). But then 17-years-old Halfpenny was the youngest of the trio and she could hardly believe her luck at being selected.

It was pretty exciting,” Halfpenny said. “It’s not something I really expected or ever really considered until the past year or so but it was always kind of assumed that my younger brother would be the one to go on and do that so it was pretty exciting and hopefully he can get up there too.”

Her journey through football has been relatively recent compared to many other South Australian State Under 18s Academy members, having only played for a few years, but made a rapid rise through the pathway.

I started in 2017 at Golden Grove Football Club,” Halfpenny said. “I played in the Under 16s there for a couple years and then I started playing in the A-Grade and then through that I was doing the Under 17s Development Squad at Norwood. “Then last year was my third year in the development squad and they asked me to come out for the senior side so I started with them and then played every round this season in the SANFL and from that went into the Under 18s State squad.”

Naming North Adelaide and Crows star Anne Hatchard as her toughest opponent this season, Halfpenny admitted it was “pretty intimidating” knowing some of the players she would come up against in the SANFL Women’s competition.

“You know some of the legacies that were in there, but I guess everyone is there for a reason and I just had to keep reminding myself that I could do it and I can put it up to them and it’s really an honour with and against them,” she said.

Not expecting to play a game, Halfpenny instead did not miss one, playing all 11 games including the cutthroat finals loss to West Adelaide. In those games, the strong marking forward was able to roam between midfield and the forward 50, rarely losing a one-on-one contest. Along with her football, Halfpenny has always been an active basketball player, something she believes helps lend itself to the game of Aussie rules.

“I’ve been playing basketball since I was six I think, so a long time,” she said. “It has always been the plan to kind of see as far as I can go with that and then footy came into the picture. “I still play basketball but footy’s more of the priority now. “Basketball has obviously helped footy with the athleticism and contact and the body strength has been really helpful with footy.

“I think one major thing is handling the ball,” she said. “I’ve been told that I look like a basketballer when I go for a mark. “That’s just the ability to take a mark and grab the ball and intercept and stuff like that has come from basketball. “As well as just the body strength, just holding an opponent and using your body to defend.”

Halfpenny’s strength is her marking, though she said she is always looking to improve even further, but her ability to read the ball in flight and position herself well also helps. As for what she is looking to improve on, the Norwood teenager was blunt.

Everything honestly,” Halfpenny said. “I’d like to get fitter which obviously that aids with everything. Just getting a bit more precise with my kicking. “A bit further kicks, shorter kicks, body strength, yeah everything.”

While she might be keen to build a more consistent game, Halfpenny has been regarded as one to watch for the future given her rapid improvement in a short space of time. She is also not the first player to cross from basketball to football, and an inspiration of hers is an elite player who made the same transition.

“I never really followed football specifically a lot growing up but I looked up a lot to Erin Phillips more in basketball when I was younger because she was obviously a big basketballer and now she’s gone over to footy,” Halfpenny said. “But also my dad as well. “Looking at what he’s done and just seeing what he’s been able to do.”

Unlike other State Academy members, Halfpenny is a relatively newcomer to the squad, named in the Under 18s squad that would have played at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships if it had gone ahead. While it did not, Halfpenny said it was still “pretty humbling” to be included with so many other talented players.

“Pretty exciting,” Halfpenny said. “It wasn’t until then that I sort of realised maybe what I could achieve and what I could do and some of the girls that were in that were obviously incredible footballers and being able to train alongside them was a pretty humbling experience but a great learning opportunity.”

Picture: Supplied

Like most people around the country, Halfpenny’s top-age year was suddenly thrown into uncertainty, with the COVID-19 pandemic postponing the SANFL Women’s season for a few months. It did not stop the teenager – who turned 18 during the postponed period – from training and making sure she did not miss a beat.

“I was running a lot,” Halfpenny said. “Up the hills and that kind of thing. “I also had a program from the state team that they wanted us to follow so that was a lot of fitness, ball skills and that kind of stuff. “I was mostly going out and training with my brother – my younger brother – and my dad. “So it was good to have them to help me out. “It was tough, but it was tough for everyone.”

Norwood has undergone plenty of chance over the last 12 to 18 months, with Halfpenny one of a number of new players joining the side. With so many fresh faces it might have been difficult to gel at first, but Halfpenny said it made the transition easier for her.

It was good because obviously I was new, but I wasn’t the only new person,” she said. “Being one of the youngest I was a bit nervous and a bit intimidated but having that new group as well as some of the older players to pull it all together was really helpful. “All the older girls were really lovely and the team was one big family now, and it’s a very inclusive environment and I’m very happy to be.”

Running out at the SANFL Women’s All-Stars clash, Halfpenny is among the top up and coming talents in South Australia. Whilst she might have less experience than some others, she has already made great strides in her development. Like many of her peers, she dreams of playing at the elite level, but is still amazed at her accomplishments thus far, and will just take it all in her stride. She said she wanted to be “the best version” of herself and that was all that mattered.

“I never thought I’d be able to do what I’ve already done and so if this was as far as I got then I would be happy with that,” Halfpenny said. “But to get the furthest I can and maybe if I can have a shot at AFLW would be a dream, but at the end of the day I’m happy with what I’ve done and if that’s as far as I get, then that’s as far as I get.”

Draft Central’s 2020 Top 50 AFLW Players: #9 – Anne Hatchard

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 inside the top 10 with an Adelaide ball magnet coming in at number nine.

#10 ANNE HATCHARD

6 GAMES AVE: 25.3 disposals, 4.7 marks, 5.7 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s, 1.3 rebounds, 1 goal

If there was a prize for the most rapid improvement year-on-year over the course of three seasons, then Adelaide’s Hatchard would be right up there. Looking at pure numbers she has bolted up from a player just inside her side’s best team to an elite ball winner in the AFL Women’s. It is hard to believe the person who averaged just 7.5 disposals and 1.0 marks from four games two years ago led the competition in disposals for the season.

In 2020, Hatchard racked up 25.3 touches per game – an improvement of 6.4 on last year, and 17.8 two years prior. Every facet of her game improved statistically, and in the absence of Phillips and Randall, she stepped up and worked hard with fellow gun, Ebony Marinoff in the midfield to lead the side.

Still only 22-years-old, Hatchard is quite young and one who has plenty of growth for the future. At 175cm, she is a taller midfield and she uses it to advantage, having now played every game in the past two seasons and become a premiership player in 2019.

While her year was as consistent as they come, it was hard to look past her Round 1 performance against Brisbane Lions when she broke the all-time disposal record with 35 touches. In that match she had 18 kicks and 17 handballs, as well as nine marks and six tackles. If that performance was anything to go by, she needs very little time to have a real impact.

With the Crows stars returning in 2021, all eyes will be on whether Hatchard can continue her ascent into the game’s elite and provide a very potent core of talented players for Adelaide.

Draft Central’s 2020 Top 50 AFLW Players: #14 – Ebony Marinoff

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 14 in our count, a young star who continues to break new ground despite the absence of her club’s stalwarts. 

#14 EBONY MARINOFF

6 GAMES AVE: 23.3 disposals, 5.2 marks*, 7.8 tackles*, 4.5 clearances*, 1.8 rebound 50s, 2.8 inside 50s*, 316 metres gained*

* – denotes club-best

The depth of the competition’s elite players shows when Marinoff only manages to come in at number 14 after another remarkable season, taking her game to new heights in the face of a club injury crisis.

The 22-year-old’s midfield move in 2018 has proven a natural progression since, with her ball winning ability improving each season. While the tackling machine’s numbers in that specific area were down on her career-best during 2020, Marinoff’s disposal average exceeded her previous best as she was seldom beaten to the ball.

Marinoff led her side for marks, tackles, clearances, inside 50s, and metres gained to cement her status as a bonafide leader of the side, with key figures like Phillips and Randall sitting on the sidelines. It may have been a difficult year for the Crows result-wise, but the emergence of a dependable engine room will hold them in good stead.

Partner-in-crime Anne Hatchard has a lot to do with that potential too, having complimented Marinoff’s combination of class and one-percent work with her own presence around the stoppages. Hatchard in fact broke Marinoff’s previous record disposal haul for a single game, as the pair provided the perfect fold for one another.

Previously a two-time All-Australian, premiership player, and inaugural Rising Star, Marinoff’s season may not have earned the same competition-wide plaudits, though she looks certain to feature in the medal placings for Adelaide’s best and fairest count.

Already four seasons down in a well-credentialed career, Marinoff has the world at her feet in terms of just how good she can get at an individual level, though helping the Crows rise back to prominence will undoubtedly be the top goal for 2021.

Draft Central’s Top 50 AFLW Players 2020: #50-#46

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.

#50 Olivia Vesely (St Kilda)

6 GAMES AVE: 15.2 disposals, 2.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 2.8 inside 50s, 1 goal

The first player making our countdown is a debutant this year in former Sandringham Dragons turned-Southern Saints talent, Olivia Vesely. Having only turned 20 in December last year, Vesely still has plenty of years ahead of her and showed her talent playing through the midfield and helping her team get the ball inside 50. She averaged more than 15 touches and four tackles per game, not afraid of bringing down stronger opponents. Vesely played every game in her debut season and looked ultra-impressive picking up at least 13 disposals in every match.

#49 Elle Bennetts (GWS GIANTS)

7 GAMES AVE: 12.4 disposals, 3.0 marks, 1.9 tackles, 1.6 rebounds

An elite-level netballer to go with her AFL Women’s achievements, Bennetts had a career-best year in 2020 by making the All-Australian squad. She picked up 12.4 disposals, 3.0 marks and laid almost two tackles per game, using the ball well coming out of defence. She has been a consistent player over the past few years transferring her game from her work with GIANTS Netball, and has lifted her number. Having already forged out 21 games, Bennetts looks to be getting better each year and will now return to the Suncorp Super Netball where she is a training partner with the GIANTS.

#48 Ebony Antonio (Fremantle)

7 GAMES AVE: 12.1 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s, 1.0 rebounds, 4 goals

After a quieter year last year, the Fremantle talent stepped up again in 2020, almost reaching the numbers she achieved in her 2018 season. Impressively, Antonio continued the trend of playing further up the ground than in defence like she often did in 2018, instead playing that midfield-forward role this year with a success fo 12.1 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s and four goals to her name from seven games. She has now booted 12 goals from 22 games and remains a key part of the Dockers line-up. Turning 29 at the end of the year, Antonio still showed she has some football left in her by making the All-Australian squad.

#47 Steph Chiocci (Collingwood)

7 GAMES AVE: 15.6 disposals, 3.6 marks, 3.1 tackles, 2.9 inside 50s, 1 goal

This year felt like a resurgence for the Colllingwood captain who on more than a few occasions stepped up and led her side brilliantly. Having had some inconsistent times in 2019, it seemed 2020 was mostly all pretty strong across the board and to be honest she was pretty stiff to miss out on the All-Australian squad. Her stats were up by a massive five disposals, a mark and an inside 50, with her fantasy numbers – which can be an indicator – lifting from 47.1 to 63.9. But her influence across the ground, stepping up when required was the biggest thing, laying crucial tackles or taking the game on, just making her presence felt if it seemed like the game was slipping away from the Pies. Her last three matches were her best, racking up 18 touches and six marks against both Brisbane and North Melbourne.

#46 Hayley Miller (Fremantle)

7 GAMES AVE: 13.9 disposals, 2.9 markks, 4.1 tackles, 3.6 inside 50s, 1.6 rebounds, 1 goal

The second Docker to enter this list is one who was unlucky to miss out on the All-Australian team after a career-best season. Having been a consistent member of the side over the last couple of years like Antonio, Miller stepped it up in 2020 to provide more spread across the ground. It boosted her numbers and influence, averaging career-high disposals (13.9), marks (2.9), tackles (4.1) and inside 50s (3.6). More impressively her work rate lift was shown most prominently by her ability to rebound the ball more than once per game, while lifting her forward half touches. She only kicked the one goal, but her work from half-back to half-forward was strong and it showed with Fremantle’s success and depth to take the Dockers through the season undefeated.