Tag: Freda Puruntatameri

Smith and McKenzie lead DC Medal count in postponed NAB League Girls

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition players, staff and families wait for confirmation on whether or not any more football will go ahead due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Draft Central thought it would update the leaderboard of the DC Medal count we have been taking throughout the first three rounds of the season. While we had hoped that this would end up being a full season count, there are two clear leaders who have emerged from the pack. It might have been difficult with some teams only playing two games compared to three, but no player that played two games could have caught the equal leaders even with a full five votes in a hypothetical third game.

Dandenong Stingrays’ Tyanna Smith and Ellie McKenzie lead all-comers in what could realistically be the end result of the Medal count, which means in the inaugural DC Medal, two players will share the award. Both players polled 14 votes in their first three games, including two best-on-grounds and one four-vote game to ensure that no one else could catch them. If the season is potentially called off in the future, then both the players will be announced winners. Two of the stars of the competition, Smith has helped Dandenong Stingrays to a ripping start in the NAB League Girls season, with her side winning its first two games against Eastern Ranges and Calder Cannons, before running into a McKenzie-inspired Northern Knights outfit in Round 3. The Knights’ co-captain was sensational and picked up her second best on ground to tie with Smith in the same game after the Stingrays speedster picked up the four votes.

After the two clears in McKenzie and Smith clears is another Northern Knights player, and a couple of Sandringham Dragons. McKenzie’s teammate and forward, Alyssa Bannan sits three votes behind in third with 11 to her name and the player responsible for picking up the best on ground votes back in Round 1 against Calder Cannons for McKenzie to receive the four. Rounding out the top five are Sandringham Dragons’ duo, Sarah Hartwig (10 votes) and Alice Burke (nine) who were both enjoying terrific starts to the season. Behind the top five are a pack of players all on eight votes, including Western Jets’ duo, Montana Ham and Isabella Pritchard, Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher and the only player who has played the two games inside the top 10 – Laura Gardiner. Calder Cannons’ Georgie Prespakis and Sandringham Dragons’ Winnie Laing sit on seven and six votes respectively.

DC Medal:

[14] Tyanna Smith (DS), Ellie McKenzie (NK)

[11] Alyssa Bannan (NK)
[10] Sarah Hartwig (SD)
[9] Alice Burke (SD)

[8] Laura Gardiner (GF), Montana Ham (WJ), Isabelle Pritchard (WJ), Olivia Meagher (ER)
[7] Georgie Prespakis (CC)
[6] Winnie Laing (SD)

[5] Jess Fitzgerald (NK), Charlotte Baskaran (WJ), Tarni Brown (ER), Alice Astbury (GWV), Grace Hay (MB), Charlie Rowbottom (OC), Bella Eddey (SD), Mimi Hill (OC)
[4] Grace Dicker (CC), Abbi Moloney (SD), Maggie Caris (GWV), Amber Micallef (OC), Kasey Lennox (CC), Alice O’Loughlin (OC), Brooke Hards (BP), Darcy Moloney (GF), Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
[3] Amelia Velardo (WJ), Jemma Finning (BP), Isabella Khoury (WJ), Taylah Morton (OC), Zoe Hill (DS), Eliza James (OC), Mackenzie Eardley (DS), Poppy Schaap (GF), Jessica Zakkour (CC)
[2] Elizabeth Snell (BP), Megan Fitzsimon (GP), Matilda Hardy (ER), Ella Friend (GWV), Rianna Thiele (OC), Annabel Strahan (BP), Tarrah Delgado (NK), Emily Shepherd (DS), Amelia James (OC), Georgia Grimmer (DS), Matilda Van Berkel (GP), Eliza McNamara (SD)
[1] Freda Puruntatameri (CC), Perri King (TD), Amber Clarke (DS), Kate Adams (MB), Amanda Ling (OC), Annie Lee (GF), Zali Spencer (MB), Jorja Livingstone (ER), Shanara Notman (GP), Renee Saulitis (GWV)

 

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Calder Cannons

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at last year’s grand finalists, Calder Cannons.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Northern Knights by 6 points
R2: lost to Dandenong Stingrays by 18 points
R3: defeated Bendigo Pioneers by 43 points

The Cannons had a rough start to the season with fixturing, pushing reigning premiers Northern Knights all the way in the Round 1 grand final rematch, before facing a red-hot Dandenong Stingrays in Round 2. With an 0-2 start to the season, the Cannons got back on track with a commanding 43-point victory over Bendigo Pioneers on the road in the last round played.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Georgie Prespakis (22.7 disposals, 1.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 4.3 inside 50s, 2.7 rebounds)

The middle-age star and reigning NAB League Girls Most Valuable Player (MVP) has had a promising start playing through the midfield, winning a truckload of the ball on her way to impressing despite Calder’s 1-2 start. She had almost 23 disposals per game, but it is her tenacity and ability to break through tackles and pump the ball forward which is important.

Jessica Zakkour (13.7 disposals, 1.3 marks, 5.4 tackles, 0.7 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds, 2 goals)

The midfielder/forward had a real impact in Round 1 and was Calder’s best, booting two goals in the loss to Northern that day. Zakkour lays some fierce tackles and manages to find space inside 50 and around the ground where she can have an influence. A lot of her touches have come in dangerous areas, close to goal or where she can pass it to a teammate in space out of a stoppage.

Emelia Yassir (14.3 disposals, 3.0 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 1 goal)

Building on the work she did late in the year last season, Yassir has been another prominent member of Calder’s midfield. She has the added string of being able to go forward and kick a goal, whilst being a slippery customer in midfield to break away from opponents and get the ball forward.

Freda Puruntatameri (7.7 disposals, 2.3 marks, 1.0 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s, 4 goals)

Coming into the team as an overager from Palmerston Magpies in the NTFL Women’s Premier League, Puruntatameri has been a strong target close to goal. She works hard leading out of the forward 50, but then drifts back to be too strong one-on-one at the top of the goalsquare. Having booted four goals in her three games, she has proven to be a reliable goalkicker for the side.

Kasey Lennox (8.7 disposals, 1.7 marks, 1.0 tackles, 3.7 rebounds)

Another player who has built on her impressive form at the back of last season, the middle-age key defender has had a strong start to the season with almost nine disposals and four rebounds out of defensive 50. She can also push up the ground and does not mind going for a run, but has impressed as the option out of defence to hit a target with her foot skills.

Others who have stood out: Laura Cocomello, Grace Dicker, Tahlia Gillard, Tamsin Crook

There were a number of others who could well have made the above list, including captain Cocomello, and Dicker who have had an impact through midfield, and Gillard and Crook who have been targets up either end. They have a lot of flexibility in their line-up and the Cannons have the capacity to move players around which is important.

2020 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 3

EASTERN Ranges’ big win over Tasmania Devils has seen the side earn the most players in our Draft Central NAB League Girls’ Team of the Week with four representatives from Round 3. Other winners, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, Northern Knights and Sandringham Dragons had three apiece, as did the Western Jets. Calder Cannons put in an even team performance to record two players, alongside Round 4 losers, Bendigo Pioneers and Dandenong Stingrays. Gippsland Power and Tasmania Devils both had one apiece, with the latter recording their first ever player in our Team of the Week.

The Ranges’ quartet is spread across the three areas of the ground, with defender Bridget Deed, midfielders Tarni Brown and Olivia Meagher, and forward Isabella Khoury all named in this week’s team. For the opposition team in the Ranges’ win is Tasmania Devils’ Amy Prokopiec who was named at full-back in the team becoming the first Tasmanian to make the starting side. Also in the defence is Sandringham Dragons’ Sarah Hartwig, who is in the team alongside five-goal forward, Abbi Moloney and captain, Winnie Laing. Alice Burke and Eliza McNamara were both close to making it a massive five players in the side, but narrowly missed out and were named as emergencies. Gippsland Power’s AFL Women’s National Academy member, Megan Fitzsimon also made the side after an impressive performance, with Matilda Van Berkel named as the third emergency in the team.

Up in Ballarat, the game between the GWV Rebels and Western Jets had a combined six players make it into the side, with three from each team. Debutant, Alice Astbury and fellow mid-forward, Ella Friend made the 24-player side, as did ruck, Maggie Caris. Her opponent, Amelia Velardo made it into the side along with Montana Ham in defence, and Isabelle Pritchard through midfield. The last remaining team with three players represented was the Northern Knights, as co-captains, Jess Fitzgerald and Ellie McKenzie both slotted onball, while Alyssa Bannan was named at centre half-forward yet again.

The remaining six players come from the Bendigo Pioneers, Calder Cannons and Dandenong Stingrays, with Draft Central Player of the Week, Georgie Prespakis leading the way for the winning Cannons, along with teammate Grace Dicker. Pioneers’ Jemma Finning and Elizabeth Snell were named in the side, as were Stingrays, Tyanna Smith and Jessica Matin. There were a couple more Stingrays among the unlucky players to miss out, with Jemma Radford the last omission from the 27 total named, while Amber Clarke was also considered. Eastern duo, Mietta Kendall and Matilda Hardy, GWV Rebels’ Lilli Condon, Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae, Sandringham Dragons’ Daisy Walker, Calder Cannons’ Freda Puruntatameri, Bendigo Pioneers’ Dakota Villiva and Tasmania Devils’ Perri King.

BACKS:

Bridget Deed (ER) – 21 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 1 inside 50, 5 rebounds
The Eastern Ranges utility had a huge first term, picking up nine touches, before holding up the fort deep in defence and repelling a number of key attacks. Deed ended up totalling 21 disposals for the match, as well as five rebounds and was one of a number of Ranges who really impressed in their first game at Kilsyth.

Amy Prokopiec (TD) – 11 disposals, 2 tackles, 6 rebounds
The sole Tasmanian player to make the side, the AFL Women’s National Academy member held up in defence well. In a week where a lot of the top defenders were more half-backs, Prokopiec was strong on the last line, rarely losing one-on-ones and being strong at ground level. Prokopiec saved a number of goal-scoring opportunities in a Devils outfit that improved on their week one output and the middle-age defender was a vocal leader in that side.

Sarah Hartwig (SD) – 11 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 1 inside 50, 2 rebounds
Not as many disposals as in past weeks, but Hartwig played a terrific team game, laying an impressive six tackles throughout the match as she is experimented further up the ground. She still had 11 touches, a couple of marks and got back for a couple of rebounds, but was one of a number of Dragons who stood out in the win over Gippsland Power.

HALF-BACKS:

Tyanna Smith (DS) – 21 disposals, 3 marks, 6 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 7 rebounds
The Dandenong speedster makes our Team of the Week again after being another strong performer through the Dandenong Stingrays midfield against the Northern Knights. Given she was able to work back into defence and repel the ball seven times, Smith has earned a spot off half-back, and would do well in the position back there. She also set up an early goal for the Stingrays up the other end.

Montana Ham (WJ) – 19 disposals, 3 marks, 5 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 7 rebounds, 1 goal
Similar to Smith, Ham played through the midfield but often camped back a kick behind the ball at times to assist the defence on a windy day at Mars Stadium. She was a consistent four quarter performer, and also amassed a round-high seven rebounds after kicking the first goal of the game from just inside 50. A traditional utility who can slot in anywhere on the field and is still a bottom-ager.

Jemma Finning (BP) – 20 disposals, 6 marks, 6 tackles, 4 rebounds
Finning continued her promising form with another important defensive role in an under-siege Bendigo back five, positioning expertly to intercept and rebound with surety. The 165cm defender collected personal season-highs in marks, tackles, disposals, and rebounds – a good measure of the way she went about repelling Calder’s attacks. Not only did Finning compete well in the air, but she also chased hard to lay tackles at the fall of the ball, while also keeping tabs on the dangerous Freda Puruntatameri inside defensive 50.

CENTRES:

Tarni Brown (ER) – 28 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 1 goal, 1 behind
A terrific performance from Brown who was a standout from the first bounce to the final siren, the potential Collingwood father-daughter selection had a match-high 28 disposals, four marks, four inside 50s and a goal, using her skill and awareness to win the ball in close and slow time as she would sidestep opponents and hit targets going forward. A playmaker in the front half with ball-in-hand.

Jess Fitzgerald (NK) – 28 disposals, 3 marks, 4 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
A dominant player on the ground working with co-captain Ellie McKenzie, Fitzgerald shone in her best game of the year so far, racking up 28 disposals, three marks, four inside 50s and booting two goals from the midfield to really apply pressure in a tight game to be one of the key reasons the Knights were able to run away with the win in the second half.

Georgie Prespakis (CC) – 32 disposals, 8 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 2 rebounds, 2 hitouts
An absolute lock for this week’s team given she also earned a Player of the Week nod, Prespakis put on a typically brilliant display of her best skills. The 17-year-old is one of, if not the best exponent of the handball going around, but also penetrates by foot when given the space to burst clear and deliver. Her 32-disposal effort was made even more remarkable by the fact she sat out a quarter of the game after being crunched in a marking contest, which failed to deter her from getting first hands on the ball.

RUCKS:

Maggie Caris (GWV) – 15 disposals, 1 mark, 1 tackle, 4 inside 50s, 33 hitouts
The dominant GWV Rebels’ ruck racked up a round-high 33 hitouts making the most of her height advantage against her opposition rucks. She also amassed an impressive 15 disposals and had four inside 50s during the match and while she was caught holding the ball after raising it above her head, she was a class above in the air around the contest.

Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – 25 disposals, 4 marks, 11 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebounds, 2 hitouts
One of three Jets’ midfielders to make the side, Pritchard was instrumental early and then kept up her intensity even when the scoreboard was mounting up against her side later in the game. She had 25 touches and laid a round-high 11 tackles in the game, showing her defensive approach as well, rotating with Ham a kick behind play when the Rebels were attacking. Pritchard’s work in the air and reading of the play helped her propel the ball forward.

Ellie McKenzie (NK) – 28 disposals, 6 marks, 4 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 1 hitout, 1 goal
The Knights’ co-captain was best on ground in the Knights’ come-from-behind victory over the Stingrays and makes her way into the side once again. She racked up the equal second most of any player disposals over the weekend with 28, and also had a round-high seven inside 50s and booted a goal. McKenzie has been as consistent as anyone so far this season and makes her way into the side for a third consecutive week.

HALF-FORWARDS:

Alice Astbury (GWV) – 15 disposals, 3 marks, 1 tackle, 6 inside 50s, 2 goals
Rarely does a debutant win best on ground honours, but that is exactly what Astbury did against the Western Jets at Mars Stadium. The midfielder had an influence through the middle and then spent time forward, booting two critical goals later in the game during a low-scoring contest. Astbury also had six inside 50s and created for her teammates, including one to Ella Friend late in the game to ice the match.

Alyssa Bannan (NK) – 18 disposals, 5 marks, 4 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 2 hitouts, 2 goals
Another player who has earned a place in our Team of the Week for all three rounds of the NAB League Girls season, Bannan booted another two goals to her total for 18 touches and five marks. Bannan also provided defensive pressure in the game to lay four tackles, but her work on the lead and in the air was as good as anyone’s going around on the weekend.

Megan Fitzsimon (GP) – 23 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 goals, 1 behind
The AFL Women’s National Academy member was the top Gippsland Power player during their loss to Sandringham Dragons, notching up 23 touches, four inside 50s and two goals for her side. While she was solid in the first week without being outstanding, Fitzsimon lifted her game to another level in Round 3 and really made her impact felt across the ground.

FORWARDS:

Isabella Khoury (ER) – 12 disposals, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 goals
A forward target for the Ranges during their win over Tasmania, Khoury ended up booting the second most goals of any NAB League Girls player last weekend. She had her fair share of touches working hard up the ground with 12, and pumped the ball inside three times, setting up teammates or going long, but Khoury made her most impact felt on the scoreboard with three majors.

Abbi Moloney (SD) – 12 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 5 goals, 2 behinds
The Dragons forward backed up from her impressive game last week to boot another five goals this round and be in the top two for goalkicking behind Bannan. Her total of eight this season has been a strong start to her top-age year, and with four marks and six tackles – as well as seven shots on goal – Moloney is certainly providing a scoring target close to goal.

Jessica Matin (DS) – 19 disposals, 3 marks, 5 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 goal
The classy forward who roams up the ground was able to put together another strong game, kicking just the one goal, but applying five tackles and pumping the ball inside 50 on five occasions. She also won the second most touches of any Stingrays’ player during their loss to Northern, and continued to provide a presence in the forward half.

INTERCHANGE:

Alice Burke (SD) – 23 disposals, 4 marks, 10 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 4 rebounds
The potential St Kilda father-daughter selection was at her best when she laid a whopping 10 tackles laid during the Dragons’ win over Gippsland Power. Burke played through the middle and worked hard around the ground to pick up 23 touches and keep pushing throughout the game to apply pressure to the opposition.

Grace Dicker (CC) – 20 disposals, 1 mark, 3 tackles, 4 inside 50s
Second only to Prespakis in terms of impact on the weekend, Dicker set the tone from midfield with her attack on the ball and willingness to take the game on. Under a bright pink helmet, the 19-year-old was hard to miss in her clear-best game for the season to date, lighting up the corridor with bursting pace and a hard edge going the other way.

Ella Friend (GWV) – 19 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 1 goal
Provided a strong presence at half-forward and working through the middle to help set up her teammates inside 50 before finishing off with a goal of her own in the game. She clunked a number of really strong marks and was able to pump the ball into the forward 50 six times on her way to an impressive 19 disposals and four marks.

Olivia Meagher (ER) – 27 disposals, 2 marks, 2 tackles, 2 rebounds
The Eastern Ranges captain had a bruising encounter at Kilsyth on Sunday, leading from the front with her pressure and teamwork. Whilst only two tackles were attributed to her, it was Meagher’s hardness at the contest and pressure on the ball-carrier that really stood out. She laid a fair front-on bump on an opponent early in the game and then won a few frees for fierce tackles, but fought through it on her way to an impressive 27 disposals, most of which were in close.

Elizabeth Snell (BP) – 17 disposals, 2 marks, 10 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 1 behind
The diminutive Pioneer is an absolute workhorse in midfield, and dug in against bigger-bodied opponents to have an impact going both ways. While her ability to find the ball – 17 times – was handy, it was Snell’s 10 tackles which truly saw her make an impact as she showcased her tenacity at the stoppages. You cannot fault her effort, and a big leap into the back of Georgie Prespakis almost put her out of the game, such is the ferocity of Snell.

Amelia Velardo (WJ) – 25 disposals, 2 marks, 8 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebounds, 5 hitouts
The Western Jets’ ruck might be undersized compared to others – and certainly compared to Caris – but her athleticism around the ground is a real danger to the opposition. Not only does she move well around the contest, but she does all the defensive things as well, laying eight tackles in the game, getting back to help out the defence and then providing an option in midfield to either kick long or open up the play with a quick handball to a teammate.

EMG:

Winnie Laing (SD) – 21 disposals, 2 marks, 2 tackles, 1 goal, 1 behind
A Dragon who earned a spot in the side amongst a host of top ball winners, the captain was outstanding with her attack on the footy and work on the inside. She led from the front and even got on the scoreboard with a major. The Dragons are not short of players to make this week’s team and her leadership is terrific.

Eliza McNamara (SD) – 15 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
The Dragons’ small plays a perfect game at half-forward and through the midfield with her defensive pressure and ability to hit the scoreboard at the same time, a real benefit for her team. She booted two goals from 15 disposals, four marks and six tackles, while also getting the ball inside 50 four times. Having a great start to the season.

Matilda Van Berkel (GP) – 17 disposals, 5 marks, 4 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds, 27 hitouts
Enjoying a really strong start to the season through the ruck with another 27 hitouts from 17 disposals, five marks and four tackles. Van Berkel is a target around the ground and provides clean hands when leading or when tapping down to her teammates at stoppages. The Power tall can be utilised anywhere on the ground but is playing well through the ruck role.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 3

B: Bridget Deed (ER) – Amy Prokopiec (TD) – Sarah Hartwig (SD)
HB: Tyanna Smith (DS) – Montana Ham (WJ) – Jemma Finning (BP)
C: Tarni Brown (ER) – Jess Fitzgerald (NK) – Georgie Prespakis (CC)
HF: Alice Astbury (GWV) – Alyssa Bannan (NK) – Megan Fitzsimon (GP)
F: Isabella Khoury (ER) – Abbi Moloney (SD) – Jessica Matin (DS)
R: Maggie Caris (GWV) – Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – Ellie McKenzie (NK)
INT: Alice Burke (SD) – Grace Dicker (CC) – Ella Friend (GWV) – Olivia Meagher (ER) – Elizabeth Snell (BP) – Amelia Velardo (WJ)
EMG: Winnie Laing (SD) – Eliza McNamara (SD) – Matilda Van Berkel (GP)

Engine room clicks into gear as Cannons fire to first win

CALDER Cannons got on the board at the third time of asking in season 2020, hitting form emphatically in a 43-point win at Epsom Huntly Reserve on Sunday. The 2019 grand finalists shut out the Pioneers for over half of the 7.8 (50) to 1.1 (7) victory, with reigning league best and fairest Georgie Prespakis playing a starring role.

The Cannons edged ahead in the early stages of the hotly contested match, with repeated stoppages and the ball spending large chunks of time in dispute playing right into the hands of their classy ball winners. Prespakis dominated the opening term in her trademark long sleeves, getting first hands on the ball and feeding it out to teammates on the move. But it was NT prospect Freda Puruntatameri who could lay claim to having the most important impact on the quarter, booting the first two goals of the game. In a glimpse of her overall potential, the Palmerston product burst through traffic at a forward 50 stoppage on route to her first major, while later clunking a strong contested mark to set up a second. Already behind the ledger, the Pioneers began their game of catch-up at 16 points down and in need of some greater forward penetration having been kept scoreless.

After dual blows from Puruntatameri, it was Elizabeth Snell who delivered arguably the biggest of the second term – crunching Prespakis in a marking contest to see the leading ball winner helped off the ground and out for the remainder of the quarter. A 20-minute period of play ensued, with the ground-level arm-wrestle dragging on to make it a scrappy half amid windy conditions. A late Kayley Reid goal over the back was the only trouble for the scorers in terms of goals, with the 3.6 to 0.0 scoreline at the main break indicative of the state of play and Calder’s greater ability to penetrate once forward of centre. With Prespakis off, 19-year-old Grace Dicker and Emelia Yassir took over at the stoppages, working hard to spread from the contest and keep the ball rolling forward for Calder.

A quickfire goal to Calder fresh out of the sheds meant signs were beginning to look ominous for the scoreless Pioneers, with Puruntatameri having another hand in a Calder six-pointer – this time gathering from her own smother and handing off to Abbey McDonald for an ideal start to the term. But both sides were able to maintain their previous pressure around the ball, making it hard to create clear scoring chances. That changed when Dakota Villiva, who was enjoying time in the midfield, got just that, marking close to goal moments after seeing an initial set shot skew wide and into the arms of Natasha Kelly. The number 38 put through the Pioneers’ first goal with over seven minutes on the clock, but there would be no more majors for the term despite Calder hitting back late by cranking up the forward pressure. The game was all but put beyond doubt given the 26-point margin heading into the final break, but there was plenty still to play for given both sides came in 0-2 and have plenty of catching up to do.

With the final term somewhat of a formality, the Cannons still set out to pretty up the scoreboard, doing so with three unanswered goals to dissipate their earlier waywardness in front of goal. Dicker and Prespakis were the catalysts with their line-breaking abilities and breaches of the forward 50 arc, helping three new scorers get on the board. Another to generate that run-and-carry was Ella Nickolaus, who booted a classy goal on the move in her first game for the year in one of the highlights of the day. A Tahlia Gillard snap proved the cherry on top of a grinding Calder performance, with the Cannons taking home a well-earned first set of four points for 2020.

Prespakis’ 32 disposals, eight tackles, and seven inside 50s were made even more remarkable by the fact she missed a quarter of the game. Not far behind was Dicker (20 disposals, three tackles, four inside 50s), with her speed on the ball imperative as Calder maintained its steady lead in the second term. Puruntatameri’s two goals set the tone, while Yassir and Jessica Zakkour (both 16 disposals) were busy early, and Nickolaus helped in breaking the game open late. For Bendigo, the returning Snell (17 disposals, 10 tackles) was terrific around the ball, supported well by Annabel Strahan (18 disposals, eight tackles) and Villiva (16 disposals, eight tackles, one goal), while the defensive combination of Jemma Finning and Rachael Stubbings kept the Pioneers in the game.

BENDIGO PIONEERS 0.0 | 0.0 | 1.0 | 1.1 (7)
CALDER CANNONS 2.4 | 3.6 | 4.8 | 7.8 (50)

GOALS:

Bendigo: D. Villiva.
Calder: F. Puruntatameri 2, K. Reid, T. Gillard, A. McDonald, S. Meyers, E. Nickolaus.

ADC BEST:

Bendigo: J. Finning, E. Snell, D. Villiva, R. Stubbings, A. Strahan, H. Stewart
Calder: G. Prespakis, G. Dicker, F. Puruntatameri, E. Nickolaus, E. Yassir, T. Gillard

DC Medal:

5 – Georgie Prespakis (CC)
4 – Grace Dicker (CC)
3 – Jemma Finning (BP)
2 – Elizabeth Snell (BP)
1 – Freda Puruntatameri (CC)

Dandenong fires to second win with victory over Calder

AN entertaining and close encounter between Calder Cannons and Dandenong Stingrays broke the competition open on Saturday afternoon in the second match of the NAB League Girls double header at RAMS Arena, with the two sides showcasing their class and skill level throughout. The Cannons controlled the first half forcing the Stingrays to chase, before Dandenong well and truly took control in the final term to result in the 18-point victory.

It was a solid start to the Cannons at their home ground, with the side dominating early to 13-point lead over the Stingrays. With Emelia Yassir on form booting the side’s first two scores for the match (finishing with 1.1 and 13 disposals) and some clean hands down the field, Calder looked well in control of the match before Dandenong started to utilise the Cannons’ slow movement down the field. Tyanna Smith (29 disposals, seven inside 50s, five marks, seven tackles) well and truly pushed her side into the match, slamming middle-ager Georgie Prespakis into the turf and earning a free kick to propel the footy downfield. While Calder’s pressing defence was causing issues for the Stingrays up forward, a 50m penalty saw Dandenong put their first on the board before clean hands from rebounding defender Zoe Hill lead to great movement down the wing and Ashleigh Richards followed up with her first of the match (two goals, 11 touches) to only be down by one behind at quarter time. While the Cannons had the strong start they wanted, the Stingrays owned the second half of the quarter with their drive forward and hunt of the footy, proving they had what it took to control the Cannons outfit.

The pressure lifted a notch in the second term, with both sides defensively putting on a show to deny any easy entry inside 50. After a high intensity first term the match went goalless until after the 10 minute mark thanks to end-to-end defensive pressure from both teams, with neither side able to create clean entries forward. With a good contest through the midfield, Calder showed some real class in their movement down field, switching with ease but having difficult finding entry inside 50. An around the body goal from Northern Territory over-ager Freda Puruntatameri (one goal, four inside 50s) from the goal square broke the drought but was immediately followed up by a great return from Dandenong, with Smith taking advantage of a clean tap in the centre to kick long inside 50, finishing with a dribbled goal from Richards. While Calder well and truly dominated possession of the footy in this quarter, the Stingrays made the most of their solid defensive line to reward the efforts of their hardworking mids and again only down by one point at the main change.

The third quarter saw much the same with both sides booting a goal apiece while the Stingrays finally pulled ahead thanks to three behinds in a row. Solid pressure from the Stingrays kept the Cannons on their toes but couldn’t seem to stop them in the tracks, with Smith hitting targets and doing all she could to keep her side in the contest. A goal from Alissa Magri had the Cannons up and about with the footy barely going past the middle of the field, though the Stingrays would not give up, forcing sloppiness from the Cannons who had been so composed early with the footy. Dandenong’s tenacity and hunt of the contest saw them dominate the second half of the quarter, with Calder making errors aplenty as they worked to get back into the contest, building on each quarter with their tenacity and cleanliness improving.

The final term saw the Stingrays well and truly turn up the heat, denying the Cannons a score on the board to run away with the 18-point victory. It was a slow start to the quarter with Dandenong maintaining possession but unable to put goals on the board, rushing the kick on goal and missing chances to pile on the scoreboard. A major from Amie Carroll broke the goal drought for the Stingrays, with the side following up with one final major to cement victory. While Calder had some solid chances to tun the ball over they did not make the most of their opportunities thanks to the continued defensive pressure of the Stingrays who brought the intensity up the ground to shut down the midfield. With everything going Dandenong’s way, the Stingrays did not look like losing, with Calder unable to replicate their first half dominance around the footy.

Smith played a pivotal role for the Stingrays and backed up a stellar Round 1 effort in this win, while Prespakis was among the best for the Cannons with 17 touches, three marks, three inside 50s and three rebounds. Opposing backliners, Hill and Kasey Lennox were influential for their respective sides, with Hill collecting 11 touches, five rebounds, three marks and three tackles, while Lennox mirrored her effort with 14 touches, six rebounds and three marks. While the Cannons shared the goal kicking load, the Stingrays had two multiple goal kickers in Richards and Jessica Matin (two apiece), while some missed opportunities and rushed behinds fortunately did not cost them the match. Amber Clarke (12 touches, five marks, five inside 50s, four tackles, one behind) and Mackenzie Eardley (seven disposals, six tackles) impressed in a good team outing for Dandenong, proving dangerous with their respective speed off the mark and anticipation of the footy.

CALDER CANNONS 2.1 | 3.2 | 4.2 | 4.2 (26)
DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.0 | 3.1 | 4.4 | 6.8 (44)

GOALS:

Calder: E. Yassir, F. Puruntatameri, A. Magri, C. Clayton.
Dandenong: J. Matin 2, A. Richards 2, A. Carroll, S. Vudiniabola.

BEST:

Calder: K. Lennox, G. Prespakis, E. Yassir, L. Cocomello, G. Sampson
Dandenong: T. Smith, Z. Hill, E. Shepherd, A. Clarke, A. Jordan

DC MEDAL

5 – Tyanna Smith (DS)
4 – Kasey Lennox (CC)
3 – Zoe Hill (DS)
2 – Emily Shepherd (DS)
1 – Georgie Prespakis (CC)

NAB League Girls preview: Round 2 – Huge clashes book-end Super Saturday

A HUGE Super Saturday takes place in the NAB League Girls competition this weekend with five games across three venues – two double-headers – including a couple of blockbusters book-ending the round and a clash between two winless sides. Tasmania Devils also make their debut in the league and host Oakleigh Chargers, whilst Western Jets could record back-to-back wins and keep in touch with the top couple of sides.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, March 7, 11:30am
RMIT University Bundoora

The opening game of the round pits the 2018 grand finalists against each other, with Northern Knights going one step further last year, whilst the Geelong Falcons fell in the semi-finals stage. In Round 1, the Knights held off a determined Calder Cannons outfit at this venue by a goal, whilst in the game immediate after, Geelong Falcons ran out 33-point victors over Gippsland Power. Both these teams have stars across the park and were forced to play very different gamestyles in Round 1. The Knights were impressive across the board in the way they were able to defend and then move the ball down the field to set up their forwards such as Alyssa Bannan (five goals). Led by co-captains Ellie McKenzie and Jess Fitzgerald in midfield, the Knights were able to use a nice blend of power and speed to get the ball inside 50, whilst the underrated Maeve Chaplin was tipped to have a big game by Fitzgerald in the Final Siren podcast this week. Competing against them in the midfield is an equally damaging midfield, with AFL Women’s National Academy members Laura Gardiner and Darcy Moloney making the matchups something to behold onball. Gardiner racked up 38 touches and had 14 tackles in Round 1 to be the Draft Central Player of the Week, whilst Moloney (28 disposals, six tackles) and Poppy Schaap (24 disposals, six tackles) also brought the heat. What was most impressive about the way the Falcons went about it was the fact they racked up a whopping 271 disposals, but also laid 94 tackles with their defensive pressure amongst the best in the league. They could have been more effective in front of goal, which is an area to build on, and something they cannot afford to suffer from in this clash against arguably the benchmark team this season. Expect this match to be another close one with both sides missing players from their encounters over the past couple of seasons, but the Knights deserve favouritism at home.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS v. BENDIGO PIONEERS
Saturday, March 7, 12pm.
RAMS Arena

From two sides looking to extend their strong starts to the season, we head to Craigieburn where two teams go head-to-head in a bid to get off the mark in season 2020. Sandringham Dragons will be ruing missed opportunities against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels where they arguably had plenty more chances to kick a big score, but were let down close to goal. Their defensive pressure was a highlight however and is something that will be a trademark of this game. Both sides are renowned tacklers, and whilst Sandringham can play a possession style of game as well, the Dragons are more than happy to get their hands dirty in pursuit of a win. The Pioneers are not a high possession style team but look to be efficient with ball-in-hand, running the ball down in transition and getting it inside 50 as effective as possible. An area the Pioneers can get on top in this clash is in the ruck, with the Dragons having just two hitouts last week against the number one ruck in the competition, Maggie Caris. They still won their fair share of clearances though, and led by Eliza McNamara (20 disposals, eight tackles and six inside 50s) and Winnie Laing (18 disposals, five tackles and five inside 50s), were able to pump the ball inside 50 enough to suggest that if they do that consistently enough and improve their finishing ability then the results will come. The Pioneers had co-captain Brooke Hards waste no time influencing the contest off the back of her middle-age best and fairest year, winning 18 disposals and laying seven tackles. With Elizabeth Snell out of the side, the Pioneers will look to other experience around the ground, with co-captain Annabel Strahan and Jemma Finning‘s work out of the back 50 as a way of getting control of the ball. The two centre-half backs in Sarah Hartwig and Tara Slender are some of the best in their age groups and the teams cannot afford to put it down their throat too often or the ball will come straight back out. Sandringham should be favourites in this game given the amount of chances they can generate, but the Dragons must be clean around goal.

TASMANIA DEVILS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, March 7, 12.30pm
North Hobart Oval

Crossing the Bass Strait to the Apple Isle, Tasmania Devils enter the NAB League competition for the first time, taking on a red-hot Oakleigh Chargers. Whilst the Devils sat out Round 1 watching on, they would have been impressed by what they witnessed at Wangaratta when the Chargers ran wild in a 50-point win over Murray Bushrangers. The Chargers have no problem possessing the ball, and they had a massive 40 inside 50s, giving their forwards a multitude of chances inside 50. For Round 2 the Chargers have lost some of their Round 1 firepower, with Amelia James and Alice O’Loughlin both out of the side after combining for five goals between themselves. The captain Mimi Hill led from the front during the Chargers’ win, racking up 29 disposals and five inside 50s, while vice-captain Joanna Lin had 17 disposals and six inside 50s. Eliza James showed plenty of talent during the match with an impressive 18 disposals, four marks, five tackles and match-high seven inside 50s. For the Devils, it is hard to judge just where they sit in terms of the competition just yet, with plenty of developing youngsters coming through the ranks. Amy Prokopiec is the one to keep an eye out for with the middle-age defender already having experience in the NAB League Girls after playing in the Devils’ few games last season. Overager, Camilla Taylor provides height at 180cm and will look to dominate the ruck battle with her extra experience, whilst drifting forward to provide a target inside 50 for the Devils midfielders to aim at. Another overager sure to provide that added experience is Tahlia Bortignon with the 19-year-old named on a wing for this match. You would be a brave person to tip against Oakleigh given the Chargers’ Round 1 match, but this game will be more about seeing a host of new young stars living out their dreams of playing in an elite youth competition by the Devils making their debut in the competition.

WESTERN JETS v. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Saturday, March 7, 1.15pm
RMIT University Bundoora

Following on from the Knights-Falcons clash at Bundoora is the battle between Western Jets and Murray Bushrangers. In Round 1, the Jets triumphed for the first time in their history when they toppled Bendigo Pioneers at Queen Elizabeth Oval by 22 points. The next day, Murray succumbed to a rampaging Oakleigh side by 50 points. Though one positive that could come out of that game from a scoreboard perspective was the fact that after conceding seven consecutive goals, the home team booted the last three goals of the match to avoid it being a potentially worse scoreline. Heading into this match minus their top key forward in Olivia Barber (concussion), the Bushrangers will need to utilise their smalls to hit the scoreboard and cause havoc for a Western defence that is well drilled based on the first round. The Jets were able to balance their ball use from the back 50 to the attacking 50 with some nice running ability, and did well around the stoppages despite conceding height in the ruck and thus the hitouts. Both teams favour a kick-first gamestyle which means we could potentially witness plenty of end-to-end football in this game. Leading the way last week for the Jets were bottom-agers, Montana Ham (19 disposals, seven marks, five inside 50s and three rebounds) and Charlotte Baskaran (19 disposals, seven tackles, four inside 50s and five rebounds), while new top-ager Amelia Velardo looked impressive with her athletic ability on her way to 16 disposals and three inside 50s, as well as four hitouts going up against taller opponents. With Isabelle Pritchard playing across all thirds of the ground, she is the star prospect for the 2020 group at Western and will be hard to combat in the middle. The Bushrangers also have some AFL Women’s Academy members with top-ager Abby Favell working through the midfield and Ally Morphett switching between ruck and forward. Mindy Quade will play an important role down in defence, whilst Mikayla Jones and Zali Spencer were another couple of players who stood up in defeat last round. Western brings winning form into this match and would be a good chance to go 2-0, though the Bushrangers always find something special.

CALDER CANNONS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 7, 1.45pm
RAMS Arena

The final game of the round is another huge clash between two sides with good form. Calder Cannons fell a goal short of victory against Northern in the first round of action, and return to their homeground, RAMS Arena to take on a Dandenong Stingrays side that was the surprise packet of Round 1. It was not necessarily the fact that the Stingrays won that was the surprise, but the fact that they did it so convincingly in the end – 50 points – against an Eastern Ranges side with plenty of talent. Stingrays coach, Dave Carden said post-game that it was important the club looked to improve from the Round 1 performance in terms of their stoppage position, but he was impressed with their clean hands and ball movement – something that will be crucial if they are to cause an upset against last year’s grand finalists. The Cannons midfield is well established, with middle-ager Georgie Prespakis and fellow 2003-born Emelia Yessir assisting captain, Laura Cocomello in the middle. Jessica Zakkour was the Cannons’ best last round with two goals from 18 touches and eight tackles, whilst the key defensive combination of Tamsin Crook and Kasey Lennox one of the best in the competition. It will also be important to combat the Stingrays’ talls with Georgia Grimmer out of this match, but Serene Vudiniabola (two goals in Round 1) able to crunch packs and bring the ball to ground for the likes of Ashleigh Richards (two goals) and Jaide Anthony (one). Tyanna Smith is the midfielder to watch on the Stingrays’ side, dominating last week and along with Abbey Jordan, provides some incredible running power out of that onball group. The Cannons have some targets inside 50 themselves with Charlotte Clayton (three goals) and Freda Puruntatameri (one) both looking dangerous last week. These teams are very evenly matched based on the first round statistics with no more than six differential between any of the major stats heading into the Round 2 clash. This is a buckle-up and get ready game because both these teams will take it right up to the other making it a real spectacle for the onlookers.

Knights claim victory in grand final rematch

IT was a thrilling opening game of NAB League Girls with reigning premiers Northern Knights snatching a one-goal victory over grand finalists Calder Cannons, 8.5 (53) to 7.5 (47). It was an even start to the game with both sides struggling to break away from each other credit to the high intensity battle and skill on show. The Cannons held the lead heading into the second quarter but the Knights ability to pepper the goals in the second term gave them the advantage at half-time, a margin which they continued to hold for the remainder of the match.

It was arguably a best on ground performance from Knights forward Alyssa Bannan who was in ripping form with the talented youngster clunking just about everything that came her way and leading up to the footy time and time again. Her accuracy in front of goal was impressive nailing a whopping five goals thanks to her goal sense while also showing her clean hands and ability below her knees to move the ball forward. Through the midfield Ellie McKenzie was on song with her gut-running and explosiveness on full display, bursting through the packs and effectively disposing of the footy. She finished with 12 touches, four inside 50s and three tackles, while teammate Jess Fitzgerald impressed by foot delivering passes lace out with 10 kicks and an overall 15 possessions. Coming out of defence Fitzgerald was red hot with three rebounds while Ashleigh Snow also displayed her defensive ability laying eight tackles. Maeve Chaplin led the troops in disposals for Northern racking up 16 disposals and working hard across the ground to hit up a target.

Although they fell agonisingly short the Cannons had a couple of star players wow in front of a strong crowd at RMIT Bundoora with 16-year-old Charlotte Clayton leaving her mark inside 50 with three majors. Clayton did not win a lot of the footy but when she got ball in hand she made the most of her opportunities while teammate Jessica Zakkour was handy in front of the big sticks with two goals and 18 disposals highlighting her influence across the ground. NTFLW Palmerston star Freda Puruntatameri generated plenty of excitement up forward with her leaping ability and strong hands not often beaten in a one on one and nailing a goal. Youngster Georgie Prespakis lit up the field once again with another strong performance thanks to her 19 disposals, three rebound 50s and three inside 50s displaying her ability to win the footy at either end of the ground. Captain Laura Cocomello and Emelia Yassir combined well with the two collecting a combined 33 touches and sending plenty of excitement through the Calder camp.

After winning the 2019 NAB League Girls grand final rematch, the Knights face Geelong Falcons at RMIT Bundoora next week in a rematch of the 2018 grand final. Meanwhile, Calder host Round 1 winners, Dandenong Stingrays at Craigieburn to try and bounce back to get on the board with a win.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 2.0 | 4.2 | 7.2 | 8.5 (53)
CALDER CANNONS 2.2 | 3.2 | 6.2 | 7.5 (47)

GOALS:

Northern: A. Bannan 5, M. Molenberg, M. Ramsay, A. Snow.
Calder: C. Clayton 3, J. Zakkour 2, F. Puruntatameri, R. Sutton, M. Styles.

BEST:

Northern: A. Bannan, E. McKenzie, J. Fitzgerald, M. Chaplin, A. Snow
Calder: J. Zakkour, G. Prespakis, E. Yassir, K. Lennox, F. Puruntatameri.

DC Medal:

5 – Alyssa Bannan (NK)
4 – Ellie McKenzie (NK)
3 – Jessica Zakkour (CC)
2 – Jess Fitzgerald (NK)
1 – Georgie Prespakis (CC)

NAB League Girls preview: Round 1 – New talent to shine in opening round of action

NAB League Girls action is back on the agenda this weekend with a grand final rematch among a host of expected tight contests with all sides back on level pegging at 0-0 to start the season and hoping to kick-off their seasons with wins.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. CALDER CANNONS
Saturday, February 29, 10:15am
RMIT University Bundoora

The first game of the round is a fitting opener to the new NAB League Girls season, with Northern Knights hosting Calder Cannons at a refurbished RMIT University ground in the 2019 Grand Final rematch. The Knights had five players drafted last year, with the remainder signed up for state league level football in 2020, while the Cannons just had the two, but had a number of players on the periphery. Both these sides have plenty of talent with the Knights potentially a year ahead in development, finishing runner-up in 2018 before winning last year, while the Cannons made the grand final last season, and will be hoping to build on that this year. The Knights have five players in the National AFL Women’s Academy, led by Ellie McKenzie and last year’s grand final best on ground medallist, Jess Fitzgerald who are both amongst a strong midfield core. Fellow Academy member, Maeve Chaplin is also named onball, while Maykaylah Appleby will run down the wings as the sole middle-age Academy member. Alyssa Bannan is a leading target and strong overhead named at centre half-forward, and a battle with the likes of key backs, Tamsin Crook and Tahlia Gillard – the latter of whom is in the AFL Women’s Academy too will be a match-up to watch. The name that will always catch the eye is Georgie Prespakis, a 2021 draft prospect and sister of Carlton Rising Star, Madison. She is capable of anything and her battle with McKenzie will be intriguing. The Cannons also have some serious depth at their disposal, with Emelia Yassir and Kasey Lennox another couple of youngsters who made their debuts last season and looked at home. With Freda Puruntatameri playing with Palmerston in the NTFL Women’s competition up forward for the Cannons, there is plenty of X-factor there too.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Saturday, February 29, 11:30am
City Oval Ballarat

Up in Ballarat, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels host the Sandringham Dragons in a battle between two sides who should improve on their 2019 placings. Both sides have a number of AFL Women’s Academy member with the Rebels (five) and the Dragons (three) both having some serious top-end talent. The Rebels have a strong spine with Maggie Caris likely to be the top ruck in the competition this year with her height and tap work causing problems for the opposition. Renee Saulitis has played up forward and down back, but is named in the middle, with her athleticism and ability to sidestep opponents a feature of her game. Along with Isabella Simmons who has also been named through the midfield, all three Academy members are very different and add varied elements to the game style. They will face an equally impressive midfield of Dragons’ captain Winnie Laing, potential St Kilda father-daughter selection, Alice Burke and Bella Eddey who provide a real hard edge to the onball brigade. Sarah Hartwig is one of a couple of premier rebounding defenders, reading the ball in flight so well and able to create a lot of offensive run while nullifying her opponent defensively. Playing at half-forward is Eliza McNamara who is a tackling machine and elite runner, who will work her opponent over, while Abbi Moloney lines up at full-forward to try and clunk a few grabs by outmuscling her opponent one-on-one. The Rebels will look to run the ball out of defence through Nyakoat Dojiok who is a 2021 draft prospect in the Academy, while Chloe Leonard has been named at full-forward for the Rebels who will look to have a spread of goalkickers rather than a dominant target.

GEELONG FALCONS v. GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, February 29, 12:00pm
RMIT University Bundoora 

After its first finals loss last season, Geelong Falcons return to the NAB League Girls with a hunger to get back to the heights of 2018, starting off the 2020 season with a clash against Gippsland Power. The Power have a lot of players who were able to run out last season and will be more experienced in 2020, so they will no doubt look to push the Falcons who have plenty of young players themselves. Geelong’s duo of Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner will be damaging through the midfield as the Falcons’ two AFL Women’s National Academy members. Joined in the middle by basketballer Carly Remmos, the Falcons have a strong foundation to continue the success of past years. Elizabeth Dowling is a name that will be raised over the next couple of years, and along with Renee Tierney as targets up forward and Poppy Schaap‘s defensive pressure, the Falcons are in a good shape going forward. Mia Van Dyke is one of a number of prospects who have come through the club’s V/Line Cup program and despite being just three days away from being a 2023 draft eligible prospect (only turned 15 in December), she is one of a number who have come through the pathway with some high wraps from the coaching staff. Gippsland has some familiar names in its line-up, led by midfielder and AFL Women’s Academy member, Megan Fitzsimon. She, along with Grace McRae forms a strong midfield duo in there, and will compete strongly for the contested ball. In defence, Shanara Notman returns as a 19-year-old named at centre half-back and will provide some good rebound there, right alongside Leyla Berry who played for the Power back in 2018. On the other flank is a familiar Power name with Yasmin Duursma (sister of Port Adelaide’s Xavier), while when talking about bottom-age talent, Lily-Rose Williamson is one who will be a standout along a win having starred for the club through the V/Line Cup in past years.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 29, 12:50pm
Queen Elizabeth Oval 

Turning the attention to Bendigo, the Pioneers host Western Jets in a curtain raiser to the AFL Women’s clash between Richmond and Geelong. Bendigo has the one official AFL Women’s National Academy member in key defender Tara Slender, but have a midfield that will trouble opposition onballers. Brooke Hards and Annabel Strahan have both been named onball and the co-captains will provide a hard-edge to the midfield and be difficult to beat there. Along with Maeve Tupper who has some impressive athletic skills and great goal sense when up forward, the midfield is a strength for the Pioneers. Jemma Finning has been named at half-back to provide some run out of defence with Slender, while up forward, Hannah Stewart is a target inside 50 as a 19-year-old. The Jets have opted to throw rebounding defender, Isabelle Pritchard into the midfield to counteract the Pioneers’ onball and develop her game even further. Along with bottom-age tall, Montana Ham and Nikita Wright in the middle, the Jets have some good height and ball-winning ability in there with upside. A highly rated bottom-ager with Ham is Charlotte Baskaran who is considered elite with her foot skills and decision making, so will be one to watch coming off half-back where she has been named. Both these sides are going to go close to winning in this tight contest with a fair few bottom-agers on show, though Bendigo should be more prepared after their top-agers had consistency through the team as middle-agers last season.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS v. EASTERN RANGES
Sunday, March 1,  11:00am
Holm Park Recreation Reserve 

In a rewind to 2018, Dandenong Stingrays and Eastern Ranges return to Holm Park in Beaconsfield to open their seasons on Sunday. While both played different opponents on that day two years ago, they will both be hoping for more ideal temperatures than the 37 degrees on that day. The Stingrays are coming off a solid season in 2019. just missing out on finals, while Eastern reached the post-season series and pushed eventual premiers, Northern Knights all the way in the preliminary final clash. The Stingrays’ standout prospect in 2020 is Tyanna Smith, with the AFL Women’s National Academy member having the combination of speed and strength in the middle, which she will use to burst out of the stoppages and create scoring opportunities for her team. Abbey Jordan showed last season she can win the ball through the middle, while young talls, Jaide Anthony and Georgia Grimmer up forward provide a glimpse into the future for the Stingrays having come through the V/Line Cup program. Down back, the ever-reliable Zoe Hill is alongside Jemma Radford, while Serene Vudiniabola comes highly rated as an overager who played school footy last year and is tied to Old Haileybury. Eastern Ranges pack a punch in the midfield as well, with Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown the club’s two AFL Women’s Academy members. With ruck, Jess Grace likely to get first hands to them more often than not, the contested ball-winning Meagher and slick Brown will give their forwards some nice feeds inside 50. Matilda Hardy has been named at half-forward as one to watch, while Mietta Kendall is a reliable source of calmness in the back pocket, and Lily Peacock named as one to watch with her run along the wing.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Sunday, March 1, 1:00pm
Norm Minns Oval 

The final game of the round is another curtain raiser, this time for the Collingwood and Richmond AFL Marsh Series clash at Wangaratta. A big crowd is expected in attendance for the game, with two teams expected to improve in 2020 to battle it out. Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers both had some superb performances last season, but had to iron out some consistency issues at times. Both having a number of talents coming through the ranks this season, the Bushrangers had a lot of middle and bottom-agers last season who have progressed through to the next year of their youth careers. The Charges had five players drafted and will be looking to replace them through a team approach. The Chargers have three players in the AFL Women’s National Academy with captain Mimi Hill and middle-ager Charlie Rowbottom named on-ball to rove the work of ruck, Kalarni Kearns. Also in the midfield is Joanna Lin on the wing, working the ball forward to an even front six. The Bushrangers have a two-pronged tall attack with AFL Women’s Academy members, Olivia Barber (top-age) and Ally Morphett (middle-age) rotating between ruck and forward. Abby Favell is a natural ball winner and will rotate between midfield and forward, while Kate Adams is another player who can be slippery around the stoppages and find the goals when inside 50. Keeley Skepper showed last season in the Under 16 Championships that she has a lot of upside, while a number of players on both teams loom as surprise packets in what could be one of the games of the round.

Even spread of talent to lead Cannons in 2020

CALDER Cannons’ NAB League Girls list was finalised last last week as the Craigieburn-based side prepares to head into the 2020 season. Reaching the 2019 Grand Final before ultimately falling a win short at the hands of the Northern Knights, Female Talent Coordinator Russell Humphrey said there was roughly around a 10-player split across top, middle and bottom-age players. With a different coaching group coming on board, Humphrey said he is feeling more comfortable ahead of his second season in the role.

“It helps going around again,” Humphrey said. “I had a little bit of a handle on it beforehand but being in the coordinator’s chair you’ve got to have a bigger handle on it and I’ve gone out last year and watched a fair amount of local footy which I’ll do again this year just to see what’s out there. “With our list (compared to the boys) it’s a little bit harder because our season starts before the local season starts so it only gives them three or four weeks before our season finishes so it’s a little bit difficult that way. “We rely a little bit on going out and watching them during the year and things like that.”

Last year the Cannons had two players drafted, with captain Georgia Patrikios going in the top five to St Kilda – and already earning a Rising Star nomination – and Krstel Petrevski picked up by Melbourne later in the draft. Humphrey said Patrikios’ influence on the club as captain had been profound.

“It was interesting for Georgia, at the start of the year she hurt her ankle so it made her work a little bit harder to go through the injury issue, getting right and then to start playing,” he said. “I think that because of that, it gives her a good understanding of what’s required going into AFLW. I know that when she played state footy she played very well for Vic Metro and then when she played for Essendon VFLW she played well there as well so she gave the girls an understanding of what’s required and I think a lot of the top-agers followed that. “Krystal got drafted, Alana Barba, Felicity Theodore and Terira Fry and Zoe Hardiman all ended up playing VFLW footy, and Makeisha Muller as well. “At Williamstown, North (Melbourne), and Essendon. So I think that group was dragged along by themselves and the results showed with them all playing VFL footy. “Getting two drafted was fantastic, if we got three it would’ve topped it off.”

While Patrikios has already made an impact in her first game, Humphrey said Melbourne fans had plenty to look forward to with Petrevski when she gets her chance to don the red and blue.

Competitive, competitive, very competitive young lady,” he said. “Does the right things, everyone knows the story about her moving from Halls Creek, down to Sydney and then across here to Melbourne, that in itself shows resilience. “And I think that’s what they’ll get, they’ll get a hard-working person that understands what’s required.”

The future looks bright for the Cannons, who regularly have past players – such as Patrikios and Petrevski – dropping in at training to keep them informed of what’s happening in the world of AFL Women’s. Former Cannon, Sarah Dargan is an assistant coach at the club, which has plenty of future talent on the list at Under-17 and Under-16 level coming through.

We were lucky last year, we got an exceptional group of Under-16 players who are now Under 17s,” Humphrey said. “And like it does in the boys, it goes in circles like that and we were just lucky to get that group of probably 10 quality Under-16 players. “We’re hoping that the development of our top-age players this year sort of drags them along as well, the 17s came back in better shape than maybe previous years and I think that’s experience for them, learning what’s going on a bit more. “Around the whole competition the 16s and the 17s are now getting a better idea of what’s required when they come back from their 16th year to their 17th, and 17th again to 18th.” We don’t want to rely on our 17s but they will be part of the going forward.”

For such a young group to make the grand final was huge, but Humphrey said the Knights were too good on the day, and did not enable the Cannons to play with the same freedom they had against an equally strong Falcons side.

It was for our playing group, reward,” Humphrey said. “For the coaching group it was reward. “I know the work that they had put in to get to the final, to beat Geelong who are a quality side and had quality people around them, to be able to get past them was probably more important for the girls than the grand final. “That’s no disrespect to Northern because they played great footy on that day but that high of beating Geelong, it was hard for our girls to get back up and play Northern, and Northern didn’t allow us to play the footy that obviously we played the week before. “It was an exciting time for (the players), making the finals and then winning the game against Geelong and leading into grand final week we were positive but unfortunately we just couldn’t get the chocolates at the end of the day, but Northern were a quality side and so were Geelong. I think the competition’s getting closer and closer every year which is fantastic.”

The name that has been and will regularly be touted is Georgie Prespakis, the younger sister of Carlton’s Rising Star Madison, who is still a year away from being draft eligible. In one game against the Rebels last year, the Under-16 talent booted seven goals after moving to full-forward in the second quarter. Humphrey said while the hype was genuine, the Cannons had plenty of players to watch from that age group that were worthy of the same praise.

“I think we all get excited with Georgie and I understand that,” Humphrey said. “We don’t have any expectations on her, we just expect them to play.” The hardest part for Georgie is being a bottom-ager and how well Maddy (Prespakis) is going, the scrutiny on her is a fair bit from this sort of forum (media). “I think we’re missing out on Tahlia Gillard who’s in the Academy, Neve Crowley, (Emilia) Yassir, Kasey Lennox, Peppa Poultney that played in the Vic Metro 16s – we’ve got a group of six to eight players in that group who are possibly draftable, again they have to do the work and we have to do our end. But everyone’s all about talking about Georgie a lot and I understand that but I think they’re missing some quality players there. “Tahlia Gillard is 186cm tall and her birthday’s at the end of the year so she doesn’t turn 17 until December.”

Those names are still a year away from being draft-eligible, and to focus on this year’s crop, Humphrey said there were certainly some to keep an eye on.

“I think you’ll find that Laura (Cocomello) will play in the midfield, probably mid-forward. “Kiara (Delia) will probably play down back and through the middle as well. “Tamsyn Crook we’re going to probably start her off down back and let her play one position instead of throwing her around – similar to what the boys will do with Cody (Brand) – and just let her give her a spot down back and let her hold down centre half-back for a while. That’s not to say she won’t go forward or won’t go in the middle but we’ll probably look at her beginning down back.”

The Cannons have managed to have a top five pick in the first three years of the system, with Chloe Molloy, Monique Conti, Prespakis and Patrikios all going early in the AFL Women’s drafts. In 2020, the Cannons have a more even top-age spread without a clear standout.

“I think that’s a great call, (in) our top-agers we don’t have the standout,” Humphrey said. “We have a top-age group that’ve worked pretty hard and there’s no outstanding sort of touted draft prospect. “But I think again if we do the job properly with the coaching and everything else, we’re hoping again to get one or two (drafted). “Our aim is obviously to get minimum one a year so if we can do that, that’ll be great. It’s an even group, most definitely. “And we’ve brought a couple of girls in who’ve never played NAB League footy or TAC Cup footy before, top-agers so that’ll be interesting to see how that goes. “But again if they’ve got the talent, you need to have a look at them and give them the opportunity so that’s what we’ll do.”

The Cannons will bring in a couple of 19-year-old’s with Grace Dicker coming back after a year off to recover from a shoulder injury sustained in 2018, as well as Freda Puruntatameri who spent some time at Essendon VFL last season having travelled down from the Tiwi Islands. With Matthew O’Connor now taking the reins of the girls’ side, the team has a different leader, but a similar game style to the previous year. In preparation for the year ahead, the Cannons will head up to Yarrawonga to face Murray Bushrangers, before another match against Western Jets the following Friday in a lead-up to their Round 1 clash.

Calder takes on Northern in a grand final rematch, played on Saturday, February 29 at RMIT Bundoora.

NTFL Women’s Premier League preview: Round 18 – Top four sids vie for supremacy

THE ultimate round of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Women’s Premier League features a quartet of games all set to take place on a super Saturday, with the final six teams decided and those positioned from second to fourth vying for supremacy. The only game between two finals-bound sides will be left for last, as Palmerston takes on Wanderers at Cazalys Arena.

TRACY VILLAGE (9th) vs. WARATAH (1st)
Saturday February 15, 1:30pm
Tracy Village

Minor premiers Waratah will look to end a successful regular season on a high when it does battle with Tracy Village on the road to open Round 18. The Warriors have been in solid form heading into the post-season, coming off a top-of-the-table clash triumph to clock up their fifth consecutive win as the clear competition benchmark. On the other hand, Tracy Village has gone down in its last five outings, sitting last in the list of sides remaining in the competition at 2-15. The Razorbacks and Warriors have only previously met once this season, but the result was comprehensive as Waratah came out 93-point winners back in Round 9 to highlight the gap between the two sides. The perfectly juxtaposed records almost also go down to the scoring differential too, with Waratah leading the league in both points for and against, while Tracy Village is at the opposite end of both spectrums. Lauren O’Shea, Jenna Singh, and Lisa Roberts have all combined well to lead the Warriors forward of centre, while the consistency of Rebecca Pryer and Claudia Fabris has been commendable over 14 games each. The contributors are fewer and further between for the Razorbacks, boasting just three goalkickers but the likes of Gabrielle Young, Bonnie McDougall, and Zhoe Clarke may be leant on in this clash. It seems a mismatch on paper and has already proven so this season, which may not favour Waratah heading into finals.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (3rd) vs. ST MARY’S (8th)
Saturday February 15, 2:00pm
Norbuilt Oval

Southern Districts will look to better its standing among the top four as it faces the lowly St Mary’s on home turf, able to finish anywhere between second and fourth. The Crocs have won seven of their last eight games, picking up from where they left off after a Round 16 bye to thump Nightcliff last time out. As is somewhat of a theme for the round, St Mary’s have shown nearly completely opposing form with five losses in its last six outings – with the only win coming against Tracy Village and last week’s loss playing out to the tune of a 142-point thrashing against Palmerston. A Round 9 meeting between these two teams was as one-sided as their records would suggest as the Crocs took home a 66-point win, with St Mary’s lack of scoring prowess continually becoming a factor. While they have notched up six wins, the Saints have been much less competitive against the top-end sides, and that kind of gap in performance could prove costly again. With no Saint playing every game and the turnover of players as high as anyone, Southern Districts’ luxury of being able to rely on competition leading goalkicker Ebony Miller (49 goals) and Tahlia Holtze makes the Crocs a solid contender. While this looms as another one-sided match-up, expect both sides to throw everything at it in their final regular season hit-out.

PINT (7th) vs. DARWIN BUFFETTES (4th)
Saturday February 15, 4:00
MCG

Fresh off a loss in their top of the table encounter with Waratah, Darwin will hope to return to the winners list when it faces the best of the rest, Pint at the MCG. The Buffettes’ indifferent form of late has seen them slide from second to fourth, losing three of their last six games and only winning five of their past nine since a draw with Pint in Round 9. That 28 points apiece thriller was the only time these two sides have met this season, and bodes for a good contest considering Pint will come in refreshed after a bye round with nothing to lose. The Queen Ants have battled hard amid a tough set of fixtures over the last six weeks, but see themselves narrowly missing out on a finals berth despite the possibility of finishing with an even record. Pint’s defence will need to stand up if it is any chance of getting a result in this game, with Darwin boasting the third-best scoring record, while the Queen Ants’ defensive record is good enough for sixth. But with a clear gap between the top four and the rest of the competition, those numbers are compounded even further. A good spread of contributors from Darwin will again need to stand up, with Jemma Iacono and Tayla Hart-Aluni playing all-but one game, and the latter booting 17 goals. Dominique Carbone and Kylie Duggan have also been important over the long haul, while Pint’s Emma Green and Casey Morris will be key to the resistance. Previously the best-positioned side from second to fourth, Darwin will have to earn its way back there and perhaps have the ideal run-in to finals in what promises to be a competitive match.

PALMERSTON MAGPIES (2nd) vs. WANDERERS (6th)
Saturday February 15, 7:30pm
Cazalys Arena

Wanderers’ tricky run into finals comes to an end against Palmerston in what looms as the game of the round, set to do battle with Palmerston in the weekend’s only top six clash. The Eagles’ fate is set as they ready for an elimination final bout against Nightcliff regardless of this result, but the bragging rights of going into that clash as the better-ranked side is up for grabs here as the Tigers have the bye. 2-3 in its last five outings, Wanderers have had a tough time of it of late, but have showed the potential to pull of results above their ranking. Although, that was hardly the case in the previous meeting between these two sides this season, as the second-placed Palmerston ran out 29-point winners. The Magpies surged into second spot on the back of a 142-point win over St Mary’s to notch up a fifth win in six games, with the security of the top two meaning they have everything to play for as Southern Districts and Darwin chomp at their heels. The scoring prowess of Palmerston is no joke, with the combination of Arthurina Moreen (35 goals) and Freda Puruntatameri (24) proving lethal, with the likes of Billie Byers and Natasha Medbury also important. For Wanderers, which boasts a somewhat leaky defence, Shekeine De Satge and Tishara Davern have been terrific up the other end, and will need to find the big sticks if the Eagles are to stand any chance of a result. Both sides should benefit from a competitive match here, with a must-win situation beckoning for Palmerston.

Bye: Nightcliff