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2021 NAB League Girls preview: Preliminary Finals

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

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

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

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

METRO POOL

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

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

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

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

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

COUNTRY POOL

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

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

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

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

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

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Elimination Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition rolled on into finals action over the weekend, with three games played on Saturday and one on Sunday. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve 

AFLW Academy:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Unsurprisingly Prespakis lead all comers for disposals for the day. She often sharked first possession off the rucks’ hands and then followed up with her classic long kicks forward, or the drew in opponents to handball it off to a teammate she just relieved of pressure. The real highlight of her game was how well she competed on the inside against one of the strongest midfield groups in the competition, racking up a game high 12 tackles and showing she wasn’t letting the Chargers mids walk it out of stoppages easily. Spectators were fortunate enough to see her and fellow AFLW Academy star Charlie Rowbottom go head-to-head at times, with each of them getting a few bragging rights moments through the contest.

 #18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Started the day as the deepest Calder forward, with the coaching staff looking to take advantage of the Chargers’ lack of height in defensive 50. She competed well when the ball entered attacking 50 and interestingly, despite being 190 cm, she looked at her best when the ball hit the ground as she followed up extremely well to get quick hands up to teammates. Unfortunately she dropped a few marks she would’ve usually held, perhaps due to the increased pace and pressure of finals. 

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Finding herself split between the midfield and forwardline evenly across the contest, Rowbottom’s influence on the game, particularly through the midfield, can’t be overstated, with her burst of speed being difficult for Calder to deal with. She looked to move the ball by hand a lot as opposed to blindly kicking the ball which led to some nice passages of play for Oakleigh. However, you could say she was too team centric at times, looking to pass off inside 50 most of the time she got it which kept Oakleigh off the scoreboard more than they could’ve been. A real point of difference is her overhead marking which she got to display a couple of times, taking one particular pack mark that, despite getting tackled by Georgie Prespakis, resulted in a dangerous inside 50.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Consistently found ways to show off her burst of speed and agility, weaving through packs and getting away well weighted kicks forward, or handballing to teammates under less pressure. The hard working midfielder provided plenty of spark around stoppages. She found her way around the ground as well, with a defensive focus to her game, getting down back to help out her team under siege, where she even managed an impressive intercept mark which led to a dangerous piece of transitional play that almost resulted in a goal.

#8 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

Has possibly flown under the radar this season with Prespakis and Yassir arguably flashier, but Friswell’s contribution to the strong midfield trio has been monumental throughout 2021 and the game against Oakleigh was no different. She returned a rounded game where she did everything well; unselfish with her ball use, looking to find teammates in space to spread Oakleigh’s defence, and switching the ball across the forward 50 often to create a bit of chaos. Similar to other teammates, her hybrid style of play in the midfield made Calder dangerous, able to crack in and win the contested ball and clearances, but also just as capable at holding her space and receiving a handball out the back or when running past.

#4 Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons)

Putting in arguably her best performance for the year, Lennox had a game to be proud of as a key defender. Usually playing on Oakleigh’s resting midfielders like Charlie Rowbottom or Amanda Ling, she adjusted to each opponent promptly and looked assured throughout the contest, not conceding a goal at any point. Taking the kick-ins for the day, she’d always run the ball out 15-20 meters and then kick a long bomb well out of the defensive 50 in an attempt to get Calder moving quickly in transition.

#15 Mali McLeod (Calder Cannons)

Getting her highest disposal count for the season in the contest, McLeod chose the right game to show her proficiency as a winger. Often the target of the kick-ins for Calder, or playing on the ‘dead wing’, McLeod was always an option, putting herself in the right spots all day to receive the ball on the outside and holding her space well. She also used the ball well by foot, looking to spot up targets in more central parts of the ground or inside 50.

#39 Abbey McDonald (Calder Cannons)

Playing in all thirds of the ground, McDonald showed that she’s got the scope to play anywhere going forward, and at a high level. She’s proven throughout the season that she understands how to play her role, and works well within the Calder structure to adjust what she does to suit her teammates. When she gets the ball, she just uses it so well, never asking too much of her teammates with well weighted kicks or handballs put just in front for them to run onto. As a 2004 birth, she’s one that looms as a major part, in any area of the ground, of the Cannons’ 2022 campaign.

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Ling had a performance to remember. Whilst not winning as much of the ball as she usually does, the moments she had with and around it were extremely influential. What was perhaps most impressive was her lateral movement, even under pressure, able to maintain top speed even when evading opponents. It wasn’t uncommon to see her run straight towards opponents and then take a side step, with the opponent unable to do anything about it. She used the ball well to follow up on those side steps too, hitting a few kicks to the top of the goalsquare to give her teammates the best opportunity to score.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing forward for what felt like the entire game, Reid didn’t let that hurt her disposal numbers. Pushing up the ground to act as a high-half forward link up player, she was involved in everything in the front half of the ground; taking marks, winning loose balls and setting up teammates. She was also one of two multiple goalkickers, with the opportunity to get two or three more on the board as well, but she chose to move the ball on to better positioned teammates showing a sense for teamwork – a common theme amongst the Oakleigh squad that played a big part in the win.

#31 Sarah Morley (Oakleigh Chargers)

Putting in her best shift for the year, Morley was one of the benefactors from the team focus that the Oakleigh squad played with, getting involved in some chain bits of play that led to either her getting on the scoreboard or her team getting a scoring opportunity. Morley threw herself at everything, not letting the Cannons defenders have anything easy, while also taking a couple of nice marks that led to her setting up teammates for shots on goal. 

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Perhaps most impactful in the final quarter where she got an extended run through the midfield, James’ burst of speed, agility and toughness at the footy were real sparks to keep Oakleigh going forward consistently through the middle of the ground. She did well to win first possession off of the ruck taps and then quickly handball off to teammates under less pressure. If she got it in space herself, she measured her kicks well, looking to get them more central. 

#37 Charlotte Van der Vlies (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing in her usual wing role, Van der Vlies was able to impact contests on her side of the ground well, generally winning the contest by getting the ball herself, or putting in a bump/shepherd that allowed a teammate to get it out and keep going forward. She proved a nuisance for the Cannons defence, often at the fall of the ball when they rushed a kick out of the Chargers’ forward 50, using the ball well by foot to get it central or back inside 50.

#23 Caitlin Matthews (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing an underrated role in the defensive 50 for the Chargers, Matthews was impressive in her defensive craft; winning one-on-ones with a spoil, or drifting across and impacting contests to get the ball loose and then follow up at ground level. From there, she picked it up cleanly off the ground and then got distance behind her kicks outside of defensive 50. She was also confident to push off her opponent and just sit behind contests to quickly pick up spilled balls.

OTHERS:

For the victors, the influence of defender Erin Woodford can’t be overstated, winning multiple two-on-ones in the final quarter to stop Calder scoring, and doing well to nullify Gillard throughout the contest. Lily Hart was again a big part of the midfield for the Chargers, as Mia Clift and Charlotte Taylor were impressive as rebounding defensive options. For the Cannons, Trilby Sheppard did well in defensive 50, whilst Reese Sutton was also lively through the game, having some good moments in the forward half.

EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Declan Reeve

TOP PERFORMERS:

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Put in a solid performance in what will be her last NAB League appearance. Chaplin’s strength on the inside and around stoppages is one of her standout traits, being able to win contested possession without much issue even with opposition hanging off her. This goes hand in hand with her composure and smooth moving through traffic to make her a really damaging ball winner, where she’ll win it, get free and kick well forward. When playing a role in the defensive 50, she has natural defensive nous, with just little things like standing goal side of her opponent or having an arm across them giving her the advantage when the ball comes in.

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

It has become glaringly evident that Jordan is a seriously good ball winner through the midfield, and she’s only going to get better. Despite being shorter than most, she’s got such a hunger to win the footy that leads to her being involved in everything. She manages to get the ball in contested situations and work her way out to give it off to a teammate under less pressure. What’s most impressive is her tendency to move the ball on by hand, it’s not uncommon for the highest ball winners in NAB League to look to bomb long, so that composure and maturity at such a young age is an extremely good trait. 

#23 Lulu Beatty (Northern Knights)

Had a difficult job through the game with the ball constantly around the Northern defensive 50, but Beatty held up under the pressure to be arguably the best defender on ground. She positioned well in contests to be at an advantage almost every time, giving her the best opportunity to use the ball well going forward and start a dangerous counter attack. Pushed up the ground as well to help lock the ball inside the Northern forward 50, setting up just outside to create a contest with Eastern players waiting for a rebound. 

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Continued her goalkicking ways from the home-and-away season, booting three on the way to a brilliant victory. Two of her goals came at vital moments; when the game was still there to be won by Northern, it was Pisano that would step up and put the nail in the coffin after having missed a few easier shots earlier on. It wasn’t just the goals that impressed and impacted from Pisano, she was able to push up the ground and win possession as far as the defensive 50 mark, following up with her trademark penetrating left-foot kick, usually a good 35-40 meters down the line. Her work through traffic was also eye-catching, able to side step her way around opponents to get separation.

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

The super athletic ruck had a day out for Eastern, playing a big part in their ability to get first hands on the ball and clear it forward to keep pressure on the Northern defence. She has developed and improved her ruck craft throughout the season. Having the athletic advantage more often than not, she’s worked on her tap work to be one of the premiere rucks in the league in that regard, putting it right in front of her teammates every time.

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Has improved game on game, and it has led to her being one of the standout defenders in the competition, with her ability to run both ways and offer plenty in both offensive and defensive play making her a consistent part of the Ranges’ transitional passages. Her ball use around the ground is exceptional, composing herself before getting the ball to a teammate, usually further up the ground. She was involved in one particular bit of play, where she won a one-on-two at the top of the defensive 50, swept up the loose ball and delivered long to a teammate, who then kicked it onto Alyssia Pisano for her third goal of the day. 

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

The major ball winner for the contest, Deed was constantly involved in play around the ground. However, what was most noticeable was her work rate to get down and assist in the backline, with her positioning in particular being the key reason to her good performance, even getting herself some quick uncontested intercept marks during the latter stages in the game. She was strong on the inside as a ball winner that fed out to other midfielders or kicked long forward into dangerous spots.

#5 Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges)

Playing arguably her best game of the season in her standard wing role, it was Livingstone’s endurance running and ability to work both ways that stood out and put her name in contention for best on ground. She held her space really well throughout the game, being a much needed outlet for the Ranges as seemingly everyone else on the ground wanted to get into the contested scraps.

OTHERS:

Keeley Sherar, Ruby O’Dwyer and Isabelle Khoury were all big parts in the Ranges’ win, bringing spark around the midfield. El Chaston was a dangerous forward target, setting up a few of the goals, whilst Grace Walsh was consistent down back. For the Knights, Phoebe Nelson, Riley Wilcox and Teleah Smart all had good moments in the midfield and around the ground, all bringing positive run to Northern’s side.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

TOP PERFORMERS:

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Since returning from the Under 19 Championships matches, Schaap has played extended stints forward to great success, again getting on the scoreboard against Dandenong, but playing a much more team orientated game, looking to pass off essentially every time she got the ball rather than take the shot herself. She found a good balance between pushing up the ground acting as an extra midfielder, and staying down forward as a crumber which played a big part in the Falcons’ dominance, with her natural ball winning and quick hands in-close opening the game up often and leading to scoring shots for Geelong.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

A game to put on the resume, Craven showed that she has the ability to impact the scoreboard heavily when allowed a little more freedom to move forward. Her first of the day came just 30 seconds into the match from about 40 meters out, after getting the clearance, handing it off and getting it back straight away. Her ball use was at its usual high standard, being one of the few to look to use the width of the ground rather than always moving straight forward, finding unopposed teammates that allowed them to get a clearer path forward. She looked to be a handy outlet option for her teammates as well, getting into the short inside 45 spots and often being used, then hitting teammates up to keep the chain going.

#9 Ash Van Loon (Geelong Falcons)

Played as the most permanent part of Geelong’s midfield for the game, with her positioning around the ground, especially stoppages, being the highlight for her. She’d manage to win the first possession off the rucks’ hands and then flick it off by hand to a teammate that was already close to top speed, giving the Falcons quick ball movement entering the forward half of the ground. Used it well by foot as well to hit some good targets, even when under pressure.

#15 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Featherston benefitted from the quick ball movement coming forward at times, making her a dangerous figure. As a player that possesses great speed and athleticism in general, she was able to react quickly and leap to try and take the ball high or quickly turn and run onto a ball over the top, beating her opponent in the foot race. She used the ball well, hitting targets in better spots than her if she wasn’t in a good position to go for goal, but also comfortable to back herself in and take some shots herself. Acted as the relieving ruck for the game as well, with the previously mentioned athleticism coming out.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

The 2022 Geelong and St Kilda father-daughter prospect is the embodiment of an inside bull, utilising her strength and relentless hunt on the footy to win the contested ball and get it going forward by foot. She also looked good with her marking, providing contests with her bodywork really solid in those marking jostles, nudging players off balance to get the advantage as the ball flew in. 

#31 Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)

Fresh off her VFLW debut with the Southern Saints, Radford returned to Dandenong looking more confident and happy to take the game on. As she has so often done this year, Radford was thrown about into all areas of the ground as Dandenong tried to plug the holes as they popped up. Looked good with her positioning all day, making herself a genuine option wherever she was, then using the ball well when she got it – proving well balanced between kicking and handballing. Looked most impressive in defence where she made plenty of contests to stop certain Geelong goals, and rebounded well. Radford also got herself on the scoreboard for her hard work. 

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looked the most aerially dangerous in Dandenong’s defence and moved the ball out of defensive 50 with speed, looking to take the game on with her run-and-carry at times, then delivering a long kick forward into space for the forwards to run onto. Hill was defensively sound throughout, making opposition forwards work hard with their leading and work at ground level to win the ball.

#44 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looked solid as a rock for Dandenong in defence, being one of the few defenders that were happy to push up out of the defensive 50 and impact further up the ground, which led to her taking some impressive runs on the wing and delivering inside 50 with her well weighted kicks, even getting herself on the scoreboard as a reward for effort. She used the ball well coming out of defence too, looking to spot up targets rather than bomb down the line, in an attempt to stop Geelong’s constant stream of inside 50s.

OTHERS:

Zoe Garth and Ingrid Houtsma were also good for Geelong Falcons, with Garth getting a goal playing predominantly as a high half-forward and Houtsma playing the wing role well before going off in the fourth quarter, after a rough tackle. Annie Lee looked assured in defence when it came down, often pushing out to impact play on the wing. For Dandenong, bottom-agers Felicity Crank and Olivia Robinson looked solid and worked hard all day, playing a variety of roles but still popping up everywhere. Ashleigh Richards also had some good moments playing mostly forward. 2023-draft eligible tall Bianca Lyne was the standout in the ruck all day, leading the game for hitouts and regularly jumping higher than her opponents.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

Had another strong performance throughout the four quarters by winning her fair share of the ball in-close and extracting it out of the stoppage to try and get it forward. Once again it was her tackling pressure that really shone in the match, and whilst she might have rushed some of her earlier kicks, she put in a good kick to Amy Prokopiec in the second term, and worked hard moments later to slide in and mark the ball 35 metres out straight in front. Whilst the set shot fell short, she continued to push hard throughout the game and had one of the last inside 50s of the game.

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Rotating between forward and the wing – and even dropping back into defence to provide an aerial presence at centre half-back, Friend was one of the more prominent players in the game. A couple of times both she and Paige Scott led to the same spot which saw the ball knocked to ground, but Friend was incredibly lively up the ground, setting up Scott and her teammates inside 50 with scoring chances thanks to her booming left boot. Continually looking to thump it deep, Friend kept winning the ball through the midfield.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Providing good run out of defence and positioning herself well in the back 50 to gobble up any high balls, Dojiok was a difficult player to stop in transition. Her bombing down the field was hit and miss in terms of accuracy, but her ability to just get in the right spots to intercept and then drive it forward as she has all season was uncanny. She ran all game long and became a real problem for the opposition forwards who had to try and stop her in the air to try and contain her, which they focused on doing later in the game.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#1 Brooke Barwick (Tasmania Devils)

The pocket rocket 15-year-old looked experienced beyond her years, having some eye-catching plays throughout the match. In particular, during a couple of back-to-back plays in the third term where she won the ball on the wing and drove it forward on multiple occasions. For a smaller player she has a fierce attack on the contest and is not afraid to get stuck in, making for plenty of upside in her game.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Was particularly busy early, winning plenty of the ball. She provided hard running and fierce defensive pressure, taking a couple of good marks and spreading into space to move the ball in transition. She showed good strength at one stage to fend off an opponent and handball inside 50, as well as taking a good mark late in the game at the top of the forward 50. Had a fair impact on the contest as a whole.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

The classy midfielder used her clean hands through the middle and composure under pressure to be one of the best Tasmanians on the day once again. Her ability to have the footy smarts whilst being tackled on the ground in the goalsquare to firstly keep the ball in, and then give it off to the moving Prokopiec to kick a goal from point blank was terrific. Ransom herself kicked a clever early goal to get the Devils on the board, and then had a flying shot in the fourth term which just bounced into the post. As a whole her attacking plays were impactful from the get-go. She did get caught once holding the ball which is very rare, but otherwise had another impressive performance.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

Covered the ground really well, winning the ball in the midfield, attack and in defence. She showed off her deep long kick going inside 50, and then worked hard on the outside to receive the handball and keep running. In the fourth term, Maurer won a free kick at half-forward but her kick was smothered, though she kept pushing and finished the game with a well-balanced array of touches all over the field, as well as high-level defensive pressure.

#23 Charlotte Dennis (Tasmania Devils)

Played a rock solid role in defence, especially when the Rebels had the ascendancy, standing up under pressure and taking a number of strong marks, then moving the ball out of the danger zone in transition. Perhaps her best moment was a courageous grab with contact coming in the third term, backing herself to win the ball and save a potential goalscoring chance for the opposition.

#24 Amy Prokopiec (Tasmania Devils)

Was a really lively forward and could have had a huge day out, finishing with 2.3 for her troubles from eight touches. Forgetting the stats, her impact on the game was certainly high, working hard to lead to spots and then doubling back to try and worry the opposition on the last line. She kicked a goal from the square thanks to a handball from Ransom, then kicked a second with a set shot 30 metres out straight in front, a quarter later. Taking a couple of strong grabs in the second half, Prokopiec uncharacteristically missed a couple of chances, including one late in the contest, but could be proud with the work rate she produced.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

Good players stand up when the game is on the line, and while Scott booted the four goals to put them in front, Condon’s last term – in particular the last 10 minutes – was absolutely outstanding. She had a flying shot on the goal herself which missed, but her ability to keep running hard throughout the entire match, including when many were tiring was unbelievable. She seemed to find space with ease and brought as much defensive pressure as she did offensive work. Showing clean hands on the inside, Condon had the ball on a string and was really influential throughout the match, but was particularly noticeable when every touch mattered late in the game.

#2 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)

Stepped up with another strong performance after a good one in Round 9. The talented midfielder had a powerful kick early in the game from half-back to the wing and then pushed deeper back to smother a set shot on goal which forced a ball-in. Her intensity at the contest earned her a number of free kicks, and she teamed up well with Condon by extracting the ball from in-close to get it outside. A huge tackle on Ransom when very few can catch her was impressive, and she finished with a solid four-quarter effort with some nice plays in each term.

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

The match-winner and like she did for Vic Country, showed just what she is capable of when on-song. Kicking the team’s four goals, Scott could have had an even bigger day out with three behinds as well. She played a lot deeper than she has in other outings, often utilised as the player to isolate one-on-one deep, and she took advantage of her strength and footy IQ to create separation from her opponent – be it one-on-one, on the lead, or getting to the right place for an uncontested grab. After three goals in the space of five minutes during the second term, she capped off her day with a fourth from 25 metres out in the third term, narrowly missing one after a tough mark shortly after.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Consistent as they come, Leonard was again easily one of the Rebels’ best, laying some fierce tackles and just bullocking her way on the inside to win the ball and get it out to teammates. She provided good run when on the outside and covered the ground well by winning the ball in all thirds of the ground. She stood up in tackles and won free kicks for her attack on the contest, and just did what she had to do in crunch moments to be a leader amongst the group and really impact the contest.

OTHERS:

From Tasmania’s standpoint, Jemma Webster, Priscilla Odwogo, Aprille Crooks and Candice Belbin all had some impressive moments throughout the match, while Charlie Vandenberg worked well around the ground early. For the Rebels, Stella Bridgewater, Jorja Jones and Ally Trigg had some nice moments throughout the game, Kalani Scoullar took control at the ruck stoppages, and Molly Walton was reliable when needed in defence.

2021 NAB League Girls: Elimination Finals wrap – Scott-inspired Rebels secure finals boilover

FINALS time rolled around in the 2021 NAB League Girls competition, with the four elimination bouts bringing a terrific atmosphere and some fantastic football to the fore. The action kicked off with a Metro double-header on Saturday morning, which saw Oakleigh and Eastern set up their preliminary final meeting, before Geelong romped to a big win over the highly-fancied Dandenong Stingrays, and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) inflicted an inspired upset on enemy territory the following day.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.1 | 3.3 | 4.5 | 5.6 (36)
CALDER CANNONS 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.4 | 3.5 (23)

By: Declan Reeve

In a fiery contest to open up the NAB League Girls finals series, the Oakleigh Chargers came away 13-point victors over the Calder Cannons, allowing them to continue on their finals campaign. The highly contested nature of the game led to plenty of stoppages, giving viewers ample opportunity to see Victorian pick one fancies Charlie Rowbottom and Georgie Prespakis line up head-to-head, each winning their fair share of clearances and ball around the ground. 

The Chargers were buoyed by a great all-round team performance; Rowbottom was a big influence through the midfield and up forward, with teammate Amanda Ling also rotating through the two areas of the ground to great effect. Stella Reid and Sarah Morley both kicked two majors when goals were hard to come by. Caitlin Matthews and Erin Woodford worked well in tandem in the defensive 50 for the Chargers, both winning crucial contests in the final term.

For Calder, it was a lot of the usual suspects stepping up; Prespakis, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell were again influential around the ground, working hard to assist their team in defence. Abbey McDonald was played in all thirds of the ground and continued to be a strong contributor wherever she ended up, and winger Mali McLeod had one of her best performances to date. Kasey Lennox was instrumental in defence for Calder, with her efforts keeping the game within arms reach at times. It was to no avail in the end, as the Cannons’ season came to an end.

GOALS:

Oakleigh: S. Reid 2, S. Morley 2, C. Van der Vlies
Calder: E. Nickolaus, G. Prespakis, R. Sutton

DC BEST:

Oakleigh: S. Reid, C. Rowbottom, A. Ling, C. Matthews, E. Woodford, S. Morley
Calder: G. Prespakis, E. Yassir, Z. Friswell, K. Lennox, A. McDonald, M. McLeod

EASTERN RANGES 2.3 | 2.3 | 2.6 | 5.9 (39)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.5 (11)

By: Declan Reeve

The Eastern Ranges booked themselves a match up against the Oakleigh Chargers in the second week of NAB League Girls finals, after pulling away from the Northern Knights in a 28-point win. Despite what the scoreboard may say, the game was a constantly tight, with the feeling that Northern was still very much in the game as both teams had periods where they’d be on top of the arm wrestle.

The Ranges had plenty of contributors in the victory, arguably none more so than Alyssia Pisano who ended the game with three goals. The midfield did well to continue piling on pressure, with Bridget Deed, Jorja Livingstone, Keeley Sherar and Ruby O’Dwyer winning plenty of it and getting involved defensively. They were well served by ruck Georgia Campbell who looked strong around stoppages, while Mia Busch was a strong rebounding option, coming out of defence to impact the ball further up the ground. 

Northern will be happy with the performance of midfielders Ava Jordan and Maeve Chaplin who won plenty of the ball, with Chaplin finding her way into the backline later in the piece. Defender Lulu Beatty looked strong aerially and on the ground, not afraid to push up the ground and back her kicking skills to get Northern in dangerous spots. 

GOALS:

Eastern: A. Pisano 3, R. O’Dwyer, G. Wilson
Northern: E. Smallacombe

DC BEST:

Eastern: A. Pisano, B. Deed, M. Busch, J. Livingstone, R. O’Dwyer, K. Sherar
Northern: L. Beatty, M. Chaplin, A. Jordan, R. Wilcox, P. Nelson, G. Kitchell

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 1.0 | 2.1 | 4.1 | 6.1 (37)
GEELONG FALCONS 3.2 | 5.3 | 6.9 | 10.12 (72)

By: Declan Reeve

A fast-starting Geelong Falcons side caught Dandenong Stingrays off guard from the get go, finishing the game as 35-point victors on Saturday afternoon. The Stingrays were unable to keep Geelong from scoring, stacking on 17 additional scoring shots after the first quarter. The effort sees the Falcons continue their finals campaign against the GWV Rebels next week.

The Stingrays, despite the loss, were well served by a few. Defensive trio Jaide Anthony, Jemma Radford and Zoe Hill battled hard all day, looking to create anything they could out of the defensive 50, with Olivia Robinson, Felicity Crank and Ashleigh Richards playing big parts in the midfield and forwardline, not afraid to push up the ground and help out the defensive half.

The Falcons, unsurprisingly, had plenty of contributors in the impressive victory, with Tess Craven and Poppy Schaap the major ball winners through the middle of the ground and up forward. Gabbi Featherston was also lively in the forward half, rotating through the ruck at times. Ash Van Loon and Charlotte Simpson were consistent workhorses through the midfield, putting in impressive performances that suggest the Falcons are in good hands next year with these two at the forefront. 

GOALS:

Dandenong: A. Richards, T. Gatt, F. Crank, M. Williamson, J. Radford, J. Anthony
Geelong: M. Van Dyke 2, T. Craven 2, G. Featherston 2, P. Schaap, Z. Garth, R. Tierney, C. Adams

DC BEST:

Dandenong: J. Anthony, J. Radford, Z. Hill, F. Crank, A. Richards, O. Robinson
Geelong: T. Craven, P. Schaap, A. Van Loon, G. Featherston, C. Simpson, Z. Garth

TASMANIA DEVILS 1.0 | 3.1 | 4.2 | 4.4 (28)
GWV REBELS 0.0 | 3.2 | 4.3 | 4.5 (29)

By: Peter Williams

The GWV Rebels have triumphed in an epic upset one-point victory over Tasmania Devils, reversing the result of just a week earlier to win from fourth spot in the semi-finals of the Vic Country pool. The Rebels did not make the most of their chances last week, but they certainly started to capitalise down at Windsor Park in Launceston, as Paige Scott ran rampant booting four goals – including three in less than five minutes during the second term – to be the difference between the sides.

Lilli Condon had a massive last term to cap off another sensational day, while Chloe Leonard and Tahlia Meier were ever-present in the midfield, and Nyakoat Dojiok and Ella Friend provided marking targets in the back half of the ground. For Tasmania, the midfield of Claire Ransom, Perri King and Ella Maurer ticked along nicely, while Charlotte Dennis was rock solid on the last line, and Amy Prokopiec kicked 2.3 in what was an impressive, hard-working effort up forward. In the end, the Rebels just held on, 4.5 (29) to 4.4 (28) to advance through to face the Geelong Falcons in the Country final next week.

GOALS:

Tasmania: A. Prokopiec 2, C. Ransom, M, Edwards
GWV: P. Scott 4

DC BEST:

Tasmania: C. Ransom, P. King, E. Maurer, A. Prokopiec, C. Dennis
GWV: P. Scott, L. Condon, C. Leonard, T. Meier, N. Dojiok

PRELIMINARY FINALS FIXTURES

Metro Pool:

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

Country Pool:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOUTH AUSTRALIA vs. VIC COUNTRY

SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

By: Michael Alvaro

#1 Laitiah Huynh

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

#3 Kate Case

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

#5 Lauren Breguet

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

#7 Brooke Tonon

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

#8 Charlotte Dolan

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

#9 Tahlita Buethke

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

#10 Zoe Prowse

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

#11 Zoe Venning

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

#16 Georgia Swan

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

#24 Keeley Kustermann

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

#28 Jade Halfpenny

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

#30 Lauren Young

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

 

VIC COUNTRY:

By: Peter Williams

#2 Aurora Smith

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

#5 Elizabeth Snell

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

#9 Paige Scott

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

#12 Gabbi Featherston

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

#13 Emily Shepherd

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

#14 Jaide Anthony

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

#17 Annie Lee

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

#19 Nyakoat Dojiok

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

#23 Elizabeth Dowling

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

#26 Grace McRae

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

#28 Tara Slender

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

 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA vs. ALLIES

WESTERN AUSTRALIA:

By: Declan Reeve

#1 Sarah Lakay

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

#2 Amy Franklin

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

#4 Lauren Wakfer

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

#5 Beth Schilling

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

#7 Ella Roberts

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

#11 Aisha Wright

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

#15 Bella Mann

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

#20 Emily Bennett

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

#24 Jaide Britton

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

#28 Courtney Rowley

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

#27 Makaela Tuhakaraina

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

 

ALLIES:

By: Peter Williams

#4 Cynthia Hamilton

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

#6 Meghan Gaffney

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

#7 Jess Doyle

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

#9 Claire Ransom

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

#11 Perri King

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

#16 Ella Maurer

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

#19 Maddy Hendrie

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

#25 Isadora McLeay

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

#30 Ally Morphett

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

Top Performers: AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships – Vic Metro vs. Vic Country

THE 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 National Championships rolled on into its second fixture on Friday afternoon, as Vic Country and Vic Metro locked horns in perfect conditions at Trevor Barker Oval. It was the Country side, coached by Mel Hickey which got up against its fierce rival in what was a high quality game of football played with plenty of spirit. We take you through some of the top performers from the day, highlighted on the basis of opinion by our individual scouts.

>> Scouting Notes: Vic Country vs. Vic Metro Under 17s

VIC METRO:

By: Michael Alvaro

#4 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Yassir is one of the most crafty ground level midfielders in Victoria and proved as much with another solid performance in representative colours. The Calder Cannons product spent a lot of time competing at half-forward, but made the most of her midfield minutes and was able to combine with some familiar faces in the engine room. Yassir was often the anchor at centre bounce situations and did well to chain handballs as Metro looked to stream forward, with her speed a key feature in those situations. Her tackling pressure was also noticeable, and matched the intensity of the game.

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

The top-ager got back to her roots in a way as she was stationed almost permanently down back for Metro, and she was one who stood up well against the efficient Country attack. Her strong physical presence and ability to read the game proved key traits as Chaplin cut off a number of Country forays – whether it was cutting across to intercept mark or rebounding with authority and efficiency. Amid a high stakes pressure cooker, Chaplin was one of the more composed players in important areas and played her role to a t, even doing well to quell the influence of Poppy Schaap after her hot start to proceedings.

#11 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

Deed was one of the solid contributors for Metro who played a touch out of position compared to her usual posting in the NAB League. The Eastern Ranges midfielder was predominantly employed at half-forward and was able to use her ball winning ability to impact contests whenever her name was called. She did a lot of the hard stuff well, as we have come to expect, with some important tackles going unrewarded and nice bursts through traffic to break the game open for Metro within their attacking half.

#12 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Donning the long-sleeve ‘Big V’ jumper, there was a sense of familiarity in Prespakis’ game as she again proved to be the best player afield, as she has been throughout nearly every game in her fledgling career. Her cleanliness around the stoppages was on full show, with clean gathers and handballs out under pressure helping her look that class above the rest. Prespakis’ strength on the ball was also noticeable during her permanent midfield role, as was her terrific overhead marking ability around the ground. The Calder product worked hard both ways and impacted in all parts of the ground with her well-rounded style, bringing her teammates into the game with handball chains and instinctive work on the inside. We are running out of superlatives at this point, she is simply a marvel to watch and is likely the top draft prospect in the country right now.

#15 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Reid played a little bit of everywhere in this game, rotating forward form her usual wing post and finding plenty of the ball. She is almost unassuming in the way she racks up possessions, and carried that trend from her NAB League form this year to again be one of the top ball winners in her latest outing. Having spent a good amount of time up forward of late, Reid used her knack of finding space in attacking areas to good effect, booting two goals with clean touches within Metro’s 50-metre arc. Her run-and-carry game was not as noticeable this time around, but Reid always gains good meterage and that was no different here.

#16 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Another who has been in stellar form for Oakleigh this season, Vickers picked up a familiar role across half-back for Metro and showed her class in moments scattered throughout the game. Her ability to read the play from behind the ball is outstanding, and Vickers often thinks ball-first when looking to intercept, with that attacking kind of mindset paying off as she cut off some threatening Country passages. While she was a little smothered in her usual work going forward, Vickers showed some solid defensive capabilities with spoils, tackles, and some handy mop-up work at ground level.

#18 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

A leader at Oakleigh and a leader in this star-studded representative side, Rowbottom battled well to make an impression on the contest. She was initially stationed deep forward and rotated back there throughout, but arguably looked most damaging in the engine room. At her first centre bounce attendance, Rowbottom was able to bustle free and boot a clearance forward, highlighting her key strength as a midfielder. She has rare power amid heavy congestion which often sees her break out of situations in Houdini-esque fashion, which is more often than not followed by a penetrating kick forward. She skewed a few kicks on the run and under pressure, with lowering her eyes and executing those skills more efficiently a potential next step for her midfield development.

#26 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

Crowley has raised eyebrows in recent weeks as a promising forward target, having mostly plied her trade as a defender for the Calder Cannons. She was again employed at centre half-forward and drifted in gracefully to take some nice aerial marks, credit to her outstanding judgement of the ball in flight. Crowley looked most ominous in the second term, though had her couple of set shot attempts fall short and slide across the face of goal respectively. Overall, it was a solid outing and one which built on the promise she had already shown in advanced positions. Another big tick for her versatility.

#27 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

The sole bottom-ager afield for Metro, Ham was thrown right into the deep end with a good number of centre bounce attendances. She has the ideal size to compete against more mature bodies and proved that with some tough work on the inside, though her explosive qualities were more difficult to exploit in the high-pressure contest. She also moved forward at times and was an entertaining asset for Metro, with her ability to snatch considerable distance in quick time proving advantageous for her side’s forwards. With such a penetrating kick and all the tools to be a very high selection, Ham continues to prove her worth heading into next year’s draft.

#28 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

Campbell shared the ruck duties with AFLW Academy tall, Tahlia Gillard, but was most impactful during her time as a key forward. Her mobility and attack on the ball stood out as really high-end traits which will continue to raise her draft stocks in 2021, especially if she can also continue to hit the scoreboard. Whether it was competing in the air or crashing ground balls, Campbell was a much-needed physical presence up forward for Metro, and looked natural on a line which saw plenty of players contribute slightly unfamiliar roles. She capped off her game with a richly deserved goal.

 

VIC COUNTRY:

By: Declan Reeve

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Stationed inside the Country attacking half for the game, Schaap took the opportunity with both hands to produce some really good passages of play, and highlight reel worthy goals. Her first goal in particular, a snap from the boundary under pressure, was super impressive, showing composure and poise going forward. She was clean throughout the game at ground level, never fumbling and then using her agility to work through opponents to get a handball to the outside, or snap it over her shoulder forward. She was a consistent link up player, that could reliably keep Country in possession.

#9 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

The bottom-aged forward stepped up in a big way after a quieter first quarter, with Country teammate Tara Slender earning herself more attention after the first quarter, Scott took it upon herself to become the new target up forward, leading hard for marks and being relentless in her pursuit of the footy, running through opponents and even teammates at times to win a contested ball, or tackling opponents hard, her presence was very much felt and noticed by all. Using her strength well, she had no issues pushing opponents off when she wanted to go for a run either.

#10 Abbey Jordan (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got involved in quite a bit astound the ground, with her pressure work in contested situations a real highlight of her game, regularly being ready to pounce on any Metro player coming out of a contest with the ball. When she won the ball, she used it well, often looking to move it quickly to give the Country forwards the best chance to mark and get shots on goal, but she was versatile with that, also able to match the slower tempo Country were looking to deploy at times. 

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Was really consistent across four quarters, being a strong competitor in the midfield early on, and gradually standing out more and more as others around the ground got tired, she just kept working to get to the right spots and win the ball. Her ability to control the play even without the ball was great later on, where her leading would often change the tempo and style of how Country were using the ball. Showed some good Footy IQ int he second half where she would be able to get around opponents to deliver a kick on the inside, opening up the options down field for Country.

#12 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Despite measuring in at just under 170cm, the athleticism of Featherston saw her become the Country relieving ruck, where her superb leap, and aggression towards the ball and the opposing ruck, saw her win or neutralise quite a few ruck contests, that would lead to her following up at ground level. She was stationed mostly up forward when not rucking, and allowed her work rate and leap to shine, taking on every contests she was near and getting up when she could.

#14 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

Donning the helmet in the country defence, her ability to impact every contest in the defensive 50, battling to get the ball to ground and then using her game sense to run past or around opponents, and deliver the ball to contests down the line, was outstanding across the four quarters. Her understanding of her teammates was impressive, dropping back at times to allow other teammates to push up the ground, and directing teammates around when she was behind and could see the play unfolding in front of her. Not only nullifying contests or being a vocal teammate though, she started taking some really good marks out the front of packs or in front of a single opponent, particularly in the second half, completely cutting off some promising Metro attacks, and sending the ball out with great efficiency to get Country moving on the counter.

#17 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Part of Country’s superb defense, Lee did all the things well that she’s been doing for the Falcons, with her positioning down the line, and aerial strength, keeping the Metro midfielders busy by sending the ball back out when they rushed a kick forward. She was particularly dangerous in the first half with her run from behind style getting rewarded with some handball receives, which allowed her to kick long forward and help get Country on the board early.

#19 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Played a really solid role down back as expected, and whilst not racking up huge numbers in terms of disposals, her hard work and 1 percenters in the defensive 50 helped others win the ball and get it out, with her high leap meaning she was able to compete with the taller Metro forwards and rucks in marking contests

#25 Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)

Had one of the hardest jobs for Country of the day, playing on whichever of the Metro rucks was resting in the forward line, both being athletic and strong in marking contests. The bottom-ager proved to be up for the challenge, not conceding a mark all day in an impressive defensive display. She was put under pressure a coupled of times in a row in the last quarter, but was able to beat her opponents every time.

#26 Grace McRae (Gippsland Power)

One of Country’s top ball winners around the ground for the day, McRae made the inside her own at stages of the game, forming a good connection with Gippsland teammate Grace Matser to get onto the end of some very well placed taps, using her strength to take contact and then get the ball out via kick or handball. Got involved in some ‘slow’ play passages as well where she’d make a short lead, mark, and then pass the ball to a teammate in a more dangerous position. Was defensively accountable around stoppages as well, rarely letting her opponent get away with a clearance

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Started the game really well, with her workrate to get up and down the ground, despite being stationed a CHF, being a real highlight of the Country Captains game. She was regularly involved in contests on the wing or even on the defensive 50 mark where she’d just get the hard stuff done. As usual her marking was a highlight, taking them easily in the first half, and then receiving a few free kicks in the second half from opponents coming in too late from behind, one of which resulted in a goal for Slender, to top off a really quality game.

#29 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)

Coming up against two rucks with different strengths and play styles, Matser adjusted to her direct opponent well, using her physicality and leap against the taller Tahlia Gillard in contests, to great effect as the game went on, and her height advantage over Georgia Campbell to win a few there. 

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

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

LINEUPS:

VIC METRO:

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

VIC COUNTRY:

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

QUICK SUMMARY:

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

 

FIVE KEY QUESTIONS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where are the key strengths in each side?

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

How can each team exploit the other?

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

 

FIVE KEY MATCHUPS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

OVERALL:

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

2021 AFLW U19 Championships state preview: Vic Country

WE move into the third of our AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships squad previews, taking a look at Vic Country ahead of its first match against Vic Metro tomorrow at Trevor Barker Oval. The 24-player squad for that match has been named with a number of bottom-agers alongside some draft-eligible and 19-year-old talents.

2021 VIC COUNTRY SQUAD FOR VIC METRO CLASH:

#1 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)
#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)
#5 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)
#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)
#8 Jemma Finning (Bendigo Pioneers)
#9 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)
#10 Abbey Jordan (Dandenong Stingrays)
#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
#12 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)
#13 Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)
#14 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)
#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)
#17 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)
#19 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)
#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)
#21 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)
#22 Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)
#23 Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons)
#24 Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons)
#25 Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)
#26 Grace McRae (Gippsland Power)
#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)
#29 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)

QUICK SUMMARY:

Vic Country has a balance of 19, 18 and 17-year-olds across the squad, with seven in their 19th year, four in their 17th year and the 13 draft-eligible players this year. A number of these players have pulled on the ‘Big V’ at Under 16s level, with Renee Tierney and Elizabeth Snell named in the initial Under 18s squad back in 2019, but due to the top-age preference, did not end up making the final squad. Both will be out to have an increased role alongside the likes of Abbey Jordan, Grace McRae and Jemma Finning who all received Draft Combine invites last year. Among the bottom-agers to watch, Dandenong duo Mackenzie Eardley and Amber Clarke have already caught the eye, with Emily Shepherd a game in back from injury, and Paige Scott the one non-Dandenong bottom-ager having provided plenty of firepower inside 50. After Vic Metro, Country will host South Australia and Queensland more than a month apart with the schedule rejigged due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Brisbane.

FIXTURES:

R1 vs. Vic Metro (April 2 @ Trevor Barker Oval)
R2 vs. South Australia (April 12 @ TBC)
R3 vs. Queensland (May 23 @ TBC)

FIVE TO WATCH: (2003-BORN)

Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Vic Country’s standout prospect this year, Slender is the most versatile player in the state, and possibly across the country. Having already ticked off her work as a key defender in past years, Slender has been deployed as a key forward, and even through the midfield this year to play any role required and do it well. A whopping 28 touches against Calder Cannons through the middle showed she can adapt in any situation, and is as balanced as they come with an ability to win the ball in the air or at ground level. Slender can use it will by hand or foot, and has been named as a key forward for the game against Metro with Ella Friend pushed up to a wing, though both will likely rotate and be those marking targets.

Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Boasting some of the strongest hands going around, the contested marking key forward has been utilised on the wing of late, and that is where she has been named for the big clash against Metro. Despite being that key position size, Friend has good athleticism which makes her just as damaging at ground level, and can crumb her own work down there. She is creative and can set up plays in the forward half, and has a long raking kick that can travel long distances either on the run or via the set shot. She is someone who can slot in anywhere around the ground, though expect her to rotate between midfield and forward where she can have the greatest impact with her strength and marking.

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

The third AFL Women’s Academy member in the Country side, Dojiok has lightning acceleration, mixed with power that makes her difficult to contain. Once she takes off, the Rebels defender builds her speed with such force, she can run through players, as well as around them. She was a raw talent coming into the system as a 15-year-old a few years back, but has rapidly developed her game, and now finds plenty of the football and can even push up to a wing, charging away and providing great drive in transition. Expect Dojiok to take plenty of grass throughout the championships, breaking down opposition defensive zones.

Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

One of the most consistent players this season, Craven is arguably the in-form midfielder of the Country team. She might even be one of the youngest alongside 19th year prospects, Jordan and Snell onball. She has clean hands and just creates scoring opportunities for her side, cracking in and able to extract the ball from the contest and get it inside 50. Her work rate is a feature of her game, and she often has the ball in a string. As someone who seems to step up for the occasion each week, it is hard to see her not finding plenty of the pill, but will have a tough assignment up against a star-studded Vic Metro midfield.

Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

A former Academy member with plenty of talent, Anthony is another versatile player capable of playing at either end. She has settled into defence as her best spot, and returned after missing a couple of games due to concussion. She is consistent across the board, able to use her footskills well, take intercept grabs and create opportunities in transition, moving the ball well from deep in defence going forward. She adds that composure and leadership in the back 50, and alongside a host of other quality defenders, the Vic Country defence is unbelievable and good luck to any team trying to score against it.

OTHERS:

The Vic Country defence is nothing short of elite, and the strongest third on the ground of the side. With Anthony and Dojiok back there, Geelong Falcons duo Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling will provide the intercept and run with Dojiok, while bottom-ager Eardley and Rebels ball-winner Chloe Leonard will make it a well balanced side. Up front, the mix of power (Gabbi Featherston), speed (Amber Clarke) and tackling pressure (Poppy Schaap) is equally as impressive, whilst Grace Matser will look to take control in the ruck. The hardness of McRae and Snell will match well with the outside run of Aurora Smith.

SQUAD STRENGTHS:

  • Elite defence
  • Balance, picking a team for a plan
  • Versatility
  • Inside ball-winning hardness

The elite defence has already been mentioned, but the overall team as a whole is really well balanced. There are not too many of the one type of player which helps, and the front six is a group that could work well as a unit without impacting the way others play. The six forwards are all so different in their footballing abilities, whilst the defence have that accountability. Versatility is the key, and that is what the side certainly offers, with so many players able to play across multiple lines.

Whilst Metro might have the class onball, Country will have no fears about cracking in, and they have the talent across the board that can win it and make life difficult for the opposition. Tahlia Meier, Ingrid Houtsma and Ashleigh Richards are other forward options who can roll through there and create scoreboard pressure, or in the case of the latter two, push up and impact the midfield.

LAST WORD:

Vic Country could be the team to beat this year, just on balance alone. Vic Metro has some unbelievable prospects, but Country’s depth across the board and the strength from defence to attack is terrific. They will be a difficult team to score against, and all three opponents will find the going tough, with the successful South Australians going to have a cracker with Country in Round 2 of the championships.

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 8

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition had its penultimate round prior to the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships break with Round 8 run and done. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

EASTERN RANGES vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

Had a really good day on the inside where Sandringham just didn’t have any answers for what she was bringing to the table. I really like how she slows down the game when she gets a mark or free kick, really commanding her teammates to stop and think about the best lead or position to help the team. 

#16 Isabelle Khoury (Eastern Ranges)

Won a lot of it in and around the midfield, contributing a lot in open play and getting Eastern moving with some smart disposal. She really looks to open up the game by using the width of the field, rarely just kicking down the line even under pressure, much preferring those inside kicks. Was pretty evasive as well around the ball, rarely getting caught trying to do too much.

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Just continues to do everything right as a forward, getting herself three goals for the day, with two being perfect examples of how a smaller forward should be playing, hitting the front and centre of a contest but also being prepared to get around the back in case it goes over the top. She looks set to play more midfield in the coming years, pushing up onto the wing at times during the game where she didn’t look out of place, and her penetrating kick can do some real damage to opposition.

#40 Georgia Wilson (Eastern Ranges)

Playing as the main target for Eastern going forward, Wilson put in an all round dominant display, dominating in the air, or following up on aerial contests at ground level where she’d body opponents with ease. Something that really impressed was her leading patterns, she just knew where to run and even how to run for each teammate delivering to her, and this was evident throughout, leading to her getting four goals for the game.

#21 Ruby O’Dwyer (Eastern Ranges)

Plays really smart as a rover, knowing when to play as an inside ball getter or outside receiver, her versatility to switch between both leads to a really good Eastern midfield dynamic. A real highlight was one particular centre bounce, where she started on the outside, went to go in but saw her teammate going in as well, so she readjusted, got the handball from her teammate and delivered inside 50 with a snap. While not overly fast, her game sense allows her to get away from opponents easily as well.

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

Almost an impossible match-up all day for the Sandringham midfielders, because when she gets two to three steps in front it’s already over, with her acceleration being really hard to match. Whilst stoppage work is her strength, she still contributes really well around the ground, not afraid to take on opponents when she’s got the ball in hand, drawing them in and then handballing out. Had an opportunity to kick a goal, running into an open goal square but missed the ball with her foot before being tackled.

#5 Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges)

Made the wing her own with pure gut running and understanding of how to hold space really well. Her classy left foot set up plenty of goal scoring opportunities, even getting herself on the scoreboard when she was tight against the left boundary.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Continues to be a shining light for Sandringham, impacting and winning the ball wherever she’s lining up on field, and working hard to help out in the backline even if she’s a midfielder. She looks more and more confident each week with her ball winning on the inside or with contested situations, even going head to head against the likes of Deed and Sherar at times and coming off on top. 

#37 Ebony Angelopoulos (Sandringham Dragons)

Was the main target in the Sandringham forward line, a difficult task for a smaller player, but she stepped up in a big way. Despite not getting on the scoreboard a whole heap she was a genuine marking threat for the Dragons but kept doing the things that have impressed for the season, with her crumbing and pressure work top notch throughout.

#22 Emma Stuber (Sandringham Dragons)

Playing a mixed role between defence and midfield for the day, Stuber impressed with her hunt for the ball evident, running hard at it and not wavering from attempting to win it even when outnumbered or not in the best position to win it. Her run and carry game was a big part in Sandringham’s drive going forward, where she’d run the ball 15 meters and bomb it long forward for the Sandringham forwards to run onto. If she can add some more penetration on her kick, she will be a very handy player.

 OTHERS: 

With Georgia Campbell out injured we saw Eastern rotate through a couple of rucks, with debutant and 2005-born Jess Vukic coming in and impressing when she rolled through the ruck, even getting onto the scoreboard. Eloise Chaston was lively up forward, with her leading and positioning going a long way to help her teammates get shots on goal. Sandringham were well aided by the likes of Bridie Hipwell and Keeley Coyne as outside receivers, whose class remained even in the wet conditions. Captain Kiana Lynch was once again impactful across multiple positions, and Pia Staltari was strong with her ball use throughout. 

Calder Cannons vs. Western Jets

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Arguably the leading tall on the ground, Gillard enjoyed a terrific tussle with Krystal Russell while operating through the ruck, and also impacted around the ground. She had the height advantage but showed good athleticism and strength to win a number of hitouts, which helped Calder’s star-studded engine room get to work. She positioned well behind the ball to impact kicks coming out of the Cannons’ attacking arc and even found a bit of ball in the back 50 to relieve pressure. Set for a big national carnival with Vic Metro.

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

The standout player afield for the winners, Prespakis continues to churn out high-level performances at a remarkably consistent rate. She finished as the game’s leading ball winner and constantly pumped Calder forward with her long kicking, which has come to the fore a touch more recently having already established a strong craft by hand. The number one pick candidate also booted a classy goal in the first term to spark her side and will shortly lead a very strong Vic Metro midfield.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Baskaran is already an established name in the competition, but has really elevated her game to new heights over the last few weeks with more time on the inside. Her class on the ball is exceptional and she wins plenty of it, with her ability to extract contested ball defiant of her frame and age. She is exactly the kind of player you want delivering the ball inside 50 and with seven of those from her 20 kicks on the weekend, she was an influential player for the Jets.

#8 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

A really important part of the Cannons midfield, Friswell has less frills than some of her teammates but can be equally impactful in the engine room. She ticked over 20 disposals for the first time this season and was a reliable ball winner on the inside, while also working well defensively to lay some good tackles. Friswell kicked a goal in the first quarter to add a string to her bow and broke forward well on a couple of occasions to carry Calder inside 50. A really solid outing once again.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

The sole 2004-born player to be selected in Vic Metro’s squad on Friday, it is easy to see why Ham will get that opportunity. She is ready as anyone to compete against bigger bodies and again showcased her physicality in midfield with strong work over the ball and some bustling play to break forward. Her penetrating kick was also useful as Western looked to make a dent in Calder’s defence, and she was able to enter the forward arc on five occasions. An area of improvement will be refining those kicks and mixing them up to find shorter targets out of congestion when appropriate, but she has strong potential to do plenty of damage and hit the scoreboard.

#39 Abbey McDonald (Calder Cannons)

One who popped up and had some really impressive moments, McDonald was more than handy for Calder moving forward. She was another to notch a season-high disposal tally (12), but more importantly applied smothering pressure and laid some big tackles to really make her mark on the game. It has been a real feature of her season at times, and should put her in good stead going into her top-age campaign next year.

#42 Jemima Woods (Western Jets)

Woods has arguably elevated herself to be the top 2003-born Western prospect, and showed exactly why on the weekend with one of her best games to date. Woods is a really dynamic and versatile tall with great athleticism, allowing her to play key position roles, win hitouts or take marks, and even rotate through midfield. While she did the former three once again, Woods’ work as a midfielder was ultra impressive, with her clean hands and strong body at the contest making for a promising showing overall. It caps off a handy run of form for the 17-year-old.

OTHERS:

Calder had plenty of strong contributors as always, with Mali McLeod and Emelia Yassir again lively on the outside and inside of midfield respectively. Ruby Smith and Kiara Delia were others to pop up and play impressive roles. For Western, Stephanie Asciak worked hard in midfield and Krystal Russell competed well as the primary ruck against tough opposition. Paige Ryan was again solid and Ciara Singleton also played a strong hand down back.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By Hamish Spence

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

King set the standard against the Knights, leading her side in disposals (22) and tackles (11). She attended most stoppages and was an offensive threat with the way she pushed forward. She could have used the ball better at times, as indicated by her three behinds, but she was still among Tasmania’s best on the day and has proven to be a classy operator throughout the season.

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Impressed with every touch of the ball she had, working hard on the wing to cover the whole ground and get involved in plays. She was particularly strong in the first half, her drive and the opportunities she created for her team were symbolic of the difference between the two sides at the point in the game. She supported her defenders down back and kicked her side’s first with a classy running goal in the second quarter.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Amy Bissett (Tasmania Devils)

Proved to be the match-winner on Saturday, with two of her three goals coming in the Devils’ final quarter comeback. She stood up when her side needed a hero and brought the X-factor required to overcome the 11-point three-quarter time deficit. She also influenced the game with her 15 disposals at the top of forward 50 and further up the ground. While Bissett has shown an ability to kick goals and gather the ball at centre-half forward, this was the match where she brought both those aspects of her game together.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

Played at the standard we’ve come to expect from her this year, putting in another impressive performance with her 21 disposals and eight tackles. She’s the Devils’ conduit around stoppages, continually finding a way to win the ball at the coalface. While she does not always get the best penetration with some of her disposals, the way she stood up during the second quarter and in parts of the third made her one of Tasmania’s most important players.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

A pure hard-nosed and contested midfielder, the high pressure and congested nature of Saturday’s contest suited Webster perfectly. She made her presence felt around the frequent stoppages throughout the match with her 18 disposals and 10 tackles. Her current form and continued improvement has given Tasmania one of the deepest engine rooms in the competition.

#49 Charlotte Vandenberg (Tasmania Devils)

She was the most dominant ruck on the ground, winning a game-high 26 hitouts and making an impact at ground level. She asserted herself on the contest early with some great taps in the first quarter and gave her midfielders first service. There was an adverse difference for the Devils when she was not on the ground or could not attend a ruck contest, with their fortunes noticeably changing whenever she was at a stoppage.

#28 Candice Belbin (Tasmania Devils)

When Priscilla Odwogo was announced as a late out, it meant Tasmania’s backline needed to step up in her absence. Belbin certainly did, producing one of her best performances of the season. She mixed a strong defensive game with some attacking drives off half-back, finishing with 12 disposals and eight tackles. She particularly stood up when the Devils’ back six were put under pressure for parts of the second and third terms.

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Was the best midfielder at Prospect Park, putting together a prolific game with her 26 disposals, seven tackles and six inside 50s. When Northern got on top and started cutting through Tasmania in the second quarter, Chaplin was at the centre of it and leading the way. Her influence and control over the game at times was clear to see, with the Knights’ best plays often correlating with her involvement.

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

Jordan was another midfielder who flourished on Saturday, gathering plenty of possessions and relishing in the tight nature of the game. Her main role was to win the ball around stoppages and distribute it to one of her teammates, as indicated by the fact that 22 of her 25 disposals were handballs. She thrived when the game slowed down and was highly pressured in patches, allowing her to compete strongly at the contest.

#7 Teleah Smart (Northern Knights)

While Chaplin and Jordan were the accumulators, Smart provided a spark that threatened to take the game away from the Devils. Her 14 disposals and eight tackles show the effect she had in the midfield, but it was her surging runs forward off stoppages that took her performance to another level. She arguably produced the highlight of the match when she kicked two goals in a minute during the second quarter, despite starting in the middle both times.

#15 Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)

Delgado was an influential and calming force for the Knights down back. She finished with an impressive 17 disposals and took advantage of some of the Devils’ shallow inside 50 entries with a game-high eight rebounds 50s. She also stood up when the backline was under pressure, particularly for parts of the third quarter and in the last, keeping her opponent accountable and setting her team up on the rebound.

#40 Tannah Hurst (Northern Knights)

Continued to do what she’s done all season, being a reliable and consistent stopper for Northern down back. She was one of the main reasons Tasmania was restricted to a goal a term across the first three quarters. While the Devils eventually broke through, Hurst can hold her head high after another strong performance. She didn’t make as much of an impact coming out of defence as she has in other games, but the ball rarely got past her when it entered defensive 50.

OTHERS:

Jemma Blair complemented Belbin with an equally impressive performance off half-back for the Devils. Madison Brazendale stood out with some of her bursts of speed going through the middle off the ground. Georgia Clark looked dangerous at half-forward with the first goal of the game and the opportunities she created inside 50. Despite Vandenberg taking the ruck honours, Georgia Kitchell had an impressive performance in her own right, winning 13 hitouts and helping Northern’s midfield get on top for parts of the game. While they didn’t impact on the scoreboard, Rylie Wilcox (12 disposals) and Tallia Pulcino (11 disposals and a game-high 13 tackles) made sure their presence was felt up forward and further up the ground.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Still racked up the most ball for the Chargers despite playing a lot of time up forward. Did a lot of her usual work, charging through packs and coming out the other end with the footy, leaving opponents in her dust. Was a really strong pressure type player, with her tackling being superb throughout the day which highlighted her defensive work rate. Had a couple of opportunities to get herself on the scoreboard but chose to pass off to teammates, even if they weren’t in a favourable position comparatively.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Was not as obviously involved as she has been so often this season, but was just smart with her positioning and ball use, getting some uncontested marks down the line and sending the ball long with her penetrating kick, or getting on the scoreboard herself. 

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Won a lot of the ball on the inside, utilising her speed to break free from opponents and deliver good penetrating kicks forward or handballing to outside runners. She’s smart with her running patterns, never getting in the way of other teammates, especially around stoppages, where she’ll hold out to let someone like Rowbottom win the clearance, or go in when she’s the main inside player.

#7  Charlotte Taylor (Oakleigh Chargers)

Really great game as mostly a wing player, but also getting her runs through the guts and even relieving the ruck around the ground at times, she did a bit of everything in an all round top notch performance. I really liked her kicking, with her strength being in her placement, putting it in front of teammates to run onto rather than trying to put a hole in their chest with a hard kick.

#16 Erin Woodford (Oakleigh Chargers)

Stood up in the Chargers defence when it was needed as the second quarter went on especially. Did well to keep her opponents quiet for most of the day, and positioned herself in the middle of prime marking spots to make it a contest and difficult for the Falcons to get marks inside 50.

#23 Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons)

Reads the game really well as a defender which allows her to be a threat in the air and on the ground constantly. Strong when running and carrying, getting around opponents without much trouble which makes her rebound game especially dangerous. 

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Was really impressed with her ability to control the game and flow of the ball even without it, making shorter leads for teammates that no one else was making, they were safer leads but would end up being more damaging as Craven opened up space and kicked it centrally. Her kicking is always good, as mentioned she often looks to move it centrally but even the down the line kicks are calculated and more often than not pay off.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Super strong aerially setting herself up down the line from the play and cutting off a lot of Chargers rushed kicks forward, with no one able to match her leap and strong hands. Her follow up kicking was dangerous too, even if she was often forced to go down the line.

#15 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Has a good leap which makes her dangerous in marking contests and a reliable target up forward for Geelong, also leading to her playing as a relieving ruck, winning a few hitouts in that time as well. She is also very aggressive on the ball carrier leading to opponents to hesitate against her when they have seen others come off second best.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Pretty close to perfect game for an inside midfielder, with her athleticism and ball reading making up for her lack of height against some of the taller mids in the Chargers midfield group. She ended up forming a good one-two punch with teammates Tess Craven and Charlotte Simpson around stoppages, handballing to their advantage so they could get a bit of momentum going forward.

#39 Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)

Had a consistent game, creating a contest when the ball game forward and fighting to get scoring opportunities. Stepped up early in the fourth quarter with two really crucial contested marks that led to the goal of the quarter, with the other kick being a deep inside 50 entry that Oakleigh struggled for a few minutes to get out.

OTHERS:

Kara Stacey and Charlotte Simpson both won a bit of ball for the Falcons around the ground, with fellow bottom-ager Mia Van Dyke getting herself two goals in her return from injury. Zoe Garth was lively on the wing, doing well as a link up option. The Chargers remained competitive thanks to the efforts of Brooke Vickers, Lily Hart and Eliza James through the midfield, with Mia Clift and Alexandra McCulloch strong in defence.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

The Academy tall had a day out in the ruck given Dandenong’s lack of talls, as she dominated every ruck contest she was involved in, showing really good ruck craft throughout. It was not just the height advantage that led to this big performance though, she often got front position and would shepherd her opponent away from the ball to give her an open area to work with. Around the ground she was handy as well, being a down the line target for Murray to kick to where it’d take two to three Stingrays to stop her taking the mark. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

#38 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

She had been in some really good form heading into the game, and in the absence of some Vic Country teammates took the chance with both hands to announce herself as one to watch. Cracked in and was Dandenong’s main inside midfielder, consistently getting the ball out to outside teammates to help Dandenong keep the ball heading forward. Had an impressive workrate around the ground, often getting into the backline to help out, especially when Murray had quite a big surge in the last quarter.

#31 Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)

Has been thrown around all over the ground this season but played mostly in defence for this contest and was just superb throughout the game, constantly coming up the field to meet the ball, winning it majority of the time and keeping the pressure on going forward for Dandenong. Was really smart with her ball use as well, in a game where there wasn’t much time to compose for a kick she managed it well to hit up some shorter targets, breaking the flow of the long bombs most others were doing, so her kicks were more often marked by teammates to keep possession.

#27 Charley Ryan (Dandenong Stingrays)

Super composed with ball in hand, especially when the game had a bit of sting in it during the first quarter, she was probably the only player able to compose herself and deliver some dangerous kicks to break the game open. Moving to a rover spot rather than her usual wing, she did not look out of her depth in a more contested spot, still doing the things like holding her space and working around opponents really well, and impacting heavily with her ball use. One area she might want to improve in future is her kicking on goal, finishing the day with 1.3.

#63 Georgia Malkoun (Dandenong Stingrays)

In the absence of consistent goal kickers like Amber Clarke, Ashleigh Richards and Mackenzie Eardley, Malkoun took the opportunity to announce herself as a genuine forward target, with three straight goals for the day and creating plenty more goal scoring opportunities for her team. Her leading patterns were especially impressive and led to her impressive display, able to lose her opponent well, and she would’ve had more marks if it weren’t for the crowding from Murray defenders. A particular highlight came just before the half time siren, when she took a courageous contested mark on the 50 meter arc, proving her aerial threat and capabilities. 

#11 Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)

Might have only played about 50 per cent of the game, but had immediate impact when she came on in the second term, holding space well and receiving the ball from the likes of Crank on the inside. It is amazing how even when she does a long bomb forward out of the pack you feel like she knows exactly what’s going to happen, with a few of those bombs leading to inside 50 marks for the Stingrays.

#26 Charlotte Blair (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got involved in a lot of the play throughout the ground, applying pressure around the forward half to keep the ball in dangerous spots for Dandenong. Seemed to use her hands quite often, looking to pass off to team mates already on the move or in better positions. When she did elect to kick, it was usually a well placed one out in front of teammates so they could run into it.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

The bottom-age star was a consistent threat around the midfield for the day, often getting away from her direct opponent to make a run to win a clearance or receive a handball out the back. Looks to get the ball moving with her long kick which gave the Stingrays defence a few scares, with the high balls leading to contests that Skepper would try and run to, to hit the front and centre, so that workrate was evident throughout. 

#16 Mikayla Jones (Murray Bushrangers)

Played a really good sweeper role for Murray, setting up outside of the forward 50 and doing well to cut off rebounds from Dandenong, then fire it back in to keep the pressure on, with the entries being penetrating kicks to advantage of her teammates. Tapered off a bit towards the end of the game, but remained a pressure presence.

OTHERS:

Defender Zoe Hill was especially present in the first half for Dandenong, playing a big role in keeping Murray goalless for the majority of the game, with Hayley Monk playing a good game as a half forward and Bella Enno continuing her strong tackling and inside work. Murray were aided by the likes of Zara Hamilton and Madison Gray around the midfield, as well as Kaylea Kobzan getting involved. Mindy Quade also did a lot down back to repel Dandenong attacks and keep the scoreline lowered.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY THUNDER

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#30 Ashanti Bush (Northern Territory)

After a quieter first half, Bush came alive in the second, having multiple shots on goal and converting two in the space of a minute in the fourth quarter. After missing a set shot late in the third term, Bush used the outside of the boot to snap a classy goal eight and a half minutes into the last quarter, then the next inside 50 a minute later saw her mark one-on-one with really strong hands and convert with relative ease 20m out. She almost had a third goal moments later working her opponent under the ball and running towards goal but just slipped at the crucial moment and could not get boot to ball.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#29 Freda Puruntatameri (Northern Territory)

Worked really hard across the match and was one of Northern Territory’s four-quarter performers. Predominantly starting in the ruck, she would often thump the ball long down the ground, but also showed some nice dance moves by sidestepping opponents to create space herself. Sometimes she would get caught, but she kept worrying the opposition with her ability to move well through contests.

#25 Bella Clarke (Northern Territory)

Used her experience throughout the match to be a prominent ball winner and lead her younger teammates. She started off in the midfield and kept cracking in. She covered plenty of ground and spent a fair amount of time inside 50, having a set shot from 20m out early in the third term she pushed to the left. A couple of minutes later, her second efforts and determination were on show, when she wrestled the ball from an opponent on the goal line and got boot to ball.

#11 Grace Mulvahil (Northern Territory)

A quieter first half, but throughout the match provided some eye-catching dashes with her first few steps very impressive. Her marking is an area of improvement, dropping a couple of uncontested grabs around the ground, but once she was on the move with ball-in-hand she was hard to stop. Mulvahil danced around a couple of opponents and drove the ball inside 50 and showed good work rate to offer herself as an option in transition.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV)

Continued her great form this season with another hard-working effort across the ground. Alongside some inexperienced teammates, Condon led by example with her attack on the football and work rate around the ground. She was quick to get boot to ball to clear the zone, and while she was often under pressure and had to rush, used it well when she had time on her side. A moment in the second term where she pickpocketed an opponent at a stoppage was impressive, followed by some nice speed on the wing a moment later. Condon also took a strong mark in the fourth term with contact coming from behind.

#27 Molly Walton (GWV)

Incredibly composed for a player in her debut season, not much seems to phase Walton who held up in pressure situations, using clean hands and footy IQ to drive the ball out of the defensive 50. Time and time again she would mop up at the back and boot the ball forward, and took the kickout duties to provide some run and long kicking down the ground. She laid a great run-down tackle on Bella Clarke in the second term to win the free kick, and also won a one-on-three in the final term, and rushed a behind when under pressure to stop a certain goal.

OTHERS:

J’Noemi Anderson showed some nice toe and was presenting around the ground, while Tatyana Perry and Shanoah Leedie were also named among the best. Georgia Johnson and Charlotte Elcoate also found their fair share of the football in the win. For the Rebels, Stella Bridgewater was busy throughout, kicking a goal in second term from the top of the goalsquare, while Stephanie Glover was strong one-on-one deep in defence, and the likes of Jorja Jones, Crystal Summers and Olivia Leonard also having plenty of the play.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#27 Jayda Richardson (Bendigo Pioneers)

Played a mixed role through the game, starting in the midfield before being moved into the backline later on. She looked really good in the backline, bringing her usual strengths like her speed, ball winning and long kick to the position, which led to more dangerous counter attacks from the Pioneers and played a big in their second half fight back. In the midfield she was again dangerous, able to run through packs to win the footy, come out the other side and bomb long forward.

#15 Drew Ryan (Bendgio Pioneers)

Got her opportunity to play more on the inside with some regulars out for the Pioneers and really impressed, with the timing of her runs around contests especially impressive, where she’d be able to receive the ball already close to top speed and break away from opponents, then deliver forward via foot.

#30 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

Started the game a little quiet but really came up in the second half, where her work in and around the midfield exceptional for Bendigo, playing a big part in their surge late in the fourth, where her long kicking kept Bendigo going forward, and her occasional short kicking moving them centrally to open up the forward line. She’s a joy to watch setting up behind play or spreading across the ground and calling for the ball, taking marks with ease and then taking space to go forward.

#35 Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power)

Playing as the Gippsland main ruck throughout the game, she had an outstanding performance topping the disposals and hitouts stats, as she was just always involved whenever she was around. It was impressive to see that she still kept a defensive focus throughout the game, having no troubles going down back when the ball was there and helping out with her strength in the contest being an asset in winning the footy and getting it out. It was that strength that allowed her to have such a big performance in the ruck, out muscling and jumping through opponents without issue, giving Gippsland first use around the ground.

#2 Alexei Guy-Toogood (Gippsland Power)

Provided a lot of run and drive from the defensive 50 for Gippsland, with her ball use coming out good, often to the advantage of a teammate, it gave Gippsland a real chance every time to convert from the counter attacks. She’d come to meet a loose ball as well, making it difficult for Bendigo to set up and prepare for the counter. Impressed with her tackling in the final quarter as well, forcing stoppages to stop Bendigo from scoring.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Very well could have ended the day with 20-plus disposals if it weren’t for an extended period on the bench in the second quarter, but when she was on the field she did well to make the loss of Grace McRae less evident, using her disposal well, winning the ball then handballing to outside runners or kicking forward herself trying to get Gippsland going quickly. 

OTHERS:

For Bendigo Lila Keck used the ball well and set up well behind play to get a couple of intercept marks. Keely Fullerton and Lily Den Houting had some key moments especially in the final term push for a goal. Lexie Moss and Tegan Williams also had good moments. Gippsland was not short of contributors in their victory, Macie Gilmour, Alisha Molesworth and Indiana Makai winning a bit of ball around the midfield and flanks. Taylah Bourne also offered a lot in the Gippsland defensive half.

NAB League Girls Round 7 preview: Country games on show, while Power and Bushrangers battle for first points of the season

A BATTLE of the two winless sides, Gippsland Power and Murray Bushrangers, as well as the Sandringham Dragons and Western Jets must-win contest will be the two commentated games streaming on the NAB League app this weekend. The matches are all set to be beauties with plenty of 50/50 contests and difficult to predict how they will go down in Round 7 of the NAB League Girls competition.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 20 @ 12.30pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve

Backing up from an impressive Wednesday night victory under lights at Casey Fields, Dandenong Stingrays make the trek up the highway to Epsom Huntly Reserve to take on Bendigo Pioneers. After snapping their two-game losing streak, the Stingrays have moved to 3-2 on the table, with a chance to join Calder Cannons on 4-2 fo the season if they get the win against the Pioneers. For Bendigo, they could move back within four points of the top eight sides and remain in contention for finals, having lost four straight games since their Round 1 win over Murray Bushrangers.

Captain Tara Slender is anticipated to return for the Pioneers for the big clash, with Octavia Di Donato and Tegan Williams among the more in-form players at the Pioneers in her absence a couple of weeks back when they last ran out on a Wednesday night themselves against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at Epsom Huntly. Jayda Richardson has been utilised all over the field, while the Pioneers will be hoping to regain some of their top talents back from injury at some point, with Jemma Finning and Madeline Marks also out of the last game due to injury.

Dandenong Stingrays have now adjusted without midfield gun Emily Shepherd in there, and with Jaide Anthony also out of the side due to concussion – and will miss this clash – they have seen others step up. Charley Ryan was sensational for the Stingrays in the win against the Sandringham Dragons mid-week, while Zoe Hill showed she could play at both ends, and Ashleigh Richards and Amber Clarke looked ever-dangerous inside 50. Add in Abbey Jordan and Felicity Crank who are finding plenty of the ball of late, and the Stingrays have a well-balanced list.

Dandenong will head in as favourites against the Pioneers following the Stingrays’ defensive efforts during the week, though with the Pioneers back at home, they have the capacity to push any side as they showed a few weeks back against Calder Cannons.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Saturday, March 20 @ 12.30pm
Highgate Reserve

A bottom two clash of the sides yet to grab a win in season 2021, at least one of the Gippsland Power and Murray Bushrangers must take home some points in this round. The Power have been gradually building over the first month, and – with the exception of their 114-point smashing at the hands of Eastern Ranges – have reduced the losing margin each week, whilst adding more scores on the board. The Bushrangers have been pretty solid across the season, competitive through most parts of the game, but just having a quarter or two here or there that sees the opposition add quick goals to blow out the margin. With the two teams to face-off, it will be fascinating to see who two young teams go at it.

The ruck battle immediately catches the eye, with Grace Matser and Ally Morphett set to go head-to-head in a clash of different styles. Matser has been finding more of the ball and moving well around the ground, while Morphett is hard to stop when she gets front position in a marking contest with safe hands. Key defender who can also play up the other end, Matilda Van Berkel has enjoyed a strong top-age season, while midfielder Grace McRae just keeps winning the ball. She will have a great battle on the inside with Keeley Skepper who has been building nicely in her bottom-age year, whilst Aurora Smith has been one of the most consistent players this season out on the wing.

Sunday Brisbane, Yasmine Duursma and Lily-Rose Williamson have provided the Power with plenty of run from defence and through the midfield, and they will be important in trying to bring the ball down in transition. The Bushrangers have a strong defence when it is all together, with Chloe Locke, Mindy Quade and Grace Hay among those capable of playing both offensive and defensive roles. Murray will look to Olivia Cicolini who has now kicked three goals in two games as a potential goal-scoring option, with Morphett also capable of dropping deep and converting set shots. Kristy Whitehead and Courtney Fletcher are among others who have impressed for their respective sides, often helping out in the back 50.

It is hard to pick a winner in this game because both have progressed throughout the year, but one thing is for sure, the winner will have plenty to celebrate.

 

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. WESTERN JETS
Sunday, March 21 @ 10.15am
RSEA Park

An early morning game at RSEA Park pits Sandringham Dragons up against Western Jets in a must-win match for both sides with just two rounds remaining after this game. They are both 1-4 for the season and a loss will ned their chances of a finals birth, while a win puts them back in the conversation if they can build the momentum in the final fortnight. Both these sides come into the game off the back of low-scoring losses, with the Jets getting close to the GWV Rebels, and the Dragons pushing the Chargers before losing out to the Stingrays midweek.

Scoring will be a premium for these sides who have stacked up well defensively, but, with the exception of Sandringham’s win over Gippsland – has seen them both restricted from putting big scores on the board. The Dragons have the capacity to score big when they get the fast ball inside 50, with Charli Murphy (eight goals) and Ebony Angelopoulos (seven) being among the top goalkickers in the league. Mia Zielinski has slotted four goals in three games to be a talented Under 16 player and a third option in attack. For the Jets, they have shared their goals around, with Annie Gray and Caitlin Sargent both slotting three goals apiece, while Kensley Ward and Montana Ham have the two each.

Charlotte Baskaran combines with Ham as some of the better metres-gained players in the competition, with the head-to-heads against the likes of Charlotte Ryan and Tayla Jones who provide the same run for their sides. Sofia Hurley and Kiana Lynch win a lot of ball on the inside, with Hurley able to burst out of the stoppage, but also win the ball back through tackling. Now having two games under her belt, Bridie Hipwell will be looking to make a statement here, while the defensive duo of Abby Thompson and Ella Schiberras were steadfast against the tie on Wednesday night. The Jets will be looking to bring the ball quickly in transition, such as Paige Ryan in defence and Jemima Woods up forward and through the ruck.

Another 50/50 game, the winner is difficult to pick, but both teams can move the ball pretty quickly which makes for an exciting game.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Sunday, March 21 @ 11.00am
Deakin University, Waurn Ponds

Down the highway at Waurn Ponds, the Geelong Falcons will be keen to put last week’s disappointment behind them, when they were beaten by newcomers Sydney Swans Academy. The Falcons were without key bookends, Renee Tierney and Annie Lee who played in the VFL Women’s match, but were just not able to generate enough effective scores to take down the determined Swans. Northern Knights are coming off a spirited come-from-behind win over Eastern Ranges following a tight loss to Calder Cannons the week before. Northern will hope it can bring the same momentum into the start of the game against the Falcons rather than rely on a late final quarter flurry to grab the points.

The Falcons midfield brigade of Tess Craven, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson has been one of the most consistent trios running around, with Ash Van Loon being the most dominant tackler in the NAB League Girls competition. She came off sore last match, but the Falcons have plenty of depth across the field with Elizabeth Dowling and Taiya Morrow in defence, and Gabbi Featherston and Lucy Were in attack. Keeley Hardingham and Analea McKee both had strong games in the Swans’ loss, while Ingrid Houtsma missed out on the match and is another player to watch going forward.

Northern Knights’ Under 16s talent Ava Jordan has put together a really promising debut season this year, being one of the most consistent ball-winners through midfield. With Maeve Chaplin missing through injury, Jordan stepped up through the midfield against the Ranges, teaming up well with Tarrah Delgado who switched from full-back into the middle late in the game. Brooke Plummer has provided some great run and carry on the outside, and having Ella Smallacombe, Trinity Mills and Megan Girolami up forward as targets, gives the Knights midfield – including AFL Women’s Academy member Maykaylah Appleby – players to look for inside 50.

Geelong Falcons will be hungry to bounce back in this game, while the Northern Knights will be riding high on their last quarter from Round 6, and keen to back it up from the first bounce in Round 7.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Sunday, March 21 @ 11.30am
MARS Stadium

The last game to kick off for the round is the big clash between GWV Rebels and Oakleigh Chargers at MARS Stadium. The Rebels will be hoping a home ground advantage can sway the game in their favour against an unbeaten Chargers outfit that has completed every challenge thrown at them. Oakleigh looks down on the rest of the competition with five wins from five games, while the Rebels have won three of five – including their past two – and will be heading in as underdogs to try and take down the premiership favourites.

Oakleigh Chargers have an array of midfield talent, led by inside ball-winner and powerful forward, Charlie Rowbottom who has not only been one of the better contested players, but has gone forward and kicked crunch goals, slotting six majors in five games this season. On the outside, Stella Reid has done a wealth of work across the ground, and slotted into half-back or half-forward when required as well as the wing where she predominantly plays. She has also hit the scoreboard with four majors, third behind Rowbottom and tall, Ameille Smith (five goals) in that areas. Up the other end, Alexander McCulloch and Brooke Vickers have won their fair share of ball and driven it outside 50, while Amanda Ling has become another prominent ball-winner for the Chargers.

The Rebels are a well-balanced side with great versatility, and have had some outstanding performers this season. A massive 11 players have averaged more than 10 disposals this season, with 10 of them playing at least four games. Chloe Leonard has patrolled the half-back line with Nyakoat Dojiok, while Lilli Condon has been a reliable accumulator in close and spreading well. Up forward, Paige Scott keeps kicking goals and now has eight to her name, while Tahlia Meier is averaging a goal a game, and their forward line spread has enabled Ella Friend to play up on a wing. Molly Walton has been a find for the Rebels on the last line as well, able to bring the ball from the danger zone to safety in her bottom-age season.

Oakleigh Chargers head in as favourites, but the GWV Rebels are every chance of causing an upset if they can continue their recent form and even team spread across the field.