Tag: geelong vflw

2022 AFLW Ones to Watch: Rene Caris (Geelong)

AS we edge closer towards the start of the AFL Women’s pre-season, Draft Central will analyse a number of individuals we believe could take the next step in their development in 2022. Be it through opportunity, returning from injury or perhaps a role change late in the 2021 season, we predict players who might take that next step up in their AFL Women’s careers.

Our first player to look at is Geelong ruck, Rene Caris.


DOB: March 18, 1999 (22-years-old)
HEIGHT: 184cm

Rene Caris is an exciting ruck who has come out of the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. Originally from the Horsham region, Caris was also an elite-level netballer going through the Netball Victoria pathways, representing her state at junior level. Caris was a member of the AFL Women’s Academy, earned the honour of TAC Cup Team of the Year, played for Carlton in the VFL Women’s, and was selected with Pick 35 in the 2018 AFL Women’s Draft.


Caris has always had a great leap that has helped her win the hitouts, and towered over opponents at junior level. With her leap and mobility to move around the ground, as well as a higher endurance level due to her multiple elite level sports, Caris has always been someone that from a physical attributes standpoint, has been able to compete for long periods of time.


Compared to many AFL Women’s rucks, Caris came in with a lighter frame, and whilst her athleticism would help her get a jump on perhaps less mobile rucks, around the ground stronger bodies could knock her off it. Taller players always take longer to adapt to senior level, and the Cats have eased her into the program, instead allowing her to hone her craft at VFLW level.





2019Geelong Cats VFLW55581131400332090004115.05.310.31.319.03.00.451
2021Geelong Cats VFLW586011821002213413155196.46.713.12.314.92.40.163


Caris has played nine games thus far in her AFL Women’s career. In her three seasons in the blue and white hoops, Caris managed two, two and five games respectively from 2019-2021. Learning under Aasta O’Connor – whom Caris worked closely with as part of the AFLW Academy – the up-and-coming ruck has been able to be exposed to the elite level, without being thrown in the deep end too early. In 2021, her numbers rose across her five games, averaging 8.6 disposals – at around a 50/50 split for kicks and handballs, with her hitouts standing at 6.8 per game. It might not sound like a lot, but what stood out was her clearance numbers, where she had more than two per game, showing off her confidence, and even kicked her first AFLW goal.


The reason Caris fits the bill is the recent retirement of O’Connor, which naturally opens the door for the apprentice to take over the master’s role. What the Cats have done which is very clever, is allow Caris to work alongside Olivia Fuller at VFL level, who is that similar marking option to O’Connor, and then rewarded Fuller with a senior list spot. Whilst not experienced at AFLW level, Fuller provides the additional ruck cover and stronger body at the elite level. The only other player to record double-figure hitouts was Olivia Barber, who will be better suited as that key forward.


Rene Caris has an opportunity to grab the number one ruck role at the Cats, with support from Fuller who she has paired with well at VFL Women’s level this season. With Barber able to pinch-hit when required, the Cats have a couple of genuine young talls who will only flourish further with greater exposure and increased responsibility.


Picture credit: Geelong Cats

Cats culture the key to VFLW success

GEELONG’S all-in, one-club culture is a key reason for the club reaching the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Grand Final according to deputy vice-captain Breanna Beckley. The Cats had a disappointing AFL Women’s season, collecting just the one win in the final round against fellow winless side Gold Coast Suns, but have turned it around in the VFLW season to face the undefeated Collingwood.

“I think just our culture and our team is just the biggest thing,” Beckley said. “I think from staffing group to players I think it has been unreal on and off the field, what we can do together and I think it really shows how we play together on the field. “We’re not there individually, we’re there to work together and put a good game together.”

Geelong last reached the VFLW Grand Final in 2019, when it went down to Hawthorn, but took out the minor premier Magpies on their way to the last match of the season. The Cats knocked off Collingwood at the very stadium they will run out on Sunday – ETU Stadium – which will give them confidence. When asked about being able to turn the tables on the Magpies having lost to them three times this season, Beckley said there was not much the Cats needed to do as they had been tight contests previously.

“Yeah I think they have been very close. I don’t think there’s too much tweaking we have to do to get things right. But I think a couple of things internally, change of play and that sort of thing,” she said. “Hopefully we can do that and hopefully get the win.”

The Magpies have had to wait 29 days between matches since defeating Essendon in the semi-finals. Geelong got back out for a competitive match last Saturday where they booked their grand final spot following an impressive second half against the Bombers. Whether or not it is an advantage is yet to be seen, but Beckley and her teammates are pleased they got a competitive match in.

I guess it could be (an advantage),” Beckley said. “I think Essendon are strong competition, the physicality is a big thing and hopefully an advantage that could work for us on the weekend.”

As for the underdog tag, Beckley said her teammates had “nothing to lose” and it was a “huge” opportunity. Whilst no one had managed to defeat the Magpies in 2021, both sides start equal at the first bounce, and the Cats were up for the challenge. The leader said she was looking forward to seeing what acting skipper Claudia Gunjaca – one of three Cats to be drafted into the AFLW in the most recent AFLW Draft – could produce, and was her key player to watch.

It’s always a tough one. There will always be people who are finals players,” Beckley said. “But I think Claud’s (Gunjaca) our stand-in captain had a ripper last week and hopefully she can do it again. “I think she can take some good marks and will be one to watch.”

Beckley said the impact of the AFLW players coming back to the VFLW program had been sensational, with their attitude and support first rate. She said the trio of players set to step up to the elite level next season had throughly deserved it and she was looking forward to what they would produce there.

“The girls are absolutely amazing and I think a credit to them that they can just come in and still be themselves,” she said. “We’re still trying to achieve the same thing. “Especially for our girls who got drafted, they’re such superstars on and off the field, just a credit to them and their AFL should shine in the next few years.”

Looking at the opposition, Beckley said AFLW spearhead Chloe Molloy would be a definite target to keep a close eye on with the “superstar” capable of taking over a match. She said whoever was awarded the job to nullify her would have the confidence of their teammates.

I don’t think they’d shy away from the challenge,” Beckley said. “I do think whoever does go on her will do a great job and we back them in every time so yeah it will be a good contest.”

Geelong was due to face Collingwood at ETU Stadium on Sunday with the match starting from 1:15pm, but Victoria’s latest snap lockdown has put a spanner in the works.

Development always the key for whole club Cats

GEELONG fans have had quite the contrasting seasons when comparing the AFL Women’s 2021 campaign with its VFL Women’s counterpart. After winning just the one game – and that coming in the final round of the season against an equally winless Gold Coast Suns – the AFL Women’s side headed into the AFL Women’s Draft and Trade Period to plug holes and develop players to step up to the next season.

The VFL Women’s side was perfect platform to not only develop readymade players, but give further exposure to the Cats’ younger players only a year or two into the system. Fast forward to the end of the season, and they have not only ticked that box, but drafted three mature-age players from the program, and reached the 2021 Grand Final.

“That’s the exciting thing I think for the whole club is that you know, a lot of the first year players of AFLW have got a huge amount of experience this year,” Geelong VFL Women’s head coach Andrew Bruce said ahead of the VFLW Grand Final. “To get to play a finals series, against really good opposition, you know both teams have AFLW talent in it so going up against really good opposition and it can only benefit going forward.”

When asked what it meant for the younger players who had stepped up to AFLW level, but the season had not gone to plan, Bruce said it was great to see them getting more confidence at state league level, and the influence the likes of Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner, Sophie Van De Heuvel and Rene Caris had on the group was profound.

“We came in this year, and we were all about our biggest thing is development and making sure that you know, the girls are better at the end than they were at the start, and we really wanted to enjoy the experience,” Bruce said. “So that’s been a big thing for us. “Yeah, the AFLW girls didn’t get the season that they wanted. “But, you know, when they’ve been in our group, they’ve been absolutely brilliant.”

Geelong picked up ruck Olivia Fuller, and versatile talents Claudia Gunjaca and Annabel Johnson through the compensation pre-draft selections for Fuller and Gunjaca, and with its last selection in the AFL Women’s Draft in Johnson’s case. The trio entered the VFL Women’s finals series as VFLW listed players, and will run out on Grand Final Day as AFLW listed ones. For Gunjaca especially, the moment will be extra special as the acting captain of the Cats in the big match.

“Nothing has changed for them,” Bruce said. “You know, they’re super excited to get on the list and really deserving of that opportunity. All three of them have been brilliant in our group this year. “We’ve been lucky enough since the AFLW season finished to have a good connection with the AFLW team. “The three girls have been great all year and were great on the weekend and we expect the same this week.”

Bruce said the weekend’s hard-fought win over Essendon hard the Cats well placed to take on a Collingwood outfit that would have not played in 29 days since winning their semi-final over the Bombers. While Bruce said it was hard to say whether the extra game, or the extra long rest would be more beneficial, the Cats coach said he was backing in his players – just like opposing coach Chloe McMillan was for the Magpies – to get the job done.

“Yeah, we’re feeling really good,” he said. “We had one training session last Thursday. “It was probably our best session for the year. “Chloe said the same thing, which is fantastic. “And obviously the game against the Bombers on the weekend. It was nice and physical and the girls got a lot out of it. “So now we get an opportunity this week.”

The teams are ranked first and second for defence through the year, which is something that the sides have prided themselves on. Bruce said statistics meant little on game day, especially with both forward lines “dangerous” if given enough time and space. One such player in the Cats forward line is Georgia Clarke, who slotted three goals in the win over the Bombers, but came off with soreness prompting some worries. Bruce clarified she copped a knock to her back but would be right to play this weekend.

Now the challenge for Bruce is being able to turn around the three losses to the Magpies – albeit all tight contests – and make it fourth time lucky on Sunday.

“I think our last game in that very first final we had a really good game,” Bruce said. “We’re really confident that our best football, is very close to Collingwood’s best football and l think it will be a really tight game.”

AFLW draftees: How they fared in VFLW Preliminary Final

GEELONG advanced through to the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Grand Final with an impressive victory over Essendon in the preliminary final. In that game, there were seven recently drafted players who will step up to AFL Women’s level next season and we took a look at how they performed. All notes are the opinion of the writer.


#24 Tahlia Gillard

Stats: 5 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 16 hitouts, 1 clearance, 3 rebounds

The towering ruck/forward predominantly provided a target inside 50, and then rotated through the ruck with Simone Nalder. On a number of occasions, Gillard showed her height through a one-on-one marking contest, able to stand over her opponents and pull down marks by snatching it over the top. She had a couple of shots from those marks inside 50, for one behind and one falling short. There was a moment she would probably like to forget where she dropped a chest mark inside defensive 50 which resulted in a tackle, subsequent throw against, set shot and goal in the third term, but Gillard kept pushing hard throughout the four quarters.

#40 Emelia Yassir

Stats: 6 disposals, 3 tackles, 1 clearance

Was a predominant handballer given a lack of space in the hot finals atmosphere, she showed good strength in the second term to rip the ball from a contest close to the line and show quick hands to dish it off well. She earned a free kick from Darcy Moloney in midfield at one stage to begin a team move in transition and set up a scoring chance in that quarter for Alana Barba to kick a behind.

#43 Georgie Prespakis

Stats: 17 disposals, 12 tackles, 7 clearances, 4 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 1 goal

One of the best on the ground, and gave Cats fans some bittersweet feelings. Along with Georgia Nanscawen and Ruby Svarc, Prespakis was the key resistance for the Cats, racking up game-highs in tackles (12), clearances (seven) and inside 50s (four) to not only win it at the coalface, but drive it forward for goal-scoring opportunities. When the Bombers needed a response late in the first term, Prespakis was the one to give it with a clever snap around her body to get her side on the board. Her fierce tackling was a standout of her game, and she was able to move through clearances well, extracting it out and down the field for her teammates on the outside.

#47 Zali Friswell

Stats: 4 disposals, 1 marks, 1 tackle, 1 inside 50

Played forward and worked really hard, but once again was not in her most dominant position – onball. One passage of play which showcased Friswell’s athleticism was her gut running through the middle in the second term, and put it long inside 50 for Barba to run onto and kick the Bombers’ second goal. Whilst not able to hold some of her marking opportunities, Friswell kept presenting, though did only finish with the four touches in what was a tough day for Bomber forwards.


#13 Olivia Fuller

Stats: 14 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 35 hitouts, 2 clearances, 3 inside 50s

The standout ruck on the ground amassing 35 hitouts, but it was Fuller’s spread around the field that caught the eye. She was strong overhead and was able to provide a target at both half-forward and half-back, taking a strong intercept mark early in the match and pumping it forward. At ground level, Fuller laid a number of strong tackles to be a dominant defensive player.

#42 Annabel Johnson

Stats: 16 disposals, 4 marks, 1 tackle, 1 clearance, 2 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50, 1 goal

After a slower start, Johnson got busier as the game progressed and found more of the ball around the ground. Aside from a rushed kick – after a nice spin out of trouble – on the wing which went out of bounds, Johnson hit the scoreboard with a monster goal from just inside 50. It was a terrific set shot and ignited her game and her second half was quite productive. Johnson was neat with ball-in-hand off half-back and then even did the defensive running well, marking on the goal line to stop a Barba snap from going through.

#60 Claudia Gunjaca

Stats: 19 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 1 hitout, 2 clearances, 6 inside 50s

An eye-catching performance and one of the Cats’ best on the day, Gunjaca started forward and was strong with her leading and aggressive at the ball carrier. Her aerial work matched her ground intensity, and she picked up a fair amount of disposals (19), marks (four) and tackles (five), and most importantly, was able to put plenty of passes inside 50 (six). She was great at reading the ball in flight, taking back-to-back intercept marks at half-forward in the first term. On a couple of occasions, Gunjaca also spun out of trouble to kick the ball forward and moved well in traffic.

Cats claw their way to victory with dominant second half performance

IT took until the final quarter, but Geelong booked its redemption battle with Collingwood in the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Grand Final, following a terrific 6.9 (45) to 2.5 (17) win over Essendon. The teams were neck-and-neck for the first half, but the Cats shook off their opponents after the main break, booting 4.7 to 0.3, including two last quarter majors to Renee Tierney to earn their spot in the decider.

The first quarter was mostly played on Geelong’s terms, having plenty of chances early, but the staunch Essendon defence did well to hold them up. Georgia Clarke had the best chance of the quarter with a good lead and mark out in front, converting the set shot with the breeze blowing left to right into her. A couple of more chances went begging, and up the other end, Tahlia Gillard had her opportunity with a strong mark pinching it from a Geelong defender inside 50. Her kicked sprayed wide for just a behind, but soon the momentum with the Bombers was going to be rewarded.

New Cat still in the red and black, Georgie Prespakis sunk an early dagger into her soon-to-be teammates’ hearts with a clever snap out of traffic from a forward stoppage, to give Essendon reward for effort and a late reprieve. Kicking into the breeze, it was relief for the Bombers to get one on the board and keep within a point at quarter time.

The second term was yet again neck-and-neck with Clarke being the target inside 50 and kicking her second cleverly to give her side the seven-point lead. Essendon had more of the play with the breeze, but the Geelong defence was up to the task. That was until in transition, Zali Friswell – another soon-to-be Cat – won it in midfield and put it into the path of Alana Barba, and, after sidestepping her opponent close to the line put it on the outside of the boot and snapped it home.

Trying a similar thing in the dying moments of the half, Barba was run down and the shot went astray for one behind, but the sides were level heading into the main break. Georgia Nanscawen suffered leather poisoning in the first half, proving everywhere with a massive 19 disposals and six tackles, unrelenting on the inside. She teamed up well with Prespakis (12 disposals, nine tackles), whilst Rebecca Webster (15 disposals), Darcy Moloney (11) and Sophie Van De Heuvel (11) were showing their AFLW experience.

Geelong had an early opportunity from the first clearance, with Clarke almost getting her third, but she was cleverly dragged down on the line by Tamsin Crook for a rushed behind. Forward pressure soon proved overwhelming however, as recently drafted Cat Annabel Johnson took a mark and then went back from long-range and slammed a massive goal home – both in distance and in the context of the game, to give the Cats another seven-point lead.

Geelong had stepped it up in the premiership quarter and a kick inboard to a dangerous spot looked to be covered by Gillard but the ball slipped from her hands and soon the tall was called for throwing it as she mobbed, handing Clarke with a chance of her third. She made no mistake and put it straight through the middle for the largest margin of the game. No sooner had the goal been put in the book and Clarke was having another shot on goal, this time from a tight angle. This time however it proved too great, pulled a bit tight and just one behind.

It was Essendon’s chance to have chances with Jessie Davies having a shot but floating off the side of the boot. Barba was again dangerous, sidestepping and snapping towards goal but it was Johnson playing the role of goalkeeper on the line that saved the day. She played on before the line for it to be deemed a rushed behind, and yet another Barba snap just missed, but the Bombers were lively. Unfortunately for the home team, the time would beat them, and the deficit was 11 points at the final break.

It was tight and contested to start the fourth, that was until a Tamara Smith kick inside bounced to Tierney’s advantage and the teenager swung around and slammed it home for a game-high 17-point lead early in the term. Essendon were desperate to atone and Natalie Macdonald won a free kick for being held close to goal. Her set shot was on target but marked on the line by Maddy Boyd in a goal-saving effort. The Cats ran it down the other end as Madisen Maguire had a chance to win the game, but it just went to the side but put it to a flat three straight kicks.

The intensity had lifted and the pace of the game was red hot, with pinball like footy from end to end as both sides were willing to open the game up and try and take it on. Geelong had the 18-point advantage though, and every minute off the clock was a minute closer to victory. Smith was proving vital around clearances, getting multiple thrusts forward. Geelong was starting to win the territory battle however, and with another behind meaning the Bombers needed four straight kicks to victory, the game looked done and dusted.

The frustration was starting to show on the Bombers’ faces and a 50m penalty was given away after Ruby Svarc tried to charge forward but was brought down well. The subsequent set shot from the Cats went to the right, but meant the Bombers would need the four goals to win. Tierney almost had a second goal in the last quarter but the ball beat her to the line for one behind. Then her moment came again and a terrific snap out of trouble from Tierney put the game beyond doubt with her second successive goal and the Cats were headed to a grand final.

Webster finished with a match-high 29 disposals, three marks and two tackles, leading teammates Van De Heuvel (20) and Gunjaca (19), while Nanscawen recorded 26, as well as 10 tackles, with Prespakis (17 and 11) and Barba (18 disposals, five tackles, 1.2) also among the more impressive players for the red and black.

ESSENDON 1.1 | 2.2 | 2.5 | 2.5 (17)
GEELONG 1.2 | 2.2 | 4.4 | 6.9 (45)


Essendon: G. Prespakis, A. Barba
Geelong: G. Clarke 3, R. Tierney 2, A. Johnson


Essendon: A. Barba, R. Svarc, G. Nanscawen, G. Prespakis, C. Ugle
Geelong: R. Webster, C. Gunjaca, D. Moloney, G. Clarke, O. Fuller

2021 VFLW wraps: Semi-Finals – Pies fly high as Cats claw back to victory

COLLINGWOOD became the first team into the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Grand Final after continuing its unbeaten record, knocking off Essendon in their semi-final, whilst the Bombers get another chance by taking on other semi-final winner Geelong in the preliminary final next week.

COLLINGWOOD 0.4 | 1.4 | 2.6 | 2.6 (18)
ESSENDON 0.3 | 0.4 | 1.4 | 1.5 (11)

Collingwood moved one win away from defending its VFL Women’s crown with a hard-fought, low-scoring seven-point win over Essendon at Victoria Park. The Magpies had eight scoring shots to six, but neither team was able to capitalise completely, kicking 3.11 between them for the match. The Magpies kicked the first major in the second term through Mikala Cann, with competition leading goalkicker Imogen Barnett putting another one through the big sticks in the third. Jessie Davies kicked the only Bombers’ goal of the match in the third term, with a late Alana Barba behind – along with some forward half possession for the Bombers – being the final score of the match.

Cann was impressive with 21 disposals, two marks, seven tackles, four clearances, four inside 50s, two rebound 50s and a goal, as youngster Olivia Meagher had an equal team-high seven clearances to go with 16 disposals, working well on the inside with Ebony O’Dea (18 disposals, seven clearances, eight tackles and three marks). Chloe Molloy had her usual impact with 16 touches, three marks, three tackles and three inside 50s, whilst fellow AFLW talents, Alana Porter, Lauren Butler, Joanna Lin and Amelia Velardo all featured heavily in the disposals. Ruck Sarah King (seven disposals, 34 hitouts and five tackles) and defender Jasmine Ferguson (11 disposals, three tackles) were among the top VFLW-listed Magpies.

The Bombers trio of Georgia Nanscawen, Georgie Prespakis and Barba took control in the midfield to share in 22 clearances between them. Nanscawen was a standout best on ground in the loss, racking up 29 disposals, two marks, 13 tackles, eight clearances, three inside 50s and four rebound 50s, while Prespakis (21 disposals, 13 tackles, seven clearances and two inside 50s) and Barba (18 disposals, 10 tackles, seven clearances and four rebound 50s) were both prolific. Eloise Ashley-Cooper (10 disposals, four tackles and three rebound 50s) and Ruby Svarc (13 disposals, four tackles, three clearances and two inside 50s) and Lauren Ahrens (22 disposals, three marks, six tackles and five rebound 50s) were also among the Bombers’ best in the loss.

Collingwood now advances through to the grand final, as the Bombers prepare to face Geelong in the preliminary final.


Collingwood: M. Cann, I. Barnett.
Essendon: J. Davies.


Collingwood: S. King, C. Molloy, J. Ferguson, E. O”Dea, I. Barnett, K. Lee
Essendon: G. Nanscawen, G. Prespakis, E. Ashley-Cooper, L. Ahrens, R. Svarc, Z. Friswell

GEELONG 0.2 | 1.4 | 3.4 | 6.4 (40)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 1.2 | 3.3 | 3.3 | 5.3 (33)

Geelong kept its premiership hopes alive by accounting for the Southern Saints by seven points and advancing through to the preliminary final. In a contrasting game to the other semi-final, both matches ended with a seven-point difference and the home team booted three final term goals to secure the win. The game was evenly poised at three quarter time as the Cats lead by a solitary point, before booting 3.0 to 2.0 in the a high-scoring final term, which saw the Saints get within a point twice, but two of Georgia Clark’s four majors came in the term to win the game for her side. They had the two more scoring shots, and it was the five goals to two in the second half to secure the victory.

Clarke was named best-on four her four goals, also picking up 14 disposals, four marks and three tackles in the win. Paige Sheppard (19 disposals, five inside 50s and six marks), Rebecca Webster (21 disposals, eight tackles, six clearances and four inside 50s) and Sophie Van De Heuvel (18 disposals, six tackles, three clearances and four inside 50s) all found plenty of the ball. Annabel Johnson (17 disposals, three marks and five tackles) had her fair share of the pill, with teenager Chloe Leonard (14 disposals, three marks) holding her own in the win. Madeline Keryk (14 disposals, three marks, seven tackles and four rebound 50s) was also named in the best.

Alice Burke (23 disposals, two marks, two tackles and nine rebound 50s) was enormous in defence for the Saints, with fellow AFLW listed talent Tyanna Smith (18 disposals, eight tackles, five clearances, three inside 50s and two rebound 50s) busy through the midfield. Gabi De Angelis kicked a couple of goals with her 13 touches, four marks and four inside 50s to be voted the Saints’ best, with Alex Hynes (six disposals, 18 hitouts, four tackles and two marks) also impressing. Hannah Stuart (20 disposals, three marks and eight tackles) and Tara Bohanna (18 disposals, six hitouts and two marks) continued their consistent seasons for the red, white and black.

Whilst Southern Saints’ season came to a close at the end of the match, Geelong has a chance to reach the 2021 grand final when it takes on Essendon next week.


Geelong: G. Clarke 4, P. Sheppard, R. Webster.
Southern Saints: G. De Angelis 2, J. Matin, A. Peck, K. Ripari.


Geelong: G. Clarke, P. Sheppard, R. Webster, M. Keryk, A. Johnson, C. Gunjaca
Southern Saints: G. De Angelis, A. Hynes, E. Vanderheym, A. Burke, T. Smith, H. Stuart


Picture credit: Essendon Twitter

2021 VFLW Finals – Week 2 preview

FOUR teams are set to become two as the second week of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s finals begins on Saturday. If the ladder is anything to go by, Collingwood is a clear contender given their monumental season that consisted of a clean sweep of wins in the competition. Despite Collingwood coming into the semi-finals with the upper-hand, there is no doubt that all the four teams will be facing the heat, as the pressure builds up to see who will take out the premiership this year.

Saturday, July 10 @ 12:00pm
Victoria Park

Essendon will be heading into the opening game with a vengeance as they take on the team with a 14-game winning streak. The last time these two sides met was in Round 8 when the Bombers were overpowered by 10 points as a result of a dominant Collingwood side. Expect the likes of Georgia Nanscawen to play a pivotal part of their game, with her performance in last week’s win against the Casey Demons unstoppable as the 29-year-old impressed with her versatility on the field. Eliza West is another name from Essendon in the mix to play on Saturday, whose consistency with handballs and kicks have massively contributed to the Bombers’ performance so far. Lauren Ahrens, Cecila McIntosh and Georgie Prespakis will also be beneficial in the Bombers quest to overthrow the Pies. Collingwood’s aim to continue their perfect run so far has some easy picks. Midfielders Joanna Lin and Mikaela Cann are two youngsters who both got in amongst the action during the first elimination final with Geelong. The trio of Chole Molloy, Lauren Butler and Amelia Velardo would be ones to watch given their performances were stellar in the game against Geelong last week, while Jennifer Guy returns to the fray.

Saturday, July 10 @ 2:00pm
GMHBA Stadium

It will be important for Geelong to get the win given that they saw defeat against Collingwood in the first final last week. There will be no more chances for either side come Saturday. The Cats will want to keep momentum, as the last time these two sides met Geelong took out the win on both occasions. Despite the winning streak advantage for the Cats, the Southern Saints are looking to put everything on the line in an effort to progress to the prelim next week. Among the best performers for Geelong, they will be looking to Laura Gardiner, Tamara Smith and Paige Sheppard who rank among the top ten in the competition for disposals, kicks and handballs. Olivia Fuller and Madeleine Boyd’s consistency throughout the season can contribute a healthy amount to Geelong on Saturday afternoon. For the Southern Saints, Gabriella De Angelis‘s fierce impact during last week’s final will prove a valuable asset for the side, as will the dynamics of Tara Bohanna and Hannah Stuart. Both players delivered equally impressive performances particularly last week against Port Melbourne.


Picture credit: Collingwood VFLW

2021 VFLW season preview: Geelong

GEELONG is not overcomplicating things when it comes to attacking the 2021 VFLW season, according to new head coach, Andrew Bruce. Taking the reigns after being appointed as assistant in 2020, Bruce says his side has worked hard to keep in shape and will try to bring an attacking brand of football to the upcoming campaign.

“We’ve had a really good preseason,” Bruce said. “Obviously most of the girls had most of the year off last year but came back in really good shape and they’ve worked really hard through the preseason. Our skill level has certainly jumped up from the start to where we are now, so we’re really comfortable with where they are.”

“We want to be nice and hard at the football and use it as best we can. It’s very much an attacking style of play where we give ourselves the best opportunity to score. We’re not overcomplicating it at all, we want the players to continue to develop in what they’re doing but also to attack the game as much as they can and try and get some good pressure on the opposition.”

“It’s a good brand of footy where the girls are really confident in what they’re doing and we’re defending really well, so we’ve kind of got both aspects of the game going okay at the moment.”

Having effectively lost a year of competitive football in 2020, the Cats are no different to many other teams in that they will enter this season with a fresh-looking list, “significantly” so in the words of Bruce. He says Geelong will field a group of mixed ages and experience levels throughout the season, with aligned AFLW and NAB League players also set to roll through the squad.

“There’s been a significant change in personnel in the playing list,” he said. “There’s still probably half-a-dozen players who have been around for a bit of time and are quite experienced.”

“Michelle Fedele, who has been with the VFLW group pretty much since it started at Geelong, she’s missed a couple of years with an ankle injury but she’s come back fully fit and is going really well, so it’s exciting to see her play.

“Jamie Woollett has also stayed around and with her experience will be really important for us – Rebecca Pearce is the same. Then we’ve got some newer players; Claudia Gunjaca, who’s originally from Geelong but the last few years has been studying up in New South Wales and played in their state league. She’s come back this year and has been absolutely fantastic for the group – can play at both ends of the ground, is a really strong mark and her leadership is fantastic.”

“We’ve got a couple of younger girls as well. Tamara Smith, who was originally out of the Murray Bushrangers and Paige Sheppard, who was going to have the year off last year anyway, but has come back to footy and has done really well. We’ve got a player who’s crossed from Germany, she was playing in the AFLW Europe League. She’s come across to try her luck here, has settled in really well with the girls and is a very good player.”

“We’ve had a few (NAB League) girls come train with us through preseason. Renee Tierney and Ava McKeegan from Geelong, Chloe Leonard from Greater Western Victoria (GWV), she’s their captain this year. We expect them to play with us at various times through the year and probably a couple of other girls as well like Tess Craven or Annie Lee from Geelong.”

“It’s really exciting for those girls, obviously playing at that high standard in their age group through the NAB League and then also getting the opportunity at different times to play in the VFLW will be fantastic for their development.”

Along with the perks of strong talent pathways, the Cats will also benefit from a green AFLW side in the same region. Brimming with young talent, five to six players from the Geelong AFLW squad will play in the state league each week should they miss out on senior selection. Bruce says the alignment has been “great” for both parties.

“Obviously with COVID restrictions there were restrictions on how many train-on players they could have from the VFLW into AFLW, however a few of the girls did get to do that for a few weeks and they came back saying how great it was, the inclusiveness of it,” he said.

“Without doubt, their training standards picked up from that point, obviously being around some more experienced players and seeing how they go about their business has really had a positive impact on the way our players do that. With the alignment, we have five to six AFLW players (depending on injuries) come back to our games.”

“Again, it’s fantastic for those players to play footy rather than having to sit out when they’re not selected, but also just to assist with the development of our players throughout the matches with direction and different advice that they can give. Both groups are a fantastic bunch of girls and they all get along really well.”

Another area which has gone relatively smoothly thus far is the injury front. Pearce (hip) and a couple of players rehabbing ACL tears are just about the only injury concerns for Geelong ahead of Round 1, with the fitness of the players also up to scratch. The Cats will face off against Collingwood on Saturday afternoon and while Bruce expects stiff opposition, he says it will be difficult to gauge how each side stacks up until competition commences.

The Cats will announce their leadership group at tomorrow night’s jumper presentation, and promise to be raring to go after showing marked improvement in their second practice game, against Hawthorn. Bruce says his troops are simply “excited to have footy back.”

“Everyone’s missed out on so much over the past 12 months,” he said. “To get some positivity through sport is fantastic for everyone; whether it be the players, staff or their supporters. It’s all really good and we’re all just very excited to get back amongst it.”

Image Credit: Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens

Scouting notes: VFLW – Collingwood vs. Geelong

GEELONG has booked its place in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s decider, after knocking Collingwood out in straight sets with an impressive 14-point win. We took a look at some of the top players from both sides on the day.


#3 Nicole Hildebrand

Did some nice things throughout the game, playing as the loose player in defence. Often she came across to help teammate, Jazz Ferguson who the Cats tried to isolate one-on-one inside 50. She also had a big moment punching a ball across the ground later in the game when Richelle Cranston had a shot on goal.

#4 Sarah D’Arcy

Was really good intercepting, but did miss a few kicks going forward. Had a forgettable moment in the third term dropping a mark in the back pocket, but worked hard to mop up. Got amongst it throughout the four quarters and never stopped trying.

#11 Eliza Hynes

Too tall for her opponents in the ruck and often punched it clear of the contest to keep the ball moving on the outside. Not overly mobile at ground level given her height, but laid tackles and put defensive pressure on opponents.

#13 Jaimee Lambert

One of, if not Collingwood’s best on the day. She worked hard at both ends, dropping back into the defensive 50 to take some good marks, laid great tackles on the wing, and kicked a consolation goal running hard to the goal square and quickly getting boot-to-ball. Her tackling pressure and intensity on the ball carrier was definitely the highlight.

#47 Jess Edwards

Stood tall against the flow and was one of the key reasons Collingwood was still in the contest early. She was composed in defence and able to use the ball well under pressure. Edwards had plenty of defensive efforts and then kicked a goal in the final term, four and a half minutes in to cut the deficit to 20 and give them a glimmer of hope.

#49 Sophie Alexander

Another player who kept trying throughout and had a few good moments, spreading to the wings and taking some good marks. She kicked Collingwood’s first major after making a half-lead inside 50, taking the grab and nailing the all-important set shot.

#70 Jasmine Ferguson

Superb in defence, along with Lambert was one of Collingwood’s best. She continually got to the right position one-on-one and ensured her opponents could not get a clean run at the ball. The opposition tried to isolate her one-on-one inside 50 against stronger bodies, but Ferguson held her own. She also ran off her opponent on a number of occasions trying to create drive off half-back. Took a strong mark on the wing late in the game, using her body well to outmark an opponent.

#75 Erica Fowler

Provided an aerial target when she flew for her marks, and did cause some headaches for the opposition when up forward. Won a free kick for being held in the last quarter, but her shot from 35m out just drifted in the breeze and narrowly missed.

#99 Shayla Marsh

Did not win a heap of it, but had some classy moments. One example was a clean pick-up off the deck and quick handball to a teammate who kicked long inside 50 late in the game.



#1 Jaime Woollett

Played in defence and laid a number of strong tackles. She provided a good run-down tackle on Jaimee Lambert in the third term, forcing Lambert’s kick to sail out on the full instead of hitting a target inside 50.

#3 Hannah Burchell

Set the tone early with a big tackle at half-forward to lock the ball up. Had a shot on goal after receiving a 50m penalty but just missed to the left. Her best work was done in close.

#6 Maddie Boyd

One of the most impressive players, she was so strong in the air, taking a ton of marks inside 50 and giving her team scoring opportunities. She could not quite capitalise on the set shots, but one-on-one she was fantastic and she positions herself so well.

#8 Kate Darby

Another player who impressed me with some good hands in the air to take a few important grabs. She also did the defensive things right with her highlight coming in the third term. With the time ticking down she laid a huge tackle on Hannah McLaren to win a free kick just inside 50 and then launched from long range to hand the Cats a 21-point lead.

#13 Maighan Fogas

Had a couple of eye-catching moments when she tried to burst away and break the lines, did not always come off but was still noticeable. she had a shot on goal in the third term which just missed.

#16 Olivia Purcell

The youngster stood up in the finals intensity and put her body on the line when she needed to. Her stoppage work is superb and she is not afraid to fend-off an opponent and give herself an extra few seconds to clear the ball out of congestion.

#24 Maddy McMahon

Very impressive in both attack and defence and one of the main reasons why Geelong strangled Collingwood in the first three quarters. Ran hard to receive the handball in the opening term and then kicked the first goal of the game. Dropped back into defence in the second quarter to mark well, then had an attempt from long range in the third term that just missed. In the fourth term she went back into defence and took a courageous mark at half-back between two opponents.

#30 Richelle Cranston

Thought she had a quiet game to start, but then turned it on in the third term when she seemed to be everywhere. Geelong needed a statement to stop the Pies coming, and Cranston did just that. Her combination of power, acceleration and penetrating kick really turned the game in the third term, fending off a number of players and just bombing long to give her teammates the best chance of scoring.

#44 Rebecca Goring

Defenders do not often get much love, but Goring was absolutely spectacular. Along with Maddy McMahon and a number of others who refused to let their opponents beat them, Goring just worked incredibly hard over four quarters to stand in front of her opponents and rebound well, taking a number of intercept marks. Goring also pushed up to the wing when required to chop off any quick kicks going forward for the Magpies.

Weekend wash-up: VFLW – Week 2 Finals

GEELONG has had a dream finals run, knocking off the formidable Northern Territory (NT) Thunder and minor premiers, Collingwood. The Pies could not combat the Cats’ ferocity at Stannards Stadium on Sunday, and ultimately fell short. Geelong now goes through to the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Grand Final against Hawthorn on Sunday.


Collingwood 4.4 (28) defeated by Geelong 5.12 (42)

Geelong came out of the blocks firing, but could not capitalise on the scoreboard, matching their intense tackling pressure with just 1.5. This was largely affected by an injury to Magpies star, Chloe Molloy, who sat out three quarters of the match on crutches. Collingwood evened up the scoring in the second term, with both teams kicking one goal a piece. But in the third quarter, the Pies really felt the absence of Molloy while the Cats put the foot down, kicking two goals in the dying minutes to set up a convincing victory. Despite the Pies owning the fourth term with three junk goals, it was the Cats who prevailed by 14 points.

Maddie Boyd was pivotal for the Cats, as she was the only multiple goal kicker on the day. She kicked two majors and clunked plenty of contested marks, ending up with seven marks for the day. Madeline Keryk dominated in the midfield, gathering 24 disposals to go along with her four tackles. She was complemented by Geelong Falcons premiership player, Olivia Purcell, who laid a whopping 14 tackles to go along with her 15 disposals. Maddy McMahon was also a key player for the Cats, with a good all-round game. She racked up 16 disposals, five marks and four tackles.

For the Pies, it was Jaimee Lambert who was the shining light. Lambert kicked a goal to go along with her 23 disposals and 11 tackles. Emma Grant also played her role across the back line, with 19 disposals, two marks and eight tackles. AFL Women’s teammate, Sarah D’Arcy was also solid with 17 touches, four marks and three tackles. She was complemented by captain, Jess Edwards, who kicked a goal to go along with her 12 disposals, two marks and three tackles.