Tag: gemma lagioia

2019/20 AFLW off-season review: Western Bulldogs

AFTER claiming a maiden AFL Women’s premiership in 2018 and looking impressive from the get-go in 2019, the Western Bulldogs fell away in the second half of the 2019 season to finish wooden spooners in Conference A. There was far from any shame in that, because had they been in the other conference, chances are they would have played finals, but it is what it is and the Dogs missed out on finals in 2019.

The AFL Women’s most active team over the off-season – which is saying something considering there are four expansion sides – the Western Bulldogs had eight players walk out the door to other clubs, and made three further changes with Hayley Wildes the sole retiree. Of the 2019 departures, Katie Brennan and Monique Conti would sting the most, with both genuine top 10 players in the competition, but now will don the yellow and black in season 2020. It leaves the Western Bulldogs with one elite established talent in Ellie Blackburn, but unlike a lot of sides, the Dogs have plenty of next tier talent either ready to break into that elite group, or sub-elite group.

Given the departures over the off-season, the Bulldogs headed into the draft with eight selections having only brought in Melbourne’s Ashleigh Guest as part of a trade that saw reliable defender, Libby Birch off to the Demons. With four selections in the top 10, and a new coach in Nathan Burke at the helm, AFL Women’s Draft Day was always going to be an optimistic one. The recruiting team leaned on Vic Metro Under-18 coach Burke, with the seven selections taken on the day coming from his Metro squad. It not only meant the chemistry between coach and players would already be established, but the team cohesion would also be impressive.

Gabby Newton was picked out as the first selection in the draft and can play any role across the ground, but will likely start in the middle. She could be joined by Northern Knights teammate, Britney Gutknecht in there, while Western Jets’ Elisabeth Georgostathis has the versatility to play anywhere, particularly in that back half. Gemma Lagioia and South Adelaide’s Hannah Munyard – the latter of whom was taken post-draft after the Bulldogs passed and the Crows opted not to select her – running down the ground will be a sight to see for Dogs fans. The Bulldogs also addressed the fact they lost some talent inside 50, with father-daughter selection Isabella Grant and Nell Morris-Dalton providing an aerial presence, as well as ground support in the form of Amelia van Oosterwijck.

OFF-SEASON CHANGES:

IN: Ashleigh Guest (Melbourne), Katy Herron (rookie – Gaelic), Danielle Marshall (rookie – soccer), Gabby Newton, Nell Morris-Dalton, Britney Gutknecht (Northern Knights), Gemma Laioia, Amelia van Oosterwijck (Oakleigh Chargers), Elisabeth Georgostathis, Isabella Grant (Western Jets), Hannah Munyard (South Adelaide).
OUT: Katie Brennan, Monique Conti (Richmond), Selena Karlson, Emma Mackie (St Kilda), Tiarna Ernst (Gold Coast), Belinda Smith, Kate Bartlett (West Coast), Libby Birch (Melbourne), Tessa Boyd, Jesse Davies (delisted), Hayley Wildes (retired).

2020 TEAM LIST:

Deanna Berry
Ellie Blackburn
Eleanor Brown
Nicole Callinan
Naomi Ferres
Ellyse Gamble
Elisabeth Georgostathis
Angelica Gogos
Isabella Grant
Ashleigh Guest
Britney Gutknecht
Bailey Hunt
Isabel Huntington
Gemma Lagioia
Kirsty Lamb
Brooke Lochland
Aisling McCarthy
Kirsten McLeod
Celine Moody
Nell Morris-Dalton
Hannah Munyard
Gabby Newton
Kim Rennie
Hannah Scott
Lauren Spark
Bonnie Toogood
Aisling Utri
Amelia van Oosterwijck
Rookies: Katy Herron, Danielle Marshall

POTENTIAL SIDE:

B: Nicole Callinan – Hannah Scott – Ashleigh Guest
HB: Eleanor Brown – Lauren Spark – Elisabeth Georgostathis
C: Gabby Newton
HF: Bonnie Toogood – Isabel Huntington – Aisling Utri
F: Aisling McCarthy – Isabella Grant – Brooke Lochland
R: Kim Rennie – Ellie Blackburn – Kirsty Lamb
INT: Angelica Gogos – Nell Morris-Dalton – Gemma Lagioia – Naomi Ferres – Britney Gutknecht
EMG: Deanna Berry, Hannah Munyard, Celine Moody

DEPTH: Kirsten McLeod, Amelia van Oosterwijck, Bailey Hunt, Ellyse Gamble, Katy Herron*, Danielle Marshall*

Trying to work out a best 21 for the Western Bulldogs in season 2020 is near impossible, with so many fresh faces coming into the side. It will be a challenge for Burke to balance experience with youth, given that naturally the youth coming through are more developed than their predecessors and could have a greater impact sooner. But the balance is there to ensure that they are not complete pups, and that there are experienced heads guiding the team. Of the new recruits, Ashleigh Guest could fill a role in defence, with the Dogs’ back six going to be interesting outside of Hannah Scott, Lauren Spark and Nicole Callinan, with Burke possibly looking to adopt a running game, which means Eleanor Brown, Elisabeth Georgostathis and Gemma Lagioia could rotate through there, with all of them easily in that best 21. Gabby Newton should play from Round 1 with Knights’ teammate Britney Gutknecht also in the running, as could Isabella Grant and Nell Morris-Dalton, but the forward line structure will be one for the Bulldogs to try and work out given the depth of both talls and smalls up that end. Of the draftees to miss out at this stage, it was the later selections of Amelia Van Oosterwijck and Hannah Munyard, though all two could come in and play a role, with Munyard having tasted senior football, while van Oosterwjck is more of a long-term prospect, but a real goer inside 50. Of the five experienced Dogs we left out – Deanna Berry, Ellyse Gamble, Bailey Hunt, Celine Moody and Kirsten McLeod – Moody is one who could play depending if the Dogs opt for a second ruck with Kim Rennie, Berry is a player who could be in the starting line-up on talent, it is just finding that consistency, while McLeod played six games last season, but with the influx of talent coming in, will be competing for a pot. Hunt and Gamble were on the fringes last season but still managed the three games.

The ‘big three’s’ take on how the AFLW draft unfolded

GABBY Newton, Lucy McEvoy, and Georgia Patrikios; dubbed pre-draft as the three players vying for the honour of being taken first off the AFL Women’s Draft board.

But ask all three about whether they knew what was to unfold on Tuesday afternoon, and all three almost unanimously insist they had not the slightest clue.

“I wasn’t sure going in,” Bulldogs’ number one pick Newton said. “I knew Lucy and Patrikios were obviously also big contenders but I’m so glad (the Bulldogs) picked me up, I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

“I sort of had no idea coming in so it was just ‘Whatever happens, happens,’ St Kilda’s Patrikios added. “I’m happy to be at the Saints and (I’m) just going to move from there.

“Carlton did say they were keen from the start and I was pretty keen… to get to pick two,” Carlton’s McEvoy told the club’s media team with more conviction. “It’s so good though, so exciting.”

McEvoy was incidentally the one to inadvertently create the ‘big three’ tussle, throwing a spanner in the works as she nominated for the Victorian Metro draft zone. Hailing from Geelong and rising through the Falcons’ junior pathway, it seemed the Cats’ AFLW side was destined to pick up another top-five talent at a cut price after snaring Olivia Purcell with pick 14 last year. That was not to be, with McEvoy’s choice “to get out of (her) comfort zone” planting even more intrigue into the top-end.

“It was pretty much based off my studies next year, I’m hoping to do paramedicine,” she said. “I’ve got my exams coming up so hopefully I can put my best foot forward in that and get the score that I need.”

“I would’ve loved to play at Geelong, I’ve got really good friends there but I think for me to grow, as a person, it would’ve been to tick the Melbourne box.”

In an interesting twist, all three players also had unique ties to pick two holder, Carlton. McEvoy’s father, Phil played 50 reserves games for the Blues during the 1970s and 80s, while Newton played two games this year for their VFLW side and Patrikios is studying sports coaching and development at the club’s College of Sport. Needless to say, they are all still stoked with how it all unfolded nonetheless.

“I just need to pinch myself because I can’t believe it’s actually happening to be honest,” Newton said. “All the girls drafted to the Doggies, Liz (Georgostathis) and Gem (Lagioia) as well and Izzy Grant, they’re all such good friends. “I can’t believe we’re all going in together, it’s so exciting.”

McEvoy, dubbed ‘Big Boy’ as the cousin of Hawthorn ruck Ben, had equal sentiment.

“It’s so exciting… to know that I’m starting at a new club, I get to meet all these new people which I’m so excited about,” she said. “Hopefully I can make a good first impression, I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into it.”

Going against the suggested unknown order of events heading into the big day, Patrikios came armed with arguably the best line of any draftee on the day.

“It’s going to be great to bring footy back to Moorabbin,” she said, becoming an instant hit with the Saints faithful – and likely the marketing department, too.

“Lucy and Gabby are amazing players and even (more) amazing people. “They deserved it, they’ve worked so hard, they’ve put a lot of work in over the last couple of years and they’ve been amazing. “I can’t wait to see how they go next season,” she added, becoming an even bigger hit with her fellow big three buddies.”

Fresh and familiar faces to build Bulldogs’ future

HOLDING four top ten picks – including the first – heading into Tuesday’s AFL Women’s Draft, much of the pre-draft chat surrounded how the Western Bulldogs would use their high-end selections.

They lost superstars Katie Brennan and Monique Conti to league newcomer Richmond after ending their premiership defence with just two wins and at the bottom of a strong Conference A. It called for rejuvenation, a new direction, and their raft of new pups would front it.

Brennan replacements now come in the form of pick one, Gabby Newton and pick six, Nell Morris-Dalton – both key members of the undefeated Northern Knights and Vic Metro sides. Skip a selection over to picks eight and nine and the themes become more evident. Classy speedsters Gemma Lagioia (Oakleigh) and Elisabeth Georgostathis (Western) plug the run-and-carry void left by Conti, with father-daughter selection Isabella Grant, Northern’s Britney Gutknecht, and Oakleigh’s Amelia van Oosterwijck filling out a rejuvenated Dogs list.

Player retention is currently a hot topic in the game, and one would think recruiting seven girls who had all played together under the very same coach they would look up to in their first AFLW season goes a long way to solving that issue. Indeed, new Dogs coach and former Sandringham/Vic Metro mentor Nathan Burke had a huge say in how his new side’s draft hand played out, and it saw his club remain a focal point carrying into the post-draft chat.

While the Brennan/Conti replacement theory is rather basic, wide-eyed and bubbly draftee Lagioia gave a similar analysis of how she might fit into the team alongside fellow outside runner, Georgostathis.

“Obviously there’s some pretty big shoes to fill,” she said. “I think working into it, we won’t be at that level this year but hopefully in the next few years we can really pay back what (the Bulldogs) have given us by taking us so early.”

“We’ve played together before, we’re quite similar players so maybe I’ll play on one wing and Liz will play on the other.”

“Obviously Gabby (Newton) and Nell (Morris-Dalton) are very close, they played at Northern and then we all played together at Vic Metro so it’s just really exciting to be able to stick together and go into a club where you know a lot of people already.”

Hailing from the Western region, Georgostathis’ sense of belonging at her new club comes two-fold, with the versatile runner proud to be the first Jet to find an AFLW home in 2019. Coming in alongside the likes of Lagoia, Newton and Morris-Dalton made the occasion that bit sweeter.

“Yeah I am (happy),” she said. “Being the first Western Jet girl is pretty good, the Jets have helped me so much over the past four years and I’m so grateful for them and all the development and all the staff there.”

“I’m sure the Bulldogs have a great development program and all they want is the best for the girls to help us develop into the future, not just this year but hopefully the next five years.”

“Seeing we’ve played with (Gabby and Nell) in the National Championships we know how they play and we all know how each other work a bit so we can use that on the field… I don’t know if Gem remembers but we played together in the Under-15 National Championships. “We didn’t know each other that well back then but then coming again this year and playing Vic Metro together, it’s pretty good and now playing Bulldogs with (Gemma) is really good.”

Rounding off the consensus sentiment among the new pups was number one pick Newton, who sounded a great advertisement for the Dogs’ tactics in the love shown for each teammate she is set to line up alongside for years to come.

“I love Nell, she’s one of my best friends,” she said. “All the girls drafted to the Doggies, Liz and Gem as well and Izzy Grant, they’re all such good friends. “I can’t believe we’re all going in together, it’s so exciting to have fresh faces in and around the club.”

The use of familiarity in building a future spine could prove to be one of the most fruitful draft strategies of recent times, but a lot has to play out until we can say so for sure. For now though, boy is the 2019 Bulldogs draft class chuffed with being reunited, ready to help Footscray find its way firmly back on the map.

Note: The Western Bulldogs also signed South Adelaide young gun and talented athlete Hannah Munyard today as a free agent.

Lagioia loves team aspect of footy

COLLINGWOOD premiership player, Gemma Lagioia has been in and around Australian rules football for more than a decade and her ability to do some magical things with ball-in-hand attest to her experience. The Oakleigh Chargers’ talent has risen through the program and put together a consistent season, winning the club’s best and fairest award and not looking out of place at Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) level.

“I started playing Auskick but I don’t really know why, I just wanted to and I did,” Lagioia said at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day. “I just played from Under 9s to 13s with the boys, then started playing girls.”

The team aspect of the sport kept the talented utility playing, as she rose through the ranks to now be in her top-age year on the verge of being drafted into the AFL Women’s competition.

“I love just being in a team, working with other girls and having fun and then just going out and playing games and doing your best,” Lagioia said.

Despite being nimble around the stoppages, Lagioia said her speed was an area she wanted to improve, particular her acceleration to gain separation from her opponents. She showed her improvement throughout the VFLW finals series, becoming not only a contributor for the Magpies, but one of their best on Grand Final Day.

The off-season provided plenty of change for the Chargers in the NAB League Girls with so many new faces around the club that Lagioia admitted was difficult at first to get her head around.

“I think we’ve improved a lot, there’s a lot of new girls that are just going to make our team better this year,” she said. “I think it was different at the start, learning a bunch of new peoples’ names and getting to know them but now we’re closer as a team so it’s better.”

While Lagioia said she hoped to play finals with the Chargers, Oakleigh narrowly missed out, instead finishing fifth but showing plenty of improvement on their 2018 season. But her finals goal was met when she ran out at Ikon Park in the black and white stripes, eventually standing on the dais post-game with a premiership medal around her neck. Lagioia’s premiership coach Penny Cula-Reid praised the young gun along with a couple of her Chargers’ teammates in the lead-up to the VFLW finals series.

“You see these young 18-year-olds coming through and they’re just bloody superstars,” Cula-Reid said. “You get them when they’re coming off a championships up in Queensland and we’ve got Gemma Lagioia, Nicola Xenos and Amelia Van Oosterwijck who unfortunately did her ankle, but these are the kids who have been playing high-level football at the highest possible level they can at such a young age and they just bring a completely different dynamic into our team. “We’re just really excited for them and all the other 18-year-olds who are playing through the finals series, and obviously the draft is coming up so no better time to see them in action than the finals series.”

Lagioia’s talent is clear and unfortunately the Magpies are resigned to losing the classy player, with their first pick not until Pick 67. But one thing is for sure, based on her ability to step up at each level, Lagioia will soon adapt to the style of AFL Women’s regardless of the colours she wears.

2019 AFLW Draft Combine Results

WITH the AFL Women’s 2019 Draft looming ever closer, the AFLW Draft Combine is the final opportunity for young talent to prove their craft prior to the Draft on 22 October.

Victoria rated highly across all five tests, featuring in the top five in each and leading two, seeing Nicola Xenos coming in fast for the 20-metre sprint and Elisabeth Georgostathis exceeding in the agility test. Meanwhile, West Australian Roxy Roux and South Australian Hannah Munyard both placed in the top five for three of the five tests and Irish recruits Olivia Divilly and Vicki Wall proved they could match with the best of Australia’s young talent.

Below are the top five results for each test.

STANDING VERTICAL JUMP

Roxanne Roux (WA): 59cm
Molly Denahy-Maloney (VIC): 58cm
Marguerite Purcell (VIC): 53cm
Tahlia Hickie (QLD): 52cm
Hannah Munyard (SA): 51cm

20-METRE SPRINT

Nicola Xenos (VIC): 3.210 seconds
Olivia Divilly (Ireland): 3.258 seconds
Roxanne Roux (WA): 3.250 seconds
Vicki Wall (Ireland): 3.299 seconds
Hannah Munyard (SA): 3.307 seconds

AGILITY TEST

Elisabeth Georgostathis (VIC): 8.535 seconds
Isabel Dawes (QLD): 8.651 seconds
Roxanne Roux (WA): 8.654 seconds
Hannah Munyard (SA): 8.668 seconds
Tarni White (QLD): 8.696 seconds

YO-YO TEST

Olivia Divilly (Ireland): level 17.2
Georgia Garnett (NSW/ACT): level 16.8
Sophie Molan (VIC): level 16.4
Paige Sheppard (VIC): level 16.3
Gemma Lagioia (VIC): level 16.1
Luka Lesosky-Hay (VIC): level 16.1
Serene Watson (QLD): level 16.1

TWO-KILOMETRE TIME TRIAL

Hannah Hillman (QLD): 7min 41sec
Olivia Divillly (Ireland): 7min 48sec
Nicola Xenos (VIC): 7min 58sec
Gemma Lagioia (VIC): 8min 1sec
Ella Wood (VIC): 8min 9sec
Tahlia Hickie (QLD): 8min 9sec

Versatility the key for Xenos

LIKE many other female footballers her age, Nicola Xenos did not have the typical football upbringing. The Oakleigh Chargers player came through the ranks after starting school footy, having wanted to play from a young age.

“I started my footy journey when I was about 11 years old and it was just with the team from school, all my school friends were playing,” Xenos said. “I thought I’d take it up, I always wanted to play it with the boys but I wasn’t allowed. “But that’s where I started.”

The Oakleigh Chargers doubled their wins in 2019, collecting six wins and one draw from 10 games. Xenos attributes the improvement to the team development during the season, and was among a select few from the side selected for Vic Metro in 2019.

“I feel like having a good group of girls you play with and work well with is really effective on and off the field, so I feel like that’s really good in footy.”

As for improvement, Xenos aims to get into more of the contest off the half-back and even head up the ground into the midfield.

“Probably making more of an impact off the half-back line,” she said. “I play half-back and I feel like if the ball doesn’t come down, you’re not having an impact on the game, but using space around the ground to try and impact as much as possible. “I do rotate in the midfield so I wouldn’t say I could go forward, but definitely more time in the midfield I’d love.”

But the peak of Xenos’ season came when her Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) side, Collingwood took out the premiership with Xenos showing flashes of her brilliance at both ends. The talented utility is highly rated within the walls of the Holden Centre and the Magpies’ premiership coach Penny Cula-Reid praised the young gun along with a couple of her Chargers’ teammates in the lead-up to the VFLW finals series.

“You see these young 18-year-olds coming through and they’re just bloody superstars,” Cula-Reid said. “You get them when they’re coming off a championships up in Queensland and we’ve got, Gemma Lagioia, Nicola Xenos and Amelia Van Oosterwijck who unfortunately did her ankle, but these are the kids who have been playing high-level football at the highest possible level they can at such a young age and they just bring a completely different dynamic into our team. “We’re just really excited for them and all the other 18-year-olds who are playing through the finals series, and obviously the draft is coming up so no better time to see them in action than the finals series.”

Xenos’ performances across the season earned her a National Draft Combine invitation and has put her name right up into draft calculations. Whatever the future holds, she will just enjoy the moment.

Scouting notes: VFLW Grand Final – NAB League Girls focus

IN a special edition of scouting notes, we took a look at the Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) Grand Final with three players from each side having run out in NAB League Girls colours. We take a look at Western Jets’ Elisabeth Georgostathis, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ duo Sophie Molan and Ella Wood, and Oakleigh Chargers’ trio, Nicola Xenos, Gemma Lagioia and Alana Porter.

Western Bulldogs:

#56 Elisabeth Georgostathis

Started up forward and spent some time through the midfield in an okay Grand Final. Her defensive pressure was good laying a number of tackles during the game and threw herself into contest where needed. She intercepted a ball from the Pies early in attack and tried to force the ball forward into a scoring opportunity. Later in the game, she won a loose ball at a stoppage and kicked forward to about 30m out. Laid a big tackle in the final term at half-forward to lock the ball in late in the game.

#57 Sophie Molan

Started on the bench but ended the most influential of the Western Bulldogs Under-18 players. She marked in the middle midway through the first term but her kick was intercepted, then went into the middle late in the term and stood beside Bri Davey at the stoppage. Molan showed great hands at the bottom of the pack, firing out a handball to a teammate just outside 50 to kick deep. She was sold into trouble in the second term with a missed handball, collecting it then immediately wrapped up. Her biggest moment of the game came when she won a free kick moments later with a terrific tackle on Sharni Layton. She lined up and converted the set shot from 35m out to boot the Bulldogs’ first of the game. She was quieter in the second half, but kicked well along the wing after a lucky bounce at half-back and then had a shot later in the game but the kick just bounced a bit short.

#58 Ella Wood

A quiet game with just the two touches as the 23rd player for the game, but it was what she did off the ball that was impressive. She laid four tackles, including nullifying a one-on-two contest in attack to hold up a Pies rebound enough to force a turnover. Went into the middle in the second term and used her attack on the ball to provide a tackling presence.

Collingwood:

#66 Nicola Xenos

Started on the bench but quickly had an impact, picking up the ball in the first term and was met by front-on contact and won a free kick. She copped a front-on bump shortly after again and bounced back up to lay a great tackle and lock the ball up at half-forward. She continued to apply defensive pressure throughout the day, playing between both half-forward and half-back. Won a couple of big touches in the middle of the ground in the second term, and while her kicks were turnover in contest, she kept pushing hard, laying a desperate smother, albeit with her head. She looked to come off second best from that hit with the ball, but got up and kept playing. In the third term, Xenos went forward and had a quick snap around her body but it went out on the full. She had a neat kick out of defence late in the game when under pressure to clear it to half-back.

#71 Gemma Lagioia

The star of the show from the Under-18 perspective with a massive game. Lagioia showed all of her talent in the game to pick up 14 disposals, three marks and boot a goal. Her first term was superb where she set up a number of scoring opportunities. Maddie Shevlin missed with the snap as did Chloe Molloy, but then set up a nice pass leading to a Jaimee Lambert goal, then handballed directly to Lambert for the forward’s second of the term. She was not afraid to go up in marking contests against multiple opponents and showed clean hands in the air or at ground level. She did so playing in defence in the second term and then pushed back to the wing where she was outbodied by the stronger opponent. In the third quarter she was in the right position to collect an errant Bulldogs’ kick at half-forward and kick deep to the forward pocket. Copped a knock close to the boundary line in the third and was sucking in deep breaths but carried on and marked 55m out and passed inboard well. Lagioia laid a great tackle inside forward 50 on Vaomua Laloifi to hold the Dogs’ up, and showed smarts to lead out and mark just inside 50 and put it to the square but was spoiled across the line. Lagioia collected a loose ball inside 50 but before she could snap was dragged down. Her final touch was the best of all, running hard into the perfect spot to receive the handball and ice the game with a cool running goal from 25m out to put her side 32 points up with seven minutes remaining.

#73 Alana Porter

A quiet game with just the two touches, but showed composure in defence with a quick kick under pressure early in the second term as the Chargers’ runners first touch of the day. Did well to restrict her opponent when the ball was in her area.

Collingwood create history with dominant second half

COLLINGWOOD painted Ikon Park black and white with a terrific 37-point win over the Western Bulldogs in the Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) Grand Final today to claim their inaugural premiership. They had to overcome a second quarter fightback from the Dogs, before running out with the final five goals of the game to win 7.10 (52) to 2.3 (15) and remarkably heard the “Collliiinnnggwwwooooddd” chant echoed around the ground in the last quarter. Reliable key position defender Stacey Livingstone took out the Lisa Hardeman Medal for the best on ground following her 25 disposals and 10 marks – most of which were intercept grabs in defence.

The ball bobbled around in the opening couple of minutes with neither side able to control the footy and settle. Bri Davey inserted herself into the game straight away contesting every ball and finding the footy with ease while Collingwood cross-coder Sharni Layton did not muck around throwing her weight around in the first quarter and winning her own ball in the ruck to provide first use to the Pies. Collingwood retained some control locking the ball inside forward 50 and peppering away at the goals. The Dogs defence stood up time and time again withstanding the Pies pressure but Collingwood kept the forward pressure on despite being unable to convert with six points straight. Brooke Lochland got up high for the Dogs providing a release option while Mikayla Ward did her part for the Western Bulldogs taking a host of strong marks to try and nullify Collingwood. The Dogs defence worked in overdrive chopping off every option inside 50 and making Collingwood work for the ball with Simone Ruedin doing a wealth of work to repel the Collingwood forward forays and send the ball back up the other end. But the damn wall finally broke with Jaimee Lambert awarded a free kick 30 metres directly in front, the first goal of the game. Chloe Molloy created another forward opportunity with a great clearance in the middle of the ground streaming forward and bombing it long leaving Lambert to do the rest putting through her second in less than a minute pushing the lead out to 17 points.

The Dogs had a lot of the ball in their forward half but the Pies remained composed working it out of defence and down the wing. Livingstone did not let up down back controlling the defensive 50 with her ability to read the play and take an intercept mark. Brittany Bonnici took a strong mark deep in defence to chop off the Dogs scoring opportunity. Molloy showcased her strength with a huge tackle pushing her opponent into the ground. Sophie Molan was awarded a free kick directly in front about 30 out to secure the Dogs first goal of the game. The Dogs tails were well and truly up bombing the ball long inside forward 50 with plenty of repeat entries. Emma Mackay kicked an absolute blinder of a goal with the ball bouncing at right angles and dribbling through for their second in as many minutes. With the Dogs mounting a comeback the intensity lifted with Collingwood throwing everything at them in hope to maintain their one goal buffer. Davey took a huge mark throwing her body on the line and absorbing the body contact to keep the Pies nose narrowly in front at the half.

The third quarter started with a bang with Lambert and Lochland going toe-to-toe in a scuffle on the wing. Molloy bagged her first goal of the game with a kick along the ground and despite the Dogs best efforts to convince the umpires it was touched it was awarded as a goal. It was high intensity and physical opening couple of minutes with both sides throwing their body on the line. Gemma Lagioia played her role offering leads inside forward 50 and setting up plays for teammates. Bonnici showcased her strength to read the play and keep the ball inside the Pies attacking half. Bailey Hunt really stepped up her intensity working hard across the ground to win the footy and applying plenty of physical pressure. 35 Pies popped up everywhere in the third term taking a host of strong marks and sending the ball deep inside the Pies 50 with Sophie Alexander reaping the rewards and nailing her first for the game and their second for the quarter. Lagioia presented well up the footy all game taking a strong mark but couldn’t convert. Erica Fowler took a good intercept mark but failed to trouble the scoreboard only registering a point. The Dogs simply could not match the intensity applied by the Pies with Collingwood getting repeat entries and controlling the third term with their defensive set up. Alexander kicked a goal right on the three quarter time siren to give the Collingwood a commanding 26-point lead heading into the final change. 

With one hand on the premiership cup the Magpies maintained their composure and reigned supreme. Despite the Dogs best efforts it was a case of a little too late. The Western Bulldogs pressed hard holding the ball in their attacking 50 and creating options but the Pies were up to the task pouncing on every opportunity. 16 Dogs highlighted her class with a silky pick up off the ground but a pulverising tackle from the Pies saw the ball gobbled back up. Davey showed her class with an underground handball to Lambert on the wing to push the ball further down the lies for the Magpies. Lochland did not let up twisting and turning on the wing to try and propel the ball into the Dogs forward but they struggled to penetrate the Collingwood defence end. Goals to Lagioia and Mikala Cann wrapped up proceedings with last quarter goals to ensure the Magpies got home in a terrific effort.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.1 | 2.1 | 2.1 | 2.3 (15)
COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 2.6 | 2.6 | 5.9 | 7.10 (52)

GOALS:

Western Bulldogs: E. Mackay, S. Molan.
Collingwood: S. Alexander 2, J. Lamber 2, M. Cann, G. Lagioia, C. Molloy.

ADC BEST:

Western Bulldogs: E. Gavalas, B. Hunt, K. Lamb, B. Lochland, A. Guest.
Collingwood: S. Livingstone, J. Lambert, B. Davey, G. Lagioia, C. Molloy.

VFLW weekly wrap: Preliminary Final – Magpies surge into decider with strong finish

A FEROCIOUS Collingwood Magpies swooped into the 2019 Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) Grand Final producing a scintillating lesson in forward pressure. The Magpies knocked off the Southern Saints for the second time in three weeks as they advanced to play the Western Bulldogs in next Sunday’s decider. In a tight contest that was see-sawing at times, the Magpies held form in the final term to kick two of the last three goals of the game to run out 7.5 (47) to 5.3 (33) winners. While the Saints’ defence was up to the task, they were ultimately overwhelmed in the end as the Magpies piled on 27 more inside 50s, 19 more tackles and 35 more disposals to send an ominous sign to their opponent next week.

It was the Southern Saints who were first on the board, keen to atone for the loss to the Magpies a fortnight prior, with former Blue, Kate Shierlaw putting through a major just 54 seconds into the contest. Her major was soon equaled out by Katelyn Lee, but again the Saints struck back midway through the term thanks to recent recruit, Caitlin Greiser who extended the margin to eight. A crucial goal to Oakleigh Chargers’ graduate Nicola Xenos got the Magpies up and about with the margin eventually cut to one by the first break. Bri Davey‘s return in the black and white after injury was proving to be a huge factor through the midfield, while up forward, competition leading goalkicker Jaimee Lambert was about to get to work. She booted two goals in 15 minutes, joined by slick Chargers’ utility Gemma Lagioia who added a major in between Lambert’s goals to extend the lead out to 17, which would be the largest of the match. With the momentum fully with the Magpies, former Pie, Darcy Guttridge booted a much-needed major on the edge of half-time for her side to head into the break with a more manageable 11-point deficit.

Neither side could seem to break through in the third term, with it taking a late goal from Emma Mackie to bring the game back to life heading into the final break. The Magpies lead by just five points at the final change, and with the Saints having booted the last two, needed someone to stand up early. That someone was AFL Women’s Rising Star winner, Chloe Molloy who made the most of an opportunity to give the Magpies breathing space, but no sooner had she done that and Southern Saints’ Molly McDonald brought the margin back to a straight kick two minutes later. It would prove to be the last score for the Saints however, as some desperate defending by their back end forced a couple of rushed behinds. The pressure from the Magpies was intense and eventually it won the game, with a fitting goal to Lambert putting the margin out to a match-winning 14 points surging them into the grand final.

Davey finished the match with 30 disposals, three marks and four tackles through the midfield, working well with Lambert who amassed 28 touches herself, as well as six marks, four tackles and three goals. Brit Bonnici had 17 disposals, two marks and four tackles, while Molloy picked up 15 disposals, laid four tackles and booted a crucial major to reignite the Pies. Chargers’ young guns Xenos and Lagioia combined for 27 disposals, six marks, 16 tackles and two goals to show they belong at the level and more. For the Saints, Tilly Lucas-Rodd had a team-high 16 disposals and laid three tackles, while Guttridge (15 disposals, one tackle and a goal) and Olivia Vesely (15 disposals, two marks and four tackles) were both big ball winners. Dandenong Stingrays and future St Kilda AFL Women’s players, McDonald and Isabella Shannon also put in strong performances with a combined 24 touches, five tackles and a goal in defeat. Among those playing underrated team roles were Sharni Layton and Stacey Livingstone, with Layton strong through the ruck with 18 hitouts, 14 disposals and four tackles, while Livingstone had eight touches and was really impressive in the defensive 50. For the Saints, Catherine Phillips was named the Saints’ best with 10 touches and six tackles.

Collingwood faces Western Bulldogs at Ikon Park on Sunday from 11.35am.

Collingwood 2.1 | 5.1 | 5.3 | 7.5 (47)
Southern Saints 2.2 | 3.2 | 4.2 | 5.3 (33)

GOALS:
Collingwood:
J. Lambert 3, N. Xenos, K. Lee, G. Lagioia, C. Molloy.
Southern Saints: K. Shierlaw, K. Greiser, Guttridge, E. Mackie, M. McDonald.

BEST:
Collingwood:
J. Lambert, B. Davey, G. Lagioia, S. Layton, S. Livingstone, B. Bonnici
Southern Saints: C. Phillips, C. Fitzpatrick, M. McDonald, E. Mackie, K. O’Neill, I. Shannon

Magpies ready to swoop on second chance

FOR the second successive year, Collingwood heads into the Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) finals series as the team to beat, sitting atop the table and claiming the minor premiership. But while that history repeats, coach Penny Cula-Reid is keen to ensure that the 2018 finals series history – which contained back-to-back losses and a straight sets exit – will not repeat. Cula-Reid said the “uneasy” nature of the AFLW season has the players determined to prove a point, and also take the learnings from last year in the VFLW to go deeper in 2019.

“I think the group itself has really evolved and developed from last year into this year, and same with AFL girls having such an uneasy AFLW season, coming into VFLW they really wanted to prove something and work on the things they needed to work on,” Cula-Reid said. “(We’re doing) nothing differently because I think that the girls have the experience knowing what it was like in the finals series. “Still going in with the mindset of anything is possible. “Obviously we wanted to make sure we have a winning mentality and making sure our mental game is strong. “We all know finals series are a completely different game and anything can happen on day, and it’s really important for us as a collective that we’re all doing it together.”

The Magpies have enjoyed welcoming a host of Oakleigh Chargers players who stepped up from NAB League Girls and AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships level to don the black and white stripes at VFLW level. Cula-Reid said their fast-tracked development compared to predecessors and current AFLW players was noticeable, and while the game style had been tweaked, it was the young “superstars” that were having an impact in 2019.

I still think the anti-density rule that something teams can expose if they know how to stick to a gameplan,” she said. “But really important, I think it’s just the game, you see these young 18-year-olds coming through and they’re just bloody superstars. “You get them when they’re coming off a championships up in Queensland and we’ve got, Gemma Lagioia, Nicola Xenos and Amelia Van Oosterwijck who unfortunately did her ankle, but these are the kids who have been playing high-level football at the highest possible level they can at such a young age and they just bring a completely different dynamic into our team. “We’re just really excited for them and all the other 18-year-olds who are playing through the finals series, and obviously the draft is coming up so no better time to see them in action than the finals series.”

The Oakleigh Chargers link is one that is going strong for the Magpies, with Cula-Reid working with the NAB League Girls club, to continue their development pathway up to the top level.

“It’s been great,” Cula-Reid said of the two club’s affiliation. “We’ve been very fortunate, especially last year. We had two girls from the Oakleigh Chargers in Katie Lynch and Daisy Bateman both getting drafted to teams, so fantastic exposure for them and I get the chance to go down to training, watch a few of their games, have a chat to their coach Luke (O’Shannessy), and it’s just great for us that we get that talent pool. “But we’re juggling the fact that they play private school football as well, so it’s a bit of a catch-22, we get some of the best talent, but we’ve also got to make sure their schooling is number one.”

The Magpies held the key to the 2019 AFL Women’s Draft with multiple first and second round picks to select the likes of Lynch and Mikala Cann. It is a very different looking story heading into 2020, with the club not making a selection until Pick 67. But considering what the Magpies brought in, Cula-Reid said it was worth the wait.

“We had a great recruit in Brianna Davey and I think for that, she’s worth all the draft picks in the world to be honest,” Cula-Reid. “What she brings to the team is phenomenal. “There’s so much young talent out there, the exposure and the opportunity to have access to the resources that we have at Collingwood and we’ve got some of the best coaches there, like Nathan Buckley who was coach of the year last year and we get to tap into the men’s system as well, so fantastic for us that we get that development from a coaching perspective and now we’ve got a new coach in Steve Symonds, and again his expertise in what he brings to the club … look out for us in 2020.”

Cula-Reid said the introduction of Symonds to the club was a massive benefit and that the pair worked well together in terms of their focus on development and coaching beliefs.

“He came in July, so it was sort of just a one person show until then,” she said. “But he’s taken Norwood to three grand finals, he’s worked in coach development, he’s worked in player development, he’s worked coaching at the highest level too, he’s coached at Adelaide as well. “We’ve very excited and very lucky and fortunate to have someone like Steve come in and he’s taken me under his wing, and like I’ve been saying to a lot of the people that we actually read from the same book, he’s just a few chapters in front of me. I come in to say good morning to him and we sit there for like 40 minutes just talking about football and I’m like ‘we haven’t even started my day yet and we’re already talking footy’ but he’s great having around the club. “Very invested, very involved with the girls, especially in the VFL program. “Obviously moving into the AFL program, he wants to build from here and move into the AFL season.”

Potentially the Magpies could look from within to find the next AFLW star, developing their current and possibly future AFLW players.

“It’s really important for our AFL girls to get experience and exposure in other positions, because on gameday anything can happen and to have that flexibility to throw them from one end of the field to the other, chuck them on the wing or inside mid, it’s part of their football development,” Cula-Reid said. “If we think footy IQ is really important, there’s no way better than if you’re a one-dimensional player, you’re not going to get many opportunities, but if we can throw you up one end of the field or the other, that’s great exposure for them and great development for them, and we’ve got such a young list that anything is possible with these girls, so we’re pretty excited about that.”

Now with the finals about to commence, Cula-Reid has squarely focused on the next month as the Magpies look to win their maiden VFLW premiership. While the Saints are the biggest threat to the Magpies on paper, Cula-Reid said any one of the finals sides could take out the premiership.

“You can’t go past Southern Saints,” she said. “They’re pretty phenomenal all season. “We only met them in Round 1, and unfortunately for us we only had 24 players to pick from on our list then, so I think this weekend’s going to be a different story but they’ve come in leaps and bound. “You can’t go past Richmond, lucky enough for us to win after the siren, and Geelong’s back in the finals series again, you’ve got Melbourne Uni also affiliated with North Melbourne and then you can’t go past any of the other teams in the competition, so anything can happen on the day.”

Collingwood hosts Southern Saints at their spiritual home of Victoria Park from 12pm on Saturday, August 31.