Tag: gena lawson-tavan

2021 Draft Central’s VFL Women’s Team of the Year: Round 6

AS the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition prepares to restart after the Easter Weekend break, Draft Central, in conjunction with Women’s Australian Football Radio (WARF) has compiled a Team of the Year to date in Round 6. It is an even spread across the board with eight of the 12 competing teams recording two players, and the remaining three sides having the one representative in a realistic, 16-starter and four-bench side.

Ladder leaders Port Melbourne have two players in the side, with ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Sophie Locke named in the forward pocket, and experienced former AFL Women’s player in Mel Kuys in the centre. The other undefeated side in Collingwood just has the one player in there, with forward Imogen Barnett making the team after booting eight goals in the first five games, one less than leader Locke. In between the pair of forwards is Hawthorn’s Jessie Williams who straightens the team up at full-forward, the sole Hawk in the team.

At half-forward, ex-Cannon Alana Barba earned a place in the side with the inside midfielder booting a goal a game in her first five games to book a starting spot on the flank. She was named in the side with fellow midfielder Georgia Nanscawen with the ex-Roo named ruck rover. The other onballer in the side is ex-Geelong Falcon Paige Sheppard, with the rover’s teammate Tamara Smith – another ex-Bushranger – named on the bench. In the ruck is Western Bulldogs’ Nicole McMahon who has been superb all season, whilst teammate Simone Ruedin has been a rock in defence.

Holding up the fort at full-back is Carlton’s Jennifer Lew, who is in the back six with another Blue in Akayla Peterson, who has spent time at both ends, also kicking three goals this season. Ex-Magpie Grace Buchan is in the back pocket but instead for Casey Demons this season, whilst teammate Eliza West is on the interchange. At half-back, Williamstown’s Erin Meade will provide some run for the hypothetical team, whilst centre half-back Meagan Kiely rounds out the defence. The North Melbourne tall is in the side with talented Tasmanian goalkicker Sarah Skinner, with the reigning TSL Women’s league best and fairest winner making an impact at VFL Women’s level.

The last remaining starting player is centre half-forward Tara Bohanna with the Southern Saint able to chop out in the ruck when forward. She should not need to though, with Darebin Falcons’ sole representative in Sidney Cubasch to provide that rotation with McMahon, whilst Bohanna’s Saints’ teammate Hannah Stuart rounds out the interchange. In terms of emergencies and those unluckiest to miss out, it is a trio of defensive players in Southern Saints’ Rebecca Neaves, North Melbourne’s Molly Eastman and Darebin Falcons’ Gena Lawson-Tavan.

DRAFT CENTRAL’S VFL WOMEN’S TEAM OF THE YEAR: ROUND 6

B: Simone Ruedin (WB) – Jennifer Lew (CAR) – Grace Buchan (CD)
HB: Akayla Peterson (CAR) – Meagan Kiely (NM) – Erin Meade (WILL)
C: Mel Kuys (PM)
HF: Alana Barba (ESS) – Tara Bohanna (SS) – Sarah Skinner (NM)
F: Sophie Locke (PM) – Jessie Williams (HAW) – Imogen Barnett (COLL)
R: Nicole McMahon (WB) – Georgia Nanscawen (ESS) – Paige Sheppard (GEE)
INT: Sidney Cubasch (DF) – Tamara Smith (GEE) – Hannah Stuart (SS) – Eliza West (CD)

EMG: Rebecca Neaves (SS) – Molly Eastman (NM) – Gena Lawson-Tavan (DF)

2021 VFLW Round 4 wrap: Bombers claim monster win on tight weekend

ROUND 4 of the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) season saw Essendon and the Southern Saints come away big winners, with the remaining four fixtures split by under three goals each. Competition frontrunners Collingwood and Port Melbourne kept their perfect records intact, while at the other end of the table Darebin is still searching for its first points in 2021. All that, and more in our weekend wrap.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.0 | 1.2 | 2.3 | 3.4 (22)
WILLIAMSTOWN 1.2 | 2.5 | 4.6 | 5.8 (38)

Williamstown pulled off one of the upsets of the round on Saturday, claiming a 16-point victory over the Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval. The Seagulls led from the first goal and built on a handy buffer throughout the contest, with their scoreboard pressure just enough to keep the Bulldogs at bay. Having lacked bite for much of the season, the home side could not find a way back in the 5.8 (38) to 3.4 (22) result.

Debutant Sofi Georgas was terrific for the victors, finding the goals and being named among her side’s best players. Gabrielle Biedenweg-Webster achieved the same feat, as usual suspects Aimee Whelan, Ruby Tripodi and Erin Meade also went to work. Bulldogs skipper Riley Christgoergl claimed full votes in the red, white and blue, with Eliza Vale performing well and senior-listed Bulldog Bailey Hunt also in the thick of things.

GOALS:

Bulldogs: E. Vale, A. Scott, N. Wright
Williamstown: G. Biedenweg-Webster, S. Georgas, A. Dickie, E. Straford, A. Casley

BEST:

Bulldogs: R. Christgoergl, B. Hunt, V. Murphy, S. Ruedin, E. Vale, E. Huggard
Williamstown: A. Whelan, R. Tripodi, S. Georgas, E. Baxter, G. Biedenweg-Webster, E. Meade

GEELONG 0.1 | 1.1 | 1.4 | 3.5 (23)
PORT MELBOURNE 1.2 | 3.3 | 4.3 | 6.3 (39)

Port Melbourne claimed a huge scalp on Saturday in what was arguably the biggest test of its inaugural season to date, defeating Geelong by 16 points at Deakin University. The Borough led at every break and managed to answer each late query the Cats posed, having held them to just one goal across the first three terms. To sweeten the 6.3 (39) to 3.5 (23) result even further, it sees Port extend its run atop the VFLW ladder.

Exciting youngster Sophie Locke continued her impressive transition forward with another bag of three goals to spearhead the Borough, while injury returnee Cleo Saxon-Jones was among a trio of Richmond-listed players to also hit the scoreboard. Michelle Fedele was Geelong’s sole multiple goalkicker with two, as Claire Dyett and Annabel Johnson were named best-on for their respective teams ahead of hosts of AFLW talent.

GOALS:

Geelong: M. Fedele 2, S. Williams
Port: S. Locke 3, C. Saxon-Jones, P. Monahan, A. Edmonds

BEST:

Geelong: A. Johnson, M. Boyd, T. Meissner, M. Fedele, G. Clarke, B. Pratt
Port: C. Dyett, S. Sansonetti, S. Locke, H. McLaren, C. Bromage, P. Peschke

CASEY DEMONS 0.0 | 2.1 | 5.4 | 6.6 (42)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 1.0 | 2.2 | 2.3 | 2.5 (17)

Casey Demons overcame deficits at the opening two breaks to trump the Southern Saints by 25 points on Sunday, solidifying their status in the top four. Having trailed by the narrowest of margins at half time, the Dees piled on three goals to nil in the third term, and prettied up the scoreboard with another in the fourth to run out comfortable 6.6 (42) to 2.5 (17) winners. Ultimately, the Saints had little answer for the onslaught in a goalless second half.

Niamh McEvoy continued her push for a senior recall as she booted two goals for Casey, joined in gaining plaudits by fellow dual goalkicker Tahlia Fellows. Skipper Samantha Johnson and Eliza West were also again among the Demons’ best. Saints youngster Renee Saulitis bagged one of her side’s two majors, as Alexandra Hynes backed up a strong outing last week and Madi Capsalis joined Deanna Jolliffe in the votes.

GOALS:

Casey: N. McEvoy 2, T. Fellows 2, E. West, I. Simmons
Saints: T. Bohanna, R. Saulitis

BEST:

Casey: N. McEvoy, E. Humphries, T. Fellows, E. West, C. Conroy, S. Johnson
Saints: A. Hynes, E. Nixon, M. Capsalis, R. Neaves, D. Jolliffe, L. Burke

CARLTON 3.1 | 4.2 | 5.4 | 8.4 (52)
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.2 | 3.2 | 3.4 | 6.8 (44)

Carlton produced arguably its best performance of the season on Sunday, holding off North Melbourne to claim its second win on the trot, by eight points. With solid senior representation afield, the Blues put previous scoring woes behind them to come out strongly in that department, eventually notching their highest total to date and keeping the fast-finishing Roos at bay to come away 8.4 (52) to 6.8 (44) victors.

Boom recruit Akayla Peterson again found the big sticks and was among Carlton’s finest performers, as AFLW-listed players Serena Gibbs, Maddy Guerin, and Winnie Laing all featured in the votes. Courtney Jones and Stephanie Lawrence were also important with two goals apiece. Meanwhile, Brooke Brown booted four majors for North as she pushes her case for a senior call-up, while tall recruit Alexia Hamilton was also amongst it alongside Sarah Skinner, Katelyn Cox, and Ciara Fitzgerald.

GOALS:

Carlton: S. Lawrence 2, C. Jones 2, A. Peterson, S. Gibbs, M. Wilson, P. Trudgeon
North: B. Brown 4, A. Hamilton, J. Hamilton

BEST:

Carlton: A. Peterson, S. Gibbs, C. Jones, S. Lawrence, M. Guerin, W. Laing
North: B. Brown, S. Skinner, K. Cox, A. Hamilton, N. Wallace, C. Fitzgerald

ESSENDON 3.3 | 7.5 | 8.6 | 10.10 (70)
DAREBIN 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.3 | 0.3 (3)

Essendon inflicted this season’s biggest winning margin to date, notching a monster 67-point victory over Darebin at The Hangar on Sunday. A seven-goal first half set the Bombers’ ominous tone, as their scoring power proved much too strong for the Falcons, who now hold the unfortunate record of this season’s first goalless game. Darebin did get on the scoreboard, but hardly cut into the margin as it went down 10.10 (70) to 0.3 (3).

Bombers skipper Georgia Nanscawen and Alexandra Morcom kept their good runs of form going in the win, while Alana Barba was among a trio of multiple goalkickers and Grace Dicker proved promising in her return to VFLW action. Victoria Blackwood claimed full votes for Darebin ahead of leader, Steph Simpson as Vanja Smiljanic returned well and Gena Lawson-Tavan was also serviceable in the loss.

GOALS:

Essendon: N. MacDonald 2, A. Barba 2, F. Theodore 2, G. Dicker, M. Clifford, J. Davies, M. Anthony
Darebin: Nil

BEST:

Essendon: G. Nanscawen, M. Anthony, G. Dicker, A. Morcom, A. Barba, C. McIntosh
Darebin: V. Blackwood, S. Simpson, G. Lawson-Tavan, E. Buckley, A. Caddy, V. Smiljanic

COLLINGWOOD 2.2 | 2.2 | 3.5 | 3.10 (28)
HAWTHORN 1.0 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 2.1 (13)

Collingwood kept its perfect record in tact on Sunday, but was made to earn a 15-point victory over Hawthorn at its spiritual home of Victoria Park. The Magpies booted as many goals as the Hawks had scoring shots, but were otherwise inaccurate and kept the travelling team’s hopes alive. Hawthorn could not quite take advantage and cut into the margin though, as the Magpies finished 3.10 (28) to 2.1 (13) winners in the round’s final fixture.

Senior-listed Collingwood players Maddie Shevlin and Amelia Velardo showed their worth at the level once again, as did Abbi Moloney with her major score. Hawthorn veteran Meg Hutchins was promised a wide variety of roles this season and found herself kicking a goal in her latest outing, before being named in the votes alongside the likes of Chloe O’Malley and Nicole Cormack.

GOALS:

Collingwood: D. Hallett, A. Moloney, C. Haslam
Hawthorn: K. Angelis, M. Hutchins

BEST:

Collingwood: M. Shevlin, M. Neal, J. Ferguson, A. Velardo, C. Bunker, A. Moloney
Hawthorn: C. O’Malley, M. Shaw, C. Brown, M. Hutchins, N. Cormack, J. Richardson

Image Credit: (Retrieved from) @essendonfcw via Twitter

2021 VFLW Round 2 wrap: Borough, Magpies go 2-0

ROUND 2 of the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season saw Port Melbourne and Collingwood move to 2-0, while four teams registered their first wins of the new campaign. Six fixtures were again stretched evenly across two days, with a double-header at La Trobe University rounding out what was an entertaining weekend of state league football. We recap all the action in our weekly wrap.

GEELONG 2.2 | 4.3 | 5.6 | 7.10 (52)
WILLIAMSTOWN 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 | 2.0 (12)

Geelong picked up its first win of the 2021 season via a 40-point thumping of Williamstown at Deakin University on Saturday afternoon, spelling a resounding start to Round 2. The Cats led at every break and kept the Seagulls scoreless in terms two and three, all while pouring on a handy score of their own. In then end, it was a 7.10 (52) to 2.0 (12) scoreline which put Geelong into third spot on the ladder.

Senior-listed Cats Stephanie Williams (two goals) and Georgia Clarke (one) both found the big sticks, but it was Claudia Gunjaca who earned plaudits as the victors’ best player afield. The likes of Breanna Pratt, Paige Sheppard, and Theresia Meissner were also productive for the second week running.

It was no surprise to see Erin Meade again feature among Williamstown’s most impactful performers, joined in the votes again by Aimee Whelan and Lana King while young forward Tahlia Merrett showed promise in her first outing for the year. Ashlea Melnikas and Sasha Long finished as the Seagulls’ lone goalkickers.

GOALS:

Geelong: S. Williams 2, J. Woollett, S. Elsworthy, G. Clarke, M. Fedele, C. Gunjaca
Williamstown: A. Melnikas, S. Long

BEST:

Geelong: C. Gunjaca, G. Clarke, B. Pratt, P. Sheppard, T. Meissner, T. Smith
Williamstown: E. Meade, A. Whelan, T. Merrett, L. King, C. Leighton

COLLINGWOOD 1.2 | 2.3 | 6.3 | 7.4 (46)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 0.3 | 0.3 | 0.5 | 3.6 (24)

Collingwood collected its second win of the season on Saturday, this time in much more convincing fashion with a 22-point triumph over the Southern Saints at Victoria Park. The Magpies piled on the first six goals of the game across three terms, all while keeping the Saints goalless in that time. Consolation goals did little to meaningfully cut into the margin, as Collingwood saluted 7.4 (46) to 3.6 (24) on home turf.

The Magpies had seven individual goalkickers in a terrific team performance, with the likes of Matilda Zander and Caitlin Bunker notching goals and votes for the winners. Mollie Edmond and Jasmine Ferguson were among those to lead Collingwood’s charge, while AFLW-listed youngster Amelia Velardo thrived in a role off half-back.

Hannah Stuart earned plaudits for her role in the Southern Saints’ effort, finishing as one of just three Saints goalkickers. Tara Bohanna also found the big sticks and play her part, with Melanie Bertuna another to impress in a Southern side which was missing some key elite level talent from last week’s winning lineup.

GOALS:

Collingwood: M. Zander, K. Colborne-Veel, K. Stratton, B. Smith, I. Barnett, C. Bunker, S. King
Southern Saints: T. Bohanna, R. Saulitis, H. Stuart

BEST:

Collingwood: M. Emond, J. Ferguson, M. Zander, M. Neal, A. Velardo, C. Bunker
Southern Saints: H. Stuart, M. Bertuna, A. Curley, G. De Angelis, T. Bohanna, K. Ripari

CASEY DEMONS 0.0 | 1.4 | 2.4 | 3.4 (22)
ESSENDON 1.3 | 2.4 | 3.7 | 4.7 (31)

Essendon led at every break but was made to earn its nine-point victory over Casey Demons on Saturday afternoon, coming out on top for its first win in 2021. The Bombers bossed the opening term with four scoring shots as the Demons remained scoreless, before steadily adding just enough to their total thereafter to keep Casey at bay. Ultimately, the Casey Fields scoreboard read 4.7 (31) to 3.4 (22) in favour of Essendon, an important win for the standalone side.

Alexandra Morcom and Cecilia McIntosh backed up strong opening round performances with important contributions for Essendon, who had four individual goalkickers. Mia-Rae Clifford was among them, as well as former Calder Cannons pair Alana Barba and Felicity Theodore.

Casey was led by the efforts of Emma Horne in the defeat, while Melbourne-listed ruck Maggie Caris continues to push her case for senior selection. Fellow AFLW youngster Megan Fitzsimon found the goals for Casey as she rotated forward, while Eliza West also snared a major.

GOALS:

Casey: M. Fitzsimon, E. West, I. Milford
Essendon: M. Clifford, F. Frew, A. Barba, F. Theodore

BEST:

Casey: E. Horne, M. Caris, E. West, T. Fellows, H. Thomas, C. Conroy
Essendon: A. Morcom, J. Davies, L. Stepnell, E. Mackay, T. Crook, C. McIntosh

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.1 | 2.3 | 4.4 | 5.7 (37)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.4 | 2.4 | 2.4 | 2.4 (16)

North Melbourne lifted after half time to overcome the Western Bulldogs at Arden Street Oval on Sunday morning, coming from behind to win by 21 points. The Bulldogs led narrowly at the first two breaks before North clicked into gear, keeping the visitors scoreless after the main break while adding three goals of their own to run away 5.7 (37) to 2.4 (16) victors.

First year AFLW Kangaroo Alice O’Loughlin pushed her case for a senior recall with three goals, accounting for nearly half of North’s score. She was joined by Sarah Skinner and former Richmond player Ciara Fitzgerald in the goals, as Meagan Kiely and Bethany Lynch also played large parts in the win.

Simone Ruedin, Amanda Tessari, and Nicole McMahon were among the VFLW-listed Bulldogs to be credited for their efforts. Britney Gutknecht was again terrific through midfield alongside a couple of her side’s leaders, and Nell Morris-Dalton again goaled to be one of just two major scorers in the red, white, and blue.

GOALS:

North Melbourne: A. O’Loughlin 3, S. Skinner, C. Fitzgerald
Western Bulldogs: N. Morris-Dalton, M. Chadwick

BEST:

North Melbourne: M. Kiely, B. Lynch, A. O’Loughlin, J. Mourney, K. Cox, M. Eastman
Western Bulldogs: S. Ruedin, A. Tessari, N. McMahon, B. Gutknecht, K. Betts, R. Christgoergl

DAREBIN 2.3 | 2.3 | 3.7 | 3.8 (26)
HAWTHORN 2.0 | 5.3 | 6.5 | 7.7 (49)

The weekend’s sole battle between two standalone sides saw Hawthorn come up trumps over Darebin, reigning victorious to the tune of 23 points at La Trobe University, Bundoora. Both sides brought the heat early as Darebin led at the first break, but the Falcons’ ascendancy proved short-lived as Hawthorn shifted up the gears to post five goals to one thereafter. In the end, it resulted in Bec Goddard‘s first win as Hawthorn head coach, reading 7.7 (49) to 3.8 (26) on the scoreboard.

Jessie Williams set the game alight with four goals in the brown and gold, proving too hot to handle inside 50 as she snapped up multiple opportunities. Veteran defender Meg Hutchins was typically assured down back alongside Lauren Szigeti, who also rotated through midfield. Among the other Hawks to impress, Jemma Owen again found the goals and showed promise.

For Darebin, Gena Lawson-Tavan played an important role down back, while skipper Steph Simpson did her best to spark her side from midfield before rotating inside attacking 50. Kathleen Roe also swung forward and found a goal, with Alyssa Mifsud the Falcons’ only other goalkicker on the day and Sidney Cubasch again impressive.

GOALS:

Darebin: K. Roe, A. Mifsud, S. David
Hawthorn: J. Williams 4, A. Vine, L. Szigeti, J. Owen

BEST:

Darebin: S. Simpson, S. Cubasch, S. Lynch, A. Reibelt, V. Smiljanic, P. Kearney
Hawthorn: J. Williams, M. Hutchins, N. Cormack, E. Gilder, J. Owen, L. Szigeti

CARLTON 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.3 | 2.3 (15)
PORT MELBOURNE 2.0 | 3.3 | 5.5 | 9.5 (59)

Port Melbourne made it two wins from two games in its inaugural VFLW campaign, thumping Carlton by 44 points at La Trobe University on Sunday to round out the weekend’s proceedings. The Borough built a steady 14-point buffer at half time as Carlton struggled to transition out of its own half, before piling on six goals to one after the main break and running out 9.5 (59) to 2.3 (15) winners.

Young Port forward Sophie Locke was excellent inside 50 and snared three goals in a lively outing, while Emily Harley bagged two and provided great physicality. Holly Bailey was named her side’s best player in the win, in front of the likes of Pip Peschke and Ellie Macdonald as the Borough set up well and locked the ball in their half for much of the contest.

Naturally, many of Carlton’s most prolific performers were stationed in defence, with Jessie Coletti recognised for her outstanding outing alongside leaders Ally Bild and Jen Lew. Senior-listed Blue Jess Edwards was also important back there, while fresh import Akayla Peterson was also impressive and finished as one of two Carlton goalkickers.

GOALS:

Carlton: M. Wilson, A. Peterson
Port Melbourne: S. Locke 3, E. Harley 2, L. Lesosky-Hay, S. Sansonetti, C. Dyett, P. Peschke

BEST:

Carlton: J. Coletti, J. Lew, J. Edwards, A. Peterson, M. Wilson, A. Bild
Port Melbourne: H. Bailey, P. Peschke, S. Locke, E. Macdonald, L. McClelland, A. Tanner

2021 VFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Revamped state league returns after lost season

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition returns this weekend, with a revamped structure seeing the season run concurrently with that of the AFL Women’s (AFLW). As somewhat of a reserves league to aligned sides in the top flight, the VFLW features 12 teams in 2021, including Port Melbourne after the Borough took on Richmond’s license. Round 1 sees fixtures spread evenly over Saturday and Sunday, starting at Arden Street as North Melbourne hosts Port Melbourne.

North Melbourne vs. Port Melbourne
Saturday February 27, 10:00am
Arden Street Oval

North Melbourne welcomes competition newcomer, Port Melbourne to the VFL Women’s on Saturday morning as the two sides open season 2021 at Arden Street Oval. While still a proud standalone club, the Borough has taken on Richmond’s VFLW license and will thus have access to Tigers players who miss out on AFLW selection. Likewise, North Melbourne’s top flight alignment will see some senior listed Kangaroos line up in the blue and white each week.

The likes of Richmond forward Christina Bernardi and Melissa Kuys will be among the experienced names set to lead the Borough’s efforts, while an all-Richmond half-back line of Hannah McLaren, Sarah Sansonetti, and Laura McClelland should prove difficult to budge. Murray Bushrangers graduate Sophie Locke is another exciting young talent in Port’s side, named in the back pocket.

New Roo Katelyn Cox is set for a reserves outing in North’s midfield, lining up next to Meagan Kiely and Bethany Lynch with Lexi Hamilton a handy ruck to be roving under. Nikki Wallace, another with AFLW experience lines up in defence and Brooke Brown gets a gig at the other end of the ground. Brown was taken by North Melbourne as a surprise father-daughter selection in 2020.

Expect North Melbourne’s hardness and pressure around the ball to be a real feature, as Port looks to bring an exciting transition style to the fore in what should be a competitive start to the 2021 season.

Geelong vs. Collingwood
Saturday February 27, 12:00pm
Deakin University, Geelong (Waurn Ponds)

AFLW-aligned sides Geelong and Collingwood go head-to-head at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds on Saturday afternoon, looking to start their campaigns on the right foot. Both sides boast a strong mix of youth and experience in their Round 1 lineups, with the Cats benefitting significantly from their alignment to the top flight when it comes to the young talent at their disposal. Collingwood, of course, remains the reigning premier after the 2020 season was scrapped.

Among the exciting brigade of up-and-comers, Olivia Barber has been named at full forward and will spearhead the attack alongside skipper, Michelle Fedele. Paige Sheppard is poised to make her return to football in the hoops, named among an exciting midfield with Cats AFLW youngsters Laura Gardiner, Darcy Moloney, and ruck Rene Caris having all gained experience at senior level.

Collingwood’s tall stocks should trouble the Cats, particularly up forward. Senior ruck Bella Smith takes up the full forward spot with Sarah King set to take the first bounce, while Imogen Barnett is another to watch in Collingwood’s front half. Smith’s former Norwood teammate Matilda Zander looms as an exciting addition from the SANFL, with the Magpies’ forward depth pushing Amelia Velardo to half-back.

The Magpies will look to adopt a similar gameplan to their AFLW side, looking to take the game on in transition with an exciting handball style while also taking hold of the game when required. Geelong will also play an attacking brand, with youthful exuberance and instinct also poised to come into the Cats’ thinking.

Carlton vs. Casey Demons
Saturday February 27, 2:00pm
Princes Park

Another all-aligned clash takes place at Princes Park as Carlton and Casey Demons lock horns, rounding out Saturday’s fixtures. The Blues have hit the reset button on their VFLW program and will look a very fresh side this year, adopting a strong youth focus to help feed their AFLW squad. Casey also has strong ties to its AFLW-aligned team in Melbourne, with a fit and strong Demons unit out to prove just how fruitful their preseason has been.

The Blues will be led from the back with skipper Ally Bild lining up next to vice-captain Jen Lew across half-back, while Carlton-listed speedster Charlotte Hammans completes the line. Coming down from Cairns, Jasmine Ware is another to watch in Carlton’s defence, while Akayla Peterson looms as a high-upside type at the other end. Carlton draftees Winnie Laing and Paige Trudgeon will also get some run into their legs in the front half.

Casey captain Samantha Johnson is her side’s major off-season coup and will anchor the midfield alongside first year Melbourne midfielder, Megan Fitzsimon. Both will benefit from the ruckwork of Maggie Caris, while an all-Melbourne half-back line of Mietta Kendall, Isabella Simmons, and Irishwoman Lauren Magee should prove exciting to watch. Brenna Tarrant also features at full back, with three senior games under her belt this year.

With new coach Peter Mercoulia also embedded in Melbourne’s coaching staff, Casey will look to play fast and put heavy scoreboard pressure on. Carlton is led by a new coach of its own in Luke O’Shannessy, who should be able to extract great things from the Blues’ young talent with his vast pathways experience.

Western Bulldogs vs. Hawthorn
Sunday February 28, 10:00am
Whitten Oval

The Western Bulldogs kick off their 2021 campaign at home as Hawthorn rolls into town on Sunday morning, looking to take a big scalp early. The Bulldogs have built one of the best young AFLW lists, with the vast array of talent spilling into its reserves side and making for an exciting squad on paper. The standalone Hawks are also strong on youth, but have attracted some big-name experience with Bec Goddard set to take the reins as head coach for the first time since 2018.

An embarrassment of riches sees the Bulldogs’ forwardline stacked with five AFLW-listed talents, including Isabella Grant, Gemma Lagioia, and the experienced Lauren Spark. Mary Sandral is the lone VFLW-listed player to start in attack, though the likes of Nicole McMahon (ruck), skipper Riley Christgoergl (half-back), and vice-captain Katelyn Betts (centre) will be consistent VFLW figures this year. Under McMahon, the likes of Isabelle Pritchard, Brooke Hards, and Britney Gutknecht should be served well in midfield.

Some well-renowned names in female footballing circles will provide invaluable experience to Hawthorn’s fledgling side, with stalwart Meg Hutchins poised to take on a number of roles aside from her forwardline listing, while Abbey Holmes is a tough body at the contest who will rotate forward through midfield. Skipper Jess Trend is another with AFLW experience who should impact greatly, while Northern Territory recruit Dominique Carbone has serious potential. She is set for her VFLW debut on the same weekend the Darwin Buffettes play finals back home.

The Hawks should prove a well structured side under Goddard and will be sure to crack in hard, though the abundance of promising young options for the Bulldogs will be incredibly tough to overcome. Should they not rely on too few, the Hawks will be ultra competitive in the face of the Dogs’ rawness and fierce style.

Essendon vs. Southern Saints
Sunday February 28, 10:30am
The Hangar

Essendon is set to unveil its shiny new facilities at The Hangar on Sunday morning, hosting the Southern Saints in what should be a competitive clash. Gunning for an AFLW license, the Bombers remain standalone but have built a strong list with more continuity than other sides heading into 2021. The Saints have their St Kilda alignment to lean on, but are looking strong in their own right after a solid preseason.

Anchoring Essendon’s side will be skipper Georgia Nanscawen, who is part of a terrific spine in the red and black. Cecilia McIntosh lines up down back, while Courtney Ugle provides some grunt, and Mia-Rae Clifford gets a fresh start up forward. Of the up-and-comers, Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba have already performed well in the sash, with a host of young prospects set to filter through Essendon’s lineup as the season progresses.

Tara Bohanna (full back) and Deanna Jolliffe (rover) will lead the Saints out as co-captain Frankie Hocking has not been named. Georgia McLean is one to watch off half-back having crossed from Casey, while Poppy Kelly and Alice Burke are the only St Kilda AFLW players to feature in the lineup – both named on the interchange bench ahead of three emergencies from the senior squad.

The Saints have not put a ceiling on their potential and promise to open the game up with unpredictable ball movement. The Bombers’ continuity as a group and greater poise with such experience could well play a factor in this clash, with both sides backing their cohesion after so long away from competitive action.

Darebin vs. Williamstown
Sunday February 28, 11:30am
La Trobe University, Bundoora

Pioneer club, the Darebin Falcons take on Williamstown in Round 1’s closing fixture on Sunday, set to play out at La Trobe University in Bundoora. Both proud standalone clubs, these two sides will be made up purely of VFLW-listed talent early on before gaining access to NAB League and potentially even AFLW talent as those seasons are run and done. The two sides already faced off during preseason, with Williamstown winning by 11 points at the same venue.

Led by the returning Stephanie Simpson, Darebin has a bunch of leaders set to build the standards under coach Mitch Skelly. In defence, Gena Lawson-Tavan is one who promises to do exactly that as vice-captain, while fellow leaders Cherelle Byrne (centre) and Alyssa Mifsud (full forward) are other leaders littered up and down the spine. One Falcon to watch is Stephanie Elarmaly, a youngster who has come through Darebin’s youth system.

2019 premiership coach Penny Cula-Reid crossed from Collingwood after her flag triumph, and takes over an exciting standalone squad. Skipper Erin Meade has locked in a spot at half-back, with reigning best and fairest winner Megan Williamson set to resume her midfield duties. Asha Price and Eliza Straford should be good value up forward, while Scarlett Dunell, the sister of former Seagull Sam lines up in defence.

There is often a great unknown around the standalone sides, especially after so long away from competitive action, but the two sides will know each other well after their preseason meeting and will get a good assessment of their 2021 chances in this bout.

Image Credit: Kelly Defina/AFL Photos

2021 VFLW season preview: Darebin Falcons

DAREBIN Falcons are “relishing the opportunity” to compete against AFLW-aligned opposition in the upcoming VFLW season, according to head coach Mitch Skelly. In a revamped schedule, both seasons are set to run concurrently to allow those who miss out on senior action during the AFLW campaign to play each week.

The Falcons are one of the few true standalone sides left in the state league competition though, meaning that access to those top-level players will be restricted to the second half of the season – once the AFLW competition is run and done. Skelly says the new structure gives Darebin “a chance to be really competitive”.

“We’re completely standalone, I guess that’s one of the many points of difference with our club,” Skelly said. “We don’t have a men’s team, we don’t have an AFLW alignment, we’re pretty independent and get to do our own thing.

“The way the league’s structured, if there are AFLW players playing in the first half of the season it’s probably not the ones who are dominating that league each week. I think it gives us a chance to be really competitive. If we can build a competitive team in this first half of the year, then we can bring in a few AFLW players ourselves in the second half of the year and there’s no reason we can’t be competitive each week.”

A mixed bag of fitness and touch levels on the back of 2020’s scrapped season has now evened out, and Skelly says his troops are “flying” just a week out from Round 1. The Falcons managed to fit in two practice matches against fellow standalone sides in Williamstown and Essendon, going down in both fixtures but taking plenty away from each test.

“When we came back there were a few mix levels of workloads as a result of the lockdown and we didn’t want to put too much pressure on players,” Skelly said.

“By the time we got back from the Christmas break, everyone was flying. Some of our 2km time trials were really good, there were a lot of PB’s (personal bests). The skill and the touch by now I think we’re back to where we want to be at this stage of a preseason, even after having that long break.

“We played Williamstown a few weeks back and we lost that one by just under two goals. It was a good hitout and we learned plenty from that game. Tonight (Thursday) we’re playing Essendon out at Tullamarine so that’s another good test between two standalone teams who don’t have AFLW alignment.”

There have been some clear standouts on the track for Darebin as players prepare for their first taste of competitive action in almost a year. Skelly pin-pointed some of the leaders of the squad as ones to watch, as well as a couple of developing youngsters poised to make a splash at VFLW level.

Steph Simpson has just been brilliant, she sets the standards at training,” he said. “Every time we do a match sim she just stands out as someone who’s been around for a while and has that leadership as part of her game.

“Down the other end of the field there’s Gena Lawson-Tavan. She’s another one that I think she keeps getting better and better and I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future she ends up being drafted at some point.

“I think it’s really exciting we’ve got four girls who’ve come from our Under 18s premiership team in 2019. One’s Stephanie Elarmaly, she never played any rep footy or anything like that but I think she’s somebody who can have a really big impact at VFLW level this year.

“We have one player from (NAB League region) Calder, Peppa Poultney. She’s a Darebin junior, she came through the club playing all her youth footy here and she’s on Calder’s list this year. “We’ve also listed her, so she’s the one NAB League player that’s on our list currently, but we do hope to add a couple more down the line.”

Having had his first year in the role ultimately scrapped in an on-field sense, Skelly says he is “really excited” to finally see the Falcons take the field and show their worth. He was also glowing in his review of the “inclusive” club.

“The club is so positive and inclusive of people and everyone who comes down,” he said. A lot of people who come down, even if they don’t know much about the club’s history, they just embrace it and they dive in – whether it’s at VFLW level or NFNL. “I love the club and I’m just really excited about the opportunity to get into some games and test ourselves out. With the new season coming up, with the structure changing there’s a lot of unknowns and a great opportunity to start fresh and have a good crack at it.

Darebin is set to announce its leadership group in the coming days, consisting of six players. While no official fixture has been released, Round 1 of the 2021 VFLW season will get underway next weekend.

Image Credit: (Retrieved from) VFL