Tag: grace mcrae

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

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

SOUTH AUSTRALIA vs. VIC COUNTRY

SOUTH AUSTRALIA:

By: Michael Alvaro

#1 Laitiah Huynh

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

#3 Kate Case

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

#5 Lauren Breguet

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

#7 Brooke Tonon

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

#8 Charlotte Dolan

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

#9 Tahlita Buethke

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

#10 Zoe Prowse

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

#11 Zoe Venning

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

#16 Georgia Swan

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

#24 Keeley Kustermann

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

#28 Jade Halfpenny

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

#30 Lauren Young

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

 

VIC COUNTRY:

By: Peter Williams

#2 Aurora Smith

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

#5 Elizabeth Snell

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

#9 Paige Scott

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

#12 Gabbi Featherston

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

#13 Emily Shepherd

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

#14 Jaide Anthony

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

#17 Annie Lee

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

#19 Nyakoat Dojiok

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

#23 Elizabeth Dowling

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

#26 Grace McRae

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

#28 Tara Slender

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

 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA vs. ALLIES

WESTERN AUSTRALIA:

By: Declan Reeve

#1 Sarah Lakay

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

#2 Amy Franklin

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

#4 Lauren Wakfer

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

#5 Beth Schilling

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

#7 Ella Roberts

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

#11 Aisha Wright

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

#15 Bella Mann

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

#20 Emily Bennett

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

#24 Jaide Britton

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

#28 Courtney Rowley

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

#27 Makaela Tuhakaraina

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

 

ALLIES:

By: Peter Williams

#4 Cynthia Hamilton

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

#6 Meghan Gaffney

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

#7 Jess Doyle

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

#9 Claire Ransom

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

#11 Perri King

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

#16 Ella Maurer

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

#19 Maddy Hendrie

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

#25 Isadora McLeay

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

#30 Ally Morphett

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

Scott boots last three goals to steal game for Vic Country

ROUND 2 of the AFLW U19s National Championships was opened up with an exciting contest between South Australia and Victoria Country at Avalon Airport Oval in Werribee, with the midfield battle being an essential part of the eventual Country victory. Forward half efficiency initially evaded Country, never having any more goals than points, but the repeated entries became too much for SA to deal with, as bottom-aged forward Paige Scott decided to win the game off her own boot, leading to the 5.6 (36) to 3.3 (21).

The first quarter was a strong start for South Australia, with a lot of drive being produced from their engine room with Zoe Prowse and Lauren Young combining well as a ruck and rover duo to win plenty of it from stoppages, with their hard-work rewarded by teammates Lauren Breguet and Lauren Clifton with clinical finishing in front of goal. For Country, the efforts of Elizabeth Snell and Grace McRae saw them involved in plenty early on, and slowly get on top as the quarter went on, with Country getting a goal through co-captain Tara Slender, with three more shots on goal drifting just wide, seeing SA lead at quarter time 2.0 (12) to 1.3 (9).

The second quarter felt like much more of an arm wrestle, with neither team getting many deep inside 50s. Jade Halfpenny took advantage of one of the few that South Australia got, running onto a loose ball early in the quarter, fending off an opponent and then dribbling from the outside of her boot to kick SA’s solitary goal for the quarter. Keeley Kustermann started to win more of the ball in the midfield as well, linking up with the likes of Laitiah Hunyh and Brooke Tonon for some nice passages of play. Country had Nyakoat Dojiok and Jaide Anthony to thank for a sound defensive effort, both being strong aerially players and providing plenty of run going forward, with Dojiok delivering a lovely kick to Renee Tierney in the goal square to kick Country’s only goal, seeing the quarter end 3.0 (18) to 2.5 (17) SA’s way.

The third term was a bit of a breakout quarter from County, with their bottom-aged star forward Paige Scott, coming off a two goal performance against Vic Metro, kicking two solid goals, with one in particular involving her out running an opponent to belt it through. Her teammate on the wing, Aurora Smith, also had a good quarter, with her work through traffic being a highlight. South Australia saw Zoe Venning have good moments as well, competing strongly in stoppages and at ground level, but also being damaging in the air. Rotating ruck Amelie Borg was strong as a kick-behind defender, troubling Country talls. The quarter ended 4.5 (29) to 3.3 (21) with Country leading.

Early on in the fourth term, South Australian midfielder Brooke Tonon tackled Anthony on the wing with the latter unfortunately having to be stretchered from the ground and Tonon subsequently red carded from it, with Slender also sent off with a yellow card later on for a late high hit on an opponent. Despite these unfortunate incidents, the final quarter gave us a fairly exciting finish, with Scott getting herself a third early on. South Australia went on to control a lot of the play for the rest of the quarter, with the two standouts Prowse and Young continuing to do all they could to get SA across the line, and Charlotte Dolan applying elite pressure in the forward half.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA 2.0 | 3.0 | 3.3 | 3.3 (21)
VIC COUNTRY 1.3 | 2.5 | 4.5 | 5.6 (36)

GOALS

South Australia: L. Breuguet, L. Clifton, J. Halfpenny.
Victoria Country:
P. Scott 3, T. Slender, R. Tierney.

ADC BEST

South Australia: Z. Prowse, L. Young, K. Kustermann, Z. Venning, L. Huynh
Victory Country:
P. Scott, A. Smith, N. Dojiok, G. McRae, E. Snell

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

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

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

VIC METRO:

By: Michael Alvaro

#4 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

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

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

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

#11 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

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

#12 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

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

#15 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

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

#16 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

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

#18 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

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

#26 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

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

#27 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

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

#28 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

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

 

VIC COUNTRY:

By: Declan Reeve

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

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

#9 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

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

#10 Abbey Jordan (Dandenong Stingrays)

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

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

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

#12 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

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

#14 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

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

#17 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

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

#19 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

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

#25 Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)

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

#26 Grace McRae (Gippsland Power)

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

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

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

#29 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)

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

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

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

LINEUPS:

VIC METRO:

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

VIC COUNTRY:

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

QUICK SUMMARY:

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

 

FIVE KEY QUESTIONS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where are the key strengths in each side?

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

How can each team exploit the other?

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

 

FIVE KEY MATCHUPS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

OVERALL:

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

2021 AFLW U19 Championships state preview: Vic Country

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

2021 VIC COUNTRY SQUAD FOR VIC METRO CLASH:

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

QUICK SUMMARY:

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

FIXTURES:

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

FIVE TO WATCH: (2003-BORN)

Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

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

Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

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

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

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

Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

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

Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

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

OTHERS:

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

SQUAD STRENGTHS:

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

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

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

LAST WORD:

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

NAB League Girls Round 8 preview: Penultimate round for last pre-championships showing

ROUND 8 of the NAB League Girls marks the final round before a break with the Easter weekend and AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships taking place over the next couple of weekends. One more round will be completed later in the month, with finals to take place after that for the top four teams in the metropolitan and country regions.

EASTERN RANGES vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Saturday, March 27 @ 10:00am
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

Up first to open the weekend is an all-metropolitan battle between the Eastern Ranges and Sandringham Dragons. The Ranges are back at home at Kilsyth for an early start against the Dragons, with back-to-back wins against Calder Cannons and Tasmania Devils since capitulating in the final quarter against Northern Knights. They head in as strong favourites against a Dragons side that has been unlucky in recent weeks, pushing the undefeated Oakleigh Chargers and going down to Western Jets by a point either side of the loss to Dandenong Stingrays at Casey Fields. They still remain at 1-5 from six games compared to the Ranges’ 4-2 record.

The Dragons defence has held firm in recent weeks with Chloe Saultry dropping back with Kiana Lynch to win plenty of intercept possessions and drive the ball up the ground. They will need to do just that with the dangerous forwards of Alyssia Pisano and Scarlett Potter, as well as Matilda Hardy running around in there. In the midfield, Bridie Hipwell and Sofia Hurley are likely to face the consistent Bridget Deed and Keeley Sherar in there, whilst up forward, Charli Murphy and Ebony Angelopoulos have the goal-scoring ability, and will lock horns with one of the more consistent defences featuring Grace Walsh, Cadhla Schmidli and Mia Busch.

 

CALDER CANNONS vs. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, March 27 @ 10:30am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Also up for an early start, Calder Cannons host Western Jets at Highgate Recreation Reserve. Live commentated via the NAB League app, the match will be the first of a double-header at the ground, with the NAB League Boys up at 1pm. The Cannons sit at 4-2, with the Jets at the opposite 2-4, but both have had plenty of close results over the journey. Western held on in a thriller against Sandringham Dragons at a wet RSEA Park last week, while the Cannons suffered defeat at the hands on Eastern Ranges at Highgate. While the Cannons are sitting pretty for finals, they will want to make sure they take the points her to secure the spot with Western the only team that can mathematically knock out one of the top four sides.

Charlotte Baskaran and Montana Ham have been in exceptional form of late, with the former heading onball to win a lot more touches in close. The forward line functioned well despite only kicking the two goals last week, with Jemima Woods and Kiera Leare in particular standing out, and Kensley Ward looking dangerous. Up against the Cannons, they have the likes of Kasey Lennox and Kiara Delia back there to settle them down, but it is the midfield battles that will be the ones to watch. Georgie Prespakis, Emelia Yassir, Zali Friswell and and Olivia Manfre all present worries to the opposition, whilst the ruck battle between Tahlia Gillard and Krystal Russell will be another head-to-head to watch.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Saturday, March 27 @ 12:30pm
Prospect Park, Launceston

Returning home to the Apple Isle, Tasmania Devils will have another tough challenge, this time up against the Northern Knights. Both sides are at 4-2, with the Devils having gone down to Eastern Ranges at Craigieburn last week in a make-up of the Round 2 fixture, whilst the Knights impressed in a big win over Geelong Falcons at Deakin University. Northern has found form since their Round 1 disappointment, posting four wins in five games and taking their win-loss record to 4-2 from six matches. They will have their hands full with a Devils outfit that is yet to be blown away, going close in both losses to Oakleigh Chargers and the Ranges, whilst taking care of Dandenong Stingrays on the Apple Isle.

The Devils have a really deep midfield that has held them in good stead this season, led by Perri King and Claire Ransom through the middle and running forward, the likes of Meghan Gaffney, Ella Maurer and Jemma Webster have all enjoyed strong seasons to-date. Amy Prokopiec has proven she can kick multiple goals up forward, and Amy Bissett is another goal-scoring threat inside 50. The Knights have plenty of goal-scoring threats of their own with bottom-ager Megan Girolami, Trinity Mills and Under 16s talent Ava Jordan – from the midfield – all able to hit the scoreboard. Maykaylah Appleby and Brooke Plummer provide the hard running on the outside, and Tarrah Delgado has been someone who can play on the last line or mix it up by being thrown into the middle.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, March 27 @ 2:30pm
Deakin University, Waurn Ponds

Hoping to snap a two-game losing streak – unfortunately both at the very venue they hope to snap it at – the Geelong Falcons host Oakleigh Chargers at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds. The Falcons went down to Sydney Swans Academy a few weeks back, then suffered a loss at the hands of Northern Knights last week, and just need to refocus for the Round 7 clash. It will be a tough assignment though, coming up against the red-hot Oakleigh Chargers who are yet to drop a game and will be hungry to add another victory to their name.

The Falcons have a consistent side across the board, with a midfield core of Tess Craven, Charlotte Simpson and Ashleigh Van Loon providing the heat in close, and Poppy Schapp rotating through and adding clean hands and pressure around the ground. The Chargers have a stacked midfield as well, as Charlie Rowbottom and Stella Reid provide the inside and outside talent, whilst Amanda Ling is winning the ball at will currently. With Brooke Vickers having an impact all over the ground, the Chargers are in a good spot going forward. Geelong will look to Renee Tierney and Lucy Were to hit the scoreboard and apply pressure to the Oakleigh defence, whilst Keeley Hardingham could take control in the ruck, and Annie Lee and Liz Dowling drive the ball out of defence. Oakleigh have Alexandra McCulloch and Taylah Morton up opposite ends to provide some run and class as well in a strong unit.

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Sunday, March 28 @ 11am
Trevor Barker Oval

In the first of a double-header at Trevor Barker Oval, Dandenong Stingrays host Murray Bushrangers from 11am on Sunday, which will feature live commentary via the NAB League app. The Stingrays will look for their third consecutive win against a Bushrangers outfit who got up for their first points of the season against Gippsland Power last week at Craigieburn. Whilst finals is likely to be just out of their grasp unless results go favourably their way, the Bushrangers do have three matches remaining to close the gap on some rivals. This game will be a tough one against a Dandenong side that accounted for Sandringham Dragons and Bendigo Pioneers in the past week and a half.

Dandenong Stingrays will be keen to welcome Jaide Anthony back from concussion to shore up a defence that was already doing its job pretty well, keeping the Dragons to just three behinds at Casey Fields. Jemma Radford and Zoe Hill will be key players in the absence of Mackenzie Eardley in defence, while the midfield and forward options will look different without Abbey Jordan, Ashleigh Richards and Amber Clarke in there. The Bushrangers defence is also able to contain sides, keeping the Power goalless in their clash, and only conceding one behind. Mindy Quade, Grace Hay and Kristy Whitehead can all win the ball in the defensive half of the ground, whilst the form of wings, Aurora Smith and Zara Hamilton is impressive. Keeley Skeeper in the midfield has also continued her bottom-age form, whilst Lily Sharp and Olivia Cicolini both hit the scoreboard multiple times last game. Dandenong will look to Felicity Crank through the middle to win her fair share of the footy.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY
Sunday, March 28 @ 1:00pm
MARS Stadium

Their season delicately poised at 3-3 from six games, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels come up against a side that will have a lot of unknowns entering the match in the Northern Territory Academy. For the Top End side, it will be a chance to get a run around against a quality Victorian opposition ahead of the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships on the Gold Coast when they team up with NSW/ACT and Tasmania to create the Allies. The Rebels have been a solid mid-table team with some great wins, and then falling to the top sides to enter the contest with a 50 per cent win-loss record.

The Rebels will test a number of their players giving the likes of Ella Friend, Chloe Leonard and Nyakoat Dojiok will be out for this match. Lilli Condon is one natural ball-winner who could be key for the Rebels to get up in this one, as Molly Walton has been a shining light as a bottom-ager in defence. For the Thunder, Bella Clarke comes into the side off experience at state level before, and from her WAFL Women’s debut last week, as ex-Calder Cannons forward Freda Puruntatameri has been named in the ruck. Kaitey Whittaker is one to watch inside 50, whilst one of the biggest names to keep track of is Grace Mulvahil who has a prestigious junior career in the NTFL Women’s Premier League, and will lineup at half-back. Ashanti Bush at half-forward can also kick multiple goals, while Oakleigh Chargers’ J’Noemi Anderson will represent her state in this clash.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER
Sunday, March 28 @ 1:30pm
Trevor Barker Oval

With the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships five days away from the Sunday clash between the Bendigo Pioneers and Gippsland Power, both teams will be without their representatives. Both these teams have just the one win between them, with the Pioneers’ coming in Round 1 against the Murray Bushrangers, and have since had a lot of close outings but are yet to be successful. A one-point defeat to the Stingrays last week had them agonisingly close, and will be hoping to get over the line in this one.

Both teams will be without some of their top talents ahead of the championships, with Grace McRae and Grace Matser both out for the Gippsland Power, whilst Tara Slender, Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning will miss for Bendigo Pioneers. In their place, Maddy Marks returns for her second game back, teaming up with Tegan Williams as the key forward targets. Jayda Richardson and Drew Ryan are in the midfield alongside Country emergency Octavia Di Donato, while Lily den Houting and Lila Keck have been named up forward. For the Power, Lily-Rose Williamson will look to lead from defence, with Matilda Van Berkel thrown into the ruck in what will be a small team for the Power. Yasmin Duursma is still in midfield, whilst Jordan Sochackyi has been named in a forward pocket. After injuring herself last week, Sunday Brisbane has been named as an emergency for the Power.

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 7/2c/3b

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition treated us to an extended weekend of fixtures in Round 7. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

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

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#34 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)

A really lively performance from the Stingrays’ co-captain who booted two goals and was a clear driving force in the win. Not only did she snag the two majors, but she hit the post and kicked another behind to finish with 2.2 from four scoring shots, and plenty of creativity in the front half of the ground. She also rolled through the midfield at times, laying some fierce tackles and driving the ball forward to be outstanding across the four quarters.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looking dangerous every time she goes near the ball, Clarke goes from zero to 100 really quickly, and looks to play on every chance she gets. At times she could take a breather and take a set shot or go back to assess options, but she knows once she gets goalside no one will catch her. What she did so well in this game was not only hit the scoreboard (1.1) but also lay a remarkable amount of tackles (eight) and do as much work without the ball as with it.

#31 Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)

Played further up the ground more so than just stationed in the back half, Radford cracked in to compete for the hard ball and get it out of stoppages and going forward. As versatile as they come, and showed she could play through the midfield and win the ball with ease, she was a crucial link in transition moving the ball from half-back inside 50.

#38 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

Having a purple patch of late, stepping into the shoes of Emily Shepherd and being that strong inside midfielder despite standing at 167cm. She cracks in and laid a game-high 11 tackles, but as a kick-first player, she is one who also finds space around the ground, and on a night where marking the ball was difficult due to wind and the chilly conditions, Crank was able to provide an option, and she also worked hard both ways to win the ball in each third of the ground.

#21 Kiana Lynch (Sandringham Dragons)

Without Lynch in defence, the Dragons surely would have let through plenty more goals .The talented utility aided her side at ground level, applying defensive pressure through tackling and implied pressure, then driving the ball out of defence 10 times. She teamed up well with Abby Thompson and Ella Schiberras among others, but was utilised as the player to drive the ball in transition when coming out of the back 50.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Continued her rich vein of form with another good performance. She was impressive around the stoppages, winning the ball and trying to create some space. Whilst she was not afforded the same luxury as past weeks. she still did her bit, and also got her hands dirty with seven tackles. Given her clean ball use and ability to use her athleticism to advantage, she is hard to contain,

#20 Abby Thompson (Sandringham Dragons)

Kept the Stingrays forwards at bay for as long as she could, and worked well in tandem with the other defenders to drive the ball out of danger and repel the attacks. Whilst she was often found in contested situations, she was very good at keeping her cool and then clearing the ball to safety or gaining distance close to the line.

#22 Emma Stuber (Sandringham Dragons)

Played a solid four-quarter role across the match and was balanced between her offensive and defensive ability. She laid some great tackles, and also kept the ball moving in transition, finding herself as the recipient at half-back and getting it further afield. She ended up winning a lot of the all and was a crucial player for the Dragons on the night.

OTHERS:

Charley Ryan was superb across the night with her silky skills and footy IQ, while Charlotte Blair, Grace Chapman and Olivia Robinson all impressed for the Stingrays. Looking at the Dragons, Bridie Hipwell worked hard with Sascha Pribil, while Ebony Angelopoulos did well in midfield, and Pia Staltari played her role onball as well.

EASTERN RANGES vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Just at another level compared to anyone else around her, commanding a run with player around stoppages to try and negate her effectiveness, which she quickly figured out how to play against and continued doing ‘Georgie’ things. Played a much more kick happy game than we usually see from her which probably led to her being even more dangerous given her kicking skills, where she’d more often than not look to get the ball more central going forward. Had those moments again where she had just see the game in slow motion and work her way through contests or around opponents in situations where she just shouldn’t have been able to.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

As good as I have seen her this year, her work around the ground was really impressive, positioning behind the ball when she was in the ruck to be part of any contest that formed outside of the Cannons forward 50, and playing her role as a main target down forward really well, where she had always get front position in a contest to make it nearly impossible to stop her from holding the mark. I really like that she lowers the eyes going forward and tries to get it to teammates in better spots rather than taking 50/50 shots herself.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

Played really well in the ruck, winning more hitouts than losing for sure against a rucking division that runs deep. Her athleticism is obvious, and was highlighted at the first bounce of the game where she leapt much higher than 189cm Tahlia Gillard, winning the hitout without any trouble. She was good around the ground when she was near the ball and made everything difficult for her direct opponent, or for any opponent at ground level after a ruck contest. Unfortunately went off in the hands of the trainers early in the third quarter and took no further part in the game 

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

Possesses a really good burst of speed which makes her a very difficult matchup around stoppages, where she does her most damage by getting away from opponents and then delivering a kick forward. One that seems to enjoy initiating that contact on an opponent at a stoppage, giving her that advantage in those situations to push off and use that speed she has.

#5 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

Continued on from her high quality game against Gippsland to have a real impact up forward against a strong opposition side. Playing as more of a high half forward than a traditional KPF, she was busy in the forward half, being a good marking option for teammates and then delivering with class inside 50. Really high impact per disposal as well, and you can see that her team want the ball in her hands because of her ball use. I really liked her leading patterns for the game as well, where she would lead one way but change direction at the last second to catch her opponent off guard.

#25 Cadhla Schmidli (Eastern Ranges)

Held up really well against a side that uses the ball well going inside 50, and she’d just be there to cut off a lot of attacks really well. Often playing as the deepest defender, her read of the game and command of the backline was really good, and her ball use out of deep defense gave the Ranges the best chance to get out and start a dangerous counter attack. 

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Insanely smart in her forward craft, she understands her role exceptionally, hitting the front of packs with speed to pick up a spilled ball, or taking her opponent up field and beating them running back into the goal square, she’s just a delight to watch, with her creativity being a highlight. A particular instance to showcase this was when she was one-on-one inside 50 with Cannons defender Kasey Lennox, beating Lennox with her speed coming back towards goal and slotting it on the run, even taking a bounce under pressure, showing not only her forward craft but also her confidence in herself.

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Her most prolific game for the season, she continues to impress with her workrate and ability to impact in any situation she finds herself in, whether it be a contested ground ball, contested marking situation or running into space one-on-one, she just finds ways to win against any opponent. Her overhead marking for someone her height is super impressive and was a big part of Cannons fourth quarter surge, where she was able to cut off the rushed kicks from the Ranges defenders, then kick long back inside 50. 

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Had pretty much the perfect game for a half-back player, with her tendency to press up with the ball inside 50 playing a big part in Eastern’s ability to lock the ball inside their forward half. Really confident when she pushes up and attacks a contest or a loose ball, and composed with her kicking even under pressure, she was able to create from nothing for Eastern which made her a real danger in transition. Also impacted aerially where she could, which made it difficult, especially in the first three quarters, for Calder to get any dangerous shots on goal

#41 Grace Walsh (Eastern Ranges)

Another 2022-eligible defender from Eastern that really stood up and caused Calder a lot of issues, Walsh really made it difficult for the Calder talls to get any easy marks with her work one-on-one, able to spoil towards the boundary line and allow Eastern to reset. Was dangerous by foot coming out of defensive 50 as well, giving Eastern plenty of opportunities to counter attack.

OTHERS:

From the home side Zali Friswell again won plenty of it and tried to create where she could, with Mali McLeod continuing her solid body of work as a winger, really getting into the role and showing she’s starting to understand it well. Abbey McDonald and Kasey Lennox were solid in defense despite the loss, still stopping a few Eastern attacks. Eastern had plenty of contributors in the victory, with Ruby O’Dwyer and Bridget Deed winning plenty of it through the midfield. Winger Jorja Livingstone also won a bit of ball on the wing despite finding herself in one-on-one battles often, with Isabelle Khoury also doing some good things on the opposite wing. Cassy Wilsmore did well as a relieving ruck, then taking over when Campbell went off injured, keeping her opponents accountable for the game.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Had a hard day at the office with Dandenong not giving her an inch around the ground to do her usual stuff, so much so she finished the day with zero marks. Despite this, she still found ways to impact around the ground playing more like a smaller player for the day, winning ball on the inside around stoppages, or running past teammates to receive a handball and kick forward. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

#30 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

A good performance as she pushed further into the midfield than she usually plays, even getting herself on the scoreboard with an unlikely kick from 40 out, Di Donato was a threat around the ground all game, with her marking and class by foot really damaging and troubling the Stingrays throughout, especially in transition. What I liked most was that Di Donato was never not providing an option when Bendigo had the ball, she was always screaming for it, spreading across the ground for a switch option or leading straight at the ball carrier

#5 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)

As usual found the ball without much difficulty throughout the day around the midfield and stoppages, however she was also a marking threat around the ground, often positioning herself down the line from the play when Bendigo kicked it forward, just in case of return kick from Dandenong. Her kicking was also pretty good throughout the day, placing it to the advantage of team mates more often than not, allowing them to play on after marking it if they wanted to. 

#15 Drew Ryan (Bendigo Pioneers)

Played a vital role in between the arcs for Bendigo as an outside runner or switch kick option, often being the target of Bendigo transitioning outside of defensive 50 or being tasked with holding the ball up when outnumbered if Dandenong used her side of the ground, Ryan found ways to win the ball and get it going forward, also dropping back to assist the backline at times

#1 Lila Keck (Bendigo Pioneers)

Had the difficult task of playing on Amber Clarke when she was down forward, and the 15-year-old really gave Clarke a challenge, being able to match her for speed for most of the game and making it a real scrap when the ball was at ground level. It wasn’t all locking down for Keck though, as she offered a lot by foot around the ground as well.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

Provided a lot of spark around the ground for Dandenong, which came as no surprise, given her athleticism makes her such a difficult match up it was a real trouble for Bendigo to match her in the midfield. Up forward she did well to create opportunities for her teammates but often found herself in two-on-ones which made it difficult for her to get free and have a shot on goal. In the midfield her work around the ground was really good, showing a high workrate to get from contest to contest and continually impact the play. 

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Played the difficult matchup on Slender when she was in the forward line and held her really well, negating her aerial impact which no one has been able to do previously. A familiar sight throughout the season has been Hill streaming off the half-back line to meet a loose ball and kick it long forward, and it was once again crucial against Bendigo in repelling a lot of attacks, especially in the final quarter when the heat was really turned up. Hill was one that never wavered and kept the pressure up throughout the game.

#65 Olivia Robinson (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got herself into the midfield more than previous games and took the opportunity with both hands, playing a hybrid sort of role she proved she is as capable at getting in and winning a contested ball as she is as holding her space and receiving a handball on the outside. Managed to get herself on the scoreboard as well with a goal.

#5 Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got thrown into the forward line with great effect, providing an additional target to teammate Amber Clarke, giving Dandenong an extra avenue to goal she slotted 2 for the day, but her work around the forward half can’t be understated, with her kicking giving her teammates plenty of opportunities to score, and her presence demanding special Bendigo attention.

OTHERS:

The home side had a lot of contributors in the loss, with Scarlett Orritt, Jemma Finning and Jayda Richardson winning their fair share of the ball around the ground, getting Bendigo moving forward with their kicking. Bottom-aged defender Tegan Williams continues to be a reliable bookend for Bendigo as well. The Stingrays as usual put in a team effort, Olivia Laity and Felicity Crank winning a bit of ball between the midfield and forwardline, and Abbey Jordan and Eloise McCrae having various crucial plays in the defensive half of the ground, McCrae in particular stepping up in the final few minutes.

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

Had a fascinating tussle with Grace Matser as the pair showed off their respective abilities throughout the game. Whilst Matser won the honours around the ground, Morphett was strong in the ruck, and when going forward took a great one-on-one mark by reading the ball in flight in the goalsquare. She kicked truly and ensured she hit the scoreboard, making the most of limited possessions, with a higher impact as a target and using her body for defensive acts.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

The Draft Central Player of the Week was simply outstanding across the board, having the ball on a string in the first half. She won everything running along the wing, and used her pace to advantage to burst away from the stoppages and drive the ball forward. There was little time in between touches as she gathered a ton of them, and whilst she might have had less in the second half, still stepped up for some memorable moments in a clear best on ground performance, providing both defensive and offensive highlights.

#46 Zara Hamilton (Murray Bushrangers)

Located on the other wing, Hamilton did a lot of running throughout the game, winning the ball in each third of the ground and teamed up well with Smith in bringing the ball forward in transition. As a taller player she is strong in the marking contest, and was able to position herself well when drifting forward as well. Sometimes too far out to score, Hamilton set the ball up for scoring opportunities to teammates inside 50, and was a driving force in the win.

#3 India Lehman (Murray Bushrangers)

Casually went about her business in a four-quarter effort and provided some great run on the outside. Standing at just 162cm, Lehman returned from the GIANTS Academy last week to put up her standout performance of the season. With a tendency to break the lines and work well with Smith and Hamilton in transition, she was one who was memorable for her consistent output throughout the match.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

Did a bit of everything throughout the match, and while her offensive and defensive traits are usually on display, she had a few memorable moments. The best was her last quarter mark, which came with the clock winding down and the game over, but showed her courage to intercept in defence and stop a potential Gippsland Power set shot. No one would have blamed her for not putting her body on the line, but the courage was terrific, and her passion – which included a fierce return of the ball to the boundary umpire when she believed she had kept it in during the same quarter – was great.

#35 Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power)

As solid as a rock and with others sore towards the end of the game, was almost single-handedly pulling down anything in her way. Often on the last line of defence, her last quarter in particular was outstanding, and her contested marking – which was clean – and defensive position were standout traits. She had a massive eight rebound 50s for the game, and it is easy to see why she was the Power’s best, holding up the fort throughout four quarters with a consistent impact.

#25 Lily-Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)

A sore back could not even contain the talented bottom-ager whose full athleticism and power was on display throughout the match. Providing great run out of defence in a role she has made her own, Williamson reads the ball well in the back 50, then sees the ball and steamrolls anyone in her way. One of the cleanest fend-offs of all time in the fourth term – with Lily Sharp being the unfortunate recipient – was unbelievable. She has a knack of either evading people or just running straight through them, and is able to use the ball well with a powerful kick, which makes her so damaging.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

A really classy game from the left-footer who was silky smooth in midfield. She won a lot of the ball and most importantly used it well, sidestepping opponents and creating space for herself to work in. Whilst she has been building that football understanding over the season, this was her best game of the year, and she was quite a handful for the Bushrangers midfielders, as she was not only able to win the ball, but utilise her kicking.

#40 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)

The ruck did really well around the ground and finds plenty of the ball for a taller player, not afraid to be used in transition. Her contested marking is still a work in progress, but what she does well is her second efforts and ground level work, where she can be quick to aide teammates. Her work rate is high and she can win the ball across all thirds of the ground, and works over her opponents who often have to rotate in and out to match her.

OTHERS:

Murray Bushrangers’ Molly Kennedy was fierce with her tackling and won plenty of the ball in close, as did Kristy Whitehead, while up forward Lily Sharp and Olivia Cicolini both snagged two goals. For Gippsland Power, Molly Van Berkel helped out her sister in defence, while Grace McRae, Hayley Woolfe and Paris Tracey worked hard in transition.

 

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#26 Chloe Saultry (Sandringham Dragons)

Returned to the side for the match and was rock solid in defence, repelling everything she could during important moments. With a slippery ball and others nervous under pressure, Saultry settled down the defence, and was a great intercept marker and rebounder throughout the match. She did get caught once trying to get out of the back 50, but she played a consistent match throughout the four quarters and was a star for the side in the narrow loss.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Played wet weather football, and while it was not her cleanest game by any means, she was important in just seeing ball, winning ball and driving ball forward. Of her 20 touches, 19 were kicks so she had less time and less instinct to use the ball by hand, and instead just bomb it forward to best help her side. She had plenty of inside 50s and rebound 50s throughout hte match which supported her work rate and ground coverage, whilst the wet conditions allowed her to bury in and lay a number of fierce tackles in close to lock the ball away.

#30 Pia Staltari (Sandringham Dragons)

In a game that was always going to be scrappy given the conditions, Staltari provided the highlight of the game in the second term. Tucked up tight against the boundary line, Staltari kicked a remarkable goal that sailed home to get the Dragons on the board. All in all she played a consistent game, but it was the important goal that kept the Dragons in the contest and ensured they did not go another half without a goal.

#2 Keeley Coyne (Sandringham Dragons)

Provided a mix of run and defensive pressure, the talented outside mover got her hands dirty in close with eight tackles. She managed to thrive in the wet and won the ball in close, often giving it off by hand to move it forward, or kick into space for teammates to work with. In what was a pretty even performance across the board, Coyne played her role and impressed throughout the game.

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Had the ball on a string and showed composure throughout the match. Her elite kicking skills were on show as the game went on after the rare turnover early in the match, with Baskaran ending up accumulating a massive 28 touches across the four quarters. She also laid seven tackles and then drove the ball out of defence and got it forward to set up scoring opportunities in a really complete performance. She did not have as much time and space as she was used to by going on-ball, but she kept working hard throughout the game, and it was fitting that she took the last mark of the match to have the ball when the siren sounded.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

Racked up clearance after clearance and bombed the ball from stoppages after taking a few steps to find the space. She worked well with Baskaran in the midfield to win plenty of the footy, and also lay some big tackles throughout the match and be a standout performer for the Jets. Always having to fight for the hard ball in close, Ham was one who took time off the clock late before the siren in a smart move, which came after she desperately took a sliding mark at half-back.

#42 Jemima Woods (Western Jets)

Building some nice form over the past few weeks, Woods provided a target up forward and pushed right up the ground to win the ball in midfield and drive it forward herself. Even winning the ball in the back 50 at one stage, Woods was a livewire across the field, and was a four-quarter performer. She kicked the Jets’ second goal from a set shot just to give them some breathing space again, and always looked dangerous near the ball.

#29 Kiera Leare (Western Jets)

In wet conditions, Leare did what any forward should do when under pressure in the goalsquare and just boot it off the deck, which she did to great effect. Kicking the Jets’ first goal through opportunistic circumstances, Leare got her team on the board and then proceeded to be busy throughout the game, having far more impact than her eight touches might suggest. She held up an opponent late in the game to knock her off balance, which helped the side hold on for the win.

OTHERS:

Kiera Whiley laid a match-winning tackle in the last minute of the game, Leah Spargo was sensational in defence, Krystal Russell controlled the ruck with 28 hitouts and Paige Ryan stepped up to midfield for the Jets. Charlotte Ryan, Emma Stuber and Summer Trim all had impressive performances, while Bridie Hipwell and Ebony Angelopoulos also had their moments.

EASTERN RANGES vs. TASMANIA DEVILS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

Had another prominent game in the midfield to continue her great form this season, not only known for her athleticism, but her tackling too. On this occasion she laid a game-high 13 tackles – four more than any other player on the ground – and was consistent in trying to drive the ball forward out of congestion time and time again to be a top player on the day.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Clean and and classy, the bottom-age talent thrived in the wet to play another outstanding game. Whilst her consistency is still building with some up and down games, when needed she has the capacity to really turn it on and provide great running out of the back 50 and drive it forward. Definitely a kick-first players, Busch also mopped up in defence with eight rebounds, mimicking her effort against the Western Jets in Round 1 where she was outstanding, with the two games over the weekend the best of her season thus far.

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

Had a game-high 25 touches and kept bullocking away at the stoppages with some fierce intent. A four-quarter performer who rarely waivers in her consistency to get to the right ball-winning spots, Deed stepped up in the final term to put the nail in the coffin with a last quarter goal to settle the nerves and ensure the points were heading back to Kilsyth.

#21 Ruby O’Dwyer (Eastern Ranges)

A promising game playing through the midfield to find space in the forward half and take a game-high six marks. She also won plenty of the pill through her work rate, and would drive the ball forward to help her side, Another player suited to the wet-weather style, O’Dwyer played an on-brand wet weather game with her kicking forward.

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

The classy left-footer just pops up when required, kicking important goals in the first and third terms to finish with couple of majors yet again. Having do to the work primarily at ground level, the dangerous Pisano kept up her streak of six games hitting the scoreboard, to take her total to 12 for the year in an outstanding debut season for the 15-year-old. Just so clean and ability to create something out of nothing.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

The Devils’ best and has had a real purple patch over the last few matches after promising signs early in the season. Won more of the ball in close and was clean with it, recording more handballs than kicks for only the second time this season as she looks to have a big influence through the midfield. Her running game was still on show, but for a player who get work hard to get to the outside, Webster has plenty of defensive attributes including her kicking where she laid another six tackles.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

No matter how many times she finds the ball, Ransom is just an eye-catching player. Clean and composed with ball-in-hand she can play in the dry or wet with the same impact. She has the athletic traits to burst out of a stoppage and drive the ball forward, but also can drop back and rebound the ball out of the defensive 50. Not as many disposals as she has some weeks but she makes the most of it when she does win it.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

A player with whom that you know exactly what you are going to get week-in, week-out. With her hard running and work rate a clear standout not only in her game, but across teh board, Gaffney worked hard to mop up in defence, then drive the ball forward with a kick-first mentality. In wet weather conditions, Gaffney was able to find her consistent amount of ball once again and keep her side in contention with her movement in transition.

OTHERS:

Ella Maurer again brought a ray of consistency to the Devils’ side, with Brianna Oates moving the ball well in transition. Jemma Blair and Olivia Smith also provided good run out of defence and through the middle, while Shania Saward laid an impressive eight tackles. For the Ranges, Matilda Hardy was among the most prominent players with a goal and finding plenty of the ball pushing up the ground, whilst the clean and athletic Jorja Livingstone had all kicks from her 15 touches in another strong game, and the likes of Keeley Sherar, Jade Hutchinson and Sarah Humm brought the heat, and Eloise Chaston booted a goal and looked strong up forward.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Did not necessarily have the biggest numbers, but played a really good game, where her strengths shined when given the opportunity. Her marking was particularly impressive, punishing the Falcons for a few missed kicks when they attempted to switch the ball, where she’d take the grab and then go for a quick run and deliver long forward. Had a real highlight reel moment when she got onto the end of a Riley Wilcox handball in the centre of the ground, went for a two-bounce run and slotted a goal in the third quarter, again utilising her elite speed and really good kick. 

TOP PERFORMERS:  

#4 Poppy Schapp (Geelong Falcons)

Nice bit of speed around the ground when she can it going, however with the congested style Northern forced on Geelong when they had the ball it was hard for her to showcase.  Plays her role as a hybrid sort really well, especially when she’s receiving a handball from a first possession winner and using her kick to get it going forward, she just looks hard to stop in those situations.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Consistent throughout the game with her attack on the footy and then follow up ball use, it’s no surprise she’s one of the leading ball winners this season. Reads the ball off the rucks hands really well which made her dangerous, particularly as the game went on and others started to tire out a bit more. I really liked her decision making with the ball, often looking to use the width of the ground and switch the ball rather than bombing down the line like most Falcons players seemed to do as the pressure built more and more.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Reliable in the backline for the last three quarters after starting on the wing, she was really strong aerially and made Northern switch up their style going inside 50 purely because she was just picking off entries for fun in the second and third quarters. Understands the game well with her positioning, so she is always around where the ball is going to be in defensive 50. Took all the kick outs for the day where she often had the right idea, but sometimes her teammates could not compete in the air or were outnumbered, but then started taking some less obvious options in the fourth quarter which saw Geelong move it out of defense with more effect.

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Played with a lot of confidence in her ability on the inside, which comes as no surprise, but to be straight back into it after some time off due to injury was impressive. Seemed to have a bit more of a focus on bringing other teammates into the game with her favouring the handball rather than kicking long which was a nice element to see of her game, and the Knights looked better off overall as a team for it. Seeing her previously play as someone that runs through packs to win the ball it was interesting to see that she appeared more agile and composed today, rather than using her strength she was using her footy IQ to get the ball out of packs, allowing her to deliver better quality disposals to teammates .

#37 Riley Wilcox (Northern Knights)

Showed off a really impressive workrate throughout the game, as she was never really starting any centre bounces or stoppages as a midfielder but she was getting involved everywhere around the ground, getting involved in a lot of handball chains especially in the middle of the ground or around the forward 50 mark, one of which preceded an impressive goal from teammate Maykaylah Appleby and the handball was perfect, put just in front of the already full pace Appleby, which showed that Wilcox’s disposal is measured and planned rather than just handballing to the first jumper she sees. Set up a couple of good set shots as well instead of blazing away and going for a goal, so that teamwork sense is there and fairly natural. 

 #40 Tannah Hurst (Northern Knights)

Solid in defense all day on the occasion it came down, that’s nothing particularly new for her, what really impressed was here impact moving up the ground when there wasn’t a threat of a Falcons score. She was positioning herself well behind the ball, taking some really good marks to keep the pressure on the Falcons and stop possible counter attacks, then moving the ball forward well to her forwards. 

#4 Brooke Plummer (Northern Knights)

Really been a consistent piece of the Knights midfield slotting onto the wing opposite Appleby, and her impact during the game was felt, showing off her ability to run both ways by helping out in defense, even as a spare at some stages, and then pushing up to get the ball and hit a leading forward target, her kicking is just so dangerous. I really like that she can mix it between really bulleting a kick, or softly placing it in front of a leading target, catering to different situations well.

OTHERS:

Despite the loss, the Falcons backline had some impressive contributors that were really hard to get past, particularly in the first half, with bottom aged pair Mackenzie McGrath and Taiya Morrow being the two main ones, as well as Elizabeth Dowling who was superb in the first quarter in particular. Zoe Garth also fought hard on the wing, despite finding herself outnumbered more often than not. Gulia Ceravolo and Tarrah Delgado both won a lot of it in the defensive half, with Delgado even sneaking into the midfield for the final quarter. Teleah Smart provided as an option around the ground well and won a bit of it on the outside.

GWV REBELS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Tried in a few different roles of late, Friend found herself stationed on a wing for most of the match before shuffling back to defence in the final term. The tall prospect competed well at ground level and while her hands were not always as clean as usual, Friend was able to impact some key loose balls. She also did well to float across and take a couple of handy intercept marks, with her only real aerial fly coming on the forward 50 arc in term one.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Before limping off in the hands of trainers late in the game, Dojiok enjoyed another terrific outing. The tall defender has a rare combination of size and athleticism, which again came to the fore in her many rebounding forays. She consistently backed herself to take aggressive positions across the backline and attack the ball when it came her way, instead of worrying about what her direct opponent was doing. As a result, she cut off a great number of Oakleigh attacks both in the air and at ground level. The final piece of the puzzle will be to sharpen her execution by foot, particularly on the run as she so often finds herself. A top performance nonetheless.

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Rowbottom spent a good amount of time deep forward and could very easily have ended up with three goals, instead of just one. She scuppered a couple of golden opportunities in the first term close to goal, but maintained her presence and even seemed to lift in intensity as the game wore on. She got her major score in the second quarter after clunking a trademark one-on-one grab, having already set up a teammate minutes earlier. In her work up the ground, Rowbottom’s physicality was evident as she repeatedly bullied her opponents around the contest and backed herself to muscle through or around would-be tacklers. Not a massive game numbers-wise, but she was impactful when called upon.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

As is always the case, Condon showcased a remarkable work-rate from midfield to not only find the ball herself, but to also impact with tenacious tackling which defies her size. The diminutive ball winner seems to accumulate at will, credit mostly to her running ability and repeat efforts at ground level. One play perfectly captured Condon’s attitude and desire to compete; when she was beaten in a one-on-one marking contest, but kept her head in the game to smother the resultant kick. Distance and damage in her kicking are areas of growth, but would only add to her sound acumen on the inside.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Leonard was afforded a wealth of midfield minutes and took the opportunity well, translating her ball winning ability and tackling pressure to the centre bounces. When she wasn’t winning her own ball, the experienced Rebel laid a number of big tackles to lock the ball in or prevent Oakleigh from getting the ball to the outside. She also chimed in with a couple of quality marks in defensive 50, with one going back with the flight of the ball particularly impressive. A cool head across the ground, Leonard was one of her side’s top performers.

#27 Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)

The bottom-age defender played an important role in defence for GWV, especially given how much time the ball spent in the Rebels’ own half. Stationed deep for most of the day, Walton was entrusted with the kick-in duties and patrolled the last line with aplomb. There were a few nervy moments and fumbles in key areas, but she competed well against quality opposition for the most part. Having matched up one-out on Rowbottom for a short period, the learnings from this game would have been great for the budding prospect.

#5 Mia Clift (Oakleigh Chargers)

Clift played an underrated role in the Chargers’ defence, tasked with matching up on fellow number five, Paige Scott. She has already proven able to take on such lockdown roles, and did well to subdue the impact of GWV’s forwards throughout the day. While she does have the defensive acumen, Clift can also make her mark on the rebound but looked to play a team game in this outing and was solid.

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

One of Oakleigh’s best in the win, Vickers was able to showcase even more of her offensive capabilities as she moved up from half-back to play on the wing. Often opposed to Friend, Vickers more than held her own and backed herself to get into aggressive attacking positions. She has a knack of finding space to receive and reads the play well to do so, allowing her to then provide run-and-carry down the line. While Vickers’ forward momentum is invaluable, she was still able to win the hard ball and contribute defensive acts, such as a magnificent aerial spoil in the third quarter. She capped off her game with arguably the goal of the day in term four, competing in the air before weaving around an opponent and slotting the ball home.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Reid’s level of consistency in a ball winning sense has been outstanding throughout the season, and it was no different in this game. She just seems to pop up everywhere and can play on just about every line, as she proved during a wealth of time up forward here. Her ability to present and offer a marking target was terrific, offering another string to her bow while still impacting at the contest and willing the ball forward via her left boot. Her footy smarts were also on show in a variety of little instances; she was one of the only players to properly judge the wind while taking a set shot at goal, resulting in a major score and unfortunate poster, while pinning her opponents’ arms in tackles to lock the ball in proved another clever act. She still seems most comfortable in space, but has a crack and impacts in each role she is given.

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Perhaps one of Oakleigh’s more unheralded midfielders, Ling was as busy as anyone afield in this game. She was involved from the get-go, battling hard at ground level and covering the ground well to win a heap of ball in all areas. Her accumulative factor was high, and Ling was able to find more possessions on the outside in this outing which allowed her to make a greater impact going forward. Despite her size, she also pulled off a couple of handy aerial feats, including a nice overhead mark during the third term. Solid as ever, and a key part of this star-studded side.

OTHERS:

Kalani Scoullar has proven a real problem for opposition rucks of late and dominated the hitouts once again for GWV, while also digging in for a few nice tackling efforts. Paige Scott was dangerous in patches and impressed with her vigour, while Olivia Leonard also got her hands dirty in defence for the Rebels. Charlotte Van der Vlies was again impactful on a wing for Oakleigh, as Lily Hart played her role in midfield and Tayla Morton set the tone up forward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

NAB League Girls Round 6 preview: Academy teams arrive for bumper clashes

ALL four Northern Academy teams will arrive in the NAB League Girls competition, with the Sydney Swans, Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns playing in Victoria, while GWS GIANTS meet the Murray Bushrangers in Lavington, New South Wales.

In a huge boost for the NAB League Girls, the clash between Geelong Falcons and Sydney Swans Academy, and the double-header featuring the Queensland Academy teams and Northern Knights and Eastern Ranges, will not only be streamed via the NAB League app, but also feature live commentary. We preview all the Round 6 games below.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWS GIANTS ACADEMY
Saturday, March 13 @ 10am
Lavington Sports Ground

The first NAB League Girls game of the year to be played in New South Wales takes place between Murray Bushrangers and GWS GIANTS Academy. It also marks the first game of what will be four across the weekend, introducing the Northern Academy sides to some Victorian opposition. Murray Bushrangers are yet to win a game in the NAB League Girls, and their AFL Women’s Academy player Ally Morphett will suit up in the orange and charcoal against the Bushrangers’ other towering ruck in Lily Kozuharoff. After making her debut for North Melbourne VFL Women’s last week, Jayde Hamilton will be back at Under 19s level, roving the taps and going head-to-head with bottom-age jet Keeley Skepper onball.

Grace Hay is a critical inclusion in defence for the Bushrangers, teaming up with the likes of Mindy Quade, Chloe Locke and Kristy Whitehead forming a strong half-back line. They will need to contain teammate Lily Sharp who also switches jumpers for this clash, while Hayley Macdonald slotted three goals in the big 49-point win over Sydney Swans Academy a fortnight ago. She was named best on ground in that victory, with Sophie Trewartha another impressive forward on the day, Eleano Bishop and wing Brodie Mowbray others named amongst the best. India Lehman will take to the field for the GIANTS against her Bushrangers teammates, while Murray will look to in-form wing Aurora Smith to go head-to-head with Jessica Whelan in a matchup to watch. Zara Hamilton, Sophia McCarthy and Olivia Cicolini are others who can create scoring opportunities for the home side.

Murray has the experience at this level, but the real contest will be the interesting factor watching the GIANTS Academy making their debut at NAB League level with a number of Bushrangers to face off against their NAB League teammates.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY
Saturday, March 13 @ 11am
Deakin University Waurn Ponds

Heading much further south, another Academy team arrives in Victoria for a clash against the red-hot Geelong Falcons. The Falcons are 3-0 so far this season and have taken care of all their opponents thus far. Sydney has played two matches against the GIANTS Academy, splitting the results with a 20-point win, before a 49-point loss. Given Geelong could take out the entire title, this will be a great challenge for the Swans to partake in as they hit the field for the first time at NAB League Girls level. The Falcons head in without the in-form Annie Lee in defence, or leading goalkicker Renee Tierney up forward as they look to continue their stints at VFL Women’s level. Otherwise the Falcons will be relatively stable across the field and look to continue their form against the Swans.

The Falcons midfield of Tess Craven, Ash Van Loon, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson has been rock solid this year, and will be hard to beat. It will be a fantastic test for the likes of Ruby Sargent-Wilson and Hannah Cerezo who both stood out in the Academy matches recently. Up forward, Jessica Doyle slotted four as the sole AFL Women’s Academy for her state, but also the only one in the match. She will be the crucial player to watch up forward, though Willow Smith, Kyla Tracey and Jade Jarrett have all proven to be scoring options for the red and white side. Elizabeth Dowling will be the player her teammates look to with distribution outside the defensive 50, while Analea McKee and Ava McKeegan will look to drive the ball down the field from half-back. Ingrid Houtsma provides some X-factor on the win, and Mia Van Dyke has been thrown forward for this game, with reliable targets, Lucy Were and Gabbi Featherston making life difficult for the opposition. Other Swans who impressed in the Academy games include Kiara Beesley – who received a Draft Combine invitation last year – Maddy Hendrie, Ella Morris, Kahli Gilchrist and Ella Heads who will hope to make a good impression in this encounter.

Geelong is one of the teams to beat this season, but the Swans will get a great hitout ahead of next month’s AFL Women’s Under-19 Championships.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 13 @ 12.30pm
Penguin Reserve

Playing in the third state for the day’s action, Tasmania Devils host Dandenong Stingrays at Penguin Reserve. The Devils are coming off back-to-back wins in Victoria after their narrow defeat at the hands of Oakleigh Chargers a fortnight ago. If there is one team that can sympathise with them about losing to the Chargers in a nail-biter it is the Stingrays, who went down to the Chargers by a solitary point a week ago. Tasmania sits at 3-1 for the season, while the Stingrays have one less game under their belts for a 2-1 start, but could draw level with a win here. The Devils really ran out the final term against Bendigo Pioneers last Saturday, then managed to restrict Western Jets to just one point, meaning in their last seven quarters, the Devils’ defence has conceded just one behind. That will be important against a dangerous Stingrays’ forward line that contains Amber Clarke (three goals against Oakleigh) and the rotating Ashleigh Richards and Mackenzie Eardley who can be thrown there too.

Much like the Devils, the Stingrays have a really strong defensive outfit, with Eardley and Zoe Hill the twin towers in the key positions and the likes of Jaide Anthony and Jemma Radford providing the run. Amy Prokopiec has looked lively up forward this season, with her season-best four goals coming in Round 1, while Amy Bissett and Amy Edmand have also proven to kick multiple goals in a game through tight contests. The Devils midfield has been firing on all cylinders, withe speed of Perri King, class of Claire Ransom and hardness of Ella Maurer providing a nice balance on the inside. Given the Stingrays will be without the injured Emily Shepherd, it will be up to Richards and Felicity Crank to step up with Abbey Jordan in that onball group. Aprille Crooks, Priscilla Odwogo and Jemma Blair can provide the run out of defence for the Devils, while Meghan Gaffney never stops running.

This has all the hallmarks of being a thriller and being at home, Tasmania Devils might have the slight edge, but it is hard to look past the Stingrays who are just as well balanced as any side, but it shapes as the match to watch this weekend.

 

GWV REBELS vs. WESTERN JETS
Sunday, March 14 @ 11am
MARS Stadium

Taking to the field for their second game in four days, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels will host the Western Jets – who only have a six-day break themselves – at MARS Stadium on Sunday morning. The Rebels trialled key forward Ella Friend on a wing and she has been named there again in what could be an absolute blockbuster of a matchup against Jets’ talent Charlotte Baskaran. The one-on-ones across the ground are superb, with Lilli Condon set to go up against Montana Ham, and though the height difference might be substantial, neither player will take a backwards step. Paige Scott booted three goals against the Bendigo Pioneers on Wednesday, her second three-goal haul of the year, and will be the danger player inside 50. The smaller defenders in Paige Ryan, Laura Elliott and Kate Maxwell have done well in moving the ball in transition, and will need to stem the flow of inside 50s from the Rebels midfielders.

Up the other end, Nyakoat Dojiok is a brick wall with her ability to read the ball in flight and intercept mark a treat, and Molly Walton is one of the more consistent bottom-age talents running around back there, already tasked with the kick-in duties. Chloe Leonard could slot back onto half-back, but will start onball against Trinity Skenderis, while Ally Trigg and Tahlia Meier both have the capacity to roll from the midfield forward. Kensley Ward has brought the defensive intensity up forward in her two games thus far, while Caitlin Sargent and Jemima Woods are the key forward targets inside 50. Krystal Russell has enjoyed a strong debut season as well through the ruck, and will go head-to-head against Kalani Scoullar.

If the Rebels get up, they move to 3-2 for the season, while the Jets sit at 1-3 currently and would join the Rebels with a 2-3 record if they can topple the home team up in Ballarat.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. CALDER CANNONS
Sunday, March 14 @ 11.30am
Ronald Reserve, Morwell East

Over east, Gippsland Power host Calder Cannons with the home team searching for its first win of the season, while the Calder Cannons are hoping to go back-to-back after a strong win over Northern Knights 10 days earlier under lights at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The Power have become comfortable at Ronald Reserve in Morwell East, with this fixture being their third consecutive match at the venue having played Northern Knights and Sandringham Dragons there in recent weeks. The Power put in their best effort last week against the Dragons, with their lowest losing margin of 58 points, but also slotting three goals in the process. The battle to watch will be in the midfield where Grace McRae could go head-to-head with fellow hard nut Emelia Yassir, while Yasmin Duursma and Macie Gilmour go up against Olivia Manfre and Reese Sutton onball. Georgie Prespakis has been thrown forward in a huge one-on-one contest with Lily-Rose Williamson which will be a great test for the bottom-ager given she possesses similar powerful traits.

Shanara Notman returns to the Power side to provide that tall intercepting target in defence, but could also be thrown forward, with Matilda Van Berkel and Holly Booth named in the key position forward spots though both have become reliable defenders in past years. Indiana Makai has been in good form of late, with Sunday Brisbane and Calder’s Mali McLeod also capable of taking grass with ball-in-hand a long a wing. Neve Crowley will be a crucial key tall for the Cannons up forward, with Alisa Magri (three goals against Northern) and Jessica Zakkour both damaging options inside 50. Up the other end, Kasey Lennox is rock solid at full-back, while Zali Friswell and Tahlia Gillard have both been named on the bench but can roll on and play in multiple positions, quite usually relieving the midfield.

Calder Cannons will be looking for a big win here, but Gippsland will be up for the fight, it will just be about keeping possession and getting the ball forward to their keys, then trying to capitalise on the transition.

 

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. BRISBANE LIONS ACADEMY
Sunday, March 14 @ 12.45pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora

In the first of a double-header at La Trobe University, Northern Knights will host Brisbane Lions Academy in what is poised to be a fantastic contest. The Lions Academy might be underrated, but they have three AFL Women’s Academy members out on the park, with Maggie Harmer, Mikayla Pauga and Bella Smith all running out for the Lions in their first NAB League Girls game. Harmer and Pauga will start through the midfield, though the latter could go forward and join Smith in the front six, while Harmer is more than capable of dropping back and being a reliable rebounding defender as well. The Lions have plenty of versatile players in their outfit, with Chelsea Chesterfield and Lucia Liessi both able to front up in the forward line, but will start in defence for this match.

The Knights have been able to create plenty of marking targets inside 50, with Megan Girolami enjoying a fantastic season this year, and the likes of Ella Smallacombe and Simone Mooney being the key talls in there. Trinity Mills has been a tough player to contain, while wings Maykaylah Appleby – Northern’s AFL Women’s Academy member – and Brooke Plummer have created driving runs and pumping the ball inside 50. Grace Wake returns from injury for the Knights for her first game of the season, teaming up with Tarrah Delgado in the back 50, while Ava Jordan has been a sensational find as an 05-born talent this season. An injury to Maeve Chaplin last week means she will miss out, but the Knights have plenty of depth through the side. Other Lions youngsters who have impressed in the Queensland colours or at QAFL Women’s level before include Macie Brown, Tiarna Jericho and Izzy Kotatis, while Phoebe Baird battling with Appleby as two smooth movers will be a matchup to watch.

Northern will be favourites for this clash, but Brisbane Lions could be the pick of the Academy sides this weekend, so if there is to be an upset, it could be this one.

 

EASTERN RANGES vs. GOLD COAST SUNS ACADEMY
Sunday, March 14 @ 2.45pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora

In the second game at the revamped La Trobe University, Eastern Ranges will hope to bounce back from their first loss two weeks ago when they take on the other Queensland Academy side in Gold Coast Suns. The Ranges will be without Olivia Meagher who will continue her stint at Collingwood’s VFL Women’s side tonight against Western Bulldogs, which means another midfielder will need to try and contain Queensland’s top draft prospect in Teagan Levi. The sister of Gold Coast’s Maddison, Levi is a terrific inside midfielder who can play in multiple roles, but will bullock the ball out of the stoppage with good burst and power. She is hard to match up on, but Bridget Deed looks to be the one set to go head-to-head with her. The Eastern midfield is a strong one, with in-form ruck Georgia Campbell, and midfielders Keeley Sherar and Ruby O’Dwyer both in good form ahead of this clash. A trio of Ranges return from VFL Women’s duty with Isabelle Khoury (wing), Matilda Hardy (half-forward) and Jess Grace (interchange) all named for the clash.

The Suns have some great talent across the board, with key forward at QAFL Women’s level Jasmyn Davidson named at full-back for this clash showing off her versatility. Up the other end is Lily Tarlinton, with her and Faith Alchin filling out the key position posts. Keyshia Matenga has speed to burn and expect her to come off the bench to roll onto a wing against either Khoury or Jorja Livingstone, while twins Laquoiya and Litonya Cockatoo-Motlop provide a family bond within the team. Alyssia Pisano is a name to keep in mind for the future as a damaging ball user in side 50, while Caitlin Thorne is another Suns player named at half-forward who could create some havoc inside 50.

Eastern Ranges have shown to have the depth to beat most teams and will be favourites here, but led by Levi, the Suns will hope to win plenty of clearances and get the ball forward for scoring opportunities.

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 2a & 5

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition treated us to a week-long stretch of fixtures which included Round 5’s action, as well as a host of make-up games from Round 2. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

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

CALDER CANNONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Starting on the wing and then moving to half back, Appleby took the most of her chances with the ball and showcased her trademark run and carry. She stood up as an aerial threat as well, especially around the backline, which made it difficult for Calder to get quality entries inside 50 later in the piece.  

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Proved she can continue to put out really high quality performances even when being tagged, still being a dangerous stoppage player throughout the night. Her composure with ball in hand really did look a class above, especially in the early stages of the game, where she just took that extra half second to fully balance herself before a kick or see a teammate a little further out to handball to. Her confidence in taking opponents on was again a highlight, stepping around oncoming tacklers with ease and then delivering well to a teammate.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

After missing the game against the Pioneers she was thrown straight back into the Number 1 Ruck duties, looking comfortable throughout and leading the hitouts for the night. It’s a cliche in footy but having a ruck height player that plays as another midfielder is a luxury for any team, and Gillard is the perfect example of that, with cleanliness below her knees and good agility, her follow up work from her taps is elite. Her read of the play makes her a really good loose player down the line, who can then utilise her kick to set up teammates going forward.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Her work rate was a real highlight throughout the game, would regularly be seen involved in the backline and then get the ball near the forward line a minute or so later. Particularly impressed with her marking overhead around the ground as well, even under immediate pressure, she would just back herself to hold it even against a spoiler. Had her regular zip about the ground.

#8 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

A workhorse throughout the day, she is another one that positioned herself well behind the ball and took some good grabs that turned into quick and damaging transition plays. Showed off her speed when chasing players and looking to win the ball, where her skills with it were more often than not very good. She even got herself an impressive run from the defensive 50 mark to the other end of the centre square, taking three bounces along the way.

#15 Mali McLeod (Calder Cannons)

Just understands how to play the wing role really well, did not make a poorly timed run all day, or allow herself to ever be too far from the play, she presented well as a switch option and swept up a lot of spilt balls, then utilising her accurate kick to get the Cannons going forward.

#7 Teleah Smart (Northern Knights)

Took no time to get back into it after missing the game against Gippsland, once again showcasing her speed and agility around the midfield by weaving out of stoppages with ball in hand to deliver it to a teammate up the field. Weights her kicks well for teammates to just run onto and take it in the hands easily.

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

It really is admirable that a player of her size gets in and under as much as she does, to the effect she does, and then backs her speed against opponents two years her senior. Her game sense and skills are top notch as well, getting involved in a lot of transitional play from the backline to get Northern moving quickly.

#33 Megan Barnes (Northern Knights)

Moved from her regular defensive post into the midfield and stepped up into the new role. She was particularly impressive on the inside of contests, winning plenty of contested ball and moving it out to the other Northern rovers, or pouncing onto an opponent that won it when they did.

#29 Tallia Pulcino (Northern Knights)

Worked hard on the inside all day and presented as a consistent and reliable ball winner around stoppages and contested areas for Northern. Punished the cannons when she was left unattended around stoppages or managed to get herself free of an opponent, where her ball winning ability and quick hands gave Northern good opportunities.

OTHERS:

Tannah Hurst and Tarrah Delgado were again really solid pillars for Northern in defence cutting off a lot of Cannon’s attacks by pushing off their opponents to help out other teammates or attack a ground ball. Phoebe Nelson was impressive on the wing throughout the game as well, showing some good bursts of speed. Calder had a lot of players contribute well throughout the game, with bottom-aged duo Abbey McDonald and Tahlia Read good in defence and midfield respectively. Alisa Magri’s game high three goals ultimately proved the difference on the night, proving to make the most of every opportunity she got.

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

The Oakleigh skipper returned what was ultimately a game-winning performance; proving ominous on-ball in what was a highly contested scrap, before rotating forward and booting a pair of crucial goals. She was involved in plenty during the opening stages and bullied her opponents through midfield, showcasing great strength to stand up in and burst away from tackles throughout. Rowbottom’s contested marking was another key feature, with two taken deep inside 50 from teammates’ set shots and resulting in goals. She also helped herself for a couple of big clunks around the ground and was essentially impactful wherever she went.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Reid led all comers once again and was simply everywhere at times, credit to her footy smarts and work rate. Starting on the wing, she would often trust her midfielders to win the centre clearances and took up attacking positions as the ball flowed forward. Reid also worked the other way to win plenty more possessions, especially when Oakleigh was struggling to clear out of defence. It meant some of her kicks were rushed, but Reid always gains good meterage. She was also tried at the centre bounces and impacted much of the play. Wherever the ball went, Reid was waiting.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

In what was very nearly a game-winning performance, Clarke booted three of Dandenong’s four goals. They came in a flurry too, with her first a monster bomb from range off the outside of the boot during the second quarter. Having started in midfield, she was stationed deep forward in term three and added two more goals to put Dandy ahead, with no defender able to combat her pace and smarts. Her anticipation and quick bursts of brilliance were a joy to watch, but only just fell short of delivering Dandenong a win.

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Hill is one of the better readers of the game as far as NAB League defenders go, and she showed exactly that in another terrific outing. Her intercept marking was on point whenever Dandenong seemed to be bombarded with forward 50 entries, allowing for opportunities to break the other way. She was found out a touch when attempting to move the ball on quickly and was caught in possession as the pressure gauge rose, but ultimately proved an important dual-repellant in defence and easily one of her side’s best players.

#4 Alexandra McCulloch (Oakleigh Chargers)

Perhaps one who has flown under the radar a touch among Oakleigh’s star-studded squad, McCulloch’s consistency and reliability in defence is becoming hard to ignore. A nice size and with good athleticism, she is aggressive in her ability to intercept mark and pressed up well to cut off Dandenong’s forward forays. McCulloch proved she can position well, mark, and then rebound while also pitching in with goal-saving tackles and solid work at the fall of the ball.

#10 Abbey Jordan (Dandenong Stingrays)

The Dandenong co-captain brought a much-needed hard edge to the game, transforming as she crossed the white line and giving it her all for the Stingrays. She has shown promising improvements in key target areas this season, moving into the midfield to win more contested ball and also snapping up a nice overhead mark early on. She was moved to half-back at times and pushed the ball forward well from there, but her physicality at the contest was arguably the most pleasing side to her game – including a little scrap after being dumped hard in a fourth term tackle. Her intensity matched the high stakes of the match.

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Stationed in her usual half-back slot, Vickers was one of the more important figures in Oakleigh’s system. She took up attacking positions as the Chargers defenders pressed hard up to halfway, allowing her to use her class on the ball to enter attacking areas once possession changed hands. Her ability to sweep up and rebound is excellent, with one-percenters like tackling pressure and smothers also coming to the fore in this outing.

#44 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays) 

Anthony was an important part of Dandenong’s surge during the second and third terms, rotating through midfield and defence to good effect. She popped up for a couple of nice intercepts when stationed as a spare behind the ball, but was also busy around the stoppages when given that opportunity. She gets a big tick for taking charge when it mattered, among others.

OTHERS:

Dandenong co-captain Ashleigh Richards was productive in midfield and up forward, gifted a goal in the final term which put her side ahead. Felicity Crank was another strong contributor for the Stingrays, while Mackenzie Eardley showed her versatility to swing forward after starting in defence. The likes of Taylah Morton and Jorja Jackson were lively inside 50 for Oakleigh, with Amanda Ling and Eliza James hard at it through midfield and Ameile Smith an important ruck-forward figure.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Just slotted into a variety of roles and managed to have an influence in each third of the ground. On a number of occassions she took a couple of strong marks overhead, then displayed her athleticism with a clever sidestep in the third term and nice kick forward. She played as deep as full-forward, and dropped back into defence to intercept at times such was her range across the field. Unfortunately she missed the second game in four days, but certainly had an influence in the loss for the Pioneers.

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

As a metres gained player, King certainly has an influence on the game regardless of how much she wins it. On the weekend she found plenty of it with 21 touches, but it was more her drive forward and putting pressure on the opposition defence that stood out. At times she was forced into rushing a kick or uncharacteristically dropping a mark from her reliably strong hands, but her second efforts and work rate would see her make up for it. When she did find space on the outside, she would hit up a teammate in space, and in the second term was able to snap around her body at speed to get the ball into the danger zone. Her footy smarts in tight also allowed her to quickly tap the ball out between opponents to a teammate on the outside.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#5 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)

A clear standout for the Pioneers and put together a massive four-quarter effort. She kicked the opening goal of the game on the run late in the first term, and was a huge reason why the Pioneers skipped out to a quarter time lead. At times she still rushes her kicks, but her work inside and athleticism to break away from the contest is fantastic, and she just keeps cracking in, often winning free kicks for her efforts be it a run-down tackle or being caught high. Boasts really strong athletic and defensive traits, and capable of hitting the scoreboard.

#30 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

Showed her ability to play across all thirds of the ground like Slender, starting up forward and having an number of shots on goal. Her first chance was a nice kick but touched on the way to goal, before she launched just before the quarter time siren with the long-range attempt sailing through. Then she was thrown back into defence later on and had an influence, providing plenty of run out of the back 50 and winning plenty of the ball through midfield as well. She provided good defensive pressure and an interceptor at half-back as well.

#41 Tegan Williams (Bendigo Pioneers)

As a bottom-age player, Williams has a nice collection of traits that will hold her in good stead for her draft-eligible year next season. She is good in the air or at ground level, can use the ball well by hand or foot, and can read the ball in flight which is important. Standing in defence, Williams was thrown up forward, but can be used through the middle, and is composed under pressure to get her hands free from congestion. One player who is versatile and able to be deployed in multiple areas and someone to watch next year.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

In a game that at times was scrappy and hard-fought, Ransom just brings that touch of class and composure, and it stands out on the field. The bottom-ager is able to cleanly win the ball at ground level or via hands, and then dish it off quickly to the right option. Also possessing a damaging sidestep, Ransom is a lovely kick of the ball and knows how to weight her kicks which usually do a truckload of damage. Ransom is one of those players you notice when she has 10 touches, the fact she topped the match with 23 shows she has the ball-winning capacity, and her inside 50 entries and outside run is what makes her quite the developing prospect.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

The work rate of Gaffney must be off the charts as she just covers the ground so well, running hard on the outside to win the ball, take grass and put it forward. Even if she does not win it, she works over to support her teammates and offer a link in the chain going forward, and her first quarter in particular was an impressive one despite her team being down.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

Seemed like the best game of the NAB League Girls this season for Webster, who stepped up for a season-high 16 touches, but remained fierce with her tackling ability. Not afraid to lock the ball in and add that element of defensive pressure, Webster’s run on the outside, particularly from half-back, was able to drive the ball forward, as she pushed up to a wing and kept a high defensive line to put pressure on the Pioneers’ defence.

#3 Amy Bissett (Tasmania Devils)

A genuine natural footballer, Bissett has high-level footy smarts and just knows where the goals are. She booted 2.2 against the Pioneers, with a second term goal coming off the back of clean work at ground level and putting it through the mdidle. Her final quarter goal was just 29 seconds into the term, as she sidestepped an opponent and made it look easy, which started the ball rolling for the Devils to blow out the margin. Defensive pressure is the next step for Bissett, but her offensive work and creative thinking is very good.

OTHERS:

Emma Gilligan was a reliable force out of defence for the Pioneers, while Scarlett Orritt, Lexie Moss, Lila Keck and Keely Fullerton showed the future of the team with some strong efforts in tight and on the outside, winning their fair share of the ball. For the Devils, Ella Maurer gets to ball-winning positions, while Madison Brazendale, Aprille Crooks and Maisie Edwards also had a number of highlights throughout the day.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#26 Grace McRae (Gippsland Power)

Just keeps cracking in and winning the hard ball, but her defensive work – 10 tackles – is the standout. She refuses to let the opposition get an easy loose ball, and puts her body on the line time and time again. Even found some space at half-back in this match to run the ball forward, and is able to pump it to space for her quicker teammates to run onto. Another four-quarter performance from the inside midfielder.

#40 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)

Just dominated through the ruck, towering over her respective opponents, and she showed confidence a few times to grab it out of the ruck and clear it herself once she realised there was no opponent going up with her. She provided an option across the ground and showed good running capacity, and won a number of free kicks for being held at times just because of her influence on the game. Really building some good form of late, and critically winning a fair chunk of the ball and being used by her teammates in transition which is often rare for rucks.

#25 Lily-Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)

Rotating between the midfield and defence, Williamson has that blend of power and speed she uses to fend and shrug off tacklers, and is getting better at knowing her limitations in regards to when to stiff-arm the opposition. She was a standout early in the match for the Power, dropping back and mopping up forward forays from the opposition, and also laying great tackles in the back 50. Her highlight came in the final term when she ran out of defence, took several bounces, evaded a player and fended off another, running over 40m to kick inside 50.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Earned our Draft Central Player of the Week for Round 5 and it is easy to see why, with a dominant performance that saw her collect eight more disposals than anyone else on the field. But unlike some players who stat-pad, you noticed every time Hurley collected the ball because it was often out of a stoppage, or running hard in space and driving the ball forward. It could be from a centre stoppage, inside 50 or from a defensive 50 ball-up, but regardless of where she was, she read the taps – often off Matser’s hands – and then accelerated away in style. She had a flying shot in the opening term but missed, though that was one of seldom blemishes in an outstanding game where she danced around opponents and kept being aggressive with her run and ball use.

#3 Charli Murphy (Sandringham Dragons)

A five goal haul is impressive in anyone’s books, and Murphy was just too strong one-on-one for her opponents inside 50. She kicked the opening goal of the game two minutes in from a snap at close range, then kicked her second through pure strength nine minutes later. She set up a scoring opportunity with a nice kick later in the term, but would kick her third midway through the second term with the outside of the boot. A fourth goal came in the opening two minutes of the final quarter 15m out with a set shot, then a strong mark thanks to good positioning five minutes into the final term netted Murphy her fifth goal courtesy of a 30m shot on a slight angle.

#37 Ebony Angelopoulos (Sandringham Dragons)

Played the role of small forward perfectly, kicking three goals and providing good defensive pressure close to goal. She was caught once trying to get away from an opponent, but other than that, hassled and harassed defenders with implied pressure. Angelopoulos slotted her first goal from a set shot 14 minutes into the first term following good protection of the ball drop, then snagged her second later in quarter two with a strong mark and another set shot. Her third game late in the third term with a crumbing goal at the top of the square to cap off a good day out.

OTHERS:

Gippsland Power’s Yasmin Duursma had a strong game on the inside to lead all-comers for the Power in disposals, while Matilda Van Berkel was great in defence, and Courtney Fletcher and Sunday Brisbane tried hard throughout the match. For the Dragons, Keely Coyne, Kiana Lynch, Emma Stuber and Pia Staltari all had impressive moments, as did J’Noemi Anderson, and debutant Mia Zielinski who slotted two goals.

 

WESTERN JETS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils): Spent more time forward than usual given the short turn around from the game against Bendigo Pioneers. Her overhead marking for a midfielder is a key asset to her game and makes her a danger around the ground, along with her ability to read the ball in the air and off rucks hands she gets in the right position consistently. A particular highlight that showcased this was the opening goal of the game, where she got the clearance from a forward 50 stoppage and snapped the goal quickly. Her kicking on the run is reliable and makes that Tasmania transitional play even more deadly.  

TOP PERFORMERS:

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

Moves really well with ball in hand and never appears rushed by pressure or even her team mates telling her to kick, it goes a long to making every disposal of hers damaging and a good fit for Tasmania’s fast transitional work, especially with her willingness to kick to inside 45 options coming out of defence and going into forward 50.

#8 Paige Ryan (Western Jets)

Stood up in Westerns defence throughout the day as a hard at it, no nonsense sort. Very aggressive in her pursuit of the ball and ball carrier which makes her difficult to beat one on one and even harder to get away from. Was tasked with taking kick-ins for majority of the game, where she’d often run in 10-15 meters and then kick the ball long out of 50. 

# 38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

The perfect example of how to play as a taller inside midfielder, Ham just doesn’t stop going for the ball or tackling opposition ball winners, but she’s always present and impacting the play. Her clearance work is excellent, with her being hard to tackle as well she’s a force in the midfield and often gets her clearance kicks close to the goal square, making it hard for opposition to get quick goals. 

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Classy throughout the day, with her positioning around the ground at such a high level it is not hard to see why opponents pay so much attention to her. Her kicking penetration and placement is really impressive as well, with her ability to weight her kicks differently for different team mates a big asset

#6 Madison Brazendale (Tasmania Devils)

Impressed in the second half of the game in particular where her work in the midfield and around the ground was valuable going forward. Has a good level of composure with ball in hand that leads to her getting good quality disposal

# 7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Positioned on the wing for the day she had a really good showing, often being the best option for Tasmania moving out of the backline, where her speed was eye-catching and led to a lot of Tasmania inside 50’s. 

OTHERS:

Jemima Woods worked hard in the Jets forward line, and even pushed into the Ruck at times where she competed well. Laura Elliott also worked into the game for the Jets in the backline, becoming more of an obstacle in the second half. Amy Bissett and Jemma Webster were dangerous in the Tasmanian forward half, with Priscilla Odwogo and Aprille Crooks consistent pillars in their defence, working aggressively to shut down any Western attack

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Tried in a few different roles, Friend’s key traits came to the fore everywhere she went. Arguably the best contested marker in the league, she clunked a series of impressive grabs at centre half-forward and around the ground to help set the Rebels on the right foot. She showed good work rate to help out in defence when stationed on a wing, proving there are many strings to her bow apart from the obvious forward craft.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Another of the Rebels’ best performers on the day, Dojiok positioned masterfully across half-back to intercept time and time again. Her reading of the play and ball in flight proved outstanding, allowing for those important intercept possessions before inciting her patented burst on the rebound. As usual, Dojiok was able to gain good meterage with surges down the corridor, but is still improving her end product with more direct kicks to targets down the line.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

Scott was arguably best afield and was part of just about everything the Rebels forged forward of centre. She would have had a serious case of leather poisoning in the first half with the rate of possessions she gathered, working hard up the ground before also beating her opponent back to goal. Scott’s confidence was clearly at a high as she went about trying to kick goals in all sorts of ways, not afraid to take on opponents and back her own ability. Some of her ‘what-if’ moments were a little frustrating though, sometimes caught doing a little too much and burning teammates in promising positions. With even more development over another year of NAB League, Scott has the potential to become one of the competition’s most damaging forwards.

#30 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

Arguably the Pioneers’ best player on the day, Di Donato showed her class moving forward from midfield. Heralded as one of the best kicks in the Bendigo squad, she used the ball well on both sides when necessary and looked dangerous when afforded opportunities inside forward 50. She found the goals for Bendigo and could have added more to her scoring tally, if not for a poster on the run. Overall, her class stood out among a raw and inexperienced Pioneers outfit.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

The diminutive midfielder went about her work in typical fashion, finding plenty of the ball and looking to drive the Rebels forward from the contest. She is always a good link in congestion and began to get busy on the outer as well, using her running ability to cover good ground and help GWV open the game up in transition.

#27 Jayda Richardson (Bendigo Pioneers)

One of the few experienced members of Bendigo’s lineup on Wednesday, it was no surprise to see Richardson moved to the most important positions on the ground. When GWV got an early surge on, she was stationed in defence to try and provide a cool head back there. She did well to help repel the Rebels’ attacks and use her marking ability to stop those drives in their tracks, but it was no easy task for the top-ager. A tick for her versatility after already contributing well up forward this year.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Donning the long sleeves, Leonard worked to find the ball and got into some promising positions when in possession. The 19-year-old operated off half-back and into the midfield as play opened up, winning the ball with good authority and confidence before looking to move it forward with class.

#3 Eve Cail (Bendigo Pioneers)

It is rare to see a 14-year-old running out in an Under 19 competition, but the 2006-born Cail held her own in what was her fourth outing for the Pioneers. This was arguably her best performance to date, digging in hard to win her own ball and proving relatively unfazed by the intensity shown around each contest. One to watch for the future.

OTHERS:

GWV had plenty of terrific contributors, with the likes of Tahlia Meier and Melina Ciavarella dangerous up forward, while Olivia Leonard also got busy. For the Pioneers, Charli Dorrity was busy out of defence, Keely Fullerton remained crucial in transition, and Tegan Williams played a bit of everywhere including the ruck.