Tag: gwv rebels girls

Saulitis bags two last quarter goals to sink Dragons in thriller

BACK-to-back goals in the final term from AFL Women’s National Academy member, Renee Saulitis has helped Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels get over the line against an unlucky Sandringham Dragons outfit, 4.2 (26) to 2.9 (21). From the get-go the fierce tackling pressure of the Dragons was evident with all of their onballers and forwards applying crunching tackles and bumps. It was just cleanliness and finishing ability inside forward 50 that was ultimately the difference in the game, with both defences holding up well, but the Rebels making the most of their chances. For most of the match it looked like Sandringham’s dominance in its forward half would surely be enough, with the Dragons having 13 more inside 50s (37-24) and five more scoring shots (11-6) but no matter how much pressure was applied, the Rebels were there to mop it up. It was indeed a strange game, with many of Sandringham’s top players among the best on the ground, but it was such an even team performance from the home team that got them up by five points in the contest.

Throughout the match, Rebels’ ruck Maggie Caris was too tall for her opposing rucks, almost exclusively giving her midfielders first chance at the footy. Despite this, the Dragons mids were more prevalent, led by the likes of Alice Burke, Eliza McNamara and skipper, Winnie Laing. All three found plenty of the ball, and their defensive pressure set the tone for the rest of the team. The bad luck for the visitors started early when Tayla Jones did everything right to soccer a ball inside 50 and run onto it a couple of metres out from goal, only to rush the kick and put it into the post. The Dragons held the ball inside their forward half for the first six minutes as their defensive line held strongly in the middle of the ground. When the Rebels went in however, it looked clean and direct, but the Dragons still were able to mop it up. Led by Sarah Hartwig in the back 50, the Dragons repelled inside 50 time and time again, and Jones had another chance whilst being tackled but her snap went to the right. With just their second inside 50, the Rebels drove the dagger in with a well positioned mark from Lilli Condon who turned around and slotted the opener of the match 11 minutes in. The ball spent a lot of time in between the arcs as Hartwig and her opposite half-back, Nyakoat Dojiok kept mopping up and creating run to set the play up for their respective teams. Late in the term, the Dragons smothered a ball from a kick-in but the next handball missed the target and allowed the Rebels to get numbers back and head into quarter time with a three-point lead.

The Dragons finally got reward for effort in the second quarter, with Laing, McNamara and Hartwig all impressing, and it only took 90 seconds for Pia Staltari to slot her side’s first with a nice goal on the run and composure to-boot. In contrast to the Rebels success from limited entries in the first term, they were getting more inside 50s in the second, but Hartwig continually came across to spoil or intercept mark and get the ball moving down the ground. In one instance, the half-back won a one-on-two contest, kicked out of the back 50, then backed up to win the next touch once it came back to hit-up Burke on the wing. The play was breaking down for the Dragons at half-forward with the Rebels defence providing pressure and the Dragons not able to break through. Ironically, the hap-hazardous play helped Sandringham to its second goal, with McNamara marking, stepping around her opponent and just putting it inside 50 for Nayely Borg to swoop on, spin and kick it through the goals in the dying seconds to hand the Dragons a well deserved 11-point lead having held the Rebels’ scoreless in the term. The third quarter was much of the same, but with both defences holding up. Neither forward line could breakthrough for another score without a bit of luck, and running back towards goal, Hartwig copped a horrible bounce which went past her back into her opponent’s path for Tahlia Meier to boot the ball through and give GWV a sniff once again. It was the only score of the entire quarter despite the influence of McNamara and Laing who were picking up big numbers.

The final term belonged to Saulitis who when everyone around her was fumbling under pressure and missing achievable shots at goal, she was clean and accurate. Edging close to the five-minute mark of the final term, the talented utility scooped up the ball turned and snapped as she was being dragged down for it to dribble home off a bounce from 30m and put her team in front. Her teammates flocked to her, but it would not be the last time, as despite both side having chances – including one to Meier which went through but was touched by the pack in the goalsquare – it was not until Saulitis found space again inside 50 and marked with three and a half minutes left in the match. Her shot on a 45-degree angle was perfect and she handed her team what looked to be a game-winning seven-point lead. The last three minutes of the match were owned by Sandringham with the pressure gauge at full, but in a summary of the match, the Dragons could not kick one through the big sticks from two chances. Borg had an opportunity for her second off a contested mark but it drifted to the left, much like Chloe Saultry‘s chance in the last minute with a breeze impacting the kick at that end. By the time the Rebels had kicked out, it was five seconds on the clock and Chloe Summers – who had been another impressive Rebel on the day – marked and the siren sounded.

It was difficult to pick out best players, with Dojiok being a standout for her run and impact per possession, finishing with 11 disposals – 10 kicks – three marks and five tackles, while it was also hard to ignore Saulitis’ last quarter which won her side the game. Others who had moments for the winning side were Summers (13 disposals, four marks, six rebounds), Condon (13 disposals, two marks, six inside 50s and four rebounds) and Isabella Hill (19 disposals, five tackles and three rebounds). Caris was naturally dominant in the ruck with 24 hitouts to go with her eight disposals and three inside 50s, while for the Dragons, Hartwig was the clear best, thanks to 14 disposals, five marks two inside 50s and four rebounds. The midfield trio of McNamara (20 touches, three marks, four tackles and six inside 50s), Laing (19 touches, five tackles, five inside 50s and four rebounds) and Burke (15 disposals, two marks, four tackles and four rebounds) were all strong throughout, as both Eddey (15 disposals, three marks, three tackles and four inside 50s) and Staltari (15 disposals, two marks, two inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal) also showed class in the game.

GWV REBELS 1.1 | 1.1 | 2.1 | 4.2 (26)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 0.4 | 2.6 | 2.6 | 2.9 (21)

GOALS:

GWV: R. Saulitis 2, T. Meier, L. Condon.
Sandringham: N. Borg, P. Staltari.

BEST:

GWV: N. Dojiok, R. Saulitis, L. Condon, C. Summers, I. Hill
Sandringham: S. Hartwig, A. Burke, E. McNamara, W. Laing, P. Staltari

DC Medal:

5 – Sarah Hartwig (SD)
4 – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
3 – Alice Burke (SD)
2 – Eliza McNamara (SD)
1 – Renee Saulitis (GWV)

*The DC Medal is a new initiative Draft Central is running where we vote for five players we thought had the most influence on the match. In this match there were more than 10 possible players who could have squeezed in there, but the standouts were the half-backs and midfielders, while Saulitis’ match-winning efforts saw her make it into the votes.

Rebels to focus on fundamentals ahead of 2020 season

FUNDAMENTALS have been the focus for the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ NAB League Girls side as the Ballarat-based club prepares for the 2020 season. Head coach Rhys Cahir said his second full pre-season in charge – having taken over from Jeff Whittaker in March, 2018 – had gone well as the players looked to step it up a notch in the skills department.

“It’s been a pretty solid pre-season again,” Cahir said. “We’ve been pretty big on getting the fundamentals right early so we had a lot of kicking early, specifically to get it right. “It’s such a big skill to master in the game and the girls, we allowed them to work as much at it. “We haven’t done a lot of fitness stuff but the fundamentals were our biggest thing we looked at this year. “We are seeing that it is a vast improvement straight away.”

Now the top-agers have adjusted to a number of pre-seasons, Cahir said it was clear the talent pool across not only the region, but the country was growing.

“Each bottom age group seems to get better and better than the year before,” he said. “It’s just that girls footy is growing and not just in this region, but all over so girls from Auskick can play all the way through instead of stopping three or four years and just coming in because their friends are playing. “It’s their number one sport now and the talent shows right through pretty early.”

Last year the Rebels had three players land on AFL Women’s lists – in fact just the one list – with Sophie Molan, Ella Wood and Nekaela Butler all selected by Richmond in last year’s AFL Women’s Draft. Cahir credited the off-field nature of the trio, and the Rebels’ program itself for providing its players with the terrific support needed to impress at the next level both on and off the field.

“Very exciting. For the second year in a row, we had three girls go to Geelong the year before, then three go to Richmond,” Cahir said. “For us, it’s good for our program that clubs are seeing that we are creating a good environment where the girls can play good footy, but they’re good characters as well and it’s exciting that clubs think that we can produce good footballers and good people. “Last year I was a part of Vic Country and had a bit of a say but Ella and Sophie probably picked themselves with the main lot,” he said. “You try and push your own wheelbarrow a little bit and get a few girls there, but the whole comp is getting too talented. “If AFL clubs ring up, I’m happy to talk all our girls up, not just about their football, but about their character. “I think that’s why Richmond were so keen to get the three of them. “More their character and what they could get out of them on-field and off-field. “They’re building something at Richmond so we are looking at building and pushing them on-field and off-field.”

Some of that character was evident with Molan’s extra responsibilities as captain, such as leading the warm-up before the coaches got on the ground, pre-game. Cahir said while the coaches gave her the green light to take that responsibility, it was not hard for the natural-born leader.

“It was part of me encouraging Soph to be herself,” he said. “Yes, she was the best player in the side and a natural leader but that was mostly on her a few times. “Good players can do that, they can sense when the whole side is down and need a spark or need a rev up or a bit of a cuddle to settle them down. “Terrific leader just naturally. It wasn’t something we had to push or tell her to do, we just helped her with it.”

While Molan and Wood both earned places on Vic Country’s list, Butler missed out but did not give up on her dream, earning a place on the Western Bulldogs’ VFLW list with support from her coaches and her own sheer determination.

“Nekaela was the one we thought early we could really push and highlight what she could do,” Cahir said. “She was terrific off half-back, we tried her in the midfield a bit early. Played well, but just played consistently off half-back. Unlucky to miss Vic Country but she got down to the Bulldogs’ VFL. “We kept pushing her to say ‘do everything right, get to every training, doesn’t matter if you don’t get games, do all the little things, someone’s always watching’. “Got a game of VFLW, played really well her first game and as I said there’s always someone watching you’ve just got to do the right things, and terrific character as well too. “She wanted to work, she has a bit of a laugh, but she can obviously play football as well.”

Looking ahead to 2020 and there are another three talents in the top-age bracket that have already been identified as members of the AFL Women’s National Academy. All three are very different players, but each add a unique element to the line-up.

“I’ve been pretty excited to see the three top-age Academy girls in Maggie Caris – who is really good in the ruck, went away and played for the Vic Country side and played some really good games. “Same with Isabella Simmons and Renee Saulitis, really excited for them to take the next step because they’re all super talented. “But now they drive the whole group because they’re the leaders as well so they can take their game to the next level. “We’ve also got a couple of younger ones that are just super talented coming through because they are naturally playing football from a young age now.”

Caris has a big year herself across multiple sports, representing Australia at Under 19s level in netball while entering her most important year of schooling. Cahir said the club was working with her to support her both on and off the field wherever possible.

“Well at the moment she’s extremely clever too, she’s gone into Year 12,” Cahir said. “I’ll let Maggie not run her own race, but monitor what she does. Tell her to have a break when she needs. “It’s a big commitment to be an elite AFL footballer or NAB League footballer, in the Australian Under 19 Netball side and going into Year 12, so we are pretty big on welfare and players looking after themselves and footy comes second, third and fourth if we need be.”

Along with the top-agers, Cahir said the talent at the bottom of the list in terms of age was constantly improving, with 16 and 17-year-olds always stepping up to challenge the 18-year-olds and try and force their way into the starting side.

“A couple of girls in Vic Country last year,” Cahir said. “Nyakoat Dojiok is just going to take leaps and bounds when she finally figures out she can play the game. “Ella Friend similar, Vic Country last year and in the bests. “Growing into her football and just keeps working. “Lilli Condon‘s flying, and even the bottom-bottom-ager in Paige Scott who’s going to come into the program from V/Line Cup last year is just a natural tough country footballer but will grow and grow for the next two years.”

Having recorded the two wins last year, Cahir said it was always nice to win, but at the end of the day, the focus – as it has always been – will be on development. With seven girls drafted in two years, the Rebels are one of the most successful organisations from the NAB League Girls competition when focusing on a development standpoint, and the Rebels coach hoped that would continue.

“We just want girls to have a crack,” Cahir said. “Yes they might not play in their favourite position all the time but it’s about development in themselves and outside if we win games it’s great, but it’s about pushing them and getting better and giving them a chance of playing AFLW. “If we lose no games and get three or four drafted, great. “If we win every game and get none drafted we probably haven’t really done our job, so it’s just keep developing in themselves, give them a bit of help with what we think could get them there, and not worry too much (about) what they can’t do.”

The GWV Rebels have a couple of trial games coming up, including a match against the Geelong Falcons in Ballarat. Following the trial games, the final list will be decided and a leadership group will be formed. Cahir said the players would vote for those leaders, but admitted there were a number of players who could easily lead the side.

“The next couple of weeks, we’ll give them a list and they can vote for four or five girls and announce it on the camp who will be our leaders,” Cahir said. “We’ve got some terrific leaders, Maggie, Renee, Chloe Leonard who is similar to Sophie Molan, is just a natural leader. “Whoever the girls pick we’ll be more than happy to support them and push them through.”