IN the first of our 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships state preview, we take a look at South Australia, a team that has plenty of talent across the board and is growing stronger by the year. The Croweaters have developed such a talent program that squeezing a list down to just 30 players – let alone the finalised 24 by the first bounce of the championships – has meant that South Australia will go it alone as a state in 2021. For the first time at the championships, South Australia will no longer form the Central Allies and instead join Western Australia and Queensland as a standalone state team, alongside the two Victorian sides in Country and Metro, and the newly combined Allies side which has accommodated Northern Territory to join the Eastern Allies duo of NSW/ACT and Tasmania.
2021 SOUTH AUSTRALIA AFLW U19 CHAMPIONSHIPS SQUAD:
#1 Laitiah Huynh (Central District)
#2 Sarah Branford (Norwood)
#3 Kate Case (North Adelaide)
#4 Madison Lane (Central District)
#5 Lauren Breguet (Central District)
#6 Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide)
#7 Brooke Tonon (Glenelg)
#8 Charlotte Dolan (WWT Eagles)
#9 Tahlita Buethke (South Adelaide)
#10 Zoe Prowse (Sturt)
#11 Zoe Venning (West Adelaide)
#12 Tamsyn Morriss (Glenelg)
#13 Hannah Ewings (North Adelaide)
#14 Amelie Borg (North Adelaide)
#15 Alana Lishmund (Norwood)
#16 Georgia Swan (Sturt)
#17 Scarlett Griffiths (West Adelaide)
#18 Jess Williams (Norwood)
#19 Alex Ballard (Sturt)
#20 Hannah Prenzler (Sturt)
#21 Lauren Clifton (South Adelaide)
#22 Tamika May (West Adelaide)
#23 Julia Clark (North Adelaide)
#24 Keeley Kustermann (West Adelaide)
#25 Jamie Parish (WWT Eagles)
#26 Sarah Wright (South Adelaide)
#27 Jorja Eldridge (North Adelaide)
#28 Jade Halfpenny (Norwood)
#29 Brooklyn Kraft (WWT Eagles)
#30 Lauren Young (West Adelaide)
South Australia has plenty of talent across the board, which has been steadily growing over the past few years. The make-up of the initial squad of 30, features 11 players who are in their top-age year (2002-born turning 19-year-olds), 15 players in their first draft-eligible year (2003-born turning 18-year-olds), three bottom-age players (2004-born turning 17-year-olds) and remarkably, one exceptional 15-year-old in West Adelaide’s Lauren Young. South Australia will cut its list down to 24 by the end of the week, but a number of cuts priors – as well as recent changes – have been guided by injury, such as Abbie Ballard, Abbey Hardwick and Jaida Tabb who were all viewed as developing talents to don the state guernsey. Recent injuries to Hannah Ewings and Brooklyn Kraft are also a concern with the championships rapidly approaching.
R1 vs. Western Australia (March 28 @ Flinders University Stadium)
R2 vs. Queensland (April 12 @ Metricon Stadium)
R3 vs. Allies (April 15 @ Metricon Stadium)
FIVE TO WATCH: (2003-BORN)
Zoe Prowse (Sturt)
The 177cm ruck is the fourth tallest player in the squad, and will carry the ruck load at the championships. With fellow ruck Kraft under an injury cloud, Prowse will have the responsibility of the state in the role, but it will be something she can easily handle. What stands out about Prowse is not just her athletic leap, but also her ground level work and speed around the ground. Having played more as a midfielder when another ruck is available for the Double Blues, Prowse highlights her versatility across the ground. Her second efforts at ground level – such as tackling opponents after making the tap is something that really stands outs, and the AFL Women’s Academy member is no doubt going to cause some worries for opposition rucks with her follow-up work.
Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide)
The other AFL Women’s Academy member who was included in the Academy this year, Schirmer’s athletic traits – in particular her speed – are off the charts. She can go from zero to 100 in the blink of an eye, applying plenty of defensive pressure around the ground. Having plied her trade as a forward in her bottom-age year, Schirmer’s highlight-reel worthy marks and goals were soon accompanied by some fierce running and work rate on a wing in 2021. She still rotates between the two positions, and expect her to do so at the championships. She has a high footy IQ which she uses to create opportunities out of nothing, and at 178cm – and a lack of talls in the side – she could easily slot in as a key forward if required, then roll into the midfield and add that touch of speed and class.
Zoe Venning (West Adelaide)
Already one of the standout inside midfielders, Venning has an even bigger role crashing and bashing with Ewings out due to her ankle injury. The midfielder-forward won a Breakthrough Player nomination in Round 2 for the SANFL Women’s, and has enjoyed a really consistent season after showing promising signs in her bottom-age year. Whilst always looking to improve her skill, Venning has no fear and will throw herself at the contest and win the hard ball to shovel out to teammates. Like any good midfielder, Venning knows her way around goals too, and can play off half-forward or even rest at full-forward as a leading target. She is someone expected to have a real impact around the ball against the other states.
Madison Lane (Central)
The Bulldogs talent started her SANFL Women’s career as a forward and has transitioned into a rebounding defender, looking a natural back there with her slick skills and clean hands. She reads the ball well in flight and moves well, playing taller than her 162cm might suggest. She captained South Australia at Under 16s level, so has the state experience under her belt, and will be one of a number of talented rebounding defenders in the squad. With a high priority placed on hitting targets coming out of defence, expect Lane to be a player teammates look to get the ball in the hands of regularly.
Brooke Tonon (Glenelg)
Enjoying a purple patch at the perfect time leading into the championships, the speedy wing is finding plenty of the ball at League level. After making her debut last year for the Bays, Tonon has gone from playing deep at either end, to a certified midfielder, using her run and carry to advantage. She possesses a long kick and has a neat sidestep that she uses to evade opponents. Having notched up 20 touches on the weekend, she has no problems finding the ball, and she will be a player used in transition for her speed. Still lightly-built, Tonon attacks the contest hard and lays some fierce tackles.
Georgia Swan is a pressure forward with elite endurance and a work rate to be enviable of that will work over opposition defender, whilst the likes of Alana Lishmund, Kate Case, Lauren Breguet and Lauren Clifton are all easily among the more consistent contributors for their League side. From a top-age perspective, the two most in-form players at SANFL Women’s level are Jade Halfpenny and Laitiah Huynh who will feature in the front half, while Alex Ballard and Hannah Prenzler are anticipated to do the same up the other end.
- Defensive pressure
- Rebounding defenders
South Australia will be an undoubtedly exciting unit, with the Croweaters’ defensive pressure, rebounding abilities and general skill across the board among the strengths of the side in comparison to other states. It will be exciting to see the likes of Huynh and Swan up forward roving the ball and creating some slick chances for their teammates, whilst up the other end, South Australia has an abundance of rebounding defender. Lane, Prenzler, Ballard, Lauren Clifton, Jamie Parish, Keeley Kustermann, Charlotte Dolan and Tamsyn Morriss can all play that role if required, with the likelihood through the the versatile Ballard and Dolan will play through the midfield, and Parish capable of even going forward. In terms of skill, Lane and Huynh have been using the ball terrifically of late, Morriss is known for her pinpoint passes, and Prenzler and Kustermann are also amongst the most balanced players running around.
In terms of areas where South Australia might struggle, height is definitely a question mark, with a number of midfielders – such as Young and Schirmer – more likely to play key position roles at times. With Kraft’s injury it leaves Prowse as the dedicated ruck – and what a number one ruck to have – which will mean Jorja Eldridge who returned to the SANFL Women’s last weekend, will step up as the second ruck role at 173cm. Halfpenny is traditional a key forward and will likely stay there given this conundrum, but did have an impressive game through the midfield on the weekend.
South Australia will be an exciting team to watch, there is no doubt about that. They have plenty of footy IQ, defensive pressure and skill, with an abundance of defenders likely to cause headaches for opposition states. If they had a full-strength side – no injuries – to pick from, then the team would be even stronger, but the depth of the state is very good, and all eyes will be on the youngest player at the carnival – Young – who has already made waves at League level.
Picture credit: On The Ball Media