Tag: Hannah Stewart

NAB League Girls preview: Round 1 – New talent to shine in opening round of action

NAB League Girls action is back on the agenda this weekend with a grand final rematch among a host of expected tight contests with all sides back on level pegging at 0-0 to start the season and hoping to kick-off their seasons with wins.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. CALDER CANNONS
Saturday, February 29, 10:15am
RMIT University Bundoora

The first game of the round is a fitting opener to the new NAB League Girls season, with Northern Knights hosting Calder Cannons at a refurbished RMIT University ground in the 2019 Grand Final rematch. The Knights had five players drafted last year, with the remainder signed up for state league level football in 2020, while the Cannons just had the two, but had a number of players on the periphery. Both these sides have plenty of talent with the Knights potentially a year ahead in development, finishing runner-up in 2018 before winning last year, while the Cannons made the grand final last season, and will be hoping to build on that this year. The Knights have five players in the National AFL Women’s Academy, led by Ellie McKenzie and last year’s grand final best on ground medallist, Jess Fitzgerald who are both amongst a strong midfield core. Fellow Academy member, Maeve Chaplin is also named onball, while Maykaylah Appleby will run down the wings as the sole middle-age Academy member. Alyssa Bannan is a leading target and strong overhead named at centre half-forward, and a battle with the likes of key backs, Tamsin Crook and Tahlia Gillard – the latter of whom is in the AFL Women’s Academy too will be a match-up to watch. The name that will always catch the eye is Georgie Prespakis, a 2021 draft prospect and sister of Carlton Rising Star, Madison. She is capable of anything and her battle with McKenzie will be intriguing. The Cannons also have some serious depth at their disposal, with Emelia Yassir and Kasey Lennox another couple of youngsters who made their debuts last season and looked at home. With Freda Puruntatameri playing with Palmerston in the NTFL Women’s competition up forward for the Cannons, there is plenty of X-factor there too.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Saturday, February 29, 11:30am
City Oval Ballarat

Up in Ballarat, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels host the Sandringham Dragons in a battle between two sides who should improve on their 2019 placings. Both sides have a number of AFL Women’s Academy member with the Rebels (five) and the Dragons (three) both having some serious top-end talent. The Rebels have a strong spine with Maggie Caris likely to be the top ruck in the competition this year with her height and tap work causing problems for the opposition. Renee Saulitis has played up forward and down back, but is named in the middle, with her athleticism and ability to sidestep opponents a feature of her game. Along with Isabella Simmons who has also been named through the midfield, all three Academy members are very different and add varied elements to the game style. They will face an equally impressive midfield of Dragons’ captain Winnie Laing, potential St Kilda father-daughter selection, Alice Burke and Bella Eddey who provide a real hard edge to the onball brigade. Sarah Hartwig is one of a couple of premier rebounding defenders, reading the ball in flight so well and able to create a lot of offensive run while nullifying her opponent defensively. Playing at half-forward is Eliza McNamara who is a tackling machine and elite runner, who will work her opponent over, while Abbi Moloney lines up at full-forward to try and clunk a few grabs by outmuscling her opponent one-on-one. The Rebels will look to run the ball out of defence through Nyakoat Dojiok who is a 2021 draft prospect in the Academy, while Chloe Leonard has been named at full-forward for the Rebels who will look to have a spread of goalkickers rather than a dominant target.

GEELONG FALCONS v. GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, February 29, 12:00pm
RMIT University Bundoora 

After its first finals loss last season, Geelong Falcons return to the NAB League Girls with a hunger to get back to the heights of 2018, starting off the 2020 season with a clash against Gippsland Power. The Power have a lot of players who were able to run out last season and will be more experienced in 2020, so they will no doubt look to push the Falcons who have plenty of young players themselves. Geelong’s duo of Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner will be damaging through the midfield as the Falcons’ two AFL Women’s National Academy members. Joined in the middle by basketballer Carly Remmos, the Falcons have a strong foundation to continue the success of past years. Elizabeth Dowling is a name that will be raised over the next couple of years, and along with Renee Tierney as targets up forward and Poppy Schaap‘s defensive pressure, the Falcons are in a good shape going forward. Mia Van Dyke is one of a number of prospects who have come through the club’s V/Line Cup program and despite being just three days away from being a 2023 draft eligible prospect (only turned 15 in December), she is one of a number who have come through the pathway with some high wraps from the coaching staff. Gippsland has some familiar names in its line-up, led by midfielder and AFL Women’s Academy member, Megan Fitzsimon. She, along with Grace McRae forms a strong midfield duo in there, and will compete strongly for the contested ball. In defence, Shanara Notman returns as a 19-year-old named at centre half-back and will provide some good rebound there, right alongside Leyla Berry who played for the Power back in 2018. On the other flank is a familiar Power name with Yasmin Duursma (sister of Port Adelaide’s Xavier), while when talking about bottom-age talent, Lily-Rose Williamson is one who will be a standout along a win having starred for the club through the V/Line Cup in past years.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 29, 12:50pm
Queen Elizabeth Oval 

Turning the attention to Bendigo, the Pioneers host Western Jets in a curtain raiser to the AFL Women’s clash between Richmond and Geelong. Bendigo has the one official AFL Women’s National Academy member in key defender Tara Slender, but have a midfield that will trouble opposition onballers. Brooke Hards and Annabel Strahan have both been named onball and the co-captains will provide a hard-edge to the midfield and be difficult to beat there. Along with Maeve Tupper who has some impressive athletic skills and great goal sense when up forward, the midfield is a strength for the Pioneers. Jemma Finning has been named at half-back to provide some run out of defence with Slender, while up forward, Hannah Stewart is a target inside 50 as a 19-year-old. The Jets have opted to throw rebounding defender, Isabelle Pritchard into the midfield to counteract the Pioneers’ onball and develop her game even further. Along with bottom-age tall, Montana Ham and Nikita Wright in the middle, the Jets have some good height and ball-winning ability in there with upside. A highly rated bottom-ager with Ham is Charlotte Baskaran who is considered elite with her foot skills and decision making, so will be one to watch coming off half-back where she has been named. Both these sides are going to go close to winning in this tight contest with a fair few bottom-agers on show, though Bendigo should be more prepared after their top-agers had consistency through the team as middle-agers last season.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS v. EASTERN RANGES
Sunday, March 1,  11:00am
Holm Park Recreation Reserve 

In a rewind to 2018, Dandenong Stingrays and Eastern Ranges return to Holm Park in Beaconsfield to open their seasons on Sunday. While both played different opponents on that day two years ago, they will both be hoping for more ideal temperatures than the 37 degrees on that day. The Stingrays are coming off a solid season in 2019. just missing out on finals, while Eastern reached the post-season series and pushed eventual premiers, Northern Knights all the way in the preliminary final clash. The Stingrays’ standout prospect in 2020 is Tyanna Smith, with the AFL Women’s National Academy member having the combination of speed and strength in the middle, which she will use to burst out of the stoppages and create scoring opportunities for her team. Abbey Jordan showed last season she can win the ball through the middle, while young talls, Jaide Anthony and Georgia Grimmer up forward provide a glimpse into the future for the Stingrays having come through the V/Line Cup program. Down back, the ever-reliable Zoe Hill is alongside Jemma Radford, while Serene Vudiniabola comes highly rated as an overager who played school footy last year and is tied to Old Haileybury. Eastern Ranges pack a punch in the midfield as well, with Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown the club’s two AFL Women’s Academy members. With ruck, Jess Grace likely to get first hands to them more often than not, the contested ball-winning Meagher and slick Brown will give their forwards some nice feeds inside 50. Matilda Hardy has been named at half-forward as one to watch, while Mietta Kendall is a reliable source of calmness in the back pocket, and Lily Peacock named as one to watch with her run along the wing.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Sunday, March 1, 1:00pm
Norm Minns Oval 

The final game of the round is another curtain raiser, this time for the Collingwood and Richmond AFL Marsh Series clash at Wangaratta. A big crowd is expected in attendance for the game, with two teams expected to improve in 2020 to battle it out. Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers both had some superb performances last season, but had to iron out some consistency issues at times. Both having a number of talents coming through the ranks this season, the Bushrangers had a lot of middle and bottom-agers last season who have progressed through to the next year of their youth careers. The Charges had five players drafted and will be looking to replace them through a team approach. The Chargers have three players in the AFL Women’s National Academy with captain Mimi Hill and middle-ager Charlie Rowbottom named on-ball to rove the work of ruck, Kalarni Kearns. Also in the midfield is Joanna Lin on the wing, working the ball forward to an even front six. The Bushrangers have a two-pronged tall attack with AFL Women’s Academy members, Olivia Barber (top-age) and Ally Morphett (middle-age) rotating between ruck and forward. Abby Favell is a natural ball winner and will rotate between midfield and forward, while Kate Adams is another player who can be slippery around the stoppages and find the goals when inside 50. Keeley Skepper showed last season in the Under 16 Championships that she has a lot of upside, while a number of players on both teams loom as surprise packets in what could be one of the games of the round.

Belief growing at the Pioneers

BELIEF is a powerful motivator in any walk of life, and the Bendigo Pioneers’ NAB League Girls program is one that has building on and off the field over the last few seasons. In 2019, the Pioneers Girls’ program showed how they had grown from the previous year, winning four games – three more than the previous year – and being more competitive throughout each game. Pioneers’ Talent Manager Stephen Sharp said the girls’ confidence had increased throughout their time in the program.

“Yeah, look they no doubt did (grow in confidence), and they had an extra year in the system,” he said. “When we first came in we deliberately didn’t have any bias particularly around age in preference of playing the older girls. “If the younger girls were better and we thought they had the potential to grow, we’d pick them. “In the first year or two we were a bit that way and then as they’ve got a few games under their belt – the 17s or the 18s last year might have been in the system for a couple of years, where it wasn’t about just trying to win games, it was about trying to develop kids and develop the list so we could be more competitive.”

Sharp said the club’s development as a whole had been “absolutely good” and they would continue with the same method under a different coach this season. Cherie O’Neill has taken over from Shawn McCormick who has coached the past three seasons. O’Neill has been involved with the boys’ program for the past couple of seasons so has the understanding of the organisation and its intricate workings.

The Pioneers will be a young group in 2020, with Sharp noting that the club picks the best possible players who trial over the off-season, rather than opt for a top-age heavy list.

I think we’ll go for a list of about 35-40 and I’m guessing there’ll be about 10 or a dozen top-age girls and there could be as many as 17/18 17-year olds,” he said. “We might have four 15-year-old girls that’ll play that’ll be approved on application, that’ll play in our futures games. “But they’re better than some of the 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds. “So that’s why we’re playing them, and to give them a little taste.”

He said as with the boys’ program that selection would come down to weighing up both natural talent and athleticism, rather than age.

“There’s no point taking top-age girls again through who aren’t at the level,” Sharp said. “So the changes we’ve made, particularly with athletic profiling is that the girls that can run and have that athleticism and vertical leap that can still play – they’ve still got to be able to play – they’re going to get to more contests, they’re going to keep us in the game.”

The Pioneers have one player in the AFL Women’s National Academy – tall defender Tara Slender – who Sharp said is a perfect example of someone who has developed throughout the Pioneers’ program from V/Line Cup through to her first season of NAB League last year as a 15-year-old.

“She’s a great example,” Sharp said. “She went to the Academy up in Darwin recently and she’s quite well-equipped with other sports as well. “She’s an impressive kid, a really good kid who’s really committed and dedicated and she trains hard. “(In terms of) athletic profiling she’s what you need to be able to play today’s game at NAB League girls and AFLW, she’s the prototype – she’s your model there of what girls need to aspire to and she’s great at training so we’re looking forward to watching her play. ” She’s really committed to it, loves it, and if you put the work in you get the result.”

A late bloomer in terms of her age, Slender does not turn 17 until November, but she has proven to stand up at each level required. In her eight games last season, Slender averaged 11.4 disposals, two marks and three rebounds playing off half-back. With two full years left in the system, she is someone who will have plenty of development left in her.

But Slender is not the only player Sharp said spectators should watch out for with a number of top-age talents showing their skills last season as both footballers and leaders.

“We had a couple of girls last year in Brooke Hards and Elizabeth Snell who both played at the nationals in Queensland in July,” he said. “They’re both training really well, Elizabeth’s down here (Bendigo) and Brooke’s still up in Mildura so she’ll just travel down. “It was remarkable what she did last year, she left at 4:00 on Saturday morning to come to our trial games in Bendigo to watch the girls play – she didn’t play. So that’s the commitment there, it’s a return trip in the day equivalent to a drive from Melbourne to Sydney. “She’s (Hards) clearly our role model/leader.”

Asked if the trio would cover each third of the ground in similar positions to last year with Slender in defence, Hards in midfield and Snell up forward, Sharp said it was likely.

“I think so, I think we’ll spread them fairly evenly,” he said. “It is a development program and Tara will play in different roles but she’ll probably predominantly be at half-back where she’s pretty comfortable and reads the play and can intercept and use her left foot effectively. “You don’t want them all on-ball, there’ll be a spread, because otherwise you break down in those lines and then kids don’t develop. “And part of their development is to play them in different roles as well so they can experience those roles.”

The only confirmed overager at this stage – with list finalisation still ongoing – is Hannah Stewart, a talent from New South Wales who has also shown a remarkable dedication to the sport she loves.

Hannah Stewart, who played in the National Championships in Queensland at that same time with the Eastern Allies – she’s a girl from Hay, in fact she was down at training last night from three and a half hours away,” Sharp said. “She would normally train in Swan Hill, which is only a four hour return trip. “She’s our only 19-year-old at this stage we think, I don’t know whether we’ll apply for another one or not, but she’s an elite kick and a good player.”

Sharp said across the list there were a number of potential surprise packets in 2020, including Maeve Tupper – who at 155cm showed she has no problem finding the ball with 15.9 disposals per game last year. Developing talent Madeline Marks and potential Melbourne father-daughter selection in Tegan Williams (David, 67 games) are also exciting prospects heading into the season.

“We’ve got some girls who have tested really well and we use that as a bit of a measure, it’s always an assistance. There’s a young girl who is really good athletically and she’s learning the game so we’re probably going to include her to take her to the next level, a young girl locally who’s showed some good things and has a really good attitude, because attitude counts for a lot. “We think the girls are in a pretty good position.”

Bendigo has one of the toughest challenges in the NAB League competitions with its network far and wide across hundreds of kilometres. Like some of the other country teams, the Pioneers have multiple bases to try and limit the travel and workload on the players, and Sharp said he is often amazed at what the players do to play at this level.

We’ve got four big bases in Mildura, Swan Hill, Echuca and Bendigo,” he said. That way we can actually provide an opportunity for the girls, give them a good reason to come to training. “So if they’re only within an hour of Mildura, an hour to Swan Hill or similarly probably half an hour or 40 minutes to Echuca, it just gives them an opportunity to actually be able to come in.”

One example was a new player in list contention with plenty of talent, but due to family work commitments struggled to get to training. Sharp said the club was always willing to accomodate in situations where possible.

“We’ve got a girl in Ouyen who may well be one of our better players, or she’d be in our best half a dozen, she’s only bottom-age, but hasn’t trained once but she came to the trial game and discussions were around ‘We can’t list her’. “But we need to understand the circumstances, she’s a girls from a multicultural background, I met with her dad who speaks broken English and said to him the other day, we want her to continue but she needs to train. “He works every day, he works late and he starts early and he’s a hard worker so he can’t get her from Ouyen to Mildura so we’re working on a plan to get her to train one night a week, because then I can justify selecting her, because I can’t not select her, “She’s that talented and she works hard. “There’s all these obstacles, it’s just the way it is.”

Off the field, Bendigo has already had a number of changes with the new coach working alongside Pioneers boys’ coach and director of coaching, Damian Truslove who was also appointed over the off-season. O’Neill is also on a part-time role rather than previously being casual or volunteer – emphasising the growth of the youth program. The Pioneers have also said they will look to appoint a female wellbeing coordinator to further grow the program.

On the field, Sharp said the team was looking to have a good balance of attack and defence heading into 2020, as well as some key fundamentals.

I think it’s just making sure the girls have a good understanding of their offensive and defensive structures,” he said. “While we don’t heavily emphasise or haven’t done a lot of work on that, it’s the key part to what we do at training in regard to contested ball and where we get to receive it or where you get to defend it. So it’s a fairly simple format that Damian’s drawn up … and he works with Cherie who’s our new female coach so that we mirror it and all have a similar style. “So we haven’t done a lot of work on that, we’ve done a lot of work on fundamentals, just being able to mark, kick, handball, taking the ball cleanly below you knees so they’re the things we’ve mostly been working on.”

Bendigo Pioneers kick off their campaign on Saturday, February 29 at Queen Elisabeth Oval against Western Jets, before a trip to Highgate Recreation Reserve the following Saturday to face Sandringham Dragons.

Scouting notes: AFLW U18s – Monday, July 8

ON the opening day of the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, there were wins to both Victorian sides over Queensland and Western Australia, while Central Allies got over the line against Eastern Allies. We were there and took notes on some of the players that impressed us throughout the day at Metricon Stadium. All notes are opinion-based of the individual writer.

Queensland

By: Peter Williams

#4 Lily Postlethwaite

Was prominent throughout the midfield as we have come to expect from the Queensland captain. She produced a four-quarter effort and in wet conditions when many others were struggling to be clean, Postlethwaite added a touch of class to the game and was able to win the ball in every third of the field. She was able to hit targets more often than not with her ability to kick across her body or on the move. Postlethwaite also applied good defensive pressure, laying a nice bump to allow a teammate to win the footy. She mopped up in defence at times and then got forward to hit-up Taylor Smith who marked inside 50 and goaled in the final term.

#11 Tiarna Ahwang

Ahwang showed some very nice glimpses with some clear scope for the future. She has great acceleration which she used at times to keep the ball in front of her, and she did so late in the game where she was unable to take the ball cleanly on the wet surface at first, but then got hold of it and then kicked it forward well.

#13 Dee Heslop

Cracked in and got the hands up to handball out of the contest on a number of occasions. Heslop was able to position her body well when sliding in or approaching an opponent to fairly bump and go to win the contested ball. A nice mover around the ground, Heslop found space under pressure and kicked long to the wing in the second term in what was a nice piece of play.

#14 Serene Watson

The reliable defensive general, Watson was solid all game in a defence that was under siege at times. She was able to use the ball fairly well and read an errant kick from Isabella Simmons in the second term to mark on the last line and settle the team down. Watson has great composure with ball-in-hand and proved a strong intercept mark and a player who stopped quite a few Country forward forays. In the final term she took an unbelievable mark, pushed under the ball but was able to get hands to it to keep it in front of her and pull it down. Unfortunately, she played on and had to rush a handball after slipping, but overall a really impressive game.

#16 Elle Hampson

Copped a number of knocks throughout the first half but kept bouncing back and playing an important role through midfield. She continually hit the opponent hard with fierce tackles, and even fended off a couple of players to win an important contested ball in midfield. Hampson took a big grab at half-back in the second term, but her subsequent kick was smothered. Her first half was terrific and continued her good work after the break, with some neat kicks along the wing. Did get pinged for a high tackle late in the game.

#20 Charlotte Hammans

Reliable as ever, Hammans was strong in defence, getting back to take the ball and clear it up the field on a number of occasions. At times she pushed up the ground to try and get the ball deeper down the ground, and played a good team role throughout the game, doing the hard stuff in the back half of the ground.

#21 Taylor Smith

Smith had a couple of set shots on goal, one in the third term and one in the fourth. The first one was a good attempt but fell short to the right, the second went through however. She provided a tall target inside 50 in the game and was able to capitalise with the last quarter major.

#27 Kitara Whap-Farrar

One of the cleanest players out there, Farrar was able to control the wet pill at ground level by protecting the zone and handballing out to teammates. On a number of occasions, she stepped around opponents like it was a dry track and set up teammates up the ground by opening the game up with her agility. She also showed good hands in close.

Vic Country

By: Taylah Melki

#4 Renee Saulitis

Impressive goal in the second quarter with a clever snap from the pocket. She showcased her goal sense to turn and bang it through the middle. She worked hard to pose a threat up forward running hard and winning a free kick but was unable to add another major to her name with the ball just dropping short.

#7 Ella Wood

Proved that she was not afraid to go hard at the footy and apply strong physical pressure with tackles and bumps to put her opponents off balance. She showcased her long strong kick and ability to sight players in space.

#9 Darcy Moloney

Worked well through the midfield to win the ball and dispose of it cleanly and cleverly, won a free kick in the first term in the forward 50 and moved the ball quickly. Broke free in the forward 50 and found good space to create opportunities. Moloney worked hard at ground level to win the ball and force contests. Kicked an impressive goal off a step and around the body in the third quarter working hard to use her feet and body to out position her opponent.

#12 Tyanna Smith

Clean hands and good vision to move through the packs and create forward thrusts. She worked hard to use the ball well and covered the ground with ease laying off a pass and then receiving it back in the forward 50 in the second quarter. She tracked the ball well at ground level given the tricky slippery conditions. Good hands under pressure and good direction to work the ball through traffic. Really good run and carry through the middle of the ground to open the forward 50 up.

#21 Sophie Molan

Really good strong hands and clever ability to read the play. Kicked the ball well supplying cleverly weighted kicks to teammates on the lead. She showcased her strength to hold up in the tackle and shake her opponent off to then dish a handball off to a passing teammate. Worked herself into the game in the last term roving the packs and getting involved at the stoppages.

#23 Lucy McEvoy

Long penetrating kick into the forward 50 and applied good pressure. She showcased her strong hands to win the ball cleanly and used her good hands at the stoppages to feed the ball out of the contest and to a free teammate. McEvoy was not afraid to apply strong physical pressure putting her body on the line to win the ball in the air and on the ground. Used her body well throughout the game to barge through congestion and deliver the ball to teammates. Showcased her general footy smarts to create forward opportunities for Vic Country. She is a real bull in and around the contest and showcased her spatial awareness to lay the ball out to teammates in advantage. Topped off her impressive performance with a snap in the last quarter credit to her goal sense and strength to break free and win the ball. McEvoy kicked her second goal moments later reading the tap out of the ruck and snapping truly.

#24 Isabella Simmons

Simmons worked hard to get into the right place at the right time nailing her first for the morning with a goal right on the goal line. Simmons used her body well and showcased her general footy smarts to work her way to the goal line and capitalise on her opportunities.

#25 Olivia Barber

Kicked the opening goal for Vic Country credit to her strong hands to take a contested mark and then back it up with a strong kick. She quickly followed that up slotting her second goal in the first quarter off the deck after a booming kick from McEvoy into the forward 50. Barber continued her goal kicking form nailing her third in the dying minutes of the second quarter. Continued to be an imposing force in the forward 50 create scoring opportunities but was unable to capitalise scoring two points straight. Barber proved to be a force to be reckoned with in the forward 50 slotting her fourth goal in the opening few minutes in the last term.

VIC METRO VS. WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Western Australia:

Peter Williams

#9 Isabella Lewis

Got the first inside 50 for Western Australia with a quick kick, and kept battling in the forward half with some fierce tackles. She was often trying to win the hardball and feed it out, and whilst Lewis did give away a few free kicks in the process, showed great attack on the ball.

#10 Mikayla Hyde

A human highlight reel in the air, Hyde had a number of high-flying attempts throughout the match. Hyde reads the play well and was able to chop off a kick in-board to the middle in the second term, and then handball quickly to a teammate quickly. She has great strength overhead and while she did not take every mark she flew for, still created a presence in the air. A damaging player in the forward half and still a year to go in her development.

#13 Kia Buckley

Played in the forward half and showed some nice offensive and defensive traits. Buckley was able to use her body well in on-on-one contests, taking a strong mark while being held at one stage, then took another good mark on a lead just outside the 50. Her kick inside set up a goal for her team.

#14 Sarah Verrier

One of the important inside midfielders, Verrier was superb with her tackling and clearance ability in a role often understated in a hard slog. She continually fought hard in the middle to win the footy and then kick long, getting it out of congestion and into the forward 50. She gave away a few free kicks, but her use with the ball was telling in the conditions, just looking to kick rather than handball.

#17 Mikayla Bowen

An outstanding game from Bowen who showed once again why West Coast made the decision to pre-list her ahead of next season. She was everywhere, using the ball well, playing the team role and leading from the front. When her side was down early, she was cracking in trying to win the ball and thump it forward. Her tackling was not just often, but fierce and made her opponents earn every possession. Her clearance work was the best on the ground and she never stopped running. Bowen’s smarts should also not be underrated, kicking off the ground to gain distance in congestion and give her side a chance to run onto it early in the game. Brought down Elle McKenzie in a tackle too which is no easy feat.

#23 Mikayla Morrison

Not a huge amount of ball, but she was classy in the big moments late. Her last quarter in particular was a highlight, winning the ball tight in the pocket and getting the ball by hand over to Lily Bird who converted a goal, then got on the end of one herself after marking terrifically under pressure and nailing the set shot from 35m – bringing the deficit to just 11 points.

#29 Roxanne Roux

Along with Bowen, Roux was a standout player, with a dominating presence in the air and capitalising on the scoreboard. She booted two goals during the game – both from set shots – and could have had a third. She booted a goal early in the second which was Western Australia’s first major, then launched from long range in the third quarter for a huge goal. Her contested marking was a treat, and while she did not take as many marks as she has in the past, she fly a number of times, almost bringing down a cracker at half-forward in the second term. She then moved into the ruck in the final term, having a huge game and finishing with 18 hitouts to complement her game further, and had a massive leap that was too hard for the opposition to combat.

#35 Mim Strom

Really impressive throughout the day because while Strom was clearly the number one ruck on the ground, it was her work around the ground that also looked good. She worked within usual ruck limitations of aiming to handball to running teammates, but did not mind doing the hard stuff, laying a terrific tackle on Elisabeth Georgostathis who tried to evade her, and winning a free on the wing. Worked hard in close and became like a fourth midfielder at times.

Vic Metro:

By: Sophie Taylor

#2 Felicity Theodore

Great clearing kick down ground. Right in the contest when needed, putting in the hard yards especially in the late stages of the match to apply constant pressure on the scrap and be the crumbing player to clear back out of the contest. She may not have had the influence on the ball that she wanted, but produced plenty of stoppages credit to her tackling pressure and ability to force her opposition to be unsure about the contest.

#17 Georgia Patrikios

Patrikios was one of the best on ground for the afternoon, if not best for Metro in an altogether successful match. Showcased her skill to produce a great clearing kick from the midfield toward the forward, and was right up in every contest from the get-go. Had a great read of the play, finding the ball with ease and producing some impressive marks in among the contest. Had a run on goal in the first that was punched on the line but showed good intent and ability to find space to line up in front, following it up with a successful goal moments into the second after a 50m penalty. Also showed off some of her game smarts late, proving her great read of play as she spotted Saxon-Jones one on one inside 50, leading to a goal.

#21 Ellie McKenzie

Put on a solid performance credit to her ability to take the game on but was stopped in her tracks by a hungry WA side on a number of occasions, unable to find the space to run free with the ball. Produced some great crunching tackles, while also creating play credit to her ability to find a loose player and clear the ball out of the contest in their direction.

#23 Nell Morris-Dalton

Kicked one goal in a mostly successful hitout. Spent a lot of the first term further up the ground than usual, not hanging inside 50 as accustomed to and giving some room to the likes of Cleo Saxon-Jones and Emily Harley. Showcased some of her good marking ability, providing great option inside 50 and taking a great mark right in front of goal in the second, putting an easy goal on the board.

#26 Gabby Newton

Newton was impressive off the stoppage, finding teammates with ease and using her ability to play with smarts to not only create play across the field but use her teammates’ position to advantage as she made opportunities arise. Her booming kick was effective on multiple occasions, while her pressure both on and off the ball forced her opposition to second guess around the footy and rethink their options.

#29 Cleo Saxon-Jones

Early took a good contested mark off the boot of Morris-Dalton, finishing with a snap around the body from the pocket and goal. Wasn’t able to take advantage of sitting alone in the goal square but set up well for open goal if it came to her. Hit the post on second try minutes later but made up for it by putting her body on the line at every opportunity. Kicked a sensational goal in the final term to keep Metro in the contest when WA was hot on their heels, taking a great running mark one on one for a set shot well within her range, straight through the middle for her third goal.

#20 Sarah Sansonetti

Applied very good physical pressure, nullifying influence of her opponent with her one on one play. Read the play well and was able to cherry pick passes. Was both good at ground level and aerially, producing some good linkup play with the likes of Newton and McKenzie. Fumbled a mark late in the game but recovered well, also producing a great clearing kick from a 50m penalty that finished in a goal to Metro.

EASTERN ALLIES VS. CENTRAL ALLIES

Eastern Allies:

By: Taylah Melki

#10 Abby Favell

Clean hands in and around the contest to feed the ball out of congestion and to teammates streaming past. She used her long booming kick to move the ball down the field and push hard forward. Favell worked tirelessly to win the ball and showcased her vision to flick the ball out to teammates in better positions across the ground. Was a real bull at the stoppages bursting through to gain possession and tackled hard.

#11 Mia King

Good intent and attack on the footy at all times. She tracked the ball well in the air and used the footy cleverly delivering well weighted passes across the field. Good burst of speed through the midfield to open up the forward 50. King displayed her strength and courage standing under the high ball and just taking the knock while also applying strong tackles across the ground. Really good kick and ability to measure her passes to hit her teammates on the chest. Stood up in the tackles time and time again and showcased her strength to still dispose of the ball with players hanging off her. Displayed good evasive skills to sidestep her opponents and work through the traffic. Consistently kept her feet in the contest and led up at the footy creating space across the ground.

#14 Jessica Whelan

Hot start to the game finding plenty of the ball early on. Good hands at ground level to pick the ball up off the deck and then follow up her efforts with a lead in the forward 50. Proved that she was not afraid to take the game on laying a big crunching tackle and winning a dropping the ball call. Good read of the flight of the ball to take a running intercept grab and propel the ball forward.

#17 Lillian Doyle

Slotted the first goal of the game on a tricky angle. She presented well up at the footy and showcased her strength to take a big mark under pressure. Doyle was composed under pressure and made the most of her opportunities in front of goal.

#15 Emily Pease

Really took the game on in the last quarter bursting through the middle and chasing her opponents to force turnovers. Went in hard at the contests and showcased her clean set of hands to work the ball out of the congestion time and time again.

#20 Brenna Tarrant

Won plenty of the footy and showcased her footy smarts to read the play. Worked hard throughout the match and applied good physical pressure to try ad regain possession for the Eastern Allies. Presented well up at the footy and showcased her strength to take the mark on her chest. Showcased a good urgency to move the ball on and create attacking pressure in the forward half.

#21 Olivia O’Donnell

Good read out the middle to get the ball cleanly out of the ruck contest and punch the ball forward. She covered the ground well and provided a spark up forward for the Allies. Good hands in close to dish off handballs to teammates and think her way through traffic.

#22 Hannah Stewart

Really good strong mark above her head stretching the mitts out and taking it cleanly in the opening term. Used her body to position well against her opponent and hold her ground. She was unfazed by the physical contest and rose to the occasion multiple times.

#25 Tarni Evans

Hot start to the second half bursting out of the blocks and showcasing her goal sense to kick her first major for the game. Applied good attacking pressure streaming inside forward 50 and using the space to her advantage to go for goal only for the ball to be cut off at the line.

#27 Emily Hurley

The defender tried hard throughout the game to nullify the influence of her opponent. Took a big intercept mark in the second term to try and repel the attacking forays of Central Allies. She had her work cut out for her with the ball entering with great speed and at high volumes but she held her own on a couple of occasions.

#30 Jordyn Jolliffe

She kicked a goal on the siren to keep the Eastern Allies in the game after taking a big contested mark just outside the goal square. She showcased her strong hands and ability to read the flight of the ball to drop back into the space and take the grab.

Central Allies:

By: Peter Williams

Central Allies:

#2 Madisyn Freeman

A tough player who roamed up and down the ground with the wing and provided an option, kicking well down the wing to hit-up Teah Charlton in the first term. Freeman then went forward and took a good mark inside 50 despite fierce contact coming front-on, converting the set shot. Took another great mark under duress from front on contact at half-forward, showing her strong hands above her head.

#6 Hannah Munyard

One of those players that just does not waste a disposal. Seemed like she had 20-plus touches but only recorded the eight such is her impact on the game. Whilst her first quarter was quiet, she stepped up and hit a lovely kick inside 50 to set up Tayla Hart-Aluni on the lead. She had her own chance on goal in the third term after a nice side-step but her shot went to the right. She worked into the game well in the second half, being a playmaker in the forward half, but also laying a couple of strong tackles. Her only mistake was a missed set shot which went out on the full after a good mark inside 50. Overall one of the classier users by foot in the game.

#9 Jaimi Tabb

One of Central Allies’ best throughout the game, particularly having a massive third term and finishing off stronger in the fourth. She was a tackling machine who time and time again locked the ball up and nullified contests. She began to win more of the ball as the game went on and set up attacking plays in the third term, then was rewarded with a goal making the most of a half chance in the goalsquare late in the third term for a crucial goal and one that would prove to be the match winner. In the dying last couple of minutes, Tabb laid some big tackles to lock the ball up, and when not tackling won the footy and was able to keep it locked away in her clutches so the Eastern Allies could not have an easy exit going forward.

#10 Madison Newman

A prominent player throughout the match, Newman won plenty of the ball in the back half, using her foot skills to kick it outside defensive 50 with some nice rebounding. Often able to get back and take a good mark, flying high at one stage and being able to pull down the grab, Newman showed a kick-first mentality out of the defence. She was often the one teammates found to move the ball in transition.

#13 Kiana Lee

A strong mark and hard worker, Lee took an early grab one-on-one 30m out, but just missed the set shot. She then pushed up to the wing and took a great mark there, kicking further down the ground. Lee kept presenting as a marking target going forward and worked hard with great leading patterns.

#23 Stephanie Williams

Had a couple of nice highlights throughout the game with a burst down the middle and kick inside 50 in the first term the best of them. Williams had another interesting moment at one stage at half-back, winning the footy, paddling it to herself in the air and then punching it forward along the wing after not taking possession to avoid being tackled.

#25 Teah Charlton

A dominant player throughout, but particularly the first half, Charlton was pulling down everything with some terrific marks after long leads up the ground. She did miss a couple of targets by foot with her first couple of kicks, but then used it well thereafter, laying some big tackles including a front-on tackle on the wing to win a free kick. Charlton did not hit the scoreboard as she has in the past games, but her work rate and movement in traffic was terrific, really having an impact on the game.

#26 Montana McKinnon

Presented around the ground and was a steadying influence during frantic moments. She flew high to pull down a number of strong marks, including a couple of contested grabs under pressure. Her best were one at half-forward in the second term coming in from the side, and then a huge intercept mark deep in defence late in the game when the Eastern Allies were attacking. She did well around the ground in the ruck with some nice hitouts, and was able to pump the ball forward, using it well by foot. It was her presence that was the most important thing, always looking to be involved and stepping up when her side needed her.

#27 Tayla Hart-Aluni

Had a busy first term by kicking a set shot goal after a lead, then setting up Kiana Lee for a scoring opportunity inside 50. She had another couple of chances, but could not convert on those occasions, finishing with two behinds. Hart-Aluni managed to push up the ground late in the game and ran hard off half-back to keep the ball moving. A clean player who was noticeable throughout.

Eastern Allies announce final squad for AFLW U18 Championships

THE Eastern Allies squad for next month’s AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships has been announced with 17 of the 24 players from New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory (NSW-ACT) and the remaining seven players from Tasmania. Last year the Eastern Allies won on the opening day at Metricon Stadium against the Central Allies, before going down to Western Australia and Queensland the following two days. The 2019 fixture pits them against the Central Allies and both Victorian sides.

In 2019, a number of faces from last year’s campaign will feature again, including NSW/ACT’s Georgia Garnett and Lillian Doyle who were exciting in the forward half, as well as Tasmania’s Mia King and Camilla Taylor. The Eastern Allies midfield will be quite strong with King joined in the middle by the likes of Abby Favell and Hannah Stewart who impressed for Murray Bushrangers and Bendigo Pioneers respectively in the NAB League Girls competition this year. The squad also has two bottom-agers in there with Amy Prokopiec and Charlie Lovell both impressing for Tasmania and making it into the final 24-player squad.

The first game for the Eastern Allies kicks off on Monday, July 8 at Metricon Stadium where AFL Draft Central will be there to cover it.

Eastern Allies:

#7 Paris Crelley (Lavington/NSW-ACT))
#8 Charlie Lovell (Glenorchy/Tasmania)
#9 Jayde Hamilton (Queanbeyan Tigers/NSW-ACT)
#10 Abby Favell (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)
#11 Mia King (Launceston/Tasmania)
#12 Jemma Webster (Glenorchy/Tasmania)
#13 Zoe Hurrell (Sydney Uni Bombers/NSW-ACT)
#14 Jessica Whelan (Camden/NSW-ACT)
#15 Emily Pease (Belconnen Magpies/NSW-ACT)
#16 Olivia Edwards (Willoughby Mosman Swans/NSW-ACT)
#17 Lillian Doyle (Grafton Tigers/NSW-ACT)
#18 Priscilla Odwogo (Tigers/Tasmania)
#19 Sophie Phillips (Bomaderry/NSW-ACT)
#20 Brenna Tarrant (East Coast Eagles/NSW-ACT)
#21 Olivia O’Donnell (Queenwood/NSW-ACT)
#22 Hannah Stewart (Bendigo Pioneers/NSW-ACT)
#23 Amy Prokopiec (Clarence/Tasmania)
#24 Georgia Garnett (East Coast Eagles/NSW-ACT)
#25 Tarni Evans (Queanbeyan Tigers/NSW-ACT)
#26 Camilla Taylor (Launceston/Tasmania)
#27 Emily Hurley (East Coast Eagles/NSW-ACT)
#28 Eloise Hiller-Stanbrook (Dubbo/NSW-ACT)
#29 Killarney Morey (NZ Kahu/Tasmania)
#30 Jordyn Jolliffe (Bendigo Pioneers/NSW-ACT)

AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships: South Australia and NSW/ACT claim Series One wins

SOUTH Australia and New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory (NSW/ACT) have claimed back-to-back AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships Series One wins over Northern Territory and Tasmania respectively, ahead of the sides amalgamating to form the Central Allies and Eastern Allies.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA 13.5 (83)
NORTHERN TERRITORY 4.1 (25)

South Australia powered home with a strong second half, booting seven goals to one in order to run out 58-point winners over Northern Territory. After the home side kept the Thunder scoreless in the opening half, both sides managed three majors in the second term for the Croweaters to lead by the same margin as they had at quarter time – 19 points. Kiana Lee was the star up forward booting four majors, while Alex Ballard and Teah Charlton were also rewarded with a couple of goals each. Charlton was named best on ground in the big win, along with South Adelaide teammates and South Australian vice-captain and captain, Hannah Munyard and Montana McKinnon. For the Territory, Tayla Hart-Alumi booted two majors, while the talented Mattea Breed and Christine Davis also booted a major.

GOALS:

South Australia: Kiana Lee 4, Alex Ballard, Teah Charlton 2, Julia Clark, Laitiah Huynh, Lucy Griffith, Madisyn Freeman, Montana McKinnon
Northern Territory: Tayla Hart-Aluni 2, Mattea Breed, Christine Davis.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA 10.11 (71)
NORTHERN TERRITORY 0.2 (2)

The second game was all one-way traffic to South Australia as the home side powered to a 69-point win over Northern Territory. The Croweaters scored 5.8 to 0.0 in the opening half, before a more accurate 5.3 to 0.2 in the second half saw South Australia claim back-to-back wins. Lee was again big in attack booting another four goals to take her total to eight for the series, while Charlton kicked another couple, as did Munyard. Teagan Usher was named best on ground, while Madisyn Newman, Jaimi Tabb and Julia Clark were also impressive in the win. For Northern Territory, Shantel Miskin-Ripia was strong under fire in defence, Breed impressed around the ground, and Shoneeka Abbott took out the overall Northern Territory Most Valuable Player (MVP) for the series.

GOALS:

South Australia: Kiana Lee 4, Hannah Munyard, Teah Charlton 2, Indy Tahau, Jaimi Tabb.
Northern Territory: Nil.

NSW/ACT 11.5 (71)
TASMANIA 2.1 (13)

The first game between the sides started evenly, with the Devils scoring the opening goal, before the Rams added two of their own to head into quarter time with a six-point advantage. The home side added three more goals in the second term to open up a handy four-goal buffer, and then all but put an end to the game with a four goal to one third term. They finished strongly with two goals in the last term, while holding the Devils scoreless. NSW/ACT overager, Jordyn Jolliffe and AFL Academy talent, Georgia Garnett both booted two goals, as did Olivia O’Donnell, as the Rams shared the goals around in the victory, having eight individual goalkickers in the win. For Tasmania, Hannah Smith and Jemma Webster both booted goals for the Devils, while Mia King was unsurprisingly a standout in the defeat.

GOALS:

NSW/ACT: Jordyn Joliffe 2, Georgia Garnett 2, Olivia O’Donnell 2, Jessica Whelan, Tarni Evans, Olivia Edwards, Lillian Doyle, Hayley Fell
Tasmania: Hannah Smith, Jemma Webster.

NSW/ACT 13.6 (84)
TASMANIA 2.4 (16)

The second game started similarly to the first, with Tasmania able to put the opening goal on the board, before the Rams square things up by quarter time. NSW/ACT added two more goals in the second quarter to regain the lead after the Devils kicked the first of the term yet again. It was after half-time that the Rams put the foot down, piling on four goals, while holding the Devils scoreless in the premiership quarter. The final term saw the Rams step up to another level and boot another four goals to zero to run out 68-point winners and claim the series. Brenna Tarrant booted a series-high four goals in a best-on-ground performance, as Lillian Doyle and Jessica Whelan all booted two majors each, while Garnett and Hannah Stewart were named among the best. For Tasmania, Smith and Steph Griffiths each booted a goal, while King, Camilla Taylor and Ella Maurer were named among the Devils’ best. After the wins, Tarrant and Garnett were named as join MVPs for NSW/ACT.

GOALS:

NSW/ACT: Brenna Tarrant 4, Lillian Doyle 2, Jessica Whelan 2, Hayley Fell, Zoe Hurrell, Olivia Edwards, Paris Crelley, Abby Favell.
Tasmania: Hannah Smith, Steph Griffiths.

AFLW U18 Championship previews: Eastern Allies

IN the first of two previews ahead of the first round of the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, we take a look at New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory (NSW-ACT) and Tasmania who clash tomorrow and Sunday in their two games which will help determine the final Eastern Allies squad. The Eastern Allies then fly to Queensland to take on the Central Allies, Vic Country and Vic Metro from July 8-12. Below we take a look at some of the key players to watch.

Hailee Baldwin (Tigers/Tasmania)

Baldwin has been named captain of Tasmania and is considered a leader on and off the field. Not a huge ball winner, averaging the 7.7 disposals at NAB League Girls level, Baldwin is a big tackler. She earned the title of Tasmanian captain despite being a middle-ager and not being eligible to be drafted until next year. At 169cm, Baldwin is a good size for a developing player and will be a key cog in Tasmania’s midfield.

Tahlia Bortignon (Clarence/Tasmania)

The talented athlete is still developing, but has been one to watch since being named for the Eastern Allies last year. For Clarence her pace and agility are areas that standout, and she represented Tasmania Devils in all three NAB League Girls games. With so few having experience at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, Bortignon’s experience will be invaluable to her younger side.

Lillian Doyle (Grafton/NSW-ACT)

Of the NSW/ACT players who took to the field in the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, the one we have most looked forward to seeing as a top-ager is the talented Doyle. She booted three goals in a best afield effort last year, two of which came in the last term to guarantee the side a victory on the opening day. She had to build up some consistency in her game, but her raw talent on that day and throughout the championships was evident and she looms as a dangerous forward for NSW/ACT and the Eastern Allies. One of four members of the AFL Women’s Academy.

Tarni Evans (Queanbeyan Tigers/NSW-ACT)

A middle-age member of the AFL Women’s Academy, Evans was touted as one to watch as a bottom-ager given her ability to use either side of her body to dispose of the ball cleanly. Evans is likely to play as centre half-forward, providing a contest for the smaller forwards to rove to and create opportunities. While she is still a year away, she is another year more experienced and could be the X-factor inside 50 with Doyle who provides a spark.

Abby Favell (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)

Another player who was touted by the Rams as one to watch for this corresponding series twelve months ago, has lived up to expectations with her performances in the NAB League Girls competition. She was able to have such an impact on the Bushrangers side that she could well have pushed for Vic Country selection as well had she been eligible. Favell never stopped running through the season and just had a massive work rate to get from defence to attack within a play, winning plenty of the ball and setting her teammates up. Expect her to rotate between the middle and on a wing, running in transition and burning off her opponents with either speed or endurance depending on the time in the game. Is a clutch player as well and one that could go forward and kick an important goal like she did against the Dandenong Stingrays late in the season.

Georgia Garnett (East Coast Eagles/NSW-ACT)

If Doyle was the one we were excited to see again, then Georgia Garnett was a close second with the hard-nosed and uncompromising midfielder with great athletic traits, being impressive last year. She has a wicked side-step and while it was noted she was not a huge accumulator last year, she rarely turned over the ball, with neat skills and great decision making. She also copped a knock on the final day and got straight back up. One of the key midfielders for the Eastern Allies this year, and another member of the AFL Women’s Academy.

Netty Garlo (Clarence/Tasmania)

Raw but talented is the best way of describing Garlo, who would no doubt have a very nice package of highlights with her closing speed and tackling pressure memorable from last year. Still a middle-ager, Garlo now stands at 170cm, and will still only be 16 by the time the championships roll around, having debuted last year as a 15-year-old trying to match it with some 18-year-olds. Garlo managed two games at NAB League Girls level for the Devils, and while she is still ironing out her consistency and game sense, there is no doubting her great combination of speed and hardness.

Chelsea Hargreaves (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)

Hargreaves was a really reliable defender for the Murray Bushrangers, and someone who was composed under pressure and used the ball well coming out of the back 50. A quality addition to the NSW/ACT and Eastern Allies mix, Hargreaves plays a similar role to Eloise Ashley-Cooper who is now at Essendon VFLW after having impressed at the championships. While she only averaged the nine disposals this year, Hargreaves does not waste them, and had multiple rebounds in four of her seven games.

Zoe Hurrell (Sydney Uni Bombers/NSW-ACT)

Tasted what it is like playing at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships last year, booting a goal and was named among the best in the Eastern Allies’ win over Central Allies on the opening day. With another year under her belt and showing she is capable of kicking a goal, Hurrell will be keen to impress in the Series One this year and represent the Eastern Allies for a second consecutive year at the championships.

Jordyn Jolliffe (Bendigo Pioneers/NSW-ACT)

Having played through the Rams program for years and was a member of the AFL Women’s Academy alongside Alyce Parker, Jolliffe has a point to prove at these championships, having missed out due to injury last year. Playing as a full-forward, Jolliffe is difficult to beat in the air and is an imposing figure in attack. She was a key player for Bendigo Pioneers in the NAB League Girls competition, either slotting goals or allowing the ball to fall to crumbers from her marking contests. As an overager, Jolliffe will provide invaluable experience to the team, and combine with Evans up forward.

Mia King (Launceston/Tasmania)

The star player of Tasmania, and a good case for the Eastern Allies Most Valuable Player (MVP), along with a number of others on this list. King is the midfielder you cannot help but notice because of her ability to find the football and have an impact in all thirds of the ground. King made the All-Australian extended squad last year, the only Tasmanian to do so in a team that featured North Melbourne twins, Chloe and Libby Haines. Despite being 165cm, King plays taller than that and is able to crack in and win the contested ball in the air or at ground level, and then spread when required to win the ball on the outside and move it in transition. She averaged 19.7 disposals, 4.7 tackles and 3.0 inside 50s in the NAB League Girls competition for the Tasmanian Devils.

Alice Mitchell (Willoughby Mosman Swans/NSW-ACT)

Teammates at local level with Zoe Hurrell, Mitchell will again look to join her in the Eastern Allies side for the 2019 championships. At 180cm, Mitchell provides a tall target around the ground, and can play through the midfield as well as at either end. She not only has great strength, but good vision and presents constantly for her teammates. Will be a great addition as as utility to the team and slot in wherever she is needed, and have an impact.

Amy Prokopiec (Clarence/Tasmania)

Was a standout in Tasmania’s double-up weekend against Western Jets and Eastern Rangers, averaging 12 touches and 6.5 rebounds coming out of defence. Her work in the back half was very impressive and eye-catching and remarkably, the talented 175cm defender has only just turned 16. It means she has another couple of years left in the system, but is good enough to be competing with players a couple of years older. One to watch over the coming years, and one of the better tall defenders coming through.

Hannah Stewart (Bendigo Pioneers/NSW-ACT)

Stewart is one of the better stories when it comes to hard work and dedication, travelling three hours to head down from Hay to train at the Pioneers’ Swan Hill base, and that is not even including time taken to get to weekend matches. While still inconsistent, her best was very good as we saw against Gippsland Power in Bendigo’s big win up at Epson Huntly Reserve. She had 19 disposals, six marks, six inside 50s and booted 1.2, one of the best on the ground with Brooke Hards and Elizabeth Snell. Her work between midfield and forward is where she does best, and while she only reached double-figure disposals on three occasions, she used the ball very well and is a very good runner with high endurance.

Camilla Taylor (Launceston/Tasmania)

Another key forward who could be used in attack after experiencing the national carnival last year, Taylor works hard to provide leads and a target inside 50, and not only provides opportunities for herself, but others as well. She has a long kick which was noted last year, and it was just a case of lowering the eyes at times, but she is a danger to opposition defenders, often forcing them to give away free kicks by trying to restrict her.

Team of the Week: NAB League Girls – Round 5

BENDIGO Pioneers’ impressive win over Gippsland Power has resulted in four players receiving spots in the Draft Central NAB League Girls’ Team of the Week for Round 5. The Pioneers had the most of any club for the round, one more than Geelong Falcons, while a further seven clubs had two players each. The Power, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Murray Bushrangers all had the one player each after defeats on the weekend.

The Pioneers midfield was ultra impressive and Brooke Hards, Annabel Strachan and Hannah Stewart all made the side, along with goalsneak mid-forward Elizabeth Snell who bagged five majors and earned the title of Draft Central Player of the Week for Round 4. The Geelong Falcons had another impressive win on the weekend, coming from behind to knock off Dandenong Stingrays and were rewarded with three players in Team of the Week, captain Lucy McEvoy, full-forward Renee Tierney and midfielder Paige Sheppard. Their opponents the Stingrays had two players each, with defender Brooke Vernon in the side for a fourth week, as well as Georgia Howes who was impressive up forward.

Also in defence is Sandringham Dragons’ Alice Burke and Sarah Hartwig, with Hartwig and Western Jets’ Isabelle Pritchard likely to form the defensive duo in Vic Metro’s campaign at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. Pritchard is joined in the side by teammate Isabella Grant on the wing. On the other wing is Georgia Patrikios who stood out in Calder Cannons’ win over Murray Bushrangers, while Alana Barba has been named at centre half-forward. Sophie McCarthy booted three goals up the other end of the ground at RAMS Arena to earn a spot in the pocket.

Northern Knights Team of the Week regulars, Britney Gutknecht and Gabby Newton made the team once again, while Eastern Ranges opponents Tarni Brown and Serena Gibbs were impressive throughout and also earned nods in our team for Round 5. The other side with two players in the Team of the Week was Oakleigh Chargers, with Mimi Hill (half-back) and Alana Porter making the side. To round out the team is Gippsland Power defender Matilda Van Berkel who has been in good form the last few weeks in defence.

NAB League Girls Round 5 wash-up: Western claims first win as Geelong and Northern remain undefeated

WITH the end of the season quickly approaching Round 5 brought plenty of action with both Geelong Falcons and Northern Knights remaining undefeated. The Bendigo Pioneers also stamped their authority on the competition with a 62-point win to keep them in the hunt for a finals spot.

Western Jets 6.7 (43) defeated Greater Western Victoria Rebels 3.3 (21)
By: Sophie Taylor

WESTERN JETS 1.1 | 2.2 | 3.3 | 6.7 (43)
GWV REBELS 1.1 | 3.1 | 3.1 | 3.3 (21)

GOALS:
Western:
L. Wright 3, J. Goodman, P.Ozols, C. Sargent
GWV: S. Nolte, C. Leonard, E. Friend

BEST:
Western:
I. Grant, L. Wright, I. Pritchard, E. Georgostathis, C. Sargent, T. Kolevski
GWV: S. Molan, I. Robson, K. Harris, L. Condon, M. Ciavarella, L. Sykes

It was a tight contest between eleventh and twelfth on the ladder as the Western Jets hosted Greater Wester Victoria (GWV) Rebels on Sunday at Williamstown. It was a tough slog all round from the start but it was the Jets’ composure in the final quarter that ultimately got them their first win for the season, with a three goal to nil final term gifting them a well deserved 22 point win. Both sides started well defensively, with the likes of Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV), who returned to the side this week, and Isabelle Pritchard (Western) holding ground off half back, not allowing the ball to enter their defensive 50. Even in the early stages of the match it looked like the Jets had the upper hand, putting pressure on every stoppage and making it hard for the Rebels to clear the ball out of the pack. Some missed opportunities early saw the sides head into the first change even on 1.1 (7) apiece, proving the intensity of both sides’ backlines.

The Rebels showed some great footy smarts at ground level scooping up the footy, but were unable to hold onto it with the constant pressure applied by the Jets. Some clean kicking through the guts saw some great play but more missed opportunities from both sides, before the Rebels took a five point lead into half time with a beautiful kick after the siren. The Rebels’ good fortune ended there, unable to convert in front of goal for the second half credit to Western’s ability to trap the footy in their forward 50, with the likes of Pritchard and Isabella Grant continuously feeding the ball back. The Rebels showed great signs early, but could not compete with the intensity and pressure in their forward. Pritchard was not only a constant moving the ball back forward, but also held her ground well on GWV’s Isabella Simmons, getting the upper hand on a number of occasions and preventing her from having a big influence on the match.

Repeated forward 50 entries proved key for scoring opportunities, a tactic that clearly worked for the Jets against GWV’s punishing defensive structure. On return Rebels’ half back, Dojiok limped off midway through third term, diminishing the Rebels’ backline which had held strong for most of the match. Though Dojiok did not take the field to start the final quarter she did return midway through at full forward, however the side missed her influence defensively after a stellar first half. Despite a falcon in the final quarter, the likes of Elisabeth Georgostathis stood up to make the match count, being a constant asset through the midfield and feeding into the forward line. The Jets cemented their first win of season with a strong final quarter, kicking 3.4 (22) to 0.2 (2) to take home their first win for the season.

Calder Cannons 9.7 (61) defeated Murray Bushrangers 5. 4 (34)
By: Taylah Melki

Calder Cannons 3.1 | 4.1 | 7.4 |9.7 (61)
Murray Bushrangers 0.0 | 2.1 | 3.2 | 5.4 (34)

GOALS:
Calder: A. Barba 2, G. Prespakis 2, G. Elarmaly, M. Muller, A. Magri, T. Gillard, G. Patrikios
Murray: S. McCarthy 3, M. Quade, M. Jones

BEST:
Calder: A. Barba, G. Patrikios, G. Prespakis, Z. Hardiman, K. Delia, Z. Friswell
Murray: M. Quade, S. McCarthy, A. Smith, M. Jones, M. Brown, L. Sharp

The Calder Cannons impressed with a 27-point win against the Murray Bushrangers. The Cannons looked hot from the get go nailing three goals in the opening term and they did not look back applying plenty of attacking pressure throughout the game. Their slick ball movement and ability to hit a target while under pressure was impressive while they were able to control the flow of the game with ease. Murray had some good passages of play credit to some cleve ball movement but it was simply not enough to compete with Calder who dominated from start to finish. The Cannons were led by the likes of Georgie Prespakis and Georgia Patrikios who starred through the midfield and slotted a combined three goals. Their clean hands and ability to win one on ones allowed the Cannons to push hard throughout the game. Alana Barba was solid up forward for the Cannons finishing the afternoon with two majors and collecting her fair share of touches. For the Murray Bushrangers, Sophia McCarthy impressed with her attacking flair up forward nailing three goals to keep the Bushies in it. Meanwhile Millie Brown had some moments of magic aided by teammate Abbey Favell who used her speed, good vision and strong kick to propel her side forward. Mindy Quade also chipped in with her one goal and timely touches around the ground for Murray.

Bendigo Pioneers 8.15 (63) defeated Gippsland Power 0.1 (1)
By: Peter Williams

BENDIGO PIONEERS 1.2 | 2.13 | 5.14 | 8.15 (63)
GIPPSLAND POWER 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.1 (1)

GOALS:
Bendigo: E. Snell 5, H. Stewart, G. Barton, E. Bell
Gippsland: Nil.

BEST:
Bendigo:
H. Stewart, E. Snell, B. Hards, J. Jolliffe, A. Strahan, M. Tupper
Gippsland: M. Van Berkel, M. Fitzsimon, C. Abrahams , C. Robinson, S. Beaton, M. Shaw

Bendigo Pioneers made it back-to-back wins and their third victory for the season, with an impressive 62-point win over Gippsland Power at Epsom Huntly Reserve on Sunday. In what was arguably their best performance in their short history, the Pioneers controlled the game from start to finish, finally adding the scoreboard pressure in the second half that they had trouble with in the first thanks to blustery conditions. Kicking against the wind in the first term, the Pioneers could only manage the one goal, before piling on 11 behinds for one major in the second term as they headed into the break with a 25-point lead and Elizabeth Snell with both goals. Snell would finish with five for the game, as the Pioneers ran out 8.15 (63) to 0.1 (1) winners, with Gippsland scoring a late behind to ensure they got on the board, while the Pioneers manoeuvred through the strong breeze in the second half, booting 6.2. Snell was the star up forward with her five goals from 14 disposals, five marks, four inside 50s and four tackles, while the midfield combination of Brooke Hards, Annabel Strahan and Hannah Stewart was dominant across the board. For Gippsland, Matilda Van Berkel tried hard in defence with 16 disposals and two rebounds while assisting in the ruck with 13 hitouts, while Chandra Abrahams laid eight tackles from 12 disposals, always in amongst it with Megan Fitzsimon, Cailin Robinson and Maddison Shaw.

Sandringham Dragons 5.7 (37) defeated Oakleigh Chargers 5.1 (31)
By: Michael Alvaro

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 1.5 | 4.7 | 4.7 | 5.7 (37)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.1 | 2.1 | 4.1 | 5.1 (31)

GOALS:
Sandringham: L. Enders, P. Staltari, C. Cody, E. Angelopoulos, C. Saultry
Oakleigh: A. Porter 2, E. James, B. Fox, S. Morley

BEST:
Sandringham: A. Burke, B. Arnold, A. Moloney, W. Laing, S. Hartwig, J. Stolz
Oakleigh: T. Morton, G. Lagioia, J. Lin, A. Porter, G. Larkey, N. Xenos

A first half blitz helped Sandringham Dragons get over the line for its first win of season 2019, defeating Oakleigh Chargers by a sole goal at Trevor Barker Beach Oval. The Dragons were wasteful out of the blocks, holding a four-point lead at the first break on the back of 1.5, but they made good on their dictation of general play with a more sure 3.2 in the second term to set up the win. While there were a few nervous moments in the final stanza after a goalless third quarter, the Dragons managed to hang on for an unlikely win – sealed late by a Chloe Saultry goal after Oakleigh’s Sarah Morley had levelled the scores. Alice Burke again led the way for Sandringham in the engine room, laying nine tackles and winning a heap of contested ball in a selfless display. Winnie Laing narrowly beat her out in the ball-winning stakes with 16, while middle-ager Sarah Hartwig was a force in the air down back, reeling in five marks – many of which were interceptions. Oakleigh’s Mimi Hill was arguably the best player on the ground, collecting 26 damaging possessions and buzzing around the stoppages well to push her side forward. Fellow Chargers Alana Porter and Amelia Peck also contributed nicely, with the former booting two impressive goals in the low-scoring affair. Suffering two losses in the last three weeks, Oakleigh will hope to bounce back against Murray at home next week, while Sandringham travels to Ballarat to take on GWV, hoping to start a winning run.

Northern Knights 7.8 (50) defeated Eastern Ranges 4.2 (26)
By: Michael Alvaro

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 0.3 | 4.3 | 5.3 | 7.8 (50)
EASTERN RANGES 1.1 | 2.2 | 4.2 | 4.2 (26)

GOALS:
Northern: N. Morris-Dalton 2, E. McKenzie 2, M. Papachristos, B. Gutknecht, M. Appleby
Eastern: S. Collard 2, I. Khoury

BEST:
Northern: B. Gutknecht, G. Newton, J. Fitzgerald, A. Bennett, N. Morris-Dalton, E. McKenzie
Eastern: N/A

Northern Knights charged home to a 24-point win against Eastern Ranges on Sunday to maintain its unbeaten season thus far. The home side started shakily as Eastern took advantage of a strong wind to lead by a goal early on, but the 2018 grand finalists hit back well in the second term to snatch a 13-point half time buffer. The Ranges looked to be making a game of it as they bridged the gap to seven points at the final break, but the Knights clicked into gear as they so often do to see out the game, keeping their opponents scoreless while pouring on 2.5 to almost double Eastern’s final score. Star Knights trio Gabby Newton, Britney Gutknecht, and Ellie McKenzie all lifted late on to seal the game and threatened throughout, with Nell Morris-Dalton again finding the big sticks to join McKenzie as Northern’s multiple goal kickers. The signs were promising for Eastern, with potential Collingwood father-daughter Tarni Brown living up to her pedigree, winning a good amount of ball alongside Tess Flintoff, with Serena Gibbs a handy tall presence in the ruck. The game was somewhat soured by injuries to players on both sides, with Marina Taverna suffering a nasty dislocated finger and Tayah Kelly very proppy in the second half, while Northern’s Mia Papachristos was helped off the field with a crook right leg. With changes imminent, Eastern hosts Calder next week in search of a win to sneak back into the top four, while Northern returns to Preston City Oval to face Gippsland.

Dandenong Stingrays 4.7 (31) defeated by Geelong Falcons 7.6 (48)
By: Taylah Melki

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 3.4 |3.5| 3.6 |4.7 (31)
GEELONG FALCONS 0.0 | 2.0 | 4.4 | 7.6 (48)

GOALS
Stingrays: G. Howes 2, H. Thomas, A. Liddle
Falcons: P. Schaap 3, P. Sheppard, R. Tierney, D. Moloney, M. Skinner

BEST
Stingrays: C. Bell, B. Vernon, G. Howes, G. Grimmer, M. McDonald, J. Radford
Falcons: L. McEvoy, R. Tierney, P. Sheppard, A. Chapman, E. Vella, P. Schaap

The Geelong Falcons continued their unbeaten stretch claiming a 17-point win against the Dandenong Stingrays at Robinson Reserve, Doveton. The Falcons worked their way back into the game after a quiet start, ramming it home in the last quarter nailing three goals. Dandenong were up and about early on but credit to the pressure of the Falcons the Stingrays were unable to maintain their composure and pressure falling away in the second half. Poppy Schapp led the way for the Falcons in attack slotting three goals to get her side back in the contest while Renee Tierney was sensational across the ground. Tierney chipped in with a goal and was helped out by teammate Lucy McEvoy who impressed through the middle of the ground with her clean hands, impeccable vision and good decision making. Abbey Chapman was also important for the Falcons with Paige Sheppard making her presence felt on the ground with her one goal and laying some strong tackles. For the Stingrays Georgia Howes was solid and proved to be a real target in the forward 50, slotting two goals for her side. Georgia Grimmer and Tyanna Smith led the way for Dandenong with their slick hands and work around the contest.

U18 Girls season preview: Bendigo Pioneers

AFTER a strong start to the 2018 TAC Cup Girls season by defeating the Western Jets in Round 1, Bendigo Pioneers were unable to capitalise for the rest of the season as they failed to register another win. However there were still positives to take from the season, with Pioneers’ Talent Manger Steve Sharp highlighting the fact they were able to get games into bottom-agers and 16 year olds.

“That was a good positive start to the season, it’s hard yards if you don’t get any positive stuff until later in the season, you’re sort of dragging the chain because you lose interest so the engagement levels were up,” he said. “It’s all learning for the girls and particularly with the infancy of the competition it’s just getting their teeth into it and starting to get some development through.”

There were no Pioneers players drafted in 2018, though Sharp notes that coming from a smaller area means the talent pool is not necessarily comparable to the metropolitan areas where talent is in abundance.

“We’re still a bit depleted as far as our depth goes and our numbers across the board, we’re probably similar to Gippsland where we both don’t have a huge talent pool compared to metropolitan areas where they have a lot of girls to pick from,” he said.

Despite the lack of players drafted to the AFLW, Sharp says Pioneers 2018 top agers, Kody Jacques and Megan Williamson, who played in the Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) competition, gained valuable experience that could give them further opportunities to break into AFLW in 2019.

“ I think Kody might be doing it (VFLW) at Richmond,” he said. “I think Megan will stay at Williamstown, she was happy there and she played really well there. “Though I suppose Williamstown aren’t going to have an AFLW side, but Richmond are in 2020, so I would say she would be on the radar there I would think. “Kody certainly is a beautiful kick of the footy, so she just needs to understand that she needs to get into that environment where she is living it and breathing it. I think she’ll put herself in a good position.”

The Pioneers took on the Murray Bushrangers in a practice match in Shepparton in the weeks prior to the season, beating the Bushrangers in a ten goals to five game.

“The practice match on the weekend – if that’s any indication we think we improved a bit… It was a ten goals to five game, so that’s a positive indicator, but that was one game,” he said. “You just don’t know where the girls will be at.”

Looking ahead to the 2019 season, Sharp says that player development is key, with a lot to look forward to. An increased number on the playing list is a change from 2018, while development of the playing list has been adapted to cater for what the AFLW may need in coming years to make the players as draftable as possible.

“We’re pretty happy, we think there has been a bit of development with some of these girls over the summer,” he said. “We haven’t had to do a lot of cuts to our list this year and even similarly last year we had an even smaller list of about 40 so we’ve increased it to about 50 this year just to make sure that we have enough numbers for our futures games. “We didn’t have a lot of top end, top age girls last year, we sort of concentrated and we’ve developed our list based on talent irrespective of their age.

“We can sit and go through all the theories, you speculate on how the individuals might develop and where they might be placed from a drafting point of view, then you’ve got to pull the whole team together to play a team game, but we’re hopeful. “It changes every day in the women’s space, particularly with the different styles of body composition. “I suppose they’re looking for more of that athletic running profile toward more of what the AFLW was like in the first year, so I think there is going to be a lot more emergence of these young girls coming through.”

Sharp said the Pioneers have some good young talent coming through, with versatility and skill off the boot key features of the squad in 2019.

“We just recently nominated some girls for the initial clubs for Vic Country, so for the powers at be to have a look at,” he said. Kate Douglass would be one of those girls, she’s 18 this year and is a key defender but can play forward, she’s a beautiful kick of the footy, left footer, so we’re looking for some good things from her this year. “We did push her forward, you want it in her hands from within 40, no one else. So you’ve got to play people in positions while we don’t have the depth to play two of them.

“We have a younger girl that will probably play half-back this year and probably go forward, Tara Slender. “She’ll be 17 in November, key forward or key back, pretty smart player and is a beautiful kick of the footy, good intercept mark and quite tall. “Tara is a really good player and Kate is just a really beautiful kick of the footy. “We see some further opportunities for Kate and I think we have a bit more depth this year, so Kate won’t necessarily have to shoulder all a lot of that, she’s a year older too, so she might be more mature to do that. She’s a good kid, she’s got a bit of a cricket background, regional sort of cricket person, so she’d certainly be one.

“We’ve got Jemma (Finning) – she’s a good young midfielder or half-back player, she turned 17 in March, she’s a really good kid. “We’ve got a girl by the name of Brooke Hards, she’s a 17-year-old in February, she’s a midfielder – a real hard-running player, she’d be the best performed athlete in our program we think. “She’d be under eight minutes or low sevens in regards to her 2km stuff so she’d show up some of the boys, so we’re looking for some exciting things from her. “There’s another young girl, hardly played any footy – Annabel Strahan, been a netballer or basketballer but she’s got some really raw talent and she’d played really well against Murray last week, that’s the first real opportunity I’ve gotten to see her play and she was really excellent. Then Elizabeth Snell, she’s another March birthday, good running midfield or half-forward but she’s got some real plusses in her game, she’s got some real attributes so we think she’ll be a good player for us.”

When it comes to the Pioneers, it is hard to ignore the distances these girls travel to give themselves opportunities in football.

“They’ve got no choice, our girls,” Sharp said. “I think we’ll have possibly six that are on the list that come from Sunraysia, Mildura and it’s four-and-a-half hours here, then you’ve got another two hours to Melbourne so they’ve really got no choice. “I think they’re conditioned to the travel earlier than just the playing footy bit because they’ve always had to travel to go to Melbourne to do things so we don’t have the privilege to just come in three nights a week and train from half an hour or forty minutes away. “These kids aren’t getting home until half past ten at night from training and have to go to school the next morning, it’s just the way it is – they’re a bit more resilient I think.

Maddie Baldwin, a girl from Cohuna, played Vic Country U16 and played really well. “She’s coming back from a bit of an injury, she had a meniscus issue with her knee. “So she’s not quite there yet, but maybe in the latter part of the season, so we hope that she will show some and get an opportunity to play free and show her ability,” he said. “There’s another girl, Hannah Stewart. Hannah’s a girl from Hay sort of up on the Murrumbidgi River about 3 hours from here (Bendigo), so that’s where she lives with about 3000 people. She set the standard in the Swan Hill training base because she comes across from Hay – she’s going to battle to get to training a bit, she might do her own training and get down every two or three weeks to train. she might play NSW, I don’t know what their spots and squads look like but she played on the weekend and was really impressive, beautiful kick of the footy, good mark, played centre half forward for us. She’s good athletically, ran an 8 minute or under 2km time trial on Monday which is pretty good. But she’s a pretty exciting prospect.”

Jordyn (Jollis) is coming back, but we’re watching her slowly. “She was All-Australian Under 16 so she’s got a bit of talent, but again, she’s on the Murrumbidgi River in Balranald and that’s probably still three hours away. “She’s a 19-year-old, she’s been approved because she was part of the GWS Academy – she’s certainly not match-fit at the moment because she’s had a back issue but she’s in pretty good nick, she plays netball and that now and she’s been doing conditioning to get her fitter, she’s got to get through that next stage. But we’re hopeful, we’ll probably play her deep forward early to build her up a bit to play in other spots.

“The girls need to understand that you do have to play a defensive role when the opposition have got the footy, but it is a development program and we want to showcase their skills so it’s about if you want to take the game on and you want to try run-and-bouncing, we’re going to encourage that. Take the game on and show us what you got, really. “There’s an accountability to your opponents that the girls have to learn, but we think we’ve got some girls there that we think will showcase a bit. “Show your skills and take the game on and don’t worry about making any mistakes, let’s just try and develop your game.”

The Bendigo Pioneers will take on the Eastern Ranges in Round 1 of the Under 18 Girls Competition at RAMS Arena in Craigieburn on March 2.