Tag: holly booth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 2a/5 wrap – Quick turnaround puts Tassie back on track

A STRETCH of five games in as many days saw Round 5 of the NAB League Girls season completed, while a couple of Round 2 make-up games were also on the agenda. Tasmania made the most of a quick turnaround to register consecutive wins in no time, while Oakleigh remains undefeated after the game of the season as Calder and Sandringham also registered points. All that, and more in our weekly wrap.

CALDER CANNONS 0.2 | 1.3 | 4.5 | 4.5 (29)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 | 2.3 (15)

GOALS:

Calder: A. Magri 3, H. Cashmore
Northern: T. Mills, S. Mooney

DC BEST:

Calder: G. Prespakis, T. Gillard, Z. Friswell, E. Yassir, A. McDonald
Northern: A. Jordan, T. Pulcino, M. Barnes, T. Hurst, T. Delgado

The first reshuffled Round 2 fixture saw Calder Cannons overcome the Northern Knights by 14 points under lights on Thursday. It was a hotly contested game throughout, with neither team giving the other an easy go at anything. The Knights dominated possession and disposal counts, but it was ultimately the class and composure of the Cannons that saw them come out on top.

Georgie Prespakis was unsurprisingly the standout for Calder in the engine room, shaking an attempted tag to top the disposal count, even finding herself playing off half-back at times as well. Over-ager Tallia Pulcino topped Northern’s disposal charts alongside 2023-eligible Ava Jordan, both working hard through the midfield all game. Cannons’ Alisa Magri snagged herself three goals for the game to help spearhead her side to victory.

Round 6 sees the Cannons taking on the winless Gippsland Power at Ronald Reserve in Morwell on Sunday morning, while the Northern Knights will play the Brisbane Lions Academy at La Trobe University in their first NAB League game, later on the same day.

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder)
4 – Ava Jordan (Northern)
3 – Tahlia Gillard (Calder)
2 – Tallia Pulcino (Northern)
1 – Megan Barnes (Northern) 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 0.0 | 1.0 | 3.1 | 4.2 (26)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.1 | 2.2 | 3.3 | 4.3 (27)

GOALS:

Dandenong: A. Clarke 3, A. Richards
Oakleigh: C. Rowbottom 2, T. Morton, K. James

DC BEST:

Dandenong: A. Clarke, Z. Hill, J. Anthony, A. Jordan, F. Crank, A. Richards
Oakleigh: C. Rowbottom, S. Reid, A. McCulloch, B. Vickers, E. James, T. Morton

Oakleigh Chargers defeated the Dandenong Stingrays by a single point in Seaford on Friday night, as the two flag fancies locked horns for the game of the season thus far. In what was a tense and highly contested affair, the cream ultimately rose to the top as Oakleigh held on to win 4.3 (27) to 4.2 (26).

The Chargers skipped away early before three-consecutive Amber Clarke goals gave Dandenong the ascendancy. Having absorbed a heap of pressure, Oakleigh hit back and snuck ahead via the boot of Charlie Rowbottom, who popped up at the clutch moments with a couple of big contested marks and resultant goals.

Rowbottom was again best afield with her important work rotating forward through midfield, while Stella Reid led all comers with 29 disposals. Alexandra McCulloch and Brooke Vickers were important figures down back, as the likes of Tayla Morton and Jorja Jackson were lively inside attacking 50.

Clarke very nearly proved Dandenong’s hero with three of the Stingrays’ four goals, leading from the front as Zoe Hill and Jaide Anthony thrived in defence, and Abbey Jordan added some grunt in midfield. Unfortunately, star Stingray Emily Shepherd was helped off during the second term and played no further part in the game.

Dandenong’s next assignment comes against a red-hot Tasmania Devils outfit on the Apple Isle in Round 6, while Oakleigh is set to face Sandringham in somewhat of a regional rivalry.

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh)
4 – Amber Clarke (Dandenong)
3 – Stella Reid (Oakleigh)
2 – Zoe Hill (Dandenong)
1 – Alexandra McCulloch (Oakleigh)

BENDIGO PIONEERS 2.3 | 2.3 | 2.3 | 2.3 (15)
TASMANIA DEVILS 0.2 | 2.5 | 2.7 | 7.7 (53)

GOALS:

Bendigo: E. Snell, O. Di Donato
Tasmania: A. Bissett 2, K. Hennessy, A. Prokopiec, M. Edwards, E. Maurer, B. Barwick

DC BEST:

Bendigo: E. Snell, O. Di Donato, T. Williams, T. Slender, S. Orritt, E. Gilligan
Tasmania: C. Ransom, J. Webster, P. King, M. Gaffney, A. Crooks, A. Bissett

Tasmania Devils overcame a slow first quarter to tighten the screws and restrict the Bendigo Pioneers from scoring in the last three quarters for a memorable 38-point victory at La Trobe University. The Pioneers flew out of the blocks in the opening term with Elizabeth Snell and Octavia Di Donato getting on the board to see the Pioneers race to a 13-point quarter time lead. Little did anyone know, their score would not increase after quarter time, as the Devils came to play for the rest of the match. Despite kicking the last seven goals of the game, only two of them came in the next two quarters – with the third term yielding none – for a narrow four-point final break lead. The floodgates opened up in the last quarter as Tasmania piled on five-straight majors to run out 7.7 (53) to 2.3 (15) victors.

In a game that fiercely contested, Claire Ransom was clean and composed with ball-in-hand, using it well around the stoppages, while Jemma Webster and Perri King created their own space from the back half going forward. Meghan Gaffney was particularly busy in the first half, while Amy Bissett slotted two majors, and Amy Prokopiec was close to having another day out, but just missed a couple of chances. The Devils had a fairly even team performance across the board on the day. For the Pioneers, Snell put in a four-quarter effort to be their best, while Di Donato and Tegan Williams held up in the back half – with Di Donato also spending time forward early – and Tara Slender was her usual reliable self all around the ground.

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Claire Ransom (Tasmania)
4 – Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo)
3 – Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo)
2 – Jemma Webster (Tasmania)
1 – Perri King (Tasmania)

GIPPSLAND POWER 1.0 | 2.0 | 2.0 | 3.2 (20)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 4.2 | 7.2 | 10.4 | 12.4 (76)

GOALS:

Gippsland: H. Booth, H. Woolfe, P. Tracey
Sandringham: C. Murphy 5, E. Angelopoulos 3, M. Zielinski 2, J. Betts, P. Staltari

DC BEST:

Gippsland: G. McRae, G. Matser, M. Van Berkel, L. Williamson, Y. Duursma, I. Makai
Sandringham: S. Hurley, E. Angepoulos, C. Murphy, J. Anderson, C. Ryan, P. Staltari

Sandringham Dragons are on the board in season 2021 following a comprehensive 56-point victory over Gippsland Power in Morwell East. The game started off relatively evenly with both sides kicking goals through Charli Murphy and Hayley Woolfe respectively, but the scoreboard began ticking over for the visitors as they piled on six consecutive goals before the Power scored a late one to cut the half time deficit to 32 points. The dominance continued in the third term with three more majors going the way of the Dragons, before an early Holly Booth goal in the final term got the Power back on the board, prior to the Dragons finishing off with a 12.4 (76) to 3.2 (20) victory.

The tall-small duo of Murphy (five goals) and Ebony Angelopoulos (three) was a damaging one, often creating space and providing either a marking target or defensive pressure inside 50. Sofia Hurley was a standout best on ground though, dominating around the stoppages and often reading Grace Matser‘s taps who took control at the ruck stoppages. For Gippsland, Grace McRae was as reliable as ever, whilst Matilda Van Berkel and Lily-Rose Williamson tried hard in defence. The depth of the Dragons was on show though, with the likes of J’Noemi Anderson, Pia Staltari and Charlotte Ryan all having impacts on the game, as Mia Zielinski slotted two goals.

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Sofia Hurley (Sandringham)
4 – Ebony Angelopoulos (Sandringham)
3 – Charli Murphy (Sandringham)
2 – Grace McRae (Gippsland)
1 – Grace Matser (Gippsland)

WESTERN JETS 0.0 | 0.1 | 0.1 | 0.1 (1)
TASMANIA DEVILS 2.1 | 2.4 | 4.6 | 5.9 (39)

GOALS:

Western: Nil.
Tasmania: A. Edmand 2, P. King, B. Barwick, A. Prokopiec

DC BEST:

Western: M. Ham, P. Ryan, C. Baskaran, J. Woods, C. Tyrrell
Tasmania: P. King, C. Ransom, M. Gaffney, M. Brazendale, J. Webster

Tasmania made it two wins in three days against the Western Jets in their reshuffled Round 2 fixture on Monday, in a remarkable effort where they lead from the first goal. Despite having less than 48 hours’ rest, the Devils looked to control the game for most of the day, rarely conceding a mark inside defensive 50 and transitioning well on their way to the 38-point victory.

Perri King and Claire Ransom were the major players for Tasmania all day, controlling the tempo of the game with ball in hand and being consistent ball winners in the midfield and, in King’s case, up forward as well. For the Jets, star bottom-ager Montana Ham battled hard all day through the midfield, whilst fellow 2022 draft eligible talent Paige Ryan was a shining light in the Jets’ backline.

Western Jets next come up against GWV Rebels at MARS Stadium on Sunday morning, while Tasmania will welcome Dandenong Stingrays to Penguin Reserve on Saturday afternoon in Round 6.

DC Medal Votes

5 – Perri King (Tasmania)
4 – Claire Ransom (Tasmania)
3 – Montana Ham (Western)
2 – Paige Ryan (Western)
1 – Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania)

NAB League Girls Round 4 preview: Unbeaten sides to go head-to-head across Super Saturday

NAB League Girls action is back for a second consecutive week – unfortunately for the first time this season due to the Victorian snap lockdown – but it provides teams with a couple of instant classics, as well as sides that are battling for their first wins of the season.

EASTERN RANGES vs. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, February 27 @ 10.30am
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

Two unbeaten sides go head-to-head in the early Saturday morning game when Geelong Falcons travel east to take on Eastern Ranges at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve from 10.30am. The Falcons are coming off back-to-back wins over Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Bendigo Pioneers in the opening rounds, while the Ranges put Gippsland Power to the sword last week with a record-breaking 114-point win after getting past an inefficient Western Jets in Round 1. Both these sides come into the game as two of the most in-form teams which spells the potential for a classic.

The Ranges’ midfield is a real strength with the likes of Bridget Deed and Olivia Meagher providing inside contested grunt work, and the class of Jorja Livingstone on the outside providing the run. Inside 50, Alyssia Pisano has become a revelation with four goals last week following a promising Round 1 debut, and the bottom-age prospect is shaping as a top-end talent for 2023. Georgia Campbell was outstanding in her effort against Grace Matser last week, and will look to hold down the fort again coming up against Keeley Hardingham of the Falcons, whilst Geelong have a number of inside midfielders themselves with Tess Craven, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson always having a crack in there.

Up forward, Renee Tierney has already kicked six goals in two games, with captain Lucy Were, and the dynamic Gabbi Featherston capable of anything when inside 50. It will be up to the Ranges’ defence to try and contain the Falcons forward six, with Cadhla Schmidli and Mia Busch having promising starts to the 2021 season. Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling up the other end have been impressive at flanking Mia Van Dyke to be a dominant half-back line, intercepting nearly anything that comes their way. The Ranges will need to be smart with their ball use, and pinpoint their passes inside 50 to ensure the best efficiency going forward.

The game is neck and neck, with the Final Siren podcast team split, with Geelong marginally ahead 2-1 in the tipping, though it genuinely could go either way.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Saturday, February 27 @ 11.30am
Ronald Reserve, Morwell East

Two sides looking for a big effort are out at Morwell East when Gippsland Power heads back home to host Northern Knights. It will be their first game at the venue this season following the Round 2 home game with the Eastern Ranges being flipped around and played at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve instead. The Power will be looking to put in a more competitive effort in Round 3 after a 114-point defeat at the hands of Eastern Ranges last round, and will look to do it against a Northern Knights side that looked pretty good against Sandringham Dragons in Round 3. The Knights were blown away by Oakleigh Chargers in Round 1, but responded last week, and Gippsland will look to do the same in this clash.

The Power have a strong inside midfield group, led by Grace McRae who is a natural ball-winner. She will need to lead the way with hard ball gets against a Northern side that feasted on it last week thanks to the work of Maeve Chaplin. Lily-Rose Williamson is another inside body that will help extract the ball from the contest, whilst Matilda Van Berkel can play anywhere from midfield, ruck to key position and was the main interceptor in defence last week. Sunday Brisbane and Yasmin Duursma are happy to run the ball forward and that is where the Power can take advantage, with the Knights missing AFL Women’s Academy member Maykaylah Appleby from the clash.

Matser has a chance to take control in the ruck with dominant hitout specialist Georgia Kitchell also missing the game, though the Knights have plenty of depth to step up. Ella Smallacombe and Megan Girolami were busy last week combining for five goals, and the likes of Van Berkel, Holly Booth and Courtney Fletcher will have their work cut out for them. Expect Tarrah Delgado to continue her form and be a rock in defence, while Brooke Plummer will step up to bring that outside run on a wing and become the key playmaker in the match.

Northern are favourites after last week’s effort, but missing a couple of key personnel could make it a little tougher, but should still get the job done. Gippsland have the strengths to match it with Northern on the inside, with the battle between McRae and Chaplin the highlight.

 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.15pm
Cathedral College, Wangaratta

Up north, Murray Bushranger host Western Jets in a battle of two winless sides looking to get on the board in season 2021. The Bushrangers went down to Bendigo Pioneers in the opening round, then lost out to GWV Rebels in Round 3. The Jets were unlucky not to capitalise against Eastern Ranges in Round 1, before just falling short against Dandenong Stingrays in Round 3. Heading into this game, the Jets will be keen to make almost-there become success.

Grace Hay returns for the Bushrangers having to juggle her football and netball commitments which immediately strengthens the Bushrangers’ back six and provides another strong ball user out there. She will team up with a half-back line featuring the strong hands of Molly Kennedy – due for a great battle with Jets’ Caitlin Sargent – and Chloe Locke who both can provide some offence to go with their defensive work. Mindy Quade at full-back is another strong player who can win one-on-ones regularly, and use her powerful boot to clear the area. Going head-to-head with Jemima Woods, the Bushrangers’ talls will need to quell the Jets’ targets inside 50.

Two of the more in-form wings could go head-to-head in Charlotte Baskaran and Aurora Smith, with both having outstanding games in the opening two rounds. Montana Ham and Keeley Skepper are two of the most promising prospects for next year and will likely lock horns in the midfield, while Krystal Russell will look to take full advantage in the ruck with Bushrangers’ AFL Women’s Academy member Ally Morphett out. The Bushrangers still have scoring options in the likes of Kristy Whitehead and Sophia McCarthy, while Kate Maxwell and Laura Elliott were good in defence last week.

The Jets are favoured in this contest, but some of the one-on-ones should be fantastic to watch.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. CALDER CANNONS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.30pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve

From two winless sides to two with a 1-1 record, Bendigo Pioneers host Calder Cannons in a much anticipated Round 4 matchup. The Cannons were arguably the team to beat given their two AFL Women’s Academy members and host of likely Vic Metro talents, but were just outclassed by an incredible Oakleigh Chargers outfit last week, after knocking off Sandringham Dragons in the opening round. Bendigo took out Murray Bushrangers in the opening round, but then suffered defeat at the hands of Geelong Falcons in Round 3, so will be looking to make up for that loss with a huge scalp here.

Tara Slender returns from a concussion precaution that kept her out of the Pioneers’ Round 3 loss, and will play a crucial role at centre half-forward. It forces one of Neve Crowley or Kasey Lennox to make sure she has a close-checking key defender on her, with Tegan Williams seamlessly slotting into Slender’s role up the opposite end of the ground. Bottom-ager Lila Keck, as well as top-ager Lily Den Houting have been named inside 50, and could provide scoring options for the home team. Meanwhile up the other end, Alisa Magri and Jessica Zakkour could be targets inside 50 for the Cannons.

The ruck battle between Madeline Marks and Peppa Poultney will be a fascinating one, with the Pioneers midfield getting a huge challenge to try and contain the Cannons’ onball group. Georgie Prespakis and Zali Friswell will head in with Emelia Yassir this week, while Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson will line up with Chantelle Mitchell to try and take control in there.

The Cannons will go in as strong favourites, but the Pioneers are back to full strength with Slender returning, and if they can get on top in the midfield, anything is possible.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.30pm
Twin Ovals

After missing out in Round 2, Tasmania Devils return to Twin Ovals for their first home game of the year. They take on Oakleigh Chargers who 12 months ago, took them to pieces in a triple-figure victory on the Apple Isle. Fast forward to 2021, and the Devils are a stronger, more cohesive unit that are coming off an impressive 12-goal win over Gippsland Power in the opening round. Oakleigh Chargers are a different group altogether and right now the benchmark of the competition, which gives Tasmania a great chance to measure themselves against the top team.

The Devils were able to have high efficiency going forward in Round 1, with Amy Prokopiec slotting four goals – including two in the first quarter – against the Power, while Amy Bissett also nailed a couple of majors. Having Charlie Vandenberg take the first ruck spot has enabled Camilla Taylor to be another target inside 50, while the midfield group of Perri King, Ella Maurer and Claire Ransom was terrific against the Power. Now they meet the most dominant group in the league, with Charlie Rowbottom, Amanda Ling and Eliza James on-ball, and Stella Reid tearing it up on the the outside.

Tasmania will need to ensure the Oakleigh midfield does not get off the chain as the Chargers can score quickly and heavily when given the chance, especially with Jemma Rigoni and Ameille Smith being targets inside 50. Charlotte Thomas and Candice Belbin are some of the defensive options back there for the Devils, whilst up the other end, Brooke Vickers has been a source of run and carry for the Chargers. If Oakleigh can get the ball forward, they have an abundance of smalls running around at the feet of the talls, such as Taylah Morton who could hit the scoreboard.

Overall, the Chargers have passed every test thrown at them and deserve to be overall favourites. The key to this game is seeing how much the Devils have progressed in 12 months, and if they can cause a huge boilover in front of their home fans.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS VS. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Sunday, February 28 @ 11.30am
MARS Stadium

The standalone Sunday game is a must-watch, with the GWV Rebels sitting 1-1 and the Dandenong Stingrays 1-0 after a delayed entry into the competition. The Stingrays were due to return to the competition in Round 2, but Victoria’s snap lockdown pushed it back a week, where they took care of the Western Jets in a competitive match. The Rebels had a similar clash in Round 1 going down to the Falcons, before they put Murray Bushrangers to the sword in a seven goals to two first half last week at Epsom Huntly, then steadied in the second half to record a strong win.

The Rebels are one of only two sides – with Calder Cannons – that have two AFL Women’s Academy members, and this week Nyakoat Dojiok has been named beside Ella Friend in the half-forward line. With Dandenong’s abundance of strong defenders, it provides the Rebels midfield with another target to use, and Dojiok is more than capable of taking on opponents at ground level. Mackenzie Eardley will have a huge job on the contested-making Friend, while Tahlia Meier works hard both ways and will need to hit the scoreboard whilst being aware her opponent Brooke Smith can do damage the other way. Zoe Hill, Jemma Radford and Jaide Anthony are all capable of intercepting in the back 50, so the Rebels will need to be good with their ball use.

In midfield, Amber Clarke has been thrown there alongside last week’s Draft Central Player of the Week Emily Shepherd, and top-age talent Abbey Jordan. The trio of Paige Scott, Lilli Condon and Crystal Summers worked well for the Rebels in Round 3, and they will lock horns in a fantastic battle of inside midfields. Chloe Leonard is the key for the Rebels off half-back, though Molly Walton has also made a splash for the Rebels in her debut season, and they will have to rebound the Stingrays’ attacks, with Ashleigh Richards one to watch inside 50 who could do some damage.

This is a 50-50 game and both these teams have such a well-balanced list. The Stingrays might be able to get the job done due to their intercepting firepower, but the Rebels have plenty of attacking options. Expect it to be a tough, low-scoring game.

NAB League Girls Round 3 preview: Teams return after quick fixture switch

A SNAP lockdown and subsequent quick team swap later, and the NAB League Girls competition is set to return tomorrow for Round 3 of action. The Round 2 matches have been postponed, though with the border restrictions coming into play and 14 days quarantine required for any person from Victoria to enter Tasmania, it meant the Devils could not play their road trip against Eastern Ranges. Instead the Ranges will suit up as if Round 2 had have gone ahead, playing Gippsland Power, albeit as a home game at Kilsyth rather than on the road at Morwell East.

CALDER CANNONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, February 20 @ 10am
Highgate Recreation Reserve, Craigieburn

First up in Round 3 is a battle of two heavyweights who are considered serious title contenders in the NAB League Girls competition. Calder Cannons have an array of talent from AFL Women’s Academy members to talls and smalls who provide balanced depth across the field. Oakleigh Chargers also have great depth, and disposed of the Northern Knights quite easily in Round 1, showing off a number of young players who stepped up to the mark. Both these teams head in off the back of a win following the Cannons’ strong second half showing against the Dragons a fortnight ago.

The onball matchups could be where the game is won and lost with AFL Women’s Academy members, Tahlia Gillard and Georgie Prespakis, as well as talented ball-winner Emelia Yassir named for the Cannons there. Ameille Smith – who snagged three goals on debut up forward last week –  has a massive task up against Gillard, while Amanda Ling and Charlie Rowbottom make it a dream contested bout. The potential matchup between Rowbottom and Prespakis in particular will catch eyes as two of the top Vic Metro prospects going head-to-head.

Outside the midfield, both teams have plenty of depth, with Stella Reid having an outstanding game in Round 1, playing off a wing but able to float back to half-back and assist there. She takes on Mali McLeod who is one of a number of Cannons with plenty of talent, such as the key defence post of Kasey Lennox and Neve Crowley. With Oakleigh having dangerous smaller forwards such as Taylah Morton and Jorja Jackson inside 50, the ball entry could be key as to how the game pans out.

In Round 1, Oakleigh proved the second most efficient with ball-in-hand, averaging 22 disposals and four inside 50s per goal in the Chargers’ win over the Knights. Calder adopted a handball-oriented style against Sandringham, with the teams two of the top three with lowest kick-to-handball ratio. Defensively the Cannons hit the contest hard, ranked third overall for tackles in Round 1 – laying 92 tackles – while the Chargers produced just the 50 as they played some impressive disposal-footy to keep the ball off their opponents and use their outside run.

This game will be more contested, but it will be particularly interesting to see which team can get the game on their teams for longer. Both have an abundance of talent, and it sets up as a potentials finals preview.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, February 20 @ 10am
Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve, Bendigo

Heading further north, a double-header at Epsom Huntly Reserve in Bendigo takes place for four of the country teams to do battle. In the first game, Bendigo Pioneers and Geelong Falcons lock horns in a chance to start the 2021 season with a 2-0 record. The Pioneers came to play on the border up against Murray Bushrangers, taking care of business by 16 points, while Geelong Falcons ground out a win against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at Deakin University on the Sunday, in what was an entertaining contest.

What Round 1 showed is both these teams can find their own footy, with Geelong ranked first overall for disposals and handballs, while Bendigo ranked first for kicks. The Pioneers adopted a kick-dominant style, where they produced 104 more kicks than handballs for a competition-high 73.6 per cent kick-to-handball ratio. The Falcons were lower at 61.1 per cent, but they balanced their style, also ranking second for kicks behind the Pioneers for the round. Both the teams also impressed in the air, with the Falcons ranking first for marks, and Bendigo third, while they were also top five for tackles. Bendigo was the only side to finish the round top five in both inside 50s and rebounds, while Geelong really took control in the ruck, ranked in the top five for hitouts, with Bendigo lowly in that area.

This week it will be Madeline Marks‘ chance to arrest some of that Falcons’ dominance in the ruck, coming up against Keeley Hardingham who got first hands to it against the GWV Rebels in Round 1, teaming up well with Analea McKee as both combined for 31 hitouts. Marks and Jayda Richardson did the majority of the ruck work for the Pioneers, having stiff opposition in Bushrangers talent and AFL Women’s Academy member, Ally Morphett. Also roaming around in the midfield with some experience are the likes of Elizabeth Snell and Lily den Houting, while fellow top-age returnee Jemma Finning can roll through the midfield too after coming off half-back. The Falcons shone bright on ball last week, with Tess Craven and Poppy Schaap racking up a truckload of the ball, as did the versatile Charlotte Simpson.

Ingrid Houtsma has been named on a wing after playing both centre half-forward and centre half-back in Round 1, showing off her versatility as a taller player. The Geelong forward dynamic is really damaging, with captain Lucy Were, contested marking specialist Renee Tierney, and the quick Gabbi Featherston all offering different aspects to the front six. One key player who could assist at either end not named is Tara Slender, with the AFL Women’s Academy player missing for Round 3. Instead the younger Pioneers will be required to step up, with bottom-agers Tegan Williams and Octavia Di Donato providing good rebound. Lila Keck showed some promising signs in Round 1, and the forward line of the Pioneers will come up against the likes of Elizabeth Dowling and Annie Lee who both impressed in Round 1.

Geelong Falcons have a well-balanced side and would be tipped to win here, especially with Bendigo missing Slender. Though based on Round 1, the Pioneers will put it up to the Falcons and do have the home ground advantage.

EASTERN RANGES vs, GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, February 20 @ 12pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve, Kilsyth

One of the few teams to actually be benefited from the Round 2 bye was Gippsland Power, with ruck Grace Matser – injured in the first round – not named for Round 2 against Eastern Ranges, but a week later and the talented tall is ready to go in the Kilsyth clash which is crucial coming up against the talented Georgia Campbell. The Power were a bit rusty up against a Tasmania Devils side that was structured and ruthless credit to a few less restrictions over the past 12 months, while the Ranges showed just how good they could be with transition, conceding the most inside 50s to the Jets (33), but only conceding the one goal.

The Ranges defence held up well, with Mia Busch and Cadhla Schmidli both starring in the back six, rebounding and running it out to form a formidable combination back there. Grace McRae was the sole goalkicker for the Power in Round 1 and she is tough to match up on be it in the midfield or forward line with her strength and one-on-one ability. Leesa Guastella has been named as a forward target this round, and Matilda Van Berkel showed she could do it all from key forward option to stand-in ruck after Matser’s injury, but has been named in defence this round.

Further up the ground, both teams have some speed with Sunday Brisbane winning plenty of it and showing her bursts coming off half-back and along the wing, with Poppi Fleming providing run on the other wing. With Jorja Livingstone being one of the top outside ball movers in the competition, the Power will look to provide their own run out there. Inside the battle between McRae and Olivia Meagher could be a great one as two top-age hardnuts battle it out. Isabelle Khoury and Bridget Deed will also lock horns with Lily-Rose Williamson and Yasmin Duursma in midfield, which promises to be a fantastic battle. Up forward, Scarlett Potter, Matilda Hardy and Alyssia Pisano are among the goal threats for Eastern, whilst the likes of Holly Booth, Van Berkel and Taylah Bourne will look to contain them.

Eastern Ranges will be favourites heading into the Round 3 clash after their impressive win in Round 1, but the Power showed they could match it with sides for long periods of time, and always gave it a crack for four quarters.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 20 @ 12pm
Bluescope Steel Centre, Hastings

When talking about long breaks, look no further than Dandenong Stingrays, who, after already having 11 months off and then an extra week due to the bye, postponed their first match back in 2021 until Round 3 of the competition. The Stingrays finally are able to run out in the NAB League Girls, hosting a Western Jets side no doubt determined to capitalise on their opportunities when they meet in Hastings. The Jets recorded the most inside 50s of any side in Round 1 (33), but could only muster the one goal. It did show their midfield has the capacity to take control and run the ball forward, giving their front six the best chance to put scores on the board.

Delivery inside 50 will be crucial against arguably the best defence in the competition. Top-ager Zoe Hill and bottom-ager Mackenzie Eardley are strong in the air and provide a contest when the ball gets to ground. Both players will cause headaches for the opposition, with Western’s sole goalkicker in Round 1 – Jemima Woods – set to do battle with Vic Country representative, Hill. Also back there for the Stingrays are Jaide Anthony and Brooke Smith who have the versatility to push up the ground as well. Caitlin Sargent adds another target for the Jets against the stringent defence.

Western’s strength lies in its midfield and ball movement down the field with Charlotte Baskaran having a field day to earn our Draft Central Player of the Week nod after a sensational 28-disposal game on the wing. Teaming up with fellow bottom-ager Montana Ham, the Jets have some serious talent and kicking ability, to try and pinpoint targets inside 50. Trinity Skenderis and Leah Spargo also provide some hardness on the inside, while the Stingrays have Ashleigh Richards and Emily Shepherd who know how to win the contested ball then spread to the outside, whilst also not forgetting the speed of Abbey Jordan who will be playing a new role on the inside this season.

This match is set to be a cracker, and the Jets will want to get off to a strong start having the match practice in, but the Stingrays will be hungry after an extended break on top of the already unimaginable period away from football. Dandenong is one of the challengers for the title so should be favourites, though the game is set to be one of the matches of the round.

GWV REBELS vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Saturday, February 20 @ 12pm
Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve, Bendigo

In the second game of a double-header at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve, the GWV Rebels take on Murray Bushrangers in a battle of two Round 1 losers. The Rebels were gallant in defeat, in a match that could have gone either way against one of the top teams going around in Geelong Falcons, while the young Bushrangers, with a number of debutants and bottom-agers, fell to Bendigo Pioneers at Yarrawonga. For at least one of these teams, they will break the duck and get their first points, and it sets up for a fascinating contest.

The Rebels showed last week they are focusing on a kick-first mentality, finishing Round 1 with a no-nonsense 73 per cent kick-to-handball ratio. Despite being well beaten in disposals, the Rebels only had five less inside 50s, and had four more rebounds. They averaged around 44 disposals per goal, and 6.8 inside 50s, which is still fairly strong across the board. Murray were good defensively with their rebounding and holding up, they were just beaten in disposals, and out-tackled with the Pioneers laying 90 tackles to 55. Having had that experience in the bank, expect the Bushrangers to come out fierce in this one.

Morphett will look to take full control when in the ruck for the Bushrangers, who have a hardened midfield group. Bottom-ager Keeley Skeeper and Mikayla Jones will go head-to-head against the smooth-moving Nyakoat Dojiok and hard nut Lilli Condon for this match, while Aurora Smith and Zara Hamilton will look to control the wings for the Bushrangers. Ella Friend is the danger for the Bushrangers’ defence, with Molly Kennedy named as her direct opponent to start, though the contested marking talent is hard to beat in the air or at ground level. Mindy Quade and Chloe Locke are among a host of defence-first Bushrangers who provide rebound as well, while up the other end, Kate Adams and Kristy Whitehead provide some experience, as does Lily Sharp who has been named at full-forward. The battle at half-forward between Adams and Chloe Leonard, and Whitehead and Molly Walton could be some of the best on the ground, with the two Rebels players their best last week.

GWV Rebels were arguably the best of the losing sides from Round 1, so should be favourites here with a great mix of talents across the ground. The Bushrangers have some great youngsters coming through, and will get better with every game.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Sunday, February 21 @ 10am
Trevor Barker Beach Oval, Sandringham

The standalone Sunday game is also between two sides that tasted defeat in Round 1, with Sandringham Dragons and Northern Knights doing battle at Trevor Barker Beach Oval. The Dragons went down to Calder after a good defensive showing in the first half, while the Knights lost their first game since the 2018 grand final, heavily beaten by Oakleigh Chargers in the second game of a double-header at Craigieburn.

In those matches, both teams were beaten statistically, though the Dragons did rank fourth in handballs for the round, and recorded the highest handball-to-kick ratio across the competition of 45.7 per cent. The Knights just could not get the ball inside 50, with just 16 entries, whilst the Dragons had their chances, but the Cannons defence proved up to the task. One area where the Knights are likely to have the advantage is in the hitouts, where Georgia Kitchell stood up well to help her side to rank first overall for Round 1, whilst the team also finished third in the rebounds.

Sandringham will still be without Bridie Hipwell who was injured in the first round, though is not too far away from returning to the action. The Dragons do get back a talented runner though, with Tayla Jones coming into the side after missing Round 1. She could go head-to-head with either AFL Women’s Academy member Maykaylah Appleby, or Brooke Plummer who provided some much needed run on the other wing. The Knights defence was one aspect that never gave in through the Round 1 loss, and led by Tarrah Delgado – who was a standout talent – and Maeve Chaplin – who provided run across the ground – will be key players once again. A battle between Delgado and Charli Murphy could be a great one to watch with the key forward starved of too many chances from the first match, whilst Keely Coyne stood out across half-forward on debut. Pia Staltari and Emma Stuber coming off half-back and Sofia Hurley through the midfield are among some other Dragons who could be key players in the game.

Both these teams will be hungry for a win, and going off Round 1 form, Sandringham have the upper hand. The Knights will be keen to bounce back from a rare loss and should take control in the ruck, but it will be the midfield where the game is won and lost.

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 1 wrap – Chargers end reigning premiers’ unbeaten streak

THE 2021 NAB League Girls season bounced down on the weekend, with a couple of surprise results thrown into a mixed bag of margins across the action-packed set of fixtures. Among the highlights, Tasmania Devils picked up its first-ever win in the competition, while Geelong won out in a thriller against the Greater Western Victoria Rebels, and Oakleigh became the first team to beat reigning premier, Northern since 2018. All that, and more in our Round 1 wrap.

>> ROUND 1: SIX MEMORABLE MOMENTS

Eastern Ranges vs. Western Jets

By: Michael Alvaro

Final term breakthroughs helped Eastern defeat the Western Jets by 21 points at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve on Saturday, making for a tense start to the 2021 NAB League Girls season. The Ranges snuck ahead by seven points at the first break and saw their margin remain identical at the end of the second and third periods, as the two sides combined to add just six behinds in that time. But come term four the stalemate was broken, with Alyssia Pisano and Scarlett Potter working to double Eastern’s previous goal tally and help their side salute 4.6 (30) to 1.3 (9).

Potter finished as the game’s sole multiple goalkicker with two, while Jemima Woods was the only Jet to find the big sticks before they were kept goalless across the final three quarters. Bridget Deed was Eastern’s most prolific ball winner, leading a hard-working bunch of contributors which included the likes of Mia Busch from defence and Olivia Meagher in midfield. Western’s Charlotte Baskaran collected a game-high 28 disposals (23 kicks) as arguably the best player afield, with tall Krystal Russell another top performer in the losing effort.

Eastern’s next fixture entails a road trip to face Gippsland in Churchill, while Western’s travel sees it cross Bass Strait to take on Round 1 winners Tasmania on the Apple Isle.

EASTERN RANGES 2.1 | 2.3 | 2.4 | 4.6 (30)
WESTERN JETS 1.0 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.3 (9)

GOALS:

Eastern: S. Potter 2, M. Hardy, A. Pisano
Western: J. Woods

DC BEST:

Eastern: B. Deed, M. Busch, O. Meagher, C. Schmidli, S. Potter, K. Sherar
Western: C. Baskaran, K. Russell, C. Sargent, T. Skenderis, M. Ham

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Charlotte Baskaran (Western)
4 – Bridget Deed (Eastern)
3 – Mia Busch (Eastern)
2 – Olivia Meagher (Eastern)
1 – Krystal Russell (Western)

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers

By: Peter Williams

Bendigo Pioneers have kick-started their season in a huge way, defeating Murray Bushrangers by 26 points at Yarrawonga on Saturday. The Pioneers piled on six consecutive goals after Murray scored the first major, including four goals in the space of 12 minutes to blow the margin out from six points to 28 points early in the third term. From there it was always going to be catch-up football for the home team, as Murray kicked the next two goals, but a last quarter settler for the Pioneers saw them get up 7.7 (49) to 3.5 (23).

Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson both kicked back-to-back goals, kicking the four consecutive goals in 12 minutes between them to haul their team into a commanding position. They were the standouts for the winners, while Lila Keck also impressed. AFL Women’s Academy member Tara Slender was able to test herself in the front half of the ground and did well, as did Madeline Marks through the ruck. For the Bushrangers, Aurora Smith had a ripping game despite the loss, while the likes of Grace Hay out of defence, and Molly Kennedy and Lily Sharp around the ground tried hard throughout the match.

In a country double-header, Bendigo Pioneers host GWV Rebels at Epsom Huntly, followed by Murray Bushrangers locking horns with Geelong Falcons in the second game at the ground.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 1.0 | 1.4 | 2.5 | 3.5 (23)
BENDIGO PIONEERS 2.1 | 4.2 | 6.4 | 7.7 (49)

GOALS:

Murray: A. Morphett, A. Pimlott, K. Whitehead.
Bendigo: E. Snell 2, J. Richardson 2, C. Mitchell, B. O’Rourke, K. Fullerton.

DC BEST:

Murray: A. Smith, G. Hay, L. Sharp, M. Kennedy, Z. Hamilton, A. Morphett
Bendigo: E. Snell, J. Richardson, L. Keck, T. Slender, M. Marks, B. O’Rourke

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo)
4 – Aurora Smith (Murray)
3 – Jayda Richardson (Bendigo)
2 – Grace Hay (Murray)
1 – Lila Keck (Bendigo)

Gippsland Power vs. Tasmania Devils

By: Peter Williams

In a statement to the rest of the competition, the Tasmania Devils showed they were no longer the newcomers to be underestimated, as they ran out 62-point winners over Gippsland Power at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The Devils took control early thanks to two first quarter goals from Amy Prokopiec, and they never looked back. With the exception of a perfectly timed set shot from Grace McRae late in the first term, the Devils always looked in control, piling on seven goals to zero after quarter time to win 10.11 (71) to 1.3 (9).

Prokopiec finished the match as the dominant forward with four majors, while Amy Bissett (two) and Claire Ransom (one) also caught the eye, as Perri King provided dash and skill through midfield. For the Power, McCrae was the standout, while Matilda Van Berkel did well stepping up into the ruck after Grace Matser went down through injury, while the likes of Sunday Brisbane and Holly Booth never stopped trying in the back 50.

Next week Gippsland Power host Eastern Ranges at Churchill, while the Devils head back home to Twins Oval where they will welcome the Western Jets.

GIPPSLAND POWER 1.2 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.3 (9)
TASMANIA DEVILS 3.3 | 5.6 | 6.8 | 10.11 (71)

GOALS:

Gippsland: G. McRae
Tasmania: A. Prokopiec 4, A. Bissett 2, C. Ransom, Z. Bourne, E. Maurer, K. Hennessy

DC BEST:

Gippsland: G. McRae, Ma. Van Berkel, S. Brisbane, T. Bourne, H. Booth, S. Notman
Tasmania: A. Prokopiec, C. Ransom, A. Bissett, P. King, O Smith, M. Gaffney

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Amy Prokopiec (Tasmania)
4 – Claire Ransom (Tasmania)
3 – Grace McRae (Gippsland)
2 – Amy Bissett (Tasmania)
1 – Perri King (Tasmania)

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels

By: Peter Williams

Fans who headed to Deakin University in Waurn Ponds were treated to a high-quality game of NAB League Girls action. Geelong Falcons and GWV Rebels went toe-for-toe for the most part of four quarters, with defensive pressure and contested marking the highlights throughout the game. Leading at quarter time, the Falcons took the early ascendancy, before the Rebels hit back to snatch the lead at the main break. Renee Tierney was becoming a problem in front of goal in the third term, booting her side’s two majors as the home team once again grabbed the lead. The Rebels pushed hard to try and edge their way back into the contest, but a match-winning final term goal from Poppy Schaap ended the contest and the Falcons got up, 5.8 (38) to 4.4 (28).

Both teams had an array of impressive performers, with Tess Craven and Annie Lee being the two standouts for the Falcons, whilst Chloe Leonard and Molly Walton were among those who worked hard in the back 50 to drive the ball clear. Both the Rebels AFL Women’s Academy players in Ella Friend and Nyakoat Dojiok showed their talent in the air and on the run respectively, while Schapp, Gabbi Featherston and Ingrid Houtsma showed plenty of potential throughout.

Both Geelong Falcons and GWV Rebels head up to Epsom Huntly in Bendigo next week, as the Rebels face the Bendigo Pioneers in the first match of a double-header, followed by the Falcons taking on the Murray Bushrangers.

GEELONG FALCONS 2.1 | 2.4 | 4.5 | 5.8 (38)
GWV REBELS 1.0 | 3.0 | 4.2 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:

Geelong: R. Tierney 2, P, Schaap, L. Were, K. Stacey
GWV: K. Tomkins, T. Meier, P. Kissell, T. Hurdsfield

DC BEST:

Geelong: T. Craven, A. Lee, R. Tierney, P. Schaap, I. Houtsma, G. Featherston
GWV: C. Leonard, M. Walton, L. Condon, E. Friend, N. Dojiok, A. Trigg

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Tess Craven (Geelong)
4 – Annie Lee (Geelong)
3 – Chloe Leonard (GWV)
2 – Molly Walton (GWV)
1 – Renee Tierney (Geelong)

Calder Cannons vs. Sandringham Dragons

By: Declan Reeve

Considered a premiere team of the competition, the Calder Cannons proved that people are right to see them as potential flag winners in season 2021 with a 16-point win over a strong Sandringham Dragons outfit at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The game was tight early on with first quarter being a contested scrap and each team only managing to hit the scoreboard for one point each. Georgie Prespakis and Bridie Hipwell were involved in everything in the first half, each setting up their respective teams’ first goal in the second quarter. The second half saw Calder sneak away with a four-goal third quarter, leading to the 6.4 (40) to 3.6 (24) victory.

Prespakis played well in the middle all game, assisted by teammate Emelia Yassir around the ground as the midfield duo was served well by the ruck dominance of tall duo Tahlia Gillard and Peppa Poultney. The latter pair rotated forward and through the ruck, with Gillard getting herself a goal later in the game. Chloe Saultry was strong in the midfield for Sandringham, as was Hipwell prior to going down early in the third quarter with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Kitty Smyth battled hard in the ruck all day, not looking out of place despite the height difference between her and her opponents, and Pia Staltari was classy coming out of defence.

Round 2 sees the Calder Cannons come up against Northern Knights at La Trobe University, whilst Sandringham will play Dandenong after the Stingrays’ Round 1 bye, at Frankston Park

CALDER CANNONS 0.1 | 2.1 | 6.4 | 6.4 (40)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 0.1 | 1.4 | 1.5 | 3.6 (24)

GOALS:

Calder: T. Gillard, M. McDonald, M. McLeod, S. Meyers, T. Read
Sandringham: E. Angelopoulos, C. Murphy, C. Saultry

DC BEST:

Calder: E. Yassir, G. Prespakis, T. Gillard, P. Poultney, k. Lennox
Sandringham: B. Hipwell, C. Saultry, P. Staltari, K. Coyne, E. Stuber

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Emilia Yassir (Calder)
4 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder)
3 – Tahlia Gillard (Calder)
2 – Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham)
1 – Chloe Saultry (Sandringham)

Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers

By: Declan Reeve

Oakleigh Chargers handed the Northern Knights their first loss since 2018 in a perfect performance to kick off 2021, defeating the reigning premiers by 55 points at Highgate Recreation Reserve. In a complete team performance, the Chargers kept the Knights scoreless for three quarters, with a solitary goal and behind in third term serving as their only scores. The Chargers flexed their muscle throughout the game to finish 1.1 (7) to 9.8 (62) winners.

Charlie Rowbottom was best afield, involved in plenty through midfield and providing similar presence up forward with two terrific goals. Stella Reid proved Oakleigh’s other standout after also booting two goals, while also causing plenty of headaches for Northern along the wing and off half-back. Opportunist forward Ameille Smith also chimed in to impact the scoreboard, while the likes of Brooke Vickers, Amanda Ling, Taylah Morton, and Eliza James were strong contributors. For Northern, Tarrah Delgado stood tall in defence, aided by the rotating Maeve Chaplin as Maykayla Appleby burst forward from the outer and Brooke Plummer worked hard.

The Chargers have a bye next week after their win, with their next game coming against Calder Cannons on Saturday February 20, at Highgate Recreation Reserve, while the Knights will face the Calder Cannons in Round 2 at La Trobe University

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 0.0 | 0.0 | 1.1 | 1.1 (7)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.1 | 3.4 | 5.7 | 9.8 (62)

GOALS:

Northern: E. Smallacombe
Oakleigh: A. Smith 3, J. Jackson 2, S. Read 2, C. Rowbottom 2

DC BEST:
Northern: 
T. Delgado, M. Chaplin, M. Appleby, T. Smart, B. Plummer
Oakleigh: C. Rowbottom, S. Read, A. Smith, B. Vickers, E. James, A. McCulloch

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh)
4 – Stella Reid (Oakleigh)
3 – Amelie Smith (Oakleigh)
2 – Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh)
1 – Tarrah Delgado (Northern)

NAB League Girls Round 1 preview: Undefeated 2020 sides to face off in huge round of action

AT least one of the three undefeated sides from the 2020 NAB League Girls season will extend their winning run to 18 months or more, when the competition returns this weekend. Starting tomorrow, the NAB League Girls will have six games across four different venues – including one double-header – in a new footballing landscape for 2021. For Dandenong Stingrays, they will have to tack on an extra week to their extended break that saw the 2020 season come to an unfulfilled end last year, after they were handed the bye. For the 12 other teams, it will be a chance to start the season off on the right note. For the likes of Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, they look to continue what they started last year, having not lost since 2019, or in the Knights’ case, the 2018 grand final.

Eastern Ranges vs. Western Jets
Saturday, February 6 @ 12pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

In what is officially the first NAB League Girls game in almost 12 months, Western Jets will cross the West Gate Bridge and head down to Kilsyth Recreation Reserve where the Eastern Ranges will be waiting for them. These teams last played way back in Round 4, 2019, when the Ranges easily accounted for the Jets by 43 points. A dominant second half where they booted 6.2 to 0.0 saw them run out 7.4 to 0.3 winners, with Olivia Meagher picking up 17 disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s.

Meagher has been named for the match tomorrow, with last year’s captain to play as a 19-year-old prospect in 2020. She is the only Ranges player from that match to remain on the list, whilst a trio of then 15-year-old talents in Caitlin Sargent, Trinity Skenderis and Jemima Woods – as well as now top-age and over-age talents respectively, Nikita Wright and Ciara Singleton – all remain on the Jets’ list having played in that match.

Looking at the teams, the match will be won and lost in the middle, with the Jets having some great height, whilst the Ranges have speed to burn. That is not to say the respective teams do not have the opposite as well, but they are damaging in their respective areas. For the home team, Jorja Livingstone was a player who really shone last year and is a clean ball user and able to work her way out of stoppages. She will team up with the likes of Meagher and Bridget Deed in the middle, roving Georgia Campbell‘s taps. Up forward, Matilda Hardy, Jade Hutchison and Isabella Khoury are ones to watch, whilst Saskia Nannes will be a potential big improver with more matches after having the season cut short last year.

For Western, their under-age group is brimming with talent, though now with extra experience, Sargent, Skenderis and Woods will be among those to watch. Montana Ham and Charlotte Baskaran present as two of the top 2022 prospects, with Ham’s versatility and size through the midfield hard to match, while Baskaran’s run and carry – as well as her elite use by foot – will provide a one-two punch that is always difficult to combat.

This is a game that could go right down to the wire, and difficult to predict with so many new players, but Eastern might have the upper hand at home.

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.15pm
JC Lowe Oval, Yarrawonga

From the east to the far north, Murray Bushrangers will host Bendigo Pioneers in a terrific spectacle for the country regions at Yarrawonga. Both these teams have a talented tall in the AFL Women’s Academy which makes things exciting. These two teams have also not played since March 30, 2019 when the Pioneers – during their most successful season to-date – toppled the Bushrangers by 14 points in Wangaratta.

That day it was Annabel Strahan (now Bulldogs) who had 20 touches, seven tackles, five inside 50s and a goal) and Brooke Hards (17 disposals, three marks, 11 tackles, four inside 50s and three rebounds) who teamed up to cause havoc on the Bushrangers, while Millie Brown (now Geelong) racked up 27 disposals and six rebounds, and Abby Favell (22 disposals, five marks eight tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds) were the best for the losing side.

A then 15-year-old Ally Morphett had 11 disposals, two marks, 14 hitouts and two inside 50s, with the now AFL Women’s Academy member looming as the key player for the Bushrangers. Bendigo’s Academy member Tara Slender also played in that match, picking up seven disposals and having six hitouts, though the pair are unlikely to spend too much time one-on-one considering Slender will roll through a key position role and Morphett will be one of the dominant rucks in the competition.

Looking at the overall squads, Murray’s defence is strong given the likes of Mindy Quade and Kristy Whitehead provided plenty of run down there – though could be utilised further up the ground this season. Lily Sharp has been touted as one to watch by the Bushrangers’ coaching staff following a big off-season, and Keeley Skepper remains one of Vic Country’s top talents for 2022. Kate Adams returning as co-captain and providing experience and strength in the midfield will also be important.

For the Pioneers, Slender could be the top Vic Country prospect this year and will always be difficult to beat in the air, with the Pioneers’ captain not having to shoulder the ruck load given Madeline Marks‘ efforts in 2020. She will have her hands full against Morphett but it could be a fascinating battle, while Jayda Richardson, and now top-age talents Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning provide much needed experience to a really young Pioneers outfit.

Murray is excited about the depth of its squad in 2021, and while the Pioneers have some great young talents coming through, the extra experience for the Bushrangers – and what they started to show last year – should have them favourites at home in Yarrawonga.

Gippsland Power vs. Tasmania Devils
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.30pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In a battle between two teams that are building exciting programs, Gippsland Power “hosts” Tasmania Devils at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The furthest south east side travel up the highway to welcome the league’s newest team that only managed to taste one game in Victoria last year. The Devils had a rough introduction to the NAB League Girls competition – though the improvement from their brutal loss to Oakleigh Chargers to being competitive for the most part against Eastern Ranges has plenty of people buoyant about what they could produce in 2021.

These teams have never played before, and both have younger lists, sprinkled with some top-age and over-age experience. Key position players Camilla Taylor and Shanara Notman are the 20-year-old allowances in those sides, and have the size to cause a matchup dilemma for their respective opponents. Tasmania Devils have the sole AFL Women’s Academy member in this match, with the speedy Perri King looking to breakdown the Power’s zones and create some important run and carry for her side.

Aside from King, Amy Prokopiec remains a player to watch, having predominantly played as a last-line defender in previous seasons for the Devils, but became a reliable goalscoring threat in the TSL Women’s for Clarence. Other players who stood out 12 months ago include Jemma Blair, Aprille Crooks, Chelsea Thomas, Zoe Bourne and Meghan Gaffney. Having received an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite without managing to get on the park in the NAB League Girls, Charlie Vandenberg will get a great opportunity in the ruck and rotating forward with Taylor against one of Vic Country’s top ruck prospects.

Grace Matser is going to be difficult to stop, with the ruck battle set to be a duel within the match not to be missed. As the only Power player above 180cm, she will look to control the airways. The Gippsland midfield has some nice depth to it, with Grace McRae returning to the fold after being unlucky to miss out on the draft in 2020, and will get a good chance to play consecutive games this season. Matilda Van Berkel is another one with experience and able to play a number of roles, while Holly Booth and Sunday Brisbane are among those tipped to cause problems for the opposition. One name to remember for next year is Lily-Rose Williamson who has come through the V/Line Cup program and been one ready to step up at the level.

This game is as 50/50 as they come, so as is often the case in 50/50 games, we will lean towards the “home” team in Gippsland Power, though Tasmania Devils will be keen to sniff out their first win in the competition.

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Deakin University – Geelong

The final country game of the round occurs down in Geelong at Deakin University when the Falcons host the GWV Rebels. Much like the earlier two Saturday games, these two teams last played back in Round 4, 2019, when the Falcons – on their way to another finals series and coming off a premiership in 2018 – defeated the young Rebels by 36 points at City Oval in Ballarat. Luka Lesosky-Hay (31 disposals), Darcy Moloney (23) and Lucy McEvoy (22) all suffered leather poisoning and showed why they were capable of playing at the top level, whilst Nekaela Butler picked up 21 disposals and had six rebounds bravely defending for the home team.

There are a sprinkling of players from that day that remain on the lists in 2021, such as AFL Women’s Academy member Ella Friend, and Chloe Leonard and Crystal Summers (GWV Rebels), and Zoe Garth, Renee Tierney, Poppy Schapp and Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong). Those players will provide great experience for their respective sides in that clash, in what is sure to feature some of the best talent in the NAB League Girls competition.

The Falcons might not have an Academy member, but have plenty of developing young players, with Dowling a presence in the back half but can play anywhere, Annie Lee beside her in defence, Keeley Hardingham controlling the ruck, and Mia Van Dyke a bottom-age prospect who will be one to watch for next year able to roll through the midfield. Geelong has always been a team flushed with depth, and 2021 appears to be the same, with no shortage of talent across all three lines.

Alongside Friend – who will be that taller marking target at half-forward – Nyakoat Dojiok is the other AFL Women’s Academy member on the Rebels’ list. The running defender could start off half-back or roam along a wing depending on the team’s needs, able to add that mix of power and acceleration to breakaway from would-be tacklers. Leonard returns to the club as a new top-ager and one who will settle down the defence, while Stephanie Glover, Lilli Condon and Summers are some of the names to watch in the match.

Geelong have had such success over the past few years, it is hard to look past them at home. The Rebels will provide a great contest, but we will find out where both these teams are at following the Round 1 encounter.

Calder Cannons vs. Sandringham Dragons
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In the first double-header of the year, a star-studded Calder Cannons outfit hosts an ever-growing talent base in the Sandringham Dragons. The last time these two met was in 2019 back in Round 3, as the Cannons went on to make the grand final that year. They only scored two behinds in the first half and trailed by five points at the main break, before booting the last four goals of the game to win 4.8 (32) to 1.3 (9) over the Dragons at Trevor Barker Oval.

Alice Burke (St Kilda) and Sarah Hartwig (Bulldogs) were among the top players for the Dragons, whilst it was Georgia Patrikios (St Kilda) and Krstel Petrevski (Melbourne) who shone from those who have been drafted. Best on ground that day was Georgie Prespakis who lit it up with 23 disposals, three marks, eight tackles, four inside 50s and two rebounds. The now-Cannons captain will look to have an equally big impact this year, while Emelia Yassir, Kasey Lennox, Alisa Magri, Zali Friswell and Neve Crowley are just a handful of the talented names who also played as 15/16-year-old talents on that day.

The Cannons have proven to have such great development over the past few years, and all the above names along with Mali McLeod, Peppa Poultney and Jessica Zakkour makes them a rock solid team across the board. Though their opponents are no slouches either. Back in the 2019 clash, now-captain Kiana Lynch, as well as the likes of Charli Murphy, Summer Trim, Emma Stuber, Isabella Stutt, Ebony Angelopoulos and Chloe Saultry all took to the field, so the Dragons have a core of players with plenty of experience under their belt.

Murphy will provide that marking target up forward, while Lynch will lead a host of bottom-agers with future potential. Bridie Hipwell and Sofia Hurley are just a couple of names who still have another year to go after this one, but are becoming key players in the Dragons outfit going forward. They made great strides last season and play what would be considered the benchmark team in the competition first-up here.

Calder Cannons deserve to be favourites for the overall title, so it is hard to tip against them in any game. The Dragons will be up and about and likely to be among the contenders this season too, so buckle up for an exciting contest.

Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers
Sunday, February 7 @ 12.45pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Wrapping up the weekend might just be the tightest of the lot, with both Northern Knights and Oakleigh Chargers going undefeated last year, and technically the Knights are still the reigning premiers from 2019. Both these sides had a host of players drafted in 2020, with the Knights having the first three Victorian players taken in the draft. These two sides played back in Round 2, 2019, when they played out a thrilling draw in what would be the only match where the Knights did not collect the full points that season.

Future AFL Women’s talents, Ellie McKenzie, Britney Gutknecht, Gabby Newton and Alyssa Bannan were the best for the Knights, while Mimi Hill, Joanna Lin, Alana Porter and Emily Harley all shone for the Chargers. Also playing that day was now AFL Women’s Academy member, Maykaylah Appleby who leads the Knights charge in 2021, with Teleah Smart, Mikayla Plunkett, Jessica Simpson and Tallia Pulcino among the current-listed Northern players running around that day.

Appleby is the one to watch this season, but the Knights have brought back a host of top-age players such as Plunkett, Pulcino, Maeve Chaplin, Trinity Mills and Gulia Ceravolo, so have plenty of experience to guide the next crop of Knights talents. Some names to watch this year aside from the above group with a point to prove are the likes of defender Tarrah Delgado and ruck Georgia Kitchell who showed some promising signs in the short 2020 season.

The Chargers had the likes of Taylah Morton, Kalarni Kearns, Charlie Rowbottom, Eliza James and Emma Chamberlain running around in the draw with the Knights, and have been growing some phenomenal depth of late. Rowbottom is the AFL Women’s Academy talent and if she crosses paths with Appleby, it will provide plenty of highlights. Add in the likes of top-ager Amanda Ling, middle-ager Stella Reid, and bottom-ager Rianna Thiele, and the Chargers have built an exciting list.

Another 50/50 split game that could go either way. It is hard to look past the Knights’ success rate, but what the Chargers were starting to do last year, the depth is among the best going around so Oakleigh could become the first team to knock off Northern in almost three years.

Gippsland powers through adversity

EVERY NAB League club has had its past 12 months thrown into chaos by a global pandemic that no one could have predicted. While all have come through stronger, Gippsland Power is a team no stranger to having to overcome challenges that impact more than just the footballing landscape.

In 2020, the Power’s preseason was impacted due to the bushfires and subsequent smoke that raged in the south east of the state, forcing many to improvise. When asked if the club, and in particular the group of the past 12 months was resilient, there was little doubt in Gippsland Power coach, Rhett McLennan‘s mind.

“It seems that way,” he said. “They really roll with the punches well, this group of girls. “Regardless of what it’s been, whether it’s been bushfires, whether it’s been a global pandemic, when they’ve actually turned up to training, it seems to have been their sole focus and they’ve been a pleasure to coach so far.”

The new landscape of NAB League football means lists are younger, with only a handful of what used to be over-agers (19-year-olds) and some inexperienced 18 and 17-year-olds due to the season cancellation. McLennan admitted the Power’s 2021 side would be young, but he was excited about their potential.

“Primarily we’re fairly young,” McLennan said. “But I’d imagine that a lot of the NAB League teams are as well because you won’t take as many top-age girls through, so it’s probably a little bit different in a structure being Under 19s than it was Under 18s. “We’re young, we’re developing, but we think when we look across a section of our list, we’ve got some speed and we’re also got some skill in regards to that, so the way that we move the ball I think will be a lot quicker, and when we’re on I think we’ll be a pretty exciting team to watch.”

On last year’s group, there were a number of players in contention to be drafted, and AFL Women’s Academy member Megan Fitzsimon was lucky enough to have her named called out on draft night, credit to her consistency over the past few seasons. Gippsland Power Gameday Operations Coordinator Chelsea Caple said Fitzsimon had earned a spot at the elite level and her work had already been recognised by Melbourne when she was selected for Round 1.

“She’s pretty lucky that she’s been a pretty consistent player with us over the past few years,” Caple said. “Unlike Grace McRae that probably needed 2020 to really show the recruiters what she had, Megan was lucky that she had that experience and that consistency with playing, so we’re incredibly proud that she got picked up by Melbourne to be playing with the likes of other Gippsland Power players in Tyla Hanks. “I think it’s a great environment for her and we’re excited to see her play Round 1.”

McRae is one of four 19-year-old talents returning to the side, with Shanara Notman also returning as the new over-ager, turning 20 this year. Asked if the new Under 19s competition gave players more hope given they had effectively missed their top-age – or in Notman’s case, over-age – year, there would be more opportunities, Caple was optimistic.

“It’s clever to give the girls that weren’t drafted another opportunity, because we see girls who just do need more game experience that will be able to get that,” Caple said. “But I think the ones we’ve brought back have really stepped up at training and have been taking the lead and there’s such a vast majority. “The vast range of age groups, we’ve got quite young girls playing with our 19-year-olds which is something we need to consider as well when we go into playing games.”

As for the roles the older players will take up for the 2021 season, McLennan said it would depend on the circumstance, but it was likely they would find themselves tested in unfamiliar roles to showcase their versatility.

“We’ve done a little bit of match simulation over the past couple of weeks so what we’re looking forward to actually seeing just in regards to our training is flexibility in our players,” McLennan said. “Where they’ve previously played, we might find that they’re better suited for their talents in different spots. “But our main goal is to showcase the girls’ talents and however we can do that, or wherever we can put them on the field to do that.”

After such an extended period of time off, McLennan, Caple and the Power coaching staff had to work out a way to reintroduce the players back to group training after so many isolated, individual training sessions.

“Our focus initially was to make sure there was a lot of enjoyment in training so it was just making sure they could go out there and have a kick and have fun again because of such an unprecedented year and the isolation that came with it,” McLennan said.

“That initial process of making it fun, now it’s transformed into ‘okay let’s get ourselves game ready’ and the attitude has been excellent. “We’ve really emphasised that we have attitude and energy towards each training session. “All the girls that have turned up to those sessions, I can’t fault in that space, it’s really good.”

Each year there are players who put in strong seasons and show their wares as a potential future AFL Women’s or VFL Women’s player. After the pre-season and having seen a number of the players step it up before the season was cancelled last year, McLennan said there were a number of players who were ones to watch in 2021.

“Grace McRae, Matilda Van Berkel, those two are really two we expect a lot from that are willing to show that,” McLennan said. “Holly Booth I think has been really solid in regards to her preseason and she gives us a lot of stability down back. “Then we’ve got some really exciting young talent, Yazzy (Yasmin) Duursma I think could play a lot of different positions on the ground. Her skills as a footballer are developing, but her skills as an athlete are already there, so she’s someone we could be really excited about.

“The other one is Lily-Rose Williamson who played a little bit of a football last year as a very young player. “She’s had another year to mature, she has great football talent and skill, and if we can harness that then she will be an extremely good footballer for this season.”

McLennan said there were another couple of names who have been tearing up the track – both with the club and during the isolation period – that could have a huge impact this season.

“I think the two real standouts, Grace Matser, she’s our ruck from Korumburra, she’s done a power of work over that lockdown period and showed great self-motivation to get herself in fantastic condition and still develop has been sensational,” he said.

“The other one is Sunday Brisbane, so Sunday is the opposite end of Grace, she’s only 156cm, but she’s incredibly fit, worked a lot on her skills. “Her skills in close are actually fantastic, her cleanness for the ball has been fantastic as well, and we’re expecting to see a lot of improvement from Sunday this season.”

Gippsland Power will adopt its long-standing attitude of being a difficult opposition to play against. McLennan said the game plan would be “relatively simple”, but effective if the team was able to stand up defensively. He was confident the team would make strides this season, and said both the playing group and coaching staff were pumped to run out for Round 1 of the season.

“We’re excited, we can’t wait for footy to start,” McLennan said. “I don’t know who’s more excited, the coaches or the players. “But we just can’t wait to get out there and coach just as I’m sure the girls can’t wait to get out there and actually play and have a scoreboard and let the competitive juices flow.”

Gippsland Power takes on Tasmania Devils at Highgate Recreation Reserve on Saturday in the NAB League Girls’ first match in 11 months.

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Gippsland Power

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at one of the sides to have only played the two games to-date, having been competitive in patches, but still losing both matches, Gippsland Power.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Geelong Falcons by 33 points
R2: Bye
R3: lost to Sandringham Dragons by 52 points

While the season has been cut short for the Power players, their first round loss to Geelong Falcons was brave outside the scoreboard. There were times where the Power was able to sustain the forward thrusts by the 2018 premiers, and have control themselves. A slow start against Sandringham cost the Power, but full credit to them winning the second half of that contest.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Matilda Van Berkel (16.0 disposals, 5.5 marks, 27.5 hitouts, 4.0 tackles, 2.5 inside 50s, 2.5 rebounds)

The talented tall was the best Power player across the two games, thrust into the ruck duties due to injuries to other players, and not only did the key position player tick the required boxes, but she thrived. Van Berkel dominated the hitouts with 27.5 per game, and worked hard around the ground to provide a target for her teammates to finish with 16.0 disposals, 5.5 marks, 4.0 tackles, 2.5 inside 50s and 2.5 rebounds. She was often the link in the chain between defence and offence and the fact the season ended early would be frustrating as she looked like one of the biggest improvers for her top-age season.

Megan Fitzsimon (19.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 6.0 tackles, 4.0 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds, 2 goals)

The sole Gippsland Power AFL Women’s National Academy member, Fitzsimon continued where she left off last season, and was okay in the first round before really taking control in Round 3. She was best afield for the Power in their loss to the Dragons, and in 2020 showed off her defensive pressure (six tackles per game) to go with his ball-winning abilities (19.5 disposals). Fitzsimon has also been able to get the ball forward with four inside 50s per game, as well as get on the end of a couple of majors with two goals to her name.

Grace McRae (15.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 6.5 tackles, 4.0 rebounds, 1 goal)

The tough inside midfielder thrives on the contested side of the game and showed signs in her middle-age last year before taking on a bigger role again in 2020. She averaged the 15.5 disposals and 6.5 tackles per game to kick off the season, and most importantly she works hard defensively to help out her teammates. In two games she averaged four rebounds a game, but also got forward to kick an important goal back in Round 1, which helped keep her team in the game.

Shanara Notman (12.5 disposals, 2.5 marks, 1.0 hitouts, 2.0 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 3.5 rebounds)

After missing out on being drafted last year, Notman returned to the side as an overager and did not miss a beat, impressing in the opening round and being a terrific interceptor in the defensive 50. Injury curtailed her 2019 season, but did not stop her having a late impact and making the Vic Country squad where she played up the other end as a key forward, who could also float through the ruck. The talented tall was back inside defensive 50 to start the NAB League Girls season this year, where she averaged the 12.5 disposals, 2.5 marks and 3.5 rebounds, starring in the opening round of the season.

Leyla Berry (10.0 disposals, 1.0 marks, 6.5 hitouts, 1.0 tackles, 2.5 rebounds)

Having not played since her middle-age year back in 2018, another overager who showed her experience in the early stages of the season was Berry who helped out with the ruck duties. She averaged the 6.5 hitouts, but was often stationed off half-back where she can find the ball and run with it down the field. She gets to the right positions and averaged the 10 disposals and 2.5 rebounds per game as she was the fifth Gippsland Power player to find plenty of the ball in the opening rounds.

Others who have stood out: Holly Booth, Sunday Brisbane, Alexei Guy-Toogood, Lily-Rose Williamson

The Power have a lot of talented youngsters that could fit into this group, some of which have played in previous years and others that are coming through the program and are at NAB League Girls level for the first time. Booth had good experience last year playing six games, but has already doubled her ball-winning ability, playing in the back half of the ground and able to run through the midfield. Brisbane and Guy-Toogood are both smalls who never back down and win the ball with the former running along a wing and the latter deep in defence. Given all three are middle-agers, expect to see them again in 2021 if the rest of the season does not commence. The fourth player to raise is bottom-ager Williamson who shone through the V/Line Cup and was only allowed the one game last year, but is one to keep an eye on in the coming years as a high-potential player through that midfield, who will often come off half-back and use her speed and skill to advantage.

V/Line Cup Girls: Team by Team summary

WE headed down to Gippsland last week to check out the V/Line Cup competition for the Under 16s Girls, with draft eligibility ranging from the 2020 to 2022 draft. We summarised each game, mentioning some of the players from each team which caught the eye.

 

Bendigo Pioneers:

lost to Western Bulldogs NGA by 16 points

Bendigo had some standouts with Tara Slender being the pick of the bunch on the day. Her courage in defence was terrific, taking a number of strong contested marks, and positioned herself well in marking contests. With ball-in-hand, Slender tried to move the ball quickly and take the game on as well. Katelyn Hazlett was another who impressed, showing off her hard running and long kicking. In one instance she sidestepped an opponent and handballed to a teammate while copping contact to allow a teammate to goal, then hit the scoreboard herself. Lily Denhouting and Shelby Hooker were others who caught the eye at times, with Denhouting trying to break the lines off half-back, and Hooker having a nice kicking action and strong defensive pressure. Maeve Tupper played last season with the Bendigo Pioneers as a small forward, and again was prominent in the loss.

lost to Geelong Falcons by 36 points

Tupper was named best by the Pioneers was her impressive work again, while one that stood out was Imogen O’Neil. She took a courageous mark going back against multiple opponents and was strong in defence in her efforts to clear the defensive zone through rebounding. She just patrolled Bendigo’s backline superbly. Slender was one again a standout, starting in the ruck and moving well around the ground with clean hands, good defensive positioning and a strong mark. Eliza Bell had a few really nice highlights, including a thumping kick out of the middle but just bounced the wrong side of the post, and she was also really strong one-on-one. Hooker was good at half-back and pushing up through the middle with some strong intercept marks, while Denhouting showed good speed and skills.

 

Geelong Falcons:

defeated Southern Stingrays 2 by 81 points

For Geelong, it was a huge team effort, but Kara Stacey was named best on from a top performance on the wing. She read the play well and attacked the footy, creating space for her teammates. Darcey Moloney started onball and did a good job up forward in the second half, creating opportunities and setting up goals. Annie Lee played at half-back, then moved into the midfield in the second half, showing off her clean skills and smarts. Mia Van Dyke is remarkably three days away from only being eligible for the 2023 draft, but still the late 2004 born tall half-forward kicked two goals and stood out, while Elizabeth Dowling was also impressive starting down back before going forward and booting three goals.

defeated Bendigo Pioneers by 36 points

Another impressive team performance from the Falcons who powered out of the blocks early, and raced to a 45-point lead by the final break, while they conceded three goals in the final term, they were clearly the best team on the day. Tess Craven was one that impressed, showing great strength overhead and at ground level, a really nice kick and a good mover. She was not afraid to take the opposition on and fend-off opponents, while remaining composed. Moloney was once again impressive, with her highlight being a powerful kick from 30m out straight in front to boot a goal off general play. Van Dyke showed off a textbook kicking action, finding space and always looking dangerous inside 40. Rhiarn Shaw was impressive with her game smarts, dribbling the ball along the ground and beating two opponents to set up a teammate for a goal. Tamika Lewis showed great game smarts with her decision not to blaze away tight against the boundary line near the behind post, instead looking into the corridor and hitting up a target for a goal assist. Lucy Were was also prominent inside 50 with three goals.

 

Gippsland Power:

lost to Southern Stingrays 1 by 33 points

Gippsland’s Kiana Te Huia who showed great acceleration and power off the mark, taking the game on with some runs along the wing, while also applying good defensive pressure. Lily-Rose Williamson was terrific in the first half before copping a knock. Williamson showed great run out of defence, looked to break lines and take the game on. She also showed good strength to shrug off the tackler. Holly Booth was admirable in defence with her body positioning and pressure, taking either the mark or clearing the ball under pressure. Macie Gilmour booted the Power’s only goal in the first term off a step in what was an impressive effort, while Abbey Hardwick was strong in defence. Charli Abbott showed her smarts to be able to not take possession but kick into space to try and gain some extra time, while Laura Meneilly showed good pressure.

lost to North East Border by 80 points

In Gippsland’s second game of the carnival, the same three that stood out in game one were also impressive in game two, with Williamson the best with her great combination of power, speed and composure. She does not feel rushed and seems to use the ball well whenever she has it. What she does that very few at her age do, is she directs traffic while on the move, telling her teammates to move in a certain direction so she can put it to their advantage. Te Huia copped a knock to her leg late in the game, but her acceleration and power is superb, as is Holly Booth’s strength and consistency in defence. Ruck, Grace Matser was good above her head and a consistent kick playing between the middle and up forward. Others who had some promising signs included Siarra Peters, who was a good mark and solid kick, and Taylah McNaughton who moved well through traffic.

 

Goulburn Murray:

lost to Southern Stingrays 1 by 24 points

It was a low-scoring game and while Goulburn Murray were strong defensively, they went down to Southern Stingrays by four goals. Charli Dorrity was named Goulburn’s Murray best in their loss to the Southern Stingrays, along with Alana McMillan who has some great speed and acceleration. McMilan has that agility to weave through opposition players and is a really eye-catching player. Georgia Gall‘s height and strength around the ground proved important, while Ruby Davies and Maya Ingram were also named among the best. Maddison Bloor was Goulburn Murray’s sole goal kicker on the day.

lost to Western Bulldogs NGA by 36 points

In the final game of the round that was reduced to 10-minute quarters due to a player in the previous match being taken to hospital, Goulburn Murray went down to the Bulldogs by six goals. But one player who was unbelievable was Gall, who played a terrific four quarter effort. Gall hauled in contested marks in each third of the ground and would create run through her booming kick. She had the kick out duties, as well as provided a marking target through the middle, then had a shot on goal late in the game but just missed. Jemma Jeffrey kicked the only goal of the final term after being awarded a free kick for too high, and converted the set shot. Mani Foubister was really impressive with a run-down tackle to stop a certain goal early on, then also created some offensive drive out of the backline with run and carry along the wing. Chloe Locke was equally impressive running both ways, showing good composure under pressure to step around an opponent and kick long, then save a certain goal 20m out with a fantastic tackle.

 

North East Border:

defeated Gippsland Power by 80 points

Picking best players in the North East Border side was very difficult, with so many impressive players in the team’s 80-point win. Elly Robilliard was one who stood out, particularly in the second half with some long kicks and great defensive tackles. She was also strong one-on-one the marking contest. Keeley Skepper was also very good out of defence, with a nice penetrating kick and good movement from the back half. Leela Rosser proved to be a handful up forward, booting a few goals and having another few opportunities with her strength a handful for opposition defenders. Sarah Egan showed off her lightning quick set of wheels with a huge run down the wing in the second term, while Madison Gray had a very classy moment where she picked up the ball in the second quarter, put on the after burners and kicked a goal under pressure.

defeated Southern Stingrays 2 by 52 points

Egan’s speed and X-factor was on show in the second big win, booting three goals and named among North East Border’s best in victory over the Southern Stingrays’ second side. Rosser booted another two goals and is shaping as a promising forward, while Skepper’s continual impressive work from the defensive 50 stood out to be named North East Border’s best on the day. Meg Allan has proved to be strong overhead and was impressive in the second game, while Gray and Zali Spencer were also named among the best.

 

Southern Stingrays:

defeated Gippsland Power by 33 points

For Southern Stingrays, Georgia Grimmer was dangerous up forward for four quarters. She just booted the one goal early on, taking a strong mark and using her powerful kick. She has clean hands and gave her team scoring opportunities, missing a few chances but always looking a chance to score. Paige Stone looked slick through the midfield, a player who moves well and was impressive by foot, while Jennifer MacDonald laid a great run-down tackle on the wing and also had very nice speed. Alexei Guy-Toogood and Jaide Anthony both hit the scoreboard with multiple goals.

defeated Goulburn Murray by 24 points

Grimmer was again busy against Goulburn Murray in the Stingrays’ four-goal win, booting two goals and acting as a presence up forward. Jemma Radford was named the Stingrays’ best, and she stood out in the back half, while Guy-Toogood and Jessica Stepanavicius both booted a goal in the win. Maddison Stained has good strength and power out of a stoppage to be able to kick forward, while Isabella Ciavola is strong defensively and able to lay some good tackles. Alexandra Smith has some eye-catching speed, while Ashleigh Richards provides a target, with strong hands overhead.

 

Southern Stingrays 2:

lost to Geelong Falcons by 81 points

While they were well beaten on the day by Geelong Falcons, Southern Stingrays’ second side had a few strong contributors named in their best. Abbie Power was named the losing side’s top player, while Georgia Pabst and Skye Haslem were also impressive. Zali Hazledine hit the scoreboard with the Stingrays’ only major in the second term.

lost to North East Border by 52 points

The Stingrays’ second side had another comprehensive loss to another strong side in North East border, but there were still some solid highlights in the match. Rhianna Clemow was named the Stingrays’ best in the win, while Alisha Liddle booted the sole Stingrays goal and provided some excitement up forward. Haslem and Rhiannon Murray were also named among the Stingrays’ best, as was Aurora Smith.

 

Western Bulldogs NGA:

defeated Bendigo Pioneers by 16 points

Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy had a number of impressive players, with Jemima Woods standing out with her ability to play anywhere. She showed some great offensive and defensive traits, and in one instance she was able to kick across her body under pressure and hit-up a target laterally. She spent the second half in the back line and provided good run out of there, and just has a level head with good composure. Crystal Summers was busy in the opening term, booting two ripping goals both from general play, with her second being from a tough angle without much time. She moved well and also played in defence in the second half. Ally Trigg was also impressive and looked to have the smarts and kicking ability to put it to the right spots and was another standout on the day.

defeated Goulburn Murray by 36 points

It was another impressive performance from the Bulldogs as they overcame a strong defensive unit in Goulburn Murray to record a six-goal win. A really strong team performance, there seemed to be very few standouts with so many good little efforts from a lot of the players – 12 of which were worthy of notes from our end. Shelby Nolte caught the eye with a terrific intercept mark from a kick-in 40m out early, then nailed the long-range set shot goal. She got involved in the back half winning the football and kicking long, and used her body to be a presence at half-back as well. Summers and Woods were among the better players again, with Summers booting two goals and taking some strong marks, always thinking ahead of time, while Woods was so clean above her head and kicked a very nice goal from a clean grab and turn. Ella Friend was clinical in front of goal with two majors, showing good courage in the air, strong hands and a textbook action. She kicked one goal from a set shot and one from general play with a quick snap under pressure. Others who were impressive were Jorja Hammond who created some good opportunities inside 50 and constantly looked dangerous, Dina Gattek who moved well at half-back and had a couple of great defensive efforts with tackles and blocks, and Tahlia Meier, who moved well through traffic and was strong overhead for a smaller player. Victoria Jewell showed great acceleration out of the stoppage, but had a funny moment at one point, bursting away from the centre clearance and kicking inside 50, the only problem? She had run the wrong way, but it was luckily marked by her teammate in defence.

 

Note: Names were taken from the V/Line Cup Record, with SportsTG results system overriding them where they differed.