Tag: imogen barnett

2021 VFLW Round 8 preview: Anzac Day rivals lock horns at The Hangar

ANZAC Day matches take centre stage, along with a Friday night blockbuster at Whitten Oval, in what is anticipated to be a fantastic round of Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s action for Round 8 of the competition.

WESTERN BULLDOGS vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Friday, April 23 @ 7:30pm
Whitten Oval

A mammoth win last Sunday afternoon against Darebin saw Western Bulldogs jump from eleventh to eighth on the VFL Women’s table, and draw to within four points of the top six. They will have plenty of percentage to catch up on after some disappointing losses, but the team that currently holds sixth spot is their opponents on Friday night, the Southern Saints. The Saints have a healthy percentage thanks to a similar belting of the Falcons back in Round 5, which had actually snapped a three-game losing streak. They did go down to the unbeaten Magpies last week, so will be seeking to bounce back against the Dogs in this clash. Tara Bohanna is a key player for the Saints, booting eight goals in seven games to be within reach of top spot on the table. Valerie Moreau and Gabbi De Angelis have both slotted four majors, to give the Saints a pretty potent forward line. Alice Burke ran rampant last week with 35 touches, whilst the dangerous Renee Saulitis is another small who can inject pace and class around goals. By comparison, Mary Sandral leads the Dogs’ goalkicking with the four majors, but was injured during the clash against the Falcons, On debut Western Jets’ Jemima Woods slotted three majors, though it is expected she will return for the NAB League Girls’ final clash. Danielle Marshall hit the scoreboard last week, while the return of Nell Morris-Dalton and Eleanor Brown to complement the side was important. Last time they were under lights the Dogs had a shocker against the Magpies, but expect them to be much better here against the Saints in what should be a thrilling contest.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, April 24 @ 10:00am
ETU Stadium

The top of the table Port Melbourne host Casey Demons in an early Saturday morning clash. The Borough saw off their greatest challenge to-date last week, overcoming Carlton from several goals down to remain undefeated from seven matches. The Demons, led by Imogen Milford who slammed home six majors, were too strong for Hawthorn despite the Hawks’ best efforts at Box Hill. If the Demons can continue that form – with more AFL Women’s players available – expect them to really give the ladder leaders a run for their money. Only Port and Collingwood have scored more than the Demons this season, which makes them a potent attack led by Milford (12 goals), while Niamh McEvoy (five) and Brenna Tarrant (five from Round 1) all damaging. Eliza West is the in-form midfielder, having collected more touches than any other player this season at an average of 22.3 disposals, as well as 4.3 tackles. Being able to hit the scoreboard with four majors makes her a threat forward of centre, and the Borough will need to be aware of that, whether it is the likes of Philippa Peschke or Mel Kuys who might be opposed to her. Sophie Locke is second on the goalkicking charts but has been recovering from injury, whilst Emily Harley (five goals) and Cleo Saxon-Jones (four) have been hitting the scoreboard in less games, while Sabrina Frederick has scored two majors in each of her matches thus far. The Borough should be favourites at home, but the Demons have enough talent to bring in that could worry the ladder leaders.

DAREBIN vs. GEELONG
Saturday, April 24 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

Back-to-back home games for Darebin Falcons gives the standalone side a chance to jump off the bottom of the table with a win in this contest. The Falcons knocked off North Melbourne a fortnight ago, but felt the pinch of a Dogs side that recalled a number of AFL Women’s talents in Round 7. They have to find a way to knock off a red-hot Cats outfit that will have similar AFL Women’s numbers to the Dogs last week, with most of those players being able to hit the scoreboard. Geelong has only lost to the top two sides, and has won their past three matches to sit fourth overall, percentage behind Essendon. with Casey Demons not too far behind, the visitors cannot afford to take the Falcons lightly. Olivia Barber is a goal-scoring threat when in the side having kicked six goals in just two games, whilst regulars, Claudia Gunjaca (five), Stephanie Williams (five) and Georgia Clarke (four) can also do damage. Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner and Carly Remmos will be the future of the AFL Women’s side and are teaming up well through the VFLW midfield, while Tamara Smith leads all-comers with tackles, and Paige Sheppard is one of the most prominent ball-winners in the league. Nicole Callinan is the one to stop for the Falcons, averaging 23 disposals, six marks and 5.5 tackles working hard in the back 50 and pushing up the ground to try and drive her team forward. The Bulldogs premiership player has been a welcome addition to the side, with Sidney Cubasch returning last week and likely to assert herself in the ruck, Samara David impressed around the ground having also kicked the five goals this season, while Stephanie Simpson might not have hit the scoreboard last week against a strong Bulldogs defence, but slotted four the previous week. The Falcons will leapfrog Hawthorn – if the Hawks lose on Sunday – but it will be a very tough ask with Geelong in ripping form and expect the Cats to continue that form in Round 8.

HAWTHORN vs. WILLIAMSTOWN
Sunday, April 25 @ 10:30am
Box Hill City Oval

Two of the bottom three clash in what could be one of the closest matches of the round. Hawthorn has been pretty impressive this season and arguably undeserving of eleventh on the ladder. They pushed the Demons last week and can leapfrog the Seagulls here with a win, having averaged more points than their opponents, but also having conceded a lot more as well. Each week Bec Goddard manages to bring in AFL Women’s talent, as Georgia Bevan, Kristy Stratton, Tamara Luke and Nadia von Bertouch have all swapped their colours to return to their roots of the brown and gold, or with the ties to Goddard. Whilst not having massive ball-winners, the Hawks have been able to develop some young talent through the list, such as renowned tackler Dominique Carbone, and a plethora of Eastern Ranges players such as Isabelle Khoury, Matilda Hardy and Eloise Chaston. Jesse Williams is the danger up forward, and with Stratton in for her second game in the brown and gold, expect her to be a second prong of attack up there. Williamstown on the other hand do not have a reliable source of goals, though Aimee Whelan and Gabrielle Biedenweg-Webster have each snagged three majors. A total of 14 players have hit the scoreboard in the 2021 season, including prominent ball-winners Ruby Tripodi and Megan Williamson, while Erin Meade continues to provide great run out of defence, and will hope the Seagulls can propel themselves to their third win. With the extra experience coming into the brown and gold though, the Hawks should get up at home.

ESSENDON vs. COLLINGWOOD
Sunday, April 25 @ 11:00am
The Hangar

The traditional Anzac Day rivals will clash at The Hangar before fans head south to the MCG for the AFL men’s edition, with the VFL Women’s clash to provide just as much intensity between the clubs. A potential finals preview looms with the second placed Pies still unbeaten from seven games, coming up against the third placed Bombers who are 5-2 from their season, and building some great form in the middle of the season. The Bombers have been without their spiritual leader for the last game and a half with Georgia Nanscawen on the sidelines. She averaged 23 disposals and 10.2 tackles in her six games, to be a barometer in the side. Alana Barba and Courtney Ugle have stepped up in her absence, while Frederica Frew (eight goals) and Natalie MacDonald (five) have been important up forward with Mia-Rae Clifford (eight). With the NAB League Girls returning this week, expect the Bombers to be without a couple of key youngsters in Zali Friswell and Kasey Lennox, though Elizabeth Snell and soon-to-be Jemma Finning have just the one game remaining in Pioneers colours. The Magpies have been ticking along nicely and now will be able to heavily rotate their AFL Women’s talent if they choose to do so, with the likes of Bella Smith (eight goals in four games), Amelia Velardo in defence and Abbi Moloney (two in three) among those running around in the side. Imogen Barnett has been the standout VFLW-listed Pie with eight goals in six games, while Caitlin Bunker (16.3 disposals, 6.6 tackles) and Matilda Zander (14.3 disposals, 4.1 tackles) are others who have stood out.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. CARLTON
Sunday, April 25 @ 12:00pm
Arden Street

The later Anzac Day clash is between another couple of AFLW-aligned clubs in North Melbourne and Carlton. The Roos have enjoyed playing a string of games at Arden Street this season, and whilst they have only won the two games from seven matches, have been steadfast in developing their VFLW-listed talents rather than pouring in AFLW-listed players just for the points. The Blues have been fairly similar, though they were able to bring in some players in recent weeks such as Maddy Guerin, who has been a cut above at the level, averaging 21.7 disposals, 3.3 marks and 7.0 tackles from her three games. Jennifer Lew has been an impressive VFLW-listed Blue with 18.5 disposals, 5.3 marks and 4.3 tackles, whilst Courtney Jones has slotted eight goals in five games, and Akayla Peterson has been utilised at both ends of the field for five goals in seven games. Throw in Serena Gibbs (three in four) who has been supporting Jorja Borg in the ruck, and the form of Winnie Laing this season, and the Blues have a solid team across the board. North Melbourne on the other hand, have had some really consistent ball-winners, but just not enough consistent games to put together wins. Brooke Brown has been sensational up forward with eight goals in four games, while ex-Sun Alexia Hamilton, and Tasmanian Sarah Skinner have both been enjoying outstanding seasons in the blue and white. Meagan Kiely and Molly Eastman both average 20.4 disposals and more than four tackles per game to share the load with Skinner, while Airlie Runnalls and Katelyn Cox are other consistent ball-winning talents. Carlton arguably have the upper hand after pushing Port Melbourne last week, though the development of the Roos will hold them in good stead for the future.

2021 Draft Central’s VFL Women’s Team of the Year: Round 6

AS the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition prepares to restart after the Easter Weekend break, Draft Central, in conjunction with Women’s Australian Football Radio (WARF) has compiled a Team of the Year to date in Round 6. It is an even spread across the board with eight of the 12 competing teams recording two players, and the remaining three sides having the one representative in a realistic, 16-starter and four-bench side.

Ladder leaders Port Melbourne have two players in the side, with ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Sophie Locke named in the forward pocket, and experienced former AFL Women’s player in Mel Kuys in the centre. The other undefeated side in Collingwood just has the one player in there, with forward Imogen Barnett making the team after booting eight goals in the first five games, one less than leader Locke. In between the pair of forwards is Hawthorn’s Jessie Williams who straightens the team up at full-forward, the sole Hawk in the team.

At half-forward, ex-Cannon Alana Barba earned a place in the side with the inside midfielder booting a goal a game in her first five games to book a starting spot on the flank. She was named in the side with fellow midfielder Georgia Nanscawen with the ex-Roo named ruck rover. The other onballer in the side is ex-Geelong Falcon Paige Sheppard, with the rover’s teammate Tamara Smith – another ex-Bushranger – named on the bench. In the ruck is Western Bulldogs’ Nicole McMahon who has been superb all season, whilst teammate Simone Ruedin has been a rock in defence.

Holding up the fort at full-back is Carlton’s Jennifer Lew, who is in the back six with another Blue in Akayla Peterson, who has spent time at both ends, also kicking three goals this season. Ex-Magpie Grace Buchan is in the back pocket but instead for Casey Demons this season, whilst teammate Eliza West is on the interchange. At half-back, Williamstown’s Erin Meade will provide some run for the hypothetical team, whilst centre half-back Meagan Kiely rounds out the defence. The North Melbourne tall is in the side with talented Tasmanian goalkicker Sarah Skinner, with the reigning TSL Women’s league best and fairest winner making an impact at VFL Women’s level.

The last remaining starting player is centre half-forward Tara Bohanna with the Southern Saint able to chop out in the ruck when forward. She should not need to though, with Darebin Falcons’ sole representative in Sidney Cubasch to provide that rotation with McMahon, whilst Bohanna’s Saints’ teammate Hannah Stuart rounds out the interchange. In terms of emergencies and those unluckiest to miss out, it is a trio of defensive players in Southern Saints’ Rebecca Neaves, North Melbourne’s Molly Eastman and Darebin Falcons’ Gena Lawson-Tavan.

DRAFT CENTRAL’S VFL WOMEN’S TEAM OF THE YEAR: ROUND 6

B: Simone Ruedin (WB) – Jennifer Lew (CAR) – Grace Buchan (CD)
HB: Akayla Peterson (CAR) – Meagan Kiely (NM) – Erin Meade (WILL)
C: Mel Kuys (PM)
HF: Alana Barba (ESS) – Tara Bohanna (SS) – Sarah Skinner (NM)
F: Sophie Locke (PM) – Jessie Williams (HAW) – Imogen Barnett (COLL)
R: Nicole McMahon (WB) – Georgia Nanscawen (ESS) – Paige Sheppard (GEE)
INT: Sidney Cubasch (DF) – Tamara Smith (GEE) – Hannah Stuart (SS) – Eliza West (CD)

EMG: Rebecca Neaves (SS) – Molly Eastman (NM) – Gena Lawson-Tavan (DF)

2021 VFL Women’s Round 4 preview

THE 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season rolls on into Round 4 this weekend, starting once again with a Western Bulldogs home game as they battle Williamstown at Whitten Oval on Saturday morning. Among the games of the round, Geelong and Port Melbourne do battle in a top four clash, while Casey and Southern Saints look to climb the rankings. We take you through all the key players and factors across each game in our weekend preview.

Western Bulldogs (7th, 1-2) vs. Williamstown (11th, 1-2)
Saturday March 20, 11:00am
Whitten Oval

Western Bulldogs and Williamstown will both look to shake off losing records when they clash at Whitten Oval on Saturday morning, opening Round 4’s action. The clash also serves as the Bulldogs’ third home game in four weeks, with a second win up for grabs. Both sides come in off consecutive losses having gained points in Round 1, but will field heavily shuffled lineups.

The hosts regain a big name in vice-captain Katelyn Betts returning to the fold among at least four changes. Senior-listed players Isabella Grant and Annabel Strahan are key losses who go the other way, though an exciting inclusion in the form of ex-Richmond youngster Nekaela Butler should buoy the Bulldogs.

Williamstown will also ring the changes as a handful of players come out of last week’s side, headlined by injuries to Tahlia Merrett and Bridget Costello. The Seagulls have named Allana Dickie to return after being managed, as Asha Price slots back into the forwardline and Bridget Hanrahan looks set to feature down the other end.

Geelong (4th, 2-1) vs. Port Melbourne (1st, 3-0)
Saturday March 20, 5:00pm
Deakin University

Arguably the game of the round sees top four sides Geelong and Port Melbourne lock horns at Deakin University on Saturday evening, making for the weekend’s sole top four clash. The Borough have been outstanding in their maiden VFLW campaign, but face arguably their toughest test yet when travelling to face Geelong, a fellow aligned team often littered with young talent.

That factor is set to be no different on Saturday, as the Cats welcome back Georgia Clarke to help fill out an in-form spine which features fellow senior-listed gun Maddie Boyd up the other end. Going the other way, midfielder Laura Gardiner may find herself among the top ranks once again, while Geelong Falcons Annie Lee and Renee Tierney return to the NAB League.

The Borough will also ring a few changes to what has looked a rather settled side, with Richmond-listed youngster Sarah Sansonetti among the inclusions alongside former Carlton utility, Bridie Kennedy. In term of the outs, Murray Bushrangers product Kate Adams stint comes to an end, with goalkicker Sarah McNamara also absent.

Casey Demons (3rd, 2-1) vs. Southern Saints (6th, 1-2)
Sunday March 21, 10:30am
Casey Fields

Casey Demons will hope to protect its winning record when the Southern Saints come to town, as the two sides clash at Casey Fields on Sunday morning. The Demons made an emphatic return to the winners list last time out, but should be tested well by another aligned team in Southern Saints, who will be keen to bounce back from consecutive losses.

The reserves-like system looks to have payed off for Melbourne-listed player Chantel Emonson, who comes out of the Demons’ side after a promising performance last time out. Young tall Bridie Winbanks is the other player missing from Casey’s Round 3 squad, though midfielder Megan Fitzsimon returns for her third game at the level.

Last week’s Saints debutants, Anna Harris and Madi Southam are among the four players to make way for their team, with senior-listed youngster Jess Matin also in that group. The inclusion of Renee Saulitis should buoy the travelling side though, along with Gabby De Angelis who slots back into the forwardline – in the opposite pocket.

Carlton (10th, 1-2) vs. North Melbourne (9th, 1-2)
Sunday March 21, 10:30am
Princes Park

Carlton hosts its second consecutive game at Princes Park on Sunday when fellow 1-2 team North Melbourne arrives for battle. The Blues will also be out for back-to-back wins after opening their account last week, while the Kangaroos’ form has resembled that of a yo-yo with that sole win sitting between their two losses.

In a boost for the home side, a couple of talented young senior-listed players come into the lineup after Charlotte Hammans earned a call-up, with Maddy Guerin set to take her spot at half-back while tall prospect Serena Gibbs promises to add a scoring threat at centre-half forward. The changes see a total of six senior Blues line up in the reserve squad.

North will also benefit from some handy inclusions this week, with Alexia and Jayde Hamilton both in line for returns. The latter will play her second game having recently suited up for the GWS Giants Academy in the NAB League. AFLW-listed forward Brooke Brown looks set to rotate through the ruck having been named there, while Western Jets product Marli Klaumanns-Moller is one of two outs.

Essendon (5th, 2-1) vs. Darebin (12th, 0-3)
Sunday March 21, 10:30am
The Hangar

Darebin’s search for its first win of the 2021 season continues on Sunday, as the Falcons take on Essendon for a morning battle at The Hangar. The travelling side has battled hard and faces a third standalone team in four weeks, while the Bombers will fancy a third victory here having won two on the trot.

With key pillars performing well, Essendon looks set to make just two changes to its winning side with Nicole Julian coming in for her first game in midfield, and Grace Dicker named on the bench for her second outing. Going the other way are Elizabeth Hosking and Elizabeth Snell, the latter of whom earned votes in her VFLW debut last week.

Darebin will have a couple of untimely absences, with the reliable Kathleen Roe and dangerous forward Hayley Munro among three players to come out of the team. In their place, Julia McArdle and Mikayla Meyer come in via the bench as Vanja Smiljanic gets her chance starting in midfield alongside skipper, Steph Simpson.

Collingwood (2nd, 3-0) vs. Hawthorn (8th, 1-2)
Sunday March 21, 11:00am
Victoria Park

Collingwood’s perfect record will once again be put on the line as the Magpies take on Hawthorn at Victoria Park on Sunday morning, rounding out the weekend’s action. This clash marks the home side’s first meeting with a non-aligned club, while the Hawks take on their second aligned team after suffering a second loss last time out.

The Pies’ creative stocks will take a bit of a hit as tall Bella Smith comes out of the side with Imogen Barnett, as well as fellow senior-listed players in Sarah Rowe and Kristy Stratton. Another AFLW Magpie, Abbi Moloney swoops back down to the level to bolster the forwardline, with Maddy Shevlin also in among the four changes.

Hawthorn will make at least three swaps to its Round 3 lineup, with talented Territorian Dominique Carbone among them. She returns home to play for local team, Darwin in the NTFLW grand final. Jemma Owen is out through injury, with Jenna Richardson and Katie Angelis given the opportunity to make their debuts in brown and gold.

2021 VFLW Round 3 wrap: Blues get on the board, Pies & Borough stay unbeaten

ROUND 3 of the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) season saw Carlton get on the board at the third time of asking, while league frontrunners Collingwood and Port Melbourne kept their perfect records in tact. Elsewhere, Casey, Essendon, and Geelong added wins to their now-positive tallies as the 12-team ladder begins to take shape and upcoming fixtures trickle through. All that, and more in our weekend wrap.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 (18)
COLLINGWOOD 2.4 | 4.4 | 5.9 | 10.10 (70)

Collingwood thrived under the Whitten Oval lights on Friday night with a runaway 52-point win over the Western Bulldogs to go 3-0 in 2021. The Magpies should arguably have been further ahead at half time and while some inaccuracy lingered in the third term, they doubled their goal tally in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs went scoreless in the second half, amplifying the 10.10 (70) to 3.0 (18) final scoreline.

Senior-listed tall Bella Smith snared her season-best goal tally of three in the black and white, finishing as one of the Magpies’ seven individual goalkickers. State league standout Matilda Zander also found the goals alongside NAB League jet Olivia Meagher, while Sarah Rowe made a successful return from injury and Imogen Barnett continued her good form. Kristy Stratton was another to do so, named best afield for the winners.

Bulldogs fans will be buoyed to see Bailey Hunt return unscathed from her calf injury, as fellow senior-listed players Annabel Strahan and Amelia Van Oosterwijck pushed their cases for senior berths. Vanessa Murphy earned full votes in red, white and blue, while skipper Riley Christgoergl played an important role in defence alongside Louise Bibby.

GOALS:

Bulldogs: M. Purcell, I. Grant, M. Denahy Maloney.
Collingwood: B. Smith 3, M. Zander, K. Colborne-Veel, O. Meagher, K. Stratton, I. Barnett, S. Rowe, E. Jackson.

BEST:

Bulldogs: V. Murphy, N. McMahon, R. Christgoergl, A. Strahan, L. Bibby, K. Neumann Stone
Collingwood: K. Stratton, S. King, B. Smith, I. Barnett, M. Neal, C. Bunker

ESSENDON 2.3 | 6.5 | 7.6 | 8.7 (55)
HAWTHORN 1.1 | 1.4 | 1.7 | 3.9 (27)

A six-goal to one first half was enough to see Essendon home against Hawthorn on Saturday, in an exciting clash between standalone sides. The Hawks finished strongly after finding themselves 35 points down heading into the last break, booting a couple of consolation goals and showing plenty of fighting spirit as they went down 8.7 (55) to 3.9 (27) at The Hangar.

Two of the Bombers’ three multiple goalkickers also featured among the votes, with Mia-Rae Clifford (three goals) and Natalie MacDonald (two) the pair in question. Skipper Georgia Nanscawen found plenty of the ball, while NAB League graduates Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper were also promising in the famous sash. Debutant Elizabeth Snell was another in that category, fresh off her Under 19 exploits.

Catherine Brown won plaudits as Hawthorn’s best player afield, while fellow goalkicker Olivia Flanagan also impressed for the yellow and gold. Northern Territory talent Dominique Carbone was a handy inclusion for the Hawks as another youngster to show her quality, among her side’s best players with the likes of Meg Hutchins, Lauren Szigeti, and Nicole Cormack, who featured for consecutive weeks.

GOALS:

Essendon: M. Clifford 3, N. MacDonald 2, F. Frew 2, F. Theodore.
Hawthorn: C. Bain, O. Flanagan, C. Brown.

BEST:

Essendon: N. MacDonald, E. Ashley-Cooper, E. Snell, A. Morcom, M. Clifford, A. Barba
Hawthorn: C. Brown, N. Cormack, M. Hutchins, K. Dudley, L. Szigeti, D. Carbone

CASEY DEMONS 3.2 | 3.5 | 8.8 | 9.11 (65)
NORTH MELBOURNE 0.2 | 0.5 | 0.5 | 1.6 (12)

Casey came away comprehensive victors over North Melbourne on Saturday afternoon, making better use of its home conditions to put the game to bed by three quarter time. A five-goal blitz after the main break ensured the Demons would return to the winners list, with North having to wait until term four to register a major score, eventually going down 9.11 (65) to 1.6 (12).

Competition for spots among Melbourne’s senior camp will be hot ahead of finals, with AFLW-listed players Niamh McEvoy (three goals) and Chantel Emonson (two) making an impact as they search for recalls. Casey skipper Samantha Johnson was named best afield, while Eliza West again snared a goal to go with some handy votes.

Former Richmond-listed youngster Ciara Fitzgerald continued her scoring form with North Melbourne’s sole major of the game, seeing the Roos mercifully escape going goalless. Meagan Kiely was adjudged her side’s best player for the second week running, with Tasmania Sarah Skinner another to continue her eye-catching form at state league level.

GOALS:

Casey: N. McEvoy 3, C. Emonson 2, I. Milford, H. Thomas, E. West, A. Kirkwood.
North: C. Fitzgerald,

BEST:

Casey: S. Johnson, C. Emonson, N. McEvoy, E. West, C. Conroy, S. Fairchild
North: M. Kiely, K. Greenacre, M. Lawrence, S. Skinner, C. Fitzgerald, K. Price

GEELONG 1.3 | 1.3 | 1.3 | 2.4 (16)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 0.1 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.2 (8)

A low-scoring slog amid wet and windy conditions in Geelong saw the home side claim its second win on the trot, as the Cats defeated Southern Saints by eight points at Deakin University. Only three goals were kicked across the four quarters, with the Cats booting theirs in the first and fourth terms, while Southern Saints remained in touch, but were ultimately outdone 2.4 (16) to 1.2 (8) in the scrappy affair.

The constant rotation of Geelong AFLW and NAB League talent did little to disrupt the Cats, with senior-listed youngster Laura Gardiner finding plenty of the ball, as did the likes of Tamara Smith and Paige Sheppard. Goalkickers Claudia Gunjaca and Michelle Fedele were also influential, as was NAB Leaguer Annie Lee on debut.

Valerie Moreau was the Saints’ sole goalkicker for the day, as the likes of Nadia von Bertouch and Jess Matin put their hands up for senior selection by picking up a good amount of the pill. VFLW-listed players Tara Bohanna and Hannah Stuart were among Southern’s best players for the third week running, while Alison Brown also earned votes in her first outing.

GOALS:

Geelong: M. Fedele, C. Gunjaca.
Saints: V. Moreau.

BEST:

Geelong: M. Maguire, T. Smith, O. Fuller, C. Gunjaca, M. Fedele, A. Lee
Saints: N. von Bertouch, A. Hynes, T. Bohanna, H. Stuart, A. Brown, K. Ripari

PORT MELBOURNE 2.3 | 5.6 | 6.9 | 6.9 (45)
WILLIAMSTOWN 0.0 | 2.1 | 3.1 | 3.1 (19)

Port Melbourne and Williamstown met for a historic clash of traditional Victorian rivals, with the Borough proving too strong and saluting to the tune of 26 points at ETU Stadium. Having led from the first goal, the home side was able to maintain its ascendancy throughout and held firm in a scoreless final term to run out 6.9 (45) to 3.1 (19) victors.

A pair of Borough players accounted for two thirds of their side’s major scores, with Sarah McNamara and Sophie Locke the players in question. Locke’s exploits come after last week’s three-goal effort. Ellie McDonald and Melissa Kuys were again among Port’s best, along with Richmond-listed talents Phoebe Monahan, Emily Harley, and Luka Lesosky-Hay.

Gabby Biedenweg-Webster was Williamstown’s sole multiple goalkicker with a pair of her own, named in the Seagulls’ best behind Aimee Whelan. Young forward Tahlia Merrett also hit the scoreboard and made her mark, while Ruby Tripodi was impactful at the coalface and Erin Meade again led well for the standalone unit.

GOALS:

Port Melbourne: S. McNamara 2, S. Locke 2, C. Saxon-Jones, H. Bailey.
Williamstown: G. Biedenweg-Webster 2, T. Merrett.

BEST:

Port Melbourne: E. Macdonald, M. Kuys, P. Peschke, P. Monahan, L. Lesosky-Hay, E. Harley
Williamstown: A. Whelan, G. Biedenweg-Webster, E. Meade, A. Melnikas, T. Merrett, M. Williamson

CARLTON 2.3 | 2.6 | 3.8 | 3.9 (27)
DAREBIN 0.0 | 2.0 | 2.0 | 3.2 (20)

Carlton came out on top in Saturday’s bottom of the table clash, overcoming Darebin by seven points to pick up its first win of the season. The Blues caught an early break but were pegged back well, before again advancing and being forced to defend their lead late. Inaccuracy did not prove costly for the home side at Princes Park, as they held on to win 3.9 (27) to 3.2 (20) in a low-scoring affair.

Jen Lew was again one to lead the way for Carlton as she worked hard all day, while Jorja Borg and goalkicker Akayla Peterson earned votes for their efforts. Speedy midfielder Teresa Zampaglione was again lively, while AFLW-listed youngster Winnie Laing was productive upon her return along with Jess Edwards and Charlotte Hammans.

For the Falcons, the ever-reliable Kathleen Roe stood up in her side’s third loss for the year, but it was Lucy Schneider who claimed full credit in the form of votes ahead of goalkickers Steph Simpson and Sally Lynch. Darebin’s search for win number one will continue next week as it takes on Essendon at The Hangar.

GOALS:

Carlton: P. Trudgeon, A. Peterson, C. Jones.
Darebin: S. Lynch, S. David, S. Simpson.

BEST:

Carlton: J. Borg, A. Peterson, B. Gurr, M. Wilson, T. Zampaglione, J. Lew
Darebin: L. Schneider, V. Blackwood, L. Camilleri, S. Simpson, S. Lynch, S. Cubasch

2021 VFL Women’s Round 3 preview

THE 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season rolls on into Round 3 this weekend, starting tonight as the Western Bulldogs host Collingwood in a Friday night showcase. Elsewhere, traditional rivals Port Melbourne and Williamstown face off in a historic fixture, while Carlton and Darebin will battle in a clash of the winless sides. We take you through all the key players and factors across each game in our weekend preview.

Western Bulldogs vs. Collingwood
Friday March 12, 8:00pm
Whitten Oval

Round 3 gets underway on Friday night as the Western Bulldogs host Collingwood under the Whitten Oval lights, with the visitors keen to remain unbeaten. A 2-0 start for the Magpies, who remain reigning premiers, has sent a statement to the competition, while the Bulldogs have seen both sides of the coin in 2021 at 1-1.

AFLW talent continues to flow through the grade, as both sides look set to welcome elite level players this week. The Bulldogs will field Bailey Hunt among its three changes, but see hot starter Britney Gutknecht and Nell Morris-Dalton come out of the team. Young pups have serviced the red, white and blue well, though vice-captain Katelyn Betts looms as a big out.

Sarah Rowe is Collingwood’s most significant inclusion as she returns to action, with the Irishwoman named in her usual half-forward post. On the other hand, fellow senior-listed Magpie Maddie Shevlin comes out of the side having impressed in the two games thus far. Collingwood’s forwardline should make for exciting viewing, with Rowe joined by Imogen Barnett and Matilda Zander inside 50.

Essendon vs. Hawthorn
Saturday March 13, 11:00am
The Hangar

Two Round 2 victors with some momentum behind them in Essendon and Hawthorn do battle at The Hangar, kick-starting a string of five Saturday fixtures. Both sides are standalone entities and got on the board last week after opening round losses, making this clash between traditional rivals an intriguing one based on form alone.

Essendon looks poised to make three changes, with Simone Nalder coming in for her first game in the ruck, while Elizabeth Hosking returns to her half-forward spot in the famous sash. Bendigo Pioneers product Elizabeth Snell has also been named, a reward for her promising NAB League form so far in 2021.

The magnets are also shuffling at Hawthorn, as the brown and gold side prepares to make four changes. A trio of Eastern Ranges prospects exit after debuting in Round 2, with the likes of Dominique Carbone and Alexandra Cuss set to make their returns to the starting lineup. This could prove to be one of the closest games of the weekend.

Casey Demons vs. North Melbourne
Saturday March 13, 1:30pm
Casey Fields

Two sides sitting on 1-1 records will look to break into the black as Casey Demons and North Melbourne lock horns at Casey Fields on Saturday afternoon. The Demons were mighty impressive in Round 1 but suffered their first loss last week, while North’s form has proven the opposite thus far as the Roos picked up their first win last time out.

Melbourne-listed tall Meg Downie looks set to return to action as she comes into the Casey lineup, joining fellow AFLW squad member Chantel Emonson in the side. The latter is poised to replace first year player Megan Fitzsimon, who has put her hand up for a senior recall in recent weeks.

North has been dealt an injury blow with last week’s three-goal hero Alice O’Loughlin set to miss, along with some key talent in the form of Brooke Brown, Alexia Hamilton, and Jayde Hamilton. The Roos still have some in-form talent to lean on, but may find the going tough against a Casey side which will be eager to bounce back quickly.

Geelong vs. Southern Saints
Saturday March 13, 2:00pm
Deakin University

Geelong will hold yet another home game this weekend, set to welcome the Southern Saints to Deakin University on Saturday afternoon. Both sides currently hold 1-1 records but found differing fortunes last time out; with the Cats picking up their first win in 2021 while the Saints went down in somewhat of an upset loss.

The hosts will again ring about the changes, with young talent coming in and out of the side. Georgia Clarke is a key out as she looks to be rewarded for promising form, while senior-listed midfielder Laura Gardiner falls back down to VFLW level this week. Geelong Falcons products Annie Lee and Renee Tierney will line up at opposite end of the ground, having staked their claims at NAB League level.

Southern Saints will have a raft of changes as well, with at least five impacting last week’s lineup. Senior-listed youngsters Alice Burke and Renee Saulitis are out alongside the injured Rebecca Ott, though Claudia Whitfort and Jess Matin are among the seven names included this time around. Whichever side can settle quicker will set themselves up for a positive outing.

Port Melbourne vs. Williamstown
Saturday March 13, 2:00pm
ETU Stadium

Traditional rivals Port Melbourne and Williamstown go to battle in a historic clash on Saturday afternoon, which marks their first ever VFL Women’s meeting. The Borough has proven a competition benchmark in its inaugural season, picking up two wins before its highly anticipated homecoming. Williamstown did just enough to win in Round 1, but comes in off a heavy loss last week.

A rotation of Richmond-listed players could prove significant for Port, with impressive youngsters Sarah Sansonetti and Laura McClelland major exclusions given their recent form. Phoebe Monahan is a big name set to come the other way though, along with versatile tall Cleo Saxon-Jones, who will suit up for her first game in 2021. Meanwhile, Williamstown will make two changes among what seems a settled side.

Carlton vs. Darebin
Saturday March 13, 2:00pm
Princes Park

A battle of the competition’s two winless teams in Carlton and Darebin is set to go down on Saturday afternoon, as the Blues return home to Princes Park. Things have not been easy for either side, with the hosts suffering dual losses and struggling in transition, while the Falcons have been competitive in patches without the end result to show for it.

For the second week running, Carlton will be boosted by some returning senior-listed talent, headed by the speedy Brooke Walker. She slots in on the bench, while Winnie Laing is back after a week away and Brooke Vernon is a handy inclusion to the defence. Courtney Jones is another to watch after her promising preseason performances, named at half-forward. Darebin is also set to make at least three changes, as it searches for the winning formula.

2021 VFL Women’s Round 2 preview: Pies, Saints battle to keep perfect records

THE 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season rolls on into Round 2 this weekend, with six fixtures spread evenly across Saturday and Sunday. Southern Saints and Collingwood clash in the only meeting between two week one winners, while the likes of Casey Demons and Port Melbourne will look to build on the strong starts which have them poised atop the ladder. We take you through all the key players and factors across each game in our weekend preview.

Collingwood vs. Southern Saints
Saturday March 6, 12:00pm
Victoria Park

Collingwood and Southern Saints will make up the sole clash between two Round 1 winners when they lock horns at Victoria Park on Saturday. The Magpies held on to win by two points last week, while the Saints also held strong to beat Essendon and start 2021 on just the right note.

After a four-goal performance, Collingwood forward Imogen Barnett will look to back up her early form alongside the likes of Matilda Zander and senior-listed ruck Bella Smith. Eastern Ranges midfielder Olivia Meagher looms as a promising inclusion for the Magpies, named at the heart of the side after making three NAB League appearances this season.

The Saints will have at least three changes with St Kilda-listed guns Jess Matin, Poppy Kelly, and Rebecca Ott all in line for senior call-ups after promising VFLW displays. Canadian small forward Valerie Moreau is one to watch in the red, white and black having booted two majors on debut last week, but the going will be tough with some key outs against a dangerous Collingwood side.

Geelong vs. Williamstown
Saturday March 6, 12:00pm
Deakin University, Waurn Ponds

Williamstown will hope to continue its winning form as it travels to take on Geelong at Deakin University on Saturday afternoon. The Seagulls, who won by two points last week, meet a side in Geelong which lost by the same margin in Round 1 despite a strong finish and the formidable young talent afield.

As an AFLW-aligned team, the Cats will see some key changes to their opening round lineup – starting with the absence of Olivia Barber, Rene Caris, Laura Gardiner, and Darcy Moloney. Senior-listed forwards Stephanie Williams and Maddie Boyd provide some relief, while Geelong Falcons product Renee Tierney also enters the fray as another exciting option.

Williamstown also has some promising young talent to call upon, with its own Falcons coup in Zoe Garth named in defence. Tahlia Merrett is another handy inclusion and promises to provide a touch more firepower up forward, while Danika Di Santo may also get a look in from an extended interchange bench. Despite their current records, Geelong looks the team to beat in this clash.

Casey Demons vs. Essendon
Saturday March 6, 1:00pm
Casey Fields

Casey returns home for its Round 2 clash with Essendon on Saturday afternoon, looking to keep its perfect record in tact. The Demons were comprehensive after half time in their win over Carlton last week, while the Bombers showed some good fight and maturity in their opening round loss to Southern Saints.

Five-goal hero Brenna Tarrant is a key out for Casey after helping kick her side into gear, but the Demons will inject Niamh McEvoy into their forwardline this week. Maggie Caris and Megan Fitzsimon are other senior-listed players to watch through the spine of the side, while Samantha Johnson will again lead from midfield.

The Bombers look to be combining well after experiencing a touch more continuity than other teams, with the likes of Courtney Ugle and Cecilia McIntosh senior players who made a difference last week. They will go around once again, with Mia-Rae Clifford one to watch after a goalless outing and Grace Dicker a promising youngster also entering the fray. The test of another aligned team will be good for the Bombers, who can hopefully compete strongly.

North Melbourne vs. Western Bulldogs
Sunday March 7, 9:30am
Arden Street Oval

Sunday’s first fixture sees North Melbourne host a second-straight home game, as the Western Bulldogs come to town in a morning meeting. The Kangaroos were outdone by new team, Port Melbourne in Round 1, but the Bulldogs fared much better with an impressive win over Hawthorn.

Former Richmond-listed youngster Ciara Fitzgerald will make her first appearance for North, who have also called upon Jayde Hamilton and will make at least two changes. Tasmanian Sarah Skinner is one to keep an eye on after her opening round performance, providing terrific drive on the outer.

A trio of senior-listed Bulldogs make way this week through injury and otherwise, but Britney Gutknecht remains after her best afield showing. Louise Bibby and Megan Chadwick are a couple of handy inclusions in the red, white and blue, with at least three changes to be made. The Dogs have some quality running about, but should face a hungry North side looking to bounce back quickly.

Darebin vs. Hawthorn
Sunday March 7, 11:30am
La Trobe University, Bundoora

Two standalone sides are set to do battle in the first game of a La Trobe University double-header, with Darebin taking on Hawthorn at its Bundoora home. Both sides suffered losses in Round 1 but showed promise, with the Falcons falling just short of Williamstown in a low-scoring slog, while Hawthorn fell to a strong Western Bulldogs outfit.

Darebin’s lineup will remain fairly steady following its opening effort in 2021, with just one change expected. Rachel Harris comes into the lineup via the interchange bench, hopefully making a difference for the women’s footballing pioneers. Finishing will be a key area of focus for the Falcons, so watch for Hayley Munro to impact should she be able to capitalise on her chances.

Hawthorn will be forced into a raft of changes this week, with none bigger than skipper Jess Trend missing through injury. The experienced Abbey Holmes is also out along with Dominique Carbone. The likes of Chloe Bain and Olivia Flanagan should provide some respite along with Maddi Shaw, while Eastern Ranges prospects Isabelle Khoury, Tilly Hardy and Jess Grace are promising inclusions. Should they settle amid said changes, the Hawks should prove tough to beat.

Carlton vs. Port Melbourne
Sunday March 7, 2:30pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora

The round’s final game sees Carlton take on Port Melbourne at La Trobe University on Sunday afternoon, with the Blues out to claim their first points in 2021. Their opening round loss to Casey was a far cry from Port’s momentous maiden win over North Melbourne, which makes this contest a tough one to call.

The Blues will make a couple of changes, building on their initial lineup. Experienced senior player Jess Edwards should serve the defence well alongside leaders Jen Lew and Ally Bild, while Paige Trudgeon looks to impact once again after her two-goal outing and Winnie Laing promises to provide plenty of outside run.

The Borough will lose their Round 1 spearhead in Christina Bernardi as she looks to crack the Richmond side, but former Carlton utility Bride Kennedy is a promising inclusion. Melissa Kuys will again be Port’s key player at the heart of the lineup, helping lead some promising young talent listed at AFLW and VFLW level.

Image Credit: Collingwood FC Media

2021 VFLW Round 1 wrap: Port claims maiden win, Pies and Gulls get up in thrillers

PORT Melbourne celebrated its maiden Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s appearance with a win on Saturday morning, helping kick off the 2021 season in style. Collingwood and Williamstown each held on to secure thrilling two-point victories, while Casey, the Southern Saints and Western Bulldogs also started their campaigns on the winners list. That, and more in our Round 1 wrap.

NORTH MELBOURNE 2.0 | 2.1 | 2.1 | 3.4 (22)
PORT MELBOURNE 2.2 | 3.3 | 6.5 | 8.7 (55)

GOALS:

North Melbourne: B. Brown, A. Hamilton, M. Kiely
Port Melbourne: C. Bernardi 3, S. McNamara, E. Wilson, S. Locke, A. Edmonds, M. Kuys

BEST:

North Melbourne: S. Skinner, M. Kiely, A. Hamilton, A. O’Loughlin, M. Eastman, L. Wright
Port Melbourne: M. Kuys, C. Bernardi, O. Barton, A. Edmonds, E. Wilson, H. McLaren

Port Melbourne’s inaugural VFLW campaign got off to the perfect start on Saturday morning, as the Borough kicked away to a 33-point victory at Arden Street Oval. While Port led at every break, North remained in the hunt up to half time at only eight points adrift, before the Borough kicked away with five goals in the second half to claim a historic 8.7 (55) to 3.4 (22) win. Richmond-listed forward Christina Bernardi found some scoring form with three majors for Port, while fellow goalkickers Melissa Kuys, Alice Edmonds, and Elizabeth Wilson were among the victors’ best players. Meagan Kiely and ruck recruit Lexi Hamilton found the goals for North Melbourne, who also blooded fellow scorer and 2020 draftee Brooke Brown. Skilful winger Sarah Skinner was named the Roos’ best in the loss, as they look to regroup against the Western Bulldogs in Round 2. Meanwhile, Port takes on Carlton next time out.

GEELONG 1.1 | 2.2 | 3.4 | 6.6 (42)
COLLINGWOOD 1.2 | 4.2 | 6.2 | 7.2 (44)

GOALS:

Geelong: O. Barber 3, G. Clarke 2, D. Moloney
Collingwood: I. Barnett 4, M. Zander, B. Smith, M. Shevlin

BEST:

Geelong: R. Caris, P. Sheppard, B. Pratt, O. Barber, T. Meissner, L. Gardiner
Collingwood: I. Barnett, M. Zander, M. Shevlin, G. Ricardo, J. Ferguson, E. Jackson

Collingwood warded off a fast finishing Geelong to win by two points on Saturday afternoon, making for a heart-stopping start to both side’s seasons. The Magpies established a handy two-goal buffer at half time and extended it a touch further heading into the final break to put themselves in the box seat. Matilda Zander looked to have wrapped up the result with her goal early in the final term, but the Cats made Collingwood earn the 7.2 (44) to 6.6 (42) win, kicking the last three goals to move agonisingly close to a huge comeback. Geelong’s AFLW influence shone through as top flight Cats kicked each of their goals, led by first year tall Olivia Barber (three). Another tall, Rene Caris was also terrific, while Paige Sheppard made a successful return to high-level football in the hoops. Imogen Barnett was Collingwood’s best with four goals and was supported well by South Australian recruit Zander and AFLW-listed utility Maddie Shevlin was also impactful.

CARLTON 0.0 | 0.0 | 2.1 | 3.1 (19)
CASEY 0.1 | 2.4 | 4.9 | 7.13 (55)

GOALS:

Carlton: P. Trudgeon 2, S. Lawrence
Casey: B. Tarrant 5, I. Milford, T. Fellows

BEST:

Carlton: J. Lew, W. Laing, C. Hammans, T. Kolevski, P. Trudgeon, T. Zampaglione
Casey: K. Thompson, E. Horne, B. Tarrant, M. Caris, S. Fairchild, T. Fellows

Casey was made to break away twice, but managed to get the job done comfortably against Carlton with a 36-point win at Princes Park on Saturday. A tense deadlock gripped the opening term before things began to open up, and Casey got away to a two-goal lead. Carlton hit back in the third term after a scoreless half, but fell back behind just as quickly as the visitors prettied up their side of the scoreboard. Melbourne-listed forward Brenna Tarrant was terrific in the important moments, finishing with five goals as the best player afield. Maggie Caris and Imogen Milford showed some of their raw ability, while skipper Samantha Johnson was strong in midfield and Kelly Thompson also fared well. Winnie Laing won a heap of ball from the wing for Carlton, while leaders Jen Lew and Ally Bild were solid in defence. New Blue Paige Trudgeon also impressed in bursts, booting two goals in the losing effort.

W. BULLDOGS 3.2 | 5.3 | 8.4 | 11.6 (72)
HAWTHORN 1.2 | 3.3 | 3.3 | 3.6 (30)

GOALS:

W. Bulldogs: B. Gutknecht 2, N. Morris-Dalton, I. Pritchard, A. Scott, V. Murphy, G. Lagioia, B. Hards, I. Grant, M. Sandral, A. van Oosterwijck
Hawthorn: J. Williams, E. Mcilvena, J. Owen

BEST:

W. Bulldogs: B. Gutknecht, K. Betts, N. McMahon, R. Christgoergl, I. Pritchard, M. Sandral
Hawthorn: J. Owen, K. Dudley, J. Williams, A. Holmes, C. Brown, L. Szigeti

Western Bulldogs kicked away after half time to a comfortable 42-point victory over Hawthorn, providing pleasing viewing for home fans at Whitten Oval on Sunday morning. Having built a steady two-goal buffer, the young pups kept Hawthorn goalless after half time while piling on six goals up the other end to achieve a resounding 11.6 (72) to 3.6 (30) result. A strong AFLW-listed contingent helped the Bulldogs hold sway, with midfielder-forward Britney Gutknecht best afield and the leading goalkicker with two majors. Fellow goalkicker Amelia can Oosterwijck found a good amount of ball, while skipper Riley Christgoergl was prominent in midfield and Dogs signing Annabel Strahan impressed. Jemma Owen was the Hawks’ standout figure, with Abbey Holmes‘ experience helping their cause and captain Jess Trend proving influential before coming off with injury.

ESSENDON 0.2 | 0.4 | 2.4 | 4.5 (29)
STH. SAINTS 1.2 | 5.4 | 5.4 | 7.5 (47)

GOALS:

Essendon: A. Quigley 2, C. McIntosh, A. Barba
Sth Saints: J. Matin 3, V. Moreau 2, T. Bohanna, G. De Angelis

BEST:

Essendon: C. Ugle, C. McIntosh, F. Frew, A. Barba, K. Heil, A. Morcom
Sth Saints: J. Matin, H. Stuart, L. Burke, T. Bohanna, E. Vanderheym, R. Ott

Southern Saints put in the work early to set up an 18-point win over Essendon at The Hangar on Sunday morning, making for an ideal start to the Saints’ campaign. After a tight opening term, the Saints broke away to a five-goal lead at the main break, but were slowly pegged back in the third term as Essendon threatened to pounce. In the end, Southern had put enough on the board to hold out for a 7.5 (47) to 4.5 (29) victory. St Kilda-listed newcomer Jess Matin was outstanding with three goals and plenty of work going both ways, as teammate Poppy Kelly dominated the hitouts. Hannah Stuart was another among the Saints’ best, with Valerie Moreau (two goals) also in the action. In a losing effort, Essendon vice-captain Courtney Ugle was judged her side’s best player, while another mainstay in Cecilia McIntosh also impacted, finding the big sticks alongside Alana Barba and Alexandra Quigley.

DAREBIN 0.3 | 1.5 | 1.7 | 1.9 (15)
WILLIAMSTOWN 0.1 | 1.3 | 2.4 | 2.5 (17)

GOALS:

Darebin: H. Munro
Williamstown: R. Tripodi, M. Williamson

BEST:

Darebin: S. Cubasch, K. Roe, M. Huta, K. McNiece, H. Munro, S. Elarmaly
Williamstown: M. Williamson, E. Meade, G. Biedenweg-Webster, A. Whelan, R. Tripodi, L. King

Williamstown came out on top in a low-scoring slog between two standalone sides, holding on to beat Darebin by two points at La Trobe University on Sunday. Down by the same margin at the first two breaks, the Seagulls broke ahead in term three and somehow managed to defend their lead thereafter despite some immense pressure from the Falcons. The 2.5 (17) to 1.9 (15) scoreline was indicative of both team’s lack of polish inside 50, but also testament to their structures and defensive acumen. Dynamic midfielder-forward Megan Williamson was among the Seagulls’ best, finding the scoreboard alongside Ruby Tripodi. Leader Erin Meade was also instrumental, and Lana King showed some promise on debut. For Darebin, Sidney Cubasch was named best while Kathleen Roe was reliable as ever from defence, and Hayley Munro proved dangerous as she rotated forward from the ruck.

2021 VFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Revamped state league returns after lost season

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition returns this weekend, with a revamped structure seeing the season run concurrently with that of the AFL Women’s (AFLW). As somewhat of a reserves league to aligned sides in the top flight, the VFLW features 12 teams in 2021, including Port Melbourne after the Borough took on Richmond’s license. Round 1 sees fixtures spread evenly over Saturday and Sunday, starting at Arden Street as North Melbourne hosts Port Melbourne.

North Melbourne vs. Port Melbourne
Saturday February 27, 10:00am
Arden Street Oval

North Melbourne welcomes competition newcomer, Port Melbourne to the VFL Women’s on Saturday morning as the two sides open season 2021 at Arden Street Oval. While still a proud standalone club, the Borough has taken on Richmond’s VFLW license and will thus have access to Tigers players who miss out on AFLW selection. Likewise, North Melbourne’s top flight alignment will see some senior listed Kangaroos line up in the blue and white each week.

The likes of Richmond forward Christina Bernardi and Melissa Kuys will be among the experienced names set to lead the Borough’s efforts, while an all-Richmond half-back line of Hannah McLaren, Sarah Sansonetti, and Laura McClelland should prove difficult to budge. Murray Bushrangers graduate Sophie Locke is another exciting young talent in Port’s side, named in the back pocket.

New Roo Katelyn Cox is set for a reserves outing in North’s midfield, lining up next to Meagan Kiely and Bethany Lynch with Lexi Hamilton a handy ruck to be roving under. Nikki Wallace, another with AFLW experience lines up in defence and Brooke Brown gets a gig at the other end of the ground. Brown was taken by North Melbourne as a surprise father-daughter selection in 2020.

Expect North Melbourne’s hardness and pressure around the ball to be a real feature, as Port looks to bring an exciting transition style to the fore in what should be a competitive start to the 2021 season.

Geelong vs. Collingwood
Saturday February 27, 12:00pm
Deakin University, Geelong (Waurn Ponds)

AFLW-aligned sides Geelong and Collingwood go head-to-head at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds on Saturday afternoon, looking to start their campaigns on the right foot. Both sides boast a strong mix of youth and experience in their Round 1 lineups, with the Cats benefitting significantly from their alignment to the top flight when it comes to the young talent at their disposal. Collingwood, of course, remains the reigning premier after the 2020 season was scrapped.

Among the exciting brigade of up-and-comers, Olivia Barber has been named at full forward and will spearhead the attack alongside skipper, Michelle Fedele. Paige Sheppard is poised to make her return to football in the hoops, named among an exciting midfield with Cats AFLW youngsters Laura Gardiner, Darcy Moloney, and ruck Rene Caris having all gained experience at senior level.

Collingwood’s tall stocks should trouble the Cats, particularly up forward. Senior ruck Bella Smith takes up the full forward spot with Sarah King set to take the first bounce, while Imogen Barnett is another to watch in Collingwood’s front half. Smith’s former Norwood teammate Matilda Zander looms as an exciting addition from the SANFL, with the Magpies’ forward depth pushing Amelia Velardo to half-back.

The Magpies will look to adopt a similar gameplan to their AFLW side, looking to take the game on in transition with an exciting handball style while also taking hold of the game when required. Geelong will also play an attacking brand, with youthful exuberance and instinct also poised to come into the Cats’ thinking.

Carlton vs. Casey Demons
Saturday February 27, 2:00pm
Princes Park

Another all-aligned clash takes place at Princes Park as Carlton and Casey Demons lock horns, rounding out Saturday’s fixtures. The Blues have hit the reset button on their VFLW program and will look a very fresh side this year, adopting a strong youth focus to help feed their AFLW squad. Casey also has strong ties to its AFLW-aligned team in Melbourne, with a fit and strong Demons unit out to prove just how fruitful their preseason has been.

The Blues will be led from the back with skipper Ally Bild lining up next to vice-captain Jen Lew across half-back, while Carlton-listed speedster Charlotte Hammans completes the line. Coming down from Cairns, Jasmine Ware is another to watch in Carlton’s defence, while Akayla Peterson looms as a high-upside type at the other end. Carlton draftees Winnie Laing and Paige Trudgeon will also get some run into their legs in the front half.

Casey captain Samantha Johnson is her side’s major off-season coup and will anchor the midfield alongside first year Melbourne midfielder, Megan Fitzsimon. Both will benefit from the ruckwork of Maggie Caris, while an all-Melbourne half-back line of Mietta Kendall, Isabella Simmons, and Irishwoman Lauren Magee should prove exciting to watch. Brenna Tarrant also features at full back, with three senior games under her belt this year.

With new coach Peter Mercoulia also embedded in Melbourne’s coaching staff, Casey will look to play fast and put heavy scoreboard pressure on. Carlton is led by a new coach of its own in Luke O’Shannessy, who should be able to extract great things from the Blues’ young talent with his vast pathways experience.

Western Bulldogs vs. Hawthorn
Sunday February 28, 10:00am
Whitten Oval

The Western Bulldogs kick off their 2021 campaign at home as Hawthorn rolls into town on Sunday morning, looking to take a big scalp early. The Bulldogs have built one of the best young AFLW lists, with the vast array of talent spilling into its reserves side and making for an exciting squad on paper. The standalone Hawks are also strong on youth, but have attracted some big-name experience with Bec Goddard set to take the reins as head coach for the first time since 2018.

An embarrassment of riches sees the Bulldogs’ forwardline stacked with five AFLW-listed talents, including Isabella Grant, Gemma Lagioia, and the experienced Lauren Spark. Mary Sandral is the lone VFLW-listed player to start in attack, though the likes of Nicole McMahon (ruck), skipper Riley Christgoergl (half-back), and vice-captain Katelyn Betts (centre) will be consistent VFLW figures this year. Under McMahon, the likes of Isabelle Pritchard, Brooke Hards, and Britney Gutknecht should be served well in midfield.

Some well-renowned names in female footballing circles will provide invaluable experience to Hawthorn’s fledgling side, with stalwart Meg Hutchins poised to take on a number of roles aside from her forwardline listing, while Abbey Holmes is a tough body at the contest who will rotate forward through midfield. Skipper Jess Trend is another with AFLW experience who should impact greatly, while Northern Territory recruit Dominique Carbone has serious potential. She is set for her VFLW debut on the same weekend the Darwin Buffettes play finals back home.

The Hawks should prove a well structured side under Goddard and will be sure to crack in hard, though the abundance of promising young options for the Bulldogs will be incredibly tough to overcome. Should they not rely on too few, the Hawks will be ultra competitive in the face of the Dogs’ rawness and fierce style.

Essendon vs. Southern Saints
Sunday February 28, 10:30am
The Hangar

Essendon is set to unveil its shiny new facilities at The Hangar on Sunday morning, hosting the Southern Saints in what should be a competitive clash. Gunning for an AFLW license, the Bombers remain standalone but have built a strong list with more continuity than other sides heading into 2021. The Saints have their St Kilda alignment to lean on, but are looking strong in their own right after a solid preseason.

Anchoring Essendon’s side will be skipper Georgia Nanscawen, who is part of a terrific spine in the red and black. Cecilia McIntosh lines up down back, while Courtney Ugle provides some grunt, and Mia-Rae Clifford gets a fresh start up forward. Of the up-and-comers, Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba have already performed well in the sash, with a host of young prospects set to filter through Essendon’s lineup as the season progresses.

Tara Bohanna (full back) and Deanna Jolliffe (rover) will lead the Saints out as co-captain Frankie Hocking has not been named. Georgia McLean is one to watch off half-back having crossed from Casey, while Poppy Kelly and Alice Burke are the only St Kilda AFLW players to feature in the lineup – both named on the interchange bench ahead of three emergencies from the senior squad.

The Saints have not put a ceiling on their potential and promise to open the game up with unpredictable ball movement. The Bombers’ continuity as a group and greater poise with such experience could well play a factor in this clash, with both sides backing their cohesion after so long away from competitive action.

Darebin vs. Williamstown
Sunday February 28, 11:30am
La Trobe University, Bundoora

Pioneer club, the Darebin Falcons take on Williamstown in Round 1’s closing fixture on Sunday, set to play out at La Trobe University in Bundoora. Both proud standalone clubs, these two sides will be made up purely of VFLW-listed talent early on before gaining access to NAB League and potentially even AFLW talent as those seasons are run and done. The two sides already faced off during preseason, with Williamstown winning by 11 points at the same venue.

Led by the returning Stephanie Simpson, Darebin has a bunch of leaders set to build the standards under coach Mitch Skelly. In defence, Gena Lawson-Tavan is one who promises to do exactly that as vice-captain, while fellow leaders Cherelle Byrne (centre) and Alyssa Mifsud (full forward) are other leaders littered up and down the spine. One Falcon to watch is Stephanie Elarmaly, a youngster who has come through Darebin’s youth system.

2019 premiership coach Penny Cula-Reid crossed from Collingwood after her flag triumph, and takes over an exciting standalone squad. Skipper Erin Meade has locked in a spot at half-back, with reigning best and fairest winner Megan Williamson set to resume her midfield duties. Asha Price and Eliza Straford should be good value up forward, while Scarlett Dunell, the sister of former Seagull Sam lines up in defence.

There is often a great unknown around the standalone sides, especially after so long away from competitive action, but the two sides will know each other well after their preseason meeting and will get a good assessment of their 2021 chances in this bout.

Image Credit: Kelly Defina/AFL Photos

2021 VFLW season preview: Collingwood

REIGNING VFLW premier, Collingwood has added some “fresh faces” to a core group of remaining players ahead of season 2021, according to head coach Chloe McMillan. After her first year at the helm was ultimately scrapped in an on-field sense, McMillan says the Magpies are “going really well” but will inevitably look a little different this season.

“It was obviously challenging getting everyone back after not playing footy over the winter, but everyone’s come back in really good shape,” McMillan said. “We’ve worked pretty hard on our fitness and our skills early on to get the girls back being used to footy training and getting their loads in. “Now we’re just fine-tuning to be ready for Round 1 next week.

“(The team) will look a little bit different, which is a good thing I think. “We’ve got a core group that’s stayed around the club, we’ve got some really good people and leaders within that list who have stuck around. “But we’ve added in some exciting younger players and some mature players as well that’ll come in and play a role for us too.”

On top of retaining some key, senior figures for 2021, the Magpies will also be able to blood elite level talent each week due to their alignment to the Collingwood AFLW team. NAB League prospects will also be able to rotate through the program, while exciting new recruits promise to make a splash.

McMillan has been impressed by players which fall into all of those categories, and outlined a few standouts from preseason.

Sarah King has definitely been a standout,” she said. “She’s going to be our ruck for the season and she’s still only 23-years-old, but the way she’s carried herself (is impressive). “She’s been at the club since the start of our VFLW program and has developed a mile this preseason so she’s ready to take the competition on.

“One of the girls that we’re really excited by is Imogen Barnett, she’s a key forward that played in the VAFA and will look to play that key forward role for us. “She’s got really sticky hands and can move up and down the ground, so she’s been awesome for us.

“Another one that we’ve got is Matilda Zander, she came over from Norwood in the SANFLW where she won Norwood’s best and fairest. “So she’ll come over and play with us for this season and we’re really excited to see her come in and play for the Pies.

“We’re really excited to have Olivia Meagher with us for this season too. “She’ll play a few games at (NAB League club) Eastern Ranges and then hopefully come and play the majority of the season in the VFLW. “She was one who was probably unlucky not to get drafted so we’re hoping to keep developing her and prove to everyone that she can match it with the best and hopefully get drafted at the end of the year.”

Looking towards the strengths of Collingwood’s lineup, McMillan described her side as “mobile”, with a couple of key styles set to be leant on. With such a strong connection to the AFLW program, she says there may well be a visible crossover between how the two sides play.

“I think we’ll be a mobile side that can play a couple of different sort of ways,” she said. “We’re training that we want to promote exciting ball movement and get our handball game going a lot more than we have previously. “We’re trying to open up the game that way but also to control the it when we need to and probably play a bit more sensible footy.

“(AFLW alignment) is amazing. I think that’s certainly helped the program over the past couple of years and definitely for this year even having (AFLW coach) Steve Symonds down at training has helped develop all the girls. “I’m involved with the AFLW program as well so being able to cross over, we’re learning exactly what the AFLW team is learning and we’re hoping to roll out a pretty similar program to what the AFL girls are exposed to.”

The Magpies have been able to further monitor their progress via intraclub and practice matches thus far, taking on Melbourne’s reserves on February 6 and preparing to face North Melbourne this weekend. The scratch match will prove Collingwood’s final hitout before Round 1, which is expected to be a road trip – pending the official fixture announcement. Collingwood’s leadership setup is also set to be announced in the next day.

As McMillan says, “now the fun stuff happens” with competitive action right around the corner.