Tag: isabelle khoury

2021 NAB League Girls preview: Preliminary Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls premiership contenders have been whittled down to four after an enthralling opening week of finals, with the knockout bouts setting up this week’s preliminary final stage. As the postseason draw remains split into Country and Metro pools, Saturday’s double-header at Avalon Airport Oval will decide which regions are left standing to play off for ultimate glory.

In the day’s opening game, minor premier Oakleigh will look to flex its muscle against the Eastern Ranges, after both regions progressed through the elimination round in style. The Chargers remain the team to beat having dropped just one game this season, but Eastern cannot be counted out after knocking off the reigning premiers.

Looking at the Country equation, the third and fourth ranked regular season sides mixed it up last week to create an intriguing matchup this time around. The Geelong Falcons and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels are those teams in question, both with some terrific top-end talents to be showcased at midday.

We preview both fixtures with a look at form and the key matchups.

METRO POOL

Oakleigh Chargers vs. Eastern Ranges
Saturday May 8, 10:00am
Avalon Airport Oval

Top seed, Oakleigh Chargers will lock horns with Eastern Ranges to decide which side will represent the Metro regions in this year’s NAB League grand final. The Chargers have set the benchmark in 2021 having only lost once during the regular season, but have not yet been able to test themselves against the Ranges. Eastern finished as Metro’s second-ranked team with its 6-2 record, with either loss coming to fellow finals contenders. Both teams are on win streaks, with the Ranges riding high on four-straight victories, while Oakleigh returned from the break well to get up twice in the last fortnight.

Oakleigh’s squad dynamism will be a feature to watch in this clash, with many of their top-end talents able to shift and impact across multiple lines. Skipper Charlie Rowbottom is often at the heart of their cause, starting at full forward in recent weeks before bullocking her way into the game through midfield. Stella Reid is also among the starting forwards and has added a goalkicking string to her bow this season alongside Eliza James. Another in that midfield-forward rotation could be Amanda Ling, who is so tough and consistent at ground level. Further afield, ‘Chook’ Brooke Vickers and Charlotte Van Der Vlies run the wings, as Charlotte Taylor forms the centrepiece of a sturdy defence.

If there is one Metro region which can compete with Oakleigh for inside midfield strength, it may be Eastern. The one-two punch of Bridget Deed and Keeley Sherar has been wonderful to watch, with the likes of Jorja Livingstone benefitting on the outer. Isabelle Khoury has also entered the centre bounce mix, which is capped off by athletic ruck Georgia Campbell. Tilly Hardy and El Chaston, who have both gained VFLW experience this year, are forward threats, along with competition leading goalkicker Alyssia Pisano. The 15-year-old talent has proven she is not afraid of the big stage and can kick a bag if afforded too much leeway.

The minor premiers should rightly enter as the favoured side in this match, but will be given a good shake by Eastern’s competitiveness and even spread across the ground. It all starts with the midfield battle, which should prove a tight one, as both teams like to make an impact at the contest. Whichever side can get on top at the coalface and provide greater opportunities for the match-winners in the front half, will go a long way to being crowned this year’s top Metro region.

COUNTRY POOL

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Saturday May 8, 12:00pm
Avalon Airport Oval

The Geelong Falcons and GWV Rebels battle it out at midday on Saturday to decide which team will not only be crowned the top Country region in 2021, but also progress to this year’s NAB League grand final. Both teams took out higher ranked opposition in last week’s elimination final round, with Geelong powering past Dandenong while the Rebels caused a momentous upset over top seed, Tasmania. The Falcons got the better of their weekend rivals all the way back in Round 1, winning by 10 points on home turf in what was a competitive hitout throughout. Plenty has change since then though, and there will be plenty of confidence bouncing around both squads given their recent exploits.

Geelong was pegged as one of the teams to beat during preseason and have not disappointed, boasting high-level talent on each line. Starting in defence, the Falcons are rock-solid with the likes of Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling among those who repel nicely across half-back, impacting aerially and with their disposal. Up the other end, Renee Tierney is the spearhead with dynamite athlete Gabbi Featherston ahead of her as another marking target. At ground level, Poppy Schaap has rolled forward a lot more in recent weeks and Zoe Garth is impartial to a goal. Delivering the ball to them often times is Tess Craven out of the middle, who will once again be supported by bottom-agers Charlotte Simpson and Ash Van Loon at the centre bounces.

GWV lays claim to a head of top end prospects, with arguably none more exciting that its two AFLW Academy members Ella Friend and Nyakoat Dojiok. The pair are capable of bookending this lineup with aerial dominance, but Friend is wonderfully versatile and could well end up waxing with Dojiok in defence. Last week’s match winner, Paige Scott is capable of tearing the game apart at any moment, named in midfield but likely to head forward where Tahlia Meier is also a threat. In the middle, Kalani Scoullar makes for an imposing ruck figure, while Lilli Condon is as hard-working as they come with her run and ball winning ability at ground level. Add the experience of Chloe Leonard to that midfield rotation, and GWV are ultra competitive.

If their Round 1 meeting is anything to go by, this clash should be an absolute belter. Geelong is a side which seems to be peaking at the right time, with their form built on a wall-like defence and reliable figures where it matters most, complemented by forwards who consistently convert. The Rebels have the potential to be equally as damaging on their day and will look to control possession, but should be tested well in their usually strong aerial department. This is a clash where you cannot rule either side out, and both should bring a true finals intensity to the fore.

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Round 9

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition returned for its ultimate home-and-away round ahead of finals, with seven games filling out a bumper weekend. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

CALDER CANNONS vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis 

There comes a point when watching a prospect where they genuinely do everything, and Prespakis has well and truly reached that point in her junior career. After putting in two very good performances for Vic Metro in the past couple of weeks, Prespakis came back to NAB League level without missing a beat, continuing to just dominate in the middle. She could be forgiven for taking it easy at times defensively, but it’s constantly a highlight of her game, with her tackling pressure in close top notch. Playing a team orientated game, there were multiple times where Prespakis gave it off to teammates in an attempt to get them more involved, even throwing up a few full wingspan shepherds for her teammates to run past unpressured. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

Calder Cannons:

#3 Emelia Yassir

Has time and time again proven her work rate is at the highest standard, with this game being no exception. One instance in the second quarter highlighted this well, where she impacted the ball off the rucks hands, unable to grab it, but then followed up with three/four efforts, including a bump on an opponent to then win the ball and boot it inside forward 50. She also again impressed with her aerial strength, taking clean marks consistently even when under direct pressure, then following up with good ball use by foot to hit up forwards leading at her. 

#34 Tahlia Read 

Worked hard as a forward, streaming out to meet the ball and impact centre stoppages, where her speed was on show, often getting plenty of separation on her opponent. Moved well in the forward 50, getting to some hacked kicks forward to mark or make them work out. Almost got a goal in the first quarter after taking what appeared to be a good grab just before the siren, but it was called touched play on. Around the ground she used it well, being one that would look to move into the centre of the ground to open up the options going forward. 

#39 Abbey McDonald 

Put in two really impressive shifts for the Metro U17’s through all thirds of the ground, with that ‘utility’ role continuing into the NAB League return. Started the game in the midfield where she moved well around the stoppages, getting herself some early clearances where her hands in close were really impressive, often finding Yassir who was already moving at speed to break away. She moved up forward at times where her composure got her a couple of nice marks, where she would control the tempo and look for a properly leading teammate.

Geelong Falcons:

#4 Poppy Schaap 

Finishing the game with two goals and plenty of touches in the forward half, Schapp continues to put her name up as one of the premiere pressure forwards in the competition, playing mostly in the forward line and having some really opportune moments, as well as managing to create her own opportunities through hard work and determination, with that tackling pressure forcing turnovers inside their forward 50. Pushed up the ground at times when Calder had the momentum to impact contests, trying to pull the Falcons back into it.

#11 Tess Craven 

Just involved in everything once again, despite playing a bit more of  a defensive role in the midfield often starting on Prespakis around stoppages. Positioned well around contests and worked hard to regain possession for the Falcons when it came out of forward 50. Again looked to spread across the ground getting free and making herself a switch or inside 45 option, used it well, looking to keep it central.

#23 Elizabeth Dowling 

Dowling continues to impress with her work in and coming out of the backline, meeting loose balls with speed and aggression, meaning she wins the ball herself or she seriously wraps up whoever does. With her aggression and speed, she does not just use brute force with the ball, she moves smoothly through traffic, able to standup against anyone trying to tackle her, keeping her hands free and getting it off to a teammate. She is a clear leader in the defensive half as well, telling her teammates where to be. It was really impressive to see her have an impact on most of the contests in the defensive half for the Falcons, either laying a tackling, carrelling an opponent, put up a shepherd, taking a mark or getting the ball off the deck and moving it herself, she truly did everything she could to ensure a Falcons victory.

#26 Ingrid Houtsma

Whilst she had quite a few good moments through the game, it was her rising to the occasion in the third quarter, when the game was in real contention, that ultimately got the Falcons rolling again to go on to victory. Started with some nice plays around the forward 50 mark that led to a goal against the tide of play, where not long after she managed to get the ball in a contest, find her way out and hit up a leading Renee Tierney who kicked their second of the quarter. That ability to go through contests and come out clean, whilst traditionally a winger, was impressive and showed a versatility to her game that has not come out too often.

OTHERS:

Both sides had some lesser contributors that are deserving of a mention, two more dual goal kickers in Renee Tierney and Jessica Zakkour, both in their 19th year, hit the scoreboard when the opportunity presented itself. Annie Lee and Taiya Morrow were consistent aerial threats in defence, with Lee’s ball use especially good. Gabbi Featherston showed off her athleticism as a forward and ruck as well. Neve Crowley was a strong mark in the forward line, using it well when she had the ball, as did Zali Friswell in the midfield.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Dandenong Stingrays:

#10 Abbey Jordan

Very few players going around would be able to match the work rate of Jordan who covers the ground with ease from midfield to defence and pushing forward. She looks to run and carry any chance she gets, and if she does make mistakes by hand or foot, she will get across to help out her teammates. Her hands on the inside are impressive and her footy smarts are right up there with clever knocks at ground level into the path of her teammates. Whilst at times she could rush her kicking, she intercepted a number of passes by reading the play off the opposition’s boot, marking and then taking the game on.

#11 Emily Shepherd

Had a tale of two halves in the sense that her first half she was racking up the ball with will and was hitting targets left, right and centre, whilst in the second half she remained involved and her hands in close were still good, but a number of her kicks were intercepted. She loves to snap around her body to get out of trouble, and is at her most dangerous when having space to size up options and kick long inside 50. Some of her passes in the opening half were superbly weighted, and combined with her clean hands at round level and pressure acts, Shepherd was certainly a busy bee around the ground. Still finding her fair share of it in the second half, it was more her execution that was not as consistent, though she was still pressuring the opposition.

#12 Alisha Liddle

A strong one-on-one player, Liddle took a number of great grabs both contested and uncontested around the ground. Liddle showed off some good speed on the lead and had a number of chances including kicking two goals for the match, with one coming from a 30m set shot on a 45-degree angle after plucking the mark over the top of her opponent, and her second coming from point blank after a 50m penalty, though she had taken another strong grab prior to that. She had a chance earlier in the game from 40m but the set shot just fell short. Liddle is one who competes time and time again in the air and is generally clean above her head.

#34 Ash Richards

The Stingrays co-captain almost had four goals on the board in five minutes with a really fast start. She slotted two goals in the opening three minutes, with a set shot on goal from a tackle 30m out, then an uncontested mark 20m out both going through the big sticks. She had a running shot and then another set shot on goal that followed, though both missed. She rolled through the midfield at times through the game, laying some strong tackles, and took a great intercept mark against two opponents in the second term. Strong above her head and looking dangerous inside 50, she clunked grabs with ease and had a couple of late chances in the fourth term with one from 50m opting to pass off to the danger zone, then ran around 35m out but just fell short with five mins left.

#38 Felicity Crank

Rotating between midfield and defence, Crank was able to get boot to ball quickly, and whilst she could occasionally rush her kicks, she was able to position herself well around the field to get into ball-winning positions. A highlight was a strong intercept mark in the third term with pressure coming from behind, then she had a clearance out of the middle in the final term, also had an intercept mark, and worked back into defence to win the ball at ground level and shovel it out.

Northern Knights:

#1 Phoebe Nelson

Showed strength throughout the game to stand up in tackles and spread across the ground well, often positioning herself a kick behind play or anchoring herself at the back of the stoppages where she could run. What was impressive was her spread and willingness to move the ball on, laying some good tackles and looking to switch where possible. She did rush some of her disposals, but got in the right positions to intercept and then keep moving in transition.

#7 Teleah Smart

Had a touch of class in the first half by hitting the scoreboard twice, albeit from a total of 20m out. She had a nice passage of play in the first term where she marked on the wing, her kick was short so she went and mopped up the ball, won a free kick and then was given a 50m penalty where she converted the goal. In the second term, her great defensive work in the goalsquare earned her a free kick and nailed the goal from point blank. She took a few good marks in defence and was able to hit her targets later in the game, and seemed composed with ball-in-hand.

#9 Maeve Chaplin

A standout for the Knights and just kept pushing throughout four quarters whether it be at the stoppages or roaming in the back half to assist her defence. She mopped up loose balls and charged through stoppages with intent, using her quick hands in close to advantage. While at times her kicks might not go directly to teammates, they would be put to space, and she would work hard to add an extra number to the contest. Her strength whilst being tackled was another feature in the game, getting her hands free to give the ball over, and then able to cleanly pick up at ground level on multiple occasions.

#36 Ava Jordan

The pocket rocket 05er was lively around the stoppages and just borrowed in time and time again. Whilst she has had bigger games, Jordan was constantly cracking in, winning the ball and firing out handballs to teammates, with a fantastic gather spin and delivery to the forward side of the centre to Ella Smallacombe. She spread well and was able to win a fair share of uncontested possessions as well as contested ones, and often chipped around with short passes and ran hard to try and win the ball back.

#37 Rylie Wilcox

A lightly-bodied player who kicked a goal from a great contested mark, clunking a grab and nailing the set shot from 30m out, then roaming around the ground to gather the ball in all thirds of the ground. A couple of times Wilcox’s spatial awareness could have improved given she was run down before she could dispose of it cleanly, or she had to rush, but her gathering at ground level and third term in particular was a highlight. She looked to play on when she could and open up the angles, then ran-down an opponent in the fourth quarter to force a spill and ran to the next contest.

#40 Tannah Hurst

The defender put together a really solid performance in the back 50, positioning herself in the right places to win the ball and take it out of defence. She won the ball under pressure on a number of occasions and had to give the ball off quickly, but also provided the defensive aspects such as shepherds or locks. Hurst burst through a stoppage late in the first term to be a standout on the field at that stage, and laid a massive front-on tackle to stop a potential goal. Whilst not as busy after that, Hurst did have a number of highlight plays, mopping up at half-back off opposition plays, and laying some strong tackles. A clean gather in defence to run out and kick to the wing was good, though it did get turned over. Overall one of the better Knights throughout the match.

OTHERS:

Dandenong Stingrays had an even spread across the board with Charley Ryan, Sarah Hosking, Olivia Robinson and Zoe Hill all winning their fair share of the ball, while Bianca Lyne kicked a goal rolling through the ruck. For the Knights, Molly McErlain was impressive for a 14-year-old, while Lulu Beatty, Megan Barnes and Brooke Plummer stood out, and Trinity Mills slotted two goals.

GWV REBELS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Showed true versatility throughout the game as someone that played on the wing, through the middle and down back at times, able to impact in all three positions consistently. Her usual strengths such as ball use and marking were well utilised by her throughout the game, taking good marks above head, especially in defence, to steady the ship at times and get the Rebels some time to compose themselves. What was most impressive, and possibly a new string to her bow, was how well she played her role through the middle of the ground, consistently clean below her knees even when under immediate pressure from an opponent. This theme was also present when she was stationed on the wing, able to hold her space and time her runs well to try and receive a handball from a pack.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Coming off two really strong U19’s Country performances, Dojiok played like a player with the confidence to take on the world, and that is what she did at times streaming out of the defensive 50 to attack the ball and provide as an option laterally for teammates. One particular instance of this came in the third quarter where she got onto the end of a kick into the middle of the ground, and already being at full pace, went straight through a Tasmanian opponent to deliver inside 50. Along with this, she showed her usual strength in the air, taking a few quality intercept marks in the defensive 50 above her head, where she would usually look to get running with it immediately to quickly get GWV transitioning. 

#11 Perri King (Tasmania)

Had a really well rounded game through the midfield, being the main Tasmanian midfielder looking to nullify the ruck dominance of Kalani Scoullar with her positioning and runs through the stoppages. She has a really eye-catching game style, playing as an inside mid with genuine outside mid speed, as well as an impressive leap that makes her such a dangerous marking target around the ground, even taking a contested mark against the previously mentioned Scoullar in the defensive 50. With these athletic traits and position it is no surprise she finds herself consistently winning the ball, where she tends to favour kicking it long forward out of the pack, or handball if there is a clear option there

TOP PERFORMERS:

GWV Rebels:

#1 Lili Condon 

Coming back with some more VFLW experience, Condon looked much better for the experience at that level, just looking too good in the midfield at times seemingly having an unlimited amount of time with the ball through contests. Seemed more assured of herself as well, often backing her speed and agility rather than rushing a disposal, even finding space from that additional run to find a few bounces, with the extra time she took seeing her ball use at its best for the season.

#2 Tahlia Meier

Looked so clean with the ball and just a step above with her speed through the midfield, looking particularly damaging around stoppages where she would out run opponents and weave around the contest to get a clean disposal going forward. Also was not afraid to smack away the hands of attempted tacklers and then got it moving, often by hand, to teammates that were in less contested situations. Not letting her lack of height impact her aerial game, she flew for quite a few marks throughout the game. Another impressive part of her game was how willing she was to initiate contact throughout, often pushing opponents around stoppages to try and get an extra meter or so of separation.

#27 Molly Walton 

You can just tell that she has a massive impact to the Rebels defensive structure, and how much Tasmania actively looked to nullify that by putting a player on her when Walton was pushed up as a higher defender, and then very happy to put stronger opponents on her one on one down deep. She finds ways to impact, whether it is providing a shepherd for a teammate to take a mark uncontested, taking an intercept mark herself or drifting across to spoil, then following up with good ball use to teammates, usually ones about 20 meters away that aren’t under pressure.

Tasmania Devils:

#7 Meghan Gaffney

The winger showcased her trademark speed through the game, attacking spilled balls out of contests or stoppages no matter who was in her way, or even heading directly towards her, showing immense courage. Was smart with her use by foot going forward as well, never really delivering bullet kicks but placing them just in front of teammates to run into.

#9 Claire Ransom

Finding herself in the forward line a bit more often than usual, Ransom more than held her own in a newer position, able to provide as a genuine option when Tasmania were going forward and she was there. When in her usual midfield role, Ransom brought a level of composure not many others could, finding some impressive options in close with her quick hands, or delivering well forward by foot, she just manages to find those options not many others can under the pressure she usually is under. 

#13 Olivia Smith

Lining up on the wing for majority of the game, Smith played a fantastic game where she filled the role of a traditional winger perfectly with her positioning, making herself a switch option when the ball was on the other side of the ground, and sitting just behind when it was on her side. Her positioning outside of the forward 50 as well led to consistent pressure on the Rebels defence, able to make a contest and usually get the ball back inside 50 either herself or by getting it to a teammate.

#15 Jemma Webster 

Found herself involved in some of Tasmania’s best pieces of transitional play for the day, usually being the central option and passing off to a running teammate she played her role really well, positioning well outside forward 50 as well to create contests and keep the threat of another inside 50 entry going.

#33 Shania Saward 

Playing up both ends throughout the contest, Saward utilised her strength to win essentially every marking contest she was involved in, taking them strongly without much trouble. Looked very comfortable as a defender, not afraid to run off her opponent and set up outside the forward 50 to take some intercept grabs up there and bomb the ball straight back in

OTHERS:

Tasmania were not without their solid role players in the win, Ella Maurer being one of them that continued her form from the U19’s Championships to have a good game through the middle. Amy Prokopiec kicked two goals when the game was tight early on to give Tasmania the early advantage. Briana Oates did well to nullify her direct opponents as a defender as well. For the Rebels, Chloe Leonard and Kalani Scoullar were involved through the midfield and ruck respectively, with Scoullar having the clear win in the ruck duals. Jenna Burke also looked strong throughout the game, marking herself as another to watch for the 2022 draft from the Rebels

EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Eastern Ranges:

#4 Keeley Sherar

A standout across the game, Sherar showed a touch of class through the midfield and was strong in standing up when tackled to still get her handball away. A highlight was the first centre bounce of the second term when she read the Grace Campbell tap, charged away and kicked inside 50 well. Her defensive pressure on opponents was admirable, battling hard at ground level, whilst her ability to move through heavy traffic was a great trait. She occasionally fumbled a little bit at ground level, but once she was able to get ball-in-hand she was clean with her hands. She took a number of good marks around the ground showing off her work rate.

#5 Jorja Livingstone

The wing had some eye-catching moments, and found enough of the ball to pose a problem for the opposition. She won a free kick for in the back in the third term and take off and use her trusty left to put it to a dangerous spot close to goal. She was clean at ground level, and whilst at times she rushed, she was generally one player who could utilise the ball in transition.

#9 Mia Busch

A standout player off half-back and one of the best on the ground, she was terrific intercepting the play and moving it forward. Even if she dropped a mark, her second efforts would help her win the ball for her teammates and stay upright in a tackle to give it off to a free teammate. She laid a great tackle in the goalsquare to save a certain goal, and then was an anchor at half-back with her marking. Once in the third term she was a bit too ambitious by playing on and was rushed after stepping off her line in between two opponents, but otherwise was fairly composed throughout the match.

#16 Isabelle Khoury

Lively throughout the match, Khoury never stopped trying to run with the ball and break the lines. Sometimes she would get caught, but when it paid off, she was able to open up the angles and get it forward. She showed clean and quick hands off the deck, and was able to get boot to ball quickly in order to get it forward.

#18 Bridget Deed

Put together a consistent four-quarter performance and her hard running and work rate ensured she won a truckload of the ball. Finishing with easily the most disposals on the ground, Deed was often held at stoppages or carefully guarded because of her ability to read the ball off hands. She was strong under pressure and was able to just bomb the ball forward to provide her teammates with scoring opportunities, whilst having quick hands in close.

#21 Ruby O’Dwyer

Similar to Deed, O’Dwyer worked hard across the ground and looked to spread when she could, able to get boot to ball whilst under pressure, including in the third term when she was being tackled. She won a free kick for going in hard and drove the ball forward then gave quick hands from a stoppage to a teammate on the outside in the fourth term.

#44 Georgia Campbell

An absolutely dominant performance from Campbell in terms of her ruck work, and whilst she did not have as much impact across the ground as usual – dropping a few marks she would usually clunk early – she was able to really take control at the stoppages. Sharing the work load with Jess Grace, Campbell opened up angles and space for her midfielders to run onto.

Northern Territory:

#2 Djimila Totham

One of the most productive players in the match, Totham did a good job from defence, often opposed one-on-one with the talented Alyssia Pisano. She held her own in that contest and restricted Pisano to just the one goal, whilst being a prolific interceptor. She was clean at ground level and had a slick sidestep through traffic in the third term to pick the exit and kick away, and whilst she sometimes was rushed with her kick, she was able to hold up under pressure in the back 50 during the second half.

#11 Grace Mulvahil

The smooth-moving player was able to roll off half-back and down the wing, breaking away with her speed from stoppages. In the third term, she shrugged off a tackle in the midfield to get hands free to a teammate, then would get her own hands dirty not long after with a good tackle at ground level.

#25 Bella Clarke

Showed her experience in the game by accumulating the ball regularly, particularly in the first half. Clarke was quick to get boot to ball and won a free kick for a great tackle on Deed in the middle. She then got to the next contest after kicking it to assist her teammates, whilst had another good play in the third term running out of a stoppage.

#28 Kasey Marsden

One of the better Northern Territory players, Marsden stood out with her persistence in tackling opponents, even if sometimes they gave away free kicks. She mopped up at half-back worked up and down the ground, and was able to win it on the inside or outside. She even had a crack undersized in the ruck in the second term, and continued to stockpile possessions around the ground. In the final term, she rebounded well out of the back 50, and then won the ball on the wing as well to send it inside 50.

OTHERS:

Youngster Ava Campbell and co-captain Eloise Chaston both found double-figure disposals, Cadhla Schmidli worked hard on the last line, and Jess Grace shared the ruck load with Georgia Campbell for the Ranges. For the Thunder, Shanoah Leedie, Georgia Johnson and Matisse Hunter were others who worked hard throughout the game.

WESTERN JETS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

On what was an indifferent day for the star AFLW Academy member and her Pioneers, you could not put it down to a lack of effort. Fresh off a National Championships campaign where she spearheaded Vic Country’s attack, Slender reverted back to her defensive duties early in this match. She broke hard off the line at the first centre bounce to try and set the tone, but was unlucky to be caught holding the ball. Slender’s marking came to prominence with a trademark intercept grab in the opening term, though it was her intent and tackling efforts throughout the game which stood out most. The versatile talent also cracked into the midfield for a blockbuster matchup against Montana Ham, and while she was not overly prolific, still had her moments of strength at the contest.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Western Jets:

#1 Charlotte Baskaran

The hard-working bottom-ager returned another performance to remember, collecting a round-high 31 disposals as a constant in the Jets’ midfield. A tenacious ground level player, Baskaran was in the thick of the action and again enforced her accumulative effect with terrific spread from the contest and repeat efforts to help thrust Western forward. She often won or received the ball in ideal positions to deliver inside attacking 50, where she had potential to inflict plenty of damage. Baskaran also showcased her speed in open spaces, particularly with a four-bounce run through the corridor during term three which saw her side go from centre half-back to centre half-forward in a flash. Overall, a top game from the top 10 2022 prospect.

#27 Caitlin Sargent

Sargent was the dominant forward on the ground and looked ominous during a three-goal first half showing. She got on the board almost immediately with the opening goal of the game, finishing quickly after receiving by hand close to goal. A holding the ball free kick saw Sargent add another in the same quarter, before a terrific overhead mark allowed her to convert a third in term two. Sargent would go on to compete well and even scrounge some more shots on goal, before showing good confidence to mark strongly once again and convert a fourth major in the third quarter.

#38 Montana Ham

In what was an imposing performance, Ham was able to highlight some of the traits which have her pegged as a top five prospect among the 2022 crop. She was able to get first hands on the ball in midfield, where she started the game, while also using her power to burst onto the outer and gain good penetration by foot. Ham’s aerial marking was another real feature, rising time and time again to intercept Bendigo’s rebounding kicks as a formidable wall across the front half. Going forward, Ham also mixed it up by actively lowering her eyes more than usual and hitting targets in front of her, rather than constantly blazing away long. Scarily enough, she already looks a class above the competition.

#41 Ciara Singleton

In her final game for the Western Jets, Singleton swung forward to good effect and was a large part of her side’s hot start to the game. Her marking and reading of the ball in flight are among her strengths, and they both came to the fore as Singleton set up well across the 50-metre arc and enjoyed a productive first half. She also booted her first Under 18s (now 19s) goal for Western, coming in the opening quarter and now bows out as one of the rare 2001-births to have remained in the NAB League this year.

#42 Jemima Woods

Woods was part of the Jets’ dynamic forwardline which boasted plenty of height and marking power, but was able to remain busy when the ball hit the deck. The 18th-year prospect hit the scoreboard early with a set shot conversion, before adding a second goal in the third term via the same method. She presented well on the lead and proved mobile when taking on ruck duties, looking to have gained a good amount of confidence from her three-goal VFLW debut. With some nice athletic tools and a good work rate, Woods has plenty to work with.

Bendigo Pioneers:

#15 Drew Ryan

Ryan was one who played an important role in an under-siege area of the ground for Bendigo, able to intercept and repel from her defensive post. She started off with a solid pack mark inside defensive 50 during term one, an act which would be repeated again in the second and third terms. Ryan showed good strength to be able to stand up in tackles and despite enormous scoreboard pressure, was not afraid to take on the game with attacking intent. Once she marked or mopped up, Ryan would look to move quickly on most occasions and generated a massive seven rebound 50s. While others rotated heavily, she was a constant down back and proved steady in tough positions.

#18 Jemma Finning

Starting in midfield, Finning brought a good amount of physicality to the ground level contests and managed to set her game up with an early centre clearance. She hunted the ball well and was able to apply defensive pressure when necessary, including in the second half when she shifted to defence and earned a holding the ball decision inside the back 50. Finning set up nicely behind the ball to sweep up and provide some composure on the rebound, with her use by foot a solid feature on the day. The top-ager will likely now move on to Essendon’s VFLW side having gone close to a debut earlier this year.

#30 Octavia Di Donato

An exciting prospect for next year’s draft class, Di Donato was tried in a couple of roles but started in defence. She showed some good toe breaking into open space and looked to be productive with ball in hand, seen directing traffic ahead of her before delivering by foot. She would eventually rotate further afield and continued to look to chain her possessions or move the ball forward quickly, hoping to provide her side with a creative spark.

OTHERS:

Both sides finished with a number of strong contributors despite the scoreline discrepancy. 2005-born prospect Kiera Whiley again showed nice traits on the outer for Western, while Trinity Skenderis was productive in midfield and Laura Elliott also impacted. For Bendigo, Lila Keck and Lucia Painter proved they will be ones to watch for years to come, while Scarlett Orritt cracked in around the ground and Tegan Williams was a key pillar at either end of the ground.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

There is not many superlatives that have not been used when describing Rowbottom, she just constantly impresses with what she does around the ground. Found herself up forward a lot more than usual and proved that she can fill in as a key forward to great effect, finishing with three goals. Her athleticism and strength above her head made her an extremely difficult match up, with Gippsland unable to find a proper answer for her as a deep target, with some being able to match her in the air but not on the ground, and others able to match her on the ground but not in the air. Unsurprisingly won a heap of it when she did move into the middle, with her burst around stoppages leading to plenty of clearances and long kicks forward.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Oakleigh Chargers:

#9 Brooke Vickers 

Stationed on the wing after her impressive Vic Metro performances, Vickers used it well all through the game even when the rain started pelting down in the final quarter, with that reliability of disposal helping Oakleigh going forward or across the ground. Positioned well on the outside of the forward 50, taking a few intercept marks when Gippsland attempted to bomb the ball out, even making contests with much taller opponents to then win it at ground level. 

#14 Eliza James

Involved in a lot going forward, seemingly being the main target up forward for the chargers, with her marking prowess being impressive during the day, being able to get separation on the lead to take it comfortably on the chest or out in front, if it had not been for her unselfish ways she could have very well ended up with six or seven goals, however the constant effort to share the ball around and get other teammates on the scoresheet was impressive. She had a few gettable shots float off to the side or drop short, showing that once her goalkicking is more polished she’s very capable of being a consistent scoring threat.

#15 Ameile Smith

Returning for her first game since breaking her collarbone earlier in the year against Sandringham, Smith impacted in the forward half, with her marking and use by foot especially impressive, often looking to give the ball off to a teammate, working hard to help them if they did not take clean possession. Was another one that very well could have had a few more goals if she was a little more selfish, but decided to do the team thing and share it around. Filling in as ruck in the forward 50, she held up well against the experienced and much taller Matser, getting front position a few times to even the contest.

#23 Caitlin Matthews 

Spent her time between the ruck and backline, playing more and more in the ruck as the game went, really taking it up to Matser and began to get on top late in the piece. Where she clearly won though was her impact around the ground, able to win it at ground level without much trouble and get it out well. Especially in the backline she played a massive part in keeping Gippsland goalless, looking to switch the play often and run it further up to get extra distance behind the kicks. 

#29 Amanda Ling 

Similar to Rowbottom, Ling found herself spending a lot more time forward in an effort to give Oakleigh’s youngsters more of a go in the midfield, where she proved that she can impact as a forward, using her speed, strength and agility to get herself on the scoreboard three times, as well as setting up some pretty good scoring opportunities as she got around opponents and kicked to the advantage of her teammates. She looked good when she played that link up role, pushing up the ground to get possession from a teammate moving it out of defence, then running and delivering long.

#33 Jasmine Fleming 

In for her debut game, which has been delayed due to cricket commitments and injuries, the bottom-ager was dominant throughout the contest, spending her time between the midfield and the forward line, she managed to impact wherever she was. Possesses a really good burst of speed which made her particularly dangerous around the stoppages, where she got two or three really clean centre clearances purely from that burst of speed, with no one able to match those first five or six steps. Going forward, she was particularly dangerous in the air, taking grabs comfortably and converting one in the second quarter. In a game where Oakleigh’s bottom-agers were given every chance to shine, she took the opportunity and marked herself as one to watch for next year.

#34 Lily Hart

Not often that a bottom-ager is the most experienced player in her teams midfield group, but Hart stepped up to lead well through the rover group. She showed some really high level positioning around stoppages, not taking long to realise where the opposing ruck, Grace Matser, was favouring with her tap placement, and just sitting there to win some easy clearances and really nullifying the ruck dominance Matser showed at times. Getting those clearances was not the end of it, as the usually classy Hart continued to use it well throughout the day, often running and kicking to the same spots going forward but having it pay off every time.

Gippsland Power:

#9 Taylah Bourne

Consistently involved throughout the day in the Gippsland defence, pushing up to impact at the top of the defensive 50 and attempting to stop Oakleigh getting inside forward 50. When it got deep she was one that was always competing at ground level, constantly applying pressure to the ball carrier and forcing opponents to the boundary. 

#26 Grace McRae

As she has done all season McRae battled hard on the inside all day, cracking in and winning the ball well, usually just to be met by a swarm of Oakleigh players attempting to rip the ball from her hands or cut off an attempted handball or kick. She never dropped off her effort though, battling right to the end. 

OTHERS:

Despite not coming away with the win, Gippsland saw a fairly even contribution across the board, with bottom-agers Leesa Guastella and Yasmin Duursma particularly impressive in defence and midfield respectively, along with Tyla Angwin, Alexei Guy-Toogood and Chloe Bailey. Oakleigh naturally saw quite a few players involved, with Stella Reid, Charlotte Van Der Vlies and Charlotte Taylor in that group that contributed at times. 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

The dominant tall afield, Morphett was simply too big, tall and strong in the ruck. She racked up a whopping 28 hitouts, soaring above and through each opponent at the centre bounces and out-bodying them around the ground. What was most pleasing about Morphett’s play was her ability to follow up, imposing herself at ground level to tackle and bomb forward a few clearances. The GWS Academy member was also a marking force around the ground, while resting forward to good effect despite not hitting the scoreboard. The next step in her development will be to more consistently direct her taps, rather than purely win them and thump into space.

Murray Bushrangers:

#1 Olivia Cicolini

One of the most dangerous forwards on the day, Cicolini was lively inside forward 50 for the Bushrangers. She set the tone with good defensive pressure from the get-go, while also clicking into gear via an early opportunist’s goal. The bottom-ager was a real pest for Sandringham’s defence, able to somehow get snaps away towards goal and make them think about her presence when nearing the big sticks. Cicolini booted her second goal after a strong pack mark in the second term, before making it three in the following quarter from a tripping free kick.

#2 Aurora Smith

Utilised in a slightly different role to her usual wing posting, Smith was afforded some good time in the middle and ended as one of her team’s top ball winners. The 2021 Murray best and fairest was busy at ground level, doing her best to win the ball at each contest and burst away with a nippy turn of speed. Smith looked a touch more comfortable on the outside, where she started the game, but added a handy string to her bow in this outing.

#17 Keeley Skepper

Arguably the best player afield, Skepper racked up a game-high 24 disposals – including 23 kicks and 13 inside 50s. The bottom-ager was unrelenting in her pursuit to push Murray forward, seen marking across half back or in the corridor before wasting no time to get on the move and pump the ball down the line with her punchy left foot. Those repeat acts proved the story of Skepper’s game, with her intent and willingness to take the game on proving key to the Bushrangers’ highest score for the season. She capped off a day out fittingly, streaming into goal and slotting home the game’s final major during the last minute of play after yet another good read to intercept.

#25 Sophia McCarthy

McCarthy was another to cause Sandringham some headaches aerially, with her contested marking a real highlight inside attacking 50. The 18-year-old started brightly with a first term goal, before bringing that aerial marking into effect during term two, when she kicked her second. She repeated the act in the following quarter, stamping her case as one of the more ominous talls afield. McCarthy also rotated through the ruck and while she was caught on the ball a couple of times, did well to stay involved. Her growing confidence to leap and clunk big marks was clearly the best feature, though.

Sandringham Dragons:

#10 Bridie Hipwell

Sandringham’s prime ball winner on the day, Hipwell showed a developing dimension to her midfield craft with strong burst away from congestion. She has the tendency to be caught at times, but did well to break the packs open and do so with confidence, before delivering long by foot or keeping the ball rolling onto the outside by hand. Hipwell’s kicking is another area of improvement, but she was able to get good purchase at times and saw more ball on the outer, which allowed for more time to deliver. On top of strong contested ball winning, the bottom-ager also rose to take a couple of solid marks, which she has great potential to do at 174cm.

#17 J’Noemi Anderson

Fresh off her National Championships campaign with the Allies, Anderson translated the confidence gained there to impact in Sandringham’s forwardline. The sister of former Carlton player Joe, she worked up the ground with authority and presented as a viable leading target. When the ball hit the deck or came to her in open play, Anderson looked to burst into attack with powerful movement through traffic and long kicks inside forward 50. On the defensive end, she tackled typically hard to provide a dual threat for the Dragons.

#19 Ella Sciberras

Another 2004-born player to impact in Round 9, Sciberras was an absolute rock in Sandringham’s defence. Her attack on the ball was fearless, allowing for some eye-catching intercepts when others would be more concerned with their direct opponent. She was proactive in her attempts to cut off Murray’s attacks, hitting the ball at speed to mark and mop up the ground balls, before pumping long kicks away from danger. Her run out of those zone and sound decision making on the ball were both terrific attributes she showcased, proving attack is sometimes the best form of defence.

#30 Pia Staltari

Having been tried in a range of positions for Sandringham and Vic Metro, Staltari was a permanent midfield fixture on Sunday and showed her class at times. She had little trouble getting first hands to the ball at stoppages, but still looks a touch more comfortable on the outer where she can better utilise her classy disposal. Staltari had a good moment in the final term, running down Sophia McCarthy in the corridor for a holding the ball free kick, ending her game on a high.

#37 Ebony Angelopoulos

With a bit of luck to go with her undeniable forward nous, Angelopoulos ended up with three goals as Sandringham’s main source of inspiration inside attacking 50. She was able to gain good separation on the lead and constantly looked to wheel and go when in possession, allowing the Dragons to go deeper into attack. She found scoring form after half time, with two snaps bouncing home over the back during term three, before she converted a free kick in the final quarter to cap off a promising game. Add a couple more shots on goal to the equation, and she was unlucky not to finish with more.

OTHERS:

Tasked with the kick-ins for Sandringham, Emma Stuber registered 15 disposals from defence, while the likes of Keely Coyne and Kiana Lynch battled hard in midfield. Zara Hamilton was her productive self for the Bushrangers, as bottom-ager Cassidy Mailer made her return from injury with a goal, showing some promise in the front half.

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 9 wrap – Finals places locked in

THE ultimate 2021 NAB League Girls home-and-away round was completed over the weekend, with finals fixtures locked in as each region returned after nearly a month away from competition. For some teams, Round 9 presented the opportunity to finish their season of a high, while those in the postseason hunt were able to get back up to speed on the eve of finals. Catch up on the action from all seven games in our weekend wrap.

GEELONG FALCONS 3.3 | 3.3 | 5.5 | 7.6 (48)
CALDER CANNONS 0.1 |  1.4 | 3.5 | 4.5 (29)

By: Declan Reeve

One of the most important matches in regards to finals for the round did not disappoint for viewers, as Geelong Falcons continued their good pre-break form to topple Calder Cannons by 19 points. The Falcons ended with 7.6 (48) to 4.5 (29) against a determined Calder side, who despite the scoreboard looked right in it throughout the contest, with some passages of slick ball movement through the midfield.

With a total of 16 girls playing for Country or Metro in the recent U17’s and U19’s representative games between these two sides, it comes as no surprise that the game was entertaining viewing, with both teams having plenty of contributors throughout the game. 

The Falcons can thank Renee Tierney and Poppy Schaap for their multiple goals, with Schaap also noticeable around the ground as a pressure player and ball winner. Ingrid Houtsma also bobbed up at some crucial moments, using it well along with midfielder Tess Craven who again found ways to control the tempo. Elizabeth Dowling and Annie Lee were rock solid in defence, moving it well into the middle of the ground, with bottom-aged defender Taiya Morrow also taking some strong intercept marks.

The Cannons were unsurprisingly served well by the ever consistent midfield trio of Georgie Prespakis, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell who all battled hard around the ground to create anything they could. Bottom-agers Tahlia Read and Abbey McDonald also had good performances splitting their time between the forwardline and the midfield, both showing that they’re ready to step up into a more permanent move next season, whilst Jessica Zakkour contributed two goals for Calder.

GOALS:

Geelong: R. Tierney 3, P. Schapp 2, K. Hardingman, I. Houtsma
Calder: J. Zakkour 2, O. Manfre, G. Prespakis, 

DC BEST:

Geelong: E. Dowling, P. Schapp,  I. Houtsma, T. Craven, R. Tierney, A. Lee
Calder: G. Prespakis, E. Yassir,  T. Read, A. McDonald, Z. Friswell, J. Zakkour

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons)
4 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
3 – Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)
2 – Poppy Schapp (Geelong Falcons)
1 – Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons)

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.1 | 3.3 | 5.3 | 7.3 (45)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 3.0 | 6.1 | 6.3 | 9.5 (59)

By: Michael Alvaro

The Northern Knights flexed their muscle ahead of the most important stage of their premiership defence, defeating the highly fancied Dandenong Stingrays by 14 points on Saturday. While the Knights lead at every break, three-goal efforts in the second and fourth terms saw them break away at crucial stages, especially after the Stingrays cut the margin to a single straight kick at three quarter time. In the end, the reigning premiers notched a terrific pre-finals win on the road, 9.5 (59) to 7.3 (45).

Both sides had an even spread of contributors, comprising of usual suspects and prospects on the rise. Maeve Chaplin returned from an excellent Under 19 national carnival in good form, enjoying more time around the ball with Ava Jordan. Tannah Hurst stood up in an important repelling role, while tall Phoebe Nelson clunked five marks and the 2005-born Molly McErlain notched her best performance to date. Three Knights finished with two goals, as Rylie Wilcox snared one and performed well.

For Dandenong, bottom-age standout Emily Shepherd led all comers with 24 touches in a top outing, while Ashleigh Richards booted two majors from her 15 touches and five marks. Elsewhere, Felicity Crank‘s rich vein of form continued, as Abbey Jordan and Charley Ryan pitched in well, and Mikayla Williamson and Sarah Hosking also earned votes from the Stingrays staff for their efforts.

In the first week of finals, Northern will take on Eastern Ranges on Saturday afternoon at Warrawee Park, while the Stingrays will host Geelong Falcons in a second-straight game at Shepley Oval.

GOALS:

Dandenong: A. Liddle 2, A. Richards 2, C. Blair, H. Monk, B. Lyne
Northern: C. Laurie 2, T. Mills 2, T. Smart 2, L. Jatczak, R. Wilcox, M. Girolami

DC BEST:

Dandenong: A. Richards, E. Shepherd, F. Crank, M. Williamson, A. Jordan, S. Hosking
Northern: M. Chaplin, T. Hurst, P. Nelson, A. Jordan, M. McErlain, R. Wilcox

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)
4 – Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)
3 – Tannah Hurst (Northern Knights)
2 – Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)
1 – Phoebe Nelson (Northern Knights)

GWV REBELS 1.2 | 1.5 | 2.6 | 2.6 (18)
TASMANIA DEVILS 2.0 | 3.0 | 4.0 | 6.5 (41)

By: Declan Reeve

In a rare contest where the two sides will be facing each other again just a week later, Tasmania Devils knocked off the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels by 23 points, for what they’ll be hoping is the first of two wins over their opposition. The result secured the top spot in the Tasmania/Victoria Country pool for the Devils, earning them a match against the fourth-placed Rebels in the first week of the NAB League Girls finals series. The final scores were 2.6 (18) to 6.5 (41).

Amy Prokopiec was well assisted by her midfield teammates, with Perri King, Claire Ransom, Olivia Smith, Meghan Gaffney and Ella Maurer all performing well through the contest against a strong and contested GWV midfield group, along with Shania Saward who impacted up either end. The Rebels had their fair share of contributors as well, with Lilli Condon and Tahlia Meier standing up through the midfield, using their speed to get the ball moving. Nyakoat Dojiok and Molly Walton were solid in defence all day, rebounding and intercepting well whilst Ella Friend was also strong when down there, but also played on the wing and through the midfield at times.

GOALS:

GWV: P. Scott, Z. Larkins
Tasmania: A. Prokopiec 2, A. Bisset 2, E. Maurer, G. Clark

DC BEST:

GWV: L. Condon, T. Meier, E. Friend, N. Dojiok, M. Walton
Tasmania: P. King, C. Ransom, O. Smith, S. Saward, A. Prokopiec 

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Perri King (Tasmania)
4 – Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)
3 – Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)
2 – Claire Ransom (Tasmania)
1 – Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

EASTERN RANGES 0.0 | 3.1 | 5.2 | 5.2 (32)
NORTHERN TERRITORY 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 (7)

By: Peter Williams

Eastern Ranges have secured a comfortable 25-point victory over Northern Territory Thunder to lock up seconds spot in the metropolitan pool as a result. After the Thunder got the jump on the Ranges thanks to a goal from Madison Harris in the first term, it was all Eastern from then on, scoring 5.2 to 0.0 for the remainder of the game. The Ranges led by 12 points at half-time, and kicked on to win by just over four goals.

Georgia Wilson slotted two majors for the winners, while Jorja Livingstone joined regular scoreboard contributors Alyssia Pisano and Matilda Hardy as goalkickers. Keeley Sherar was her productive self, as Ruby O’Dwyer, Bridget Deed and Livingstone all found plenty of the footy. Georgia Campbell and Jess Grace took control to dominate the ruck, while Mia Busch and Isabelle Khoury were also impressive.

For the Thunder, Djimila Totham was named best-on for her defensive work, while Tatyana Perry and Shanoah Leedie were also impressive with Allies representatives, Kasey Marsden and Grace Mulvahil, and past representative Bella Clarke. The result marks the end of the two-game campaign for the Thunder, whilst the Ranges will go on to play Northern Knights in the first week of finals next weekend.

GOALS:

Eastern: G. Wilson 2, J. Livingstone, A. Pisano, M. Hardy
Northern Territory: M. Harris

DC BEST:

Eastern: M. Busch, K. Sherar, R. O’Dwyer, B. Deed, J. Livingstone
Northern Territory: D. Totham, K. Marsden, T. Perry, B, Clarke, G. Mulvahil

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)
4 – Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)
3 – Ruby O’Dwyer (Eastern Ranges)
2 – Djimila Totham (NT Thunder)
1 – Kasey Marsden (NT Thunder)

WESTERN JETS 4.0 | 5.1 | 7.6 | 8.8 (56)
BENDIGO PIONEERS 0.2 | 0.3 | 0.4 | 1.6 (12)

By: Michael Alvaro

Western Jets capped off their season with a belting win over the Bendigo Pioneers on Saturday afternoon, soaring 44 points to the good by the final siren of both sides’ campaigns. The Jets lead from the first goal and hardly gave the Pioneers a sniff at the other end, keeping them without a major score until the final term. Forward firepower was a key factor for the winners, with their 8.8 (56) total one point shy of a season high, while notching their best defensive effort to restrict Bendigo to 1.6 (12).

Bottom-age gun Charlotte Baskaran returned alongside Montana Ham from Under 19 representative duties in fine form, leading all comers as both players made a sizeable splash. The marking of Caitlin Sargent was a feature up forward as she booted a game-high four goals, while the dynamic Jemima Woods snared two. Usual defender Ciara Singleton also got on the board with skipper Leah Spargo, while Trinity Skenderis, Kiera Whiley, and Laura Elliott were also solid in a terrific team effort.

For the Pioneers, it was an almost-day for 2006-born prospect Lucia Painter, who managed three behinds from 12 disposals in just her second NAB League appearance. Drew Ryan and Octavia Di Donato were among Bendigo’s best and led the disposal count, as the likes of Jemma Finning, Scarlett Orritt, and Tegan Williams also stood up at times in the heavy loss.

GOALS:

Western: C. Sargent 4, J. Woods 2, L. Spargo, C. Singleton
Bendigo: C. Mitchell

DC BEST:

Western: C. Baskaran, C. Sargent, M. Ham, J. Woods, T. Skenderis, C. Singleton
Bendigo: L. Painter, D. Ryan, O. Di Donato, S. Orritt, T. Williams, J. Finning

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)
4 – Caitlin Sargent (Western Jets)
3 – Montana Ham (Western Jets)
2 – Jemima Woods (Western Jets)
1 – Lucia Painter (Bendigo Pioneers)

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 4.3 | 8.8 | 15.9 | 15.11 (101)
GIPPSLAND POWER 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.1 | 0.1 (1)

By: Declan Reeve

The final game of the year for Gippsland Power ended in a disappointing loss to ladder leaders Oakleigh Chargers at Warrawee Park, with Oakleigh holding the Power goalless for the game and scoreless for the first half in an unforgiving performance. The comprehensive display saw the Chargers run out 100-point victors, 15.11 (101) to 0.1 (1).

In an impressive display of teamwork, the Chargers had a total of nine individual goalkickers, as Charlie Rowbottom and Amanda Ling led the way with three each. Rowbottom in particular looked dangerous all game, she could’ve had five or six had she been more accurate in front of goal, with Stella Reid and debutant Jasmine Fleming also getting multiple goals for the Chargers.

The Power, despite not having any goalkickers, will be proud of the work of Taylah Bourne in the defensive 50, along with Grace McRae in the middle, not giving up despite the margin. Looking strong for next year, bottom-aged pair Yasmin Duursma and Leesa Guastella were also impressive throughout with their efforts.

GOALS:

Oakleigh: C. Rowbottom 3, A. Ling 3, S. Reid 2, J. Fleming 2, E. James, A. Smith, H. Kennealy, K. James, B. Vickers
Gippsland: Nil

DC BEST:

Oakleigh: J. Fleming, C. Rowbottom, L. Hart, A. Ling, E. James, B. Vickers
Gippsland: T. Bourne, G. McRae, L. Guastella, Y. Duursma, T. Angwin, A. Guy-Toogood

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Jasmine Fleming (Oakleigh Chargers)
4 – Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
3 – Lily Hart (Oakleigh Chargers)
2 – Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)
1 – Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers) 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 2.5 | 5.9 | 8.10 | 9.11 (65)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 0.0 | 2.1 | 4.1 | 5.3 (33)

By: Peter Williams

Finishing the season in style, Murray Bushrangers won three of their last four games to head into the post-season with plenty to take from 2021. The Bushrangers proved too good for Sandringham Dragons, having 20 scoring shots to eight and piling on nine goals to win by 32 points up in Wangaratta. With the Bushrangers’ strongest side on the park all season – also thanks to the return of Cassidy Mailer from a long-term injury – the Bushrangers booted five goals to two in the opening half, and led by 33 points at the final break, holding that margin firm to secure the 9.11 (65) to 5.3 (33) victory.

Olivia Cicolini was damaging up forward with another three goals to her name alongside Sophia McCarthy, while Vic Country representatives – and top two in their best and fairest award – Aurora Smith and Keeley Skepper – also shone in the victory. Allies representative Ally Morphett had a day out in the ruck, while Lucy Anderson was also named among the Bushrangers’ best. For the Dragons, Bridie Hipwell stood up in defeat, with Ebony Angelopoulos being the key goalkicker with three of her team’s five majors. J’Noemi Anderson, Ella Schiberras, Kiana Lynch and Natasha Morris were also named amongst the Dragons’ best in the loss.

GOALS:

Murray: O. Cicolini 3, S. McCarthy 3, T. Gray, K. Skepper, C. Mailer.
Sandringham: E. Angelopoulos 3, M. Mottram, L. Mitchell.

DC BEST:

Murray: K. Skepper, A. Morphett, A. Smith, O. Cicolini, S. McCarthy
Sandringham: B. Hipwell, E. Angelopoulos, J. Anderson, E. Schiberras, K. Lynch

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)
4 – Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)
3 – Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
2 – Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons)
1 – Olivia Cicolini (Murray Bushrangers)

NAB League Girls Round 9 preview: Final round to determine post-season order

THE FINAL round of NAB League Girls action gets underway over the weekend with six games played across Saturday, and a standalone Anzac Day fixture on Sunday. With the eight teams already locked in for finals – and only the ladder order able to change – it means a number of contests have important outcomes, whilst for others, it marks the end of the 2021 season.

Perhaps the most intriguing matches are early tomorrow, with the first three games all deciding the makeup of next week’s finals series. In the metropolitan pool, Calder Cannons sit third, but could leapfrog Eastern Ranges with a victory over Geelong Falcons at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The Falcons are locked into third spot in the country division, so will either play Dandenong Stingrays or Tasmania Devils in the first week of finals. If the Falcons win, it will effectively secure the metropolitan finals series, with Oakleigh Chargers taking on Northern Knights, and Eastern Ranges taking on Calder Cannons. If the Cannons win, they will temporarily take second spot awaiting the Eastern ranges result.

If the Ranges take care of Northern Territory later in the day, the Ranges will regain second spot, and even temporarily have top spot in the pool, though Oakleigh take on Gippsland Power and will be expected to get the points there to grab the minor premiership. Assuming that happens, the metropolitan pool is set anyway, with Oakleigh taking on Northern and Eastern taking on Calder, with just the home team to be determined from the day’s results. If the Knights win, they still grab fourth on the NAB League Girls metropolitan pool, but also lock in the country finals fixtures too. If Dandenong Stingrays defeat the Knights, then the Stingrays temporarily go to the top of the country division, and the onus will be on Tasmania Devils to defeat the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels for the top spot.

The Rebels themselves are locked into fourth in the country division, and in a fixture quirk will face Tasmania in the first week of finals again – for the second consecutive week – if they lose to the Devils. If they defeat the Devils, and the Stingrays knock off the Knights, the Rebels will instead face the Stingrays in the first week of finals, and the Devils will lock horns with the third placed Falcons. The Chargers and Ranges are predicted to win their respective games, which if they do that, will remain in the same finals spots as they sit heading into Round 9. The two remaining games – Western Jets and Bendigo Pioneers, and Murray Bushrangers and Sandringham Dragons – have no bearing on the finals series with the teams all preparing for their final game of the season.

For the teams out of the finals race, it will be one last chance for their players to get a run at NAB League level before transitioning into the VFL Women’s, local leagues or for some, the final matches of the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships.

CALDER CANNONS vs. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, April 24 @ 10:00am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell return to the side after a stint with Essendon VFL Women’s, and the Cannons’ Metro contingent also return to the side. Abbey McDonald, Georgie Prespakis and Friswell round out the onball ground, with Darebin Falcons’ Peppa Poultney coming back after a solid performance in the Falcons’ loss to the Western Bulldogs. The Falcons have also loaded up on talent with Poppy Schaap, Tess Craven, Gabbi Featherston, Renee Tierney, Ingrid Houtsma, Elizabeth Dowling and Annie Lee all returning to the side after their AFLW Under 19s commitments, with Tierney and Lee also gaining great experience through Geelong’s VFL Women’s side.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Saturday, April 24 @ 11:00am
Shepley Oval

The midfield battle between the Stingrays and Knights will be fascinating with Abbey Jordan, Felicity Crank and Emily Shepherd going up against Maeve Chaplin, Ava Jordan and Teleah Smart. Stingrays’ Zoe Hill returns after her debut with the Southern Saints, while Georgia Kitchell is back in the ruck for the Knights. Dandenong’s Jaide Anthony will be one crucial omission following her concussion suffered last week at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, while Jemma Radford is making her debut with the Saints.

GWV REBELS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS
Saturday, April 24 @ 12:30pm
Warrawee Park

Tasmania Devils will blood a couple of debutants for their match against the Rebels, as Ruby Pacey and Kiira Johns come into the side. Their Allies contingent, led by Perri King, Ella Maurer, Meghan Gaffney and Claire Ransom through the midfield are back in action, with goalsneak Amy Bissett the threat inside 50. The GWV Rebels have also brought back their Vic Country representatives, with Paige Scott hot off a three-goal game against South Australia, and Ella Friend, Nyakoat Dojiok, Tahlia Meier and Chloe Leonard all returning. Lilli Condon also comes back to NAB League Girls level after a couple of games with the Western Bulldogs VFL Women’s side.

WESTERN JETS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS
Saturday, April 24 @ 1:00pm
Avalon Airport Oval

The result might not have a bearing on the finals series, but both the Western Jets and Bendigo Pioneers are set to to try and win the final game of the season. The Pioneers will be without Elizabeth Snell (Essendon), but otherwise will have a fairly strong outfit, with Tara Slender returning from the championships after playing forward. She will lineup at centre half-back in this game, with other Vic Country representatives, Jemma Finning and Octavia Di Donato also there, alongside bottom-age and Under 16s talents, Tegan Williams and Lila Keck respectively. For the Jets, Montana Ham and Charlotte Baskaran are back in the midfield, with Jemima Woods coming back to NAB League Girls level after three goals with the Western Bulldogs last week, and Stephanie Asciak also testing herself at VFLW level.

EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY
Saturday, April 24 @ 1:00pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

A host of AFLW Under 19s representatives and VFL Women’s players will return to the Ranges outfit, taking no changes after Northern Territory who upstaged the Rebels just prior to the break. Isabelle Khoury, Matilda Hardy, Eloise Chaston and Ruby O’Dwyer all return from Hawthorn’s VFL Women’s side last week, while Jorja Livingstone and Georgia Campbell were among the Eastern Ranges’ representatives at the recent carnival. The Thunder will look to make it two from two with Bella Clarke standing out in the opening game, as did Georgia Johnson, though they will be without key goalkickers, Freda Puruntatameri and Ashanti Bush. Other Allies representatives in Grace Mulvahil and Kasey Marsden are named in defence.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, April 24 @ 2:15pm
Warrawee Park

The top of the table Oakleigh Chargers have brought in Vic Metro representatives, Charlie Rowbottom, Amanda Ling and Stella Reid straight into the team with Rowbottom named in the forward pocket, and the other two in the midfield. Eliza James showed she can be dangerous inside 50, and whilst her kicking boots were not quite on in Metro’s narrow in over Western Australia, she certainly got to the right spots and has to be watched carefully. The Power welcome back Grace Matser and Grace McRae who missed the club’s first win against Bendigo Pioneers due to Vic Country duties, while Sunday Brisbane returns from an injury she sustained a while back against Murray Bushrangers. Alisha Molesworth impressed at Under 17s level for Country, with Yasmin Duursma another Country bottom-ager to keep an eye on, while Charlotte Van der Vlies and Brooke Vickers are others who have impressed this year for the Chargers.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Sunday, April 25 @ 1:00pm
WJ Findlay Oval

Murray Bushrangers welcome back bottom-age talent Cassidy Mailer for her first game of the season coming off a long-term injury. With the Bushrangers putting in arguably the strongest team they have all season – with the Vic Country and Allies representatives all lining up – they will be keen to put in a great showing ahead of their final game against the Dragons. Ally Morphett in the ruck, with Aurora Smith and the in-form Zara Hamilton on the wings, Keeley Skepper in the midfield, and plenty of depth and strength around the ground, and the Bushrangers are a good chance in this game.

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 Federica 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.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 7

A HEAP of young prospects are now filtering through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. Round 7 saw plenty of talent scattered across each side and a few players make their debuts. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in or have graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 7

Collingwood maintained its unbeaten streak with a win over the Southern Saints on Saturday morning, with Eastern Ranges standout Olivia Meagher enjoying an extended run in the side. She had 11 disposals, laid three tackles and picked up votes for the Magpies in their seventh win. For the Saints, Gabby De Angelis notched 12 touches, while fellow pathway graduates Amelia Peck and Grace Hodder each found the ball nine times.

Essendon boasted a host of current and former Calder Cannons products in its win over Williamstown, with the young brigade making a real impact. Zali Friswell booted two goals to feature among the Bombers’ votes with Kasey Lennox, as former Cannons Alana Barba (11 disposals) and Grace Dicker (10) also fared well.

Meanwhile, country coup Eloise Ashley-Cooper racked up a team-high 17 disposals, while current Bendigo Pioneers standout Elizabeth Snell laid 10 tackles in the sash. For Williamstown, Ruby Tripodi was again superb as she found the ball 20 times, but could only manage two behinds among them. Megan Williamson had it 16 times, booting a goal and laying nine tackles to feature among the Seagulls’ votes.

Casey and Hawthorn treated fans to a relatively high-scoring spectacle, with the Demons coming out on top and the Hawks continuing to blood exciting youth. The Eastern Ranges representation was high in brown and gold, as Ruby O’Dwyer (12 disposals, four tackles), Isabelle Khoury (11 disposals, seven tackles, one goal), Eloise Chaston (six disposals, five tackles), and Tilly Hardy (five disposals, four tackles) all continue to acclimatise to the level alongside graduate, while Jenna Richardson (eight disposals) also impressed.

Emma Horne was arguably Melbourne’s pick of the NAB League products, notching nine disposals and finishing with four tackles. Versatile tall Bridie Winbanks managed two disposals and eight hitouts, as 19-year-old former Dandenong Stingray, Harmony Thomas also ran out for the Demons.

Geelong’s top four charge rages on, as the Cats kept North Melbourne at bay in Sunday’s opening bout. Paige Sheppard was again terrific in the hoops, racking up 22 disposals to go with seven tackles and four marks. Tamara Smith had it 14 times and got her hands dirty with eight tackles, as current Geelong Falcons guns Annie Lee and Renee Tierney returned to the fold. Ciara Fitzgerald had 10 touches for North, while 20-year-old Tasmanian Camilla Taylor collected seven on debut.

The Western Bulldogs returned to the winners list with an emphatic victory over Darebin Falcons, with a continued injection of youth and AFLW-listed players aiding their cause. Western Jets’ Jemima Woods had a memorable debut with three goals, running out for the first time alongside Stephanie Asciak. GWV’s Lilli Condon celebrated her first win at the level with 11 disposals and five tackles, as Brooke Hards and Molly Denahy Moloney continued their runs in the side. For Darebin, youth product and Calder ruck Peppa Poultney entered the fray with 10 disposals and a couple of marks.

The final game of the round saw Port Melbourne come from behind to edge Carlton on home turf, seeing the Borough remain top of the table. Recently delisted Richmond AFLW tall, Cleo Saxon-Jones finished with 11 kicks among her 12 disposals, as former Carlton utility Bridie Kennedy had 10 touches, and current Oakleigh forward Taylah Morton matched that output, but could not quite snare her maiden goal.

For Carlton, Northern Knights graduate Marnie Jarvis collected 12 touches and laid four tackles, as Amber Micallef had it a handful of times and Murray Bushrangers standout Kate Adams came in for her fifth game – ending with three disposals for the third game running.

2021 VFLW Round 7 preview: Dogs and Darebin eye off second win in bottom two clash

A BOTTOM two clash between Western Bulldogs and Darebin Falcons will see the winner escape the bottom of the table, whilst the Southern Saints and Collingwood clash for a second time and are set to have a beauty of a contest.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, April 17 @ 10:00am
Trevor Barker Beach Oval

Despite Collingwood joining the rest of the Victorian-based AFL Women’s teams in being eliminated from the finals series, the Magpies have resisted massive changes to the state league side, with Bella Smith and Joanna Lin among those included in the forward half, with other existing AFL Women’s players including Maddie Shevlin, Abbey Green, Amelia Velardo, Imogen Purcell and Abbi Moloney in the team. They currently sit undefeated at the top of the table, with a tough clash down at Trevor Barker Beach Oval against the Southern Saints. Dandenong Stingrays tall Zoe Hill is set to make her debut for the side, alongside the likes of other teenagers in Alice Burke and Renee Saulitis who have established themselves in the side. Molly McDonald is a huge inclusion for the Saints at half-back to create some run, and with Tara Bohanna and Gabriella De Angelis up forward, the home team certainly has the capacity to inflict the Magpies’ first loss of the season. Eastern Ranges youngster Olivia Meagher is among the ones to watch in the black and white, as the Magpies eye off making it seven straight wins.

ESSENDON vs. WILLIAMSTOWN
Saturday, April 17 @ 11:00am
The Hangar

One of the teams looking to keep in touch with the top two sides is Essendon, after the Bombers came from behind to defeat Hawthorn last week at Box Hill. They managed to do it without star midfielder Georgia Nanscawen who succumbed to injury early in the match, and they will need to do it again without her, relying on the likes of Alana Barba, Courtney Ugle and Eloise Ashley-Cooper in the midfield. Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell returns to the red and black in a five-day turnaround from a successful outing for Vic Country, with Calder Cannons duo Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell remaining in the side. Williamstown stand between Essendon and the Bombers’ fifth win, with the Seagulls not far off the top six despite having just the two wins from six games. The midfield trio of Ashlea Melnikas, Megan Williamson and Aimee Whelan will be hard to beat, with Scarlett Dunnell up forward and Erin Meade in defence among the others to keep an eye out for in the blue and gold. Even without Nanscawen, Essendon will be favoured to get up here at home, but the Seagulls will give them a run for their money.

HAWTHORN vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, April 17 @ 11:30am
Box Hill City Oval

Speaking of Hawthorn at Box Hill, the brown and gold are back again, this time hosting a Casey Demons side looking to bounce back having lost their past two games to the Magpies and Cats. The home team was able to include some AFL Women’s talent last week with the entire half-back line having that experience in Georgia Bevan, Tamara Luke and Nadia von Bertouch. However perhaps the most interesting inclusion is former Magpie Kristy Stratton who has been named on the bench after playing for the undefeated Pies throughout the season. Much like Luke and von Bertouch, she has moved to the Bec Goddard-coached Hawks. Up the other end, Meg Hutchins has been a terrific leader with some youngsters inside 50, such as Eastern Ranges’ co-captain Eloise Chaston who kicked the only goal for her side last week. Matilda Hardy is back into the team with Isabelle Khoury and Ruby O’Dwyer some Ranges to hold their places, while Northern Territory talent Dominique Carbone is another one to watch for the home team. For the Demons, Maggie Caris, Megan Fitzsimon, Mietta Kendall and Isabella Simmons are among the future of the red and blue having been picked up in last year’s draft, whilst Emma Humphries‘ experience is crucial, much like defender Alison Brown in the back 50. Casey should be too strong, but the Hawks will give it a red hot crack at home.

GEELONG vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Sunday, April 18 @ 11:30am
Queens Park

Some Vic Country youngsters will return for the Cats as they field their strongest side to-date in the Round 7 encounter against North Melbourne. The Cats will be keen to keep in touch with the top two, and should do so against a Kangaroos side that is 2-4 and coming off a loss to the previously winless Darebin Falcons. Annie Lee and Renee Tierney return to the Cats’ VFL Women’s side after playing on Monday, with the side well stacked with AFL Women’s talent. Rene Caris, Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner and Sophie Van De Heuvel in the midfield is the future AFL Women’s midfield, whilst Georgia Clarke, Olivia Barber and Stephanie Williams in attack makes the Cats a potent team when in transition. The Kangaroos remain without a great deal of AFL Women’s talent, instead focusing on the development aspect of the side with Amy Smith and Brooke Brown a couple of listed players in attack, while Sarah Skinner is always a threat inside 50. Molly Eastman and Tarni Nestor will try and contain the Cats’ forward line, while Katelyn Cox will have a great battle with Moloney and Gardiner throughout the day. Geelong should take the match fairly comfortably being at home with a pretty impressive outfit.

DAREBIN vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Sunday, April 18 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

A potential match of the round at the other end of the ladder is the one between Darebin Falcons and Western Bulldogs, with both sides sitting at 1-5 for the season. A loss here will really hurt finals hopes, whilst a win keeps the victor in the hunt if they can build momentum in the second half of the season. Coming off a four-goal haul to help her side over the line, Stephanie Simpson will be looking for much of the same for the Falcons. It will be a tough ask against the strongest looking Bulldogs defence all year, with AFL Women’s talents, Eleanor Brown and Isabella Grant, the consistent rock in Simone Ruedin, speedy teenager Brooke Hards and natural ball-winner Katelyn Betts, both of the latter whom have moved into new roles of late. Up the other end, Nell Morris-Dalton has returned to the fold, with Gemma Lagioia and Amelia van Oosterwijck also there, and Isabelle Pritchard rounding out the AFL Women’s contingent. For the Falcons, ex-Bulldog Nicole Callinan was impressive in her first game back and will be a key player in the defence alongside consistent defender Gena Lawson-Tavan. Up the other end, Alyssa Mifsud kicked three goals a couple of rounds back, so between her and Simpson, they have the potential to put some high scores on the board, while Calder Cannons’ Peppa Poultney is another youngster in the side. The Western Bulldogs side is arguably the strongest of the year and should take care of Darebin, but the Dogs cannot afford to take the Falcons lightly.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. CARLTON
Sunday, April 18 @ 2:00pm
ETU Stadium

Port Melbourne will look to continue its winning streak up against Carlton at ETU Stadium, with Cleo Saxon-Jones named at full-back this week. Up the opposite end is Sabrina Frederick who slotted two goals on debut against Western Bulldogs last week, and will look to provide the smalls of NAB League-listed talents Kate Adams and Taylah Morton in there, whilst Mel Kuys through the midfield is a crucial player. Ex-Carlton talent Bridie Kennedy is back into the side to take on her former team, while Pip Peschke and Courteney Bromage are other key midfielders to watch. Carlton has got a solid contingent of AFL Women’s talent in the team, with Serena Gibbs, Courtney Jones and Winnie Laing all named inside 50, while Charlotte Hammans and Maddy Guerin are up the other end. Akayla Peterson has been named in the back pocket in the opposite side to Ally Bild in a strong last line, while over-age talent Amber Micallef and ex-Northern Knights speedster Marnie Jarvis are also in the side, named on the bench. Port Melbourne should have too much about them at home, but the Borough will be wary of a Blues outfit wanting to lift their efforts from last round when they went goalless against the Magpies at Victoria Park.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 6

A HEAP of young prospects are now filtering through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. Round 6 saw plenty of talent scattered across each side, and we take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently play in or have graduated from the NAB League, performed.

Essendon welcomed a couple of fresh faces to the fold as it trumped fellow standalone side, Hawthorn by 14 points on Saturday morning, The Bombers called upon current Calder Cannons guns Kasey Lennox (defender) and Zali Friswell (midfielder), who enjoyed solid runs in their debuts. They ran out alongside former Cannons Alana Barba and Grace Dicker, the former of whom has established a key role in the team.

Hawthorn also had a NAB League product make her debut, in Eastern prospect Ruby O’Dwyer. She was one of three current Ranges to run out in the brown and gold, with Jess Grace and Isabelle Khoury returning for their second games at the level. Khoury, a likely type up forward, was named among the Hawks’ best players.

The Southern Saints notched their third win of the season, also on Saturday morning, as they defeated Williamstown by 10 points on home turf. Gabby De Angelis booted two goals in the winning effort, while Ruby Tripodi claimed full votes for the Seagulls as she continues her stellar season. Promising forward Tahlia Merrett also returned after nearly a month out.

Despite another heavy loss, the Western Bulldogs continue to present strong opportunities to their young players, headlined this week by Molly Denahy Maloney. The tall was named best afield for the Dogs in their loss to Port Melbourne, while debutant Lilli Condon proved lively at ground level and Nikita Wright returned to the fold. Former Bendigo Pioneers skipper Brooke Hards fared well in a new role, trialled in defence and matching up on Borough first-gamer, Taylah Morton.

Elsewhere, Bridie Winbanks featured in the votes for Casey as the Demons went down by two points to a Geelong side boasting the likes of Tamara Smith and Paige Sheppard. Collingwood remains undefeated after keeping Carlton goalless on Sunday, with Olivia Meagher getting an extended run while Amber Micallef and Marnie Jarvis ply their trade in navy blue. Ciara Fitzgerald again found the goals as North Melbourne went down to Darebin, in the Falcons’ first win for the season.

2021 VFLW Round 6 preview: Youngsters and AFLW talent filter into state competition

ROUND 6 of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition commences tomorrow with a number of AFL Women’s and NAB League Girls players entering the competition for the first time this season.

HAWTHORN vs. ESSENDON
Saturday, April 10 @ 10am
Box Hill City Oval

In a battle between a couple of traditional rivals, Essendon will travel to Box Hill to take on Hawthorn in what is anticipated to be a great clash for the sides early tomorrow morning. The Hawks have been bolstered by Eastern Ranges talents Jess Grace, Isabelle Khoury, Eloise Chaston and Ruby O’Dwyer, with the likes of Jemma Owen, Amy Malander and Chloe O’Malley among the outs. Calder Cannons and Vic Metro representatives Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell come into the Essendon side, as Elisabeth Hosking also returns to the team with an extended bench. The Bombers can put pressure on the top four sides with a win, and will leap frog one side with a victory, given third and fourth placed Geelong and Casey Demons do battle later in the afternoon.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. WILLIAMSTOWN
Saturday, April 10 @ 10am
Trevor Barker Oval

With the AFL Women’s season over, Southern Saints have brought back some serious talent into its VFL Women’s side to try and rejoin the top half of the table with a third win this season. Both sides sit at 2-3 from five rounds, and the likes of Alice Burke, Molly McDonald, Jacqui Vogt and Poppy Kelly all coming back into the team, with Nadia von Bertouch, Melanie Bertuna and Tamara Luke are among the outs. For the Seagulls, Paige Nash and Elizabeth McGrath return into the side, as Asha Price and Chloe Leighton are among those out of the team for this match. If the Seagulls get up, they will then overtake the Saints on the table and balance their own ledger at 3-3.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. DAREBIN
Saturday, April 10 @ 2pm
Arden Street

Back at their spiritual home ground at Arden Street, North Melbourne will eye off going back-to-back for the first time this season if they can get past the winless Darebin Falcons. The. Roos have opted to keep a relatively VFL-focused outfit with Laura Amelung, Olivia Woods and Nadia Moore into the time, as Tahni Nestor and Allies representative at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships Jayde Hamilton go out of the side. For the Falcons, Sidney Cubasch will slot straight back into the ruck, whilst Nicole Callinan is another important inclusion in defence. North Melbourne will start as favourites, but both sides have a chance in this one.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, April 10 @ 2pm
ETU Stadium

Two sides utilising the return of AFL Women’s talent, the unbeaten Port Melbourne will hope to make it six wins on the trot against a Western Bulldogs side desperately hoping to avoid a fifth straight loss. The Borough have welcomed in Richmond tall forward Sabrina Frederick, as well as Tiger talents Laura McClelland and Sarah Sansonetti. Oakleigh Chargers’ Taylah Morton will also run around in the forward pocket, while Luka Lesosky-Hay, Hannah McLaren and Phoebe Monahan are among the outs. For the Western Bulldogs, Isabelle Pritchard, Gemma Lagioia and Annabel Scott return to the team replacing fellow AFL Women’s listed players Bailey Hunt and Annabel Strahan. GWV Rebels midfielder Lilli Condon will make her debut for the Western Bulldogs, whilst Western Jets’ Nikita Wright also returns to the side.

CASEY DEMONS vs. GEELONG
Saturday, April 10 @ 3pm
Casey Fields

Whilst most sides are able to welcome back some AFL Women’s talent, the still-alive Melbourne AFL Women’s side does not have that luxury, instead having to use their depth against a Geelong Cats side that has brought in some young guns for the Casey Fields clash. Carly Remmos, Georgie Rankin, Madisen Maguire, Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner are all named in the team to inject some serious talent in the midfield and around the ground, while Madeleine Boyd and Stephanie Williams are among the outs for the Cats. The Demons have recalled Georgia Howes and Monica Haraimiuk among others, while Niamh McEvoy, Grace Buchan, Maggie Caris and Chantelle Emonson are all among the outs for the home side.

COLLINGWOOD vs. CARLTON
Sunday, April 11 @ 2pm
Victoria Park

Traditional rivals Collingwood and Carlton do battle in a standalone clash at Victoria Park on Sunday with both teams making a host of changes. The Magpies are also still alive in the AFL Women’s competition and have lost the listed Kristy Stratton, whilst recalling Abbi Moloney as well as Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher among a host of ins. For the Blues, Winnie Laing is out of the side, but Carlton-listed Charlotte Hammans and Maddy Guerin are returning to the side with Marnie Jarvis and Jasmine Ware in what will be a game the Blues eye off as a way to continue their form of late and record their fourth win. Sitting equal top with Port Melbourne, the Magpies will want to maintain the gap on the chasing pack below them with a victory.

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 8

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition had its penultimate round prior to the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships break with Round 8 run and done. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

EASTERN RANGES vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

Had a really good day on the inside where Sandringham just didn’t have any answers for what she was bringing to the table. I really like how she slows down the game when she gets a mark or free kick, really commanding her teammates to stop and think about the best lead or position to help the team. 

#16 Isabelle Khoury (Eastern Ranges)

Won a lot of it in and around the midfield, contributing a lot in open play and getting Eastern moving with some smart disposal. She really looks to open up the game by using the width of the field, rarely just kicking down the line even under pressure, much preferring those inside kicks. Was pretty evasive as well around the ball, rarely getting caught trying to do too much.

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Just continues to do everything right as a forward, getting herself three goals for the day, with two being perfect examples of how a smaller forward should be playing, hitting the front and centre of a contest but also being prepared to get around the back in case it goes over the top. She looks set to play more midfield in the coming years, pushing up onto the wing at times during the game where she didn’t look out of place, and her penetrating kick can do some real damage to opposition.

#40 Georgia Wilson (Eastern Ranges)

Playing as the main target for Eastern going forward, Wilson put in an all round dominant display, dominating in the air, or following up on aerial contests at ground level where she’d body opponents with ease. Something that really impressed was her leading patterns, she just knew where to run and even how to run for each teammate delivering to her, and this was evident throughout, leading to her getting four goals for the game.

#21 Ruby O’Dwyer (Eastern Ranges)

Plays really smart as a rover, knowing when to play as an inside ball getter or outside receiver, her versatility to switch between both leads to a really good Eastern midfield dynamic. A real highlight was one particular centre bounce, where she started on the outside, went to go in but saw her teammate going in as well, so she readjusted, got the handball from her teammate and delivered inside 50 with a snap. While not overly fast, her game sense allows her to get away from opponents easily as well.

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

Almost an impossible match-up all day for the Sandringham midfielders, because when she gets two to three steps in front it’s already over, with her acceleration being really hard to match. Whilst stoppage work is her strength, she still contributes really well around the ground, not afraid to take on opponents when she’s got the ball in hand, drawing them in and then handballing out. Had an opportunity to kick a goal, running into an open goal square but missed the ball with her foot before being tackled.

#5 Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges)

Made the wing her own with pure gut running and understanding of how to hold space really well. Her classy left foot set up plenty of goal scoring opportunities, even getting herself on the scoreboard when she was tight against the left boundary.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Continues to be a shining light for Sandringham, impacting and winning the ball wherever she’s lining up on field, and working hard to help out in the backline even if she’s a midfielder. She looks more and more confident each week with her ball winning on the inside or with contested situations, even going head to head against the likes of Deed and Sherar at times and coming off on top. 

#37 Ebony Angelopoulos (Sandringham Dragons)

Was the main target in the Sandringham forward line, a difficult task for a smaller player, but she stepped up in a big way. Despite not getting on the scoreboard a whole heap she was a genuine marking threat for the Dragons but kept doing the things that have impressed for the season, with her crumbing and pressure work top notch throughout.

#22 Emma Stuber (Sandringham Dragons)

Playing a mixed role between defence and midfield for the day, Stuber impressed with her hunt for the ball evident, running hard at it and not wavering from attempting to win it even when outnumbered or not in the best position to win it. Her run and carry game was a big part in Sandringham’s drive going forward, where she’d run the ball 15 meters and bomb it long forward for the Sandringham forwards to run onto. If she can add some more penetration on her kick, she will be a very handy player.

 OTHERS: 

With Georgia Campbell out injured we saw Eastern rotate through a couple of rucks, with debutant and 2005-born Jess Vukic coming in and impressing when she rolled through the ruck, even getting onto the scoreboard. Eloise Chaston was lively up forward, with her leading and positioning going a long way to help her teammates get shots on goal. Sandringham were well aided by the likes of Bridie Hipwell and Keeley Coyne as outside receivers, whose class remained even in the wet conditions. Captain Kiana Lynch was once again impactful across multiple positions, and Pia Staltari was strong with her ball use throughout. 

Calder Cannons vs. Western Jets

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Arguably the leading tall on the ground, Gillard enjoyed a terrific tussle with Krystal Russell while operating through the ruck, and also impacted around the ground. She had the height advantage but showed good athleticism and strength to win a number of hitouts, which helped Calder’s star-studded engine room get to work. She positioned well behind the ball to impact kicks coming out of the Cannons’ attacking arc and even found a bit of ball in the back 50 to relieve pressure. Set for a big national carnival with Vic Metro.

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

The standout player afield for the winners, Prespakis continues to churn out high-level performances at a remarkably consistent rate. She finished as the game’s leading ball winner and constantly pumped Calder forward with her long kicking, which has come to the fore a touch more recently having already established a strong craft by hand. The number one pick candidate also booted a classy goal in the first term to spark her side and will shortly lead a very strong Vic Metro midfield.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Baskaran is already an established name in the competition, but has really elevated her game to new heights over the last few weeks with more time on the inside. Her class on the ball is exceptional and she wins plenty of it, with her ability to extract contested ball defiant of her frame and age. She is exactly the kind of player you want delivering the ball inside 50 and with seven of those from her 20 kicks on the weekend, she was an influential player for the Jets.

#8 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

A really important part of the Cannons midfield, Friswell has less frills than some of her teammates but can be equally impactful in the engine room. She ticked over 20 disposals for the first time this season and was a reliable ball winner on the inside, while also working well defensively to lay some good tackles. Friswell kicked a goal in the first quarter to add a string to her bow and broke forward well on a couple of occasions to carry Calder inside 50. A really solid outing once again.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

The sole 2004-born player to be selected in Vic Metro’s squad on Friday, it is easy to see why Ham will get that opportunity. She is ready as anyone to compete against bigger bodies and again showcased her physicality in midfield with strong work over the ball and some bustling play to break forward. Her penetrating kick was also useful as Western looked to make a dent in Calder’s defence, and she was able to enter the forward arc on five occasions. An area of improvement will be refining those kicks and mixing them up to find shorter targets out of congestion when appropriate, but she has strong potential to do plenty of damage and hit the scoreboard.

#39 Abbey McDonald (Calder Cannons)

One who popped up and had some really impressive moments, McDonald was more than handy for Calder moving forward. She was another to notch a season-high disposal tally (12), but more importantly applied smothering pressure and laid some big tackles to really make her mark on the game. It has been a real feature of her season at times, and should put her in good stead going into her top-age campaign next year.

#42 Jemima Woods (Western Jets)

Woods has arguably elevated herself to be the top 2003-born Western prospect, and showed exactly why on the weekend with one of her best games to date. Woods is a really dynamic and versatile tall with great athleticism, allowing her to play key position roles, win hitouts or take marks, and even rotate through midfield. While she did the former three once again, Woods’ work as a midfielder was ultra impressive, with her clean hands and strong body at the contest making for a promising showing overall. It caps off a handy run of form for the 17-year-old.

OTHERS:

Calder had plenty of strong contributors as always, with Mali McLeod and Emelia Yassir again lively on the outside and inside of midfield respectively. Ruby Smith and Kiara Delia were others to pop up and play impressive roles. For Western, Stephanie Asciak worked hard in midfield and Krystal Russell competed well as the primary ruck against tough opposition. Paige Ryan was again solid and Ciara Singleton also played a strong hand down back.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By Hamish Spence

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

King set the standard against the Knights, leading her side in disposals (22) and tackles (11). She attended most stoppages and was an offensive threat with the way she pushed forward. She could have used the ball better at times, as indicated by her three behinds, but she was still among Tasmania’s best on the day and has proven to be a classy operator throughout the season.

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Impressed with every touch of the ball she had, working hard on the wing to cover the whole ground and get involved in plays. She was particularly strong in the first half, her drive and the opportunities she created for her team were symbolic of the difference between the two sides at the point in the game. She supported her defenders down back and kicked her side’s first with a classy running goal in the second quarter.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Amy Bissett (Tasmania Devils)

Proved to be the match-winner on Saturday, with two of her three goals coming in the Devils’ final quarter comeback. She stood up when her side needed a hero and brought the X-factor required to overcome the 11-point three-quarter time deficit. She also influenced the game with her 15 disposals at the top of forward 50 and further up the ground. While Bissett has shown an ability to kick goals and gather the ball at centre-half forward, this was the match where she brought both those aspects of her game together.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

Played at the standard we’ve come to expect from her this year, putting in another impressive performance with her 21 disposals and eight tackles. She’s the Devils’ conduit around stoppages, continually finding a way to win the ball at the coalface. While she does not always get the best penetration with some of her disposals, the way she stood up during the second quarter and in parts of the third made her one of Tasmania’s most important players.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

A pure hard-nosed and contested midfielder, the high pressure and congested nature of Saturday’s contest suited Webster perfectly. She made her presence felt around the frequent stoppages throughout the match with her 18 disposals and 10 tackles. Her current form and continued improvement has given Tasmania one of the deepest engine rooms in the competition.

#49 Charlotte Vandenberg (Tasmania Devils)

She was the most dominant ruck on the ground, winning a game-high 26 hitouts and making an impact at ground level. She asserted herself on the contest early with some great taps in the first quarter and gave her midfielders first service. There was an adverse difference for the Devils when she was not on the ground or could not attend a ruck contest, with their fortunes noticeably changing whenever she was at a stoppage.

#28 Candice Belbin (Tasmania Devils)

When Priscilla Odwogo was announced as a late out, it meant Tasmania’s backline needed to step up in her absence. Belbin certainly did, producing one of her best performances of the season. She mixed a strong defensive game with some attacking drives off half-back, finishing with 12 disposals and eight tackles. She particularly stood up when the Devils’ back six were put under pressure for parts of the second and third terms.

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Was the best midfielder at Prospect Park, putting together a prolific game with her 26 disposals, seven tackles and six inside 50s. When Northern got on top and started cutting through Tasmania in the second quarter, Chaplin was at the centre of it and leading the way. Her influence and control over the game at times was clear to see, with the Knights’ best plays often correlating with her involvement.

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

Jordan was another midfielder who flourished on Saturday, gathering plenty of possessions and relishing in the tight nature of the game. Her main role was to win the ball around stoppages and distribute it to one of her teammates, as indicated by the fact that 22 of her 25 disposals were handballs. She thrived when the game slowed down and was highly pressured in patches, allowing her to compete strongly at the contest.

#7 Teleah Smart (Northern Knights)

While Chaplin and Jordan were the accumulators, Smart provided a spark that threatened to take the game away from the Devils. Her 14 disposals and eight tackles show the effect she had in the midfield, but it was her surging runs forward off stoppages that took her performance to another level. She arguably produced the highlight of the match when she kicked two goals in a minute during the second quarter, despite starting in the middle both times.

#15 Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)

Delgado was an influential and calming force for the Knights down back. She finished with an impressive 17 disposals and took advantage of some of the Devils’ shallow inside 50 entries with a game-high eight rebounds 50s. She also stood up when the backline was under pressure, particularly for parts of the third quarter and in the last, keeping her opponent accountable and setting her team up on the rebound.

#40 Tannah Hurst (Northern Knights)

Continued to do what she’s done all season, being a reliable and consistent stopper for Northern down back. She was one of the main reasons Tasmania was restricted to a goal a term across the first three quarters. While the Devils eventually broke through, Hurst can hold her head high after another strong performance. She didn’t make as much of an impact coming out of defence as she has in other games, but the ball rarely got past her when it entered defensive 50.

OTHERS:

Jemma Blair complemented Belbin with an equally impressive performance off half-back for the Devils. Madison Brazendale stood out with some of her bursts of speed going through the middle off the ground. Georgia Clark looked dangerous at half-forward with the first goal of the game and the opportunities she created inside 50. Despite Vandenberg taking the ruck honours, Georgia Kitchell had an impressive performance in her own right, winning 13 hitouts and helping Northern’s midfield get on top for parts of the game. While they didn’t impact on the scoreboard, Rylie Wilcox (12 disposals) and Tallia Pulcino (11 disposals and a game-high 13 tackles) made sure their presence was felt up forward and further up the ground.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Still racked up the most ball for the Chargers despite playing a lot of time up forward. Did a lot of her usual work, charging through packs and coming out the other end with the footy, leaving opponents in her dust. Was a really strong pressure type player, with her tackling being superb throughout the day which highlighted her defensive work rate. Had a couple of opportunities to get herself on the scoreboard but chose to pass off to teammates, even if they weren’t in a favourable position comparatively.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Was not as obviously involved as she has been so often this season, but was just smart with her positioning and ball use, getting some uncontested marks down the line and sending the ball long with her penetrating kick, or getting on the scoreboard herself. 

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Won a lot of the ball on the inside, utilising her speed to break free from opponents and deliver good penetrating kicks forward or handballing to outside runners. She’s smart with her running patterns, never getting in the way of other teammates, especially around stoppages, where she’ll hold out to let someone like Rowbottom win the clearance, or go in when she’s the main inside player.

#7  Charlotte Taylor (Oakleigh Chargers)

Really great game as mostly a wing player, but also getting her runs through the guts and even relieving the ruck around the ground at times, she did a bit of everything in an all round top notch performance. I really liked her kicking, with her strength being in her placement, putting it in front of teammates to run onto rather than trying to put a hole in their chest with a hard kick.

#16 Erin Woodford (Oakleigh Chargers)

Stood up in the Chargers defence when it was needed as the second quarter went on especially. Did well to keep her opponents quiet for most of the day, and positioned herself in the middle of prime marking spots to make it a contest and difficult for the Falcons to get marks inside 50.

#23 Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons)

Reads the game really well as a defender which allows her to be a threat in the air and on the ground constantly. Strong when running and carrying, getting around opponents without much trouble which makes her rebound game especially dangerous. 

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Was really impressed with her ability to control the game and flow of the ball even without it, making shorter leads for teammates that no one else was making, they were safer leads but would end up being more damaging as Craven opened up space and kicked it centrally. Her kicking is always good, as mentioned she often looks to move it centrally but even the down the line kicks are calculated and more often than not pay off.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Super strong aerially setting herself up down the line from the play and cutting off a lot of Chargers rushed kicks forward, with no one able to match her leap and strong hands. Her follow up kicking was dangerous too, even if she was often forced to go down the line.

#15 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Has a good leap which makes her dangerous in marking contests and a reliable target up forward for Geelong, also leading to her playing as a relieving ruck, winning a few hitouts in that time as well. She is also very aggressive on the ball carrier leading to opponents to hesitate against her when they have seen others come off second best.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Pretty close to perfect game for an inside midfielder, with her athleticism and ball reading making up for her lack of height against some of the taller mids in the Chargers midfield group. She ended up forming a good one-two punch with teammates Tess Craven and Charlotte Simpson around stoppages, handballing to their advantage so they could get a bit of momentum going forward.

#39 Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)

Had a consistent game, creating a contest when the ball game forward and fighting to get scoring opportunities. Stepped up early in the fourth quarter with two really crucial contested marks that led to the goal of the quarter, with the other kick being a deep inside 50 entry that Oakleigh struggled for a few minutes to get out.

OTHERS:

Kara Stacey and Charlotte Simpson both won a bit of ball for the Falcons around the ground, with fellow bottom-ager Mia Van Dyke getting herself two goals in her return from injury. Zoe Garth was lively on the wing, doing well as a link up option. The Chargers remained competitive thanks to the efforts of Brooke Vickers, Lily Hart and Eliza James through the midfield, with Mia Clift and Alexandra McCulloch strong in defence.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

The Academy tall had a day out in the ruck given Dandenong’s lack of talls, as she dominated every ruck contest she was involved in, showing really good ruck craft throughout. It was not just the height advantage that led to this big performance though, she often got front position and would shepherd her opponent away from the ball to give her an open area to work with. Around the ground she was handy as well, being a down the line target for Murray to kick to where it’d take two to three Stingrays to stop her taking the mark. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

#38 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

She had been in some really good form heading into the game, and in the absence of some Vic Country teammates took the chance with both hands to announce herself as one to watch. Cracked in and was Dandenong’s main inside midfielder, consistently getting the ball out to outside teammates to help Dandenong keep the ball heading forward. Had an impressive workrate around the ground, often getting into the backline to help out, especially when Murray had quite a big surge in the last quarter.

#31 Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)

Has been thrown around all over the ground this season but played mostly in defence for this contest and was just superb throughout the game, constantly coming up the field to meet the ball, winning it majority of the time and keeping the pressure on going forward for Dandenong. Was really smart with her ball use as well, in a game where there wasn’t much time to compose for a kick she managed it well to hit up some shorter targets, breaking the flow of the long bombs most others were doing, so her kicks were more often marked by teammates to keep possession.

#27 Charley Ryan (Dandenong Stingrays)

Super composed with ball in hand, especially when the game had a bit of sting in it during the first quarter, she was probably the only player able to compose herself and deliver some dangerous kicks to break the game open. Moving to a rover spot rather than her usual wing, she did not look out of her depth in a more contested spot, still doing the things like holding her space and working around opponents really well, and impacting heavily with her ball use. One area she might want to improve in future is her kicking on goal, finishing the day with 1.3.

#63 Georgia Malkoun (Dandenong Stingrays)

In the absence of consistent goal kickers like Amber Clarke, Ashleigh Richards and Mackenzie Eardley, Malkoun took the opportunity to announce herself as a genuine forward target, with three straight goals for the day and creating plenty more goal scoring opportunities for her team. Her leading patterns were especially impressive and led to her impressive display, able to lose her opponent well, and she would’ve had more marks if it weren’t for the crowding from Murray defenders. A particular highlight came just before the half time siren, when she took a courageous contested mark on the 50 meter arc, proving her aerial threat and capabilities. 

#11 Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)

Might have only played about 50 per cent of the game, but had immediate impact when she came on in the second term, holding space well and receiving the ball from the likes of Crank on the inside. It is amazing how even when she does a long bomb forward out of the pack you feel like she knows exactly what’s going to happen, with a few of those bombs leading to inside 50 marks for the Stingrays.

#26 Charlotte Blair (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got involved in a lot of the play throughout the ground, applying pressure around the forward half to keep the ball in dangerous spots for Dandenong. Seemed to use her hands quite often, looking to pass off to team mates already on the move or in better positions. When she did elect to kick, it was usually a well placed one out in front of teammates so they could run into it.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

The bottom-age star was a consistent threat around the midfield for the day, often getting away from her direct opponent to make a run to win a clearance or receive a handball out the back. Looks to get the ball moving with her long kick which gave the Stingrays defence a few scares, with the high balls leading to contests that Skepper would try and run to, to hit the front and centre, so that workrate was evident throughout. 

#16 Mikayla Jones (Murray Bushrangers)

Played a really good sweeper role for Murray, setting up outside of the forward 50 and doing well to cut off rebounds from Dandenong, then fire it back in to keep the pressure on, with the entries being penetrating kicks to advantage of her teammates. Tapered off a bit towards the end of the game, but remained a pressure presence.

OTHERS:

Defender Zoe Hill was especially present in the first half for Dandenong, playing a big role in keeping Murray goalless for the majority of the game, with Hayley Monk playing a good game as a half forward and Bella Enno continuing her strong tackling and inside work. Murray were aided by the likes of Zara Hamilton and Madison Gray around the midfield, as well as Kaylea Kobzan getting involved. Mindy Quade also did a lot down back to repel Dandenong attacks and keep the scoreline lowered.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY THUNDER

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#30 Ashanti Bush (Northern Territory)

After a quieter first half, Bush came alive in the second, having multiple shots on goal and converting two in the space of a minute in the fourth quarter. After missing a set shot late in the third term, Bush used the outside of the boot to snap a classy goal eight and a half minutes into the last quarter, then the next inside 50 a minute later saw her mark one-on-one with really strong hands and convert with relative ease 20m out. She almost had a third goal moments later working her opponent under the ball and running towards goal but just slipped at the crucial moment and could not get boot to ball.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#29 Freda Puruntatameri (Northern Territory)

Worked really hard across the match and was one of Northern Territory’s four-quarter performers. Predominantly starting in the ruck, she would often thump the ball long down the ground, but also showed some nice dance moves by sidestepping opponents to create space herself. Sometimes she would get caught, but she kept worrying the opposition with her ability to move well through contests.

#25 Bella Clarke (Northern Territory)

Used her experience throughout the match to be a prominent ball winner and lead her younger teammates. She started off in the midfield and kept cracking in. She covered plenty of ground and spent a fair amount of time inside 50, having a set shot from 20m out early in the third term she pushed to the left. A couple of minutes later, her second efforts and determination were on show, when she wrestled the ball from an opponent on the goal line and got boot to ball.

#11 Grace Mulvahil (Northern Territory)

A quieter first half, but throughout the match provided some eye-catching dashes with her first few steps very impressive. Her marking is an area of improvement, dropping a couple of uncontested grabs around the ground, but once she was on the move with ball-in-hand she was hard to stop. Mulvahil danced around a couple of opponents and drove the ball inside 50 and showed good work rate to offer herself as an option in transition.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV)

Continued her great form this season with another hard-working effort across the ground. Alongside some inexperienced teammates, Condon led by example with her attack on the football and work rate around the ground. She was quick to get boot to ball to clear the zone, and while she was often under pressure and had to rush, used it well when she had time on her side. A moment in the second term where she pickpocketed an opponent at a stoppage was impressive, followed by some nice speed on the wing a moment later. Condon also took a strong mark in the fourth term with contact coming from behind.

#27 Molly Walton (GWV)

Incredibly composed for a player in her debut season, not much seems to phase Walton who held up in pressure situations, using clean hands and footy IQ to drive the ball out of the defensive 50. Time and time again she would mop up at the back and boot the ball forward, and took the kickout duties to provide some run and long kicking down the ground. She laid a great run-down tackle on Bella Clarke in the second term to win the free kick, and also won a one-on-three in the final term, and rushed a behind when under pressure to stop a certain goal.

OTHERS:

J’Noemi Anderson showed some nice toe and was presenting around the ground, while Tatyana Perry and Shanoah Leedie were also named among the best. Georgia Johnson and Charlotte Elcoate also found their fair share of the football in the win. For the Rebels, Stella Bridgewater was busy throughout, kicking a goal in second term from the top of the goalsquare, while Stephanie Glover was strong one-on-one deep in defence, and the likes of Jorja Jones, Crystal Summers and Olivia Leonard also having plenty of the play.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#27 Jayda Richardson (Bendigo Pioneers)

Played a mixed role through the game, starting in the midfield before being moved into the backline later on. She looked really good in the backline, bringing her usual strengths like her speed, ball winning and long kick to the position, which led to more dangerous counter attacks from the Pioneers and played a big in their second half fight back. In the midfield she was again dangerous, able to run through packs to win the footy, come out the other side and bomb long forward.

#15 Drew Ryan (Bendgio Pioneers)

Got her opportunity to play more on the inside with some regulars out for the Pioneers and really impressed, with the timing of her runs around contests especially impressive, where she’d be able to receive the ball already close to top speed and break away from opponents, then deliver forward via foot.

#30 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

Started the game a little quiet but really came up in the second half, where her work in and around the midfield exceptional for Bendigo, playing a big part in their surge late in the fourth, where her long kicking kept Bendigo going forward, and her occasional short kicking moving them centrally to open up the forward line. She’s a joy to watch setting up behind play or spreading across the ground and calling for the ball, taking marks with ease and then taking space to go forward.

#35 Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power)

Playing as the Gippsland main ruck throughout the game, she had an outstanding performance topping the disposals and hitouts stats, as she was just always involved whenever she was around. It was impressive to see that she still kept a defensive focus throughout the game, having no troubles going down back when the ball was there and helping out with her strength in the contest being an asset in winning the footy and getting it out. It was that strength that allowed her to have such a big performance in the ruck, out muscling and jumping through opponents without issue, giving Gippsland first use around the ground.

#2 Alexei Guy-Toogood (Gippsland Power)

Provided a lot of run and drive from the defensive 50 for Gippsland, with her ball use coming out good, often to the advantage of a teammate, it gave Gippsland a real chance every time to convert from the counter attacks. She’d come to meet a loose ball as well, making it difficult for Bendigo to set up and prepare for the counter. Impressed with her tackling in the final quarter as well, forcing stoppages to stop Bendigo from scoring.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Very well could have ended the day with 20-plus disposals if it weren’t for an extended period on the bench in the second quarter, but when she was on the field she did well to make the loss of Grace McRae less evident, using her disposal well, winning the ball then handballing to outside runners or kicking forward herself trying to get Gippsland going quickly. 

OTHERS:

For Bendigo Lila Keck used the ball well and set up well behind play to get a couple of intercept marks. Keely Fullerton and Lily Den Houting had some key moments especially in the final term push for a goal. Lexie Moss and Tegan Williams also had good moments. Gippsland was not short of contributors in their victory, Macie Gilmour, Alisha Molesworth and Indiana Makai winning a bit of ball around the midfield and flanks. Taylah Bourne also offered a lot in the Gippsland defensive half.