Tag: jemima woods

2021 AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Tall/Medium Forwards

AFTER announcing the inaugural AFLW Draft Power Rankings Victorian Pool, Draft Central is starting a new series – Positional Analysis. It takes a look across the nation and those players within a certain position, and the impact they have. Next up is tall and medium forwards, where the forward position is the more prevalent area for utilities (ie Ella Friend is a forward/wing, whereas Charlie Rowbottom is a midfielder/forward) and we have just looked at those above 160cm. Some forwards who are considered utilities will be in other AFLW Draft Positional Analysis such as Sophie Locke. All opinions are of the individual author.

>> AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Rucks

#1 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
30/12/2003 | 175cm
Tall Forward/Wing

Key strengths: Contested marking, mobility, upside, penetrating kick

The top contested marking player in the draft crop, Friend will be a highly sought after talent for her ability to not only clunk the big grabs, but use her penetrating left boot in both the midfield and forward lines. Transitioning from centre half-forward to a wing in the second half of the season, Friend showcased her mobility and her knack for for winning the ball in multiple areas of the field. Only two days away from being a bottom-ager, expect Friend to have plenty of upside left in her and would be a great target for a team needing a key target up forward who can also work hard up the ground. She averaged the 16.0 disposals, 4.3 marks and 2.9 tackles per game in the 2021 season, and slotted two goals on debut for the Western Bulldogs’ VFLW side. A good size at 175cm to play anywhere on the ground.

#2 Amy Franklin (Claremont/Western Australia)
04/02/2003 | 177cm
Tall Forward/Tall Defender

The AFL Women’s Academy member is in contention for West Coast’s top selection given her versatility and ability as the standout tall in her state. Franklin is capable of playing at both ends, but is more dominant as a forward, and has some traits that point to serious upside. With athleticism – in particular speed – that is rare in a player of her size, Franklin is also someone who can clunk contested marks and move well around the ground. She does not need to win a lot of the ball to have an impact in the game, often kicking a couple of goals in a quarter as she did a couple of weeks ago for Claremont against Subiaco in the WAFL Women’s. At the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, Franklin predominantly played back for 10.5 disposals, 2.0 marks and 3.0 rebound 50s, though did kick a goal when swung forward.

#3 Mikayla Pauga (Bond University/Brisbane Lions Academy/Queensland)
10/04/2003 | 161cm
Medium Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Clean hands, footy IQ, forward craft, disposal

It might be considered a stretch at 161cm to call Pauga a medium forward, but her traits – such as her strength in the air and ability to be a focal point in transition – allow her to play taller than she is. Capable of going into the midfield and having an impact, Pauga is most damaging as a high half-forward, used as a link-up player to get the ball inside 50. Now at Bond University having come from Maroochydore, the Brisbane Lions Academy member has enjoyed a great QAFL Women’s season, and is a classy ball user. The work she does off the ball is just as impressive, but her clean hands – and ability to dish off in a split second – are what can create plays and scoring opportunities and why she is a member of the AFLW Academy.

#4 Jess Doyle (Manly/Sydney Swans Academy/Allies)
15/09/2003 | 170cm
Medium Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Overhead marking, speed, one-on-ones, X-factor

One of the more exciting talents in the AFLW Draft pool, Doyle captained the Sydney Swans Academy this year and showed why she is a member of the AFLW Academy. Whilst a raw talent, Doyle looked natural up forward with her speed off the mark, leap, overhead mark and goal sense making her a damaging player when inside 50. She also pinch-hit in the midfield and used her one-on-one ability at both ground level and in the air, to match it with more experienced players and win her fair share of the ball. The talented medium-tall is the top prospect out of NSW/ACT and whilst the Swans might not have a team at this stage, Doyle is sure to make an impact at the top level and be exciting for years to come.

#5 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
12/11/2003 | 169cm
Medium Forward/Ruck

Key strengths: Vertical leap, penetrating kick, aggression, upside

Standing at 169cm you would not expect someone to be listed as a ruck, but such is Featherston’s leaping ability that she has indeed become a secondary ruck at NAB League Girls level. Pinch-hitting in there to average 4.3 hitouts per game, Featherston is at her most dominant around the half-forward line where she can lead out, clunk grabs and show great courage in the air or at ground level. Whilst she could improve her composure around goal – she had plenty of chances that were opportunities which went begging – her ability to have so many chances and create opportunities is impressive. She is a raw talent with plenty of upside, and with a long, penetrating kick and strong hands, she is a valuable addition to any forward line.

#6 Lauren Breguet (Central District/South Australia)
14/02/2003 | 164cm
Medium Forward

Key strengths: Explosiveness, speed, overhead marking, forward craft

An exciting forward with plenty of eye-catching traits, Breguet has showcased her numerous athletic capabilities in the SANFL Women’s competition this year. Able to clunk some strong marks, then burn off opponents to create goal-scoring opportunities, Breguet has plenty of upside for the future. In her seven games at SANFL Women’s level this year, Breguet averaged the 10 disposals, 2.4 marks, 3.0 tackles and slotted four goals. Whilst it might not sound like a lot, her impact with ball-in-hand is what stands out, such as her 14-disposals, four-mark, four-tackle, one-goal game against North Adelaide in Round 6. At the AFLW Under 19 Championships, she averaged a similar 10.7 disposals and 5.0 tackles, slotting a goal and showing glimpses of her talent.

#7 Ashanti Bush (NT Thunder/Allies)
18/08/2002 | 162cm
Medium Forward

Key traits: Forward craft, evasion, footy smarts, goal sense

The sole Northern Territory member of the AFL Women’s Academy, Bush has a lot of potential as a deep forward, causing all sorts of headaches to opponents one-on-one. She is smart with her positioning and recovery, either able to take the mark, or bring the ball to ground, then apply scoreboard pressure. She knows where the goals are, and showed that during the Thunder’s clash with GWV Rebels in the NAB League Girls, kicking two goals in as many minutes to win the game for her side. Not a huge ball-winner, Bush is able to hit the scoreboard consistently, already booting three goals in two games for Hawthorn VFL Women’s side in her two games, whilst kicking a goal in her sole match against Western Australia at the AFLW Under 19s Championships.

#8 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
22/10/2003 | 167cm
Medium Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Goal sense, defensive pressure, footy smarts, competitiveness

A nice versatile talent, Richards is capable of playing deep forward, high forward or even through the midfield which can be a point of difference for many goal-scoring types. Earning a place with Vic Country, Richards slotted a goal and averaged 11.5 disposals from her two games, backing up a really solid NAB League Girls season. In six games, she averaged the 12.2 disposals, 2.3 tackles and booted seven goals – 1.2 per game – which showed her ability to regularly hit the scoreboard. That form carried into the VFL Women’s where, playing forward, Richards has already booted three goals in three games, averaging 83 disposals and 2.0 marks, able to find space inside 50 against bigger bodies.

#9 Chloe Reilly (East Fremantle/Western Australia)
12/10/2003 | 163cm
Medium Forward/Medium Defender

Key strengths: Versatility, overhead marking, powerful kick, one-on-ones

When you watch Reilly for the first time, you do a double-take at the listed 163cm height, because whilst she might be smaller than her opponents, quite often she is able to either leap higher than them, read the ball better than them, or clunk grabs better than them. Her one-on-one ability is quite impressive as is her overhead strength. Couple these traits with her powerful kicking, and Reilly has enough about her to suggest she could play at either end, which she has done this season at WAFL Women’s level for East Fremantle. Primarily a forward though, Reilly has great aggression at the ball and does not take a backwards step, almost having the chance to win the game for Western Australia against Vic Metro after the siren, and whilst that did not work out, Reilly still had a solid carnival, booting two goals and averaging 11.3 disposals, 2.0 marks, 1.7 inside 50s, 2.0 rebound 50s and kicking a couple of majors in an all-round effort.

#10 Jemima Woods (Western Jets/Western Bulldogs VFLW)
28/05/2003 | 174cm
Tall Forward/UTILITY

Key strengths: Forward craft, athleticism, clean hands, upside

The talented tall forward has come on in leaps and bounds this season, developing her game to play further up the ground in season 2021, and even pinch-hitting in the ruck. At 174cm she is able to compete well one-on-one with a high work rate and clever leading patterns to find the ball inside 50 thanks to her athleticism. More often than not though, Woods has found herself being the first target in the forward half, then looking for options inside 50, with more than three inside 50s per game to go with her four goals from eight matches. Averaging almost 12 touches per game at NAB League Girls level, Woods burst onto the VFLW scene with three goals on debut for the Western Bulldogs, and whilst the going has been tougher since, still has some great upside for the future.

OTHERS:

The three other tall or medium forward talents identified to fit under the category with AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites are Oakleigh Chargers’ Eliza James, Casey Demons’ Imogen Milford and Claremont’s Tessa Doumanis. James is an exciting type who creates plenty of opportunities inside 50, Milford is the tallest on this list at 179cm and a huge chance to take out the leading goalkicker award in the VFLW, while Doumanis is a clever forward with a potent left foot. A couple of other talents without Draft Combine invites include Collingwood’s Imogen Barnett and Tasmania Devils’ Amy Prokopiec who have both found the big sticks plenty in the VFLW and NAB League Girls respectively this year. From a non-Victorian perspective, South Australia’s Jade Halfpenny and Queensland’s Lily Tarlinton are both capable as tall options.

Draft Central AFLW Draft Power Rankings – Victorian Pool: June 2021

IN a Draft Central first, the inaugural edition of our AFL Women’s Draft Power Rankings highlights the some of the top AFL Women’s Draft prospects ahead of the 2021 draft on July 27. Between then and now there will be the two editions of the Power Rankings; this one a final one ahead of the draft following the state-based combines and completion of a number of state league competitions. Note that the Power Rankings to do not take into account any draft selections, and are more an opinion-based ranking system on the draft prospects.

For this Power Rankings, we have focused purely on the Victorian pool, so does not include those likely to zone to other states due to the limited teams and selections in those states. We have also not included any players who have previously been on an AFLW list, just undrafted or now draft-eligible players. Please note the rankings are the opinion of the author.

Georgie Prespakis

#1 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
13/03/2003 | 168cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Ball-winning, tackling, quick hands, footy IQ

The most consistent prospect across the board and has been touted as a star from her debut as a 15-year-old two and a half years ago. There she dominated up forward with 13 goals in 10 games, averaging a massive 22.6 disposals and 5.6 tackles to win the league best and fairest at just 16 years of age. Her numbers have remained consistent going into the middle, and whilst she almost always gets close attention from the opposition, Prespakis is a renowned tackler with 8.8 per game in her top-age season. Her ball winning ability and strength to win the pill at the stoppage and extract it away, as well as have an impact forward of centre, are among her strengths. In terms of improvements, sometimes she can rush the kicks around her body, but she is able to get to enough repeat stoppages, to have more influence than most others.

Charlie Rowbottom

#2 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
22/01/2003 | 178cm
Inside Midfielder/Tall Forward

Key strengths: Contested marking, tackling, strength, upside

The powerful, tall inside midfielder has already proven to be a difficult player to try and contain across four quarters, able to win a game off her own boot when up and about. So strong in the air and at ground level, Rowbottom averaged 7.1 tackles to go with 17.6 disposals and 2.8 marks in season 2021, also booting 10 goals in 11 games. Whilst long-term the sister of Sydney’s James will become a midfielder, expect her to be a tall forward who can kick multiple goals in a game. Her upside is one of the best in the draft crop, and her versatility makes her damaging. Her kicking both in-field and on goal is an area of improvement, but her ability to do all the hard stuff – from winning the ball, tackling and clunking the important marks – more than makes up for the ironing out process that will happen with time. An exciting talent for the future.

#3 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
03/11/2003 | 175cm
Tall Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, contested marking, footy smarts, positioning

Despite a somewhat interrupted season for the AFL Women’s Academy member, playing only the five games due to injury and AFLW Under 19s Championships commitments, Slender still showed why she is a top-end prospect; stepping up from her role as a rebounding intercept defender, to be a forward and midfielder this year in a remarkable display of versatility. Arguably the NAB League Girls’ Most Valuable Player for her side, the Pioneers were a far better team with her in it, and averaging a massive 4.2 marks as well as 5.2 tackles along with her 16.2 disposals shows she has no trouble winning the ball in the air, one-on-one or at ground level. A natural leader co-captaining the Pioneers, Slender could fill any role at AFL Women’s level and has some great upside for the future as well.

#4 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
10/09/2003 | 173cm
Medium Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, spread, skills, goal sense

A natural ball-winner with a slick left foot and smooth-moving ability, Reid has proven she can play on all three lines of the field. Starting off half-back and pushing up to a wing, Reid finished her season up forward and ended up slotting 15 goals in 11 games, including three in Oakleigh’s premiership win. She averaged 1.4 goals for the season from 20.1 disposals, 4.5 marks and 3.2 inside 50s per game, looked to as a key player to move the ball in transition. She used it well by hand or foot and was able to find space with ease. Multiple times a game Reid would make you wonder how she got in so much space even when tearing it up, but credit to her work rate and smarts to be able to find the open space and then punish the opposition through either her disposal or on the scoreboard.

Ella Friend

#5 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
30/12/2003 | 175cm
Tall Forward/Wing

Key strengths: Contested marking, mobility, upside, penetrating kick

The top contested marking player in the draft crop, Friend will be a highly sought after talent for her ability to not only clunk the big grabs, but use her penetrating left boot in both the midfield and forward lines. Transitioning from centre half-forward to a wing in the second half of the season, Friend showcased her mobility and her knack for for winning the ball in multiple areas of the field. Only two days away from being a bottom-ager, expect Friend to have plenty of upside left in her and would be a great target for a team needing a key target up forward who can also work hard up the ground. She averaged the 16.0 disposals, 4.3 marks and 2.9 tackles per game in the 2021 season, and slotted two goals on debut for the Western Bulldogs’ VFLW side. A good size at 175cm to play anywhere on the ground.

#6 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
20/11/2003 | 166cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Kicking, marking, courage, footy IQ

A really smart player who knows the game well and reads the play behind the ball, Anthony was a member of the AFL Women’s Academy as a bottom-age talent last year. She showed why through an outstanding yet interrupted season, copping a couple of concussions – including in Vic Country’s win over South Australia at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships – to still perform at a high level. She won Vic Country’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, and proved through her actions to be an incredibly courageous player. Whilst standing at 166cm, Anthony is not afraid to go up in the marking contest and bring the ball down, and when she does have ball-in-hand, her kicking is outstanding. A talent who teammates can trust with ball-in-hand, and she has spent time up forward as well at times, kicking a goal in the Stingrays’ loss to the Geelong Falcons in finals.

#7 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
23/12/2003 | 163cm
Inside Midfielder

Key strengths: Clearances, accumulation, consistency, footy IQ

Arguably the best pure inside midfielder in the Victorian pool, Craven has had quite the season for the Falcons. She won the Falcons’ best and fairest award, averaging 21.1 disposals, 4.4 marks, 3.3 inside 50s, 2.0 rebound 50 and 3.9 tackles, then played the two games with Vic Country for 20.5 disposals, 6.0 clearances and 5.0 tackles. She is an inside ball winner and one who can extract it out of the contest going forward. She is smaller than other inside midfielders at 163cm, but she can gain separation at the stoppage and has the footy smarts to be able to use the ball well under pressure. She is also clean and gets her hands dirty at ground level, which is something that stands out in her game at any level.

#8 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
09/07/2002 | 161cm
Inside Midfielder

Key strengths: Clean hands, acceleration, endurance, work rate

The first 19th year prospect to feature in this list, Ling has had an outstanding season and shown why the move to an Under 19s competition was important. Despite standing at just 161cm, she is hard to bring down, very slippery in tackles and always able to get her hands free. She is really clean with her hands, and can burst away with a mix of acceleration and endurance, capped off by a high work rate through the midfield. She averaged 17.9 disposals, 2.2 marks, 6.5 tackles and 3.2 inside 50s in season 2021 for the Oakleigh Chargers, whilst playing the two games for Vic Metro thus far, averaging 16 disposals and six tackles. Already managing a game at VFLW level for Port Melbourne and not looking out of place, Ling showed she is a big-game player by taking home the best afield medal in the 2021 NAB League Girls Grand Final.

Annie Lee

#9 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
28/08/2003 | 169cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Marking, rebounding, consistency, composure

The reliable rebounding defender barely put a foot wrong all season and was a player her teammates could rely upon to use the ball well out of defence. Her strengths were clearly her intercept marking, where she latched onto 5.1 marks per game to go with 16.9 disposals and 4.5 rebound 50s. Already she has managed the two games at VFLW level, and was outstanding for Vic Country in her three games, holding up the fort in defence well and providing some good rebound with almost five rebound 50s per game there. At 169cm she can play against tall or small opponents because she reads the ball well in flight and shows good composure when with it. As a whole, Lee just ticks a lot of boxes in terms of what she is capable of doing.

#10 Perri King (Tasmania Devils/Allies)
25/08/2003 | 170cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Acceleration, tackling, clearances, accumulation

The sole Tasmanian AFL Women’s Academy member has the best balance between offensive and defensive capabilities, not only able to average 19.7 disposals and 4.2 inside 50s, but she amassed a whopping 9.4 tackles per game for the Devils in the NAB League Girls competition. On debut for North Melbourne VFLW she laid another seven tackles to go with 15 touches, and had the 10.5 tackles with 14.5 disposals, at the AFLW Under 19 Championships. But there is more to King than just ball-winning and tackling, with the athletic talent able to burst out of the stoppage and extract from tight situations. At times could add a touch more composure with her kicking, but her upside compiled with her well-balanced, two-way running is what makes her an outstanding prospect and rounding out the top 10.

#11 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
13/12/2003 | 165cm
Wing

Key strengths: Speed, work rate, accumulation, outside game

The premier pure wing in the NAB League Girls competition bounced back from a quiet game against Vic Metro in the AFLW Under 19 Championships, to really dominate in her final two outings against South Australia and Queensland. She knows how to find the ball and is a natural running wing which she showcased all year for Murray Bushrangers. Another player whom given an extra month would be a bottom-ager, really impressed in her draft-eligibly year, averaging 20.7 disposals – almost double what her prior two seasons were. She drove the ball inside 50 four times per game, and had more than two rebound 50s per match as well, providing great run and carry down the wing going forward, something that really caught the eye on a regular basis.

#12 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
01/09/2003 | 182cm
Ruck/Key Forward

Key strengths: Ruck work, mobility, forward presence, high impact

The upside for father-daughter eligible prospect Georgia Campbell is quite impressive, with the talented ruck able to rest up forward for parts during games due to Eastern Ranges’ abundance of rucks. There she was still able to kick five goals in eight games to go with her 20.9 hitouts, and also slotted a goal for Vic Metro while averaging a higher 12 disposals, and 12 hitouts at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. The Western Bulldogs supporter is eligible to go to the Dogs, or Melbourne, and will be nominated in the near future. She has great mobility for a ruck and can get around the ground and be an option, and also provide a good presence when inside 50 which makes her difficult to contain.

#13 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
07/01/2003 | 175cm
Tall Defender/Wing

Key strengths: Speed, power, reading the play, intercepting

The running defender has some seriously eye-catching traits with her combination of acceleration and power making her hard to slow down when she is up and about. A traditional half-back, Dojiok can read the ball in flight with ease and float across contests to intercept, or drop into the hole when a high ball comes into defence. She knows where to stand when the play is headed towards her and her metres gained are massive compared to a lot of her contemporaries. She is often a get-and-go player, always looking to move on the ball, and whilst her kicking at times needs sharpening up, her development over the past few years at the Rebels has certainly improved and makes her one of the better intercept defenders going around.

Emelia Yassir

#14 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
25/09/2003 | 160cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Contested work, aggression, disposal, high impact

Bursting onto the scene as a 15-year-old during Calder Cannons’ run to the 2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final, Yassir played 11 games in her debut season to hold her own against much older opponents. In her top-age year, Yassir lifted her numbers to 16.7 disposals, 3.9 tackles and 3.1 inside 50s to be a crucial player in the Cannons’ forward half of the ground. Her contested work and aggression around the football makes her a player that would do anything to win the football and shows a high level of football nous, along with high impact in the games. She will generally use it well going forward, and whilst she might only be the 160cm, could settle as a midfielder or defensive forward with her traits and skillset.

#15 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
12/11/2003 | 169cm
Medium Forward/Ruck

Key strengths: Vertical leap, penetrating kick, aggression, upside

Standing at 169cm you would not expect someone to be listed as a ruck, but such is Featherston’s leaping ability that she has indeed become a secondary ruck at NAB League Girls level. Pinch-hitting in there to average 4.3 hitouts per game, Featherston is at her most dominant around the half-forward line where she can lead out, clunk grabs and show great courage in the air or at ground level. Whilst she could improve her composure around goal – she had plenty of chances that were opportunities which went begging – her ability to have so many chances and create opportunities is impressive. She is a raw talent with plenty of upside, and with a long, penetrating kick and strong hands, she is a valuable addition to any forward line.

#16 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
28/07/2003 | 153cm
Small Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Clean hands, goal sense, composure, accumulation

A really impressive small midfielder, Schaap might be the smallest one going around at 153cm, but she packs a punch and has some unbelievable traits. Her best trait is her clean hands, rarely making a fumble at ground level and able to dish off to teammates in order to create goal-scoring opportunities. As a forward, Schaap slotted eight goals in nine games, often finding space where few could to snap around her body in big moments. She also slotted three goals in her three Vic Country games at the AFLW Under 19 Championships, and laid plenty pf tackles along the way. Her defensive pressure is right up there with her other key strengths, though it is hard to look past her ball-winning skills, composure and goal sense, and is a perfect pressure forward who can push up into the midfield.

Meagan Kiely

#17 Meagan Kiely (North Melbourne/VFLW)
15/12/1994
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Footy IQ, kicking, clean hands, consistency

The first mature-ager and VFLW player to make it into the Power Rankings, Kiely would have to be one of the favourites for the Lambert-Pearce Medal after a dominant display for North Melbourne this season. Relocating from Tasmania, the Roos would be keeping a close eye on the 26-year-old, who could slot straight into any midfield with her natural ball-winning skills, work rate and leadership. As good as any readymade midfielder outside the AFLW, the North captain has lead the competition across disposals and marks this year, showing she can win it at the coal face, or on the outside, with her clean hands and kicking impressive, but most of all her footy IQ shining through. Averaging a massive 22.8 disposals, 4.7 marks and 5.6 tackles from her 12 games, she is the premier VFLW player at this stage.

#18 Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
20/11/2003 | 176cm
Tall Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, X-factor, athleticism, marking

A player with plenty of upside, Houtsma becomes the remarkable fifth Falcon in the top 18 players showing just how deep the Falcons’ side was this season. She does not need to win a lot of the ball to have an impact, her Houtsma’s athleticism across the ground as a 176cm enabling her to play on a wing, or in a key position player at either end. Strong overhead, and able to win it at ground level, Houtsma attacks the ball at speed on a lead, and generally uses it well when in possession. Still ironing out consistency within games, the versatile utility has already spent time at centre half-back, centre half-forward and on the wing, which is a huge feather in the cap for the teenager.

#19 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
12/12/2003 | 190cm
Ruck/Key Forward

Key strengths: Mobility, versatility, size, athleticism

The towering ruck/forward AFL Women’s Academy season makes it into the top 20 on the back of a solid overall season. Whilst she still needs to work on clunking more grabs above her head, Gillard’s work around the ground and ability to get to repeat contests for a ruck and running as a midfielder is really impressive. Often towering over her opponents, Gillard moves incredibly well, and is a tall that teammates are not afraid to use in transition, as she rotated between the ruck and full forward to average 11.3 disposals and 14.1 hitouts, as well as a couple of inside 50s per game. A December birth, Gillard has plenty of upside that with time could develop into a damaging tall.

Brooke Hards

#20 Brooke Hards (Western Bulldogs/VFLW)
19/07/2002 | 167cm
Medium Utility

Key strengths: Footy smarts, versatility, athleticism, kicking

The former Bendigo Pioneers co-captain rounds out the top 20 in our Power Rankings and the second VFLW player to feature. The soon-to-be 19-year-old excelled as an inside midfielder at junior level, but chose to step up to VFLW level where she improved on the areas that saw her overlooked. Hards moved to the outside playing every role under the sun from forward, to back and wing, able to win the ball and most importantly build up metres gained with her run and carry. Boasting enormous upside and great footy smarts, when able to get-and-go, Hards is damaging with ball-in-hand and has well-balanced athleticism, mainly her acceleration. While her numbers might be lower than at junior level, her game-impacting moments have been higher making her a valuable prospect.

#21 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
29/10/2003 | 170cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: X-factor, upside, clearances, tackling

The Eastern Ranges talent was one who really stepped up in 2021 after only managing the one game in the shortened season last year, so not much was known about what she was capable of. Sherar not only stepped up to be a prime ball-mover for the Ranges – particularly in the absence of Olivia Meagher in the second half of the season and Tarni Brown after she was drafted last year – but earned a Vic Metro jumper for her troubles. Averaging 14.8 disposals, 3.4 inside 50s and 4.8 tackles, Sherar is a forward runner with great tackling skills and extraction out of the contest, can move the ball quickly and get it inside 50 well to set up scoring opportunities. One to watch who can add a point of difference to a midfield.

#22 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
06/03/2003 | 171cm
Medium Defender/Wing

Key strengths: Skills, composure, versatility, reading the play

A medium defender who runs off half-back, hits up targets and then roams along a wing, Vickers is a player with some great upside, and is another Oakleigh Chargers’ premiership player. She averaged the 13.5 disposals, 3.3 tackles and a well-balanced two inside 50s and rebound 50s per game, such was her ability to cover the ground. The Chargers did not see as much of it in their defence as other teams, so Vickers had to hold a high line at times and be that kick behind the ball ready to intercept. She is not a renowned marker, but she is one to receive the handball and go, and uses the ball well in transition. Still developing areas of her game, as an overall prospect Vickers has some great talent.

Maeve Chaplin

#23 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
22/08/2002 | 167cm
Inside Midfielder/Defender

Key strengths: Inside work, clearances, strength, reading the play

A dominant ball-winner who became the focal point of the Knights’ midfield brigade this year, Chaplin is a natural contested ball winner, and someone who can slot straight into an inside midfield. Only playing VFLW post-NAB League Girls, Chaplin has managed the three straight games for the Blues at the level, also juggling Vic Metro commitments as well. Able to play off half-back as she did in past years, Chaplin did it for Vic Metro, whilst playing the inside ball winner for the Knights. She averaged the 17.3 disposals and 5.0 tackles, with a lot of her possessions coming in close, and then working hard to spread to the outside and thump the ball forward to give her team the advantage.

#24 Sarah Skinner (North Melbourne VFLW)
15/10/1999
Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Forward craft, accumulation, versatility, consistency

Another VFLW player who might not have earned a Draft Combine invite but simply has to be in the mix to be drafted is a second Tasmanian playing for North Melbourne in Skinner. She has transitioned from being a forward and the TSLW’s best player and consistent talent, into one of the best in the VFLW, showing she can lift at any level. Still only 21-years-old, Skinner has had some huge numbers since primarily staying in the midfield, picking up 18.1 disposals, 3.8 marks and 4.8 tackles for the Roos. It is her ability to play forward or through the midfield and adapt to the play, creating goal scoring opportunities for either herself or her teammates. Skinner is a plug-and-play typer who the Roos would be considering, but other teams would have to be keeping an eye on too.

Elizabeth Snell

#25 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
14/03/2002 | 165cm
Inside Midfielder/ Medium Forward

Key strengths: Tackling, speed, evasion, forward craft

After not getting a Draft Combine last year, Snell stepped up to have a huge season with the Bendigo Pioneers, showing off the traits she has always had, but with greater consistency week to week. The thing with Snell has always been having some seriously top-end traits when it comes to her athleticism – particularly her speed and evasion – and tackling pressure, but it is about building on other areas of her game such as her accumulation and kicking. Whilst her kicking is still an area to keep building on, her numbers went through the roof this year, averaging 20 disposals to go with her 8.8 tackles per game, prompted by a move into the midfield. She showed she can handle any level, averaging 16.5 disposals and 8.5 tackles for Vic Country, and 12.8 disposals and 8.0 tackles for Essendon VFLW. Simply a tackling machine.

#26 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
01/02/2002 | 168cm
Medium Defender/Midfielder

Key strengths: Consistency, accumulation, work rate, tackling

As safe as a player as you could find, Leonard’s 2021 season was consistency bonafide. She hardly put a foot wrong all year for the GWV Rebels, averaging 19.4 disposals, 2.4 marks, 7.1 tackles and 4.0 rebound 50s playing between half-back and through the middle. Possessing courage and a hard edge with a high work rate, Leonard kept cracking in for four quarters every game and was amongst her team’s best players regular. A 2002-born talent who missed out last year, Leonard certainly stepped up this season, and has already made her VFLW debut, and looked good out of defence for Vic Country with 4.7 rebound 50s to go with 14.7 disposals and 5.0 tackles.

#27 Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges/Collingwood VFLW)
21/12/2002 | 157cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Contested work, balance, strength, accumulation

Another player who went back to her NAB League Girls club Eastern Ranges after missing out on being drafted despite a Draft Combine invite, Meagher spent three games with the Ranges before making the transition into Collingwood’s VFLW team. There she improved her versatility to play inside and outside after being a dominant contested ball-winner for the Ranges in 2020. She is damaging forward of centre, and despite not having high mark numbers, she is strong overhead for her sub-160cm size. She is someone who could play in transition between midfield and forward, and is a fierce player with a great attitude and would be one the Magpies – or another team – could consider calling up to their AFLW list.

#28 Sophie Locke (Port Melbourne VFLW)
24/04/2001 | 166cm
Medium Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, goal sense, high-impact, one-on-ones

Much like Hards, Locke has transformed her game at VFLW level with Port Melbourne, but in a different way. Playing as a reliable lock-down defender who had enough traits to suggest she could develop into a more offensively-minded player, Locke switched ends from her days in defence with the Murray Bushrangers and Vic Country, to become a prominent forward for the Borough this season. A year off did not impact Locke who showed she can be damaging inside 50 and has the capacity to play at both ends, averaging the 9.3 disposals, 2.2 marks and 1.1 goals per game. She was even further ahead prior to a mid-season injury, leading the competition goalkicking at that stage, and before the return of the AFLW players. Received a Draft Combine invite for her season.

Zali Friswell

#29 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
30/12/2003 | 165cm
Inside Midfielder/Forward

Key strengths: Kicking, balance, footy smarts, defensive pressure

A well-balanced midfielder who thrives on the inside of the contest, Friswell has been thrown around all over the field across multiple levels. She has played as a forward for Essendon VFLW and as a back pocket during her game with Vic Metro, but the midfield role is where she is best suited to. The impact difference is noticeable, with Friswell genuinely among the better midfielders in the draft crop, averaging 15.6 disposals, 6.9 tackles and 2.9 inside 50s for the Cannons in the NAB League Girls. Only two days away from being a bottom-ager, Friswell has nice balance, uses the ball well and good footy smarts to hit pinpoint passes down the field. If drafted to be a midfielder, then Friswell is an exceptional talent.

#30 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
18/07/2003 | 171cm
Wing

Key strengths: Athleticism, speed, upside, hurt factor

The AFL Women’s Academy member continued her trajectory of showing some serious highlights, whilst still trying to build some consistency in her game. Not a huge ball winner, Appleby usually has at least one run down the wing with a couple of bounces a game to break open the opposition zones and rack up the metres gained. She moves well, uses the ball well and really hurts the opposition when she gets it. If she begins to get it more consistently, then she will be an even bigger threat, but on the outside, Appleby has strong hands and can impact playing off a wing.

OTHERS IN CONTENTION:

The evenness of the AFL Women’s Draft in the Victorian pool makes it very difficult to judge, but expect some of the taller options to be considered such as Gippsland Power ruck Grace Matser, key defenders Tarrah Delgado and Cadhla Schmidli, and versatile talents Neve Crowley and Jemima Woods thereabouts. Geelong Falcons’ Elizabeth Dowling is one of the more reliable defenders running around, with Ash Richards, Tahlia Meier and Eliza James the forward options in the mix. From a VFLW standpoints, Casey Demons’ forward Imogen Milford, Collingwood’s Matilda Zander, and Essendon’s Alana Barba are also considered as ones to keep an eye out for in the upcoming draft.

Ones to Watch: Non-AFLWU19s VFLW Performers

WHILST the conclusion of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season is yet to be sorted with two rounds and finals remaining, Draft Central has taken a look at a few of the draft-eligible (2003-born) NAB League Girls players who might have missed out of the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, but have looked comfortable at VFL Women’s level. We named five players who have stepped up at the grade, as well as named a few others who have begun getting some consistent minutes for their respective clubs.

Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)
25/11/2003 | 155cm
Inside Midfielder | Western Bulldogs VFLW

One of the top talents not to represent Vic Country at the AFLW U19s Championships, the pocket rocket inside midfielder and hard-running talent has enjoyed a really promising NAB League Girls season, which translated into some good form in two games for the Western Bulldogs at VFL Women’s level. Condon is a renowned ball-winner and her progression from an Under 16s player – where she was a regular across seven games averaging 83 disposals – to her draft-eligible year – averaging 21.5 disposals across 10 games – is evident. While she only stands at 155cm, Condon ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to accumulation, work rate and defensive pressure, and she stands up in big moments such as the final term against Tasmania Devils in the elimination final win.

>> PLAYER PROFILE

Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)
31/07/2003 | 167cm
Medium Utility | Southern Saints VFLW

Another player who has been a regular in the Dandenong Stingrays’ outfit since V/Line Cup, Radford was unlucky not to be selected for Vic Country due to the ridiculous depth in defence, but the Stingrays medium utility showed this season she can play up forward just as well. Slotting five goals in eight games – keeping in mind she spent the majority of her time in defence – Radford is flexible enough to switch between ends and provide a target. On face value, Radford did not take as many marks in the NAB League Girls as she is capable of, but as she showed at VFLW level with the more experienced players around her, Radford clunked eight grabs and looked comfortable against the Western Bulldogs and Port Melbourne. She is a player with some good upside and can slot into multiple lines.

>> PLAYER PROFILE

Jemima Woods (Western Jets)
28/05/2003 | 174cm
Tall Forward | Western Bulldogs VFLW

A raw forward talent who showed in glimpses what she is capable of this year, Woods plays her best football as that high half-forward leading out, then kicking back inside 50. She averaged more than three inside 50s a game, pinch-hit in the ruck and was able to provide a leading target for the Western Jets in 2021. She kicked the four goals in eight games, but it was mostly her work up and down the ground that caught the eye, knowing when to move and provide a target. At VFL Women’s level, Woods played closer to the big sticks, slotting three majors on debut against Darebin Falcons, and has featured in two matches since. Whilst her numbers are lower, her role has also been changed, and she is capable of playing high or low inside forward 50.

>> PLAYER PROFILE

Isabelle Khoury (Eastern Ranges)
10/03/2003 | 164cm
Balanced Midfielder | Hawthorn VFLW

A rock of consistency through the midfield, Khoury is an inside-leaning midfielder who can spread to the outside and have an impact. She actually averaged more touches at VFL Women’s level than NAB League Girls level, with 14 disposals per game in three matches for the Hawks. Her tackling pressure – she has averaged six per game at the level – is one of her strengths, but her ability to move through traffic and create something from speed is certainly eye-catching. She might be on the smaller side of some midfielders, but she is one who combines power and speed to set up teammates going forward, averaging a couple of inside 50s per game for the Ranges and just having that capability of creating separation on her opponents from congestion is a handy skill to have.

>> PLAYER PROFILE

Caitlin Sargent (Western Jets)
22/12/2003 | 172cm
Tall Forward | Western Bulldogs VFLW

Another Western Jets forward who has managed the three games with the Western Bulldogs in the VFL Women’s, Sargent kicked the most important goal of her season against the Southern Saints late to seal the win for the Dogs and ensure their finals hopes remained alive. She is a good mark, knows when to lead and a reliable set shot, kicking a goal a game for the Jets this year, and clunking three grabs per match over her 11 games the past two seasons. She is a little smaller than some other key forwards at 172cm, but her hands are safer than most, and she knows where the goals are, usually consistent for a goal or so a game.

>> PLAYER PROFILE

OTHERS:

Ruby O’Dwyer has proven to be a really consistent midfielder for Eastern Ranges, averaging 13.2 disposals at NAB League Girls level, then playing a more outside role by comparison at the Hawks to lift her marks from 2.4 to 5.5 against bigger bodies in two matches. Teammate, Matilda Hardy can be a dangerous forward who pushes up to impact further up the ground, and has already had that experience at VFL Women’s level. Western Jets duo Stephanie Asciak and Trinity Skenderis have been able to step up to senior level with the Western Bulldogs, and Calder Cannons’ Peppa Poultney has provided a target for Darebin Falcons.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 12

A HEAP of young prospects continue to filter 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. As the NAB League season has now drawn to an end, Round 11 saw plenty more young talent scattered across each state league side. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in, or have recently graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 12

There were a number of debutants across the VFL Women’s competition in Round 12, but two of the most anticipated ones were the inclusions of Calder Cannons’ Georgie Prespakis (Essendon) and Tasmania Devils’ Perri King (North Melbourne). The pair went head-to-head in the opening game of the round at Windy Hill, with King coming away with 15 disposals and seven tackles, while Prespakis had the 10 touches and seven tackles. The other Devils running around were Ella Maurer (11 disposals, one goal), Camilla Taylor (five disposals, eight tackles and three hitouts) and Jemma Blair running around for the Roos. The other Cannons donning the sash were Emelia Yassir (11 disposals, four marks and four tackles), Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell who all gained great experience. Recent Cannons graduate Alana Barba continued her ripping season with 16 disposals, five tackles and two goals, while ex-Bushranger Eloise Ashley-Cooper had the 15 disposals and 11 tackles in the loss.

Port Melbourne had a number of NAB League talents running around, led by best on ground in last week’s grand final, Oakleigh Chargers’ Amanda Ling (10 disposals, three tackles). Her premiership teammate Taylah Morton had her best game at VFLW level with 12 disposals and six tackles, while ex-Bushranger Sophie Locke managed the seven touches, three marks and five tackles in another solid performance. Ex-Eastern Ranges talent Emma Horne was the main graduate out of the NAB League Girls that was VFLW-listed for the Demons.

In Carlton’s upset win over Geelong, Maeve Chaplin played her second VFLW game, joining Northern Knights teammate Tara Delgado and ex-Oakleigh talent Amber Micallef (nine disposals, nine tackles). Tamara Smith put in another good tackling performance of 18 disposals and eight tackles, while ex-Falcon Paige Sheppard had the 17 disposals and eight tackles. Darebin might have gone down in a heavy loss to the undefeated Collingwood, but Northern Knights’ Trinity Mills played her second game for the Falcons.

On Sunday, Hawthorn enjoyed an important win over Williamstown, with a number of Eastern Ranges players having an impact. Ranges’ co-captain Eloise Chaston had the 10 touches and three marks, Bridget Deed laid four tackles with eight touches, and Keeley Sherar had six touches, two marks and two tackles. AFL Women’s Academy member Ashanti Bush slotted two majors from six disposals in a promising effort up forward. Past Ranges graduate Jenna Richardson had a solid outing with 10 disposals, six marks and three tackles. For the Seagulls, Sydney Swans Academy member Jess Doyle was named best-on with 13 disposals, three marks and three tackles, while ex-Pioneers midfielder Megan Williamson had the 18 disposals, five marks and four tackles to continue her strong season.

Western Bulldogs kept their finals hopes alive with a number of young talents coming through the team. Western Jets graduate Caitlin Sargent (nine disposals, two marks, two tackles and a goal) kicked a clutch goal, whilst Jemima Woods, Stephanie Asciak and Nikita Wright all played their roles. Former Bendigo Pioneers co-captain Brooke Hards pieced together another impressive effort from her seven touches, six tackles and an important third term goal, while ex-Sandringham Dragon Molly Denahy Maloney returned from injury.

2021 NAB League Girls team review: Western Jets

NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Western Jets, a squad with plenty of promising prospects for the future and solid top-agers to boot. We recap the Jets’ season, and take a look at some of the top performers across the various age groups.

Wins: 3
Losses: 5
Position: 8th

SEASON SUMMARY:

A largely competitive side throughout the season, Western was able to translate that form into three wins on the board in 2021. The Jets opened their account with a Round 4 victory over Murray Bushrangers in a performance which yielded their highest total score to that point. Another two losses came before their next win, a thrilling one-point triumph over Sandringham in wet and windy enemy territory. They remained competitive against the finals-bound Calder Cannons, before capping off the campaign with a third victory, against Bendigo Pioneers. In a sign of great growth, Western notched its highest total in that final outing.

DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS:

Stephanie Asciak | Midfielder
18/09/2003 | 163cm

A consistent midfielder who has gone on to gain VFLW experience with the Western Bulldogs, Asciak was a key cog in the Jets’ engine room throughout 2021. She only twice fell below 11 disposals and managed to maintain a solid standard of performance, extracting on the inside and looking to put her side on the front foot. Asciak also worked hard on the defensive end, getting her hands dirty with an average of 3.4 tackles per game.

Caitlin Sargent | Key Forward
22/12/2003 | 172cm

A forward target who can be dominant on her day, Sargent found the goals in five of her eight outings in 2021 and capped off her year with a bag of four against Bendigo. The 172cm talent boasts terrific hands overhead and, needless to add, marks the ball well in contested situations. She seemed to gain confidence as the season wore on and finished four majors clear atop Western’s final goalkicking charts.

Jemima Woods | Tall Forward/Utility
28/05/2003 | 174cm

Woods is a wonderfully dynamic footballer with eye-catching athleticism and clean hands, traits which allowed her to fluently mix time between the forwardline and midfield. She finished second in Western’s goalkicking count with four majors, and averaged a tick over 12 touches per game as an impactful player forward of centre. Along with Sargent and Asciak, Woods is another who benefitted from gaining VFLW experience.

FUTURE ONES TO WATCH:

Charlotte Baskaran | Midfielder
9/12/2004 | 162cm

Already one of her side’s best and most consistent assets, Baskaran thrived with a more permanent move into midfield this year. She led the Jets for disposals, kicks, tackles, and inside 50s in 2021 having been among their best players in just about every game. The classy ball user also won berths in the Vic Metro Under 17 and 19 representative squads, with her talent already at the top-end with another season of NAB League to play.

Montana Ham | Midfielder/Forward
29/03/2004 | 178cm

Potentially the best player for next year’s draft at this early stage, Ham was a dominant force for the Jets with her contested ball winning and aerial prowess. Her mix of strength and athleticism is deadly, allowing her to make a major mark both at the stoppages and around the ground with penetrative play and plenty of upside to be met. She was not far behind Baskaran across a range of stats,  and also turned out for Vic Metro at Under 19 level.

Krystal Russell | Ruck
22/09/2004 | 179cm

Another dominant type credit to her size and ability to impose on the contest, Russell lead the league for hitouts by the end of the regular season. Her average of 23.8 per game points towards good knowledge of the ruck craft, and Russell was an important part of the Jets’ side given the guns they have to utilise in midfield. She will inevitably be vital in that role once again, next season.

OTHERS:

Down back, over-ager Ciara Singleton was a good influence in the air, with skipper Leah Spargo a cool and competitive charger at ground level. The likes of Kiera Leare and Paige Ryan were also productive members of the side, with Trinity Skenderis a favourite on the inside of midfield. Kiera Whiley is among the 2005-births to watch, as she shone on the wing.

2021 VFLW Round 12 preview: Finals on the line for several sides

THREE rounds remain and some results could ultimately determine finals spots, with last chances in play for a couple of teams, and a top against bottom clash featuring this weekend in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition.

ESSENDON vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Saturday, May 22 @ 10:00am
Windy Hill

Potential top pick Georgie Prespakis has been named for Essendon in a game where the Bombers can lock up a finals spot, and snuff out North Melbourne’s chances at the same time. The Roos will make history with a record 11 Tasmanians in the side, and a debutant in fellow AFL Women’s Academy Perri King making her debut at VFLW level against Prespakis. Joining King in the side for their second games are Ella Maurer and Jemma Blair at opposite ends, whilst fellow Tasmanians, Sarah Skinner and Meagan Kiely make it a distinct Apple Isle feeling through the middle. They will have a huge job containing the midfield combination of Prespakis, Georgia Nanscawen, Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper of whom the latter trio have been in great form at the level. The forward line of Daria Bannister, Meg Sinclair, Camilla Taylor and Mia King adds to the Roos’ Tasmanian presence, with Calder’s Kasey Lennox, as well as Zali Friswell and Emelia Yassir up the other end among the talented juniors running around in the red sash.

CASEY DEMONS vs. PORT MELBOURNE
Saturday, May 22 @ 10:30am
Casey Fields

Fresh off a best on ground performance in the NAB League Girls Grand Final, Amanda Ling will run out for Port Melbourne in the Borough’s clash with fellow finals-bound side, Casey Demons. The Oakleigh Chargers midfielder will join AFL Women’s talents Katherine Smith and Kodi Jacques, and past AFL Women’s talent Mel Kuys in the midfield, up against an equally stacked onball brigade of AFL Women’s midfielders Megan Fitzsimon and Casey Sherriff, and ball-winning star Eliza West. The Borough have other youngsters including Oakleigh Chargers’ Taylah Morton and ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Sophie Locke in the forward pockets, whilst the Demons have a stacked outfit including AFL Women’s stars Eden Zanker and Libby Birch, and young guns Brenna Tarrant and Eliza McNamara. Potentially the match of the round, both these sides are coming off disappointing losses, and both will be keen to make amends against quality opposition.

CARLTON vs. GEELONG
Saturday, May 22 @ 11:00am
Ikon Park

Following an upset win over Casey Demons, Carlton return home to Ikon Park against a Geelong side that cashed in its get out of jail free card in the final term last week. The Cats were in real danger against the Southern Saints, but managed to step up with four late goals to get over the line in fantastic style and remain in the top two. This week they take on a Carlton side that is as strong as it has been all season, featuring a core midfield of Lucy McEvoy, Abbie McKay and Grace Egan, as well as Maddy Guerin and Daisy Walker. Northern Knights’ full-back Tarrah Delgado will make her VFL Women’s debut with the Blues, joining teammate Maeve Chaplin in the side, in what will give the consistent talents a good run at state league level. For the Cats, the AFL Women’s midfield of Rene Caris, Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner and Sophie Van De Heuvel is unbelievable, while Olivia Barber has built some great form this season, and the likes of Tamara Smith and Paige Sheppard are also playing well at the level. Expect Geelong to really step up here, but the Carlton midfield is just as good making there plenty of terrific head-to-heads to watch.

DAREBIN vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, May 22 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

A top against bottom clash featuring Darebin Falcons and Collingwood at Bill Lawry Oval has the potential to be one-sided, but the Falcons will be hoping that a draw against Williamstown has helped build some momentum into the game. Collingwood are rotating through their AFL Women’s talent, and Chloe Molloy, Elise O’Dea and Stacey Livingstone both play their first VFLW games this season, whilst Jaimee Lambert is back for her second game of the year. The Magpies team looks stacked and should be too strong for a Falcons outfit, though Georgia Hammond comes back into the club as the tall target up forward, forming with Samara David, Stephanie Simpson and teenager Trinity Mills. Jess Dal Pos is the prime mover in midfield and could have a tantalising head-to-head with Molloy in there, while Sidney Cubasch will look to take control in the ruck. The Falcons have some good experience in there including Nicole Callinan, but expect the Magpies to have too much depth across the field.

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. HAWTHORN
Sunday, May 23 @ 11:00am
Downer Oval

In the first of two matches on Sunday, Williamstown hosts Hawthorn in a huge Sunday morning clash at Downer Oval. The Seagulls are coming off a draw with Darebin, whilst the Hawks had their wings clipped by North Melbourne at Box Hill last week. Coach Bec Goddard just keeps finding AFLW talent to slot into the lineup, and this week Sarah Perkins returns to the club having missed the second half of the AFLW season due to injury. The key forward will team up with Chantella Perera and Kristy Stratton, whilst Jessie Williams has been a damaging goalkicker all season. In defence, Meg Hutchins announced she would hang up the boots at the end of the season, meaning the versatile legend will likely have just three games remaining in her career. Alison Drennan, Georgia Bevan and Nadia von Bertouch are among the other AFLW experienced talents running around in the brown and gold, while Eastern Ranges’ Keeley Sherar, Bridget Deed and Eloise Chaston retain their spots in the side. The Seagulls have some GWS GIANTS talents such as Emily Pease and Lisa Steane, whilst Sydney Swans Academy member Jess Doyle will look to hit the scoreboard alongside Gold Coast’s Bess Keaney up forward. Erin Meade and Aimee Whelan are in good form this year, with Elizabeth McGrath set to have a great contest with opposing ruck Tamara Luke. Hawthorn should win this game, but no doubt the Williamstown breeze will make life difficult in front of the big sticks.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Sunday, May 23 @ 12:00pm
Trevor Barker Oval

The final match of the round is the most important for the league as a whole, with the result potentially determining the finals series. Southern Saints hold sixth spot as it stands, but are only percentage ahead of the seventh placed Western Bulldogs. In reality, that percentage will be too difficult to make up for the Bulldogs or other chasing sides, so as long as the Saints win two of the last three – playing North Melbourne and Carlton in the final two rounds – they will get there. The Bulldogs can temporarily grab sixth spot with a win here, though they would need to knock off Casey Demons and Collingwood in the final fortnight – or hope the Saints lose to one of the other teams – in order to stay there. The Saints are not mucking around with a number of elite young talents through the midfield including Tyanna Smith and Georgia Patrikios – the latter of whom returns for her first VFLW game this season. Molly McDonald has been named off half-back, whilst Tarni White makes her VFLW debut for the Saints. All things considered the midfield battle will decide the result, with the Bulldogs having Jess Fitzgerald, Britney Gutknecht, Isabelle Pritchard and Elisabeth Georgostathis running around. Molly Denahy Maloney returns from injury to start in the ruck, whilst full-back Simone Ruedin has been named at full-forward, and forward Danielle Marshall has been named at full-back. Western Jets quartet Caitlin Sargent, Jemima Woods, Stephanie Asciak and Nikita Wright will provide the NAB League Girls factor, with the Saints focusing on VFLW talent for this game, such as the in-form Tara Bohanna, whilst Jayde Van Dyk makes her debut in defence for the red, white and black. This game could go down to the wire, and will have plenty riding on it.

2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year

GRAND finalists Geelong Falcons and Oakleigh Chargers, and losing preliminary finalists Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels have led the way with the 2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year. The trio have combined for 11 players in our 24-player side, with other losing preliminary finalist Eastern Ranges, as well as finalists Tasmania Devils and Calder Cannons, and Western Jets each having two players apiece. Dandenong Stingrays and Northern Knights were unlucky to only have the one player this year, with the other non-finals sides in Murray Bushrangers, Sandringham Dragons and Gippsland Power having the one, and Bendigo Pioneers not having a first team representative.

Calder Cannons’ Georgie Prespakis has been named captain of our NAB League Girls Team of the Year after a record eight nominations this year. The potential top pick will share leadership duties with Geelong Falcons’ Poppy Schaap, who after six nominations, was handed the vice-captaincy. Prespakis is joined in the side by ruck/forward and fellow AFL Women’s Academy member, Tahlia Gillard. The Falcons have the equal most representatives in the team, with consistent midfielder Tess Craven, key forward Renee Tierney and defender Annie Lee all making the starting side in the most represented side in the starting 18.

Rounding out the starting onball group is another AFL Women’s Academy member in Perri King, with the Tasmania Devils talent standing up this season through the midfield. She will team up with bottom-age talent Claire Ransom in our Team of the Year, whilst another onballer who has also played on the wing at the start of the year and previous years, Charlotte Baskaran is one of two Western Jets representatives. Montana Ham is the other Western representative in the first team, making the half-forward flank. On the other wing to Baskaran is Murray Bushrangers’ best and fairest winner and Vic Country representative Aurora Smith who was the best pure wing this season.

Looking deeper forward, Oakleigh Chargers’ dynamo Charlie Rowbottom has been named at full-forward where she often starts games before rotating through the midfield. She is one of three Chargers in the team, alongside Stella Reid (half-back) and Amanda Ling (interchange) who have both been consistent performers this season. Also deep forward is the Dandenong Stingrays’ sole representative in what was a real even team spread this year for the Stingrays, as Amber Clarke makes the side having impressed both midfield and up forward. In the other forward pocket is the youngest member of the team, 2023-draft eligible talent Alyssia Pisano, who had four Team of the Week nominations and also won the leading goalkicker award in her debut season, named in the side along with teammate and bottom-age defender, Mia Busch.

The remainder of the defence features a couple of GWV Rebels in Chloe Leonard and Nyakoat Dojiok, with a couple more in Lilli Condon and Paige Scott also squeezing onto the bench in a huge result for the club this season. Northern Knights’ Maeve Chaplin slots into half-back where she is capable of playing, as the sole representative for the Knights. The last two players rounding out the bench are sole representatives in Sandringham Dragons’ Sofia Hurley and Gippsland Power’s Grace Matser, with the latter being the rotating ruck with Gillard in the side.

The 24 players who missed out on the Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year were automatically filled into the Draft Central Second Team of the Year, with special mention to Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell, Oakleigh Chargers’ Brooke Vickers and Calder Cannons’ Emelia Yassir who were named as the emergencies for the starting team.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE YEAR:

B: Chloe Leonard (GWV) – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV) – Mia Busch (ER)
HB: Maeve Chaplin (NK) – Annie Lee (GF) – Stella Reid (OC)
C: Aurora Smith (MB) – Perri King (TD) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ)
HF: Poppy Schaap (GF) (vc) – Renee Tierney (GF) – Montana Ham (WJ)
F: Alyssia Pisano (ER) – Charlie Rowbottom (OC) – Amber Clarke (DS)
R: Tahlia Gillard (CC) – Georgie Prespakis (CC) (c) – Tess Craven (GF)
INT: Lilli Condon (GWV) – Sofia Hurley (SD) – Amanda Ling (OC) – Grace Matser (GP) – Claire Ransom (TD) – Paige Scott (GWV)

EMG: Elizabeth Snell (BP) – Brooke Vickers (OC) – Emelia Yassir (CC)

The remaining 24 players filled out the impressive Second Team of the Year, with five emergencies who were the next ones just outside the squad – and received two Team of the Week nominations – all named as emergencies. These were Northern Knights duo Tannah Hurst and Ella Smallacombe, Dandenong Stingrays’ tall Mackenzie Eardley, and ruck duo, GWV Rebels’ Kalani Scoullar and Western Jets’ Krystal Russell. Captaining the side is Snell with Yassir being the vice-captain as two of the emergencies of the first team.

Eastern Ranges have four players in the side with Georgia Campbell, Keeley Sherar, Bridget Deed and Cadhla Schmidli all making the Second Team, the equal most of any side. Dandenong Stingrays also have four players in the side, as defenders Zoe Hill, Jemma Radford and Jaide Anthony – who all have VFL Women’s experience – squeeze into the back six. The leadership combination of Snell and Yassir have a teammate each in the side, with bottom-ager Octavia Di Donato, and midfielder Zali Friswell both in the starting teams.

The Gippsland Power have two players in Matilda Van Berkel and Lily-Rose Williamson, as do the GWV Rebels, with Ella Friend and Molly Walton making it in. Murray Bushrangers’ duo Ally Morphett and Keeley Skepper, and Northern Knights duo Tarrah Delgado and 2023-draft eligible Ava Jordan all represent the Second Team, with Vickers being the sole Oakleigh representative, and the team having no Falcons due to all four nominees making the First Team.

Tasmania Devils are represented by the two players in Jemma Webster and Amy Bissett, while Jemima Woods rounded out the 24-player squad by being named in the opposite forward pocket to Bissett. Sandringham Dragons did not have a representative in the side.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS SECOND TEAM OF THE YEAR:

B: Jemma Radford (DS) – Tarrah Delgado (NK) – Zoe Hill (DS)
HB: Molly Walton (GWV) – Matilda Van Berkel (GP) – Jaide Anthony (DS)
C: Jemma Webster (TD) – Zali Friswell (CC) – Brooke Vickers (OC)
HF: Elizabeth Snell (BP) (c) – Ella Friend (GWV) – Octavia Di Donato (BP)
F: Jemima Woods (WJ) – Georgia Campbell (ER) – Amy Bissett (TD)
R: Ally Morphett (MB) – Keeley Sherar (ER) – Emelia Yassir (CC) (vc)
INT: Felicity Crank (DS) – Bridget Deed (ER) – Ava Jordan (NK) – Cadhla Schmidli (ER) – Keeley Skepper (MB) – Lily-Rose Williamson (GP)

EMG: Mackenzie Eardley (DS) – Tannah Hurst (NK) – Krystal Russell (WJ) – Ella Smallacombe (NK) – Kalani Scoullar (GWV)

2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year squad

FOLLOWING the conclusion of the 2021 NAB League Girls season, Draft Central has named its extended 48-player squad for its Team of the Year. The 48 players are comprised of those NAB League Girls talents who compiled the most Team of the Week nominations throughout the season, with three or more nominations earning automatic selection into the squad, and then the majority of the two or more nominations also earning a place in the squad.

From here the 48-player squad will be divided up into two teams – the Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year and the Second Team of the Year, recognising the efforts of the most consistent performers in 2021. The players with the most nominations will earn the captaincy and vice-captaincy for the Team of the Year, with the team to be released line-by-line on social media.

Of the team-by-team nominations, finalists Eastern Ranges and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels have the most with six players, ahead of fellow finalists, Dandenong Stingrays (five). Four of the remaining five finalists had the four representatives with Oakleigh Chargers, Geelong Falcons, Calder Cannons and Tasmania Devils having a quartet of players in the squad. Northern Knights had the three as the other finalist, while Murray Bushrangers, Gippsland Power and Western Jets had the three players. Bendigo Pioneers (two) and Sandringham Dragons (one) had the least representatives, mostly due to injuries or absences to key players – such as Tara Slender and Bridie Hipwell – at different points during the season.

In terms of constructing the Team of the Year, those players with four or more Team of the Week nominations will automatically make the side. With 16 players having received four or more nominations, they will be the centrepieces in the side, and the remaining eight players chosen from the other 32 available players. Those not selected in the Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year will be in the Second Team.

Of the 48 players, 33 are eligible for the draft, in their 18th or 19th year this season, with a further 13 eligible for the draft next year and remarkably, two players – Alyssia Pisano and Ava Jordan – not eligible until the 2023 AFL Women’s Draft. There was also a minimum five-game limit for players to make the squad, with the likes of Emily Shepherd just missing out due to injury having played just the four games (prior to finals).

Bendigo Pioneers [2]: Octavia Di Donato, Elizabeth Snell
Calder Cannons [4]: Zali Friswell, Tahlia Gillard, Georgie Prespakis, Emelia Yassir
Dandenong Stingrays [5]: Jaide Anthony, Amber Clarke, Felicity Crank, Zoe Hill, Jemma Radford
Eastern Ranges [6]: Mia Busch, Georgia Campbell, Bridget Deed, Alyssia Pisano, Cadhla Schmidli, Keeley Sherar
Geelong Falcons [4]: Tess Craven, Annie Lee, Poppy Schaap, Renee Tierney
Gippsland Power [3]: Grace Matser, Matilda Van Berkel, Lily Rose-Williamson
GWV Rebels [6]: Lilli Condon, Nyakoat Dojiok, Ella Friend, Chloe Leonard, Paige Scott, Molly Walton
Murray Bushrangers [3]: Ally Morphett, Keeley Skepper, Aurora Smith
Northern Knights [3]: Maeve Chaplin, Tara Delgado, Ava Jordan
Oakleigh Chargers [4]: Amanda Ling, Stella Reid, Charlie Rowbottom, Brooke Vickers
Sandringham Dragons [1]: Sofia Hurley
Tasmania Devils [4]: Amy Bissett, Perri King, Claire Ransom, Jemma Webster
Western Jets [3]: Charlotte Baskaran, Montana Ham, Jemima Woods

The 2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year and Second Team will be announced next week in the lead-up to the NAB League Girls Grand Final.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 9

A HEAP of young prospects continue to filter 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. While the NAB League finals commenced, Round 9 saw plenty of young talent scattered across each state league side. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in or have recently graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 9

Essendon’s thumping win over Carlton saw a quartet of graduates get their hands dirty in the red and black. Bendigo Pioneers midfielder Elizabeth Snell continues to impress, with 12 disposals and nine tackles capping her latest effort. Meanwhile, Alana Barba matched the Country coup for tackles, as Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Tamsin Crook each managed nine touches. For Carlton, Marnie Jarvis also worked hard for seven disposals and seven tackles.

Not only did Port Melbourne return to the winners list this past weekend, but Sophie Locke also returned to the scoresheet with 1.2 from 14 touches against Darebin, in what was her second game back. Recently delisted Richmond forward Emily Harley showed her worth with a bag of four goals, as fellow former AFLW players Cleo Saxon-Jones and Bridie Kennedy both contributed six disposals in the win.

Geelong inflicted the round’s biggest margin of victory with a 75-point drubbing of the Western Bulldogs, who fielded two debutants. Current Western Jets prospects Caitlin Sargent (nine disposals, one goal) and Trinity Skenderis (five disposals) ran out alongside fellow NAB Leaguer Jemima Woods, while mainstay Brooke Hards played a defensive role on Stephanie Williams. For Geelong, Tamara Smith (17 disposals, eight tackles, two goals) and Paige Sheppard (22 disposals, one goal) were among the standouts.

The Casey Demons were also big winners on Saturday, with tall Bridie Winbanks playing an important role. She managed 29 hitouts, while Emma Horne seeing the ball six times throughout. In North’s blue and white, Jayde Hamilton returned to the fold after representing the Allies and GWS Academy, while Ciara Fitzgerald had eight touches and laid two tackles.

A hardened Collingwood side trounced Williamstown in Saturday’s final fixture, but it was the Seagulls who fielded the more NAB League graduates. Among them, tall talent Tahlia Merrett (seven disposals, three tackles, eight hitouts) was named her side’s best, while midfielder Ruby Tripodi also featured in the votes for her eight disposals and 10 tackles.

Sunday’s standalone fixture saw the Southern Saints get past Hawthorn, with the Hawks fielding a debutant in the fighting loss. Gippsland Power product and Vic Country representative Grace McRae was the player in question, managing 11 disposals and five tackles. Chloe O’Malley (11 disposals, five tackles, one goal) was also impressive in the brown and gold, as Jenna Richardson and Maddi Shaw also featured. For the Saints, Gabriella De Angelis, Amelia Peck, and Grace Hodder all turned out once again.

Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos

2021 VFLW Round 9 preview: Youngsters set for debut as AFLW talent filters back

SEVERAL NAB League Girls players make their Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s debuts in Round 9, as more AFL Women’s talents filter back to the state league competition.

ESSENDON vs. CARLTON
Saturday, May 1 @ 11:00am
Windy Hill

In the opening game of the round, Essendon and Carlton clash at Windy Hill in a weekend that will see plenty of opportunities for the rivals to go head-to-head. Ruby Svarc is a crucial in for the Bombers returning after spending her season in Queensland with the Brisbane Lions, and she could well be given the job on Grace Egan who makes her return to state level for the Blues. Searching for a win against a pretty impressive Bombers outfit this season, Carlton has also added Abbie McKay to the side, with the likes of Daisy Walker and Charlotte Hammans steady in the defence. Georgia Nanscawen has overcome the injury that kept her out for the past couple of weeks, whilst Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell is back for another week, with Pioneers teammate Jemma Finning named as an emergency and expected to make a VFLW debut in the coming weeks. The Bombers will be favoured in this clash with the return of Nanscawen and playing at home.

DAREBIN vs. PORT MELBOURNE
Saturday, May 1 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

Two teams at opposite ends of the ladder clash at midday, with the one-win Darebin team taking on a Port Melbourne side coming off its first loss to Casey Demons last week. After gaining Jess Dal Pos back from AFL Women’s last week, the Falcons will be keen to give it all they have against a pretty strong Borough outfit. Nicole Callinan has been an important inclusion for Darebin this season, with Stephanie Simpson and Samara David targets up forward. The Borough just have so much depth, and an incredible forward line led by key targets, Sabrina Frederick and Emily Harley, and reliable source of goals from Sophie Locke. Sophie Molan has returned to state level for the visitors, with GWS GIANTS’ Katherine Smith also set to make her debut for Port Melbourne, in a team that has some how found a way to get stronger. Given the inclusions for the Borough, it is hard to see them dropping this game, but it will be a great test for the Falcons.

GEELONG vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, May 1 @ 1:00pm
Deakin University Waurn Ponds

In the longest road trip of the season for the Western Bulldogs, the back-to-back winners take on an in-form Geelong outfit who remain in contention for a top two spot in this season. Since the AFL Women’s season has concluded, the Western Bulldogs have not mucked around with rotating their elite talents, and whilst Elisabeth Georgostathis rotates out of the side this week, the visitors will welcome back Isabella Grant, Isabelle Pritchard and Annabel Strahan, while Jess Fitzgerald has cheekily been named as an emergency so could well be coming into the side soon. Western Jets’ Jemima Woods comes back into the team after her three-goal debut a fortnight ago, and she will be joined by Caitlin Sargent (four goals in NAB League last week) and Trinity Skenderis. The Cats have kept a strong midfield, but have brought in Amy McDonald, whilst giving Sophie Van de Heuvel a rest. Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner still form a dominant group in there, and with Stephanie Williams, Georgia Clarke and the return of Richelle Cranston up forward, the Cats have plenty of firepower. This is a really tight game, and Geelong should be favourites, but the strength of the Bulldogs team means the visitors could cause an upset and make it three wins on the trot.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, May 1 @ 2:00pm
Arden Street

Casey Demons showed what they are capable of last week by rolling Port Melbourne to inflict the Borough’s first defeat of the season, whilst North Melbourne dominated Carlton, keeping the Blues to just one goal for the game. With the teams coming into good form, on paper it looks to be a great match but the Demons have really stacked their side with AFL Women’s talent, as Libby Birch, Brenna Tarrant and Shelley Heath are named in defence, Eden Zanker joined Maddison Gay in the midfield, and Alyssa Bannan and Casey Sherriff are up forward. The Roos have mostly kept a consistent lineup of players on the cusp of AFLW footy, though Beth Lynch is an important cog in defence. Bella Eddey is getting some extra minutes running around for the VFLW team, whilst Jayde Hamilton returns from the AFLW Under 19 Championships to play alongside sister Alexia. If North Melbourne can get up in this one it will be the Roos’ best scalp of the season, but with Essendon sniffing around Casey’s recently acquired fourth spot, the Demons must hold onto the place by winning this one.

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, May 1 @ 2:00pm
Downer Oval

Williamstown is the next challenger up to try and knock off Collingwood as the undefeated Magpies rose in the final term to see off Essendon and grab another win in Round 8. The Magpies have plenty of reasons to get up in this game, with 2019 premiership coach Penny Cula-Reid behind the helm of the 2019 wooden spooners side this season. She will have her work cut out for her against a red-hot Magpies lineup, which features both Amelia Velardo and Aliesha Newman who copped knocks last week but have recovered to play. Abbi Moloney returns to the side with Joanna Lin, Maddi Shevlin and Imogen Purcell among the other Collingwood AFLW talents outside the two key forwards in Sophie Alexander and Bella Smith. The Seagulls have some terrific VFLW talent, with Erin Meade, Megan Williamson, Aimee Whelan and Ruby Tripodi among the in-form players in the competition, but it will be whether or not they can make the most of their chances as the Pies will give their forwards plenty, particularly after the form of Marla Neal last week who shone in the win at The Hangar. Hard to see the Pies dropping this one, though the Seagulls are strong defensively and will not make it easy for them.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. HAWTHORN
Sunday, May 2 @ 10:00am
Trevor Barker Oval

The standalone Sunday fixture pits the sixth placed Southern Saints in a must-win fixture against Hawthorn who got up in Meg Hutchins‘ 250th match last week. The Saints cling onto the lowest finals spot – albeit with plenty of time left in the season – and will need to win this one to give themselves some security there. However the Hawks have some tall targets in Hutchins and Tamara Luke up forward, with the dangerous Kristy Stratton and Jessie Williams capable of kicking multiple goals. Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae makes her debut for the brown and gold following the conclusion of the NAB League Girls’ season, with another former Gippsland leader in Maddi Shaw running around for the brown and gold. Georgia Bevan, Alison Drennan and Nadia von Bertouch have plenty to prove in this game as they look for another chance at AFL Women’s level, with the latter two having played for the Saints at this level earlier this season. For the Saints, they went down to the reformed Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval last Friday and will look to bounce back with Tara Bohanna and Renee Saulitis providing that tall and small option inside 50. Alice Burke and Tahlia Meyer rack up the ball each and every week, and Hannah Stewart has been enjoying a nice season this year at VFLW level. This game could go either way with the Saints ranked higher, but the Hawks are forming a really strong list as the season goes on.