Tag: jemma blair

2021 VFLW Round 11 preview: Teams stack up for final month of action

THERE are plenty of NAB League Girls debutants and AFL Women’s players who will run out for the respective teams this round of VFL Women’s (VFLW), in what could make or break some teams’ finals campaigns.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. GEELONG
Saturday, May 15 @ 10:00am
Trevor Barker Oval

Opening up the round is a genuine finals-defining clash in the sense that if the Southern Saints can get up at home, they should be home and hosed for the last finals spot. It will not be easy against a red-hot Geelong outfit that has loaded up on talent and looks to be the strongest lineup thus far which will be hard to beat. Focusing on youth and the return of NAB League Girls, Abbey Jordan comes in for her VFLW debut with the Saints, joining Sandringham’s Natasha Morris, whilst Tyanna Smith also makes her VFLW debut after an outstanding debut season at AFLW level. The VFLW talent at the Saints is quite strong, with Tara Bohanna and Hannah Stuart among the consistent performers this year supporting natural ball-winners Molly McDonald and Alice Burke who have shown their class above. The Cats midfield boasts Laura Gardiner, Darcy Moloney and Rebecca Webster with the possibility of Sophie Van De Heuvel rolling through and Olivia Barber rucking is the future of the AFLW side. The depth of the Cats looks to be just too strong, with Tamara Smith, Paige Sheppard and Richelle Cranston forming a dangerous half-forward line with elite level pressure. Expect the Cats to get the job done much to the relief of the chasing pack of VFLW sides just outside the finals places.

CASEY DEMONS vs. CARLTON
Saturday, May 15 @ 10:30am
Casey Fields

There are a couple of NAB League Girls players representing Casey Demons and Carlton in their battle at Casey Fields from 10:30am. Gippsland Power ruck Grace Matser comes back for her second game after a solid debut last weekend, whilst Northern Knights inside ball-winner Maeve Chaplin will get her first run around with the Blues. After carrying the drinks last match, Lucy McEvoy gets her chance at VFLW level, while Maddy Guerin, Natalie Plane and Charlotte Hammans will be looking to continue their great form stepping down to state league level. The Demons are just loaded across the field though, not mucking around with the likes of Eden Zanker, Casey Sherriff, Libby Birch and Jacqueline Parry in there, whilst Eliza McNamara makes her VFLW debut after a strong first season at AFLW level. The Demons have had one of the more stacked lineups the past few weeks, and with competition leading goalkicker Imogen Milford up forward, it is hard to see them not chalk up another win with the form they are in, even missing competition top ball-winner Eliza West.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, May 15 @ 10:45am
ETU Stadium

Barring a collapse in the final three rounds, a win here would lock up top spot for the Magpies, coming up against a Port Melbourne side that has now dropped two of its past three games. Only Geelong could catch the Magpies in the final few weeks and even then would need the Magpies to drop all the games – or lose severe percentage – to be a chance to grab top spot. Port Melbourne is always a chance to get up though, having a couple of Dandenong Stingrays in Jaide Anthony and Ash Richards running round whilst having plenty of Richmond AFLW players in the side. Whilst Emily Harley will not be in the side this week, the Borough have Cleo Saxon-Jones and Gabrielle Seymour at opposite ends, with Kodi Jacques returning for her first VFLW game, and Sophie Locke still in contention for the the leading goalkicker. The midfield combination of Katherine Smith, Sophie Molan and Mel Kuys will be difficult to beat, but the inclusion of Magpies AFLW star Jaimee Lambert will have the opposition on notice. Teaming up with Mikala Cann, Maddie Shevlin, Abbi Moloney and Sophie Casey as regular AFLW talents, the Magpies have some good spread across the ground, while Imogen Barnett, Matilda Zander and Marla Neal are all in good form, and Jasmine Ferguson has been a rock at the back. It should be a great game, with the Magpies ticking over the wins, but the Borough having plenty of experience in this match.

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. DAREBIN
Saturday, May 15 @ 11:00am
Downer Oval

A bottom two clash at Downer Oval will give Williamstown the opportunity to confirm the Seagulls will avoid the wooden spoon, and effectively lock Darebin into that position with the result. The Seagulls have created that good link with the GWS GIANTS over the past couple of weeks, and bolster the side through some up and coming AFLW talents in Tarni Evans, Georgia Garnett and Emily Pease, whilst Tasmanian Priscilla Odwogo runs out in the blue and gold once again. Perhaps the biggest name from an AFLW Draft perspective in this game is Sydney Swans Academy member Jess Doyle, who has been named on the interchange for the Seagulls to make her debut at the level. There is also a debut on the Falcons side, with Northern Knights key forward Trinity Mills named on the bench. With Jess Dal Pos as the prime mover onball, and the defensive combination of Victoria Blackwood and Gena Lawson-Tavan in the back 50, the Falcons have some composure moving the ball down the ground. The ruck battle between Sidney Cubasch (Darebin) and Elizabeth McGrath (Williamstown) is another one to watch, with Stephanie Simpson and Alyssa Mifsud both capable of kicking multiple goals on their day.

ESSENDON vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, May 15 @ 11:00am
Windy Hill

The latest match on the Saturday is an early 11am fixture at Windy Hill, where the Bombers who are looking to push further up the table and just solidify that finals spot, take on a desperate Western Bulldogs outfit that has to win to stay in finals contention. If you want the best chance at seeing multiple AFLW Draft prospects this weekend, then this is the game to watch. Essendon have brought back Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell, with talented top-age draft-eligible players Neve Crowley and Emelia Yassir also making their debuts. Crowley has been named in the back six with Lennox, though could play at either end, whilst Yassir will come off the bench and likely impact midfield or forward. Friswell is in a forward pocket. For the Western Bulldogs, a trio of Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels will make their debuts, with Ella Friend, Nyakoat Dojiok and Tahlia Meier all named in the Dogs’ squad. With AFLW talent in Sarah Hartwig, Jess Fitzgerald, Britney Gutknecht and Isabella Grant among plenty of others, the Bulldogs are also not mucking around with their lineup and arguably should be favourites in this game on paper alone. The key is to try and quell the strong Bombers’ midfield which includes Georgia Nanscawen, Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper who are always finding the ball, and then Mia-Rae Clifford up forward, and Courtney Ugle creating across the ground.

HAWTHORN vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Sunday, May 16 @ 3:30pm
Box Hill City Oval

In a standalone fixture on Sunday, Hawthorn will look to keep alive its slim chance of making finals with a win over North Melbourne. The Hawks have a superior percentage and have some good young talent coming into the side, with Keeley Sherar, Bridget Deed, Eloise Chaston and Matilda Hardy forming a strong Eastern Ranges contingent, and Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae returns for another week after a big Round 10 effort last week. The Kangaroos are also handing out some impressive debuts to young players they might consider for their AFLW list, with a Tasmanian trio of Ella Maurer, Jemma Blair and Amy Bissett – who are all capped at national level with the Allies at the AFLW U19 Championships – set to run out in the blue and white stripes. With Jayde Hamilton another teenager who played alongside them for the Allies also remaining in the side, and then the form of Sarah Skinner and Meagan Kiely among others, the Roos are going to make a good fist of it. The Hawks just have too much depth across the field, and with Phoebe McWilliams and Kristy Stratton up forward, Meg Hutchins down back and Georgia Bevan and Alison Drennan roving to Tamara Luke through midfield, the brown and gold deserve to be favourites here and take home the win.

2021 AFLW U19 Championships state preview: Allies

IN the fifth of our 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships state preview, we take a look at the Allies, a team that has accommodated Northern Territory to join the Eastern Allies duo of NSW/ACT and Tasmania. Always a challenge to combine the best players across multiple states, there are a number of experienced NAB League players in the team, as well as four AFL Women’s Academy members making the squad.

2021 ALLIES AFLW U19 CHAMPIONSHIPS SQUAD:

NSW/ACT:

GIANTS Academy:
Eleanor Bishop
Teagan Germich
Cynthia Hamilton
Jayde Hamilton
Hayley Macdonald
Ally Morphett
Brodee Mowbray
Jessica Whelan

Sydney Swans Academy:
April Devine
Jessica Doyle
Ella Heads
Maddy Hendrie
Isadora McLeay
Ruby Sargent-Wilson

Northern Territory:
J’Noemi Anderson
Ashanti Bush
Kasey Marsden
Grace Mulvahil

Tasmania:
Jemma Blair
Meghan Gaffney
Perri King
Ella Maurer
Amy Bissett
Claire Ransom

QUICK SUMMARY:

The Allies head into the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships as the natural underdogs having the most difficult task of combining talented players from different states into a cohesive unit, but on sheer talent the side has plenty of depth around the ground, and with Northern Territory joining the Eastern Allies duo, there is an extra pathway feeding into the side. The four AFL Women’s Academy members will lead the way, but there are also a mix of 19-year-olds such as Charlie Vandenberg who received an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite last year, and bottom-age talent Claire Ransom who is shaping as one of the most talented players for next year.

FIXTURES:

R2 vs. Western Australia (April 12 @ Avalon Airport Oval)
R3 vs. South Australia (April 15 @ Trevor Barker Oval)

FIVE TO WATCH: (2003-BORN)

Perri King (Tasmania Devils/Tasmania)

The smooth-moving King has been a standout for the Devils in the NAB League Girls this season and will be a prime mover in the Allies’ midfield at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. King is a tackling machine, and despite being able to win the ball plenty herself, she does all the team things with her defensive pressure, blocks and shepherds to help her teammates move the ball in transition. As well as play onball, King can play an outside role and use her burst to advantage, as well as up forward as a pressure forward with some speed and knack for finding the goals, as she did last year when she became Tasmania’s first ever NAB League Girls goalkicker.

Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/GIANTS Academy/NSW-ACT)

A strong ruck who can also play forward, Morphett will provide the experience and strength around the contest for her lighter-built teammates. Able to pull down contested marks or provide a contest enough to bring the ball to ground, Morphett is a member of the GIANTS Academy who has represented both the GIANTS and Murray Bushrangers this season. She works hard at ground level with some fierce tackles and covers the ground well, but her ability to be that target down the line or leading out from goal is what makes her a player to watch at the championships.

Jess Doyle (Manly-Warringah/Sydney Swans Academy/NSW-ACT)

Impressing during the Sydney Swans Academy’s win over Geelong Falcons, Doyle is a talented midfielder-forward who has the athleticism to worry opposition sides, but also the goal sense to make it count when inside 50. She was able to kick a couple of goals in a low-scoring win over the Falcons in wet conditions, so on a dry deck, Doyle has the potential to light up a game. She can take a strong grab overhead, and whilst still raw, has plenty of upside having come to the sport later than others, but has well and truly showed why she has caught the eye of the AFL Women’s Academy.

Ashanti Bush (Darwin Buffettes/Northern Territory)

Running out for the Thunder in the win against the GWV Rebels, Bush is a dangerous forward who has deceptive athleticism and a neat sidestep with power that can shrug off would-be tacklers. She was able to effectively drive the nail into the Rebels’ coffin in that game with a couple of goals in a minute, and is often too strong for quicker opponents or too quick for bigger opponents. A real nightmare to try and match up on, Bush is the sole NT AFL Women’s Academy member, and will add to a versatile and damaging forward line.

Amy Bissett (Tasmania Devils/Tasmania)

One of the in-form small forwards of the Devils this season, Bissett is a crucial player inside 50 with her clean, balanced play and high footy IQ. She helped win the game against Northern Knights with a couple of late goals in the NAB League Girls competition, and has been a consistent source of scoring in 2021. If she is not kicking them, she is setting them up and will relish being inside 50 when the ball comes in given the amount of talls around the goals that she can crumb off, or run onto a loose ball.

OTHERS:

Jayde Hamilton already has VFL Women’s experience and is a hardnut on the inside, having played at the 2019 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. She will look to win the contested ball with Eleanor Bishop, J’Noemi Anderson, Ella Maurer and Cynthia Hamilton all able to roll through there. Jemma Blair will provide the run out of defence with Ella Heads and Ruby Sargent-Wilson both impressing in the back half during their matches at NAB League Girls level. Grace Mulvahil has some exciting speed around the ground to move the ball in transition with Meghan Gaffney, while Hayley Macdonald and April Devine could be targets, rotating with Morphett through the ruck.

SQUAD STRENGTHS:

  • Contested marking
  • Speed
  • Forward X-factor
  • Unpredictability

The Allies have a real mix of talents in all three thirds, and it will be how they all mix as to how the style will form. They have some speedy players at both ends and through the middle, with their abundance of contested markers likely to pose a problem for opposition sides. Once the ball hit the deck though, the Allies will be just as damaging with their forward X-factor to create something out of nothing and bring up scoring opportunities.

In terms of areas of improvement, the difficulty of gelling will always be the number one hurdle to overcome, with only portions of the various Academies having played before. It will be up to the leaders in order to help the more inexperienced players gel, and ensure they can enjoy a good carnival.

LAST WORD:

The Allies have a real mixed bag when it comes to talent. With their AFL Women’s Academy members all likely to be in the forward half – with a couple of them rotating through the middle at least – they should be able to try and take control of the stoppages and get the ball forward. In defence they have some strong rebounding types, and players who are happy to run with ball-in-hand. They will be ones to begin the movement in transition and really get the ball from the back half to the forward 50.

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.

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 7/2c/3b

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition treated us to an extended weekend of fixtures in Round 7. 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.

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#34 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)

A really lively performance from the Stingrays’ co-captain who booted two goals and was a clear driving force in the win. Not only did she snag the two majors, but she hit the post and kicked another behind to finish with 2.2 from four scoring shots, and plenty of creativity in the front half of the ground. She also rolled through the midfield at times, laying some fierce tackles and driving the ball forward to be outstanding across the four quarters.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looking dangerous every time she goes near the ball, Clarke goes from zero to 100 really quickly, and looks to play on every chance she gets. At times she could take a breather and take a set shot or go back to assess options, but she knows once she gets goalside no one will catch her. What she did so well in this game was not only hit the scoreboard (1.1) but also lay a remarkable amount of tackles (eight) and do as much work without the ball as with it.

#31 Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)

Played further up the ground more so than just stationed in the back half, Radford cracked in to compete for the hard ball and get it out of stoppages and going forward. As versatile as they come, and showed she could play through the midfield and win the ball with ease, she was a crucial link in transition moving the ball from half-back inside 50.

#38 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

Having a purple patch of late, stepping into the shoes of Emily Shepherd and being that strong inside midfielder despite standing at 167cm. She cracks in and laid a game-high 11 tackles, but as a kick-first player, she is one who also finds space around the ground, and on a night where marking the ball was difficult due to wind and the chilly conditions, Crank was able to provide an option, and she also worked hard both ways to win the ball in each third of the ground.

#21 Kiana Lynch (Sandringham Dragons)

Without Lynch in defence, the Dragons surely would have let through plenty more goals .The talented utility aided her side at ground level, applying defensive pressure through tackling and implied pressure, then driving the ball out of defence 10 times. She teamed up well with Abby Thompson and Ella Schiberras among others, but was utilised as the player to drive the ball in transition when coming out of the back 50.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Continued her rich vein of form with another good performance. She was impressive around the stoppages, winning the ball and trying to create some space. Whilst she was not afforded the same luxury as past weeks. she still did her bit, and also got her hands dirty with seven tackles. Given her clean ball use and ability to use her athleticism to advantage, she is hard to contain,

#20 Abby Thompson (Sandringham Dragons)

Kept the Stingrays forwards at bay for as long as she could, and worked well in tandem with the other defenders to drive the ball out of danger and repel the attacks. Whilst she was often found in contested situations, she was very good at keeping her cool and then clearing the ball to safety or gaining distance close to the line.

#22 Emma Stuber (Sandringham Dragons)

Played a solid four-quarter role across the match and was balanced between her offensive and defensive ability. She laid some great tackles, and also kept the ball moving in transition, finding herself as the recipient at half-back and getting it further afield. She ended up winning a lot of the all and was a crucial player for the Dragons on the night.

OTHERS:

Charley Ryan was superb across the night with her silky skills and footy IQ, while Charlotte Blair, Grace Chapman and Olivia Robinson all impressed for the Stingrays. Looking at the Dragons, Bridie Hipwell worked hard with Sascha Pribil, while Ebony Angelopoulos did well in midfield, and Pia Staltari played her role onball as well.

EASTERN RANGES vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Just at another level compared to anyone else around her, commanding a run with player around stoppages to try and negate her effectiveness, which she quickly figured out how to play against and continued doing ‘Georgie’ things. Played a much more kick happy game than we usually see from her which probably led to her being even more dangerous given her kicking skills, where she’d more often than not look to get the ball more central going forward. Had those moments again where she had just see the game in slow motion and work her way through contests or around opponents in situations where she just shouldn’t have been able to.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

As good as I have seen her this year, her work around the ground was really impressive, positioning behind the ball when she was in the ruck to be part of any contest that formed outside of the Cannons forward 50, and playing her role as a main target down forward really well, where she had always get front position in a contest to make it nearly impossible to stop her from holding the mark. I really like that she lowers the eyes going forward and tries to get it to teammates in better spots rather than taking 50/50 shots herself.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

Played really well in the ruck, winning more hitouts than losing for sure against a rucking division that runs deep. Her athleticism is obvious, and was highlighted at the first bounce of the game where she leapt much higher than 189cm Tahlia Gillard, winning the hitout without any trouble. She was good around the ground when she was near the ball and made everything difficult for her direct opponent, or for any opponent at ground level after a ruck contest. Unfortunately went off in the hands of the trainers early in the third quarter and took no further part in the game 

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

Possesses a really good burst of speed which makes her a very difficult matchup around stoppages, where she does her most damage by getting away from opponents and then delivering a kick forward. One that seems to enjoy initiating that contact on an opponent at a stoppage, giving her that advantage in those situations to push off and use that speed she has.

#5 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

Continued on from her high quality game against Gippsland to have a real impact up forward against a strong opposition side. Playing as more of a high half forward than a traditional KPF, she was busy in the forward half, being a good marking option for teammates and then delivering with class inside 50. Really high impact per disposal as well, and you can see that her team want the ball in her hands because of her ball use. I really liked her leading patterns for the game as well, where she would lead one way but change direction at the last second to catch her opponent off guard.

#25 Cadhla Schmidli (Eastern Ranges)

Held up really well against a side that uses the ball well going inside 50, and she’d just be there to cut off a lot of attacks really well. Often playing as the deepest defender, her read of the game and command of the backline was really good, and her ball use out of deep defense gave the Ranges the best chance to get out and start a dangerous counter attack. 

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Insanely smart in her forward craft, she understands her role exceptionally, hitting the front of packs with speed to pick up a spilled ball, or taking her opponent up field and beating them running back into the goal square, she’s just a delight to watch, with her creativity being a highlight. A particular instance to showcase this was when she was one-on-one inside 50 with Cannons defender Kasey Lennox, beating Lennox with her speed coming back towards goal and slotting it on the run, even taking a bounce under pressure, showing not only her forward craft but also her confidence in herself.

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Her most prolific game for the season, she continues to impress with her workrate and ability to impact in any situation she finds herself in, whether it be a contested ground ball, contested marking situation or running into space one-on-one, she just finds ways to win against any opponent. Her overhead marking for someone her height is super impressive and was a big part of Cannons fourth quarter surge, where she was able to cut off the rushed kicks from the Ranges defenders, then kick long back inside 50. 

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Had pretty much the perfect game for a half-back player, with her tendency to press up with the ball inside 50 playing a big part in Eastern’s ability to lock the ball inside their forward half. Really confident when she pushes up and attacks a contest or a loose ball, and composed with her kicking even under pressure, she was able to create from nothing for Eastern which made her a real danger in transition. Also impacted aerially where she could, which made it difficult, especially in the first three quarters, for Calder to get any dangerous shots on goal

#41 Grace Walsh (Eastern Ranges)

Another 2022-eligible defender from Eastern that really stood up and caused Calder a lot of issues, Walsh really made it difficult for the Calder talls to get any easy marks with her work one-on-one, able to spoil towards the boundary line and allow Eastern to reset. Was dangerous by foot coming out of defensive 50 as well, giving Eastern plenty of opportunities to counter attack.

OTHERS:

From the home side Zali Friswell again won plenty of it and tried to create where she could, with Mali McLeod continuing her solid body of work as a winger, really getting into the role and showing she’s starting to understand it well. Abbey McDonald and Kasey Lennox were solid in defense despite the loss, still stopping a few Eastern attacks. Eastern had plenty of contributors in the victory, with Ruby O’Dwyer and Bridget Deed winning plenty of it through the midfield. Winger Jorja Livingstone also won a bit of ball on the wing despite finding herself in one-on-one battles often, with Isabelle Khoury also doing some good things on the opposite wing. Cassy Wilsmore did well as a relieving ruck, then taking over when Campbell went off injured, keeping her opponents accountable for the game.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Had a hard day at the office with Dandenong not giving her an inch around the ground to do her usual stuff, so much so she finished the day with zero marks. Despite this, she still found ways to impact around the ground playing more like a smaller player for the day, winning ball on the inside around stoppages, or running past teammates to receive a handball and kick forward. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

#30 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

A good performance as she pushed further into the midfield than she usually plays, even getting herself on the scoreboard with an unlikely kick from 40 out, Di Donato was a threat around the ground all game, with her marking and class by foot really damaging and troubling the Stingrays throughout, especially in transition. What I liked most was that Di Donato was never not providing an option when Bendigo had the ball, she was always screaming for it, spreading across the ground for a switch option or leading straight at the ball carrier

#5 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)

As usual found the ball without much difficulty throughout the day around the midfield and stoppages, however she was also a marking threat around the ground, often positioning herself down the line from the play when Bendigo kicked it forward, just in case of return kick from Dandenong. Her kicking was also pretty good throughout the day, placing it to the advantage of team mates more often than not, allowing them to play on after marking it if they wanted to. 

#15 Drew Ryan (Bendigo Pioneers)

Played a vital role in between the arcs for Bendigo as an outside runner or switch kick option, often being the target of Bendigo transitioning outside of defensive 50 or being tasked with holding the ball up when outnumbered if Dandenong used her side of the ground, Ryan found ways to win the ball and get it going forward, also dropping back to assist the backline at times

#1 Lila Keck (Bendigo Pioneers)

Had the difficult task of playing on Amber Clarke when she was down forward, and the 15-year-old really gave Clarke a challenge, being able to match her for speed for most of the game and making it a real scrap when the ball was at ground level. It wasn’t all locking down for Keck though, as she offered a lot by foot around the ground as well.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

Provided a lot of spark around the ground for Dandenong, which came as no surprise, given her athleticism makes her such a difficult match up it was a real trouble for Bendigo to match her in the midfield. Up forward she did well to create opportunities for her teammates but often found herself in two-on-ones which made it difficult for her to get free and have a shot on goal. In the midfield her work around the ground was really good, showing a high workrate to get from contest to contest and continually impact the play. 

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Played the difficult matchup on Slender when she was in the forward line and held her really well, negating her aerial impact which no one has been able to do previously. A familiar sight throughout the season has been Hill streaming off the half-back line to meet a loose ball and kick it long forward, and it was once again crucial against Bendigo in repelling a lot of attacks, especially in the final quarter when the heat was really turned up. Hill was one that never wavered and kept the pressure up throughout the game.

#65 Olivia Robinson (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got herself into the midfield more than previous games and took the opportunity with both hands, playing a hybrid sort of role she proved she is as capable at getting in and winning a contested ball as she is as holding her space and receiving a handball on the outside. Managed to get herself on the scoreboard as well with a goal.

#5 Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got thrown into the forward line with great effect, providing an additional target to teammate Amber Clarke, giving Dandenong an extra avenue to goal she slotted 2 for the day, but her work around the forward half can’t be understated, with her kicking giving her teammates plenty of opportunities to score, and her presence demanding special Bendigo attention.

OTHERS:

The home side had a lot of contributors in the loss, with Scarlett Orritt, Jemma Finning and Jayda Richardson winning their fair share of the ball around the ground, getting Bendigo moving forward with their kicking. Bottom-aged defender Tegan Williams continues to be a reliable bookend for Bendigo as well. The Stingrays as usual put in a team effort, Olivia Laity and Felicity Crank winning a bit of ball between the midfield and forwardline, and Abbey Jordan and Eloise McCrae having various crucial plays in the defensive half of the ground, McCrae in particular stepping up in the final few minutes.

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

Had a fascinating tussle with Grace Matser as the pair showed off their respective abilities throughout the game. Whilst Matser won the honours around the ground, Morphett was strong in the ruck, and when going forward took a great one-on-one mark by reading the ball in flight in the goalsquare. She kicked truly and ensured she hit the scoreboard, making the most of limited possessions, with a higher impact as a target and using her body for defensive acts.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

The Draft Central Player of the Week was simply outstanding across the board, having the ball on a string in the first half. She won everything running along the wing, and used her pace to advantage to burst away from the stoppages and drive the ball forward. There was little time in between touches as she gathered a ton of them, and whilst she might have had less in the second half, still stepped up for some memorable moments in a clear best on ground performance, providing both defensive and offensive highlights.

#46 Zara Hamilton (Murray Bushrangers)

Located on the other wing, Hamilton did a lot of running throughout the game, winning the ball in each third of the ground and teamed up well with Smith in bringing the ball forward in transition. As a taller player she is strong in the marking contest, and was able to position herself well when drifting forward as well. Sometimes too far out to score, Hamilton set the ball up for scoring opportunities to teammates inside 50, and was a driving force in the win.

#3 India Lehman (Murray Bushrangers)

Casually went about her business in a four-quarter effort and provided some great run on the outside. Standing at just 162cm, Lehman returned from the GIANTS Academy last week to put up her standout performance of the season. With a tendency to break the lines and work well with Smith and Hamilton in transition, she was one who was memorable for her consistent output throughout the match.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

Did a bit of everything throughout the match, and while her offensive and defensive traits are usually on display, she had a few memorable moments. The best was her last quarter mark, which came with the clock winding down and the game over, but showed her courage to intercept in defence and stop a potential Gippsland Power set shot. No one would have blamed her for not putting her body on the line, but the courage was terrific, and her passion – which included a fierce return of the ball to the boundary umpire when she believed she had kept it in during the same quarter – was great.

#35 Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power)

As solid as a rock and with others sore towards the end of the game, was almost single-handedly pulling down anything in her way. Often on the last line of defence, her last quarter in particular was outstanding, and her contested marking – which was clean – and defensive position were standout traits. She had a massive eight rebound 50s for the game, and it is easy to see why she was the Power’s best, holding up the fort throughout four quarters with a consistent impact.

#25 Lily-Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)

A sore back could not even contain the talented bottom-ager whose full athleticism and power was on display throughout the match. Providing great run out of defence in a role she has made her own, Williamson reads the ball well in the back 50, then sees the ball and steamrolls anyone in her way. One of the cleanest fend-offs of all time in the fourth term – with Lily Sharp being the unfortunate recipient – was unbelievable. She has a knack of either evading people or just running straight through them, and is able to use the ball well with a powerful kick, which makes her so damaging.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

A really classy game from the left-footer who was silky smooth in midfield. She won a lot of the ball and most importantly used it well, sidestepping opponents and creating space for herself to work in. Whilst she has been building that football understanding over the season, this was her best game of the year, and she was quite a handful for the Bushrangers midfielders, as she was not only able to win the ball, but utilise her kicking.

#40 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)

The ruck did really well around the ground and finds plenty of the ball for a taller player, not afraid to be used in transition. Her contested marking is still a work in progress, but what she does well is her second efforts and ground level work, where she can be quick to aide teammates. Her work rate is high and she can win the ball across all thirds of the ground, and works over her opponents who often have to rotate in and out to match her.

OTHERS:

Murray Bushrangers’ Molly Kennedy was fierce with her tackling and won plenty of the ball in close, as did Kristy Whitehead, while up forward Lily Sharp and Olivia Cicolini both snagged two goals. For Gippsland Power, Molly Van Berkel helped out her sister in defence, while Grace McRae, Hayley Woolfe and Paris Tracey worked hard in transition.

 

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#26 Chloe Saultry (Sandringham Dragons)

Returned to the side for the match and was rock solid in defence, repelling everything she could during important moments. With a slippery ball and others nervous under pressure, Saultry settled down the defence, and was a great intercept marker and rebounder throughout the match. She did get caught once trying to get out of the back 50, but she played a consistent match throughout the four quarters and was a star for the side in the narrow loss.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Played wet weather football, and while it was not her cleanest game by any means, she was important in just seeing ball, winning ball and driving ball forward. Of her 20 touches, 19 were kicks so she had less time and less instinct to use the ball by hand, and instead just bomb it forward to best help her side. She had plenty of inside 50s and rebound 50s throughout hte match which supported her work rate and ground coverage, whilst the wet conditions allowed her to bury in and lay a number of fierce tackles in close to lock the ball away.

#30 Pia Staltari (Sandringham Dragons)

In a game that was always going to be scrappy given the conditions, Staltari provided the highlight of the game in the second term. Tucked up tight against the boundary line, Staltari kicked a remarkable goal that sailed home to get the Dragons on the board. All in all she played a consistent game, but it was the important goal that kept the Dragons in the contest and ensured they did not go another half without a goal.

#2 Keeley Coyne (Sandringham Dragons)

Provided a mix of run and defensive pressure, the talented outside mover got her hands dirty in close with eight tackles. She managed to thrive in the wet and won the ball in close, often giving it off by hand to move it forward, or kick into space for teammates to work with. In what was a pretty even performance across the board, Coyne played her role and impressed throughout the game.

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Had the ball on a string and showed composure throughout the match. Her elite kicking skills were on show as the game went on after the rare turnover early in the match, with Baskaran ending up accumulating a massive 28 touches across the four quarters. She also laid seven tackles and then drove the ball out of defence and got it forward to set up scoring opportunities in a really complete performance. She did not have as much time and space as she was used to by going on-ball, but she kept working hard throughout the game, and it was fitting that she took the last mark of the match to have the ball when the siren sounded.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

Racked up clearance after clearance and bombed the ball from stoppages after taking a few steps to find the space. She worked well with Baskaran in the midfield to win plenty of the footy, and also lay some big tackles throughout the match and be a standout performer for the Jets. Always having to fight for the hard ball in close, Ham was one who took time off the clock late before the siren in a smart move, which came after she desperately took a sliding mark at half-back.

#42 Jemima Woods (Western Jets)

Building some nice form over the past few weeks, Woods provided a target up forward and pushed right up the ground to win the ball in midfield and drive it forward herself. Even winning the ball in the back 50 at one stage, Woods was a livewire across the field, and was a four-quarter performer. She kicked the Jets’ second goal from a set shot just to give them some breathing space again, and always looked dangerous near the ball.

#29 Kiera Leare (Western Jets)

In wet conditions, Leare did what any forward should do when under pressure in the goalsquare and just boot it off the deck, which she did to great effect. Kicking the Jets’ first goal through opportunistic circumstances, Leare got her team on the board and then proceeded to be busy throughout the game, having far more impact than her eight touches might suggest. She held up an opponent late in the game to knock her off balance, which helped the side hold on for the win.

OTHERS:

Kiera Whiley laid a match-winning tackle in the last minute of the game, Leah Spargo was sensational in defence, Krystal Russell controlled the ruck with 28 hitouts and Paige Ryan stepped up to midfield for the Jets. Charlotte Ryan, Emma Stuber and Summer Trim all had impressive performances, while Bridie Hipwell and Ebony Angelopoulos also had their moments.

EASTERN RANGES vs. TASMANIA DEVILS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

Had another prominent game in the midfield to continue her great form this season, not only known for her athleticism, but her tackling too. On this occasion she laid a game-high 13 tackles – four more than any other player on the ground – and was consistent in trying to drive the ball forward out of congestion time and time again to be a top player on the day.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Clean and and classy, the bottom-age talent thrived in the wet to play another outstanding game. Whilst her consistency is still building with some up and down games, when needed she has the capacity to really turn it on and provide great running out of the back 50 and drive it forward. Definitely a kick-first players, Busch also mopped up in defence with eight rebounds, mimicking her effort against the Western Jets in Round 1 where she was outstanding, with the two games over the weekend the best of her season thus far.

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

Had a game-high 25 touches and kept bullocking away at the stoppages with some fierce intent. A four-quarter performer who rarely waivers in her consistency to get to the right ball-winning spots, Deed stepped up in the final term to put the nail in the coffin with a last quarter goal to settle the nerves and ensure the points were heading back to Kilsyth.

#21 Ruby O’Dwyer (Eastern Ranges)

A promising game playing through the midfield to find space in the forward half and take a game-high six marks. She also won plenty of the pill through her work rate, and would drive the ball forward to help her side, Another player suited to the wet-weather style, O’Dwyer played an on-brand wet weather game with her kicking forward.

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

The classy left-footer just pops up when required, kicking important goals in the first and third terms to finish with couple of majors yet again. Having do to the work primarily at ground level, the dangerous Pisano kept up her streak of six games hitting the scoreboard, to take her total to 12 for the year in an outstanding debut season for the 15-year-old. Just so clean and ability to create something out of nothing.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

The Devils’ best and has had a real purple patch over the last few matches after promising signs early in the season. Won more of the ball in close and was clean with it, recording more handballs than kicks for only the second time this season as she looks to have a big influence through the midfield. Her running game was still on show, but for a player who get work hard to get to the outside, Webster has plenty of defensive attributes including her kicking where she laid another six tackles.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

No matter how many times she finds the ball, Ransom is just an eye-catching player. Clean and composed with ball-in-hand she can play in the dry or wet with the same impact. She has the athletic traits to burst out of a stoppage and drive the ball forward, but also can drop back and rebound the ball out of the defensive 50. Not as many disposals as she has some weeks but she makes the most of it when she does win it.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

A player with whom that you know exactly what you are going to get week-in, week-out. With her hard running and work rate a clear standout not only in her game, but across teh board, Gaffney worked hard to mop up in defence, then drive the ball forward with a kick-first mentality. In wet weather conditions, Gaffney was able to find her consistent amount of ball once again and keep her side in contention with her movement in transition.

OTHERS:

Ella Maurer again brought a ray of consistency to the Devils’ side, with Brianna Oates moving the ball well in transition. Jemma Blair and Olivia Smith also provided good run out of defence and through the middle, while Shania Saward laid an impressive eight tackles. For the Ranges, Matilda Hardy was among the most prominent players with a goal and finding plenty of the ball pushing up the ground, whilst the clean and athletic Jorja Livingstone had all kicks from her 15 touches in another strong game, and the likes of Keeley Sherar, Jade Hutchinson and Sarah Humm brought the heat, and Eloise Chaston booted a goal and looked strong up forward.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Did not necessarily have the biggest numbers, but played a really good game, where her strengths shined when given the opportunity. Her marking was particularly impressive, punishing the Falcons for a few missed kicks when they attempted to switch the ball, where she’d take the grab and then go for a quick run and deliver long forward. Had a real highlight reel moment when she got onto the end of a Riley Wilcox handball in the centre of the ground, went for a two-bounce run and slotted a goal in the third quarter, again utilising her elite speed and really good kick. 

TOP PERFORMERS:  

#4 Poppy Schapp (Geelong Falcons)

Nice bit of speed around the ground when she can it going, however with the congested style Northern forced on Geelong when they had the ball it was hard for her to showcase.  Plays her role as a hybrid sort really well, especially when she’s receiving a handball from a first possession winner and using her kick to get it going forward, she just looks hard to stop in those situations.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Consistent throughout the game with her attack on the footy and then follow up ball use, it’s no surprise she’s one of the leading ball winners this season. Reads the ball off the rucks hands really well which made her dangerous, particularly as the game went on and others started to tire out a bit more. I really liked her decision making with the ball, often looking to use the width of the ground and switch the ball rather than bombing down the line like most Falcons players seemed to do as the pressure built more and more.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Reliable in the backline for the last three quarters after starting on the wing, she was really strong aerially and made Northern switch up their style going inside 50 purely because she was just picking off entries for fun in the second and third quarters. Understands the game well with her positioning, so she is always around where the ball is going to be in defensive 50. Took all the kick outs for the day where she often had the right idea, but sometimes her teammates could not compete in the air or were outnumbered, but then started taking some less obvious options in the fourth quarter which saw Geelong move it out of defense with more effect.

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Played with a lot of confidence in her ability on the inside, which comes as no surprise, but to be straight back into it after some time off due to injury was impressive. Seemed to have a bit more of a focus on bringing other teammates into the game with her favouring the handball rather than kicking long which was a nice element to see of her game, and the Knights looked better off overall as a team for it. Seeing her previously play as someone that runs through packs to win the ball it was interesting to see that she appeared more agile and composed today, rather than using her strength she was using her footy IQ to get the ball out of packs, allowing her to deliver better quality disposals to teammates .

#37 Riley Wilcox (Northern Knights)

Showed off a really impressive workrate throughout the game, as she was never really starting any centre bounces or stoppages as a midfielder but she was getting involved everywhere around the ground, getting involved in a lot of handball chains especially in the middle of the ground or around the forward 50 mark, one of which preceded an impressive goal from teammate Maykaylah Appleby and the handball was perfect, put just in front of the already full pace Appleby, which showed that Wilcox’s disposal is measured and planned rather than just handballing to the first jumper she sees. Set up a couple of good set shots as well instead of blazing away and going for a goal, so that teamwork sense is there and fairly natural. 

 #40 Tannah Hurst (Northern Knights)

Solid in defense all day on the occasion it came down, that’s nothing particularly new for her, what really impressed was here impact moving up the ground when there wasn’t a threat of a Falcons score. She was positioning herself well behind the ball, taking some really good marks to keep the pressure on the Falcons and stop possible counter attacks, then moving the ball forward well to her forwards. 

#4 Brooke Plummer (Northern Knights)

Really been a consistent piece of the Knights midfield slotting onto the wing opposite Appleby, and her impact during the game was felt, showing off her ability to run both ways by helping out in defense, even as a spare at some stages, and then pushing up to get the ball and hit a leading forward target, her kicking is just so dangerous. I really like that she can mix it between really bulleting a kick, or softly placing it in front of a leading target, catering to different situations well.

OTHERS:

Despite the loss, the Falcons backline had some impressive contributors that were really hard to get past, particularly in the first half, with bottom aged pair Mackenzie McGrath and Taiya Morrow being the two main ones, as well as Elizabeth Dowling who was superb in the first quarter in particular. Zoe Garth also fought hard on the wing, despite finding herself outnumbered more often than not. Gulia Ceravolo and Tarrah Delgado both won a lot of it in the defensive half, with Delgado even sneaking into the midfield for the final quarter. Teleah Smart provided as an option around the ground well and won a bit of it on the outside.

GWV REBELS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Tried in a few different roles of late, Friend found herself stationed on a wing for most of the match before shuffling back to defence in the final term. The tall prospect competed well at ground level and while her hands were not always as clean as usual, Friend was able to impact some key loose balls. She also did well to float across and take a couple of handy intercept marks, with her only real aerial fly coming on the forward 50 arc in term one.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Before limping off in the hands of trainers late in the game, Dojiok enjoyed another terrific outing. The tall defender has a rare combination of size and athleticism, which again came to the fore in her many rebounding forays. She consistently backed herself to take aggressive positions across the backline and attack the ball when it came her way, instead of worrying about what her direct opponent was doing. As a result, she cut off a great number of Oakleigh attacks both in the air and at ground level. The final piece of the puzzle will be to sharpen her execution by foot, particularly on the run as she so often finds herself. A top performance nonetheless.

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Rowbottom spent a good amount of time deep forward and could very easily have ended up with three goals, instead of just one. She scuppered a couple of golden opportunities in the first term close to goal, but maintained her presence and even seemed to lift in intensity as the game wore on. She got her major score in the second quarter after clunking a trademark one-on-one grab, having already set up a teammate minutes earlier. In her work up the ground, Rowbottom’s physicality was evident as she repeatedly bullied her opponents around the contest and backed herself to muscle through or around would-be tacklers. Not a massive game numbers-wise, but she was impactful when called upon.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

As is always the case, Condon showcased a remarkable work-rate from midfield to not only find the ball herself, but to also impact with tenacious tackling which defies her size. The diminutive ball winner seems to accumulate at will, credit mostly to her running ability and repeat efforts at ground level. One play perfectly captured Condon’s attitude and desire to compete; when she was beaten in a one-on-one marking contest, but kept her head in the game to smother the resultant kick. Distance and damage in her kicking are areas of growth, but would only add to her sound acumen on the inside.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Leonard was afforded a wealth of midfield minutes and took the opportunity well, translating her ball winning ability and tackling pressure to the centre bounces. When she wasn’t winning her own ball, the experienced Rebel laid a number of big tackles to lock the ball in or prevent Oakleigh from getting the ball to the outside. She also chimed in with a couple of quality marks in defensive 50, with one going back with the flight of the ball particularly impressive. A cool head across the ground, Leonard was one of her side’s top performers.

#27 Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)

The bottom-age defender played an important role in defence for GWV, especially given how much time the ball spent in the Rebels’ own half. Stationed deep for most of the day, Walton was entrusted with the kick-in duties and patrolled the last line with aplomb. There were a few nervy moments and fumbles in key areas, but she competed well against quality opposition for the most part. Having matched up one-out on Rowbottom for a short period, the learnings from this game would have been great for the budding prospect.

#5 Mia Clift (Oakleigh Chargers)

Clift played an underrated role in the Chargers’ defence, tasked with matching up on fellow number five, Paige Scott. She has already proven able to take on such lockdown roles, and did well to subdue the impact of GWV’s forwards throughout the day. While she does have the defensive acumen, Clift can also make her mark on the rebound but looked to play a team game in this outing and was solid.

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

One of Oakleigh’s best in the win, Vickers was able to showcase even more of her offensive capabilities as she moved up from half-back to play on the wing. Often opposed to Friend, Vickers more than held her own and backed herself to get into aggressive attacking positions. She has a knack of finding space to receive and reads the play well to do so, allowing her to then provide run-and-carry down the line. While Vickers’ forward momentum is invaluable, she was still able to win the hard ball and contribute defensive acts, such as a magnificent aerial spoil in the third quarter. She capped off her game with arguably the goal of the day in term four, competing in the air before weaving around an opponent and slotting the ball home.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Reid’s level of consistency in a ball winning sense has been outstanding throughout the season, and it was no different in this game. She just seems to pop up everywhere and can play on just about every line, as she proved during a wealth of time up forward here. Her ability to present and offer a marking target was terrific, offering another string to her bow while still impacting at the contest and willing the ball forward via her left boot. Her footy smarts were also on show in a variety of little instances; she was one of the only players to properly judge the wind while taking a set shot at goal, resulting in a major score and unfortunate poster, while pinning her opponents’ arms in tackles to lock the ball in proved another clever act. She still seems most comfortable in space, but has a crack and impacts in each role she is given.

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Perhaps one of Oakleigh’s more unheralded midfielders, Ling was as busy as anyone afield in this game. She was involved from the get-go, battling hard at ground level and covering the ground well to win a heap of ball in all areas. Her accumulative factor was high, and Ling was able to find more possessions on the outside in this outing which allowed her to make a greater impact going forward. Despite her size, she also pulled off a couple of handy aerial feats, including a nice overhead mark during the third term. Solid as ever, and a key part of this star-studded side.

OTHERS:

Kalani Scoullar has proven a real problem for opposition rucks of late and dominated the hitouts once again for GWV, while also digging in for a few nice tackling efforts. Paige Scott was dangerous in patches and impressed with her vigour, while Olivia Leonard also got her hands dirty in defence for the Rebels. Charlotte Van der Vlies was again impactful on a wing for Oakleigh, as Lily Hart played her role in midfield and Tayla Morton set the tone up forward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 4

ANOTHER NAB League Girls season means even more fresh coverage of the elite pathways, with the weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delving into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. Round 4 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 weekend fixtures.

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

EASTERN RANGES vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Alex Venning

Geelong:

#37 Annie Lee

The Draft Central Player of the Week for Round 4, Lee was once again consistent in driving the ball out of defence multiple times and providing a source of rebound in transition. She won a heap of the ball, was strong in the air and is reliable by hand or foot, the latter of which is her choice of disposal. Having been one of the most consistent performers this season, it was no surprise to see Lee again perform strongly and earn the Player of the Week nod.

#44 Charlotte Simpson

Simpson made a very strong start, especially in contested situations. She played an integral part in setting the game up and driving Geelong forward, showing excellent vision to break the game open. She then went forward in the second half and provided option, and when moved to the midfield late in the game proved once again hard to beat, making a comeback hard for Eastern.

#11 Tess Craven

Craven shows an excellent football brain, running to positions to take intercept marks and create a link from defence to the forward line. She stayed on the move all day to keep providing Geelong an option and spread Eastern out. Shows good courage backing into packs to take marks and laying essential tackles throughout the game.

#4 Poppy Schaap

Stays engaged throughout the game, giving her the ability to keep getting to contests and providing an option for Geelong. Gives multiple efforts when around the ball, making it hard for the opposition even when beaten one-on-one. Excellent kicking ability with good penetration to help Geelong take ground throughout the day.

#39 Renee Tierney

Started slow but really built into the game to be a match winner. Was excellent in the midfield when she was moved there, driving the ball forward for Geelong. Proved to be a match winner up forward, kicking late goals to seal the game for Geelong.

Eastern:

#4 Keeley Sherar

With outstanding kicking ability with an excellent football IQ to match, Sherar kept presenting all around the ground for Eastern. She shows ability to win her own ball or get on the outside to set up attacks. A very unselfish player, she is happy to lay tackles or block for her teammates. Kicked to teammates in excellent positions which kept Eastern in the game for a long time.

#44 Georgia Campbell

Shows ability to beat multiple opponents and come out on top. Took some huge contested marks, being too strong for the opposition on the day. Excellent kick, proven by kicking goals to keep Eastern in the game. Was running well, winning a lot of the ball late before being taken off by the trainers.

#11 Olivia Meagher

Keeps finding herself in ball winning positions all day. Gives multiple efforts to try to win the ball, leading to her extracting the ball or slowing the opposition down. Can also break away from opposition when she has the ball. Has excellent kicking ability over short-medium distances.

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Peter Williams

Gippsland:

#40 Grace Matser

Played the best game of her NAB League career to-date, not only having an influence in the ruck, but also getting forward and kicking Gippsland’s sole major of the contest. Matser was busy around the ground and earned a free kick which put her within scoring range in that second quarter. Able to go back and slot it, the Power players were up and about, and it gave her confidence throughout the rest of the game. Clearly the standout Power player on the day.

#25 Lily-Rose Williamson

Did not win a heap of the ball, but is very noticeable when she does. A run-and-carry player, Williamson fends off opponents regularly, and whilst sometimes it can get her into trouble, the bottom-ager shows great strength inside the contest, and has a penetrating kick which she also uses to mop up in defence as she did on multiple occasions on the weekend.

#5 Yasmin Duursma

A touch of class in the midfield and someone who is still learning her football craft, Duursma took a step forward in the game and was winning more of the football than she has in past weeks. She also stepped up to lay some strong tackles, and her work rate to get from defence to offence was good. Yet to turn 17 until the end of the month, Duursma has some good upside for the future.

#26 Grace McRae

The consistent inside midfielder provided great experience at the clinches, as well as strength around the ball. She was a tackling machine to try and mow down opposition players, and while she did not get a lot of time and space during the game, she was someone who continued to push hard and give it a crack despite the lop-sided margin.

Northern:

#10 Megan Girolami

After three goals last week, Girolami went and doubled that effort in Round 4 with a bag of six. Her half a dozen majors were from a range of sources, including in-play and from set shots, and her accuracy was fairly reliable as well with 6.1 from 10 disposals. She is still a bottom-ager with a year to run, but if her first two games are anything to go by, she looms as a talented and reliable scoring option inside 50 for the Knights.

#15 Tarrah Delgado

The reliable full-back had a stint in the midfield and further up the ground late in the game when the result was known. Providing her usual service in the back 50 with intercept marks and spoils, Delgado was a driving force to keeping Gippsland at bay when the Power did enter their forward 50.

#3 Trinity Mills

Booting three goals to be the second act to Girolami’s six majors, Mills was hard to stop with her strength and power inside 50. She would work hard up the ground to win her touches, then rest deep and through smarts and strength, fended off the opposition and not only hit the scoreboard herself, but opened up play for teammates to have scoring chances.

#4 Brooke Plummer

The bottom-age runner is a kick-first player. Her long, driving passes going inside 50 and run-and-carry attitude is what separates her from a number of the Knights inside midfielders. She was the player that teammates released into space and she took the game on, even hitting the scoreboard with a good goal to cap off another impressive performance.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Michael Alvaro

Murray:

#2 Aurora Smith

Smith was Murray’s leading possession winner on the day and showcased some nice traits through midfield. She has a handy bit of speed which allows her to not only collect the ball at full flight, but also carry that momentum to break away from her opponents in the same motion. The 17-year-old ran straight through the ball and worked to chain possessions, working hard to try and generate some momentum for the Bushrangers.

#14 Molly Kennedy

Perhaps not as prolific in terms of ball winning as some of her teammates, but one of Murray’s hardest workers nonetheless. Kennedy was a competitive member of the Bushrangers’ side and worked well in one-on-one situations, while ensuring her presence was felt in her defensive acts. She laid a game-high 10 tackles to ensure the Jets would not have things all their own way in the second half, providing a much needed physical presence when the ball entered her area.

#17 Keeley Skepper

Still with another year left to go in the talent pathways, Skepper was once again one of Murray’s best. Starting at the centre bounces and continuing through midfield, the 16-year-old showcased her smooth movement and ability to accelerate the play forward. She has great potential at the stoppages with her agility and speed, with the wheel-and-go type of play often her modus operandi. Her disposal and decision making was a touched rushed at times, but Skepper has all the tools to be an exciting player for the future.

#22 Grace Hay

Another hard worker for Murray, Hay had the tough job of stationing in the Bushrangers’ defence. She positioned well behind the ball when Murray was attacking and gave herself every opportunity to compete one-on-one back inside the defensive arc, while also taking on some ruck duties back there. She chimed in with a couple of nice intercept possessions and did her best to get the ball moving back in the right direction for her side.

Western:

#1 Charlotte Baskaran

Another outstanding display from the 2022 draft-eligible talent saw her lead Western’s disposal count once again, showcasing a raft of desirable traits. Before looking at her common strengths, it is worth noting that Baskaran competed well aerially with a handy standing leap, while also working well to tackle hard despite her light frame and obvious outside quality. Stationed on the wing, the 16-year-old came off the line hard and ran even harder in general play, able to work into dangerous positions forward of centre and create scoring opportunities. Her usually precise radar was a touch off at times heading inside 50, with the final kick at speed just coming unstuck on occasion. She managed to get reward for effort in the final term though, laying a tackle and spearing home a classy goal from range after collecting the scraps.

#22 Kensley Ward

One of the many promising under-age prospects coming out of Western, Ward made her mark on debut with some nice work inside attacking 50. She booted the first goal of the game with a dribbled finish, converting under heavy duress from behind as the ball skipped over the back. After some quiet patches, she popped up once again in the final term with another couple of shies at goal, before capping her day with a terrific snap goal from deep in the pocket.

#27 Caitlin Sargent

Operating in the forward half, Sargent has good presence when the ball is in her area and is capable of claiming strong contested marks. She did so against Murray, starting with a one-on-one effort during the first term which helped secure her only major of the game. She missed a couple more chances thereafter, but was overall a solid target who looked to be productive in the front half.

#38 Montana Ham

One of the most exciting talents for next year’s draft, Ham continues to put all her potential on the table. Starting in midfield and pinch-hitting forward, the under-age prospect proved a competitive beast over the ball with her strength and repeat efforts. While she would have liked to be a touch cleaner at ground level, Ham’s hands were again strong overhead – especially in one instance where she worked back to clunk an intercept mark. She showed great spacial awareness to explode and turn her opponents numerous times, breaking forward with intent and only just putting a couple of flying shots wide. Her dynamism and ability to create exciting passages in a flash meant she was one of the more impactful players overall.

#41 Ciara Singleton

Singleton’s role was an important one in Western’s defensive structure, acting as the intercept and rebounding outlet. She set up well behind the ball and showed terrific anticipation to cut off Murray’s aerial attacks, before looking to get on the move and deliver forward in good time. Singleton’s disposal by foot was a little awkward, but by no means hurt the Jets in terms of costly turnovers. With a touch more work in that area, she could be a very effective player on the half-back line and still has some development left as a 19-year-old.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve

Calder:

#41 Georgie Prespakis

Prespakis was thrown about positionally all day, finding herself up either end more often than in the midfield. It didn’t stop her from having her usual brilliance at times though. When positioned in defence she produced dangerous drive through run-and-carry, attacking loose balls from stoppages near her, not to be outdone by her brilliant positioning behind the ball to be an intercepting threat in the air as well. Up forward she would play as a target, and then look to bring other team mates into the game with handballs or short kicks. When the game needed to be won she was thrown back into the midfield for the quarter and really stepped up when the Cannons needed her, forming a good one-two punch with Reese Sutton around stoppages. A highlight of her final quarter was when she won a clearance in the forward 50, shook off two would-be tacklers and kicked Calder’s second goal.

#8 Zali Friswell

Calder’s most prolific ball winner behind Prespakis, she was another one that got thrown around quite a bit for the day. Doing her usual high level midfield work when she was in there, she also showed she’s a capable defensive option, running off the half-back a few times to generate drive for Calder and setting herself up behind the play to take some intercept marks.

#3 Emelia Yassir

Used her athleticism and burst from contests well throughout the game, but also seemed to get more of the ball around the ground rather than from stoppages like usual. She was aerially strong despite only getting three marks, she should’ve come out with more but often found herself getting spoiled by multiple Pioneers players.

#5 Neve Crowley

Became a real rebounding threat in the second half of the game, presenting as a loose marking option on the other side of the ground and behind the play. Moved well with the ball out of the backline when she started taking kick-ins, running out and getting extra space.

Bendigo:

#28 Tara Slender

Had a great performance where she was thrown into just about every position at one stage or another, with her contested marking being a highlight throughout the game – there wasn’t anyone able to challenge her in the air. She roamed up the ground when she was playing forward, being a great link up option for the Pioneers moving forward. When she was in the midfield she just knew where to be to win first possession, and her composure with the ball meant she took her time and kicked well from the centre, playing a big part in the Pioneers’ early dominance. A particular highlight came in the first quarter when she took a contested mark over the top of Calder’s Yassir, reaching around her to mark the ball in front.

#37 Madeline Marks

A really solid game for a ruck, where she was strong in the stoppages, but a real highlight was her follow-up work at ground level and how she made herself a marking threat around the ground. She more often than not finds an option to kick long to which makes her dangerous with the ball in hand. Was stationed in defence for much of the fourth term and was difficult for Calder to get through in their attack.

#27 Jayda Richardson

Showed versatility around the midfield, starting as a rover and being a tackling presence in-close. She would also provide as a chop out in the ruck and compete well when in there. When she was up forward she was a dangerous option, kicking a goal in the second quarter.

#30 Octavia Di Donato

Gets involved in everything she can when Pioneers are on the offensive, getting good run out of the backline but it’s her aerial game that really shined against the Cannons. She flew for everything that went near her which provided a consistent nuisance for Calder going forward, and when she held onto them she used it well to get the ball moving forward again.

#5 Elizabeth Snell

Won plenty of footy on the inside throughout the day, quickly getting the ball moving with kicks forward out of the contest, allowing Bendigo’s outside runners to get onto it or their marking forwards to make a contest. Snell was also the standout tackler for the day.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Hamish Spence

Tasmania:

#11 Perri King 

King’s class and poise shone through in such a congested and highly pressured game. She wasn’t necessarily the player winning the ball at the coalface, but separating herself and getting the second or third touch off the contest. What set her apart from everyone else was the space and time she managed to find in these situations, using it to lace out or set-up her teammates. She ran all over the ground and worked hard to support her forwards and defenders. She finished with a game-high 21 disposals, nine tackles and six inside 50s in an impressive outing.

#16 Ella Maurer 

Maurer picked up from where she left off two weeks ago, continuing to find a way to accumulate possessions with 20 disposals. The inside midfielder has an innate ability to gather the ball and distribute it to one of her teammates, as indicated by her 12 handballs. She often forced her way through tackles and absorbed pressure, while still finding a way to move the ball forward.

#9 Claire Ransom 

The tough midfielder optimised Tasmania’s game style, applying constant pressure and being aggressive with her ball movement. She stood out early in the match when she rallied her side after its slow start in the first term. She ultimately finished with 15 disposals, five tackles and three inside 50s in a strong performance.

#29 Jemma Blair 

Blair’s six disposals don’t tell the totality of her game, with the half-back playing an important structural role for the Devils. She constantly repelled Oakleigh’s attacks down back and was used as a loose player at the top of Tasmania’s forward 50 to bring the ball back inside whenever the Charger’s tried to exit. Her work allowed the Devils to lock the ball at their end of the ground in the second half.

#7 Meghan Gaffney

Her primary task was to carry and use the ball on the outside, which she repeatedly did by utilising her impressive speed. Gaffney played an important game on the wing, collecting 13 disposals and participating in several run-and-carry plays. She shirked off and evaded opponents by using her acceleration to separate from them.

#18 Georgia Clark 

The half-forward had a magic minute in the first quarter when she kicked two quick goals to ignite her side and the Twin Ovals crowd. But her game went beyond that, working hard to impact the contest and providing a link into the forward line with her 12 disposals, three marks and five tackles.

Oakleigh:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom 

The star on-baller was the ultimate competitor, dominating around stoppages, competing up forward and even putting her hand up in the ruck. Her 20 disposals, seven tackles and two inside 50s already illustrate a strong game, but she added another string to her performance. She went up forward late in the third quarter, taking two strong marks near the goalsquare and converting the latter, which ended up being the difference between the two sides. She also got the better of fellow AFLW Academy member, King when the pair lined up at stoppages.

#24 Holly Kenealy 

Kenealy played a prototypical small forward’s game, making the most of any opportunity she received. She only had four touches, but turned three of them into goals. Her efficiency stood out after Oakleigh struggled with inaccuracy early on and her goals came at clutch times to either spark her side or break Tasmania’s momentum.

#10 Stella Reid

The winger continued her excellent 2021 campaign, having another productive day where she worked all over the ground. There were ominous signs for Tasmania when she started the game on fire and she didn’t let-up, finishing with 20 disposals, six tackles and five inside 50s. She always seemed to put herself in the right position to help drive her team inside 50, finding open space around the field. If she had converted her two first quarter behinds into goals, it would have made for an even more prolific game.

#9 Brooke Vickers 

The half-back flanker was Oakleigh’s main outlet out of defence, repeatedly intercepting the ball and taking the game on with her daringness and evasiveness. Her 15 disposals and four rebound 50s show her ability to gather touches and set her team up coming out of the backline. Her efforts were particularly important late in the game, when the Chargers’ back six was under immense pressure and repeatedly stifling Tasmania’s surges on goal.

#29 Amanda Ling

The inside midfielder did all the groundwork for Oakleigh, going into the trenches and winning the ball at the coalface. The fact that 11 of her 13 disposals were handballs shows that her main role was to get the ball and distribute it to one of her teammates. She also thrived in the congested nature of the contest, laying 10 tackles and producing multiple one-percenters.

#5 Mia Clift 

Stationed down back, Clift was not afraid to use her bursts of speed to take the game on. It sometimes sold her into trouble, like when she was pinned for holding the ball inside Tasmania’s forward 50, but she generally gave Oakleigh another strong avenue out of defence with her 10 disposals and two rebound 50s.

GWV REBELS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

GWV:

#20 Ella Friend

Was relatively quiet in the first half where she played mostly as a stay at home forward, but took some nice grabs when it came into her area earlier on. She started working her way up the ground more in the second half where her marking was too good for any Dandenong player to compete with.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok

Was up forward early on in the game where she wasn’t getting a whole heap of it, but still had some nice moments and marks that showed that she could play as a forward with some more time. Moved into the backline for the second half where she got a lot more involved and was a crucial part of the backline from there. Her run-and-carry out of defence is as dangerous as anyone in the league, while her kicks have good length and penetration to spot up targets on the wing or through the midfield with ease.

#1 Lilli Condon 

Condon was hard at the ball and opponent in the midfield which caused Dandenong some headaches. She’s a second effort machine as well; no matter how hard she’s hit she’ll keep going for it until the whistle is blown.

#15 Chloe Leonard 

Does some really good work off the half-back line, and outruns opponents to get good drive as well. Her kicking is good on the run which makes for a very dangerous attacking defender that almost requires the forwards to play as defenders on her, especially when she has such a knack for positioning behind the ball as well.

#5 Paige Scott 

Hard at it in the midfield and smart around the ground, Scott set herself up well to take uncontested marks around the ground. She is not afraid to take opponents on with ball in hand either, which makes her dangerous in one-on-one situations. She has clean skills and with a long kick she provides plenty of dangerous plays for GWV.

Dandenong:

#34 Ashleigh Richards

Playing a split role between the midfield and the forwardline, Richards she had a game to remember, showing her versatility as not just a ball winner but a goal kicking option in attack. She finished the day with an equal game-high of three goals, while her work rate and pressure around the forwardline was a key part of many Stingrays goals.

#27 Charley Ryan

Super composed throughout the game, it’s rare to see a player at any level not flinch even a little bit under immediate pressure, but she’s nailed it well, even willing to cop a hard tackle to get a quality kick or handball out. She played more on the wing than she did against Western the week prior, but played the outside space well and really controlled her side of the ground.

#11 Emily Shepherd

Just like last week was a key cog in the Dandenong midfield. Her mix of inside and outside game is well balanced, performing well as either a first possession getter or a handball out option. Shepherd plays a natural game, and you can see how trusted she is with Dandenong looking to get the ball into her hands. She regularly ran past teammates that had earned free kicks or marks to get a handball receive and deliver a dangerous kick forward. Her forward craft is exceptional too, doing some crucial work to lead to Dandenong goals when she’s resting down there.

#5 Mackezie Eardley

Super reliable throughout the day in the backline as the last defender. She’s naturally strong in the air being a taller player, but her work at ground level is really top quality even in contested situations. Hard working as well, she often pushed over to any contest in the defensive 50 and had an impact, whether it be winning the ball or tackling. Her positioning when the ball was inside Dandenong’s forward 50 led to some crucial intercept marks throughout the day. Not stopping there, she got herself involved forward with two goals to round out what can only be described as a complete performance.

#31 Jemma Radford

Playing mostly as a forward for the day, she took the most of her opportunities when they came, finishing the day with three goals. Worked well in tandem with both Amber Clarke and Richards to cause headaches for the GWV defence as the game progressed.

#6 Amber Clarke 

Spent more time in the midfield than last week but impressed in similar ways. She’s just an exciting player to watch, with her speed and leap making her a threat in any situation she finds herself in. Works very well as an inside midfielder, bursting out of stoppages.

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 4 wrap – Chargers, Falcons remain undefeated

ROUND 4 of the 2021 NAB League Girls season saw Oakleigh and Geelong keep their perfect records in tact, handing Tasmania and Eastern their first losses respectively. Calder joined the Chargers in surviving a scare, while Northern, Western, and Dandenong all registered comprehensive wins. Catch up on all the action and find out which players stood out in our weekend wrap.

Eastern Ranges vs. Geelong Falcons

By: Michael Alvaro

Geelong Falcons remained in the ranks of the undefeated on Saturday, when they outlasted the Eastern Ranges to win by 24 points at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve. The Falcons led at every break but Eastern remained within striking distance during the first half, before Geelong made better of its chances with four goals to one after half time to run home 7.5 (47) to 3.5 (23) victors.

Geelong’s Annie Lee put in a blinding performance from defence, collecting 22 disposals, eight marks, and 10 rebound 50s as a deserving Draft Central Player of the Week nominee. Tess Craven and Charlotte Simpson were also among those to find plenty of the ball, while Renee Tierney continued her scoring form up forward (two goals) and Ash Van Loon set the tone with a whopping 15 tackles.

For the second week running, Eastern tall Georgia Campbell booted multiple goals (two) and registered over 20 hitouts in the ruck, proving a difficult figure to halt. Olivia Meagher was again her side’s top ball winner, while the likes of Keeley Sherar, Cadhla Schmidli, and Ruby O’Dwyer also contributed well in the Ranges’ first loss for 2021.

Both sides will enjoy bye rounds this week, with Geelong’s next assignment coming against the Sydney Swans Academy on March 13, while Eastern returns on the following day against Gold Coast’s academy.

EASTERN RANGES 1.1 | 2.1 | 3.4 | 3.5 (23)
GEELONG FALCONS 2.1 | 3.3 | 5.4 | 7.5 (47)

GOALS:

Eastern: G. Campbell 2, A. Pisano
Geelong: R. Tierney 2, L. Were 2, P. Schaap, K. Stacey, T. Lewis

DC BEST:

Eastern: G. Campbell, K. Sherar, R. O’Dwyer, O. Meagher, C. Schmidli
Geelong: A. Lee, T. Craven, R. Tierney, A. Van Loon, C. Simpson

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)
4 – Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
3 – Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)
2 – Ash Van Loon (Geelong Falcons)
1 – Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)

Gippsland Power vs. Northern Knights

By: Peter Williams

Northern Knights have gone back-to-back in the 2021 NAB League Girls competition, posting a comprehensive 12-goal win over Gippsland Power at Morwell East on Saturday. The Knights could not miss in the first half, as they piled on nine goals straight to lead by 45 points at the main break. Megan Girolami was the key architect up forward with four first half goals, whilst Grace Matser was the sole goalkicker for the Power. The Knights control continued after half-time, though Gippsland was able to restrict the scoring, keeping the visitors to 4.4 in the second half, as the Knights were still able to pick up a 13.4 (82) to 1.4 (10) victory.

Girolami finished with half a dozen goals in a superb effort for the Knights, while Trinity Mills (three) and Simone Mooney (two) also snagged multiple majors. Maeve Chaplin kicked a crucial goal in the opening term, but did not see out the match, copping a knock and being put on ice for the entire second half, and fair chunks of the first half. Tarrah Delgado was once again instrumental in defence, whilst Brooke Plummer and Ava Jordan won plenty of the ball, as did Tallia Pulcino and Phoebe Nelson.

For the Power, Matser was the clear standout with a big effort not only in the ruck, but around the ground and to kick that second quarter set shot goal. Grace McRae put in another hard-working performance, while Yasmin Duursma, Indiana Makai and Macie Gilmour were among their team’s top ball winners. Lily-Rose Williamson caught the eye with her drive out of defence and was arguably second best behind Matser on the team, while Alisha Molesworth also had some impressive moments.

Next round, Northern Knights will take on Calder Cannons in a repeat of the Round 2 match which did not go ahead, whilst Gippsland Power head back to Morwell East where they host Sandringham Dragons.

GIPPSLAND POWER 0.1 | 1.3 | 1.4 | 1.4 (10)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 5.0 | 9.0 | 11.2 | 13.4 (82)

GOALS:

Gippsland: G. Matser.
Northern: M. Girolami 6, T. Mills 3, S. Mooney 2, B. Plummer, M. Chaplin.

DC BEST:

Gippsland: G. Matser, L. Williamson, Y. Duursma, G. Macrae, C. Fletcher
Northern: M. Girolami, T. Mills, T. Delgado, B. Plummer, A. Jordan

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Megan Girolami (Northern Knights)
4 – Trinity Mills (Northern Knights)
3 – Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)
2 – Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)
1 – Brooke Plummer (Northern Knights)

Murray Bushrangers vs. Western Jets

By: Michael Alvaro

Western Jets powered to a 40-point win over the Murray Bushrangers at Wangaratta on Saturday, saluting for their first win of season 2021. The Jets led at every break and overwhelmed their opponents forward of centre, eventually breaking down the dam walls with five goals to one in the second half. While Western celebrates a breakthrough victory, the Bushies remain winless after the 8.9 (57) to 2.5 (17) result on home turf, one of three sides without points so far.

16-year-old Jets debutant Kensley Ward made a splash with two goals, including the first of the game to put her side on the front foot. Annie Gray also found the big sticks twice to round out the game’s multiple goalkickers. Charlotte Baskaran again took hold of the contest in a damaging performance, getting on the scoreboard late while the likes of Montana Ham, Caitlin Sargent, and Ciara Singleton also played key roles in the win.

Murray did not quite have enough to match Western’s firepower and strength through the middle, but had some strong contributors. Aurora Smith was the Bushies’ leading ball winner and continued her promising start to the season, while Keeley Skepper and Chloe Locke were also productive throughout. Mindy Quade was another to stand up, booting one of her side’s two goals while Molly Kennedy got her hands dirty with 10 tackles and Grace Hay was busy down back.

After a bye, Murray’s next assignment will come against the GWS GIANTS Academy, while Western is set to catch up on its Round 2 fixture against Tasmania on Monday morning.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 0.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 | 2.5 (17)
WESTERN JETS 2.0 | 3.5 | 4.7 | 8.9 (57)

GOALS:

Murray: C. Power, M. Quade
Western: K. Ward 2, A. Gray 2, J. Farrugia, C. Baskaran, K. Whiley, C. Sargent

DC BEST:

Murray: A. Smith, K. Skepper, C. Locke, M. Kennedy, G. Hay
Western: C. Baskaran, M. Ham, C. Singleton, C. Sargent, K. Ward

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)
4 – Montana Ham (Western Jets)
3 – Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
2 – Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)
1 – Ciara Singleton (Western Jets)

Bendigo Pioneers vs. Calder Cannons

By: Declan Reeve

Calder Cannons managed to claw back a 16-point deficit with a four-goal final quarter to put away the Bendigo Pioneers at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve. The first half was played entirely on Bendigo’s terms, dominating the key midfield battle and showing strength in defence when Calder did get on the attack. After what must have been an inspiring half time speech, the Cannons came out with a newfound intensity, which eventually was too much for the Pioneers and resulted in the nine-point win.

AFLW Academy member Tara Slender was prolific in her return from concussion, leading the disposal and marks count for the game, whilst Georgie Prespakis still found plenty of it despite being thrown into a bunch of different positions all day. Jemma Finning, Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson were the next best in disposal count, with Richardson being particularly damaging and getting herself a goal. Zali Friswell and Emelia Yassir each won a bit for Calder as well. Neve Crowely was strong in defence for the Cannons, with Octavia Di Donato and Tegan Williams holding strong in the Pioneers’ backline

The Cannons will be playing their postponed Round 2 fixture against the Northern Knights at Highgate Recreation Reserve this coming Thursday Night, with the Pioneers taking on Tasmania two days later at Arden Street Oval.

BENDIGO PIONEERS 0.1 | 2.1 | 3.2 | 3.2 (20)
CALDER CANNONS 0.1 | 0.3 | 0.4 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS:

Bendigo: M. Marks, J. Richardson, M. Elliott
Calder: O. Manfre, G. Clayton, G. Prespakis, P. Poultney

DC BEST:

Bendigo: T. Slender, O. Di Donato, J. Richardson, M. Marks, J. Finning
Calder: G. Prespakis, Z. Friswell, N. Crowley, E. Yassir, E. Nickolaus

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)
4 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
3 – Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)
2 – Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)
1 – Jayda Richardson (Bendigo Pioneers)

Tasmania Devils vs. Oakleigh Chargers

By: Hamish Spence

Oakleigh Chargers remain undefeated after prevailing by six points in a tight and thrilling contest, overcoming a gallant performance from the Tasmanian Devils. The Chargers got on top early by locking the ball inside their forward 50, but failed to convert their opportunities. The Devils flipped the script from midway through the first term though, playing a more aggressive and pressure-based game style that ultimately saw them take a five-point lead into half-time.

Tasmania was arguably the more dominant side in the second half with its unrelenting tackling and pressure, but Oakleigh’s class came to the fore in the latter half of the third term with two quick goals, which ultimately proved to be the difference in the game. The final margin represents a 96-point turnaround from when the two sides last met just over 12 months ago, when Oakleigh kept Tasmania goalless in a 102-point thrashing.

Charlie Rowbottom held sway around stoppages and made an impact when she went up forward in the third quarter. Amanda Ling and Stella Reid backed her up with important performances in the midfield. Holly Kenealy made the most of her opportunities by kicking over half her side’s goals, while Brooke Vickers and Mia Clift held firm down back under constant pressure in the second half.

Perri King’s ball use and timing stood out in such a congested contest, driving the Devils’ performance after half-time. Ella Maurer, Claire Ransom and Meghan Gaffney were also strong through the middle against Oakleigh’s star-studded engine room. Jemma Blair impressed with her rebounding off half-back and the wall she set-up at the top of forward 50, while Georgia Clark turned the game early on with two goals in under a minute.

TASMANIA DEVILS 2.0 | 4.0 | 4.4 | 4.6 (30)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.5 | 3.5 | 5.6 | 5.6 (36)

GOALS:

Tasmania: G. Clark 2, K. Hennessy, M. Edwards
Oakleigh: H. Kenealy 3, C. Rowbottom, J. Rigoni

DC BEST:

Tasmania: C. Ransom, P. King, M. Gaffney, J. Blair, G. Clarke, E. Maurer
Oakleigh: C. Rowbottom, H. Kenealy, M. Clift, A. Ling, B. Vickers, S. Reid

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
4 – Perri King (Tasmania Devils)
3 – Holly Kenealy (Oakleigh Chargers)
2 – Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)
1 – Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels vs. Dandenong Stingrays

By: Declan Reeve

The Dandenong Stingrays made their intentions clear to the rest of the competition with a comprehensive 10-goal win against the GWV Rebels at MARS Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Rebels managed to keep it close to quarter time, but the Stingrays ran away with it after that, kicking 11 goals straight to the Rebels’ 1.2 for the remainder of the game, in an impressive display of accuracy.

Dandenong 2022-eligible draft prospects Emily Shepherd and Mackenzie Eardley were superb in the victory, having a massive impact around the ground and showing why they are two to watch for the future. Jemma Radford and Ashleigh Richards were the focal points in attack for Dandenong, kicking three goals each. The Rebels would be pleased with the efforts of Chloe Leonard and Nyakoat Dojiok out of the backline, who did all they could to repel Dandenong’s constant attacks. 

Dandenong’s next game will be a top four clash against the Oakleigh Chargers on Friday night at Bluescope Recreation Reserve, whilst the Rebels will come up against Bendigo Pioneers on Wednesday March 10 at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve.

GWV REBELS 1.0 | 2.2 | 2.2 | 2.2 (14)
DANDENONG STINGRAYS 1.2 | 4.2 | 8.2 | 12.2 (74)

GOALS:

GWV: P. Kissel, E. Friend
Dandenong: A. Richards 3, J. Radford 3, M. Eardley 2, J. Hillas 2, A. Jordan, A. Clarke

DC BEST:

GWV: Leonard, Dijiok, Scott, Condon, Meier
Dandenong: Shepherd, Eardley, Radford, Clarke, Richards

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)
4 – Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)
3 – Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)
2 – Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays) 
1 – Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pressure and development key for Devils in 2021

TASMANIA Devils have a key focus for the 2021 season and that is to be a team that is renowned for their pressure and intensity according to coach and talent manager Cameron Joyce. After only managing to play two games last season prior to the NAB League Girls cancellation the Devils are raring to go and have a real buzz about them.

“We certainly want to be a respected team in the competition. We certainly want to be a team that will go forward with the ball and be able to hit the scoreboard. But at the same time probably a hallmark of our game will probably be our pressure, and the way we are able to apply layers of pressure to the opposition,” Joyce said.

With the season opener around the corner, Joyce highlighted the overall level of enthusiasm amongst the group as they prepare for Round 1 on Saturday and the season as a whole.

“Yeah they’ve been super excited wanting to learn and wanting to improve and we’ve had a really good preseason and yeah just looking forward to getting into it,” he said.

“It’s been a long wait, for staff and players included in terms of the NAB League that you know there was only two games last year for the girls. It’s been a long wait and then you know obviously training in the lead up to it, but I think everyone just wants to get out there,” he said. “Hopefully we’ve done enough work to be able to produce some good football and the girls can play it, the way we want to play but everyone’s just looking forward to playing the game of footy.”

Although pre-season training was hindered due to the COVID-19 protocols – albeit not as tight as Victoria – the Devils still found a way to keep their spirits high and engage in some form of training to iron out any kinks in the armour.

“Yeah, they certainly had a little break off the back of their season at the end of last year,” Joyce said. “We probably had a good month before Christmas and then they had three weeks off and then we’ve been able to build up over the last three or four weeks.”

One of the most promising signs was the Devils ability to get out on the park and enjoy an intraclub match to test out the combinations across the ground and really solidify the unit heading into the opening round of action.

“We had a hitout out on the weekend, which was great and we had an intraclub the week before so we feel like we’re ready to go against opposition and just see where we’re at,” Joyce said.

Tasmania has an “extensive leadership group of eight players” this season showcasing the number of talented players coming through the ranks at the club with the Devils announcing their captain and vice captains in Olivia Smith, Jemma Webster and Jemma Blair respectively.

“We’ve got Jemma Webster, and Jemma Blair both our vice captain’s, Jemma Webster in the midfield, and Jemma Blair across half-back both had good preseasons and Olivia Smith our captain on the wing. “She runs all day and keeps getting the footy so she’s been going well.”

Highlighting pressure as a key focal point for the upcoming season Joyce also expressed his pleasure with the midfield highlighting the depth of the squad and most importantly touted the notion of continued development throughout the Devils unit.

“Our midfield has been has been pretty strong, which is been good so we’re certainly hoping for that just continuous improvement from those players,” Joyce said.

With a number of exciting prospects set to take the field, one name in particular that is gearing up for a big season is Perri King with the AFL Women’s Academy member a lynchpin for the side.

“She’ll (Perri King) probably play predominantly in the midfield this year, but she’ll also spend some time forward as well seeing because she is quite good above the head, in terms of marking ability and we hope she’s going to be able to hit the scoreboard as well when she’s down there, so yeah I think mainly those two roles, for Perri at this stage,” Joyce said.

Ella Maurer is another one that has been performing really well. “She’s another midfielder, she gets a lot of the ball, she’s also been a goal kicker in our games, thus far. “We’re hoping for big, big things from Ella.”

“We’ve got quite an even spread of players that are performing well. “We’ve got a couple of 20-year-old’s that have come back as overagers in Camilla Taylor and Priscila Odwogo. One is playing at one end, Camila’s playing forward at the moment and Priscilla is playing back and both of them are playing good football at the moment.”

The list of players to watch did not stop there with Joyce highlighting the likes of Amy Prokopiec, Charlie Vandenberg and Claire Ransom as some faces to look out for in the upcoming season given their skillset and ability to run all day.

Despite being in another state, travel does not seem to faze Tasmania who are more than up to the challenge given the number of players that travel from all parts of the state in order to play at the top level.

“To be honest, it takes longer in the car to drive to some of those places than it does to fly to Melbourne,” Joyce said. “It is fair to say that the 50-minute plane ride isn’t going to be too much of an issue for the girls and the staff.”

The Devils kickstart their season against Gippsland Power at Highgate Recreation Reserve from 12.30pm.

Basketballer Viney has team-first mindset

AFTER injuring herself at the start of her middle-age year, dual-sport athlete India Viney is hoping for a clean run. Not only is she hoping to have some luck in 2021, but put her best foot forward to help the Tasmania Devils pick up a few more wins than in their maiden season, regardless of the on-field role she plays.

“I’ve been playing football for three seasons now and absolutely loving it,” Viney said. “I came from basketball in the state development program and then one of the girls, Jemma Blair who’s here today actually said ‘come along let’s have a bit of a game in juniors’ and I ended up sticking it out and I’m absolutely loving it.”

Having been more than capable to play either sport, there was an intrinsic pull to the oblong-shaped ball game and Viney said the “culture” was something special amongst women’s football.

“Definitely the culture and all the girls getting around each other as it’s a fairly new sport for women, and it’s quite empowering and makes you feel very confident about yourself,” Viney said of what made her fall in love with the sport.

Her long-term goal is to “play at the highest level that I can as an individual” and said former Tasmania Devils’ star and now North Melbourne AFL Women’s midfielder, Mia King was a key inspiration through her journey.

“She (King) is one of my good friends from home, so we went to the same school, had a mutual friend and became close friends, did a few things together,” Viney said.

Being a smaller player, Viney enjoys applying pressure to the ball carrier and is willing to do whatever it takes to get her team across the line through second and third efforts.

“(My strengths are) definitely heat around the ball and I love playing that defensive role and really going all out and trying to nail down that target and just make sure that our team has possession,” Viney said. “And always just doing that density thing we do with Tassie Devils, so it’s great.”

As for her improvements, it was all about getting a clean run and then taking it one step at a time to chase the ultimate goal of following in King’s footsteps to make it to the AFL Women’s competition.

“Definitely not injuring myself at the start of the season, and just really focusing on trying to get a game and sticking out in the squad and trying in future, I’d love to play at the highest level because I love the competition that the game brings,” Viney said.

While individual aspirations are one thing, Viney’s main focus was having some success with the Devils this year in the NAB League Girls, even if she not in the team.

“I’d love the team to win, just Devils doesn’t matter if I’m playing or not,” Viney said. “Just see them get up there in the finals and come from last season as the underdogs and just really rule the competition so that would be great.”

Tasmania Devils open their season against Gippsland Power at Highgate Recreation Reserve on Saturday, February 6.