Tag: Jemma Finning

Ones to Watch: AFLW Draft – Victorian top-age talents

IN the next edition of our Ones to Watch series, we take a look at those players from Victoria who for one reason or another missed out on being picked up in last year’s draft despite being eligible. We name 10 players as Ones to Watch who have stepped up in 2021 to put their best foot forward through both NAB League Girls and Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competitions.

>> DRAFT SURPRISE PACKETS
>> NON-AFLW U19S VFLW PERFORMERS
>> SANFLW MATURE-AGERS

Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights/Carlton VFLW)
22/08/2002 | 167cm
Inside Midfielder/Defender

After having a solid start to the 2020 season, Chaplin has built on her performances in past years to become a dominant inside midfielder. Stronger than most opponents, Chaplin not only won plenty of contested ball and clearances, but was able to hit the scoreboard on occasions too. She finished the NAB League Girls season averaging 17.3 disposals, 5.0 tackles and 3.0 inside 50s, providing plenty of drive going forward, but also showing she can play off half-back too, something she has done in the past.

Zoe Garth (Geelong Falcons/Williamstown)
04/04/2002 | 168cm
Medium Forward

Playing nine games for Geelong Falcons, a couple for Williamstown and squeezing her way into the Vic Country team for the state’s final AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships match against Queensland, Garth has tested herself against plenty of different opponents. Whilst not a natural high possession winner, Garth is a fierce tackler who plays as a high half-forward and someone who is able to play a role in the forward half. Averaging 8.8 disposals and 6.1 tackles per game for the Falcons, the 168cm talent brings the heat when out on the field.

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

The only player on the list not to play in the NAB League Girls competition this year, Hards has not missed a match all season for the Western Bulldogs in the VFL Women’s competition. One of only two players to achieve the feat for the red, white and blue, Hards has been utilised in all three areas of the ground, but has been most damaging off half-back and pushing into her familiar role on the inside midfield. Her athleticism and footy smarts are what stand out on the footy field, and the ex-Bendigo Pioneers captain has been building confidence as the season has progressed.

Abbey Jordan (Dandenong Stingrays/Southern Saints)
08/09/2002 | 168cm
Balanced Midfielder

After plying her trade as a wing and outside runner in her first draft-eligible year, Jordan honed in on her inside craft this season, to earn a spot on Vic Country’s list and play every AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships match. She has also been able to play a couple of games for the Southern Saints in the VFL Women’s competition, showing she can step up to the more senior level. A lot of her good work comes from her remarkable work rate, where she covers the ground like few others, and along with her speed and natural leadership, stands out across the ground.

Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels/Geelong VFLW)
01/02/2002 | 168cm
Defender/Midfielder

The consistent Rebels ball magnet has hardly put a foot wrong in the 2021 season, also choosing to represent Geelong in the VFL Women’s, and made her debut against the Southern Saints. Able to win the footy across those competitions as well as the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, Leonard laid a massive 7.1 tackles per game across nine matches in the NAB League Girls, as well as 19.4 disposals, 2.4 marks and 4.0 rebound 50s, playing between defence and midfield, often mopping up and clearing the ball from danger. An ultra-consistent player where you know exactly what you are going to get each match.

Grace McRae (Gippsland Power/Hawthorn VFLW)
15/07/2002 | 166cm
Inside Midfielder

Another consistent player who toiled away in a side that did not have a lot of luck in Gippsland Power, but it did not stop McRae putting in regular four-quarter performances. One of Vic Country’s better players across the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, McRae has developed into that consistent contested ball-winner, backing up the glimpses she showed in 2020 to average 16.6 disposals and 7.0 tackles at NAB League Girls level, then picking up 21 disposals in a game for Hawthorn VFL Women’s, for a three game average of 12.7 disposals and 7.0 tackles. A tackling machine.

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

After missing out on being drafted last year, Meagher went back to the Ranges where she played three games before stepping up to represent Collingwood at VFL Women’s level. There she became a consistent performer, even earning a place in the Anzac Day winning side, and averaging 14.5 disposals per game across six matches. She put up numbers of 18.7 disposals, 4.7 inside 50s and 5.3 tackles for the Ranges earlier in the season, and at 157cm is strong overhead. She has proven she can play inside or outside, and is a natural ball winner with defensive and team-orientated goals.

Taylah Morton (Oakleigh Chargers/Port Melbourne VFLW)
23/06/2002 | 158cm
Small Forward

The pocket rocket from the Chargers won a premiership at NAB League level, returning from injury just in time to play a role in Oakleigh’s assault on the flag. In 10 games, Morton predominantly played deep forward and was deployed as a small who could bring he pressure around the ball and create scoring opportunities. Though she did only kick the three goals, Morton was able to lock the ball in and force turnovers from the opposition, and has already played the three games for the Borough, where she has averaged a higher 12 disposals and four tackles in her time there.

Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers/Essendon VFLW)
14/03/2002 | 165cm
Inside Midfielder/Forward

Another tackling machine who has proven she can stand up at both junior and senior level, Snell had a really impressive 2021 year. She averaged 20 disposals, 3.5 marks and 8.8 tackles, which was made all the more impressive given she won a lot of her ball at the coal face, before spreading hard to the outside where she was able to provide separation from her opponents and pull down plenty of marks. Strong overhead, with elite athletic and defensive traits, Snell certainly did her draft chances no harm with her season, and managed to play a couple of games for Vic Country at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships too.

Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons/Geelong VFLW)
23/05/2002 | 166cm
Medium Forward

Tierney is a unique player in the sense that despite being smaller than most leading forwards, her strong hands and powerful one-on-one capacity make her more of a tall than a medium forward. She is able to create scoring chances out of nothing, and is a reliable set shot for goal, booting 11 majors in eight games at 1.4 per match for the Geelong Falcons. She also averaged the 13 disposals, three marks and two inside 50s, showing she can work up the ground and even pinch-hit in the midfield if required. Most dangerous close to goal, Tierney has also managed the two games for the Cats at VFL Women’s level this season, laying 4.5 tackles to go with 8.5 disposals and 3.0 marks per game.

OTHERS:

A number of other players who received AFLW Draft Combine invites last year who have gone on to play at one or both NAB League Girls and VFL Women’s level include key defender Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays/Southern Saints), Jemma Finning (Bendigo Pioneers/Essendon VFLW) and Amber Micallef (Carlton VFLW). Shanara Notman (Gippsland Power/Carlton VFLW) is a year older, but played at both levels this season.

2021 NAB League Girls team review: Bendigo Pioneers

NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series, the Bendigo Pioneers had an opening round win before going down in seven straight losses, though not without plenty of competitive efforts.

Wins: 1
Losses: 7
Position: 12th

SEASON SUMMARY:

Bendigo Pioneers started the season with a bang, defeating Murray Bushrangers to open their 2021 NAB League Girls account. From there, they suffered seven straight losses to close out the season, but had a number of chances including against finalists, Calder Cannons (lost by nine points) and Dandenong Stingrays (one), and the heartbreaking one-point loss to the previously winless Gippsland Power late in the season. The Pioneers had an incredible amount of youth at both an Under 17s and Under 16s level to give them plenty of experience for the coming years, while a number of their talented players represented Vic Country.

DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS:

Tara Slender

The Pioneers’ AFL Women’s Academy member had an up-and-down season due to concussion and injury, but still showed at her best she is not only one of the most talented players, but one of the most versatile as well. Capable of playing in defence, up forward or even through the midfield, Slender knows how to find the ball, can clunk marks and lay fierce tackles. With a high upside and plenty of room to slot into any role required of her, the Pioneers’ captain will be a highly sought-after talent ahead of the AFLW Draft.

Elizabeth Snell

Having come back as an over-ager, Snell put together a strong season through the midfield and up forward. She did only play the five NAB League Girls games due to Essendon VFL Women’s commitments, but she also impressed for Vic Country when getting the chance. Possessing some elite athletic traits and great defensive pressure, Snell is not afraid to step up to senior level in the VFLW and once the AFLW Under 19s Championships are over, expect her to return to the Bombers and be a key player in their strong midfield group.

Jemma Finning

Another over-ager who unfortunately missed games due to injury, Finning made it back to represent Vic Country, and then made her debut with Essendon a fortnight ago. Another one gunning for another chance for Country when they take on Queensland on the weekend, Finning is capable of playing in multiple roles, be it on the wing or half-back. She reads the ball well in flight and gets to the right spots, and lifted her ball-winning numbers early in the season.

FUTURE ONES TO WATCH:

Octavia Di Donato

A classy talent with great foot skills, Di Donato is a smaller version of Slender when looking at her versatility aspect. Di Donato can play back, forward or through the midfield and do them all well, having an impact for the Pioneers, and at AFLW Under 19s and Under 17s level. She reads the play well, has a penetrating kick and is clean at ground level, she is certainly the standout to watch for next season.

Tegan Williams

A reliable utility with some eye-catching traits, Williams can play at either end, but stood out in defence. She is strong overhead, good one-on-one and reads the ball in flight well, picking off high opposition kicks in. She can go forward and slot goals when required, which makes her a very handy utility and one who will be a tall to keep an eye on in 2022.

Lila Keck

Unlike the other two, is a couple of seasons off from being draft-eligible, but was so noticeable on the wing with her ability to get to the right spots, slide her way out of tackles, then apply plenty of defensive pressure herself. Still a raw talent who has areas to build on, Keck will only benefit from her season at Under 19s level, and expect her to be a key midfielder next season in her Under 17s year.

OTHERS:

Drew Ryan, Jayda Richardson and Scarlett Orritt were regular features for the Pioneers this season, as Keely Fullerton and Lily den Houting were also others who caught the eye. Injury derailed some of Maddy Marks‘ season, but the ruck still showed potential when out on the field.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 10

A HEAP of young prospects continue to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. As the NAB League season draws to an end, Round 10 saw plenty of young talent scattered across each state league side. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in or have recently graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 10

Hawthorn second-gamer Grace McRae was one of the more impressive current NAB Leaguers to ply their trade at senior level in Round 10, collecting 21 disposals and laying nine tackles in the Hawks’ win over Darebin. Eastern Ranges graduate Jenna Richardson was also solid with 10 touches, as Maddi Shaw and Chloe O’Malley also contributed in brown and gold. For Darebin, Calder Cannons tall Peppa Poultney turned out for her second game and managed nine hitouts.

A good number of Western Jets products continue to get a look-in for the Western Bulldogs, making an impact in their new side’s win over Carlton. Second-gamer Stephanie Asciak earned votes for her nine disposals, while Nikita Wright had 12 and took three marks, and Caitlin Sargent registered two behinds up forward. Former Bendigo Pioneers skipper Brooke Hards continues to be a mainstay in red, white and blue, as Marnie Jarvis enjoys an extended run for Carlton.

Geelong’s winning streak rolled on with a sixth-straight triumph on Saturday, this time over Essendon. The likes of Paige Sheppard (18 disposals, four marks) and Tamara Smith (16 disposals, 10 tackles) again made an impression among a host of AFLW-listed talent. For Essendon, Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba each managed 15 touches, with the latter also booting a goal. Bendigo Pioneers top-ager Jemma Finning also made her debut in the sash with five disposals and five tackles.

Despite going down in an upset loss to Southern Saints, Port Melbourne managed to field some promising youngsters on Saturday. Dandenong Stingrays pair Jaide Anthony (10 disposals, four marks) and Ash Richards (one goal) made their debuts, playing against NAB League teammate Jemma Radford. Emily Harley was named best afield for the Borough as one of a few former NAB Leaguers in this game to have also been drafted. Meanwhile, Gabby De Angelis impressed for the Saints with 15 disposals, four marks, and five tackles.

In Collingwood’s big win over North Melbourne, tall utility Neve O’Connor took on some added ruck duties to finish with a game-high 23 hitouts, far and away her best return in that department for 2021. North was served well by Ciara Fitzgerald (13 disposals, three marks), as Jayde Hamilton earned consecutive appearances, and Tasmanian Camilla Taylor made her return.

Casey was served well by a couple of young talls in Bridie Winbanks (30 hitouts) and debutant Grace Matser (16), while the latter named among her side’s best players. Emma Horne also got her hands dirty for the Demons with six tackles, while Ruby Tripodi was among Williamstown’s better performers as a bunch of GWS-listed talent hit the state league.

2021 VFLW Round 10 preview: Pride on the line in more ways than one for huge round of action

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Pride Round kicks off in a Super Saturday stretching from the mid-morning to a game under lights, with plenty on the line and a number of virtual elimination finals or finals tuneups.

HAWTHORN vs. DAREBIN
Saturday, May 8 @ 10:00am
Box Hill City Oval

Opening the round is a must-win clash for Hawthorn hosting the last placed Darebin Falcons. If the Hawks get up, they are still a chance for finals, but a loss will all but put a line through their chances. For the Falcons, finals is a bit beyond them, but they will be hoping to double their wins tally with a victory here, and finish strongly in the last five rounds. Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae made her debut in the brown and gold last week, and another young talent will join her this week with Ashanti Bush cracking through to team up with fellow Darwin Buffettes prospect Dominique Carbone. The AFL Women’s Academy member will start on the bench, whilst Calder Cannons’ Peppa Poultney is back in the team after her side was eliminated from the NAB League Girls competition, and ex-Pioneer Katelyn Hazlett back for her second game after a strong debut. Given the AFL Women’s experience that keeps building at the Hawks, the latest is Geelong Cats’ Phoebe McWilliams who teams up with fellow experienced tall Meg Hutchins in attack. The Hawks have plenty of present and former AFLW talents, so expect they will be too strong in this one.

WESTERN BULLDOGS vs. CARLTON
Saturday, May 8 @ 12:00pm
Whitten Oval

A virtual elimination final takes place at midday on Saturday, with the loser of Western Bulldogs and Carlton effectively putting a line through their finals hopes. For the winner, they live to fight another day, which means there is plenty on the line for the teams. The Western Bulldogs have brought back Jess Fitzgerald to the team, with Kirsten McLeod and Naomi Ferres coming in for their first games of the season. Brisbane Lions’ Beth Pinchin is an interesting inclusion for the Dogs at centre half-back, while Western Jets’ Caitlin Sargent, Nikita Wright and Stephanie Asciak all remain in the side. For the Blues, they have kept fairly consistent wiht their lineups, getting games into Charlotte Hammans, Maddy Guerin and Serena Gibbs. Abbie McKay, Grace Egan and Daisy Walker all return for their second games back at the level, and Natalie Plane for her first, in what is a tough game on the road. The Dogs have that bit more class about them, but it will be whether or not they can win the midfield in what looks like a star-studded group on both sides.

GEELONG vs. ESSENDON
Saturday, May 8 @ 1:00pm
Deakin University Waurn Ponds

Two teams headed for finals will clash in a blockbuster VFLW match at Deakin University. Geelong have been strong down there, and with Stephanie Williams, Sophie Van De Heuvel, Rebecca Webster and Richelle Cranston all in the side, there is enough AFLW talent to lead by experience. Carly Remmos remains but Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner are out of the side after suffering repeated leather poisoning each week. They take on an Essendon side that is building very nicely, bringing in Bendigo Pioneers’ Jemma Finning for her debut this week, switching in for another Pioneer in Elizabeth Snell. The Calder Cannons talents feature all through the emergencies with talls Kasey Lennox and Neve Crowley likely to come in the following week, while Mia-Rae Clifford and Georgia Nanscawen represent AFL Women’s experience. The defence is solid for the Bombers, as Eloise Gardner and Courtney Ugle will provide some run and carry, while Ruby Svarc is a natural ball-winner and will provide good defensive pressure inside 50. At home Geelong has the upper hand, though the Bombers are a chance in this one.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, May 8 @ 2:00pm
Arden Street

In the traditional timeslot on Saturday afternoon, North Melbourne host Collingwood in a must-win clash for the Roos. The Magpies are cruising along nicely at 9-0 and unless the wheels completely fall off, a top two spot – and likely minor premiership beckons. The Magpies have brought in Mikala Cann for her first VFLW game of the season, giving the Pies mostly an AFLW spine including Sophie Alexander, Abbi Moloney and Maddie Shevlin, whilst Jasmine Ferguson has been one of the most reliable defenders in the competition. Add in the dangerous Matilda Zander up forward and the ball-winning Marla Neal in midfield, and the Magpies have plenty of top VFLW talents as well. For North Melbourne, they remain determined to keep a fairly consistent VFLW lineup, with Alexia Hamilton and Reni Hicks a couple of former AFLW players while Sarah Skinner and Meagan Kiely join them in the midfield as in-form talents. Camilla Taylor returns to the level after Tasmania Devils’ exit from the NAB League Girls competition, while Molly Eastman is another Roo in great form. They have had a real mixed bag this season, but are not without a chance the Roos, though the Pies are deservedly favourites for this clash.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Saturday, May 8 @ 2:00pm
ETU Stadium

Southern Saints can go a long way towards securing a finals spot with an upset win over top two side, Port Melbourne at ETU Stadium on Saturday. The Saints hold the precious sixth spot, and still will after this round given their far superior percentage to the chasing pack, but cannot afford to drop too many or the lower teams will pounce. Dandenong Stingrays co-captain Ash Richards and versatile runner Jaide Anthony both make their debuts at VFLW level, but unlike many of their teammates, they will be running out for the opposition side Port Melbourne. They are joined in the side by Maddy Brancatisano who returns to the level for the first time this season, with a host of current and past AFLW talent, including Katherine Smith, Sophie Molan and Emily Harley who stood up last week with four goals. Zoe Hill has been named as an emergency for the Saints, with Jemma Radford retaining her spot in the back pocket for some Dandenong Stingrays flavour, and the AFLW talent led by Alice Burke, Tahlia Meyer and Renee Saulitis. Port Melbourne have more depth in the side and should win, with the Saints needing to make the most of their chances if they are to get up.

WILIAMSTOWN vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, May 8 @ 7:00pm
Downer Oval

Playing a special Saturday night game under lights for the Pride Round under lights at Downer Oval, Williamstown will be hoping to cause a boilover agains a strong Casey Demons side that is gearing up for finals. The Seagulls need to win the remainder of their games to qualify for finals just about, and have been able to welcome Gold Coast Suns’ Bess Keaney to the lineup. She will lineup in the back pocket, with Georgia Garnett also coming into the defence for her debut in the VFLW following the announcement that Williamstown had formed a link with the GWS GIANTS. Lisa Steane has also been named in the side, with Ella Baxter, Aimee Whelan and Ruby Tripodi among the in-form players. Casey Demons have a damaging forward line with Maddison Gay, Alyssa Bannan and Imogen Milford one of the strong forward trios going around. Libby Birch in defence, Eden Zanker and Megan Fitzsimon in midfield, and the newest debutant Grace Matser – a Gippsland Power ruck – will all provide plenty of talent and depth around the ground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Round 9

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

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

CALDER CANNONS vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis 

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

TOP PERFORMERS:

Calder Cannons:

#3 Emelia Yassir

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

#34 Tahlia Read 

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

#39 Abbey McDonald 

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

Geelong Falcons:

#4 Poppy Schaap 

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

#11 Tess Craven 

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

#23 Elizabeth Dowling 

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

#26 Ingrid Houtsma

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

OTHERS:

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

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Dandenong Stingrays:

#10 Abbey Jordan

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

#11 Emily Shepherd

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

#12 Alisha Liddle

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

#34 Ash Richards

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

#38 Felicity Crank

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

Northern Knights:

#1 Phoebe Nelson

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

#7 Teleah Smart

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

#9 Maeve Chaplin

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

#36 Ava Jordan

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

#37 Rylie Wilcox

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

#40 Tannah Hurst

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

OTHERS:

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

GWV REBELS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

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

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

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

#11 Perri King (Tasmania)

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

TOP PERFORMERS:

GWV Rebels:

#1 Lili Condon 

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

#2 Tahlia Meier

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

#27 Molly Walton 

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

Tasmania Devils:

#7 Meghan Gaffney

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

#9 Claire Ransom

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

#13 Olivia Smith

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

#15 Jemma Webster 

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

#33 Shania Saward 

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

OTHERS:

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

EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Eastern Ranges:

#4 Keeley Sherar

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

#5 Jorja Livingstone

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

#9 Mia Busch

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

#16 Isabelle Khoury

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

#18 Bridget Deed

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

#21 Ruby O’Dwyer

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

#44 Georgia Campbell

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

Northern Territory:

#2 Djimila Totham

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

#11 Grace Mulvahil

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

#25 Bella Clarke

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

#28 Kasey Marsden

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

OTHERS:

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

WESTERN JETS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

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

TOP PERFORMERS:

Western Jets:

#1 Charlotte Baskaran

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

#27 Caitlin Sargent

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

#38 Montana Ham

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

#41 Ciara Singleton

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

#42 Jemima Woods

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

Bendigo Pioneers:

#15 Drew Ryan

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

#18 Jemma Finning

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

#30 Octavia Di Donato

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

OTHERS:

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

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

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

TOP PERFORMERS:

Oakleigh Chargers:

#9 Brooke Vickers 

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

#14 Eliza James

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

#15 Ameile Smith

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

#23 Caitlin Matthews 

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

#29 Amanda Ling 

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

#33 Jasmine Fleming 

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

#34 Lily Hart

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

Gippsland Power:

#9 Taylah Bourne

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

#26 Grace McRae

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

OTHERS:

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

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

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

Murray Bushrangers:

#1 Olivia Cicolini

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

#2 Aurora Smith

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

#17 Keeley Skepper

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

#25 Sophia McCarthy

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

Sandringham Dragons:

#10 Bridie Hipwell

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

#17 J’Noemi Anderson

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

#19 Ella Sciberras

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

#30 Pia Staltari

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

#37 Ebony Angelopoulos

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

OTHERS:

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

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

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

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

By: Declan Reeve

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

DC MEDAL VOTES:

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

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

By: Michael Alvaro

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

DC MEDAL VOTES:

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

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

By: Declan Reeve

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

DC MEDAL VOTES:

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

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

By: Peter Williams

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

DC MEDAL VOTES:

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

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

By: Michael Alvaro

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

DC MEDAL VOTES:

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

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

By: Declan Reeve

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

DC MEDAL VOTES:

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

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

By: Peter Williams

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

DC MEDAL VOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 AFLW U19 Championships: Six top-agers to watch

THE AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships has got underway with Vic Country and South Australia victorious over Vic Metro and Western Australia respectively in the past fortnight, but now the full week of matches – two match days – takes place in Melbourne. As an additional preview for the tournament, we take a look at a top-ager to keep an eye on from each side. Top-agers are 19-year-old – or turning 19-year-old – prospects who for one reason or another missed out on being drafted last year, and have returned to the junior pathways for another crack at standing out and representing their state.

ALLIES: Jayde Hamilton (North Melbourne VFLW)

The NSW-ACT hard nut received a Draft Combine invitation last year and showed in her bottom-age year at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships that she was not afraid to crack in and win the contested ball. Fast forward to 2021, and whilst she missed out on gaining a place on an AFL Women’s list, she has joined her sister Lexi – ex-Gold Coast Suns tall – at North Melbourne in the VFL Women’s. As someone who is good on the inside around the clearances, she will no doubt crack in once again for the Allies.

“I’m very competitive, so I always want to win which is probably bad and good,” Hamilton told Draft Central last year. “But it’s having fun, I think that’s still the main part of enjoying it and every moment on the field.”

 

QUEENSLAND: Keyshia Matenga (Coolangatta Tweed)

The speedy over-age talent is one of a number of Queensland players who have garnered attention over the past 18 months, providing great run and carry throughout the QAFL Women’s competition. A member of grand finalists Coolangatta Tweed last season, Matenga is a player who has the perfect balance of power and speed having come from a touch football and Rugby Sevens background, as well as karate and swimming as a youngster.

“I feel like my speed is more better in that area instead of in the midfield where the ball will just be hit down and I’m quite small as well so I can just be wrapped up,” Matenga said to Draft Central last year. “(I want to work on) just hitting targets more and scooping up the ball through the offensive play or transition play, or transitioning from defence to offence.”

 

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Jade Halfpenny (Norwood)

South Australia has a ridiculous amount of top-age talent given it just feeds the one club in its state, and the talent overflows into other states for the elite level. Jade Halfpenny is one of a number of talents this season who have gone to another level, adding an inside midfield string to her bow, with the athleticism and contested marking ability she has as a 175cm tall forward. Throw in her remarkable speed and second efforts with her fierce tackling, and she has quite the package that will likely standout at the championships.

“I never thought I’d be able to do what I’ve already done and so if this was as far as I got then I would be happy with that,” Halfpenny told Draft Central. “But to get the furthest I can and maybe if I can have a shot at AFLW would be a dream, but at the end of the day I’m happy with what I’ve done and if that’s as far as I get, then that’s as far as I get.”

 

VIC COUNTRY: Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)

The Bendigo Pioneers midfielder/forward has been one of the most consistent players across the NAB League Girls competition, and has some elite traits that standout at any level. Whilst still working on some areas of her game, Snell’s athleticism – in particular her burst speed and agility – sets her aside from most other midfielders, whilst also having great goal sense when inside 50. She might be a future pressure forward who can roll through the midfield in future years, but Snell is someone who has progressed to be a very important player for both the Pioneers and Vic Country.

“We’ve got two girls from Bendigo who have been training with us quite a lot as well, Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning, they’re both 19th-year players with Bendigo,” Essendon VFLW operations manager Charlotte Miller told Draft Central during preseason. “They’re playing in the NAB League season but we’re going to try and get them in games down here as soon as we can. “They’ve been training really well, their attitude is great and they’re bringing everything they can to the sessions.”

 

VIC METRO: Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

A dominant inside midfielder, Chaplin is just a natural ball-winner who can take control on the inside for her side, and also hit the scoreboard. On multiple occasions this season, Chaplin was able to just step up when she was required to do so, and whilst she has copped a couple of knocks this year, has the potential to add to the Vic Metro midfield. A player who will have no issues whatsoever stepping up to the VFL Women’s competition, Chaplin has been outstanding for the Knights and a real driving force at the coalface.

“I definitely tried to use (the lockdown period) to my advantage and I really worked on myself mentally,” Chaplin told Draft Central last year. “It was a big thing for me because I didn’t really have the time like I do now to just focus on myself. “It was a time for me to understand that I really do want to get far in footy and that I am prepared to play at a professional level. “In order to do that I really wanted to mature in those areas.”

 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Dana East (Swan Districts)

Of everyone on this list, East stands alone in the sense that 12 months ago she was not playing at the same state level as many of her contemporaries. The now-Swan Districts standout midfielder was dominating for Donnybrook Football Club in the South West Football League. She has since moved due to further studies, and took up the chance to play at Swan Districts, and has starred at the WAFL Women’s level for the unbeaten Swans. Throughout multiple games this season, East has been clean by hand and smooth-moving through the midfield, able to hit the scoreboard as well.

West Australian Female Talent Manager Clint Degebrodt commented throughout a Swans’ game earlier in the season that East worked so hard during the off-season that the State Academy coaches could barely hold her back, and it is showing in her performances this season.

2021 AFLW U19 Championships match preview: Vic Metro vs. Vic Country

THE all-Victorian battle at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships is not to be missed, with stars across all thirds of the ground and Metro going head to head with Country in a massive game at Trevor Barker Oval, Sandringham from midday tomorrow. Country has named its lineup for the Round 1 clash of the championships, whilst Vic Metro has listed its squad for the match, though the lineup provided here is predicted/potential.

LINEUPS:

VIC METRO:

B: Cadhla Schmidli – Kasey Lennox – Kiana Lynch
HB: Brooke Vickers – Tarrah Delgado – Pia Staltari
C: Maykaylah Appleby – Maeve Chaplin – Stella Reid
HF: Emelia Yassir – Neve Crowley – Keeley Sherar
FF: Eliza James – Tahlia Gillard – Montana Ham
R: Georgia Campbell – Charlie Rowbottom – Georgie Prespakis
INC:  Jorja Livingstone – Bridget Deed – Chloe Saultry – Charlotte Ryan – Zali Friswell – Amanda Ling

VIC COUNTRY:

B: Jaide Anthony – Mackenzie Eardley – Chloe Leonard
HB: Elizabeth Dowling – Nyakoat Dojiok – Annie Lee
C: Ella Friend – Grace McRae – Aurora Smith
HF: Amber Clarke – Tara Slender – Poppy Schaap
F: Gabbi Featherston – Renee Tierney – Tahlia Meier
R: Grace Matser – Tess Craven – Elizabeth Snell
INT: Jemma Finning – Ingrid Houtsma – Abbey Jordan – Ashleigh Richards – Paige Scott – Emily Shepherd

QUICK SUMMARY:

Looking across the line-ups, the sides have strengths in different areas, with Vic Metro’s midfield, and its size and key position talent among its strength, whilst Vic Country’s defence is its strongest line, but also its balance and even spread of players providing different roles. Metro has picked a team that has stars across multiple lines, whilst Country have the talent in there, but have also picked players that are unique in the way they can fill a role within a certain team, and very few players are too similar. The midfield battle will be crucial, whilst both sides have versatile players who can fill multiple positions.

 

FIVE KEY QUESTIONS:

Can the smaller Vic Country midfield match the bigger-bodied Metro side?

Both midfields are strong and talented, but it is clear straight away that Vic Metro has a midfield of taller, bigger-bodied players that will look to take advantage of the smaller Vic Country midfield. Tess Craven, Elizabeth Snell and Grace McRae have been named to start onball for Country and they will not take a backwards step up against the taller Charlie Rowbottom, Georgie Prespakis and Maeve Chaplin. The bigger bodies inside will help Metro around the contest in getting it out, so the smaller Country mids will have to use their extra few quick steps – particularly Snell – in extracting the ball from the contest.

How will all the Vic Metro midfielders fit in the side?

The Metro midfield is so deep, they have around 15 players who would call the midfield their preferred position. The question mark will come over how they fit them all in, and some have been learning other roles over the past month or so in order to impact the contest. Kiana Lynch and Chloe Saultry have been holding firm in defence for the Dragons, with the likes of Keeley Sherar and Emelia Yassir both capable of starting forward and hitting the scoreboard. One would expect the sole bottom-ager in Montana Ham to play forward and be a marking target, whilst Pia Staltari, Stella Reid and Brooke Vickers have been playing off flanks throughout the year in between pinch-hitting in the midfield from game-to-game. One thing is for sure, midfield rotations will not be a problem for Metro.

Can Grace Matser work over the Vic Metro tag team through the ruck?

The hard-working and endurance-based ruck of Grace Matser will have her work cut out for her in this game, being the only pure ruck in the team for Vic Country. The Gippsland Power player can run all day, and she will need to, up against the equally mobile Georgia Campbell and Tahlia Gillard who will get breathers forward when the other is rucking. Even outside those two the Metro side has talls that can jump in, while for Country, they are a shorter side, and might just get the likes of Mackenzie Eardley and Renee Tierney up opposite ends to help give Matser a chop out and save her running. Either way, a big game awaits for the ruck.

Where are the key strengths in each side?

Whilst neither side has a “weak” line, the strongest third for Country is its defence, whilst Metro’s strength is in its midfield. Metro’s four AFL Women’s Academy members in Georgie Prespakis, Charlie Rowbottom, Maykaylah Appleby and Gillard could lineup as a midfield group with the two inside ball-winners, outside runner and ruck. They will likely have first hands to it given their aforementioned strength and size in there, whilst Country will be well set up behind the play to prepare for inside 50s. The metro forward line has some quality talls, as well as midfielders who will play the role of forwards, which will give the Country defence – of whom all have good footy IQ – an advantage. They need to bring the ball to ground, but are equally comfortable in intercepting in the air, particularly Elizabeth Dowling, Annie Lee and Nyakoat Dojiok.

How can each team exploit the other?

Vic Country can use its well balanced lineup to keep it simple and each player play their role they are used to at NAB League Girls level. Looking at the side named, there is no-one in the team out of position from where they have been playing, which immediately means there is little to learn. Some might play a little deeper than they have been, but it is easily adaptable, and the players are versatile. With every forward a different type of player, the Country forward line is so well balanced and impressive. Metro can try and take control to exploit the smaller Country team, and with longer boots on them, Metro can put pressure on the famed Country defence, and really aim to put the ball into the danger zone regularly.

 

FIVE KEY MATCHUPS:

Grace Matser (Country) vs. Georgia Campbell & Tahlia Gillard (Metro)

As previously mentioned, this matchup could be a massive one, with Matser the sole number one ruck in the side, and will no doubt be ready for a great challenge on the day. Both Campbell and Gillard move well around the ground and are not afraid to take a bounce before distributing, and then go deep forward and provide a marking target. First hands will be crucial in the midfield, so the winning ruck can try and aid their midfields with clean hands.

Maykaylah Appleby/Stella Reid/Jorja Livingstone (Metro) vs. Ella Friend/Aurora Smith/Ingrid Houtsma (Country)

The need for speed and class on the outside is crucial, and both these teams have some talented players likely to roll out on the wing. Appleby is the Academy member who has the experience in big games, while Reid has been in ripping form, capable of playing anywhere. Livingstone is another wing who has that touch of class in moving the ball in transition, whilst the height of Friend and Houtsma – as well as the versatility – and the speed and ball-winning nous of Smith, will make it a couple of matchups to watch.

Georgie Prespakis/Charlie Rowbottom/Maeve Chaplin (Metro) vs. Tess Craven/Elizabeth Snell/Grace McRae (Country)

The smallest Metro midfielder is the same height as the tallest Country midfielder, which shows a bit of a size differential in there. Whilst Rowbottom is 10cm taller than any of the others, each of the players are likely to have an advantage in size over their respective opponents. A total 18cm different in favour of the Metro side is impressive, but it is also the strength in there which will look to win the ball in contested situations. McRae, Craven and Snell are all renowned tacklers and quick with ball-in-hand to exit stoppages, which is where they have the advantage. Prespakis, Rowbottom and Chaplin can all roost the ball and can back their talls inside 50 if they bomb it from a stoppage.

Tara Slender (Country) vs. Tarrah Delgado (Metro)

It might not be the matchup Metro send to Country’s top prospect, but Delgado is the most reliable in the air one-on-one, and is the only tall in the Metro defence who could go with Slender no matter where she goes. The Northern Knights tall has played in defence, attack and through the midfield, so it would be less rotations for Delgado to just try and nullify the well-balanced Slender, whilst the Bendigo Pioneers tall will no doubt play a number of roles on the day, and be tough to stop in the air or at ground level, but Delgado is the most suitable matchup.

Amber Clarke (Country) vs. Pia Staltari/Kiana Lynch/Zali Friswell (Metro)

One of the danger players across the ground is the speedster in Clarke who opens up the space behind herself so well to run into open goals and hit the scoreboard regularly. It will be tough to find a matchup for speed, with Staltari and Lynch likely to be rolling through the back half of the ground. In terms of athletic traits, perhaps the regular midfielder Friswell is the closest in terms of speed, finishing 10th in the preseason 20m sprint, to try and combat Clarke’s clear top billed ranking what was 0.6 seconds quicker than anyone else.

 

OVERALL:

The match is set to be a cracker, with both sides littered with talent and among the top teams in the championships as they are each year. Last time they faced off back in 2019, Vic Metro got the job done, so Country will be hungry to reverse the result here. The Country side has enough balance across the board to really worry Metro, whilst Metro has the top-end talent, particularly in the midfield and key position to stretch the Country side, making for an absolute beauty of a contest.