Tag: Jemma Finning

NAB League Girls Round 2a & 5 preview: Footy feast sees six games across seven days

IN a very different footballing landscape, change has become something that everyone has had to deal with in one way or another, and in 2021, the NAB League Girls competition has managed to find a way to make up for lost time. The Round 2 fixtures which were cancelled due to Victoria’s snap lockdown will be played over a few weeks, in midweek fixtures, including three of the six matches over the next six days. These three matches will coincide with the three regular Round 5 matches which were scheduled to take place anyway, meaning fans will be able to attend all six games across six different days.

CALDER CANNONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Thursday, March 4 @ 7pm
RAMS Arena, Craigieburn

Kicking off the long weekend is the first of the Round 2 rescheduled fixtures with Calder Cannons hosting Northern Knights at prime time on a Thursday night. It is arguably not what the grand final rematch of 2019 was expected to be, but the teams will be able to strut their stuff in the first night game of the season. Daylight savings help the players with light for most of the match, though expect both these teams to have to adapt to the conditions – much like the ever-changing fixture. Both these sides come in with 2-1 records, having both lost to Oakleigh Chargers, whilst both have also accounted for Sandringham Dragons. On the weekend, Calder scraped across the line in a thrilling comeback against Bendigo Pioneers, whilst Northern put Gippsland Power to the sword in Morwell East.

After their respective Round 1 matches, coming into the initial Round 2 fixtures, it was seeming like Calder Cannons were red-hot favourites for the grand final rematch. Having just taken care of Sandringham Dragons while the Knights were blitzed by Oakleigh, it was no better time for the 2019 runners-up to strike. A week – let alone two – is a long time in football, with a stirring final term from the Cannons up at Epsom Huntly saving them from back-to-back losses since that Round 1 win. The Knights on the other hand booted three goals in six minutes against the Dragons in the opening term of their Round 3 encounter, and have not stopped kicking them since, winning both their games by large margins. Megan Girolami is the in-form player of the competition, booting nine goals from her two games and seems to be the lucky charm the Knights needed since the Round 1 defeat.

The Cannons defence is well-balanced across the board, with Kasey Lennox the rock at the back, and Peppa Poultney and Neve Crowley both capable of dropping back and helping out, while Tahlia Gillard can play at either end. It will need to be a team effort to try and contain the Knights’ forward line which includes the likes of Trinity Mills (three goals on the weekend) and Ella Smallacombe, who have become leading targets inside 50. Maeve Chaplin copped a knock early in the win against Gippsland Power and sat out the entire second half as a precaution, but has been named to face the Cannons. She is crucial in there to face the likes of Georgie Prespakis and Emelia Yassir who win plenty of the ball in close. Maykaylah Appleby returns to the side in a crucial inclusion for the Knights to provide some extra run, whilst for the Cannons, Zali Friswell will join Gillard, Prespakis and Yassir in the middle to form a deadly onball combination.

This is set to be a cracker, and it will come down to whether or not Calder can control the ball through the midfield to limit the supply to Northern’s damaging forwards, or if the Knights can use the ball well enough going forward to isolate the well-organised Cannons defence.

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Friday, March 5 @ 7.45pm
Linen House Centre, Seaford

A top-of-the-table clash between unbeaten sides, Dandenong Stingrays and Oakleigh Chargers takes place at prime time on Friday night down at Linen House Centre in Seaford. The Stingrays have only played the two games but have not put a foot wrong, accounting for the Western Jets and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels in Rounds 3 and 4 after a bye in Round 1, and the lockdown in Round 2. Oakleigh Chargers easily saw past Northern Knights in the opening round, then took out one of the title contenders in Calder Cannons, before having to fight tooth-and-nail on the Apple Isle after Tasmania Devils took it right up to them for four quarters in an absolute epic contest. Now the sides come in unblemished, and with ridiculous depth across all the lines, making it a must-watch contest from the get-go.

The Stingrays come in with one of the strongest back six combinations going around. With Zoe Hill and Mackenzie Eardley holding down the fort – and the latter also going forward and kicking two goals last week – and Jaide Anthony in ripping form, Dandenong is hard to score against. Brooke Smith provides the classy run out of the back half, while in the front half, Amber Clarke has the speed to burn and hits the scoreboard as well. The Chargers do not rely on one source for goals, with Ameille Smith slotting three in the opening game, and Holly Kenealy being the key scorer with three of her own on the weekend in a low-scoring contest. Stella Reid has impacted the scoreboard off a wing, while Charlie Rowbottom can do it all from the inside midfield.

The matchup to watch has to be between two of the most in-form midfielders in the competition in Rowbottom and Emily Shepherd, who have natural ball-winning skills and the ability to go forward and have a huge impact on the scoreboard. With Amanda Ling and Abbey Jordan sharing similar athletic traits, there are plenty of matchups throughout the middle to keep an eye on. In defence, Brooke Vickers has been a reliable player, while Reid has been one to drop back and provide an extra number when required, which might be so against a Stingrays outfit that can attack quickly. Jemma Radford leads the Stingrays goalkicking with four majors in her two games, whilst Clarke and Ashleigh Richards have both slotted three this season.

It is near-impossible to predict a winner in this one, the Stingrays are at home which might give them the upper hand, but one thing is for sure, this is set to be a beauty, and based on form, one of the potential grand final previews.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS
Saturday, March 6 @ 2pm
LaTrobe University, Mill Park

Nothing is better for motivation than coming within a whisker of a huge upset but falling narrowly short. Luckily for spectators heading to LaTrobe University on Saturday, both these teams are in a similar boat. Bendigo Pioneers looked about a goal away from being home against Calder Cannons, only for a stunning last term fightback and the Cannons to storm home with three majors and the win in what was a brave, but ultimately disappointing loss for the players who showed just what they were capable of. No doubt during the week what they achieved for three quarters will have been emphasised, and they will be ready to go against a Tasmania Devils outfit that pushed the unbeaten Oakleigh Chargers to the limit. Perhaps the most impressive aspect was the fact the Devils were smashed by the Chargers to the tune of 102 points 12 months ago, and they were neck-and-neck with them to the final siren this year.

Tara Slender continues to defy the realms of positional possibilities, after the key defender turned key forward developed into a midfielder on the weekend where she racked up a round-high 28 disposals. It showed the high-end Vic Country prospect can be utilised in any role, and it helped nullify the impact of the Cannons midfielders. Against the Devils, she will likely be added as a target again, but Tasmania have some quick players who can move the ball in transition, led by Perri King and Claire Ransom in the mid-forward half of the ground. The key for the Pioneers will be winning the ball at the stoppages and using it well when extracting it, with the likes of Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson – when rolling through the ruck – those contested ball winners.

Up forward, Amy Prokopiec booted four goals against Gippsland Power in Round 1 and can be a danger against most opposition, with a potential head-to-head with the in-form Tegan Williams something to keep an eye on. Some of the more in-form players over the first few weeks for the Pioneers include Jemma Finning and Octavia Di Donato in the back half, as well as Drew Ryan and Lily den Houting who know how to find the football. Tasmania’s Ella Maurer had a strong performance with 20 touches in Round 4, whilst Meghan Gaffney and Madison Brazendale accumulate the ball on a regular basis. Candice Belbin has been used to distribute in the back half, while Aprille Crooks is another defender who can play up the ground as well.

Another 50/50 contest, it is hard to pick which side gets up in this game, with both teams clearly improved on their 2020 seasons, and it means that for one of them, they will grab their second win of the season.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Sunday, March 7 @ 12pm
Ronald Reserve, Morwell East

Two winless sides clash on Sunday in a midday battle at Ronald Reserve in Morwell East. The Sandringham Dragons are rested and ready to go after a break in Round 4, having lost to Calder Cannons and Northern Knights in Round 1 and Round 2 respectively. They now make the trek down the highway to face a Gippsland Power side that is coming off three consecutive losses to start the season. The 62, 114 and 72-point losses do not look favourable on paper, but for patches throughout those games the Power were able to remain competitive and match it with the opposition. That being said, with lapses costing goals, it is hard to win games, and Gippsland will be hoping another home game at Ronald Reserve will help them push the Dragons here.

The Dragons will see this as a crucial game to win and kick-start their season given the busy schedule coming up which will feature a Wednesday night fixture against Dandenong Stingrays in a couple of weeks. Pia Staltari has been a ray of consistency for the Dragons, coming out of defence and being a steady head with ball-in-hand. She will be tasked with clearing the defensive zone, given the Power can match the Dragons on the inside with bigger bodies such as Grace McRae and Lily-Rose Williamson, which could mean more clearances and inside 50s. While the Power have strength, the Dragons have speed, and a number of outside players who can run the ball in transition such as Kiana Lynch, Keely Coyne and Charlotte Ryan.

Bridie Hipwell has been a huge loss for the Dragons as that bigger body at the stoppages, and against the Knights, it was the likes of Chaplin who took full advantage. Gippsland Power will be favoured to get first hands to it at the stoppage through Grace Matser who played her best NAB League game last week, while Sofia Hurley and Chloe Saultry will bring the tackling pressure required in there. Ebony Angelopoulos will look to get on the end of a few goals, leading the team with three majors and key forward Charli Murphy having two. The Power have only booted the two goals, but have some promising talent coming through for next year led by Williamson and Yasmin Duursma in midfield.

Sandringham Dragons are favourites in this one given the team’s respective losses, but Gippsland should be able to get first hands on it through the ruck and bigger bodies inside, so it will be up to how they use the ball going forward that will be key.

 

WESTERN JETS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS
Monday, March 8 @ 11am
RAMS Arena, Craigieburn

Preview to come Sunday.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GWV REBELS
Wednesday, March 10 @ 6pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve, Epsom

Preview to come Tuesday.

Stat Leaders: NAB League Girls Round 4 – Lee, Slender rack up the stats

ROUND 4 of the 2021 NAB League Girls season again saw six high quality games completed, with top performers from five of the fixtures and six different teams leading the stat charts this weekend. With fixture shuffling and plenty of football to be played in the coming fortnight, some players lifting their level at a great time.

Two players topped multiple categories over the weekend, with Geelong Falcons defender Annie Lee putting in a Draft Central Player of the Week performance, and Bendigo Pioneers’ Tara Slender returning with a bang after she missed a week due to the new concussion protocols.

Lee led the competition for kicks (19) and rebound 50s (10) in a dominant display from defence, while Slender mixed her time between multiple roles to accumulate round highs in disposals (27) and marks (10). Lee was not far behind Slender with 22 touches and eight marks, as Slender fell just short of Lee’s kick record with 18.

Both players had teammates also feature on the stat leaders list, with Ash Van Loon (Geelong) and Jemma Finning (Bendigo) working hard during their respective outings. Van Loon laid a monstrous 15 tackles to bring her season average close to 10, while Finning finished level with Tasmania’s Ella Maurer on a round-high 12 handballs.

Elsewhere, Northern Knights forward Megan Girolami dominated inside 50 against Gippsland with six goals, but saw the Power’s Grace Matser achieve a top hitout count of 23 in the same game. Dynamic Dandenong prospect Emily Shepherd ranked highest for inside 50s (nine), rounding out the Round 4 stat leaders.

ROUND 4 STAT LEADERS

Disposals:
Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers) – 27

Kicks:
Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons) – 19

Handballs:
Jemma Finning (Bendigo Pioneers) – 12
Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils) – 12

Marks:
Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers) – 10

Tackles:
Ash Van Loon (Geelong Falcons) – 15

Inside 50s:
Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays) – 9

Rebound 50s:
Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons) – 10

Hitouts:
Grace Matser (Gippsland Power) – 23

Goals:
Megan Girolami (Northern Knights) – 6

2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls TOTW: Round 4

DANDENONG Stingrays and Geelong Falcons have picked up a Round 4 competition-high three players in the Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Week, in the most difficult week to split players across the board thus far. Every team had a representative, with the evenness between the last 26 so even that we opted for a fourth emergency. Whilst the Stingrays and Falcons had three players each, eight other sides had two representatives a piece, with so many close games, while Gippsland Power and Tasmania Devils had one representative for various reasons.

Dandenong Stingrays’ big win over Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels saw them cover each of the three areas on the field, with one defender, midfielder and forward in the Team of the Week. Heading up centre half-back – though she also played forward – is bottom-ager Mackenzie Eardley, who is joined by midfielder Emily Shepherd – for the second time – as well as forward, Jemma Radford. Another talented bottom-ager in Amber Clarke was close to making it but just missed out and was named as one of the emergencies. Despite the 10-goal deficit, the Rebels had two standout players on the day, with Nyakoat Dojiok and Chloe Leonard making the back six.

Geelong Falcons had another trio of players after their third straight win, with Annie Lee making a third straight team and becoming only one of four players to make the team every week thus far. As Draft Central Player of the Week, Lee will captain the hypothetical side. Other Falcons in the team are returning Team of the Week members, Renee Tierney at full-forward, and Tess Craven coming off the bench. Their opponents Eastern Ranges saw ruck Georgia Campbell making the team again, with Keeley Sherar named on the bench as well.

The vice-captain of the team went to Player of the Week runner-up Megan Girolami who slotted six goals up forward for the Northern Knights in their big win over Gippsland Power. She was joined in the team alongside full-back Tarrah Delgado, with an even team performance meaning the likes of Trinity Mills (emergency) were unlucky to miss out. Gippsland Power ruck Grace Matser was the most impressive performer from the losing side, and will come off the bench to team up with Campbell through the ruck.

Calder Cannons and Bendigo Pioneers had a thrilling contest up at Epsom Huntly Reserve, with Georgie Prespakis making her third straight Team of the Week, named on the half-forward flank. Fellow Cannons midfielder Zali Friswell enters the team this week, while from the Pioneers, Tara Slender played a bit of everywhere and will suit up at centre half-forward this week, while Jemma Finning was named in a back pocket for her efforts despite the loss. Another tight encounter between Oakleigh Chargers and Tasmania Devils saw the Chargers’ duo of Charlie Rowbottom and Stella Reid make the team for a third straight week, while Perri King joined Rowbottom in the starting midfield. Ella Maurer (emergency) was very close to making the side and was nominated as one of the next best from her impressive performance on the weekend in what was an even Devils performance.

Up in Wangaratta, the usual suspects in Aurora Smith and Keeley Skepper impressed once again for Murray Bushrangers. While the Bushrangers lost, Smith again slotted onto a wing, while Skepper made the bench with both players entering the team for the second time in three games. For the Western Jets, Charlotte Baskaran and Montana Ham both made it in on the wing and half-forward, with Kensley Ward so close we created a fourth emergency spot given her two goals and five tackles on debut.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 4

B: Jemma Finning (BP) – Tarrah Delgado (NK) – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
HB: Annie Lee (GF) (c) – Mackenzie Eardley (DS) – Chloe Leonard (GWV)
C: Charlotte Baskaran (WJ) – Emily Shepherd (DS) – Aurora Smith (MB)
HF: Montana Ham (WJ) – Tara Slender (BP) – Georgie Prespakis (CC)
F: Megan Girolami (NK) (vc) – Renee Tierney (GF) – Jemma Radford (DS)
R: Georgia Campbell (ER) – Charlie Rowbottom (OC) – Perri King (TD)
INT: Tess Craven (GF) – Zali Friswell (CC) – Grace Matser (GP) – Stella Reid (OC) – Keeley Skepper (MB) – Keeley Sherar (ER)
EMG: Amber Clarke (DS) – Ella Maurer (TD) – Trinity Mills (NK) – Kensley Ward (WJ)

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

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

Eastern Ranges vs. Geelong Falcons

By: Michael Alvaro

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

DC MEDAL VOTES:

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

Gippsland Power vs. Northern Knights

By: Peter Williams

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

DC MEDAL VOTES:

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

Murray Bushrangers vs. Western Jets

By: Michael Alvaro

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

DC MEDAL VOTES:

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

Bendigo Pioneers vs. Calder Cannons

By: Declan Reeve

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

DC MEDAL VOTES:

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

Tasmania Devils vs. Oakleigh Chargers

By: Hamish Spence

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – C. Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
4 – P. King (Tasmania Devils)
3 – H. Kenealy (Oakleigh Chargers)
2 – E. Maurer (Tasmania Devils)
1 – S. Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels vs. Dandenong Stingrays

By: Declan Reeve

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

DC MEDAL VOTES:

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

Youth set to take next step in VFL Women’s competition

TWELVE players who received AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but missed out on being picked up by clubs will test themselves in the new-look Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition starting this weekend. Of the 12 players, five of them remain on NAB League lists as top-agers, whilst the others are purely focused on their VFL Women’s commitments in 2021.

Carlton have a trio of players who received Draft Combine invites last year, in Gippsland Power duo Nikia Webber and Shanara Notman, and Oakleigh Chargers defender Amber Micallef. Webber and Notman have received a couple of Combine invites in the past, with the key position talents strong overhead and both having represented Vic Country in the past. Notman played Round 1 with the Power, but is also a skilled basketballer. Micallef stepped up in 2020 to provide great outside run albeit in only the two games she was able to play, becoming a crucial cog in the Chargers’ rebound.

The other team with multiple 2020 AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites is Southern Saints, with Dandenong Stingrays teammates Zoe Hill and Abbey Jordan both in the red, white and black for season 2021. The duo are still on the Stingrays’ NAB League Girls lists and made a strong start to the season last round, with Hill a Vic Country Under 18s key position defender at bottom-age level, and Jordan a speedy winger who has been moved inside to increase her versatility this year.

Another player still on a NAB League list but is testing herself at state league level is Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae who will suit up for Hawthorn in 2021. The hardnut inside midfielder had a massive Round 1 game for the Power, but has moved closer to the city for work this year and will look to join the likes of form Power player, Maddi Shaw at the brown and gold.

Meanwhile Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher will head to Collingwood, with the 2020 Eastern Ranges captain already having an impact in her two games at NAB League level this season. A fierce onballer, Meagher will have no troubles stepping up to the level and will be one to watch through the onball brigade at the Pies.

Another inside midfielder and former NAB League captain stepping up to the VFL Women’s in 2021 is Brooke Hards who will play with the Western Bulldogs this season. The Bendigo Pioneers co-captain last year and Vic Country Under 18s representative as a bottom-ager two seasons ago will look to bring a similar fierce attack to the Bulldogs midfield as another country player who has moved closer to the city for studies.

Calder Cannons’ Alana Barba will once again head to Essendon after not being able to get out on the park last season, but still earning a Draft Combine invitation as a 19-year-old. A tackling machine like Hards, Barba has grown through the Vic Metro program and will team up alongside a heap of current Calder Cannons players who will don the red and black this year. She is joined at the Bombers by Bendigo Pioneers’ Jemma Finning who was impressive in a new role at half-back last season, and has been back at the Pios thus far in 2021.

Having quite the pathway, Courteney Bromage has returned to Victoria after a stint in Queensland last year, with the ex-Carlton talent trying out at Port Melbourne. She will provide plenty of experience for the league’s newest side as they look to have an impact from the get-go.

Speaking of travelling, there will be a sister act at North Melbourne, with Jayde Hamilton the other Draft Combine invite from last year. Representing Eastern Allies as a bottom-ager in 2019, the inside midfielder will join sister and ex-Gold Coast Suns tall Alexia Hamilton at the Roos in 2021.

There are also plenty of current NAB League Girls who have been named on various VFL Women’s lists for the upcoming season. Essendon VFL Women’s have been flushed with an array of Calder talents, including AFL Women’s Academy members Georgie Prespakis and Tahlia Gillard, as well as the likes of Kasey Lennox, Neve Crowley, Grace Dicker, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell. The Bombers also have recruited Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell. Another Calder talent in Peppa Poultney has opted to stick with her junior club and follow into Darebin Falcons’ VFL Women’s program.

Geelong has unsurprisingly recruited a number of Falcons to its list, with Renee Tierney already lightning up the NAB League Girls with a couple of big outings in the opening two matches. Defender Annie Lee and midfielder Tess Craven are also among the Falcons best performed in the opening couple of games and could easily have an impact at state league level. They are joined by Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ Chloe Leonard who has also been in great form.

Eastern Ranges Isabelle Khoury, Matilda Hardy and Jess Grace have all signed on to Hawthorn’s VFL Women’s list, whilst Darwin Buffettes talent and former Central Allies representative Dominique Carbone has also decided to head to the Hawks this season. A former and current Murray Bushrangers duo of Kate Adams and Sophie Locke will run out for Port Melbourne, while Geelong Falcons’ Zoe Garth will test herself at Williamstown.

Other current NAB League Girls players on lists include Oakleigh Chargers’ Kalarni Kearns who will head to Collingwood, and Western Jets’ Nikita Wright will suit up for the Western Bulldogs. One name who might fly under the radar but has switched states is Collingwood’s Matilda Zander who has finally made her way to the Pies from Norwood after attempting to do so last year before the full state lockdown went into place.

With plenty of young talent on show in the VFL Women’s competition, there is plenty to get excited about across the league, and it all kicks off on Saturday.

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 3 wrap – Falcons, Ranges and Chargers go two from two

ROUND 3 of the 2021 NAB League Girls season saw the Geelong Falcons, Eastern Ranges, and Oakleigh Chargers go two-from-two in this year’s competition, firming as early frontrunners. Players hit the ground running after a week away due to the postponement of Round 2, though four of the six fixtures were decided by over six goals. We take you through all the weekend’s action from what was an exciting return to elite pathways football.

Calder Cannons vs. Oakleigh Chargers

By: Michael Alvaro

Oakleigh Chargers came out on top in a battle of premiership contenders, kicking away from the Calder Cannons during an inspired final term to salute by 16 points. The wind favoured Calder in the fourth quarter, who looked primed to ride out a tense win as scores were tied at three quarter time, but the Chargers took full toll with an irresistible surge to stamp themselves as a bonafide flag threat. Now 2-0, they sit second and boast a number of draftable prospects currently taking the league by storm.

Outside midfielder Stella Reid was crucial in helping Oakleigh establish an early foothold, booting two goals in the first half before finishing as the game’s leading ball winner. Charlie Rowbottom, Amanda Ling, and Eliza James contributed some strong work at the stoppages, with the latter also snagging a crucial late major. Brooke Vickers was also terrific off half-back and Ameile Smith competed well as a slightly undersized ruck/key forward.

The midfield trio of Georgie Prespakis, Emelia Yassir, and Zali Friswell was also impactful for Calder, as they all lifted at important times to give the Cannons a fighting chance. Charlotte Clayton booted two opportunistic goals while stationed deep inside 50 as Tahlia Gillard also proved dangerous when rotated from the ruck, while Kasey Lennox tried hard alongside Neve Crowley in defence and Olivia Manfre put her hand up in the loss.

The Cannons will look to reload and fire again when they take on the Bendigo Pioneers in a tough road trip, while Oakleigh is booked for a meeting with Tasmania on the Apple Isle in Round 4.

CALDER CANNONS 0.0 | 3.2 | 4.2 | 4.4 (28)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.3 | 2.3 | 3.8 | 6.8 (44)
 

GOALS:

Calder: C. Clayton 2, Z. Friswell, O. Manfre
Oakleigh: S. Reid 2, E. James, A. Smith, H. Kenealy, B. Vickers

DC BEST:

Calder: G. Prespakis, E. Yassir, Z. Friswell, K. Lennox, T. Gillard, O. Manfre
Oakleigh: S. Reid, C. Rowbottom, B. Vickers, A. Ling, E. James, A. Smith

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)
4 – Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
3 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
2 – Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)
1 – Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Oakleigh forward Taylah Morton speaks to Draft Central’s Michael Alvaro post-match:

 

Bendigo Pioneers vs. Geelong Falcons

By: Peter Williams

Two Round 1 winners headed north up to Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve to face off in warm conditions, which organisers allowed for by moving the game half an hour earlier to 10am. It was the visitors who raced off to a dominant start through Renee Tierney and Zoe Garth (two goals), and never really looked back. The Pioneers had a good second quarter thanks to goals from Jemma Finning and Charli Dorrity, but the Falcons maintained control in the second half, booting four goals to zero to run out comfortable 50-point winners on the road.

Tierney was a huge turning point for the Falcons with her four goals and setting up another few, while defenders Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling were again consistent. Through the midifield Tess Craven and Poppy Schaap did the bulk of the heavy lifting in a team effort, while Gabbi Featherston had multiple shots on goal and looked damaging every time she went near it. For the Pioneers, future stars in Tegan Williams and Lila Keck really stood out, while Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson were again consistent across the match roaming hard and covering ground.

BENDIGO PIONEERS 0.0 | 2.1 | 2.3 | 2.4 (16)
GEELONG FALCONS 3.1 | 6.3 | 9.4 | 10.6 (66)

GOALS:

Bendigo: J. Finning, C. Dorrity
Geelong: R. Tierney 4, Z. Garth 2, E. Perrett, L. Were, K. Stacey, T. Craven

DC BEST:

Bendigo: T. Williams, E. Snell, J. Richardson, L. Keck, M. Marks, L. Den Houting
Geelong: R. Tierney, A. Lee, P. Schaap, T. Craven, G. Featherston, E. Dowling

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)
4 – Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)
3 – Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)
2 – Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
1 – Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Eastern Ranges vs. Gippsland Power

By: Peter Williams

Eastern Ranges sent a message to the rest of the NAB League Girls competition after flexing their muscles during a 19.3 (117) to 0.3 (3) romp of Gippsland Power. The huge win broke the all-time high score and winning margin records, with 12 individual goalkickers contributing 19 goals for the match. Their accuracy of 19 majors from just 22 shots also helped their case, and while the Power did manage to contain them to three goals in the second and fourth quarters, could not manage to put through a major themselves on the day.

Alyssia Pisano was best on ground with four majors in the match, while Georgia Campbell took control of the ruck for Eastern, and then went forward to deliver three majors too. The midfield pair of Bridget Deed and Olivia Meagher was ticking over, while Georgia Wilson (two) goals, Isabelle Khoury and Matilda Hardy were all prominent on the scoring front. For the Power, Matilda Van Berkel put in a four quarter effort from defence, combining well with Courtney Fletcher back there, while Sunday Brisbane and Yasmin Duursma won their fair share of the ball despite the defeat.

EASTERN RANGES 7.1 | 10.2 | 16.2 | 19.3 (117)
GIPPSLAND POWER 0.0 | 0.2 | 0.3 | 0.3 (3)

GOALS:

Eastern: A. Pisano 4, G. Campbell 3, G. Wilson 2, B. Deed 2, J. Livingstone, K. Sherar, C. Wilsmore, S. Humm, J. Grace, I. Khoury, L. Stone, M. Hardy
Gippsland: Nil.

DC BEST:

Eastern: A. Pisano, G. Campbell, O. Meagher, B. Deed, M. Hardy, I. Khoury
Gippsland: M. Van Berkel, C. Fletcher, I. Makai, A. Molesworth, S. Brisbane, Y. Duursma

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)
4 – Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)
3 – Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges)
2 – Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)
1 – Matilda Hardy (Eastern Ranges)

Dandenong Stingrays vs. Western Jets

By: Declan Reeve

A three-goal third quarter saw the Dandenong Stingrays win by 10 points in their first game of the year over an improved Western Jets outfit at Bluescope Recreation Centre. Dandenong’s inaccuracy in the first term saw Western remain within striking distance, even taking the lead by two points at half time. But the third quarter saw the Stingrays drift away from the Jets, with the latter unable to get the difference back as the game finished 6.6 (42) to 5.2 (32) in Dandenong’s favour.

2022 draft eligible trio Montana Ham (Western), Emily Shepherd and Amber Clarke (Dandenong) led the goalkicking with two apiece, with Ham getting both of hers playing as a forward target in the last quarter. The trio was also highly influential through the midfield throughout the day, with Abbey Jordan and Charley Ryan also working hard for the Stingrays in the engine room. Laura Elliott and Jaide Anthony were two standouts in their respective teams’ defences for the day, with Elliott showing off her ability to read the ball in flight and position herself to cut off Dandenong attacks, and Anthony doing similarly down the other end, sweeping up any dropped marks and rebounding quickly.

Next week sees the Stingrays hit the road to face GWV Rebels at MARS Stadium, whilst the Jets head to Cathedral College in Wangaratta to take on the Murray Bushrangers.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 1.4 | 2.4  | 5.6  | 6.6 (42)
WESTERN JETS 1.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 | 5.2 (32)

GOALS:

Dandenong: A. Clarke 2, E. Shepherd 2, J. Radford, H. Monk
Western: M. Ham 2, A. Gray, C. Sergeant, A. Anthony

DC BEST:

Dandenong: E. Shepherd, A. Clarke, J. Anthony, A. Jordan, B. Smith
Western: M. Ham, L. Elliott, J. Woods, C. Baskaran, P. Ryan 

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)
4 – Montana Ham (Western Jets)
3 – Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)
2 – Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)
1 – Laura Elliott (Western Jets)

GWV Rebels vs. Murray Bushrangers

By: Peter Williams

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels stormed to a dominant, high-scoring win over Murray Bushrangers to bounce back from a narrow Round 1 defeat at the hands of the Geelong Falcons. Both teams were no doubt feeling the heat at Epsom Huntly, but both played with a fierce brand of football. The Rebels got off to a fast start and never looked back, piling on seven goals to two by half-time. The Bushrangers managed to arrest the momentum somewhat and make it more of an even contest after the main break, though some late majors to the Rebels blew the margin out to 44 points by the final siren.

Paige Scott stood out with three important goals up forward, while Nyakoat Dojiok was simply sensational after quarter time. Her work around the stoppages and teaming up with Lilli Condon and Crystal Summers really made life difficult for the Bushrangers. Ella Friend looked lively at ground level this week after a dominant marking effort the week before, while Chloe Leonard was again consistent for the winners. Aurora Smith and Keeley Skepper were the dominant players through the midfield for the Bushrangers, while Molly Kennedy did well one-on-one against Friend, and Ally Morphett provided a target up forward while also rolling through the ruck.

GWV REBELS 4.0 | 7.1 | 8.4 | 11.6 (72)
MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 1.1 | 2.2 | 3.2 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:

GWV: P. Scott 3, T. Meier 2, P. Kissel 2, I. Cullenward R. Pickles, E. Friend, K. Tomkins
Murray: O. Cicolini 2, L. Sharp, A. Morphett

DC BEST:

GWV: P. Scott, L. Condon, E. Friend, N. Dojiok, C. Leonard, C. Summers
Murray: K. Skepper, A. Smith, M. Kennedy, A. Morphett, M. Quade, L. Sharp

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)
4 – Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)
3 – Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)
2 – Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)
1 – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Sandringham Dragons vs. Northern Knights

By: Declan Reeve

A composed and determined Northern Knights came out 37-point winners over the Sandringham Dragons at Trevor Barker Oval on Sunday, with a four-goal first quarter setting up the high-level team performance. The Dragons had their opportunities throughout the day but were unfortunately inaccurate in front of goal, with the Knights defenders able to move the short dropping balls out of defence quickly and seeing out the 10.6 (66) to 4.5 (29) result.

Maeve Chaplin was the standout performer for the Knights, leading the way in the midfield with her relentless hunt for the footy which the Dragons just did not have any answers for. She was well assisted by Ava Jordan who showed composure with the ball throughout, setting up team mate Megan Girolami for one of her game-high three goals. The Dragons still showed plenty of fight through the likes of 2022 draft eligible Keely Coyne and Sofia Hurley, who did hard work around the ground, and Ebony Angelopoulos who snared two of her own goals.

The Knights will be looking to make it two on the trot when they come up against Gippsland Power at Churchill Football Ground next round, whilst Sandringham will have time to recoup with a bye before it faces Gippsland in Churchill the following week.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 2.1 | 3.4 | 4.4 | 4.5 (29)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 4.1 | 4.4 | 7.5 | 10.6 (66)

GOALS:

Sandringham: E. Angelopoulos 2, S. Pribil, C. Murphy
Northern: M. Girolami 3, E. Smallacombe 2, M. Chaplin, T. Mills, R. Wilcox, C. Laurie, M. Papachristos

DC BEST:

Sandringham: K. Coyne, S. Hurley, P. Staltari, E. Angelopoulos, K. Lynch
Northern: M. Chaplin, M. Girolami, A. Jordan, B. Plummer, E. Smallacombe

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)
4 – Megan Girolami (Northern Knights)
3 – Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)
2 – Brooke Plummer (Northern Knights)
1 – Keely Coyne (Sandringham Dragons)

2021 VFLW season preview: Essendon

ESSENDON’S Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side is now bearing the fruits of extended work over a tough 2020, according to VFLW operations manager, Charlotte Miller. The tight-knit team is set to maintain much of its core despite last year’s lost season, with plenty of hard work during the most recent off-season seeing the Bombers gel together nicely heading into Round 1.

Miller says the Bombers have built “a feeling of continuity” with so many players recommitting, while some fresh faces and exciting young talent prepare to add another dimension to the building standalone squad.

“It’s a pretty similar squad to 2020 with just a few new faces added in and not too many losses, so there’s a feeling of continuity from then,” Miller said. “We had Ruby Svarc picked up in the AFLW so we’ve lost her, but a lot of the players who were intending to play for us in 2020 are still here and we’ve picked up a few new players.

“It’s starting to feel like we’ve had a squad that maybe was a bit inexperienced in 2019 but even without a lot of games in between now and then, they’ve had that time and training together to connect really well as a team, there’s a really good energy amongst the group. “I think that’s really going to pay off for us.”

Essendon’s 2019 best and fairest Georgia Nanscawen was announced as captain earlier this month and will head a five-player leadership group ahead of former skipper, Courtney Ugle. Along with the handful of players officially at the helm, Miller outlined an extended core of leaders which will work to drive the Bombers forward in 2021.

“(Nanscawen) joined us in 2019 as she was delisted from the North Melbourne AFLW team, but was previously a Hockeyroo with 200-plus games for Australia,” she said. “She’s a quiet leader but she’s super professional. “She’s been playing professional sport since she was 16 and she knows how to manage herself on the ground, she knows how to prepare, she knows how to speak to people and how to get through games without letting things get to her.

“So she’s a really cool head out there which I think is going to be a great thing for the team. (Ugle) has been voted in as vice-captain. “They’ve very different people, very different players, very different ages, and (from) very different backgrounds, but they’re a really nice combination.

“In the rest of the leadership group, there’s Mia-Rae Clifford who’s been around in AFLW teams for a long time; she’s played at Freo, Geelong, and Melbourne in her time. “She’s come back into the VFLW with us this year and is a huge voice out on the field, she really gets the girls going and keeps them moving.

“Then we’ve got Kendra Heil who’s our Canadian player who was our runner-up best and fairest in 2019 as well, and Eloise Ashley-Cooper who’s an up-and-coming leader. “She was our young player of 2019, she came through the Murray Bushrangers NAB League program.

“‘C-Bomb’ Cecilia McIntosh is still around as well as Simone Nalder our ruck, who was in our leadership group in 2019. “She didn’t run for leadership this year because she has a few other things going on, but she’s always an outstanding leader whether she’s in that group or not.”

Along with the established stars of the squad comes a new batch of talent ready to take the competition by storm. With ties to a particularly strong talent region in the Calder Cannons, Essendon will have access to some of the finest young talent in the country through different points of the season.

While under 18 prospects are yet to enter the Bombers’ program as the NAB League season continues, top-age 19-year-olds have been training at The Hangar and will feature even more prominently throughout the VFLW competition. Among the most prominent words Miller used to assess such talent was “exciting”, and AFLW recruiters would arguably agree with that sentiment.

“We’ve signed quite a few from the 18th and 19th-year Calder group and a couple of Bendigo Pioneers players,” Miller said. “Georgie Prespakis from Calder Cannons, that’s a pretty exciting one there. “She’ll come through as the NAB League finishes up for the rest of the season and I imagine she’ll go pretty high in the AFLW Draft this year.

“Also from Calder, Emelia Yassir is a pretty exciting little player and Tahlia Gillard we’re quite excited about as well, so we’ll see a few of them start to flow through as we can across the season – we’ve had the top-age 19-year-old flow come through, not the 18s yet.

“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. “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.”

While the Bombers have come away from preseason with a relatively clean slate on the injury front, Miller says a couple of promising returnees could also make an impact shortly into the early rounds.

“We haven’t really had any significant injuries during our preseason,” she said. “We’ve had a few concussions and niggles here and there for different players, but overall everyone is pretty fit and ready to go.

“We’ve potentially got Gloria Elarmaly coming through, she played at Calder a couple of years ago and I think pretty much in her last game she (suffered) a really severe foot injury – it was a Lisfranc (foot injury) but she also dislocated all her toes. “She was told she’d never run again, never play football again but it looks like we’ll have her back out there by about Round 4, we’re pretty keen to see her out there.

Nicole Julian as well just started with us, she was at North Melbourne previously but comes from more of a kickboxing background. She came over and in one of her very first training sessions with us she did a knee injury, so she’s kind of been in rehab since the start of November but we’ve been working through that with her and we’re hoping she’ll be ready by about Round 2.”

With a mountain of off-season work under their belts and team cohesion backed by a bed of experience, the Bombers are set to “play fast” in 2021 and impress with their pressure game. There may only be one practice game to go off thus far, but Miller says she “saw a lot of good things” from the 28 players trialled in their 60-point win over Darebin on Thursday night.

“What we’ve been working really hard on is to get that ball movement happening,” she said. “I think in 2019 we had players who could play really well but they were rushing and maybe making decisions too quickly and they weren’t coming off. What we saw last (Thursday) night was a much calmer frame of mind, girls who were able to take that pause before making a decision and keep moving.

“They’re not doing anything they couldn’t do a while ago, but they’re just executing it much better now. We’re going for a fast game, lots of pressure, we’re a tackling team and we’re hoping our fitness is actually going to pull us through and give us the edge this year.”

Plenty is happening at The Hangar with new women’s facilities finally finished ahead of season proper and an AFLW license for 2022 in the Bombers’ sights. Miller wished to shoutout the work of head coach Brendan Major, as well as the physio and high performance staff who stuck with the team purely out of care during last year. With the fruits of that work now coming to the fore, it is fair to say the commitment is paying off.

No official fixture has been released, but the Bombers are set to commence their VFLW campaign next weekend and play out of The Hangar until April due to ongoing developments at Windy Hill.

Image Credit: Kate Heath/Essendon FC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 AFLW Under 18s Ones to Watch

NOW the curtain has closed on the 2020 AFL Women’s off-season period, we turn our attention to the next group of budding stars across the country who will be vying for a spot on an AFL Women’s list. We have named 25 players who have already shown some great signs in their bottom and middle-age seasons, as well as a number of others to watch out for in 2021.

Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

A name that has been circulating for a number of years now, it is hard to believe the all-round talent was robbed of what she could potentially do in her middle-age year. She looked more than comfortable at the level in her bottom-age year as a 16-year-old and caught plenty of attention with a seven-goal haul against Greater Western Victoria Rebels. Taller than her sister – AFL Women’s league best and fairest winner Madison – Prespakis is hard at it, has great athleticism and is ridiculously strong one-on-one. A highlight-reel package nearly any time she steps out on the field, Prespakis is a future star and could play just about anywhere, but expect her to play inside midfield and rest forward.

Teagan Levi (Bond University/Queensland)

The sister of recently drafted Gold Coast Suns’ talent Maddison, Levi is 11cm shorter and plays onball rather than forward. Her athletic traits are similar to that of Georgia Patrikios in the way that she can seamlessly get herself out of trouble by wrong-footing and side-stepping opponents with ease. Not only is she able to beat them in congestion, she can run and take the game on down a wing, and then when the opponent wins it, she is the first to lay a strong tackle. Similar to Prespakis, Levi has so many weapons and is as effective defensively as she is offensively, and is the standout Queensland prospect for next year and in the clear top few talents running around.

Courtney Rowley. Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder

Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

A player who has been building very nicely over in Western Australia over the past two seasons and then was the most impressive of the middle-agers in the WAFL All-Stars game. A really smooth mover, Rowley often plays off a wing and knows how to distribute the ball so well, winning Peel Thunder’s League best and fairest last year as a 16-year-old competing against senior opponents including AFL Women’s talents. Whilst she had more support in 2020 as the Thunder rose from wooden spooners to premiers in a remarkable turnaround, it is hard not to admire what the talented midfielder could be in her top-age season next year.

Zoe Prowse (Sturt/South Australia)

The standout ruck prospect in next year’s draft, Adelaide will have another promising talent on their radar in Prowse. Winning Sturt’s best and fairest award this year, Prowse was just about the best in nearly every game she played for the Double Blues, particularly in the second half of the season. Despite standing at just under 180cm, Prowse has ridiculous athleticism with a high vertical leap and is almost like a fourth midfielder. She can get down and apply second and third efforts to ground level players, and is one who could also play forward if required. With great ruck nous, she can outwork her opponents around the ground, and it was easy to see why she was the sole South Australian AFL Women’s Academy member in her middle-age year.

Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

An absolute star in the making. Capable of playing midfield or forward, Rowbottom just knows how to set scoring opportunities up in transition. The sister of Sydney’s James, Rowbottom has similar ball-winning abilities and defensive attributes, but has a lot to offer offensively as well. She showed in the Chargers’ win over Tasmania that she is not only able to hit the scoreboard herself – kicking two goals – but set up a number of chances for her teammates. One that will really surprise in 2021 as a leader for the Chargers.

Charlie Rowbottom. Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)

With quite a few tall defenders in this year’s AFL Women’s Draft, Slender would be putting her hand up as potentially the pick of the bunch. Her intercepting capability and reading of the ball in flight is exceptional, and while she did miss her middle-age year, Slender is one who could catch the attention pretty quickly. Having played alongside some Vic Country representatives in the past – and playing at Under 16s level for her state – Slender is good in one-on-ones and looms as a key lynchpin for the Pioneers. It would also not be too surprising to see her take a similar transition to Isabelle Pritchard and move into the midfield given she has the traits to slot right in there.

Makaylah Appleby (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

Class personified. Appleby has managed to catch the eye on more than a few occasions over the past few seasons despite playing in such a stacked team at the Northern Knights. She often played off a wing or provided run on the outside like during the 2019 NAB League Finals Series. Appleby is now the top prospect at the Knights for the upcoming season as a member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, and as a damaging ball user, Appleby is one that teammates want to get the ball in the hands of in order to create scoring opportunities up the field.

Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco/Western Australia)

A dangerous forward half player with clean skills and a nous for goals, Thomas is the other AFL Women’s Academy member from Western Australia in her middle-age year along with Rowley and has a big future. Playing in an experienced team like Subiaco, Thomas was able to still stand out, regularly hitting the scoreboard. Standing at 175cm, Thomas has good size and good hands and having made her League debut in 2020, big things are predicted for 2021 with a lot of AFL Women’s talent, and more experienced heads around her.

Nyakoat Dojiok. Picture credit: Draft Central

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

A player who is not afraid to take the game on and really take it to the opposition is GWV Rebels’ Dojiok who has been developing year-on-year over the last few years. Playing as a 15-year-old a few years back, Dojiok is one who when she gets going is hard to contain, and she has that rich blend of power and speed. She is utilised best as that outside runner, playing off half-back or along a wing, but is eye-catching in the way she plays and the way she can bring teammates into the game. Entering her top-age year, expect her to see even more midfield time as she has some seriously great traits.

Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

A player who might be flying under the radar that has some casual NAB League Girls watchers reaching for the team lists next year is Dowling. An incredible talent who showed progression in her two games this year, she has only managed to fly under the radar due to the enormous amount of talent coming out of the Falcons’ football factory. She played in defence as a bottom-ager then got time more up the field last year, and expect her to play through the midfield in 2021. She can play anywhere, at that hybrid 171cm-plus size and can be too athletic for talls and too strong for smalls, Dowling is one who should not be forgotten when talking about Vic Country prospects.

Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)

The standout NSW/ACT prospect for 2021, Morphett is the sole AFL Women’s Academy member from her state. The developing 189cm-plus ruck is one who improved from her bottom-age season and it would have been fantastic to see her going up against the Melbourne-drafted Maggie Caris if their teams had met in the NAB League Girls before the season ended. She is commanding overhead and able to drift forward if required, Morphett is one of the few NAB League Girls prospects to play this year. Representing Belconnen Magpies in the AFL Canberra League, Morphett finished second in the league best and fairest, and then won best on ground in the Magpies’ premiership win. Not bad for a 17-year-old and she is one anticipated to take a huge step in 2021.

Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore/Queensland)

Stood tall at senior level in the QAFL Women’s competition for the Roos and is one of a remarkable three players in the AFL Women’s Academy from the side. Harmer showed in the Queensland All-Stars game that she looms as a strong prospect in 2021 with her overhead marking, read of the play and powerful kicking standing out in a tight game. A member of the Brisbane Lions Academy, Harmer is 170cm and could play at half-back as that intercepting rebounder, or through the middle, seemingly able to break down opposition defences on transition by getting in the way and then pumping it long.

Maggie Harmer. Picture credit: Deion Menzies, Highflyer Images

Amy Franklin (Claremont/Western Australia)

If we are talking upside, then Franklin, not too dissimilar to her West Australian namesake, has plenty of that for the future. A tall marking forward, Franklin has speed that makes smaller opponents envious, and standing at 180cm, she is big enough to outmark most opponents. Still quite raw and lightly built compared to more experienced WAFL Women’s defenders she came across, Franklin is one that once the ball gets goalside, you can almost put the glasses down. Terrific athleticism and one who is threatening to be an even bigger threat in 2021, she is yet another exciting tall forward to come out of Western Australia.

Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

If you are talking upside and potential in next year’s AFL Women’s Draft crop then take 186cm Gillard as an example. Only turning 17 in December this year, the key position utility can play in all three lines, starting off as a key defender, spending time up forward and has the size if required to play ruck. For a player of her size, Gillard is so good at ground level and able to create something out of nothing. While she is still a raw and developing talent, she is another from the Cannons’ program who has already had plenty of NAB League Girls experience that will only make her better.

Ella Friend (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

A second GWV Rebels player making the list, Friend did not get many chances this season to show what she is capable of, but what she did in that short space of time was quite remarkable. Another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, Friend looked comfortable in the tight contest against the Western Jets back in Round 3, racking up a ton of the ball – 19 touches – and having a real influence in the forward half. Not only that, but she iced the game for the Rebels with a match-winning goal, and provided as much offence (six inside 50s) and defence (five tackles) to suggest she is a gamechanger and one to look out for next season.

Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

Made her debut in the NAB League Girls competition and just has that X-factor about her that makes you sit up and take notice. Elite acceleration out of the stoppage and some really top-end traits, Livingstone came into the Ranges’ midfield and assimilated easily that it was hard to believe she was not a top-ager. Behind the experienced Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown, Livingstone was the next biggest performer onball, and with another preseason behind her, it will be exciting to see just what she can produce with her athletic traits and ability to get forward and look dangerous.

Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

Yassir is just a fierce competitor who can play through the midfield or as a small forward. Standing at just 161cm, Yassir defies her size and is not afraid to take on bigger opponents, laying multiple tackles and is a contested ball winner. She stood up during Calder’s NAB League Girls finals series as a bottom-ager in 2019, and started strongly in 2020. She will have a bigger role in 2021 and has a bucketload of talent that will have opposition players wary of when she is in the zone.

Mikayla Pauga (Maroochydore/Queensland)

Another small forward and member of the AFL Women’s Academy, Pauga might just stand at 161cm like Yassir, but packs plenty of punch as a damaging forward. The second Maroochydore player in this list, Pauga finished second in her club’s goalkicking with 13 majors in 14 games, and was a clear standout. With an eye for goal and a large endurance base that sees her outwork opponents, Pauga is one who could step up again in 2021 and will be one to watch at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships having shown her wares at senior level in the QAFL Women’s already.

Zoe Venning. Picture credit: SANFL

Zoe Venning (West Adelaide/South Australia)

A hard-nosed midfielder/forward from West Adelaide, Venning came on in leaps and bounds throughout her second season in the red and black. She became a crucial member of the Bloods’ midfield, playing between wing and forward, though her attack on the ball shows she can easily translate into an inside midfielder. Providing great assistance to equal league best and fairest winner, Rachelle Martin as well as young talent Abbie Ballard, Venning is one who is dangerous around goals. She is still developing some areas of her game such as her kicking, but her work rate and intensity in play is superb.

Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

A reliable key defender for the Cannons, Lennox is a fourth member of the Calder side to make this list, and shows just how strong their top-age group will be next season. Lennox is one who is good at ground level for a taller player, being one of the most dominant rebounders in the competition to start the 2020 NAB League Girls season. As a player who stood out on the big stage of the 2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final, Lennox is not afraid of big moments, and will team up well with Gillard as a couple of talls in a really strong Cannons outfit.

Amy Prokopiec (Clarence/Tasmania)

The sole Tasmanian prospect in the AFL Women’s National Academy, Prokopiec became one of the standout defenders for Tasmania Devils, albeit in just a handful of games in her bottom and middle-age years. As she showed with Clarence in the TSL Women’s competition this year and in the Tasmanian All-Stars game, Prokopiec is capable of playing at either end, and becoming that versatile tall utility. As a long kick and strong overhead, she is a crucial cog in the both the Roos and Devils sides, and will be hoping for a full season next year to test herself against the best in the NAB League Girls.

Amy Prokopiec (right). Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide/South Australia)

There are quite a few talls in this list with potential, and Schirmer is another one who just has that look about her that she could be in for a big 2021. In her middle-age season with reigning premiers South Adelaide, she acquitted herself well and while she did have some really outstanding performances, even when she was quieter, there was always a moment or two within games where you could see she was capable of kicking a couple of goals and winning the match for her side. Not far off 180cm, Schirmer can push up to a wing or even in defence, but she always looks damaging inside 50 and a real target for her teammates to kick to.

Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

A good size and capable of hitting the scoreboard, the 176cm James is a damaging prospect. She showed in her two games this year how she has developed both her offensive and defensive traits, and even as an Under 16s player for the Chargers, stood up in nine games and booted five goals. As one of a number of Chargers who were able to provide support to the top-end talent this year, James is another leader in the group to standout in her own top-age year in 2021.

Alana Lishmund (Norwood/South Australia)

Was a prominent member of the Norwood side in her debut SANFL Women’s season, then really stepped up as one of the best in the All-Stars match last month. She is predominantly a forward talent who can push up the ground into the midfield, and then play high or deep forward when required. A reliable kick for goal, she has that X-factor about her inside 50 and can be a leading or crumbing target, playing taller than her 166cm size, and one who will be another South Australian jostling for a spot as one of the more prominent talents in the state.

Alana Lishmund. Picture credit: AFL Media

Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)

A multi-sport talent for the Stingrays, Anthony also has that something special about her game playing as a forward. She can play at either end, and has progressed through the pathway from V/Line Cup to the NAB League Girls. One who has shared her football journey with cricket duties – she has only managed the five games for the Stingrays – she knows how to hit the scoreboard and provide a presence. Despite standing at just 166cm, Anthony plays like a taller forward and finds space, and will be a top talent to watch out for from the Stingrays in 2021.

Others:

Maroochydore’s Bella Smith is another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy who stood up for Maroochydore this season in the QAFL Women’s, whilst Georgia Hutton and Caitlin Thorne are a couple of Gold Coast Academy members who showed some top-end traits during the All-Stars match.

The South Australian group has been sensational with plenty having senior experience, led by South Adelaide’s Lauren Clifton who stood out in the All-Stars match up forward. Central District’s Madison Lane, North Adelaide’s Kate Case, Glenelg’s Brooke Tonon and Woodville-West Torrens’ Jamie Parish are others who have been ones to watch at SANFL Women’s level this season.

Over in the west, Chloe Reilly remains a dangerous forward option for East Fremantle with her work at ground level and around goals, whilst Swan Districts’ Emma Nanut, and South Fremantle trio, Tayla Whincup, Taylah Cruttenden and Poppy Stockwell are also great talents.

Looking to the NAB League and there are plenty of names to throw up, but a few in the mix include Mikayla Jones (Murray Bushrangers), Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays) and Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons) who have shown to be natural players in their respective areas. From the Vic Metro perspective, Peppa Poultney (Calder Cannons), Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers), Caitlin Sargent (Western Jets) and Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights) were terrific this year, while a host of middle-age Sandringham Dragons got their starts and will no doubt produce a number of surprise packets alongside their elite bottom-age talents.

Perri King is another Tasmanian prospect behind Prokopiec to watch, making history as the Devils’ first goalkicker last season and will be keen to build on that again. From Northern Territory, there is a heap of great young talents coming through from 2022 onwards, with one 2021 draft prospect being Georgia Johnson, a 160cm talent from Waratah who stood out in the NT All-Stars match last month. Playing in defence, she was one to take note of as she regularly mopped up and got the ball down the field for Team Hewett.

Alongside the top-age talents, a number of over-age talents who missed out on being drafted this year will no doubt be trying to stake their case against be it via the NAB League or state leagues, including Brooke Hards, Jemma Finning and Annabel Strahan (all Bendigo Pioneers), Zoe Hill, Abbey Jordan and Jess Matin (all Dandenong Stingrays), Ash Snow and Maeve Chaplin (both Northern Knights), Amber Micallef (Oakleigh Chargers), Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges) and Grace McRae (Gippsland Power) who all received AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but were unlucky to miss out.

In Western Australia, Maggie MacLachlan (Subiaco), Brianna Hyde and Mikayla Hyde (both Swan Districts) head into 2021 as over-agers, while mature-agers Ella Smith and Jess Low (both Claremont), Rosie Walsh (East Fremantle) and Sarah Wielstra (Swan Districts) are others who missed out on the AFL Women’s Draft but will remain ones to watch.

Elsewhere, Northern Territorian Mattea Breed continues to develop for Norwood in South Australia, whilst Abby Favell (Murray Bushrangers), Jayde Hamilton (Queanbeyan Tigers) and Kiara Beesley (Southern Power) were draft combine invitees from NSW/ACT.

In Queensland, Beth Pinchin has shown great resilience as a mature-ager coming back from multiple injuries, while Courtney Bromage and Brooke Spence are other mature-agers who caught attention this year. Christine Okesene, Ebony Peterson, Laura Blue, Chloe Gregory and Madison Goodwin were also in the mix this year with Draft Combine invites so will be kept on close watch in 2021. The other two players to receive AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but miss out were the exciting Freda Puruntatameri (Calder Cannons/Northern Territory) and Charlie Vandenberg (Wynyard/Tasmania) who have plenty of development left in them.

2020 AFL Women’s Draft preview: The next crop of young stars to find homes tonight

TONIGHT up to 61 players will live out their AFL Women’s dreams when the 14 clubs select the players to fill out the 2021 lists at the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Like most years, the AFL Women’s Draft still has state-based selections with Adelaide (South Australia) and GWS GIANTS (New South Wales) having sole priority to players that nominate that state. In Queensland (Brisbane and Gold Coast) and Western Australia (Fremantle and West Coast) the teams will split the players, whilst the remaining 10 teams will fight over the Victorian pool. The one major change is that there is only a Victorian pool, not split into Metropolitan and Geelong, so the Cats do not have priority on those from the region.

Richmond holds the all-important first pick in the draft which is expected to kick off from 7pm. There are a number of players the Tigers could select, but the frontrunner is Northern Knights’ star Ellie McKenzie, an inside midfielder who can play just about anywhere on the field and has been a proven talent for a number of years now.

[ … Ellie McKenzie feature … ]

Western Bulldogs traded up from Pick 3 to Pick 2 to ensure they could nab the second best player in the draft, with Tyanna Smith high up there in contention. The Dandenong Stingrays’ star has very few flaws in her game and has elite acceleration and a match-winning ability. The other one in contention if the Dogs opt to go tall could be another Northern Knights’ star in Alyssa Bannan as another forward option, as she can play tall or small and even push up into the midfield.

[ … Tyanna Smith feature … ] | [ … Alyssa Bannan feature … ]

Also in the mix for the top Victorian picks are Sandringham Dragons’ Sarah Hartwig, a rebounding defender who could fill the need at Melbourne with Pick 5. Whichever player is left of the trio, expect the Saints to pounce on with Pick 6 in what showcases the elite top-end talent of this year’s group. Another possibility for the pick could be Northern Knights’ Jess Fitzgerald if the Saints choose to add extra midfield class to their side.

[ … Sarah Hartwig feature … ] | [ … Jess Fitzgerald One to Watch  … ]

West Coast and Adelaide also have top five picks coming in at picks three and four, with the Eagles having a decision to make whether they go high-flying Shanae Davison from their own aligned-Academy or if they look at someone like Sarah Verrier, a Peel Thunder talent with a great blend of inside-outside traits or Bella Lewis a hardened midfielder who has been sensational this year. The Crows are expected to be a little more predictable, with Teah Charlton the standout prospect, though given they have a monopoly on the South Australian nominees, they can select anyone in any order.

[ … Shanae Davison feature … ] | [ … Sarah Verrier feature … ] | [… Bella Lewis … ] | [ … Teah Charlton feature … ]

Gold Coast becomes the first Queensland team into the draft at Pick 7, and with players still able to nominate the Gold Coast and Brisbane zones, a Suns Academy member such as Annise Bradfield, Daisy D’Arcy, Maddison Levi or Beth Pinchin could be among those in consideration. For the Lions a pick later, Zimmorlei Farquharson looms as the standout youngster in the group.

[ … Annise Bradfield … ] | [ … Daisy D’Arcy feature … ] | [ … Maddison Levi feature … ] | [ … Zimmorlei Farquharson feature … ]

The final pick inside the top 10 is Geelong and they have the most interesting selection with the top group likely off the board, it is an even balance of players they could choose from. If they opt to go local – knowing they do not have priority – then perhaps the skill and class of Falcons’ Darcy Moloney could be an option. If they want to go a little taller, then Isabelle Pritchard could head down the highway from the Western Jets and provide a strong inside presence, or they could look to a proven big-game performer in Northern Knights’ Fitzgerald.

[ … Darcy Moloney feature … ] | [ … Isabelle Pritchard feature … ]

Western Bulldogs become the first team to make their second selection at Pick 11, which is effectively Pick 6 from the Victorian draft. If they went Smith in the first selection, they could look to go taller here and look to someone like Bulldogs’ supporter Pritchard or perhaps consider Murray Bushrangers’ key forward Olivia Barber. If they went for Bannan with their second selection, perhaps Fitzgerald is one to join the ranks as yet another Knight, whilst the likes of classy forward Bella Eddey or outside mover Mimi Hill could come into consideration through the first round.

[ … Olivia Barber feature … ] | [ … Bella Eddey feature … ] | [ … Mimi Hill feature … ]

Carlton enter the draft at Pick 12, and the names already raised in Fitzgerald, Hill and Eddey could be around the mark, though if they want to add an inside midfielder, then perhaps Falcons’ Laura Gardiner could be a suggestion. North Melbourne are next up and will also be keen to add another midfielder to the ranks, and try and predict what Melbourne (Picks 15 and 17) and Western Bulldogs (Pick 16) are going to do. If the Dees did not end up with Hartwig, then they could look at Dandenong Stingrays’ Zoe Hill with a selection, or if Pritchard has somehow slid, she is another defensive option.

[ … Laura Gardiner feature … ] | [ … Zoe Hill feature … ]

The West Australian teams squeeze in between the Victorian ones, with Fremantle likely to grab one of Verrier or Bella Lewis at the pick. Both are Fremantle-aligned and the Dockers know they can have an immediate impact in last year’s unbeaten side. The Eagles could look to Davison – if not already taken – or the classy Mikayla Morrison with this selection, or go for the ready-made Nyra Anderson at Pick 18.

[ … Bella Lewis feature … ] | [ … Mikayla Morrison feature … ] | [ … Nyra Anderson feature … ]

The last team to enter the draft is Collingwood with Pick 19 the Magpies’ first selection. Expect that to be Tarni Brown because on talent alone she is a top 10 pick, so the black and white army will gladly use their first pick on the Eastern Ranges’ jet. They will look to add some more midfield options, and she adds some extra speed and class to the team. Expect Alice Burke to be read out at the Saints’ Pick 24 – again great value – otherwise anything else is a bargain.

[ … Tarni Brown feature … ] | [ … Alice Burke feature … ]

The draft crop becomes so even outside of that top 20, with so many talented players fighting for spots on AFL Women’s lists. Ash Woodland and Georgia Nanscawen are readymade prospects who can impact immediately at AFL Women’s level, whilst Alana Barba, Shanara Notman, Nikia Webber, Amber Ward and Mattea Breed are all talls who have an extra year of experience as over-agers. Not holding a Draft Combine invite per say, South Australian duo Rachelle Martin and Matilda Zander would be a couple of others on clubs radars as ones who can make an immediate impact.

Some former basketballers who have crossed to football in the last 12-18 months are Amelia Velardo, Annabel Strahan and Carly Remmos, whilst Jess Matin (cricket) and Charlie Vandenberg (hockey) are among others who have forced high-level careers in other sports. Queenslanders, Christine Okesene, Brooke Spence, Laura Blue and Lucy Single are others who have transferred from various codes over the years.

From a Victorian perspective, among other names in various midfield positions are outside midfielder, Abbey Jordan and Joanna Lin, inside midfielders, Brooke Hards, Olivia Meagher and Winnie Laing, balanced midfielders Eliza McNamara, Megan Fitzsimon and Maeve Chaplin. Meanwhile the standout ruck is Maggie Caris.

Up forward, Renee Saulitis is the most dangerous small forward, whilst Isabella Simmons is a taller option, and Abbi Moloney a rapidly improving player. In defence, Ash Snow has great speed, while the likes of Jemma Finning, Mietta Kendall and Amber Micallef have all produced great seasons. As some raw talents, Alice O’Loughlin and Alice Astbury have had glimpses in the few games they have played, whilst Grace McRae and Daisy Walker have been valuable across multiple positions though predominantly in the middle.

From South Australia, Indy Tahau is the other star top-ager who is likely to join her South Adelaide teammate Charlton at the Crows, whilst for NSW/ACT,  Murray Bushrangers’ Abby Favell, midfielder-defender Emily Pease and surprise packet Kiara Beesley were among the Draft Combine invites. From the Northern Territory, top-ager Stephanie Williams leads the charge and has nominated Victoria, while Freda Puruntatameri – who played some games for Calder Cannons – and mature-ager Janet Baird have all caught the eye.

Out west, mature-agers Sarah Wielstra (25 years-old) and 20-year-olds, Ella Smith, Rosie Walsh and Jess Low all earned combine invites. Meanwhile from the top-age group, twins Brianna and Mikayla Hyde have impressed moving into the midfield this season, while leading forward Maggie MacLachlan is another player in contention to be drafted.

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TEAM-BY-TEAM PICKS:

Adelaide: 4, 45, 47
Brisbane: 8, 37, 38
Carlton: 12, 28, 36
Collingwood: 19, 25, 26, 31, 33
Fremantle: 14, 30, 46
Geelong: 10, 20, 21, 27, 39
Gold Coast: 7, 23, 50, 54, 57, 58, 60, 61
GWS: 9, 29, 42
Melbourne: 5, 15, 17, 35, 41, 48
North Melbourne: 13, 22, 44, 49, 55
Richmond: 1, 43, 52
St Kilda: 6, 24, 34, 40, 51
West Coast: 3, 18, 32, 53, 56, 59
Western Bulldogs: 2, 11, 16