Tag: Jess Fitzgerald

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 6 – Brown strikes gold for rising star nod

ROUND 6 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season saw no margin drop below 30 points, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition having established their roles in each team. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared across the latest weekend, focusing on players in every match under 21 years of age and from the most recent draft crop.

Richmond vs. North Melbourne

It was no surprise to see Ellie McKenzie again feature among Richmond’s best players, despite the Tigers being comfortably defeated by North Melbourne. The number one pick gathered a team-high 16 disposals and laid four tackles. Roos rookie Bella Eddey hit the scoreboard in her side’s win, sneaking home a major in the first term before finishing with five touches, two marks, and two tackles.

Greater Western Sydney vs. Brisbane

Brisbane fielded the only under 21 first year players in its clash against Greater Western Sydney (GWS), with Courtney Hodder and Indy Tahau establishing their spots in the starting side. Both players notched seven disposals and showed promise forward of centre. Hodder was particularly impactful with her touches, kicking a goal and managing four inside 50s while also laying six tackles in the big win.

Adelaide vs. Gold Coast

Adelaide’s forward potency proved far too much for Gold Coast on Saturday, with first year gun Teah Charlton playing her part in the 70-point rout. The number four pick notched her second-highest disposal haul (13), which included four inside 50s but no major scores. Gold Coast’s Lucy Single managed the same feat, except with 12 touches to go with four tackles and three marks. She was the pick of the Suns’ draftees ahead of Wallis Randell and Daisy D’Arcy.

Melbourne vs. St Kilda

Fifth and sixth picks Alyssa Bannan (Melbourne) and Tyanna Smith (St Kilda) ran out for their respective sides on Saturday, as the Dees won out in style at Casey Fields. Bannan was one of two players to notched a couple of goals in her usual forward role, while fellow first year Demon Eliza McNamara also kicked a major among her 11 touches and three inside 50s. Smith dropped below 10 disposals for the first time in her career, ending on seven.

Carlton vs. Geelong

Geelong young guns Darcy Moloney and Olivia Barber returned to senior action as the Cats suffered another hefty loss, but showed some promise individually. Barber was a lively forward target for her four touches and single goal, while Moloney had a career best nine disposals and three inside 50s from further afield. Unfortunately, outstanding Carlton draftee Mimi Hill was confirmed to have torn her ACL on the day, ruling her out for the remainder of the season.

Collingwood vs. Western Bulldogs

Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs continue to blood promising youth, and both sides fielded debutants in their clash on Sunday. Magpies forward Abbi Moloney booted two goals in her maiden outing, while the Bulldogs’ Isabelle Pritchard spent some time in midfield and had six touches.

Collingwood father-daughter selection Tarni Brown had her consistent form recognised with a rising star nomination, providing fans at Victoria Park with some nostalgia as she registered 15 disposals and booted a goal. Jess Fitzgerald also hit the scoreboard in red, white, and blue. Sarah Hartwig and Joanna Lin were the other 2020 draftees to run out in the all-Victorian clash.

West Coast vs. Fremantle

Fremantle gave West Coast a hiding in the second Western Derby of 2021, with established young players continuing to impact on either side. West Coast’s Bella Lewis achieved a career-high 17 disposals in her side’s loss, while Amber Ward (11 disposals, four rebound 50s) and Demi Liddle (six disposals) also played their part. Mikayla Hyde and Sarah Verrier were the representatives from Freo’s draft crop, but were both held to under five touches.

Image Credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images via AFL Photos

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 5 – McKenzie earns Rising Star nomination

ROUND 5 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season boasted a couple of blockbuster fixtures and results, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition and establish their roles in each team. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared across the latest weekend, focusing on players in every match under 21 years of age and from the most recent draft crop.

Geelong vs. Richmond

A historic Friday night clash saw Richmond claim its first ever AFLW victory, easily accounting for the winless Geelong at Kardinia Park. Number one pick Ellie McKenzie continued her stellar maiden season with another fine performance, showcasing her trademark run-and-carry en route to collecting 16 disposals, five marks, four inside 50s and a goal. She earned a Rising Star nomination for her efforts. Geelong forward Stephanie Williams was the other under-21 draftee afield, but managed just three touches and two inside 50s as her Cats were trounced.

Western Bulldogs vs. GWS

The Western Bulldogs made it four wins on the trot with another strong showing, this time overcoming Greater Western Sydney (GWS) on Saturday afternoon. Number two pick Jess Fitzgerald was the pick of the draftees, notching 12 disposals and four inside 50s while also laying three tackles as she rotated forward through midfield.

Teammate Sarah Hartwig, who has also played every game in 2021, worked to put the ball into advanced areas with her five touches, penetrating the attacking arc thrice from the outer. Prize GWS draftee Tarni Evans managed five disposals of her own, also laying a tackle and taking a mark.

Fremantle vs. Brisbane

Brisbane snapped Fremantle’s 11-game winning run on Saturday, putting the Lions firmly into premiership calculations – if they were not already. In a game where defensive structure shone, Lions rookie Courtney Hodder worked well to break the lines and kicked 1.2 from her seven disposals. She also stepped up to the finals-like atmosphere, registering seven tackles. Indy Tahau clunked three marks in her second senior outing, while classy Freo youngster Sarah Verrier spread her six touches evenly by hand and foot.

North Melbourne vs. Carlton

Carlton may have fallen short of the desired result against North Melbourne on Saturday night, but it was not for a lack of trying from first year star Mimi Hill. The Oakleigh Chargers graduate was one of the Blues’ best and very nearly dragged them back into the contest with two final quarter goals. She finished with 13 disposals, three marks and three inside 50s from the wing.

Daisy Walker enjoyed her third-straight outing since debuting, notching a career-high eight touches from defence. North Melbourne’s Bella Eddey has not missed a game this season and again featured in spurts for the Roos, ending on seven disposals, one mark, one tackle, and one inside 50 as her side ran home strongly.

Adelaide vs. St Kilda

Adelaide flexed its muscle with a comprehensive win over St Kilda, meaning their flag tilt is well and truly back on track with two-straight wins. Teah Charlton has shown glimpses of brilliance in her five games thus far, and again came through with a patch of quality form. She snared her first two career goals within five minutes during term two, accelerating the Crows’ lead with a couple more highlights for her reel.

Tyanna Smith maintained her consistent form for the Saints with another 13 disposals, also showcasing her two-way effort with nine tackles. Renee Saulitis made her return to the senior lineup and was steady with six touches and a couple of marks as the Saints were overpowered by a fearsome side.

Collingwood vs. Melbourne

Collingwood soared to the top of the ladder and dumped Melbourne out of the top six in one fell swoop on Sunday, sending a huge statement to the rest of the competition. Tarni Brown was the pick of the young draftees afield, gathering 14 disposals, four marks and three tackles as she continues to establish herself as a bonafide senior footballer. Joanna Lin (four disposals) also featured once again up forward for the Pies.

Alyssa Bannan and Eliza McNamara continued their streaks in the Melbourne side, but could not quite turn the Dees’ fortunes around. Bannan booted two behinds from her haul of four disposals, while McNamara dug in for nine touches, three marks, and two tackles as she continues to impress in red and blue.

West Coast vs. Gold Coast

West Coast finally got on the board in 2021 after holding on to beat Gold Coast by a single point in the round’s final fixture. This game had the most under 21 draftees afield by far with a total of seven, headlined by Eagles midfielder Bella Lewis. The gun ball winner had 14 disposals and seven tackles, while teammate Amber Ward (10 disposals, three rebound 50s) also performed well and Demi Liddle came back into the side.

Maddison Levi was prominent early for Gold Coast but could only manage to make three behinds of her form. She finished with seven disposals and six tackles. Daisy D’Arcy had a career-high disposal haul of 11 and also laid eight tackles, while Lucy Single managed eight touches and Wallis Randell had seven on debut.

Image Credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images via AFL Photos

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Dogs salute for four consecutive wins

FIVE consecutive goals to the Western Bulldogs after quarter time has seen them claim a fourth straight win in front of home fans at Whitten Oval. The Dogs proved too clinical up front for GWS GIANTS, with Bonnie Toogood and Isabel Huntington dominating the GIANTS’ defence – particularly in the second term with two goals apiece – to prove too much in Indigenous Round, 7.5 (47) to 3.4 (22).

The first term was an even tussle, with Toogood getting the opening goal seven minutes into the match. A Rebecca Privitelli major five minutes later put the GIANTS in front for the first and only time in the match, with a late behind to Ellie Blackburn levelling the scores at quarter time for both sides to be 1.2 (8).

The second term is where the Dogs lit it up, booting four straight goals to storm to a 24-point lead at half-time. Not conceding a single score, the Bulldogs witnessed their two big key forwards take control, with Huntington snagging two majors, and then it was Toogood’s turn, matching it with two of her own. Despite the GIANTS best efforts, they were unable to match their athleticism and power.

Blackburn was leading her side at half-time with 10 touches alongside Kirsty Lamb, while Alyce Parker was having another standout performance with 11 disposals to the main break. Rebecca Beeson (10 disposals), Naomi Ferres (eight), Alicia Eva (eight) and Cora Staunton (eight) were the other prime ball-winners in the match.

With the game firmly in the Bulldogs’ grip, the home side put through the all-important first major thanks to a brilliant piercing kick from Jess Fitzgerald to Kirsten McLeod. Luckily for the GIANTS, Britt Tully was able to respond, but then an unlucky bounce in the goalsquare off a Taylah Davies intercept at half-forward prevented the GIANTS from nailing back-to-back goals.

Instead it was Huntington who slotted her third major to match Toogood, while a towering mark from Erin McKinnon in the goalsquare helped the visitors maintain some hope heading into the break, cutting the deficit by one back to 23 points. Lamb and Beeson had strong third terms to end the quarter with 17 disposals each with Parker next on 14.

The final term was a tight tussle to start, as the Bulldogs peppered the goals with a couple of behinds. Just when it looked like the game would slowly run to its conclusion, Fitzgerald put in another highlight effort with a couple of bounces running towards inside 50. While the GIANTS manage to spoil a potential mark and clear, it was one highlight in an otherwise tight quarter.

The Western Bulldogs’ win did not come without a cost though, with a number of injuries in the final term, including captain Blackburn, but the more serious one was a knee injury to Deanna Berry who had to be helped from the field. Blackburn returned to the field and almost immediately kicked a goal in the final term, but was rushed through by Tarni Evans on the line.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.2 | 5.2 | 7.2 | 7.5 (47)
GWS GIANTS 1.2 | 1.2 | 3.3 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS:

Western Bulldogs: B. Toogood 3, I. Huntington 3, K. McLeod
GWS GIANTS: R. Privitelli, B. Tully, E. McKinnon

DC BEST:

Western Bulldogs: I. Huntington, B. Toogood, K. Lamb, E. Blackburn, B. Lochland
GWS GIANTS: A. Parker, R. Beeson, A. Eva, B. Tully, G. Garnett

Image Credit: Will Russell/AFL Photos

LIONS RAID FREMANTLE TO SNAP DOCKERS’ RECORD RUN

Fremantle’s record 11-game winning run has come to an end at the hands of Brisbane, as the Lions raided the Fremantle Oval fortress and took home an 11-point victory. In a low-scoring armwrestle which saw pressure and structure shine, the visitors established themselves as a bonafide premiership contender by restricting Freo to just seven behinds in the first three terms, before holding on in the clutch to win 3.7 (25) to 1.8 (14).

It took a brilliant feat from Brisbane forward Courtney Hodder to open the major scoring, as she bent home a classy checkside finish late in term one to give Brisbane the ascendancy. The disciplined Lions then structured up and absorbed plenty of pressure to deny Fremantle in the second term, before Orla O’Dwyer soccered home in the third to help set up her side’s defining two-goal buffer. It came on the back of some immense Brisbane pressure, which saw no easy outs from its forward 50.

Late drama ensued in the run home as Brisbane’s lead was threatened in the final two minutes. Fremantle had previous opportunities to cut the margin, but it was left to Roxy Roux to get the Dockers back to within a goal as she cooly sunk a set shot with 90 seconds left. Somehow, Fremantle had the opportunity to strike. The game was put to bed shortly after though, as the Lions won an all-important centre clearance and Ally Anderson finished with class to seal her side’s victory.

Brisbane’s Emily Bates led all comers with 26 disposals in a best afield performance, while the likes of Anderson and O’Dwyer proved productive moving forward and both hit the scoreboard. Hodder and Greta Bodey were others in that boat with terrific run and a bit of spark, as Kate Lutkins and Shannon Campbell were among the Lions’ key figures in the defensive setup.

Kiara Bowers continued her outstanding form in purple to record 24 touches and eight tackles in a trying effort, with the experience and class of Kara Antonio also proving important. Laura Pugh and Hayley Miller were others to contribute well for the Dockers in their first loss at Fremantle Oval since 2017.

The newly minted Round 6 fixture sees Brisbane travel again to face GWS at Manuka Oval, while Fremantle will look to reload and rebound with a second Western Derby for the season, taking on West Coast at Optus Stadium.

FREMANTLE 0.2 | 0.7 | 0.7 | 1.8 (14)
BRISBANE 1.1 | 1.2 | 2.7 | 3.7 (25)

GOALS:

Fremantle: R. Roux
Brisbane: C. Hodder, O. O’Dwyer, A. Anderson

DC BEST:

Fremantle: K. Bowers, K. Antonio, L. Pugh, H. Miller, R. Roux
Brisbane: E. Bates, A. Anderson, G. Bodey, K. Lutkins, O. O’Dwyer

Image Credit: Steve Bell/Getty Images via AFL Photos

ROOS SHAKE OFF BLUES TO BOUNCE BACK ONTO WINNERS LIST

North Melbourne returned to the winners list on Saturday night, kicking clear of Carlton to finish 22-point victors at UTAS Stadium. After two-straight losses, the Roos rebounded in style with seven goals to Carlton’s three during the second half, seeing them reclaim the lead and a momentary spot in the top six with the 9.5 (59) to 6.1 (37) result.

North skipped away to a two-goal lead thanks to snaps from Kate Gillespie-Jones and Jasmine Garner within the first three minutes, but the Blues charged back into the game in term two via Darcy Vescio. The dynamic forward booted two goals and assisted another to inspire her side to a half time lead, which would carry on late into the third stanza.

Daisy Bateman slotted a set shot chance to put the Kangaroos back in front, but Daria Bannister‘s one-on-two mark deep inside 50 proved the pivotal moment. The grab may have initially been handled by Blues defender Mua Laloifi, but that mattered little as Bannister converted and gave her side an 11-point lead at the final break.

Despite the best efforts of first year Blue Mimi Hill, who twice cut the margin in the final term, Carlton fell short of North Melbourne’s firepower and could not resist it for long enough. The absence of league best and fairest, Maddy Prespakis through suspension played an inevitable role in the Blues’ fortunes, with the Roos’ midfield strong as ever.

Garner led North’s fab four ball winners with 32 and a goal, as the quartet all managed to gather over 23 disposals. Skipper Emma Kearney, Jenna Bruton, and Ash Riddell were the other members of that group, which has overpowered many an opposition midfield. Bateman and Sophie Abbatangelo both finished on two goals, while Jess Duffin made her long-awaited return to the Roos’ defence.

Nicola Stevens was outstanding for Carlton, leading the way with 19 touches and a goal up forward. The two-goal bursts of Vescio and Hill very nearly proved game-changing, while Jess Hosking was typically reliable and Laloifi helped hold up the defence in another balanced display. Young tall Serena Gibbs had four touches and two marks in her senior debut.

North Melbourne’s fight to establish a spot within the top six continues with a clash against Richmond at Punt Road Oval in Round 6, while Carlton will fancy a bounce-back win of its own when it hosts Geelong at Princes Park next time out.

GOALS:

North Melbourne: S. Abbatangelo 2, D. Bateman 2, K. Gillespie-Jones, J. Garner, D. Bannister, G. Campbell, M. King
Carlton: D. Vescio 2, M. Hill 2, L. Brazzale, N. Stevens

DC BEST:

North Melbourne: J. Garner, E. Kearney, J. Bruton, A. Riddell, S. Abbatangelo
Carlton: N. Stevens, M. Hill, D. Vescio, J. Hosking, M. Laloifi

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 4 – Saint Smith sustains shining performance

ROUND 4 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season reverted back into it’s three-day stretch over the weekend, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition and establish their roles in each team. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared across the latest set of fixtures, focusing on players in every match under 21 years of age and from the most recent draft crop.

St Kilda vs. Geelong

St Kilda shook off a youthful Geelong outfit on Friday night to kick off Round 4, with a star Saints draftee continuing to prove her worth. Number six pick, Tyanna Smith has somewhat flown under the radar thus far but is as consistent a performer as any draftee this year, especially after notching her third 16-disposal performance in four games. Having slotted seamlessly into her side’s midfield, it seems inevitable that Smith will soon be recognises with a rising star nomination. Why not now?

Laura Gardiner became Geelong’s newest debutant in the same game, registering three disposals and breaching either arc in her work on the outer. Fellow first year players Stephanie Williams and Olivia Barber also retained their places in the senior side, with the latter again showing some promise as the Cats were kept to just one goal for three terms. She finished with a minor score from her six touches and one mark.

Carlton vs. Richmond

Carlton scraped home in a thriller on Saturday afternoon, overcoming a horror start to beat Richmond by five points at Princes Park. Mimi Hill has was the Blues’ first selection in last year’s draft and continues to be their pick of the first year players, contributing some excellent moments on the wing. She finishes with 13 disposals and two marks, showing great poise and clean hands in the process.

Daisy Walker again featured for Carlton after her Round 3 debut and was under the pump down back. She registered virtually identical stats to her maiden outing (four kicks, three handballs) but also stepped up to the plate with four tackles. Number one pick Ellie McKenzie was also excellent for Richmond, proving all-class on the ball as she gathered 14 touches and four marks rotating through midfield.

Fremantle vs. Gold Coast

Fremantle flexed its muscle in the second half to see off Gold Coast on Saturday, extending the Dockers’ unbeaten streak once more. First round selection, Sarah Verrier finished with three disposals and four tackles, but had a moment she will never forget in the third term when she slotted her maiden senior goal. The 18-year-old kicked truly after earning a holding the ball free kick inside 50.

An inexperienced Gold Coast side fought hard and was within striking distance for half of the game, but could not match Freo’s firepower with its only score, a goal, registered in the first term. Lucy Single got her hands dirty for the Suns with seven tackles, while Maddison Levi laid four in her six-disposal display. Meanwhile, Daisy D’Arcy had it three times as the young Suns continue their learning curve.

North Melbourne vs. Collingwood

Saturday night’s Marvel Stadium blockbuster saw Collingwood swoop on North Melbourne, with the Magpies holding their highly-touted opponents goalless to remain undefeated. Collingwood father-daughter coup, Tarni Brown continues to impress in black and white, cementing her spot in the side with another 13 touches (11 handballs), two marks and three tackles.

Joanna Lin has enjoyed a three-game stretch since debuting for the Magpies and managed her highest disposal haul (five) in this game, while Bella Eddey produced the same numbers for North Melbourne in what was a tough day forward of centre for the Roos. Having played all four games so far, she is another to have cracked a top side to good effect.

Brisbane vs. Adelaide

Two South Australian draftees featured as Brisbane and Adelaide locked horns in Sunday’s all-important clash at Hickey Park, which the Crows took out. Lions debutant Indy Tahau was promising in her maiden appearance, managing a mark among her eight touches. Teah Charlton has shown flashes of brilliance for Adelaide, but did not produce too many more highlights for her reel in a six-disposal outing up forward.

Western Bulldogs vs. Melbourne

Whitten Oval has proven a fortress for the Western Bulldogs this season and they claimed another big scalp on home turf after beating Melbourne on Sunday. Number two pick, Jess Fitzgerald continues to shine with her scoreboard impact and fierce two-way attack, booting a pair of crucial goals among her 12 touches while also laying eight tackles. Teammate Sarah Hartwig is also growing in confidence and managed 13 disposals, including two marks and two rebound 50s.

The Demons did not quite click up forward, at least from a conversion standpoint, but it was not for a lack of trying. Star draftee Alyssa Bannan again troubled the scorers, just not in the majors column as she snared a behind from her three disposals and two marks. Further afield, Eliza McNamara is another draftee to have grasped an early senior opportunity and finished with nine disposals and four tackles this time out.

GWS vs. West Coast

Greater Western Sydney (GWS) made it two wins on the trot by overcoming West Coast on Sunday, boosted by the return of a key draftee. Tarni Evans is the player in question and added some spark to the Giants’ lineup in her first game back from suspension. She finished with 12 disposals, three rebound 50s and a couple of tackles in a swift reminded of her value.

Bella Lewis continues to be thrown in the deep end for West Coast and again stood up to the rigours of senior midfield play, finishing as her side’s highest ball winner (16 disposals) behind a raft of Giants. The 18-year-old also dug in for a career-high nine tackles, defying her frame. 19-year-old Amber Ward also chimed in with six touches, as the South Australian remains among senior calculations.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Vintage Phillips drags Crows back onto winners list

A VINTAGE Erin Phillips performance propelled Adelaide back onto the winners list on Sunday, as the Crows handed Brisbane its first loss of the season to the tune of 12 points. Phillips booted the first two goals of the game and a late sealer as Adelaide won out 6.9 (45) to 5.3 (33), moving level on points with the Lions with three wins and a spot well within the top six.

Phillips’ more permanent move forward proved a masterful tactic, as the two-time league best and fairest wasted no time in setting up a defining lead for her side. Her goals were supported up the other end by a first term shutout, which set the tone for Adelaide’s win. The gap proved too far for Brisbane to bridge thereafter despite constantly chipping away and lingering within a goal for most of the final term.

While the Crows did not relinquish their lead throughout the contest, conversion rate remains an area of improvement for the victors who put up an inaccurate 6.9 from their wealth of clear-cut chances. Ashleigh Woodland was a main culprit with 1.4, but her six-pointer came at an ideal time as she reestablished Adelaide’s two-goal buffer right on the half time siren.

The Lions comes away licking their wounds in more ways than one, with a couple of potentially key injuries further scuppering their promising early-season run. Gun youngster Lily Postlethwaite and defensive leader Shannon Campbell both went down in the first half, with the seriousness of those knocks still yet to be fully confirmed.

Emily Bates finished as Brisbane’s leading ball winner with 19 disposals, two ahead of Greta Bodey. The latter also contributed two second half goals which gave the Lions every chance of snatching a victory. Orla O’Dwyer and Ally Anderson were also productive moving forward in the maroon, blue and gold, while defender Breanna Koenen proved pivotal in defence with 14 touches, four marks, and four tackles.

Phillips was far and away the best player afield; finishing with 21 disposals, eight marks, five inside 50s, and four goals. Only Ebony Marinoff saw more of the ball with 28 touches, while fellow midfield maestro Anne Hatchard notched 19 of her own. Woodland was a threat up forward despite her inaccuracy, and skipper Chelsea Randall proved her worth to the side with 13 disposals and seven marks on her return. She may come under match review scrutiny after a heavy bump on Bodey, though.

The freshly minted Round 5 fixtures see Brisbane turn around first for another crucial clash, set to face Fremantle in Western Australia on Saturday. Meanwhile, Adelaide is due to return home to take on St Kilda at Norwood Oval on the Sunday.

BRISBANE 0.0 | 3.0 | 4.1 | 5.3 (33)
ADELAIDE 2.5 | 4.6 | 5.8 | 6.9 (45)

GOALS:

Brisbane: G. Bodey 2, D. Davidson, C. Hodder, T. Smith
Adelaide: E. Phillips 4, A. Woodland, R. Forth

DC BEST:

Brisbane: G. Bodey, B. Koenen, A. Anderson, E. Bates, O. O’Dwyer, I. Dawes
Adelaide: E. Phillips, E. Marinoff, A. Hatchard, C. Randall, E. Jones, A. Woodland

Featured Image: Adelaide’s Erin Phillips celebrates one of her four goals | Credit: Glenn Hunt/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Credit: (Retrieved via) Melbourne FC

Lacklustre Dees eaten alive by hungry Dogs

It was a disastrous day for an inaccurate Melbourne, outplayed by a sharp shooting Western Bulldogs side on the prowl at VU Whitten Oval in front of a capacity 3180-strong crowd. Whilst both teams traded blows and went goal-for-goal early, it was the Bulldogs that ultimately came away with an excellent 6.1 (37) to 2.11 (23) victory to win their third match on the trot and really kickstart their season. 

The impatient Dees had their work cut out for them from the get-go, struggling to make use of their talls inside 50 and missing the ever reliable Kate Hore who was a late omission. While it was the red and blue that dominated inside 50s early, keeping the footy locked in their front half, a coast to coast flurry from the Bulldogs saw the red, white, and blue boot the first major of the day from their first inside 50 – a set shot from Kirstin McLeod – and maintained constant pressure on the Demons. Whilst a Karen Paxman goal minutes later more than evened the ledger given the Dees’ peppering of the left and right posts, minor missed opportunities became the theme of their day as they failed the apply the scoreboard pressure they so desperately needed.

Another couple of even quarters kept the match flowing up and down the field, with both sides finding the big sticks a couple of times and Izzy Huntington the first to boot two. But while Melbourne were keeping in touch with plenty of hunt on and off the ball, it was the Dogs that had the upper hand in front of a passionate home crowd, and with the Hampson-Hardeman Trophy on the line, it was the underdogs that stepped up when it counted, with the four goal to nil second half more than enough to run over the tired-looking and lacklustre Demons.

A final quarter flurry from the Dogs and a couple of gutsy plays saw the Dees rendered goalless after three quarter time and run down by the feisty Dogs who relentlessly attacked and fought tooth and nail for the footy. Rushed kicks were the side’s downfall, especially when it counted in the latter stages, as the Bulldogs manned up and disrupted the play, roving seamlessly and plucking off some unbelievable marks in an impressive victory at Whitten Oval.

Whilst she was kept quiet for much of the match, Ellie Blackburn was the star of the show in the final quarter, booting a crucial goal to go with her 16 touches – down from her typical output – and seal the deal for the Bulldogs, also leading the side for disposals in a shared team effort. Jess Fitzgerald joined Huntington in the multiple majors club, booting two of her own to go with 12 touches and eight tackles, whilst Kirsty Lamb (12 touches, six tackles) and Bonnie Toogood (seven tackles) were excellent applying physical pressure. For the Dees, Paxman stole the show with 27 touches and a goal, whilst Shelley Scott slotted the side’s second major from her 16 disposals and six marks. Maddi Gay (19 disposals, four tackles), Tyla Hanks (16 and seven) and Lily Mithen (16 and five) also proved critical around the ball but to no avail as they were eaten alive by the hungry Dogs.

The Western Bulldogs will return to the kennel once more next round, hosting GWS Giants on Saturday afternoon, while Melbourne will look to bounce back against Collingwood on Sunday at Victoria Park.

WESTERN BULLDOGS | 1.0 | 2.1 | 4.1 | 6.1 (37)
MELBOURNE 1.4 | 1.6 | 2.8 | 2.12 (24)

GOALS:

Western Bulldogs: J. Fitzgerald 2, I. Huntington 2, E. Blackburn, K. McLeod
Melbourne: K. Paxman, S. Scott 

DC BEST:

Western Bulldogs: J. Fitzgerald, K. Lamb, E. Blackburn, I. Huntington, B. Toogood
Melbourne: K. Paxman, T. Hanks, M. Gay, L. Mithen, E. Zanker

Credit: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Staunton stunners see Giants step past Eagles

Veteran Greater Western Sydney (GWS) forward Cora Staunton proved the difference in her side’s 20-point win over West Coast on Sunday, booting four of the Giants’ seven majors to help seal their second win on the trot. With the game on the line after a goalless third term, the Irishwomen came up clutch with two goals in as many minutes during the final stanza to ultimately ice the 7.6 (48) to 4.4 (28) victory.

While Staunton’s two goals were the only majors seen in the second half, the game opened up with a flurry of scoring. A combined 7.3 (45) made for the second-highest first term total in AFLW history, setting the platform for a hotly contested match. Both sides were up to the challenge and cracked in hard as the game endured at a high pace.

But as has often been the case throughout the Eagles’ short history, scoring dried up and they fell away late to allow the Giants’ experienced heads to take control when it mattered. A fourth quarter knee injury to boom recruit Aisling McCarthy has potential to further sour West Coast’s winless season, adding to its already mounting injury toll.

Game-changer, Staunton finished with 4.2 from her 16 disposals and two marks, proving she still has it at 39 years of age. She was the lone multiple goalkicker on the day, while Alyce Parker was unsurprisingly atop the disposal charts with 25 touches. Partner-in-crime Rebecca Beeson had it 22 times and laid eight tackles, while the likes of Nicola Barr (16 disposals, six marks) and Alicia Eva (18 disposals) returned solid outings.

Young midfielder Bella Lewis led all comers for the Eagles with 16 disposals and got her hands dirty with nine tackles, as did Tayla Bresland (seven). Skipper Emma Swanson again led from the front with 15 touches, while the likes of Maddy Collier, Ashlee Atkins, and Mikayla Bowen were all productive and also snared a goal each in the loss.

West Coast’s search for win number one in 2021 lands back home next week as the Eagles host Gold Coast in another winnable fixture, while GWS takes on a red hot Western Bulldogs outfit on the road at Whitten Oval.

GWS GIANTS 4.2 | 5.3 | 5.4 | 7.6 (48)
WEST COAST 3.1 | 4.1 | 4.3 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:

GWS: C. Staunton 4, J. Dal Pos, T. Mackrill, R. Beeson
West Coast: A. Atkins, P. Laurie, M. Bowen, M. Collier

DC BEST:

GWS: C. Staunton, A. Parker, R. Beeson, A. Eva, N. Barr
West Coast: E. Swanson, A. McCarthy, B. Lewis, T. Bresland, M. Bowen

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 3 – McKenzie arrives at the double

ROUND 3 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season went ahead over a four-day stretch after even more late fixture improvisation, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared over the weekend, focusing on the players under 21 years of age from the most recent draft crop.

Geelong vs. Western Bulldogs

In a fixture which feels like it was so long ago, 2020 number two pick Jess Fitzgerald again lit up the field in a Western Bulldogs win. The Northern Knights graduate was a little quieter throughout the game than in her opening two outings, but sealed the game for her side with a highlight reel running goal late in the piece to leave onlookers with their jaws to the floor.

Somewhat flying under the radar, fellow Bulldogs draftee Sarah Hartwig was again impressive, rebounding confidently off half-back and up to the wing. Geelong tall Olivia Barber continued her promising start to life at the elite level, clunking a terrific contested mark and proving mobile in her work up forward. Northern Territory native Stephanie Williams was also lively in patches, but kept to four touches and two tackles.

Greater Western Sydney vs. Gold Coast

Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney (GWS) again did battle in horrendous conditions, with the Giants prevailing on the back of greater experience and class. It showed on the team sheet too, with no under 21 draftees from last year taking the field, but 19-year-old Georgia Garnett making her debut. On the other hand, four of Gold Coast’s young first year players were selected with Janet Baird making her maiden senior appearance.

The Territorian was relatively quiet with two disposals, with all of her fellow under 21 draftees – Maddison Levi, Lucy Single, and Daisy D’Arcy kept to under 10 touches each. Nonetheless, each of them got their hands dirty in the wet conditions as they were spread on all three lines, displaying the green shoots Gold Coast will require to get on the board this season.

St Kilda vs. Carlton

Carlton got on the board for the first time in 2021 with a steady victory over the competitive St Kilda Saints, with players making their debuts on either side. Daisy Walker became the Blues’ second 2020 draftee to crack the senior team and looked lively in defence with her speed on the rebound. Jessica Matin, a promising junior cricketer, also broke her duck and had a couple of touches for St Kilda.

Elsewhere, the Saints’ prized pick in Tyanna Smith was again impactful from midfield with 11 disposals, four marks, and six tackles, but came up against some pretty stiff competition in the Carlton engine room. After a very good showing last week, Mimi Hill was kept to just six touches for the Blues but looks settled in the starting lineup on a wing.

Melbourne vs. North Melbourne

One of the best AFL Women’s matches of all time saw Melbourne get the hop on North Melbourne with a captivating nine-point win. The cream rose to the top but there was still some young talent roaming Casey Fields on the day, with Melbourne continuing to blood Alyssa Bannan and Eliza McNamara. Both had promising spurts in the red and blue, while North’s prized draftee Bella Eddey booted a goal from her six touches – five of which were handballs.

Adelaide vs. Fremantle

Fremantle and Adelaide locked horns at Norwood Oval on Sunday, with the Dockers coming away 30-point victors and handy premiership favourites. Their mature members were fantastic as ever, but that did not stop the likes of Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Hyde from providing a glimpse into the future.

Verrier was typically assured in defence and played to her strengths with all nine of her disposals coming via foot. Hyde was not far behind on six touches and a couple of marks, also playing her role in the win. For Adelaide, Teah Charlton lit up the final term with some exciting passages, exploding in forward charges to eventually end with 14 disposals and five tackles.

Richmond vs. Collingwood

A trio of 2020 draftees all secured their maiden senior goals on Sunday as Collingwood defeated a fast finishing Richmond by 17 points at Punt Road Oval. Richmond’s number one pick Ellie McKenzie was at the forefront, snaring a double which included a three-bounce effort consistent with her junior form. She was outstanding, finishing with 12 disposals and five tackles.

Collingwood ruck Bella Smith stood up in the absence of Sharni Norder, taking on the primary ruck duties and fighting hard against in-form opposition. Father-daughter coup Tarni Brown booted her first goal and was matched by Joanna Lin, but both players were relatively quiet otherwise. Brown was the pick of the pair, finishing with eight touches and seven tackles.

Brisbane vs. West Coast

Brisbane roared back into top spot with a 45-point win over West Coast, dominating after half time and flexing its muscle. Courtney Hodder was the sole under 21 draftee from last year in the Lions’ lineup and continued her lively start to the season, finishing with 12 disposals and five tackles as she constantly looked to break forward quickly.

Bella Lewis was arguably the pick of West Coast’s young first year players, ending up as her side’s second highest ball winner with 15 touches. Her ability to cleanly win the contested ball and constantly burrow in suited the Eagles’ first half intensity. Shanae Davison popped up in the front half for four disposals, while Amber Ward had double that tally up the other end to go with three rebounds.

Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Hungry Dogs win the battle against fiery Cats

THE Western Bulldogs executed their first back-to-back win since 2019 in their AFL Women’s Round 3 encounter against Geelong, winning by 18 points in a tough slog until the bitter end. Whilst the Dogs put the first major on the board during the first, it took the side until the final quarter to really pile on the offensive pressure, eventually running out deserving 3.6 (24) to 1.3 (9) victors. 

The only Victorian-based match with a crowd for Round 3 was always set to be an interesting one, with two sides really looking to prove themselves and make the most of onlookers at the venue. The Cats had plenty of support behind them at home at Kardinia Park, but it was the likes of Ellie Blackburn and opening goal kicker Izzy Huntington who seemed to be the backbone of the Dogs side, especially early on as the former led all comers with both possessions and vision to set up a vital scoring opportunity.

Forced to taking a defensive approach during the first half, the Cats laboured away with Olivia Purcell working hard on and off the ball, aided by Amy McDonald who did not shy away from the contest, utilising her speed and evasiveness to collect a couple of excellent run-down tackles. Phoebe McWilliams also saw plenty of action, booting the Cats’ lone goal in the third quarter credit to an excellent forward press from the Geelong squad, battering the 50 and relentless on their pursuit. Bulldogs’ Ashleigh Guest was never far away from the contest, dealt a blow to the ribs from Steph Williams during the second before coming off in the last quarter with a nasty looking head knock, while all bar three players across both teams picked up at least one tackle, showcasing just how much physicality was felt across the ground.

The final quarter fate was sealed by a huge goal from Bulldogs young gun Jess Fitzgerald, with the former Northern Knights talent taking the footy for a run through the centre of the field, eventually finding the 50-metre line and booting a long goal for what is sure to be a goal of the year contender, extending the lead to the eventual 15-point winning margin. While the hardened Cats – led off the half-back by the combination of Amy McDonald, Aasta O’Connor and Meg McDonald – well and truly showed up in the third, getting within one point of the Dogs as the three quarter time siren sounded, it was not enough to reign supreme as the travellers proved no longer weary, piling on 2.3 in the final quarter to run away with the victory.

A tackle-happy Bulldogs trio of Blackburn, Kirsty Lamb and Gabby Newton landed a combined 26 tackles, and factoring in Blackburn’s 25 touches and Lamb’s 20, the Bulldogs realistically could not be stopped in or around the footy. For the Cats, their third quarter was highly successful not just because of their excellent pressure forcing the Bulldogs back, but also their ability to maintain possession of the footy under pressure. But it was a lack of access to viable ball inside 50, that was the real kicker, with the side only managing the one mark inside 50 compared to Footscray’s nine, with the sides measuring up virtually the same across all other major statistics. As for players, Amy McDonald (20 disposals, nine tackles, six marks) and Purcell (19 and five) were the go-to girls, while Bulldogs father-daughter selection Isabella Grant finally made her way out onto the park, putting the icing on the cake in her dad Chris‘ old number on debut.

GEELONG CATS | 0.0 | 0.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 (9)
WESTERN BULLDOGS | 1.1 | 1.3 | 1.3 | 3.6 (24)

GOALS:

Geelong: P. McWilliams.
Western Bulldogs: 
I. Huntington, K. McLeod, J. Fitzgerald.

DC BEST:

Geelong: A. Mcdonald, O. Purcell, P. McWilliams, A. O’Connor, M. McDonald
Western Bulldogs: 
E. Blackburn, K. Lamb, I. Huntington, G. Newton, B. Lochland

Image Credit: AFL Photos

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 2 – Fitzgerald adds to Bulldogs’ bite

ROUND 2 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season got underway after some late fixture improvisation, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared over the weekend, focusing on the players under 20 years of age from the most recent draft crop.

Western Bulldogs vs. Carlton

The Western Bulldogs’ stunning upset win over Carlton brought some of the most promising young pups to the fore, none more so than Jess Fitzgerald. The number two pick pumped her side with a team-lifting goal in the second term, followed by her best double cobra celebration. Fitzgerald’s 15 disposals, four marks, and intensity inside forward 50 made her difficult to ignore for a Rising Star nod this week, a richly deserved honour for the Northern Knights graduate.

Sarah Hartwig was the other Bulldogs draftee afield, doubling her disposal output from last week with 10 touches and five marks. The defender set up well behind the ball and utilised her trusty left boot to send the Dogs into attack on the rebound. Carlton’s top draftee, Mimi Hill also had a good night at the office, finishing as her side’s second-top ball winner with 19 disposals – 16 of which were handballs. The winger provided good run and was typically handy at ground level for the Blues.

Collingwood vs. Geelong

Both Collingwood and Geelong blooded fresh talent in their clash at Victoria Park on Saturday, building on the debuts handed to their respective draftees in Round 1. Geelong tall Olivia Barber stood out immediately, nabbing her first senior goal in unconventional style within the first minute of the game. She finished with six touches, joined by fellow debutant Stephanie Williams up forward. The Territorian had five touches and a couple of tackles, including a nice run-down effort early on. Darcy Moloney remained in the Cats’ lineup after cracking it immediately, ending with five disposals.

Collingwood also continues to put trust in its rising prospects, with Joanna Lin the latest first-year player to earn a senior gig. She joined fellow 2020 draftees Tarni Brown and Amelia Velardo in the Magpies’ winning side, though all three players were kept to under eight disposals. Undrafted free agent Bella Smith also held her spot in the Round 1 team, improving her output with seven disposals and two marks from defence.

Melbourne vs. Richmond

Melbourne midfielder Tyla Hanks might have earned the second Rising Star nod in the end, but she had good competition for the honour on Saturday. Teammate Alyssa Bannan broke the game open against Richmond within a couple of minutes, booting back-to-back goals in the second term for her first major scores in senior football. Bannan’s former Northern Knights teammate Ellie McKenzie was outstanding in the yellow and black, finishing with 15 disposals and three marks as Richmond’s second highest ball winner.

The number one pick has quickly become arguably Richmond’s most impactful player behind Monique Conti, taking the game on along the outer with terrific speed and confidence. Back in the red and blue, Eliza McNamara backed up her excellent AFLW debut with nine kicks and four tackles, while Megan Fitzsimon also kept her spot and managed virtually identical stats to her first outing with five kicks, three handballs, and two tackles.

North Melbourne vs. St Kilda

St Kilda pushed North Melbourne in a competitive outing at Arden Street Oval on Sunday, with prized draftee Tyanna Smith again impressing after her outstanding Round 1 performance. The 18-year-old again found the goals and collected 16 disposals, while also laying seven tackles for the Saints. Renee Saulitis was another opening round debutant to retain her spot, managing three touches in her second appearance. The Roos also maintained some youth in their squad, with their top picks Bella Eddey and Alice O’Loughlin building on their maiden appearances. Both players managed under six touches in the 26-point win.

Brisbane vs. Gold Coast

Brisbane’s record-breaking win over Gold Coast proved an insightful telling of the Lions’ maturity and progression, while also laying bare the improvement to come from the Suns’ youthful side. 20-year-old Brisbane rookie Courtney Hodder was again outstanding for the victors, bringing her speed and line-breaking ability to the fore in an exciting 12-disposal performance.

Top Gold Coast draftee Annise Bradfield went down with what looked like a serious injury in the third term, rubbing salt into the wound of the 62-point loss. Maddison Levi laid six tackles to go with as many touches of the ball, with Daisy D’Arcy managing the same amount of disposals and Lucy Single collecting nine touches on a tough day for the inexperienced Suns.

GWS vs. Adelaide

Things did not exactly go to plan for top-end GWS draftee Tarni Evans on Sunday. Not only did the Giants go down by 47 points, but Evans faces a week on the sidelines after she laid a dangerous tackle on Ailish Considine. The 19-year-old’s driving tackle from behind forced Evans’ Adelaide opponent off the field, with Considine playing no further part in the game. Meanwhile, Crows young gun Teah Charlton was again promising up forward, notching another eight touches and laying four tackles as her side excelled in the front half.

Fremantle vs. West Coast

A rain-soaked Western Derby hardly made for the best spectacle to showcase young talent, but there was a good amount of up-and-coming performers in action at Fremantle Oval as the Dockers won out by nine points. Freo draftees Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Hyde finished with nine and eight touches respectively, while star Eagles newbies Bella Lewis and Shanae Davison were kept to under half-a-dozen disposals each in the soggy conditions. Lewis still got her hands dirty, laying five tackles. Undrafted free agency coup Amber Ward built on her Round 1 showing, with the 19-year-old repaying the Eagles’ faith in her.

Featured Image: Bulldog Jess Fitzgerald earned a Rising Star nomination in Round 2 | Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Dogs bite late to overrun Blues

AFTER a heartbreaking Round 1 loss to St Kilda, the Western Bulldogs have bounced back to take a huge scalp by defeating title contenders Carlton in a massive Pride Round win. The Bulldogs looked down and out through parts of the match, particularly at the final break, but the inspirational effort from captain Ellie Blackburn saw the skipper drag her team over the line and win 6.6 (42) to 5.6 (36).

When the young Dogs needed a hero, Blackburn stepped up, kicking two majors in the final term, as Carlton had a lot of possession in the front half of the ground but could not muster up a score. They had looked good after leading at every break prior to the final term, with a three-point quarter time lead, five-point half-time lead and 10-point three quarter time lead.

Despite the Melbourne weather threatening to cause all sorts of havoc on the game, it was fitting that in Pride Round a rainbow emerged from behind the clouds, and provided hope for a Dogs side that just found a way to get off the canvas and muster a win. The home team also had to overcome an early injury to Bailey Hunt who went down with a calf injury and forced coach Nathan Burke to reshuffle the magnets.

There were no shortage of memorable moments in the match, such as Jess Fitzgerald‘s remarkable first goal after great work, and then a Kirsten McLeod running special into an open goal. Despite Tayla Harris finding her range – including a long-bomb, Carlton could not step up when it counted, and once again lost a game by a narrow margin.

Blackburn was easily best-on for her 22 disposals, five marks, three tackles and two gaols, while Madison Prespakis could hardly be faulted in a herculean effort. The reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP) won 24 touches, took two marks and laid six tackles, well aided by Georgia Gee (17 disposals, eight tackles and a goal) and first-year talent Mimi Hill (19 disposals).

For the Dogs, Fitzgerald showed why the club had faith to use pick two on her with a 15-disposals, four-mark, four-tackle and maiden goal game. Gabby Newton (14 disposals, two marks and six tackles) and Kirsty Lamb (16 disposals, two marks and eight tackles) were also impressive, while McLeod made the most of her eight touches with two goals.

The result means the Bulldogs move to 1-1 for the season, while the Blues ponder how they can capitalise when it counts. The year they made the AFLW Grand Final the Blues were 0-2 and found a way to get there, and Daniel Harford will need to pull out something special again in the nine-round season.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.3 | 2.4 | 3.6 | 6.6 (42)
CARLTON
1.0 | 3.3 | 5.4 | 5.6 (36)

GOALS
Western Bulldogs:
 Blackburn 2, McLeod 2, Huntington, Fitzgerald
Carlton: Harris 2, O’Dea, Loynes, Gee

BEST 
Western Bulldogs:
 Blackburn, Fitzgerald, Lamb, Newton, McLeod
Carlton: Prespakis, Gee, Hill, Harris, Hosking

Picture credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Grateful Knights focussed on building connection

AFTER a difficult year for all, the Northern Knights are putting things into perspective heading into the 2021 NAB League Girls season. Former female talent coordinator, Natalie Grindal has stepped into the new, extended talent operations lead role which oversees both the boys and girls programs, along with incoming coach Leigh Clarke.

Grindal says she sometimes has to “pinch (herself)” though at her latest opportunity, with that perspective extending throughout the Northern talent program. While the wealth of changes and a condensed preseason schedule could be perceived as challenges for some, Grindal insists her Knights are grateful just to have football back.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to work in footy and to be able to do it now full-time and work across our girls program and now with our 17s and 19s boys, it’s amazing,” Grindal said.

“I think everyone is in the same boat with regards to what’s gone on in the last 12 months. “Obviously in terms of the staffing we’ve had a pretty significant change in personnel from a coaching perspective… so for us pre-Christmas and even post-Christmas the real focus was just on building that connection and building those rapports – whether it be player-to-player or player-to-staff – that’s been a real focus for us.”

“To be honest, we’re just really grateful to have footy back in any capacity. “Firstly it was training and now we’re just grateful and excited for the return of games, that’s the attitude that we’re taking at the moment.”

The success of the region, particularly over the last two years, in developing AFLW talent has been outstanding. In 2019 and 2020, number one AFLW draft picks in Gabby Newton and Ellie McKenzie graduated from the Northern program, along with a whole generation of elite-level prospects. Grindal says such honours were a “fantastic” result for the region.

“It was fantastic for the club to have Gabby and Ellie both go number one,” she said. “It’s a huge credit to the work that Marcus (Abney-Hastings), our coaching and support staff put into our program and our players’ development.”

“We’re really blessed in the northern region to have some fantastic local football clubs produce great footballers that come through and we’re just the beneficiary of those two girls, they’re outstanding. “It was fantastic to see Ellie debut on the weekend and Gabby still doing a fantastic job at the Bulldogs as well.”

This year, despite another turnover of top-age talent, the Knights are in good stead to again supply the top level of women’s football. Getting back to training in large unrestricted groups has helped players thrive as season proper approaches, and Grindal says players were “glowing” at the prospect of match simulation during the most recent preseason training stint.

“The girls were split into groups of about 10 (pre-Christmas), so when we returned post-Christmas, which was only two and a bit weeks ago, we were allowed to train in a full squad and you could tell that was what the girls were craving,” she said.

“Even from a preparation perspective, being able to do some match simulation – Leigh and I were talking and you could tell their faces were glowing, they had massive smiles after the first time we did some match simulation. “They obviously haven’t played for close to 11 months now of actual competitive football so for them to be able to get back, play with their friends and do what they love was really exciting.”

An “even split” across the age groups is set to make for a unique squad dynamic, as the competition moves towards Under 19 status in 2021. Grindal says the Knights will potentially have players stretched across four ages at any given time, with a number of standouts already emerging in the draft eligible categories.

“It’s an interesting one,” she said. “We’ll have some 19-year-olds returning, then we’ve probably got a pretty even split between 18 and 17-year-olds and we’ll also have a couple of 16-year-olds that will be on our list as well.”

Maeve Chaplin is going to return this year and play for us which is fantastic. “We’re excited for her to have another opportunity to show her skillset at the NAB League level, she was probably one of the really unlucky ones with the season cutting short – she didn’t get a full season to put her best foot forward and to prove herself to recruiters and AFLW clubs.”

Maykayla Appleby‘s in the AFLW national academy; she’s an 18-year-old, a really smart ball user who had played previously outside mid. “Obviously with Ellie and Fitzy (Jess Fitzgerald) in particular in the midfield last year, we’re looking at different players this year to step up and take that opportunity to take their game to the next level.”

Teleah Smart, who’s an 18-year-old as well, played in our 2019 premiership side as a bottom-ager, so she was 16-years-old then. “Unfortunately she was injured at the start of 2020 and was due to play in Round 4 as the competition was suspended so she’s well and truly itching to get back out there. “She’s an inside mid, an absolute contested ball winner, hard at it and I’m really excited to see her back out there again.”

Tarrah Delgado, probably at the start of the 2020 had a breakout year for us. “She played a couple of games with us in 2019 and then played all three in 2020 and really found her spot in defence. “She’s a really solid intercept marking defender, with an incredible read on the game and a pretty impressive kick on her, so she’s another one that I’m really looking forward to seeing how the year pans out for her.”

The Knights’ leadership group was announced at the club’s jumper presentation event on Wednesday, with Smart and Mikayla Plunkett set to co-captain as Georgia Kitchell takes up vice-captaincy. With no major injuries throughout preseason and a near-full squad to choose from, Northern faces a tough test in facing up to the Oakleigh Chargers for their Round 1 outing on Sunday afternoon.