Tag: Jess Fitzgerald

Opinion: Could the AFL Women’s 2021 season be the most competitive yet?

IT is still just over two months until the first bounce of the 2021 AFL Women’s season, but the excitement is growing. The abrupt end to the 2020 season – with no premiership awarded and indeed no last two weeks of finals – left a mixture of disappointment and wondering of what could have been in many minds of AFL Women’s fans. Once the initial disappointment was over, clubs got to work on either re-signing, trading or heading to the draft in what has set up a more even competition next year.

The top sides will contend again, and whilst Fremantle and North Melbourne showed that they arguably deserved to be in the 2020 decider, they were pushed by opponents at times, and those opponents will be battling for a spot. The young pups at the Western Bulldogs and talented bunch at St Kilda will also improve, and even the cellar dwellers in Richmond and West Coast have made net gains over the off-season. Realistically the only club likely to fall next season – through design in many ways – is Melbourne, as the Dees play the long-term game as we have seen with the Dogs who are now building back up the ladder. Here are the contenders, outside chances and rebuilders:

CONTENDERS:

Fremantle

At the top of the list is the side that went unbeaten in 2020 and have no reason not go go there again. They have a really strong defensive unit, and consistent midfield, as well as an attacking front six that were able to regularly hit the scoreboard. Throw in another year of Roxy Roux and the X-factor of Mikayla Morrison and Sarah Verrier, and despite being one of the teams to beat, the West Australian team remain as one of the best in the competition.

North Melbourne:

Similarly to Fremantle, the main loss over the off-season was Jess Trend, though the Roos just continue to stock up on incredibly talented players. They went to the draft and someone like Bella Eddey will slot into an already potent forward line, which was hard to contain. The Roos were pushed by the Magpies in the elimination final, which will give them extra motivation to improve. It is hard not seeing North Melbourne up there at the pointy end of the season.

Adelaide:

The resurgence of the Crows will be swift. They might not have had the year they wanted, but it was no wonder with their two best players out on long-term injuries and a number of others having delayed preseasons. They have added readymade talents in Teah Charlton, Ashleigh Woodland and Rachelle Martin who will compete for spots from Round 1. It would not be unreasonable to think with all the inclusions and returnees, the Crows are favourites again.

Carlton:

A Grand Final two seasons ago and finals last season, the Blues were the only team to knock off North Melbourne last season. You cannot help but feel they are within touching distance of the premiership cup, and have an abundance of youth to go with their talent. Do not forget they added someone called Elise O’Dea over the off-season, and if that elite talent was not enough, they stocked up on captains in Mimi Hill and Winnie Laing from the NAB League who will stop at nothing for success.

OUTSIDE CHANCES:

Collingwood:

It seemed not that long ago that there was a mass exodus at the Pies and people were wondering what the future held. In 12 months the Pies managed to turn it around and surprise with a good 2020 season to almost stun North Melbourne in the elimination final. The loss of Sarah D’Arcy among others will hurt, but they have picked up some versatile players in the draft, and with Tarni Brown joining her brothers at the Magpies, it will be an exciting time for Magpies fans who need something to cheer for next year.

Western Bulldogs:

This might seem like a surprise, but trust me when this group has enough development, they will go through the roof. The amount of sheer X-factor, upside and versatility in the team that added to its stocks at the draft table again, the Dogs can go deep and if you like an outside chance winning the flag, the Dogs could be that bet. They added Jess Fitzgerald, Sarah Hartwig and Isabelle Pritchard to the ever-growing list of former Vic Metro stars, and they will push for spots early on. Expect them to be the most exciting team running around.

Geelong

On paper the Cats have the cattle to compete against the best sides, and added some unbelievable talents in the AFL Women’s Draft, such as Darcy Moloney and Olivia Barber. They have not lost a great deal over the off-season with Mel Hickey of course retiring with big shoes to fill in the captain’s absence. The Cats have a well-balanced list and honestly there is no reason they should not be an outside chance for the flag. Their young talents might need another year, but feel they have the jump on the other expansion sides thanks to that extra season.

Brisbane:

A little more outside than the others, but have enough talent to contend if they all click. It will be a competitive group wherever the Lions land as they will be placed with Gold Coast Suns and both should be fairly even. Zimmorlei Farquharson is the draftee to watch next season with her high-flying ability and ground level work, but let us not forget that Lily Postlethwaite, Isabel Dawes and co. will have another year of experience and ready to take the Lions back to the decider.

GWS GIANTS

Arguably the hardest team to place, because they are always competitive, but just off the pace of the top teams. With another year into the younger players such as Alyce Parker, and then adding in Tarni Evans amongst the top teenagers coming in, they should do enough to put themselves in a position to compete against anyone. Whether or not they have enough top-end talent to knock off a Fremantle or North Melbourne, it is yet to be seen, but they make it into this group.

ANOTHER YEAR NEEDED:

St Kilda

Without a doubt the Saints will be in the next bracket in 2022, but for 2021, they will be in a similar position to the Dogs last season. They might not get the wins on the board that they deserve all the time, but they have more than enough talent to worry any side on their day. Once their young guns develop – adding the likes of Tyanna Smith, Alice Burke and Renee Saulitis to an already talented list – they will be a scary proposition. They will fast-track their development in the AFL Women’s too.

Gold Coast

The other expansion team from last year that showed promising signs and made finals, the Suns might be somewhat unlucky not to be in the next bracket up, but depending on the pool they land in, and the finals structure, they still might need the extra year. They have the talent to step up again, with Annise Bradfield coming in and Sarah Perkins providing experience through the draft. It would not be a shock to see them push sides for a finals spot, but willing to give them an extra year to do it.

REBUILDERS:

Melbourne

For the first time since the start of the AFL Women’s, the Demons are in full rebuild mode. They were always thereabouts in terms of competing for a flag, but just could not get it done. Going down this route is the right avenue, particularly with the drafts always getting stronger. The Demons have added some great youth through the draft, led by Alyssa Bannan, and might suffer a few more losses next season than past years, but will reap the benefits long-term.

Richmond

The winless Tigers added some much needed experience to help Monique Conti through the midfield over the break, then grabbed Ellie McKenzie with the top pick in the draft. The Tigers opted for an immediate experience boost, and seem to have everything in place to be more competitive in 2021. In saying that, the other teams are still ahead of them, but the Tigers will not be the easy-beats of 2020 with the trio of Sarah‘s in Hosking, D’Arcy and Dargan among the inclusions next year.

West Coast

The team out west will step up next season to be more competitive in 2021, but have not been able to add as much experience as the Tigers. Bella Lewis and Shanae Davison are a couple of young guns who will have an immediate impact if given the chance, and add to the growing list of young talents like Mikayla Bowen. They are still firmly in the rebuilding phase, but the Eagles should show further signs of development in 2021 and will be one to watch in the future.

2020 AFLW Draft review: Western Bulldogs

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with Western Bulldogs, a team that has an abundance of youth, and whilst they did not make finals in 2020, gave plenty of indication that they will be a team to watch in 2021 and beyond.

Western Bulldogs:

#2 – Jess Fitzgerald (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#11 – Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#16 – Isabelle Pritchard (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

Western Bulldogs took three picks into the AFL Women’s Draft and managed to pluck out three elite talents in 2020, all of whom are top 10 players on value. They again continued their trend of Vic Metro talents who played under Bulldogs’ coach Nathan Burke last year, as he looks to build that familiarity around his line-up and one that will be a successful unit in the future.

Taken with Pick 2 was Northern Knights’ co-captain Jess Fitzgerald who became the second Knight of three to go in the first three Victorian picks. The skilful ball user can win the ball inside or outside and is a big-game performer having been named best on ground in the Knights’ premiership last year. Another natural leader joining the Dogs, she follows her 2019 Knights captain in Gabby Newton at the Dogs.

Coming in at Pick 11 is the best defender in the AFL Draft crop in Sarah Hartwig. A natural interceptor and great above her head, Hartwig offers terrific value at the pick and one who will slot straight into the lineup. Her clean ball use and reading of the play makes her a great player to slot in at half-back, but also know when to push up to the wing if required. She played in defence for Vic Metro in the championships, and will be hard to beat in the air or at ground level with he willingness to take off when given the opportunity.

Another Vic Metro defender who has joined the Dogs is Isabelle Pritchard. The Western Jets defender turned midfielder is a Bulldogs supporter and lived out her dream by being picked up at Pick 16. She moved into the midfield this year and starred in the couple of games she played, performing strongly at the contest and showcasing her versatility. Another player who is top 10 on talent, she is a great steal by the Dogs and one who will be a good player for a long time in the red, white and blue.

Overall the Dogs have added even more elite young talent to their line-up and will be hard to stop when they all get to their peak.

Picture: Western Bulldogs Women’s Twitter

2020 AFLW Draft review: Club-by-club picks

THE dust has settled on the exciting 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Over the next week we will be delving into each club’s selections and detailing more information about those players who earned places at the elite level. Below we have listed each club’s selections from last night’s draft if you are waking up to check out who your newest stars are.

Adelaide:

#4 – Teah Charlton (South Adelaide/Central Allies)
#45 – Rachelle Martin (West Adelaide)
#47 – Ashleigh Woodland (North Adelaide)

Brisbane:

#8 – Zimmorlei Farquharson (Yeronga South Brisbane/Queensland)
#37 – Indy Tahau (South Adelaide/Central Allies)
#38 – Ruby Svarc (Essendon VFLW)

Carlton:

#12 – Mimi Hill (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#28 – Daisy Walker (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#36 – Winnie Laing (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

Collingwood:

#19 – Tarni Brown (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
#25 – Amelia Velardo (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
#26 – Joanna Lin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#31 – Abbi Moloney (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#33 – Pass

Fremantle:

#14 – Sarah Verrier (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)
#30 – Mikayla Morrison (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
#46 – Tiah Haynes (Subiaco)

Geelong:

#10 – Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#20 – Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
#21 – Olivia Barber (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
#27 – Stephanie Williams (Geelong Falcons/Darwin Buffettes)
#39 – Carly Remmos (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

Gold Coast:

#7 – Annise Bradfield (Southport/Queensland)
#23 – Sarah Perkins (Hawthorn VFLW)
#50 – Maddison Levi (Bond University/Queensland)
#54 – Janet Baird (Palmerston Magpies)
#57 – Lucy Single (Bond University)
#58 – Elizabeth Keaney (Southern Saints VFLW)
#60 – Daisy D’Arcy (Hermit Park/Queensland)
#61 – Wallis Randell (Bond University)

GWS GIANTS:

#9 – Tarni Evans (Queanbeyan Tigers/ACT)
#29 – Emily Pease (Belconnen Magpies/Eastern Allies)
#42 – Libby Graham (Manly Warringah Wolves)

Melbourne:

#5 – Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#15 – Eliza McNamara (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#17 – Maggie Caris (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#35 – Megan Fitzsimon (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
#41 – Mietta Kendall (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
#48 – Isabella Simmons (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

North Melbourne:

#13 – Bella Eddey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#22 – Alice O’Loughlin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#44 – Georgia Hammond (Darebin Falcons VFLW)
#49 – Brooke Brown (Launceston)
#55 – Amy Smith (Aberfeldie)

Richmond:

#1 – Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#43 – Tessa Lavey (WNBL)
#52 – Luka Lesosky-Hay (Geelong Falcons/Richmond VFLW)

St Kilda:

#6 – Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
#24 – Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#34 – Renee Saulitis (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#40 – Jacqueline Vogt (Southern Saints VFLW)
#51 – Pass

West Coast:

#3 – Bella Lewis (Claremont/Western Australia)
#18 – Shanae Davison (Swan Districts/WA)
#32 – Julie-Anne Norrish (East Fremantle)
#53 – Andrea Gilmore (Claremont)
#56 – Pass
#59 – Pass

Western Bulldogs:

#2 – Jess Fitzgerald (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#11 – Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#16 – Isabelle Pritchard (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

2020 AFL Women’s Draft: Full Order

A MASSIVE year both on and off the footy field has culminated in the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft, with a huge amount of talent set to pull on the gear next season. Here are all 61 picks, with the predicted number one selection Ellie McKenzie getting the nod as expected.

Round 1

1 Richmond – Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

2 Western Bulldogs – Jess Fitzgerald (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

3 West Coast Eagles – Bella Lewis (Claremont/Western Australia)

4 Adelaide Crows – Teah Charlton (South Adelaide/Central Allies)

5 Melbourne – Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

6 St Kilda – Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)

7 Gold Coast SUNS – Annise Bradfield (Southport/Queensland)

8 Brisbane Lions – Zimmorlei Farquharson (Yeronga South Brisbane/Queensland)

9 GWS GIANTS – Tarni Evans (Queanbeyan Tigers/ACT)

10 Geelong – Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

11 Western Bulldogs – Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

12 Carlton – Mimi Hill (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

13 North Melbourne – Bella Eddey (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

14 Fremantle – Sarah Verrier (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

15 Melbourne – Eliza McNamara (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

16 Western Bulldogs – Isabelle Pritchard (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

 

Round 2

17 Melbourne – Maggie Caris (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

18 West Coast Eagles – Shanae Davison (Swan Districts/WA)

19 Collingwood – Tarni Brown (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

20 Geelong Cats – Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

21 Geelong Cats – Olivia Barber (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

22 North Melbourne – Alice O’Loughlin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

23 Gold Coast SUNS – Sarah Perkins (Hawthorn VFLW)

24 St Kilda – Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

25 Collingwood – Amelia Velardo (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

26 Collingwood – Joanna Lin (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

27 Geelong – Stephanie Williams (Geelong Falcons/Darwin Buffettes)

28 Carlton – Daisy Walker (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

29 GWS GIANTS – Emily Pease (Belconnen Magpies/Eastern Allies) 

30 Fremantle – Mikayla Morrison (Central Districts/Western Australia)

 

Round 3

31 Collingwood – Abbi Moloney (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

32 West Coast Eagles – Julie-Anne Norrish (East Fremantle)

33 Collingwood – PASS

34 St Kilda – Renee Saulitis (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

35 Melbourne – Megan Fitzsimon (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)

36 Carlton – Winnie Laing (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

37 Brisbane Lions – Indy Tahau (South Adelaide/Central Allies)

38 Brisbane Lions – Ruby Svarc (Essendon VFLW)

39 Geelong – Carly Remmos (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

40 St Kilda – Jacqueline Vogt (Southern Saints VFLW)

41 Melbourne – Mietta Kendall (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

42 GWS GIANTS – Libby Graham 

43 Richmond – Tessa Lavey (WNBL)

 

Round 4

44 North Melbourne – Georgia Hammond (Darebin Falcons VFLW)

45 Adelaide – Rachelle Martin (West Adelaide)

46 Fremantle – Tiah Haynes (Subiaco)

47 Adelaide – Ashleigh Woodland (North Adelaide)

48 Melbourne – Isabella Simmons (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

49 North Melbourne – Brooke Brown (Launceston)

50 Gold Coast Suns – Maddison Levi (Bond University/Queensland)

51 St Kilda – PASS

 

Round 5

52 Richmond – Luka Lesosky-Hay (Geelong Falcons/Richmond VFLW)

53 West Coast Eagles – Andrea Gilmore (Claremont)

54 Gold Coast Suns – Janet Baird (Palmerston Magpies)

55 North Melbourne – Amy Smith (Aberfeldie)

56 West Coast Eagles – PASS

57 Gold Coast Suns – Lucy Single (Bond University)

58 Gold Coast Suns – Elizabeth Keaney (Southern Saints VFLW)

59 West Coast Eagles – PASS

60 Gold Coast Suns – Daisy D’Arcy (Hermit Park/Queensland)

61 Gold Coast Suns – Wallis Randell (Bond University)

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.

[ … FOR FULL FEATURES ON MORE THAN 80 PLAYERS HEAD TO OUR AFLW FEATURES PAGE … ]

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

Capable Chaplin knows believing is achieving

HER coaches know it, her teammates know it, anyone who has observed her journey through the NAB League pathway knows it, but only now is Maeve Chaplin realising that she truly belongs among the best women’s football has to offer.

The Northern Knights defender has come a long way since starting football at age seven; originally playing alongside boys, then moving to girl’s sides at West Preston Lakeside and the Darebin Falcons, while also advancing through Northern’s elite talent program.

As a middle-ager, Chaplin was part of the Knights’ undefeated premiership team, shining across half-back with her mix of physicality and class on the ball. An injury in Round 3 of her top-age campaign was unideal, though it would matter little in the grand scheme of things as the season would eventually be scrapped amid a global pandemic.

By her own estimation, Chaplin was “travelling pretty well” and was as fit as she had ever been. She was in the midst of a move into the midfield, joining co-captains Ellie McKenzie and Jess Fitzgerald at the centre bounces and waxing well with the probable first-round draft talents.

While the 18-year-old and her teammates may have had plenty more to give in 2020, Chaplin says the break in play has allowed her to work on the mental side of her game.

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

“I just wish I did believe in myself… but it’s something that I really want to work on and I have been working on throughout this isolation period. Just knowing mentally that I am good enough and I can get to that next level, it’s just all about pushing myself.”

The friendship of a Knight-turned-Bulldog who has also been part of the Darebin football family, Nell Morris-Dalton has helped Chaplin thrive. Chaplin says she has remained in constant contact with her former teammate throughout the lockdown period.

“A big (mentor) for me has definitely been Nell,” she said. She’s really helped, inspired, and guided me a lot throughout the season because we’ve got the same personality in a way. “I’ve been texting her quite a bit during isolation so she’s a really good friend.

“It’s pretty amazing to play with (the Northern Knights), they’re all so talented. “You really grow off each other and challenge each other, so it helps everyone get better at the end of the day. “Playing with them, you don’t really think about how good they are, they’re just more your friends.”

Maeve Chaplin moves through traffic

Northern’s cohesive team and a family-like atmosphere has certainly played a part in Chaplin’s rise. The aforementioned midfield move was one bought on by coach Marcus Abney-Hastings and talent manager Nat Grindal, allowing Chaplin to bring her defensive nous to a rather potent midfield group.

She says the move was somewhat of a natural progression from the defensive post she owned throughout 2019, though she still harbours hope of returning to half-back in future.

“It was kind of expected,” she said. “Nat and Marcus let me know that they were going to put me up into the midfield and get me a bit more of the ball which was good to have.

“I definitely brought some of my defensive traits into the midfield, using my bodywork, so that was a bonus. “I felt like in doing that, I helped Ellie and Jess play their best footy as well. “It was definitely a good move up the ground, it was fun.

“I would prefer to play on the half-back flank (at AFLW level) but playing in the midfield does come naturally to me just as much as the backline. “But I’ll obviously put my best effort in playing there and it’d be a really good opportunity.”

The versatile prospect, who models her game on Richmond defender Phoebe Monahan, has not only improved herself off-field, but has reaffirmed some of the improvements to be made through contact with AFLW clubs. While “feeding off” their directive, Chaplin has also put the onus back on the recruiters and coaches during their meetings.

“They have given me some things that I need to work on, or they’ve mentioned them and I’ve fed off them a little bit,” she said. “But I’ve been more self-directing, I’ve just told them what I feel like I need to work on and ask them how they’re going to support me and all that kind of stuff.”

“Obviously there’s a few things (to improve on). My aerobic endurance I definitely want to work on, I want to be the fittest that I can be because that was definitely me at the start of the year. “With the right support staff I can definitely get to that level again and even better than that.

“A few other things that I really want to work on are just my mentality, that’s a big thing for me. Just knowing that I am at that level physically to play, and getting myself there mentally as well.”

Outside of football, Chaplin is working through her Year 12 studies and hopes to move into either nursing or paramedicine next year. She sought to thank all the people at the Northern Knights for all the support and life lessons she has received from them, as well as her teammates Fitzgerald, McKenzie, Alyssa Bannan, Ash Snow, and Abigail Bennett.

“They’re all just really good teammates, I really love them.”

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Carlton & Collingwood

THE AFL Women’s Draft is fast approaching and in the lead-up to the draft, we take a look at each of the AFL women’s sides in pairs and see what they might look for, and who might be available with the selections they have. Next up in our series are the two sides from Victoria, in powerhouse clubs Carlton and Collingwood.

Carlton Blues – Victorian Pool

Draft selections (Vic # in brackets): 12 (7), 28 (20), 36 (25)

Off-season summary:

Carlton was involved in a couple of major trade deals during the off-season, with inaugural Blue Sarah Hosking‘s move to Richmond one of the most notable exchanges of the trade period. It was the first confirmed deal made, and would allow the Blues to then land Melbourne gun Elise O’Dea and fellow former-Demon Maddy Guerin, offloading the pick 15 they received for Hosking. The Blues moved up the draft order ahead of a bumper crop, as defender Jayde van Dyk and pick 46 were swapped for pick 36. Add former Gold Coast youngster Charlotte Hammans to the mix, and Carlton remains one of the big winners out of a busy off-season as it enters the premiership window. Four players – Joanne Doonan, Katie Harrison, Sharnie Whiting, and Emerson Woods – were delisted.

A draft look:

While the O’Dea coup will undoubtedly bolster Carlton’s already elite midfield group, Hosking’s departure arguably leaves room for a fast, outside midfielder to enter the fold. With their first selection back at pick 12, the Blues will have access to the seventh Victorian pick.

There are a bunch of high-end hopefuls in the mix; Northern Knights co-captain Jess Fitzgerald would provide a like-for-like Hosking replacement, able to bring speed on the outside and good balance with her inside toughness, while Alyssa Bannan could be a shrewd pick to develop under her idol, Tayla Harris – though the Blues are well stocked in the key forward department. Carlton has a great relationship with the Northern region, and could continue the trend with their latest crop.

The likes of Winnie Laing, Abbey Jordan, and the silky Bella Eddey could all be in the mix for a share in those later two picks. Laing is a leader at the Sandringham Dragons and is a terrific runner, Jordan fits the bill for outside run, while Eddey is a terrific user of the ball who can rotate through the midfield from up forward.

Collingwood Magpies – Victorian Pool

Draft selections (Vic # in brackets): 19 (12), 25 (17), 26 (18), 31 (21), 33 (22)

Off-season summary:

With an incoming father-daughter selection and a forwardline to bolster, the Pies had a mixed off-season. Sarah D’Arcy and Sarah Dargan were packaged up to Richmond in exchange for picks in the later rounds, with Katie Lynch also headed to the Bulldogs. It leaves Collingwood a touch lacking in that forward department, with D’Arcy and Lynch doubling as tall depth lost. Abbey Green was nabbed from North Melbourne to support Sharni Layton in the ruck, while exciting Melbourne forward Aliesha Newman is another good get. With four retirees – Emma Grant, Kalia Bentvelzen, Eliza Hynes, and Machaelia Roberts – only one player (Georgia Gourlay) was delisted, with a decent turnover rate meaning the Magpies will have to gel quickly in order to continue their steep rise. It was hardly the big-name signing period Collingwood had last time out, but should set the club up well in future and for the upcoming draft.

A draft look:

Parting with their first round pick means the Pies will likely only have to pay a second round price for gun father-daughter selection, Tarni Brown. She is daughter of 254-game former captain, Gavin and sister of current players Callum and Tyler. The Eastern Ranges product has long been on the elite level radar, and is clearly cut from the same cloth as her brothers with terrific footy smarts and agility through midfield.

Elsewhere, Collingwood may look to re-stock its forwardline with whatever picks remain. Greater Western Victoria (GWV) utility Renee Saulitis would be a handy fit to replace Dargan with some x-factor, while Rebels teammate Isabella Simmons may also be a good fit at 185cm. Incidentally, both are Magpies fans. Another GWV tall, Maggie Caris could also be the developing ruck type Collingwood is after, while Mimi Hill is a classy midfield option should the Pies look to continue their Oakleigh link. Norwood’s Matilda Zander could prove a smokey having played under Steve Symonds in South Australia. She was poised to play for Collingwood’s VFLW side this year.

AFLW U18s to Watch: Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

IN a new series focusing on the up and coming AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls, we take a look at some names who would be among their respective states’ top draft prospects for the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Next under the microscope is Eastern Ranges’ midfielder Olivia Meagher who was named captain at the Ranges for the 2020 season and always puts in a four-quarter effort.

Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

Height: 157cm
Position: Inside Midfielder
Strengths: Tackling, strength, clean hands, leadership, work rate

2020 NAB League stats: 2 games | 21.5 disposals | 2.0 marks | 3.0 tackles | 2.0 inside 50s | 2.0 rebounds

2019 NAB League stats: 7 games | 15.0 disposals | 2.0 marks | 3.1 tackles | 3.4 inside 50s | 0.9 rebounds | 2 goals

A pocket rocket who despite standing at just 157cm, strikes fear into opposition midfielders with her tenacity and ability to just hunt the ball and the ball carrier. Meagher will fly the flag for her teammates and lead by example with her fierce determination to grab the loose ball or bring down an opponent. In our recent Final Siren Podcast with Northern Knights’ Jess Fitzgerald, the Knights’ co-captain described Meagher as “terrifying on-field, but one of the nicest people you’ll meet off it”.

Among her key strengths with her defensive pressure are her clean hands and her work rate, which sees her get knocked over and get straight back up again. Most of her disposals are won at either the coalface or because she has simply outworked her opponent to get to possessions on a wing or half-forward. She is able to spot up targets inside 50 and even hit the scoreboard in 2019.

Named Eastern Ranges captain in 2020, Meagher has that natural leadership ability too that stands out on the field. She is a player that teammates love to play alongside because not only do you know she will provide a four-quarter effort, but she will consistently dig in when the chips are down and continue to fight, which she continued to show this year like at Beaconsfield when the Ranges were losing to Dandenong Stingrays.

At her size, Meagher is the kind of player who will likely play as a pressure player around the ground, but you can imagine if she played as a forward, she would worry opposition defenders as they looked over their shoulders regularly. The fact she has the traits that can lend themselves to multiple positions – her clean hands and defensive pressure – means she is able to slot in wherever needed, which is a great ability to have when chasing your dream at the highest level.

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Jessica Fitzgerald (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

IN a new series focusing on the up and coming AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls, we take a look at some names who would be among their respective states’ top draft prospects for the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Next under the microscope is Northern Knights’ Jessica Fitzgerald, a balanced midfield prospect whose NAB League head coach described as their side’s most important player.

Jessica Fitzgerald (Northern Knights)

Height: 166cm
Position: Balanced midfielder
Strengths: Inside/outside balance, run-and-carry, leadership, defensive pressure, accumulation

2020 NAB League stats: 3 games | 18.7 disposals | 1.3 marks | 3.7 tackles | 2.6 inside 50s | 2.0 rebound 50s | 0.7 goals (2)

2019 NAB League stats: 11 games | 14.1 disposals | 1.6 marks | 5.6 tackles | 3.5 inside 50s | 1.3 rebound 50s | 0.3 goals (3)

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 2 games | 14.0 disposals | 1.5 marks | 1.0 clearances | 4.0 inside 50s | 0.5 goals (1)

Fitzgerald and her Northern Knights teammates have known only one way over the last 18 months – winning. In an inspired 2019 campaign, the metropolitan region went undefeated en route to its maiden NAB League Girls premiership, and Fitzgerald was a key cog in the stacked squad as a middle-ager. Her form was enough to warrant selection in the Vic Metro Under 18 side, another team which Fitzgerald helped to go undefeated last year.

The elite talent pathways are not purely results-based, but it is nice to be able to boast such a record. Arguably the more pleasing factor over the course of Fitzgerald’s junior career has been her ability to impact each side she lines up for, and her rate of development – even from a high level to begin with.

There is no questioning the drive and penetration Fitzgerald brings to the table, able to carve up opposition sides with her line-breaking speed and long boot. While she spent a touch more time on the outside and up forward in 2019, the 18-year-old has thrived in a more permanent inside midfield role thus far as a top-ager. In obtaining the primary ball winning role, Fitzgerald has adapted her pressure around the ball and creative mindset to become one of the more balanced midfielders of her cohort.

It is that exact balance that yielded the ‘most important player’ comment from Marcus Abney-Hastings after Northern’s 2019 grand final triumph, where Fitzgerald was also named best afield. The 166cm goer was her side’s leading ball winner with 15 disposals on that day alongside eventual number one draft pick, Gabby Newton, with her ability to stand up at the important moments an invaluable trait.

Talent aside, it is that kind of form which saw Fitzgerald named the Knights’ co-captain with good mate and midfield partner, Ellie McKenzie for 2020. The pair proved their leadership qualities in Round 3 of this year’s NAB League Girls season against a red-hot Dandenong side; dragging the Knights over the line after trailing at half time with 28 disposals each, while Fitzgerald also bagged two goals.

That game-breaking ability not only makes Northern a fearsome side, but puts Fitzgerald right up there in the top five discussion for her cohort. Her speed-endurance combination, sharpened finish product, and ball winning attributes make for a rare package of talent, with those immeasurable leadership qualities the cherry on top.

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

IN a new series focusing on the up and coming AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls, we take a look at some names who would be among their respective states’ top draft prospects for the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft.

Next under the microscope is Northern Knights’ Ellie McKenzie, a dynamic midfielder/forward with an incredibly high ceiling.

Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights)

Height: 173cm
Position: Midfielder/Forward
Strengths: Clean hands, high marking, scoreboard impact, decision making, run-and-carry

2020 NAB League Stats: 3 games | 19 disposals | 5 marks | 2.3 tackles | 4.6 inside 50s | 0.3 goals (1)

2019 NAB League Stats: 10 games | 15 disposals | 3 marks | 2.4 tackles | 3.4 inside 50s | 0.7 goals (7)

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 2 games | 16 disposals | 2.5 marks | 3.5 tackles | 4 clearances | 1.5 inside 50s | 1 rebound 50

Northern Knights co-captain Ellie McKenzie has long been billed as one of her region’s top prospects after breaking into the side as a bottom-ager in 2018. Since her three-goal debut, McKenzie has developed into more than just a mainstay for the Knights, proving her worth as a game-changing figure over the past three seasons.

The 173cm midfielder/forward stood out last year even among a raft of top-age stars in Northern’s undefeated premiership side, catching the eye with high-flying marks inside forward 50, and tearing up the outside once employed further afield. That same form was transferred into the Under 18 National Championships, where McKenzie would feature thrice for the again, undefeated Vic Metro team.

Like many players in the elite category, McKenzie has a vast array of strengths which are adaptable to multiple positions. When stationed up forward, her clean hands and sizeable leap give her an edge aerially, with smarts around goal boding well for her damaging scoreboard impact.

But like many chasers have learned, McKenzie can also hurt the opposition with her run-and-carry on the outside. She showed as much in a couple of memorable moments throughout 2019, tearing up a wing with multiple bounces against Queensland while on representative duties, and capturing the crowd’s attention on NAB League grand final day with a similar feat.

For all the frills in her game, McKenzie also excels in the fundamentals. While she tends to favour her stronger left side when disposing by foot, McKenzie is a sound decision maker and can gain some serious meterage with her penetrating boot. Her clean hands have also served her well in congestion having picked up more midfield minutes, allowing her to be there and gone in a split second.

The sister of former North Melbourne rookie, Tom, McKenzie is developing a similar ball winning capacity, and has become one of her side’s premier extractors as a top-ager. Alongside co-captain Jess Fitzgerald, McKenzie turned the game against Dandenong around in quick time this season, as both players collected 28 disposals apiece.

It was that kind of form which saw the 17-year-old lead our DC Medal count after the first and only three NAB League Girls rounds in 2020, tied with Dandenong star Tyanna Smith. Along with the two aforementioned prospects, McKenzie is one of the leading candidates to be taken first off the board come draft time.