Tag: jess matin

2021 AFLW Preview: St Kilda Saints

ST KILDA’S inaugural AFL Women’s campaign produced some notable highlights as the Saints brought football back to Moorabbin, with solid building blocks now in place for an improved second season. Another promising draft crop and handy additions during trade period will only add to the Saints’ emerging squad, which will again look to knock on the door of finals in 2021.

2020 RECAP

As one of the better performed expansion sides, St Kilda finished fifth in the stronger Conference A at 2-4. Losses in the first two rounds were quickly forgotten as the Saints upset foundation club, Melbourne by five points to open Round 3, making for a memorable maiden win. A heartbreaking one-point loss to Fremantle followed, but showed that the Saints could hang with the best on their day.

They would be rewarded for competitive form with another victory in Round 6 after keeping Richmond goalless, capping off a very respectable first crack at the top flight. Leading goalkicker and joint best and fairest, Caitlin Greiser was the sole Saint to earn All Australian honours, also finishing one spot ahead of fellow first year gun Georgia Patrikios (equal-third) in the Rising Star voting.

NEW FACES

Having already formed a solid foundational core, the Saints picked up another couple of established players to accompany their exciting draft hand. The dynamic Bianca Jakobsson was a terrific coup, but has recently undergone surgery to repair a broken collarbone sustained in a scratch match on the eve of season proper. Jayde Van Dyk was the other trade acquisition, set to help shore up the defence after crossing from Carlton.

Tyanna Smith headlined St Kilda’s draft effort and will likely prove an absolute steal at pick six. The Dandenong Stingrays graduate adds to the Saints’ exciting young midfield with her searing pace and capacity to play both inside and outside. Father-daughter selection Alice Burke was another value pick at 24, again bolstering her new side’s engine room with toughness and great tackling pressure.

The versatile Renee Saulitis was another shrewd selection, able to add some spark going forward and allow the Saints’ second year guns to perhaps spend more time in midfield. Southern Saints recruit Jacqueline Vogt rounded out St Kilda’s draft hand, with Tahlia Meyer taken after the fact and Jess Matin getting her chance in place of Irishwoman, Clara Fitzpatrick.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Prized draftee, Smith is one to watch for St Kilda, especially after the level of performance from the likes of Patrikios, Molly McDonald, and Isabella Shannon in their debut seasons. Smith represents the next generation of talent which has taken over the competition of late and only adds to St Kilda’s exciting young depth. Her athletic traits blend nicely with high-level skill and good balance in midfield, pointing towards the kind of upside which could see her prove to be one of the top two players of her draft class.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

The Saints are fierce and love to compete. Headed by a strong, established leadership group and backed by competitive youngsters with plenty of class, the Saints are well balanced in terms of their squad profile and have plenty of players who can come in and push highly-fancied opposition. Peta Searle‘s side suffered a season-high loss of 25 points in 2020, while also going down by just 13 points to the reigning premier and a single score to the undefeated Fremantle. If they can continue to rattle established teams and lean on the experience of year one, these Saints could well exceed expectations.

QUESTION MARK

A relatively heavy turnover of players means the Saints will be tested for squad cohesion and depth, but they have proven strong in the face of such challenges thus far. Scoring may be an area of concern with not much in the way of firepower aside from Greiser and the 30-mark cracked just once last season – against the winless Richmond. Kicking a winning score will be key to not just competing with the top sides, but getting the better of them on any given day.

FINAL WORD

St Kilda showed up in its maiden AFL Women’s season and proved plenty of doubters wrong with strong performances each week. A couple of wins is a solid base to work off and notching at least one more in 2021 would be a decent pass mark with finals contention in the Saints’ sights. Should they again bind together to overcome injury disruptions, this exciting young unit could cause a few big upsets.

Image Credit: AFL Photos (Retrieved from St Kilda FC)

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

Dual-sport Matin keen to find right balance

AS a talented cricketer and footballer, Dandenong Stingrays’ Jess Matin is eyeing off a way to juggle both sports into the future. Having already represented Victoria at the cricket Under 18 National Championships as recent as this year, the Stingrays small forward earned an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite after impressing in the few NAB League Girls games this season.

“Ideally I would love to juggle both,” Matin said. “Even when I was playing local footy, it was still a big part of my life and vice versa. “You manage to split between the two sports whenever you play the other one in a way. “Ideally I would like to continue both, because … cricket’s played a big part in who I am and all that. “If I do take footy as it is, I’d still want cricket there because it’s a part of me.”

Having spent considerable time in the forward pocket for the Stingrays in 2020, Matin kicked four goals in three games and looked lively in her first proper season at NAB League level. That is not to say she had not come form a successful footballing background, winning five premierships with Beaconsfield, as well as three best and fairests in a side that featured current AFL Women’s talents Tyla Hanks and Georgia Gee, as well as Vic Country’s top prospect this year, Tyanna Smith.

“I’ve always played footy, that has never changed,” Matin said. “I’ve played since I was under 9s with the youngest age group, I’ve played my whole life. “Then I started playing cricket afterwards and that took up a lot of time because I made the under-age Vic squads. “Then with the footy I put it off I guess because I would have cricket in the winter and the summer, and the footy went for a little bit of the summer. “I guess I didn’t feel I could the manage the load for both all-year round so I didn’t pursue the Rays’ stuff.”

That changed as she soon changed as Matin decided to give Australian rules a crack at trying to get to the elite level, enjoying the toughness and fast-past nature of the sport. She was also overwhelmed with the support from her Stingrays’ teammates as she entered the program as a top-ager.

“Yeah it was good,” Matin said. “I only knew like a couple of people so I had to get to know people and they were really welcoming all the top-agers and all the girls. “They were really supportive and all welcoming. “They made me feel like I belonged.”

While Matin played small forward for the Stingrays, she ran through the midfield with the Eagles, citing her ability to read the game quickly, and use the ball well when in possession among her strengths. Having had her only NAB League Girls season cut short, Matin still used the time to work on other areas of her game.

“During this break I’ve worked on my fitness because I knew it was one of my weaknesses,” Matin said. “Not having the running ability I probably should have, so trying to improve that and become a little fitter than I was.”

Aspiring to be an elite sportsperson, Matin said entering 2020 she did not have any particular aims with her football, but wanted to excel however far she got.

“At the start of the year I didn’t really have any expectations on what I just kind of just joined it because it’s a good opportunity for me and to take the next step with my footy and I guess I never really thought of specific goals per se,” Matin said. “Just take every opportunity and be the best I can be in every situation that presents to me in the future.”

While many have been left in limbo over the season’s cancellation, Matin said the season cancellation allowed her to refocus and take a break, which is something she has seldom had over the years as a dual-sport players.

“Yeah it was kind of a weird feeling because I’m normally busy all year around doing one sport,” Matin said. “Then that got cancelled and the preseason hadn’t started yet and it’s been relaxing because I’ve had a mental refresh because I haven’t had to have my brain on during training and all that. “

So it’s kind of good on the mental front and then just over the break, you know just improving my running and improving my strength and doing anything I can to stay fit, to stay active because that’s the worst thing you can do in a break like this. “Just kind of sit around all day and not get your blood circulating and that.”

Looking back on her football career, Matin was able to pinpoint one particular moment amongst the rest that stood out, and it featured a Stingrays’ teammate at local level.

“I’ve had a few good ones (memories), we’ve been pretty successful as a local team,” Matin said. “We’ve won many flags like that. “One flag a couple of years ago, can’t remember which one. “What Tyanna Smith did, she kicked a goal just before the siren just by the buzzer which was a pretty good feeling because we were up and then they came back and it was just hard-fought from there so just to sneak over the line was such a good feeling.”

Having won the multiple premierships and best and fairests, as well as a few player of the series for different cricket competitions, and being the leading wicket-taker at the Under 15 National Championships for Victoria, it is easy enough to see Matin pulling on the whites as easily as the footy boots. If all goes to plan in the future for the talented teenager, she could be the next Jess Duffin.

Stingrays stun Ranges with 50-point win

DANDENONG Stingrays have produced one of their best performances in the NAB League Girls competition to-date, downing Eastern Ranges by 50 points at Holm Park Reserve in Beaconsfield. In warm conditions without a lot of breeze, the Stingrays went into the contest with a heavy bottom-age presence with talls up either end supported by a couple of more experienced players around them. It was an arm-wrestle for the most part in the first half, with Dandenong eventually turning the tables on Eastern thanks to an inspired performance by AFL Women’s National Academy member, Tyanna Smith.

While she was solid in the first quarter, it was the second term where Smith came to life, having multiple inside 50s – including three consecutive – and booting a remarkable goal from the boundary line to blow out the half-time margin to 33 points at the break. The first five minutes of the match was spent between the arcs, but a quick kick inside 50 gave debutant overager, Serene Vudiniabola the opportunity with her strong hands to dish off to Jess Matin who slotted the easiest of first goals. The Stingrays double up late in the term when Ashleigh Richards converted from 30m out straight in front, but it was off the back of a huge Mackenzie Eardley tackle, stopping Lily Peacock in her tracks on the wing. Both Smith and Olivia Meagher were battling hard for their respective sides, throwing their bodies on the line to win the contested ball despite being outnumbered.

Eardley continued in the second term where she took a huge contested one-on-one mark inside defensive 50, while Smith’s dominance came to the fore. After a couple of dropped marks by teammates and Vudiniabola’s missed chance for a goal herself, Smith gathered the ball right by the boundary line amongst traffic and snapped it across her body off a step to put it through the middle in a remarkable effort. Meagher and Jorja Livingstone were trying hard for Eastern, with Livingstone bearing similar traits to Smith with her ability to sidestep opponents and kick it clear. The Stingrays’ defence kept holding up however, and both Georgia Grimmer and Vudiniabola got on the board late in the term. Tarni Brown had a chance in the dying seconds right on the boundary but was knocked over as she kicked it, with the ball cannoning into the behind post ensuring the Stingrays were in firm control of the contest.

It did not take long in the second half for Dandenong to keep building the lead with Richards converting her second in the opening few minutes. The drought was broken for the Ranges in response when a contest deep in the Eastern forward line produced something out of nothing with Victorian Netball League (VNL) netballer, Saskia Nannes making her mark on the game with a clever snap which bounced past a couple of defenders and home. Richards almost had a third for the Ranges, but it was touched on the way there. Meagher’s defensive work and contested ability was there throughout the four quarters, wrapping up Zoe Hill to win a free kick and subsequent 50m penalty, but her set shot drifted to the right. Not to be outdone, Smith then ran down an opponent with five minutes left in the quarter to save a certain goal, then moments later marked inside 50, 30m out on an angle. She too missed the chance to add to the lead, but Jaide Anthony did not, when a fortuitous fumble close to the line saw an opponent overrun the ball and collect her high with a subsequent snap from the free kick sailing through and the margin was 39 at the final break.

The last quarter started with more promise for the Stingrays as Vudiniabola booted her second major just 51 seconds into the contest, and Grimmer made it two for herself with a goal midway through the term with a remarkable long bomb off a snap. Unfortunately Eastern copped two injuries in the final term with players having to be helped off, but the game was done and dusted by that stage, and while a number of Ranges had impressed, it was a terrific performance from the Stingrays. Dandenong head coach, Dave Carden said it was a terrific effort from the playing group to put out the performance it did.

“It’s interesting, because you’re not really sure what to expect,” he said. “We’re such a new squad. “We had 11 debutants play their first game for the Stingrays today and we’re pretty much a brand new coaching staff. “So we’ve worked on a lot of things over the summer and it’s really been about the fundamentals. “Making sure we’re getting our kicking right under pressure. Massive focus on clean hands, but also them having the courage to take the game on. “We talked about it as players, we want them to bring their strength to the game, rather than a whole heap of structural stuff and be you. “You know what? I think they did a really, really good job right across the ground doing that.”

Smith finished with 26 disposals, four marks, five tackles, six inside 50s, two rebounds and a goal, leading the way perfectly from Amber Clarke (12 disposals, two marks and four tackles), while Grimmer, Richards and Vudiniabola all booted a couple of majors each as a damaging forward combination. Eardley was superb in defence with a couple of marks, four rebounds, five tackles and seven touches, while Matin missed a couple of chances in the third term to boot a handy three majors, but finished with 1.2 from 10 disposals and four tackles. Captain Abbey Jordan also produced a lot of one percenters, recording nine disposals and two inside 50s with a lot of hard running throughout the contest. For Eastern, Meagher was the standout with 16 disposals, two marks, five tackles and three inside 50s, well supported by Livingstone (13 disposals, two tackles) and Brown (20 disposals, three tackles). Ruby O’Dwyer (12 disposals, three inside 50s and two tackles) and Jess Grace (seven disposals, 12 hitouts) were also among Eastern’s best in the loss.

Next week the Stingrays head to Cragieburn to take on the Calder Cannons, wile Eastern has a bye in Round 2 ahead of a home match at Kilsyth against Tasmania Devils.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.0 | 5.3 | 7.4 | 9.4 (58)
EASTERN RANGES 0.0 | 0.0 | 1.1 | 1.2 (8)

GOALS:

Dandenong: A. Richards 2, S. Vudiniabola 2, G. Grimmer 2, J. Matin, J. Anthony, T. Smith.
Eastern: S. Nannes.

BEST:

Dandenong: T. Smith, M. Eardley, G. Grimmer, A. Jordan, S. Vudiniabola
Eastern: O. Meagher, J. Livingstone, T. Brown, R. O’Dwyer, J. Grace

DC Medal:

5 – Tyanna Smith (DS)
4 – Olivia Meagher (ER)
3 – Mackenzie Eardley (DS)
2 – Georgia Grimmer (DS)
1 – Jorja Livingstone (ER)

Raw talent set to excite for Stingrays in 2020

DANDENONG Stingrays will have a “different feel” to them in the NAB League Girls competition this year after a large list turnover saw plenty of fresh faces make the squad for the upcoming 2020 season. Female Talent Manager, Matthew Crozier said the squad was raw but talented with plenty to like about the coming years at the club.

“It’s a bit of a different feel to it this year,” he said. “We only retained 20 to 25 players from 2019, so a lot of new kids, a lot of new faces trying to get them up to the standard. “But a really good young group.”

The three standouts that Crozier is excited to see perform this year are AFL Women’s Academy member, Tyanna Smith, as well as midfielder, Abbey Jordan and tall defender, Zoe Hill. He said the three led by example out on the track over the pre-season and were prepared for a big year which he hoped could continue to place them in the spotlight for the AFL Women’s Draft at year’s end.

“Tyanna Smith’s been pretty good,” Crozier said. “Abbey Jordan’s come back like a house on fire so pretty stoked for her at the moment. “Zoe Hill from Vic Country last year has got a lot fitter and come a long way. “Those three are hopefully going to go to Vic Country and hopefully got to a VFL club later in the year and show them what they’re made of.”

While Smith was renowned for her acceleration out of the stoppage and ability to get goal side with ball-in-hand, Crozier said she would be “thrown around” into different positions to showcase her versatility and appeal to AFL Women’s clubs. Jordan’s run and carry will become a feature in the forward half of the ground, while Hill’s ability to play well as a defender on the last line will be tested up the other end of the ground at times.

“Yeah we want to mix it up,” Crozier said. “We want to try and play her forward and give her an opportunity, but in saying that, that’s her best position and probably the position she’s going to play at Nationals. “Hopefully if all goes to plan, we’re a development program, we’ve got to try and put these girls up in lights and expose them to the AFL clubs and the national recruiters to get them there, and that’s obviously with the 16s as well.”

The Stingrays list is set to be young again in 2020, with one 19-year-old prospect a potential excitement machine all things going well.

“We have one girl who’s never played footy in her life – Serene Vudiniabola,” Crozier said. “She’s played at Haileybury at 2019 in her Year 12 year. “Previously a sprinter at about 183 (cm), she’ll be exciting but she’s not sure what she’s doing with uni yet so we’re waiting to see on that. “But for a player who never really played a competitive game, at local or in a program, she’s going to be a really good force to be reckoned with if she makes our list.”

Vudiniabola is not the only cross-coder to test their hand at Australian rules, with a couple of other talents already on the list, including an AFL Women’s National Academy member in Jaide Anthony.

“There’s a lot of basketballers and those with cricket as well like Jaide Anthony,” Crozier said. “Jess Matin who hasn’t really done much with us, but is a really good talent and hopefully going to be a bit of a smoky later during the year. “She’s never been in a NAB League program before so hopefully she has a really good year and has been touted at the next level. But she needs to prove herself here at the moment.”

Along with Anthony, there are a number of 17 and 16-year-olds that could catch the eye throughout this season and the coming years.

“We’ve got a few (bottom-agers to watch),” Crozier said. “Amber Clarke really, really good player had a good V/Line series. “Mackenzie Eardley is about six foot and she’s 15 and could play as a wing, a running wing or a running half-back. “She played a Futures Game with us last year and didn’t look out of place so hopefully this year she can push for a spot in the first side. “Another one we have in Monet Ferris who was in the Gold Coast SUNS Academy and played Under 15s for Queensland in the girls competition down in Tasmania last year. “Her family moved down at the end of last year and were looking for a club, and fortunate for us she landed right in the middle of our zone, so that was fantastic to get her. “But that bottom-age group is a really strong age group and I would expect in the coming years with the development and work we will put into these girls that they’ll push forward.”

The Stingrays season unofficially kicks off on Saturday with the first competitive hitout of the pre-season taking on the Western Jets at Seaford, followed by a second clash against Oakleigh Chargers on Sunday, February 16. Crozier said he felt it was a better tune up for the real season by having a couple of trial games.

“Last year we only had one hitout prior to the season and now I think having two, it will be more beneficial for the girls and the coaches as well,” he said. “We have a really new coaching group as well. “From last year we’ve only kept two coaches, and we’ve got another eight development coaches who are mostly female now. “We’re looking at not only developing players, but developing coaches and people as well, and females in footy.”

The Stingrays came close to sneaking into the NAB League Girls finals last season, and while Crozier admits it would be nice to play in those “marquee games”, that was not the goal of the organisation in the development league.

“I don’t really have many expectations,” he said. “It’s always good to win games but for us, it’s the cliche answer. “I couldn’t care if we were none and nine as long as we do our job, and all 48 girls on our list leave the program better than when they came in – an influence back at local or VFL or Nationals – that’s a win for us. “I know the girls and some of the coaches at times really want to be playing in those games. “They are marquee games and they get looked at by a lot more recruiters. “It would be good, but I still think Northern and Calder and those types of teams are going to be the ones to beat.”

There has been plenty of change at the club with Dave Carden coming on as head coach of the Girls’ program after success at Hawthorn in the VFL Women’s.

“He had a couple of years there and was involved with their premiership back in 2018,” Crozier said. “He’s been really good and he’s brought a couple of development coaches in with Steph Carroll – I think she captained that side in the premiership year. So she’s been a really good player transitioning into that coaching fraternity now. But she’s been really good on educating the players and what it’s like to train, especially the younger ones what the training standards are. “It’s been good.”

Dandenong Stingrays have a tough start to the 2020 NAB League season on March 1 against last year’s finalist Eastern Ranges at Beaconsfield, before facing last year’s grand finalists back-to-back in Calder Cannons and Northern Knights on the road.