Tag: jesse wardlaw

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 4 preview – Victorian crowds return for blockbuster fixtures

RETURNING crowds are set to light up some blockbuster fixtures in Round 4 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season, with four top-six foes locking horns while inaugural sides Melbourne and Western Bulldogs play off for the Hampson-Hardeman Cup. The ladder is beginning to take shape with four teams remaining undefeated and another four still out to claim their first points, but things can change very quickly in the middle order – starting this weekend.

Note: All start times are local.

ST KILDA (9th, 1-2) vs. GEELONG (14th, 0-3)
Friday February 19, 7:10pm
RSEA Park

Geelong will be out to break its duck in season 2021, but faces a tricky task in doing so as an away trip to face St Kilda awaits on Friday night. The Saints got on the board at the first time of asking this year but have fallen short of strong opposition since. Still, a third outing at their home of RSEA Park in four rounds should serve them well against their winless visitors from up the highway.

Both sides are set to blood debutants, with another of Geelong’s 2020 draftees in Laura Gardiner named on the bench for her maiden senior appearance, replacing Rebecca Goring (managed). St Kilda injury replacement Rebecca Ott is the game’s other debutant, brought in as part of four total changes for the Saints. While they will miss the likes of Molly McDonald (quad) and Nadia von Bertouch (foot), defender Bianca Jakobsson is among the relieving inclusions.

The Cats rank last for points scored and while the Saints have not been all that flash in converting up forward either, they should have enough firepower to boot a winning score. Geelong’s defence is known to be reasonably reliable though, so capitalising on the midfield battle will be key to either team getting on top.

Tip: St Kilda by 10

CARLTON (8th, 1-2) vs. RICHMOND (11th, 0-3)
Saturday February 20, 3:10pm
Princes Park

Traditional rivals Carlton and Richmond lock horns at Princes Park on Saturday, with the hosts eager to shake off a rough start and begin their push towards finals. A premiership hopeful coming into the season, Carlton dropped its first two games but got back on track last week and will fancy its chances against the winless Tigers. Richmond has shown some added bite in 2021 though, shoring up in defence and streaming forward more dangerously.

The Tigers have conceded no more than seven goals against some stiff opposition across the first three rounds, but have a lingering sense of rawness when it comes to their efficiency in attack. A total score of seven goals and 17 behinds does not make for good reading, and such impotence will likely prove costly against the more polished Blues, who are also quite bullish in defence.

Carlton’s strong midfield is set to play a factor too, led by reigning league best and fairest, Madison Prespakis. She may well find herself matched up by former-Blue Sarah Hosking at the centre bounces, with star Richmond ball winner Monique Conti arguably her side’s biggest threat in that department. The Blues’ dynamism and depth across the ground will also prove telling, especially if Richmond put together a good patch.

Tip: Carlton by 28

FREMANTLE (2nd, 3-0) vs. GOLD COAST (13th, 0-3)
Saturday February 20, 2:10pm
Fremantle Oval

Fremantle will fancy its chances of extending its record winning run to 11 matches on Saturday afternoon, when the Gold Coast Suns come to town looking for their first points this season. The Dockers have been in irresistible form, picking up from where they left off in 2020 with three-straight wins – including a crucial one against Adelaide last week in what was their first true test for 2021.

After a promising start against Melbourne, Gold Coast has registered a combined 10 points in its last two outings; first suffering a Q-Clash drubbing and then being edged by GWS in torrential conditions. Needless to say, scoring is a sore point for the Suns, but they have decent stock in a forwardline led by Sarah Perkins, should the ball get there. That is not to mention All Australian Kalinda Howarth, who is yet to register a goal this season.

They will need all the firepower they can get to match that of Fremantle, who have an array of scoring options. Spearhead Gemma Houghton was held relatively well last week but still managed to live up to her two-goal average, while the likes of Sabreena Duffy and Kara Antonio have also proven handy avenues forward. Gold Coast will have its hands full in midfield as well, though the reliable partnership of Jamie Stanton and Alison Drennan should provide some resistance to the Kiara Bowers juggernaut.

Tip: Fremantle by 45

NORTH MELBOURNE (5th, 2-1) vs. COLLINGWOOD (3rd, 3-0)
Saturday February 20, 7:10pm
Marvel Stadium

Marvel Stadium hosts one of the games of the round as Victorian powerhouses North Melbourne and Collingwood do battle on Saturday night. Returning fans should be treated to a mouthwatering spectacle, with the elements set to play no factor in hindering North Melbourne’s slick ball movement by foot, or Collingwood’s flowing run-and-gun style under the Marvel Stadium roof.

The Magpies should come in with a great deal of confidence having passed every test put in front of them thus far, but this will easily be their biggest challenge yet. While they dropped points last week, the Kangaroos have the advantage of competing in one of the competition’s most high-level encounters, ever, putting them in good stead for this potential finals sighter.

Collingwood midfield brigade is one of the few which could well match it with North Melbourne at the centre bounces, with ball magnets Jaimee Lambert, Brittany Bonnici, and the dynamic Bri Davey all averaging over 19 disposals. North Melbourne’s depth runs a touch deeper though, with Emma Kearney, Ashleigh Riddell, and Jenna Bruton among five Roos to average over 16 touches. The other two, Jasmine Garner and Ellie Gavalas, have also booted five and four goals respectively.

Tip: North Melbourne by 5

BRISBANE (1st, 3-0) vs. ADELAIDE (6th, 2-1)
Sunday February 21, 12:10pm
Hickey Park

League frontrunner, Brisbane hosts Adelaide on Sunday afternoon in another game of the round contender, making for Brisbane’s first top six assignment this year. The Lions have been flawless thus far, albeit against three of the bottom four teams, with the league’s most potent attack and stingiest defence. Adelaide went down to Fremantle last week, but has shown its quality as a bonafide premiership threat. This, another clash of contenders, will prove telling.

The Lions’ key forward partnership of Dakota Davidson and Jesse Wardlaw has produced a combined 12 goals this season, as teams have struggled to combat their one-two punch. Add to that the speed of Greta Bodey (five goals) and Courtney Hodder at ground level, and Brisbane’s attack has plenty of bases which need covering.

Adelaide will always back its midfield, consisting of Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard, and Erin Phillips to set it on the right foot, while a defence set to be bolstered by skipper Chelsea Randall should combat Brisbane’s firepower well. Having been thrown deep forward with good success last week, Phillips looms as a handy wildcard for the Crows who were incredibly wasteful inside attacking 50 last week. They will need to be on song to kick a winning score in this one.

Tip: Brisbane by 3

WESTERN BULLDOGS (7th, 2-1) vs. MELBOURNE (4th, 3-0)
Sunday February 21, 3:10pm
Whitten Oval

Pioneer clubs Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will play off for the Hampson-Hardeman Cup at Whitten Oval on Sunday afternoon, with just one game separating them so far this season. Nathan Burke‘s young pups have been ultra impressive in registering their 2-1 record, but the hardness and class of Melbourne’s undefeated side should prove a steep mountain to climb.

The Dees’ new-found scoring power and free-flowing style has been built on the back of some continued solidity in midfield, with stalwart Karen Paxman reliable as ever in 2021 alongside Lily Mithen and Tyla Hanks – all of whom average over 20 disposals per game. Up forward, a tall attack led by Tegan Cunningham has been difficult to counter in the air, while Kate Hore continues to damage at ground level.

Bulldogs skipper Ellie Blackburn has been inspirational as ever this season, dragging her side over the line on two occasions and leading the Dogs for disposals, clearances, inside 50s, and score involvements. She is also top of the tree alongside Izzy Huntington for goals (both four), with the latter a contested marking phenomenon. Plenty of young guns, including Jessica Fitzgerald will have to step up for the Dogs here in what looms as an extremely daunting task.

Tip: Melbourne by 24

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY (10th, 1-2) vs. WEST COAST (12th, 0-3)
Sunday February 21, 5:10pm
Blacktown International Sportspark

Round 4’s final game sees Greater Western Sydney (GWS) hosting once again against the winless West Coast Eagles, who have proven quite plucky in patches this season. The Giants broke through last week with a 10-point win over Gold Coast, another winless side, to get some points on the board, but West Coast has thrice fallen short of the mark against quality opposition.

This presents as the Eagles’ best chance to get on the board so far in 2021, with a solid half of smothering tackling pressure against Brisbane fresh in their memory. The problems for West Coast have come via a lack of efficiency and class inside forward 50, while the Eagles’ defence has also conceded the most points of any side this season.

Young guns Bella Lewis and Mikayla Bowen have tried hard alongside Emma Swanson and ruck Parris Laurie at the centre bounces, but will be tasked with combating the dominance of powerhouse GWS pair Alyce Parker and Rebecca Beeson. Both have been among the top three disposal and contested ball winners in the first three rounds, but have seen their hard work come unstuck further afield. The Giants should be able to see the game out better on the basis of experience, but will have to be wary.

Tip: GWS by 11

Image Credit: (Retrieved from) North Melbourne FC

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Lions secure roaring Q-Clash victory

BRISBANE roared to a record-breaking Q-Clash win on Sunday, gaining bragging rights over its local rival with a 63-point thrashing of Gold Coast at Hickey Park. The 10.5 (65) to 0.2 (2) result served as the first Q-Clash win in AFL Women’s history, while also making for Brisbane’s highest ever score in the competition. On the flip-side, Gold Coast’s two behinds became the lowest-ever total and just the second goalless effort on record.

Dynamic Brisbane tall forward Jesse Wardlaw was awarded the Q-Clash Medal as best afield, booting goals in each quarter and having a hand in plenty more as she dominated both in the air and around the ground. She was a key benefactor of the Lions’ slick and quick ball movement on the outside, which put the Suns’ defence under enormous pressure.

While the scoreboard only showed two goals for Brisbane’s early ascendancy, signs were ominous when the Lions headed into the main break 29 points clear – all while keeping Gold Coast scoreless. In a sign of maturity for the maroon, blue, and gold, they put the foot down after half time with six-straight goals to run away comfortable winners.

Dakota Davidson let fans know it was party time as she sunk four majors for the Lions, while speedy second-year jet Greta Bodey added two more goals to her career tally in an electric display. Ally Anderson and Nat Grider (20 disposals) led all comers, with the likes of Emily Bates (17 disposals), Lauren Arnell (15), and Sophie Conway (14) were prolific going forward.

Lauren Aherns was Gold Coast’s leading ball winner with 19 touches, followed closely by Alison Drennan and Hannah Dunn on 18 apiece. A knee injury to prized 2020 draftee Annise Bradfield in the first term only rubs salt into the wound of Gold Coast’s mammoth loss, on top of an 0-2 record.

Image Credit: Jono Searle/Getty Images via AFL Photos

BRISBANE 2.4 | 4.5 | 6.5 | 10.5 (65)
GOLD COAST 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.1 | 0.2 (2)

GOALS:

Brisbane: J. Wardlaw 4, D. Davidson 4, G. Bodey 2
Gold Coast: Nil.

DC BEST:

Brisbane: J. Wardlaw, E. Bates, S. Conway, D. Davidson, N. Grider, L. Arnell
Gold Coast: A. Drennan, H. Dunn, L. Aherns, J. Pregelj

Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

HARDENED ROOS HOP PAST SAINTS ON HOME TURF

NORTH Melbourne secured its eighth-straight AFL Women’s victory on Sunday with a 26-point triumph over St Kilda at Arden Street Oval, but it was not enough to hold onto top spot. The Roos were tested for a half and only led by five points at the main break, but kept St Kilda scoreless thereafter to run out 5.6 (36) to 1.4 (10) winners.

The home side was met by a tenacious Saints outfit keen to compete, with the pressure gauge turned up in a competitive contest. But the more mature side, North Melbourne, was able to keep its foot on the gas for longer and eventually opened the game up on its own terms with more fluid ball movement and relentless attack at the contest.

Skipper Emma Kearney led the way for her Roos, collecting 22 touches in a vintage display of her class. Jemma Bruton was North’s leading ball winner with 23 disposals, while Ash Riddell was lively and sunk the sealing goal to boot. Jasmine Garner (18 disposals) and Ellie Gavalas (17) were the other second-half goalkickers who helped North pull away.

Georgia Patrikios broke her own record for the most disposals by a Saint in the AFLW, collecting 27 touches as she continues to go from strength to strength. Second-gamer Tyanna Smith was her side’s lone goalkicker in another promising display, while Cat Phillips (21 disposals) was also influential. The hard luck continues for Bianca Jakobsson though, as she was injured in her club debut, and first game back from collarbone surgery.

NORTH MELBOURNE 2.2 | 2.3 | 3.6 | 5.6 (36)
ST KILDA 0.1 | 1.4 | 1.4 | 1.4 (10)

GOALS:

North Melbourne: J. Garner, A. Riddell, D. Bateman, E. Gavalas, T. Randall
St Kilda: T. Smith

DC BEST:

North Melbourne: E. Kearney, A. Riddell, J. Bruton, J. Garner, E. Gavalas
St Kilda: G. Patrikios, C. Phillips, T. Smith, H. Priest, K. Shierlaw

Credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images via AFL Photos

CROWS FLY PAST GIANTS IN ROAD ROMP

ADELAIDE looks every bit the premiership contender after another convincing win, this time over the GWS Giants by 47 points at Blacktown International Sportspark on Sunday. Signs were ominous early as the Crows opened with three quick goals, before closing even better to secure the emphatic 9.8 (62) to 2.3 (15) result.

Danielle Ponter opened the game up in the first half with three majors, causing headaches inside 50 as Adelaide’s scoreboard pressure quickly began to mount. GWS was competitive at the coalface but had little to show for it in goalless second and third terms, a factor which eventually became telling as the Crows cruised to victory.

The Crows’ prime movers in Anne Hatchard (23 disposals), Erin Phillips (19), and skipper Chelsea Randall (14) were all prolific while managing to secure second half goals, while Ebony Marinoff was her side’s leading ball winner with 24 touches. Ponter finished as the game’s lone multiple goalkicker in a game-breaking performance.

Alyce Parker was again the Giants’ most valuable asset, proving monstrous at the contest to lead all comers with 27 disposals – including 16 contested possessions. She put the cherry on top of a big individual game with her first-ever AFLW goal in the final term. Rebecca Beeson also stood up in the charcoal and orange with 22 touches.

GWS 1.0 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 2.3 (15)
ADELAIDE 3.1 | 5.2 | 5.4 | 9.8 (62)

GOALS:

GWS: A. Parker, H. Zreika
Adelaide: D. Ponter 3, C. Randall, A. Woodland, M. Newman, E. Phillips, E. Jones, A. Hatchard

DC BEST:

GWS: A. Parker, R. Beeson, H. Zreika
Adelaide: E. Marinoff, E. Phillips, A. Hatchard, D. Ponter, S. Allan, C. Randall

Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images via AFL Photos

DOCKERS GIVE EAGLES THE SLIP IN WET WESTERN DERBY

Fremantle slipped, slid, and secured its ninth-consecutive AFL Women’s victory on Sunday, defeating West Coast by nine points in a wet Western Derby. The heavens opened above Fremantle Oval and a hard-fought, contested scrap ensued as the local rivals searched for ascendancy. Having been drawn back to within just six points in the final term, Freo was able to hold on and win 2.11 (23) to 2.2 (14) in an enthralling encounter.

West Coast struck first through Aisling McCarthy, who teamed up with fellow Irishwoman Niamh Kelly for a precise opening goal considering the conditions. But another glorious feat in the wet from Docker Gemma Houghton put Fremantle ahead in the second term, before Kiara Bowers bombed home from 50 to give her side a handy 12-point buffer at the final break. It proved enough, despite Imahra Cameron‘s six-pointer making the final exchanges all the more dramatic in the fourth term.

Bowers won the best afield medal having come up clutch with her goal and led all comers on the back of 23 disposals and 14 tackles in a game which was seemingly made for her. Stephanie Cain (12 disposals, two behinds) and Hayley Miller (15 disposals) both worked two ways with six tackles apiece, while Sabreena Duffy was lively in the front half.

Young gun Mikayla Bowen (18 disposals) was West Coast’s leading ball winner, followed closely by Belinda Smith (17) and skipper Emma Swanson (16). Kelly and McCarthy were also prominent for the Eagles, who came away worse for ware with multiple injuries throughout the bruising battle. The two sides remain on opposite records, with Freo flying at 2-0 while West Coast remains on the hunt for points at 0-2.

FREMANTLE 0.3 | 1.6 | 2.8 | 2.11 (23)
WEST COAST 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 2.2 (14)

GOALS:

Fremantle: G. Houghton, K. Bowers
West Coast: I. Cameron, A. McCarthy

BEST:

Fremantle: K. Bowers, S. Cain, H. Miller, S. Duffy, G. Houghton,
West Coast: M. Bowen, B. Smith, E. Swanson, A. McCarthy

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 1 preview – Traditional rivals to open the show in Thursday night blockbuster

AFL Women’s makes its long awaited return tonight, with teams hungry to make up for lost time and rectify the ‘what-ifs’ left in 2020. Traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood take the season-opening honours once again, with plenty of heat expected to come out of that clash at Princes Park. A fixture shake-up on the eve of season proper sees a few matchups altered, but Round 1 will still be stretched across a bumper four days of footballing action. We preview all seven games, capped with a prediction to (hopefully) aide your footy tipping campaign.

Note: All start times are as of AEDT

Carlton vs. Collingwood
Thursday January 28, 7:15pm
Princes Park

Carlton and Collingwood return to the season-opening slot in a clash which is sure to produce plenty of fireworks at Princes Park. The Blues are yet to lose to their fierce rivals in said fixture, but suffered a shock loss to the Pies on home turf in their Round 2 meeting last year. Carlton is a hot favourite to secure premiership glory in 2021, but will be tested by an emerging Collingwood side which went incredibly close to knocking off North Melbourne in last year’s finals.

The clash will be made all the more intriguing as Carlton spearhead Tayla Harris resumes hostilities with dour Collingwood defender Stacey Livingstone, who labelled the star goalkicker “useless” at ground level after their battle last year. Gun Pies utility Bri Davey is also set to face her old side for the first time, which she used to captain, poised to spend more time up forward. Chloe Molloy is another set to swing into attack, with both players capable of breaking Carlton’s usually sturdy defence.

Reigning competition best and fairest, Maddy Prespakis will inevitably attract plenty of attention in the engine room, but should have a good amount of support in the form of new recruit, Elise O’Dea. The former Demon is one of four debutants for the Blues, who will be without Lucy McEvoy. Collingwood father-daughter coup Tarni Brown is another debutant to watch, thrown straight into the senior side in her maiden campaign.

The Pies are a team to watch in 2021, but the Blues will be incredibly difficult to beat, especially with a point to prove.

Tip: Carlton by 10

St Kilda vs. Western Bulldogs
Friday January 29, 7:10pm
RSEA Park

The Western Bulldogs take on St Kilda once again in Round 1, with the Saints keen to make good on last year’s result. The expansion side brought football back to Moorabbin in its maiden campaign and exceeded expectations, while the young pups failed to register another win after its opening round triumph but spawned plenty of green shoots.

Youth promises to be a key feature of the clash, with number two pick Jess Fitzgerald poised to make her senior debut for the Dogs while St Kilda’s prime selection in Tyanna Smith could well run against her in midfield. Both are quick off the mark, have a terrific inside/outside balance and can find plenty of the ball, adding to either teams’ exciting young stocks.

Also pending selection is the debut of Saints father-daughter recruit Alice Burke, the daughter of Bulldogs coach Nathan. Having coached her and an abundance of other players set to take the field on Friday night, Burke will soon be on the other side. 2019 draftees Gabby Newton and Georgia Patrikios are also set to meet in midfield, while Saints leading goalkicker Caitlin Greiser could well prove a difference-maker in the closely matched contest and many eyes will be on Izzy Huntington, who is expected to swing forward with more frequency this year.

The Saints arguably turned out the better side last year and a season of experience will do wonders for them, but the Bulldogs’ potential is relatively untapped and could again carry them over the line here.

Tip: Western Bulldogs by 1

Gold Coast Suns vs. Melbourne
Saturday January 30, 3:10pm
Metricon Stadium

Melbourne will travel to face Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium in Saturday’s first fixture, making for a meeting between experience and emergence. The Suns were another expansion team to exceed expectations last year by qualifying for finals, but still proved a rung off the true premiership contenders. Melbourne’s hardened core carried it to a breakthrough postseason feature, which the Dees made good of with an epic come-from-behind victory over GWS.

The visitors have already named three debutants, with prized draftee Alyssa Bannan set to line up in the forwardline while Eliza McNamara and Megan Fitzsimon add some more youth to the starting side. Speaking of, Tyla Hanks is one to watch for Melbourne as she prepares to spend more time in the engine room having cut her teeth as an impact forward.

Gold Coast has plenty of youth to boast as well, but also added a good amount of experience in the off-season. Former Saints Sarah Perkins and Alison Drennan are both quality players and leaders; with the former slotting straight into her new side’s leadership group and the latter set to provide another reliable figure in midfield. Scoring looks a key area of improvement for the Suns, and these two should aid that with presence inside 50 and forward momentum respectively.

Gold Coast rattled a few of the top sides last year and have the youthful exuberance to do exactly that to Melbourne on home turf, but the Dees are always a tough team to beat and should have enough prime movers to seal victory.

Tip: Melbourne by 5

West Coast vs. Adelaide
Saturday January 30, 5:10pm
Mineral Resources Park

West Coast begins its second AFL Women’s campaign at home as Adelaide comes to town looking to start its year on the right foot. The Eagles struggled last season but managed to scrounge a memorable maiden win and have made the markers of improvement for 2021. Adelaide, technically still the reigning premier, timed its premiership hangover perfectly as everything which could have gone wrong, did in 2020. The Crows finished sixth in Conference A with just two wins, but had many a setback along the way.

At its core, the Crows’ squad is still elite and will be buoyed by the return of some outstanding talent. Skipper Chelsea Randall is set to slot straight back into the defence after her long-term knee injury, while a fully fit Erin Phillips looms ominously as a midfield/forward option. In their absence, the likes of Sarah Allan and Anne Hatchard produced All Australian seasons, though the Crows will sweat on Ebony Marinoff‘s availability as the ball magnet looks to overturn her monster three-game suspension.

It is no secret that West Coast’s strength lies in the midfield, which will be bolstered by trade coup Aisling McCarthy and prime draftee Bella Lewis. The promising pair will be thrown straight into the deep end, but have experienced movers in Dana Hooker and captain Emma Swanson to wax with through the engine room – all under the ruckwork of Parris Laurie. Scoring has been a sore point for the Eagles though, and Adelaide can do plenty of that.

With plenty to prove in 2020, the Crows loom as a fearsome force which could quickly rise back to the AFL Women’s summit. West Coast remains a step off the competition’s best and arguably its greatest weakness works into Adelaide’s hands, with the Crows’ scoring ability key to taking the game away from their opponents here.

Tip: Adelaide by 25

Geelong vs. North Melbourne
Sunday January 31, 12:10pm
GMHBA Stadium

Geelong hosts North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday afternoon, gunning for a return to finals action in season 2021. North looms as stiff opposition first up though, with the Kangaroos keen to strike gold while their remarkably deep squad remains hungry and intact – especially after missing out on premiership opportunities in their first two top flight campaigns.

The hosts went back to the well of local talent once again at this year’s draft, introducing a couple more gun midfielders in Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner with their top 20 picks. Caution surrounds Nina Morrison‘s return but Denby Taylor is poised to slot back into the lineup after her own injury woes, while Olivia Purcell has a full preseason under her belt and will again look to mix it with the game’s elite midfielders.

Geelong will need to be on its game in the engine room considering how deep North Melbourne’s midfield crop runs, with skipper Emma Kearney joined by Jasmine Garner, Jenna Bruton and co. The former two are also scoring threats from the middle and add to North’s firepower, while the returning Jess Duffin is another big name which will steady the Kangaroos in defence.

The Roos won by 46 points in the same fixture last year, but should be in for a more competitive dig if Geelong can manage to turn its spurts of form into four quarter showings. They should still be too strong for the young Cats.

Tip: North Melbourne by 9

Richmond vs. Brisbane
Sunday January 31, 2:10pm
Punt Road Oval

Richmond’s hunt for premiership points continues into year two, starting with a home outing against Brisbane on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers went winless in their inaugural AFL Women’s campaign and, needless to say, will hope to avoid the same fate by getting on the board quickly in 2021. The developing Brisbane side proved many doubters wrong in 2020 and made finals, but must win games like these to achieve the same result this time around.

Incoming Tigers coach Ryan Ferguson will have 2020 number one pick Ellie McKenzie at his disposal, along with a raft of experienced inclusions. Foundation Blue Sarah Hosking is an important addition to the engine room, while Sarah D’Arcy could be one to boost their key position stocks as the Tigers look to become a more competitive force.

Brisbane looks a much more settled lineup having been ravaged during the expansion era, with a core of foundation players leading the charge ahead of some promising young talent. The front half spearheaded by Jesse Wardlaw looks exciting, while Kate Lutkins‘ defensive troops make the Lions hard to crack. Having started so well last season, the Lions will be out to put wins on the board early once again and push for more finals experience. They should be too strong here, but expect to see the Tigers fight.

Tip: Brisbane by 15

Fremantle vs. GWS Giants
Sunday January 31, 4:10pm
Fremantle Oval

The final game of the round sees GWS travel to take on Fremantle at Fremantle Oval on Sunday, looking to break the Dockers’ undefeated streak which dates back to 2019. The Giants have faced many a challenge over the offseason, including relocation, but showed last year that they can stand up against the tide. The Dockers are a force to be reckoned with, especially on home turf, and will again be a bonafide premiership contender – if not, the favourite.

The Dockers’ free flowing style and many scoring threats should cause Giants coaches a few headaches, though the visitors’ experience will count for plenty in resisting the inevitable pressure Fremantle will apply. It all starts with Kiara Bowers in midfield, while the dynamic duo of Sabreena Duffy and Gemma Houghton is always difficult to stop up forward, along with Ebony Antonio on the outer.

Those kinds of attacking threats should be too much for the Giants to handle, especially in the current context and in front of home fans. It is the kind of game Fremantle is expected to win, but GWS will be plucky.

Tip: Fremantle by 21

Featured Image: Carlton captain Kerryn Harrington (left) and Collingwood’s Bri Davey (right) are set to face off in Thursday night’s season opener | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Draft Central’s 2021 AFLW season predictions

WITH the 2021 AFL Women’s season bouncing down tomorrow night, the Draft Central editors have penned their predictions for this year’s proceedings. Below are our favourites in the premiership race, the potential risers and sliders, leading goalkicker candidates, rising star contenders, and the competition best and fairest contenders.

>> SCROLL to see our full predictions

Among the trends, three of the four tipsters predicted grand final heartbreak for North Melbourne, with Fremantle the favourite choice for premiership glory. Carlton and Adelaide were also tipped for top two finishes, with the Crows also a popular selection in the riser category after their disappointing 2020 campaign. Melbourne and GWS will be out to prove the Draft Central crew wrong, selected twice each as this year’s most likely slider.

In terms of individual honours, Carlton midfielder Madison Prespakis was backed to take out consecutive best and fairest awards, with Bulldogs skipper Ellie Blackburn and Collingwood gun Jaimee Lambert also in the conversation. Another in contention is North Melbourne’s Jasmine Garner, who was also a surprise leading goalkicker tip. Iconic Carlton high-flyer Tayla Harris was the most popular choice though, while Chloe Molloy could prove a shrewd pick as she looks to swing forward this year.

It was no surprise to see the 2020 number one pick, Ellie McKenzie backed most often for the rising star award, with other identified challengers including former Northern Knights teammate Jess Fitzgerald and fellow NAB League graduate Tyanna Smith. All three were taken within the top six selections and are primed for full seasons of first team football.

Outside of the nominated entires, Fremantle’s Kiara Bowers will almost inevitably feature highly in the league best and fairest count, while Karen Paxman is also a good shout depending on how Melbourne fare this time around. North skipper Emma Kearney is still considered by many to be the competition’s best player, while Adelaide ball magnets Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff (if cleared), Erin Phillips, Bri Davey, Monique Conti, and Dana Hooker could also be thereabouts. Do not be surprised to see young guns Alyce Parker and Olivia Purcell move into the elite category too, if they had not already.

2020 regular season leading goalkicker Caitlin Greiser was surprisingly overlooked for the same award by our editors this time around, while dynamic Fremantle duo Gemma Houghton and Sabreena Duffy. will be sure to trouble the scorers aplenty. Brisbane spearhead Jesse Wardlaw should be up there again alongside teammate Jess Wuetschner, while North’s Emma King will hope for an improved season in front of goal, Kalinda Howarth is always dangerous, and Kaitlyn Ashmore should not be forgotten either. Geelong’s Phoebe McWilliams is another in that boat, primed for a big season.

SEASON PREDICTIONS

Michael Alvaro
AFL(W) Draft Editor

Premier: Carlton
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: GWS
B&F: Jaimee Lambert
Leading goalkicker: Tayla Harris
Rising star: Jess Fitzgerald
Headline: Morrison makes a midseason splash as Cats push for finals

Taylah Melki
Managing Editor

Premier: Fremantle
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: Melbourne
B&F: Madison Prespakis
Leading goalkicker: Tayla Harris
Rising star: Ellie McKenzie
Headline: Prespakis wins back-to-back best and fairest awards

Sophie Taylor
Senior Editor

Premier: Fremantle
Runner up: Carlton
Riser: Collingwood
Slider: GWS
B&F: Madison Prespakis
Leading goalkicker: Jasmine Garner
Rising star: Ellie McKenzie
Headline: Dees dump doubters to make finals

Peter Williams
Chief Editor

Premier: Adelaide
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: Melbourne
B&F: Ellie Blackburn
Leading goalkicker: Chloe Molloy
Rising star: Tyanna Smith
Headline: Triple treat for Crows as Adelaide wins third flag

Featured Image: Madison Prespakis is the clubhouse best and fairest favourite | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

2021 AFLW: All the practice game results

AFL WOMEN’S sides got their first taste of competitive action for 2021, with a series of scratch matches played behind closed doors around the nation and giving a glimpse into what to expect from the upcoming season. We go around the grounds to bring you the results and key points out of each game as Round 1 edges closer.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

Saturday January 16:

West Coast 4.3 (27) def. by Fremantle 5.7 (37) @ Lathlain Park

Fremantle edged local rival, West Coast in a Western Derby sighter at Mineral Resources Park, despite a hot start from the Eagles. The two sides could not have finished any further apart among Conference B in season 2020, but West Coast showed promising signs of improvement by bolting to an Aisling McCarthy-inspired lead in the first half. The former Western Bulldogs Irishwoman booted three of her side’s four goals for the match, all coming within the opening term. In the end, Freo’s experience and depth across the field won out in the 10-point victory, a result which was expected of the premiership contender. Star midfielder Kiara Bowers was at her typical best, while the Eagles looked solid through midfield as prize draftee Bella Lewis got her first taste of senior football.

Geelong 5.4 (34) def. by Melbourne 8.7 (55) @ Kardinia Park

Melbourne shook off some preseason cobwebs with a 21-point win over Geelong on the road, overcoming a hefty first term deficit to run over the top of the Cats. The home side bolted out of the gates with four-straight majors, but saw its lead quickly dissolve as Melbourne piled on five goals in the second term. Geelong only managed one more major thereafter, seeing Melbourne ride home a reasonably comfortable victory. The return of young gun Denby Taylor will buoy Cats players and fans alike, while fellow 2018 draftee Tyla Hanks starred for Melbourne as she looks to nail down a spot in midfield. Her development looms as all the more important as lynchpin Karen Paxman nurses a leg injury sustained on the day, with Meg Downie (sprained ankle) another unfortunate casualty.

Carlton 6.4 (40) def. St Kilda 5.8 (38) @ Princes Park

A late Breann Moody goal saved Carlton’s blushes against St Kilda, helping the Blues come away with a two-point victory at Princes Park. The two sides shared spurts of momentum throughout a closely-contested game, with Carlton leading by eight points at the main break before falling behind and eventually fighting back to claim a last gasp win. St Kilda’s young talent was on full show with speedy midfielders Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith returning good shifts opposed to the dynamic Georgia Gee and Darcy Vescio, who will look to push into the engine room this year. Tayla Harris watched on from the sidelines, but Carlton unveiled its boom recruit in Elise O’Dea alongside Maddy Guerin and Charlotte Hammans. Bianca Jakobsson suffered a broken collarbone in a big blow to the Saints on the eve of the season, though Tarni White made a strong return from her long-term knee injury.

Richmond 3.11 (29) def. by Western Bulldogs 6.7 (43) @ Punt Road Oval

Five final term goals saw the Western Bulldogs roll Richmond by 14 points at Punt Road Oval, as the top two 2020 draftees went head-to-head in their new colours. The young pups trailed at every break before an inspired last dig produced the desired effect, with skipper Ellie Blackburn chiming in from a more forward-oriented role and prized draftee Jess Fitzgerald showing her wares through midfield. Fellow Northern Knights graduate Ellie McKenzie was also promising for the Tigers, while Bulldogs father-daughter gun Issy Grant was unleashed after missing her entire maiden season. As promised, 2020 Rising Star Izzy Huntington featured up forward in the red, white, and blue but was contained by a well-drilled Richmond defence, though there was no stopping Monique Conti as she dominated in the yellow and black.

Gold Coast 4.2 (26) def. by Brisbane 6.7 (43) @ Metricon 2

Brisbane came out on top in its preseason Q-Clash with Gold Coast, creating a greater wealth of opportunities to come away the 17-point victor. Away from home up at the Metricon Stadium facilities, the Lions’ scoring effort was led by Greta Bodey (two goals), who finished as the game’s sold multiple goalkicker. Prolific young forwards Jesse Wardlaw and Kalinda Howarth also found the big sticks for the respective sides. The Suns named surprise coup Sarah Perkins for her first game in new colours, while another former Saint in Alison Drennan also made her maiden appearance for Gold Coast. While Brisbane young gun Lily Postlethwaite was not named, exciting draftees Zimmorlei Farquharson and Indy Tahau were among the squad which took home a solid win ahead of Round 1.

Sunday January 17:

Collingwood 7.5 (47) def. North Melbourne 5.5 (35) @ Princes Park

Collingwood picked up an upset victory over North Melbourne at Princes Park on Sunday, signalling even more improvement to build on that of 2020. The Magpies were left a couple of talls short after Sharni Norder (late withdrawal, finger) and Erica Fowler (cheekbone) sustained injuries, but conjured enough fluency away from the midfield battle to run away 12-point winners. The magnets were shuffled a touch as Bri Davey spent some time up forward, where fast-developing draftee Amelia Verlardo booted two majors. Father-daughter coup Tarni Brown impressed further afield in her first outing, while usual suspects Emma Kearney and Jasmine Garner were among North’s best. Returning star Jess Duffin (adductor) was a late out for the Roos, but looms as a high-level inclusion this season.

Adelaide 2.21 (33) def. GWS 2.1 (13) @ Norwood Oval

Severe inaccuracy did little to stop Adelaide from picking up a confidence-boosting win over GWS on Sunday, with just two of the Crows’ 23 scoring shots resulting in majors. Despite finishing with an equal amount of goals, the Giants were comfortably adrift both in general play and on the scoreboard, going down by 20 points. Newly-named Crows captain Chelsea Randall made a pleasing return from injury in the win, but the game was cut short in the final term as Giants Irishwoman Brid Stack was taken to hospital with a potential spinal injury. Elsewhere, defender Sarah Allan was trialled up forward and returned one of her side’s two goals, pointing towards her potential versatility this year as the Crows look to bounce back to premiership contention.

Featured Image: St Kilda’s Tyanna Smith fights for a clearance | Graham Denholm/Getty Images via AFL Photos

2020 QAFLW season outlook: Back in action for bumper season

PLAYERS are preparing to take to the field once again in the Queensland Australian Football League Women’s (QAFLW) competition this weekend and Draft Central will be providing a weekly wrap on how the teams are performing and who’s taking on who the following week. To catch up on the competition already played – three rounds were completed prior to the season being cancelled due to the COVID19 pandemic – we run through where the teams stood. We also list the AFLW Academy Hub members as per their aligned club, as well as the AFL Women’s aligned players, though with competition returning at a different time to usual, there is no guarantee all will suit up for their respective sides.

1st Maroochydore (3-0, 274.42%, 12 points)

The green and gold Roos sit atop the QAFLW ladder after three rounds with a massive 274.42 per cent and a perfect 3-0 record. Their wins got progressively more nerve-wracking as the season went on, following a 55-point shellacking of Aspley Hornets before notching up a 16-point win over Coorparoo in Round 2, and a narrow four-point win over University of Queensland in the last match back on March 14. They face off against fifth placed Wilston Grange this weekend, to complete matches against the bottom four sides. The Roos are a much improved side this season, but expect them to know exactly where they stand when they face the other top few teams.

AFL Women’s aligned players: Lily Postlethwaite, Isabel Dawes, Shannon Campbell, Tahlia Randall

AFLW Academy Hub members: Bella Smith, Maggie Harmer, Mikayla Pauga

Others to watch: Chloe Gregory, Tahlia Mead, Kathryn Hehir

 

2nd Coolangatta Tweed (3-0, 162.96%, 12 points)

The Bluebirds are one of only two Gold Coast-based sides in the top flight QAFLW and started their season off strongly with an unblemished three from three record. In that time they knocked off rivals, Bond University by five points, defeated Aspley Hornets by 27, and got the better of Yeronga South Brisbane by 19 in the most recent match. They take on fellow Gold Coast side Bond University for a second time this weekend in what should be a massive clash. Having wins over two top four sides, albeit this early in the season would be promising for the confidence as they look to build on their season.

AFL Women’s aligned players: Lauren Ahrens, Hannah Dunn, Georgia Breward, Jasmyn Hewett, Jordann Hickey, Leah Kaslar, Paige Parker, Selina Priest, Sally Riley, Maddy Roberts, Kate Surman

Others to watch: Casey Samuels, Alexandra Hamlyn, Ebony Peterson

 

3rd Yeronga South Brisbane (2-1, 119.40%, 8 points)

The Devils had a promising start to the year with a high-scoring 15-point win over last year’s premiers, Coorparoo before toppling Wilston Grange by five goals. Their strong start was halted at the hands of Coolangatta Tweed who won by 19 points, but there was plenty to like about what the Devils had to offer. They take on University of Queensland this weekend and realistically should get up over the winless Red Lionesses. Their opponents are fairly strong defensively though, so Yeronga South Brisbane will need to line-up well.

AFL Women’s aligned players: Sam Virgo, Lauren Arnell, Emily Bates, Jordan Zanchetta, Jacqui Yorson, Gabby Collingwood, Jessie Keeffe, Dee Heslop, Jade Pregelj

AFLW Academy Hub members: Zimmorlei Farquharson

Others to watch: Emmii-Lee Zanker-Close, Madison Goodwin, Vanessa Hart

 

4th Bond University (1-1-1, 228.21%, 6 points)

Backing up from its maiden QAFLW Grand Final last year, Bond University sits at an even balance with a win, loss and draw to start its season. On face value its 228.21 percentage might seem absurd, but they completely tore apart the University of Queensland, 56-1 in Round 2 to bounce back from a shock five-point loss to Coolangatta Tweed in Round 1. Then the clash with Wilston Grange was called off due to fears over the COVID-19 pandemic, with both teams awarded two points for the game, with the Sharkettes in much better shape considering their massive Round 2 victory.

AFL Women’s aligned players: Molly Ritson, Serene Watson, Ellie Hampson, Kalinda Howarth, Lauren Bella, Tiarna Ernst

AFLW Academy Hub members: Maddison Levi, Tegan Levi, Annise Bradfield

Others to watch: Annie Muir, Esther Boles, Georgia Brehmer

 

5th Wilston Grange (1-1-1, 74.67%, 6 points)

It was only two seasons ago the Gorillas saluted in a memorable grand final win, and after missing out on going back-to-back, they hope to start their season off on the right note. They had indifferent form prior to the break with an 11-point win over University of Queensland before going down to Yeronga South Brisbane by 30 points. The called off game against Bond University meant they headed into the long lay-off with one result in each of the columns, but a lowly 74.67 percentage. They take on Maroochydore this weekend in what will be a tough game, but no one knows what to expect after such a long time off.

AFL Women’s aligned players: Sophie Conway, Rheanne Lugg, Kate Lutkins, Brianna McFarlane, Catherine Svarc

Others to watch: Kaitlyn Day, Sarah Fuller, Imogen Stackelberg

 

6th Coorparoo (1-2, 119.26%, 4 points)

The Kings regained their status as the league’s top club with a record fourth title from the nine years, moving outright first ahead of Yeronga South Brisbane (three). However to make it five, the Kings will need to really pick it up after a slow start, dropping matches to the Devils and then Roos back-to-back, before bouncing back with a 57-point smashing of Aspley Hornets. They take on the Hornets again this week up at Aspley, so will be looking to repeat the dose and further boost their percentage. One thing is for sure, the Kings have no trouble scoring so can really put up some big numbers.

AFL Women’s aligned players: Ally Anderson, Jade Ellenger, Tori Groves-Little, Tahlia Hickie, Hannah Hillman, Jamie Stanton, Jesse Tawhiao-Wardlaw, Jess Wuetschner, Emma Zielke

Others to watch: Charlize Anderson, Macie Brown, Abby Reynolds

 

7th University of Queensland (0-3, 30.00%, 0 points)

The Red Lionesses had a competitive start to the season if you exclude the Round 2 55-point loss at the hands of Bond University. They pushed Wilston Grange in the first round before going down by 11 points, then lost to top of the table Maroochydore in a four-point heartbreaker. Whilst they might only have a percentage of 30 and no points on the board just yet, expect that to change. Their first match up is against Yeronga South Brisbane which will likely be a tough first encounter. If all of their AFL Women’s players, or even some of them return, expect the Red Lionesses to be a real threat this season.

AFL Women’s aligned players: Maria Moloney, Natalie Grider, Breanna Koenen, Dakota Davidson, Greta Bodey, Sharni Webb

Others to watch: Megan Hunt, Mikayla Martin, Tiarna Jericho

 

8th Aspley Hornets (0-3, 21.47%, 0 points)

The league’s cellar dwellers had struggled to start the season, with a 55-point loss to Maroochydore followed by a 27-point defeat at the hands of Coolangatta Tweed. A 57-point loss to Coorparoo rounded out the first three weeks, but they will have a chance to atone for that coming off the break. They take on the Kings again this weekend at home, and will hopefully use the home crowd support to put in a bigger effort.

AFL Women’s aligned players: Nil.

Others to watch: Courtney Daniec, Isabella Kotatis, Shaye Easton

Draft Central’s Top 50 AFLW Players 2020: #45-#41

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially come to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In this edition, we move on with the players ranked 45-41, which boasts solid representation in the talls department, some emerging talent, and a certain Queensland-based theme. Check out who made the cut below.

#45 BREANN MOODY (CARLTON)

7 GAMES AVE: 7.3 disposals, 1.4 marks, 1.6 tackles, 16.7 hitouts, 2.1 inside 50s

The foundation Blue hardly missed a beat in 2020 as once again, one of the most improved rucks of the competition. Standing at 180cm, Moody has a sizeable leap to boot and used it brilliantly at the centre bounces while also getting stuck in at ground level. While some of her numbers may have trailed off during the middle of the year, Moody remained an integral part of the Carlton line-up and if it had not been for a couple of other talls exceeding expectations this season, she would have been a lock for the All Australian squad. With her ruck craft already proven, it was the lift in Moody’s impact at stoppages around the ground which would have been most pleasing.

#44 LAUREN AHRENS (GOLD COAST)

7 GAMES AVE: 14.7 disposals, 2.4 marks, 2.9 tackles, 3.4 rebound 50s, 243 metres gained

One of a good bunch of Gold Coast newbies to have made a serious impact in their debut season was Ahrens, who fully justified her priority signing to the SUNS with a seamless transition into their back five. Having impressed at VFLW level, Ahrens more than kept up at with the elite standard of AFLW as a versatile defender who could not only fulfil her one-on-one defensive duties, but also provide solid rebound on the way out. The 28-year-old Gold Coast native is now a key member of the SUNS’ squad and comes in as part of the new age of truly athletic key position players.

#43 KAITLYN ASHMORE (NORTH MELBOURNE)

7 GAMES AVE: 7.7 disposals, 2.3 marks, 2.9 tackles, 1.7 inside 50s, 0.7 goals

North Melbourne’s leading goalkicker for 2020 was Ashmore, who returned a career-best tally of nine majors – equal to her combined total over the previous three seasons. The dynamic forward continued to show flashes of brilliance, having an impact moving up the ground while also making a menace of herself closer to goal with terrific instinctual play and sticky hands in traffic. Ashmore’s game-breaking ability came to the fore with bags of three and four goals against Richmond and Adelaide respectively, with her Round 3 effort particularly impressive given she was absent for most of her previous outing with concussion. Given the improving support cast around her, Ashmore’s x-factor stands out even more.

#42 JADE PREGELJ (GOLD COAST)

7 GAMES AVE: 11.9 disposals, 1.9 marks, 1.9 tackles, 3.4 rebound 50s, 258 metres gained

A junior footballing prodigy, Pregelj thrived upon her first taste of the big time with an outstanding debut campaign. The 171cm defender quickly became a staple in the SUNS back five, providing solid defensive work with her reading of the play and physicality, while also executing well in transition. Pregelj led her side for intercept possessions and rebound 50s in 2020, and was also prominent in the contested mark and metres gained categories, making for a well-rounded year from defence. The mature-aged draftee proved to be one of the more shrewd recruits of 2019, and should be a constant figure for the SUNS going forward.

#41 JESSE WARDLAW (BRISBANE)

7 GAMES AVE: 6.4 disposals, 3 marks, 1.3 tackles, 3.3 hitouts, 1.3 goals

There is hardly a more exciting young key position talent than Wardlaw, who was kept goalless just once throughout 2020. Marking is arguably the centrepiece of Wardlaw’s game, as she uses all of her 185cm frame and natural athleticism to dominate the airways. The 20-year-old’s goalkicking has also improved from her debut season, with a bag of three majors against Geelong in Round 2 her best effort as she led the competition’s goalkicking charts for much of the early part of the season. Given the steep rate of development on show already, the future looks bright for Brisbane’s spearhead forward.

2020 Top 10 AFLW matches: #7 – Suns and Lions play out draw in inaugural clash

NEITHER side could be separated in the first women’s Q-Clash with the Lions and Suns walking away with two points apiece. It was a hard-fought battle between the two sides, who both tried to assert themselves with their physicality around the contest. The conditions ultimately played into the hands of Lions early but the Suns were not about to be bullied by their state rivals upping the ante after half time to get back to level pegging and draw at 28 points each. Prior to their Round 3 clash Brisbane had flexed their muscles winning two games on the trot while the Suns had fallen short in Round 1 and claimed their inaugural victory in Round 2.

It was a tale of two halves with the Lions doing all the attacking early to claim some early ascendancy. Brisbane managed to keep the Suns goalless in the opening term while piling on two goals of their own showcasing just how strong they could be and their ability to shut down their oppositions attacking forays. They kept that momentum going in the second term with five scoring shots however they struggled when it came to accuracy nailing three points and only registering two goals, keeping the Suns in the hunt for glory. Gold Coast could sniff their opportunity coming out after the main break with a real fire in the belly and increased intensity. The Suns worked their way back into the contest in the third term, applying strong pressure with some big tackles and shots at goal.  With the game on the line, Gold Coast pulled out all in the stops in the final quarter, peppering away at the goals with repeat entries and constant pressure. But it was some magic from Kalinda Howarth in the 11th minute that landed the match tying punch, with the 20-year-old showing nothing but composure and class to slot her third major for the day in what is the first of many Queensland battles to come.

Still trying out new combinations across the board the ball was shared evenly amongst a host of Suns players with Kate Surman leading the way with 16 touches.  Not far behind her was Jamie Stanton with the 24-year-old highlighting her strength by foot with 14 of her 15 possessions kicks. When it came to physicality Hannah Dunn proved to be the go to girl for the Suns, laying a team-high six tackles while also showcasing her ability to cover the ground with ease racking up 15 touches. Youngsters in Dee Heslop and Elle Hampson also displayed their gritty attitude with three tackles apiece while the ever reliable Lauren Ahrens was silky with ball in hand for her 14 disposals. For the Lions, the trio of Rheanne Lugg, Jesse Wardlaw and Sophie Conway lead the way on the scoreboard with Lugg the most prolific of the three with two goals to her name, the other two managed a major each. Once again it was the experience and class of Emily Bates that helped to guide Brisbane with the talented mid amassing a game high 24 touches while partner in crime Ally Anderson also managed to get her hands on the ball 22 times. Much like Anderson, Kate Lutkins won her fair share of the ball with 21 disposals but it was her strength in the air to notch up 12 marks that showcased her dominance on the game.

GOALS:

Gold Coast Suns: K. Howarth 3, B. Perry.
Brisbane Lions: R. Lugg 2, J. Wardlaw, S. Conway.

BESTS:

Gold Coast Suns: K. Howarth, K. Surman, H. Dunn, J. Stanton, L. Aherns
Brisbane Lions: E. Bates, A. Anderson, R. Lugg, K. Lutkins, S. Conway

Molloy leads talented #22Under22 AFLW side as Patrikios is named Best First Year Player

COLLINGWOOD 2018 AFL Women’s Rising Star talent, Chloe Molloy has been announced as captain of the 2020 AFL Women’s #22Under22 Team which was announced this morning. The 2019 Rising Star, Madison Prespakis was named vice-captain in the side, one of three Blues in the team – the most represented side. Of the 14 teams, 13 are represented in the squad, with Adelaide, Brisbane, Fremantle, Gold Coast, Melbourne, St Kilda and Western Bulldogs all having two players.

Despite their first season being cut short, it did not stop the likes of Gabby Newton, Georgia Patrikios, Roxanne Roux and Caitlin Greiser making the side off limited games. Inaugural Rising Star, Ebony Marinoff joined Molloy and Prespakis as other Rising Stars to earn selection. Patrikios added another accolade to her trophy cabinet today, being named Best First Year Player for 2020.

As well as the Rising Stars, the past three number one picks were also named in the side with Isabel Huntington, Nina Morrison and Newton all making the team. Also among the squad is a raft of talented talls, with Sarah Allen, Eden Zanker and Jesse Wardlaw on the bench, joined by North Melbourne’s Jasmine Grierson and Brisbane’s Sophie Conway in the six-player interchange.

There are also a number of players who have already represented two different sides in their careers, with former Western Bulldogs Monique Conti (Richmond) and Libby Birch (Melbourne), as well as former Lions-turned-Suns Lauren Bella and Kalinda Howarth all named.

Rounding out the remainder of the side are a trio of second year players, Charlotte Wilson, Alyce Parker and Sabreena Duffy, while pocket rocket Georgia Gee earned a spot in the action-packed forward line.

2020 AFL Women’s season review: Brisbane

ANOTHER heavy list turnover did little to stop Brisbane from making finals for the third time in four AFL Women’s seasons, getting back to a positive record (3-2-1) in a campaign which began so brightly. A real surprise packet of this year’s competition, the Lions topped Conference A after four rounds before a string of losses ended their astonishing run upon the first (and only) week of finals. With a core of hardened leaders and some quickly developing recruits to boot, the Lions were a fun side to watch in 2020. Relive the highs and lows of Brisbane’s season in our review, and take a look back at some of the most outstanding players throughout.

RECORD: 3rd (A), 3-2-1 (0-1 finals), 107%

RESULTS:

R1: defeated Adelaide by 13 points
R2: defeated Geelong by 19 points
R3: drew with Gold Coast
R4:
defeated GWS by 28 points
R5:
lost to Fremantle by 18 points 
R6:
lost to Collingwood by 29 points
SF: lost to Carlton by 29 points

Little was expected from the Lions according to those outside of the Den, but they certainly delivered one of the more memorable opening months to the season on record. First on the agenda was the task of knocking off reigning premier, Adelaide, which was passed with flying colours. Next came Geelong, tick, and a maiden Q-Clash against Gold Coast which produced a thrilling draw. Arguably the most impressive victory was Brisbane’s last – a 28-point dismantling of fellow finalist GWS – which set up a mouthwatering clash against Fremantle, the other Conference leader and undefeated side. After the Dockers found the Lions out, so did Collingwood and Carlton in a less buoyant end to the year.

SEASON HIGH: Going nowhere – knocking off the Crows in Round 1

For the third time, not many expected Brisbane to prove much competition to the likes of Adelaide, but how wrong they were. The Lions’ defence stood strong in this one, holding the Crows goalless in two of the four quarters, with more clear-cut opportunities created up the other end. In this impressive triumph, the Lions gave fans a glimpse of what to expect in terms of effort and tackling pressure, proving their hunger for the contest and that indeed, they were going nowhere.

SEASON LOW: Running out of legs – finishing with three-straight losses

It may be a little harsh to throw three very different losses into a mix of one, but each consecutive defeats to see out the season put a slight dampener on it overall. While they were exceeding pre-season expectations, the Lions were billed to really match it with the likes of Fremantle, but instead were jumped from the get-go and could not claw their way back. Three goalless quarters against Collingwood came the next week, with Carlton outlasting the Lions come finals time.

FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:

Kate Lutkins (13.3 disposals, 4.4 marks, 3.1 tackles, 3.3 rebound 50s, 6.7 intercept possessions, 255 metres gained)

The Brisbane veteran is arguably her side’s most valuable player, and was effective as ever in her customary centre half-back role this season. As the core of the Lions’ usually rock-solid defence, Lutkins was influential going both ways in leading her club in intercept possessions, marks, and rebound 50s. The 31-year-old’s reading of the play is second to none, and was a key part of Brisbane’s success in 2020.

Emily Bates (19.9 disposals, 69% efficiency, 3.3 marks, 3.4 tackles, 3.3 inside 50s, 3.9 clearances, 273 metres gained)

Once a prized draft pick with high potential, Bates made the transition this year into Brisbane’s prime midfielder in what was nothing short of an outstanding campaign. The 169cm jet topped the Lions’ charts in disposals, metres gained, and clearances, showcasing her undeniable impact from the contest. Much of Brisbane’s forward drive began through the likes of Bates, as her star continues to rise with All Australian squad recognition.

Sophie Conway (11.4 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.4 tackles, 3.4 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50, 2 goals)

While she looked to have battled through injury toward the back-half of the season, Conway proved she is tough as nails with her approach to the game. Utilised mostly as a half-forward, Conway was often the link in the chain between forward wing and the forward 50 arc – finishing as the clubhouse leader for inside 50s while also booting three goals herself. There is plenty of potential in the 21-year-old, who could well transition to a greater midfield role.

Ally Anderson (18.3 disposals, 4.3 marks, 2.4 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 1.6 rebound 50s, 2.6 clearances)

Another of the foundation Lions who just continues to perform at the highest level, Anderson was once again a mainstay in her side’s engine room across all seven games. The midfielder’s work rate was admirable as always, allowing her to find the ball both at the coalface and then on the spread at a good rate. With the midfield brigade to support her now developing well, Anderson’s experience is becoming increasingly important.

Jess Wuetschner (9 disposals, 2.4 marks, 2.4 tackles, 1.4 inside 50s, 3 goals)

The effects of a lightning strike may have limited the star forward’s season to five outings, but it did not stop Wuetschner from having an impact. A goal tally of three is low by her lofty standards, however the 27-year-old inaugural Lion enjoyed a slightly different role in 2020 as she led up the ground more and helped to link the play coming into Brisbane’s forward 50. A classy user with sticky hands, the goalsneak found the big sticks at important times, but to no avail in two losses.

THE SPEARHEAD:

Jesse Wardlaw (6.4 disposals, 3 marks, 1.3 tackles, 0.9 inside 50s, 2.4 score involvements, 9 goals)

The premier women’s competition has been crying out for a truly dominant key forward since its inception, and Wardlaw put her hat into the ring along with a few other youngsters to fill that void in 2020. The dynamic 185cm tall was held goalless just once across seven games, and led the league for goals for a good chunk of the season. While she was eventually overtaken, the high-marking Lion’s haul of nine went a long way to proving her potential.

SURPRISE PACKET:

Cathy Svarc (12.4 disposals, 5.4 tackles, 2.4 inside 50s, 1.3 rebound 50s, 2.9 clearances, 6 intercept possessions, 250 metres gained)

The 28-year-old became one of the league’s best mature-age draftee success stories in 2020, providing terrific drive for the Lions from defence and midfield. After debuting as a half-back, Svarc transitioned into a stoppage-splitting midfielder who doubled as a run-with player – best epitomised in her game against GWS where she had 23 disposals and two goals while keeping tabs on Alyce Parker. A true metre-gained player, Svarc was eye-catching in full flight with great aggression and speed.

VERDICT:

The ‘foundation eight’ carried a much of the responsibility in ensuring Brisbane could keep up with the competition’s best, and while they ultimately fell short of the league’s benchmark, the Lions have plenty of stock to suggest they can build on a promising year. With a strong core and strong academy system to top it up each year, this side can only get better.