THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition returned for its ultimate home-and-away round ahead of finals, with seven games filling out a bumper weekend. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.
Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.
CALDER CANNONS vs. GEELONG FALCONS
By: Declan Reeve
#41 Georgie Prespakis
There comes a point when watching a prospect where they genuinely do everything, and Prespakis has well and truly reached that point in her junior career. After putting in two very good performances for Vic Metro in the past couple of weeks, Prespakis came back to NAB League level without missing a beat, continuing to just dominate in the middle. She could be forgiven for taking it easy at times defensively, but it’s constantly a highlight of her game, with her tackling pressure in close top notch. Playing a team orientated game, there were multiple times where Prespakis gave it off to teammates in an attempt to get them more involved, even throwing up a few full wingspan shepherds for her teammates to run past unpressured.
#3 Emelia Yassir
Has time and time again proven her work rate is at the highest standard, with this game being no exception. One instance in the second quarter highlighted this well, where she impacted the ball off the rucks hands, unable to grab it, but then followed up with three/four efforts, including a bump on an opponent to then win the ball and boot it inside forward 50. She also again impressed with her aerial strength, taking clean marks consistently even when under direct pressure, then following up with good ball use by foot to hit up forwards leading at her.
#34 Tahlia Read
Worked hard as a forward, streaming out to meet the ball and impact centre stoppages, where her speed was on show, often getting plenty of separation on her opponent. Moved well in the forward 50, getting to some hacked kicks forward to mark or make them work out. Almost got a goal in the first quarter after taking what appeared to be a good grab just before the siren, but it was called touched play on. Around the ground she used it well, being one that would look to move into the centre of the ground to open up the options going forward.
#39 Abbey McDonald
Put in two really impressive shifts for the Metro U17’s through all thirds of the ground, with that ‘utility’ role continuing into the NAB League return. Started the game in the midfield where she moved well around the stoppages, getting herself some early clearances where her hands in close were really impressive, often finding Yassir who was already moving at speed to break away. She moved up forward at times where her composure got her a couple of nice marks, where she would control the tempo and look for a properly leading teammate.
#4 Poppy Schaap
Finishing the game with two goals and plenty of touches in the forward half, Schapp continues to put her name up as one of the premiere pressure forwards in the competition, playing mostly in the forward line and having some really opportune moments, as well as managing to create her own opportunities through hard work and determination, with that tackling pressure forcing turnovers inside their forward 50. Pushed up the ground at times when Calder had the momentum to impact contests, trying to pull the Falcons back into it.
#11 Tess Craven
Just involved in everything once again, despite playing a bit more of a defensive role in the midfield often starting on Prespakis around stoppages. Positioned well around contests and worked hard to regain possession for the Falcons when it came out of forward 50. Again looked to spread across the ground getting free and making herself a switch or inside 45 option, used it well, looking to keep it central.
#23 Elizabeth Dowling
Dowling continues to impress with her work in and coming out of the backline, meeting loose balls with speed and aggression, meaning she wins the ball herself or she seriously wraps up whoever does. With her aggression and speed, she does not just use brute force with the ball, she moves smoothly through traffic, able to standup against anyone trying to tackle her, keeping her hands free and getting it off to a teammate. She is a clear leader in the defensive half as well, telling her teammates where to be. It was really impressive to see her have an impact on most of the contests in the defensive half for the Falcons, either laying a tackling, carrelling an opponent, put up a shepherd, taking a mark or getting the ball off the deck and moving it herself, she truly did everything she could to ensure a Falcons victory.
#26 Ingrid Houtsma
Whilst she had quite a few good moments through the game, it was her rising to the occasion in the third quarter, when the game was in real contention, that ultimately got the Falcons rolling again to go on to victory. Started with some nice plays around the forward 50 mark that led to a goal against the tide of play, where not long after she managed to get the ball in a contest, find her way out and hit up a leading Renee Tierney who kicked their second of the quarter. That ability to go through contests and come out clean, whilst traditionally a winger, was impressive and showed a versatility to her game that has not come out too often.
Both sides had some lesser contributors that are deserving of a mention, two more dual goal kickers in Renee Tierney and Jessica Zakkour, both in their 19th year, hit the scoreboard when the opportunity presented itself. Annie Lee and Taiya Morrow were consistent aerial threats in defence, with Lee’s ball use especially good. Gabbi Featherston showed off her athleticism as a forward and ruck as well. Neve Crowley was a strong mark in the forward line, using it well when she had the ball, as did Zali Friswell in the midfield.
DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
By: Peter Williams
#10 Abbey Jordan
Very few players going around would be able to match the work rate of Jordan who covers the ground with ease from midfield to defence and pushing forward. She looks to run and carry any chance she gets, and if she does make mistakes by hand or foot, she will get across to help out her teammates. Her hands on the inside are impressive and her footy smarts are right up there with clever knocks at ground level into the path of her teammates. Whilst at times she could rush her kicking, she intercepted a number of passes by reading the play off the opposition’s boot, marking and then taking the game on.
#11 Emily Shepherd
Had a tale of two halves in the sense that her first half she was racking up the ball with will and was hitting targets left, right and centre, whilst in the second half she remained involved and her hands in close were still good, but a number of her kicks were intercepted. She loves to snap around her body to get out of trouble, and is at her most dangerous when having space to size up options and kick long inside 50. Some of her passes in the opening half were superbly weighted, and combined with her clean hands at round level and pressure acts, Shepherd was certainly a busy bee around the ground. Still finding her fair share of it in the second half, it was more her execution that was not as consistent, though she was still pressuring the opposition.
#12 Alisha Liddle
A strong one-on-one player, Liddle took a number of great grabs both contested and uncontested around the ground. Liddle showed off some good speed on the lead and had a number of chances including kicking two goals for the match, with one coming from a 30m set shot on a 45-degree angle after plucking the mark over the top of her opponent, and her second coming from point blank after a 50m penalty, though she had taken another strong grab prior to that. She had a chance earlier in the game from 40m but the set shot just fell short. Liddle is one who competes time and time again in the air and is generally clean above her head.
#34 Ash Richards
The Stingrays co-captain almost had four goals on the board in five minutes with a really fast start. She slotted two goals in the opening three minutes, with a set shot on goal from a tackle 30m out, then an uncontested mark 20m out both going through the big sticks. She had a running shot and then another set shot on goal that followed, though both missed. She rolled through the midfield at times through the game, laying some strong tackles, and took a great intercept mark against two opponents in the second term. Strong above her head and looking dangerous inside 50, she clunked grabs with ease and had a couple of late chances in the fourth term with one from 50m opting to pass off to the danger zone, then ran around 35m out but just fell short with five mins left.
#38 Felicity Crank
Rotating between midfield and defence, Crank was able to get boot to ball quickly, and whilst she could occasionally rush her kicks, she was able to position herself well around the field to get into ball-winning positions. A highlight was a strong intercept mark in the third term with pressure coming from behind, then she had a clearance out of the middle in the final term, also had an intercept mark, and worked back into defence to win the ball at ground level and shovel it out.
#1 Phoebe Nelson
Showed strength throughout the game to stand up in tackles and spread across the ground well, often positioning herself a kick behind play or anchoring herself at the back of the stoppages where she could run. What was impressive was her spread and willingness to move the ball on, laying some good tackles and looking to switch where possible. She did rush some of her disposals, but got in the right positions to intercept and then keep moving in transition.
#7 Teleah Smart
Had a touch of class in the first half by hitting the scoreboard twice, albeit from a total of 20m out. She had a nice passage of play in the first term where she marked on the wing, her kick was short so she went and mopped up the ball, won a free kick and then was given a 50m penalty where she converted the goal. In the second term, her great defensive work in the goalsquare earned her a free kick and nailed the goal from point blank. She took a few good marks in defence and was able to hit her targets later in the game, and seemed composed with ball-in-hand.
#9 Maeve Chaplin
A standout for the Knights and just kept pushing throughout four quarters whether it be at the stoppages or roaming in the back half to assist her defence. She mopped up loose balls and charged through stoppages with intent, using her quick hands in close to advantage. While at times her kicks might not go directly to teammates, they would be put to space, and she would work hard to add an extra number to the contest. Her strength whilst being tackled was another feature in the game, getting her hands free to give the ball over, and then able to cleanly pick up at ground level on multiple occasions.
#36 Ava Jordan
The pocket rocket 05er was lively around the stoppages and just borrowed in time and time again. Whilst she has had bigger games, Jordan was constantly cracking in, winning the ball and firing out handballs to teammates, with a fantastic gather spin and delivery to the forward side of the centre to Ella Smallacombe. She spread well and was able to win a fair share of uncontested possessions as well as contested ones, and often chipped around with short passes and ran hard to try and win the ball back.
#37 Rylie Wilcox
A lightly-bodied player who kicked a goal from a great contested mark, clunking a grab and nailing the set shot from 30m out, then roaming around the ground to gather the ball in all thirds of the ground. A couple of times Wilcox’s spatial awareness could have improved given she was run down before she could dispose of it cleanly, or she had to rush, but her gathering at ground level and third term in particular was a highlight. She looked to play on when she could and open up the angles, then ran-down an opponent in the fourth quarter to force a spill and ran to the next contest.
#40 Tannah Hurst
The defender put together a really solid performance in the back 50, positioning herself in the right places to win the ball and take it out of defence. She won the ball under pressure on a number of occasions and had to give the ball off quickly, but also provided the defensive aspects such as shepherds or locks. Hurst burst through a stoppage late in the first term to be a standout on the field at that stage, and laid a massive front-on tackle to stop a potential goal. Whilst not as busy after that, Hurst did have a number of highlight plays, mopping up at half-back off opposition plays, and laying some strong tackles. A clean gather in defence to run out and kick to the wing was good, though it did get turned over. Overall one of the better Knights throughout the match.
Dandenong Stingrays had an even spread across the board with Charley Ryan, Sarah Hosking, Olivia Robinson and Zoe Hill all winning their fair share of the ball, while Bianca Lyne kicked a goal rolling through the ruck. For the Knights, Molly McErlain was impressive for a 14-year-old, while Lulu Beatty, Megan Barnes and Brooke Plummer stood out, and Trinity Mills slotted two goals.
GWV REBELS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS
By: Declan Reeve
#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)
Showed true versatility throughout the game as someone that played on the wing, through the middle and down back at times, able to impact in all three positions consistently. Her usual strengths such as ball use and marking were well utilised by her throughout the game, taking good marks above head, especially in defence, to steady the ship at times and get the Rebels some time to compose themselves. What was most impressive, and possibly a new string to her bow, was how well she played her role through the middle of the ground, consistently clean below her knees even when under immediate pressure from an opponent. This theme was also present when she was stationed on the wing, able to hold her space and time her runs well to try and receive a handball from a pack.
#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)
Coming off two really strong U19’s Country performances, Dojiok played like a player with the confidence to take on the world, and that is what she did at times streaming out of the defensive 50 to attack the ball and provide as an option laterally for teammates. One particular instance of this came in the third quarter where she got onto the end of a kick into the middle of the ground, and already being at full pace, went straight through a Tasmanian opponent to deliver inside 50. Along with this, she showed her usual strength in the air, taking a few quality intercept marks in the defensive 50 above her head, where she would usually look to get running with it immediately to quickly get GWV transitioning.
#11 Perri King (Tasmania)
Had a really well rounded game through the midfield, being the main Tasmanian midfielder looking to nullify the ruck dominance of Kalani Scoullar with her positioning and runs through the stoppages. She has a really eye-catching game style, playing as an inside mid with genuine outside mid speed, as well as an impressive leap that makes her such a dangerous marking target around the ground, even taking a contested mark against the previously mentioned Scoullar in the defensive 50. With these athletic traits and position it is no surprise she finds herself consistently winning the ball, where she tends to favour kicking it long forward out of the pack, or handball if there is a clear option there
#1 Lili Condon
Coming back with some more VFLW experience, Condon looked much better for the experience at that level, just looking too good in the midfield at times seemingly having an unlimited amount of time with the ball through contests. Seemed more assured of herself as well, often backing her speed and agility rather than rushing a disposal, even finding space from that additional run to find a few bounces, with the extra time she took seeing her ball use at its best for the season.
#2 Tahlia Meier
Looked so clean with the ball and just a step above with her speed through the midfield, looking particularly damaging around stoppages where she would out run opponents and weave around the contest to get a clean disposal going forward. Also was not afraid to smack away the hands of attempted tacklers and then got it moving, often by hand, to teammates that were in less contested situations. Not letting her lack of height impact her aerial game, she flew for quite a few marks throughout the game. Another impressive part of her game was how willing she was to initiate contact throughout, often pushing opponents around stoppages to try and get an extra meter or so of separation.
#27 Molly Walton
You can just tell that she has a massive impact to the Rebels defensive structure, and how much Tasmania actively looked to nullify that by putting a player on her when Walton was pushed up as a higher defender, and then very happy to put stronger opponents on her one on one down deep. She finds ways to impact, whether it is providing a shepherd for a teammate to take a mark uncontested, taking an intercept mark herself or drifting across to spoil, then following up with good ball use to teammates, usually ones about 20 meters away that aren’t under pressure.
#7 Meghan Gaffney
The winger showcased her trademark speed through the game, attacking spilled balls out of contests or stoppages no matter who was in her way, or even heading directly towards her, showing immense courage. Was smart with her use by foot going forward as well, never really delivering bullet kicks but placing them just in front of teammates to run into.
#9 Claire Ransom
Finding herself in the forward line a bit more often than usual, Ransom more than held her own in a newer position, able to provide as a genuine option when Tasmania were going forward and she was there. When in her usual midfield role, Ransom brought a level of composure not many others could, finding some impressive options in close with her quick hands, or delivering well forward by foot, she just manages to find those options not many others can under the pressure she usually is under.
#13 Olivia Smith
Lining up on the wing for majority of the game, Smith played a fantastic game where she filled the role of a traditional winger perfectly with her positioning, making herself a switch option when the ball was on the other side of the ground, and sitting just behind when it was on her side. Her positioning outside of the forward 50 as well led to consistent pressure on the Rebels defence, able to make a contest and usually get the ball back inside 50 either herself or by getting it to a teammate.
#15 Jemma Webster
Found herself involved in some of Tasmania’s best pieces of transitional play for the day, usually being the central option and passing off to a running teammate she played her role really well, positioning well outside forward 50 as well to create contests and keep the threat of another inside 50 entry going.
#33 Shania Saward
Playing up both ends throughout the contest, Saward utilised her strength to win essentially every marking contest she was involved in, taking them strongly without much trouble. Looked very comfortable as a defender, not afraid to run off her opponent and set up outside the forward 50 to take some intercept grabs up there and bomb the ball straight back in
Tasmania were not without their solid role players in the win, Ella Maurer being one of them that continued her form from the U19’s Championships to have a good game through the middle. Amy Prokopiec kicked two goals when the game was tight early on to give Tasmania the early advantage. Briana Oates did well to nullify her direct opponents as a defender as well. For the Rebels, Chloe Leonard and Kalani Scoullar were involved through the midfield and ruck respectively, with Scoullar having the clear win in the ruck duals. Jenna Burke also looked strong throughout the game, marking herself as another to watch for the 2022 draft from the Rebels
EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY
By: Peter Williams
#4 Keeley Sherar
A standout across the game, Sherar showed a touch of class through the midfield and was strong in standing up when tackled to still get her handball away. A highlight was the first centre bounce of the second term when she read the Grace Campbell tap, charged away and kicked inside 50 well. Her defensive pressure on opponents was admirable, battling hard at ground level, whilst her ability to move through heavy traffic was a great trait. She occasionally fumbled a little bit at ground level, but once she was able to get ball-in-hand she was clean with her hands. She took a number of good marks around the ground showing off her work rate.
#5 Jorja Livingstone
The wing had some eye-catching moments, and found enough of the ball to pose a problem for the opposition. She won a free kick for in the back in the third term and take off and use her trusty left to put it to a dangerous spot close to goal. She was clean at ground level, and whilst at times she rushed, she was generally one player who could utilise the ball in transition.
#9 Mia Busch
A standout player off half-back and one of the best on the ground, she was terrific intercepting the play and moving it forward. Even if she dropped a mark, her second efforts would help her win the ball for her teammates and stay upright in a tackle to give it off to a free teammate. She laid a great tackle in the goalsquare to save a certain goal, and then was an anchor at half-back with her marking. Once in the third term she was a bit too ambitious by playing on and was rushed after stepping off her line in between two opponents, but otherwise was fairly composed throughout the match.
#16 Isabelle Khoury
Lively throughout the match, Khoury never stopped trying to run with the ball and break the lines. Sometimes she would get caught, but when it paid off, she was able to open up the angles and get it forward. She showed clean and quick hands off the deck, and was able to get boot to ball quickly in order to get it forward.
#18 Bridget Deed
Put together a consistent four-quarter performance and her hard running and work rate ensured she won a truckload of the ball. Finishing with easily the most disposals on the ground, Deed was often held at stoppages or carefully guarded because of her ability to read the ball off hands. She was strong under pressure and was able to just bomb the ball forward to provide her teammates with scoring opportunities, whilst having quick hands in close.
#21 Ruby O’Dwyer
Similar to Deed, O’Dwyer worked hard across the ground and looked to spread when she could, able to get boot to ball whilst under pressure, including in the third term when she was being tackled. She won a free kick for going in hard and drove the ball forward then gave quick hands from a stoppage to a teammate on the outside in the fourth term.
#44 Georgia Campbell
An absolutely dominant performance from Campbell in terms of her ruck work, and whilst she did not have as much impact across the ground as usual – dropping a few marks she would usually clunk early – she was able to really take control at the stoppages. Sharing the work load with Jess Grace, Campbell opened up angles and space for her midfielders to run onto.
#2 Djimila Totham
One of the most productive players in the match, Totham did a good job from defence, often opposed one-on-one with the talented Alyssia Pisano. She held her own in that contest and restricted Pisano to just the one goal, whilst being a prolific interceptor. She was clean at ground level and had a slick sidestep through traffic in the third term to pick the exit and kick away, and whilst she sometimes was rushed with her kick, she was able to hold up under pressure in the back 50 during the second half.
#11 Grace Mulvahil
The smooth-moving player was able to roll off half-back and down the wing, breaking away with her speed from stoppages. In the third term, she shrugged off a tackle in the midfield to get hands free to a teammate, then would get her own hands dirty not long after with a good tackle at ground level.
#25 Bella Clarke
Showed her experience in the game by accumulating the ball regularly, particularly in the first half. Clarke was quick to get boot to ball and won a free kick for a great tackle on Deed in the middle. She then got to the next contest after kicking it to assist her teammates, whilst had another good play in the third term running out of a stoppage.
#28 Kasey Marsden
One of the better Northern Territory players, Marsden stood out with her persistence in tackling opponents, even if sometimes they gave away free kicks. She mopped up at half-back worked up and down the ground, and was able to win it on the inside or outside. She even had a crack undersized in the ruck in the second term, and continued to stockpile possessions around the ground. In the final term, she rebounded well out of the back 50, and then won the ball on the wing as well to send it inside 50.
Youngster Ava Campbell and co-captain Eloise Chaston both found double-figure disposals, Cadhla Schmidli worked hard on the last line, and Jess Grace shared the ruck load with Georgia Campbell for the Ranges. For the Thunder, Shanoah Leedie, Georgia Johnson and Matisse Hunter were others who worked hard throughout the game.
WESTERN JETS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS
By: Michael Alvaro
#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)
On what was an indifferent day for the star AFLW Academy member and her Pioneers, you could not put it down to a lack of effort. Fresh off a National Championships campaign where she spearheaded Vic Country’s attack, Slender reverted back to her defensive duties early in this match. She broke hard off the line at the first centre bounce to try and set the tone, but was unlucky to be caught holding the ball. Slender’s marking came to prominence with a trademark intercept grab in the opening term, though it was her intent and tackling efforts throughout the game which stood out most. The versatile talent also cracked into the midfield for a blockbuster matchup against Montana Ham, and while she was not overly prolific, still had her moments of strength at the contest.
#1 Charlotte Baskaran
The hard-working bottom-ager returned another performance to remember, collecting a round-high 31 disposals as a constant in the Jets’ midfield. A tenacious ground level player, Baskaran was in the thick of the action and again enforced her accumulative effect with terrific spread from the contest and repeat efforts to help thrust Western forward. She often won or received the ball in ideal positions to deliver inside attacking 50, where she had potential to inflict plenty of damage. Baskaran also showcased her speed in open spaces, particularly with a four-bounce run through the corridor during term three which saw her side go from centre half-back to centre half-forward in a flash. Overall, a top game from the top 10 2022 prospect.
#27 Caitlin Sargent
Sargent was the dominant forward on the ground and looked ominous during a three-goal first half showing. She got on the board almost immediately with the opening goal of the game, finishing quickly after receiving by hand close to goal. A holding the ball free kick saw Sargent add another in the same quarter, before a terrific overhead mark allowed her to convert a third in term two. Sargent would go on to compete well and even scrounge some more shots on goal, before showing good confidence to mark strongly once again and convert a fourth major in the third quarter.
#38 Montana Ham
In what was an imposing performance, Ham was able to highlight some of the traits which have her pegged as a top five prospect among the 2022 crop. She was able to get first hands on the ball in midfield, where she started the game, while also using her power to burst onto the outer and gain good penetration by foot. Ham’s aerial marking was another real feature, rising time and time again to intercept Bendigo’s rebounding kicks as a formidable wall across the front half. Going forward, Ham also mixed it up by actively lowering her eyes more than usual and hitting targets in front of her, rather than constantly blazing away long. Scarily enough, she already looks a class above the competition.
#41 Ciara Singleton
In her final game for the Western Jets, Singleton swung forward to good effect and was a large part of her side’s hot start to the game. Her marking and reading of the ball in flight are among her strengths, and they both came to the fore as Singleton set up well across the 50-metre arc and enjoyed a productive first half. She also booted her first Under 18s (now 19s) goal for Western, coming in the opening quarter and now bows out as one of the rare 2001-births to have remained in the NAB League this year.
#42 Jemima Woods
Woods was part of the Jets’ dynamic forwardline which boasted plenty of height and marking power, but was able to remain busy when the ball hit the deck. The 18th-year prospect hit the scoreboard early with a set shot conversion, before adding a second goal in the third term via the same method. She presented well on the lead and proved mobile when taking on ruck duties, looking to have gained a good amount of confidence from her three-goal VFLW debut. With some nice athletic tools and a good work rate, Woods has plenty to work with.
#15 Drew Ryan
Ryan was one who played an important role in an under-siege area of the ground for Bendigo, able to intercept and repel from her defensive post. She started off with a solid pack mark inside defensive 50 during term one, an act which would be repeated again in the second and third terms. Ryan showed good strength to be able to stand up in tackles and despite enormous scoreboard pressure, was not afraid to take on the game with attacking intent. Once she marked or mopped up, Ryan would look to move quickly on most occasions and generated a massive seven rebound 50s. While others rotated heavily, she was a constant down back and proved steady in tough positions.
#18 Jemma Finning
Starting in midfield, Finning brought a good amount of physicality to the ground level contests and managed to set her game up with an early centre clearance. She hunted the ball well and was able to apply defensive pressure when necessary, including in the second half when she shifted to defence and earned a holding the ball decision inside the back 50. Finning set up nicely behind the ball to sweep up and provide some composure on the rebound, with her use by foot a solid feature on the day. The top-ager will likely now move on to Essendon’s VFLW side having gone close to a debut earlier this year.
#30 Octavia Di Donato
An exciting prospect for next year’s draft class, Di Donato was tried in a couple of roles but started in defence. She showed some good toe breaking into open space and looked to be productive with ball in hand, seen directing traffic ahead of her before delivering by foot. She would eventually rotate further afield and continued to look to chain her possessions or move the ball forward quickly, hoping to provide her side with a creative spark.
Both sides finished with a number of strong contributors despite the scoreline discrepancy. 2005-born prospect Kiera Whiley again showed nice traits on the outer for Western, while Trinity Skenderis was productive in midfield and Laura Elliott also impacted. For Bendigo, Lila Keck and Lucia Painter proved they will be ones to watch for years to come, while Scarlett Orritt cracked in around the ground and Tegan Williams was a key pillar at either end of the ground.
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER
By: Declan Reeve
#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
There is not many superlatives that have not been used when describing Rowbottom, she just constantly impresses with what she does around the ground. Found herself up forward a lot more than usual and proved that she can fill in as a key forward to great effect, finishing with three goals. Her athleticism and strength above her head made her an extremely difficult match up, with Gippsland unable to find a proper answer for her as a deep target, with some being able to match her in the air but not on the ground, and others able to match her on the ground but not in the air. Unsurprisingly won a heap of it when she did move into the middle, with her burst around stoppages leading to plenty of clearances and long kicks forward.
#9 Brooke Vickers
Stationed on the wing after her impressive Vic Metro performances, Vickers used it well all through the game even when the rain started pelting down in the final quarter, with that reliability of disposal helping Oakleigh going forward or across the ground. Positioned well on the outside of the forward 50, taking a few intercept marks when Gippsland attempted to bomb the ball out, even making contests with much taller opponents to then win it at ground level.
#14 Eliza James
Involved in a lot going forward, seemingly being the main target up forward for the chargers, with her marking prowess being impressive during the day, being able to get separation on the lead to take it comfortably on the chest or out in front, if it had not been for her unselfish ways she could have very well ended up with six or seven goals, however the constant effort to share the ball around and get other teammates on the scoresheet was impressive. She had a few gettable shots float off to the side or drop short, showing that once her goalkicking is more polished she’s very capable of being a consistent scoring threat.
#15 Ameile Smith
Returning for her first game since breaking her collarbone earlier in the year against Sandringham, Smith impacted in the forward half, with her marking and use by foot especially impressive, often looking to give the ball off to a teammate, working hard to help them if they did not take clean possession. Was another one that very well could have had a few more goals if she was a little more selfish, but decided to do the team thing and share it around. Filling in as ruck in the forward 50, she held up well against the experienced and much taller Matser, getting front position a few times to even the contest.
#23 Caitlin Matthews
Spent her time between the ruck and backline, playing more and more in the ruck as the game went, really taking it up to Matser and began to get on top late in the piece. Where she clearly won though was her impact around the ground, able to win it at ground level without much trouble and get it out well. Especially in the backline she played a massive part in keeping Gippsland goalless, looking to switch the play often and run it further up to get extra distance behind the kicks.
#29 Amanda Ling
Similar to Rowbottom, Ling found herself spending a lot more time forward in an effort to give Oakleigh’s youngsters more of a go in the midfield, where she proved that she can impact as a forward, using her speed, strength and agility to get herself on the scoreboard three times, as well as setting up some pretty good scoring opportunities as she got around opponents and kicked to the advantage of her teammates. She looked good when she played that link up role, pushing up the ground to get possession from a teammate moving it out of defence, then running and delivering long.
#33 Jasmine Fleming
In for her debut game, which has been delayed due to cricket commitments and injuries, the bottom-ager was dominant throughout the contest, spending her time between the midfield and the forward line, she managed to impact wherever she was. Possesses a really good burst of speed which made her particularly dangerous around the stoppages, where she got two or three really clean centre clearances purely from that burst of speed, with no one able to match those first five or six steps. Going forward, she was particularly dangerous in the air, taking grabs comfortably and converting one in the second quarter. In a game where Oakleigh’s bottom-agers were given every chance to shine, she took the opportunity and marked herself as one to watch for next year.
#34 Lily Hart
Not often that a bottom-ager is the most experienced player in her teams midfield group, but Hart stepped up to lead well through the rover group. She showed some really high level positioning around stoppages, not taking long to realise where the opposing ruck, Grace Matser, was favouring with her tap placement, and just sitting there to win some easy clearances and really nullifying the ruck dominance Matser showed at times. Getting those clearances was not the end of it, as the usually classy Hart continued to use it well throughout the day, often running and kicking to the same spots going forward but having it pay off every time.
#9 Taylah Bourne
Consistently involved throughout the day in the Gippsland defence, pushing up to impact at the top of the defensive 50 and attempting to stop Oakleigh getting inside forward 50. When it got deep she was one that was always competing at ground level, constantly applying pressure to the ball carrier and forcing opponents to the boundary.
#26 Grace McRae
As she has done all season McRae battled hard on the inside all day, cracking in and winning the ball well, usually just to be met by a swarm of Oakleigh players attempting to rip the ball from her hands or cut off an attempted handball or kick. She never dropped off her effort though, battling right to the end.
Despite not coming away with the win, Gippsland saw a fairly even contribution across the board, with bottom-agers Leesa Guastella and Yasmin Duursma particularly impressive in defence and midfield respectively, along with Tyla Angwin, Alexei Guy-Toogood and Chloe Bailey. Oakleigh naturally saw quite a few players involved, with Stella Reid, Charlotte Van Der Vlies and Charlotte Taylor in that group that contributed at times.
MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
By: Michael Alvaro
#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)
The dominant tall afield, Morphett was simply too big, tall and strong in the ruck. She racked up a whopping 28 hitouts, soaring above and through each opponent at the centre bounces and out-bodying them around the ground. What was most pleasing about Morphett’s play was her ability to follow up, imposing herself at ground level to tackle and bomb forward a few clearances. The GWS Academy member was also a marking force around the ground, while resting forward to good effect despite not hitting the scoreboard. The next step in her development will be to more consistently direct her taps, rather than purely win them and thump into space.
#1 Olivia Cicolini
One of the most dangerous forwards on the day, Cicolini was lively inside forward 50 for the Bushrangers. She set the tone with good defensive pressure from the get-go, while also clicking into gear via an early opportunist’s goal. The bottom-ager was a real pest for Sandringham’s defence, able to somehow get snaps away towards goal and make them think about her presence when nearing the big sticks. Cicolini booted her second goal after a strong pack mark in the second term, before making it three in the following quarter from a tripping free kick.
#2 Aurora Smith
Utilised in a slightly different role to her usual wing posting, Smith was afforded some good time in the middle and ended as one of her team’s top ball winners. The 2021 Murray best and fairest was busy at ground level, doing her best to win the ball at each contest and burst away with a nippy turn of speed. Smith looked a touch more comfortable on the outside, where she started the game, but added a handy string to her bow in this outing.
#17 Keeley Skepper
Arguably the best player afield, Skepper racked up a game-high 24 disposals – including 23 kicks and 13 inside 50s. The bottom-ager was unrelenting in her pursuit to push Murray forward, seen marking across half back or in the corridor before wasting no time to get on the move and pump the ball down the line with her punchy left foot. Those repeat acts proved the story of Skepper’s game, with her intent and willingness to take the game on proving key to the Bushrangers’ highest score for the season. She capped off a day out fittingly, streaming into goal and slotting home the game’s final major during the last minute of play after yet another good read to intercept.
#25 Sophia McCarthy
McCarthy was another to cause Sandringham some headaches aerially, with her contested marking a real highlight inside attacking 50. The 18-year-old started brightly with a first term goal, before bringing that aerial marking into effect during term two, when she kicked her second. She repeated the act in the following quarter, stamping her case as one of the more ominous talls afield. McCarthy also rotated through the ruck and while she was caught on the ball a couple of times, did well to stay involved. Her growing confidence to leap and clunk big marks was clearly the best feature, though.
#10 Bridie Hipwell
Sandringham’s prime ball winner on the day, Hipwell showed a developing dimension to her midfield craft with strong burst away from congestion. She has the tendency to be caught at times, but did well to break the packs open and do so with confidence, before delivering long by foot or keeping the ball rolling onto the outside by hand. Hipwell’s kicking is another area of improvement, but she was able to get good purchase at times and saw more ball on the outer, which allowed for more time to deliver. On top of strong contested ball winning, the bottom-ager also rose to take a couple of solid marks, which she has great potential to do at 174cm.
#17 J’Noemi Anderson
Fresh off her National Championships campaign with the Allies, Anderson translated the confidence gained there to impact in Sandringham’s forwardline. The sister of former Carlton player Joe, she worked up the ground with authority and presented as a viable leading target. When the ball hit the deck or came to her in open play, Anderson looked to burst into attack with powerful movement through traffic and long kicks inside forward 50. On the defensive end, she tackled typically hard to provide a dual threat for the Dragons.
#19 Ella Sciberras
Another 2004-born player to impact in Round 9, Sciberras was an absolute rock in Sandringham’s defence. Her attack on the ball was fearless, allowing for some eye-catching intercepts when others would be more concerned with their direct opponent. She was proactive in her attempts to cut off Murray’s attacks, hitting the ball at speed to mark and mop up the ground balls, before pumping long kicks away from danger. Her run out of those zone and sound decision making on the ball were both terrific attributes she showcased, proving attack is sometimes the best form of defence.
#30 Pia Staltari
Having been tried in a range of positions for Sandringham and Vic Metro, Staltari was a permanent midfield fixture on Sunday and showed her class at times. She had little trouble getting first hands to the ball at stoppages, but still looks a touch more comfortable on the outer where she can better utilise her classy disposal. Staltari had a good moment in the final term, running down Sophia McCarthy in the corridor for a holding the ball free kick, ending her game on a high.
#37 Ebony Angelopoulos
With a bit of luck to go with her undeniable forward nous, Angelopoulos ended up with three goals as Sandringham’s main source of inspiration inside attacking 50. She was able to gain good separation on the lead and constantly looked to wheel and go when in possession, allowing the Dragons to go deeper into attack. She found scoring form after half time, with two snaps bouncing home over the back during term three, before she converted a free kick in the final quarter to cap off a promising game. Add a couple more shots on goal to the equation, and she was unlucky not to finish with more.
Tasked with the kick-ins for Sandringham, Emma Stuber registered 15 disposals from defence, while the likes of Keely Coyne and Kiana Lynch battled hard in midfield. Zara Hamilton was her productive self for the Bushrangers, as bottom-ager Cassidy Mailer made her return from injury with a goal, showing some promise in the front half.