Tag: Kaitlyn Ashmore

Pies last quarter flurry steals victory after Roos mid-match turnaround

COLLINGWOOD has survived an epic qualifying final at Victoria Park, defeating North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos by just six points to advance through to record its first ever finals victory. Twelve months ago these sides went hammer and tongs at each other for four quarters with the Roos getting up in a thriller at Ikon Park, but fast forward 12 months and it was the black and whites – in front of fans at the Magpies’ spiritual home – that saluted, 7.8 (50) to 7.2 (44). The match had a case for one of the games of the season considering the stakes and the topsy-turvy nature. The Magpies took the early ascendancy, then the Roos looked to run away with it, kicking five consecutive goals – and six of seven – only for Collingwood to storm home in the final term and boot the last three goals of the match to record the most memorable of wins and advance through to next week’s preliminary final against Brisbane.

Key forward Sophie Alexander got the home team up and about early with a goal in the third minute, only for former Pie, Jasmine Garner to counter that with a major of her own five minutes later. It already meant the Roos had more goals on the board than their last match against the Magpies when they could only manage eight behinds in a disappointing loss at Etihad Stadium. Soon Chloe Molloy made her impact known with Collingwood’s second, and by the time Jaimee Lambert hit the scoreboard, the margin was out to 14 points and the crowd was excited. Both these teams were backing themselves to run and move the ball quickly, turning defence into offence. A couple of early behinds for the Magpies in the second term was punished by the Roos through Beth Lynch and Sophie Abbatangelo in the space of 90 seconds, cutting the deficit to just three points at the main break.

Whilst the half-time break might have been long enough for teams to reset, for North Melbourne it was just rolling on from the second term, as Abbatangelo kicked her second within 90 seconds, and the Roos were in front for the first time in the match. Lynch converted a second to match her teammate with a clever snap following a free kick, and then Ash Riddell made Sharni Norder pay following an error through pressure with the tackle, as the tightest of set shots proving no problem for the pocket rocket. With Riddell’s goal, it meant the Roos had slotted five consecutive goals in effectively 20 minutes and were out to a 13-point lead with just a few minutes remaining in the third term. Creating something out of nothing, Alexander got boot to ball in a stoppage off a Molloy kick forward, but no sooner had she cut the deficit to seven points, it was back out to 14. Emma King let the home team off with a missed shot 25m out straight in front, but Daria Bannister was not going to make any mistake from point blank range when she crumbed the ball off a pack in the goalsquare.

The largest margin of the game was 14 points, with the Kangaroos now holding a firm advantage in the match and had one foot in the preliminary final. The Magpies needed something, and it came off the boot of Kristy Stratton, who slotted a crucial major less than four minutes into the match. Molloy missed a chance on goal on the run, but the Magpies were trying to play on at every chance, whilst the Roos were trying to control the tempo with possession football. What no one expected was for Molloy to dig deeper than even she had before, pulling out a trick that was unbelievable, snapping quickly under pressure and a right angle bounce that went over the head of the last Roos defender to bounce home and cut the deficit to just one point with 10 minutes to play. North Melbourne rushed it to the Roos’ end, but the Collingwood defence was up to the task and instead got the visitors on transition, booting it to Molloy inside 50, and her presence forced two Roos to spoil, and fortunately for the Magpies, the second black and white player was Tarni Brown who crumbed the ball and ran into an open goal to slam home a major and put her team in front.

After hilariously snapping a goal up the wrong end earlier in the match, Brown made sure she was headed to the right end when she crumbed it cleanly, ran into the open goal and put her side five points up. Alexander had a chance to make it a double-digit lead but missed with a couple of minutes left, making some wonder if the six-point difference might result in a draw. Luckily for the timekeepers it did not, as the Magpies desperately held on despite the Roos’ efforts to move the ball quickly, and Collingwood enjoyed its first finals win, and at Victoria Park to advance through to the preliminary final against Brisbane next week at the Gabba.

Brianna Davey had a ridiculous game, with 31 disposals, four marks and nine tackles, a clear best afield in the match. Despite a quiet first three quarters, Brittany Bonnici worked into the game in the final term with some great one-on-one contests to finish with 16 disposals and three marks, whilst Lambert shook off a knock in the third quarter to return to the field in the final term and end the game with 15 touches, two marks, three tackles and a goal herself. The usually-accurate Aisling Sheridan booted three behinds from 13 disposals and seven marks, whilst Stacey Livingstone (13 disposals, three marks and two tackles) and Ruby Schleicher (11 disposals, three marks) were steady as always in defence. Brown (12 disposals, three tackles), Ash Brazill (11 disposals, two marks and two behinds) and Alexander (10 disposals, three marks and two goals) were amongst the best for the winners.

Riddell was the standout Roo with 22 touches, three marks, three tackles and a goal, as her partners-in-crime, Emma Kearney (19 disposals, three marks and three tackles), Kaitlyn Ashmore (17 disposals, two marks and two tackles) and Jenna Bruton (13 disposals, three marks ad three tackles) were all busy. Garner (16 disposals, five marks, nine tackles and a goal) was right up there with Riddell, having an enormous impact on the game, whilst Ellie Gavalas (11 disposals, four marks and three tackles) and Vivian Saad (11 disposals, two mark s and seven tackles) brought the heat around the ball. Unfortunately for North Melbourne though, the loss meant the end of 2021, and the Roos will begin the planning for 2022.

COLLINGWOOD 3.2 | 3.4 | 4.6 | 7.8 (50)
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0 | 3.1 | 7.2 | 7.2 (44)

GOALS:

Collingwood: S. Alexander 2, C. Molloy 2, J. Lambert, K. Stratton, T. Brown.
North Melbourne: S. Abbatangelo 2, B. Lynch 2, J. Garner, A. Riddell, D. Bannister.

DC BEST:

Collingwood: B. Davey, C. Molloy, S. Livingstone, R. Schleicher, J. Lambert
North Melbourne: A. Riddell, J. Garner, E. Kearney. K. Ashmore, J. Bruton

Picture credit: Getty Images

Roos dominant first half sees them home against Tigers

NORTH Melbourne has strung back-to-back wins to get its AFL Women’s season back on track thanks to a dominant 35-point victory over Richmond. The Tigers, who grabbed the first win in their club’s history last week, were on the back foot from the get-go as the Roos piled on the first six goals of the match, and never looked back from there during the 10.7 (67) to 5.2 (32) victory at the Swinburne Centre.

North Melbourne dominated the opening half, scoring 3.2 in the first term and then 3.3 in the second quarter to race out to a 6.5 to 0.2 lead, keeping the Tigers goalless at half-time. After a three-goal effort for Richmond’s VFL Women’s affiliate Port Melbourne last week, Christina Bernardi was the first goalscorer for the yellow and black, coming two minutes into the third term. There was a minor resurgence for the home team, as Richmond, through Tayla Stahl and Courtney Wakefield, brought the margin back to within 21 points at the final break.

Needing at least four goals to cause an almighty upset, it was Georgia Hammond who put the final nail in the coffin early in the last term, kicking a goal to put the result beyond doubt at 27 points. Bernardi went on to kick her second goal moments later, but when Daisy Bateman, Daria Bannister and Emma Kearney all converted majors, the lead was at a blowout 41 points. Katie Brennan got one back for the Tigers for a final deficit of 35 points.

Bateman finished with two goals from 14 disposals, three marks and two tackles, while Emma King snagged two first half goals up forward. In an even team performance, the Roos had eight individual goalkickers, including the red-hot Jasmine Garner (22 disposals, four marks, five tackles and one goal) and Kearney (17 disposals, three marks, two tackles and one goal). The Tigers had Bernardi as the sole multiple goalkicker, also picking up seven touches, two marks and three tackles upon her return.

The top seven ball-winners were all wearing the blue and white, led by Ash Riddell (25 disposals, four marks and five tackles), Garner, Ellie Gavalas (19 disposals), Kaitlyn Ashmore (19 disposals, seven marks) and Jenna Bruton (18 disposals, seven marks and four tackles). For Richmond, number one selection in last year’s draft, Ellie McKenzie had a team-high 16 disposals, as well as four tackles, while Harriet Cordner (13 disposals, seven marks and two tackles), Iilish Ross (12 disposals, two tackles) and Kate Dempsey (12 disposals, three marks) also won their fair share of the ball.

North Melbourne head down to the Apple Isle in Round 7 to face the Western Bulldogs in a 5.10pm fixture on Saturday, while Richmond will have a straight seven days to recover, flying north to Metricon Stadium to face Gold Coast Suns on Friday night.

RICHMOND 0.1 | 0.2 | 3.2 | 5.2 (32)
NORTH MELBOURNE 3.2  | 6.5 | 6.5 | 10.7 (67)

GOALS
Richmond: 
Bernardi 2, Stahl, Wakefield, Brennan.
North Melbourne: King 2, Bateman 2, Garner, Eddey, Abbatangelo, Hammond, Bannister, Kearney.

DC BEST
Richmond: 
McKenzie, Cordner, Brennan, Bernardi, Hosking,
North Melbourne: Riddell, Garner, Ashmore, Gavalas, Bateman, King

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Prespakis, Vescio inspire almighty Blues escape

CARLTON overcame a horror start on Saturday afternoon to ward off a roaring Richmond outfit at Princes Park, escaping five-point victors against its traditional rival. The Tigers got the jump with the first four goals of the game, before reigning league best and fairest Maddy Prespakis sparked the Blues to life with two second term goals to help claim an unlikely half time lead. From there, the Darcy Vescio show took full toll to help Carlton kick a winning score, eventually reading 8.3 (51) to Richmond’s 7.4 (46).

While still winless in the AFL Women’s competition, green shoots are beginning to appear for Richmond after arguably its best performance to date. The Tigers’ poor conversion and attacking penetration have been a lead story thus far, but that was far from the case on Saturday as they surged forward with ruthless pace and efficiency to catch Carlton unawares on multiple occasions.

The Tigers’ pressure and early midfield dominance were other key signs of their upside, before Carlton’s prime movers began to take the game over. Having started the season at 0-2, the Blues’ finals hopes are still kicking as they sit just outside the top six, but a much more consistent run of form will be required from here on out.

Much of the hype coming into this clash surrounded the potential matchup of twins Jess and Sarah Hosking, who would take little time to acquaint themselves as opponents at the first centre bounce. It marked somewhat of another new role for Carlton’s Jess, who has been utilised up either end of the ground, while Richmond’s Sarah was typically reliable in midfield.

The Hosking in navy blue finished with 19 disposals, while her sibling managed 15 touches to go with six marks and seven tackles despite missing a chunk of action through concussion protocols. The Prespakis tackle which put Hosking out of action was deemed dangerous at the time, and could see Carlton’s star midfielder face more scrutiny from the match review officer this season.

Richmond’s Monique Conti was busy as ever, leading all comers with 26 disposals and seven inside 50s. Skipper Katie Brennan looked lively in the front half, notching two goals among her 17 touches and five marks with strong work in the air and across the ground. Others to impress in yellow and black included Ellie McKenzie (14 disposals, four marks) and the forward duo of Courtney Wakefield (three goals) and Tayla Stahl (two), who helped materialise each of their side’s momentum grabs.

Prespakis dragged her side back into the contest with 19 disposals, five tackles and two goals, aided by the forward 50 presence of Vescio, who clunked six marks and booted 3.2. Grace Egan was excellent as the Blues’ highest ball winner (21 disposals), while skipper Kerryn Harrington formed a wall in defence alongside Charlotte Wilson with seven rebound 50s.

CARLTON 0.2 | 4.2 | 7.3 | 8.3 (51)
RICHMOND 3.0 | 4.1 | 5.1 | 7.4 (46)

GOALS:

Carlton: D. Vescio 3, M. Prespakis 2, N. Stevens, L. McEvoy, T. Harris
Richmond: C. Wakefield 3, K. Brennan 2, T. Stahl 2

DC BEST:

Carlton: D. Vescio, M. Prespakis, G. Egan, K. Harrington, J. Hosking, L. McEvoy
Richmond: M. Conti, K. Brennan, S. Hosking, C. Wakefield, R. Miller, E. McKenzie

credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

Credit: Will Russell/AFL Photos

Dockers endure slow start to overrun Suns

FREMANTLE added another huge win to its premiership tilt as the Dockers overcame the Gold Coast Suns in convincing fashion in Perth, 7.13 (55) to 1.0 (6). Whilst the Suns got the early jump on the premiership contenders, leading for much of the first and boasting a close margin at half time as the Dockers failed to capitalise on opportunities, it was Fremantle that ran down its foes in an excellent six goal second half to maintain top spot on the ladder. 

In an opening term that was dominated by the underdogs, things began with plenty of excitement as an early goal from Leah Kaslar got the ball rolling with the Dockers seemingly unable to find purchase within a tight contest. But whilst Kaslar’s major was the only score of the quarter, it went on to be the Suns’ only major of the match as, from quarter time onwards, the footy was well within the home side’s grasps with plenty of intent and drive into attack. Whilst the Dockers were ultimately unable to provide the scoreboard danger to rival their offensive pressure, producing a 1.5 (11) to 1.0 (6) scoreline to marginally lead at the main change, a huge second half loomed with much of the momentum going the way of the Dockers with Ebony Antonio and Gabby O’Sullivan unsuccessful but proving dangerous inside 50.

The second half saw the match well and truly open up for Fremantle, as its pressing backline led by Janelle Cuthbertson gained further control and confidence to propel ball forward into its waiting forward line. Back-to-back majors from Antonio and O’Sullivan and a maiden goal from Sarah Verrier created a tough buffer for the Suns to crack as the scoreline extended to 25 points by the time the final change arrived. Despite being tagged for much of the contest, Kiara Bowers shone as the match opened up further, proving unstoppable as Suns’ Jamie Stanton worked up a storm for the opposition but to no avail. 

A huge final term saw the Dockers’ class complete their second half rundown of the opposition, piling on another three goals and six minors as O’Sullivan got her second on the board, whilst Hayley Miller and Ash Sharp piled on the offensive pressure. Another inaccurate term could have seen a huge margin from the premiership contenders – who have now won 11 straight – but the side will surely be content with the 49-point victory as they continue to lead the way atop the tables.

Despite being down in contested ball and clearances in the first quarter, once the Dockers stepped up their game there was no stopping them as the work-rate lifted with a whopping 73 tackles to 46, as Bowers stole the show with 15 tackles to go with her 17 touches (15 kicks). Bowers was only beaten on the possessions count by Stanton, who led her side with 18 and five tackles, while Lucy Single showed some glimpses of what she is capable of with a great tag on Bowers, completing the match with seven tackles as Lauren Bella dominated the ruck contest. O’Sullivan was the lone multiple goalkicker with two from her 16 touches, whilst Miller also showcased her ball-magnet ways with 17 disposals and six tackles to her name. 

FREMANTLE | 0.0 | 1.5 | 4.7 | 7.13 (55)
GOLD COAST | 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 (6)

GOALS:

Fremantle: G. O’Sullivan 2, R. Roux, H. Miller, A. Sharp, E. Antonio, S.Verrier
Gold Coast: L. Kaslar

DC BEST:

Fremantle: K. Bowers, J. Cuthbertson, G. O’Sullivan, H. Miller, R. Roux, J.Stewart
Gold Coast: J. Stanton, L. Bella, L. Single, K. Surman, K. Howarth

Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Hot Pies down shaky Roos in ladder-leading encounter

It was a showstopper waiting to happen, with a fired up North Melbourne side looking to right the wrongs of their Round 3 loss to Melbourne and put another win on the board, coming in hot favourites against an improved Collingwood outfit. But it seemed that once again, the Kangaroos could not compete with a hardened side bursting through the midfield. The side was unable to contain the hot Pies who sit undefeated on four from four, with a low-scoring contest seeing the Roos rendered goalless for the first time, going down 4-4 (28) to 0.8 (8).

An impressive opening term well and truly set the tone for the match, as the Magpies piled on the pressure around the ground to negate any easy forward 50 forays from the Roos. With so many excellent targets within the Kangaroos’ grasps, an Aishling Sheridan goal was exactly what the Magpies needed to spur the side into action as the contest across the field continued to grow, pressurising the midfield as Chloe Molloy looked the goods with an early major to her name. Whilst the Roos forced a tighter contest in the second quarter, it seemingly was already too little, too late as the Magpies had all the momentum and ran with it. Three minors the way of the Roos did little to worry the Pies as Jordan Membrey kicked truly at the other end, with Bri DaveyJaimee Lambert and Molloy running rampant and well and truly outclassing the Kangaroos.

Inaccuracy and a lack of opportunity were the themes of the second half as neither side was really able to exit the tight contest, with North keeping Collingwood to just 1.2 in the second half after a stellar start but also failing to find the big sticks with five more behinds on the board well and truly putting the nail in their own coffin. Despite huge efforts from Jasmine GarnerKait Ashmore and Jenna Bruton, it was not enough as Molloy sealed the deal with a final goal in the last to propel the Magpies up the ladder with the 20-point victory.

For the Magpies, Davey and Lambert led all-comers, with 31 and 27 disposals respectively, whilst Davey racked up six marks and Lambert piled on the pressure with six tackles. Britt Bonnici and Steph Chiocci rang true with 21 and 20 touches, while Molloy’s goal sense saw her finish with two from her 12 touches, four marks and three tackles. Stacey Livingstone was a moving barricade down back with eight marks and seven rebounds. For the flailing Roos, Garner’s 19 disposals led the pack while Bruton (18 and five tackles), Ashmore (17 and six, one behind) and Emma Kearney (15 and five, one behind) also plied their trade.

NORTH MELBOURNE | 0.0 | 0.3 | 0.5 | 0.8 (8)
COLLINGWOOD | 2.2 | 3.2 | 3.4 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:
North Melbourne: 
Nil
Collingwood: C. Molloy 2, A. Sheridan, J. Membrey

DC BEST:
North Melbourne:
J. Garner, K. Ashmore, A. Riddell, J. Bruton
Collingwood: B. Davey, J. Lambert, B. Bonnici, S. Livingstone, C. Molloy

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Giants outlast Suns in wet conditions for maiden 2021 win

THE Greater Western Sydney Giants finally put a win on the board on Saturday afternoon, defeating Gold Coast Suns in a rain-affected encounter at Blacktown International Sportspark, 2.6 (18) to 1.2 (8). Both teams were coming into this match off the back of comprehensive Round 2 losses, and while the Suns pressed hard after a tough first quarter, it was to no avail in the wet weather as they failed to put a major on the board until the final minutes of the match.

In an excellent start to the match the Giants were just about unstoppable, hogging the footy as Alyce Parker and Bec Beeson could not be separated from the action, as Taylah Davies and Alicia Eva slotted early goals to open proceedings and put some space between them and the traveling Suns. While the Suns were relatively composed running out of half back and dominated the marking contest, led by Jade Pregelj who collected a number of rebounds and Alison Drennan who piled on the physicality, the side could not clear the footy through the tightly contested Giants as a clogged midfield continuously sent the ball soaring back inside 50. While the tides changed in the second, with a clear scoring end coming to fruition as the Suns piled on the offensive pressure, the away side just could not pile on the scoreboard intensity they needed with the footy continuously rebounding between Lauren Ahrens and Elle Bennetts. A 15-point margin at quarter time only slightly changed to 16 points as the main break came around, with both sides failing to put a goal on the board.

Whilst the weather cleared up in the second half, the slippery conditions remained as frantic footy was played through the midfield and a tight one-on-one defence from both sides denied any easy chances for clearances. While the Suns denied the Giants a single goal after the first term and Jamie Stanton finally broke the drought with a Suns goal in the last minutes of the match, it was a tough slog for the Suns in a much tighter encounter than the scoreline suggested.

The trio of Parker (24 disposals and five tackles), Beeson (23 and seven) and Eva (15 and one goal) was impressive as ever, while Haneen Zreika was unstoppable early to finish with seven tackles and opposing rucks Erin McKinnon and Lauren Bella racked up 20 hitouts apiece. The Suns’ physicality was excellent with Drennan (22 disposals, 12 tackles) combing well with Serene Watson and Hannah Dunn (eight and seven tackles, respectively) while Ahrens and Stanton were also solid.

Image Credit: AAP/Dan Himbrechts

GWS GIANTS | 2.3 | 2.5 | 2.6 | 2.6 (18)
GOLD COAST SUNS | 0.0 | 0.1 | 0.1 | 1.2 (8)

GOALS:

Giants: T. Davies, A. Eva
Suns: J. Stanton

DC BEST:

Giants: A. Parker, R. Beeson, E. Bennetts, A. Eva, B. Tully
Suns: A. Drennan, J. Stanton, L. Ahrens, M. Levi, S. Watson

Credit: Getty Images

Experienced Blues overawe Saints

The second match of the evening saw the Saints host the Blues at Moorabbin, in the first crowd-less matchup of the round. Perfect conditions in Melbourne saw the home side get off to the perfect start, as Caitlin Greiser would not be rendered goalless for the second straight round and put the first goal through for the match with minute left in the quarter as the Saints dominated the early stages. With Greiser taking centre stage up forward for the Saints, the Blues would not be left wondering what could be playing an extra back to lighten the load of the likes of Mua Laloifi, but Greiser’s beautiful gather and goal from an angle well and truly outclassed the Blues backwoman on return from injury, allowing the Saints some breathing space and a slight seven-point upper hand heading into the first change.

But it was not all doom and gloom for Carlton, as the side picked up their game as the second term rolled around with two shocking weeks behind them and no desire to head in that same direction once more, as the side well and truly took advantage of the blustery wind to pile on the scoreboard pressure in the second quarter. It took only a perfect start from Elise O’Dea who was sent forward to do what she does best, hitting the scoreboard quickly and seeing the rest of the side pick up their game immediately as Maddy Prespakis got in on the action with a snap out of the back of a contest, and seeing a couple of excellent chains of handballs keep the footy moving fast down the field, evading Saints’ possession. While it was the experienced Blues cohort that got the show on the road in the second quarter, it was the young talent that lifted in the second half as Prespakis was aided by Grace Egan, Georgia Gee and Abbie McKay, with the latter two finding much more of the footy as the match opened up. A Kate Shierlaw purple patch – including the Saints’ second goal – was cut short as the tall was briefly sent off the field for a head knock, whilst the likes of Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith were influential around the footy, matching up well against the Blues’ talent but unable to apply the offensive pressure the side so sorely needed.

A tough contest was had in the final term, and while the Saints proved they were more than capable of taking the game on, it was not enough as the Blues had the momentum and wind going in their favour. Whilst the Saints midfield and back-end worked in overdrive to push the footy forward once more, the Blues shut down the centre corridor and minimised options on the wing to continuously propel the footy back inside their attacking 50. Nic Stevens‘ second goal of the game – a soccer off the ground from within the square – well and truly put the ice on the cake for the then-winless Blues, as the side ran home with a solid 6-4 (40) to 2.4 (16) victory.

For the successful Blues, Prespakis and Egan led the way with 24 touches apiece, combining for eight tackles between them while McKay was not far behind with 17 touches and seven tackles alone. O’Dea had her best match in the navy blue, piling 21 disposals onto her season tally and booting the side’s opening goal, while Jess Hosking and Breann Moody were solid as ever. For the Saints, Patrikios was excellent with 20 disposals and five tackles, while Hannah Priest (18 disposals, six tackles and five marks) and Rosie Dillon (14 disposals and nine tackles) were also solid targets around the ground.

ST KILDA | 1.1 | 1.2 | 2.4 | 2.4 (16)
CARLTON | 0.0 | 3.1 | 5.1 | 6.4 (40)

GOALS:

St Kilda: C. Greiser, K. Shierlaw
Carlton: N. Stevens 2, L. Brazzale, M. Downie, E. O’Dea, M. Prespakis

DC BEST:

St Kilda: G. Patrikios, R. Dillon, H. Priest, K. Shierlaw, T. Lucas-Rodd
Carlton: M. Prespakis, G. Egan, E. O’Dea, A. McKay, J. Hosking

Credit: Getty Images

Dees triumph thanks to second term

demolition

Melbourne reigned supreme in an almighty top four battle as the Demons came from behind to claim an emphatic nine-point win over North Melbourne 9.6 (60) to 8.3 (51). Both sides headed into the Round 3 match undefeated but Melbourne proved their status as a powerhouse side in the AFL Women’s competition. highlighting their attacking mentality and peppering away at the goals in the second term to flip the script.

Despite multiple chances throughout the opening term the Dees struggled to find their kicking boots early while North Melbourne nailed the first two goals of the game. With the ball spending majority of time inside 50 for Melbourne, the Demons finally struck their first major as the clock ticked down to quarter time reducing the deficit to three points at the break. That momentum trickled into the second term as the Demons showcased their ability to link up with handballs and weave their way forward to steal the lead and slot four consecutive goals. Tegan Cunningham and Jackie Parry inspired the comeback second term with the pair combining for four goals in that quarter alone, showcasing their ability to get the job done both in the air and at ground level with Parry roving the pack and slotting a nice goal to really give Melbourne the ascendancy heading into half time.

Melbourne stretched the lead out to as much as 25 points before the Kangaroos tightened things up in the third term to pile on the scoreboard pressure and nullify the influence of the Dees. With a number of key cogs in the blue and white, the Roos found a way to be damaging as Daria Bannister picked up the slack with two goals in her side’s four goal term. But sensing a momentum switch, the Demons regathered their composure in the final stanza to keep North Melbourne at bay, trapping the ball inside 50 despite the margin getting as close as three points with only moments to spare.

It was the usual suspects for the Kangaroos that stood up in the contest as Jasmine Garner took the game into her own hands as shown through her mammoth 15 disposals, 12 tackles and two goal effort. Emma Kearney chimed in, amassing 16 touches while also slotting a timely goal to keep the Roos within touching distance of the Demons. Ashleigh Riddell was a key contributor with her 17 disposals as was Kaitlyn Ashmore who managed to find plenty of the footy thanks to her 16 disposals and two tackle performance. Jenna Bruton threw her weight around laying six tackles to accompany her 14 touches while Bannister kept the scoreboard ticking over banging home two majors.

For the Demons, Karen Paxman was a force to be reckoned with directing traffic and picking up a game-high 25 disposals. Paxman was involved in just about everything and made full use of her physical nature to match up against Kearney through the middle while on the goal-scoring front Cunningham was proving too big and too strong, outmuscling her opponents and kicking true out the front. Cunningham finished with two goals for the game as teammate Parry impressed with her three majors. Youngster Tyla Hanks provided that element of run and carry across the ground picking up 23 touches and nine tackles as Kate Hore was a real livewire with 15 touches and three marks. Maddison Gay made her presence felt recording seven tackles and 16 disposals in the win with Lily Mithen also a key playmaker for the Dees amassing 21 touches.

MELBOURNE | 1.3 | 7.4 | 8.4 | 9.6 (60)
NORTH MELBOURNE | 2.1 | 3.1 | 7.3 | 8.3 (51)

GOALS:

Melbourne: J. Parry 3, T. Cunningham 2, S. Scott 2, K. Hore, K. Paxman
North Melbourne: J. Garner 2, D. Bannister 2, G. Campbell, E. Kearney, S, Abbatangelo, I. Eddey

DC BEST: 

Melbourne: K. Paxman, T. Hanks, L. Mithen, M. Gay, T. Cunningham,
North Melbourne: J. Garner, E. Kearney, A. Riddell,  J.Bruton, K. Ashmore

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 Preview: North Melbourne Kangaroos

PERENNIAL premiership contender, North Melbourne will be hoping to bounce into consecutive finals series’ after its promising 2020 run was cut short. The Roos managed to maintain much of their strong core heading into this season and have added even more quality – not just to the overall squad, but also to the starting lineup with a star returnee. Under new head coach, Darren Crocker, expectations will be high at Arden Street.

2020 RECAP

A shock opening round loss to Melbourne could have derailed North Melbourne’s season before it even started, but instead served to emphatically kick the Roos into gear. The Roos got on the board with a steady three-goal win over GWS in Round 2 and never looked back, notching three victories of over 40 points among a fearsome undefeated run heading into finals. After finishing top of Conference A at 5-1, North was very nearly handed another upset loss in the postseason, but narrowly accounted for Collingwood to qualify for the would-have-been preliminary finals round. Skipper Emma Kearney was named vice-captain of the All Australian squad, joined by fellow midfielders Jasmine Garner and Ash Riddell in the side as outstanding individual performers. Kaitlyn Ashmore finished as leading goalkicker with 10 goals, one major ahead of Garner in the most potent side competition-wide.

NEW FACES

A handful of draftees were joined by emerging former-Richmond midfielder Grace Campbell in finding their way to Arden Street, adding some spark and plenty of potential to the Roos’ squad depth. 25-year-old Campbell is a raw talent who brings plenty of speed and tenacity to the engine room, making the squeeze for spots all the more tight after five appearances in her debut AFLW season.

Bella Eddey headlined the Roos’ draft haul at pick 13 and is aptly nicknamed ‘Silk’, credit to her wonderful skill on the ball. The 18-year-old will likely start forward alongside fellow NAB League graduate Alice O’Loughlin, but both have the potential to move through midfield in future. Also among the fresh faces are surprise father-daughter selection Amy Smith, VFLW coup Georgia Hammond, and Tasmanian Brooke Brown. North VFLW product Katelyn Cox was also given a chance through unlisted free agency after Elisha King‘s season-ending hamstring injury.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Fans of all clubs will likely be looking forward to seeing what Jess Duffin can produce upon her return in 2021, with the former Magpie ready to add to her seven outings in the blue and white during 2019. An All Australian that season, the 31-year-old is far from finished in the top flight and will slot straight back into the Roos’ defensive setup. Her clean skills will only aid North’s ability to move the ball efficiently via foot, only raising her side’s potential to hurt the opposition going forward. With stars aplenty already littered across the Roos’ starting side, Duffin looks primed to serve a reminder of her own talents.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

Kearney, Garner, Riddell, Jenna Bruton – the list goes on. This North Melbourne side is stacked through the midfield and as has already been showcased, the Roos are as lethal as any side going forward. Dominating out of the middle goes a long way to doing exactly that on the scoreboard, which is the most significant factor in North’s premiership potential. Kearney and Garner can find the goals, there’s Emma King rotating forward through the ruck, Kate Gillespie-Jones standing tall, and the dynamic duo of Ashmore and Daisy Bateman inside 50 – all of whom prove that North has the stock to capitalise on its engine room prowess.

QUESTION MARK

It is difficult to find a fault with this North Melbourne side on paper, but one may ponder whether the Roos have missed the boat. 2019 may have been their inaugural season, but the Roos missed finals despite looking like a top two contender. Their run was cut short last year through no fault of their own, so can they maintain that level of performance for a third year running? Other teams like Fremantle and Carlton are only getting better, while Adelaide will be hungry to bounce back from a down season. The Roos have the stock and have only added to that, but the pressure will be on.

FINAL WORD

One of the competition’s powerhouse teams will surely accept nothing less than another finals win in 2021, with the chance for a maiden AFL Women’s premiership beckoning. The Roos’ stars are aligning and there are very few weaknesses to be exploited across the ground, making Crocker’s side one of the teams to beat once again. A tough early-mid-season fixture will truly test North’s credentials.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

2021 AFLW 10 under 10 to watch: #8 Tiah Haynes

IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We continue the countdown at number eight with Fremantle’s Tiah Haynes.

Haynes is the unique one in this list, having only been drafted in last year’s 2020 AFL Women’s National Draft. However the 27-year-old has played the required two seasons at the elite level, representing the Dockers way back in the foundation seasons of 2017 and 2018. There, Haynes managed to play six games – three in each year – before being delisted at the end of 2018. For those that might not know Haynes’ story, the talented defender has had to fight back from adversity to earn a spot back on the Dockers’ list, and has come so far that the club that did not lose a game last year has brought her back.

A hardened midfielder who can play in multiple roles – especially coming out of defence – Haynes has endued both shoulder and knee injuries over the journey, but was able to stand out for Subiaco this year. Playing in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition, Haynes has built up her strength and power, as well as improved her skills since intitially getting a chance at the elite level, and becomes one of the few to get a second crack after being delisted in the early seasons.

Haynes has earned a spot on the list following a strong 2020 WAFL Women’s season with the Lions, but her story of resilience has been one for the ages. She has had to undergo three knee reconstructions, as well as a shoulder injury that curtailed her first AFL Women’s season. One aspect about Haynes that many might have forgotten is the fact she was the first selection in the Hampson-Hardeman Cup exhibition match between Melbourne and Western Bulldogs back in 2014. She was selected ahead of the likes of Darcy Vescio, Emma Zielke, Dana Hooker and Kaitlyn Ashmore who were all picked up in the Top 10.

The then-20-year-old was a rising star coming through the state league level, and now six years older, is ready to use the experience of hardship and setbacks to stamp her authority on the competition. Fully fit, Haynes could very well be a strong player in the AFL Women’s, and no doubt a huge acquisition for the Dockers who have shown great faith in bringing back one of the most talented junior players, and rewarding her for her efforts both on and off the field in the past few years.

Picture credit: Fremantle FC

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: #6 – Demons cause opening round upset over flag favourites

COMING in at number six of our Top 10 count of the best AFL Women’s games for season is the Demons first round win over premiership favourites North Melbourne in a nail-biting contest at Casey Fields. Here’s how we recalled the game:

Melbourne has claimed a huge scalp in the opening round of the AFL Women’s 2020 season, downing one of the premiership favourites in North Melbourne at Casey Fields. In a see-sawing contest, the Demons scored the final goal of the game courtesy of Eden Zanker, in a low-scoring and blustery affair to win 3.4 (22) to 3.2 (20).

A warm and windy day at Casey Fields not only welcomed the return of AFL Women’s to the south-eastern suburbs of Victoria, but also the return of Melbourne captain, Daisy Pearce. The Dees’ skipper was playing her first competitive match since 2018, and started at half-back, winning an intercept possession straight off a clearance and getting in the thick of it early. Young gun, Tyla Hanks set the tone with a great tackle in the opening minute at half-back, but the going was tough early with both side’s defences standing up with the blustery conditions doing plenty to impact the inside 50 entries.

It took until the fifth minute when Kaitlyn Ashmore mowed down a Melbourne opponent close to goal and won a free kick 15m out on a 45 degree angle. The breeze did not pose a problem for the talented utility who slotted the first goal of the match. The Roos might have surprised a few by recruiting mature-age Western Bulldogs VFL Women’s recruit, Ellie Gavalas with their first pick, but she showed exactly why they brought her in with some great tackling ability, as did Melbourne Uni recruit, Tahni Nestor with a huge run-down tackle on Zanker to win a free kick. Ashmore’s forward work was looking good with a strong lead and mark about 35m out, but opted to pass which was spoiled.

With only their third inside 50, Melbourne’s Tegan Cunningham took a big contested mark, but her kick got caught in the breeze and fell short. An end-to-end play by the Roos saw Daisy Bateman mark on the 50m line, and knowing the distance was beyond her, looked for options. Luckily though, her opponent took a step too far on the mark, and Bateman was awarded a 50m penalty, converting the major from the goal square to put her side 12 points up with the quarter into red time. The home team was attacking fiercely late in the term, but back-to-back 50m penalties for mark infringements brought North Melbourne back to within goal-scoring range. The kick on goal fell short, and Gavalas nearly got her first major with a quick snap but missed to the right and the siren sounded with the Roos 2.1 (13) to Dees’ 0.0 (0).

Now with the wind at their backs, the Dees could start to mount an offensive themselves. A huge moment came in the sixth minute when Kate Hore produced a perfectly timed run-down tackle as her opponent went to clear the danger out of defence. The ball never connected with her boot and Hore converted the subsequent set shot from straight in front 30m out. Melbourne was on the board just over 20 minutes into the match.

The game was predominantly being played in Melbourne’s half, with the Demons constantly putting pressure on the Kangaroos’ defence. It worried the visitors into giving away a stoppage free to Elise O’Dea in front of goal, but her set shot drifted to the left courtesy of the strong breeze. Melbourne’s ‘Old Firm’ of O’Dea, Pearce and Karen Paxman were standing up and leading the side across the three lines, while the the speed and excitement of Hore and Shelley Heath inside 50 was piling on the pressure for the home side.

Hore was best-on for her impact in the game, pressuring an opponent to force the ball out of bounds and win a free kick deep in the pocket. Her set shot missed, but she would soon put her side in front with the last meaningful play of the quarter, after Zanker’s dribble attempt fortuitously bounced away from the goal, but also a North Melbourne opponent and bounced straight into the arms of the running Hore who converted from point-blank range.

Melbourne had a simple task against the wind – try to clog up the scoring to avoid North Melbourne holding an unassailable lead heading into the last term. For the first four minutes, nothing was able to penetrate past the last line of the Dees’ sturdy defence. With so much experience back there, they were able to work the ball out of the danger zone time and time again. Though the first meaningful chance came via a holding free to Emma King about 35m out straight in front. Her shot looked on target for the most part, but drifted to the left for one behind and levelled the scores.

While Pearce might have been the headline return story for the match, North had one of its own too, with Ash Riddell returning for just her third game after missing the rest of last season after going down in Round 2. She was in the right spot at the right time goal-side to receive a quick handball from Jasmine Garner to snap around her body and put it through with a celebration worthy of a vital match-turning goal. The Roos would need at least one more and now allow the home side to get one on the board of their own if they were to hold enough sway to restrict the opposition in the final term.

The match had shades of last year’s thrilling encounter, and while Cunningham had the chance to put her side back level with a tight shot from the boundary, it went to the right.  Melbourne was attacking fiercely in the dying minutes of the third term to try and get one against the flow, but North kept repelling time and time again, including a potentially match-winning tackle from Bethany Lynch inside defensive 50. The Roos led by five points at the final break, but the Dees would have the all-important win to try and reverse the 2019 result at this venue.

While North did all the attacking early in the fourth term, it was Melbourne’s ability to run and find space that was the difference in the end. Every player was in the Kangaroos’ half and it led to an end-to- end play by the Dees for Zanker to be all alone inside 50 to run into an open goal and put the Dees in front by a point. Melbourne had multiple chances to really ice the game over the next few minutes, but could not seem to put through the final dagger as the North defence stood up time and time again.

The Kangaroos kept trying to pump it long out of defensive 50, but the Demons set up behind the ball so every kick down through midfield was being picked off by the experienced Demons defenders. Both teams were desperate and the Roos coughed up another free kick and with 20 seconds remaining, the Demons were able to lock the ball up enough to win the game by just two points in a thrilling contest.

The 2018 Most Valuable Player (MVP), Emma Kearney finished with 20 touches and nine tackles, shaded by Riddell who was arguably the best on the ground after quarter time, racking up 20 disposals, five tackles and booting that timely third quarter goal, while Jenna Bruton laid 11 tackles and was fierce throughout the four quarters. Aside from Hore (13 disposals, two marks, three tackles and two goals) who was outstanding in crunch moments for the Dees, Paxman and O’Dea (both 15 disposals) and Pearce (12 disposals) were terrific.

MELBOURNE 0.0 | 2.2 | 2.3 | 3.4 (22)
KANGAROOS 2.1 | 2.1 | 3.2 | 3.2 (20)

GOALS:

Melbourne: K. Hore 2, E. Zanker.
Kangaroos: K. Ashmore, D. Bateman, A. Riddell.

ADC BEST:

Melbourne: K. Hore, D. Pearce, K. Paxman, E. O’Dea, S. Heath, T. Hanks
Kangaroos: A. Riddell, E. Kearney, J. Bruton, E. Gavalas, D. Hardiman, K. Ashmore

2020 AFL Women’s season review: North Melbourne

NORTH MELBOURNE was perhaps the side most unlucky to miss finals last year after a scintillating start to life in the AFL Women’s competition, but bounced back beautifully in 2020 to finish top of Conference A at 5-1. Coach Scott Gowans proclaimed his side was in the premiership window during preseason and the Roos’ mature-age heavy draft haul backed that statement up before another impressive on-field campaign. With four All-Australian squad members littered across a talent-rich side, the Kangaroos were one of the final four flag fancies before the season was cut short. Relive the highs and lows of North Melbourne’s second AFLW tilt, with a nod to its most outstanding players.

RECORD: 1st (A), 5-1 (1-0 finals), 227.2%

RESULTS:

R1: lost to Melbourne by 2 points
R2: defeated GWS by 18 points
R3: defeated Richmond by 56 points
R4:
defeated Gold Coast by 13 points
R5:
defeated Adelaide by 42 points 
R6:
defeated Geelong by 46 points
SF: defeated Collingwood by 2 points

A shock Round 1 loss to Melbourne was far from the ideal start North Melbourne would have been after, but perhaps served as an omen given how 2019 premier, Adelaide also went undefeated after losing in its opening fixture last year. From that point, the Kangaroos were near-flawless in dismantling their next six opponents, with three wins over 42 points and only one side getting within a two-goal margin. North’s many avenues to goal made them one of the league’s most dominant attacking threats, with no score falling below five goals after Round 1 with service from a dominant midfield.

SEASON HIGH: Finals glory… just

It is not to say that North Melbourne was not made to earn any of its regular season victories, but having done so with such ease at times, the Kangaroos’ epic two-point win over Collingwood in their semi-finals clash had hearts racing. Down by almost two goals at the main break, the valiant Roos rallied to get the jump heading into the final break and held on in a nail-biting fourth term to win through to the would-be preliminary finals. An instant classic, against a foundation team no less.

SEASON LOW: The Round 1 boilover

With this the sole blemish on North Melbourne’s record for the year, it was a relatively straightforward choice to be the Roos’ low point. But if there is ever a good time to lose, it proved to be in Round 1 for the Kangaroos, with the entire regular season left to make up the points and fulfil their pre-season plaudits. After bouncing to an early lead and again snatching it at three quarter time, North were jumped in a tense final term as Melbourne proved it would also be a contender in 2020.

FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:

Jasmine Garner (20.1 disposals, 4.6 marks, 4.7 tackles, 3.4 clearances, 1.6 rebound 50s, 4.1 inside 50s, 335 metres gained, 8 goals)

Earned the AFLW Most Valuable Player (MVP) award today after a career-best campaign where she led the competition for marks, and her club for contested possessions, score involvements, and inside 50s. Having levelled up her endurance, Garner made the switch to midfield and proved a game-breaker, able to find bucketloads of the ball and still hit the scoreboard as one of the league’s most damaging players.

Emma Kearney (20.6 disposals, 3.4 marks, 4.4 tackles, 4.1 clearances, 2 rebound 50s, 4.1 inside 50s, 354 metres gained, 3 goals)

The skipper was at her reliable best in 2020 and while she may have proven animated in the face of opposition attention, was supported well through the engine room throughout another strong season. Seldom is Kearney kept out of the contest, and even when she was not having her usual impact on the ball, found a way to have a say – as proven in her three-goal effort against Richmond. The one-time league best and fairest is going nowhere, and remains one of the true elites.

Ash Riddell (21.3 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.6 tackles, 4.3 clearances, 1 rebound 50, 3.9 inside 50s, 359 metres gained)

After suffering a long-term injury in just her second AFLW appearance last year, Riddell returned with a clean bill of health and had an enormous impact on North Melbourne’s midfield. An absolute ball magnet, the diminutive mover led her side for disposals, clearances, and metres gained from a host of capable teammates, earning All Australian squad recognition in the process. Proved she was more than just fold for Kearney and Garner in the engine room.

Jenna Bruton (17.4 disposals, 2.1 marks, 5.7 tackles, 3.7 clearances, 1.6 rebound 50s, 2.1 inside 50s)

Another zippy small among North Melbourne’s midfield brigade this season was Bruton, who despite her 158cm frame, brought the heat at stoppages as a reliable two-way outlet in the engine room. The fourth of North’s All-Australian squad members, Bruton covered plenty of ground in 2020 and impressively led the Kangaroos for tackles and intercept possessions in another consistent year – her third at the elite level and second at Arden Street.

Kaitlyn Ashmore (7.7 disposals, 2.3 marks, 2.9 tackles, 1.7 inside 50s, 9 goals)

The inaugural Brisbane Lions forward stood out as North Melbourne’s leading goalkicker in 2020 with a career-high haul of nine majors across all seven games. A dangerous figure inside 50 who simply makes things happen, Ashmore proved her nous around the big sticks with bags of three and four goals this year, but was rubbed out for most of the game against GWS with concussion. Has sticky hands and great goal sense, making her a pleasure to watch.

THE SHREWD RECRUIT:

Ellie Gavalas (13.3 disposals, 1.9 marks, 5.4 tackles, 2.1 clearances, 3 inside 50s, 232 metres gained)

North Melbourne turned heads by selecting the 24-year-old with pick 10 in last year’s draft on the back of just one (albeit outstanding) VFLW campaign, but the Tasmanian repaid the faith in spades with a terrific debut season. A round-ball convert, Gavalas steadily acclimatised to the Kangaroos’ midfield, becoming a reliable figure at the stoppages who possesses clean hands and a hard edge. Kicked her first goal in the final game of the season – not for a lack of trying – as great reward for effort.

THE UTILITY:

Kate Gillespie-Jones (12 disposals, 2.9 marks, 4 tackles, 2.4 hitouts, 2.4 inside 50s, 3 goals)

Dominant key position players take time to develop, and after making great strides upon making the switch to Arden Street last year, Gillespie-Jones furthered her reputation in 2020. The 179cm utility was employed mostly as a forward target across all seven games, but enjoyed stints further afield and in the ruck to highlight her flexibility. Her three goals, all in seperate games, made for a career-best haul, with the tall’s work to follow-up her improving aerial efforts compounding her influence on games. Combined well with Ashmore and Sophie Abbatangelo inside 50.

VERDICT:

The Kangaroos are an experienced and hardened unit which could well have taken out this year’s premiership. While we will never know what could have been, one thing that remains almost certain is that this side will remain a contender in 2021. Boasting one of the league’s best midfields and a forwardline with multiple prongs, there is a lot to like about the Kangaroos going forward.