Tag: kalarni kearns

2021 NAB League Girls: 7 Memorable Moments – Round 8

THE NAB League Girls competition has completed its penultimate round, with seven games across the weekend and Northern Territory Academy coming into the fold. In continuing our new weekly series, we take a look at the top moments from each match – whether they be game-defining feats, big marks, glorious goals, or otherwise. There was plenty of eye-catching action in Round 8 as some of the nation’s best youngsters churned out another batch of impressive feats.

Eastern Ranges vs. Sandringham Dragons

Collision Course

By: Declan Reeve

Halfway through the second term Eastern’s Georgia Wilson and Sandringham’s Emma Stuber found themselves running towards the same spilled ball in the Eastern forward 50. When they reached the ball, the two bulls threw themselves at each other for a bone crunching bump, with Wilson ending up closer to the ball and getting it to Alyssia Pisano who snapped the goal from the pocket for Eastern’s second.

Calder Cannons vs. Western Jets

Zakkour seals the deal

By: Peter Williams

In what was a tight contest throughout the match, Calder Cannons was holding on to a narrow six-point lead over the Western Jets at the final break. A 50-metre penalty to Alisa Magri in the first minute gave the Cannons some breathing space, but it was a remarkable goal from Jessica Zakkour that sealed the deal. As the live commentary said “Zakkour snaps truly and wins her team the match”, with the goal coming at the perfect time to just drive the final nail into the Jets’ coffin.

Tasmania Devils vs. Northern Knights

Bissett doesn’t miss it

By Hamish Spence

Trailing by 11 points at three-quarter time, Tasmania needed someone to step up in the last. Enter Amy Bissett, who kicked two of the Devils’ three goals in the final term to get her side over the line. Having already kicked one in the second quarter, her second brought the Devils within a kick and her third effectively sealed it by extending the narrow lead that Tasmania had established. Bissett has been an important presence at centre half-forward this season, but she saved her best and most impactful performance for when it mattered most.

Geelong Falcons vs. Oakleigh Chargers

Team transition

By: Declan Reeve

Oakleigh’s Mia Clift ran onto a ball that spilt over the top of a contest, got it forward to Kalani Kearns who spotted Charlie Rowbottom on her own inside 50, who took on two falcons players to handball to Sarah Morley for Chargers’ second goal of the day and a much needed major.

Dandenong Stingrays vs. Murray Bushrangers

Shepherd by name and nature

By: Michael Alvaro

Captain for the day in her return from injury, gun Dandenong Stingrays bottom-ager Emily Shepherd proved just the leader her side needed. One to lead by example more than voice, as coined by usual co-captain Abbey Jordan during the game’s broadcast, Shepherd came to life in the second term and helped guide the ‘Rays to a handy half time lead. She was everywhere, showing her smarts to win the ball in dangerous areas and get involved in scoring chains, seeming to have more time on the ball than others.

GWV Rebels vs. Northern Territory Academy

Second Thunder

By: Peter Williams

Northern Territory Thunder took a while to kick into gear, but eventually they did, booting four second half goals against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. Trailing by six points at half-time, the Thunder came out with a flurry, having nine scoring shots to one and changing the momentum of the game, with Ashanti Bush slotting two, and Freda Puruntatameri and Bella Clarke also kicking a major each.

Bendigo Pioneers vs. Gippsland Power

The desperate dying stages

By: Michael Alvaro

Gippsland managed to hold on for its first win of the 2021 NAB League season, staving off the desperate Bendigo Pioneers across a tense final few minutes. The ball was locked in Bendigo’s forward half for nearly all of that time, with Gippsland’s game-long lead whittled down to three points, and eventually one as a series of Pio’ shots went wide or fell short. You could feel the urgency embedded in each player afield and the officials watching on in agony – none more so than Bendigo captain Tara Slender whose passion spilled over on the live telecast. In the end, Gippsland survived for one of the more memorable triumphs in NAB League Girls history.

Youth set to take next step in VFL Women’s competition

TWELVE players who received AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but missed out on being picked up by clubs will test themselves in the new-look Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition starting this weekend. Of the 12 players, five of them remain on NAB League lists as top-agers, whilst the others are purely focused on their VFL Women’s commitments in 2021.

Carlton have a trio of players who received Draft Combine invites last year, in Gippsland Power duo Nikia Webber and Shanara Notman, and Oakleigh Chargers defender Amber Micallef. Webber and Notman have received a couple of Combine invites in the past, with the key position talents strong overhead and both having represented Vic Country in the past. Notman played Round 1 with the Power, but is also a skilled basketballer. Micallef stepped up in 2020 to provide great outside run albeit in only the two games she was able to play, becoming a crucial cog in the Chargers’ rebound.

The other team with multiple 2020 AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites is Southern Saints, with Dandenong Stingrays teammates Zoe Hill and Abbey Jordan both in the red, white and black for season 2021. The duo are still on the Stingrays’ NAB League Girls lists and made a strong start to the season last round, with Hill a Vic Country Under 18s key position defender at bottom-age level, and Jordan a speedy winger who has been moved inside to increase her versatility this year.

Another player still on a NAB League list but is testing herself at state league level is Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae who will suit up for Hawthorn in 2021. The hardnut inside midfielder had a massive Round 1 game for the Power, but has moved closer to the city for work this year and will look to join the likes of form Power player, Maddi Shaw at the brown and gold.

Meanwhile Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher will head to Collingwood, with the 2020 Eastern Ranges captain already having an impact in her two games at NAB League level this season. A fierce onballer, Meagher will have no troubles stepping up to the level and will be one to watch through the onball brigade at the Pies.

Another inside midfielder and former NAB League captain stepping up to the VFL Women’s in 2021 is Brooke Hards who will play with the Western Bulldogs this season. The Bendigo Pioneers co-captain last year and Vic Country Under 18s representative as a bottom-ager two seasons ago will look to bring a similar fierce attack to the Bulldogs midfield as another country player who has moved closer to the city for studies.

Calder Cannons’ Alana Barba will once again head to Essendon after not being able to get out on the park last season, but still earning a Draft Combine invitation as a 19-year-old. A tackling machine like Hards, Barba has grown through the Vic Metro program and will team up alongside a heap of current Calder Cannons players who will don the red and black this year. She is joined at the Bombers by Bendigo Pioneers’ Jemma Finning who was impressive in a new role at half-back last season, and has been back at the Pios thus far in 2021.

Having quite the pathway, Courteney Bromage has returned to Victoria after a stint in Queensland last year, with the ex-Carlton talent trying out at Port Melbourne. She will provide plenty of experience for the league’s newest side as they look to have an impact from the get-go.

Speaking of travelling, there will be a sister act at North Melbourne, with Jayde Hamilton the other Draft Combine invite from last year. Representing Eastern Allies as a bottom-ager in 2019, the inside midfielder will join sister and ex-Gold Coast Suns tall Alexia Hamilton at the Roos in 2021.

There are also plenty of current NAB League Girls who have been named on various VFL Women’s lists for the upcoming season. Essendon VFL Women’s have been flushed with an array of Calder talents, including AFL Women’s Academy members Georgie Prespakis and Tahlia Gillard, as well as the likes of Kasey Lennox, Neve Crowley, Grace Dicker, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell. The Bombers also have recruited Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell. Another Calder talent in Peppa Poultney has opted to stick with her junior club and follow into Darebin Falcons’ VFL Women’s program.

Geelong has unsurprisingly recruited a number of Falcons to its list, with Renee Tierney already lightning up the NAB League Girls with a couple of big outings in the opening two matches. Defender Annie Lee and midfielder Tess Craven are also among the Falcons best performed in the opening couple of games and could easily have an impact at state league level. They are joined by Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ Chloe Leonard who has also been in great form.

Eastern Ranges Isabelle Khoury, Matilda Hardy and Jess Grace have all signed on to Hawthorn’s VFL Women’s list, whilst Darwin Buffettes talent and former Central Allies representative Dominique Carbone has also decided to head to the Hawks this season. A former and current Murray Bushrangers duo of Kate Adams and Sophie Locke will run out for Port Melbourne, while Geelong Falcons’ Zoe Garth will test herself at Williamstown.

Other current NAB League Girls players on lists include Oakleigh Chargers’ Kalarni Kearns who will head to Collingwood, and Western Jets’ Nikita Wright will suit up for the Western Bulldogs. One name who might fly under the radar but has switched states is Collingwood’s Matilda Zander who has finally made her way to the Pies from Norwood after attempting to do so last year before the full state lockdown went into place.

With plenty of young talent on show in the VFL Women’s competition, there is plenty to get excited about across the league, and it all kicks off on Saturday.

NAB League Girls Round 1 preview: Undefeated 2020 sides to face off in huge round of action

AT least one of the three undefeated sides from the 2020 NAB League Girls season will extend their winning run to 18 months or more, when the competition returns this weekend. Starting tomorrow, the NAB League Girls will have six games across four different venues – including one double-header – in a new footballing landscape for 2021. For Dandenong Stingrays, they will have to tack on an extra week to their extended break that saw the 2020 season come to an unfulfilled end last year, after they were handed the bye. For the 12 other teams, it will be a chance to start the season off on the right note. For the likes of Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, they look to continue what they started last year, having not lost since 2019, or in the Knights’ case, the 2018 grand final.

Eastern Ranges vs. Western Jets
Saturday, February 6 @ 12pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

In what is officially the first NAB League Girls game in almost 12 months, Western Jets will cross the West Gate Bridge and head down to Kilsyth Recreation Reserve where the Eastern Ranges will be waiting for them. These teams last played way back in Round 4, 2019, when the Ranges easily accounted for the Jets by 43 points. A dominant second half where they booted 6.2 to 0.0 saw them run out 7.4 to 0.3 winners, with Olivia Meagher picking up 17 disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s.

Meagher has been named for the match tomorrow, with last year’s captain to play as a 19-year-old prospect in 2020. She is the only Ranges player from that match to remain on the list, whilst a trio of then 15-year-old talents in Caitlin Sargent, Trinity Skenderis and Jemima Woods – as well as now top-age and over-age talents respectively, Nikita Wright and Ciara Singleton – all remain on the Jets’ list having played in that match.

Looking at the teams, the match will be won and lost in the middle, with the Jets having some great height, whilst the Ranges have speed to burn. That is not to say the respective teams do not have the opposite as well, but they are damaging in their respective areas. For the home team, Jorja Livingstone was a player who really shone last year and is a clean ball user and able to work her way out of stoppages. She will team up with the likes of Meagher and Bridget Deed in the middle, roving Georgia Campbell‘s taps. Up forward, Matilda Hardy, Jade Hutchison and Isabella Khoury are ones to watch, whilst Saskia Nannes will be a potential big improver with more matches after having the season cut short last year.

For Western, their under-age group is brimming with talent, though now with extra experience, Sargent, Skenderis and Woods will be among those to watch. Montana Ham and Charlotte Baskaran present as two of the top 2022 prospects, with Ham’s versatility and size through the midfield hard to match, while Baskaran’s run and carry – as well as her elite use by foot – will provide a one-two punch that is always difficult to combat.

This is a game that could go right down to the wire, and difficult to predict with so many new players, but Eastern might have the upper hand at home.

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.15pm
JC Lowe Oval, Yarrawonga

From the east to the far north, Murray Bushrangers will host Bendigo Pioneers in a terrific spectacle for the country regions at Yarrawonga. Both these teams have a talented tall in the AFL Women’s Academy which makes things exciting. These two teams have also not played since March 30, 2019 when the Pioneers – during their most successful season to-date – toppled the Bushrangers by 14 points in Wangaratta.

That day it was Annabel Strahan (now Bulldogs) who had 20 touches, seven tackles, five inside 50s and a goal) and Brooke Hards (17 disposals, three marks, 11 tackles, four inside 50s and three rebounds) who teamed up to cause havoc on the Bushrangers, while Millie Brown (now Geelong) racked up 27 disposals and six rebounds, and Abby Favell (22 disposals, five marks eight tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds) were the best for the losing side.

A then 15-year-old Ally Morphett had 11 disposals, two marks, 14 hitouts and two inside 50s, with the now AFL Women’s Academy member looming as the key player for the Bushrangers. Bendigo’s Academy member Tara Slender also played in that match, picking up seven disposals and having six hitouts, though the pair are unlikely to spend too much time one-on-one considering Slender will roll through a key position role and Morphett will be one of the dominant rucks in the competition.

Looking at the overall squads, Murray’s defence is strong given the likes of Mindy Quade and Kristy Whitehead provided plenty of run down there – though could be utilised further up the ground this season. Lily Sharp has been touted as one to watch by the Bushrangers’ coaching staff following a big off-season, and Keeley Skepper remains one of Vic Country’s top talents for 2022. Kate Adams returning as co-captain and providing experience and strength in the midfield will also be important.

For the Pioneers, Slender could be the top Vic Country prospect this year and will always be difficult to beat in the air, with the Pioneers’ captain not having to shoulder the ruck load given Madeline Marks‘ efforts in 2020. She will have her hands full against Morphett but it could be a fascinating battle, while Jayda Richardson, and now top-age talents Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning provide much needed experience to a really young Pioneers outfit.

Murray is excited about the depth of its squad in 2021, and while the Pioneers have some great young talents coming through, the extra experience for the Bushrangers – and what they started to show last year – should have them favourites at home in Yarrawonga.

Gippsland Power vs. Tasmania Devils
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.30pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In a battle between two teams that are building exciting programs, Gippsland Power “hosts” Tasmania Devils at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The furthest south east side travel up the highway to welcome the league’s newest team that only managed to taste one game in Victoria last year. The Devils had a rough introduction to the NAB League Girls competition – though the improvement from their brutal loss to Oakleigh Chargers to being competitive for the most part against Eastern Ranges has plenty of people buoyant about what they could produce in 2021.

These teams have never played before, and both have younger lists, sprinkled with some top-age and over-age experience. Key position players Camilla Taylor and Shanara Notman are the 20-year-old allowances in those sides, and have the size to cause a matchup dilemma for their respective opponents. Tasmania Devils have the sole AFL Women’s Academy member in this match, with the speedy Perri King looking to breakdown the Power’s zones and create some important run and carry for her side.

Aside from King, Amy Prokopiec remains a player to watch, having predominantly played as a last-line defender in previous seasons for the Devils, but became a reliable goalscoring threat in the TSL Women’s for Clarence. Other players who stood out 12 months ago include Jemma Blair, Aprille Crooks, Chelsea Thomas, Zoe Bourne and Meghan Gaffney. Having received an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite without managing to get on the park in the NAB League Girls, Charlie Vandenberg will get a great opportunity in the ruck and rotating forward with Taylor against one of Vic Country’s top ruck prospects.

Grace Matser is going to be difficult to stop, with the ruck battle set to be a duel within the match not to be missed. As the only Power player above 180cm, she will look to control the airways. The Gippsland midfield has some nice depth to it, with Grace McRae returning to the fold after being unlucky to miss out on the draft in 2020, and will get a good chance to play consecutive games this season. Matilda Van Berkel is another one with experience and able to play a number of roles, while Holly Booth and Sunday Brisbane are among those tipped to cause problems for the opposition. One name to remember for next year is Lily-Rose Williamson who has come through the V/Line Cup program and been one ready to step up at the level.

This game is as 50/50 as they come, so as is often the case in 50/50 games, we will lean towards the “home” team in Gippsland Power, though Tasmania Devils will be keen to sniff out their first win in the competition.

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Deakin University – Geelong

The final country game of the round occurs down in Geelong at Deakin University when the Falcons host the GWV Rebels. Much like the earlier two Saturday games, these two teams last played back in Round 4, 2019, when the Falcons – on their way to another finals series and coming off a premiership in 2018 – defeated the young Rebels by 36 points at City Oval in Ballarat. Luka Lesosky-Hay (31 disposals), Darcy Moloney (23) and Lucy McEvoy (22) all suffered leather poisoning and showed why they were capable of playing at the top level, whilst Nekaela Butler picked up 21 disposals and had six rebounds bravely defending for the home team.

There are a sprinkling of players from that day that remain on the lists in 2021, such as AFL Women’s Academy member Ella Friend, and Chloe Leonard and Crystal Summers (GWV Rebels), and Zoe Garth, Renee Tierney, Poppy Schapp and Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong). Those players will provide great experience for their respective sides in that clash, in what is sure to feature some of the best talent in the NAB League Girls competition.

The Falcons might not have an Academy member, but have plenty of developing young players, with Dowling a presence in the back half but can play anywhere, Annie Lee beside her in defence, Keeley Hardingham controlling the ruck, and Mia Van Dyke a bottom-age prospect who will be one to watch for next year able to roll through the midfield. Geelong has always been a team flushed with depth, and 2021 appears to be the same, with no shortage of talent across all three lines.

Alongside Friend – who will be that taller marking target at half-forward – Nyakoat Dojiok is the other AFL Women’s Academy member on the Rebels’ list. The running defender could start off half-back or roam along a wing depending on the team’s needs, able to add that mix of power and acceleration to breakaway from would-be tacklers. Leonard returns to the club as a new top-ager and one who will settle down the defence, while Stephanie Glover, Lilli Condon and Summers are some of the names to watch in the match.

Geelong have had such success over the past few years, it is hard to look past them at home. The Rebels will provide a great contest, but we will find out where both these teams are at following the Round 1 encounter.

Calder Cannons vs. Sandringham Dragons
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In the first double-header of the year, a star-studded Calder Cannons outfit hosts an ever-growing talent base in the Sandringham Dragons. The last time these two met was in 2019 back in Round 3, as the Cannons went on to make the grand final that year. They only scored two behinds in the first half and trailed by five points at the main break, before booting the last four goals of the game to win 4.8 (32) to 1.3 (9) over the Dragons at Trevor Barker Oval.

Alice Burke (St Kilda) and Sarah Hartwig (Bulldogs) were among the top players for the Dragons, whilst it was Georgia Patrikios (St Kilda) and Krstel Petrevski (Melbourne) who shone from those who have been drafted. Best on ground that day was Georgie Prespakis who lit it up with 23 disposals, three marks, eight tackles, four inside 50s and two rebounds. The now-Cannons captain will look to have an equally big impact this year, while Emelia Yassir, Kasey Lennox, Alisa Magri, Zali Friswell and Neve Crowley are just a handful of the talented names who also played as 15/16-year-old talents on that day.

The Cannons have proven to have such great development over the past few years, and all the above names along with Mali McLeod, Peppa Poultney and Jessica Zakkour makes them a rock solid team across the board. Though their opponents are no slouches either. Back in the 2019 clash, now-captain Kiana Lynch, as well as the likes of Charli Murphy, Summer Trim, Emma Stuber, Isabella Stutt, Ebony Angelopoulos and Chloe Saultry all took to the field, so the Dragons have a core of players with plenty of experience under their belt.

Murphy will provide that marking target up forward, while Lynch will lead a host of bottom-agers with future potential. Bridie Hipwell and Sofia Hurley are just a couple of names who still have another year to go after this one, but are becoming key players in the Dragons outfit going forward. They made great strides last season and play what would be considered the benchmark team in the competition first-up here.

Calder Cannons deserve to be favourites for the overall title, so it is hard to tip against them in any game. The Dragons will be up and about and likely to be among the contenders this season too, so buckle up for an exciting contest.

Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers
Sunday, February 7 @ 12.45pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Wrapping up the weekend might just be the tightest of the lot, with both Northern Knights and Oakleigh Chargers going undefeated last year, and technically the Knights are still the reigning premiers from 2019. Both these sides had a host of players drafted in 2020, with the Knights having the first three Victorian players taken in the draft. These two sides played back in Round 2, 2019, when they played out a thrilling draw in what would be the only match where the Knights did not collect the full points that season.

Future AFL Women’s talents, Ellie McKenzie, Britney Gutknecht, Gabby Newton and Alyssa Bannan were the best for the Knights, while Mimi Hill, Joanna Lin, Alana Porter and Emily Harley all shone for the Chargers. Also playing that day was now AFL Women’s Academy member, Maykaylah Appleby who leads the Knights charge in 2021, with Teleah Smart, Mikayla Plunkett, Jessica Simpson and Tallia Pulcino among the current-listed Northern players running around that day.

Appleby is the one to watch this season, but the Knights have brought back a host of top-age players such as Plunkett, Pulcino, Maeve Chaplin, Trinity Mills and Gulia Ceravolo, so have plenty of experience to guide the next crop of Knights talents. Some names to watch this year aside from the above group with a point to prove are the likes of defender Tarrah Delgado and ruck Georgia Kitchell who showed some promising signs in the short 2020 season.

The Chargers had the likes of Taylah Morton, Kalarni Kearns, Charlie Rowbottom, Eliza James and Emma Chamberlain running around in the draw with the Knights, and have been growing some phenomenal depth of late. Rowbottom is the AFL Women’s Academy talent and if she crosses paths with Appleby, it will provide plenty of highlights. Add in the likes of top-ager Amanda Ling, middle-ager Stella Reid, and bottom-ager Rianna Thiele, and the Chargers have built an exciting list.

Another 50/50 split game that could go either way. It is hard to look past the Knights’ success rate, but what the Chargers were starting to do last year, the depth is among the best going around so Oakleigh could become the first team to knock off Northern in almost three years.

Confident Chargers looking sharp despite preseason disruptions

OAKLEIGH Chargers regional talent operations lead, Jy Bond says his troops are “looking sharp” ahead of what is set to be a whirlwind 2021 NAB League Girls season, starting February 6. The Chargers have undertaken a changing of the guard with Bond now overseeing both the girls and boys programs, and new coach Jason Davenport tasked with the same duty. Despite an elongated break and some disruptions during preseason, Bond says he is happy with the progress shown ahead of season proper.

“It’s been pretty interesting, obviously coming back after COVID having hired a coach (Marco Bello), then that coach left then we had to hire a new one (Davenport)… so that was pretty disruptive,” he said. “Having said that, the boys and girls still had a pretty good preseason and they’ve been working hard. “The girls looking really sharp, which is great. They’ve been training well, we’ll probably have a pretty competitive team again with a fair few top end talents running around so we’re pretty confident.”

With no time for practice matches, each region is relying on match-simulation and intraclub hitouts to help bring their players back up to speed after nearly a whole year away from competitive action. Expectations are being tapered, but after a promising 2020 campaign was cut short, the Chargers are hopeful they can compete at a high level once again.

“We’re putting no pressure on the girls,” Bond said. “We’ve said from the start it’s about enjoyment, developing and having fun. We’re not really worried about the score, we’re more worried about the girls getting out there and having a having a crack because they haven’t played in around 10 months.

“We’re not really expecting them to come out and play at their best straight away, but we’re hopeful that with a few weeks they’ll be back at sort of the level where they left off last year.”

“We’ve just got to make sure that we look after the health and well-being of the girls and we’re not really prepared to put them into that sort of match situation so early, but we’ll do a lot of match simulation and small-sided match practice at trainings to make sure they’re right for Round 1.”

While on-field success was difficult to measure in just two games, albeit with an average winning margin of 76 points, Oakleigh can still put a sizeable tick next to 2020 given its presence at the draft. Three Chargers were selected within the first 26 picks of the AFL Women’s draft, adding to the six graduates taken within 23 picks on the men’s side. In the modest words of Bond, it made for a “pretty good result” overall.

Alice (O’Loughlin) was a bit of a surprise packet, we knew that she was definitely capable,” he said. “I know (former coach) Luke O’Shannessy was a big wrap for her, she’s definitely got a great athletic profile and it seems like she’s going really well down at North Melbourne. “We were obviously pretty confident of Mimi (Hill) going quite high. She’s just been an exceptional player for us over the last two years and then Joanna Lin, I think I was quietly confident about Joanna and I know Luke and I we do really love the way she went about it. “I watched a couple of games last year and I was really impressed with her courage… she’s definitely got something to offer so for her to go to Collingwood was a great result.”

Despite the turnaround of top-age guns the departure of some promising multi-sport athletes, Oakleigh is well-stocked across the board. Arguably atop the region’s talent pool is Charlie Rowbottom, the sister of Sydney midfielder James. She is one of many draft-eligible prospects Bond identified as promising after putting in strong preseasons.

“We’ve got Charlie Rowbottom, probably one of the most talented girls on our list at the moment,” Bond said. “Kalarni Kearns is another one who’s thereabouts, Amanda Ling is strong midfielder that we’re hopeful that will develop this year, Stella Reid is another player who has shown an exceptional amount of skill and ability to read the play over summer, Taylah Morton we’re looking to play in a few different roles this year, (and) Eliza James is definitely up there, she’s had a great preseason. “So we’ve certainly got some talented girls running around, we’re pretty excited with the girls to be honest.”

Others on the radar, albeit not yet of draft age include some potential father-daughter selections. 2004-births Gabriella Rawlings (daughter of Jade) and Jemma Rigoni (Guy) are part of the program along with Jasmine Fleming, the daughter of former Australian Test cricketer, Damien. Another middle-ager, Ruby Vanden-Boom is a developing tall who the Chargers will also look to utilise this season. She is quite “raw” according to Bond and also competes as a high-level rower.

Fleming, a promising cricketer, is one of a few players who will be rested for this weekend’s preseason testing event, but Bond says there are no glaring injury clouds over the squad heading into Round 1. The leadership group has been voted on by the players, set to be announced at the club’s jumper presentation night shortly.

Featured Image: Charlie Rowbottom in action last year | Credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

2020 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 2

IN a new-look amalgamation of Draft Central‘s Team of the Week and player notes, we name our Round 2 NAB League Girls’ Team of the Week and explain why each player has been chosen. The 24-player team returns with three emergencies this year and all notes are opinion-based of the individual Draft Central writer. For Round 2, Dandenong Stingrays leads the way with four players in the side, followed by Round 2 winners, Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons all had three, whilst the two drawn sides in Murray Bushrangers and Western Jets, as well as Geelong Falcons also had three. Calder Cannons and Bendigo Pioneers had one representative with the former also earning an emergency, whilst Tasmania Devils had the one emergency after their big loss in their inaugural game.

BACKS:

Kasey Lennox (CC) – 14 disposals, 3 marks, 1 tackle, 6 rebounds
Calder’s top player on the day, Lennox was a lynchpin at half-back where she was able to rebound time and time again and run the ball out of the back 50. She won her fair share of possessions with 14, but had the six rebounds which was crucial in her side staying in the contest for as long as it did. The Cannons have a strong defence and Lennox is a key cog in that unit.

Zoe Hill (DS) – 11 disposals, 3 marks, 3 tackles, 5 rebounds
A rock in defence and not only does she beat her opponents one-on-one, but she provides offensive rebound and usually hits her targets out of the back 50. Rarely looking stressed on the last line, she is one of Dandenong’s most important players given her role and she played it brilliantly on the weekend.

Annie Lee (GF) – 18 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 7 rebounds
Was a rock in defence despite the overwhelming force of the ball coming in, and recorded the most rebounds on the day of any player. Often getting back under pressure, Lee was able to win plenty of the ball and propel it forward. Still only 16, the 168cm player has a nice offensive game to go with her defensive capabilities.

HALF-BACKS:

Grace Hay (MB) – 19 disposals, 7 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 8 rebounds
The standout Bushie on the day, Hay was instrumental in ensuring Murray came away with some points. With the game tight and on the line, it was the defence that stood out, and Hay was a massive part of that with 19 disposals. seven marks and eight rebounds. Across the course of the day, Hay refused to let her opponent get the better of her, and really stood tall amongst a whopping 36 inside 50s and was a huge reason why Murray drew.

Annabel Strahan (BP) – 18 disposals, 3 marks, 4 tackles, 1 inside 50, 5 rebounds
A solid option for the Pioneers in a tough match, Strahan was the leading disposal winner for Bendigo off half-back with her ability to find the footy a real credit to her vision and willingness to take on the play to win ball back. Collecting five rebounds, she lead the way with her tenacity and ability to hit up targets to propel the footy downfield.

Sarah Hartwig (SD) – 20 disposals, 6 marks, 7 tackles, 1 inside 50, 2 rebounds
With class and speed to match, Hartwig is a real instigator on the field, ready and willing to get right into the contest and is able to cleanly hit up targets with her clever ball use. Her tackle count was among the best on field, leading the charge for the Dragons while her overall dominance off the half back created plenty of opportunities for the side to run away with the win.

CENTRES:

Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – 25 disposals, 7 tackles, 3 hitouts, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Another prolific day for the AFL Women’s Academy member who laid an impressive seven tackles in the Jets’ draw with Murray. She had a game-high 25 disposals on the day and was a dominant inside player throughout the contest with her clean hands and creativity. Whilst in this team she has been forced out to a wing given the strength inside, she would be a handy player with her skills and run.

Tyanna Smith (DS) – 29 disposals, 5 marks, 7 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 1 rebound
The star of the show on the weekend and another Best on Ground performance with her ability to burst away from the contest and  impact the game with her slick skills. Smith earned out Draft Central NAB League Girls Player of the Week award for her unbelievable effort which saw her rack up 29 touches, seven inside 50s, five marks and seven tackles despite being closely watched by the opposition at stoppages. The standout player from teh weekend and a natural match-winner.

Montana Ham (WJ) – 23 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 2 hitouts, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound
Another standout on the day for Western in the Jets’ draw with Murray, Ham provides great run through the midfield and is able to pump the ball long inside 50. She has that touch of class and with some extra height compared to other midfielders, she has as much ability above her head as below it. Can just about play anywhere and still has a couple of years in the program which is exciting.

RUCKS:

Ally Morphett (MB) – 9 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 15 hitouts, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
There was a noticeable low in hitouts across the competition as ruck duties were shared around, but what earned Morphett the spot as the starting ruck was her ability to cover the ground. She can play as a key forward, but her work rate on the weekend was strong, also picking up a number of rebounds and inside 50s to go with her 15 hitouts and in a game where the performance was evenly spread, she did well.

Ellie McKenzie (NK) – 17 disposals, 5 marks, 3 inside 50s, two rebounds
Judged the Knights’ best in their win over the Falcons, McKenzie was a star through the midfield with her power and class around the ball. She was able to pump the ball forward and win it across all areas of the ground. Her offensive game really got the Knights going and were able to set up opportunities inside 50.

Laura Gardiner (GF) – 31 disposals, 3 marks, 9 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 5 rebounds
Racked up a competition-high disposals for the second consecutive week and was prominent on the inside with 31 touches, nine tackles and an even five inside 50s and five rebounds. Those kind of numbers are hard to ignore and she is easy to spot on the inside with her ability to get the ball out to teammates and set them up with quick handballs. Having a ripping start to the season.

HALF-FORWARDS:

Bella Eddey (SD) – 22 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 goals
Eddey put up an impressive effort against the Pioneers, proving a key target both inside 50 and up the ground with her clean hands, and putting goals on the board to establish a clear option in the forward line. She used her body well to bring ball to ground while her tackling pressure was up there, winning precious ball back when required.

Alyssa Bannan (NK) – 14 disposals, 8 marks, 5 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
Another outstanding performance from the tall forward who clunked a whopping eight marks to go with her 14 touches and two goals. She booted five majors last week, but her work rate up the ground and ability to use her clean hands and footy IQ to her advantage is a strength. She also laid five tackles which is a huge bonus for a taller player who is predominantly impressive in the air.

Charlie Rowbottom (OC) – 17 disposals, 3 marks, 5 tackles, 1 hitout, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
The talented middle-ager was best on ground in Oakleigh’s victory over Tasmania, constantly popping up with two goals from 17 touches and laying five tackles. She moved between the midfield and forward lines well and not only converted some chances of her own, but also set up her teammates. Her work close to goal was clean and she always looked like she was going to create something special.

FORWARDS:

Taylah Morton (OC) – 12 disposals, 3 tackles, 3 goals
Had a huge impact close to goal and was rewarded with three majors against Tasmania. She often got to the right spots and had a number of chances, three of which she converted as well as a couple of behinds that could have made it an even bigger haul. She provided a dangerous option at ground level and was able to be a key part of the Chargers’ front six in the big win.

Abbi Moloney (SD) – 10 disposals, 5 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 3 goals
With an ability to hit the scoreboard, Moloney proved she has the means to be a real danger inside 50 if left unattended. While she did not rack up the possessions, she used the footy well and proved she can do more than just provide a tall option inside 50 with her clean hands making her a real key cog in the forward line, while her ability to kick straight certainly helped out the Dragons.

Jessica Matin (DS) – 14 disposals, 5 marks, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
A danger close to goal, Matin also works up the ground and can get it inside the 50, with her work rate often leading to a payoff on the scoreboard. After missing a couple of gettable chances last week, Matin booted a couple of majors in Round 2 and acts as well as a deep smaller forward or higher up the ground getting the ball in and allowing forwards to run into space.

INTERCHANGE:

Kate Adams (MB) – 19 disposals, 3 marks, 6 tackles, 1 inside 50, 4 rebounds, 1 goal
The versatile utility put in a strong performance and managed to get the work done through midfield, in defence and up forward. She has the the athletic capabilities to be a slippery customer in close, but the hardness to win the ball back from an opponent as shown by her six tackles. She works hard when playing in the back half, and can go forward and be damaging around goal as well.

Charlotte Baskaran (WJ) – 25 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Another strong performance from the bottom-ager who found plenty of it in Western’s draw with Murray. She can play off half-back or through the middle and allowing her to use her skill and footy IQ to set up teammates is an advantage for the Jets. Despite having another couple of years in the program, Baskaran has already shown smarts beyond her years and will be an exciting prospect to watch develop in the future.

Tarrah Delgado (NK) – 14 disposals, 4 marks, 5 rebounds
The Knights’ top defender on the day, Delgado was able to repel a number of attacks, particularly during the middle stages of the game when the Falcons were trying to get on top. Forced back deep at times, the Knights defender held up strongly, and along with her teammates, kept a potent Geelong forward line to just one goal for the day.

Amber Micallef (OC) – 14 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 2 inside 50s
One of Oakleigh’s best on the day. Micallef was able to balance her offensive and defensive abilities on her way to a strong 14 disposals and six tackles. She was ever-present in an even team performance and was constantly harassing the opposition throughout the four quarters despite the result being well beyond doubt.

Darcy Moloney (GF) – 25 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
The Geelong Falcons’ midfielder found plenty of the football despite the loss, racking up an equal-third highest achievement of disposals for the round with 25. She tried her best throughout the four quarters and whilst the efforts did not get the ‘W’ on the scoreboard, she was as hard of a worker as anyone else on the field.

Emily Shepherd (DS) – 18 disposals, 4 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Arguably the second best behind Smith, Shepherd just goes about her business and keeps working hard throughout the four quarters. She won the second most touches on the ground in Dandenong’s win over Calder and was able to provide some run through the middle and work well with the other Stingrays mids to get the ball forward and set up scoring opportunities.

EMG:

Georgie Prespakis (CC) – 17 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
The most unlucky player not to make the starting line-up, Prespakis had a solid game after being rundown a couple of times in the first half. She showed her competitiveness by nailing a couple of opponents as well with fierce tackles, whilst getting around the ground and doing her thing and bombing it long either out of danger or into the danger zone inside 50. Kept running throughout the contest.

Amy Prokopiec (TD) – 9 disposals, 1 tackle, 1 hitout, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
This could have gone to a number of Tasmania players who could have squeezed into the starting line-up, but ultimately it is difficult when involved in a 100-point loss. In saying that, Prokopiec was terrific down back, working well as a leader of the group with Camilla Taylor who also could have earned a spot here. Prokopiec’s defensive ability and toughness make her difficult to beat one-on-one and she is not afraid to put her body on the line for her side.

Rianna Thiele (OC) – 15 disposals, 3 tackles, 1 hitout, 3 inside 50s, 2 goals
Another Chargers player who could have squeezed into a competitive forward line, Thiele stood out with her work at ground level and just popping up at different times with some nice work around goals. She kicked two of her own majors and put it into positions to assists teammates which helped her side get to the position it was in by the end of the game.

DRAFT CENTRAL’S NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 2

B: Kasey Lennox (CC) – Zoe Hill (DS) – Annie Lee (GF)
HB: Sarah Hartwig (SD) – Annabel Strahan (BP) – Grace Hay (MB)
C: Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – Tyanna Smith (DS) – Montana Ham (WJ)
HF: Bella Eddey (SD) – Alyssa Bannan (NK) – Charlie Rowbottom (OC)
F: Taylah Morton (OC) – Abbi Moloney (SD) – Jessica Matin (DS)
R: Ally Morphett (MB) – Ellie McKenzie (NK) – Laura Gardiner (GF)
INT: Kate Adams (MB) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ) – Tarrah Delgado (NK) – Amber Micallef (OC) – Darcy Moloney (GF) – Emily Shepherd (DS)

OTHERS CONSIDERED:

The strength of the midfield group this round was ridiculous to try and squeeze into a team, needing to maintain the balance of players across other lines as well. The next in line to come into the team included Northern Knights’ Ash Snow, Dandenong Stingrays’ Amber Clarke and Sandringham Dragons’ Winnie Laing who were all close to making the cut. Also on the short list from a midfield perspective were Calder Cannons’ trio Laura Cocomello, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell, Murray Bushrangers’ duo Mikayla Jones and Lily Sharp, Bendigo Pioneers’ duo Brooke Hards and Maeve Tupper, Sandringham Dragons’ Alice Burke and Oakleigh Chargers’ Kalarni Kearns. Those who kicked goals and were considered included Sandringham’s Sofia Hurley, Oakleigh’s Amanda Ling and Western’s Caitlin Sargent, while Tasmanian duo Jemma Webster and Camilla Taylor were also in consideration.

Oakleigh runs away with record-breaking win on historic day

OAKLEIGH Chargers flexed their NAB League Girls title-contending muscles in Tasmania Devils’ inaugural match, winning by a record 102 points at the picturesque North Hobart Oval on Saturday. Despite the Devils never giving up and constantly harassing the opposition with great defensive pressure, the result was never in doubt from the second term when the Chargers piled on seven consecutive goals on their way to a 16.8 (104) to 0.2 (2) victory.

The opening nine minutes were quite competitive with both sides having a crack and the Devils restraining the high-scoring Chargers with fierce tackling and working hard with their positioning, leading at one stage with two early behinds to one. Tasmania was doing well in the ruck thanks to Kara Hennessy, but were struggling to get it past halfway after that start. Amy Prokopiec did well one-on-one deep to knock a ball out of bounds deep in defence to save a goal. After a missed snap shortly after, Oakleigh finally broke through for the opener of the game in the tenth minute with a great snap off Mia Clift from a contest. Despite Tasmania for the most part keeping the Chargers at bay, Oakleigh’s relentless attack eventually paid dividends, with Lucja Boyd-Singer kicking a ripping goal out of nothing off a pack on the tightest of angles a few minutes out in the last couple of minutes of the term. Tasmania’s endeavour was terrific, but with Oakleigh’s pressure now matching the Devils, the execution still needed work and that was the difference between the two sides. In the end the Chargers led by two goals in a quarter that both sides could be pleased with given the Devils had held them up for the majority of the term, whilst Oakleigh had finally got reward for effort in the last six minutes.

Whilst the Devils waited almost 10 minutes for their first goal in the opening term, they waited less than a minute for Eliza James to convert a set shot from close range. It was the work of captain, Mimi Hill who side-stepped an opponent and kicked to James’ advantage just outside the goalsquare. Less than a minute later a second goal was on the board and Taylah Morton had her first by shrugging off an opponent and kicking truly on the run. Some great defensive work from Stella Reid won the ball back with a forward 50 tackle and it was almost snapped up with an intercept mark by Liana Freestone but it bounced off her hands to the fortunate Rianna Thiele who needed a few steps and snapped around her body for another and all of a sudden the margin was out to 30 points just five minutes into the second quarter. Soon Reid was paid off for her hard work with a goal of her own off the left boot after Boyd-Singer handballed to her in space and she nailed it without hesitation. Good positioning from Charlie Rowbottom earned her a free kick 15m out from goal after a stray arm caught her high and Oakleigh’s seventh major was on the board at the eighth minute mark of the quarter. Reid had a chance for another but rushed the kick and put it through for a behind, but fortunately had another chance just seconds later where the ball floated into the forward line where she happened to be standing and she marked and goaled. The last five minutes of the term was well defended by the Devils and it took a special effort from Rowbottom again to stand her ground and put one through deep in the pocket despite being dragged down by her Devils’ opponent. The Chargers scored just one more behind – a rushed snap from James – for the term, and already had an imposing total to their name at 9.4 (58) to 0.2 (2).

The signs were ominous early in the third of the trend continuing with Morton having an early snap but was bumped off it for just one behind. The ball continued to spiral in and full credit to Prokopiec whose running in the defensive goalsquare saved what looked like a certain Chargers goal by nullifying the contest and forcing a ball-up. Moments later Morton received a free kick 35m out straight in front and it never looked like missing with the forward putting it straight through for her second just three and a half minutes into the term. Despite the scoreboard overwhelmingly in the visitors favour, Tasmania’s desire and desperation never wavered and it took the Chargers some special efforts to score with an unbelievable snap from Amanda Ling on the boundary which sailed through for Oakleigh’s eleventh with still nine minutes remaining in the third term. The likes of Camilla Taylor and Jemma Webster were trying to create some movement out of defence with the pair combining through Taylor’s hitout to the running Webster kicking long down the wing. Whilst it may not have amounted to anything it is these little passages of play that suggest with more experience the Devils will be an exciting team. Another goal-saving tackle from the Devils, this time from Jemma Blair – who was a little unlucky not be rewarded – showed the desire was still there and the Chargers could not just waltz away with the win. Hill almost drilled one home for her side off a terrific running play but it drifted to the left. Less than a minute later however, Sarah Morley added her name to the goalkickers list with a nice passage of play and kick off a few steps for the Chargers’ twelfth. To close out the quarter the Devils again held firm defensively and restricted the Chargers from scoring.

The final term got underway with the Chargers leading by 77 points and no doubt eyeing off the potential of a triple-figure score. The Devils’ defensive pressure was not going to make it easy for them with often multiple players wrapping up their Chargers’ opponents. Another special effort from Morton off a step with a neat snap brought up her third of the contest around the same time as she had converted her second in the last term. A fortunate ball over the back of a pack midway through the term handed Thiele her second goal in a monty with a soccer off the ground from point blank. A courageous marking attempt from Webster would not have gone unnoticed from her teammates in the middle of the ground, putting her body on the line to spoil and force a turnover from her opponent. Despite getting the ball to half-forward, Oakleigh went end-to-end and Ling kicked her second off a quick set shot and the Chargers were 96 points up with three and a half minutes remaining. Even with two and a half minutes left, Angelica Clark ran down Hill who was charging forward to boot long inside 50 and then an equally impressive effort deep in the forward pocket from Perri King almost created a scoring chance but the kick inboard unluckily bounced off Olivia Smith’s hands and the Chargers cleared it. In the last minute of play the ball went forward and finding space was Morley who took a step and snapped a goal to bring up the ton and help Oakleigh to a 102-point victory.

Hill finished the match with a game-high 20 disposals and two inside 50s finding plenty of it in close, whilst Rowbottom was the top player on the ground with 17 touches, three marks, five tackles, three inside 50s and two goals. Thiele also booted a couple of majors off 15 touches and laid eight tackles, whilst Morton ended up with three goals from five scoring shots to go with 12 touches and three tackles. Ling had 14 touches and three inside 50s to go with two goals, whilst Kalarni Kearns finished with 19 hitouts to accompany 11 disposals. For the Devils, Prokopiec worked hard on the last line and had a team-high nine disposals, two inside 50s and three rebounds, while Webster showed some dash on her way to seven touches, three tackles and three rebounds. Taylor recorded11 hitouts and laid a match-high 13 tackles, whilst Aprille Crooks finished with seven tackles in a strong defensive effort.

TASMANIA DEVILS 0.2 | 0.2 | 0.2 | 0.2 (2)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.2 | 9.4 | 12.7 | 16.8 (104)

GOALS: 

Tasmania: Nil.
Oakleigh: T. Morton 3, S. Reid 2, A. Ling 2, S. Morley 2, C. Rowbottom 2, A. Ling 2, E. James, M. Clift, L. Boyd-Singer.

ADC BEST:

Tasmania: A. Prokopiec, C. Taylor, J. Webster, A. Crooks, A. Clark
Oakleigh: C. Rowbottom, A. Micallef, T. Morton, R. Thiele, A. Ling, M. Hill

DC Medal:

5 – Charlie Rowbottom (OC)
4 – Amber Micallef (OC)
3 – Taylah Morton (OC)
2 – Rianna Thiele (OC)
1 – Amanda Ling (OC)

NAB League Girls preview: Round 1 – New talent to shine in opening round of action

NAB League Girls action is back on the agenda this weekend with a grand final rematch among a host of expected tight contests with all sides back on level pegging at 0-0 to start the season and hoping to kick-off their seasons with wins.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. CALDER CANNONS
Saturday, February 29, 10:15am
RMIT University Bundoora

The first game of the round is a fitting opener to the new NAB League Girls season, with Northern Knights hosting Calder Cannons at a refurbished RMIT University ground in the 2019 Grand Final rematch. The Knights had five players drafted last year, with the remainder signed up for state league level football in 2020, while the Cannons just had the two, but had a number of players on the periphery. Both these sides have plenty of talent with the Knights potentially a year ahead in development, finishing runner-up in 2018 before winning last year, while the Cannons made the grand final last season, and will be hoping to build on that this year. The Knights have five players in the National AFL Women’s Academy, led by Ellie McKenzie and last year’s grand final best on ground medallist, Jess Fitzgerald who are both amongst a strong midfield core. Fellow Academy member, Maeve Chaplin is also named onball, while Maykaylah Appleby will run down the wings as the sole middle-age Academy member. Alyssa Bannan is a leading target and strong overhead named at centre half-forward, and a battle with the likes of key backs, Tamsin Crook and Tahlia Gillard – the latter of whom is in the AFL Women’s Academy too will be a match-up to watch. The name that will always catch the eye is Georgie Prespakis, a 2021 draft prospect and sister of Carlton Rising Star, Madison. She is capable of anything and her battle with McKenzie will be intriguing. The Cannons also have some serious depth at their disposal, with Emelia Yassir and Kasey Lennox another couple of youngsters who made their debuts last season and looked at home. With Freda Puruntatameri playing with Palmerston in the NTFL Women’s competition up forward for the Cannons, there is plenty of X-factor there too.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Saturday, February 29, 11:30am
City Oval Ballarat

Up in Ballarat, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels host the Sandringham Dragons in a battle between two sides who should improve on their 2019 placings. Both sides have a number of AFL Women’s Academy member with the Rebels (five) and the Dragons (three) both having some serious top-end talent. The Rebels have a strong spine with Maggie Caris likely to be the top ruck in the competition this year with her height and tap work causing problems for the opposition. Renee Saulitis has played up forward and down back, but is named in the middle, with her athleticism and ability to sidestep opponents a feature of her game. Along with Isabella Simmons who has also been named through the midfield, all three Academy members are very different and add varied elements to the game style. They will face an equally impressive midfield of Dragons’ captain Winnie Laing, potential St Kilda father-daughter selection, Alice Burke and Bella Eddey who provide a real hard edge to the onball brigade. Sarah Hartwig is one of a couple of premier rebounding defenders, reading the ball in flight so well and able to create a lot of offensive run while nullifying her opponent defensively. Playing at half-forward is Eliza McNamara who is a tackling machine and elite runner, who will work her opponent over, while Abbi Moloney lines up at full-forward to try and clunk a few grabs by outmuscling her opponent one-on-one. The Rebels will look to run the ball out of defence through Nyakoat Dojiok who is a 2021 draft prospect in the Academy, while Chloe Leonard has been named at full-forward for the Rebels who will look to have a spread of goalkickers rather than a dominant target.

GEELONG FALCONS v. GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, February 29, 12:00pm
RMIT University Bundoora 

After its first finals loss last season, Geelong Falcons return to the NAB League Girls with a hunger to get back to the heights of 2018, starting off the 2020 season with a clash against Gippsland Power. The Power have a lot of players who were able to run out last season and will be more experienced in 2020, so they will no doubt look to push the Falcons who have plenty of young players themselves. Geelong’s duo of Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner will be damaging through the midfield as the Falcons’ two AFL Women’s National Academy members. Joined in the middle by basketballer Carly Remmos, the Falcons have a strong foundation to continue the success of past years. Elizabeth Dowling is a name that will be raised over the next couple of years, and along with Renee Tierney as targets up forward and Poppy Schaap‘s defensive pressure, the Falcons are in a good shape going forward. Mia Van Dyke is one of a number of prospects who have come through the club’s V/Line Cup program and despite being just three days away from being a 2023 draft eligible prospect (only turned 15 in December), she is one of a number who have come through the pathway with some high wraps from the coaching staff. Gippsland has some familiar names in its line-up, led by midfielder and AFL Women’s Academy member, Megan Fitzsimon. She, along with Grace McRae forms a strong midfield duo in there, and will compete strongly for the contested ball. In defence, Shanara Notman returns as a 19-year-old named at centre half-back and will provide some good rebound there, right alongside Leyla Berry who played for the Power back in 2018. On the other flank is a familiar Power name with Yasmin Duursma (sister of Port Adelaide’s Xavier), while when talking about bottom-age talent, Lily-Rose Williamson is one who will be a standout along a win having starred for the club through the V/Line Cup in past years.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 29, 12:50pm
Queen Elizabeth Oval 

Turning the attention to Bendigo, the Pioneers host Western Jets in a curtain raiser to the AFL Women’s clash between Richmond and Geelong. Bendigo has the one official AFL Women’s National Academy member in key defender Tara Slender, but have a midfield that will trouble opposition onballers. Brooke Hards and Annabel Strahan have both been named onball and the co-captains will provide a hard-edge to the midfield and be difficult to beat there. Along with Maeve Tupper who has some impressive athletic skills and great goal sense when up forward, the midfield is a strength for the Pioneers. Jemma Finning has been named at half-back to provide some run out of defence with Slender, while up forward, Hannah Stewart is a target inside 50 as a 19-year-old. The Jets have opted to throw rebounding defender, Isabelle Pritchard into the midfield to counteract the Pioneers’ onball and develop her game even further. Along with bottom-age tall, Montana Ham and Nikita Wright in the middle, the Jets have some good height and ball-winning ability in there with upside. A highly rated bottom-ager with Ham is Charlotte Baskaran who is considered elite with her foot skills and decision making, so will be one to watch coming off half-back where she has been named. Both these sides are going to go close to winning in this tight contest with a fair few bottom-agers on show, though Bendigo should be more prepared after their top-agers had consistency through the team as middle-agers last season.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS v. EASTERN RANGES
Sunday, March 1,  11:00am
Holm Park Recreation Reserve 

In a rewind to 2018, Dandenong Stingrays and Eastern Ranges return to Holm Park in Beaconsfield to open their seasons on Sunday. While both played different opponents on that day two years ago, they will both be hoping for more ideal temperatures than the 37 degrees on that day. The Stingrays are coming off a solid season in 2019. just missing out on finals, while Eastern reached the post-season series and pushed eventual premiers, Northern Knights all the way in the preliminary final clash. The Stingrays’ standout prospect in 2020 is Tyanna Smith, with the AFL Women’s National Academy member having the combination of speed and strength in the middle, which she will use to burst out of the stoppages and create scoring opportunities for her team. Abbey Jordan showed last season she can win the ball through the middle, while young talls, Jaide Anthony and Georgia Grimmer up forward provide a glimpse into the future for the Stingrays having come through the V/Line Cup program. Down back, the ever-reliable Zoe Hill is alongside Jemma Radford, while Serene Vudiniabola comes highly rated as an overager who played school footy last year and is tied to Old Haileybury. Eastern Ranges pack a punch in the midfield as well, with Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown the club’s two AFL Women’s Academy members. With ruck, Jess Grace likely to get first hands to them more often than not, the contested ball-winning Meagher and slick Brown will give their forwards some nice feeds inside 50. Matilda Hardy has been named at half-forward as one to watch, while Mietta Kendall is a reliable source of calmness in the back pocket, and Lily Peacock named as one to watch with her run along the wing.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Sunday, March 1, 1:00pm
Norm Minns Oval 

The final game of the round is another curtain raiser, this time for the Collingwood and Richmond AFL Marsh Series clash at Wangaratta. A big crowd is expected in attendance for the game, with two teams expected to improve in 2020 to battle it out. Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers both had some superb performances last season, but had to iron out some consistency issues at times. Both having a number of talents coming through the ranks this season, the Bushrangers had a lot of middle and bottom-agers last season who have progressed through to the next year of their youth careers. The Charges had five players drafted and will be looking to replace them through a team approach. The Chargers have three players in the AFL Women’s National Academy with captain Mimi Hill and middle-ager Charlie Rowbottom named on-ball to rove the work of ruck, Kalarni Kearns. Also in the midfield is Joanna Lin on the wing, working the ball forward to an even front six. The Bushrangers have a two-pronged tall attack with AFL Women’s Academy members, Olivia Barber (top-age) and Ally Morphett (middle-age) rotating between ruck and forward. Abby Favell is a natural ball winner and will rotate between midfield and forward, while Kate Adams is another player who can be slippery around the stoppages and find the goals when inside 50. Keeley Skepper showed last season in the Under 16 Championships that she has a lot of upside, while a number of players on both teams loom as surprise packets in what could be one of the games of the round.

Chargers excited about depth of talent

OAKLEIGH Chargers came close to making NAB League Girls finals and had five players drafted last year in a huge boost for the metropolitan club, but the development of those remaining on the list for 2020 gives the coaching staff plenty of work with this season. Chatting to Chargers’ female talent coordinator, Jennifer Phefley and head coach Luke O’Shannessy, the pair is excited about what the team can produce this season.

“Really good,” Phefley said. “We are seeing a lot of development from our younger players along with the addition of a handful of talented first year players amongst the older age groups. “The depth of talent across the whole squad makes the next few years look really exiting.”

There have been a number of top performers on the track over the pre-season and standing up are the three AFL Women’s National Academy members in captain Mimi Hill, vice-captain Joanna Lin and middle-ager Charlie Rowbottom – the sister of Sydney Swans’ James – as well as a couple of fresh faces making themselves known.

“No surprises that our AFLW Academy girls (Mimi, Jo & Charlie) have been amongst the standouts during pre-season,” O’Shannessy said. “We have also been impressed really impressed by a  couple of our first year players in Olivia Barton (19-year-old) and Lucja Boyd-Singer (top-age). “Along with the aforementioned bottom-age talent all of our middle and top-age players are being challenge to stay on top of their games.”

In describing what each of the players offer to the team, O’Shannessy said they were all very different but with high levels of competitiveness and footy smarts.

“Mimi Hill (is) one of our most consistent and competitive players,” he said. “She has the footy IQ to really impact games with intercept marks and line breaking run. She is also one of the best contested marks in the squad able to compete aerially with players taller than her. “She was captain last year (2019) as a middle age player which is a testament to her leadership both on and off the field.”

“Joanna Lin (is a) very smart outside player who covers the ground effortlessly and is extremely is extremely effective with ball in hand. “She also rarely loses a one-on-one contest.”

“Charlie Rowbottom was able to beat some draftable top-age talent as a a key back as a bottom age player in 2019 which speaks volumes about her competitive abilities. “She is a strong contested mark and a very good kick. We see some opportunity this season for her as a tall inside midfielder.”

Along with those already on the list, there have a been a couple of cross-coders who have joined the Chargers’ program with a basketballer and cricketer both opting to test their luck with the club.

Lara Edmanson comes to us as a 19 year old from an elite basketball background,” O’Shannessy said. “She is currently involved in the Melbourne Boomers squad. “Jasmine Fleming (is the) daughter of Damien Fleming, is an excellent cricketer involved in state and national teams. “She is currently a bottom-age player but will hopefully feature later in the season and over the next couple of years.”

Over the pre-season, Oakleigh has managed a couple of practice matches against Dandenong Stingrays and Eastern Ranges in the lead-up to the 2020 season. After showing terrific leadership both on and off the field, Hill has been chosen to captain the side once again, with last year’s best and fairest winner, Lin as her vice-captain. Rowbottom, Kalarni Kearns and Eliza James all join the leadership group for the season ahead.

Leading up to Round 1, Phefley said she was looking forward to seeing the depth of talent on show with the club having built up its talent over the past few years like all regions with the abilities improving across the board.

“The depth of talent in our squad is one of our major strengths,” she said. “The squad is also well balanced in that players are extremely versatile in their ability to play through multiple lines. Another strength for our squad lies in the consistency of the playing group, as a high percentage have been with us for multiple seasons now.”

Oakleigh Chargers begin their 2020 campaign with a road trip to Wangaratta to take on Murray Bushrangers from 1pm on Sunday, They then fly to Hobart for the Tasmania Devils’ inaugural clash in Round 2, a bye in Round 3 and an early morning clash with rivals, Sandringham Dragons in Round 4.

Team of the Week: NAB League Girls – Round 8

THE penultimate round of the NAB League Girls competition was made for defenders, as nine genuine starters had to fit into six for the Draft Central Team of the Week, while the midfield is as stacked as ever. Unlike in past weeks where forwards have dominated the landscape, a lot of low-scoring games had the defensive work of players on show. Three sides – Calder Cannons, Eastern Ranges and Northern Knights all enjoyed victories and had three players each in our Team of the Week, while other winners, Dandenong Stingrays, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Western Jets had the two players in the 24-player squad. Unlucky losers, Murray Bushrangers, Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons all had two players, while Bendigo Pioneers, Geelong Falcons and Gippsland Power had just the one player – the least of any week for the Falcons.

Northern Knights’ big win over Geelong Falcons in the final game of the round saw Team of the Week regulars, Ellie McKenzie and Gabby Newton making the side, as did forward, Alyssa Bannan. Abbey Chapman‘s work in defence under siege was terrific, picking up 11 rebounds in the Falcons’ first loss in two years, and slots into full-back. Up the other end of the field, Eastern Ranges’ Serena Gibbs booted 3.4 and lines up at full-forward, joined inside 50 by Team of the Week debutant Jenna Richardson, while Tarni Brown impressed on a wing. Regular Calder Cannons’ Team of the Week players, Georgia Patrikios and Georgie Prespakis make the side once again, as does Laura Cocomello who was impressive through the midfield.

Also on the ball is Murray Bushrangers ball magnet, Abby Favell who was named Draft Central Rising Star of the Week despite her side going down. She joins Newton and Prespakis onball, while Millie Brown stood up in defence and makes the team. In the opposite back pocket is Brooke Vernon who was best-on for Dandenong Stingrays in the win, while Isabella Shannon stood up in crunch moments in the forward half and she also makes the team. The Rebels’ captain Sophie Molan was involved everywhere and spent time inside 50 to provide a target, making the team alongside Nyakoat Dojiok who was terrific on a wing. Their opponents Oakleigh Chargers had the two nominees, with Kalarni Kearns impressing through the ruck against quality opposition, while Gemma Lagioia was also slick with her ball use off half-back.

The half-back line is filled with players from the one match, as Western Jets’ Elisabeth Georgostathis and Isabelle Pritchard were strong in rebounding the ball out of the Sandringham Dragons’ defensive 50. Up the other end, Sarah Hartwig was the Dragons’ best and makes Team of the Week again, along with Alice Burke who worked hard through the midfield. Rounding out the team are individual nominees for their respective sides, Bendigo Pioneers’ defender Kate Douglass, and Gippsland Power’s mid-defender Megan Fitzsimon.

NAB League Girls Round 8 wash-up: Knights rise while Ranges book finals spot

THIS round brought plenty of excitement with the top of the table clash between the Northern Knights and Geelong Falcons headlining the round, while Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels potentially ended Oakleigh Chargers’ finals campaign, as Calder Cannons put themselves in the best position possible, winning over Bendigo Pioneers. Eastern Ranges booked a finals spot with an impressive win, while other victors were the Dandenong Stingrays and Western Jets, the latter of whom won their second consecutive match.

Calder Cannons 4.6 (30) defeated Bendigo Pioneers 1.3 (9)
By: Taylah Melki

GOALS:

Calder: A. Magri, Z. Hardiman, G. Patrikios, F. Theodore
Bendigo: E. Snell

BEST:

Calder: L. Cocomello, T. Crook, K. Petrevski, I. Young, G. Patrikios, N. Crowley
Bendigo: K. Douglass, B. Hards, D. Villiva, J. Finning, B. Heiden, T. Coad

It was a slow start for both sides with neither team able to score a goal in the opening term. Heading into half time the Bendigo Pioneers held a six-point margin scoring the only major for the term. But the goals seemed to be easier to find in the second half for the Calder Cannons who kicked into gear and applied strong pressure. Laura Cocomello impressed across the ground for the Cannons working hard at the contest and winning a heap of the ball with 17 touches. Georgia Patrikios and Georgie Prespakis led the way once again racking up 27 and 30 possessions respectively. Both were clean with the footy in hand with Patrikios making the most of her accuracy by foot with a game high 23 kicks and one goal for her efforts. Alana Barba applied good physical pressure laying nine tackles and did the little things well to worry her opponent out of the contest, while Krstel Petrevski was clever with ball in hand and made each possession count. For the Pioneers Brooke Hards put on a tackling masterclass with a whopping 16 showcasing her physicality and intent to win the ball. Jemma Finning also won plenty of footy for her side and fought hard throughout the game with the likes of Dakota Villiva also doing a wealth of work. Elizabeth Snell displayed her attacking flair with three inside 50s and the only goal for her side.

Dandenong Stingrays 6.4 (40) defeated Murray Bushrangers 3.9 (27)
By: Peter Williams

GOALS:

Dandenong: I. Shannon, A. Liddle, J. Guy-Toogood, J. Anthony, G. Grimmer, T. Smith
Murray: T. Verhoeven, A. Favell, A. Morphett

BEST:

Dandenong: B. Vernon, T. Smith, I. Shannon, J. Guy-Toogood, G. Howes, Z. Hill
Murray: A. Favell, M. Brown, K. Skepper, T. Brett, M. Jones, K. Adams

Dandenong Stingrays have held off a determined Murray Bushrangers outfit on their way to a 13-point win at Shepley Oval on Saturday. The Stingrays led by 11 points at quarter time, but the Bushrangers booted the only two goals of the second term to hit the front by four points. Dandenong hit back in the third term with a couple of majors, and led for the rest of the game as Murray missed a few chances in front of goal. A late goal to Abby Favell saw the Bushrangers draw to within a goal, but a Tyanna Smith major in the last minute sealed the win, 6.4 (40) to 3.9 (27). Brooke Vernon finished as Dandenong’s best with 19 disposals, two marks, two tackles and 12 rebounds, while Isabella Shannon finished with 14 disposals, five inside 50s and a goal. Smith stood up in the second half with her match-winning goal, while Molly McDonald continued her consistent form with 13 disposals, three marks and five inside 50s. Favell was the standout player on the field, racking up 26 disposals, four marks, five tackles, three inside 50s and four rebounds in the defeat. Millie Brown was also strong in defence, finishing the game with 24 disposals and seven rebounds.

Western Jets 3.1 (19) defeated Sandringham Dragons 1.3 (9)
By: Peter Williams

GOALS:

Western: J. Goodman 2, M. Ham.
Sandringham: A. Moloney.

BEST:

Western: P. Ozols, E. Georgostathis, I. Pritchard, R. Tripodi, A. Anthony, C. Singleton
Sandringham: S. Hartwig, D. Walker, A. Burke, A. Moloney, M. Purcell, L. de Gleria Cade

Western Jets have celebrated back-to-back wins after downing Sandringham Dragons at Avalon Airport Oval. The Jets hit the front in the second term after trailing by two points at the first break, booting 2.3 to 0.1 in the final three quarters to secure the win. Despite keeping them to one behind for three quarters, the Jets never looked entirely safe, holding strong in the final term despite the Dragons doing all the attacking in the quarter. Opposite centre half-backs Isabelle Pritchard (18 disposals, four marks and four rebounds) and Sarah Hartwig (17 disposals, four marks and five rebounds) were standouts on the day, rebounding and marking everything that came in their path. For the winners, Elisabeth Georgostathis had a game-high 22 touches as well as five marks and eight rebounds coming off half-back, while Payton-Ani Ozols was also impressive with 11 disposals, three marks and two tackles running on the outside and providing some drive for the Jets. For the Dragons, Alice Burke was strong again with 17 disposals, two marks and three tackles, while Daisy Walker had 16 disposals, three inside 50s and laid seven tackles in her best game this season.

Gippsland Power 2.1 (13) defeated by Eastern Ranges 9.10 (64)
By: Peter Williams

GOALS:

Gippsland: N. Williams, M. Van Berkel.
Eastern: S. Gibbs 3, B. Deed, S. Collard, M. Church, T. Brown, R. O”Dwyer, J. Richardson.

BEST:

Gippsland: M. Fitzsimon, C. Bird, M. Shaw, C. Abrahams , N. Webber, G. McRae
Eastern: J. Richardson, T. Brown, S. Gibbs, M. Di Cosmo, T. Flintoff, L. McClelland

Eastern Ranges produced their most commanding win of the year, defeating Gippsland Power by 51 points at Morwell Recreation Reserve. The Ranges looked impressive throughout the game on their way to the big win to cement a finals spot. It took until the tenth minute of the first term for Eastern to put through its first goal, but by quarter time they had three goals from seven scoring shots to lead by 22 points. Gippsland booted one goal in the second term, but the Ranges added a further two, extending their lead to 31 by the main break. By three quarter time the Ranges led by 44 points, and the margin got out to as much as 57 at one stage before the Power booted the final goal of the game through Matilda Van Berkel. Emma Horne picked up a game-high 28 touches, while Jenna Richardson was named the Ranges best for her 16 disposals, six marks, five inside 50s and a goal. Tarni Brown and Tess Flintoff were again busy with a combined 45 disposals, 11 inside 50s and 12 tackles, while Serena Gibbs slotted 3.4 from 18 disposals and six marks. For Gippsland, Megan Fitzsimon had 16 disposals, four rebounds and six tackles, while Grace McRae was again strong in the midfield with 17 disposals and three rebounds. Charlize Bird had 12 disposals, two marks and six tackles, while Chandra Abrahams was strong defensively, laying five tackles.

GWV Rebels 3.2 (20) defeated Oakleigh Chargers 2.7 (19)
By: Peter Williams

GOALS:

GWV: L. Condon, S. Molan, Z. Larkins.
Oakleigh: M. Bertuna, A. Porter.

BEST:

GWV: N. Dojiok, M. Caris, R. Saulitis, C. Willis, E. Wood, L. Condon
Oakleigh: K. Kearns, G. Lagioia, A. Porter, A. van Oosterwijck, J. Lin, A. Micallef

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels spoiled Oakleigh Chargers’ finals campaign, kicking a goal in the dying minutes to win by a point. Trailing for most of the contest after holding a one-point lead at quarter time, the Rebels kept the Chargers to just five behinds in the second half as teamwork and cohesion across the field from the underdogs was terrific. In the end, it was a Lilli Condon goal that separated the sides, as the Rebels held on for dear life in the last 90 seconds with the ball deep in their defence. They held strong and partied after the siren, with much jubilation and elation across the ground having toppled a highly fancied side. Sophie Molan was unsurprisingly the dominant ball winner for the Rebels, picking up 20 disposals, having five tackles and kicking a great goal. Ella Wood and Nekaela Butler were both good out of defence moving up the ground, while Nyakoat Dojiok was superb collecting 12 disposals, five marks, five tackles and two inside 50s. For the Chargers, Joanna Lin racked up 21 disposals, three marks, four tackles, two inside 50s, while Mimi Hill had 20 touches, five marks, two tackles and four inside 50s were busy. Alana Porter was terrific with her speed across the ground, and Kalarni Kearns named best for the losing side for her work in the ruck.

Geelong Falcons 0.7 (7) defeated by Northern Knights 6.7 (43)

GOALS:
Geelong: Nil
Northern: A. Bannan 2, N. Morris-Dalton, J. Fitzgerald, C. Linssen, M. Appleby

BEST:
Geelong: P. Sheppard, L. Gardiner, L. McEvoy, A. Chapman, L. Lesosky-Hay, M. Skinner
Northern: E. McKenzie, G. Newton, S. Sansonetti, A. Bannan, T. Smart, J. Nelson

The Northern Knights inflicted Geelong Falcons’ first defeat since Round 4 2017, winning by 36 points in a dominant display to snatch top spot and remain undefeated.

The Knights looked on and meant business from the get-go at Deakin University, throwing star trio Gabby Newton, Ellie McKenzie, and Britney Gutknecht into the first centre bounce. On the other side, Falcons coach Jason Armistead had shuffled the magnets heavily, with skipper Lucy McEvoy a notable starter across half-back. After a tense opening few minutes, the Knights broke away in a flash with three goals in as many minutes mid-way through the first term. As expected, the hosts threw everything back at their opponents to start the following quarter, dictating general play in the first 10 minutes and narrowly missing chances to open their goal account. It was to no avail though, as Northern applied smothering pressure and held on to keep the term goalless, taking a 15-point advantage into the main break.

With Geelong lacking a spark after seeing its efforts go unrewarded, the Knights continued to break open an unassailable lead in the third stanza on the back of a Jess Fitzgerald goal – the only goal for the term. Armistead did his best to rally his side at the final change, referring to Superbowl comeback victories and encouraging his side to take the game on. The Falcons needed a spark, and hedged their bets on winning the first centre clearance – hopefully kicking into the hands of McEvoy at centre half-forward. It was not to be as the ball found its way up the other end, and the Knights delivered two more crushing blows to seal the win.

The game ended on a sour note, with Northern’s Gulia Ceravolo downed unintentionally by a hard Renee Tierney tackle, forcing an early stoppage of the contest mid-way through the final term as she received treatment. It proved to be a bruising encounter for both sides, with Poppy Schapp sporting an ice pack and sling after a solid bump from McKenzie.

McKenzie and Newton were outstanding for Northern, providing a point of difference as cool heads in the hotly contested opening stages. Fitzgerald, Maykaylah Appleby, and Alyssa Bannan proved handfuls with their forward running and managed to hit the scoreboard alongside focal point, Nell Morris-Dalton. Up the other end, Sarah Sansonetti played a sensational role on Mia Skinner to quell Geelong’s main scoring threat. On a tough day for the Falcons, Paige Sheppard was combative as ever through the midfield alongside Laura Gardiner, while Abbey Chapman stood up under enormous pressure down back. McEvoy’s selfless role across each line was also fantastic, with her rebound and overhead marking a feature early on.