Tag: kara antonio

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Roos book finals spot with clutch win over Dockers

NORTH Melbourne has produced a clutch performance to come from behind and defeat Fremantle at Arden Street and secure a 2021 AFL Women’s finals spot. The Roos trailed by five points at the final break, but kicked the only goal of the last quarter to grind out a win, 4.6 (30) to 4.5 (29) over the finals-bound Dockers. The win meant North Melbourne held off seventh placed Carlton to secure the post-season series wrap, and confirm the finalists for this year.

Back at their spiritual home, North Melbourne took just 57 seconds to kick the first goal of the game off the boot of Sophie Abbatangelo and race off to a six-point lead. Despite the early goal, it was a tight armwrestle for the first term, with just an Emma O’Driscoll behind added to the scoreboard, and the final 15 minutes seeing neither team add to their total. North Melbourne led by five points at the first break, and much like the first term, were out to a flyer in the second. This time it took less than 90 seconds to convert their second goal, this time through Daria Bannister off a perfectly timed crumb, and the lead was out to two straight kicks. In eerily similar circumstances, the Dockers again hit back with a score at the three-minute mark, but this time it was through the big sticks off Gemma Houghton running into goal.

Beth Lynch missed a chance 90 seconds later to respond, and it was Gabby O’Sullivan who capitalised via a free kick for push in the back midway through the term to cut the half-time deficit to just one point. It was neck-and-neck at the main break as neither side could really break away. The key for the Dockers was not allowing North Melbourne another early goal in the third term, and trying to grab the momentum themselves. But alas for the visitors, Jasmine Garner was the first one to create a major, in the first four minutes, and the gap widened to eight as the Roos were edging closer to a finals berth.

Fremantle refused to give in though, and created their own chances in the third quarter with Kiara Bowers being her usual self after being allowed to play in the crucial contest, kicking a goal midway through the quarter. That major cut the deficit to just two points, and when Kara Antonio goaled in the dying minutes of the quarter, Fremantle was out to a five-point lead. The Dockers held that advantage heading into three quarter time, and the onus was on the home side to return fire if the Roos wanted to play finals in 2021.

A Roxy Roux behind in the opening minute was a chance gone begging after a massive contested mark for the Dockers as they came out firing, and the lead was a team-high six points. Three consecutive behinds over the next eight minutes had plenty of nervous moments for the home fans, as North Melbourne slowly clawed its way back into the contest. Daisy Bateman became the hero with a goal in the tenth minute of the term, with her major putting her side three points up after being knocked over going for the mark. It would not be completely done and dusted just yet, as Fremantle would throw everything at the Roos in the last eight minutes to try and win the game. Ironically it would be Bateman again up the opposite end who would again play the role of hero, almost handing the ball across the line in the dying moments, waiting to be tackled for pressure, and it was enough to secure the one-point win.

Ash Riddell was unbelievable in the win, racking up 33 disposals, three tackles and seven inside 50s to lead all-comers, while Garner (24 disposals, six marks, three tackles, three inside 50s, two rebound 50s and a goal) and Emma Kearney (24 disposals, two tackles and six inside 50s) were also prolific. Bateman’s clutch efforts late were important in getting her side over the line, while Bannister (11 disposals, two marks, two tackles and a goal) and Emma King (eight disposals, three marks, two tackles and 23 hitouts) were also among the best on the day.

For the Dockers, Bowers was relentless throughout, picking up 19 disposals, two marks, two inside 50s, five rebound 50s and laying seven tackles. Stephanie Cain (14 disposals, six marks, three tackles, four inside 50s and three rebound 50s) and Tiah Haynes (14 disposals, three marks and four tackles) were also impressive, while the experience of O’Sullivan (nine disposals, four marks and a goal) and Kara Antonio (nine disposals, two marks, four tackles and a goal) was vital.

North Melbourne’s win means the Roos will finish sixth, but their opponent is yet to be determined. Collingwood plays Adelaide today, and if the Pies get up, the Roos will remain in Melbourne to face the Demons, whilst if Adelaide get up, the margin will depend on whether or not they head to South Australia, Queensland, or remain in Victoria to face the Magpies in the first week of finals. For the Dockers, they are in a similar boat, with fifth place secured, and as of now will head to South Australia if the Crows lose to the Magpies, but could face the Demons in Melbourne if Adelaide wins against Collingwood.

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0 | 2.2 | 3.3 | 4.6 (30)
FREMANTLE 0.1 | 2.1 | 4.2 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS:

North Melbourne: S. Abbatangelo, D. Bannister, J. Garner, D. Bateman.
Fremantle: G. O’Sullivan, G. Houghton, K. Bowers, K. Antonio.

DC BEST:

North Melbourne: A. Riddell, J. Garner, E. Kearney, D. Bateman, E. King
Fremantle: K. Bowers, S. Cain, T. Haynes, G. O’Sullivan, E. Antonio

 

Picture credit: Robert Cianflone / AFL Photos

 

Image credit: Getty Images

DEMONS CLINCH HOME FINAL FROM LIONS’ CLUTCHES

IT was a two-point ball-game that decided the AFL Women’s top five on Saturday afternoon, as Melbourne pipped Brisbane Lions at the post in a huge battle for a home final next week. Whilst the Lions commanded possession and retained control for much of the middle two thirds, the final quarter was all Demons as the red and blue ran home in front of a home crowd, 6.2 (38) to 6.0 (36).

The win was soured by an early injury though, as Dees superstar Daisy Pearce went down with what appeared to be a knee injury within the opening minutes, which saw the side sent into a flurry rotating the roles to suit the loss. Eden Zanker was pushed up through the midfield and had an immediate impact, piling on 12 touches in the first quarter alone as the Lions stayed in touch by a lone goal to be a minor down at the first break. But the second was where the game broke open, with both sides finding the scoreboard with ease and a tantalising contest became apparent. Dakota Davidson was the first to put a goal on the board in the second term before a huge running goal from Courtney Hodder proved the Lions would not back down on the Dees home turf. The Demons bit back with two of their own as Karen Paxman and Shelley Scott pounced on the ground ball, while a second within the term to Davidson proved the two sides had a game on their hands. A goal to Taylor Smith right on the halftime siren saw the Lions head into the second half with a marginal 11-point lead, with players across the field playing their roles and doing it well to create a phenomenal matchup.

The second half began with another tight quarter, as the two sides remained accurate in front of the big sticks with limited opportunity credit to tight defence. Veteran Lauren Arnell got in on the action and piled on another major to extend the lead, before a third Scott goal showed the Dees would not relent, especially with finals on the line. The match really came to blows in the final term though as the red and blue overcame the 11-point margin and turned it into a two-point win, with two straight goals to young guns Alyssa Bannan and Tyla Hanks, popping up at the right time to force the Lions onto the back foot as the physical matchup went to the dying moments, with Greta Bodey afforded a shot on goal after the siren but falling agonisingly short.

The tight matchup was set up by the likes of Zanker and Cathy Svarc, with the opposing duo both relentless in their own way – Zanker with her game-high 25 touches and Svarc with her whopping 21 tackles. Hodder (eight tackles, 10 touches, one goal), Sophie Conway (10 touches, seven tackles) and Ally Anderson (22 touches, six tackles) also provided plenty of hunt for the Lions, as Lily Mithen (23 touches, five marks), Paxman and Kate Hore (both 18 touches) and Lauren Pearce and Maddi Gay (both 17) were well and truly in the match. Hodder and Eliza McNamara were both lively for their respective sides as Scott’s three goals and Davidson’s two paved the way in the huge matchup.

Next week’s finals encounters will be decided by tomorrow’s Round 9 results, with both sides awaiting confirmation given their guaranteed finals entry, although the Dees will be waiting for news on Pearce’s injury.

MELBOURNE 1.1 3.1 4.1 6.2 (38)
BRISBANE 1.0 5.0 6.0 6.0 (36)

GOALS
Melbourne: S. Scott 3, K. Paxman, A. Bannan, T Hanks.
Brisbane: D. Davidson 2, J. Wardlaw, C. Hodder, T. Smith, L. Arnell.

BEST
Melbourne: E. Zanker, S. Scott, L. Mithen, K. Paxman, L. Pearce, K. Hore
Brisbane: C. Svarc, T. Hickie, A. Anderson, O. O’Dwyer, S. Conway, N. Grider

 

Image Credit: Matt Roberts/AFL Photos

GEELONG GETS UP IN BATTLES OF THE WINLESS

GEELONG claimed its first points of season 2021 at the final time of asking, holding off Gold Coast to win by 17 points at Metricon Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The result sees Gold Coast finish the season as wooden spooners, becoming just the second side in AFLW history to go winless through a full campaign. The Cats’ three-goal burst in the first quarter set up their salute, as they held strong thereafter to come away 6.5 (41) to 3.6 (24) victors.

The Cats had many reasons to celebrate on the day; with young ruck Rene Caris booting her first senior goal during the opening term, women’s footballing stalwart Aasta O’Connor sent off to retirement in style, and Rebecca Webster‘s goal on the final siren proving the cherry on top of a memorable day for travelling side. On the other hand, Gold Coast could not scrounge a saving grace in what was a season which earned them a series of unwanted records.

First year midfielder Laura Gardiner finished as the winners’ highest ball winner on 18 disposals, one ahead of Amy McDonald who was one of her side’s revelations during 2021. Veteran forward Richelle Cranston was the game’s sole multiple goalkicker with two, while Webster and Olivia Barber were others to prove impactful while hitting the scoreboard.

For Gold Coast, Alison Drennan capped off a terrific individual campaign to lead all comers with 23 touches, as the reliable Lauren Ahrens also fared well for the second year side. Kalinda Howarth tripled her season goal tally in one go with a couple of majors, arcing back to her roots having become an All Australian forward last year.

The 2021 season ends there for both clubs, with just one win between them and plenty to work on heading into the next campaign. With a bunch of exciting youth scattered across either squad, the green shoots have shown and should give these sets of fans plenty more to cheer about going forward.

GOLD COAST 0.1 | 1.3 | 3.3 | 3.6 (24) 
GEELONG 3.2 | 3.3 | 5.3 | 6.5 (41)

GOALS:

Gold Coast: K. Howarth 2, S. Virgo.
Geelong: R. Cranston 2, O. Barber, R. Caris, P. McWilliams, R. Webster.

DC BEST:

Gold Coast: A. Drennan, K. Howarth, L. Ahrens, M. Levi
Geelong: A. McDonald, L. Gardiner, R. Cranston, R. Webster

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Dogs salute for four consecutive wins

FIVE consecutive goals to the Western Bulldogs after quarter time has seen them claim a fourth straight win in front of home fans at Whitten Oval. The Dogs proved too clinical up front for GWS GIANTS, with Bonnie Toogood and Isabel Huntington dominating the GIANTS’ defence – particularly in the second term with two goals apiece – to prove too much in Indigenous Round, 7.5 (47) to 3.4 (22).

The first term was an even tussle, with Toogood getting the opening goal seven minutes into the match. A Rebecca Privitelli major five minutes later put the GIANTS in front for the first and only time in the match, with a late behind to Ellie Blackburn levelling the scores at quarter time for both sides to be 1.2 (8).

The second term is where the Dogs lit it up, booting four straight goals to storm to a 24-point lead at half-time. Not conceding a single score, the Bulldogs witnessed their two big key forwards take control, with Huntington snagging two majors, and then it was Toogood’s turn, matching it with two of her own. Despite the GIANTS best efforts, they were unable to match their athleticism and power.

Blackburn was leading her side at half-time with 10 touches alongside Kirsty Lamb, while Alyce Parker was having another standout performance with 11 disposals to the main break. Rebecca Beeson (10 disposals), Naomi Ferres (eight), Alicia Eva (eight) and Cora Staunton (eight) were the other prime ball-winners in the match.

With the game firmly in the Bulldogs’ grip, the home side put through the all-important first major thanks to a brilliant piercing kick from Jess Fitzgerald to Kirsten McLeod. Luckily for the GIANTS, Britt Tully was able to respond, but then an unlucky bounce in the goalsquare off a Taylah Davies intercept at half-forward prevented the GIANTS from nailing back-to-back goals.

Instead it was Huntington who slotted her third major to match Toogood, while a towering mark from Erin McKinnon in the goalsquare helped the visitors maintain some hope heading into the break, cutting the deficit by one back to 23 points. Lamb and Beeson had strong third terms to end the quarter with 17 disposals each with Parker next on 14.

The final term was a tight tussle to start, as the Bulldogs peppered the goals with a couple of behinds. Just when it looked like the game would slowly run to its conclusion, Fitzgerald put in another highlight effort with a couple of bounces running towards inside 50. While the GIANTS manage to spoil a potential mark and clear, it was one highlight in an otherwise tight quarter.

The Western Bulldogs’ win did not come without a cost though, with a number of injuries in the final term, including captain Blackburn, but the more serious one was a knee injury to Deanna Berry who had to be helped from the field. Blackburn returned to the field and almost immediately kicked a goal in the final term, but was rushed through by Tarni Evans on the line.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.2 | 5.2 | 7.2 | 7.5 (47)
GWS GIANTS 1.2 | 1.2 | 3.3 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS:

Western Bulldogs: B. Toogood 3, I. Huntington 3, K. McLeod
GWS GIANTS: R. Privitelli, B. Tully, E. McKinnon

DC BEST:

Western Bulldogs: I. Huntington, B. Toogood, K. Lamb, E. Blackburn, B. Lochland
GWS GIANTS: A. Parker, R. Beeson, A. Eva, B. Tully, G. Garnett

Image Credit: Will Russell/AFL Photos

LIONS RAID FREMANTLE TO SNAP DOCKERS’ RECORD RUN

Fremantle’s record 11-game winning run has come to an end at the hands of Brisbane, as the Lions raided the Fremantle Oval fortress and took home an 11-point victory. In a low-scoring armwrestle which saw pressure and structure shine, the visitors established themselves as a bonafide premiership contender by restricting Freo to just seven behinds in the first three terms, before holding on in the clutch to win 3.7 (25) to 1.8 (14).

It took a brilliant feat from Brisbane forward Courtney Hodder to open the major scoring, as she bent home a classy checkside finish late in term one to give Brisbane the ascendancy. The disciplined Lions then structured up and absorbed plenty of pressure to deny Fremantle in the second term, before Orla O’Dwyer soccered home in the third to help set up her side’s defining two-goal buffer. It came on the back of some immense Brisbane pressure, which saw no easy outs from its forward 50.

Late drama ensued in the run home as Brisbane’s lead was threatened in the final two minutes. Fremantle had previous opportunities to cut the margin, but it was left to Roxy Roux to get the Dockers back to within a goal as she cooly sunk a set shot with 90 seconds left. Somehow, Fremantle had the opportunity to strike. The game was put to bed shortly after though, as the Lions won an all-important centre clearance and Ally Anderson finished with class to seal her side’s victory.

Brisbane’s Emily Bates led all comers with 26 disposals in a best afield performance, while the likes of Anderson and O’Dwyer proved productive moving forward and both hit the scoreboard. Hodder and Greta Bodey were others in that boat with terrific run and a bit of spark, as Kate Lutkins and Shannon Campbell were among the Lions’ key figures in the defensive setup.

Kiara Bowers continued her outstanding form in purple to record 24 touches and eight tackles in a trying effort, with the experience and class of Kara Antonio also proving important. Laura Pugh and Hayley Miller were others to contribute well for the Dockers in their first loss at Fremantle Oval since 2017.

The newly minted Round 6 fixture sees Brisbane travel again to face GWS at Manuka Oval, while Fremantle will look to reload and rebound with a second Western Derby for the season, taking on West Coast at Optus Stadium.

FREMANTLE 0.2 | 0.7 | 0.7 | 1.8 (14)
BRISBANE 1.1 | 1.2 | 2.7 | 3.7 (25)

GOALS:

Fremantle: R. Roux
Brisbane: C. Hodder, O. O’Dwyer, A. Anderson

DC BEST:

Fremantle: K. Bowers, K. Antonio, L. Pugh, H. Miller, R. Roux
Brisbane: E. Bates, A. Anderson, G. Bodey, K. Lutkins, O. O’Dwyer

Image Credit: Steve Bell/Getty Images via AFL Photos

ROOS SHAKE OFF BLUES TO BOUNCE BACK ONTO WINNERS LIST

North Melbourne returned to the winners list on Saturday night, kicking clear of Carlton to finish 22-point victors at UTAS Stadium. After two-straight losses, the Roos rebounded in style with seven goals to Carlton’s three during the second half, seeing them reclaim the lead and a momentary spot in the top six with the 9.5 (59) to 6.1 (37) result.

North skipped away to a two-goal lead thanks to snaps from Kate Gillespie-Jones and Jasmine Garner within the first three minutes, but the Blues charged back into the game in term two via Darcy Vescio. The dynamic forward booted two goals and assisted another to inspire her side to a half time lead, which would carry on late into the third stanza.

Daisy Bateman slotted a set shot chance to put the Kangaroos back in front, but Daria Bannister‘s one-on-two mark deep inside 50 proved the pivotal moment. The grab may have initially been handled by Blues defender Mua Laloifi, but that mattered little as Bannister converted and gave her side an 11-point lead at the final break.

Despite the best efforts of first year Blue Mimi Hill, who twice cut the margin in the final term, Carlton fell short of North Melbourne’s firepower and could not resist it for long enough. The absence of league best and fairest, Maddy Prespakis through suspension played an inevitable role in the Blues’ fortunes, with the Roos’ midfield strong as ever.

Garner led North’s fab four ball winners with 32 and a goal, as the quartet all managed to gather over 23 disposals. Skipper Emma Kearney, Jenna Bruton, and Ash Riddell were the other members of that group, which has overpowered many an opposition midfield. Bateman and Sophie Abbatangelo both finished on two goals, while Jess Duffin made her long-awaited return to the Roos’ defence.

Nicola Stevens was outstanding for Carlton, leading the way with 19 touches and a goal up forward. The two-goal bursts of Vescio and Hill very nearly proved game-changing, while Jess Hosking was typically reliable and Laloifi helped hold up the defence in another balanced display. Young tall Serena Gibbs had four touches and two marks in her senior debut.

North Melbourne’s fight to establish a spot within the top six continues with a clash against Richmond at Punt Road Oval in Round 6, while Carlton will fancy a bounce-back win of its own when it hosts Geelong at Princes Park next time out.

GOALS:

North Melbourne: S. Abbatangelo 2, D. Bateman 2, K. Gillespie-Jones, J. Garner, D. Bannister, G. Campbell, M. King
Carlton: D. Vescio 2, M. Hill 2, L. Brazzale, N. Stevens

DC BEST:

North Melbourne: J. Garner, E. Kearney, J. Bruton, A. Riddell, S. Abbatangelo
Carlton: N. Stevens, M. Hill, D. Vescio, J. Hosking, M. Laloifi

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

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

Note: All start times are local.

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

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

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

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

Tip: St Kilda by 10

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

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

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

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

Tip: Carlton by 28

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

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

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

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

Tip: Fremantle by 45

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

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

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

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

Tip: North Melbourne by 5

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

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

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

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

Tip: Brisbane by 3

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

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

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

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

Tip: Melbourne by 24

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

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

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

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

Tip: GWS by 11

Image Credit: (Retrieved from) North Melbourne FC

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 2 preview – Pioneer Blues and Bulldogs open Pride Round

PRIDE is the theme of Round 2 in the 2021 AFL Women’s season, as the competition holds its inaugural Pride Round. The Western Bulldogs and Carlton, who have previously hosted annual Pride matches, will open the weekend’s action on Friday night as the remaining fixtures fall into place after multiple shake-ups. Remarkably, all seven games are set to go ahead in the rejigged round, with results as important as ever among the continual pandemic-produced unpredictability.

Note: All start times are local

Western Bulldogs vs. Carlton
Friday February 5, 7:45pm
Whitten Oval

Western Bulldogs and Carlton kick off Pride Round at Whitten Oval on Friday night, marking a historic and important event on the AFL Women’s calendar. Both sides remain searching for their first wins in 2021 after opening round losses, with a dreaded 0-2 start awaiting the team which goes down once again.

Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke has enacted four changes to the side which lost to St Kilda, with young pups Gemma Lagioia and Britney Gutknecht among the casualties. Carlton has been forced into just one change, as key defender Mua Laloifi misses through the updated concussion protocols and is replaced by Jess Edwards at half-back.

Laloifi’s absence may open the door for the Dogs to excel in attack, leaving Charlotte Wilson to shoulder a heap of intercept work against a forwardline spearheaded by Izzy Huntington. But the ball will have to get there first, with Carlton’s hardened midfield out to prove a point having been definitively blitzed by Collingwood in the second term last time out.

Tip: The Bulldogs are slowly finding their feet, but the Blues should come out firing after a shock loss. Wet weather will play a factor in the margin, Blues by 11.

Collingwood vs. Geelong
Saturday February 6, 3:10pm
Victoria Park

A fixture shuffle has seen Collingwood and Geelong land each other in Round 2, with football returning to the Magpies’ spiritual home of Victoria Park on Saturday afternoon. The Cats are coming off a 62-point drubbing at the hands of North Melbourne, while Collingwood opened the season with an impressive upset victory over traditional rival, Carlton, making for very contrasting formlines.

The Magpies’ midfield was excellent last time out and a new-look forwardline featuring Chloe Molloy and Bri Davey looks poised for more success in 2021. One of the Cats’ best lines is its defence though, with skipper Meghan McDonald supported well by the likes of Maddy McMahon, Amy McDonald, and Millie Brown.

Collingwood will be without recruit Aliesha Newman after she was handed a one-week ban for her sling tackle on Carlton’s Laloifi, but the Pies’ confidence should be sky high nonetheless. On the other hand, Geelong will have to quickly pick up the pieces to recover here, especially after an impotent display forward of centre in Round 1.

Tip: Collingwood looks set to be one of the big risers in 2021 and while Geelong has potential, its young side will likely work in peaks and troughs. Another trough here for the Cats, Pies by 23.

Melbourne vs. Richmond
Saturday February 6, 5:10pm
Casey Fields

Riding the wave of a Round 1 win, Melbourne hosts Richmond at Casey Fields on Saturday night looking to go two from two. Both sides took on Queensland teams last week but came out with contrasting results; as the Dees clicked into gear after quarter time to trump Gold Coast, while Richmond could only hang with Brisbane for a half before giving way in a five-goal loss.

The Lions may have uncovered a continued area of weakness for Richmond after tagging Monique Conti out of the first half, with Melbourne’s engine room typically an area of depth and prosperity. The Dees should again thrive in the midfield battle, though look for the likely tussle between first year jets Ellie McKenzie and Eliza McNamara to provide great entertainment on the outer.

Melbourne could quickly stake its claim for another finals berth should it string together some early wins, but the Tigers have shown signs of improvement and will hardly go down easily. Still searching for their maiden AFLW win, the Tigers have plenty to play for and will hope to avoid being the league’s cellar dweller for a second year running.

Tip: Melbourne looks a side determined to keep touch with the true premiership contenders, but cannot be caught lacking against the hungry Tigers. Still, the red and blue side should be too good all around the ground, Dees by 27.

North Melbourne vs. St Kilda
Sunday February 7, 1:10pm
Arden Street Oval

North Melbourne will be out to build on its formidable early form, if possible, when St Kilda rolls into Arden Street Oval for their Sunday afternoon clash. The Roos set a high ceiling with their maiden 2021 performance, which yielded the greatest opening round percentage in AFL/AFLW history. St Kilda is also in winning form, though having shaken off the Western Bulldogs in Moorabbin.

It is no secret that North Melbourne bats a ridiculously deep midfield, boasting arguably the most damaging brigade of ball winners in the competition. St Kilda’s young pair of Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith will do their best to match the forward run-and-carry of North’s prime movers, especially after such promising showings last week.

North Melbourne has plenty of avenues to goal, with rotating ruck Emma King back to her scoring ways after three goals last week, while the Saints also showed they will not be entirely dependant on spearhead Caitlin Greiser to kick a winning score. Matching the Roos’ firepower will be tough, but could be manageable depending on the conditions and North Melbourne’s mood.

Tip: St Kilda will likely provide a much greater test for North and should stick with them in patches, but do not quite have the stock to go with a switched-on blue and white outfit for four quarters, Roos by 21.

Brisbane vs. Gold Coast
Sunday February 7, 2:10pm
Hickey Park

The second-ever AFL Women’s Q-Clash is set to go down on Sunday afternoon, as the Lions and Suns meet at Hickey Park having initially been poised against Victorian opponents. The makeshift fixture should provide fireworks, with last year’s inaugural all-Queensland dig ending in an enthralling draw, meaning bragging rights are well and truly up for grabs here.

Brisbane will look to replicate last year’s early run of form with a second win on the trot, while Gold Coast is still out to open its account for the season after an opening round loss to Melbourne. Both sides boast some terrific young talent, with the Lions’ Isabel Dawes fresh off a best-afield performance, and Gold Coast’s Kalinda Howarth hungry to hit the scoreboard after a goalless outing last week.

The experience is also there, headlined by Brisbane’s strong foundation crop – which may soon be bolstered by Jess Wuetschner – and opposed by Gold Coast’s new-look forwardline, which features vice-captain Sarah Perkins. Jamie Stanton and Alison Drennan will have plenty to do in midfield against the Lions’ strong ball winners, making for an intriguing clearance battle.

Tip: You can never count the fighting Suns out, especially with their youthful exuberance, but the Lions look a slight step ahead and should come away with bragging rights over their neighbours. Lions by 10.

GWS vs. Adelaide
Sunday February 7, 5:10pm
Blacktown International Sportspark

GWS is back home after a well-travelled preseason, set to host Adelaide at Blacktown International Sportspark on Sunday evening. Both teams were thrown into isolation after Round 1 and have undergone improvised solo training sessions for most of the week, which will inevitably show in how either side adjusts to the disruptions thrown their way.

Adelaide looks like quickly returning to its fearsome best in 2021, with the Crows’ many stars aligning to win big las week. Erin Phillips will hope to again take hold as she gets a clean run at it, while some added dynamism in the potential moving parts of Chelsea Randall, Ebony Marinoff, and Sarah Allan will give GWS plenty of headaches.

The Giants have showcased their fighting spirit and have the experience to give the Crows a good run here. An even five-goal loss to Fremantle in Round 1 was less than ideal on a pure results basis, but some strong contested work in the first half should put GWS in good stead to compete against top sides, like Adelaide, for periods of time.

Tip: Revenge will be in mind after GWS ended Adelaide’s finals hopes last year, and the visitors should have too much grunt going forward from midfield. Crows by 26.

Fremantle vs. West Coast
Sunday February 7, 4:15pm
Fremantle Oval

The Western Derby is on in Round 2 after last-minute confirmation of the bout came today, with Fremantle and West Coast set to lock horns in the weekend’s closing fixture. Akin to players in the Adelaide-GWS clash, both teams have been limited training-wise with just an hour of exercise permitted under Western Australia’s lockdown laws.

Freo looks every bit the powerhouse last year’s undefeated run suggested, maintaining their winning streak with a powerful Round 1 victory. West Coast looks an improved side despite falling well short of Adelaide in the end. While the Eagles managed 2.6 (18), the Dockers excelled with 8.10 (58) in their opening fixture.

That immense gap in scoring should again prove telling, with Fremantle’s dynamic and game-breaking forward movers in Gemma Houghton and Sabreena Duffy difficult to keep down, especially as Kara Antonio and Kiara Bowers move the ball forward with class from the outside and inside of midfield.

Tip: Fremantle has the early bragging rights in this rivalry and will likely continue to hold as much after Sunday’s clash. With too much going forward, Dockers by 40.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Roos romp to record-breaking opening round victory

NORTH Melbourne sent an early statement to the rest of the competition on Sunday, romping to a mammoth 62-point win over Geelong at Kardinia Park. The Roos took little time to establish their dominance as tall forward Emma King booted three majors in the opening term, setting a strong platform for the 11.5 (71) to 1.3 (9) victory. The result made for North’s largest-ever winning margin, and sets a new record for the highest Round 1 percentage in AFL/AFLW history.

The hardened Kangaroos outfit proved too big and strong both around the ball and up forward for a youthful Geelong side, seeing them accelerate in each term and form a formidable lead. Having been held scoreless for the first three terms, the Cats got on the board early in the final quarter before veteran ruck Aasta O’Connor booted her side’s lone major of the game in the dying minutes.

Along with King, second year forward/midfielder Ellie Gavalas chimed in with three majors of her own, while league best and fairest chance Jasmine Garner snared two to go with 18 disposals. Isabella Eddey had a debut to remember as she also found the big sticks, manufactured by some fearsome work from Daria Bannister as the play unfolded. Emma Kearney (22 disposals), Ash Riddell (20), and Jenna Bruton (19) were typically productive around the ball and far too polished on the attack for Geelong’s lineup to maintain.

Superfluous to say, most of Geelong’s biggest contributors were stationed in defence, with youngster Amy McDonald starting her season on the right foot with an 18-disposal effort. The 23-year-old was a cool head in Geelong’s defensive crisis, but could only do so much on the counter as the ball consistently found its way back. Skipper Meghan McDonald had a tough job on her hands among the undersized and under-siege backline but fared well, while star midfielder Olivia Purcell picked up from where she left off with 17 touches and seven tackles.

The Cats face another tough ask in travelling to face Brisbane next Sunday afternoon, as North Melbourne returns to home base to take on fellow Round 1 winner, St Kilda earlier on the same day. While one side looks every bit the premiership contender, the other will be licking its wounds after a harsh opening to season 2021.

FINAL SCORE:

GEELONG 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 1.3 (9)
NORTH MELBOURNE 3.0 | 5.2 | 8.4 | 11.5 (71)

GOALS:

Geelong: A. O’Connor
North Melbourne: E. King 3, E. Gavalas 3, J. Garner 2, I. Eddey, S. Abbatangelo, K. Ashmore

DC BEST:

Geelong: A. McDonald, O. Purcell, M. McDonald
North Melbourne: E. King, J. Garner, E. Kearney, E. Gavalas, J. Bruton, A. Riddell

Image Credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

ROARING SECOND HALF SEES LIONS TOPPLE THE TIGERS

Brisbane opened its account for season 2021 at the first time of asking, shaking off Richmond after half time to secure a 29-point win on the road. In the first ever AFL Women’s fixture held at Punt Road Oval, the Tigers’ homecoming was spoiled by Brisbane’s three-goal to nil second half which set up the 5.11 (41) to 1.6 (12) final scoreline.

As expected on the back of its concession-aided recruitment drive, Richmond made noticeable improvements after a winless maiden campaign and was only a goal adrift at the main break. It came after Brisbane utilised the scoring end well in the opening term, gaining good early momentum through its control of the engine room and typically sturdy defensive structure in the face of Richmond’s quick ball movement.

While it was hardly a case of the floodgates being forced open, Brisbane prettied up the scoreboard nicely with a closing effort beyond the years of its young squad, all while keeping the Tigers goalless after half time. Courtney Wakefield‘s second term major from the goalsquare proved her side’s lone goal for the game, as skipper Katie Brennan could only manage a hat-trick of behinds.

Gun Richmond midfielder Monique Conti was contained well by Cathy Svarc, who collected nine of her 10 touches in the opening half, while Gabrielle Seymour led the Tigers’ count with 16 disposals. Under-the-radar recruit Harriet Cordner was also terrific down back in the losing effort, while number one draft pick Ellie McKenzie showed promise on the outer in her AFLW debut.

For the Lions, 19-year-old Isabel Dawes looks a big improver having notched a career-high 21 disposals, leading all comers for the day. Nat Grider is another in that boat as she gathered 16 touches from defence, while Emily Bates and Sophie Conway were not far behind from midfield. Greta Bodey was the game’s only multiple goalkicker with two, as speedy debutant Courtney Hodder managed 1.2.

The Lions will be looking to form an early winning streak as they carry their momentum back home ahead of hosting Geelong at Hickey Park, while Richmond is set to take on Melbourne at Casey Fields in what looks like a tough assignment – if Round 1 results are anything to go by, at least.

FINAL SCORE:

RICHMOND 0.2 | 1.4 | 1.6 | 1.6 (12)
BRISBANE 2.3 | 2.4 | 4.8 | 5.11 (41)

GOALS:

Richmond: C. Wakefield
Brisbane: G. Bodey 2, C. Hodder, T. Hickie, D. Davidson

DC BEST:

Richmond: H. Cordner, G. Seymour, E. McKenzie
Brisbane: I. Dawes, N. Grider, E. Bates, S. Conway, C. Svarc

Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images via AFL Photos

DOCKERS DEMOLISH GIANTS IN SPARKLING SECOND HALF

Fremantle’s undefeated streak and dominant home record extended into 2021, as the Dockers accounted for a spirited GWS side by 30 points at Fremantle Oval on Sunday. It was a game of great emotion, most significantly for those in charcoal and orange as they commemorated inaugural Giant, Jacinda Barclay, who passed away in October last year.

The travelling team was largely competitive in the early stages, trailing by just five points at each of the first two breaks. But Fremantle’s smothering tackling pressure, dynamism and searing run forward of centre proved too much to handle after half time, with the 8.10 (58) to 4.4 (28) result coming thanks to the Dockers’ five-goal to three second half.

The forward wombo combo of tall Gemma Houghton and small Sabreena Duffy again worked wonders for Freo, with the pair both snaring three goals in scintillating displays. Houghton came to life after the main break to find all of her three goals as the game opened up, with her dual threat of pace and aerial presence a true handful. Duffy was also menacing inside 50, displaying her rare goal sense.

Ever-consistent midfielder Kiara Bowers will again be a key feature through midfield as she amassed a team-high 21 touches, partnered well by Jasmin Stewart on the inside while skipper Kara Antonio bossed the outer. Alyce Parker returned a stellar display for the Giants with 28 touches, a game-high tally matched by teammate Rebecca Beeson.

GWS is booked to face West Coast at Norwood Oval next having escaped Western Australia in time before the state’s proposed lockdown period, while Fremantle has fellow opening round victor, Adelaide next on the agenda at the same venue.

FINAL SCORE:

FREMANTLE 1.2 | 2.3 | 5.8 | 8.10 (58)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 0.3 | 1.4 | 2.4 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:

Fremantle: G. Houghton 3, S. Duffy 3, K. Antonio, M. Hyde
GWS: A. Schmidt, R. Beeson, T. Davies, E. Bennetts

DC BEST:

Fremantle: G. Houghton, K. Bowers, S. Duffy, J. Stewart, K. Antonio
GWS: A. Parker, R. Beeson, E. Bennetts, A. Eva

2021 AFLW Preview: Fremantle Dockers

FREMANTLE snuck up on the competition and put together a near-perfect season, eventually only being stopped by a global pandemic and a controversially premature ruling.

2020 RECAP

Fremantle might have lost a number of players to cross-state expansion side West Coast – led by star Dana Hooker – but showed they had more than the required depth to get the job done. Kiara Bowers went from strength to strength, averaging a ridiculous 14.1 tackles per game and falling one short of her century in a short season, while Hayley Miller, Ebony Antonio, Kara Antonio and Gemma Houghton all provided great support. Young guns, Mim Strom and Roxy Roux were among those who caught the eye in standout debut seasons, while Sabreena Duffy backed up her first season with a strong season.

NEW FACES

A quiet trade period in terms of inclusions showed the side to be relatively settled and ready for a second crack at the title, with the Dockers heading to the AFL Women’s Draft instead. They grabbed two elite young talents in Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Morrison, while also bringing in the likes of Maggie Maclachlan and Tiah Haynes who had shown great form throughout the WAFL Women’s season.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Providing she can have a run of luck, it will be exciting to see what Sarah Verrier can provide at the next level. Unfortunately, the teenager had injury issues that impacted her 2020 season, but she has terrific balance between inside and outside traits, and can play just about anywhere on the field. Long-term, Verrier can settle into an already impressive midfield group, and hold her own with her ball-winning ability and high-level skills.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

It is fairly straightforward to suggest the Dockers can go all the way in 2021, having been in the best position to do so in 2020 before it was called off. The only undefeated side heading into the 2020 finals series, Fremantle was destroying teams like few others, and while no doubt they could have been pushed by some – as shown by Collingwood – they were a tough, united squad.

QUESTION MARK

Could the Dockers repeat history? Any football season is long and tough, and for Fremantle, they did all the work to go undefeated and then be two wins away from a premiership that few externally saw coming. Internally the belief was clearly through the roof, but now the challenge is getting them back to that position again. They should have the hunger which is a great tick, but how will other clubs adapt to their style that saw their success ultimately unrewarded by season’s end?

FINAL WORD

Fremantle should be considered one of, if not the team to beat. Adelaide, North Melbourne and Carlton in particular all have claims to be a title contender, but the Dockers have not lost since 2019, and have such a well-balanced team that has lost little, but gained some superb young talents. Expect the purple army to be in full force this season, because it would be a shock not to see Fremantle at the pointy end of the season.

Talented forward Hyde made makes midfield move

MODELLING her game off Collingwood excitement machine Jamie Elliott, Western Australia product Mikayla Hyde draws a lot of similarities between the way she plies her trade on the footy field and that of Elliott. Having pushed into the midfield this year, Hyde noted the evolution of her game from being a forward to a player that can rotate through and have an influence.

“I’ve always been a Jamie Elliott fan. When I watched him I always saw that he was playing forward, before AFLW was even a thing I was always like ‘I want to kick goals like he did’. And then it’s actually funny he moved into the midfield this year, for Collingwood and I also played midfield mostly this year for Swan Districts,” Hyde said.

Drawing inspiration from Elliott from a men’s footy perspective, Hyde also highlighted the work of former Calder Cannons star and current St Kilda player Georgia Patrikios who is renowned for her cleanliness, coverage of the ground and sheer star power.

“In the female side of things probably a player like Georgia Patrikios. I think she is so clean and is a pretty tough midfielder as well. I would like to play exactly like her, I do like to model my game around someone like her.”

Dissimilar to her twin sister Brianna who supports Richmond, Hyde has been a lifelong Pies fan, so much so she made the trek over to the MCG for the 2018 Grand Final between Collingwood and her home state side, West Coast Eagles. Not getting the desired outcome – a Collingwood premiership – the youngster not only had to deal with the loss but so too the venture home.

“Went to the grand final in 2018 and I can confirm that I did lose a few tears after we lost,” Hyde admitted. “Fly over there and then fly home with all the Eagles supporters but we still wore Collingwood stuff because you know, we’re loyal.”

In terms of her own journey, Hyde made mention that it was the influence of her father and brothers that really prompted her love affair with the game and made her hungry to take the field.

“Probably mostly to do with dad, he’s a Collingwood supporter and so am I and we kind of just grew up watching it with him,” she explained. “Both our brothers played footy and we kind of watched them. We didn’t play until about Year 6 in our primary school team with the boys. And then after that we wanted to keep playing but mum wouldn’t let us because we didn’t know there was girls teams out there, and eventually we found girls teams and joined Swan Districts.”

“I played school footy and that led to like an All-Stars game, and we were on the Swan Districts side because that was the closest WAFL club to our house. Then from there the girls that were coaching actually played for Swans and then invited us to come down to the youth girls team,” Hyde said.

When speaking about the moment that she was identified and chosen to join the ranks at Swan Districts, Hyde reminisced on how important it was for her to be able to take the footy field with a group of girls and really get an opportunity to show what she is made of.

“Yeah, it was so good, I was with Mikayla Bowen at the same time, and we wanted to play for so long and mum just kept saying no, she wouldn’t let us play with the boys. So to know it was an actual girls team and actually play was so cool.”

Having grown up watching a lot of footy, Hyde identified that one of her most damaging attributes on the footy field is her ability to read the play and see the patterns unfold. When it comes to areas to improve on, the 18-year-old wants to “develop (her) contested ball on the floor, just being a little bit cleaner”.

Representing Western Australia in 2019, Hyde touched on what an amazing experience it was and the stark differences between playing in that competition and the WAFL Women’s, having to contend with much bigger bodies.

“Yeah it was insane, and the girls that you play with make it even better. When you’re over there you meet girls from eastern states, and that’s even cooler too, I’ve got so many mates up in Queensland and in Victoria. Such a good experience overall.”

“I think it is just body size that you verse, like we verse some pretty big girls. I’m not a huge human as it is,” she joked. “So versing the huge girls in the WAFLW, avoiding contact is harder to take but I got used to it, in the second year of league I got used to the harder hits where at states you can kind of use it to be stronger on the field and take on people and take on tackles.”

In her short career so far, Hyde has had some pretty momentous occasions, not only playing in a grand final but winning the premiership and some added silverware in the form of a best on ground.

“Probably 2017 when Swan Districts went back-to-back to back on the same day, our youth girls, reserves and league had all won the premiership and then I snagged best on ground so I was stoked with that,” she said. “But to win a premiership was good.”

“I was actually really surprised because the microphone cut out, and then someone must have heard it was my name and my mates were trying to tell me get up, and I was like no way, I was not expecting it at all but it was cool.”

Swan Districts has been a part of Hyde’s life for a long time, with the youngster crediting the work of the club for ensuring that women’s football is viable for all girls through their inclusivity and commitment to the program.

“I think we’re such a tight unit like from what people see, externally it’s nothing to what is in between the four walls like, especially we’re the only club in – definitely in WA that has their own female change rooms like the WAFL club. So that just shows that our clubs really care for our females. All of our coaches are always so supportive and we’re a really diverse club as well, we accept everyone,” she explained.

In terms of coaches and people at the club who have had an influence on the 18-year-old, it was hard for her to go past Kara Antonio, crediting the Fremantle captain for her progression, confidence to take the game on and general development as a player.

“Definitely Kara Antonio last year at least, really helped like guided me through on how I could make it all the way up and she still to this day has always been there for me and stuff like that so I’d definitely say Kara Antonio.”

A day out from the draft, Hyde hopes to “end up on an AFLW list” stating that “anyone that would take me I will be there”.

Determined MacLachlan overcomes obstacles

SUBIACO youngster Maggie MacLachlan has overcome her fair share of obstacles over her years on the footy field, continuously striving to come out better and present that on the field. But it was not always that way for the 171cm prospect, who was not a huge fan of the oblong-sport when she was younger until she realised she could be compensated for her effort.

“So I think I was six and everyone was playing footy, and I was like ‘I don’t want to play footy, that looks boring’, and then I was at Auskick watching the game and I was actually like, ‘no I’ll do it, I’ll play footy’ because you got a sausage sizzle after,” MacLachlan laughed. 

“I joined the junior football club and played Auskick there through midfield, and then when I was like 13 I went and joined West Perth Women’s Club, which was Joondalup Falcons back then, like 2016,” she said. “So I moved from the boys to the girls, which was different.”

But MacLachlan hit a speed bump in over 2018, forced to the sidelines with continued knee tracking issues which ended up requiring surgery.

“I had knee surgery on both of my knees, so, I took – not even a year, a couple months off in 2018… I had a tracking issue with both of my knees, they kept dislocating when I would do certain things, mostly in footy,” she explained. 

“So I got the left one done the September, so they moved my tibia over so it’s in line with my kneecap so it tracks properly so I can change direction, so I got that one done first and then six weeks later, when I could, I took the brace off the left one I got the right one done. So, yeah, that was quite fun.”

While returning to football was tough given MacLachlan essentially had to retrain herself to run, she was determined to make a full recovery and ensure the issue does not reoccur in the future.

“(It was) quite challenging because you obviously need to learn how to run properly and then not being nervous to change direction, or go in for contact in case someone bumps you. But, like, just rehabbing it properly so it won’t happen again.”

From there, MacLachlan moved to play with Subiaco women’s in 2019 given the lack of league opportunity at West Perth, and has not skipped a beat since with a finals berth this year.

“2019 I moved to Subiaco to play Rogers Cup with them so I played with them, didn’t play any state or anything. And then this year I still play at Subi, and was in the State Academy again. And then in the 18s teams. Now, I’m here.”

For MacLachlan, “here” is in the unprecedented position of selection for the Western Australia Football League (WAFL) Women’s All-Stars match and an invitation to the Western Australian pool of the AFL Women’s Draft Combine, both of which took place over the last week. MacLachlan says that selection for the Combine was a shock, admitting she expected to play another year especially given the lack of pathways and academy opportunities this year.

“I had no idea that this was my year because I was more thinking like being an over-ager. I thought, ‘oh this year I’ll just like go out there, play some good footy’. So when I got the email I thought oh no I’m in trouble,” MacLachlan said. “Because of COVID there wasn’t really any state academy or anything. And then when I read that I was like oh, that’s cool.”

“Knowing that my close friends like Mikayla and Bri (Hyde) were in it too I was like, ‘that’s sick’ because they’ve worked hard and I’ve tried to keep up with them, so getting chosen was a pretty cool experience.”

Booting two goals in the 2020 WAFLW competition grand final was the icing on the cake for MacLachlan, getting a little bit more out of the majors than the bragging rights at the end of the game. 

“So Kara Antonio works at SEDA as a teacher, and during the week she was chipping me all week about the game, and I was just giving it back saying I can kick goals, and I had only actually kicked two in the season,” MacLachlan explained. “So I was just like, joking around and I said ‘if we win I want a pair of footy boots, your footy boots’, and she laughed and said no, ‘but if you kick a goal,’ because she was commentating, ‘I’ll give you a pair of footy boots.’”

“I was like, alright, we shook on it, and then before the game I said to her, I was like ‘I’m gonna get my boots’ and she said ‘just just focus on the game buddy’, and then when I kicked that goal, I was like in my head, ‘I get a pair of footy boots!'”

While she does not get two pairs for the two goals, it was the youngster’s first official grand final stint, and even though Subiaco did not get the win she said the experience was invaluable. The bet with Antonio seemed to spark MacLachlan into action, determined to prove her mentor wrong and committing to doing everything in her power to make it happen.

“Yeah, it does (spur me on). like when boys chip you and all that about football because they think it’s a ‘boys sport’ and you just go out there and do these things,” MacLachlan said. “Now a lot of them in my class actually have watched the games, and actually, like supported, not just think it’s rubbish.”

It’s not just proving people wrong that inspires MacLachlan to go hard, but also a familiar name at both WAFLW and AFL Women’s level. 

“I’d say Hayley Miller, the captain of Subi. I’ve obviously played with her this year, and just seeing how she drives herself within football, she’s very committed to it, and playing at Freo,” MacLachlan said. “How she just handles herself on the field and off the field I think is something I want to be able to be really good at, like discipline-wise as well.”

MacLachlan is also inspired by her peers, once again citing Hyde twins Mikayla and Brianna as a few of her close friends and tough competitors.

“At state would be like Mikayla and Brianna Hyde and Bella Lewis, they really drive me to do better, until I feel like I can’t keep going, and running and stuff to push me to do my best.”

Running is something MacLachlan pointed out she wants to improve and continuously work on.

“Running, like being able to keep up with people who can run and run so I can keep going in games and running to the next contest,” she said. “I think running is one of the most important things so (I’ve been) working on that this year, and contact on my terms, so making the first contact and not waiting for them to hit me.”

As for where her strength lies, MacLachlan is confident in her kicking ability.

“(A strength is) my kicking. Both feet, I think, my right one’s really reliable and if I need to go on the left I can go on the left,” MacLachlan said. 

Whether or not the talented and driven youngster gets pickup up in the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft this coming Tuesday, expect to see her continue to ply her trade on the footy field, having proven there is little that will keep her away from the action. No doubt, the experience of playing with and among some of the top Western Australian prospects has put a pep in the top-ager’s step, with plenty to look forward to for the determined youngster.

“It’s fun being around people who have the same interests as you, and want to do good and get better. Having that drive, the same drive as you.”

Hyde keen for next step in football journey

A ONE-EYED Richmond supporter, Brianna Hyde said one day it would be the dream to join her beloved Tigers and ply her trade on the footy field for the yellow and black. Hailing from Western Australia the 18-year-old has a bright future ahead of her and already has a wealth of experience under her belt having played with Swan District in the WAFL Women’s competition.

“If I could obviously would be Richmond because that would be the dream but any team would be awesome, I’d be grateful,” she said.

A member of the Swan Districts side, Hyde was not always involved in footy, instead spending some time on the track and field before finding her way back to the oblong-ball as a teenager.

“I started playing Auskick with my brothers. But after that mum would never let me play with the boys so I went to athletics,” Hyde said. “Did athletics until I think I was about 15, or 14, then I started playing or found out about Swans like the women’s side and started playing youth girls there.”

Although it took some convincing to start, Hyde’s parents are now fully onboard with her decision to play footy and attend most games to support not only her but so too her sister Mikayla.

“Yeah she (mum) didn’t want me playing with the boys I think,” she said. “But now they’re fully involved, absolutely love it and come to every game and mum wishes that she let us play when we asked 100 million times a year. But they 100 hundred per cent have our backs and support us.”

Boasting an athletics background of which her favourite events were sprinting, javelin and hurdling Hyde possesses some pretty damaging traits. But it is her love for footy and time spent watching the sport that Hyde believes is one of her biggest strengths on the footy field as it enables her to read the play and impact it accordingly.

“Probably my footy knowledge to be honest, I’ve watched a lot of footy from a young age so I can read the play pretty well,”  she said.

Standing at 164cm Hyde is not the tallest player on the footy field and is still developing areas of her game play, with the youngster identifying aspects like her body strength as a key component she wants to work on to ensure she is a dominant force.

“Yeah probably like my body size just so I can tackle harder, I struggle a bit because I’m on the smaller, lighter side so hopefully my tackling can get better,” she said.

Swan Districts has been Hyde’s home for a couple of years now with the youngster touting the family-like environment as a key aspect while also highlighting how the people there have helped her develop into the footballer she is today.

“Amazing, absolutely love the club. It’s been so much fun like my development, and really made me a better person, as well with the people always around,” she stated.

When it comes to key influences at the club it was hard for Hyde to go past Fremantle Dockers star Kara Antonio. The highly talented midfielder took both Hyde sisters under her wing, encouraging them to ply their trade at the top level of footy in WA, something Hyde is incredibly thankful for.

“Definitely Kara Antonio when she was here,” Hyde said. “I got to know her really well and then not this year, last year, she pushed me and my sister up to play League. We both weren’t confident in playing League but she had hope for us and we ended up playing the season in WAFLW.”

League was not only a step up in intensity and skill but all round competition with the lightly framed Hyde competing with much bigger bodied and experienced players. Although it took her a while to find her feet, the 18-year-old has become a regular feature in the Swan Districts and is not afraid to back herself in.

“Yeah, definitely my first year I was a bit scared because of the size of me compared to some of them. But I just got confident and I’m fine now,” she said.

Not only does Hyde play at the Swans but so too works at the club, often balancing her role as a community liaison with other elements such as her training after graduating from high school last year.

“I’m the community liaison so I do a traineeship but I work with the community, schools and run programs with troubled kids and disadvantaged kids. But yeah I love the job it’s really fun,” she said.

“Yeah, it is fun you get a bunch of new kids and get to see them grow as a person.”

Engrained in the Swans decor Hyde recounted a couple of momentous occasions, none bigger than that of winning the premiership back in 2016 with the hardworking midfielder valuing the chance to run out for her club and lift the cup.

“Probably winning the grand final in 2016 for the Swan Districts because all three grades won, our youth girls, reserves and league won, we were all premiers so that was pretty cool,” she said.

“I’d never played in a grand final before so it was absolutely amazing and to just top it off that all three grades won it was massive for the club,” Hyde said. “I don’t think that’s ever been done before, especially by women. It’s pretty cool.”

Davison provides high-flying highlight, but just happy to be out there

IF you are a West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s fan, chances are you have heard of talented AFL Women’s Academy member, Shanae Davison. Her fan base increased on the weekend when she took a massive pack mark in the dying minutes of Swan Districts’ loss to Claremont. While the mark has not defined her career, it has certainly put her in the spotlight this week and she spoke to Draft Central about that moment and her Australian rules football journey.

I’ve talked about it for ages actually,” Davison said of the mark. “I had a bet last year with Ebony Antonio that if I could take a screamer, she’d give me $100. “It was a bit of a build up from last year. “I think the ball was set up very nicely and I actually just went up for a normal mark and ended up getting my knee in her back, which was good, and I just kind of carried.”

While she missed the subsequent set shot, as well as not collecting her reward, she did not have to wait long for a second chance, taking a second mark, albeit a little closer to the ground and nailed that goal with the final kick of the game. The loss marked Swan Districts’ first after winning their opening game of the season a week earlier. Davison said she had enjoyed just running around given the current climate and restrictions in other parts of the country.

It’s been good,” she said. “I’ve just been happy to play again. “(It’s been a) very long preseason and I was injured for most of it. “To be out and just run around and kick the footy again, it was really good to get back out.”

That injury was a serious one resulting in a number of torn ligaments in her ankle, something that is still “a bit of a niggle” but manageable. She certainly showed no signs of issues with her leap on Sunday, and admitted the season delay had helped her have extra preparation.

Oh yeah 100 per cent (the delay helped),” she said. “I think I would have missed a couple of games of footy if it wasn’t delayed.”

Rewinding the clock back to the beginning of her football journey, Davison said she was always a fan of the oblong ball game even as a young child.

I always played footy,” she said. “I grew up in Broome and I played with the boys but when I moved to Perth, one of the girls was like we kind of need more numbers to play community footy so I started there. “Went through all the talent pathways and made my way to Swans and was lucky enough to debut in the first game for League.”

Having originally expected to run out with the Under 18s (Rogers Cup), Davison was fast-tracked into the senior team after showing some impressive form on the track under a pretty talented coach.

I was actually there for Rogers Cup, but I trained with the League girls and Kara Antonio was the coach and she always said it doesn’t matter how old you are and if you could play you were going to be on the field,” Davison said. “So I was very lucky to have her as a coach and the development from her was really good.”

Davison’s love for football blossomed through her family’s support, with her grandfather being a “massive” Geelong supporter. The Swan Districts forward credits both him and her uncle for helping develop her love for the game by having kick-to-kicks and sitting on the couch watching the blue and white hoops.

While last year Davison did not play in the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, she spent her time in the Western Australia Academy over summer, and developed through the Swan Districts program over the past few seasons. Last year one of her teammates at the Swans was pre-listed for expansion club West Coast, in Mikayla Bowen.

“We played at Swans together and she’s just such a good person,” Davison said. “She’s always checking on you, seeing how you are. “Making sure you feel comfortable with what you’re doing. “We actually ended up being really good friends and we still are now. It’s been really good to watch her go through what she did last year and the success she had so it’s really helped me to see where she’s at now and that’s where I want to be.”

Even after Bowen was drafted, Davison said the teenager kept in touch with her and was always there offering advice or support.

“I think I’ve asked her a couple of things how she’s going and she’s asked me how I’m feeling about the draft and things like that,” she said. “So it’s really good to have someone to talk to like Mikayla Bowen. “Even a couple of the other girls like Kellie Gibson and that. It’s just been good to have a chat. “But I’m really not trying to think too far into it, just play some footy and have fun.”

In 2020, Davison is just one of a number of talented AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls coming through the program, with fellow Academy member Mikayla Morrison crossing from East Perth, as well as other West Australian talents in Nyra Anderson and Mikayla and Brianna Hyde. Davison said she believed having a strong group of players all aiming for the same thing – being drafted into the AFL Women’s – helped drive the team forward.

Yeah I think that really helped,” Davison said. “I notice that we push each other at training and we can all see that we all want to get drafted, so at training it’s always very competitive, especially the Hyde twins. “I’m really good friends with them, so it’s just the good chats with them about how we’re feeling and I think we’ve just settled each other’s nerves a bit.”

It also helped Davison settle into the West Australian Academy with so many familiar faces. Then came the call about the AFL Women’s National Academy. It was an announcement that surprised the humble forward.

Yeah that was pretty exciting,” she said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting that and that was a very good experience.”

Through the AFL Women’s National Academy, Davison travelled to Darwin and mingled with the most talented players from across the country. It gave her a broader perspective on the talent out there, and from then she took more notice in what was happening around the country. When asked if she was a bit of a ‘footy head’, she was becoming more and more involved in other leagues.

“I am a little bit,” she said. “Honestly last year I didn’t really know much about what was happening in the other states. “It wasn’t until I met the girls and we got talking and things like that. “I think this year I’ve definitely followed it a little bit closer and it’s definitely been cool to see some of the girls’ names chucked in some articles and things like that who I’ve trained and had some really good connections with.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented plenty of challenges, Davison said the Academy players kept in touch over the past few months following the camp. While not able to physically see her friends from the camp, Davison is happy with the West Australian group who are always pushing each other to succeed.

I’ve mainly talked to the WA girls,” she said. “I’ve talked to a couple of girls in Queensland. “I haven’t really had a chat with anyone in Victoria but I imagine it would be very hard over there, especially just when you want to play footy and you can see the other states getting their season along. “We kinda kept in contact just after the camp and COVID we kept in contact, but it’s kinda just drifted off a little bit now.”

Considering the mark on the weekend, it is no surprise that the Swan Districts talent rates her marking as one of her strengths, but also her ability to read the play. Davison is keen to improve her bodywork in one-on-one situations to be able to “do the work early”, enabling her to win more contests.

While she would love to spend some time onball in the future, Davison is just happy to be out there and loving playing football. She is not too sure what the future might hold, but consistency is the key. After missing a bulk of the preseason through her ankle injury, Davison is raring to go and intent on building her fitness week by week and improve her football in any way possible. As for Swan Districts, Davison is quietly confident they will fare well in season 2020.

I think we’ll go alright,” Davison said. “We have a very new team, very young. “But I think we’ll really just want to win, so I think this week we have Subi and that will be a really good test to see where we’re at as a group.”