Tag: kasey lennox

Smith and McKenzie lead DC Medal count in postponed NAB League Girls

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition players, staff and families wait for confirmation on whether or not any more football will go ahead due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Draft Central thought it would update the leaderboard of the DC Medal count we have been taking throughout the first three rounds of the season. While we had hoped that this would end up being a full season count, there are two clear leaders who have emerged from the pack. It might have been difficult with some teams only playing two games compared to three, but no player that played two games could have caught the equal leaders even with a full five votes in a hypothetical third game.

Dandenong Stingrays’ Tyanna Smith and Ellie McKenzie lead all-comers in what could realistically be the end result of the Medal count, which means in the inaugural DC Medal, two players will share the award. Both players polled 14 votes in their first three games, including two best-on-grounds and one four-vote game to ensure that no one else could catch them. If the season is potentially called off in the future, then both the players will be announced winners. Two of the stars of the competition, Smith has helped Dandenong Stingrays to a ripping start in the NAB League Girls season, with her side winning its first two games against Eastern Ranges and Calder Cannons, before running into a McKenzie-inspired Northern Knights outfit in Round 3. The Knights’ co-captain was sensational and picked up her second best on ground to tie with Smith in the same game after the Stingrays speedster picked up the four votes.

After the two clears in McKenzie and Smith clears is another Northern Knights player, and a couple of Sandringham Dragons. McKenzie’s teammate and forward, Alyssa Bannan sits three votes behind in third with 11 to her name and the player responsible for picking up the best on ground votes back in Round 1 against Calder Cannons for McKenzie to receive the four. Rounding out the top five are Sandringham Dragons’ duo, Sarah Hartwig (10 votes) and Alice Burke (nine) who were both enjoying terrific starts to the season. Behind the top five are a pack of players all on eight votes, including Western Jets’ duo, Montana Ham and Isabella Pritchard, Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher and the only player who has played the two games inside the top 10 – Laura Gardiner. Calder Cannons’ Georgie Prespakis and Sandringham Dragons’ Winnie Laing sit on seven and six votes respectively.

DC Medal:

[14] Tyanna Smith (DS), Ellie McKenzie (NK)

[11] Alyssa Bannan (NK)
[10] Sarah Hartwig (SD)
[9] Alice Burke (SD)

[8] Laura Gardiner (GF), Montana Ham (WJ), Isabelle Pritchard (WJ), Olivia Meagher (ER)
[7] Georgie Prespakis (CC)
[6] Winnie Laing (SD)

[5] Jess Fitzgerald (NK), Charlotte Baskaran (WJ), Tarni Brown (ER), Alice Astbury (GWV), Grace Hay (MB), Charlie Rowbottom (OC), Bella Eddey (SD), Mimi Hill (OC)
[4] Grace Dicker (CC), Abbi Moloney (SD), Maggie Caris (GWV), Amber Micallef (OC), Kasey Lennox (CC), Alice O’Loughlin (OC), Brooke Hards (BP), Darcy Moloney (GF), Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
[3] Amelia Velardo (WJ), Jemma Finning (BP), Isabella Khoury (WJ), Taylah Morton (OC), Zoe Hill (DS), Eliza James (OC), Mackenzie Eardley (DS), Poppy Schaap (GF), Jessica Zakkour (CC)
[2] Elizabeth Snell (BP), Megan Fitzsimon (GP), Matilda Hardy (ER), Ella Friend (GWV), Rianna Thiele (OC), Annabel Strahan (BP), Tarrah Delgado (NK), Emily Shepherd (DS), Amelia James (OC), Georgia Grimmer (DS), Matilda Van Berkel (GP), Eliza McNamara (SD)
[1] Freda Puruntatameri (CC), Perri King (TD), Amber Clarke (DS), Kate Adams (MB), Amanda Ling (OC), Annie Lee (GF), Zali Spencer (MB), Jorja Livingstone (ER), Shanara Notman (GP), Renee Saulitis (GWV)

 

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Calder Cannons

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at last year’s grand finalists, Calder Cannons.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Northern Knights by 6 points
R2: lost to Dandenong Stingrays by 18 points
R3: defeated Bendigo Pioneers by 43 points

The Cannons had a rough start to the season with fixturing, pushing reigning premiers Northern Knights all the way in the Round 1 grand final rematch, before facing a red-hot Dandenong Stingrays in Round 2. With an 0-2 start to the season, the Cannons got back on track with a commanding 43-point victory over Bendigo Pioneers on the road in the last round played.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Georgie Prespakis (22.7 disposals, 1.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 4.3 inside 50s, 2.7 rebounds)

The middle-age star and reigning NAB League Girls Most Valuable Player (MVP) has had a promising start playing through the midfield, winning a truckload of the ball on her way to impressing despite Calder’s 1-2 start. She had almost 23 disposals per game, but it is her tenacity and ability to break through tackles and pump the ball forward which is important.

Jessica Zakkour (13.7 disposals, 1.3 marks, 5.4 tackles, 0.7 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds, 2 goals)

The midfielder/forward had a real impact in Round 1 and was Calder’s best, booting two goals in the loss to Northern that day. Zakkour lays some fierce tackles and manages to find space inside 50 and around the ground where she can have an influence. A lot of her touches have come in dangerous areas, close to goal or where she can pass it to a teammate in space out of a stoppage.

Emelia Yassir (14.3 disposals, 3.0 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 1 goal)

Building on the work she did late in the year last season, Yassir has been another prominent member of Calder’s midfield. She has the added string of being able to go forward and kick a goal, whilst being a slippery customer in midfield to break away from opponents and get the ball forward.

Freda Puruntatameri (7.7 disposals, 2.3 marks, 1.0 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s, 4 goals)

Coming into the team as an overager from Palmerston Magpies in the NTFL Women’s Premier League, Puruntatameri has been a strong target close to goal. She works hard leading out of the forward 50, but then drifts back to be too strong one-on-one at the top of the goalsquare. Having booted four goals in her three games, she has proven to be a reliable goalkicker for the side.

Kasey Lennox (8.7 disposals, 1.7 marks, 1.0 tackles, 3.7 rebounds)

Another player who has built on her impressive form at the back of last season, the middle-age key defender has had a strong start to the season with almost nine disposals and four rebounds out of defensive 50. She can also push up the ground and does not mind going for a run, but has impressed as the option out of defence to hit a target with her foot skills.

Others who have stood out: Laura Cocomello, Grace Dicker, Tahlia Gillard, Tamsin Crook

There were a number of others who could well have made the above list, including captain Cocomello, and Dicker who have had an impact through midfield, and Gillard and Crook who have been targets up either end. They have a lot of flexibility in their line-up and the Cannons have the capacity to move players around which is important.

NAB League Girls preview: Round 3 – Undefeated sides clash on Saturday

A COUPLE of undefeated games open the weekend in a top three clash between Northern Knights and Dandenong Stingrays at RMIT Bundoora, before the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels tackle the Western Jets in Ballarat. The Sunday trio of games has a couple of sides searching for their first wins of the season with Calder Cannons and Bendigo Pioneers going head-to-head and Eastern Ranges hosting Tasmania Devils, while Gippsland Power returns from a week off to face the breakeven side of Sandringham Dragons.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

Round 3 – 14/03/2020
11:00am
RMIT University Bundoora

A top three clash between the second placed Dandenong Stingrays and third ranked Northern Knights opens the round with the Stingrays having had impressive wins over Eastern Ranges (50 points) and Calder Cannons (18). The Knights also knocked off the Cannons the week before (six points) before enjoying a more comfortable win over Geelong Falcons (25). Both sides have made a number of changes, with Saige Bayne returning to the side after a long layoff, while Georgia Grimmer and Jemma Radford are also back into the side up opposite ends of the ground. The Knights have also made a number of changes to the side in anticipation for the clash with at least four confirmed changes and an additional three added to the extended bench. Already the head-to-head that could decide the result is between in-form forward, Alyssa Bannan (seven goals) and reliable defender, Zoe Hill inside the Knights’ forward half. An equally eye-catching matchup will be Knights’ co-captain Jess Fitzgerald going head-to-head against Dandenong star, Tyanna Smith with the pair sharing similar skill and footy IQ making it a must-watch clash. Abbey Jordan has been thrown around a bit this season but now the Stingrays captain is in attack to potentially lock the ball in at every opportunity, while Maeve Chaplin‘s ability at half-back should provide some good run. In the midfield, Ellie McKenzie and Ash Snow will provide power onball, while Amber Clarke and Emily Shepherd have added speed to run the ball down the field. The Knights will be favourites but the Stingrays have shown an ability to run the ball and not back down from a challenge.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. WESTERN JETS

Round 3 – 14/03/2020
11:30am
MARS Stadium

In a second game between undefeated sides, fourth placed Western Jets travel to Mars Stadium to meet the sixth placed GWV Rebels from 11.30am. Both these sides have some great young talent coming through and the Jets have had a win against Bendigo Pioneers and a draw with Murray Bushrangers over the first two rounds, whilst the Rebels’ come-from-behind victory against Sandringham Dragons in Round 1 was their only game so far this season following a bye in Round 2. Renee Saulitis proved the get-out-of-jail free card in Round 1 with a couple of last quarter goals to sink the Dragons, and she has been named back in her damaging position inside 50. Fellow AFL Women’s National Academy member, Isabella Simmons is also in the forward half, while Maggie Caris will look to take advantage of the height difference over the Jets’ smaller ruck division. Amelia Velardo has the athleticism to get the job done at ground level even if she does not win the tap and provides a “fourth midfielder” around the stoppages. Alongside her is top-age AFL Women’s National Academy member, Isabelle Pritchard who is coming off an impressive 25-disposal game last week, as is Charlotte Baskaran who plays off half-back but can push up the ground to impact the midfield. In the middle of the ground is fellow bottom-ager Montana Ham who has been the Jets’ best across the two games this season. Caitlin Sargent has been a target inside 50 for the Jets, while she will likely have Rebels’ Crystal Summers for company after the defender was a star in Round 1 for the Ballarat-based side. The Rebels’ half-back line is quite strong with Nyakoat Dojiok providing speed and dare out of defence, while Lilli Condon impacts the game through the midfield and up forward. At home the Rebels have an advantage, but both sides have an entertaining brand of end-to-end football.

GIPPSLAND POWER v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
12:00pm
Morwell Recreation Reserve

With three games on Sunday, the first is a clash between Gippsland Power and Sandringham Dragons at Morwell Recreation Reserve after the game was moved from Churchill. The Power will be well rested after a spirited fight against Geelong Falcons in the opening round and a bye in Round 2. The Dragons on the other hand let slip a real chance in Round 1 with inaccurate kicking to go down to the GWV Rebels, before bouncing back with an impressive win over Bendigo Pioneers last week. Back at home, the Power showed their have a number of strengths through the ruck and in defence, and if they are able to quell the Dragons’ scoring or force them into making mistakes, then they are a real chance of victory. Sandringham impressed last week and have plenty of ball-winning midfielders who step up when required and if they convert their chances inside 50, then they will go a long way to taking home the points in the contest. Matilda Van Berkel was best-on for the Power in their Round 1 win over Geelong Falcons and will look to take advantage against the Dragons. The key for the Power will be to try and win the clearances against an experienced Dragons midfield, as captain Winnie Laing, Alice Burke and Bella Eddey round out a strong starting core. Megan Fitzsimon is the Power’s sole AFL Women’s Academy member, but Grace McRae is another player not afraid of winning contested ball, while Lily-Rose Williamson is a bottom-ager to watch over the coming years. Shanara Notman is a strong overhead mark and will look to chop off any Dragons forward thrusts, while Leyla Berry had a successful return in Round 1 after taking the 2019 season off. Sarah Hartwig has been named on the wing for the second successive week, while Eliza McNamara provides forward pressure inside 50, and key target Abbi Moloney booted three goals in the Dragons win last week and could be one to watch.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. CALDER CANNONS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
1:00pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve

Calder Cannons hits the road to face Bendigo Pioneers from 1pm at Epsom Huntly Reserve on Sunday. Last year’s grand finalists are yet to get a win on the board, but have had a tough draw to open the season, falling to reining premiers Northern Knights, and a vastly improved side, Dandenong Stingrays in the first fortnight. The Pioneers are also yet to taste victory with losses to Western Jets and Sandringham Dragons in the opening couple of rounds. Given the loss of co-captain Brooke Hards for the clash, Bendigo will be up against it taking on a determined Calder side that could well have won its two games had it had a bit more luck. The Pioneers do welcome back Elizabeth Snell into the fold with the midfielder/forward adding some class and skill to the midfield group, while Annabel Strahan has pushed up into the midfield after being a reliable source in the back 50 last week. Tara Slender and Jemma Finning provide good intercept and rebounding capabilities, while Madeline Marks has had an impact through the ruck this season. The Cannons have a strong combination named at the key defensive posts with Kasey Lennox and Tamsin Crook, while Crook is also able to rotate with AFL Women’s National Academy member, Tahlia Gillard who will start forward as both can play at either end. Georgie Prespakis, Laura Cocomello and Jessica Zakkour have all been in good form this season, while Emelia Yassir is a clever forward who can push into that midfield rotation. Calder should breakthrough for its first win, but the Pioneers do have the home ground advantage which counts for something.

EASTERN RANGES v. TASSIE DEVILS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
1:00pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

At the same time as the Bendigo game, two sides searching for their first win battle it out at the newly renovated Kilsyth Recreation Reserve. The Eastern Ranges will enjoy playing where they train and welcoming the less-familiar Tasmania Devils will give them a huge confidence boost. The Devils were overwhelmed by a rampaging Oakleigh side that could well contend for this year’s NAB League Girls flag in Round 2, marking a tough initiation to their first full-time season. The Ranges had a bye in Round 2 after a 50-point defeat at the hands of another undefeated side in Dandenong Stingrays. Given the experience the Ranges have at the NAB League level – making the finals last season and pushing the Northern Knights in the preliminary finals – they should have the wood over the competition newcomers, though the Devils’ defensive pressure was impressive despite the heavy Round 1 defeat. Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown provide hardness and class in equal measure on the inside, while Jorja Livingstone showed impressive athleticism bursting out of stoppages in the Round 1 loss. Key target, Jess Grace has been named at full-forward, while three players will make their debut in the game for the Ranges. Amy Prokopiec could not have done much more at full-back last week, saving a number of goal-scoring opportunities for the Chargers, and she along with Camilla Taylor provided some composure in the match. Jemma Webster provided some speed out of defence in Round 2, while Kara Hennessy rotated through the ruck and could be a target inside 50 for the Apple Isle based side.

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.

Dandenong fires to second win with victory over Calder

AN entertaining and close encounter between Calder Cannons and Dandenong Stingrays broke the competition open on Saturday afternoon in the second match of the NAB League Girls double header at RAMS Arena, with the two sides showcasing their class and skill level throughout. The Cannons controlled the first half forcing the Stingrays to chase, before Dandenong well and truly took control in the final term to result in the 18-point victory.

It was a solid start to the Cannons at their home ground, with the side dominating early to 13-point lead over the Stingrays. With Emelia Yassir on form booting the side’s first two scores for the match (finishing with 1.1 and 13 disposals) and some clean hands down the field, Calder looked well in control of the match before Dandenong started to utilise the Cannons’ slow movement down the field. Tyanna Smith (29 disposals, seven inside 50s, five marks, seven tackles) well and truly pushed her side into the match, slamming middle-ager Georgie Prespakis into the turf and earning a free kick to propel the footy downfield. While Calder’s pressing defence was causing issues for the Stingrays up forward, a 50m penalty saw Dandenong put their first on the board before clean hands from rebounding defender Zoe Hill lead to great movement down the wing and Ashleigh Richards followed up with her first of the match (two goals, 11 touches) to only be down by one behind at quarter time. While the Cannons had the strong start they wanted, the Stingrays owned the second half of the quarter with their drive forward and hunt of the footy, proving they had what it took to control the Cannons outfit.

The pressure lifted a notch in the second term, with both sides defensively putting on a show to deny any easy entry inside 50. After a high intensity first term the match went goalless until after the 10 minute mark thanks to end-to-end defensive pressure from both teams, with neither side able to create clean entries forward. With a good contest through the midfield, Calder showed some real class in their movement down field, switching with ease but having difficult finding entry inside 50. An around the body goal from Northern Territory over-ager Freda Puruntatameri (one goal, four inside 50s) from the goal square broke the drought but was immediately followed up by a great return from Dandenong, with Smith taking advantage of a clean tap in the centre to kick long inside 50, finishing with a dribbled goal from Richards. While Calder well and truly dominated possession of the footy in this quarter, the Stingrays made the most of their solid defensive line to reward the efforts of their hardworking mids and again only down by one point at the main change.

The third quarter saw much the same with both sides booting a goal apiece while the Stingrays finally pulled ahead thanks to three behinds in a row. Solid pressure from the Stingrays kept the Cannons on their toes but couldn’t seem to stop them in the tracks, with Smith hitting targets and doing all she could to keep her side in the contest. A goal from Alissa Magri had the Cannons up and about with the footy barely going past the middle of the field, though the Stingrays would not give up, forcing sloppiness from the Cannons who had been so composed early with the footy. Dandenong’s tenacity and hunt of the contest saw them dominate the second half of the quarter, with Calder making errors aplenty as they worked to get back into the contest, building on each quarter with their tenacity and cleanliness improving.

The final term saw the Stingrays well and truly turn up the heat, denying the Cannons a score on the board to run away with the 18-point victory. It was a slow start to the quarter with Dandenong maintaining possession but unable to put goals on the board, rushing the kick on goal and missing chances to pile on the scoreboard. A major from Amie Carroll broke the goal drought for the Stingrays, with the side following up with one final major to cement victory. While Calder had some solid chances to tun the ball over they did not make the most of their opportunities thanks to the continued defensive pressure of the Stingrays who brought the intensity up the ground to shut down the midfield. With everything going Dandenong’s way, the Stingrays did not look like losing, with Calder unable to replicate their first half dominance around the footy.

Smith played a pivotal role for the Stingrays and backed up a stellar Round 1 effort in this win, while Prespakis was among the best for the Cannons with 17 touches, three marks, three inside 50s and three rebounds. Opposing backliners, Hill and Kasey Lennox were influential for their respective sides, with Hill collecting 11 touches, five rebounds, three marks and three tackles, while Lennox mirrored her effort with 14 touches, six rebounds and three marks. While the Cannons shared the goal kicking load, the Stingrays had two multiple goal kickers in Richards and Jessica Matin (two apiece), while some missed opportunities and rushed behinds fortunately did not cost them the match. Amber Clarke (12 touches, five marks, five inside 50s, four tackles, one behind) and Mackenzie Eardley (seven disposals, six tackles) impressed in a good team outing for Dandenong, proving dangerous with their respective speed off the mark and anticipation of the footy.

CALDER CANNONS 2.1 | 3.2 | 4.2 | 4.2 (26)
DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.0 | 3.1 | 4.4 | 6.8 (44)

GOALS:

Calder: E. Yassir, F. Puruntatameri, A. Magri, C. Clayton.
Dandenong: J. Matin 2, A. Richards 2, A. Carroll, S. Vudiniabola.

BEST:

Calder: K. Lennox, G. Prespakis, E. Yassir, L. Cocomello, G. Sampson
Dandenong: T. Smith, Z. Hill, E. Shepherd, A. Clarke, A. Jordan

DC MEDAL

5 – Tyanna Smith (DS)
4 – Kasey Lennox (CC)
3 – Zoe Hill (DS)
2 – Emily Shepherd (DS)
1 – Georgie Prespakis (CC)

NAB League Girls preview: Round 2 – Huge clashes book-end Super Saturday

A HUGE Super Saturday takes place in the NAB League Girls competition this weekend with five games across three venues – two double-headers – including a couple of blockbusters book-ending the round and a clash between two winless sides. Tasmania Devils also make their debut in the league and host Oakleigh Chargers, whilst Western Jets could record back-to-back wins and keep in touch with the top couple of sides.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, March 7, 11:30am
RMIT University Bundoora

The opening game of the round pits the 2018 grand finalists against each other, with Northern Knights going one step further last year, whilst the Geelong Falcons fell in the semi-finals stage. In Round 1, the Knights held off a determined Calder Cannons outfit at this venue by a goal, whilst in the game immediate after, Geelong Falcons ran out 33-point victors over Gippsland Power. Both these teams have stars across the park and were forced to play very different gamestyles in Round 1. The Knights were impressive across the board in the way they were able to defend and then move the ball down the field to set up their forwards such as Alyssa Bannan (five goals). Led by co-captains Ellie McKenzie and Jess Fitzgerald in midfield, the Knights were able to use a nice blend of power and speed to get the ball inside 50, whilst the underrated Maeve Chaplin was tipped to have a big game by Fitzgerald in the Final Siren podcast this week. Competing against them in the midfield is an equally damaging midfield, with AFL Women’s National Academy members Laura Gardiner and Darcy Moloney making the matchups something to behold onball. Gardiner racked up 38 touches and had 14 tackles in Round 1 to be the Draft Central Player of the Week, whilst Moloney (28 disposals, six tackles) and Poppy Schaap (24 disposals, six tackles) also brought the heat. What was most impressive about the way the Falcons went about it was the fact they racked up a whopping 271 disposals, but also laid 94 tackles with their defensive pressure amongst the best in the league. They could have been more effective in front of goal, which is an area to build on, and something they cannot afford to suffer from in this clash against arguably the benchmark team this season. Expect this match to be another close one with both sides missing players from their encounters over the past couple of seasons, but the Knights deserve favouritism at home.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS v. BENDIGO PIONEERS
Saturday, March 7, 12pm.
RAMS Arena

From two sides looking to extend their strong starts to the season, we head to Craigieburn where two teams go head-to-head in a bid to get off the mark in season 2020. Sandringham Dragons will be ruing missed opportunities against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels where they arguably had plenty more chances to kick a big score, but were let down close to goal. Their defensive pressure was a highlight however and is something that will be a trademark of this game. Both sides are renowned tacklers, and whilst Sandringham can play a possession style of game as well, the Dragons are more than happy to get their hands dirty in pursuit of a win. The Pioneers are not a high possession style team but look to be efficient with ball-in-hand, running the ball down in transition and getting it inside 50 as effective as possible. An area the Pioneers can get on top in this clash is in the ruck, with the Dragons having just two hitouts last week against the number one ruck in the competition, Maggie Caris. They still won their fair share of clearances though, and led by Eliza McNamara (20 disposals, eight tackles and six inside 50s) and Winnie Laing (18 disposals, five tackles and five inside 50s), were able to pump the ball inside 50 enough to suggest that if they do that consistently enough and improve their finishing ability then the results will come. The Pioneers had co-captain Brooke Hards waste no time influencing the contest off the back of her middle-age best and fairest year, winning 18 disposals and laying seven tackles. With Elizabeth Snell out of the side, the Pioneers will look to other experience around the ground, with co-captain Annabel Strahan and Jemma Finning‘s work out of the back 50 as a way of getting control of the ball. The two centre-half backs in Sarah Hartwig and Tara Slender are some of the best in their age groups and the teams cannot afford to put it down their throat too often or the ball will come straight back out. Sandringham should be favourites in this game given the amount of chances they can generate, but the Dragons must be clean around goal.

TASMANIA DEVILS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, March 7, 12.30pm
North Hobart Oval

Crossing the Bass Strait to the Apple Isle, Tasmania Devils enter the NAB League competition for the first time, taking on a red-hot Oakleigh Chargers. Whilst the Devils sat out Round 1 watching on, they would have been impressed by what they witnessed at Wangaratta when the Chargers ran wild in a 50-point win over Murray Bushrangers. The Chargers have no problem possessing the ball, and they had a massive 40 inside 50s, giving their forwards a multitude of chances inside 50. For Round 2 the Chargers have lost some of their Round 1 firepower, with Amelia James and Alice O’Loughlin both out of the side after combining for five goals between themselves. The captain Mimi Hill led from the front during the Chargers’ win, racking up 29 disposals and five inside 50s, while vice-captain Joanna Lin had 17 disposals and six inside 50s. Eliza James showed plenty of talent during the match with an impressive 18 disposals, four marks, five tackles and match-high seven inside 50s. For the Devils, it is hard to judge just where they sit in terms of the competition just yet, with plenty of developing youngsters coming through the ranks. Amy Prokopiec is the one to keep an eye out for with the middle-age defender already having experience in the NAB League Girls after playing in the Devils’ few games last season. Overager, Camilla Taylor provides height at 180cm and will look to dominate the ruck battle with her extra experience, whilst drifting forward to provide a target inside 50 for the Devils midfielders to aim at. Another overager sure to provide that added experience is Tahlia Bortignon with the 19-year-old named on a wing for this match. You would be a brave person to tip against Oakleigh given the Chargers’ Round 1 match, but this game will be more about seeing a host of new young stars living out their dreams of playing in an elite youth competition by the Devils making their debut in the competition.

WESTERN JETS v. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Saturday, March 7, 1.15pm
RMIT University Bundoora

Following on from the Knights-Falcons clash at Bundoora is the battle between Western Jets and Murray Bushrangers. In Round 1, the Jets triumphed for the first time in their history when they toppled Bendigo Pioneers at Queen Elizabeth Oval by 22 points. The next day, Murray succumbed to a rampaging Oakleigh side by 50 points. Though one positive that could come out of that game from a scoreboard perspective was the fact that after conceding seven consecutive goals, the home team booted the last three goals of the match to avoid it being a potentially worse scoreline. Heading into this match minus their top key forward in Olivia Barber (concussion), the Bushrangers will need to utilise their smalls to hit the scoreboard and cause havoc for a Western defence that is well drilled based on the first round. The Jets were able to balance their ball use from the back 50 to the attacking 50 with some nice running ability, and did well around the stoppages despite conceding height in the ruck and thus the hitouts. Both teams favour a kick-first gamestyle which means we could potentially witness plenty of end-to-end football in this game. Leading the way last week for the Jets were bottom-agers, Montana Ham (19 disposals, seven marks, five inside 50s and three rebounds) and Charlotte Baskaran (19 disposals, seven tackles, four inside 50s and five rebounds), while new top-ager Amelia Velardo looked impressive with her athletic ability on her way to 16 disposals and three inside 50s, as well as four hitouts going up against taller opponents. With Isabelle Pritchard playing across all thirds of the ground, she is the star prospect for the 2020 group at Western and will be hard to combat in the middle. The Bushrangers also have some AFL Women’s Academy members with top-ager Abby Favell working through the midfield and Ally Morphett switching between ruck and forward. Mindy Quade will play an important role down in defence, whilst Mikayla Jones and Zali Spencer were another couple of players who stood up in defeat last round. Western brings winning form into this match and would be a good chance to go 2-0, though the Bushrangers always find something special.

CALDER CANNONS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 7, 1.45pm
RAMS Arena

The final game of the round is another huge clash between two sides with good form. Calder Cannons fell a goal short of victory against Northern in the first round of action, and return to their homeground, RAMS Arena to take on a Dandenong Stingrays side that was the surprise packet of Round 1. It was not necessarily the fact that the Stingrays won that was the surprise, but the fact that they did it so convincingly in the end – 50 points – against an Eastern Ranges side with plenty of talent. Stingrays coach, Dave Carden said post-game that it was important the club looked to improve from the Round 1 performance in terms of their stoppage position, but he was impressed with their clean hands and ball movement – something that will be crucial if they are to cause an upset against last year’s grand finalists. The Cannons midfield is well established, with middle-ager Georgie Prespakis and fellow 2003-born Emelia Yessir assisting captain, Laura Cocomello in the middle. Jessica Zakkour was the Cannons’ best last round with two goals from 18 touches and eight tackles, whilst the key defensive combination of Tamsin Crook and Kasey Lennox one of the best in the competition. It will also be important to combat the Stingrays’ talls with Georgia Grimmer out of this match, but Serene Vudiniabola (two goals in Round 1) able to crunch packs and bring the ball to ground for the likes of Ashleigh Richards (two goals) and Jaide Anthony (one). Tyanna Smith is the midfielder to watch on the Stingrays’ side, dominating last week and along with Abbey Jordan, provides some incredible running power out of that onball group. The Cannons have some targets inside 50 themselves with Charlotte Clayton (three goals) and Freda Puruntatameri (one) both looking dangerous last week. These teams are very evenly matched based on the first round statistics with no more than six differential between any of the major stats heading into the Round 2 clash. This is a buckle-up and get ready game because both these teams will take it right up to the other making it a real spectacle for the onlookers.

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.

Even spread of talent to lead Cannons in 2020

CALDER Cannons’ NAB League Girls list was finalised last last week as the Craigieburn-based side prepares to head into the 2020 season. Reaching the 2019 Grand Final before ultimately falling a win short at the hands of the Northern Knights, Female Talent Coordinator Russell Humphrey said there was roughly around a 10-player split across top, middle and bottom-age players. With a different coaching group coming on board, Humphrey said he is feeling more comfortable ahead of his second season in the role.

“It helps going around again,” Humphrey said. “I had a little bit of a handle on it beforehand but being in the coordinator’s chair you’ve got to have a bigger handle on it and I’ve gone out last year and watched a fair amount of local footy which I’ll do again this year just to see what’s out there. “With our list (compared to the boys) it’s a little bit harder because our season starts before the local season starts so it only gives them three or four weeks before our season finishes so it’s a little bit difficult that way. “We rely a little bit on going out and watching them during the year and things like that.”

Last year the Cannons had two players drafted, with captain Georgia Patrikios going in the top five to St Kilda – and already earning a Rising Star nomination – and Krstel Petrevski picked up by Melbourne later in the draft. Humphrey said Patrikios’ influence on the club as captain had been profound.

“It was interesting for Georgia, at the start of the year she hurt her ankle so it made her work a little bit harder to go through the injury issue, getting right and then to start playing,” he said. “I think that because of that, it gives her a good understanding of what’s required going into AFLW. I know that when she played state footy she played very well for Vic Metro and then when she played for Essendon VFLW she played well there as well so she gave the girls an understanding of what’s required and I think a lot of the top-agers followed that. “Krystal got drafted, Alana Barba, Felicity Theodore and Terira Fry and Zoe Hardiman all ended up playing VFLW footy, and Makeisha Muller as well. “At Williamstown, North (Melbourne), and Essendon. So I think that group was dragged along by themselves and the results showed with them all playing VFL footy. “Getting two drafted was fantastic, if we got three it would’ve topped it off.”

While Patrikios has already made an impact in her first game, Humphrey said Melbourne fans had plenty to look forward to with Petrevski when she gets her chance to don the red and blue.

Competitive, competitive, very competitive young lady,” he said. “Does the right things, everyone knows the story about her moving from Halls Creek, down to Sydney and then across here to Melbourne, that in itself shows resilience. “And I think that’s what they’ll get, they’ll get a hard-working person that understands what’s required.”

The future looks bright for the Cannons, who regularly have past players – such as Patrikios and Petrevski – dropping in at training to keep them informed of what’s happening in the world of AFL Women’s. Former Cannon, Sarah Dargan is an assistant coach at the club, which has plenty of future talent on the list at Under-17 and Under-16 level coming through.

We were lucky last year, we got an exceptional group of Under-16 players who are now Under 17s,” Humphrey said. “And like it does in the boys, it goes in circles like that and we were just lucky to get that group of probably 10 quality Under-16 players. “We’re hoping that the development of our top-age players this year sort of drags them along as well, the 17s came back in better shape than maybe previous years and I think that’s experience for them, learning what’s going on a bit more. “Around the whole competition the 16s and the 17s are now getting a better idea of what’s required when they come back from their 16th year to their 17th, and 17th again to 18th.” We don’t want to rely on our 17s but they will be part of the going forward.”

For such a young group to make the grand final was huge, but Humphrey said the Knights were too good on the day, and did not enable the Cannons to play with the same freedom they had against an equally strong Falcons side.

It was for our playing group, reward,” Humphrey said. “For the coaching group it was reward. “I know the work that they had put in to get to the final, to beat Geelong who are a quality side and had quality people around them, to be able to get past them was probably more important for the girls than the grand final. “That’s no disrespect to Northern because they played great footy on that day but that high of beating Geelong, it was hard for our girls to get back up and play Northern, and Northern didn’t allow us to play the footy that obviously we played the week before. “It was an exciting time for (the players), making the finals and then winning the game against Geelong and leading into grand final week we were positive but unfortunately we just couldn’t get the chocolates at the end of the day, but Northern were a quality side and so were Geelong. I think the competition’s getting closer and closer every year which is fantastic.”

The name that has been and will regularly be touted is Georgie Prespakis, the younger sister of Carlton’s Rising Star Madison, who is still a year away from being draft eligible. In one game against the Rebels last year, the Under-16 talent booted seven goals after moving to full-forward in the second quarter. Humphrey said while the hype was genuine, the Cannons had plenty of players to watch from that age group that were worthy of the same praise.

“I think we all get excited with Georgie and I understand that,” Humphrey said. “We don’t have any expectations on her, we just expect them to play.” The hardest part for Georgie is being a bottom-ager and how well Maddy (Prespakis) is going, the scrutiny on her is a fair bit from this sort of forum (media). “I think we’re missing out on Tahlia Gillard who’s in the Academy, Neve Crowley, (Emilia) Yassir, Kasey Lennox, Peppa Poultney that played in the Vic Metro 16s – we’ve got a group of six to eight players in that group who are possibly draftable, again they have to do the work and we have to do our end. But everyone’s all about talking about Georgie a lot and I understand that but I think they’re missing some quality players there. “Tahlia Gillard is 186cm tall and her birthday’s at the end of the year so she doesn’t turn 17 until December.”

Those names are still a year away from being draft-eligible, and to focus on this year’s crop, Humphrey said there were certainly some to keep an eye on.

“I think you’ll find that Laura (Cocomello) will play in the midfield, probably mid-forward. “Kiara (Delia) will probably play down back and through the middle as well. “Tamsyn Crook we’re going to probably start her off down back and let her play one position instead of throwing her around – similar to what the boys will do with Cody (Brand) – and just let her give her a spot down back and let her hold down centre half-back for a while. That’s not to say she won’t go forward or won’t go in the middle but we’ll probably look at her beginning down back.”

The Cannons have managed to have a top five pick in the first three years of the system, with Chloe Molloy, Monique Conti, Prespakis and Patrikios all going early in the AFL Women’s drafts. In 2020, the Cannons have a more even top-age spread without a clear standout.

“I think that’s a great call, (in) our top-agers we don’t have the standout,” Humphrey said. “We have a top-age group that’ve worked pretty hard and there’s no outstanding sort of touted draft prospect. “But I think again if we do the job properly with the coaching and everything else, we’re hoping again to get one or two (drafted). “Our aim is obviously to get minimum one a year so if we can do that, that’ll be great. It’s an even group, most definitely. “And we’ve brought a couple of girls in who’ve never played NAB League footy or TAC Cup footy before, top-agers so that’ll be interesting to see how that goes. “But again if they’ve got the talent, you need to have a look at them and give them the opportunity so that’s what we’ll do.”

The Cannons will bring in a couple of 19-year-old’s with Grace Dicker coming back after a year off to recover from a shoulder injury sustained in 2018, as well as Freda Puruntatameri who spent some time at Essendon VFL last season having travelled down from the Tiwi Islands. With Matthew O’Connor now taking the reins of the girls’ side, the team has a different leader, but a similar game style to the previous year. In preparation for the year ahead, the Cannons will head up to Yarrawonga to face Murray Bushrangers, before another match against Western Jets the following Friday in a lead-up to their Round 1 clash.

Calder takes on Northern in a grand final rematch, played on Saturday, February 29 at RMIT Bundoora.

Vic Country run out narrow winners after impressive final term

VIC Country’s Under-16 side has triumphed in the final game of the AFL Women’s Under 16 Championships, running over the top of a fast-starting Metro side with a final quarter burst. Murray Bushrangers’ Keeley Skepper starred, roaming around the ground and having an influence across four quarters, while Matilda Hardy and Emelia Yassir were equally impressive through the midfield for the Metro side.

Metro dominated the opening term but it was Geelong Falcons’ Analea McKee who hit the scoreboard first with great body position one-on-one to run onto a loose ball over the back and put her side on the board. It did not take long for Metro to apply the possession dominance to the scoreboard, with Sandringham Dragons’ Ebony Angelopoulos putting the Metro team back in front, followed by majors to Calder Cannons’ Tahlia Gillard and Northern Knights’ Maykaylah Appleby.

Trailing by 14 points at the first break, it was Country’s turn to control possession but not impact the scoreboard, until McKee slotted her second at a crucial time to pump up her side. Luckily for Country, Metro could only manage the one behind, as the likes of Geelong Falcons’ Elizabeth Dowling and Bendigo Pioneers’ Tara Slender were rebounding everything out of the back half, while Gippsland Power’s Macie Gilmour was strong around the ground, taking a huge mark late in the term, coming off worse for wear before returning after the long break.

When Sandringham Dragons’ Charli Murphy converted her set shot after a strong mark inside 50 early in the third, and Metro was looking dangerous, the signs were ominous for Country. Little did the crowd expect, Country was about to take complete control with the four last goals of the game. Murray Bushrangers’ small forward, Cassidy Mailer converted, as did Gippsland Power tall, Tyla Angwin to draw level by the final break.

With the game evenly poised, Country was the team that took the game on and Gilmour and Tahlia Meier both converted goals to put the result beyond doubt, holding Metro scoreless in the final term to run out 6.8 (44) to 4.6 (30) winners. Grace Matser‘s work in the ruck was impressive with the Gippsland Power tall having an influence around the ground, while Calder Cannons duo, Kasey Lennox and Peppa Poultney were also impressive across the four quarters.

The victory was well deserved for a Country side that controlled play after quarter time, booting five of the last six goals of the match to enjoy a victory over the short series of matches. While Metro could not take home the chocolates, they celebrated a win previously against NSW/ACT Rams, while Country went down to South Australia. For the Under-16 players, they now head back to their local clubs as they keep an eye on their Under-18 teammates on the Gold Coast, aspiring to be in their shoes in 12 and 24 months time.

VIC COUNTRY 1.0 | 2.4 | 4.6 | 6.8 (44)
VIC METRO 3.2 | 3.3 | 4.6 | 4.6 (30)

GOALS:

Vic Country: A. McKee (Geelong) 2, C. Mailer (Murray), T. Angwin (Gippsland), M. Gilmour (Gippsland), T. Meier (GWV)
Vic Metro: E. Angelopoulos (Sandringham), T. Gillard (Calder), M. Appleby (Northern), C. Murphy (Sandringham)

BEST:

Vic Country: K. Skepper (Murray), A. McKee, M. Gilmour, T. Slender (Bendigo), E. Dowling (Geelong), G. Matser (Gippsland)
Vic Metro: M. Hardy (Eastern), E. Yassir (Calder), K. Lennox (Calder), S. Reid (Oakleigh), P. Poultney (Calder), J. Woods (Western)

Scouting notes: AFLW U16 Championships – Vic Country vs. Vic Metro

THE Under 16 Girls national carnival wrapped up over the weekend, and Vic Country managed to get one-up on their Metro counterparts in a hard-fought 14-point win. We were on hand to take note on players who caught the eye. All notes are opinion-based of the individual writer.

Vic Country

By: Taylah Melki

#3 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Good long booming kick to push the ball forward and was good in close to try and win the ball for Vic Country. She was not afraid to put her body on the line and get involved in the contest going in hard at every opportunity. Showcased great footy smarts with a clever tip out the contest to try and flick the ball out to a teammate. Schaap won a free kick but was unable to capitalise in front of goal just missing but ran hard all game to open up the forward line and laid some big tackles throughout the match.

#5 Gabbi Featherson (Geelong Falcons)

Featherson worked tirelessly in defence and used her strength and speed to break away from the pack and push the ball forward. She showed good courage to stand under the ball and take a good contested grab. She was composed with ball in hand, displayed a strong set of hands throughout the match and highlighted her ability to read of the flight of the ball to position well and take it cleanly. Her kicks out of the goal square showed good footy smarts to kick to a player on the lead and make sure they were perfectly weighted to her teammates advantage.

#14 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Slender worked her way into the game taking a good pack mark that showed her impressive elevation to get over the back of her opponent and propel the ball back forward for Vic Country. She had strong hands under pressure and showed great intent to continuously push the ball forward and provide scoring opportunities for her team. Slender did not back down from the contest applying good strong physical pressure laying tackle after tackle highlighting her intent to win the ball.

#18 Analea McKee (Geelong Falcons)

McKee led the way in Vic Country’s forward 50 kicking their first goal of the second quarter and presenting well up at the footy. She had clean hands and good leading patterns to create space in the forward 50 on multiple occasions. Good read of the play snatching the ball out of her opponents hand and kicking the ball long down the line. She was barely beaten in a one on one using her body well and strength to outmuscle her opponent and win the ball for Vic Country.

#19 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

She was electric and at times seemed to have the ball on a string gaining plenty of touches and always near the footy. Friend contested hard and used her quick hands to dish the ball out of traffic and onto a teammate. She worked tirelessly to win the ball in close and offered up at the footy to take a good mark. Friend displayed her clever decision making, to move the ball into a better position in the forward 50 with a carefully weighted kick inboard and took a very strong mark in the final quarter to lift her side. She pushed up hard to trap the ball in Vic Country’s attacking 50 and showed good composure to stand under the ball and control the mark.

#20 Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons)

She was a lynchpin down in defence and stood up under the pressure throughout the match. She worked tirelessly in defence and used her quick hands to move the ball out of dangerous positions on multiple occasions throughout the game. Dowling displayed her general footy smarts and ability to make good decisions when under pressure not get flustered or blazing away. She tried to repel the attacking forays of Vic Metro dropping back into gaps and taking a few big marks to stop their forward momentum.

#22 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Had a bit of a slow start but worked her way into the game in the second quarter with her clean hands and clever body positioning to out position her opponent. At times she was unable to capitalise doing all the ground work but missing the finishing touches with a couple of dropped marks but her intent and skill were certainly there. Dojiok showed her talent below her knees with a good pick up off the deck. She had a good passage of play showcasing her speed to break away from the pack in the defensive 50 and drill the ball forward. Almost claimed goal of the game in the final quarter surging forward but was unable to capitalise with the ball sliding through the point post.

#24 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

Skepper played a huge role down in defence for Vic Country winning plenty of the ball proving to be a dominant force down back. She repelled plenty of ball that came her way sending it back down the line and bodied up well on her opponent to make sure they did not get an easy shot at goal. She held her own in one on one contests and showcased her good vision to kick to a teammate in space while also highlighting her intent to apply attacking pressure to move the ball out of defence.

Vic Metro:

By: Michael Alvaro

#3 Ebony Angelopoulos (Sandringham Dragons)

Started brightly with her work inside 50, and booted Metro’s first goal of the game after out-bodying her opponent to mark and converting into the open goal. Looked lively and kept busy in the forward half, keeping relevant without the ball as she caught an opponent holding the ball on her offensive arc. Faded out of the game somewhat as Country got on top, but has some good spark.

#4 Emilia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Looked very Madison Prespakis-like in her Metro #4, and plays a bit like her as a nuggety Cannons midfielder who does just about everything through the engine room. While her contested ball winning ability is obvious and damaging, Yassir really made an impact with her pressure around the ball – laying some crunching tackles and crashing her opponents in aerial contests. Just kept on hunting the ball at stoppages and proved hard to tackle, pumping her legs to break away from congestion and get a kick off. Also looked strong overhead for her size and isn’t afraid to compete in the air, which can be put down to her aggression and clean hands. Contributed a couple of neat touches with an accurate kick to find Charli Murphy inside 50, as almost got on the board by ultimately sprayed her shots on goal. One of Metro’s clear best.

#6 Emma Stuber (Sandringham Dragons)

Another who made a good start, Stuber looked a handy intercept and rebound half-back flanker. The Dragons product got to a wealth of ground-ball contests coming off the defensive 50 arc after centre bounces, mopping up and disposing of the ball quickly. She played a key role in keeping Country relatively quiet in the first half, but was not as prevalent after the main break.

#9 Matilda Hardy (Eastern Ranges)

Was named Metro’s best and rightly so, as she built into the game nicely and seemed to be everywhere at times. Made a bit of a slow start in the first half, but really came to life off the wing after the main break with some key touches moving forward. Worked really well on the outside to receive handballs from the likes of Yassir, and gained some good meterage on the back of it. Showed her class in traffic early in the last quarter with a stop and prop as opponents ran past, while also competing well twice in one-on-one marking contests. Look for her to be a very handy link between the arcs in the future.

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

The premiership Knight assumed her typical role on the opposite wing to Hardy, working hard forward to make an impact. Is most prominent on the run, most often finishing with long kicks down the line, but also looks dangerous inside 50 – as she showed with a spin at pace and checkside shot on goal in the final term. While that shot fell short, Appleby had already hit the scoreboard in the first quarter from a free kick. She loves a celebration, and always seems to be a vocal member of the team on-field.

#17 Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons)

Lennox was solid as a rock in defence and while Country eventually broke through after half time, the Calder gun more than played her part in the resistance. Reads the play well and moved off her direct opponent to intercept multiple times, forming a wall for Metro. Always looked for distance with her kick-outs but lacked an option at times, and had a couple of unfortunate turnovers as Country poured the pressure on. Still looked astute deep inside the 50 and was hardly beaten, doing the defensive things well. Is obviously good in the air but also competed at ground level, running straight through the ball to mop up cleanly.

#22 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

The sister of Sydney draftee, James, Rowbottom is a handy player in her own right. Made a particular impact in the air down back, winning one-on-one duels and proving strong on the last line to kill the ball. Was also quick to rebound once she had won possession, working actively to clear her lines. Was a little patchy as the game wore on, but made her presence known as she popped up in the final term with a solid pack mark in defensive 50.