Tag: kate adams

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 8

A HEAP of young prospects are now filtering through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. Despite the NAB League’s resumption, Round 8 saw plenty of young talent scattered across each state league side. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in or have recently graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 8

The Western Bulldogs are turning their season around, having notched a third win after defeating the Southern Saints by 18 points on Friday night. Brooke Hards (10 disposals, four tackles), who has played every game for the Dogs this season, was one of their best and only graduates afield in her relatively new defensive role. Molly Denahy-Maloney was the other in this category, notching four touches and six hitouts.

The Saints had some promising young talent scattered across their side too, headlined by the debut of Dandenong Stingrays defender Jemma Radford. She earned votes in the loss for her 12 disposals and six marks, getting better as the game wore on. Tall Amelia Peck was another to impress with 18 touches and four marks, while Grace Hodder had it 16 times and laid five tackles.

Casey brought Port Melbourne’s unbeaten run to an end on Saturday, trumping the Borough by 41 points on the road. Forward Sophie Locke made her return and fared well with 10 disposals, but could not quite find the goals. Recently delisted Richmond forward Emily Harley also found it 10 times, as Bridie Kennedy and Kate Adams also got a run for Port. Emma Horne (seven disposals) and Bridie Winbanks (six hitouts) were Casey’s representatives in these parameters.

Geelong’s top four surge roared on with a thumping win over Darebin Falcons, seeing the Cats move to an impressive 6-2 record. Paige Sheppard was among the votes for Geelong, finishing with 18 disposals and five marks as her terrific return season continues. Tamara Smith also found a good amount of ball, working hard for 20 touches and nine tackles in the famous hoops.

On Sunday, Collingwood got the points in a traditional Anzac Day matchup with Essendon, as the Magpies continue to set the competition benchmark. Olivia Meagher started well in black and white, and finished eight disposals. Essendon continues to blood a good amount of youth, with Elizabeth Snell (14 disposals, five tackles) and Eloise Ashley-Cooper (17 disposals, five tackles) both terrific, while Calder products Grace Dicker (12 and seven) and Alana Barba (11 and three) were others who proved productive.

Hawthorn picked up its second set of points on the weekend after downing Williamstown by 16 points, meaning the Hawks’ two wins have come against fellow standalone entities. Jenna Richardson got among the votes in her side’s victory, while it was no surprise to see Ruby Tripodi again do the same for Williamstown. In North Melbourne’s thumping win over Carlton, Ciara Fitzgerald took three marks in her 12 disposals, as Marnie Jarvis and Taylah Kolevski found touch in the Blues’ loss.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 7

A HEAP of young prospects are now filtering through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. Round 7 saw plenty of talent scattered across each side and a few players make their debuts. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in or have graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 7

Collingwood maintained its unbeaten streak with a win over the Southern Saints on Saturday morning, with Eastern Ranges standout Olivia Meagher enjoying an extended run in the side. She had 11 disposals, laid three tackles and picked up votes for the Magpies in their seventh win. For the Saints, Gabby De Angelis notched 12 touches, while fellow pathway graduates Amelia Peck and Grace Hodder each found the ball nine times.

Essendon boasted a host of current and former Calder Cannons products in its win over Williamstown, with the young brigade making a real impact. Zali Friswell booted two goals to feature among the Bombers’ votes with Kasey Lennox, as former Cannons Alana Barba (11 disposals) and Grace Dicker (10) also fared well.

Meanwhile, country coup Eloise Ashley-Cooper racked up a team-high 17 disposals, while current Bendigo Pioneers standout Elizabeth Snell laid 10 tackles in the sash. For Williamstown, Ruby Tripodi was again superb as she found the ball 20 times, but could only manage two behinds among them. Megan Williamson had it 16 times, booting a goal and laying nine tackles to feature among the Seagulls’ votes.

Casey and Hawthorn treated fans to a relatively high-scoring spectacle, with the Demons coming out on top and the Hawks continuing to blood exciting youth. The Eastern Ranges representation was high in brown and gold, as Ruby O’Dwyer (12 disposals, four tackles), Isabelle Khoury (11 disposals, seven tackles, one goal), Eloise Chaston (six disposals, five tackles), and Tilly Hardy (five disposals, four tackles) all continue to acclimatise to the level alongside graduate, while Jenna Richardson (eight disposals) also impressed.

Emma Horne was arguably Melbourne’s pick of the NAB League products, notching nine disposals and finishing with four tackles. Versatile tall Bridie Winbanks managed two disposals and eight hitouts, as 19-year-old former Dandenong Stingray, Harmony Thomas also ran out for the Demons.

Geelong’s top four charge rages on, as the Cats kept North Melbourne at bay in Sunday’s opening bout. Paige Sheppard was again terrific in the hoops, racking up 22 disposals to go with seven tackles and four marks. Tamara Smith had it 14 times and got her hands dirty with eight tackles, as current Geelong Falcons guns Annie Lee and Renee Tierney returned to the fold. Ciara Fitzgerald had 10 touches for North, while 20-year-old Tasmanian Camilla Taylor collected seven on debut.

The Western Bulldogs returned to the winners list with an emphatic victory over Darebin Falcons, with a continued injection of youth and AFLW-listed players aiding their cause. Western Jets’ Jemima Woods had a memorable debut with three goals, running out for the first time alongside Stephanie Asciak. GWV’s Lilli Condon celebrated her first win at the level with 11 disposals and five tackles, as Brooke Hards and Molly Denahy Moloney continued their runs in the side. For Darebin, youth product and Calder ruck Peppa Poultney entered the fray with 10 disposals and a couple of marks.

The final game of the round saw Port Melbourne come from behind to edge Carlton on home turf, seeing the Borough remain top of the table. Recently delisted Richmond AFLW tall, Cleo Saxon-Jones finished with 11 kicks among her 12 disposals, as former Carlton utility Bridie Kennedy had 10 touches, and current Oakleigh forward Taylah Morton matched that output, but could not quite snare her maiden goal.

For Carlton, Northern Knights graduate Marnie Jarvis collected 12 touches and laid four tackles, as Amber Micallef had it a handful of times and Murray Bushrangers standout Kate Adams came in for her fifth game – ending with three disposals for the third game running.

2021 VFLW Round 7 preview: Dogs and Darebin eye off second win in bottom two clash

A BOTTOM two clash between Western Bulldogs and Darebin Falcons will see the winner escape the bottom of the table, whilst the Southern Saints and Collingwood clash for a second time and are set to have a beauty of a contest.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, April 17 @ 10:00am
Trevor Barker Beach Oval

Despite Collingwood joining the rest of the Victorian-based AFL Women’s teams in being eliminated from the finals series, the Magpies have resisted massive changes to the state league side, with Bella Smith and Joanna Lin among those included in the forward half, with other existing AFL Women’s players including Maddie Shevlin, Abbey Green, Amelia Velardo, Imogen Purcell and Abbi Moloney in the team. They currently sit undefeated at the top of the table, with a tough clash down at Trevor Barker Beach Oval against the Southern Saints. Dandenong Stingrays tall Zoe Hill is set to make her debut for the side, alongside the likes of other teenagers in Alice Burke and Renee Saulitis who have established themselves in the side. Molly McDonald is a huge inclusion for the Saints at half-back to create some run, and with Tara Bohanna and Gabriella De Angelis up forward, the home team certainly has the capacity to inflict the Magpies’ first loss of the season. Eastern Ranges youngster Olivia Meagher is among the ones to watch in the black and white, as the Magpies eye off making it seven straight wins.

ESSENDON vs. WILLIAMSTOWN
Saturday, April 17 @ 11:00am
The Hangar

One of the teams looking to keep in touch with the top two sides is Essendon, after the Bombers came from behind to defeat Hawthorn last week at Box Hill. They managed to do it without star midfielder Georgia Nanscawen who succumbed to injury early in the match, and they will need to do it again without her, relying on the likes of Alana Barba, Courtney Ugle and Eloise Ashley-Cooper in the midfield. Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell returns to the red and black in a five-day turnaround from a successful outing for Vic Country, with Calder Cannons duo Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell remaining in the side. Williamstown stand between Essendon and the Bombers’ fifth win, with the Seagulls not far off the top six despite having just the two wins from six games. The midfield trio of Ashlea Melnikas, Megan Williamson and Aimee Whelan will be hard to beat, with Scarlett Dunnell up forward and Erin Meade in defence among the others to keep an eye out for in the blue and gold. Even without Nanscawen, Essendon will be favoured to get up here at home, but the Seagulls will give them a run for their money.

HAWTHORN vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, April 17 @ 11:30am
Box Hill City Oval

Speaking of Hawthorn at Box Hill, the brown and gold are back again, this time hosting a Casey Demons side looking to bounce back having lost their past two games to the Magpies and Cats. The home team was able to include some AFL Women’s talent last week with the entire half-back line having that experience in Georgia Bevan, Tamara Luke and Nadia von Bertouch. However perhaps the most interesting inclusion is former Magpie Kristy Stratton who has been named on the bench after playing for the undefeated Pies throughout the season. Much like Luke and von Bertouch, she has moved to the Bec Goddard-coached Hawks. Up the other end, Meg Hutchins has been a terrific leader with some youngsters inside 50, such as Eastern Ranges’ co-captain Eloise Chaston who kicked the only goal for her side last week. Matilda Hardy is back into the team with Isabelle Khoury and Ruby O’Dwyer some Ranges to hold their places, while Northern Territory talent Dominique Carbone is another one to watch for the home team. For the Demons, Maggie Caris, Megan Fitzsimon, Mietta Kendall and Isabella Simmons are among the future of the red and blue having been picked up in last year’s draft, whilst Emma Humphries‘ experience is crucial, much like defender Alison Brown in the back 50. Casey should be too strong, but the Hawks will give it a red hot crack at home.

GEELONG vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Sunday, April 18 @ 11:30am
Queens Park

Some Vic Country youngsters will return for the Cats as they field their strongest side to-date in the Round 7 encounter against North Melbourne. The Cats will be keen to keep in touch with the top two, and should do so against a Kangaroos side that is 2-4 and coming off a loss to the previously winless Darebin Falcons. Annie Lee and Renee Tierney return to the Cats’ VFL Women’s side after playing on Monday, with the side well stacked with AFL Women’s talent. Rene Caris, Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner and Sophie Van De Heuvel in the midfield is the future AFL Women’s midfield, whilst Georgia Clarke, Olivia Barber and Stephanie Williams in attack makes the Cats a potent team when in transition. The Kangaroos remain without a great deal of AFL Women’s talent, instead focusing on the development aspect of the side with Amy Smith and Brooke Brown a couple of listed players in attack, while Sarah Skinner is always a threat inside 50. Molly Eastman and Tarni Nestor will try and contain the Cats’ forward line, while Katelyn Cox will have a great battle with Moloney and Gardiner throughout the day. Geelong should take the match fairly comfortably being at home with a pretty impressive outfit.

DAREBIN vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Sunday, April 18 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

A potential match of the round at the other end of the ladder is the one between Darebin Falcons and Western Bulldogs, with both sides sitting at 1-5 for the season. A loss here will really hurt finals hopes, whilst a win keeps the victor in the hunt if they can build momentum in the second half of the season. Coming off a four-goal haul to help her side over the line, Stephanie Simpson will be looking for much of the same for the Falcons. It will be a tough ask against the strongest looking Bulldogs defence all year, with AFL Women’s talents, Eleanor Brown and Isabella Grant, the consistent rock in Simone Ruedin, speedy teenager Brooke Hards and natural ball-winner Katelyn Betts, both of the latter whom have moved into new roles of late. Up the other end, Nell Morris-Dalton has returned to the fold, with Gemma Lagioia and Amelia van Oosterwijck also there, and Isabelle Pritchard rounding out the AFL Women’s contingent. For the Falcons, ex-Bulldog Nicole Callinan was impressive in her first game back and will be a key player in the defence alongside consistent defender Gena Lawson-Tavan. Up the other end, Alyssa Mifsud kicked three goals a couple of rounds back, so between her and Simpson, they have the potential to put some high scores on the board, while Calder Cannons’ Peppa Poultney is another youngster in the side. The Western Bulldogs side is arguably the strongest of the year and should take care of Darebin, but the Dogs cannot afford to take the Falcons lightly.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. CARLTON
Sunday, April 18 @ 2:00pm
ETU Stadium

Port Melbourne will look to continue its winning streak up against Carlton at ETU Stadium, with Cleo Saxon-Jones named at full-back this week. Up the opposite end is Sabrina Frederick who slotted two goals on debut against Western Bulldogs last week, and will look to provide the smalls of NAB League-listed talents Kate Adams and Taylah Morton in there, whilst Mel Kuys through the midfield is a crucial player. Ex-Carlton talent Bridie Kennedy is back into the side to take on her former team, while Pip Peschke and Courteney Bromage are other key midfielders to watch. Carlton has got a solid contingent of AFL Women’s talent in the team, with Serena Gibbs, Courtney Jones and Winnie Laing all named inside 50, while Charlotte Hammans and Maddy Guerin are up the other end. Akayla Peterson has been named in the back pocket in the opposite side to Ally Bild in a strong last line, while over-age talent Amber Micallef and ex-Northern Knights speedster Marnie Jarvis are also in the side, named on the bench. Port Melbourne should have too much about them at home, but the Borough will be wary of a Blues outfit wanting to lift their efforts from last round when they went goalless against the Magpies at Victoria Park.

2021 VFLW Round 5 wrap: Pies and Borough continue runs

IN Round 5 of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, Carlton, Southern Saints and North Melbourne both grabbed their second wins, Collingwood and Port Melbourne extended their lead at the top of the table, as Geelong kept its opposition goalless in an impressive win on the road.

COLLINGWOOD 2.2 | 4.3 | 5.4 | 8.4 (52)
CASEY DEMONS 0.2 | 1.4 | 3.5 | 3.6 (24)

Collingwood maintained its perfect start to the VFL Women’s season with a 28-point victory over fellow strong starters Casey Demons at Victoria Park on Saturday. The Magpies got on the board in the opening term with a couple of goals and manage to restrict their opponents to just the one major by half-time. A further four goals to one in the second half meant the home team left happy, kicking 8.4 to 3.6 from only three more scoring shots for a comfortable victory.

Kristy Stratton slotted three majors in the win and was clearly a standout in the forward half of the ground. Tenacious mid/forward Matilda Zander, as well as Jasmine Ferguson, Tricia Cowan and Sarah King were also impressive in the victory. For the Demons, Imogen Milford did all she could with three goals of her own up forward, the only goalkicker in the red and blue. Young gun ruck Maggie Caris impressed, while ex-Pie Nicole Hales, and Samantha Johnson were also among the Demons’ best in the loss.

GOALS:

Collingwood: K. Stratton 3, G. Ricardo, I. Barnett, C. Bunker, A. Green, J. Guy.
Casey: I. Milford 3.

BEST:

Collingwood: M. Zander, K. Stratton, J. Ferguson, T. Cowan, S. King, D. Hallett
Casey: I. Milford, N. Hales, S. Johnson, M. Caris, S. Fairchild, N. McEvoy

SOUTHERN SAINTS 1.3 | 3.8 | 6.12 | 9.13 (67)
DAREBIN 0.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 (7)

Southern Saints snapped a three-game losing streak in the best possible fashion, dominating the winless Darebin Falcons by 10 goals. The Saints only conceded one goal and two scoring shots for the entire match, including holding the Falcons scoreless in the second half. Up their own end, the home team shook off some inaccuracy concerns, booting 9.13 (67) to take home the points comfortably – including a six-goal second half – by an even 60 points.

Tara Bohanna and Tenaya Sooalo both slotted two majors each for the winners, while Tayla Kearns was named best on ground in the victory. Tamara Luke, Deanna Jolliffe and Madi Capsalis were also among the best, as was ex-Eastern Ranges talent, Gabbi De Angelis. Sabine Cowley Du Parquet was the sole goalkicker for the Falcons and was among the best players alongside Gena Lawson-Tavan, Alyssa Mifsud and Victoria Blackwood.

GOALS:

Southern Saints: T. Bohanna 2, T. Sooalo 2, V. Moreau, G. De Angelis, M. Capsalis, G. Hodder, K. Ripari.
Darebin: S. Cowley du Parquet.

BEST:

Southern Saints: T. Kearns, T. Luke, D. Jolliffe, M. Capsalis, T. Bohanna, G. De Angelis
Darebin: G. Lawson-Tavan, S. Cowley du Parquet, A. Mifsud, V. Blackwood, A. Caddy, S. Lynch

CARLTON 3.4 | 4.7 | 9.10 | 9.11 (65)
HAWTHORN 1.0 | 1.2 | 1.4 | 5.5 (35)

Carlton had its most impressive performance of the year, shutting the lights out against Hawthorn in the first three quarters to win its second match of the year by five goals. The Blues piled on five goals in the third term to stretch its lead out to as much as 54 points at the main break. While the Hawks were admirable in the last quarter, slotting four goals to just one behind to cut the deficit back to 30, the damage was done prior to that, and the Blues got up, 9.11 (65) to 5.5 (35).

AFL Women’s listed Blues Courtney Jones (four goals) and Serena Gibbs (two) both looked impressive up forward and were amongst the standouts, while Ally Bild, Olivia Madden, Teresa Zampaglione and Bryannen Gull were also named in Carlton’s best. For the Hawks, Katie Angelis kicked two majors and tried to inspire the brown and gold, while Jessie Williams and Tayah Kelly also hit the scoreboard and were amongst the best. Nicole Cormack and Catherine Brown were others who drew praise from the coaches despite the loss.

GOALS:

Carlton: C. Jones 4, S. Gibbs 2, M. Wilson, P. Trudgeon, S. Lawrence.
Hawthorn: K. Angelis 2, T. Kelly, J. Williams, A. Malander.

BEST:

Carlton: A. Bild, O. Madden, C. Jones, T. Zampaglione, B. Gurr, S. Gibbs
Hawthorn: K. Angelis, N. Cormack , C. Brown, J. Williams, T. Kelly, J. Richardson

WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.4 | 0.4 | 0.5 | 0.6 (6)
GEELONG CATS 1.0 | 2.4 | 4.6 | 5.10 (40)

Geelong reaffirmed its status as a strong defensive side, keeping its opponent Western Bulldogs to just six points in fairly good conditions at Whitten Oval. The Bulldogs’ woes in front of goal continued for yet another week, having plenty of chances early and not capitalising, and then losing the momentum. Geelong booted a goal in each quarter and two in the third quarter to maintain a distance between them and their opponents, and then things went from bad to worse for the home team as no less than three Dogs were helped off in the last 30 minutes of the match, leaving rotations restricted and some a little sore during the 5.10 (40) to 0.6 (6) defeat.

Stephanie Williams was a livewire up forward for the Cats, slotting two goals and threatening to kick quite a few more, while Paige Sheppard had a day out through the midfield. Olivia Fuller, Teresia Meissner and Tahlia Tatlock were also among the best in the blue hoops, while Claudia Gunjaca kicked a goal and was also in the bests. Bailey Hunt, Katelyn Betts and Isabella Grant never stopped trying for the Dogs, with Annabel Strahan and Eliza Vale also trying to provide run and carry for the home team, and captain Riley Christgoergl putting her body on the line in the contest.

GOALS:

Bulldogs: Nil.
Geelong: S. Williams 2, N. French, P. Sheppard, C. Gunjaca

BEST:

Bulldogs: B. Hunt, A. Strahan, K. Betts, I. Grant, R. Christgoergl, E. Vale
Geelong: P. Sheppard, O. Fuller, T. Meissner, C. Gunjaca, T. Tatlock, S. Williams

ESSENDON 1.1 | 2.1 | 3.1 | 4.3 (27)
PORT MELBOURNE 3.0 | 5.1 | 6.2 | 6.2 (38)

Port Melbourne’s unbeaten start to the season rolled on in Round 5 with a well-fought 11-point victory over Essendon at The Hangar. The Bombers came into the clash with a 3-1 record themselves, but from the start it was clear the Borough were up for a fight. The visitors booted five goals to two in the opening half to open up a handy 18-point advantage, and whilst Essendon restricted the opposition to 1.1 in the second half, could only convert the 2.2 themselves, and ultimately cut down the final score which was in favour of Port Melbourne, to 6.2 (38) to 4.3 (27).

Richmond-listed key forwards, Cleo Saxon-Jones and Emily Harley both slotted two goals apiece, while Kate Adams returned from another match at NAB League Girls level to kick a major herself. Pip Peschke, Sarah McNamara and Courteney Bromage were all amongst the best, as was Claire Dyett (one goal) and the multiple goalkickers. Another ex-Murray Bushrangers talent in Eloise Ashley-Cooper was named best on ground for Essendon in the loss, as Courtney Ugle, Alana Barba and Alexandra Morcom were also impressive, while Federica Flew snagged two goals in defeat.

GOALS:

Essendon: F. Frew 2, A. Barba, F. Theodore.
Port Melbourne: C. Saxon-Jones 2, E. Harley 2, K. Adams, C. Dyett.

BEST:

Essendon: E. Ashley-Cooper, C. Ugle, A. Barba, A. Morcom, F. Frew, G. Nanscawen
Port Melbourne: P. Peschke, S. McNamara, E. Harley, C. Dyett, C. Bromage, C. Saxon-Jones

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.2 | 1.3 | 3.6 | 4.6 (30)
WILLIAMSTOWN 2.0 | 3.1 | 3.1 | 4.2 (26)

In a battle of two sides outside the eight, North Melbourne picked up its second win with a four-point victory over Williamstown, joining the Seagulls on two wins from five games. The Kangaroos only managed one goal in the first half and trailed by 10 points at the main break, but the second half worries for the Seagulls returned with the Kangaroos running over the top of them at Arden Street, booting 3.3 to 1.1 in the second half to win, 4.6 (30) to 4.2 (26).

Meagan Kiely and Jess Mourney impressed and were among four individual goalkickers for the Roos, with Sarah Skinner and Laura Wright also adding their names to the goalkickers list. Alexia Hamilton was named best-on for her performance, while Reni Hicks and Molly Eastman stood strong as well. Aimee Whelan kicked a goal and was named best-on for the Towners, while Olivia Purcell, Lana King and Scarlett Dunnell were among the best in the unfortunate tight loss.

GOALS:

North: S. Skinner, M. Kiely, L. Wright, J. Mourney.
Williamstown: A. Price, A. Whelan, S. Georgas, B. Hanrahan.

BEST:

North: A. Hamilton, M. Kiely, R. Hicks, J. Mourney, M. Eastman, T. Nestor
Williamstown: A. Whelan, L. King, O. Purcell, S. Dunell, E. Baxter, B. Hanrahan

2021 VFL Women’s Round 4 preview

THE 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season rolls on into Round 4 this weekend, starting once again with a Western Bulldogs home game as they battle Williamstown at Whitten Oval on Saturday morning. Among the games of the round, Geelong and Port Melbourne do battle in a top four clash, while Casey and Southern Saints look to climb the rankings. We take you through all the key players and factors across each game in our weekend preview.

Western Bulldogs (7th, 1-2) vs. Williamstown (11th, 1-2)
Saturday March 20, 11:00am
Whitten Oval

Western Bulldogs and Williamstown will both look to shake off losing records when they clash at Whitten Oval on Saturday morning, opening Round 4’s action. The clash also serves as the Bulldogs’ third home game in four weeks, with a second win up for grabs. Both sides come in off consecutive losses having gained points in Round 1, but will field heavily shuffled lineups.

The hosts regain a big name in vice-captain Katelyn Betts returning to the fold among at least four changes. Senior-listed players Isabella Grant and Annabel Strahan are key losses who go the other way, though an exciting inclusion in the form of ex-Richmond youngster Nekaela Butler should buoy the Bulldogs.

Williamstown will also ring the changes as a handful of players come out of last week’s side, headlined by injuries to Tahlia Merrett and Bridget Costello. The Seagulls have named Allana Dickie to return after being managed, as Asha Price slots back into the forwardline and Bridget Hanrahan looks set to feature down the other end.

Geelong (4th, 2-1) vs. Port Melbourne (1st, 3-0)
Saturday March 20, 5:00pm
Deakin University

Arguably the game of the round sees top four sides Geelong and Port Melbourne lock horns at Deakin University on Saturday evening, making for the weekend’s sole top four clash. The Borough have been outstanding in their maiden VFLW campaign, but face arguably their toughest test yet when travelling to face Geelong, a fellow aligned team often littered with young talent.

That factor is set to be no different on Saturday, as the Cats welcome back Georgia Clarke to help fill out an in-form spine which features fellow senior-listed gun Maddie Boyd up the other end. Going the other way, midfielder Laura Gardiner may find herself among the top ranks once again, while Geelong Falcons Annie Lee and Renee Tierney return to the NAB League.

The Borough will also ring a few changes to what has looked a rather settled side, with Richmond-listed youngster Sarah Sansonetti among the inclusions alongside former Carlton utility, Bridie Kennedy. In term of the outs, Murray Bushrangers product Kate Adams stint comes to an end, with goalkicker Sarah McNamara also absent.

Casey Demons (3rd, 2-1) vs. Southern Saints (6th, 1-2)
Sunday March 21, 10:30am
Casey Fields

Casey Demons will hope to protect its winning record when the Southern Saints come to town, as the two sides clash at Casey Fields on Sunday morning. The Demons made an emphatic return to the winners list last time out, but should be tested well by another aligned team in Southern Saints, who will be keen to bounce back from consecutive losses.

The reserves-like system looks to have payed off for Melbourne-listed player Chantel Emonson, who comes out of the Demons’ side after a promising performance last time out. Young tall Bridie Winbanks is the other player missing from Casey’s Round 3 squad, though midfielder Megan Fitzsimon returns for her third game at the level.

Last week’s Saints debutants, Anna Harris and Madi Southam are among the four players to make way for their team, with senior-listed youngster Jess Matin also in that group. The inclusion of Renee Saulitis should buoy the travelling side though, along with Gabby De Angelis who slots back into the forwardline – in the opposite pocket.

Carlton (10th, 1-2) vs. North Melbourne (9th, 1-2)
Sunday March 21, 10:30am
Princes Park

Carlton hosts its second consecutive game at Princes Park on Sunday when fellow 1-2 team North Melbourne arrives for battle. The Blues will also be out for back-to-back wins after opening their account last week, while the Kangaroos’ form has resembled that of a yo-yo with that sole win sitting between their two losses.

In a boost for the home side, a couple of talented young senior-listed players come into the lineup after Charlotte Hammans earned a call-up, with Maddy Guerin set to take her spot at half-back while tall prospect Serena Gibbs promises to add a scoring threat at centre-half forward. The changes see a total of six senior Blues line up in the reserve squad.

North will also benefit from some handy inclusions this week, with Alexia and Jayde Hamilton both in line for returns. The latter will play her second game having recently suited up for the GWS Giants Academy in the NAB League. AFLW-listed forward Brooke Brown looks set to rotate through the ruck having been named there, while Western Jets product Marli Klaumanns-Moller is one of two outs.

Essendon (5th, 2-1) vs. Darebin (12th, 0-3)
Sunday March 21, 10:30am
The Hangar

Darebin’s search for its first win of the 2021 season continues on Sunday, as the Falcons take on Essendon for a morning battle at The Hangar. The travelling side has battled hard and faces a third standalone team in four weeks, while the Bombers will fancy a third victory here having won two on the trot.

With key pillars performing well, Essendon looks set to make just two changes to its winning side with Nicole Julian coming in for her first game in midfield, and Grace Dicker named on the bench for her second outing. Going the other way are Elizabeth Hosking and Elizabeth Snell, the latter of whom earned votes in her VFLW debut last week.

Darebin will have a couple of untimely absences, with the reliable Kathleen Roe and dangerous forward Hayley Munro among three players to come out of the team. In their place, Julia McArdle and Mikayla Meyer come in via the bench as Vanja Smiljanic gets her chance starting in midfield alongside skipper, Steph Simpson.

Collingwood (2nd, 3-0) vs. Hawthorn (8th, 1-2)
Sunday March 21, 11:00am
Victoria Park

Collingwood’s perfect record will once again be put on the line as the Magpies take on Hawthorn at Victoria Park on Sunday morning, rounding out the weekend’s action. This clash marks the home side’s first meeting with a non-aligned club, while the Hawks take on their second aligned team after suffering a second loss last time out.

The Pies’ creative stocks will take a bit of a hit as tall Bella Smith comes out of the side with Imogen Barnett, as well as fellow senior-listed players in Sarah Rowe and Kristy Stratton. Another AFLW Magpie, Abbi Moloney swoops back down to the level to bolster the forwardline, with Maddy Shevlin also in among the four changes.

Hawthorn will make at least three swaps to its Round 3 lineup, with talented Territorian Dominique Carbone among them. She returns home to play for local team, Darwin in the NTFLW grand final. Jemma Owen is out through injury, with Jenna Richardson and Katie Angelis given the opportunity to make their debuts in brown and gold.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 3

A HEAP of young prospects are set to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition in 2021, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. Round 3 saw plenty of talent scattered across each side, and we take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently play in or have graduated from the NAB League, performed.

The Western Bulldogs were again littered with former NAB League talent, but the young pups were soundly outdone by a surging Collingwood side on Friday night. On a positive note for the Bulldogs, Margie Purcell came in for her first game and ended as one of three goalkickers alongside former Sandringham teammate, Molly Denahy Maloney.

2020 Bendigo Pioneers skipper Brooke Hards gave it everything up forward and through midfield, while Nikita Wright continues to establish her spot. For Collingwood, current Eastern Ranges midfielder Olivia Meagher was again amongst the action and booted a goal in the big win, as tall prospect Neve O’Connor got a third game for the season under her belt.

Standalone rivals Essendon and Hawthorn both fielded some promising NAB League graduates, with the Bombers’ batch proving particularly impactful in their win at The Hangar. Debutant and current Bendigo midfielder Elizabeth Snell was named among the votes alongside Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba. The latter’s ex-Calder teammate, Felicity Theodore also popped up with a goal.

In the brown and gold, Lauren Szigeti‘s strong start to the season continued as she was named among her side’s best players for the third time in as many games. She played a key role as Hawthorn’s prime inside midfielder. Jemma Owen, Maddi Shaw, and Chloe O’Malley were among the other graduates to suit up for the Hawks as they suffered a second loss.

Casey enjoyed a big win over North Melbourne on Saturday, aided by some impactful senior-listed stars. Emma Horne and Bridie Winbanks both notched their third appearances for the Demons, contributing to their side’s second win. Former Richmond youngster Ciara Fitzgerald finished as North’s lone goalkicker and earned votes, while Western Jets defender Marli Klaumanns-Moller ran out for her third VFLW outing in blue and white.

Geelong Falcons pair Annie Lee and Renee Tierney earned VFLW berths with the Cats, with the former being recognised among her team’s best players in the low-scoring victory. Tamara Smith was also influential for Geelong, while Paige Sheppard continues to return promising form in the hoops. Amelia Peck and Grace Hodder were again among Southern Saints’ contingent, battling away in the tough conditions.

Sophie Locke took her season goal tally up to six with two majors in Port Melbourne’s win over traditional rival, Williamstown on Saturday. Fellow Murray Bushrangers product, Kate Adams is another promising youngster to have suited up for the Borough, as Williamstown fielded similarly good youth.

The Seagulls had some high-level youngsters afield too, with Ruby Tripodi again a key figure at the coalface, while the dynamic Megan Williamson earned votes alongside talented forward Tahlia Merrett. Geelong Falcons product Zoe Garth also notched her second game after previously turning out in the NAB League in 2021.

Carlton had a couple of up-and-comers make their third-straight appearances on the season as senior-listed talent continues to filter through, with Amber Micallef and Taylah Kolevski contributing in the Blues’ maiden win for 2021.

Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 2

A HEAP of young prospects are set to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition in 2021, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. Round 2 saw plenty of talent scattered across each side, and we take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently play in or have graduated from the NAB League, performed.

Geelong picked up its first points for season 2021 on Saturday afternoon, defeating standalone side Williamstown by 40 points. The Cats had some AFLW-listed talent to come from the NAB League, as well as Geelong Falcons graduate Paige Sheppard. The midfield-forward earned votes for the second week running in what has been a promising start to her year.

Williamstown blooded a Falcons product of its own in the form of Zoe Garth, who has played three NAB League games this year. Tahlia Merrett came into the team and was among the Seagulls’ best, while Megan Williamson and Ruby Tripodi also played roles for the losing side.

Promising Eastern Ranges midfielder Olivia Meagher was given an opportunity for Collingwood after her dominant Under 19s form, as the Magpies defeated Southern Saints by 22 points. Meanwhile, former Northern Knights tall Neve O’Connor played her second game running in the black and white as she continues her development.

Gabby De Angelis backed up from a goal in last week’s outing to be among the Southern Saints’ best players on the day, though she did not hit the scoreboard this time out. Versatile former Oakleigh tall Amelia Peck was again among the Saints’ lineup, as was Grace Hodder who started at half-back.

Essendon’s winning lineup featured a bunch of fairly recent NAB League talent, including a trio of ex-Calder Cannons. Among them, Alana Barba and Felicity Theodore each snared a goal in the win over Casey, with Grace Dicker rounding out the trio in her maiden appearance. Murray product Eloise Ashley-Cooper also suited up for her second game, as did Bridie Winbanks for Casey.

A promising young Western Bulldogs side fell short of North Melbourne on Sunday morning, as the Kangaroos earned their first points in 2021. Former Richmond player and Northern Knights graduate Ciara Fitzgerald ran out for her first game in blue and white, kicking a goal on debut. Western prospect Marli Klaumanns-Moller was also fielded as she continues to link with the state league side.

For the Bulldogs, a strong contingent of AFLW-listed NAB League products made their mark, while a few budding stars also contributed. Among them, 2020 Bendigo Pioneers skipper Brooke Hards battled away up forward, while Molly Denahy Moloney and Western’s Nikita Wright again donned the red, white and blue in Round 2.

Hawthorn was another team to win for the first time in 2021, and had some strong young talent on show. Lauren Szigeti was among the Hawks’ best rotating through midfield from defence, as she and Jemma Owen both snagged goals. Maddi Shaw returned to the lineup, while Chloe O’Malley played her second game, and Eastern products Isabelle KhouryTilly Hardy and Jess Grace all earned VFLW berths among a raft of changes.

Former Murray forward Sophie Locke lit up the attacking half for Port Melbourne with three goals as the Borough thumped Carlton on Sunday afternoon. Ex-Carlton AFLW utility Bridie Kennedy had her first outing for the standalone side, while Kate Adams featured once again after her promising start for Port in Round 1.

Marnie Jarvis was a late inclusion for Carlton and was among a few players to show glimpses in the loss. Meanwhile, Amber Micallef again ran through midfield for the Blues, as Teagan Brett and Taylah Kolevski rounded out the former NAB League players to feature in Round 2.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 1

A HEAP of young prospects are set to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition in 2021, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. Round 1 saw plenty of talent scattered across each side, and we will also take a look at how VFLW-listed players have graduated in the last three years from the NAB League performed.

A couple of draft eligible prospects who have already played in the NAB League this year earned VFLW berths this weekend, with Western’s Marli Klaumanns-Moller and Murray’s Kate Adams running out for North and Port Melbourne respectively. The former is a 20-year-old defender with some exciting traits, while the latter is capable of playing on each line while rotating through midfield. Another former Bushranger in Sophie Locke also played for North, booting a goal as the Roos fell by 33 points.

Former Geelong Falcons midfielder-forward Paige Sheppard made a successful return to football, coming back into the Cats’ VFLW fold and earning a spot among their best players. Northern Knights product Neve O’Connor got her chance with Collingwood, adding to the Pies’ tall stocks as they got up by two points.

Carlton fielded a host of recent graduates in its loss to Casey, who were serviced by former Oakleigh ruck Bridie Winbanks. Ex-Chargers coach Luke O’Shannessy has taken the reigns at Carlton and unleashed Amber Micallef for some nice passages through midfield, while the likes of Teagan Brett (Murray) and Shanara Notman (Gippsland) both had their hands full in defence. Northern graduate Marnie Jarvis and Western product Taylah Kolevski also took the field in navy blue.

The Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn also blooded some promising youth at Whitten Oval on Sunday, as the home side got up by eight goals. Former Bendigo Pioneers captain Brooke Hards showed some burst and grit from midfield, as Nikita Wright stepped into the side after a couple of games with Western this year, and Molly Denahy Maloney also got her chance in the red, white and blue.

A trio of metro region graduates appeared for Hawthorn, headlined by Jemma Owen who booted a goal and was the Hawks’ standout player. Lauren Szigeti was another among her side’s best players in the loss, with Chloe O’Malley also donning the brown and gold in Round 1.

Former Calder teammates Alana Barba and Felicity Theodore again joined forces with Essendon on the weekend, with Eloise Ashley-Cooper another NAB Leaguer to feature in the sash. Barba was among Essendon’s most productive players, bringing her contested acumen and also kicking a goal.

Gabby De Angelis found the big sticks too, only for the Southern Saints as they won out by 18 points. Ex-Oakleigh tall Amelia Peck and Grace Hodder were among the other NAB League products to feature in the win. In Williamstown’s victory over Darebin, Megan Williamson and Ruby Tripodi were productive going forward, both kicking goals in the low-scoring affair and producing some handy highlights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAB League Girls Round 3 preview: Teams return after quick fixture switch

A SNAP lockdown and subsequent quick team swap later, and the NAB League Girls competition is set to return tomorrow for Round 3 of action. The Round 2 matches have been postponed, though with the border restrictions coming into play and 14 days quarantine required for any person from Victoria to enter Tasmania, it meant the Devils could not play their road trip against Eastern Ranges. Instead the Ranges will suit up as if Round 2 had have gone ahead, playing Gippsland Power, albeit as a home game at Kilsyth rather than on the road at Morwell East.

CALDER CANNONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, February 20 @ 10am
Highgate Recreation Reserve, Craigieburn

First up in Round 3 is a battle of two heavyweights who are considered serious title contenders in the NAB League Girls competition. Calder Cannons have an array of talent from AFL Women’s Academy members to talls and smalls who provide balanced depth across the field. Oakleigh Chargers also have great depth, and disposed of the Northern Knights quite easily in Round 1, showing off a number of young players who stepped up to the mark. Both these teams head in off the back of a win following the Cannons’ strong second half showing against the Dragons a fortnight ago.

The onball matchups could be where the game is won and lost with AFL Women’s Academy members, Tahlia Gillard and Georgie Prespakis, as well as talented ball-winner Emelia Yassir named for the Cannons there. Ameille Smith – who snagged three goals on debut up forward last week –  has a massive task up against Gillard, while Amanda Ling and Charlie Rowbottom make it a dream contested bout. The potential matchup between Rowbottom and Prespakis in particular will catch eyes as two of the top Vic Metro prospects going head-to-head.

Outside the midfield, both teams have plenty of depth, with Stella Reid having an outstanding game in Round 1, playing off a wing but able to float back to half-back and assist there. She takes on Mali McLeod who is one of a number of Cannons with plenty of talent, such as the key defence post of Kasey Lennox and Neve Crowley. With Oakleigh having dangerous smaller forwards such as Taylah Morton and Jorja Jackson inside 50, the ball entry could be key as to how the game pans out.

In Round 1, Oakleigh proved the second most efficient with ball-in-hand, averaging 22 disposals and four inside 50s per goal in the Chargers’ win over the Knights. Calder adopted a handball-oriented style against Sandringham, with the teams two of the top three with lowest kick-to-handball ratio. Defensively the Cannons hit the contest hard, ranked third overall for tackles in Round 1 – laying 92 tackles – while the Chargers produced just the 50 as they played some impressive disposal-footy to keep the ball off their opponents and use their outside run.

This game will be more contested, but it will be particularly interesting to see which team can get the game on their teams for longer. Both have an abundance of talent, and it sets up as a potentials finals preview.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, February 20 @ 10am
Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve, Bendigo

Heading further north, a double-header at Epsom Huntly Reserve in Bendigo takes place for four of the country teams to do battle. In the first game, Bendigo Pioneers and Geelong Falcons lock horns in a chance to start the 2021 season with a 2-0 record. The Pioneers came to play on the border up against Murray Bushrangers, taking care of business by 16 points, while Geelong Falcons ground out a win against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at Deakin University on the Sunday, in what was an entertaining contest.

What Round 1 showed is both these teams can find their own footy, with Geelong ranked first overall for disposals and handballs, while Bendigo ranked first for kicks. The Pioneers adopted a kick-dominant style, where they produced 104 more kicks than handballs for a competition-high 73.6 per cent kick-to-handball ratio. The Falcons were lower at 61.1 per cent, but they balanced their style, also ranking second for kicks behind the Pioneers for the round. Both the teams also impressed in the air, with the Falcons ranking first for marks, and Bendigo third, while they were also top five for tackles. Bendigo was the only side to finish the round top five in both inside 50s and rebounds, while Geelong really took control in the ruck, ranked in the top five for hitouts, with Bendigo lowly in that area.

This week it will be Madeline Marks‘ chance to arrest some of that Falcons’ dominance in the ruck, coming up against Keeley Hardingham who got first hands to it against the GWV Rebels in Round 1, teaming up well with Analea McKee as both combined for 31 hitouts. Marks and Jayda Richardson did the majority of the ruck work for the Pioneers, having stiff opposition in Bushrangers talent and AFL Women’s Academy member, Ally Morphett. Also roaming around in the midfield with some experience are the likes of Elizabeth Snell and Lily den Houting, while fellow top-age returnee Jemma Finning can roll through the midfield too after coming off half-back. The Falcons shone bright on ball last week, with Tess Craven and Poppy Schaap racking up a truckload of the ball, as did the versatile Charlotte Simpson.

Ingrid Houtsma has been named on a wing after playing both centre half-forward and centre half-back in Round 1, showing off her versatility as a taller player. The Geelong forward dynamic is really damaging, with captain Lucy Were, contested marking specialist Renee Tierney, and the quick Gabbi Featherston all offering different aspects to the front six. One key player who could assist at either end not named is Tara Slender, with the AFL Women’s Academy player missing for Round 3. Instead the younger Pioneers will be required to step up, with bottom-agers Tegan Williams and Octavia Di Donato providing good rebound. Lila Keck showed some promising signs in Round 1, and the forward line of the Pioneers will come up against the likes of Elizabeth Dowling and Annie Lee who both impressed in Round 1.

Geelong Falcons have a well-balanced side and would be tipped to win here, especially with Bendigo missing Slender. Though based on Round 1, the Pioneers will put it up to the Falcons and do have the home ground advantage.

EASTERN RANGES vs, GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, February 20 @ 12pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve, Kilsyth

One of the few teams to actually be benefited from the Round 2 bye was Gippsland Power, with ruck Grace Matser – injured in the first round – not named for Round 2 against Eastern Ranges, but a week later and the talented tall is ready to go in the Kilsyth clash which is crucial coming up against the talented Georgia Campbell. The Power were a bit rusty up against a Tasmania Devils side that was structured and ruthless credit to a few less restrictions over the past 12 months, while the Ranges showed just how good they could be with transition, conceding the most inside 50s to the Jets (33), but only conceding the one goal.

The Ranges defence held up well, with Mia Busch and Cadhla Schmidli both starring in the back six, rebounding and running it out to form a formidable combination back there. Grace McRae was the sole goalkicker for the Power in Round 1 and she is tough to match up on be it in the midfield or forward line with her strength and one-on-one ability. Leesa Guastella has been named as a forward target this round, and Matilda Van Berkel showed she could do it all from key forward option to stand-in ruck after Matser’s injury, but has been named in defence this round.

Further up the ground, both teams have some speed with Sunday Brisbane winning plenty of it and showing her bursts coming off half-back and along the wing, with Poppi Fleming providing run on the other wing. With Jorja Livingstone being one of the top outside ball movers in the competition, the Power will look to provide their own run out there. Inside the battle between McRae and Olivia Meagher could be a great one as two top-age hardnuts battle it out. Isabelle Khoury and Bridget Deed will also lock horns with Lily-Rose Williamson and Yasmin Duursma in midfield, which promises to be a fantastic battle. Up forward, Scarlett Potter, Matilda Hardy and Alyssia Pisano are among the goal threats for Eastern, whilst the likes of Holly Booth, Van Berkel and Taylah Bourne will look to contain them.

Eastern Ranges will be favourites heading into the Round 3 clash after their impressive win in Round 1, but the Power showed they could match it with sides for long periods of time, and always gave it a crack for four quarters.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 20 @ 12pm
Bluescope Steel Centre, Hastings

When talking about long breaks, look no further than Dandenong Stingrays, who, after already having 11 months off and then an extra week due to the bye, postponed their first match back in 2021 until Round 3 of the competition. The Stingrays finally are able to run out in the NAB League Girls, hosting a Western Jets side no doubt determined to capitalise on their opportunities when they meet in Hastings. The Jets recorded the most inside 50s of any side in Round 1 (33), but could only muster the one goal. It did show their midfield has the capacity to take control and run the ball forward, giving their front six the best chance to put scores on the board.

Delivery inside 50 will be crucial against arguably the best defence in the competition. Top-ager Zoe Hill and bottom-ager Mackenzie Eardley are strong in the air and provide a contest when the ball gets to ground. Both players will cause headaches for the opposition, with Western’s sole goalkicker in Round 1 – Jemima Woods – set to do battle with Vic Country representative, Hill. Also back there for the Stingrays are Jaide Anthony and Brooke Smith who have the versatility to push up the ground as well. Caitlin Sargent adds another target for the Jets against the stringent defence.

Western’s strength lies in its midfield and ball movement down the field with Charlotte Baskaran having a field day to earn our Draft Central Player of the Week nod after a sensational 28-disposal game on the wing. Teaming up with fellow bottom-ager Montana Ham, the Jets have some serious talent and kicking ability, to try and pinpoint targets inside 50. Trinity Skenderis and Leah Spargo also provide some hardness on the inside, while the Stingrays have Ashleigh Richards and Emily Shepherd who know how to win the contested ball then spread to the outside, whilst also not forgetting the speed of Abbey Jordan who will be playing a new role on the inside this season.

This match is set to be a cracker, and the Jets will want to get off to a strong start having the match practice in, but the Stingrays will be hungry after an extended break on top of the already unimaginable period away from football. Dandenong is one of the challengers for the title so should be favourites, though the game is set to be one of the matches of the round.

GWV REBELS vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Saturday, February 20 @ 12pm
Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve, Bendigo

In the second game of a double-header at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve, the GWV Rebels take on Murray Bushrangers in a battle of two Round 1 losers. The Rebels were gallant in defeat, in a match that could have gone either way against one of the top teams going around in Geelong Falcons, while the young Bushrangers, with a number of debutants and bottom-agers, fell to Bendigo Pioneers at Yarrawonga. For at least one of these teams, they will break the duck and get their first points, and it sets up for a fascinating contest.

The Rebels showed last week they are focusing on a kick-first mentality, finishing Round 1 with a no-nonsense 73 per cent kick-to-handball ratio. Despite being well beaten in disposals, the Rebels only had five less inside 50s, and had four more rebounds. They averaged around 44 disposals per goal, and 6.8 inside 50s, which is still fairly strong across the board. Murray were good defensively with their rebounding and holding up, they were just beaten in disposals, and out-tackled with the Pioneers laying 90 tackles to 55. Having had that experience in the bank, expect the Bushrangers to come out fierce in this one.

Morphett will look to take full control when in the ruck for the Bushrangers, who have a hardened midfield group. Bottom-ager Keeley Skeeper and Mikayla Jones will go head-to-head against the smooth-moving Nyakoat Dojiok and hard nut Lilli Condon for this match, while Aurora Smith and Zara Hamilton will look to control the wings for the Bushrangers. Ella Friend is the danger for the Bushrangers’ defence, with Molly Kennedy named as her direct opponent to start, though the contested marking talent is hard to beat in the air or at ground level. Mindy Quade and Chloe Locke are among a host of defence-first Bushrangers who provide rebound as well, while up the other end, Kate Adams and Kristy Whitehead provide some experience, as does Lily Sharp who has been named at full-forward. The battle at half-forward between Adams and Chloe Leonard, and Whitehead and Molly Walton could be some of the best on the ground, with the two Rebels players their best last week.

GWV Rebels were arguably the best of the losing sides from Round 1, so should be favourites here with a great mix of talents across the ground. The Bushrangers have some great youngsters coming through, and will get better with every game.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Sunday, February 21 @ 10am
Trevor Barker Beach Oval, Sandringham

The standalone Sunday game is also between two sides that tasted defeat in Round 1, with Sandringham Dragons and Northern Knights doing battle at Trevor Barker Beach Oval. The Dragons went down to Calder after a good defensive showing in the first half, while the Knights lost their first game since the 2018 grand final, heavily beaten by Oakleigh Chargers in the second game of a double-header at Craigieburn.

In those matches, both teams were beaten statistically, though the Dragons did rank fourth in handballs for the round, and recorded the highest handball-to-kick ratio across the competition of 45.7 per cent. The Knights just could not get the ball inside 50, with just 16 entries, whilst the Dragons had their chances, but the Cannons defence proved up to the task. One area where the Knights are likely to have the advantage is in the hitouts, where Georgia Kitchell stood up well to help her side to rank first overall for Round 1, whilst the team also finished third in the rebounds.

Sandringham will still be without Bridie Hipwell who was injured in the first round, though is not too far away from returning to the action. The Dragons do get back a talented runner though, with Tayla Jones coming into the side after missing Round 1. She could go head-to-head with either AFL Women’s Academy member Maykaylah Appleby, or Brooke Plummer who provided some much needed run on the other wing. The Knights defence was one aspect that never gave in through the Round 1 loss, and led by Tarrah Delgado – who was a standout talent – and Maeve Chaplin – who provided run across the ground – will be key players once again. A battle between Delgado and Charli Murphy could be a great one to watch with the key forward starved of too many chances from the first match, whilst Keely Coyne stood out across half-forward on debut. Pia Staltari and Emma Stuber coming off half-back and Sofia Hurley through the midfield are among some other Dragons who could be key players in the game.

Both these teams will be hungry for a win, and going off Round 1 form, Sandringham have the upper hand. The Knights will be keen to bounce back from a rare loss and should take control in the ruck, but it will be the midfield where the game is won and lost.