Tag: keeley hardingham

2021 NAB League Girls Round 2: Bushrangers fire late to secure second win

MURRAY Bushrangers have won their second game of the 2021 NAB League Girls season with a spirited come-from-behind victory over Geelong Falcons at a wet and windy Epsom Huntly Reserve.

The weather conditions were averse to a fast, free-flowing game with players feeling the strain of kicking into it early. It was the Falcons who took the momentum in the opening term, kicking the only four scores of the quarter, but could only net four behinds. Murray managed to get on the scoreboard in the second term, but could only cut the deficit to three points at the main break to trail 0.5 to 0.2. Murray found the big sticks midway through the third term with back-to-back goals, to race out to a nine-point lead. Geelong then countered with two of their own to lead by four points at the final break and win the first three quarters. It meant little in the end though as Murray, with the aid of the breeze in the final term kicked the last three goals of the match and won by 15 points, 5.3 (33) to 2.6 (18).

Zara Hamilton was outstanding for the winners, feeling the pinch of being tackled on multiple occasions early, but kept spreading and providing an option, whilst Olivia Cicolini looked dangerous in attack with Lily Sharp, and Mindy Quade and Kaylea Kobzan steadfast in defence. The Falcons were led well by talls, Analea McKee and Keeley Hardingham, whilst Charlotte Hardy and Taylah Hassett were impressive in midfield, and Chloe Adams lively in attack during the second half. The teams will have a break before the final Round 9 takes place at the end of the month.

GEELONG FALCONS 0.4 | 0.5 | 2.6 | 2.6 (18)
MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 0.0 | 0.2 | 2.2 | 5.3 (33)  

GOALS:

Geelong: C. Adams, K. Hardingham.
Murray: L. Sharp, S. McCarthy, M. Lyons, O.Cicolini, A. Bamblett.

DC BEST: 

Geelong: A. McKee, K. Hardingham, C. Hardy, C. Adams, T. Hassett
Murray: Z. Hamilton, O. Cicolini, L. Sharp, M. Quade, K. Kobzan

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Zara Hamilton (Murray Bushrangers)
4 – Analea McKee (Geelong Falcons)
3 – Olivia Cicolini (Murray Bushrangers)
2 – Keeley Hardingham (Geelong Falcons)
1 – Charlotte Hardy (Geelong Falcons)

TOP PERFORMERS:

Geelong:

#2 Charlotte Hardy

The midfielder has had some promising moments throughout the season and really stepped up in the absence of key personnel. She was really prominent early, winning the footy and driving it forward, then also winning a ground level ball to intercept and kick forward. She kept having a crack and was the beneficiary of some free kicks for her efforts. Always lively, Hardy just kept working all game.

#25 Chloe Adams

Was particularly prominent in the second half, kicking the Falcons’ first against the flow of play with a clever kick off the outside of the boot to an open goalsquare and bounce home. Adams also had another shot 40 metres out straight in front but her shot held up and fell short, then showed good dash in the final term bursting through the middle of the ground and kicking forward.

#38 Keeley Hardingham

One of the more prominent rucks this season, Hardingham took advantage through the middle and worked well around the ground with her ruck taps. She was busy with clean hands and a target throughout, often thumping the ball forward or just trying to gain meterage in tough conditions. She had a flying shot on goal in the third term which was marked in the goalsquare, then kicked a quick goal out of nothing late in the term which bounced home to put her side in front at the final break.

#46 Analea McKee

Best on for the Falcons throughout the four quarters, she seemed to have the velcro hands out there with the wet conditions not phasing her. Whilst her wet weather footy approach was good, it was her ground level tackling pressure that stood out, laying some big ones on opponents to lock it up. She worked hard up and down the ground and won touches in all thirds of the ground. She was influential throughout the match and had a running shot on goal in the third term but missed to the left.

Murray:

#1 Olivia Cicolini

The dangerous forward worked up the ground to win a one-on-one contest, and whilst a couple of the early kicks got caught in the breeze, she kept working hard. Had a really strong second half, with a quick kick inside 50 to start the term, before taking a strong mark at half-back and driving it forward. She capped off the performance with a goal inside 50 and kept pushing hard to the final siren.

#6 Lily Sharp

Had some crucial moments in the match, and could have had up to three majors for the day, with an early chance in the second term running into an open goal but hitting the post. Sharp continued to work hard and eventually capitalised with a strong mark by staying in front off a wobbly kick inside 50, nailing the set shot against the breeze. She set up another goal that with a kind bounce which could have gone through for her own, by Sophia McCarthy did not make a mistake on the goal line.

#26 Kaylea Kobzan

Might not have had a ton of touches, but had two direct goal-saving moments and another crucial one-on-one to get it out of the defence. She laid a great goal-saving tackle early in the match, then the next term won a great one-on-one to kick along the ground and out of the back 50, before taking a great goal-saving mark late in the match to clear and ensure Murray went home with the points.

#32 Mindy Quade

Was a reliable force in defence once again, taking some strong intercept marks and driving it out of defence with vigour. She even pulled out a torpedo from half-back to half-forward in the final term, and was vocal in her leadership from the back 50 to steady the ship and help teammates up the field.

#46 Zara Hamilton

The best on ground throughout the match, Hamilton had a starring role through the midfield, finding space and winning plenty of it. She was battered and bruised early through a number of crunching tackles, but kept pushing and worked hard around the ground. She was able to put the ball forward on a number of occasions, and then set up a goal to Lily Sharp courtesy of a floating kick that worked out, but it was her hands around the ground to keep the ball moving, and hard running effort that really stood out in the victory.

OTHERS: 

Mackenzie McGrath was really impressive for the Falcons, particularly in the first half with her pinch-hitting in the ruck and work around the ground, while Sara Howley, Mekah Morrissy and Taiya Morrow also had some prominent moments. For the Bushrangers, India Lehman worked hard, Kristy Whitehead was steadfast in defence, and Sophia McCarthy and Matilda Lyons kicked crucial goals in the match.

NAB League Girls Round 8 preview: Penultimate round for last pre-championships showing

ROUND 8 of the NAB League Girls marks the final round before a break with the Easter weekend and AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships taking place over the next couple of weekends. One more round will be completed later in the month, with finals to take place after that for the top four teams in the metropolitan and country regions.

EASTERN RANGES vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Saturday, March 27 @ 10:00am
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

Up first to open the weekend is an all-metropolitan battle between the Eastern Ranges and Sandringham Dragons. The Ranges are back at home at Kilsyth for an early start against the Dragons, with back-to-back wins against Calder Cannons and Tasmania Devils since capitulating in the final quarter against Northern Knights. They head in as strong favourites against a Dragons side that has been unlucky in recent weeks, pushing the undefeated Oakleigh Chargers and going down to Western Jets by a point either side of the loss to Dandenong Stingrays at Casey Fields. They still remain at 1-5 from six games compared to the Ranges’ 4-2 record.

The Dragons defence has held firm in recent weeks with Chloe Saultry dropping back with Kiana Lynch to win plenty of intercept possessions and drive the ball up the ground. They will need to do just that with the dangerous forwards of Alyssia Pisano and Scarlett Potter, as well as Matilda Hardy running around in there. In the midfield, Bridie Hipwell and Sofia Hurley are likely to face the consistent Bridget Deed and Keeley Sherar in there, whilst up forward, Charli Murphy and Ebony Angelopoulos have the goal-scoring ability, and will lock horns with one of the more consistent defences featuring Grace Walsh, Cadhla Schmidli and Mia Busch.

 

CALDER CANNONS vs. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, March 27 @ 10:30am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Also up for an early start, Calder Cannons host Western Jets at Highgate Recreation Reserve. Live commentated via the NAB League app, the match will be the first of a double-header at the ground, with the NAB League Boys up at 1pm. The Cannons sit at 4-2, with the Jets at the opposite 2-4, but both have had plenty of close results over the journey. Western held on in a thriller against Sandringham Dragons at a wet RSEA Park last week, while the Cannons suffered defeat at the hands on Eastern Ranges at Highgate. While the Cannons are sitting pretty for finals, they will want to make sure they take the points her to secure the spot with Western the only team that can mathematically knock out one of the top four sides.

Charlotte Baskaran and Montana Ham have been in exceptional form of late, with the former heading onball to win a lot more touches in close. The forward line functioned well despite only kicking the two goals last week, with Jemima Woods and Kiera Leare in particular standing out, and Kensley Ward looking dangerous. Up against the Cannons, they have the likes of Kasey Lennox and Kiara Delia back there to settle them down, but it is the midfield battles that will be the ones to watch. Georgie Prespakis, Emelia Yassir, Zali Friswell and and Olivia Manfre all present worries to the opposition, whilst the ruck battle between Tahlia Gillard and Krystal Russell will be another head-to-head to watch.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Saturday, March 27 @ 12:30pm
Prospect Park, Launceston

Returning home to the Apple Isle, Tasmania Devils will have another tough challenge, this time up against the Northern Knights. Both sides are at 4-2, with the Devils having gone down to Eastern Ranges at Craigieburn last week in a make-up of the Round 2 fixture, whilst the Knights impressed in a big win over Geelong Falcons at Deakin University. Northern has found form since their Round 1 disappointment, posting four wins in five games and taking their win-loss record to 4-2 from six matches. They will have their hands full with a Devils outfit that is yet to be blown away, going close in both losses to Oakleigh Chargers and the Ranges, whilst taking care of Dandenong Stingrays on the Apple Isle.

The Devils have a really deep midfield that has held them in good stead this season, led by Perri King and Claire Ransom through the middle and running forward, the likes of Meghan Gaffney, Ella Maurer and Jemma Webster have all enjoyed strong seasons to-date. Amy Prokopiec has proven she can kick multiple goals up forward, and Amy Bissett is another goal-scoring threat inside 50. The Knights have plenty of goal-scoring threats of their own with bottom-ager Megan Girolami, Trinity Mills and Under 16s talent Ava Jordan – from the midfield – all able to hit the scoreboard. Maykaylah Appleby and Brooke Plummer provide the hard running on the outside, and Tarrah Delgado has been someone who can play on the last line or mix it up by being thrown into the middle.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, March 27 @ 2:30pm
Deakin University, Waurn Ponds

Hoping to snap a two-game losing streak – unfortunately both at the very venue they hope to snap it at – the Geelong Falcons host Oakleigh Chargers at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds. The Falcons went down to Sydney Swans Academy a few weeks back, then suffered a loss at the hands of Northern Knights last week, and just need to refocus for the Round 7 clash. It will be a tough assignment though, coming up against the red-hot Oakleigh Chargers who are yet to drop a game and will be hungry to add another victory to their name.

The Falcons have a consistent side across the board, with a midfield core of Tess Craven, Charlotte Simpson and Ashleigh Van Loon providing the heat in close, and Poppy Schapp rotating through and adding clean hands and pressure around the ground. The Chargers have a stacked midfield as well, as Charlie Rowbottom and Stella Reid provide the inside and outside talent, whilst Amanda Ling is winning the ball at will currently. With Brooke Vickers having an impact all over the ground, the Chargers are in a good spot going forward. Geelong will look to Renee Tierney and Lucy Were to hit the scoreboard and apply pressure to the Oakleigh defence, whilst Keeley Hardingham could take control in the ruck, and Annie Lee and Liz Dowling drive the ball out of defence. Oakleigh have Alexandra McCulloch and Taylah Morton up opposite ends to provide some run and class as well in a strong unit.

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Sunday, March 28 @ 11am
Trevor Barker Oval

In the first of a double-header at Trevor Barker Oval, Dandenong Stingrays host Murray Bushrangers from 11am on Sunday, which will feature live commentary via the NAB League app. The Stingrays will look for their third consecutive win against a Bushrangers outfit who got up for their first points of the season against Gippsland Power last week at Craigieburn. Whilst finals is likely to be just out of their grasp unless results go favourably their way, the Bushrangers do have three matches remaining to close the gap on some rivals. This game will be a tough one against a Dandenong side that accounted for Sandringham Dragons and Bendigo Pioneers in the past week and a half.

Dandenong Stingrays will be keen to welcome Jaide Anthony back from concussion to shore up a defence that was already doing its job pretty well, keeping the Dragons to just three behinds at Casey Fields. Jemma Radford and Zoe Hill will be key players in the absence of Mackenzie Eardley in defence, while the midfield and forward options will look different without Abbey Jordan, Ashleigh Richards and Amber Clarke in there. The Bushrangers defence is also able to contain sides, keeping the Power goalless in their clash, and only conceding one behind. Mindy Quade, Grace Hay and Kristy Whitehead can all win the ball in the defensive half of the ground, whilst the form of wings, Aurora Smith and Zara Hamilton is impressive. Keeley Skeeper in the midfield has also continued her bottom-age form, whilst Lily Sharp and Olivia Cicolini both hit the scoreboard multiple times last game. Dandenong will look to Felicity Crank through the middle to win her fair share of the footy.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY
Sunday, March 28 @ 1:00pm
MARS Stadium

Their season delicately poised at 3-3 from six games, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels come up against a side that will have a lot of unknowns entering the match in the Northern Territory Academy. For the Top End side, it will be a chance to get a run around against a quality Victorian opposition ahead of the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships on the Gold Coast when they team up with NSW/ACT and Tasmania to create the Allies. The Rebels have been a solid mid-table team with some great wins, and then falling to the top sides to enter the contest with a 50 per cent win-loss record.

The Rebels will test a number of their players giving the likes of Ella Friend, Chloe Leonard and Nyakoat Dojiok will be out for this match. Lilli Condon is one natural ball-winner who could be key for the Rebels to get up in this one, as Molly Walton has been a shining light as a bottom-ager in defence. For the Thunder, Bella Clarke comes into the side off experience at state level before, and from her WAFL Women’s debut last week, as ex-Calder Cannons forward Freda Puruntatameri has been named in the ruck. Kaitey Whittaker is one to watch inside 50, whilst one of the biggest names to keep track of is Grace Mulvahil who has a prestigious junior career in the NTFL Women’s Premier League, and will lineup at half-back. Ashanti Bush at half-forward can also kick multiple goals, while Oakleigh Chargers’ J’Noemi Anderson will represent her state in this clash.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER
Sunday, March 28 @ 1:30pm
Trevor Barker Oval

With the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships five days away from the Sunday clash between the Bendigo Pioneers and Gippsland Power, both teams will be without their representatives. Both these teams have just the one win between them, with the Pioneers’ coming in Round 1 against the Murray Bushrangers, and have since had a lot of close outings but are yet to be successful. A one-point defeat to the Stingrays last week had them agonisingly close, and will be hoping to get over the line in this one.

Both teams will be without some of their top talents ahead of the championships, with Grace McRae and Grace Matser both out for the Gippsland Power, whilst Tara Slender, Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning will miss for Bendigo Pioneers. In their place, Maddy Marks returns for her second game back, teaming up with Tegan Williams as the key forward targets. Jayda Richardson and Drew Ryan are in the midfield alongside Country emergency Octavia Di Donato, while Lily den Houting and Lila Keck have been named up forward. For the Power, Lily-Rose Williamson will look to lead from defence, with Matilda Van Berkel thrown into the ruck in what will be a small team for the Power. Yasmin Duursma is still in midfield, whilst Jordan Sochackyi has been named in a forward pocket. After injuring herself last week, Sunday Brisbane has been named as an emergency for the Power.

NAB League Girls Round 7 preview: Country games on show, while Power and Bushrangers battle for first points of the season

A BATTLE of the two winless sides, Gippsland Power and Murray Bushrangers, as well as the Sandringham Dragons and Western Jets must-win contest will be the two commentated games streaming on the NAB League app this weekend. The matches are all set to be beauties with plenty of 50/50 contests and difficult to predict how they will go down in Round 7 of the NAB League Girls competition.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 20 @ 12.30pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve

Backing up from an impressive Wednesday night victory under lights at Casey Fields, Dandenong Stingrays make the trek up the highway to Epsom Huntly Reserve to take on Bendigo Pioneers. After snapping their two-game losing streak, the Stingrays have moved to 3-2 on the table, with a chance to join Calder Cannons on 4-2 fo the season if they get the win against the Pioneers. For Bendigo, they could move back within four points of the top eight sides and remain in contention for finals, having lost four straight games since their Round 1 win over Murray Bushrangers.

Captain Tara Slender is anticipated to return for the Pioneers for the big clash, with Octavia Di Donato and Tegan Williams among the more in-form players at the Pioneers in her absence a couple of weeks back when they last ran out on a Wednesday night themselves against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at Epsom Huntly. Jayda Richardson has been utilised all over the field, while the Pioneers will be hoping to regain some of their top talents back from injury at some point, with Jemma Finning and Madeline Marks also out of the last game due to injury.

Dandenong Stingrays have now adjusted without midfield gun Emily Shepherd in there, and with Jaide Anthony also out of the side due to concussion – and will miss this clash – they have seen others step up. Charley Ryan was sensational for the Stingrays in the win against the Sandringham Dragons mid-week, while Zoe Hill showed she could play at both ends, and Ashleigh Richards and Amber Clarke looked ever-dangerous inside 50. Add in Abbey Jordan and Felicity Crank who are finding plenty of the ball of late, and the Stingrays have a well-balanced list.

Dandenong will head in as favourites against the Pioneers following the Stingrays’ defensive efforts during the week, though with the Pioneers back at home, they have the capacity to push any side as they showed a few weeks back against Calder Cannons.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Saturday, March 20 @ 12.30pm
Highgate Reserve

A bottom two clash of the sides yet to grab a win in season 2021, at least one of the Gippsland Power and Murray Bushrangers must take home some points in this round. The Power have been gradually building over the first month, and – with the exception of their 114-point smashing at the hands of Eastern Ranges – have reduced the losing margin each week, whilst adding more scores on the board. The Bushrangers have been pretty solid across the season, competitive through most parts of the game, but just having a quarter or two here or there that sees the opposition add quick goals to blow out the margin. With the two teams to face-off, it will be fascinating to see who two young teams go at it.

The ruck battle immediately catches the eye, with Grace Matser and Ally Morphett set to go head-to-head in a clash of different styles. Matser has been finding more of the ball and moving well around the ground, while Morphett is hard to stop when she gets front position in a marking contest with safe hands. Key defender who can also play up the other end, Matilda Van Berkel has enjoyed a strong top-age season, while midfielder Grace McRae just keeps winning the ball. She will have a great battle on the inside with Keeley Skepper who has been building nicely in her bottom-age year, whilst Aurora Smith has been one of the most consistent players this season out on the wing.

Sunday Brisbane, Yasmine Duursma and Lily-Rose Williamson have provided the Power with plenty of run from defence and through the midfield, and they will be important in trying to bring the ball down in transition. The Bushrangers have a strong defence when it is all together, with Chloe Locke, Mindy Quade and Grace Hay among those capable of playing both offensive and defensive roles. Murray will look to Olivia Cicolini who has now kicked three goals in two games as a potential goal-scoring option, with Morphett also capable of dropping deep and converting set shots. Kristy Whitehead and Courtney Fletcher are among others who have impressed for their respective sides, often helping out in the back 50.

It is hard to pick a winner in this game because both have progressed throughout the year, but one thing is for sure, the winner will have plenty to celebrate.

 

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. WESTERN JETS
Sunday, March 21 @ 10.15am
RSEA Park

An early morning game at RSEA Park pits Sandringham Dragons up against Western Jets in a must-win match for both sides with just two rounds remaining after this game. They are both 1-4 for the season and a loss will ned their chances of a finals birth, while a win puts them back in the conversation if they can build the momentum in the final fortnight. Both these sides come into the game off the back of low-scoring losses, with the Jets getting close to the GWV Rebels, and the Dragons pushing the Chargers before losing out to the Stingrays midweek.

Scoring will be a premium for these sides who have stacked up well defensively, but, with the exception of Sandringham’s win over Gippsland – has seen them both restricted from putting big scores on the board. The Dragons have the capacity to score big when they get the fast ball inside 50, with Charli Murphy (eight goals) and Ebony Angelopoulos (seven) being among the top goalkickers in the league. Mia Zielinski has slotted four goals in three games to be a talented Under 16 player and a third option in attack. For the Jets, they have shared their goals around, with Annie Gray and Caitlin Sargent both slotting three goals apiece, while Kensley Ward and Montana Ham have the two each.

Charlotte Baskaran combines with Ham as some of the better metres-gained players in the competition, with the head-to-heads against the likes of Charlotte Ryan and Tayla Jones who provide the same run for their sides. Sofia Hurley and Kiana Lynch win a lot of ball on the inside, with Hurley able to burst out of the stoppage, but also win the ball back through tackling. Now having two games under her belt, Bridie Hipwell will be looking to make a statement here, while the defensive duo of Abby Thompson and Ella Schiberras were steadfast against the tie on Wednesday night. The Jets will be looking to bring the ball quickly in transition, such as Paige Ryan in defence and Jemima Woods up forward and through the ruck.

Another 50/50 game, the winner is difficult to pick, but both teams can move the ball pretty quickly which makes for an exciting game.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Sunday, March 21 @ 11.00am
Deakin University, Waurn Ponds

Down the highway at Waurn Ponds, the Geelong Falcons will be keen to put last week’s disappointment behind them, when they were beaten by newcomers Sydney Swans Academy. The Falcons were without key bookends, Renee Tierney and Annie Lee who played in the VFL Women’s match, but were just not able to generate enough effective scores to take down the determined Swans. Northern Knights are coming off a spirited come-from-behind win over Eastern Ranges following a tight loss to Calder Cannons the week before. Northern will hope it can bring the same momentum into the start of the game against the Falcons rather than rely on a late final quarter flurry to grab the points.

The Falcons midfield brigade of Tess Craven, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson has been one of the most consistent trios running around, with Ash Van Loon being the most dominant tackler in the NAB League Girls competition. She came off sore last match, but the Falcons have plenty of depth across the field with Elizabeth Dowling and Taiya Morrow in defence, and Gabbi Featherston and Lucy Were in attack. Keeley Hardingham and Analea McKee both had strong games in the Swans’ loss, while Ingrid Houtsma missed out on the match and is another player to watch going forward.

Northern Knights’ Under 16s talent Ava Jordan has put together a really promising debut season this year, being one of the most consistent ball-winners through midfield. With Maeve Chaplin missing through injury, Jordan stepped up through the midfield against the Ranges, teaming up well with Tarrah Delgado who switched from full-back into the middle late in the game. Brooke Plummer has provided some great run and carry on the outside, and having Ella Smallacombe, Trinity Mills and Megan Girolami up forward as targets, gives the Knights midfield – including AFL Women’s Academy member Maykaylah Appleby – players to look for inside 50.

Geelong Falcons will be hungry to bounce back in this game, while the Northern Knights will be riding high on their last quarter from Round 6, and keen to back it up from the first bounce in Round 7.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Sunday, March 21 @ 11.30am
MARS Stadium

The last game to kick off for the round is the big clash between GWV Rebels and Oakleigh Chargers at MARS Stadium. The Rebels will be hoping a home ground advantage can sway the game in their favour against an unbeaten Chargers outfit that has completed every challenge thrown at them. Oakleigh looks down on the rest of the competition with five wins from five games, while the Rebels have won three of five – including their past two – and will be heading in as underdogs to try and take down the premiership favourites.

Oakleigh Chargers have an array of midfield talent, led by inside ball-winner and powerful forward, Charlie Rowbottom who has not only been one of the better contested players, but has gone forward and kicked crunch goals, slotting six majors in five games this season. On the outside, Stella Reid has done a wealth of work across the ground, and slotted into half-back or half-forward when required as well as the wing where she predominantly plays. She has also hit the scoreboard with four majors, third behind Rowbottom and tall, Ameille Smith (five goals) in that areas. Up the other end, Alexander McCulloch and Brooke Vickers have won their fair share of ball and driven it outside 50, while Amanda Ling has become another prominent ball-winner for the Chargers.

The Rebels are a well-balanced side with great versatility, and have had some outstanding performers this season. A massive 11 players have averaged more than 10 disposals this season, with 10 of them playing at least four games. Chloe Leonard has patrolled the half-back line with Nyakoat Dojiok, while Lilli Condon has been a reliable accumulator in close and spreading well. Up forward, Paige Scott keeps kicking goals and now has eight to her name, while Tahlia Meier is averaging a goal a game, and their forward line spread has enabled Ella Friend to play up on a wing. Molly Walton has been a find for the Rebels on the last line as well, able to bring the ball from the danger zone to safety in her bottom-age season.

Oakleigh Chargers head in as favourites, but the GWV Rebels are every chance of causing an upset if they can continue their recent form and even team spread across the field.

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 6 wrap – Knights complete remarkable comeback

ROUND 6 of the 2021 NAB League Girls season saw the Sydney Swans and Greater Western Sydney (GWS) academies enter the fray, though fans will have to wait a little longer to see the Brisbane and Gold Coast squads in action. The postponement of their arrival made for a particularly memorable makeshift fixture though, as Northern Knights completed a remarkable comeback against Eastern Ranges on Sunday. That, and more in our weekend wrap.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 1.1 | 2.1 | 2.2 | 4.2 (26)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.0 | 4.1 | 5.1 | 5.2 (32)

By: Declan Reeve

Oakleigh Chargers continued their undefeated start to 2021 with a thrilling six-point win over local rivals, Sandringham Dragons at RSEA Park for Thursday night football. The Chargers led from the first goal and looked to have had the game wrapped up heading into the final quarter, but Sandringham were not going down without a fight, locking the ball in their forward half for the majority of the last quarter. Ultimately, the Dragons were unable to break through Oakleigh’s strong defence to get the final goal needed to split the points. 

Oakleigh has a lot to owe to its defence as a whole for the victory, with the ever consistent duo of Brooke Vickers and Alexandra McCulloch providing reliable options as rebounders and interceptors, and bottom-ager Lily Hart stepping up for a big performance. Midfielders Stella Reid, Eliza James and Amanda Ling were good throughout the game as well, with work-rate a common theme between the three of them. 

Sandringham bottom-ager and previous winner of the Draft Central Player of the Week, Sofia Hurley was once again a high level ball winner and driver from the Sandringham midfield, assisted well by Bridie Hipwell, who was playing her first game since suffering an ankle injury in Round 1, as well as Tayla Jones and captain Kiana Lynch. 2023 eligible Mia Zielinski was an aerial threat in the forward half and Abby Thompson was a similar presence in the Dragons’ defence

The next match for each club sees Oakleigh head to Ballarat’s MARS Stadium to play GWV Rebels on Sunday March 21, while Sandringham will play Dandenong Stingrays at a venue yet to be confirmed on Wednesday night, in the reshuffled Round 2 fixture.

GOALS:

Sandringham: M. Zielenski 2, C. Murphy, E. Angelopoulos.
Oakleigh: E. James, A. Smith, H. Kenealy, C. Rowbottom, J. Rigoni.

DC BEST:

Sandringham: S. Hurley, T. Jones, B. Hipwell, M. Zielenski, K. Lynch, A. Thompson
Oakleigh: S. Reid, B. Vickers, E. James, A. Ling, A. McCulloch, L. Hart

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)
4 – Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)
3 – Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)
2 – Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)
1 – Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 0.0 | 0.0 | 1.2 | 2.4 (16)
GWS GIANTS ACADEMY 0.4 | 1.8 | 4.9 | 7.13 (55)

By: Peter Williams

GWS GIANTS Academy stormed to a 39-point win over Murray Bushrangers in New South Wales, booting six goals to two in the second half to run away with the contest at Lavington. The GIANTS had 20 scoring shots to six, but the staunch Murray defence restricted them for as long as they could, before the game opened up after half-time. Cynthia Hamilton had a day out for the GIANTS, booting two goals and being a standout, while Hayley McDonald also impressed up forward with a couple of majors herself. Through the ruck, Ally Morphett caused headaches for her NAB League teammates, one of a number of Bushrangers donning the orange and charcoal on the day.

After making her debut with North Melbourne in the VFL Women’s last week, Jayde Hamilton had a busy day out, and Jessica Whelan was also lively. The Bushrangers had strong performances from Aurora Smith, Keeley Skepper and Zara Hamilton in the midfield, while Grace Hay, Kristy Whitehead and Mindy Quade were steadfast in the back 50. The results leaves the Bushrangers without a win thus far, but they take on fellow winless side Gippsland Power next weekend, while the GIANTS head back home to prepare for next months’s AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships.

GOALS:

Murray: N. Wilson, O. Cicolini.
GIANTS: H, Macdonald 2, C. Hamilton 2, A. Martin, J. Whelan, L. Anderson.

DC BEST:

Murray: A. Smith, G. Hay, Z. Hamilton, M. Quade, K. Whitehead
GIANTS: C. Hamilton, H. Macdonald, J. Whelan, A. Morphett, J. Hamilton

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Cynthia Hamilton (GIANTS Academy)
4 – Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
3 – Hayley McDonald (GIANTS Academy)
2 – Jessica Whelan (GIANTS Academy)
1 – Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

GEELONG FALCONS 1.1 | 1.1 | 2.2 | 2.2 (14)
SYDNEY ACADEMY 1.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 | 4.3 (27)

In what could be a fantastic argument for upset of the season, Sydney Swans Academy travelled to Geelong to face the unbeaten Falcons and came away with the 13-point win in an inspirational four-quarter effort. The Swans Academy had talent on their list, but having only begun to play competitive matches this season, and being the first NAB League Girls match in their history, were not expected to halt the run of the Falcons who had seen off some strong efforts from more experienced Victorian sides. No one told the red and white side that though, as the Swans stuck with the Falcons throughout four quarters, and ran out the stronger side, 4.3 (27) to 2.2 (14).

After Keeley Hardingham booted the first major for the Falcons and Geelong had all the play in its forward half, it was seemingly a matter of time before the dam wall burst. Instead, the Swans defence held firm, then grabbed a goal against the flow to AFL Womens’ Academy member Jessica Doyle – who would finish with two majors for the game – and with help from her teammates would boot four of the next five goals. Only a Tess Craven special would interrupt the Swans’ parade, but as the rain fell down, it was no surprise that the Swans flourished in the wet and recorded the most memorable of victories.

It was a strange old game with the Falcons missing bookends, Annie Lee and Renee Tierney who played in the VFL Women’s match straight after, but the usual suspects in Craven, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson all dominated possession in the middle of the ground. Eloise Morgan and April Devine both controlled the ruck taps, but it was the trio of Falcons who shared in 68 disposals between them. Taiya Morrow and Elizabeth Dowling were industrious as ever in the back half, while Hardingham stepped up as a target inside 50. The Swans had a real even contribution across the board, with Ella Heads and Maddy Hendrie catching the eye, and then the work of Ruby Sargent-Wilson and Doyle moving the ball in transition. Kahli Gilchrist and Danika Spamer were among the other Swans to fly in the win.

GOALS:

Geelong: K. Hardingham, T. Craven.
Swans: J. Doyle 2, A. Devine, R. Beuzeville.

DC BEST:

Geelong: T. Craven, P. Schaap, T. Morrow, K. Hardingham, C. Simpson
Swans: E. Heads, J. Doyle, R. Sargent-Wilson, D. Spamer, M. Hendrie

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
4 – Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)
3 – Ella Heads (Swans Academy)
2 – Jessica Doyle (Swans Academy)
1 – Ruby Sargent-Wilson (Swans Academy)

TASMANIA DEVILS 2.1 | 4.2 | 5.3 | 6.3 (39)
DANDENONG STINGRAYS 0.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 3.4 (22)

By: Michael Alvaro

Tasmania continued its sparkling season with a 17-point victory over the highly-fancied Dandenong Stingrays, marking two-straight losses for the Victorian region. Dial Park in Penguin set the scene for Tasmania’s terrific outing, with the win all but sewn up at three quarter time on the back of five goals to Dandenong’s one. Debutant Emilie Saward, who hails from the north-west, sealed the deal in the final term with a major to put the Devils 29 points ahead – a lead which proved unassailable.

Tassie pair Jemma Webster and Meghan Gaffney led all comers with 20 disposals apiece, impacting greatly in the win alongside Ella Maurer who managed 18 touches and two goals. Perri King was another standout, while Charlotte Vandenberg proved ominous in the ruck with 17 of the game’s 30 total hitouts.

It was no surprise to see Amber Clarke put her hand up for Dandenong as she topped the Stingrays’ disposal count and snared 1.2. Felicity Crank was again solid in the loss, while Zoe Hill was again a presence and Charley Ryan played a key role with six tackles and six inside 50s among her nine disposals.

The Stingrays’ next assignment comes on Wednesday as they complete a quick turnaround against Sandringham, while Tasmania will enjoy a Round 7 bye and return to action against Northern in another home outing the following week.

GOALS:

Tasmania: E. Maurerm 2, A. Auton, A. Prokopiec, E. Saward, J. Webster.
Dandenong: A. Clarke, G. Malkoun, C. Blair.

DC BEST:

Tasmania: M. Gaffney, E. Maurer, J. Webster, P. King, C. Vandenberg, A. Crooks
Dandenong: A. Clarke, F. Crank, Z. Hill, A. Richards, A. Jordan, C. Ryan

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)
4 – Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)
3 – Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)
2 – Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)
1 – Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

GWV REBELS 2.0 | 3.1 | 4.2 | 4.2 (26)
WESTERN JETS 0.0 | 1.1 | 1.4 | 2.5 (17)

By: Declan Reeve

It was a highly contested game at MARS Stadium, with the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels coming out on top of the Western Jets by nine points. The first half was largely controlled by the Rebels, doing well to keep the ball in their forward half and constantly pressure the Jets’ backline. However, the second half saw the Jets come out with a newfound fury, having the ball in their forward half for most of the time but just unable to properly capitalise on the opportunities they created.

The home side had a lot of contributors, with Chloe Leonard and Lilli Condon the major ball winners in the midfield. AFLW Academy duo Ella Friend and Nyakoat Dojiok topping the marks for the game with five each, bottom-aged star Paige Scott leading the game for goals with two, and the likes of Molly Walton and Stephanie Glover being solid in the backline, especially when under siege later in the piece.

The Jets were brave in defeat, with bottom-ager Charlotte Baskaran getting her usual high disposal numbers and being damaging with it heading forward. Montana Ham battled hard in the midfield all day to make the most of the ruck work from Krystal Russell. They were aided by Jemima Woods, Paige Ryan and Stephanie Asciak around the ground.

Round 7 will see the Jets hitting the road again, facing off against fellow Metro side Sandringham Dragons at RSEA Park on Sunday morning, with the Rebels welcoming undefeated powerhouse Oakleigh Chargers to MARS Stadium on the same day.

GOALS:

GWV: P. Scott 2, N. Dojiok, S. Bridgewater.
Western: C. Sargent, E. Tyson.

DC BEST:

GWV: C. Leonard, P. Scott, N. Dojiok, E. Friend, L. Condon, S. Bridgewater
Western: C. Baskaran, M. Ham, K. Russell, J. Woods, P. Ryan, S. Asciak

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)
4 – Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)
3 – Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)
2 – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)
1 – Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

GIPPSLAND POWER 0.2 | 1.2 | 2.2 | 2.2 (14)
CALDER CANNONS 2.0 | 4.5 | 5.8 | 7.13 (55)

By: Declan Reeve

A dominant Calder Cannons put away Gippsland Power by 41 points on Sunday, in a game where inaccuracy from the Cannons saw them almost double their goals kicked in behinds. Despite the scoreline, the Power battled hard and were unfortunate not get on the scoreboard more with the Cannons’ defence switched on all day despite it not being down there too often.

It is no surprise that superstar Georgie Prespakis was a big contributor for the day, leading all comers for disposals, and being assisted well by the likes of Olivia Manfre, Reese Sutton and Emelia Yassir, with Neve Crowley being moved forward and leading the game for goals with three. Gippsland had its contributors as well, with Lily-Rose Williamson in particular impressing with her work in the midfield and backline, assisted by the likes of Sunday Brisbane and Courtney Fletcher in the midfield, with ruck Grace Matser often giving them first use.

Both these teams have good match-ups coming up, with Calder preparing to face Eastern Ranges on Thursday night at Highgate Reserve in a game that could have huge finals implications. Gippsland will be playing at the same venue on Saturday afternoon, coming up against fellow winless side Murray Bushrangers in what should be a tight match.

GOALS:

Gippsland: A. Molesworth, I. Makai.
Calder: N. Crowley 3, A. Magri, O. Manfre, S. Ibrahim, T. Gillard.

DC BEST:

Gippsland: L. Williamson, S. Brisbane, G. Matser, Y. Duursma, M. Van Berkel, G. McRae
Calder: G. Prespakis, O. Manfre, N. Crowley, R. Sutton, T. Gillard, E. Yassir

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
4 – Lily-Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)
3 – Olivia Manfre (Calder Cannons)
2 – Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)
1 – Reese Sutton (Calder Cannons)

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 1.0 | 1.3 | 2.4 | 6.5 (41)
EASTERN RANGES 4.1 | 5.2 | 5.2 | 5.3 (33)

By: Michael Alvaro

In a contender for game of the season so far, the Northern Knights claimed a stunning come-from-behind victory over Eastern Ranges on Sunday afternoon. The conditions at La Trobe University were conducive to clean and fast footy, and the Ranges took toll with five goals to one in the first half. A third term stalemate was broken by Ava Jordan late in the piece, who gave Northern a sniff heading into the last. It was all the Knights needed, as they stormed home with four goals to nil to claim a stirring win.

Jordan won plaudits from a raft of high profile onlookers for her 24 disposals and two goals, which proved enormous in helping Northern edge back into the contest and eventually, ahead. Tarrah Delgado was strong in defence before a game-changing move to midfield, while Ella Smallacombe worked hard to urge her side into attacking positions and Monique Ramsay was combative in the ruck.

Keeley Sherar was Eastern’s standout player from midfield, spurring her side on with 16 touches and a goal. 15-year-old Alyssia Pisano was also dangerous forward of centre and booted two majors, while Georgia Campbell showed rare athleticism in bursts through the ruck and Ruby O’Dwyer was kept busy further afield.

The Ranges’ next task promises to be another ripping match-up as they face Calder on Thursday night in an all-Metro battle. Meanwhile, the Knights travel down the highway to take on Geelong at Deakin University on Sunday.

GOALS:

Northern: T. Mills 2, A. Jordan, T. Delgado, M. Ramsay.
Eastern: A. Pisano 2, S. Potter 2, K. Sherar.

DC BEST:

Northern: A. Jordan, T. Delgado, E. Smallacombe, T. Smart, M. Ramsay, L. Beatty
Eastern: K. Sherar, A. Pisano, G. Campbell, R. O’Dwyer, B. Deed, I. Khoury

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)
4 – Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)
3 – Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)
2 – Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)
1 – Ella Smallacombe (Northern Knights)

NAB League Girls Round 4 preview: Unbeaten sides to go head-to-head across Super Saturday

NAB League Girls action is back for a second consecutive week – unfortunately for the first time this season due to the Victorian snap lockdown – but it provides teams with a couple of instant classics, as well as sides that are battling for their first wins of the season.

EASTERN RANGES vs. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, February 27 @ 10.30am
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

Two unbeaten sides go head-to-head in the early Saturday morning game when Geelong Falcons travel east to take on Eastern Ranges at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve from 10.30am. The Falcons are coming off back-to-back wins over Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Bendigo Pioneers in the opening rounds, while the Ranges put Gippsland Power to the sword last week with a record-breaking 114-point win after getting past an inefficient Western Jets in Round 1. Both these sides come into the game as two of the most in-form teams which spells the potential for a classic.

The Ranges’ midfield is a real strength with the likes of Bridget Deed and Olivia Meagher providing inside contested grunt work, and the class of Jorja Livingstone on the outside providing the run. Inside 50, Alyssia Pisano has become a revelation with four goals last week following a promising Round 1 debut, and the bottom-age prospect is shaping as a top-end talent for 2023. Georgia Campbell was outstanding in her effort against Grace Matser last week, and will look to hold down the fort again coming up against Keeley Hardingham of the Falcons, whilst Geelong have a number of inside midfielders themselves with Tess Craven, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson always having a crack in there.

Up forward, Renee Tierney has already kicked six goals in two games, with captain Lucy Were, and the dynamic Gabbi Featherston capable of anything when inside 50. It will be up to the Ranges’ defence to try and contain the Falcons forward six, with Cadhla Schmidli and Mia Busch having promising starts to the 2021 season. Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling up the other end have been impressive at flanking Mia Van Dyke to be a dominant half-back line, intercepting nearly anything that comes their way. The Ranges will need to be smart with their ball use, and pinpoint their passes inside 50 to ensure the best efficiency going forward.

The game is neck and neck, with the Final Siren podcast team split, with Geelong marginally ahead 2-1 in the tipping, though it genuinely could go either way.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Saturday, February 27 @ 11.30am
Ronald Reserve, Morwell East

Two sides looking for a big effort are out at Morwell East when Gippsland Power heads back home to host Northern Knights. It will be their first game at the venue this season following the Round 2 home game with the Eastern Ranges being flipped around and played at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve instead. The Power will be looking to put in a more competitive effort in Round 3 after a 114-point defeat at the hands of Eastern Ranges last round, and will look to do it against a Northern Knights side that looked pretty good against Sandringham Dragons in Round 3. The Knights were blown away by Oakleigh Chargers in Round 1, but responded last week, and Gippsland will look to do the same in this clash.

The Power have a strong inside midfield group, led by Grace McRae who is a natural ball-winner. She will need to lead the way with hard ball gets against a Northern side that feasted on it last week thanks to the work of Maeve Chaplin. Lily-Rose Williamson is another inside body that will help extract the ball from the contest, whilst Matilda Van Berkel can play anywhere from midfield, ruck to key position and was the main interceptor in defence last week. Sunday Brisbane and Yasmin Duursma are happy to run the ball forward and that is where the Power can take advantage, with the Knights missing AFL Women’s Academy member Maykaylah Appleby from the clash.

Matser has a chance to take control in the ruck with dominant hitout specialist Georgia Kitchell also missing the game, though the Knights have plenty of depth to step up. Ella Smallacombe and Megan Girolami were busy last week combining for five goals, and the likes of Van Berkel, Holly Booth and Courtney Fletcher will have their work cut out for them. Expect Tarrah Delgado to continue her form and be a rock in defence, while Brooke Plummer will step up to bring that outside run on a wing and become the key playmaker in the match.

Northern are favourites after last week’s effort, but missing a couple of key personnel could make it a little tougher, but should still get the job done. Gippsland have the strengths to match it with Northern on the inside, with the battle between McRae and Chaplin the highlight.

 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.15pm
Cathedral College, Wangaratta

Up north, Murray Bushranger host Western Jets in a battle of two winless sides looking to get on the board in season 2021. The Bushrangers went down to Bendigo Pioneers in the opening round, then lost out to GWV Rebels in Round 3. The Jets were unlucky not to capitalise against Eastern Ranges in Round 1, before just falling short against Dandenong Stingrays in Round 3. Heading into this game, the Jets will be keen to make almost-there become success.

Grace Hay returns for the Bushrangers having to juggle her football and netball commitments which immediately strengthens the Bushrangers’ back six and provides another strong ball user out there. She will team up with a half-back line featuring the strong hands of Molly Kennedy – due for a great battle with Jets’ Caitlin Sargent – and Chloe Locke who both can provide some offence to go with their defensive work. Mindy Quade at full-back is another strong player who can win one-on-ones regularly, and use her powerful boot to clear the area. Going head-to-head with Jemima Woods, the Bushrangers’ talls will need to quell the Jets’ targets inside 50.

Two of the more in-form wings could go head-to-head in Charlotte Baskaran and Aurora Smith, with both having outstanding games in the opening two rounds. Montana Ham and Keeley Skepper are two of the most promising prospects for next year and will likely lock horns in the midfield, while Krystal Russell will look to take full advantage in the ruck with Bushrangers’ AFL Women’s Academy member Ally Morphett out. The Bushrangers still have scoring options in the likes of Kristy Whitehead and Sophia McCarthy, while Kate Maxwell and Laura Elliott were good in defence last week.

The Jets are favoured in this contest, but some of the one-on-ones should be fantastic to watch.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. CALDER CANNONS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.30pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve

From two winless sides to two with a 1-1 record, Bendigo Pioneers host Calder Cannons in a much anticipated Round 4 matchup. The Cannons were arguably the team to beat given their two AFL Women’s Academy members and host of likely Vic Metro talents, but were just outclassed by an incredible Oakleigh Chargers outfit last week, after knocking off Sandringham Dragons in the opening round. Bendigo took out Murray Bushrangers in the opening round, but then suffered defeat at the hands of Geelong Falcons in Round 3, so will be looking to make up for that loss with a huge scalp here.

Tara Slender returns from a concussion precaution that kept her out of the Pioneers’ Round 3 loss, and will play a crucial role at centre half-forward. It forces one of Neve Crowley or Kasey Lennox to make sure she has a close-checking key defender on her, with Tegan Williams seamlessly slotting into Slender’s role up the opposite end of the ground. Bottom-ager Lila Keck, as well as top-ager Lily Den Houting have been named inside 50, and could provide scoring options for the home team. Meanwhile up the other end, Alisa Magri and Jessica Zakkour could be targets inside 50 for the Cannons.

The ruck battle between Madeline Marks and Peppa Poultney will be a fascinating one, with the Pioneers midfield getting a huge challenge to try and contain the Cannons’ onball group. Georgie Prespakis and Zali Friswell will head in with Emelia Yassir this week, while Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson will line up with Chantelle Mitchell to try and take control in there.

The Cannons will go in as strong favourites, but the Pioneers are back to full strength with Slender returning, and if they can get on top in the midfield, anything is possible.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.30pm
Twin Ovals

After missing out in Round 2, Tasmania Devils return to Twin Ovals for their first home game of the year. They take on Oakleigh Chargers who 12 months ago, took them to pieces in a triple-figure victory on the Apple Isle. Fast forward to 2021, and the Devils are a stronger, more cohesive unit that are coming off an impressive 12-goal win over Gippsland Power in the opening round. Oakleigh Chargers are a different group altogether and right now the benchmark of the competition, which gives Tasmania a great chance to measure themselves against the top team.

The Devils were able to have high efficiency going forward in Round 1, with Amy Prokopiec slotting four goals – including two in the first quarter – against the Power, while Amy Bissett also nailed a couple of majors. Having Charlie Vandenberg take the first ruck spot has enabled Camilla Taylor to be another target inside 50, while the midfield group of Perri King, Ella Maurer and Claire Ransom was terrific against the Power. Now they meet the most dominant group in the league, with Charlie Rowbottom, Amanda Ling and Eliza James on-ball, and Stella Reid tearing it up on the the outside.

Tasmania will need to ensure the Oakleigh midfield does not get off the chain as the Chargers can score quickly and heavily when given the chance, especially with Jemma Rigoni and Ameille Smith being targets inside 50. Charlotte Thomas and Candice Belbin are some of the defensive options back there for the Devils, whilst up the other end, Brooke Vickers has been a source of run and carry for the Chargers. If Oakleigh can get the ball forward, they have an abundance of smalls running around at the feet of the talls, such as Taylah Morton who could hit the scoreboard.

Overall, the Chargers have passed every test thrown at them and deserve to be overall favourites. The key to this game is seeing how much the Devils have progressed in 12 months, and if they can cause a huge boilover in front of their home fans.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS VS. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Sunday, February 28 @ 11.30am
MARS Stadium

The standalone Sunday game is a must-watch, with the GWV Rebels sitting 1-1 and the Dandenong Stingrays 1-0 after a delayed entry into the competition. The Stingrays were due to return to the competition in Round 2, but Victoria’s snap lockdown pushed it back a week, where they took care of the Western Jets in a competitive match. The Rebels had a similar clash in Round 1 going down to the Falcons, before they put Murray Bushrangers to the sword in a seven goals to two first half last week at Epsom Huntly, then steadied in the second half to record a strong win.

The Rebels are one of only two sides – with Calder Cannons – that have two AFL Women’s Academy members, and this week Nyakoat Dojiok has been named beside Ella Friend in the half-forward line. With Dandenong’s abundance of strong defenders, it provides the Rebels midfield with another target to use, and Dojiok is more than capable of taking on opponents at ground level. Mackenzie Eardley will have a huge job on the contested-making Friend, while Tahlia Meier works hard both ways and will need to hit the scoreboard whilst being aware her opponent Brooke Smith can do damage the other way. Zoe Hill, Jemma Radford and Jaide Anthony are all capable of intercepting in the back 50, so the Rebels will need to be good with their ball use.

In midfield, Amber Clarke has been thrown there alongside last week’s Draft Central Player of the Week Emily Shepherd, and top-age talent Abbey Jordan. The trio of Paige Scott, Lilli Condon and Crystal Summers worked well for the Rebels in Round 3, and they will lock horns in a fantastic battle of inside midfields. Chloe Leonard is the key for the Rebels off half-back, though Molly Walton has also made a splash for the Rebels in her debut season, and they will have to rebound the Stingrays’ attacks, with Ashleigh Richards one to watch inside 50 who could do some damage.

This is a 50-50 game and both these teams have such a well-balanced list. The Stingrays might be able to get the job done due to their intercepting firepower, but the Rebels have plenty of attacking options. Expect it to be a tough, low-scoring game.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Geelong Falcons

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 one of the sides to have only played the two games to-date, splitting their results with a win and a loss, Geelong Falcons.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: defeated Gippsland Power by 33 points
R2: lost to Northern Knights by 25 points
R3: Bye

Much like Eastern Ranges in our most recent team review, Geelong Falcons have only played the two games for one win and one loss. There are plenty of positives to take out of the 2020 season so far and a number of impressive players for the 2018 premiers who had a middle and bottom-age heavy list.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Laura Gardiner (34.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 11.5 tackles, 5.0 inside 50s, 3.0 rebounds, 1 goal)

Far and away the dominant ball winner in the NAB League Girls competition, Gardiner racked up more than 30 disposals twice and averaged 34.5 per game from her two matches. She was strong on the inside with a league-leading 11.5 tackles per game as well, along with five inside 50s and three rebounds in really impressive start to the season. It would have been great to see how far she could have gone this season with a full few months of action.

Darcy Moloney (26.5 disposals, 1.0 marks, 3.5 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 1.0 rebounds)

Forming a damaging duo with Gardiner in the midfield, Moloney had her own impressive numbers to start the year, working hard on the outside for an average of 26.5 disposals per game. She also laid almost four tackles and managed to win the ball in all thirds of the ground. Predominantly she used her clean hands to open up space with teammates, or take the game on and force an opposition player to approach her in order to release a teammate going forward.

Poppy Schaap (18.0 disposals, 2.0 marks, 3.5 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 1 goal)

The tenacious small just never gives in and puts out a four quarter performance. Whether or not it’s in-and-under through midfield or locking the ball inside forward 50, her teammates can rely on Schaap to give it her all throughout the match. She averaged 18 touches in her own right and provides that experience to a young list alongside her Vic Country capped teammates. Loves the contest and just a huge work rate.

Annie Lee (12.5 disposals, 4.0 marks, 1.5 tackles, 4.5 rebounds)

Speaking of younger prospects, Lee still has another year to perform in the competition and was already showing promising signs of improvement after three games last season. She had a ripping game in the Round 2 loss to Northern Knights, and has averaged 4.5 rebounds from 12.5 disposals – predominantly kicks – playing a key role in Geelong’s defence this season.

Carly Remmos (15.0 disposals, 1.5 marks, 5.0 tackles, 1.5 inside 50s, 1 goal)

It is a frustrating time for most, but certainly for the top-ager who came into the program with an elite basketball background. Remmos did not look out of place in a midfield with a lot more experience around her, and she finished the two games averaging 15 touches and five tackles a game. Remmos even got to celebrate a goal prior to the season being cancelled, and no doubt her talent across both sports will see her continue to improve regardless of where she ends up playing.

Others who have stood out: Mia Van Dyke, Keeley Hardingham, Ashleigh Van Loon, Elizabeth Dowling

The Falcons always have good depth and 2020 is no exception with a lot of young stars coming through the group. Hardingham held up well in the ruck, averaging 13 touches, 10 hitouts and five tackles, while Van Dyke is a highly rated prospect who excelled in the V/Line Cup and remarkably only turned 15 on the third-last day of 2019. Throw in Dowling who is a strong mark leading out of the forward 50 and can rotate through midfield, and Van Loon who along with Dowling combined for 14.5 tackles, while running hard between the arcs.