Tag: kiara bowers

Verrier set for a Thunderous September

FOOTBALL has always been a constant for Peel Thunder youngster Sarah Verrier. Unlike many other potential AFLW draftees who were introduced to footy later in life, Verrier has been involved in the sport for as long as she can remember.

“I’ve been playing football since I was in Auskick,” Verrier said. “I was about five years old and have been through it all with my family, so that’s how it started off and I just kept going.”

Sporting ability runs deep in Verrier’s DNA, as her three older siblings have all made their own mark in different fields.

“My eldest brother Steven got drafted to Richmond back in 2012 and played there for a bit as a rookie,” she said. “My sister Haylee is pretty good with boxing and went to the World Championships for that, and my other brother Brendan played football locally for South Freo but was forced to stop due to concussion symptoms – he is now a personal trainer and loves doing that.”

Steven was taken by Richmond at pick 43 of the 2012 Rookie Draft and was at the club until the end of 2013. Going through the AFL experience has made him a great person for Verrier to turn to for advice.

“[Steven] has taught me to love the game,” she said. “If you want to get somewhere, you have to work for it, it’s not just going to come to you.” “He says the AFL experience is hard work, and you just have to do the work.”

Verrier’s parents have also been incredibly supportive of her AFLW dream.

“My dad has been training me and helping develop my footy, and my mum has been taking me to trainings and letting me do what I love doing,” Verrier said. “They have both been a massive support for my career and I appreciate them a lot.”

Verrier initially played the sport to engage with friends, but eventually her enjoyment of the game took over.

“At the start, the friends and social side of footy was what appealed to me, but now I just love the sport and the people around me love the sport as well,” she said.

Like a lot of other girls, Verrier was forced to play mixed competition at a young age to develop her craft. She played for the Kwinana Knights, who did not have a girls team at the time.

“I started with the boys, but had to stop when I was about 11 or 12,” she said. “I went in the girls competition from there with a move to Peel [Thunder]. “Luckily Peel had a girls team at the time!”

Verrier has stayed loyal to Peel through her whole junior career and appreciates what the club has done for her.

“Peel have helped me a lot with how I play my footy and, especially being there since I was 12, I have stuck around and a couple of the girls that I started with are still around as well,” she said. “Everyone still loves it.”

Verrier is a member of the 2020 National Women’s Academy and has previously represented her state at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, an experience that she treasured.

“It was amazing,” she said. “Not a lot of people get to compete on an AFL-sized ground like Metricon, especially girls, so having that experience was great.”

With kicking ability and footy smarts being Verrier’s two biggest on-field strengths, there is an obvious position that she is suited to.

“I’d say half-back is my best position, it’s where I’m playing at the moment,” she said.

Being a Fremantle supporter for AFLW, Kiara Bowers is a major inspiration for Verrier given the physical and mental challenges she went through en route to becoming the elite player that she is today.

“She’s been through a couple of knee reconstructions and was unable to play for a while,” Verrier said. “Her pushing to get that first AFLW game thanks to her commitment through those years is why I’d say she’s my biggest inspiration.”

When asked what the future holds for Verrier and her footy, there was only one possible answer.

“AFLW is where I want to get to,” she said. “I’ve been dreaming since I was five years old and hopefully soon I’ll get there.”

At this stage, Fremantle and West Coast appear to be her options.

“I’m happy to stay in Perth and stick fat with my family, maybe later on I can start thinking about moving and that kind of stuff, but for now I would be happy to stay here,” she said.

For the next month, Verrier’s AFLW dream is on the backburner as she is focused on trying to win a premiership at Peel. Her side went into the final round fifth on the ladder, but a tight nine-point win over Claremont propelled them to second spot. This will be their first finals series in the WAFL women’s competition.

“In the last year we’ve come from the bottom of the ladder and now we’ve finished second, so we’ve been happy with the improvement and it’s been fun, just playing footy and being able to win some games,” she said. “All the girls are loving it and hopefully we can keep it going and get to the grand final.”

Peel faces minor premiers Subiaco for a chance to play in the decider. The Lions got the better of Peel three weeks ago by just over a goal, but Verrier has faith that her side can get the job done.

“We only just lost to them, so we are pretty confident going into this week’s game on Sunday afternoon.”

Verrier was among those named to test in the AFL Draft Combine, which will be held on September 30 in Western Australia.

For more AFLW news, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

Lewis crosses country and rekindles love for Aussie rules

“I DECIDED I wasn’t really cut out for it or didn’t really like it too much.”

It is hard to believe that this is was what 10-year-old Bella Lewis thought when she played a one-off game with the boys back in Sydney. Fast forward eight years and the Western Australia State Academy and National Women’s Academy talent could not have a more different opinion. The Claremont midfielder is one of her state’s brightest AFL Women’s Draft prospects, and she credits that to her move to the western seaboard in her early teenage years.

It was definitely a change,” Lewis said. “I think it was at a point in my life going from primary school to high school was a big change in friends groups and pressure like that so it was definitely a big change. “I think it was definitely for the better, I don’t think I’d probably be playing footy if I hadn’t moved.”

It was not just the access to playing the game, but also the feeling amongst her peers. Lewis admitted she went from an area where very few talked about let along played Australian rules, to a school that cannot get enough of the oblong ball game.

I think nowadays with footy every time you go to school, someone’s talking about the game,” Lewis said. “Whereas in Sydney it was more, it wasn’t really talked about thing. “I guess even five or six years ago, female footy there wasn’t an AFLW, there wasn’t a competition. “Definitely now in WA and the difference in Sydney is definitely a big difference.”

While Lewis had the access to play Australian rules football again, it was not until the last couple of years that the tough speedster was looking anything beyond playing with her friends and enjoying the social aspect of the game.

“When I was playing 15s and I was playing 16s, footy was obviously a big part of my life but it wasn’t a main thing that I would obviously think about,” Lewis said. “It was definitely when I made 18s and National Academy, it was kind of becoming more of a real thing. “I thought ‘oh okay, maybe I can make something of this’. “It was for me all the way through just about playing the best footy that I can play and still enjoying it as well.”

Her determination to push herself to her limits and try and get to the elite levels of competition was helped along by seeing West Australian teammates step up to the next level after playing alongside them at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships.

I think it’s definitely surreal seeing a lot of those players,” Lewis said. “Even some of the players who were drafted last year, you know I knew some of those girls like Mikayla Bowen, and players like that. “That you know and play with them and you see them play at that level, and that inspires you and encourages you to play at a higher level, and playing in a state that has such a high standard of footy I think i would rather play, it would make you a better player and gives you better habits and makes you become the best player that you could.”

It was that kind of competition – the championships – that Lewis thrived on, and she certainly did not look overawed, being the only other played with Bowen to pick up at least 11 disposals in each of the three matches. From that week on the Gold Coast, Lewis took plenty of confidence from her performances to take back to West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s League matches.

I took that trip, went into it as this is a learning experience, if I want to keep playing the game and progressing to the higher levels, this is definitely the kind of competition I need to be familiar with,” Lewis said. “It was just very surreal to play on a stadium like that just to get that opportunity. It’s definitely something you never take for granted.

“Going from last year into this year, the one thing in my game that has lifted is definitely my confidence,” Lewis said. “Last year I was going ‘wow these girls are a lot older, they’re bigger, they’re better’. “I think consistency is something that I’d like to have in my game, just always trying to be consistent is something that’s definitely a powerful attribute so I think you go into the games nervous. “Once you’re out there you play that brand of footy and showcase your skills, but going into this year it’s definitely given me a lot more confidence.”

Lewis might only stand at 163cm, but the 17-year-old packs plenty of punch, with her running power, acceleration and pressure among her best attributes – even if as she concedes, it can sometimes work against her.

I love the physicality of the game, I’ll go into any contest,” she said. “Sometimes I probably should be a bit more careful, but tackling is just a good way to let it out on the field as well.”

For someone who loves tackling, it is no surprise to see who her inspiration at AFL Women’s level is, the tackling machine that is Kiara Bowers. Though not just because of her on-field traits.

“I think the one thing in her game as well is just resilience,” Lewis said. “Coming back from multiple injuries and that’s a big thing that I like to have in my game, not so much injuries but going really physical, bouncing straight back up. “That’s just something I see similar there. “She’s always been one that I’ve watched and looked up to.”

For Lewis, she is ironing out her kicking and decision making at full speed. While she can win the ball and burst away with it, she is keen to lower the eyes and pick out teammates down the field, or just make the best possible decisions with ball-in-hand.

I think my strength is my running, I’m able to use more handballs or be a bit less selfish and use handballs and stuff like that, but I really want to start being powerful by foot and I think that if I’m able to do that, I will improve quite a bit and that as well will give me a lot of confidence, being able to kick,” she said.

Her willingness to take the game on was exemplified in Claremont’s heartbreaking one-point loss to East Fremantle. In her first game back since January, Lewis showed some eye-catching bursts at half-forward, and while she was caught on a couple of occasions, admitted she did not mind it, and helped her adjust to the level again.

I don’t think I’ve broken through the barrier of the level of footy I can play yet, but of course that just comes with being a bit rusty, but I think in the first half I was thinking you always take people on, you’ve got to get more comfortable with doing that again,” Lewis said. “Being caught, I didn’t mind being caught because that gave me some realism, okay well what do you need to do better next time? Better decision making. “So in the second half I definitely I was like ‘okay so how do I use that to help my teammates and make the best decisions quickly in the moment and I think that I definitely got better as the game went on.”

She definitely achieved that with a perfectly weighted pass in the third term to the goalsquare for teammate Mhicca Carter to run onto and kick the Tigers’ first goal of the game and give them some life to roar back into the contest. But it was not just her offensive ability on show, but her defensive work as well. In on instant, she was opposed to Collingwood AFL Women’s player Ruby Schleicher, and while Schleicher fended her off and assumed she had done enough, Lewis lunged back, corralling her much bigger opponent and bringing her to ground.

I think definitely going up against someone like Ruby Schleicher, she’s very quality opposition, just trying to corral them instead of going full for the tackle. “Obviously I know her strengths, you’ve just got to understand how you’ll do better in that situation and for me that kind of just giving it my all but making sure I don’t go all in. “She’s got probably the better footy IQ and how to go around someone like me, but just not giving up that second effort I guess.”

From a team perspective, looking ahead to Claremont’s next game up against winless South Fremantle, Lewis said that the team just needed to make better decisions as a whole, and adapt to the conditions quicker in order to avoid the opposition getting off to a fast start.

“I think we’ve improved in our team since last year to do with structures and the way that we want to play,” she said. “I just think that especially with the wet weather conditions, we were a bit thrown off, we couldn’t play perfect footy. “We couldn’t give off too many handballs… I think as the second half was a lot better from us, the third quarter. “We just need to make a better decision in the moment even if that’s just picking the ball off the ground and kicking it to advantage rather than trying to make it look pretty. “I think that if we get that down, we’ll definitely play the way that we want to play and be successful.”

This week Lewis has a different game to approach, with the WA Academy hosting an intraclub match tonight. While some might prepare differently against younger opponents than a regular League match, Lewis said she would approach the game the same way given the quality running around.

With Western Australia’s best draft hopes taking to the field tonight, Lewis knew there were plenty who had the same aspirations as her – to get on an AFL Women’s list – but the Claremont midfielder said she was comfortable remaining in the moment.

I think going as close to the draft that some people would tend to get a little bit stressed out and who’s watching,” Lewis said. “But I think I just try to play the best footy that I can play and that’s being comfortable around my teammates and try and not think about it too much. “I think some ways that I would go from here is probably going to the gym a bit more. “Looking at the competition, a lot of the AFLW girls who are playing in the WAFLW, that really gives you a standard, they’re big-bodied girls and they’re still agile so I definitely think going to the gym a bit more but not really stressing too much. “You’ve got to think about the present which is something that I like to do quite a bit.”

As for her Tigers season ahead, Lewis is confident the team can reach the pointy end of the finals series if they can maintain their best form when it counted.

I think that if we start playing the way we want to play, I think we can potentially go pretty far. Our culture’s really good, our structure’s really good, we’re all really committed,” she said. “I think everyone in the team wants to be there and everyone deserves to be there, so I think if we play the way we want to play and not overthink and try and play good looking footy. “I think we should be a team to beat and that would be good.”

Draft Central’s 2020 Top 50 AFLW Players: #5 – Kiara Bowers

WITH the AFL Women’s 2020 season officially come to a close now the awards are done and dusted, Draft Central looks back on our Top 50 Players of season 2020. This countdown purely looks at the 2020 season so does not look at past performances and will not include injured stars such Erin Phillips or Chelsea Randall.

In this edition, we look at number five in the rankings and someone who can only be described as an absolute tackling machine.

#5 Kiara Bowers

7 GAMES AVE: 17.6 disposals, 2.6 marks, 14.1 tackles, 3.6 inside 50s, 1.1 rebounds, 1 goal

While Ebony Marinoff famously became known as the tackling machine at AFL Women’s level, a contemporary in Bowers – who is actually seven years Marinoff’s senior – has proven to be the undisputed champion in that regard. The sheer fact she not only took her game to another level in 2020, but lifted her remarkable tackle average is credit to the Fremantle star’s determination to get better each and every week.

Bowers was rarely fazed by bigger opposition, averaging a mind-boggling 14.1 tackles per game and falling one tackle short of a century in just seven games. Just when many fans thought 11.1 tackles per game in 2019 was off the chart, Bowers lifted it again. She thrives on the contested ball and is the ultimate team player, but really shone as a better offensive weapon in 2020 despite only kicking the one goal – having more inside 50s and average disposals.

Bowers hardly had a quiet game, and certainly not defensively with her lowest tackle count coming in at 12. Twice, Bowers actually laid more tackles than won disposals which signifies the importance she places on doing all the team things first. While there were multiple games one could argue as her best, Bowers’ ability to stand up in the semi-final against Gold Coast Suns and record 22 disposals, six marks, three inside 50s, two rebounds and 14 tackles in the Dockers’ huge win was memorable for the occasion.

Now a back-to-back All-Australian and already a club best and fairest winner, Bowers’ past two seasons have been up there with the best in the league and it is shown with a top five finish here. She also wrote herself into the record books by winning the inaugural Derby Medal in the Dockers’ win over West Coast early in the season.  Having turned 28 last November, Bowers is far from a veteran and still has a number of seasons left to continue her elite defensive pressure and maybe even catch Marinoff in the tackling stakes.

2020 Top 10 AFLW matches: #3 – Fremantle sneak over the line against the Saints

COMING in at number three in Draft Central’s Top 10 AFLW Women’s clashes is the game between St Kilda and Fremantle. The Dockers had been in ripping form, sitting undefeated at the top of the ladder despite a couple of close scares, while the Saints had plenty to prove in their inaugural season. The Round 4 battle was nothing short of impressive with both sides going blow for blow but in the end, it was Fremantle that snuck over the line with an emphatic one point win 3.6 (24) to 3.5 (23).

In what was a low scoring affair in the opening quarter neither side could seem to buy a goal with a collective three points scored. Despite not being on their home turf the Dockers rallied in the second term to apply some strong scoreboard pressure landing the first blow of the quarter. An early goal to Jasmin Stewart seemed to get the ball rolling, before the Saints answered with a major of their own to get back within level pegging. However, inaccuracy continued to plague both sides and with only two points separating the teams at half time the contest was only just about to heat up.

With a renewed belief and intensity for the ball St Kilda did not muck around in the third quarter, peppering away at the goals and trapping the footy inside their forward 50. Fremantle failed to score in the third term such was St Kilda’s defensive pressure and slick ball movement. But the Dockers were not out of the game yet, keen to keep their unbeaten record intact they upped the ante in the final term nailing two goals none bigger than Kate Flood’s. With the clock ticking down, Flood went back and took one of the biggest shots in her career to draw level with the Saints before Gemma Houghton landed the knockout punch to win by a mere point. It was an action-packed game with the lead ebbing and flowing between both sides.

Although the Saints fell agonisingly short after leading in the third they would take plenty out of the contest, proving they have what it takes to match it with the best. Their young brigade of stars once again had an influence with Georgia Patrikios and Nicola Xenos 11 and 12 touches respectively plying their trade. Rosie Dillon amassed a team-high 18 disposals along with seven tackles while Alison Drennan showcased her strength around the contest with 17 touches. Tilly Lucas-Rodd also racked up 16 touches while Rhiannon Watt displayed her strength with four marks and 14 possessions. Inside the forward 50 Caitlin Greiser, Molly McDonald and Olivia Vesely combined for three goals highlighting their options in front of the big sticks.

For Fremantle, their usual suspects in Kiara Bowers and Ebony Antonio led the way. Bowers was electric across the ground for her 13 touches and whopping 12 tackles, clearly displaying her physical intent while also managing to slot a major to cap off yet another impressive performance. Philipa Seth managed to win the pill 17 times with 15 of her disposals kicks while 24-year-old Hayley Miller was also crucial in the win thanks to her 13 touches. To go with her opening goal, Stewart accumulated 12 touches with Katie-Jayne Grieve also picking up 12 touches. Although Houghton could have had a big day out had she converted her three shots, she still managed to deliver the winning point. Leading goal kicker Sabreena Duffy also had a trying day in front of goal with two behinds.

ST KILDA 0.1 | 1.1 | 2.4 | 3.5 (23)
FREMANTLE 0.2 | 1.3 | 1.3 | 3.6 (24)

GOALS:

St Kilda: C. Greiser, M. McDonald, O. Vesley
Fremantle: J. Stewart, K. Flood, K. Bowers

BESTS:

St Kilda: R. Dillon, A. Drennan, C. Greiser, T. Lucas-Rodd
Fremantle: K. Bowers, P. Seth, E. Antonio, J. Stewart

Prespakis claims best and fairest in second season

CARLTON’S Madison Prespakis has capped off a remarkable 2020 AFL Women’s season by taking out the League Best and Fairest Award at tonight’s W Awards ceremony. While the feeling amongst the room might have been different compared to a packed house at a gala event, Prespakis and the other winners were no less deserving of their awards.

The second-year dynamo has collected just about every award there is to collect, already being a dual best and fairest, dual All-Australian and Rising Star winner. The former Calder Cannons skipper and top five pick has not put a foot wrong in two seasons with the Blues, averaging 20.1 disposals, 2.3 marks, 3.1 tackles and booting 10 goals across 16 games.

Prespakis won the award with 15 votes with Fremantle Dockers star Kiara Bowers just three votes behind. In at third was the Kangaroos’ Emma Kearney on 11 votes while Anne Hatchard and Jenna Bruton managed 10 votes apiece to round out the top five.

The awards did not stop there with former number one pick Isabel Huntington taking out the Rising Star award. Huntington might be the feel-good story of the 2020 W Awards. Having to overcome various injury setbacks including long-term knee injuries, Huntington repaid the faith the Bulldogs showed in her by selecting her with Pick 1 back in the 2017 AFL Women’s Draft. She had only managed the five games prior to 2020, but doubled that amount this year and averaged 13.0 disposals, 4.8 marks, 2.6 tackles and 3.4 rebounds. It was enough for her to earn All-Australian honours this year.

Caitlin Greiser has known since the season’s conclusion that she would receive the Leading goal kicker award, booting 10 goals in her debut season. The former Western Jets talent missed out on being drafted when she played as an overager, but then crossed from Melbourne University to Southern Saints where coach Peta Searle saw enough to offer her a senior list spot. Coming from a soccer background, Greiser did not look overawed on the big stage, with a season-best three majors against Richmond, and the winning goal against Melbourne to spur the Saints onto victory in both those matches.

Announced the night before, the other major achievement bestowed upon 21 of the league’s finest was the All-Australian team. The team featured 11 debutants in Sarah Allen (Adelaide Crows), Libby Birch (Melbourne), Isabelle Huntington (Western Bulldogs), Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood), Olivia Purcell (Geelong Cats), Caitlin Greiser (St Kilda), Kate Hore (Melbourne), Sharni Layton (Collingwood), Kalinda Howarth (Gold Coast SUNS), Alyce Parker (GWS GIANTS) and Ash Riddell (North Melbourne). Along with the debutants, two players maintained their unbeaten streak in the league’s best side with Karen Paxman (captain) and Emma Kearney (vice-captain) handed leadership roles for making a remarkable fourth-straight team.

The full team is below:

2020 Top 10 AFLW matches: #4 – Fremantle hold on to top spot despite swooping Magpies

IN a new countdown, Draft Central recalls the Top 10 AFL Women’s games for season 2020, moving onto our number four which saw a scintillating top two clash between Fremantle and Collingwood that could have seen the season go far different if the Pies had managed the win.

Round 3 saw a top of the Conference B table clash where Fremantle popped Collingwood at the post by just three points on home turf. While the Dockers had the early lead the Pies brought the intensity in the second, booting 2.4 and keeping Fremantle scoreless but failed to convert at a number of crucial moments putting the Magpies ahead at the main change but not by winning margin. Pressure mounted in the final stages of the match with Britt Bonnici gifted two opportunities to take a lead once more but ultimately went astray, seeing Fremantle remain undefeated.

It was a typical see-sawing affair between the two ladder leading sides, with Fremantle owning possession early before the Pies kicked their way back into the match. Despite the inaccuracy at the goal front, the Magpies seemed to have all the momentum looking to the second half, but just like the Dockers they failed to apply the scoreboard pressure, coming undone with just one goal in the third term which kept them close.

Jaimee Lambert was her usual influential self, seemingly having the ball on a string in the early stages and collecting a whopping 21 touches by halftime. She was kept quiet in the second half in comparison, taking her tally to 32 overall among her eight tackles but it was that first half form – and goal – that saw the Pies take the lead. Bri Davey returned to collect 18 disposals and six tackles while Sarah Rowe impressed with 22 possessions. Cross-coders Sharni Layton and Ash Brazil also continued their impressive form, with Layton hitting the scoreboard and Brazil racking up the 17 touches.

It was the consistent team-wide effort that got the job done for the Dockers with a host of players getting them over the line and bouncing back after the frustrating second term. Hayley Miller collected a team-high 13 disposals while Philipa Seth got 12 to her name, showcasing that team effort with no one player standing out on the possession count. Regular performer Kiara Bowers was physical as ever with the 14 tackles while Roxy Roux booted a goal and collected four tackles in a solid effort for the 18-year-old.

FREMANTLE 3.0 | 3.0 | 5.2 | 5.3 (33)
COLLINGWOOD 1.1 | 3.5 | 4.5 | 4.6 (30)

GOALS:

Fremantle: R. Roux, E. Antonio, G. O’Sullivan, K. Flood, A. Sharp.
Collingwood: A. Sheridan, J. Lambert, S. Layton, J. Membrey.

BESTS:

Fremantle: K. Bowers, H. Miller, P. Seth, R. Roux
Collingwood: J. Lambert, S. Rowe, B. Davey, B. Bonnici, A. Brazill

2020 AFL Women’s season review: Fremantle

FREMANTLE entered its fourth AFL Women’s campaign with little fanfare despite a six-win season in 2019, but backed it up with an unblemished 6-0 run to deliver what would have been a second straight preliminary final appearance. Having undergone a heavy list turnover in the wake of West Coast’s introduction to the league, the Dockers proved their resilience and shrewd list management skills to finish as the competition’s first ever undefeated side. With coach Trent Cooper adjudged the AFL Coaches Association Coach of the Year, and four stars named in the All-Australian squad, there is plenty to dissect out of the highs and lows of Fremantle’s season.

RECORD: 1st (B), 6-0 (1-0 finals), 154.7%

RESULTS:

R1: defeated Geelong by 16 points
R2: defeated West Coast by 45 points
R3: defeated Collingwood by 3 points
R4:
defeated St Kilda by 1 points
R5:
defeated Brisbane by 18 points 
R6:
defeated Western Bulldogs by 15 points
SF: defeated Gold Coast by 70 points

While the 6-0 regular season record may make Fremantle’s season seem relatively straightforward, there were plenty of talking points to come from each fixture. Geelong provided a test first-up but could not hang with the Dockers for longer than three quarters, while West Coast supplied even less resistance in the maiden AFLW Western Derby. Fremantle’s second real test spawned a somewhat sketchy mid-season run, with Collingwood only just falling short of the sturdy home side, while St Kilda were unlucky not to come away with at least two points in a thriller at Moorabbin. It meant Brisbane had every chance to get up in Round 5’s clash between undefeated teams, but the Dockers duly returned to their best before another barnburner against the Bulldogs and an emphatic finals win against Gold Coast. For all the impressive form, it would have been interesting to see how the Dockers would have fared against the next-best sides among the final four; North Melbourne, Carlton, and Melbourne.

SEASON HIGH: Stamping authority in battle of the conference leaders

There was much hype surrounding the Round 5 fixture between Fremantle and Brisbane, with either side the only two left in the competition to boast undefeated records as leaders in their respective conferences. In the fortnight leading in, the Dockers let Collingwood and St Kilda within a goal of victory, so a big lift was required. At home, the hosts delivered a game-breaking first term with five goals to two to set up an unassailable lead, coasting home by 18 points to keep their perfect record in tact.

SEASON LOW: Being robbed of the opportunity to achieve more

This may seem like somewhat of a cop-out, but it is genuinely difficult to pinpoint any real lowlights among Fremantle’s season given the positives shown by its playing list, and the ultimately unblemished record. The only thing which takes away from it all is that the season was cut short, leaving an asterisk next to the feat of becoming the league’s first ever undefeated side, and the lingering unknown of whether the Dockers would have gone all the way for premiership success. While they were the undeniable flag favourites and already achieved so much, we cannot say for sure that the Dockers would have won it all – unfair is an understatement.

FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:

Kiara Bowers (17.6 disposals, 2.6 marks, 14.1 tackles, 3.7 clearances, 3.6 inside 50s, 4.9 intercept possessions, 323 metres gained)

Voted by her peers as the competition’s most courageous player, the Fremantle vice-captain enjoyed another stellar year as one of the elite midfielders to earn All-Australian squad status. Bower’s effort in leading the competition for tackles – one shy of 100 in total – and her side for disposals, metres gained, contested possessions, intercept possessions, and inside 50s was remarkable, helping her blossom from an underrated workhorse to an bonafide star.

Ebony Antonio (12.1 disposals, 71% efficiency, 3.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 2.7 inside 50s, 3.4 score involvements, 4 goals)

One of the classiest players in Fremantle’s squad is Antonio, who continued to bring her game-breaking ability to the fore in her fourth AFLW campaign. The foundation Docker was again lively going forward, mixing her time between half-forward and the midfield to good effect across all seven of her side’s games. The 28-year-old hit the scoreboard in four seperate outings, earning All-Australian squad honours in the process.

Sabreena Duffy (8.3 disposals, 1.4 marks, 1.6 tackles, 1 inside 50, 4 score involvements, 12 goals)

In what was a stellar season for the second-year forward, Duffy finished as the competition’s leading goalkicker (12), while also being named in the All-Australian and 22 Under 22 squads – all at just 20 years of age. A live-wire around the big sticks, Duffy may undergo quiet patches, but proved her match-winning ability with three bags of multiple goals across seven games. The most impressive was her 4.4 effort against Brisbane, with all-but two of her 10 disposals registering a score.

Gemma Houghton (11.1 disposals, 3.7 marks, 2.9 tackles, 3.1 inside 50s, 271 metres gained, 4.9 score involvements, 4 goals)

While forwards are sometimes only as good as the service provided from midfield, Houghton shredded the old adage as one the most important players to Fremantle’s structure this year. The 179cm forward target possesses great athleticism, using it to dominate in the air and double back quickly towards goal to match the Docker’s transition style to a t. The 26-year-old may still prove quite raw in her finishing, but has all the makings to continue as a dominant new-age key forward.

Hayley Miller (13.9 disposals, 2.9 marks, 4.1 tackles, 4 clearances, 3.6 inside 50s, 300 metres gained)

The perfect fold for Bowers in the engine room, Miller returned career-best numbers in almost every key stat in her fourth AFLW season as a mainstay through midfield. The 24-year-old has the 171cm frame to suit her inside midfield role, and led Fremantle for clearances and inside 50s to show her ability to keep up with the competition’s best in her vice-captain. With her rate of development on the up, Miller is gaining on the elite group of midfielders.

THE STALWART:

Kara Antonio (11.4 disposals, 76% efficiency, 3.6 marks, 5.1 tackles, 1.7 rebound 50s, 1.9 inside 50s)

If there is anyone across the whole competition who deserves the ultimate team success, it is Fremantle skipper, Antonio. The 28-year-old inaugural Docker worked tirelessly once again on the outside for her side, making the wing her own in each of Fremantle’s seven games. As an experienced head, Antonio provided great class on the ball to lead her side for disposal efficiency (76 per cent), while returning a terrific back-end to the season.

THE BIG IMPROVER:

Katie-Jayne Grieve (10.6 disposals, 1 mark, 7.3 tackles, 4 clearances, 2.3 inside 50s, 257 metres gained, 2 goals)

One of the quiet achievers among Fremantle’s midfield group is Grieve, who returned a much-improved campaign in her third AFLW season. Another strong body in the engine room, Grieve was an equal-leader for her side for clearances, while finishing second for tackles to Bowers across the entire competition. The 23-year-old is another who looked to be coming into her own in 2020, almost doubling her output in every key stat as a great forward driver.

THE YOUNG TALLS:

Roxanne Roux (6.7 disposals, 2.2 marks, 2 tackles, 5 hitouts, 2.5 inside 50s, 5 goals)

There is just something about Roux, who enjoyed an exciting debut AFLW season having previously staked her claim as an outstanding junior. The high-marking, athletic key forward/ruck showed she has all the tropes to be a real star of the future, earning a Rising Star nomination in Round 2 and missing just one game (rested) to eventually be named in the 2020 22 Under 22 squad.

Mim Strom (7 disposals, 1.4 marks, 3 tackles, 1.6 clearances, 1 inside 50, 16.3 hitouts)

Fremantle’s second pick in last year’s draft, Strom quickly became an integral part of the Docker’s line-up, taking up the primary ruck spot in the wake of injuries and hardly missing a beat across all seven games. A consistent performer, the 184cm tall played her role well throughout the season and impressed with her ability to follow up at ground level after her ruck craft was won and done. Will form a formidable partnership with Roux for years to come.

VERDICT:

There is not much to nit-pick from Fremantle’s roaringly successful season, with the Dockers making history in a year unfortunately cut short. With some exciting youngsters, developing prospects standing up, and some hardened leaders through the middle, the Dockers should fare well again after consecutive six-win campaigns. It would have been great to see them compete against the remainder of the final four, but Fremantle’s status as the competition’s benchmark this year cannot be denied.

2020 AFL Women’s season review

UNPRECEDENTED is what the fourth edition of AFL Women’s was in every sense, with the skill level and fanfare growing, but uncharted circumstances cutting the season short – twice. While we may only have been graced with six of the scheduled eight regular season rounds and one exhilarating week of finals, there is plenty to unpack from what was a truly special chapter in the women’s footy story. We bring you all the key stats and winners, the highs and lows of each teams’ season, and the leading candidates for the premiership, MVP and Rising Star awards in our 2020 season recap.

CONFERENCE LADDERS

Conference A

1st – North Melbourne (5-1, 227%)
2nd – GWS GIANTS (4-2, 123%)
3rd – Brisbane (3-2-1, 107%)
4th – Gold Coast SUNS (2-3-1, 101%)
5th – Geelong (2-4, 81%)
6th – Adelaide (2-4, 80%)
7th – Richmond (0-6, 36%)

Conference B

1st – Fremantle (6-0, 155%)
2nd – Carlton (5-1, 152%)
3rd – Melbourne (4-2, 165%)
4th – Collingwood (4-2, 154%)
5th – St Kilda (2-4, 91%)
6th – Western Bulldogs (1-5, 73%)
7th – West Coast (1-5, 32%)

Combined

1st – Fremantle
2nd – North Melbourne
3rd – Carlton
4th – Melbourne
5th – Collingwood
6th – GWS GIANTS
7th – Brisbane
8th – Gold Coast SUNS
9th – St Kilda
10th – Geelong
11th – Adelaide
12th – Western Bulldogs
13th – West Coast
14th – Richmond

FINALS RESULTS

North Melbourne 1.1 | 2.3 | 4.4 | 5.4 (34)
def.
Collingwood 1.0 | 4.1 | 4.1 | 5.2 (32)

GWS GIANTS 0.2 | 1.4 | 3.7 | 3.8 (26)
def. by
Melbourne 0.1 | 1.5 | 1.5 | 4.5 (29)

Fremantle 2.3 | 5.5 | 8.6 | 12.8 (80)
def.
Gold Coast 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 (10)

Carlton 1.0 | 2.2 | 4.6 | 6.8 (44)
def.
Brisbane 1.2 | 1.2 | 2.3 | 2.3 (15)

STATS LEADERS

Disposals:

Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood) 156
Anne Hatchard (Adelaide) 152
Ashleigh Riddell (North Melbourne) 149
Karen Paxman (Melbourne) 149
Madison Prespakis (Carlton) 149

Marks:

Chloe Molloy (Collingwood) 32
Jasmine Garner (North Melbourne) 32
Kate Lutkins (Brisbane) 31
Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide) 31
Kerryn Harrington (Carlton) 31

Tackles:

Kiara Bowers (Fremantle) 99
Katie-Jayne Grieve (Fremantle) 51
Jacqui Yorston (Gold Coast) 48
Ebony Marinoff (Adelaide) 47
Brittany Tully (GWS) 46

Goals:

Sabreena Duffy (Fremantle) 12
Caitlin Greiser (St Kilda) 10
Jesse Wardlaw (Brisbane) 9
Kaitlyn Ashmore (North Melbourne) 9
Kalinda Howarth (Gold Coast) 9

Inside 50s:

Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood) 32
Emma Kearney (North Melbourne) 29
Jasmine Garner (North Melbourne) 29
Ashleigh Riddell (North Melbourne) 27
Hayley Miller & Kiara Bowers (Fremantle) 25

Rebound 50s:

Phoebe Monahan (Richmond) 41
Stacey Livingstone (Collingwood) 29
Lauren Aherns (Gold Coast) 24
Jade Pregelj (Gold Coast) 24
Kate Lutkins (Brisbane) 23

Clearances:

Karen Paxman (Melbourne) 39
Jaimee Lambert (Collingwood) 32
Emma Swanson (West Coast) 30
Ashleigh Riddell (North Melbourne) 30
Olivia Purcell (Geelong) 30
Madison Prespakis (Carlton) 30

Hitouts:

Lauren Bella (Gold Coast) 130
Sharni Layton (Collingwood) 120
Breann Moody (Carlton) 117
Mim Strom (Fremantle) 114
Jessy Keeffe (Brisbane) 114

ROUND-BY-ROUND HIGHLIGHTS

Round 1: Dees take out the premiership fancy

Round 2: SUNS shine for historic opening win

Round 3: First-ever Q-clash delivers a thriller

Round 4: Carlton’s vengeance in grand final rematch

Round 5: Dockers take out Lions to remain undefeated

Round 6: Bulldogs bring it to Freo in instant classic

Semi Finals: Mithen’s maiden goals save Dees from finals hell

TEAM HIGHLIGHTS

Adelaide: The successful return of Erin Phillips

Brisbane: Going nowhere – knocking off the Crows in Round 1

Carlton: Delivering a baptism of fire for Richmond

Collingwood: Nabbing its first-ever win over Carlton after four tries

Fremantle: The barnstorming Round 6 win over the Western Bulldogs

Geelong: Pipping Richmond in a shootout for its opening win

Gold Coast: Picking up its first set of AFLW premiership points at home, Round 2

GWS: Knocking off the reigning premiers away from home

Melbourne: A spirited finals victory against all odds, off the boot of Lily Mithen

North Melbourne: Holding on for its maiden finals victory against the Magpies

Richmond: Marquee recruit Sabrina Frederick boots the club’s first goal

St Kilda: Beating-out the more experienced Melbourne for its maiden AFLW win

West Coast: Kicking its highest total to knock over the Dogs in a thriller

Western Bulldogs: The emergence of their young stars

TEAM LOWLIGHTS

Adelaide: Injuries plaguing a rather lacklustre premiership defence, never got going

Brisbane: Running out of legs – finishing with four-straight losses

Carlton: Losing to the old enemy for the first time in history

Collingwood: The heartbreaking knee injury to Ash Brazill

Fremantle: Being stripped of the chance to go undefeated throughout a whole season

Geelong: Nina Morrison’s second ACL injury in as many seasons

Gold Coast: A dismal finals showing

GWS: Getting pipped at the post on home turf come finals time

Melbourne: Going down to an expansion team in Round 3, and a spate of injuries

North Melbourne: The Round 1 hiccup, could have been disastrous

Richmond: Six losses by over 20 points, take your pick

St Kilda: Throwing away what would have been a huge win over Fremantle

West Coast: Setting the record for the lowest-ever AFLW score (later beaten)

Western Bulldogs: Being beaten by West Coast in a streak of five losses

MVP CANDIDATES

Seldom do midfielders miss out on this kind of award, and the candidates for season 2020 prove no different. With that being the case, midfielders with a difference have garnered the centre of attention in this debate of late – those who can find the goals, have big tackle numbers, penetrate each arc, or dominate the clearances. Each of the six names put forward have extra strings to their bow, making them the standouts for season 2020.

Kiara Bowers – At the heart of Fremantle’s success this year was Bowers, a seasoned ball winner who is as tough as they come. The Dockers midfielder was impactful going both ways; getting her hands on the ball for a club-high 123 disposals (17.6 average), as well as a record-breaking 99 tackles (14.1 average) to show her dominance on the defensive end. Given her impact around the ball and Fremantle’s unbeaten run, it is hard to see her not featuring in the votes for most games.

Jasmine Garner – This was a true breakout year for Garner, who took her game to the next level on the back of an improved running game. Moving further afield into midfield, Garner was able to rip games apart with her knack of finding the ball, combined with shrewd timing in her forward movement to also find the goals. She was second in the league for score involvements (32) and first in marks (32), showing her impact around the ground.

Jaimee Lambert – Has a case for being the best player in the competition right now, and is again a player who just keeps on getting better. Lambert was dominant in every sense of the word, possessing an unmatched ability to find the ball at the contest (league-high 156 disposals, 84 contested), while also providing a source of inspiration going forward with a club-high 29 score involvements and 32 inside 50s. Lambert stood up when it mattered this season, and was near-unstoppable in full flight.

Karen Paxman – Having taken over as Melbourne’s prime ball winner in the absence of Daisy Pearce last year, Paxman continued to stake her claim as the competition’s premier clearance player in this campaign. In proving as much, Paxman collected a league-high 39 clearances, and was equal-third for disposals (149, 21.3 average) as the fuel for the Dee’s engine room. Her prominance in Melbourne’s four wins makes her a strong candidate, without the fanfare of others.

Madison Prespakis – The 2019 Rising Star winner is an out-and-out superstar in just her second season, and continued to build on her already impressive resume. Prespakis continually put her side on her back at the important moments, stamping her status as the Blues’ prime ball winner despite resisting heavy tags most weeks. The nuggety midfielder led her club in a range of key stats, and also found the goals on three occasions.

Others to consider – Alyce Parker, Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard, Emily Bates, Emma Kearney, Ashleigh Riddell

RISING STAR CANDIDATES

Grace Egan – Richmond would be kicking themselves for not matching the Blues’ bid for Egan at last year’s draft, with the physical midfielder going on to have a stellar debut season. Egan instantly became a key part of Carlton’s midfield, winning the ball with ease and going hard at it. Earned her nomination in Round 4 with 18 disposals, six marks and four tackles in Carlton’s big win over Adelaide.

Caitlin Greiser – The ‘G-Train’ lit up Moorabbin in the Saints’ inaugural AFL Women’s campaign, comfortably leading their goalkicking with 10 majors across all six games. After a goalless debut, Greiser found the big sticks in every other outing, and earned her nomination on the back of two goals in St Kilda’s first-ever win – including an absolute boomer from around the 50m arc.

Isabel Huntington – In a surprise to many, Huntington had not yet earned a Rising Star nomination in her three years as a Bulldog, with the former number one pick still eligible for the award given the fact and her age. A reliable figure in the Dogs’ back five, Huntington returned a consistent campaign and earned her nomination in Round 6 with 15 disposals and six marks as the Dogs almost knocked off Fremantle.

THE PREMIERSHIP GOES TO…?

Could’ve – Despite Fremantle being the only undefeated side, Carlton and North Melbourne could have argued a strong case for taking out the premiership, and were due to clash in the preliminary finals. Both holding 5-1 regular season records, the Blues and Roos overcame early-season hiccups to prove themselves as contenders. And let’s not forget Melbourne, who snuck into the second week of finals and could have produced anything after a daring escape against GWS. But given Carlton’s form, adaptability, finals experience, and dominance around the ball, they are this year’s ‘could’ve’.

Should’ve – Fremantle is the obvious candidate here given it was the only undefeated side left and topped the overall ladder. In trumping all-comers, the Dockers proved they were the competition’s benchmark, and were capable of knocking off the best the league had to offer. Case-in-point – beating the Lions in a top-of-the-conferences clash. If there was to be a winner, it should’ve been Fremantle.

Would’ve – Again, it is easy to go with Fremantle as the ‘would’ve’ been winner given its unmatched record, but how the teams would’ve matched up is something we will never know. Fremantle did not play against Melbourne, North Melbourne, or Carlton during the regular season, leaving it as an unknown. North Melbourne’s status as premiership fancy coming into the year would’ve put it in good stead, while Carlton’s defensive counter to Fremantle’s attack would have been interesting to see. Another preliminary final loss to Melbourne could also have been on the cards for the Dockers, too, so it is anyone’s guess as to which team would’ve won. May we find out next year.

 

Fremantle finishes AFL Women’s season undefeated after semi-final win

IT was a mammoth effort from the ladder leaders in Fremantle that led to a phenomenal 70-point win over expansion side, Gold Coast Suns. While the Dockers were undefeated coming into this match and the Suns with only two wins to their name, little could have expected the final margin, with Fremantle far too good at home, winning 12.8 (80) to 1.4 (10). While Gold Coast struggled under Fremantle’s wrath, the home side was clinical and if it had hit more targets inside 50 the result could have been far worse.

A relatively even first quarter saw plenty of intensity with Gold Coast competing well without Fremantle’s crowd to deter the Suns from testing the Dockers early. While Fremantle headed into the second quarter eight points up, it was a solid defensive effort from the Suns that kept them on their toes and forcing hasty kicks on goal. But after the first the Dockers came out all guns blaring, not conceding a major for the rest of the match and denying the Suns any clean penetration of their forward 50, with the side only marking once from 26 inside 50s, a real credit to the defensive pressure and constant tackling effort from the Dockers, combining for 59 tackles compared to Gold Coast’s 33 – lead by Kiara Bowers who racked up 14 to go with her 22 touches. The first saw Sabreena Duffy’s first of three, with the talented goalsneak finding plenty of the footy thanks to her tenacity while her small stature and burst of speed made her hard to stop. Jacqui Yorston and Kate Surman were solid down the field finding plenty of the ball but falling short of options inside 50, with Fremantle’s defensive pressure creating a real buffer downfield.

A four-goal second quarter sparked a significant lead heading into half-time, with near misses giving the Suns some opportunities to get on the board but going scoreless after the second minute mark, with a frustrating miss 15m out from Tiarna Ernst in reward for a brave contest – who later left the field with symptoms of concussion – that could have well and truly changed the game if it had been converted. Gemma Houghton and Kate Flood (two goals apiece) opened their account in the second, joined by young gun Roxy Roux who returned to the side after a brief stint on the sidelines, taking a 27-point lead into the main break and sending an ominous message to the competition with another all-round effort in the forward half producing a dominant performance. Hayley Miller impressed with her tenacity in a great finish to her best season yet, with her consistency clear through the midfield, collecting 20 touches, seven marks and three tackles.

While Fremantle continued to go from strength to strength, the Suns would not give up, with the likes of Jade Pregelj consistent as ever in defence, collecting an equal season-high 16 touches and contributing well to force errant kicks on goal from the Dockers. Lauren Ahrens was equally solid off the half back, managing 17 disposals and three marks in a tough contest. An interesting battle waged between rucks with young gun Mim Strom providing vital footy to her mids, managing 14 hitouts, eight touches and two tackles, while Suns’ Lauren Bella led the hitout count with 17 but did not have the backup required to propel the footy downfield, with Fremantle taking much more advantage of the tap. Gabby O’Sullivan added a second goal to her tally in the third, while a crucial kick on goal late in the third from Jordann Hickey went unrewarded, seeing the margin extend further despite all efforts.

A four-goal final quarter haul from the home side saw Fremantle well and truly shake off any semi-finals worry, with the side enjoying the 70-point victory and plenty of standouts putting the win into practice. Fremantle’s four multiple goalkickers in Duffy (who now finishes ahead of St Kilda’s Caitlin Greiser as leading goalkicker in 2020), O’Sullivan (17 touches), Flood and Houghton allowed veterans the likes of Bowers, Ebony Antonio (20 disposals, eight marks, one goal) and Kara Antonio (19 disposals, seven marks) used their experience to provide plenty of footy up the field. Paige Parker was the sole goalkicker for the Suns on a tough day on the track, while Yorston and Surman both enjoyed impressive stats to finish their respective inaugural seasons, racking up 22 and 20 touches and combining for seven tackles. Dangerous forward Kalinda Howarth was unable to have her usual impact on the scoreboard, with the small forward working up the ground with Jamie Stanton, who also was rendered far less impactful than her typical work rate thanks to Fremantle’s constant pressure.

FREMANTLE 2.3 | 5.5 | 8.6 | 12.8 (80)
GOLD COAST 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 (10)

GOALS:

Fremantle: S. Duffy 3, K. Flood 2, G. O’Sullivan 2, G. Houghton 2, R. Roux, E.Antonio, A. Sharp.
Gold Coast: P. Parker.

ADC BEST:

Fremantle: K. Bowers, E.Antonio, G. O’Sullivan, K. Antonio, H. Miller, S. Duffy
Gold Coast: J. Yorston, J. Pregelj, K. Surman, L. Ahrens,  J. Stanton

Suns to challenge top dog Fremantle in AFL Women’s semi-finals

GOLD Coast Suns will make history on Saturday afternoon, wth their inaugural AFL Women’s finals appearance also marking the first Suns finals berth in league history. The Suns are also the only 2020 expansion side with a finals opportunity but they come up against a tough opponent, taking on undefeated Fremantle in uncharted territory at Fremantle Oval – though having the Dockers faithful watching from home may help steer the ship the Suns’ way.

Fremantle v. Gold Coast Suns
Saturday, 21 March, 4.40pm AEDT
Fremantle Oval

The Suns will hope for a miracle when they take on the Dockers, with the home side boasting both confidence and stellar form this season. Fremantle will hope to iron out any issues early this time around, with potential flashbacks from their semi-final loss to Carlton in 2019 setting in on the eve of the match. The talent the Dockers have at their disposal this season – despite losing players to expansion team West Coast Eagles – will have the side quietly hopeful especially given their season form. Freo will need to ensure they hit the targets up forward and maintain that intensity that has gotten them to this point, with a shared effort around the ground allowing the Dockers to apply forward pressure. Kiara Bowers continues to be the leading tackler in the competition, averaging 14.2 to go with her 16.8 disposals while Gemma Houghton has had some solid moments in a real shared effort across the ground, averaging 4.8 score involvements, 3.8 marks and 7.5 contested possessions. Youngster Mim Strom has impressed in the ruck with an average of 16.7 hitouts while Philipa Seth and Angelique Stannett have proved useful with their timing and ability to find the footy and impede the opposition.

With only two wins and a draw going the Suns’ way this season, the team will need to draw from its experienced players to hold off a hungry Fremantle forward line. Kalinda Howarth has proved she can be a real threat for the Suns, and while she hasn’t kicked goals in every game this season she has been a real playmaker averaging 3.0 score involvements to go with her averaging of 1.5 goals per game – marked up from last round after a remarkable four goal haul. Jamie Stanton continues to be a real target around the ground not only for her teammates but also the opposition, leading majority of the stats for the Suns including disposals (averaging 17.7) and contested possessions (10.2). Jacqui Yorston and Jade Pregelj have been a couple of handy pickups over the offseason, with the pair playing at different ends of the field but both having a real impact on and off the footy, with Yorston hitting 7.5 tackles and Pregelj on 7.3 intercept possessions to go with her 3.7 rebounds. Lauren Bella will hope to continue her solid season form, averaging 18.8 hitouts to be the leading ruck in the competition.