Tag: Libby Birch

2021 VFLW Round 11 wrap: Dogs keep finals hope alive as Cats leave run home late

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Round 11 saw plenty of tight results including a draw between the bottom two sides, and the Western Bulldogs kept their finals hopes alive.

SOUTHERN SAINTS 2.0 | 2.0 | 4.3 | 5.5 (35)
GEELONG CATS 0.2 | 1.10 | 1.10 | 6.10 (46)

GOALS:

Southern Saints: G. De Angelis 2, C. Whitfort, T. Bohanna, A. Jordan
Geelong Cats: R. Cranston 2, O. Barber, A. Johnson, G. Clarke, C. Gunjaca

BESTS:

Southern Saints: M. McDonald, G. De Angelis, A. Hynes, H. Stuart, T. Bohanna, A. Burke
Geelong Cats: T. Smith, S. Van De Heuvel, C. Leonard, B. Beckley, R. Webster, P. Sheppard

Geelong notched up a handy 11-point win over Southern Saints on Saturday to hold onto second spot on the ladder. Despite a slow and inaccurate start to the game Geelong worked their way back into the contest to hit the lead in the second quarter given that they peppered away at the big sticks for majority of the term. But the Saints hit back in the third, revitalised after the half time break to pile on two goals while rendering Geelong scoreless. With the game in the hands of the Southern Saints it was the Cats’ time to shine and that they did piling on five goals in the final quarter. It was the first time in the game that Geelong scored multiple games with the visitors riding a real wave of momentum in the last to steal a come-from-behind win.

Laura Gardiner was a ball magnet picking up 26 disposals for the Cats while partner in crime Rebecca Webster was also impressive amassing 25 touches and a staggering 12 tackles. AFLW gun, Darcy Moloney was strong around the contest finishing with 18 touches as both Sophie Van De Huevel and Tamara Smith struggled to hit the scoreboard with two and three behinds respectively but found plenty of the footy. Richelle Cranston spurred her side on inside 50 with two majors as Georgia Clarke also got busy with a goal of her own to accompany her 11 possessions. Father-daughter youngster Alice Burke was arguably one of the best on-field for the Saints picking up 20 touches as Molly McDonald also inserted herself in the thick of things with 18 disposals. Tara Bohanna, Gabriella De Agelis and Abbey Jordan managed to keep things ticking along nicely on the scoreboard for the Saints with the trio all kicking a major apiece.

CASEY DEMONS 3.5 | 3.5 | 3.7 | 3.7 (25)
CARLTON 0.0 | 3.2 | 3.3 | 8.3 (51)

GOALS:

Casey Demons: C. Sherriff 2, I. Simmons
Carlton: B. Walker 3, M. Guerin, A. Micallef, S. Lawrence, O. Madden, C. Hammans

BESTS:

Casey Demons: C. Sherriff, E. Birch, E. McNamara, S. Johnson, A. Brown, M. Macdonald
Carlton:  M. Guerin, S. Lawrence, J. Borg, B. Walker, N. Plane, L. McEvoy

Carlton flexed their muscles in an impressive display against Casey Demons to run out 26-point victors. The Demons blew Carlton out of the water in the opening term nailing three goals and really could have put them to the sword had they been more accurate. But their inability to convert in front of the big sticks cost them in the end as Carlton fought their way back into the contest. The Blues slotted three goals in the second term however Casey still had the upper hand albeit by two points. But the real damage came in the final term as Carlton found their kicking boots, stacking on five goals to run out victorious.

Lucy McEvoy was a force to be reckoned with for the Blues as she racked up 25 disposals with 17 of them kicks along with seven tackles. Maddy Guerin also had a day out picking up 22 touches and a goal while Natalie Plane also made her presence felt for the navy blue amassing 19 touches. Brooke Walker could not be denied inside 50 for Carlton as she nailed a handy three goals while Charlotte Hammans hit the scoreboard as Amber Micallef slotted her first major. Eliza McNamara was influential across the ground for Casey collecting 20 disposals and five tackles. Teammate Libby Birch was also up to her usual tricks amassing 19 touches as Megan Fitzsimon plied her trade with 17 touches and 11 tackles. Casey Sherriff brought her kicking boots for Casey as she banged home two majors while Isabella Simmons also chimed in with a goal of her own in the loss.

PORT MELBOURNE 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.1 | 1.4 (10)
COLLINGWOOD 0.2 | 2.2 | 5.2 | 8.4 (52)

GOALS:

Port Melbourne: M. Kuys
Collingwood: I. Barnett 4, M. Zander 2, H. Bowey, C. Bunker

BESTS:

Port Melbourne: J. Anthony, C. Dyett, A. Edmonds, K. Jacques, S. Sansonetti, C. Bromage
Collingwood: K. Lee, M. Cann, I. Barnett, H. Bowey, J. Lambert, C. Bunker

Collingwood made light work of Port Melbourne running over the top of their third placed opponents by 42 points. Neither side could buy a goal in the opening quarter as Collingwood could only manage two points while Port Melbourne were rendered scoreless. Things started to heat up a little bit more by the time second quarter came around as the Pies booted two unanswered goals to hold a 14-point lead heading into the main change. Having been held scoreless for the opening half the Borough finally got onto the board albeit with a behind. In the meantime Collingwood continued to motor as they added another three goals to their tally. With the game all but won and done the Magpies put the final nail in the coffin slotting another three goals and while Port Melbourne got their first on the board it was too little, too late.

There was no stopping Imogen Barnett who proved to be a handy option inside 50 for the Pies, snaring four goals from her 11 touches. Hot on her heels was Matilda Zander who was also influential in front of the big sticks nailing two majors while Hannah Bowey also effectively added to the total. It is no surprise that Jaimee Lambert was a force to be reckoned with for Collingwood picking up a game-high 26 disposals as she received support from the likes of Mikala Cann (25 touches) and Maddy Shevlin (17) to keep the Pies ticking along nicely through the midfield. Marla Neal was a tackling machine laying 13 for the match as Amelia Verlado showcased her strong hands to clunk five marks to accompany her 16 touches. Sophie Molan worked gallantly in her sides defeat accumulating 18 possessions as Kodi Jacques also dug deep to rack up 16 touches and six tackles. Melissa Kuys was the lone goalkicker for the Borough and also got her hands dirty thanks to her nine touches.

WILLIAMSTOWN 0.4 | 0.6 | 0.9 | 1.10 (16)
DAREBIN 0.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 | 2.4 (16)

GOALS:

Williamstown: R. Tripodi.
Darebin: T. Mills, S. Simpson.

BEST:

Williamstown: L. Steane, A. Whelan, J. Doyle, E. Straford, L. Suleiman, A. Melnikas
Darebin: S. David, K. Roe, T. Mills, K. Hazlett, J. Dal Pos, A. Lister

Williamstown and Darebin Falcons have played out the first draw of the VFL Women’s season in a low-scoring tight tussle. Only one goal was kicked in the first three quarters as the Seagulls kicked nine consecutive behinds in that period before finally getting a last quarter major. Darebin also kicked their second goal in the final term, with both teams level on 16 points apiece.

Lisa Steane had 30 disposals as a clear standout for the Seagulls, with young gun Sydney Swans Academy member Jess Doyle collecting the 15 touches and laying three tackles. Aimee Whelan (13 disposals, two marks and three tackles) was also named amongst the best, whilst Ruby Tripodi, Erin Todd and Emily Pease also stood out. For Darebin, Jess Dal Pos had a team-high 19 touches and 15 tackles, whilst Annalyse Lister finished with 16 and 13. Samara David clunked four marks and laid nine tackles to go with 15 touches, whilst Sidney Cubasch, Kathleen Roe and Katelyn Hazlett also stood out. Northern Knights debutant Trinity Mills kicked a goal in the match.

ESSENDON 0.1 | 0.1 | 0.3 | 1.4 (10)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.1 | 2.2 | 4.3 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:

Essendon: M. Clifford.
Western Bulldogs: E. Friend 2, A. Scott, I. Grant.

BEST:

Essendon: E. Ashley-Cooper, M. Clifford, A. Morcom, Z. Friswell, A. Barba, E. Yassir
Western Bulldogs: S. Ruedin, A. Tessari, E. Georgostathis, N. Dojiok, A. Gogos , I. Pritchard

The Western Bulldogs kept their finals hopes alive with an 18-point triumph over Essendon at the aptly-named Windy Hill. The conditions were not suited to clean possessions, and it was the Dogs who made the most of it, restricting the Bombers to just three behinds in the first three quarters to lead by 24 points at the final break, then Mia-Rae Clifford booted the final goal of the match to cut the deficit to a straight three goals at full-time.

Simone Ruedin (eight disposals, 21 hitouts) and Amanda Tessari (13 disposals, 24 hitouts) took control in the ruck, whilst young guns Ella Friend kicked two goals and Nyakoat Dojiok was lively in defence, intercepting everything that came her way. Jess Fitzgerald (22 disposals, nine tackles) and Angelica Gogos (22 disposals, 11 tackles) were the busiest ball-winners for the Dogs. For Essendon, midfielder Georgia Nanscawen stood up with 20 touches and four tackles, while Eloise Ashley-Cooper (16 disposals, three marks and seven tackles and Clifford (12 disposals, three tackles, one goal) also impressed. The young combination of Zali Friswell and Emelia Yassir were also named amongst the best in the loss.

HAWTHORN 2.0 | 4.0 | 4.0 | 4.2 (26)
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.1 | 2.3 | 4.7 | 4.10 (34)

GOALS:

Hawthorn: P. McWilliams 2, J. Williams, E. Chaston.
North Melbourne: B. Slaney, A. Hamilton, A. Smith, L. Wright.

BEST:

Hawthorn: G. McRae, K. Cox, T. Luke, C. Perera, E. Chaston, M. Hutchins
North Melbourne: A. Hamilton, R. Hicks, S. Skinner, M. Kiely, D. Bannister, M. Eastman

North Melbourne has knocked off Hawthorn at Box Hill after kicking the only two goals in the second half. The Kangaroos kicked away with 14 scoring shots to six, as Phoebe McWilliams slotted two goals for the Hawks, but the shared load at the Roos got them home. Hawthorn looked to be on top at half-time, but North Melbourne refused to give in and eventually took home the points on the road.

Meagan Kiely had 25 disposals, five marks and six tackles in another big effort, sharing the load with Molly Eastman (22 disposals, four marks and six tackles) and Sarah Skinner (19 disposals, six marks and three tackles) for the Roos. Daria Bannister (18 disposals, nine tackles) and Alexia Hamilton (16 disposals, four marks, five tackles and 14 hitouts) were others who found plenty of the ball with Reni Hicks (15 disposals, eight tackles) also named amongst the best.

Tamara Luke racked up 43 hitouts from 18 touches, seven marks and two tackles, whilst AFLW Draft hopeful Grace McRae with six disposals and seven tackles was named the Hawks’ best. Jenna Richardson (15 disposals, six marks), Meg Hutchins (12 disposals, two marks) and Eloise Chaston (six touches, four marks and one goal) were also strong in the match, Ex-Roo Katelyn Cox stood out against her former side, with Chantella Perera returning to the brown and gold from out west and was named amongst the best.

2021 VFLW Round 11 preview: Teams stack up for final month of action

THERE are plenty of NAB League Girls debutants and AFL Women’s players who will run out for the respective teams this round of VFL Women’s (VFLW), in what could make or break some teams’ finals campaigns.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. GEELONG
Saturday, May 15 @ 10:00am
Trevor Barker Oval

Opening up the round is a genuine finals-defining clash in the sense that if the Southern Saints can get up at home, they should be home and hosed for the last finals spot. It will not be easy against a red-hot Geelong outfit that has loaded up on talent and looks to be the strongest lineup thus far which will be hard to beat. Focusing on youth and the return of NAB League Girls, Abbey Jordan comes in for her VFLW debut with the Saints, joining Sandringham’s Natasha Morris, whilst Tyanna Smith also makes her VFLW debut after an outstanding debut season at AFLW level. The VFLW talent at the Saints is quite strong, with Tara Bohanna and Hannah Stuart among the consistent performers this year supporting natural ball-winners Molly McDonald and Alice Burke who have shown their class above. The Cats midfield boasts Laura Gardiner, Darcy Moloney and Rebecca Webster with the possibility of Sophie Van De Heuvel rolling through and Olivia Barber rucking is the future of the AFLW side. The depth of the Cats looks to be just too strong, with Tamara Smith, Paige Sheppard and Richelle Cranston forming a dangerous half-forward line with elite level pressure. Expect the Cats to get the job done much to the relief of the chasing pack of VFLW sides just outside the finals places.

CASEY DEMONS vs. CARLTON
Saturday, May 15 @ 10:30am
Casey Fields

There are a couple of NAB League Girls players representing Casey Demons and Carlton in their battle at Casey Fields from 10:30am. Gippsland Power ruck Grace Matser comes back for her second game after a solid debut last weekend, whilst Northern Knights inside ball-winner Maeve Chaplin will get her first run around with the Blues. After carrying the drinks last match, Lucy McEvoy gets her chance at VFLW level, while Maddy Guerin, Natalie Plane and Charlotte Hammans will be looking to continue their great form stepping down to state league level. The Demons are just loaded across the field though, not mucking around with the likes of Eden Zanker, Casey Sherriff, Libby Birch and Jacqueline Parry in there, whilst Eliza McNamara makes her VFLW debut after a strong first season at AFLW level. The Demons have had one of the more stacked lineups the past few weeks, and with competition leading goalkicker Imogen Milford up forward, it is hard to see them not chalk up another win with the form they are in, even missing competition top ball-winner Eliza West.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, May 15 @ 10:45am
ETU Stadium

Barring a collapse in the final three rounds, a win here would lock up top spot for the Magpies, coming up against a Port Melbourne side that has now dropped two of its past three games. Only Geelong could catch the Magpies in the final few weeks and even then would need the Magpies to drop all the games – or lose severe percentage – to be a chance to grab top spot. Port Melbourne is always a chance to get up though, having a couple of Dandenong Stingrays in Jaide Anthony and Ash Richards running round whilst having plenty of Richmond AFLW players in the side. Whilst Emily Harley will not be in the side this week, the Borough have Cleo Saxon-Jones and Gabrielle Seymour at opposite ends, with Kodi Jacques returning for her first VFLW game, and Sophie Locke still in contention for the the leading goalkicker. The midfield combination of Katherine Smith, Sophie Molan and Mel Kuys will be difficult to beat, but the inclusion of Magpies AFLW star Jaimee Lambert will have the opposition on notice. Teaming up with Mikala Cann, Maddie Shevlin, Abbi Moloney and Sophie Casey as regular AFLW talents, the Magpies have some good spread across the ground, while Imogen Barnett, Matilda Zander and Marla Neal are all in good form, and Jasmine Ferguson has been a rock at the back. It should be a great game, with the Magpies ticking over the wins, but the Borough having plenty of experience in this match.

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. DAREBIN
Saturday, May 15 @ 11:00am
Downer Oval

A bottom two clash at Downer Oval will give Williamstown the opportunity to confirm the Seagulls will avoid the wooden spoon, and effectively lock Darebin into that position with the result. The Seagulls have created that good link with the GWS GIANTS over the past couple of weeks, and bolster the side through some up and coming AFLW talents in Tarni Evans, Georgia Garnett and Emily Pease, whilst Tasmanian Priscilla Odwogo runs out in the blue and gold once again. Perhaps the biggest name from an AFLW Draft perspective in this game is Sydney Swans Academy member Jess Doyle, who has been named on the interchange for the Seagulls to make her debut at the level. There is also a debut on the Falcons side, with Northern Knights key forward Trinity Mills named on the bench. With Jess Dal Pos as the prime mover onball, and the defensive combination of Victoria Blackwood and Gena Lawson-Tavan in the back 50, the Falcons have some composure moving the ball down the ground. The ruck battle between Sidney Cubasch (Darebin) and Elizabeth McGrath (Williamstown) is another one to watch, with Stephanie Simpson and Alyssa Mifsud both capable of kicking multiple goals on their day.

ESSENDON vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, May 15 @ 11:00am
Windy Hill

The latest match on the Saturday is an early 11am fixture at Windy Hill, where the Bombers who are looking to push further up the table and just solidify that finals spot, take on a desperate Western Bulldogs outfit that has to win to stay in finals contention. If you want the best chance at seeing multiple AFLW Draft prospects this weekend, then this is the game to watch. Essendon have brought back Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell, with talented top-age draft-eligible players Neve Crowley and Emelia Yassir also making their debuts. Crowley has been named in the back six with Lennox, though could play at either end, whilst Yassir will come off the bench and likely impact midfield or forward. Friswell is in a forward pocket. For the Western Bulldogs, a trio of Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels will make their debuts, with Ella Friend, Nyakoat Dojiok and Tahlia Meier all named in the Dogs’ squad. With AFLW talent in Sarah Hartwig, Jess Fitzgerald, Britney Gutknecht and Isabella Grant among plenty of others, the Bulldogs are also not mucking around with their lineup and arguably should be favourites in this game on paper alone. The key is to try and quell the strong Bombers’ midfield which includes Georgia Nanscawen, Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper who are always finding the ball, and then Mia-Rae Clifford up forward, and Courtney Ugle creating across the ground.

HAWTHORN vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Sunday, May 16 @ 3:30pm
Box Hill City Oval

In a standalone fixture on Sunday, Hawthorn will look to keep alive its slim chance of making finals with a win over North Melbourne. The Hawks have a superior percentage and have some good young talent coming into the side, with Keeley Sherar, Bridget Deed, Eloise Chaston and Matilda Hardy forming a strong Eastern Ranges contingent, and Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae returns for another week after a big Round 10 effort last week. The Kangaroos are also handing out some impressive debuts to young players they might consider for their AFLW list, with a Tasmanian trio of Ella Maurer, Jemma Blair and Amy Bissett – who are all capped at national level with the Allies at the AFLW U19 Championships – set to run out in the blue and white stripes. With Jayde Hamilton another teenager who played alongside them for the Allies also remaining in the side, and then the form of Sarah Skinner and Meagan Kiely among others, the Roos are going to make a good fist of it. The Hawks just have too much depth across the field, and with Phoebe McWilliams and Kristy Stratton up forward, Meg Hutchins down back and Georgia Bevan and Alison Drennan roving to Tamara Luke through midfield, the brown and gold deserve to be favourites here and take home the win.

2021 VFLW Round 10 preview: Pride on the line in more ways than one for huge round of action

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Pride Round kicks off in a Super Saturday stretching from the mid-morning to a game under lights, with plenty on the line and a number of virtual elimination finals or finals tuneups.

HAWTHORN vs. DAREBIN
Saturday, May 8 @ 10:00am
Box Hill City Oval

Opening the round is a must-win clash for Hawthorn hosting the last placed Darebin Falcons. If the Hawks get up, they are still a chance for finals, but a loss will all but put a line through their chances. For the Falcons, finals is a bit beyond them, but they will be hoping to double their wins tally with a victory here, and finish strongly in the last five rounds. Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae made her debut in the brown and gold last week, and another young talent will join her this week with Ashanti Bush cracking through to team up with fellow Darwin Buffettes prospect Dominique Carbone. The AFL Women’s Academy member will start on the bench, whilst Calder Cannons’ Peppa Poultney is back in the team after her side was eliminated from the NAB League Girls competition, and ex-Pioneer Katelyn Hazlett back for her second game after a strong debut. Given the AFL Women’s experience that keeps building at the Hawks, the latest is Geelong Cats’ Phoebe McWilliams who teams up with fellow experienced tall Meg Hutchins in attack. The Hawks have plenty of present and former AFLW talents, so expect they will be too strong in this one.

WESTERN BULLDOGS vs. CARLTON
Saturday, May 8 @ 12:00pm
Whitten Oval

A virtual elimination final takes place at midday on Saturday, with the loser of Western Bulldogs and Carlton effectively putting a line through their finals hopes. For the winner, they live to fight another day, which means there is plenty on the line for the teams. The Western Bulldogs have brought back Jess Fitzgerald to the team, with Kirsten McLeod and Naomi Ferres coming in for their first games of the season. Brisbane Lions’ Beth Pinchin is an interesting inclusion for the Dogs at centre half-back, while Western Jets’ Caitlin Sargent, Nikita Wright and Stephanie Asciak all remain in the side. For the Blues, they have kept fairly consistent wiht their lineups, getting games into Charlotte Hammans, Maddy Guerin and Serena Gibbs. Abbie McKay, Grace Egan and Daisy Walker all return for their second games back at the level, and Natalie Plane for her first, in what is a tough game on the road. The Dogs have that bit more class about them, but it will be whether or not they can win the midfield in what looks like a star-studded group on both sides.

GEELONG vs. ESSENDON
Saturday, May 8 @ 1:00pm
Deakin University Waurn Ponds

Two teams headed for finals will clash in a blockbuster VFLW match at Deakin University. Geelong have been strong down there, and with Stephanie Williams, Sophie Van De Heuvel, Rebecca Webster and Richelle Cranston all in the side, there is enough AFLW talent to lead by experience. Carly Remmos remains but Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner are out of the side after suffering repeated leather poisoning each week. They take on an Essendon side that is building very nicely, bringing in Bendigo Pioneers’ Jemma Finning for her debut this week, switching in for another Pioneer in Elizabeth Snell. The Calder Cannons talents feature all through the emergencies with talls Kasey Lennox and Neve Crowley likely to come in the following week, while Mia-Rae Clifford and Georgia Nanscawen represent AFL Women’s experience. The defence is solid for the Bombers, as Eloise Gardner and Courtney Ugle will provide some run and carry, while Ruby Svarc is a natural ball-winner and will provide good defensive pressure inside 50. At home Geelong has the upper hand, though the Bombers are a chance in this one.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, May 8 @ 2:00pm
Arden Street

In the traditional timeslot on Saturday afternoon, North Melbourne host Collingwood in a must-win clash for the Roos. The Magpies are cruising along nicely at 9-0 and unless the wheels completely fall off, a top two spot – and likely minor premiership beckons. The Magpies have brought in Mikala Cann for her first VFLW game of the season, giving the Pies mostly an AFLW spine including Sophie Alexander, Abbi Moloney and Maddie Shevlin, whilst Jasmine Ferguson has been one of the most reliable defenders in the competition. Add in the dangerous Matilda Zander up forward and the ball-winning Marla Neal in midfield, and the Magpies have plenty of top VFLW talents as well. For North Melbourne, they remain determined to keep a fairly consistent VFLW lineup, with Alexia Hamilton and Reni Hicks a couple of former AFLW players while Sarah Skinner and Meagan Kiely join them in the midfield as in-form talents. Camilla Taylor returns to the level after Tasmania Devils’ exit from the NAB League Girls competition, while Molly Eastman is another Roo in great form. They have had a real mixed bag this season, but are not without a chance the Roos, though the Pies are deservedly favourites for this clash.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Saturday, May 8 @ 2:00pm
ETU Stadium

Southern Saints can go a long way towards securing a finals spot with an upset win over top two side, Port Melbourne at ETU Stadium on Saturday. The Saints hold the precious sixth spot, and still will after this round given their far superior percentage to the chasing pack, but cannot afford to drop too many or the lower teams will pounce. Dandenong Stingrays co-captain Ash Richards and versatile runner Jaide Anthony both make their debuts at VFLW level, but unlike many of their teammates, they will be running out for the opposition side Port Melbourne. They are joined in the side by Maddy Brancatisano who returns to the level for the first time this season, with a host of current and past AFLW talent, including Katherine Smith, Sophie Molan and Emily Harley who stood up last week with four goals. Zoe Hill has been named as an emergency for the Saints, with Jemma Radford retaining her spot in the back pocket for some Dandenong Stingrays flavour, and the AFLW talent led by Alice Burke, Tahlia Meyer and Renee Saulitis. Port Melbourne have more depth in the side and should win, with the Saints needing to make the most of their chances if they are to get up.

WILIAMSTOWN vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, May 8 @ 7:00pm
Downer Oval

Playing a special Saturday night game under lights for the Pride Round under lights at Downer Oval, Williamstown will be hoping to cause a boilover agains a strong Casey Demons side that is gearing up for finals. The Seagulls need to win the remainder of their games to qualify for finals just about, and have been able to welcome Gold Coast Suns’ Bess Keaney to the lineup. She will lineup in the back pocket, with Georgia Garnett also coming into the defence for her debut in the VFLW following the announcement that Williamstown had formed a link with the GWS GIANTS. Lisa Steane has also been named in the side, with Ella Baxter, Aimee Whelan and Ruby Tripodi among the in-form players. Casey Demons have a damaging forward line with Maddison Gay, Alyssa Bannan and Imogen Milford one of the strong forward trios going around. Libby Birch in defence, Eden Zanker and Megan Fitzsimon in midfield, and the newest debutant Grace Matser – a Gippsland Power ruck – will all provide plenty of talent and depth around the ground.

2021 VFLW Round 9 wrap: Contenders solidify the top six

EACH of the current top six Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s sides earned wins in Round 9, as the ladder positions grow increasingly rigid. Among the victors, Essendon, Geelong, and Collingwood all flexed their muscle to come away over 50 points to the good, hitting top form with finals time now just over a month away. We take you through the results from all six fixtures, five of which were played on a super Saturday.

>> ONE-STOP SITE: VFLW page 

ESSENDON 2.4 | 6.9 | 6.11 | 10.12 (72)
CARLTON 1.0 | 2.0 | 2.1 | 3.1 (19)

Essendon solidified its standing in the top six with a thumping win over traditional rival, Carlton on Saturday morning, coming away 53-point victors at Windy Hill. A six-goal to two first half meant the Bombers were well on top and while the Blues managed to bring it back to an arm-wrestle in term three, they had few answers for Essendon’s forward firepower and depth across the field.

Skipper Georgia Nanscawen continued her spectacular season with 24 touches and nine tackles to earn full votes for the Bombers, while Federica Frew led a brigade of eight individual goalkickers with three majors. Also among the goalkickers, Brisbane-listed gun Ruby Svarc returned in the red and black with aplomb, as Mia-Rae Clifford looked lively for her 1.3 from 12 touches.

On a tough day for the Blues, senior-listed midfield pair proved a class above the rest in midfield. Abbie McKay notched a game-high 26 disposals and 10 tackles in her first VFLW hitout for the year, supported well by Grace Egan who added 19 touches and a goal. Courtney Jones was another of Carlton’s three goalkickers, staying busy despite her side’s low score.

GOALS:

Essendon: F. Frew 3, M. Clifford, K. Heil, R. Svarc, J. Davies, L. Stepnell, T. Crook, N. MacDonald
Carlton: G. Egan, S. Lawrence, C. Jones

BEST:

Essendon: G. Nanscawen, E. Hosking, F. Frew, R. Svarc, J. Davies, S. Nalder
Carlton: A. McKay, C. Jones, P. Trudgeon, C. Hammans, E. Honybun, G. Egan

DAREBIN FALCONS 2.2 | 4.2 | 5.3 | 5.4 (34)
PORT MELBOURNE 2.5 | 3.6 | 6.8 | 8.10 (58)

Port Melbourne bounced back onto the winners list on Saturday morning, but was made to earn it against a plucky Darebin Falcons outfit at Bill Lawry Oval. After the Falcons made better of their chances to draw level at half time, the Borough managed to edge ahead at the last break before kicking away in term four to secure the 24-point away victory. The result keeps Port firmly in second spot.

Richmond-listed youngster Sophie Molan earned full votes for the Borough with an equal-game high 20 disposals, matched by Courteney Bromage. Recently delisted Tigers forward Emily Harley served a reminder of her potential with four goals, as Katherine Smith slotted seamlessly into the Borough side with 17 touches and five tackles.

For the Falcons, Victoria Blackwood was the third player on the day to notch 20 disposals, supported well by those with AFLW experience in Jess Dal Pos and Nicole Callinan, who each managed 18 touches. Alice Caddy was Darebin’s sole multiple goalkicker, booting three to make up over half of her side’s overall score.

GOALS:

Darebin: A. Caddy 3, A. Reibelt, J. Dal Pos
Port Melbourne: E. Harley 4, S. Locke, L. McClelland, N. Borg, S. Molan

BEST:

Darebin: V. Blackwood, K. Hazlett, J. Dal Pos, N. Callinan, A. Lister, A. Caddy
Port Melbourne: S. Molan, E. Harley, C. Bromage, C. Dyett, S. Frederick, M. Kuys

GEELONG 4.1 | 9.5 | 11.5 | 15.9 (99)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.1 | 0.1 | 1.1 | 2.2 (14)

Geelong fell just short of registering a ton in its comprehensive win over the Western Bulldogs on Saturday, extending the Cats’ win streak to five while ending the Dogs’ two-game run. Having shot out of the blocks with nine goals to nil in a first half romp at Deakin University, the Cats never looked back and rode out the match comfortable 75-point victors.

Four of the Cats’ eight individual goalkickers snared multiples, with Georgia Clarke and Richelle Cranston doing the most damage in a riotous outing. Single goalkicker Annabel Johnson was named Geelong’s best, as Laura Gardiner accumulated a game-high 27 disposals, and Madeline Keryk and Amy McDonald both had 23.

Debutant Caitlin Sargent was among the Bulldogs’ two goalkickers, as the likes of Angelica Gogos and Danielle Marshall (both 22 disposals) led the charge. Youngsters Isabelle Pritchard (17 disposals, eight tackles) and Sarah Hartwig (13 and 12) both got their hands dirty in the loss, with the latter playing just her second VFLW game after an outstanding first senior season.

GOALS:

Geelong: G. Clarke 4, R. Cranston 3, S. Williams 2, T. Smith 2, J. Woollett, D. Moloney, A. Johnson, P. Sheppard
Bulldogs: N. Morris-Dalton, C. Sargent

BEST:

Geelong: A. Johnson, M. Keryk, C. Gunjaca, G. Clarke, A. McDonald, T. Smith
Bulldogs: A. Gogos, D. Marshall, S. Ruedin, S. Hartwig, I. Pritchard, G. Lagioia

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.1 | 2.1 | 2.1 | 4.2 (26)
CASEY DEMONS 3.3 | 7.4 | 10.6 | 10.8 (68)

Casey’s spot in the top six is looking more secure after a 42-point victory over North Melbourne at Arden Street Oval on Saturday afternoon. The Demons boasted a handy half time buffer and continued to apply scoreboard pressure thereafter, with the game all but over at three quarter time as they led by 53 points. North added a couple of consolation goals in term four, but were soundly beaten.

A three-pronged Demon attack of Alyssa Bannan, Imogen Milford, and Gabby Colvin produced six majors as the trio snared two apiece in a show of great firepower. Meanwhile, Eliza West led all comers with 26 disposals and also found the big sticks, as senior-listed players like Libby Birch continue to filter into the state league and make an impact.

Meg Sinclair proved North’s greatest form of response as she booted three of the Roos’ four goals in just her third game for 2021. Reni Hicks dug in to finish with 14 disposals and 10 tackles, while Meagan Kiely managed a team-high 25 touches. Currently a game outside the top six and with stiff competition behind, the Roos will have to dig deep to qualify for finals this season.

GOALS:

North: M. Sinclair 3, B. Lynch
Casey: G. Colvin 2, I. Milford 2, A. Bannan 2, M. Gay, E. West, K. Thompson, M. Harasimiuk

BEST:

North: R. Hicks, M. Sinclair, B. Lynch, S. Wright, A. Runnalls, A. Smith
Casey: E. West, L. Birch, C. Sherriff, A. Kirkwood, M. Macdonald, B. Winbanks

WILLIAMSTOWN 0.1 | 0.1 | 0.1 | 0.2 (2)
COLLINGWOOD 2.2 | 4.2 | 7.2 | 11.3 (69)

Collingwood extended its perfect streak in season 2021 with an ominous 67-point thumping of Williamstown on Saturday afternoon, making it eight wins on the trot. The Magpies kept their opponents goalless throughout, and scoreless for half the game while feasting at the other end with ruthless accuracy. A seven-goal second half truly put the cherry on top of a dominant performance.

The Seagulls had no answer for Abbi Moloney, who snagged four goals from 16 disposals in a best afield display. The young tall was joined by Matilda Zander and Sophie Alexander in the goals as they both booted three and featured among the winners’ votes. Sarah King also battled hard in the ruck for 28 hitouts.

Speaking of the ruck, Eliza McGrath registered a whopping 58 hitouts, as Aimee Whelan was the only Seagull to tick over 20 touches on the day. Tahlia Merrett was named best-on in the losing effort, ahead of the likes of Whelan, and pair Eliza Straford and Ruby Tripodi who combined for 16 disposals and 17 tackles.

GOALS:

Williamstown: Nil
Collingwood: A. Moloney 4, M. Zander 3, S. Alexander 3, A. Newman

BEST:

Williamstown: T. Merrett, A. Whelan, R. Tripodi, E. Straford, A. Dickie, L. Suleiman
Collingwood: A. Moloney, S. Alexander, K. Lee, J. Ferguson, M. Zander, S. King

SOUTHERN SAINTS 3.4 | 3.5 | 4.8 | 6.8 (44)
HAWTHORN 0.2 | 3.2 | 3.3 | 4.8 (32)

The Southern Saints remain clear in sixth spot after fending off a valiant Hawthorn side in Sunday’s standalone fixture, winning by 12 points at Trevor Barker Oval. Having shot to a three-goal lead at the opening break, the Saints were pegged back well in a low-scoring affair and could only edge just over a goal ahead going into the last. They held firm, extending that buffer for their fourth win of the year.

First year midfielder Alice Burke again topped the disposal charts with 21 in the red, white and black, but Alexandra Hynes (10 disposals, 15 hitouts) was named the Saints’ best. Claudia Whitfort registered a goal from her 19 touches, while the likes of Hannah Stuart and Rebecca Neaves also earned votes in the win.

Kristen Hay had arguably her best game of the year with 14 disposals and three marks, seeing her earn plaudits from the Hawthorn staff. Tamara Luke had as many hitouts as disposals (12), while Kristy Stratton again found the goals in her second game for the Hawks, and Grace McRae had a solid debut with 11 touches and five tackles.

GOALS:

Southern: T. Bohanna 2, R. Saulitis, K. Ripari, A. Harris, T. Kearns
Hawthorn: E. Gilder 2, K. Stratton, C. O’Malley

BEST:

Southern: A. Hynes, C. Whitfort, R. Neaves, A. Burke, L. Burke, H. Stuart
Hawthorn: K. Hay, T. Luke, N. Garner, S. Bolding, K. Stratton, E. Gilder

Image Credit: Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos

2021 VFLW Round 9 preview: Youngsters set for debut as AFLW talent filters back

SEVERAL NAB League Girls players make their Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s debuts in Round 9, as more AFL Women’s talents filter back to the state league competition.

ESSENDON vs. CARLTON
Saturday, May 1 @ 11:00am
Windy Hill

In the opening game of the round, Essendon and Carlton clash at Windy Hill in a weekend that will see plenty of opportunities for the rivals to go head-to-head. Ruby Svarc is a crucial in for the Bombers returning after spending her season in Queensland with the Brisbane Lions, and she could well be given the job on Grace Egan who makes her return to state level for the Blues. Searching for a win against a pretty impressive Bombers outfit this season, Carlton has also added Abbie McKay to the side, with the likes of Daisy Walker and Charlotte Hammans steady in the defence. Georgia Nanscawen has overcome the injury that kept her out for the past couple of weeks, whilst Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell is back for another week, with Pioneers teammate Jemma Finning named as an emergency and expected to make a VFLW debut in the coming weeks. The Bombers will be favoured in this clash with the return of Nanscawen and playing at home.

DAREBIN vs. PORT MELBOURNE
Saturday, May 1 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

Two teams at opposite ends of the ladder clash at midday, with the one-win Darebin team taking on a Port Melbourne side coming off its first loss to Casey Demons last week. After gaining Jess Dal Pos back from AFL Women’s last week, the Falcons will be keen to give it all they have against a pretty strong Borough outfit. Nicole Callinan has been an important inclusion for Darebin this season, with Stephanie Simpson and Samara David targets up forward. The Borough just have so much depth, and an incredible forward line led by key targets, Sabrina Frederick and Emily Harley, and reliable source of goals from Sophie Locke. Sophie Molan has returned to state level for the visitors, with GWS GIANTS’ Katherine Smith also set to make her debut for Port Melbourne, in a team that has some how found a way to get stronger. Given the inclusions for the Borough, it is hard to see them dropping this game, but it will be a great test for the Falcons.

GEELONG vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, May 1 @ 1:00pm
Deakin University Waurn Ponds

In the longest road trip of the season for the Western Bulldogs, the back-to-back winners take on an in-form Geelong outfit who remain in contention for a top two spot in this season. Since the AFL Women’s season has concluded, the Western Bulldogs have not mucked around with rotating their elite talents, and whilst Elisabeth Georgostathis rotates out of the side this week, the visitors will welcome back Isabella Grant, Isabelle Pritchard and Annabel Strahan, while Jess Fitzgerald has cheekily been named as an emergency so could well be coming into the side soon. Western Jets’ Jemima Woods comes back into the team after her three-goal debut a fortnight ago, and she will be joined by Caitlin Sargent (four goals in NAB League last week) and Trinity Skenderis. The Cats have kept a strong midfield, but have brought in Amy McDonald, whilst giving Sophie Van de Heuvel a rest. Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner still form a dominant group in there, and with Stephanie Williams, Georgia Clarke and the return of Richelle Cranston up forward, the Cats have plenty of firepower. This is a really tight game, and Geelong should be favourites, but the strength of the Bulldogs team means the visitors could cause an upset and make it three wins on the trot.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, May 1 @ 2:00pm
Arden Street

Casey Demons showed what they are capable of last week by rolling Port Melbourne to inflict the Borough’s first defeat of the season, whilst North Melbourne dominated Carlton, keeping the Blues to just one goal for the game. With the teams coming into good form, on paper it looks to be a great match but the Demons have really stacked their side with AFL Women’s talent, as Libby Birch, Brenna Tarrant and Shelley Heath are named in defence, Eden Zanker joined Maddison Gay in the midfield, and Alyssa Bannan and Casey Sherriff are up forward. The Roos have mostly kept a consistent lineup of players on the cusp of AFLW footy, though Beth Lynch is an important cog in defence. Bella Eddey is getting some extra minutes running around for the VFLW team, whilst Jayde Hamilton returns from the AFLW Under 19 Championships to play alongside sister Alexia. If North Melbourne can get up in this one it will be the Roos’ best scalp of the season, but with Essendon sniffing around Casey’s recently acquired fourth spot, the Demons must hold onto the place by winning this one.

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, May 1 @ 2:00pm
Downer Oval

Williamstown is the next challenger up to try and knock off Collingwood as the undefeated Magpies rose in the final term to see off Essendon and grab another win in Round 8. The Magpies have plenty of reasons to get up in this game, with 2019 premiership coach Penny Cula-Reid behind the helm of the 2019 wooden spooners side this season. She will have her work cut out for her against a red-hot Magpies lineup, which features both Amelia Velardo and Aliesha Newman who copped knocks last week but have recovered to play. Abbi Moloney returns to the side with Joanna Lin, Maddi Shevlin and Imogen Purcell among the other Collingwood AFLW talents outside the two key forwards in Sophie Alexander and Bella Smith. The Seagulls have some terrific VFLW talent, with Erin Meade, Megan Williamson, Aimee Whelan and Ruby Tripodi among the in-form players in the competition, but it will be whether or not they can make the most of their chances as the Pies will give their forwards plenty, particularly after the form of Marla Neal last week who shone in the win at The Hangar. Hard to see the Pies dropping this one, though the Seagulls are strong defensively and will not make it easy for them.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. HAWTHORN
Sunday, May 2 @ 10:00am
Trevor Barker Oval

The standalone Sunday fixture pits the sixth placed Southern Saints in a must-win fixture against Hawthorn who got up in Meg Hutchins‘ 250th match last week. The Saints cling onto the lowest finals spot – albeit with plenty of time left in the season – and will need to win this one to give themselves some security there. However the Hawks have some tall targets in Hutchins and Tamara Luke up forward, with the dangerous Kristy Stratton and Jessie Williams capable of kicking multiple goals. Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae makes her debut for the brown and gold following the conclusion of the NAB League Girls’ season, with another former Gippsland leader in Maddi Shaw running around for the brown and gold. Georgia Bevan, Alison Drennan and Nadia von Bertouch have plenty to prove in this game as they look for another chance at AFL Women’s level, with the latter two having played for the Saints at this level earlier this season. For the Saints, they went down to the reformed Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval last Friday and will look to bounce back with Tara Bohanna and Renee Saulitis providing that tall and small option inside 50. Alice Burke and Tahlia Meyer rack up the ball each and every week, and Hannah Stewart has been enjoying a nice season this year at VFLW level. This game could go either way with the Saints ranked higher, but the Hawks are forming a really strong list as the season goes on.

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Adelaide lock down St Kilda to claim one-sided victory

ADELAIDE has moved into fourth position on the AFLW ladder with a 53-point drubbing of St Kilda at Norwood Oval on Sunday afternoon. In what was arguably the Crows’ most complete team performance of the season to date, they had contributors all across the ground and dominated the inside 50s (47-8), contested possessions (110-80) and centre clearances (7-4).

Najwa Allen was a standout for the home side, providing plenty of drive off half-back and halting many of St Kilda’s forward thrusts. Ebony Marinoff (23 disposals, nine tackles) and Anne Hatchard (15 disposals, four marks) were powerful at the stoppages, while superstar Erin Phillips (21 disposals, five marks, one goal) showed her usual class in the midfield and up forward. Georgia Patrikios (24 disposals, three marks, three tackles) was exceptional all day for the visitors.

It was a hot footy early, as both sides applied strong tackling pressure and did not allow the other any space. St Kilda defender Bianca Jakobsson was fantastic in the opening term, as she repelled several of Adelaide’s attacks and showed poise with ball in hand. Kate Shierlaw was prominent early as well, but the Saints struggled to get the ball into their forward 50. Chloe Scheer was busy at the stoppages for the Crows, as was Marinoff, who had four tackles in the first quarter alone. Less than 30 seconds before the quarter-time siren, Phillips earned a free kick for a high tackle and kicked the Crows’ first to give them a nine-point lead.

While St Kilda’s pressure dropped off after the first break, Adelaide’s forward 50 pressure increased to new heights. This meant that they were creating many opportunities, with Randall eventually capitalising and kicking the Crows’ second with a nice snap. Soon after, number four pick Teah Charlton shrugged off a tackle and kicked her maiden AFLW goal. Charlton kicked her second just minutes later, proving once again how comfortable she is competing at AFLW level in just her fifth match. Defenders Lisa Whiteley and Sarah Allan continued to be brick walls for Adelaide at half-back, while Eloise Jones and Justine Mules supported them by providing some outstanding run and carry down the wings. Nadia von Bertouch laid a brilliant tackle on Caitlin Gould to save a certain goal, as Adelaide’s lead stayed at 30 points going into the main break. At half time, the Crows led the inside 50 count 29 to 2.

Adelaide’s pressure continued to be too much for the Saints in the third term, especially when they were exiting the defensive 50. Danielle Ponter kicked her first for the day after earning a free kick 15 metres out from goal, then Ashleigh Woodland extended the Crows’ lead with a nice checkside from the pocket. This was Woodland’s fifth goal for the season, a fantastic start to her career in Crows colours. Shierlaw gave Saints fans something to cheer about at the end of the term when she got on the end of some nice ball movement from Patrikios and kicked St Kilda’s first goal for the day.

Ex-Saint Jess Sedunary rubbed some salt in the wound at the start of the last when she kicked truly from a set shot. Despite this, St Kilda played much better in the final term. They started to control the ball well and were much more effective by foot, finding gaps in Adelaide’s zone as they chipped the ball around. The problem was that, outside of Patrikios, the Saints could not facilitate much attacking play through the middle of the ground. In her 32nd AFLW game, Mules made Adelaide fans even happier when she took a contested mark and kicked her first ever AFLW goal from a set shot on a tight angle. From there, St Kilda created some chances but could not kick straight in front of goal. The Crows ran out comfortable winners.

In Round 6, Adelaide will plan on making it three straight wins when they take on the winless Gold Coast at Norwood Oval on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, St Kilda will come up against Melbourne in what should be a fascinating clash at Casey Fields on Saturday night.

By Tom Cheesman

ADELAIDE | 1.3 | 4.6 | 6.10 | 8.13 (61)
ST KILDA | 0.0 | 0.0 | 1.0 | 1.2 (8)

GOALS:
Adelaide: T. Charlton 2, J. Mules, J. Sedunary, E. Phillips, C. Randall, D. Ponter, A. Woodland 1.
St Kilda: K. Shierlaw 1.

ADC BEST:
Adelaide: E. Marinoff, N. Allen, A. Hatchard, E. Phillips, J. Mules, S. Allan.
St Kilda: G. Patrikios, B. Jakobsson, R. Dillon, T. Lucas-Rodd, C. Phillips, H. Priest.

Image credit: Getty Images

Image credit: Michael Klein

UNDEFEATED MAGPIES OUTCLASS INACCURATE DEMONS

Collingwood showcased their development in a huge clash against Melbourne, which was ultimately do or die for the red and blue side needing to prove they were capable of holding up under pressure. The Pies well and truly got their revenge on the Demons at Victoria Park, running down Melbourne for an excellent 35-point win 7.7 (49) to 1.8 (14). With this win on the board and given Fremantle’s loss on Saturday, the Magpies remain the only undefeated side on the ladder with five straight on the board.

It was the Chloe Molloy and Bri Davey show as the hot Pies ran down the inaccurate Dees, taking advantage of the young side’s slump in form and punishing Melbourne for its inability to put pressure on the scoreboard. Whilst a slow start from both sides set the scene, it was a huge second quarter that not only put Collingwood on the map, but also on the right path as Melbourne struggled to contain the Magpies’ engine room. Molloy’s work rate and ability to find the scoreboard was punishing for the Dees, who defensively could not compete despite continuous efforts from the usually impenetrable Libby Birch and Daisy Pearce. Molloy finished with three goals and partnered well with Davey who booted two of her own to go with a match-high 25 disposals, and whilst Melbourne certainly had its chances – most remarkably in the third, when the Dees lifted but could only manage 1.4 despite dominating possession and momentum – it was not enough as the Magpies commanded control in another three-goal quarter to finish the match. 

Despite sitting out the remainder of the match after a hit to the shoulder in the final quarter, Molloy’s influence could not be quelled as she head to be a three-way equal-leader on the goalkicking leaderboard for the season with nine majors to her name. Britt Bonnici and Jaimee Lambert also proved to be ball magnets in the tough contest with 23 and 21 touches respectively, whilst Melbourne’s Tyla Hanks continued her terrific form with a 22 disposal, six mark and six tackle effort. Lauren Pearce was the lone goalkicker for Melbourne and also nabbed 15 touches, whilst Karen Paxman was kept relatively quiet with 19 touches, and Kate Hore (17 touches), Maddi Gay (12) and Alyssa Bannan were amongst those who failed to hit the scoreboard with two behinds apiece. Collingwood’s Jordan Membrey unfortunately went down with a knee injury, seeing her season in doubt. The Magpies will host fellow in-form side Western Bulldogs next round once more at Victoria Park, whilst Melbourne host St Kilda on Saturday evening.

COLLINGWOOD | 1.1 | 4.3 | 4.4 | 7.7 (49)
MELBOURNE | 0.1 | 0.2 | 1.6 | 1.8 (14)

GOALS:
Collingwood: C. Molloy 3, B. Davey 2, A. Sheridan, M. Cann
Melbourne: L. Pearce

BEST:
Collingwood: C. Molloy, B. Davey, B. Bonnici, S. Livingstone, J. Lambert, R. Schleicher
Melbourne: T. Hanks, K. Paxman, S. Scott, L. Pearce, K. Hore, L. Mithen

 

Image credit: Daniel Carson / AFL Photos

EAGLES SNAG MAIDEN 2021 WIN IN CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH SUNS

The last match of Round 5 saw the West Coast Eagles pile on the pressure in a tight contest with Gold Coast, gaining ascendancy early and fighting to remain ahead in the 5.4 (34) to 4.9 (33) victory. This win registered the Eagles’ first for the season, and whilst this encounter was bound to see one of the winless sides put points on the board, both teams were tested in a highly offensive contest.

A three goal first quarter from the Eagles well and truly got the ball rolling, but Gold Coast proved they were capable of standing up to the onslaught with an improved second term to limit West Coast’s chances and apply their own forward pressure, rewarded with a goal to go into the second half trailing by eight points and well within their chances. Second year Eagles talent Mikayla Bowen was everywhere throughout the contest, taking the game on and drawing Maddy Collier and Emma Swanson into the fray as the trio piled on the pressure through midfield. Defensively, Lauren Ahrens proved once more how dangerous she can be with 19 touches, five marks and three rebounds, limiting the Eagles from finding avenues to goal after the first quarter as Alison Drennan (14 disposals, 11 tackles) and Jamie Stanton (14 touches, six tackles and 1.3) also switched on across the ground following the first quarter barrage from the Eagles.

Whilst the Suns showed some really good signs, hunting the footy and propelling the ball forward consistently – finishing with 34 inside 50s to the Eagles’ 20 – they were ultimately unable to capitalise under pressure. Sarah Perkins and Kalinda Howarth piled on second half goals for the Suns but it was to no avail, and while Stanton’s snap in the last minutes of the match could have spelled trouble for the Eagles, it was not to be as the Eagles ran out one-point winners in tight circumstances. 

Next round, Gold Coast will continue on the road for a fifth straight match when they look to upset Adelaide on Saturday afternoon, whilst the Eagles will take on Fremantle for the second time this season on Sunday.

WEST COAST | 3.1 | 3.1 | 4.3 | 5.4 (34)
GOLD COAST | 0.4 | 1.5 | 3.7 | 4.9 (33)

GOALS:
West Coast: M. Bowen, I. Cameron, M. Caulfield, G. Kelly, K. Orme
Gold Coast: K. Howarth, A. Parker, S. Perkins, J. Stanton

BEST:
West Coast: M. Bowen, E. Swanson, G. Kelly, M. Collier, I. Lewis, C. Perera
Gold Coast: L. Ahrens, J. Stanton, K. Surman, L. Single, L. Bella, A. Drennan

2021 AFLW Preview: Melbourne Demons

ONE of the most consistent sides in the competition, there is no doubt Melbourne have a great team at their disposal with plenty of gamechangers amongst the playing group and exciting talent in their midst. But a mass exodus and flurry of young newcomers in 2021 could see a highly different campaign this season, with many wondering what is next for the Demons and whether they can take that next step in the competition.

2020 RECAP

The Dees took a great step forward in season 2020, launching their maiden finals campaign and winning some excellent matches while they were at it, including a three-point come-from-behind cliffhanger over GWS GIANTS in the semi-final, a 59-point blitz against West Coast Eagles and a 20-point victory over fellow finalists, Collingwood. But losses to newcomer St Kilda and star-studded Carlton did the side no favours, while a constant injury cloud seemed to hang over the club with Ainsley Kemp, Shae Sloane and now-Blue Maddy Guerin sidelined with respective season-ending anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, and both Lily Mithen and Lauren Pearce missing in action throughout the season in patches. Factor in Daisy Pearce’s return from having twins in 2019, and the side exceeded all expectations to finish third in Conference B and on the overall ladder in 2020. Quiet achiever Shelley Scott won the club’s Best and Fairest, while influential trio Karen Paxman, Libby Birch and Goal of the Year winner Kate Hore were all selected for the 2020 AFL Women’s All-Australian team.

NEW FACES

Melbourne welcomed a flurry of newcomers for 2021, adding six new faces during the 2020 AFLW Draft, following a huge trade period in which six experienced names departed the club. The Dees rocketed up the draft order though, leaping into top 10 contention – top three in Victoria – and picking up six young guns – Alyssa Bannan, Eliza McNamara, dual athlete Maggie Caris, Megan Fitzsimon, Mietta Kendall and Isabella Simmons – who will help drive the side into the future. The Dees also picked up a third Irish recruit in Lauren Magee to join the likes of Niamh McEvoy and Sinead Goldrick, who joined the club for 2020.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

With so many talented players at their disposal, any number of Melbourne’s players could be the key link in season 2021. But with big departures across the field, this could be Tyla Hanks’ year to really take the midfield by storm after playing much of her first few seasons up the ground. The 2018 draftee will now enter her third season after showing plenty of promise across her first few seasons, and with an excellent turn of speed and sticky fingers, Hanks’ work rate and impact around the ground are unquestionable.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

While the Dees seem to be one of those sides that continuously sits outside finals contention over the past few seasons, something that could give the side a boost is their consistency. From finishing third in the first two seasons, to sitting fourth overall during the first conference season in 2019 and making finals in 2020 – again finishing overall third if we were to combine the two conference ladders, Melbourne certainly has the ability to remain a clear contender, especially given the talent at their disposal with Mithen, Hore and Eden Zanker all making clear strides last season. But consistency means nothing though if there is no development, so fans will hope for another step forward this season.

QUESTION MARK

Realistically, the main question mark hovering over the Dees in 2021 is how they will fare after losing a heap of experience over the off-season. The loss of goalsneak Aliesha Newman was one thing, but former co-captain Elise O’Dea also departed the club for Carlton – as did Guerin, with both players looking for a fresh start – sees a loss of depth through the midfield and driving forward. Factor in the additional losses of stalwarts Bianca Jakobsson, Harriet Cordner and Kat Smith, and the Dees have quite a few significant holes to fill. 

FINAL WORD

The fact that they have been unable to go that one step further over the past few seasons could be detrimental to the side as it looks to navigate a new season with a flurry of new faces. That being said, the Dees no doubt have the talent at their disposal, but will just need to create some more consistency through a much younger midfield this season. Expect the hunger to well and truly be there after an incomplete season, and a competitive playing group in 2021.

Image Credit: Michael Willson via AFL Photos

Draft Central’s Top 50 AFLW Players 2020: #40-#36

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 move on with the players ranked 40-36, featuring two key members of the Collingwood spine, a couple of boom recruits, and a thriving young key defender. Check out who made the cut in front of the players ranked 45-41.

#40 EMMA SWANSON (WEST COAST)

6 GAMES AVE: 17 disposals, 2.2 marks, 4.5 tackles, 5 clearances, 2 rebound 50s, 3.3 inside 50s

Swanson proved the perfect partner-in-crime to West Coast star Dana Hooker upon making the switch over from GWS to the incoming Eagles, leading her side for clearances, metres gained, and inside 50s at the end of a terrific 2020 campaign. It was arguably the midfielder’s best season since debuting for the GIANTS back in 2017, and the 25-year-old seems to really be hitting her prime now. Swanson was also one of the Eagles’ best in their lone win for the year, collecting a season-high 22 touches and one goal to help her side upset the Bulldogs in Round 4.

#39 STACEY LIVINGSTONE (COLLINGWOOD)

7 GAMES AVE: 9.9 disposals, 2.4 marks, 1.6 tackles, 4.1 rebound 50s, 5.6 intercept possessions

An uncompromising key defender, Livingstone returned another consistent campaign as the leader of Collingwood’s back five. Her experience and competitiveness proved vital as the Pies made a run for finals in the absence of Ash Brazill, taking on the opposition’s best key forward each week with little fuss. Of course, few could forget the job Livingstone did on Carlton gun Tayla Harris in Collingwood’s first ever win over its arch rival, with her no-frills game the perfect counterpart to many a high-flying spearhead. Despite missing out on a spot in the final All Australian side, Livingstone is one of the league’s finest defenders.

#38 SARAH ALLAN (ADELAIDE) 

6 GAMES AVE: 12.5 disposals, 80% efficiency, 3.5 marks, 1.8 tackles, 1.8 rebound 50s

Allan’s steady rate of improvement over her four-year AFL Women’s career culminated in a season good enough to earn All Australian recognition, with the 22-year-old slotting into the last line of defence after also being named in the 22 Under 22 team. The reliable key defender was again a calm influence in the Crows’ back half, working well on all levels without possession, while also leading her side in disposal efficiency with ball in hand. Allan started the year off with a bang against Brisbane, collecting a season-high 18 disposals, while her seven-mark performance against GWS was also memorable – despite the losses.

#37 LIBBY BIRCH (MELBOUNRE) 

7 GAMES AVE: 12.1 disposals, 3.6 marks, 1.6 tackles, 2.1 rebound 50s, 6.4 intercept possessions

Melbourne’s boom recruit coming into season 2020 was Birch, who justified the hype and price paid with another outstanding season at the top level. The classy defender led her new side for intercept possessions, reading the play typically well across half-back and using her athleticism at 175cm to provide good fold both in the air and at ground level. Some of Birch’s best numbers for the year came in Melbourne’s epic finals win over GWS, as she collected 15 disposals (13 kicks) and clunked five marks to prove her big game experience at just 22 years of age. Remains one of the many former netballers to have made a seamless transition to football.

#36 SHARNI LAYTON (COLLINGWOOD) 

7 GAMES AVE: 10.1 disposals, 2.4 marks, 2.7 tackles, 17.1 hitouts, 1.1 inside 50s

Speaking of former netballers, Layton improved out of sight to become one of the competition’s prime rucks in 2020, cementing a starting spot in the All Australian side. The 188cm cross-coder backed up a promising VFLW campaign with a stellar effort at the top level, finishing second in the league for total hitouts and adding strings to her bow by also hitting the scoreboard on three occasions. Layton’s marking and follow-up work were also key features of her impressive game throughout the year, with her talent how catching up to her towering frame.

2020 Top 10 AFLW matches: #1 – Mithen saves Demons from finals hell

IN a new countdown, Draft Central recalls the Top 10 AFL Women’s games for season 2020, ending with our top pick which saw Melbourne claim a dramatic come-from-behind finals win over GWS via the boot of an unlikely hero. On the road and in their first ever post-season match, the Demons had to raise hell to come out on top.

The match-up produced an opening term befitting of the tense nature of finals time, with both sides going goalless but the contest hot as GWS snuck ahead 2-1 in a scoreline reminiscent of a soccer game.  GIANTS skipper Alicia Eva made her presence felt early on, snapping through the point to put her side ahead while also getting some attention back after pummelling high into Melbourne star, Karen Paxman. The home side looked set to find the big sticks first when Rebecca Privitelli juggled a mark deep inside 50, but her kick held up in the breeze and proved easy picking for the Melbourne defence to prevent a score altogether.

It took a strike from Lily Mithen, who had never previously kicked a goal in her four-year AFL Women’s career to see the first set of six points tick over, converting from a tight angle to put Melbourne ahead after earning a free kick. The excitement was only made more evident in the absence of a crowd, with her teammates duly getting around her. Despite holding territory at what looked like the scoring end, the Demons almost saw their opponent go coast-to-coast in the last 10 minutes, but Aimee Schmidt pulled her shot badly while streaming into goal. She made amends for the miss with a wonderful effort in the final minute of the half, though, benefitting from a spill created by Privitelli at ground level and snapping home the GIANTS’ first major. The buffer was back to just a sole point at the main break, with the famed premiership quarter ahead.

After a tense opening few minutes, Jess Dal Pos earned a free kick within the forward 50 arc and converted a booming set shot to put GWS back in front. It would prove the catalyst for what seemed like a game-breaking run for the GIANTS, owning the term with 2.3 while holding Melbourne scoreless. The GIANTS may have again spurned some guilt-edged chances in front of goal, but another major in the final minute – this time via Cora Staunton and a lucky falcon – had the home side dreaming of a would-be preliminary final berth. The GIANTS were 14 point to the good come the final turn, a margin which exceeded the score Melbourne had put on the board to that point.

The failure to convert in front of goal would come back to haunt GWS though, and Shelley Scott’s accurate set shot gave the Demons a sniff with seven-and-a-half minutes left to play. The pressure only mounted as Adelaide premiership star and 2020 injury top-up player Sarah Perkins slammed home another major, bringing the margin to within a goal. If Melbourne’s pressure hadn’t already set the alarm bells ringing, then the scoreboard would have for GWS. No warning could prevent what eventuated, as Mithen took a terrific one-on-one mark with a tick over a minute left on the clock, and remarkably converted the shot to give her side the lead once again at the ideal time. The final siren would sound with Melbourne once again heading inside forward 50, and scenes of jubilation ensuing.

The cream rose to the top for Melbourne, with all the usual experienced suspects having their say. Daisy Pearce led her side’s disposal count with 22 from defence alongside 15 from Libby Birch, while elite midfield mover Paxman notched 20. The aerial presence of Lauren Pearce and Eden Zanker proved valuable for the winners, but it was Mithen’s two goals which undeniably made her the hero in just her third outing for the season. For the GIANTS, Alyce Parker was at her usual best with a game-high 23 disposals, aided by Rebecca Beeson and Haneen Zreika. The likes of Eva, Schmidt, and Tait Mackrill had what-if games going forward, with their chances adding to the unfortunate statistic of GWS losing despite managing two more scoring shots. The Dees were poised to go on into the preliminary final round, but of course saw the season cut short and a remarkable run, ended.

GWS GIANTS 0.2 | 1.4 | 3.7 | 3.8 (26)
MELBOURNE 0.1 | 1.5 | 1.5 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS:

GWS: A. Schmidt, C. Staunton, J. Dal Pos.
Melbourne: L. Mithen 2, S. Scott, S. Perkins.

ADC BEST:

GWS: A. Parker, R. Beeson, E. Bennetts, H. Zreika, J. Allan
Melbourne: K. Paxman, L. Birch, D. Pearce, L. Mithen, E. Zanker

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: