Tag: lilli condon

2020 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 3

EASTERN Ranges’ big win over Tasmania Devils has seen the side earn the most players in our Draft Central NAB League Girls’ Team of the Week with four representatives from Round 3. Other winners, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, Northern Knights and Sandringham Dragons had three apiece, as did the Western Jets. Calder Cannons put in an even team performance to record two players, alongside Round 4 losers, Bendigo Pioneers and Dandenong Stingrays. Gippsland Power and Tasmania Devils both had one apiece, with the latter recording their first ever player in our Team of the Week.

The Ranges’ quartet is spread across the three areas of the ground, with defender Bridget Deed, midfielders Tarni Brown and Olivia Meagher, and forward Isabella Khoury all named in this week’s team. For the opposition team in the Ranges’ win is Tasmania Devils’ Amy Prokopiec who was named at full-back in the team becoming the first Tasmanian to make the starting side. Also in the defence is Sandringham Dragons’ Sarah Hartwig, who is in the team alongside five-goal forward, Abbi Moloney and captain, Winnie Laing. Alice Burke and Eliza McNamara were both close to making it a massive five players in the side, but narrowly missed out and were named as emergencies. Gippsland Power’s AFL Women’s National Academy member, Megan Fitzsimon also made the side after an impressive performance, with Matilda Van Berkel named as the third emergency in the team.

Up in Ballarat, the game between the GWV Rebels and Western Jets had a combined six players make it into the side, with three from each team. Debutant, Alice Astbury and fellow mid-forward, Ella Friend made the 24-player side, as did ruck, Maggie Caris. Her opponent, Amelia Velardo made it into the side along with Montana Ham in defence, and Isabelle Pritchard through midfield. The last remaining team with three players represented was the Northern Knights, as co-captains, Jess Fitzgerald and Ellie McKenzie both slotted onball, while Alyssa Bannan was named at centre half-forward yet again.

The remaining six players come from the Bendigo Pioneers, Calder Cannons and Dandenong Stingrays, with Draft Central Player of the Week, Georgie Prespakis leading the way for the winning Cannons, along with teammate Grace Dicker. Pioneers’ Jemma Finning and Elizabeth Snell were named in the side, as were Stingrays, Tyanna Smith and Jessica Matin. There were a couple more Stingrays among the unlucky players to miss out, with Jemma Radford the last omission from the 27 total named, while Amber Clarke was also considered. Eastern duo, Mietta Kendall and Matilda Hardy, GWV Rebels’ Lilli Condon, Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae, Sandringham Dragons’ Daisy Walker, Calder Cannons’ Freda Puruntatameri, Bendigo Pioneers’ Dakota Villiva and Tasmania Devils’ Perri King.

BACKS:

Bridget Deed (ER) – 21 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 1 inside 50, 5 rebounds
The Eastern Ranges utility had a huge first term, picking up nine touches, before holding up the fort deep in defence and repelling a number of key attacks. Deed ended up totalling 21 disposals for the match, as well as five rebounds and was one of a number of Ranges who really impressed in their first game at Kilsyth.

Amy Prokopiec (TD) – 11 disposals, 2 tackles, 6 rebounds
The sole Tasmanian player to make the side, the AFL Women’s National Academy member held up in defence well. In a week where a lot of the top defenders were more half-backs, Prokopiec was strong on the last line, rarely losing one-on-ones and being strong at ground level. Prokopiec saved a number of goal-scoring opportunities in a Devils outfit that improved on their week one output and the middle-age defender was a vocal leader in that side.

Sarah Hartwig (SD) – 11 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 1 inside 50, 2 rebounds
Not as many disposals as in past weeks, but Hartwig played a terrific team game, laying an impressive six tackles throughout the match as she is experimented further up the ground. She still had 11 touches, a couple of marks and got back for a couple of rebounds, but was one of a number of Dragons who stood out in the win over Gippsland Power.

HALF-BACKS:

Tyanna Smith (DS) – 21 disposals, 3 marks, 6 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 7 rebounds
The Dandenong speedster makes our Team of the Week again after being another strong performer through the Dandenong Stingrays midfield against the Northern Knights. Given she was able to work back into defence and repel the ball seven times, Smith has earned a spot off half-back, and would do well in the position back there. She also set up an early goal for the Stingrays up the other end.

Montana Ham (WJ) – 19 disposals, 3 marks, 5 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 7 rebounds, 1 goal
Similar to Smith, Ham played through the midfield but often camped back a kick behind the ball at times to assist the defence on a windy day at Mars Stadium. She was a consistent four quarter performer, and also amassed a round-high seven rebounds after kicking the first goal of the game from just inside 50. A traditional utility who can slot in anywhere on the field and is still a bottom-ager.

Jemma Finning (BP) – 20 disposals, 6 marks, 6 tackles, 4 rebounds
Finning continued her promising form with another important defensive role in an under-siege Bendigo back five, positioning expertly to intercept and rebound with surety. The 165cm defender collected personal season-highs in marks, tackles, disposals, and rebounds – a good measure of the way she went about repelling Calder’s attacks. Not only did Finning compete well in the air, but she also chased hard to lay tackles at the fall of the ball, while also keeping tabs on the dangerous Freda Puruntatameri inside defensive 50.

CENTRES:

Tarni Brown (ER) – 28 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 1 goal, 1 behind
A terrific performance from Brown who was a standout from the first bounce to the final siren, the potential Collingwood father-daughter selection had a match-high 28 disposals, four marks, four inside 50s and a goal, using her skill and awareness to win the ball in close and slow time as she would sidestep opponents and hit targets going forward. A playmaker in the front half with ball-in-hand.

Jess Fitzgerald (NK) – 28 disposals, 3 marks, 4 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
A dominant player on the ground working with co-captain Ellie McKenzie, Fitzgerald shone in her best game of the year so far, racking up 28 disposals, three marks, four inside 50s and booting two goals from the midfield to really apply pressure in a tight game to be one of the key reasons the Knights were able to run away with the win in the second half.

Georgie Prespakis (CC) – 32 disposals, 8 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 2 rebounds, 2 hitouts
An absolute lock for this week’s team given she also earned a Player of the Week nod, Prespakis put on a typically brilliant display of her best skills. The 17-year-old is one of, if not the best exponent of the handball going around, but also penetrates by foot when given the space to burst clear and deliver. Her 32-disposal effort was made even more remarkable by the fact she sat out a quarter of the game after being crunched in a marking contest, which failed to deter her from getting first hands on the ball.

RUCKS:

Maggie Caris (GWV) – 15 disposals, 1 mark, 1 tackle, 4 inside 50s, 33 hitouts
The dominant GWV Rebels’ ruck racked up a round-high 33 hitouts making the most of her height advantage against her opposition rucks. She also amassed an impressive 15 disposals and had four inside 50s during the match and while she was caught holding the ball after raising it above her head, she was a class above in the air around the contest.

Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – 25 disposals, 4 marks, 11 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebounds, 2 hitouts
One of three Jets’ midfielders to make the side, Pritchard was instrumental early and then kept up her intensity even when the scoreboard was mounting up against her side later in the game. She had 25 touches and laid a round-high 11 tackles in the game, showing her defensive approach as well, rotating with Ham a kick behind play when the Rebels were attacking. Pritchard’s work in the air and reading of the play helped her propel the ball forward.

Ellie McKenzie (NK) – 28 disposals, 6 marks, 4 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 1 hitout, 1 goal
The Knights’ co-captain was best on ground in the Knights’ come-from-behind victory over the Stingrays and makes her way into the side once again. She racked up the equal second most of any player disposals over the weekend with 28, and also had a round-high seven inside 50s and booted a goal. McKenzie has been as consistent as anyone so far this season and makes her way into the side for a third consecutive week.

HALF-FORWARDS:

Alice Astbury (GWV) – 15 disposals, 3 marks, 1 tackle, 6 inside 50s, 2 goals
Rarely does a debutant win best on ground honours, but that is exactly what Astbury did against the Western Jets at Mars Stadium. The midfielder had an influence through the middle and then spent time forward, booting two critical goals later in the game during a low-scoring contest. Astbury also had six inside 50s and created for her teammates, including one to Ella Friend late in the game to ice the match.

Alyssa Bannan (NK) – 18 disposals, 5 marks, 4 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 2 hitouts, 2 goals
Another player who has earned a place in our Team of the Week for all three rounds of the NAB League Girls season, Bannan booted another two goals to her total for 18 touches and five marks. Bannan also provided defensive pressure in the game to lay four tackles, but her work on the lead and in the air was as good as anyone’s going around on the weekend.

Megan Fitzsimon (GP) – 23 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 goals, 1 behind
The AFL Women’s National Academy member was the top Gippsland Power player during their loss to Sandringham Dragons, notching up 23 touches, four inside 50s and two goals for her side. While she was solid in the first week without being outstanding, Fitzsimon lifted her game to another level in Round 3 and really made her impact felt across the ground.

FORWARDS:

Isabella Khoury (ER) – 12 disposals, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 goals
A forward target for the Ranges during their win over Tasmania, Khoury ended up booting the second most goals of any NAB League Girls player last weekend. She had her fair share of touches working hard up the ground with 12, and pumped the ball inside three times, setting up teammates or going long, but Khoury made her most impact felt on the scoreboard with three majors.

Abbi Moloney (SD) – 12 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 5 goals, 2 behinds
The Dragons forward backed up from her impressive game last week to boot another five goals this round and be in the top two for goalkicking behind Bannan. Her total of eight this season has been a strong start to her top-age year, and with four marks and six tackles – as well as seven shots on goal – Moloney is certainly providing a scoring target close to goal.

Jessica Matin (DS) – 19 disposals, 3 marks, 5 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 goal
The classy forward who roams up the ground was able to put together another strong game, kicking just the one goal, but applying five tackles and pumping the ball inside 50 on five occasions. She also won the second most touches of any Stingrays’ player during their loss to Northern, and continued to provide a presence in the forward half.

INTERCHANGE:

Alice Burke (SD) – 23 disposals, 4 marks, 10 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 4 rebounds
The potential St Kilda father-daughter selection was at her best when she laid a whopping 10 tackles laid during the Dragons’ win over Gippsland Power. Burke played through the middle and worked hard around the ground to pick up 23 touches and keep pushing throughout the game to apply pressure to the opposition.

Grace Dicker (CC) – 20 disposals, 1 mark, 3 tackles, 4 inside 50s
Second only to Prespakis in terms of impact on the weekend, Dicker set the tone from midfield with her attack on the ball and willingness to take the game on. Under a bright pink helmet, the 19-year-old was hard to miss in her clear-best game for the season to date, lighting up the corridor with bursting pace and a hard edge going the other way.

Ella Friend (GWV) – 19 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 1 goal
Provided a strong presence at half-forward and working through the middle to help set up her teammates inside 50 before finishing off with a goal of her own in the game. She clunked a number of really strong marks and was able to pump the ball into the forward 50 six times on her way to an impressive 19 disposals and four marks.

Olivia Meagher (ER) – 27 disposals, 2 marks, 2 tackles, 2 rebounds
The Eastern Ranges captain had a bruising encounter at Kilsyth on Sunday, leading from the front with her pressure and teamwork. Whilst only two tackles were attributed to her, it was Meagher’s hardness at the contest and pressure on the ball-carrier that really stood out. She laid a fair front-on bump on an opponent early in the game and then won a few frees for fierce tackles, but fought through it on her way to an impressive 27 disposals, most of which were in close.

Elizabeth Snell (BP) – 17 disposals, 2 marks, 10 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 1 behind
The diminutive Pioneer is an absolute workhorse in midfield, and dug in against bigger-bodied opponents to have an impact going both ways. While her ability to find the ball – 17 times – was handy, it was Snell’s 10 tackles which truly saw her make an impact as she showcased her tenacity at the stoppages. You cannot fault her effort, and a big leap into the back of Georgie Prespakis almost put her out of the game, such is the ferocity of Snell.

Amelia Velardo (WJ) – 25 disposals, 2 marks, 8 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebounds, 5 hitouts
The Western Jets’ ruck might be undersized compared to others – and certainly compared to Caris – but her athleticism around the ground is a real danger to the opposition. Not only does she move well around the contest, but she does all the defensive things as well, laying eight tackles in the game, getting back to help out the defence and then providing an option in midfield to either kick long or open up the play with a quick handball to a teammate.

EMG:

Winnie Laing (SD) – 21 disposals, 2 marks, 2 tackles, 1 goal, 1 behind
A Dragon who earned a spot in the side amongst a host of top ball winners, the captain was outstanding with her attack on the footy and work on the inside. She led from the front and even got on the scoreboard with a major. The Dragons are not short of players to make this week’s team and her leadership is terrific.

Eliza McNamara (SD) – 15 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
The Dragons’ small plays a perfect game at half-forward and through the midfield with her defensive pressure and ability to hit the scoreboard at the same time, a real benefit for her team. She booted two goals from 15 disposals, four marks and six tackles, while also getting the ball inside 50 four times. Having a great start to the season.

Matilda Van Berkel (GP) – 17 disposals, 5 marks, 4 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds, 27 hitouts
Enjoying a really strong start to the season through the ruck with another 27 hitouts from 17 disposals, five marks and four tackles. Van Berkel is a target around the ground and provides clean hands when leading or when tapping down to her teammates at stoppages. The Power tall can be utilised anywhere on the ground but is playing well through the ruck role.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 3

B: Bridget Deed (ER) – Amy Prokopiec (TD) – Sarah Hartwig (SD)
HB: Tyanna Smith (DS) – Montana Ham (WJ) – Jemma Finning (BP)
C: Tarni Brown (ER) – Jess Fitzgerald (NK) – Georgie Prespakis (CC)
HF: Alice Astbury (GWV) – Alyssa Bannan (NK) – Megan Fitzsimon (GP)
F: Isabella Khoury (ER) – Abbi Moloney (SD) – Jessica Matin (DS)
R: Maggie Caris (GWV) – Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – Ellie McKenzie (NK)
INT: Alice Burke (SD) – Grace Dicker (CC) – Ella Friend (GWV) – Olivia Meagher (ER) – Elizabeth Snell (BP) – Amelia Velardo (WJ)
EMG: Winnie Laing (SD) – Eliza McNamara (SD) – Matilda Van Berkel (GP)

Second half charge helps Rebels remain undefeated in wind-swept Ballarat

AN impressive second half from the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at wind-swept Mars Stadium in Ballarat, has seen them remain undefeated after three rounds. The winners did not kick a goal until the twelfth minute mark of the third term, but when they got a taste for it, they took control, running out 4.9 (33) to 1.2 (8), keeping the Jets to just two behinds after quarter time in an impressive 25-point win.

With a huge breeze blowing to the Midland Highway end of the ground, the Jets were able to have the early advantage, but it took a remarkable effort from Montana Ham just inside 50 to get the first and only score of the first term on the board after some nice running and the release handball from Charlotte Baskaran. Ham utilised the open goalsquare for it to bounce home with a wonderfully accurate kick, coming moments after she rebounded it out of the back 50 following a safe mark to repel a Rebels attack. While the scores were not piling up, there were a number of defensive efforts from both sides with Marli Klaumanns-Moller laying a terrific tackle on Isabella Simmons to save a goal in the opening five minutes, while Melina Ciavarella did the same up the opposite end to stop a certain goal. Isabelle Pritchard was having an impact off half-back, with the AFL Women’s National Academy member teaming up well with Ham and Baskaran in the back half of the ground, while Caitlin Sargent was presenting at every opportunity. Despite the Jets largely dominating possession – and an impressive run down the win by Baskaran – they only led by six points heading into quarter time. For the Rebels, Alice Astbury was having an impact on debut, while Zoe Larkins was busy in the first term.

Now with the breeze themselves, the Rebels continued their brutal defensive pressure with Chloe Leonard laying a ripping tackle at half-back, as Round 1 hero, Renee Saulitis achieved the home team’s first score – albeit a behind – with a snap from a tight angle. Astbury was continually building through the middle with some important touches, while Maggie Caris‘ height and leap was a huge factor in the middle giving her smaller midfielders a chance at first touch against the taller Jets’ midfield. Sargent continued to be a headache for the Rebels defenders with her work up and down the ground, while Amelia Velardo was doing her best in the ruck, but impressing around the ground with a long wobbly kick inside 50 but Annie Gray could not quite find the space to capitalise close to goal and Nyakoat Dojiok cleared the danger. Late in the term, Ham copped a knock to the back of her head through a marking contest, but bounced back up and with Pritchard was a key reason for the Jets maintaining a three-point lead at half-time and keeping the Rebels goalless.

It was the third term where the game was won, with the Rebels remarkably having the ball locked inside their forward 50 for the majority of the quarter, with their defenders holding a high line. Despite the Jets having the wind, they could not get it into the forward 50 until the 15th minute of the term, with the only saving grace being the fact that the Rebels had kicked three consecutive behinds to be level with the Jets, 0.6 to 1.0. Such was the wind up the scoreboard end that one shot on goal from a snap by the Rebels held up in the breeze and came back into the field of play for the Jets to clear. Simmons was continually involved but could not break free, and it took an unlucky high tackle from a Jets defender on Astbury to finally break the deadlock. The debutant won the free kick straight in front and slotted it truly 12 minutes into the term. While it was the only goal of the term, it handed the home team a six-point lead with a quarter – and the wind – to play. Western’s big ball winners were still finding plenty of it, with Velardo (20 disposals, five tackles), Pritchard (17 disposals, three marks and three tackles), Ham (17 disposals, two marks and four rebounds) and Baskaran (15 disposals, two marks, eight tackles and three inside 50s). For the Rebels, Friend (14 touches, three marks, four tackles and five inside 50s) and Astbury (14 disposals, two marks and six inside 50s) were the best, while Caris was up to 23 hitouts from 12 disposals and a couple of inside 50s.

Both sides knew the importance of an early goal in the contest, and Sargent almost got her name in the books with a great passage of play. She won the ball off Pritchard at half-forward, kicked it long, then worked her way into space to mark uncontested about 35m out from goal. The set shot was on target but touched on the line. The Jets had a couple of chances in the final term, but the wind was making it difficult for the visitors, only kicking the two behinds as the likes of Astbury and Friend were combining well between midfield and forward. In fact it was Friend who took it upon her self on a tight angle to kick a running goal at the end of a chain of handballs to give the Rebels a 10-point buffer, and then backed up not long after to take a strong one-grab mark outside 50 on the lead. Sargeant, along with Ciara Singleton was working hard in the defensive half to nullify the forward thrusts. It was feeling like one more major would seal the deal, and it came through Paige Scott who perfectly roved a contest with the ball getting out to her and she snapped it off a step for a terrific goal and a 16-point lead at the 12-minute mark of the term. Lilli Condon was also working hard through the midfield with bursts and had a chance on the end of another chain of handballs, but missed, as did Saulitis who finished with four behinds for the day, but all were from tricky angles under pressure.

It was fitting that the best on ground, Astbury (15 disposals, three marks, six inside 50s and two goals) would put through the final nail in the coffin off Friend (19 disposals, four marks, five tackles, six inside 50s and one goal) who pumped a ball-burster into her teammate on the lead and pierced one home. It was a real team effort from the Rebels who celebrated the win, while the Jets were strong for the most part, but were unable to take advantage with the wind in the third term, and then the opposition got momentum in the final quarter. Also impressive was Caris (15 disposals, four inside 50s and 33 hitouts) through the ruck and Condon (16 disposals, five tackles, six inside 50s) across the ground, while Dojiok (12 disposals, two inside 50s and two rebounds) and Leonard (12 disposals, three tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds) were impressive in the back half. For the Jets, Pritchard and Velardo both shared in 50 disposals and 19 tackles, as well as a combined four inside 50s and eight rebounds. Ham worked hard for 19 touches, three marks, five tackles, two inside 50s and seven rebounds, while Baskaran (17 disposals, two marks, nine tackles and three inside 50s), Singleton (11 disposals, three tackles, two inside 50s and two rebounds), Sargent (10 disposals, eight tackles) and Klaumanns-Moller (13 disposals, five tackles and five rebounds) were all impressive for the losing side.

GWV REBELS 0.0 | 0.3 | 1.6 | 4.9 (33)
WESTERN JETS 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.2 (8)

GOALS:

GWV: A. Astbury 2, P. Scott, E. Friend.
Western: M. Ham.

ADC BEST:

GWV: A. Astbury, M. Caris, E. Friend,  L. Condon, N. Dojiok, C. Leonard
Western: I. Pritchard, A. Velardo, M. Ham, C. Sargent, C. Singleton, C. Baskaran

DC Medal:

5 – Alice Astbury (GWV)
4 – Maggie Caris (GWV)
3 – Isabelle Pritchard (WJ)
2 – Ella Friend (GWV)
1 – Amelia Velardo (WJ)

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

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

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

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

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

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. WESTERN JETS

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

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

GIPPSLAND POWER v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

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

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

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. CALDER CANNONS

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

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

EASTERN RANGES v. TASSIE DEVILS

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

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

2020 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 1

IN a new-look amalgamation of Draft Central‘s Team of the Week and player notes, we name our Round 1 NAB League Girls’ Team of the Week and explain why each player has been chosen. The 24-player team returns with three emergencies this year, and it was an even spread across the board. All notes are opinion-based of the individual Draft Central writer. Round 1 winners, Oakleigh Chargers, Northern Knights and Geelong Falcons all had three players in the Team of the Week, while fellow winners, Dandenong Stingrays, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Western Jets had two apiece. Narrow losers in Round 1, Calder Cannons and Sandringham Dragons had two each as well, as did Gippsland Power, while Bendigo Pioneers, Eastern Ranges and Murray Bushrangers had the one representative. Factoring in emergencies, Oakleigh Chargers had the most players overall with four, while Sandringham and Western moved up to three.

BACKS:

Crystal Summers (GWV Rebels) – 13 disposals, 5 marks, 3 tackles, 1 inside 50, 6 rebounds
The rebounding defender was lively throughout the contest, being a constant threat coming off half-back and pushing up the ground to be a key reason behind the Rebels’ success on the weekend. She was calm and composed with ball-in-hand and generally made the right decisions as one of the standouts.

Mindy Quade (Murray Bushrangers) – 9 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 1 inside 50, 8 rebounds
Her vision off half-back and spotting the ball in transition was a highlight, as she stood up under fierce pressure from the Chargers during the Bushrangers’ loss. She was often the first to intercept and disrupted the offensive flow inside defensive 50.

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels) – 10 disposals, 3 marks, 7 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Always having more impact than the statistics might suggest, Dojiok had a number of impressive runs down the ground and took the game on with eye-catching speed and evasion. She still has plenty of development left in her, but has clearly improved over the past couple of seasons and is hard to stop when she gets going.

HALF-BACKS:

Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons) – 14 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebounds
The standout player on the day despite being on the losing side, Hartwig was a force in defence with a number of intercept marks and rebounds, with one passage of play in particular standing out where she hit the ball at full speed, collected it cleanly, sidestepped an opponent and kicked neatly inside 50.

Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays) – 9 disposals, 2 marks, 5 tackles, 4 rebounds
The centre half-back certainly stood tall in the back six despite being a bottom-ager, taking a number of contested grabs, or providing a contest where she was able to calmly clear the ball under pressure. She also laid a massive tackle to win a free kick and it led to her side kicking a goal off that chain of possessions.

Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets) – 19 disposals, 1 mark, 7 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 5 rebounds
A clean user of the ball, Baskaran would roam up and down the ground providing great service between the arcs and dropping back to help her defenders with the natural half-back another bottom-ager in the side.

CENTRES:

Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons) – 28 disposals, 6 tackles, 2 inside 50s
She was a force in midfield for the Falcons during their win, often releasing teammates in space with her run and carry and quick handballs to open up passages of play down the field. A dominant player early, Moloney finds space where very few can and is quick to release by hand or foot, and equally as damaging defensively, laying some big tackles.

Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays) – 26 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebounds, 1 goal
Absolutely outstanding performance, particularly in the second quarter where she constantly attacked going inside 50, then snapped one of the goal’s of the round close to the boundary line. Also did a number of defensive things right with some big tackles around the ground.

Mimi Hill (Oakleigh Chargers) – 29 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 5 inside 50s
The captain starred in her side’s big win over Murray with a second-high round of 29 disposals, and was often seen pumping the ball inside 50, showing clean hands and precision disposal. One of the top performers across the entire weekend.

HALF-FORWARDS:

Jessica Zakkour (Calder Cannons) – 18 disposals, 2 marks, 8 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds, 2 goals
Rotated between midfield and forward, often sneaking out the back to find space and capitalise, whilst showing some terrific defensive pressure. Was arguably Calder’s best in the narrow loss to Northern, and found plenty of the football while laying eight tackles.

Montana Ham (Western Jets) – 19 disposals, 7 marks, 2 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
Got our full votes for her performance in Western’s win over Bendigo, looking impressive across the ground with her movement and ability to drive the ball forward in transition. She seemed to be everywhere on the ground and despite being a bottom-ager racked up a game-high 19 touches, and had the play of the game with a multiple-bounce effort down the wing kicking forward which almost led to a goal.

Eliza McNamara (Sandringham Dragons) – 20 disposals, 3 marks, 8 tackles, 6 inside 50s
Played between midfield and half-forward, McNamara had the most disposals on the ground in Sandringham’s loss to the Rebels. Her defensive pressure and running ability is elite, and she just keeps pushing throughout the four quarters to try and do everything she can for her side. She worked tirelessly for the Dragons applying tackles and looking inside 50.

FORWARDS:

Alice O’Loughlin (Oakleigh Chargers) – 18 disposals, 3 marks, 1 inside 50, 3 goals
Her timing and speed off the mark caught the eye inside 50, making the most of her opportunities in front of goal. She used the space around her well to find the football and took advantage of the loose ball inside 50 to capitalise with three majors.

Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights) – 11 disposals, 4 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 5 goals
Kicked a round-high five goals and looks a good candidate for one of the top goalkickers this season, taking a number of good grabs with her vertical leap and athleticism the highlight. It was clear that defenders cannot allow Bannan to get goalside or she will create something out of nothing with a couple of clever snaps close to goal adding to her tally on the day.

Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons) – 24 disposals, 3 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 goal
Started forward and roamed up the ground to be the third highest disposal winner with her ability to lay some strong tackles and show a high work rate. She just pushes time and time again across four quarters, and was rewarded with a goal, while setting up a number of teammates with scoring opportunities.

RUCKS:

Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power) – 15 disposals, 6 marks, 4 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 2 rebounds, 28 hitouts
The standout Gippsland Power player in the loss to Geelong Falcons, Van Berkel had to step up to play ruck and was ultra-impressive with a round-high 28 hitouts, as well as finding plenty of the football around the ground with strength overhead and an ability to cover the ground well with hard running.

Brooke Hards (Bendigo Pioneers) – 18 disposals, 4 marks, 7 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
The Pioneers’ co-captain picked up where she left off last season, being a shining light in her side’s loss to the Jets. Hards was constantly getting involved either offensively or defensively, and was fierce around the stoppages. She had a team-high 18 touches and as she has become known for, laid a truckload of tackles in the process.

Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons) – 38 disposals, 1 mark, 14 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 1 goal
Our Draft Central Player of the Week for Round 1, Gardiner was simply unstoppable with a ridiculous 38 touches and 14 tackles, pumping the ball in time and time again, and helping free up her teammates around the ground. She ran at a 50 per cent balance between kicks and handballs, and while most of her touches were often in possession chains, her work rate showed just how much she works around the ground.

INTERCHANGE:

Jess Fitzgerald (Northern Knights) – 15 disposals, 1 mark, 2 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
Last year’s best-on in the grand final started her 2020 year with a strong performance, moving well around the ground and showing off her speed in close and precision kicking. She possesses good footy IQ and was one of the best Knights on the day during their win over the Cannons.

Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers) – 18 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 1 goal
Showed clean hands and vision by propelling the ball inside 50 and finding targets in there with a massive seven inside 50s. She also provided plenty of defensive pressure with strong tackling and forcing errors from the Bushrangers, working well through the midfield to drive the ball in transition.

Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges) – 16 disposals, 2 marks, 4 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
It was not a great day for Eastern, but Meagher never gave in as she battled and bruised her way through four quarters for her side. She showed great leadership and tried to will her side on, laying crunching tackles and bumps, often bouncing straight up or off opponents with a hungry desire to win the ball. Meagher also tried getting the ball down the field to set up scoring opportunities and was a standout for her team.

Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights) – 12 disposals, 4 marks, 3 tackles, 4 inside 50s
Another player who had a great impact that stats might suggest, McKenzie kept battling on the inside and then going forward with her strength and power a highlight during Round 1. She adds a great dimension to the Knights’ midfield and she was able to win the ball in tight, extract it and get the ball out, going on a couple of short runs to try and break down the opposition defensive structures.

Shanara Notman (Gippsland Power) – 11 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 5 rebounds, 2 hitouts
The Gippsland Power overager showed why she was a terrific choice to come back as a 19-year-old player this year, standing tall in the face of a wave of Falcons attacks, with great strength in the air and ability to move the ball out of defence. She sold a bit of candy in the process and was rock solid back there in defeat.

Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons) – 19 disposals, 1 mark, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
The highly-touted prospect had a solid game to start the season, not often getting too much free space, but still finding her fair share of the ball through the midfield. She was thrown around into different positions but still had an impact, and her work rate between the arcs was really impressive.

EMERGENCIES:

Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons) – 15 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 3 rebounds
The potential St Kilda father-daughter selection stood up in big moments and makes the trio of most unlucky to miss players after a solid performance. She can play just about anywhere and is able to break up the play with her ability to find space and short kick to teammates on angles to disrupt the opposition’s zones.

Amelia James (Oakleigh Chargers) – 19 disposals, 1 tackle, 3 inside 50s, 6 hitouts, 2 goals
We could have included a heap of Oakleigh Chargers and James was the next one in line after an impressive two-goal performance inside 50. She is in her top-age year and showed she can pinch-hit in the ruck as well.

Amelia Velardo (Western Jets) – 16 disposals, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 4 hitouts
An eye-catching player across the ground and new into the team, Velardo showed some good athleticism coming out of the ruck at times and had a really busy start to the game in Western’s win against Bendigo. She was able to drive the ball forward and be amongst it in close, often firing out quick handballs to teammates in space.

DRAFT CENTRAL’S NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 1

B: Crystal Summers (GWV) – Mindy Quade (MB) – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
HB: Sarah Hartwig (SD) – Mackenzie Eardley (DS) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ)
C: Darcy Moloney (GF) – Tyanna Smith (DS) – Mimi Hill (OC)
HF: Jessica Zakkour (CC) – Montana Ham (WJ) – Eliza McNamara (SD)
F: Alice O’Loughlin (OC) – Alyssa Bannan (NK) – Poppy Schaap (GF)
R: Matilda Van Berkel (GP) – Brooke Hards (BP) – Laura Gardiner (GF)
INT: Jess Fitzgerald (NK) – Eliza James (OC) – Olivia Meagher (ER) – Ellie McKenzie (NK) – Shanara Notman (GP) – Georgie Prespakis (CC)
EMG: Alice Burke (SD) – Amelia James (OC) – Amelia Velardo (WJ)

OTHERS CONSIDERED:

It was a really even round of performances this weekend, with a number of players making the shortlist for the team but just missing out. Among them were Calder Cannons’ duo Tamsin Crook and Emelia Yassir, Sandringham Dragons’ duo Winnie Laing and Pia Staltari, GWV Rebels’ duo Renee Saulitis and Lilli Condon, Northern Knights’ Ash Snow, Geelong Falcons’ Elizabeth Dowling, Bendigo Pioneers’ Jemma Finning, Eastern Ranges’ Jorja Livingston and Dandenong Stingrays’ Georgia Grimmer.

Saulitis bags two last quarter goals to sink Dragons in thriller

BACK-to-back goals in the final term from AFL Women’s National Academy member, Renee Saulitis has helped Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels get over the line against an unlucky Sandringham Dragons outfit, 4.2 (26) to 2.9 (21). From the get-go the fierce tackling pressure of the Dragons was evident with all of their onballers and forwards applying crunching tackles and bumps. It was just cleanliness and finishing ability inside forward 50 that was ultimately the difference in the game, with both defences holding up well, but the Rebels making the most of their chances. For most of the match it looked like Sandringham’s dominance in its forward half would surely be enough, with the Dragons having 13 more inside 50s (37-24) and five more scoring shots (11-6) but no matter how much pressure was applied, the Rebels were there to mop it up. It was indeed a strange game, with many of Sandringham’s top players among the best on the ground, but it was such an even team performance from the home team that got them up by five points in the contest.

Throughout the match, Rebels’ ruck Maggie Caris was too tall for her opposing rucks, almost exclusively giving her midfielders first chance at the footy. Despite this, the Dragons mids were more prevalent, led by the likes of Alice Burke, Eliza McNamara and skipper, Winnie Laing. All three found plenty of the ball, and their defensive pressure set the tone for the rest of the team. The bad luck for the visitors started early when Tayla Jones did everything right to soccer a ball inside 50 and run onto it a couple of metres out from goal, only to rush the kick and put it into the post. The Dragons held the ball inside their forward half for the first six minutes as their defensive line held strongly in the middle of the ground. When the Rebels went in however, it looked clean and direct, but the Dragons still were able to mop it up. Led by Sarah Hartwig in the back 50, the Dragons repelled inside 50 time and time again, and Jones had another chance whilst being tackled but her snap went to the right. With just their second inside 50, the Rebels drove the dagger in with a well positioned mark from Lilli Condon who turned around and slotted the opener of the match 11 minutes in. The ball spent a lot of time in between the arcs as Hartwig and her opposite half-back, Nyakoat Dojiok kept mopping up and creating run to set the play up for their respective teams. Late in the term, the Dragons smothered a ball from a kick-in but the next handball missed the target and allowed the Rebels to get numbers back and head into quarter time with a three-point lead.

The Dragons finally got reward for effort in the second quarter, with Laing, McNamara and Hartwig all impressing, and it only took 90 seconds for Pia Staltari to slot her side’s first with a nice goal on the run and composure to-boot. In contrast to the Rebels success from limited entries in the first term, they were getting more inside 50s in the second, but Hartwig continually came across to spoil or intercept mark and get the ball moving down the ground. In one instance, the half-back won a one-on-two contest, kicked out of the back 50, then backed up to win the next touch once it came back to hit-up Burke on the wing. The play was breaking down for the Dragons at half-forward with the Rebels defence providing pressure and the Dragons not able to break through. Ironically, the hap-hazardous play helped Sandringham to its second goal, with McNamara marking, stepping around her opponent and just putting it inside 50 for Nayely Borg to swoop on, spin and kick it through the goals in the dying seconds to hand the Dragons a well deserved 11-point lead having held the Rebels’ scoreless in the term. The third quarter was much of the same, but with both defences holding up. Neither forward line could breakthrough for another score without a bit of luck, and running back towards goal, Hartwig copped a horrible bounce which went past her back into her opponent’s path for Tahlia Meier to boot the ball through and give GWV a sniff once again. It was the only score of the entire quarter despite the influence of McNamara and Laing who were picking up big numbers.

The final term belonged to Saulitis who when everyone around her was fumbling under pressure and missing achievable shots at goal, she was clean and accurate. Edging close to the five-minute mark of the final term, the talented utility scooped up the ball turned and snapped as she was being dragged down for it to dribble home off a bounce from 30m and put her team in front. Her teammates flocked to her, but it would not be the last time, as despite both side having chances – including one to Meier which went through but was touched by the pack in the goalsquare – it was not until Saulitis found space again inside 50 and marked with three and a half minutes left in the match. Her shot on a 45-degree angle was perfect and she handed her team what looked to be a game-winning seven-point lead. The last three minutes of the match were owned by Sandringham with the pressure gauge at full, but in a summary of the match, the Dragons could not kick one through the big sticks from two chances. Borg had an opportunity for her second off a contested mark but it drifted to the left, much like Chloe Saultry‘s chance in the last minute with a breeze impacting the kick at that end. By the time the Rebels had kicked out, it was five seconds on the clock and Chloe Summers – who had been another impressive Rebel on the day – marked and the siren sounded.

It was difficult to pick out best players, with Dojiok being a standout for her run and impact per possession, finishing with 11 disposals – 10 kicks – three marks and five tackles, while it was also hard to ignore Saulitis’ last quarter which won her side the game. Others who had moments for the winning side were Summers (13 disposals, four marks, six rebounds), Condon (13 disposals, two marks, six inside 50s and four rebounds) and Isabella Hill (19 disposals, five tackles and three rebounds). Caris was naturally dominant in the ruck with 24 hitouts to go with her eight disposals and three inside 50s, while for the Dragons, Hartwig was the clear best, thanks to 14 disposals, five marks two inside 50s and four rebounds. The midfield trio of McNamara (20 touches, three marks, four tackles and six inside 50s), Laing (19 touches, five tackles, five inside 50s and four rebounds) and Burke (15 disposals, two marks, four tackles and four rebounds) were all strong throughout, as both Eddey (15 disposals, three marks, three tackles and four inside 50s) and Staltari (15 disposals, two marks, two inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal) also showed class in the game.

GWV REBELS 1.1 | 1.1 | 2.1 | 4.2 (26)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 0.4 | 2.6 | 2.6 | 2.9 (21)

GOALS:

GWV: R. Saulitis 2, T. Meier, L. Condon.
Sandringham: N. Borg, P. Staltari.

BEST:

GWV: N. Dojiok, R. Saulitis, L. Condon, C. Summers, I. Hill
Sandringham: S. Hartwig, A. Burke, E. McNamara, W. Laing, P. Staltari

DC Medal:

5 – Sarah Hartwig (SD)
4 – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
3 – Alice Burke (SD)
2 – Eliza McNamara (SD)
1 – Renee Saulitis (GWV)

*The DC Medal is a new initiative Draft Central is running where we vote for five players we thought had the most influence on the match. In this match there were more than 10 possible players who could have squeezed in there, but the standouts were the half-backs and midfielders, while Saulitis’ match-winning efforts saw her make it into the votes.

Rebels to focus on fundamentals ahead of 2020 season

FUNDAMENTALS have been the focus for the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ NAB League Girls side as the Ballarat-based club prepares for the 2020 season. Head coach Rhys Cahir said his second full pre-season in charge – having taken over from Jeff Whittaker in March, 2018 – had gone well as the players looked to step it up a notch in the skills department.

“It’s been a pretty solid pre-season again,” Cahir said. “We’ve been pretty big on getting the fundamentals right early so we had a lot of kicking early, specifically to get it right. “It’s such a big skill to master in the game and the girls, we allowed them to work as much at it. “We haven’t done a lot of fitness stuff but the fundamentals were our biggest thing we looked at this year. “We are seeing that it is a vast improvement straight away.”

Now the top-agers have adjusted to a number of pre-seasons, Cahir said it was clear the talent pool across not only the region, but the country was growing.

“Each bottom age group seems to get better and better than the year before,” he said. “It’s just that girls footy is growing and not just in this region, but all over so girls from Auskick can play all the way through instead of stopping three or four years and just coming in because their friends are playing. “It’s their number one sport now and the talent shows right through pretty early.”

Last year the Rebels had three players land on AFL Women’s lists – in fact just the one list – with Sophie Molan, Ella Wood and Nekaela Butler all selected by Richmond in last year’s AFL Women’s Draft. Cahir credited the off-field nature of the trio, and the Rebels’ program itself for providing its players with the terrific support needed to impress at the next level both on and off the field.

“Very exciting. For the second year in a row, we had three girls go to Geelong the year before, then three go to Richmond,” Cahir said. “For us, it’s good for our program that clubs are seeing that we are creating a good environment where the girls can play good footy, but they’re good characters as well and it’s exciting that clubs think that we can produce good footballers and good people. “Last year I was a part of Vic Country and had a bit of a say but Ella and Sophie probably picked themselves with the main lot,” he said. “You try and push your own wheelbarrow a little bit and get a few girls there, but the whole comp is getting too talented. “If AFL clubs ring up, I’m happy to talk all our girls up, not just about their football, but about their character. “I think that’s why Richmond were so keen to get the three of them. “More their character and what they could get out of them on-field and off-field. “They’re building something at Richmond so we are looking at building and pushing them on-field and off-field.”

Some of that character was evident with Molan’s extra responsibilities as captain, such as leading the warm-up before the coaches got on the ground, pre-game. Cahir said while the coaches gave her the green light to take that responsibility, it was not hard for the natural-born leader.

“It was part of me encouraging Soph to be herself,” he said. “Yes, she was the best player in the side and a natural leader but that was mostly on her a few times. “Good players can do that, they can sense when the whole side is down and need a spark or need a rev up or a bit of a cuddle to settle them down. “Terrific leader just naturally. It wasn’t something we had to push or tell her to do, we just helped her with it.”

While Molan and Wood both earned places on Vic Country’s list, Butler missed out but did not give up on her dream, earning a place on the Western Bulldogs’ VFLW list with support from her coaches and her own sheer determination.

“Nekaela was the one we thought early we could really push and highlight what she could do,” Cahir said. “She was terrific off half-back, we tried her in the midfield a bit early. Played well, but just played consistently off half-back. Unlucky to miss Vic Country but she got down to the Bulldogs’ VFL. “We kept pushing her to say ‘do everything right, get to every training, doesn’t matter if you don’t get games, do all the little things, someone’s always watching’. “Got a game of VFLW, played really well her first game and as I said there’s always someone watching you’ve just got to do the right things, and terrific character as well too. “She wanted to work, she has a bit of a laugh, but she can obviously play football as well.”

Looking ahead to 2020 and there are another three talents in the top-age bracket that have already been identified as members of the AFL Women’s National Academy. All three are very different players, but each add a unique element to the line-up.

“I’ve been pretty excited to see the three top-age Academy girls in Maggie Caris – who is really good in the ruck, went away and played for the Vic Country side and played some really good games. “Same with Isabella Simmons and Renee Saulitis, really excited for them to take the next step because they’re all super talented. “But now they drive the whole group because they’re the leaders as well so they can take their game to the next level. “We’ve also got a couple of younger ones that are just super talented coming through because they are naturally playing football from a young age now.”

Caris has a big year herself across multiple sports, representing Australia at Under 19s level in netball while entering her most important year of schooling. Cahir said the club was working with her to support her both on and off the field wherever possible.

“Well at the moment she’s extremely clever too, she’s gone into Year 12,” Cahir said. “I’ll let Maggie not run her own race, but monitor what she does. Tell her to have a break when she needs. “It’s a big commitment to be an elite AFL footballer or NAB League footballer, in the Australian Under 19 Netball side and going into Year 12, so we are pretty big on welfare and players looking after themselves and footy comes second, third and fourth if we need be.”

Along with the top-agers, Cahir said the talent at the bottom of the list in terms of age was constantly improving, with 16 and 17-year-olds always stepping up to challenge the 18-year-olds and try and force their way into the starting side.

“A couple of girls in Vic Country last year,” Cahir said. “Nyakoat Dojiok is just going to take leaps and bounds when she finally figures out she can play the game. “Ella Friend similar, Vic Country last year and in the bests. “Growing into her football and just keeps working. “Lilli Condon‘s flying, and even the bottom-bottom-ager in Paige Scott who’s going to come into the program from V/Line Cup last year is just a natural tough country footballer but will grow and grow for the next two years.”

Having recorded the two wins last year, Cahir said it was always nice to win, but at the end of the day, the focus – as it has always been – will be on development. With seven girls drafted in two years, the Rebels are one of the most successful organisations from the NAB League Girls competition when focusing on a development standpoint, and the Rebels coach hoped that would continue.

“We just want girls to have a crack,” Cahir said. “Yes they might not play in their favourite position all the time but it’s about development in themselves and outside if we win games it’s great, but it’s about pushing them and getting better and giving them a chance of playing AFLW. “If we lose no games and get three or four drafted, great. “If we win every game and get none drafted we probably haven’t really done our job, so it’s just keep developing in themselves, give them a bit of help with what we think could get them there, and not worry too much (about) what they can’t do.”

The GWV Rebels have a couple of trial games coming up, including a match against the Geelong Falcons in Ballarat. Following the trial games, the final list will be decided and a leadership group will be formed. Cahir said the players would vote for those leaders, but admitted there were a number of players who could easily lead the side.

“The next couple of weeks, we’ll give them a list and they can vote for four or five girls and announce it on the camp who will be our leaders,” Cahir said. “We’ve got some terrific leaders, Maggie, Renee, Chloe Leonard who is similar to Sophie Molan, is just a natural leader. “Whoever the girls pick we’ll be more than happy to support them and push them through.”

NAB League Girls Round 8 wash-up: Knights rise while Ranges book finals spot

THIS round brought plenty of excitement with the top of the table clash between the Northern Knights and Geelong Falcons headlining the round, while Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels potentially ended Oakleigh Chargers’ finals campaign, as Calder Cannons put themselves in the best position possible, winning over Bendigo Pioneers. Eastern Ranges booked a finals spot with an impressive win, while other victors were the Dandenong Stingrays and Western Jets, the latter of whom won their second consecutive match.

Calder Cannons 4.6 (30) defeated Bendigo Pioneers 1.3 (9)
By: Taylah Melki

GOALS:

Calder: A. Magri, Z. Hardiman, G. Patrikios, F. Theodore
Bendigo: E. Snell

BEST:

Calder: L. Cocomello, T. Crook, K. Petrevski, I. Young, G. Patrikios, N. Crowley
Bendigo: K. Douglass, B. Hards, D. Villiva, J. Finning, B. Heiden, T. Coad

It was a slow start for both sides with neither team able to score a goal in the opening term. Heading into half time the Bendigo Pioneers held a six-point margin scoring the only major for the term. But the goals seemed to be easier to find in the second half for the Calder Cannons who kicked into gear and applied strong pressure. Laura Cocomello impressed across the ground for the Cannons working hard at the contest and winning a heap of the ball with 17 touches. Georgia Patrikios and Georgie Prespakis led the way once again racking up 27 and 30 possessions respectively. Both were clean with the footy in hand with Patrikios making the most of her accuracy by foot with a game high 23 kicks and one goal for her efforts. Alana Barba applied good physical pressure laying nine tackles and did the little things well to worry her opponent out of the contest, while Krstel Petrevski was clever with ball in hand and made each possession count. For the Pioneers Brooke Hards put on a tackling masterclass with a whopping 16 showcasing her physicality and intent to win the ball. Jemma Finning also won plenty of footy for her side and fought hard throughout the game with the likes of Dakota Villiva also doing a wealth of work. Elizabeth Snell displayed her attacking flair with three inside 50s and the only goal for her side.

Dandenong Stingrays 6.4 (40) defeated Murray Bushrangers 3.9 (27)
By: Peter Williams

GOALS:

Dandenong: I. Shannon, A. Liddle, J. Guy-Toogood, J. Anthony, G. Grimmer, T. Smith
Murray: T. Verhoeven, A. Favell, A. Morphett

BEST:

Dandenong: B. Vernon, T. Smith, I. Shannon, J. Guy-Toogood, G. Howes, Z. Hill
Murray: A. Favell, M. Brown, K. Skepper, T. Brett, M. Jones, K. Adams

Dandenong Stingrays have held off a determined Murray Bushrangers outfit on their way to a 13-point win at Shepley Oval on Saturday. The Stingrays led by 11 points at quarter time, but the Bushrangers booted the only two goals of the second term to hit the front by four points. Dandenong hit back in the third term with a couple of majors, and led for the rest of the game as Murray missed a few chances in front of goal. A late goal to Abby Favell saw the Bushrangers draw to within a goal, but a Tyanna Smith major in the last minute sealed the win, 6.4 (40) to 3.9 (27). Brooke Vernon finished as Dandenong’s best with 19 disposals, two marks, two tackles and 12 rebounds, while Isabella Shannon finished with 14 disposals, five inside 50s and a goal. Smith stood up in the second half with her match-winning goal, while Molly McDonald continued her consistent form with 13 disposals, three marks and five inside 50s. Favell was the standout player on the field, racking up 26 disposals, four marks, five tackles, three inside 50s and four rebounds in the defeat. Millie Brown was also strong in defence, finishing the game with 24 disposals and seven rebounds.

Western Jets 3.1 (19) defeated Sandringham Dragons 1.3 (9)
By: Peter Williams

GOALS:

Western: J. Goodman 2, M. Ham.
Sandringham: A. Moloney.

BEST:

Western: P. Ozols, E. Georgostathis, I. Pritchard, R. Tripodi, A. Anthony, C. Singleton
Sandringham: S. Hartwig, D. Walker, A. Burke, A. Moloney, M. Purcell, L. de Gleria Cade

Western Jets have celebrated back-to-back wins after downing Sandringham Dragons at Avalon Airport Oval. The Jets hit the front in the second term after trailing by two points at the first break, booting 2.3 to 0.1 in the final three quarters to secure the win. Despite keeping them to one behind for three quarters, the Jets never looked entirely safe, holding strong in the final term despite the Dragons doing all the attacking in the quarter. Opposite centre half-backs Isabelle Pritchard (18 disposals, four marks and four rebounds) and Sarah Hartwig (17 disposals, four marks and five rebounds) were standouts on the day, rebounding and marking everything that came in their path. For the winners, Elisabeth Georgostathis had a game-high 22 touches as well as five marks and eight rebounds coming off half-back, while Payton-Ani Ozols was also impressive with 11 disposals, three marks and two tackles running on the outside and providing some drive for the Jets. For the Dragons, Alice Burke was strong again with 17 disposals, two marks and three tackles, while Daisy Walker had 16 disposals, three inside 50s and laid seven tackles in her best game this season.

Gippsland Power 2.1 (13) defeated by Eastern Ranges 9.10 (64)
By: Peter Williams

GOALS:

Gippsland: N. Williams, M. Van Berkel.
Eastern: S. Gibbs 3, B. Deed, S. Collard, M. Church, T. Brown, R. O”Dwyer, J. Richardson.

BEST:

Gippsland: M. Fitzsimon, C. Bird, M. Shaw, C. Abrahams , N. Webber, G. McRae
Eastern: J. Richardson, T. Brown, S. Gibbs, M. Di Cosmo, T. Flintoff, L. McClelland

Eastern Ranges produced their most commanding win of the year, defeating Gippsland Power by 51 points at Morwell Recreation Reserve. The Ranges looked impressive throughout the game on their way to the big win to cement a finals spot. It took until the tenth minute of the first term for Eastern to put through its first goal, but by quarter time they had three goals from seven scoring shots to lead by 22 points. Gippsland booted one goal in the second term, but the Ranges added a further two, extending their lead to 31 by the main break. By three quarter time the Ranges led by 44 points, and the margin got out to as much as 57 at one stage before the Power booted the final goal of the game through Matilda Van Berkel. Emma Horne picked up a game-high 28 touches, while Jenna Richardson was named the Ranges best for her 16 disposals, six marks, five inside 50s and a goal. Tarni Brown and Tess Flintoff were again busy with a combined 45 disposals, 11 inside 50s and 12 tackles, while Serena Gibbs slotted 3.4 from 18 disposals and six marks. For Gippsland, Megan Fitzsimon had 16 disposals, four rebounds and six tackles, while Grace McRae was again strong in the midfield with 17 disposals and three rebounds. Charlize Bird had 12 disposals, two marks and six tackles, while Chandra Abrahams was strong defensively, laying five tackles.

GWV Rebels 3.2 (20) defeated Oakleigh Chargers 2.7 (19)
By: Peter Williams

GOALS:

GWV: L. Condon, S. Molan, Z. Larkins.
Oakleigh: M. Bertuna, A. Porter.

BEST:

GWV: N. Dojiok, M. Caris, R. Saulitis, C. Willis, E. Wood, L. Condon
Oakleigh: K. Kearns, G. Lagioia, A. Porter, A. van Oosterwijck, J. Lin, A. Micallef

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels spoiled Oakleigh Chargers’ finals campaign, kicking a goal in the dying minutes to win by a point. Trailing for most of the contest after holding a one-point lead at quarter time, the Rebels kept the Chargers to just five behinds in the second half as teamwork and cohesion across the field from the underdogs was terrific. In the end, it was a Lilli Condon goal that separated the sides, as the Rebels held on for dear life in the last 90 seconds with the ball deep in their defence. They held strong and partied after the siren, with much jubilation and elation across the ground having toppled a highly fancied side. Sophie Molan was unsurprisingly the dominant ball winner for the Rebels, picking up 20 disposals, having five tackles and kicking a great goal. Ella Wood and Nekaela Butler were both good out of defence moving up the ground, while Nyakoat Dojiok was superb collecting 12 disposals, five marks, five tackles and two inside 50s. For the Chargers, Joanna Lin racked up 21 disposals, three marks, four tackles, two inside 50s, while Mimi Hill had 20 touches, five marks, two tackles and four inside 50s were busy. Alana Porter was terrific with her speed across the ground, and Kalarni Kearns named best for the losing side for her work in the ruck.

Geelong Falcons 0.7 (7) defeated by Northern Knights 6.7 (43)

GOALS:
Geelong: Nil
Northern: A. Bannan 2, N. Morris-Dalton, J. Fitzgerald, C. Linssen, M. Appleby

BEST:
Geelong: P. Sheppard, L. Gardiner, L. McEvoy, A. Chapman, L. Lesosky-Hay, M. Skinner
Northern: E. McKenzie, G. Newton, S. Sansonetti, A. Bannan, T. Smart, J. Nelson

The Northern Knights inflicted Geelong Falcons’ first defeat since Round 4 2017, winning by 36 points in a dominant display to snatch top spot and remain undefeated.

The Knights looked on and meant business from the get-go at Deakin University, throwing star trio Gabby Newton, Ellie McKenzie, and Britney Gutknecht into the first centre bounce. On the other side, Falcons coach Jason Armistead had shuffled the magnets heavily, with skipper Lucy McEvoy a notable starter across half-back. After a tense opening few minutes, the Knights broke away in a flash with three goals in as many minutes mid-way through the first term. As expected, the hosts threw everything back at their opponents to start the following quarter, dictating general play in the first 10 minutes and narrowly missing chances to open their goal account. It was to no avail though, as Northern applied smothering pressure and held on to keep the term goalless, taking a 15-point advantage into the main break.

With Geelong lacking a spark after seeing its efforts go unrewarded, the Knights continued to break open an unassailable lead in the third stanza on the back of a Jess Fitzgerald goal – the only goal for the term. Armistead did his best to rally his side at the final change, referring to Superbowl comeback victories and encouraging his side to take the game on. The Falcons needed a spark, and hedged their bets on winning the first centre clearance – hopefully kicking into the hands of McEvoy at centre half-forward. It was not to be as the ball found its way up the other end, and the Knights delivered two more crushing blows to seal the win.

The game ended on a sour note, with Northern’s Gulia Ceravolo downed unintentionally by a hard Renee Tierney tackle, forcing an early stoppage of the contest mid-way through the final term as she received treatment. It proved to be a bruising encounter for both sides, with Poppy Schapp sporting an ice pack and sling after a solid bump from McKenzie.

McKenzie and Newton were outstanding for Northern, providing a point of difference as cool heads in the hotly contested opening stages. Fitzgerald, Maykaylah Appleby, and Alyssa Bannan proved handfuls with their forward running and managed to hit the scoreboard alongside focal point, Nell Morris-Dalton. Up the other end, Sarah Sansonetti played a sensational role on Mia Skinner to quell Geelong’s main scoring threat. On a tough day for the Falcons, Paige Sheppard was combative as ever through the midfield alongside Laura Gardiner, while Abbey Chapman stood up under enormous pressure down back. McEvoy’s selfless role across each line was also fantastic, with her rebound and overhead marking a feature early on.