Tag: Lucy McEVoy

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 3 preview – Four of the top six lock horns on blockbuster weekend

ROUND 3 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season sees two sets of undefeated sides lock horns to find out whose ‘0’ will go, while teams just outside the top six battle to emerge as finals threats. As was the case last time around, fixtures have been shuffled and one matchup – between Brisbane and West Coast – is on hold. But with a couple of mouthwatering clashes and one Victorian grudge match set to go down, there is still plenty to look forward to from this weekend’s action.

Note: All start times are local.

GEELONG (14th, 0-2) vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS (7th, 1-1)
Friday February 12, 7:10pm
Kardinia Park

History will be made in red, white, and blue on Friday night as the Western Bulldogs’ first ever father-daughter selection, Isabella Grant makes her AFLW debut against Geelong at Kardinia Park. The daughter of 341-game Bulldogs champion, Chris missed all of her maiden season through injury, but comes into a winning side in place of the injured Bailey Hunt (calf). Her team will be sniffing out a positive record here, especially seeing that Geelong is currently bolted to bottom spot after losses of a combined 91 points.

The Cats have made a couple of changes, with the experienced Bec Goring called up to help bolster her side’s defence, while mature-age coup Nicole Garner also comes in for her senior debut. The pair’s additions come at the expense of youngsters Darcy Moloney and Georgia Clarke. Having lost handily to premiership fancy North Melbourne at home in Round 1, the Cats will be keen to make good on their advantage this time around and give fans something to cheer about.

The Bulldogs’ youthful exuberance and counter-attacking nature may pose some problems for Geelong, especially given the home side has only scrounged three majors in its first two outings. The Cats are also known for their young talent, but that has seen them fall away in lapses of concentration after positive periods. That could be a worrying factor if they don’t get up or stay level early, because we all saw how the ‘Dogs came back with force against Carlton last week.

Tip: Bulldogs by 13

GWS (11th, 0-2) vs. GOLD COAST (13th, 0-2)
Saturday February 13, 3:10pm
Blacktown International Sportspark

Two sides coming off hefty losses will look to get off the mark for season 2021, when Greater Western Sydney (GWS) hosts Gold Coast in Blacktown on Saturday afternoon. The Suns were kept to the lowest-ever AFLW score (two points) last time out in a one-sided Q-Clash, which should serve as fuel enough for this game. GWS went down to somewhat a rival of its own in Adelaide last week, making this a clash between two winless teams in desperate need of a confidence boost.

An improved Suns forwardline saw hardly any of the ball last week, but showed in Round 1 that when given the opportunity, goals will come. GWS has also had trouble moving forward with its fluency on the ball – or lack thereof – underselling the dominance of Alyce Parker and Rebecca Beeson at the clearances. Whichever team can click into gear quicker and find its groove in the front half should coast clear for a much-needed maiden win.

Tip: Giants by 5

ST KILDA (8th, 1-1) vs. CARLTON (9th, 0-2)
Saturday February 13, 5:10pm
RSEA Park

Carlton faces a tricky must-win fixture as it rolls into Moorabbin to take on St Kilda on Saturday night, with both sides poised outside the top six. Touted as a premiership chance coming into the season, the Blues have stumbled in two surprise losses with short bursts from opposition sides hurting them in the long run. The Saints loom as another tricky test having beaten the Blues’ last opponent and remained competitive against North Melbourne a week later.

Perhaps mercifully, the Carlton looks likely to call upon the recently recovered trio of Lucy McEvoy, Mua Laloifi, and Gab Pound, who would all normally feature in the starting lineup. While McEvoy will prove another classy midfield choice, the latter two should shore up the backline. Sturdiness will be important against an improve Saints attack, spearhead by Caitlin Greiser.

The midfield battle will also be an interesting one, with the likes of McEvoy and Maddy Prespakis locking horns with in-form St Kilda jets Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith. The hardened ball winning ability of Carlton’s pair against the classy running Saints should form an intriguing matchup of styles. Making the most of their impact will be key for either side, especially after their respective faults up forward thus far.

Tip: Blues by 15

MELBOURNE (4th, 2-0) vs. NORTH MELBOURNE (2nd, 2-0)
Saturday February 13, 7:10pm
Casey Fields

A mouthwatering contest between two undefeated Victorian sides goes down at Casey Fields on Saturday night, as Melbourne takes on North Melbourne. The Roos have been near-flawless across the opening two rounds; first dismantling Geelong on the road and then pulling away from the plucky St Kilda last week. Melbourne has found its grove after slow starts in both of its opening two fixtures, but now faces easily its toughest test to date.

While the Roos are renowned for their vast avenues to goal, Melbourne has proven somewhat of a surprise packet through its seemingly revitalised attacking nous. The engine room has played a big part, with Tyla Hanks slotting in seamlessly alongside Karen Paxman and Lily Mithen, but North is known to boss the ball and bat incredibly deep. A Kangas midfield quintet of Emma Kearney, Jenna Bruton, Jasmine Garner, Ash Riddell, and Ellie Gavalas has proven unbeatable across four quarters thus far, and will be tough to top.

The ruck battle will be another area of interest given how much class lies in either sides’ midfields, with Melbourne’s Lauren Pearce set to tackle an in-form Emma King. King, who has also rediscovered her scoring form, averages nearly double her opponent’s hitouts, but aide from rotating key forward Eden Zanker will likely even the contest up.

Tip: Kangaroos by 11

ADELAIDE (3rd, 2-0) vs. FREMANTLE (5th, 2-0)
Sunday February 14, 12:40pm
Norwood Oval

The round’s second top six clash sees Adelaide do battle with Fremantle at Norwood Oval, with the two undefeated teams battling to maintain their perfect records. Freo’s nine-game unblemished run has continued on from last season and while a tense derby only saw them get up by nine points with two majors on the board last week, the Dockers look every bit the premiership contender. Adelaide is right up there as well, emphatically returning to form in 2021 with the chance now to prove just how serious its flag tilt will be.

The Crows’ elite ball winners in Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard, and Erin Phillips will be difficult to match, while the dynamic wildcard that is Chelsea Randall could prove a game-breaking factor in roles at either end. A heap of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Fremantle’s Kiara Bowers in midfield, though a greater team spread up and down the spine is more the Dockers’ go.

It is no secret that Gemma Houghton poses a massive threat up forward alongside Sabreena Duffy, while Janelle Cuthbertson has been an absolute rock down back. With running power on the outer and many avenues to goal, Freo should have little trouble managing a winning score. Adelaide will again look to its midfield to fill out the scorebook, while the likes of Danielle Ponter, Ashleigh Woodland, and Teah Charlton loom as individuals who can break the game open.

Tip: Dockers by 1

RICHMOND (12th, 0-2) vs. COLLINGWOOD (6th, 2-0)
Sunday February 14, 3:10pm
Punt Road Oval

A late fixture shuffle sees traditional rivals Richmond and Collingwood go head-to-head on Sunday afternoon, set to provide some nostalgia to fans at Punt Road Oval. The Tigers are still out to claim their first points in the competition having shown signs of improvement thus far, but ultimately fallen short of better opposition. Collingwood looms as another difficult test, currently holding up the top six with a perfect 2-0 record.

The two sides have not yet met in the women’s competition, making for a fresh start and opportunity for either team to grab bragging rights. Collingwood’s rejigged forwardline which boasts Chloe Molloy and Brianna Davey benefitted last week with the inclusion of Sarah Rowe, and will again be in good shape to overpower the opposition. Conversely, scoring continues to be a sore spot for Richmond despite the dominance of Monique Conti in midfield and promise of Ellie McKenzie on the outer.

Tip: Magpies by 33

Note: The Brisbane Lions vs. West Coast Eagles fixture is TBC.

Featured Image: Western Bulldogs’ Isabella Grant (right) with her famous father, Chris | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 1 preview – Traditional rivals to open the show in Thursday night blockbuster

AFL Women’s makes its long awaited return tonight, with teams hungry to make up for lost time and rectify the ‘what-ifs’ left in 2020. Traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood take the season-opening honours once again, with plenty of heat expected to come out of that clash at Princes Park. A fixture shake-up on the eve of season proper sees a few matchups altered, but Round 1 will still be stretched across a bumper four days of footballing action. We preview all seven games, capped with a prediction to (hopefully) aide your footy tipping campaign.

Note: All start times are as of AEDT

Carlton vs. Collingwood
Thursday January 28, 7:15pm
Princes Park

Carlton and Collingwood return to the season-opening slot in a clash which is sure to produce plenty of fireworks at Princes Park. The Blues are yet to lose to their fierce rivals in said fixture, but suffered a shock loss to the Pies on home turf in their Round 2 meeting last year. Carlton is a hot favourite to secure premiership glory in 2021, but will be tested by an emerging Collingwood side which went incredibly close to knocking off North Melbourne in last year’s finals.

The clash will be made all the more intriguing as Carlton spearhead Tayla Harris resumes hostilities with dour Collingwood defender Stacey Livingstone, who labelled the star goalkicker “useless” at ground level after their battle last year. Gun Pies utility Bri Davey is also set to face her old side for the first time, which she used to captain, poised to spend more time up forward. Chloe Molloy is another set to swing into attack, with both players capable of breaking Carlton’s usually sturdy defence.

Reigning competition best and fairest, Maddy Prespakis will inevitably attract plenty of attention in the engine room, but should have a good amount of support in the form of new recruit, Elise O’Dea. The former Demon is one of four debutants for the Blues, who will be without Lucy McEvoy. Collingwood father-daughter coup Tarni Brown is another debutant to watch, thrown straight into the senior side in her maiden campaign.

The Pies are a team to watch in 2021, but the Blues will be incredibly difficult to beat, especially with a point to prove.

Tip: Carlton by 10

St Kilda vs. Western Bulldogs
Friday January 29, 7:10pm
RSEA Park

The Western Bulldogs take on St Kilda once again in Round 1, with the Saints keen to make good on last year’s result. The expansion side brought football back to Moorabbin in its maiden campaign and exceeded expectations, while the young pups failed to register another win after its opening round triumph but spawned plenty of green shoots.

Youth promises to be a key feature of the clash, with number two pick Jess Fitzgerald poised to make her senior debut for the Dogs while St Kilda’s prime selection in Tyanna Smith could well run against her in midfield. Both are quick off the mark, have a terrific inside/outside balance and can find plenty of the ball, adding to either teams’ exciting young stocks.

Also pending selection is the debut of Saints father-daughter recruit Alice Burke, the daughter of Bulldogs coach Nathan. Having coached her and an abundance of other players set to take the field on Friday night, Burke will soon be on the other side. 2019 draftees Gabby Newton and Georgia Patrikios are also set to meet in midfield, while Saints leading goalkicker Caitlin Greiser could well prove a difference-maker in the closely matched contest and many eyes will be on Izzy Huntington, who is expected to swing forward with more frequency this year.

The Saints arguably turned out the better side last year and a season of experience will do wonders for them, but the Bulldogs’ potential is relatively untapped and could again carry them over the line here.

Tip: Western Bulldogs by 1

Gold Coast Suns vs. Melbourne
Saturday January 30, 3:10pm
Metricon Stadium

Melbourne will travel to face Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium in Saturday’s first fixture, making for a meeting between experience and emergence. The Suns were another expansion team to exceed expectations last year by qualifying for finals, but still proved a rung off the true premiership contenders. Melbourne’s hardened core carried it to a breakthrough postseason feature, which the Dees made good of with an epic come-from-behind victory over GWS.

The visitors have already named three debutants, with prized draftee Alyssa Bannan set to line up in the forwardline while Eliza McNamara and Megan Fitzsimon add some more youth to the starting side. Speaking of, Tyla Hanks is one to watch for Melbourne as she prepares to spend more time in the engine room having cut her teeth as an impact forward.

Gold Coast has plenty of youth to boast as well, but also added a good amount of experience in the off-season. Former Saints Sarah Perkins and Alison Drennan are both quality players and leaders; with the former slotting straight into her new side’s leadership group and the latter set to provide another reliable figure in midfield. Scoring looks a key area of improvement for the Suns, and these two should aid that with presence inside 50 and forward momentum respectively.

Gold Coast rattled a few of the top sides last year and have the youthful exuberance to do exactly that to Melbourne on home turf, but the Dees are always a tough team to beat and should have enough prime movers to seal victory.

Tip: Melbourne by 5

West Coast vs. Adelaide
Saturday January 30, 5:10pm
Mineral Resources Park

West Coast begins its second AFL Women’s campaign at home as Adelaide comes to town looking to start its year on the right foot. The Eagles struggled last season but managed to scrounge a memorable maiden win and have made the markers of improvement for 2021. Adelaide, technically still the reigning premier, timed its premiership hangover perfectly as everything which could have gone wrong, did in 2020. The Crows finished sixth in Conference A with just two wins, but had many a setback along the way.

At its core, the Crows’ squad is still elite and will be buoyed by the return of some outstanding talent. Skipper Chelsea Randall is set to slot straight back into the defence after her long-term knee injury, while a fully fit Erin Phillips looms ominously as a midfield/forward option. In their absence, the likes of Sarah Allan and Anne Hatchard produced All Australian seasons, though the Crows will sweat on Ebony Marinoff‘s availability as the ball magnet looks to overturn her monster three-game suspension.

It is no secret that West Coast’s strength lies in the midfield, which will be bolstered by trade coup Aisling McCarthy and prime draftee Bella Lewis. The promising pair will be thrown straight into the deep end, but have experienced movers in Dana Hooker and captain Emma Swanson to wax with through the engine room – all under the ruckwork of Parris Laurie. Scoring has been a sore point for the Eagles though, and Adelaide can do plenty of that.

With plenty to prove in 2020, the Crows loom as a fearsome force which could quickly rise back to the AFL Women’s summit. West Coast remains a step off the competition’s best and arguably its greatest weakness works into Adelaide’s hands, with the Crows’ scoring ability key to taking the game away from their opponents here.

Tip: Adelaide by 25

Geelong vs. North Melbourne
Sunday January 31, 12:10pm
GMHBA Stadium

Geelong hosts North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday afternoon, gunning for a return to finals action in season 2021. North looms as stiff opposition first up though, with the Kangaroos keen to strike gold while their remarkably deep squad remains hungry and intact – especially after missing out on premiership opportunities in their first two top flight campaigns.

The hosts went back to the well of local talent once again at this year’s draft, introducing a couple more gun midfielders in Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner with their top 20 picks. Caution surrounds Nina Morrison‘s return but Denby Taylor is poised to slot back into the lineup after her own injury woes, while Olivia Purcell has a full preseason under her belt and will again look to mix it with the game’s elite midfielders.

Geelong will need to be on its game in the engine room considering how deep North Melbourne’s midfield crop runs, with skipper Emma Kearney joined by Jasmine Garner, Jenna Bruton and co. The former two are also scoring threats from the middle and add to North’s firepower, while the returning Jess Duffin is another big name which will steady the Kangaroos in defence.

The Roos won by 46 points in the same fixture last year, but should be in for a more competitive dig if Geelong can manage to turn its spurts of form into four quarter showings. They should still be too strong for the young Cats.

Tip: North Melbourne by 9

Richmond vs. Brisbane
Sunday January 31, 2:10pm
Punt Road Oval

Richmond’s hunt for premiership points continues into year two, starting with a home outing against Brisbane on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers went winless in their inaugural AFL Women’s campaign and, needless to say, will hope to avoid the same fate by getting on the board quickly in 2021. The developing Brisbane side proved many doubters wrong in 2020 and made finals, but must win games like these to achieve the same result this time around.

Incoming Tigers coach Ryan Ferguson will have 2020 number one pick Ellie McKenzie at his disposal, along with a raft of experienced inclusions. Foundation Blue Sarah Hosking is an important addition to the engine room, while Sarah D’Arcy could be one to boost their key position stocks as the Tigers look to become a more competitive force.

Brisbane looks a much more settled lineup having been ravaged during the expansion era, with a core of foundation players leading the charge ahead of some promising young talent. The front half spearheaded by Jesse Wardlaw looks exciting, while Kate Lutkins‘ defensive troops make the Lions hard to crack. Having started so well last season, the Lions will be out to put wins on the board early once again and push for more finals experience. They should be too strong here, but expect to see the Tigers fight.

Tip: Brisbane by 15

Fremantle vs. GWS Giants
Sunday January 31, 4:10pm
Fremantle Oval

The final game of the round sees GWS travel to take on Fremantle at Fremantle Oval on Sunday, looking to break the Dockers’ undefeated streak which dates back to 2019. The Giants have faced many a challenge over the offseason, including relocation, but showed last year that they can stand up against the tide. The Dockers are a force to be reckoned with, especially on home turf, and will again be a bonafide premiership contender – if not, the favourite.

The Dockers’ free flowing style and many scoring threats should cause Giants coaches a few headaches, though the visitors’ experience will count for plenty in resisting the inevitable pressure Fremantle will apply. It all starts with Kiara Bowers in midfield, while the dynamic duo of Sabreena Duffy and Gemma Houghton is always difficult to stop up forward, along with Ebony Antonio on the outer.

Those kinds of attacking threats should be too much for the Giants to handle, especially in the current context and in front of home fans. It is the kind of game Fremantle is expected to win, but GWS will be plucky.

Tip: Fremantle by 21

Featured Image: Carlton captain Kerryn Harrington (left) and Collingwood’s Bri Davey (right) are set to face off in Thursday night’s season opener | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

IN a new series focusing on the up and coming AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls, we take a look at some names who would be among their respective states’ top draft prospects for the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft.

Next under the microscope is Geelong Falcons’ midfielder Darcy Moloney who is a talented ball winner and progressed strongly through her middle-age and start of top-age footballing pathway.

Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

Height: 165cm
Position: Midfielder
Strengths: Accumulation, footy smarts, vision, skills

2020 NAB League stats: 2 games | 26.5 disposals | 1.0 marks | 3.5 tackles | 2.0 inside 50s | 1.0 rebounds

2019 NAB League stats: 10 games | 16.1 disposals | 1.8 marks | 3.6 tackles | 1.9 inside 50s | 4 goals

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 3 games | 13.7 disposals | 0.7 marks | 3.3 tackles | 3.3 inside 50s | 1 goal

A player who really came into her own as a middle-ager last season in the absence of the recently drafted Nina Morrison and Olivia Purcell. Moloney stepped up into the midfield, helping out captain Lucy McEvoy and teaming up with fellow bottom-ager Laura Gardiner, whilst providing a bit of dash and touch of class on a wing and half-forward. She booted the four goals, but it was her link-up work between midfield and forward – where she could hit up targets across her body and finding gaps inside 50 that really stood out.

Stepping up to represent Vic Country, Moloney was able to play all three games across the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, averaging almost 14 touches, as well as three tackles and three inside 50s per game. Her ability to get into space and run, and have an impact going inside 50 are among some of her top attributes. She only played the two games earlier this year, but brought her own football to the game, racking up a whopping 26.5 touches and still laying 3.5 tackles per game. She has an innate ability to provide an option and then look to get-and-go or switch up on the transition play to open up scoring opportunities for her teammates.

Whilst there is still plenty of unknowns about the remainder of the year, Moloney will undoubtedly be a key player in the Falcons last handful of games over the next couple of months, and be an important cog in the Country midfield should the championships go ahead as expected. She might be smaller than some other midfielders, but runs hard, finds the ball and uses it well, which sets her aside from a lot of her peers. She also has the capability of playing both inside and outside midfield, whilst resting at half-forward. She does not need a lot of touches to influence the contest, but she has no problems finding the ball.

2020 AFL Women’s season review: Carlton

CARLTON earned an AFL Women’s finals berth for the second year running under Daniel Harford, completing the feat of notching another finals win in the process before the season was cut short. Lauded for their ability to adapt and execute a range of gameplans, the Blues achieved their winningest campaign to date en route to finishing second in Conference B at 5-1. With four All Australian members and three Rising Star nominees littered across a talent-stacked squad, the foundation club is coming into its own and produced some memorable moments to relive in our season review.

RECORD: 2nd (B), 5-1 (1-0 finals), 151.8%

RESULTS:

R1: defeated Richmond by 34 points
R2: lost to Collingwood by 15 points
R3: defeated Western Bulldogs by 21 points
R4:
defeated Adelaide by 8 points
R5:
defeated St Kilda by 21 points 
R6:
defeated Melbourne by 16 points
SF: defeated Brisbane by 29 points

The Blues returned a near-bullet proof record in 2020, dented solely by the old enemy, Collingwood two weeks into the campaign. Dealt a relatively tough draw on the back of its grand final appearance in 2019, Carlton made the ideal start in providing a baptism of fire for the incoming Richmond side. Fast-forward to Round 3 and the young Bulldogs were next to be ticked off the list, with an iconic road win over Adelaide in a grand final rematch arguably the crown on Carlton’s year. Melbourne became the third foundation team to fall victim to the Blues, with Brisbane following come finals time after being outsmarted and outlasted. A team with terrific heart, the Baggers overcame some tricky obstacles along the way.

SEASON HIGH: Redemption in the grand final rematch

An historic 2019 season decider did not go the way of the Blues as they fell 45 points short of Adelaide, but the first meeting between the two sides produced a much different result, and an instant classic. On the road once again, Carlton joined the Crows on a 2-1 record and came in as a slight underdog despite the home side’s crushing injury blows. Behind at half-time, the Blues mustered something special to sneak ahead at the final break, holding on via its rock-solid defence and a game-sealing Darcy Vescio goal. Magic.

SEASON LOW: Going down to the old enemy for the first time

A fortnight before the Blues claimed their first-ever win over Adelaide, they suffered their maiden loss in arguably the most important fixture – against old enemy, Collingwood. Having accounted for the Pies in their previous three meetings, the Blues simply had no answers for Collingwood’s swift transition play and sturdy defence – who could forget Stacey Livingstone‘s job on Tayla Harris? In a bizarre twist, the Magpies pulled off the win even without ace recruit, Bri Davey, who went down with an injury scare in Round 1 after switching allegiances in the off-season.

FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:

Madison Prespakis (21.3 disposals, 2.7 marks, 3 tackles, 4.3 clearances, 3.3 inside 50s, 282 metres gained, 3 goals)

Last year’s Rising Star winner picked up right from where she left off, putting in a scintillating third term of the season opener to set up another outstanding season. The nuggety midfielder is Carlton’s prime mover, winning the ball at will despite heavy opposition attention and standing up in the clutch moments. A game changer among the game changers, and potential league MVP this year having already gained All Australian squad recognition.

Kerryn Harrington (13.7 disposals, 81% efficiency, 4.4 marks, 1.9 tackles, 2.6 rebound 50s)

The co-captain and leader of a solid defensive unit, Harrington’s outstanding reading of the play and sound use on the rebound was again a key feature in her side’s success across 2020. Her astonishing 13-mark effort against the Crows was crucial to the Blues holding on for the win on that day, and exemplary of how Harrington led the club for marks, intercept possessions, rebound 50s, and disposal efficiency in 2020.

Sarah Hosking (11.7 disposals, 70% efficiency, 2.6 marks, 3.1 tackles, 1.4 inside 50s, 2 goals)

Akin to the Energizer bunny in the way she can run all day and get to a wealth of contests, Hosking continued to prove she is all heart in 2020 with phenomenal attack on the ball and a fearless approach. A foundation member of the Blues’ squad alongside twin sister, Jess, the 24-year-old has become a leader in her actions on-field and is a much-loved figure around the club. Doesn’t miss a beat.

Katie Loynes (9.6 disposals, 1.9 marks, 4.6 tackles, 2.9 clearances, 2.7 inside 50s)

Pure numbers may not always stack up in terms of conveying a players’ impact, and Loynes is a competitor whose value is better felt in the immesuarables. A fierce leader who gives it her all each week, the 34-year-old co-captain led her club for tackles in 2020, while also featuring highly in the clearance and contested ball stakes on the back of her tireless work as an inside midfielder. Leading from the front, Loynes was a key part of Carlton’s tough midfield group.

Tayla Harris (10.4 disposals, 3.7 marks, 2.4 tackles, 2.6 inside 50s, 4.4 score involvements, 8 goals)

The spearhead of Carlton’s attack, Harris retuned another solid year from centre half-forward as one of four Blues to earn All Australian squad recognition. In addition to finishing as her side’s equal leading goalkicker, the athletic and aggressive 179cm forward also led the club for score involvements overall. Her work in bringing the ball to ground when unable to mark brought others into the game, and Harris looked as if she had a point to prove post Livingstone’s “useless” jibe.

THE RISING STARS:

Rd 1 – Lucy McEvoy (13 disposals, 1.9 marks, 4.1 tackles, 2.1 clearances, 2 inside 50s, 3 goals)
Rd 4 – Grace Egan (14.3 disposals, 2 marks, 4.6 tackles, 2.9 clearances, 1.1 inside 50s, 2 goals)
Rd 5 – Charlotte Wilson (10.8 disposals, 6 intercept possessions, 4.5 marks, 1.7 tackles, 2 rebound 50s)

Arguably the most fearsome aspect of Carlton’s squad this season was the performance of their Under-21 talents, with McEvoy, Egan, and Wilson joining Prespakis as young guns in the elite category. McEvoy’s debut was one to savour, and the youngster continued to show flashes of her best throughout a season where she seemed unfazed by the step-up in competition. ‘Greg’ Egan also became an instant hit, thrown into the engine room and quickly becoming an asset with her physicality and ability to find the ball. Last, but not least is Wilson, who improved out of sight this season, particularly after her Round 4 return to the side. A strong key defender who marks confidently, Wilson was often the Blues’ last line of defence and made it a hat-trick of Rising Star nominees in Round 5.

THE CROSS-CODER:

Chloe Dalton (14 disposals, 1.6 marks, 3.3 tackles, 2.4 clearances, 1 rebound 50, 2.7 inside 50s)

After impressing in her debut season last year with her ability to find the goals, Dalton made another significant step with her run-and-carry from midfield in 2020. The former Rugby Sevens player has transitioned seamlessly into life at Princes Park, improving each week and having a real impact on games. While she is still somewhat raw, Dalton’s rate of development has been exceptional thus far.

THE GOALSNEAK:

Georgia Gee (10.1 disposals, 1.1 marks, 3.6 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 3.1 score involvements, 8 goals)

Another Under-21 prospect who continues to excel at the highest level, Gee came up clutch for Carlton a number of times in 2020 – most notably in its semi final win against Brisbane where she booted three second half majors. That haul helped the 20-year-old finish equal with Harris as the Blues’ leading goalkicker, and the energy Gee brought to the side just when they needed it helped her earn All Australian squad honours.

VERDICT:

There is a lot to like about this Carlton side going forward, with its experienced foundation members aiding the development of some of the league’s most exciting young talents. The three-pronged tall attack up forward was exceptional, with the inside midfield grunt protecting a more-than-capable defensive unit. The flexibility of the side will hold it in good stead, with more finals victories surely again the goal going forward.

AFL Womens Young Gun Watch: Semi-Finals

IN what is the final edition of the AFL Women’s Young Gun Watch round wrap up, we look at the four semi-finals and how each of the young guns stepped up who were born this century.

North Melbourne vs. Collingwood

North Melbourne had a couple of young guns running around in the first semi-final to be played, with forward, Daisy Bateman and first year player, Mia King both in the side. Bateman booted the first goal of the game off a nice Jasmine Garner pass, and collected 10 touches, four marks, two inside 50s and laid four tackles in the game. King copped a knock during the match but courageously came back on to finish the game with six disposals. For the Magpies, they had four players born this century, with Lauren Butler tacking up the most touches courtesy of 11, as well as three marks, three tackles and two rebounds. Mikala Cann booted a crucial goal in the second term to help turn the tide and had seven touches, two marks and laid a huge tackle to win a free kick, while Jordyn Allen (five disposals) and Alana Porter (three disposals, two tackles and two rebounds) also had moments in the loss.

GIANTS vs. Melbourne

Young star, Alyce Parker again was instrumental for the GIANTS, winning the most disposals and trying her best to haul her side to the finish line. She racked up a game-high 23 touches, as well as four marks, three inside 50s and five rebounds in a standout performance. Former GIANTS Academy member, Brenna Tarrant ran out for the opposition and enjoyed a win, picking up three touches in her third game, while former Calder Cannons’ talent, Krstel Petrevski made her debut in the final laying a tackle and having a kick. Shelley Heath returned to the side with success, picking up eight disposals, three marks, four tackles and two inside 50s, while Tyla Hanks was the best of the four young guns in the side, amassing 12 touches, six marks, three tackles and three inside 50s in the win.

Fremantle vs. Gold Coast

In a stacked game full of young guns, Fremantle and Gold Coast had five players born this century run out for each of the sides. The Dockers came out on top in a massive 70-point win, and it was the likes of Sabreena Duffy (11 disposals, three goals), Roxanne Roux (11 disposals, three marks, three tackles, two hitouts, five inside 50s and a goal) and Mim Strom (eight disposals, three marks, two tackles, 14 hitouts and one inside 50) who led the way. Emma O’Driscoll had the nine touches and six marks, while Bianca Webb also picked up eight disposals, as well as two marks, two tackles and two inside 50s in the win. For the Suns, Jacqui Yorston was a shining light in the loss, racking up 22 disposals, two marks, three tackles and a rebound, while Ellie Hampson (12 disposals, three marks and four rebounds) and Serene Watson (10 disposals, two rebounds) were impressive out of the back half. Lauren Bella (five disposals, 17 hitouts and two rebounds) did well through the ruck against her opposition one year her junior, while Dee Heslop also played in her first final with four disposals and two inside 50s.

Carlton vs. Brisbane

In the standalone Sunday game, it was Carlton that got up with a strong second half, led once against by some impressive performances from talented youngsters. Last year’s Rising Star, Madison Prespakis picked up a game-high 18 disposals, as well as two marks and two inside 50s, combining with fellow second-year player, Grace Egan (15 disposals). Lucy McEvoy kicked a game-sealing goal for the Blues to go with her 13 touches and three marks to cap off a great debut season, while defender Charlotte Wilson was reliable again with eight disposals and two rebounds. For the Lions, Lily Postlethwaite was the standout of the young brigade, having seven disposals, three tackles and three rebounds in a hardworking effort, while Isabel Dawes (seven disposals, two marks and two tackles), Nat Grider (five disposals, four tackles) and Jesse Tawhiao-Wardlaw (three disposals, two tackles, two inside 50s and one goal) were the others who tasted finals action.

All Gee for Carlton in another finals triumph

CARLTON won through to a would-be AFL Women’s preliminary final after toughing out a 29-point win against Brisbane on Sunday afternoon, but will have to settle for a second-consecutive top four berth on the back of its 6.8 (44) to 2.3 (15) triumph. Renowned for their ability to adjust gameplans mid-match, the Blues eventually got their running game going in the face of Brisbane’s early pressure to coast home on the turf of their Princes Park fortress.

The hosts did not have it all their own way throughout the contest, as the Lions dominated much of the early proceedings on the back of some fierce tackling and a sound set-up behind the ball. The footy was red hot, meaning Carlton could only turn the ball back over from its defensive half, while Brisbane was seldom afforded a straightforward avenue to goal. Despite the Lions’ control of the territory, they were unable to translate it to scoreboard pressure, with Jess Wuetschner’s snap coming only after her side boasted nine of the first 10 inside 50 entries. But her six-pointer was cancelled out at the other end by ex-Lion Tayla Harris, who was also attacking aerial balls with intent and gave the Blues a target to kick to on the rebound. Carlton’s overuse made it difficult to fully utilise her though, even if the Blues were hanging in the contest.

With the wind favouring one end of the ground, the second term saw a complete role-reversal as Carlton shifted the tide in its favour – only, the Blues were also able to keep the Lions scoreless in snatching a one-goal lead at the main break. Harris’ ability to bring the ball to ground worked wonders for the Blues’ smalls, as they got to work in mopping up the spillages to prove more effective inside forward 50. Darcy Vescio’s early goal to edge the Blues ahead looked to be a catalyst for her side, but the Lions’ defence held up well. Brisbane was largely a non-threat going the other way though, with the majority of its numbers occupying the defensive half in what seemed to be a damage-limitation tactic while Carlton owned the scoring end.

A bruising first half looked to have produced casualties for either side, but defenders Vaomua Laloifi (Carlton) and Shannon Campbell (Brisbane) both took the field in the third term after coming off worse for wear in heavy collisions. Key moments came early in the third stanza with the first goal key in deciding which way the momentum would shift. A 50-metre penalty helped Carlton dissipate the wind disadvantage, and it should have yielded the Blues a goal as Maddy Prespakis’ snap sailed through the big sticks – only to be wrongly adjudged as being touched off the boot. But it mattered little after another 50-metre penalty gifted Georgia Gee her first major after the running machine laid a big tackle on Campbell just outside of the arc. Gee was in the action again as the Blues began to take over on the outside with pace, and a long Harris bomb saw Gee covert a second major over the back to put the Blues three goals to the good. The frustrated Lions looked out of the hunt, only to be buoyed in the final minute as Jesse Wardlaw was infringed despite being outnumbered three-to-one, allowing the youngster to cut the margin to 15 points heading into the final break.

After some tense tussling in the early goings-on, Gee’s third goal from another snare close to goal sealed the deal with over eight minutes left on the clock. That left the ultra-impressive Lucy McEvoy to put the cherry on top of the Blues’ sweet win, snapping home in the final minute as Carlton again kept the Lions scoreless for the entire term. The toll continued to tell on the players with Prespakis recovering from an ankle knock, while Sophie Conway’s troublesome shoulder gave her some grief amid the gruelling contest. It would have mattered little as the Lions were set to bow out, but Prespakis’ recovery would have been a sticking point should the Blues’ meeting with North Melbourne have been scheduled to go ahead. Harris’ impending report could also have spawned a talking point, but the key forward’s sling tackle on Emily Bates looked to have been safe enough.

While a typically even team performance gave Carlton the edge, individuals took hold of certain periods to help the Blues gain the ascendancy. Arguably the most important of the lot was Gee’s three-goal contribution, with the pacy forward’s electric second half at the forefront of Carlton’s greater fortunes. Prespakis was at her usual best, covering the ground well for a game-high 18 disposals, while Grace Egan capped off a memorable debut season with 15 touches. The sweeping defensive trio of Kerryn Harrington (16 disposals, three marks), Jess Hosking (15 disposals, seven marks), and Laloifi (10 disposals, two marks) was outstanding, with the leading options of Harris (eight disposals, one goal), Vescio (12 disposals, one goal), and Nicola Stevens (six disposals) all playing roles which exceeded their statlines.

In a losing effort, it was most of Brisbane’s ‘foundation eight’ which stood up to keep their side in with a fighting chance. Kate Lutkins headed the effort in defence with 16 disposals, three marks, and three tackles, while the engine room workers in Ally Anderson (17 disposals, four marks), Bates (15 disposals, five tackles), Conway (13 disposals, four marks, five tackles) and Catherine Svarc (12 disposals) all gave it everything. Wuetschner (11 disposals, one goal) and ex-Blue Lauren Arnell (10 disposals, four tackles) both put in shifts from half forward with admirable running both ways, unfortunately to no avail.

CARLTON 1.0 | 2.2 | 4.6 | 6.8 (44)
BRISBANE 1.2 | 1.2 | 2.3 | 2.3 (15)

GOALS:

Carlton: G. Gee 3, T. Harris, D. Vescio, L. McEvoy.
Brisbane: J. Wuetschner, J. Wardlaw.

ADC BEST:

Carlton: K. Harrington, M. Prespakis, G. Egan, G. Gee, T. Harris, J. Hosking
Brisbane: K. Lutkins, E. Bates, A. Anderson, S. Conway, C. Svarc, E. Zielke

Blues and Lions to draw from experience in AFL Women’s semi-final

CARLTON is in a great position to follow up from a fantastic win over Melbourne last week to well and truly show Brisbane who’s boss in the standalone AFL Women’s semi final on Sunday. Taking on the Lions for the first time in 2020, the Blues are sure to make the most of their home ground advantage – despite not having any spectators at the venue – and put their best foot forward for a chance at a fifth straight win. No strangers to finals footy with both teams having played in grand finals, this match could go either way.

Carlton v. Brisbane
Sunday, 22 March, 1.10pm AEDT
IKON Park

Two sides that have plenty of firepower, this matchup between Carlton and Brisbane will be a real test for both teams with young talent taking centre stage this season backed up by veterans of the game. The likes of Kerryn Harrington and Tayla Harris have helped to guide the Blues in 2020, letting young guns Maddy Prespakis, Lucy McEvoy and Grace Egan do what they do best around the footy with all three excelling under the big lights. Prespakis is among the best of the best across the competition, averaging 21.8 touches in her second year while Egan and McEvoy have impressed off the footy, with 5.3 and 4.3 tackles per match in their respective inaugural seasons. Down back with Harrington is first year Vaomua Laloifi who has been stellar off the half back with her tenacity and confidence proven in her rebounding efforts – averaging 2.5 to Harrington’s 2.7 – while Nat Plane had a fantastic game last week so will hope to build on some of that momentum.

Brisbane has had a bit of a topsy-turvy season, with a strong start to the season failing them in recent weeks and two tough losses on the trot rounding out their home and away season. But while they may not have gotten the wins in the past few rounds, they have retained their intensity in and around the footy and will do what they can to make it hard for Carlton to clear the footy and push forward. Emily Bates and Alexandra Anderson have been consistent as ever collecting plenty of the footy while Catherine Svarc has been influential off the half back, averaging 9.8 contested possessions and 6.2 intercepts, while fellow backliner Kate Lutkins leads the rebound tally with 3.0 and 4.7 marks. Jesse Tawhaio-Wardlaw continues to lead the team’s goal count with eight despite only finding the behind post last round while Jessy Keeffe could be challenged in the ruck, averaging 17.0 hitouts to Carlton ruck, Breann Moody‘s 16.8.

AFL Women’s Young Gun Watch: Round 6

IN our sixth edition of the Young Gun Watch, we take a look at some of the top young performers across the AFL Women’s competition in Round 6 focusing on those players born in the 21st century (2000 or 2001). We analyse match-by-match just how they performed and what they did well.

Geelong vs. North Melbourne

North Melbourne ended up coasting to a comfortable victory over Geelong on Friday night to maintain top spot on the Conference A ladder. However, star Cat Nina Morrison’s devastating injury would be the main takeaway from the game as she unfortunately ruptured the ACL in her right knee for the second time in two seasons. As things went from bad to worse for Geelong fans, Olivia Purcell gave them something to smile about having collected 18 disposals and five tackles. Millie Brown (nine disposals) and Sophie Van De Heuvel (eight disposals) were also serviceable in what was a tough night for the Cats. Daisy Bateman again provided pressure up forward for the Kangaroos resulting in a goal for her five mark and five tackle effort. Making the most of a high-scoring team performance was Mia King, who managed her first career goal after gathering 12 disposals and an impressive seven tackles.

Brisbane vs. Collingwood

Collingwood collected a dominant road win against Brisbane, keeping them in the hunt for finals footy. Much like the rest of the team, Brisbane’s young talent couldn’t quite get into the game with their first draft pick in 2019, Lily Postlethwaite, collecting just the two disposals. Natalie Grider showed some positive signs out of defence, collecting 10 disposals and laying four tackles having to contend with the sharp and abundant inside 50 use from the Magpies. Full-forward Jesse Tawhaio-Wardlaw had seven disposals, three marks and six hit outs while Isabel Dawes managed five disposals in what was a quiet night for Brisbane’s forward stocks. Collingwood’s experience led the way as their young talent played roles in the win. Jordyn Allen had nine disposals and five marks while Lauren Butler also collected nine disposals off the half back-flank. Mikala Cann (five disposals, four tackles) and Alana Porter (five disposals) were also useful.

St Kilda vs Richmond

St Kilda boasted contributors across the board as they held Richmond goalless at Moorabbin on Saturday, a first in AFLW history. The Saints’ youth again impressed as their first draft pick, Georgia Patrikios, had 14 disposals and a couple of tackles out of the middle, unfortunately also just missing out on a goal. Dandenong product Molly McDonald showed large improvement with 12 disposals, six marks and three tackles, while Isabella Shannon was serviceable with four disposals and two tackles. Nicola Xenos again applied solid pressure in the centre with six tackles, as she enjoyed a well-rounded 11 disposal performance to go with a goal. The Tiger’s young talent endured a tough day with the rest of the team, with Kodi Jacques (seven tackles) and Sophie Molan (eight disposals) the stand-out players. With finals footy out of the question for Richmond, Nekaela Butler (five disposals, three tackles) and Ciara Fitzgerald (two disposals, two tackles) both debuted in the loss.

Melbourne vs. Carlton

Alice Springs brought the heat on Saturday in more ways than one, with the Blues enjoying a 16-point win over the Demons, propelling them to second on Conference B’s ladder. Sticking with mature-aged players, Melbourne again played just the two players born this century. Tyla Hanks has been the most impressive all season and started in the centre, collecting 11 disposals and laying six tackles. Hanks now averages five tackles per game on the season. Carlton’s youth again showed why they are arguably the best in the league, with Madison Prespakis leading the crop in a typical Prespakis performance of 23 disposals, four marks and a goal. Lucy McEvoy put up impressive numbers with 19 disposals, while last week’s Rising Star nominee, Charlotte Wilson, had 11 disposals and six marks out of defence. Murray product Grace Egan was also important, popping up with a goal to go with her 11 disposals and three tackles.

Western Bulldogs vs. Fremantle

Fremantle maintained its perfect record off the back of a dominant final quarter which saw them outscore the Bulldogs 25 to six at Whitten Oval on Sunday. The highest-scoring game in AFLW history was littered with admirable performances from youth on both sides as fans were treated to the future of the competition. The Bulldogs’ young talent improved greatly on last week’s performance with Gabby Newton (16 disposals, eight tackles) and Elisabeth Georgostathis (13 disposals, four tackles) leading the way. Gemma Lagiola (10 disposals) and Eleanor Brown (11 disposals, three tackles) were also important for the Bulldogs, as Hannah Munyard returned nine disposals, three tackles and a goal. Britney Gutknecht (seven disposals, four tackles) played her second game for the season, while fellow former Northern Knight Nell Morris-Dalton debuted with eight disposals and five tackles. Fremantle’s Mim Strom backed up last week’s effort with an even more dominant 25 hitouts, playing a lone hand in the ruck with Roxanne Roux out. Though it was not four goals, Sabreena Duffy managed to keep the Bulldogs defenders under pressure with five tackles, while Emma O’Driscoll managed seven disposals.

Adelaide vs. GWS GIANTS

The GIANTS defeated the Crows for the first time in franchise history behind closed doors on Sunday, running out five-point victors. Adelaide continue to showcase their young talent as finals footy feels like a long way for them having suffered this loss, with Montana McKinnon again the most impressive. The six-foot ruck again provided the Crows midfielders with deluxe service with 17 hitouts. Danielle Ponter collected six disposals out of full-forward to go with her two tackles, while Jaimi Tabb managed just the five disposals. GWS again opted with just the one player born in this century and you cannot blame them. Star midfielder Alyce Parker enjoyed a best-on-ground performance with 30 disposals, seven marks and three tackles. She led all players in the disposal count as she now averages just over 20 disposals on the season. With just two more 21st century-born players on the list, you hardly expect the GIANTS to change the formula heading toward finals.

West Coast vs. Gold Coast SUNS

The SUNS enjoyed a 25-point win on Sunday against the Eagles after having kept West Coast without a goal for the first three quarters. The Eagles will be looking forward to next year’s draft to secure more young talent as McKenzie Dowrick and Sophie McDonald were both out this week, leaving winger Mikayla Bowen the sole 21st century-born representative. Bowen gathered nine disposals and three tackles in what was a tough day for the Eagles. Inversely, Gold Coast’s youth all enjoyed solid outings as they kept their season alive. Lauren Bella dominated the ruck on her way to 16 hit outs, sharing the load with debutant Taylor Smith who was useful with 10 disposals and four hit outs. Gold Coast’s pressure was pivotal throughout the game with Jacqui Yorston (12 disposals, four marks, nine tackles), Ellie Hampson (12 disposals, six tackles) and Dee Heslop (five disposals, 10 tackles) all driving factors in that aspect.

Blues assert dominance with 16-point win over Dees in Alice Springs

IT was a hot start in hot conditions in Alice Springs on Saturday night, with Conference B rivals Melbourne and Carlton fighting for an elusive finals opportunity with the loser of this match in danger of missing out. While the Demons took out an early lead, the Blues were not to be left behind, keeping a firm hand on the Dees to dominate the second half, denying a goal from the red and blue after half-time, with the hosts going down 3.6 (24) to 6.4 (40).

Both sides switched on early, and while both sides were unable to put a goal on the board for the first half of the quarter there was no lack of pressure across the field with quick movement and little clean chances to put ball to boot. The Dees were more patient with ball in hand, chipping the footy around the ground but wasting chances up forward. Kerryn Harrington was on song early, applying defensive pressure with her read of the play and intensity proving key for the Blues, aided by Vaomua Laloifi who was unafraid going into any contest. Melbourne were quick to take advantage of the Blues playing down, locking up their back 50 thanks to rebounding efforts of Libby Birch and speed of Daisy Pearce and keeping the Blues tracking through the middle of the ground. A head knock to Aliesha Newman had fans scrambling but Kate Hore was quick to create some cheer, sprinting down the wing with three bounces and finding the first goal of the match at the end of it. But Carlton returned fire almost instantly, with Brooke Walker on the end of a Tayla Harris kick at centre bounce to keep the side in the mix. Harrington missed much of the first after a head knock saw her take the bench with a cheekbone issue, with Nat Plane lining up in her place against a real mismatch in opposition against Sarah Perkins. It saw Perkins do what she does best inside 50, booting a goal and getting the Dees up and about and in control once more, owning the footy on the outside to lead by eight and dominating the mark count 22-9 at quarter time.

A slow second term followed up the first, with both sides continuing in similar fashion. While Harrington rejoined the fray, Melbourne’s Irish recruit Sinead Goldrick went down with a corky, leaving the Dees down one in the back half for the rest of the match. Quick hands from Harris saw Georgia Gee put her first on the board as the Blues switched on the pressure, but while they flooded Melbourne’s forward 50 they were unable to take advantage of turnover footy with little option left in their forward half to make the most of opportunities. A late goal from Shelley Scott saw the Dees reestablish an eight-point lead heading into the main change, with a massive second half to come.

The match flipped in the second half, with the Blues doing what the Dees did best early, cleanly and patiently chipping the footy down the field to apply the forward pressure they so sorely lacked early. It was a tense start, with both sides going in hard to the contest but it was the Blues ultimately getting the better of the Dees, coming out full throttle to prove they had plenty left in the tank. Melbourne lost some cleanliness in defence but were lucky to get out relatively unscathed in the early stages of the term, pressured in their back 50 in a way they had not been early in the match. But while the Blues had difficulty applying the scoreboard pressure, all was released with a likely anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury to Sarah Lampard, with a much-needed goal from Harris breaking the flood and youngster Grace Egan following up minutes later to put the Blues in front for the first time. The Dees just could not catch a break, down two on the bench and the bounce just not going their way in front of the big sticks, with Newman just one of many who could not apply the scoreboard pressure, with a scarily similar run and bounce down the wing to Hore’s first quarter major dribbling through as a behind. A late knock to Harrington saw the key defender head off the field for the second time, with the Demons finishing the third term with a lacklustre two behinds to Carlton’s two majors.

Both sides started the final term ready for a tough slog, with neither side ready to give up in what shaped up to be an even contest. Carlton’s intensity was paying dividends with Melbourne’s defence tiring thanks to little bench rotations in the heat, with a goal to Maddy Prespakis opening up a crucial nine point lead and all the momentum going the way of the Blues. Plenty of opportunities saw the Dees pepper the scoreboard but to no avail, with the footy continuing to evade the goalposts and the clock ticking down. The last five minutes saw frantic footy, with much of the play in the Melbourne forward 50 but impatience causing more issues from the usually composed side. A second goal to Walker saw the Blues lock up victory with only three minutes left on the clock, extending the lead to 16 points and giving the Dees little chance of taking back the win.

Despite not getting hands to the footy in the first half, Carlton young gun Lucy McEvoy finished among the best with 19 touches, joined by Prespakis who once again starred with 23 disposals, four marks and a goal. Laloifi and Plane provided a crucial defensive buffer down back while Harris and Darcy Vescio put on a veteran performance getting hands to plenty of the footy and creating a constant pressure pushing up the ground. For Melbourne, Paxman lead the charge once more with 27 touches while Hore put on a stellar performance with 19 touches, six marks, six tackles and a goal in her best match of the season so far. Pearce put her experience out on the field, collecting 16 touches and five marks while Maddi Gay racked up 17 touches and five tackles, aided by Eden Zanker who impressed in the ruck with 17 hitouts and 13 touches, while Birch was influential in defence.

Both Melbourne and Carlton will face Fremantle in the coming weeks, with this win leaving the Blues in a good position to get through a rough patch if it comes. Melbourne will have a tough time coming back from this match, with the margin seeing their percentage drop drastically and Collingwood right on their tail with only two rounds left in the books. Carlton take on Conference B cellar dwellers, West Coast Eagles next Saturday at Ikon Park while Melbourne travel to Western Australia to take on undefeated Fremantle on Sunday afternoon at Fremantle Oval.

MELBOURNE 2.3 | 3.3 | 3.5 | 3.6 (24)
CARLTON 1.1 | 2.1 | 4.1 | 6.4 (40)

GOALS:

Melbourne: S. Scott, K. Hore, S. Perkins.
Carlton: B. Walker 2, G. Egan, G Gee, T. Harris, M. Prespakis.

ADC BEST:

Melbourne: K. Hore, K. Paxman, E. Zanker, M. Gay, D. Pearce, C. Sherriff
Carlton: M. Prespakis, N. Plane, L. McEvoy, G. Pound, C. Wilson. V. Laloifi