Tag: mackenzie eardley

2021 AFLW U17s Championships: Metro complete the double with strong second half

VIC METRO have made it two from two in the AFL Women’s Under 17s Championships, with an impressive 11-point win against their Country counterparts at Warrawee Park on Tuesday afternoon, with the final scores being 5.3 (33) to 3.4 (22). Despite the loss, Country looked much improved from their showing on Good Friday, with the return of Under 19s squad members Octavia Di Donato and Mackenzie Eardley shoring them up in defense. Metro were without three of their best from the previous clash, with Charlotte Baskaran, Sofia Hurley  and Bridie Hipwell not taking part as they prepare for their debut performance for Vic Metro 19s against Western Australia on Thursday.

With three of their main midfielders out, the Metro starting midfield looked a lot different to what they did in the last match, with two 2023 draft eligible talents in Ava Jordan of the Northern Knights and Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges) moving in to fill the gap, along with Brooke Plummer, a teammate of Jordan’s at the Knights. 

Unsurprisingly, the first quarter was an arm wrestle for control from each side, neither team having control for very long. No one managed to get a goal, with the defensive efforts of both sides extremely good, swarming on any defensive 50 entry to create an outnumber and force it out, Metro’s Mia Busch and Abbey McDonald along with Country’s Grace Hay, Molly Walton and Eardley were noticeable standouts in this regard, and were well rewarded for their efforts with Metro midfielders Pisano, Plummer and Charlotte Taylor working hard to move the ball forward, and their Country counterparts Di Donato, Felicity Crank and forward Ash Van Loon involved in Country’s attacks, seeing the quarter end 0.1 (1) apiece.

After a goalless and heavily contested first quarter, the second started off with a bang, seeing Country’s Mia Van Dyke getting on the scoreboard in the first minute, sweeping up a spilt mark and snapping from about 30m out to get the first of the game, following up with her second later on in the quarter, positioning well to take an uncontested mark in the goal square in transition and put it straight through the middle. Despite going into half-time goalless, Metro looked good in the quarter with Rylie Wilcox and Charlotte Van Der Vlies involved in plenty for Metro in the midfield and Lulu Beatty standing up often as a last line of defense. For Country, Olivia Robinson, Bianca Lyne and Charlotte Simpson were instrumental in giving country the 2.2 (14) to 0.2 (2) lead.

Metro decided that it wanted to be invited to the goal kicking party in the third term, piling on four goals in what would ultimately decide the game. The first being a highlight reel goal for Jemma Rigoni, who is a Melbourne Father-Daughter prospect for next year, running onto a kick from Lily Hart, beating Country’s Hay and Di Donato in a foot race, taking a bounce and slotting it from about 30 out. McDonald was up next, capitalising on a dropped mark on the goal line from Hay to get Metro’s second, not even three minutes after the first. Not done there, McDonald bobbed up again later in the quarter, this time spoiling an attempted switch across goal from Country, following up at ground level, weaving past an opponent to throw it on her opposite foot and dribble it in for her second. A nice bit of team play from Metro saw Wilcox get herself on the board with a soccer goal just before the siren, ending the quarter with Metro leading 4.2 (26) to 2.3 (15).

The fourth quarter began with a Metro clearance forward, where, through some teamwork, the ball ended up with Reese Sutton who was able to snap herself a goal from about 30m out to give Metro a 17-point lead. The rest of the quarter was a scrap with neither side able to really grab clear control. Country got on the board with five minutes to go, with a Simpson kick forward from a stoppage getting to Eardley who was able to put it through for Country’s third goal, seeing the quarter, and the game, end 5.3 (33) to 3.4 (22) Metro’s way.

There were a lot of girls that really stepped up and marked themselves as ones to watch for next year, with the defensive trio of Eardley, Hay and Walton looking good throughout the day and stopping plenty of Metro goals. The 2023 draft eligible ruck Bianca Lyne was impressive with her work against the much taller Metro combo. Yasmin Duursma also had some good moments where she showed her composure along the half-back line and through the midfield.

For the victors, it was hard to look past Pissano and Wilcox as major players in their victory, with their strengths up forward translating into the midfield. McDonald was also very impressive all game, but looking particularly dangerous up forward after spending all year in defense. Eastern Ranges trio Busch, Laura Stone and Scarlett Potter were solid throughout the game as well, with Plummer also outstanding.

VIC METRO 0.1 | 0.2 | 4.2 | 5.3 (33)
VIC COUNTRY 0.1 | 0.2 | 2.3 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS:

Vic Metro: A. McDonald 2, J. Rigoni, R. Wilcox, R. Sutton
Vic Country: M. Van Dyke 2, M. Eardley

DC BEST:

Vic Metro: A. Pissano, R. Wilcox, A. McDonald, B. Plummer, M. Busch
Vic Country: G. Hay, M. Walton, B. Lyne, O. Di Donato, Y. Duursma

TOP PERFORMERS:

Vic Metro:

#9 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

It seems a permanent move into the midfield is inevitable in her future, with so many athletic traits of hers standing out, largely speed and agility, that saw her have some really dominant patches throughout the game because no one else was able to match her in that regard. Her kicking has been noted before, but was next level during this game, hitting some 45 meter pinpoint passes that were vital in Metro’s transitional play, and on the rare occasion she could not find space to compose herself, her bombs out of backs were getting the same distance or more to create contests further down field. Also had really clean and quick hands on the inside, where she could get the ball back after giving it off and burst forward.

#6 Rylie Wilcox (Northern Knights)

After missing out on the Good Friday clash, Wilcox came straight in and looked very good at the level. Splitting her time between the forward line and midfield, it was her speed and ball use that stood up above all else, able to outrun opponents and cleanly take ground balls with one grab, without breaking speed, it’s no coincidence that as she got into the game Metro looked more and more in control. It was also impressive to see her workrate to follow up, getting to her kicks to help out at ground level or try and receive a handball from her teammates. After missing a set shot early in the third it was fitting that her natural crumbing ability got her one later on, to reward her all round top performance.

#2 Abbey McDonald (Calder Cannons)

Skipper for the day and the only Metro player also apart of the U19s squad, she has done everything she can to put her name up for selection against Queensland next month. Instrumental in the first quarter in repelling Country attacks from defence, thanks to her ball use in transition leading to a few inside 50 marks for Metro that unfortunately did not result in goals, but she was ever present in the areas Country rebounded out to, creating contests every time. When she moved up forward she kicked two impressive goals that came from turnovers she forced, showing her defensive work does not stop even when she’s up forward, and that she has got a really good sense for goal inside 50, making her a dangerous player in there.

#11 Brooke Plummer (Northern Knights)

Has been mainly used on the wing at NAB League level, but dealt with her switch to a more inside role really well, making solid runs in attempts to win clearances, and showing she’s not afraid to get in and win her own ball. Usually a player that will kick far more often than handball, it was good to see her mix it up and use her hand skills in close to open up the game to more well measured kicks rather than bombs out of the packs.

#12 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Positioned well behind the ball to take a few intercept marks or impact opponents who were looking to get uncontested marks, making it a genuine scrap at the Metro defensive 50 line or sometimes a little further up the wing. Her ball use was also at it’s high standard going forward, hitting leading targets well or looking to switch the play out of defense to loose options.

#10 Charlotte Van der Vlies (Oakleigh Chargers)

Moving into a full time midfield role in the absence of some teammates moving up to 19s on Thursday, her tenacity and attack on the football meant the absence was barely noticed, not afraid to throw her body around to knock opponents off the ball to win it herself. It was also good to see her get involved in open play, looking to be an option further up the field or laterally for her teammates, then using it well going forward. 

#8 Paige Ryan (Western Jets)

Whilst she did not win a whole lot of the ball, her workrate and pressure work was noticeable, especially in the first and fourth quarters where the game was highly contested and scrappy. She was stationed on a wing and was always there at the fall of the ball when it was on her side, often neutralising three-on-one situations with a spoil or a tackle on Country midfielders. Worked back to the defensive 50 to create outnumbers as well, where her tackling was again on display.

Vic Country:

#21 Bianca Lyne (Dandenong Stingrays)

Was mostly against a ruck who had 12cm in height on her, but her leap and aggression in the ruck contests saw her win most of the hitouts around the ground and in the centre, not afraid to put the knee up and go through her opponent. Her follow up work at ground level was also super impressive, winning ground balls well and moving like a slick midfielder when she had ball in hand.

#7 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

Was thrown about in quite a few different positions, playing mostly midfield but also being put into the backline or forward line depending on where the team needed her, she was consistently a cool headed and composed presence with the ball in hand, who could control the tempo well and almost directed teammates where to go with her disposal.

#19 Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

Playing as a deeper defender, it was Hay’s safe hands that impressed the most, taking some crucial intercept marks at half back, or even contested marks in the goal square to stop a certain goal, she was a very solid bookend for Country throughout the day and countered the high bombs inside 50 that Metro were forced into at times really well. Despite making a few costly errors in the third quarter, it did not detract from her game, as she was still confident and composed in her marking and subsequent ball use in the final quarter.

#20 Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)

Was a strong part of the Country defence for the game, being the one to take the smaller and quicker forwards, her defensive skills were on show, able to neutralise a lot of contests where she didn’t have the advantage, and even win some, where she’d kick long out of defense to either a Country outnumber or a pack.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Came into the game mostly in the second half where she was able to assist in defense a lot more, and her natural ball winning and positioning meant she was a strong contributor in keeping Metro’s score relatively low for the opportunities they had. Was not afraid to take some more daring options with her disposal which was good to see.

Top Performers: AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships – Vic Metro vs. Vic Country

THE 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 National Championships rolled on into its second fixture on Friday afternoon, as Vic Country and Vic Metro locked horns in perfect conditions at Trevor Barker Oval. It was the Country side, coached by Mel Hickey which got up against its fierce rival in what was a high quality game of football played with plenty of spirit. We take you through some of the top performers from the day, highlighted on the basis of opinion by our individual scouts.

>> Scouting Notes: Vic Country vs. Vic Metro Under 17s

VIC METRO:

By: Michael Alvaro

#4 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Yassir is one of the most crafty ground level midfielders in Victoria and proved as much with another solid performance in representative colours. The Calder Cannons product spent a lot of time competing at half-forward, but made the most of her midfield minutes and was able to combine with some familiar faces in the engine room. Yassir was often the anchor at centre bounce situations and did well to chain handballs as Metro looked to stream forward, with her speed a key feature in those situations. Her tackling pressure was also noticeable, and matched the intensity of the game.

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

The top-ager got back to her roots in a way as she was stationed almost permanently down back for Metro, and she was one who stood up well against the efficient Country attack. Her strong physical presence and ability to read the game proved key traits as Chaplin cut off a number of Country forays – whether it was cutting across to intercept mark or rebounding with authority and efficiency. Amid a high stakes pressure cooker, Chaplin was one of the more composed players in important areas and played her role to a t, even doing well to quell the influence of Poppy Schaap after her hot start to proceedings.

#11 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

Deed was one of the solid contributors for Metro who played a touch out of position compared to her usual posting in the NAB League. The Eastern Ranges midfielder was predominantly employed at half-forward and was able to use her ball winning ability to impact contests whenever her name was called. She did a lot of the hard stuff well, as we have come to expect, with some important tackles going unrewarded and nice bursts through traffic to break the game open for Metro within their attacking half.

#12 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Donning the long-sleeve ‘Big V’ jumper, there was a sense of familiarity in Prespakis’ game as she again proved to be the best player afield, as she has been throughout nearly every game in her fledgling career. Her cleanliness around the stoppages was on full show, with clean gathers and handballs out under pressure helping her look that class above the rest. Prespakis’ strength on the ball was also noticeable during her permanent midfield role, as was her terrific overhead marking ability around the ground. The Calder product worked hard both ways and impacted in all parts of the ground with her well-rounded style, bringing her teammates into the game with handball chains and instinctive work on the inside. We are running out of superlatives at this point, she is simply a marvel to watch and is likely the top draft prospect in the country right now.

#15 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Reid played a little bit of everywhere in this game, rotating forward form her usual wing post and finding plenty of the ball. She is almost unassuming in the way she racks up possessions, and carried that trend from her NAB League form this year to again be one of the top ball winners in her latest outing. Having spent a good amount of time up forward of late, Reid used her knack of finding space in attacking areas to good effect, booting two goals with clean touches within Metro’s 50-metre arc. Her run-and-carry game was not as noticeable this time around, but Reid always gains good meterage and that was no different here.

#16 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Another who has been in stellar form for Oakleigh this season, Vickers picked up a familiar role across half-back for Metro and showed her class in moments scattered throughout the game. Her ability to read the play from behind the ball is outstanding, and Vickers often thinks ball-first when looking to intercept, with that attacking kind of mindset paying off as she cut off some threatening Country passages. While she was a little smothered in her usual work going forward, Vickers showed some solid defensive capabilities with spoils, tackles, and some handy mop-up work at ground level.

#18 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

A leader at Oakleigh and a leader in this star-studded representative side, Rowbottom battled well to make an impression on the contest. She was initially stationed deep forward and rotated back there throughout, but arguably looked most damaging in the engine room. At her first centre bounce attendance, Rowbottom was able to bustle free and boot a clearance forward, highlighting her key strength as a midfielder. She has rare power amid heavy congestion which often sees her break out of situations in Houdini-esque fashion, which is more often than not followed by a penetrating kick forward. She skewed a few kicks on the run and under pressure, with lowering her eyes and executing those skills more efficiently a potential next step for her midfield development.

#26 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

Crowley has raised eyebrows in recent weeks as a promising forward target, having mostly plied her trade as a defender for the Calder Cannons. She was again employed at centre half-forward and drifted in gracefully to take some nice aerial marks, credit to her outstanding judgement of the ball in flight. Crowley looked most ominous in the second term, though had her couple of set shot attempts fall short and slide across the face of goal respectively. Overall, it was a solid outing and one which built on the promise she had already shown in advanced positions. Another big tick for her versatility.

#27 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

The sole bottom-ager afield for Metro, Ham was thrown right into the deep end with a good number of centre bounce attendances. She has the ideal size to compete against more mature bodies and proved that with some tough work on the inside, though her explosive qualities were more difficult to exploit in the high-pressure contest. She also moved forward at times and was an entertaining asset for Metro, with her ability to snatch considerable distance in quick time proving advantageous for her side’s forwards. With such a penetrating kick and all the tools to be a very high selection, Ham continues to prove her worth heading into next year’s draft.

#28 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

Campbell shared the ruck duties with AFLW Academy tall, Tahlia Gillard, but was most impactful during her time as a key forward. Her mobility and attack on the ball stood out as really high-end traits which will continue to raise her draft stocks in 2021, especially if she can also continue to hit the scoreboard. Whether it was competing in the air or crashing ground balls, Campbell was a much-needed physical presence up forward for Metro, and looked natural on a line which saw plenty of players contribute slightly unfamiliar roles. She capped off her game with a richly deserved goal.

 

VIC COUNTRY:

By: Declan Reeve

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Stationed inside the Country attacking half for the game, Schaap took the opportunity with both hands to produce some really good passages of play, and highlight reel worthy goals. Her first goal in particular, a snap from the boundary under pressure, was super impressive, showing composure and poise going forward. She was clean throughout the game at ground level, never fumbling and then using her agility to work through opponents to get a handball to the outside, or snap it over her shoulder forward. She was a consistent link up player, that could reliably keep Country in possession.

#9 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

The bottom-aged forward stepped up in a big way after a quieter first quarter, with Country teammate Tara Slender earning herself more attention after the first quarter, Scott took it upon herself to become the new target up forward, leading hard for marks and being relentless in her pursuit of the footy, running through opponents and even teammates at times to win a contested ball, or tackling opponents hard, her presence was very much felt and noticed by all. Using her strength well, she had no issues pushing opponents off when she wanted to go for a run either.

#10 Abbey Jordan (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got involved in quite a bit astound the ground, with her pressure work in contested situations a real highlight of her game, regularly being ready to pounce on any Metro player coming out of a contest with the ball. When she won the ball, she used it well, often looking to move it quickly to give the Country forwards the best chance to mark and get shots on goal, but she was versatile with that, also able to match the slower tempo Country were looking to deploy at times. 

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Was really consistent across four quarters, being a strong competitor in the midfield early on, and gradually standing out more and more as others around the ground got tired, she just kept working to get to the right spots and win the ball. Her ability to control the play even without the ball was great later on, where her leading would often change the tempo and style of how Country were using the ball. Showed some good Footy IQ int he second half where she would be able to get around opponents to deliver a kick on the inside, opening up the options down field for Country.

#12 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Despite measuring in at just under 170cm, the athleticism of Featherston saw her become the Country relieving ruck, where her superb leap, and aggression towards the ball and the opposing ruck, saw her win or neutralise quite a few ruck contests, that would lead to her following up at ground level. She was stationed mostly up forward when not rucking, and allowed her work rate and leap to shine, taking on every contests she was near and getting up when she could.

#14 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

Donning the helmet in the country defence, her ability to impact every contest in the defensive 50, battling to get the ball to ground and then using her game sense to run past or around opponents, and deliver the ball to contests down the line, was outstanding across the four quarters. Her understanding of her teammates was impressive, dropping back at times to allow other teammates to push up the ground, and directing teammates around when she was behind and could see the play unfolding in front of her. Not only nullifying contests or being a vocal teammate though, she started taking some really good marks out the front of packs or in front of a single opponent, particularly in the second half, completely cutting off some promising Metro attacks, and sending the ball out with great efficiency to get Country moving on the counter.

#17 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Part of Country’s superb defense, Lee did all the things well that she’s been doing for the Falcons, with her positioning down the line, and aerial strength, keeping the Metro midfielders busy by sending the ball back out when they rushed a kick forward. She was particularly dangerous in the first half with her run from behind style getting rewarded with some handball receives, which allowed her to kick long forward and help get Country on the board early.

#19 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Played a really solid role down back as expected, and whilst not racking up huge numbers in terms of disposals, her hard work and 1 percenters in the defensive 50 helped others win the ball and get it out, with her high leap meaning she was able to compete with the taller Metro forwards and rucks in marking contests

#25 Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)

Had one of the hardest jobs for Country of the day, playing on whichever of the Metro rucks was resting in the forward line, both being athletic and strong in marking contests. The bottom-ager proved to be up for the challenge, not conceding a mark all day in an impressive defensive display. She was put under pressure a coupled of times in a row in the last quarter, but was able to beat her opponents every time.

#26 Grace McRae (Gippsland Power)

One of Country’s top ball winners around the ground for the day, McRae made the inside her own at stages of the game, forming a good connection with Gippsland teammate Grace Matser to get onto the end of some very well placed taps, using her strength to take contact and then get the ball out via kick or handball. Got involved in some ‘slow’ play passages as well where she’d make a short lead, mark, and then pass the ball to a teammate in a more dangerous position. Was defensively accountable around stoppages as well, rarely letting her opponent get away with a clearance

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Started the game really well, with her workrate to get up and down the ground, despite being stationed a CHF, being a real highlight of the Country Captains game. She was regularly involved in contests on the wing or even on the defensive 50 mark where she’d just get the hard stuff done. As usual her marking was a highlight, taking them easily in the first half, and then receiving a few free kicks in the second half from opponents coming in too late from behind, one of which resulted in a goal for Slender, to top off a really quality game.

#29 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)

Coming up against two rucks with different strengths and play styles, Matser adjusted to her direct opponent well, using her physicality and leap against the taller Tahlia Gillard in contests, to great effect as the game went on, and her height advantage over Georgia Campbell to win a few there. 

2021 AFLW U19 Championships match preview: Vic Metro vs. Vic Country

THE all-Victorian battle at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships is not to be missed, with stars across all thirds of the ground and Metro going head to head with Country in a massive game at Trevor Barker Oval, Sandringham from midday tomorrow. Country has named its lineup for the Round 1 clash of the championships, whilst Vic Metro has listed its squad for the match, though the lineup provided here is predicted/potential.

LINEUPS:

VIC METRO:

B: Cadhla Schmidli – Kasey Lennox – Kiana Lynch
HB: Brooke Vickers – Tarrah Delgado – Pia Staltari
C: Maykaylah Appleby – Maeve Chaplin – Stella Reid
HF: Emelia Yassir – Neve Crowley – Keeley Sherar
FF: Eliza James – Tahlia Gillard – Montana Ham
R: Georgia Campbell – Charlie Rowbottom – Georgie Prespakis
INC:  Jorja Livingstone – Bridget Deed – Chloe Saultry – Charlotte Ryan – Zali Friswell – Amanda Ling

VIC COUNTRY:

B: Jaide Anthony – Mackenzie Eardley – Chloe Leonard
HB: Elizabeth Dowling – Nyakoat Dojiok – Annie Lee
C: Ella Friend – Grace McRae – Aurora Smith
HF: Amber Clarke – Tara Slender – Poppy Schaap
F: Gabbi Featherston – Renee Tierney – Tahlia Meier
R: Grace Matser – Tess Craven – Elizabeth Snell
INT: Jemma Finning – Ingrid Houtsma – Abbey Jordan – Ashleigh Richards – Paige Scott – Emily Shepherd

QUICK SUMMARY:

Looking across the line-ups, the sides have strengths in different areas, with Vic Metro’s midfield, and its size and key position talent among its strength, whilst Vic Country’s defence is its strongest line, but also its balance and even spread of players providing different roles. Metro has picked a team that has stars across multiple lines, whilst Country have the talent in there, but have also picked players that are unique in the way they can fill a role within a certain team, and very few players are too similar. The midfield battle will be crucial, whilst both sides have versatile players who can fill multiple positions.

 

FIVE KEY QUESTIONS:

Can the smaller Vic Country midfield match the bigger-bodied Metro side?

Both midfields are strong and talented, but it is clear straight away that Vic Metro has a midfield of taller, bigger-bodied players that will look to take advantage of the smaller Vic Country midfield. Tess Craven, Elizabeth Snell and Grace McRae have been named to start onball for Country and they will not take a backwards step up against the taller Charlie Rowbottom, Georgie Prespakis and Maeve Chaplin. The bigger bodies inside will help Metro around the contest in getting it out, so the smaller Country mids will have to use their extra few quick steps – particularly Snell – in extracting the ball from the contest.

How will all the Vic Metro midfielders fit in the side?

The Metro midfield is so deep, they have around 15 players who would call the midfield their preferred position. The question mark will come over how they fit them all in, and some have been learning other roles over the past month or so in order to impact the contest. Kiana Lynch and Chloe Saultry have been holding firm in defence for the Dragons, with the likes of Keeley Sherar and Emelia Yassir both capable of starting forward and hitting the scoreboard. One would expect the sole bottom-ager in Montana Ham to play forward and be a marking target, whilst Pia Staltari, Stella Reid and Brooke Vickers have been playing off flanks throughout the year in between pinch-hitting in the midfield from game-to-game. One thing is for sure, midfield rotations will not be a problem for Metro.

Can Grace Matser work over the Vic Metro tag team through the ruck?

The hard-working and endurance-based ruck of Grace Matser will have her work cut out for her in this game, being the only pure ruck in the team for Vic Country. The Gippsland Power player can run all day, and she will need to, up against the equally mobile Georgia Campbell and Tahlia Gillard who will get breathers forward when the other is rucking. Even outside those two the Metro side has talls that can jump in, while for Country, they are a shorter side, and might just get the likes of Mackenzie Eardley and Renee Tierney up opposite ends to help give Matser a chop out and save her running. Either way, a big game awaits for the ruck.

Where are the key strengths in each side?

Whilst neither side has a “weak” line, the strongest third for Country is its defence, whilst Metro’s strength is in its midfield. Metro’s four AFL Women’s Academy members in Georgie Prespakis, Charlie Rowbottom, Maykaylah Appleby and Gillard could lineup as a midfield group with the two inside ball-winners, outside runner and ruck. They will likely have first hands to it given their aforementioned strength and size in there, whilst Country will be well set up behind the play to prepare for inside 50s. The metro forward line has some quality talls, as well as midfielders who will play the role of forwards, which will give the Country defence – of whom all have good footy IQ – an advantage. They need to bring the ball to ground, but are equally comfortable in intercepting in the air, particularly Elizabeth Dowling, Annie Lee and Nyakoat Dojiok.

How can each team exploit the other?

Vic Country can use its well balanced lineup to keep it simple and each player play their role they are used to at NAB League Girls level. Looking at the side named, there is no-one in the team out of position from where they have been playing, which immediately means there is little to learn. Some might play a little deeper than they have been, but it is easily adaptable, and the players are versatile. With every forward a different type of player, the Country forward line is so well balanced and impressive. Metro can try and take control to exploit the smaller Country team, and with longer boots on them, Metro can put pressure on the famed Country defence, and really aim to put the ball into the danger zone regularly.

 

FIVE KEY MATCHUPS:

Grace Matser (Country) vs. Georgia Campbell & Tahlia Gillard (Metro)

As previously mentioned, this matchup could be a massive one, with Matser the sole number one ruck in the side, and will no doubt be ready for a great challenge on the day. Both Campbell and Gillard move well around the ground and are not afraid to take a bounce before distributing, and then go deep forward and provide a marking target. First hands will be crucial in the midfield, so the winning ruck can try and aid their midfields with clean hands.

Maykaylah Appleby/Stella Reid/Jorja Livingstone (Metro) vs. Ella Friend/Aurora Smith/Ingrid Houtsma (Country)

The need for speed and class on the outside is crucial, and both these teams have some talented players likely to roll out on the wing. Appleby is the Academy member who has the experience in big games, while Reid has been in ripping form, capable of playing anywhere. Livingstone is another wing who has that touch of class in moving the ball in transition, whilst the height of Friend and Houtsma – as well as the versatility – and the speed and ball-winning nous of Smith, will make it a couple of matchups to watch.

Georgie Prespakis/Charlie Rowbottom/Maeve Chaplin (Metro) vs. Tess Craven/Elizabeth Snell/Grace McRae (Country)

The smallest Metro midfielder is the same height as the tallest Country midfielder, which shows a bit of a size differential in there. Whilst Rowbottom is 10cm taller than any of the others, each of the players are likely to have an advantage in size over their respective opponents. A total 18cm different in favour of the Metro side is impressive, but it is also the strength in there which will look to win the ball in contested situations. McRae, Craven and Snell are all renowned tacklers and quick with ball-in-hand to exit stoppages, which is where they have the advantage. Prespakis, Rowbottom and Chaplin can all roost the ball and can back their talls inside 50 if they bomb it from a stoppage.

Tara Slender (Country) vs. Tarrah Delgado (Metro)

It might not be the matchup Metro send to Country’s top prospect, but Delgado is the most reliable in the air one-on-one, and is the only tall in the Metro defence who could go with Slender no matter where she goes. The Northern Knights tall has played in defence, attack and through the midfield, so it would be less rotations for Delgado to just try and nullify the well-balanced Slender, whilst the Bendigo Pioneers tall will no doubt play a number of roles on the day, and be tough to stop in the air or at ground level, but Delgado is the most suitable matchup.

Amber Clarke (Country) vs. Pia Staltari/Kiana Lynch/Zali Friswell (Metro)

One of the danger players across the ground is the speedster in Clarke who opens up the space behind herself so well to run into open goals and hit the scoreboard regularly. It will be tough to find a matchup for speed, with Staltari and Lynch likely to be rolling through the back half of the ground. In terms of athletic traits, perhaps the regular midfielder Friswell is the closest in terms of speed, finishing 10th in the preseason 20m sprint, to try and combat Clarke’s clear top billed ranking what was 0.6 seconds quicker than anyone else.

 

OVERALL:

The match is set to be a cracker, with both sides littered with talent and among the top teams in the championships as they are each year. Last time they faced off back in 2019, Vic Metro got the job done, so Country will be hungry to reverse the result here. The Country side has enough balance across the board to really worry Metro, whilst Metro has the top-end talent, particularly in the midfield and key position to stretch the Country side, making for an absolute beauty of a contest.

2021 AFLW U19 Championships state preview: Vic Country

WE move into the third of our AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships squad previews, taking a look at Vic Country ahead of its first match against Vic Metro tomorrow at Trevor Barker Oval. The 24-player squad for that match has been named with a number of bottom-agers alongside some draft-eligible and 19-year-old talents.

2021 VIC COUNTRY SQUAD FOR VIC METRO CLASH:

#1 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)
#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)
#5 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)
#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)
#8 Jemma Finning (Bendigo Pioneers)
#9 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)
#10 Abbey Jordan (Dandenong Stingrays)
#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
#12 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)
#13 Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)
#14 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)
#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)
#17 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)
#19 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)
#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)
#21 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)
#22 Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)
#23 Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons)
#24 Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons)
#25 Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)
#26 Grace McRae (Gippsland Power)
#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)
#29 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)

QUICK SUMMARY:

Vic Country has a balance of 19, 18 and 17-year-olds across the squad, with seven in their 19th year, four in their 17th year and the 13 draft-eligible players this year. A number of these players have pulled on the ‘Big V’ at Under 16s level, with Renee Tierney and Elizabeth Snell named in the initial Under 18s squad back in 2019, but due to the top-age preference, did not end up making the final squad. Both will be out to have an increased role alongside the likes of Abbey Jordan, Grace McRae and Jemma Finning who all received Draft Combine invites last year. Among the bottom-agers to watch, Dandenong duo Mackenzie Eardley and Amber Clarke have already caught the eye, with Emily Shepherd a game in back from injury, and Paige Scott the one non-Dandenong bottom-ager having provided plenty of firepower inside 50. After Vic Metro, Country will host South Australia and Queensland more than a month apart with the schedule rejigged due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Brisbane.

FIXTURES:

R1 vs. Vic Metro (April 2 @ Trevor Barker Oval)
R2 vs. South Australia (April 12 @ TBC)
R3 vs. Queensland (May 23 @ TBC)

FIVE TO WATCH: (2003-BORN)

Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Vic Country’s standout prospect this year, Slender is the most versatile player in the state, and possibly across the country. Having already ticked off her work as a key defender in past years, Slender has been deployed as a key forward, and even through the midfield this year to play any role required and do it well. A whopping 28 touches against Calder Cannons through the middle showed she can adapt in any situation, and is as balanced as they come with an ability to win the ball in the air or at ground level. Slender can use it will by hand or foot, and has been named as a key forward for the game against Metro with Ella Friend pushed up to a wing, though both will likely rotate and be those marking targets.

Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Boasting some of the strongest hands going around, the contested marking key forward has been utilised on the wing of late, and that is where she has been named for the big clash against Metro. Despite being that key position size, Friend has good athleticism which makes her just as damaging at ground level, and can crumb her own work down there. She is creative and can set up plays in the forward half, and has a long raking kick that can travel long distances either on the run or via the set shot. She is someone who can slot in anywhere around the ground, though expect her to rotate between midfield and forward where she can have the greatest impact with her strength and marking.

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

The third AFL Women’s Academy member in the Country side, Dojiok has lightning acceleration, mixed with power that makes her difficult to contain. Once she takes off, the Rebels defender builds her speed with such force, she can run through players, as well as around them. She was a raw talent coming into the system as a 15-year-old a few years back, but has rapidly developed her game, and now finds plenty of the football and can even push up to a wing, charging away and providing great drive in transition. Expect Dojiok to take plenty of grass throughout the championships, breaking down opposition defensive zones.

Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

One of the most consistent players this season, Craven is arguably the in-form midfielder of the Country team. She might even be one of the youngest alongside 19th year prospects, Jordan and Snell onball. She has clean hands and just creates scoring opportunities for her side, cracking in and able to extract the ball from the contest and get it inside 50. Her work rate is a feature of her game, and she often has the ball in a string. As someone who seems to step up for the occasion each week, it is hard to see her not finding plenty of the pill, but will have a tough assignment up against a star-studded Vic Metro midfield.

Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

A former Academy member with plenty of talent, Anthony is another versatile player capable of playing at either end. She has settled into defence as her best spot, and returned after missing a couple of games due to concussion. She is consistent across the board, able to use her footskills well, take intercept grabs and create opportunities in transition, moving the ball well from deep in defence going forward. She adds that composure and leadership in the back 50, and alongside a host of other quality defenders, the Vic Country defence is unbelievable and good luck to any team trying to score against it.

OTHERS:

The Vic Country defence is nothing short of elite, and the strongest third on the ground of the side. With Anthony and Dojiok back there, Geelong Falcons duo Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling will provide the intercept and run with Dojiok, while bottom-ager Eardley and Rebels ball-winner Chloe Leonard will make it a well balanced side. Up front, the mix of power (Gabbi Featherston), speed (Amber Clarke) and tackling pressure (Poppy Schaap) is equally as impressive, whilst Grace Matser will look to take control in the ruck. The hardness of McRae and Snell will match well with the outside run of Aurora Smith.

SQUAD STRENGTHS:

  • Elite defence
  • Balance, picking a team for a plan
  • Versatility
  • Inside ball-winning hardness

The elite defence has already been mentioned, but the overall team as a whole is really well balanced. There are not too many of the one type of player which helps, and the front six is a group that could work well as a unit without impacting the way others play. The six forwards are all so different in their footballing abilities, whilst the defence have that accountability. Versatility is the key, and that is what the side certainly offers, with so many players able to play across multiple lines.

Whilst Metro might have the class onball, Country will have no fears about cracking in, and they have the talent across the board that can win it and make life difficult for the opposition. Tahlia Meier, Ingrid Houtsma and Ashleigh Richards are other forward options who can roll through there and create scoreboard pressure, or in the case of the latter two, push up and impact the midfield.

LAST WORD:

Vic Country could be the team to beat this year, just on balance alone. Vic Metro has some unbelievable prospects, but Country’s depth across the board and the strength from defence to attack is terrific. They will be a difficult team to score against, and all three opponents will find the going tough, with the successful South Australians going to have a cracker with Country in Round 2 of the championships.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Stat Leaders: NAB League Girls Round 7 – Scoullar dominates ruck for second week straight

ROUND 7 of NAB League Girls action saw some intriguing results, as a number of key figures across the six matches stepped up to the plate and had a crack over the weekend. Five players return to leading the stats sheet this round, albeit in different categories, as a couple of fresh faces enter the mix. We take a look at this week’s stat leaders.

Where last round saw individual leaders across categories, Round 7 switched things up with three areas boasting more than one leader, with five multiple goalkickers across the round, all booting two apiece, whilst the marks and rebounds also saw multiple leaders. Dandenong Stingrays’ Amber Clarke and Mackenzie Eardley booted two apiece as did Murray duo Olivia Cicolini and Lily Sharp, whilst Eastern Ranges bottom-ager Alyssia Pisano added another two to her ledger.

Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays) and Matilda van Berkel (Gippsland Power) impressed off half-back with eight rebound 50s apiece, which van Berkel compounded with seven marks to be equal stat leader in that category too, alongside Oakleigh’s Stella Reid and Bendigo’s Octavia di Donato.

Kalani Scoullar won the hitouts for the second week straight with a whopping 37 to her name against the Chargers, while Charlotte Baskaran narrowly pipped Georgie Prespakis at the post for touches, registering 28 to Prespakis’ 27, although the Cannons star piled on seven inside 50s in her side’s one-point loss to Eastern.

Chloe Leonard was physical as ever piling on 14 tackles in an epic losing effort, while Maeve Chaplin was a smooth mover with 16 handballs, and 21 of Annie Lee‘s 22 disposals were kicks.

Find the full list of Round 7’s stat leaders below.

ROUND 7 STAT LEADERS

Disposals:

Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets) – 28

Kicks:

Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons) – 21

Handballs:

Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights) – 16

Marks:

Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers) – 7
Matilda van Berkel (Gippsland Power) – 7
Octavia di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers) – 7

Tackles:

Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels) – 14

Inside 50s:

Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons) – 7

Rebound 50s:

Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays) – 8
Matilda van Berkel (Gippsland Power) – 8

Hitouts:

Kalani Scoullar (GWV Rebels) – 37

Goals:

Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges) – 2
Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays) – 2
Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays) -2
Olivia Cicolini (Murray Bushrangers) – 2
Lily Sharp (Murray Bushrangers) – 2

2021 NAB League Girls Teams of the Week: Round 7 – Country & Metro edition

WITH an additional two matches and therefore four team efforts to pick from, cutting the Team of the Week for Round 7 (and partially Rounds 2 and 3) proved too great, and with so many individual standouts, Draft Central decided to divide its NAB League Girls Team of the Week into two. The Country and Metro Team of the Weeks represent the 13 teams in the competition, with Tasmania Devils joining Country for this special week. We have still named squads of 24 players, with 48 in total across the board. It is fitting that the two Team of the Weeks are named ahead of the AFL Women’s Under-19 Championships which begin over the next week.

Looking at the Country side first, the Dandenong Stingrays, GWV Rebels and Murray Bushrangers all had four representatives in the team. The Stingrays had bookends, Zoe Hill and Mackenzie Eardley, as well as exciting forward Amber Clarke, and the consistent Jemma Radford in the side. The Rebels were represented by the returning ruck Kalani Scoullar, as well as Nyakoat Dojiok, Chloe Leonard and Lilli Condon who have all made the team previously. Meanwhile the Bushrangers quartet is headlined by captain Aurora Smith, as well as India Lehman, Zara Hamilton and Ally Morphett for Round 7.

The four other sides have three each after all suffering defeats across the weekend. Bendigo Pioneers trio of Elizabeth Snell, Octavia Di Donato and Drew Ryan made the side, the latter for the first time. Geelong Falcons’ Tess Craven, Poppy Schaap and Annie Lee are no strangers to Team of the Week slotting in again, while the Power saw Matilda Van Berkel and Lily-Rose Williamson making the side again, and Yasmin Duursma making her debut in the Team of the Week. Finally, Tasmania Devils had Jemma Webster, Perri King and Claire Ransom in the 24-player squad, having all been past representatives.

From an emergencies perspective, Stingrays’ Felicity Crank, Falcons’ Taiya Morrow and Bushrangers’ Olivia Cicolini were next in line for the team.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS COUNTRY TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 7

B: Annie Lee (GF) – Zoe Hill (DS) – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
HB: Chloe Leonard (GWV) – Matilda Van Berkel (GP) – Lily-Rose Williamson (GP)
C: Aurora Smith (MB) (c) – Tess Craven (GF) – Jemma Webster (TD)
HF: Poppy Schaap (GF) – Octavia Di Donato (BP) – India Lehman (MB)
F: Mackenzie Eardley (DS) – Ally Morphett (MB) – Amber Clarke (DS)
R: Kalani Scoullar (GWV) – Elizabeth Snell (BP) – Perri King (TD)
INT: Zara Hamilton (MB) – Claire Ransom (TD) – Lilli Condon (GWV) – Yasmin Duursma (GP) – Drew Ryan (BP) – Jemma Radford (DS)

EMG: Felicity Crank (DS) – Taiya Morrow (GF) – Olivia Cicolini (MB)

In the metro side, Eastern Ranges far outweighed any other team after two victories since last week. The defence alone has three representatives making the 24-player squad, as Cadhla Schmidli, Grace Walsh and Mia Busch are all in the back six, as classy forward Alyssia Pisano was in again, and Bridget Deed and Ruby O’Dwyer also made their way onto the bench.

Three teams had four players made the side with Calder Cannons’ quartet, Georgie Prespakis (captain), fellow midfielders Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell, and key forward/ruck Tahlia Gillard also in the side. Oakleigh Chargers were well represented once again with Stella Reid and Brooke Vickers back again, this time joined by Amanda Ling and Lily Hart. Western Jets also had the four players in the side, of whom have all made it before in Charlotte Baskaran, Montana Ham, Krystal Russell and Jemima Woods.

The remaining two teams in Northern Knights and Sandringham Dragons both had three players apiece in the side. The Knights had a couple of Team of the Week debutants in Tannah Hurst and Riley Wilcox up opposite ends, who joined Maeve Chaplin in the side upon her return to the NAB League Girls competition. Meanwhile Sandringham Dragons’ Kiana Lynch and Chloe Saultry slot into defence after strong efforts, and Sofia Hurley made it onto the bench.

In terms of emergencies, Dragons’ Emma Stuber, Jets’ Kiera Leare and Chargers’ Charlie Rowbottom were slotted in as the most unlucky to miss.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS METRO TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 7

B: Tannah Hurst (NK) – Cadhla Schmidli (ER) – Kiana Lynch (SD)
HB: Mia Busch (ER) – Grace Walsh (ER) – Chloe Saultry (SD)
C: Charlotte Baskaran (WJ) – Montana Ham (WJ) – Stella Reid (OC)
HF: Brooke Vickers (OC) – Tahlia Gillard (CC) – Emelia Yassir (CC)
F: Riley Wilcox (NK) – Jemima Woods (WJ) – Alyssia Pisano (ER)
R: Krystal Russell (WJ) – Maeve Chaplin (NK) – Georgie Prespakis (CC) (c)
INT: Bridget Deed (ER) – Zali Friswell (CC) – Lily Hart (OC) – Sofia Hurley (SD) – Amanda Ling (OC) – Ruby O’Dwyer (ER)

EMG: Kiera Leare (WJ) – Emma Stuber (SD) – Charlie Rowbottom (OC)

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 7 wrap – Three teams double-up

THIS past week in NAB League Girls action saw a couple more make-up games take place alongside the regular Round 7 action, with Dandenong, Sandringham, and Eastern all facing quick turnarounds from their midweek bouts. Two contests were decided by the narrowest of margins on the weekend, with three sides also kept scoreless across four quarters in the results below. That, and more in our weekly wrap.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 0.3 | 2.6 | 4.7 | 5.7 (37)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.3 (3)
Note: Round 2 fixture

By: Peter Williams

GOALS:

Dandenong: A. Richards 2, H. Monk, A. Liddle, A. Clarke.
Sandringham: Nil.

DC BEST:

Dandenong: A. Richards, J. Radford, F. Crank, A. Clarke, C. Ryan
Sandringham: K. Lynch, S. Hurley, P. Staltari, A. Thompson, E. Sciberras

Dandenong Stingrays snapped a two-game losing streak with a dominant defensive display under lights at a windswept Casey Fields on Wednesday night. The Stingrays battled to a lead in the first half, but only managed the three behinds in the first term, credit to the Dragons’ defence.

The Stingrays started to capitalise on their efforts in the second term, but it was not until Hayley Monk slotted a goal right on the siren that handed the home team an 18-point advantage. From then on, the Stingrays never looked like losing, though the Dragons never threw in the towel either, adding their only three scores of the game – three behinds – in the last quarter, to go down by 34 points, 5.7 (37) to 0.3 (3).

Ash Richards had a massive game up forward and rotating through the midfield with two majors, whilst the likes of Jemma Radford and Felicity Crank stepped up throughout the match, and Amber Clarke and Charley Ryan showed touches of class throughout the contest. The Dragons still put in a solid performance across the board, with Kiana Lynch a clear standout rebounding everything out of defence, and the likes of Sofia Hurley and Pia Staltari impressive in midfield, and Abby Thompson and Ella Sciberras rock steady in defence.

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)
4 – Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)
3 – Kiana Lynch (Sandringham Dragons)
2 – Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)
1 – Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

CALDER CANNONS 2.1 | 3.1 | 3.1 | 5.5 (35)
EASTERN RANGES 2.1 | 4.2 | 5.5 | 6.6 (42)

By: Michael Alvaro

Eastern Ranges won out in a game with heavy finals ramifications, defeating the Calder Cannons by seven points at Highgate Recreation Reserve on Thursday night. The Ranges steadily built their lead across the second and third terms, before holding firm in the last to take out a richly deserved 6.6 (42) to 5.5 (35) victory. It came four days after Eastern’s late loss to Northern, making the resistant win all the more satisfying.

Georgie Prespakis led all comers with 27 touches in a losing effort, winning the ball in all parts of the ground and pumping Calder forward. Mia Busch topped Eastern’s disposal tally with 23 on the back of some persistent work in defence, while Alyssia Pisano booted three classy goals up the other end. Teammates Keeley Sherar and Bridget Deed were again solid in midfield, battling well against Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell, as Neve Crowley continues to thrive in a new forward role.

Both sides are set to suit up next on Saturday, with the Cannons preparing to face Western while Eastern takes on Sandringham in a set of all-Metro fixtures in Round 8.

GOALS:

Calder: A. Magri, T. Gillard, J. Zakkour, G. Prespakis, E. Yassir
Eastern: A. Pisano 3, G. Wilson, M. Hardy, B. Deed

DC BEST:

Calder: G. Prespakis, N. Crowley, Z. Friswell, E. Yassir, T. Gillard
Eastern: M. Busch, A. Pisano, K. Sherar, G. Walsh, C. Willsmore, B. Deed

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
4 – Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)
3 – Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)
2 – Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)
1 – Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

BENDIGO PIONEERS 1.4 | 3.8 | 3.9 | 4.11 (35)
DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.0 | 3.0 | 5.4 | 5.6 (36)

By: Declan Reeve

Inaccuracy cost Bendigo Pioneers an upset win over the Dandenong Stingrays, with the Rays coming out one-point victors after an absolutely thrilling finish to the Saturday afternoon contest at Epsom Huntly Reserve. The game was a contested scrap throughout which was highlighted on the scoreboard, with neither team really getting a substantial lead throughout the day. The final quarter saw a big surge from the Bendigo Pioneers, but the ball was pushed over the boundary line in the final minute and ultimately chewed up too much time for them to get a score through. 

Both teams had some solid contributors in the scrap, with Elizabeth Snell having a fantastic game through the midfield, assisted well by Drew Ryan and Octavia Di Donato as they battled against a determined Dandenong midfield that bats fairly deep. Dandenong saw big performances from bottom aged duo Amber Clarke and Mackenzie Eardley who both got themselves two goals on the day to get the Stingrays over the line, with the help of Olivia Robinson through the midfield and on the scoreboard.

Round 8 sees both these sides playing at Trevor Barker Beach Oval in an all-country double header, with the Stingrays taking on Murray Bushrangers at 11:30am and Bendigo taking on Gippsland Power at 1:30pm.

GOALS:

Bendigo: C. Mitchell, O. Di Donato, J. Douglas, L. Painter
Dandenong: A. Clarke 2, M. Eardley 2, O. Robinson

DC BEST:

Bendigo: E. Snell, O. Di Donato, D. Ryan, L. Keck, T. Slender
Dandenong: A. Clarke, M. Eardley, O. Robinson, Z. Hill, F. Crank

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)
4 – Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)
3 – Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)
2 – Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)
1 – Olivia Robinson (Dandenong Stingrays)

GIPPSLAND POWER 0.0 | 0.1 | 0.1 | 0.1 (1)
MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 1.1 | 1.4 | 5.5 | 7.6 (48)

By: Michael Alvaro

The Murray Bushrangers collected their first points of season 2021, downing Gippsland Power by 47 points on neutral territory at Highgate Recreation Reserve. While the final score makes for ominous reading, both sides came out with fierce intent and produced a largely competitive match, with the Bushies’ six-goal second half ensuring they would break away and finish 7.6 (48) to 0.1 (1) victors. There was a lack of polish at times, but plenty of memorable passages between the country regions.

Aurora Smith was superb in the win, collecting a game-high 25 disposals between the arcs with her speed and work-rate evident. Zara Hamilton was another of Murray’s best alongside Keeley Skepper, while Olivia Cicolini and Lily Sharp deservedly finished with two goals apiece. Gippsland owed plenty to the efforts of Lily-Rose Williamson and Matilda van Berkel down back, as Yasmin Duursma gave it her all in midfield. Talls standouts Ally Morphett and Grace Matser also enjoyed a good tussle through the ruck.

Gippsland’s next assignment comes against another country region in Bendigo on Saturday, while Murray prepares to take on the highly-fancied Dandenong Stingrays on the same day in Round 8.

GOALS:

Gippsland: Nil
Murray: L. Sharp 2, O. Cicolini 2, K. Adams, S. McCarthy, A. Morphett

DC BEST:

Gippsland: L. Williamson, Ma. Van Berkel, Y. Duursma, P. Tracey, G. Matser, G. McRae
Murray: A. Smith, Z. Hamilton, O. Cicolini, K. Skepper, I. Lehman, A. Morphett

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
4 – Lily-Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)
3 – Zara Hamilton (Murray Bushrangers)
2 – Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power)
1 – Olivia Cicolini (Murray Bushrangers)

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 0.1 | 1.2 | 1.2 | 2.3 (15)
WESTERN JETS 1.0 | 1.2 | 2.4 | 2.4 (16)

By: Michael Alvaro

In a wet and windy thriller at RSEA Park, the Western Jets clawed their way to a one-point victory over Sandringham Dragons thanks to some desperate last ditch efforts. The low-scoring slog saw just four goals kicked, but the cream truly rose to the top amid hotly contested passages. Western snuck ahead in term three and somehow held on to win with the ball locked in Sandringham’s forward 50 in the dying stages. Ultimately, the 2.4 (16) to 2.3 (15) result proved yet another game of the year contender.

Western stars Charlotte Baskaran and Montana Ham were unsurprisingly in the thick of things and both ticked over 25 disposals, with the likes of Sofia Hurley and Charlotte Ryan among Sandringham’s key ball winners. Chloe Saultry was also important down back for the Dragons, as Pia Staltari‘s class shone through and Ebony Angelopoulos proved dangerous up forward. Jemima Woods got on the board for Western and was lively, while Leah Spargo led valiantly and Kiera Leare posed a threat in the front half.

Both sides are set for another round of metro opposition, with Sandringham facing the in-form Eastern Ranges on Saturday in Round 8, while Western readies to take on Calder on the same day.

GOALS:

Western: K. Leare, J. Woods
Sandringham: P. Staltari, A. Luca

DC BEST:

Western: C. Baskaran, M. Ham, J. Woods, L. Spargo, K. Leare, K. Whiley
Sandringham: S. Hurley, C. Ryan, P. Staltari, C. Saultry, E. Angelopoulos, E. Stuber

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)
4 – Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)
3 – Charlotte Ryan (Sandringham Dragons)
2 – Montana Ham (Western Jets)
1 – Jemima Woods (Western Jets)

GEELONG FALCONS 0.0 | 0.2 | 0.2 | 1.3 (9)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 2.1 | 2.4 | 3.5 | 4.10 (34)

By: Declan Reeve

The Northern Knights stunned Geelong Falcons at Deakin University on Sunday, winning by 25 points, with their quick ball movement by hand and speed through the middle of the ground proving too much for the Falcons to contain. The Knights almost got through the game without conceding a goal, as Maeve Chaplin led the way in her return outing after missing the previous fixture.

It was a day to remember for bottom aged forward Riley Wilcox who was everywhere, creating a lot for her teammates around the ground, with Gulia Ceravolo, Tarrah Delgado and Tannah Hurst doing plenty of work behind the ball, and midfielder Teleah Smart getting in amongst it for the Knights. The Falcons were led by Annie Lee who did her best to generate drive from the backline, with midfielders Tess Craven and Poppy Schaap working hard around the ground to keep Geelong in it.

Round 8 sees Geelong hosting Oakleigh Chargers at the same oval at 2:30pm on Saturday, with Northern heading to the Apple Isle to play Tasmania Devils at the same time.

GOALS:

Geelong: I. Houtsma
Northern: T. Delgado, M. Appleby, M. Chaplin, R. Wilcox

DC BEST:

Geelong: T. Craven, A. Lee, P. Schaap, T. Morrow, Z. Garth, M. McGrath
Northern: M. Chaplin, R. Wilcox, T. Hurst, B. Plummer, T. Smart

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)
4 – Riley Wilcox (Northern Knights)
3 – Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
2 – Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)
1 – Tannah Hurst (Northern Knights)

GWV REBELS 0.0 | 0.1 | 0.2 | 0.2 (2)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 0.3 | 2.4 | 3.5 | 4.5 (29)

By: Michael Alvaro

Oakleigh kept its perfect 2021 record in tact on Sunday, keeping the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels goalless to win by 27 points at Mars Stadium. The Chargers were without a goal themselves after term one, but soon enough found some scoring form with two goals in the second term, and singles in the remaining quarters to run out 4.5 (29) to 0.2 (2) victors, seeing their record extend to 6-0 atop the NAB League Girls ladder.

A trio of Chargers stood out on the day; with Stella Reid continuing her outstanding form, Amanda Ling again doing the hard yards in midfield, and Brooke Vickers advancing up the ground to roam a wing in their side’s win. The Rebels also had some terrific contributors as the likes of Nyakoat Dojiok, Chloe Leonard and Lilli Condon all found plenty of the ball while also getting their hands dirty going the other way. Kalani Scoullar also had a day out in the ruck with 37 hitouts.

Oakleigh will again prepare for a country opponent and road trip as Geelong awaits on Saturday afternoon, while GWV prepares to host the Northern Territory Thunder Academy on Sunday, once again at Mars Stadium.

GOALS:

GWV: Nil
Oakleigh: S. Morley, S. Reid, B. Vickers, C. Rowbottom

DC BEST:

GWV: N. Dojiok, C. Leonard, L. Condon, M. Walton, K. Scoullar, E. Friend
Oakleigh: S. Reid, B. Vickers, A. Ling, L. Hart, C. Van der Vlies, C. Rowbottom

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)
4 – Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)
3 – Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)
2 – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)
1 – Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

EASTERN RANGES 2.0 | 4.0 | 5.0 | 6.1 (37)
TASMANIA DEVILS 2.0 | 2.2 | 2.2 | 4.2 (26)
Note: Round 2 fixture

By: Peter Williams

Eastern Ranges picked up back-to-back wins against two of the top sides in four days, defeating Tasmania Devils in a Round 3 clash, making up for the fixture that was missed due to the Victorian snap lockdown that required Tasmanians to serve 14 days quarantine upon return to the Apple Isle. In this match, it was the Ranges who got the better of the Devils, handing Tasmania its second loss of the season, with a 6.1 (37) to 4.2 (26) victory at Highgate Recreation Reserve.

Alyssia Pisano was again lively up forward, slotting two goals in the win, with the Ranges slotting 5.0 to the final break, including 3.0 to 0.2 across the middle two quarters. Bridget Deed closed the door on a potential Devils comeback with a last quarter major, before the Devils built some momentum into their next game with two gaols in the final term.

Ruby O’Dwyer was impressive alongside Deed, whilst Mia Busch was strong in defence, and Jorja Livingstone and Matilda Hardy also among the best. For the Devils, Jemma Webster continued her great form of late, while Pia King was a tackling machine, and the additional midfield trio of Claire Ransom, Meghan Gaffney and Ella Maurer were all busy again.

GOALS:

Eastern: A. Pisano, E. Chaston, M. Hardy, I. Khoury, B. Deed
Tasmania: K. Hennessy, M. Edwards, A. Prokopiec, A. Bissett

DC BEST:

Eastern: M. Busch, R. O’Dwyer, B. Deed, J. Livingstone, M. Hardy
Tasmania: J. Webster, P. King, C. Ransom, M. Gaffney, E. Maurer

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)
4 – Ruby O’Dwyer (Eastern Ranges)
3 – Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)
2 – Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)
1 – Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

NAB League Girls Round 2b & 7a preview: Casey Fields and Highgate to host midweek fixtures

IN a split first couple of nights, we take a look at the two games on Wednesday and Thursday night, with the Calder Cannons and Eastern Ranges game to be previewed on Thursday. Tonight it is Dandenong Stingrays up against Sandringham Dragons.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Wednesday, March 17 @ 7.30pm
Casey Fields

The first clash of the week takes place tonight and it is another Round 2 fixture that was missed during the Victorian snap lockdown, so both the Dandenong Stingrays and Sandringham Dragons will have to double-up over the weekend. The Stingrays will face Bendigo Pioneers up at Epsom Huntly on Saturday afternoon, while the Dragons will be up bright and early for a head-to-head with Western Jets at RSEA Park on Sunday morning. These teams come into the clash with 2-2 and 1-3 records respectively, though the Dragons won well against winless Gippsland Power, and pushed the undefeated Chargers all the way in the past two weeks, whilst the Stingrays are coming off tight losses to Oakleigh Chargers and Tasmania Devils back-to-back.

Emily Shepherd will remain a key out for the Stingrays, with the inside midfielder injured before half-time during Dandenong’s loss to Oakleigh 12 days ago. She will watch on as the likes of co-captains Ashleigh Richards and Abbey Jordan look to control the tempo, while the versatile Jemma Radford has been named in the middle. Expect the Stingrays to rely on their rotations, with Zoe Hill and Mackenzie Eardley holding down the fort in the key position defence slots, though Eardley has been known to swing forward in the second half and hit the scoreboard. A player that has no problem hitting the scoreboard is Amber Clarke, who has been piling on multiple scoring shots every week. She remains the danger player inside 50 for the home team, while Charley Ryan and Grace Chapman are others to keep an eye on.

For the Dragons, Bridie Hipwell returned last week after missing several weeks through an ankle injury sustained in the opening match, but with no Shepherd onball, she will be a crucial addition to the side for this game. Sofia Hurley is arguably one of the most in-form players in the competition of late, and is dominating around he stoppages, and spreading well. With Keely Coyne having a great season, and the forwardline duo of Charli Murphy and Ebony Angelopoulos combining well, the Dragons are quite consistent across the board. Mia Zielinksi is a real young talent to keep an eye on up forward, having already hit the scoreboard multiple times in her first two games, whilst Pia Staltari, Kiana Lynch and Tayla Jones are among the other players who have impressed thus far this season.

The game is a 50/50 match and under lights at Casey Fields should make for an amazing atmosphere. Dandenong should have the upper hand, though the Dragons have proven to have a versatile forward line that could do a lot of damage.

CALDER CANNONS vs. EASTERN RANGES
Thursday, March 18 @ 7.00pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

The second midweek clash of the round sees the start of Round 7 and the Calder Cannons up against Eastern Ranges at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The Cannons have strung three consecutive wins together since dropping their Round 3 game to Oakleigh, and accounted for Bendigo Pioneers and Northern Knights in tight contests, as well as a strong victory over Gippsland Power. Eastern Ranges on the other hand sit with two wins and two losses, starting the season off in good form with a victory over Western Jets, followed by a thumping of Gippsland Power. Since they they have gone down to Geelong Falcons and Northern Knights with the latter game of those results being one they let slip after being in control for most of the match.

Calder comes into the lineup with an incredibly strong side that just keeps ticking over the wins. The midfield of Tahlia Gillard, Georgie Prespakis, Zali Friswell and Olivia Manfre will be a tough one to combat, with Mali McLeod’s run on the outside, and the rotation of Emelia Yassir and Jessica Zakkour ensuring the Cannons bat pretty deep across the ground. In terms of talls, the Cannons have the reliable Kasey Lennox at the back, and Neve Crowley – who booted three goals in the last match out – up front alongside damaging smalls in Alisa Magri and Reese Sutton. As one of the most balanced sides that can scrap away and tick over the wins even when the game is not going their way, the Cannons will be favourite heading into the clash.

Eastern Ranges also have plenty of depth through the midfield with Bridget Deed, Jade Hutchinson and Isabel Khoury roving to Georgia Campbell whose contest with Gillard will be the matchup to watch on the night. Eastern have an advantage on the outside with the class and skill of Jorja Livingstone and Keeley Sherar who move the ball quickly and can impact the contest heavily. Up forward, Alyssia Pisano has already proven to be a damaging player when she gets on that left foot, with Scarlett Potter and Matilda Hardy also forward threads. In defence, Cadhla Schmidli and Mia Busch have performed at a high level, whilst the Ranges will also bring in a debutant with Ayla Cosgrove coming into the team for the game.

The midfield battle in particular will be fascinating to watch. The Cannons just keep getting it done, whilst the Ranges will be hungry to turn it around and make up for last week with a big four-quarter effort.

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 6

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition treated us to an extended weekend of fixtures in Round 6. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

A quiet game compared to her usual lofty standards, Rowbottom’s influence on the game still can’t be understated as she demanded a run with player around the ground throughout the game. Despite this, she still found ways to impact, especially up forward where she was played as the main target, able to hit the scoreboard for her troubles. Still had moments of brilliance where she’d get away from her player and win the clearance, leaving everyone in her dust. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Just finds ways to outdo herself throughout the game as it goes on. It felt like she was adding a new string to her bow each quarter with her ball winning early impressive, then adding her speed the next quarter, then adding her overhead marking the next and finally adding her composure in the final quarter, not that any of those were weaknesses earlier on, but became more apparent as the game went on. Really reads the play well and puts herself in great spaces all the time, highlighted by a patch in the third quarter where she got an intercept mark, kicked it back forward and then got another one intercept mark when Sandringham worked it back out. Worked hard throughout the game, with her two-way running being a desirable trait. 

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Has some really eye catching moments, especially around stoppages, where her in-and-under, unrelenting hunt of the ball, mixed with her burst of speed and equally quick use of the ball by hand, is a real strength. This game she had a presence as a forward as well, taking a few good grabs and setting up some good inside 50 opportunities with her kicks.

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Had a solid game splitting her time through the midfield and up forward as a deeper target. Did some good things in the first three quarters around stoppages in particular, where her acceleration was hard for Sandringham to deal with, but it was in the final quarter when the pressure started mounting that she really stepped up and shined, getting involved all around the ground with her in close pressure work, and taking a particularly crucial contested mark to slow down play and run down the clock in the final two minutes, showing a deep understanding of the game and how to deal with those situations. 

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Has been a consistent contributor in the Chargers defense and this game was no different, with her tendency to leave her opponent and making contests 2-on-1 in her teams favour, and her confidence to attack incoming balls at ground level and in the air, she’s a very well rounded attacking defender, that doesn’t neglect her defensive responsibilities. She stood up in the big moments, especially in the final quarter as Sandringham were clawing themselves back into the game.

#4 Alexandra McCulloch (Oakleigh Chargers)

Stood up again in the Oakleigh backline, where her willingness to back herself was on show, flying for marks in packs and taking on opponents when tucking the ball under her arm and running with it. Her reliability throughout the game allowed other Oakleigh defenders such as Brooke Vickers to run off their opponents to impact further up the ground, which made her a very valuable part of the win.

#10 Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons)

Had some really good moments, especially with ball in hand, where she’d use her agility to get around multiple opponents and then getting the ball to a teammate. Not overly crash and bash with her ball winning, but she’s very capable of winning a contested ground ball with her poise around contests, which means that more often than not she’s in a good position to handball off to a teammate effectively 

# 18 Mia Zielinski (Sandringham Dragons)

It’s hard to believe this was just her second game at this level, just plays in such a confident and assured manner, confident to take on opponents in a foot race, on the ground or in the air. Her aerial work is superb, rarely dropping a mark and not wasting a single disposal, she became Sandringham’s main target inside 50, flying for everything, very much one to watch for the 2023 draft. 

#11 Tayla Jones (Sandringham Dragons)

Despite playing as a winger, she got involved quite a bit down deep in defence, where she was winning herself a few free kicks through getting to the ball first. Followed up her kicks if they went wayward which obviously made her teammates much more assured. Further up the ground she was punishing Oakleigh for missed kicks when she was in the area, sweeping up loose balls and delivering accurately to teammates.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Followed up her brilliant game against Gippsland with another big performance against a physically stronger midfield, where her athleticism and footy IQ held her in good stead for the game, often selling candy or side stepping opponents with ease then delivering a long accurate kick forward or handballing off to a teammate on the outside, it really looks like her confidence is growing game by game. Was one of the main dragons to take that step up in the final quarter to get them within a kick.

OTHERS:

In such a well rounded performance there’s plenty of others worthy of a mention. From the victors, Erin Woodford and Lily Hart played a big role in pushing their side through for a win. Jemma Rigoni was also good around the ground, getting a goal in her usual forward spot but pushing up and impacting in the midfield, with talented bottom-ager Ameille Smith also having an impact up forward and in the ruck. Sandringham’s winger Charlotte Ryan won plenty of it and did some damage with her signature speed, Pia Staltari was again thrown around in all 3 sections of the ground, but used it well wherever she was. Abby Thompson was a solid aerial presence in defense with captain Kiana Lynch creating plenty going forward.

 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWS GIANTS ACADEMY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#36 Ally Morphett (GWS GIANTS Academy – but also Murray Bushrangers)

It must have been weird for Morphett lining up against her NAB League teammates, but she certainly had no qualms making an impact in the game. The opening bounce saw the ruck punch a thumping ball forward into the path of her teammates, and then had a number of shots on goal in the opening term. Her set shot from 50m shanked to the right and was intercepted, then her quick snap on goal was good, but went to to the left and stayed in. She kept putting her body on the line and winning her fair share of the ball, thumping it forward. She took a really strong overhead mark, clunking the ball and her ball movement inside 50 led to a goal.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Cynthia Hamilton (GWS GIANTS Academy)

A standout throughout the match for the GIANTS Academy providing run all over the ground. She played between the wing, forward and even dropping back into defence, finding plenty of the ball and keeping it moving in transition. Her work rate was a feature of her game, and she stepped up to kick two goals in the match; the first when she went to full-forward midway through the term thanks to a quick kick running back to it, and then booted a second goal in the third term with a snap out of nothing. Hamilton had a courageous marking attempt in the forward 50 and would continue to run hard throughout the match to be one of the GIANTS’ standout players.

#11 Jayde Hamilton (GWS GIANTS Academy)

Just cracked in for four quarters, and having been one of the AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitees from last season, and someone who has already debuted at VFL Women’s level, Hamilton showed her experience and ball-winning abilities. She can tend to throw the ball on the boot at times, but her vision and timing of handballs is quite good, able to release at the right point. She reads the stoppage work well and can get forward for some shots on goal.

#30 Jessica Whelan (GWS GIANTS Academy)

A lovely kick of the ball, Whelan has great technique and and played between midfield and forward, with a few eye-catching highlights. She laid a fierce tackle in the middle of the ground in the opening term, took a great intercept mark on the wing and hit a low dart of a pass inside 50 in the third term which led to a goal, then earned a 50m penalty to have a set shot from the goalsquare and made no mistake.

#31 Hayley Macdonald (GWS GIANTS Academy)

Booted two goals in the game and looked lively inside 50. She arguably could have finished with more majors, given her first set shot from 20m out straight in front missed to the right. She kicked her first early in the third term with a great snap around her body, and continued to present throughout the second half. Early in the fourth quarter Macdonald kicked her second, able to get her boot to the ball in the goalsquare to double her output.

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

Having some sort of season is the outside talent, with her speed and ball-winning capacity on show. At times she just needs that extra touch of composure or awareness to know she has more time than she thinks she does, but when she is up and going it is impressive. She is strong overhead and is not afraid to take on the opposition, at one stage evading two players, but then getting caught by the third. With her athletic traits and aggressive play with ball-in-hand, Smith is perennially an eye-catching player and has some attractive traits to her wing role.

#22 Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

An important player in the Bushrangers’ defensive setup, Hay generally uses the ball well aside from the odd kick, and is always mopping up deep in defence. She is a strong interceptor and takes the game on with running meterage, and then puts her body on the line such as a great smother to save a goal in the third term. She was clean off the deck and able to quickly transition from the pickup to a smooth handball in the final quarter, having put together and impressive overall performance.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

Another strong performance from the bottom-age talent with a penetrating left boot. She showed clean hands at ground level and her usual defensive pressure, with her sidestepping ability to get on her left side and then wind up with a powerful pass always something to enjoy. Skepper is able to take some strong overhead marks and cover the ground well, laying tackles in each of the thirds of the ground, and it is about refining the left boot to match the execution with the technique. Whilst she courageously went up for a mark late in the game, she landed a little awkwardly and was rested.

#46 Zara Hamilton (Murray Bushrangers)

Working with tandem with Smith as the prime ball mover in transition, Hamilton played an impressive game from both an offensive and defensive standpoint. Often she would apply pressure to the opposition to force a turnover such as a dropped mark inside defensive 50, and when she had the ball used it fairly well. Not afraid to use some athleticism to sidestep and opponent and kick long, Hamilton set up a goal to Olivia Cicolini who made no mistake from a free kick in the third term.

OTHERS:

Sophie Trewartha was impressive for the GIANTS, while Eleanor Bishop won plenty of the footy, and the likes of Georgie Jaques and Anita Manning were also solid. For the Bushrangers, Kristy Whitehead, Mindy Quade, Bonny McKean and Chloe Locke worked well in defence, and Mikayla Jones was also among the better players on the day for the losing side.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#7 Jessica Doyle (Sydney Swans Academy)

Whilst Doyle might be lightly built, she certainly packs a punch and plenty of talent with her work in the forward half. Working between midfield and forward as one of those taller mids who can provide a marking target inside 50, Doyle has that X-factor about her that catches the eye. She got the ball rolling for her side against the momentum in the first term with an important goal, then stepped up with her side’s third major of the contest, to finish with the two goals from an equal team-high 19 disposals. Moving well around the ground, Doyle was a key playmaker, driving the ball inside 50 on multiple occasions.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#20 Ella Heads (Sydney Swans Academy)

An absolute rock in defence, Heads was a terrific one-on-one opponent, and took a number of strong intercept marks. She would then take the game on and either go for a run or use her composure to go back and search out a target. As the defence was under siege early, Heads did well to hold the fort up and team up well with the likes of Ruby Sargent-Wilson, and think through the defensive transition into attack.

#10 Ruby Sargent-Wilson (Sydney Swans Academy)

Did not need to win a heap of the ball to have an impact, with five rebound 50s from 10 touches. She popped up from time to time during crucial moments, and was one of the Swans’ best on the day. She used the ball well by foot and was composed when she won it, often weaving away from an opponent to provide teammates with something to run onto.

#19 Maddy Hendrie (Sydney Swans Academy)

Hendrie was someone who caught the eye due to her movement in transition, putting the ball into dangerous spots going inside 50. She was not afraid to get her hands dirty with a number of tackles, and even had a chance on goal but missed. Winning the majority of her touches at ground level, Hendrie was a key playmaker in the front half for the Swans throughout the day.

#13 Danika Spamer (Sydney Swans Academy)

A tough competitor who won her fair share of the ball, Spamer laid the equal most tackles for the Swans and really dug deep at the clinches. She was able to extract the ball from the stoppage and keep it moving, and whilst still developing some areas of her game, she showed she could win the ball and cover the field really well, winning possessions in each third of the ground.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

The Draft Central Player of the Week was absolutely sensational with a competition season-high 31 disposals on the day. She was everywhere, even kicking a goal off a step from just inside 50 to keep the Falcons in the contest, and popped up constantly around the ground. On a number of occasions she just could not quite hold onto a few marks so could have had even more of the pill, but her complete work rate saw her pick up five or more marks, tackles, inside 50s and rebounds just to give a bit of an indication of just how impressive she was in the match. On the most in-form players in the 2021 season.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Another consistent performer with clean skills and balance, Schaap worked in tandem with Craven throughout the match to ensure the game was controlled out of the midfield. Whilst the Falcons ultimately fell short of victory, Schaap was someone who would put her body on the line, then create her own space and use it well in transition. She was often the player cracking in under multiple opponents to win the contested ball, and then applying her own defensive pressure.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

Continuing what has been a consistent season, Simpson is the third player in the trio of ball-winning midfielders, and used her strength to advantage in the contest. She was able to win the loose and hard balls, and thump the pill forward to give teammates best chance. At times she can rush with her disposal, but knows how to win the ball and how to protect the ball at ground level, as well as aide with defensive support.

#33 Taiya Morrow (Geelong Falcons)

Really stepped up in defence with the absence of Annie Lee to team up with Elizabeth Dowling back there. She was someone often mopping up on the last line of defence, and then clearing the ball through a long kick to half-back. She put together a four-quarter performance and really came into her own during the match, and is an underrated player in the Falcons’ back six, completing their array of consistent defenders.

OTHERS:

For the Swans, it really was an even team performance, with rucks, Eloise Morgan and April Devine catching the eye, while Kahli Gilchrist and Isadora McLeay also stood out. For the Falcons, Dowling was her reliable self in defence, while Gabbi Featherston and Mia Van Dyke were impressive, as was Analea McKee who played her best game of the season, and Ash Van Loon was fierce before coming off with an injury.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Hamish Spence

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

King finished off her third game in eight days among the best players on the ground once again. Her poise, speed and timing were impressive in the tough conditions, but she still managed to match it around the contest with her 16 disposals and six tackles. One thing that stands out in King’s game is her intent to keep the ball alive and move it forward. While it doesn’t always come off and can result in the occasional mistake, her attacking mindset would have North Melbourne (the AFLW club with her draft rights) excited.

TOP PERFORMERS:  

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Gaffney’s enjoyed a strong 2021 campaign this year, but Saturday’s game was her finest performance to date. Her gut-running and agility were a luxury for the Devils, as they could distribute the ball to her on the outside and get it away from the contest, where it lived for large parts of the day. She played a typical wingers game, covering the whole ground and racking up plenty of possessions with her line-breaking speed, ultimately finishing with 20 disposals, four tackles, three inside 50s and three rebound 50s.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

Starred at ground level and on the inside, making an impact at every stoppage she attended. Her contested game style was perfectly suited to the congested conditions at Dial Park, with Webster often distributing the ball from the bottom of the pack with her 11 handballs. She racked up 20 disposals in total and kicked a goal, continuing the excellent form that has seen her named in Draft Central’s Team of the Week for the second week in a row.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

It was another great game for Maurer through the midfield, but it was the impact she made up forward that will turn some heads. She was the only multiple goalkicker for the game; her first was a set-shot after being hit-up on a lead, and the second was a classy running goal out of the contest. If Maurer can keep adding this element to her game, it will serve her well going forward. She was also tough as usual around stoppages with her 18 disposals and six tackles, constantly absorbing tackles to hand the ball off one of her teammates.

#49 Charlotte Vandenberg (Tasmania Devils)

Was the most dominant ruck on the ground, easily winning the ruck battle with her game-high 17 hit outs. Dandenong rotated several different players against her, but Vandenberg didn’t lower her standards or tire out, asserting her physicality at each contest. What was equally impressive was her follow-up and second efforts at ground level, her six tackles represent her want to impact the game even after the ball’s been bounced.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

She worked tirelessly all game for the Stingrays, finishing as their leading possession getter with 19 disposals, despite playing out of the forward line. She pushed hard up the ground and used her speed to provide an option for her side, as evidenced by her game-high nine inside 50s. She had three scoring shots on goal, before finally getting some reward for effort with the last goal of the game.

#38 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

Was arguably Dandenong’s best midfielder in defeat on the weekend. She looked comfortable around stoppages in the wet conditions, constantly pushing past players and forcing her way through packs. While Emily Shepherd being out due to injury was a blow, it gave Crank a chance to step up in her absence, an opportunity she fully embraced with her 18 disposals.

#34 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)

Another key contributor through the middle, Richards impressed with her toughness and competitiveness around the ball. She featured at most stoppages and made an impact with her 12 disposals and three tackles. She didn’t seem to push forward as much as she has done in the past, possibly signalling a more midfield centric role moving forward.

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Hill continued her excellent form marshalling the Stingrays down back, reading the ball beautifully, despite the wet conditions, and keeping Tasmania’s forward line in check. She kept the likes of Amy Prokopiec accountable after Prokopiec kicked the first goal of the game, while impacting the contest in her own right with her 13 disposals, three tackles and three rebound 50s.

#27 Charley Ryan (Dandenong Stingrays)

She didn’t gather as much of the ball as some other players, but Ryan made an impact whenever she had it in her hands. Every one of her nine disposals was effective and laced with class, which stood in the tough conditions on Saturday. She drove her side’s attacks up forward with six inside 50s and wasn’t afraid to work defensively with her six tackles.

OTHERS:

Aprille Crooks (18 disposals and three rebound 50s) and Priscilla Odwogo (15 disposals, five tackles and five rebound 50s) were Tasmania’s two main movers out of the backline, constantly cutting off the ball and sending it back out. Amy Bissett was an important link-up forward, gathering 14 disposals and three inside 50s in a strong performance. While her fellow winger, Meghan Gaffney, took most of the attention, Madison Brazendale (15 disposals and five tackles) was good in her own right on the opposing wing. Abbey Jordan (17 disposals and two inside 50s) was strong through the middle for Dandenong, matching it with some of the Devils’ best onballers around stoppages. Jemma Radford (nine disposals, two inside 50s and two rebound 50s) and Mackenzie Eardley (13 disposals, six tackles and two rebound 50s) held up down back and constantly rebounded the ball. Olivia Robinson (13 disposals, five tackles and three inside 50s) was influential at half-forward, working up the field to impact the contest and applying constant pressure.

 

GWV REBELS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Positioned on the wing for the day, she really showed off her workrate and game reading ability, drifting into the backline to provide assistance down there, getting herself in the best spots to take intercept marks, but also pushing forward to provide pressure and scoring opportunities. It’s particularly impressive how aerially, even if she doesn’t hold the mark she’s never beaten with the follow up at ground level, where she’s composed and measured with her ball use as well.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Really impressive work creating drive from the backline and setting up outside of forward 50 to get the ball straight back in, making it difficult for the Jets to set themselves up defensively again. She showed she understands the game at a high level as well, always doing all she can with the ball in hand, like going for runs, but never pushing it and overestimating what she can do, that mixed with the distance and penetration of her kick can be really damaging.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Coming into the midfield from her usual back flank role, it was a seamless transition for Leonard who topped the disposal charts for the day. All the same attributes that make her such a danger off of half back; her speed, kicking and game sense, were well on show throughout the day as she was often standing beside the Jets Montana Ham around stoppages, and looked to do well in nullifying her whilst getting a lot of it herself. Her tackling around stoppages was really good as well, making it hard for Jets to break free at any stage 

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

Had an amazing game playing mostly as the main target for the Rebels inside deep 50, showing her potential to be one of those midfielders that can effectively rest forward. Standing at just the 166 cm, you would’ve thought she was 10 cm taller the way she was flying for every mark and getting a couple of them. It was her work at ground level and in congestion that was most impressive, able to dance around opponents to set up teammates going forward, or handball to an oncoming runner.

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

The top ball winner for the Jets, Baskaran was her usual composed and classy self throughout the game, with her ball use highly effective and damaging, which played a big part in the Jets second half surge. I really liked that she very rarely just kicks it down the line, she’s always looking to move the ball inside or across for a switch, making it easier for her forwards to get effective shots if they mark it.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

There’s something very entertaining about watching Ham run straight through stoppages to get the ball moving forward with a long bomb, and she’s just so hard for opponents to stop from doing it. Particularly impressed with how she set up behind the ball for the game, taking on a more defensive focus than we usually see from her, she really effective in creating contests rather than letting the rebels just go end-to-end

#6 Stella Bridgewater (GWV Rebels)

Lined up at centre half-forward to start with, but played one of those games where she could very well have been a midfielder as well, was just everywhere and involved in every area of the ground. Has some really good athletic traits which make her a difficult matchup, either faster or stronger than the opponents rotating on her throughout the game.

#52 Krystal Russell (Western Jets)

Improves more and more every game which is really good to see, and against the Rebels she started putting really direction and distance on her taps, putting it a few meters out in front of teammates already on the move, with her teammates rarely having to slow down for the ball. Her follow up work is good when it’s called upon as well.

OTHERS:

Lili Condon battled hard in the midfield all day for the Rebels, winning plenty of ball, with defensive duo Molly Walton and Stephanie Glover also putting in a good shift in the defensive half for the Rebels, while Kalani Scoullar won the most hitouts across the round. For the Jets, it was some regular contributors in Jemima Woods, Paige Ryan and Stephanie Asciak that battled hard all day in different areas of the ground, with all doing a lot of their work in the midfield.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

It’s kind of ridiculous that she can play half of the game away from the rover roles but still have such a high disposal count and impact everywhere around the ground. It’s obvious she’s been playing more forward and defense in the last couple of weeks, and her output hasn’t dropped at all which is a really great thing to see. Was really impressive especially when playing in the backline, with her willingness to attack the footy and move up the ground playing a big part in Calder’s constant pressure and ball movement forward. Throw in some of her usual side steps and composure under pressure and it was a top level performance where she made essentially no mistakes.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Had a good game in the ruck where she was tested against one of the best in the comp. What you’re getting with Gillard is a ruck that, even if she doesn’t win the tap her follow up work is unmatchable, with work below her knees being a major strength for someone as tall as she is. Throw on top of this her ability to impact up forward or around the ground as a really good aerially presence and user of the footy and she’s such a valuable player, which was on show against Power.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#25 Lily Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)

Her run-and-carry is a delight to watch, she’s got a good mix of power/strength as well as composure to understand what her limits are, so it was rare to see her get herself into trouble despite her tendency for that run-and carry. She’s really accountable in defense, even on the occasion her opponent does win the ball they won’t get an easy disposal afterwards with her tackling and relentless pressure. With more time in the midfield, I have no doubt she’ll become one of the stronger stoppage players in the competition.

#5 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

She has such a high impact with her disposal that even without racking up big numbers she’s one of the most damaging players during any given game, and her switch to the forwardline after spending the last few games as a defender proves that with her game high 3 goal haul. A really impressive part of her game was how much she worked up the ground as well, then worked harder than her opponent in transition to impact the play. Another impressive part of her game was her marking, taking a good contested mark in the first quarter.

#10 Olivia Manfre (Calder Cannons)

She’s been on the verge of having a breakout game for a couple of weeks and all it took was a game where she got a really good run in the midfield to do it. A lot of what she’s displayed up forward with her leading patterns, disposal skills and footy IQ shined in the midfield as well, making really good runs around stoppages to get in the best positions, and could then get the ball to outside runners or kick it forward.. She still had her stints up forward as well, getting a goal for her efforts, showing that she’s got that capability of a midfield/forward split going forward.

#2 Reese Sutton (Calder Cannons)

In a similar sense to Manfre she’s been on the verge of a breakout game for a couple of weeks, and with increased midfield time she took it with both hands, her footy IQ on display around stoppages where she does well to put herself where the ball is going to be. Her kicking is a real delight, finding the better options more often than not with well weighted kicks.

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Super impressive through the midfield all day, with her burst of speed in particular looking good coming out of stoppages or contests, always followed by a quality kick forward or handball to an outside team mate. Once again was impressed by her two-way running, where she’d be involved in the forwardline, and then pop up in the backline a minute later when Gippsland got a turn over.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Looking at her play a game, and she just understands it at a really high level. Despite not racking up huge numbers she has really good moments throughout the game where her game sense and footy IQ are on display with her positioning or runs she’s making, especially when reading the ball off of the rucks hands. Her disposal skills under pressure were also really impressive, and contributed to some really good passages for Gippsland

#1 Sunday Brisbane (Gippsland Power)

Really crafty midfielder, who despite her size isn’t afraid to get involved  in the contested side of the game, and that relentless attack on the ball is really advantageous for Gippsland, especially with her handballing being at a good level, even with Calder tightening up on her later on.

OTHERS:

Gippsland had a few admirable performers despite the loss, with Courtney Fletcher winning quite a bit of ball around the ground. Tall duo Matilda Van Berkel and Grace Matser were solid in defense and the Ruck respectively and Grace McRae still impacted well despite having a quieter game than usual. The Cannons had plenty of others that performed their role well, Zali Friswell again being a good ball winner and contributor in other areas around the ground, bottom-ager Abbey McDonald continues to work into her role as rebounding defender really well, and winger Mia Briedis was winning it plenty.

 

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Appleby was again promising in patches for the Knights, with her speed and running ability evident but not dominant over the course of a highly contested game. She could have been the perfect player to break the contest open on the outside and threatened to do so with ball in hand. Her class shone through with clean takes and use in possession, especially during the third and fourth quarters as Northern began to arrest momentum and mount its extraordinary comeback.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

The best player afield and at 15 years of age, one who has already set the bar high with many seasons left to prosper in the underage pathways. Jordan was a constant figure at the stoppages, using her zippy turn of speed to burst away with ball in hand and thrust Northern onto the front foot. She dug in hard despite her diminutive stature and was the standout performer across four quarters, while also standing up in the clutch moments. Her third term goal gave Northern a sniff, and her second put the Knights within striking distance during term four, capping off what was an outstanding individual performance which inspired her team to victory.

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

Eastern’s most outstanding performer on the day, Sherar worked furiously hard to ensure her side would boss the midfield battle early on. All bar one of her 16 disposals were kicks, highlighting Sherar’s ability to gain meterage from the coalface and make an impact where it matters most. Her marking prowess was also on show and the Ranges coaches would have been pleased by her work-rate to not only win possession in all areas of the ground, but to also tackle hard when required. After kicking the second goal of the game, Sherar was set up for a big day and followed through.

#15 Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)

With everything to gain late in the contest, Northern pulled the trigger and sent Delgado into the centre bounces – a move which ultimately played a massive part in the final result. Previously, the reliable top-ager was seen intercepting and rebounding in her usual defensive post, which proved key to Northern remaining a chance to turn around and win. At 173cm, her presence was then felt through midfield where she willed the ball forward and booted a crucial goal at the start of term four to spark Northern’s game-winning charge.

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Another of the 2005-birth brigade, Pisano continues to find the goals for Eastern and impact games up forward. An impressive 14 of her 15 disposals came via foot, and five of them were inside 50 entries, showcasing the creative threat that Pisano presents. Her two goals came with a touch of class and were taken in quick succession during the first term, helping Eastern skip out to what should have been a defining lead. The 15-year-old has plenty of time to develop further and potentially try her hand up the field, but looks so comfortable at the level as a forward.

#22 Ella Smallacombe (Northern Knights)

One of Northern’s key factors up forward, Smallacombe, or ‘Big Brush’ as she is referred to by teammates notched a career-high 17 disposals as she worked hard up the ground to provide a viable target and help link the Knights into their attacking 50. She may not have found the big sticks in this outing, but moreso played to a role which allowed Northern to keep its forward momentum going and have someone who could skilfully deliver the ball into dangerous areas.

#44 Grace Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

One of the competition’s most exciting ruck prospects, Campbell was able to showcase her athleticism and raw ability on the ball in this outing. At over 180cm, her aerial nous is an obvious strength and she brought it to the fore with a game-high 19 hitouts to go with three eye-catching marks. She is one of the few players who can take the ball at its highest point, but not one to admire her work for long, Campbell also showed a knack for playing on straight away and moving through traffic like a much smaller player. She missed the chance to cap off a promising outing with scoreboard impact, with one guilt-edge chance to put Eastern back ahead during the fourth term drifting into the post.

OTHERS:

Both sides had a raft of handy contributors during the day, with plenty of hard workers placed on each line. Eastern had the likes of Jess Grace and Isabelle Khoury return from VFLW duties with aplomb, while Grace Walsh was strong in defence alongside Cadhla Schmidli, and Bridget Deed was reliable in midfield. Northern leader Teleah Smart was also busy in the engine room, aided by the combativeness of stand-in ruck Monique Ramsay. Lulu Beatty was another to impress, while Rylie Wilcox was lively inside 50 and Trinity Mills popped up for a couple of clutch goals.