Tag: Maddy Brancatisano

2021 AFLW 10 under 10 to watch: #9 Maddy Brancatisano

IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We continue the countdown at number nine with Richmond’s Maddy Brancatisano.

The former Northern Knights captain found her groove in 2020 after an unlucky 2019 season with Melbourne. Having been picked up with pick 15 in the 2018 AFL Women’s National Draft, Brancatisano was unable to crack into an experienced Demons’ midfield unit, and instead opted to join Richmond in the expansion period. There, she immediately had an impact, making her AFL Women’s debut in Round 1 and played six games for the season.

Possessing some terrific speed and a desire to win the ball in congestion, Brancatisano had a solid start to her elite level career, averaging 5.3 disposals, 1.2 marks and 1.2 tackles in her six games. She will look to build on that in 2021, and crack into an ever-strengthening Tigers midfield. Alongside the likes of Monique Conti and Sarah Hosking, Brancatisano will be reunited with former Knights’ teammate and 2020 AFL Women’s Draft number one selection, Ellie McKenzie for the 2021 season.

Having gone winless in 2020, Richmond is still searching for its debut win, and Brancatisano is expected to be a big part of the side going forward, which has bulked up on youth in year one, and now added a fair bulk of experience in year two. Unlike in 2020, the Tigers have the midfield depth to get it to tall forwards Katie Brennan and Sabrina Frederick, and all of a sudden, Richmond’s forward half looks all the more damaging.

Whilst the extra depth through the midfield might make it more challenging for Brancatisano, the natural leader has the right attitude and inside ability to make it work. In a side still building its identity, Brancatisano knows how to set the tone by example, and now that the Tigers have enough talent to worry some teams, expect the ex-Knights captain to be one of a number of players to step up in 2021 and show exactly why she is on this list.

Picture credit: Richmond FC

AFL Women’s Young Gun Watch: Round 5

IN our fifth edition of the Young Gun Watch, we take a look at some of the top young performers across the AFL Women’s competition in Round 5 focusing on those players born in the 21st century (2000 or 2001). We analyse match-by-match just how they performed and what they did well.

Gold Coast SUNS vs. Geelong

A convincing win saw Geelong climb above Conference rivals Gold Coast to claim their second win on the trot, however, some impressive performances from Gold Coast youngsters would give the Suns fans something to smile about. Jacqui Yorston continued her good form with 16 disposals, 10 tackles and a goal, while Lauren Bella was impressive again in the ruck with 19 hit-outs. Queenslanders Ellie Hampson and Dee Heslop both brought physicality to the contest with three and four tackles respectively. Geelong’s Nina Morrison was back to her best gathering a team-high 22 disposals and seven tackles, while fellow 2018 graduate Olivia Purcell collected 21 disposals. Rebecca Webster (12 disposals, two tackles) and Sophie Van De Heuvel (nine disposals) were both serviceable for the cats in the victory. Georgia Clarke played a role off the bench with two tackles and a goal, as did father-daughter draftee Millie Brown who found the ball nine times.

North Melbourne vs. Adelaide

North Melbourne secured their spot on top of the Conference A ladder with a commanding win over Adelaide where the Kangaroos experienced players took the reigns. Daisy Bateman was useful up forward without impacting the scoreboard with her nine disposals and four marks. Launceston product Mia King brought plenty to the contest with four tackles but was down on her disposal count from last week with just the six. Adelaide showcased a lot of young talent again with Montana McKinnon the most impressive, accumulating 16 hit-outs in the ruck to go with her nine disposals. Nikki Gore was again kept off the scoreboard but managed seven tackles up forward, however, centre half-forward Danielle Ponter was able to kick a goal after also being held scoreless last week. Jaimi Tabb was able to make an impact out of full-forward despite not kicking a goal with eight disposals, four marks and three tackles.

GWS GIANTS vs. Richmond

GWS’ young talent is scarce with just the one player born this century, yet Alyce Parker and the Giants do not care for that with a dominant display against Richmond keeping them up near the top of the ladder. Parker backed up another impressive outing last week with 24 disposals and four tackles, a performance which could have seen her receive a rising star nomination if she had not have received a Round One nomination. The winless Tigers have blooded plenty of youth this season but again it was Sophie Molan leading the way for Richmond’s young talent with nine disposals and four tackles. Kodi Jacques laid six tackles and collected six disposals, as did Ella Wood. Northern Knights pair Maddy Brancatisano and Sarah Sansonetti had four and two disposals respectively, while Laura McClelland collected four disposals and two tackles.

Carlton vs. St Kilda

Carlton’s accuracy in front of goal led them to a 21-point win over St Kilda with valuable contributions from their young talent. After narrowly missing nomination last week, Charlotte Wilson became Carlton’s third Rising Star nomination for the season after putting in an impressive 12 disposal and eight-mark performance down back for the Blues. 2019 Rising Star Madison Prespakis impressed as usual with 26 disposals to go with three tackles. To continue with the Rising Star trend, fellow 2020 nominees Grace Egan (12 disposals, six tackles) and Lucy McEvoy (four disposals, eight tackles) kicked a goal each. Number five draft pick, Georgia Patrikios continued her stellar debut season collecting 18 disposals while Isabella Shannon gathered 10 disposals and three tackles. Nicola Xenos’ six tackles was important to keep the pressure on the Blues, as Molly McDonald had seven disposals.

Collingwood vs. Western Bulldogs

Collingwood stayed in the race for finals with a strong win over the Bulldogs, led by their more experienced stars. With room for the Magpies youngsters to improve, it was a relatively quiet outing for all of them. Lauren Butler collected nine disposals off the half-back flank, while Mikala Cann collected eight disposals and laid two tackles out of the middle. Jordyn Allen (six disposals) and Alana Porter (four disposals, two tackles) had less output than last week and will be looking to bounce back this week against the Lions. The Bulldogs youth also experienced quieter performances than last week as number one draft pick Gabby Newton picked up nine disposals and six tackles. Fellow top ten draft picks Gemma Lagiola (seven disposals, two tackles) and Elisabeth Georgostathis (six disposals, four tackles) will both also be looking to get back to the form they have displayed throughout the season.

Melbourne vs. West Coast

Melbourne enjoyed an outstanding day out to come out 59-point winners against the Eagles out at Casey Fields on Sunday, in an outing with the least amount of 21st century representatives. Consistently picked for a reason, Tyla Hanks played her role again in Melbourne’s forward rotation collecting 10 disposals and laying two tackles in a well-functioning forward line, while New South Wales product Brenna Tarrant gathered five disposals in the win. Mikayla Bowen was again the standout Under-20 Eagle as she backed up last week’s effort with similar numbers, posting 11 disposals and five tackles. Claremont product Sophie McDonald improved again, putting up another season-high disposal count with 10, while tall McKenzie Dowrick come off the bench for four disposals and three tackles. Despite not enjoying the success in the wins columns this season, West Coast fans would enjoy the performances from their youth.

Fremantle vs. Brisbane

Fremantle secured their place atop the Conference B ladder with a three-goal victory over the Brisbane Lions. Sabreena Duffy became the team’s leading goal-scorer with a terrific four-goal effort which very well could have been eight if she kicked straight. Duffy also had 10 disposals and five marks in her day out, while Emma O’Driscoll collected seven disposals and three tackles. Tall prospect Roxanne Roux found the footy five times to go with three hit outs in a day where fellow tall Mim Strom dominated the ruck with 17 hit-outs with her seven disposals. Key forward Jesse Wardlaw was the standout youth performer for the Lions with seven disposals, four marks, three hit-outs and a goal. Brisbane’s first draft pick, Lily Postlethwaite in 2019 had seven disposals and three tackles, as Natalie Grider (seven disposals) also contributed.

AFL Women’s Young Gun Watch: Round 4

ROUND 4 of the 2020 AFL Women’s saw a number of young guns shine, with top-end first year draftees continuing to come into their own among a raft of 2000 and 2001-born prospects at the top level. The 2019 number one and 13 picks each earned Rising Star nominations, showcasing the true depth of talent in the next generation of future stars.

Collingwood vs. Melbourne

The Dees got up impressively in this one on the back of superior experience and depth, but Collingwood’s developing list has shown some noted signs of improvement in 2020 coming off a wooden spoon season. Tyla Hanks has, for the most part, been Melbourne’s sole under-21 representative thus far, and continued her solid form in the forward rotation with 15 disposals and five tackles. The Magpies’ youngsters were a touch quieter, but Mikala Cann was the pick of the bunch with 12 disposals, two marks and four tackles, while Alana Porter (11 disposals), Jordyn Allen (nine disposals, two marks), and Lauren Butler (eight disposals, five tackles) were also serviceable. With key defender Ash Brazill going down with an ACL injury on the weekend, the strong list of developing Pies will need to stand up in the back-end of the season.

Richmond vs. Geelong

An extra year in the system is the key difference between much of Geelong and Richmond’s teenage crops, and 2018 draftee Olivia Purcell proved the prime example of that theory with her leading hand in the Cats’ high-scoring win over the Tigers in Bendigo. Purcell gathered a team-high 20 disposals and booted a goal, while fellow class of 2018 graduate Georgia Clarke was effective close to goal with two majors from eight disposals. The Cats’ first 2018 pick, Nina Morrison continues to play into form and collected 12 touches in more of a forward role, with Rebecca Webster (eight disposals, six tackles) a touch down on her own much-improved form but still influential. Sophie Molan led a handful of first-year Tigers with her 10-disposal effort, while Kodi Jacques and Laura McClelland also held their own with a goal each. Former Northern Knights pair Maddy Brancatisano and Sarah Sansonetti had five touches each, but struggled to have the impact required to get Richmond over the line.

North Melbourne vs. Gold Coast SUNS

A winning debut for Tasmanian draftee, Mia King headlined a solid game for a bunch of quality prospects as the Kangaroos trumped Gold Coast at Arden Street. King collected 11 disposals and two marks while laying three tackles in a steady display of her talent, while 2018 draftee Daisy Bateman notched her second two-goal tally for the season, booting majors at crucial times to keep the SUNS at bay. For Gold Coast, Jacqui Yorston was terrific with 15 disposals, five marks and six tackles, leading a talented handful of 2000/2001-born SUNS guns. Fellow former-Lion Lauren Bella continued her rise in the ruck with 10 touches and three marks, while academy products Ellie Hampson and Serene Watson each claimed eight touches in roles at opposite ends. The exuberant SUNS have been a surprise packet this season, with their hunger for the contest helping them hang with the best of sides, and that will put them in good stead going forward in accelerating their growth.

West Coast vs. Western Bulldogs

West Coast’s maiden AFL Women’s victory may have been the main takeaway from this fixture for neutrals, but those on the Dogs’ side will be thrilled by the game of 2019 number one draft pick, Gabby Newton. The Northern Knights graduate gathered 16 touches, five marks and laid 10 tackles – all season-high numbers – to earn a Rising Star nomination, while fellow class of 2019 alumni Gemma Lagioia (12 disposals, three marks) and Elisabeth Georgostathis shone at either end, and debutant Hannah Munyard found the ball eight times. Second year player Eleanor Brown also put up her clear-best numbers for the year with 12 disposals and five marks on the outside, with plenty to work on for the former top-10 pick. Mikayla Bowen was the standout Under-20 Eagle, notching 11 disposals and laying six tackles, with prized tall recruit McKenzie Dowrick returning a steady three touches while Sophie McDonald managed nine – a season-high for her.

Adelaide vs. Carlton

The other Rising Star nomination came out of a monumental Blues’ win, with physical 19-year-old midfielder Grace Egan being rewarded for a strong string of performances. The Murray Bushrangers and Richmond VFL product managed her second 18-disposal game for the season, adding six marks and four tackles to the effort. 2019 Rising Star Madison Prespakis went about her usual business with a team-high 20 disposals and one goal, while Round 1 nominee Lucy McEvoy had it 14 times to go with seven tackles, and Charlotte Wilson enjoyed a breakout game of 19 disposals and nine marks after missing last week. For the depleted Crows, Danielle Ponter failed to find the big sticks after a four-goal effort in Round 3, kept to a season-low of six disposals. Fellow forward Nikki Gore stayed true to her seasonal form with eight disposals and three tackles, but was also kept out of the scoreboard as Carlton’s defence stood firm.

St Kilda vs. Fremantle

A strange and undeniably tense contest between St Kilda and Fremantle saw pre-listed Dandenong Stingrays graduate Molly McDonald play a massive part in the outcome of the game, while a host of other first and second year players had promising cameos. St Kilda looked arguably the better side and like being the eventual winner when McDonald snapped through a wonderful goal in the last term, but a costly 50-metre penalty against the 2019 draftee cruelly gifted Fremantle a chance to stay in the game. Prized pick Georgia Patrikios (11 disposals, two marks) was down on her disposal output but still strong, while Nicola Xenos‘ pace and repeat efforts proved menacing, but the promising signs in a tight loss were somewhat soured by a serious knee injury to 19-year-old Tarni White, who immediately knew of the severity. Fremantle’s generational tall prospects were a touch quieter, with Mim Strom and Roxanne Roux having a combined 11 disposals, while Sabreena Duffy had seven touches and two behinds and Emma O’Driscoll (six disposals, two marks) enjoyed a steady first game for the season.

Brisbane vs. GWS GIANTS

Brisbane’s young guns enjoyed some success in front of goal in their big win over GWS, led by exciting key forward Jesse Wardlaw. The 185cm tall booted two goals from 10 disposals and five marks, showcasing her sticky hands, fluent set shot routine, and love for a celebration. Prized 2019 draftee Lily Postlethwaite (11 disposals, five marks) also snapped home her first ever AFLW goal to cap off another solid outing, with Natalie Grider (11 disposals, three tackles) also coming on well. On the other hand, GWS’ young talent is a touch more sparse, but the GIANTS have an out-and-out gun in Alyce Parker. The Lions knew that coming in too, and had mature-age draftee Catherine Svarc put a physical tag on the 19-year-old to quell her midfield output. Still, Parker managed to collect 11 disposals and lay three tackles, while also hitting up Yvonne Bonner late on to assist one of the GIANTS’ three goals.

AFL Women’s Young Gun Watch: Round 3

IN our third edition of the Young Gun Watch, we take a look at some of the top young performers across the AFL Women’s competition in Round 3 focusing on those players born in the 21st century (2000 or 2001). We analyse match-by-match just how they performed and what they did well.

St Kilda vs. Melbourne

It was a historic night for the Saints at Moorabbin, and it was no surprise to see the youth standing up again. Tarni White had another great game out of defence with 10 disposals, two marks, two tackles and a match-high seven rebounds – just five shy of the entire Melbourne outfit. Georgia Patrikios did what she does best and worked hard with extra class for 15 disposals, four tackles and two rebounds, while Molly McDonald had seven touches, three marks, three tackles and two rebounds in the win. Nicola Xenos also showed off her pace out of the defensive 50 with seven touches, two marks and three rebounds, as former Dandenong Stingrays’ utility, Isabella Shannon made her debut for four touches, two marks and two tackles. It meant all five 21st century-born players on St Kilda’s list ran around in the team’s inaugural win. For the Demons, Shelley Heath had eight disposals and three tackles, while Tyla Hanks laid a massive match-high nine tackles to go with seven disposals and two inside 50s.

Western Bulldogs vs. Carlton

The top two picks from last year’s AFL Women’s Draft showed just why they were taken so highly in a huge match at Whitten Oval. Number one draft pick, Gabby Newton amassed 14 touches, three marks, four tackles and an inside 50 for the Dogs, while Carlton’s Lucy McEvoy had 19 disposals, three marks, three tackles, three inside 50 and booted her first AFL Women’s goal in a big win. She teamed up perfectly with second-year player, Madison Prespakis who had a game-high 24 disposals, three marks, six tackles and nine inside 50s. Grace Egan was influential again for the Navy Blues with 15 disposals, while Brooke Vernon made her debut and did not look out of place in defence for Carlton, amassing eight touches and three rebounds. Aside from Newton, the Dogs also had Gemma Lagioia and Elisabeth Georgostathis who both picked up eight touches, with the latter booting a ripping running goal on the night. Eleanor Brown played and had four touches, four tackles and two rebounds for the Dogs.

Gold Coast vs. Brisbane

In the first draw of the 2020 AFL Women’s season, the Q-Clash lived up to expectations as a ripping contest. The SUNS’ Lauren Bella continued to impress in the ruck with 18 hitouts from five touches, while Jacqui Yorsten managed 12 touches, two inside 50s and two rebounds with both players going hard against their former side. From the first-year perspective, Queensland Most Valuable Player (MVP) last year, Ellie Hampson had 11 disposals, three tackles and two rebounds building on her debut from last week, while Serene Watson (seven disposals, two tackles) and Dee Heslop (six touches, three tackles and two inside 50s) also showed nice moments. Looking at the Lions list, Isabel Dawes played her best game of her career to-date with 12 disposals and two marks, while fellow first-year player Lily Postlethwaite had five disposals, two marks and two rebounds. Nat Grider managed 10 disposals and three inside 50s playing up the ground from her usual defensive post.

Fremantle vs. Collingwood

Fremantle became the only team to have won all three games thus far with a great win over Collingwood, and a number of the Dockers’ young talents shone. Roxy Roux had seven disposals, two marks, four tackles, three hitouts, two inside 50s, kicked a goal and set up another to a teammate in a productive day for the tall forward. Mim Strom had 13 disposals, five tackles, two inside 50s and two rebounds battling hard against the much stronger Sharni Layton, while Sabreena Duffy (six disposals, four tackles and two inside 50s) and Bianca Webb (four disposals, four tackles) enjoyed the win. For the Magpies, Jordyn Allen had nine disposals, two marks and two tackles, and Mikala Cann had five tackles to go with her eight touches. It was quieter games for Alana Porter and Lauren Butler who still had a couple of nice plays, both recording three touches while Butler also had a couple of rebounds and tackles.

GWS vs. West Coast

The GIANTS had a comfortable win against the Eagles and it was no surprise to see young gun, Alyce Parker leading the way. The second-year talent had a team-high 22 disposals to accompany three marks, two inside 50s and three rebounds as the sole GIANTS player born this century. West Coast had all of its three available young guns running around with Mikayla Bowen (14 disposals, three tackles and one goal) leading the way, while Sophie McDonald (five disposals, two tackles) and McKenzie Dowrick (three disposals, three tackles and two inside 50s) also played their third games.

Richmond vs. North Melbourne

Two teams with very different age profiles went at it when North Melbourne smashed the Tigers by 56 points. The Kangaroos had just the one player – Daisy Bateman – who was born this century, with the small forward booting two goals from 12 touches and two tackles in the huge win. The Tigers on the otherhand had a number of young talents, led by Kodi Jacques who picked up 12 disposals, two marks, two tackles and three inside 50s, while Ella Wood made her debut and had the six touches. Also running around in the yellow and black was Wood’s Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ teammate, Sophie Molan who had five disposals, three tackles and two inside 50s, as former Eastern Ranges captain, Laura McClelland managed seven touches and five tackles in the defeat. Also out there were Maddy Brancatisano (five disposals, three marks) and Sarah Sansonetti (one disposals, five tackles).

Geelong vs. Adelaide

Adelaide had an impressive win on the road against Geelong, and had a trio of rising stars running around. Danielle Ponter picked up 10 disposals, four marks, two tackles and two inside 50s, but booted a career-high four goals in a dominating performance inside 50. Nikki Gore managed eight disposals, nine tackles and a goal in the win, while Madison Newman had the two touches and two tackles. For the Cats, their host of second-year players continue to have an impact with Olivia Purcell (19 disposals, two tackles and a goal) and Nina Morrison (15 disposals, three marks, seven tackles and three rebounds) ever-busy. Rebecca Webster continued her good form with 13 disposals, three marks, three tackles, two inside 50s and two rebounds, teaming up well with another former Murray Bushrangers captain in Millie Brown (six disposals, three marks). Sophie Van De Heuvel (five disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s) and Georgia Clarke (two disposals) were also out there, while Rene Caris continued her development as second ruck with six disposals, two tackles, 10 hitouts and three rebounds.

Knights seek sustained success after bumper draft

AN undefeated premiership-winning NAB League Girls season, the number one AFL Women’s draft pick, and five players taken overall made for an amazingly successful year in 2019, but the future is still very bright at the Northern Knights according to incoming Female Talent Coordinator, Natalie Grindal.

There is not much more the Knights could have achieved last year in as dominant a season the competition has seen, all despite the list being touted by former Female Talent Coordinator Zoe Slatter for its upcoming youth in the pre-season. Along with the five Northern draftees, three more 2019 top-agers have gone on to train with Carlton at VFLW level, while five middle and bottom-age players are now part of the 2020 AFL Women’s Academy – highlighting the younger talent Slatter was high on.

Grindal acknowledged the success of last year and while she is tapering expectations given the turnover of talent, said she is excited by what the next group of talent can bring to the table, and impressed by the way they have stepped up over the pre-season.

“Obviously for us, a measure of our success is what players go on to do afterwards whether it’s AFLW or VFLW… to be honest it’s really overwhelming to know that you’ve played a part in their journey to help them get to an AFL level,” Grindal said “I was lucky enough last week to go watch Gabby Newton (and) Sarah Sansonetti debut, and Maddy Brancatisano from the year before, so it’s really exciting that those girls have gone through this pathway and onto AFLW. “We were lucky to have a really successful season last year. “Obviously the nature of the competition is each year is a new year with the turnover of teams and players, so it’s really exciting that we had a really good year but each year is a new year for us.”

“We had some really quality players, but also quality leaders leave our program last year so I guess for our girls the challenge has been to step up to that next level and really take on those leadership opportunities and drive the standards for the girls who are new to our club as well. “I guess that’s been the really pleasing aspect for us, that the girls who were in their middle-age year last year and were playing under players like Gabby Newton, Britney Gutknecht and Sarah Sansonetti, they’ve now lifted up to that standard and are now driving the standards for the club. “I think we’ll probably end up having probably 11 or 12 top-age girls… this top-age group were actually quite a strong bottom-age group in 2018, so it’s been really exciting to see their progression through their bottom-age, having their middle-age year last year and now into their top-age year so we’re really excited,” she said.

Coming through a “really good” pre-season unscathed and maintaining positive individual development are two points checked off the list for Grindal and her Knights thus far, with her transition into a the coordinator’s chair made easier through previous connections to the Preston-based program, and a new partnership with RMIT University.

“It’s been really exciting,” Grindal said. “Obviously I was really lucky being involved at the club (over) the last two years so I guess for me transition-wise, I knew a lot of the players, I knew most of the staff and also having existing relationships with Rhy (Gieschen, Talent Manager) and Alex (Davey, Football Administration Officer) in the office, it’s made my transition quite enjoyable, but also a bit easier knowing those people. “We’ve started the partnership with RMIT so have been using the ground out there which is in incredible condition. “That’s been really exciting and we’ll play our first four games there which is really good.”

Despite boasting a couple of early standouts in Ellie McKenzie – the sister of former North Melbourne rookie, Tom – and best afield in the 2019 NAB League Grand Final, Jess Fitzgerald, the Knights are set to maintain that well-renowned spine and a good spread of top-age contributors.

“I still think we’ve got quite a handful of top-age players who will be strong contributors to the team,” Grindal said. “Girls like Ellie McKenzie and Jess Fitzgerald are spoken about a lot and they are exceptional footballers, but we’ve got other girls as well – Maeve Chaplin, Alyssa Bannan, those girls are in the AFLW Academy and who are incredible footballers. “Players like Abigail Bennett and Ashleigh Snow are really strong contributors as well and we’re excited about seeing how they progress through their top-age year this year.

“The one thing we tell our girls and we expect of them is to be willing to try different positions in the field and see where their strengths lie. “I think for us we still have a spread across the field for our top-agers, but again they’ll be challenged to try different positions and take on different opportunities within the team,” she said.

While players will be tested in their final years of junior development, Grindal says there will be no “dramatic changes” to the line-up from week to week, with a Round 1 Grand Final rematch against Calder next on the agenda after two successful practice matches.

“(It’s) really exciting to have a grand final rematch at RMIT, we’re really excited to host that match and have Calder come down,” she said. “As I said before, you don’t know what’s going to happen in the season, we had a fantastic match with them in the Grand Final and we’re excited about playing them again.”

An announcement on the leadership group is also imminent, with a heap of talent again at the Knights’ disposal and a “strong culture” with clear standards ensuring Northern is set for another big year – in both team and individual aspects.

AFL Women’s Young Gun Watch: Round 2 – Bottom-age All-Australian shines in South Australia

IN a new weekly piece, we take a look at some of the top young performers across the AFL Women’s competition in Round 2, focusing on those players born in the 21st century (2000 or 2001). We analyse match-by-match just how they performed and what they did well.

ONES TO WATCH:

Millie Brown (Geelong)

A seemingly ready-made player entering the elite system, Brown showed exactly why she was thrown into the team from the first match, picking up 18 disposals, three marks, four tackles and three rebounds in Geelong’s 19-point loss to Brisbane at GMHBA Stadium. While her side lost, Brown gave fans an indication of what to expect from the smooth moving tall who can play a variety of roles all across the ground. With a penetrating kick and an ability to intercept the ball at its highest point, Brown is a crucial cog in Geelong’s line-up.

Tarni White (St Kilda)

Simply sensational, the AFL Women’s All-Australian representative at 15-years-old showed the signs that she did prior to injury interruptions heading into her top-age year last season. The Queenslander began to build some nice form at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, and copped a knock in Round 1 which limited her influence. Back out on the park and looking strong, White had 18 disposals, 10 marks and five rebounds, causing all sorts of headaches for the opposition who struggled to contain the athlete with some terrific upside going forward.

Western Bulldogs vs. Melbourne

The Western Bulldogs brought in a couple of extra young talents in second year player, Eleanor Brown and latest debutant, Amelia Van Oosterwijck to the fold against the Dees. While they might have just had the combined four disposals between them, they laid an impressive nine tackles, which really set the tone for the home side under lights. Continuing on from her strong Round 1 form, Gabby Newton picked up another 11 disposals and laid six tackles, while Gemma Lagioia (nine disposals, two inside 50s) moved the ball well. Elisabeth Georgostathis was the other young gun to play in the match, and similar to Brown and Van Oosterwijck had just four touches, but laid six tackles to no doubt impress the coaches with her defensive pressure. As cited in last week’s article, Melbourne do not have a lot of 21st century-born players, but Tyla Hanks (seven disposals, four tackles) and Shelley Heath (seven disposals, seven tackles) both played well in the Dees win at Whitten Oval.

North Melbourne vs. GWS

The Kangaroos managed to get on the board in season 2020 with a good win over GWS GIANTS, and second year player, Daisy Bateman again looked dangerous around goals. While she only had the four disposals and two tackles, she has plenty of implied pressure and provides an option at the feet of the talls. Neither of these teams have a lot of players who fall under the category for this piece, but Alyce Parker is one of the best ones going around. The uncompromising midfielder with the superb left boot ranked up 16 disposals, two marks, three tackles and three rebounds to be second best-on for her side.

Gold Coast vs. Richmond

It was a memorable day for the Gold Coast SUNS, picking up their first win in their AFL Women’s history by downing fellow inaugural side, Richmond. In contrast to the above game, these sides have plenty of youth running around and having an impact. Serene Watson looked impressive coming out of the back 50 with nine disposals, four tackles and two rebounds. The dual Under-18 All-Australian was one of a number of talents who stood out, along with Jacqui Yorsten (seven disposals, seven tackles and one goal), debutant and Queensland AFL Women’s Under-18 Most Valuable Player (MVP), Ellie Hampson (seven disposals, five tackles) and Dee Heslop (five disposals, six tackles and three inside 50s). Second year ruck, Lauren Bella is thriving as the number one ruck in the team, amassing 20 hitouts to win the ruck battle against multiple opponents. For the Tigers, Sarah Sansonetti showed just why she was highly sought after, with the Northern Knights’ premiership defender racking up 20 disposals, two tackles, one mark and one inside 50 to be the equal-second biggest ball winner on the ground. Kodi Jacques (13 disposals, four tackles, three marks and three inside 50s) was crucial in the midfield, working well with Sophie Molan (12 disposals, three marks, two tackles and one inside 50), Laura McClelland (10 disposals, four marks and two hitouts) and Maddy Brancatisano (eight disposals, two marks and three tackles).

West Coast vs. Fremantle

West Coast’s trio of young talent on the list continued to play big roles on the weekend despite the Eagles’ huge loss to their state-based rivals, Fremantle. Mikayla Bowen had nine touches and laid four tackles playing through midfield, while McKenzie Dowrick‘s work out of defence was strong, picking up seven disposals, five tackles and three rebounds, and even got forward booting her side’s first major of the contest. Sophie McDonald also stood tall in defence with four touches, two marks and two rebounds. Playing against an experienced ruck in Parris Laurie, Mim Strom still battled hard despite not winning the ruck battle, picking up eight touches, two marks, four tackles and 14 hitouts, while Roxanne Roux booted another two goals from four disposals and chipped in with five hitouts to win the Rising Star nomination for Round 2. On debut, Fremantle’s Bianca Webb had six touches and three tackles, as well as a mark and a rebound, while last week’s four-goal hero Sabreena Duffy had a quieter day out but still managed seven disposals, a mark and a goal.

Geelong vs. Brisbane

In a win on the road, the Lion cubs kept producing big when it counted, as a number of teenagers were able to stand up and play important roles in the win over the Cats. Lily Postlethwaite was crucial through midfield with seven disposals, six tackles and two inside 50s, as the Queensland Under 18s captain ran out with Isabel Dawes who had six disposals, four tackles and an inside 50 in the match. From the second year players, Jesse Tawhaio-Wardlaw provided a huge target up forward and assisted in the ruck, booting three goals and amassed eight disposals, three marks and seven hitouts on her way to a Rising Star nomination in the process. Nat Grider also played for the Lions, picking up four disposals, two marks and four tackles. For the Cats, Brown was the standout, but a number of second year players who are ineligible for the Rising Star award also impressed. Nina Morrison continues to build into the form she showed in her only game last season, picking up 18 disposals, four tackles, two inside 50s and three rebounds with more midfield minutes than Round 1. Olivia Purcell would be leading the Cats’ best and fairest in the early stages, following up her 27-disposal effort from Round 1 with a 16-disposals, four-rebound and two-goal effort against the Lions. Rebecca Webster had the 13 touches, six marks and four inside 50s doing well through the middle, while Georgia Clarke, Sophie Van De Heuvel and Denby Taylor all had limited touches but were able to build into the match. Rene Caris stepped up as second ruck to Aasta O’Connor with four disposals two tackles, 13 hitouts and two rebounds.

Carlton vs. Collingwood

It might have been in a loss, but the pairing of Grace Egan and Madison Prespakis looks like one for the next decade. Egan was simply sensational in her second AFL Women’s game, picking up 18 disposals, 11 tackles, four inside 50s and two marks, constantly working hard around the ground. Prespakis was her usual self despite some heavy attention from the opposition, finishing with 17 disposals, three tackles, five inside 50s and a rebound. Lucy McEvoy had a solid game with 10 touches, three tackles and two inside 50s after her Rising Star nomination last week, while Charlotte Wilson also played managing six disposals, two marks and two tackles. For the Magpies, after a busy Round 1 match, Alana Porter had just the one touch and one mark, but showed some dash and dare with three tackles and two rebounds. Second year players, Jordyn Allen and Sarah Dargan both had 10 touches, with Allen playing her first game of the season. She also booted a first quarter goal to get her side going. The pick of the group was Lauren Butler who played her best AFL Women’s game through the back half, recording 17 disposals, six marks, three tackles, one inside 50 and one rebound, while Mikala Cann was also strong with 16 disposals, five marks and two tackles in the win.

Adelaide vs. St Kilda

Madison Newman lived out a popular childhood dream with the second-gamer kicking a match-winning goal late in the game. While the Crows kicked another one for good measure, it was Newman’s goal with scores level that broke the last quarter deadlock. She finished the game with an impressive 13 touches, four marks, two tackles and two inside 50s as well as that goal.  Also playing a role in the team as second year players were Danielle Ponter (10 disposals, six marks and three inside 50s) and Nikki Gore (nine disposals, three marks, seven tackles and one rebound). For the losing side, White was the far and away standout this round, but it is not to discount last week’s Rising Star, Georgia Patrikios who picked up 18 disposals, five marks, four tackles, three inside 50s and a rebound by covering the ground well. Improving from her first game, Nicola Xenos looked at home for the Saints with 12 disposals, four marks, three tackles, two inside 50s and a rebound, while Molly McDonald had 11 disposals, two marks, two tackles and three rebounds working hard in the back half.

SUNS claim maiden AFLW win in a game of firsts

GOLD COAST made history in what was a game of firsts, trumping Richmond by 11 points at Metricon Stadium under hot and humid conditions. The SUNS claimed their maiden AFL Women’s win in their first home game, and in the first fixture between two 2020 expansion teams, making better of their opportunities to run out 5.3 (33) to 2.10 (22) victors.

Played at a chaotic pace in the first half, the contest was tighter than the scoreboard suggested for much of the day, but the SUNS’ pressure around the ball ensured the Tigers would struggle to find clear avenues to goal. While the Tigers were forced to kick down the line and lacked any real inspiration, the SUNS were able to break quickly and advance up the ground with fluent kicking. The SUNS’ tackling was also a key feature, notching a total of 74 in the face of Richmond’s greater disposal count.

The hosts came out the hungrier of the two sides, quickly breaching the forward 50 arc and initiating a frenetic pace. After Jaime Stanton dribbled through the opening goal having snuck out the back, Christina Bernardi provided a similar-styled reply for the Tigers with help from a Gold Coast communication breakdown. Tayla Stahl also got on the board as Richmond began to shift the momentum, with some poor inside 50 entries the only thing preventing a wider margin. And the Suns ensured it would be costly right on the quarter time siren, as Kate Surman was awarded a 50-metre penalty to squeeze home her first goal and level the scores. The Tigers would have felt that the 2.2 apiece scoreline was a disservice to their control of the contest, but the Suns’ ability to keep nagging away would soon become a theme.

With the Richmond midfield – led by Monique Conti – starting to click, the home side needed to again arrest the momentum in quick time. The answer to that was hitting Richmond hard on the spread with outside possession, and Gold Coast’s first-ever goal kicker, Brittany Perry ensured her side would sneak ahead with a terrific one-on-one effort close to goal. Surman, who was seen letting out a quarter time spew, extended the lead after getting on the end of a well-weighted Jade Pregelj kick as the SUNS’ prime movers began to get busy. The passing showers also favoured the red-hot SUNS given last week’s conditions, with their maintained intensity and superior use forward of centre helping them to an 11-point half time lead. But a slight injury concern would somewhat dampen their sense of ascendancy, with Stanton crunched and helped off just before the break.

That soon became a non-factor as Stanton again lined up on Katie Brennan to start the second half, with the Richmond skipper beginning to have a greater say. Still, her Tigers were poor going inside 50 and their forwards were unable to contest or clunk much of what was coming their way, with the organised SUNS defence sweeping up swiftly. Sensing another momentum shift, Gold Coast kept its foot on the gas despite tiring legs becoming evident, with scoring increasingly hard to come by. That was not the case for former-Lion Jacqui Yorston though as she sent home a terrific finish on the end of one of the game’s most slick transitions to give her side a game-breaking buffer. Maddy Brancatisano’s set shot minor score on the three quarter time siren did little to give the Tigers a proper sniff heading into the last change, but the Tigers would not give up that easily.

Needing to roll the dice, Richmond began to diversify its disposal, kicking laterally and generating more run through the corridor. Some great coast-to-coast play from the Tigers gave Bernardi the opportunity to put them within striking distance, but her miss seemed to put the jitters into her side as it looked to mount a comeback. Four more behinds followed from gettable chances as the Tigers kicked themselves out of the game, with Gold Coast’s output slowing as it looked to coast home to a result. The SUNS did in the end, absorbing the late pressure to snare a deserved first win in the AFL Women’s competition.

The first half forward combination of Surman and Perry worked wonders for the SUNS as they began to break the game open, with the pair pitching in over half of their side’s score in the opening two quarters alone. Leah Kaslar was also amongst it with 15 disposals and two behinds, but Stanton proved to be the difference – juggling her own 20 disposal and one goal performance with a tagging role on Brennan. The likes of Lauren Ahrens (16 disposals, five tackles), Jordann Hickey (15 disposals, five tackles) and Hannah Dunn (14 disposals, eight tackles) also returned important shifts for the winners, working hard going both ways.

For the 0-2 Tigers, it was the big names who again stood up; with Phoebe Monahan (21 disposals, four marks) holding up the defence, Conti (17 disposals) electric at the stoppages, and Bernardi (15 disposals, 1.3) on the verge of a special game up forward. Skipper, Brennan also worked into the game well after half time, while Stahl caught the eye on the back of 12 disposals and a goal. Young defender Sarah Sansonetti (20 disposals) and Akec Makur Chuot (13 disposals) proved they could form a stingy defensive pairing in time, and debutant Grace Campbell was a livewire through midfield with her 15 disposals – albeit showing signs of her very raw game.

With four premiership points under their belt, the SUNS move on to face Brisbane at home in the inaugural AFLW Q-clash, while Richmond’s search for a maiden win heads back to Ikon Park as the Tigers take on North Melbourne on Sunday afternoon.

GOLD COAST 2.2 | 4.3 | 5.3 | 5.3 (33)
RICHMOND 2.2 | 2.4 | 2.5 | 2.10 (22)

GOALS:

Gold Coast: K. Surman 2, J. Stanton, B. Perry, J. Yorston.
Richmond: C. Bernardi, T. Stahl.

ADC BEST:

Gold Coast: J. Stanton, L. Kaslar, K. Surman, H. Dunn, L. Ahrens, B. Perry,
Richmond: P. Monahan, C. Bernardi, M. Conti, T. Stahl, S. Sansonetti, K. Brennan

AFL Women’s Young Gun Watch: Round 1 – McEvoy and Patrikios earn Rising Star noms

IN a new weekly piece, we take a look at some of the top young performers across the AFL Women’s competition in Round 1, focusing on those players born in the 21st century (2000 or 2001). We analyse match-by-match just how they performed and what they did well.

RISING STAR NOMINEES:

Lucy McEvoy (Carlton)

The Carlton young gun had an eye-opening first half where at one stage she was the leading disposal winner on the ground, reaching double figures. Being a prime mover in the middle, McEvoy finished her debut with 12 touches, five marks, four tackles and five inside 50s to show just why she was a top two pick in the AFL Women’s Draft. Readymade to play at the level and a leader to boot – premiership skipper at Geelong Falcons where she was a captain since 16 – she took a huge contested mark on the wing and was not afraid to crack in when required.

Georgia Patrikios (St Kilda)

Last year’s AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships Most Valuable Player (MVP) was enormous during St Kilda’s loss to the Western Bulldogs. Putting together a four quarter effort, Patrikios was the clear star for the Saints and really thrust herself into Rising Star calculations in a performance that showed she meant business playing against some star players such as Ellie Blackburn. She recorded a game-high 18 disposals, as well as two marks, five tackles and three inside 50s, as well as a goal assist.

Carlton vs. Richmond

Last year’s Rising Star winner, Madison Prespakis had an absolute day out in Carlton’s 34-point victory over Richmond. She racked up 21 disposals, three marks, five tackles, two inside 50s, two rebounds and booted a goal in a best on ground performance. Along with McEvoy, Grace Egan was also prolific, recording 11 disposals and laying six tackles in a fierce effort on the inside. Charlotte Wilson was the other young star who played, picking up nine disposals. The Tigers had a tonne of young guns filter through the team, with Kodi Jacques perhaps the most prolific, recording seven disposals and three rebounds, while laying a massive seven tackles. Northern Knights premiership player, Sarah Sansonetti bested her with a game-high 10 tackles to go with five touches in the loss. Maddy Brancatisano, Laura McClelland and Sophie Molan also played and had some strong moments across the course of the match on debut.

GWS vs. Gold Coast

GWS GIANTS’ first pick in 2018 AFL Women’s Draft was a star once again, stepping up to be her side’s highest disposal winner. Alyce Parker was the only one born this century for the GIANTS, and she represented the Millennium well with 22 touches, two marks, five tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds. The SUNS had a number of first and second year players, with former Lion, Jacqui Yorsten the pick of the bunch after 13 touches, three rebounds and a huge 12 tackles in torrential rain. Serene Watson had six disposals and four tackles on debut, while Lauren Bella (19 hitouts) held her own against All Australian ruck, Erin McKinnon. Dee Heslop and Lexi Hamilton also played, with Heslop also recording three rebounds and four tackles coming out of the back half.

Melbourne vs. North Melbourne

Both these sides are in the premiership window with experience galore and therefore are unlikely to have too much to say in this piece each week. In saying that, the ones they have are quality, with Tyla Hanks and Shelley Heath running out for Melbourne in the upset two-point win at a windy Casey Fields. Hanks was one of the best throughout, picking up 11 touches, two rebounds and laying four tackles, while Heath did a lot more than her seven touches may suggest, winning a couple of high frees and bursting away to give the Dees some pace with her run and carry. For the Roos, Daisy Bateman booted an important goal in the first term but had just four touches in a role that saw her predominantly play deeper forward.

Brisbane vs. Adelaide

The young Lions were ultra-impressive against a depleted Adelaide outfit, showing they can knock over anyone when on-song. Among the young guns running out in the match, Queensland Under 18s captain, Lily Postlethwaite had nine touches and laid five tackles to show she could match it with more experienced opponents. Nat Grider had nine touches and four tackles in her first game of her second year, while Isabel Dawes and Jesse Tawhaio-Wardlaw also played up forward, with the latter booting a goal – equalling her one goal from seven games in her debut season last year. The injury list at the Crows allowed a number of youngsters to step up at the elite level, led by second year talent, Danielle Ponter who had four inside 50s from her 15 touches. Of the first years, Madison Newman looked comfortable at the level thanks to 10 touches, two marks, two tackles and two inside 50s, while Nikki Gore and Jaimi Tabb also were able to earn their stripes.

Collingwood vs. West Coast

Returning to Collingwood’s spiritual home at Victoria Park, the Magpies grabbed their first win in Round 1 from four attempts in the AFL Women’s competition. Mikala Cann and Jordyn Allen both showed why they warranted top 15 selections in 2018, with strong performances in the 27-point victory. Cann laid five tackles, had 13 touches as well as two marks and two inside 50s. Allen was a target inside 50, intercepting a number of defensive 50 exits to finish the match with 11 disposals, four marks and five inside 50s. Alana Porter made her debut in the black and white, signalling her intent early with a run-down tackle on Eagles’ speedster Imahra Cameron and providing some dash around the ground. She had nine touches and two tackles in the victory, while Lauren Butler also played and picked up a solid seven touches. Former Brisbane talent, McKenzie Dowrick‘s return to her home state of Western Australia looks to have been a success so far with the second year player recording 10 touches, two marks, two inside 50s and two rebounds on the weekend. Mikayla Bowen captained Western Australia at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships last year and brought all of that tenacity to the game with 10 tackles and eight disposals. Sophie McDonald also played, holding down a key role in defence.

St Kilda vs. Western Bulldogs

Patrikios was the clear standout from the young guns in this match, but there were plenty to pick from as the future of the AFL Women’s was on full show at Moorabbin. Number one pick and Northern Knights premiership skipper, Gabby Newton played her first game and did not disappoint, rotating in the forward half of the ground and getting some midfield minutes on her way to 13 touches and a game-high eight tackles. The other two pups to earn a debut in Round 1 were Elisabeth Georgostathis and Gemma Lagioia, who were also members of the Vic Metro side that impressed in last year’s AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships. Georgostathis had eight disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s in the win, getting better as the game went on, while Lagioia looked classy with her six touches, two marks, two tackles and two rebounds. For the losing side, Molly McDonald would have arguably earned a Rising Star nomination had it not been for such dominant performances from Patrikios and McEvoy. The former Dandenong Stingrays’ skipper booted the club’s inaugural goal and had 12 kicks for 12 disposals, also amassing four marks, three tackles and two rebounds. Caitlin Greiser played up forward and provided a target with six touches and three inside 50s, while Nicola Xenos and Tarni White both earned debuts and stood up with some classy moments.

Fremantle vs. Geelong

Sabreena Duffy was not eligible for a Rising Star nomination, but her performance was arguably the best of any Rising Star player. The second year former Western Australia captain booted four goals from 12 touches in a match-winning performance to help the Dockers sink the Cats in the west. Alongside her up forward and rotating through the ruck was first round pick and future star, Roxanne Roux who booted 1.2 and showed off her booming kick on her way to seven disposals and 15 hitouts. Her partner-in-crime through the ruck, Mim Strom stood up and had 14 hitouts and seven disposals also on debut to show the pairing is likely to cause some headaches for the opposition in the future. The Cats’ second year players picked up where they left off and look to be an elite core going forward. Olivia Purcell had leather poisoning with 27 touches, five marks, four tackles and five inside 50s, teaming up well with Rebecca Webster (21 touches, seven marks and three rebounds). Denby Taylor (12 touches, three inside 50s and two rebounds) covered plenty of ground, Nina Morrison returned from a long-term knee injury to boot a goal from nine touches in just her second game, while Sophie Van De Heuvel had seven touches and five marks, spreading across the ground well. The Cats’ sole teenage debutant was father-daughter pick, Millie Brown who was solid with eight touches in defence.

2019/20 AFLW off-season review: Richmond

THE Richmond Tigers are one of the four expansion teams set to join the AFLW in 2020 and will be looking to make a splash after recruiting some key players who they can build an exciting framework around for years to come. They boast a mix of experience and youth but most importantly have that unpredictable edge that many teams will be looking to combat.

With the likes of marquee forwards Sabrina Frederick and Katie Brennan both set to pull on the yellow and black in 2020 expect plenty of excitement with the two able to hit the scoreboard and lead up at the footy time and time again. Frederick can switch into the ruck when needed, while Brennan is known for her silky movement and conversion rate in front of goal. Youngster Monique Conti also made the switch from the Western Bulldogs over the off-season and will be hoping to bring her signature game play to her new club. Christina Bernardi will suit up for her third club having played with Collingwood and GWS making her a handy inclusion in the side. Bernardi adds a touch of class across the ground and paired with a host of ‘A’ listers Richmond could be in good stead for a 2020 grand final push. Iilish Ross defected from Collingwood to Richmond with the 20-year-old set to have an impact in her new colours after building throughout the 2019 season, meanwhile Maddy Brancatisano also switched jumpers.

2020 AFLW Team List:

Laura Bailey
Christina Bernardi
Maddy Brancatisano
Katie Brennan
Hannah Burchell
Nekaela Butler
Grace Campbell
Monique Conti
Kate Dempsey
Alice Edmonds
Ciara Fitzgerald
Sabrina Frederick
Emily Harley
Emma Horne
Kodi Jacques
Akec Makur Chuot
Laura McClelland
Rebecca Miller
Sophie Molan
Phoebe Monahan
Iilish Ross
Sarah Sansonetti
Cleo Saxon-Jones
Tayla Stahl
Lauren Tesoriero
Courtney Wakefield
Holly Whitford
Ella Wood
Alana Woodward

Rookie: Gabby Seymour

Potential 2020 side:

B: Laura McClelland – Laura Bailey –  Rebecca Miller
HB: Phoebe Monahan – Iilish Ross – Akec Makur Chuot
C: Monique Conti
HF: Christina Bernardi – Katie Brennan – Maddy Brancatisano
F:  Holly Whitford – Sabrina Frederick – Tayla Stahl
R: Gabby Seymour* – Hannah Burchell – Kate Dempsey
INT: Courtney Wakefield – Sophie Molan – Alice Edmonds – Grace Campbell – Kodi Jacques
EMG: Ella Wood – Cleo-Saxon-Jones – Sarah Sansonetti

DEPTH: Nekaela Butler, Ciara Fitzgerald, Emily Harley, Emma Horne, Lauren Tesoriero, Alana Woodward

The Tigers pre-listed Laura Bailey and Kate Dempsey who already had strong connections to the club thanks to playing with them in their VFLW side. Dempsey was a standout for Richmond throughout her time in the VFLW consistently displaying her elite foot-skills and will be a handy inclusion looking ahead to next year. They were not the only ones pre-listed to Richmond with Alana Woodward snatched up and Grace Egan making her way onto the list making for a pretty stacked line-up.

The Tigers also picked up some young draftees in the likes of Sophie Molan who became the clubs first AFLW draftee. Expect the talented midfielder to push for selection come Round 1 renowned for her classy on-field work and strong leadership. She has experience against the bigger bodies having played with the Dogs in the VFLW so knows what it takes to combat the more elite players. Other draftees such as GWV Rebels teammate Ella Wood will also pull on the yellow and black in 2020. Hailing from the Eastern Ranges, Laura McClelland will be another star of the future for Richmond and will give the side something to build upon such is her talent. Northern Knights product Sarah Sansonetti will be a valued addition to the side in the back half with the dashing defender not afraid to take the game on and go for a bounce while NAB League teammate Ciara Fitzgerald was also drafted to Richmond. Although she may not be ready for Round 1 given the Tigers’ strength in attack, Cleo Saxon-Jones is definitely a player with plenty of potential and raw talent who can take a strong mark when needed and will feature at some stage during the season.

Weekend preview: AFLW – Round 1

FOOTY is back and for the first time, 10 AFL Women’s clubs are preparing to achieve the ultimate glory. Each week we will preview and review the games, provide a Team of the Week, Draftee Watch piece and analyse the week’s statistics, as well as plenty more for the third season of the competition. Stay tuned on Draft Central for all the coverage.

GEELONG vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, February 2, 6.40pm
GMHBA Stadium, Geelong

The opening game of the AFL Women’s season has a massive question mark for both sides. On one side of the head-to-head is a brand new team with no historical data at the elite level, aside from some of the players who have crossed from other clubs. On the other side is a team that has been gutted in terms of experience, especially in the forward half, but has picked up a number of elite young kids as well as players who can have an impact in the short-term. Playing in front of a home crowd will help the Cats in their inaugural clash,  while the Magpies will be keen to finally get a good start to their season after two losses in opening round games. Both teams are deemed to be in the “weaker” conference – by means of avoiding both past premiers and the heavily stacked North Melbourne – and a win against a conference rival is vitally important in the stakes for securing a top four place. The advantage both these teams have is the fact much of their core group played VFL Women’s together, and therefore in terms of team chemistry over a 12-month period are well adjusted.

Both teams head into the clash with key personnel out, as Collingwood’s Best and Fairest and 2018 AFLW Rising Star winner, Chloe Molloy unavailable for the season, while Richelle Cranston will miss the first two rounds through suspension.  When talking about key youth, it is hard to look past some of the talent both clubs picked up in the draft. Geelong looked to its TAC Cup affiliate to select number one pick, Nina Morrison, as well as premiership teammates, Olivia Purcell and Denby Taylor. Add in talented GWV Rebels, Sophie Van De Heuvel and Georgia Clarke, as well as Murray Bushrangers’ inside midfielder and defender, Rebecca Webster, and the future is very bright at the Cats. The Magpies also heavily invested in the draft, picking up two first rounders in Dandenong Stingrays’ captain, Jordyn Allen and Oakleigh Chargers’ tall, Katie Lynch. Expected to play up opposite ends, they are well complemented by Eastern Ranges’ speedster, Mikala Cann who 12 months ago was yet to play a competitive match of football. Versatile youngster, Lauren Butler is also expected to become a key feature in the Magpies’ side. With Geelong having the likes of Bec Goring, Madeline Keryk, Julia Crockett-Grills and Meghan McDonald among their contingent of impressive VFLW performers last season, they have a cohesive unit. The Magpies will look to the experience of captain Stephanie Chiocchi, Emma Grant, Sarah D’Arcy and Jaimee Lambert to lead the young side this season.

H2H: Geelong 0 | Collingwood 0 | Draws 0
Venue: Geelong 0-0-0 | Collingwood 0-0-0

Last time they met: N/A

Fun facts:

  • The game marks the first ever AFL Women’s game at GMHBA Stadium, the first time Geelong’s AFL Women’s side will play a match for premiership points, but the third consecutive year Collingwood will be involved in the opening match of the season.
  • Unfortunately for the Magpies, the opening match of the season has not been kind for them, losing both games to Carlton at Ikon Park, albeit in a much closer game in 2018.
  • The last time these two teams played in any form was the VFL Women’s Preliminary Final, which saw the Cats upset the minor premiers to bundle the Magpies out in straight sets and head into the decider against Hawthorn. Collingwood’s loss was compounded by an injury to 2018 Rising Star winner, Chloe Molloy that would keep her out of the 2019 AFL Women’s season.
  • Collingwood booted 42 goals in season 2018. Players that contributed 36 of them are now either no longer on the Magpies’ list, or injured (Chloe Molloy – one).

 

ADELAIDE vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, February 2, 8.10pm
Norwood Oval, Adelaide

The game of the round is surely the match between the two AFL Women’s premiers. The 2017 champions, Adelaide take on the reigning premiers, Western Bulldogs in an evening game at Norwood Oval. Last season was a remarkable story for the Bulldogs, who overcame some key injuries, and the suspension of captain, Katie Brennan to topple Brisbane in the 2018 AFL Women’s decider. Adelaide would have been disappointed to not make the decider, but considering their injuries at different times, it was worth applauding their never-say-die attitude. A loss to Collingwood in the final round knocked them out of the race to go back-to-back, but they are now hungry as ever and keen to make amends in this match.

Both teams lost key players to long-term injuries in practice games a fortnight ago, with Adelaide’s number one ruck, Rhiannon Metcalfe and Western Bulldogs’ league leading goalkicker, Brooke Lochland both out. While the Crows will look to try and fill the void in the ruck, the Dogs certainly showed they have no shortage of forwards who can step up, and could turn to the likes of West Australian, Kate Bartlett who comes into the team with great forward nous at Under 18s level. Adelaide do have some serious firepower returning to the team with a fully fit Erin Phillips, and a dangerous youngster by the name of Chloe Scheer causing headaches inside 50. Adelaide could have the edge in the midfield given its depth with Phillips, Ebony Marinoff and Chelsea Randall all running through there, but the Dogs’ key position players could stretch the Crows’ defence. If the Crows can keep it from the Dogs talls getting supply, then it will go a long way to deciding the match, but if the Dogs get on top of the Crows’ highly rated midfield, then they will be able to put on some serious scoreboard pressure. In saying that, the Dogs’ midfield is far from shabby itself with Ellie Blackburn and Monique Conti among the most talented in the competition. It all adds up to being a cracker of a match.

H2H: Adelaide 2 | Western Bulldogs 0 | Draws 0
Venue: Adelaide 2-2-0 | Western Bulldogs 0-1-0

Last time they met: Adelaide 6.5 (41) defeated Western Bulldogs 5.4 (34) at Norwood Oval, Round 3, 2018

Trailing the entire game, the Crows found something special in the final term to overrun the Bulldogs at home by just seven points. Chelsea Randall picked up 24 disposals (15 contested), had five rebounds and laid six tackles, while Ebony Marinoff laid a whopping 15 tackles on her way to 21 disposals, four inside 50s and five rebounds. But the inspiration was inaugural league best and fairest winner, Erin Phillips. The star played exclusively forward and had 15 disposals, but booted four of the Crows’ six goals to single-handedly dominate up forward and show Crows fans that there was going to be no second year blues – until injury unfortunately struck. Jenna McCormick booted the other two goals for the Crows, while for the Bulldogs, Katie Brennan was the multiple goalkicker with two from nine touches and three marks. Emma Kearney (20 disposals, three marks, three clearances, three inside 50s, five rebounds and six tackles) was everywhere, as was Ellie Blackburn (17 disposals, five clearances, five tackles and four inside 50s).

Fun facts:

  • Ebony Marinoff averages 19.5 disposals, four clearances, 10.5 tackles and four inside 50s against the Western Bulldogs from two clashes, the most of any Crow.
  • Now North Melbourne skipper, Emma Kearney averaged the most touches against the Crows in both meetings, with Ellie Blackburn set to take over the mantle, averaging 18 touches, four clearances, four tackles and five inside 50s from two games.
  • It is the first time two AFL Women’s Premiers have met in the history of the competition.
  • Western Bulldogs are yet to lose an opening round match in the AFL Women’s season.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. CARLTON
Sunday, February 3, 1.05pm
North Hobart Oval, Hobart

The second history making match for Round 1 sees one of the premiership favourites, North Melbourne take on last year’s wooden spooners, Carlton. Both head into the game with relative different looking sides. The Kangaroos strategically targeted experience, picking up players from other AFL Women’s sides as part of the free agency and expansion period, while Carlton headed to the draft. As such, the Kangaroos head into the game as strong favourites in the clash, and their pre-season victory over Melbourne did nothing to sway opinions from the fact they will be a contender this season. Carlton took it up to Geelong at times in the practice game, but much like at times last season, it is just finding some four quarter consistency. The strong football state of Tasmania will get around the clash which is the first of the AFL Women’s competition, and with a number of local talents wearing blue and white, expect there to be a strong contingent of home support.

With no past head-to-head clashes to go by, there are plenty of questions leading into this clash. The biggest question mark is that of the Kangaroos and how they will gel with so many players from other teams. They brought over key Magpies, Emma King, Jess Duffin, Jasmine Garner and Mo Hope to supply their forward line and ruck division with power, while securing the biggest name from the 2018 season in Emma Kearney – the league best and fairest winner – to come across from the Dogs. Carlton has the potential to have the best one-two forward combination in the league with Darcy Vescio and Tayla Harris, but it is just getting the talented duo to click. With the midfield and forward half boosted by young guns, Madison Prespakis, Abbie McKay and Emerson Woods, and the defence sured up by Collingwood VFLW captain, Jess Edwards, as well as Charlotte Wilson and Jayde Van Dyk, Carlton’s future is looking bright. Realistically, it will take an unbelievable effort to knock off North Melbourne, but Blues fans will be keen to see what new coach, Daniel Harford can do to create more scoring opportunities – something the Blues lacked last season. A four-goal practice game by returning captain, Brianna Davey gave fans a hint of what to expect, creating all sorts of headaches for opposing teams.

H2H: North Melbourne 0 | Carlton 0 | Draws 0
Venue: North Melbourne 0-0-0 | Carlton 0-0-0

Last time they met: N/A

Fun facts:

  • The match marks the first official match to be played in Tasmania, with the North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos opening their season in the Apple Isle, and of course marking their first match in the competition.
  • Carlton’s Brianna Davey has averaged 21 disposals, five rebounds and 2.5 inside 50s in her two opening round clashes, as Carlton beat arch-rivals Collingwood under lights on both occasions.
  • Darcy Vescio booted four goals in the inaugural AFL Women’s match in 2017, before being held goalless by debutant, Chloe Molloy last year, who would go on to win the Rising Star Award.
  • North Melbourne captain, Emma Kearney has averaged 22 disposals, six marks, five clearances and six inside 50s in her two matches against Carlton.

 

MELBOURNE vs. FREMANTLE
Sunday, February 3, 3.05pm
Casey Fields, Cranbourne

With predicted temperatures around the south-eastern suburbs predicted to be mid-to-late thirties, fans heading to the clash between Demons and Fremantle are recommended to stay hydrated. The game at Melbourne’s spiritual home, has become a fortress of late, winning five of a possible six games, including a thrashing victory over their Round 1 opponents back in 2017. Last year the Dockers got the better of Melbourne over in the west, using straight goalkicking to get the job done early in the season and chalk up a win against a premiership contender. The Demons have always been thereabouts, just missing out on the deciders, while Fremantle has had disappointing starts to the seasons which have ultimately cost them. With a new coaching panel and new-look side, Fremantle will be keen to topple the Demons at their home ground, especially a Demons side minus Daisy PearceMel Hickey and Richelle Cranston, among others.

Both teams are bringing in some serious young talent this season, with the Demons looking to the likes of Gippsland Power co-captain, Tyla Hanks and Northern Knights captain, Maddy Brancatisano. Both have incredible work ethics and a desire to just hunt the footballer and play their role, potentially being future leaders at the club. Throw in Dandenong Stingrays’ speedster, Shelley Heath and Casey Demons slick ball user, Casey Sherriff and the Dees have added some speed and skills to their inside grunt and contested ball-winning ability. The Dockers have also added some great local talent to their stocks, led by West Australian Under 18s state captain, Sabreena Duffy as well as overagers, Matilda Sergeant and Jasmin Stewart. The big question mark regarding Fremantle is how they will line-up as the off-season seemed to be a clean-out of sorts through their own choosing, whereas Melbourne lost players due to free agency and expansion. The difference in this game could well be the top-end star factor of the Demons, with Karen Paxman, Lily Mithen, Bianca Jakobsson and Elise O’Dea all roaming through the midfield at times. With Eden Zanker providing a target up forward, they have good depth across the ground, The Dockers have Kara Donnellan and Dana Hooker amongst their arsenal, but with a relatively new-looking side, it will be fascinating to see how they perform.

H2H: Melbourne 1 | Fremantle 1 | Draws 0
Venue: Melbourne 5-1-0 | Fremantle 0-0-0

Last time they met: Fremantle 6.0 (36) defeated Melbourne 4.7 (31) at Fremantle Oval, Round 3, 2018

Fremantle had to come from behind twice as they held Melbourne to a combined one behind in the second and fourth quarters, kicking the only two goals of the final term. In a display of precision accuracy, the Dockers did not kick a behind all game, and after not scoring in the opening term, booted six straight goals to secure a win at Fremantle Oval. Kara Donnellan and Lisa Webb both picked up 17 disposals, while Emily McGuire booted two goals. For the Dees, Daisy Pearce had another day out with 24 disposals, three marks, five clearances and four inside 50s, while Tegan Cunningham booted two majors in the loss.

Fun facts:

  • Since losing their inaugural AFL Women’s Round 1 clash to Brisbane at Casey Fields, Melbourne has not lost a game, winning five consecutive matches at the venue, including a nine-goal win over Fremantle in 2017.
  • Both sides are likely to head into the clash very different to the previous encounter with a maximum of 13 players each from their sides of 21 just 12 months ago, still on their respective lists.
  • Dana Hooker averaged 17 disposals (11 contested) and 5.5 tackles in her two matches for the Dockers against the Demons, and was Fremantle’s best player in the disastrous 54-point belting back in 2017.
  • Melbourne will need to find a way to replace the influence of Daisy Pearce, who has been a headache for the Dockers in the past, averaging 25 disposals, five tackles, four clearances and 3.5 inside 50s.

 

BRISBANE vs. GWS GIANTS
Sunday, February 3, 4.05pm
Moreton Bay Sporting Complex, Moreton Bay

The final game of the round pits back-to-back grand finalist, Brisbane against the team they knocked out of the decider contention in the final round last year, GWS GIANTS. The quirky fact between these teams is they have played each other four times – twice in the pre-season and twice in the regular season. On both occasions, GWS has triumphed in the pre-season practice matches, while Brisbane has got the job done – and convincingly so – when playing for premiership points. The GIANTS average just two goals per game against the Lions during the season, and they will be keen to repeat the effort of a fortnight ago when they were too good for the young Lions. Brisbane has played just the one game at Moreton Bay Sporting Complex – the Lions new home for 2019 – which was a disappointing and almost season-defining loss to Collingwood, whereas the GIANTS are yet to run out at the venue.

Both teams have young line-ups coming through with the teams losing players such as Kaitlyn Ashmore, Jamie Stanton and Tahlia Randall (Brisbane), and Phoebe McWilliams and Renee Forth (GIANTS). They have also picked up some experience with Brisbane scooping up Lauren Arnell from Carlton and the GIANTS adding Magpie, Christina Bernardi to its forward mix. Heading to the draft, the GIANTS picked up one of the most decorated and talented juniors in Alyce Parker who will slot straight into the midfield and undoubtedly be a key cog in that onball division. Former netballer, Taylah Davies is already looking like a valuable pick-up for the GIANTS, while Haneen Zreika hit the scoreboard in the practice match as well. Any team with Alicia Eva, Jessica Dal Pos and Amanda Farrugia has to be respected. Brisbane’s forward power with Sabrina Frederick-Traub and Jess Wuetschner is always going to be a key consideration for opposition coaches, while Lions coach Craig Starcevich has the luxury of bringing up his Queensland Under 18 young guns into the senior team at draft time. All Australian ruck Lauren Bella, state captain Natalie Grider and key Queensland players Jesse Tawhaio-Wardlaw, Jade Ellenger, Tori Groves-Little and Jacqui Yorston join West Australian, McKenzie Dowrick as the future of the Lions.

H2H: Brisbane 2 | GWS 0 | Draws 0
Venue: Brisbane 0-1-0 | GWS 0-0-0

Last time they met: Brisbane 10.4 (64) defeated GWS GIANTS 3.6 (24) at Blacktown ISP, Round 7, 2018.

With an AFL Women’s Grand Final spot on the line, it was the Brisbane Lions who were all over the GIANTS, running out 40-point winners to keep their premiership dreams alive – albeit with their fate in Collingwood’s hands. The GIANTS had improved remarkably from the inaugural season, but fell short of a grand final place, and will have rued that final game over the summer. Ally Anderson and Emily Bates had days out against the GIANTS, collecting a combined 46 disposals, seven marks and eight clearances. Up forward, Sabrina Frederick-Traub was unstoppable with four goals to go with 18 disposals, five marks and five hitouts. Jess Wuetschner was equally as impressive with three majors from 11 touches, doing all the damage at ground level. For the GIANTS, Alicia Eva tried her best with a team-high 18 disposals, three marks, six tackles and five inside 50s, while Jessica Dal Pos and Amanda Farrugia were the next highest ball winners with 14 apiece.

Fun facts:

  • Brisbane has played just the one match at Moreton Bay Sporting Complex, and unfortunately it was one to forget, losing to Collingwood in Round 6, 2018. It put their premiership aspirations in serious doubt, before ironically the Magpies knocked off the Crows in the final round to hand the Lions a second consecutive Grand Final berth.
  • The Lions bounced back from the above loss with that 40-point win over GWS in the last round, knocking out the GIANTS from Grand Final contention, and replacing them in the decider.
  • In the two games against the GIANTS, Sabrina Frederick-Traub has booted five goals, whereas the entire GIANTS team have booted just the four.
  • Emma Swanson averages the most disposals for a GIANT against the Lions, at 15, while Jessica Dal Pos averages 13 touches per game.