Tag: madeline marks

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Bendigo Pioneers

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team and how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. We begin with Bendigo Pioneers who while they did not record a win in the opening three rounds, still had a number of standout players.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Western Jets by 22 points
R2: lost to Sandringham Dragons by 44 points
R3: lost to Calder Cannons by 43 points

Yet to register a win, the Pioneers have shown better signs than the scoreboard might suggest and were in games for portions of it, particularly in Round 1 against the Jets. They have had quite a few players who have provided a real edge to the team, but even from three games, have had injuries and unavailabilities impact.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Annabel Strahan (16.7 disposals, 1.7 marks, 5.3 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 2.7 rebounds)

The co-captain has enjoyed a terrific start to the season thus far, playing predominantly through the midfield, but also getting back to help out the defence. In particular against Sandringham Dragons in Round 2, Strahan played deeper in defence to try and nullify the opposition’s scoring, before returning to the midfield in Round 3. She leads the team in disposals and has lifted her disposal averaged by six, as well as two extra tackles from last year.

Brooke Hards (16.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 7.0 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds)

The co-captain missed the Round 3 match against Calder Cannons, but showed in the first two rounds why she won the club best and fairest last year as a middle-ager. She attacks the ball and ball-carrier with fierce intent, and has built on her experience representing Vic Country (where she averaged six tackles there) to really step up to another level thus far. So far she is ranked second for average disposals and first for average tackles, laying seven per game after a whopping 9.9 last season.

Jemma Finning (15.0 disposals, 2.7 marks, 4.7 tackles, 0.7 inside 50s, 3.3 rebounds)

Can play in multiple positions but has looked really handy coming off half-back and leads the team in rebounds. She also finds plenty of the ball, racking up a team-high 20 disposals in the last match against Calder Cannons, while maintaining a 3.3 rebounds per game average. Her numbers have lifted from last season where she played through the midfield, already amassing more rebounds than she did in 2019, while her disposal average, marks and tackles are also up in 2020.

Elizabeth Snell (11.5 disposals, 1.5 marks, 7.5 tackles, 2.5 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds)

After missing Round 2, Snell returned to the team in Round 3 and was everywhere with her defensive pressure, laying a massive 10 tackles to go with 17 touches in the loss. She is able to balance between playing offensively and defensively after playing as a forward last season. She snagged five goals against Gippsland Power as a middle-ager last year, but has spent time up the field thus far, winning the ball through midfield and providing plenty of defensive pressure to the opposition.

Madeline Marks (8.3 disposals, 1.0 marks, 14.7 hitouts, 5.7 tackles)

The middle-age ruck has been a hard worker for the Pioneers this season, not only winning the taps (14.7 per game), but also getting the ball at ground level and providing an option in transition. She stands at 178cm and is able to lay some big tackles on opposition players who try to shark her taps, and is one of the big improvers this season after getting a taste of it last season, where she played three games as a bottom-ager.

Others who have stood out: Rachael Stubbings, Dakota Villiva, Tara Slender and Maeve Tupper

The Pioneers have had a good group of players who have stepped up at times and played multiple team roles across the ground. Stubbings has been a natural ball winner in the back half, Villiva has provided a target up forward, Tupper has provided a presence in midfield and Slender has plenty of upside as a rebounder.

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

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

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

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

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

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. WESTERN JETS

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

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

GIPPSLAND POWER v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

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

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

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. CALDER CANNONS

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

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

EASTERN RANGES v. TASSIE DEVILS

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

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

Sandringham too strong for tackle-heavy Bendigo

SANDRINGHAM Dragons bounced back well from their Round 1 loss to come out impressive winners against Bendigo Pioneers, rocketing into fifth with the 44-point victory.

It was a hard and fast start for the Sandringham Dragons, peppering the posts but to no avail early, denying Bendigo any opportunity at scoring but missing chances at extending a solid margin. The sole goal of the quarter to Abbi Moloney (her first of three) was sandwiched by minor scores on either side, with the Dragons influential across the ground but not making the most of it inside 50. Sandringham’s defensive unit was hungry for the ball, making it tough for Bendigo to get clean hands to the footy. But while Bendigo had a tough time marking, especially under pressure from the Dragons, their tackling intensity was dialled up to 100 and collecting 10 more tackles overall thanks to the side attacking the ball well at ground level.

Dragons had a much better start to the second, with a lucky goal from Isabella Eddey putting her first on the board early in the second to stem the flow of behinds before backing it up with her second for the day moments later, at the end of an impressive chain from the centre bounce. While Sandringham had a much better quarter, so did Bendigo, collecting their first of the day to Tara Slender who took a great grab for a set shot. But despite continuing with the same tenacity for the rest of the quarter, the Pioneers had a tough time getting the ball cleanly inside 50 thanks to smothering defensive pressure up the ground from the Dragons. 

The third term saw the pressure from the Pioneers lift a notch, with each side only putting the one behind each on the board in an overall defensively minded quarter. Dominating the hitouts at half-time thanks to a dominant combination of Madeline Marks (13 hitouts, 11 disposals) and Abbey Barber (11 hitouts) the Pioneers side began to limit Sandringham’s clean disposals and denying them chances at breaking away from the pack to clear the footy, limiting precious run down the field for the Dragons and enabling Bendigo to put more pressure in their offence. 

The final quarter saw Sandringham well and truly run away with it, finding the goals with relative ease after a tough slog in the third. While Bendigo’s tackling pressure was monumental, Dragons worked through it with their cleanliness to break through the pack and clear the ball out to open space. While the Pioneers had some good chances defensively to turn the tables and propel the footy back up the field, messiness in the midfield allowed Sandringham too many opportunities intercept marking, rendering Bendigo unable to get out of the back 50.

In an all-round dominant performance from Sandringham, there were a number of key players who got the job done. Eddey’s two goals sparked the side into action while her 22 touches, six tackles and four inside 50s proved vital to run the ball downfield alongside ball magnets Sarah Hartwig (20 disposals, seven tackles, six marks) and Winnie Laing (22 touches, three marks, three tackles, three inside 50s), while Alice Burke also put in a strong effort with 19 touches and six tackles. For the Pioneers, the effort on field far outweighed the scoreline, with three players picking up seven tackles apiece proving the defensive pressure across the field. Brooke Hards and Dakota Villiva (both 15 disposals and seven tackles) were influential stopping easy access through the midfield, while Annabel Strahan was the side’s top ball user with 18 touches, five rebounds, four tackles and three marks in a solid all-round effort. While the goals dried up for Bendigo after Slender’s major, the side still put in a solid effort that was not indicative of the scoreline

Next round Sandringham travel to take on winless Gippsland Power on Sunday morning at Churchill Football Ground while Bendigo host last season’s grand finalists, Calder Cannons on Sunday afternoon at Epsom Huntly Reserve.

SANDRINGHAM 1.5 | 5.5 | 5.6 | 7.10 (52)
BENDIGO 0.0 | 1.0 | 1.1 | 1.2 (8)

GOALS

Sandringham: A. Moloney 3, I. Eddey 2, S. Hurley, B. Hipwell.
Bendigo: T. Slender.

ADC BEST

Sandringham:  I. Eddey, S. Hartwig, W. Laing, A. Burke, A. Moloney
Bendigo: A. Strahan, B. Hards, D. Villiva, R. Stubbings, M. Marks 

DC Medal:

5 – Isabella Eddy (SD)
4 – Sarah Hartwig (SD)
3 – Winnie Laing (SD)
2 – Annabel Strahan (BP)
1 – Alice Burke (SD)

Belief growing at the Pioneers

BELIEF is a powerful motivator in any walk of life, and the Bendigo Pioneers’ NAB League Girls program is one that has building on and off the field over the last few seasons. In 2019, the Pioneers Girls’ program showed how they had grown from the previous year, winning four games – three more than the previous year – and being more competitive throughout each game. Pioneers’ Talent Manager Stephen Sharp said the girls’ confidence had increased throughout their time in the program.

“Yeah, look they no doubt did (grow in confidence), and they had an extra year in the system,” he said. “When we first came in we deliberately didn’t have any bias particularly around age in preference of playing the older girls. “If the younger girls were better and we thought they had the potential to grow, we’d pick them. “In the first year or two we were a bit that way and then as they’ve got a few games under their belt – the 17s or the 18s last year might have been in the system for a couple of years, where it wasn’t about just trying to win games, it was about trying to develop kids and develop the list so we could be more competitive.”

Sharp said the club’s development as a whole had been “absolutely good” and they would continue with the same method under a different coach this season. Cherie O’Neill has taken over from Shawn McCormick who has coached the past three seasons. O’Neill has been involved with the boys’ program for the past couple of seasons so has the understanding of the organisation and its intricate workings.

The Pioneers will be a young group in 2020, with Sharp noting that the club picks the best possible players who trial over the off-season, rather than opt for a top-age heavy list.

I think we’ll go for a list of about 35-40 and I’m guessing there’ll be about 10 or a dozen top-age girls and there could be as many as 17/18 17-year olds,” he said. “We might have four 15-year-old girls that’ll play that’ll be approved on application, that’ll play in our futures games. “But they’re better than some of the 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds. “So that’s why we’re playing them, and to give them a little taste.”

He said as with the boys’ program that selection would come down to weighing up both natural talent and athleticism, rather than age.

“There’s no point taking top-age girls again through who aren’t at the level,” Sharp said. “So the changes we’ve made, particularly with athletic profiling is that the girls that can run and have that athleticism and vertical leap that can still play – they’ve still got to be able to play – they’re going to get to more contests, they’re going to keep us in the game.”

The Pioneers have one player in the AFL Women’s National Academy – tall defender Tara Slender – who Sharp said is a perfect example of someone who has developed throughout the Pioneers’ program from V/Line Cup through to her first season of NAB League last year as a 15-year-old.

“She’s a great example,” Sharp said. “She went to the Academy up in Darwin recently and she’s quite well-equipped with other sports as well. “She’s an impressive kid, a really good kid who’s really committed and dedicated and she trains hard. “(In terms of) athletic profiling she’s what you need to be able to play today’s game at NAB League girls and AFLW, she’s the prototype – she’s your model there of what girls need to aspire to and she’s great at training so we’re looking forward to watching her play. ” She’s really committed to it, loves it, and if you put the work in you get the result.”

A late bloomer in terms of her age, Slender does not turn 17 until November, but she has proven to stand up at each level required. In her eight games last season, Slender averaged 11.4 disposals, two marks and three rebounds playing off half-back. With two full years left in the system, she is someone who will have plenty of development left in her.

But Slender is not the only player Sharp said spectators should watch out for with a number of top-age talents showing their skills last season as both footballers and leaders.

“We had a couple of girls last year in Brooke Hards and Elizabeth Snell who both played at the nationals in Queensland in July,” he said. “They’re both training really well, Elizabeth’s down here (Bendigo) and Brooke’s still up in Mildura so she’ll just travel down. “It was remarkable what she did last year, she left at 4:00 on Saturday morning to come to our trial games in Bendigo to watch the girls play – she didn’t play. So that’s the commitment there, it’s a return trip in the day equivalent to a drive from Melbourne to Sydney. “She’s (Hards) clearly our role model/leader.”

Asked if the trio would cover each third of the ground in similar positions to last year with Slender in defence, Hards in midfield and Snell up forward, Sharp said it was likely.

“I think so, I think we’ll spread them fairly evenly,” he said. “It is a development program and Tara will play in different roles but she’ll probably predominantly be at half-back where she’s pretty comfortable and reads the play and can intercept and use her left foot effectively. “You don’t want them all on-ball, there’ll be a spread, because otherwise you break down in those lines and then kids don’t develop. “And part of their development is to play them in different roles as well so they can experience those roles.”

The only confirmed overager at this stage – with list finalisation still ongoing – is Hannah Stewart, a talent from New South Wales who has also shown a remarkable dedication to the sport she loves.

Hannah Stewart, who played in the National Championships in Queensland at that same time with the Eastern Allies – she’s a girl from Hay, in fact she was down at training last night from three and a half hours away,” Sharp said. “She would normally train in Swan Hill, which is only a four hour return trip. “She’s our only 19-year-old at this stage we think, I don’t know whether we’ll apply for another one or not, but she’s an elite kick and a good player.”

Sharp said across the list there were a number of potential surprise packets in 2020, including Maeve Tupper – who at 155cm showed she has no problem finding the ball with 15.9 disposals per game last year. Developing talent Madeline Marks and potential Melbourne father-daughter selection in Tegan Williams (David, 67 games) are also exciting prospects heading into the season.

“We’ve got some girls who have tested really well and we use that as a bit of a measure, it’s always an assistance. There’s a young girl who is really good athletically and she’s learning the game so we’re probably going to include her to take her to the next level, a young girl locally who’s showed some good things and has a really good attitude, because attitude counts for a lot. “We think the girls are in a pretty good position.”

Bendigo has one of the toughest challenges in the NAB League competitions with its network far and wide across hundreds of kilometres. Like some of the other country teams, the Pioneers have multiple bases to try and limit the travel and workload on the players, and Sharp said he is often amazed at what the players do to play at this level.

We’ve got four big bases in Mildura, Swan Hill, Echuca and Bendigo,” he said. That way we can actually provide an opportunity for the girls, give them a good reason to come to training. “So if they’re only within an hour of Mildura, an hour to Swan Hill or similarly probably half an hour or 40 minutes to Echuca, it just gives them an opportunity to actually be able to come in.”

One example was a new player in list contention with plenty of talent, but due to family work commitments struggled to get to training. Sharp said the club was always willing to accomodate in situations where possible.

“We’ve got a girl in Ouyen who may well be one of our better players, or she’d be in our best half a dozen, she’s only bottom-age, but hasn’t trained once but she came to the trial game and discussions were around ‘We can’t list her’. “But we need to understand the circumstances, she’s a girls from a multicultural background, I met with her dad who speaks broken English and said to him the other day, we want her to continue but she needs to train. “He works every day, he works late and he starts early and he’s a hard worker so he can’t get her from Ouyen to Mildura so we’re working on a plan to get her to train one night a week, because then I can justify selecting her, because I can’t not select her, “She’s that talented and she works hard. “There’s all these obstacles, it’s just the way it is.”

Off the field, Bendigo has already had a number of changes with the new coach working alongside Pioneers boys’ coach and director of coaching, Damian Truslove who was also appointed over the off-season. O’Neill is also on a part-time role rather than previously being casual or volunteer – emphasising the growth of the youth program. The Pioneers have also said they will look to appoint a female wellbeing coordinator to further grow the program.

On the field, Sharp said the team was looking to have a good balance of attack and defence heading into 2020, as well as some key fundamentals.

I think it’s just making sure the girls have a good understanding of their offensive and defensive structures,” he said. “While we don’t heavily emphasise or haven’t done a lot of work on that, it’s the key part to what we do at training in regard to contested ball and where we get to receive it or where you get to defend it. So it’s a fairly simple format that Damian’s drawn up … and he works with Cherie who’s our new female coach so that we mirror it and all have a similar style. “So we haven’t done a lot of work on that, we’ve done a lot of work on fundamentals, just being able to mark, kick, handball, taking the ball cleanly below you knees so they’re the things we’ve mostly been working on.”

Bendigo Pioneers kick off their campaign on Saturday, February 29 at Queen Elisabeth Oval against Western Jets, before a trip to Highgate Recreation Reserve the following Saturday to face Sandringham Dragons.