Tag: Maggie Caris

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Maggie Caris (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

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

Next under the microscope is Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ ruck Maggie Caris who is hoping to join Rene in the AFL Women’s, whilst also having an elite junior level netball background.

Maggie Caris (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

Height: 189cm
Position: Ruck
Strengths: Ruckwork, athleticism, second efforts, upside

2020 NAB League stats: 2 games | 11.5 disposals | 0.5 marks | 29.0 hitouts | 1.0 tackles | 3.0 inside 50s

2019 NAB League stats: 6 games | 8.7 disposals | 0.5 marks | 23.3 hitouts | 1.7 tackles | 1.0 rebounds

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 2 games | 6.5 disposals | 1.0 marks | 17.0 hitouts | 4.5 tackles

With rucks considered a premium at junior level, GWV Rebels’ Maggie Caris looks to be the top prospect for the 2020 AFL Women’s draft crop. Caris has represented Victoria in both Australian rules and netball, making her a dual-sport threat and someone who could capably pursue either career. In terms of her football, Caris has always had height on her side, usually towering over all of her opponents through the pathways, and having the ruck nous and athleticism to stand out.

Along with her work in the air, Caris is strong at ground level with her second efforts a feature of her game. Whilst not a massive tackler at NAB League level – she really ramped up the pressure at last year’s Under 18 National Championships, laying 4.5 tackles per game from her two matches. In just two games this year, Caris lifted her disposal count and hitout numbers, as well as played more of an offensive role compared to a defensive one where she dropped into the hole last year.

With three inside 50s per game, and having a dominant performance against the Western Jets in Round 2, Caris showed just what she was capable of winning the ball around the ground. But while her current ability is quite impressive, there are still areas to build upon – such as her overhead marking and scoreboard impact – which would take her game to another level again.

If the 2020 AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships do go ahead, Caris is a player who not only would lead Vic Country’s attack through the ruck, but would be a contender for the All-Australian ruck position with a couple of talented South Australians also well stocked in that area. If she can pursue football and end up being drafted, she would follow in her sister Rene – Geelong AFL Women’s – in doing so.

2020 NAB League Girls team update: GWV Rebels

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at one of the sides to remain undefeated in 2020, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, who had a bye in Round 2 but beat otherwise undefeated sides, Sandringham Dragons and Western Jets in the other rounds.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: defeated Sandringham Dragons by 5 points
R2: Bye
R3: defeated Western Jets by 25 points

It was a promising start to the season for the Rebels who looked like one of the big improvers for season 2020. While it has been postponed without certainty of any further action, there were plenty of highlights for the Ballarat-based side with a number of impressive players already standing up and making their presence felt.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Maggie Caris (11.5 disposals, 0.5 marks, 29.0 hitouts, 1.0 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s)

The competition’s leading ruck prospect lived up to expectations in the opening two rounds, dominating against two of the smaller ruck groups in the NAB League Girls. She was impressive around the stoppages against the Dragons in Round 1, then was a huge influence in the victory against the Jets in Round 2. So far this season she averages 11.5 disposals, 29 hitouts and three inside 50s per game. Also a talented netballer, Caris is one who hoped to join sister, Geelong’s Rene in the AFL Women’s.

Lilli Condon (14.5 disposals, 1.0 marks, 4.0 tackles, 6.0 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds, 1 goal)

The tenacious midfielder just seemed to be everywhere in the opening two rounds and would have been the Rebels’ best small accumulative across the contests. She averaged almost 15 touches a game, but racked up six inside 50s and four tackles per match, as well as getting on the scoreboard for her troubles with a major too. The middle-ager packs plenty of punch and has a year left having already played seven games as a bottom-ager last year. Despite standing at 154cm, she is not afraid to match it with taller opponents.

Renee Saulitis (12.0 disposals, 2.5 marks, 3.0 tackles, 2 goals)

The AFL Women’s National Academy member won the opening round’s match off her own boot with an inspired last term, getting to the right positions and slotting two majors, while still having influence around the ground. With an ability to play anywhere on the ground, Saulitis has lovely skills and is most damaging close to goal. If the wind-swept Mars Stadium had been a little kinder to forwards, she could have been right up there with the leading goalkickers despite playing one less game, finishing with four behinds.

Nyakoat Dojiok (11.0 disposals, 2.0 marks, 4.0 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 2.0 rebounds)

The daring speedster does not need many possessions to have an impact, and she certainly did that in the opening two rounds. She often starts at half-back but can burst away and not only get the ball clear from the defensive 50, but also get it inside 50 as well. She is hard to stop when running at full stride, and picking up 11 disposals per game and an even balance of inside 50s and rebounds shows how she has a capacity to play on the wing and use her outside gifts to hurt the opposition.

Crystal Summers (9.0 disposals, 3.0 marks, 2.0 tackles, 3.0 rebounds)

Having an impressive opening round match where she was named best on ground for her efforts, Summers was tireless out of the back half and continually drove the ball from the danger zone. With more structure in the Round 3 game, Summers might have had less to do, but still had plenty of influence on the contest from defence, and she finished the two games averaging nine touches, three marks, two tackles and three rebounds. One of the Rebels’ top-agers who led by example.

Others who have stood out: Alice Astbury, Ella Friend, Paige Scott, Chloe Leonard

Astbury and Friend could well have been in the top group after their amazing second game teaming up and dominating in the forward half. Given the season only included the two games, only those who played both made it in, but make no mistake these two were ultra-impressive. They combined for 34 disposals, seven marks, 12 inside 50s and three goals in a good day out. The likes of Scott and Leonard were just ever-consistent through that midfield and half-back respectively, and there were far from alone with half a dozen more players who were fairly even across the start of the season for the Rebels.

Smith and McKenzie lead DC Medal count in postponed NAB League Girls

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition players, staff and families wait for confirmation on whether or not any more football will go ahead due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Draft Central thought it would update the leaderboard of the DC Medal count we have been taking throughout the first three rounds of the season. While we had hoped that this would end up being a full season count, there are two clear leaders who have emerged from the pack. It might have been difficult with some teams only playing two games compared to three, but no player that played two games could have caught the equal leaders even with a full five votes in a hypothetical third game.

Dandenong Stingrays’ Tyanna Smith and Ellie McKenzie lead all-comers in what could realistically be the end result of the Medal count, which means in the inaugural DC Medal, two players will share the award. Both players polled 14 votes in their first three games, including two best-on-grounds and one four-vote game to ensure that no one else could catch them. If the season is potentially called off in the future, then both the players will be announced winners. Two of the stars of the competition, Smith has helped Dandenong Stingrays to a ripping start in the NAB League Girls season, with her side winning its first two games against Eastern Ranges and Calder Cannons, before running into a McKenzie-inspired Northern Knights outfit in Round 3. The Knights’ co-captain was sensational and picked up her second best on ground to tie with Smith in the same game after the Stingrays speedster picked up the four votes.

After the two clears in McKenzie and Smith clears is another Northern Knights player, and a couple of Sandringham Dragons. McKenzie’s teammate and forward, Alyssa Bannan sits three votes behind in third with 11 to her name and the player responsible for picking up the best on ground votes back in Round 1 against Calder Cannons for McKenzie to receive the four. Rounding out the top five are Sandringham Dragons’ duo, Sarah Hartwig (10 votes) and Alice Burke (nine) who were both enjoying terrific starts to the season. Behind the top five are a pack of players all on eight votes, including Western Jets’ duo, Montana Ham and Isabella Pritchard, Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher and the only player who has played the two games inside the top 10 – Laura Gardiner. Calder Cannons’ Georgie Prespakis and Sandringham Dragons’ Winnie Laing sit on seven and six votes respectively.

DC Medal:

[14] Tyanna Smith (DS), Ellie McKenzie (NK)

[11] Alyssa Bannan (NK)
[10] Sarah Hartwig (SD)
[9] Alice Burke (SD)

[8] Laura Gardiner (GF), Montana Ham (WJ), Isabelle Pritchard (WJ), Olivia Meagher (ER)
[7] Georgie Prespakis (CC)
[6] Winnie Laing (SD)

[5] Jess Fitzgerald (NK), Charlotte Baskaran (WJ), Tarni Brown (ER), Alice Astbury (GWV), Grace Hay (MB), Charlie Rowbottom (OC), Bella Eddey (SD), Mimi Hill (OC)
[4] Grace Dicker (CC), Abbi Moloney (SD), Maggie Caris (GWV), Amber Micallef (OC), Kasey Lennox (CC), Alice O’Loughlin (OC), Brooke Hards (BP), Darcy Moloney (GF), Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
[3] Amelia Velardo (WJ), Jemma Finning (BP), Isabella Khoury (WJ), Taylah Morton (OC), Zoe Hill (DS), Eliza James (OC), Mackenzie Eardley (DS), Poppy Schaap (GF), Jessica Zakkour (CC)
[2] Elizabeth Snell (BP), Megan Fitzsimon (GP), Matilda Hardy (ER), Ella Friend (GWV), Rianna Thiele (OC), Annabel Strahan (BP), Tarrah Delgado (NK), Emily Shepherd (DS), Amelia James (OC), Georgia Grimmer (DS), Matilda Van Berkel (GP), Eliza McNamara (SD)
[1] Freda Puruntatameri (CC), Perri King (TD), Amber Clarke (DS), Kate Adams (MB), Amanda Ling (OC), Annie Lee (GF), Zali Spencer (MB), Jorja Livingstone (ER), Shanara Notman (GP), Renee Saulitis (GWV)

 

2020 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 3

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

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

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

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

BACKS:

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

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

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

HALF-BACKS:

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

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

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

CENTRES:

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

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

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

RUCKS:

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

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

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

HALF-FORWARDS:

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

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

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

FORWARDS:

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

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

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

INTERCHANGE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

EMG:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

ADC BEST:

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

DC Medal:

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

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

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

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

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

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

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. WESTERN JETS

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

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

GIPPSLAND POWER v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

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

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

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. CALDER CANNONS

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

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

EASTERN RANGES v. TASSIE DEVILS

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

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

Saulitis bags two last quarter goals to sink Dragons in thriller

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

DC Medal:

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

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

NAB League Girls preview: Round 1 – New talent to shine in opening round of action

NAB League Girls action is back on the agenda this weekend with a grand final rematch among a host of expected tight contests with all sides back on level pegging at 0-0 to start the season and hoping to kick-off their seasons with wins.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. CALDER CANNONS
Saturday, February 29, 10:15am
RMIT University Bundoora

The first game of the round is a fitting opener to the new NAB League Girls season, with Northern Knights hosting Calder Cannons at a refurbished RMIT University ground in the 2019 Grand Final rematch. The Knights had five players drafted last year, with the remainder signed up for state league level football in 2020, while the Cannons just had the two, but had a number of players on the periphery. Both these sides have plenty of talent with the Knights potentially a year ahead in development, finishing runner-up in 2018 before winning last year, while the Cannons made the grand final last season, and will be hoping to build on that this year. The Knights have five players in the National AFL Women’s Academy, led by Ellie McKenzie and last year’s grand final best on ground medallist, Jess Fitzgerald who are both amongst a strong midfield core. Fellow Academy member, Maeve Chaplin is also named onball, while Maykaylah Appleby will run down the wings as the sole middle-age Academy member. Alyssa Bannan is a leading target and strong overhead named at centre half-forward, and a battle with the likes of key backs, Tamsin Crook and Tahlia Gillard – the latter of whom is in the AFL Women’s Academy too will be a match-up to watch. The name that will always catch the eye is Georgie Prespakis, a 2021 draft prospect and sister of Carlton Rising Star, Madison. She is capable of anything and her battle with McKenzie will be intriguing. The Cannons also have some serious depth at their disposal, with Emelia Yassir and Kasey Lennox another couple of youngsters who made their debuts last season and looked at home. With Freda Puruntatameri playing with Palmerston in the NTFL Women’s competition up forward for the Cannons, there is plenty of X-factor there too.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Saturday, February 29, 11:30am
City Oval Ballarat

Up in Ballarat, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels host the Sandringham Dragons in a battle between two sides who should improve on their 2019 placings. Both sides have a number of AFL Women’s Academy member with the Rebels (five) and the Dragons (three) both having some serious top-end talent. The Rebels have a strong spine with Maggie Caris likely to be the top ruck in the competition this year with her height and tap work causing problems for the opposition. Renee Saulitis has played up forward and down back, but is named in the middle, with her athleticism and ability to sidestep opponents a feature of her game. Along with Isabella Simmons who has also been named through the midfield, all three Academy members are very different and add varied elements to the game style. They will face an equally impressive midfield of Dragons’ captain Winnie Laing, potential St Kilda father-daughter selection, Alice Burke and Bella Eddey who provide a real hard edge to the onball brigade. Sarah Hartwig is one of a couple of premier rebounding defenders, reading the ball in flight so well and able to create a lot of offensive run while nullifying her opponent defensively. Playing at half-forward is Eliza McNamara who is a tackling machine and elite runner, who will work her opponent over, while Abbi Moloney lines up at full-forward to try and clunk a few grabs by outmuscling her opponent one-on-one. The Rebels will look to run the ball out of defence through Nyakoat Dojiok who is a 2021 draft prospect in the Academy, while Chloe Leonard has been named at full-forward for the Rebels who will look to have a spread of goalkickers rather than a dominant target.

GEELONG FALCONS v. GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, February 29, 12:00pm
RMIT University Bundoora 

After its first finals loss last season, Geelong Falcons return to the NAB League Girls with a hunger to get back to the heights of 2018, starting off the 2020 season with a clash against Gippsland Power. The Power have a lot of players who were able to run out last season and will be more experienced in 2020, so they will no doubt look to push the Falcons who have plenty of young players themselves. Geelong’s duo of Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner will be damaging through the midfield as the Falcons’ two AFL Women’s National Academy members. Joined in the middle by basketballer Carly Remmos, the Falcons have a strong foundation to continue the success of past years. Elizabeth Dowling is a name that will be raised over the next couple of years, and along with Renee Tierney as targets up forward and Poppy Schaap‘s defensive pressure, the Falcons are in a good shape going forward. Mia Van Dyke is one of a number of prospects who have come through the club’s V/Line Cup program and despite being just three days away from being a 2023 draft eligible prospect (only turned 15 in December), she is one of a number who have come through the pathway with some high wraps from the coaching staff. Gippsland has some familiar names in its line-up, led by midfielder and AFL Women’s Academy member, Megan Fitzsimon. She, along with Grace McRae forms a strong midfield duo in there, and will compete strongly for the contested ball. In defence, Shanara Notman returns as a 19-year-old named at centre half-back and will provide some good rebound there, right alongside Leyla Berry who played for the Power back in 2018. On the other flank is a familiar Power name with Yasmin Duursma (sister of Port Adelaide’s Xavier), while when talking about bottom-age talent, Lily-Rose Williamson is one who will be a standout along a win having starred for the club through the V/Line Cup in past years.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 29, 12:50pm
Queen Elizabeth Oval 

Turning the attention to Bendigo, the Pioneers host Western Jets in a curtain raiser to the AFL Women’s clash between Richmond and Geelong. Bendigo has the one official AFL Women’s National Academy member in key defender Tara Slender, but have a midfield that will trouble opposition onballers. Brooke Hards and Annabel Strahan have both been named onball and the co-captains will provide a hard-edge to the midfield and be difficult to beat there. Along with Maeve Tupper who has some impressive athletic skills and great goal sense when up forward, the midfield is a strength for the Pioneers. Jemma Finning has been named at half-back to provide some run out of defence with Slender, while up forward, Hannah Stewart is a target inside 50 as a 19-year-old. The Jets have opted to throw rebounding defender, Isabelle Pritchard into the midfield to counteract the Pioneers’ onball and develop her game even further. Along with bottom-age tall, Montana Ham and Nikita Wright in the middle, the Jets have some good height and ball-winning ability in there with upside. A highly rated bottom-ager with Ham is Charlotte Baskaran who is considered elite with her foot skills and decision making, so will be one to watch coming off half-back where she has been named. Both these sides are going to go close to winning in this tight contest with a fair few bottom-agers on show, though Bendigo should be more prepared after their top-agers had consistency through the team as middle-agers last season.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS v. EASTERN RANGES
Sunday, March 1,  11:00am
Holm Park Recreation Reserve 

In a rewind to 2018, Dandenong Stingrays and Eastern Ranges return to Holm Park in Beaconsfield to open their seasons on Sunday. While both played different opponents on that day two years ago, they will both be hoping for more ideal temperatures than the 37 degrees on that day. The Stingrays are coming off a solid season in 2019. just missing out on finals, while Eastern reached the post-season series and pushed eventual premiers, Northern Knights all the way in the preliminary final clash. The Stingrays’ standout prospect in 2020 is Tyanna Smith, with the AFL Women’s National Academy member having the combination of speed and strength in the middle, which she will use to burst out of the stoppages and create scoring opportunities for her team. Abbey Jordan showed last season she can win the ball through the middle, while young talls, Jaide Anthony and Georgia Grimmer up forward provide a glimpse into the future for the Stingrays having come through the V/Line Cup program. Down back, the ever-reliable Zoe Hill is alongside Jemma Radford, while Serene Vudiniabola comes highly rated as an overager who played school footy last year and is tied to Old Haileybury. Eastern Ranges pack a punch in the midfield as well, with Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown the club’s two AFL Women’s Academy members. With ruck, Jess Grace likely to get first hands to them more often than not, the contested ball-winning Meagher and slick Brown will give their forwards some nice feeds inside 50. Matilda Hardy has been named at half-forward as one to watch, while Mietta Kendall is a reliable source of calmness in the back pocket, and Lily Peacock named as one to watch with her run along the wing.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Sunday, March 1, 1:00pm
Norm Minns Oval 

The final game of the round is another curtain raiser, this time for the Collingwood and Richmond AFL Marsh Series clash at Wangaratta. A big crowd is expected in attendance for the game, with two teams expected to improve in 2020 to battle it out. Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers both had some superb performances last season, but had to iron out some consistency issues at times. Both having a number of talents coming through the ranks this season, the Bushrangers had a lot of middle and bottom-agers last season who have progressed through to the next year of their youth careers. The Charges had five players drafted and will be looking to replace them through a team approach. The Chargers have three players in the AFL Women’s National Academy with captain Mimi Hill and middle-ager Charlie Rowbottom named on-ball to rove the work of ruck, Kalarni Kearns. Also in the midfield is Joanna Lin on the wing, working the ball forward to an even front six. The Bushrangers have a two-pronged tall attack with AFL Women’s Academy members, Olivia Barber (top-age) and Ally Morphett (middle-age) rotating between ruck and forward. Abby Favell is a natural ball winner and will rotate between midfield and forward, while Kate Adams is another player who can be slippery around the stoppages and find the goals when inside 50. Keeley Skepper showed last season in the Under 16 Championships that she has a lot of upside, while a number of players on both teams loom as surprise packets in what could be one of the games of the round.

Rebels to focus on fundamentals ahead of 2020 season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ballarat Grammar reclaims Senior Girls Division 1 shield

BALLARAT Grammar have turned back the clock and reversed the result from 12 months prior as their Senior Girls took out the Division 1 Herald Sun Shield in a wet and windy decider at RAMS Arena. Ballarat defeated Hallam Senior College by 47 points and won every quarter, booting two goals in three of the terms and eventually getting home 7.7 (49) to 0.2 (2). Respective captains, Alice Astbury (Ballarat) and Shaneece Stratton (Hallam) were named their sides’ bests in what was a difficult day for football with the temperatures dipping to single digits and the recorded ‘feels like’ temperature as low as -1.1.

Ballarat were in control from early, with a blustery gale making life difficult for the players. Ten minutes ticked by without a goal and it took until a checkside snap from Pip Metcalfe to put her side up. Ballarat Grammar was relentless in attack and as strong as Hallam was, Ballarat maintained the rage by not allowing them an inside 50, with Stratton doing all she could to restrict the attacking movement of Ballarat. A free kick moments before the siren saw Victoria Jewell kick truly from the set shot and put it straight through the middle for Ballarat’s second for Grammar to be in jubilation heading into the break, leading 2.1 (13) to 0.0 (0).

The second term was much the same as the first with neither side able to take advantage, and Hallam managed to get the first score on the board, through Mikayla Cipriani, but it was just one behind. Like the first term, Ballarat just found a way and put a third goal on the board with Metcalfe getting free and marking close to goal with a nice quick lead and converted for Grammar to head into the main break with an 18-point advantage. Maggie Caris was having an impact in the air for her side as the Rebels contingent at Ballarat was moving the ball well forward.

The first half of the third term saw both teams have chances with a behind to Hallam off the first clearance and back-to-back rushed behinds to Ballarat. Remarkably the star of the show Metcalfe found herself free again and lead back to the right spot as her opponent though the ball was going to the front. Metcalfe marked and slotted it from point blank and the margin was 25 midway through the quarter. Then Annabelle Fox converted after having a set shot falling short, following up shortly after and winning a free kick which they delivered with a second set shot which went through. Ballarat almost had a sixth goal after the siren, but the set shot was touched on the line for one behind. A key omission from the game was GWV Rebels and Vic Country utility Renee Saulitis who copped a knock to the nose and with the game done and dusted, she was able to sit the rest of the match out.

Determined to finish off the game strongly, Ballarat worked the ball forward time and time again and while Hallam’s defence was stringent in keeping it out of the danger zone, clearing it time and time again, it took until the seventh minute for the drought to be broken as Nyakoat Wuol ran onto a loose ball, sidestepping and opponent and putting it through. After a couple of near misses, Wuol made it two in a term, winning a free kick then immediately playing on catching the defence offside and putting it through the middle. The siren sounded not long after with Ballarat enjoying the big shield win. Whilst Hallam did not score a major, the likes of Cipriani up forward and some great defensive efforts by Lucy Grocock on the wing made sure the losing side still had some highlight-reel moments.

BALLARAT 2.1 | 3.1 | 5.5 | 7.7 (49)
HALLAM 0.0 | 0.1 | 0.2 | 0.2 (2)

GOALS:

Ballarat: P. Metcalfe 3, N. Wuol 2, V. Jewell, A. Fox.
Hallam: Nil.

BEST ON GROUNDS:

#12 Alice Astbury (Ballarat)

The captain led from the front and was a standout in the midfield for four quarters, often winning first possession on a number of occasions and looking strong in the midfield. Astbury had a shot on goal in the final minute of the game but was knocked off the ball and just missed.

#14 Shaneece Stratton (Hallam)

The uncompromising midfielder copped a lot of knocks but kept getting up and never gave up throughout the match. She won the ball on the outside and laid some big tackles, and would go to the inside and pick up the hard ball as well. She was vocal on the field setting up her side and had a nice left foot when coming out of the back half. Provided courageous attack on the ball.