Tag: Maggie Caris

2021 VFLW Round 6 preview: Youngsters and AFLW talent filter into state competition

ROUND 6 of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition commences tomorrow with a number of AFL Women’s and NAB League Girls players entering the competition for the first time this season.

HAWTHORN vs. ESSENDON
Saturday, April 10 @ 10am
Box Hill City Oval

In a battle between a couple of traditional rivals, Essendon will travel to Box Hill to take on Hawthorn in what is anticipated to be a great clash for the sides early tomorrow morning. The Hawks have been bolstered by Eastern Ranges talents Jess Grace, Isabelle Khoury, Eloise Chaston and Ruby O’Dwyer, with the likes of Jemma Owen, Amy Malander and Chloe O’Malley among the outs. Calder Cannons and Vic Metro representatives Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell come into the Essendon side, as Elisabeth Hosking also returns to the team with an extended bench. The Bombers can put pressure on the top four sides with a win, and will leap frog one side with a victory, given third and fourth placed Geelong and Casey Demons do battle later in the afternoon.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. WILLIAMSTOWN
Saturday, April 10 @ 10am
Trevor Barker Oval

With the AFL Women’s season over, Southern Saints have brought back some serious talent into its VFL Women’s side to try and rejoin the top half of the table with a third win this season. Both sides sit at 2-3 from five rounds, and the likes of Alice Burke, Molly McDonald, Jacqui Vogt and Poppy Kelly all coming back into the team, with Nadia von Bertouch, Melanie Bertuna and Tamara Luke are among the outs. For the Seagulls, Paige Nash and Elizabeth McGrath return into the side, as Asha Price and Chloe Leighton are among those out of the team for this match. If the Seagulls get up, they will then overtake the Saints on the table and balance their own ledger at 3-3.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. DAREBIN
Saturday, April 10 @ 2pm
Arden Street

Back at their spiritual home ground at Arden Street, North Melbourne will eye off going back-to-back for the first time this season if they can get past the winless Darebin Falcons. The. Roos have opted to keep a relatively VFL-focused outfit with Laura Amelung, Olivia Woods and Nadia Moore into the time, as Tahni Nestor and Allies representative at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships Jayde Hamilton go out of the side. For the Falcons, Sidney Cubasch will slot straight back into the ruck, whilst Nicole Callinan is another important inclusion in defence. North Melbourne will start as favourites, but both sides have a chance in this one.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, April 10 @ 2pm
ETU Stadium

Two sides utilising the return of AFL Women’s talent, the unbeaten Port Melbourne will hope to make it six wins on the trot against a Western Bulldogs side desperately hoping to avoid a fifth straight loss. The Borough have welcomed in Richmond tall forward Sabrina Frederick, as well as Tiger talents Laura McClelland and Sarah Sansonetti. Oakleigh Chargers’ Taylah Morton will also run around in the forward pocket, while Luka Lesosky-Hay, Hannah McLaren and Phoebe Monahan are among the outs. For the Western Bulldogs, Isabelle Pritchard, Gemma Lagioia and Annabel Scott return to the team replacing fellow AFL Women’s listed players Bailey Hunt and Annabel Strahan. GWV Rebels midfielder Lilli Condon will make her debut for the Western Bulldogs, whilst Western Jets’ Nikita Wright also returns to the side.

CASEY DEMONS vs. GEELONG
Saturday, April 10 @ 3pm
Casey Fields

Whilst most sides are able to welcome back some AFL Women’s talent, the still-alive Melbourne AFL Women’s side does not have that luxury, instead having to use their depth against a Geelong Cats side that has brought in some young guns for the Casey Fields clash. Carly Remmos, Georgie Rankin, Madisen Maguire, Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner are all named in the team to inject some serious talent in the midfield and around the ground, while Madeleine Boyd and Stephanie Williams are among the outs for the Cats. The Demons have recalled Georgia Howes and Monica Haraimiuk among others, while Niamh McEvoy, Grace Buchan, Maggie Caris and Chantelle Emonson are all among the outs for the home side.

COLLINGWOOD vs. CARLTON
Sunday, April 11 @ 2pm
Victoria Park

Traditional rivals Collingwood and Carlton do battle in a standalone clash at Victoria Park on Sunday with both teams making a host of changes. The Magpies are also still alive in the AFL Women’s competition and have lost the listed Kristy Stratton, whilst recalling Abbi Moloney as well as Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher among a host of ins. For the Blues, Winnie Laing is out of the side, but Carlton-listed Charlotte Hammans and Maddy Guerin are returning to the side with Marnie Jarvis and Jasmine Ware in what will be a game the Blues eye off as a way to continue their form of late and record their fourth win. Sitting equal top with Port Melbourne, the Magpies will want to maintain the gap on the chasing pack below them with a victory.

Reserves wrap: 2021 VFL Women’s – Round 5

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s returned for Round 4 on the weekend, with another six enthralling fixtures spread over Saturday and Sunday. As the season runs concurrently alongside that of the AFLW, top-flight players from Victorian clubs who miss out on senior action will be able to run out for what are effectively reserve sides in the VFLW. Round 5 saw promising elite level talent scattered across the eight aligned teams, as some players stake their claims for call-ups ahead of finals.

>> Results: VFLW Round 5 wrap

Competition for spots at Collingwood and Melbourne will continue to be tight heading into finals, after the Magpies and Casey went to battle on Saturday morning. Kristy Stratton was the standout across both sides, booting three goals in black and white after her standalone senior game last week. Meanwhile, Abbey Green marked her maiden 2021 outing with a goal. For Casey, promising ruck Maggie Caris joined Niamh McEvoy in the votes, as first year midfielder Megan Fitzsimon had one of her best performances at any level in the red and blue.

The Southern Saints celebrated a big win over Darebin on the same morning, with a couple of recently delisted Saints among the victors’ best players. Utility Tamara Luke booted a goal and earned votes for her performance, while Nadia von Bertouch continued her solid run in the twos. Both players managed five senior games in 2021.

Carlton’s newfound form yielded another set of points on Saturday afternoon, as the Blues downed Hawthorn at Princes Park. A trio of Carlton goalkickers found the big sticks, with Courtney Jones booting four majors ahead of raw talls Serena Gibbs (two) and Paige Trudgeon (one). 2020 draftee Winnie Laing also got another run in navy blue.

Two sides with some of the most promising young talent around went to battle, as Geelong comprehensively defeated the Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval. Youngsters Annabel Strahan and Isabella Grant were named among the Bulldogs’ best behind Bailey Hunt, as Danielle Marshall marked her return from injury. For the Cats, Stephanie Williams was lively with two goals as the likes of Georgia Clarke and Maddie Boyd also got more game time under their belts.

Port Melbourne’s perfect run to start 2021 raged on with an 11-point win over Essendon, kicking off Sunday’s proceedings. Richmond-listed key forwards Emily Harley and Cleo Saxon-Jones were both named among the Borough’s best players and booted two goals apiece to combine for four of their side’s six majors.

The round’s final game saw North Melbourne edge standalone side Williamstown at Arden Street, with Tahni Nestor featuring in the Roos’ votes. After managing a stretch of three senior games in 2021, she is one pushing to break back into the top flight as North storms into the postseason.  

Image Credit: Jonathan Di Maggio/AFL Photos

2021 VFLW Round 5 wrap: Pies and Borough continue runs

IN Round 5 of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, Carlton, Southern Saints and North Melbourne both grabbed their second wins, Collingwood and Port Melbourne extended their lead at the top of the table, as Geelong kept its opposition goalless in an impressive win on the road.

COLLINGWOOD 2.2 | 4.3 | 5.4 | 8.4 (52)
CASEY DEMONS 0.2 | 1.4 | 3.5 | 3.6 (24)

Collingwood maintained its perfect start to the VFL Women’s season with a 28-point victory over fellow strong starters Casey Demons at Victoria Park on Saturday. The Magpies got on the board in the opening term with a couple of goals and manage to restrict their opponents to just the one major by half-time. A further four goals to one in the second half meant the home team left happy, kicking 8.4 to 3.6 from only three more scoring shots for a comfortable victory.

Kristy Stratton slotted three majors in the win and was clearly a standout in the forward half of the ground. Tenacious mid/forward Matilda Zander, as well as Jasmine Ferguson, Tricia Cowan and Sarah King were also impressive in the victory. For the Demons, Imogen Milford did all she could with three goals of her own up forward, the only goalkicker in the red and blue. Young gun ruck Maggie Caris impressed, while ex-Pie Nicole Hales, and Samantha Johnson were also among the Demons’ best in the loss.

GOALS:

Collingwood: K. Stratton 3, G. Ricardo, I. Barnett, C. Bunker, A. Green, J. Guy.
Casey: I. Milford 3.

BEST:

Collingwood: M. Zander, K. Stratton, J. Ferguson, T. Cowan, S. King, D. Hallett
Casey: I. Milford, N. Hales, S. Johnson, M. Caris, S. Fairchild, N. McEvoy

SOUTHERN SAINTS 1.3 | 3.8 | 6.12 | 9.13 (67)
DAREBIN 0.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 (7)

Southern Saints snapped a three-game losing streak in the best possible fashion, dominating the winless Darebin Falcons by 10 goals. The Saints only conceded one goal and two scoring shots for the entire match, including holding the Falcons scoreless in the second half. Up their own end, the home team shook off some inaccuracy concerns, booting 9.13 (67) to take home the points comfortably – including a six-goal second half – by an even 60 points.

Tara Bohanna and Tenaya Sooalo both slotted two majors each for the winners, while Tayla Kearns was named best on ground in the victory. Tamara Luke, Deanna Jolliffe and Madi Capsalis were also among the best, as was ex-Eastern Ranges talent, Gabbi De Angelis. Sabine Cowley Du Parquet was the sole goalkicker for the Falcons and was among the best players alongside Gena Lawson-Tavan, Alyssa Mifsud and Victoria Blackwood.

GOALS:

Southern Saints: T. Bohanna 2, T. Sooalo 2, V. Moreau, G. De Angelis, M. Capsalis, G. Hodder, K. Ripari.
Darebin: S. Cowley du Parquet.

BEST:

Southern Saints: T. Kearns, T. Luke, D. Jolliffe, M. Capsalis, T. Bohanna, G. De Angelis
Darebin: G. Lawson-Tavan, S. Cowley du Parquet, A. Mifsud, V. Blackwood, A. Caddy, S. Lynch

CARLTON 3.4 | 4.7 | 9.10 | 9.11 (65)
HAWTHORN 1.0 | 1.2 | 1.4 | 5.5 (35)

Carlton had its most impressive performance of the year, shutting the lights out against Hawthorn in the first three quarters to win its second match of the year by five goals. The Blues piled on five goals in the third term to stretch its lead out to as much as 54 points at the main break. While the Hawks were admirable in the last quarter, slotting four goals to just one behind to cut the deficit back to 30, the damage was done prior to that, and the Blues got up, 9.11 (65) to 5.5 (35).

AFL Women’s listed Blues Courtney Jones (four goals) and Serena Gibbs (two) both looked impressive up forward and were amongst the standouts, while Ally Bild, Olivia Madden, Teresa Zampaglione and Bryannen Gull were also named in Carlton’s best. For the Hawks, Katie Angelis kicked two majors and tried to inspire the brown and gold, while Jessie Williams and Tayah Kelly also hit the scoreboard and were amongst the best. Nicole Cormack and Catherine Brown were others who drew praise from the coaches despite the loss.

GOALS:

Carlton: C. Jones 4, S. Gibbs 2, M. Wilson, P. Trudgeon, S. Lawrence.
Hawthorn: K. Angelis 2, T. Kelly, J. Williams, A. Malander.

BEST:

Carlton: A. Bild, O. Madden, C. Jones, T. Zampaglione, B. Gurr, S. Gibbs
Hawthorn: K. Angelis, N. Cormack , C. Brown, J. Williams, T. Kelly, J. Richardson

WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.4 | 0.4 | 0.5 | 0.6 (6)
GEELONG CATS 1.0 | 2.4 | 4.6 | 5.10 (40)

Geelong reaffirmed its status as a strong defensive side, keeping its opponent Western Bulldogs to just six points in fairly good conditions at Whitten Oval. The Bulldogs’ woes in front of goal continued for yet another week, having plenty of chances early and not capitalising, and then losing the momentum. Geelong booted a goal in each quarter and two in the third quarter to maintain a distance between them and their opponents, and then things went from bad to worse for the home team as no less than three Dogs were helped off in the last 30 minutes of the match, leaving rotations restricted and some a little sore during the 5.10 (40) to 0.6 (6) defeat.

Stephanie Williams was a livewire up forward for the Cats, slotting two goals and threatening to kick quite a few more, while Paige Sheppard had a day out through the midfield. Olivia Fuller, Teresia Meissner and Tahlia Tatlock were also among the best in the blue hoops, while Claudia Gunjaca kicked a goal and was also in the bests. Bailey Hunt, Katelyn Betts and Isabella Grant never stopped trying for the Dogs, with Annabel Strahan and Eliza Vale also trying to provide run and carry for the home team, and captain Riley Christgoergl putting her body on the line in the contest.

GOALS:

Bulldogs: Nil.
Geelong: S. Williams 2, N. French, P. Sheppard, C. Gunjaca

BEST:

Bulldogs: B. Hunt, A. Strahan, K. Betts, I. Grant, R. Christgoergl, E. Vale
Geelong: P. Sheppard, O. Fuller, T. Meissner, C. Gunjaca, T. Tatlock, S. Williams

ESSENDON 1.1 | 2.1 | 3.1 | 4.3 (27)
PORT MELBOURNE 3.0 | 5.1 | 6.2 | 6.2 (38)

Port Melbourne’s unbeaten start to the season rolled on in Round 5 with a well-fought 11-point victory over Essendon at The Hangar. The Bombers came into the clash with a 3-1 record themselves, but from the start it was clear the Borough were up for a fight. The visitors booted five goals to two in the opening half to open up a handy 18-point advantage, and whilst Essendon restricted the opposition to 1.1 in the second half, could only convert the 2.2 themselves, and ultimately cut down the final score which was in favour of Port Melbourne, to 6.2 (38) to 4.3 (27).

Richmond-listed key forwards, Cleo Saxon-Jones and Emily Harley both slotted two goals apiece, while Kate Adams returned from another match at NAB League Girls level to kick a major herself. Pip Peschke, Sarah McNamara and Courteney Bromage were all amongst the best, as was Claire Dyett (one goal) and the multiple goalkickers. Another ex-Murray Bushrangers talent in Eloise Ashley-Cooper was named best on ground for Essendon in the loss, as Courtney Ugle, Alana Barba and Alexandra Morcom were also impressive, while Federica Flew snagged two goals in defeat.

GOALS:

Essendon: F. Frew 2, A. Barba, F. Theodore.
Port Melbourne: C. Saxon-Jones 2, E. Harley 2, K. Adams, C. Dyett.

BEST:

Essendon: E. Ashley-Cooper, C. Ugle, A. Barba, A. Morcom, F. Frew, G. Nanscawen
Port Melbourne: P. Peschke, S. McNamara, E. Harley, C. Dyett, C. Bromage, C. Saxon-Jones

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.2 | 1.3 | 3.6 | 4.6 (30)
WILLIAMSTOWN 2.0 | 3.1 | 3.1 | 4.2 (26)

In a battle of two sides outside the eight, North Melbourne picked up its second win with a four-point victory over Williamstown, joining the Seagulls on two wins from five games. The Kangaroos only managed one goal in the first half and trailed by 10 points at the main break, but the second half worries for the Seagulls returned with the Kangaroos running over the top of them at Arden Street, booting 3.3 to 1.1 in the second half to win, 4.6 (30) to 4.2 (26).

Meagan Kiely and Jess Mourney impressed and were among four individual goalkickers for the Roos, with Sarah Skinner and Laura Wright also adding their names to the goalkickers list. Alexia Hamilton was named best-on for her performance, while Reni Hicks and Molly Eastman stood strong as well. Aimee Whelan kicked a goal and was named best-on for the Towners, while Olivia Purcell, Lana King and Scarlett Dunnell were among the best in the unfortunate tight loss.

GOALS:

North: S. Skinner, M. Kiely, L. Wright, J. Mourney.
Williamstown: A. Price, A. Whelan, S. Georgas, B. Hanrahan.

BEST:

North: A. Hamilton, M. Kiely, R. Hicks, J. Mourney, M. Eastman, T. Nestor
Williamstown: A. Whelan, L. King, O. Purcell, S. Dunell, E. Baxter, B. Hanrahan

Reserves wrap: 2021 VFL Women’s – Round 3

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s returned for Round 3 on the weekend, with another six enthralling fixtures spread over Friday and Saturday. As the season runs concurrently alongside that of the AFLW, top-flight players from Victorian clubs who miss out on senior action will be able to run out for what are effectively reserve sides in the VFLW. Round 3 saw promising elite level talent scattered across the eight aligned teams, with players again staking claims for call-ups.

>> Results: VFLW Round 3 wrap

Collingwood kicked off proceedings with a thumping win over the Western Bulldogs on Friday night, with senior-listed talent on the forefront of its triumph. Ruck-forward Bella Smith booted a game-high three goals, while wing-forward Sarah Rowe also hit the scoreboard in her return from injury, and Kristy Stratton proved influential through midfield. Amelia Velardo again played off half-back and copped a head knock in a hard tackle, but seemed unscathed.

The Bulldogs had another decent crop of AFLW players to choose from despite some key changes, with youngsters Annabel Strahan and Amelia van Oosterwijck roaming through midfield as father-daughter coup Isabella Grant kicked a goal up forward. Bailey Hunt was another player to make their return from injury and showed signs of her usual self.

The next all-aligned fixture saw Casey thump North Melbourne on its home deck, with elite level talent again impacting the scoreboard. Niamh McEvoy (three goals) and Chantel Emonson (two) showed their class at the level after being demoted, while young ruck Maggie Caris continues to string together strong performances. North did not have as as strong an AFLW presence, though Bethany Lynch stood tall in the loss.

A low-scoring slog at Deakin University saw Geelong beat Southern Saints by eight points in a game which saw just three goals kicked overall. The Cats again had a heavy rotation of AFLW players exit the side, but Laura Gardiner remained and got her hands dirty in midfield, with the likes of Maddie Boyd and Stephanie Williams also showing their wares in hopes of a recall. Speaking of recalls, Nadia von Bertouch may well be in line for one after her best afield display for the Saints, supported well by young Jess Matin.

There are even more positive signs for Richmond after the Tigers picked up their second AFLW win, with a bunch of senior players also impressing at state league level. Phoebe Monahan, Luka Lesosky-Hay, and Emily Harley were all named in Port Melbourne’s votes as the Borough beat Williamstown, while young forward Cleo Saxon-Jones booted a goal in her first outing for the year after long bouts of injury.

Carlton was the final aligned team in action on Saturday and managed to nab its first win of the season, defeating Darebin by seven points. Hard-running youngster Winnie Laing returned to the fold and fared well, as key forward Paige Trudgeon booted one of her side’s three goals and Jess Edwards was again strong rotating through midfield.

Reserves wrap: 2021 VFL Women’s – Round 2

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s returned for Round 2 on the weekend, with another six enthralling fixtures spread over Saturday and Sunday. As the season runs concurrently alongside that of the AFLW, top-flight players from Victorian clubs who miss out on senior action will be able to run out for what are effectively reserves or sides in the VFLW. Round 2 saw promising elite level talent scattered across the eight aligned teams, with players immediately staking claims for call-ups.

>> Results: VFLW Round 2 wrap

Geelong may have narrowly gone down in Round 1, but saw some impressive young performers earn senior call-ups to shuffle the Cats’ latest lineup. First year forward Stephanie Williams found some scoring form with two majors as the game’s lone multiple goalkicker, while Georgia Clarke also hit the scoreboard and was productive with ball in hand. Maddie Boyd was another to impress, taking on some unexpected ruck duties and holding her own.

In the weekend’s first all-aligned clash, Collingwood went two from two with a 22-point win over the Southern Saints at Victoria Park. Amelia Velardo showed vast signs of her development as she thrived in a new role off half-back for the Magpies, while Maddie Shevlin continues to press for her first senior game in 2021. Tall Bella Smith again found the goals and Kristy Stratton was combative in midfield.

Alice Burke was another to push her case for a second chance at senior level this season, contributing some typically hard work in the engine room for the Saints. Fellow first year Saint Renee Saulitis kicked a goal as she dropped down to state league level, while mature-age recruit Rebecca Ott suffered a leg injury in the first half.

In Casey’s loss to Essendon on Saturday, 2020 Melbourne draftee Maggie Caris was impressive for the Demons. She earned votes for the second week running for her role in the ruck, though the Dees’ senior tall stocks will be difficult to crack. Fellow first year player Megan Fitzsimon booted a goal rotating forward through midfield, while Mietta Kendall proved lively up the other end of the ground.

North Melbourne notched its maiden VFLW win since breaking from the Melbourne Uni Blues mould, defeating the Western Bulldogs by 21 points at Whitten Oval. Young Roos prospect Alice O’Loughlin snagged three goals to account for nearly half of her side’s score, as the likes of Katelyn Cox and Bethany Lynch earned votes for their efforts in midfield.

Britney Gutknecht was again terrific for the Bulldogs despite the result not going their way, as fellow Northern Knights graduate Nell Morris-Dalton was the lone senior-listed pup to hit the scoreboard. A bunch of up-and-coming Bulldogs are working towards call-ups, including father-daughter recruit Isabella Grant and Amelia van Oosterwijck.

The final game of the round saw league newcomer, Port Melbourne continue its perfect start to VFLW life with a 44-point win over Carlton. Richmond-listed forward Emily Harley was dominant early and booted two majors in a physical display, with fellow Tigers Luka Lesosky-Hay and Sarah Sansonetti kicking goals, too. Laura McClelland was also superb for the Borough.

Experienced defender Jess Edwards dropped down to the reserves level to good effect for Carlton, initially as part of an besieged defence and eventually through midfield. She was the lone senior-listed Blue to feature in the votes, while Winnie Laing was a late out and instead ran laps.

2021 VFLW Round 2 wrap: Borough, Magpies go 2-0

ROUND 2 of the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season saw Port Melbourne and Collingwood move to 2-0, while four teams registered their first wins of the new campaign. Six fixtures were again stretched evenly across two days, with a double-header at La Trobe University rounding out what was an entertaining weekend of state league football. We recap all the action in our weekly wrap.

GEELONG 2.2 | 4.3 | 5.6 | 7.10 (52)
WILLIAMSTOWN 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 | 2.0 (12)

Geelong picked up its first win of the 2021 season via a 40-point thumping of Williamstown at Deakin University on Saturday afternoon, spelling a resounding start to Round 2. The Cats led at every break and kept the Seagulls scoreless in terms two and three, all while pouring on a handy score of their own. In then end, it was a 7.10 (52) to 2.0 (12) scoreline which put Geelong into third spot on the ladder.

Senior-listed Cats Stephanie Williams (two goals) and Georgia Clarke (one) both found the big sticks, but it was Claudia Gunjaca who earned plaudits as the victors’ best player afield. The likes of Breanna Pratt, Paige Sheppard, and Theresia Meissner were also productive for the second week running.

It was no surprise to see Erin Meade again feature among Williamstown’s most impactful performers, joined in the votes again by Aimee Whelan and Lana King while young forward Tahlia Merrett showed promise in her first outing for the year. Ashlea Melnikas and Sasha Long finished as the Seagulls’ lone goalkickers.

GOALS:

Geelong: S. Williams 2, J. Woollett, S. Elsworthy, G. Clarke, M. Fedele, C. Gunjaca
Williamstown: A. Melnikas, S. Long

BEST:

Geelong: C. Gunjaca, G. Clarke, B. Pratt, P. Sheppard, T. Meissner, T. Smith
Williamstown: E. Meade, A. Whelan, T. Merrett, L. King, C. Leighton

COLLINGWOOD 1.2 | 2.3 | 6.3 | 7.4 (46)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 0.3 | 0.3 | 0.5 | 3.6 (24)

Collingwood collected its second win of the season on Saturday, this time in much more convincing fashion with a 22-point triumph over the Southern Saints at Victoria Park. The Magpies piled on the first six goals of the game across three terms, all while keeping the Saints goalless in that time. Consolation goals did little to meaningfully cut into the margin, as Collingwood saluted 7.4 (46) to 3.6 (24) on home turf.

The Magpies had seven individual goalkickers in a terrific team performance, with the likes of Matilda Zander and Caitlin Bunker notching goals and votes for the winners. Mollie Edmond and Jasmine Ferguson were among those to lead Collingwood’s charge, while AFLW-listed youngster Amelia Velardo thrived in a role off half-back.

Hannah Stuart earned plaudits for her role in the Southern Saints’ effort, finishing as one of just three Saints goalkickers. Tara Bohanna also found the big sticks and play her part, with Melanie Bertuna another to impress in a Southern side which was missing some key elite level talent from last week’s winning lineup.

GOALS:

Collingwood: M. Zander, K. Colborne-Veel, K. Stratton, B. Smith, I. Barnett, C. Bunker, S. King
Southern Saints: T. Bohanna, R. Saulitis, H. Stuart

BEST:

Collingwood: M. Emond, J. Ferguson, M. Zander, M. Neal, A. Velardo, C. Bunker
Southern Saints: H. Stuart, M. Bertuna, A. Curley, G. De Angelis, T. Bohanna, K. Ripari

CASEY DEMONS 0.0 | 1.4 | 2.4 | 3.4 (22)
ESSENDON 1.3 | 2.4 | 3.7 | 4.7 (31)

Essendon led at every break but was made to earn its nine-point victory over Casey Demons on Saturday afternoon, coming out on top for its first win in 2021. The Bombers bossed the opening term with four scoring shots as the Demons remained scoreless, before steadily adding just enough to their total thereafter to keep Casey at bay. Ultimately, the Casey Fields scoreboard read 4.7 (31) to 3.4 (22) in favour of Essendon, an important win for the standalone side.

Alexandra Morcom and Cecilia McIntosh backed up strong opening round performances with important contributions for Essendon, who had four individual goalkickers. Mia-Rae Clifford was among them, as well as former Calder Cannons pair Alana Barba and Felicity Theodore.

Casey was led by the efforts of Emma Horne in the defeat, while Melbourne-listed ruck Maggie Caris continues to push her case for senior selection. Fellow AFLW youngster Megan Fitzsimon found the goals for Casey as she rotated forward, while Eliza West also snared a major.

GOALS:

Casey: M. Fitzsimon, E. West, I. Milford
Essendon: M. Clifford, F. Frew, A. Barba, F. Theodore

BEST:

Casey: E. Horne, M. Caris, E. West, T. Fellows, H. Thomas, C. Conroy
Essendon: A. Morcom, J. Davies, L. Stepnell, E. Mackay, T. Crook, C. McIntosh

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.1 | 2.3 | 4.4 | 5.7 (37)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.4 | 2.4 | 2.4 | 2.4 (16)

North Melbourne lifted after half time to overcome the Western Bulldogs at Arden Street Oval on Sunday morning, coming from behind to win by 21 points. The Bulldogs led narrowly at the first two breaks before North clicked into gear, keeping the visitors scoreless after the main break while adding three goals of their own to run away 5.7 (37) to 2.4 (16) victors.

First year AFLW Kangaroo Alice O’Loughlin pushed her case for a senior recall with three goals, accounting for nearly half of North’s score. She was joined by Sarah Skinner and former Richmond player Ciara Fitzgerald in the goals, as Meagan Kiely and Bethany Lynch also played large parts in the win.

Simone Ruedin, Amanda Tessari, and Nicole McMahon were among the VFLW-listed Bulldogs to be credited for their efforts. Britney Gutknecht was again terrific through midfield alongside a couple of her side’s leaders, and Nell Morris-Dalton again goaled to be one of just two major scorers in the red, white, and blue.

GOALS:

North Melbourne: A. O’Loughlin 3, S. Skinner, C. Fitzgerald
Western Bulldogs: N. Morris-Dalton, M. Chadwick

BEST:

North Melbourne: M. Kiely, B. Lynch, A. O’Loughlin, J. Mourney, K. Cox, M. Eastman
Western Bulldogs: S. Ruedin, A. Tessari, N. McMahon, B. Gutknecht, K. Betts, R. Christgoergl

DAREBIN 2.3 | 2.3 | 3.7 | 3.8 (26)
HAWTHORN 2.0 | 5.3 | 6.5 | 7.7 (49)

The weekend’s sole battle between two standalone sides saw Hawthorn come up trumps over Darebin, reigning victorious to the tune of 23 points at La Trobe University, Bundoora. Both sides brought the heat early as Darebin led at the first break, but the Falcons’ ascendancy proved short-lived as Hawthorn shifted up the gears to post five goals to one thereafter. In the end, it resulted in Bec Goddard‘s first win as Hawthorn head coach, reading 7.7 (49) to 3.8 (26) on the scoreboard.

Jessie Williams set the game alight with four goals in the brown and gold, proving too hot to handle inside 50 as she snapped up multiple opportunities. Veteran defender Meg Hutchins was typically assured down back alongside Lauren Szigeti, who also rotated through midfield. Among the other Hawks to impress, Jemma Owen again found the goals and showed promise.

For Darebin, Gena Lawson-Tavan played an important role down back, while skipper Steph Simpson did her best to spark her side from midfield before rotating inside attacking 50. Kathleen Roe also swung forward and found a goal, with Alyssa Mifsud the Falcons’ only other goalkicker on the day and Sidney Cubasch again impressive.

GOALS:

Darebin: K. Roe, A. Mifsud, S. David
Hawthorn: J. Williams 4, A. Vine, L. Szigeti, J. Owen

BEST:

Darebin: S. Simpson, S. Cubasch, S. Lynch, A. Reibelt, V. Smiljanic, P. Kearney
Hawthorn: J. Williams, M. Hutchins, N. Cormack, E. Gilder, J. Owen, L. Szigeti

CARLTON 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.3 | 2.3 (15)
PORT MELBOURNE 2.0 | 3.3 | 5.5 | 9.5 (59)

Port Melbourne made it two wins from two games in its inaugural VFLW campaign, thumping Carlton by 44 points at La Trobe University on Sunday to round out the weekend’s proceedings. The Borough built a steady 14-point buffer at half time as Carlton struggled to transition out of its own half, before piling on six goals to one after the main break and running out 9.5 (59) to 2.3 (15) winners.

Young Port forward Sophie Locke was excellent inside 50 and snared three goals in a lively outing, while Emily Harley bagged two and provided great physicality. Holly Bailey was named her side’s best player in the win, in front of the likes of Pip Peschke and Ellie Macdonald as the Borough set up well and locked the ball in their half for much of the contest.

Naturally, many of Carlton’s most prolific performers were stationed in defence, with Jessie Coletti recognised for her outstanding outing alongside leaders Ally Bild and Jen Lew. Senior-listed Blue Jess Edwards was also important back there, while fresh import Akayla Peterson was also impressive and finished as one of two Carlton goalkickers.

GOALS:

Carlton: M. Wilson, A. Peterson
Port Melbourne: S. Locke 3, E. Harley 2, L. Lesosky-Hay, S. Sansonetti, C. Dyett, P. Peschke

BEST:

Carlton: J. Coletti, J. Lew, J. Edwards, A. Peterson, M. Wilson, A. Bild
Port Melbourne: H. Bailey, P. Peschke, S. Locke, E. Macdonald, L. McClelland, A. Tanner

Reserves wrap: 2021 VFL Women’s – Round 1

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s returned on the weekend after a year away, bringing with it a revamped structure and all-new team in Port Melbourne. With the season running concurrently alongside that of the AFLW, top-flight players from Victorian clubs who miss out on senior action will be able to run out for what are effectively reserves or sides in the VFLW. Round 1 saw promising elite level talent scattered across the eight aligned teams, with players immediately staking claims for call-ups.

>> Results: VFLW Round 1 wrap

Starting at the season opener at Arden Street, Port Melbourne mixed its boom recruits with Richmond-listed players hungry to break back into the yellow and black. Atop the list was forward Christina Bernardi, who booted a game-high three goals for the Borough. Young defender Sarah Sansonetti was productive in the back half, while Alice Edmonds booted a goal and was named among Port’s best alongside injury replacement, Hannah McLaren.

For the Roos, first year player Alice O’Loughlin was recognised in her side’s best players on debut for her role in the 33-point loss. Former basketballer and fellow 2020 draft selection Brooke Brown also impressed with her aerial nous and even managed to hit the scoreboard with one goal. Katelyn Cox was another notable Roo to take the field, having not yet registered a senior outing.

Geelong’s side was littered with young AFLW talent against Collingwood, led by promising talls Olivia Barber and Rene Caris. Barber booted a game-high three goals, while Caris was named the Cats’ best player. 20-year-old Georgia Clarke also found the big sticks with two majors, while first year midfielders Laura Gardiner and Darcy Moloney also showed promise.

The impact of key position players carried on into Collingwood’s side, as senior ruck Bella Smith was reunited with former Norwood teammate Matilda Zander, as both kicked a goal in black and white. Utility Maddy Shevlin also troubled the scorers with one major and was among the Magpies’ best on the day as they won by two points.

The round’s only other all-aligned clash saw Casey trump Carlton at Princes Park, with second-year Melbourne prospect Brenna Tarrant a dominant force. She finished with five goals, spurring her side to victory after the Blues hit back with terrific contested marking and positioning. Midfielder Megan Fitzsimon was also among the action and snuck forward well, while young tall Maggie Caris competed well in the red and blue.

Winnie Laing was the pick of Carlton’s senior-listed players, leaning on her running capacity to find plenty of the ball on the wing and cracking in hard despite her light frame. New signing Paige Trudgeon showed some promise up forward as a raw target and snared two handy goals, while Charlotte Hammans did her best to drive the Blues forward from behind the ball. She was named among their best players.

Western Bulldogs and Southern Saints were the other two aligned clubs in action, picking up wins against Hawthorn and Essendon respectively. Midfielder/forward Britney Gutknecht was clearly best afield in the Dogs’ win and snagged two goals, with Isabelle Pritchard also prominent. The pair were two of six senior-listed Bulldogs to find the big sticks, as new coup Annabel Strahan impressed down back.

For the Saints, Jessica Matin put her hand up for another top flight opportunity after a dazzling performance. She booted three goals, had plenty of the ball and laid some terrific tackles in a well-rounded display. Another newcomer in Rebecca Ott was recognised for her efforts, while Poppy Kelly dominated in the ruck and also made an impact with ball in hand.

Stay tuned for a wrap up of the NAB League graduates and young guns who also made a splash in Round 1 of the revamped competition, with plenty more young talent set to hit the state league as the year progresses.

2021 VFLW Round 1 wrap: Port claims maiden win, Pies and Gulls get up in thrillers

PORT Melbourne celebrated its maiden Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s appearance with a win on Saturday morning, helping kick off the 2021 season in style. Collingwood and Williamstown each held on to secure thrilling two-point victories, while Casey, the Southern Saints and Western Bulldogs also started their campaigns on the winners list. That, and more in our Round 1 wrap.

NORTH MELBOURNE 2.0 | 2.1 | 2.1 | 3.4 (22)
PORT MELBOURNE 2.2 | 3.3 | 6.5 | 8.7 (55)

GOALS:

North Melbourne: B. Brown, A. Hamilton, M. Kiely
Port Melbourne: C. Bernardi 3, S. McNamara, E. Wilson, S. Locke, A. Edmonds, M. Kuys

BEST:

North Melbourne: S. Skinner, M. Kiely, A. Hamilton, A. O’Loughlin, M. Eastman, L. Wright
Port Melbourne: M. Kuys, C. Bernardi, O. Barton, A. Edmonds, E. Wilson, H. McLaren

Port Melbourne’s inaugural VFLW campaign got off to the perfect start on Saturday morning, as the Borough kicked away to a 33-point victory at Arden Street Oval. While Port led at every break, North remained in the hunt up to half time at only eight points adrift, before the Borough kicked away with five goals in the second half to claim a historic 8.7 (55) to 3.4 (22) win. Richmond-listed forward Christina Bernardi found some scoring form with three majors for Port, while fellow goalkickers Melissa Kuys, Alice Edmonds, and Elizabeth Wilson were among the victors’ best players. Meagan Kiely and ruck recruit Lexi Hamilton found the goals for North Melbourne, who also blooded fellow scorer and 2020 draftee Brooke Brown. Skilful winger Sarah Skinner was named the Roos’ best in the loss, as they look to regroup against the Western Bulldogs in Round 2. Meanwhile, Port takes on Carlton next time out.

GEELONG 1.1 | 2.2 | 3.4 | 6.6 (42)
COLLINGWOOD 1.2 | 4.2 | 6.2 | 7.2 (44)

GOALS:

Geelong: O. Barber 3, G. Clarke 2, D. Moloney
Collingwood: I. Barnett 4, M. Zander, B. Smith, M. Shevlin

BEST:

Geelong: R. Caris, P. Sheppard, B. Pratt, O. Barber, T. Meissner, L. Gardiner
Collingwood: I. Barnett, M. Zander, M. Shevlin, G. Ricardo, J. Ferguson, E. Jackson

Collingwood warded off a fast finishing Geelong to win by two points on Saturday afternoon, making for a heart-stopping start to both side’s seasons. The Magpies established a handy two-goal buffer at half time and extended it a touch further heading into the final break to put themselves in the box seat. Matilda Zander looked to have wrapped up the result with her goal early in the final term, but the Cats made Collingwood earn the 7.2 (44) to 6.6 (42) win, kicking the last three goals to move agonisingly close to a huge comeback. Geelong’s AFLW influence shone through as top flight Cats kicked each of their goals, led by first year tall Olivia Barber (three). Another tall, Rene Caris was also terrific, while Paige Sheppard made a successful return to high-level football in the hoops. Imogen Barnett was Collingwood’s best with four goals and was supported well by South Australian recruit Zander and AFLW-listed utility Maddie Shevlin was also impactful.

CARLTON 0.0 | 0.0 | 2.1 | 3.1 (19)
CASEY 0.1 | 2.4 | 4.9 | 7.13 (55)

GOALS:

Carlton: P. Trudgeon 2, S. Lawrence
Casey: B. Tarrant 5, I. Milford, T. Fellows

BEST:

Carlton: J. Lew, W. Laing, C. Hammans, T. Kolevski, P. Trudgeon, T. Zampaglione
Casey: K. Thompson, E. Horne, B. Tarrant, M. Caris, S. Fairchild, T. Fellows

Casey was made to break away twice, but managed to get the job done comfortably against Carlton with a 36-point win at Princes Park on Saturday. A tense deadlock gripped the opening term before things began to open up, and Casey got away to a two-goal lead. Carlton hit back in the third term after a scoreless half, but fell back behind just as quickly as the visitors prettied up their side of the scoreboard. Melbourne-listed forward Brenna Tarrant was terrific in the important moments, finishing with five goals as the best player afield. Maggie Caris and Imogen Milford showed some of their raw ability, while skipper Samantha Johnson was strong in midfield and Kelly Thompson also fared well. Winnie Laing won a heap of ball from the wing for Carlton, while leaders Jen Lew and Ally Bild were solid in defence. New Blue Paige Trudgeon also impressed in bursts, booting two goals in the losing effort.

W. BULLDOGS 3.2 | 5.3 | 8.4 | 11.6 (72)
HAWTHORN 1.2 | 3.3 | 3.3 | 3.6 (30)

GOALS:

W. Bulldogs: B. Gutknecht 2, N. Morris-Dalton, I. Pritchard, A. Scott, V. Murphy, G. Lagioia, B. Hards, I. Grant, M. Sandral, A. van Oosterwijck
Hawthorn: J. Williams, E. Mcilvena, J. Owen

BEST:

W. Bulldogs: B. Gutknecht, K. Betts, N. McMahon, R. Christgoergl, I. Pritchard, M. Sandral
Hawthorn: J. Owen, K. Dudley, J. Williams, A. Holmes, C. Brown, L. Szigeti

Western Bulldogs kicked away after half time to a comfortable 42-point victory over Hawthorn, providing pleasing viewing for home fans at Whitten Oval on Sunday morning. Having built a steady two-goal buffer, the young pups kept Hawthorn goalless after half time while piling on six goals up the other end to achieve a resounding 11.6 (72) to 3.6 (30) result. A strong AFLW-listed contingent helped the Bulldogs hold sway, with midfielder-forward Britney Gutknecht best afield and the leading goalkicker with two majors. Fellow goalkicker Amelia can Oosterwijck found a good amount of ball, while skipper Riley Christgoergl was prominent in midfield and Dogs signing Annabel Strahan impressed. Jemma Owen was the Hawks’ standout figure, with Abbey Holmes‘ experience helping their cause and captain Jess Trend proving influential before coming off with injury.

ESSENDON 0.2 | 0.4 | 2.4 | 4.5 (29)
STH. SAINTS 1.2 | 5.4 | 5.4 | 7.5 (47)

GOALS:

Essendon: A. Quigley 2, C. McIntosh, A. Barba
Sth Saints: J. Matin 3, V. Moreau 2, T. Bohanna, G. De Angelis

BEST:

Essendon: C. Ugle, C. McIntosh, F. Frew, A. Barba, K. Heil, A. Morcom
Sth Saints: J. Matin, H. Stuart, L. Burke, T. Bohanna, E. Vanderheym, R. Ott

Southern Saints put in the work early to set up an 18-point win over Essendon at The Hangar on Sunday morning, making for an ideal start to the Saints’ campaign. After a tight opening term, the Saints broke away to a five-goal lead at the main break, but were slowly pegged back in the third term as Essendon threatened to pounce. In the end, Southern had put enough on the board to hold out for a 7.5 (47) to 4.5 (29) victory. St Kilda-listed newcomer Jess Matin was outstanding with three goals and plenty of work going both ways, as teammate Poppy Kelly dominated the hitouts. Hannah Stuart was another among the Saints’ best, with Valerie Moreau (two goals) also in the action. In a losing effort, Essendon vice-captain Courtney Ugle was judged her side’s best player, while another mainstay in Cecilia McIntosh also impacted, finding the big sticks alongside Alana Barba and Alexandra Quigley.

DAREBIN 0.3 | 1.5 | 1.7 | 1.9 (15)
WILLIAMSTOWN 0.1 | 1.3 | 2.4 | 2.5 (17)

GOALS:

Darebin: H. Munro
Williamstown: R. Tripodi, M. Williamson

BEST:

Darebin: S. Cubasch, K. Roe, M. Huta, K. McNiece, H. Munro, S. Elarmaly
Williamstown: M. Williamson, E. Meade, G. Biedenweg-Webster, A. Whelan, R. Tripodi, L. King

Williamstown came out on top in a low-scoring slog between two standalone sides, holding on to beat Darebin by two points at La Trobe University on Sunday. Down by the same margin at the first two breaks, the Seagulls broke ahead in term three and somehow managed to defend their lead thereafter despite some immense pressure from the Falcons. The 2.5 (17) to 1.9 (15) scoreline was indicative of both team’s lack of polish inside 50, but also testament to their structures and defensive acumen. Dynamic midfielder-forward Megan Williamson was among the Seagulls’ best, finding the scoreboard alongside Ruby Tripodi. Leader Erin Meade was also instrumental, and Lana King showed some promise on debut. For Darebin, Sidney Cubasch was named best while Kathleen Roe was reliable as ever from defence, and Hayley Munro proved dangerous as she rotated forward from the ruck.

2021 VFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Revamped state league returns after lost season

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition returns this weekend, with a revamped structure seeing the season run concurrently with that of the AFL Women’s (AFLW). As somewhat of a reserves league to aligned sides in the top flight, the VFLW features 12 teams in 2021, including Port Melbourne after the Borough took on Richmond’s license. Round 1 sees fixtures spread evenly over Saturday and Sunday, starting at Arden Street as North Melbourne hosts Port Melbourne.

North Melbourne vs. Port Melbourne
Saturday February 27, 10:00am
Arden Street Oval

North Melbourne welcomes competition newcomer, Port Melbourne to the VFL Women’s on Saturday morning as the two sides open season 2021 at Arden Street Oval. While still a proud standalone club, the Borough has taken on Richmond’s VFLW license and will thus have access to Tigers players who miss out on AFLW selection. Likewise, North Melbourne’s top flight alignment will see some senior listed Kangaroos line up in the blue and white each week.

The likes of Richmond forward Christina Bernardi and Melissa Kuys will be among the experienced names set to lead the Borough’s efforts, while an all-Richmond half-back line of Hannah McLaren, Sarah Sansonetti, and Laura McClelland should prove difficult to budge. Murray Bushrangers graduate Sophie Locke is another exciting young talent in Port’s side, named in the back pocket.

New Roo Katelyn Cox is set for a reserves outing in North’s midfield, lining up next to Meagan Kiely and Bethany Lynch with Lexi Hamilton a handy ruck to be roving under. Nikki Wallace, another with AFLW experience lines up in defence and Brooke Brown gets a gig at the other end of the ground. Brown was taken by North Melbourne as a surprise father-daughter selection in 2020.

Expect North Melbourne’s hardness and pressure around the ball to be a real feature, as Port looks to bring an exciting transition style to the fore in what should be a competitive start to the 2021 season.

Geelong vs. Collingwood
Saturday February 27, 12:00pm
Deakin University, Geelong (Waurn Ponds)

AFLW-aligned sides Geelong and Collingwood go head-to-head at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds on Saturday afternoon, looking to start their campaigns on the right foot. Both sides boast a strong mix of youth and experience in their Round 1 lineups, with the Cats benefitting significantly from their alignment to the top flight when it comes to the young talent at their disposal. Collingwood, of course, remains the reigning premier after the 2020 season was scrapped.

Among the exciting brigade of up-and-comers, Olivia Barber has been named at full forward and will spearhead the attack alongside skipper, Michelle Fedele. Paige Sheppard is poised to make her return to football in the hoops, named among an exciting midfield with Cats AFLW youngsters Laura Gardiner, Darcy Moloney, and ruck Rene Caris having all gained experience at senior level.

Collingwood’s tall stocks should trouble the Cats, particularly up forward. Senior ruck Bella Smith takes up the full forward spot with Sarah King set to take the first bounce, while Imogen Barnett is another to watch in Collingwood’s front half. Smith’s former Norwood teammate Matilda Zander looms as an exciting addition from the SANFL, with the Magpies’ forward depth pushing Amelia Velardo to half-back.

The Magpies will look to adopt a similar gameplan to their AFLW side, looking to take the game on in transition with an exciting handball style while also taking hold of the game when required. Geelong will also play an attacking brand, with youthful exuberance and instinct also poised to come into the Cats’ thinking.

Carlton vs. Casey Demons
Saturday February 27, 2:00pm
Princes Park

Another all-aligned clash takes place at Princes Park as Carlton and Casey Demons lock horns, rounding out Saturday’s fixtures. The Blues have hit the reset button on their VFLW program and will look a very fresh side this year, adopting a strong youth focus to help feed their AFLW squad. Casey also has strong ties to its AFLW-aligned team in Melbourne, with a fit and strong Demons unit out to prove just how fruitful their preseason has been.

The Blues will be led from the back with skipper Ally Bild lining up next to vice-captain Jen Lew across half-back, while Carlton-listed speedster Charlotte Hammans completes the line. Coming down from Cairns, Jasmine Ware is another to watch in Carlton’s defence, while Akayla Peterson looms as a high-upside type at the other end. Carlton draftees Winnie Laing and Paige Trudgeon will also get some run into their legs in the front half.

Casey captain Samantha Johnson is her side’s major off-season coup and will anchor the midfield alongside first year Melbourne midfielder, Megan Fitzsimon. Both will benefit from the ruckwork of Maggie Caris, while an all-Melbourne half-back line of Mietta Kendall, Isabella Simmons, and Irishwoman Lauren Magee should prove exciting to watch. Brenna Tarrant also features at full back, with three senior games under her belt this year.

With new coach Peter Mercoulia also embedded in Melbourne’s coaching staff, Casey will look to play fast and put heavy scoreboard pressure on. Carlton is led by a new coach of its own in Luke O’Shannessy, who should be able to extract great things from the Blues’ young talent with his vast pathways experience.

Western Bulldogs vs. Hawthorn
Sunday February 28, 10:00am
Whitten Oval

The Western Bulldogs kick off their 2021 campaign at home as Hawthorn rolls into town on Sunday morning, looking to take a big scalp early. The Bulldogs have built one of the best young AFLW lists, with the vast array of talent spilling into its reserves side and making for an exciting squad on paper. The standalone Hawks are also strong on youth, but have attracted some big-name experience with Bec Goddard set to take the reins as head coach for the first time since 2018.

An embarrassment of riches sees the Bulldogs’ forwardline stacked with five AFLW-listed talents, including Isabella Grant, Gemma Lagioia, and the experienced Lauren Spark. Mary Sandral is the lone VFLW-listed player to start in attack, though the likes of Nicole McMahon (ruck), skipper Riley Christgoergl (half-back), and vice-captain Katelyn Betts (centre) will be consistent VFLW figures this year. Under McMahon, the likes of Isabelle Pritchard, Brooke Hards, and Britney Gutknecht should be served well in midfield.

Some well-renowned names in female footballing circles will provide invaluable experience to Hawthorn’s fledgling side, with stalwart Meg Hutchins poised to take on a number of roles aside from her forwardline listing, while Abbey Holmes is a tough body at the contest who will rotate forward through midfield. Skipper Jess Trend is another with AFLW experience who should impact greatly, while Northern Territory recruit Dominique Carbone has serious potential. She is set for her VFLW debut on the same weekend the Darwin Buffettes play finals back home.

The Hawks should prove a well structured side under Goddard and will be sure to crack in hard, though the abundance of promising young options for the Bulldogs will be incredibly tough to overcome. Should they not rely on too few, the Hawks will be ultra competitive in the face of the Dogs’ rawness and fierce style.

Essendon vs. Southern Saints
Sunday February 28, 10:30am
The Hangar

Essendon is set to unveil its shiny new facilities at The Hangar on Sunday morning, hosting the Southern Saints in what should be a competitive clash. Gunning for an AFLW license, the Bombers remain standalone but have built a strong list with more continuity than other sides heading into 2021. The Saints have their St Kilda alignment to lean on, but are looking strong in their own right after a solid preseason.

Anchoring Essendon’s side will be skipper Georgia Nanscawen, who is part of a terrific spine in the red and black. Cecilia McIntosh lines up down back, while Courtney Ugle provides some grunt, and Mia-Rae Clifford gets a fresh start up forward. Of the up-and-comers, Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba have already performed well in the sash, with a host of young prospects set to filter through Essendon’s lineup as the season progresses.

Tara Bohanna (full back) and Deanna Jolliffe (rover) will lead the Saints out as co-captain Frankie Hocking has not been named. Georgia McLean is one to watch off half-back having crossed from Casey, while Poppy Kelly and Alice Burke are the only St Kilda AFLW players to feature in the lineup – both named on the interchange bench ahead of three emergencies from the senior squad.

The Saints have not put a ceiling on their potential and promise to open the game up with unpredictable ball movement. The Bombers’ continuity as a group and greater poise with such experience could well play a factor in this clash, with both sides backing their cohesion after so long away from competitive action.

Darebin vs. Williamstown
Sunday February 28, 11:30am
La Trobe University, Bundoora

Pioneer club, the Darebin Falcons take on Williamstown in Round 1’s closing fixture on Sunday, set to play out at La Trobe University in Bundoora. Both proud standalone clubs, these two sides will be made up purely of VFLW-listed talent early on before gaining access to NAB League and potentially even AFLW talent as those seasons are run and done. The two sides already faced off during preseason, with Williamstown winning by 11 points at the same venue.

Led by the returning Stephanie Simpson, Darebin has a bunch of leaders set to build the standards under coach Mitch Skelly. In defence, Gena Lawson-Tavan is one who promises to do exactly that as vice-captain, while fellow leaders Cherelle Byrne (centre) and Alyssa Mifsud (full forward) are other leaders littered up and down the spine. One Falcon to watch is Stephanie Elarmaly, a youngster who has come through Darebin’s youth system.

2019 premiership coach Penny Cula-Reid crossed from Collingwood after her flag triumph, and takes over an exciting standalone squad. Skipper Erin Meade has locked in a spot at half-back, with reigning best and fairest winner Megan Williamson set to resume her midfield duties. Asha Price and Eliza Straford should be good value up forward, while Scarlett Dunell, the sister of former Seagull Sam lines up in defence.

There is often a great unknown around the standalone sides, especially after so long away from competitive action, but the two sides will know each other well after their preseason meeting and will get a good assessment of their 2021 chances in this bout.

Image Credit: Kelly Defina/AFL Photos

2021 AFLW Preview: Melbourne Demons

ONE of the most consistent sides in the competition, there is no doubt Melbourne have a great team at their disposal with plenty of gamechangers amongst the playing group and exciting talent in their midst. But a mass exodus and flurry of young newcomers in 2021 could see a highly different campaign this season, with many wondering what is next for the Demons and whether they can take that next step in the competition.

2020 RECAP

The Dees took a great step forward in season 2020, launching their maiden finals campaign and winning some excellent matches while they were at it, including a three-point come-from-behind cliffhanger over GWS GIANTS in the semi-final, a 59-point blitz against West Coast Eagles and a 20-point victory over fellow finalists, Collingwood. But losses to newcomer St Kilda and star-studded Carlton did the side no favours, while a constant injury cloud seemed to hang over the club with Ainsley Kemp, Shae Sloane and now-Blue Maddy Guerin sidelined with respective season-ending anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, and both Lily Mithen and Lauren Pearce missing in action throughout the season in patches. Factor in Daisy Pearce’s return from having twins in 2019, and the side exceeded all expectations to finish third in Conference B and on the overall ladder in 2020. Quiet achiever Shelley Scott won the club’s Best and Fairest, while influential trio Karen Paxman, Libby Birch and Goal of the Year winner Kate Hore were all selected for the 2020 AFL Women’s All-Australian team.

NEW FACES

Melbourne welcomed a flurry of newcomers for 2021, adding six new faces during the 2020 AFLW Draft, following a huge trade period in which six experienced names departed the club. The Dees rocketed up the draft order though, leaping into top 10 contention – top three in Victoria – and picking up six young guns – Alyssa Bannan, Eliza McNamara, dual athlete Maggie Caris, Megan Fitzsimon, Mietta Kendall and Isabella Simmons – who will help drive the side into the future. The Dees also picked up a third Irish recruit in Lauren Magee to join the likes of Niamh McEvoy and Sinead Goldrick, who joined the club for 2020.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

With so many talented players at their disposal, any number of Melbourne’s players could be the key link in season 2021. But with big departures across the field, this could be Tyla Hanks’ year to really take the midfield by storm after playing much of her first few seasons up the ground. The 2018 draftee will now enter her third season after showing plenty of promise across her first few seasons, and with an excellent turn of speed and sticky fingers, Hanks’ work rate and impact around the ground are unquestionable.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

While the Dees seem to be one of those sides that continuously sits outside finals contention over the past few seasons, something that could give the side a boost is their consistency. From finishing third in the first two seasons, to sitting fourth overall during the first conference season in 2019 and making finals in 2020 – again finishing overall third if we were to combine the two conference ladders, Melbourne certainly has the ability to remain a clear contender, especially given the talent at their disposal with Mithen, Hore and Eden Zanker all making clear strides last season. But consistency means nothing though if there is no development, so fans will hope for another step forward this season.

QUESTION MARK

Realistically, the main question mark hovering over the Dees in 2021 is how they will fare after losing a heap of experience over the off-season. The loss of goalsneak Aliesha Newman was one thing, but former co-captain Elise O’Dea also departed the club for Carlton – as did Guerin, with both players looking for a fresh start – sees a loss of depth through the midfield and driving forward. Factor in the additional losses of stalwarts Bianca Jakobsson, Harriet Cordner and Kat Smith, and the Dees have quite a few significant holes to fill. 

FINAL WORD

The fact that they have been unable to go that one step further over the past few seasons could be detrimental to the side as it looks to navigate a new season with a flurry of new faces. That being said, the Dees no doubt have the talent at their disposal, but will just need to create some more consistency through a much younger midfield this season. Expect the hunger to well and truly be there after an incomplete season, and a competitive playing group in 2021.

Image Credit: Michael Willson via AFL Photos