Tag: mali mcleod

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 8 wrap – Power break drought as Thunder win at MARS

GIPPSLAND Power have finally broken through for their first win of the NAB League Girls season, meaning every side will finish 2021 with a victory. In other results, most of the finals-bound teams grabbed wins, as Geelong Falcons upset Oakleigh Chargers, and Northern Territory Thunder got a win over the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels.

EASTERN RANGES 0.0 | 3.3 | 6.5 | 9.5 (59)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 1.2 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 (10)

By: Declan Reeve

Eastern Ranges have continued their good form with a 49-point win against Sandringham Dragons at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve. The Dragons started the game well, holding the Ranges scoreless in the first quarter with some good defensive work and hardness in the middle, but from the second onwards the Ranges put their foot down and didn’t give Sandringham a sniff for the rest of the game, finishing 9.5 (59) to 1.4 (10) thanks to the efforts of multiple goal scorers Georgia Wilson (four) and Alyssia Pisano (three) in a rather clinical display for both.

Outside of Wilson and Pisano, the Ranges had some really good displays from Ruby O’Dwyer and Keeley Sherar in the midfield, with both particularly dangerous around stoppages, and reliable ball winner Bridget Deed winning plenty of it on the inside. Isabelle Khoury and Jorja Livingstone were the other main ball winners for the Ranges, with Khoury enjoying a move that saw her used more on the inside. 

Sandringham were admirable in the loss, with consistent ball winners Sofia Hurley and Emma Stuber again battling to get Sandringham clean possessions, winning it on the inside to get it out to the likes of Keely Coyne and Bridie Hipwell who both did a bit with it.

After the break of NAB League Girls action for the U19 National Championships, Eastern Ranges will finish their Home and Away season against the Northern Territory at Highgate Reserve on April 24, before heading into finals. Sandringham have the honour of playing on ANZAC Day against the Murray Bushrangers at Wangaratta Showgrounds.

GOALS:

Eastern: G. Wilson 4, A. Pisano 3, J. Vukic, J. Livingstone.
Sandringham: M. Mottram.

DC BEST:

Eastern: G. Wilson, I. Khoury, K. Sherar, A. Pisano, B. Deed, J. Livingstone
Sandringham: S. Hurley, E. Stuber, B. Hipwell, K. Coyne, E. Angelopoulos

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Georgia Wilson (Eastern Ranges)
4 – Isabelle Khoury (Eastern Ranges)
3 – Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)
2 – Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)
1 – Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

CALDER CANNONS 2.1 | 3.2 | 3.2 | 5.2 (32)
WESTERN JETS 0.2 | 0.6 | 1.8 | 2.9 (21)

By: Peter Williams

Calder Cannons secured their finals spot with a hard-earned 11-point win over the only challenger who could knock them from their spot in the Western Jets. The Jets had more than their fair share of forward half possession, and it reflected on the scoreboard with 11 scoring shots to seven. Unfortunately for the visitors, they could not convert those scores into goals, kicking six straight behinds in the first half until Caitlin Sargent finally slotted the Jets’ first. Whilst they kept the Cannons to just one goal in the middle two quarters, a costly 50-metre penalty allowed Alisa Magri to boot her second, and then Jessica Zakkour finished off the game with a goal to secure the 5.2 (32) to 2.9 (21) win.

Zali Friswell was really busy through midfield, as Tahlia Gillard offered herself up as an option in transition as well. Running hard on the wing, Mali McLeod found plenty of it, whilst Georgie Prespakis, Ruby Smith and Abbey McDonald were all really impressive. It was a team effort with Magri’s two goals and the mosquito fleet in the forward half creating the chances.

For Western, it was the usual suspects with Charlotte Baskaran and Montana Ham having the ball on a string. Jemima Woods showed some class in the midfield as well, while Paige Ryan and Stephanie Asciak also won plenty of the footy. Ciara Singleton and Krystal Russell were also influential around the ground.

Calder Cannons finished their NAB League Girls campaign up against Geelong Falcons, whilst the Jets lock horns with Bendigo Pioneers. The games were originally scheduled for Avalon Airport Oval, but that is yet to be confirmed.

GOALS:

Calder: A. Magri 2, Z. Friswell, G. Prespakis, J. Zakkour.
Western: C. Sargent, E. Tyson.

DC BEST:

Calder: Z. Friswell, T. Gillard, G. Prespakis, M. McLeod, A. McDonald
Western: C. Baskaran, J. Woods, M. Ham, K. Russell, C. Singleton

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)
4 – Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)
3 – Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)
2 – Jemima Woods (Western Jets)
1 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

TASMANIA DEVILS 1.4 | 2.4 | 3.6 | 6.8 (44)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 0.5 | 3.5 | 5.5 | 5.7 (37)

By Hamish Spence

A gutsy final quarter comeback from Tasmania Devils saw it prevail by seven points against the Northern Knights in Launceston. In a thrilling and tight contest, Tasmania overcame an 11-point deficit at three-quarter time to kick the last three goals of the game and keep Northern goalless in the last. The Knights cut the Devils up at times with their slick and fast ball-movement out of stoppages and going forward, including a burst at the start of the second quarter where they kicked three goals in five minutes. But Tasmania was always in the contest and put together a complete performance in the final term to come out on top.

Amy Bissett was the match-winner, with two of her three goals coming in the final quarter to get Tasmania the win. Perri King, Ella Maurer and Jemma Webster all had moments in the midfield, with Maurer standing out with the way she competed around stoppages when the Devils were behind. Charlotte Vandenberg won a game-high 26 hit outs and made a noticeable difference whenever she attended a ruck contest. Candice Belbin was one of the Devils’ primary movers out of the backline.

Maeve Chaplin, Ava Jordan, Teleah Smart and Maykaylah Appleby were all slick and dominant at times through the middle for Northern. Chaplin (26 disposals) and Jordan (25 disposals) were the two leading disposal getters on the ground, while Smart (two goals) and Appleby (one goal) made an impact on the scoreboard. Tannah Hurst continued her excellent season deep in defence, while Tarrah Delgado took advantage of some of the Devils’ shallow inside 50 entries with a game-high eight rebound 50s.

GOALS:

Tasmania: A. Bissett 3, T. Kikoak, G. Clark, S. Saward.
Northern: T. Smart 2, E. Smallacombe, M. Appleby, L. Jatczak.

DC BEST:

Tasmania: A. Bissett, E. Maurer, C. Belbin, C. Vandenberg, P. King, J. Webster
Northern: M. Chaplin, T. Smart, A. Jordan, M. Appleby, T. Hurst, T. Delgado

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Amy Bissett (Tasmania Devils)
4 – Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)
3 – Teleah Smart (Northern Knights)
2 – Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)
1 – Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

GEELONG FALCONS 1.2 | 4.4 | 4.4 | 5.4 (34)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.0 | 2.2 | 3.4 | 3.5 (23)

By: Declan Reeve

Oakleigh Chargers have lost their first game eight rounds into the season, with a strong Geelong Falcons outfit – which had a couple of key inclusions from the week prior – winning the midfield battle and keeping the pressure on the Chargers backline all day. They did most of the damage in an impressive second quarter display kicking 3.2 to just the 0.2 behinds from Oakleigh. The Falcons defence held up well in the second half despite a determined Oakleigh outfit, summing up a team effort well.

The Falcons engine duo of Poppy Schaap and Tess Craven worked really well throughout the day, often combining as a one-two punch from stoppages and getting it in deep, where Renee Tierney was involved in everything to create goals for her side. Down the other end Elizabeth Dowling and Annie Lee were constant obstacles for Chargers when they went forward.

Charlie Rowbottom managed to win the most ball of any Oakleigh player even with her increased time up forward, while Amanda Ling, Brooke Vickers and Charlotte Taylor the other ball winners in the midfield, as Erin Woodford put in a great defensive performance, and Stella Reid was good in multiple positions.

Round 9 will see the Geelong Falcons hosting Calder Cannons at a yet to be determined venue, whereas the Oakleigh Chargers know they will be hosting the Gippsland Power at Warrawee Park on the afternoon of Saturday April 24.

GOALS:

Geelong: M. Van Dyke 2, R. Tierney, G. Featherston, Z. Garth.
Oakleigh: S. Reid, S. Morley, C. Taylor.

DC BEST:

Geelong: P. Schapp, R. Tierney, T. Craven, E. Dowling, A. Lee
Oakleigh: C. Taylor, C. Rowbottom, E. Woodford, A. Ling, S. Reid

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Poppy Schapp (Geelong Falcons)
4 – Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)
3 – Charlotte Taylor (Oakleigh Chargers)
2 – Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
1 – Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers) 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.1 | 4.3 | 5.5 | 8.5 (53)
MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 0.1 | 0.1 | 0.3 | 1.4 (10)

By: Michael Alvaro

Dandenong Stingrays kicked off Sunday’s double-header at Trevor Barker Oval with a comfortable 43-point win over Murray Bushrangers. The finals-bound Stingrays were met by a competitive Bushies outfit, but ultimately outclassed their fellow country competitors with four goals in either half in a strong showing of their depth. Murray went goalless through the first three terms, but eventually got on the board through Olivia Cicolini in the 8.5 (53) to 1.4 (10) loss.

Speaking of goals, Georgia Malkoun was the standout forward with three, while also showcasing some outstanding aerial marking. Charley Ryan and Felicity Crank were other Stingrays to keep busy and hit the scoreboard, while the exploits of stand-in captain Emily Shepherd helped to break the game open during term two.

Murray ruck Ally Morphett was her side’s best and dominated the hitouts, with Keeley Skepper playing an important role on each line at ground level. Cicolini finished as the sole Bushranger to kick a major, but the likes of Madison Gray, Kaylea Kobzan, and Mikayla Jones all contributed strongly, along with tall defender Mindy Quade.

While Dandenong joins the remaining regions in enjoying a season intermission for the Under 19 National Championships, Murray will take on the Geelong Falcons on April 11 in a Round 2 make-up fixture. Meanwhile, Dandenong returns on April 24 for its Round 9 clash with the Northern Knights.

GOALS:

Dandenong: G. Malkoun 3, C. Ryan, H. Monk, E. Watts, F. Crank, C. Blair
Murray: O. Cicolini

DC BEST:

Dandenong: J. Radford, C. Ryan, G. Malkoun, E. Shepherd, F. Crank, C. Blair
Murray: A. Morphett, K. Skepper, M. Jones, M. Gray, K. Kobzan, O. Cicolini

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)
4 – Charley Ryan (Dandenong Stingrays)
3 – Georgia Malkoun (Dandenong Stingrays)
2 – Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)
1 – Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS 0.1 | 1.2 | 1.2 | 1.3 (9)
NORTHERN TERRITORY THUNDER 0.0 | 0.2 | 2.4 | 4.7 (31)

By: Peter Williams

Northern Territory Thunder players have gained extra confidence ahead of the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, knocking off the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels by 22 points at MARS Stadium on Sunday. The Thunder started slowly, trailing by a goal at the main break, but then managed to click into gear in the second half, booting 4.5 to 0.1, including two goals from talented youngster Ashanti Bush.

Bush was impressive up forward, while Freda Puruntatameri stepped up to one of the best out there. Having already had state representation experience, Bella Clarke kicked a goal and was consistent across the match, as J’Noemi Anderson joined her state after playing for the Oakleigh Chargers this season. Grace Mulvahil was another talented player who unsurprisingly stepped up to the level after a famed NTFL Women’s junior career.

Due to Vic Country’s clash next Friday, the Rebels were without a host of talented players, meaning others had to step up in their place. Lilli Condon has been getting it done regardless of who is around her, and she was a clear standout in defeat. Molly Walton continued her great form this year to be another impressive player and was right up there with Condon in outstanding honours, while Jorja Jones, Stephanie Glover and Stella Bridgewater were among some of the other players that stood out.

In Round 9, the GWV Rebels take on Tasmania Devils at Warrawee Park, while the Northern Territory Thunder face Eastern Ranges at Highgate Recreation Reserve.

GOALS:

GWV: S. Bridgewater.
NT Thunder: A. Bush 2, F. Puruntatameri, B. Clarke.

DC BEST:

GWV: L. Condon, M. Walton, S. Glover, J. Jones, S. Bridgewater
NT Thunder: F. Puruntatameri, B. Clarke A. Bush, G. Mulvahil, J. Anderson

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)
4 – LIlli Condon (GWV Rebels)
3 – Freda Puruntatameri (NT Thunder)
2 – Bella Clarke (NT Thunder)
1 – Ashanti Bush (NT Thunder)

BENDIGO PIONEERS 0.2 | 1.7 | 2.7 | 3.11 (29)
GIPPSLAND POWER 2.1 | 3.1 | 4.5 | 4.6 (30)

By: Michael Alvaro

Bendigo Pioneers were made to rue a raft of missed opportunities as they went down by a single point for the second week running, this time against Gippsland Power on Sunday. The 4.6 (30) to 3.11 (29) result from Trevor Barker Oval now sees every NAB League team boast a win in 2021, though the Power were made to earn it in dramatic fashion with the ball locked in Bendigo’s attacking 50 for nearly the entire final five minutes. Having looked off the pace in the face of Gippsland’s pressure, the Pioneers just fell short of a remarkable turnaround.

Draft Central Player of the Week nominee Matilda Van Berkel was an enormous presence in the winning side, impacting through the ruck and leaning on her physicality in an inspired performance. Alexei Guy-Toogood was a constant in defence, while Yasmin Duursma continued her good form in midfield among what was a valiant team effort.

Bendigo had its contributors too, with Jayda Richardson swinging back to provide a cool head and plenty of drive forward, while Octavia Di Donato came to life in the dying stages as the Pioneers’ intensity lifted. Drew Ryan was another to impress, with much of the Bendigo team beginning to believe after half time.

Both sides will look forward to a few week’s rest as the competition undergoes its intermission for the Under 19 National Championships. When Round 9 finally swings around, Bendigo will take on the Western Jets while Gippsland faces the league’s toughest assignment in the Oakleigh Chargers.

GOALS:

Bendigo: M. Elliott, S. Hooker, K. Fullerton
Gippsland: C. Bailey, P. Tracey, J. Sochackyj, I. Makai

DC BEST:

Bendigo: J. Richardson, D. Ryan, O. Di Donato, K. Fullarton, L. den Houting, M. Elliott
Gippsland: Ma. Van Berkel, A. Guy-Toogood, Y. Duursma, M. Gilmour, I. Makai, A. Molesworth

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power)
4 – Alexei Guy-Toogood (Gippsland Power)
3 – Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)
2 – Jayda Richardson (Bendigo Pioneers)
1 – Drew Ryan (Bendigo Pioneers)

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 7/2c/3b

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition treated us to an extended weekend of fixtures in Round 7. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

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

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#34 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)

A really lively performance from the Stingrays’ co-captain who booted two goals and was a clear driving force in the win. Not only did she snag the two majors, but she hit the post and kicked another behind to finish with 2.2 from four scoring shots, and plenty of creativity in the front half of the ground. She also rolled through the midfield at times, laying some fierce tackles and driving the ball forward to be outstanding across the four quarters.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looking dangerous every time she goes near the ball, Clarke goes from zero to 100 really quickly, and looks to play on every chance she gets. At times she could take a breather and take a set shot or go back to assess options, but she knows once she gets goalside no one will catch her. What she did so well in this game was not only hit the scoreboard (1.1) but also lay a remarkable amount of tackles (eight) and do as much work without the ball as with it.

#31 Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)

Played further up the ground more so than just stationed in the back half, Radford cracked in to compete for the hard ball and get it out of stoppages and going forward. As versatile as they come, and showed she could play through the midfield and win the ball with ease, she was a crucial link in transition moving the ball from half-back inside 50.

#38 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

Having a purple patch of late, stepping into the shoes of Emily Shepherd and being that strong inside midfielder despite standing at 167cm. She cracks in and laid a game-high 11 tackles, but as a kick-first player, she is one who also finds space around the ground, and on a night where marking the ball was difficult due to wind and the chilly conditions, Crank was able to provide an option, and she also worked hard both ways to win the ball in each third of the ground.

#21 Kiana Lynch (Sandringham Dragons)

Without Lynch in defence, the Dragons surely would have let through plenty more goals .The talented utility aided her side at ground level, applying defensive pressure through tackling and implied pressure, then driving the ball out of defence 10 times. She teamed up well with Abby Thompson and Ella Schiberras among others, but was utilised as the player to drive the ball in transition when coming out of the back 50.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Continued her rich vein of form with another good performance. She was impressive around the stoppages, winning the ball and trying to create some space. Whilst she was not afforded the same luxury as past weeks. she still did her bit, and also got her hands dirty with seven tackles. Given her clean ball use and ability to use her athleticism to advantage, she is hard to contain,

#20 Abby Thompson (Sandringham Dragons)

Kept the Stingrays forwards at bay for as long as she could, and worked well in tandem with the other defenders to drive the ball out of danger and repel the attacks. Whilst she was often found in contested situations, she was very good at keeping her cool and then clearing the ball to safety or gaining distance close to the line.

#22 Emma Stuber (Sandringham Dragons)

Played a solid four-quarter role across the match and was balanced between her offensive and defensive ability. She laid some great tackles, and also kept the ball moving in transition, finding herself as the recipient at half-back and getting it further afield. She ended up winning a lot of the all and was a crucial player for the Dragons on the night.

OTHERS:

Charley Ryan was superb across the night with her silky skills and footy IQ, while Charlotte Blair, Grace Chapman and Olivia Robinson all impressed for the Stingrays. Looking at the Dragons, Bridie Hipwell worked hard with Sascha Pribil, while Ebony Angelopoulos did well in midfield, and Pia Staltari played her role onball as well.

EASTERN RANGES vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Just at another level compared to anyone else around her, commanding a run with player around stoppages to try and negate her effectiveness, which she quickly figured out how to play against and continued doing ‘Georgie’ things. Played a much more kick happy game than we usually see from her which probably led to her being even more dangerous given her kicking skills, where she’d more often than not look to get the ball more central going forward. Had those moments again where she had just see the game in slow motion and work her way through contests or around opponents in situations where she just shouldn’t have been able to.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

As good as I have seen her this year, her work around the ground was really impressive, positioning behind the ball when she was in the ruck to be part of any contest that formed outside of the Cannons forward 50, and playing her role as a main target down forward really well, where she had always get front position in a contest to make it nearly impossible to stop her from holding the mark. I really like that she lowers the eyes going forward and tries to get it to teammates in better spots rather than taking 50/50 shots herself.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

Played really well in the ruck, winning more hitouts than losing for sure against a rucking division that runs deep. Her athleticism is obvious, and was highlighted at the first bounce of the game where she leapt much higher than 189cm Tahlia Gillard, winning the hitout without any trouble. She was good around the ground when she was near the ball and made everything difficult for her direct opponent, or for any opponent at ground level after a ruck contest. Unfortunately went off in the hands of the trainers early in the third quarter and took no further part in the game 

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

Possesses a really good burst of speed which makes her a very difficult matchup around stoppages, where she does her most damage by getting away from opponents and then delivering a kick forward. One that seems to enjoy initiating that contact on an opponent at a stoppage, giving her that advantage in those situations to push off and use that speed she has.

#5 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

Continued on from her high quality game against Gippsland to have a real impact up forward against a strong opposition side. Playing as more of a high half forward than a traditional KPF, she was busy in the forward half, being a good marking option for teammates and then delivering with class inside 50. Really high impact per disposal as well, and you can see that her team want the ball in her hands because of her ball use. I really liked her leading patterns for the game as well, where she would lead one way but change direction at the last second to catch her opponent off guard.

#25 Cadhla Schmidli (Eastern Ranges)

Held up really well against a side that uses the ball well going inside 50, and she’d just be there to cut off a lot of attacks really well. Often playing as the deepest defender, her read of the game and command of the backline was really good, and her ball use out of deep defense gave the Ranges the best chance to get out and start a dangerous counter attack. 

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Insanely smart in her forward craft, she understands her role exceptionally, hitting the front of packs with speed to pick up a spilled ball, or taking her opponent up field and beating them running back into the goal square, she’s just a delight to watch, with her creativity being a highlight. A particular instance to showcase this was when she was one-on-one inside 50 with Cannons defender Kasey Lennox, beating Lennox with her speed coming back towards goal and slotting it on the run, even taking a bounce under pressure, showing not only her forward craft but also her confidence in herself.

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Her most prolific game for the season, she continues to impress with her workrate and ability to impact in any situation she finds herself in, whether it be a contested ground ball, contested marking situation or running into space one-on-one, she just finds ways to win against any opponent. Her overhead marking for someone her height is super impressive and was a big part of Cannons fourth quarter surge, where she was able to cut off the rushed kicks from the Ranges defenders, then kick long back inside 50. 

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Had pretty much the perfect game for a half-back player, with her tendency to press up with the ball inside 50 playing a big part in Eastern’s ability to lock the ball inside their forward half. Really confident when she pushes up and attacks a contest or a loose ball, and composed with her kicking even under pressure, she was able to create from nothing for Eastern which made her a real danger in transition. Also impacted aerially where she could, which made it difficult, especially in the first three quarters, for Calder to get any dangerous shots on goal

#41 Grace Walsh (Eastern Ranges)

Another 2022-eligible defender from Eastern that really stood up and caused Calder a lot of issues, Walsh really made it difficult for the Calder talls to get any easy marks with her work one-on-one, able to spoil towards the boundary line and allow Eastern to reset. Was dangerous by foot coming out of defensive 50 as well, giving Eastern plenty of opportunities to counter attack.

OTHERS:

From the home side Zali Friswell again won plenty of it and tried to create where she could, with Mali McLeod continuing her solid body of work as a winger, really getting into the role and showing she’s starting to understand it well. Abbey McDonald and Kasey Lennox were solid in defense despite the loss, still stopping a few Eastern attacks. Eastern had plenty of contributors in the victory, with Ruby O’Dwyer and Bridget Deed winning plenty of it through the midfield. Winger Jorja Livingstone also won a bit of ball on the wing despite finding herself in one-on-one battles often, with Isabelle Khoury also doing some good things on the opposite wing. Cassy Wilsmore did well as a relieving ruck, then taking over when Campbell went off injured, keeping her opponents accountable for the game.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Had a hard day at the office with Dandenong not giving her an inch around the ground to do her usual stuff, so much so she finished the day with zero marks. Despite this, she still found ways to impact around the ground playing more like a smaller player for the day, winning ball on the inside around stoppages, or running past teammates to receive a handball and kick forward. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

#30 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

A good performance as she pushed further into the midfield than she usually plays, even getting herself on the scoreboard with an unlikely kick from 40 out, Di Donato was a threat around the ground all game, with her marking and class by foot really damaging and troubling the Stingrays throughout, especially in transition. What I liked most was that Di Donato was never not providing an option when Bendigo had the ball, she was always screaming for it, spreading across the ground for a switch option or leading straight at the ball carrier

#5 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)

As usual found the ball without much difficulty throughout the day around the midfield and stoppages, however she was also a marking threat around the ground, often positioning herself down the line from the play when Bendigo kicked it forward, just in case of return kick from Dandenong. Her kicking was also pretty good throughout the day, placing it to the advantage of team mates more often than not, allowing them to play on after marking it if they wanted to. 

#15 Drew Ryan (Bendigo Pioneers)

Played a vital role in between the arcs for Bendigo as an outside runner or switch kick option, often being the target of Bendigo transitioning outside of defensive 50 or being tasked with holding the ball up when outnumbered if Dandenong used her side of the ground, Ryan found ways to win the ball and get it going forward, also dropping back to assist the backline at times

#1 Lila Keck (Bendigo Pioneers)

Had the difficult task of playing on Amber Clarke when she was down forward, and the 15-year-old really gave Clarke a challenge, being able to match her for speed for most of the game and making it a real scrap when the ball was at ground level. It wasn’t all locking down for Keck though, as she offered a lot by foot around the ground as well.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

Provided a lot of spark around the ground for Dandenong, which came as no surprise, given her athleticism makes her such a difficult match up it was a real trouble for Bendigo to match her in the midfield. Up forward she did well to create opportunities for her teammates but often found herself in two-on-ones which made it difficult for her to get free and have a shot on goal. In the midfield her work around the ground was really good, showing a high workrate to get from contest to contest and continually impact the play. 

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Played the difficult matchup on Slender when she was in the forward line and held her really well, negating her aerial impact which no one has been able to do previously. A familiar sight throughout the season has been Hill streaming off the half-back line to meet a loose ball and kick it long forward, and it was once again crucial against Bendigo in repelling a lot of attacks, especially in the final quarter when the heat was really turned up. Hill was one that never wavered and kept the pressure up throughout the game.

#65 Olivia Robinson (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got herself into the midfield more than previous games and took the opportunity with both hands, playing a hybrid sort of role she proved she is as capable at getting in and winning a contested ball as she is as holding her space and receiving a handball on the outside. Managed to get herself on the scoreboard as well with a goal.

#5 Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got thrown into the forward line with great effect, providing an additional target to teammate Amber Clarke, giving Dandenong an extra avenue to goal she slotted 2 for the day, but her work around the forward half can’t be understated, with her kicking giving her teammates plenty of opportunities to score, and her presence demanding special Bendigo attention.

OTHERS:

The home side had a lot of contributors in the loss, with Scarlett Orritt, Jemma Finning and Jayda Richardson winning their fair share of the ball around the ground, getting Bendigo moving forward with their kicking. Bottom-aged defender Tegan Williams continues to be a reliable bookend for Bendigo as well. The Stingrays as usual put in a team effort, Olivia Laity and Felicity Crank winning a bit of ball between the midfield and forwardline, and Abbey Jordan and Eloise McCrae having various crucial plays in the defensive half of the ground, McCrae in particular stepping up in the final few minutes.

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

Had a fascinating tussle with Grace Matser as the pair showed off their respective abilities throughout the game. Whilst Matser won the honours around the ground, Morphett was strong in the ruck, and when going forward took a great one-on-one mark by reading the ball in flight in the goalsquare. She kicked truly and ensured she hit the scoreboard, making the most of limited possessions, with a higher impact as a target and using her body for defensive acts.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

The Draft Central Player of the Week was simply outstanding across the board, having the ball on a string in the first half. She won everything running along the wing, and used her pace to advantage to burst away from the stoppages and drive the ball forward. There was little time in between touches as she gathered a ton of them, and whilst she might have had less in the second half, still stepped up for some memorable moments in a clear best on ground performance, providing both defensive and offensive highlights.

#46 Zara Hamilton (Murray Bushrangers)

Located on the other wing, Hamilton did a lot of running throughout the game, winning the ball in each third of the ground and teamed up well with Smith in bringing the ball forward in transition. As a taller player she is strong in the marking contest, and was able to position herself well when drifting forward as well. Sometimes too far out to score, Hamilton set the ball up for scoring opportunities to teammates inside 50, and was a driving force in the win.

#3 India Lehman (Murray Bushrangers)

Casually went about her business in a four-quarter effort and provided some great run on the outside. Standing at just 162cm, Lehman returned from the GIANTS Academy last week to put up her standout performance of the season. With a tendency to break the lines and work well with Smith and Hamilton in transition, she was one who was memorable for her consistent output throughout the match.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

Did a bit of everything throughout the match, and while her offensive and defensive traits are usually on display, she had a few memorable moments. The best was her last quarter mark, which came with the clock winding down and the game over, but showed her courage to intercept in defence and stop a potential Gippsland Power set shot. No one would have blamed her for not putting her body on the line, but the courage was terrific, and her passion – which included a fierce return of the ball to the boundary umpire when she believed she had kept it in during the same quarter – was great.

#35 Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power)

As solid as a rock and with others sore towards the end of the game, was almost single-handedly pulling down anything in her way. Often on the last line of defence, her last quarter in particular was outstanding, and her contested marking – which was clean – and defensive position were standout traits. She had a massive eight rebound 50s for the game, and it is easy to see why she was the Power’s best, holding up the fort throughout four quarters with a consistent impact.

#25 Lily-Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)

A sore back could not even contain the talented bottom-ager whose full athleticism and power was on display throughout the match. Providing great run out of defence in a role she has made her own, Williamson reads the ball well in the back 50, then sees the ball and steamrolls anyone in her way. One of the cleanest fend-offs of all time in the fourth term – with Lily Sharp being the unfortunate recipient – was unbelievable. She has a knack of either evading people or just running straight through them, and is able to use the ball well with a powerful kick, which makes her so damaging.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

A really classy game from the left-footer who was silky smooth in midfield. She won a lot of the ball and most importantly used it well, sidestepping opponents and creating space for herself to work in. Whilst she has been building that football understanding over the season, this was her best game of the year, and she was quite a handful for the Bushrangers midfielders, as she was not only able to win the ball, but utilise her kicking.

#40 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)

The ruck did really well around the ground and finds plenty of the ball for a taller player, not afraid to be used in transition. Her contested marking is still a work in progress, but what she does well is her second efforts and ground level work, where she can be quick to aide teammates. Her work rate is high and she can win the ball across all thirds of the ground, and works over her opponents who often have to rotate in and out to match her.

OTHERS:

Murray Bushrangers’ Molly Kennedy was fierce with her tackling and won plenty of the ball in close, as did Kristy Whitehead, while up forward Lily Sharp and Olivia Cicolini both snagged two goals. For Gippsland Power, Molly Van Berkel helped out her sister in defence, while Grace McRae, Hayley Woolfe and Paris Tracey worked hard in transition.

 

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#26 Chloe Saultry (Sandringham Dragons)

Returned to the side for the match and was rock solid in defence, repelling everything she could during important moments. With a slippery ball and others nervous under pressure, Saultry settled down the defence, and was a great intercept marker and rebounder throughout the match. She did get caught once trying to get out of the back 50, but she played a consistent match throughout the four quarters and was a star for the side in the narrow loss.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Played wet weather football, and while it was not her cleanest game by any means, she was important in just seeing ball, winning ball and driving ball forward. Of her 20 touches, 19 were kicks so she had less time and less instinct to use the ball by hand, and instead just bomb it forward to best help her side. She had plenty of inside 50s and rebound 50s throughout hte match which supported her work rate and ground coverage, whilst the wet conditions allowed her to bury in and lay a number of fierce tackles in close to lock the ball away.

#30 Pia Staltari (Sandringham Dragons)

In a game that was always going to be scrappy given the conditions, Staltari provided the highlight of the game in the second term. Tucked up tight against the boundary line, Staltari kicked a remarkable goal that sailed home to get the Dragons on the board. All in all she played a consistent game, but it was the important goal that kept the Dragons in the contest and ensured they did not go another half without a goal.

#2 Keeley Coyne (Sandringham Dragons)

Provided a mix of run and defensive pressure, the talented outside mover got her hands dirty in close with eight tackles. She managed to thrive in the wet and won the ball in close, often giving it off by hand to move it forward, or kick into space for teammates to work with. In what was a pretty even performance across the board, Coyne played her role and impressed throughout the game.

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Had the ball on a string and showed composure throughout the match. Her elite kicking skills were on show as the game went on after the rare turnover early in the match, with Baskaran ending up accumulating a massive 28 touches across the four quarters. She also laid seven tackles and then drove the ball out of defence and got it forward to set up scoring opportunities in a really complete performance. She did not have as much time and space as she was used to by going on-ball, but she kept working hard throughout the game, and it was fitting that she took the last mark of the match to have the ball when the siren sounded.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

Racked up clearance after clearance and bombed the ball from stoppages after taking a few steps to find the space. She worked well with Baskaran in the midfield to win plenty of the footy, and also lay some big tackles throughout the match and be a standout performer for the Jets. Always having to fight for the hard ball in close, Ham was one who took time off the clock late before the siren in a smart move, which came after she desperately took a sliding mark at half-back.

#42 Jemima Woods (Western Jets)

Building some nice form over the past few weeks, Woods provided a target up forward and pushed right up the ground to win the ball in midfield and drive it forward herself. Even winning the ball in the back 50 at one stage, Woods was a livewire across the field, and was a four-quarter performer. She kicked the Jets’ second goal from a set shot just to give them some breathing space again, and always looked dangerous near the ball.

#29 Kiera Leare (Western Jets)

In wet conditions, Leare did what any forward should do when under pressure in the goalsquare and just boot it off the deck, which she did to great effect. Kicking the Jets’ first goal through opportunistic circumstances, Leare got her team on the board and then proceeded to be busy throughout the game, having far more impact than her eight touches might suggest. She held up an opponent late in the game to knock her off balance, which helped the side hold on for the win.

OTHERS:

Kiera Whiley laid a match-winning tackle in the last minute of the game, Leah Spargo was sensational in defence, Krystal Russell controlled the ruck with 28 hitouts and Paige Ryan stepped up to midfield for the Jets. Charlotte Ryan, Emma Stuber and Summer Trim all had impressive performances, while Bridie Hipwell and Ebony Angelopoulos also had their moments.

EASTERN RANGES vs. TASMANIA DEVILS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

Had another prominent game in the midfield to continue her great form this season, not only known for her athleticism, but her tackling too. On this occasion she laid a game-high 13 tackles – four more than any other player on the ground – and was consistent in trying to drive the ball forward out of congestion time and time again to be a top player on the day.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Clean and and classy, the bottom-age talent thrived in the wet to play another outstanding game. Whilst her consistency is still building with some up and down games, when needed she has the capacity to really turn it on and provide great running out of the back 50 and drive it forward. Definitely a kick-first players, Busch also mopped up in defence with eight rebounds, mimicking her effort against the Western Jets in Round 1 where she was outstanding, with the two games over the weekend the best of her season thus far.

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

Had a game-high 25 touches and kept bullocking away at the stoppages with some fierce intent. A four-quarter performer who rarely waivers in her consistency to get to the right ball-winning spots, Deed stepped up in the final term to put the nail in the coffin with a last quarter goal to settle the nerves and ensure the points were heading back to Kilsyth.

#21 Ruby O’Dwyer (Eastern Ranges)

A promising game playing through the midfield to find space in the forward half and take a game-high six marks. She also won plenty of the pill through her work rate, and would drive the ball forward to help her side, Another player suited to the wet-weather style, O’Dwyer played an on-brand wet weather game with her kicking forward.

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

The classy left-footer just pops up when required, kicking important goals in the first and third terms to finish with couple of majors yet again. Having do to the work primarily at ground level, the dangerous Pisano kept up her streak of six games hitting the scoreboard, to take her total to 12 for the year in an outstanding debut season for the 15-year-old. Just so clean and ability to create something out of nothing.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

The Devils’ best and has had a real purple patch over the last few matches after promising signs early in the season. Won more of the ball in close and was clean with it, recording more handballs than kicks for only the second time this season as she looks to have a big influence through the midfield. Her running game was still on show, but for a player who get work hard to get to the outside, Webster has plenty of defensive attributes including her kicking where she laid another six tackles.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

No matter how many times she finds the ball, Ransom is just an eye-catching player. Clean and composed with ball-in-hand she can play in the dry or wet with the same impact. She has the athletic traits to burst out of a stoppage and drive the ball forward, but also can drop back and rebound the ball out of the defensive 50. Not as many disposals as she has some weeks but she makes the most of it when she does win it.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

A player with whom that you know exactly what you are going to get week-in, week-out. With her hard running and work rate a clear standout not only in her game, but across teh board, Gaffney worked hard to mop up in defence, then drive the ball forward with a kick-first mentality. In wet weather conditions, Gaffney was able to find her consistent amount of ball once again and keep her side in contention with her movement in transition.

OTHERS:

Ella Maurer again brought a ray of consistency to the Devils’ side, with Brianna Oates moving the ball well in transition. Jemma Blair and Olivia Smith also provided good run out of defence and through the middle, while Shania Saward laid an impressive eight tackles. For the Ranges, Matilda Hardy was among the most prominent players with a goal and finding plenty of the ball pushing up the ground, whilst the clean and athletic Jorja Livingstone had all kicks from her 15 touches in another strong game, and the likes of Keeley Sherar, Jade Hutchinson and Sarah Humm brought the heat, and Eloise Chaston booted a goal and looked strong up forward.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Did not necessarily have the biggest numbers, but played a really good game, where her strengths shined when given the opportunity. Her marking was particularly impressive, punishing the Falcons for a few missed kicks when they attempted to switch the ball, where she’d take the grab and then go for a quick run and deliver long forward. Had a real highlight reel moment when she got onto the end of a Riley Wilcox handball in the centre of the ground, went for a two-bounce run and slotted a goal in the third quarter, again utilising her elite speed and really good kick. 

TOP PERFORMERS:  

#4 Poppy Schapp (Geelong Falcons)

Nice bit of speed around the ground when she can it going, however with the congested style Northern forced on Geelong when they had the ball it was hard for her to showcase.  Plays her role as a hybrid sort really well, especially when she’s receiving a handball from a first possession winner and using her kick to get it going forward, she just looks hard to stop in those situations.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Consistent throughout the game with her attack on the footy and then follow up ball use, it’s no surprise she’s one of the leading ball winners this season. Reads the ball off the rucks hands really well which made her dangerous, particularly as the game went on and others started to tire out a bit more. I really liked her decision making with the ball, often looking to use the width of the ground and switch the ball rather than bombing down the line like most Falcons players seemed to do as the pressure built more and more.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Reliable in the backline for the last three quarters after starting on the wing, she was really strong aerially and made Northern switch up their style going inside 50 purely because she was just picking off entries for fun in the second and third quarters. Understands the game well with her positioning, so she is always around where the ball is going to be in defensive 50. Took all the kick outs for the day where she often had the right idea, but sometimes her teammates could not compete in the air or were outnumbered, but then started taking some less obvious options in the fourth quarter which saw Geelong move it out of defense with more effect.

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Played with a lot of confidence in her ability on the inside, which comes as no surprise, but to be straight back into it after some time off due to injury was impressive. Seemed to have a bit more of a focus on bringing other teammates into the game with her favouring the handball rather than kicking long which was a nice element to see of her game, and the Knights looked better off overall as a team for it. Seeing her previously play as someone that runs through packs to win the ball it was interesting to see that she appeared more agile and composed today, rather than using her strength she was using her footy IQ to get the ball out of packs, allowing her to deliver better quality disposals to teammates .

#37 Riley Wilcox (Northern Knights)

Showed off a really impressive workrate throughout the game, as she was never really starting any centre bounces or stoppages as a midfielder but she was getting involved everywhere around the ground, getting involved in a lot of handball chains especially in the middle of the ground or around the forward 50 mark, one of which preceded an impressive goal from teammate Maykaylah Appleby and the handball was perfect, put just in front of the already full pace Appleby, which showed that Wilcox’s disposal is measured and planned rather than just handballing to the first jumper she sees. Set up a couple of good set shots as well instead of blazing away and going for a goal, so that teamwork sense is there and fairly natural. 

 #40 Tannah Hurst (Northern Knights)

Solid in defense all day on the occasion it came down, that’s nothing particularly new for her, what really impressed was here impact moving up the ground when there wasn’t a threat of a Falcons score. She was positioning herself well behind the ball, taking some really good marks to keep the pressure on the Falcons and stop possible counter attacks, then moving the ball forward well to her forwards. 

#4 Brooke Plummer (Northern Knights)

Really been a consistent piece of the Knights midfield slotting onto the wing opposite Appleby, and her impact during the game was felt, showing off her ability to run both ways by helping out in defense, even as a spare at some stages, and then pushing up to get the ball and hit a leading forward target, her kicking is just so dangerous. I really like that she can mix it between really bulleting a kick, or softly placing it in front of a leading target, catering to different situations well.

OTHERS:

Despite the loss, the Falcons backline had some impressive contributors that were really hard to get past, particularly in the first half, with bottom aged pair Mackenzie McGrath and Taiya Morrow being the two main ones, as well as Elizabeth Dowling who was superb in the first quarter in particular. Zoe Garth also fought hard on the wing, despite finding herself outnumbered more often than not. Gulia Ceravolo and Tarrah Delgado both won a lot of it in the defensive half, with Delgado even sneaking into the midfield for the final quarter. Teleah Smart provided as an option around the ground well and won a bit of it on the outside.

GWV REBELS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Tried in a few different roles of late, Friend found herself stationed on a wing for most of the match before shuffling back to defence in the final term. The tall prospect competed well at ground level and while her hands were not always as clean as usual, Friend was able to impact some key loose balls. She also did well to float across and take a couple of handy intercept marks, with her only real aerial fly coming on the forward 50 arc in term one.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Before limping off in the hands of trainers late in the game, Dojiok enjoyed another terrific outing. The tall defender has a rare combination of size and athleticism, which again came to the fore in her many rebounding forays. She consistently backed herself to take aggressive positions across the backline and attack the ball when it came her way, instead of worrying about what her direct opponent was doing. As a result, she cut off a great number of Oakleigh attacks both in the air and at ground level. The final piece of the puzzle will be to sharpen her execution by foot, particularly on the run as she so often finds herself. A top performance nonetheless.

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Rowbottom spent a good amount of time deep forward and could very easily have ended up with three goals, instead of just one. She scuppered a couple of golden opportunities in the first term close to goal, but maintained her presence and even seemed to lift in intensity as the game wore on. She got her major score in the second quarter after clunking a trademark one-on-one grab, having already set up a teammate minutes earlier. In her work up the ground, Rowbottom’s physicality was evident as she repeatedly bullied her opponents around the contest and backed herself to muscle through or around would-be tacklers. Not a massive game numbers-wise, but she was impactful when called upon.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

As is always the case, Condon showcased a remarkable work-rate from midfield to not only find the ball herself, but to also impact with tenacious tackling which defies her size. The diminutive ball winner seems to accumulate at will, credit mostly to her running ability and repeat efforts at ground level. One play perfectly captured Condon’s attitude and desire to compete; when she was beaten in a one-on-one marking contest, but kept her head in the game to smother the resultant kick. Distance and damage in her kicking are areas of growth, but would only add to her sound acumen on the inside.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Leonard was afforded a wealth of midfield minutes and took the opportunity well, translating her ball winning ability and tackling pressure to the centre bounces. When she wasn’t winning her own ball, the experienced Rebel laid a number of big tackles to lock the ball in or prevent Oakleigh from getting the ball to the outside. She also chimed in with a couple of quality marks in defensive 50, with one going back with the flight of the ball particularly impressive. A cool head across the ground, Leonard was one of her side’s top performers.

#27 Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)

The bottom-age defender played an important role in defence for GWV, especially given how much time the ball spent in the Rebels’ own half. Stationed deep for most of the day, Walton was entrusted with the kick-in duties and patrolled the last line with aplomb. There were a few nervy moments and fumbles in key areas, but she competed well against quality opposition for the most part. Having matched up one-out on Rowbottom for a short period, the learnings from this game would have been great for the budding prospect.

#5 Mia Clift (Oakleigh Chargers)

Clift played an underrated role in the Chargers’ defence, tasked with matching up on fellow number five, Paige Scott. She has already proven able to take on such lockdown roles, and did well to subdue the impact of GWV’s forwards throughout the day. While she does have the defensive acumen, Clift can also make her mark on the rebound but looked to play a team game in this outing and was solid.

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

One of Oakleigh’s best in the win, Vickers was able to showcase even more of her offensive capabilities as she moved up from half-back to play on the wing. Often opposed to Friend, Vickers more than held her own and backed herself to get into aggressive attacking positions. She has a knack of finding space to receive and reads the play well to do so, allowing her to then provide run-and-carry down the line. While Vickers’ forward momentum is invaluable, she was still able to win the hard ball and contribute defensive acts, such as a magnificent aerial spoil in the third quarter. She capped off her game with arguably the goal of the day in term four, competing in the air before weaving around an opponent and slotting the ball home.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Reid’s level of consistency in a ball winning sense has been outstanding throughout the season, and it was no different in this game. She just seems to pop up everywhere and can play on just about every line, as she proved during a wealth of time up forward here. Her ability to present and offer a marking target was terrific, offering another string to her bow while still impacting at the contest and willing the ball forward via her left boot. Her footy smarts were also on show in a variety of little instances; she was one of the only players to properly judge the wind while taking a set shot at goal, resulting in a major score and unfortunate poster, while pinning her opponents’ arms in tackles to lock the ball in proved another clever act. She still seems most comfortable in space, but has a crack and impacts in each role she is given.

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Perhaps one of Oakleigh’s more unheralded midfielders, Ling was as busy as anyone afield in this game. She was involved from the get-go, battling hard at ground level and covering the ground well to win a heap of ball in all areas. Her accumulative factor was high, and Ling was able to find more possessions on the outside in this outing which allowed her to make a greater impact going forward. Despite her size, she also pulled off a couple of handy aerial feats, including a nice overhead mark during the third term. Solid as ever, and a key part of this star-studded side.

OTHERS:

Kalani Scoullar has proven a real problem for opposition rucks of late and dominated the hitouts once again for GWV, while also digging in for a few nice tackling efforts. Paige Scott was dangerous in patches and impressed with her vigour, while Olivia Leonard also got her hands dirty in defence for the Rebels. Charlotte Van der Vlies was again impactful on a wing for Oakleigh, as Lily Hart played her role in midfield and Tayla Morton set the tone up forward.

NAB League Girls Round 3 preview: Teams return after quick fixture switch

A SNAP lockdown and subsequent quick team swap later, and the NAB League Girls competition is set to return tomorrow for Round 3 of action. The Round 2 matches have been postponed, though with the border restrictions coming into play and 14 days quarantine required for any person from Victoria to enter Tasmania, it meant the Devils could not play their road trip against Eastern Ranges. Instead the Ranges will suit up as if Round 2 had have gone ahead, playing Gippsland Power, albeit as a home game at Kilsyth rather than on the road at Morwell East.

CALDER CANNONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, February 20 @ 10am
Highgate Recreation Reserve, Craigieburn

First up in Round 3 is a battle of two heavyweights who are considered serious title contenders in the NAB League Girls competition. Calder Cannons have an array of talent from AFL Women’s Academy members to talls and smalls who provide balanced depth across the field. Oakleigh Chargers also have great depth, and disposed of the Northern Knights quite easily in Round 1, showing off a number of young players who stepped up to the mark. Both these teams head in off the back of a win following the Cannons’ strong second half showing against the Dragons a fortnight ago.

The onball matchups could be where the game is won and lost with AFL Women’s Academy members, Tahlia Gillard and Georgie Prespakis, as well as talented ball-winner Emelia Yassir named for the Cannons there. Ameille Smith – who snagged three goals on debut up forward last week –  has a massive task up against Gillard, while Amanda Ling and Charlie Rowbottom make it a dream contested bout. The potential matchup between Rowbottom and Prespakis in particular will catch eyes as two of the top Vic Metro prospects going head-to-head.

Outside the midfield, both teams have plenty of depth, with Stella Reid having an outstanding game in Round 1, playing off a wing but able to float back to half-back and assist there. She takes on Mali McLeod who is one of a number of Cannons with plenty of talent, such as the key defence post of Kasey Lennox and Neve Crowley. With Oakleigh having dangerous smaller forwards such as Taylah Morton and Jorja Jackson inside 50, the ball entry could be key as to how the game pans out.

In Round 1, Oakleigh proved the second most efficient with ball-in-hand, averaging 22 disposals and four inside 50s per goal in the Chargers’ win over the Knights. Calder adopted a handball-oriented style against Sandringham, with the teams two of the top three with lowest kick-to-handball ratio. Defensively the Cannons hit the contest hard, ranked third overall for tackles in Round 1 – laying 92 tackles – while the Chargers produced just the 50 as they played some impressive disposal-footy to keep the ball off their opponents and use their outside run.

This game will be more contested, but it will be particularly interesting to see which team can get the game on their teams for longer. Both have an abundance of talent, and it sets up as a potentials finals preview.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, February 20 @ 10am
Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve, Bendigo

Heading further north, a double-header at Epsom Huntly Reserve in Bendigo takes place for four of the country teams to do battle. In the first game, Bendigo Pioneers and Geelong Falcons lock horns in a chance to start the 2021 season with a 2-0 record. The Pioneers came to play on the border up against Murray Bushrangers, taking care of business by 16 points, while Geelong Falcons ground out a win against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at Deakin University on the Sunday, in what was an entertaining contest.

What Round 1 showed is both these teams can find their own footy, with Geelong ranked first overall for disposals and handballs, while Bendigo ranked first for kicks. The Pioneers adopted a kick-dominant style, where they produced 104 more kicks than handballs for a competition-high 73.6 per cent kick-to-handball ratio. The Falcons were lower at 61.1 per cent, but they balanced their style, also ranking second for kicks behind the Pioneers for the round. Both the teams also impressed in the air, with the Falcons ranking first for marks, and Bendigo third, while they were also top five for tackles. Bendigo was the only side to finish the round top five in both inside 50s and rebounds, while Geelong really took control in the ruck, ranked in the top five for hitouts, with Bendigo lowly in that area.

This week it will be Madeline Marks‘ chance to arrest some of that Falcons’ dominance in the ruck, coming up against Keeley Hardingham who got first hands to it against the GWV Rebels in Round 1, teaming up well with Analea McKee as both combined for 31 hitouts. Marks and Jayda Richardson did the majority of the ruck work for the Pioneers, having stiff opposition in Bushrangers talent and AFL Women’s Academy member, Ally Morphett. Also roaming around in the midfield with some experience are the likes of Elizabeth Snell and Lily den Houting, while fellow top-age returnee Jemma Finning can roll through the midfield too after coming off half-back. The Falcons shone bright on ball last week, with Tess Craven and Poppy Schaap racking up a truckload of the ball, as did the versatile Charlotte Simpson.

Ingrid Houtsma has been named on a wing after playing both centre half-forward and centre half-back in Round 1, showing off her versatility as a taller player. The Geelong forward dynamic is really damaging, with captain Lucy Were, contested marking specialist Renee Tierney, and the quick Gabbi Featherston all offering different aspects to the front six. One key player who could assist at either end not named is Tara Slender, with the AFL Women’s Academy player missing for Round 3. Instead the younger Pioneers will be required to step up, with bottom-agers Tegan Williams and Octavia Di Donato providing good rebound. Lila Keck showed some promising signs in Round 1, and the forward line of the Pioneers will come up against the likes of Elizabeth Dowling and Annie Lee who both impressed in Round 1.

Geelong Falcons have a well-balanced side and would be tipped to win here, especially with Bendigo missing Slender. Though based on Round 1, the Pioneers will put it up to the Falcons and do have the home ground advantage.

EASTERN RANGES vs, GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, February 20 @ 12pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve, Kilsyth

One of the few teams to actually be benefited from the Round 2 bye was Gippsland Power, with ruck Grace Matser – injured in the first round – not named for Round 2 against Eastern Ranges, but a week later and the talented tall is ready to go in the Kilsyth clash which is crucial coming up against the talented Georgia Campbell. The Power were a bit rusty up against a Tasmania Devils side that was structured and ruthless credit to a few less restrictions over the past 12 months, while the Ranges showed just how good they could be with transition, conceding the most inside 50s to the Jets (33), but only conceding the one goal.

The Ranges defence held up well, with Mia Busch and Cadhla Schmidli both starring in the back six, rebounding and running it out to form a formidable combination back there. Grace McRae was the sole goalkicker for the Power in Round 1 and she is tough to match up on be it in the midfield or forward line with her strength and one-on-one ability. Leesa Guastella has been named as a forward target this round, and Matilda Van Berkel showed she could do it all from key forward option to stand-in ruck after Matser’s injury, but has been named in defence this round.

Further up the ground, both teams have some speed with Sunday Brisbane winning plenty of it and showing her bursts coming off half-back and along the wing, with Poppi Fleming providing run on the other wing. With Jorja Livingstone being one of the top outside ball movers in the competition, the Power will look to provide their own run out there. Inside the battle between McRae and Olivia Meagher could be a great one as two top-age hardnuts battle it out. Isabelle Khoury and Bridget Deed will also lock horns with Lily-Rose Williamson and Yasmin Duursma in midfield, which promises to be a fantastic battle. Up forward, Scarlett Potter, Matilda Hardy and Alyssia Pisano are among the goal threats for Eastern, whilst the likes of Holly Booth, Van Berkel and Taylah Bourne will look to contain them.

Eastern Ranges will be favourites heading into the Round 3 clash after their impressive win in Round 1, but the Power showed they could match it with sides for long periods of time, and always gave it a crack for four quarters.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 20 @ 12pm
Bluescope Steel Centre, Hastings

When talking about long breaks, look no further than Dandenong Stingrays, who, after already having 11 months off and then an extra week due to the bye, postponed their first match back in 2021 until Round 3 of the competition. The Stingrays finally are able to run out in the NAB League Girls, hosting a Western Jets side no doubt determined to capitalise on their opportunities when they meet in Hastings. The Jets recorded the most inside 50s of any side in Round 1 (33), but could only muster the one goal. It did show their midfield has the capacity to take control and run the ball forward, giving their front six the best chance to put scores on the board.

Delivery inside 50 will be crucial against arguably the best defence in the competition. Top-ager Zoe Hill and bottom-ager Mackenzie Eardley are strong in the air and provide a contest when the ball gets to ground. Both players will cause headaches for the opposition, with Western’s sole goalkicker in Round 1 – Jemima Woods – set to do battle with Vic Country representative, Hill. Also back there for the Stingrays are Jaide Anthony and Brooke Smith who have the versatility to push up the ground as well. Caitlin Sargent adds another target for the Jets against the stringent defence.

Western’s strength lies in its midfield and ball movement down the field with Charlotte Baskaran having a field day to earn our Draft Central Player of the Week nod after a sensational 28-disposal game on the wing. Teaming up with fellow bottom-ager Montana Ham, the Jets have some serious talent and kicking ability, to try and pinpoint targets inside 50. Trinity Skenderis and Leah Spargo also provide some hardness on the inside, while the Stingrays have Ashleigh Richards and Emily Shepherd who know how to win the contested ball then spread to the outside, whilst also not forgetting the speed of Abbey Jordan who will be playing a new role on the inside this season.

This match is set to be a cracker, and the Jets will want to get off to a strong start having the match practice in, but the Stingrays will be hungry after an extended break on top of the already unimaginable period away from football. Dandenong is one of the challengers for the title so should be favourites, though the game is set to be one of the matches of the round.

GWV REBELS vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Saturday, February 20 @ 12pm
Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve, Bendigo

In the second game of a double-header at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve, the GWV Rebels take on Murray Bushrangers in a battle of two Round 1 losers. The Rebels were gallant in defeat, in a match that could have gone either way against one of the top teams going around in Geelong Falcons, while the young Bushrangers, with a number of debutants and bottom-agers, fell to Bendigo Pioneers at Yarrawonga. For at least one of these teams, they will break the duck and get their first points, and it sets up for a fascinating contest.

The Rebels showed last week they are focusing on a kick-first mentality, finishing Round 1 with a no-nonsense 73 per cent kick-to-handball ratio. Despite being well beaten in disposals, the Rebels only had five less inside 50s, and had four more rebounds. They averaged around 44 disposals per goal, and 6.8 inside 50s, which is still fairly strong across the board. Murray were good defensively with their rebounding and holding up, they were just beaten in disposals, and out-tackled with the Pioneers laying 90 tackles to 55. Having had that experience in the bank, expect the Bushrangers to come out fierce in this one.

Morphett will look to take full control when in the ruck for the Bushrangers, who have a hardened midfield group. Bottom-ager Keeley Skeeper and Mikayla Jones will go head-to-head against the smooth-moving Nyakoat Dojiok and hard nut Lilli Condon for this match, while Aurora Smith and Zara Hamilton will look to control the wings for the Bushrangers. Ella Friend is the danger for the Bushrangers’ defence, with Molly Kennedy named as her direct opponent to start, though the contested marking talent is hard to beat in the air or at ground level. Mindy Quade and Chloe Locke are among a host of defence-first Bushrangers who provide rebound as well, while up the other end, Kate Adams and Kristy Whitehead provide some experience, as does Lily Sharp who has been named at full-forward. The battle at half-forward between Adams and Chloe Leonard, and Whitehead and Molly Walton could be some of the best on the ground, with the two Rebels players their best last week.

GWV Rebels were arguably the best of the losing sides from Round 1, so should be favourites here with a great mix of talents across the ground. The Bushrangers have some great youngsters coming through, and will get better with every game.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Sunday, February 21 @ 10am
Trevor Barker Beach Oval, Sandringham

The standalone Sunday game is also between two sides that tasted defeat in Round 1, with Sandringham Dragons and Northern Knights doing battle at Trevor Barker Beach Oval. The Dragons went down to Calder after a good defensive showing in the first half, while the Knights lost their first game since the 2018 grand final, heavily beaten by Oakleigh Chargers in the second game of a double-header at Craigieburn.

In those matches, both teams were beaten statistically, though the Dragons did rank fourth in handballs for the round, and recorded the highest handball-to-kick ratio across the competition of 45.7 per cent. The Knights just could not get the ball inside 50, with just 16 entries, whilst the Dragons had their chances, but the Cannons defence proved up to the task. One area where the Knights are likely to have the advantage is in the hitouts, where Georgia Kitchell stood up well to help her side to rank first overall for Round 1, whilst the team also finished third in the rebounds.

Sandringham will still be without Bridie Hipwell who was injured in the first round, though is not too far away from returning to the action. The Dragons do get back a talented runner though, with Tayla Jones coming into the side after missing Round 1. She could go head-to-head with either AFL Women’s Academy member Maykaylah Appleby, or Brooke Plummer who provided some much needed run on the other wing. The Knights defence was one aspect that never gave in through the Round 1 loss, and led by Tarrah Delgado – who was a standout talent – and Maeve Chaplin – who provided run across the ground – will be key players once again. A battle between Delgado and Charli Murphy could be a great one to watch with the key forward starved of too many chances from the first match, whilst Keely Coyne stood out across half-forward on debut. Pia Staltari and Emma Stuber coming off half-back and Sofia Hurley through the midfield are among some other Dragons who could be key players in the game.

Both these teams will be hungry for a win, and going off Round 1 form, Sandringham have the upper hand. The Knights will be keen to bounce back from a rare loss and should take control in the ruck, but it will be the midfield where the game is won and lost.

2021 NAB League Girls: 6 Memorable Moments – Round 1

THE NAB League Girls competition returned in a big way on the weekend, with six games throwing up a mixed bag of results and plenty of memorable moments. In a new weekly series as part of Draft Central’s ever-expanding pathways coverage, we take a look at the top moments from each match – whether they be game-defining feats, big marks, glorious goals, or otherwise. There was plenty of eye-catching action in Round 1, as the best Victorian girls hit the ground running after 11 months away from competitive football.

Eastern Ranges vs. Western Jets

Baskaran kicks off the season in style

Perhaps not a single moment, but a collection of them to start off. While her Western Jets may not have achieved the desired result, Charlotte Baskaran was in fine form in the season’s opening fixture. The 16-year-old accumulated a round-high 28 disposals, but the more remarkable feat was that 23 of them were kicks. A typically classy user of the ball on both sides, Baskaran penetrated the forward 50 eight times and rebounded thrice. Given the damage she can do with more modest numbers, it made for an impactful outing in a team which was held goalless for three quarters and went down by 21 points.

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers

Damaging duo snags four majors in 12 minutes

It only took 12 minutes either side of half-time for Bendigo Pioneers to secure their first win of the season, defeating Murray Bushrangers by 26 points. The just-over-four-goal margin was helped by six consecutive Pioneers goals after Murray kicked the opening major of the game. Leading by six points midway through the second term, Elizabeth Snell kicked back-to-back goals to give the visiting team separation at half-time, and in a 152-second blitz, Jayda Richardson booted back-to-back goals early in the third term. The 13-7 quarter time difference had blown out to 38-10 just two and a half minutes into the third term, and it was always going to be difficult for the Bushrangers to play catchup after that.

Tasmania Devils vs. Gippsland Power

Prokopiec’s first quarter

Having only kicked one goal in their two games last year, it was vital that Tasmania got off to a perfect start against Gippsland Power in Round 1 of the NAB League Girls season. By quarter time, Amy Prokopiec had stood up booting two goals – and would finish with four for the match – which set the tone for the rest of the match. If it was not the entire first term for Prokopiec, then it was her remarkable final term goal, taking a step from tight on the boundary to snap around her body and put the final nail in the coffin during Tasmania’s win.

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels

Schaap’s match-winner

It was a tough decision to not pick Renee Tierney‘s back-to-back third quarter goals for the Falcons to turn the tide back in her team’s favour which was deserving of the spot, but Poppy Schaap‘s match-winning goal gets the nod. With the pressure sky-high and less than a kick between the teams, it felt like a next-goal-wins scenario. Both teams had their chances, with a number of misses for the Falcons, before Schapp managed to grab a loose ball off the deck and snap it quickly under pressure. A favourable bounce later and she had sealed the win for her team.

Calder Cannons vs. Sandringham Dragons

Prespakis shimmy helps get Calder on the board

Reigning league best and fairest, Georgie Prespakis put on a sparkling performance in Round 1, featuring just about everywhere with 21 disposals and 11 tackles as Calder stormed to a 16-point victory. One particular highlight came in the second term after Sandringham had scored the first goal of the game. The Cannons managed to get the ball inside 50, but Sandringham had done well to get it to a pocket near the boundary, almost putting it out of play. Cue Prespakis, who came in, picked it up and managed to evade two Sandringham defenders before centring the ball to teammate Mali McLeod, who kicked Calder’s first goal for the game. It was just the spark her side needed.

Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers

Reid’s stellar shrug and finish

There was a bunch memorable moments as Oakleigh snapped Northern’s long-standing undefeated run on Sunday, many of which were produced by player of the week candidate, Charlie Rowbottom. But Stella Reid gets the nod here for one of her two final term goals, which put the cherry on top of a stellar performance. The classy winger/half-back was a menace on the rebound and had broken forward once again, latching onto the ball out the back with opponents on her hammer. Having initially been caught, Reid shrugged off a would-be tackler and did not break stride before finishing with aplomb on her left side. One for the highlight reel, and her teammates adored it.

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Round 1

A NEW NAB League Girls season means even more fresh coverage of the elite pathways, with the weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delving into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. Round 1 produced plenty of highlights as players returned to competitive action for the first time in 11 months. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting opening set of fixtures.

EASTERN RANGES vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Michael Alvaro

STANDOUTS:

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

In a game which was tense and tight for the best part of three quarters, Busch was a reliable outlet for Eastern in the back half. The bottom-ager notched eight rebound 50s – an equal round-high – among her 14 kicks and 16 disposals overall, providing a cool head amid the arm-wrestle that ensued. In what was her NAB League debut, the bottom-ager proved she is up to the level and built on outstanding preseason testing results in the agility and endurance categories.

#11 Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges)

One of the more unlucky players not to be drafted as a top-ager last year, Meagher has returned to the Ranges’ program again looking to become a real leader through midfield. She was a steady ball winner on the day, collecting 16 touches and pumping the ball inside 50 four times. Perhaps the most pleasing part of Meagher’s game was her defensive acumen though, highlighted by a monster 10 tackles.

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

Eastern’s leading disposal winner on the day, Deed was another to put up some impressive numbers in a winning effort. Like Meagher, her 21 touches were complimented well by two-way efforts in the form of an equal competition-high 11 tackles. She was able to penetrate either arc and popped up in just the right areas to allow the Ranges to push onto the front foot after absorbing some pressure.

#25 Cadhla Schmidli (Eastern Ranges)

In just her second NAB League outing, Schmidli showed marked improvement from her debut last season to finish as one of the round’s most valuable defenders. Armed with a handy vertical leap and good height, she was able to clunk three marks and set Eastern going the other way with three rebound 50s among her 10 kicks for the day. Her efforts were enough to feature in the Draft Central team of the week.

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Despite ending up on the losing side, Baskaran was able to showcase all her class in a performance fitting of the Draft Central player of the week mantle. Still just 16 years old, the bottom-ager’s potential is scary and she looks to have gone to yet another level in 2021. The versatile midfielder finished with 28 disposals (23 kicks), five marks, 11 tackles, and eight inside 50s as the best player afield and one to watch for next year’s draft. Her skill on either side combined with a strong ball winning capacity make her a damaging prospect.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

The ever-impactful bottom-ager was near her explosive best in Round 1, utilising her frame to dig in and win the ball at ground level, while also showcasing terrific aerial prowess. She was one of the better Jets in the first half and finished with 15 disposals, taking four marks and penetrating either arc a combined five times. Along with Baskaran, Ham is a standout bottom-ager in the Western region.

#52 Krystal Russell (Western Jets)

Another NAB League debutant and one who really impressed in her ruck duties, Russell was a real standout for the Jets. Her competitiveness both in the ruck contest and otherwise was conveyed in her stat-line which included 11 disposals, three tackles, six inside 50s, and 23 hitouts. The bottom-ager has good scope for improvement and a strong base to build upon after her promising performance against multiple Eastern rucks.

OTHERS:

Among the players who earned plaudits from the Eastern staff, Keeley Sherar (10 disposals, four tackles) played a role, while the game’s sole multiple goalkicker in Scarlett Potter was key to ensuring the Ranges compiled a winning score. Midfielder Jorja Livingstone also achieved solid numbers with 16 disposals, 15 of which were kicks. For the Jets, Trinity Skenderis (13 disposals, six tackles) got her hands dirty in midfield alongside Paige Ryan (11 and eight), while Caitlin Sargent also showed good signs.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

The talented ruck was among the Bushrangers best on the day, racking up10 disposals, three marks, two tackles and 13 hitouts. As a versatile player, Morphett is someone who can have an impact up forward and she slotted a goal, but also had the five inside 50, driving the ball there when she could. At 188cm, she looms a problem for most opponents and is incredibly tough to beat overhead.

#27 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Playing in the forward half compared to her usual defensive role, Slender was still among the best on the day. She might have missed a couple of chances on goal with two behinds, but she was able to have an impact and push up the ground and rack up 16 disposals, three marks and five inside 50s. Impressively, she also laid six tackles to show off her natural defensive capabilities, and it will be interesting to see if she remains forward in Round 2 or goes head-to-head with fellow AFL Women’s Academy member Ella Friend up the other end.

STANDOUTS:

#5 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)

Returning as the new top-ager, Snell needed to make an impact and she certainly did that, slotting two goals from 18 touches. Those two goals really built the momentum for her side, both coming in the second quarter to give the Pioneers a buffer at half-time. She is no stranger to goals, having kicked a bag as a bottom-ager a couple of years ago against Gippsland Power, but it was not only her offensive work, but her defensive work that was noticed with 10 tackles as well.

#26 Jayda Richardson (Bendigo Pioneers)

While Snell started the momentum, Richardson built on it, effectively closing out the contest in the opening few minutes of the second half. Richardson slotted back-to-back goals, and in the blink of an eye the game was all but over. She finished with nine disposals and six tackles, as well as racking up nine hitouts which was mighty impressive for a 174cm player against taller opponents.

#2 Lila Keck (Bendigo Pioneers)

Coming into a new season, there are always bottom-agers who come into the team with a lot of unknowns, but from the start Keck has proven she can compete against much older opponents. The 15-year-old racked up 14 disposals, but possibly the most eye-catching aspect was her tackling – laying 11 tackles – which considering not only her age, but standing at 160cm is something to prove she is not afraid to crack in and have a go.

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

Having played a couple of games last year, Smith stepped up in her first game of 2021 to be the Bushrangers’ top player on the day. As a draft-eligible talent, she roamed around the ground to finish with 16 disposals, two marks, five tackles and seven inside 50s. Her ability to drive the ball forward ranked second overall across the league from Round 1.

#6 Lily Sharp (Murray Bushrangers)

Touted as one to watch this season by the Bushrangers coaching staff, Sharp is one who managed to find the ball through the midfield and also have chances when forward. Whilst she finished with two behinds, she picked up 15 touches, three marks and two inside 50s in the process, and will be a crucial cog in Murray’s onball brigade this season.

#22 Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

A player not eligible until next year’s draft, Hay is also an incredibly talented netballer. On the football field, she thrives in defence, and picked up 15 disposals – 12 kicks, whilst recording four rebounds and four marks. Murray has a lot of talented players for next year’s draft, and Hay fits the bill as she continues to improve and should have more continuity in season 2021.

OTHERS:

Bendigo had a wide range of contributors across the board, with Nalin Moore (16 disposals, six inside 50s), Bryde O’Rourke (14 disposals, one goal) and Drew Ryan (14 disposals, three marks and four rebounds) among the top disposal winners. For the Bushrangers, Mikayla Jones had the equal most touches on the ground with 18, while Kristy Whitehead (15 disposals, three marks), Chloe Locke (15 disposals, three marks, five tackles and five rebounds) and Keely Skepper (12 disposals, five tackles, two inside 50s and three rebounds) were also busy.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

The speedy midfielder rotated between the middle and up forward and played an impressive game. Many of the midfielders at the stoppages were inside ball winners, but King provided that touch of class, reading the taps well and sprinting away to gain separation on her opponent. There were a couple of times where she might have done a touch too much and got herself into trouble, but was lucky not to be pinged. Her aerial work was as impressive as her ground work, taking a great mark up forward and later setting up a goal in the final term with a quick burst out of a stoppage to open space, allowing Ella Maurer to run into an open goal.

STANDOUTS:

#24 Amy Prokopiec (Tasmania Devils)

It was hard to look past Prokopiec for best afield honours in an even day. She started the game on fire with two first quarter goals and could have had a third. Whilst renowned for her marking and powerful kick, she actually conjured up her first major off the ground, beating her opponent to the ball and kicking it through off a slight angle. Her second came from a marking contest and slotting the set shot, before finishing the game with four. The best of the lot was her last one, which came from a snap around the body under pressure as it curled home brilliantly. Having played as a defender in the NAB League 12 months ago, her work up forward was more eye-catching and she was not afraid to crash packs. Had she managed to nail all her shots, she could have easily had half a dozen goals.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

Ransom is one of those eye-catching players who just shows enough to remember the impact she has had on the game. Early on she got front position in a marking contest and then quickly moved the ball on to get it over the back and goalside for her teammate. She showed equal amounts of offensive and defensive pressure, with a running goal from inside 50 off the back of hard work in the first half indicative of her effort. One passage of play that might not be on the highlight reel but was crucial, was applying enough pressure when Gippsland was running it out of defence as she ran over to lock the ball up and force a stoppage against two opponents. It showed she stayed active even when the team was well in control.

#3 Amy Bissett (Tasmania Devils)

Finished the day with a couple of majors and looked dangerous in the forward half. Her first goal came in the second term and she quickly had a flying shot on the run not long after that missed to the right. A third term “fresh-airey” in the goalsquare was able to be viewed with a laugh in hindsight as Kara Hennessy finished off the work there, and then Bissett made up for it with a remarkable running goal in the fourth term. Taking off from the forward side of the wing, Bissett ran through the middle of four Gippsland Power players, and with the help of teammates shepherding, ran all the way to the goalsquare to slam it home and put the nail in the coffin of the game.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Felt she provided some spark through the midfield and added extra speed, particularly when Perri King was playing forward. She would create separation from her opponent, and her quick hands and decision making helped her through midfield. Occasionally she would kick to space more so than directly to a teammate, but her ability to still put it to the right spots, especially at pace was impressive. Her second efforts were similarly noticeable.

#26 Grace McRae (Gippsland Power)

The standout four-quarter player from the losing side, she just never gave in and willed herself to contest after contest. McRae had a clean pickup early in the game, and went about suffering leather poisoning as she won the ball in each third of the ground. Winning a free kick for a great tackle in the first quarter, she slotted what would be Gippsland’s only goal from the set shot. Despite Tasmania gaining control around the ground, McRae continued to battle hard and had a number of crucial possessions with a low and sharp kick inside 50 to a lead, and then showed great strength to fend off Perri King and boot the ball forward in the third term.

#35 Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power)

Having to play as an undersized ruck after Grace Matser suffered an injury in the first half, Van Berkel proved to be a strong target around the ground. She clunked a number of big grabs, and would even steal it out of the ruck contest to bomb it forward. Had a snap on goal after moving out of traffic inside 50 but it just missed early in the game. Overall she provided strength around the contest and up forward and was hard to beat one-on-one.

#1 Sunday Brisbane (Gippsland Power)

Much like McRae, Brisbane just gave it a real red hot crack for four quarters against the odds. Despite being smaller than her opponents, she was not afraid to lay a number of big tackles and put her body on the line when required. Brisbane provided dash out of the backline and through midfield, and took a good intercept mark at half-forward. At times when under pressure she could rush a bit, but had extremely quick hands at ground level.

OTHERS:

Holly Booth worked tirelessly on the last line to provide some rebound and run in a difficult match for defenders, Shanara Notman was busy around the ground, Lily-Rose Williamson showed fierce intent with her tackling and fend-offs, while Taylah Bourne also stood out for the Power. Olivia Smith was great early in the game for the Devils through midfield, while Charlie Vandenberg was clean around the stoppages with her ruck craft, in what was a really even team effort. Ella Maurer, Jemma Webster and Aprille Crooks were among others who found plenty of the footy for the visitors.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

A marking machine to put it lightly. Friend is one of the best marks going around, and not only when she finds the space. So clever at creating separation on her opponent and timing her leads to perfection, she also managed to pull down some huge grabs, including one against three opponents. She showed a nice vertical leap when going for her marks, and her decision making was good. A couple of times her set shots just fell a touch short which caused the defence to have numbers back and clear, but in terms of her ability to win the ball, once the hands went up it was a done deal.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Having seen her progress over the last few years, you can see the fundamentals of Dojiok’s game have really improved. Her kicking in particular was quite good, including one low pass at top speed along the wing. She still has areas to work on such as one-grab marks and decision making at times, but on a number of occasions she backed herself in and took charge to burn off opponents and fend them away to break down opposition defensive zones. A really exciting player.

STANDOUTS:

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

The best on ground in my opinion, Craven was on from the first bounce until the final siren. She just kept finding the pill and did a bit of everything in the front half. Craven showed courage in going back with the flight in the second term to almost mark 15 metres out from goal, and then was used in a distributor role going inside 50 to hit up a number of targets such as Renee Tierney and Ingrid Houtsma. A late shot on goal that was almost the game-winner just hit the post on its way through but showed her quick instincts to put boot to ball.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Lee is a defender who had a nice balance between aerial and ground ball work. She has clean hands to beat her opponent in the air, but is happy to get those hands dirty with run-down tackles likes she did on Lilli Condon when the pressure was up in the final term. She just finds space and plays that interceptor role perfectly, knowing when to push up the ground and when to stay back. She has a fantastic tackling technique and can hit targets over short and long distances. Overall a consistent effort back there.

#39 Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)

One-on-ones are Tierney’s speciality and it showed when isolated inside 50. She was able to swing the momentum back in the Falcons’ favour during that third term by kicking back-to-back goals through marks and set shots. Her kicking is reliable, and she could have had another one or two from snaps, but her marking is on point. Tierney also showed good defensive pressure which is what you want to see from your key forward and it will be exciting to see her push up the ground and impact the midfield with her strength at ground level.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

A natural ball winner who just keeps on finding the ball wherever she goes. Working overtime around the ground, she reads it at stoppages and finds it in close where she distributes out to her teammates. The big moment came in the final term, where after missing a flying shot on goal earlier in the quarter, she had a quick snap which sat up perfectly with a nice bounce against two Rebels defenders to get home and seal the match.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

The Rebels’ best four-quarter performer and she never stopped trying. At times she was under pressure and could rush her kicks, but when she had the time and space, particularly trying to move the ball on quickly from the kick-out, she was able to grab some metres and drive her team forward. Always courageous and gets straight back up from a bump, she produced a lovely pass into Tahlia Meier to set up a goal. Her inside 50s in particular stood out and she was able to create some scoring opportunities.

#27 Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)

A debutant who really stood out, the 2004-born Walton was a player who excelled in her one-on-ones. Her work rate and second efforts were also good, which was exemplified when she intercepted a ball in defensive 50, unfortunately turned it over, but then worked hard to slide in and retake the grab again. Once Leonard pushed up the ground, Walton was tasked with the kickouts and gained some serious meterage. Her one-on-one duel deep with Tierney to stop a goal just metres from the line was a huge step in her first game.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

The small midfielder just kept battling on across the four quarters and she always brings a consistent effort. Condon is able to keep the ball in front of her, and then gain separation from her opponent and kick long inside 50. She won the ball in each third of the ground, and had great second efforts. One time later in the match she was caught before she could dispose of it, and had a flying shot on the goal that missed, but for the most part, she kept finding it and pumping it forward to aide her team’s scoring opportunities.

OTHERS:

It was a really even team performance across the board for both sides, with the likes of Gabbi Featherston, Lucy Were and Ingrid Houtsma all impressing for the Falcons in the forward half, and defence in the second half for Houtsma. The Rebels had a balanced load with the likes of Paige Scott and Ally Trigg consistent throughout the contest.

CALDER CANNONS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

It was a typically high-level performance from the reigning NAB League Girls best and fairest winner, involved in everything for the game while showcasing her athleticism and superb skills on both sides of the body – it was a complete game. Outside of her well executed kicks, handballs and tackles, Prespakis did a lot of the small things really well; standing up in tackles, enacting second efforts, evading opponents and applying tackling pressure were noticeable parts of her game as she troubled the Sandringham midfield all match. Her work around stoppages was very high level, punishing Sandringham every time she was left unattended.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

The AFL Academy member looked dangerous all game, regularly rotating through the ruck and as a deep forward. Her best work was done when playing ruck, having no trouble winning taps, but also posing a marking threat around the ground. She set herself up well outside of the forward 50, ensuring every Sandringham exit had to be perfectly executed to get past. Her performance was wrapped up with a nice contested grab in the goal square leading to a goal in the last quarter.

STANDOUTS:

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Was a dangerous midfielder for the Cannons all day, utilising her speed well to win clearances and get the ball moving forward quickly. Her kicking and decision making were well on display all day, often switching the ball across the ground or taking riskier inside kicks to get the Cannons moving forward. Her work in transition was a particular highlight, showing off her two-way running and concentration during games.

#19 Peppa Poultney (Calder Cannons)

Rotating through the ruck and forward line with teammate Tahlia Gillard, Poultney’s dominance in the ruck went a long way in securing the Cannons’ win for the day, getting good direction and placement on her taps to the advantage of her midfielders.

#15 Mali McLeod (Calder Cannons)

Her work on the outside and on the wing made her a threat to Sandringham throughout the day, reading the play well to get herself in the best possible positions around stoppages and contests. Her game awareness was on show in the second quarter, when she made a brilliant lead to get a shot right in front of goal.

#4 Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons)

Stationed at full back for the day, Lennox held strong against various opponents and did a lot of work to keep opposition forward Charli Murphy from getting any easy possessions. She’d often drift off her opponent and assist teammates in marking contests, especially during the second quarter when they were most under siege.

#10 Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons) 

2022 draft eligible Hipwell was impactful throughout the day, showcasing her athleticism by often taking the game on with her speed and getting out of traffic with her agility. Boasting a long and accurate right-foot kick, she was a vital part of many Sandringham attacks from the midfield. She set up Sandringham’s first goal with a run from the half-back line and a long kick inside 50. She was unfortunately injured in a tackle early in the third quarter and stretchered off, sitting out the remainder of the game.

#26 Chloe Saultry (Sandringham Dragons)

Was a workhorse in the midfield for Sandringham all day, ensuring Cannons players weren’t winning any easy ball at stoppages or around the ground. She also got herself involved in attacking plays, utilising her long kicking to get the ball forward quickly. A free kick and 50-meter penalty in the fourth quarter saw Saultry get herself on the scoreboard as well.

#30 Pia Staltari (Sandringham Dragons)

Playing mostly at half-back, her work with ball in hand was brilliant, showing off her long and accurate kicking which tested the Cannons structures all day. She moved into the midfield for a bit of the last quarter and won herself plenty of the ball, proving that if needed, she can fill a whole in there with ease. Was classy throughout the day, particularly with her composure down back.

#2 Keely Coyne (Sandringham Dragons)

The leading ball getter for the Dragons did a lot of work to be an option around the ground. Playing a high half-forward role, she’d often be on the outside of contests and stoppages waiting for quick handball out, or offering an option as a switch kick for her teammates.

OTHERS:

Charli Murphy worked hard in the forwardline all day, presenting strong leads but ultimately being beaten by more athletic opponents or being crowded in two-on-one marking contests. Kitty Smyth battled in the ruck all day against a taller and more experienced duo. Ebony Angelopoulos had her opportunities in front of goal, kicking one but missing two others while still being a danger to the Calder defence. Isabella Rowland was hard at it in defence with her fierce tackling. 2022 draft eligible talent, Tahlia Read got herself on the scoreboard with a goal, as well as being a strong tackling presence around the forwardline.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Appleby had a solid game for Northern. Starting on the wing, she found herself getting plenty of opportunities to run, carry, and use her long kick to set up team mates. One particular highlight came in the second quarter, where she managed to get a run through the middle, taking three bounces and having a shot on goal that unfortunately fell short. She was vital during the third quarter in the Knights’ attempts to transition from defence to offence, commanding teammates to shepherd for her as she attempted to continue her run and carry.

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

In a standout performance the AFL Academy member, Rowbottom showed why she’s one of the top prospects for this year’s AFLW Draft. Splitting time between the forwardline and midfield, she managed to have an impact everywhere she went. She was dominant around stoppages, often running through multiple opponents with the footy and getting the ball long to set up an Oakleigh opportunity. Rowbottom’s ability to stand up and break free of tackles was particularly impressive, often outplaying or out muscling two opponents at a time. When forward, she looked consistently dangerous as the main target for Oakleigh down deep, getting herself two goals on the day. One was when she out-marked Knights defender Tarrah Delgado right on the goal line, once again showing how strong she is in so many areas of the game. In the third quarter she was playing as a deep forward and was the target of a lot of Oakleigh’s attacks. One particular instance saw her in a two-against-one situation, where she managed to get the ball to ground and tap it to the advantage of teammate Ameille Smith, who ran into an open goal and scored.

STANDOUTS:

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Was one of the Knights most prolific midfielders on the day, playing a complete game with plenty of defensive work around the contest as well as winning plenty of ball for herself. Her long kicks away from stoppages caused some trouble for Oakleigh in the third quarter. She moved into the backline in the final quarter and did well to help both in the air and at ground level.

#15 Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)

Her read of the ball and the game was excellent all day, often out-positioning opponents in contests to win them, or putting herself in the perfect spot to stop a goal or incoming attack. Her work rate also shone through, often playing higher up the ground as an interceptor and doubling back to be the last line of defence if the ball was going towards the Knights’ defensive 50, away on the other side of the ground from her.

#7 Teleah Smart (Northern Knights)

Spending most of the day in the midfield, Smart was a headache for the Chargers – utilising her burst of speed and accurate kick where possible, while also constantly applying tackling pressure when the Chargers were in possession. Her final stat line may not be kind, but the co-captain was lively when called upon.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

The left-footer split her time between defence and the wing in a well-rounded performance. She was a threat heading forward, getting involved in plenty of strings of play during the last quarter around the ground, getting herself two goals for her efforts. She was a headache for Northern in the third quarter as well, proving a threat around Oakleigh’s backline and ensuring any spilt ball was heading back out. Her play of the day came in the final term, when she latched onto a ball over the back, shrugged off a would-be tackler and slotted the goal with great class.

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

James split her time up forward and through midfield for the game, showcasing her versatility by playing both inside and outside. She was a strong ball winner and threat around stoppages for Oakleigh, particularly in the second half where her link-up play with Charlie Rowbottom led to plenty of Oakleigh inside 50’s. Her speed and carry out of congestion was a particular highlight.

#15 Ameille Smith (Oakleigh Chargers)

Smith enjoyed a superb forwardline performance, leading the game with three goals. Her leading was strong, going straight towards the ball carrier and when she wasn’t the target, her work rate was just as good at ground level. Having made the most of her opportunities inside 50, Smith was one of Oakleigh’s more impactful players.

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Had a great day out and got involved every time the ball entered her defensive 50. Her evasiveness and willingness to take opponents on lead to her showing good run and carry ability, as well as her kicking which is a strong-suit of her game. Her positioning behind the ball meant she won plenty of intercept possessions and made it hard for any Northern attack to properly eventuate. Her understanding of the game was well represented, pushing high up the ground when the ball was inside forward 50 and being an obstacle for Northern when trying to rebound

#4 Alexandra McCulloch (Oakleigh Chargers) 

Played in a similar style to teammate Brooke Vickers with a strong understanding of the game, pushing herself up the ground and causing Northern difficulty when they were on the rebound. She also played well deep down in defence when Northern got forward quickly and breached the 50-metre arc.

#5 Mia Clift (Oakleigh Chargers)

Positioned on the wing, Clift showed a strong understanding of the outside role, being an option for team mates when they came out of defence and providing deep and quick inside 50’s for her forwards. She possesses a good initial burst of speed which gave her plenty of time to work with when moving forward.

#11 Ruby Vanden Boom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Dominant in the ruck all day, her tap work was vital to Oakleigh’s midfield dominance and constant pressure towards forward 50. Her follow up work was also noticeable when Northern got possession from the taps, as she applied plenty of pressure on their midfielders.

OTHERS:

Amanda Ling fared well as an inside midfielder for the Chargers with her burst of speed being a big strength. Erin Woodford was lively up forward, getting a few smothers and tackles with her persistent pressure. Taylah Morton did well when she had the ball and was another in a long list of strong contributors for the Chargers. Brooke Plummer worked hard along the wing and in the guts for Northern, and Tallia Pulcino’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed, with her defensive work helping Northern throughout.

NAB League Girls Round 1 preview: Undefeated 2020 sides to face off in huge round of action

AT least one of the three undefeated sides from the 2020 NAB League Girls season will extend their winning run to 18 months or more, when the competition returns this weekend. Starting tomorrow, the NAB League Girls will have six games across four different venues – including one double-header – in a new footballing landscape for 2021. For Dandenong Stingrays, they will have to tack on an extra week to their extended break that saw the 2020 season come to an unfulfilled end last year, after they were handed the bye. For the 12 other teams, it will be a chance to start the season off on the right note. For the likes of Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, they look to continue what they started last year, having not lost since 2019, or in the Knights’ case, the 2018 grand final.

Eastern Ranges vs. Western Jets
Saturday, February 6 @ 12pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

In what is officially the first NAB League Girls game in almost 12 months, Western Jets will cross the West Gate Bridge and head down to Kilsyth Recreation Reserve where the Eastern Ranges will be waiting for them. These teams last played way back in Round 4, 2019, when the Ranges easily accounted for the Jets by 43 points. A dominant second half where they booted 6.2 to 0.0 saw them run out 7.4 to 0.3 winners, with Olivia Meagher picking up 17 disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s.

Meagher has been named for the match tomorrow, with last year’s captain to play as a 19-year-old prospect in 2020. She is the only Ranges player from that match to remain on the list, whilst a trio of then 15-year-old talents in Caitlin Sargent, Trinity Skenderis and Jemima Woods – as well as now top-age and over-age talents respectively, Nikita Wright and Ciara Singleton – all remain on the Jets’ list having played in that match.

Looking at the teams, the match will be won and lost in the middle, with the Jets having some great height, whilst the Ranges have speed to burn. That is not to say the respective teams do not have the opposite as well, but they are damaging in their respective areas. For the home team, Jorja Livingstone was a player who really shone last year and is a clean ball user and able to work her way out of stoppages. She will team up with the likes of Meagher and Bridget Deed in the middle, roving Georgia Campbell‘s taps. Up forward, Matilda Hardy, Jade Hutchison and Isabella Khoury are ones to watch, whilst Saskia Nannes will be a potential big improver with more matches after having the season cut short last year.

For Western, their under-age group is brimming with talent, though now with extra experience, Sargent, Skenderis and Woods will be among those to watch. Montana Ham and Charlotte Baskaran present as two of the top 2022 prospects, with Ham’s versatility and size through the midfield hard to match, while Baskaran’s run and carry – as well as her elite use by foot – will provide a one-two punch that is always difficult to combat.

This is a game that could go right down to the wire, and difficult to predict with so many new players, but Eastern might have the upper hand at home.

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.15pm
JC Lowe Oval, Yarrawonga

From the east to the far north, Murray Bushrangers will host Bendigo Pioneers in a terrific spectacle for the country regions at Yarrawonga. Both these teams have a talented tall in the AFL Women’s Academy which makes things exciting. These two teams have also not played since March 30, 2019 when the Pioneers – during their most successful season to-date – toppled the Bushrangers by 14 points in Wangaratta.

That day it was Annabel Strahan (now Bulldogs) who had 20 touches, seven tackles, five inside 50s and a goal) and Brooke Hards (17 disposals, three marks, 11 tackles, four inside 50s and three rebounds) who teamed up to cause havoc on the Bushrangers, while Millie Brown (now Geelong) racked up 27 disposals and six rebounds, and Abby Favell (22 disposals, five marks eight tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds) were the best for the losing side.

A then 15-year-old Ally Morphett had 11 disposals, two marks, 14 hitouts and two inside 50s, with the now AFL Women’s Academy member looming as the key player for the Bushrangers. Bendigo’s Academy member Tara Slender also played in that match, picking up seven disposals and having six hitouts, though the pair are unlikely to spend too much time one-on-one considering Slender will roll through a key position role and Morphett will be one of the dominant rucks in the competition.

Looking at the overall squads, Murray’s defence is strong given the likes of Mindy Quade and Kristy Whitehead provided plenty of run down there – though could be utilised further up the ground this season. Lily Sharp has been touted as one to watch by the Bushrangers’ coaching staff following a big off-season, and Keeley Skepper remains one of Vic Country’s top talents for 2022. Kate Adams returning as co-captain and providing experience and strength in the midfield will also be important.

For the Pioneers, Slender could be the top Vic Country prospect this year and will always be difficult to beat in the air, with the Pioneers’ captain not having to shoulder the ruck load given Madeline Marks‘ efforts in 2020. She will have her hands full against Morphett but it could be a fascinating battle, while Jayda Richardson, and now top-age talents Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning provide much needed experience to a really young Pioneers outfit.

Murray is excited about the depth of its squad in 2021, and while the Pioneers have some great young talents coming through, the extra experience for the Bushrangers – and what they started to show last year – should have them favourites at home in Yarrawonga.

Gippsland Power vs. Tasmania Devils
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.30pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In a battle between two teams that are building exciting programs, Gippsland Power “hosts” Tasmania Devils at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The furthest south east side travel up the highway to welcome the league’s newest team that only managed to taste one game in Victoria last year. The Devils had a rough introduction to the NAB League Girls competition – though the improvement from their brutal loss to Oakleigh Chargers to being competitive for the most part against Eastern Ranges has plenty of people buoyant about what they could produce in 2021.

These teams have never played before, and both have younger lists, sprinkled with some top-age and over-age experience. Key position players Camilla Taylor and Shanara Notman are the 20-year-old allowances in those sides, and have the size to cause a matchup dilemma for their respective opponents. Tasmania Devils have the sole AFL Women’s Academy member in this match, with the speedy Perri King looking to breakdown the Power’s zones and create some important run and carry for her side.

Aside from King, Amy Prokopiec remains a player to watch, having predominantly played as a last-line defender in previous seasons for the Devils, but became a reliable goalscoring threat in the TSL Women’s for Clarence. Other players who stood out 12 months ago include Jemma Blair, Aprille Crooks, Chelsea Thomas, Zoe Bourne and Meghan Gaffney. Having received an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite without managing to get on the park in the NAB League Girls, Charlie Vandenberg will get a great opportunity in the ruck and rotating forward with Taylor against one of Vic Country’s top ruck prospects.

Grace Matser is going to be difficult to stop, with the ruck battle set to be a duel within the match not to be missed. As the only Power player above 180cm, she will look to control the airways. The Gippsland midfield has some nice depth to it, with Grace McRae returning to the fold after being unlucky to miss out on the draft in 2020, and will get a good chance to play consecutive games this season. Matilda Van Berkel is another one with experience and able to play a number of roles, while Holly Booth and Sunday Brisbane are among those tipped to cause problems for the opposition. One name to remember for next year is Lily-Rose Williamson who has come through the V/Line Cup program and been one ready to step up at the level.

This game is as 50/50 as they come, so as is often the case in 50/50 games, we will lean towards the “home” team in Gippsland Power, though Tasmania Devils will be keen to sniff out their first win in the competition.

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Deakin University – Geelong

The final country game of the round occurs down in Geelong at Deakin University when the Falcons host the GWV Rebels. Much like the earlier two Saturday games, these two teams last played back in Round 4, 2019, when the Falcons – on their way to another finals series and coming off a premiership in 2018 – defeated the young Rebels by 36 points at City Oval in Ballarat. Luka Lesosky-Hay (31 disposals), Darcy Moloney (23) and Lucy McEvoy (22) all suffered leather poisoning and showed why they were capable of playing at the top level, whilst Nekaela Butler picked up 21 disposals and had six rebounds bravely defending for the home team.

There are a sprinkling of players from that day that remain on the lists in 2021, such as AFL Women’s Academy member Ella Friend, and Chloe Leonard and Crystal Summers (GWV Rebels), and Zoe Garth, Renee Tierney, Poppy Schapp and Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong). Those players will provide great experience for their respective sides in that clash, in what is sure to feature some of the best talent in the NAB League Girls competition.

The Falcons might not have an Academy member, but have plenty of developing young players, with Dowling a presence in the back half but can play anywhere, Annie Lee beside her in defence, Keeley Hardingham controlling the ruck, and Mia Van Dyke a bottom-age prospect who will be one to watch for next year able to roll through the midfield. Geelong has always been a team flushed with depth, and 2021 appears to be the same, with no shortage of talent across all three lines.

Alongside Friend – who will be that taller marking target at half-forward – Nyakoat Dojiok is the other AFL Women’s Academy member on the Rebels’ list. The running defender could start off half-back or roam along a wing depending on the team’s needs, able to add that mix of power and acceleration to breakaway from would-be tacklers. Leonard returns to the club as a new top-ager and one who will settle down the defence, while Stephanie Glover, Lilli Condon and Summers are some of the names to watch in the match.

Geelong have had such success over the past few years, it is hard to look past them at home. The Rebels will provide a great contest, but we will find out where both these teams are at following the Round 1 encounter.

Calder Cannons vs. Sandringham Dragons
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In the first double-header of the year, a star-studded Calder Cannons outfit hosts an ever-growing talent base in the Sandringham Dragons. The last time these two met was in 2019 back in Round 3, as the Cannons went on to make the grand final that year. They only scored two behinds in the first half and trailed by five points at the main break, before booting the last four goals of the game to win 4.8 (32) to 1.3 (9) over the Dragons at Trevor Barker Oval.

Alice Burke (St Kilda) and Sarah Hartwig (Bulldogs) were among the top players for the Dragons, whilst it was Georgia Patrikios (St Kilda) and Krstel Petrevski (Melbourne) who shone from those who have been drafted. Best on ground that day was Georgie Prespakis who lit it up with 23 disposals, three marks, eight tackles, four inside 50s and two rebounds. The now-Cannons captain will look to have an equally big impact this year, while Emelia Yassir, Kasey Lennox, Alisa Magri, Zali Friswell and Neve Crowley are just a handful of the talented names who also played as 15/16-year-old talents on that day.

The Cannons have proven to have such great development over the past few years, and all the above names along with Mali McLeod, Peppa Poultney and Jessica Zakkour makes them a rock solid team across the board. Though their opponents are no slouches either. Back in the 2019 clash, now-captain Kiana Lynch, as well as the likes of Charli Murphy, Summer Trim, Emma Stuber, Isabella Stutt, Ebony Angelopoulos and Chloe Saultry all took to the field, so the Dragons have a core of players with plenty of experience under their belt.

Murphy will provide that marking target up forward, while Lynch will lead a host of bottom-agers with future potential. Bridie Hipwell and Sofia Hurley are just a couple of names who still have another year to go after this one, but are becoming key players in the Dragons outfit going forward. They made great strides last season and play what would be considered the benchmark team in the competition first-up here.

Calder Cannons deserve to be favourites for the overall title, so it is hard to tip against them in any game. The Dragons will be up and about and likely to be among the contenders this season too, so buckle up for an exciting contest.

Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers
Sunday, February 7 @ 12.45pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Wrapping up the weekend might just be the tightest of the lot, with both Northern Knights and Oakleigh Chargers going undefeated last year, and technically the Knights are still the reigning premiers from 2019. Both these sides had a host of players drafted in 2020, with the Knights having the first three Victorian players taken in the draft. These two sides played back in Round 2, 2019, when they played out a thrilling draw in what would be the only match where the Knights did not collect the full points that season.

Future AFL Women’s talents, Ellie McKenzie, Britney Gutknecht, Gabby Newton and Alyssa Bannan were the best for the Knights, while Mimi Hill, Joanna Lin, Alana Porter and Emily Harley all shone for the Chargers. Also playing that day was now AFL Women’s Academy member, Maykaylah Appleby who leads the Knights charge in 2021, with Teleah Smart, Mikayla Plunkett, Jessica Simpson and Tallia Pulcino among the current-listed Northern players running around that day.

Appleby is the one to watch this season, but the Knights have brought back a host of top-age players such as Plunkett, Pulcino, Maeve Chaplin, Trinity Mills and Gulia Ceravolo, so have plenty of experience to guide the next crop of Knights talents. Some names to watch this year aside from the above group with a point to prove are the likes of defender Tarrah Delgado and ruck Georgia Kitchell who showed some promising signs in the short 2020 season.

The Chargers had the likes of Taylah Morton, Kalarni Kearns, Charlie Rowbottom, Eliza James and Emma Chamberlain running around in the draw with the Knights, and have been growing some phenomenal depth of late. Rowbottom is the AFL Women’s Academy talent and if she crosses paths with Appleby, it will provide plenty of highlights. Add in the likes of top-ager Amanda Ling, middle-ager Stella Reid, and bottom-ager Rianna Thiele, and the Chargers have built an exciting list.

Another 50/50 split game that could go either way. It is hard to look past the Knights’ success rate, but what the Chargers were starting to do last year, the depth is among the best going around so Oakleigh could become the first team to knock off Northern in almost three years.