Tag: Marcus Abney-Hastings

Tenacious Snow takes the long road to her footballing goal

THE PATH less travelled by is a phrase often attached to the journey of budding AFL Women’s draftees. Well, how does Perth, to Singapore, to America, to Melbourne sound?

That’s the journey Northern Knights prospect Ashleigh Snow has embarked on throughout her young life, with an AFLW club potentially the next destination. The diminutive defender-turned-midfielder learned to play football through a school program during her seven years in Singapore, and says she “always wanted to play” having watched her brother and dad do the same.

“I went to an Aussie school, so they had a little program where I learned to play,” Snow said. “My brother and dad played so I just always wanted to play. I played there for two years and then came back to Melbourne and that’s where I joined my first girl’s team at West Preston.”

Snow entered the Northern Knights through its development program, before turning out six times throughout the region’s undefeated premiership season in 2019, and thrice more in 2020. Though injury kept her out of last year’s Grand Final team, Snow came back strongly as a top-ager.

Her form was enough to warrant a National Combine invite, something which Snow says was “unexpected” following the cancellation of this year’s NAB League season.

“In the year that Knights won the NAB League premiership, I missed out because of my injury which was a bit hard,” she said. “I went back this year and only got to play the three games, but I feel like I came back pretty (strongly) and got to show what I could do in those games.”

“I started playing midfield which was a bit different because I played (in the) backline for the last two years before that. I feel like I seemed pretty determined and was always going hard for the ball. In one of the games I even got a goal against Calder, which is a bit different for me, always being down back.”

“The draft, being invited to the combine, and having the interviews was actually really unexpected for me. I just thought ‘the season’s over and that’s it’. “But luckily enough I have a little gym in my garage so I’ve been doing circuits every day to keep my fitness up. So hopefully if I do get drafted I’ll be in alright shape for preseason.”

Lauded for her tenacity and toughness at the ball despite her size, Snow’s importance to the team has long been known to those who can see past the conveyer belt of stars Northern has produced of late. She comes from good pedigree as well, with her father, David a former WAFL footballer and 1996 Simpson Medal winner. The ‘daughter-of’ says her dad has long been one of her greatest motivators, along with outgoing Knights coach Marcus Abney-Hastings.

“My dad has a massive footy background and I just have to say, he’s the one person who’s non-stop motivating me,” she said. (He is) always asking me to go for runs, do workouts with him, and wanting to go for kicks. “When I don’t want to do any of that he’ll keep pushing me and he knows that in the long run I’ll be thankful that he made me do it.”

“Marcus has been the coach for the whole three years I’ve been (at Northern). I really like him and feel like he’s been the most supportive…  obviously all the coaches as Knights like Marcus and Nat Grindal, they’ve been a massive help. “They’ve always made me keep belief in myself and given me the confidence that I sort of struggle to have.”

The Knights’ affiliation with Carlton’s AFLW side saw Snow choose the Blues as her favourite women’s side, though her upbringing in Perth meant she grew up a West Coast Eagles fan. Heading into the draft, Snow says she will be watching alongside her family and boyfriend at home amid Melbourne’s lockdown, hoping to hear her name called out.

“My parents and friends (have) always supported me in life. My boyfriend I think is my number one fan, he’s proudest out of everyone,” she said.

The 2020 AFL Women’s Draft will be held virtually at 7pm AEDT on October 6.

Capable Chaplin knows believing is achieving

HER coaches know it, her teammates know it, anyone who has observed her journey through the NAB League pathway knows it, but only now is Maeve Chaplin realising that she truly belongs among the best women’s football has to offer.

The Northern Knights defender has come a long way since starting football at age seven; originally playing alongside boys, then moving to girl’s sides at West Preston Lakeside and the Darebin Falcons, while also advancing through Northern’s elite talent program.

As a middle-ager, Chaplin was part of the Knights’ undefeated premiership team, shining across half-back with her mix of physicality and class on the ball. An injury in Round 3 of her top-age campaign was unideal, though it would matter little in the grand scheme of things as the season would eventually be scrapped amid a global pandemic.

By her own estimation, Chaplin was “travelling pretty well” and was as fit as she had ever been. She was in the midst of a move into the midfield, joining co-captains Ellie McKenzie and Jess Fitzgerald at the centre bounces and waxing well with the probable first-round draft talents.

While the 18-year-old and her teammates may have had plenty more to give in 2020, Chaplin says the break in play has allowed her to work on the mental side of her game.

“I definitely tried to use (the lockdown period) to my advantage and I really worked on myself mentally,” Chaplin said. “It was a big thing for me because I didn’t really have the time like I do now to just focus on myself. “It was a time for me to understand that I really do want to get far in footy and that I am prepared to play at a professional level. “In order to do that I really wanted to mature in those areas.

“I just wish I did believe in myself… but it’s something that I really want to work on and I have been working on throughout this isolation period. Just knowing mentally that I am good enough and I can get to that next level, it’s just all about pushing myself.”

The friendship of a Knight-turned-Bulldog who has also been part of the Darebin football family, Nell Morris-Dalton has helped Chaplin thrive. Chaplin says she has remained in constant contact with her former teammate throughout the lockdown period.

“A big (mentor) for me has definitely been Nell,” she said. She’s really helped, inspired, and guided me a lot throughout the season because we’ve got the same personality in a way. “I’ve been texting her quite a bit during isolation so she’s a really good friend.

“It’s pretty amazing to play with (the Northern Knights), they’re all so talented. “You really grow off each other and challenge each other, so it helps everyone get better at the end of the day. “Playing with them, you don’t really think about how good they are, they’re just more your friends.”

Maeve Chaplin moves through traffic

Northern’s cohesive team and a family-like atmosphere has certainly played a part in Chaplin’s rise. The aforementioned midfield move was one bought on by coach Marcus Abney-Hastings and talent manager Nat Grindal, allowing Chaplin to bring her defensive nous to a rather potent midfield group.

She says the move was somewhat of a natural progression from the defensive post she owned throughout 2019, though she still harbours hope of returning to half-back in future.

“It was kind of expected,” she said. “Nat and Marcus let me know that they were going to put me up into the midfield and get me a bit more of the ball which was good to have.

“I definitely brought some of my defensive traits into the midfield, using my bodywork, so that was a bonus. “I felt like in doing that, I helped Ellie and Jess play their best footy as well. “It was definitely a good move up the ground, it was fun.

“I would prefer to play on the half-back flank (at AFLW level) but playing in the midfield does come naturally to me just as much as the backline. “But I’ll obviously put my best effort in playing there and it’d be a really good opportunity.”

The versatile prospect, who models her game on Richmond defender Phoebe Monahan, has not only improved herself off-field, but has reaffirmed some of the improvements to be made through contact with AFLW clubs. While “feeding off” their directive, Chaplin has also put the onus back on the recruiters and coaches during their meetings.

“They have given me some things that I need to work on, or they’ve mentioned them and I’ve fed off them a little bit,” she said. “But I’ve been more self-directing, I’ve just told them what I feel like I need to work on and ask them how they’re going to support me and all that kind of stuff.”

“Obviously there’s a few things (to improve on). My aerobic endurance I definitely want to work on, I want to be the fittest that I can be because that was definitely me at the start of the year. “With the right support staff I can definitely get to that level again and even better than that.

“A few other things that I really want to work on are just my mentality, that’s a big thing for me. Just knowing that I am at that level physically to play, and getting myself there mentally as well.”

Outside of football, Chaplin is working through her Year 12 studies and hopes to move into either nursing or paramedicine next year. She sought to thank all the people at the Northern Knights for all the support and life lessons she has received from them, as well as her teammates Fitzgerald, McKenzie, Alyssa Bannan, Ash Snow, and Abigail Bennett.

“They’re all just really good teammates, I really love them.”

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Northern Knights

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at the Northern Knights, who have made an unblemished start to their premiership defence with wins over Calder, Geelong, and Dandenong on home turf.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: defeated Calder Cannons by 6 points
R2: defeated Geelong Falcons by 25 points
R3: defeated Dandenong Stingrays by 23 points

The 3-0 record may look ominous along with the average winning margin of 18 points, but the Knights were made to earn each of their first three victories. First up was a grand final rematch against the Calder, who looked the most direct threat to Northern’s flag defence. After holding the Cannons at bay, long-time closest rival Geelong was up next, but the Falcons hardly got close with just one goal on the board. Arguably the biggest test of Northern’s character came against another finals threat, Dandenong, where the Knights fought back from two goals down to win with a five-goal second half.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Jess Fitzgerald (18.7 disposals, 1.3 marks, 3.7 tackles, 2 rebound 50s, 2.7 inside 50s, 2 goals)

Coach Marcus Abney-Hastings described Fitzgerald as his side’s most important player after last year’s grand final, and she is proving as much in her top-age season as one of the competition’s most well-rounded prospects. The Knights co-captain has stood up at critical times across all three testing games thus far, showcasing the ability to generate run while also digging in hard at the contest. Fitzgerald’s standout game came against Dandenong, where she collected 28 disposals and booted two goals.

Ellie McKenzie (19 disposals, 5 marks, 2.3 tackles, 4.7 inside 50s, 1 goal)

Arguably the front-runner to be taken first off the board come draft time at this early stage, McKenzie has lived up to the hype generated by her under-age seasons. Leading the Knights for disposals and inside 50s as it stands, the dynamic left footer showcased her ability to tear games apart when she combined with co-captain Fitzgerald to drag Northern over the line against Dandenong. As a more permanent midfield fixture, her goals from further afield have become all the more valuable. She currently leads the Draft Central Medal standings alongside Tyanna Smith.

Alyssa Bannan (14.3 disposals, 5.7 marks, 3.3 tackles, 2.3 inside 50s, 9 goals)

Another out-and-out gun along the spine of this Northern side is Bannan, who has thrived as the primary key forward in her top-age season. Leading the competition for goals (nine) and marks (17), Bannan is equally damaging at ground level with her searing pace as she is in the air with her height. A five-goal effort against Calder in Round 1 got the ball rolling, with the 177cm prospect bagging consecutive hauls of two over the next fortnight. Could well be the new key forward prototype.

Maeve Chaplin (11.7 disposals, 1 mark, 2.3 tackles, 1.3 rebound 50s, 1.3 inside 50s)

After impressing as an effective two-way defender in her middle-age year, Chaplin has transitioned into a midfield ace this season credit to her ability to find the ball and use it cleanly. Discounting her three disposals against Dandenong, Chaplin had consecutive 16-touch efforts to open the campaign, showing virtually identical numbers in a typical mark to her consistency. With game winners around her in midfield, Chaplin has proven to be the reliable rock who can perform an important role each week.

Ashleigh Snow (15.7 disposals, 2.3 marks, 3 tackles, 1 rebound 50, 3.3 inside 50s)

Another who has featured prominently in the Northern lineup over the past couple of seasons is Snow, who has stepped up her ball winning numbers in 2020. Averaging over 15 disposals per game, the nuggety utility continues to go hard at the ball an inspire her side in transition, pushing further afield to penetrate the forward 50 arc after being used in more defensive roles previously. Despite her 158cm standing, Snow is not one to be overlooked and holds her own in the contest.

Others who have stood out: Georgia Kitchell, Tarrah Delgado, Abigail Bennett, Maykaylah Appleby

There are a number of players who can stake their claim here, starting with dominant ruck Kitchell, who has handily won the hitout battle in each of Northern’s three games. Able to follow up at ground level, the middle-ager’s tackle average of five is impressive given her 180cm frame. Another middle-age tall, Delgado has also impressed with her calm work down back, while hard-edged outside movers Bennett and Appleby continue to provide that bit of spark. Bennett, an experienced top-ager, also leads the competition for tackles with 24 over her three games.

2019 NAB League Girls Team of the Year announced

THE 2019 NAB Under 18 Girls Team of the Year was announced with five Northern Knights players named in the squad. The premiership side saw Sarah Sansonetti, Gabby Newton, Nell Morris-Dalton, Britney Gutknecht and Ellie McKenzie all make the team, while coach Marcus Abney-Hastings was named Coach of the Year after guiding his side to victory in the grand final.

The defence end of the Cannons impressed with Felicity Theodore and Georgie Prespakis both making the team while Georgia Patrikios also made her way into the side after a stellar 2019 performance. She was accompanied by Western Jets’ Elisabeth Georgostathis and Dandenong Stingrays’ Molly McDonald in the midfield thanks to their clever ball use and class across the field.

Western Bulldogs father-daughter prospect Isabella Grant was named at half forward for her efforts throughout the season for the Western Jets. Olivia Meagher and Murray Bushrangers’ youngster Olivia Barber also got named in the team of the season credit to their work in the forward 50 and ability to find the goals when their side needed them.

Molly Denahy-Maloney was named in the ruck with Geelong captain Lucy McEvoy and GWV Rebels player Sophie Molan earning a spot in the Team of the Year.

BP – 1 – M. TUPPER
CC – 3 – G. PRESPAKIS, G. PATRIKIOS, F. THEODORE
DS – 3 – I. SHANNON, T. SMITH, M. MCDONALD
ER – 2 – L. MCCLELLAND, O. MEAGHER
GF – 2 – L. MCEVOY, L. LESOSKY-HAY
GP – 1 – M. SHAW
GWV – 1 – S. MOLAN
MB – 2 – M. BROWN, O. BARNER
NK – 5 – S. SANSONETTI, E. MCKENZIE, G. NEWTON, N. MORRIS-DALTON, B. GUTKNECHT
OC – 1 – J. LIN
SD – 1 – M. DENAHY MALONEY
WJ – 2 – I. GRANT, E. GEORGOSTATHIS

2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final

NORTHERN Knights claimed the 2019 NAB League Girls premiership, defeating the Calder Cannons by 22 points at Ikon Park on Saturday. We were there to capture the day and here are some of the images, accompanied with some post-game quotes for Northern Knights fans to relieve the huge day.

“Our forwards are so, so dangerous, even you saw in that last bit where Alyssa (Bannan) had that one-on-one with that girl, they just put people under pressure.” – Gabby Newton.

I think we played a good game, I think last year (2018 Grand Final loss to Geelong Falcons) our issue was we got too confident coming out of half-time. This year we played all four quarters and it really showed.” – Nell Morris-Dalton.

“The small forwards having manic pressure as Marcus (Abney-Hastings) would say, to keep it in there. They can convert whenever they get opportunities.” – Britney Gutknecht.

“I got my hands nice and strong and then the girls were just kicking it in very well and helped me out.” – Nell Morris-Dalton on her recent form, including seven goals in two finals.

“I think we all knew what to expect and players who had been a part of that team last year were able to impart that knowledge on the girls who hadn’t played a grand final so we knew that if we could get on top of them in the first five minutes and keep our cool, that we’d be able to shut them down first quarter.” – Gabby Newton.

“I’m not too much about the individual achievements, more about the team, I’ll take it I guess, but really happy with the win.” – Jess Fitzgerald on winning the Best on Ground medal.

“Playing with Gabby (Newton) is unreal. I know she’s a future star of the game, (and) to be playing alongside her and knowing hopefully we cross paths further down the track, it’s unreal, it’s just so good” – Britney Gutknecht.

It was a pretty surreal feeling, I haven’t really played in front of a crowd that big before so just happy to just get that opportunity and the girls really pulled through today so it was good.” – Ellie McKenzie.

“I go to school with Georgie (Prespakis), so we’re pretty good friends so that was pretty interesting, but yeah she’s a great talent and I’m sure she’s going to do well in the next few years.” – Ellie McKenzie on direct opponent, Georgie Prespakis.

“I trust our leaders within the ground, and yes you’re right they were getting a lot of ball inside their 50, but I think ultimately our leaders really stood up, led by our marvellous captain. Within our backline, Phoebe Chisholm and Sarah Sansonetti are really strong leaders, so they took the sting out of the game and were able to get that 5 or 10 minutes which was really, really pleasing.” – Northern Knights coach, Marcus Abney-Hastings on Calder’s purple patch in the second quarter.

“We really have a strong back six who have stood up time upon time throughout the year so with those close games we’re used to being challenged, so we were able to deal with that today.” – Gabby Newton.

“It’s just like playing with a sister. We’ve been together for three years now, it’s just huge. I love playing with Brit (Gutknecht), we just know where each other are and we don’t even need to communicate it, so I’m really going to miss it.” – Gabby Newton.

“It’s hugely sad, we’re a huge family. I know this team is never going to be the same again and obviously as top-agers we’re moving on but we’ve just enjoyed our time together, it’s really sad that we’re splitting.” – Britney Gutknecht.

“Jess is probably our most important player. We’re really strong inside the contest and we’ve got players of the Brit’s (Gutknecht) and the Gabby’s (Newton) that put a lot of heat around the ball, but with Fitzy’s run and carry, and really good ball use, she’s probably our most important player. Her speed off the mark, the way she takes the game on is absolute electric, you can’t teach that. We’re really blessed to have this number 14 in our corner.” – Marcus Abney-Hastings.

“It has been a two-year journey for us. We made conscious decisions in both pre-seasons to really develop our bottom-agers and our middle-agers and today that’s really come to fruition with the performance that we showed and the year we had. I think it will be pretty similar next year. Our ultimate is to make sure girls get drafted. This is fantastic, and a great reward for our girls, but ultimately our job is to make sure they’re in the best position to get drafted and take their careers to the next stop, so we’ll continue to do that and really push our girls forward.” – Marcus Abney-Hastings.

Season reviews: TAC Cup Girls – Northern Knights

THE Northern Knights were one of the most impressive TAC Cup Girls teams this season, executing a near-perfect win-loss record in 2018. The Knights defeated every team except for the Geelong Falcons, who beat them in their home-and-away encounter as well as the Grand Final. But the Knights certainly did not waste their season, showcasing their young talent and fierce scoring power not just against the Falcons, but against every team.

Position: 2nd
Win-loss: 8-1
Percentage: 243%

Results:

R1: defeated Dandenong Stingrays by 35 points
R2: defeated Calder Cannons by 48 points
R3: defeated Sandringham Dragon by 30 points
R4: defeated Greater Western Victoria Rebels by 16 points
R5: defeated Oakleigh Chargers by 51 points
R6: defeated Gippsland Power by 15 points
R7: defeated Bendigo Pioneers by 71 points
R8: lost to Geelong Falcons by 8 points
R9: defeated Murray Bushrangers by 30 points

Key players:

Maddy Brancatisano: The captain led from the front this season, playing a team role whenever she was needed to do so. Brancatisano played her midfield role in a defensive style, laying plenty of strong tackles and nullifying her direct opponent’s influence. The top-ager was included in the AFL Draft Central Team of the Week in round six, when she nullified the influence of Gippsland Power co-captain, Tyla Hanks. Brancatisano now has the opportunity to represent Vic Metro at the AFL Women’s National Under 18 Championships, thanks to a stellar season in Knights colours. The basketballer has also been training with Carlton’s VFL Women’s side in a bid to further boost her credentials as a fantastic player.

Ellie McKenzie: The 15 year-old took the competition by storm, being named amongst the best in each of the six games that she featured in during the season. McKenzie was particularly dangerous in the forward line as her height, good body-work and strong hands combined for 10 goals from seven games (including the Grand Final). McKenzie was also able to float into the back line or in the midfield, where she would use those same strengths as well as her incredible running power to trouble opposition sides. Her versatility earned her a spot in the AFL Draft Central Team of the Year on a half-forward flank. She is also representing Vic Metro in the Under 16 squad in the AFL Women’s National Championships.

Marnie Jarvis: One of the most impressive wingers in the competition, Jarvis provided X-Factor every time she got the ball in hand. She was able to move the ball swiftly by hand and by foot, and always tried to impact the contest. For a small player, she had a big kick and used it to effect to boot the ball forward for the Knights. She is currently representing Vic Metro in the National Under 18 Championships and will play VFL Women’s for the Darebin Falcons.

Gabby Newton: Newton was one of the most influential players in the competition, impressing in every position she played in. She made the AFL Draft Central Team of the Week four times in a different position on each occasion. Arguably her best work was done in the ruck and at half-forward, as she was named as the centre-half forward in the AFL Draft Central Team of the Year. Newton used the ball well both by hand and by foot, often being the catalyst behind the onslaught of the Knights’ scoring that became so common throughout the season.

Neve O’Connor: Carried most of the ruck duties for the Knights throughout the season and could impact a contest with a simple tap. Displayed good body-work on her opponents and had strong hands. She has been selected to play for Vic Metro in the National Under 18 Championships.

Alyssa Bannan: Bannan was a goal kicking machine during the season, finishing second in the TAC Cup Girls goal kicking tally. The 16 year-old booted 14 goals from nine matches and did so with poise, booting majors from all angles. A highlight was when she booted a few goals in a matter of minutes to turn the game in Northern’s favour in round one, which was a pivotal kickstart to the Knights’ season.

Britney Gutknecht: Gutknecht was a great swing player for the Knights, utilising her strength and high footy IQ to make an impact both across half-forward and half-back. However, her main strengths were on show in the forward line, as she booted 12 goals from 10 games, including a bag of seven to be named the AFL Draft Central Player of the Week for that effort. She was also nominated for the AFL Draft Central Team of the Year in the forward line after being nominated three times throughout the year.

Season summary:

The Northern Knights season is one that coach, Marcus Abney-Hastings should be proud of, as the players not only developed but also got plenty of confidence-boosting wins along the way. The Knights bravely took it right up to the Falcons in the grand final, imposing their attacking game on their top-of-the-table opponent. With an average winning margin of 34 points, the Knights were a scary prospect in the competition and with a young side at the helm, they could be in for lots of success in the upcoming years of the TAC Cup Girls competition.

Weekend previews: TAC Cup Girls – Grand Final

THE big day has finally arrived. The Geelong Falcons and the Northern Knights have been the two in-form teams of the TAC Cup Girls competition and will play out the first ever TAC Cup Girls Grand Final. We decided to take an in-depth look at both of the teams ahead of the historic day set to take place at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday.

 

GEELONG FALCONS v. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

2018 TAC Cup Girls Grand Final – Saturday, May 19, 12.30pm

Avalon Airport Oval, Werribee

Form line

Geelong Falcons:

Ladder position: 1st
Wins: 9
Losses: 0
Percentage: 294%

Northern Knights:

Ladder position: 2nd
Wins: 8
Losses: 1
Percentage: 243%

 

Last time they met

Geelong Falcons 4.7 (31) defeated Northern Knights 3.5 (23)

The Geelong Falcons made it eight from eight against fellow undefeated team, Northern Knights with an eight-point win. The Falcons came out of the blocks with a three goal to none first half, then the Knights fought back with a three goal to one second half.

AFLW Academy members, Lucy McEvoy, Denby Taylor, Olivia Purcell and Nina Morrison were some of the best players on the ground yet again. McEvoy and Taylor held down the fort well in defence while Purcell and Morrison chased and tackled in the midfield. They were complemented by Zoe Inei in the ruck, who delivered some nice taps towards her gut-runners. In the forward line, it was Sachi DeGiacomi who put in all the hard yards to keep her side’s undefeated streak alive.

For Northern, midfielder, Marnie Jarvis found herself up forward on a couple of occasions, slotting through two of the Knights’ three majors. Gabrielle Newton was a star, this time in defence, proving she can play just about anywhere on the field. Young gun, Ellie McKenzie had another standout performance for the Knights, as did Nell Morris-Dalton. Other solid contributors included Paije Kearney and Ashleigh Snow.

GOALS

Geelong Falcons: S. DeGiacomi, S. Walmsley, R. Tierney, P. Sheppard

Northern Knights: M. Jarvis 2, A. Bannan

BEST

Geelong Falcons: L. McEvoy, D. Taylor, O. Purcell, S. DeGiacomi, Z. Inei, N. Morrison

Northern Knights: G. Newton, E. McKenzie, P. Kearney, N. Morris-Dalton, A. Snow, M. Jarvis

 

Players to watch

Geelong Falcons:

#18 Nina Morrison

Times in Best: 6

Morrison is one of the most hard-working midfielders in the competition. She has electric speed and is a brilliant ball-user. She often gets the ball on the outside and clears it into space, but can also find the ball in the heart of the contest.

#42 Sachi DeGiacomi

Times in Best: 5

DeGiacomi has been pivotal for the Falcons at centre half-forward. She has kicked 13 goals from nine games and if stats were taken for TAC Cup Girls, they would say that she has also had plenty of assists. She is an unselfish player that knows how to find the goals when needed, and she also has a fantastic set of hands.

#23 Lucy McEvoy

Times in Best: 5

The Geelong captain has been remarkable this season. McEvoy does her best work in defence, but can also play a role as a tall midfielder when required. She is a versatile player that has a booming kick, and always goes in hard at the contest.

#7 Olivia Purcell

Times in Best: 4

Olivia Purcell is one of the toughest inside midfielders in the competition. She is an aggressive tackler and a good clearance player, thanks to her innate ability to find space. Her acceleration is a huge asset for the Falcons and will serve her in good stead on Saturday.

Northern Knights:

#21 Ellie McKenzie

Times in Best: 6

Ellie McKenzie is the most exciting 15 year-old in the competition. She has been amongst Northern’s best players in every game she has played, and has kicked 10 goals to go along with it. McKenzie is a vital forward for the Knights and can work some magic with the ball in hand.

#23 Gabrielle Newton

Times in Best: 5

Newton has been a star in the ruck, up forward, in defence, or basically wherever she is needed. She plays any role that she is asked to play and does it with class. Newton is a wonderful ball-user and knows how to find the right option.

#5 Madeline Brancatisano

Times in Best: 4

The Knights captain has been outstanding in the midfield this season. What stands out about Brancatisano is her defensive efforts, as she lays some strong tackles and can also play a shutdown role on the opposition when needed. She has displayed quick hands throughout the season and is an unselfish player.

#18 Sarah Sansonetti

Times in Best: 4

Sarah Sansonetti has been a key player in defence for Northern this season. She often finds the ball at the heart of the contest and can clear the ball out of defensive 50 with ease. Sansonetti is an agile player who can move off her opponent well to create a contest.

 

Preview

The two most-deserving teams will face off in the inaugural TAC Cup Girls Grand Final on Saturday. The teams last met in round eight, where only eight points separated the sides.

Geelong Falcons coach, Jason Armistead is all too aware of the Knights’ fire-power and knows that his side must combat their high-scoring if they are to win the historic game.

“They’re the highest-scoring team in the competition and their ability to score quickly has been a strength,” Armistead said. “We need to be mindful of stopping their momentum if they get on a roll.”

Their high-scoring has come in the form of some big last quarters, where the Knights have piled on the goals to ensure a big percentage-boosting win. In fourth quarters alone, Northern has outscored its opposition 159-46. The 46 points is the combined total of each of the nine teams that the Knights have played, which is a remarkable feat.

Northern coach, Marcus Abney-Hastings has been really impressed with his host of players this season, who have worked together to achieve some big wins.

“Our captain Maddy Brancatisano has had a really good year and really led from the front,” Abney-Hastings said. “Gabby Newton has been playing in a range of positions and is also a good leader on the field. “Neve O’Connor will be really important in the ruck; she gives our midfielders first use of the ball. Marnie Jarvis has been really important with her run and carry on a wing and Britney Gutknecht has also been important for us going forward.”

But Geelong’s defence has been a highlight for them this season, with the trio of Denby Taylor, Lucy McEvoy and Abbey Chapman playing some fantastic footy in the defensive half. Their depth, like Northern’s, is also phenomenal, with players such as Mia Sheppard, Tarryn Love and Sophie Walmsley stepping up on various occasions.

Expect a high level of skill, talent and class on display at Avalon Airport Oval, as the best of the best in this magnificent competition battle it out for ultimate glory.

 

GEELONG FALCONS:

NORTHERN KNIGHTS: