Tag: matilda hardy

Youth set to take next step in VFL Women’s competition

TWELVE players who received AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but missed out on being picked up by clubs will test themselves in the new-look Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition starting this weekend. Of the 12 players, five of them remain on NAB League lists as top-agers, whilst the others are purely focused on their VFL Women’s commitments in 2021.

Carlton have a trio of players who received Draft Combine invites last year, in Gippsland Power duo Nikia Webber and Shanara Notman, and Oakleigh Chargers defender Amber Micallef. Webber and Notman have received a couple of Combine invites in the past, with the key position talents strong overhead and both having represented Vic Country in the past. Notman played Round 1 with the Power, but is also a skilled basketballer. Micallef stepped up in 2020 to provide great outside run albeit in only the two games she was able to play, becoming a crucial cog in the Chargers’ rebound.

The other team with multiple 2020 AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites is Southern Saints, with Dandenong Stingrays teammates Zoe Hill and Abbey Jordan both in the red, white and black for season 2021. The duo are still on the Stingrays’ NAB League Girls lists and made a strong start to the season last round, with Hill a Vic Country Under 18s key position defender at bottom-age level, and Jordan a speedy winger who has been moved inside to increase her versatility this year.

Another player still on a NAB League list but is testing herself at state league level is Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae who will suit up for Hawthorn in 2021. The hardnut inside midfielder had a massive Round 1 game for the Power, but has moved closer to the city for work this year and will look to join the likes of form Power player, Maddi Shaw at the brown and gold.

Meanwhile Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher will head to Collingwood, with the 2020 Eastern Ranges captain already having an impact in her two games at NAB League level this season. A fierce onballer, Meagher will have no troubles stepping up to the level and will be one to watch through the onball brigade at the Pies.

Another inside midfielder and former NAB League captain stepping up to the VFL Women’s in 2021 is Brooke Hards who will play with the Western Bulldogs this season. The Bendigo Pioneers co-captain last year and Vic Country Under 18s representative as a bottom-ager two seasons ago will look to bring a similar fierce attack to the Bulldogs midfield as another country player who has moved closer to the city for studies.

Calder Cannons’ Alana Barba will once again head to Essendon after not being able to get out on the park last season, but still earning a Draft Combine invitation as a 19-year-old. A tackling machine like Hards, Barba has grown through the Vic Metro program and will team up alongside a heap of current Calder Cannons players who will don the red and black this year. She is joined at the Bombers by Bendigo Pioneers’ Jemma Finning who was impressive in a new role at half-back last season, and has been back at the Pios thus far in 2021.

Having quite the pathway, Courteney Bromage has returned to Victoria after a stint in Queensland last year, with the ex-Carlton talent trying out at Port Melbourne. She will provide plenty of experience for the league’s newest side as they look to have an impact from the get-go.

Speaking of travelling, there will be a sister act at North Melbourne, with Jayde Hamilton the other Draft Combine invite from last year. Representing Eastern Allies as a bottom-ager in 2019, the inside midfielder will join sister and ex-Gold Coast Suns tall Alexia Hamilton at the Roos in 2021.

There are also plenty of current NAB League Girls who have been named on various VFL Women’s lists for the upcoming season. Essendon VFL Women’s have been flushed with an array of Calder talents, including AFL Women’s Academy members Georgie Prespakis and Tahlia Gillard, as well as the likes of Kasey Lennox, Neve Crowley, Grace Dicker, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell. The Bombers also have recruited Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell. Another Calder talent in Peppa Poultney has opted to stick with her junior club and follow into Darebin Falcons’ VFL Women’s program.

Geelong has unsurprisingly recruited a number of Falcons to its list, with Renee Tierney already lightning up the NAB League Girls with a couple of big outings in the opening two matches. Defender Annie Lee and midfielder Tess Craven are also among the Falcons best performed in the opening couple of games and could easily have an impact at state league level. They are joined by Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ Chloe Leonard who has also been in great form.

Eastern Ranges Isabelle Khoury, Matilda Hardy and Jess Grace have all signed on to Hawthorn’s VFL Women’s list, whilst Darwin Buffettes talent and former Central Allies representative Dominique Carbone has also decided to head to the Hawks this season. A former and current Murray Bushrangers duo of Kate Adams and Sophie Locke will run out for Port Melbourne, while Geelong Falcons’ Zoe Garth will test herself at Williamstown.

Other current NAB League Girls players on lists include Oakleigh Chargers’ Kalarni Kearns who will head to Collingwood, and Western Jets’ Nikita Wright will suit up for the Western Bulldogs. One name who might fly under the radar but has switched states is Collingwood’s Matilda Zander who has finally made her way to the Pies from Norwood after attempting to do so last year before the full state lockdown went into place.

With plenty of young talent on show in the VFL Women’s competition, there is plenty to get excited about across the league, and it all kicks off on Saturday.

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 3 wrap – Falcons, Ranges and Chargers go two from two

ROUND 3 of the 2021 NAB League Girls season saw the Geelong Falcons, Eastern Ranges, and Oakleigh Chargers go two-from-two in this year’s competition, firming as early frontrunners. Players hit the ground running after a week away due to the postponement of Round 2, though four of the six fixtures were decided by over six goals. We take you through all the weekend’s action from what was an exciting return to elite pathways football.

Calder Cannons vs. Oakleigh Chargers

By: Michael Alvaro

Oakleigh Chargers came out on top in a battle of premiership contenders, kicking away from the Calder Cannons during an inspired final term to salute by 16 points. The wind favoured Calder in the fourth quarter, who looked primed to ride out a tense win as scores were tied at three quarter time, but the Chargers took full toll with an irresistible surge to stamp themselves as a bonafide flag threat. Now 2-0, they sit second and boast a number of draftable prospects currently taking the league by storm.

Outside midfielder Stella Reid was crucial in helping Oakleigh establish an early foothold, booting two goals in the first half before finishing as the game’s leading ball winner. Charlie Rowbottom, Amanda Ling, and Eliza James contributed some strong work at the stoppages, with the latter also snagging a crucial late major. Brooke Vickers was also terrific off half-back and Ameile Smith competed well as a slightly undersized ruck/key forward.

The midfield trio of Georgie Prespakis, Emelia Yassir, and Zali Friswell was also impactful for Calder, as they all lifted at important times to give the Cannons a fighting chance. Charlotte Clayton booted two opportunistic goals while stationed deep inside 50 as Tahlia Gillard also proved dangerous when rotated from the ruck, while Kasey Lennox tried hard alongside Neve Crowley in defence and Olivia Manfre put her hand up in the loss.

The Cannons will look to reload and fire again when they take on the Bendigo Pioneers in a tough road trip, while Oakleigh is booked for a meeting with Tasmania on the Apple Isle in Round 4.

CALDER CANNONS 0.0 | 3.2 | 4.2 | 4.4 (28)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.3 | 2.3 | 3.8 | 6.8 (44)
 

GOALS:

Calder: C. Clayton 2, Z. Friswell, O. Manfre
Oakleigh: S. Reid 2, E. James, A. Smith, H. Kenealy, B. Vickers

DC BEST:

Calder: G. Prespakis, E. Yassir, Z. Friswell, K. Lennox, T. Gillard, O. Manfre
Oakleigh: S. Reid, C. Rowbottom, B. Vickers, A. Ling, E. James, A. Smith

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)
4 – Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
3 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
2 – Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)
1 – Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Oakleigh forward Taylah Morton speaks to Draft Central’s Michael Alvaro post-match:

 

Bendigo Pioneers vs. Geelong Falcons

By: Peter Williams

Two Round 1 winners headed north up to Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve to face off in warm conditions, which organisers allowed for by moving the game half an hour earlier to 10am. It was the visitors who raced off to a dominant start through Renee Tierney and Zoe Garth (two goals), and never really looked back. The Pioneers had a good second quarter thanks to goals from Jemma Finning and Charli Dorrity, but the Falcons maintained control in the second half, booting four goals to zero to run out comfortable 50-point winners on the road.

Tierney was a huge turning point for the Falcons with her four goals and setting up another few, while defenders Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling were again consistent. Through the midifield Tess Craven and Poppy Schaap did the bulk of the heavy lifting in a team effort, while Gabbi Featherston had multiple shots on goal and looked damaging every time she went near it. For the Pioneers, future stars in Tegan Williams and Lila Keck really stood out, while Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson were again consistent across the match roaming hard and covering ground.

BENDIGO PIONEERS 0.0 | 2.1 | 2.3 | 2.4 (16)
GEELONG FALCONS 3.1 | 6.3 | 9.4 | 10.6 (66)

GOALS:

Bendigo: J. Finning, C. Dorrity
Geelong: R. Tierney 4, Z. Garth 2, E. Perrett, L. Were, K. Stacey, T. Craven

DC BEST:

Bendigo: T. Williams, E. Snell, J. Richardson, L. Keck, M. Marks, L. Den Houting
Geelong: R. Tierney, A. Lee, P. Schaap, T. Craven, G. Featherston, E. Dowling

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)
4 – Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)
3 – Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)
2 – Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
1 – Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Eastern Ranges vs. Gippsland Power

By: Peter Williams

Eastern Ranges sent a message to the rest of the NAB League Girls competition after flexing their muscles during a 19.3 (117) to 0.3 (3) romp of Gippsland Power. The huge win broke the all-time high score and winning margin records, with 12 individual goalkickers contributing 19 goals for the match. Their accuracy of 19 majors from just 22 shots also helped their case, and while the Power did manage to contain them to three goals in the second and fourth quarters, could not manage to put through a major themselves on the day.

Alyssia Pisano was best on ground with four majors in the match, while Georgia Campbell took control of the ruck for Eastern, and then went forward to deliver three majors too. The midfield pair of Bridget Deed and Olivia Meagher was ticking over, while Georgia Wilson (two) goals, Isabelle Khoury and Matilda Hardy were all prominent on the scoring front. For the Power, Matilda Van Berkel put in a four quarter effort from defence, combining well with Courtney Fletcher back there, while Sunday Brisbane and Yasmin Duursma won their fair share of the ball despite the defeat.

EASTERN RANGES 7.1 | 10.2 | 16.2 | 19.3 (117)
GIPPSLAND POWER 0.0 | 0.2 | 0.3 | 0.3 (3)

GOALS:

Eastern: A. Pisano 4, G. Campbell 3, G. Wilson 2, B. Deed 2, J. Livingstone, K. Sherar, C. Wilsmore, S. Humm, J. Grace, I. Khoury, L. Stone, M. Hardy
Gippsland: Nil.

DC BEST:

Eastern: A. Pisano, G. Campbell, O. Meagher, B. Deed, M. Hardy, I. Khoury
Gippsland: M. Van Berkel, C. Fletcher, I. Makai, A. Molesworth, S. Brisbane, Y. Duursma

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)
4 – Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)
3 – Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges)
2 – Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)
1 – Matilda Hardy (Eastern Ranges)

Dandenong Stingrays vs. Western Jets

By: Declan Reeve

A three-goal third quarter saw the Dandenong Stingrays win by 10 points in their first game of the year over an improved Western Jets outfit at Bluescope Recreation Centre. Dandenong’s inaccuracy in the first term saw Western remain within striking distance, even taking the lead by two points at half time. But the third quarter saw the Stingrays drift away from the Jets, with the latter unable to get the difference back as the game finished 6.6 (42) to 5.2 (32) in Dandenong’s favour.

2022 draft eligible trio Montana Ham (Western), Emily Shepherd and Amber Clarke (Dandenong) led the goalkicking with two apiece, with Ham getting both of hers playing as a forward target in the last quarter. The trio was also highly influential through the midfield throughout the day, with Abbey Jordan and Charley Ryan also working hard for the Stingrays in the engine room. Laura Elliott and Jaide Anthony were two standouts in their respective teams’ defences for the day, with Elliott showing off her ability to read the ball in flight and position herself to cut off Dandenong attacks, and Anthony doing similarly down the other end, sweeping up any dropped marks and rebounding quickly.

Next week sees the Stingrays hit the road to face GWV Rebels at MARS Stadium, whilst the Jets head to Cathedral College in Wangaratta to take on the Murray Bushrangers.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 1.4 | 2.4  | 5.6  | 6.6 (42)
WESTERN JETS 1.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 | 5.2 (32)

GOALS:

Dandenong: A. Clarke 2, E. Shepherd 2, J. Radford, H. Monk
Western: M. Ham 2, A. Gray, C. Sergeant, A. Anthony

DC BEST:

Dandenong: E. Shepherd, A. Clarke, J. Anthony, A. Jordan, B. Smith
Western: M. Ham, L. Elliott, J. Woods, C. Baskaran, P. Ryan 

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)
4 – Montana Ham (Western Jets)
3 – Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)
2 – Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)
1 – Laura Elliott (Western Jets)

GWV Rebels vs. Murray Bushrangers

By: Peter Williams

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels stormed to a dominant, high-scoring win over Murray Bushrangers to bounce back from a narrow Round 1 defeat at the hands of the Geelong Falcons. Both teams were no doubt feeling the heat at Epsom Huntly, but both played with a fierce brand of football. The Rebels got off to a fast start and never looked back, piling on seven goals to two by half-time. The Bushrangers managed to arrest the momentum somewhat and make it more of an even contest after the main break, though some late majors to the Rebels blew the margin out to 44 points by the final siren.

Paige Scott stood out with three important goals up forward, while Nyakoat Dojiok was simply sensational after quarter time. Her work around the stoppages and teaming up with Lilli Condon and Crystal Summers really made life difficult for the Bushrangers. Ella Friend looked lively at ground level this week after a dominant marking effort the week before, while Chloe Leonard was again consistent for the winners. Aurora Smith and Keeley Skepper were the dominant players through the midfield for the Bushrangers, while Molly Kennedy did well one-on-one against Friend, and Ally Morphett provided a target up forward while also rolling through the ruck.

GWV REBELS 4.0 | 7.1 | 8.4 | 11.6 (72)
MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 1.1 | 2.2 | 3.2 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:

GWV: P. Scott 3, T. Meier 2, P. Kissel 2, I. Cullenward R. Pickles, E. Friend, K. Tomkins
Murray: O. Cicolini 2, L. Sharp, A. Morphett

DC BEST:

GWV: P. Scott, L. Condon, E. Friend, N. Dojiok, C. Leonard, C. Summers
Murray: K. Skepper, A. Smith, M. Kennedy, A. Morphett, M. Quade, L. Sharp

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)
4 – Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)
3 – Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)
2 – Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)
1 – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Sandringham Dragons vs. Northern Knights

By: Declan Reeve

A composed and determined Northern Knights came out 37-point winners over the Sandringham Dragons at Trevor Barker Oval on Sunday, with a four-goal first quarter setting up the high-level team performance. The Dragons had their opportunities throughout the day but were unfortunately inaccurate in front of goal, with the Knights defenders able to move the short dropping balls out of defence quickly and seeing out the 10.6 (66) to 4.5 (29) result.

Maeve Chaplin was the standout performer for the Knights, leading the way in the midfield with her relentless hunt for the footy which the Dragons just did not have any answers for. She was well assisted by Ava Jordan who showed composure with the ball throughout, setting up team mate Megan Girolami for one of her game-high three goals. The Dragons still showed plenty of fight through the likes of 2022 draft eligible Keely Coyne and Sofia Hurley, who did hard work around the ground, and Ebony Angelopoulos who snared two of her own goals.

The Knights will be looking to make it two on the trot when they come up against Gippsland Power at Churchill Football Ground next round, whilst Sandringham will have time to recoup with a bye before it faces Gippsland in Churchill the following week.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 2.1 | 3.4 | 4.4 | 4.5 (29)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 4.1 | 4.4 | 7.5 | 10.6 (66)

GOALS:

Sandringham: E. Angelopoulos 2, S. Pribil, C. Murphy
Northern: M. Girolami 3, E. Smallacombe 2, M. Chaplin, T. Mills, R. Wilcox, C. Laurie, M. Papachristos

DC BEST:

Sandringham: K. Coyne, S. Hurley, P. Staltari, E. Angelopoulos, K. Lynch
Northern: M. Chaplin, M. Girolami, A. Jordan, B. Plummer, E. Smallacombe

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)
4 – Megan Girolami (Northern Knights)
3 – Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)
2 – Brooke Plummer (Northern Knights)
1 – Keely Coyne (Sandringham Dragons)

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.

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.

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Eastern Ranges

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at one of the sides to have only played the two games to-date, splitting their results with a big loss and a big win, Eastern Ranges.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Dandenong Stingrays by 50 points
R2: Bye
R3: defeated Tasmania Devils by 57 points

They have not had the same amount of games as the first three team reviews, with Eastern Ranges suffering a 50-point loss at the hands of Dandenong Stingrays, before winning against Tasmania Devils by 57 to maintain a positive percentage before the season was postponed. There were plenty of positives to take out of the 2020 season so far and a number of impressive players.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Olivia Meagher (21.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 3.0 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 2.0 rebounds)

In Eastern’s top couple of players in both games, the relentless attitude of the captain stands out above all else. Meagher keeps cracking in regardless of the score and always puts in a four quarter effort. She is a team player who provides bumps and shepherds that will not always be recorded on a stats sheet, but help the team out immensely. A natural-born leader who sets the example for her teammates to follow.

Tarni Brown (24.0 disposals, 2.5 marks, 4.5 tackles, 2.5 inside 50s, 1.0 rebound, 1 goal)

The classy midfielder watched her brother Tyler make his debut in the AFL last weekend, and her most recent performance against Tasmania was one that was equally as exciting. She has increased her ball-winning ability in 2020 and her numbers have gone up – albeit from just the two games of data – but what sets her aside is her ability to think her way through traffic, evade opponents and pick the right option out of a stoppage. Often used as a distributor going inside 50.

Jorja Livingstone (16.5 disposals, 1.0 tackles, 4.0 inside 50s)

A real exciting player who has some nice burst speed out of a stoppage and while clearances are not a stat officially recorded, you can guarantee she would be high up in that regard. She covers the ground well and can play out of the middle or around the forward 50, having a number of chances but just not being able to make one stick early against the Devils. A middle-age player who will still be eligible to run around in the competition next year.

Bridget Deed (16.0 disposals, 2.5 marks, 2.5 tackles, 3.5 rebounds)

Another middle-age prospect who has been a reliable source in defence, but also pushing up the ground through the midfield, Deed is able to find the ball and move it on quickly in transition. She was seen finding plenty of it early against Tasmania, then went back to the last line where she aided her team in weathering the storm against the Devils. A really versatile player who will be another to watch next season.

Isabelle Khoury (10.5 disposals, 1.5 marks, 2.0 tackles, 2.5 inside 50s, 3 goals)

Without many chances in the opening game, the forward made the most of her chances against Tasmania. Khoury booted three majors against the Devils, and was providing a target up the field for her teammates. She often also pumped the ball inside 50 to provide others with a chance to score and could play deep or as a high half-forward. Another middle-age prospect, Khoury will get another chance in 2021.

Others who have stood out: Georgia Campbell, Mietta Kendall, Jess Grace, Matilda Hardy

The Ranges had plenty of talls this year, and Campbell led the ruck division with 18 hitouts from 12 touches and 3.5 tackles per game. Assisting her as one of a couple of other players in the hitouts was Grace, who showed strength at full-forward as well as through the middle, while Kendall in defence, and Hardy as a forward target in the game against Tasmania were also impressive.

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

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

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

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

DC Medal:

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

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

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

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

 

2020 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 3

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

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

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

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

BACKS:

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

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

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

HALF-BACKS:

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

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

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

CENTRES:

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

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

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

RUCKS:

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

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

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

HALF-FORWARDS:

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

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

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

FORWARDS:

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

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

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

INTERCHANGE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

EMG:

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

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

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

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

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

Ranges grab first win in 2020 with victory over determined Devils

EASTERN Ranges shook off a determined Tasmania Devils outfit to win by 57 points at the renovated Kilsyth Recreation Reserve in Round 3 of the NAB League Girls competition. In a fiery clash with plenty of fierce tackles, the Devils were much improved on their 102-point loss to Oakleigh Chargers last week, but the Ranges had a bit too much class with the last nine goals of the game, four of which came in the final term. The Devils had much to be pleased about too, keeping the Ranges to just one goal in the first and third terms during the 10.6 (66) to 1.3 (9) loss.

The opening term was a real tussle between the sides, with Eastern having more of the ball, but Tasmania refusing to allow them easy chances. Tahlia Bortignon set the tone early with a run-down tackle on an opponent to save a certain goal, while later in the term, it was Claire Ransom who received a huge roar from the Devils’ bench for stopping an Eastern opponent in her tracks. The Ranges were not to be outdone bringing the heat in the contest, led by captain Olivia Meagher who produced a front-on bruising tackle inside her defensive 50 to worry the Devils forwards into turning it over. Both Meagher and Tarni Brown were busy in the opening term, while Jorja Livingstone was peppering the goals. She could not get one to connect through the big sticks, but Matilda Hardy did after receiving a 50m penalty and kicking it from point-blank range. The Devils levelled the score with their first ever major in the competition with a memorable snap off a step from Perri King that sailed home without the goal umpire moving. A late push in midfield prompted a downfield free for the Ranges with less than 30 seconds on the clock, but the ball fell short and rushed through for a behind – the exact lead the home team held at quarter time. While Brown, Meagher and Livingstone were busy, so too was Bridget Deed who had a game-high nine disposals in the first quarter working hard around the ground. King and Meghan Gaffney shared the load for Tasmania with four disposals each in a real team effort.

Eastern Ranges found some better entries inside 50 in the second term, making it difficult for Tasmania to defend. Saskia Nannes had an unbelievable chance from deep in the pocket with her end-over-end snap bouncing over the one-on-one contest in the goalsquare but it kept bouncing out of bounds. Moments later a nice snap off the right from Kate Ridley gave the Ranges a relieving goal early in the term. Meagher continued to set the tone with a huge bump on Ella Maurer to help her teammate win the ball and deliver to Jess Grace who marked and converted the set shot straight after. Jemma Blair took a strong intercept grab as the danger signs from the week before were starting to show, but the defensive pressure of the Devils was still there with King having multiple defensive efforts at a stoppage to exemplify the work. A big clunk from Eloise Chaston and then a great set kick straight to Hardy who put through her second of the afternoon and all of a sudden the margin was out to 19 midway through the term. Brown was breaking the game open with her burst from a stoppage, and really creating scoring opportunities for her forwards. Isabelle Pollock had a running chance on goal by shrugging off a would-be tackler but pushed it wide at full speed. Just as it looked like the teams would head into the break with a 20-point differential, a density free kick in the dying seconds – which had a 50m penalty associated with it – handed Cassy Wilsmore a goal from the set shot and made the half-time margin 27 points.

A terrific blind-side run-down tackle from Kiara Mills set up Tasmania with an early chance, but it was smothered off the mark and cleared by the Ranges. Meagher was starting to get on the end of some fierce tackles herself, but the captain kept bouncing up and earned a free kick for her troubles early in the term. The Ranges were able to lock the ball in their forward half for a stoppage and the roving Isabelle Khoury pounced with a great clean take at speed to snap and put it through for the home team’s first of the half. A good piece of play down the wing for the Devils midway through the term led to another opportunity but the set shot from Amy Bissett went to the right. Angelica Clark had a nice piece of play through the midfield to burst away and kick deep but it went past the one-on-one and went over the line. The Devils were able to nullify the scoring however, and gain some serious territory locking it inside 50. The siren sounded with a bit of heat in the game as both sides were told to separate by the umpires going into the final break. Eastern had a commanding 32-point lead, but Tasmania had restricted them to just one goal in a much-improved defensive effort.

Tasmania’s momentum from late in the third term continued with the first inside 50 of the final term and the Devils managed to score an early behind to show they were not going to fade away. A terrific tackle from Gaffney at half-forward off the kick out signalled their intentions to keep the pressure gauge at extreme, but the Ranges were equally up for the challenge. A strong intercept mark on the last line by Deed stopped a likely goal playing at full-back, as the likes of Bissett kept attacking the forward 50. In their first meaningful entry for the term, a series of handballs ended up with Pollock who had a chance but missed to the left on the run. Moments later though, Khoury capitalised with a terrific snap around her body for her second almost identical to her third term major. For some icing on the cake, Nannes roved the pack well and converted a major running into goal, with Khoury giving the home fans an extra reason to cheer with her own running goal – her second of the term and third of the match – shortly after and the Ranges were now running away with the contest. As if fitting, Brown would finish off the huge last quarter with a towering contest mark and goal to cap off a best on ground performance. With the four-goal final term, the Ranges had blown out the margin from 32 points to 57 to register a win and bounce back from the disappointing Round 1 loss.

EASTERN RANGES 1.2 | 5.4 | 6.4 | 10.6 (66)
TASMANIA DEVILS 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 (9)

GOALS:

Eastern: I. Khoury 3, M. Hardy 2, T. Brown, C. Wilsmore, K. Ridley, S, Nannes, J. Grace.
Tasmania: P. King.

ADC BEST:

Eastern: T. Brown, O. Meagher, I. Khoury, M. Hardy, B. Deed, J. Livingstone
Tasmania: P. King, M. Gaffney, J. Webster, A. Crooks, C.Lovell, J. Blair

DC Medal:

5 – Tarni Brown (ER)
4 – Olivia Meagher (ER)
3 – Isabella Khoury (ER)
2 – Matilda Hardy (ER)
1 – Perri King (TD)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vic Country run out narrow winners after impressive final term

VIC Country’s Under-16 side has triumphed in the final game of the AFL Women’s Under 16 Championships, running over the top of a fast-starting Metro side with a final quarter burst. Murray Bushrangers’ Keeley Skepper starred, roaming around the ground and having an influence across four quarters, while Matilda Hardy and Emelia Yassir were equally impressive through the midfield for the Metro side.

Metro dominated the opening term but it was Geelong Falcons’ Analea McKee who hit the scoreboard first with great body position one-on-one to run onto a loose ball over the back and put her side on the board. It did not take long for Metro to apply the possession dominance to the scoreboard, with Sandringham Dragons’ Ebony Angelopoulos putting the Metro team back in front, followed by majors to Calder Cannons’ Tahlia Gillard and Northern Knights’ Maykaylah Appleby.

Trailing by 14 points at the first break, it was Country’s turn to control possession but not impact the scoreboard, until McKee slotted her second at a crucial time to pump up her side. Luckily for Country, Metro could only manage the one behind, as the likes of Geelong Falcons’ Elizabeth Dowling and Bendigo Pioneers’ Tara Slender were rebounding everything out of the back half, while Gippsland Power’s Macie Gilmour was strong around the ground, taking a huge mark late in the term, coming off worse for wear before returning after the long break.

When Sandringham Dragons’ Charli Murphy converted her set shot after a strong mark inside 50 early in the third, and Metro was looking dangerous, the signs were ominous for Country. Little did the crowd expect, Country was about to take complete control with the four last goals of the game. Murray Bushrangers’ small forward, Cassidy Mailer converted, as did Gippsland Power tall, Tyla Angwin to draw level by the final break.

With the game evenly poised, Country was the team that took the game on and Gilmour and Tahlia Meier both converted goals to put the result beyond doubt, holding Metro scoreless in the final term to run out 6.8 (44) to 4.6 (30) winners. Grace Matser‘s work in the ruck was impressive with the Gippsland Power tall having an influence around the ground, while Calder Cannons duo, Kasey Lennox and Peppa Poultney were also impressive across the four quarters.

The victory was well deserved for a Country side that controlled play after quarter time, booting five of the last six goals of the match to enjoy a victory over the short series of matches. While Metro could not take home the chocolates, they celebrated a win previously against NSW/ACT Rams, while Country went down to South Australia. For the Under-16 players, they now head back to their local clubs as they keep an eye on their Under-18 teammates on the Gold Coast, aspiring to be in their shoes in 12 and 24 months time.

VIC COUNTRY 1.0 | 2.4 | 4.6 | 6.8 (44)
VIC METRO 3.2 | 3.3 | 4.6 | 4.6 (30)

GOALS:

Vic Country: A. McKee (Geelong) 2, C. Mailer (Murray), T. Angwin (Gippsland), M. Gilmour (Gippsland), T. Meier (GWV)
Vic Metro: E. Angelopoulos (Sandringham), T. Gillard (Calder), M. Appleby (Northern), C. Murphy (Sandringham)

BEST:

Vic Country: K. Skepper (Murray), A. McKee, M. Gilmour, T. Slender (Bendigo), E. Dowling (Geelong), G. Matser (Gippsland)
Vic Metro: M. Hardy (Eastern), E. Yassir (Calder), K. Lennox (Calder), S. Reid (Oakleigh), P. Poultney (Calder), J. Woods (Western)