Tag: meagan kiely

2021 VFLW Round 8 preview: Anzac Day rivals lock horns at The Hangar

ANZAC Day matches take centre stage, along with a Friday night blockbuster at Whitten Oval, in what is anticipated to be a fantastic round of Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s action for Round 8 of the competition.

WESTERN BULLDOGS vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Friday, April 23 @ 7:30pm
Whitten Oval

A mammoth win last Sunday afternoon against Darebin saw Western Bulldogs jump from eleventh to eighth on the VFL Women’s table, and draw to within four points of the top six. They will have plenty of percentage to catch up on after some disappointing losses, but the team that currently holds sixth spot is their opponents on Friday night, the Southern Saints. The Saints have a healthy percentage thanks to a similar belting of the Falcons back in Round 5, which had actually snapped a three-game losing streak. They did go down to the unbeaten Magpies last week, so will be seeking to bounce back against the Dogs in this clash. Tara Bohanna is a key player for the Saints, booting eight goals in seven games to be within reach of top spot on the table. Valerie Moreau and Gabbi De Angelis have both slotted four majors, to give the Saints a pretty potent forward line. Alice Burke ran rampant last week with 35 touches, whilst the dangerous Renee Saulitis is another small who can inject pace and class around goals. By comparison, Mary Sandral leads the Dogs’ goalkicking with the four majors, but was injured during the clash against the Falcons, On debut Western Jets’ Jemima Woods slotted three majors, though it is expected she will return for the NAB League Girls’ final clash. Danielle Marshall hit the scoreboard last week, while the return of Nell Morris-Dalton and Eleanor Brown to complement the side was important. Last time they were under lights the Dogs had a shocker against the Magpies, but expect them to be much better here against the Saints in what should be a thrilling contest.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, April 24 @ 10:00am
ETU Stadium

The top of the table Port Melbourne host Casey Demons in an early Saturday morning clash. The Borough saw off their greatest challenge to-date last week, overcoming Carlton from several goals down to remain undefeated from seven matches. The Demons, led by Imogen Milford who slammed home six majors, were too strong for Hawthorn despite the Hawks’ best efforts at Box Hill. If the Demons can continue that form – with more AFL Women’s players available – expect them to really give the ladder leaders a run for their money. Only Port and Collingwood have scored more than the Demons this season, which makes them a potent attack led by Milford (12 goals), while Niamh McEvoy (five) and Brenna Tarrant (five from Round 1) all damaging. Eliza West is the in-form midfielder, having collected more touches than any other player this season at an average of 22.3 disposals, as well as 4.3 tackles. Being able to hit the scoreboard with four majors makes her a threat forward of centre, and the Borough will need to be aware of that, whether it is the likes of Philippa Peschke or Mel Kuys who might be opposed to her. Sophie Locke is second on the goalkicking charts but has been recovering from injury, whilst Emily Harley (five goals) and Cleo Saxon-Jones (four) have been hitting the scoreboard in less games, while Sabrina Frederick has scored two majors in each of her matches thus far. The Borough should be favourites at home, but the Demons have enough talent to bring in that could worry the ladder leaders.

DAREBIN vs. GEELONG
Saturday, April 24 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

Back-to-back home games for Darebin Falcons gives the standalone side a chance to jump off the bottom of the table with a win in this contest. The Falcons knocked off North Melbourne a fortnight ago, but felt the pinch of a Dogs side that recalled a number of AFL Women’s talents in Round 7. They have to find a way to knock off a red-hot Cats outfit that will have similar AFL Women’s numbers to the Dogs last week, with most of those players being able to hit the scoreboard. Geelong has only lost to the top two sides, and has won their past three matches to sit fourth overall, percentage behind Essendon. with Casey Demons not too far behind, the visitors cannot afford to take the Falcons lightly. Olivia Barber is a goal-scoring threat when in the side having kicked six goals in just two games, whilst regulars, Claudia Gunjaca (five), Stephanie Williams (five) and Georgia Clarke (four) can also do damage. Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner and Carly Remmos will be the future of the AFL Women’s side and are teaming up well through the VFLW midfield, while Tamara Smith leads all-comers with tackles, and Paige Sheppard is one of the most prominent ball-winners in the league. Nicole Callinan is the one to stop for the Falcons, averaging 23 disposals, six marks and 5.5 tackles working hard in the back 50 and pushing up the ground to try and drive her team forward. The Bulldogs premiership player has been a welcome addition to the side, with Sidney Cubasch returning last week and likely to assert herself in the ruck, Samara David impressed around the ground having also kicked the five goals this season, while Stephanie Simpson might not have hit the scoreboard last week against a strong Bulldogs defence, but slotted four the previous week. The Falcons will leapfrog Hawthorn – if the Hawks lose on Sunday – but it will be a very tough ask with Geelong in ripping form and expect the Cats to continue that form in Round 8.

HAWTHORN vs. WILLIAMSTOWN
Sunday, April 25 @ 10:30am
Box Hill City Oval

Two of the bottom three clash in what could be one of the closest matches of the round. Hawthorn has been pretty impressive this season and arguably undeserving of eleventh on the ladder. They pushed the Demons last week and can leapfrog the Seagulls here with a win, having averaged more points than their opponents, but also having conceded a lot more as well. Each week Bec Goddard manages to bring in AFL Women’s talent, as Georgia Bevan, Kristy Stratton, Tamara Luke and Nadia von Bertouch have all swapped their colours to return to their roots of the brown and gold, or with the ties to Goddard. Whilst not having massive ball-winners, the Hawks have been able to develop some young talent through the list, such as renowned tackler Dominique Carbone, and a plethora of Eastern Ranges players such as Isabelle Khoury, Matilda Hardy and Eloise Chaston. Jesse Williams is the danger up forward, and with Stratton in for her second game in the brown and gold, expect her to be a second prong of attack up there. Williamstown on the other hand do not have a reliable source of goals, though Aimee Whelan and Gabrielle Biedenweg-Webster have each snagged three majors. A total of 14 players have hit the scoreboard in the 2021 season, including prominent ball-winners Ruby Tripodi and Megan Williamson, while Erin Meade continues to provide great run out of defence, and will hope the Seagulls can propel themselves to their third win. With the extra experience coming into the brown and gold though, the Hawks should get up at home.

ESSENDON vs. COLLINGWOOD
Sunday, April 25 @ 11:00am
The Hangar

The traditional Anzac Day rivals will clash at The Hangar before fans head south to the MCG for the AFL men’s edition, with the VFL Women’s clash to provide just as much intensity between the clubs. A potential finals preview looms with the second placed Pies still unbeaten from seven games, coming up against the third placed Bombers who are 5-2 from their season, and building some great form in the middle of the season. The Bombers have been without their spiritual leader for the last game and a half with Georgia Nanscawen on the sidelines. She averaged 23 disposals and 10.2 tackles in her six games, to be a barometer in the side. Alana Barba and Courtney Ugle have stepped up in her absence, while Frederica Frew (eight goals) and Natalie MacDonald (five) have been important up forward with Mia-Rae Clifford (eight). With the NAB League Girls returning this week, expect the Bombers to be without a couple of key youngsters in Zali Friswell and Kasey Lennox, though Elizabeth Snell and soon-to-be Jemma Finning have just the one game remaining in Pioneers colours. The Magpies have been ticking along nicely and now will be able to heavily rotate their AFL Women’s talent if they choose to do so, with the likes of Bella Smith (eight goals in four games), Amelia Velardo in defence and Abbi Moloney (two in three) among those running around in the side. Imogen Barnett has been the standout VFLW-listed Pie with eight goals in six games, while Caitlin Bunker (16.3 disposals, 6.6 tackles) and Matilda Zander (14.3 disposals, 4.1 tackles) are others who have stood out.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. CARLTON
Sunday, April 25 @ 12:00pm
Arden Street

The later Anzac Day clash is between another couple of AFLW-aligned clubs in North Melbourne and Carlton. The Roos have enjoyed playing a string of games at Arden Street this season, and whilst they have only won the two games from seven matches, have been steadfast in developing their VFLW-listed talents rather than pouring in AFLW-listed players just for the points. The Blues have been fairly similar, though they were able to bring in some players in recent weeks such as Maddy Guerin, who has been a cut above at the level, averaging 21.7 disposals, 3.3 marks and 7.0 tackles from her three games. Jennifer Lew has been an impressive VFLW-listed Blue with 18.5 disposals, 5.3 marks and 4.3 tackles, whilst Courtney Jones has slotted eight goals in five games, and Akayla Peterson has been utilised at both ends of the field for five goals in seven games. Throw in Serena Gibbs (three in four) who has been supporting Jorja Borg in the ruck, and the form of Winnie Laing this season, and the Blues have a solid team across the board. North Melbourne on the other hand, have had some really consistent ball-winners, but just not enough consistent games to put together wins. Brooke Brown has been sensational up forward with eight goals in four games, while ex-Sun Alexia Hamilton, and Tasmanian Sarah Skinner have both been enjoying outstanding seasons in the blue and white. Meagan Kiely and Molly Eastman both average 20.4 disposals and more than four tackles per game to share the load with Skinner, while Airlie Runnalls and Katelyn Cox are other consistent ball-winning talents. Carlton arguably have the upper hand after pushing Port Melbourne last week, though the development of the Roos will hold them in good stead for the future.

Milford’s half dozen grabs VFLW goalkicking lead as Smith remains top tackler

IMOGEN Milford‘s six-goal haul during Casey Demons’ win over Hawthorn on the weekend has seen the forward grab top spot on the VFL Women’s goalkicking leaderboard. The 21-year-old tall has slotted 12 goals in her seven games, but really helped chalk up her numbers in 2021 with the half dozen majors in Round 7.

Milford now holds a three-goal lead over Port Melbourne’s Sophie Locke who has missed the past couple of games through injury, and then seven players are on eight goals apiece. Among them are the likes of AFL Women’s listed pair Brooke Brown (North Melbourne) and Bella Smith (Collingwood) who have achieved that feat in just four games each.

In terms of ball-winners, Casey Demons Eliza West has taken over in the absence of the injured Georgia Nanscawen, as West averages 22.3 disposals per game. She has picked up 12 more disposals than her nearest rival, Geelong’s Paige Sheppard, with North Melbourne trio, Meagan Kiely, Molly Eastman and Sarah Skinner surrounding Nanscawen to round out the top six disposal winners.

In terms of tackles, Tamara Smith is the only player to reach 80 so far this season, with the Geelong midfielder laying 81 tackles at an average of 11.6 per game. Port’s Courteney Bromage is not far behind with 74, ahead of Williamstown’s Ashlea Melnikas, and Nanscawen – who has a game and a half less than her rivals – in fourth. Sheppard also features inside the top 10, averaging 7.6 tackles per game.

In terms of rucks, Collingwood’s Sarah King has put down 141 hitouts, overtaking Casey’s Maggie Caris (135) who missed a match two games ago. Darebin Falcons’ Sidney Cubasch and Western Bulldogs’ Nicole McMahon have arguably been the two top performing rucks this season, and they faced off on the weekend, with the end result seeing them both finishing the round on 128 hitouts at 21.3 per game.

Darebin’s Samara David holds the lead in terms of marks, taking 32 this season at 4.6 per game, one more than Kiel. Southern Saints’ forward/ruck Tara Bohanna has the 29 marks in season 2021, ahead of Geelong’s Claudia Gunjaca, North Melbourne’s Airlie Runnalls and Western Bulldogs’ Simone Ruedin.

In terms of Draft Central (DC) points – the basic AFL Dream Team calculations without free kicks factored in – Bohanna and Kiely are the top players to have played every game, with 72 DC points thus far for the 2021 season. Skinner (66), West (64), Sheppard (64) and Eastman (64) are the others with more than 55 points and have played every game, whilst Nanscawen is up at 68 per game from her five-and-a-half matches. Brenna Tarrant‘s five-goal haul in Round 1 has netted her the highest pure DC point total with 92 from that game, whilst Jess Matin (87) and the returned Nicole Callinan (81) rounding out the top three.

2021 VFLW Round 7 wrap: Dogs break five-game losing streak

WESTERN Bulldogs are back on the winners list in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition after snapping their five-game losing streak against Darebin Falcons on the weekend. The Dogs scored the highest score of any side this year with 14.9 (93), having only scored a total of 136 points in the opening five rounds. Collingwood and Port Melbourne remained undefeated after the latter executed a remarkable come-from-behind win over Carlton, while Essendon, Casey Demons and Geelong all kept touch with the top two after important victories over lower-ranked opposition.

SOUTHERN SAINTS 2.0 | 3.1 | 3.1 | 4.2 (26)
COLLINGWOOD 0.2 | 3.2 | 4.3 | 6.5 (41)

Collingwood has overcome a slow start to put the Southern Saints away at Trevor Barker Oval and remain undefeated from seven games. The Saints fired early to kick the first two goals of the game, but the Magpies took control with two goals in less than seven minutes in the second term to hit the front and never surrender the lead. The Saints kept pushing and did get within a point – and even within three points in the dying minutes of the match – but a couple of late majors to Bella Smith sealed the 15-point win for the Magpies, 6.5 (41) to 4.2 (26).

Smith’s three goals from 12 disposals and five marks was a highlight, with fellow ex-Norwood talent Matilda Zander again being productive with 16 disposals and nine tackles. Maddie Shevlin was the clear standout in terms of ball-winners for the black and white, as she amassed 25 disposals and four tackles. Jasmine Ferguson (18 disposals, five marks and seven tackles) and Caitlin Bunker (16 disposals, two marks seven tackles) won their fair share of the ball, while Abbey Green booted two majors and Olivia Meagher impressed at the level once again. For the Saints, Alice Burke went haywire with 35 disposals, seven marks and two tackles in a massive effort, whilst Madison Capsalis (25 disposals, six marks and nine tackles) and Molly McDonald (19 disposals, five marks) were not far behind. Poppy Kelly (15 disposals, 30 hitouts) had a day out in the ruck, as Tara Bohanna continued her good form in front of goal with 10 disposals, five marks, four tackles, six hitouts and two majors.

GOALS:

Southern Saints: T. Bohanna 2, J. Vogt, N. Robertson.
Collingwood: B. Smith 3, A. Green 2, A. Moloney.

BEST:

Southern Saints: M. Capsalis, T. Bohanna, L. Burke, M. McDonald, J. Vogt, V. Moreau
Collingwood: B. Smith, O. Meagher, J. Ferguson, D. Hallett, J. Guy, M. Shevlin

ESSENDON 1.4 | 2.5 | 3.7 | 6.9 (45)
WILLIAMSTOWN 0.0 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 2.3 (15)

Essendon has notched up another win, this time by five goals over Williamstown despite some inaccurate kicking early on. The Bombers had 10 scoring shots to three in the opening three quarters, but only led 3.7 to 1.2, before kicking 3.2 to 1.1 in the final term to run away with the contest by 30 points.The Seagulls battled hard throughout, matching the Bombers in most areas, but could not quite have enough scoring chances to overrun them.

Calder Cannons youngster Zali Friswell kicked the first major of the game to finish with two goals from six touches and nine tackles for the home team, as Federica Frew was best-on thanks to 16 disposals, three tackles and 2.2. Eloise Ashley-Cooper (17 disposals, six tackles) and Natalie Macdonald (17 disposals, five marks) were both busy, while Cecila McIntosh, Mia-Rae Clifford, Eloise Gardner and another Cannons youngster in Kasey Lennox were also named among the best. For the Seagulls, Ruby Tripodi had 20 disposals, five marks and two tackles, as Erin Meade (19 disposals, three marks and four tackles) and Aimee Whelan (18 disposals, 11 tackles) were also productive. Eliza Straford and Ella Baxter were also named in the Seagulls’ best after double-figure disposals and impact in the game.

GOALS:

Essendon: F. Frew 2, Z. Friswell 2, M. Clifford, A. Barba.
Williamstown: A. Whelan, M. Williamson

BEST:

Essendon: F. Frew, C. McIntosh, M. Clifford, E. Gardner, K. Lennox, Z. Friswell
Williamstown: E. Straford, E. Baxter, A. Whelan, E. McGrath, S. Dunell, M. Williamson

HAWTHORN 3.1 | 4.3 | 5.3 | 7.5 (47)
CASEY DEMONS 3.2 | 6.4 | 9.6 | 9.6 (60)

A six-goal haul from Imogen Milford has guided the Casey Demons to a tight 13-point victory over Hawthorn to stay in touch with the top four sides. The teams were evenly matched early in the game with Milford booting two in the first term, her third early in the second, then in the space of three minutes between the final moments of the second term and third minute of the fourth term, added another two goals, with her sixth midway through the third term blowing the lead out to a massive 32 points. The Hawks stormed home with 3.2 to 0.1 from that point onwards, but it would not be enough, going down 9.6 (60) to 7.5 (47).

Milford finished the day with 16 disposals, four marks, nine tackles and 6.1 for her troubles, as Eliza West continued her dominant ball-winning spree in 2021 with 28 disposals, three marks, six tackles and one goal. Maggie Caris impressed through the ruck with 22 hitouts to accompany her 11 disposals, while Shree Fairchild and Meg Macdonald were also named among the Demons’ best in the win. New (and former) Hawk Kristy Stratton made an impact in her first game back for the brown and gold since been delisted by Collingwood, picking up 16 disposals, laying five tackles and kicking a goal. Catherine Brown racked up 17 disposals and four tackles, with Dominique Carbone and Olivia Flanagan also busy, and Emily Gilder named best for the brown and gold.

GOALS:

Hawthorn: T. Luke 2, M. Hutchins, J. Williams, I. Khoury, K. Stratton, D. Carbone.
Casey: I. Milford 6, S. Johnson, E. West, I. Simmons.

BEST:

Hawthorn: E. Gilder, T. Luke, O. Flanagan, C. Bain, K. Stratton, I. Khoury
Casey: E. West, S. Fairchild, I. Milford, M. Macdonald, M. Caris, S. Johnson

GEELONG 2.1 | 4.5 | 6.6 | 7.6 (48)
NORTH MELBOURNE 0.0 | 1.0 | 3.2 | 5.2 (32)

Geelong did enough to post a solid 16-point win over North Melbourne at Queen’s Park, winning the first half to build up a 23-point lead at the main break. The Cats were challenged in the second half, but managed to stop the Roos from piling on too many majors, and while the visitors did cut into the deficit, the home team got up, 7.6 (48) to 5.2 (32).

Olivia Barber booted three goals from 16 touches, five marks and nine hitouts in a promising performance, as Laura Gardiner found the ball at will thanks to 27 disposals and 11 tackles. Paige Sheppard (22 disposals, four marks and seven tackles) and Sophie Van De Heuvel (22 disposals, four tackles) also found plenty of the ball. Claudia Gunjaca booted a couple of majors off 12 touches, three marks and five tackles, while Darcy Moloney was another Cats AFLW-listed player who hit the scoreboard off 14 touches and four tackles. Meagan Kiely was the top ball winner for the Roos with 23 disposals, seven marks and eight tackles, ahead of Sarah Skinner (22 disposals, five marks and five tackles). Fellow Tasmanian Brooke Brown kicked the three goals from 17 disposals up forward, while Alexia Hamilton was also impressive through the ruck with 14 disposals, 14 hitouts and eight tackle.

GOALS:

Geelong: O. Barber 3, C. Gunjaca 2, D. Moloney, M. Maguire.
North: B. Brown 3, L. Wright, A. Runnalls.

BEST:

Geelong: P. Sheppard, L. Gardiner, C. Gunjaca, O. Barber, M. Maguire, S. Van De Heuvel
North: B. Brown, A. Hamilton, S. Skinner, M. Kiely, A. Runnalls, R. Hicks

DAREBIN 1.0 | 2.0 | 3.0 | 4.0 (24)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 6.1 | 7.4 | 9.8 | 14.9 (93)

The return of a number of AFL Women’s listed players helped the Western Bulldogs boot the highest score of the season and snap a five-game losing streak in the process. Slotting six goals to one in the opening term, the visiting side all but won it in the opening 20 minutes. The Falcons were strong over the next couple of quarters, refusing to give in and keeping touch with the Dogs, before a five goals to one final term blew the margin out to 69 points as the Bulldogs won 14.9 (93) to 4.0 (24).

Angelica Gogos returned for her first game this season and had an impact with 23 disposals, six tackles and a goal, teaming up well with the classy Gemma Lagioia (22 disposals, three marks and 2.2). Eleanor Brown also came into the side and kicked a couple of late goals after being an interceptor in the back half, finishing with 16 disposals, seven marks and two majors. Western Jets youngster Jemima Woods made a sterling debut with three goals, the same as Danielle Marshall, while Mary Sandral slotted the two goals. The Dogs also did well defensively with Gogos one of three players – with teenagers Brooke Hards (nine tackles) and Lilli Condon (five) – who recorded their fair share of tackles. Ex-Bulldog Nicole Callinan racked up a match-high 29 disposals, 10 marks and five tackles, with Samara David capitalising on her chances up forward with three goals, and Ashleigh Gunn lively with 18 disposals, five marks and three tackles. Lauren Camilleri was the benchmark for tackles with 10, while Cannons’ youngster Peppa Poultney stood up with 10 touches and two marks playing mostly forward and pinch-hitting in the ruck.

GOALS:

Darebin: S. David 3, A. Caddy.
Western Bulldogs: J. Woods 3, D. Marshall 3, G. Lagioia 2, M. Sandral 2, E. Brown 2, A. van Oosterwijck, A. Gogos.

BEST:

Darebin: S. David, A. Gunn, P. Poultney, K. McNiece, M. Huta, V. Smiljanic
Western Bulldogs: A. Gogos , K. Betts, A. Tessari, G. Lagioia, M. Sandral, E. Brown

PORT MELBOURNE 0.0 | 3.2 | 6.4 | 7.4 (46)
CARLTON 3.0 | 5.1 | 6.3 | 6.4 (40)

Port Melbourne faced its stiffest task to-date in the VFL Women’s 2021 season, having to overcome a 13-point deficit to Carlton late in the third term – after trailing by three goals at quarter time – to eventually come from behind and win by a goal. The Borough kicked the winning goal six minutes into the final term when Claire Dyett converted a major and then the home team held on in a titanic struggle to take home their seventh win of the season, 7.4 (46) to 6.4 (40).

Phillipa Peschke had the most touches for the winners with 22 disposals, three marks and 10 tackles, teaming up well through the midfield with Mel Kuys (20 disposals, three marks and three tackles. Ex-Blue Bridie Kennedy shone against her former side with 10 disposals and five tackles, while Dyett, Elizabeth Wilson and Courteney Bromage were all named among the best. Sabrina Frederick kicked another two goals from 13 touches and three marks, while Oakleigh Chargers’ teenager Taylah Morton had the 10 touches and three tackles in the win. Maddy Guerin won plenty of the ball for Carlton in defeat, picking up 21 disposals, seven marks and nine tackles, while Paige Trudgeon (12 disposals, seven tackles) and Charli Linssen (16 disposals, four tackles) also stood out. Amelia Klingbeil laid a whopping 12 tackles, while Olivia Madden (17 disposals) and Winnie Laing (14) also found their fair share of the ball.

GOALS:

Port: S. Frederick 2, C. Dyett, E. Wilson, H. Bailey, N. Borg, A. Tanner.
Carlton: A. Peterson 2, S. Lawrence, B. Gurr, C. Jones, E. Mangan

BEST:

Port: B. Kennedy, C. Dyett, E. Wilson, C. Bromage, A. Tanner, B. Ousley
Carlton: P. Trudgeon, C. Linssen, M. Guerin, C. Hammans, S. Lawrence, A. Klingbeil

2021 Draft Central’s VFL Women’s Team of the Year: Round 6

AS the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition prepares to restart after the Easter Weekend break, Draft Central, in conjunction with Women’s Australian Football Radio (WARF) has compiled a Team of the Year to date in Round 6. It is an even spread across the board with eight of the 12 competing teams recording two players, and the remaining three sides having the one representative in a realistic, 16-starter and four-bench side.

Ladder leaders Port Melbourne have two players in the side, with ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Sophie Locke named in the forward pocket, and experienced former AFL Women’s player in Mel Kuys in the centre. The other undefeated side in Collingwood just has the one player in there, with forward Imogen Barnett making the team after booting eight goals in the first five games, one less than leader Locke. In between the pair of forwards is Hawthorn’s Jessie Williams who straightens the team up at full-forward, the sole Hawk in the team.

At half-forward, ex-Cannon Alana Barba earned a place in the side with the inside midfielder booting a goal a game in her first five games to book a starting spot on the flank. She was named in the side with fellow midfielder Georgia Nanscawen with the ex-Roo named ruck rover. The other onballer in the side is ex-Geelong Falcon Paige Sheppard, with the rover’s teammate Tamara Smith – another ex-Bushranger – named on the bench. In the ruck is Western Bulldogs’ Nicole McMahon who has been superb all season, whilst teammate Simone Ruedin has been a rock in defence.

Holding up the fort at full-back is Carlton’s Jennifer Lew, who is in the back six with another Blue in Akayla Peterson, who has spent time at both ends, also kicking three goals this season. Ex-Magpie Grace Buchan is in the back pocket but instead for Casey Demons this season, whilst teammate Eliza West is on the interchange. At half-back, Williamstown’s Erin Meade will provide some run for the hypothetical team, whilst centre half-back Meagan Kiely rounds out the defence. The North Melbourne tall is in the side with talented Tasmanian goalkicker Sarah Skinner, with the reigning TSL Women’s league best and fairest winner making an impact at VFL Women’s level.

The last remaining starting player is centre half-forward Tara Bohanna with the Southern Saint able to chop out in the ruck when forward. She should not need to though, with Darebin Falcons’ sole representative in Sidney Cubasch to provide that rotation with McMahon, whilst Bohanna’s Saints’ teammate Hannah Stuart rounds out the interchange. In terms of emergencies and those unluckiest to miss out, it is a trio of defensive players in Southern Saints’ Rebecca Neaves, North Melbourne’s Molly Eastman and Darebin Falcons’ Gena Lawson-Tavan.

DRAFT CENTRAL’S VFL WOMEN’S TEAM OF THE YEAR: ROUND 6

B: Simone Ruedin (WB) – Jennifer Lew (CAR) – Grace Buchan (CD)
HB: Akayla Peterson (CAR) – Meagan Kiely (NM) – Erin Meade (WILL)
C: Mel Kuys (PM)
HF: Alana Barba (ESS) – Tara Bohanna (SS) – Sarah Skinner (NM)
F: Sophie Locke (PM) – Jessie Williams (HAW) – Imogen Barnett (COLL)
R: Nicole McMahon (WB) – Georgia Nanscawen (ESS) – Paige Sheppard (GEE)
INT: Sidney Cubasch (DF) – Tamara Smith (GEE) – Hannah Stuart (SS) – Eliza West (CD)

EMG: Rebecca Neaves (SS) – Molly Eastman (NM) – Gena Lawson-Tavan (DF)

2021 VFLW Round 5 wrap: Pies and Borough continue runs

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

2021 VFLW Round 3 wrap: Blues get on the board, Pies & Borough stay unbeaten

ROUND 3 of the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) season saw Carlton get on the board at the third time of asking, while league frontrunners Collingwood and Port Melbourne kept their perfect records in tact. Elsewhere, Casey, Essendon, and Geelong added wins to their now-positive tallies as the 12-team ladder begins to take shape and upcoming fixtures trickle through. All that, and more in our weekend wrap.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 (18)
COLLINGWOOD 2.4 | 4.4 | 5.9 | 10.10 (70)

Collingwood thrived under the Whitten Oval lights on Friday night with a runaway 52-point win over the Western Bulldogs to go 3-0 in 2021. The Magpies should arguably have been further ahead at half time and while some inaccuracy lingered in the third term, they doubled their goal tally in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs went scoreless in the second half, amplifying the 10.10 (70) to 3.0 (18) final scoreline.

Senior-listed tall Bella Smith snared her season-best goal tally of three in the black and white, finishing as one of the Magpies’ seven individual goalkickers. State league standout Matilda Zander also found the goals alongside NAB League jet Olivia Meagher, while Sarah Rowe made a successful return from injury and Imogen Barnett continued her good form. Kristy Stratton was another to do so, named best afield for the winners.

Bulldogs fans will be buoyed to see Bailey Hunt return unscathed from her calf injury, as fellow senior-listed players Annabel Strahan and Amelia Van Oosterwijck pushed their cases for senior berths. Vanessa Murphy earned full votes in red, white and blue, while skipper Riley Christgoergl played an important role in defence alongside Louise Bibby.

GOALS:

Bulldogs: M. Purcell, I. Grant, M. Denahy Maloney.
Collingwood: B. Smith 3, M. Zander, K. Colborne-Veel, O. Meagher, K. Stratton, I. Barnett, S. Rowe, E. Jackson.

BEST:

Bulldogs: V. Murphy, N. McMahon, R. Christgoergl, A. Strahan, L. Bibby, K. Neumann Stone
Collingwood: K. Stratton, S. King, B. Smith, I. Barnett, M. Neal, C. Bunker

ESSENDON 2.3 | 6.5 | 7.6 | 8.7 (55)
HAWTHORN 1.1 | 1.4 | 1.7 | 3.9 (27)

A six-goal to one first half was enough to see Essendon home against Hawthorn on Saturday, in an exciting clash between standalone sides. The Hawks finished strongly after finding themselves 35 points down heading into the last break, booting a couple of consolation goals and showing plenty of fighting spirit as they went down 8.7 (55) to 3.9 (27) at The Hangar.

Two of the Bombers’ three multiple goalkickers also featured among the votes, with Mia-Rae Clifford (three goals) and Natalie MacDonald (two) the pair in question. Skipper Georgia Nanscawen found plenty of the ball, while NAB League graduates Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper were also promising in the famous sash. Debutant Elizabeth Snell was another in that category, fresh off her Under 19 exploits.

Catherine Brown won plaudits as Hawthorn’s best player afield, while fellow goalkicker Olivia Flanagan also impressed for the yellow and gold. Northern Territory talent Dominique Carbone was a handy inclusion for the Hawks as another youngster to show her quality, among her side’s best players with the likes of Meg Hutchins, Lauren Szigeti, and Nicole Cormack, who featured for consecutive weeks.

GOALS:

Essendon: M. Clifford 3, N. MacDonald 2, F. Frew 2, F. Theodore.
Hawthorn: C. Bain, O. Flanagan, C. Brown.

BEST:

Essendon: N. MacDonald, E. Ashley-Cooper, E. Snell, A. Morcom, M. Clifford, A. Barba
Hawthorn: C. Brown, N. Cormack, M. Hutchins, K. Dudley, L. Szigeti, D. Carbone

CASEY DEMONS 3.2 | 3.5 | 8.8 | 9.11 (65)
NORTH MELBOURNE 0.2 | 0.5 | 0.5 | 1.6 (12)

Casey came away comprehensive victors over North Melbourne on Saturday afternoon, making better use of its home conditions to put the game to bed by three quarter time. A five-goal blitz after the main break ensured the Demons would return to the winners list, with North having to wait until term four to register a major score, eventually going down 9.11 (65) to 1.6 (12).

Competition for spots among Melbourne’s senior camp will be hot ahead of finals, with AFLW-listed players Niamh McEvoy (three goals) and Chantel Emonson (two) making an impact as they search for recalls. Casey skipper Samantha Johnson was named best afield, while Eliza West again snared a goal to go with some handy votes.

Former Richmond-listed youngster Ciara Fitzgerald continued her scoring form with North Melbourne’s sole major of the game, seeing the Roos mercifully escape going goalless. Meagan Kiely was adjudged her side’s best player for the second week running, with Tasmania Sarah Skinner another to continue her eye-catching form at state league level.

GOALS:

Casey: N. McEvoy 3, C. Emonson 2, I. Milford, H. Thomas, E. West, A. Kirkwood.
North: C. Fitzgerald,

BEST:

Casey: S. Johnson, C. Emonson, N. McEvoy, E. West, C. Conroy, S. Fairchild
North: M. Kiely, K. Greenacre, M. Lawrence, S. Skinner, C. Fitzgerald, K. Price

GEELONG 1.3 | 1.3 | 1.3 | 2.4 (16)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 0.1 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.2 (8)

A low-scoring slog amid wet and windy conditions in Geelong saw the home side claim its second win on the trot, as the Cats defeated Southern Saints by eight points at Deakin University. Only three goals were kicked across the four quarters, with the Cats booting theirs in the first and fourth terms, while Southern Saints remained in touch, but were ultimately outdone 2.4 (16) to 1.2 (8) in the scrappy affair.

The constant rotation of Geelong AFLW and NAB League talent did little to disrupt the Cats, with senior-listed youngster Laura Gardiner finding plenty of the ball, as did the likes of Tamara Smith and Paige Sheppard. Goalkickers Claudia Gunjaca and Michelle Fedele were also influential, as was NAB Leaguer Annie Lee on debut.

Valerie Moreau was the Saints’ sole goalkicker for the day, as the likes of Nadia von Bertouch and Jess Matin put their hands up for senior selection by picking up a good amount of the pill. VFLW-listed players Tara Bohanna and Hannah Stuart were among Southern’s best players for the third week running, while Alison Brown also earned votes in her first outing.

GOALS:

Geelong: M. Fedele, C. Gunjaca.
Saints: V. Moreau.

BEST:

Geelong: M. Maguire, T. Smith, O. Fuller, C. Gunjaca, M. Fedele, A. Lee
Saints: N. von Bertouch, A. Hynes, T. Bohanna, H. Stuart, A. Brown, K. Ripari

PORT MELBOURNE 2.3 | 5.6 | 6.9 | 6.9 (45)
WILLIAMSTOWN 0.0 | 2.1 | 3.1 | 3.1 (19)

Port Melbourne and Williamstown met for a historic clash of traditional Victorian rivals, with the Borough proving too strong and saluting to the tune of 26 points at ETU Stadium. Having led from the first goal, the home side was able to maintain its ascendancy throughout and held firm in a scoreless final term to run out 6.9 (45) to 3.1 (19) victors.

A pair of Borough players accounted for two thirds of their side’s major scores, with Sarah McNamara and Sophie Locke the players in question. Locke’s exploits come after last week’s three-goal effort. Ellie McDonald and Melissa Kuys were again among Port’s best, along with Richmond-listed talents Phoebe Monahan, Emily Harley, and Luka Lesosky-Hay.

Gabby Biedenweg-Webster was Williamstown’s sole multiple goalkicker with a pair of her own, named in the Seagulls’ best behind Aimee Whelan. Young forward Tahlia Merrett also hit the scoreboard and made her mark, while Ruby Tripodi was impactful at the coalface and Erin Meade again led well for the standalone unit.

GOALS:

Port Melbourne: S. McNamara 2, S. Locke 2, C. Saxon-Jones, H. Bailey.
Williamstown: G. Biedenweg-Webster 2, T. Merrett.

BEST:

Port Melbourne: E. Macdonald, M. Kuys, P. Peschke, P. Monahan, L. Lesosky-Hay, E. Harley
Williamstown: A. Whelan, G. Biedenweg-Webster, E. Meade, A. Melnikas, T. Merrett, M. Williamson

CARLTON 2.3 | 2.6 | 3.8 | 3.9 (27)
DAREBIN 0.0 | 2.0 | 2.0 | 3.2 (20)

Carlton came out on top in Saturday’s bottom of the table clash, overcoming Darebin by seven points to pick up its first win of the season. The Blues caught an early break but were pegged back well, before again advancing and being forced to defend their lead late. Inaccuracy did not prove costly for the home side at Princes Park, as they held on to win 3.9 (27) to 3.2 (20) in a low-scoring affair.

Jen Lew was again one to lead the way for Carlton as she worked hard all day, while Jorja Borg and goalkicker Akayla Peterson earned votes for their efforts. Speedy midfielder Teresa Zampaglione was again lively, while AFLW-listed youngster Winnie Laing was productive upon her return along with Jess Edwards and Charlotte Hammans.

For the Falcons, the ever-reliable Kathleen Roe stood up in her side’s third loss for the year, but it was Lucy Schneider who claimed full credit in the form of votes ahead of goalkickers Steph Simpson and Sally Lynch. Darebin’s search for win number one will continue next week as it takes on Essendon at The Hangar.

GOALS:

Carlton: P. Trudgeon, A. Peterson, C. Jones.
Darebin: S. Lynch, S. David, S. Simpson.

BEST:

Carlton: J. Borg, A. Peterson, B. Gurr, M. Wilson, T. Zampaglione, J. Lew
Darebin: L. Schneider, V. Blackwood, L. Camilleri, S. Simpson, S. Lynch, S. Cubasch

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Kelly Defina/AFL Photos

2021 VFLW season preview: North Melbourne

A NEW-LOOK North Melbourne VFLW side has been “promising” during preseason, according to new head coach Cheyne Webster. Having cut his teeth as an AFLW development coach at the Kangaroos, Webster is now set to take the reigns in his first senior gig and says the squad is in good shape heading into season proper – even after a heavy turnover and nearly 12 months off.

“It’s been a really promising preseason,” Webster said. “We’ve got a really good blend of youth and experience and adding into the mix the alignment with AFLW has helped the girls in terms of having some experienced heads around them to lead the way.

“In terms of fitness and touch, we’ve been able to take the opportunity to get back to Arden Street and our sessions have been really strong, so I’m happy with where we’re at.”

“I think having that 12 months off has made the group even more hungry to have success and to get back on the field and play some footy again. “It’s a really exciting time at North Melbourne, both from a VFLW and an AFLW space, so to have the girls back is really exciting.”

With the alignment to North Melbourne’s AFLW team seeing its reserves transition away from the Melbourne Uni title, the Kangaroos have overseen a “huge turnover”, one which Webster says spawned the opportunity for somewhat of a talent search.

“We’ve only kept about six Melbourne Uni-based players, obviously through that transition between the Melbourne Uni Football Club and North Melbourne Football Club,” Webster said. “We’ve searched far and wide and gone on a bit of a talent search, we’ve got some girls from interstate – from Canberra, Darwin, and also down in Tasmania.

“A number of girls that we’ve recruited from interstate either have family or are relocating to Melbourne, so it’s exciting that those girls from interstate see North Melbourne as a destination place to both grow their footy, but also for potential opportunities in the AFLW space.

“It’s a very new-looking list and I think it’s going to take some time, but we’ve got every opportunity with the quality of talent we’ve got to press for finals and to have a successful year.”

The Roos have returned to competitive action in the form of two practice games thus far, taking on Geelong and the Southern Saints. Webster says the hitouts served as a handy educational tool to “try a few things” and blood some youth, with some of the side’s key strengths in competitiveness and energy set to quickly come to the fore.

“In terms of where out list is at, it provided us with an opportunity to have a look at players which we haven’t signed and players that we feel like we need to get some gametime into, and try a few things,” he said. “For us it was more of a case of getting some girls into roles that we want to see them play this year in VFLW and in terms of our senior players, we’ve been very cautious with not overloading them in going through that process.

“I think out number one trait will be our competitiveness and our pressure around the football. “We’ve got a really strong and experienced defensive group and our midfield is young and hungry, so I think our challenge is going to be being able to consistently kick scores but for us, our competitiveness and our energy and pressure around the contest will be our number one attribute.”

Though a selection of around five to six AFLW-listed players will inevitably aid the Kangaroos’ cause each week, there is a bunch of strong talent set to impress weekly at the reserves grade. Webster pointed out some of the most promising preseason performers who will be at the forefront of their side’s finals push.

“We’ve got a couple of girls who have played some AFLW football in the past – girls like Nikki Wallace and Lexi Hamilton – but I think one to look out for is a girl that we’ve recruited, Meagan Kiely. “She’s been in and around (GWS) Giants programs up in Sydney for a little while but she’s someone that I think has every opportunity to play some good footy and to get on an AFLW list, that’s for sure.

“Two (signings) that really stand out are Ciara Fitzgerald, who’s come from the Richmond AFLW program to us, she’s been really exciting, and also a young ruck in Olivia Woods who’s played a little bit of college basketball. “She’s a cross-coder that will play in the ruck for us and she’s been really promising as well with how much she’s picked up the game in such a small space of time.

“We’ve got one (NAB League player) that is on our development list, Marli Klaumanns-Moller. “She’s currently with the Western Jets but has played in one of our practice games and also played in Round 1 of the NAB League. “She’s a really exciting defender and I think that she’ll get some opportunities to play VFLW football at some stage this year, that’s for sure.

The club’s leadership group is set to be voted in on Friday, with a core group of three or four players in the box seat to claim those roles. Though no fixture has officially been released yet, the Roos are set to line up for Round 1 later this month.

Image Credit: North Melbourne FC