Tag: mia van dyke

2021 AFLW U17s Championships: Metro complete the double with strong second half

VIC METRO have made it two from two in the AFL Women’s Under 17s Championships, with an impressive 11-point win against their Country counterparts at Warrawee Park on Tuesday afternoon, with the final scores being 5.3 (33) to 3.4 (22). Despite the loss, Country looked much improved from their showing on Good Friday, with the return of Under 19s squad members Octavia Di Donato and Mackenzie Eardley shoring them up in defense. Metro were without three of their best from the previous clash, with Charlotte Baskaran, Sofia Hurley  and Bridie Hipwell not taking part as they prepare for their debut performance for Vic Metro 19s against Western Australia on Thursday.

With three of their main midfielders out, the Metro starting midfield looked a lot different to what they did in the last match, with two 2023 draft eligible talents in Ava Jordan of the Northern Knights and Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges) moving in to fill the gap, along with Brooke Plummer, a teammate of Jordan’s at the Knights. 

Unsurprisingly, the first quarter was an arm wrestle for control from each side, neither team having control for very long. No one managed to get a goal, with the defensive efforts of both sides extremely good, swarming on any defensive 50 entry to create an outnumber and force it out, Metro’s Mia Busch and Abbey McDonald along with Country’s Grace Hay, Molly Walton and Eardley were noticeable standouts in this regard, and were well rewarded for their efforts with Metro midfielders Pisano, Plummer and Charlotte Taylor working hard to move the ball forward, and their Country counterparts Di Donato, Felicity Crank and forward Ash Van Loon involved in Country’s attacks, seeing the quarter end 0.1 (1) apiece.

After a goalless and heavily contested first quarter, the second started off with a bang, seeing Country’s Mia Van Dyke getting on the scoreboard in the first minute, sweeping up a spilt mark and snapping from about 30m out to get the first of the game, following up with her second later on in the quarter, positioning well to take an uncontested mark in the goal square in transition and put it straight through the middle. Despite going into half-time goalless, Metro looked good in the quarter with Rylie Wilcox and Charlotte Van Der Vlies involved in plenty for Metro in the midfield and Lulu Beatty standing up often as a last line of defense. For Country, Olivia Robinson, Bianca Lyne and Charlotte Simpson were instrumental in giving country the 2.2 (14) to 0.2 (2) lead.

Metro decided that it wanted to be invited to the goal kicking party in the third term, piling on four goals in what would ultimately decide the game. The first being a highlight reel goal for Jemma Rigoni, who is a Melbourne Father-Daughter prospect for next year, running onto a kick from Lily Hart, beating Country’s Hay and Di Donato in a foot race, taking a bounce and slotting it from about 30 out. McDonald was up next, capitalising on a dropped mark on the goal line from Hay to get Metro’s second, not even three minutes after the first. Not done there, McDonald bobbed up again later in the quarter, this time spoiling an attempted switch across goal from Country, following up at ground level, weaving past an opponent to throw it on her opposite foot and dribble it in for her second. A nice bit of team play from Metro saw Wilcox get herself on the board with a soccer goal just before the siren, ending the quarter with Metro leading 4.2 (26) to 2.3 (15).

The fourth quarter began with a Metro clearance forward, where, through some teamwork, the ball ended up with Reese Sutton who was able to snap herself a goal from about 30m out to give Metro a 17-point lead. The rest of the quarter was a scrap with neither side able to really grab clear control. Country got on the board with five minutes to go, with a Simpson kick forward from a stoppage getting to Eardley who was able to put it through for Country’s third goal, seeing the quarter, and the game, end 5.3 (33) to 3.4 (22) Metro’s way.

There were a lot of girls that really stepped up and marked themselves as ones to watch for next year, with the defensive trio of Eardley, Hay and Walton looking good throughout the day and stopping plenty of Metro goals. The 2023 draft eligible ruck Bianca Lyne was impressive with her work against the much taller Metro combo. Yasmin Duursma also had some good moments where she showed her composure along the half-back line and through the midfield.

For the victors, it was hard to look past Pissano and Wilcox as major players in their victory, with their strengths up forward translating into the midfield. McDonald was also very impressive all game, but looking particularly dangerous up forward after spending all year in defense. Eastern Ranges trio Busch, Laura Stone and Scarlett Potter were solid throughout the game as well, with Plummer also outstanding.

VIC METRO 0.1 | 0.2 | 4.2 | 5.3 (33)
VIC COUNTRY 0.1 | 0.2 | 2.3 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS:

Vic Metro: A. McDonald 2, J. Rigoni, R. Wilcox, R. Sutton
Vic Country: M. Van Dyke 2, M. Eardley

DC BEST:

Vic Metro: A. Pissano, R. Wilcox, A. McDonald, B. Plummer, M. Busch
Vic Country: G. Hay, M. Walton, B. Lyne, O. Di Donato, Y. Duursma

TOP PERFORMERS:

Vic Metro:

#9 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

It seems a permanent move into the midfield is inevitable in her future, with so many athletic traits of hers standing out, largely speed and agility, that saw her have some really dominant patches throughout the game because no one else was able to match her in that regard. Her kicking has been noted before, but was next level during this game, hitting some 45 meter pinpoint passes that were vital in Metro’s transitional play, and on the rare occasion she could not find space to compose herself, her bombs out of backs were getting the same distance or more to create contests further down field. Also had really clean and quick hands on the inside, where she could get the ball back after giving it off and burst forward.

#6 Rylie Wilcox (Northern Knights)

After missing out on the Good Friday clash, Wilcox came straight in and looked very good at the level. Splitting her time between the forward line and midfield, it was her speed and ball use that stood up above all else, able to outrun opponents and cleanly take ground balls with one grab, without breaking speed, it’s no coincidence that as she got into the game Metro looked more and more in control. It was also impressive to see her workrate to follow up, getting to her kicks to help out at ground level or try and receive a handball from her teammates. After missing a set shot early in the third it was fitting that her natural crumbing ability got her one later on, to reward her all round top performance.

#2 Abbey McDonald (Calder Cannons)

Skipper for the day and the only Metro player also apart of the U19s squad, she has done everything she can to put her name up for selection against Queensland next month. Instrumental in the first quarter in repelling Country attacks from defence, thanks to her ball use in transition leading to a few inside 50 marks for Metro that unfortunately did not result in goals, but she was ever present in the areas Country rebounded out to, creating contests every time. When she moved up forward she kicked two impressive goals that came from turnovers she forced, showing her defensive work does not stop even when she’s up forward, and that she has got a really good sense for goal inside 50, making her a dangerous player in there.

#11 Brooke Plummer (Northern Knights)

Has been mainly used on the wing at NAB League level, but dealt with her switch to a more inside role really well, making solid runs in attempts to win clearances, and showing she’s not afraid to get in and win her own ball. Usually a player that will kick far more often than handball, it was good to see her mix it up and use her hand skills in close to open up the game to more well measured kicks rather than bombs out of the packs.

#12 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Positioned well behind the ball to take a few intercept marks or impact opponents who were looking to get uncontested marks, making it a genuine scrap at the Metro defensive 50 line or sometimes a little further up the wing. Her ball use was also at it’s high standard going forward, hitting leading targets well or looking to switch the play out of defense to loose options.

#10 Charlotte Van der Vlies (Oakleigh Chargers)

Moving into a full time midfield role in the absence of some teammates moving up to 19s on Thursday, her tenacity and attack on the football meant the absence was barely noticed, not afraid to throw her body around to knock opponents off the ball to win it herself. It was also good to see her get involved in open play, looking to be an option further up the field or laterally for her teammates, then using it well going forward. 

#8 Paige Ryan (Western Jets)

Whilst she did not win a whole lot of the ball, her workrate and pressure work was noticeable, especially in the first and fourth quarters where the game was highly contested and scrappy. She was stationed on a wing and was always there at the fall of the ball when it was on her side, often neutralising three-on-one situations with a spoil or a tackle on Country midfielders. Worked back to the defensive 50 to create outnumbers as well, where her tackling was again on display.

Vic Country:

#21 Bianca Lyne (Dandenong Stingrays)

Was mostly against a ruck who had 12cm in height on her, but her leap and aggression in the ruck contests saw her win most of the hitouts around the ground and in the centre, not afraid to put the knee up and go through her opponent. Her follow up work at ground level was also super impressive, winning ground balls well and moving like a slick midfielder when she had ball in hand.

#7 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

Was thrown about in quite a few different positions, playing mostly midfield but also being put into the backline or forward line depending on where the team needed her, she was consistently a cool headed and composed presence with the ball in hand, who could control the tempo well and almost directed teammates where to go with her disposal.

#19 Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

Playing as a deeper defender, it was Hay’s safe hands that impressed the most, taking some crucial intercept marks at half back, or even contested marks in the goal square to stop a certain goal, she was a very solid bookend for Country throughout the day and countered the high bombs inside 50 that Metro were forced into at times really well. Despite making a few costly errors in the third quarter, it did not detract from her game, as she was still confident and composed in her marking and subsequent ball use in the final quarter.

#20 Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)

Was a strong part of the Country defence for the game, being the one to take the smaller and quicker forwards, her defensive skills were on show, able to neutralise a lot of contests where she didn’t have the advantage, and even win some, where she’d kick long out of defense to either a Country outnumber or a pack.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Came into the game mostly in the second half where she was able to assist in defense a lot more, and her natural ball winning and positioning meant she was a strong contributor in keeping Metro’s score relatively low for the opportunities they had. Was not afraid to take some more daring options with her disposal which was good to see.

AFL Women’s Under 17 Championships: Metro too strong for Country

VIC Metro’s firepower proved too much for Vic Country in the opening game of the AFL Women’s Under 17 Championships, as the home team ran away with the contest by 35 points. Vic Metro booted four goals to zero in the first half, and whilst Country did not manage to put through a major over the opening two terms, they hit the scoreboard in the third quarter to keep the deficit at a straight four goals. Metro had no interest in making it a close finish however, closing out the game with two final quarter goals to win, 8.5 (53) to 2.6 (18).

Alyssia Pisano slotted two goals in the victory, with the skilful bottom-age left footer always looking classy around goals. The power-packed midfield of Sandringham Dragons duo Sofia Hurley and Bridie Hipwell, Western Jets’ Charlotte Baskaran and Calder Cannons’ Abbey McDonald – who are all bottom-agers in the Under 19s Metro squad – took control and led the way early despite Vic Country’s talented ruck Kalani Scoullar – also in the Under 19s squad – standing out at the taps. Keeley Skepper, Felicity Crank and Ash Van Loon did their best through the midfield for Country, whilst Lily-Rose Williamson caught the eye out of defence, and the defensive trio of Grace Hay, Molly Walton and Olivia Leonard were also strong.

Also impressive in the front half of the ground for Metro was Reese Sutton, while Ava Jordan and Charlotte Taylor looked strong on the wings getting the ball inside 50. Mia Busch stepped up to continue her good form for Eastern this season, while Kiera Whiley was another bottom-ager who showed her future potential. For Country, Mia Van Dyke played forward and had some eye-catching moments, while Charlotte Simpson and Grace Chapman also had a number of notable moments that featured in our Top Performers.

VIC METRO 2.2 | 4.3 | 6.4 | 8.5 (53)
VIC COUTRY 0.2 | 0.3 | 2.4 | 2.6 (18)

GOALS:

Metro: A. Pisano 2, K. Coyne, J. Rigoni, S. Potter, R. Sutton, A. Jordan, P. Ryan.
Country: L. Keck, K. Scoullar.

DC BEST:

Metro: A. Pisano, S. Hurley, M. Busch, B. Hipwell. C. Baskaran, A. McDonald
Country: K. Skepper, L. Williamson, K. Scoullar, A. Van Loon, G. Hay, C. Simpson

 

TOP PERFORMERS:

VIC METRO

By: Declan Reeve

#1 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

Playing a bit of a different role for Metro, as an outside midfielder or small forward, rather than a rover like at club level, she took the change in her stride and had a really good display, looking particularly dangerous in the forward line as a pressure forward. That consistent pressure, and willingness to win her own ball as she’s done with the Knights, got her on the scoreboard, to reward her hard work.

#2 Abbey McDonald (Calder Cannons)

Played a really big part of Metro keeping Country goalless, especially in the first quarter where the pressure was consistently on from the midfield, where her ball reading and willingness to meet the ball gave her every opportunity to win it and kick it long forward. She was often rushed into a quick kick forward which made her usual high quality kicking look a little worse than usual, but it did not stop her from having a high impact going forward.

#5 Reese Sutton (Calder Cannons)

Had a really consistent showing, making herself a consistent option going forward for Metro, often being spoiled by taller opponents, where she’d follow up at ground level and beat them to get the ball to teammates. She really shined in the 3rd quarter where it felt like she was involved in everything that happened in the Metro forward half, getting herself a goal for her hard work.

#6 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Maybe not her most prolific game, but Baskaran showed exactly what she was expected to show, with her kicking and ability to hold her space on the outside of contests and then time her run well to receive a handball, being highlights from her game, still working hard to pressure opponents and help teammates if she did not get the ball herself. As the game went on she got more opportunities to get the ball and highlight that damaging kick, also winning clearances from most stoppages she was around when she did not have an opponent on her.

#9 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Made the forward half her own for Metro with her work at ground level and around marking contests excellent, showing natural forward craft beyond her years. She also was not afraid to put her hand up as a marking option in the forward line, making short and dangerous leads towards the ball carrier, this was highlighted when she made a lead 15 meters away from Bridie Hipwell, where she marked the Hipwell kick and converted the goal. In the second half she pushed a bit more up the ground in a high half forward role, where her speed and penetrating left foot kick were too difficult for country to deal with at times, taking bounces and weaving around her opponents.

#12 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

A reliant pillar in the Metro defense for the game, Busch was really impressive with her tendency to attack a loose ball coming in or drift across and impact contests inside the defensive 50, with her follow up work, particularly her kicking, being a strength for Metro in transition, and set up a lot of chains going forward. She was trusted with the majority of the Metro kick ins, where she’d take a good 15-20 meters and then kick it as far as she could, reaching the wing and giving Metro a really good opportunity to get it forward.

#17 Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons)

Being a taller midfielder, she was often looked for by her teammates when moving the ball out of the backline, to take marks and get the game moving with her speed and deadly kicking. She was also a dangerous winner on the inside, with some real highlight moments where she’d win a contested ball, evade a couple of opponents and then get out into the open to deliver a long kick forward. There were times where she got caught trying to do too much, but those were rare.

#18 Kiera Whiley (Western Jets)

Very similar to Busch in their strengths and play styles, Whiley found herself up the ground and competing for contested ground balls a lot more. She showed a great work rate and second efforts, often following up her own kicks and impacting the contests wherever they ended up at down the ground.

#19 Charlotte Taylor (Oakleigh Chargers)

One that perhaps flew under the radar coming into this game playing only the two NAB League games, her work along the wing was superb all day, being a taller wing, she’s naturally an aerial threat around the ground, playing as a link up type, and delivers the ball long with a penetrating kick forward, often to a dangerous spot that would lead to shots on goal.

#24 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

As expected she had the ball on a string and was extremely dangerous around stoppages, with her speed and ability to weave through traffic just being too much for any Country midfielder to keep up with, allowing her to get relatively uncontested kicks forward. There were times where she’d look to handball to teammates in close, realise she was not under immediate pressure, and then run around a couple of opponents to then deliver a kick forward. With such an all round performance, she’s no doubt put her hand up to be playing in the Under 19s at some point in the upcoming fixtures.

 

VIC COUNTRY

By: Peter Williams

#1 Lila Keck (Bendigo Pioneers)

Looked lively deep inside 50, and the bottom-age talent has some great defensive attributes to go with her athleticism. She had a shot in the opening term running into goal but missed to the right, then snapped from the pocket on a tight angle around her body in the third quarter to get her team going for the second half.

#6 Lily-Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)

Clearly one of the most eye-catching players going around, Williamson shows no fear with her aggression and willingness to move the ball on quickly. Whilst sometimes her regular fend-offs can get her into trouble, when it pays off she is hard to stop. Her power and speed combination make her such a dangerous prospect, that while she has aspects of her game to sharpen up, she has no issues finding the football and tucking it under her arm before running forward. Strong overhead and a thumping kick, Williamson has great raw talent.

#10 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

Continued her great recent form for the Stingrays through the midfield, often opposed to a quality opponent from the metro midfield, but capable to of dropping back and helping out the defence where possible as well. Early in the match she showed good composure to kick under pressure from deep in defence to half-back and was one of the more consistent ball users when winning the pill.

#11 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

Always has a crack in the midfield and was most notably very vocal in there. She teamed up well with her Falcons teammate Ash Van Loon, and used her strength and clean hands in there to win the ball. She is able to rack up the pill almost unassumably, but has a long boot on her that can clear the ball inside 50.

#12 Olivia Leonard (GWV Rebels)

One of the more consistent players across four quarters, Leonard showed her one-on-one ability on a number of occasions. She took a good intercept mark in the second term, and won a free kick one-on-one in the back pocket, as well as showing desperation to rush the ball across the line to save a likely goal. With her fierce tackling on display, Leonard played a solid game for Country.

#15 Ash Van Loon (Geelong Falcons)

The tackling machine was where the ball went and looked comfortable in the midfield against quality opposition. She is quick to get the ball to her boot and has clean hands on the inside to match her fierce desperation with her tackling pressure. Van Loon had a great kick out of the middle under pressure in the third term and was always lurking about the stoppages trying to free the ball from congestion.

#16 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

A standout performer from Country, unsurprisingly backed up her best on ground in the Under 16s match a couple of years ago with being amongst the top performers in the Under 17s version. Winning plenty of the ball through midfield, spreading to the outside and thumping long by foot, Skepper was able to provide plenty of meterage with her kicks and win the ball for more than her fair share. Sometimes she could not quite get on her trusty left foot and was forced to rush, but showed off her versatility by even going to full-back in the final term where she used good body positioning to win the ball at ground level, and was also tasked with the kickouts.

#19 Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

Another one of the reliable Country defenders who did plenty, Hay was the pick of the trio with plenty of body-on-body pressure, able to stick with her opponent given her speed on the lead. For a taller player, Hay has enough athleticism to win the ball at ground level and close down opposition leads, but had a bit of bad luck with a perfect spoil in the first half, only for Metro to crumb and kick a goal. She showed good composure with ball-in-hand to rush it over the line.

#20 Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)

The other defender who has come on in leaps and bounds this year, Walton stepped up alongside Hay and Leonard to be a driving force out of the back 50. She was clean with her hands and present around the ball to provide some movement in transition, doing well throughout the game to work hard against the flow and contribute for her side.

#25 Mia Van Dyke (Geelong Falcons)

Given the strength in defence, the versatile Van Dyke played forward, and whilst she did not register a goal in the match, certainly caught the eye on a number of occasions. She soccered off the ground early in the match for a behind, then nudged her opponent under the ball well to have a shot on goal, only to miss again. She pushed up the ground to play on the win through the match, and kicked long on a number of occasions, taking a good strong intercept mark in the final term.

#30 Kalani Scoullar (GWV Rebels)

One of the top performers of the past month, Scoullar’s high-volume hitouts came to the fore again with her strength around the contest and clean tapping to her teammates. Whilst the opposition did try and shark her taps on a number of occasions given her dominance with her clean hands, Scoullar was also able to move well with hard work around the ground. She ran onto the loose ball in the third term to kick a major from the goalsquare, then playing forward presented as a target, taking a couple of marks and winning a free kick for her troubles.

AFL Women’s Under 17 Championships teams: Vic Metro vs. Vic Country

VIC Metro and Vic Country have named their Under 17 squads ahead of today’s 2021 AFL Women’s Under 17s Championships. The sides will play twice, with the first being at Trevor Barker Oval, and the second being a yet to be confirmed date in May. The game today will start from 10am, with a stream via the AFL Women’s website.

Oakleigh will lead the Metro charge with six representatives, ahead of Western Jets and Sandringham Dragons with five and four respectively. The sole Metro Under 17s player selected in the Under 19s squad for Game 1 was Montana Ham, while Jets’ teammate Charlotte Baskaran, as well as Sandringham Dragons duo Bridie Hipwell and Sofia Hurley, and Calder Cannons’ Abbey McDonald were also named in the extended Under 19s team. Among the 2005-born players (2023 draft-eligible) are Eastern Ranges duo Alyssia Pisano and Laura Stone, Northern Knights’ Ava Jordan and Western Jets’ Kiera Whiley.

Dandenong Stingrays unsurprisingly have the most of any side, with so much bottom-age talent filtering through, they make up almost a third of the Vic Country team. Seven representatives will don the ‘Big V’, while Bendigo Pioneers and Geelong Falcons have four apiece. Gippsland Power, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Murray Bushrangers round out the list with three apiece as well. Of the players also on the Country Under 19s list, Bendigo Pioneers’ Octavia Di Donato and Murray Bushrangers’ Keeley Skepper. An Under 17s talent – GWV Rebels’ Kalani Scoullar was also included on the Under 19s list.

All those on the Under 19s lists are naturally ones to watch, whilst outside of those, of the top-agers in the Under 17s grade, Western Jets’ Paige Ryan and Krystal Russell, Sandringham Dragons’ Keely Coyne, Oakleigh Chargers’ Charlotte Taylor and Mia Clift and Northern Knights’ Brooke Plummer have been in good form this season, whilst Gippsland Power’s Lily-Rose Williamson and Yasmin Duursma, Geelong Falcons’ Charlotte Simpson and Ash Van Loon, Bendigo Pioneers’ Tegan Williams, Dandenong Stingrays’ Felicity Crank and Brooke Smith, and GWV Rebels’ Molly Walton are among the names to keep an eye on from Country

VIC METRO:

Calder Cannons [2]: Reese Sutton, Abbey McDonald
Eastern Ranges [3]: Alyssia Pisano, Scarlett Potter, Laura Stone
Northern Knights [3]: Brooke Plummer, Ava Jordan, Lulu Beatty
Oakleigh Chargers [6]: Mia Clift, Ruby Vanden Boom, Jemma Rigoni, Charlotte Van Der Vlies, Lily Hart, Charlotte Taylor
Sandringham Dragons [4]: Keely Coyne, Bridie Hipwell, Tayla Jones, Sofia Hurley
Western Jets [5]: Charlotte Baskaran, Paige Ryan, Kiera Whiley, Montana Ham**, Krystal Russell

Note: Montana Ham has been selected for the U19s match

VIC COUNTRY:

Bendigo Pioneers [4]: Lila Keck, Octavia Di Donato, Bryde O’Rourke, Tegan Williams
Dandenong Stingrays [7]: Olivia Robinson, Grace Chapman, Felicity Crank, Brooke Smith, Bianca Lyne, Charley Ryan, Ella Watts
Geelong Falcons [4]: Kara Stacey, Charlotte Simpson, Ash Van Loon, Mia Van Dyke
Gippsland Power [3]: Alisha Molesworth, Yasmin Duursma, Lily-Rose Williamson
GWV Rebels [4]: Olivia Leonard, Jenna Burke, Molly Walton
Murray Bushrangers [3]: Madison Gray, Keeley Skepper, Grace Hay

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 8

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition had its penultimate round prior to the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships break with Round 8 run and done. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

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

EASTERN RANGES vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

Had a really good day on the inside where Sandringham just didn’t have any answers for what she was bringing to the table. I really like how she slows down the game when she gets a mark or free kick, really commanding her teammates to stop and think about the best lead or position to help the team. 

#16 Isabelle Khoury (Eastern Ranges)

Won a lot of it in and around the midfield, contributing a lot in open play and getting Eastern moving with some smart disposal. She really looks to open up the game by using the width of the field, rarely just kicking down the line even under pressure, much preferring those inside kicks. Was pretty evasive as well around the ball, rarely getting caught trying to do too much.

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Just continues to do everything right as a forward, getting herself three goals for the day, with two being perfect examples of how a smaller forward should be playing, hitting the front and centre of a contest but also being prepared to get around the back in case it goes over the top. She looks set to play more midfield in the coming years, pushing up onto the wing at times during the game where she didn’t look out of place, and her penetrating kick can do some real damage to opposition.

#40 Georgia Wilson (Eastern Ranges)

Playing as the main target for Eastern going forward, Wilson put in an all round dominant display, dominating in the air, or following up on aerial contests at ground level where she’d body opponents with ease. Something that really impressed was her leading patterns, she just knew where to run and even how to run for each teammate delivering to her, and this was evident throughout, leading to her getting four goals for the game.

#21 Ruby O’Dwyer (Eastern Ranges)

Plays really smart as a rover, knowing when to play as an inside ball getter or outside receiver, her versatility to switch between both leads to a really good Eastern midfield dynamic. A real highlight was one particular centre bounce, where she started on the outside, went to go in but saw her teammate going in as well, so she readjusted, got the handball from her teammate and delivered inside 50 with a snap. While not overly fast, her game sense allows her to get away from opponents easily as well.

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

Almost an impossible match-up all day for the Sandringham midfielders, because when she gets two to three steps in front it’s already over, with her acceleration being really hard to match. Whilst stoppage work is her strength, she still contributes really well around the ground, not afraid to take on opponents when she’s got the ball in hand, drawing them in and then handballing out. Had an opportunity to kick a goal, running into an open goal square but missed the ball with her foot before being tackled.

#5 Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges)

Made the wing her own with pure gut running and understanding of how to hold space really well. Her classy left foot set up plenty of goal scoring opportunities, even getting herself on the scoreboard when she was tight against the left boundary.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Continues to be a shining light for Sandringham, impacting and winning the ball wherever she’s lining up on field, and working hard to help out in the backline even if she’s a midfielder. She looks more and more confident each week with her ball winning on the inside or with contested situations, even going head to head against the likes of Deed and Sherar at times and coming off on top. 

#37 Ebony Angelopoulos (Sandringham Dragons)

Was the main target in the Sandringham forward line, a difficult task for a smaller player, but she stepped up in a big way. Despite not getting on the scoreboard a whole heap she was a genuine marking threat for the Dragons but kept doing the things that have impressed for the season, with her crumbing and pressure work top notch throughout.

#22 Emma Stuber (Sandringham Dragons)

Playing a mixed role between defence and midfield for the day, Stuber impressed with her hunt for the ball evident, running hard at it and not wavering from attempting to win it even when outnumbered or not in the best position to win it. Her run and carry game was a big part in Sandringham’s drive going forward, where she’d run the ball 15 meters and bomb it long forward for the Sandringham forwards to run onto. If she can add some more penetration on her kick, she will be a very handy player.

 OTHERS: 

With Georgia Campbell out injured we saw Eastern rotate through a couple of rucks, with debutant and 2005-born Jess Vukic coming in and impressing when she rolled through the ruck, even getting onto the scoreboard. Eloise Chaston was lively up forward, with her leading and positioning going a long way to help her teammates get shots on goal. Sandringham were well aided by the likes of Bridie Hipwell and Keeley Coyne as outside receivers, whose class remained even in the wet conditions. Captain Kiana Lynch was once again impactful across multiple positions, and Pia Staltari was strong with her ball use throughout. 

Calder Cannons vs. Western Jets

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Arguably the leading tall on the ground, Gillard enjoyed a terrific tussle with Krystal Russell while operating through the ruck, and also impacted around the ground. She had the height advantage but showed good athleticism and strength to win a number of hitouts, which helped Calder’s star-studded engine room get to work. She positioned well behind the ball to impact kicks coming out of the Cannons’ attacking arc and even found a bit of ball in the back 50 to relieve pressure. Set for a big national carnival with Vic Metro.

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

The standout player afield for the winners, Prespakis continues to churn out high-level performances at a remarkably consistent rate. She finished as the game’s leading ball winner and constantly pumped Calder forward with her long kicking, which has come to the fore a touch more recently having already established a strong craft by hand. The number one pick candidate also booted a classy goal in the first term to spark her side and will shortly lead a very strong Vic Metro midfield.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Baskaran is already an established name in the competition, but has really elevated her game to new heights over the last few weeks with more time on the inside. Her class on the ball is exceptional and she wins plenty of it, with her ability to extract contested ball defiant of her frame and age. She is exactly the kind of player you want delivering the ball inside 50 and with seven of those from her 20 kicks on the weekend, she was an influential player for the Jets.

#8 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

A really important part of the Cannons midfield, Friswell has less frills than some of her teammates but can be equally impactful in the engine room. She ticked over 20 disposals for the first time this season and was a reliable ball winner on the inside, while also working well defensively to lay some good tackles. Friswell kicked a goal in the first quarter to add a string to her bow and broke forward well on a couple of occasions to carry Calder inside 50. A really solid outing once again.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

The sole 2004-born player to be selected in Vic Metro’s squad on Friday, it is easy to see why Ham will get that opportunity. She is ready as anyone to compete against bigger bodies and again showcased her physicality in midfield with strong work over the ball and some bustling play to break forward. Her penetrating kick was also useful as Western looked to make a dent in Calder’s defence, and she was able to enter the forward arc on five occasions. An area of improvement will be refining those kicks and mixing them up to find shorter targets out of congestion when appropriate, but she has strong potential to do plenty of damage and hit the scoreboard.

#39 Abbey McDonald (Calder Cannons)

One who popped up and had some really impressive moments, McDonald was more than handy for Calder moving forward. She was another to notch a season-high disposal tally (12), but more importantly applied smothering pressure and laid some big tackles to really make her mark on the game. It has been a real feature of her season at times, and should put her in good stead going into her top-age campaign next year.

#42 Jemima Woods (Western Jets)

Woods has arguably elevated herself to be the top 2003-born Western prospect, and showed exactly why on the weekend with one of her best games to date. Woods is a really dynamic and versatile tall with great athleticism, allowing her to play key position roles, win hitouts or take marks, and even rotate through midfield. While she did the former three once again, Woods’ work as a midfielder was ultra impressive, with her clean hands and strong body at the contest making for a promising showing overall. It caps off a handy run of form for the 17-year-old.

OTHERS:

Calder had plenty of strong contributors as always, with Mali McLeod and Emelia Yassir again lively on the outside and inside of midfield respectively. Ruby Smith and Kiara Delia were others to pop up and play impressive roles. For Western, Stephanie Asciak worked hard in midfield and Krystal Russell competed well as the primary ruck against tough opposition. Paige Ryan was again solid and Ciara Singleton also played a strong hand down back.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By Hamish Spence

AFLW ACADEMY MEMBERS:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

King set the standard against the Knights, leading her side in disposals (22) and tackles (11). She attended most stoppages and was an offensive threat with the way she pushed forward. She could have used the ball better at times, as indicated by her three behinds, but she was still among Tasmania’s best on the day and has proven to be a classy operator throughout the season.

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Impressed with every touch of the ball she had, working hard on the wing to cover the whole ground and get involved in plays. She was particularly strong in the first half, her drive and the opportunities she created for her team were symbolic of the difference between the two sides at the point in the game. She supported her defenders down back and kicked her side’s first with a classy running goal in the second quarter.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Amy Bissett (Tasmania Devils)

Proved to be the match-winner on Saturday, with two of her three goals coming in the Devils’ final quarter comeback. She stood up when her side needed a hero and brought the X-factor required to overcome the 11-point three-quarter time deficit. She also influenced the game with her 15 disposals at the top of forward 50 and further up the ground. While Bissett has shown an ability to kick goals and gather the ball at centre-half forward, this was the match where she brought both those aspects of her game together.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

Played at the standard we’ve come to expect from her this year, putting in another impressive performance with her 21 disposals and eight tackles. She’s the Devils’ conduit around stoppages, continually finding a way to win the ball at the coalface. While she does not always get the best penetration with some of her disposals, the way she stood up during the second quarter and in parts of the third made her one of Tasmania’s most important players.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

A pure hard-nosed and contested midfielder, the high pressure and congested nature of Saturday’s contest suited Webster perfectly. She made her presence felt around the frequent stoppages throughout the match with her 18 disposals and 10 tackles. Her current form and continued improvement has given Tasmania one of the deepest engine rooms in the competition.

#49 Charlotte Vandenberg (Tasmania Devils)

She was the most dominant ruck on the ground, winning a game-high 26 hitouts and making an impact at ground level. She asserted herself on the contest early with some great taps in the first quarter and gave her midfielders first service. There was an adverse difference for the Devils when she was not on the ground or could not attend a ruck contest, with their fortunes noticeably changing whenever she was at a stoppage.

#28 Candice Belbin (Tasmania Devils)

When Priscilla Odwogo was announced as a late out, it meant Tasmania’s backline needed to step up in her absence. Belbin certainly did, producing one of her best performances of the season. She mixed a strong defensive game with some attacking drives off half-back, finishing with 12 disposals and eight tackles. She particularly stood up when the Devils’ back six were put under pressure for parts of the second and third terms.

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Was the best midfielder at Prospect Park, putting together a prolific game with her 26 disposals, seven tackles and six inside 50s. When Northern got on top and started cutting through Tasmania in the second quarter, Chaplin was at the centre of it and leading the way. Her influence and control over the game at times was clear to see, with the Knights’ best plays often correlating with her involvement.

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

Jordan was another midfielder who flourished on Saturday, gathering plenty of possessions and relishing in the tight nature of the game. Her main role was to win the ball around stoppages and distribute it to one of her teammates, as indicated by the fact that 22 of her 25 disposals were handballs. She thrived when the game slowed down and was highly pressured in patches, allowing her to compete strongly at the contest.

#7 Teleah Smart (Northern Knights)

While Chaplin and Jordan were the accumulators, Smart provided a spark that threatened to take the game away from the Devils. Her 14 disposals and eight tackles show the effect she had in the midfield, but it was her surging runs forward off stoppages that took her performance to another level. She arguably produced the highlight of the match when she kicked two goals in a minute during the second quarter, despite starting in the middle both times.

#15 Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)

Delgado was an influential and calming force for the Knights down back. She finished with an impressive 17 disposals and took advantage of some of the Devils’ shallow inside 50 entries with a game-high eight rebounds 50s. She also stood up when the backline was under pressure, particularly for parts of the third quarter and in the last, keeping her opponent accountable and setting her team up on the rebound.

#40 Tannah Hurst (Northern Knights)

Continued to do what she’s done all season, being a reliable and consistent stopper for Northern down back. She was one of the main reasons Tasmania was restricted to a goal a term across the first three quarters. While the Devils eventually broke through, Hurst can hold her head high after another strong performance. She didn’t make as much of an impact coming out of defence as she has in other games, but the ball rarely got past her when it entered defensive 50.

OTHERS:

Jemma Blair complemented Belbin with an equally impressive performance off half-back for the Devils. Madison Brazendale stood out with some of her bursts of speed going through the middle off the ground. Georgia Clark looked dangerous at half-forward with the first goal of the game and the opportunities she created inside 50. Despite Vandenberg taking the ruck honours, Georgia Kitchell had an impressive performance in her own right, winning 13 hitouts and helping Northern’s midfield get on top for parts of the game. While they didn’t impact on the scoreboard, Rylie Wilcox (12 disposals) and Tallia Pulcino (11 disposals and a game-high 13 tackles) made sure their presence was felt up forward and further up the ground.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Still racked up the most ball for the Chargers despite playing a lot of time up forward. Did a lot of her usual work, charging through packs and coming out the other end with the footy, leaving opponents in her dust. Was a really strong pressure type player, with her tackling being superb throughout the day which highlighted her defensive work rate. Had a couple of opportunities to get herself on the scoreboard but chose to pass off to teammates, even if they weren’t in a favourable position comparatively.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Was not as obviously involved as she has been so often this season, but was just smart with her positioning and ball use, getting some uncontested marks down the line and sending the ball long with her penetrating kick, or getting on the scoreboard herself. 

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Won a lot of the ball on the inside, utilising her speed to break free from opponents and deliver good penetrating kicks forward or handballing to outside runners. She’s smart with her running patterns, never getting in the way of other teammates, especially around stoppages, where she’ll hold out to let someone like Rowbottom win the clearance, or go in when she’s the main inside player.

#7  Charlotte Taylor (Oakleigh Chargers)

Really great game as mostly a wing player, but also getting her runs through the guts and even relieving the ruck around the ground at times, she did a bit of everything in an all round top notch performance. I really liked her kicking, with her strength being in her placement, putting it in front of teammates to run onto rather than trying to put a hole in their chest with a hard kick.

#16 Erin Woodford (Oakleigh Chargers)

Stood up in the Chargers defence when it was needed as the second quarter went on especially. Did well to keep her opponents quiet for most of the day, and positioned herself in the middle of prime marking spots to make it a contest and difficult for the Falcons to get marks inside 50.

#23 Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons)

Reads the game really well as a defender which allows her to be a threat in the air and on the ground constantly. Strong when running and carrying, getting around opponents without much trouble which makes her rebound game especially dangerous. 

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Was really impressed with her ability to control the game and flow of the ball even without it, making shorter leads for teammates that no one else was making, they were safer leads but would end up being more damaging as Craven opened up space and kicked it centrally. Her kicking is always good, as mentioned she often looks to move it centrally but even the down the line kicks are calculated and more often than not pay off.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Super strong aerially setting herself up down the line from the play and cutting off a lot of Chargers rushed kicks forward, with no one able to match her leap and strong hands. Her follow up kicking was dangerous too, even if she was often forced to go down the line.

#15 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Has a good leap which makes her dangerous in marking contests and a reliable target up forward for Geelong, also leading to her playing as a relieving ruck, winning a few hitouts in that time as well. She is also very aggressive on the ball carrier leading to opponents to hesitate against her when they have seen others come off second best.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Pretty close to perfect game for an inside midfielder, with her athleticism and ball reading making up for her lack of height against some of the taller mids in the Chargers midfield group. She ended up forming a good one-two punch with teammates Tess Craven and Charlotte Simpson around stoppages, handballing to their advantage so they could get a bit of momentum going forward.

#39 Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)

Had a consistent game, creating a contest when the ball game forward and fighting to get scoring opportunities. Stepped up early in the fourth quarter with two really crucial contested marks that led to the goal of the quarter, with the other kick being a deep inside 50 entry that Oakleigh struggled for a few minutes to get out.

OTHERS:

Kara Stacey and Charlotte Simpson both won a bit of ball for the Falcons around the ground, with fellow bottom-ager Mia Van Dyke getting herself two goals in her return from injury. Zoe Garth was lively on the wing, doing well as a link up option. The Chargers remained competitive thanks to the efforts of Brooke Vickers, Lily Hart and Eliza James through the midfield, with Mia Clift and Alexandra McCulloch strong in defence.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

The Academy tall had a day out in the ruck given Dandenong’s lack of talls, as she dominated every ruck contest she was involved in, showing really good ruck craft throughout. It was not just the height advantage that led to this big performance though, she often got front position and would shepherd her opponent away from the ball to give her an open area to work with. Around the ground she was handy as well, being a down the line target for Murray to kick to where it’d take two to three Stingrays to stop her taking the mark. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

#38 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

She had been in some really good form heading into the game, and in the absence of some Vic Country teammates took the chance with both hands to announce herself as one to watch. Cracked in and was Dandenong’s main inside midfielder, consistently getting the ball out to outside teammates to help Dandenong keep the ball heading forward. Had an impressive workrate around the ground, often getting into the backline to help out, especially when Murray had quite a big surge in the last quarter.

#31 Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)

Has been thrown around all over the ground this season but played mostly in defence for this contest and was just superb throughout the game, constantly coming up the field to meet the ball, winning it majority of the time and keeping the pressure on going forward for Dandenong. Was really smart with her ball use as well, in a game where there wasn’t much time to compose for a kick she managed it well to hit up some shorter targets, breaking the flow of the long bombs most others were doing, so her kicks were more often marked by teammates to keep possession.

#27 Charley Ryan (Dandenong Stingrays)

Super composed with ball in hand, especially when the game had a bit of sting in it during the first quarter, she was probably the only player able to compose herself and deliver some dangerous kicks to break the game open. Moving to a rover spot rather than her usual wing, she did not look out of her depth in a more contested spot, still doing the things like holding her space and working around opponents really well, and impacting heavily with her ball use. One area she might want to improve in future is her kicking on goal, finishing the day with 1.3.

#63 Georgia Malkoun (Dandenong Stingrays)

In the absence of consistent goal kickers like Amber Clarke, Ashleigh Richards and Mackenzie Eardley, Malkoun took the opportunity to announce herself as a genuine forward target, with three straight goals for the day and creating plenty more goal scoring opportunities for her team. Her leading patterns were especially impressive and led to her impressive display, able to lose her opponent well, and she would’ve had more marks if it weren’t for the crowding from Murray defenders. A particular highlight came just before the half time siren, when she took a courageous contested mark on the 50 meter arc, proving her aerial threat and capabilities. 

#11 Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)

Might have only played about 50 per cent of the game, but had immediate impact when she came on in the second term, holding space well and receiving the ball from the likes of Crank on the inside. It is amazing how even when she does a long bomb forward out of the pack you feel like she knows exactly what’s going to happen, with a few of those bombs leading to inside 50 marks for the Stingrays.

#26 Charlotte Blair (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got involved in a lot of the play throughout the ground, applying pressure around the forward half to keep the ball in dangerous spots for Dandenong. Seemed to use her hands quite often, looking to pass off to team mates already on the move or in better positions. When she did elect to kick, it was usually a well placed one out in front of teammates so they could run into it.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

The bottom-age star was a consistent threat around the midfield for the day, often getting away from her direct opponent to make a run to win a clearance or receive a handball out the back. Looks to get the ball moving with her long kick which gave the Stingrays defence a few scares, with the high balls leading to contests that Skepper would try and run to, to hit the front and centre, so that workrate was evident throughout. 

#16 Mikayla Jones (Murray Bushrangers)

Played a really good sweeper role for Murray, setting up outside of the forward 50 and doing well to cut off rebounds from Dandenong, then fire it back in to keep the pressure on, with the entries being penetrating kicks to advantage of her teammates. Tapered off a bit towards the end of the game, but remained a pressure presence.

OTHERS:

Defender Zoe Hill was especially present in the first half for Dandenong, playing a big role in keeping Murray goalless for the majority of the game, with Hayley Monk playing a good game as a half forward and Bella Enno continuing her strong tackling and inside work. Murray were aided by the likes of Zara Hamilton and Madison Gray around the midfield, as well as Kaylea Kobzan getting involved. Mindy Quade also did a lot down back to repel Dandenong attacks and keep the scoreline lowered.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY THUNDER

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#30 Ashanti Bush (Northern Territory)

After a quieter first half, Bush came alive in the second, having multiple shots on goal and converting two in the space of a minute in the fourth quarter. After missing a set shot late in the third term, Bush used the outside of the boot to snap a classy goal eight and a half minutes into the last quarter, then the next inside 50 a minute later saw her mark one-on-one with really strong hands and convert with relative ease 20m out. She almost had a third goal moments later working her opponent under the ball and running towards goal but just slipped at the crucial moment and could not get boot to ball.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#29 Freda Puruntatameri (Northern Territory)

Worked really hard across the match and was one of Northern Territory’s four-quarter performers. Predominantly starting in the ruck, she would often thump the ball long down the ground, but also showed some nice dance moves by sidestepping opponents to create space herself. Sometimes she would get caught, but she kept worrying the opposition with her ability to move well through contests.

#25 Bella Clarke (Northern Territory)

Used her experience throughout the match to be a prominent ball winner and lead her younger teammates. She started off in the midfield and kept cracking in. She covered plenty of ground and spent a fair amount of time inside 50, having a set shot from 20m out early in the third term she pushed to the left. A couple of minutes later, her second efforts and determination were on show, when she wrestled the ball from an opponent on the goal line and got boot to ball.

#11 Grace Mulvahil (Northern Territory)

A quieter first half, but throughout the match provided some eye-catching dashes with her first few steps very impressive. Her marking is an area of improvement, dropping a couple of uncontested grabs around the ground, but once she was on the move with ball-in-hand she was hard to stop. Mulvahil danced around a couple of opponents and drove the ball inside 50 and showed good work rate to offer herself as an option in transition.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV)

Continued her great form this season with another hard-working effort across the ground. Alongside some inexperienced teammates, Condon led by example with her attack on the football and work rate around the ground. She was quick to get boot to ball to clear the zone, and while she was often under pressure and had to rush, used it well when she had time on her side. A moment in the second term where she pickpocketed an opponent at a stoppage was impressive, followed by some nice speed on the wing a moment later. Condon also took a strong mark in the fourth term with contact coming from behind.

#27 Molly Walton (GWV)

Incredibly composed for a player in her debut season, not much seems to phase Walton who held up in pressure situations, using clean hands and footy IQ to drive the ball out of the defensive 50. Time and time again she would mop up at the back and boot the ball forward, and took the kickout duties to provide some run and long kicking down the ground. She laid a great run-down tackle on Bella Clarke in the second term to win the free kick, and also won a one-on-three in the final term, and rushed a behind when under pressure to stop a certain goal.

OTHERS:

J’Noemi Anderson showed some nice toe and was presenting around the ground, while Tatyana Perry and Shanoah Leedie were also named among the best. Georgia Johnson and Charlotte Elcoate also found their fair share of the football in the win. For the Rebels, Stella Bridgewater was busy throughout, kicking a goal in second term from the top of the goalsquare, while Stephanie Glover was strong one-on-one deep in defence, and the likes of Jorja Jones, Crystal Summers and Olivia Leonard also having plenty of the play.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#27 Jayda Richardson (Bendigo Pioneers)

Played a mixed role through the game, starting in the midfield before being moved into the backline later on. She looked really good in the backline, bringing her usual strengths like her speed, ball winning and long kick to the position, which led to more dangerous counter attacks from the Pioneers and played a big in their second half fight back. In the midfield she was again dangerous, able to run through packs to win the footy, come out the other side and bomb long forward.

#15 Drew Ryan (Bendgio Pioneers)

Got her opportunity to play more on the inside with some regulars out for the Pioneers and really impressed, with the timing of her runs around contests especially impressive, where she’d be able to receive the ball already close to top speed and break away from opponents, then deliver forward via foot.

#30 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

Started the game a little quiet but really came up in the second half, where her work in and around the midfield exceptional for Bendigo, playing a big part in their surge late in the fourth, where her long kicking kept Bendigo going forward, and her occasional short kicking moving them centrally to open up the forward line. She’s a joy to watch setting up behind play or spreading across the ground and calling for the ball, taking marks with ease and then taking space to go forward.

#35 Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power)

Playing as the Gippsland main ruck throughout the game, she had an outstanding performance topping the disposals and hitouts stats, as she was just always involved whenever she was around. It was impressive to see that she still kept a defensive focus throughout the game, having no troubles going down back when the ball was there and helping out with her strength in the contest being an asset in winning the footy and getting it out. It was that strength that allowed her to have such a big performance in the ruck, out muscling and jumping through opponents without issue, giving Gippsland first use around the ground.

#2 Alexei Guy-Toogood (Gippsland Power)

Provided a lot of run and drive from the defensive 50 for Gippsland, with her ball use coming out good, often to the advantage of a teammate, it gave Gippsland a real chance every time to convert from the counter attacks. She’d come to meet a loose ball as well, making it difficult for Bendigo to set up and prepare for the counter. Impressed with her tackling in the final quarter as well, forcing stoppages to stop Bendigo from scoring.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Very well could have ended the day with 20-plus disposals if it weren’t for an extended period on the bench in the second quarter, but when she was on the field she did well to make the loss of Grace McRae less evident, using her disposal well, winning the ball then handballing to outside runners or kicking forward herself trying to get Gippsland going quickly. 

OTHERS:

For Bendigo Lila Keck used the ball well and set up well behind play to get a couple of intercept marks. Keely Fullerton and Lily Den Houting had some key moments especially in the final term push for a goal. Lexie Moss and Tegan Williams also had good moments. Gippsland was not short of contributors in their victory, Macie Gilmour, Alisha Molesworth and Indiana Makai winning a bit of ball around the midfield and flanks. Taylah Bourne also offered a lot in the Gippsland defensive half.

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 6

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition treated us to an extended weekend of fixtures in Round 6. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

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

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

A quiet game compared to her usual lofty standards, Rowbottom’s influence on the game still can’t be understated as she demanded a run with player around the ground throughout the game. Despite this, she still found ways to impact, especially up forward where she was played as the main target, able to hit the scoreboard for her troubles. Still had moments of brilliance where she’d get away from her player and win the clearance, leaving everyone in her dust. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Just finds ways to outdo herself throughout the game as it goes on. It felt like she was adding a new string to her bow each quarter with her ball winning early impressive, then adding her speed the next quarter, then adding her overhead marking the next and finally adding her composure in the final quarter, not that any of those were weaknesses earlier on, but became more apparent as the game went on. Really reads the play well and puts herself in great spaces all the time, highlighted by a patch in the third quarter where she got an intercept mark, kicked it back forward and then got another one intercept mark when Sandringham worked it back out. Worked hard throughout the game, with her two-way running being a desirable trait. 

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Has some really eye catching moments, especially around stoppages, where her in-and-under, unrelenting hunt of the ball, mixed with her burst of speed and equally quick use of the ball by hand, is a real strength. This game she had a presence as a forward as well, taking a few good grabs and setting up some good inside 50 opportunities with her kicks.

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Had a solid game splitting her time through the midfield and up forward as a deeper target. Did some good things in the first three quarters around stoppages in particular, where her acceleration was hard for Sandringham to deal with, but it was in the final quarter when the pressure started mounting that she really stepped up and shined, getting involved all around the ground with her in close pressure work, and taking a particularly crucial contested mark to slow down play and run down the clock in the final two minutes, showing a deep understanding of the game and how to deal with those situations. 

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Has been a consistent contributor in the Chargers defense and this game was no different, with her tendency to leave her opponent and making contests 2-on-1 in her teams favour, and her confidence to attack incoming balls at ground level and in the air, she’s a very well rounded attacking defender, that doesn’t neglect her defensive responsibilities. She stood up in the big moments, especially in the final quarter as Sandringham were clawing themselves back into the game.

#4 Alexandra McCulloch (Oakleigh Chargers)

Stood up again in the Oakleigh backline, where her willingness to back herself was on show, flying for marks in packs and taking on opponents when tucking the ball under her arm and running with it. Her reliability throughout the game allowed other Oakleigh defenders such as Brooke Vickers to run off their opponents to impact further up the ground, which made her a very valuable part of the win.

#10 Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons)

Had some really good moments, especially with ball in hand, where she’d use her agility to get around multiple opponents and then getting the ball to a teammate. Not overly crash and bash with her ball winning, but she’s very capable of winning a contested ground ball with her poise around contests, which means that more often than not she’s in a good position to handball off to a teammate effectively 

# 18 Mia Zielinski (Sandringham Dragons)

It’s hard to believe this was just her second game at this level, just plays in such a confident and assured manner, confident to take on opponents in a foot race, on the ground or in the air. Her aerial work is superb, rarely dropping a mark and not wasting a single disposal, she became Sandringham’s main target inside 50, flying for everything, very much one to watch for the 2023 draft. 

#11 Tayla Jones (Sandringham Dragons)

Despite playing as a winger, she got involved quite a bit down deep in defence, where she was winning herself a few free kicks through getting to the ball first. Followed up her kicks if they went wayward which obviously made her teammates much more assured. Further up the ground she was punishing Oakleigh for missed kicks when she was in the area, sweeping up loose balls and delivering accurately to teammates.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Followed up her brilliant game against Gippsland with another big performance against a physically stronger midfield, where her athleticism and footy IQ held her in good stead for the game, often selling candy or side stepping opponents with ease then delivering a long accurate kick forward or handballing off to a teammate on the outside, it really looks like her confidence is growing game by game. Was one of the main dragons to take that step up in the final quarter to get them within a kick.

OTHERS:

In such a well rounded performance there’s plenty of others worthy of a mention. From the victors, Erin Woodford and Lily Hart played a big role in pushing their side through for a win. Jemma Rigoni was also good around the ground, getting a goal in her usual forward spot but pushing up and impacting in the midfield, with talented bottom-ager Ameille Smith also having an impact up forward and in the ruck. Sandringham’s winger Charlotte Ryan won plenty of it and did some damage with her signature speed, Pia Staltari was again thrown around in all 3 sections of the ground, but used it well wherever she was. Abby Thompson was a solid aerial presence in defense with captain Kiana Lynch creating plenty going forward.

 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWS GIANTS ACADEMY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#36 Ally Morphett (GWS GIANTS Academy – but also Murray Bushrangers)

It must have been weird for Morphett lining up against her NAB League teammates, but she certainly had no qualms making an impact in the game. The opening bounce saw the ruck punch a thumping ball forward into the path of her teammates, and then had a number of shots on goal in the opening term. Her set shot from 50m shanked to the right and was intercepted, then her quick snap on goal was good, but went to to the left and stayed in. She kept putting her body on the line and winning her fair share of the ball, thumping it forward. She took a really strong overhead mark, clunking the ball and her ball movement inside 50 led to a goal.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Cynthia Hamilton (GWS GIANTS Academy)

A standout throughout the match for the GIANTS Academy providing run all over the ground. She played between the wing, forward and even dropping back into defence, finding plenty of the ball and keeping it moving in transition. Her work rate was a feature of her game, and she stepped up to kick two goals in the match; the first when she went to full-forward midway through the term thanks to a quick kick running back to it, and then booted a second goal in the third term with a snap out of nothing. Hamilton had a courageous marking attempt in the forward 50 and would continue to run hard throughout the match to be one of the GIANTS’ standout players.

#11 Jayde Hamilton (GWS GIANTS Academy)

Just cracked in for four quarters, and having been one of the AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitees from last season, and someone who has already debuted at VFL Women’s level, Hamilton showed her experience and ball-winning abilities. She can tend to throw the ball on the boot at times, but her vision and timing of handballs is quite good, able to release at the right point. She reads the stoppage work well and can get forward for some shots on goal.

#30 Jessica Whelan (GWS GIANTS Academy)

A lovely kick of the ball, Whelan has great technique and and played between midfield and forward, with a few eye-catching highlights. She laid a fierce tackle in the middle of the ground in the opening term, took a great intercept mark on the wing and hit a low dart of a pass inside 50 in the third term which led to a goal, then earned a 50m penalty to have a set shot from the goalsquare and made no mistake.

#31 Hayley Macdonald (GWS GIANTS Academy)

Booted two goals in the game and looked lively inside 50. She arguably could have finished with more majors, given her first set shot from 20m out straight in front missed to the right. She kicked her first early in the third term with a great snap around her body, and continued to present throughout the second half. Early in the fourth quarter Macdonald kicked her second, able to get her boot to the ball in the goalsquare to double her output.

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

Having some sort of season is the outside talent, with her speed and ball-winning capacity on show. At times she just needs that extra touch of composure or awareness to know she has more time than she thinks she does, but when she is up and going it is impressive. She is strong overhead and is not afraid to take on the opposition, at one stage evading two players, but then getting caught by the third. With her athletic traits and aggressive play with ball-in-hand, Smith is perennially an eye-catching player and has some attractive traits to her wing role.

#22 Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

An important player in the Bushrangers’ defensive setup, Hay generally uses the ball well aside from the odd kick, and is always mopping up deep in defence. She is a strong interceptor and takes the game on with running meterage, and then puts her body on the line such as a great smother to save a goal in the third term. She was clean off the deck and able to quickly transition from the pickup to a smooth handball in the final quarter, having put together and impressive overall performance.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

Another strong performance from the bottom-age talent with a penetrating left boot. She showed clean hands at ground level and her usual defensive pressure, with her sidestepping ability to get on her left side and then wind up with a powerful pass always something to enjoy. Skepper is able to take some strong overhead marks and cover the ground well, laying tackles in each of the thirds of the ground, and it is about refining the left boot to match the execution with the technique. Whilst she courageously went up for a mark late in the game, she landed a little awkwardly and was rested.

#46 Zara Hamilton (Murray Bushrangers)

Working with tandem with Smith as the prime ball mover in transition, Hamilton played an impressive game from both an offensive and defensive standpoint. Often she would apply pressure to the opposition to force a turnover such as a dropped mark inside defensive 50, and when she had the ball used it fairly well. Not afraid to use some athleticism to sidestep and opponent and kick long, Hamilton set up a goal to Olivia Cicolini who made no mistake from a free kick in the third term.

OTHERS:

Sophie Trewartha was impressive for the GIANTS, while Eleanor Bishop won plenty of the footy, and the likes of Georgie Jaques and Anita Manning were also solid. For the Bushrangers, Kristy Whitehead, Mindy Quade, Bonny McKean and Chloe Locke worked well in defence, and Mikayla Jones was also among the better players on the day for the losing side.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#7 Jessica Doyle (Sydney Swans Academy)

Whilst Doyle might be lightly built, she certainly packs a punch and plenty of talent with her work in the forward half. Working between midfield and forward as one of those taller mids who can provide a marking target inside 50, Doyle has that X-factor about her that catches the eye. She got the ball rolling for her side against the momentum in the first term with an important goal, then stepped up with her side’s third major of the contest, to finish with the two goals from an equal team-high 19 disposals. Moving well around the ground, Doyle was a key playmaker, driving the ball inside 50 on multiple occasions.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#20 Ella Heads (Sydney Swans Academy)

An absolute rock in defence, Heads was a terrific one-on-one opponent, and took a number of strong intercept marks. She would then take the game on and either go for a run or use her composure to go back and search out a target. As the defence was under siege early, Heads did well to hold the fort up and team up well with the likes of Ruby Sargent-Wilson, and think through the defensive transition into attack.

#10 Ruby Sargent-Wilson (Sydney Swans Academy)

Did not need to win a heap of the ball to have an impact, with five rebound 50s from 10 touches. She popped up from time to time during crucial moments, and was one of the Swans’ best on the day. She used the ball well by foot and was composed when she won it, often weaving away from an opponent to provide teammates with something to run onto.

#19 Maddy Hendrie (Sydney Swans Academy)

Hendrie was someone who caught the eye due to her movement in transition, putting the ball into dangerous spots going inside 50. She was not afraid to get her hands dirty with a number of tackles, and even had a chance on goal but missed. Winning the majority of her touches at ground level, Hendrie was a key playmaker in the front half for the Swans throughout the day.

#13 Danika Spamer (Sydney Swans Academy)

A tough competitor who won her fair share of the ball, Spamer laid the equal most tackles for the Swans and really dug deep at the clinches. She was able to extract the ball from the stoppage and keep it moving, and whilst still developing some areas of her game, she showed she could win the ball and cover the field really well, winning possessions in each third of the ground.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

The Draft Central Player of the Week was absolutely sensational with a competition season-high 31 disposals on the day. She was everywhere, even kicking a goal off a step from just inside 50 to keep the Falcons in the contest, and popped up constantly around the ground. On a number of occasions she just could not quite hold onto a few marks so could have had even more of the pill, but her complete work rate saw her pick up five or more marks, tackles, inside 50s and rebounds just to give a bit of an indication of just how impressive she was in the match. On the most in-form players in the 2021 season.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Another consistent performer with clean skills and balance, Schaap worked in tandem with Craven throughout the match to ensure the game was controlled out of the midfield. Whilst the Falcons ultimately fell short of victory, Schaap was someone who would put her body on the line, then create her own space and use it well in transition. She was often the player cracking in under multiple opponents to win the contested ball, and then applying her own defensive pressure.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

Continuing what has been a consistent season, Simpson is the third player in the trio of ball-winning midfielders, and used her strength to advantage in the contest. She was able to win the loose and hard balls, and thump the pill forward to give teammates best chance. At times she can rush with her disposal, but knows how to win the ball and how to protect the ball at ground level, as well as aide with defensive support.

#33 Taiya Morrow (Geelong Falcons)

Really stepped up in defence with the absence of Annie Lee to team up with Elizabeth Dowling back there. She was someone often mopping up on the last line of defence, and then clearing the ball through a long kick to half-back. She put together a four-quarter performance and really came into her own during the match, and is an underrated player in the Falcons’ back six, completing their array of consistent defenders.

OTHERS:

For the Swans, it really was an even team performance, with rucks, Eloise Morgan and April Devine catching the eye, while Kahli Gilchrist and Isadora McLeay also stood out. For the Falcons, Dowling was her reliable self in defence, while Gabbi Featherston and Mia Van Dyke were impressive, as was Analea McKee who played her best game of the season, and Ash Van Loon was fierce before coming off with an injury.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Hamish Spence

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

King finished off her third game in eight days among the best players on the ground once again. Her poise, speed and timing were impressive in the tough conditions, but she still managed to match it around the contest with her 16 disposals and six tackles. One thing that stands out in King’s game is her intent to keep the ball alive and move it forward. While it doesn’t always come off and can result in the occasional mistake, her attacking mindset would have North Melbourne (the AFLW club with her draft rights) excited.

TOP PERFORMERS:  

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Gaffney’s enjoyed a strong 2021 campaign this year, but Saturday’s game was her finest performance to date. Her gut-running and agility were a luxury for the Devils, as they could distribute the ball to her on the outside and get it away from the contest, where it lived for large parts of the day. She played a typical wingers game, covering the whole ground and racking up plenty of possessions with her line-breaking speed, ultimately finishing with 20 disposals, four tackles, three inside 50s and three rebound 50s.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

Starred at ground level and on the inside, making an impact at every stoppage she attended. Her contested game style was perfectly suited to the congested conditions at Dial Park, with Webster often distributing the ball from the bottom of the pack with her 11 handballs. She racked up 20 disposals in total and kicked a goal, continuing the excellent form that has seen her named in Draft Central’s Team of the Week for the second week in a row.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

It was another great game for Maurer through the midfield, but it was the impact she made up forward that will turn some heads. She was the only multiple goalkicker for the game; her first was a set-shot after being hit-up on a lead, and the second was a classy running goal out of the contest. If Maurer can keep adding this element to her game, it will serve her well going forward. She was also tough as usual around stoppages with her 18 disposals and six tackles, constantly absorbing tackles to hand the ball off one of her teammates.

#49 Charlotte Vandenberg (Tasmania Devils)

Was the most dominant ruck on the ground, easily winning the ruck battle with her game-high 17 hit outs. Dandenong rotated several different players against her, but Vandenberg didn’t lower her standards or tire out, asserting her physicality at each contest. What was equally impressive was her follow-up and second efforts at ground level, her six tackles represent her want to impact the game even after the ball’s been bounced.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

She worked tirelessly all game for the Stingrays, finishing as their leading possession getter with 19 disposals, despite playing out of the forward line. She pushed hard up the ground and used her speed to provide an option for her side, as evidenced by her game-high nine inside 50s. She had three scoring shots on goal, before finally getting some reward for effort with the last goal of the game.

#38 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

Was arguably Dandenong’s best midfielder in defeat on the weekend. She looked comfortable around stoppages in the wet conditions, constantly pushing past players and forcing her way through packs. While Emily Shepherd being out due to injury was a blow, it gave Crank a chance to step up in her absence, an opportunity she fully embraced with her 18 disposals.

#34 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)

Another key contributor through the middle, Richards impressed with her toughness and competitiveness around the ball. She featured at most stoppages and made an impact with her 12 disposals and three tackles. She didn’t seem to push forward as much as she has done in the past, possibly signalling a more midfield centric role moving forward.

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Hill continued her excellent form marshalling the Stingrays down back, reading the ball beautifully, despite the wet conditions, and keeping Tasmania’s forward line in check. She kept the likes of Amy Prokopiec accountable after Prokopiec kicked the first goal of the game, while impacting the contest in her own right with her 13 disposals, three tackles and three rebound 50s.

#27 Charley Ryan (Dandenong Stingrays)

She didn’t gather as much of the ball as some other players, but Ryan made an impact whenever she had it in her hands. Every one of her nine disposals was effective and laced with class, which stood in the tough conditions on Saturday. She drove her side’s attacks up forward with six inside 50s and wasn’t afraid to work defensively with her six tackles.

OTHERS:

Aprille Crooks (18 disposals and three rebound 50s) and Priscilla Odwogo (15 disposals, five tackles and five rebound 50s) were Tasmania’s two main movers out of the backline, constantly cutting off the ball and sending it back out. Amy Bissett was an important link-up forward, gathering 14 disposals and three inside 50s in a strong performance. While her fellow winger, Meghan Gaffney, took most of the attention, Madison Brazendale (15 disposals and five tackles) was good in her own right on the opposing wing. Abbey Jordan (17 disposals and two inside 50s) was strong through the middle for Dandenong, matching it with some of the Devils’ best onballers around stoppages. Jemma Radford (nine disposals, two inside 50s and two rebound 50s) and Mackenzie Eardley (13 disposals, six tackles and two rebound 50s) held up down back and constantly rebounded the ball. Olivia Robinson (13 disposals, five tackles and three inside 50s) was influential at half-forward, working up the field to impact the contest and applying constant pressure.

 

GWV REBELS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Positioned on the wing for the day, she really showed off her workrate and game reading ability, drifting into the backline to provide assistance down there, getting herself in the best spots to take intercept marks, but also pushing forward to provide pressure and scoring opportunities. It’s particularly impressive how aerially, even if she doesn’t hold the mark she’s never beaten with the follow up at ground level, where she’s composed and measured with her ball use as well.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Really impressive work creating drive from the backline and setting up outside of forward 50 to get the ball straight back in, making it difficult for the Jets to set themselves up defensively again. She showed she understands the game at a high level as well, always doing all she can with the ball in hand, like going for runs, but never pushing it and overestimating what she can do, that mixed with the distance and penetration of her kick can be really damaging.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Coming into the midfield from her usual back flank role, it was a seamless transition for Leonard who topped the disposal charts for the day. All the same attributes that make her such a danger off of half back; her speed, kicking and game sense, were well on show throughout the day as she was often standing beside the Jets Montana Ham around stoppages, and looked to do well in nullifying her whilst getting a lot of it herself. Her tackling around stoppages was really good as well, making it hard for Jets to break free at any stage 

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

Had an amazing game playing mostly as the main target for the Rebels inside deep 50, showing her potential to be one of those midfielders that can effectively rest forward. Standing at just the 166 cm, you would’ve thought she was 10 cm taller the way she was flying for every mark and getting a couple of them. It was her work at ground level and in congestion that was most impressive, able to dance around opponents to set up teammates going forward, or handball to an oncoming runner.

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

The top ball winner for the Jets, Baskaran was her usual composed and classy self throughout the game, with her ball use highly effective and damaging, which played a big part in the Jets second half surge. I really liked that she very rarely just kicks it down the line, she’s always looking to move the ball inside or across for a switch, making it easier for her forwards to get effective shots if they mark it.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

There’s something very entertaining about watching Ham run straight through stoppages to get the ball moving forward with a long bomb, and she’s just so hard for opponents to stop from doing it. Particularly impressed with how she set up behind the ball for the game, taking on a more defensive focus than we usually see from her, she really effective in creating contests rather than letting the rebels just go end-to-end

#6 Stella Bridgewater (GWV Rebels)

Lined up at centre half-forward to start with, but played one of those games where she could very well have been a midfielder as well, was just everywhere and involved in every area of the ground. Has some really good athletic traits which make her a difficult matchup, either faster or stronger than the opponents rotating on her throughout the game.

#52 Krystal Russell (Western Jets)

Improves more and more every game which is really good to see, and against the Rebels she started putting really direction and distance on her taps, putting it a few meters out in front of teammates already on the move, with her teammates rarely having to slow down for the ball. Her follow up work is good when it’s called upon as well.

OTHERS:

Lili Condon battled hard in the midfield all day for the Rebels, winning plenty of ball, with defensive duo Molly Walton and Stephanie Glover also putting in a good shift in the defensive half for the Rebels, while Kalani Scoullar won the most hitouts across the round. For the Jets, it was some regular contributors in Jemima Woods, Paige Ryan and Stephanie Asciak that battled hard all day in different areas of the ground, with all doing a lot of their work in the midfield.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

It’s kind of ridiculous that she can play half of the game away from the rover roles but still have such a high disposal count and impact everywhere around the ground. It’s obvious she’s been playing more forward and defense in the last couple of weeks, and her output hasn’t dropped at all which is a really great thing to see. Was really impressive especially when playing in the backline, with her willingness to attack the footy and move up the ground playing a big part in Calder’s constant pressure and ball movement forward. Throw in some of her usual side steps and composure under pressure and it was a top level performance where she made essentially no mistakes.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Had a good game in the ruck where she was tested against one of the best in the comp. What you’re getting with Gillard is a ruck that, even if she doesn’t win the tap her follow up work is unmatchable, with work below her knees being a major strength for someone as tall as she is. Throw on top of this her ability to impact up forward or around the ground as a really good aerially presence and user of the footy and she’s such a valuable player, which was on show against Power.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#25 Lily Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)

Her run-and-carry is a delight to watch, she’s got a good mix of power/strength as well as composure to understand what her limits are, so it was rare to see her get herself into trouble despite her tendency for that run-and carry. She’s really accountable in defense, even on the occasion her opponent does win the ball they won’t get an easy disposal afterwards with her tackling and relentless pressure. With more time in the midfield, I have no doubt she’ll become one of the stronger stoppage players in the competition.

#5 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

She has such a high impact with her disposal that even without racking up big numbers she’s one of the most damaging players during any given game, and her switch to the forwardline after spending the last few games as a defender proves that with her game high 3 goal haul. A really impressive part of her game was how much she worked up the ground as well, then worked harder than her opponent in transition to impact the play. Another impressive part of her game was her marking, taking a good contested mark in the first quarter.

#10 Olivia Manfre (Calder Cannons)

She’s been on the verge of having a breakout game for a couple of weeks and all it took was a game where she got a really good run in the midfield to do it. A lot of what she’s displayed up forward with her leading patterns, disposal skills and footy IQ shined in the midfield as well, making really good runs around stoppages to get in the best positions, and could then get the ball to outside runners or kick it forward.. She still had her stints up forward as well, getting a goal for her efforts, showing that she’s got that capability of a midfield/forward split going forward.

#2 Reese Sutton (Calder Cannons)

In a similar sense to Manfre she’s been on the verge of a breakout game for a couple of weeks, and with increased midfield time she took it with both hands, her footy IQ on display around stoppages where she does well to put herself where the ball is going to be. Her kicking is a real delight, finding the better options more often than not with well weighted kicks.

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Super impressive through the midfield all day, with her burst of speed in particular looking good coming out of stoppages or contests, always followed by a quality kick forward or handball to an outside team mate. Once again was impressed by her two-way running, where she’d be involved in the forwardline, and then pop up in the backline a minute later when Gippsland got a turn over.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Looking at her play a game, and she just understands it at a really high level. Despite not racking up huge numbers she has really good moments throughout the game where her game sense and footy IQ are on display with her positioning or runs she’s making, especially when reading the ball off of the rucks hands. Her disposal skills under pressure were also really impressive, and contributed to some really good passages for Gippsland

#1 Sunday Brisbane (Gippsland Power)

Really crafty midfielder, who despite her size isn’t afraid to get involved  in the contested side of the game, and that relentless attack on the ball is really advantageous for Gippsland, especially with her handballing being at a good level, even with Calder tightening up on her later on.

OTHERS:

Gippsland had a few admirable performers despite the loss, with Courtney Fletcher winning quite a bit of ball around the ground. Tall duo Matilda Van Berkel and Grace Matser were solid in defense and the Ruck respectively and Grace McRae still impacted well despite having a quieter game than usual. The Cannons had plenty of others that performed their role well, Zali Friswell again being a good ball winner and contributor in other areas around the ground, bottom-ager Abbey McDonald continues to work into her role as rebounding defender really well, and winger Mia Briedis was winning it plenty.

 

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Appleby was again promising in patches for the Knights, with her speed and running ability evident but not dominant over the course of a highly contested game. She could have been the perfect player to break the contest open on the outside and threatened to do so with ball in hand. Her class shone through with clean takes and use in possession, especially during the third and fourth quarters as Northern began to arrest momentum and mount its extraordinary comeback.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

The best player afield and at 15 years of age, one who has already set the bar high with many seasons left to prosper in the underage pathways. Jordan was a constant figure at the stoppages, using her zippy turn of speed to burst away with ball in hand and thrust Northern onto the front foot. She dug in hard despite her diminutive stature and was the standout performer across four quarters, while also standing up in the clutch moments. Her third term goal gave Northern a sniff, and her second put the Knights within striking distance during term four, capping off what was an outstanding individual performance which inspired her team to victory.

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

Eastern’s most outstanding performer on the day, Sherar worked furiously hard to ensure her side would boss the midfield battle early on. All bar one of her 16 disposals were kicks, highlighting Sherar’s ability to gain meterage from the coalface and make an impact where it matters most. Her marking prowess was also on show and the Ranges coaches would have been pleased by her work-rate to not only win possession in all areas of the ground, but to also tackle hard when required. After kicking the second goal of the game, Sherar was set up for a big day and followed through.

#15 Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)

With everything to gain late in the contest, Northern pulled the trigger and sent Delgado into the centre bounces – a move which ultimately played a massive part in the final result. Previously, the reliable top-ager was seen intercepting and rebounding in her usual defensive post, which proved key to Northern remaining a chance to turn around and win. At 173cm, her presence was then felt through midfield where she willed the ball forward and booted a crucial goal at the start of term four to spark Northern’s game-winning charge.

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Another of the 2005-birth brigade, Pisano continues to find the goals for Eastern and impact games up forward. An impressive 14 of her 15 disposals came via foot, and five of them were inside 50 entries, showcasing the creative threat that Pisano presents. Her two goals came with a touch of class and were taken in quick succession during the first term, helping Eastern skip out to what should have been a defining lead. The 15-year-old has plenty of time to develop further and potentially try her hand up the field, but looks so comfortable at the level as a forward.

#22 Ella Smallacombe (Northern Knights)

One of Northern’s key factors up forward, Smallacombe, or ‘Big Brush’ as she is referred to by teammates notched a career-high 17 disposals as she worked hard up the ground to provide a viable target and help link the Knights into their attacking 50. She may not have found the big sticks in this outing, but moreso played to a role which allowed Northern to keep its forward momentum going and have someone who could skilfully deliver the ball into dangerous areas.

#44 Grace Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

One of the competition’s most exciting ruck prospects, Campbell was able to showcase her athleticism and raw ability on the ball in this outing. At over 180cm, her aerial nous is an obvious strength and she brought it to the fore with a game-high 19 hitouts to go with three eye-catching marks. She is one of the few players who can take the ball at its highest point, but not one to admire her work for long, Campbell also showed a knack for playing on straight away and moving through traffic like a much smaller player. She missed the chance to cap off a promising outing with scoreboard impact, with one guilt-edge chance to put Eastern back ahead during the fourth term drifting into the post.

OTHERS:

Both sides had a raft of handy contributors during the day, with plenty of hard workers placed on each line. Eastern had the likes of Jess Grace and Isabelle Khoury return from VFLW duties with aplomb, while Grace Walsh was strong in defence alongside Cadhla Schmidli, and Bridget Deed was reliable in midfield. Northern leader Teleah Smart was also busy in the engine room, aided by the combativeness of stand-in ruck Monique Ramsay. Lulu Beatty was another to impress, while Rylie Wilcox was lively inside 50 and Trinity Mills popped up for a couple of clutch goals.

NAB League Girls Round 4 preview: Unbeaten sides to go head-to-head across Super Saturday

NAB League Girls action is back for a second consecutive week – unfortunately for the first time this season due to the Victorian snap lockdown – but it provides teams with a couple of instant classics, as well as sides that are battling for their first wins of the season.

EASTERN RANGES vs. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, February 27 @ 10.30am
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

Two unbeaten sides go head-to-head in the early Saturday morning game when Geelong Falcons travel east to take on Eastern Ranges at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve from 10.30am. The Falcons are coming off back-to-back wins over Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Bendigo Pioneers in the opening rounds, while the Ranges put Gippsland Power to the sword last week with a record-breaking 114-point win after getting past an inefficient Western Jets in Round 1. Both these sides come into the game as two of the most in-form teams which spells the potential for a classic.

The Ranges’ midfield is a real strength with the likes of Bridget Deed and Olivia Meagher providing inside contested grunt work, and the class of Jorja Livingstone on the outside providing the run. Inside 50, Alyssia Pisano has become a revelation with four goals last week following a promising Round 1 debut, and the bottom-age prospect is shaping as a top-end talent for 2023. Georgia Campbell was outstanding in her effort against Grace Matser last week, and will look to hold down the fort again coming up against Keeley Hardingham of the Falcons, whilst Geelong have a number of inside midfielders themselves with Tess Craven, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson always having a crack in there.

Up forward, Renee Tierney has already kicked six goals in two games, with captain Lucy Were, and the dynamic Gabbi Featherston capable of anything when inside 50. It will be up to the Ranges’ defence to try and contain the Falcons forward six, with Cadhla Schmidli and Mia Busch having promising starts to the 2021 season. Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling up the other end have been impressive at flanking Mia Van Dyke to be a dominant half-back line, intercepting nearly anything that comes their way. The Ranges will need to be smart with their ball use, and pinpoint their passes inside 50 to ensure the best efficiency going forward.

The game is neck and neck, with the Final Siren podcast team split, with Geelong marginally ahead 2-1 in the tipping, though it genuinely could go either way.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Saturday, February 27 @ 11.30am
Ronald Reserve, Morwell East

Two sides looking for a big effort are out at Morwell East when Gippsland Power heads back home to host Northern Knights. It will be their first game at the venue this season following the Round 2 home game with the Eastern Ranges being flipped around and played at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve instead. The Power will be looking to put in a more competitive effort in Round 3 after a 114-point defeat at the hands of Eastern Ranges last round, and will look to do it against a Northern Knights side that looked pretty good against Sandringham Dragons in Round 3. The Knights were blown away by Oakleigh Chargers in Round 1, but responded last week, and Gippsland will look to do the same in this clash.

The Power have a strong inside midfield group, led by Grace McRae who is a natural ball-winner. She will need to lead the way with hard ball gets against a Northern side that feasted on it last week thanks to the work of Maeve Chaplin. Lily-Rose Williamson is another inside body that will help extract the ball from the contest, whilst Matilda Van Berkel can play anywhere from midfield, ruck to key position and was the main interceptor in defence last week. Sunday Brisbane and Yasmin Duursma are happy to run the ball forward and that is where the Power can take advantage, with the Knights missing AFL Women’s Academy member Maykaylah Appleby from the clash.

Matser has a chance to take control in the ruck with dominant hitout specialist Georgia Kitchell also missing the game, though the Knights have plenty of depth to step up. Ella Smallacombe and Megan Girolami were busy last week combining for five goals, and the likes of Van Berkel, Holly Booth and Courtney Fletcher will have their work cut out for them. Expect Tarrah Delgado to continue her form and be a rock in defence, while Brooke Plummer will step up to bring that outside run on a wing and become the key playmaker in the match.

Northern are favourites after last week’s effort, but missing a couple of key personnel could make it a little tougher, but should still get the job done. Gippsland have the strengths to match it with Northern on the inside, with the battle between McRae and Chaplin the highlight.

 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.15pm
Cathedral College, Wangaratta

Up north, Murray Bushranger host Western Jets in a battle of two winless sides looking to get on the board in season 2021. The Bushrangers went down to Bendigo Pioneers in the opening round, then lost out to GWV Rebels in Round 3. The Jets were unlucky not to capitalise against Eastern Ranges in Round 1, before just falling short against Dandenong Stingrays in Round 3. Heading into this game, the Jets will be keen to make almost-there become success.

Grace Hay returns for the Bushrangers having to juggle her football and netball commitments which immediately strengthens the Bushrangers’ back six and provides another strong ball user out there. She will team up with a half-back line featuring the strong hands of Molly Kennedy – due for a great battle with Jets’ Caitlin Sargent – and Chloe Locke who both can provide some offence to go with their defensive work. Mindy Quade at full-back is another strong player who can win one-on-ones regularly, and use her powerful boot to clear the area. Going head-to-head with Jemima Woods, the Bushrangers’ talls will need to quell the Jets’ targets inside 50.

Two of the more in-form wings could go head-to-head in Charlotte Baskaran and Aurora Smith, with both having outstanding games in the opening two rounds. Montana Ham and Keeley Skepper are two of the most promising prospects for next year and will likely lock horns in the midfield, while Krystal Russell will look to take full advantage in the ruck with Bushrangers’ AFL Women’s Academy member Ally Morphett out. The Bushrangers still have scoring options in the likes of Kristy Whitehead and Sophia McCarthy, while Kate Maxwell and Laura Elliott were good in defence last week.

The Jets are favoured in this contest, but some of the one-on-ones should be fantastic to watch.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. CALDER CANNONS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.30pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve

From two winless sides to two with a 1-1 record, Bendigo Pioneers host Calder Cannons in a much anticipated Round 4 matchup. The Cannons were arguably the team to beat given their two AFL Women’s Academy members and host of likely Vic Metro talents, but were just outclassed by an incredible Oakleigh Chargers outfit last week, after knocking off Sandringham Dragons in the opening round. Bendigo took out Murray Bushrangers in the opening round, but then suffered defeat at the hands of Geelong Falcons in Round 3, so will be looking to make up for that loss with a huge scalp here.

Tara Slender returns from a concussion precaution that kept her out of the Pioneers’ Round 3 loss, and will play a crucial role at centre half-forward. It forces one of Neve Crowley or Kasey Lennox to make sure she has a close-checking key defender on her, with Tegan Williams seamlessly slotting into Slender’s role up the opposite end of the ground. Bottom-ager Lila Keck, as well as top-ager Lily Den Houting have been named inside 50, and could provide scoring options for the home team. Meanwhile up the other end, Alisa Magri and Jessica Zakkour could be targets inside 50 for the Cannons.

The ruck battle between Madeline Marks and Peppa Poultney will be a fascinating one, with the Pioneers midfield getting a huge challenge to try and contain the Cannons’ onball group. Georgie Prespakis and Zali Friswell will head in with Emelia Yassir this week, while Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson will line up with Chantelle Mitchell to try and take control in there.

The Cannons will go in as strong favourites, but the Pioneers are back to full strength with Slender returning, and if they can get on top in the midfield, anything is possible.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, February 27 @ 12.30pm
Twin Ovals

After missing out in Round 2, Tasmania Devils return to Twin Ovals for their first home game of the year. They take on Oakleigh Chargers who 12 months ago, took them to pieces in a triple-figure victory on the Apple Isle. Fast forward to 2021, and the Devils are a stronger, more cohesive unit that are coming off an impressive 12-goal win over Gippsland Power in the opening round. Oakleigh Chargers are a different group altogether and right now the benchmark of the competition, which gives Tasmania a great chance to measure themselves against the top team.

The Devils were able to have high efficiency going forward in Round 1, with Amy Prokopiec slotting four goals – including two in the first quarter – against the Power, while Amy Bissett also nailed a couple of majors. Having Charlie Vandenberg take the first ruck spot has enabled Camilla Taylor to be another target inside 50, while the midfield group of Perri King, Ella Maurer and Claire Ransom was terrific against the Power. Now they meet the most dominant group in the league, with Charlie Rowbottom, Amanda Ling and Eliza James on-ball, and Stella Reid tearing it up on the the outside.

Tasmania will need to ensure the Oakleigh midfield does not get off the chain as the Chargers can score quickly and heavily when given the chance, especially with Jemma Rigoni and Ameille Smith being targets inside 50. Charlotte Thomas and Candice Belbin are some of the defensive options back there for the Devils, whilst up the other end, Brooke Vickers has been a source of run and carry for the Chargers. If Oakleigh can get the ball forward, they have an abundance of smalls running around at the feet of the talls, such as Taylah Morton who could hit the scoreboard.

Overall, the Chargers have passed every test thrown at them and deserve to be overall favourites. The key to this game is seeing how much the Devils have progressed in 12 months, and if they can cause a huge boilover in front of their home fans.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS VS. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Sunday, February 28 @ 11.30am
MARS Stadium

The standalone Sunday game is a must-watch, with the GWV Rebels sitting 1-1 and the Dandenong Stingrays 1-0 after a delayed entry into the competition. The Stingrays were due to return to the competition in Round 2, but Victoria’s snap lockdown pushed it back a week, where they took care of the Western Jets in a competitive match. The Rebels had a similar clash in Round 1 going down to the Falcons, before they put Murray Bushrangers to the sword in a seven goals to two first half last week at Epsom Huntly, then steadied in the second half to record a strong win.

The Rebels are one of only two sides – with Calder Cannons – that have two AFL Women’s Academy members, and this week Nyakoat Dojiok has been named beside Ella Friend in the half-forward line. With Dandenong’s abundance of strong defenders, it provides the Rebels midfield with another target to use, and Dojiok is more than capable of taking on opponents at ground level. Mackenzie Eardley will have a huge job on the contested-making Friend, while Tahlia Meier works hard both ways and will need to hit the scoreboard whilst being aware her opponent Brooke Smith can do damage the other way. Zoe Hill, Jemma Radford and Jaide Anthony are all capable of intercepting in the back 50, so the Rebels will need to be good with their ball use.

In midfield, Amber Clarke has been thrown there alongside last week’s Draft Central Player of the Week Emily Shepherd, and top-age talent Abbey Jordan. The trio of Paige Scott, Lilli Condon and Crystal Summers worked well for the Rebels in Round 3, and they will lock horns in a fantastic battle of inside midfields. Chloe Leonard is the key for the Rebels off half-back, though Molly Walton has also made a splash for the Rebels in her debut season, and they will have to rebound the Stingrays’ attacks, with Ashleigh Richards one to watch inside 50 who could do some damage.

This is a 50-50 game and both these teams have such a well-balanced list. The Stingrays might be able to get the job done due to their intercepting firepower, but the Rebels have plenty of attacking options. Expect it to be a tough, low-scoring game.

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: Geelong Falcons

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 win and a loss, Geelong Falcons.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: defeated Gippsland Power by 33 points
R2: lost to Northern Knights by 25 points
R3: Bye

Much like Eastern Ranges in our most recent team review, Geelong Falcons have only played the two games for one win and one loss. There are plenty of positives to take out of the 2020 season so far and a number of impressive players for the 2018 premiers who had a middle and bottom-age heavy list.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Laura Gardiner (34.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 11.5 tackles, 5.0 inside 50s, 3.0 rebounds, 1 goal)

Far and away the dominant ball winner in the NAB League Girls competition, Gardiner racked up more than 30 disposals twice and averaged 34.5 per game from her two matches. She was strong on the inside with a league-leading 11.5 tackles per game as well, along with five inside 50s and three rebounds in really impressive start to the season. It would have been great to see how far she could have gone this season with a full few months of action.

Darcy Moloney (26.5 disposals, 1.0 marks, 3.5 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 1.0 rebounds)

Forming a damaging duo with Gardiner in the midfield, Moloney had her own impressive numbers to start the year, working hard on the outside for an average of 26.5 disposals per game. She also laid almost four tackles and managed to win the ball in all thirds of the ground. Predominantly she used her clean hands to open up space with teammates, or take the game on and force an opposition player to approach her in order to release a teammate going forward.

Poppy Schaap (18.0 disposals, 2.0 marks, 3.5 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 1 goal)

The tenacious small just never gives in and puts out a four quarter performance. Whether or not it’s in-and-under through midfield or locking the ball inside forward 50, her teammates can rely on Schaap to give it her all throughout the match. She averaged 18 touches in her own right and provides that experience to a young list alongside her Vic Country capped teammates. Loves the contest and just a huge work rate.

Annie Lee (12.5 disposals, 4.0 marks, 1.5 tackles, 4.5 rebounds)

Speaking of younger prospects, Lee still has another year to perform in the competition and was already showing promising signs of improvement after three games last season. She had a ripping game in the Round 2 loss to Northern Knights, and has averaged 4.5 rebounds from 12.5 disposals – predominantly kicks – playing a key role in Geelong’s defence this season.

Carly Remmos (15.0 disposals, 1.5 marks, 5.0 tackles, 1.5 inside 50s, 1 goal)

It is a frustrating time for most, but certainly for the top-ager who came into the program with an elite basketball background. Remmos did not look out of place in a midfield with a lot more experience around her, and she finished the two games averaging 15 touches and five tackles a game. Remmos even got to celebrate a goal prior to the season being cancelled, and no doubt her talent across both sports will see her continue to improve regardless of where she ends up playing.

Others who have stood out: Mia Van Dyke, Keeley Hardingham, Ashleigh Van Loon, Elizabeth Dowling

The Falcons always have good depth and 2020 is no exception with a lot of young stars coming through the group. Hardingham held up well in the ruck, averaging 13 touches, 10 hitouts and five tackles, while Van Dyke is a highly rated prospect who excelled in the V/Line Cup and remarkably only turned 15 on the third-last day of 2019. Throw in Dowling who is a strong mark leading out of the forward 50 and can rotate through midfield, and Van Loon who along with Dowling combined for 14.5 tackles, while running hard between the arcs.

Falcons down Power in strong showing

IN a relatively one-sided affair, Geelong Falcons defeated Gippsland Power by 33 points at RMIT Bundoora in the first round of the NAB League Girls competition. Though inaccuracy plagued the Falcons at times who struggled to make the most of their opportunities in front of goal with 10 behinds, credit must be given to the Power’s defence, for the most part holding up across three quarters. Seven scoring shots to none in the final term extended the winning margin out to 33, but it was a strong hitout for both teams this early in the season.

It did not take long for Geelong to get on the board, and although it was a point at the hands of Renee Tierney it helped to set in motion what was to come – a barrage of scoring opportunities. Poppy Schaap kicked off her 2020 campaign in style with the opening goal for the Falcons and while the Falcons seemed to control the flow of play, over-ager Shanara Notman was a calming influence down back. Notman was everywhere in the first 15 minutes of the game popping up here there and everywhere to stop any forward forays and using her football nous to try and propel the ball back down the field. Despite her best efforts, Notman could not contain the Falcons forwards, with Zoe Garth bobbing up for her first major thanks to her ability to get out the back and bang one through the middle helping to extend Geelong’s lead.

The Power failed to register a score in the opening half, but strong efforts from the likes of Megan Fitzsimon and Matilda Van Berkel did not fall by the wayside. Fitzsimon was a real workhorse across the ground winning plenty of the footy and using her tackling ability to disrupt the flow of Geelong. Although the Falcons had their chances in front of goal they were unable to capitalise and punish their opposition with the likes of Elizabeth Dowling showing her skill inside 50 bringing down a big mark but just missing. Dowling was not afraid to put her body on the line going in hard to rip the ball out of congestion and plough it forward. With points aplenty, Carly Remmos made her set shot count, converting an important goal to add to the Falcons’ tally. Laura Gardiner continued to find her groove with her high intensity out of the middle, hunt for the footy and clean hands all on display. She was never far from the pack, constantly lurking around the footy and using it effectively while her read out of the ruck was second to none getting on the move and banging it forward credit to her skill and general smarts.

With pride on the line, the Power came out with a different intensity and hunger for the footy shutting down any easy ball movement by the Falcons and instead looking to change the course of the game. Only three goals down, Gippsland hit the scoreboard thanks to a big goal from Grace McRae, with players running from everywhere to join in on the celebration. The Power seemed to dominate the play in the third holding the ball inside their attacking 50 and searching for opportunities to create more chances. Leyla Berry was running hot in the third working hard at the contest and using her hands to flick the ball out to teammates. Darcy Moloney continued her merry way for the Falcons throwing her weight around and using her quick hands in tight to dish off to teammates in space. Although Geelong failed to hit the scoreboard throughout the third, the work they did defensively to only limit their opponent to a goal was impressive with bottom ager Ashleigh Van Loon leading from the front with her physicality and desperation with 10 tackles for the match. Mia Van Dyke also had a strong quarter for the Falcons highlighting her clean hands with a couple of marks.

Thanks to a relatively slow third term the Falcons turned it on in the fourth to nail two goals and ultimately seal the deal against a trying Gippsland side. Ingrid Houtsma was the first to add six points to the Falcons total in the final term and while she did not find a heap of the footy she struck it nicely. Gardiner capped off a stellar performance in the last term with a big goal to end the stream of points and well and truly romp the win home for the Falcons. She starred from the opening minute of the game winning a heap of the footy and showcasing her versatility in terms of disposals with an even split of 19 kicks and 19 handballs to finish with a whopping 38 touches. It was a stats filling outing for Gardiner who also showcased her physicality laying 14 tackles and recording five inside 50s. Schaap finished with 1.2 in front of goal along with 24 touches while Moloney recorded 28 disposals. Top performers from Gippsland included Fitzsimon with 16 touches, six tackles and four inside 50s with Berry and McRae collecting 14 possessions apiece.

GEELONG FALCONS 2.2 | 3.5 | 3.5 | 5.10 (40)
GIPPSLAND POWER 0.0 | 0,0 | 1.1 | 1.1 (7)

GOALS:

Geelong: P. Schaap, Z. Garth, C. Remmos, I. Houtsma, L. Gardiner.
Gippsland: G. McRae.

BEST:

Geelong: L. Gardiner, D. Moloney, P. Schaap, E. Dowling, M. Van Dyke
Gippsland: M. Van Berkel, S. Notman, G. McRae, M. Fitzsimon, A. Guy-Toogood

DC Medal:

5 – Laura Gardiner (GF)
4 – Darcy Moloney (GF)
3 – Poppy Schaap (GF)
2 – Matilda Van Berkel (GP)
1 – Shanara Notman (GP)

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.