Tag: Mikayla Jones

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 3 preview: Teams return after quick fixture switch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 AFLW Under 18s Ones to Watch

NOW the curtain has closed on the 2020 AFL Women’s off-season period, we turn our attention to the next group of budding stars across the country who will be vying for a spot on an AFL Women’s list. We have named 25 players who have already shown some great signs in their bottom and middle-age seasons, as well as a number of others to watch out for in 2021.

Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

A name that has been circulating for a number of years now, it is hard to believe the all-round talent was robbed of what she could potentially do in her middle-age year. She looked more than comfortable at the level in her bottom-age year as a 16-year-old and caught plenty of attention with a seven-goal haul against Greater Western Victoria Rebels. Taller than her sister – AFL Women’s league best and fairest winner Madison – Prespakis is hard at it, has great athleticism and is ridiculously strong one-on-one. A highlight-reel package nearly any time she steps out on the field, Prespakis is a future star and could play just about anywhere, but expect her to play inside midfield and rest forward.

Teagan Levi (Bond University/Queensland)

The sister of recently drafted Gold Coast Suns’ talent Maddison, Levi is 11cm shorter and plays onball rather than forward. Her athletic traits are similar to that of Georgia Patrikios in the way that she can seamlessly get herself out of trouble by wrong-footing and side-stepping opponents with ease. Not only is she able to beat them in congestion, she can run and take the game on down a wing, and then when the opponent wins it, she is the first to lay a strong tackle. Similar to Prespakis, Levi has so many weapons and is as effective defensively as she is offensively, and is the standout Queensland prospect for next year and in the clear top few talents running around.

Courtney Rowley. Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder

Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

A player who has been building very nicely over in Western Australia over the past two seasons and then was the most impressive of the middle-agers in the WAFL All-Stars game. A really smooth mover, Rowley often plays off a wing and knows how to distribute the ball so well, winning Peel Thunder’s League best and fairest last year as a 16-year-old competing against senior opponents including AFL Women’s talents. Whilst she had more support in 2020 as the Thunder rose from wooden spooners to premiers in a remarkable turnaround, it is hard not to admire what the talented midfielder could be in her top-age season next year.

Zoe Prowse (Sturt/South Australia)

The standout ruck prospect in next year’s draft, Adelaide will have another promising talent on their radar in Prowse. Winning Sturt’s best and fairest award this year, Prowse was just about the best in nearly every game she played for the Double Blues, particularly in the second half of the season. Despite standing at just under 180cm, Prowse has ridiculous athleticism with a high vertical leap and is almost like a fourth midfielder. She can get down and apply second and third efforts to ground level players, and is one who could also play forward if required. With great ruck nous, she can outwork her opponents around the ground, and it was easy to see why she was the sole South Australian AFL Women’s Academy member in her middle-age year.

Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

An absolute star in the making. Capable of playing midfield or forward, Rowbottom just knows how to set scoring opportunities up in transition. The sister of Sydney’s James, Rowbottom has similar ball-winning abilities and defensive attributes, but has a lot to offer offensively as well. She showed in the Chargers’ win over Tasmania that she is not only able to hit the scoreboard herself – kicking two goals – but set up a number of chances for her teammates. One that will really surprise in 2021 as a leader for the Chargers.

Charlie Rowbottom. Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)

With quite a few tall defenders in this year’s AFL Women’s Draft, Slender would be putting her hand up as potentially the pick of the bunch. Her intercepting capability and reading of the ball in flight is exceptional, and while she did miss her middle-age year, Slender is one who could catch the attention pretty quickly. Having played alongside some Vic Country representatives in the past – and playing at Under 16s level for her state – Slender is good in one-on-ones and looms as a key lynchpin for the Pioneers. It would also not be too surprising to see her take a similar transition to Isabelle Pritchard and move into the midfield given she has the traits to slot right in there.

Makaylah Appleby (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

Class personified. Appleby has managed to catch the eye on more than a few occasions over the past few seasons despite playing in such a stacked team at the Northern Knights. She often played off a wing or provided run on the outside like during the 2019 NAB League Finals Series. Appleby is now the top prospect at the Knights for the upcoming season as a member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, and as a damaging ball user, Appleby is one that teammates want to get the ball in the hands of in order to create scoring opportunities up the field.

Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco/Western Australia)

A dangerous forward half player with clean skills and a nous for goals, Thomas is the other AFL Women’s Academy member from Western Australia in her middle-age year along with Rowley and has a big future. Playing in an experienced team like Subiaco, Thomas was able to still stand out, regularly hitting the scoreboard. Standing at 175cm, Thomas has good size and good hands and having made her League debut in 2020, big things are predicted for 2021 with a lot of AFL Women’s talent, and more experienced heads around her.

Nyakoat Dojiok. Picture credit: Draft Central

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

A player who is not afraid to take the game on and really take it to the opposition is GWV Rebels’ Dojiok who has been developing year-on-year over the last few years. Playing as a 15-year-old a few years back, Dojiok is one who when she gets going is hard to contain, and she has that rich blend of power and speed. She is utilised best as that outside runner, playing off half-back or along a wing, but is eye-catching in the way she plays and the way she can bring teammates into the game. Entering her top-age year, expect her to see even more midfield time as she has some seriously great traits.

Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

A player who might be flying under the radar that has some casual NAB League Girls watchers reaching for the team lists next year is Dowling. An incredible talent who showed progression in her two games this year, she has only managed to fly under the radar due to the enormous amount of talent coming out of the Falcons’ football factory. She played in defence as a bottom-ager then got time more up the field last year, and expect her to play through the midfield in 2021. She can play anywhere, at that hybrid 171cm-plus size and can be too athletic for talls and too strong for smalls, Dowling is one who should not be forgotten when talking about Vic Country prospects.

Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)

The standout NSW/ACT prospect for 2021, Morphett is the sole AFL Women’s Academy member from her state. The developing 189cm-plus ruck is one who improved from her bottom-age season and it would have been fantastic to see her going up against the Melbourne-drafted Maggie Caris if their teams had met in the NAB League Girls before the season ended. She is commanding overhead and able to drift forward if required, Morphett is one of the few NAB League Girls prospects to play this year. Representing Belconnen Magpies in the AFL Canberra League, Morphett finished second in the league best and fairest, and then won best on ground in the Magpies’ premiership win. Not bad for a 17-year-old and she is one anticipated to take a huge step in 2021.

Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore/Queensland)

Stood tall at senior level in the QAFL Women’s competition for the Roos and is one of a remarkable three players in the AFL Women’s Academy from the side. Harmer showed in the Queensland All-Stars game that she looms as a strong prospect in 2021 with her overhead marking, read of the play and powerful kicking standing out in a tight game. A member of the Brisbane Lions Academy, Harmer is 170cm and could play at half-back as that intercepting rebounder, or through the middle, seemingly able to break down opposition defences on transition by getting in the way and then pumping it long.

Maggie Harmer. Picture credit: Deion Menzies, Highflyer Images

Amy Franklin (Claremont/Western Australia)

If we are talking upside, then Franklin, not too dissimilar to her West Australian namesake, has plenty of that for the future. A tall marking forward, Franklin has speed that makes smaller opponents envious, and standing at 180cm, she is big enough to outmark most opponents. Still quite raw and lightly built compared to more experienced WAFL Women’s defenders she came across, Franklin is one that once the ball gets goalside, you can almost put the glasses down. Terrific athleticism and one who is threatening to be an even bigger threat in 2021, she is yet another exciting tall forward to come out of Western Australia.

Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

If you are talking upside and potential in next year’s AFL Women’s Draft crop then take 186cm Gillard as an example. Only turning 17 in December this year, the key position utility can play in all three lines, starting off as a key defender, spending time up forward and has the size if required to play ruck. For a player of her size, Gillard is so good at ground level and able to create something out of nothing. While she is still a raw and developing talent, she is another from the Cannons’ program who has already had plenty of NAB League Girls experience that will only make her better.

Ella Friend (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

A second GWV Rebels player making the list, Friend did not get many chances this season to show what she is capable of, but what she did in that short space of time was quite remarkable. Another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, Friend looked comfortable in the tight contest against the Western Jets back in Round 3, racking up a ton of the ball – 19 touches – and having a real influence in the forward half. Not only that, but she iced the game for the Rebels with a match-winning goal, and provided as much offence (six inside 50s) and defence (five tackles) to suggest she is a gamechanger and one to look out for next season.

Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

Made her debut in the NAB League Girls competition and just has that X-factor about her that makes you sit up and take notice. Elite acceleration out of the stoppage and some really top-end traits, Livingstone came into the Ranges’ midfield and assimilated easily that it was hard to believe she was not a top-ager. Behind the experienced Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown, Livingstone was the next biggest performer onball, and with another preseason behind her, it will be exciting to see just what she can produce with her athletic traits and ability to get forward and look dangerous.

Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

Yassir is just a fierce competitor who can play through the midfield or as a small forward. Standing at just 161cm, Yassir defies her size and is not afraid to take on bigger opponents, laying multiple tackles and is a contested ball winner. She stood up during Calder’s NAB League Girls finals series as a bottom-ager in 2019, and started strongly in 2020. She will have a bigger role in 2021 and has a bucketload of talent that will have opposition players wary of when she is in the zone.

Mikayla Pauga (Maroochydore/Queensland)

Another small forward and member of the AFL Women’s Academy, Pauga might just stand at 161cm like Yassir, but packs plenty of punch as a damaging forward. The second Maroochydore player in this list, Pauga finished second in her club’s goalkicking with 13 majors in 14 games, and was a clear standout. With an eye for goal and a large endurance base that sees her outwork opponents, Pauga is one who could step up again in 2021 and will be one to watch at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships having shown her wares at senior level in the QAFL Women’s already.

Zoe Venning. Picture credit: SANFL

Zoe Venning (West Adelaide/South Australia)

A hard-nosed midfielder/forward from West Adelaide, Venning came on in leaps and bounds throughout her second season in the red and black. She became a crucial member of the Bloods’ midfield, playing between wing and forward, though her attack on the ball shows she can easily translate into an inside midfielder. Providing great assistance to equal league best and fairest winner, Rachelle Martin as well as young talent Abbie Ballard, Venning is one who is dangerous around goals. She is still developing some areas of her game such as her kicking, but her work rate and intensity in play is superb.

Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

A reliable key defender for the Cannons, Lennox is a fourth member of the Calder side to make this list, and shows just how strong their top-age group will be next season. Lennox is one who is good at ground level for a taller player, being one of the most dominant rebounders in the competition to start the 2020 NAB League Girls season. As a player who stood out on the big stage of the 2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final, Lennox is not afraid of big moments, and will team up well with Gillard as a couple of talls in a really strong Cannons outfit.

Amy Prokopiec (Clarence/Tasmania)

The sole Tasmanian prospect in the AFL Women’s National Academy, Prokopiec became one of the standout defenders for Tasmania Devils, albeit in just a handful of games in her bottom and middle-age years. As she showed with Clarence in the TSL Women’s competition this year and in the Tasmanian All-Stars game, Prokopiec is capable of playing at either end, and becoming that versatile tall utility. As a long kick and strong overhead, she is a crucial cog in the both the Roos and Devils sides, and will be hoping for a full season next year to test herself against the best in the NAB League Girls.

Amy Prokopiec (right). Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide/South Australia)

There are quite a few talls in this list with potential, and Schirmer is another one who just has that look about her that she could be in for a big 2021. In her middle-age season with reigning premiers South Adelaide, she acquitted herself well and while she did have some really outstanding performances, even when she was quieter, there was always a moment or two within games where you could see she was capable of kicking a couple of goals and winning the match for her side. Not far off 180cm, Schirmer can push up to a wing or even in defence, but she always looks damaging inside 50 and a real target for her teammates to kick to.

Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

A good size and capable of hitting the scoreboard, the 176cm James is a damaging prospect. She showed in her two games this year how she has developed both her offensive and defensive traits, and even as an Under 16s player for the Chargers, stood up in nine games and booted five goals. As one of a number of Chargers who were able to provide support to the top-end talent this year, James is another leader in the group to standout in her own top-age year in 2021.

Alana Lishmund (Norwood/South Australia)

Was a prominent member of the Norwood side in her debut SANFL Women’s season, then really stepped up as one of the best in the All-Stars match last month. She is predominantly a forward talent who can push up the ground into the midfield, and then play high or deep forward when required. A reliable kick for goal, she has that X-factor about her inside 50 and can be a leading or crumbing target, playing taller than her 166cm size, and one who will be another South Australian jostling for a spot as one of the more prominent talents in the state.

Alana Lishmund. Picture credit: AFL Media

Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)

A multi-sport talent for the Stingrays, Anthony also has that something special about her game playing as a forward. She can play at either end, and has progressed through the pathway from V/Line Cup to the NAB League Girls. One who has shared her football journey with cricket duties – she has only managed the five games for the Stingrays – she knows how to hit the scoreboard and provide a presence. Despite standing at just 166cm, Anthony plays like a taller forward and finds space, and will be a top talent to watch out for from the Stingrays in 2021.

Others:

Maroochydore’s Bella Smith is another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy who stood up for Maroochydore this season in the QAFL Women’s, whilst Georgia Hutton and Caitlin Thorne are a couple of Gold Coast Academy members who showed some top-end traits during the All-Stars match.

The South Australian group has been sensational with plenty having senior experience, led by South Adelaide’s Lauren Clifton who stood out in the All-Stars match up forward. Central District’s Madison Lane, North Adelaide’s Kate Case, Glenelg’s Brooke Tonon and Woodville-West Torrens’ Jamie Parish are others who have been ones to watch at SANFL Women’s level this season.

Over in the west, Chloe Reilly remains a dangerous forward option for East Fremantle with her work at ground level and around goals, whilst Swan Districts’ Emma Nanut, and South Fremantle trio, Tayla Whincup, Taylah Cruttenden and Poppy Stockwell are also great talents.

Looking to the NAB League and there are plenty of names to throw up, but a few in the mix include Mikayla Jones (Murray Bushrangers), Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays) and Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons) who have shown to be natural players in their respective areas. From the Vic Metro perspective, Peppa Poultney (Calder Cannons), Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers), Caitlin Sargent (Western Jets) and Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights) were terrific this year, while a host of middle-age Sandringham Dragons got their starts and will no doubt produce a number of surprise packets alongside their elite bottom-age talents.

Perri King is another Tasmanian prospect behind Prokopiec to watch, making history as the Devils’ first goalkicker last season and will be keen to build on that again. From Northern Territory, there is a heap of great young talents coming through from 2022 onwards, with one 2021 draft prospect being Georgia Johnson, a 160cm talent from Waratah who stood out in the NT All-Stars match last month. Playing in defence, she was one to take note of as she regularly mopped up and got the ball down the field for Team Hewett.

Alongside the top-age talents, a number of over-age talents who missed out on being drafted this year will no doubt be trying to stake their case against be it via the NAB League or state leagues, including Brooke Hards, Jemma Finning and Annabel Strahan (all Bendigo Pioneers), Zoe Hill, Abbey Jordan and Jess Matin (all Dandenong Stingrays), Ash Snow and Maeve Chaplin (both Northern Knights), Amber Micallef (Oakleigh Chargers), Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges) and Grace McRae (Gippsland Power) who all received AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but were unlucky to miss out.

In Western Australia, Maggie MacLachlan (Subiaco), Brianna Hyde and Mikayla Hyde (both Swan Districts) head into 2021 as over-agers, while mature-agers Ella Smith and Jess Low (both Claremont), Rosie Walsh (East Fremantle) and Sarah Wielstra (Swan Districts) are others who missed out on the AFL Women’s Draft but will remain ones to watch.

Elsewhere, Northern Territorian Mattea Breed continues to develop for Norwood in South Australia, whilst Abby Favell (Murray Bushrangers), Jayde Hamilton (Queanbeyan Tigers) and Kiara Beesley (Southern Power) were draft combine invitees from NSW/ACT.

In Queensland, Beth Pinchin has shown great resilience as a mature-ager coming back from multiple injuries, while Courtney Bromage and Brooke Spence are other mature-agers who caught attention this year. Christine Okesene, Ebony Peterson, Laura Blue, Chloe Gregory and Madison Goodwin were also in the mix this year with Draft Combine invites so will be kept on close watch in 2021. The other two players to receive AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but miss out were the exciting Freda Puruntatameri (Calder Cannons/Northern Territory) and Charlie Vandenberg (Wynyard/Tasmania) who have plenty of development left in them.

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Murray Bushrangers

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at the Murray Bushrangers, who despite losing the first round match to Oakleigh Chargers by 50 points, bounced back to weather a huge number of inside 50s and draw with Western Jets.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Oakleigh Chargers by 50 points
R2: drew with Western Jets
R3: Bye.

They came away from the first two rounds with a couple of points, but the improvement from the first week to the second was noticeable, and the Bushrangers would have liked to keep the momentum going for the rest of the season. They put together an even team effort and we have highlighted a number of players who stood out throughout the matches.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Mikayla Jones (12.5 disposals, 2.5 marks, 2.5 tackles, 4.5 inside 50s)

The top ball winner across the matches, Jones was impressive in the midfield, averaging the 12.5 disposals and 4.5 inside 50s to ensure her team could get service in the forward line. She worked hard across the ground to win the ball and feed it forward, and while many of her teammates were on the defensive end getting it to midfield, Jones was the leading player getting it inside 50.

Grace Hay (11.5 disposals, 4.0 marks, 1.5 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 4.5 rebounds)

Had a best on ground performance in Round 2 against Western Jets with a remarkable defensive effort deep in defence. In just her second game with the Bushrangers, Hay had 19 disposals, seven marks and eight rebounds in a huge effort to defend the continual forward thrusts by the Jets. She is still a bottom-ager with two years left in the pathway, but that did not stop her influence so far, recording 11.5 disposals, 4.0 marks and 4.5 rebounds from her two games.

Kate Adams (12.0 disposals, 1.5 marks, 3.0 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 2.0 rebounds, 1 goal)

The clever forward showed she can play just about anywhere on the ground, winning the ball through midfield and also playing in defence at times to assist her teammates. She managed to get on the scoreboard herself with a major, but it was her work up the ground, and particularly her defensive running that stood out across the games as her versatility was a real highlight in season 2020.

Ally Morphett (7.0 disposals, 1.5 marks, 13.5 hitouts, 1.0 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 2.0 rebounds)

In the absence of Olivia Barber in Round 2, Morphett became the leading tall on the ground as the other key position AFL Women’s National Academy member for the Bushrangers. Playing predominantly through the ruck, Morphett had the 15 hitouts on the day, and averaged 13.5 for the season thus far, using her strength and size to get it down to her midfielders. Still a middle-ager, Morphett has another season to perfect her ruck craft and spend more time forward as well.

Zali Spencer (11.0 disposals, 1.0 marks, 1.5 hitouts, 3.0 tackles, 1.0 inside 50s, 2.0 rebounds)

A really consistent player across the two games and deserving of a spot in the five. While there could have been a number of players to slot in here, her performance, particularly in the second game, was quite impressive and she finished with an average of 11 disposals, three tackles and two rebounds. Able to play through the midfield or drift around the ground, Spencer certainly contributed in the shorter season and was a great team player.

Others who have stood out: Keeley Skepper, Mindy Quade, Lily Sharp, Olivia Barber

As one of the most impressive bottom-agers in the crop, Skepper followed on from her strong performance at the Under 16 Championships match against Vic Metro last season with a strong start to the season. She still has two more years in the system and will be one to watch over that time, while defender, Quade was relentless in the back 50 picking up eight rebounds in Round 1, while Sharp was fierce at the contest and in close. Barber only played the one game but was worth mentioning because of her impact, booting a goal and making the most of her starved opportunities with seven touches and three marks.

2020 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 2

IN a new-look amalgamation of Draft Central‘s Team of the Week and player notes, we name our Round 2 NAB League Girls’ Team of the Week and explain why each player has been chosen. The 24-player team returns with three emergencies this year and all notes are opinion-based of the individual Draft Central writer. For Round 2, Dandenong Stingrays leads the way with four players in the side, followed by Round 2 winners, Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons all had three, whilst the two drawn sides in Murray Bushrangers and Western Jets, as well as Geelong Falcons also had three. Calder Cannons and Bendigo Pioneers had one representative with the former also earning an emergency, whilst Tasmania Devils had the one emergency after their big loss in their inaugural game.

BACKS:

Kasey Lennox (CC) – 14 disposals, 3 marks, 1 tackle, 6 rebounds
Calder’s top player on the day, Lennox was a lynchpin at half-back where she was able to rebound time and time again and run the ball out of the back 50. She won her fair share of possessions with 14, but had the six rebounds which was crucial in her side staying in the contest for as long as it did. The Cannons have a strong defence and Lennox is a key cog in that unit.

Zoe Hill (DS) – 11 disposals, 3 marks, 3 tackles, 5 rebounds
A rock in defence and not only does she beat her opponents one-on-one, but she provides offensive rebound and usually hits her targets out of the back 50. Rarely looking stressed on the last line, she is one of Dandenong’s most important players given her role and she played it brilliantly on the weekend.

Annie Lee (GF) – 18 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 7 rebounds
Was a rock in defence despite the overwhelming force of the ball coming in, and recorded the most rebounds on the day of any player. Often getting back under pressure, Lee was able to win plenty of the ball and propel it forward. Still only 16, the 168cm player has a nice offensive game to go with her defensive capabilities.

HALF-BACKS:

Grace Hay (MB) – 19 disposals, 7 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 8 rebounds
The standout Bushie on the day, Hay was instrumental in ensuring Murray came away with some points. With the game tight and on the line, it was the defence that stood out, and Hay was a massive part of that with 19 disposals. seven marks and eight rebounds. Across the course of the day, Hay refused to let her opponent get the better of her, and really stood tall amongst a whopping 36 inside 50s and was a huge reason why Murray drew.

Annabel Strahan (BP) – 18 disposals, 3 marks, 4 tackles, 1 inside 50, 5 rebounds
A solid option for the Pioneers in a tough match, Strahan was the leading disposal winner for Bendigo off half-back with her ability to find the footy a real credit to her vision and willingness to take on the play to win ball back. Collecting five rebounds, she lead the way with her tenacity and ability to hit up targets to propel the footy downfield.

Sarah Hartwig (SD) – 20 disposals, 6 marks, 7 tackles, 1 inside 50, 2 rebounds
With class and speed to match, Hartwig is a real instigator on the field, ready and willing to get right into the contest and is able to cleanly hit up targets with her clever ball use. Her tackle count was among the best on field, leading the charge for the Dragons while her overall dominance off the half back created plenty of opportunities for the side to run away with the win.

CENTRES:

Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – 25 disposals, 7 tackles, 3 hitouts, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Another prolific day for the AFL Women’s Academy member who laid an impressive seven tackles in the Jets’ draw with Murray. She had a game-high 25 disposals on the day and was a dominant inside player throughout the contest with her clean hands and creativity. Whilst in this team she has been forced out to a wing given the strength inside, she would be a handy player with her skills and run.

Tyanna Smith (DS) – 29 disposals, 5 marks, 7 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 1 rebound
The star of the show on the weekend and another Best on Ground performance with her ability to burst away from the contest and  impact the game with her slick skills. Smith earned out Draft Central NAB League Girls Player of the Week award for her unbelievable effort which saw her rack up 29 touches, seven inside 50s, five marks and seven tackles despite being closely watched by the opposition at stoppages. The standout player from teh weekend and a natural match-winner.

Montana Ham (WJ) – 23 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 2 hitouts, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound
Another standout on the day for Western in the Jets’ draw with Murray, Ham provides great run through the midfield and is able to pump the ball long inside 50. She has that touch of class and with some extra height compared to other midfielders, she has as much ability above her head as below it. Can just about play anywhere and still has a couple of years in the program which is exciting.

RUCKS:

Ally Morphett (MB) – 9 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 15 hitouts, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
There was a noticeable low in hitouts across the competition as ruck duties were shared around, but what earned Morphett the spot as the starting ruck was her ability to cover the ground. She can play as a key forward, but her work rate on the weekend was strong, also picking up a number of rebounds and inside 50s to go with her 15 hitouts and in a game where the performance was evenly spread, she did well.

Ellie McKenzie (NK) – 17 disposals, 5 marks, 3 inside 50s, two rebounds
Judged the Knights’ best in their win over the Falcons, McKenzie was a star through the midfield with her power and class around the ball. She was able to pump the ball forward and win it across all areas of the ground. Her offensive game really got the Knights going and were able to set up opportunities inside 50.

Laura Gardiner (GF) – 31 disposals, 3 marks, 9 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 5 rebounds
Racked up a competition-high disposals for the second consecutive week and was prominent on the inside with 31 touches, nine tackles and an even five inside 50s and five rebounds. Those kind of numbers are hard to ignore and she is easy to spot on the inside with her ability to get the ball out to teammates and set them up with quick handballs. Having a ripping start to the season.

HALF-FORWARDS:

Bella Eddey (SD) – 22 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 goals
Eddey put up an impressive effort against the Pioneers, proving a key target both inside 50 and up the ground with her clean hands, and putting goals on the board to establish a clear option in the forward line. She used her body well to bring ball to ground while her tackling pressure was up there, winning precious ball back when required.

Alyssa Bannan (NK) – 14 disposals, 8 marks, 5 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
Another outstanding performance from the tall forward who clunked a whopping eight marks to go with her 14 touches and two goals. She booted five majors last week, but her work rate up the ground and ability to use her clean hands and footy IQ to her advantage is a strength. She also laid five tackles which is a huge bonus for a taller player who is predominantly impressive in the air.

Charlie Rowbottom (OC) – 17 disposals, 3 marks, 5 tackles, 1 hitout, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
The talented middle-ager was best on ground in Oakleigh’s victory over Tasmania, constantly popping up with two goals from 17 touches and laying five tackles. She moved between the midfield and forward lines well and not only converted some chances of her own, but also set up her teammates. Her work close to goal was clean and she always looked like she was going to create something special.

FORWARDS:

Taylah Morton (OC) – 12 disposals, 3 tackles, 3 goals
Had a huge impact close to goal and was rewarded with three majors against Tasmania. She often got to the right spots and had a number of chances, three of which she converted as well as a couple of behinds that could have made it an even bigger haul. She provided a dangerous option at ground level and was able to be a key part of the Chargers’ front six in the big win.

Abbi Moloney (SD) – 10 disposals, 5 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 3 goals
With an ability to hit the scoreboard, Moloney proved she has the means to be a real danger inside 50 if left unattended. While she did not rack up the possessions, she used the footy well and proved she can do more than just provide a tall option inside 50 with her clean hands making her a real key cog in the forward line, while her ability to kick straight certainly helped out the Dragons.

Jessica Matin (DS) – 14 disposals, 5 marks, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
A danger close to goal, Matin also works up the ground and can get it inside the 50, with her work rate often leading to a payoff on the scoreboard. After missing a couple of gettable chances last week, Matin booted a couple of majors in Round 2 and acts as well as a deep smaller forward or higher up the ground getting the ball in and allowing forwards to run into space.

INTERCHANGE:

Kate Adams (MB) – 19 disposals, 3 marks, 6 tackles, 1 inside 50, 4 rebounds, 1 goal
The versatile utility put in a strong performance and managed to get the work done through midfield, in defence and up forward. She has the the athletic capabilities to be a slippery customer in close, but the hardness to win the ball back from an opponent as shown by her six tackles. She works hard when playing in the back half, and can go forward and be damaging around goal as well.

Charlotte Baskaran (WJ) – 25 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Another strong performance from the bottom-ager who found plenty of it in Western’s draw with Murray. She can play off half-back or through the middle and allowing her to use her skill and footy IQ to set up teammates is an advantage for the Jets. Despite having another couple of years in the program, Baskaran has already shown smarts beyond her years and will be an exciting prospect to watch develop in the future.

Tarrah Delgado (NK) – 14 disposals, 4 marks, 5 rebounds
The Knights’ top defender on the day, Delgado was able to repel a number of attacks, particularly during the middle stages of the game when the Falcons were trying to get on top. Forced back deep at times, the Knights defender held up strongly, and along with her teammates, kept a potent Geelong forward line to just one goal for the day.

Amber Micallef (OC) – 14 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 2 inside 50s
One of Oakleigh’s best on the day. Micallef was able to balance her offensive and defensive abilities on her way to a strong 14 disposals and six tackles. She was ever-present in an even team performance and was constantly harassing the opposition throughout the four quarters despite the result being well beyond doubt.

Darcy Moloney (GF) – 25 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
The Geelong Falcons’ midfielder found plenty of the football despite the loss, racking up an equal-third highest achievement of disposals for the round with 25. She tried her best throughout the four quarters and whilst the efforts did not get the ‘W’ on the scoreboard, she was as hard of a worker as anyone else on the field.

Emily Shepherd (DS) – 18 disposals, 4 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Arguably the second best behind Smith, Shepherd just goes about her business and keeps working hard throughout the four quarters. She won the second most touches on the ground in Dandenong’s win over Calder and was able to provide some run through the middle and work well with the other Stingrays mids to get the ball forward and set up scoring opportunities.

EMG:

Georgie Prespakis (CC) – 17 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
The most unlucky player not to make the starting line-up, Prespakis had a solid game after being rundown a couple of times in the first half. She showed her competitiveness by nailing a couple of opponents as well with fierce tackles, whilst getting around the ground and doing her thing and bombing it long either out of danger or into the danger zone inside 50. Kept running throughout the contest.

Amy Prokopiec (TD) – 9 disposals, 1 tackle, 1 hitout, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
This could have gone to a number of Tasmania players who could have squeezed into the starting line-up, but ultimately it is difficult when involved in a 100-point loss. In saying that, Prokopiec was terrific down back, working well as a leader of the group with Camilla Taylor who also could have earned a spot here. Prokopiec’s defensive ability and toughness make her difficult to beat one-on-one and she is not afraid to put her body on the line for her side.

Rianna Thiele (OC) – 15 disposals, 3 tackles, 1 hitout, 3 inside 50s, 2 goals
Another Chargers player who could have squeezed into a competitive forward line, Thiele stood out with her work at ground level and just popping up at different times with some nice work around goals. She kicked two of her own majors and put it into positions to assists teammates which helped her side get to the position it was in by the end of the game.

DRAFT CENTRAL’S NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 2

B: Kasey Lennox (CC) – Zoe Hill (DS) – Annie Lee (GF)
HB: Sarah Hartwig (SD) – Annabel Strahan (BP) – Grace Hay (MB)
C: Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – Tyanna Smith (DS) – Montana Ham (WJ)
HF: Bella Eddey (SD) – Alyssa Bannan (NK) – Charlie Rowbottom (OC)
F: Taylah Morton (OC) – Abbi Moloney (SD) – Jessica Matin (DS)
R: Ally Morphett (MB) – Ellie McKenzie (NK) – Laura Gardiner (GF)
INT: Kate Adams (MB) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ) – Tarrah Delgado (NK) – Amber Micallef (OC) – Darcy Moloney (GF) – Emily Shepherd (DS)

OTHERS CONSIDERED:

The strength of the midfield group this round was ridiculous to try and squeeze into a team, needing to maintain the balance of players across other lines as well. The next in line to come into the team included Northern Knights’ Ash Snow, Dandenong Stingrays’ Amber Clarke and Sandringham Dragons’ Winnie Laing who were all close to making the cut. Also on the short list from a midfield perspective were Calder Cannons’ trio Laura Cocomello, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell, Murray Bushrangers’ duo Mikayla Jones and Lily Sharp, Bendigo Pioneers’ duo Brooke Hards and Maeve Tupper, Sandringham Dragons’ Alice Burke and Oakleigh Chargers’ Kalarni Kearns. Those who kicked goals and were considered included Sandringham’s Sofia Hurley, Oakleigh’s Amanda Ling and Western’s Caitlin Sargent, while Tasmanian duo Jemma Webster and Camilla Taylor were also in consideration.

NAB League Girls preview: Round 2 – Huge clashes book-end Super Saturday

A HUGE Super Saturday takes place in the NAB League Girls competition this weekend with five games across three venues – two double-headers – including a couple of blockbusters book-ending the round and a clash between two winless sides. Tasmania Devils also make their debut in the league and host Oakleigh Chargers, whilst Western Jets could record back-to-back wins and keep in touch with the top couple of sides.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, March 7, 11:30am
RMIT University Bundoora

The opening game of the round pits the 2018 grand finalists against each other, with Northern Knights going one step further last year, whilst the Geelong Falcons fell in the semi-finals stage. In Round 1, the Knights held off a determined Calder Cannons outfit at this venue by a goal, whilst in the game immediate after, Geelong Falcons ran out 33-point victors over Gippsland Power. Both these teams have stars across the park and were forced to play very different gamestyles in Round 1. The Knights were impressive across the board in the way they were able to defend and then move the ball down the field to set up their forwards such as Alyssa Bannan (five goals). Led by co-captains Ellie McKenzie and Jess Fitzgerald in midfield, the Knights were able to use a nice blend of power and speed to get the ball inside 50, whilst the underrated Maeve Chaplin was tipped to have a big game by Fitzgerald in the Final Siren podcast this week. Competing against them in the midfield is an equally damaging midfield, with AFL Women’s National Academy members Laura Gardiner and Darcy Moloney making the matchups something to behold onball. Gardiner racked up 38 touches and had 14 tackles in Round 1 to be the Draft Central Player of the Week, whilst Moloney (28 disposals, six tackles) and Poppy Schaap (24 disposals, six tackles) also brought the heat. What was most impressive about the way the Falcons went about it was the fact they racked up a whopping 271 disposals, but also laid 94 tackles with their defensive pressure amongst the best in the league. They could have been more effective in front of goal, which is an area to build on, and something they cannot afford to suffer from in this clash against arguably the benchmark team this season. Expect this match to be another close one with both sides missing players from their encounters over the past couple of seasons, but the Knights deserve favouritism at home.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS v. BENDIGO PIONEERS
Saturday, March 7, 12pm.
RAMS Arena

From two sides looking to extend their strong starts to the season, we head to Craigieburn where two teams go head-to-head in a bid to get off the mark in season 2020. Sandringham Dragons will be ruing missed opportunities against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels where they arguably had plenty more chances to kick a big score, but were let down close to goal. Their defensive pressure was a highlight however and is something that will be a trademark of this game. Both sides are renowned tacklers, and whilst Sandringham can play a possession style of game as well, the Dragons are more than happy to get their hands dirty in pursuit of a win. The Pioneers are not a high possession style team but look to be efficient with ball-in-hand, running the ball down in transition and getting it inside 50 as effective as possible. An area the Pioneers can get on top in this clash is in the ruck, with the Dragons having just two hitouts last week against the number one ruck in the competition, Maggie Caris. They still won their fair share of clearances though, and led by Eliza McNamara (20 disposals, eight tackles and six inside 50s) and Winnie Laing (18 disposals, five tackles and five inside 50s), were able to pump the ball inside 50 enough to suggest that if they do that consistently enough and improve their finishing ability then the results will come. The Pioneers had co-captain Brooke Hards waste no time influencing the contest off the back of her middle-age best and fairest year, winning 18 disposals and laying seven tackles. With Elizabeth Snell out of the side, the Pioneers will look to other experience around the ground, with co-captain Annabel Strahan and Jemma Finning‘s work out of the back 50 as a way of getting control of the ball. The two centre-half backs in Sarah Hartwig and Tara Slender are some of the best in their age groups and the teams cannot afford to put it down their throat too often or the ball will come straight back out. Sandringham should be favourites in this game given the amount of chances they can generate, but the Dragons must be clean around goal.

TASMANIA DEVILS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, March 7, 12.30pm
North Hobart Oval

Crossing the Bass Strait to the Apple Isle, Tasmania Devils enter the NAB League competition for the first time, taking on a red-hot Oakleigh Chargers. Whilst the Devils sat out Round 1 watching on, they would have been impressed by what they witnessed at Wangaratta when the Chargers ran wild in a 50-point win over Murray Bushrangers. The Chargers have no problem possessing the ball, and they had a massive 40 inside 50s, giving their forwards a multitude of chances inside 50. For Round 2 the Chargers have lost some of their Round 1 firepower, with Amelia James and Alice O’Loughlin both out of the side after combining for five goals between themselves. The captain Mimi Hill led from the front during the Chargers’ win, racking up 29 disposals and five inside 50s, while vice-captain Joanna Lin had 17 disposals and six inside 50s. Eliza James showed plenty of talent during the match with an impressive 18 disposals, four marks, five tackles and match-high seven inside 50s. For the Devils, it is hard to judge just where they sit in terms of the competition just yet, with plenty of developing youngsters coming through the ranks. Amy Prokopiec is the one to keep an eye out for with the middle-age defender already having experience in the NAB League Girls after playing in the Devils’ few games last season. Overager, Camilla Taylor provides height at 180cm and will look to dominate the ruck battle with her extra experience, whilst drifting forward to provide a target inside 50 for the Devils midfielders to aim at. Another overager sure to provide that added experience is Tahlia Bortignon with the 19-year-old named on a wing for this match. You would be a brave person to tip against Oakleigh given the Chargers’ Round 1 match, but this game will be more about seeing a host of new young stars living out their dreams of playing in an elite youth competition by the Devils making their debut in the competition.

WESTERN JETS v. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Saturday, March 7, 1.15pm
RMIT University Bundoora

Following on from the Knights-Falcons clash at Bundoora is the battle between Western Jets and Murray Bushrangers. In Round 1, the Jets triumphed for the first time in their history when they toppled Bendigo Pioneers at Queen Elizabeth Oval by 22 points. The next day, Murray succumbed to a rampaging Oakleigh side by 50 points. Though one positive that could come out of that game from a scoreboard perspective was the fact that after conceding seven consecutive goals, the home team booted the last three goals of the match to avoid it being a potentially worse scoreline. Heading into this match minus their top key forward in Olivia Barber (concussion), the Bushrangers will need to utilise their smalls to hit the scoreboard and cause havoc for a Western defence that is well drilled based on the first round. The Jets were able to balance their ball use from the back 50 to the attacking 50 with some nice running ability, and did well around the stoppages despite conceding height in the ruck and thus the hitouts. Both teams favour a kick-first gamestyle which means we could potentially witness plenty of end-to-end football in this game. Leading the way last week for the Jets were bottom-agers, Montana Ham (19 disposals, seven marks, five inside 50s and three rebounds) and Charlotte Baskaran (19 disposals, seven tackles, four inside 50s and five rebounds), while new top-ager Amelia Velardo looked impressive with her athletic ability on her way to 16 disposals and three inside 50s, as well as four hitouts going up against taller opponents. With Isabelle Pritchard playing across all thirds of the ground, she is the star prospect for the 2020 group at Western and will be hard to combat in the middle. The Bushrangers also have some AFL Women’s Academy members with top-ager Abby Favell working through the midfield and Ally Morphett switching between ruck and forward. Mindy Quade will play an important role down in defence, whilst Mikayla Jones and Zali Spencer were another couple of players who stood up in defeat last round. Western brings winning form into this match and would be a good chance to go 2-0, though the Bushrangers always find something special.

CALDER CANNONS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 7, 1.45pm
RAMS Arena

The final game of the round is another huge clash between two sides with good form. Calder Cannons fell a goal short of victory against Northern in the first round of action, and return to their homeground, RAMS Arena to take on a Dandenong Stingrays side that was the surprise packet of Round 1. It was not necessarily the fact that the Stingrays won that was the surprise, but the fact that they did it so convincingly in the end – 50 points – against an Eastern Ranges side with plenty of talent. Stingrays coach, Dave Carden said post-game that it was important the club looked to improve from the Round 1 performance in terms of their stoppage position, but he was impressed with their clean hands and ball movement – something that will be crucial if they are to cause an upset against last year’s grand finalists. The Cannons midfield is well established, with middle-ager Georgie Prespakis and fellow 2003-born Emelia Yessir assisting captain, Laura Cocomello in the middle. Jessica Zakkour was the Cannons’ best last round with two goals from 18 touches and eight tackles, whilst the key defensive combination of Tamsin Crook and Kasey Lennox one of the best in the competition. It will also be important to combat the Stingrays’ talls with Georgia Grimmer out of this match, but Serene Vudiniabola (two goals in Round 1) able to crunch packs and bring the ball to ground for the likes of Ashleigh Richards (two goals) and Jaide Anthony (one). Tyanna Smith is the midfielder to watch on the Stingrays’ side, dominating last week and along with Abbey Jordan, provides some incredible running power out of that onball group. The Cannons have some targets inside 50 themselves with Charlotte Clayton (three goals) and Freda Puruntatameri (one) both looking dangerous last week. These teams are very evenly matched based on the first round statistics with no more than six differential between any of the major stats heading into the Round 2 clash. This is a buckle-up and get ready game because both these teams will take it right up to the other making it a real spectacle for the onlookers.

Oakleigh charges home with seven consecutive goals

THE opening round of the 2020 NAB League Girls saw Oakleigh Chargers produce a stellar win to start the season on the ultimate high, defeating Murray Bushrangers by 50 points, 11.9 (75) to 4.1 (25). While it was a fairly even contest between the arcs, the Bushrangers were unable to stop the Chargers inside 50 with a plethora of goalkickers peppering the posts throughout. Oakleigh had a much bigger presence on field, seeming to have more numbers around the footy and using the ball well inside 50 to find good space and put goals on the board.

It was a fast and convincing start from the Chargers who were quick to get on the board, with Alice O’Loughlin booting her first of the day. While the Bushies put in a solid effort defensively, with Mindy Quade leading the way with eight rebounds and nine disposals, they could not stop the Chargers’ numbers forward and were outmarked by Oakleigh’s clean hands with the side combining for 27. The Chargers impressed in their forward half when they turned to defence, shutting down the Bushrangers as they attempted to transition through the midfield and rendering the side unable to cleanly enter their forward 50. Oakleigh’s O’Loughlin and Mimi Hill lead the charge, collecting seven and six disposals respectively, while Murray’s Mikayla Jones collected a solid pack mark toward the end of the quarter to prove the Bushies had plenty left in the tank. 

Another goal from O’Loughlin started the second quarter on a high, with a step to the right and kick around the body straight through the posts. The Chargers continued to apply pressure on every ball from the Bushrangers, forcing the Bushies to bomb kicks inside 50 in hope of finding forward options. While they shanked a few opportunities in front of the big sticks, Sophia McCarthy aimed true, booting Murray’s first of the match. The Chargers seemed to be second guessing themselves in the second quarter, with the Bushrangers disrupting the Chargers’ transition down field a lot better and and pressuring better up the ground – though Oakleigh still booted three goals for the quarter in a solid display of forward pressure, leading all stats at half-time with Hill on 17 touches by the main change.

A massive third quarter from the Chargers  saw the side well and truly run away with the match. While the Bushrangers entered the second half with new vigour, the third quarter was all for the Chargers, booting five goals nil and well and truly controlling the match. With the defensive pressure still on and Quade snatching up an impressive smother, the Chargers had to work hard for the footy inside 50. Amelia James (19 disposals, six hitouts, two goals) booted her first of two within the first five minutes of the quarter, with Chargers forming a solid connection and chain of events downfield after a missed opportunity from the Bushrangers. James was on the end of the chain, evading defenders for an impressive goal. Stella Reid also put in a solid effort in front of goal, adding two more goals to the tally. Both sides brought the physicality in the third, with the Bushrangers leading the tackle count at three quarter time.

Oakleigh was poised for a dominant finish against the Bushrangers coming into the final quarter, but the Bushies were not to be disregarded, proving they still had plenty left in the tank and bringing a new intensity to the fray, shutting down their back 50 in the final quarter to reduce the margin and deny the Chargers any more goals. The Bushrangers had a lucky start to the quarter with a set shot inside 50 converted to a 50m penalty and kick in the goalsquare for Olivia Cicolini. The goals well and truly set the Bushies in motion, and while the Chargers continued to show the same great forward pressure they just kept missing the mark but still did what they could to mark it hard for the Bushrangers to stay clean. A solid goal from Olivia Barber kept the Bushies pushing forward though she was helped off the field by trainers moments later, having suffered concussion. Barber did not re-enter the field for the rest of the match, and a goal from Chloe Locke to finish out the game saw Murray come away with some semblance of victory, well and truly winning the final quarter despite going scoreless in the first and third.

Overall, Oakleigh was far too good on the day with plenty of standout performers getting the job done. Hill (29 disposals, five inside 50s, three tackles and two marks) and O’Loughlin (three goals, 18 disposals, three marks) were the clear bests, while Eliza James collected 18 touches, five tackles, seven inside 50s and booted a goal in a solid outing. Murray’s Zali Spencer (nine disposals, seven tackles, two rebounds) and Jones (12 disposals, five inside 50s) also put up solid efforts while Quade impressed down back. Murray were well and truly blown away in the possession count but otherwise finished well in the tackles and hitout stats, only one down in both by the end of the game. 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS: 0.0 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 4.1 (25)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS: 2.2 | 5.5 | 11.7 | 11.9 (75)

GOALS:

Murray: S. McCarthy, O. Cicolini, O. Barber, C. Locke.
Oakleigh: A. O’Loughlin 3, A. James, S. Reid 2, E. James, S. Morley, J. Lin, R. Thiele.

BEST:

Murray: Z. Spencer, M. Jones, M. Quade, O. Barber, A. Morphett
Oakleigh: M. Hill, A. O’Loughlin, E. James, A. James, J. Lin

DC Medal:

5 – Mimi Hill (OC)
4 – Alice O’Loughlin (OC)
3 – Eliza James (OC)
2 – Amelia James (OC)
1 – Zali Spencer (MB)

Bushrangers buoyant on improved depth and internal growth

MURRAY Bushrangers have been able to reduce the player-to-coach ratio ahead of the 2020 season thanks to the determination of their NAB League Girls playing group, and additional development coaches. Ahead of the 2020 season, Female Talent Manager Briana Cossar said she was excited about a number of players coming through the program – not just for top-age talent, but middle-age and bottom-age talent as well.

The girls’ enthusiasm, dedication and commitment to the program has resulted in a solid pre-season,” Cossar said. “They’ve really come together as one unit which is a testament to their characters and with a revamped coaching group, which has included additional staff, the player-to-coach ratio has been reduced, playing a pivotal role in increased rate of development compared to last season which we see as vital for continued development and growth of the program. “We’ve got a lot more depth and some really good 14, 15 and 16-year-old players coming through which will be exciting to see their development over the next few years. 

The Bushrangers have three players in the 2020 AFL Women’s National Academy, with top-age talents Abby Favell and Olivia Barber, as well as bottom-age tall, Ally Morphett. Favell starred as a natural ball winner for the Bushrangers, NSW-ACT Rams and the Eastern Allies last season, looking sharp as an outside runner who stands up in big moments.

“Abby has the ability to break the lines and her run and carry are elite,” Cossar said. “Her leadership qualities are second to none.”

Barber had a breakout National AFL Women’s Under-18 carnival after a solid season in the NAB League Girls as a key forward who could also play ruck. The then middle-ager was able to create all sorts of headaches for defenders, not just with her ability to clunk grabs overhead, but her ground work and recovery were also impressive on the Gold Coast.

“Olivia is a tall target up forward and a strong overhead mark,” Cossar said. “She’s got a great attack on the football and has an ability to create separation using her strength.”

Morphett is still a year away from being draft-eligible, with the 186cm player likely to predominantly play ruck, though she could also rotate forward and provide a marking presence.

“Ally plays mainly ruck, but can play key position forward,” Cossar said. “She has a great kicking technique and is very good overhead.”

Other players to watch from a top-age perspective include Sam Pritchard – who according to Cossar is “training the house down” – and smart small, Kate Adams. Pritchard recorded an impressive sub-eight minute 2km time trial and plays as a small forward who has a nice blend of pace and endurance. Among her other strengths are her elite kicking ability and clean hands. Adams has been a player who has impressed over the past couple of seasons coming through the Bushrangers’ program, playing in a number of roles, but similarly is a silky small who has natural footballing ability. Cossar said Adams’ reading of the play, awareness and decision making are engrained, while she is a great on and off-field leader.

Anyone who watched the Under 16s all-Victorian clash last year would have remembered Keely Skepper who starred in that match and while she is a bottom-age talent, the rebounding defender is one to keep in mind for the future. “She is a natural footballer in every aspect of the game,” Cossar said, describing her left foot as “elite” and has a great ability to find the ball and rebound it out of the back half. Other middle and bottom-age talents to watch for in 2020 include Aurora Smith – who has the ability to break the game open with her run and carry, credit her speed – India Lehman who Cossar describes as a natural footballer who is also a great on-field leader, bringing others into the game, and Mindy Quade who has great positioning in one-on-one contests and takes the game on at every opportunity.

While the core base of talent is there, Murray also has a couple of players who have been building nicely over the off-season and have been touted by Cossar as ones to watch.

Lily Sharp and Mikayla Jones are both looking to take their games to the next level,” she said. “Their fitness and fundamental skill efficiency have improved, and both have a good game sense.”

Murray takes on both the Bendigo Pioneers (Saturday, February 8) and Calder Cannons (Saturday, February 15) at JC Lowe Oval in Yarrawonga. Cossar said in 2020, the team just want to play as naturally as they could.

“We want to be instinctive, creative and take the game on at every opportunity, and be competitive for four quarters,” she said.

The Bushrangers host Oakleigh Chargers in the opening round of the season on March 1 at 1pm, before travelling to Bundoora for a clash against Western Jets as part of a NAB League Girls double header on March 7 at 1.15pm.

Scouting notes: TAC Cup Girls- Round 5

ONLY two teams remain undefeated after round five delivered some cracking contests. The Western Jets got their first ever TAC Cup Girls win while ending Eastern’s undefeated streak in the process. Over in Bendigo, the Falcons managed to get up over Murray despite missing five AFLW players. Although the Knights were given a scare by the Chargers, they stormed home to remain undefeated after five rounds of competition. This may have been the hardest week to pick the best players, with each team showing their depth in their respective matches. Below are our opinion-based notes on each of the six TAC Cup Girls games.

Western Jets vs. Eastern Ranges 

Western:

#16 Elisabeth Georgostathis

Smothered the ball twice after giving away the free kick then gave a quick-fire handball to a teammate to set up a forward thrust. This was just one of her great plays on the day, she was simply everywhere. Displayed great run and carry after good mark and was able to clear the ball from congestion multiple times. She had an innate ability to get the ball moving whilst also doing a good job defensively with strong tackles. Georgostathis was able to display good composure to spin out of trouble on some occasions. Started to get targeted in the fourth quarter with the Eastern players trying to get in her head. Ended off a brilliant day with a big tackle in the goal square. 

#43 Caitlin Greiser

Greiser just read the ball better than her opponents and knew how to work her opponent under the ball. Eastern players did not know how to defend her. Booted two goals in the third quarter to get the Jets’ spirits up. Finished with four for the game. Continues to be a huge presence up forward. 

#19 Olivia Forsythe

Never stopped tackling the whole game. Her tackles were strong and often stopped Eastern players from playing that running game that we are so used to seeing from them. She was fierce around the contest and really got into the game in the third quarter. She tackled anyone that came near her and created so many stoppages. She was one of Western’s game-changers.

#26 Isabella Negri

Had a really good ability to move towards the ball on a long kick rather than waiting for it and trying to judge it in the air. In one instance, she took a huge contested mark inside 50 and was slow to get up. But she was brave enough to go back for the set shot, displaying incredible courage.

#40 Sharnie Whiting

Was able to snap through a nice goal after being really lively in the forward line. Was able to hunt the ball down, get it and kick it quickly to create space on the field. 

Others:

#27 Payton-Ani Ozols: Was able to burst out of stoppages a lot of times. Displayed nice acceleration and quick hands. Followed up when she missed the target with her kick, showing great determination.

#30 Isabelle Pritchard: Also displayed quick hands, was a rock in defence. Was able to provide good run and carry and was really strong in congestion. She laid a goal-saving tackle on the dangerous Laura Mcclelland in the last 30 seconds of the game.

#4 Leah Spargo: Kicked a nice ball to the top of the square which helped the tall forwards who were keen to take some contested marks. Like Georgostathis, she was lively and everywhere. Really aggressive on the wing.

#41 Savannah Forbes: Pushed off a player and kicked strongly on the run. She was aggressive all game and was right at the bottom of contest a lot of times.

#8 Emily Gardner: Another lively Jet. Laid some nice and strong tackles especially through the middle of the ground. Stepped up her game in the third quarter.

 

Eastern:

#46 Sarah Kendall

Was able to mop up well in the back-line and dominated the ruck. Played a sweeper role and did not let her team down. Kendall would often pick up the ball quickly, get it and kick it, and not just hacking it- following through for the kick to hit a target. Took a great sliding mark running at full flight towards the ball. She was a huge force especially at the top of the defensive 50, playing a great rebounding game. Nobody could get past her as she would mark everything that came her way.

#37 Georgia Macpherson

Stalwart in defence as usual! Displayed good run and carry and had a long penetrating kick. She took some great contested marks in this game and dominated. She usually takes a lot of uncontested marks but showed she is a contested marking beast as well. Read the footy really well when she took a mark right in the goal-square off a clever high kick by Caitlin Greiser. Sold the candy at one point and kicked off the other side of her body to get the ball into the middle, showing that she is one of the most clever ball-users in the competition.

#6 Gabriella De Angelis

Played a fantastic game for Eastern and just did not stop trying throughout the whole game. Took a great overhead mark under pressure, which was great to see for a small midfielder. Then she did what small midfielders do, when she took the ball and burst through the middle of the ground, hitting her target perfectly with a skillful kick. Kicked two goals to top off her hard work. They were well-deserved, she was outstanding.

#21 Mikala Cann

Really proactive in the middle of the ground. Delivered a nice kick to the middle of the ground at one point and did it on repeat occasions in other areas of the ground. At one point, she was barely looking at the ball and still hit a target. Displayed good hands under pressure and always managed to follow up her efforts with the ball in hand. She had good speed to chase the ball on the deck, showing off her impressive sprinting capabilities. Delivered a beautiful kick into the forward line and kicked a beautiful ball off one step. There was simply no other word to describe her game!  

#49 Charlotte Wilson

The co-captain made good contributions throughout the game. She kicked the ball nicely to the wing at one point and was a huge presence in the ruck. Kicked the ball well to her forwards, especially with a nice kick to Laura McClelland later in the latter stages of the game. Stepped up well in the absence of Emerson Woods. 

Others:

#48 Lauren Szigeti: Displayed nice movement throughout the game and her constant effort to fight for the footy was outstanding. Laid a huge goal-saving tackle at one point in the game. She was so aggressive throughout the game and did not ease her pressure at all.

#38 Laura McClelland: Had a good penetrating kick and kicked it well out of congestion. Took a huge contested mark and kicked it truly, already showing signs of an experiences forward. Had good eyes for the ball throughout the game.

#17 Mietta Kendall: Displayed nice hands to leap for a mark but just could not hold it on the way down. Still managed to build on her performance quarter-by-quarter. Had good quick hands.

 

Bendigo Pioneers vs. Gippsland Power

By: Peter Williams 

Bendigo:

#3 Carly Isaac

Showed off a lot of speed throughout the game, spreading to the outside and showing composure with ball-in-hand. She put in a consistent effort across the game, winning the footy and getting back to help out the defence and break the lines down the wing.

#19 Kodi Jacques

Thought she was one of the best Pioneers for her sheer work rate and ability to get to the football. She provided good pressure on the inside and a knack for quick hands. In the second term she snapped inside 50 which led to a goal to Bree Heiden. When inside 50 she was lively and took a good intercept mark from a kick out and kicked long to the square. In the third term she worked hard out of the midfield, had three possessions in a chain from the clearance through to a snap which just missed.

#27 Brooke Hards

Really liked her game off half-back, particularly early in the peace. Had it not been for Hards’ efforts then no doubt Gippsland’s lead would have been higher in the opening half. She worked really hard in the back 50 and won the footy at half-back thinking her way through her touches going forward. She also showed off a good turning circle when she managed to swing onto her preferred side to kick forward.

#28 Megan Williamson

Another consistent effort from the captain who consistently showed no fear in her attack on the ball. She buzzed around the stoppages and showed good intensity when tackling the opposition ball carrier. She organised the midfield well and won a few free kicks from going in hard, and getting to the ball first. One of the Pioneers’ most consistent on the day.

#30 Bree Heiden

Attacks the football with vigour and used her strong body to bump an opponent off the ball and win a crucial one-on-one. She earned a goal through hard running to lead into the central corridor and kick truly from the set shot.

Others:

#1 Maeve Tupper: Packs plenty of excitement and almost snapped a miraculous goal in the second quarter from a tight angle, but was dragged down and the shot just missed.

#2 Maddy Baldwin: Created some good run on the outside and was able to get into space to win the ball. Baldwin was another Pioneers midfielder who stood up when it counted and put in a consistent performance.

#8 Shelby Knoll: Provided a target inside 50, taking a couple of good marks out on the lead, including a juggling mark in the third term. She worked well with Kodi Jacques in the third term, marking the pass and then handballing back to Jacques to keep the play moving.

#9 Dayna Kelly-Guthrie: Played through the ruck and was solid in her tapouts, then got forward and kicked a great goal from a set shot in the second term.

#11 Jemma Finning: Another midfielder who was up for the fight defensively. Laid some huge tackles and worked hard with Jacques and Williamson through the midfield.

#20 Kate Douglass: Played in defence for most of the game before swinging forward. Provided a target in the final term, taking a couple of marks and kicking a long goal from 45 metres out.

#32 Sharmaine Reilly: Showed good pressure in defence, stopping a certain goal on the line in the opening quarter with a dive, and then laying a particularly memorable tackle later in the game to lock up the ball from escaping in the Power’s forward 50.

 

Gippsland:

#1 Ebony Jones

A composed user of the football, Jones played on the wing but also worked hard to get back into defence and help out. She covered the ground well and took a couple of marks in the defensive half of the ground. Jones also showed off a high defensive awareness and great speed, when in one instance she shepherded a teammate to allow them to kick inside 50, and later produced a great run-down tackle on the wing.

#6 Emily Haeusler

Her best performance of the year and put together a four quarter performance. Camped at half-back she rebounded everything, keeping a firm line between half-back and the centre of the ground. Her first interaction was a good one, side-stepping an opponent and kicking long inside 50 to a one-on-one. Moments later she took a great overhead mark one-on-one and kicked to Alana Rippon on the wing. She showed off her fleet-footedness using agility to turn her opponent inside out and showed composure while on the move. Her first term was superb but it did not stop there, consistently providing rebound for the power, intercepting anything in her area and laying some great, fierce tackles. Her mindset was also promising. In one instance in the fourth quarter where she missed a kick out of defence after winning the ball at ground level, but rather than berate herself, ran forward, bumped the opponent and locked the football up to stop the Pioneers getting it forward.

#8 Chandra Abrahams

A player who impressed with some great highlights. She laid a good tackle on the wing in the second term, and provided great forward pressure throughout the match. In the third term she showed quick thinking and goal sense to kick a goal off a step from 45m out. In the final term she laid a great goal-saving tackle, earning her a free. Her versatility to play up either end was on show on the weekend.

#27 Nikia Webber

A player who is in ripping form currently, Webber continues to provide a forward target for the Power, finishing the game with three majors and moving to second on the goal-kicking table. She kicked a huge goal from 40m out in the first term, then got her second in the second term through some hard running, and capped off with an impressive third goal just after that. Aside from hitting the scoreboard, Webber also provided strength and a keen goal sense inside 50.

#58 Amy Dunn

Played through the ruck and certainly held her own, showing good strength and giving her midfielders first use most of the time. A strong body, she assisted her teammates with good defensive efforts. The co-captain was a good leader in the absence of co-captain Tyla Hanks on game day.

Others:

#10 Tahlia Dower: Provided some good dash out of defence and got forward to kick a goal for her hard running efforts. She covered the ground really well and was one of the better Power players on the day.

#30 Alana Rippon: Worked hard through the midfield and provided some good dash. It was clear if the opposition gave her a centimetre she would take a mile. Got some quick first few steps and is able to find the ball.                     

#57 Jasmine Ferguson: Constantly applied pressure to the opposition and pumped the kick long inside 50. Ferguson took a huge grab in the middle of the ground and moves well for a taller player.

#65 Julia Redmond: Had a memorable moment in the second term, pulling down a huge pack mark on the wing.

 

Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers

By: Michael Alvaro 

Northern:

#4 Neve O’Connor

Fought valiantly all day against Bridie Winbanks in a very even ruck battle and made her presence felt. She moves really well for a player of her height and was not afraid to take her opponents on when pushing the ball forward with her booming kick. In a very strong Knights midfield, it felt like O’Connor was a fourth rover with her efforts around the ground proving valuable.

#6 Alyssa Bannan

She always finds a way to hit the scoreboard and today was no different. Starting on the wing, Bannan provided touches of class and some good run through the midfield. Her spread from the congestion proved to be damaging, and her ability to repeatedly be the option to carry the ball inside 50 is a real asset. She booted both of her goals in the final term, with one of them coming off the back of a nifty side-step to get rid of her opponent.

#18 Sarah Sansonetti

Kicked the first goal of the game but spurned the chance to kick another moments later as she could not manage to poke the ball through from the goal-square. She was ever-present inside 50 and provided a solid option all day, often acting as the link in the chain between the arc and the goals. She had the chance to kick another goal in the final quarter but gave it off, which was typical of her score involvements for the game.

#21 Ellie McKenzie

Arguably the best player on the ground, McKenzie dominated in all areas. She started the game in the centre bounce and won a stack of clearances to go with two goal assists early on. The highlight of her game also came early in the first term when she received the ball at half-back and went on a winding four-bounce run through the centre square. She lost the ball momentarily but bounced straight back up, won it back and hit up a teammate inside 50. She was thrown forward late in the last quarter and kicked three goals in as many minutes to seal the win for her side, capping off a complete and dominant display.

#24 Alexandra Pronesti

Another Knight who always seems to find the goals, Pronesti was again at her dangerous best. Her three first-half goals helped the Knights to set up a handy buffer going into the main break, and she stood up when needed. Playing as a deep-lying forward, she was able to position herself well at every contest and proved to be a real handful when working in tandem with Sarah Sansonetti.

Others:

#2 Marnie Jarvis: There is not much of her, but Jarvis was everywhere and had some nice moments. Working mainly off half-back and the wing, she looked lively with ball in hand and provided some spark going forward. Her speed and nifty sideways movement allow her to stand out.

#5 Madeline Brancatisano: The skipper was lively early as she attended most of the stoppages. She provided a cool head to go with her tough edge in the contest and burrowed in well to set the tone for her side. While she faded out later on and was caught in possession a couple of times, she showed signs of her usual accumilating best.  

#7 Abigail Bennett: Was used in varying roles around the ground but was mostly effective behind the ball and through the midfield. Her best moment came in the last quarter where she picked up the loose ball, weaved through two opponents and set on a dangerous forward run. A smooth mover, Bennett also impressed with her clean hands in a frantic contest.

 

Oakleigh:

#11 Bridie Winbanks

Was a standout as the Chargers’ best player alongside midfield bull Emily Harley with a massive contribution in both the ruck and at ground level. While the ruck battle was relatively even, it was Winbanks’ follow-up efforts and fierce tackling that were most impressive. As a mobile tall, she was able to show off her admirable work rate and strong hands in what was a physical contest. Her lone goal came at the end of the third term, which the Chargers won with three goals to zip thanks largely to her efforts. 

#16 Alana Porter

Porter spent the majority of the game in the midfield and had a few good moments. Her speed and willingness to take the game on was a highlight, and she was able to give her side a nice bit of outside drive. While her attacking style is exciting, she was caught in possession a couple of times, opting to bounce or hold the ball when she had the chance to quickly dispose of it.

#17 Nicola Xenos

Was quiet early but found her feet and a way into the game during the third quarter. She had a five minute purple patch where she showed off her speed in a mazy run, caught an opponent holding the ball, and put in a courageous effort at half forward in quick succession. Her hands are clean and she has good natural pace, proving to be quite evasive throughout the game.

#19 Emily Harley

Harley was a bullocking force through the Oakleigh midfield and provided some real grunt when they needed it. She started off the game dishing out a couple of fend-offs and doing her best to side-step opponents with her turn of pace, and continued on with much of the same. Her forward drive and competitiveness was a real standout, with many of her runs finished off with a long inside-50 ball. A highlight for her was her handy slips catch while she was thrown deep forward in the second term, which she capped off with a goal.

Others:

#41 Katie Lynch: Having started in the centre square for most of the first half, Lynch struggled to make an early impact. A move deep forward in the second half proved fruitful, as she looked to have gained some confidence and found a lot more of the ball. She looked dangerous at times and finished the game with a goal.

#38 Daisy Bateman: There were limited opportunities for the Oakleigh forwards but Bateman took advantage of the ones that fell her way, booting two of her side’s five goals for the game.

 

Dandenong Stingrays vs. GWV Rebels

By: Peter Williams 

Dandenong:

#1 Shelley Heath

One of the Stingrays prime movers through the midfield and constantly pushed back to help out the defence. Had a busy first term with a couple of eye-catching dashes in the opening minutes, and also laid some tackles later that quarter. After a quieter patch in the middle of the game, Heath picked up in the second half with a huge tackle later in the third quarter just outside 50 with the clock counting down. Her last quarter was great, winning plenty of the football pushing back at half-back and along the wing, working hard to use her pace to drive the ball forward.

#10 Abbey Jordan

Has pace to burn and constantly tried to break the lines. She worked in tandem with Heath along the wing and covered plenty of ground. In particular she moved well in the final term, driving the ball out of defence to help propel the Stingrays forward.

#18 Saige Bayne

One of the better Stingrays throughout the game, played on the outside and managed to get into ball-winning positions. I thought it was her best performance of the season and she adds a bit of pace and grunt to the outside, a solid performance across the four quarters. Just keeps battling hard and was able to get free on a number of occasions to kick the ball long.

#28 Tyanna Smith

Booted two goals for the Stingrays and was lively in the front half of the ground. Early in the third term, Smith positioned herself well in front of her opponent and protected the ball drop to mark. Not long after she kicked one of the goals of the day from long range. One of the better Stingrays on the day and a creative option inside 50.

 

#35 Lucy Cripps

As consistent as ever in defence hardly put a foot wrong and just so consistent, when the going got tough she got going. Cripps even pushed up to a wing at times in the third term to provide extra support in the midfield and drive the ball forward. Good long kick deep in the third term, as she had pushed up to half-forward at the time. Knows when to push up the ground and when to stay back. Versatile and can play anywhere on the ground.

Others:

#5 Eloise Allen-Burns: A composed defender in the back 50, Allen-Burns repelled a number of Rebels attacks with some good intercept marks and clearing kicks. Just does her job and is rarely beaten one-on-one.

#20 Eliza Wilson-Macdonald: Buried herself under packs again and laid a number of fierce tackles. She just continues to work hard and win one-on-one contests or at least put her body on the line. Earned a free kick in the final term at a crucial stage to drive her team forward.

#26 Isabella Shannon: Played forward in the third term and presented well and then started to show it on the scoreboard with a goal and then a centering pass to the square. With her leading out the Stingrays looked much more dangerous. Great long kick at half-forward to deep.

#55 Harmony Thomas: Continues to present as a forward target, just needs to capitalise on her opportunities. She took a great one-on-one mark early in the game but missed the set shot. A last quarter free for going in hard presented another opportunity but just missed. She laid a great tackle in the third term to stop a forward thrust and provided a neat kick to Shelley Heath.

 

GWV Rebels:

#2 Renee Saulitis

She has a bit of pace and class about her, kicking a goal and looking dangerous at times through the midfield. She had a good deep pass forward in the second term and is a good mover, sidestepping her opponent.

#16 Lauren Butler

Just a consistent leader in midfield, she positions her kicks well to the danger zone and has that powerful penetration. In the third term she won the ball at midfield and hit up her team-mate leading out of the forward 50. Early on with Dandenong having the breeze, Butler drifted back to help the defence and took a good intercept mark in the hole in defence.

#21 Denver Henson

Really liked her performance through the ruck and around the ground. She continued to push hard and kicked long to gain serious metres. She laid a fierce tackle in the opening quarter and showed quick hands to her runners. I think the bigger highlights were her efforts around the ground.

#23 Sophie Molan

Really consistent performance again from Molan who seemed to be everywhere. She settled down the side and was used in transition, winning the football across the midfield and being an important link in the chain going forward.

#34 Stephanie Glover

Provided some great drive out of defence, and was particularly prominent early. She showed good agility to sidestep opponents and kick long down the wing, and was one of the better Rebels across the course of the game. Seemed to have a no-frills approach of winning the ball and keeping it moving in transition, working hard to win it defensively and drive it forward.

Others:

#9 Jordie McAuliffe: A hard runner who was rewarded with a great goal in the second term. She also was a reliable kick, hitting up Isabella Simmons who lead at the football in the forward 50.

#19 Katie McAloon: Kicked a great goal off a step in the second quarter.

#27 Nyakoat Dojiok: Created some great run and carry early on in the match, and almost pulled down a high leap but just dropped it. Good acceleration and has a penetrating kick, she had some impressive plays.

#28 Isabella Simmons: Positions herself well down forward, leads for the footy and then camps under the drop zone protecting the ball drop.

#45 Alyssa Humphries: Early on in the game she was damaging up forward, booting a goal and then using her quick hands after a mark to give it off to Jordie McAuliffe for a goal. Played well out of full-forward, and almost kicked a second goal, hitting the post in the final term.

 

Sandringham Dragons vs. Calder Cannons 

Sandringham:

 

#1 Maddison Wilson

Was lively around goal, especially in the first quarter. She kicked the first two goals for the game and finished up with three. Bended it nicely around the body for a confidence-boosting goal after stoppages started to come into play more frequently. Wilson read the ball well in the goal-square, crumbing the ground balls and snapping them through. Was killing it inside 50, taking great uncontested marks and trapping to the ball deep inside 50.

#25 Bella Eddey

Her goal was a stunning pick up and snap around the body from the boundary line! This was set up by Alice Burke’s high ball, which set the small forwards up nicely to run onto the footy. Eddey displayed good work to hunt the ball down and got plenty of it. She was involved in a lot of passages of play, which was highlighted by a spearing pass to Sophia Rothfield on the lead. Even brought her teammates into the game with a good one-two to get the Dragons out of trouble.

#30 Eleanor Brown

Did all the little things right for Sandringham. Managed to kick the ball well even off a burst of acceleration. Delivered a beautiful kick into the middle of the ground to get the Dragons out of trouble. Displayed pinpoint accuracy with her kicking. Had good run and carry especially down the wing. Brown leads well towards the ball even in defence, and doesn’t wait for the ball to come to her so she can spoil. She didn’t allow opponents to lead to the footy because she always meets it first.

#36 Jemma Owen

Really starting to find some good form in these past couple of rounds. Was able to stand up in the stoppages and did some nice things to clear the ball out of congestion. Kicked a nice goal after a good assist from Georgia Emberton. Kicked two for the game which really got her confidence up.

#49 Laura Amelung

Amelung can make an impact wherever she plays. Spent some time up forward and kicked a goal courtesy of a nice snap. Had some great one percenters with some really strong tackles, some great work to run into space and even a nice attempt to thread the needle through goals! She had a nice moment where she grabbed the ball off the deck, accelerated and ran towards goal. Ended up with two majors for the day, showing her versatility.

 

Others:

#2 Winnie Laing: Was able to trap the ball well and handball it out of congestion. Displayed great work to get the ball out with three Cannons players tackling her.

#3 Sophia Rothfield: I witnessed one of the best leads to the footy I’ve seen after Rothfield burst off her opponent with immense speed when she read Bella Eddey’s spearing pass immensely well. Gave her opponent no chance to chase her down in that instance. Displayed some really good work to chase the ball down in the goal-square and kick off one step while being tackled.

#31 Bryanna Arnold: Read the footy beautifully, shown by a kick just landing into her arms after all eyes were on it. Displayed good work to hold up play while the Cannons attempted to run away out of a stoppage.

#32 Sarah Hartwig: Displayed good composure down back. Was able to kick well under pressure. She’s a good defender and a great leader in the back-line.  

#46 Alice Burke: Had plenty of score involvements throughout the match. Most memorable one was a high kick to set up a Bella Eddey goal. Delivered some really nice kicks for the forwards to run onto, and one of them ended up in a great boundary-line snap from Eddey once again.

 

Calder:

#2 Felicity Theodore

Theodore was everywhere for the Cannons and tried extremely hard to keep her side in the game. Did well to hold the dangerous Alice Burke up in stoppage to create another stoppage. Was reading Carla Rendelmann’s taps perfectly and was able to get some clearances. Even had a couple of good ‘don’t argues’ to clear the kick away from congestion. In another instance, she fended off well to evade her opponent and dashed out of the middle. Theodore was able to pick up ball with pace, making it look like the other players were just staring at it. Often got the Cannons out of trouble. Leapt and marked against two Sandringham players to send the ball straight back inside 50 after a kick-out from full-back. Really filled Prespakis’ shoes.

#32 Terira Fry

Applied great pressure to cause a stoppage with four Sandringham players around her. Laid a huge tackle in the goal-square to keep the ball alive for the Cannons inside 50. Continues to improve each game and is one of the Cannons’ best players. Caused some headaches for the Dragons thanks to her aggressive manner and hunt to penetrate the ball forward through defensive acts.

#34 Zoe Hardiman

Hardiman did some really nice things around the contest. She picked up the ball well and evaded her opponents to deliver a nice centring kick, took a really nice mark which set her up for a set shot in the second quarter,  and delivered a fantastic run-down tackle. Also read the ball well when she marked a kick that dropped short. Accelerated towards it rather than waiting for it. Was active around the half-forward flank especially.

#38 Laura Cocomello

Got heaps of kicks away and did not seem to stop trying for the Cannons. She was proactively keeping the game moving for Calder. Kept herself in the game through some good running and following up her teammates’ nice work around the contest. Was able to just grab the ball and kick it without fuss.

#42 Kellie Sutton

She was really strong in defence. She took a great mark to create a turnover and delivered a nice handball under pressure. Displayed great work to hack the ball out of inside 50 when Dragons looked dangerous. Strong tackling was also evident in one of her best games of the season.

 

 

Others:

#15 Georgia Marsland: Took a nice mark off a high kick. Kicked the Cannons’ first goal of the day.

#18 Carla Rendelmann: Was impressive in the ruck and won lots of hit-outs. Tapped the ball down well to her small midfielders, especially Felicity Theodore.

#37 Faith Holloway: Broke away from the contest well and got a kick away. Had a lively start to the game. Smothered the ball well to save a certain goal for the Dragons.

#46 Gloria Elarmaly: Did some nice work to thread through a goal for Calder. Was lively inside 50.

 

Geelong Falcons vs. Murray Bushrangers 

Geelong:

#10 Samantha Atkins

I was impressed with her performance across half-forward, providing some fierce tackles and keeping the opposition honest. Earned an important free kick in the first term when she dispossessed Grace Egan, and then worked hard inside 50 to win the ball at half-forward and centre it to a dangerous position, leading to a goal. She laid quite a few strong tackles, with one in particular in the third term causing an important turnover in the forward half.

#11 Luka Lesosky-Hay

Arguably Geelong’s most prominent midfielder, Lesosky-Hay really stood up in the absence of Olivia Purcell and Nina Morrison. She went head-to-head with Grace Egan throughout the day and had some great battles, never taking a backwards step. She went in hard and won some crucial contested possessions, shovelling the ball out to teammates in space.

#32 Mia Sheppard

I thought she was one of the better Falcons given her strong work in defence. On a couple of occasions, she positioned herself well in the marking contest, and had a desire to win the football. In the final term when Murray was attacking, Sheppard won a crucial one-on-two and locked the ball up. Had she lost that contest, Murray would have surely goaled and put the margin within a kick.

#36 Abbey Chapman

It was almost impossible to name a best player from the Falcons such was their team effort, but Chapman probably came the closest with her sensational work in defence. It was not just her consistency that was impressive, but she just had a number of “big” moments which could be considered game-changing. In the third term she saved a certain Grace Egan goal with a mark on the line, and then in the fourth term, took a huge intercept mark with five minutes to play, settling down the team as the Bushrangers attacked. Across the course of the game she was very good one-on-one.

#39 Tarryn Love

I thought she was one of the best on ground early, until injury curtailed her match in the third term. She just hunts the ball and harasses the opposition, providing pressure on the ball carrier. When in control of the football she has clean hands and a great first touch. Her awareness of her teammates’ positioning is also important and she is able to execute handballs through traffic. Love set up a goal to Paige Sheppard with a kick to her advantage up forward.

Others:

#6 Paige Sheppard: Kicked a couple of goals to spur on the Falcons with one from a set shot, and another from a snap courtesy of a Tarryn Love kick inside 50.

#16 Laura Gardiner: Seemed to cover the ground well, playing off half-back and also getting forward to kick a goal. She is a long kick who is often on the move.

#37 Sophie Dinneen: Another Falcons defender who worked hard to win the football and repel the Bushrangers attacks. She was smart with ball in hand and kicked long out of the defensive zone.

#35 Sophie Walmsley: A lively player who kicked a great goal courtesy of a snap in the pocket. She provided run on the outside, received a good handball to keep the ball moving along the wing, and showed good pace at times, highlighted by a spin around and kick long to the danger zone inside 50 in the third quarter.

#38 Renee Tierney: Did not kick a goal after a bag last week but played a team role with the way she pushed up to the wing and hit the packs hard, providing support for her teammates. She moves pretty well and is strong one-on-one. Had more of an impact up the field than closer to goal this week.

 

Murray:

#1 Julia Harvey

The pocket rocket stepped up into the midfield and had a huge opening term against the Falcons. She seemed to be everywhere, buzzing around the stoppages and weaving her way through traffic. A noticeable strength is her great hands in close and cleanliness at ground level. She is a good user of the football and quite composed with ball in hand. Was quieter later in the game – still had some impressive plays – but her first quarter was sensational.

#22 Tamara Smith

Was Murray’s best player across four quarters and the attributes that stand out are her ability to move through traffic, and her game smarts. She is good above her head and in the second term, showed the awareness while under pressure, to punch the ball forward mid-air rather than take possession and be dispossessed. Smith is a clever player who in the third term also did the team thing, going in to assist her teammate Kate Adams at a stoppage, providing a vital shepherd to allow Adams clear passage for disposal. She also assisted with a goal to Melanie Cook after a nice pass in the fourth quarter.

#37 Sophie Damon

Had a huge first half in particular, being somewhat of a playmaker through the middle with her teammates looking to her to kick long and deep. She was often on the end of handballs, and moved really well for a taller player. In one instance she calmly sidestepped an opponent and managed to kick with composure. She had a shot on goal but that just missed to the left. Her ruck work was also impressive, giving her teammates first chance at possession. She was also involved in the Melanie Cook goal, hitting up Tamara Smith with a piercing pass.

#39 Hayley Doohan

The most notable moments for me were when she won some crucial one-on-ones late in the match. She was able to win a hardball and handpass to Grace Egan under pressure, then beat her opponent late in the final term in a one-on-one contest.

#42 Grace Egan

One of the stars of the Bushrangers’ line-up, Egan was consistent across the game, but particularly picked up in the second half. She worked hard through the midfield, burrowing under packs, putting pressure on the opposition. She stands strong during tackles and found a lot of the ball in close. In the third quarter she ran forward and had a shot on goal, but it was marked on the line. She has clean hands and a one-grab player, spreading well to cover the ground. One of her best passes was in the final term when she had the ball at half-back. She sent a bullet, hitting up a teammate on the wing, switching up play and disrupting the opposition’s set-up. Really stood up as a leader in the final minutes, trying to assist in directing players.

Others:

#4 Chelsea Knight: A classy midfielder who assisted Julia Harvey, Tamara Smith and Grace Egan through the midfield. She stepped up at points and had a few good touches in the midfield, especially in the third term.

#8 Olivia Hall: Got her side up and about in the final term with a great goal to put the Bushrangers back within 10 points at the six and a half minute mark of the final term.

#40 Melanie Cook: Continually presented at the football and was often under tight watch from the opposition. She took a good mark and kicked to the danger zone in the second term to set up Mikayla Jones’ goal. In the final term, Cook got the ball rolling and the atmosphere going with a goal from a snap.