Tag: molly mcdonald

VFLW weekly wrap: Preliminary Final – Magpies surge into decider with strong finish

A FEROCIOUS Collingwood Magpies swooped into the 2019 Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) Grand Final producing a scintillating lesson in forward pressure. The Magpies knocked off the Southern Saints for the second time in three weeks as they advanced to play the Western Bulldogs in next Sunday’s decider. In a tight contest that was see-sawing at times, the Magpies held form in the final term to kick two of the last three goals of the game to run out 7.5 (47) to 5.3 (33) winners. While the Saints’ defence was up to the task, they were ultimately overwhelmed in the end as the Magpies piled on 27 more inside 50s, 19 more tackles and 35 more disposals to send an ominous sign to their opponent next week.

It was the Southern Saints who were first on the board, keen to atone for the loss to the Magpies a fortnight prior, with former Blue, Kate Shierlaw putting through a major just 54 seconds into the contest. Her major was soon equaled out by Katelyn Lee, but again the Saints struck back midway through the term thanks to recent recruit, Caitlin Greiser who extended the margin to eight. A crucial goal to Oakleigh Chargers’ graduate Nicola Xenos got the Magpies up and about with the margin eventually cut to one by the first break. Bri Davey‘s return in the black and white after injury was proving to be a huge factor through the midfield, while up forward, competition leading goalkicker Jaimee Lambert was about to get to work. She booted two goals in 15 minutes, joined by slick Chargers’ utility Gemma Lagioia who added a major in between Lambert’s goals to extend the lead out to 17, which would be the largest of the match. With the momentum fully with the Magpies, former Pie, Darcy Guttridge booted a much-needed major on the edge of half-time for her side to head into the break with a more manageable 11-point deficit.

Neither side could seem to break through in the third term, with it taking a late goal from Emma Mackie to bring the game back to life heading into the final break. The Magpies lead by just five points at the final change, and with the Saints having booted the last two, needed someone to stand up early. That someone was AFL Women’s Rising Star winner, Chloe Molloy who made the most of an opportunity to give the Magpies breathing space, but no sooner had she done that and Southern Saints’ Molly McDonald brought the margin back to a straight kick two minutes later. It would prove to be the last score for the Saints however, as some desperate defending by their back end forced a couple of rushed behinds. The pressure from the Magpies was intense and eventually it won the game, with a fitting goal to Lambert putting the margin out to a match-winning 14 points surging them into the grand final.

Davey finished the match with 30 disposals, three marks and four tackles through the midfield, working well with Lambert who amassed 28 touches herself, as well as six marks, four tackles and three goals. Brit Bonnici had 17 disposals, two marks and four tackles, while Molloy picked up 15 disposals, laid four tackles and booted a crucial major to reignite the Pies. Chargers’ young guns Xenos and Lagioia combined for 27 disposals, six marks, 16 tackles and two goals to show they belong at the level and more. For the Saints, Tilly Lucas-Rodd had a team-high 16 disposals and laid three tackles, while Guttridge (15 disposals, one tackle and a goal) and Olivia Vesely (15 disposals, two marks and four tackles) were both big ball winners. Dandenong Stingrays and future St Kilda AFL Women’s players, McDonald and Isabella Shannon also put in strong performances with a combined 24 touches, five tackles and a goal in defeat. Among those playing underrated team roles were Sharni Layton and Stacey Livingstone, with Layton strong through the ruck with 18 hitouts, 14 disposals and four tackles, while Livingstone had eight touches and was really impressive in the defensive 50. For the Saints, Catherine Phillips was named the Saints’ best with 10 touches and six tackles.

Collingwood faces Western Bulldogs at Ikon Park on Sunday from 11.35am.

Collingwood 2.1 | 5.1 | 5.3 | 7.5 (47)
Southern Saints 2.2 | 3.2 | 4.2 | 5.3 (33)

GOALS:
Collingwood:
J. Lambert 3, N. Xenos, K. Lee, G. Lagioia, C. Molloy.
Southern Saints: K. Shierlaw, K. Greiser, Guttridge, E. Mackie, M. McDonald.

BEST:
Collingwood:
J. Lambert, B. Davey, G. Lagioia, S. Layton, S. Livingstone, B. Bonnici
Southern Saints: C. Phillips, C. Fitzpatrick, M. McDonald, E. Mackie, K. O’Neill, I. Shannon

Young Saints look to take down Magpies

SOUTHERN Saints missed out on the Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) minor premiership after going down in the final round of the home and away season, but with a win in their only clash against eventual minor premiers Collingwood, the Saints know they are a huge chance to claim the victory in the huge qualifying final. Coach Peta Searle said the group had achieved everything they wanted to in the regular season for 2019, adjusting goals as they met the next requirement.

“Obviously it was a little bit disappointing to lose last week and potentially finish off the year on top is a good end to the year isn’t it?” she said. “But our goal coming into the season was to play finals, but once we reassured that up, well then we want a bit more than that so the goal was to finish top two to get the double chance so to be able to do that, is a tick … but I wouldn’t say there’s been very minor hiccups for me, we’ve won some games that we probably could have lost. “Then we’ve lost some games we probably could have won, but that’s football.”

While the Magpies are the only side with the home final this weekend due to finishing on top of the table, Searle said they were far from the only side to worry about, when asked about which side was the biggest threat to her team’s flag campaign.

“That’s a hard question because any of the teams are good enough to win,” she said. “You know you’ve got Melbourne Uni … you have a look at their list and now Emma Kearney‘s in the side running out, it’s just like any team can win it. “Obviously Collingwood hold a bit of pole position finishing the year strongly. “Any team is more than capable, every team is a threat.”

But before the Saints can dream of a maiden premiership, they have to get over the line against Collingwood this weekend and move to just two wins away from the title.

“I think what we’ll do is this week, we’ll build our positivity in our group, look at things we do well, look at things we need to do to try and beat Collingwood,” Searle said. “Collingwood are a class outfit, their midfield is A-Grade elite AFLW class. “Like every game has been for us, it’s an opportunity for our girls to compete with elite people or against elite people and grow and learn something about themselves.”

The Saints are preparing for life in the AFLW next season, and have brought a number of players back to the club after stints with AFLW sides in 2019, while also pre-listing a number of talented Under-18 players. With access to the Dandenong Stingrays and Sandringham Dragons programs to pre-list players ahead of the draft, it was a duo of Stingrays that caught the eye for the Saints.

Isabella Shannon and Molly McDonald have been fantastic,” Searle said. “We would have loved to have them longer, loved to have them for more footy, I think that would have been more beneficial too for them going into AFLW but we understand the requirements around it and we understand too that they should play with their own age group. “But they’ve slotted into the team great, obviously Molly’s had a really good hitout on the wing, she was almost close to one of our best on ground two weeks ago. “A couple of weeks in a row she’s kicked some amazing goals, and Isabella Shannon, I’ve really loved watching the growth in her this year. “She’s come into our side and she’s now been picked as part of our best seven defenders and all the girls are now getting picked on, not what we’ve got to achieve in 2020, but what we can achieve in this finals series and definitely Isabella and Molly have earned their spots in our side.”

Southern Saints travel to Magpies’ heartland on Saturday, August 31 to face Collingwood. The game at Victoria Park kicks off from 12pm with free entry for those keen to check out the top two sides going head-to-head in a qualifying final.

2019 NAB League Girls Team of the Year announced

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

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

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

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

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

VFLW Preview: Round 16 – Fight to finals

IN the final round of the VFL Women’s home and away season Collingwood Magpies will look to regain top spot while the Southern Saints will be hoping to maintain their hot form heading into finals. Up the other end of the ladder, Williamstown and Carlton will be hoping to end their season on a high with one last win on the board.

ESSENDON v. WILLIAMSTOWN

Round 16 – 24/8/19
11:00
Windy Hill

Coming off a surprise win last week against the ladder leaders, Essendon will be looking to build on their form and notch up their sixth win of the season. The Bombers have had a relatively up and down season showing glimpses of brilliance but have been unable to do so consistently. Young gun Georgia Patrikios has been a revelation for the side with her ball winning ability, explosiveness and skill across the ground while Georgia Nanscawen has been crucial for the side. If the Bombers can pull out a similar performance to last week it will go a long way in getting them across the line against a desperate Williamstown outfit. Although they are sitting at the bottom of the ladder and have suffered plenty of big losses throughout the season the Seagulls will be wanting to end their year on a high. Emily Gardner has shown that she can hit the scoreboard making her a valuable asset if she is named while Sharnie Whiting is not afraid to go in hard at the contest.

HAWTHORN v. COLLINGWOOD

Round 16 – 24/8/19
11:30
Box Hill City Oval

After suffering their first loss since Round 1 the Magpies will be wanting to get back on the winners list ahead of their finals campaign. They have been the in form team of the competition thanks to their strong structures, clever game play and talented list so expect them to come out all guns blazing in hope to reclaim top spot. Jaimee Lambert has proven to be a sharp shooter for the Magpies line-up, leading the goal kicking tally with 20 goals for the season and will be a welcomed addition into the side if named this week to take on the Hawks. Stacey Livingstone and Brit Bonnici have also made their way back into the side for the final round of the season with their strength and leadership a key aspect of the Pies’ game plan. If the Hawks win they could climb up the ladder and really assert themselves on the competition with the likes of Phoebe McWilliams (named as emergency however) and Rebecca Beeson steering the ship. If both are able to break free against the Magpies they could pose a dominant threat given their ability to hit the scoreboard and win plenty of ball.

DAREBIN v. WESTERN BULLDOGS

Round 16 – 24/8/19
12:00
La Trobe University, Bundoora

After a relatively lacklustre season the Darebin Falcons will be hoping to go out with a bang whereas the Bulldogs will be wanting to iron out all the creases ahead of finals. The Falcons have pushed teams to their limit this season, contesting hard and putting up a strong fight but their inability to put out a four quarter performance has been their Achilles heel. Lauren Arnell has been a handy player for the Falcons and will be wanting to have her usual impact on the game in the final round of the season. Annalyse Lister and Reni Hicks have both been major ball winners for Darebin and if left unattended could pose a dominant threat for the finals-bound Dogs. The Western Bulldogs have shown that they have plenty of game changers but will need to overcome the losses of Ellie Blackburn and Brooke Lochland in order to find victory. The addition of youngsters Elisabeth Georgostathis and Ella Wood has also paid dividends for the side which will be hoping to maintain third spot on the ladder with a win against the 11th placed Falcons.

SOUTHERN SAINTS v. RICHMOND

Round 16 – 24/8/19
12:00
Trevor Barker Beach Oval

The Southern Saints have gone from strength to strength throughout the season, only losing the two games for the year. The Saints currently sit in top spot while the Tigers are hot on their tail in fourth making for an exciting and intense battle. Both sides have plenty of star power and will want to hit their straps heading into the finals in hope to claim the coveted premiership. After coming off a disappointing loss last round the Tigers will be hoping to rectify their issues across the ground and impose themselves as competition front-runners. Tayla Stahl has been a focal point in the Tigers forward line giving her accuracy in front of goal and ability to bring ball down with 17 goals for the season while Sabrina Frederick has had a hot and cold season with only a number of games under her belt but definitely can turn a game on its head. Monique Conti has been a real ball magnet for Richmond but could be rivalled by Saints star Alison Drennan who has had the ball on a string in the past couple of games. Up forward, Kate McCarthy and Molly McDonald could create havoc for the Tigers defenders given their ability to hit the scoreboard and take strong contested marks.

GEELONG v. CARLTON

Round 16 – 24/8/19
1:45
GMHBA Stadium

Geelong have plenty to play for with ladder position and finals up the grabs. The Cats put out an impressive performance last round to keep their opponents to one goal while showcasing their ability to hit the scoreboard. With a home ground advantage the Cats will be hoping to put together a strong performance and notch up another win ahead of finals. Rene Caris was crucial last round finding both the goals and ball with ease making her a huge asset heading into this round against Carlton. Richelle Cranston and Amy McDonald have both proven that they can tear games open with their ball winning abilities for the Cats. Although the Blues have not had the season they would have wanted, only managing three wins, they will be wanting to end on a positive note. A hard fought win last round will fill them with some confidence heading into the clash with Katie Loynes and Abbie McKay coming off match winning performances. Lauren Brazzale and Jess Hosking could both play a big role in the match if named credit to their strength and general football nous.

MELBOURNE UNI v. NT Thunder

Round 16 – 25/8/19
12:00
Ardern Street, North Melbourne

In a disappointing season for the Thunder they will be wanting to go out with a bang while Melbourne Uni will be fighting to claim ascendancy heading into finals. The Mugars are fresh off the bye but on the other hand Thunder are coming off a big loss last round unable to get their clever ball movement and game style up and running. With a week off expect Jasmine Garner and Katie Angelis to be hungry for ball in front of goal with both players proving they know how to score sitting third and fourth respectively on the goal kicking tally. If Jenna Bruton and Emma Kearney can find plenty of ball for Melbourne Uni it will go a long way in helping to set their side up for a victory given their class and vision with ball in hand. Thunder speedster Danielle Ponter has showcased her class and goal smarts in recent weeks and will want to encapsulate that form in the final round while Lisa Roberts has led the way in regards to disposals.

VFLW weekly wrap: Round 15 – Plenty of ladder movement in the penultimate round

IN the penultimate round of VFL Women’s there were a number of big results, with ladder leaders Collingwood going down to Essendon – albeit resting most of their big name players, while Casey, Geelong and Western Bulldogs all recorded impressive wins.

CARLTON 1.2 | 1.2 | 2.3 | 4.5 (29)
DAREBIN 0.4 | 1.6 | 1.8 | 2.9 (21)

GOALS

Carlton: A. McKay 2, S. Craige, B. Gurr.
Darebin: S. David, B. Kennedy.

BEST

Carlton: B. Gutknecht, S. Cubasch, S. Wright, A. McKay, K. Loynes, A. Prins
Darebin: J. Stanton, K. Roe, R. Hicks, E. McLaughlin, B. Patterson, L. Arnell

It was a disappointing loss for Darebin in the opening match of Round 15, going down by only eight points despite plenty of chances to get ahead of Carlton. Both sides only had pride on the line with no chance of making finals, but it was the Blues that got the points and their third win on the board. It was a match with constant lead changes, however Carlton ultimately made the most of their opportunities while the Falcons struggled with inaccuracy, spraying the goalposts and getting very little return. The Falcons were missing a big name in Lauren Pearce, and while Erin McLaughlin was impressive in the ruck regardless with 29 hitouts and 15 touches, the Falcons clearly missed Pearce’s forward presence. Also impressive were Jamie Stanton (24 disposals, four marks), Annalyse Lister (18 disposals, 11 tackles) and Reni Hicks (17 disposals, 15 tackles) while young gun Nell Morris-Dalton was threatening forward but ultimately unable to get a goal on the board, managing three minor scores. Katie Loynes was among the best for the Blues, collecting 22 disposals and 11 tackles while Abbie McKay kicked two goals from 13 touches. Bry Gurr was also right up in the contest, racking up 16 touches, eight tackles and a goal while Sidney Cubasch and Jaime Nelson combined for 47 hitouts.

COLLINGWOOD 1.2 | 1.2 | 3.2 | 3.4 (22)
ESSENDON 2.1 | 4.6 | 5.7 | 7.7 (49)

GOALS

Collingwood: R. Grant 2, K. Lynch.
Essendon: G. Patrikios 2, M. DeMatteo 2, M. Fogas, A. Quigley, L. Stepnell.

BEST

Collingwood: A. Porter, K. Lee, C. Bunker, N. Xenos, N. Hales, R. Grant
Essendon: G. Patrikios, G. Nanscawen, C. McIntosh, L. Ahrens, S. Nalder, M. Fogas

It was an interesting match for the table topping Magpies, ultimately putting out a team that was missing a number of big name players yet still going down to Essendon, a side that has struggled to get wins on the board all season. With a big source of firepower in Jaimee Lambert missing from the fray the Pies were still in with a chance despite their inexperience, however it was the Bombers’ mix of skilled youth and experience that got them over the line with impressive performances from 18 year old Georgia Patrikios (15 disposals, two goals) and veteran Cecilia McIntosh (18 disposals, six marks) combining for a solid 27-point victory. Also solid for the Bombers were Georgia Nanscawen (21 touches, seven tackles) and Lauren Ahrens (20 disposals, five marks) who combined well across the field, finding the likes of Patrikios, Monique De Matteo (two goals) and Alex Quigley (one goal, four behinds) inside 50. For Collingwood, Caitlin Bunker put out ultimately her best performance of 11 matches this season, collecting 25 touches and providing a vital run downfield while Emily Bliss, Emily Hastie and Katelyn Lee combined for 22 tackles. Meanwhile, Rebecca Grant (two goals) and Katie Lynch (one goal) contributed to the scoreline, keeping the Bombers on their toes.

RICHMOND 1.1 | 1.1 | 2.2 | 3.2 (20)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 4.0 | 4.1 | 7.1 | 10.3 (63)

GOALS

Richmond: A. Woodward, J. Colwell, S. Frederick.
Western Bulldogs: E. Georgostathis 3, K. Rennie 2, D. Marshall 2, D. Berry 2, B. Lochland.

BEST

Richmond: S. Frederick, A. Woodward, M. Conti, P. Monahan, K. Jacques, G. Seymour
Western Bulldogs: N. Ferres, D. Berry , D. Marshall, L. Spark, K. McLeod, C. Moody

While the Bulldogs were the side that started Richmond’s month-long losing streak, for the Dogs to pull out another big win against the Tigers proves that the side should not be underestimated in finals. While the Pies purposely played over the weekend with little experienced players named, the Tigers have no such excuse with a number of big names on the field who were unable to spark the side into action. Monique Conti and Kate Dempsey were among the best for Richmond, collecting 18 touches apiece and combining for seven tackles while Alana Woodward managed a team-high seven tackles and a goal. While Alice Edmonds impressed in the ruck with 31 hitouts and five tackles, she was controlled well by the Bulldogs’ shared rucks in Nicole McMahon (19 hitouts) and Celine Moody (16 hitouts). Also impressive for the Dogs were Bailey Hunt (20 disposals) and Naomi Ferres (19 disposals, seven tackles) while Elisabeth Georgostathis was one of four multiple goalkickers for the Bulldogs with three majors and six tackles from 14 disposals, combining well with Kimberley Rennie (two goals, five tackles), Deanna Berry (two goals, six tackles) and Danielle Marshall (two goals, six marks, five tackles).

CASEY 4.4 | 4.5 | 9.7 | 11.9 (75)
NT THUNDER 1.0 | 2.0 | 2.0 | 3.0 (18)

GOALS

Casey: K. Hore 3, C. Sherriff 2, M. Downie 2, L. Mithen 2, M. Hogg, S. Scott.
N Thunder: D. Ponter 2, R. Killian.

BEST

Casey: L. Mithen, B. Winbanks, K. Hore, M. Hogg, C. Sherriff, R. Edmeades
NT Thunder: J. Hickey, S. Riley, M. Ellis, E. Morrison, G. Cusack, M. Johnston

Similarly to the Bulldogs, while Casey managed an impressive win over Thunder last time they met there was no guarantee the inconsistent Demons would be able to pull a similar performance out of the bag. While the Dees may not have produced the same impressive score as their Round 11 victory, they were convincing from the get-go flying down field and finding plenty of forward options to put scores on the board. Thunder had patches of solid play, but were ultimately let down once again by their inconsistency and inability to string quarters together. Lily Mithen starred for the Dees, collecting a whopping 35 disposals and seven tackles, also going forward to kick two goals. Meg Downie was solid with 21 touches and two goals while Maddy Guerin put in her best performance since her early season form with 20 disposals, six tackles, three marks and two behinds. Kate Hore (three goals, five tackles) and Casey Sheriff (two goals, six marks, eight tackles) also provided valuable options inside 50 while Bridie Winbanks dominated in the ruck with 41 hitouts and seven tackles, while Thunder collected nine hitouts overall. For Thunder, Lisa Roberts (23 disposals, four tackles) and Sally Riley (20 disposals, 11 tackles) were solid, while Danielle Ponter added two more goals to her season tally and Jordann Hickey put in a season-best performance with 18 disposals and five tackles to her name.

SOUTHERN SAINTS 1.0 | 4.3 | 4.4 | 7.9 (51)
HAWTHORN 1.3 | 1.5 | 2.6 | 3.6 (24)

GOALS
Southern Saints:
M. McDonald 2, K. McCarthy 2, E. Mackie, T. Bohanna, K. Shierlaw.
Hawthorn: P. McWilliams 2, T. Kelly.

BEST

Southern Saints: K. O’Neill, S. Johnson, T. Lucas-Rodd, K. McCarthy, M. McDonald, O. Vesely
Hawthorn: T. Radan, R. Beeson, R. Dillon, P. McWilliams, L. Wotton, J. Membrey

The Southern Saints leapfrogged the Magpies into top spot this round with a convincing win over Hawthorn. While the Hawks are all but locked in for finals unless Round 16 goes drastically wrong, this win proves the Saints – and Magpies – in top spot are worlds apart from the rest of the top six. Despite a quiet third term the Saints kicked 3.5 to 1.0 in the last quarter to run away with the 26 point win. It was a shared effort by the Saints, with Olivia Vesely leading the disposal count with 19, while Alison Drennan returned for a solid performance collecting 17 disposals and seven tackles, matched by Samantha Johnson with 17 and eight tackles. Kate McCarthy (two goals from nine touches) and Molly McDonald (15 disposals, two goals) impressed while Jemima Kelly and Lou Wotton were well-matched in the ruck, collecting a respective 14 and 13 hitouts with neither really able to take control. For the Hawks, Talia Radan was solid with 18 touches while Jayde Van Dyke collected 16 disposals and four tackles and Phoebe McWilliams added two more goals to her tally, having put a score on the board in all but one of her matches this season.

WILLIAMSTOWN 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 (6)
GEELONG 1.0 | 2.0 | 4.3 | 8.4 (52)

GOALS

Williamstown: E. Gardner.
Geelong: J. Woollett 2, R. Caris 2, T. Love, M. Maguire, D. Taylor, S. Van De Heuvel.

BEST

Williamstown: A. Shannon, E. Straford, T. Merrett, M. Williamson, N. Wallace, E. Gardner
Geelong: S. Van De Heuvel, T. Love, R. Webster, D. Taylor, J. Woollett, R. Caris

Despite an impressive final margin, this match was likely too close for comfort for the Cats, who needed a win this week to raise their chances of a finals berth, very much reliant on a victory next week as well as relying on other results in Round 16. It was an even start to the match that gave Williamstown some hope, however the Cats were just far too good against the cellar dwelling Seagulls, kicking six goals nil in the second half to race away 46 point victors. For the Seagulls, Megan Williamson was impressive with 22 touches and eight tackles, aided by Danica Pederson (21 disposals, three marks, three tackles) and Rachel Achampong (27 hitouts) while Emily Gardner put Williamstown’s only goal on the board midway through the first. For the Cats, Amy McDonald (21 disposals, five tackles) and Tarryn Love (18 disposals, seven tackles, one goal) proved to be big ball movers around the field while Rene Caris (16 hitouts, 12 disposals, five marks, two goals) and Jaime Woollett (13 disposals, six tackles, two goals) provided solid options inside 50. Caris shared the role in the ruck with Kate Darby, who collected 13 hitouts and 16 disposals, also racking up four marks and four tackles.

BYE: Melbourne Uni

McDonald forges footy path

DANDENONG Stingrays’ captain and Vic Country leader Molly McDonald was in a different situation to most draft hopefuls coming into her top-age year. The talented midfielder did not have the question marks hanging over her head as to where she might be in 12 months time, having already been snapped up by St Kilda as a pre-listed player – along with Stingrays’ teammate Isabella Shannon – well ahead of the AFL Women’s 2020 season. The greater certainty over her playing future did not deter McDonald from having a starring role in Stingrays’ team, and being a key contributor in Vic Country’s AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships campaign.

McDonald originally started football after crossing from basketball when a pathway became clear.
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“I was playing basketball and then I quit rep’ because I always wanted to play footy,” she said. “I was with my brother, and then just started playing footy.”

The Stingrays’ leader said she relished the captaincy this year describing it as “really exciting”.

“I just like to get around the girls and lead as an example for them,” McDonald said at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day, hosted by Rookie Me in March.

Whilst McDonald enjoyed basketball and even reached representative levels in the sport, she always had the passion for football and said she enjoyed the “freedom” she had on the footy field, enabling her to run across the ground. Unfortunately the Stingrays did not make the finals of the NAB League Girls which McDonald had hoped for, but they showed plenty of promising signs, particularly early in the season when they pushed a number of teams. Individually, McDonald identified a number of areas for her to improve her game this year.

“Probably working on the aspects of my game that are not so strong,” McDonald said. “So working through the forward line and working on my opposite foot.”

In season 2019, McDonald averaged 13.7 disposals, 1.6 marks, 3.7 tackles and 3.9 inside 50s, while also booting a couple of goals spending time between midfield and half-forward. On debut for the Southern Saints, McDonald showed she was more than capable in the Saints’ win over Casey Demons, amassing 16 disposals, three marks and six tackles to be one of the best players on the field.

Following her VFLW commitments, McDonald headed north to assist Vic Country in going undefeated in Round 2 of the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships after they initially lost to Vic Metro. McDonald averaged 12.0 disposals, 4.3 tackles and 4.3 inside 50s and booted a goal across her three games, then returned to play her second VFLW match last weekend – oddly against Casey again – and booted her first goal in the competition.

Of all the achievements this season, McDonald’s greatest came during the week when she was named in the 2019 Under-18 AFL Women’s All-Australian side for her efforts during the national carnival. While many other top-age girls are hoping they can find a home in the AFL Women’s Draft later this year, McDonald’s fate is known, but it is not stopping her aiming to have a huge impact on the Southern Saints’ finals campaign with her side currently sitting second on the ladder, two games clear of third.

2019 AFLW Under-18 All Australian side announced

VIC COUNTRY has earned the most nominations in the 2019 AFL Women’s Under-18 All Australian side with six players named in the final 22. Country’s state rival Vic Metro had four, the same amount as Queensland despite the differing results at the championships. Western Australia and Central Allies both had three players in the side, whilst Eastern Allies had the two.

Geelong Falcons’ premiership captain Lucy McEvoy was named captain of the All Australian side, and was one of a number of multiple All Australians, including fellow Most Valuable Players (MVPs), Montana McKinnon and Georgia Patrikios, as well as Serene Watson, Gabby Newton and Lily Postlethwaite all backing up their 2018 selections with 2019 jumpers. McEvoy has the rare honour of making it three consecutive All Australian jumpers, named in the side from 2017-19.

Much like last year’s side, this year’s 2019 All Australian team features a number of bottom-agers, with Vic Country’s Tyanna Smith and Olivia Barber, Vic Metro’s Ellie McKenzie, and Central Allies’ Teah Charlton all making the team despite not being eligible to be drafted until next year.

Of the first time All-Australians, the defence is held down by Queensland with MVP Ellie Hampson and running machine Kitara Whap-Farrar joining Watson in the back six. Brenna Tarrant earns a key defensive post with Vic Country’s Millie Brown alongside teammate Smith at half-back.

Through midfield, St Kilda pre-listed player Molly McDonald and West Coast pre-listed midfielder Mikayla Bowen assist McEvoy onball, while Patrikios and the versatile Sophie Molan are on the wings.

In the forward 50, Roxanne Roux and Charlton are likely to provide the highlights in the air, while McKenzie and Eastern Allies’ MVP Mia King provides the strength. Newton and Barber straighten the side up with some height in the key posts.

Postlethwaite makes the bench once again in the side, joined by players from three different states in Central Allies’ Madison Newman, Western Australia’s Mim Strom and Vic Metro’s Laura McClelland.

Scouting notes: AFLW U18s – Wednesday, July 10

ON the second day of the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, we headed down to muddy Southport where Vic Metro and Vic Country picked up another two wins against Queensland and Eastern Allies respectively, while Western Australia defeated Central Allies in the final match of the day. All notes are opinion-based of the individual writer.

QUEENSLAND VS. VIC METRO

Queensland

By: Peter Williams

#4 Lily Postlethwaite

Another strong performance from the Queensland captain who just kept getting better as the game went on. Her last quarter was phenomenal as she tried to lift her side to victory. She finds a way out of tight situations and uses the ball well by hand or foot. A couple of times she was forced to pump the ball inside 50 and it was chopped off, but she set up scoring opportunities by teaming up with Zimmorlei Farquharson. She had a highlight play in the final term, winning the ball on the wing, hitting up Farquharson, running past, sidestepping an opponent after receiving the handball and kicking forward, although it was chopped off in the attacking 50. Overall another impressive game, but particularly in the second half.

#6 Allanah Phineasa

Had a couple of chances on goal in the second term with a quick snap under pressure in the goal square missing before she lead out and took a good mark then converted the set shot. Phineasa kept pushing up and being involved in the play.

#8 Isabel Dawes

Hits the ball at speed on a muddy ground which was interesting but impressive at the same time. She is able to work her way through traffic and generally uses the ball fairly well throughout. Dawes had a chance on goal late in the game but it was stopped on the line.

#13 Dee Heslop

Really strong opening term, using quick hands in defence and was able to use the ball well by hand or foot. She was the key to restricting Metro’s flow in that first half, and also laid a massive tackle during the game on Emily Harley to earn a free kick and save a goal scoring opportunity. She won a free kick in the final term and went to take the game on to try and create something, but was wrapped up and called for holding the ball.

#14 Serene Watson

One of, if not Queensland’s best on the day and she really put together a consistent four quarter effort in the back half. She read the ball well in flight and used quick hands to run the ball out of defence in muddy conditions. Watson was good one-on-one at half-back to spoil a difficult kick that was right to her direct opponent, but she was able to nullify that contest. She also made a good decision under pressure to turn away from her opponent earlier in the game, spin and hit up a short target on the wing, and continually showed composure with ball-in -hand to save a potential goal late in the game and still hit-up a teammate in the back pocket despite being chased.

#16 Elle Hampson

A work horse performance in conditions that suited her game style to a tee. While her kicking at times was a bit scrappy, she was able to thrive in the mud with some strong positioning in marking contests and around the ball, firing out crucial handballs at times and suffered leather poisoning with plenty of possessions around the ground. She also had a perfect kick down the middle to a teammate after marking at half-back, and when not in possession was good at protecting the ball drop to mark at half-back.

#19 Zimmorlei Farquharson

Had a much better second game than her first, making a real impact at Southport with strong positioning in marking contests and a presence around the ball that always made her look damaging. Farquhqrson protected the ball drop when leading at the football and was able to simplify her marking by taking it on her chest. She not only showed good offensive attributes, but defensive ones as well, running down an opponent right on the defensive 50 and then producing a lovely kick into Allanah Phineasa.

#26 Maddison Levi

Played well in the back 50 and showed nice composure when under pressure. She won a big one-on-one close to the boundary deep in defence in the first quarter to kick cleanly out of the danger zone. Levi did this a number of times throughout the match and just looked solid throughout. Her work with and without the ball was impressive on the day.

#27 Kitara Whap-Farrar

Had another impressive performance, particularly on the defensive side of things with some great tackles, including a big run-down tackle on Britney Gutknecht on the wing. She showed good acceleration and determination, and put pressure on the ball carrier constantly. Whap-Farrar was also able to use her vision to dispose of the ball cleanly, and showed nice hands when under pressure.

Vic Metro

By: Taylah Melki

#4 Nicola Xenos

Showed good glimpses of spatial awareness to kick to teammates in space and was able to pick the ball up with ease off the deck. Clever read of the play to stay down when all the players went up and used her clean hands to move the ball out of congestion. Good evasive skills to dodge a couple of players and skip through the middle of the ground.

#5 Elisabeth Georgostathis

She made her presence felt going in hard at the contest and competing at every contest possible. Applied good strong physical pressure and showcased her strength to get her arms free in the tackle and dish the ball off. Georgostathis presented hard up at the footy to give Metro options across the ground and used her dynamic movement to cause confusion. Got a good crumbing goal out of the pack midway through the fourth term credit to her consistent attacking pressure and ability to read the play. Had moments of clever play to break away from the pack and break lines but was inaccurate by foot at times.

#16 Emily Harley

Scored the opening goal for Vic Metro credit to a strong mark in the goal square over the top of a couple of players. She showcased her impressive knowledge to out body her opponent and work them under the ball to take a big strong mark and kick truly.

#17 Georgia Patrikios

After a quiet first quarter by her standards Patrikios well and truly imposed herself on the match in the following three quarters. She displayed her football smarts with a perfectly weighted pass in the second term to teammate Britney Gutknecht on the lead. Patrikios steadily built into the game in the second quarter winning plenty of ball and finding good space across the ground. She covered the ground well and ran hard throughout the match to provide options. Really clean hands coming out of defence to work the ball through traffic and hit a teammate in space. Constantly involved in the contest hunting around the back of stoppages and working her way through congestion to win the ball. She provided plenty of attacking and defensive pressure to make her presence felt right across the field with her clever decision making and silky skills.

#20 Sarah Sansonetti

Started the match off with good intent and was clean below the knees to pick the ball up off the ground and dish it off to a teammate. She tracked the ball well at ground level and used her long kick to move the ball out of the back half.

#21 Ellie McKenzie

She worked her way into the match really taking the game on and opening up space credit to her run and carry. Good use of angles and vision to kick to teammates on the lead and displayed her impressive spatial awareness with an over the shoulder handball to a teammate in space. McKenzie’s sheer ability to shrug off tacklers and burst away is second to none while also using her bullet like passes to slice through Queensland’s defence. She is a real bull around the contest going in hard to extract the footy time and time again. McKenzie proved that she is not afraid of the contest laying her body on the line and dishing out some bone bruising bumps to win the ball across the ground.

#23 Nell Morris-Dalton

The forward was awarded a 50 metre penalty in the third term and made no mistake kicking the footy straight through the middle to claim her first for the morning. Grew in confidence as the game went on taking a strong grab in the forward 50 but was unable to convert only registering a behind.

#26 Gabby Newton

Newton showcased her ability to read the play dropping into holes and taking timely intercept marks throughout the match. She was not afraid to apply some strong physical pressure with big tackles through the middle of the ground and used her strong hands to out mark her opponents. Provided a good lead in the forward 50 using her football nous to break away from her opponent. Her cleverly positioned kick put the ball to the top of the square resulting in a mark turned goal to set Metro up for the rest of the game. Utilised her long booming kick to move the ball inside forward 50 and create some possible scoring opportunities. Took a really strong mark on a tricky angle inside forward 50 and made no mistake banging it straight through the middle for her first goal of the game. Good off the deck to take the ball cleanly below her knees and bang it long down the line out of defence late in the fourth term.

#29 Cleo Saxon-Jones

Showcased her ability to be a real presence up forward with her imposing figure and long booming kick. She created a couple of scoring opportunities early in the first half to trap the ball inside the forward 50 but faded out a bit as the game went on.

#34 Jessica Fitzgerald

Really good positioning to take a clever intercept mark in the middle of the ground in the third term. Displayed her footy nous to cut off passes and then quickly transition into attack for Vic Metro. She worked hard throughout the match to win the ball and out position her opponent time and time again.

EASTERN ALLIES VS. VIC COUNTRY

Eastern Allies

By: Peter Williams

#9 Jayde Hamilton

A really strong defensive effort from the forward who capitalised after some hard running in the first term. She ran past her opponent and got to the ball first as it rolled along the ground close to goal for her to soccer it through for the first major of the day. Hamilton was able to create some good run across the ground and also crack in and lay a number of memorable tackles.

#10 Abby Favell

Had a really busy start to the game picking up some early touches, then buzzed around the ground to intercept the ball through either marking, tackling or implied pressure to help her teammates. She showed good hands moving the ball out of defence and was able to get to the right spots around the ground.

#11 Mia King

Got better as the game went on to be an inside machine, laying tackle after tackle with huge amounts of defensive pressure. King not only applied pressure to her opponents, but won the pill herself, racking up the most touches of anyone on her side. What is impressive is she not only uses the ball well, but cracks in at both ground level and in the air and always puts the team first with good bumps and shepherds to lead by example. Once she got going she was hard to stop with good acceleration and a hard edge to her game,

#13 Zoe Hurrell

Booted the second goal for Eastern Allies after a free kick just outside the goalsquare. Hurrell positioned herself well in the marking contest and earned the free, then set up a scoring opportunity for her teammate in Emily Hurley after Hurrell burst away to kick inside 50 nicely. A big tackle on the much taller Olivia Barber on the wing in the third quarter to earn a free kick was an important moment and overall she was really solid across the board.

#19 Sophie Phillips

Did not finish with a huge amount of touches but honestly was one of Eastern Allies’ best. Phillips was terrific in the back half with three big tackles leading to three free kicks and disposals that cleared the danger out of the back half. When the defence was under pressure, Phillips was a shining light and her best tackle came against Sophie Molan, stopping a would-be goal deep in defence.

#20 Brenna Tarrant

Another Eastern Allies player who was strong on the inside and found plenty of it going in hard at the contest. Tarrant showed good vision under pressure to hit-up a target going forward and was able to create some scoring opportunities by moving the ball on in transition. Tarrant also worked hard to push into defence and assist her teammates and play an important role throughout the game.

#21 Olivia O’Donnell

Started the game strongly with a long kick inside 50 to set up a goal, and just patrolled the defensive half of the ground winning the footy and dropping back to assist the defence. She was hard at it around the stoppages on her way to a solid game and the second most touches for her team behind Mia King.

Vic Country

#1 Elise Vella

Went in hard at the footy and was involved in the contest early on. Good attack on the footy to pick the ball up off the ground all in one action and dispose of it. Showed good composure to think her way through the traffic. 

#3 Paige Sheppard 

Found good space and used her long, accurate kick to hit targets. Showcased a safe set of hands to take strong grabs even with players coming at her. Good lead up at the footy in the forward 50 and slotted her first goal of the afternoon from about 35 out directly in front. 

#7 Ella Wood

Worked tirelessly throughout the match winning her fair share of the footy and making the most of her opportunities with ball in hand. Impressive sliding pick up off the ground to regain possession for Vic Country.

#9 Darcy Moloney

Almost kicked an impressive goal on an impossible angle in the first term with the ball hitting the post. She showed good goal sense to take a step and bring it back around but just missed out. Good hands out of congestion and impressive vision to find her teammates. Tracked the ball well at ground level and applied strong tackles. 

#10 Sophie Locke

Played her role across the field doing the little things right and regaining possession many times. Laid a huge tackle in third term and showed good awareness to come off her player and influence the play.

#12 Tyanna Smith 

Impressive through the midfield and at stoppages extracting the ball out of the packs and working it to a teammate in space. Good tackling pressure and intent to win the footy. Lovely kick and pass to McDonald to set up a scoring opportunity for Vic Metro.

#13 Molly McDonald

Good evasive skills to dodge a couple of opponents in the middle of the ground and still dispose of the ball. Good awareness to soccer the ball forward and keep it moving into their forward 50 to help supply forward pressure. Nailed her first goal of the game in the fourth quarter showcasing her good kicking action and strong hands to take a big mark inside 50.

#15 Isabella Shannon

Good long kick, always looking to move the ball on quickly and down the line. Slick hands out of the middle to bang it on the boot and push the ball forward. Clever burst of speed through the middle to kick the ball deep into the forward 50.

#19 Brooke Vernon

Clean pick up off the ground and good sense of spatial awareness to sight a teammate and handball the footy off to her.

#21 Sophie Molan

Really good run and carry through the midfield in the second term to open the ground right up. Strong in and around the contest to extract the footy and dish it off to teammates. Good tackling pressure to bring her opponent to ground. Beautiful snap around the body after reading the tap out of the ruck to top off her solid performance. 

#23 Lucy McEvoy

Hot start once again, finding good space and using her body to put muscle her opponents in the contest. Good both in the air and at ground level scrapping hard to win the footy time and time again. McEvoy showcased her tackling prowess with plenty of strong tackles to bring opponents to ground. Strong hands and displayed her football knowledge to float back into spaces and pick off errant passes and then quickly transition into attack. Really good angled kick through the middle of the ground to open up the whole field. Impressive evasive abilities to sidestep her opponent and palm off a handball. Took a huge contested mark in the fourth quarter using her body and brute strength to win the ball and penetrate inside 50.

#25 Olivia Barber 

Really strong mark above her head and good spatial awareness to move the ball on quickly into an open forward 50. Her forward thrust created a scoring opportunity for Vic County. Constantly stayed in the contest laying strong tackles and making her presence felt across the field. 

#27 Shanara Notman

Really injected herself into the contest going in hard at every opportunity. She worked hard in the ruck contests to try and out body her opponent and tap it to her teams advantage. Really good elevation to get up high and get a tap. Good clean pick up in the second quarter in the forward 50 with the ball rolling forward and kicking her first goal of the game. Showed good intent to keep the ball moving taking a strong mark in the forward 50 and playing on but just missed only managing a behind. Really good hands and composure to stand under the high ball but was unable to convert from a tricky angle in the forward 50. 

WESTERN AUSTRALIA VS. CENTRAL ALLIES

By: Taylah Melki

Western Australia

#9 Isabella Lewis

Contested hard to win the footy on the ground and proved that she was not afraid to take on the physicality of the game. Nailed an impressive goal from the boundary line midway through the second term. Highlighted her attacking abilities and footy smarts to go back and think her way through the shot. Lewis consistently

#10 Mikayla Hyde

Displayed her solid kicking action and strong hands to take a big grab and then convert from directly in front about 30 out in the third quarter. Hyde was clever in traffic to work her way through the players and deliver the ball to teammates in space.

#13 Kia Buckley

Good strong hands to take a contested mark on the chest. Found good space and in the forward 50 to set up play for her teammates. Created a real presence in the forward half using her footy smarts to get into damaging positions and having a ping at goal but just missing.  

#17 Mikayla Bowen

Lifted in intensity hitting the contests hard and using her voice to help set up play. Presented well up at the footy and capitalised on her opportunities in front of goal nailing her first goal in the last quarter. 

#22 Nyra Anderson

Electric around the stoppages always hunting the ball and applying strong tackles in and around the contest. Good evasive skill to get around her opponents and then bomb it long down the line.

#23 Mikayla Morrison

Displayed good footy nous to drop back into an open goal square and dribble one through for her first of the afternoon. She ran hard across the ground and showed good composure to not blaze away. 

#29 Roxanne Roux

Showcased her defensive pressure with a good smother in the midfield to stop the forward foray of Central Allies. Constantly involved in the contest and used her aerial abilities to contest the ball in the air and attack the hands of the opposition. Took a really big leap in the third quarter but was unlucky to not come down with the footy. Roux applied plenty of physicality and worked overtime to try and win the ball for WA. Applied plenty of physical pressure laying bone crunching tackles but copped a head knock in the third and forced her to come off with a blood rule. 

Central Allies

#9 Jaimi Tabb

Real bull around the contest applying strong physical pressure. Did not take a backwards step throughout the game. Good burst through the stoppage in the forward 50 having a shot at goal but had more time than she thought with the ball going out of bounds.

#10 Madison Newman

Good with ball in hand and showed great composure across the field to work the ball through traffic and dish it out to a teammate. Used her long penetrating kick to move the call forward. Good hands in close and impressive spatial awareness to spin out of trouble and into open space. 

#11 Teagan Usher

Impressive diving mark to regain possession for the Allies showcasing her skills and desperation to put her body on the line. Strong booming kick to move the ball forward and great scoring opportunities for the Allies. She was constantly involved in the action and worked tirelessly to try and win the ball.

#13 Kiana Lee

Imposed herself in the forward 50 with a good strong mark directly in front but was unable to covert with the ball just dropping short. Really good strong contested mark on the wing to our body her opponent and bomb the ball forward. Won her fair share of the footy and found good space to work the ball into.

#23 Stephanie Williams

Displayed her speed and skill to burst down the wing and create some run and carry. Good user of the footy and always looked to move the ball on and down the field. She was competitive throughout the match and had glimpses of real excitement.

#26 Montana McKinnon

Really good in the defensive end picking off errant passes and applying good pressure. Strong one on one and tried hard to limit the forward thrusts from Western Australia. She was a real lynchpin down in defence using her voice to help set up play. McKinnon out bodied her opponents on multiple times and showcased her strength above her head to clunk some important and timely marks.

Vic Country pulls away for 30-point win over Eastern Allies

VIC Country prevailed over Eastern Allies in the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships in a 30-point victory that saw two completely different halves of footy.

It was a very offensive first term, with both sides finding plenty of the ball inside 50 but a great defensive effort kept both sides off the board. The Eastern Allies opened the scoring for the afternoon, with Jayde Hamilton kicking a beautiful goal from right in front after finding her way out of congestion. However, Country were not to be outplayed, getting one back almost immediately thanks to Olivia Barber on the run, using the ball well out of stoppages credit to clean handballs and movement out of the pack. The Allies’ tackling pressure was impressive, doing their best to dominate every stoppage with physicality and pressure on both the ball and player. Country finished the first term well, stealing the momentum and going into the second with an eight point lead.

The Allies started strong once more, getting an early goal on the board credit to some great movement down the wing, rarely moving through the guts unless turning it over from Country. But Country once again got two goals back, with entries finding good space over the back to the forward line in prime position credit to the side’s ability to clear the ball effectively. The Allies showed some good intent, finding their way out of congestion well and doing a good job to limit Country moving downfield, cutting them off inside 50 and creating two-on-one contests. It was not enough, however, as Country continued to hold onto momentum despite an even quarter.

Both sides tightened up in the third, with only the one minor score to Country to speak for a quarter chock full of massive defensive efforts across the board. Country tightened up across half-back, blocking up entries via the pocket and effectively stopping the Allies at their main access point, however had difficulty getting ball back out once it came inside 50 credit to the offensive pressure from the Allies. The Allies’ defensive unit worked overtime locking the ball in their forward half, with tackling pressure key as Country continued to fight for dominance.

Both sides came into the final term hungry and raring to go after a mostly uneventful third quarter, attacking the ball and fighting for dominance with plenty of time to close the margin. Despite some scrappiness early, Country had no shortage of entries inside 50, finding plenty of it but being cut off by the Allies once more. What was an impressive attacking battle eventuated in a solid defensive contest, seeing Country outlast Eastern Allies with two final quarter goals all but sealing the deal for a 30-point victory.

The victory saw Lucy McEvoy dominate possession, racking up 24 disposals, three marks and three tackles, aided across the field by the likes of Paige Sheppard (17 disposals, one goal) and Molly McDonald (14 touches, eight tackles, four inside 50s). For the losing side, Mia King found plenty of the ball with 18 touches and 14 tackles, joined by Olivia O’Donnell (15 disposals, four clearances) and Hamilton (10 disposals, 11 tackles, one goal).

VIC COUNTRY 2.2 | 4.4 | 4.5 | 6.6 (42)
EASTERN ALLIES 1.0 | 2.0 | 2.0 | 2.0 (12)

GOALS:

VC: P. Sheppard, M. McDonald, S. Molan, O. Barber, B. Hards, S. Notman.
EA: Z. Hurrell, J. Hamilton.

ADC BEST:

VC: L. McEvoy, M. McDonald, P. Sheppard, S. Molan, S. Notman, T. Smith
EA: M. King, B. Tarrant, J. Hamilton, O. O’Donnell, A. Favell, S. Phillips

AFLW U18 Championships preview: Vic Country vs. Vic Metro

VICTORIA’S top under-age female footballers lock horns in the final game of the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships Series One. Vic Country takes on Vic Metro at Avalon Airport Oval tomorrow, with both sides packed to the brim with talent. After facing off in the NAB League Girls competition all year, the best of the best now team up for state pride as they prepare for Series Two of the competition up on the Gold Coast in a fortnight. We take a look at both sides and analyse the key strengths of the teams.

Note: The game will be live streamed via the NAB League website with commentary from Under-18 and VFLW commentator Matthew Cocks, and Draft Central Chief Editor Peter Williams.

VIC COUNTRY

B: 10. Sophie Locke – 22. Millie Brown – 30. Daisy Smith
HB: 19. Brooke Vernon – 14. Abbey Chapman – 15 Isabella Shannon
C: 12. Tyanna Smith – 23. Lucy McEvoy – 13. Molly McDonald
HF: 3. Paige Sheppard – 27. Shanara Notman – 24. Isabella Simmons
F: 4. Renee Saulitis – 25. Olivia Barber – 9. Darcy Moloney
R: 29. Maggie Caris – 11. Brooke Hards – 5. Luka Lesosky-Hay
INT: 21. Sophie Molan – 1. Elise Vella – 28. Georgia Howes – 18. Kate Douglass – 6. Laura Gardiner – 16. Renee Tierney

Vic Country is unsurprisingly packed with 2018 premiers and 2019 finalists, Geelong Falcons, with nine of the 24 players named in the Country squad from the Falcons team. Given exciting forward Mia Skinner is injured, their representation could well have reached double figures for the Aasta O’Connor-coached side. The aspects to like about Vic Country will be their defence, hardness at the ball and the X-factor up forward.

1. Defence

The Country side has two genuine lockdown talls who can also provide some rebound in Abbey Chapman and Kate Douglass, while Millie Brown – named at full-back is an offensive defender with a terrific set of hands and can push up into the midfield to provide support. Brooke Vernon was the best rebounding medium defender this year and having her at half-back will be an asset, while seeing Isabella Shannon named in the back half is a surprise, but just shows her versatility having played mostly through midfield and up forward. She does have the capacity to drop back into the hole in defence, and no doubt she will be required to do so with the tall Metro attack likely to stretch the defence. Sophie Locke will likely lock down on a smaller opponent – perhaps Nicola Xenos or Jess Fitzgerald when forward – while Daisy Smith can do the same, although she is more likely to play tall. Given the height and marking ability of the Metro side, they might need three talls in defence to counteract Metro’s strength in the air.

2. Hardness at the ball

If you look at the starting five midfield of Brooke Hards, Luka Lesosky-Hay, Tyanna Smith, Lucy McEvoy and Molly McDonald, the first thing that comes to mind is – you would not want to be an opposition midfielder. They attack the ball hard, and will rack up the contested ball and is an area they can exploit Metro. Smith has a point of difference with her pace, as does the outside run of Elise Vella coming off the bench, but the speed that Metro possesses will trouble the Country side. It is why winning it at the coalface is so important, and McEvoy, Hards and McDonald in particular will not take a backwards step, being captains and potential future captain of their respective NAB League girls clubs. With Maggie Caris in the ruck, the midfield will get first look at it more often than not, and that midfield also includes the likes of Sophie Molan and Laura Gardiner coming off the bench, as well as Paige Sheppard and Darcy Moloney who can rotate through there, as can Shannon and Brown.

3. X-factor up forward

The named Vic Country forward line is almost one to watch for 2020, with four of the six starting forwards not eligible to be drafted until next year. The two exceptions are Shanara Notman – an exciting key position player with a huge leap and terrific hands, who has spent time in defence this year for Gippsland Power after sitting out last year – and Paige Sheppard – who is one of the better kicks in the team, setting up forward plays with great precision kicking and vision. Otherwise, the remaining four still have plenty of time to develop, with Olivia Barber one of the most exciting key forwards coming through, able to make the right leads and clunk marks, just needing to iron out her set shots at times. Isabella Simmons is a tall prospect with good athleticism who roams up to the wing and can play tall or small at ground level, while Darcy Moloney and Renee Saulitis are clever forwards who if you give them an inch will take a mile. Moloney has spent time in the midfield for the Falcons this year, while Saulitis has also proven to be a more than capable defender, so versatility is something the Country side has in spades. The forward line has the nice balance of talls and smalls, and of course chuck in Renee Tierney and Georgia Howes off the bench – Howes will also share the ruck load with Caris – and there is plenty of scoring potential there.

VIC METRO

B: 2. Felicity Theodore – 28. Isabelle Pritchard – 14. Laura McClelland
HB: 22. Sarah Hartwig – 20. Sarah Sansonetti – 12. Alice Burke
C: 8. Mimi Hill – 13. Britney Gutknecht – 17. Georgia Patrikios
HF: 26. Gabrielle Newton – 29. Cleo Saxon-Jones – 24. Isabella Grant
F: 15. Alyssa Bannan – 23. Nell Morris-Dalton – 4. Nicola Xenos
R: 27. Molly Denahy Moloney – 3. Gemma Lagioia – 21. Ellie McKenzie
INT: 19. Marguerite Purcell – 5. Elisabeth Georgostathis – 34. Jessica Fitzgerald – 10. Alana Barba – 18. Emma Horne – 9. Bella Eddey

Vic Metro will head into this game pretty confident following their win over Vic Country last year as arguable underdogs. This year they will likely go in as favourites, but it is predicted to be a tight contest. There are quite a few reasons for their favouritism, but the forward line marking ability is the number one aspect, while others include their speed, and intercept marking.

1. Marks inside 50

The Metro side has a dynamic forward line, with many incredibly athletic at ground level and can impress in the air or at ground level. The two that are the genuine key position players – Cleo-Saxon Jones and Nell Morris-Dalton – are arguably the two best contested marks in the competition this year, and throwing them into attack with Gabby Newton, Isabella Grant and Alyssa Bannan means the attack has a massive advantage for high balls coming in. The Vic Country defence will need to be on their guard with the forward line also capable of pushing up the ground and rotating through the midfield with any one of those five capable of playing as a key position player, while all have the possibility of giving a chop out in the ruck. Nicola Xenos is the sixth forward, who adds more speed at ground level and can also play out of defence or along the wing. Emma Horne, Jess Fitzgerald or Bella Eddey are all named on the bench, and the trio can add that smaller element to the forward mix, particularly Eddey who can play tall or small with plenty of X-factor.

2. Speed

Having already spoke about Vic Country’s advantage on the inside, Vic Metro’s advantage is on the outside, and particularly with speed. Most of the starting midfield has serious wheels, with Gemma Lagioia, Ellie McKenzie and Mimi Hill all capable to taking off on runs. Georgia Patrikios is the most agile player in the competition, so expect her to use her trademark sidestep to get around opponents, while Britney Gutknecht can also get herself out of trouble. While Country does have more hardness on the inside, McKenzie and Gutknecht will form the same bond they did in the Knights’ premiership side, looking to extract the ball out to their runners, or take the game on themselves. Fitzgerald is another who adds to the speed and is one of the best kicks in the side, while Marguerite Purcell also adds some outside run. Alana Barba was one of the most prolific tacklers in the NAB League Girls competition, so she will assists Gutknecht and McKenzie rotating off the bench, while Elisabeth Georgostathis will likely spend time through the midfield and rotate with Alice Burke off half-back. If the Vic Country midfield gets on top on the inside, do not be surprised to see Georgostathis and Burke thrown into the middle with Gutknecht or McKenzie to add some extra grunt. Molly Denahy Moloney will hope to counteract the leap of Caris, but does have her when it comes to around the ground, with Denahy Moloney one of the better athletes among the talls.

3. Intercept marking

We talked about the strength in the air in attack, but the embarrassment of riches down back in terms of the three tall defenders is a luxury that Vic Metro has. Sarah Hartwig and Isabelle Pritchard are arguably the two best intercept markers – along with teammate Sarah Sansonetti and Country duo Brown and Chapman – and they will likely pick off anything that comes their way. They can all play as rebounding defenders or to shut down their opponent, with Sansonetti the top shutdown tall, while Hartwig is the top rebounding tall. The mix can be swapped around depending on how games play out at the championships, but to have the three – two of which are middle-age and will form the key defensive partnership next year – is something Metro coach Nathan Burke will love. With running machine Felicity Theodore and Alice Burke also back there, the Metro team have speed and defensive pressure that can run down forwards heading into goal. Laura McClelland is more often known for her ability in the forward half, but she can mark the ball and find space well, adding to the height in defence. As mentioned, Georgostathis is another player who might rotate through the defensive mix, while Barba is also known to drop back into defence at times, allowing for some versatility for the Metro coaching staff.