Tag: Murray Bushrangers

Q&A: Ally Morphett & India Lehman (Murray Bushrangers)

THE 2021 NAB League Girls season bounces down on Saturday, and Draft Central‘s coverage of the elite talent pathway is heating up. We chatted to a raft of prospects at the recent NAB League Girls preseason testing day, hosted by Rookie Me, with a running theme between the players their eagerness to get back to competitive action after an 11-month layoff.

Murray Bushrangers products Ally Morphett and India Lehman were among them, two top-agers keen to show their worth in 2021 as draft-eligible talents. Morphett is a ruck/key forward who was named in this year’s AFLW Academy, while Lehman is a roving small who runs through the midfield and forwardline.

Check out what they had to say on the season ahead in a Q&A special, with video content from their Bushies teammates set to hit our YouTube channel in the coming days.

>> 2021 Season Preview: Murray Bushrangers 

Q&A

Q: What has your footballing journey been like so far?

Morphett (AM): “It started in 2018, I got asked by one of my school teachers to come and play school footy. “I’ve been around footy my whole life, my family and parents have always been into it so why not? (I) just jumped into it, had a go. “I suppose my parents and coaches saw potential in me and I got invited to Riverina trials and it just kept going further and further from then, on.”

Lehman (IL): “I started back when I was a young one, my local town had a little Auskick program happening. “There wasn’t very many of us, there were only a couple of little girls running around. “I remember only one of my close mates was with me then, running around the Auskick field. “There was a bit of primary school footy after and mainly school footy got me into where I am now.”

Q: What kind of role or position are you looking to play this season?

AM: “Most people see me more as a ruck but I would like to be a bit more of a versatile player and be more a key forward as well. “(Playing forward) is fun but I do enjoy both roles very much.”

IL: “I’ll look to hopefully play in the midfield, keep in my position there. “I look to be a better player each game, improving my game, learning more skills and applying them.”

Q: What are your best on-field strengths?

AM: “My strengths would probably be strength in the air and in the ruck… and probably just a big kick as well.”

IL: “My strengths I’d see as speed, I’ve definitely got that on me. “I’m good to just pick up the ball, get on the burners and take on the grass, taking on the game.”

Q: What are you still looking to improve on?

AM: “Obviously my marking, there’s always room for improvement in every area but probably my marking most. “I’d like to be a lot more strong.”

IL: “I’m looking to build on just overall endurance to keep running as long as possible, as much as I can. “And I guess you can never have clean enough hands.”

Q: Who have been your biggest inspirations?

AM: “Definitely my parents – my parents work just as hard as me, if not more. “They commit a lot to me playing football, they have to miss out on work all the time and I don’t know how they manage to get time to take me to games and training and everything, so I appreciate their help.”

IL: Definitely Tayla Harris, making an image in the AFLW world for all the young girls. “And in recent events, Tarni Evans, coming from the club that I’m playing for and making it into the big leagues is pretty inspiring.”

Q: What are some of your goals for 2021?

AM: “Just to keep pushing through and trying to get better and better every time because there’s always room for improvement. “And probably just to be a more versatile player.”

IL: “The goal is to just have an injury-free season, get through the season and hopefully get noticed really.”

Q: What has the travel factor been like for you over your journey?

AM: During preseason we did two and a half hours down to Wangaratta just for training, around twice a week. “Then obviously during season we had to travel about five hours up to Melbourne for games and sometimes two and a half for local games at Wangaratta. “Canberra’s around the same.”

Q: How good was it being able to play football during 2020?

AM: “Lucky we live where we do because we travel down to Victoria and since coronavirus happened, luckily enough Canberra kept pushing through with their football so we were lucky enough to put our time into their league and travel down there every week.”

Murray Bushrangers Talent Operations Lead Mick Wilson on…

Morphett: “Ally’s a very talented sportsperson. “She competes really well, is really skilled. “She competes well above her head and has played football for a while now so has the footy nous.”

Lehman: “India Lehman is a smaller player. “She’s a rover/defensive pressure forward. “All these girls are really talented players, we didn’t get to see much of them last year, but we’ve got a really good opportunity to see them this year which is great.”

Bushrangers fired up for new season

MURRAY Bushrangers coaches and players will be excited when the long wait for a NAB League game is finally over next weekend. The NAB League Girls kicks off on the weekend of February 6-7 and the Bushrangers lock horns with Bendigo Pioneers up in Yarrawonga in a traditional country clash. For Bushrangers’ Talent Operations Lead Mick Wilson, the realisation has dawned on the club that after 10 months of preseason and offseason, NAB League will return.

“I think everyone’s pretty excited,” Wilson said. “Realistically we’ve had quite a number of lead ups. “With COVID last year and coming back and building up to potentially starting up at training, there was another stop and so the excitement that the boys and girls realised something will happen now.

“When you think about it the boys program, the girls program got to play two games, the boys haven’t played at all. “So you’re putting in almost two preseasons before a game of footy. So there’s a lot of excitement around the place and everyone is looking forward to playing a game of footy.”

Between the COVID-19 global pandemic and the recent heatwave in Victoria’s north-east, it has not made training or preparation easy. Wilson said it took a lot of “self-discipline” from the players, but admitted every club was in the same boat.

It’s obviously a dramatic change to what we’re used to. The girls up to their first game had something like 30-odd training sessions, so that’s significant. That’s something that COVID caused that change and you’ve just got to work with that and the kids have been fantastic and have all been working really hard in their programs.

“The boys and girls had to be really self-disciplined, but we’re no different to 12 other teams, it’s just the new world now. Obviously the first couple of rounds it will take the players to adjust because the matchday intensity is so much more significant, in regards to the pace of the match, it doesn’t replicate real game day intensity, so the girls will feel that and I suppose we’ve also had the heat and the girls have been working hard. “Hopefully we get away for a few days that aren’t so hot with four of our matches in February.”

Looking at the 2021 Murray Bushrangers list, AFL Women’s Academy member Ally Morphett stands out, with the talented tall having starred in the AFL Canberra League, finishing runner-up in the Bainrot Medal (league best and fairest) at just 16-years-old. Now a top-age talent, the New South Wales local is one who will provide competitiveness in the air, and great skills for a taller player.

“Ally’s a very talented sportsperson,” Wilson said. “She competes really well, is really skilled. “She competes well above her head, and has played football for a while now so has the footy nous.”

Outside of Morphett though, the Bushrangers are flushed with depth across the field which has pleased the coaching staff ahead of the season. Wilson said there were a number of draft-eligible players who were robbed of an opportunity as middle-agers in 2020, but were keen to show what they could do this year.

“We’ve also got Sophia McCarthy, she’s a top-age (turning 19) player this year,” Wilson said. “She’s really developed well in the preseason. “Her kicking is at the elite level, she’s a brilliant kick and she’s worked on her fitness, and had a really, really strong preseason. “She’ll probably be playing either as a key forward or key back in the first few games.”

“There’s some other top players in their draft years, Lily Sharp is a girl from Finley, she’s another very talented young player. “Really, really nice kid. “She’ll play through the midfield. “Molly Kennedy‘s a midfielder as well who moves really well. She’s in her draft year.

India Lehman is a smaller player. “India is a rover/defensive pressure forward. “All these girls are really talented players, we didn’t get to see much of them last year, but we’ve got a really good opportunity to see them this year which is great.”

The squad might be an exciting one, but as always, it is more so about development and how far players can go in 2021 to give themselves the best chance to reach the elite level, or improve their game to get as far as they can with their football journey.

“While we’re hoping to be competitive to give players exposure at the highest level they can play, we’re all about development,” Wilson said. “So specifically we’re not looking at results and whether we’ll finish into the finals. “That’s not really an ambition or a goal, it’s really about development.”

Having a team that features players from both sides of the Victoria-New South Wales border made 2020 difficult given restrictions not only to training numbers, but to access during hard lockdown, but Wilson said the Bushrangers had a “pretty resilient group”.

Last year’s captain Kate Adams will return to the club in 2021 as one of the nominated 19-year-old talents coming through, and will take up the role again.

“Kate was captain last year and she’s coming back into the program,” Wilson said. “It’s pretty significant for these kids because a lot of them are going to university or finishing Year 12 and going into full-time work so the way they’ve been transitioning has been fantastic. “Kate’s coming back and she will play through the midfield, have a midfield role this year most likely if she’s going to be around and not moving for university, she will continue to be captain again.”

One of the top prospects for 2022 is middle-ager Keeley Skepper who starred at the Under 16s Championships for Vic Country, as did teammate Cassidy Mailer. Unfortunately for the latter, a rare stress-related fracture to her tibia has ruled her out for at least the first half of the season. Wilson said she was doing well despite the injury, “she’s really dedicated in her rehab and we’re looking forward to seeing her come back.”

Skepper’s preseason has also impressed Wilson who named her as one on of the top performers on the track amongst a number of players who have stood out over the preseason.

“Keeley Skepper’s been terrific,” he said. “Her running has been outstanding, she just keeps going and working really hard. Lily Sharp is another one who’s been doing work and training hard. “I mentioned Sophia McCarthy before, she’s had a really good preseason, and Soph identified that was an improvement and she’s worked really hard in that area. “There’s two of our younger players, girls in the ’05 who have been going really well, but realistically across the board we’re fairly even.”

Now the preseason is done and dusted, just one week remains until the Bushrangers have a chance to put theory into practice when they meet the Pioneers on the border next Saturday, February 6.

Hard-working Barber ready to transition to elite level

IT was all or nothing for Murray Bushrangers’ Olivia Barber who took the chance on a fledgling Australian Rules football career at the start of last year compared to her tried and trusted basketball one. Whilst Barber was tracking superbly for the Bushrangers and played for Vic Country at Under 16s level, she had already achieved that feat with basketball and more, having only completed a full year of football at the age of 16.

“I played basketball for New South Wales Country for a while for four years and then I was also training with the Australian team for that, and then I started playing footy when I was 16,” Barber said. “How footy started for me was I got asked to play footy at school one day and I got approached by some staff members from the Murray Bushrangers and I went and had some training sessions with them, and then I got into the team and I’ve played for the Murray Bushrangers for two and a half years.”

While it might sound like a familiar set of circumstances, Barber was forced to make a tough choice, told to fully commit to her National Basketball League (NBL)1 side. While Barber enjoyed the sport that had taken her to the national level, football was something that was more flexible and was taking her focus away.

“Last year I had to make a decision on whether I wanted to only play basketball or footy, because basketball just didn’t allow me to play both sports because of how successful it was and the commitments they wanted from me. “So it came down to a decision of what I loved more and that was footy so I ended up giving basketball away in March last year.”

Despite the sports only crossing over for a short time period, and Barber unable to deny her chance at representing the Bushrangers, she made her choice. Barber left her basketball and “hasn’t gone back playing basketball since”.

The Barnawartha local is in an equally unique situation, living on the Victorian side of the border, but going to school in New South Wales. It means the equally unique situation of representing Vic Country at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, but playing in the New South Wales All-Schools tournament.

Living in country Victoria and representing New South Wales as well, Barber has always had plenty of travelling commitments, admitting she travelled to places such as Newcastle, Wollongong, Penrith and Sydney most weekends, and that made her school-sport life balance difficult. Football became an outlet for Barber who said she loved the physical nature of the game and how aggressive everyone on the field can be.

“I like going out on the field and being free to play,” Barber said. “Having your own game but you’re also sharing the field with 17 other teammates. “I just prefer the sport over everything else. “It’s just a game that I really love and I always turn up with a smile on my face at training or playing on game day.”

As an incredible contested mark, Barber said she was hoping to build up her endurance, doing plenty of running over the break to help with that, whilst treating the time off as a way to knuckle down on her studies being in her final year of high school. While it has given her a chance to focus on her schooling, she admitted it was devastating to have the season called off after sustaining a head knock in Round 1 this year and being ruled out of the Bushrangers’ other game.

“I was pretty devastated because I also only got to play the one game because of my head knock at the start of the year,” Barber said. “I think going into the year as a top-age player I was ready to dominate. “I was very excited, but nervous and obviously my national carnival year last year I played pretty good but I thought this year was going to be my year where I could dominate because I worked so hard in the preseason leading up to the round and unfortunately I only got to play the one game.”

Barber stood out last year at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, having a real impact up forward for Vic Country as a middle-ager and earning All-Australian honours. When asked if the first game where she kicked multiple goals on Metricon Stadium was a confidence booster, she said to some degree.

“Yeah it was, but leading up to that first game I wasn’t really prepared as in I didn’t train the last couple of training sessions because of my knee, so I didn’t know how I was going to go,” Barber said. “I think goals they can say a lot, but then individually for me they don’t say much, because if I didn’t do the work to get the goal, then the goal doesn’t really matter to me. “It’s the overall game for me and how I play overall, not just the four goals that I kicked.”

Barber has been a member of the AFL Women’s Academy for a couple of years now as both a middle-ager and top-ager, which she describes as a “game changer”.

“It made me realise how professional the sport was, and how determined and committed I was to actually succeed in the sport,” Barber said. “It really helped me out a lot in my first year.”

As for someone who has been there for her throughout her sporting journey and providing her with support, it was easy to pick out an inspiration close to home.

“My dad’s been there since day one helping me out with everything and anything along my journey,” Barber said. “He’s always been my biggest inspiration and my hero. “He does everything for  me and he never lets me down and I thank him for a lot.”

Now with the AFL Women’s Draft just a couple of days away, Barber said it would be a massive honour to reach the top level, but she would also not suddenly stop the moment she got into the system, with an eye on always improving no matter what.

“It would honestly mean the world to me because everything I’ve done over the years, I’ve pushed myself so hard to get to the level as high as the AFLW and I think getting drafted would just mean so much to me,” she said. “Although the work isn’t paid off when I do get drafted, I will get a chance to work hard. “If I do get drafted, I will get a chance to work even harder and pay off all the work I’ve done in previous years.”

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: East Fremantle vs. Murray Bushrangers

OUR next All-Star Team battle makes for an intriguing semi final clash, set to play out between a West Australian talent factory, and a powerhouse Victorian region in East Fremantle and the Murray Bushrangers respectively. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were West Coast Eagles champion Ben Cousins (East Fremantle) and current Collingwood star, Steele Sidebottom (Murray).

These clubs are seeded first (East Fremantle) and fourth (Murray) respectively, as the seed gap between each side closes with each passing fixture. The proposed Bushrangers squad outvoted Sturt, the Oakleigh Chargers and Northern Knights, while East Fremantle’s path to this stage came through the Calder Cannons and Sandringham Dragons after a first round bye. The winner will qualify for the Grand Final, set to face either the Port Adelaide Magpies or Geelong Falcons.

>> SCROLL TO VIEW THE FULL TEAMS

TALKING POINTS

THE MIDFIELD BATTLE:

This one should be fairly straightforward, as East Fremantle arguably boasts the strongest starting midfield group in the draw. With Brownlow medalists and AFL premiership players, Cousins and Simon Black joined by current Carlton co-captain Patrick Cripps at the centre bounces, it’s hard to see any side beating that kind of balance through the engine room. Cripps provides the inside grunt, while Black is the silk, and Cousins the gut-running accumulator. Fremantle champion Paul Hasleby has even been pushed out to a wing, partnering the late Chris Mainwaring.

That’s not to say that Murray lags in the midfield department, with David Mundy, Clayton Oliver, and Tom Rockliff no slouches by any stretch. Add the running power of Sidebottom and dynamism of Brett Deledio on the outer, and you have a seriously talented group. While we would still take the Sharks’ starting centre bounce trio, what really sets them apart in this matchup is their depth. Not only have Elliot Yeo (half-back) and Andrew Swallow (half-forward) been squeezed out to the flanks, but the likes of Daniel Kerr, Shane Woewodin, Dom Cassisi, and Shaun McManus also remain on the interchange. Murray would be able to rotate Jack Ziebell and Steve Johnson through from the forwardline, but that kind of firepower is near-impossible to match.

You could hardly build a better midfield core if you tried than what East Fremantle lays claim to, so the Sharks clearly get the points in this midfield battle. With a balance of class, grunt, endurance, and depth, it’s everything you could ask for.

THE KEY POSITION STOCKS:

As has been the case with many of Murray’s matchups, its starting key position spine is arguably weaker than the opposition offering, but depth seems to give the Bushies a deal of versatility which cannot be matched. East Fremantle lays claim to Luke McPharlin and Harry Taylor down back, with Paddy Ryder accompanying Josh J. Kennedy up forward, and Aaron Sandilands taking on the ruck duties. Bigman Darren Bennett also features in the forward pocket, potentially able to fill Ryder’s spot once the Port player gives Sandilands a chop-out on the ball. With McPharlin and Taylor also know to swing forward at times, the Sharks have a pretty handy rotation, with Cale Hooker also in the mix.

But Murray’s may well be better through a sheer weight of options. Where East Fremantle may struggle for numbers, the Bushrangers thrive, able to fit a bunch of pieces to its key position puzzle. Ben Reid and Alipate Carlile make up the defensive pairing, while Barry Hall and Jarrad Waite are a solid forward combination. Add Fraser Gehrig and ruckman Steven King to the mix, and the spine is quite good. The difference makers come from the bench though, with Ben McEvoy and Justin Koschitzke both able to plug gaps through the ruck or up either end, while Sam Reid could also prove a handy swingman – much like his brother.

By way of its diversity and superior range of options, Murray takes out the key position battle overall, even if East Fremantle’s starters arguably hold a slight edge.

SUMMARY:

To cut a long story short, we’re backing our first seed to qualify for the Grand Final. As one of the most prolific producers of high-level West Australian talent, East Fremantle simply boasts too much class for many sides to handle. Murray matches up well, and may even get ahead in some areas, but would not be able to match the Sharks where it matters most, in midfield. They’re strong everywhere else too, and will be difficult to top in the decider.

Which All-Star Team are you picking?
East Fremantle Sharks
Murray Bushrangers
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AFLWU18s to Watch: Olivia Barber (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

IN a new series focusing on the up and coming AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls, we take a look at some names who would be among their respective states’ top draft prospects for the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Next under the microscope is Murray Bushrangers’ key forward Olivia Barber who is one of the most talented players going around and is also a high-level basketballer

Olivia Barber (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)

Height: 185cm
Position: Key Forward
Strengths: Contested marking, scoreboard impact, ground balls, goal sense, athleticism

2020 NAB League stats: 1 game | 7.0 disposals | 3.0 marks | 3.0 tackles | 1.0 inside 50s | 2.0 hitouts | 1 goal

2019 NAB League stats: 6 games | 10.5 disposals | 3.7 marks | 3.0 tackles | 1.0 inside 50s | 2.0 hitouts | 7 goals

AFLW U18 Girls Championships: 3 games | 10.7 disposals | 3.3 marks | 6.0 hitouts | 1.7 tackles | 1.3 inside 50s | 5 goals

One of the most touted key forwards after last year’s AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships was Murray Bushrangers and Vic Country’s Olivia Barber. Coming from a basketball background and playing at the sub-elite Australian level, Barber shows how she can apply these traits to her football game as a key forward. Whilst the tall has also spent time through the ruck on occasion, she is predominantly a leading and marking key forward.

What makes Barber unique is the fact she has great athleticism and once she has the positioning, is hard to spoil given her height and reach. But even more so is her ability to win one-on-ones not only in the air, but at ground level. Unlike many talls, Barber immediately can switch into the role of a small and cleanly pick it up at ground level and dish it off or follow up her work inside 50 with a quick shot, not akin to an offensive rebound in basketball.

Last year Barber was ready to explode inside 50, but just lacked some accuracy on goal in the NAB League. Enter in the AFL Women’s Championships, and Barber was slotting them from everywhere, as if everything had come together. She has always been a terrific mark and has a high work rate, it was just rewarding herself with the finished product. She booted seven goals in six games in 2019, which is great, but could have had even more to apply scoreboard pressure.

Unfortunately a concussion in Round 1 this year ruled her out of the Bushrangers’ next game, and then COVID-19 forced her to miss the rest of the season. But when talking key forwards in this year’s draft, Barber is arguably the most talented of the lot, and coming from the Victorian-New South Wales border and playing her junior footy at Lavington (just north of Albury), no doubt it will be interesting where her football takes her. An All-Australian in her middle-age year, Barber is most certainly one to watch.

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Murray Bushrangers vs. Oakleigh Chargers

OUR next All-Star Team battle is between two Victorian clubs, in the Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Collingwood midfielder, Steele Sidebottom (Murray Bushrangers) and West Coast counterpart, Luke Shuey (Oakleigh Chargers).

TEAMS:

These clubs are seeded fourth (Murray) and 13th (Oakleigh) respectively, forming another Round of 16 clash in our draw. The winner will qualify for the quarter finals, set to face the winner of Northern Knights and Swan Districts.

STRENGTHS:

Where do you start with the Bushrangers? The balance they have across the field is ridiculously good. They have a nice balance of midfielders, plenty of depth at key positions, and a plethora of hard and skilful midfielders. That is before you get to a forward line containing Fraser Gehrig, Barry Hall and Jarrad Waite who provide a three-prong attack to die for. The midfield of Sidebottom, Clayton Oliver, David Mundy, Tom Rockliff and Brett Deledio is just perfect for matching up on any other midfield.

The Chargers have an elite midfield that bats really deep, from the inside talents of Jack Macrae and Dan Hannebery with Marc Murphy, to the outside run of Shuey and Andrew Gaff. The forward line is damaging with the likes of Robbie Gray, Toby Greene, Jordan De Goey and Jack Billings joining Luke Power. With Darcy Moore as centre half-back and Josh Gibson coming across as the third tall, the defence should have great intercepting ability, whilst Todd Goldstein will control the ruck.

The battle of the midfields would be unbelievable, though the Bushrangers would back their defence in against a dynamic Chargers’ forward line.

WEAKNESSES:

There really is not one on paper for the Bushrangers. Genuinely their depth goes beyond the squad of 24, with the initial team featuring Josh Fraser who could also come in and replace one of the rucks going around. The only question mark might be the durability of some players with the Reid brothers – Ben and Sam – as well as Jamie Elliott and Justin Koschitzke all having their injury troubles over the years.

The Chargers lack a little in defence, with Bret Thornton the second best key position player, and the depth for small defenders being a little weaker than other sides. Their forward line is undersized, though still provides X-factor, but would need to use the ball well with a lack of height in there.

SUMMARY:

In this match-up you would expect the Bushrangers to stretch the Chargers’ backline, but at the same time, the speed of the Chargers forward line would trouble the taller defenders there, meaning there is every chance one of the Bushrangers’ key position stocks would drop out and a small come in.

Which team would you pick?
Murray Bushrangers
Oakleigh Chargers
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Favell’s sacrifices worth it for chance at AFL Women’s

WHEN talking about sacrifices made to play Aussie rules football, there is not much that Murray Bushrangers and Eastern Allies’ Abby Favell has not done to pursue her dream of playing AFL Women’s. 

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Abby Favell

“I started playing AFL in a primary school competition called ‘Paul Kelly Cup’ in year 5 and 6,” Favell said. “There was no outside of school competitions for girls in my area and there still isn’t today! “Once I got to high school I played in my school team, filled with girls that just wanted to give the sport a go or get out of school for a couple of days. In year 8 I was asked to go trial for CCC and was lucky enough to be selected.”

With significant road trips to and from not only games but also training, there is no denying that Favell is committed to making her dream a reality and has had a huge football journey that has led her to where she is today.

“During the pre-season and in-season, my parents drive me three hours (one-way) once or twice a week just to get to training in Wangaratta,” she said. “Playing in Melbourne meant a six-hour drive and an overnight stay which was taking a lot of time out of their lives just so that they could let me play the game that I love. “The travel for me isn’t so bad as I’m not the one driving and now with a few more girls from the Leeton area playing with the Bushies, the road trips are very eventful with weekly competitions on who could provide the best snacks. “The commitment wasn’t easy but many amazing people made it possible.”

“Football for me is just something different. “It is a game that allows me to run around with very few restrictions which is what I enjoy most. “With a lot of experience in other sports and other pathways, football has been the one that has made me look forward to going to camps and the one that has given me the best experience. I also love the bit of contact that you don’t really get in other sports.”

Like many, Favell has had her setbacks – missing out on selection and making tough decisions about other sports – but says that she has come out of it stronger, credit to her drive to continue to build her game but also fulfil her commitment to the sport.

“At the next level, trialling for NSW, everyone from my school that trialled was selected, except for my friend and I,” Favell said. “It was a setback in my football journey but it just made me stronger as I went away and trained harder to be selected in the team the next year. “After playing for NSW at the school nationals in Perth, I was certain that I wanted to play AFL.

“In 2018, I was selected through the Southern Sports Academy to play for NSW against VIC in under 16s. “The Bushrangers also asked me to play a few games for them at the end of the season. “In 2019, the Bushrangers asked me to join them for a full pre-season and I was honoured to be selected which resulted in the tough decision to give up the many other sports I was playing. “But luckily it was the right decision as this led to my selection in the NSW team and the Eastern Allies under 18 teams as a bottom-age player.”

When it comes to her footy journey, Favell’s consistency in the Murray Bushrangers saw her get a bottom-age berth at the AFL Women’s Under 18s National Championships, recording an average of 11.0 disposals, 2.7 marks and 2.7 tackles for the Eastern Allies and finding her footing against many familiar Murray faces who took the field for Vic Country. 

“Playing in the Eastern Allies team was an experience that I didn’t really know what to expect and it was one like no other,” Favell said. “The girls on my team were absolutely amazing and made the on field and off-field time fun. Playing against my Bushies team mates was actually really fun but very different.”

Playing against strong opposition from across the country, Favell proved that she could handle the pressure and used her clean hands and high work rate to impact both on and off the ball. Her efforts across both the NAB League competition and Under 18s Championships saw Favell entered into the AFL Women’s Academy, participating in training camps with the Academy squad.

“I remember the phone call and feeling very shocked,” she said. “I definitely thought that Ash (Moeller, AFL NSW/ACT Female Talent Manager) was just telling me he put my name in but nothing was certain. “The academy camp in Darwin was definitely not easy but overall it was a lot of fun and I learnt a lot that has and will help me along my football journey. “We had spent a week training with the GIANTS beforehand and that was certainly something that I am never going to forget as I was privileged to meet so many amazing players and people.”

Speaking of players Favell felt privileged to meet, GIANTS midfielder Alyce Parker has had a profound impact on the youngster, and is someone that Favell says she admires both on and off the field.

“She is an amazing player that is always working hard and trying to become better,” Favell said. “As a rural girl, she has shown me that anything is possible and it doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s the opportunities that you make. “Not only is she an absolute gun but she is also a wonderful person as she has also taken time out of her day to message me or stay in touch.”

A speedster with the ability to rotate through a number of positions – though ultimately looking most comfortable winning ball through the midfield – Favell also has clean hands to win the ball across the field and has great run and carry in transition credit to her endurance and never say die attitude.

“My strengths I feel would be my running and decision making skills,” she said. “I have been a cross-country runner and I guess a combination of all my other sports has enabled me to love to run and cover a lot of the ground… I’ve been focusing on doing the basics really well like taking the ball cleanly with my ground balls and giving it off on the up, hitting targets by both hand and foot. “I completed the NAB League training program we were all given and continued to work on the basic fundamentals, kicking, clean hands, ground balls etc along with playing netball and training with my local footy team.”

Favell said that while her commitment to her football dream has certainly impacted on her studies and other commitments, she has managed to balance it fairly well with plenty of commitment and strategies in place to ensure her schoolwork did not suffer.

“My strategy was to complete assignments and homework on the road between training or games as it was my only free time,” she said. “It was challenging when we were in the middle of nowhere with no service … but I managed to make it work and hand all my assessments in on time, just. “My family and friends mean a lot to me and they understand just as much as I do the commitment that I’ve made as I have had to miss my best friend’s birthday and my grandparents anniversary, just to name a few, due to playing or training. “I try my best to keep everyone happy but those that mean most to me understand the dedication I have made and usually save me a piece of cake.”

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: Murray Bushrangers vs. Sturt Double Blues

OUR next All-Star Team battle is one between a Victorian club and a South Australian club, in the Murray Bushrangers and Sturt. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Steele Sidebottom (Murray Bushrangers) and Brodie Grundy (Sturt).

TEAMS:

Murray Bushrangers enter the All-Star Team of the AFL Draft Era series knockout tournament as fourth seeds and one of the teams to beat. They have a really well-balanced side, and while Sidebottom was voted captain, there are so many options in the side to have earned that nod. For Sturt, the Double Blues have some elite players, but not quite the same depth as the Bushrangers, coming in seeded at 29th.

STRENGTHS:

Much like Port Adelaide Magpies yesterday, where do you start with the Bushrangers? The balance they have across the field is ridiculously good. They have a nice balance of midfielders, plenty of depth at key positions, and a plethora of hard and skilful midfielders. That’s before you get to a forward line containing Fraser Gehrig, Barry Hall and Jarrad Waite who provide a three-prong attack to die for. The midfield of Sidebottom, Clayton Oliver, David Mundy, Tom Rockliff and Brett Deledio is just perfect for matching up on any other midfield.

The Blues have a couple of A-grade quality players led by Grundy who at his best is the top ruckman in the competition. He acts a fourth midfielder, and alongside Todd Viney and Scott Russell, would do well around the stoppages. They have a bit of X-factor in the side with Chad Wingard and Angus Monfries, while Brenton Sanderson and Martin Mattner provide some run off half-back.

WEAKNESSES:

There really is not one on paper for the Bushrangers. Genuinely their depth goes beyond the squad of 24, with the initial team featuring Josh Fraser who could also come in and replace one of the rucks going around. The only question mark might be the durability of some players with the Reid brothers – Ben and Sam – as well as Jamie Elliott and Justin Koschitzke all having their injury troubles over the years.

Depth is definitely a concern for Sturt, with the team just lacking the quality around the ground. Many of the players were solid contributors to their respective teams, but in one-on-one matchups with their Bushrangers opponents, there are not too many you would mark down as a win.

SUMMARY

Murray Bushrangers would be the dark horse to take out the overall competition, with such a well-balanced team, and it is expected that they move through here.

Which All-Star Team would you vote for?
Murray Bushrangers
Sturt Double Blues
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All-Star Team of the AFL Draft Era: Which club is the best of the best?

EVERY year, a new crop of AFL Draft talents rise up and make waves at AFL level. Some clubs such as Calder Cannons and Geelong Falcons are referred to as ‘footy factories’. Others are less well known, but nonetheless vital in providing players with their start to the AFL.

Over the past couple of months, Draft Central has gone through all of the NAB League, SANFL and WAFL clubs and tried to determine the best 24-player squad for their respective clubs. The captains and vice-captains were determined by the public through Instagram voting. Now, it is up to the public to decide which All-Star Team is the greatest of the lot. That’s right, the 30 teams from Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia are going head to head in a knockout draw.

Which teams are competing?

NAB League [12]: Bendigo Pioneers, Calder Cannons, Dandenong Stingrays, Eastern Ranges, Geelong Falcons, Gippsland Power, GWV Rebels, Murray Bushrangers, Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers, Sandringham Dragons, Western Jets
SANFL [9]: Central District, Glenelg, North Adelaide, Norwood, Port Adelaide, South Adelaide, Sturt, West Adelaide, Woodville-West Torrens
WAFL [9]: Claremont, East Fremantle, East Perth, South Fremantle, Peel Thunder, Perth, Subiaco, Swan Districts, West Perth

How will it work?

Each day at 10am, we will publish the two All-Star Teams of the AFL Draft era, and the public will be able to vote through the article, Facebook and Twitter, with the overall winner moving through to the next round.

Given there are 30 teams, two sides who we have picked out as the top two seeds – East Fremantle and Geelong Falcons – will have the bye in the opening round, with the other 28 teams seeded appropriately similar to the All-Star Player voting (3rd against 28th, 4th against 27th etc.).

Who is up first?

The first All-Star Team battle is between a couple of metropolitan sides who we have seeded 16th and 17th in the draw. They both have some absolute elite stars, but Calder Cannons and Western Jets will begin the voting on Monday. They will be followed by the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Eastern Ranges on Tuesday, before a cross-state clash sees third seed Port Adelaide Magpies tackle Peel Thunder.

Classic Contests: Eight-goal first term helps Falcons eliminate Bushies

IF you are missing footy like we are, then let us somewhat salvage that with a look back in our series of Classic Contests. In today’s contest we look at another clash between the NAB League rivals to complete our full series, and today’s battle is between the Geelong Falcons and Murray Bushrangers. In this edition, we wind back the clock to 2012, when the two sides met in a free-flowing elimination final.

2012 TAC Cup, Elimination Final
Saturday September 1, 11:45am
Princes Park

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 0.1 | 6.3 | 8.7 | 9.8 (62)
GEELONG FALCONS 8.0 | 8.0 | 12.1 | 16.6 (102)

GOALS:

Murray: K. Antonowicz 2, J. Porter 2, J. Cousins, L. Howe, N. Drummond, M. Taberner, T. Clurey
Geelong:
T. Batarilo 3, D. Bond 2, S. Dixon 2, J. Sharp 2, M. Wood 2, L. Taylor, D. Lang, A. Christensen, D. Gardiner, J. Saunders

BEST:

Murray: L. Hampton, J. Cousins, S. Martyn, M. Gibbons, J. Woodcock, M. Brett
Geelong:
T. Gribble, J. Saunders, M. Wood, S. Dixon, J. Tsitas, F. Fort

Draftees in action:

Murray: Tom Clurey, Matt Taberner, Josh Prudden, Nathan Drummond, Michael Gibbons, Jarman Impey
Geelong: Josh Saunders, Mason Wood, Darcy Fort, Lewis Taylor, Nick Bourke, Darcy Gardiner, Darcy Lang, Sam Russell

An eight-goal to nil first term helped set up the Geelong Falcons’ 2012 elimination final triumph over Murray, proving the perfect start to their TAC Cup finals campaign. The Bushrangers went into the clash as a steady favourite having finished fifth at 10-7. Their double-digit win tally was two figures higher than that of Geelong, who landed in eighth spot with an 8-8-1 record.

Form was not exactly kind to either region, as they both failed to win in three of their last six outings. The two sides had met twice before in that season, and the ledger sat at one win apiece after Murray won by 34 points in Round 4, while Geelong snuck home by three points in Round 10. As was the case in those fixtures, this knockout bout would be played on neutral territory.

Clearly out to prove they weren’t making up the numbers, the Falcons shot out of the blocks and put all eight of their first term scoring shots through the big sticks. But it was their turn to go goalless in the second period, as Murray hit back with six majors to keep within reach at the main break, still nine points adrift. The fightback would only spur Geelong back into action though, as the lower-ranked side clicked back into scoring gear with four goals in each of the final two terms to run out comfortable 40-point winners.

Prolific state leaguer Tom Gribble was named Geelong’s best on the day, racking up a monster 40 disposals, while draftees Mason Wood (18 disposals, eight marks, two goals) and Josh Saunders (22 disposals, seven tackles, one goal) were also amongst it. Scott Dixon was another to find both the ball and goals with 22 touches and two majors, while James Tsitas had it 25 times. Other AFL products to feature included Darcy Lang (20 disposals, one goal), Lewis Taylor (17 disposals, one goal), Nick Bourke (22 disposals), and Darcy Fort (26 hitouts).

Even as a bottom-ager, Michael Gibbons managed to accumulate a mountain of possession for Murray, finishing with 30 disposals. Lonnie Hampton (16 disposals) was named the best Bushranger though, followed by Joseph Cousins (10 disposals, five marks, one goal). Among the future draftees afield, Tom Clurey and Nathan Drummond both hit the scoreboard, while Josh Prudden gathered 21 disposals, Jarman Impey had 15, and Matt Taberner booted a goal from his 10 disposals and six marks.

While the Bushrangers’ promising season ended there and then, the Falcons would go on to face Sandringham in the semi finals. They went down by 25 points, with the 2012 season most famous for its famous golden point Grand Final where Jack Macrae won Oakleigh a thriller against Gippsland.

Featured Image: Brian Bartlett/News Corp