Tag: nab league girls

Maurer thrives on Tasmanian “team bond”

RETURNING for her second season of Tasmania Devils representation in 2021, there was a rise in “enjoyment” levels for tough midfielder-forward, Ella Maurer. The 19-year-old thrived across nine NAB League outings in her top-age campaign, averaging a tick under 17 disposals and five tackles as an integral part of the starting squad. She put much of her own, and the team’s success down to a rising “team bond”.

“We’ve really come together,” Maurer said. “We’ve been really united and it’s just been really enjoyable. Sometimes in previous years I found that it was a big sluggish getting to training but this year every training was enjoyable. All the coaches, staff and girls were great to be around.

“I love team sports, just the whole vibe and being out there with the girls.”

Through a consistent and much-improved NAB League campaign, Maurer was able to bring her own strengths to the fore and lean on her senior experience to provide a hard edge. She’s a player who loves the “aggression” of the game, which shows in the traits she says are her strengths, and areas for improvement.

“[My strength] is probably my attack on the ball,” she said. “Just being able to get in and get the ball out from contests and get the hands off to a teammate… [I’m working on] being cleaner and my skills, especially when I go down forward.

“I love to play in the midfield and rotate forward, I love to play down there as well. Even in the backline, I like to play some defensive footy so a bit of everything really.”

Maurer’s 2021 form saw her selected in the Allies squad, where she remained a constant ball winner and tough competitor, averaging 18 disposals, six tackles, and three clearances per her three games. The representative honours matched Maurer’s goals constantly “improving [her] game” and playing “at the highest level” possible.

She has plenty of examples to follow too, with former North Launceston captain Jodie Clifford a particular source of inspiration for the rising teenage prospect, having been there almost every step of the way.

“[Clifford] is just a really inspiring person and player as well,” Maurer said. “She’s one of the coaches for the Devils, the midfield coach, and I got to play footy with her at North Launceston. She was our captain and best and fairest both years that we played together.”

“I started playing footy when I was 14 in the junior youth girl’s team at North Launceston Football Club. I played there for two years, then went on to play in the TSLW team for North Launceston for the two years we had that. Unfortunately that folded so now I’m at Old Scotch in the NTFA.”

A raft of Tasmanians also joined Maurer in North Melbourne’s VFLW side this year, with as many as 11 of them getting out on the park at one time in blue and white. There are certainly big things happening out of the Apple Isle and if Maurer’s development is anything to go by, the rate of improvement will be steep.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Finals Week One

FINALS time finally rolled around in the VFL Women’s, with three enthralling games played out over the weekend and even more intriguing matchups to look forward to. A raft of current and former NAB League talents continue to roll through the competition, we take a look at how they performed in the first round of finals.

>> Results: VFLW Finals Week One

Pegged as the closest matchup across all three week one fixtures, Casey and Essendon played out a belter to open proceedings. The Bombers came out on top and remain the sole standalone side left, winning 5.5 (35) to 5.2 (32) on enemy territory. A bunch of high level youngsters aided the victors’ cause, none more so than pick one contender Georgie Prespakis who notched 14 disposals and laid 10 tackles in the famous sash.

Fellow Calder players Zali Friswell (nine disposals), Tahlia Gillard (17 hit-outs), and Emelia Yassir also gained some senior finals experience, while former Cannons Alana Barba (18 disposals, 11 tackles, one goal) and Tamsin Crook were among the Bombers’ best. Top 10 candidate Tara Slender also found the big sticks for Essendon, as Murray Bushrangers graduate Eloise Ashley-Cooper managed seven touches and six tackles.

In the losing Casey side, 18-year-old Gippsland Power ruck Grace Matser contributed seven disposals and as many hit-outs in her fourth game at the level. Eastern Ranges product Mietta Kendall, who was recently delisted by Melbourne, also continued in the state league and found eight touches, while former Richmond and Eastern player Emma Horne had it seven times.

In comparison to the Casey-Essendon clash, graduates were more sparse and quiet in the qualifying final between Collingwood and Geelong. The Magpies were pushed all the way in a six-point win, with Olivia Meagher (six disposals, one goal) their only current or VFLW-listed NAB Leaguer afield.

The Cats continued to blood a key trio of graduates, starting with leadership group member Tamara Smith. She was busy with eight touches and two behinds, while also getting stuck in to lay nine tackles. Geelong Falcons graduate Paige Sheppard had it eight times for Geelong, while Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels favourite Chloe Leonard notched nine disposals.

Southern Saints caused the upset of the weekend, advancing to week two via a resounding 34-point victory over the third-ranked Port Melbourne. There was plenty of young talent fielded by both sides, starting with Saints mainstay Gabby De Angelis. She featured among her side’s best players and found the goals, while Melanie Bertuna (13 disposals, five tackles) was also productive.

Sandringham Dragons top-ager Charlotte Ryan proved a handy fold for the Saints with 11 touches in her second game, joined by NAB League teammates Emma Stuber and Pia Staltari in the side. Dandenong Stingrays defender Jemma Radford also ran out in red, white and black, playing against usual teammates Ash Richards and Jaide Anthony, who lined up for the Borough.

Oakleigh Chargers premiership stars Amanda Ling and Brooke Vickers also donned Port colours, while graduates Olivia Barton (15 disposals) and Emily Harley were among their side’s strongest contributors. Vickers and Harley both snared goals, as did AFLW Draft Combine invitee Sophie Locke. Fellow Murray graduate and combine invitee Aurora Smith was another to turn out for Port, earning eight disposals.

Image Credit: Graham Denholm/AFL Photos

Zreika an “inspiration” for fast-rising Whelan

GREATER Western Sydney (GWS) GIANTS Academy member Jess Whelan doesn’t have to look far for inspiration as she powers through her footballing journey. In the same charcoal and orange colours she donned this year during a one-game NAB League Girls stint, a top-flight gem has already paved a path worth following.

That gem is Haneen Zreika, a zippy GIANTS midfielder whose journey to the AFLW skipped through a couple of codes – much like Whelan is currently emulating.

“(Zreika) is an inspiration,” Whelan said. “Probably because she played Rugby League and AFL as well, which is similar to me.”

The 18-year-old says “positional play” and “tackling” are just a couple of the skills she has transferred from one sport to the other, making the transition that bit easier. For a prospect who only started out in Australian football “a few years ago”, she has made significant strides throughout the pathway – representing the Eastern Allies thrice in 2019, before turning out for the Allies this year.

“I played a year and then got picked to play (NSW-ACT) Rams,” she said. “I did that and then got into the Eastern Allies squad that year as well, then Covid hit the next year and now I’m with the Allies.”

In a slightly different mix to Whelan’s Eastern Allies experience, the 2021 Allies squad was comprised of players from NSW-ACT, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory. Whelan was one of eight GIANTS Academy members to be included in the 24-player squad.

“(The Allies experience) has been pretty good,” she said. “I’m getting along with a lot of the Tassie girls and it’s good just to meet people across Australia and see their different ways and how their footy’s going.”

Whelan, a 175cm winger also collected 15 disposals, four marks, four inside 50s and a goal as the GIANTS Academy defeated Murray Bushrangers in Round 6 of this year’s NAB League Girls competition. She was able to showcase a couple of her core strengths in that outing, with the key ones she identified being kicking and her running capacity on the wing.

While kicking on one foot is a strength, Whelan is working on becoming a more dual-sided player as she makes her left-sided kicking “more precise.”

As far as her footballing goals go, the youngster is keeping them relatively simple. Having come so far already in a short span of time, she says the end goal is to “try and get as far as (she) can.”

2021 NAB League Girls season review: Oakleigh Chargers

NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Oakleigh Chargers, the benchmark team all season and deserving premiers in the end. Across a campaign which only yielded one defeat, the region’s dynamic squad mixed beautifully with a strong draft eligible core leading the way. We recap the Chargers’ season, and take a look at some of the top performers across the various age groups.

Wins: 7
Losses: 1
Position: 1st (Premier)

SEASON SUMMARY:

Starting the season with a resounding 54-point victory over reigning premiers, Northern Knights, the Chargers stamped themselves as one of the contenders early on in the year, and rarely looked like they weren’t the main premiership threat. They were challenged at times, with a three-game stretch against Tasmania, Dandenong and Sandringham seeing them win collectively by 13 points. Their only loss of the season game against Geelong Falcons by 11 points, in the round before the National Championships. They’d return after the champs with a 100-point win over Gippsland Power, and convincingly won all three of their finals, with the last a 37-point triumph over Geelong to take out their inaugural NAB League Girls premiership.

DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS

Charlie Rowbottom | Midfielder/Key Forward
22/01/2003 | 178cm

The AFLW Academy member and potential Victorian number one pick had a season to be proud of. She started the year off predominantly in the midfield, where her burst, positioning and strength around stoppages made her a key clearance winner and large part of their play going forward. As the season moved on she spent more time as a marking target up forward, where her leap and aerial presence were valuable in one-on-one contests, able to out muscle opponents that tried to make it a grapple, but also blitz them on the lead if they tried to play off her. Often getting extra attention as the season went on, she found ways to stay involved and will be better off for it in future. Representing Vic Metro as captain, she clearly has leadership attributes and may continue that at the next level.

Stella Reid | Utility
10/09/2003 | 173cm

A versatile left-footer, Reid progressively moved up the ground as the season wore on; starting in the backline and spending a couple of rounds down there before progressing to the midfield for a few rounds, then spending the rest of the season in the forwardline, where she’d go on to be the side’s leading goal kicker. With that versatility comes a wide range of traits that will allow her to slot into whichever area the team she ends up at needs, with her speed, ball use by foot and ability to hold space three of her most impressive strengths. Representing Vic Metro, she was predominantly used on the wing, which perhaps offers some insight into where recruiters picture her playing long-term.

Amanda Ling | Midfielder
09/07/2002 | 161cm

Playing an often under-appreciated role, Ling’s ball winning as an in and under type was vital in allowing her other midfield teammates to prosper during the season. As Rowbottom got more and more attention during the season, Ling consistently stepped up to be the main clearance winner, utilising her side step and quick hands to shift past opponents and get the ball out to teammates. She proved herself as an able forward as well in the last match of the home-and-away season, kicking 3.1 stationed almost permanently in the forward 50. She would step up in the most important game of the year, the Grand Final, to win best on ground honours in the victory. A Vic Metro representative and recent Port Melbourne VFLW debutant, Ling has shown she can maintain that form at the higher levels.

Brooke Vickers | Wing/Defender
06/03/2003 | 171cm

One of the surprise packets for the Chargers this season, Vickers, like Reid, started the season in defence and moved into a more permanent wing role later in the season. That was where she settled in well and became a consistent contributor, receiving handballs from the inside and delivering it to leading teammates by foot. When she was representing Vic Metro, she split her time between the two roles she had at Oakleigh, looking most impressive at half-back where her rebound game was typically strong.

Eliza James | Forward/Midfielder
01/10/2003 | 168cm

Possessing good burst speed and agility, James showed her worth as a medium forward, but has some work to do with her finishing on goal. To her credit, James often looked to give the ball off to teammates inside 50 when she had it rather than blaze away, showing off a selfless approach that led to much of the Chargers’ attacking proficiency. Another Vic Metro representative, she was a key link up player in their fixtures.

FUTURE ONES TO WATCH:

Jasmine Fleming | Midfielder
05/11/2004 | 165cm

With strong family sporting ties, (mother Wendy an Australian Under 21 netballer and father Damien an Australian cricketer) it’s no surprise that after just three games Fleming is one of the best prospects heading into 2022. Faced with the choice of cricket and football in the future, AFLW clubs will be hoping Fleming is leaning towards footy. With her speed and agility being big weapons around the contest, and her follow up ball work also at a high level, she already has a high skill base to start with and develop.

Charlotte Van der Vlies | Wing
19/01/2004 | 162cm

One of the few bottom-agers that started the year where she ended, Van der Vlies was a consistent contributor on the outside for the Chargers, where her deceptive speed and balanced ball use made her a damaging player going forward. She showed she was able to operate in congestion as well, using that speed to get separation on her opponents before disposing of the ball. Representing Vic Metro Under 17s on two occasions, Van der Vlies was a major player, showing her clearance capabilities as well.

Charlotte Taylor | Midfielder/Tall Defender
18/01/2004 | 177cm

Coming into the side in Round 7, Taylor made an immediate impact in the midfield for the Chargers, pairing well with fellow tall midfielder Rowbottom early on. As more players come in for the Chargers, Taylor’s height, and athleticism saw her moved into defence for the finals series, holding her own and offering plenty on the rebound and in the air. When representing Vic Metro Under 17s Taylor rotated between the rover, wing and half forward roles, showing her versatility and piquing the curiosity of watchers with where she’ll end up playing.

Lily Hart | Midfielder
29/09/2004 | 161cm

Spending majority of the season rubbing shoulders with the midfield brigade, Hart added a touch of class and balance through the midfield. Often the player that received the handball from one of the in-and-under teammates she has, Hart’s balanced and polished ball use was always a damaging blow to the opposition from the midfield. Yet another charger that represented Vic Metro Under 17s, she’s one that has enough midfield experience heading into next year to be one of the players to lookout for, who might just explode in 2022.

OTHERS:

Taylah Morton is a 19-year-old prospect that has played for Port Melbourne at VFLW level, as a midfielder-forward she brings a tough edge to whichever line she’s on. Alexandra McCulloch was a consistently reliable defender all season, offering plenty of damaging rebound, while Erin Woodford turned into a more than handy lockdown defender in the latter stages of the season. Looking ahead to next year, the Chargers have more exciting prospects. Key forward, and occasional rotating ruck Ameile Smith is a proven goalkicker who may be the main target up forward next season, Mia Clift is a rebounding defender with the scope to move onto a wing or through the midfield. Melbourne father-daughter prospect, Jemma Rigoni, has played in all thirds of the ground and possesses remarkable speed, whilst Rianna Thiele will be one to watch as the key defender returns from injury next year.

2021 NAB League Girls team review: Eastern Ranges

NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Eastern Ranges, a team which managed to extract the best from a deep and diverse core of draft eligible prospects, while also blooding exciting talent for the future. We recap the Ranges’ season, and take a look at some of the top performers across those various age groups.

Wins: 6
Losses: 2
Position: 2nd (2nd Metro)

SEASON SUMMARY:

The Ranges made a winning start to 2021, looking one of the form sides of the competition with strong wins in their first two outings. But after romping to a 114-point victory over Gippsland, Eastern was handed its first loss of the campaign to Geelong, before being pipped by Northern in what was a classic comeback. That Northern loss only seemed to spur the Ranges, as they went on to rack up two wins within the same week, and rounded out the regular season with a couple more. They would exact revenge against the Knights in the elimination final, before falling to Oakleigh one week short of the grand final.

DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS:

Georgia Campbell | Ruck/Key Forward
1/09/2003 | 182cm

A real bolter in this year’s crop, Campbell quickly established herself as one of the premier talls of the competition with her dominant work for Eastern in the ruck. The 182cm prospect is as athletic as they come, able to thrive aerially but also compete at ground level and confidently run the ball forward. She doubled as an attacking threat and played a significant amount there for Vic Metro, gaining a tick for her versatility with impactful passages of play and great attack on the ball.

Bridget Deed | Midfielder
7/03/2003 | 167cm

Deed was not only one of Eastern’s most consistent performers, but one of the most reliable midfielders competition-wide in 2021. Her feats seemed to go under the radar each week, but the 18-year-old’s ball winning strength was important for her side. She collected over 20 disposals in six of 10 NAB League outings, proving a constant at the coalface before being tried in a few different roles among the Vic Metro setup.

Keeley Sherar | Midfielder
29/10/2003 | 170cm

Another of Eastern’s Vic Metro Under 19 representatives, Sherar quickly stamped herself as one to monitor with eye-catching moments in midfield. While she did not accumulate over 20 possessions in any game this season, Sherar also did not drop below 10 as a permanent fixture in the Ranges’ engine room. Her burst from congestion and ability to set Eastern on the front foot was great to watch, but she was another to be squeezed out of a very strong Metro midfield.

FUTURE ONES TO WATCH:

Mia Busch | Defender
18/05/2004 | 166cm

A very promising talent for next year, Busch took out Eastern’s best and fairest award in 2021 ahead of very strong draft eligible teammates. While she had a couple of quiet outings, the 17-year-old proved difficult to stop once she was on, providing relentless rebound and sound intercept ability across half-back. She finished the season on fire with averages of 23.5 disposals and five marks across her two finals appearances, while giving a glimpse into the future with some added midfield minutes.

Alyssia Pisano | Forward 
1/07/2005 | 161cm

A bright future lies ahead for Pisano, who at just 15-years-old topped the NAB League goalkicking charts in 2021 with 19 majors. The classy left-footer was held goalless just once this season, while finding the big sticks multiple times in six of her 10 outings. She proved a game-winning type, able to burn opponents with a great turn of speed and find a way to impact the scoreboard with innate finishing ability. She represented Vic Metro at Under 17 level and was easily up to the level already.

Grace Walsh | Key Defender
7/04/2004 | 175cm

Walsh is a developing tall who, like her fellow under-agers, has already taken up a key role in the Eastern Ranges side. At her best, the 17-year-old was able to shut down dangerous opposition forwards one-on-one, while providing aerial assistance down back and getting her team going on the rebound. Walsh played all 10 games in 2021, which should put her in good stead for more of the same next year.

OTHERS:

The Ranges have a bunch of players who also went on to crack VFLW level, with standout top-ager Olivia Meagher (Collingwood) among them. Smooth moving leader El Chaston and fellow 2002-birth Jess Grace showed enough form to be selected for Hawthorn, along with 2003-born talents Ruby O’Dwyer, Tilly Hardy, and Isabelle Khoury. All proved pillars in the Ranges side, as did Vic Metro squad members Jorja Livingstone and Cadhla Schmidli. Georgia Wilson finished second in the goalkicking ranks to Pisano, as the likes of Scarlett Potter, Ava Campbell, and Laura Stone proved they were ones to watch for the future.

2021 NAB League Girls team review: Geelong Falcons

NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Geelong Falcons, a typically strong region which came together nicely towards the back-end of the season to feature in this year’s Grand Final. We recap the Falcons’ season, and take a look at some of their top performers across the various age groups.

Wins: 5
Losses: 3
Position: 6th (3rd Country)

SEASON SUMMARY:

Coming into the year as one of the expected contending teams, it was no surprise to see the Falcons do well in the regular season and finals. They asserted themselves on the competition early, with three-straight wins to kick off the season, including two against eventual finalists Eastern Ranges and GWV Rebels. They’d then suffer two-straight losses, to the first ever Sydney Swans Academy side in the competition and a resilient Northern Knights. The last game prior to National Championships duties would be arguably their most memorable, handing eventual premiers Oakleigh Chargers their only loss of the year. A mid-championships fixture against Murray Bushrangers saw the Falcons, who were without their Under 17 and 19 Vic Country representatives, lose, before coming back and getting a win over Calder prior to finals. Beating Dandenong Stingrays and GWV Rebels to get to the grand final, Geelong unfortunately couldn’t get the job done, falling by 37 points to Oakleigh.

DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS:

Tess Craven | Midfielder
23/12/2003 | 163cm

Coming into the season as a relative unknown, Craven was a vital cog in the Falcons’ engine room throughout the season. Never dropping below double digit disposal numbers for the season, and only going below 16 once, her consistent ball winning and follow-up ball use kept Geelong in possession and got them into dangerous areas. She’d also work hard off the ball to ensure she was an option, usually as a switch kick or a short inside outlet. A Vic Country Under 19 representative like many of her teammates, Craven brought the same strengths to Country in her two appearances.

Gabbi Featherston | Forward/Midfielder
12/11/2003 | 169cm

An supremely athletic player, Featherston was one of the most exciting players in the competition this year. Although not racking up huge numbers, with Featherston’s athleticism there’s clear scope for development. Her leap and speed proved two key features of her game, resulting in her being a rotating ruck despite measuring up at just the 169cm. Featherston’s aggression on the ball carrier was also quite impressive, not always landing the tackles but often forcing a mistake with the pressure she created. She impressed in her three Vic Country games, playing more as a permanent forward.

Ingrid Houtsma | Wing
20/11/2003 | 176 cm

Consistently filling a role on the wing, Houtsma was at times overshadowed by her higher accumulating teammates but still played a valuable part in the Falcons’ season. Houtsma’s sense of the outside role was vital for Geelong; holding her space to be a release option, she’d often go for runs and then deliver the ball well by foot to teammates coming towards her. On the rare occasion she found herself in trouble through the year, she showed she was able to work through traffic cleanly. She ended up as yet another Vic Country Under 19s representative, where she brought the usual reliability she offers.

Annie Lee | Defender
28/08/2003 | 169cm

Playing taller than her height suggests, Lee was a staple of the Falcons’ backline for the season, reliably able to take marks above head when the ball was at a high point, even when under direct pressure. The defender was often tasked with taking the kick-ins for the Falcons, utilising the pockets to run into and get extra distance behind her kick, looking to get it to teammates near the edge of the centre square. Lee was another who represented Vic Country at Under 19s level, as well as earning herself Geelong VFLW selection. She was consistently able to contribute her strengths to whichever team she lined up for.

Poppy Schaap | Midfielder/Forward
28/07/2003 | 153cm

Utilising her speed and agility through traffic, Schaap proved to be one of the more ‘X-Factor’ players of the competition. As a small forward, she was still able to rack up big numbers, even moreso when thrown into the midfield. It was her ball use in the forward half especially that would be her biggest weapon, spotting out kicks to leading targets or handballing to outside runners to keep the ball moving. Not afraid to take on bigger opponents either, Schaap played the role of a pressure forward extremely well, tackling any player that came into her area. She was able to maintain that output at Vic Country Under19s level as well.

Renee Tierney | Forward
23/05/2002 | 166 cm

The main marking target for the Falcons up forward, Tierney’s accuracy in front of goal and danger on the lead made her one of the biggest forward threats in the competition. Coming back as a top-ager after missing out on last year’s draft, there’s not much more Tierney could have done as a forward to push her draft credentials. Kicking at least a goal in all bar two appearances and averaging 13.1 disposals in the NAB League, she’s a high production player. Making the Vic Country Under 19s team, and representing Geelong in the VFLW, Tierney proved she can keep that production up at higher levels of football.

FUTURE ONES TO WATCH

Ash Van Loon | Midfielder/Forward
11/08/2004 | 169cm

Splitting her time between the forwardline and midfield, Van Loon has shown that she’s a reliable user of the ball, often looking to handball to teammates running from behind, or those that were waiting on the outside as she would dig in and try and extract it from packs. Being on the inside constantly, it’s no surprise that she’s a superb tackler as well, playing as a pressure forward at times. When she represented Vic Country at Under 17s level, she proved that when given significant midfield time she’ll reward, being a big clearance and ball winner, whilst maintaining that tackling output and class by hand.

Taiya Morrow | Defender
26/01/2004 | 159cm

Showing glimpses of her potential to play as an attacking defender, Morrow had moments through the year where she looked dangerous when assisting in offensive play. However, she didn’t get that opportunity often, playing a deeper role for her side when the likes of Lee and Elizabeth Dowling were in the side, where she reliably shut down opponents and stop counter attacks with her positioning and ability to create contests. As she’s given more freedom next season, expect to see her draft stocks enhanced.

Charlotte Simpson | Midfielder
02/03/2004 | 166cm

Already one of the Falcons’ main inside midfielders, the St Kilda and Geelong father-daughter prospect (daughter of Sean Simpson) is one who will have plenty of eyes on her next year. With her strengths including contested ball winning, tackling and stoppage work, she has all the traits to become a premiere inside midfielder of the competition. She’s already had a taste of state representative football as well, with the Vic County Under 17’s as one of their main clearance winners.

OTHERS

Bottom-agers Mia Van Dyke and Kara Stacey also featured in the two Vic Country U17s games, with Van Dyke being a taller forward and Stacey playing a bit like Schaap, they’re two that may get more midfield time next season. Top-ager Zoe Garth had a good season on the wing and half-forward line, earning a late Vic Country U19s call-up against Queensland. Draft-eligible talents Elizabeth Dowling and Keeley Hardingham also played important roles in the defence and ruck respectively, which may see them come into consideration at the AFLW Draft.

2021 NAB League Girls team review: GWV Rebels

NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, a squad with some high-end top-agers and exciting talent to be nurtured for the future. We recap the Rebels’ season, and take a look at some of the top performers across those various age groups.

Wins: 3
Losses: 5
Position: 9th (4th Country)

SEASON SUMMARY:

The Rebels ended with a negative record in 2021 but were largely competitive along the way. Their campaign kicked off with a 10-point loss to eventual grand finalist, Geelong, before a win against Murray opened the GWV account. Having gone win-for-loss over their first four outings, the Rebels broke through for consecutive wins by beating Western Jets in Round 6. That victory was followed by three-consecutive losses to see out the regular season, but GWV still managed to qualify in the top four of the Country pool and threw a spanner in the works come finals time. A one-point win over the top-ranked Tasmania was one of the upsets of the season, and the Rebels were again up for the fight in their final game, a 14-point preliminary final loss to Geelong.

DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS:

Lilli Condon | Midfielder
25/11/2003 | 155cm

A relentless ball winner who will run all day for her side, Condon was arguably the most unlucky player competition-wide to be overlooked for representative duties. There may not be much of the Rebels midfielder, but she has a real crack and thrives at ground level, competing in contest after contest to help drive the ball forward. Condon’s form earned her selection for the Western Bulldogs VFLW side this year, and she was one of GWV’s most reliable performers.

Nyakoat Dojiok | Defender
7/01/2003 | 175cm

The AFLW Academy member is a prospect with enormous potential, credit to her steep rate of development and fantastic athletic attributes. Dojiok showed some promise as a bottom-ager and continued to come on strongly in 2021, showing marked improvement in her disposal and overall impact across half-back. She reads the play well to intercept, before getting on her bike and thrusting her side forward with a long kick. Adding polish to that disposal will be the next step, but Dojiok has plenty to like already.

Ella Friend | Tall Utility
30/12/2003 | 175cm

One of the most dynamic talents available in this year’s crop, Friend showed her worth as a high-marking forward before being tried up on a wing and at the other end of the ground. Along with Dojiok, she is an AFLW Academy member and for good reason, with her aerial ability and overall versatility pointing towards terrific upside. Friend also went on to represent Vic Country in 2021 and earned a VFLW berth with plenty of her Rebels teammates.

Chloe Leonard | Midfielder/Defender
1/02/2002 | 168cm

A real leader of this squad for a couple of seasons now, Leonard returned after being overlooked in last year’s draft and continued to show great form at NAB League level. She took on a greater amount of responsibility through midfield having cut her teeth as a defender, able to win plenty of the ball and use it cleanly. The top-ager proved one to lead by example, finishing the campaign as one of GWV’s most consistent assets and one not afraid to get her hands dirty.

Tahlia Meier | Forward/Midfielder
19/10/2003 | 155cm

Meier built nicely into the season and by the end of it, became very hard to deny as a genuine prospect. As a forward, she showcased her ability to find the goals with four goals across the first three rounds, before proving her worth a little further afield and getting her hands on the ball at a good rate. She earned a spot in the Vic Country squad and is yet another Rebel to have also slotted into the Western Bulldogs’ VFLW program.

FUTURE ONES TO WATCH:

Paige Scott | Forward/Midfielder
25/06/2004 | 166cm

Already one of the stars of the competition, Scott loomed as a potential game winner in each game she played. The explosive forward has a knack for kicking bags of goals and doesn’t mind a celebration, with her exploits inside 50 proving impactful both for the Rebels and Vic Country sides. She booted multiple majors in five of her nine NAB League outings, including all four of GWV’s goals in its remarkable elimination final win over Tasmania. One to watch at the top end.

Kalani Scoullar | Ruck
27/02/2004 | 190cm

Scoullar ended up leading the league for total hitouts in 2021, averaging 22.7 per game as one of the more imposing figures competition-wide. The 190cm talent was able to give her midfielders first look at the ball where it mattered most, building a good run of form towards the back-end of the season and playing her role well. She was another to crack the Vic Country Under 19 squad, and looks to be improving her follow-up work with strong tackle numbers.

Molly Walton | Key Defender
6/05/2004 | 170cm

Yet another of this talented Rebels crop who earned representative duties in 2021, Walton is a reliable defender who proved a mainstay for GWV this season. She reads the play well and proved strong in one-on-one duels, while also being able to intercept across the defensive 50. Walton led the league for rebound 50s with an average of 4.4 per her 10 games, making for a pretty complete defensive package with more development to come.

OTHERS:

Among a raft of key performers, Olivia Leonard was one who constantly dug in for the Rebels in 2021. She and Jenna Burke are a couple more to watch for next year’s crop. Among the 2003-births, Jorja Jones showed her worth across nine games, while top-ager Stephanie Glover had her moments throughout the season.

Competitive Doyle embraces “amazing opportunity”

SYDNEY Swans Academy captain Jess Doyle did not take on the responsibility of leading the side out in its inaugural game in the NAB League Girls competition lightly, describing it as an “amazing opportunity”. The teenager was one of the talented teenagers who made history on the day by not only competing in the match, but coming away with the win in what was the Swans’ first ever NAB League Girls victory.

“It was a really good experience, being able to lead the first Sydney Swans team interstate against Geelong was an amazing opportunity and I’ll always be grateful for that,” Doyle said.

Having not played her entire life but instead taking it up when she became a teenager, Doyle has worked her way through club football to state level representation, and is one of the 20 players involved in the 2021 AFL Women’s National Academy.

“I started playing when I was 13 and I was at Pittwater Tigers, a little junior club back at home and then I moved to Manly Wolves where I’m playing at now as like a senior club,” Doyle said.

Upon looking at the AFL Women’s Academy experience, Doyle said during the middle of the championships that she was looking forward to the first group session at the end of the week – which included a training session at Punt Road under the watchful eye of coach Tarkyn Lockyer – having only been able to complete Zoom sessions prior given the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

“It’s been really good, we haven’t got together as a group yet we’ve just been doing Zoom calls, but at the end of this Allies camp we’re going into a big group of 20 of us and getting together,” she aid.

Being one of three states involved in the Allies program, Doyle said there were natural challenges when combining to create a team formed of not only NSW/ACT players, but also Northern Territory and Tasmanian ones as well. She said after a little while, the players naturally bonded, and it showed with the win in the second game over South Australia.

“It’s been really good,” Doyle said. “I think at the start a lot of us were really hesitant to become as a group but I think over the past days we’ve grown together as a group.”

In terms of her player profile, Doyle described herself as a competitive player who “always likes chasing the ball and winning a one-on-one contest”. When discussing what she was hoping to improve on, the Swans talent said she was eyeing off building her endurance and strength to make her a more well-rounded player.

Not short of inspirations, the North Melbourne fan said she had plenty of people – both players and relatives – from whom she drew inspiration from during her football career.

“I go for North Melbourne so in the men’s I’d have to say Boomer (Brent) Harvey,” Doyle said. “He’s just really good at football and I’d have to say I’d inspire to be that. “In the women’s I’d probably say Alyce Parker, she’s always like a ball magnet, she’s always winning it. “But someone closer to me I’d have to say my family. My dad and my mum and my brother.”

As for her future goal, it was no surprise to see the AFLW Academy member aspire to reach the elite level and perform with the best players across the country.

“My goal is to become an AFLW player, which is probably everyone’s goal, but I’m hoping to be that,” Doyle said.

2021 NAB League Girls team review: Calder Cannons

NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Calder Cannons, a typically strong region which again fielded a bunch of strong top-agers, and have some talent on the way up. We recap the Cannons’ season, and take a look at some of the top performers across those various age groups.

Wins: 5
Losses: 3
Position: 7th (4th Metro)

SEASON SUMMARY:

A highly touted team coming into the season, Calder started as it meant to go on with a 16-point win in its opening fixture, against Sandringham. While the Cannons were shocked on home turf by eventual premier Oakleigh in their next outing, three-consecutive wins got their season well and truly back on track. A win against Western was Calder’s sole triumph in its final four outings though, with a second defeat at the hands of Oakleigh spelling an end to their campaign in the elimination final stage.

DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS:

Neve Crowley | Tall Defender/Forward
23/06/2003 | 175cm

Well known for her work as an intercept marking defender, Crowley was able to swing up the other end with great success a few weeks into season 2021. She translated a similar aerial dominance to her forward craft, presenting as a dangerous option up the ground and linking Calder into attacking 50. She was also utilised in that role for Vic Metro, showcasing a good amount of potential with her flashes of brilliance in each game.

Zali Friswell | Midfielder
30/12/2003 | 165cm

Friswell quickly became one of the competition’s most consistent midfield performers, combining well with the stars in Calder’s engine room to provide solid ball winning power and defensive work at the stoppages. A no frills type of talent, the 17-year-old ticked over 20 disposals in each of her last three outings. She has been tried in a couple of different roles for Essendon VFLW and Vic Metro, but looks most at home among the centre bounce rotation.

Tahlia Gillard | Ruck/Key Forward
12/12/2003 | 189cm

Pegged as one of the most promising key position options coming into the season, Gillard was another to hint at her potential as she waxed through the ruck and forwardline in 2021. She was difficult to beat in the ruck due to her sheer height, and proved just as potent aerially in her time up forward – showcasing good contested marking ability. Her athleticism is another big tick, and it is easy to see why she was selected in this year’s AFLW Academy intake.

Georgie Prespakis | Midfielder
13/03/2003 | 168cm

Arguably the best player available in this year’s draft pool, Prespakis enjoyed another stellar season in Calder colours, as captain. Having already set a ridiculously high standard, the midfielder was able to meet it each week and was a reliable asset at each level she played. Her understanding of the game and ability to win the ball is unmatched, with the defensive acumen to go with that penetration going forward. She is a superstar in the making and will quickly shake the ‘Maddy’s sister’ tag – if she hasn’t already.

Emelia Yassir | Midfielder
25/09/2003 | 160cm

Another important and constant figure in Calder’s midfield mix, Yassir was the speedy ground level type who helped set her side on the front foot with good run-and-carry away from the contest. A tough competitor, the 17-year-old is also not afraid to compete for and win her own ball, but benefitted from being released onto the outer via hand. In seven of her nine outings, Yassir notched over 15 disposals and that form was more than enough to warrant Vic Metro selection.

FUTURE ONES TO WATCH:

Abbey McDonald | Midfielder
5/02/2004 | 162cm

A bottom-ager who was selected in both the Vic Metro Under 17 and Under 19 squads, McDonald rose to the standard well with competitive efforts in a few roles. Around the ball, she can extract for herself or be released on the outer, while also offering good defensive efforts in the way of hard tackling. Depending on how many are drafted from the current crop, McDonald should slot straight into Calder’s permanent midfield mix in 2022.

Reese Sutton | Small Forward/Midfielder
22/06/2004 | 159cm

Sutton is a lively type who brings great speed and pressure to the contest. Her ability to break forward or make things happen at the fall of the ball proved handy traits in Calder’s midfield-forward rotation, with her manic defensive pressure another desirable trait in both positions. Sutton should be set for even more time in the engine room going forward, and was part of Vic Metro’s Under 17 squad this year.

OTHERS:

Complementing a strong brigade of inside ball winners, Mali McLeod showed great class on the outer. Peppa Poultney proved solid fold for Gillard in the ruck, while Kasey Lennox was a mainstay down back and Alisa Magri finished as the region’s top goalkicker (10) up the other end. Olivia Manfre was one who rotated forward from midfield, while Tahlia Read put her hand up as another to watch for the future.

2021 NAB League Girls team review: Dandenong Stingrays

NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Dandenong Stingrays, the second-ranked Country region which boasts plenty of talent across the draft eligible, and future age groups. We recap the Stingrays’ season, and take a look at some of the top performers across those various age groups.

Wins: 5
Losses: 3
Position: 4th (2nd Country)

SEASON SUMMARY:

We were made to wait through a Round 1 bye before seeing the highly fancied Dandenong Stingrays in action. It was worth it, as they broke to two-straight wins to kick off their campaign in style, before falling just one point short to eventual premier, Oakleigh in what was an instant classic. Another loss followed, to Tasmania, but Dandenong regrouped with three-straight victories before the month-long break. The Stingrays returned with a loss to Northern on the eve of finals, before Geelong brought their season to an end via a 35-point elimination final defeat.

DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS:

Jaide Anthony | Defender/Utility
20/11/2003 | 166cm

Recently crowned as Vic Country’s MVP of the Under 19s carnival, Anthony has enjoyed a stellar year of pathways football. The 17-year-old is a great competitor both in the air and at ground level, which is complimented well by eye-catching athletic traits and sharp skill on the ball. While she reads the play beautifully in defence, Anthony is also able to roam up the ground or swing to the other end, with her versatility another tick in terms of upside. She has also gained VFLW experience with Port Melbourne.

Abbey Jordan | Midfielder
8/09/2002 | 170cm

One of the leaders of Dandenong’s group for multiple seasons now, Jordan was overlooked at last year’s draft but came back strongly having worked on her deficiencies. She transitioned from a running outside type to feature on the inside in 2021, leaning on her experience and competitive edge to become a reliable ball winner. Jordan is another Vic Country representative who can play in multiple roles, whether that be on either side of midfield or across half-back.

Ashleigh Richards | Forward/Midfielder
22/10/2003 | 170cm

The co-captain this year alongside Jordan, Richards is another who proved impactful in a couple of roles for the Stingrays. She booted nine goals in seven games having spent a good amount of time up forward, while also showing the ability to rotate through midfield and get her hands on the ball. Like Anthony, she has also gone on to earn selection in the Vic Country squad, while breaking through to crack the VFLW grade with Port Melbourne.

FUTURE ONES TO WATCH:

Amber Clarke | Forward/Midfielder
22/12/2004 | 171cm

Already one of the most exciting prospects for next year’s draft, there is plenty to like about Clarke. Still only 16-years-old, she proved a game-changer for Dandenong in 2021 with her ability to hit the scoreboard in damaging spurts as she rotated forward from midfield.  Injury while representing the Vic Country Under 19s cut short her season, but the speedy mover showcased her class and immeasurably high ceiling across six NAB League outings.

Mackenzie Eardley | Key Defender/Forward
13/01/2004 | 180cm

A player who took great strides in her development throughout the season, Eardley is a premier tall prospect who is able to play at either end of the ground. The 17-year-old arguably looked most comfortable down back, where she used her height and sound reading of the play to intercept aerially. Her athleticism also translated to good form up forward, where Eardley bagged a couple of two-goal hauls to prove her versatility may be a weapon to utilise down the track.

Emily Shepherd | Midfielder
5/04/2004 | 163cm

The deputy vice-captain this year, Shepherd is already a prime prospect with enormous class and potential. She made a ripping start to the season with 23 and 24-disposal games, before suffering an injury in the Stingrays’ Round 5 bout. The 17-year-old was able to return later in the campaign, coming in as a stand-in skipper on the eve of National Championships and finding some of her previous form. She is one who seems to have time on the ball, and can make things happen going forward from midfield.

OTHERS:

Zoe Hill returned in 2021 as another 2002-born talent with good traits, performing well in her usual defensive post across nine outings. She was joined back there by Jemma Radford, who showcased her high-level rebounding skills, and Felicity Crank. The latter is one of a few bottom-agers to look out for, along with the likes of Charley Ryan and Bianca Lyne.