Tag: nab league girls

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

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 Northern Knights forward Alyssa Bannan, one of the leading key position prospects of this year’s cohort and a NAB League premiership player.

Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

Height: 177cm
Position: Key Position Forward
Strengths: Speed, scoreboard impact, marking/clean hands, versatility

2020 NAB League stats: 3 games | 14.3 disposals | 5.7 marks | 3.3 tackles | 2.3 inside 50s | 0.7 hitouts | 3.0 goals (9)

2019 NAB League stats: 9 games | 9.8 disposals | 2.2 marks | 3.3 tackles | 2.5 inside 50s | 1.2 hitouts | 1.7 goals (15)

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 2 games | 6.5 disposals | 3.5 marks | 1.5 tackles | 1.0 goals (2)

A position which has somewhat been lacking in dominance at the AFL Women’s level is that of the key forward. That trend could quickly change should Northern star, Bannan have a say in the matter, with her mix of aerial presence and speed at ground level making for a dangerous package at 177cm, heading into the 2020 draft.

As a middle-ager last year, Bannan was a steady contributor among the Knights’ stacked premiership side, averaging just under two goals per her nine games while also pinch-hitting in the ruck. She booted two majors from eight disposals in the Grand Final to cap off a consistent campaign, in which she also managed to bag two goals on five occasions and three goals, once. Bannan’s form was good enough to earn a berth at the Under 18 National Championships, where she claimed yet another two majors against Western Australia at Metricon Stadium.

In 2020, the athletically gifted forward has taken her game to new heights, upping her output inside 50 on all levels. Bannan has been dominant aerially with an average of 5.7 marks, credit to her height and clean hands, while continuing to utilise her speed across the ground to create diverse avenues to goal, apply forward pressure, and find more of the ball. She started the year off with a bang, booting a game-high five goals against Calder in Northern’s triumphant Round 1 Grand Final rematch, while carrying her form on to claim multiple goals in the following two outings.

Despite having assumed the role of Northern’s primary target inside attacking 50, Bannan’s ability to provide an outlet over the back and read the play as it unfolds means she isn’t merely a benefactor of the silver service her dominant side provides, but a bona fide star in her own right. Her versatility as a forward sets her apart from many other prospects over 175cm, and she is further developed than many of the raw products in the same category – certainly in her smarts and skills.

Should the NAB League Girls competition return in 2020, expect Bannan to pick up from right where she left off, as a spearhead for Northern and one of the more promising forwards of her draft class.

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons/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 Geelong Falcons’ midfielder Darcy Moloney who is a talented ball winner and progressed strongly through her middle-age and start of top-age footballing pathway.

Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

Height: 165cm
Position: Midfielder
Strengths: Accumulation, footy smarts, vision, skills

2020 NAB League stats: 2 games | 26.5 disposals | 1.0 marks | 3.5 tackles | 2.0 inside 50s | 1.0 rebounds

2019 NAB League stats: 10 games | 16.1 disposals | 1.8 marks | 3.6 tackles | 1.9 inside 50s | 4 goals

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 3 games | 13.7 disposals | 0.7 marks | 3.3 tackles | 3.3 inside 50s | 1 goal

A player who really came into her own as a middle-ager last season in the absence of the recently drafted Nina Morrison and Olivia Purcell. Moloney stepped up into the midfield, helping out captain Lucy McEvoy and teaming up with fellow bottom-ager Laura Gardiner, whilst providing a bit of dash and touch of class on a wing and half-forward. She booted the four goals, but it was her link-up work between midfield and forward – where she could hit up targets across her body and finding gaps inside 50 that really stood out.

Stepping up to represent Vic Country, Moloney was able to play all three games across the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, averaging almost 14 touches, as well as three tackles and three inside 50s per game. Her ability to get into space and run, and have an impact going inside 50 are among some of her top attributes. She only played the two games earlier this year, but brought her own football to the game, racking up a whopping 26.5 touches and still laying 3.5 tackles per game. She has an innate ability to provide an option and then look to get-and-go or switch up on the transition play to open up scoring opportunities for her teammates.

Whilst there is still plenty of unknowns about the remainder of the year, Moloney will undoubtedly be a key player in the Falcons last handful of games over the next couple of months, and be an important cog in the Country midfield should the championships go ahead as expected. She might be smaller than some other midfielders, but runs hard, finds the ball and uses it well, which sets her aside from a lot of her peers. She also has the capability of playing both inside and outside midfield, whilst resting at half-forward. She does not need a lot of touches to influence the contest, but she has no problems finding the ball.

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Jessica Fitzgerald (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

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 Northern Knights’ Jessica Fitzgerald, a balanced midfield prospect whose NAB League head coach described as their side’s most important player.

Jessica Fitzgerald (Northern Knights)

Height: 166cm
Position: Balanced midfielder
Strengths: Inside/outside balance, run-and-carry, leadership, defensive pressure, accumulation

2020 NAB League stats: 3 games | 18.7 disposals | 1.3 marks | 3.7 tackles | 2.6 inside 50s | 2.0 rebound 50s | 0.7 goals (2)

2019 NAB League stats: 11 games | 14.1 disposals | 1.6 marks | 5.6 tackles | 3.5 inside 50s | 1.3 rebound 50s | 0.3 goals (3)

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 2 games | 14.0 disposals | 1.5 marks | 1.0 clearances | 4.0 inside 50s | 0.5 goals (1)

Fitzgerald and her Northern Knights teammates have known only one way over the last 18 months – winning. In an inspired 2019 campaign, the metropolitan region went undefeated en route to its maiden NAB League Girls premiership, and Fitzgerald was a key cog in the stacked squad as a middle-ager. Her form was enough to warrant selection in the Vic Metro Under 18 side, another team which Fitzgerald helped to go undefeated last year.

The elite talent pathways are not purely results-based, but it is nice to be able to boast such a record. Arguably the more pleasing factor over the course of Fitzgerald’s junior career has been her ability to impact each side she lines up for, and her rate of development – even from a high level to begin with.

There is no questioning the drive and penetration Fitzgerald brings to the table, able to carve up opposition sides with her line-breaking speed and long boot. While she spent a touch more time on the outside and up forward in 2019, the 18-year-old has thrived in a more permanent inside midfield role thus far as a top-ager. In obtaining the primary ball winning role, Fitzgerald has adapted her pressure around the ball and creative mindset to become one of the more balanced midfielders of her cohort.

It is that exact balance that yielded the ‘most important player’ comment from Marcus Abney-Hastings after Northern’s 2019 grand final triumph, where Fitzgerald was also named best afield. The 166cm goer was her side’s leading ball winner with 15 disposals on that day alongside eventual number one draft pick, Gabby Newton, with her ability to stand up at the important moments an invaluable trait.

Talent aside, it is that kind of form which saw Fitzgerald named the Knights’ co-captain with good mate and midfield partner, Ellie McKenzie for 2020. The pair proved their leadership qualities in Round 3 of this year’s NAB League Girls season against a red-hot Dandenong side; dragging the Knights over the line after trailing at half time with 28 disposals each, while Fitzgerald also bagged two goals.

That game-breaking ability not only makes Northern a fearsome side, but puts Fitzgerald right up there in the top five discussion for her cohort. Her speed-endurance combination, sharpened finish product, and ball winning attributes make for a rare package of talent, with those immeasurable leadership qualities the cherry on top.

NAB League returns for shortened season

NAB League Boys and Girls will return in August in a breakthrough announcement by the AFL today. Following on from AFL Victoria’s announcement yesterday that the Victorian Football League (VFL) would begin on August 1, the premier junior competition will kick off on August 22 (boys) and September 5 (girls).

The NAB League Boys season will run for six weeks, whilst the NAB League Girls season will run for a further three – having commenced earlier this year and played three rounds in that time. The NAB League will look a little different aside from the shortened season this year, with the five regular season rounds broken up into Metro and Country conferences. The six metro teams: Calder Cannons, Eastern Ranges, Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers, Sandringham Dragons and Western Jets will face off in one conference, whilst the six country teams: Bendigo Pioneers, Dandenong Stingrays, Geelong Falcons, Gippsland Power, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Murray Bushrangers will face off in the other conference.

The top team in each conference will then face off for the 2020 NAB League Boys title meaning one Metro and one Country team will contest the final. The remaining sides will also play off in the sixth week against a team in the opposite conference to ensure each team plays six matches. At this point, the Tasmania Devils are not included in the competition, but in the announcement today, the AFL said it was still “working on its options” to allow it to participate.

Meanwhile the NAB League Girls competition will pick up where it left off back in March with a further two rounds of regular season games, followed by a finals weekend similar to the boys competition for Saturday, September 5. The three rounds from earlier in the season will still count, with Oakleigh Chargers, GWV Rebels and Northern Knights all undefeated. The fixture will be released at a later date.

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Maggie Caris (GWV Rebels/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 Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ ruck Maggie Caris who is hoping to join Rene in the AFL Women’s, whilst also having an elite junior level netball background.

Maggie Caris (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

Height: 189cm
Position: Ruck
Strengths: Ruckwork, athleticism, second efforts, upside

2020 NAB League stats: 2 games | 11.5 disposals | 0.5 marks | 29.0 hitouts | 1.0 tackles | 3.0 inside 50s

2019 NAB League stats: 6 games | 8.7 disposals | 0.5 marks | 23.3 hitouts | 1.7 tackles | 1.0 rebounds

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 2 games | 6.5 disposals | 1.0 marks | 17.0 hitouts | 4.5 tackles

With rucks considered a premium at junior level, GWV Rebels’ Maggie Caris looks to be the top prospect for the 2020 AFL Women’s draft crop. Caris has represented Victoria in both Australian rules and netball, making her a dual-sport threat and someone who could capably pursue either career. In terms of her football, Caris has always had height on her side, usually towering over all of her opponents through the pathways, and having the ruck nous and athleticism to stand out.

Along with her work in the air, Caris is strong at ground level with her second efforts a feature of her game. Whilst not a massive tackler at NAB League level – she really ramped up the pressure at last year’s Under 18 National Championships, laying 4.5 tackles per game from her two matches. In just two games this year, Caris lifted her disposal count and hitout numbers, as well as played more of an offensive role compared to a defensive one where she dropped into the hole last year.

With three inside 50s per game, and having a dominant performance against the Western Jets in Round 2, Caris showed just what she was capable of winning the ball around the ground. But while her current ability is quite impressive, there are still areas to build upon – such as her overhead marking and scoreboard impact – which would take her game to another level again.

If the 2020 AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships do go ahead, Caris is a player who not only would lead Vic Country’s attack through the ruck, but would be a contender for the All-Australian ruck position with a couple of talented South Australians also well stocked in that area. If she can pursue football and end up being drafted, she would follow in her sister Rene – Geelong AFL Women’s – in doing so.

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

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 Sandringham Dragons’ rebounding defender, Sarah Hartwig who is as good in the air as she is on the ground.

Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

Height: 173cm
Position: Centre half-back / can play midfield or forward
Strengths: Intercept marking, footy IQ, spoiling, clean hands, one-on-ones, positioning

2020 NAB League stats: 3 games | 15.0 disposals | 4.3 marks | 3.0 tackles | 1.3 inside 50s | 2.6 rebounds

2019 NAB League stats: 9 games | 13.1 disposals | 2.8 marks | 4.1 tackles | 3.4 rebounds

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 2 games | 5.0 disposals | 1.5 marks | 1.0 tackles

For AFL Women’s clubs, finding a tall defender with clean hands and high footy IQ that can also play through the midfield and up forward is tough. But luckily for Victorian teams, there are two genuine quality taller defenders in Isabelle Pritchard and Sarah Hartwig both in their top-age years this year. In Hartwig’s case, she has spent more time up the ground in 2020, which is why when you look at her stats compared to last year, her disposals and marks are up, whilst her rebounds and tackles are down. She has gone out hunting the ball and provided much more of an offensive run out of defence.

In 2019, Hartwig played nine games in the NAB League Girls competition and was one of the premier rebounders. She reads the ball well in flight, but reacts quickly at ground level, which makes her all the more damaging even when you think she is out of the contest. She attacks the ball carrier just as hard as the ball itself, and will often be the one knowing when to drop back into the hole to take an intercept mark. She can just as easily come over as a third player in a marking contest too.

In 2020, we saw Hartwig’s game develop further – albeit in just the three games – where she was able to win the ball a bit more up the ground, but still have the impact on the contest. In one play against the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels in Round 1, Hartwig came off half-back and ran between a number of opposition players to pick the ball up one-take on the burst, then took the opposition on by sidestepping or fending them off, and kicked neatly inside 50. It is this dare that can separate her from her peers, because she backs herself to get the job done and make the right choice.

While she only got limited time in the 2019 AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, if it goes ahead this year expect her to have a much greater role. She has the versatility to play in multiple positions, but she just reads the ball so well off half-back and positions herself accordingly, it is where you expect to see her line-up. With the improvement already shown and the natural development over time, Hartwig has the potential to become a quality defender at the top level.

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays/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 Dandenong Stingrays’ Tyanna Smith, a smooth-moving midfielder with terrific athletic traits and footy IQ.

Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)

Height: 166cm
Position: Midfielder
Strengths: Acceleration, kicking penetration, agility, clearance ability, footy IQ

2020 NAB League stats:  25.3 disposals | 4.0 marks | 6.0 tackles | 5.3 inside 50s | 3.3 rebounds | 1 goal

2019 NAB League stats: 7 games | 16.6 disposals | 1.0 marks | 3.6 tackles | 4.1 inside 50s | 1.6 rebounds | 7 goals

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 3 games | 16.0 disposals | 1.7 marks | 6.3 tackles | 2.7 clearances | 4.3 inside 50s | 1 goal

When it comes to the next crop of AFL Women’s talent, many of the up-and-coming stars have strengths that immediately stand out on the field. In rare cases, the players seem to have such an all-round game it is hard to find too many faults, and that is exactly the case with Dandenong Stingrays’ Tyanna Smith. If you rated players across a multitude of footballing categories, you would expect to see Smith in the top 10, if not top five for most, which is what makes her such a damaging prospect.

So what are her biggest strengths? Well for one her acceleration and agility is hard to match, with the Stingrays talent often being watched or held at stoppages to try and stop her from gaining space. One noticeable aspect is the work of her teammates to try and provide blocks to enable Smith to find the space, win the ball and kick it forward. Basically, the old adage of ‘if you give her an inch, she’ll find a mile’ applies perfectly to Smith. Once she is out of reach, good luck trying to catch her.

Dandenong Stingrays’ coach Dave Carden described her as “a coach’s dream” because of her ability to take on feedback and apply it to her game. In the opening round against Eastern Ranges, Smith sensed the game in the balance in the first half and took it upon herself to grab it by the horns and drive the ball forward. The speedy midfielder had multiple inside 50s, and while her team was not able to capitalise at first, she ended up kicking one of the goals of the year from the boundary. It would be her only goal of the season as she dominated through the midfield.

Often players that are so strong offensively do not always have the defensive side, but as we mentioned with Smith in regards to balanced gameplay, she not only has a defensive side, but she thrives on it. It is well worth watching her game against Calder Cannons where she brought down the equally talented Ellie McKenzie in a tackle as the duo had a terrific battle at times up at RAMS Arena. Averaging six tackles per game to go with her 25.3 disposals and 4.0 marks, Smith is one of the most efficient tacklers in the draft crop, making her just as damaging without the ball as she is with it.

There is still growth left in her game, but with a great balance across the board and the fact she is regarded as such a great listener, there are plenty of boxes that Smith ticks when it comes to assessing her game.

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

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 Northern Knights’ Ellie McKenzie, a dynamic midfielder/forward with an incredibly high ceiling.

Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights)

Height: 173cm
Position: Midfielder/Forward
Strengths: Clean hands, high marking, scoreboard impact, decision making, run-and-carry

2020 NAB League Stats: 3 games | 19 disposals | 5 marks | 2.3 tackles | 4.6 inside 50s | 0.3 goals (1)

2019 NAB League Stats: 10 games | 15 disposals | 3 marks | 2.4 tackles | 3.4 inside 50s | 0.7 goals (7)

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 2 games | 16 disposals | 2.5 marks | 3.5 tackles | 4 clearances | 1.5 inside 50s | 1 rebound 50

Northern Knights co-captain Ellie McKenzie has long been billed as one of her region’s top prospects after breaking into the side as a bottom-ager in 2018. Since her three-goal debut, McKenzie has developed into more than just a mainstay for the Knights, proving her worth as a game-changing figure over the past three seasons.

The 173cm midfielder/forward stood out last year even among a raft of top-age stars in Northern’s undefeated premiership side, catching the eye with high-flying marks inside forward 50, and tearing up the outside once employed further afield. That same form was transferred into the Under 18 National Championships, where McKenzie would feature thrice for the again, undefeated Vic Metro team.

Like many players in the elite category, McKenzie has a vast array of strengths which are adaptable to multiple positions. When stationed up forward, her clean hands and sizeable leap give her an edge aerially, with smarts around goal boding well for her damaging scoreboard impact.

But like many chasers have learned, McKenzie can also hurt the opposition with her run-and-carry on the outside. She showed as much in a couple of memorable moments throughout 2019, tearing up a wing with multiple bounces against Queensland while on representative duties, and capturing the crowd’s attention on NAB League grand final day with a similar feat.

For all the frills in her game, McKenzie also excels in the fundamentals. While she tends to favour her stronger left side when disposing by foot, McKenzie is a sound decision maker and can gain some serious meterage with her penetrating boot. Her clean hands have also served her well in congestion having picked up more midfield minutes, allowing her to be there and gone in a split second.

The sister of former North Melbourne rookie, Tom, McKenzie is developing a similar ball winning capacity, and has become one of her side’s premier extractors as a top-ager. Alongside co-captain Jess Fitzgerald, McKenzie turned the game against Dandenong around in quick time this season, as both players collected 28 disposals apiece.

It was that kind of form which saw the 17-year-old lead our DC Medal count after the first and only three NAB League Girls rounds in 2020, tied with Dandenong star Tyanna Smith. Along with the two aforementioned prospects, McKenzie is one of the leading candidates to be taken first off the board come draft time.

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Oakleigh Chargers

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at the Oakleigh Chargers, who had the two most impressive results from the opening two rounds before having a bye in Round 3.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: defeated Murray Bushrangers by 50 points
R2: defeated Tasmania Devils by 102 points
R3: Bye

It was an impressive start to the season from the Chargers who looked very ominous with a 50-point win over Murray Bushrangers before giving Tasmania Devils a rough welcome into the NAB League with a record-breaking score and win by any team thus far in its short history. It was tough to narrow the selection down to just five strong starters, as the Chargers had so many players who stood up in that brief time and made an impact. With a percentage of 663 from two rounds, there is little doubt that the Chargers would have had a strong season had it not been for the postponement.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Mimi Hill (24.5 disposals, 1.5 marks, 2.0 tackles, 3.5 inside 50s)

The second year captain led from the front when it came to her ball-winning ability, averaging 24.5 disposals per game and often winning the ball around the ground to open up the game for her teammates. She was able to regularly get it forward and provided some real leadership in the middle, working hard throughout the four quarters to be Oakleigh’s most consistent player across the games.

Eliza James (14.5 disposals, 3.5 marks, 5.0 tackles, 6.0 inside 50s, 2 goals)

James booted a goal in each of the two games and worked well at half-forward to have an influence on the contest. With seven and five inside 50s in game one and two respectively, she provided plenty of opportunities for her teammates in the forward line, while averaging five tackles a game to lock the ball up in the forward half.

Joanna Lin (14.5 disposals, 2.0 marks, 2.0 tackles, 4.5 inside 50s, 1 goal)

The vice-captain and bottom-age best and fairest winner last year started strongly working well on the outside with Hill to keep the ball moving in transition. She hit the scoreboard herself and averaged 4.5 inside 50s from 14.5 disposals, and was a key link in the chain between midfield and forward.

Stella Reid (10.5 disposals, 1.5 marks, 2.5 hitouts, 3.0 tackles, 4 goals)

The leading goalkicker for the side in a team that had plenty of contributors – nine multiple goalkickers – Reid kicked four majors across her two games. She got involved in general play a lot, averaging the 10.5 touches and three tackles per game too, and is still a middle-ager who will have 2021 to continue to develop.

Charlie Rowbottom (11.0 disposals, 1.5 marks, 1.0 hitouts, 2.5 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 2 goals)

One of the most exciting middle-agers, Rowbottom boosted all her numbers to start the season and showed some real development another year down the track. She booted the two goals and was able to find the ball around the ground, particularly in the front half after playing more in the back half last season. With another year to go, Rowbottom will be one to watch in 2021 too.

Others who have stood out: Taylah Morton, Alice O’Loughlin, Amelia James, Amber Micallef

All of the above could easily have snuck into the five standout starters, and there are even more on the list that could have slotted into this category as well. With our requirement to play both games to be in the top category, O’Loughlin and James played just the one – against Murray – but were ultra-impressive in that game, kicking a combined five goals in the 50-point win. Standing up in the second game after a solid first game, Morton booted three goals against Tasmania in an impressive performance, while Micallef provided a presence in the forward half too with almost five tackles per game to go with her 14 touches a match.

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Northern Knights

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at the Northern Knights, who have made an unblemished start to their premiership defence with wins over Calder, Geelong, and Dandenong on home turf.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: defeated Calder Cannons by 6 points
R2: defeated Geelong Falcons by 25 points
R3: defeated Dandenong Stingrays by 23 points

The 3-0 record may look ominous along with the average winning margin of 18 points, but the Knights were made to earn each of their first three victories. First up was a grand final rematch against the Calder, who looked the most direct threat to Northern’s flag defence. After holding the Cannons at bay, long-time closest rival Geelong was up next, but the Falcons hardly got close with just one goal on the board. Arguably the biggest test of Northern’s character came against another finals threat, Dandenong, where the Knights fought back from two goals down to win with a five-goal second half.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Jess Fitzgerald (18.7 disposals, 1.3 marks, 3.7 tackles, 2 rebound 50s, 2.7 inside 50s, 2 goals)

Coach Marcus Abney-Hastings described Fitzgerald as his side’s most important player after last year’s grand final, and she is proving as much in her top-age season as one of the competition’s most well-rounded prospects. The Knights co-captain has stood up at critical times across all three testing games thus far, showcasing the ability to generate run while also digging in hard at the contest. Fitzgerald’s standout game came against Dandenong, where she collected 28 disposals and booted two goals.

Ellie McKenzie (19 disposals, 5 marks, 2.3 tackles, 4.7 inside 50s, 1 goal)

Arguably the front-runner to be taken first off the board come draft time at this early stage, McKenzie has lived up to the hype generated by her under-age seasons. Leading the Knights for disposals and inside 50s as it stands, the dynamic left footer showcased her ability to tear games apart when she combined with co-captain Fitzgerald to drag Northern over the line against Dandenong. As a more permanent midfield fixture, her goals from further afield have become all the more valuable. She currently leads the Draft Central Medal standings alongside Tyanna Smith.

Alyssa Bannan (14.3 disposals, 5.7 marks, 3.3 tackles, 2.3 inside 50s, 9 goals)

Another out-and-out gun along the spine of this Northern side is Bannan, who has thrived as the primary key forward in her top-age season. Leading the competition for goals (nine) and marks (17), Bannan is equally damaging at ground level with her searing pace as she is in the air with her height. A five-goal effort against Calder in Round 1 got the ball rolling, with the 177cm prospect bagging consecutive hauls of two over the next fortnight. Could well be the new key forward prototype.

Maeve Chaplin (11.7 disposals, 1 mark, 2.3 tackles, 1.3 rebound 50s, 1.3 inside 50s)

After impressing as an effective two-way defender in her middle-age year, Chaplin has transitioned into a midfield ace this season credit to her ability to find the ball and use it cleanly. Discounting her three disposals against Dandenong, Chaplin had consecutive 16-touch efforts to open the campaign, showing virtually identical numbers in a typical mark to her consistency. With game winners around her in midfield, Chaplin has proven to be the reliable rock who can perform an important role each week.

Ashleigh Snow (15.7 disposals, 2.3 marks, 3 tackles, 1 rebound 50, 3.3 inside 50s)

Another who has featured prominently in the Northern lineup over the past couple of seasons is Snow, who has stepped up her ball winning numbers in 2020. Averaging over 15 disposals per game, the nuggety utility continues to go hard at the ball an inspire her side in transition, pushing further afield to penetrate the forward 50 arc after being used in more defensive roles previously. Despite her 158cm standing, Snow is not one to be overlooked and holds her own in the contest.

Others who have stood out: Georgia Kitchell, Tarrah Delgado, Abigail Bennett, Maykaylah Appleby

There are a number of players who can stake their claim here, starting with dominant ruck Kitchell, who has handily won the hitout battle in each of Northern’s three games. Able to follow up at ground level, the middle-ager’s tackle average of five is impressive given her 180cm frame. Another middle-age tall, Delgado has also impressed with her calm work down back, while hard-edged outside movers Bennett and Appleby continue to provide that bit of spark. Bennett, an experienced top-ager, also leads the competition for tackles with 24 over her three games.