Tag: Nathan burke

2020 AFLW Draft review: Western Bulldogs

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with Western Bulldogs, a team that has an abundance of youth, and whilst they did not make finals in 2020, gave plenty of indication that they will be a team to watch in 2021 and beyond.

Western Bulldogs:

#2 – Jess Fitzgerald (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
#11 – Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#16 – Isabelle Pritchard (Western Jets/Vic Metro)

Western Bulldogs took three picks into the AFL Women’s Draft and managed to pluck out three elite talents in 2020, all of whom are top 10 players on value. They again continued their trend of Vic Metro talents who played under Bulldogs’ coach Nathan Burke last year, as he looks to build that familiarity around his line-up and one that will be a successful unit in the future.

Taken with Pick 2 was Northern Knights’ co-captain Jess Fitzgerald who became the second Knight of three to go in the first three Victorian picks. The skilful ball user can win the ball inside or outside and is a big-game performer having been named best on ground in the Knights’ premiership last year. Another natural leader joining the Dogs, she follows her 2019 Knights captain in Gabby Newton at the Dogs.

Coming in at Pick 11 is the best defender in the AFL Draft crop in Sarah Hartwig. A natural interceptor and great above her head, Hartwig offers terrific value at the pick and one who will slot straight into the lineup. Her clean ball use and reading of the play makes her a great player to slot in at half-back, but also know when to push up to the wing if required. She played in defence for Vic Metro in the championships, and will be hard to beat in the air or at ground level with he willingness to take off when given the opportunity.

Another Vic Metro defender who has joined the Dogs is Isabelle Pritchard. The Western Jets defender turned midfielder is a Bulldogs supporter and lived out her dream by being picked up at Pick 16. She moved into the midfield this year and starred in the couple of games she played, performing strongly at the contest and showcasing her versatility. Another player who is top 10 on talent, she is a great steal by the Dogs and one who will be a good player for a long time in the red, white and blue.

Overall the Dogs have added even more elite young talent to their line-up and will be hard to stop when they all get to their peak.

Picture: Western Bulldogs Women’s Twitter

2020 AFLW Draft review: St Kilda Saints

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with St Kilda, a team that showed promising signs in its inaugural season and will be on the rise in 2021 after being one of the most impressive performers through the draft.

St Kilda:

#6 – Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
#24 – Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#34 – Renee Saulitis (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
#40 – Jacqueline Vogt (Southern Saints VFLW)
#51 – Tahlia Meyer (South Adelaide)

Every club is a winner post-draft, but St Kilda’s draft hand is one to celebrate and leave the red, white and black supporters really excited. Three young guns who were steals in the draft, followed by a couple of mature-agers including one already in the Saints’ program and another underrated talent in the SANFL Women’s, this is a side to watch in 2021.

Tyanna Smith was one of only a few who could challenge as the best player in the AFL Women’s Draft crop, so to see the Dandenong Stingrays star land at pick six and join former Stingrays’ teammates Molly McDonald and Isabella Shannon at Moorabbin is a coup in itself. She is arguably the most complete player from the Under 18s, with elite athleticism, great skills, terrific decision making and a big-game player. She will complement Georgia Patrikios in there and the two will almost be uncatchable.

Alice Burke is one the fans would have been tracking for a little while given the men’s team has not had too many father-sons over the years. The daughter of club legend and now Western Bulldogs’ coach Nathan, Burke is a tenacious midfielder who has also spent time at half-back. Coming from a soccer background, Burke would have been a top 15 pick in an open draft, so again like Smith, represents value. With her defensive pressure and dual-sidedness, Burke is a massive inclusion to the Saints’ outfit.

Renee Saulitis was the premier pure small forward in the draft, and while she showed over the last 18 months she could play in defence or midfield, she is most at home in a forward pocket. Oozing X-factor and goal sense, she is another who could come straight in and cause all sorts of damage at the feet of Caitlin Greiser, and is one to watch as a quick developer. She provides a niche little role in there, and cannot be left alone inside 50.

Jacqueline Vogt comes out of the Southern Saints program where she performed as a versatile forward. Strong and not afraid of the contest, the mature-age Vogt could slot into the side straight away if required following her consistent 2019 VFL Women’s season.

Finally, the Saints picked up slick ball user Tahlia Meyer with the extra pick they opted to pass on draft night. The South Adelaide prospect was one of the most underrated players in the SANFL Women’s competition, but hardly put a foot wrong with her disposal and vision going inside 50 a treat to watch. It seems to be a running theme with the Saints – good ball use and decision making – and Meyer fits the bill and is also readymade to have an impact at senior level.

Overall the Saints included some serious X-factor and talent to their line-up with fans likely to see them continue to rise up the ladder and worry some more experienced teams next season.

Picture: St Kilda Women’s Twitter

Pritchard takes opportunity into footy

IT was not so much a choice one way or another, but passionate sportsperson Isabelle Pritchard said the decision to pick up a footy and take a chance in the sport was more about opportunity than anything else. Trying her hand at just about anything growing up, and predominantly a netballer, the now Western Jets star has made the most of that opportunity that presented itself a few years ago.

“I had a go at pretty much everything to be honest,” Pritchard said. “Netball was probably my main sport. “I didn’t start that until I was about eight so I was quite young, I played that majority of my childhood, but I had a go at everything else. “I played some basketball, played indoor soccer, I did quite a bit of swimming, etc. and water polo. “I played some cricket, really everything, but netball was like the main thing for me.”

“I think for me it was sort of just, it wasn’t so much a decision it was sort of just the opportunity presented itself in football and I took it, I wasn’t so much weighing up the options of the netball path or football path. It was here’s the path for football, I love football, let’s play football.”

Pritchard said she would consider going back to netball later in life as she loved the sport, but knows the growth in women’s football has been too big to ignore and something she really loved to be a part of.

“Coming from playing netball, it’s quite restricted in terms of where you can run,” Pritchard said. “I loved the freedom of footy being able to go wherever and you’re not controlled by lines on the court or anything like that. “I think I enjoy the physicality as well, being able to get in there, get under the pack and win the ball out for your team is something I really enjoy.”

Pritchard lists her strengths as her ability to win one-on-one contests, as well as the contested ball. The latter of which she only realised after a role switch at the Jets this year saw the traditional intercept marker move from half-back into the middle.

“I really enjoyed it (midfield move) because it gave me an opportunity to be a bit more proactive instead of reactive I suppose,” Pritchard said. “As a defender you’re sort of anticipating where the ball’s going to come in and try and stop them from getting a goal, whereas in the mid your role is to get it forward to try and get a goal.

“I think I really enjoyed that aspect of it, but at the same time I think even when I was playing I still had quite a defensive role, I tended to stay towards the back as that backstop position which I think was good because it gave me an opportunity to translate the things that I learnt in backline into the midfield.”

Rewinding back to the start of her footy journey just a few years ago, Pritchard first tasted football at school as part of a round robin tournament and it instigated a move to sign up for Spotswood, her local football club.

“I signed up just for a bit of fun and started playing and I really enjoyed the day (at school) so then I began playing at a local team starting up at Spotswood, so I began playing there with a few of my friends,” Pritchard said. “I just fell in love with it, kept playing and I was lucky enough to get into the Western Jets that first year and I’ve played there since then.”

Her rise through the pathway was quick but she adapted, though not without plenty of nerves along the way, becoming a regular standout in the Jets’ side.

 “It was scary especially because Western Jets were such a relatively new team,” Pritchard said. “I think the first year I did it was the first year that the Western Jets was actually a standalone Western Jets. “I think it was a bit encouraging because we were all finding out, learning to play, so that was good. “It was scary, I didn’t really know what I was doing, but just tried to hold my weight.”

Hold her weight she did, having grown up supporting the Western Bulldogs with her family, and her twin brother playing football “since he could basically walk”, the game was hardly foreign for her. As a red, white and blue supporter, it was somewhat fitting that running out for Vic Metro as a middle-ager last season, Pritchard was coached by Nathan Burke who would go on to earn the top job at the Western Bulldogs later that year.

“I was incredibly lucky to play as a bottom-ager in the Vic Metro against some of the most talented players in Australia. It was such a great learning opportunity I think as well being able to work, being coached by Nathan Burke was amazing.

“He and also in the under 16s getting coached by Mel Hickey. “It’s so much knowledge that I was able to soak up and learn from their experience, their wisdom and they’re all great coaches. “Also being surrounded by a lot of players who had played a bit longer than me, but also just getting their help on the field and trying to learn from their experiences. “It’s just good being able to learn from such experienced people in such an experienced environment.”

Not only has Pritchard featured through the Vic Metro program, but has been a member of the AFL Women’s National Academy for a couple of years, something that took a while to adjust to due to a foreign exchange clash.

“I went on exchange when I was 16 for three months to France. “I actually found out that I’d got into the Academy while I was away,” Pritchard said. “I was in France and it was just before the summer that I found out and then I missed the first camp because I was away, and then I went on the second one. “It was a bit scary because everyone knew each other already and then when I went away on the second camp, I was trying to meet everyone, I was trying to get involved, find my place.

“But it was really good, and Aasta (O’Connor, AFLW Academy coach) was such a great role model and such a good coach,” she said. “It was amazing to learn from her, and also just be around such amazing talented players and some of those players ended up being my best friends, so it was really great just to be able to go away and spend some time around so much knowledge and talent and be able to try and learn as much as I can from them as well.”

Over her journey, Pritchard has been particularly looking to improve her skills and her athleticism, with the off-season of late giving her an opportunity to fine tune her fitness and speed. Someone who has always been there for the defender/midfielder is her father who she admits has been her role model throughout her childhood.

“He played football growing up as well, so he’s very passionate about it but I love it because he’s not overbearing,” Pritchard said. “When I want help from him I can ask and he’ll give it to me, but he never forces his opinion on me which I really value and I think his opinion is the most important to me, and whenever I need help I go and ask him what he thinks and he always comes up with something wise, so he’s probably been my biggest inspiration, my biggest role model.

“My brother has played footy since he was a kid and I guess that’s what sparked my intrigue into the game,” she said. “He’s always been so hard-working and humble, not just at footy but at everything he does. “My whole life I’ve just been trying to be as good a person as he is.”

Now with the AFL Women’s Draft looming large tomorrow, Pritchard said the goal for her was to just keep on improving to be the best she could be. Whilst being drafted would be a “huge goal” and an “amazing opportunity”, Pritchard said she would not stop aiming to always improve on herself.

“I mean it’s kind of crazy to think about that four years ago when I started playing I didn’t think that I would be here nominating for the draft, hoping that I would get drafted,” Pritchard said. “But it’s really exciting because it’s a huge opportunity that’s presented itself and the idea of it’s really scary. “I didn’t even know women’s football existed five years ago so it’s crazy, it’s overwhelming, but it’s also incredibly exciting and I can’t wait for the future to see what happens. “Obviously even if I don’t get drafted, I’m just excited to keep playing and keep improving.”

Knighted: Burke follows famous father and becomes a Saint

THERE are few certainties when it comes to the AFL Women’s Draft, but one of three players who already know their destinations net week is Alice Burke. The newest Saint will follow in the footsteps of her famous father Nathan, who amassed more than 300 game in the red, white and black. While her father is now somewhat ironically coaching an opposition side – Western Bulldogs – Burke said the family ties are strong regardless of the colours they wear.

“I’m sure there will be a little bit of trash talking at home, but I don’t reckon it would wouldn’t change anything,” Burke said of a potential St Kilda-Western Bulldogs clash. “The rest of that home environment honestly is when we do come home, we’re all pretty easily able to just swap into our normal home life. “We’re good at separating just being a family. “I don’t see it impacting anything too much, but it would definitely be interesting to see who the rest of the family, would support.”

For Saints fans it would be a great relief to see another Burke at Moorabbin, and it is no surprise to hear that the newest addition has always had it in her veins.

“Yeah our whole family has always gone for St Kilda from the start so I do have a soft spot for them, especially with the father-daughter,” she said. “We’ve had a couple of functions there for the father-daughters, father-sons, events. “I also did work experience at Saints. “I know the the venues pretty well, and all of that, but ultimately my goal in the end is just to be the best player I can and get as far as I can.”

For such a passionate Aussie rules supporting family, you would expect she would be a lifelong player. Except the truth is, she only took up the game three years ago, instead preferring the round ball game.

“I’ve definitely got that connection with dad easily, but for about the first eight or so years, I was playing soccer with my sisters,” Burke said. “I didn’t actually start footy till I think it was, 2017. “I played for school and, that was really the first ever time I’ve done anything with a football, and it was just like a little AFL 9s game, and I just remember going out there and thinking, ‘Oh, this is kind of really fun, this is really new’ and it was pretty much from that I just kind of like I was playing proper at the time.”

At that point in her life, Burke was succeeding in soccer, pulling on the green and gold for the national Under 19s in the United Kingdom. Despite making it to international level, Burke admits her feelings towards the game had begun to wane.

“I was pretty invested in soccer at that point, but because I’ve been playing for so long, I think the kind of love of the game, had worn off,” Burke said. “So when I did start footy, it was something new. “I’m one of those people who really enjoys learning new skills and just like getting into new routines.”

Burke began to forge out a stellar junior career, as it escalated from something that was new and fascinating into an atmosphere and environment that she loved.

“I was pretty bad at kicking and all of the skills and the tactics and all of that (when I first started),” Burke said. “I remember that having Tam (Hyett, head coach) as my first coach, and she’s just pretty much staying back after trainings to help me learn to kick and all of that. “I just fell in love with just having all these new things to try and all these new things to do. “I like the games like having that bit of uncertainty. “Like in soccer you’re pretty set about your role and everything. “In footy, it’s a lot more chaotic, and all of that uncertainty makes it a lot more enjoyable for me, it’s a lot more exciting to play.”

A question on many people’s lips might be, when your father is a 300-game AFL player, how have you not at least played some junior footy before?

“Yeah at the time there was no one around, no girls that I knew that played it,” Alice said of women’s football “It wasn’t really an option, most people just played netball or soccer. “I think my oldest sister – I’ve got two older sisters – and they got into soccer first. “I was one of those siblings where if my older siblings are doing it, or if they were trying something, I had to do it with them. “I just got into that through following them.”

Having reached the international stage and having a promising soccer career in front of her, making the choice to cross to Australian rules football was far from straightforward, but Burke felt it was the right one.

“Yeah at the start (it was a hard decision),” Burke said. “Just because I had been doing it for so long. “Does that mean I’ve wasted seven, eight years to doing the wrong sport or something? “Once I actually I went down to the open day for Dragons and I loved it so much. “That was massive turning point for me that I was just full set on. “Soon as I got my first taste of an actual team, it was pretty easy for me to be like, this is a lot more enjoyable and it’s probably got more of a future in it then soccer did for me and plus, having Dad’s background, he was able to like go outside and teach me, and we’re spending a lot of time outside of it from that point on as well, just practising the skills and everything.”

Burke started her career off half-back, a position she was familiar with through soccer. While her technical ability was still adjusting, it was obvious from the start that she was dual-sided. It was not long before she soon caught up to the rest and was thrown in the midfield, a challenge the teenager thrived on.

“It was pretty new that having that different perspective, where you actually have to be aware of what’s around you,” she said. “Have that whole 360-degree perspective compared to just 180 when you’re in defence. “Having all those new perspectives and the multiple things to focus on in the game just made it all the more enjoyable for me. “And playing in midfield was definitely was the first time I’ve done it and straight away it was just really fun.”

Burke defines her ability to use both sides of her body, and her repetition of the techincal side further enhanced her ability. Through soccer she became familiar with running down the left side of the pitch despite being a right footer, and when caught on that left side, she naturally used the left foot.

“I was still in that habit from soccer is always using my left foot,” Burke said. “And from that I kind of learned, ‘alright If I can’t train myself not to use my left, well I’m going to have to learn to use it well, because I could be using it either way. “I’ve been pestering dad doing a lot of practise on that, and I reckon that’s definitely paid off this year.”

Burke recognised how lucky she was to have a father who had reached the elite level, but more so one who was always happy to aide in her development and assist in any way that he could, just being a father as much as a coach.

“It’s definitely been like it’s really important to me keeping on top of my skills and everything because, dad’s been working at home and everything now during lockdown,” Burke said. “It’s been pretty easy for us to just go down to the Trevor Barker Oval it’s a couple of blocks away. “We’ve been going down there a lot, and he has a really good input of he’ll teach you how to pick up your own mistakes, because in a game, he knows that you’re not gonna be able to have someone tell you what’s going wrong or not.

“One of our pet peeves has always been if you make a mistake, it’s okay. “But what matters is whether you make it again or if you fix it. “So being able to pick up those environmental cues yourself and realise what’s going wrong and then how to fix it. “That’s been something he has really diligently taught me and I reckon that helped me improve a lot in the game.”

Burke said she would love to build the knowledge of her inside midfield game. Whilst he has no problems attacking the contest and then using it once in possession, she wants to improve her decision making, as well as reading the play and at the stoppages off hands. What she calls her gameplay intelligence.

Her development as a player in a short space of time came to the fore after winning the 2018 best and fairest, an accolade she backed up in her middle-age year last year. Burke describes it as a “real shock” but said she loved how footy rewarded hard work over results.

“If you’re shepherding someone you might not necessarily be impacting the play, but you are still playing a vital role in the game,” Burke said. “That’s why that’s something that I’ve always tried to work really hard on in the games, is putting in those extra one per cent efforts. “I reckon it was definitely a shock for me when I got that first best and fairest, because it really it was good to know that I’m in a sport that values those kind of things.”

Burke progressed through the Vic Metro program and went up to the Gold Coast for the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships. She loved the increased standard and said it was amazing playing alongside so many talented players all in one team and across the competition. What made it a little different to most is that her father coached the team, though she said you would hardly know they were related on game day, and they are able to switch back into family mode once home.

“During the day he’d be my coach and we wouldn’t have any talk at home (about it),” Burke said. “There’d be a few inside jokes of of ‘don’t pass Alice the ball’ or something, but I remember one night I snuck into his room and we watched Bachelor together and then we woke up next morning and he is the coach again. “He’s really good at swapping between putting the coach hat on and the dad hat, and we’ve never had any issues with that.”

While her father has undoubtedly been an inspiration over the journey, a former Dragon has also had a huge influence on Burke’s career. Jemma Owen was Burke’s first captain at the Dragons, and crossing from another sport it was daunting at first, but Owen helped her fit right in.

“I was pretty like scared to come into a brand new team by any sport, I didn’t know anyone or how to do anything,” Burke said. “Jemma … was fantastic, straight away was so nice and welcoming to everybody. “She was really good at being that leader, but also kind of demanding the best out of everybody on the field. “She was never afraid to talk, you know, let somebody know they need to be doing something. “One thing that I really liked too was she didn’t ask anything of the team that she didn’t do herself. “I found that she was someone that I could really respect as a player. “And, you know, her dedication through the game was really admirable.”

Now she is officially an AFL Women’s player – with her selection to be confirmed on Tuesday – Burke is ready to hit the ground running and knows her career goals.

“The reason I loved footy was I did play for fun, and I wanna make sure to improve and get better at the game and everything, but ultimately I just want to enjoy it, it’s a wonderful opportunity,” she said. “I’m going put everything in, I just hope that I do just keep enjoying the game because I love it, and it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever done. “I hope that definitely stays with me.”

Versatile Hill a natural leader

TWO-time NAB League Girls captain Mimi Hill has been a mentor at the Oakleigh Chargers over the past couple of seasons and it is easy to see why. At first she was daunted at the prospect of leading girls that were a couple of years older than her, but she settled into the role and now thrives from the task at lifting the team around her.

“The first year when I was captain, last year, I think I was 16,” she said. “I was like, ‘what is going on?’ “I was just not expecting it at all, and that was quite intimidating getting to captain older girls potentially three years older than me. “But it was also really exciting and a great opportunity to develop my leadership skills and also develop me as a footy player, because instead of like being really hard on myself in the games and getting down on the little things, mistakes I’ve made, it made me refocused on the team, and I think that developed my footy ability.

“Instead of being really hard on myself, I channelled that energy into making sure the team is on track. “If I’m having a bad game, it doesn’t matter. “I’ve still got to focus on that control like everything’s going to be alright.”

After fitting into the role as a middle-ager in 2019, Hill was named captain in her top-age year once again, and she certainly felt more comfortable from the get-go. Not only looking to build on-field performance, but lift everything she could off-field, the Chargers’ leader was “excited” about the 2020 possibilities.

“I was really excited because obviously I had that experience from last year, and it was a much younger team and less experienced team (this year),” Hill said. “I was really excited to develop a really good culture at the club, and I think we achieved that just looking at the results and also the relationships that everyone made at the club.”

Hill came runner-up in the 2019 best and fairest last year, but for her while accolades are a great honour, it is about leading from the front and doing anything she can to get her team over the line on matchday.

“Just because I value that really highly and I think it shows that you do put in each week,” Hill said.

Hill’s journey through football has been one of relative recent times, starting up when she hit high school.

“Pretty much I just kicked in the park with Dad and my siblings since I was really little, I never really did Auskick or anything,” Hill said. “Then when I got to Year 7 and a new school, I played a game of footy in class and the teacher afterwards was like you should definitely be looking to join the club team.

“I went home straight away was like, ‘Dad can you please sign me up for footy?’ He didn’t think at the time there was a girls team, but obviously everything was up and running at that point. “So he got me into local team Kew Comets and I played my first game of footy. “I was like, ‘this is actually the best sport ever’ and I basically stopped most of my other sports and just stuck to footy.”

After her first season with Kew Comets, Hill was already showing promise as a future footballing talent. The next season she was invited to join Oakleigh Chargers’ Under 15s which she said was really good because they helped develop her skills whilst she was playing within the school team. Four years later and Hill is a Vic Metro representative at Under 16s and Under 18s level, and earned an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite.

While Hill missed out on going up to Queensland last year as a middle-ager due to the enormous amount of top-age talent on the list, she enjoyed running out against Vic Country at Werribee, having also pulled on the ‘Big V’ a year earlier at GMHBA Stadium at the Under 16s Championships.

“Vic Metro games are probably my favourite,” Hill said. “They have been my favourite games since I started playing footy just because I really enjoy stepping up like the standard. “I think that I’m able to lift with the standard and it improves my footy as well. “I just love meeting all the new people from different regions and just so great and obviously footy just brings together so many amazing people like-minded people. “It’s so great to get to meet all these new girls.”

While disappointed to miss out on going to the Gold Coast for the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, Hill received an invite to the AFL Women’s National Academy, something she was thrilled about and believed her Metro coach and current Western Bulldogs AFL Women’s coach, Nathan Burke might have had something to do with.

“I was just really excited that, like my hard work had paid off,” Hill said. “Nathan Burke actually mentioned after Vic Metro that he would put a good word in for me, which I wasn’t sure if that was just something he said. “But he held his word, so it was really exciting. “It just meant another trip where I could develop my footy and meet new people to. “It’s so great.”

Hill has always had a team focus, so it is no surprise that the talented top-ager looks back on her time at the Chargers from a team perspective. From struggling in the early days, to narrowly missing out on finals, to starting in a blaze of glory this year, Hill has been a key member of the transformation at the club.

“I think our first game from I think it was when I was in the Under 16s,” Hill said. “That was the first season. “So I wasn’t playing in the main team and I’m not sure they won any games that season. “Then my first game for the Under 18s team, we beat Gippsland by quite a bit, which is exciting, but then we didn’t had many wins after that.

“I think we’ve always had that good potential. We’ve always had good players. “We just weren’t gelling as a team. “But then last year, we got even better. “Girls have been around for a while, so lots of experience and (it was) very disappointing missing out on the finals. “We lost some games we shouldn’t have, and overall it was a pretty good season.”

Hill said the highlight of the 2019 season was being the only side to take points off the undefeated Northern Knights who went onto win the flag.

“The highlight was probably drawing with the Northern Knights because they were actually a powerhouse team in the competition,” Hill said. “We actually had the potential, but then this year we definitely like ‘well, there was quite a lot of new girls and younger girls’. “There was a great culture at the club. “It was just really exciting to see what we could do and it was so disappointing the end of the season (to miss out on finals).

One game in particularly that sticks out in Hill’s mind was the Chargers’ heartbreaking one-point loss to Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels in the penultimate round. Just needing to win their last two games, the Chargers were strong favourites against the one-win Rebels, but in a tight contest all day the Rebels kicked a late major to cause a boilover. While Oakleigh won its last game of the season, it allowed Calder Cannons and Eastern Ranges to take the final two spots with the Knights and reigning premiers Geelong Falcons and Oakleigh finished fifth.

“That’s probably the game I’m thinking about the most, very disappointing, but I think it just kind of opened our eyes up as a team,” Hill said, looking at the positives. “We should have won it. “We were just disappointed in ourselves because we knew we had more to give. “We beat (grand finalists) Calder in the year and came close to beating (premiers) Northern. “So we felt like we deserved to be there. “But then obviously didn’t. “In the end, we didn’t deserve to be there.”

Putting the disappointment behind her Hill was determined to have a big 2020 and there were few bigger starts to the season with Oakleigh cruising to a back-to-back thrashings over a couple of younger sides in Murray Bushrangers and Tasmania Devils prior to the season being postponed.

“It was so exciting,” Hill said. “I was just, I’m looking at the team and the relationships we’d built already. “The wins we’d put on put on the board, it was so exciting for the year to come because I’ve really thought that this was the year that Oakleigh would make an impact on on the finals. “And potentially, I mean, it was a bit early in the season, but I thought we could win the premiership. “But I also didn’t want to let the girls get ahead of themselves or myself as well, because it was very early in the season.”

While the team has always been her main focus, you do not make Vic Metro and the AFL Women’s Academy without some serious talent. Hill rates her running ability and cleanliness at ground level amongst her best traits, as well as her decision making with ball-in-hand. Still lightly built compared to other players, Hill was focused on building greater body strength and improving her tackling numbers – something she concedes she could not do due to social distancing – but improve the former through gym work.

Hill is a natural midfielder, but can play inside, outside, half-back or half-forward if she needed to, predominantly sitting at half-back and using her run to advantage, then moving through the middle when required.

“I’m really happy playing anywhere,” Hill said. “Last year, Luke (O’Shannessy, head coach) from Oakleigh said, ‘We’re going to put you on the backline just to give you another area of strength, then that’s good for the draft’. “That was kind of fun learning that new position and I do enjoy getting some running power, getting some running from the backline. “Midfield is probably my favourite position, I like roving the ball, getting in down under as well.”

Hill has grown up a Hawthorn supporter and idolises Sam Mitchell who she draws comparisons to through her own game.

“I feel like I have a similar body type that quite smaller midfielder,” Hill said. “His ability to kick on both feet, it’s just always amazed me, and I think whenever dad and I kicked the footy with each other, if one of us does a really good left foot kick we say ‘oh that’s a Sammy Mitchell’, just he’s just a a legend of the game.”

Focused on the present and what she can achieve, Hill said it would be “so exciting” to hear her name read out at next week’s AFL Women’s Draft. Whilst it might not be for the brown and gold she has grown up supporting, she is just keen to earn a place and where she can meet new people and improve her football further.

“If I got the chance to play next year, it’s just so good,” Hill said. “I just feel like I can belong at that level. “I want to show people that I’m good enough to be there.”

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Richmond & St Kilda

THE AFL Women’s Draft is fast approaching and in the lead-up to the draft, we take a look at each of the AFL women’s sides in pairs and see what they might look for, and who might be available with the selections they have. Next up in our series are the two recent expansion sides from Victoria, in Richmond and St Kilda.

Richmond – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 1, 42 (28), 52 (33)

Off-season summary:

There’s no way around it, Richmond’s maiden AFL Women’s season was a disaster. But the fast-moving nature of the competition means the Tigers can quickly turn it around, and they have started anew (again) by targeting some more mature talent, with help from concessions.

Richmond’s end-of-first-round pick (15) granted by the AFL was used well, transferred to Carlton in exchange for heart-and-soul inaugural Blue, Sarah Hosking. The hardened midfielder adds some much-needed grunt to the engine room alongside long-term midfielder/forward Sarah Dargan, with fellow former-Magpie Sarah D’Arcy and Harriet Cordner (ex-Melbourne) within the experienced age bracket.

Grace Campbell, a pacy raw midfielder was lost to North Melbourne for not much, with 19-year-old Ella Wood a shock retirement to go with that of Laura Bailey and Lauren Tesoriero. Nekaela Butler, Ciara Fitzgerald, and Emma Horne were all delisted too, sealing what was a relatively big turnover in players for the second-year club.

A draft look:

All eyes will be on what the Tigers decide to do with pick one. The two frontrunners are Northern Knights midfielder/forward Ellie McKenzie, and Dandenong Stingrays midfielder Tyanna Smith. McKenzie, a mercurial type who boasts a well-rounded game may edge out her country counterpart at this stage, but both would be fine selections. As expected from such high draft picks, particularly of late, both will be able to immediately impact the Tigers’ side from Round 1 and provide a much-needed spark to the unit. They could also be generational players for all the loyal Tigers fans to adore for years to come.

With their later picks, 28 and 33 in the Victorian pool, the Tigers may look to consolidate their midfield even further, potentially freeing Katie Brennan up to spend more time forward, while taking some pressure off the shoulders of Monique Conti, and the incoming pick one. In a team which lacked goals in 2019, Richmond could also do with some firepower up forward – mostly in the medium/small category.

St Kilda – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 6 (4), 24 (16), 34 (23), 49 (26), 51 (32)

Off-season summary:

After a strong maiden AFL Women’s season, the Saints have came away with plenty of promise to build on. While the losses of Alison Drennan (Gold Coast) and Jess Sedunary (Adelaide) will be felt along with the retirement of Courteney Munn, St Kilda managed to bring in a couple of solid defenders to bolster the team. Bianca Jakobsson and Jayde van Dyk are those defenders set to make an impact, with the Saints’ draft hand also looking strong. That hand, as discussed below will help them secure father-daughter selection, Alice Burke at not too pretty a penny. Overall, the new Victorian team looks in good shape, boasting a solid core and some exciting members of the next generation.

A draft look:

Given the balance on St Kilda’s side, recruiters and coaching staff can look at taking the best available throughout – particularly with pick six (four). With one of McKenzie or Smith poised to be taken first off the board, the Saints can look at the likes of Alyssa Bannan and Sarah Hartwig as realistic targets. Of course, the Bulldogs may well opt to secure a key forward with pick two, meaning that Smith could even fall to St Kilda pending what Melbourne do with pick three.

The first pair mentioned are both dynamic midfielders with plenty of weapons and game-breaking abilities, while Bannan is an athletic key forward, and Hartwig a defensive marking machine. Of course, St Kilda has also already confirmed the addition of Alice Burke, the daughter of club legend and current Bulldogs coach, Nathan. The tough midfielder will likely cost the Saints one of their later picks. With the others remaining, the strong Dandenong Stingrays ties could also be maintained, given pre-listed players such as Molly McDonald and Isabella Shannon both came from the region.

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Melbourne & Western Bulldogs

THE AFL Women’s Draft is fast approaching and in the lead-up to the draft, we take a look at each of the AFL women’s sides in pairs and see what they might look for, and who might be available with the selections they have. Next up in our series are the two inaugural sides from Victoria, in Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.

Melbourne – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 5 (3), 15 (9), 17 (11), 35 (24), 40 (27), 47 (30)

Off-season summary:

With somewhat of an ageing list and the premiership window closing, Melbourne seemed to recognise both factors during the sign and trade period. As one of the busier clubs, the Dees enacted a big turnover of established players, allowing them to bolster their draft hand to make the most of a bumper crop and regenerate ahead of the 2021 season.

Elise O’Dea was the biggest loss, as she was packaged up and sent to the Blues alongside Maddy Guerin, while defender Harriet Cordner was shipped to Richmond, Aliesha Newman to Collingwood, Bianca Jakobsson to St Kilda, and Katherine Smith to GWS. A strong, established core remains, but that’s a big loss in starting-21 players. Coming the other way, though is a third Irishwoman on the Dees’ list in Lauren Magee, a star of the Gaelic code.

A draft look:

This is as important a draft as ever for Melbourne, with a lot riding on its first pick and the value lying in its remaining hand. The Dees also boast the equal-most selections available with six, ensuring they’ll be able to cover each loss at the least.

With pick five, the third in the Victorian pool, Melbourne will likely look to bolster its defensive stocks. Sandringham Dragons tall Sarah Hartwig seems a good fit to plug a key position gap, while Western’s Isabelle Pritchard is a versatile option who can also move through midfield. Should the Bulldogs (see below) opt to overlook Northern key forward Alyssa Bannan, she could well land at Demonland.

The Demons’ remaining hand should see them further boost that defensive line with depth of all sizes, while potentially targeting another key position forward depending on what happens with pick five. Youth should be the priority, though mature-age recruits have payed off for many clubs throughout the draft, especially last year.

Western Bulldogs – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 2 (2), 11 (6), 16 (10)

Off-season summary: 

The Bulldogs have been gutted of some serious senior talent over the expansion years, so a quieter sign and trade period would have been a refreshing change for their fans. Still, Aisling McCarthy leaves a gap in midfield as she departs for West Coast, while Hannah Munyard has returned home to Adelaide, and Nicole Callinan is the sole retiree. 20-year-old key forward Katie Lynch was their only recruit, and may well help predict what the Dogs will do with their first pick in the draft. Having traded well to land three top-end selections, the Bulldogs’ rebuild is in decent shape.

A draft look:

Familiar themes could well arise from what the Bulldogs decide to do with picks two, 11, and 16 – the second, sixth, and 10th choices in the Victorian pool. After taking in a bunch of Vic Metro based talent last year, all familiar to coach Nathan Burke, the Bulldogs will likely again revert to the deep Northern Knights well of talent. While the recruit of Lynch fills a massive key position forward requirement, don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs opt for another in Alyssa Bannan with pick two. Otherwise, Olivia Barber could be the key forward they’re after with one of the two later selections.

Should they feel that area is covered, midfield support for Ellie Blackburn is another important area of improvement. Ellie McKenzie could then become the second Northern Knights captain to land at the kennel in as many years, joining Gabby Newton, while Dandenong’s Tyanna Smith is the other likely number one pick who could get a look-in. Both are damaging midfielders who should be ready to set the competition alight from Round 1. Keeping with the Knights’ theme, Jessica Fitzgerald would be a handy choice with either of the two remaining selections, a balanced midfielder who co-captained her side with McKenzie.

Featured Image: Jess Fitzgerald and Gabby Newton at this year’s NAB League Girls launch | Credit: AFL Photos

2020 AFL Women’s season review: Western Bulldogs

IT was a tough year down at Whitten Oval to mark the start of the Western Bulldogs’ regeneration, with incoming coach Nathan Burke leading his side to a 1-5 record across the shortened season. Coming into the campaign boasting a raft of high-quality draftees plucked from the NAB League – including number one pick Gabby Newton – there seemed to be a new lease on life at the kennel. While the pure results may not suggest as much, there were some real bright spots produced by the developing group which will only get better in time. In the third of our club-by-club 2020 AFL Women’s season reviews, we look back on the highs and lows of the Dogs’ season, and highlight their top performers.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: defeated St Kilda by 25 points
R2: lost to Melbourne by 20 points
R3: lost to Carlton by 21 points
R4:
lost to West Coast by 4 points
R5:
lost to Collingwood by 32 points
R6:
lost to Fremantle by 15 points

With doubt swirling about just how good the Bulldogs would be in 2020, they started on exactly the right note with a big win over expansion side, St Kilda to stamp their authority as an inaugural club. But that was where the winning form both began and ceased for the Dogs, with fixtures against four fellow inaugural teams making for a tough initiation for many of the young pups. Thrown in a shock loss to West Coast in Round 4 and the list of results do not look pretty, but narrow Round 6 loss to Fremantle very nearly saw that turn ever so slightly as we got to see arguably the very best of the Bulldogs right at the close of the season.

SEASON HIGH: Getting off on the right foot

There was a slight split in opinion regarding how the Bulldogs would fare in 2020, and those buoyant on their chances of finals football were justified as the season got off to a perfect start. The Dogs were able to post their second-greatest total for the year (39) while also restricting St Kilda better than they had done to any other side, and won on the back of a hot start with four goals to one in the opening term. A raft of debutants made an impact on the big stage, with mature guns Ellie Blackburn (17 disposals) and Bonnie Toogood (two goals) playing key roles in the triumph.

SEASON LOW: Going down to struggling newcomer, West Coast

The Bulldogs’ loss to West Coast stands out among their five defeats, which is ironic given it is also yielded their smallest margin of defeat (four points). Burke’s side was on top at half time, but was outrun on the road as the Eagles held on to secure an unlikely win after previously returning pretty uninspiring results. There is no shame in losing to four eventual finalists within a six-round competition, but this one will have hurt the Bulldogs as they languished near the bottom of Conference B.

FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:

Ellie Blackburn (17.3 disposals, 2.2 marks, 4.2 tackles, 1.3 rebound 50s, 2.7 inside 50s, 2 goals)

The heartbeat of this side is the skipper, who was reliable as ever in her fourth AFL Women’s campaign. Blackburn played in all six games for the Dogs and was often the main source of inspiration going forward as she provided that run from midfield and the class to find targets inside 50. Leading the club in disposals, metres gained, contested possessions, clearances, and inside 50s, Blackburn was again far and away her side’s most valuable player.

Kirsty Lamb (13.7 disposals, 3.2 marks, 4.3 tackles, 1.5 inside 50s, 3 goals)

Often a key cog in the Dogs’ engine room, Lamb’s hard edge in the midfield helped her play a very important second fiddle to Blackburn. Second only to her skipper in disposals and second at the club for tackles, Lamb’s two-way work rate from midfield was key in settling the otherwise inexperienced side. The 25-year-old’s ability to find the big sticks with three goals across six games was also handy.

Isabel Huntington (13 disposals, 4.8 marks, 2.6 tackles, 3.4 rebound 50s, 1.4 inside 50s)

It shocked many that the 21-year-old former number one draft pick was still eligible for a Rising Star nomination, but she earned one in Round 6 to cap off an outstanding third year in the competition. Utilised mostly as a key defender but able to swing up the other end, Huntington was a reliable figure for the Dogs and a force in the air. Huntington led the club for marks (contested), disposal efficiency (74 per cent) and intercept possessions, only missing Round 2 in her most consistent campaign to date.

Aisling McCarthy (13.5 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4 tackles, 1.5 rebound 50s, 1.8 inside 50s, 2 goals)

Having staked her claim as one of the more successful Irish Aussie rules converts as a forward in previous years, McCarthy enjoyed some time further afield this season while still arcing back to that familiar position close to goal. McCarthy’s disposal average of 13.5 was her best effort yet, despite only finding the big sticks twice throughout her six games. Taking on more responsibility as each season passes, the 24-year-old’s development has been exciting to watch.

Kirsten McLeod (7.2 disposals, 2.2 marks, 1.8 tackles, 1 inside 50, 5 goals)

The Bulldogs’ most effective forward this season in terms of goal output was McLeod, who put through a club-best five majors in her six outings. The 25-year-old was a mainstay inside forward 50 and while she may not have won bucketloads of the ball, was a viable target for those up the ground having booted two bags of two goals to finish the year, and having an ‘almost’ game of 0.3 against West Coast. Gave it her all.

YOUNG GUN:

Gabby Newton (13.2 disposals, 1.7 marks, 7 tackles, 0.7 rebound 50s, 0.8 inside 50s)

Arguably one of the Bulldogs’ top five performers, the 2019 number one draft pick will also go down as her side’s most influential first-year player. The Northern Knights graduate built steadily into her maiden AFL Women’s campaign, and had her form recognised in Round 4 with a Rising Star nomination. Mixing her time up forward and through midfield, Newton led the club for tackles by averaging almost three more than her next-best teammate, while also ranking second for contested possessions and marks.

VERDICT:

The nature of the business is that it is largely results-based, but remove that lens in viewing the Bulldogs’ season and plenty of positives begin to appear. The young pups could very well have finished the season with three wins and snuck into finals had they beaten West Coast and held on against the rampaging Dockers, but the greatest silver lining is the experience pumped into the wealth of young talent at Burke’s disposal. All, bar one of their 2019 draftees earned debuts and had their moments, while the usual, more experienced suspects built on already-established careers. The Bulldogs will only get better with time, and may be a scary prospect in just a few years.

2019/20 AFLW off-season review: Western Bulldogs

AFTER claiming a maiden AFL Women’s premiership in 2018 and looking impressive from the get-go in 2019, the Western Bulldogs fell away in the second half of the 2019 season to finish wooden spooners in Conference A. There was far from any shame in that, because had they been in the other conference, chances are they would have played finals, but it is what it is and the Dogs missed out on finals in 2019.

The AFL Women’s most active team over the off-season – which is saying something considering there are four expansion sides – the Western Bulldogs had eight players walk out the door to other clubs, and made three further changes with Hayley Wildes the sole retiree. Of the 2019 departures, Katie Brennan and Monique Conti would sting the most, with both genuine top 10 players in the competition, but now will don the yellow and black in season 2020. It leaves the Western Bulldogs with one elite established talent in Ellie Blackburn, but unlike a lot of sides, the Dogs have plenty of next tier talent either ready to break into that elite group, or sub-elite group.

Given the departures over the off-season, the Bulldogs headed into the draft with eight selections having only brought in Melbourne’s Ashleigh Guest as part of a trade that saw reliable defender, Libby Birch off to the Demons. With four selections in the top 10, and a new coach in Nathan Burke at the helm, AFL Women’s Draft Day was always going to be an optimistic one. The recruiting team leaned on Vic Metro Under-18 coach Burke, with the seven selections taken on the day coming from his Metro squad. It not only meant the chemistry between coach and players would already be established, but the team cohesion would also be impressive.

Gabby Newton was picked out as the first selection in the draft and can play any role across the ground, but will likely start in the middle. She could be joined by Northern Knights teammate, Britney Gutknecht in there, while Western Jets’ Elisabeth Georgostathis has the versatility to play anywhere, particularly in that back half. Gemma Lagioia and South Adelaide’s Hannah Munyard – the latter of whom was taken post-draft after the Bulldogs passed and the Crows opted not to select her – running down the ground will be a sight to see for Dogs fans. The Bulldogs also addressed the fact they lost some talent inside 50, with father-daughter selection Isabella Grant and Nell Morris-Dalton providing an aerial presence, as well as ground support in the form of Amelia van Oosterwijck.

OFF-SEASON CHANGES:

IN: Ashleigh Guest (Melbourne), Katy Herron (rookie – Gaelic), Danielle Marshall (rookie – soccer), Gabby Newton, Nell Morris-Dalton, Britney Gutknecht (Northern Knights), Gemma Laioia, Amelia van Oosterwijck (Oakleigh Chargers), Elisabeth Georgostathis, Isabella Grant (Western Jets), Hannah Munyard (South Adelaide).
OUT: Katie Brennan, Monique Conti (Richmond), Selena Karlson, Emma Mackie (St Kilda), Tiarna Ernst (Gold Coast), Belinda Smith, Kate Bartlett (West Coast), Libby Birch (Melbourne), Tessa Boyd, Jesse Davies (delisted), Hayley Wildes (retired).

2020 TEAM LIST:

Deanna Berry
Ellie Blackburn
Eleanor Brown
Nicole Callinan
Naomi Ferres
Ellyse Gamble
Elisabeth Georgostathis
Angelica Gogos
Isabella Grant
Ashleigh Guest
Britney Gutknecht
Bailey Hunt
Isabel Huntington
Gemma Lagioia
Kirsty Lamb
Brooke Lochland
Aisling McCarthy
Kirsten McLeod
Celine Moody
Nell Morris-Dalton
Hannah Munyard
Gabby Newton
Kim Rennie
Hannah Scott
Lauren Spark
Bonnie Toogood
Aisling Utri
Amelia van Oosterwijck
Rookies: Katy Herron, Danielle Marshall

POTENTIAL SIDE:

B: Nicole Callinan – Hannah Scott – Ashleigh Guest
HB: Eleanor Brown – Lauren Spark – Elisabeth Georgostathis
C: Gabby Newton
HF: Bonnie Toogood – Isabel Huntington – Aisling Utri
F: Aisling McCarthy – Isabella Grant – Brooke Lochland
R: Kim Rennie – Ellie Blackburn – Kirsty Lamb
INT: Angelica Gogos – Nell Morris-Dalton – Gemma Lagioia – Naomi Ferres – Britney Gutknecht
EMG: Deanna Berry, Hannah Munyard, Celine Moody

DEPTH: Kirsten McLeod, Amelia van Oosterwijck, Bailey Hunt, Ellyse Gamble, Katy Herron*, Danielle Marshall*

Trying to work out a best 21 for the Western Bulldogs in season 2020 is near impossible, with so many fresh faces coming into the side. It will be a challenge for Burke to balance experience with youth, given that naturally the youth coming through are more developed than their predecessors and could have a greater impact sooner. But the balance is there to ensure that they are not complete pups, and that there are experienced heads guiding the team. Of the new recruits, Ashleigh Guest could fill a role in defence, with the Dogs’ back six going to be interesting outside of Hannah Scott, Lauren Spark and Nicole Callinan, with Burke possibly looking to adopt a running game, which means Eleanor Brown, Elisabeth Georgostathis and Gemma Lagioia could rotate through there, with all of them easily in that best 21. Gabby Newton should play from Round 1 with Knights’ teammate Britney Gutknecht also in the running, as could Isabella Grant and Nell Morris-Dalton, but the forward line structure will be one for the Bulldogs to try and work out given the depth of both talls and smalls up that end. Of the draftees to miss out at this stage, it was the later selections of Amelia Van Oosterwijck and Hannah Munyard, though all two could come in and play a role, with Munyard having tasted senior football, while van Oosterwjck is more of a long-term prospect, but a real goer inside 50. Of the five experienced Dogs we left out – Deanna Berry, Ellyse Gamble, Bailey Hunt, Celine Moody and Kirsten McLeod – Moody is one who could play depending if the Dogs opt for a second ruck with Kim Rennie, Berry is a player who could be in the starting line-up on talent, it is just finding that consistency, while McLeod played six games last season, but with the influx of talent coming in, will be competing for a pot. Hunt and Gamble were on the fringes last season but still managed the three games.

Fresh and familiar faces to build Bulldogs’ future

HOLDING four top ten picks – including the first – heading into Tuesday’s AFL Women’s Draft, much of the pre-draft chat surrounded how the Western Bulldogs would use their high-end selections.

They lost superstars Katie Brennan and Monique Conti to league newcomer Richmond after ending their premiership defence with just two wins and at the bottom of a strong Conference A. It called for rejuvenation, a new direction, and their raft of new pups would front it.

Brennan replacements now come in the form of pick one, Gabby Newton and pick six, Nell Morris-Dalton – both key members of the undefeated Northern Knights and Vic Metro sides. Skip a selection over to picks eight and nine and the themes become more evident. Classy speedsters Gemma Lagioia (Oakleigh) and Elisabeth Georgostathis (Western) plug the run-and-carry void left by Conti, with father-daughter selection Isabella Grant, Northern’s Britney Gutknecht, and Oakleigh’s Amelia van Oosterwijck filling out a rejuvenated Dogs list.

Player retention is currently a hot topic in the game, and one would think recruiting seven girls who had all played together under the very same coach they would look up to in their first AFLW season goes a long way to solving that issue. Indeed, new Dogs coach and former Sandringham/Vic Metro mentor Nathan Burke had a huge say in how his new side’s draft hand played out, and it saw his club remain a focal point carrying into the post-draft chat.

While the Brennan/Conti replacement theory is rather basic, wide-eyed and bubbly draftee Lagioia gave a similar analysis of how she might fit into the team alongside fellow outside runner, Georgostathis.

“Obviously there’s some pretty big shoes to fill,” she said. “I think working into it, we won’t be at that level this year but hopefully in the next few years we can really pay back what (the Bulldogs) have given us by taking us so early.”

“We’ve played together before, we’re quite similar players so maybe I’ll play on one wing and Liz will play on the other.”

“Obviously Gabby (Newton) and Nell (Morris-Dalton) are very close, they played at Northern and then we all played together at Vic Metro so it’s just really exciting to be able to stick together and go into a club where you know a lot of people already.”

Hailing from the Western region, Georgostathis’ sense of belonging at her new club comes two-fold, with the versatile runner proud to be the first Jet to find an AFLW home in 2019. Coming in alongside the likes of Lagoia, Newton and Morris-Dalton made the occasion that bit sweeter.

“Yeah I am (happy),” she said. “Being the first Western Jet girl is pretty good, the Jets have helped me so much over the past four years and I’m so grateful for them and all the development and all the staff there.”

“I’m sure the Bulldogs have a great development program and all they want is the best for the girls to help us develop into the future, not just this year but hopefully the next five years.”

“Seeing we’ve played with (Gabby and Nell) in the National Championships we know how they play and we all know how each other work a bit so we can use that on the field… I don’t know if Gem remembers but we played together in the Under-15 National Championships. “We didn’t know each other that well back then but then coming again this year and playing Vic Metro together, it’s pretty good and now playing Bulldogs with (Gemma) is really good.”

Rounding off the consensus sentiment among the new pups was number one pick Newton, who sounded a great advertisement for the Dogs’ tactics in the love shown for each teammate she is set to line up alongside for years to come.

“I love Nell, she’s one of my best friends,” she said. “All the girls drafted to the Doggies, Liz and Gem as well and Izzy Grant, they’re all such good friends. “I can’t believe we’re all going in together, it’s so exciting to have fresh faces in and around the club.”

The use of familiarity in building a future spine could prove to be one of the most fruitful draft strategies of recent times, but a lot has to play out until we can say so for sure. For now though, boy is the 2019 Bulldogs draft class chuffed with being reunited, ready to help Footscray find its way firmly back on the map.

Note: The Western Bulldogs also signed South Adelaide young gun and talented athlete Hannah Munyard today as a free agent.