Tag: nekaela butler

NAB League Girls Round 1 preview: Undefeated 2020 sides to face off in huge round of action

AT least one of the three undefeated sides from the 2020 NAB League Girls season will extend their winning run to 18 months or more, when the competition returns this weekend. Starting tomorrow, the NAB League Girls will have six games across four different venues – including one double-header – in a new footballing landscape for 2021. For Dandenong Stingrays, they will have to tack on an extra week to their extended break that saw the 2020 season come to an unfulfilled end last year, after they were handed the bye. For the 12 other teams, it will be a chance to start the season off on the right note. For the likes of Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, they look to continue what they started last year, having not lost since 2019, or in the Knights’ case, the 2018 grand final.

Eastern Ranges vs. Western Jets
Saturday, February 6 @ 12pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

In what is officially the first NAB League Girls game in almost 12 months, Western Jets will cross the West Gate Bridge and head down to Kilsyth Recreation Reserve where the Eastern Ranges will be waiting for them. These teams last played way back in Round 4, 2019, when the Ranges easily accounted for the Jets by 43 points. A dominant second half where they booted 6.2 to 0.0 saw them run out 7.4 to 0.3 winners, with Olivia Meagher picking up 17 disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s.

Meagher has been named for the match tomorrow, with last year’s captain to play as a 19-year-old prospect in 2020. She is the only Ranges player from that match to remain on the list, whilst a trio of then 15-year-old talents in Caitlin Sargent, Trinity Skenderis and Jemima Woods – as well as now top-age and over-age talents respectively, Nikita Wright and Ciara Singleton – all remain on the Jets’ list having played in that match.

Looking at the teams, the match will be won and lost in the middle, with the Jets having some great height, whilst the Ranges have speed to burn. That is not to say the respective teams do not have the opposite as well, but they are damaging in their respective areas. For the home team, Jorja Livingstone was a player who really shone last year and is a clean ball user and able to work her way out of stoppages. She will team up with the likes of Meagher and Bridget Deed in the middle, roving Georgia Campbell‘s taps. Up forward, Matilda Hardy, Jade Hutchison and Isabella Khoury are ones to watch, whilst Saskia Nannes will be a potential big improver with more matches after having the season cut short last year.

For Western, their under-age group is brimming with talent, though now with extra experience, Sargent, Skenderis and Woods will be among those to watch. Montana Ham and Charlotte Baskaran present as two of the top 2022 prospects, with Ham’s versatility and size through the midfield hard to match, while Baskaran’s run and carry – as well as her elite use by foot – will provide a one-two punch that is always difficult to combat.

This is a game that could go right down to the wire, and difficult to predict with so many new players, but Eastern might have the upper hand at home.

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.15pm
JC Lowe Oval, Yarrawonga

From the east to the far north, Murray Bushrangers will host Bendigo Pioneers in a terrific spectacle for the country regions at Yarrawonga. Both these teams have a talented tall in the AFL Women’s Academy which makes things exciting. These two teams have also not played since March 30, 2019 when the Pioneers – during their most successful season to-date – toppled the Bushrangers by 14 points in Wangaratta.

That day it was Annabel Strahan (now Bulldogs) who had 20 touches, seven tackles, five inside 50s and a goal) and Brooke Hards (17 disposals, three marks, 11 tackles, four inside 50s and three rebounds) who teamed up to cause havoc on the Bushrangers, while Millie Brown (now Geelong) racked up 27 disposals and six rebounds, and Abby Favell (22 disposals, five marks eight tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds) were the best for the losing side.

A then 15-year-old Ally Morphett had 11 disposals, two marks, 14 hitouts and two inside 50s, with the now AFL Women’s Academy member looming as the key player for the Bushrangers. Bendigo’s Academy member Tara Slender also played in that match, picking up seven disposals and having six hitouts, though the pair are unlikely to spend too much time one-on-one considering Slender will roll through a key position role and Morphett will be one of the dominant rucks in the competition.

Looking at the overall squads, Murray’s defence is strong given the likes of Mindy Quade and Kristy Whitehead provided plenty of run down there – though could be utilised further up the ground this season. Lily Sharp has been touted as one to watch by the Bushrangers’ coaching staff following a big off-season, and Keeley Skepper remains one of Vic Country’s top talents for 2022. Kate Adams returning as co-captain and providing experience and strength in the midfield will also be important.

For the Pioneers, Slender could be the top Vic Country prospect this year and will always be difficult to beat in the air, with the Pioneers’ captain not having to shoulder the ruck load given Madeline Marks‘ efforts in 2020. She will have her hands full against Morphett but it could be a fascinating battle, while Jayda Richardson, and now top-age talents Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning provide much needed experience to a really young Pioneers outfit.

Murray is excited about the depth of its squad in 2021, and while the Pioneers have some great young talents coming through, the extra experience for the Bushrangers – and what they started to show last year – should have them favourites at home in Yarrawonga.

Gippsland Power vs. Tasmania Devils
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.30pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In a battle between two teams that are building exciting programs, Gippsland Power “hosts” Tasmania Devils at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The furthest south east side travel up the highway to welcome the league’s newest team that only managed to taste one game in Victoria last year. The Devils had a rough introduction to the NAB League Girls competition – though the improvement from their brutal loss to Oakleigh Chargers to being competitive for the most part against Eastern Ranges has plenty of people buoyant about what they could produce in 2021.

These teams have never played before, and both have younger lists, sprinkled with some top-age and over-age experience. Key position players Camilla Taylor and Shanara Notman are the 20-year-old allowances in those sides, and have the size to cause a matchup dilemma for their respective opponents. Tasmania Devils have the sole AFL Women’s Academy member in this match, with the speedy Perri King looking to breakdown the Power’s zones and create some important run and carry for her side.

Aside from King, Amy Prokopiec remains a player to watch, having predominantly played as a last-line defender in previous seasons for the Devils, but became a reliable goalscoring threat in the TSL Women’s for Clarence. Other players who stood out 12 months ago include Jemma Blair, Aprille Crooks, Chelsea Thomas, Zoe Bourne and Meghan Gaffney. Having received an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite without managing to get on the park in the NAB League Girls, Charlie Vandenberg will get a great opportunity in the ruck and rotating forward with Taylor against one of Vic Country’s top ruck prospects.

Grace Matser is going to be difficult to stop, with the ruck battle set to be a duel within the match not to be missed. As the only Power player above 180cm, she will look to control the airways. The Gippsland midfield has some nice depth to it, with Grace McRae returning to the fold after being unlucky to miss out on the draft in 2020, and will get a good chance to play consecutive games this season. Matilda Van Berkel is another one with experience and able to play a number of roles, while Holly Booth and Sunday Brisbane are among those tipped to cause problems for the opposition. One name to remember for next year is Lily-Rose Williamson who has come through the V/Line Cup program and been one ready to step up at the level.

This game is as 50/50 as they come, so as is often the case in 50/50 games, we will lean towards the “home” team in Gippsland Power, though Tasmania Devils will be keen to sniff out their first win in the competition.

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Deakin University – Geelong

The final country game of the round occurs down in Geelong at Deakin University when the Falcons host the GWV Rebels. Much like the earlier two Saturday games, these two teams last played back in Round 4, 2019, when the Falcons – on their way to another finals series and coming off a premiership in 2018 – defeated the young Rebels by 36 points at City Oval in Ballarat. Luka Lesosky-Hay (31 disposals), Darcy Moloney (23) and Lucy McEvoy (22) all suffered leather poisoning and showed why they were capable of playing at the top level, whilst Nekaela Butler picked up 21 disposals and had six rebounds bravely defending for the home team.

There are a sprinkling of players from that day that remain on the lists in 2021, such as AFL Women’s Academy member Ella Friend, and Chloe Leonard and Crystal Summers (GWV Rebels), and Zoe Garth, Renee Tierney, Poppy Schapp and Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong). Those players will provide great experience for their respective sides in that clash, in what is sure to feature some of the best talent in the NAB League Girls competition.

The Falcons might not have an Academy member, but have plenty of developing young players, with Dowling a presence in the back half but can play anywhere, Annie Lee beside her in defence, Keeley Hardingham controlling the ruck, and Mia Van Dyke a bottom-age prospect who will be one to watch for next year able to roll through the midfield. Geelong has always been a team flushed with depth, and 2021 appears to be the same, with no shortage of talent across all three lines.

Alongside Friend – who will be that taller marking target at half-forward – Nyakoat Dojiok is the other AFL Women’s Academy member on the Rebels’ list. The running defender could start off half-back or roam along a wing depending on the team’s needs, able to add that mix of power and acceleration to breakaway from would-be tacklers. Leonard returns to the club as a new top-ager and one who will settle down the defence, while Stephanie Glover, Lilli Condon and Summers are some of the names to watch in the match.

Geelong have had such success over the past few years, it is hard to look past them at home. The Rebels will provide a great contest, but we will find out where both these teams are at following the Round 1 encounter.

Calder Cannons vs. Sandringham Dragons
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In the first double-header of the year, a star-studded Calder Cannons outfit hosts an ever-growing talent base in the Sandringham Dragons. The last time these two met was in 2019 back in Round 3, as the Cannons went on to make the grand final that year. They only scored two behinds in the first half and trailed by five points at the main break, before booting the last four goals of the game to win 4.8 (32) to 1.3 (9) over the Dragons at Trevor Barker Oval.

Alice Burke (St Kilda) and Sarah Hartwig (Bulldogs) were among the top players for the Dragons, whilst it was Georgia Patrikios (St Kilda) and Krstel Petrevski (Melbourne) who shone from those who have been drafted. Best on ground that day was Georgie Prespakis who lit it up with 23 disposals, three marks, eight tackles, four inside 50s and two rebounds. The now-Cannons captain will look to have an equally big impact this year, while Emelia Yassir, Kasey Lennox, Alisa Magri, Zali Friswell and Neve Crowley are just a handful of the talented names who also played as 15/16-year-old talents on that day.

The Cannons have proven to have such great development over the past few years, and all the above names along with Mali McLeod, Peppa Poultney and Jessica Zakkour makes them a rock solid team across the board. Though their opponents are no slouches either. Back in the 2019 clash, now-captain Kiana Lynch, as well as the likes of Charli Murphy, Summer Trim, Emma Stuber, Isabella Stutt, Ebony Angelopoulos and Chloe Saultry all took to the field, so the Dragons have a core of players with plenty of experience under their belt.

Murphy will provide that marking target up forward, while Lynch will lead a host of bottom-agers with future potential. Bridie Hipwell and Sofia Hurley are just a couple of names who still have another year to go after this one, but are becoming key players in the Dragons outfit going forward. They made great strides last season and play what would be considered the benchmark team in the competition first-up here.

Calder Cannons deserve to be favourites for the overall title, so it is hard to tip against them in any game. The Dragons will be up and about and likely to be among the contenders this season too, so buckle up for an exciting contest.

Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers
Sunday, February 7 @ 12.45pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Wrapping up the weekend might just be the tightest of the lot, with both Northern Knights and Oakleigh Chargers going undefeated last year, and technically the Knights are still the reigning premiers from 2019. Both these sides had a host of players drafted in 2020, with the Knights having the first three Victorian players taken in the draft. These two sides played back in Round 2, 2019, when they played out a thrilling draw in what would be the only match where the Knights did not collect the full points that season.

Future AFL Women’s talents, Ellie McKenzie, Britney Gutknecht, Gabby Newton and Alyssa Bannan were the best for the Knights, while Mimi Hill, Joanna Lin, Alana Porter and Emily Harley all shone for the Chargers. Also playing that day was now AFL Women’s Academy member, Maykaylah Appleby who leads the Knights charge in 2021, with Teleah Smart, Mikayla Plunkett, Jessica Simpson and Tallia Pulcino among the current-listed Northern players running around that day.

Appleby is the one to watch this season, but the Knights have brought back a host of top-age players such as Plunkett, Pulcino, Maeve Chaplin, Trinity Mills and Gulia Ceravolo, so have plenty of experience to guide the next crop of Knights talents. Some names to watch this year aside from the above group with a point to prove are the likes of defender Tarrah Delgado and ruck Georgia Kitchell who showed some promising signs in the short 2020 season.

The Chargers had the likes of Taylah Morton, Kalarni Kearns, Charlie Rowbottom, Eliza James and Emma Chamberlain running around in the draw with the Knights, and have been growing some phenomenal depth of late. Rowbottom is the AFL Women’s Academy talent and if she crosses paths with Appleby, it will provide plenty of highlights. Add in the likes of top-ager Amanda Ling, middle-ager Stella Reid, and bottom-ager Rianna Thiele, and the Chargers have built an exciting list.

Another 50/50 split game that could go either way. It is hard to look past the Knights’ success rate, but what the Chargers were starting to do last year, the depth is among the best going around so Oakleigh could become the first team to knock off Northern in almost three years.

AFL Women’s Young Gun Watch: Round 6

IN our sixth edition of the Young Gun Watch, we take a look at some of the top young performers across the AFL Women’s competition in Round 6 focusing on those players born in the 21st century (2000 or 2001). We analyse match-by-match just how they performed and what they did well.

Geelong vs. North Melbourne

North Melbourne ended up coasting to a comfortable victory over Geelong on Friday night to maintain top spot on the Conference A ladder. However, star Cat Nina Morrison’s devastating injury would be the main takeaway from the game as she unfortunately ruptured the ACL in her right knee for the second time in two seasons. As things went from bad to worse for Geelong fans, Olivia Purcell gave them something to smile about having collected 18 disposals and five tackles. Millie Brown (nine disposals) and Sophie Van De Heuvel (eight disposals) were also serviceable in what was a tough night for the Cats. Daisy Bateman again provided pressure up forward for the Kangaroos resulting in a goal for her five mark and five tackle effort. Making the most of a high-scoring team performance was Mia King, who managed her first career goal after gathering 12 disposals and an impressive seven tackles.

Brisbane vs. Collingwood

Collingwood collected a dominant road win against Brisbane, keeping them in the hunt for finals footy. Much like the rest of the team, Brisbane’s young talent couldn’t quite get into the game with their first draft pick in 2019, Lily Postlethwaite, collecting just the two disposals. Natalie Grider showed some positive signs out of defence, collecting 10 disposals and laying four tackles having to contend with the sharp and abundant inside 50 use from the Magpies. Full-forward Jesse Tawhaio-Wardlaw had seven disposals, three marks and six hit outs while Isabel Dawes managed five disposals in what was a quiet night for Brisbane’s forward stocks. Collingwood’s experience led the way as their young talent played roles in the win. Jordyn Allen had nine disposals and five marks while Lauren Butler also collected nine disposals off the half back-flank. Mikala Cann (five disposals, four tackles) and Alana Porter (five disposals) were also useful.

St Kilda vs Richmond

St Kilda boasted contributors across the board as they held Richmond goalless at Moorabbin on Saturday, a first in AFLW history. The Saints’ youth again impressed as their first draft pick, Georgia Patrikios, had 14 disposals and a couple of tackles out of the middle, unfortunately also just missing out on a goal. Dandenong product Molly McDonald showed large improvement with 12 disposals, six marks and three tackles, while Isabella Shannon was serviceable with four disposals and two tackles. Nicola Xenos again applied solid pressure in the centre with six tackles, as she enjoyed a well-rounded 11 disposal performance to go with a goal. The Tiger’s young talent endured a tough day with the rest of the team, with Kodi Jacques (seven tackles) and Sophie Molan (eight disposals) the stand-out players. With finals footy out of the question for Richmond, Nekaela Butler (five disposals, three tackles) and Ciara Fitzgerald (two disposals, two tackles) both debuted in the loss.

Melbourne vs. Carlton

Alice Springs brought the heat on Saturday in more ways than one, with the Blues enjoying a 16-point win over the Demons, propelling them to second on Conference B’s ladder. Sticking with mature-aged players, Melbourne again played just the two players born this century. Tyla Hanks has been the most impressive all season and started in the centre, collecting 11 disposals and laying six tackles. Hanks now averages five tackles per game on the season. Carlton’s youth again showed why they are arguably the best in the league, with Madison Prespakis leading the crop in a typical Prespakis performance of 23 disposals, four marks and a goal. Lucy McEvoy put up impressive numbers with 19 disposals, while last week’s Rising Star nominee, Charlotte Wilson, had 11 disposals and six marks out of defence. Murray product Grace Egan was also important, popping up with a goal to go with her 11 disposals and three tackles.

Western Bulldogs vs. Fremantle

Fremantle maintained its perfect record off the back of a dominant final quarter which saw them outscore the Bulldogs 25 to six at Whitten Oval on Sunday. The highest-scoring game in AFLW history was littered with admirable performances from youth on both sides as fans were treated to the future of the competition. The Bulldogs’ young talent improved greatly on last week’s performance with Gabby Newton (16 disposals, eight tackles) and Elisabeth Georgostathis (13 disposals, four tackles) leading the way. Gemma Lagiola (10 disposals) and Eleanor Brown (11 disposals, three tackles) were also important for the Bulldogs, as Hannah Munyard returned nine disposals, three tackles and a goal. Britney Gutknecht (seven disposals, four tackles) played her second game for the season, while fellow former Northern Knight Nell Morris-Dalton debuted with eight disposals and five tackles. Fremantle’s Mim Strom backed up last week’s effort with an even more dominant 25 hitouts, playing a lone hand in the ruck with Roxanne Roux out. Though it was not four goals, Sabreena Duffy managed to keep the Bulldogs defenders under pressure with five tackles, while Emma O’Driscoll managed seven disposals.

Adelaide vs. GWS GIANTS

The GIANTS defeated the Crows for the first time in franchise history behind closed doors on Sunday, running out five-point victors. Adelaide continue to showcase their young talent as finals footy feels like a long way for them having suffered this loss, with Montana McKinnon again the most impressive. The six-foot ruck again provided the Crows midfielders with deluxe service with 17 hitouts. Danielle Ponter collected six disposals out of full-forward to go with her two tackles, while Jaimi Tabb managed just the five disposals. GWS again opted with just the one player born in this century and you cannot blame them. Star midfielder Alyce Parker enjoyed a best-on-ground performance with 30 disposals, seven marks and three tackles. She led all players in the disposal count as she now averages just over 20 disposals on the season. With just two more 21st century-born players on the list, you hardly expect the GIANTS to change the formula heading toward finals.

West Coast vs. Gold Coast SUNS

The SUNS enjoyed a 25-point win on Sunday against the Eagles after having kept West Coast without a goal for the first three quarters. The Eagles will be looking forward to next year’s draft to secure more young talent as McKenzie Dowrick and Sophie McDonald were both out this week, leaving winger Mikayla Bowen the sole 21st century-born representative. Bowen gathered nine disposals and three tackles in what was a tough day for the Eagles. Inversely, Gold Coast’s youth all enjoyed solid outings as they kept their season alive. Lauren Bella dominated the ruck on her way to 16 hit outs, sharing the load with debutant Taylor Smith who was useful with 10 disposals and four hit outs. Gold Coast’s pressure was pivotal throughout the game with Jacqui Yorston (12 disposals, four marks, nine tackles), Ellie Hampson (12 disposals, six tackles) and Dee Heslop (five disposals, 10 tackles) all driving factors in that aspect.

Rebels to focus on fundamentals ahead of 2020 season

FUNDAMENTALS have been the focus for the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ NAB League Girls side as the Ballarat-based club prepares for the 2020 season. Head coach Rhys Cahir said his second full pre-season in charge – having taken over from Jeff Whittaker in March, 2018 – had gone well as the players looked to step it up a notch in the skills department.

“It’s been a pretty solid pre-season again,” Cahir said. “We’ve been pretty big on getting the fundamentals right early so we had a lot of kicking early, specifically to get it right. “It’s such a big skill to master in the game and the girls, we allowed them to work as much at it. “We haven’t done a lot of fitness stuff but the fundamentals were our biggest thing we looked at this year. “We are seeing that it is a vast improvement straight away.”

Now the top-agers have adjusted to a number of pre-seasons, Cahir said it was clear the talent pool across not only the region, but the country was growing.

“Each bottom age group seems to get better and better than the year before,” he said. “It’s just that girls footy is growing and not just in this region, but all over so girls from Auskick can play all the way through instead of stopping three or four years and just coming in because their friends are playing. “It’s their number one sport now and the talent shows right through pretty early.”

Last year the Rebels had three players land on AFL Women’s lists – in fact just the one list – with Sophie Molan, Ella Wood and Nekaela Butler all selected by Richmond in last year’s AFL Women’s Draft. Cahir credited the off-field nature of the trio, and the Rebels’ program itself for providing its players with the terrific support needed to impress at the next level both on and off the field.

“Very exciting. For the second year in a row, we had three girls go to Geelong the year before, then three go to Richmond,” Cahir said. “For us, it’s good for our program that clubs are seeing that we are creating a good environment where the girls can play good footy, but they’re good characters as well and it’s exciting that clubs think that we can produce good footballers and good people. “Last year I was a part of Vic Country and had a bit of a say but Ella and Sophie probably picked themselves with the main lot,” he said. “You try and push your own wheelbarrow a little bit and get a few girls there, but the whole comp is getting too talented. “If AFL clubs ring up, I’m happy to talk all our girls up, not just about their football, but about their character. “I think that’s why Richmond were so keen to get the three of them. “More their character and what they could get out of them on-field and off-field. “They’re building something at Richmond so we are looking at building and pushing them on-field and off-field.”

Some of that character was evident with Molan’s extra responsibilities as captain, such as leading the warm-up before the coaches got on the ground, pre-game. Cahir said while the coaches gave her the green light to take that responsibility, it was not hard for the natural-born leader.

“It was part of me encouraging Soph to be herself,” he said. “Yes, she was the best player in the side and a natural leader but that was mostly on her a few times. “Good players can do that, they can sense when the whole side is down and need a spark or need a rev up or a bit of a cuddle to settle them down. “Terrific leader just naturally. It wasn’t something we had to push or tell her to do, we just helped her with it.”

While Molan and Wood both earned places on Vic Country’s list, Butler missed out but did not give up on her dream, earning a place on the Western Bulldogs’ VFLW list with support from her coaches and her own sheer determination.

“Nekaela was the one we thought early we could really push and highlight what she could do,” Cahir said. “She was terrific off half-back, we tried her in the midfield a bit early. Played well, but just played consistently off half-back. Unlucky to miss Vic Country but she got down to the Bulldogs’ VFL. “We kept pushing her to say ‘do everything right, get to every training, doesn’t matter if you don’t get games, do all the little things, someone’s always watching’. “Got a game of VFLW, played really well her first game and as I said there’s always someone watching you’ve just got to do the right things, and terrific character as well too. “She wanted to work, she has a bit of a laugh, but she can obviously play football as well.”

Looking ahead to 2020 and there are another three talents in the top-age bracket that have already been identified as members of the AFL Women’s National Academy. All three are very different players, but each add a unique element to the line-up.

“I’ve been pretty excited to see the three top-age Academy girls in Maggie Caris – who is really good in the ruck, went away and played for the Vic Country side and played some really good games. “Same with Isabella Simmons and Renee Saulitis, really excited for them to take the next step because they’re all super talented. “But now they drive the whole group because they’re the leaders as well so they can take their game to the next level. “We’ve also got a couple of younger ones that are just super talented coming through because they are naturally playing football from a young age now.”

Caris has a big year herself across multiple sports, representing Australia at Under 19s level in netball while entering her most important year of schooling. Cahir said the club was working with her to support her both on and off the field wherever possible.

“Well at the moment she’s extremely clever too, she’s gone into Year 12,” Cahir said. “I’ll let Maggie not run her own race, but monitor what she does. Tell her to have a break when she needs. “It’s a big commitment to be an elite AFL footballer or NAB League footballer, in the Australian Under 19 Netball side and going into Year 12, so we are pretty big on welfare and players looking after themselves and footy comes second, third and fourth if we need be.”

Along with the top-agers, Cahir said the talent at the bottom of the list in terms of age was constantly improving, with 16 and 17-year-olds always stepping up to challenge the 18-year-olds and try and force their way into the starting side.

“A couple of girls in Vic Country last year,” Cahir said. “Nyakoat Dojiok is just going to take leaps and bounds when she finally figures out she can play the game. “Ella Friend similar, Vic Country last year and in the bests. “Growing into her football and just keeps working. “Lilli Condon‘s flying, and even the bottom-bottom-ager in Paige Scott who’s going to come into the program from V/Line Cup last year is just a natural tough country footballer but will grow and grow for the next two years.”

Having recorded the two wins last year, Cahir said it was always nice to win, but at the end of the day, the focus – as it has always been – will be on development. With seven girls drafted in two years, the Rebels are one of the most successful organisations from the NAB League Girls competition when focusing on a development standpoint, and the Rebels coach hoped that would continue.

“We just want girls to have a crack,” Cahir said. “Yes they might not play in their favourite position all the time but it’s about development in themselves and outside if we win games it’s great, but it’s about pushing them and getting better and giving them a chance of playing AFLW. “If we lose no games and get three or four drafted, great. “If we win every game and get none drafted we probably haven’t really done our job, so it’s just keep developing in themselves, give them a bit of help with what we think could get them there, and not worry too much (about) what they can’t do.”

The GWV Rebels have a couple of trial games coming up, including a match against the Geelong Falcons in Ballarat. Following the trial games, the final list will be decided and a leadership group will be formed. Cahir said the players would vote for those leaders, but admitted there were a number of players who could easily lead the side.

“The next couple of weeks, we’ll give them a list and they can vote for four or five girls and announce it on the camp who will be our leaders,” Cahir said. “We’ve got some terrific leaders, Maggie, Renee, Chloe Leonard who is similar to Sophie Molan, is just a natural leader. “Whoever the girls pick we’ll be more than happy to support them and push them through.”

2019/20 AFLW off-season review: Richmond

THE Richmond Tigers are one of the four expansion teams set to join the AFLW in 2020 and will be looking to make a splash after recruiting some key players who they can build an exciting framework around for years to come. They boast a mix of experience and youth but most importantly have that unpredictable edge that many teams will be looking to combat.

With the likes of marquee forwards Sabrina Frederick and Katie Brennan both set to pull on the yellow and black in 2020 expect plenty of excitement with the two able to hit the scoreboard and lead up at the footy time and time again. Frederick can switch into the ruck when needed, while Brennan is known for her silky movement and conversion rate in front of goal. Youngster Monique Conti also made the switch from the Western Bulldogs over the off-season and will be hoping to bring her signature game play to her new club. Christina Bernardi will suit up for her third club having played with Collingwood and GWS making her a handy inclusion in the side. Bernardi adds a touch of class across the ground and paired with a host of ‘A’ listers Richmond could be in good stead for a 2020 grand final push. Iilish Ross defected from Collingwood to Richmond with the 20-year-old set to have an impact in her new colours after building throughout the 2019 season, meanwhile Maddy Brancatisano also switched jumpers.

2020 AFLW Team List:

Laura Bailey
Christina Bernardi
Maddy Brancatisano
Katie Brennan
Hannah Burchell
Nekaela Butler
Grace Campbell
Monique Conti
Kate Dempsey
Alice Edmonds
Ciara Fitzgerald
Sabrina Frederick
Emily Harley
Emma Horne
Kodi Jacques
Akec Makur Chuot
Laura McClelland
Rebecca Miller
Sophie Molan
Phoebe Monahan
Iilish Ross
Sarah Sansonetti
Cleo Saxon-Jones
Tayla Stahl
Lauren Tesoriero
Courtney Wakefield
Holly Whitford
Ella Wood
Alana Woodward

Rookie: Gabby Seymour

Potential 2020 side:

B: Laura McClelland – Laura Bailey –  Rebecca Miller
HB: Phoebe Monahan – Iilish Ross – Akec Makur Chuot
C: Monique Conti
HF: Christina Bernardi – Katie Brennan – Maddy Brancatisano
F:  Holly Whitford – Sabrina Frederick – Tayla Stahl
R: Gabby Seymour* – Hannah Burchell – Kate Dempsey
INT: Courtney Wakefield – Sophie Molan – Alice Edmonds – Grace Campbell – Kodi Jacques
EMG: Ella Wood – Cleo-Saxon-Jones – Sarah Sansonetti

DEPTH: Nekaela Butler, Ciara Fitzgerald, Emily Harley, Emma Horne, Lauren Tesoriero, Alana Woodward

The Tigers pre-listed Laura Bailey and Kate Dempsey who already had strong connections to the club thanks to playing with them in their VFLW side. Dempsey was a standout for Richmond throughout her time in the VFLW consistently displaying her elite foot-skills and will be a handy inclusion looking ahead to next year. They were not the only ones pre-listed to Richmond with Alana Woodward snatched up and Grace Egan making her way onto the list making for a pretty stacked line-up.

The Tigers also picked up some young draftees in the likes of Sophie Molan who became the clubs first AFLW draftee. Expect the talented midfielder to push for selection come Round 1 renowned for her classy on-field work and strong leadership. She has experience against the bigger bodies having played with the Dogs in the VFLW so knows what it takes to combat the more elite players. Other draftees such as GWV Rebels teammate Ella Wood will also pull on the yellow and black in 2020. Hailing from the Eastern Ranges, Laura McClelland will be another star of the future for Richmond and will give the side something to build upon such is her talent. Northern Knights product Sarah Sansonetti will be a valued addition to the side in the back half with the dashing defender not afraid to take the game on and go for a bounce while NAB League teammate Ciara Fitzgerald was also drafted to Richmond. Although she may not be ready for Round 1 given the Tigers’ strength in attack, Cleo Saxon-Jones is definitely a player with plenty of potential and raw talent who can take a strong mark when needed and will feature at some stage during the season.

NAB League Girls Round 8 wash-up: Knights rise while Ranges book finals spot

THIS round brought plenty of excitement with the top of the table clash between the Northern Knights and Geelong Falcons headlining the round, while Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels potentially ended Oakleigh Chargers’ finals campaign, as Calder Cannons put themselves in the best position possible, winning over Bendigo Pioneers. Eastern Ranges booked a finals spot with an impressive win, while other victors were the Dandenong Stingrays and Western Jets, the latter of whom won their second consecutive match.

Calder Cannons 4.6 (30) defeated Bendigo Pioneers 1.3 (9)
By: Taylah Melki

GOALS:

Calder: A. Magri, Z. Hardiman, G. Patrikios, F. Theodore
Bendigo: E. Snell

BEST:

Calder: L. Cocomello, T. Crook, K. Petrevski, I. Young, G. Patrikios, N. Crowley
Bendigo: K. Douglass, B. Hards, D. Villiva, J. Finning, B. Heiden, T. Coad

It was a slow start for both sides with neither team able to score a goal in the opening term. Heading into half time the Bendigo Pioneers held a six-point margin scoring the only major for the term. But the goals seemed to be easier to find in the second half for the Calder Cannons who kicked into gear and applied strong pressure. Laura Cocomello impressed across the ground for the Cannons working hard at the contest and winning a heap of the ball with 17 touches. Georgia Patrikios and Georgie Prespakis led the way once again racking up 27 and 30 possessions respectively. Both were clean with the footy in hand with Patrikios making the most of her accuracy by foot with a game high 23 kicks and one goal for her efforts. Alana Barba applied good physical pressure laying nine tackles and did the little things well to worry her opponent out of the contest, while Krstel Petrevski was clever with ball in hand and made each possession count. For the Pioneers Brooke Hards put on a tackling masterclass with a whopping 16 showcasing her physicality and intent to win the ball. Jemma Finning also won plenty of footy for her side and fought hard throughout the game with the likes of Dakota Villiva also doing a wealth of work. Elizabeth Snell displayed her attacking flair with three inside 50s and the only goal for her side.

Dandenong Stingrays 6.4 (40) defeated Murray Bushrangers 3.9 (27)
By: Peter Williams

GOALS:

Dandenong: I. Shannon, A. Liddle, J. Guy-Toogood, J. Anthony, G. Grimmer, T. Smith
Murray: T. Verhoeven, A. Favell, A. Morphett

BEST:

Dandenong: B. Vernon, T. Smith, I. Shannon, J. Guy-Toogood, G. Howes, Z. Hill
Murray: A. Favell, M. Brown, K. Skepper, T. Brett, M. Jones, K. Adams

Dandenong Stingrays have held off a determined Murray Bushrangers outfit on their way to a 13-point win at Shepley Oval on Saturday. The Stingrays led by 11 points at quarter time, but the Bushrangers booted the only two goals of the second term to hit the front by four points. Dandenong hit back in the third term with a couple of majors, and led for the rest of the game as Murray missed a few chances in front of goal. A late goal to Abby Favell saw the Bushrangers draw to within a goal, but a Tyanna Smith major in the last minute sealed the win, 6.4 (40) to 3.9 (27). Brooke Vernon finished as Dandenong’s best with 19 disposals, two marks, two tackles and 12 rebounds, while Isabella Shannon finished with 14 disposals, five inside 50s and a goal. Smith stood up in the second half with her match-winning goal, while Molly McDonald continued her consistent form with 13 disposals, three marks and five inside 50s. Favell was the standout player on the field, racking up 26 disposals, four marks, five tackles, three inside 50s and four rebounds in the defeat. Millie Brown was also strong in defence, finishing the game with 24 disposals and seven rebounds.

Western Jets 3.1 (19) defeated Sandringham Dragons 1.3 (9)
By: Peter Williams

GOALS:

Western: J. Goodman 2, M. Ham.
Sandringham: A. Moloney.

BEST:

Western: P. Ozols, E. Georgostathis, I. Pritchard, R. Tripodi, A. Anthony, C. Singleton
Sandringham: S. Hartwig, D. Walker, A. Burke, A. Moloney, M. Purcell, L. de Gleria Cade

Western Jets have celebrated back-to-back wins after downing Sandringham Dragons at Avalon Airport Oval. The Jets hit the front in the second term after trailing by two points at the first break, booting 2.3 to 0.1 in the final three quarters to secure the win. Despite keeping them to one behind for three quarters, the Jets never looked entirely safe, holding strong in the final term despite the Dragons doing all the attacking in the quarter. Opposite centre half-backs Isabelle Pritchard (18 disposals, four marks and four rebounds) and Sarah Hartwig (17 disposals, four marks and five rebounds) were standouts on the day, rebounding and marking everything that came in their path. For the winners, Elisabeth Georgostathis had a game-high 22 touches as well as five marks and eight rebounds coming off half-back, while Payton-Ani Ozols was also impressive with 11 disposals, three marks and two tackles running on the outside and providing some drive for the Jets. For the Dragons, Alice Burke was strong again with 17 disposals, two marks and three tackles, while Daisy Walker had 16 disposals, three inside 50s and laid seven tackles in her best game this season.

Gippsland Power 2.1 (13) defeated by Eastern Ranges 9.10 (64)
By: Peter Williams

GOALS:

Gippsland: N. Williams, M. Van Berkel.
Eastern: S. Gibbs 3, B. Deed, S. Collard, M. Church, T. Brown, R. O”Dwyer, J. Richardson.

BEST:

Gippsland: M. Fitzsimon, C. Bird, M. Shaw, C. Abrahams , N. Webber, G. McRae
Eastern: J. Richardson, T. Brown, S. Gibbs, M. Di Cosmo, T. Flintoff, L. McClelland

Eastern Ranges produced their most commanding win of the year, defeating Gippsland Power by 51 points at Morwell Recreation Reserve. The Ranges looked impressive throughout the game on their way to the big win to cement a finals spot. It took until the tenth minute of the first term for Eastern to put through its first goal, but by quarter time they had three goals from seven scoring shots to lead by 22 points. Gippsland booted one goal in the second term, but the Ranges added a further two, extending their lead to 31 by the main break. By three quarter time the Ranges led by 44 points, and the margin got out to as much as 57 at one stage before the Power booted the final goal of the game through Matilda Van Berkel. Emma Horne picked up a game-high 28 touches, while Jenna Richardson was named the Ranges best for her 16 disposals, six marks, five inside 50s and a goal. Tarni Brown and Tess Flintoff were again busy with a combined 45 disposals, 11 inside 50s and 12 tackles, while Serena Gibbs slotted 3.4 from 18 disposals and six marks. For Gippsland, Megan Fitzsimon had 16 disposals, four rebounds and six tackles, while Grace McRae was again strong in the midfield with 17 disposals and three rebounds. Charlize Bird had 12 disposals, two marks and six tackles, while Chandra Abrahams was strong defensively, laying five tackles.

GWV Rebels 3.2 (20) defeated Oakleigh Chargers 2.7 (19)
By: Peter Williams

GOALS:

GWV: L. Condon, S. Molan, Z. Larkins.
Oakleigh: M. Bertuna, A. Porter.

BEST:

GWV: N. Dojiok, M. Caris, R. Saulitis, C. Willis, E. Wood, L. Condon
Oakleigh: K. Kearns, G. Lagioia, A. Porter, A. van Oosterwijck, J. Lin, A. Micallef

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels spoiled Oakleigh Chargers’ finals campaign, kicking a goal in the dying minutes to win by a point. Trailing for most of the contest after holding a one-point lead at quarter time, the Rebels kept the Chargers to just five behinds in the second half as teamwork and cohesion across the field from the underdogs was terrific. In the end, it was a Lilli Condon goal that separated the sides, as the Rebels held on for dear life in the last 90 seconds with the ball deep in their defence. They held strong and partied after the siren, with much jubilation and elation across the ground having toppled a highly fancied side. Sophie Molan was unsurprisingly the dominant ball winner for the Rebels, picking up 20 disposals, having five tackles and kicking a great goal. Ella Wood and Nekaela Butler were both good out of defence moving up the ground, while Nyakoat Dojiok was superb collecting 12 disposals, five marks, five tackles and two inside 50s. For the Chargers, Joanna Lin racked up 21 disposals, three marks, four tackles, two inside 50s, while Mimi Hill had 20 touches, five marks, two tackles and four inside 50s were busy. Alana Porter was terrific with her speed across the ground, and Kalarni Kearns named best for the losing side for her work in the ruck.

Geelong Falcons 0.7 (7) defeated by Northern Knights 6.7 (43)

GOALS:
Geelong: Nil
Northern: A. Bannan 2, N. Morris-Dalton, J. Fitzgerald, C. Linssen, M. Appleby

BEST:
Geelong: P. Sheppard, L. Gardiner, L. McEvoy, A. Chapman, L. Lesosky-Hay, M. Skinner
Northern: E. McKenzie, G. Newton, S. Sansonetti, A. Bannan, T. Smart, J. Nelson

The Northern Knights inflicted Geelong Falcons’ first defeat since Round 4 2017, winning by 36 points in a dominant display to snatch top spot and remain undefeated.

The Knights looked on and meant business from the get-go at Deakin University, throwing star trio Gabby Newton, Ellie McKenzie, and Britney Gutknecht into the first centre bounce. On the other side, Falcons coach Jason Armistead had shuffled the magnets heavily, with skipper Lucy McEvoy a notable starter across half-back. After a tense opening few minutes, the Knights broke away in a flash with three goals in as many minutes mid-way through the first term. As expected, the hosts threw everything back at their opponents to start the following quarter, dictating general play in the first 10 minutes and narrowly missing chances to open their goal account. It was to no avail though, as Northern applied smothering pressure and held on to keep the term goalless, taking a 15-point advantage into the main break.

With Geelong lacking a spark after seeing its efforts go unrewarded, the Knights continued to break open an unassailable lead in the third stanza on the back of a Jess Fitzgerald goal – the only goal for the term. Armistead did his best to rally his side at the final change, referring to Superbowl comeback victories and encouraging his side to take the game on. The Falcons needed a spark, and hedged their bets on winning the first centre clearance – hopefully kicking into the hands of McEvoy at centre half-forward. It was not to be as the ball found its way up the other end, and the Knights delivered two more crushing blows to seal the win.

The game ended on a sour note, with Northern’s Gulia Ceravolo downed unintentionally by a hard Renee Tierney tackle, forcing an early stoppage of the contest mid-way through the final term as she received treatment. It proved to be a bruising encounter for both sides, with Poppy Schapp sporting an ice pack and sling after a solid bump from McKenzie.

McKenzie and Newton were outstanding for Northern, providing a point of difference as cool heads in the hotly contested opening stages. Fitzgerald, Maykaylah Appleby, and Alyssa Bannan proved handfuls with their forward running and managed to hit the scoreboard alongside focal point, Nell Morris-Dalton. Up the other end, Sarah Sansonetti played a sensational role on Mia Skinner to quell Geelong’s main scoring threat. On a tough day for the Falcons, Paige Sheppard was combative as ever through the midfield alongside Laura Gardiner, while Abbey Chapman stood up under enormous pressure down back. McEvoy’s selfless role across each line was also fantastic, with her rebound and overhead marking a feature early on.

Team of the Week: NAB League Girls – Round 7

IN a NAB League Girls competition that continues to provide the goods through close even sides, the bottom two teams in Gippsland Power and Western Jets both had wins on the weekend, while ninth placed Murray Bushrangers also tasted victory. The Jets have the equal most players named in the Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Week for Round 7, along with fellow winners and top two sides, Geelong Falcons and Northern Knights. All three teams have three players in the squad of 24, while the Power, Bushrangers, Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers were other winners who have two players in the side. Round 7 loser, Calder Cannons still have two players in the team as does Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, while remaining sides, Bendigo Pioneers, Dandenong Stingrays and Sandringham Dragons all have one player in the team. This round saw the introduction of Tasmania, but given they are just in for the one round – and had the extra benefit of playing two games, opted not to have them in Team of the Week, however Amy Prokopiec and Mia King would have made the side for their performances across two games.

Western Jets had key defender, Isabelle Pritchard and captain Elisabeth Georgostathis making the side once again, while forward, Jasmine Goodman makes the team for the first time. Reigning premiers Geelong Falcons make up the other key defensive post with Abbey Chapman named at full-back, while Paige Sheppard and Lucy McEvoy have made the team. The other side with three players is Northern Knights, as Britney Gutknecht continues her terrific season to be named in the team, while Alyssa Bannan and Jess Fitzgerald also made the squad.

Gippsland Power’s first win of the season resulted in Grace McRae slotting into the midfield, while Matilda Van Berkel made the side again in defence. Their opponents, GWV Rebels had captain Sophie Molan named at centre half-forward – having spent time there despite being predominant in the midfield, but it was hard to squeeze out a midfielder – and Nekaela Butler in the back pocket yet again. Murray Bushrangers’ Olivia Barber has been named at full-forward and will rotate through the ruck, while Millie Brown will provide run off half-back. In the ruck is Eastern Ranges’ Serena Gibbs who kicked two goals in a match-winning performance against Tasmania, joined in the side by teammate Emma Horne.

Oakleigh Chargers and Calder Cannons also have two players each in the side, with Taylah Morton and Joanna Lin making the side for the Chargers after impressive games, while Team of the Week regulars, Georgie Prespakis and Georgia Patrikios slot into the midfield after a combined 63 disposals. The remaining players filling out the side as their teams’ only representatives are Maeve Tupper (Bendigo), Madeline Pearson (Dandenong) and Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham) of which the latter has been prominent in our Team of the Week this season.

NAB League Girls preview: Round 5

THE halfway point of the inaugural NAB League Girls is up this weekend, with Round 5 shaping up to have a host of interesting matchups. The Calder Cannons will be looking to maintain their high position on the ladder with another win this week, while two other matches will include the other four sides in the top five of the competition.

CALDER CANNONS v. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS

Round 5 – 6/4/19
12pm
Rams Arena, Craigieburn

The Calder Cannons will have the home advantage when they take on the Murray Bushrangers to open Round 5, and will come in needing a burst of confidence after a 10 point loss to the Oakleigh Chargers last week disrupted their fantastic start to the season. The third placed Cannons will take on Murray in eighth, sitting on two and two, with a disappointing loss to the Bendigo Pioneers last round likely to spark them into action this week. This week’s Murray lineup has seen a lot of changes, but Round 4 best on, Millie Brown was not one of them after a phenomenal performance last week saw her pick up 27 touches, six rebound 50s and two marks. Abby Favell also put on a great effort last round with 22 disposals, five marks and eight tackles, so will want to replicate her fine season form again this week to propel Murray to a better result than last week. Calder bottom-ager, Georgie Prespakis is back in the side this week after missing Round 4, so the Cannons will be hoping for another influential performance from her with Krstel Petrevski missing from this week’s lineup. To beat the Cannons the Bushrangers will have to boost their opportunities in front of goal, or otherwise suffer a fate similar to last week.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS v. GEELONG FALCONS

Round 5 – 6/4/19
1pm
Robinson Reserve, Doveton

The second match of Round 5 will be one to watch, with fourth placed Dandenong Stingrays hosting table toppers, Geelong Falcons. Both sides registered big wins in Round 4, so will be looking for another opportunity to get a win on the board. However, both sides seemed to have an issue with accuracy, with Geelong kicking poorly in front of goal, finishing with 17 behinds in their win against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. If the Stingrays can put on the pressure in their defence they may have an opportunity to stop the Falcons’ strong forward line in its tracks and come out on top. That being said, the Stingrays posted 12 behinds against the Gippsland Power in Round 4, so will want to make sure their kicking is on when they take on the reigning premiers. With at least 6 confirmed changes to the Stingrays’ lineup since last round, it will be interesting to see how the side takes the field against the Falcons at full strength. Luka Lesosky-Hay will be looking to replicate her strong Round 4 effort (31 disposals, eight marks) this week after being a standout performer across the board last round, but in front of goal will need to double down after three behinds contributed to Geelong’s frustrating winning margin last week. Maeve Skinner is another one who will want to boost her accuracy this round, with two goals from six kicks last week after a dominant four goal haul in Round 3. The Stingrays had five individual goalkickers against the Power, with Georgia Howes booting two, so the side will need to keep up their team effort in front of the big sticks if they want to get on top of Geelong this round.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

Round 5 – 6/4/19
2:45pm
Trevor Barker Oval

The Oakleigh Chargers are sitting in sixth at this point of the competition, and with such a short season every point matters, so will want to win this one against the Sandringham Dragons in tenth. The Chargers have only dropped one game and drawn with Northern this year, so are shaping up to be real contenders if they keep up this good form, while the Dragons have yet to win a game. For Oakleigh, Amelia Van Oosterwijck is out of the side this week, so it will be interesting to see how they perform without one of their main targets forward. Gemma Lagioia was strong last week, with 21 touches and a goal, so will look to continue her form to get another win for her side. Meanwhile for Sandringham, Bryanna Arnold put on a good performance last week with 17 disposals and six tackles, so will want to put the pressure onto Oakleigh to aim for their first win of the season. The Dragons only managed to get two majors on the board last round, both through Sophia Rothfield, so will want to double down on that effort this week to create a strong team effort against the Chargers.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. GIPPSLAND POWER

Round 5 – 7/4/19
11am
Epsom Huntly Reserve

Sunday’s first match will see seventh placed Bendigo Pioneers host eleventh placed Gippsland Power, with Bendigo needing a win if they want to stay in touch with the leading sides in the competition. The Pioneers had a good win against the Bushrangers last week, kicking two final quarter goals to cement their second win for the season. Tackling pressure seemed to be a major focus in that match with seven players registering five or more, while Brooke Hards alone racked up a massive 11 tackles to go with her 17 touches. The Pioneers will have to bump up their attacking pressure and volume in front of goal to combat the Power down back, with Megan Fitzsimon racking up 26 touches, five marks, four tackles and five rebounds last round while Nikia Webber was out. Webber will be back this round, so it’s likely we will see Hards and Webber line up alongside each other in this matchup. Missing from the Power this week is ball magnet, Grace McRae, while her Pioneers counterpart, Elizabeth Snell is a big inclusion for the home side.

WESTERN JETS v. GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS

Round 5 – 7/4/19
1pm
Downer Oval, Williamstown

Cellar dwellers, Western Jets will host ninth place GWV Rebels in the penultimate match for Round 5. Both sides will be looking toward a win this week after a winless Round 4, but the Jets will want to take advantage of their opponent also sitting low on the ladder.The Rebels had a disappointing match when rendered goalless against ladder leaders, Geelong last week, though Nekaela Butler was impressive despite the loss, with 21 touches, four marks and six rebounds. Lauren Sykes put up her best performance for the season so far, with 16 disposals (15 kicks), seven rebound 50s and three tackles. The pair will be bolstered this week with the return of Ella Woods and Nyakoat Doijok, though dominant ruck, Maggie Caris has not been listed for Round 5. Isabella Grant (17 disposals, seven tackles) and Elisabeth Georgostathis (13 disposals, two rebounds) were best on for the Jets last round, however the loss of Cleo Saxon-Jones will surely be an issue through the midfield. All in all, it should be an interesting match with both sides chomping at the bit for a win.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. EASTERN RANGES

Round 5 – 7/4/19
2pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora

In the final match of Round 5, second and fifth on the ladder will face off in another game that could be one to watch. Both Northern Knights and Eastern Ranges come into this round off the back of two wins in a row, so it’s likely to be a close one if Eastern put in the hard yards against last year’s grand finalists. The Ranges will want to take advantage of Alyssa Bannan being out for the Knights, however will still have the likes of Round 4 performers, Britney Gutknecht (19 disposals, six tackles, one goal) and Gabby Newton (19 disposals, five marks, five tackles) to worry about, while Nell Morris-Dalton was strong forward with two goals, 15 touches and 11 tackles in a season best performance. A second-half goal blitz from the Ranges saw them jump up the ladder last round, with Serena Gibbs and Laura McClelland kicking two goals apiece, while Tess Flintoff was also dominant, picking up 23 touches and six marks.The Knights have a number of options forward who have the ability to kick goals, so that will be the big task for Eastern this week as they aim to do what Oakleigh managed in Round 2, stifling the ball, stopping it from moving forward and going in hard at ground ball opportunities. Both teams have the ability to produce high scores and quickly, so it will certainly be an interesting match to finish up the round.

Team of the Week: NAB League Girls – Round 4

GEELONG Falcons and Eastern Ranges have recorded the most nominess in the Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Week for Round 4 following impressive victories on the weekend. In an even spread across the competition, Calder Cannons and Western Jets recorded the one nominee each, while the remaining eight sides had two players in the Team of the Week.

Geelong Falcons’ captain Lucy McEvoy, and Rising Star of the Week teammate, Luka Lesosky-Hay fill out the midfield with full-back Abbey Chapman slotting into full-back. Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher returns to the side and joins the Falcons pair in the centre line, while forwards, Serena Gibbs and Laura McClelland make the team of the week for the first time this year. Also in the midfield is last week’s Rising Star of the Week, Gabby Newton, joined by Knights’ forward, Nell Morris-Dalton in Round 4.

Bendigo Pioneers’ Brooke Hards is the remaining starting midfielder, in the team with Annabel Strachan who was best on ground in the Pioneers’ win over Murray Bushrangers. Millie Brown made the Team of the Week after an impressive game for the Bushrangers, as did Ally Morphett who has shown good signs as the season has progressed. Georgia Howes has been named at centre half-forward, while Stingrays teammate Brooke Vernon makes the team for the third time this season. In defence, Maddison Shaw and Megan Fitzsimon represent Gippsland Power, while rounding out the defence is Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ defender Nekaela Butler, while ruck teammate Maggie Caris makes the team again.

Emily Harley has slotted into the Team of the Week in Round 4, joined again by Chargers’ teammate Amelia Van Oosterwijck. Sandringham Dragons also had two nominees in the Round 4 Team of the Week with Winnie Laing making the team for the second time this year, this time joined in the side by Chloe Saultry. Rounding out the interchange bench is Western Jet, Nikita Wright and Calder Cannon, Emelia Yassir.

NAB League Girls weekend preview: Round 2

AFTER a week off for fitness testing, Round 2 of the NAB League Girls competition is raring to go, with all 12 sides ready for another big weekend of footy.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. EASTERN RANGES


Round 2 – 16/03/19
12.45pm
Epson Huntly, Bendigo

In what is looking to be another hot match for both sides, the Bendigo Pioneers will host the Eastern Ranges to start Round 2. For Bendigo, Maeve Tupper and Eloise Gretgrix were among the best in the narrow loss to Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels in Round 1, holding down the midfield and creating issues downfield. Gretgrix’ consistency and ability in one-on-one contests will prove difficult for the Ranges if not addressed. Eastern are coming off a good win against the Stingrays, but will be rueing missed opportunities in front of goal so will want to really make their mark against the Pioneers with accuracy key. Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown stood up in the win, impressing through the midfield with their efficient ball movement and pressure around stoppages, so will want to come into this second match with confidence against a side that pushed the Rebels all the way last round.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. CALDER CANNONS


Round 2 – 16/03/19
12.45pm
MARS Stadium

The second game for Round 2 will see GWV Rebels host the Calder Cannons in a battle for a second win. With five goalkickers in Round 1, Calder have shown they have plenty of options around the ground to bring into the game at any given time, while the Rebels showed great composure to come away with a win against a pressurised Pioneers side last round. With only two named in the Draft Central Team of the WeekMakeisha Muller and Georgie Prespakis – despite a dominant win, Calder have a lot to prove coming into this round. Muller showcased her skill with the footy last round, with an intuitive snap on goal a highlight of her Round 1 output, making her a difficult player to take on around the ball. Dominant ball carrier, Georgia Patrikios has been named in the side this week on the interchange, so will be a key player regardless of her role on the field, and will pair nicely with Prespakis to build up the Cannons’ midfield. Meanwhile, GWV Rebels will come into this game also with a Round 1 win under their belt, and two standout players in Nekaela Butler and Isabella Simmons. Simmons kicked two goals and showed some good footy smarts downfield against the Pioneers last round, so will want to bump up her work ethic against the Cannons for a four quarter effort. Defensively, Butler and Nyakoat Dojiok will have their work cut out for them down back, but with their combined speed off the half-back, they will be key players on a mission to cut off Calder’s dominant goal kickers.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS


Round 2 – 17/03/19
12.45pm
RMIT Bundoora

The third game of Round 2 will see Northern Knights host the Oakleigh Chargers, with both sides sitting toward the top of the ladder after dominant Round 1 performances. Oakleigh key forward, Emily Harley kicked four goals against Gippsland Power, staking her claim as a leading goalkicker of the competition early, while fellow forward, Northern’s Britney Gutknecht, kicked four majors of her own on her side’s way to dominating Murray. With four Knights midfielders who made the Draft Central Team of the Week last round, Northern will be a challenge to combat when in possession, especially with the confidence boost of rendering Murray goalless in Round 1. Amelia van Oosterwjick kicked two majors to add to the Chargers’ tally last round, showing her value as a second tall inside 50 while midfielder, Gemma Lagioia showed her effectiveness with ball in hand on the outside, with silky precision proving she will be a difficult player to take on. Northern’s Ellie McKenzie used her clean ball movement and awareness on field to create opportunities for clearances last round, so is likely to come into this matchup with a similar process.

GEELONG FALCONS v. GIPPSLAND POWER


Round 2 – 17/03/19
12.45pm
Deakin Uni, Geelong

The reigning premiers will host Gippsland Power to open Sunday’s fixture, and will come into this matchup confident after an excellent 26 point win against the Sandringham Dragons in Round 1. Gippsland went down by a frustrating 50 points in the first round, meaning they will really have to lift their game to get over the line this week against the Falcons. Falcons’ Round 1 best on ground Luka Lesosky-Hay and Lucy McEvoy proved dominant through the midfield, pairing well and contesting the ball at every opportunity, making it difficult for opposition movement, so will want to storm through Gippsland this week to continue their successful start to the season. Gippsland’s Chandra Abraham put on a show with her tackling pressure last round and defensively was a great backup to her side, so will want to back up her Round 1 performance and prove her effectiveness when her side faces off against Geelong’s efficient and dominant midfield.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS v. WESTERN JETS


Round 2 – 17/03/19
12.45pm
JC Lowe Oval, Yarrawonga

Two more sides face off in their campaign for a debut win for the season, with Murray hosting Western after a disappointing Round 1 matchup against 2018 grand finalists, Northern. Murray only managed to score two behinds for the game, but showed some promise with midfielders, Abby Favell and Ally Morphett standing up through the tough match, while Olivia Barber also put in the hard yards. Their determination and relentless effort will bring a lot to the side this week when they take on the Jets, who are also coming off a Round 1 loss to Calder. The Jets will look to last round’s best on ground, Isabella Grant and Elisabeth Georgostathis to get their side on the board, with Grant kicking the side’s only goal in Round 1. Georgostathis is another player who doesn’t back down from contests, so will be a key player when it comes to breaking through Murray’s midfield.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS


Round 2 – 17/03/19
1.00pm
RSEA, Moorabbin

The final matchup of Round 2 will see the Sandringham Dragons host the Dandenong Stingrays at the revised starting time of 1pm. Both sides are chasing their first win for the season, with Dandenong coming out of Round 1 with a tight loss to Eastern, while Sandringham were beaten by reigning premiers, Geelong. Sandringham captain, Molly Denahy-Moloney is a late omission from the match with illness, meaning the side will need to push hard in the forward 50 for scoring opportunities. Sarah Hartwig had a fantastic match against Falcon, Lucy McEvoy in Round 1, so will want to replicate her efforts coming off half back to produce ball movement toward forward 50. For Dandenong, Brooke Vernon showed her strength in the backline and was dominant as the last line of defence in Round 1, so will be one to look out for when it comes to goal scoring opportunities for the Dragons. She paired well with Zoe Hill, also named in the Stingrays’ best, and the duo will certainly be ready for any forward action for Sandringham.

Team of the Week: NAB League Girls – Round 1

A COMPREHENSIVE win to the Northern Knights in Round 1 of the NAB League Girls competition has resulted in them receiving the most nominees in the Draft Central Team of the Week. The Knights had four players named in the 24-player squad, one more than Oakleigh Chargers, with eight of the 12 sides having two players, while Gippsland Power had one, and Murray Bushrangers just missed out on a player following the heavier defeat.

Northern’s 76-point victory over Murray saw equal round-high leading goalkicker, Britney Gutknecht slot into a forward pocket with Ellie McKenzie at half-forward having spent time between midfield and attack. Gabby Newton played all over the ground, but spent some time in the ruck and therefore was named there, while Jess Fitzgerald was also impressive and earned a spot on the bench. Oakleigh’s attacking duo of Emily Harley (four goals) and Amelia van Oosterwijck (two) earned their places in the forward line, while speedster Alana Porter also made the team for her performance.

The defensive end is mostly comprised of Stingrays and Dragons, and while both sides lost, Zoe Hill and Sarah Hartwig hold down the key defensive posts, while Brooke Vernon and Winnie Laing provide the run. Laing spent more time in the midfield, but can play in defence, similar to Gippsland’s sole nominee, Chandra Abrahams who played through the midfield, but has the capacity to play in defence and earned her spot in the team. Greater Western Victoria (GWV) defender, Nekaela Butler rounded out the starting back six, joined in the team by forward, Isabella Simmons.

The final forward in the starting side was Calder Cannons’ Makeisha Muller who looked lively throughout the match up forward, joined in the side by bottom-age prospect, Georgie Prespakis. Geelong Falcons and Eastern Ranges make up the rest of the midfield, with Falcons captain, Lucy McEvoy and their best on the day, Luka Lesosky-Hay both in the side with Ranges’ Tahni Brown and Olivia Meagher. On the bench are two Pioneers and Jets who, while they did not pick up the four points, earned their places in our team. Eloise Gretgrix and Maeve Tupper represented the Pioneers in the side, while Isabella Grant and Elisabeth Georgostathis stood out for the Jets.