Tag: neve crowley

AFLW Expansion look: Essendon

WITH four new teams accepted into the AFL Women’s competition, it means there will be at least 120 new players stepping up to the elite level. So just where might the clubs look outside the junior pathway? Draft Central casts an eye over each of the clubs through either their state league team or Academy that might help them get off to the best possible start.

Whilst the makeup of lists and how much compensation the expansion clubs will get is unknown, we take a look at it from a broader sense and who might be some names to remember. The series begins with Essendon, a team that reached the preliminary final of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition and have some great state league players to pick from.

The worst kept secret for the red and black sash when it comes to pre-listing players is current VFL Women’s captain Georgia Nanscawen. The readymade star already has AFL Women’s experience with North Melbourne, and being an elite athlete and professional, Nanscawen is anticipated to get a second crack at the top level, and will be able to gel a group likely made up of young talents entering the system for the first time.

There is no doubt some St Kilda and Carlton fans have been a little nervous with Essendon’s entry given the close ties that Georgia Patrikios and Madison Prespakis have to the club, and whilst there is still a season in between, it would be surprising for the Bombers not to ask the question about bringing that kind of talent into the club. They could immediately have an elite readymade midfield, though there are still those at VFL Women’s level

Alana Barba would be the next choice currently in the red and black behind Nanscawen, with the former Calder Cannons talent always thereabouts for AFLW Draft contention, and would be a prime candidate to don the sash at the elite level. Providing a one-two punch with Nanscawen would give the Bombers plenty of toughness around the ball, but Barba can also go forward and hit the scoreboard.

Courtney Ugle has plenty of class and speed to boot, which gives her a nice point of difference from the Bombers group, and she can play in multiple position as well. Winning the third most disposals behind the aforementioned Nanscawen and Barba, Ugle just makes sense, and she will still only be 26-years-old by the start of the 2022-23 season.

Eloise Ashley-Cooper rounds out a strong core midfield if the former Murray Bushrangers talent gets a call-up, providing good run and carry down the ground, capable of dropping back to help out the defence, or pushing the ball forward and sending it inside 50. She is a readymade talent who could match it with the experienced players now she has had some great form at VFLW level.

Some other names to remember from the red and black VFL Women’s program include ex-Collingwood player and Canadian talent Kendra Heil, as well as defenders Eloise Gardner and Alex Morcom. In the front half, Marianna Anthony became a staple through the middle, whilst Mia-Rae Clifford is a monty to get a fourth chance at AFLW level if the veteran – 36-years-old by the time the 2022 season roles around – chooses so. She is still a damaging forward and one capable of being a source of goals at the top level.

Along with ruck Simone Nalder, midfielder Elisabeth Hosking and Calder Cannons graduates Tamsin Crook, Kasey Lennox and Neve Crowley, the Bombers have a plethora of state league talents to look at, and could upgrade a number of them to the next level. Many will look in anticipation at the Bombers to see what their list shapes like in 12 months time, but one thing is for sure, they will not be short on internal talent.

Draft Central AFLW Draft Power Rankings – Victorian Pool: June 2021

IN a Draft Central first, the inaugural edition of our AFL Women’s Draft Power Rankings highlights the some of the top AFL Women’s Draft prospects ahead of the 2021 draft on July 27. Between then and now there will be the two editions of the Power Rankings; this one a final one ahead of the draft following the state-based combines and completion of a number of state league competitions. Note that the Power Rankings to do not take into account any draft selections, and are more an opinion-based ranking system on the draft prospects.

For this Power Rankings, we have focused purely on the Victorian pool, so does not include those likely to zone to other states due to the limited teams and selections in those states. We have also not included any players who have previously been on an AFLW list, just undrafted or now draft-eligible players. Please note the rankings are the opinion of the author.

Georgie Prespakis

#1 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
13/03/2003 | 168cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Ball-winning, tackling, quick hands, footy IQ

The most consistent prospect across the board and has been touted as a star from her debut as a 15-year-old two and a half years ago. There she dominated up forward with 13 goals in 10 games, averaging a massive 22.6 disposals and 5.6 tackles to win the league best and fairest at just 16 years of age. Her numbers have remained consistent going into the middle, and whilst she almost always gets close attention from the opposition, Prespakis is a renowned tackler with 8.8 per game in her top-age season. Her ball winning ability and strength to win the pill at the stoppage and extract it away, as well as have an impact forward of centre, are among her strengths. In terms of improvements, sometimes she can rush the kicks around her body, but she is able to get to enough repeat stoppages, to have more influence than most others.

Charlie Rowbottom

#2 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
22/01/2003 | 178cm
Inside Midfielder/Tall Forward

Key strengths: Contested marking, tackling, strength, upside

The powerful, tall inside midfielder has already proven to be a difficult player to try and contain across four quarters, able to win a game off her own boot when up and about. So strong in the air and at ground level, Rowbottom averaged 7.1 tackles to go with 17.6 disposals and 2.8 marks in season 2021, also booting 10 goals in 11 games. Whilst long-term the sister of Sydney’s James will become a midfielder, expect her to be a tall forward who can kick multiple goals in a game. Her upside is one of the best in the draft crop, and her versatility makes her damaging. Her kicking both in-field and on goal is an area of improvement, but her ability to do all the hard stuff – from winning the ball, tackling and clunking the important marks – more than makes up for the ironing out process that will happen with time. An exciting talent for the future.

#3 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
03/11/2003 | 175cm
Tall Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, contested marking, footy smarts, positioning

Despite a somewhat interrupted season for the AFL Women’s Academy member, playing only the five games due to injury and AFLW Under 19s Championships commitments, Slender still showed why she is a top-end prospect; stepping up from her role as a rebounding intercept defender, to be a forward and midfielder this year in a remarkable display of versatility. Arguably the NAB League Girls’ Most Valuable Player for her side, the Pioneers were a far better team with her in it, and averaging a massive 4.2 marks as well as 5.2 tackles along with her 16.2 disposals shows she has no trouble winning the ball in the air, one-on-one or at ground level. A natural leader co-captaining the Pioneers, Slender could fill any role at AFL Women’s level and has some great upside for the future as well.

#4 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
10/09/2003 | 173cm
Medium Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, spread, skills, goal sense

A natural ball-winner with a slick left foot and smooth-moving ability, Reid has proven she can play on all three lines of the field. Starting off half-back and pushing up to a wing, Reid finished her season up forward and ended up slotting 15 goals in 11 games, including three in Oakleigh’s premiership win. She averaged 1.4 goals for the season from 20.1 disposals, 4.5 marks and 3.2 inside 50s per game, looked to as a key player to move the ball in transition. She used it well by hand or foot and was able to find space with ease. Multiple times a game Reid would make you wonder how she got in so much space even when tearing it up, but credit to her work rate and smarts to be able to find the open space and then punish the opposition through either her disposal or on the scoreboard.

Ella Friend

#5 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
30/12/2003 | 175cm
Tall Forward/Wing

Key strengths: Contested marking, mobility, upside, penetrating kick

The top contested marking player in the draft crop, Friend will be a highly sought after talent for her ability to not only clunk the big grabs, but use her penetrating left boot in both the midfield and forward lines. Transitioning from centre half-forward to a wing in the second half of the season, Friend showcased her mobility and her knack for for winning the ball in multiple areas of the field. Only two days away from being a bottom-ager, expect Friend to have plenty of upside left in her and would be a great target for a team needing a key target up forward who can also work hard up the ground. She averaged the 16.0 disposals, 4.3 marks and 2.9 tackles per game in the 2021 season, and slotted two goals on debut for the Western Bulldogs’ VFLW side. A good size at 175cm to play anywhere on the ground.

#6 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
20/11/2003 | 166cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Kicking, marking, courage, footy IQ

A really smart player who knows the game well and reads the play behind the ball, Anthony was a member of the AFL Women’s Academy as a bottom-age talent last year. She showed why through an outstanding yet interrupted season, copping a couple of concussions – including in Vic Country’s win over South Australia at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships – to still perform at a high level. She won Vic Country’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, and proved through her actions to be an incredibly courageous player. Whilst standing at 166cm, Anthony is not afraid to go up in the marking contest and bring the ball down, and when she does have ball-in-hand, her kicking is outstanding. A talent who teammates can trust with ball-in-hand, and she has spent time up forward as well at times, kicking a goal in the Stingrays’ loss to the Geelong Falcons in finals.

#7 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
23/12/2003 | 163cm
Inside Midfielder

Key strengths: Clearances, accumulation, consistency, footy IQ

Arguably the best pure inside midfielder in the Victorian pool, Craven has had quite the season for the Falcons. She won the Falcons’ best and fairest award, averaging 21.1 disposals, 4.4 marks, 3.3 inside 50s, 2.0 rebound 50 and 3.9 tackles, then played the two games with Vic Country for 20.5 disposals, 6.0 clearances and 5.0 tackles. She is an inside ball winner and one who can extract it out of the contest going forward. She is smaller than other inside midfielders at 163cm, but she can gain separation at the stoppage and has the footy smarts to be able to use the ball well under pressure. She is also clean and gets her hands dirty at ground level, which is something that stands out in her game at any level.

#8 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
09/07/2002 | 161cm
Inside Midfielder

Key strengths: Clean hands, acceleration, endurance, work rate

The first 19th year prospect to feature in this list, Ling has had an outstanding season and shown why the move to an Under 19s competition was important. Despite standing at just 161cm, she is hard to bring down, very slippery in tackles and always able to get her hands free. She is really clean with her hands, and can burst away with a mix of acceleration and endurance, capped off by a high work rate through the midfield. She averaged 17.9 disposals, 2.2 marks, 6.5 tackles and 3.2 inside 50s in season 2021 for the Oakleigh Chargers, whilst playing the two games for Vic Metro thus far, averaging 16 disposals and six tackles. Already managing a game at VFLW level for Port Melbourne and not looking out of place, Ling showed she is a big-game player by taking home the best afield medal in the 2021 NAB League Girls Grand Final.

Annie Lee

#9 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
28/08/2003 | 169cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Marking, rebounding, consistency, composure

The reliable rebounding defender barely put a foot wrong all season and was a player her teammates could rely upon to use the ball well out of defence. Her strengths were clearly her intercept marking, where she latched onto 5.1 marks per game to go with 16.9 disposals and 4.5 rebound 50s. Already she has managed the two games at VFLW level, and was outstanding for Vic Country in her three games, holding up the fort in defence well and providing some good rebound with almost five rebound 50s per game there. At 169cm she can play against tall or small opponents because she reads the ball well in flight and shows good composure when with it. As a whole, Lee just ticks a lot of boxes in terms of what she is capable of doing.

#10 Perri King (Tasmania Devils/Allies)
25/08/2003 | 170cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Acceleration, tackling, clearances, accumulation

The sole Tasmanian AFL Women’s Academy member has the best balance between offensive and defensive capabilities, not only able to average 19.7 disposals and 4.2 inside 50s, but she amassed a whopping 9.4 tackles per game for the Devils in the NAB League Girls competition. On debut for North Melbourne VFLW she laid another seven tackles to go with 15 touches, and had the 10.5 tackles with 14.5 disposals, at the AFLW Under 19 Championships. But there is more to King than just ball-winning and tackling, with the athletic talent able to burst out of the stoppage and extract from tight situations. At times could add a touch more composure with her kicking, but her upside compiled with her well-balanced, two-way running is what makes her an outstanding prospect and rounding out the top 10.

#11 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
13/12/2003 | 165cm
Wing

Key strengths: Speed, work rate, accumulation, outside game

The premier pure wing in the NAB League Girls competition bounced back from a quiet game against Vic Metro in the AFLW Under 19 Championships, to really dominate in her final two outings against South Australia and Queensland. She knows how to find the ball and is a natural running wing which she showcased all year for Murray Bushrangers. Another player whom given an extra month would be a bottom-ager, really impressed in her draft-eligibly year, averaging 20.7 disposals – almost double what her prior two seasons were. She drove the ball inside 50 four times per game, and had more than two rebound 50s per match as well, providing great run and carry down the wing going forward, something that really caught the eye on a regular basis.

#12 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
01/09/2003 | 182cm
Ruck/Key Forward

Key strengths: Ruck work, mobility, forward presence, high impact

The upside for father-daughter eligible prospect Georgia Campbell is quite impressive, with the talented ruck able to rest up forward for parts during games due to Eastern Ranges’ abundance of rucks. There she was still able to kick five goals in eight games to go with her 20.9 hitouts, and also slotted a goal for Vic Metro while averaging a higher 12 disposals, and 12 hitouts at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. The Western Bulldogs supporter is eligible to go to the Dogs, or Melbourne, and will be nominated in the near future. She has great mobility for a ruck and can get around the ground and be an option, and also provide a good presence when inside 50 which makes her difficult to contain.

#13 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
07/01/2003 | 175cm
Tall Defender/Wing

Key strengths: Speed, power, reading the play, intercepting

The running defender has some seriously eye-catching traits with her combination of acceleration and power making her hard to slow down when she is up and about. A traditional half-back, Dojiok can read the ball in flight with ease and float across contests to intercept, or drop into the hole when a high ball comes into defence. She knows where to stand when the play is headed towards her and her metres gained are massive compared to a lot of her contemporaries. She is often a get-and-go player, always looking to move on the ball, and whilst her kicking at times needs sharpening up, her development over the past few years at the Rebels has certainly improved and makes her one of the better intercept defenders going around.

Emelia Yassir

#14 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
25/09/2003 | 160cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Contested work, aggression, disposal, high impact

Bursting onto the scene as a 15-year-old during Calder Cannons’ run to the 2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final, Yassir played 11 games in her debut season to hold her own against much older opponents. In her top-age year, Yassir lifted her numbers to 16.7 disposals, 3.9 tackles and 3.1 inside 50s to be a crucial player in the Cannons’ forward half of the ground. Her contested work and aggression around the football makes her a player that would do anything to win the football and shows a high level of football nous, along with high impact in the games. She will generally use it well going forward, and whilst she might only be the 160cm, could settle as a midfielder or defensive forward with her traits and skillset.

#15 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
12/11/2003 | 169cm
Medium Forward/Ruck

Key strengths: Vertical leap, penetrating kick, aggression, upside

Standing at 169cm you would not expect someone to be listed as a ruck, but such is Featherston’s leaping ability that she has indeed become a secondary ruck at NAB League Girls level. Pinch-hitting in there to average 4.3 hitouts per game, Featherston is at her most dominant around the half-forward line where she can lead out, clunk grabs and show great courage in the air or at ground level. Whilst she could improve her composure around goal – she had plenty of chances that were opportunities which went begging – her ability to have so many chances and create opportunities is impressive. She is a raw talent with plenty of upside, and with a long, penetrating kick and strong hands, she is a valuable addition to any forward line.

#16 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
28/07/2003 | 153cm
Small Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Clean hands, goal sense, composure, accumulation

A really impressive small midfielder, Schaap might be the smallest one going around at 153cm, but she packs a punch and has some unbelievable traits. Her best trait is her clean hands, rarely making a fumble at ground level and able to dish off to teammates in order to create goal-scoring opportunities. As a forward, Schaap slotted eight goals in nine games, often finding space where few could to snap around her body in big moments. She also slotted three goals in her three Vic Country games at the AFLW Under 19 Championships, and laid plenty pf tackles along the way. Her defensive pressure is right up there with her other key strengths, though it is hard to look past her ball-winning skills, composure and goal sense, and is a perfect pressure forward who can push up into the midfield.

Meagan Kiely

#17 Meagan Kiely (North Melbourne/VFLW)
15/12/1994
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Footy IQ, kicking, clean hands, consistency

The first mature-ager and VFLW player to make it into the Power Rankings, Kiely would have to be one of the favourites for the Lambert-Pearce Medal after a dominant display for North Melbourne this season. Relocating from Tasmania, the Roos would be keeping a close eye on the 26-year-old, who could slot straight into any midfield with her natural ball-winning skills, work rate and leadership. As good as any readymade midfielder outside the AFLW, the North captain has lead the competition across disposals and marks this year, showing she can win it at the coal face, or on the outside, with her clean hands and kicking impressive, but most of all her footy IQ shining through. Averaging a massive 22.8 disposals, 4.7 marks and 5.6 tackles from her 12 games, she is the premier VFLW player at this stage.

#18 Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
20/11/2003 | 176cm
Tall Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, X-factor, athleticism, marking

A player with plenty of upside, Houtsma becomes the remarkable fifth Falcon in the top 18 players showing just how deep the Falcons’ side was this season. She does not need to win a lot of the ball to have an impact, her Houtsma’s athleticism across the ground as a 176cm enabling her to play on a wing, or in a key position player at either end. Strong overhead, and able to win it at ground level, Houtsma attacks the ball at speed on a lead, and generally uses it well when in possession. Still ironing out consistency within games, the versatile utility has already spent time at centre half-back, centre half-forward and on the wing, which is a huge feather in the cap for the teenager.

#19 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
12/12/2003 | 190cm
Ruck/Key Forward

Key strengths: Mobility, versatility, size, athleticism

The towering ruck/forward AFL Women’s Academy season makes it into the top 20 on the back of a solid overall season. Whilst she still needs to work on clunking more grabs above her head, Gillard’s work around the ground and ability to get to repeat contests for a ruck and running as a midfielder is really impressive. Often towering over her opponents, Gillard moves incredibly well, and is a tall that teammates are not afraid to use in transition, as she rotated between the ruck and full forward to average 11.3 disposals and 14.1 hitouts, as well as a couple of inside 50s per game. A December birth, Gillard has plenty of upside that with time could develop into a damaging tall.

Brooke Hards

#20 Brooke Hards (Western Bulldogs/VFLW)
19/07/2002 | 167cm
Medium Utility

Key strengths: Footy smarts, versatility, athleticism, kicking

The former Bendigo Pioneers co-captain rounds out the top 20 in our Power Rankings and the second VFLW player to feature. The soon-to-be 19-year-old excelled as an inside midfielder at junior level, but chose to step up to VFLW level where she improved on the areas that saw her overlooked. Hards moved to the outside playing every role under the sun from forward, to back and wing, able to win the ball and most importantly build up metres gained with her run and carry. Boasting enormous upside and great footy smarts, when able to get-and-go, Hards is damaging with ball-in-hand and has well-balanced athleticism, mainly her acceleration. While her numbers might be lower than at junior level, her game-impacting moments have been higher making her a valuable prospect.

#21 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
29/10/2003 | 170cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: X-factor, upside, clearances, tackling

The Eastern Ranges talent was one who really stepped up in 2021 after only managing the one game in the shortened season last year, so not much was known about what she was capable of. Sherar not only stepped up to be a prime ball-mover for the Ranges – particularly in the absence of Olivia Meagher in the second half of the season and Tarni Brown after she was drafted last year – but earned a Vic Metro jumper for her troubles. Averaging 14.8 disposals, 3.4 inside 50s and 4.8 tackles, Sherar is a forward runner with great tackling skills and extraction out of the contest, can move the ball quickly and get it inside 50 well to set up scoring opportunities. One to watch who can add a point of difference to a midfield.

#22 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
06/03/2003 | 171cm
Medium Defender/Wing

Key strengths: Skills, composure, versatility, reading the play

A medium defender who runs off half-back, hits up targets and then roams along a wing, Vickers is a player with some great upside, and is another Oakleigh Chargers’ premiership player. She averaged the 13.5 disposals, 3.3 tackles and a well-balanced two inside 50s and rebound 50s per game, such was her ability to cover the ground. The Chargers did not see as much of it in their defence as other teams, so Vickers had to hold a high line at times and be that kick behind the ball ready to intercept. She is not a renowned marker, but she is one to receive the handball and go, and uses the ball well in transition. Still developing areas of her game, as an overall prospect Vickers has some great talent.

Maeve Chaplin

#23 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
22/08/2002 | 167cm
Inside Midfielder/Defender

Key strengths: Inside work, clearances, strength, reading the play

A dominant ball-winner who became the focal point of the Knights’ midfield brigade this year, Chaplin is a natural contested ball winner, and someone who can slot straight into an inside midfield. Only playing VFLW post-NAB League Girls, Chaplin has managed the three straight games for the Blues at the level, also juggling Vic Metro commitments as well. Able to play off half-back as she did in past years, Chaplin did it for Vic Metro, whilst playing the inside ball winner for the Knights. She averaged the 17.3 disposals and 5.0 tackles, with a lot of her possessions coming in close, and then working hard to spread to the outside and thump the ball forward to give her team the advantage.

#24 Sarah Skinner (North Melbourne VFLW)
15/10/1999
Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Forward craft, accumulation, versatility, consistency

Another VFLW player who might not have earned a Draft Combine invite but simply has to be in the mix to be drafted is a second Tasmanian playing for North Melbourne in Skinner. She has transitioned from being a forward and the TSLW’s best player and consistent talent, into one of the best in the VFLW, showing she can lift at any level. Still only 21-years-old, Skinner has had some huge numbers since primarily staying in the midfield, picking up 18.1 disposals, 3.8 marks and 4.8 tackles for the Roos. It is her ability to play forward or through the midfield and adapt to the play, creating goal scoring opportunities for either herself or her teammates. Skinner is a plug-and-play typer who the Roos would be considering, but other teams would have to be keeping an eye on too.

Elizabeth Snell

#25 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
14/03/2002 | 165cm
Inside Midfielder/ Medium Forward

Key strengths: Tackling, speed, evasion, forward craft

After not getting a Draft Combine last year, Snell stepped up to have a huge season with the Bendigo Pioneers, showing off the traits she has always had, but with greater consistency week to week. The thing with Snell has always been having some seriously top-end traits when it comes to her athleticism – particularly her speed and evasion – and tackling pressure, but it is about building on other areas of her game such as her accumulation and kicking. Whilst her kicking is still an area to keep building on, her numbers went through the roof this year, averaging 20 disposals to go with her 8.8 tackles per game, prompted by a move into the midfield. She showed she can handle any level, averaging 16.5 disposals and 8.5 tackles for Vic Country, and 12.8 disposals and 8.0 tackles for Essendon VFLW. Simply a tackling machine.

#26 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
01/02/2002 | 168cm
Medium Defender/Midfielder

Key strengths: Consistency, accumulation, work rate, tackling

As safe as a player as you could find, Leonard’s 2021 season was consistency bonafide. She hardly put a foot wrong all year for the GWV Rebels, averaging 19.4 disposals, 2.4 marks, 7.1 tackles and 4.0 rebound 50s playing between half-back and through the middle. Possessing courage and a hard edge with a high work rate, Leonard kept cracking in for four quarters every game and was amongst her team’s best players regular. A 2002-born talent who missed out last year, Leonard certainly stepped up this season, and has already made her VFLW debut, and looked good out of defence for Vic Country with 4.7 rebound 50s to go with 14.7 disposals and 5.0 tackles.

#27 Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges/Collingwood VFLW)
21/12/2002 | 157cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Contested work, balance, strength, accumulation

Another player who went back to her NAB League Girls club Eastern Ranges after missing out on being drafted despite a Draft Combine invite, Meagher spent three games with the Ranges before making the transition into Collingwood’s VFLW team. There she improved her versatility to play inside and outside after being a dominant contested ball-winner for the Ranges in 2020. She is damaging forward of centre, and despite not having high mark numbers, she is strong overhead for her sub-160cm size. She is someone who could play in transition between midfield and forward, and is a fierce player with a great attitude and would be one the Magpies – or another team – could consider calling up to their AFLW list.

#28 Sophie Locke (Port Melbourne VFLW)
24/04/2001 | 166cm
Medium Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, goal sense, high-impact, one-on-ones

Much like Hards, Locke has transformed her game at VFLW level with Port Melbourne, but in a different way. Playing as a reliable lock-down defender who had enough traits to suggest she could develop into a more offensively-minded player, Locke switched ends from her days in defence with the Murray Bushrangers and Vic Country, to become a prominent forward for the Borough this season. A year off did not impact Locke who showed she can be damaging inside 50 and has the capacity to play at both ends, averaging the 9.3 disposals, 2.2 marks and 1.1 goals per game. She was even further ahead prior to a mid-season injury, leading the competition goalkicking at that stage, and before the return of the AFLW players. Received a Draft Combine invite for her season.

Zali Friswell

#29 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
30/12/2003 | 165cm
Inside Midfielder/Forward

Key strengths: Kicking, balance, footy smarts, defensive pressure

A well-balanced midfielder who thrives on the inside of the contest, Friswell has been thrown around all over the field across multiple levels. She has played as a forward for Essendon VFLW and as a back pocket during her game with Vic Metro, but the midfield role is where she is best suited to. The impact difference is noticeable, with Friswell genuinely among the better midfielders in the draft crop, averaging 15.6 disposals, 6.9 tackles and 2.9 inside 50s for the Cannons in the NAB League Girls. Only two days away from being a bottom-ager, Friswell has nice balance, uses the ball well and good footy smarts to hit pinpoint passes down the field. If drafted to be a midfielder, then Friswell is an exceptional talent.

#30 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
18/07/2003 | 171cm
Wing

Key strengths: Athleticism, speed, upside, hurt factor

The AFL Women’s Academy member continued her trajectory of showing some serious highlights, whilst still trying to build some consistency in her game. Not a huge ball winner, Appleby usually has at least one run down the wing with a couple of bounces a game to break open the opposition zones and rack up the metres gained. She moves well, uses the ball well and really hurts the opposition when she gets it. If she begins to get it more consistently, then she will be an even bigger threat, but on the outside, Appleby has strong hands and can impact playing off a wing.

OTHERS IN CONTENTION:

The evenness of the AFL Women’s Draft in the Victorian pool makes it very difficult to judge, but expect some of the taller options to be considered such as Gippsland Power ruck Grace Matser, key defenders Tarrah Delgado and Cadhla Schmidli, and versatile talents Neve Crowley and Jemima Woods thereabouts. Geelong Falcons’ Elizabeth Dowling is one of the more reliable defenders running around, with Ash Richards, Tahlia Meier and Eliza James the forward options in the mix. From a VFLW standpoints, Casey Demons’ forward Imogen Milford, Collingwood’s Matilda Zander, and Essendon’s Alana Barba are also considered as ones to keep an eye out for in the upcoming draft.

2021 NAB League Girls team review: Calder Cannons

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

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

SEASON SUMMARY:

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

DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FUTURE ONES TO WATCH:

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

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

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

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

OTHERS:

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

2021 VFLW Round 11 preview: Teams stack up for final month of action

THERE are plenty of NAB League Girls debutants and AFL Women’s players who will run out for the respective teams this round of VFL Women’s (VFLW), in what could make or break some teams’ finals campaigns.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. GEELONG
Saturday, May 15 @ 10:00am
Trevor Barker Oval

Opening up the round is a genuine finals-defining clash in the sense that if the Southern Saints can get up at home, they should be home and hosed for the last finals spot. It will not be easy against a red-hot Geelong outfit that has loaded up on talent and looks to be the strongest lineup thus far which will be hard to beat. Focusing on youth and the return of NAB League Girls, Abbey Jordan comes in for her VFLW debut with the Saints, joining Sandringham’s Natasha Morris, whilst Tyanna Smith also makes her VFLW debut after an outstanding debut season at AFLW level. The VFLW talent at the Saints is quite strong, with Tara Bohanna and Hannah Stuart among the consistent performers this year supporting natural ball-winners Molly McDonald and Alice Burke who have shown their class above. The Cats midfield boasts Laura Gardiner, Darcy Moloney and Rebecca Webster with the possibility of Sophie Van De Heuvel rolling through and Olivia Barber rucking is the future of the AFLW side. The depth of the Cats looks to be just too strong, with Tamara Smith, Paige Sheppard and Richelle Cranston forming a dangerous half-forward line with elite level pressure. Expect the Cats to get the job done much to the relief of the chasing pack of VFLW sides just outside the finals places.

CASEY DEMONS vs. CARLTON
Saturday, May 15 @ 10:30am
Casey Fields

There are a couple of NAB League Girls players representing Casey Demons and Carlton in their battle at Casey Fields from 10:30am. Gippsland Power ruck Grace Matser comes back for her second game after a solid debut last weekend, whilst Northern Knights inside ball-winner Maeve Chaplin will get her first run around with the Blues. After carrying the drinks last match, Lucy McEvoy gets her chance at VFLW level, while Maddy Guerin, Natalie Plane and Charlotte Hammans will be looking to continue their great form stepping down to state league level. The Demons are just loaded across the field though, not mucking around with the likes of Eden Zanker, Casey Sherriff, Libby Birch and Jacqueline Parry in there, whilst Eliza McNamara makes her VFLW debut after a strong first season at AFLW level. The Demons have had one of the more stacked lineups the past few weeks, and with competition leading goalkicker Imogen Milford up forward, it is hard to see them not chalk up another win with the form they are in, even missing competition top ball-winner Eliza West.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, May 15 @ 10:45am
ETU Stadium

Barring a collapse in the final three rounds, a win here would lock up top spot for the Magpies, coming up against a Port Melbourne side that has now dropped two of its past three games. Only Geelong could catch the Magpies in the final few weeks and even then would need the Magpies to drop all the games – or lose severe percentage – to be a chance to grab top spot. Port Melbourne is always a chance to get up though, having a couple of Dandenong Stingrays in Jaide Anthony and Ash Richards running round whilst having plenty of Richmond AFLW players in the side. Whilst Emily Harley will not be in the side this week, the Borough have Cleo Saxon-Jones and Gabrielle Seymour at opposite ends, with Kodi Jacques returning for her first VFLW game, and Sophie Locke still in contention for the the leading goalkicker. The midfield combination of Katherine Smith, Sophie Molan and Mel Kuys will be difficult to beat, but the inclusion of Magpies AFLW star Jaimee Lambert will have the opposition on notice. Teaming up with Mikala Cann, Maddie Shevlin, Abbi Moloney and Sophie Casey as regular AFLW talents, the Magpies have some good spread across the ground, while Imogen Barnett, Matilda Zander and Marla Neal are all in good form, and Jasmine Ferguson has been a rock at the back. It should be a great game, with the Magpies ticking over the wins, but the Borough having plenty of experience in this match.

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. DAREBIN
Saturday, May 15 @ 11:00am
Downer Oval

A bottom two clash at Downer Oval will give Williamstown the opportunity to confirm the Seagulls will avoid the wooden spoon, and effectively lock Darebin into that position with the result. The Seagulls have created that good link with the GWS GIANTS over the past couple of weeks, and bolster the side through some up and coming AFLW talents in Tarni Evans, Georgia Garnett and Emily Pease, whilst Tasmanian Priscilla Odwogo runs out in the blue and gold once again. Perhaps the biggest name from an AFLW Draft perspective in this game is Sydney Swans Academy member Jess Doyle, who has been named on the interchange for the Seagulls to make her debut at the level. There is also a debut on the Falcons side, with Northern Knights key forward Trinity Mills named on the bench. With Jess Dal Pos as the prime mover onball, and the defensive combination of Victoria Blackwood and Gena Lawson-Tavan in the back 50, the Falcons have some composure moving the ball down the ground. The ruck battle between Sidney Cubasch (Darebin) and Elizabeth McGrath (Williamstown) is another one to watch, with Stephanie Simpson and Alyssa Mifsud both capable of kicking multiple goals on their day.

ESSENDON vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, May 15 @ 11:00am
Windy Hill

The latest match on the Saturday is an early 11am fixture at Windy Hill, where the Bombers who are looking to push further up the table and just solidify that finals spot, take on a desperate Western Bulldogs outfit that has to win to stay in finals contention. If you want the best chance at seeing multiple AFLW Draft prospects this weekend, then this is the game to watch. Essendon have brought back Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell, with talented top-age draft-eligible players Neve Crowley and Emelia Yassir also making their debuts. Crowley has been named in the back six with Lennox, though could play at either end, whilst Yassir will come off the bench and likely impact midfield or forward. Friswell is in a forward pocket. For the Western Bulldogs, a trio of Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels will make their debuts, with Ella Friend, Nyakoat Dojiok and Tahlia Meier all named in the Dogs’ squad. With AFLW talent in Sarah Hartwig, Jess Fitzgerald, Britney Gutknecht and Isabella Grant among plenty of others, the Bulldogs are also not mucking around with their lineup and arguably should be favourites in this game on paper alone. The key is to try and quell the strong Bombers’ midfield which includes Georgia Nanscawen, Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper who are always finding the ball, and then Mia-Rae Clifford up forward, and Courtney Ugle creating across the ground.

HAWTHORN vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Sunday, May 16 @ 3:30pm
Box Hill City Oval

In a standalone fixture on Sunday, Hawthorn will look to keep alive its slim chance of making finals with a win over North Melbourne. The Hawks have a superior percentage and have some good young talent coming into the side, with Keeley Sherar, Bridget Deed, Eloise Chaston and Matilda Hardy forming a strong Eastern Ranges contingent, and Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae returns for another week after a big Round 10 effort last week. The Kangaroos are also handing out some impressive debuts to young players they might consider for their AFLW list, with a Tasmanian trio of Ella Maurer, Jemma Blair and Amy Bissett – who are all capped at national level with the Allies at the AFLW U19 Championships – set to run out in the blue and white stripes. With Jayde Hamilton another teenager who played alongside them for the Allies also remaining in the side, and then the form of Sarah Skinner and Meagan Kiely among others, the Roos are going to make a good fist of it. The Hawks just have too much depth across the field, and with Phoebe McWilliams and Kristy Stratton up forward, Meg Hutchins down back and Georgia Bevan and Alison Drennan roving to Tamara Luke through midfield, the brown and gold deserve to be favourites here and take home the win.

2021 VFLW Round 10 preview: Pride on the line in more ways than one for huge round of action

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Pride Round kicks off in a Super Saturday stretching from the mid-morning to a game under lights, with plenty on the line and a number of virtual elimination finals or finals tuneups.

HAWTHORN vs. DAREBIN
Saturday, May 8 @ 10:00am
Box Hill City Oval

Opening the round is a must-win clash for Hawthorn hosting the last placed Darebin Falcons. If the Hawks get up, they are still a chance for finals, but a loss will all but put a line through their chances. For the Falcons, finals is a bit beyond them, but they will be hoping to double their wins tally with a victory here, and finish strongly in the last five rounds. Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae made her debut in the brown and gold last week, and another young talent will join her this week with Ashanti Bush cracking through to team up with fellow Darwin Buffettes prospect Dominique Carbone. The AFL Women’s Academy member will start on the bench, whilst Calder Cannons’ Peppa Poultney is back in the team after her side was eliminated from the NAB League Girls competition, and ex-Pioneer Katelyn Hazlett back for her second game after a strong debut. Given the AFL Women’s experience that keeps building at the Hawks, the latest is Geelong Cats’ Phoebe McWilliams who teams up with fellow experienced tall Meg Hutchins in attack. The Hawks have plenty of present and former AFLW talents, so expect they will be too strong in this one.

WESTERN BULLDOGS vs. CARLTON
Saturday, May 8 @ 12:00pm
Whitten Oval

A virtual elimination final takes place at midday on Saturday, with the loser of Western Bulldogs and Carlton effectively putting a line through their finals hopes. For the winner, they live to fight another day, which means there is plenty on the line for the teams. The Western Bulldogs have brought back Jess Fitzgerald to the team, with Kirsten McLeod and Naomi Ferres coming in for their first games of the season. Brisbane Lions’ Beth Pinchin is an interesting inclusion for the Dogs at centre half-back, while Western Jets’ Caitlin Sargent, Nikita Wright and Stephanie Asciak all remain in the side. For the Blues, they have kept fairly consistent wiht their lineups, getting games into Charlotte Hammans, Maddy Guerin and Serena Gibbs. Abbie McKay, Grace Egan and Daisy Walker all return for their second games back at the level, and Natalie Plane for her first, in what is a tough game on the road. The Dogs have that bit more class about them, but it will be whether or not they can win the midfield in what looks like a star-studded group on both sides.

GEELONG vs. ESSENDON
Saturday, May 8 @ 1:00pm
Deakin University Waurn Ponds

Two teams headed for finals will clash in a blockbuster VFLW match at Deakin University. Geelong have been strong down there, and with Stephanie Williams, Sophie Van De Heuvel, Rebecca Webster and Richelle Cranston all in the side, there is enough AFLW talent to lead by experience. Carly Remmos remains but Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner are out of the side after suffering repeated leather poisoning each week. They take on an Essendon side that is building very nicely, bringing in Bendigo Pioneers’ Jemma Finning for her debut this week, switching in for another Pioneer in Elizabeth Snell. The Calder Cannons talents feature all through the emergencies with talls Kasey Lennox and Neve Crowley likely to come in the following week, while Mia-Rae Clifford and Georgia Nanscawen represent AFL Women’s experience. The defence is solid for the Bombers, as Eloise Gardner and Courtney Ugle will provide some run and carry, while Ruby Svarc is a natural ball-winner and will provide good defensive pressure inside 50. At home Geelong has the upper hand, though the Bombers are a chance in this one.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, May 8 @ 2:00pm
Arden Street

In the traditional timeslot on Saturday afternoon, North Melbourne host Collingwood in a must-win clash for the Roos. The Magpies are cruising along nicely at 9-0 and unless the wheels completely fall off, a top two spot – and likely minor premiership beckons. The Magpies have brought in Mikala Cann for her first VFLW game of the season, giving the Pies mostly an AFLW spine including Sophie Alexander, Abbi Moloney and Maddie Shevlin, whilst Jasmine Ferguson has been one of the most reliable defenders in the competition. Add in the dangerous Matilda Zander up forward and the ball-winning Marla Neal in midfield, and the Magpies have plenty of top VFLW talents as well. For North Melbourne, they remain determined to keep a fairly consistent VFLW lineup, with Alexia Hamilton and Reni Hicks a couple of former AFLW players while Sarah Skinner and Meagan Kiely join them in the midfield as in-form talents. Camilla Taylor returns to the level after Tasmania Devils’ exit from the NAB League Girls competition, while Molly Eastman is another Roo in great form. They have had a real mixed bag this season, but are not without a chance the Roos, though the Pies are deservedly favourites for this clash.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Saturday, May 8 @ 2:00pm
ETU Stadium

Southern Saints can go a long way towards securing a finals spot with an upset win over top two side, Port Melbourne at ETU Stadium on Saturday. The Saints hold the precious sixth spot, and still will after this round given their far superior percentage to the chasing pack, but cannot afford to drop too many or the lower teams will pounce. Dandenong Stingrays co-captain Ash Richards and versatile runner Jaide Anthony both make their debuts at VFLW level, but unlike many of their teammates, they will be running out for the opposition side Port Melbourne. They are joined in the side by Maddy Brancatisano who returns to the level for the first time this season, with a host of current and past AFLW talent, including Katherine Smith, Sophie Molan and Emily Harley who stood up last week with four goals. Zoe Hill has been named as an emergency for the Saints, with Jemma Radford retaining her spot in the back pocket for some Dandenong Stingrays flavour, and the AFLW talent led by Alice Burke, Tahlia Meyer and Renee Saulitis. Port Melbourne have more depth in the side and should win, with the Saints needing to make the most of their chances if they are to get up.

WILIAMSTOWN vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, May 8 @ 7:00pm
Downer Oval

Playing a special Saturday night game under lights for the Pride Round under lights at Downer Oval, Williamstown will be hoping to cause a boilover agains a strong Casey Demons side that is gearing up for finals. The Seagulls need to win the remainder of their games to qualify for finals just about, and have been able to welcome Gold Coast Suns’ Bess Keaney to the lineup. She will lineup in the back pocket, with Georgia Garnett also coming into the defence for her debut in the VFLW following the announcement that Williamstown had formed a link with the GWS GIANTS. Lisa Steane has also been named in the side, with Ella Baxter, Aimee Whelan and Ruby Tripodi among the in-form players. Casey Demons have a damaging forward line with Maddison Gay, Alyssa Bannan and Imogen Milford one of the strong forward trios going around. Libby Birch in defence, Eden Zanker and Megan Fitzsimon in midfield, and the newest debutant Grace Matser – a Gippsland Power ruck – will all provide plenty of talent and depth around the ground.

2021 NAB League Girls preview: Elimination Finals

AFTER nine rounds of home-and-away tussles, the 2021 NAB League Girls season rolls on into its first week of finals. The eight qualifying teams hail from two seperate pools, with four from the Metro regions and four from the Country selection, including Tasmania.

Oakleigh Chargers, who finished first in their pool and top overall, will take on fourth-ranked Metro side Calder, while the Northern Knights’ premiership defence goes on the line against Eastern Ranges. Both games will be played in a Saturday double-header at Warrawee Park, Oakleigh.

On the Country side of things, top-ranked Tasmania faces the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels in a standalone Sunday fixture on the Apple Isle. The Devils’ and Rebels will go in already knowing their next opponent, as Dandenong and Geelong lock horns on Saturday afternoon for what looms as the game of the weekend.

We preview all four games with a look at form and the key matchups.

METRO POOL

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS (1st, 7-1) vs. CALDER CANNONS (4th, 5-3)
Saturday May 1, 10:00am
Warrawee Park, Oakleigh

Two of the competition’s premier teams tussle when Oakleigh Chargers and Calder Cannons open this year’s finals series on Saturday morning. While Oakleigh’s top-end talent has seen it charge to frontrunner status, Calder had long been poised as a finals fancy coming into the season. The two sides’ Round 3 meeting saw Oakleigh prove its credentials with a 16-point win on the road, via a three-goal to nil fourth quarter. This time around, the Chargers are on their home deck and come in having dismantled Gippsland by 100 points post-break. Calder’s run in is less ideal having lost to Geelong last week, making for two wins in its last four games. Oakleigh also lost to Geelong in Round 8, but won in every other outing this season.

Where it’s won: 

Calder boasts enormous strength down the spine; with Kasey Lennox down back, Tahlia Gillard rotating forward from the ruck, Neve Crowley able to swing up either end, and Georgie Prespakis leading a balanced midfield trio which includes Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell. There is an enormous amount of experience and class within that group alone, with all six part of the Cannons’ 2019 grand final side.

Oakleigh also has a strong engine room, but the dynamism of their squad as a whole could prove key here. Charlie Rowbottom can kick goals when resting forward, Brooke Vickers is a terrific generator of momentum from half-back or the wing, and Stella Reid is a consistent ball winner who can play on each line. The flexibility of those key players, along with a raft of up-and-comers makes the Chargers an ominous force moving forward. Speaking of, keep an eye out for Jasmine Fleming and Ameille Smith. Fleming made a stunning debut last week, while Smith returned from injury with aplomb in the same game.

Marquee matchup: Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers) vs. Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

It is only fitting to pit these two up against each other, having recently waxed to good effect in Vic Metro’s midfield. Both captains of their respective sides, expect to hear their names in close proximity for a long time yet as they loom as the top two picks in the Victorian draft pool. They may well feature in close proximity to each other on the field too, despite Rowbottom being named at full forward for Oakleigh. She is known to rotate deep and hit the scoreboard, but will likely be key to setting an early tone for her side against a well-balanced Calder midfield. Prespakis is the centrepiece there, with unmatched ball winning ability and two-way relevance. In their Round 3 duel, Rowbottom finished with 18 disposals, 11 tackles and five inside 50s, while Prespakis had 20 touches, 18 tackles, and four inside 50s. Let’s see who takes centre stage this time out.

EASTERN RANGES (2nd, 6-2) vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS (3rd, 5-3)
Saturday May 1, 12:00pm
Warrawee Park, Oakleigh

The Eastern Ranges will be out for redemption when they lock horns with Northern Knights on Saturday afternoon, with the Metro rivalry producing a couple of thrilling contests in the last three seasons. Northern remains the reigning premier and will look to continue its defence here, having ranked third in the Metro pool with a 5-3 record. Eastern bested them in that aspect to finish second at 6-2, but one of those losses crucially came at the hands of their weekend opponents. back in Round 6, the Knights came from nowhere to snatch an eight point victory over Eastern, aided by a four-goal final term. The result should be fresh in the memory of both sides, who come into this clash on the back of solid Round 9 victories.

Where it’s won:

The midfield. If their Round 6 meeting is anything to go by, this game rests on which side can wrestle momentum in the engine room. Eastern beat Northern in that department for three quarters of their earlier clash this year, but came unstuck as Northern moved Tarrah Delgado on the ball and got on top at the death. The Knights did not have Maeve Chaplin to rely on in that match, so she is a key inclusion to lead the line alongside Teleah Smart and Ava Jordan, who had 24 disposals and two goals in Round 6.

The Ranges have a good bunch of ball winners who have been ultra consistent this season, with Bridget Deed and Keeley Sherar among the key movers who can benefit from Georgia Campbell‘s ruckwork. All three were impactful last time out against the Knights, with Campbell combining with Jess Grace to win 35 hitouts, while Deed and Sherar finished atop their side’s disposal chart.

Experience may also play a factor, with Grace among a handful of Ranges to have gained VFLW experience with Hawthorn this year. Of course, Northern will claim their own ascendancy in that regard with the same number of players from their 2019 premiership team set to line up once again on Saturday.

Marquee matchup: Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges) vs. Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

With the midfield battle so important to this result, what better place to look for the marquee matchup. Put forward here are two 167cm inside types who can win their own ball and set the tone for their side. Deed has averaged 19.4 disposals and 5.8 tackles across eight consistent games in 2021, while Chaplin has played seven times for averages of 17.1 and 4.9 in the same categories – though was twice rubbed out with injury in those outings. Both players are fresh off representing Vic Metro at the Under 19 National Championships and worked back into form nicely upon the NAB League’s return. Expect to see them in the thick of things at the coalface.

COUNTRY POOL

DANDENONG STINGRAYS (2nd, 5-3) vs. GEELONG FALCONS (3rd, 5-3)
Saturday May 1, 2:30pm
Shepley Oval, Dandenong

Potentially the game of the weekend sees Dandenong Stingrays shape up against Geelong Falcons at Shepley Oval, rounding out Saturday’s fixtures. Both sides finished their regular seasons with 5-3 records, but remain one of the rare pairs not to have crossed paths since 2019. The Stingrays made a hot start to their 2021 campaign with three-straight wins, but have since gone 2-3 in their last five outings. That third loss came last week to Northern, with the silver lining a competitive hitout on the eve of finals. Geelong looks to be in terrific shape having become the only team to beat Oakleigh in Round 8, before returning to knock off Calder last week. The Falcons have lost some winnable games too, but are always a massive threat at full strength. Whichever team survives is in with a great chance at taking out the ultimate glory, among a tough group of competitors.

Where it’s won:

Both sides are strong on each line, but boast particularly sturdy defences. Among Dandenong’s back six, it won’t be hard to miss (and mistake) key pillars Zoe Hill and Mackenzie Eardley, while Jaide Anthony makes a welcome return and Jemma Radford also comes back into the side having gained some VFLW experience. Those are just names among the starting group, with plenty more movers likely to rotate back and help blanket some lively Geelong forwards.

For the Falcons, the combination of Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling is a real star turn, with their mix of intercepting and rebounding proving a nice catalyst from the back. Again they are just a couple of outstanding figures in the wider structure having recently served Vic Country in a similar fashion. Whichever defence can resist the attack which comes their way for longer, while also providing the better spark in transition, will likely come away as the winner.

Marquee matchup: Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays) vs. Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Another pair of midfielders in the marquee matchup slot, these two have often proven the prime ball winners for either side. They are virtually identical in height and while Shepherd is a year younger, just as capable of starring at this level. Part of Dandenong’s leadership group, Shepherd has played five games in 2021 for averages of 17.8 disposals, 3.2 tackles, and 4.8 inside 50s. It is worth noting, she came off injured in Round 5 and was rotated heavily upon her Round 8 return. Last week, she notched 24 touches in a terrific outing.

Craven has two more games under her belt and is an ultra consistent figure; averaging 21.7 disposals, 3.0 tackles, and 3.3 inside 50s this season. Not only does she win the ball at the coalface, but also works around the ground to have an all-round impact. Shepherd, who seems to have so much time on the ball, can also rotate forward and tends to make things happen.

Tasmania Devils (1st, 6-2) vs. GWV Rebels (4th, 3-5)
Sunday May 2, 12:30pm
Windsor Park, Launceston

The Tasmania Devils will take part in their first-ever NAB League Girls final this weekend, taking on the GWV Rebels on Sunday afternoon. The Devils earned the right to host on the back of a remarkable campaign, showing marked improvement to register a 6-2 record and top the country pool. While GWV finished ninth overall, the Victorian side snuck into the postseason as the fourth-ranked country side. You won’t have to look too far back to see how these teams stack up against each other, as they played just last week. The Devils won that game by 23 points, meaning this clash looms as somewhat of a reverse fixture. Tasmania’s winning streak is also now at four games, while the Rebels will have some work to do to bring their three-game losing skid to an end.

Where it’s won:

This contest looms as an interesting one in terms of styles – it goes without saying that whichever side can play the game on their terms for longer will likely win, but it rings true here. The Devils have shown they are a potent unit, managing scores of over 35 points on six occasions this season. They move the ball well in transition and may look to dismantle the Rebels in that way again. GWV plays a slightly different style and was shown to kick-mark, or kick long more than Tasmania last week. The Devils used the ball far more by hand in that outing, so will have a good idea of what works and how they can break open the usually congested finals feeling. GWV also has some strong aerial players, which come into effect when the ball is kicked in long. At ground level, both sides are tough and are not afraid to get their hands dirty defensively.

Marquee matchup: Amy Prokopiec (Tasmania Devils) vs. Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

On paper, this is one of the best pure matchups across the entire round of action. Named alongside each other on the team sheets, Prokopiec and Dojiok have already had a sighter against one-another. Tassie Devils forward, Prokopiec has been a reliable figure for her side, booting 10 goals in her seven games and being held goalless just once. She snared 2.2 last week and looked dangerous having been overlooked for Allies selection. Fresh off her carnival with Vic Country, exciting Rebels defender Dojiok had 18 disposals and five rebound 50s last week. A kick-first player who also marks well and gains serious meterage, it is little wonder why she was included in the AFLW Academy this year given her potential. She will again be a key player for GWV here, matched up against a player similar in size and in just the right position for both players to truly test themselves.

Top Performers: AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships – Vic Metro vs. Vic Country

THE 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 National Championships rolled on into its second fixture on Friday afternoon, as Vic Country and Vic Metro locked horns in perfect conditions at Trevor Barker Oval. It was the Country side, coached by Mel Hickey which got up against its fierce rival in what was a high quality game of football played with plenty of spirit. We take you through some of the top performers from the day, highlighted on the basis of opinion by our individual scouts.

>> Scouting Notes: Vic Country vs. Vic Metro Under 17s

VIC METRO:

By: Michael Alvaro

#4 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Yassir is one of the most crafty ground level midfielders in Victoria and proved as much with another solid performance in representative colours. The Calder Cannons product spent a lot of time competing at half-forward, but made the most of her midfield minutes and was able to combine with some familiar faces in the engine room. Yassir was often the anchor at centre bounce situations and did well to chain handballs as Metro looked to stream forward, with her speed a key feature in those situations. Her tackling pressure was also noticeable, and matched the intensity of the game.

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

The top-ager got back to her roots in a way as she was stationed almost permanently down back for Metro, and she was one who stood up well against the efficient Country attack. Her strong physical presence and ability to read the game proved key traits as Chaplin cut off a number of Country forays – whether it was cutting across to intercept mark or rebounding with authority and efficiency. Amid a high stakes pressure cooker, Chaplin was one of the more composed players in important areas and played her role to a t, even doing well to quell the influence of Poppy Schaap after her hot start to proceedings.

#11 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

Deed was one of the solid contributors for Metro who played a touch out of position compared to her usual posting in the NAB League. The Eastern Ranges midfielder was predominantly employed at half-forward and was able to use her ball winning ability to impact contests whenever her name was called. She did a lot of the hard stuff well, as we have come to expect, with some important tackles going unrewarded and nice bursts through traffic to break the game open for Metro within their attacking half.

#12 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Donning the long-sleeve ‘Big V’ jumper, there was a sense of familiarity in Prespakis’ game as she again proved to be the best player afield, as she has been throughout nearly every game in her fledgling career. Her cleanliness around the stoppages was on full show, with clean gathers and handballs out under pressure helping her look that class above the rest. Prespakis’ strength on the ball was also noticeable during her permanent midfield role, as was her terrific overhead marking ability around the ground. The Calder product worked hard both ways and impacted in all parts of the ground with her well-rounded style, bringing her teammates into the game with handball chains and instinctive work on the inside. We are running out of superlatives at this point, she is simply a marvel to watch and is likely the top draft prospect in the country right now.

#15 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Reid played a little bit of everywhere in this game, rotating forward form her usual wing post and finding plenty of the ball. She is almost unassuming in the way she racks up possessions, and carried that trend from her NAB League form this year to again be one of the top ball winners in her latest outing. Having spent a good amount of time up forward of late, Reid used her knack of finding space in attacking areas to good effect, booting two goals with clean touches within Metro’s 50-metre arc. Her run-and-carry game was not as noticeable this time around, but Reid always gains good meterage and that was no different here.

#16 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Another who has been in stellar form for Oakleigh this season, Vickers picked up a familiar role across half-back for Metro and showed her class in moments scattered throughout the game. Her ability to read the play from behind the ball is outstanding, and Vickers often thinks ball-first when looking to intercept, with that attacking kind of mindset paying off as she cut off some threatening Country passages. While she was a little smothered in her usual work going forward, Vickers showed some solid defensive capabilities with spoils, tackles, and some handy mop-up work at ground level.

#18 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

A leader at Oakleigh and a leader in this star-studded representative side, Rowbottom battled well to make an impression on the contest. She was initially stationed deep forward and rotated back there throughout, but arguably looked most damaging in the engine room. At her first centre bounce attendance, Rowbottom was able to bustle free and boot a clearance forward, highlighting her key strength as a midfielder. She has rare power amid heavy congestion which often sees her break out of situations in Houdini-esque fashion, which is more often than not followed by a penetrating kick forward. She skewed a few kicks on the run and under pressure, with lowering her eyes and executing those skills more efficiently a potential next step for her midfield development.

#26 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

Crowley has raised eyebrows in recent weeks as a promising forward target, having mostly plied her trade as a defender for the Calder Cannons. She was again employed at centre half-forward and drifted in gracefully to take some nice aerial marks, credit to her outstanding judgement of the ball in flight. Crowley looked most ominous in the second term, though had her couple of set shot attempts fall short and slide across the face of goal respectively. Overall, it was a solid outing and one which built on the promise she had already shown in advanced positions. Another big tick for her versatility.

#27 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

The sole bottom-ager afield for Metro, Ham was thrown right into the deep end with a good number of centre bounce attendances. She has the ideal size to compete against more mature bodies and proved that with some tough work on the inside, though her explosive qualities were more difficult to exploit in the high-pressure contest. She also moved forward at times and was an entertaining asset for Metro, with her ability to snatch considerable distance in quick time proving advantageous for her side’s forwards. With such a penetrating kick and all the tools to be a very high selection, Ham continues to prove her worth heading into next year’s draft.

#28 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

Campbell shared the ruck duties with AFLW Academy tall, Tahlia Gillard, but was most impactful during her time as a key forward. Her mobility and attack on the ball stood out as really high-end traits which will continue to raise her draft stocks in 2021, especially if she can also continue to hit the scoreboard. Whether it was competing in the air or crashing ground balls, Campbell was a much-needed physical presence up forward for Metro, and looked natural on a line which saw plenty of players contribute slightly unfamiliar roles. She capped off her game with a richly deserved goal.

 

VIC COUNTRY:

By: Declan Reeve

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Stationed inside the Country attacking half for the game, Schaap took the opportunity with both hands to produce some really good passages of play, and highlight reel worthy goals. Her first goal in particular, a snap from the boundary under pressure, was super impressive, showing composure and poise going forward. She was clean throughout the game at ground level, never fumbling and then using her agility to work through opponents to get a handball to the outside, or snap it over her shoulder forward. She was a consistent link up player, that could reliably keep Country in possession.

#9 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

The bottom-aged forward stepped up in a big way after a quieter first quarter, with Country teammate Tara Slender earning herself more attention after the first quarter, Scott took it upon herself to become the new target up forward, leading hard for marks and being relentless in her pursuit of the footy, running through opponents and even teammates at times to win a contested ball, or tackling opponents hard, her presence was very much felt and noticed by all. Using her strength well, she had no issues pushing opponents off when she wanted to go for a run either.

#10 Abbey Jordan (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got involved in quite a bit astound the ground, with her pressure work in contested situations a real highlight of her game, regularly being ready to pounce on any Metro player coming out of a contest with the ball. When she won the ball, she used it well, often looking to move it quickly to give the Country forwards the best chance to mark and get shots on goal, but she was versatile with that, also able to match the slower tempo Country were looking to deploy at times. 

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Was really consistent across four quarters, being a strong competitor in the midfield early on, and gradually standing out more and more as others around the ground got tired, she just kept working to get to the right spots and win the ball. Her ability to control the play even without the ball was great later on, where her leading would often change the tempo and style of how Country were using the ball. Showed some good Footy IQ int he second half where she would be able to get around opponents to deliver a kick on the inside, opening up the options down field for Country.

#12 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Despite measuring in at just under 170cm, the athleticism of Featherston saw her become the Country relieving ruck, where her superb leap, and aggression towards the ball and the opposing ruck, saw her win or neutralise quite a few ruck contests, that would lead to her following up at ground level. She was stationed mostly up forward when not rucking, and allowed her work rate and leap to shine, taking on every contests she was near and getting up when she could.

#14 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

Donning the helmet in the country defence, her ability to impact every contest in the defensive 50, battling to get the ball to ground and then using her game sense to run past or around opponents, and deliver the ball to contests down the line, was outstanding across the four quarters. Her understanding of her teammates was impressive, dropping back at times to allow other teammates to push up the ground, and directing teammates around when she was behind and could see the play unfolding in front of her. Not only nullifying contests or being a vocal teammate though, she started taking some really good marks out the front of packs or in front of a single opponent, particularly in the second half, completely cutting off some promising Metro attacks, and sending the ball out with great efficiency to get Country moving on the counter.

#17 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Part of Country’s superb defense, Lee did all the things well that she’s been doing for the Falcons, with her positioning down the line, and aerial strength, keeping the Metro midfielders busy by sending the ball back out when they rushed a kick forward. She was particularly dangerous in the first half with her run from behind style getting rewarded with some handball receives, which allowed her to kick long forward and help get Country on the board early.

#19 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Played a really solid role down back as expected, and whilst not racking up huge numbers in terms of disposals, her hard work and 1 percenters in the defensive 50 helped others win the ball and get it out, with her high leap meaning she was able to compete with the taller Metro forwards and rucks in marking contests

#25 Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)

Had one of the hardest jobs for Country of the day, playing on whichever of the Metro rucks was resting in the forward line, both being athletic and strong in marking contests. The bottom-ager proved to be up for the challenge, not conceding a mark all day in an impressive defensive display. She was put under pressure a coupled of times in a row in the last quarter, but was able to beat her opponents every time.

#26 Grace McRae (Gippsland Power)

One of Country’s top ball winners around the ground for the day, McRae made the inside her own at stages of the game, forming a good connection with Gippsland teammate Grace Matser to get onto the end of some very well placed taps, using her strength to take contact and then get the ball out via kick or handball. Got involved in some ‘slow’ play passages as well where she’d make a short lead, mark, and then pass the ball to a teammate in a more dangerous position. Was defensively accountable around stoppages as well, rarely letting her opponent get away with a clearance

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Started the game really well, with her workrate to get up and down the ground, despite being stationed a CHF, being a real highlight of the Country Captains game. She was regularly involved in contests on the wing or even on the defensive 50 mark where she’d just get the hard stuff done. As usual her marking was a highlight, taking them easily in the first half, and then receiving a few free kicks in the second half from opponents coming in too late from behind, one of which resulted in a goal for Slender, to top off a really quality game.

#29 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)

Coming up against two rucks with different strengths and play styles, Matser adjusted to her direct opponent well, using her physicality and leap against the taller Tahlia Gillard in contests, to great effect as the game went on, and her height advantage over Georgia Campbell to win a few there. 

2021 AFLW U19 Championships match preview: Vic Metro vs. Vic Country

THE all-Victorian battle at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships is not to be missed, with stars across all thirds of the ground and Metro going head to head with Country in a massive game at Trevor Barker Oval, Sandringham from midday tomorrow. Country has named its lineup for the Round 1 clash of the championships, whilst Vic Metro has listed its squad for the match, though the lineup provided here is predicted/potential.

LINEUPS:

VIC METRO:

B: Cadhla Schmidli – Kasey Lennox – Kiana Lynch
HB: Brooke Vickers – Tarrah Delgado – Pia Staltari
C: Maykaylah Appleby – Maeve Chaplin – Stella Reid
HF: Emelia Yassir – Neve Crowley – Keeley Sherar
FF: Eliza James – Tahlia Gillard – Montana Ham
R: Georgia Campbell – Charlie Rowbottom – Georgie Prespakis
INC:  Jorja Livingstone – Bridget Deed – Chloe Saultry – Charlotte Ryan – Zali Friswell – Amanda Ling

VIC COUNTRY:

B: Jaide Anthony – Mackenzie Eardley – Chloe Leonard
HB: Elizabeth Dowling – Nyakoat Dojiok – Annie Lee
C: Ella Friend – Grace McRae – Aurora Smith
HF: Amber Clarke – Tara Slender – Poppy Schaap
F: Gabbi Featherston – Renee Tierney – Tahlia Meier
R: Grace Matser – Tess Craven – Elizabeth Snell
INT: Jemma Finning – Ingrid Houtsma – Abbey Jordan – Ashleigh Richards – Paige Scott – Emily Shepherd

QUICK SUMMARY:

Looking across the line-ups, the sides have strengths in different areas, with Vic Metro’s midfield, and its size and key position talent among its strength, whilst Vic Country’s defence is its strongest line, but also its balance and even spread of players providing different roles. Metro has picked a team that has stars across multiple lines, whilst Country have the talent in there, but have also picked players that are unique in the way they can fill a role within a certain team, and very few players are too similar. The midfield battle will be crucial, whilst both sides have versatile players who can fill multiple positions.

 

FIVE KEY QUESTIONS:

Can the smaller Vic Country midfield match the bigger-bodied Metro side?

Both midfields are strong and talented, but it is clear straight away that Vic Metro has a midfield of taller, bigger-bodied players that will look to take advantage of the smaller Vic Country midfield. Tess Craven, Elizabeth Snell and Grace McRae have been named to start onball for Country and they will not take a backwards step up against the taller Charlie Rowbottom, Georgie Prespakis and Maeve Chaplin. The bigger bodies inside will help Metro around the contest in getting it out, so the smaller Country mids will have to use their extra few quick steps – particularly Snell – in extracting the ball from the contest.

How will all the Vic Metro midfielders fit in the side?

The Metro midfield is so deep, they have around 15 players who would call the midfield their preferred position. The question mark will come over how they fit them all in, and some have been learning other roles over the past month or so in order to impact the contest. Kiana Lynch and Chloe Saultry have been holding firm in defence for the Dragons, with the likes of Keeley Sherar and Emelia Yassir both capable of starting forward and hitting the scoreboard. One would expect the sole bottom-ager in Montana Ham to play forward and be a marking target, whilst Pia Staltari, Stella Reid and Brooke Vickers have been playing off flanks throughout the year in between pinch-hitting in the midfield from game-to-game. One thing is for sure, midfield rotations will not be a problem for Metro.

Can Grace Matser work over the Vic Metro tag team through the ruck?

The hard-working and endurance-based ruck of Grace Matser will have her work cut out for her in this game, being the only pure ruck in the team for Vic Country. The Gippsland Power player can run all day, and she will need to, up against the equally mobile Georgia Campbell and Tahlia Gillard who will get breathers forward when the other is rucking. Even outside those two the Metro side has talls that can jump in, while for Country, they are a shorter side, and might just get the likes of Mackenzie Eardley and Renee Tierney up opposite ends to help give Matser a chop out and save her running. Either way, a big game awaits for the ruck.

Where are the key strengths in each side?

Whilst neither side has a “weak” line, the strongest third for Country is its defence, whilst Metro’s strength is in its midfield. Metro’s four AFL Women’s Academy members in Georgie Prespakis, Charlie Rowbottom, Maykaylah Appleby and Gillard could lineup as a midfield group with the two inside ball-winners, outside runner and ruck. They will likely have first hands to it given their aforementioned strength and size in there, whilst Country will be well set up behind the play to prepare for inside 50s. The metro forward line has some quality talls, as well as midfielders who will play the role of forwards, which will give the Country defence – of whom all have good footy IQ – an advantage. They need to bring the ball to ground, but are equally comfortable in intercepting in the air, particularly Elizabeth Dowling, Annie Lee and Nyakoat Dojiok.

How can each team exploit the other?

Vic Country can use its well balanced lineup to keep it simple and each player play their role they are used to at NAB League Girls level. Looking at the side named, there is no-one in the team out of position from where they have been playing, which immediately means there is little to learn. Some might play a little deeper than they have been, but it is easily adaptable, and the players are versatile. With every forward a different type of player, the Country forward line is so well balanced and impressive. Metro can try and take control to exploit the smaller Country team, and with longer boots on them, Metro can put pressure on the famed Country defence, and really aim to put the ball into the danger zone regularly.

 

FIVE KEY MATCHUPS:

Grace Matser (Country) vs. Georgia Campbell & Tahlia Gillard (Metro)

As previously mentioned, this matchup could be a massive one, with Matser the sole number one ruck in the side, and will no doubt be ready for a great challenge on the day. Both Campbell and Gillard move well around the ground and are not afraid to take a bounce before distributing, and then go deep forward and provide a marking target. First hands will be crucial in the midfield, so the winning ruck can try and aid their midfields with clean hands.

Maykaylah Appleby/Stella Reid/Jorja Livingstone (Metro) vs. Ella Friend/Aurora Smith/Ingrid Houtsma (Country)

The need for speed and class on the outside is crucial, and both these teams have some talented players likely to roll out on the wing. Appleby is the Academy member who has the experience in big games, while Reid has been in ripping form, capable of playing anywhere. Livingstone is another wing who has that touch of class in moving the ball in transition, whilst the height of Friend and Houtsma – as well as the versatility – and the speed and ball-winning nous of Smith, will make it a couple of matchups to watch.

Georgie Prespakis/Charlie Rowbottom/Maeve Chaplin (Metro) vs. Tess Craven/Elizabeth Snell/Grace McRae (Country)

The smallest Metro midfielder is the same height as the tallest Country midfielder, which shows a bit of a size differential in there. Whilst Rowbottom is 10cm taller than any of the others, each of the players are likely to have an advantage in size over their respective opponents. A total 18cm different in favour of the Metro side is impressive, but it is also the strength in there which will look to win the ball in contested situations. McRae, Craven and Snell are all renowned tacklers and quick with ball-in-hand to exit stoppages, which is where they have the advantage. Prespakis, Rowbottom and Chaplin can all roost the ball and can back their talls inside 50 if they bomb it from a stoppage.

Tara Slender (Country) vs. Tarrah Delgado (Metro)

It might not be the matchup Metro send to Country’s top prospect, but Delgado is the most reliable in the air one-on-one, and is the only tall in the Metro defence who could go with Slender no matter where she goes. The Northern Knights tall has played in defence, attack and through the midfield, so it would be less rotations for Delgado to just try and nullify the well-balanced Slender, whilst the Bendigo Pioneers tall will no doubt play a number of roles on the day, and be tough to stop in the air or at ground level, but Delgado is the most suitable matchup.

Amber Clarke (Country) vs. Pia Staltari/Kiana Lynch/Zali Friswell (Metro)

One of the danger players across the ground is the speedster in Clarke who opens up the space behind herself so well to run into open goals and hit the scoreboard regularly. It will be tough to find a matchup for speed, with Staltari and Lynch likely to be rolling through the back half of the ground. In terms of athletic traits, perhaps the regular midfielder Friswell is the closest in terms of speed, finishing 10th in the preseason 20m sprint, to try and combat Clarke’s clear top billed ranking what was 0.6 seconds quicker than anyone else.

 

OVERALL:

The match is set to be a cracker, with both sides littered with talent and among the top teams in the championships as they are each year. Last time they faced off back in 2019, Vic Metro got the job done, so Country will be hungry to reverse the result here. The Country side has enough balance across the board to really worry Metro, whilst Metro has the top-end talent, particularly in the midfield and key position to stretch the Country side, making for an absolute beauty of a contest.

2021 AFLW U19 Championships state preview: Vic Metro

FOURTH in our 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships state preview series is Vic Metro, a side with some elite talent, great talls and plenty of ball-winning players who can fill multiple roles across the ground. They have opted for a draft-eligible focus, with just one bottom-ager named in the squad for the clash against Vic Country.

2021 VIC METRO SQUAD FOR VIC COUNTRY CLASH:

#3 Charlotte Ryan (Sandringham Dragons)
#4 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)
#5 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)
#7 Kiana Lynch (Sandringham Dragons)
#8 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)
#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)
#10 Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges)
#11 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)
#12 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
#14 Pia Staltari (Sandringham Dragons)
#13 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)
#15 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)
#16 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)
#18 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
#19 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)
#20 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)
#21 Chloe Saultry (Sandringham Dragons)
#23 Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons)
#25 Cadhla Schmidli (Eastern Ranges)
#26 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)
#27 Montana Ham (Western Jets)
#28 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)
#30 Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)
#31 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

QUICK SUMMARY:

The youngest player in the Vic Metro squad is the sole bottom-ager in Montana Ham. One of the top talents for next year, the tall inside midfielder earned a spot in the squad for the first match, and will join an unbelievable inside midfield with plenty of height. The noticeable aspect about the Metro side is the fact it has given a few 19-year-old players a chance, with a particular focus on hardened ball-winners and key position players at both ends. Amanda Ling, Maeve Chaplin and Chloe Saultry all provide extra experience, whilst Tarrah Delgado has been a rock in defence this year.

FIXTURES:

R1 vs. Vic Country (April 2 @ Trevor Barker Oval)
R2 vs. Western Australia (April 15 @ TBC)
R3 vs. Queensland (May 29 @ TBC)

FIVE TO WATCH: (2003-BORN)

Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

A player who has had her name in lights for a few years now since booting seven goals in a game against the GWV Rebels as an Under 16s talent in 2019, and her sister Madison winning just about every award possible at AFL Women’s level in her first two seasons. Prespakis has power and speed that makes her difficult to combat, and she can play up forward or through the midfield, with some of the safest hands overhead. Her strength around the contest is terrific, and she has quick hands to dish the ball out to teammates. Not afraid to the take the game on, Prespakis has impressive athleticism and creates her own space, with the opposition always trying to restrict her movement and impact.

Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Another family-relation as sister to Sydney Swans’ James, Rowbottom is that prototype midfielder who is tall, strong and able to move well out of the stoppage that makes her a headache for opposition midfielders. Rowbottom often plays predominantly midfield, then will be thrown forward when her side needs a clutch goal, and she has delivered on multiple occasions, including in the one-point win over Dandenong Stingrays when she slotted two majors at opportune times. Not needing a lot of touches to have an impact, she still manages to find around 20 touches and kick a goal or two a game, and expect her to start midfield and rest forward with opposition sides worrying about an appropriate matchup.

Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Considered the premier Victorian ruck as the sole AFL Women’s Academy ruck from the state, Gillard has also proven she can play key forward or key back, with her height and overhead competitiveness impressive. Most impressively her work around the ground – she can find a fair chunk of the ball for a tall – makes her work over opposition rucks, and be a link in transition. Teammates are not afraid to give her the ball and let her dispose of it, with a long kick and good footy IQ that makes her a top talent. One who will role through the ruck and then rotate forward in tandem with Georgia Campbell.

Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

The fourth AFL Women’s Academy member in this side and on the list, Appleby provides the ying to Prespakis and Rowbottom’s yang, as an outside ball-winner and silky mover. Appleby plays off a wing, though she can also play at half-back, because she is not afraid to take grass and run with ball-in-hand. She weaves in and out of opposition players, has lovely skills and decision making, and is the player teammates want the ball in the hands of going forward. She is not a huge possession winner like her fellow midfielders, but is also one that can do a lot of damage both through her metres gained, and her ball use.

Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

With so many great players, it is hard to single just one outside of the AFL Women’s Academy quartet. Reid has really put herself up as one of the top prospects in 2021, and her versatility to roll through the midfield, at half-back or half-forward is terrific. Whilst it is not known if she finds the ball or the ball just somehow finds her, Reid can rack up a large amount of touches, and is so balanced with her use that she can do some serious damage when given an inch of space. She is a ball carrier as well, and is not afraid to go for a run, and if she plays on a wing opposite to Appleby, it will present a star-studded midfield across the board. Having so much inside talent in there, Reid will be the outside class.

OTHERS:

Vic Metro has an unbelievable midfield with all of the above likely to start there. The experience of Chaplin and Ling provide extra hardness, while Emelia Yassir – one of the top prospects outside the above – is one that can be versatile in her work, and Bridget Deed another inside ball winner. Jorja Livingstone will add some more outside class, while the defensive set-up is quite strong with Kasey Lennox and Delgado having the rebounding work for talls, and Cadhla Schmidli also getting a great opportunity in the back 50 with the tight group. Neve Crowley is a key position talent to watch for and will likely start forward, while Keeley Sherar and Pia Staltari are having great seasons, and Zali Friswell is among the top talents running around.

SQUAD STRENGTHS:

  • Elite midfield
  • Key position strength
  • Size around the ground
  • Balance between offensive and defensive traits

The midfield contains the two top prospects in 2021, as well as one of the standout rucks across the competition. Add in a couple of highly-rated talents not far behind Prespakis and Rowbottom, and the outside silk on the wings, and the balance and depth rolling around is phenomenal. The big question mark will be about how to fit all those midfielders in there, with many of them having to play roles off flanks at either end, and then just have heavy rotations. Their balance between being offensive and defensive is very impressive though, and many of them are capable of slotting into other roles.

In terms of its talls, Vic Metro has a very impressive spine, and with Campbell able to roll from the ruck to full-forward as well, and Ham capable of playing midfield or forward, there are no shortage of talents. Kiana Lynch and Brooke Vickers are a couple of names yet to be mentioned who can play anywhere on the field, though have been terrific in defence in the last couple of weeks, while Charlotte Ryan and Eliza James are also consistent players who can impact the contest.

LAST WORD:

Vic Metro is going to be a difficult team to beat, and whilst in our Vic Country preview we said Country is the team to beat, Metro will be right up there with them. They have the midfield and key position talents to stretch any opposition side, with the question mark coming over specialty forwards or defenders, as a number of midfielders will float into other roles. As a whole though, they have great inside and outside players who will win plenty of the pill and provide scoring opportunities.

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 7/2c/3b

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition treated us to an extended weekend of fixtures in Round 7. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#34 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)

A really lively performance from the Stingrays’ co-captain who booted two goals and was a clear driving force in the win. Not only did she snag the two majors, but she hit the post and kicked another behind to finish with 2.2 from four scoring shots, and plenty of creativity in the front half of the ground. She also rolled through the midfield at times, laying some fierce tackles and driving the ball forward to be outstanding across the four quarters.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looking dangerous every time she goes near the ball, Clarke goes from zero to 100 really quickly, and looks to play on every chance she gets. At times she could take a breather and take a set shot or go back to assess options, but she knows once she gets goalside no one will catch her. What she did so well in this game was not only hit the scoreboard (1.1) but also lay a remarkable amount of tackles (eight) and do as much work without the ball as with it.

#31 Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)

Played further up the ground more so than just stationed in the back half, Radford cracked in to compete for the hard ball and get it out of stoppages and going forward. As versatile as they come, and showed she could play through the midfield and win the ball with ease, she was a crucial link in transition moving the ball from half-back inside 50.

#38 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

Having a purple patch of late, stepping into the shoes of Emily Shepherd and being that strong inside midfielder despite standing at 167cm. She cracks in and laid a game-high 11 tackles, but as a kick-first player, she is one who also finds space around the ground, and on a night where marking the ball was difficult due to wind and the chilly conditions, Crank was able to provide an option, and she also worked hard both ways to win the ball in each third of the ground.

#21 Kiana Lynch (Sandringham Dragons)

Without Lynch in defence, the Dragons surely would have let through plenty more goals .The talented utility aided her side at ground level, applying defensive pressure through tackling and implied pressure, then driving the ball out of defence 10 times. She teamed up well with Abby Thompson and Ella Schiberras among others, but was utilised as the player to drive the ball in transition when coming out of the back 50.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Continued her rich vein of form with another good performance. She was impressive around the stoppages, winning the ball and trying to create some space. Whilst she was not afforded the same luxury as past weeks. she still did her bit, and also got her hands dirty with seven tackles. Given her clean ball use and ability to use her athleticism to advantage, she is hard to contain,

#20 Abby Thompson (Sandringham Dragons)

Kept the Stingrays forwards at bay for as long as she could, and worked well in tandem with the other defenders to drive the ball out of danger and repel the attacks. Whilst she was often found in contested situations, she was very good at keeping her cool and then clearing the ball to safety or gaining distance close to the line.

#22 Emma Stuber (Sandringham Dragons)

Played a solid four-quarter role across the match and was balanced between her offensive and defensive ability. She laid some great tackles, and also kept the ball moving in transition, finding herself as the recipient at half-back and getting it further afield. She ended up winning a lot of the all and was a crucial player for the Dragons on the night.

OTHERS:

Charley Ryan was superb across the night with her silky skills and footy IQ, while Charlotte Blair, Grace Chapman and Olivia Robinson all impressed for the Stingrays. Looking at the Dragons, Bridie Hipwell worked hard with Sascha Pribil, while Ebony Angelopoulos did well in midfield, and Pia Staltari played her role onball as well.

EASTERN RANGES vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Just at another level compared to anyone else around her, commanding a run with player around stoppages to try and negate her effectiveness, which she quickly figured out how to play against and continued doing ‘Georgie’ things. Played a much more kick happy game than we usually see from her which probably led to her being even more dangerous given her kicking skills, where she’d more often than not look to get the ball more central going forward. Had those moments again where she had just see the game in slow motion and work her way through contests or around opponents in situations where she just shouldn’t have been able to.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

As good as I have seen her this year, her work around the ground was really impressive, positioning behind the ball when she was in the ruck to be part of any contest that formed outside of the Cannons forward 50, and playing her role as a main target down forward really well, where she had always get front position in a contest to make it nearly impossible to stop her from holding the mark. I really like that she lowers the eyes going forward and tries to get it to teammates in better spots rather than taking 50/50 shots herself.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

Played really well in the ruck, winning more hitouts than losing for sure against a rucking division that runs deep. Her athleticism is obvious, and was highlighted at the first bounce of the game where she leapt much higher than 189cm Tahlia Gillard, winning the hitout without any trouble. She was good around the ground when she was near the ball and made everything difficult for her direct opponent, or for any opponent at ground level after a ruck contest. Unfortunately went off in the hands of the trainers early in the third quarter and took no further part in the game 

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

Possesses a really good burst of speed which makes her a very difficult matchup around stoppages, where she does her most damage by getting away from opponents and then delivering a kick forward. One that seems to enjoy initiating that contact on an opponent at a stoppage, giving her that advantage in those situations to push off and use that speed she has.

#5 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

Continued on from her high quality game against Gippsland to have a real impact up forward against a strong opposition side. Playing as more of a high half forward than a traditional KPF, she was busy in the forward half, being a good marking option for teammates and then delivering with class inside 50. Really high impact per disposal as well, and you can see that her team want the ball in her hands because of her ball use. I really liked her leading patterns for the game as well, where she would lead one way but change direction at the last second to catch her opponent off guard.

#25 Cadhla Schmidli (Eastern Ranges)

Held up really well against a side that uses the ball well going inside 50, and she’d just be there to cut off a lot of attacks really well. Often playing as the deepest defender, her read of the game and command of the backline was really good, and her ball use out of deep defense gave the Ranges the best chance to get out and start a dangerous counter attack. 

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Insanely smart in her forward craft, she understands her role exceptionally, hitting the front of packs with speed to pick up a spilled ball, or taking her opponent up field and beating them running back into the goal square, she’s just a delight to watch, with her creativity being a highlight. A particular instance to showcase this was when she was one-on-one inside 50 with Cannons defender Kasey Lennox, beating Lennox with her speed coming back towards goal and slotting it on the run, even taking a bounce under pressure, showing not only her forward craft but also her confidence in herself.

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Her most prolific game for the season, she continues to impress with her workrate and ability to impact in any situation she finds herself in, whether it be a contested ground ball, contested marking situation or running into space one-on-one, she just finds ways to win against any opponent. Her overhead marking for someone her height is super impressive and was a big part of Cannons fourth quarter surge, where she was able to cut off the rushed kicks from the Ranges defenders, then kick long back inside 50. 

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Had pretty much the perfect game for a half-back player, with her tendency to press up with the ball inside 50 playing a big part in Eastern’s ability to lock the ball inside their forward half. Really confident when she pushes up and attacks a contest or a loose ball, and composed with her kicking even under pressure, she was able to create from nothing for Eastern which made her a real danger in transition. Also impacted aerially where she could, which made it difficult, especially in the first three quarters, for Calder to get any dangerous shots on goal

#41 Grace Walsh (Eastern Ranges)

Another 2022-eligible defender from Eastern that really stood up and caused Calder a lot of issues, Walsh really made it difficult for the Calder talls to get any easy marks with her work one-on-one, able to spoil towards the boundary line and allow Eastern to reset. Was dangerous by foot coming out of defensive 50 as well, giving Eastern plenty of opportunities to counter attack.

OTHERS:

From the home side Zali Friswell again won plenty of it and tried to create where she could, with Mali McLeod continuing her solid body of work as a winger, really getting into the role and showing she’s starting to understand it well. Abbey McDonald and Kasey Lennox were solid in defense despite the loss, still stopping a few Eastern attacks. Eastern had plenty of contributors in the victory, with Ruby O’Dwyer and Bridget Deed winning plenty of it through the midfield. Winger Jorja Livingstone also won a bit of ball on the wing despite finding herself in one-on-one battles often, with Isabelle Khoury also doing some good things on the opposite wing. Cassy Wilsmore did well as a relieving ruck, then taking over when Campbell went off injured, keeping her opponents accountable for the game.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

Had a hard day at the office with Dandenong not giving her an inch around the ground to do her usual stuff, so much so she finished the day with zero marks. Despite this, she still found ways to impact around the ground playing more like a smaller player for the day, winning ball on the inside around stoppages, or running past teammates to receive a handball and kick forward. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

#30 Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)

A good performance as she pushed further into the midfield than she usually plays, even getting herself on the scoreboard with an unlikely kick from 40 out, Di Donato was a threat around the ground all game, with her marking and class by foot really damaging and troubling the Stingrays throughout, especially in transition. What I liked most was that Di Donato was never not providing an option when Bendigo had the ball, she was always screaming for it, spreading across the ground for a switch option or leading straight at the ball carrier

#5 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)

As usual found the ball without much difficulty throughout the day around the midfield and stoppages, however she was also a marking threat around the ground, often positioning herself down the line from the play when Bendigo kicked it forward, just in case of return kick from Dandenong. Her kicking was also pretty good throughout the day, placing it to the advantage of team mates more often than not, allowing them to play on after marking it if they wanted to. 

#15 Drew Ryan (Bendigo Pioneers)

Played a vital role in between the arcs for Bendigo as an outside runner or switch kick option, often being the target of Bendigo transitioning outside of defensive 50 or being tasked with holding the ball up when outnumbered if Dandenong used her side of the ground, Ryan found ways to win the ball and get it going forward, also dropping back to assist the backline at times

#1 Lila Keck (Bendigo Pioneers)

Had the difficult task of playing on Amber Clarke when she was down forward, and the 15-year-old really gave Clarke a challenge, being able to match her for speed for most of the game and making it a real scrap when the ball was at ground level. It wasn’t all locking down for Keck though, as she offered a lot by foot around the ground as well.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

Provided a lot of spark around the ground for Dandenong, which came as no surprise, given her athleticism makes her such a difficult match up it was a real trouble for Bendigo to match her in the midfield. Up forward she did well to create opportunities for her teammates but often found herself in two-on-ones which made it difficult for her to get free and have a shot on goal. In the midfield her work around the ground was really good, showing a high workrate to get from contest to contest and continually impact the play. 

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Played the difficult matchup on Slender when she was in the forward line and held her really well, negating her aerial impact which no one has been able to do previously. A familiar sight throughout the season has been Hill streaming off the half-back line to meet a loose ball and kick it long forward, and it was once again crucial against Bendigo in repelling a lot of attacks, especially in the final quarter when the heat was really turned up. Hill was one that never wavered and kept the pressure up throughout the game.

#65 Olivia Robinson (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got herself into the midfield more than previous games and took the opportunity with both hands, playing a hybrid sort of role she proved she is as capable at getting in and winning a contested ball as she is as holding her space and receiving a handball on the outside. Managed to get herself on the scoreboard as well with a goal.

#5 Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)

Got thrown into the forward line with great effect, providing an additional target to teammate Amber Clarke, giving Dandenong an extra avenue to goal she slotted 2 for the day, but her work around the forward half can’t be understated, with her kicking giving her teammates plenty of opportunities to score, and her presence demanding special Bendigo attention.

OTHERS:

The home side had a lot of contributors in the loss, with Scarlett Orritt, Jemma Finning and Jayda Richardson winning their fair share of the ball around the ground, getting Bendigo moving forward with their kicking. Bottom-aged defender Tegan Williams continues to be a reliable bookend for Bendigo as well. The Stingrays as usual put in a team effort, Olivia Laity and Felicity Crank winning a bit of ball between the midfield and forwardline, and Abbey Jordan and Eloise McCrae having various crucial plays in the defensive half of the ground, McCrae in particular stepping up in the final few minutes.

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

Had a fascinating tussle with Grace Matser as the pair showed off their respective abilities throughout the game. Whilst Matser won the honours around the ground, Morphett was strong in the ruck, and when going forward took a great one-on-one mark by reading the ball in flight in the goalsquare. She kicked truly and ensured she hit the scoreboard, making the most of limited possessions, with a higher impact as a target and using her body for defensive acts.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

The Draft Central Player of the Week was simply outstanding across the board, having the ball on a string in the first half. She won everything running along the wing, and used her pace to advantage to burst away from the stoppages and drive the ball forward. There was little time in between touches as she gathered a ton of them, and whilst she might have had less in the second half, still stepped up for some memorable moments in a clear best on ground performance, providing both defensive and offensive highlights.

#46 Zara Hamilton (Murray Bushrangers)

Located on the other wing, Hamilton did a lot of running throughout the game, winning the ball in each third of the ground and teamed up well with Smith in bringing the ball forward in transition. As a taller player she is strong in the marking contest, and was able to position herself well when drifting forward as well. Sometimes too far out to score, Hamilton set the ball up for scoring opportunities to teammates inside 50, and was a driving force in the win.

#3 India Lehman (Murray Bushrangers)

Casually went about her business in a four-quarter effort and provided some great run on the outside. Standing at just 162cm, Lehman returned from the GIANTS Academy last week to put up her standout performance of the season. With a tendency to break the lines and work well with Smith and Hamilton in transition, she was one who was memorable for her consistent output throughout the match.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

Did a bit of everything throughout the match, and while her offensive and defensive traits are usually on display, she had a few memorable moments. The best was her last quarter mark, which came with the clock winding down and the game over, but showed her courage to intercept in defence and stop a potential Gippsland Power set shot. No one would have blamed her for not putting her body on the line, but the courage was terrific, and her passion – which included a fierce return of the ball to the boundary umpire when she believed she had kept it in during the same quarter – was great.

#35 Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power)

As solid as a rock and with others sore towards the end of the game, was almost single-handedly pulling down anything in her way. Often on the last line of defence, her last quarter in particular was outstanding, and her contested marking – which was clean – and defensive position were standout traits. She had a massive eight rebound 50s for the game, and it is easy to see why she was the Power’s best, holding up the fort throughout four quarters with a consistent impact.

#25 Lily-Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)

A sore back could not even contain the talented bottom-ager whose full athleticism and power was on display throughout the match. Providing great run out of defence in a role she has made her own, Williamson reads the ball well in the back 50, then sees the ball and steamrolls anyone in her way. One of the cleanest fend-offs of all time in the fourth term – with Lily Sharp being the unfortunate recipient – was unbelievable. She has a knack of either evading people or just running straight through them, and is able to use the ball well with a powerful kick, which makes her so damaging.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

A really classy game from the left-footer who was silky smooth in midfield. She won a lot of the ball and most importantly used it well, sidestepping opponents and creating space for herself to work in. Whilst she has been building that football understanding over the season, this was her best game of the year, and she was quite a handful for the Bushrangers midfielders, as she was not only able to win the ball, but utilise her kicking.

#40 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)

The ruck did really well around the ground and finds plenty of the ball for a taller player, not afraid to be used in transition. Her contested marking is still a work in progress, but what she does well is her second efforts and ground level work, where she can be quick to aide teammates. Her work rate is high and she can win the ball across all thirds of the ground, and works over her opponents who often have to rotate in and out to match her.

OTHERS:

Murray Bushrangers’ Molly Kennedy was fierce with her tackling and won plenty of the ball in close, as did Kristy Whitehead, while up forward Lily Sharp and Olivia Cicolini both snagged two goals. For Gippsland Power, Molly Van Berkel helped out her sister in defence, while Grace McRae, Hayley Woolfe and Paris Tracey worked hard in transition.

 

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#26 Chloe Saultry (Sandringham Dragons)

Returned to the side for the match and was rock solid in defence, repelling everything she could during important moments. With a slippery ball and others nervous under pressure, Saultry settled down the defence, and was a great intercept marker and rebounder throughout the match. She did get caught once trying to get out of the back 50, but she played a consistent match throughout the four quarters and was a star for the side in the narrow loss.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Played wet weather football, and while it was not her cleanest game by any means, she was important in just seeing ball, winning ball and driving ball forward. Of her 20 touches, 19 were kicks so she had less time and less instinct to use the ball by hand, and instead just bomb it forward to best help her side. She had plenty of inside 50s and rebound 50s throughout hte match which supported her work rate and ground coverage, whilst the wet conditions allowed her to bury in and lay a number of fierce tackles in close to lock the ball away.

#30 Pia Staltari (Sandringham Dragons)

In a game that was always going to be scrappy given the conditions, Staltari provided the highlight of the game in the second term. Tucked up tight against the boundary line, Staltari kicked a remarkable goal that sailed home to get the Dragons on the board. All in all she played a consistent game, but it was the important goal that kept the Dragons in the contest and ensured they did not go another half without a goal.

#2 Keeley Coyne (Sandringham Dragons)

Provided a mix of run and defensive pressure, the talented outside mover got her hands dirty in close with eight tackles. She managed to thrive in the wet and won the ball in close, often giving it off by hand to move it forward, or kick into space for teammates to work with. In what was a pretty even performance across the board, Coyne played her role and impressed throughout the game.

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Had the ball on a string and showed composure throughout the match. Her elite kicking skills were on show as the game went on after the rare turnover early in the match, with Baskaran ending up accumulating a massive 28 touches across the four quarters. She also laid seven tackles and then drove the ball out of defence and got it forward to set up scoring opportunities in a really complete performance. She did not have as much time and space as she was used to by going on-ball, but she kept working hard throughout the game, and it was fitting that she took the last mark of the match to have the ball when the siren sounded.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

Racked up clearance after clearance and bombed the ball from stoppages after taking a few steps to find the space. She worked well with Baskaran in the midfield to win plenty of the footy, and also lay some big tackles throughout the match and be a standout performer for the Jets. Always having to fight for the hard ball in close, Ham was one who took time off the clock late before the siren in a smart move, which came after she desperately took a sliding mark at half-back.

#42 Jemima Woods (Western Jets)

Building some nice form over the past few weeks, Woods provided a target up forward and pushed right up the ground to win the ball in midfield and drive it forward herself. Even winning the ball in the back 50 at one stage, Woods was a livewire across the field, and was a four-quarter performer. She kicked the Jets’ second goal from a set shot just to give them some breathing space again, and always looked dangerous near the ball.

#29 Kiera Leare (Western Jets)

In wet conditions, Leare did what any forward should do when under pressure in the goalsquare and just boot it off the deck, which she did to great effect. Kicking the Jets’ first goal through opportunistic circumstances, Leare got her team on the board and then proceeded to be busy throughout the game, having far more impact than her eight touches might suggest. She held up an opponent late in the game to knock her off balance, which helped the side hold on for the win.

OTHERS:

Kiera Whiley laid a match-winning tackle in the last minute of the game, Leah Spargo was sensational in defence, Krystal Russell controlled the ruck with 28 hitouts and Paige Ryan stepped up to midfield for the Jets. Charlotte Ryan, Emma Stuber and Summer Trim all had impressive performances, while Bridie Hipwell and Ebony Angelopoulos also had their moments.

EASTERN RANGES vs. TASMANIA DEVILS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

Had another prominent game in the midfield to continue her great form this season, not only known for her athleticism, but her tackling too. On this occasion she laid a game-high 13 tackles – four more than any other player on the ground – and was consistent in trying to drive the ball forward out of congestion time and time again to be a top player on the day.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Clean and and classy, the bottom-age talent thrived in the wet to play another outstanding game. Whilst her consistency is still building with some up and down games, when needed she has the capacity to really turn it on and provide great running out of the back 50 and drive it forward. Definitely a kick-first players, Busch also mopped up in defence with eight rebounds, mimicking her effort against the Western Jets in Round 1 where she was outstanding, with the two games over the weekend the best of her season thus far.

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

Had a game-high 25 touches and kept bullocking away at the stoppages with some fierce intent. A four-quarter performer who rarely waivers in her consistency to get to the right ball-winning spots, Deed stepped up in the final term to put the nail in the coffin with a last quarter goal to settle the nerves and ensure the points were heading back to Kilsyth.

#21 Ruby O’Dwyer (Eastern Ranges)

A promising game playing through the midfield to find space in the forward half and take a game-high six marks. She also won plenty of the pill through her work rate, and would drive the ball forward to help her side, Another player suited to the wet-weather style, O’Dwyer played an on-brand wet weather game with her kicking forward.

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

The classy left-footer just pops up when required, kicking important goals in the first and third terms to finish with couple of majors yet again. Having do to the work primarily at ground level, the dangerous Pisano kept up her streak of six games hitting the scoreboard, to take her total to 12 for the year in an outstanding debut season for the 15-year-old. Just so clean and ability to create something out of nothing.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

The Devils’ best and has had a real purple patch over the last few matches after promising signs early in the season. Won more of the ball in close and was clean with it, recording more handballs than kicks for only the second time this season as she looks to have a big influence through the midfield. Her running game was still on show, but for a player who get work hard to get to the outside, Webster has plenty of defensive attributes including her kicking where she laid another six tackles.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

No matter how many times she finds the ball, Ransom is just an eye-catching player. Clean and composed with ball-in-hand she can play in the dry or wet with the same impact. She has the athletic traits to burst out of a stoppage and drive the ball forward, but also can drop back and rebound the ball out of the defensive 50. Not as many disposals as she has some weeks but she makes the most of it when she does win it.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

A player with whom that you know exactly what you are going to get week-in, week-out. With her hard running and work rate a clear standout not only in her game, but across teh board, Gaffney worked hard to mop up in defence, then drive the ball forward with a kick-first mentality. In wet weather conditions, Gaffney was able to find her consistent amount of ball once again and keep her side in contention with her movement in transition.

OTHERS:

Ella Maurer again brought a ray of consistency to the Devils’ side, with Brianna Oates moving the ball well in transition. Jemma Blair and Olivia Smith also provided good run out of defence and through the middle, while Shania Saward laid an impressive eight tackles. For the Ranges, Matilda Hardy was among the most prominent players with a goal and finding plenty of the ball pushing up the ground, whilst the clean and athletic Jorja Livingstone had all kicks from her 15 touches in another strong game, and the likes of Keeley Sherar, Jade Hutchinson and Sarah Humm brought the heat, and Eloise Chaston booted a goal and looked strong up forward.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Did not necessarily have the biggest numbers, but played a really good game, where her strengths shined when given the opportunity. Her marking was particularly impressive, punishing the Falcons for a few missed kicks when they attempted to switch the ball, where she’d take the grab and then go for a quick run and deliver long forward. Had a real highlight reel moment when she got onto the end of a Riley Wilcox handball in the centre of the ground, went for a two-bounce run and slotted a goal in the third quarter, again utilising her elite speed and really good kick. 

TOP PERFORMERS:  

#4 Poppy Schapp (Geelong Falcons)

Nice bit of speed around the ground when she can it going, however with the congested style Northern forced on Geelong when they had the ball it was hard for her to showcase.  Plays her role as a hybrid sort really well, especially when she’s receiving a handball from a first possession winner and using her kick to get it going forward, she just looks hard to stop in those situations.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Consistent throughout the game with her attack on the footy and then follow up ball use, it’s no surprise she’s one of the leading ball winners this season. Reads the ball off the rucks hands really well which made her dangerous, particularly as the game went on and others started to tire out a bit more. I really liked her decision making with the ball, often looking to use the width of the ground and switch the ball rather than bombing down the line like most Falcons players seemed to do as the pressure built more and more.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Reliable in the backline for the last three quarters after starting on the wing, she was really strong aerially and made Northern switch up their style going inside 50 purely because she was just picking off entries for fun in the second and third quarters. Understands the game well with her positioning, so she is always around where the ball is going to be in defensive 50. Took all the kick outs for the day where she often had the right idea, but sometimes her teammates could not compete in the air or were outnumbered, but then started taking some less obvious options in the fourth quarter which saw Geelong move it out of defense with more effect.

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Played with a lot of confidence in her ability on the inside, which comes as no surprise, but to be straight back into it after some time off due to injury was impressive. Seemed to have a bit more of a focus on bringing other teammates into the game with her favouring the handball rather than kicking long which was a nice element to see of her game, and the Knights looked better off overall as a team for it. Seeing her previously play as someone that runs through packs to win the ball it was interesting to see that she appeared more agile and composed today, rather than using her strength she was using her footy IQ to get the ball out of packs, allowing her to deliver better quality disposals to teammates .

#37 Riley Wilcox (Northern Knights)

Showed off a really impressive workrate throughout the game, as she was never really starting any centre bounces or stoppages as a midfielder but she was getting involved everywhere around the ground, getting involved in a lot of handball chains especially in the middle of the ground or around the forward 50 mark, one of which preceded an impressive goal from teammate Maykaylah Appleby and the handball was perfect, put just in front of the already full pace Appleby, which showed that Wilcox’s disposal is measured and planned rather than just handballing to the first jumper she sees. Set up a couple of good set shots as well instead of blazing away and going for a goal, so that teamwork sense is there and fairly natural. 

 #40 Tannah Hurst (Northern Knights)

Solid in defense all day on the occasion it came down, that’s nothing particularly new for her, what really impressed was here impact moving up the ground when there wasn’t a threat of a Falcons score. She was positioning herself well behind the ball, taking some really good marks to keep the pressure on the Falcons and stop possible counter attacks, then moving the ball forward well to her forwards. 

#4 Brooke Plummer (Northern Knights)

Really been a consistent piece of the Knights midfield slotting onto the wing opposite Appleby, and her impact during the game was felt, showing off her ability to run both ways by helping out in defense, even as a spare at some stages, and then pushing up to get the ball and hit a leading forward target, her kicking is just so dangerous. I really like that she can mix it between really bulleting a kick, or softly placing it in front of a leading target, catering to different situations well.

OTHERS:

Despite the loss, the Falcons backline had some impressive contributors that were really hard to get past, particularly in the first half, with bottom aged pair Mackenzie McGrath and Taiya Morrow being the two main ones, as well as Elizabeth Dowling who was superb in the first quarter in particular. Zoe Garth also fought hard on the wing, despite finding herself outnumbered more often than not. Gulia Ceravolo and Tarrah Delgado both won a lot of it in the defensive half, with Delgado even sneaking into the midfield for the final quarter. Teleah Smart provided as an option around the ground well and won a bit of it on the outside.

GWV REBELS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Tried in a few different roles of late, Friend found herself stationed on a wing for most of the match before shuffling back to defence in the final term. The tall prospect competed well at ground level and while her hands were not always as clean as usual, Friend was able to impact some key loose balls. She also did well to float across and take a couple of handy intercept marks, with her only real aerial fly coming on the forward 50 arc in term one.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Before limping off in the hands of trainers late in the game, Dojiok enjoyed another terrific outing. The tall defender has a rare combination of size and athleticism, which again came to the fore in her many rebounding forays. She consistently backed herself to take aggressive positions across the backline and attack the ball when it came her way, instead of worrying about what her direct opponent was doing. As a result, she cut off a great number of Oakleigh attacks both in the air and at ground level. The final piece of the puzzle will be to sharpen her execution by foot, particularly on the run as she so often finds herself. A top performance nonetheless.

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Rowbottom spent a good amount of time deep forward and could very easily have ended up with three goals, instead of just one. She scuppered a couple of golden opportunities in the first term close to goal, but maintained her presence and even seemed to lift in intensity as the game wore on. She got her major score in the second quarter after clunking a trademark one-on-one grab, having already set up a teammate minutes earlier. In her work up the ground, Rowbottom’s physicality was evident as she repeatedly bullied her opponents around the contest and backed herself to muscle through or around would-be tacklers. Not a massive game numbers-wise, but she was impactful when called upon.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

As is always the case, Condon showcased a remarkable work-rate from midfield to not only find the ball herself, but to also impact with tenacious tackling which defies her size. The diminutive ball winner seems to accumulate at will, credit mostly to her running ability and repeat efforts at ground level. One play perfectly captured Condon’s attitude and desire to compete; when she was beaten in a one-on-one marking contest, but kept her head in the game to smother the resultant kick. Distance and damage in her kicking are areas of growth, but would only add to her sound acumen on the inside.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Leonard was afforded a wealth of midfield minutes and took the opportunity well, translating her ball winning ability and tackling pressure to the centre bounces. When she wasn’t winning her own ball, the experienced Rebel laid a number of big tackles to lock the ball in or prevent Oakleigh from getting the ball to the outside. She also chimed in with a couple of quality marks in defensive 50, with one going back with the flight of the ball particularly impressive. A cool head across the ground, Leonard was one of her side’s top performers.

#27 Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)

The bottom-age defender played an important role in defence for GWV, especially given how much time the ball spent in the Rebels’ own half. Stationed deep for most of the day, Walton was entrusted with the kick-in duties and patrolled the last line with aplomb. There were a few nervy moments and fumbles in key areas, but she competed well against quality opposition for the most part. Having matched up one-out on Rowbottom for a short period, the learnings from this game would have been great for the budding prospect.

#5 Mia Clift (Oakleigh Chargers)

Clift played an underrated role in the Chargers’ defence, tasked with matching up on fellow number five, Paige Scott. She has already proven able to take on such lockdown roles, and did well to subdue the impact of GWV’s forwards throughout the day. While she does have the defensive acumen, Clift can also make her mark on the rebound but looked to play a team game in this outing and was solid.

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

One of Oakleigh’s best in the win, Vickers was able to showcase even more of her offensive capabilities as she moved up from half-back to play on the wing. Often opposed to Friend, Vickers more than held her own and backed herself to get into aggressive attacking positions. She has a knack of finding space to receive and reads the play well to do so, allowing her to then provide run-and-carry down the line. While Vickers’ forward momentum is invaluable, she was still able to win the hard ball and contribute defensive acts, such as a magnificent aerial spoil in the third quarter. She capped off her game with arguably the goal of the day in term four, competing in the air before weaving around an opponent and slotting the ball home.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Reid’s level of consistency in a ball winning sense has been outstanding throughout the season, and it was no different in this game. She just seems to pop up everywhere and can play on just about every line, as she proved during a wealth of time up forward here. Her ability to present and offer a marking target was terrific, offering another string to her bow while still impacting at the contest and willing the ball forward via her left boot. Her footy smarts were also on show in a variety of little instances; she was one of the only players to properly judge the wind while taking a set shot at goal, resulting in a major score and unfortunate poster, while pinning her opponents’ arms in tackles to lock the ball in proved another clever act. She still seems most comfortable in space, but has a crack and impacts in each role she is given.

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Perhaps one of Oakleigh’s more unheralded midfielders, Ling was as busy as anyone afield in this game. She was involved from the get-go, battling hard at ground level and covering the ground well to win a heap of ball in all areas. Her accumulative factor was high, and Ling was able to find more possessions on the outside in this outing which allowed her to make a greater impact going forward. Despite her size, she also pulled off a couple of handy aerial feats, including a nice overhead mark during the third term. Solid as ever, and a key part of this star-studded side.

OTHERS:

Kalani Scoullar has proven a real problem for opposition rucks of late and dominated the hitouts once again for GWV, while also digging in for a few nice tackling efforts. Paige Scott was dangerous in patches and impressed with her vigour, while Olivia Leonard also got her hands dirty in defence for the Rebels. Charlotte Van der Vlies was again impactful on a wing for Oakleigh, as Lily Hart played her role in midfield and Tayla Morton set the tone up forward.