Tag: patrick cripps

2020 AFLW Draft review: Carlton Blues

NOW that the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked, and what each player might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with Carlton, a side which had few glaring weaknesses to cover, but selected a versatile trio of Vic Metro-based midfielders, two of whom are former NAB League captains.

Carlton:

#12 – Mimi Hill (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#28 – Daisy Walker (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#36 – Winnie Laing (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

A club moving into its premiership window, Carlton chose to stick with Victorian youth to bolster its squad heading into season 2021. Positioned well with their three picks, the Blues selected players with the character and upside to make an impact on the senior side as soon as in their debut season. Having held picks two and three in the last couple of drafts, the Blues were able to select ‘best available’ talent from the rich Victorian pool.

First up was Mimi Hill, a two-time Oakleigh Chargers captain who has led the fast-improving region to with aplomb. She, along with Sandringham Dragons skipper Winnie Laing, directly address the loss of Sarah Hosking to Richmond during the sign and trade period. Hill’s ground level game and hard-running style, combined with Laing’s attack on both ball and carrier make for a terrific couple of selections at picks 12 and 36 respectively.

While pegged as a natural midfielder who can play both inside and out, Hill is still quite light-on and found herself more often employed across half-back as a top-ager. As she develops her strength and tackling, she could well rotate through the midfield and emulate her idol, Sam Mitchell. Laing is a tough midfielder who, fittingly enough, idolises Patrick Cripps. As another leader in the bunch, she will look to drive standards and contribute to the culture, while impacting physically on-field.

In between those selections, Daisy Walker was snapped up with pick 28. She also hails from the Sandringham Dragons talent program, and is more of a developing type who comes from a basketball background. Her love of football grew as she watched her older brother, Will rise to AFL Draft selection with North Melbourne. Her agility and endurance make for a good athletic platform to develop upon, with clean hands and improving fundamentals making her a high-upside choice who could come on rapidly in an elite environment.

Overall, the Blues have been able to bolster their already-strong midfield group with three shrewd selections at this year’s table. Coach Daniel Harford obviously sought to bring in a balance of hardened types with plenty of upside who can develop on the outer or flanks before filling the engine room in years to come. Character is another important trend in this cohort, with two junior captains selected to help keep Carlton’s premiership tilt on track.

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: East Fremantle vs. Murray Bushrangers

OUR next All-Star Team battle makes for an intriguing semi final clash, set to play out between a West Australian talent factory, and a powerhouse Victorian region in East Fremantle and the Murray Bushrangers respectively. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were West Coast Eagles champion Ben Cousins (East Fremantle) and current Collingwood star, Steele Sidebottom (Murray).

These clubs are seeded first (East Fremantle) and fourth (Murray) respectively, as the seed gap between each side closes with each passing fixture. The proposed Bushrangers squad outvoted Sturt, the Oakleigh Chargers and Northern Knights, while East Fremantle’s path to this stage came through the Calder Cannons and Sandringham Dragons after a first round bye. The winner will qualify for the Grand Final, set to face either the Port Adelaide Magpies or Geelong Falcons.

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TALKING POINTS

THE MIDFIELD BATTLE:

This one should be fairly straightforward, as East Fremantle arguably boasts the strongest starting midfield group in the draw. With Brownlow medalists and AFL premiership players, Cousins and Simon Black joined by current Carlton co-captain Patrick Cripps at the centre bounces, it’s hard to see any side beating that kind of balance through the engine room. Cripps provides the inside grunt, while Black is the silk, and Cousins the gut-running accumulator. Fremantle champion Paul Hasleby has even been pushed out to a wing, partnering the late Chris Mainwaring.

That’s not to say that Murray lags in the midfield department, with David Mundy, Clayton Oliver, and Tom Rockliff no slouches by any stretch. Add the running power of Sidebottom and dynamism of Brett Deledio on the outer, and you have a seriously talented group. While we would still take the Sharks’ starting centre bounce trio, what really sets them apart in this matchup is their depth. Not only have Elliot Yeo (half-back) and Andrew Swallow (half-forward) been squeezed out to the flanks, but the likes of Daniel Kerr, Shane Woewodin, Dom Cassisi, and Shaun McManus also remain on the interchange. Murray would be able to rotate Jack Ziebell and Steve Johnson through from the forwardline, but that kind of firepower is near-impossible to match.

You could hardly build a better midfield core if you tried than what East Fremantle lays claim to, so the Sharks clearly get the points in this midfield battle. With a balance of class, grunt, endurance, and depth, it’s everything you could ask for.

THE KEY POSITION STOCKS:

As has been the case with many of Murray’s matchups, its starting key position spine is arguably weaker than the opposition offering, but depth seems to give the Bushies a deal of versatility which cannot be matched. East Fremantle lays claim to Luke McPharlin and Harry Taylor down back, with Paddy Ryder accompanying Josh J. Kennedy up forward, and Aaron Sandilands taking on the ruck duties. Bigman Darren Bennett also features in the forward pocket, potentially able to fill Ryder’s spot once the Port player gives Sandilands a chop-out on the ball. With McPharlin and Taylor also know to swing forward at times, the Sharks have a pretty handy rotation, with Cale Hooker also in the mix.

But Murray’s may well be better through a sheer weight of options. Where East Fremantle may struggle for numbers, the Bushrangers thrive, able to fit a bunch of pieces to its key position puzzle. Ben Reid and Alipate Carlile make up the defensive pairing, while Barry Hall and Jarrad Waite are a solid forward combination. Add Fraser Gehrig and ruckman Steven King to the mix, and the spine is quite good. The difference makers come from the bench though, with Ben McEvoy and Justin Koschitzke both able to plug gaps through the ruck or up either end, while Sam Reid could also prove a handy swingman – much like his brother.

By way of its diversity and superior range of options, Murray takes out the key position battle overall, even if East Fremantle’s starters arguably hold a slight edge.

SUMMARY:

To cut a long story short, we’re backing our first seed to qualify for the Grand Final. As one of the most prolific producers of high-level West Australian talent, East Fremantle simply boasts too much class for many sides to handle. Murray matches up well, and may even get ahead in some areas, but would not be able to match the Sharks where it matters most, in midfield. They’re strong everywhere else too, and will be difficult to top in the decider.

Which All-Star Team are you picking?
East Fremantle Sharks
Murray Bushrangers
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Team-first Laing sees positives in season cancellation

AT first it was heartbreaking. Being told that the NAB League Girls season was put on hold and then eventually cancelled. For a top-age player it was the news no one ever expects coming into the most important year of their football career, and for someone like a club captain, it burns deep. But for Sandringham Dragons’ leader Winnie Laing, once she got over the immediate disappointment, she turned to the positives.

“I remember at the training where we got told, a lot of us just ran to the bathroom and cried,” Laing said. “But after a while I was able to see the positive side of everything. “It was more of an opportunity to develop more as a player individually with my skills and my fitness everything and really taking it to that next level.

“So I think being able to build a schedule which I did, really helped get through everything and have a positive outlook that there will always be something to work towards whether that be the combine, whether that was that we got to play games, or even just preseason for the next year, that was always going to be something that we needed to prepare for. “I think it was a good opportunity to develop individually.”

There was extra motivation for Laing, who missed out on representing Vic Metro as a middle-ager in 2019, but rather than let that get her down, she used it as extra ammunition to attack the 2020 year.

“Not making it (Vic Metro) last year was very disappointing and I was quite upset and I think that was a real motivator for my preseason,” Laing said. “Obviously individually in the time off just working on my skills and my running. “Not making it kind of motivated me more to play better this year and then in preseason just trying to get the most out of the coaches and the team.” Trying to play good as a team, so we could all and myself, play better individually.

“I think what helps motivate me is when you miss out on spots like that and that definitely helps motivate me this year to play a good first three games. “I consider myself a pretty positive person. “Whenever something bad does arise which it always will. “Just trying to find the positive out of that and how I can get the most out of that, whether that be training harder, developing better skills. I think there is always a positive even in the bad.”

Rewinding back to the beginning the Dragons leader initially did not start her football career until a few years ago in year 9, having played a few other sports including basketball. However, as often has been the case with basketballers turned footballers, friends noticed that perhaps her attack on the ball carrier would be better suited in a game with tackling and contested ball-winning.

“I first started playing basketball and athletics and because I was pretty competitive on the basketball court, a lot of people just kept saying ‘you need to go try out, go watch a game’ so yeah we went down to the local oval, watched a game and I knew from then that I wanted to play straight away,” Laing said. So joined Port (Melbourne) Colts then the next season joined Sandy and moved over to East Malvern playing junior footy. “Then Sandy just started to develop my want to play AFLW even more.”

For the “big Richmond fan”, football has always been a fundamental part of her life, but like others who aspired of playing elite-level sport, there was no pathway for young girls coming through the programs. Once the AFL Women’s popped up – coincidentally the same year Laing switched into the code – the tough midfielder was all-in for her dream of reaching the top.

“I think the competitiveness for me really drew me in,” Laing said. “But also the culture of footy clubs is really different other sport. “You don’t find that anywhere else. “So just being around the girls and the coaches and the culture footy clubs have really drew me in.”

In what would be her second football season, Laing made 2018 Vic Metro Under 16s squad and ran out on GMHBA Stadium with some of the best young talents in Victoria.

“It was pretty exciting to see an elite pathway early and obviously it was a very talented group so being able to see the type of talent that my age group has and learning all the different skills and even just pregame techniques with everyone,” Laing said. “Being in that elite environment was pretty special and the coaches were obviously very highly looked out for so that was good as well.”

Laing’s running ability – from her athletics background – moulded perfectly with becoming a midfielder, something she did from very early on in her career. While she predominantly stayed in the role, she did spend time off half-back in 2018, and then up the other end of the ground in the few games this year.

“I had that running capability so I was drawn to the midfield because I think my best attribute would be competitiveness,” Laing said. “So both them meshing together really helped me play in the midfield but this year obviously being versatile was really important, so trying to build different positions. “Like playing forward this year I really enjoyed, but also being able to play on the wing, or I did play half-back in my first season at Sandy so I think being versatile is really important.”

Prior to the 2020 season, Laing was announced as captain of the Dragons, an achievement she said was “pretty honourable”.

“Obviously the girls at Sandy are a very high talented group so being named captain was very honourable to be able to represent all the girls and the team and the coaches and everything,” she said. “It was a pretty exciting experience, I didn’t expect it at all, just being able to build that culture more at Sandy is what I was looking for and I think that’s why we got to play really well in the first three games because we were such a tight-knit group and had all the desire to win.”

It helped her add more strings to her bow in terms of her ability with or without the ball and also broadened her focus further to try and not only get the best out of herself, but also the best out of her team.

“I think being captain I’ve really flourished as a player,” Laing said. “Individually I think I have quite clean hands, being able to get it on the inside and fire it out to the good runners and good players on the outside but also having everyone’s back as a team is a really good attribute so everyone can play with confidence because everyone plays well individually but we’ve got to play well as a team.”

Transferring codes from basketball to football, Laing said her hand-eye coordination was great, but it was her kicking that needed the most work. With the time off, Laing was able to hone down on that and really try to perfect both her kicking out of a stoppage and kicking inside 50.

Laing enjoyed a really strong season in 2019, capping off a stellar NAB League year with a third placing in the Dragons’ best and fairest which she describes as a “pretty big honour”. When she went back to East Malvern, she finished second in the League Best and Fairest, and won best on ground in a premiership-winning grand final. Laing said it was a “pretty rainy, crappy day” but being able to perform on the big stage and celebrate with her team made it worth it and her best football memory.

As for her on-field inspirations, Laing said her Dragons’ teammates continue to inspire her, but also a current AFL player who she said has “changed the culture” at his club, something she always aspires to live up to.

“Everyone has good attributes,” Laing said. “Like Bella Eddey silky hands, Sarah Hartwig good marking, Eliza Mac (McNamara), all of them have really good attributes which help inspire me to play. “Then obviously more famous players like Patrick Cripps. “He’s my favourites, he’s exactly what I want to be as a player. “His leadership, he was able to change the culture at the Carlton Football Club and that’s made them a better team and playing better this year, but also his individual game, he plays on the inside but plays on the outside and can finish with a couple of goals. “So I think his gamestyle as a person and a player has really helped inspire me.”

Laing’s goals coming into the season were team-focused. When the season was called off, her ways of achieving the goals might have changed, but the motivations behind them did not.

“I think before the season was cancelled, my aim was quite team-focused,” Laing said. “I wanted the team to play the best footy we could for ourselves to play better as well, all the top-agers. “I obviously wanted to play a good season to give myself the best opportunity to be drafted at the end of this year and I think once the cancellation of the season did happen, my goals didn’t really change as such.

“I still want to be drafted and give myself the best opportunity so that really motivated me the cancelling of the season to keep training really hard and practicing my skills and my running when we did have guns at the end or the combine that I was putting my best foot forward.”

Being a positive person, Laing knows that it is not the “be all and end all” if she does not get drafted in just over a week. While that would be the main goal, there is little doubt the Dragons captain will dig deep and do whatever it takes to make the next level.

“I think obviously being drafted this year would be the goal,” Laing said. “But I think that’s really good thing about women’s footy that any age if you play a couple of good games somewhere you’ll get noticed, and you’ll have a chance to be picked up so I think that’s definitely the positive about women’s footy that there really isn’t an age limit to start your footy career. “So for all girls, this year isn’t the be all and end all, we know if it doesn’t go our way that there is always other opportunities.”

Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: East Fremantle vs. Sandringham Dragons

OUR next All-Star Team battle makes for the first quarter final clash, set to play out between a West Australian club and a Victorian region, in East Fremantle and the Sandringham Dragons respectively. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were 2006 West Coast premiership teammates, Ben Cousins (East Fremantle) and Chris Judd (Sandringham).

These clubs are seeded first (East Fremantle) and eighth (Sandringham) respectively, forming an intriguing final eight clash in our draw. Our proposed Sharks squad outvoted the Calder Cannons after a first-round bye, while Sandringham’s path to this stage came through East Perth and Glenelg. The winner will qualify for the semi finals, set to face the Northern Knights/Murray Bushrangers.

>> SCROLL TO VIEW THE FULL TEAMS

TALKING POINTS

THE MIDFIELD BATTLE:

Where do we even begin with this East Fremantle side? The most obvious strength is its midfield, with a terrific balance among the centre bounce trio of Patrick Cripps, Simon Black, and Cousins. Cripps provides the inside grunt, while Black is the silk, and Cousins the hard-running accumulator. All three are terrific leaders too, but boy do they have support in spades. The trio of Paul Hasleby (wing), Elliot Yeo (half-back), and Andrew Swallow (half-forward), who have all been squeezed out, could well make up the midfield of a second Sharks All-Star side. That is not to mention those on the bench, with Brownlow medalist Shane Woewodin joined by Daniel Kerr as the rotational x-factor, while Dom Cassisi adds to the strong leadership core alongside Fremantle icon Shaun McManus. Perhaps most ominously of all, they will follow under the ruckwork of 211cm giant, Aaron Sandilands.

But if there is any side that can go pound-for-pound with any other midfield stock, it is Sandringham. The Dragons will fancy their chances of matching the Sharks for inside grunt, with Josh P. Kennedy and Luke Ball joined in the middle by Judd, who transitioned into a contested beast later in his career, at Carlton. Add Jobe Watson to the mix, as well as Angus Brayshaw, Tim Taranto, and Jarryd Lyons off the bench. Like East Fremantle, Sandringham also boasts a few elites squeezed out of the prime positions, with Andy McGrath out at half-back and Josh Kelly at half-forward. Meanwhile, Zac Merrett takes up a wing, tasked with matching the run and flair of Chris Mainwaring.

With the question of depth a non-factor at this point, it is difficult to seperate these two midfields. In terms of experience, accolades, and runs on the board, East Fremantle seems to sneak ahead – especially given six of the 11 names listed above for Sandringham are still playing out their careers. Furthermore, the Sharks seem to have an edge in terms of balance, with the run of Cousins, Kerr, and Mainwaring in particular greater than what any Dragon can offer, while the honest ball winners remain. Sandringham’s big asset, its inside power, is arguably matched too, especially with the likes of Hasleby and Yeo destined to rotate through the engine room. Max Gawn makes for a terrific adversary against Sandilands and beats him around the ground, but not in the ruck contest, which is crucial with such class to utilise at ground level.

THE SPINE:

The respective spines also provide a key area of interest, with champions scattered throughout, but one side coming out a clear winner in our eyes. There is not much you could do to improve the Sharks’ key position set-up, with Luke McPharlin and Harry Taylor making for a formidable defensive partnership, while Josh J. Kennedy and Paddy Ryder line up down the other end. Sure, Ryder is more of a ruckman, but the swingman support of Cale Hooker slots in as well should the latter fall to the bench. The versatility of Hooker, McPharlin, and Taylor is also handy, given all three have been known to swing forward from time to time.

Sandringham answers with goals in spades among its two key position forwards, with the career tallies of Tom Hawkins and Jack Gunston outweighing that of their counterparts in Kennedy and Ryder. However, the defensive pairing is perhaps what sets the two sides apart the most. Ted Richards is a fine centre half-back option, and St Kilda stalwart Jason Blake was a terrific servant in his own right, but both come up slightly undersized against East Fremantle’s monster forwards. That is not to say the likes of Tom LangdonBrayden Maynard, and Simon Beaumont could not provide aerial support, but in a pure man-on-man scenario, that factor gives the Sharks the edge in this department.

SUMMARY:

The competition is getting tighter by the round among our All-Star teams, and this is one of the closest calls yet. But given the two areas identified which see East Fremantle come out on top, we are inclined to stick with the Sharks. As the number one seed, they simply boast a greater amount of depth, and match up well against the key strengths of Sandringham here.

Which All-Star Team of the AFL Draft Era are you picking?
East Fremantle
Sandringham Dragons
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Draft Central All-Star Team matchup: East Fremantle vs. Calder Cannons

OUR next All-Star Team battle is the first of the Round of 16, which features a West Australian club and a Victorian club in East Fremantle Sharks and Calder Cannons. The two captains voted in by the public as the All-Star Players of the AFL Draft era were Ben Cousins (East Fremantle) and Dane Swan (Calder Cannons).

TEAMS:

East Fremantle are the top seeds and tournament favourites that enter the All-Star Team matchup after a first round bye to take on the 16th seeds, Calder.

STRENGTHS:

Where do you begin with East Fremantle? The most consistent team across the board with experience galore. The least experienced player is Carlton gun, Patrick Cripps and they have 200-game Brownlow Medalists and best and fairest winners on the bench. The onball brigade of Aaron Sandilands, Simon Black and Cousins – with Cripps – is just madness and then throw together a consistent defence, and a couple of key talls, and you would have to be really picky to find a weakness.

Calder’s strength is its depth across the field, led by Swan in the midfield, who along with Jude Bolton and Dion Prestia, make it competitive against most sides, though even they would be overpowered by the Sharks onball group. Their small forwards could cause serious issues for the Sharks defenders, with the likes of Ryan O’Keefe, Paul Chapman and Eddie Betts all capable of giving grief to defender.

WEAKNESSES:

As we said above, it is hard to really pick out a weakness, and to do so is getting rather picky, but you could argue the medium-small forwards with the mids predominantly playing forward, and Darren Bennett and Jamie Cripps the only real pure forwards from that perspective.

Calder probably lacks a consistent key position forward, with Joe Daniher and Jake Carlisle capable of anything, but not as consistent as those on the opposition side. They also have some strong defensively-minded backmen, but not as potent offensively off the defensive line though Brandon Ellis coming off the bench would certainly help with this fact.

SUMMARY

East Fremantle could win the entire All-Star Team of the AFL Draft era, with the Shakrs raging favourites against most sides, and whilst Calder is good, East Fremantle is elite.

Which All-Star Team are you picking?
East Fremantle
Calder Cannons

Walsh adapting to League life at East Fremantle

GROWING up in Northampton, a small town 500km north of Perth, Rosie Walsh was always fascinated with Australian rules football. Her brother played in the local competition, father loved the sport, and grandfather played for Carlton in the Victorian Football League days. But it was her late uncle who gave her the confidence to believe in her dream well before the AFL Women’s was established that set Walsh on her path to where she is today – being a threat inside 50 for West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s reigning premiers, East Fremantle.

“My grandfather who played was kind of inspirational because there was someone who had played AFL so I thought maybe I can continue on and play that,” Walsh said. “But then one of my uncles, when I was younger I had never met him before, but when I did meet him he was like ‘she’s going to play AFL one day’ and he’s no longer with us, and it was kind of like if he thinks that, when I only met him once, then maybe I can make it. “But then definitely all the girls at the football club can definitely contribute to that. “Girls in my team that I look up to who have been playing at East Freo for years and they look at me and say I have good talent so I thought maybe because someone else thinks that I can make it there.”

The support she has received over the journey has been uplifting for her, as Walsh moved from Northampton to board in Perth. Her country town has had more than its fair share of AFL players with the likes of Patrick Cripps, Harry Taylor, Paul Hasleby, Josh J. Kennedy and Jamie Cripps all among the notable residents. Unfortunately for Walsh, she ran into the issue that many young female footballers pre-AFL Women’s did, with a lack of opportunities.

“I played for the local team in under 10s but I was the only girl so I only played one season and didn’t continue,” she said. “I went to boarding school, I started in Year 9 which was in 2015. “I played for the school team and I loved it so much that I went down to East Fremantle when I was Year 12. “That was my first season there.”

Walsh has now spent three seasons at the Sharks and is loving it. One of the coaches at the school was also a coach at East Fremantle, which helped make the transition a little easier. Though having not played in five years, Walsh admitted it was really different to getting used to playing again, especially alongside all girls, and then having the whirlwind journey into the WAFL Women’s competition.

“(The experience was) definitely really different,” she said. “I played one season when I was 10, and I was playing with all boys, so going to an all girls school and just playing footy with just girls, it was definitely better in a way, but it was so different because I guess it had been such a long time, and kind of having other girls I can feed off. “Some girls that I played with were down at East Freo from my school, and then going from school footy up to WAFL level was definitely very different, so full on. “But I loved it, because I knew I wanted to go further with my football.”

East Fremantle has been the dominant team in women’s football the last couple of years, winning the last premiership in the West Australian Women’s Football League (WAWFL), as well as the inaugural one in the newly founded WAFL Women’s competition. For Walsh, the experience at the Sharks has been a lot more than just being a successful team.

“It’s amazing, I love the community down there,” Walsh said. “It’s not all about football, its about becoming a club and a family, about how we represent ourselves as a club and how all the girls are with each other and how committed the coaches are to not just teach us football, but how to build relationships, get close to one another. “That’s what I love about it and we have training sessions, but then other times we have bonding sessions, which we can work to build ourselves as people, not just as footballers, so I think it’s definitely on high how high we present ourselves professionally and as footballer.”

As a 187cm 20-year-old prospect and relative newcomer to the game compared to many of her peers, Walsh is a late boomer who been identified as a talent, which is why she earned a place in the West Australian State Academy squad. Starting her season in the Reserves back in Round 1, it was clear she was not going to remain there after kicking 11.4 (70) herself. That’s right, Walsh booted 11 goals against newcomers South Fremantle as she patrolled the forward line in a performance that unsurprisingly earned her an immediate call-up to the League side. Walsh said she was “surprised” by her haul because she had not kicked that many in a game before – very few have – but admitted it was a dominant team performance rather than a one-player game.

We did end up winning by 130 points and when I do have a really big height advantage over my opponent (it is easier), she said. “But yeah it was honestly such a good game, I think that everyone honestly played as well as each other. “Now I’ve moved up to League and have played League games, but that was an amazing game.”

The move to the League side has not yielded any double-figure goal games yet, but Walsh looks at home inside the forward line of a Sharks team that is in a rebuilding phase as such, with a large amount of changes over the off-season and bringing in a stack of new and young prospects. Walsh said she noticed the difference competing against AFL Women’s players and experienced state league campaigners when stepping up to the top West Australian level.

“It’s a lot harder,” she said. “It’s more stressful I think. “But I think it’s more stressful for me because I’ve only played three League games, and going straight into League after playing Reserves it was a big step up. “Everybody knows what they’re meant to do, and everybody needs to know. “It’s just a lot more full-on, you kind of don’t get a break, but it’s also good because if you want to go further with your football that’s what you need. “You need those people to push you, when playing League you need that push, the coaches to push you, you need to work harder and some of the girls play AFL. “It’s really good for them to push you and to play with other girls with experience when you don’t have experience, so you can learn. “But it’s definitely harder and really good.”

Walsh is currently building her fitness, running every day to ensure she can compete for longer within games. Already boasting the height to trouble any opposition defender, she is looking to have more impact in games defensively and hit the scoreboard as often as possible. In the loss to Swan Districts last round, Walsh rolled her ankle after a goal and had to come off, but said while it was “a bit sore”, she would train and be able to run out against Claremont this weekend. The key forward said the team would look to bounce back after a defeat to the Swans that did not tell the whole story.

I don’t think that the scoreboard really reflected how we played,” Walsh said. “I think that in the first half we played much better, but I think that we just, in the forward line our defensive pressure just lacked. “So I think that’s where we lost. “It went out so many more times than it went in. “Our forward line, our structure, we didn’t have it as well as we should have. Honestly I think we played good as a team but the other team just wanted it more.”

Walsh said the team would look to address its defensive pressure for this week against the Tigers in what was a must-win game when it came to finals calculations. In a six-team competition with a four-team finals series, the Sharks sit fifth with one win from four matches, and that victory came against newcomers and last placed South Fremantle in the opening round of the season. While Walsh said individually her dream was to push herself and make it to the elite level, her team goal was to help her side reach the finals series.

I think that we can definitely make finals, we’ve had a bit of a slow start but that’s normal because our side has changed so much,” she said. “We’ve got half the team that we had last year, so many of the girls are young. “But honestly if we train hard and work hard outside of footy, I reckon we can make them (finals). “We’ve got the team, we’ve got the side, we’ve got the relationships with each other so I’m feeling positive.”

Draft Central All-Star Teams: East Fremantle

EAST Fremantle’s All-Star side is arguably the greatest of the teams thus far, with a ridiculous amount of talent. With Ben Cousins and Simon Black voted the Best Players of the AFL Era (the voting was tight at the time of publishing), they lead a side featuring a whopping 17 – yes seventeen – 200-game players. Throw in another 21 100-game players and it’s fair to say the Sharks’ program has produced some absolute elites of the game.

THE TEAM:

I mean there’s not much not to love about this team with depth across every line, and while you might have to get creative with the small-medium forwards, they still have them. Every other line is nothing short of elite, and if this team was able to run out on the park, good luck stopping them. It is hard to pinpoint a weakness, but of all their strengths, their onball brigade is elite, deep and well-balanced.

DEFENCE:

Starting with the defence, you have a couple of 250-game key defenders in Harry Taylor and Luke McPharlin. With three All-Australians and five All-Australian squad nods between them – as well as some time up forward, this duo would be incredibly hard to score against. Cale Hooker provide a third tall option down there too, and while he might not have the accolades of the other two, he has a best and fairest to go with an All-Australian selection.

In terms of the smaller options, Tarkyn Lockyer and Chris Waterman were as reliable as they come, with Elliot Yeo providing the flare. He could also roam through the midfield very easily, but the strength of the onball brigade has pushed the two-time All-Australian and best and fairest winner out to half-back. Brad Sheppard is a player on the bench who could play a defensive role, as could Shaun McManus who could be another option through the midfield.

MIDFIELD:

How about an onball trio with two Brownlows, 11 All-Australians, 10 best and fairests, a Norm Smith, Rising Star, MVP award and four premierships between them? That is exactly what the three lining up at centre bounces possess. Black, Cousins and Patrick Cripps would be a mouth-watering onball group for any coach, and that is before you look at the depth to provide them with support. The ruck? None other than Fremantle giant, Aaron Sandilands who behind Dean Cox was the best ruck of the first decade in the millennium with four All-Australians and two best and fairests.

As already mentioned, Yeo, McManus and Sheppard could rotate through there, but the starting wings are Eagles star, Chris Mainwaring and Fremantle talent, Paul Hasleby, who again share in three All-Australians, and 409 games of AFL action. Andrew Swallow has won three best and fairests and he has to slide onto a half-forward flank such is the talent amongst the group.

With Chris Masten, Josh Carr and Dom Cassisi on the bench, this midfield bats really deep. Oh, and there is a Brownlow Medallist on the pine in Shane Woewodin. He might be much maligned, but you do not win a Brownlow without talent, so the rotations through the middle would be unstoppable for the opposition sides facing this team.

FORWARD:

The forward line might not have the amazing accolades of the other two areas, but with former Carlton and now West Coast sharpshooter, Josh J Kennedy at full-forward, the team will have no problems booting a big score. Imagine the three-time All-Australian and two-time Coleman Medallist leading out to the midfield group in this side – Fred Fanning‘s all-time record in a game might be on shaky ground.

The other key tall is Paddy Ryder who while he has had injury concerns at times, is still an All-Australian and best and fairest winner. Along with Swallow at half-forward is Jamie Cripps who has booted 211 goals in 163 games to be third overall – and soon to be second – behind Kennedy and Daniel Chick in this team.

Chick finds himself in the forward pocket even though realistically he would play further up the field, but his 216 goals in 252 games make him a perfect player inside 50. Rounding out the forward line is Darren Bennett who has played the least games of everyone by some way – just 78 in fact. Why has a 78-gamer made it in over some 150+ gamers? He booted 215 goals in the late 80s, at 2.8 goals per game.

DEPTH:

If we mentioned every single player that was unlucky to make this team, we would be here all day. There are 38 players with more than 100 games, and even the majority of them are either well over 100 games, or still playing to add to their numbers. If we are talking past players, then the two most unlucky have to be Peter Wilson and Jonathan Hay who ran out in 171 and 157 games each, earning All-Australian honours once.

Michael Brennan (179 games), Garrick Ibbotson (177) and Matthew Carr (162) are the other three players to play more than 150 games and narrowly miss out. Of the new crop coming through, David Swallow and Jason Johannisen could well make this side by the end of their careers, while if we are talking the last few years, then Cameron Zurhaar has started promisingly, and of course there are the five players plucked out in last year’s AFL National Draft that Sharks fans will be keen to see develop over time.

Note: Daniel Kerr should have been included in the team, and was an oversight due to not being on the Draft Guru site. When it comes to Team-by-Team voting, Kerr will be included.

Debutants earn spots in unprecedented times

WITH only senior leagues running this weekend at the elite level for men’s and women’s, we run through the AFL Round 1 debutants who after toiling away in the state leagues, waiting a few years at club land or impressing so much in an off-season to earn a spot, will run out for their respective teams and live out their dreams. We will add Sunday’s games once the team lists are confirmed.

Western Bulldogs: Ben Cavarra

The mature-age nuggety midfielder-forward has one of the most fascinating journeys to the big time after going through the pathways and being a poster boy for never giving up. Regarded as one of the hardest workers going around, the former Eastern Ranges’ premiership captain and then Frankston and Williamstown star at state level, Cavarra has been made to really earn his chance at the top level. It almost came last year but an injury setback ruled that out, instead playing 12 VFL games where he booted 19 goals. It followed on from some promising seasons where he reinvented himself as a forward having always been a reliable ball-winning midfielder. Possessing some elite athletic traits, Cavarra will show the AFL world that if you are good enough, you are tall enough when he runs out tonight at Marvel Stadium.

Collingwood: Tyler Brown

In another feel-good story for tonight’s game amongst all the despair in the world, Gavin Brown‘s second son Tyler will join his brother Callum out on Marvel Stadium for his debut. The former Eastern Ranges’ midfielder has that Pendlebury-like time and space and while still raw, he has that touch of class about him that will no doubt show over time. Brown is in his third season with the club and has put on six kilograms since his Under-18 year, where he weighed up 71kg. Still on the lighter side, Brown is a comfortable 188cm and his scope identified as a teenager is starting to come to the fore. More importantly, he showed during the Marsh Series that he is capable of winning the ball which was the question mark on him at junior level, because he rarely wastes a disposal. A long-term prospect but one who has earnt his spot.

Fremantle: Sam Sturt

The bolter from the 2018 National AFL Draft is ready to debut for Fremantle and those in draft circles will remember his rise from performing at school footy to really having an impact for the Dandenong Stingrays in the run home to the TAC Cup premiership. He is an elite athlete across the board with a ridiculous vertical jump. He was always going to need time to develop given he had not spent a lot of time in an elite program and was still raw, but now 12 months down he has done enough for the Dockers to give him a chance. Rewind to 2018, and remember Sturt lit up in big games, booting 11 goals in six games and was a dead-eye when it came to set shots. If he gets to control the airways, look out.

Adelaide: Fischer McAsey

An All-Australian key position defender and a more than capable forward for the Dragons at times, McAsey was identified as a player who could fill the Crows’ void of key position players. Having lost Jake Lever and Alex Keath in back-to-back years, McAsey will play in that back 50 and looks to have been given the responsibility of holding down centre half-back. In his debut game, he could face another top 10 pick in Nick Blakey who showed in glimpses what he was capable of on his debut year last year, and it sets up a tantalising match-up. His reading of the play and overhead marking is a strength, able to clunk grabs that few his age can.

GWS: Tom Green

An absolute bull at the contest, it comes as a shock to no-one that the New South Wales prospect is lining up for last year’s grand finalists in Round 1. Showing he would arguably get a gig in any AFL side from the get-go, he is an absolute star when it comes to ball-winning and clearance work. Green has been touted as the next Patrick Cripps, and while that is high praise, it is easy to see why. Last year he amassed 33.0 disposals and 10.3 clearances across four games in the NAB League for the GIANTS Academy, then produced it again through the Under-18 National Championships with a carnival average of 23.8 disposals and 8.0 clearances, as well as averaging more than four tackles across both competitions. A fantasy lock for those who enjoy playing SuperCoach or AFL Fantasy.

Gold Coast: Noah Anderson, Matt Rowell, Connor Budarick

The SUNS’ rebuild looks set to add a trio of talented players with last year’s top two picks and an Academy talent making their debuts in Round 1. Oakleigh Chargers’ premiership players Anderson and Rowell will no doubt be key inclusions through the midfield, with Anderson also likely to impact up forward. Budarick was a free get by the SUNS and an absolute steal at that, with the small utility able to play anywhere on the ground. In the clash against Port Adelaide, Budarick could take on former Western Jets’ talent Zak Butters who was another with an impressive debut season last year.

In 2019, Rowell averaged a whopping 31.7 disposals, 4.1 marks, 8.6 tackles, 8.3 clearances, 4.4 inside 50s, 1.7 rebounds and won the Chargers’ best and fairest, his second consecutive best on ground medal in the NAB League Grand Final, and made the All-Australian team. Anderson oozes X-factor and impact as the taller player who can roam through the midfield or provide a leading target inside 50. He averaged two goals a game from seven matches last year with the Chargers, also racking up 28.3 disposals, 3.0 marks, 3.6 tackles, 4.7 clearances, 4.0 inside 50s and 1.4 rebounds in a remarkable season where he too made All-Australian. Budarick was the best player in the Division 2 Academy Series captaining the Gold Coast SUNS on his way to 25.2 disposals, 6.2 marks, 8.2 tackles, 5.8 inside 50s and 2.2 rebounds in the NAB League. He is a tackling machine who earned a spot in the back pocket of the All-Australian team last year, and that is where he has been named in his debut game. Watch for his skill and tenacity.

Port Adelaide: Mitch Georgiades

A high-flying talent who missed all of 2019 with a quad injury, Georgiades is one of the surprise Round 1 bolters. He impressed over the pre-season for the Power, and from his bottom-age year back in 2018, showed off his talent with some aerial tricks. On his way to 10.3 disposals, 3.5 marks and almost a goal per game at the Under-18 Championships, Georgiades also stood out in the Colts competition with 13. disposals, 5.8 marks and 1.3 goals per game. What he offers is an unmatched aerial ability that will no doubt see him compete for the highlight reel each and every week. While he might not have had the match fitness last season, his ability to come straight into the program and already influence the coaches enough with his performance to get a gig is saying something.

St Kilda: Max King

The 200cm-plus key position forward finally makes his debut after missing the majority of his top-age year through an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and then just as he looked to debut last year, injured his ankle and missed out on his chance. That chance has now come after a confident Marsh Series where his ability to fly high, burst away from opponents and do things that players his size should simply not be able to do. The hype is high on the former Sandringham Dragons’ forward, but it is also real, having clocked a sub-three second 20m sprint at testing and booting eight goals against eventual grand finalists, Oakleigh in the first round of the season. No doubt Saints fans will be watching him more than any other player with his ability to break open a game.

Melbourne: Toby Bedford, Kysaiah Pickett

The Dees have announced two debutants for their Round 1 side, with Luke Jackson named on the extended bench but set to just miss out on selection. The two into the side are first round pick, Pickett and a member of Melbourne’s Next Generation Academy from the 2018 AFL National Draft, Bedford. Both have class, skill, speed and pressure and are sub-180cm but will add a forward pressure to the Demons side and ensure the ball is retained inside forward 50. In his top-age year in 2018, Bedford was a tackling machine at NAB League level, laying 5.2 tackles from 136. possessions whilst averaging almost a goal a game. Playing more of a pressure role up the field for Vic Country, Bedford had 6.8 tackles from 12.3 disposals at the Under-18 National Championships. Pickett was a highlight-reel forward with great pressure on the ball-carrier and despite standing at 170cm, earned a place in the League side for Woodville-West Torrens. While he only played the two games, he laid six tackles and ran at 50 per cent contested showing he was not afraid of bigger bodies. For South Australia, he booted a couple of goals from 13.7 disposals and 2.7 tackles at the championships.

2020 NAB League Boys team preview: Eastern Ranges

EASTERN Ranges will have a very different look to their NAB League Boys side in 2020 coming off a grand final last year. The Ranges had a top-age heavy group that had come through the program together over the past few years and now a number of fresh faces have joined the club to begin the next year of competition. Eastern Ranges Talent Manager, Sean Toohey said there was an “exciting” element about the unknown.

“We’ve had a different pre-season this year with a lot of newcomers into the program, given we were a very strong top age group last year and probably didn’t have much depth in our bottom age,” he said. “In a way that’s exciting there’s a bit more unknown about that.”

The Ranges have been able to face Gippsland Power in a couple of practice matches over the summer and finalised the list ahead of last Saturday’s NAB League Fitness Testing Day. Toohey said whilst Eastern did not have a draftee in the AFL National or Rookie drafts, the majority of the minor premiers’ side will be running around in the Victorian Football League (VFL) this season. He also said that he believed that those unlucky to miss out could find their way onto AFL lists in the future.

I mean we’ve got an element of bias here but we thought that definitely a couple of boys were very stiff and talking with clubs I know they were very very close and things just didn’t go their way with some trading of picks and availability of other players, you know recycled players and the rookie draft,” Toohey said. “We were a bit unlucky there but we’ve probably got about 14 or 15 of those boys now on VFL lists spread around we’ve got about eight or so at Box Hill our affiliated VFL club. “So really excited about that, great feedback from clubs on how they’re all going and I genuinely believe that some of them, although they will go about it on a different pathway will end up on AFL lists and get an opportunity at some stage.”

One of those unlucky to miss out has come back as a 19-year-old prospect in Jamieson Rossiter who has battled with unfortunate injuries over the past couple of seasons. Toohey said he hoped Rossiter could continue to show the form he did at the back-end of last season such as a dominant performance over Sandringham Dragons in the qualifying final where he kicked four goals in a low-scoring contest to propel his side into the preliminary finals.

Jamieson Rossiter is probably the most high-profile one from previous years,” he said. He hasn’t had any luck with his body at all, really any continuity in his footy for the last two and a half years and again after last years grand final he played with a tear in his shoulder that required a reconstruction. He’s come out of the backend of rehabbing that after the operation last year. He’s starting to return to contact this week and excited to see what he can do between us and maybe even some games with Box Hill.”

“He really is a natural forward,” Toohey said of Rossiter’s position for 2020. “I think he plays his best footy forward which we saw in our first final against Sandringham last year. “He was significant in winning our game, we nearly don’t win our game without him. “We think if he gets his conditioning up to scratch he can have an impact in the midfield as well as a bigger bodied midfielder, inside mid. “I think predominantly you will see him as a forward and do what he does well there but it wouldn’t surprise me that if he gets some continuity over the next couple of months that he might in the middle part of the year get into the midfield if that opportunity arises. “

Looking at the top-agers for 2020, the Ranges have another couple in the Vic Metro Academy Hub with some great storylines this year. Connor Downie is a Hawthorn Next Generation Academy (NGA) member and showed through his representation at the MCG for Vic Metro as a bottom-ager last season that he has the talent to make it at the next level. Wil Parker is juggling his football commitments whilst representing Victoria in the cricket with a big decision weighing on him come year’s end. Along with the duo, Toohey also raised another couple of names in speedster Josh Clarke and tall, Jack Diedrich.

“You know he (Parker) is really committed to his studies and Year 12 as well so he’s got a lot on his plate and probably a decision to make at some stage later this year,” Toohey said. “But we are supportive of him and what he is doing, he is coping really well. “Connor is flying at the moment, we had our camp on the weekend and was voted in as our 2020 captain so I don’t think that will be any real surprises. “He’s in really good shape. “Then you’ve got a couple of others, Josh Clarke played every game for us last year, was in the Vic Metro squad as well wingman half-back flanker, got a lot of speed, can hit the scoreboard and takes the game on he’s very exciting. “Then you’ve got Jack Diedrich who’s a developing tall 200cm tall ruckman, in the metro hub. He’s had a good summer so we’re excited to see what Jack can do. “He played a few games last year, as you know those kind of guys sort of develop quite late, he’s quite mobile for his size. “He’s an exciting prospect.”

At the next level, the Ranges have a number of already high-end talents that impressed through the AFL National Under-16 Championships for Vic Metro and then at the back-end of the year for the Ranges in 2019. Toohey said they would be ones to watch going forward this year and next.

“There’s quite a few of them that are quite exciting, the obvious one being Tyler Sonsie who was Vic Metro MVP in Under 16s last year, All-Australian,” he said. “He’s a bottom ager in the Vic Metro Academy, played in our grand final. “Probably done everything he can do as a footballer up to this age. “He’s ticking along okay, he’s had a bit of a back niggle recently so we will ease him into the season probably tracking to Round 1 or 2, no real concern at all its just conditioning and now getting him back up to speed but he’s super exciting.

Jake Soligo is probably unlucky not to be All-Australian with Tyler, he has probably been a standout in pre-season for us. “He’s a really complete package and for a bottom-ager he’s really pushing to start in midfield and that’s a real credit to him, so we are excited to see what he can do.

“The other one is Tyreece Leiu who is a really big-bodied mid who will probably progress to a Paddy Cripps type size because now he is about 194 and 90 kilos. “He had a back stress fracture pre Christmas and he’s back running now, coming up to speed and now targeting probably around late April from a playing perspective, he’s progressing well. “Those three are probably the standout bottom-agers to this stage and then really it’s up to the rest of the crop to put their hand up which is exciting again.”

Toohey said this year would be really exciting for the Ranges because the squad had a different look to last year, with more top-end prospects but less depth at this stage, but of course that can easily change in a season. Last year there was only 12 bottom-agers in the squad and even across the board, whereas this year has a different feel to it.

“There’s probably more standout draft prospects at the top end but the depth probably isn’t as great as last year,” Toohey said. “So it’s probably a bit of a different group for the next two years. “But generally there’s always a  couple of guys who jump out of the shadows and surprise you a bit and that’s what’s really exciting. “We really knew what we were going to get last year because we had followed them through for so long but there’s a lot of unknowns going into this year and next year probably and our 16s I think are tracking along alright too. “The next few years are quite exciting from that perspective.”

Looking ahead to the season start in less than two weeks, Toohey said the coaching staff and playing group wanted to build on the culture set in place by last year’s group throughout the season.

I think we really became known as a team that did play for each other and were quite selfless and would play their roles and that’s something we would really love to replicate with this team,” he said. “I know they will get the most enjoyment out of their footy if they do that as the boys did last year but also those that really need to elevate themselves will be able to do that. “There’s something in it for everyone with their NAB League experience with the Eastern Ranges and that’s important for the broader group not just the top-end.”

2019 AFL Draft club review: Carlton Blues

AFTER an improved second half of the season under new coach David Teague, Carlton headed into the AFL Draft confident of finding a quality player at Pick 9. Instead, the Blues made a couple of clubs earn their Academy stars in Stephen Silvagni‘s last year at the desk, and then opted to trade down their selection to grab a slider and a bolter, as well as a much-improved midfielder. In the Pre-Season and Rookie drafts, the Blues grabbed their man from the Gold Coast SUNS, as well as two players with immense upside and X-factor.

CARLTON:

National Draft:
17. Brodie Kemp (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country) | 192cm | 89kg | Tall Utility
20. Sam Philp (Northern Knights/Vic Metro) | 186cm | 79kg | Inside Midfielder
47. Sam Ramsay (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro) | 180cm | 72kg | Balanced Midfielder

Rookie Draft:
3. Josh Honey (Western Jets/Vic Metro) | 185cm | 82kg | Midfielder/Forward
18. Fraser Phillips (Gippsland Power/Vic Country | 187cm | 72kg | Medium Forward
PSD. Jack Martin (Gold Coast Suns)

If you are a Carlton fan you have to be happy with the haul achieved at the 2019 National AFL Draft. With Eddie Betts coming into the side – joined by Jack Martin in the Pre-Season Draft – the Blues somewhat moved past missing out on Tom Papley. It was clear they wanted to grab some more inside depth to assist Patrick Cripps in the midfield, as well as some firepower up forward to roam around the feet of Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay, as well as roam up the ground and open up the space for those forwards.

If that was the goal, then Carlton ticked that box with the five 18-year-olds walking into the club. Brodie Kemp was touted as a top 10 pick before going down with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, and the fact he was there for the picking at selection 17 was madness. While he will not be able to run around in the navy blue next year, if he can get a couple of games in the reserves late in the season, it will give Blues fans a taste of what they can expect in 2021. Sam Philp was the other player taken on night one and he provides not only inside ball-winning ability, but also elite speed. With a 2.87-second 20m sprint, Philp is lightning around the stoppages and adds a different element to the midfield. He might have been seen as a bolter for a player who did not play Under-18 Championships, but his second half of the season, and indeed after the first month of NAB League was deserving of the first round selection. All-in-all, Carlton fans might have been annoyed to miss out on potentially picking up Sam Flanders, but landed terrific value with their picks and two players who offer that point of difference in the midfield.

With the Blues’ only other National Draft selection, Carlton picked up another late bloomer with Calder Cannons’ Sam Ramsay a hard working runner on the inside. He started the season with indifferent form as a winger, but once he went into the guts, excelled averaging 31 touches per game over a seven-game purple patch. His form earned him a share in the Calder Cannons’ best and fairest award, as well as a spot on an AFL list.

But the bargains did not stop there. While Martin was always predicted to land at the Blues on a heavily front-ended contract, the former SUNS long wait to land at Ikon Park was finally over to add extra class in the front half of the ground. Also joining him there in the forward half were rookies, Josh Honey and Fraser Phillips. Both have tremendous upside, with Phillips in particular touted as having a lot of development left in him. Honey can spend time in the midfield and is super athletic with an eye for goals, while Phillips predominantly players inside 50 as a medium forward who can do magical things, but could eventually develop into a midfielder.

Overall, Carlton fans should be really pleased with what their club has been able to do at the drafts, picking up genuine bargains and players with upside and high ceilings that while they do not always work out, if they do then this draft haul could be lauded in the future.