Tag: Peel Thunder

2021 WAFL Women’s Round 11 preview: Swan Districts focused on staying grounded ahead of blockbuster clash

ROUND 11 of the Western Australia Football League Women’s (WAFLW) is set to deliver one of the most exciting games of the season as second-placed Peel Thunder is set to take on the undefeated Swan Districts in a top of the table clash on Sunday afternoon. The matchup has been highly anticipated all week, with plenty at stake for both sides. Swan Districts have continued to display their class on a weekly basis, while Peel Thunder have executed a terrific rise to prove themselves as a legitimate contender to dethrone their opponent in the near future.

Swan Districts coach Adam Dancey said the club’s preparation heading into the game will not be majorly adjusted despite the hype around the match and referenced the club’s narrow win over Subiaco as an example that any team can win or lose at any time.

“Our preparation has been pretty normal,” Dancey said. “Subiaco showed us two weeks ago if we give people an opportunity, they’re going to take that, and we’ve got to be at our best at all times. “We discuss who we are playing but that’s all it is, a discussion.”

Swan Districts made WAFLW history last week, becoming the first team to win nine consecutive games since the inception of the league in 2018. It is an amazing feat and one could be forgiven for getting ahead of themselves in this situation, but Dancey has thanked a popular book for keeping his players in reality for the entire season. Dancey has had a fantastic influence on the club since arriving and credits changing his mindset.

“The Resilience Project changed the way I thought about my coaching significantly,” Dancey said. “We’ve taken the principals from that book and rolled it into our footy, this is how we want to enjoy our life and our footy, to be grateful for the opportunity. “We asked a lot of the girls to read the book and a lot of them came back, and they came back with different attitudes.”

Sides all over the league are improving their team lineups heading into round 11, with the conclusion of the AFLW season resulting in an influx of players. Dancey described the difficulties of managing having an excess of performing players.

“The biggest challenge is managing the personnel, to go to a player to tell them they are going to miss because of the talent coming back from the AFLW,” Dancey said. “It’s a tough conversation to have. “We said early on that as a coaching group, we are going to do our best to pick the best 22, and if you’re in that, enjoy it, if you’re not, come and see us for feedback. “Be grateful you are apart of the club, and that you have an opportunity to improve. “To the girls credit, they have.”

Their opponent in the Peel Thunder have greatly improved since their Round 3 clash, where Swan Districts scored a 28-point victory. Since then, Peel Thunder have lost just one game (by three points) and have really found a style of football that works. The Swan Districts coach is aware the winning streak could be over at any moment, and the Peel Thunder will be hoping to be the side that does this.

Around the grounds, Subiaco will travel to Revo Fitness Stadium to take on Claremont on Sunday morning. In the Mother’s Day clash, Claremont will look to bounce back from their loss to Swan District, and keep themselves in contention, as they sit one win behind Peel Thunder for second place. Subiaco sit one spot below their opponent, but with three less wins, so a victory here would keep them in the hunt.

The final match of the round features a cross town clash, as South Fremantle host East Fremantle at Fremantle Community Bank Oval, in a crucial clash for the bottom two sides. South Fremantle remain winless after nine games, and will be looking at this match as an opportunity to break the drought. Meanwhile, East Fremantle have found themselves on a four-game losing streak, to end up with a 2-7 record, but only one win out of the top four. With plenty on the line for both teams, expect a ferocious contest.

Picture credit: Swan Districts

Rowley’s “crazy” rise only getting started

COURTNEY Rowley might only be in her top-age draft year, but the West Australian teenager already has an enviable résumé. Having joined Peel Thunder in the team’s first season when it was the West Australian Women’s Football League (WAWFL) – now West Australian Football League Women’s (WAFLW) – Rowley was the club’s equal games record holder heading into 2021, and had a best and fairest and premiership medal to her name.

“Basically I pretty much played netball when I was younger,” Rowley said of her journey. “I kicked the footy with my dad and my brother all the time because he played footy and I always wanted to play footy so I went down to Mandurah Mustangs, the local club and ended up playing then next year went to Peel.”

Only 15-years-old at the time, Rowley was just excited about the prospect of playing against senior women, some of whom had already reached the elite level. Instead, the talented teenager announced herself on the big stage, coming away with a best and fairest as the youngest in the senior side.

“That was just crazy,” Rowley said. “They called my name up and I was like ‘what the hell? How?’ I was like 15 and I was like I don’t’ know, I was pretty proud of myself, but it was insane, I had no words.”

The outside midfielder admitted it was a clear step up when she moved from the local leagues to the WAFLW, but she quickly adapted to the tempo of the competition and said she would not have it any other way from now on.

“First game it was like the change of pace was the hard thing and I was like ‘woah this is so much quicker’ but playing against better players makes me play better so I love it,” Rowley said. “The competition, everything, if I went back I don’t feel like I’d be able to play as good because I play better against better people.”

When asked about her favourite position, Rowley said she had become used to the wing – having also played on either flank – but a new lease on life playing inside midfield gave her a new perspective on where she might like to play in the future.

“I don’t know hey? I don’t mind,” she said. “I’ve been trained to be playing on the wing, but for this state carnival I’ve been going inside mid and I like it so much better, winning my own ball. But either or.”

The modest talent described her strengths as her speed and marking, though if you talk to anyone out west, her composure with ball-in-hand, ability to find space and hit targets, and her run-and-carry are all areas where she excels. But like any aspiring AFL Women’s talents, Rowley said she had plenty of areas she wanted to improve on going forward.

“I’d say I’m fit but I just want to be fitter, like working on that over the off-season and then probably my opposite foot kicking,” she said. “I want to be able to kick on both feet. I can do it standing still, but I need to be able to do it in a game I reckon.”

In the preseason, coach Steve Markham said he would like to have “four or five” Rowley’s.

“She can play all over the ground, but I love her on the outside because she runs and spreads and delivers inside 50,” Markham told Draft Central. “We’ve used her a little bit last year forward when she copped an injury and she was able to hit the scoreboard.” So at points we’ll drift her forward and she’s done some impressive things inside 50, so we’ll throw her around a little bit this year and just see what suits us best on the day.”

Speaking of Markham, Rowley had plenty of praise for the coach that took her side from wooden spooners to premiers within a season, describing the feeling from going bottom to top as “insane”.

“It was so good,” Rowley said. “Because that year we had so much hope when became wooden spooners, we were like ‘we can do it’ but then we got the new coach and he was just drilling confidence into us and ‘you can do it, I can feel it, you just need to believe in yourselves’ and we just took that belief into the season and then won the premiership.”

Rowley said Markham was her first coach at the Thunder – having led the Rogers Cup girls to the same success – and was the main influence on her football journey. As for an AFL Women’s leader to look up to, a recently crowned league best and fairest was a standout choice for the teenager.

“It’s hard because there’s so many,” Rowley said. “I do love Kiara Bowers from Freo, everyone does, that’s a bit typical, but just the way she goes about it, she’s so good. “Even Georgia Patrikios from St Kilda, her run and carry and everything like that.”

A member of the AFL Women’s Academy, Rowley said the trip with the nation’s most talented prospects to the Top End was “sick” and something she would never forget.

“When I went to Darwin, I learnt so much about professionalism and it made me want to make it to the top level so much more,” Rowley said. “Just about what you learn.”

Now edging closer towards achieving her dream of being picked to play at the top level, Rowley said she had no intention of slowing down. While playing AFL Women’s was the “obvious” goal, she did not want to just make it, but continue to improve her game in any way she could.

“Well obviously the main one is to make AFLW, but just be the best player I can and keep improving better every week,” she said. ‘I don’t want to just get there and stop, just want to keep getting better.”

Swan Districts flex muscles with strong win against Subiaco

SWAN Districts have retained top spot on the ladder after setting up their Sunday afternoon win with a dominant first half performance to win 7.12 (54) to 2.6 (18). In 37-degree heat, the Swans led Subiaco 44-1 at half-time, in what was a clinical performance with contributors all over the ground. In a surprise turn of events, the second half belonged to the visitors as Subiaco were able to negate the attacking ball movement of Swan Districts and outscore their opponent 17-10 to finish the game with promising signs. The second half fade out may disappoint the Swans, but their scintillating first half meant the result was never in doubt.

From the opening bounce, the Swans stamped themselves on the game, dominating clearances and opening up a three-goal lead heading into the first break, and they were not done yet. The exceptional ball movement continued into the second quarter as the pace and ball use of their midfielders and backline created plenty of scoring opportunities for their forward line. Subiaco were beaten around the ball, and when they finally constructed some good play, their forward 50 entries let them down. It almost seemed like a message to the rest of the competition, as the Swans showcased their ability to win the ball and hurt their opposition with their clean ball movement. With a 43-point half-time lead, things were looking ominous for not only Subiaco, but all the teams in the path of the Swans.

The second half told a much different story. Subiaco showed no signs of the team that was stunned earlier on, controlling the game and putting their opponents under constant relentless pressure. Inaccurate kicking meant Subiaco only closed the gap by 10 points, but the signs were promising for a young team in the midst of a rebuild. The fourth quarter was more of the same, with Dana East’s second goal sealing the result and sending her side to the top of the ladder, undefeated after five rounds.

The loss of Sarah Wielstra from the team allowed regular fullback Aimee Ralph to spend more time in the ruck and around the ground, an opportunity she grabbed with both hands. Ralph exerted her influence all over the ground, whether it was perfect palm downs to her midfielders on the run, winning ground balls in an often scrappy game, or hurting the opposition on the scoreboard, chiming in for a goal of her own. The coaches would be wrapped with her ability to adapt to another position and put in a best on ground performance. East was damaging through the middle, using her pace around the ground and kicking two goals. Fellow midfielder Jessica Cox was damaging at ground level, winning plenty of clearances. Mikayla Morrison hit the scoreboard with two goals of her own, while Bella Edgley and Nyra Anderson kicked one goal each.

For Subiaco, the midfield duo of Tarnica Gosliano and Lara Filocamo were major factors in the second half fightback, winning the ball not only at centre clearances but all over the ground. The duo stepped up to bring their team back into the game, and were well assisted by Sarah Walters on the wing, who fought hard in the first half, winning plenty of the ball despite the constant pressure by the Swans. Taylisha Brown and Hayley Corlett kicked one goal apiece.

The win put Swan Districts one game clear on top of the ladder as they prepare to host second placed Claremont in a blockbuster clash on Saturday morning. Subiaco currently sits in fifth place at one win and four losses but will be looking to break the drought against the 0-5 South Fremantle on Saturday afternoon.

In other games this weekend, East Fremantle put in an outstanding performance, smashing the last placed South Fremantle 10.12 (72) to 4.2 (26). For East Fremantle, the goal kickers were Gabby Radojkovich and Paisley Prentice with two goals each and Chloe Reilly, Sharon Wong, Madeline Ross, Ann Mcmahon, Anjelique Raison and Ashleigh Gomes all kicking one goal. Their best players were Alex Williams, Wong, Ellie Sanders, Mcmahon and Kahra Sprylan. For South Fremantle, the goal kickers were Zoe Huggett with two goals and Makaela Tuhakaraina and Makayla Cocking with one goal each. Their best players were Pia Durk, Casey Byrne, Lauren Wakfer and Lauren Vecchio.

At Revo Fitness Stadium, Claremont won in a thriller against the Peel Thunder, claiming the win 5.6 (36) to 5.3 (33). For Claremont, the goal kickers were Katherine Bennett with two goals and Sasha Goranova, Ella Smith and Madeleine Scanlon with one goal each. Their best players were Matilda Dyke, Jessica Low, Bennett, Mackenzie Webb and Jacinta Valentini. For the Peel Thunder, their goal kickers were Kate Bartlett and Kira Phillips with two goals each and Ella Roberts with one goal of her own. Their best players were Chloe Wrigley, Cassie Davidson, Courtney Rowley, Bella Mann and Abby Barnden.

Peel prepares for 2021 after “whirlwind” season

TWELVE months ago, Peel Thunder was coming off a wooden spoon with bucketloads of young talent and little expectations on them ahead of the 2020 West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s season. Fast forward to 2021, and the Thunder have turned from the hunter into the hunted, having experienced a “whirlwind” of a season to storm from last to first and claim their inaugural WAFL Women’s premiership.

For Peel Thunder coach Steve Markham, it has been a remarkable past 12 months, but there was little time to rest on their laurels as the reigning premiers got back to work for the new season which had been brought forward to run concurrently with the AFL Women’s.

It’s been a whirlwind to be honest, obviously we’ve had the flag and then the season was brought forward,” Markham said. “The girls really haven’t had a break but there’s the excitement and energy around the place has been unbelievable. It’s been really, really exciting.”

“We’ve got the (West Australian) State Program on and we’ve got 12 girls engaged in that at the moment. “Obviously Demi Liddle and Sarah Verrier got drafted so it’s been really successful for us and we’re building for Round 1 next week.”

Like every football team in the country, Peel Thunder was forced to alter its plans over the past 12 months, and managed to manoeuvre its way through the challenges of a global pandemic to lift the premiership cup. With the threat of COVID-19 still in the air, Markham said his side was prepared to adjust with the times and what ever was needed to evolve.

“It’s always evolving,” he said. “Obviously last year we had COVID so we went into the pods. “This year it’s been a challenge in a respect it was hard getting the whole squad together as the state girls are up at state, and the South West girls only come up once a week. “So we do have to do repetitive drills a little bit so we’re all on the same page and get to how each other’s playing.”

“Nothing too much, last week was obviously shut down with COVID. “The girls are engaged, we gave them a running plan, we have a chat group through Messenger and they’re all posting what they’re doing and the repertoire and the team harmony in there has been really, really good. “It shows that they’re all engaged and ready so they’re all in a pretty good place.”

At this stage just two players – Shannon Whale and Kate Ditchburn – from the premiership-winning side will not be around in 2021, with Aisha Wright to step up from the State Academy as a key inclusion, alongside former State 18s player Kerrilee Brown. Others who Markham has earmarked as “inclusions” are those who have either missed years through injury – such as Shantae Freeman – or those who predominantly played Rogers Cup but will have an increased role – such as Beth Schilling.

Markham said young gun Bella Mann will have a greater chance to impact this year as well, after promising signs later in the year for the Thunder, but one player expected to take another step forward in her development is top-age young star, Courtney Rowley. When asked what role the versatile Rowley could play, Markham admitted he wished he did not have to choose.

“Yeah Courtney’s an interesting one, I’d like to have four or five of her because she can play all over the ground, but I love her on the outside because she runs and spreads and delivers inside 50,” Markham said. “We’ve used her a little bit last year forward when she copped an injury and she was able to hit the scoreboard.” So at points we’ll drift her forward and she’s done some impressive things inside 50, so we’ll throw her around a little bit this year and just see what suits us best on the day.”

Coming off a flag, the overall balance of the team is clearly strong enough to be a contender, but for Markham, he said the squad prided itself on its defence, and described them as “hard to score against”.

“I think our backline was strong last year, we obviously lose Demi Liddle and Shannon Whale but the replacements in Kerrilee Brown and a couple coming through is going to be really strong, it’s going to be hard to score against. “So I think that will be a real strength, and with Ella Roberts up forward and KP (Kira Phillips), Jaide Briggs I think our forward line looks pretty potent, but I think our defence will be rock solid.”

Markham said the side had been counting down the days until Round 1 for the best part of a couple of months. Now the first match was just over a week away, and he said his team – which would face perennial challengers East Fremantle in Round 1 – was “really excited and ready to go”.

“We’ve done a really big preseason, the girls really didn’t have much time off, they only had about six weeks, so for some of them that week was good for them,” he said. “I think we’re in a pretty good place, you never know where the opposition is at, but playing East Freo as the premiers the year before, if you can challenge East Freo at any time you’re going pretty well so we’re excited to have them first up.”

Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder

Peel Thunder complete fairytale from wooden spooners to premiers

IT was a modern day football fairytale, with the 2019 West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s wooden spooners Peel Thunder turning their fortunes around in 12 months and claiming a remarkable title in 2020 over minor premiers, Subiaco. The Thunder reversed two previous results against the Lions this season, losing by nine and then six points – the latter of which happened a fortnight ago in the second semi-final – to post a memorable 15-point win.

In what was a fantastic performance by the second placed Thunder, Peel weathered the early Subiaco storm aided by a strong breeze, to boot three second quarter goals, and only concede on goal in the last 75 minutes of the match. Chloe Wrigley won the Lou Knitter Medal for best on ground for her work through the middle, but it easily could have gone to any number of players such was the even team performance across the board from the Thunder.

From 15-year-old Ella Roberts‘ strong overhead marking and kicking two majors in the second term, to the defensive efforts of Tanisha Anderson, Ebony Dowson and Cassie Davidson in the back half, and the strength and nous of Kira Phillips inside 50, everything clicked for the Thunder on the big stage. Subiaco was not without its chances, and after a second goal early in the third term gave them hope, the Lions could not maximise their time with the breeze, and ultimately ran out of time as Peel’s defensive work in the second half restricted their ability to score.

It looked good early for the minor premiers who had defeated Peel just two weeks earlier, doing all the attacking. Five minutes into the contest, it was Maggie Maclachlan – who received a Draft Combine invitation a couple of weeks ago – who got her team going with a quick kick that was a wobbly floater but effective, reading the ball off hands and putting it through. Subiaco was relentless in its attack going forward, but Dowson and Anderson were holding up well.

Kia Buckley was having some sort of first term for the maroon and gold, but kept finding the ball a touch too far out, and Wrigley was beginning to work into the match. Ebony Bilcich‘s long boot off the wing pickpocketing her opponent hit up Kate Bartlett just outside 50 and Peel had its first inside 50, 16 and a half minutes into the term. Unfortunately Bailey Molloy got a cruel bounce and Subiaco cleared, but it was only for a short time as Roberts won the ball on the wing, got it to Bartlett who spotted Phillips leading out.

Her long shot from 45m was impressive given she was kicking into the wind, but sprayed it to the right. Nonetheless, Peel was gaining some crucial forward minutes against the breeze late in the quarter. Soon they would get on the board through Phillips, who wrestled a number of opponents, managed to craft it to her boot at the top of the goalsquare and bounced it home with the final kick of the quarter. Despite having to concede forward half possession for the majority of the contest, the Thunder headed into the first break with a one-point advantage.

Now kicking with the breeze, the Thunder took full advantage of the wind, booting three majors to give themselves some breathing space on the scoreboard. It was no surprise to see Roberts heavily involved with an inside 50 from Hannah Church. Her shot from 40m hardly looked like missing and Peel extended the lead in the opening minute of the contest. Subiaco had a number of forward thrusts themselves as Aimee Schmidt and Tayla Thorogood were involved, while Lions captain Hayley Miller tried to create something special.

Demi Liddle joined the likes of Anderson, Dowson and Davidson in holding firm in defence, and the Thunder used their trademark ball movement to turn defence into attack in transition. Midway through the term, it was some smart thinking from Phillips kicking with the outside of the boot close to the boundary line to spot Molloy loose and running towards goal. Her teammate marked 20m out and then made no mistake, with the lead out to 13 points.

Subiaco was showing signs of frustration with Abbey Dowrick giving away a downfield free kick for a late push, and a number of high tackles. It would be the work of Liddle again, this time further up the ground to hit up Roberts with an unbelievable mark overhead, so clean and reading it incredibly well to set up another set shot. Being 40m out, it was like she was point-blank as she coasted another one home and all of a sudden the lead was out to 19 points and the danger signs were there for Subiaco.

Able to gain some minutes inside 50 in the later stages of the term, Maclachlan had a chance to kick one against the flow, but her dribble kick went to the left and through for a behind – the first score since her goal early in the opening term. The last play of the term was a contested grab from Phillips but her long-range torpedo from 50m fell short and Subiaco was able to lock it up. Heading into half-time, the Lions trailed by 18 points.

Picture: Owen Davies/Peel Thunder

The second half would only yield one goal, but it did not stop the contest from being tight and tense throughout. Ellie Blackmore had been solid throughout the contest and tried her best through the midfield, and soon it was Maclachlan again who poped up just three minutes into the term. Leading Shannon Whale to the ball, she won a free kick for being held and then converted the goal to draw within 12 points.

Tiah Haynes had presented Maclachlan with a perfect kick inside 50, and both Haynes and Blackmore were trying to get the ball moving inside 50. Whale, Anderson and Dowson had other ideas with their fierce tackling really stemming any flow Subiaco could create. Greta McKinley was getting in on the action with some drives out of defence. Roberts was even getting back to help out, and moving through midfield taking some crucial contested marks.

Charlie Thomas had a quick kick towards goal midway through the term but could not get penetration on the kick, and every time Subiaco charged forward, the Thunder had the answers. Anderson was best-on in the third term with great position, playing in front, strong marking and kicking out from half-back really owning her defensive line. It helped Peel attack fiercely and whilst they did not manage to put a goal on the board, the likes of Bartlett and Roberts both had chances, but missed. Peel had done enough to lead by 14 points at the final break.

The final term was much of the same as the third quarter as Peel had the breeze and was still attacking to make sure they did not park the bus and allow the Lions to make all the moves. Dowson got involved with a great kick to Roberts who took another contested mark and then a huge front-on tackle from Whale forced a turnover on the wing and the Thunder went forward and locked it up. That was what the final term was all about, just keeping the ball inside forward 50.

They did that for the full 20 minutes as each time Subiaco went to attack, the Peel defence stood up. Dowson, Whale and McKinley were particularly impressive in the final term, with Roberts and Phillips again great forward of centre. Wrigley, deserving of the best on ground medal won it through the middle and Peel was able to play a perfect final term. With a few minutes left, Liddle took a strong intercept mark deep in defence and it was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. The siren sounded a few minutes later and the Thunder were victorious.

For all of Subiaco’s hard work, the consistency of Ange Stannett, Schmidt, Blackmore and Maclachlan, it would not be enough as the full team contribution from the Thunder had got them home. The fairytale was complete. Peel Thunder were the 2020 WAFL Women’s premiers.

WAFLW GRAND FINAL 

SUBIACO 1.0 | 1.1 | 2.1 | 2.1 (13)
PEEL THUNDER 1.1 | 4.1 | 4.3 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:

Subiaco: M. Maclachlan 2.
Peel: E. Roberts 2, B. Molloy, K. Phillips.

ADC BEST:

Subiaco: E. Blackmore, M. Maclachlan, A. Schmidt, K. Buckley, A. Stannett
Peel: C. Wrigley, E. Roberts, T. Anderson, E. Dowson, C. Davidson, K. Phillips

Picture: (Retrieved from) @WAFLOfficial via Twitter

WAFL Women’s Grand Final preview: Subiaco vs. Peel Thunder

AFTER a long and tight West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s season, the best two teams of 2020 have made their way into the grand final. Minor premiers, Subiaco will face off against newcomers Peel Thunder in a bid to follow through on their top of the table finish after the regular season. We spoke to both coaches ahead of the big clash that begins 2.30pm tomorrow local time, or 4.30pm AEST.

Subiaco is no stranger to successful home and away seasons, finishing on top of the WAFL Women’s table last year, only to lose the first final to eventual premiers East Fremantle, and then go out in straight sets at the hands of Swan Districts a week later. This time around, in a shortened season, the Lions have only dropped one game throughout the regular season, and posted an important six-point victory over Peel in the first week of finals. In stark comparison to the Lions, the Thunder have not been in this position before, entering their first finals series in the club’s short history, after finishing on the bottom last year in the WAFL Women’s first official season.

Fast forward 12 months and with new mentor and Rogers Cup premiership coach Steve Markham at the helm, the Thunder are into the decider and excited at what they have been able to accomplish having risen from league battlers to genuine title contenders in a short space of time.

“We’re very excited with where we’ve come from and the way the girls have gone about it this year,” Markham said. “We’ve bonded this season and everything we’ve worked on has come together so we’re super excited to be involved in the last game of the year.”

Now he has to guide his side to a win over strong favourites, Subiaco who are led by West Australian champion player, Amy Lavell. Despite getting close both times this season – just nine and six-point losses – Markham knows just how tough the challenge will be, but his side will not shy away from it.

“They’re a super quality side but we will play our own game,” he said. “Last time we didn’t take out chances when they came, so this time we will hope to open the game up and take our chances when they come.”

Markham said the great aspect about Peel’s list is its even balance across the board. While there were some individual standouts from game to game, the Thunder were not reliant on any one or two players. Markham noted it was more about the system and ball movement that made the team so exciting.

“We’ve played really consistent footy across the year and haven’t had any clear standouts,” he said. “Obviously there are weeks where players stand up and you’ve got your Kira Phillips, your Ella Roberts, your Courtney Rowleys but we’re driven from a team perspective coming off half-back and through the middle.”

Peel booked a spot in the decider after coming from behind against East Fremantle, and the likes of Phillips and Roberts combining for five goals in the second half to get their side over the line. Resting up on the sidelines during that preliminary final was Subiaco coach Lavell, and her chargers. It was something Lavell said was important with a number of sore players at the back-end of the season.

“Yeah it’s (week off) actually been really helpful,” she said. “We’ve had a couple of sore bodies obviously coming through the last few rounds of the season. “It’s just been an opportunity for those girls to have a rest and have a couple of really good sessions but also look after the girls and get them ready, and they’re nice and healthy and ready to go.”

Lavell is new to the coaching role this year, but said there was no doubt last year’s disappointing finals series would play a part in the players’ thinking and would burn as motivation to get the job done.

“I know some of the girls were pretty disappointed after last season,” she said. “But I think just having that time to reflect on that but also we’ve got a lot of new girls this year and a lot of new AFLW girls as well. “It’s just a different feel to the group and I just think they’re just really excited to get through that first final too, but also the opportunity to play in the grand final tomorrow.”

Subiaco will head in as favourites having accounted for their opponents by those single-digit margins, once during the season and a fortnight ago. But Lavell said given the conditions that were becoming a regular occurrence for their head-to-heads, it was vital to start strongly and take full advantage of the wind.

“I think it’s difficult to know because the last two games we’ve played them have been in horrible weather conditions and by the looks of the forecast tomorrow it’s going to much the same,” she said. “I think just getting the lead early and getting onto them early. “Obviously they’ve got a lot of young and up and coming players, a lot of whom it will be their first grand final tomorrow so if we can use our experience from previous finals and previous experience just from the girls development and they can hopefully get onto them early and get a good lead.”

In a team that has no shortage of stars, Lavell said you could always rely on the AFL Women’s talent, but there were also a number of other up and comers who had proven themselves at the level and were hard to stop on the big stage.

“We’ve obviously got our tried and trusted AFLW players in Hayley Miller and Ange Stannett,” she said. “Obviously two very good players for Fremantle who will lead the way in their respective lines on the ground but also we’ve got Tiah Haynes who has played for Freo in the first few seasons of the comp and she’s a very experienced player. “Very composed in her role. “Then at the same time we’ve got some young and up coming players in Charlie Thomas and Maggie Maclachlan who Charlie is not quite draftable yet but she’s a very exciting player to watch and I’m looking forward to seeing what she brings tomorrow. “But we’re very lucky to have a lot of depth so I could probably name almost our entire team, but there’s definitely a few girls you can look out for.”

The 2020 WAFL Women’s Grand Final is set to be a beauty. Will it be the experience of Subiaco? Or the youth of Peel Thunder? Will the Lions avenge a disappointing 2019 finals series? Or will the fairytale of the Thunder’s rise to the top have one more chapter?

Picture: WAFL

Two goals in two minutes from 15-year-old Ella Roberts sends Peel into its first WAFLW Grand Final

A MATCH-WINNING performance in the final term by 15-year-old Ella Roberts has helped book Peel Thunder a spot in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s Grand Final. The talented teenager who does not turn 16 until December, broke the game open in the last seven minutes to slot two terrific goals and help her side record a 9.1 (55) to 5.8 (38) victory over reigning premiers East Fremantle in the preliminary final. She was one of many players to stand up when it counted, as the young Thunder outfit was able to answer each challenge set down for them by the experienced East Fremantle outfit, and ran out the stronger side to book a rematch with Subiaco next week.

It was East Fremantle that started stronger, kicking with a breeze that enabled the Sharks to control play in their forward half. The Thunder had just two inside 50s for the quarter – the first and last of the term – and could not put a score on the board. The Sharks could, but seemingly wasted some golden opportunities to put together a strong first term lead. They booted 1.4, with the first goal coming in the 14th minute after three behinds. A nice kick inside 50 was well read by Rosie Walsh who ran onto it, grabbed it cleanly goalside and put it home from 15m out.

Cassie Davidson and Tanisha Anderson were holding up well in defence, whilst Gabby O’Sullivan was looking her usual dangerous self, even if she had contributed the couple of behinds. Shot after shot just missed for East Fremantle, and despite their dominance, and the work of Sharon Wong around the ball and Madeline Ross, Lily Bird and Ruby Schleicher through the middle and half-back respectively, East Fremantle only held a 10-point lead at the first change.

It had been a dire scrap in the opening term with Peel holding on against a fierce East Fremantle attack, but that soon changed with a nice kick in from youngster, Courtney Rowley who hit up Krystal Carter inside 50. Carter was awarded a free kick for in the back, then went back and drilled the shot just three minutes into the contest. Schleicher was continuing to do well in her one-on-one, but a couple of unlucky moments for the Sharks – which saw Schleicher rested on the bench and Katelyn Catalano come hobbling off – allowed Peel to take some control.

Schleicher’s opponent Kate Bartlett stepped up against a smaller opponent to mark off an Ebony Bilcich kick inside 50 then convert an important goal in the ninth minute of the term to give her side the lead for the first time. Her confidence was sky high, and a moment later she read the horrible bounce for Schleicher better, scooping it up and spotted a loose Bailey Molloy all alone 40m out. Molloy went back and nailed the set shot too, and midway through the term, Peel was really cooking. But the Thunder were not done just yer.

Three minutes later, ongoing pressure from the Peel forwards forced a quick kick from a Sharks defender to go out of bounds and Bartlett sprinted to the boundary line to receive the free kick. From 50m she wheeled around and launched home, with the pack misreading the kick to fall short and it bounced over the back and home without a hand to it. All of a sudden, Peel was 13 points up and making East Fremantle pay for the wasteful first term.

It was not all bad for the Sharks, who got one back after new inclusion, Jessie McDonald got lively and hit up O’Sullivan leading out 35m from goal. The talented forward made no mistake with the set shot, just escaping the hands on the line and with five minutes to play, the margin was seven points. O’Sullivan almost had another goal after taking advantage from a Walsh free to play on, but uncharacteristically went for the dribble and missed for her third behind of the day. It followed on from a Larissa Versaci miss moments earlier, and despite East Fremantle doing all the attacking late, it was Peel that would emerge five-point leaders at half-time.

Determined to make the most of the wind the second time around, McDonald again got busy, with clean hands to handball over her shoulder between two Sharks and hit up the running O’Sullivan. With her fifth scoring shot of the day, O’Sullivan made no mistake on the run and put it home to return the lead to the reigning premiers. The first six minutes belonged to East Fremantle as the visitors continued to pepper the goals and lock the ball inside 50. Once the game opened up, Peel raced it down and Carter won a free kick at the top of 50 and kicked to a pack.

Reading the ball off hands, Peel’s leading goalkicker Kira Phillips – who had not touched the ball prior to that moment – snapped off the right quickly to put through another major for the Thunder and Peel took back the lead. It was Peel’s turn to take control of the forward half possession, but East Fremantle turned defence into offence, only for Ashleigh Gomes to get a horrible bounce and the Thunder clear to safely. Phillips almost created something out of nothing with a kick off the ground late in the term going to the Bartlett-Schleicher duel, which saw a free kick awarded for holding to the latter.

East Fremantle went forward, and Chloe Reilly managed to find Bird inside 50 who kicked to the top of the square where McDonald roved the ball to perfection and kicked her first of the game with three minutes remaining in the quarter. Setting up the last three Sharks goals, the debutant looked dangerous every time she went near it. Now holding the lead by a couple of points, East Fremantle added another goal for good measure after the siren with Sara Lewis paid a free for being held in the ruck stoppage, and sent it home to stretch the lead to eight at the final break. Unfortunately for Sharks fans, that would be the last score of the day for the reigning premiers.

The final term belonged to Peel Thunder, as East Fremantle made a positional change with O’Sullivan moved to a wing and playing a defensive kick-behind-play role to help with the Thunder breeze. In what was symbolic of the quarter to come, Roberts had a pinpoint perfect kick to Phillips who won a free kick 35m out and kicked a goal just over a minute into the quarter and immediately the Thunder were back within two points. East tried to attack, as both sides were willing and Maddy Ross came off after a heavy collision, while Kimberley Bowey took a few crucial intercept possessions dropping back to help the defence.

But the weight of numbers and forward pressure eventually won out for the Thunder, with another youngster in Rowley spotting Phillips one-on-one and hit her up well. The strong marking forward made no mistake for her third goal of the contest and Peel was back in front, albeit by just four points. Midway through the term, Jade Briggs – who had been getting busy through the second half in particular – had a snap off her left for it to trickle through for the Thunder’s first behind of the day. The margin was five points and the game was crying out for a hero from either side to break it open.

Enter 15-year-old Roberts. In the 14th minute of the quarter, she bustled her way forward, the ball was collected by Bartlett who with lightning hands, dished off to Roberts and off a step from 40m put it through and the Thunder players erupted. East Fremantle would need two goals to win, but Peel was still not home, they needed another. So Roberts delivered again. Scooping the ball up from 45m, under immense pressure from the Sharks, the talented teenager put it on the boot off a couple of steps and it curled around the post in an effort even better than her first. There was jubilation everywhere as the Thunder players mobbed her and even the coaching box and fans were starting to believe.

East Fremantle tried to attack in the last few minutes, but the work of Shannon Whale and Davidson in defence resulted in some vital intercept marks. The red-hot Roberts was thrown into the middle and then won a couple of touches in defence helping there. A late scuffle broke out in the Sharks’ forward pocket as tensions rose, but Peel was able to do enough to defuse the situation, and the game, by taking time off the clock. As if fittingly, Roberts would have the last kick of the game at half-back, kicking long as the siren sounded and Peel Thunder was through to their first ever WAFL Women’s Grand Final in just their second season.

PEEL THUNDER 0.0 | 4.0 | 5.0 | 9.1 (55)
EAST FREMANTLE 1.4 | 2.7 | 5.8 | 5.8 (38)

GOALS:

Peel Thunder: K. Phillips 3, E, Roberts 2, K. Bartlett 2, K. Carter, B. Molloy.
East Fremantle: G. O’Sullivan 2, R. Walsh, J. McDonald, S. Lewis.

ADC BEST:

Peel Thunder: E. Roberts, C. Davidson, C. Rowley, K. Bartlett., K. Ditchburn
East Fremantle: G. O’Sullivan, R. Schleicher, J. McDonald, S. Wong, K. Bowey

Picture: Owen Davies/Peel Thunder

WAFL Women’s Preliminary Final: Peel Thunder vs. East Fremantle

IT is somewhat fitting that Peel Thunder and East Fremantle face off in the preliminary final of the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition. The red-hot Sharks, coming from nowhere needed to string three consecutive wins together in the final three rounds – which they did – and then another three in finals in order to take out the premiership. They are no stranger to success, having won the past two flags, including the last for the WAWFL and first for the WAFL Women’s last year. Peel Thunder on the other hand are playing their first ever finals series, and are searching for their first ever finals win.

A last round win to the Thunder over the Tigers helped Peel grab second spot, in no small part thanks to East Fremantle’s victory over Swan Districts. It saw the Sharks sneak into third spot on the table, leapfrog the Swans and end Claremont’s season all in one. Prior to the last few rounds of the season, the Sharks had only won the Round 1 match over newcomers, South Fremantle, and had not managed to find the grove since, losing to each of the other sides along the way. With the return of some key players, the reigning premiers are ready to go deep again, and standing in their way is a young Peel Thunder side that has been mighty impressive this season in what has clearly been a standout 2020 for them.

Kira Phillips again won the goalkicking for the Thunder, being a dominant force with 13 goals in eight games and a major target up there. Kate Bartlett (seven goals) and Krystal Carter (five) have also been prominent. For the Sharks, they have three players on five snags, with Sara Lewis, Katelyn Catalano and Stephanie Sparke all hitting the milestone despite six or less games this season. Now the teams will be relying on them to help kick a winning score, after Peel lost to Subiaco last week, and East Fremantle doubled up on its effort against Swan Districts.

The Peel defence up against the East Fremantle attack will be a battle to watch within the clash, as the likes of Tanisha Anderson and Shannon Whale lead the young Thunder outfit. For the Sharks, their experience up front such as Gabby O’Sullivan and Lewis is key, whilst in defence, the Sharks have Alex Williams and Ruby Schleicher who provide that AFL Women’s talent. They will need to find a way to stop Phillips who is a known goalkicker, as is another AFLW player in Kate Bartlett.

The Thunder have less experience, but make up for it in youthful exuberance. Sarah Verrier is one of Western Australia’s top prospects this year, and is one of 13 players named amongst the extended squad in last week’s match. Along with Verrier, Jade Briggs and Jaide Britton are both top-agers, while Courtney Rowley and Bella Mann are middle-agers showing some promising signs. The Thunder even have a couple of players in their 16th year, with Gracie Fenton and Ella Roberts – the latter of whom does not turn 16 until December. With all that youth, it makes it crucial for the likes of Cassie Davidson and Carter to stand up and settle the team down in big moments.

East Fremantle have no shortage of experience players, but still have some teenagers running around, such as 19-year-old Rosie Walsh who has been a target up forward since booting 11 goals in Round 1 for the Reserves. She earned an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitation, whilst over-agers Lily Bird, Kate Inglis-Hodge and Zoe Gillard are others who stand out week to week. A player to watch for next year from the Sharks is exciting forward, Chloe Reilly, who is the youngest player in the team, not turning 17 until next month. The Sharks luckily have plenty of experience in O’Sullivan, Kimberley Bowey, Sharon Wong, Madeline Ross and Larissa Versachi, whilst Julie-Ann Norrish has been superb in defence.

The game is hard to predict a winner, with the East Fremantle experience no doubt playing a factor, but the Thunder have so much young talent, they are always dangerous and after getting the first taste of finals out of the way last week, will be keen to post a win and earn a second crack at Subiaco in the grand final next week.

Final quarter frenzy sends Sharks into the prelim

A FINAL quarter frenzy by reigning premiers, East Fremantle has seen the Sharks bob up and defeat Swan Districts for the second consecutive week in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition. Last week’s win over the Swans was to secure home ground advantage – as well as a finals spot itself – while this week was putting the final nail in the black and whites coffin for the season. In what was an unpredictable contest – from the matchplay to the weather – East Fremantle got up just in the knick of time despite being held scoreless for two quarters.

The Sharks kicked the first two goals of the game thanks to a strong breeze favouring their end at New Choice Homes Park, with Samara Pluschke getting on the board via a snap just one minute into the contest. The Swans had chances of their own, with young guns Mikayla Morrison and Shanae Davison combining to give veteran, Fi Boucher a chance but could not quite control it, while Nyra Anderson kicked into the player on the mark from 20m out. The wind was making it difficult for the Swans, with even the football seemingly barracking for the Swans.

Ashley Sharp was running into an open 50, only for a Jack Crisp-like bounce to cause her to reassess, only to be caught by Pluschke at half-forward. Julie-Ann Norrish and Alex Williams were having sensational days down back, whilst Gabby O’Sullivan was doing Gabby O’Sullivan things, and setting up her teammates. A long bomb inside 50 only just missed the hands of Rosie Walsh, but O’Sullivan’s next touch was an intercept and handball to Lily Bird 30m out who made no mistake off a quick step from 30m. The Sharks led by 14 points, and it was only a Jess Cox chance – a snap towards goal – that was knocked through for a behind to make the deficit 13 points at the first break.

The second term was more of an arm-wrestle for both sides, as Mother Nature had a laugh at the players expense. The strange term began with Larissa Versaci winning a free for being polaxed – by her own teammate – much to the shock of Anderson who the umpire blamed for the contact. Light rain began falling a few minutes into the contest, and that became heavy rain seven and a half minutes through, before Mother Nature decided she wanted to go the full distance and just outright bucketed down in what was more of a good day for ducks rather than Swans or Sharks, but both sides adapted to the new conditions.

It was unlucky for the Swans who could not take full advantage of the wind like the Sharks had in the first term, but after a few chances from Anderson and Tara Stribley, Swan Districts broke through. Morrison had a set shot that looked like it was a dry day, putting through a vital major, the first of the contest for the visitors to draw within five points at half-time. The work of Mikayla Hyde and Hayley Cole had been impressive, as the Swans just kept within touch at the main break.

The rain lightened up after that, with the third term more wet conditions than consistent rain, and it was Swan Districts that emerged beneficiaries despite kicking into the wind. They booted three goals to zero, holding the Sharks goalless for a second straight quarter. Off the back of some great work by Anderson, Sharp was able to get ball to boot early despite slipping over, handing her side the lead. Not long after a multitude of 50s in an undisciplined effort by the Sharks, handed dour full-back Lauren Osborne with the most unlikely of set shots from the goalsquare. The defender delivered for the Swans, extending her side’s lead out to seven points at the 10-minute mark of the quarter.

A kicking in danger call against Ruby Schleicher gave Mikayla Hyde a set shot from 30m, with the talented top-age teenager making no mistake, judging the breeze perfectly. Along with Anderson, Davison and her sister Brianna Hyde, Mikayla was willing her side to victory. With the lead out to 14 points, East Fremantle needed a response, but unfortunately could not muster anything of note as Versaci had a good old fashioned worm burner in the Sharks’ only set shot of the term.

Having to match Swan Districts’ effort of three goals against the breeze in the last quarter, the Sharks got to work looking damaging from the get-go. Katelyn Catalano got them on the board for the first time since midway through the first term, albeit soccering through a behind. Swans had moved Boucher to defence in order to add some extra experience behind the ball, but she was caught holding Sara Lewis who made no mistake from 15m out and got the ball rolling for the home team. The Swans continued to attack, but the work of Norrish, Williams and Schleicher was keeping them at bay. Morrison missed an uncharacteristic flying shot at the goal six minutes into the term to make the margin eight points, which would end up being the Swans last score of the game.

East Fremantle dominated possession the next six minutes, but it would take a defensive effort from Versaci who laid a terrific tackle, to nail a set shot from 15 metres to draw within two points. In a surprise to no one, it was O’Sullivan who popped up with the game-winner. Receiving the handball out of a stoppage, O’Sullivan put ball to boot with a clever snap to create something out of nothing and hand her side the lead with five minutes to play. Chloe Reilly almost kicked a third goal in a few minutes with the outside of the boot, but it went through the wrong sticks.

The lead was still four points, and despite Mikayla Hyde and Davison pressing up the wing great defensive pressure from the Sharks kept the Swans from advancing any further. With a couple of repeat stoppages inside 50 – and an O’Sullivan set shot that chewed her 30 seconds off the clock – the reigning premiers were able to hold on in a game that was as unpredictable as the 2020 year, and move through to face Peel Thunder in the preliminary final next week.

EAST FREMANTLE 2.2 | 2.2 | 2.2 | 5.5 (35)
SWAN DISTRICTS 0.1 | 1.3 | 4.4 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS: 

East Fremantle: S. Pluschke, L. Bird, S. Lewis, L. Versaci, K. Catalano.
Swan Districts: M. Morrison, A. Sharp, L. Osborne, M. Hyde.

ADC BEST:

East Fremantle: G. O’Sullivan, S. Wong, M. Ross, J. Norrish, A. Williams
Swan Districts: M. Hyde, B. Hyde, S. Davison, J. Cox, A. Ralph

In an equally topsy-turvy game, minor premiers Subiaco were able to hold on in a low-scoring win over Peel Thunder to book a spot in the WAFL Women’s Grand Final. The Lions booted the only two goals of the first term to lead by 13 points, before the Thunder kicked three of the next four majors to hit the front at half-time. Trailing by two points at the main break, Subiaco edged ahead courtesy of a 1.2 to 0.0 third term, and in wet conditions held on in a no-score final term. The end result was a 4.4 (28) to 3.4 (22) victory in favour of the Lions who now have a week off to await the winner of Peel Thunder and East Fremantle in the preliminary final next weekend.

Kia Buckley (two goals), Aimee Schmidt (one) and Abbey Dowrick (one) all hit the scoreboard for the Lions, while Kate Bartlett (two) and Chloe Wrigley (one) were the major goalkickers for the Thunder in defeat. Subiaco’s best were Jessica Ritchie, Tiah Haynes and Ange Stannett, while the experience of Hayley Miller was crucial. For the Thunder, Wrigley, Courtney Rowley and Tanisha Anderson were all named amongst the best and will be important in their clash next week.

Picture: (via) East Fremantle Women’s Facebook

Verrier set for a Thunderous September

FOOTBALL has always been a constant for Peel Thunder youngster Sarah Verrier. Unlike many other potential AFLW draftees who were introduced to footy later in life, Verrier has been involved in the sport for as long as she can remember.

“I’ve been playing football since I was in Auskick,” Verrier said. “I was about five years old and have been through it all with my family, so that’s how it started off and I just kept going.”

Sporting ability runs deep in Verrier’s DNA, as her three older siblings have all made their own mark in different fields.

“My eldest brother Steven got drafted to Richmond back in 2012 and played there for a bit as a rookie,” she said. “My sister Haylee is pretty good with boxing and went to the World Championships for that, and my other brother Brendan played football locally for South Freo but was forced to stop due to concussion symptoms – he is now a personal trainer and loves doing that.”

Steven was taken by Richmond at pick 43 of the 2012 Rookie Draft and was at the club until the end of 2013. Going through the AFL experience has made him a great person for Verrier to turn to for advice.

“[Steven] has taught me to love the game,” she said. “If you want to get somewhere, you have to work for it, it’s not just going to come to you.” “He says the AFL experience is hard work, and you just have to do the work.”

Verrier’s parents have also been incredibly supportive of her AFLW dream.

“My dad has been training me and helping develop my footy, and my mum has been taking me to trainings and letting me do what I love doing,” Verrier said. “They have both been a massive support for my career and I appreciate them a lot.”

Verrier initially played the sport to engage with friends, but eventually her enjoyment of the game took over.

“At the start, the friends and social side of footy was what appealed to me, but now I just love the sport and the people around me love the sport as well,” she said.

Like a lot of other girls, Verrier was forced to play mixed competition at a young age to develop her craft. She played for the Kwinana Knights, who did not have a girls team at the time.

“I started with the boys, but had to stop when I was about 11 or 12,” she said. “I went in the girls competition from there with a move to Peel [Thunder]. “Luckily Peel had a girls team at the time!”

Verrier has stayed loyal to Peel through her whole junior career and appreciates what the club has done for her.

“Peel have helped me a lot with how I play my footy and, especially being there since I was 12, I have stuck around and a couple of the girls that I started with are still around as well,” she said. “Everyone still loves it.”

Verrier is a member of the 2020 National Women’s Academy and has previously represented her state at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, an experience that she treasured.

“It was amazing,” she said. “Not a lot of people get to compete on an AFL-sized ground like Metricon, especially girls, so having that experience was great.”

With kicking ability and footy smarts being Verrier’s two biggest on-field strengths, there is an obvious position that she is suited to.

“I’d say half-back is my best position, it’s where I’m playing at the moment,” she said.

Being a Fremantle supporter for AFLW, Kiara Bowers is a major inspiration for Verrier given the physical and mental challenges she went through en route to becoming the elite player that she is today.

“She’s been through a couple of knee reconstructions and was unable to play for a while,” Verrier said. “Her pushing to get that first AFLW game thanks to her commitment through those years is why I’d say she’s my biggest inspiration.”

When asked what the future holds for Verrier and her footy, there was only one possible answer.

“AFLW is where I want to get to,” she said. “I’ve been dreaming since I was five years old and hopefully soon I’ll get there.”

At this stage, Fremantle and West Coast appear to be her options.

“I’m happy to stay in Perth and stick fat with my family, maybe later on I can start thinking about moving and that kind of stuff, but for now I would be happy to stay here,” she said.

For the next month, Verrier’s AFLW dream is on the backburner as she is focused on trying to win a premiership at Peel. Her side went into the final round fifth on the ladder, but a tight nine-point win over Claremont propelled them to second spot. This will be their first finals series in the WAFL women’s competition.

“In the last year we’ve come from the bottom of the ladder and now we’ve finished second, so we’ve been happy with the improvement and it’s been fun, just playing footy and being able to win some games,” she said. “All the girls are loving it and hopefully we can keep it going and get to the grand final.”

Peel faces minor premiers Subiaco for a chance to play in the decider. The Lions got the better of Peel three weeks ago by just over a goal, but Verrier has faith that her side can get the job done.

“We only just lost to them, so we are pretty confident going into this week’s game on Sunday afternoon.”

Verrier was among those named to test in the AFL Draft Combine, which will be held on September 30 in Western Australia.

For more AFLW news, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.