Tag: preview

2021 NAB League team preview: Murray Bushrangers

MURRAY Bushrangers are primed for their first NAB League outing since August 2019, when they take on the Bendigo Pioneers for an all-country Easter Sunday clash in Shepparton. Regional talent operations lead, Mick Wilson says the Bushies have worked hard in the face of a raft of competition changes and the condensed offseason, with plenty of prospects developing well ahead of season proper.

“We’ve had obviously a different preseason but we really think that the players have adapted really well,” Wilson said. “We ideally by now would have had a lot more touch points with the players, but that’s absolutely understandable given the new Covid world. We’re really excited about the fact that we’re going into a game of footy.

“The last time we saw a lot of these kids was over a year ago and it’s amazing how much development there is from 16 to 17, from 17 to 18, and for some of the players from 18 to 19. It’s been really pleasing, we’ve seen some players come up and exceed our expectations with regards to where we thought they were at.”

The lifting of the competition’s top age has seen differing reactions from each region with regards to the age profile of their squads. 19-year-old talents will be prioritised for the first three rounds, with opportunities to present for 18th-year and even under-age prospects to feature thereafter.

Wilson says the Bushrangers have essentially brought back their whole 2020 list in a “reward for effort” having kept with the program throughout a lost season. The move will see around 50 per cent of the initial list split between 18 and 19-year-old players, before Under 17s enter the fray competition-wide.

“Effectively what we did was we brought all of the players who made our final (2020) squad back in for the preseason and we didn’t actually bring any new players in,” he said. “The split is around 50-50 between 18 and 19-year-olds but the program is going to be dramatically different with regards to how we give the players exposure. In the first three games we’ll focus on the top-age players, and after Round 3 we’ll start to transition more of our Under 18 and 17 players into key roles as part of their development.”

Murray boasts one AFL Academy talent in its squad, Caulfield Grammar boarder Josh Rachele. Wilson sees him as a “readymade AFL player” in the mould of GWS star Toby Greene, with his explosive attributes and high footy IQ among the traits which have him currently poised as a top 10 prospect.

“Josh is an extremely explosive player,” Wilson said. “He’s been involved in elite junior soccer academies before, but his football skillset is extremely high. We see him as being a really strong half-forward player that can transition through the midfield and we’re pretty excited to see Josh play as much NAB League footy as he can outside of his commitment to Caulfield Grammar.”

Wilson highlighted a number of other players who have impressed throughout preseason, with a bunch of players having made good of their time away to get fitter and come back in peak condition. A pair of AFL train-on players, who were unlucky not to be drafted, are also in the squad, but will likely feature heavily in the VFL.

Charlie’s Byrne‘s going to be heavily involved with the Essendon VFL program and Zavier Maher is heavily involved in the Carlton VFL program, so we don’t expect to see too much of those boys,” Wilson said. “Unfortunately ‘Zav’ is going to miss the first couple of games because he’s just had some knee surgery to fix a minor meniscal problem. But we’ll hopefully see a couple of games, hopefully Round 4 or 5 from him. Both those players have lots of draftable traits and they can keep improving on the areas they need to.

Tom Brown has been outstanding. When he played in the Vic Country Under 16s, one of the areas he probably needed to work on was his endurance. He came back into the program this year and has developed amazingly in that area. He had a 21-plus yo-yo at the preseason testing combine, he’s much stronger and has developed physically. He’s really impressed everyone with regards to his application to training, he’s going to probably play half-back to start with but can play half-forward or wing. He’s 186cm so he’s grown, he just looks like a real athlete.

“One player that really stands out for us that has developed over Covid is Fletcher Hart. Fletcher’s about 199cm tall, a key forward who kicks the ball really nicely and has a lot of similar traits to Joe Daniher with regards to the way he moves around the ground and has a long, rangy left-foot kick. He’s very competitive in the air and good below his knees… so he’s definitely on the watch list.

Jhett Cooper from Shepparton made our squad last year but he needed a lot of work to do on his endurance and his repeat speed efforts. He’s had a massive Covid period with his training, his work rate has been outstanding and he’s come back as one of our best performers in the yo-yo at the preseason testing combine.”

Brown is one of many names among the squad with ties to an AFL club, as the son of former Geelong player, Paul. He will not be eligible as a father-son for the Cats, but Noah Bradshaw (son of Daniel) will be for Brisbane. He is not quite as tall as his goalkicking father, but has a terrific athletic profile and is a powerful inside midfielder with good physicality.

Jake Cresswell (son of Daryn) is another who will filter through the program, along with Toby Murray (brother of Sam and Nick), Jett Smith (brother of Eli) and Charlie Crisp (cousin of Jack). Richmond fans will have a Next Generation Academy (NGA) talent to get excited about too, with athletic half-back Achaung Agog rising the ranks.

Despite not having completed any formal practice matches during preseason, there is a lot of promise surrounding Murray’s group, which Wilson expects to be “competitive” against Bendigo in Round 1. He sought to thank the parents of players for their continued support across a challenging year, which will shortly be put behind these budding prospects as they make their long-awaited return to the field.

Image Credit: Quinn Rooney/AFL Photos

2021 VFL Women’s Round 2 preview: Pies, Saints battle to keep perfect records

THE 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season rolls on into Round 2 this weekend, with six fixtures spread evenly across Saturday and Sunday. Southern Saints and Collingwood clash in the only meeting between two week one winners, while the likes of Casey Demons and Port Melbourne will look to build on the strong starts which have them poised atop the ladder. We take you through all the key players and factors across each game in our weekend preview.

Collingwood vs. Southern Saints
Saturday March 6, 12:00pm
Victoria Park

Collingwood and Southern Saints will make up the sole clash between two Round 1 winners when they lock horns at Victoria Park on Saturday. The Magpies held on to win by two points last week, while the Saints also held strong to beat Essendon and start 2021 on just the right note.

After a four-goal performance, Collingwood forward Imogen Barnett will look to back up her early form alongside the likes of Matilda Zander and senior-listed ruck Bella Smith. Eastern Ranges midfielder Olivia Meagher looms as a promising inclusion for the Magpies, named at the heart of the side after making three NAB League appearances this season.

The Saints will have at least three changes with St Kilda-listed guns Jess Matin, Poppy Kelly, and Rebecca Ott all in line for senior call-ups after promising VFLW displays. Canadian small forward Valerie Moreau is one to watch in the red, white and black having booted two majors on debut last week, but the going will be tough with some key outs against a dangerous Collingwood side.

Geelong vs. Williamstown
Saturday March 6, 12:00pm
Deakin University, Waurn Ponds

Williamstown will hope to continue its winning form as it travels to take on Geelong at Deakin University on Saturday afternoon. The Seagulls, who won by two points last week, meet a side in Geelong which lost by the same margin in Round 1 despite a strong finish and the formidable young talent afield.

As an AFLW-aligned team, the Cats will see some key changes to their opening round lineup – starting with the absence of Olivia Barber, Rene Caris, Laura Gardiner, and Darcy Moloney. Senior-listed forwards Stephanie Williams and Maddie Boyd provide some relief, while Geelong Falcons product Renee Tierney also enters the fray as another exciting option.

Williamstown also has some promising young talent to call upon, with its own Falcons coup in Zoe Garth named in defence. Tahlia Merrett is another handy inclusion and promises to provide a touch more firepower up forward, while Danika Di Santo may also get a look in from an extended interchange bench. Despite their current records, Geelong looks the team to beat in this clash.

Casey Demons vs. Essendon
Saturday March 6, 1:00pm
Casey Fields

Casey returns home for its Round 2 clash with Essendon on Saturday afternoon, looking to keep its perfect record in tact. The Demons were comprehensive after half time in their win over Carlton last week, while the Bombers showed some good fight and maturity in their opening round loss to Southern Saints.

Five-goal hero Brenna Tarrant is a key out for Casey after helping kick her side into gear, but the Demons will inject Niamh McEvoy into their forwardline this week. Maggie Caris and Megan Fitzsimon are other senior-listed players to watch through the spine of the side, while Samantha Johnson will again lead from midfield.

The Bombers look to be combining well after experiencing a touch more continuity than other teams, with the likes of Courtney Ugle and Cecilia McIntosh senior players who made a difference last week. They will go around once again, with Mia-Rae Clifford one to watch after a goalless outing and Grace Dicker a promising youngster also entering the fray. The test of another aligned team will be good for the Bombers, who can hopefully compete strongly.

North Melbourne vs. Western Bulldogs
Sunday March 7, 9:30am
Arden Street Oval

Sunday’s first fixture sees North Melbourne host a second-straight home game, as the Western Bulldogs come to town in a morning meeting. The Kangaroos were outdone by new team, Port Melbourne in Round 1, but the Bulldogs fared much better with an impressive win over Hawthorn.

Former Richmond-listed youngster Ciara Fitzgerald will make her first appearance for North, who have also called upon Jayde Hamilton and will make at least two changes. Tasmanian Sarah Skinner is one to keep an eye on after her opening round performance, providing terrific drive on the outer.

A trio of senior-listed Bulldogs make way this week through injury and otherwise, but Britney Gutknecht remains after her best afield showing. Louise Bibby and Megan Chadwick are a couple of handy inclusions in the red, white and blue, with at least three changes to be made. The Dogs have some quality running about, but should face a hungry North side looking to bounce back quickly.

Darebin vs. Hawthorn
Sunday March 7, 11:30am
La Trobe University, Bundoora

Two standalone sides are set to do battle in the first game of a La Trobe University double-header, with Darebin taking on Hawthorn at its Bundoora home. Both sides suffered losses in Round 1 but showed promise, with the Falcons falling just short of Williamstown in a low-scoring slog, while Hawthorn fell to a strong Western Bulldogs outfit.

Darebin’s lineup will remain fairly steady following its opening effort in 2021, with just one change expected. Rachel Harris comes into the lineup via the interchange bench, hopefully making a difference for the women’s footballing pioneers. Finishing will be a key area of focus for the Falcons, so watch for Hayley Munro to impact should she be able to capitalise on her chances.

Hawthorn will be forced into a raft of changes this week, with none bigger than skipper Jess Trend missing through injury. The experienced Abbey Holmes is also out along with Dominique Carbone. The likes of Chloe Bain and Olivia Flanagan should provide some respite along with Maddi Shaw, while Eastern Ranges prospects Isabelle Khoury, Tilly Hardy and Jess Grace are promising inclusions. Should they settle amid said changes, the Hawks should prove tough to beat.

Carlton vs. Port Melbourne
Sunday March 7, 2:30pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora

The round’s final game sees Carlton take on Port Melbourne at La Trobe University on Sunday afternoon, with the Blues out to claim their first points in 2021. Their opening round loss to Casey was a far cry from Port’s momentous maiden win over North Melbourne, which makes this contest a tough one to call.

The Blues will make a couple of changes, building on their initial lineup. Experienced senior player Jess Edwards should serve the defence well alongside leaders Jen Lew and Ally Bild, while Paige Trudgeon looks to impact once again after her two-goal outing and Winnie Laing promises to provide plenty of outside run.

The Borough will lose their Round 1 spearhead in Christina Bernardi as she looks to crack the Richmond side, but former Carlton utility Bride Kennedy is a promising inclusion. Melissa Kuys will again be Port’s key player at the heart of the lineup, helping lead some promising young talent listed at AFLW and VFLW level.

Image Credit: Collingwood FC Media

Weekend preview: 2020/21 NTFL Men’s Premier League – Semi Finals

THE 2020/21 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Men’s Premier League finals series rolls on this weekend, with two exciting semi final match-ups set to take place at TIO Stadium on Saturday evening. St Mary’s will look to avoid a straight sets exit when it takes on Waratah, while Nightcliff enters the postseason against Wanderers as they play off for grand final qualification. We take you through the key numbers and players in both games ahead of what should be a cracking day of NT football.

SEMI FINAL 1

St Mary’s vs. Waratah
Saturday March 6, 4:15pm
TIO Stadium

St Mary’s will look to avoid a straight sets finals exit when it takes on Waratah in Saturday’s first semi final, which serves as a knockout bout. The Saints ranked second during the home-and-away rounds and began to hit hot form in the second half of the season, but were stunned by a surging Wanderers side last week. Waratah showed its potential with a terrific win over Darwin in their elimination final meeting, but will have to produce plenty of class to overcome the green machine. The Saints have taken out all three meetings between these sides in 2020/21, progressively lifting the margin with each game to hold an aggregate lead of 85 points. That will matter little if they fail to properly reload and rebound, with Tahs as good as any side on paper. Expect a physical contest in midfield and some tall timber to impact up forward.

H&A Records:
St Mary’s:
14-4 (2nd)
Waratah:
10-8 (4th)

Last week:
St Mary’s: lost to Wanderers by 20 
Waratah: 
beat Darwin by 26

Last 5:
St Mary’s: 4-1 
Waratah: 
2-3

2020/21 meetings:
Round 7 – St Mary’s by 13
Round 11 – St Mary’s by 24
Round 16 – St Mary’s by 48

Most games:
St Mary’s: Jacob Long (19)
Waratah:
Brodie Carroll, Nicholas Gooch (19)

Most goals:
St Mary’s:
Jack Landt, Jackson Calder (30)
Waratah:
Cameron Arnold (20)

SEMI FINAL 1

Nightcliff vs. Wanderers
Saturday March 6, 6:45pm
TIO Stadium

Minor premier, Nightcliff continues its premiership defence by entering this year’s finals series against Wanderers on Saturday night. The Tigers have once again proven the competition’s benchmark this season and after a week off, remain the team to beat. Last week’s bye could work one of two ways; either giving Nightcliff an edge in terms of freshness, or seeing the Tigers beaten to the punch early. Wanderers’ form in its qualifying final win came as a surprise to some, with the Muk Muks’ drive in transition and potent forwardline difficult to stop. Nightcliff beat Wanderers in their Round 3 meeting, but a thrilling draw seven rounds later is perhaps more a sighter of how things may pan out here. The Eagles will be without defender Braedon McLean through suspension, which could prove costly in their quest to knock off Nightcliff.

H&A Records:
Nightcliff:
15-2-1
Wanderers: 
12-5-1

Last week:
Nightcliff: Bye
Wanderers: 
beat St Mary’s by 20

Last 5:
Nightcliff: 5-0
Wanderers:
3-2

2020/21 meetings:
Round 3 – Nightcliff by 10
Round 10 – draw

Most games:
Nightcliff: Dom Brew, Kyle Emery, Shaun Wilson (18)
Wanderers: Brodie Newman, Dane McFarlane (19)

Most goals:
Nightcliff:
Kyle Emery (56)
Wanderers:
Brett Eddy (69)

Image Credit: Celina Whan/AFLNT Media

Weekend preview: 2020/21 NTFL Women’s Premier League – Semi Finals

THE 2020/21 Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Women’s Premier League finals series rolls on this weekend, with two exciting semi final match-ups set to take place at TIO Stadium on Saturday afternoon. St Mary’s will look to avoid a straight sets exit when it takes on Nightcliff, while Pint enters the postseason against Darwin as they play off for grand final qualification. We take you through the key numbers and players in both games ahead of what should be a cracking day of NT football.

SEMI FINAL 1

St Mary’s vs. Nightcliff
Saturday March 6, 12:15pm
TIO Stadium

St Mary’s will look to avoid exiting finals in straight sets when it takes on Nightcliff in Saturday afternoon’s first semi final. The Saints have been forced to lean on their double chance after going down to Darwin by 73 points last week, with every game now do-or-die for the green machine. Nightcliff comes in having knocked off reigning premier Southern Districts in an elimination scrap, making for ideal preparation coming into another knockout bout. The Saints have beaten the Tigers twice in 2020/21 and ranked two spots above them after the home-and-away rounds, but come in with three losses across their last four games. Winning form is highly important, though St Mary’s will hope it does not count for everything this weekend, with plenty of class still to show.

H&A Records:
St Mary’s:
11-5 (3rd)
Nightcliff:
8-7-1 (5th)

Last week:
St Mary’s: lost to Darwin by 73
Nightcliff:
beat Southern Districts by 22

Last 5:
St Mary’s: 2-3
Nightcliff:
3-2

2020/21 meetings:
Round 4 –
St Mary’s by 44
Round 14 –
St Mary’s by 9

Most games:
St Mary’s: Michaela Long, Shailyn Doreen Peris (17)
Nightcliff:
Andi Moliere, Emily Casey, Georgia Kennedy, Hannah Turnbull (17)

Most goals:
St Mary’s:
Michaela Long (21)
Nightcliff:
Jacqueline Anyon-Smith (19)

Most times in best:
St Mary’s: Jasmine Anderson (10)
Nightcliff:
Eliza Morrison (9)

SEMI FINAL 2

Pint vs. Darwin Buffettes
Saturday March 6, 2:15pm
TIO Stadium

Minor premier Pint enters the postseason this weekend, poised to take on the second-ranked Darwin Buffettes on Saturday afternoon. The Queenants have been perfect thus far, capping off an unblemished regular season and easily earning the week off in the first round of finals. Darwin did not need to use its double chance in week one, instead thumping St Mary’s by 73 points to set up this mouthwatering contest. Two of the Buffettes’ losses this season have come to Pint, though they have gotten mighty close with a combined losing margin of just 11 points in those fixtures. Last week’s win came after consecutive losses, so the Double Blues will hope to get some consistency going at the ideal time. Pint has been the competition benchmark but after a week off, will need to get to spark to life quickly and should run out the stronger side through four quarters.

H&A Records:
Pint:
16-0 (1st)
Darwin:
12-4 (2nd)

Last week:
Pint: Bye
Darwin:
beat St Mary’s by 73

Last 5:
Pint: 5-0
Darwin:
3-2

2020/21 meetings:
Round 8 –
Pint by 2
Round 17 –
Pint by 9

Most games:
Pint: Amy Chittick, Cassie Henderson, Ellen-Kristine Markussen, Maddison Gissing (16)
Darwin:
Jemma Iacono, Katelyn Hazlett (17)

Most goals:
Pint:
Jasmyn Hewett (21)
Darwin:
Zoe Anderson (16)

Most times in best:
Pint: Amy Chittick (8)
Darwin:
Jemma Iacono (6)

Image Credit: Felicity Elliott/AFLNT Media

2021 VFLW season preview: Hawthorn

FOR the first time since 2018, Bec Goddard is set to take the senior coaching reigns during competitive action, when she leads Hawthorn’s VFLW side into battle for Round 1 of the new season. Heading a historic all-female coaching staff, Goddard says she is “excited” to be part of the Hawks’ initiative to provide greater opportunities for women in football – not just on the field.

“For me, and when I talk to the players about it, it was always about the best coach for the job and they happen to be women,” Goddard said. “I’ve got some great teachers on coaching staff that support me, have got a lot of similar values and they just hadn’t had an opportunity at the next level. This is their opportunity.

“It’s one of those things where in five years time when Hawthorn is in the AFLW competition, we could look back and go ‘well, what do we do to get more women in these positions at the club?’ and start from that point, or we could start now. It’s brave and overt leadership by the club to say that we want to change the industry and give opportunities to women, not just in playing but all elements of the football department.”

Goddard will have familiar faces at her disposal in 2021, leaning on some legendary names in the women’s footballing sphere while also attempting to get the most out of some promising young talent. 39-year-old utility Meg Hutchins is among the experienced members of Hawthorn’s revamped squad, described by Goddard as akin to “the timeless piece of furniture in an expensive house.”

“She’s got so much football experience and will bookend our team this year,” Goddard said. “Meg and I often talk about how the end of football is going to wrap up for both of us and I keep saying to Meg ‘well, you’re a long time retired so while you can keep playing, why don’t you?’.

“That’s where she’s at so it’s great to have her playing, and she’s fully fit. In fact, I look at Meg and I think she’s the fittest I’ve ever seen her across her years of women’s football. It’s exciting, hopefully she has a great season and you might see her in some different positions.”

With such vast experience in the women’s coaching ranks comes a handy list of contacts, which has played a part in Hawthorn’s recruitment of players like Abbey Holmes and new skipper Jess Trend. Both have been AFLW-listed players and the latter is a “surprise package” of sorts according to Goddard, hardly missing a beat since deciding to join the brown and gold. She was one of the many signings identified as key members of the side by her new head coach.

“‘I had a couple of texts with (Trend) and then she came down to training and she hasn’t missed a session,” Goddard said. “I think coming out of a global pandemic, we’re looking for a carrier of a good disease and Jess Trend is just that. She’s infectious with her attitude, her happiness to be around football and bringing good elite habits to the group.

“In the middle of the field we’ve brought in some experience in Abbey Holmes. Abbey and I obviously worked together at Adelaide for the inaugural premiership year. She’s got a wealth of football IQ that she brings and shares with the younger players in the group, as well as some great physical attributes for football. She’s tough at the contest, so it’s exciting to see Abbey contribute at Hawthorn.

Olivia Flanagan will play an important role this year. She’s coming back from a little bit of sickness in the last couple of weeks so she’s named as an emergency this week, but I expect ‘Liv’ to play a lot of football. She’ll make an impact up forward and on the ball this year to make her a bit more diverse in what she does.

“We’ve got young Territorian Dominique Carbone coming in from Darwin this weekend to play her first season in the VFLW, she’s a really exciting young talent with a basketball background. She plays low to the ground, looks like an athlete, is an athlete, behaves like an athlete, and she’s ready to take her football to the next level.”

Goddard is also excited to have full access to the next generation of prospects swarming through the elite talent pathways. Through a competition restructure, the NAB League Girls season now runs concurrently with that of the VFLW, allowing Under 18 and 19 players to also ply their trade in the state league system.

Their impressive skill and scope for improvement has impressed many a VFLW coach, no less Goddard who suggested tongue-in-cheek that she is “really looking forward to the (NAB League) byes” in order to gain access to said talent as much as possible.

“They’re such great footballers,” Goddard said. “Their skills are so impressive and they’re just growing in terms of their football IQ each week, understanding how we want to play football. It’s just great to have them there and contributing to a really high standard of training.

Speaking of training, the Hawks returned in “better than expected” shape after a year on the sidelines, though plenty of craft sessions and a heavy incorporation of match simulation into training has lifted their touch back up to scratch. A single scratch match, against Geelong provided even more insight into how the brown and gold are shaping up ahead of Round 1, with 29 players trialled and a bunch of magnets locked in on Goddard’s whiteboard.

Players returning from injury will also have a say on the side’s shape during the season, with a few players who earned high praise from Goddard expected to make a splash once fully fit. The new 12-day concussion mandate has also been a factor in availabilities across the competition.

“We’ve got a couple of players to come back still,” Goddard said. “We’ve got Tayah Kelly who obviously is a fairly damaging midfielder, she’s still out with a bit of an issue with her hip, so I think we’re at least three weeks away with her.

Chloe Bain, who I think is probably going to be one of the most exciting centre half-forwards in the competition – new to the game and she’s an extraordinary athlete with a rowing background, very long levers – is out this week with concussion. But when she’s fully fit and firing she will take the competition by storm, I’ve got no doubt.

Hawthorn’s first point of call in 2021 will be a clash against the Western Bulldogs at Whitten Oval on Sunday morning. Goddard says she is taking a “simple” approach when it comes to expectations, but is excited to be able to get back into action.

“I think we’re going to keep it really simple and we want to enjoy our first game together as a group, that’ll be the most important thing,” she said. “Also just being in the contest and making a real fist of Round 1 and getting to feel what it’s like to be with the team to achieve a common goal.”

Image Credit: Hawthorn Media

Weekend preview: 2020/21 NTFL Women’s Premier League – Finals Week 1

FINALS time is finally upon us after 18 home-away-rounds in the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Women’s Premier League, with two exciting fixtures set to take place at TIO Stadium on Saturday. A high-stakes elimination final bout sees Southern Districts take on Nightcliff, while Darwin and St Mary’s lock horns in the weekend’s qualifying final. We take you through the key numbers and players in both games ahead of what should be a cracking day of NT football.

ELIMINATION FINAL

Southern Districts vs. Nightcliff
Saturday February 27, 12:15pm
TIO Stadium

Southern Districts and Nightcliff go to battle in a knockout clash on Saturday afternoon, looking to make the most of their finals qualifications. The Crocs have the upper hand in terms of recent form and ladder position, but Nightcliff is in the ascendancy in a head-to-head sense. After the two sides could not be separated in Round 8, the Tigers created a greater wealth of scoring opportunities to trump their weekend opponents by 12 points just a fortnight ago. The result may see a slight mental edge favour Nightcliff, though the Crocs will be hungry to advance after a strong season which saw them finish percentage away from a double chance. Expect Districts’ team spread and forward firepower to be too much for Nightcliff, who will be far from a pushover.

Records:
Districts: 10-4-2 (4th)
Nightcliff: 8-7-1 (5th)

Last 5:
Districts: 4-1
Nightcliff: 2-3

2020/21 meetings:
Round 8 – drew 11.4 (70)
Round 17 – Nightcliff 5.13 (43) def. Districts 5.1 (31)

Most games:
Districts: Lateesha Jeffrey (16)
Nightcliff: Andi Moliere, Emily Casey, Georgia Kennedy, Hannah Turnbull (16)

Most goals:
Districts: Grace Mulvahil (30)
Nightcliff: Jacqueline Anyon-Smith (17)

Most times in best:
Districts: Bella Clarke, Malory Nankervis, Rhiannon Busch (6)
Nightcliff: Eliza Morrison (9)

QUALIFYING FINAL

Darwin Buffettes vs. St Mary’s
Saturday February 27, 2:15pm
TIO Stadium

Darwin and St Mary’s may have double chances in the bank, but will be keen to take a streamline path to this year’s decider when they meet on Saturday afternoon. The winner of this qualifying final will go on to face the undefeated Pint next week, while the loser is set to take on the elimination final victor. Darwin snared second spot despite going down last week, with St Mary’s also set to back up off a loss to Pint. Both sides have 3-2 records over their last five outings, and the ledger is even between them in terms of head-to-head form. It has been a while since they met, with St Mary’s making the better of its opportunities in Round 3, but Darwin hitting back in Round 10. The team which can take the early ascendancy and put some shaky form behind them should come away on top, but expect fireworks between the two best teams outside of Pint.

Records:
Darwin: 12-4 (2nd)
St Mary’s:
11-5 (3rd)

Last 5:
Darwin: 3-2
St Mary’s:
3-2

2020/21 meetings:
Round 3 – St Mary’s 5.3 (33) def. Darwin 3.5 (23)
Round 10 – Darwin 4.7 (31) def. St Mary’s 2.1 (13)

Most games:
Darwin:
Jemma Iacono, Katelyn Hazlett (16)
St Mary’s: Michaela Long, Shailyn Doreen Peris (16)

Most goals:
Darwin: Zoe Anderson (16)
St Mary’s:
Michaela Long (18)

Most times in best:
Darwin:
Jemma Iacono (6)
St Mary’s:
Jasmine Anderson (10)

Image Credit: Aaron Black/AFLNT Media

2021 VFLW season preview: Essendon

ESSENDON’S Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side is now bearing the fruits of extended work over a tough 2020, according to VFLW operations manager, Charlotte Miller. The tight-knit team is set to maintain much of its core despite last year’s lost season, with plenty of hard work during the most recent off-season seeing the Bombers gel together nicely heading into Round 1.

Miller says the Bombers have built “a feeling of continuity” with so many players recommitting, while some fresh faces and exciting young talent prepare to add another dimension to the building standalone squad.

“It’s a pretty similar squad to 2020 with just a few new faces added in and not too many losses, so there’s a feeling of continuity from then,” Miller said. “We had Ruby Svarc picked up in the AFLW so we’ve lost her, but a lot of the players who were intending to play for us in 2020 are still here and we’ve picked up a few new players.

“It’s starting to feel like we’ve had a squad that maybe was a bit inexperienced in 2019 but even without a lot of games in between now and then, they’ve had that time and training together to connect really well as a team, there’s a really good energy amongst the group. “I think that’s really going to pay off for us.”

Essendon’s 2019 best and fairest Georgia Nanscawen was announced as captain earlier this month and will head a five-player leadership group ahead of former skipper, Courtney Ugle. Along with the handful of players officially at the helm, Miller outlined an extended core of leaders which will work to drive the Bombers forward in 2021.

“(Nanscawen) joined us in 2019 as she was delisted from the North Melbourne AFLW team, but was previously a Hockeyroo with 200-plus games for Australia,” she said. “She’s a quiet leader but she’s super professional. “She’s been playing professional sport since she was 16 and she knows how to manage herself on the ground, she knows how to prepare, she knows how to speak to people and how to get through games without letting things get to her.

“So she’s a really cool head out there which I think is going to be a great thing for the team. (Ugle) has been voted in as vice-captain. “They’ve very different people, very different players, very different ages, and (from) very different backgrounds, but they’re a really nice combination.

“In the rest of the leadership group, there’s Mia-Rae Clifford who’s been around in AFLW teams for a long time; she’s played at Freo, Geelong, and Melbourne in her time. “She’s come back into the VFLW with us this year and is a huge voice out on the field, she really gets the girls going and keeps them moving.

“Then we’ve got Kendra Heil who’s our Canadian player who was our runner-up best and fairest in 2019 as well, and Eloise Ashley-Cooper who’s an up-and-coming leader. “She was our young player of 2019, she came through the Murray Bushrangers NAB League program.

“‘C-Bomb’ Cecilia McIntosh is still around as well as Simone Nalder our ruck, who was in our leadership group in 2019. “She didn’t run for leadership this year because she has a few other things going on, but she’s always an outstanding leader whether she’s in that group or not.”

Along with the established stars of the squad comes a new batch of talent ready to take the competition by storm. With ties to a particularly strong talent region in the Calder Cannons, Essendon will have access to some of the finest young talent in the country through different points of the season.

While under 18 prospects are yet to enter the Bombers’ program as the NAB League season continues, top-age 19-year-olds have been training at The Hangar and will feature even more prominently throughout the VFLW competition. Among the most prominent words Miller used to assess such talent was “exciting”, and AFLW recruiters would arguably agree with that sentiment.

“We’ve signed quite a few from the 18th and 19th-year Calder group and a couple of Bendigo Pioneers players,” Miller said. “Georgie Prespakis from Calder Cannons, that’s a pretty exciting one there. “She’ll come through as the NAB League finishes up for the rest of the season and I imagine she’ll go pretty high in the AFLW Draft this year.

“Also from Calder, Emelia Yassir is a pretty exciting little player and Tahlia Gillard we’re quite excited about as well, so we’ll see a few of them start to flow through as we can across the season – we’ve had the top-age 19-year-old flow come through, not the 18s yet.

“We’ve got two girls from Bendigo who have been training with us quite a lot as well, Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning, they’re both 19th-year players with Bendigo. “They’re playing in the NAB League season but we’re going to try and get them in games down here as soon as we can. “They’ve been training really well, their attitude is great and they’re bringing everything they can to the sessions.”

While the Bombers have come away from preseason with a relatively clean slate on the injury front, Miller says a couple of promising returnees could also make an impact shortly into the early rounds.

“We haven’t really had any significant injuries during our preseason,” she said. “We’ve had a few concussions and niggles here and there for different players, but overall everyone is pretty fit and ready to go.

“We’ve potentially got Gloria Elarmaly coming through, she played at Calder a couple of years ago and I think pretty much in her last game she (suffered) a really severe foot injury – it was a Lisfranc (foot injury) but she also dislocated all her toes. “She was told she’d never run again, never play football again but it looks like we’ll have her back out there by about Round 4, we’re pretty keen to see her out there.

Nicole Julian as well just started with us, she was at North Melbourne previously but comes from more of a kickboxing background. She came over and in one of her very first training sessions with us she did a knee injury, so she’s kind of been in rehab since the start of November but we’ve been working through that with her and we’re hoping she’ll be ready by about Round 2.”

With a mountain of off-season work under their belts and team cohesion backed by a bed of experience, the Bombers are set to “play fast” in 2021 and impress with their pressure game. There may only be one practice game to go off thus far, but Miller says she “saw a lot of good things” from the 28 players trialled in their 60-point win over Darebin on Thursday night.

“What we’ve been working really hard on is to get that ball movement happening,” she said. “I think in 2019 we had players who could play really well but they were rushing and maybe making decisions too quickly and they weren’t coming off. What we saw last (Thursday) night was a much calmer frame of mind, girls who were able to take that pause before making a decision and keep moving.

“They’re not doing anything they couldn’t do a while ago, but they’re just executing it much better now. We’re going for a fast game, lots of pressure, we’re a tackling team and we’re hoping our fitness is actually going to pull us through and give us the edge this year.”

Plenty is happening at The Hangar with new women’s facilities finally finished ahead of season proper and an AFLW license for 2022 in the Bombers’ sights. Miller wished to shoutout the work of head coach Brendan Major, as well as the physio and high performance staff who stuck with the team purely out of care during last year. With the fruits of that work now coming to the fore, it is fair to say the commitment is paying off.

No official fixture has been released, but the Bombers are set to commence their VFLW campaign next weekend and play out of The Hangar until April due to ongoing developments at Windy Hill.

Image Credit: Kate Heath/Essendon FC

2021 VFLW season preview: North Melbourne

A NEW-LOOK North Melbourne VFLW side has been “promising” during preseason, according to new head coach Cheyne Webster. Having cut his teeth as an AFLW development coach at the Kangaroos, Webster is now set to take the reigns in his first senior gig and says the squad is in good shape heading into season proper – even after a heavy turnover and nearly 12 months off.

“It’s been a really promising preseason,” Webster said. “We’ve got a really good blend of youth and experience and adding into the mix the alignment with AFLW has helped the girls in terms of having some experienced heads around them to lead the way.

“In terms of fitness and touch, we’ve been able to take the opportunity to get back to Arden Street and our sessions have been really strong, so I’m happy with where we’re at.”

“I think having that 12 months off has made the group even more hungry to have success and to get back on the field and play some footy again. “It’s a really exciting time at North Melbourne, both from a VFLW and an AFLW space, so to have the girls back is really exciting.”

With the alignment to North Melbourne’s AFLW team seeing its reserves transition away from the Melbourne Uni title, the Kangaroos have overseen a “huge turnover”, one which Webster says spawned the opportunity for somewhat of a talent search.

“We’ve only kept about six Melbourne Uni-based players, obviously through that transition between the Melbourne Uni Football Club and North Melbourne Football Club,” Webster said. “We’ve searched far and wide and gone on a bit of a talent search, we’ve got some girls from interstate – from Canberra, Darwin, and also down in Tasmania.

“A number of girls that we’ve recruited from interstate either have family or are relocating to Melbourne, so it’s exciting that those girls from interstate see North Melbourne as a destination place to both grow their footy, but also for potential opportunities in the AFLW space.

“It’s a very new-looking list and I think it’s going to take some time, but we’ve got every opportunity with the quality of talent we’ve got to press for finals and to have a successful year.”

The Roos have returned to competitive action in the form of two practice games thus far, taking on Geelong and the Southern Saints. Webster says the hitouts served as a handy educational tool to “try a few things” and blood some youth, with some of the side’s key strengths in competitiveness and energy set to quickly come to the fore.

“In terms of where out list is at, it provided us with an opportunity to have a look at players which we haven’t signed and players that we feel like we need to get some gametime into, and try a few things,” he said. “For us it was more of a case of getting some girls into roles that we want to see them play this year in VFLW and in terms of our senior players, we’ve been very cautious with not overloading them in going through that process.

“I think out number one trait will be our competitiveness and our pressure around the football. “We’ve got a really strong and experienced defensive group and our midfield is young and hungry, so I think our challenge is going to be being able to consistently kick scores but for us, our competitiveness and our energy and pressure around the contest will be our number one attribute.”

Though a selection of around five to six AFLW-listed players will inevitably aid the Kangaroos’ cause each week, there is a bunch of strong talent set to impress weekly at the reserves grade. Webster pointed out some of the most promising preseason performers who will be at the forefront of their side’s finals push.

“We’ve got a couple of girls who have played some AFLW football in the past – girls like Nikki Wallace and Lexi Hamilton – but I think one to look out for is a girl that we’ve recruited, Meagan Kiely. “She’s been in and around (GWS) Giants programs up in Sydney for a little while but she’s someone that I think has every opportunity to play some good footy and to get on an AFLW list, that’s for sure.

“Two (signings) that really stand out are Ciara Fitzgerald, who’s come from the Richmond AFLW program to us, she’s been really exciting, and also a young ruck in Olivia Woods who’s played a little bit of college basketball. “She’s a cross-coder that will play in the ruck for us and she’s been really promising as well with how much she’s picked up the game in such a small space of time.

“We’ve got one (NAB League player) that is on our development list, Marli Klaumanns-Moller. “She’s currently with the Western Jets but has played in one of our practice games and also played in Round 1 of the NAB League. “She’s a really exciting defender and I think that she’ll get some opportunities to play VFLW football at some stage this year, that’s for sure.

The club’s leadership group is set to be voted in on Friday, with a core group of three or four players in the box seat to claim those roles. Though no fixture has officially been released yet, the Roos are set to line up for Round 1 later this month.

Image Credit: North Melbourne FC

2021 VFLW season preview: Williamstown

WILLIAMSTOWN boasts a squad brimming with fresh faces and young talent ahead of the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season. After the 2020 season was cancelled, the Seagulls have faced an agonising wait to make good on their 2019 campaign which yielded just one victory in 13 games.

The proud standalone club will again prepare to be lead by head coach Penny Cula-Reid, who coached Collingwood to the 2019 premiership. With a list made up of true VFLW talent and strong coups to build on important re-signings, the Seagulls will look to compete with aligned clubs and nurture the draftable talent potentially entering their program from elite pathways.

While the latest round of practice matches was scrapped due to lockdown laws, the Seagulls managed to fit one in before restrictions were put in place. They locked horns with the Darebin Falcons at La Trobe University and came up trumps by 11 points, showing great maturity to start and finish the game strongly. The win came after players participated in a three-day camp in Trafalgar, preparing them mentally and physically for the fast-approaching season proper.

Erin Meade was announced as captain for 2021 having become a mainstay among her side’s defence and midfield, leading a promising mix in the engine room. 2019 best and fairest winner Megan Williamson is set to play a key part in proceedings once again, while the likes of fellow inaugural Seagull Lauren Suleiman, Ruby Tripodi, and Eliza Straford have all also re-committed to the club.

Tahlia Merrett and Asha Price have been identified as two players to watch up forward having both come to the fore during preseason. Merrett is a rising star of the competition who is usually sighted down back, but the raw tall has been pegged for a move to centre half-forward this year. 23-year-old Price was a 2020 signing from Melbourne University and will likely be employed deeper inside the attacking arc.

Among the new recruits, former NAB League trio Zoe Garth, Payton Ozols, and Malaya Rodezno all come in with plenty of promise. Garth hails from the Geelong Falcons region and was a highly touted junior who adds to Williamstown’s outside run. Ozols is a fast-improving defender who also moves well, while Rodezno is a former basketballer who adds to the club’s tall stocks.

The club has also announced the signings of Danika Di Santo, Tori Snelleksz, Bridget Costello, Allana Dickie, Scarlett Dunell, and Sasha Long. No fixture has been released, but the 2021 season is set to get underway in late-February, running adjacently with the AFL Women’s and NAB League Girls seasons which have already commenced.

Image Credit: Williamstown FC

Weekend preview: 2020/21 NTFL Women’s Premier League – Round 17

THE PENULTIMATE round of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Women’s Premier League action bounces down on Saturday, with all games spread out across the day and set to be played at four separate venues. A top-of-the-table clash between Pint and Darwin headlines the fixtures list, while Southern Districts’ meeting with Nightcliff serves as the sole other top five battle. That, and more in our weekend preview.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (4th, 9-3-2) vs. NIGHTCLIFF (5th, 7-6-1)
Saturday February 13, 12:00pm
Norbuilt Oval

Nightcliff will be out to make its top five safety concrete when it travels to face Southern Districts at Norbuilt Oval on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers are two games clear in fifth with as many games left, with this clash against the fourth-placed Districts potentially serving as an elimination final preview. If the Round 8 meeting between these sides is anything to go by, we should be in for a belter. They were unable to be separated after a high-scoring affair in that instance, but face much different propositions seven match-days later. The Crocs have won six of their last seven games, while Nightcliff has lost thrice in that period and cannot climb any higher than its current ladder position. Still, plenty remains up for grabs – especially for the Crocs as they could advance their position with a handy percentage booster given St Mary’s (second) enjoys a bye.

PALMERSTON (7th, 3-12) vs. WANDERERS (8th, 1-13)
Saturday February 13, 3:00pm
Cazalys Arena

Two sides in close proximity to each other on the ladder in Palmerston and Wanderers will be battling for consolation points on Saturday afternoon when they lock horns at Cazalys Arena. The Magpies have won just three games in season 2020/21, but that is still enough to put them eight points clear of their weekend opponents. With that factor, and a four-goal triumph over Wanderers in the back of their minds, the Magpies should come in confidently despite losing in six of their last seven outings. The Eagles have not tasted victory since Round 2, but have a couple of late opportunities to come away from this campaign with better memories and some bonus premiership points.

TRACY VILLAGE (9th, 0-14) vs. WARATAH (6th, 5-8-1)
Saturday February 13, 4:00pm
Tracy Village

Waratah’s finals hopes hinge on securing victory in the final two rounds, starting with an away clash against the winless Tracy Village on Saturday. The Warriors sit two games outside of the top five and will be hoping that fifth-placed Nightcliff slips up at the death, with their slim postseason chances potentially decided this weekend. Tahs have been in good form since the break despite a 2-2 record in 2021, defeating teams below them but falling just short of top three opposition. Their 176-point drubbing of Tracy Village in Round 8 remains the biggest score and win of the season, meaning signs are ominous for the competition’s cellar dweller. With their entire campaign to play for, Waratah should come out firing in this one.

DARWIN BUFFETTES (2nd, 12-2) vs. PINT (1st, 14-0)
Saturday February 13, 7:35pm
TIO Stadium

A top-of-the-table clash between Darwin and the undefeated Pint headlines Round 17, with the two sides set to provide a finals preview at TIO Stadium on Saturday. Pint is just two wins away from completing a flawless regular season and should come in the fresher side having enjoyed a bye last round. Darwin has won seven-straight games as the other form side of the competition, edging some stiff competition and feasting on the bottom sides. But the Buffettes’ last loss came at the hands of Pint in Round 8, with a thriller at DXC Arena decided by just two points. With revenge and confidence to be gained heading into finals, the Double Blues should be up for a terrific contest against the league’s benchmark team. The Queenants have risen to every challenge thus far though, so will be tough as ever to beat.

Bye: St Mary’s

Image Credit: Tymunna Clements/AFLNT Media