Tag: Rachelle Martin

Griffiths grasps “fantastic opportunity” with State Academy

WEST Adelaide’s Scarlett Griffiths has loved being a member of South Australia’s State Academy program, describing it as a “fantastic opportunity” to test herself alongside and against the best players in the country. The teenager plies her trade in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition for the Bloods, having come from a different background and transitioning into the pathway from a young age.

“I started playing football when I was quite young,” Griffiths said. “I was a ballerina and I just saw a sign that my local footy club needed girls so I joined in, fell in love with it, and yeah since I was young I’ve always been invited to these programs, and one thing’s led to another and now I’m here.”

Predominantly a forward having kicked a goal in each of her last two SANFL Women’s games, Griffiths tasted a new role further up the ground at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19s Championships, able to run out for the Croweaters against both Vic Country and the Allies.

“My favourite place is playing in the forward line, I’ve loved learning about that role and playing it,” Griffiths said. “And up here I’m playing on the wing, so it’s a big change, and I’m learning more about the role as the week goes on.”

Despite losing both the clashes in Victoria, the teenager said she had loved the opportunity she had been given, and was always looking to improve aspects of her game such as reading the play and knowing when to run and properly execute her speed and athleticism.

“It’s been such a fantastic opportunity to play with the Academy squad and back at home everything’s been really, really great and it’s just been getting better,” Griffiths said.

Having come from West Adelaide, it is little surprise to see Griffiths’ role models and inspirations being a pair of pocket rockets from the Bloods who have overcome various adversities from knee injuries to being overlooked to play at the elite AFL Women’s level.

“I really look up to Hannah Button and Rachelle Martin, they’re sisters from the Crows,” Griffiths said. “They’re my biggest inspirations. “They’ve been mentoring me for the past three years, so I’m so grateful to have them and they’re so awesome.

“It’s so good to see them on the TV, especially Rachelle, they’re just incredible, they totally deserve to be there.”

Like may players in their top-age draft year, Griffiths said her life was fairly busy between the three key aspects of life.

“I’m in the middle of Year 12 so that’s been really busy,” she said. “Work, school footy, that’s my life.”

With West Adelaide on the verge of backing up their maiden finals series last year by grabbing fourth spot heading to the final round this week. The Bloods will need to topple third placed South Adelaide in order to secure a finals berth, but if they do, then Griffiths will be hoping to have an impact on the scoreboard in the post-season series.

2021 AFL Women’s draftee watch: Grand Final

BRISBANE was crowned the 2021 AFL Women’s premier on Saturday after defeating two-time winner, Adelaide by 18 points at Adelaide Oval. A number of fresh faces to the competition continued their contributions for the two remaining sides, producing big moments on the biggest of stages. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared across the latest weekend, focusing on players who were selected from the most recent draft crop.

2021 AFL Women’s Grand Final
Adelaide 3.2 (20) def. by Brisbane 6.2 (38) 

In Brisbane’s maiden premiership triumph, rookie speedster Courtney Hodder booted a couple of crucial goals to kickstart the Lions’ day. The diminutive mover got her side off to an ideal start, booting the first goal of the game with a typically shrewd snap only a couple of minutes in.

She then followed it up with a ridiculously good soccered effort in term two, trickling the ball home after latching onto a kick deep in the pocket that she had little right to get to first. It marked a terrific end to Hodder’s debut campaign, as she played every game and finished with nine disposals, five tackles, and those two goals in the all important decider.

18-year-old Indy Tahau was the Lions’ other 2020 draftee afield, with the athletic utility notching five disposals (four kicks), two marks, and one tackle. Her first season at senior level was a promising one, having come into the side in Round 4 and established her place among a well-drilled unit, playing every game thereafter.

Explosive first year forward Teah Charlton was a strong aerial presence for Adelaide, claiming five marks among her 11 disposals. The prized draft pick also managed two inside 50s and laid two tackles in her final performance for the year. Having come into a stacked squad with plenty of plaudits, Charlton played every game and lived up to her pick four billing.

Another Crow to have appeared in every game was Ashleigh Woodland, a 22-year-old who is making good on her second chance at the elite level. Her numbers – three disposals, one tackle – were not flattering on Saturday, but the dynamic forward was involved in some key moments during the first half and if not for Brisbane’s immense pressure, would have been involved in more scores for Adelaide.

Exciting small prospect Rachelle Martin was the Crows’ third draftee afield, with the 22-year-old good at ground level for nine disposals (seven handballs), two marks, three tackles, and two inside 50s. Having previously been a top-up player at the Crows, Martin capitalised on finally being included in the senior squad and played every game after Round 6, proving her AFLW worth.

Image Credit: James Elsby/AFL Photos

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Preliminary Finals – Martin helps Crows surge to another decider

THE 2021 AFL Women’s season rolled on into its second week of finals, with two enthralling knockout bouts played on Saturday. A number of fresh faces continue to make their mark on the competition having already established roles in each remaining team, producing big moments on the biggest of stages. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared across the latest weekend, focusing on players who were selected from the most recent draft crop.

Adelaide vs. Melbourne

Two-time AFLW premier, Adelaide became the first side to book its spot in this year’s decider, beating Melbourne by 18 points at Adelaide Oval on Saturday. The Crows were led by their usual band of ball winners, but also had a bunch of handy contributions across the board. 22-year-old Rachelle Martin was one who provided great spark for the winners, applying punishing pressure and digging in hard at ground level. The diminutive speedster finished with 13 disposals, three tackles, and four inside 50s in an important outing.

First year forward Teah Charlton was also productive with 10 touches, two marks and three tackles for the winners, while fellow attacker Ashleigh Woodland brought great intensity with six tackles. The latter two have played every game this season and will likely suit up next week, with Martin another in that boat having impressed across a five-game run in the side.

Melbourne was dealt a crushing blow early as tough midfielder Eliza McNamara was ruled out with concussion following a heavy collision with Adelaide skipper, Chelsea Randall. She played every game in her debut season and has been an excellent addition to the Dees’ squad. 24-year-old Irish recruit Lauren Magee notched three touches in her sixth-straight outing, as prized draftee Alyssa Bannan finished her maiden senior campaign with two disposals in red and blue.

Brisbane vs. Collingwood

Brisbane earned passage to its third grand final in five AFLW seasons on Saturday, via a thrilling four-point win over Collingwood at the Gabba. The Lions now have the chance to claim their first AFLW premiership, with plenty of members from the 2017 and 2018 squads remaining in the maroon, blue, and gold. Rookie sensation Courtney Hodder has played every game this season and while she only registered one disposal on Saturday, played her role with four tackles. South Australian native Indy Tahau has cemented her spot since a Round 4 debut, and will also look to cap off her year in a big way after managing three touches and two tackles.

While they did not achieve the desired result, the Magpies were served well by their two first-year players afield. Father-daughter selection Tarni Brown proved she is every bit the finals player with another outstanding goal in black and white. During the second term, she gathered in the centre square before tucking the ball under her arm, taking on an opponent and slotting the goal from about 40-metres out. She finished with 11 disposals and three inside 50s to cap off a terrific debut season. Bella Smith was also solid with three marks among her eight touches. The tall recruit played the first and last three games for Collingwood in 2021.

2021 AFL WOMEN’S GRAND FINAL:

Adelaide Crows vs. Brisbane Lions

Date: Saturday, April 17
Venue: Adelaide Oval
Time: 1:30pm (ACST)

Image Credit: Sarah Reed/AFL Photos

Adelaide eyes off third AFL Women’s flag

REIGNING AFL Women’s premiers Adelaide Crows have booked their ticket to the 2021 AFLW Grand Final with a convincing 5.3 (33) to 1.9 (15) defeat of Melbourne in the preliminary final on Saturday at the Adelaide Oval. Although they lost the inside 50 battle 28 to 30, Adelaide were far more efficient going forward and deserve the opportunity to challenge for their third women’s premiership against an impressive Brisbane outfit next week.

Midfielders Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff were the stars for the Crows and clearly the two best players on the ground. Hatchard started the game brilliantly, collecting 18 disposals in the first half and providing plenty of run and carry through the corridor. She finished with 27 disposals, five marks, four tackles and a goal in one of her best ever performances. Partner-in-crime Marinoff was just as prominent, equalling Hatchard’s AFLW record for the most disposals in an AFLW match with 35. She also laid 13 tackles and took five marks in the victory.

Despite the loss, Melbourne midfielders Karen Paxman and Tyla Hanks did not have their colours lowered. These two gathered 48 disposals and ten tackles between them and led the Demons to winning the clearance battle 25 to 18. Unfortunately, they did not get much help from their teammates, who were ineffective with their ball use and lacked composure going inside 50.

The match was a tight arm wrestle early, with both sides attacking the ball with ferocity and not allowing their opponents to get many uncontested possessions. Melbourne were on top and repeatedly got the ball inside 50, but Adelaide’s defence held up well under the pressure. Their resistance was led by captain Chelsea Randall until she was involved in a heavy collision halfway through the first term with Melbourne’s Eliza McNamara. Despite both players solely having eyes for the ball, they clashed heads, abruptly left the field and were ruled out of the match with concussion. Due to the AFLW’s 12-day concussion protocol rule, Randall will be unable to compete in the Grand Final. This is a major loss for the home side, as her versatility and leadership has been a key part of the Crows’ resurgence in 2021. Youngster McNamara was a big loss for the Demons in this match as well given her elite running capacity and consistently fierce attack on the ball.

As the two players departed the field, Adelaide superstar Erin Phillips earned a free kick in a marking contest and booted the first goal of the game. While Melbourne were well led in the first term by Paxman (nine disposals) and Hanks (seven disposals), their teammates kept blazing away going forward. This allowed Adelaide defenders to zone off and take easy intercept marks. Late in the term, Kate Hore did well to provide Brenna Tarrant with an opportunity to kick her side’s first, but she hit the post due to some relentless pressure from Sarah Allan.

Early in the second, Shelley Scott got Melbourne fans excited with a spectacular mark at half-back. Melbourne’s pressure went to another level in the second, as they won many holding the ball decisions and gained greater inside 50 dominance. However, this was when Hatchard lifted for the Crows, and she was instrumental in setting up Adelaide’s second major, kicked once again by Phillips. Although Phillips had a quiet first half by her standards, she still kicked the only two goals in that timeframe. Marinoff had 20 disposals and four tackles at the main break.

In the third, draftee Rachelle Martin was the one to break the game open with some explosive passages of play. First, she found forward Chloe Scheer on the lead with a well-weighted kick, and Scheer nailed the set shot from a tight angle to extend Adelaide’s lead to three goals. One minute later, Martin caught Paxman holding the ball with a strong tackle inside 50, which allowed Hatchard to take the advantage kick the Crows’ fourth. Martin continued to apply relentless pressure and bamboozle Melbourne defenders throughout the term, creating many more chances for the Crows that they failed to capitalise on. This meant that they remained less than four goals up at the last break. However, Melbourne were still goalless at three-quarter time, demonstrating how brilliantly Adelaide’s defence was holding up.

While Melbourne tried to turn the tide in the last, Crows livewire Eloise Jones had other ideas. Jones, who played predominantly in defence throughout the contest, pushed forward and soccerred one of the goals of the year with her opposite foot under significant pressure. Thankfully for the Demons, Hore was able to get out the back of Adelaide’s defence in the ninth minute and slot her side’s first major. It was a well-deserved goal for Hore, who toiled hard all day and was one of Melbourne’s most consistent contributors. The Demons got several more chances to hit the scoreboard in the final term, but they were very inaccurate in front of goal. Despite the windy conditions, a couple of the misses were inexcusable. It did not matter in the end, as Adelaide ran out 18-point victors. In seven days, they will attempt to become the first ever back-to-back AFLW premiers in a rematch of the 2017 AFLW decider.

ADELAIDE 1.0 | 2.1 | 4.2 | 5.3 (33)
MELBOURNE 0.2 | 0.3 | 0.5 | 1.9 (15)

GOALS:

Adelaide: E. Phillips 2, E. Jones, A. Hatchard, C. Scheer.
Melbourne: K. Hore.

DC BEST:

Adelaide: A. Hatchard, E. Marinoff, R. Martin, S. Allan, M. Rajcic
Melbourne: K. Paxman, T. Hanks, K. Hore, S. Scott, E. Zanker

Picture credit: Sarah Reed/AFL Photos

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Lions set up potential top of the table clash

By: Peter Williams

BRISBANE Lions have set up a potential top of the table clash with Collingwood – provided the Pies win today – after grabbing their fifth win of the season against GWS GIANTS yesterday. The Lions were a touch inaccurate, booting 7.13 (55) to 2.5 (17), but it was enough to secure the comfortable 38-point win and temporarily move into top spot. With five individual goalkickers for their seven goals, the Lions shared the goals around on the afternoon, and moved to a 5-1 record heading into the final three rounds of the season.

Dakota Davidson was quick off the mark, scoring a goal in the opening two minutes of the match to get the visitors up and about early. New recruit Courtney Hodder soon added her first at the 12-minute mark with a remarkable effort close to goal in tight space under pressure, and Jess Wuetschner in her second game back converted one, and the Lions were out to an 18-point lead with a few minutes remaining in the first term. The quarter time margin – which extended by one from that point courtesy of a Hodder behind – was 20 points, and the Lions were already looking in control of the match.

That only increased in the second term, as Isabel Dawes scored an early goal two minutes into the quarter, and fellow youngster Jade Ellenger drove the dagger in further with a fifth individual goalkicker in the match. When Davidson snagged her second of the contest late in the quarter, the margin had blown out to 39 points, and would by 41 by half-time. The GIANTS were unable to put one through the big sticks, while the Lions were sharing the ball around going inside 50 and reaping the rewards of doing so.

Dawes kicked her second major of the game again early in the third, as the six-and-a-half minute mark ticked past and Brisbane was out to a 49-point lead. It was at this point, the GIANTS began to rise. Katherine Smith was the first to respond two minutes later, and the goal drought was broken. Whilst the GIANTS would not kick another major until the final stanza through Emily Bennetts, they restricted the visitors to just three behinds in the final half an hour of action. The dried up scoring mattered little for the Lions however, as they claimed the important win.

Davidson snagged two goals from 10 disposals, four marks and five tackles to be lively in the first half, while Dawes managed the 11 disposals and four tackles to go with her two majors. Emily Bates was the top disposal winner for the Lions, picking up 20 touches, three marks and three tackles, while fellow midfielder Ally Anderson, and All-Australian defender Kate Lutkins racked up the 19 disposals. Tahlia Hickie was influential in the ruck, and Wuetschner was again lively, kicking a goal from 12 touches, three marks and four tackles.

For the GIANTS, Alicia Eva picked up 22 disposals, four marks and two tackles, ahead of Britt Tully (19 disposals, three marks and three tackles). Young gun Alyce Parker was again busy across the game with 16 disposals, two marks and six tackles, as was Rebecca Beeson (16 disposals, four tackles) and another rising star talent in Georgia Garnett (15 disposals, three marks and three tackles). Bennetts not only kicked the final goal of the game, but had 15 disposals and five marks to boot as well. Brisbane Lions set their sights on Collingwood next Sunday at Hickey Park, while the GIANTS head to RSEA Park on Saturday to clash with the Saints in what are both expected to be tight contests.

GWS GIANTS 0.1 | 0.2 | 1.3 | 2.5 (17)
BRISBANE 3.3 | 6.7 | 7.11 | 7.13 (55)

GOALS:
Greater Western Sydney: Smith, Bennetts.
Brisbane: Davidson 2, Dawes 2, Hodder, Wuetschner, Ellenger

DC BEST:
Greater Western Sydney: Eva, Parker, Beeson, Bennetts, Garnett
Brisbane: Davidson, Lutkins, Bates, Dawes, Anderson

Picture credit: via Adelaide FC

ADELAIDE SEND WARNING SHOT WITH RECORD-BREAKING WIN

By: Tom Cheesman

ADELAIDE has continued its strong run of form with a 70-point smashing of Gold Coast at Norwood Oval on Saturday afternoon. The Crows held their opponents scoreless in the first and third terms while piling on 13 goals of their own for the match, an AFLW record. Adelaide controlled the inside 50s (41-19) and were far more efficient with their disposals inside 50 (56 to 37 per cent). Stevie-Lee Thompson (17 disposals, two marks, one goal) provided plenty of run and carry all day for the Crows, while Anne Hatchard (21 disposals, seven tackles, one goal) and Ebony Marinoff (20 disposals, eight tackles) were influential in the midfield. Superstar Erin Phillips and Danielle Ponter kicked six goals (and had 10 scoring shots) between them, while Alison Drennan (29 disposals, seven tackles) and Kalinda Howarth (18 disposals) worked tirelessly for the visitors.

There were major injury issues for both sides in the opening minutes of the contest. First, Adelaide small defender Nikki Gore courageously flew from the side into a marking contest and went down with a suspected ankle fracture. Two minutes later, Gold Coast midfielder Jamie Stanton‘s ankle buckled underneath her when she laid a tackle in her side’s defensive 50. She was taken from the ground on a stretcher and was seen on crutches after the match. Once the match got going, Sarah Allan immediately set the tone for Adelaide in defence. She made a significant impact defensively but also initiated some counterattacking ball movement with effective forward handballs off half-back. Hatchard was able to kick the Crows’ first after a perfect pass from Phillips, and captain Chelsea Randall soccered through her side’s  second soon after.

For the fourth consecutive week, Adelaide held their opponents scoreless in the opening term. Regardless, it was not all doom-and-gloom for the Suns early. Howarth was classy with her ball use coming out of congestion, Kate Surman found plenty of the ball, and Tori Groves-Little took some spectacular marks up forward in her first quarter of the season. The Suns looked positive at the start of the second term, as Daisy D’Arcy found Leah Kaslar on the lead for their first goal of the day. However, the Crows noticed that the Suns were within a goal and quickly got the game back on their terms.

Ash Woodland earned a free for a hold and kicked truly from 30 metres out, and then Chloe Scheer set up Ponter for her first. Second-gamer Rachelle Martin redeemed herself after dropping a mark inside 50 by applying relentless forward pressure, earning a free kick and snapping her first goal in AFLW. Gold Coast’s only chance to score was from centre clearances at this point because, much like St Kilda last Sunday, they were unable to cleanly move the ball out of their defensive 50 through Adelaide’s zone.

In stark contest, Adelaide ran the ball out of their defence very easily, picking holes in Gold Coast’s defence at will. After Ponter and Phillips kicked back-to-back goals, Gold Coast won a centre clearance and got a late goal through Surman. Although Surman and Drennan had a whopping 33 touches between them at the main break, the Crows held a convincing 30-point lead. Ferocious Adelaide player Scheer extended her side’s lead at the start of the third by earning a free and putting through a set shot. Phillips set the ground alight when she unloaded a huge barrel off half-back, but unfortunately for the home fans it went straight to Elizabeth Keaney, who took several intercept marks in the third term. Thompson continued her impressive performance by running onto a loose ball and drilling the Crows’ ninth, and it was very clear that the Suns had no answers on how to stop Adelaide’s momentum.

After some relentless pressure from Teah Charlton and Woodland, Phillips earned a free for being blocked in a marking contest and kicked her second. Things soured for the Crows at the end of the third term, as Hannah Button dislocated her shoulder while reaching to lay a tackle and left the field in the hands of trainers. Adelaide did not slow down to start the fourth, continuing to pepper the goals and refusing to let the ball out of their forward half. This led to Ponter kicking another, this time from a forward 50 stoppage. Soon after, a duck through traffic and clever handball over the shoulder from Phillips set up Ponter for her fourth.

On the other side, all of Gold Coast’s forward movement came through Groves-Little, who got little-to-no support at that end of the ground. When Crows captain Randall got on the end of some unselfish ball movement from Phillips and Thompson to kick her second, Adelaide’s score moved to 85 points, just one behind shy of the highest score in AFLW history (12.14.86 by the 2018 Western Bulldogs). As Adelaide went for the record, the Suns were finally able to lock the ball in their forward 50 for an extended period. Sally Riley had some good moments during this stretch, but the Suns failed to capitalise on her hard work and only added one behind to their total.

After a late end-to-end transition by the Crows, Dee Heslop laid a brilliant tackle on Ponter in the goal square to save a certain score and keep the Bulldogs’ scoring record intact. Regardless, it was a percentage-boosting win that Adelaide’s coaches will be pleased with as they move into the final three rounds of the home and away season.

Next week, Adelaide hit the road to face Melbourne at Casey Fields on Saturday night. Meanwhile, Gold Coast will aim to get their first win of 2021 when they take on the Tigers in a Friday night clash at Metricon.

ADELAIDE 2.1 | 7.2 | 10.5 | 13.7 (85)
GOLD COAST 0.0 | 2.2 | 2.2 | 2.3 (15)

GOALS:
Adelaide: D. Ponter 4, E. Phillips, C. Randall 2, S. Thompson, A. Woodland, R. Martin, C. Scheer, A. Hatchard.
Gold Coast: L. Kaslar, K. Surman.

DC BEST:
Adelaide: S. Thompson, E. Phillips, D. Ponter, A. Hatchard, E. Marinoff
Gold Coast: A. Drennan, T. Groves-Little, K. Howarth, K. Surman, S. Riley

Picture credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

DEES DOWN SAINTS TO KEEP SEASON ALIVE

By: Sophie Taylor

IT was a tight encounter between Melbourne and St Kilda on Saturday night, with both sides looking to get back on the winners list this season after big losses last round. It was the Demons that got a confident and comfortable percentage-boosting victory on the board on home soil at Casey Fields, running out 9.12 (66) to 3.4 (22) victors, credit to a consistent four-quarter effort.

The Dees were on the offensive from the get-go, driving forward and flooding the 50m to lock the ball in attack. It appeared the Melbourne coaching staff were not afraid to switch things up a bit heading into this matchup, with a couple of shaky matches over the last few weeks making for a different approach in the forward line. A classy kick from Maddi Gay hit Daisy Pearce on a lead at the top of the square with the Dees legend putting the first goal of the game through, before minutes later Alyssa Bannan rid herself off her recent goal drought with an excellent running goal to put a second on the board. The Saints were still yet to make it inside their own 50m though despite piling pressure on through midfield, with the Dees making it tough to clear the footy. Gay and Tyla Hanks were never far from the footy as Sainters Tilly Lucas-Rodd and Cat Phillips contested well, while Kate Shierlaw also kept on the pressure around the ground, rarely beaten.

The remainder of the first was hotly contested with Melbourne unable to put a third major on the board despite locking the footy inside 50, and leading 14-0 at the first change. A huge inside 50 from Georgia Patrikios started the second quarter, surging the footy forward, and while it did not work to the Saints’ favour, the effort paid off with the Saints given a couple of chances to put on the scoreboard pressure, all to no avail. An excellent run down midfield from Hanks earned a free kick down field for a late push in the back, with a goal right in front from Shelley Scott undoing all the hard work the Saints had done early to lock the footy inside 50. While she was well held early, Patrikios fired up in the second quarter, throwing herself at the contest and doing everything she could to pile on the pressure around the ground.

The Saints strung some great minutes together in forward 50 as Nat Exon finally put the Saints on the board, reducing the margin and seeing the Saints build up their confidence with a couple more attempts coming in thick and fast but to no avail. The Dees’ midfield was on fire, and led by Hanks and Karen Paxman, they were crucial in quickly and efficiently driving down the centre. A free kick to Tegan Cunningham kept the scoreboard ticking over, seeing an 18-point half-time margin and an intense contest brewing.

A huge first few minutes of the third quarter saw plenty of argy bargy from both sides, with a tough battle through the midfield and Melbourne’s midfielders doing the trick to drive the footy forward, while St Kilda’s defence was just staying ahead of the pack to maintain possession. Lauren Pearce continued her excellent first half efforts utilising her height and footy smarts, before an excellent passage from Eden Zanker saw the forward kick directly to Daisy Pearce at the top of the square once more, before another goal to Bannan saw the second half kick off to an eerily similar way to the beginning of the match, though this time seeing a 31-point margin with 10 left in the third quarter. 

A goal to Jackie Parry saw the Dees extend their lead further, with the remainder of the match played on Melbourne’s terms as Caitlin Greiser was moved down back to help work the Saints back into the match but to no avail as Rosie Dillon, Rhi Watt and Hannah Priest continued to throw themselves into the contest. But it was a second scoreless term for the Saints, trailing by 39 points at the final change. The Dees needed a percentage boost ahead of the remaining three rounds of the season, and that’s what they got as the Saints failed to close the margin.

Zanker continued her solid work across the ground, putting a couple of behinds on the board and worrying the Saints but ultimately unable to find the big sticks, before Eliza McNamara topped off an excellent effort with her maiden goal. A maiden Claudia Whitfort goal reduced the margin a fraction but it was not enough, with the Dees creating a highlight reel up forward with their continuous hunt on the footy, and Kate Hore joining the party inside 50 with some slick skills towards the latter stage of the match. A Tamara Luke goal with just over two minutes of the clock did plenty for the Saints’ work rate but unfortunately not enough to really shake the Dees, with the home side running out 44-point winners credit to a solid four quarter effort.

For the losing side, Priest, Patrikios and Phillips were the leading ball-winners with 17 disposals apiece, and combining for 15 tackles between them. Dillion picked up 12 touches and eight tackles, whilst Watt (15 touches and five marks) also proved crucial. For the Dees, Lauren Pearce was a revelation in the ruck with 22 touches, 21 hitouts, four tackles, four marks and a behind, whilst Hanks (22 and four tackles), Zanker (23, eight marks and three behinds) and Paxman (24 touches)  were also heavily involved in the contest. Daisy Pearce booted her two from 13 touches and six marks, whilst Lily Mithen and Scott piled on the pressure with six tackles each.

The Dees will have their work cut out for them in the remaining three rounds of the season, currently sitting just outside the top six and matches against Adelaide (second), Fremantle (fourth) and Brisbane (first) awaiting. They host Adelaide during the same Saturday evening timeslot in a week’s time, whilst the Saints host the Giants in the early Saturday timeslot at RSEA Park.

MELBOURNE | 2.2 | 4.3 | 7.6 | 9.12 (66)
ST KILDA | 0.0 | 1.3 | 1.3 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS
Melbourne: D. Pearce 2, A. Bannan 2, S. Scott, T. Cunningham, J. Parry, E. McNamara, K. Hore.
St Kilda: N. Exon, C. Whitfort, T. Luke.

DC BEST
Melbourne: L. Pearce, T. Hanks, D. Pearce, E. Zanker, M. Gay
St Kilda: H. Priest, G. Patrikios, C. Phillips, R. Watt, R. Dillon

Westies youth ready to soar after promising 2020

WEST Adelaide is gearing up for a bumper 2021 South Australian National Football League Women’s (SANFLW) season, boasting an abundance of talented young prospects, and a side that showed it could match it with the best teams in the competition. Taking down experienced finals campaigner Norwood in the elimination final before bowing out at the hands of reigning back-to-back premier South Adelaide in the preliminary final, there was plenty to like about the Bloods’ season.

Ball magnet Rachelle Martin shared the SANFLW League Best and Fairest Award with North Adelaide’s Anne Hatchard, showing she was just too good to be at state league level. The Adelaide Crows agreed, and drafted Martin onto their senior list after being a train-on player and getting a game when injuries struck the Crows 12 months ago. It means Martin’s availability for West Adelaide will be dependent on AFL Women’s selection, but she, like her sister Hannah Button, are natural footballers with high work rates.

The Bloods will also be without the likes of Madison Newman and Chelsea Biddell when the Crows are playing, with the two continuing to impress at the elite level. Newman formed a deadly combination with bottom-ager and 2022 draft prospect Keeley Kustermann off half-back, with the pair both making the SANFL Women’s Team of the Year there. Kustermann was able to gain plenty of experience against senior bodies in 2020, and she will be one to watch not only in the SANFL Women’s competition, but at the AFL Women’s Under-19 Championships in April. Her balance, composure and skill by foot is impressive, and expect her to play an important role for West Adelaide.

Kustermann is not the only young talent on West Adelaide’s list, with Zoe Venning one of the highly touted draft-eligible players on the list. A hard nut who shows great courage around the ball, Venning can play as a lead-up forward, a high-forward or predominantly as an inside midfielder where she can crack in, win the ball and exit the stoppage with fair athleticism to match her contested ball-winning abilities. Speaking to Draft Central in the pre-season, Venning said she was hoping to improve her skills to take her game to the next level.

Unfortunately some of West’s talented teenagers have also been sidelined during the pre-season, with Abby Hardwick (quad) and Abbie Ballard (ankle) both looking at time out of football. Hardwick is eyeing off a return sooner rather than later being a strain, while Ballard will miss a large chunk of the season – unfortunately including the championships – but will no doubt be a vital inclusion later in the season. Other members in the South Australian State Academy squad are Tamika May – a developing football talent – and Scarlett Griffiths – an athletic marking forward – who are also looking to impress in 2021.

Fast forward to a couple of years down the track and 15-year-old Lauren Young is a player whose name will no doubt keep popping up, with the teenager set to play a big role in her debut season this year as a versatile key position option. Speaking of key position options, Carlton’s Sharni Whiting has crossed to the SANFLW to be a contested marking replacement for retired duo Lauren Rodato and Helen Maidment. Whiting has great experience and will be one of the more notable key position players in the competition.

Louella McCarthy has also crossed from the Southern Saints, with former Woodville-West Torrens Eagles young gun Teagan Usher a perfect replacement for Newman whilst she is out with AFL Women’s commitments. Norwood duo, Taylor Glover and Chloe Meyers, South Adelaide’s Natalie Gibbs and Sturt’s Paxton Davis-Mattner are among the other inclusions to the Bloods side with state league experience.

West Adelaide kicks off its 2021 SANFL Women’s season tomorrow night at Coopers Stadium against Norwood from 7.45pm. The Bloods are an exciting team with plenty of youth, so expect there to be eye-catching moments galore.

Picture credit: SANFL

SANFLW season preview: North Adelaide

FOR the first time in the clubs history, the North Adelaide Women will enter the fresh campaign with targets on their backs, having won every match en route to premiership glory last season. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis threatening to derail pre-season preparations, coach Krissie Steen is confident the Roosters squad has what it takes to defend their crown.

“Pre-season has been pretty good,” said Steen. “We lost about five weeks of pre-season around Christmas (due to COVID regulations), but we (North Adelaide) have a really strong coaching and high performance panel. So although COVID had a big impact on the pre-season, it’s still been a positive one.”

The club was tasked with the challenging task of replacing ten players from their premiership-winning side in the off-season, headlined by Ashleigh Woodland (drafted by Adelaide), Katelyn Pope, Amber Ward and Lauren Gauci (all of whom signed on with West Coast).

However undoubtedly the biggest void will be left by midfield ball-magnet Anne Hatchard, who is set to spend the bulk of the season at AFLW level with the Crows. Hatchard was a joint-recipient of the SANFLW best and fairest award last season, sharing the honour with West Adelaide star Rachelle Martin. She also won the Crows club champion award and was named best on ground in the SANFLW Grand Final, collecting an impressive 34 disposals, eight tackles and seven clearances.

“We certainly have work to do,” Steen said of the absences. “Losing 10 players from the Grand Final team is hard but we loose players to AFLW clubs every season. It happens just about every year, so we’ll be fine.”

Given the high turnover the squad has endured over the off-season, Steen said it hasn’t been difficult to keep players motivated following the successes of last year.

“Half of them are new, so the motivation is already there,” said Steen. “Last season we won just about every individual award so its hard to replicate or improve on that, but it’s more about looking for individual improvement. “We have to keep improving and make a commitment to consistently be better.”

Steen identified new recruit Tayla Thorne and prominent half-back Erin Sundstrom as being amongst several standout performers throughout the pre-season.

“The usual suspects have been impressive,” added Steen. “Katelyn PopeLauren Daniel and Cristie Castle have been great for us for a couple of seasons now.”

Steen also heaped praise upon dangerous forward Kelly Barltrop, who was unlucky to be left out of last seasons Grand Final side. One of the SANFLW’s most productive forwards, Barltrop kicked 26 goals in 2019 and was simply an unfortunate victim of North Adelaide’s incredible strength last year.

“Kelly responded to the call very well,” said Steen. “She’s gotten to work and looks to be in the best shape of her career. She looks super fit and that’s a real credit to her resilience, for not dropping her head and instead looking to use it as motivation for this season.”

The Roosters also have an array of young talent on the list ready to step up and impact consistently at the top level. The list of talented youngsters includes bottom-ager Hannah Ewings, top-ager Kate Case, and a host of developing over-agers in Julia Clark, Jorja Eldridge and Andie Zbierski.

The Roosters will commence their title defence with a Grand Final re-match against arch-rivals South Adelaide under lights at Cooper Stadium on February 26. The club has been slated to play three home and away matches at their Prospect Oval home ground in 2021.

Picture credit: SANFL / Deb Curtis

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Dockers extend winning streak to double digits

FREMANTLE continues to set the AFL Women’s benchmark after notching a 30-point win over fellow finals fancy, Adelaide on a cracking afternoon at Norwood Oval on Sunday. The 7.1 (43) to 1.7 (13) result was Freo’s tenth-straight win in the competition and puts the Dockers in top spot with a game left to play in Round 3.

Despite both sides managing an equal amount of scoring shots (eight), it was Fremantle’s superior fluency in transition, unrelenting pressure, and capturing of each vital moment which saw it succeed. The Dockers absorbed plenty of pressure, particularly in the first term before hurting Adelaide up the other end with scoreboard pressure, keeping the Crows goalless for three quarters and ensuring they would be made to earn each opportunity.

The game was well and truly alive just after the main break, but the Crows were left to rue missed chances off the boot of Stevie-Lee Thompson early in term three as Fremantle skipped up the other end and added three majors to their mounting lead to put the contest to bed.

There were a couple of blockbuster contests scattered across the field, with stand-in Adelaide skipper Sarah Allan tasked with marking the dynamic Gemma Houghton, while the ever-reliable Kiara Bowers ensured Crows midfield bull Anne Hatchard was not given an inch in the first half.

Allan was terrific on the day with desperate defensive efforts and solid one-on-one work both in the air and on the ground, but could not keep Houghton quiet for the whole day as she finished with two final term goals. Bowers and Hatchard went blow-for-blow at the coalface and had plenty of bone-crunching clashes as two of their respective sides’ most prolific ball winners.

Bowers was in fact Fremantle’s highest disposal getter with 23 to go with her 13 tackles, as Adelaide’s Ebony Marinoff joined her in leading all comers for touches on the day. Hatchard finished with 21 disposals, while a late move forward for Erin Phillips saw her notch six marks and a goal from 14 touches. In her first officially listed outing, Rachelle Martin was lively with 14 disposals, with Thompson another standout and Teah Charlton exciting in the final term for Adelaide.

Ashley Sharp joined Houghton on two goals upon her return, as the likes of Tiah Haynes and Sabreena Duffy joined her on the scoreboard. The run of Stephanie Cain (15 disposals, six marks) and Ebony Antonio (13 disposals, four inside 50s) was vital in creating more open scoring chances for Fremantle, while the defensive solidity of Janelle Cuthbertson (10 disposals, three marks, four rebound 50s) again proved outstanding in the win.

The Dockers are set to face Gold Coast in Round 4, back on home turf, while Adelaide will look to bounce back quickly as it travels up to Queensland to take on another currently undefeated side in Brisbane at Hickey Park on Sunday.

ADELAIDE 0.2 | 0.2 | 0.5 | 1.7 (13)
FREMANTLE 0.0 | 2.1 | 5.1 | 7.1 (43)

GOALS:

Adelaide: E. Phillips
Fremantle: A. Sharp 2, G. Houghton 2, T. Haynes, B. Webb, S. Duffy

DC BEST:

Adelaide: E. Marinoff, E. Phillips, S. Allan, A. Hatchard, R. Martin, S. Thompson
Fremantle: K. Bowers, E. Antonio, S. Cain, T. Haynes, G. Houghton, A. Sharp

Image Credit: Sarah Reed/AFL Photos

Credit: Mike Owen/Getty Images via AFL Photos

MAGPIES SWOOP EARLY TO DOWN TRADITIONAL RIVALS

COLLINGWOOD maintained its perfect 2021 record in tact on Sunday afternoon, swooping early to down Richmond by 17 points on enemy territory. In what was the first fixture between these two traditional rivals at Punt Road Oval since 1964, the Magpies set up an unassailable lead at three quarter time and held off the fighting Tigers thereafter to run out 7.6 (48) to 4.7 (31) victors.

The young and inexperienced Richmond side was made to pay for missed opportunities, particularly in the second term when the Tigers owned patches of valuable territory and possession, but could only scrounge three behinds while the Magpies added a vital major. Despite some rawness showing inside 50, both sides showed great intent in looking to move the ball forward quickly and catch either defence off guard.

There were three first year players who kicked their first senior goals on the day, with number one pick Ellie McKenzie booting two for Richmond after Collingwood pair, Joanna Lin and Tarni Brown both capitalised on their opportunities close to the big sticks. Lively Magpies forward Aishling Sheridan continued her good form, matching McKenzie with a game-high two majors in the win.

Brittany Bonnici returned one of the finest statlines in Collingwood AFLW history with 31 disposals, 10 marks and four tackles, while fellow midfielders Bri Davey (25 disposals, seven tackles, one goal) and Jaimee Lambert (25 disposals, six inside 50s) were also impactful from the engine room. Chloe Molloy worked into the game to finish with a goal from her 12 touches, as Ruby Schleicher again impressed down back with slicing run-and-carry among her 17 disposals and five rebound 50s.

For Richmond, Monique Conti again saw the most ball with 25 disposals, while the likes of Katie Brennan (17 disposals, five marks, six inside 50s) and McKenzie (12 disposals, five tackles, two goals) finished extremely well to lead the fruitless Tigers fightback. Sarah Hosking proved a bright starter before landing on 15 touches overall, while Harriet Cordner continues to hold up the defence and Gabby Seymour gets better each week in the ruck. Debutant Tessa Lavey also fit in seamlessly, gathering 15 disposals from the wing.

The Tigers face another of their traditional rivals in Carlton as Round 4 rolls on, set to light up Saturday afternoon at Princes Park, while Collingwood faces its toughest test yet in a blockbuster clash with North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.

RICHMOND 1.0 | 1.3 | 2.4 | 4.7 (31)
COLLINGWOOD 3.0 | 4.2 | 7.6 | 7.6 (48)

GOALS:

Richmond: E. McKenzie 2, C. Wakefield, T. Stahl
Collingwood: A. Sheridan 2, B. Davey, S. Alexander, J. Lin, T. Brown, C. Molloy

BEST:

Richmond: M. Conti, E. McKenzie, K. Brennan, S. Hosking, T. Lavey, G. Seymour
Collingwood: J. Lambert, B. Davey, B. Bonnici, A. Sheridan, C. Molloy, R. Schleicher

All-rounder Venning looks to sharpen skills in draft year

TALENTED West Adelaide teenager Zoe Venning is looking to build on her previous seasons at South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s level in 2021. The now draft-eligible mid/forward has come a long way in a short space of time, and is eyeing off being drafted at the end of the year.

I started footy not long ago so haven’t been playing too long, maybe four years, five years,” Venning said. “I started at Westies, I’ve been there for three years now, so this is my third season.”

Speaking to Draft Central at the South Australian Preseason Testing Day yesterday, Venning said she felt she had improved across the board in all the testing results. While many athletes record well in certain tests, Venning said she was fairly solid across the board without too many outlying results one way or another.

I felt I went alright, much better than last year,” Venning said of her 2021 performance. “I was not very good last year, so there will hopefully be an improvement. “I’m not strong at one aspect I find myself at, I’m okay at all of them, I don’t have a weakness but I don’t have a strength in any of them, so I kind of see that as a positive as well.”

On the field, Venning is known for her fierce attack on the ball, something she prides herself on. She is not afraid to crack in and win the contested ball, but also knows when to time her runs to enter a contest or drop back.

“A massive strength of mine is my hard ball gets, so I’m not afraid,” Venning said. “And my ability to read the play, so I tend to get a lot of ball because I work out to play a kick behind and in the stoppage, so I’ll always have an extra second to get to the ball.”

Having seen a number of her teammates in past years get drafted into the AFL Women’s, Venning said she hoped to follow in their footsteps. In particular, Rachelle Martin is a fellow hardnut that Venning has looked up to and aspired to be like when it came to training standards and her attack on the contest.

“She (Martin) tried so hard at training, she’s always hard at the all and she’s someone I look up to as a football player,” Venning said. “She hasn’t got a game this season (so far for Adelaide) but she got one last season.”

Having spent time around the likes of Martin and other Adelaide AFL Women’s listed players such as Madison Newman and Chelsea Biddell, Venning said the experience only helps her strive to become the best possible player she could be.

“Definitely and I just like them being in my team because they’re such a role model, it makes you push yourself and go ‘I want to be like that’, that’s the goal,” she said.

Now with the season fast approaching ,Venning has her mind set on both short and long-term goals for herself and the Westies.

“My goal for the year is to get drafted and have a good season with my team, hopefully play finals,” Venning said. “Then something if I could improve across, my left, right handball, left right kick, just the action of both hands, making sure my skill execution is on point by the end of the year.”

West Adelaide kicks off its 2021 campaign at Coopers Stadium against Norwood, the side it knocked out of the finals series last year, the second of a double-header at the venue with a grand final rematch opening proceedings from 6pm local time.

Picture credit: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

2021 AFLW Preview: Adelaide Crows

ADELAIDE will aim to catapult itself back into premiership contention after an injury-riddled 2020 season. Head coach Matthew Clarke has made some major changes to his coaching staff, with club greats Scott Thompson and Tom Lynch joining the panel. The trio will restock Adelaide’s side with a number of returning premiership stars.

2020 RECAP
The Crows finished sixth in Conference A last year, winning just two of their six matches. Premiership players Chelsea Randall and Chloe Scheer missed the entire season with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructions, while Deni Varnhagen and superstar Erin Phillips only played three matches between them as they returned from their own respective knee issues. Injuries to several other players meant that the Crows were forced to blood more and more youngsters as the season progressed. Adelaide’s two wins came early in the season against St Kilda and Geelong, two sides that did not qualify for finals in 2020. Realistically, the Crows just struggled to move the ball from end to end and failed to apply enough pressure on opposition sides.

A shining light throughout 2020 was midfielder Anne Hatchard, who won their best and fairest and made the AFLW All-Australian side after averaging 25 disposals, six tackles and three inside 50s per game. Tackling machine Ebony Marinoff was effective alongside her at the clearances, but the pair did not get much help from the Crows’ wingers or forwards, particularly late in the season. Sarah Allan was the side’s other strong performer, as she led Adelaide’s defence well and was rewarded with a spot in the All-Australian side.

NEW FACES
Lively forward Jess Sedunary returns to the club after playing one season for expansion side St Kilda. Sedunary was a premiership player for the Crows in 2017 and is a proven goalkicker at senior level. Although she is coming off a broken fibula and may take some time to reach full strength, she will bring a wealth of leadership and experience to the group. Former Giant Lisa Whiteley will be an important addition to the Crows’ defence, while young winger Hannah Munyard, who has good pace and skills, provides some much-needed depth after playing three games for the Bulldogs in her debut season.

Draftees Teah Charlton, Rachelle Martin and Ash Woodland are three readymade recruits that should make an immediate impact for the club. Charlton, taken with pick four in the AFLW Draft, is a talented midfielder and half-forward from South Adelaide with goal sense, effective ball use, overhead marking ability and aggression. Expect her to be in the running for the NAB AFLW Rising Star Award. Midfielder Martin won the South Australian National Football League Women’s (SANFLW) 2020 best and fairest award (alongside Hatchard) and played a match for the Crows last year as an injury-replacement player. Flexible utility Woodland gained AFLW experience for Melbourne in 2019 before winning North Adelaide’s best and fairest award last year in a premiership side. She also won the SANFLW Leading Goalkicker award in 2020.

With Randall, Scheer, Varnhagen, Hannah Button, Rhiannon Metcalfe and Phillips all set for full seasons this year after serious injuries in 2020, they can be considered ‘new faces’ as well. On the other hand, Adelaide loses veteran Courtney Gum along with premiership players Jess Foley, Courtney Cramey and Sophie Li to retirement.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021
Chelsea Randall is the one to watch. She is arguably the most courageous defender in AFLW and her skills, leadership and football IQ were sorely missed last year. With Randall positioned alongside Allan and Marijana Rajcic in defence, Adelaide should prove very difficult to score against.

Justine Mules is the other Crow to keep an eye on. She finished third in Adelaide’s 2020 best and fairest count after averaging 11 disposals, two tackles and two inside 50s per game. The two-time premiership player has shown continuous improvement since her debut season and looks set to have a major impact on a wing in 2021.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT
Two words: premiership experience. With 19 premiership players on their list, the Crows have more of these than any other side in the competition. This experience will prove valuable in finals, and it is well known that the Crows’ top names are made for the biggest stage. With numerous young players rising up the ranks and some veterans nearing the end of their careers, the hunger to recapture premiership glory should be there as well.

QUESTION MARK
Adelaide’s lack of depth is their biggest question mark. This was exposed last season following injuries to their franchise players, as the young Crows struggled to hold up their end of the bargain. However, this experience could prove valuable for the inexperienced players as they should now be more comfortable competing at senior level. Additionally, the inclusions of Sedunary, Whiteley, Munyard and the draftees should help improve their depth.

FINAL WORD
A line-up that includes Randall, Marinoff, Hatchard, Phillips and Allan is a scary proposition for any opposition side. The Crows have elite talents all across the ground and should catapult back into finals contention, but it is unclear whether they are truly premiership contenders. Fremantle, North Melbourne and Carlton were the best sides in 2020 and deserve favouritism ahead of the Crows at this stage.

Much of Adelaide’s hopes depend on the fitness and agility of the seasoned players returning from injury. Their forward line was the main area that struggled last year, as they often failed to lock the ball inside their forward 50 and relied far too heavily on Stevie-Lee Thompson, Eloise Jones and Danielle Ponter. The returns of Scheer, Phillips, Sedunary and Button should help spread the workload in this area.

We we will learn more about the Crows’ premiership aspirations when their season gets underway on the 30th of January against the Demons.



For more AFLW news and analysis, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

Picture: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images