Tag: Renee Forth

SANFL Women’s Round 6 preview: Sunday clashes ones to watch in huge round of action

NOW the first games have been done and won, the eight South Australian National Football League (SANFL) teams return for Round 2 in what is a blockbuster round of action. Sunday’s games in particular – between West Adelaide and Sturt, and North Adelaide and Glenelg – are ones to watch.

NORWOOD VS. WOODVILLE-WEST TORRENS
Saturday, July 4, 11.50am
Coopers Stadium

Opening up the round is a clash between fourth placed Norwood and sixth placed Woodville-West Torrens Eagles. The Redlegs made their way into fourth win an impressive win over Central District last week, leapfrogging Sturt into a finals position at the midpoint of the season. The Eagles have been close in each match they have played, but still remain with just the one win. A victory and a Sturt loss would see the Eagles move up to fifth on the table, whilst a Norwood win would see them draw level with the Bloods if Sturt can get up, or go a full three points clear inside the top four if as expected, West Adelaide wins against the Double Blues.

In terms of changes, the Redlegs have made just the one confirmed change with Lindsay Bigg the only confirmed out of the side, whilst Elisha Gallagher and Bella Smith return in what will be a good boost for the side. The Eagles have made at least two forced changes, with both Stephanie Walker and Natasha Holmes out of the match through injury. Adding to an extended bench for thew visiting side is Bronwyn Davey, Brooke Mullen, Jaida Tabb and Eli Gianakis all named.

For the Eagles to win, their top notch tackling pressure will need to be on show again, and the inclusion of Renee Forth last week added a touch of class to a fiercely defensive side. Tesharna Maher and Jovanka Zecevic impressed in the first round back after a long lay-off, whilst the inclusion of Tabb – the sister of Adelaide’s Jaimi – will show off some of he future talent on the list. One player who will be looking to have a bigger influence on the contest this week is forward, Kiana Lee who can be really influential on her day.

Norwood just has a lot of good solid talent across the park, with some serious young X-factor such as Matilda Zander and Mattea Breed who have plenty of potential to keep developing their football. Given arguably the league’s best ruckman in Leah Cutting is doing her thing and Najwa Allen and Monique Hollick are back in the side, there is plenty to like about Norwood’s premiership credentials. Smith has been named at centre half-back and will be one to watch, whilst Alison Ferrall proved a handful up forward last week booting three goals, the same as Breed.

Norwood head into this as favourites and should win, but the Eagles always make life difficult for opposition teams with their defensive pressure.

 

SOUTH ADELAIDE VS. CENTRAL DISTRICT
Saturday, July 4, 3.30pm
Flinders University Stadium

Reigning back-to-back champions South Adelaide welcome Central District to Flinders University Stadium in a match the Panthers will be keen to win well. They were pushed all the way by Glenelg last weekend, while Central District had its chances but could not convert enough to really threaten Norwood. Heading into this game, South sit second on the table only behind the top of the table Roosters, whilst the Bulldogs are in last, but a win would see them get off the bottom of the table.

Central has the less complicated changes of the teams, with young talent Kimberley Fry the only confirmed out of the side for tomorrow’s match. Emma Keys, Keely Cannizzaro and Amber James are the three players named in an extended squad. The Panthers have been forced to make five changes with some big names out through injury or work. Czenya Cavouras and Elke Jarvis both have work commitments and will miss the game, while an injured trio in captain Lauren Buchanan, Courtney Barry and Elyse Haylock are all out. Naturally South Adelaide has named seven players as possible replacements, including Emily Brockhurst, Sheena Peters, Brianna Wedding and Lauren Clifton who were all named on the field for the clash.

What makes the Panthers so strong in the depth within the starting line-up and very few weaknesses. Glenelg was able to get on top at times last week, but it took some AFL Women’s talent to break down South Adelaide. Then the likes of Nikki Gore, Hannah Munyard and Jess Kirk all fought back to have important roles through the inside midfield, outside midfield and forward line respectively. Add in the fact that the Panthers won without a huge contribution from star young gun Teah Charlton – who started to get going late in the contest, and there is a reason they have been so successful of late. In the absence of Buchanan, Jaslynne Smith and Samantha Pratt have some big jobs ahead of them.

The Bulldogs were gallant at times last week and never looked completely out of the contest. Katelyn Rosenzweig is always a danger up forward with her strong hands and penetrating kick likely to hit the scoreboard each and every week. She will always attract a crowd too at the marking contest, so if the Bulldogs crumbers can get to work, they can have a bit of freedom knowing their opponents can occasionally try and assist a defender in stopping Rosenzweig. The likes of Alicia Butler and Latiah Huynh were really impressive last week, and have some eye-catching traits. Whilst scoring at times has been an issue for Central, their defence stacks up against some of the best, with Sarah Allan returning to the club for the second half of the season and providing that extra experience alongside Demi Sonneman and another returning player in Gemma Doughty who made the successful return from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury last week.

South Adelaide will be strong favourites for this one given the midfield strength, but with a couple of key players down in the back half, Central has a chance to take advantage of the reshuffling of magnets.

 

WEST ADELAIDE VS. STURT
Sunday, July 5, 11.50am
Hisense Stadium

Of all the clashes, this could be the most exciting. Both teams have an abundance of youth which they are backing in this week and will make for quite the show at Hisense Stadium. Naturally, the third placed West Adelaide will have the upper hand at home, sitting in a good position to pounce if South Adelaide slips up. The Bloods have a good percentage gap on fourth placed Norwood, and after getting the job done against Woodville-West Torrens eagles in a scrap last week, expect the game to open up more this week. Sturt dropped out of the top four and their percentage took a hit with that huge 77-point defeat to North Adelaide, so getting a win here would be important to try and get their form back.

Amelie Finnimore and Nicole Hooper will miss the Bloods clash through injury this week, while Tamika May and Taylor Hand are also listed on the outs. A debutant in Hannah Scholar from Morphettville Park will join four others on an extended bench. Olivia Smith, Abbey Hardwick, Alex Mason, Scarlett Griffiths and Georgie Gray are all in line to return to the team for the clash. Sturt on the other hand has made just the two changes with Ally Ladas out injured, joining Holly Temby as the two confirmed changes. In line to make their debuts for the Double Blues are Olivia McEvoy and Tiah Hough, the latter of whom is a member of the Crows’ Academy. Caroline Burgess and Aajiah Jericho are the other two named in an extended team.

Whilst Sturt might have been overwhelmed last week, there was always a bit to like about the way they move the ball, and they when using their short kicking and hitting up targets it worked, but North Adelaide knew to add pressure to the mix and it was hard to quell. Hannah Prenzler was a standout down back with Maya Rigter throwing herself everywhere through midfield trying everything to get her team over the. Rigter and her co-captain Georgia Bevan are guiding a young team, and Rigter herself is still only 19. Zoe Prowse had a quieter game last week but has the potential to really get going, whilst Alex Ballard had some purple patches in the game.

West Adelaide was able to do enough to shake off a determined Eagles outfit in Round 5, and their two half-backs in AFL Women’s Crows talent Madison Newman and young gun Keeley Kustermann might be the best one-two combination at that position when it comes to running and hitting targets. Having two terrific ball users coming out of defence is crucial to a team’s success and they certainly offer that. With Rachelle Martin and Abbie Ballard leading the charge in midfield, they can get it down to arguably the most damaging forward line as well. Melanie Elsegood as the deep forward alongside AFL Women’s talent in Chelsea Biddell and Stevie-Lee Thompson is a strong mix, whilst Zoe Venning provides that dash between the arcs.

West Adelaide are one of the dark horses this season and should get the job done here, but both teams will score more than they did last week in a free-flowing contest.

 

GLENELG vs. NORTH ADELAIDE
Sunday, July 5, 12pm
ACH Group Stadium

If AFL Women’s talent is what you after, then look no further than the final game of the round between the undefeated North Adelaide and the rising Glenelg. On face value the Tigers are seventh on the table and really need to start making a move to have a chance at finals. But with the return of a number of AFL Women’s players – who all had a big impact last week against South – they are ready to rake in the wins. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they have copped the two best sides in the first two weeks back, and this North Adelaide team is coming off a 77-point demolition job of Sturt.

Glenelg will be without Soriah Moon who is a big loss, joining Cass Hartley as the players out of the side from the loss to Sturt. Coming into the team are Molly Affolter, Sheridan Howell, Lauren Bungey and Rachel Aistrope with at least two to make it into the final term. Alex Fitridge is the only out for the Roosters this week, as North Adelaide welcomes back defender Lauren Gauci, as well as adding Kendall Howell, Charlea Taylor and Brianna Arthur to an extended bench.

North have managed to get stronger with the addition of Gauci who provides extra strength to the league’s best backline. Kristi Harvey and Amber Ward have been mainstays in the key posts this year, but bringing in West Coast’s Talia Radan adds another key talent in there, and Gauci will have the freedom to provide some extra run when needed. Through the midfield, Anne Hatchard would have broken all kinds of statistical records last week when she brought her own ball to the game against the Double Blues. She was simply unstoppable and carried on her best and fairest winning from from the Crows. Teaming up with Ashleigh Woodland and Leah Tynan in midfield, and throwing in the speed and class of Katelyn Pope and Hannah Ewings, and the Roosters outfit are premiership favourites for a reason. There are very few, if any weaknesses in the line-up, and it will take a special effort to beat them on any given day.

Glenelg do have some serious talent that can stretch the Roosters however, led by Ebony Marinoff, Eloise Jones and Caitlin Gould. Marinoff was enormous in the first half for the Bays last week, and Jones was just about their best with her strong hands and work in transition up forward. Caitlin Gould could have had a bigger day and might be ruing her missed chances on goal, something she will no doubt fix for this game. Deni Varnhagen provided great speed on the outside, whilst Grace Duffy and Sam Franson also had impressive moments in the loss. The Tigers top-end talent is class and quality, and whilst North Adelaide have the greater depth, the Bays have a lot of strong contributors who work as one unit and know what each other is capable of, and why they pushed the reigning back-to-back premiers for so long last week.

The Roosters are favourites because they have not lost and on paper are the best team in the competition, but they can also not underestimate what Glenelg is capable of on its day, especially with Marinoff and Jones among those running around.

SANFL Women’s Team of the Week: Round 5 – Roosters, Panthers and Tigers quartets impress

A TRIO of teams each had four representatives in our South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s Team of the Week in Round 5 as football returned to the state’s elite competition. North Adelaide, South Adelaide and Glenelg all had four representatives in the team, with other winners, West Adelaide and Norwood, as well as Central District having three players. Sturt had two and Woodville-West Torrens the one in what was a really difficult week to select just 24 players.

North Adelaide had a massive 77-point victory and had a plethora of eligible representatives who could have squeezed into the side, however four achieved just that feat. Anne Hatchard was the dominant player over the weekend and earned the captaincy for her ball-winning efforts through the middle. She is joined the team by fellow midfielder Katelyn Pope who was named on a wing, as well as young gun Hannah Ewings at half-forward and Lauren Daniel on the bench.

South Adelaide and Glenelg played out a thriller with both teams having plenty of top-end quality and had one third of the Draft Central SANFL Women’s Team of the Week between them. South’s Nikki Gore was a star through the midfield and starts onball with Hatchard, whilst Hannah Munyard – who predominantly played on the wing – managed to win touches all over the ground and due to the strength of the midfield lands at half-back in this team. Also in the back six is another AFL Women’s talent in Lisa Whiteley, whilst competition leading goalkicker Jess Kirk slotted three majors to continue her stranglehold on that award and made the side.

While the Tigers might have lost, they had their fair share of top performers, with three players making the 24-player squad and another making the emergencies. The Tigers have three of the six forward spots with midfielder Ebony Marinoff one pushed out to a flank – though she did rest forward – given the midfield strength. Fellow Crows players Eloise Jones and Caitlin Gould are the others to make the starting side. On the bench, Deni Varnhagen makes the side, whilst Soriah Moon narrowly missed out.

Another game had plenty of representatives with Norwood’s victory over Central District. The Redlegs had starting ruck Leah Cutting made the side once more, whilst up and coming midfielder Matilda Zander booked her spot in the tough midfield group. Najwa Allen also made her way onto the team, coming off the bench in this side. For the Bulldogs, they have the bookends in Sarah Allan and Katelyn Rosenzweig up either end, whilst Alicia Butler was also impressive in the loss and makes it into the squad. Fellow Bulldog, Latiah Huynh was close to making the side and earned a spot as one of the emergencies.

West Adelaide also had a trio of players making the 24-player squad, led by Rachelle Martin who starred and earned the vice-captain nod in our side. Also in the team was reliable defenders, Madison Newman and Keeley Kustermann who were superb out of the back 50. Fellow young midfielder Abbie Ballard was also named as emergency for the team. Rounding out the team was Sturt young gun Hannah Prenzler at centre half-back, alongside Double Blues co-captain Maya Rigter on the bench, whilst Woodville-West Torrens utility Renee Forth finalises the full squad.

B: Madison Newman (WA) – Sarah Allan (CD) – Lisa Whiteley (SA)
HB: Hannah Munyard (SA) – Hannah Prenzler (ST) – Keeley Kustermann (WA)
C: Matilda Zander (NW) – Rachelle Martin (WA – vc) – Katelyn Pope (NA)
HF: Ebony Marinoff (GL) – Eloise Jones (GL) – Hannah Ewings (NA)
F: Jess Kirk (SA) – Katelyn Rosenzweig (CD) – Caitlin Gould (GL)
R: Leah Cutting (NW) – Anne Hatchard (NA – c) – Nikki Gore (SA)
INT: Najwa Allen (NW) – Alicia Butler (CD) – Lauren Daniel (NA) – Renee Forth (WWT) – Maya Rigter (ST) – Deni Varnhagen (GL)
EMG: Latiah Huynh (CD) – Abbie Ballard (WA) – Soriah Moon (GL)

SANFL Women’s review: Round 5 – Panthers, Roosters impress with statement wins

FOOTBALL returned to South Australia over the weekend and some of the state’s best footballers returned to the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition. North Adelaide and South Adelaide further enhanced their premiership credentials, whilst other now top-four sides, West Adelaide and Norwood won their respective matches as well.

CENTRAL DISTRICT 0.0 | 0.3 | 1.4 | 3.6 (24)
NORWOOD 2.3 | 3.6 | 5.8 | 7.10 (52)

GOALS:

Central: Rosenzweig 2, Reynolds.
Norwood: Breed 3, Ferrall 3, Lishmund.

ADC BEST:

Central: K. Rosenzweig, A. Butler, S. Allan D. Sonneman, L. Huynh
Norwood: M. Zander, N. Allen, M. Breed, R. McMahon, A. Ferrall

Three-goal hauls to Mattea Breed and Alison Ferrall has seen Norwood secure a solid 26-point victory over Central District in the first return game of the SANFL Women’s competition. The Redlegs were in control for the most part, particularly after a strong first half, but despite the score, the Bulldogs were matching it with their highly fancied opponent. Central District managed to find its range in the second half when they booted three goals, and whilst the Bulldogs were still outscored, showed some really promising signs.

Najwa Allen returned to the Redlegs for the restarted season after winning a league best and fairest with the club a season earlier. It did not take her long to have an impact on proceedings, teaming up well with fellow ball-winning star Matilda Zander in midfield to find plenty of it early. Along with Rebekka McMahon who was slicing up the opposition defensive zone, the trio were among the best on ground in a big first term. The Redlegs booted 2.3 to 0.0 to head into the first break with a 15-point advantage.

They did not have it all their own way however, with reliable defender Demi Sonneman taking a great one-on-one contested mark in the defensive goal square, and the Bulldogs would have been thrilled to have Gemma Doughty back from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Doughty made a successful return and had remarkably clean hands off the deck for someone who had missed so much football. The two goals in the term went to Ferrall and Alana Lishmund whose majors in the first half of the quarter made it look like it could be a long day for the Bulldogs.

Instead, after that it was largely tight, with the Bulldogs unlucky not to be a lot closer than the 21-point deficit at half-time. They had a number of chances – particularly late – with the ball camped in Central’s forward 50 for the most part of the quarter. Katelyn Rosenzweig was starting to get going with the ball now in her zone, and she had the first chance of the day with a set shot but it fell short. She scored the Bulldogs first score – a behind – a moment later, and that was followed by behinds to Latiah Huynh and Rosenzweig again. Both were within 20m, with Huynh’s set shot just drifting and Rosenzweig’s snap over her head on the wrong side of the post.

In a cruel blow for all their efforts, Central watched as Norwood ran it down the other end, and after a couple of near misses, Ferrall was paid a free kick at the top of the goalsquare as the siren rang out moments later. She converted her second goal easily and the Redlegs were in control despite not having the majority of the play in their forward half.

The third term opened with a flurry as Breed booted her first major after some scrappy play inside 50, turning around, fending off an opponent and putting it through. She almost had a second moments later, but despite it going through, it was brought back due to a free to Doughty. The Northern Territory talent did not have to wait much longer to add another major to her name however, snapping around her body and getting the favourable bounce to clear the defender on the line.

Central refused to give in though, and continued to pepper the goals when given the opportunity. It took until the ninth minute of the third term for Rosenzweig to slot the Bulldogs’ first, and thanks to Central’s defence holding up – namely the work of Sonneman, Kimberley Fry and Shelby Smith – the Bulldogs did not concede another goal. At three quarter time, Breed had created some separation for her side with the two majors and Norwood held a comfortable 28-point lead.

Zander continued to rack up the touches and have a real influence in the early stages of the last term, but she was not the only returning player to have a say, with Doughty producing a massive run-down tackle at half-back to win the ball. She and another inclusion in Sarah Allan were prominent alongside the already reliable defensive unit, but for all their work, it was Breed who capitalised with a third goal following a free kick straight in front.

Alicia Butler was another player who was starting to really influence the contest and a long clearance inside 50 helped Chantelle Reynolds put boot to ball and dribble towards the line – after a quick fumble – but Rosenzweig finished it off with a sliding effort. Norwood responded not long after with Ferrall’s third after plenty of loose Redlegs were running around and a perfect pass from Zander found her teammate at the top of the square. With Leah Cutting also having a big day out in the ruck, the Redlegs were all but home as the time ticked down.

Reynolds got her name in the goalkicking books with a nice conversion after a free kick thanks to perfect kick placement from Huynh, and it was the last major of the day. Both Rosenzweig and Butler had chances in the dying minutes – Butler’s right before the siren – but the pressure, and in Butler’s case an opposition hand out of a stoppage, saw the chances result in behinds. The siren sounded for the Redlegs to win 7.10 (52) to 3.6 (24) and move into the top four.

STURT 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 (6)
NORTH ADELAIDE 4.1 | 8.6 | 11.6 | 12.11 (83)

GOALS: 

Sturt: A. Brown.
North: K. Barltrop 2, M. McKendrick 2, K. Pope 2, B. Perry 2, C. Castle, A. Woodland, H. Ewings, B. Arthur.

ADC BEST:

Sturt: M. Rigter, H. Prenzler, A. Ballard, G. Bevan, A. Brown
North: A. Hatchard, K. Pope, L. Daniel, L. Tynan, H. Ewings

A remarkable run of 23 scoring shots after conceding the first goal of the game saw North Adelaide Roosters send an ominous warning to the rest of the competition. Whilst it was hard to fault the effort and defensive pressure of a young Sturt outfit, the cleanliness and composure of a Roosters outfit, boosted by the inclusions of several AFL Women’s stars, was evident during the massive 77-point victory on Saturday.

The game started with Sturt setting the tone thanks to a huge Maya Rigter run-down tackle on Leah Tynan to win a free at half-back and stop a certain inside 50. Moving it down the ground, a free kick and subsequent 50m penalty moved Arabella Brown from a tight angle 20m out, to point-blank range which she duly converted. The Double Blues were up by a goal, but little did anyone know, that would end up their only score of the game.

From there, North Adelaide took control, with Adelaide best and fairest winner Anne Hatchard suffering leather poisoning, and dominating the contest. No matter what the opposition threw at her, Hatchard moved around the stoppages with grace and continued to find the ball all over the field. The accuracy with the North Adelaide kicks going forawrd was telling, and it benefited full-forward Kelly Barltrop who marked on a lead 30m out and booted the Roosters’ first of the contest seven minutes into the match.

It started a momentum roll-on with Hatchard bursting out of the middle and booting it long which led to a Mollie McKendrick goal. Lauren Daniel joined Hatchard as one of the prime movers, and despite Sturt saving a goal off the boot of Hatchard, the Roosters midfield was starting to swarm, and fellow AFL Women’s talent Britt Perry marked at the top of the goalsquare and put another home. Shortly after, Cristie Castle added her name to the list with a free kick and subsequent goal from 25m out, mostly thanks to the work by Katelyn Pope who used afterburners to blow away any opponent from trying to catch her.

If the danger signs for Sturt were not there before the break, they were shortly after as the first clearance of the second term saw Hatchard burst away, bomb it long and then Barltrop got goalside to soccer through her second. The next clearance saw young gun Hannah Ewings scoop the ball off the deck with remarkable cleanliness to give it by hand to a running Ashleigh Woodland who saluted from outside 50 with the help of a bounce in the square.

Sturt had its chances as well, getting the ball inside 50, but the work of Kristi Harvey and Amber Ward was suffocating any forward moment for the Double Blues. Holly Temby had a brave run into a contest to stop a North Adelaide switch as the Roosters were attacking, but the ladder leaders recovered and soon got it forward where McKendrick won a free out of the stoppage and kicked truly from 40m to see her side’s third in five minutes. By this stage, North was peppering the goals and arguably could have finished with more.

Arabella Prowse was showing some promising signs throughout the games through the ruck for Sturt, but the midfield of the Roosters was just too strong, and when Pope once again put the afterburners on in the 10th minute of the term, there was no stopping her as she slammed another one home and it was party time. To Sturt’s credit, the pressure applied by the likes of Rigter and young defender Hannah Prenzler coming out of the back half was stopping the flood gates opening. Hatchard had a couple of chances herself, as did fellow inclusion, Tayla Gordon whose shot from 35m out straight in front got touched on the line.

Ewings was getting better as the game went on, showing some serious X-factor with her ability to quick turn out of a stoppage and burst away to kick inside 50. She was then on the end of a Hatchard kick to mark 20m out straight in front and slot another Roosters goal. By the end of the term, Brianna Arthur and Pope had both added goals, with Hatchard still being heavily involved in most plays. Sturt also had a number of chances, but a late free kick to Georgia Bevan saw the co-captain opt to hand off the pass with the flying shot falling short and the siren going not long after.

Facing a 66-point deficit at the final break Sturt wanted to come out with fire in the belly in the second half, and Alex Ballard showed serious intent winning a free kick for going in low and hard to grab the ball at ground level. It set the tone for the rest of the quarter as the Double Blues held the Roosters goalless until the last few minutes when Perry converted a great goal. Ballard, Prenzler and Rigter were all strong right until the end, with Prowse again showing great initiative, even if it could be over zealous at times and giving away free kicks.

Whilst the Roosters arguably could have won by more with inaccuracy plaguing them, the midfield was just too deep to beat, and it will be hard to see North Adelaide losing too many games with the inclusions strengthening an already impressive outfit. For Sturt, there were signs of a promising future with some real standouts, but they were just outclassed by the clever zoning of the Roosters.

WEST ADELAIDE 1.1 | 2.1 | 3.2 | 4.3 (27)
WWT EAGLES 0.0 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 (10) 

GOALS:

West: Z. Venning, S. Thompson, R. Martin, C. Biddell.
WWT: J. Zecevic.

ADC BEST:

West: R. Martin, K. Kustermann, M. Newman, A. Ballard, S. Thompson
WWT: R. Forth, J. Zecevic, T. Maher, G. Smallcombe, A. Blanden

West Adelaide have moved clear in third spot on the SANFL Women’s table with a dour win over Woodville-West Torrens Eagles on Sunday. In what was a low-scoring slog that was predominantly a battle of half-back lines and defensive pressure, the Bloods’ defence was able to hold the Eagles to just one goal from five scoring shots, whilst capitalising on four of seven of their own to win by 17 points.

Rachelle Martin was absolutely sensational for the winners, but she was far from alone, teaming up well with partner-in-crime Abbie Ballard, whilst the defensive work of young gun Keeley Kustermann and the equally slick ball user in Madison Newman ensured the opposition had a tough time scoring. For the the Eagles, it was Renee Forth returning to the competition to be the clear standout in a losing side, and while the Eagles were only five points down at half-time, could not capitalise on their few opportunities after the main break.

The match started with Martin and Ballard immediately having an impact, and Zoe Venning capitalising on the opening goal with a long-range set shot. Forth was working hard back in defence alongside Tesharna Maher, whilst Jovanka Zecevic was having a big say in proceedings early on for the Eagles. The composure of 15-year-old Kustermann to switch at times to open up the opposite side of the ground was impressive. Her quick hands in traffic also stood out in a first term that aside from the goal in the first few minutes, yielded just one behind.

Neither defence refused to give in and clear marks inside 50 were hard to come by. Early in the second it was Ballard who put a perfectly weighted kick into Chelsea Biddell leading out 45m from goal. The pressure from the Eagles ensured that any shot that fell short was rebounded, as Maher showed off second and third efforts to desperately clear the danger zone. The goal drought broke with 2019 AFL Women’s leading goalkicker Stevie-Lee Thompson put one through the big sticks off, whilst her midfield partners were still racking up the touches.

An end-to-end play for the Westies almost resulted in a massive play of the day. It started with Kustermann laying a huge tackle to force her opponent to ground and get a stoppage. Martin won the ball at the stoppage and went for a run around the wing, Zoe Greer received it and put it quickly to Melanie Elsegood‘s advantage who put it deep to Kate Walsh near the square, but the ball slipped through her hands. In typical Eagles fashion, reliable defender Grace Smallcombe wrapped up Walsh to force another stoppage.

A couple of behinds to the Eagles were missed opportunities later in the term, before Zecevic stepped up to pick-pocket her opponent attempting to handball then took a long-range shot which sailed through with just a couple of minutes remaining. The quarter ended with just five points separating the sides and the game well and truly in the balance heading into the second half.

The third term saw Martin pick up where she left off, racking up the ball with ease. Ballard was fierce in the contest and won a free kick for a terrific tackle, whilst Forth was still battling hard coming out of defence and using her skills to advantage. The Bloods were able to use their slick short passing game to advantage and get to half-forward, but the convocation of Eagles ensured that a mark close to goal was incredibly difficult. It took until a free kick to the Bloods and Martin sneaking into a pocket to receive the ball uncontested and slot a major from 20m out to give the home side some breathing room.

One of the plays of the day from Thompson came midway through the quarter when she burst out of the middle, kicked it to half-forward, then followed up with a big tackle to lock the ball up and force a stoppage. With another behind added to the Eagles’ total, they were still down on the scoreboard, but not completely out of it.

The fourth term was the biggest arm-wrestle of the lot, with neither team able to really dent the opposition’s sturdy defence. Kustermann and Newman were class acts at half-back, standing out with their terrific ball use, whilst Martin and Ballard were able to spend time resting forward at intervals. Sensing one goal could just about seal the deal, it took a bit of magic from Biddell, who at a stoppage, gathered, snapped and put it through the middle to all but end the contest.

The Eagles had a chance to add a consolation goal through Amie Blanden who worked her opponent under the ball with great body work, got to the goalsquare, gathered the ball and went to kick it through from point blank range. Unfortunately it hit the side of her boot and cannoned into the post. With just one more behind – to West Adelaide – to end the contest, the Bloods secured an important 17-point win.

GLENELG 2.2 | 4.3 | 5.3 | 5.3 (33)
SOUTH ADELAIDE 1.2 | 3.2 | 4.3 | 7.6 (48)

GOALS:

Glenelg: E. Jones 2, E. Marinoff, S. Wilton, S. Moon.
South: J. Kirk 3, N. Gore, T. Meyer, M. Bennett, T. Charlton.

ADC BEST:

Glenelg: E. Jones, C. Gould, D. Varnhagen, E. Marinoff, S. Moon
South: N. Gore, H. Munyard, J. Kirk, T. Meyer, L. Whiteley

FOUR unanswered goals from South Adelaide to end the contest saw the Panthers get up by 15 points over Glenelg in a highly entertaining contest on Sunday. Both sides welcomed back a host of AFL Women’s talent for the contest, and it lived up to all expectations with the likes of Nikki Gore and Hannah Munyard controlling the Panthers’ midfield up against Ebony Marinoff and Deni Varnhagen, whilst Eloise Jones, Caitlin Gould and Lisa Whiteley were among the top players too.

The stacked midfields were on song from the get-go with Munyard having the first meaningful inside 50 of the game courtesy of a trademark sidestep. Her opposition midfielders in Marinoff and Varnhagen were both racking up the touches through the middle as Marinoff’s tackling pressure and Varnhagen’s outside run were swinging the contest in favour of the Bays. It took a special moment from athletic ruck, Soriah Moon to put the first scoring chain together, as she beat her opponent, turned swiftly and still got her kick away as she was tackled, with Grace Duffy getting the handball off to Jones who snapped around her body.

Czenya Cavouras was working hard in the middle for the Panthers, whilst Gore’s speed and defensive pressure was causing Glenelg headaches, producing a massive run-down tackle to win the ball back. Cheyenne Hammond put on the afterburners for South and it led to Jess Kirk winning a free and kicking the Panthers’ first. In what was a see-sawing contest, debutant Tiger Sarah Wilton got involved with Marinoff by finding her inside 50. The Crows star played on and quickly kicked a goal, but was called back and nailed the set shot anyway.

Wilton herself almost put one through from an impossible angle in the pocket, but it was touched on the line, and with the likes of Lauren Buchanan and Whiteley in defence, South managed to keep possession towards the dying moments. Kirk had a chance for her second marking strongly moments before the siren but uncharacteristically missed the set shot from straight in front for a straight-kick deficit at the first break.

Both teams were needing to start off on the right note and it was no surprise to see Marinoff on the front foot with her pressure forcing an opposition turnover and getting it down by a series of handballs to the debutant Wilton who put it straight through the middle and hand her team a 12-point lead. Young gun Panther, Indy Tahau was matching it with Moon in the ruck as a really entertaining duel, whilst Munyard and Gore were teaming up with great success. It would be Kirk who got the Panthers back on track however, being in the right place at the right time to soccer through a bouncing shot on goal from Tahlia Meyer for Kirk’s second of the day.

If Gore was not already considered one of the best-ons at that stage, she soon was with a remarkable goal that came from great defence. Gore won the ball, was intercepted, but a team defence inside 50 forced a turnover with the ball back to the Crows’ midfielder who kicked a terrific running goal to level the scores once again. In response, Marinoff stood up to mark in the pocket 35m out, but her set shot surprisingly fell short. However a huge contested grab and subsequent goal from Jones in the goalsquare saw the young star boot her second to match Kirk and hand the Tigers another lead.

Moon’s work across the ground – including getting back into defence to take a strong mark led to a scoring opportunity involving Jones, Marinoff and Wilton, ending with Gould who had a chance from 40m out but sprayed the set shot. It was a missed opportunity as the Tigers had one last chance and it was fitting that Gould would again be the recipient from a similar distance. This time it was on target, but it landed on the line and was punched through for a behind.

Leading by seven points, Glenelg was still in control of the game and needed an early response. After eight minutes of wrestling for momentum, it was Glenelg, through Moon, who got the all-important goal. Varnhagen’s work in defence had saved an earlier chance, and with Moon’s ruck work getting the ball to her midfielders’ advantage, she was on the end of one from a Jones’ set shot that fell short. Moon earned a free kick at the top of the goalsquare and popped it through. At that stage, Glenelg led by a game-high 13 points and looked in complete control of the game. Little did anyone know, it would be the Tigers’ last score of the day.

It would not be the last the crowd saw of South’s scoring though, with Meyer curling a set shot around the goal and in to almost immediately respond and put the deficit back to seven points. The atmosphere rose for the Panthers, with Gore and Cavouras burying in through the middle, and Munyard doing well on the outside. Nicole Campbell who had been quiet to that point took a massive courageous grab. Unfortunately for South, Courtney Barry had to be carried off after injuring herself in the final minutes of the game. Whilst the Panthers had the last few attacking forays, a terrific intercept contested grab by Gould in the dying seconds ensured the Bays headed into the final term with a six-point advantage.

The final term belonged to South Adelaide, though not without an early Tigers’ fight. Whilst they might not have seemed switched on immediately from the break – the Panthers only fielded 17 players and had to be told to bring another on – they were certainly switched on once the ball was bounced. A big tackle from another star who had been quiet to that point, Teah Charlton, led to a chance on goal, but it ricocheted into the post. It might have been a behind, but the pressure stakes were up.

South Adelaide were starting to swarm in numbers and Munyard had a terrific run off half-back to hit-up Charlton and she in turn got it in the Kirk direction. Whilst the ambitious tap behind the head hoped to get into her teammates’ advantage, Ellie Kellock was the first to the ball, but the pressure was there from the losing side. Soon, the breakthrough goal came and it was fitting that Kirk won a one-on-one marking contest straight in front and converted her third for South’s first lead of the game.

The duo of Gore and Munyard had gone from incredibly good to match-winners as they firmly took control of the middle in the final term as Marinoff and her side began to tire. The final term seemed to be a quarter for those to stand up and take their chances, with Madison Bennett soccering home a goal to much jubilation from her teammates. Moments later the swarming Panthers put through another as Charlton got on the board in what had been a big last quarter for the teenager.

Glenelg had a couple of chances through the quarter, but Whiteley further enhanced her credentials and match performance with a huge last term in defence, intercepting plenty of forward forays, as the reigning premiers ensured they did not let the lead slip. The last play of the day was a terrific pass from Meyer into Kirk who marked on a long lead and had a set shot after the siren. In a bizarre end to the game, Glenelg punched the ball back into play, but as the players walked away to shake hands, the ball rolled through for a behind, meaning the score counted and the Panthers had won by 15 points.

SANFL Women’s Round 5 preview: AFLW stars return as competition kicks off

FOOTBALL is back in South Australia, but it is not just the return of the beloved game which will excite fans, but the fact the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s teams are going to be even stronger than before with a stack of AFL Women’s talent returning to the competition. We preview a huge round five of action which starts tomorrow morning.

CENTRAL DISTRICT vs. NORWOOD
Saturday, June 27, 11.50am
X Convenience Oval

The first game off the bat in the return of season 2020 is a clash between two sides that had the one win each prior to the break, but the Bulldogs’ victory came at Norwood’s expense back in Round 1. Since then Central had three consecutive losses, two by heavy margins, whilst the Redlegs won one and drew one to move up to fifth in a remarkably close competition after four rounds. With the draw in-hand, Norwood will move up to fourth on the table if they win and the undefeated North Adelaide take care of Sturt. For the Bulldogs, a win would certainly see them lift off the bottom, with both West Adelaide and South Adelaide starting favourites against their respective opponents, Woodville-West Torrens Eagles and Glenelg. At the very least, Central would leapfrog Norwood with a second win against them in this clash.

Last time these teams clashed, Central won by four points and Katelyn Rosenzweig proved a problem with three majors for the winners, whilst the Bulldogs tackled their way to victory with 56 tackles to 39. Their defence led them to victory with a plus seven differential in rebounds, whilst the Redlegs dominated most other stats, most notably the marks (plus 30) and the hitouts (plus 21). It was the accuracy in front of goal that let the reigning minor premiers down in the clash, and the Bulldogs made the most of their chances.

Fast forward to this match and the teams are welcoming back a couple of AFL Women’s talents. Sarah Allan comes in for the Bulldogs to provide some much needed experience to a team that whilst impressive defensively, is still young, and will aide young gun Kimberley Fry with support back there, freeing up Demi Sonneman to continue her ripping form of the past 18 months. The Redlegs bring back last year’s league best and fairest, Najwa Allen who provides the cream on top of a well rounded team that just had not gelled prior to the season. Her inclusion could spark a real revival for the Redlegs as they eye off yet another finals series.

With the VFL Women’s not going ahead in its traditional form, Matilda Zander remains in South Australia and will have more freedom with Allen back in the side, whilst Monique Hollick – who was yet to play a game this season – and Rhiannon Busch are among those to return to the team. Whilst the COVID-19 period might have been a terrible time for a lot of people, Gemma Doughty returns from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury she sustained last season, something the Bulldogs talent would never have been able to do if the season had run its course as expected.

The Redlegs will start favourites despite the Round 1 loss, with the key to try and limit Rosenzweig’s opportunities. For Central, they have to bring the heat like they did in Round 1, and if they can reduce the impact of Allen in the midfield whilst getting more opportunities up forward, then this is a huge chance to get off the bottom of the table.

STURT vs. NORTH ADELAIDE
Saturday, June 27, 11.50am
Peter Motley Oval

League disposal records might be in threat when these teams take to the field tomorrow morning with ball magnet Anne Hatchard returning to an already ridiculously stacked Roosters outfit. North Adelaide has some unbelievable top-end experience, and they take on one of the youngest sides going around in Sturt. The Double Blues opted to not bring in any AFL Women’s players for the remainder of the SANFL Women’s season, and will focus on youth to round out 2020 – something that they have an abundance of this year.

When the competition abruptly ended, the Roosters sat on top of the table as the only undefeated team, having knocked off the other top three teams, as well as accounting for both Glenelg and Central District easily in the first two rounds. Sturt on the other hand had started slowly with losses against contenders, West Adelaide and South Adelaide before grinding out wins against Woodville-West Torrens Eagles and Central District.

The Roosters will be incredibly difficult to beat in this side, with Hatchard not being the only AFL Women’s inclusion for the side that was already dominant prior to the boosts. GWS GIANTS’ Britt Perry and West Coast’s Talia Radan both come into the side with Perry being a former Rooster before being drafted last year. She has been named at half-forward, with Radan named in defence alongside Kristi Harvey who was arguably the best state league defender in the competition. With Amber Ward and Lauren Gauci having more freedom to run the ball down the field with Radan’s inclusion, it will be difficult for most sides to try and stop them. In the forward half, Kelly Barltrop will benefit off even better disposal, whilst the likes of Cristie Castle and young star Hannah Ewings will cause havoc inside 50.

Sturt might not have the names fans know now, but they have the names fans will know in the future. Their list is stacked with some of the best young talent in the league, and led by former AFL Women’s talent Georgia Bevan, and a rising star in Maya Rigter. Prior to the break, Hannah Prenzler, Zoe Prowse and Isobel Kuiper were really stamping their authority on the competition, with Alex Ballard another young talent who has shown good signs. They have all the hallmarks of a great future side, but make no mistake this would take a mammoth upset to topple the experience that the other team has. But young teams play with no fear, and Sturt is certainly an exciting team to watch.

WEST ADELAIDE vs. WWT EAGLES
Sunday, June 28, 11.50am
Hisense Stadium

Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, West Adelaide had shown some real promising signs in season 2020, with two wins and a draw in four rounds. They would have been disappointed to let slip against Norwood in Round 4, splitting the points instead of taking all two, but now take on a Woodville-West Torrens outfit who the Bloods should start strong favourites against. With favourable inclusions from an AFL Women’s perspective, West Adelaide has every chance of being a dark horse in the competition and you cannot put a line through them given the talent they have injected into the team.

West Adelaide have wasted no time welcoming back some former Bloods, with Chelsea Biddell having a huge 2019 season which resulted in her being drafted. She lines up back at centre half-forward, whilst bringing in 2019 AFL Women’s leading goalkicker Stevie-Lee Thompson to an already damaging forward line presents nightmares for opposition defences. Madison Newman and Rachelle Martin have also been named – but they played in the Round 4 draw so did not need to be inclusions.

The Eagles have welcomed back two AFL Women’s players in Renee Forth and Jess Sedunary from the Crows and Saints respectively. Forth slots onto a half-forward flank, whilst Sedunary has been named on the bench in a side that has also lost a lot of quality for this game. Both former AFLW talent Rhiannon Metcalfe, and current Crows young gun Jaimi Tabb are unavailable, out amongst seven changes to the Round 4 clash. That match was the club’s first ever win in competition, marking a special moment for the Eagles after so many close misses this season.

The Eagles were the number one tackling team in the competition prior to the lockdown, and if they can return as such then they will make every side earn their goals. They have Tesharna Maher and Kiana Lee as talents up either end, with the latter no doubt benefiting off the strength of the team being bolstered. The Bloods have their fair share of young talent too with first time watches expected to hear the names Zoe Venning and Keeley Kustermann a fair time over the next couple of years, whilst Kasia Culhane knows how to hit the scoreboard.

The combination of Biddell and Melanie Elsegood, along with Culhane, Venning and Thompson all inside 50 makes the West Adelaide forward 50 arguably the best in the competition. The Eagles have a strong defence that is built on pressure, but the back six will certainly get a work out if the Westies fire as expected. The underdogs will need to be at their best in order to stem the flow, and winning the midfield is crucial to getting on top of their opposition.

GLENELG vs. SOUTH ADELAIDE
Sunday, June 28, 12pm
ACH Group Stadium

The final match of the round pits back-to-back premiers South Adelaide up against a Glenelg side that has struggled in the opening month of the season. The Panthers won three straight to open the season, before falling to the red-hot North Adelaide in the grand final replay back in Round 4. Glenelg managed to get one up over Central District in Round 3 thanks to the inclusion of Caitlin Gould who ran rampant and led her side to a huge win. Gould returns to her side, alongside one of the AFLW’s best players in Ebony Marinoff, but South Adelaide’s inclusions are also very good.

The Panthers welcome back Crows talent Nikki Gore and Western Bulldogs’ midfield Hannah Munyard who both slot into the side alongside other listed players Nicole Campbell and Czenya Cavouras who played in Round 4. They face off against a Tigers side that not only has Gould and Marinoff in the team, but also Deni Varnhagen and Eloise Jones to provide some serious X-factor around the ground. This game is shaping up to be the best of the round with so much top-end quality running around, allowing those who had already impressed prior to the break, to have more freedom in their games.

Last year Marinoff returned to the Tigers outfit in the last few rounds to guide Glenelg to a finals series, and whilst they fell short of the grand final-bound Roosters, she showed just how much of an impact she could have. She has been named in the forward pocket, but expect her to rotate with Jones who has been named onball and could easily kick multiple majors up forward. The Tigers should have no trouble generating opportunities, if the duo can get on top of the highly touted Panthers midfield. That is not to discount the likes of rising star Tessa Kohn and up and comer Sam Franson who were in good form prior to the break.

South Adelaide has won the past two flags for a reason, and whilst it would be understandable for them to drop back a peg after a host of their young guns were drafted last year, the Panthers had other ideas. They matched it with the undefeated Roosters and ticked off every other box after almost slipping up in Round 1 against the Eagles. That seemed to be a wake up call and they never looked back. Aside from their great talents of Gore, Cavouras, Campbell and Munyard through the middle who are proven at AFLW level, they also have two of the state’s brightest prospects. Teah Charlton and Indy Tahau are in the AFL Women’s National Academy, with Charlton the potential first pick for the state this year, whilst Tahau stepped up on the big stage to be best on ground in last year’s grand final. They can similarly not be underestimated by the Tigers.

The match is essentially a battle between the midfields. If the highly touted South Adelaide onball brigade get on top, then the Panthers have enough firepower to put a big score on the board. However if Glenelg can get on top, then watch out because Gould showed what she can do with delivery inside 50, and Marinoff and Jones will certainly offer that.

AFL Women’s Top 15 improvers: Cats youth develop while Crows step up

THE AFL Women’s season is only two games in, but there have already been a number of impressive performers in season 2020. We take a look at the top 15 players who have improved their game from season 2019 to season 2020. While we understand that it is a matter of opinion, we have crunched the numbers to bring a factual approach, looking at those players who have bolstered their Draft Central (DC) Points the most in that time frame. DC Points are similar to the traditional fantasy points, with the exception of not including free kicks for or against, as to not penalise or reward players in that aspect of the game. It is a debate for another day, but overall this method is a good measure of improvement based on statistical areas.

What we have listed are the top 15 players in the AFL Women’s who have shot up the rankings in terms of their DC points, looking at their total points this year compared to last, providing an insight into those players who have really stepped it up this season.

eq #1 Rebecca Webster
Geelong
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 221st / 20
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 7th / 72 (+52)

The clear standout for the Most Improved if there was such an award, with the former Murray Bushrangers skipper playing more midfield minutes in 2020 and benefiting massively. She has gone from a consistent role player in the defensive half of the ground, where she averaged 6.3 disposals, one mark, one tackle and one rebound per game from four games last season, into a ball winning juggernaut of 17 disposals, 6.5 marks three inside 50s and two rebounds per game, covering the ground more than before. It followed on from her strong VFL Women’s season where she spent a lot of time in the midfield, averaging 16.5 touches per game and showing the coaches that she was capable of taking the next step in her game.

eq #1 Phoebe Monahan
Richmond
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 221st / 20
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 7th / 72 (+52)

Crossing from GWS GIANTS to the Tigers over the off-season, Monahan was not as highly recognised as teammate, Christina Bernardi, but she has really stepped it up in season 2020 to match it with Geelong young gun, Webster. Having played at the GIANTS for two seasons and averaging between seven to eight disposals per game, Monahan has shot up to 17.5 per match getting around the ground and primarily playing out of the back half. She has already recorded a massive 6.5 rebounds and three inside 50s to help the Tigers, and while they have lost both their clashes so far, the 26-year-old has provided some good experience in defence for the young Cubs.

#3 Anne Hatchard
Adelaide
2019 DC Rank + Ave: 14th / 73
2020 DC Rank + Ave: 1st / 121 (+48)

The only other player close to the top two in season 2020 is Anne Hatchard. Already a prominent ball winner with the Crows, the absence of Erin Phillips from that midfield group has forced Hatchard to shoulder more of the load with Ebony Marinoff and the other Crows midfielders. Having already averaged more than anyone else on this list last season with 73 DC points to accompany 18.9 disposals, she is far and away the top disposals winner in 2020, averaging 29.5 and holding the league record of 35 touches in a game, whilst averaging the six marks as well. While unlikely to maintain those kind of lofty averages throughout the season, her start has certainly been remarkable.

#4 Sharni Layton
Collingwood
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 207th / 22
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 34th / 55 (+33)

There would be very few who would have expected the former Australian Diamonds netballer to be this high up on the list, if at all. Having played six games last season off no real football experience, Layton rarely got near it and was learning from a blank canvas. Fast forward 12 months, and the ruck looks like a natural at the game, averaging 18.5 hitouts and kicking her first AFL Women’s goal in Round 1. She has also more than doubled her disposals and is clunking her marks, laying more tackles and looking a dangerous prospect for any opposition player considering her frame. While it might look like she burst onto the scene this year, the foundations for this kind of form were built in the VFL Women’s last season, averaging 11 disposals, 15.6 hitouts, three tackles and two marks per game. Stunningly, Layton averages the same DC points as Ellie Blackburn and Jenna Bruton, showing the form she is in.

eq. #5 Danielle Ponter
Adelaide
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 127th / 33
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 24th / 61 (+28)

With the high injury toll at the Crows, some of their next tier was bound to stand up, and Danielle Ponter has been one of those players. In 2019, Ponter played as a pure small forward in her debut season, playing eight games and snaring 13 goals in that time at an impressive 1.6 per game. While no doubt benefiting from the strength of the Crows line-up, she held her spot and then this season has moved further up the ground, averaging 12.5 disposals, 3.5 marks and 3.5 inside 50s per game. She is yet to hit the scoreboard, but is setting others up, using her class and poise to work her way through opposition defensive zones and she has a high upside for the future.

eq. #5 Breann Moody
Carlton
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 185th / 25
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 44th / 53 (+28)

Much like Layton, Moody is a player you might not expect to be on this list as the ruck roles are often underrated at AFL Women’s level and the focus being on the midfielders or key forwards. Along with Layton, Moody has been sensational to start the season, averaging 16 hitouts and 10 disposals, after just the 6.4 and 4.4 respectively from eight games last year. While deployed as a forward who rotated through the ruck last year, she has taken the number one ruck role by the horns and is thriving in 2020.

#7 Jasmine Garner
North Melbourne
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 29th / 59
2020 DC Rank + Ave: 3rd / 86 (+27)

Already considered one of the league’s best players, and certainly most damaging, Garner has been played up both ends but seems most at home in the forward half. Last year she broke even with her 2018 season at the Pies, booting the same amount of goals, but without the heavily reliance on her performing, and finding a pure role in attack. At Collingwood she played at both ends, and while 2018 might be considered her best year, she is only track to easily eclipse that in 2020. Right now she is third overall for DC points, and is averaging a massive 19 disposals, four marks, five tackles and a goal a game from her two matches.

eq. #8 Olivia Purcell
Geelong
2019 DC Rank + Ave: 39th / 53
2020 DC Rank + Ave: 4th / 77 (+24)

The second of the Cats young brigade to get a mention in this list, Purcell has bolstered herself up to be a genuine Most Valuable Player (MVP) chance. Not only has she maintained her ball-winning abilities, but she showed she can hit the scoreboard, booting two goals in her Round 2 match against Brisbane. Only in her second season, Purcell is averaging six more disposals and four more marks, getting to the outside more often, and also dropping into defence to help out as a key cog in that midfield group. Another player who build form through the VFL Women’s program with a strong season.

eq. #8 Aasta O’Connor
Geelong
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 144th / 30
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 39th / 54 (+24)

Having an early season purple patch, O’Connor is back in the form that made her a damaging ruck at the Western Bulldogs a couple of seasons ago. Her first season in the blue and white hoops was interrupted and less consistent, but her start in 2020 has been impressive, coaching the younger rucks such as Rene Caris to come through, and is the perfect centre square ruck in the Cats side with the likes of Purcell, Webster and Nina Morrison all running around – players who O’Connor has mentored and watched develop through her role in the AFL Women’s Academy.

#10 Julia Crockett-Grills
Geelong
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 132nd / 32
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 34th / 55 (+23)

With four players in the top 10, it shows the Cats are doing something right even if it might not be shown on the scoreboard just yet. Crockett-Grills, like Purcell has developed into a fully fledged AFL Women’s midfielder, averaging 15.5 disposals, 3.0 marks and 3.5 tackles per game. She steadily built form in the Cats program last season, playing eight games in the AFLW since being drafted from the premiership-winning Hawks’ outfit. Her VFLW season was even better last year and she has continued that form in 2020 at the elite level.

#11 Stacey Livingstone
Collingwood
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq 110th / 36
2020 DC Rank + Ave: 27th / 58 (+22)

The reliable defender would be a lock for All-Australian if the team was decided right now, and it is little surprise to see her in this rich vein of form considering her VFLW season. She won the Lisa Hardeman Medal for best on ground in the VFLW Grand Final and has rolled that form into the 2020 AFLW season. Now into her fourth season, Livingston has really stepped up her offensive game to match that of her dire defensive work which saw her nullify many key forwards in the past. Now Livingston has become more of an offensive threat, which has shown in her improvements in disposal numbers (+4), rebounds (+2) and marks (+2).

eq. #12 Ash Riddell
North Melbourne
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 35th / 55
2020 DC Rank + Ave: 6th / 73 (+18)

While we have not included players who missed the season last year, Riddell did get on the park in a couple of games before going down in Round 2. Comparing her two games from last season to 2020, Riddell has been more potent on the attack, with six more disposals and three more inside 50s per game. She is still laying her 4.5 tackles per game and able to hit the scoreboard, but she is pushing up the ground and impacting the contest to a greater degree. After an elite VFLW campaign, Riddell is a good chance for All-Australian form if she can maintain her early season showings.

eq. #12 Christina Bernardi
Richmond
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 90th / 39
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 28th / 57 (+18)

The Richmond forward came with plenty of hype in the off-season as one of the famed trio to land at the yellow and black along with Katie Brennan and Sabrina Frederick. Her season at the GIANTS was underwhelming, playing deeper that she did at Collingwood and not having the same impact. Now at Richmond, Bernardi is having a greater influence on the game up the field, averaging 13.5 disposals and 3.5 marks per game, back in the form she was in for the black and white in 2018.

eq. #12 Renee Forth
Adelaide
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 90th / 39
2020 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 28th / 57 (+18)

Of all the marquee players from the inaugural season, the 32-year-old Forth is often seen as flying under the radar. She crossed from the GIANTS to the Crows last season and played in a premiership off the back of an improved year without the injury concerns of 2018. In 2020, Forth has already lifted her numbers across the board, and is averaging double-figure disposals as well as a career-high 3.5 tackles and 3.0 inside 50s per game. Not a known huge ball winner like some of her teammates, she has stepped it up so far and is playing her role well.

#15 Gemma Houghton
Fremantle
2019 DC Rank + Ave: eq. 53rd / 46
2020 DC Rank + Ave: 22nd / 63 (+17)

The Fremantle tall forward is flying under the radar this season despite becoming a real target inside 50. With all the talk around the young crop coming through at the Dockers, Houghton is going about her business to average 13.0 disposals, 4.5 marks, 3.0 hitouts, 3.5 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s and a goal per game. She covers a lot of ground and is doing well in a number of areas and has already been one of the top key forwards this season.

2019/20 AFLW off-season review: Adelaide

REIGNING premier Adelaide is a deserving favourite of chasing its third AFL Women’s flag in four years after keeping together an already impressive list, and adding a host of young and experienced stars to its roster. There were plenty of tears when two-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) Erin Phillips went down with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in the 2019 AFL Women’s Grand Final, and just as many recently when Chelsea Randall suffered the same injury that has now ruled her out of the 2020 season.

But through some shrewd recruiting, the Crows picked up the only other MVP winner in the AFL Women’s short history, with former GWS GIANTS’ star Courtney Gum returning back to South Australia after retiring, then opting to give the elite level another crack. Along with Gum, Montana McKinnon will provide the immediate relief for the loss of Jess Allan who headed to the GIANTS due to work, while Jess Sedunary was the only other player to leave for another club, joining St Kilda. Rheanne Lugg and Sally Riley both found second homes through free agency, while Jenna McCormick retired to focus on her international soccer career. Joining the club along with McKinnon through the draft were 2019 Under-18 All Australians, Jaimi Tabb and Madison Newman, while versatile talls, Caitlin Gould and Chelsea Biddell add some much needed depth to the Crows – especially now Randall has gone down. The other two recruits were South Adelaide ball winner, Nicole Campbell, and the best South Australian women’s player in the state league in Najwa Allen who crossed to the state for the 2019 season and showed just how talented she is through the midfield.

OFF-SEASON CHANGES:

IN: Montana McKinnon, Nicole Campbell, Courtney Gum (South Adelaide), Najwa Allen (Norwood), Jaimi Tabb (WWT Eagles), Caitlin Gould (Glenelg), Madison Newman, Chelsea Biddell (West Adelaide)
OUT: Jess Sedunary (St Kilda), Jess Allan (GWS GIANTS), Rheanne Lugg, Sally Riley, Katelyn Rosenzweig, Sarah Perkins (delisted), Jenna McCormick (retired)

2020 TEAM LIST:

Sarah Allan
Najwa Allen
Chelsea Biddell
Nicole Campbell
Dayna Cox
Courtney Cramey
Angela Foley
Jessica Foley
Renee Forth
Nikki Gore
Caitlin Gould
Courtney Gum
Anne Hatchard
Eloise Jones
Sophie Li
Ebony Marinoff
Montana McKinnon
Rhiannon Metcalfe
Justine Mules
Madison Newman
Erin Phillips
Danielle Ponter
Marijana Rajcic
Chloe Scheer
Jaimi Tabb
Stevie-Lee Thompson
Deni Varnhagen
Ruth Wallace

Rookie: Ailish Considine
Inactive list: Hannah Martin (ACL), Chelsea Randall (ACL), Maisie Nankivell (netball)

POTENTIAL 2020 SIDE:

B: Dayna Cox – Sarah Allen – Justine Mules
HB: Courtney Cramey – Marijana Rajcic – Angela Foley
C: Courtney Gum
HF: Danielle Ponter – Chloe Scheer – Erin Phillips
F: Eloise Jones – Stevie-Lee Thompson – Deni Varnhagen
R: Jessica Foley – Anne Hatchard – Ebony Marinoff
INT: Renee Forth – Najwa Allen – Ailish Considine* – Courtney Cramey – Montana McKinnon
EMG: Jaimi Tabb – Rhiannon Metcalfe – Sophie Li

DEPTH: Chelsea Biddell, Nicole Campbell, Nikki Gore, Caitlin Gould, Madison Newman, Ruth Wallace, Hannah Martin*, Chelsea Randall*

*ACL injuries

It is clear the Crows have enviable depth on their roster with a ridiculous amount of talent that is hard to squeeze into the side. Adelaide might opt to begin blooding more young players in season 2020, as the likes of Courtney Cramey, Rhiannon Metcalfe, Sophie Li and even Phillips come towards the twilight of their careers. The huge question will be whether or not Phillips can return in time for the start of the season, but if not, you can be sure she will run out at some stage such is the elite professionalism and determination of the athlete.

Expect names such as McKinnon and Allen to push for a Round 1 spot, with Gum the other obvious choice if fit. The loss of Randall is huge, meaning Marijana Rajcic might have to play taller, or they opt for a team defence. Caitlin Gould could also slot in there, but is likely to take time to adapt to the level, with Newman, Tabb and Nikki Gore others one can expect to feature at some stage. The Crows have plenty of ‘Plan Bs’ with Biddell a readymade key forward option, much like Campbell in midfield, and then there’s the ruck experience of Metcalfe just waiting in the wings. From the dominant midfield to the firepower up forward, this side is every chance to go back-to-back and no-one will be surprised if the super-human athlete in Phillips makes it back for an early return.

2019 VFLW weekend Round 1b preview: Eight teams begin their campagins

AFTER the Southern Saints made a statement in the opening round with a victory over last year’s minor premiers Collingwood, the other Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s sides take to the field, as four games are played across the competition. The Western Bulldogs and Carlton have the bye, as do Williamstown, however the Seagulls are facing off against GWS GIANTS in an invitational match which will see the GIANTS match-up against some of the Victorian sides. Below are the teams and season previews.

ESSENDON v. CASEY DEMONS

Round 1 – 11/05/2019
11:30
Windy Hill

Essendon

B: 7. K. Hicks, 11. M. Warburton, 29. C. Laan
HB: 18. K. Heil, 27. A. Morcom, 21. K. McFadyen
C: 28. R. Svarc, 39. M. Fogas, 1. C. Ugle
HF: 25. L. Stepnell, 23. M. Collier, 24. S. Wilson
F: 3. M. DeMatteo, 38. E. Gogerly, 40. A. Moreen
R: 30. S. Nalder, 22. N. MacDonald, 8. H. Bullas
Int: 13. S. Audley, 2. I. Currenti, 43. G. Nanscawen, 4. A. Saundry
Emg: 45. E. Ashley-Cooper, 15. L. Caruso, 33. E. Hosking, 14. T. Zagontinos
23P: 31. J. Stassi

Casey Demons

B: 50. G. McLean, 13. K. Smith, 15. T. Tatterson
HB: 34. A. Kirkwood, 7. B. Jakobsson, 8. S. Lampard
C: 23. E. Birch, 16. M. Hogg, 22. M. Guerin
HF: 42. H. Bailey, 29. E. Zanker , 11. C. Emonson
F: 24. N. Garner, 40. H. Dyson, 27. B. Winbanks
R: 38. K. Bentvelzen , 41. R. Edmeades, 47. K. Guttridge
Int: 48. E. Archer, 9. A. Johnson, 32. A. McDonough, 54. K. Oates
Emg: 57. L. Davies, 51. A. Francese, 37. T. Nash, 62. G. Speedy
23P: 46. B. Pratt

 

DAREBIN v. RICHMOND

Round 1 – 11/05/2019
12:00
Swinburne Centre

Darebin

B: 32. G. Colvin, 21. K. Roe, 19. R. Hibbert
HB: 16. B. Kennedy, 56. R. Ashley, 43. N. Wolfe
C: 1. E. Honybun, 9. M. Eastman, 28. A. Morrow
HF: 17. S. Simpson, 22. G. Hammond, 7. L. Szigeti
F: 36. E. Buckley, 31. E. Gardner, 23. M. Wilson
R: 37. E. McLaughlin, 15. A. Lister, 33. J. Stanton
Int: 18. C. Byrne, 39. S. David, 25. C. Delbridge, 20. S. Fairchild
Emg: 46. R. Coombs, 55. M. Hubbard, 49. A. Ladson, 50. M. Suzuki
23P: 57. P. Kearney

Richmond

B: 26. E. Burry, 41. S. Last, 15. R. Miller
HB: 19. K. Dempsey, 2. P. Monahan, 34. A. Makur Chuot
C: 25. G. Egan, 5. M. Brancatisano, 8. J. Graham
HF: 33. J. Colwell, 16. C. Wakefield , 36. E. Paterno
F: 17. E. Gunn, 24. T. Stahl-Smith, 46. H. Ibrahim
R: 11. A. Edmonds, 13. A. Woodward, 1. J. Kennedy
Int: 43. G. Campbell, 30. D. Edward, 37. M. Klingbeil , 22. S. Marsh
Emg: 39. M. Lindsay , 32. I. Milford, 23. T. Smith
23P: 29. K. Jacques

 

HAWTHORN v. NT THUNDER

Round 1 – 12/05/2019
11:30
Box Hill City Oval

Hawthorn

B: 25. M. Hutchins, 6. T. Radan, 31. J. Sibley
HB: 13. E. Nixon, 40. E. MacDonald, 21. P. Randall
C: 33. E. Gilder, 24. R. Dillon, 5. C. Perera
HF: 12. N. Cormack , 26. C. Dyett, 18. E. Wroe
F: 17. A. Dowler, 2. K. Henderson, 30. A. Sarec
R: 22. T. Luke, 10. P. Peschke, 8. R. Beeson
Int: 14. O. Flanagan, 11. D. Haines, 15. B. Struylaart, 29. A. Tanner
Emg: 4. S. Carroll, 35. C. O’Donnell, 27. K. Scott
23P: 23. G. Macpherson

NT Thunder

B: 37. M. Rajcic, 33. T. Thorn, 31. A. Stanley
HB: 23. E. Miller, 9. L. Jeffrey, 26. C. Randall
C: 13. L. Roberts, , 12. K. Streader
HF: 11. J. Hickey, 10. A. Chittick, 18. T. Holtze
F: 27. A. Considine, 7. M. Ellis,
R: 20. J. Hewett, 3. A. Foley, 1. M. Johnston
Int: 17. S. Bishop, 24. S. Hoogeveen-Hill, 21. K. Irvine, 5. M. Roberts, 48. K. Rosenzweig, 34. D. Varnhagen
Emg: 32. B. Byers, 29. C. Deegan
23P: 2. J. Baird

 

MELBOURNE UNI v. GEELONG CATS

Round 1 – 12/05/2019
02:30
Melbourne University Main Oval

Melbourne Uni

B: 45. A. Arundel, 3. T. Mesiti, 17. E. Hay
HB: 22. J. Anwyl, 26. N. O’Connor, 32. C. Daniec
C: 53. J. Grierson, 36. N. Julian, 14. M. McDonald
HF: 38. K. Angelis, 51. J. Tancred, 40. A. Runnalls
F: 4. E. King, 57. A. Price, 18. A. Tupper
R: 5. K. Gillespie-Jones, 25. J. Garner, 35. J. Bruton
Int: 34. K. Cox, 47. M. Hare, 46. A. Roan , 52. M. Shone
Emg: 42. L. Amelung, 44. E. Bult, 30. S. Farmer, 41. J. Thomas
23P: 39. V. Saad

Geelong Cats

B: 49. E. Ramsay, 4. C. Blakeway, 23. H. Rowe
HB: 20. R. Pearce, 44. R. Goring, 11. J. Woollett
C: 3. A. McDonald, 27. R. Webster, 10. G. Rankin
HF: 45. M. Keryk, 17. G. Clarke, 9. T. Love
F: 42. B. Beckley, 8. K. Darby, 7. R. Benham
R: 1. R. Caris, 5. J. Ivey, 41. A. Haigh
Int: 14. N. French, 33. Z. Inei, 43. M. Maguire, 13. L. Taylor
Emg: 26. M. Boyd, 15. G. Deller, 16. O. Purcell
23P: 19. S. DeGiacomi

 

SEASON PREVIEWS: (Including byes)

CARLTON BLUES

Coach: Shannon McFerran
Last year: 7th (6-8)

The entire Carlton side would be buzzing with the AFL Women’s achievement of making the Grand Final and hoping to follow in the senior side’s footsteps. Last year the Blues showed signs within games, but could not quite put together a four quarter effort. They had an enormous amount of future AFL Women’s talent on their list last season with Tyla Hanks and Madeline Brancatisano (both Melbourne), Rene Caris (Geelong) and Celine Moody (Western Bulldogs) all poached by other clubs in the draft, while Abbie McKay, Chloe Dalton and Brooke Walker made the transition up to senior football at the Blues. Darcy Vescio won the leading goalkicker award after another terrific season inside 50 and look for her to be a key player in Shannon McFerran‘s side. With the close bond between Carlton and Northern Knights – and the strength of the Knights program in 2019 – do not be surprised for the Blues to be bolstered mid-season by the likes of Gabby Newton and Britney Gutknecht among others. They have picked up Marnie Jarvis and Taylah Manson from the Knights last year, and with continued improvement and recruitment of Madison Prespakis, Emerson Woods and Charlotte Wilson – who all had TAC Cup Girls and VFLW experience prior to being drafted, the Blues are a sleeper side that is not to be taken lightly.

 

CASEY DEMONS

Coach: Damien Keeping
Last year: 10th (5-9)

Despite a disappointing season on the ladder, Casey Demons were raided at the AFL Women’s draft with six drafted on the night, and a further one (Taylor Mesiti) prelisted. Jordyn Allen, Georgia Gourlay and Maddie Shevlin all swapped red and blue for black and white, while Casey Sherriff, Chantel Emonson and Shae Sloane showed enough to be picked up the Dees. The Demons have brought in some height with the recruitment of former Oakleigh Chargers and Essendon ruck, Bridie Winbanks, while putting an emphasis on retaining Melbourne AFLW listed players, something they did not have the luxury of having with many playing at Darebin given the players history with the Falcons. Now just Elise O’Dea, Lauren Pearce and Brooke Patterson are at the Falcons, so the Demons can have a stronger link to the AFLW side. Harriet Cordner and Maddison Gay were two big improvers of the 2019 AFLW season and will be ones to watch for the Demons in the upcoming VFLW season. A couple of key pickups for the Demons include Gippsland Power duo, Nikia Webber and Shanara Notman who could provide service up opposite ends. Overall look for the Demons to improve this year.

 

DAREBIN FALCONS

Coach: Michael Ericson (NEW)
Last year: 5th (8-6)

Darebin Falcons defied odds by finishing fifth last season and on track for finals up until a couple of rounds out from the post-season series. Michael Ericson has taken over from Jane Lange at the helm, and with it faces a new challenge of keeping the side competitive. O’Dea, Pearce and Patterson loom as the keys to the team, while Jamie Stanton who moved from Melbourne University – to align with her shift from North Melbourne to Gold Coast AFLW – is another AFLW listed player. Bridie Kennedy also joins the team from Carlton after having that AFLW experience, but mostly the Falcons will be relying on the yourh of the team and experienced VFLW players. Captain Stephanie Simpson is one of six players with 30 or more VFLW games under her belt which in the scheme of the relatively new competition is vital. Northern Knights, Nell Morris-Dalton and Ciara Fitzgerald have also joined Darebin, while former Eastern Ranges’ Lauren Szigeti will have benefited from her six games last year. Overall the Falcons will still give the top teams something to think about on their day, and rack up wins against the bottom handful, but it will be a test to be a genuine contender.

 

ESSENDON BOMBERS

Coach: Brendan Major
Last year: 13th (1-13)

It was fair to say Essendon did not have the season it had hoped for, winning just the one game and taking out the wooden spoon in season 2019. With limited AFL Women’s experience, the Bombers just lacked that top-end talent that other clubs had, and while the Bombers had that tackling ferocity through best and fairest winner, Hayley Bullas and the class and skill of future Adelaide AFLW premiership player, Danielle Ponter, they did not have enough talent across the board to compete with the sides that were flushed with AFLW signatures. The one win against Richmond was terrific to see, as it meant the Bombers got some reward for effort after a long season. Along with Bullas, Courtney Ugle and Simone Nalder have returned to the club, while former Murray Bushrangers’ defender and Eastern Allies representative, Eloise Ashley-Cooper will add some class to the side. The Bombers have four players with AFLW experience, including Maddy Collier and Hayley Trevean. With NAB League Girls club, Calder Cannons having some great talent coming through the ranks, expect the likes of Georgia Patrikios to open some eyes late in the season with her agility and goal sense, while Felicity Theodore, Alana Barba, Gloria Elamaly and Krstel Petrevski will add a mix of skill and toughness to the Bombers’ team. The Bombers will still lack the star quality other AFLW experienced teams have, so the goal will be to be more competitive and try and get off the bottom of the table this season.

 

GEELONG CATS

Coach: Natalie Wood (NEW)
Last year: 4th (10-3-1) Grand final loss

Natalie Wood has taken over from Paul Hood who opted to just focus on the AFLW side in the blue and white hoops, but has inherited a genuine premiership contender. After Geelong had fewer AFLW listed players compared to others last season, they now have 20 on their VFLW books, topped up by local players including former Geelong Falcons premiership players, Tarryn Love, Zoe Inei and Sachi DeGiacomi who managed six games at VFLW level between them last season. They have not only retained the majority of the their list, but picked up teh likes of Julia Crockett-Grills (Hawthorn), Rebecca Webster (Melbourne University) and Sophie Van De Heuvel (Williamstown), keeping them in the Geelong system. It is hard not to picture a scenario where Geelong are not in finals considering the now deep and strong bond the players have and having reached the grand final, before strengthening their list even more. The Geelong AFLW side made finals in its first year and expect the VFLW side to follow suit with the same talent on its list.

 

HAWTHORN HAWKS

Coach: Patrick Hill
Last year: 2nd (12-2) Premiers

The reigning premiers had a number of players drafted including Rising Star Jayde Van Dyk, Emerson Woods and Mikala Cann in what was a perfectly timed season, finishing second, pouncing on Collingwood in the semi-final, and then making the most of their opportunities against Geelong in the decider. In great news for the Hawks, Van Dyk has returned to the club for the VFLW season, as have key forward Phoebe McWilliams (Geelong), Rebecca Beeson and Pepa Randall (both GWS GIANTS). With super coach, Patrick Hill at the reigns again, the Hawks will be predicted to be thereabouts again and a genuine premiership contender. Sarah Perkins will be primed for a big season in the brown and gold, hoping to force her way back onto an AFLW list after being delisted by the Crows following the 2019 season. The forward combination between Perkins and McWilliams is as good as it gets in the competition, and with Eastern Rangers youngsters Serena Gibbs and Laura McClelland in the side later in the year, expect the reigning premiers to have a potent forward line. Gippsland Power’s Maddison Shaw has also joined the Hawks, and is one of just two 2001-birth players on the list. A huge contender.

 

MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY MUGARS

Coach: Scott Gowans
Last year: 9th (5-9)

The Mugars were up and down at times throughout the 2018 VFLW season, finishing with five wins from 14 games, but having some great young talent come into the side last in the year, including Prepsakis and Webster who were both drafted by AFLW clubs. Sophie Abbatangelo, Ashleigh Riddell, Maddison Smith, Chloe Haines, Libby Haines and Nicole Bresnehan all stepped up to the senior side, with many showing their ability to adapt to the faster pace of the game. After a huge season that ultimately fell short of a finals berth in the AFLW, North Melbourne and Melbourne Uni coach, Scott Gowans will be keen to continue the form shown by the Kangaroos at AFLW level, into the VFLW system. Emma Kearney was terrific for the Mugars last year along with Kaitlyn Ashmore, and expect them to be key players once again. They have added experience to their list with Hawthorn duo, Tahni Nestor and Kim Ebb, as well as Essendon’s Jessica Anwyl who showed promising signs last season in the red and black. Throw in league best and fairest winner, Jess Duffin, Jasmine Garner and Jenna Bruton, and the Mugars have to be considered one of the premiership favourites. All up they have 23 AFL Women’s listed players and will be another tough team to beat.

 

NORTHERN TERRITORY THUNDER

Coach: Heidi Thompson (NEW)
Last year: 3rd (11-3) – Semi-final loss

Much was spoken about the Thunder and whether or not the experienced top-heavy side with Adelaide Crows, could be allowed to play so much talent at once. Early in the season it looked like the Thunder would skip through the season, but in the end, ultimately fell in the first week of finals to the Cats. After missing out on her AFLW dream last year, Janet Baird is the biggest junior recruit to the Thunder in season 2019, with the NTFL Women’s top player signing on at the Thunder for the upcoming season. She joins the likes of Madeline Gault, Arthurina Moreen and Tabitha May, who all played for Central Allies in 2018, but missed out on a chance in the AFLW. The top-end and upcoming talent at the Thunder is clear, with Ebony Marinoff, Stevie-Lee Thompson, Marijana Rajcic, Renee Forth, Eloise Jones and Sarah and Jess Allen among a ridiculous among of Crows talent in the side. They were arguably a premiership favourite early in 2018, and should be in that place once again given the improvement of many of the Crows through the 2019 AFLW premiership year. With Heidi Thompson now taking the reigns from Tim Weatherald, it will be interesting to see how she balances the AFLW talent throughout the season.

 

RICHMOND TIGERS

Coach: Tom Hunter
Last year: 12th (4-10)

The Tigers had a disappointing season in 2018, finishing twelfth and losing to Essendon, the only side to do so. They, like the Bombers just lacked that star quality in the 2018 VFLW season, but if their 2019 AFLW trade period is anything to go by, expect them to shoot up the ladder in season 2019. Jessica Kennedy and Jacqueline Graham were two standouts for the Tigers, it was just a case of adding depth to the obvious talent that was coming through the ranks. While some will play limited games, the likes of Monique Conti, Katie Brennan and Sabrina Frederick make for a scary forward line. With Richmond able to pre-list players this season, every player on the list will be keen to impress in front of the Tigers’ hierarchy and see what they can do to try and get an AFLW spot for the 2020 season. Overlooked Murray Bushrangers, Tamara Smith, Grace Egan and Sophie Damon are back at Punt Road, while Kodi Jacques has also joined the club with the Bendigo Pioneers’ midfielder looking to stake her claim this year. Former Magpies, Shayla Marsh and Hannah McLaren will don the yellow and black this year, making the Tigers stocked with young talent that will create run and excitement throughout the 2019 season. Expect the Tigers to rise up the ladder, and while they might lack the AFLW talent other teams have outside their forward 50, they could overtake a number of the clubs around their level in season 2018, this year.

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS

Coach: Sean Kavanagh (NEW)
Last year: 6th (7-7)

Sean Kavanagh has taken over from Debbie Lee who is now VFLW General Manager at the club, and will be looking to reshape the side that has lost some serious AFLW talent. Conti always spent the majority of the season playing basketball, while Brennan will be a big lose inside 50. However with 20 AFLW players on their list, they still have more than enough talent and experience to get them by. Their three top-age players they have picked up from NAB League Girls clubs are Sophie Molan, Ella Wood and Elisabeth Georgostathis which is arguably the best trio of pick-ups across the league. Molan will make an immediate impact, while Wood and Georgostathis can play both off half-back and through the middle. They will be unavailable during the AFLW National Championships, but expect them to show their talent. Overager Georgia Pidgeon will also provide some height for the Bulldogs, while a host of local players joins the likes of Ellie Blackburn, Brooke Lochland, Isabel Huntington and Deanna Berry as key players. When talking about experience, the Bulldogs have 14 players with 30 or more games, making them a very experienced side in the competition, and one that while they might not be in the top handful, could still challenge for finals.

 

WILLIAMSTOWN

Coach: Amy Catterall
Last year: 11th (4-10)

Williamstown finished eleventh in 2019, notching up the four wins, but had some serious top-end talent at the Gulls’ disposal. Duffin won the league best and fairest despite the team struggles, while Garner and Bruton were stars for Williamstown before emulating that for the Kangaroos at AFLW level. Big question marks remain over the Seagulls with all three departing the club. It means the load falls onto their VFLW listed players shoulders and puts them in a similar position to Essendon and Richmond last year. They had a good win over the Western Bulldogs in a pre-season practice match, and can have the continuity that teams with restricted AFLW numbers cannot. However this year is set to be a massive challenge for the Seagulls after losing so much top-end talent, with Demon, Aliesha Newman being a key signing – the only AFLW player on the list – and likely to cause headaches inside 50 for opposition defences. In doing so, there might be some serious youngsters step up and then make a case to land at an AFLW club, like former Bendigo Pioneers’ captain Megan Williamson, Eastern Ranges’ tall Tahlia Merrett and Bendigo Pioneers’ key defender Kate Douglass.

Weekend previews: AFLW – Round 2

AFTER an exhilarating first round, which saw four of the five matches go down to the wire, teams prepare to tweak game styles or mix up team sheets in order to get an advantage over their opponents. Four of the first round losers face off, with Melbourne heading to Victoria Park on Saturday to face the Magpies, while Carlton hosts Adelaide at Ikon Park on Sunday. The two sides who head home without any points face an uphill battle in the race for finals action. The fifth losing side from Round 1, GWS GIANTS has its own mammoth effort – trying to take down North Melbourne who simply blitzed Carlton. A maximum of three sides can remain undefeated after Round 2 with first round winners, Geelong and Western Bulldogs, and Fremantle and Brisbane facing off over the weekend.

GWS GIANTS vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Friday, February 8, 7.15pm
Drummoyne Oval

In the opening game of the round, new side North Melbourne fresh off a huge victory over Carlton, head to Drummoyne Oval to face the GIANTS. The GIANTS are playing just their second game at the venue, following a loss to the Blues this time last year. The battle within the contest is the All-Australian rucks going head-to-head with Kangaroos’ Emma King and GIANTS’ Erin McKinnon. North Melbourne’s midfield has great depth to it, lead by last year’s League Best and Fairest winner, Emma Kearney, Jamie Stanton, Jess Duffin and Ash Riddell, of whom the latter was ultra-impressive on debut. North Melbourne’s dynamic forward line features former Magpies, Jasmine Garner and Mo Hope, premiership-winning Bulldog Jenna Bruton, and former Lion Kaitlyn Ashmore. With the strength around the ground, it will be hard to contain the Roos if they win the midfield battle.

The one area the GIANTS could get an upper hand is through rebounding forward with an equally impressive, albeit underrated forward line. Jess Dal Pos, former Magpie Christina Bernardi and defender-turned-forward Cora Staunton are all capable of multiple goals, while Haneen Zreika was impressive on debut last week. The midfield simply has to win its fair share of head-to-heads, with Courtney Gum, Rebecca Beeson, Alicia Eva and Alyce Parker leading the way, while Amanda Farrugia, Emma Swanson and Tanya Hetherington will have big jobs coming out of defence. The Kangaroos took a massive 56 marks in last week’s huge win over Carlton, while still laying 66 tackles. The GIANTS laid just the 42 and only five in the forward 50, and will need to show more pressure inside 50 against a side capable of hurting you on the scoreboard really quickly. Both teams are generally good ball users and make the most of their opportunities so it will be fascinating to see which team can take the early advantage and put it on the scoreboard. North Melbourne will head in as favourites, but it is far from completely clear cut, and this will be a huge win for the GIANTS if they can get the job done at home.

H2H: GWS GIANTS 0 | North Melbourne 0 | Draws 0
Venue: GWS GIANTS 0-1-0 | North Melbourne 0-0-0

Last time they met: N/A

Fun facts:

  • Emma Kearney averages 20 disposals, 6.5 tackles, 4.5 clearances, four inside 50s and a goal against the GIANTS from two clashes.
  • Both AFL Women’s All Australian rucks are set to go head-to-head with Emma King taking on Erin McKinnon. In the battle between the pair last year, King won convincingly with 11 disposals and 18 hitouts to McKinnon’s three disposals and 14 hitouts.
  • GWS GIANTS’ only game at the venue resulted in a loss to Carlton last year, while North Melbourne looks to back up its only game – a huge win over Carlton last week.
  • The GIANTS have won two, drawn two and lost three games in New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory.

 

COLLINGWOOD vs. MELBOURNE
Saturday, February 9, 4.45pm
Victoria Park

At one of the homes of traditional football, Collingwood hosts Melbourne in what has become a must-win for both sides. After heart-breaking losses in Round 1 despite leading at the final change, neither team can afford to go 0-2, with the reality that teams need at least four wins to secure a finals berth. A second loss means they must win four of their final five games as a minimum and with both still to play their respective conference favourites, it would spell trouble for their post-season hopes. However, for the winner, it is a chance to balance the ledger and get back on track early in the season. Collingwood has been a slow starter in year’s gone by, and has been overhauled with youth since last season, while Melbourne has also brought a number of young players into the team, furthering the development of players who got their starts last season. With both teams defensively capable, it will make for a great clash. The sides also sit at one win each in the head-to-head, funnily enough after the losing side in each game got a head start, but was run over the top of in the second halves.

Both teams have made two changes, with a debutant and a return from a long-term injury headlining the selection moves. Oakleigh Chargers’ tall, Katie Lynch comes into the side after Sophie Alexander’s concussion last week ruled her out of the game. Kristy Stratton was also ruled out through injury, with the Magpies opting to go tall by bringing in Eliza Hynes to try and stretch the Melbourne defence when forward, while rotating with Sharni Layton and Eliza Fowler. Melbourne have brought in Ainslie Kemp who has not played since 2017 due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear – sadly replacing Shae Sloane who suffered the exact same injury. The Dees have also brought in Ashleigh Guest for Claudia Whitfort. The key to victory for the Demons is restricting the run of Collingwood’s defence, which helped the Magpies hold up against Geelong last week with Ash Brazill causing all sorts of headaches, while Jordyn Allen was equally as impressive. They also need to clamp down on Jaimee Lambert who has the ability to turn a game with great plays, while Catherine Phillips could be the one asked to restrict Sarah D’Arcy from dominating in the air. For the Magpies, they need to be wary of Melbourne’s firepower with Tegan Cunningham and Eden Zanker likely to stretch the defence, while Aliesha Newman has pace to burn and both Kate Hore and Maddison Gay are capable of getting over the back and hurting teams on the rebound. Elise O’Dea, Karen Paxman and Lily Mithen are up there with the best midfields in the competition, and will look to control the stoppages around the ground and give their forwards early opportunities.

H2H: Collingwood 1 | Melbourne 1 | Draws 0
Venue: Collingwood 0-0-0 | Melbourne 0-0-0

Last time they met: Collingwood 9.4 (58) defeated Melbourne 3.6 (24) at TIO Traeger Park, Round 4, 2018

After booting the opening two goals of the match and keeping Collingwood goalless in the opening term, the Demons only managed 1.4 for the rest of the match as the Magpies piled on 9.4 to run away with the match by 34 points. Magpies captain, Steph Chiocchi played one of her best games under lights, booting a goal from 17 disposals, two marks, four clearances and three inside 50s, while Jaimee Lambert had a team-high 19 disposals as well as three inside 50s and two rebounds. Caitlyn Edwards and Mo Hope both booted two goals in the victory, but arguably the best performance was that of Brittany Bonnici who tagged Melbourne captain, Daisy Pearce and restricted her to a career-low nine disposals. For the Demons, Elise O’Dea was the top performer with 19 disposals, two clearances, three inside 50s and a goal, while Karen Paxman had 18 touches and three rebounds.

Fun facts:

  • Of the 42 players to take the field in last year’s clash in the Top End, just 24 players remain available for selection in season 2019. Even more remarkably, just eight players from Collingwood’s first match against the Demons – two years ago – remain on the list.
  • Elise O’Dea (17 disposals) and Karen Paxman (16.5 disposals) average the most disposals against the Magpies from their two clashes.
  • Sarah D’Arcy and Emma Grant average the most disposals against the Demons, with 10 touches apiece.
  • Both sides were in the lead at three quarter time after holding their opponent scoreless in the third term last week only to go on to lose the game in heartbreaking circumstances.

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS vs. GEELONG
Saturday, February 9, 7.15pm
VU Whitten Oval

H2H: Western Bulldogs 0 | Geelong 0 | Draws 0
Venue: Western Bulldogs 4-3-0 | Geelong 0-0-0

In the other game that will be the first time these teams go head-to-head is between reigning premiers, Western Bulldogs and new side, Geelong. Both teams had a win in Round 1 and this weekend marks the first home game for the Bulldogs, which means they will unfurl the 2018 AFL Women’s flag in front of what is predicted to be a strong crowd at VU Whitten Oval. The winner will most certainly get an early advantage given the strength of their opponent, and it marks the first game for the sides which sees them pitted against a non-conference rival. Both teams also know how to close out tight games, having survived one-point thrillers in the opening round to secure the four points. Given their experience and depth across the field, Western Bulldogs will head in as favourites, but Geelong are expected to throw down a challenge with a couple of key players returning.

The Cats have welcomed back key forward, Phoebe McWilliams and ruck, Erin Hoare to bolster their side against the reigning premiers. Georgie Rankin and Maighan Fogas have been the two unlucky players omitted from the victorious side last Saturday night, with Fogas and key defender, Georgia Clarke named as emergencies for the clash. The Dogs will unveil Irish debutant, Aisling McCarthy who comes into the side, replacing the omitted Belinda Smith. The enticing battle will see which defence holds up the best as both sides proved to have their respective opposition’s measure last week. Co-captain, Katie Brennan booted the Bulldogs’ two goals against the Crows, while Meg McDonald, Rebecca Goring and Madeline Keryk were among the Cats’ best under pressure when the Magpies were attacking. While the heartbreaking story of Nina Morrison doing her ACL at training will dominate headlines, Geelong still has a huge core of youth including Denby Taylor, Olivia Purcell and Sophie Van De Heuvel who will face established young talents in Monique Conti and Bonnie Toogood, and first round draftee, Eleanor Brown. Co-captain Ellie Blackburn is always a crucial player for the Dogs and will look to take control in the midfield, while the Dogs’ defence of Lauren Spark, Libby Birch and Hannah Scott will provide plenty of rebound.

Last time they met: N/A

Fun facts:

  • The Western Bulldogs lost three consecutive matches at VU Whitten Oval in 2017, but have since won all three games they have played there, and is the Dogs’ first home game since winning the 2018 AFL Women’s flag.
  • Aasta O’Connor will play against her old side for the first time, lining up in the ruck to face Kim Rennie, while sharing the ruck duties with Erin Hoare in the blue and white hoops.
  • Ellie Blackburn averaged 16.9 disposals, 2.9 marks, 3.25 tackles and 3.25 clearances last season, the most of any current Western Bulldogs player.
  • With Brooke Lochland injured for the season, Phoebe McWilliams will be the leading goal kicker from last season in the match, booting seven goals for the GIANTS.

 

CARLTON vs. ADELAIDE
Sunday, February 10, 4.05pm
Ikon Park

H2H: Carlton 0 | Adelaide 2 | Draws 0
Venue: Carlton 4-1-2 | Adelaide 0-0-0

For the first time in 2019, Ikon Park hosts a match with the Blues heading back home to welcome the Crows in a Sunday evening game. The ground has traditionally been the host of the opening game of the year between bitter rivals, Carlton and Collingwood but that has changed in 2019. These teams are both heading into the match off the back of a loss, with Carlton’s heavy defeat to North Melbourne not the ideal start to the season following a wooden spoon, while the Crows will rue missed opportunities in front of goal after booting 1.11 against the Bulldogs at Norwood Oval. Adelaide is yet to play at Ikon Park, while Carlton has made it somewhat of a fortress winning four and drawing a fifth game from its seven matches at the venue. Considering they have only won one match outside Ikon Park, it has been a comfort zone and the Crows cannot afford to take them lightly. With Adelaide in the tougher conference, they would not want to drop this game and go 0-2 to start the season, while Carlton will look for its first win under Daniel Harford who would have learnt plenty from the round one defeat.

Looking at the Round 1 matches, efficiency inside 50 looks to be key, with Adelaide having a 75 per cent scoring efficiency with 18 shots from 24 attempts, while Carlton had just 10 shots from 29 attempts – 35 per cent scoring efficiency. Both sides have impressive forward lines on paper, but they will need to convert their opportunities. Any forward 50 with Darcy Vescio, Tayla Harris and Brianna Davey – who has actually been named in defence – is going to worry opposition defenders, while Erin Phillips is as good as anyone one-on-one and is lining up at full-forward, while Chloe Scheer is a young star who will only get better. Speaking of young stars, Madison Prespakis carried the weight of the midfield on her shoulders last week and was ultra-impressive on debut, so the Crows will need to be aware of her presence. The Adelaide midfield has greater depth and the Blues should look to limit the influence of Ebony Marinoff who racked up 23 disposals and laid 11 tackles in Round 1. If Carlton can restrict her influence on the inside and win the contested ball – with the likes of Jess Hosking and Katie Loynes getting on top, it will go a long way to causing an upset. Chelsea Randall leads the defence, while the experience of Renee Forth through the midfield will be important. Carlton will need to control the ruck contest through Breann Moody, and break even in the middle, while the Crows will focus on clearance domination to give their forwards first opportunity and more importantly, those forwards need to convert.

Last time they met: Adelaide 8.7 (55) defeated Carlton 2.8 (20) at Norwood Oval, Round 5, 2018.

Adelaide flexed their muscles against the Blues when the sides were heading in opposite directions. The Crows at home booted six goals to one after quarter time to run away from the Blues, but counted the cost of the win with injuries to Erin Phillips and Courtney Cramey. Ruth Wallace booted three goals, while Eloise Jones finished with two, as Ebony Marinoff and Chelsea Randall shared 31 disposals. Breann Moody was dominant in the ruck for the Blues with 29 hitouts from 11 disposals and four clearances, while Tayla Harris had 11 disposals, three marks and booted a goal.

Fun facts:

  • Despite winning the wooden spoon last season, Carlton has a strong record at Ikon Park, having won four and drawn one from seven attempts.
  • If Carlton lose the match, it will mark more than a year since they won their last match.
  • While she picked up an injury in the second game, Erin Phillips was everywhere in the Crows’ first win over the Blues, racking up 21 disposals and eight clearances. In the same game, Ebony Marinoff laid 14 tackles from 16 disposals, her exact disposal average against Carlton.
  • Of the Carlton players to play against Adelaide in both games, the omitted Tilly Lucas-Rodd averages the most disposals with 13.5, while Darcy Vescio averages two goals per game against the Crows.

 

FREMANTLE vs. BRISBANE
Sunday, February 10, 3.05pm
Fremantle Oval

H2H: Fremantle 0 | Brisbane 2 | Draws 0
Venue: Fremantle 2-3-0 | Brisbane 1-0-0

Both sides won against the odds in Round 1, with Fremantle toppling Melbourne in scorching weather at Casey Fields after being 14 points down at the final break, while Brisbane knocked off GWS GIANTS a fortnight after succumbing to the GIANTS in a heavy practice match loss. Both sides had plenty to be positive about last week, most importantly securing an early four points, while also having plenty to improve upon for this week. Fremantle are back at home in Western Australia, but at their only other clash at the venue, Brisbane took home the points, though it was two years ago. Both teams look to be very different to that clash, with the Lions having a host of youth coming through, as do the Dockers while also filtering in some experienced local talent. Brisbane will go in as favourites given their history in the competition, but Fremantle’s performance last week certainly raised eyebrows and showed that everyone could be underrating the Dockers.

Both sides play a different brand of football which is really exciting for this clash. In Round 1, Fremantle battered and bruised their way to an impressive contested ball style, getting the pull forward to record a huge 11 marks inside 50, while laying 10 tackles in the arc. They harassed and pressured the Demons into making uncharacteristic mistakes, laying 77 tackles in the process. The Lions have tall targets up forward, but opted for a balanced possession game and spread well around the ground. They intercepted the GIANTS 51 times and took the game on, trying to unsettle the defence with possession football, but going when required. This game could well be a combination of both styles and sets up for a huge clash. The Lions forward line is severely underrated with Sabrina Frederick-Traub the dominant key position player, while McKenzie Dowrick and Jess Wuetschner are incredibly clever and dangerous around goals. Throw in Jordan Zanchetta, Emma Zielke and the defensively-minded but strong, Lauren Arnell and the Lions front six is as good as any. Ebony Antonio and Tayla Bresland were strong in defence last week, while the midfield of Dana Hooker and Kara Donnellan are not huge ball winners, but always effective. They tackle the biggest ball-winning duo of Emily Bates and Ally Anderson who had the ball on a string last week, while the potential match-up of Kiara Bowers and Sam Virgo could be entertaining based on Round 1 form. Both teams have immensely talented youth coming through, and both teams’ first round picks, Sabreena Duffy and Paige Parker, have been named in the side.

Last time they met: Brisbane 3.4 (22) defeated Fremantle 2.3 (15) at South Pine Sports Complex, Round 4, 2018.

In a low-scoring affair that saw just one goal kicked in the first half, Brisbane held on in a thriller to win by seven points and remain on track for a grand final berth. Dynamic forward, Jess Wuetschner booted two goals from 18 disposals, three marks and four inside 50s, while Kate Lutkins and Ally Anderson both had 18 touches in the win. For the Dockers, Lara Filocamo had 18 disposals and laid five tackles. Kara Donnellan laid a whopping 10 tackles and had five clearances and 15 disposals.

Fun facts:

  • In their only clash at the venue, Brisbane defeated Fremantle by 13 points in Round 2, 2017. Fremantle has a 100 per cent winning ratio at Fremantle Oval over Victorian sides, but a zero per cent winning ratio over non-Victorian sides.
  • Jess Wuetschner has been the dominant goal kicker in the matches between these sides, averaging two goals per game.
  • Lara Filocamo averages the most disposals between the sides, with 17.5 per match.
  • Both sides won their opening round matches by less than a kick, with Fremantle getting a dress rehearsal for the scorching West Australian heat, winning at Casey Fields in 38 degrees Celcius.

 

DRAFT CENTRAL TIPPING

Leaderboard:

Eq. 1st : Sophie Taylor, Matthew Cocks [ 3 ]
Eq. 3rd : Peter Williams, Taylah Melki, Michael Alvaro [ 2 ]

 

Peter Williams

Chief Editor

Last week: 2

Round 2 selections:

North Melbourne
Collingwood
Western Bulldogs
Adelaide
Brisbane

 

Taylah Melki

Assistant Chief Editor

Last week: 2

Round 2 selections:

North Melbourne
Melbourne
Western Bulldogs
Adelaide
Brisbane

 

Sophie Taylor

Women’s Football Editor

Last week: 3

Round 2 selections:

North Melbourne
Melbourne
Western Bulldogs
Adelaide
Brisbane

 

Michael Alvaro

Men’s Football Editor

Last week: 2

Round 2 selections:

North Melbourne
Melbourne
Western Bulldogs
Adelaide
Brisbane

 

Matthew Cocks

Guest Tipster

Last week: 3

Round 2 selections:

GWS GIANTS
Collingwood
Western Bulldogs
Adelaide
Brisbane

Weekend preview: AFLW – Round 1

FOOTY is back and for the first time, 10 AFL Women’s clubs are preparing to achieve the ultimate glory. Each week we will preview and review the games, provide a Team of the Week, Draftee Watch piece and analyse the week’s statistics, as well as plenty more for the third season of the competition. Stay tuned on Draft Central for all the coverage.

GEELONG vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, February 2, 6.40pm
GMHBA Stadium, Geelong

The opening game of the AFL Women’s season has a massive question mark for both sides. On one side of the head-to-head is a brand new team with no historical data at the elite level, aside from some of the players who have crossed from other clubs. On the other side is a team that has been gutted in terms of experience, especially in the forward half, but has picked up a number of elite young kids as well as players who can have an impact in the short-term. Playing in front of a home crowd will help the Cats in their inaugural clash,  while the Magpies will be keen to finally get a good start to their season after two losses in opening round games. Both teams are deemed to be in the “weaker” conference – by means of avoiding both past premiers and the heavily stacked North Melbourne – and a win against a conference rival is vitally important in the stakes for securing a top four place. The advantage both these teams have is the fact much of their core group played VFL Women’s together, and therefore in terms of team chemistry over a 12-month period are well adjusted.

Both teams head into the clash with key personnel out, as Collingwood’s Best and Fairest and 2018 AFLW Rising Star winner, Chloe Molloy unavailable for the season, while Richelle Cranston will miss the first two rounds through suspension.  When talking about key youth, it is hard to look past some of the talent both clubs picked up in the draft. Geelong looked to its TAC Cup affiliate to select number one pick, Nina Morrison, as well as premiership teammates, Olivia Purcell and Denby Taylor. Add in talented GWV Rebels, Sophie Van De Heuvel and Georgia Clarke, as well as Murray Bushrangers’ inside midfielder and defender, Rebecca Webster, and the future is very bright at the Cats. The Magpies also heavily invested in the draft, picking up two first rounders in Dandenong Stingrays’ captain, Jordyn Allen and Oakleigh Chargers’ tall, Katie Lynch. Expected to play up opposite ends, they are well complemented by Eastern Ranges’ speedster, Mikala Cann who 12 months ago was yet to play a competitive match of football. Versatile youngster, Lauren Butler is also expected to become a key feature in the Magpies’ side. With Geelong having the likes of Bec Goring, Madeline Keryk, Julia Crockett-Grills and Meghan McDonald among their contingent of impressive VFLW performers last season, they have a cohesive unit. The Magpies will look to the experience of captain Stephanie Chiocchi, Emma Grant, Sarah D’Arcy and Jaimee Lambert to lead the young side this season.

H2H: Geelong 0 | Collingwood 0 | Draws 0
Venue: Geelong 0-0-0 | Collingwood 0-0-0

Last time they met: N/A

Fun facts:

  • The game marks the first ever AFL Women’s game at GMHBA Stadium, the first time Geelong’s AFL Women’s side will play a match for premiership points, but the third consecutive year Collingwood will be involved in the opening match of the season.
  • Unfortunately for the Magpies, the opening match of the season has not been kind for them, losing both games to Carlton at Ikon Park, albeit in a much closer game in 2018.
  • The last time these two teams played in any form was the VFL Women’s Preliminary Final, which saw the Cats upset the minor premiers to bundle the Magpies out in straight sets and head into the decider against Hawthorn. Collingwood’s loss was compounded by an injury to 2018 Rising Star winner, Chloe Molloy that would keep her out of the 2019 AFL Women’s season.
  • Collingwood booted 42 goals in season 2018. Players that contributed 36 of them are now either no longer on the Magpies’ list, or injured (Chloe Molloy – one).

 

ADELAIDE vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, February 2, 8.10pm
Norwood Oval, Adelaide

The game of the round is surely the match between the two AFL Women’s premiers. The 2017 champions, Adelaide take on the reigning premiers, Western Bulldogs in an evening game at Norwood Oval. Last season was a remarkable story for the Bulldogs, who overcame some key injuries, and the suspension of captain, Katie Brennan to topple Brisbane in the 2018 AFL Women’s decider. Adelaide would have been disappointed to not make the decider, but considering their injuries at different times, it was worth applauding their never-say-die attitude. A loss to Collingwood in the final round knocked them out of the race to go back-to-back, but they are now hungry as ever and keen to make amends in this match.

Both teams lost key players to long-term injuries in practice games a fortnight ago, with Adelaide’s number one ruck, Rhiannon Metcalfe and Western Bulldogs’ league leading goalkicker, Brooke Lochland both out. While the Crows will look to try and fill the void in the ruck, the Dogs certainly showed they have no shortage of forwards who can step up, and could turn to the likes of West Australian, Kate Bartlett who comes into the team with great forward nous at Under 18s level. Adelaide do have some serious firepower returning to the team with a fully fit Erin Phillips, and a dangerous youngster by the name of Chloe Scheer causing headaches inside 50. Adelaide could have the edge in the midfield given its depth with Phillips, Ebony Marinoff and Chelsea Randall all running through there, but the Dogs’ key position players could stretch the Crows’ defence. If the Crows can keep it from the Dogs talls getting supply, then it will go a long way to deciding the match, but if the Dogs get on top of the Crows’ highly rated midfield, then they will be able to put on some serious scoreboard pressure. In saying that, the Dogs’ midfield is far from shabby itself with Ellie Blackburn and Monique Conti among the most talented in the competition. It all adds up to being a cracker of a match.

H2H: Adelaide 2 | Western Bulldogs 0 | Draws 0
Venue: Adelaide 2-2-0 | Western Bulldogs 0-1-0

Last time they met: Adelaide 6.5 (41) defeated Western Bulldogs 5.4 (34) at Norwood Oval, Round 3, 2018

Trailing the entire game, the Crows found something special in the final term to overrun the Bulldogs at home by just seven points. Chelsea Randall picked up 24 disposals (15 contested), had five rebounds and laid six tackles, while Ebony Marinoff laid a whopping 15 tackles on her way to 21 disposals, four inside 50s and five rebounds. But the inspiration was inaugural league best and fairest winner, Erin Phillips. The star played exclusively forward and had 15 disposals, but booted four of the Crows’ six goals to single-handedly dominate up forward and show Crows fans that there was going to be no second year blues – until injury unfortunately struck. Jenna McCormick booted the other two goals for the Crows, while for the Bulldogs, Katie Brennan was the multiple goalkicker with two from nine touches and three marks. Emma Kearney (20 disposals, three marks, three clearances, three inside 50s, five rebounds and six tackles) was everywhere, as was Ellie Blackburn (17 disposals, five clearances, five tackles and four inside 50s).

Fun facts:

  • Ebony Marinoff averages 19.5 disposals, four clearances, 10.5 tackles and four inside 50s against the Western Bulldogs from two clashes, the most of any Crow.
  • Now North Melbourne skipper, Emma Kearney averaged the most touches against the Crows in both meetings, with Ellie Blackburn set to take over the mantle, averaging 18 touches, four clearances, four tackles and five inside 50s from two games.
  • It is the first time two AFL Women’s Premiers have met in the history of the competition.
  • Western Bulldogs are yet to lose an opening round match in the AFL Women’s season.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. CARLTON
Sunday, February 3, 1.05pm
North Hobart Oval, Hobart

The second history making match for Round 1 sees one of the premiership favourites, North Melbourne take on last year’s wooden spooners, Carlton. Both head into the game with relative different looking sides. The Kangaroos strategically targeted experience, picking up players from other AFL Women’s sides as part of the free agency and expansion period, while Carlton headed to the draft. As such, the Kangaroos head into the game as strong favourites in the clash, and their pre-season victory over Melbourne did nothing to sway opinions from the fact they will be a contender this season. Carlton took it up to Geelong at times in the practice game, but much like at times last season, it is just finding some four quarter consistency. The strong football state of Tasmania will get around the clash which is the first of the AFL Women’s competition, and with a number of local talents wearing blue and white, expect there to be a strong contingent of home support.

With no past head-to-head clashes to go by, there are plenty of questions leading into this clash. The biggest question mark is that of the Kangaroos and how they will gel with so many players from other teams. They brought over key Magpies, Emma King, Jess Duffin, Jasmine Garner and Mo Hope to supply their forward line and ruck division with power, while securing the biggest name from the 2018 season in Emma Kearney – the league best and fairest winner – to come across from the Dogs. Carlton has the potential to have the best one-two forward combination in the league with Darcy Vescio and Tayla Harris, but it is just getting the talented duo to click. With the midfield and forward half boosted by young guns, Madison Prespakis, Abbie McKay and Emerson Woods, and the defence sured up by Collingwood VFLW captain, Jess Edwards, as well as Charlotte Wilson and Jayde Van Dyk, Carlton’s future is looking bright. Realistically, it will take an unbelievable effort to knock off North Melbourne, but Blues fans will be keen to see what new coach, Daniel Harford can do to create more scoring opportunities – something the Blues lacked last season. A four-goal practice game by returning captain, Brianna Davey gave fans a hint of what to expect, creating all sorts of headaches for opposing teams.

H2H: North Melbourne 0 | Carlton 0 | Draws 0
Venue: North Melbourne 0-0-0 | Carlton 0-0-0

Last time they met: N/A

Fun facts:

  • The match marks the first official match to be played in Tasmania, with the North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos opening their season in the Apple Isle, and of course marking their first match in the competition.
  • Carlton’s Brianna Davey has averaged 21 disposals, five rebounds and 2.5 inside 50s in her two opening round clashes, as Carlton beat arch-rivals Collingwood under lights on both occasions.
  • Darcy Vescio booted four goals in the inaugural AFL Women’s match in 2017, before being held goalless by debutant, Chloe Molloy last year, who would go on to win the Rising Star Award.
  • North Melbourne captain, Emma Kearney has averaged 22 disposals, six marks, five clearances and six inside 50s in her two matches against Carlton.

 

MELBOURNE vs. FREMANTLE
Sunday, February 3, 3.05pm
Casey Fields, Cranbourne

With predicted temperatures around the south-eastern suburbs predicted to be mid-to-late thirties, fans heading to the clash between Demons and Fremantle are recommended to stay hydrated. The game at Melbourne’s spiritual home, has become a fortress of late, winning five of a possible six games, including a thrashing victory over their Round 1 opponents back in 2017. Last year the Dockers got the better of Melbourne over in the west, using straight goalkicking to get the job done early in the season and chalk up a win against a premiership contender. The Demons have always been thereabouts, just missing out on the deciders, while Fremantle has had disappointing starts to the seasons which have ultimately cost them. With a new coaching panel and new-look side, Fremantle will be keen to topple the Demons at their home ground, especially a Demons side minus Daisy PearceMel Hickey and Richelle Cranston, among others.

Both teams are bringing in some serious young talent this season, with the Demons looking to the likes of Gippsland Power co-captain, Tyla Hanks and Northern Knights captain, Maddy Brancatisano. Both have incredible work ethics and a desire to just hunt the footballer and play their role, potentially being future leaders at the club. Throw in Dandenong Stingrays’ speedster, Shelley Heath and Casey Demons slick ball user, Casey Sherriff and the Dees have added some speed and skills to their inside grunt and contested ball-winning ability. The Dockers have also added some great local talent to their stocks, led by West Australian Under 18s state captain, Sabreena Duffy as well as overagers, Matilda Sergeant and Jasmin Stewart. The big question mark regarding Fremantle is how they will line-up as the off-season seemed to be a clean-out of sorts through their own choosing, whereas Melbourne lost players due to free agency and expansion. The difference in this game could well be the top-end star factor of the Demons, with Karen Paxman, Lily Mithen, Bianca Jakobsson and Elise O’Dea all roaming through the midfield at times. With Eden Zanker providing a target up forward, they have good depth across the ground, The Dockers have Kara Donnellan and Dana Hooker amongst their arsenal, but with a relatively new-looking side, it will be fascinating to see how they perform.

H2H: Melbourne 1 | Fremantle 1 | Draws 0
Venue: Melbourne 5-1-0 | Fremantle 0-0-0

Last time they met: Fremantle 6.0 (36) defeated Melbourne 4.7 (31) at Fremantle Oval, Round 3, 2018

Fremantle had to come from behind twice as they held Melbourne to a combined one behind in the second and fourth quarters, kicking the only two goals of the final term. In a display of precision accuracy, the Dockers did not kick a behind all game, and after not scoring in the opening term, booted six straight goals to secure a win at Fremantle Oval. Kara Donnellan and Lisa Webb both picked up 17 disposals, while Emily McGuire booted two goals. For the Dees, Daisy Pearce had another day out with 24 disposals, three marks, five clearances and four inside 50s, while Tegan Cunningham booted two majors in the loss.

Fun facts:

  • Since losing their inaugural AFL Women’s Round 1 clash to Brisbane at Casey Fields, Melbourne has not lost a game, winning five consecutive matches at the venue, including a nine-goal win over Fremantle in 2017.
  • Both sides are likely to head into the clash very different to the previous encounter with a maximum of 13 players each from their sides of 21 just 12 months ago, still on their respective lists.
  • Dana Hooker averaged 17 disposals (11 contested) and 5.5 tackles in her two matches for the Dockers against the Demons, and was Fremantle’s best player in the disastrous 54-point belting back in 2017.
  • Melbourne will need to find a way to replace the influence of Daisy Pearce, who has been a headache for the Dockers in the past, averaging 25 disposals, five tackles, four clearances and 3.5 inside 50s.

 

BRISBANE vs. GWS GIANTS
Sunday, February 3, 4.05pm
Moreton Bay Sporting Complex, Moreton Bay

The final game of the round pits back-to-back grand finalist, Brisbane against the team they knocked out of the decider contention in the final round last year, GWS GIANTS. The quirky fact between these teams is they have played each other four times – twice in the pre-season and twice in the regular season. On both occasions, GWS has triumphed in the pre-season practice matches, while Brisbane has got the job done – and convincingly so – when playing for premiership points. The GIANTS average just two goals per game against the Lions during the season, and they will be keen to repeat the effort of a fortnight ago when they were too good for the young Lions. Brisbane has played just the one game at Moreton Bay Sporting Complex – the Lions new home for 2019 – which was a disappointing and almost season-defining loss to Collingwood, whereas the GIANTS are yet to run out at the venue.

Both teams have young line-ups coming through with the teams losing players such as Kaitlyn Ashmore, Jamie Stanton and Tahlia Randall (Brisbane), and Phoebe McWilliams and Renee Forth (GIANTS). They have also picked up some experience with Brisbane scooping up Lauren Arnell from Carlton and the GIANTS adding Magpie, Christina Bernardi to its forward mix. Heading to the draft, the GIANTS picked up one of the most decorated and talented juniors in Alyce Parker who will slot straight into the midfield and undoubtedly be a key cog in that onball division. Former netballer, Taylah Davies is already looking like a valuable pick-up for the GIANTS, while Haneen Zreika hit the scoreboard in the practice match as well. Any team with Alicia Eva, Jessica Dal Pos and Amanda Farrugia has to be respected. Brisbane’s forward power with Sabrina Frederick-Traub and Jess Wuetschner is always going to be a key consideration for opposition coaches, while Lions coach Craig Starcevich has the luxury of bringing up his Queensland Under 18 young guns into the senior team at draft time. All Australian ruck Lauren Bella, state captain Natalie Grider and key Queensland players Jesse Tawhaio-Wardlaw, Jade Ellenger, Tori Groves-Little and Jacqui Yorston join West Australian, McKenzie Dowrick as the future of the Lions.

H2H: Brisbane 2 | GWS 0 | Draws 0
Venue: Brisbane 0-1-0 | GWS 0-0-0

Last time they met: Brisbane 10.4 (64) defeated GWS GIANTS 3.6 (24) at Blacktown ISP, Round 7, 2018.

With an AFL Women’s Grand Final spot on the line, it was the Brisbane Lions who were all over the GIANTS, running out 40-point winners to keep their premiership dreams alive – albeit with their fate in Collingwood’s hands. The GIANTS had improved remarkably from the inaugural season, but fell short of a grand final place, and will have rued that final game over the summer. Ally Anderson and Emily Bates had days out against the GIANTS, collecting a combined 46 disposals, seven marks and eight clearances. Up forward, Sabrina Frederick-Traub was unstoppable with four goals to go with 18 disposals, five marks and five hitouts. Jess Wuetschner was equally as impressive with three majors from 11 touches, doing all the damage at ground level. For the GIANTS, Alicia Eva tried her best with a team-high 18 disposals, three marks, six tackles and five inside 50s, while Jessica Dal Pos and Amanda Farrugia were the next highest ball winners with 14 apiece.

Fun facts:

  • Brisbane has played just the one match at Moreton Bay Sporting Complex, and unfortunately it was one to forget, losing to Collingwood in Round 6, 2018. It put their premiership aspirations in serious doubt, before ironically the Magpies knocked off the Crows in the final round to hand the Lions a second consecutive Grand Final berth.
  • The Lions bounced back from the above loss with that 40-point win over GWS in the last round, knocking out the GIANTS from Grand Final contention, and replacing them in the decider.
  • In the two games against the GIANTS, Sabrina Frederick-Traub has booted five goals, whereas the entire GIANTS team have booted just the four.
  • Emma Swanson averages the most disposals for a GIANT against the Lions, at 15, while Jessica Dal Pos averages 13 touches per game.

AFLW season previews: GWS GIANTS

THE GIANTS had a consistent season in 2018, going from finishing eighth in the AFLW’s first season to fourth last year. The side will again be led by Amanda Farrugia in 2019 as she sets her sights on being the longest serving AFLW captain. The new recruits will also be looking to make a big impact in the new conference system.

Last season: 4th – three wins, three losses.

Changes:

In: Christina Bernardi, Alyce Parker, Brittany Perry, Lisa Whiteley, Ingrid Nielsen, Renee Tomkins, Delma Gisu, Haneen Zreika, Ebony O’Dea, Yvonne Bonner, Taylah Davies

Out: Maddy Boyd, Phoebe McWilliams, Renee Forth, Melissa Freckleton, Rebecca Privitelli, Alex Saundry, Pippa Smyth

The GIANTS lost three of their most experienced players in Maddy Boyd, Phoebe McWiliams and Renee Forth over the off-season, which left a gap in key positions on the field for the GIANTS. But to fill the hole in the ruck, Greater Western Sydney (GWS) picked up Ingrid Nielsen, who is a premiership played with the UNSW-ES Bulldogs in the AFL Sydney competition. To cover the X-factor of McWilliams, the GIANTS picked up Christina Bernardi, who is almost a straight swap for McWilliams, as both players possess smarts inside 50 as well as accurate kicks. Renee Forth has been a harder one to replace for the GIANTS, as her versatility was pivotal for them during the last two seasons. Given she can rotate through the midfield and the forward line, Alyce Parker is probably the closest player in terms of position to Forth, as she can play a role in the forward line if her team is on the back foot. The Thurgoona midfielder is as exciting as it gets, with a booming kick and a set of football smarts that are second to none, meaning she is a very important pick-up for the GIANTS.

Area of strength: Midfield

The GIANTS have incredible midfield depth heading into 2019, with the usual stars in Alicia Eva, Courtney Gum, Jessica Dal Pos and Rebecca Beeson being joined by the likes of Alyce Parker, Brittany Perry, Haneen Zreika and Phoebe Monahan. Parker had a standout Under-18 year last year, being named captain of the All-Australian team and the Most Valuable Player (MVP) for both New South Wales and the Eastern Allies in the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships on the Gold Coast. Monahan had a similar influence for Richmond in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season, being among the highest disposal-getters each week for the Tigers. Zreika is likely to add that X-factor that the midfield needs, as she has speed to burn and is a tenacious midfielder that should excite all GWS fans. She was on the GIANTS’ rookie list last season but has now been moved into the primary list for 2019.

Area of weakness: Defence

There’s not too much to worry about here for the GIANTS, as they have skilful defenders that can all play a role on dangerous forwards. With new recruits coming in, Alan McConnell will have to decide who fits where, as he has an extensive list of defenders on his hands. Renee Tomkins is likely to take the opposition’s leading forward, with Pepa Randall and Tanya Hetherington there to assist with other forward targets. Amanda Farrugia, Ellie Brush and Elle Bennetts will play as a running defenders. The problem comes into the equation if one of these players has to sit out a game, as the depth doesn’t expand much further than that in the GIANTS’ defensive 50.

Players to watch:

Haneen Zreika

Zreika was on the rookie list last season for the GIANTS and did not get to make her AFLW debut, but she will be a good chance to do so in 2019. She has exciting breakaway speed that is vital in a clogged midfield. Zreika is also a player that can break the lines and tackle aggressively, making her a complete player in the midfield. She played for Auburn-Penrith in the AFL Sydney competition during the off-season, being named in the best nine times from 12 games.

Phoebe Monahan

Monahan was one of Richmond’s leading players in the VFLW season, finishing equal third in the Tigers’ Best and Fairest count. She is a ball magnet and uses it well both by hand and by foot. Monahan played 11 games for the Tigers and was named in the best five times. She averaged 20 disposals per game last season and stood out amongst a struggling Richmond side.

Alyce Parker

Alyce Parker is one of the most talented players out of last year’s Under-18 crop. Just last year, she was named the All-Australian captain, the MVP for the Central Allies and New South Wales, played in a premiership for the Thurgoona Bulldogs and was named the best on ground in their victory. She’s received all these accolades because she is a smart midfielder who has a long clearing kick, giving her an advantage in the clearances. She tackles hard and has good hands as well, making her an all-round talent. Parker matched it with the bigger bodies when playing for Thurgoona, so she should fit right in to the AFLW.

2019 prediction: 1st in Conference B

This may be the GIANTS’ year, as they boast a strong list with plenty of depth. They are also in the easier conference, and with Brisbane losing a lot of talent over the off-season, GWS should be favourites heading in. Geelong may also be another team to contend with, but the GIANTS’ experience from the first two seasons should hold them in good stead. They have a couple of big tests in the first two rounds of the season, taking on Brisbane and North Melbourne. However, if they are to drop any of those games, they have an opportunity to bounce back against the Pies and Blues. If the GIANTS’ list can stay healthy, they will definitely be a side to watch in 2019.