Tag: rosie walsh

2021 WAFL Women’s Round 3 preview: Top of the table clash to highlight huge round

A TOP of the table clash between Peel Thunder and Swan Districts at David Grays Arena tomorrow evening is the highlight of a big Round 3 across the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition. Both sides head into the clash with two wins under their belts, following Peel’s triumphs over East Fremantle and Subiaco, while Swan Districts took care of Claremont and South Fremantle.

Both teams have an abundance of youth prospects running around that will fill out the West Australian squad at the AFL Women’s Under 19s Championships. Courtney Rowley is one of the top prospects across the country, and a potential head-to-head with Tara Stribley on a wing makes it a battle to watch. Up forward, Thunder bottom-age talent Ella Roberts is one of the most damaging forward prospects running around, and teaming up with Kate Bartlett, Peel has a one-two combination that packs a punch.

It means the likes of Emma Nanut and Emily McGuire will be key players, as will the reliable Lauren Osborne, in containing the talented Peel outfit. In midfield, Jess Cox has been in great form for the Swans, and could lock horns with Chloe Wrigley. Unfortunately Brianna Hyde is still unavailable due to injury, which otherwise could have seen the West Australian Under 19s co-captains face off with Jaide Britton on Peel’s side.

While Peel Thunder has a damaging forward combination, it would be remiss not to look at the depth and talent up the Swan Districts end. Nyra Anderson slotted three goals last week, whilst Mikayla Hyde returned to the WAFL Women’s to have an impact, and then there is the rising talents in Dana East and Bella Edgley. Both booted two goals, with Edgley potentially having more with 2.2, and East being named best on ground for her work roaming up the ground.

A couple of raw talls running around with good aggression in the air and at ground level are Beth Schilling (Peel Thunder) and Sarah Lakay (Swan Districts) which would be a huge match-up if they go head-to-head. Add in the talented 15-year-old Jaime Henry going up against another growing talent in Aisha Wright, and there are matchups to watch all over the field.

In the early Saturday game, East Fremantle will search for its first win coming up against Subiaco following the Lions’ loss to Peel Thunder last week. Subiaco got on the board against South Fremantle in the opening round, whilst the Sharks have falling to the Swans and Claremont in the past two weeks. Kia Buckley was best afield for Subiaco last round, and will be looking to have an impact against the Sharks, while Chloe Reilly is relishing her role down back.

Rosie Walsh will be set for her second game back this season and look to influence in the ruck, while a host of young Sharks are building some good form despite the results. Anjelique Raison and Mylee Leitch have both produced some highlights this season, being able to add to the experience of Sara Lewis up forward, and the likes of Sharon Wong and Kimberley Boulton in midfield and defence respectively. The Sharks defence is rock solid, which will make life difficult for the Lions.

However outside of Buckley, the Lions have other young guns in Abbey Dowrick and Jamie Rust, as well as Maggie MacLachlan who has strung together a couple of games whilst waiting for her AFL Women’s call-up to the Dockers. Tarnica Golisano is a reliable player, while Ellie Blackmore and Courtney Guard are consistent performers.

In the final game of the round and standalone game on Sunday, Claremont is searching to go back-to-back with wins after defeating East Fremantle last week, while South Fremantle is still searching for its first win in club history. From a Bulldogs perspective, Poppy Stockwell is a talented forward when she can get access to the ball, with Ashleigh Reidy and Zoe Huggett also damaging in the forward half. Pia Durk has been a revelation coming into the side this year, while Tahlia Holtze and Lauren Vecchio are reliable players to back in to perform each and every week.

Claremont’s top young talent is Amy Franklin, a key forward who has the athleticism of a small forward, but can roll through the ruck as well. Strong in the air and hard to contain at ground level, she will look to have a greater influence this week after a promising Round 1, but a quieter Round 2. Jess Low was in a similar boat, being near best-afield in the Round 1 game, before a quieter Round 2 game, though Rachel Ortlepp was absolutely outstanding at half-back. She combined well with youngster Emily Bennett, while Emily Elkington was another who had her moments. Ella Smith and Sasha Goranova are consistent performers, while Amy Fortescue has not missed a beat since coming into the side from Queensland.

It is hard to predict winners across the weekend with all three games predicted to be close. Based on their early results, Subiaco, Peel Thunder and Claremont will be favourites, but the Thunder and Swan Districts clash will be the pick of the bunch.

WAFL WOMEN’S ROUND 3 FIXTURES:

Saturday, March 6:

East Fremantle vs. Subiaco @ New Choice Homes Park, 12pm
Peel Thunder vs. Swan Districts @ David Grays Arena, 5pm

Sunday, March 7:

Claremont vs. South Fremantle @ Revo Fitness Stadium

Picture credit: Owen Davies/Peel Thunder

Top Performers: WAFL Womens Round 2 – Swans and Tigers enjoy wins

IN our Top Performers for the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition, we took a look at the two streamed games between Swan Districts and South Fremantle, and Claremont and East Fremantle.

Emily Bennett (Claremont)

Playing out of defence, Bennett provided a lot of one percenters for her team with tackles, shepherds or fend-offs to buy and extra second before disposing of it. She fiercely charged out of defence, and whilst she would occasionally rush her kick or lay a high tackle, when she had time and space was able to hit a kick down the wing.

Jess Cox (Swan Districts)

The tough inside midfielder had a ripping game, using her penetrating kick, strong body and tackling pressure to win plenty of contested ball and pump it forward. She laid tackle after tackle, and took a number of contested grabs, using good vision to hit up targets on the outside streaming forward. In a case where she did not take a grab early in the fourth, she backed up with a good second effort and handballed to a teammate to run on with it. Late in the game, Cox showed her strength by fending off a couple of opponents at half-forward and got the ball away.

Dana East (Swan Districts)

A tricky customer to try and bring down, East has great movement in close and is one that cannot be left unattended inside 50. An outside runner, East was able to stamp her mark on the contest with back-to-back goals in the second term, slotting a set shot from 25m out on a tight angle, then moments later kicked truly with a clever snap around her body which bounced home whilst being under pressure. She also set up a shot on goal with a nice pass inside 50, then had a highlight-reel play by taking a run, sidestepping an opponent and shrugging them off, and chipping inside 50 to the leading Nyra Anderson.

Emily Elkington (Claremont)

Had a few nice moments for the Tigers through the game, which started with a good run and low kick inside 50 to a target early in the game. She might be lightly built but had a crack throughout, marking at half-back in the second term, missed her target but laid a great tackle to win the ball back and dispose of it more effectively the next time. In the last term she had a nice sidestep and fend-off to get the handball away.

Bella Edgley (Swan Districts)

After kicking two goals last week, Edgley backed up that effort with another two goals in Swan Districts’ Round 2 win. After a quieter first quarter, she made her mark literally with a strong grab leading out then converting the set shot three minutes into the second term. She continued to lead out and attack the footy, taking several marks then moving it on to set up teammates, but had a few shots herself missing three chances with two set shots and a quick snap during the second half. Edgley finally netted her second goal with serious style, dribbling home a Goal of the Day contender from deep in the pocket.

Amy Franklin (Claremont)

Not as prolific as she could be, Franklin shared her time between forward and ruck. She took a strong leading out mark in the second term then lowered the eyes and found Jacinta Valentini for a Tigers goal 14 minutes into the quarter. She moved well through the middle in the third term with a quick handball to keep the ball transitioning into attack. She took a number of good marks in the final term, with her set shot 12 minutes into the game just falling short and spoiled across the line.

Jaime Henry (Swan Districts)

The 15-year-old talent has such strong hands and is one who can be a target at either end. Playing off half-back and through midfield, Henry holds a firm line, and even intercepted the ball at half-forward in the second term. She used the ball well and has a powerful kick, then even when she was not able to get involved as much due to the ball being inside 50, she remained active and kept holding her line in the side.

Sarah Lakay (Swan Districts)

An exciting and athletic talent, Lakay had a number of chances in the forward half, with her first shot on goal a scrubber that floated to the left, but her second nailed Hayley Cole on the chest. She took a huge grab in between two opponents late in the first term, and then went into the ruck in the second term to five Sarah Wielstra a rest. She had a long-range shot from late in the quarter that registered a behind, then remained active late in the game by taking a good intercept mark 40m out from goal and hit a teammate coming out from goal.

Emma Nanut (Swan Districts)

In fairness, playing in defence Nanut did not have to do as much as usual, but she took a really strong contested, juggling grab early in the piece. Throughout the middle two quarters the Swans just dominated and the defence was mostly unsighted, but when required, Nanut pushed up to the wing, and in the last quarter showed a great second effort. She won it, lost the ball under pressure, then laid a fierce tackle to win it back at half-back and kick to a teammate on the wing. She was lively in the early stages of the final term when she took a more offensive approach up the field.

Angelique Raison (East Fremantle)

A raw talent who attacks the ball hard on the lead, Raison already protects the ball drop well and gets to the front of her opponent when one-on-one inside 50. Her first kick on goal fell short, and she almost took a juggling mark in the second term but could not quite pull it down. She is still developing different areas of her game, but her attack on the contest and her ability to get into the right spots is what catches the eye.

Chloe Reilly (East Fremantle)

Had a really productive first quarter playing in defence, and was one of the best on the field in the opening term. After switching ends over the off-season, Reilly showed she has the offensive run and defensive pressure to make it as an attacking defender. She kept pumping the ball out of the back 50 when her side was under siege, and took a huge intercept mark late in the quarter. After a poor bounce deep in defence sold her into trouble, Reilly managed to smother a shot on goal with her leg and then went in hard to win a free kick. While she was quieter later in the game, she still had some highlights such as a nice spin one way and then the other to pump the ball into space for teammates to run onto.

Poppy Stockwell (South Fremantle)

Had a tough day playing up forward when the ball was not down there a great deal, but kept attacking the contest where possible. Often had extra numbers against battling her for the ball, but never gave in despite copping a knock midway through the game.

Tara Stribley (Swan Districts)

After being a little fumbly in the opening couple of minutes of the game, Stribley went to work and used her speed and skill to impact the contest. Her first term was massive, running hard from the wing to the forward line, and regularly looked to put the jets on and arch the back. She knew where to put it inside 50, and whilst she might have made the odd mistake, was prolific in her attack. Late in the game she had a quick shot from the tightest of angles but it was marked in the goalsquare.

Rosie Walsh (East Fremantle)

Returned to the team and spent more time in the ruck as she had touted ahead of the season start. Whilst still developing her contested marking, she showed clean hands at ground level and is quick to dispose of the ball by hand or foot, and move it on in transition.

Sarah Wielstra (Swan Districts)

The mature-age ruck had an impressive game not only at the stoppages, but up forward, having a number of scoreboard opportunities inside 50. She took several contested or one-grab marks both inside 50 and around the ground, and her athleticism from the ruck made her hard to stop. A set shot late in the third term just faded to the right which would have capped off an even better day for the late developer who received a AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite last year.

Picture credit: Tony Lendrum Photography

2021 WAFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Reigning premiers to host Sharks in opening game

PEEL Thunder will kick-start its premiership defence against perennial challengers, East Fremantle in a blockbuster standalone Saturday evening clash at David Grays Arena tomorrow. Starting at 5pm local time on Saturday (8pm AEDST), the Thunder will be keen to start off the season on the right note, whilst the Sharks will enjoy, for the first time in a while, not being the hunted and instead having the first crack at their successor.

Speaking to Peel Thunder coach Steve Markham during the week, the team will again be incredibly strong defensively, as it was last year. Though they also have plenty of talent up forward.

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

For East Fremantle, talented young ruck Rosie Walsh said the team as a whole was looking on improving their skills under new coach, and former Subiaco mentor, Simon Quayle.

“Hitting those targets, working on our kicking, on our handpasses, just those really basic skills that those little things that will get you to where you want to be,” she said. “Mia Schleicher, it’s her first year playing League as well, she played Colts last year and I definitely think she is a gun to look out for.  “Mylee Leitch – she has come up from the Colts, she has gone into the League team, she’s a small forward, really kick and knows how to put the ball through the sticks, she is pretty good.”

PEEL THUNDER COACH STEVE MARKHAM:

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

EAST FREMANTLE RUCK ROSIE WALSH:

“We’re working on switching lanes and just playing fast,” she said. “Obviously not too fast, but when we take a mark to push back and only kick it to when they know they have that separation from their defender, but everything else is working really fast. “So switching lanes, working down the corridor, and we know that Peel like to play really good body, so they will not let you get that separation, so we’re working really hard on getting that separation, especially in the forward line and keeping that body in the backline, so not letting them go.”

Both Peel Thunder and East Fremantle are strong one-on-one and like to move the ball quickly, which makes this the match of the round. While the Thunder will be missing some of their premiership talent, the Sharks will also be without crucial AFL Women’s experience. It all adds up to a fascinating battle and one not to be missed.

In the other two matches, reigning grand finalists Subiaco travel to Fremantle Community Bank Oval where they take on a vastly different looking South Fremantle. The Bulldogs did not manage to grab a win in their inaugural season last year, but they showed promise towards the end of the season, and have brought in a ton of experience for 2021. Bulldogs coach Beau McCormack said they would continue the brand of football from last year and build on it this season.

“I think our brand football we set out last year to play a brand football of high impact football and being known for a hard hitting team, and I think we, we definitely set that example last year and it’s something that we take on and have taken in again to this year, as I said, you know, tackling pressure from my point of view is a huge part of the game and we don’t have it, we get it back,” he said.

“We’ve got some really good runners, that are in the side, just trying to get it out and quick movement of the football from, one end of the ground to the other sort of fast flowing, free flowing football.”

Subiaco will head in with a new coach too after Michael Farmer took over the role from Amy Lavell this off-season. The Lions are preparing for another tilt at the flag after narrowly falling short in the 2021 decider.

Meanwhile Swan Districts will be hoping to back up a successful year where they not only made finals, but had a number of players drafted in Mikayla Morrison, Shanae Davison and Mikayla Hyde. The Swans take on Claremont in the opening round at Steel Blue Oval, with the Tigers hoping to improve on their narrow finals-missing campaign last year. With the likes of Ella Smith and Jess Low among those standing out last year, the Tigers should be another tough team in 2021.

Swan Districts will welcome a new head coach in Adam Dancey for the opening game, with team manager Jo Taylor excited about what the team could produce in 2021.

“We have a really young list again, we’ve got some more youngsters through, which is something that we’ve always sort of strived to do,” she said. “So we’re excited to see what they can do as well.”

Claremont coach Andrew Di Loreto has focused on areas that the Tigers could improve in season 2021 after narrowly missing out on finals last year.

“We had some areas we wanted to focus on in terms of evolving the way that we play,” Di Loreto said. “We’ve obviously got a bit of a shorter run up but with all that in mind I’m really happy with the commitment level and the development of our girls, I’m really keen to see them in action and obviously have a test and see where we’re at in a couple of weeks.”

WAFL ROUND 1 MATCHES:

Peel Thunder vs. East Fremantle @ David Grays Arena, Sat Feb 20, 5pm
South Fremantle vs. Subiaco @ Fremantle Community Bank Oval, Sun Feb 21, 1pm
Swan Districts vs. Claremont @ Steel Blue Oval, Sun Feb 21, 2pm

Picture credit: WAFL

Sharks youth set to shine in 2021

A NEW squad that has changed “dramatically”, coached by a fresh face, and a new role for one of its talented up-and-coming youngsters in Rosie Walsh has East Fremantle buoyant about the season ahead. The Sharks were back-to-back premiers in 2018-19 and then preliminary final losers last season in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition, but are now firmly focused on a fresh season which is much earlier than usual.

For Walsh who received a Draft Combine invite last year after stepping up to the League side, she has enjoyed the preseason and meeting new faces as the experienced Sharks prepare for most of the season without their AFL Women’s talent.

“It’s actually been really good,” Walsh said of the preseason. “We had a new coach so that’s been really good. “It’s been a bit of a change, trying some new footy styles with a different coach, and we’ve had a really different team to last season. It’s changed dramatically, but I reckon it’s changed in a good way, see some fresh faces.”

“We haven’t been hit by COVID too bad (this season). “We missed out on one week of training, (but) luckily games hadn’t started then, so I reckon that we honestly got it easy compared to all the other states who have had it bad. “It’s been really good, the girls got to do their training from home for that week, and we all came back and we’re eager to get back into it for Round 1 coming this weekend. “I don’t think that’s stopped us from getting where we want to be which is good.”

New coach Simon Quayle knows just how formidable the Sharks can be, having coached against them as Subiaco’s mentor in the 2018 West Australian Women’s Football League (WAWFL) Grand Final. Walsh said Quayle had come in and put an emphasis on skills and decision making, something that the Sharks have identified as an area to focus on with so many new players in the team.

“His (Quayle’s) coaching style is working on skills a lot more,” Walsh said. “Hitting those targets, working on our kicking, on our handpasses, just those really basic skills that those little things that will get you to where you want to be. “I reckon switching different coaching styles is hard, but I reckon it’s been really good with the new coach and from winning two premierships in a row, and going down last year in the prelim, I think that working as a team honestly and getting that really club culture going, is what we’re working on really hard.”

For Walsh herself, she has not let missing out on the draft worry her as she focuses on a new role – in the ruck – for the 2021 season. Having played predominantly as a key forward and aiding the ruck when the ball was inside 50, Walsh has identified that fitness and her ruck craft were key areas to base her preseason improvements around.

“Getting to every contest, getting my first hand on the ball which would be really good, getting that front position, my bodywork, building that strength in my arms and my core so I can jump higher and get my hands on the ball first,” Walsh said. “That’s what I’m working on, getting my ruck work up to scratch.”

Despite being bundled out of the 2020 WAFL Women’s finals series by the Thunder, Walsh said the team had not changed their thought process or how they wanted to play any differently knowing that Peel was their opponent for Round 1. Walsh said both teams had changed, but the Sharks were also experienced in how the Thunder played, and had to play at their best to try and stop them.

“I don’t really think that anything changed when we knew we were playing Peel,” she said. “I think we didn’t think about Peel, we were thinking about what we needed to do to win the game, what we needed to do as a team, what we needed to do to improve. “With half a new team, it’s going to be different with having those new faces and obviously not played together before.”

With so many new faces coming into the team from either the East Fremantle Reserves or Rogers Cup sides, or returning from a year off, Walsh said there were plenty of names to keep an eye on in 2020. Specifically, Walsh said ruck/forward Laura McClelland stepping up from the Reserves last season, and Mia Schleicher and Mylee Leitch coming in from the Rogers Cup team. Rachel Ashley – who played in the 2019 League Grand Final – returns after a year off to add extra strength to the forward line.

“Mia Schleicher, it’s her first year playing League as well, she played Colts last year and I definitely think she is a gun to look out for,” Walsh said. “Her sister plays for Collingwood, Ruby Schleicher. “I definitely think she will have some experience there coming into our League team.

Mylee Leitch, she has come up from the Colts, she has gone into the League team, she’s a small forward, really kick and knows how to put the ball through the sticks, she is pretty good.”

East Fremantle will call upon its youth and depth like every WAFL Women’s side this season, when players such as Ruby Schleicher are out due to AFL Women’s commitments. Walsh said it would be “different” without the AFLW talent, but said it was a double-edged sword in that regard.

“It’s going to be different without the AFL Women’s players, because obviously with their experience and expertise of the game, that really helps with their leadership qualities, but I also think it’s a good opportunity for us to have some of the Under 18s players, the Colts players come up and play in the League team,” Walsh said. “It gives other girls opportunities to play at that level which they’ve always wanted to do. “It’s always good to bring in new talent and bring in experienced players into the League team to potentially, who knows where they’ll end up.

“It’s really good to see the new faces and some of the girls have been down there which is good, because they’re still getting around the club, still helping do some training and coaching, but they’re just not going to be playing with us, which is unfortunate, but I think it’s really cool but I think we get to see a lot of other girls come through to the club.”

For Walsh, she still has her eyes on the ultimate prize – getting drafted – with the 20-year-old a late developer and one who is constantly improving areas of her game to be a more complete player.

“I definitely by the 2021 Draft, I would hope to get drafted to an AFL club,” Walsh said. “That would be number one. “But even just improving myself as a footy player, so working on my ruckwork as I said, I haven’t played ruck for a whole season before, so this is going to be my first season, so being the best ruck that I can. “Being the number one ruck in the team which should be great, and also just building my culture for myself and building the team so we can become one and have that strong community.”

East Fremantle take on Peel Thunder at David Grays Arena on Saturday, February 20 from 5pm local time (8pm AEDST).

Picture credit: East Fremantle Women’s Facebook

WAFL Women’s to return on February 20

THE wait for the return of the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition is almost over, with the 2021 season fixture released this week and teams set to do battle from the weekend of February 20. Initially touted to start next weekend, the season was pushed back a week, with the 2021 WAFL Women’s Grand Final to be played on the weekend of July 3.

Before that though, the six teams – Claremont, East Fremantle, Peel Thunder, South Fremantle, Subiaco and Swan Districts – will face off in 15 rounds, where they will play every other team three times, and have two league-wide byes along the way. The earlier fixture allows those players from Fremantle and West Coast AFL Women’s teams to continue match fitness whilst trying to force their way back into the sides, while also enabling the entire season to wrap up prior to the 2021 AFL Women’s Draft which has been touted to be moved a couple of months earlier than its annual October date.

Round 1 kicks off with reigning premiers Peel Thunder able to unfurl the flag at David Grays Arena up against the previous premiers, East Fremantle. Runners-up Subiaco will head to play last year’s wooden spooners, South Fremantle at Fremantle Community Bank Oval, while Swan Districts hosts Claremont at Steel Blue Oval. Fans will not have to wait long for a WAFL Women’s Grand Final rematch, with the Thunder and Lions set to do battle in Round 2 on the weekend of February 27.

The two bye weekends are on April 3 and May 15, with the 2021 AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships to be played in the second week of April as well. For those interested in some young guns to watch for the upcoming season, it is hard to look past Peel Thunder jet, Courtney Rowley who has been a strong performer at the level for a number of years now. Coming into her top-age year, Rowley is touted to be the top West Australian talent, with the smooth-moving skilful outside player one who shares similar traits to St Kilda’s Georgia Patrikios.

Another player to keep an eye on is Subiaco’s Charlotte Thomas, with her ball use sublime playing off half-forward. She is so clever around goals and can hit the scoreboard, but also push up the ground and have an impact as well. Speaking of hitting the scoreboard, Amy Franklin is a 180cm key forward who can clunk grabs, but then cause sleepless nights for defenders because when the ball hits the ground she can burst away with great acceleration for a player of her height.

A number of other names to keep an eye out on include East Fremantle’s Chloe Reilly who has terrific goal sense and knows who to take marks, whilst Peel Thunder’s talent does not stop at Rowley, with Bethlyn Pasco and Beth Schilling also amongst the talent there. Swan Districts’ Emma Nanut was a reliable source of composure in the back half for the Swans last season, but is versatile just about anywhere, while South Fremantle’s Tayla Whincup and Poppy Stockwell are other names to remember throughout the 2021 WAFL Women’s season.

Some over and mature-age talent to remember include Subiaco’s Abbey Dowrick – sister of West Coast’s McKenzie – as well as Claremont’s Jess Low and East Fremantle’s Rosie Walsh, who all earned AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites last year. Swan Districts’ Nyra Anderson remains a natural ball winner, while her teammate Sarah Wielstra is an example of a player who came a long way in a short time and will be one to watch this year.

Picture credit: Owen Davies/Peel Thunder

2021 AFLW Under 18s Ones to Watch

NOW the curtain has closed on the 2020 AFL Women’s off-season period, we turn our attention to the next group of budding stars across the country who will be vying for a spot on an AFL Women’s list. We have named 25 players who have already shown some great signs in their bottom and middle-age seasons, as well as a number of others to watch out for in 2021.

Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

A name that has been circulating for a number of years now, it is hard to believe the all-round talent was robbed of what she could potentially do in her middle-age year. She looked more than comfortable at the level in her bottom-age year as a 16-year-old and caught plenty of attention with a seven-goal haul against Greater Western Victoria Rebels. Taller than her sister – AFL Women’s league best and fairest winner Madison – Prespakis is hard at it, has great athleticism and is ridiculously strong one-on-one. A highlight-reel package nearly any time she steps out on the field, Prespakis is a future star and could play just about anywhere, but expect her to play inside midfield and rest forward.

Teagan Levi (Bond University/Queensland)

The sister of recently drafted Gold Coast Suns’ talent Maddison, Levi is 11cm shorter and plays onball rather than forward. Her athletic traits are similar to that of Georgia Patrikios in the way that she can seamlessly get herself out of trouble by wrong-footing and side-stepping opponents with ease. Not only is she able to beat them in congestion, she can run and take the game on down a wing, and then when the opponent wins it, she is the first to lay a strong tackle. Similar to Prespakis, Levi has so many weapons and is as effective defensively as she is offensively, and is the standout Queensland prospect for next year and in the clear top few talents running around.

Courtney Rowley. Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder

Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

A player who has been building very nicely over in Western Australia over the past two seasons and then was the most impressive of the middle-agers in the WAFL All-Stars game. A really smooth mover, Rowley often plays off a wing and knows how to distribute the ball so well, winning Peel Thunder’s League best and fairest last year as a 16-year-old competing against senior opponents including AFL Women’s talents. Whilst she had more support in 2020 as the Thunder rose from wooden spooners to premiers in a remarkable turnaround, it is hard not to admire what the talented midfielder could be in her top-age season next year.

Zoe Prowse (Sturt/South Australia)

The standout ruck prospect in next year’s draft, Adelaide will have another promising talent on their radar in Prowse. Winning Sturt’s best and fairest award this year, Prowse was just about the best in nearly every game she played for the Double Blues, particularly in the second half of the season. Despite standing at just under 180cm, Prowse has ridiculous athleticism with a high vertical leap and is almost like a fourth midfielder. She can get down and apply second and third efforts to ground level players, and is one who could also play forward if required. With great ruck nous, she can outwork her opponents around the ground, and it was easy to see why she was the sole South Australian AFL Women’s Academy member in her middle-age year.

Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

An absolute star in the making. Capable of playing midfield or forward, Rowbottom just knows how to set scoring opportunities up in transition. The sister of Sydney’s James, Rowbottom has similar ball-winning abilities and defensive attributes, but has a lot to offer offensively as well. She showed in the Chargers’ win over Tasmania that she is not only able to hit the scoreboard herself – kicking two goals – but set up a number of chances for her teammates. One that will really surprise in 2021 as a leader for the Chargers.

Charlie Rowbottom. Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)

With quite a few tall defenders in this year’s AFL Women’s Draft, Slender would be putting her hand up as potentially the pick of the bunch. Her intercepting capability and reading of the ball in flight is exceptional, and while she did miss her middle-age year, Slender is one who could catch the attention pretty quickly. Having played alongside some Vic Country representatives in the past – and playing at Under 16s level for her state – Slender is good in one-on-ones and looms as a key lynchpin for the Pioneers. It would also not be too surprising to see her take a similar transition to Isabelle Pritchard and move into the midfield given she has the traits to slot right in there.

Makaylah Appleby (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

Class personified. Appleby has managed to catch the eye on more than a few occasions over the past few seasons despite playing in such a stacked team at the Northern Knights. She often played off a wing or provided run on the outside like during the 2019 NAB League Finals Series. Appleby is now the top prospect at the Knights for the upcoming season as a member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, and as a damaging ball user, Appleby is one that teammates want to get the ball in the hands of in order to create scoring opportunities up the field.

Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco/Western Australia)

A dangerous forward half player with clean skills and a nous for goals, Thomas is the other AFL Women’s Academy member from Western Australia in her middle-age year along with Rowley and has a big future. Playing in an experienced team like Subiaco, Thomas was able to still stand out, regularly hitting the scoreboard. Standing at 175cm, Thomas has good size and good hands and having made her League debut in 2020, big things are predicted for 2021 with a lot of AFL Women’s talent, and more experienced heads around her.

Nyakoat Dojiok. Picture credit: Draft Central

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

A player who is not afraid to take the game on and really take it to the opposition is GWV Rebels’ Dojiok who has been developing year-on-year over the last few years. Playing as a 15-year-old a few years back, Dojiok is one who when she gets going is hard to contain, and she has that rich blend of power and speed. She is utilised best as that outside runner, playing off half-back or along a wing, but is eye-catching in the way she plays and the way she can bring teammates into the game. Entering her top-age year, expect her to see even more midfield time as she has some seriously great traits.

Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

A player who might be flying under the radar that has some casual NAB League Girls watchers reaching for the team lists next year is Dowling. An incredible talent who showed progression in her two games this year, she has only managed to fly under the radar due to the enormous amount of talent coming out of the Falcons’ football factory. She played in defence as a bottom-ager then got time more up the field last year, and expect her to play through the midfield in 2021. She can play anywhere, at that hybrid 171cm-plus size and can be too athletic for talls and too strong for smalls, Dowling is one who should not be forgotten when talking about Vic Country prospects.

Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)

The standout NSW/ACT prospect for 2021, Morphett is the sole AFL Women’s Academy member from her state. The developing 189cm-plus ruck is one who improved from her bottom-age season and it would have been fantastic to see her going up against the Melbourne-drafted Maggie Caris if their teams had met in the NAB League Girls before the season ended. She is commanding overhead and able to drift forward if required, Morphett is one of the few NAB League Girls prospects to play this year. Representing Belconnen Magpies in the AFL Canberra League, Morphett finished second in the league best and fairest, and then won best on ground in the Magpies’ premiership win. Not bad for a 17-year-old and she is one anticipated to take a huge step in 2021.

Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore/Queensland)

Stood tall at senior level in the QAFL Women’s competition for the Roos and is one of a remarkable three players in the AFL Women’s Academy from the side. Harmer showed in the Queensland All-Stars game that she looms as a strong prospect in 2021 with her overhead marking, read of the play and powerful kicking standing out in a tight game. A member of the Brisbane Lions Academy, Harmer is 170cm and could play at half-back as that intercepting rebounder, or through the middle, seemingly able to break down opposition defences on transition by getting in the way and then pumping it long.

Maggie Harmer. Picture credit: Deion Menzies, Highflyer Images

Amy Franklin (Claremont/Western Australia)

If we are talking upside, then Franklin, not too dissimilar to her West Australian namesake, has plenty of that for the future. A tall marking forward, Franklin has speed that makes smaller opponents envious, and standing at 180cm, she is big enough to outmark most opponents. Still quite raw and lightly built compared to more experienced WAFL Women’s defenders she came across, Franklin is one that once the ball gets goalside, you can almost put the glasses down. Terrific athleticism and one who is threatening to be an even bigger threat in 2021, she is yet another exciting tall forward to come out of Western Australia.

Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

If you are talking upside and potential in next year’s AFL Women’s Draft crop then take 186cm Gillard as an example. Only turning 17 in December this year, the key position utility can play in all three lines, starting off as a key defender, spending time up forward and has the size if required to play ruck. For a player of her size, Gillard is so good at ground level and able to create something out of nothing. While she is still a raw and developing talent, she is another from the Cannons’ program who has already had plenty of NAB League Girls experience that will only make her better.

Ella Friend (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

A second GWV Rebels player making the list, Friend did not get many chances this season to show what she is capable of, but what she did in that short space of time was quite remarkable. Another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, Friend looked comfortable in the tight contest against the Western Jets back in Round 3, racking up a ton of the ball – 19 touches – and having a real influence in the forward half. Not only that, but she iced the game for the Rebels with a match-winning goal, and provided as much offence (six inside 50s) and defence (five tackles) to suggest she is a gamechanger and one to look out for next season.

Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

Made her debut in the NAB League Girls competition and just has that X-factor about her that makes you sit up and take notice. Elite acceleration out of the stoppage and some really top-end traits, Livingstone came into the Ranges’ midfield and assimilated easily that it was hard to believe she was not a top-ager. Behind the experienced Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown, Livingstone was the next biggest performer onball, and with another preseason behind her, it will be exciting to see just what she can produce with her athletic traits and ability to get forward and look dangerous.

Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

Yassir is just a fierce competitor who can play through the midfield or as a small forward. Standing at just 161cm, Yassir defies her size and is not afraid to take on bigger opponents, laying multiple tackles and is a contested ball winner. She stood up during Calder’s NAB League Girls finals series as a bottom-ager in 2019, and started strongly in 2020. She will have a bigger role in 2021 and has a bucketload of talent that will have opposition players wary of when she is in the zone.

Mikayla Pauga (Maroochydore/Queensland)

Another small forward and member of the AFL Women’s Academy, Pauga might just stand at 161cm like Yassir, but packs plenty of punch as a damaging forward. The second Maroochydore player in this list, Pauga finished second in her club’s goalkicking with 13 majors in 14 games, and was a clear standout. With an eye for goal and a large endurance base that sees her outwork opponents, Pauga is one who could step up again in 2021 and will be one to watch at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships having shown her wares at senior level in the QAFL Women’s already.

Zoe Venning. Picture credit: SANFL

Zoe Venning (West Adelaide/South Australia)

A hard-nosed midfielder/forward from West Adelaide, Venning came on in leaps and bounds throughout her second season in the red and black. She became a crucial member of the Bloods’ midfield, playing between wing and forward, though her attack on the ball shows she can easily translate into an inside midfielder. Providing great assistance to equal league best and fairest winner, Rachelle Martin as well as young talent Abbie Ballard, Venning is one who is dangerous around goals. She is still developing some areas of her game such as her kicking, but her work rate and intensity in play is superb.

Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

A reliable key defender for the Cannons, Lennox is a fourth member of the Calder side to make this list, and shows just how strong their top-age group will be next season. Lennox is one who is good at ground level for a taller player, being one of the most dominant rebounders in the competition to start the 2020 NAB League Girls season. As a player who stood out on the big stage of the 2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final, Lennox is not afraid of big moments, and will team up well with Gillard as a couple of talls in a really strong Cannons outfit.

Amy Prokopiec (Clarence/Tasmania)

The sole Tasmanian prospect in the AFL Women’s National Academy, Prokopiec became one of the standout defenders for Tasmania Devils, albeit in just a handful of games in her bottom and middle-age years. As she showed with Clarence in the TSL Women’s competition this year and in the Tasmanian All-Stars game, Prokopiec is capable of playing at either end, and becoming that versatile tall utility. As a long kick and strong overhead, she is a crucial cog in the both the Roos and Devils sides, and will be hoping for a full season next year to test herself against the best in the NAB League Girls.

Amy Prokopiec (right). Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide/South Australia)

There are quite a few talls in this list with potential, and Schirmer is another one who just has that look about her that she could be in for a big 2021. In her middle-age season with reigning premiers South Adelaide, she acquitted herself well and while she did have some really outstanding performances, even when she was quieter, there was always a moment or two within games where you could see she was capable of kicking a couple of goals and winning the match for her side. Not far off 180cm, Schirmer can push up to a wing or even in defence, but she always looks damaging inside 50 and a real target for her teammates to kick to.

Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

A good size and capable of hitting the scoreboard, the 176cm James is a damaging prospect. She showed in her two games this year how she has developed both her offensive and defensive traits, and even as an Under 16s player for the Chargers, stood up in nine games and booted five goals. As one of a number of Chargers who were able to provide support to the top-end talent this year, James is another leader in the group to standout in her own top-age year in 2021.

Alana Lishmund (Norwood/South Australia)

Was a prominent member of the Norwood side in her debut SANFL Women’s season, then really stepped up as one of the best in the All-Stars match last month. She is predominantly a forward talent who can push up the ground into the midfield, and then play high or deep forward when required. A reliable kick for goal, she has that X-factor about her inside 50 and can be a leading or crumbing target, playing taller than her 166cm size, and one who will be another South Australian jostling for a spot as one of the more prominent talents in the state.

Alana Lishmund. Picture credit: AFL Media

Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)

A multi-sport talent for the Stingrays, Anthony also has that something special about her game playing as a forward. She can play at either end, and has progressed through the pathway from V/Line Cup to the NAB League Girls. One who has shared her football journey with cricket duties – she has only managed the five games for the Stingrays – she knows how to hit the scoreboard and provide a presence. Despite standing at just 166cm, Anthony plays like a taller forward and finds space, and will be a top talent to watch out for from the Stingrays in 2021.

Others:

Maroochydore’s Bella Smith is another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy who stood up for Maroochydore this season in the QAFL Women’s, whilst Georgia Hutton and Caitlin Thorne are a couple of Gold Coast Academy members who showed some top-end traits during the All-Stars match.

The South Australian group has been sensational with plenty having senior experience, led by South Adelaide’s Lauren Clifton who stood out in the All-Stars match up forward. Central District’s Madison Lane, North Adelaide’s Kate Case, Glenelg’s Brooke Tonon and Woodville-West Torrens’ Jamie Parish are others who have been ones to watch at SANFL Women’s level this season.

Over in the west, Chloe Reilly remains a dangerous forward option for East Fremantle with her work at ground level and around goals, whilst Swan Districts’ Emma Nanut, and South Fremantle trio, Tayla Whincup, Taylah Cruttenden and Poppy Stockwell are also great talents.

Looking to the NAB League and there are plenty of names to throw up, but a few in the mix include Mikayla Jones (Murray Bushrangers), Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays) and Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons) who have shown to be natural players in their respective areas. From the Vic Metro perspective, Peppa Poultney (Calder Cannons), Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers), Caitlin Sargent (Western Jets) and Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights) were terrific this year, while a host of middle-age Sandringham Dragons got their starts and will no doubt produce a number of surprise packets alongside their elite bottom-age talents.

Perri King is another Tasmanian prospect behind Prokopiec to watch, making history as the Devils’ first goalkicker last season and will be keen to build on that again. From Northern Territory, there is a heap of great young talents coming through from 2022 onwards, with one 2021 draft prospect being Georgia Johnson, a 160cm talent from Waratah who stood out in the NT All-Stars match last month. Playing in defence, she was one to take note of as she regularly mopped up and got the ball down the field for Team Hewett.

Alongside the top-age talents, a number of over-age talents who missed out on being drafted this year will no doubt be trying to stake their case against be it via the NAB League or state leagues, including Brooke Hards, Jemma Finning and Annabel Strahan (all Bendigo Pioneers), Zoe Hill, Abbey Jordan and Jess Matin (all Dandenong Stingrays), Ash Snow and Maeve Chaplin (both Northern Knights), Amber Micallef (Oakleigh Chargers), Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges) and Grace McRae (Gippsland Power) who all received AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but were unlucky to miss out.

In Western Australia, Maggie MacLachlan (Subiaco), Brianna Hyde and Mikayla Hyde (both Swan Districts) head into 2021 as over-agers, while mature-agers Ella Smith and Jess Low (both Claremont), Rosie Walsh (East Fremantle) and Sarah Wielstra (Swan Districts) are others who missed out on the AFL Women’s Draft but will remain ones to watch.

Elsewhere, Northern Territorian Mattea Breed continues to develop for Norwood in South Australia, whilst Abby Favell (Murray Bushrangers), Jayde Hamilton (Queanbeyan Tigers) and Kiara Beesley (Southern Power) were draft combine invitees from NSW/ACT.

In Queensland, Beth Pinchin has shown great resilience as a mature-ager coming back from multiple injuries, while Courtney Bromage and Brooke Spence are other mature-agers who caught attention this year. Christine Okesene, Ebony Peterson, Laura Blue, Chloe Gregory and Madison Goodwin were also in the mix this year with Draft Combine invites so will be kept on close watch in 2021. The other two players to receive AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but miss out were the exciting Freda Puruntatameri (Calder Cannons/Northern Territory) and Charlie Vandenberg (Wynyard/Tasmania) who have plenty of development left in them.

2020 AFL Women’s Draft preview: The next crop of young stars to find homes tonight

TONIGHT up to 61 players will live out their AFL Women’s dreams when the 14 clubs select the players to fill out the 2021 lists at the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Like most years, the AFL Women’s Draft still has state-based selections with Adelaide (South Australia) and GWS GIANTS (New South Wales) having sole priority to players that nominate that state. In Queensland (Brisbane and Gold Coast) and Western Australia (Fremantle and West Coast) the teams will split the players, whilst the remaining 10 teams will fight over the Victorian pool. The one major change is that there is only a Victorian pool, not split into Metropolitan and Geelong, so the Cats do not have priority on those from the region.

Richmond holds the all-important first pick in the draft which is expected to kick off from 7pm. There are a number of players the Tigers could select, but the frontrunner is Northern Knights’ star Ellie McKenzie, an inside midfielder who can play just about anywhere on the field and has been a proven talent for a number of years now.

[ … Ellie McKenzie feature … ]

Western Bulldogs traded up from Pick 3 to Pick 2 to ensure they could nab the second best player in the draft, with Tyanna Smith high up there in contention. The Dandenong Stingrays’ star has very few flaws in her game and has elite acceleration and a match-winning ability. The other one in contention if the Dogs opt to go tall could be another Northern Knights’ star in Alyssa Bannan as another forward option, as she can play tall or small and even push up into the midfield.

[ … Tyanna Smith feature … ] | [ … Alyssa Bannan feature … ]

Also in the mix for the top Victorian picks are Sandringham Dragons’ Sarah Hartwig, a rebounding defender who could fill the need at Melbourne with Pick 5. Whichever player is left of the trio, expect the Saints to pounce on with Pick 6 in what showcases the elite top-end talent of this year’s group. Another possibility for the pick could be Northern Knights’ Jess Fitzgerald if the Saints choose to add extra midfield class to their side.

[ … Sarah Hartwig feature … ] | [ … Jess Fitzgerald One to Watch  … ]

West Coast and Adelaide also have top five picks coming in at picks three and four, with the Eagles having a decision to make whether they go high-flying Shanae Davison from their own aligned-Academy or if they look at someone like Sarah Verrier, a Peel Thunder talent with a great blend of inside-outside traits or Bella Lewis a hardened midfielder who has been sensational this year. The Crows are expected to be a little more predictable, with Teah Charlton the standout prospect, though given they have a monopoly on the South Australian nominees, they can select anyone in any order.

[ … Shanae Davison feature … ] | [ … Sarah Verrier feature … ] | [… Bella Lewis … ] | [ … Teah Charlton feature … ]

Gold Coast becomes the first Queensland team into the draft at Pick 7, and with players still able to nominate the Gold Coast and Brisbane zones, a Suns Academy member such as Annise Bradfield, Daisy D’Arcy, Maddison Levi or Beth Pinchin could be among those in consideration. For the Lions a pick later, Zimmorlei Farquharson looms as the standout youngster in the group.

[ … Annise Bradfield … ] | [ … Daisy D’Arcy feature … ] | [ … Maddison Levi feature … ] | [ … Zimmorlei Farquharson feature … ]

The final pick inside the top 10 is Geelong and they have the most interesting selection with the top group likely off the board, it is an even balance of players they could choose from. If they opt to go local – knowing they do not have priority – then perhaps the skill and class of Falcons’ Darcy Moloney could be an option. If they want to go a little taller, then Isabelle Pritchard could head down the highway from the Western Jets and provide a strong inside presence, or they could look to a proven big-game performer in Northern Knights’ Fitzgerald.

[ … Darcy Moloney feature … ] | [ … Isabelle Pritchard feature … ]

Western Bulldogs become the first team to make their second selection at Pick 11, which is effectively Pick 6 from the Victorian draft. If they went Smith in the first selection, they could look to go taller here and look to someone like Bulldogs’ supporter Pritchard or perhaps consider Murray Bushrangers’ key forward Olivia Barber. If they went for Bannan with their second selection, perhaps Fitzgerald is one to join the ranks as yet another Knight, whilst the likes of classy forward Bella Eddey or outside mover Mimi Hill could come into consideration through the first round.

[ … Olivia Barber feature … ] | [ … Bella Eddey feature … ] | [ … Mimi Hill feature … ]

Carlton enter the draft at Pick 12, and the names already raised in Fitzgerald, Hill and Eddey could be around the mark, though if they want to add an inside midfielder, then perhaps Falcons’ Laura Gardiner could be a suggestion. North Melbourne are next up and will also be keen to add another midfielder to the ranks, and try and predict what Melbourne (Picks 15 and 17) and Western Bulldogs (Pick 16) are going to do. If the Dees did not end up with Hartwig, then they could look at Dandenong Stingrays’ Zoe Hill with a selection, or if Pritchard has somehow slid, she is another defensive option.

[ … Laura Gardiner feature … ] | [ … Zoe Hill feature … ]

The West Australian teams squeeze in between the Victorian ones, with Fremantle likely to grab one of Verrier or Bella Lewis at the pick. Both are Fremantle-aligned and the Dockers know they can have an immediate impact in last year’s unbeaten side. The Eagles could look to Davison – if not already taken – or the classy Mikayla Morrison with this selection, or go for the ready-made Nyra Anderson at Pick 18.

[ … Bella Lewis feature … ] | [ … Mikayla Morrison feature … ] | [ … Nyra Anderson feature … ]

The last team to enter the draft is Collingwood with Pick 19 the Magpies’ first selection. Expect that to be Tarni Brown because on talent alone she is a top 10 pick, so the black and white army will gladly use their first pick on the Eastern Ranges’ jet. They will look to add some more midfield options, and she adds some extra speed and class to the team. Expect Alice Burke to be read out at the Saints’ Pick 24 – again great value – otherwise anything else is a bargain.

[ … Tarni Brown feature … ] | [ … Alice Burke feature … ]

The draft crop becomes so even outside of that top 20, with so many talented players fighting for spots on AFL Women’s lists. Ash Woodland and Georgia Nanscawen are readymade prospects who can impact immediately at AFL Women’s level, whilst Alana Barba, Shanara Notman, Nikia Webber, Amber Ward and Mattea Breed are all talls who have an extra year of experience as over-agers. Not holding a Draft Combine invite per say, South Australian duo Rachelle Martin and Matilda Zander would be a couple of others on clubs radars as ones who can make an immediate impact.

Some former basketballers who have crossed to football in the last 12-18 months are Amelia Velardo, Annabel Strahan and Carly Remmos, whilst Jess Matin (cricket) and Charlie Vandenberg (hockey) are among others who have forced high-level careers in other sports. Queenslanders, Christine Okesene, Brooke Spence, Laura Blue and Lucy Single are others who have transferred from various codes over the years.

From a Victorian perspective, among other names in various midfield positions are outside midfielder, Abbey Jordan and Joanna Lin, inside midfielders, Brooke Hards, Olivia Meagher and Winnie Laing, balanced midfielders Eliza McNamara, Megan Fitzsimon and Maeve Chaplin. Meanwhile the standout ruck is Maggie Caris.

Up forward, Renee Saulitis is the most dangerous small forward, whilst Isabella Simmons is a taller option, and Abbi Moloney a rapidly improving player. In defence, Ash Snow has great speed, while the likes of Jemma Finning, Mietta Kendall and Amber Micallef have all produced great seasons. As some raw talents, Alice O’Loughlin and Alice Astbury have had glimpses in the few games they have played, whilst Grace McRae and Daisy Walker have been valuable across multiple positions though predominantly in the middle.

From South Australia, Indy Tahau is the other star top-ager who is likely to join her South Adelaide teammate Charlton at the Crows, whilst for NSW/ACT,  Murray Bushrangers’ Abby Favell, midfielder-defender Emily Pease and surprise packet Kiara Beesley were among the Draft Combine invites. From the Northern Territory, top-ager Stephanie Williams leads the charge and has nominated Victoria, while Freda Puruntatameri – who played some games for Calder Cannons – and mature-ager Janet Baird have all caught the eye.

Out west, mature-agers Sarah Wielstra (25 years-old) and 20-year-olds, Ella Smith, Rosie Walsh and Jess Low all earned combine invites. Meanwhile from the top-age group, twins Brianna and Mikayla Hyde have impressed moving into the midfield this season, while leading forward Maggie MacLachlan is another player in contention to be drafted.

[ … FOR FULL FEATURES ON MORE THAN 80 PLAYERS HEAD TO OUR AFLW FEATURES PAGE … ]

TEAM-BY-TEAM PICKS:

Adelaide: 4, 45, 47
Brisbane: 8, 37, 38
Carlton: 12, 28, 36
Collingwood: 19, 25, 26, 31, 33
Fremantle: 14, 30, 46
Geelong: 10, 20, 21, 27, 39
Gold Coast: 7, 23, 50, 54, 57, 58, 60, 61
GWS: 9, 29, 42
Melbourne: 5, 15, 17, 35, 41, 48
North Melbourne: 13, 22, 44, 49, 55
Richmond: 1, 43, 52
St Kilda: 6, 24, 34, 40, 51
West Coast: 3, 18, 32, 53, 56, 59
Western Bulldogs: 2, 11, 16

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Fremantle Dockers & West Coast Eagles

THE AFL Women’s Draft is fast approaching and in the lead-up to the draft, we take a look at each of the AFL women’s sides in pairs and see what they might look for, and who might be available with the selections they have. Next up in our series are the two sides from Western Australia, in Fremantle Dockers and West Coast Eagles.

Fremantle Dockers – Western Australia pool

Draft selections: 14, 30, 46, 58

Off-season summary:

The Dockers made a few moves in the off-season with three players delisted alongside the retirement of Kate Flood. The experienced Mia-Rae Clifford, as well as Sarah Garstone and Lindal Rohde were all delisted by the Dockers, while Tayla Bresland headed to state rivals West Coast for Pick 46. Coming into the side was North Melbourne’s Jess Trend for a bargain basement price of Pick 44, effectively making it a straight swap in Trend for Bresland. The Dockers wrapped up a productive off-season by picking up Tarnee Tester as a delisted free agent seeing enough to suggest she has more to give at the elite level.

Finishing on top of the AFL Women’s table undefeated in 2020, the Dockers will be determined to back it up with a successful year in 2021 and enter with the second and third selections in the AFL Women’s Draft.

A draft look:

The two players the Dockers will likely look at are two hardened competitors in Sarah Verrier and Bella Lewis, who both trained at the Dockers over the summer. Verrier was a member of the premiership-winning Peel Thunder side in the midfield, while Lewis continued to improve through the midfield-half-forward line and is readymade to have an impact if need be. Both would be worthy selections with Verrier a player who has caught the eye for some time at junior level.

Others who fall under the Fremantle catchment include Lewis’ Claremont teammates, Jess Low and Ella Smith, and towering key forward Rosie Walsh who has enjoyed a strong season at senior level for the Sharks. Of course the Dockers could look at a number of West Coast Academy players too if they see fit in the draft.

West Coast Eagles – Western Australia pool

Draft selections: 3, 18, 32

Off-season summary:

West Coast made plenty of moves over the off-season from a list perspective with Kate Bartlett, Cassie Davidson, Emily McGuire, Danika Pisconeri and Tester all delisted. Most of them stepped up at WAFL Women’s level to suggest that they could all earn a call-up if the Eagles – or Dockers as they did with Tester – feel they deserve another chance, while Emily Bonser also announced her retirement.

In terms of trades, Western Bulldogs’ Irish recruit Aisling McCarthy joined the blue and gold for effectively Pick 16, as the Eagles helped the Bulldogs move one spot higher on the draft board which would not impact West Coast having the first selection in the West Australian draft. They also brought in Bresland for Pick 46 who will join the raft of players switching between the teams out west.

A draft look:

The Eagles have a number of top-end talented youngsters in high-flyers Mikayla Morrison and Shanae Davison. Holding pick one and three in the AFL Women’s Draft, they could secure both with those selections, or look at one of the Fremantle prospects too. Morrison has velcro-hands in any conditions and is so classy around the ground, while Davison is an athletic high flyer with a remarkable contested marking ability.

Looking at some of the other West Coast-aligned players, other Swan Districts teammates in twins, Brianna and Mikayla Hyde, and Sarah Wielstra have earned AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitations, as has Subiaco’s Maggie MacLachlan.

As an overall look at the West Australian draft crop, there is plenty to like about the players on offer, and both sides will be stronger for it with talent at ground level and in the air that could step up and have a massive impact at AFL Women’s level next season.

Anderson stars as Under 18s get job done over WAFL Women’s

WESTERN Australia’s brightest young stars put on a show and made the most of their opportunities to come away with a 17-point win over the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s All-Stars side in terrible conditions. The Under 18s All-Stars held up well defensively considering the WAFL Women’s side maintained large portions of forward half possession but could not capitalise on the scoreboard with just one goal from eight scoring shots. It was the work of over-age talent Nyra Anderson who was a clear best on ground, starring for the winners and showing her strength and clean hands at ground level.

Along with Anderson, middle-ager Courtney Rowley had a massive first half, and another young talent in Jaide Britton had a huge second half, to assist Anderson and help the teenage side get over the line. For the WAFL Women’s team, Tessa Doumanis was lively up forward and should have had a few more than her one major, as well as had a hand in a few other scoring chances. Along with Doumanis, Sarah Garstone tried hard out of defence, while Tiah Haynes and Chloe Wrigley were also prominent.

Rowley had a huge first term for the Under 18s, seemingly everywhere on the ground and winning it with ease. Despite her performance in the back half and along the wing, it was the All-Stars who looked dangerous early with back-to-back behinds after a rushed behind and missed set shot from Deni Broadhurst had them with the early lead. Liusaidh Gilchrist had a great spoil at half-back as the Under 18s were attacking through the likes of Amy Franklin and Rosie Walsh, but it would be a nice contested mark from Chloe Reilly that earned the first set shot on goal.

Her set shot looked good in the driving rain, but cannoned into the post. It changed the momentum of the game however, as Shakira Pickett and Anderson were busy around the stoppages. Garstone was doing her best under pressure but the wall at half-forward was set up for the Under 18s to control forward half possession. After not much movement on the scoreboard, it took a nice snap from Emily Bennett out of nothing with an open goalsquare to seize the moment and hand her side the quarter time lead.

The second term was almost a counter contrast early after it took 13 minutes for the first goal in the opening quarter. This time, it was some magic out of the middle from Mikayla Morrison leading to a nice Poppy Stockwell mark not long after who made sure of her set shot from 30m out straight in front. It was scrappy, contested footy considering the conditions, but Lou Knitter Medallist, Wrigley was working hard on the inside. Breanne Spencer was a rock in defence with a number of intercept marks, and despite Rowley having a massive game at half-back, it would be the All-Stars who responded on the scoreboard.

Doumas won the ball nine and a half minutes into the term, sidestepped an opponent and was helped via a Zoe Gillard shepherd to put one home off her slick left boot. The WAFL Women’s were back within a kick at half-time with Maggie MacLachlan and Brianna Hyde both having some great defensive moments to keep the opposition at bay considering the possession dominance in that term.

The third term started like the second ended, with the WAFL Women’s team having plenty of chances attacking. Sara Wielstra and Jayme Harkin combined for a quick snap on goal and then Wrigley had one two, but both failed to register a score. A costly 50m penalty handed Dana East plenty of meterage and the Under 18s’ first look forward, but the WAFL Women’s defence was again up to the task. Rowley looked to set Anderson a task in a one-against three contest, but the 19-year-old seemingly did well, bringing it to ground and then using her clean hands off the next stoppage.

Anderson was not only working into the game, she was having a huge say in it. A sharked ball by Grace Wilkie at half-forward saw her pump it inside 50 midway through the term to a one-on-one. In slippery conditions, Anderson kept her feet and just managed to get boot to ball for it to dribble home and extend the lead out to 10. MacLachlan nearly had a goal of her own with a quick snap which missed, but it was Anderson again who bobbed up with a great effort against two opponents at ground level to collect and calmly spin, giving off the handball to the loose teammate in Lauren Quaife who kicked the easiest of goals for her side with two minutes on the clock.

The deficit could have been even greater for the WAFL Women’s side had it not been for Garstone’s intercepting in defence, with the Fremantle delistee certainly putting her hand up to be reconsidered. With a 17-point deficit to their name, the WAFL Women’s team needed something special in the last term, but much like the second term, it was all the Under 18s early. Britton was having a purple patch with a number of good touches, and Franklin pushed forward again had a snap but just missed to the right. Another rushed behind followed and it was the Under 18s peppering the goals now with consecutive behinds.

In the nine-and-a-half-minute mark of the final term, Reilly tried something special off the outside of the boot in the forward pocket, but was touched off the boot before it sailed home. It was her side’s fourth consecutive behind, but they were all but home and hosed. Despite this, the WAFL Women’s side rallied in the last seven minutes to have multiple scoring opportunities that had they gone through, could have seen them steal the win. Unfortunately despite Doumanis having a couple of set shots, and handing a couple more off, all four set shot chances either fell short or missed marginally.

In the end, the Under 18s made more of their goal scoring chances and were the only side to kick multiple goals in a term. Despite neither team kicking a major in the final term, it was tense and hard fought with both sides giving it a red hot crack in challenging conditions. With the AFL Women’s Draft Combine coming up, those players invited will be keen to put their best foot forward after another strong outing in what is their last of the season.

U18S ALL-STARS 1.1 | 2.1 | 4.2 | 4.6 (30)
WAFLW ALL-STARS 0.2 | 1.3 | 1.3 | 1.7 (13)

GOALS: 

U18s: E. Bennett, P. Stockwell, N. Anderson, L. Quaife.
WAFLW: T. Doumanis.

ADC BEST:

U18s: N. Anderson, C. Rowley, J. Britton, E. Bennett, A. Franklin
WAFLW: T. Doumanis, S. Garstone, T. Haynes, C. Wrigley, J. Low

Picture: AFL Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

ADC BEST:

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

Picture: Owen Davies/Peel Thunder