Tag: round 1

2021 VFLW season preview: Hawthorn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Hawthorn Media

2021 NAB League Girls: 6 Memorable Moments – Round 1

THE NAB League Girls competition returned in a big way on the weekend, with six games throwing up a mixed bag of results and plenty of memorable moments. In a new weekly series as part of Draft Central’s ever-expanding pathways coverage, we take a look at the top moments from each match – whether they be game-defining feats, big marks, glorious goals, or otherwise. There was plenty of eye-catching action in Round 1, as the best Victorian girls hit the ground running after 11 months away from competitive football.

Eastern Ranges vs. Western Jets

Baskaran kicks off the season in style

Perhaps not a single moment, but a collection of them to start off. While her Western Jets may not have achieved the desired result, Charlotte Baskaran was in fine form in the season’s opening fixture. The 16-year-old accumulated a round-high 28 disposals, but the more remarkable feat was that 23 of them were kicks. A typically classy user of the ball on both sides, Baskaran penetrated the forward 50 eight times and rebounded thrice. Given the damage she can do with more modest numbers, it made for an impactful outing in a team which was held goalless for three quarters and went down by 21 points.

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers

Damaging duo snags four majors in 12 minutes

It only took 12 minutes either side of half-time for Bendigo Pioneers to secure their first win of the season, defeating Murray Bushrangers by 26 points. The just-over-four-goal margin was helped by six consecutive Pioneers goals after Murray kicked the opening major of the game. Leading by six points midway through the second term, Elizabeth Snell kicked back-to-back goals to give the visiting team separation at half-time, and in a 152-second blitz, Jayda Richardson booted back-to-back goals early in the third term. The 13-7 quarter time difference had blown out to 38-10 just two and a half minutes into the third term, and it was always going to be difficult for the Bushrangers to play catchup after that.

Tasmania Devils vs. Gippsland Power

Prokopiec’s first quarter

Having only kicked one goal in their two games last year, it was vital that Tasmania got off to a perfect start against Gippsland Power in Round 1 of the NAB League Girls season. By quarter time, Amy Prokopiec had stood up booting two goals – and would finish with four for the match – which set the tone for the rest of the match. If it was not the entire first term for Prokopiec, then it was her remarkable final term goal, taking a step from tight on the boundary to snap around her body and put the final nail in the coffin during Tasmania’s win.

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels

Schaap’s match-winner

It was a tough decision to not pick Renee Tierney‘s back-to-back third quarter goals for the Falcons to turn the tide back in her team’s favour which was deserving of the spot, but Poppy Schaap‘s match-winning goal gets the nod. With the pressure sky-high and less than a kick between the teams, it felt like a next-goal-wins scenario. Both teams had their chances, with a number of misses for the Falcons, before Schapp managed to grab a loose ball off the deck and snap it quickly under pressure. A favourable bounce later and she had sealed the win for her team.

Calder Cannons vs. Sandringham Dragons

Prespakis shimmy helps get Calder on the board

Reigning league best and fairest, Georgie Prespakis put on a sparkling performance in Round 1, featuring just about everywhere with 21 disposals and 11 tackles as Calder stormed to a 16-point victory. One particular highlight came in the second term after Sandringham had scored the first goal of the game. The Cannons managed to get the ball inside 50, but Sandringham had done well to get it to a pocket near the boundary, almost putting it out of play. Cue Prespakis, who came in, picked it up and managed to evade two Sandringham defenders before centring the ball to teammate Mali McLeod, who kicked Calder’s first goal for the game. It was just the spark her side needed.

Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers

Reid’s stellar shrug and finish

There was a bunch memorable moments as Oakleigh snapped Northern’s long-standing undefeated run on Sunday, many of which were produced by player of the week candidate, Charlie Rowbottom. But Stella Reid gets the nod here for one of her two final term goals, which put the cherry on top of a stellar performance. The classy winger/half-back was a menace on the rebound and had broken forward once again, latching onto the ball out the back with opponents on her hammer. Having initially been caught, Reid shrugged off a would-be tackler and did not break stride before finishing with aplomb on her left side. One for the highlight reel, and her teammates adored it.

2021 AFLW Stat Leaders: Round 1 – Houghton, Parker dominate the stats sheet

THE AFL Women’s season bounced down on Thursday night and produced plenty of eye-catching moments across its opening round, no less on the stats sheet. We take a look at some of the interesting statistical quirks and broken records to come out of the weekend’s action, while also giving a nod to the individual stat leaders across each category.

>> SCROLL for the Round 1 stat leaders

Outstanding individual performances from Fremantle’s Gemma Houghton and GWS’ Alyce Parker put them atop multiple categories this week, with both arguably their respective teams’ best player at Fremantle Oval on Sunday. Houghton became the first woman to achieve a game of over 20 disposals, 10 running bounces, and three goals – a feat the likes of Dale Thomas, Brent Harvey, and David King all managed in the men’s league. She topped four key stat lines, while Parker lead in three areas as two clear player of the week candidates.

Parker and GWS teammate, Rebecca Beeson may have led all comers in Round 1 with 28 disposals apiece, but Melbourne midfielder Karen Paxman was on track to easily trump those numbers at half time of her outing against Gold Coast. The 32-year-old amassed 13 disposals in the second term to take her first half tally to 19, putting her well on track to beat Anne Hatchard‘s AFLW record of 34. She finished with 25, but the damage was done as Melbourne ran out 21-point victors.

North Melbourne nearly toppled multiple other records in its 62-point destruction of Geelong at Kardinia Park on Sunday. The Roos’ romp made for the third-highest winning margin in AFLW history, and was their second-highest total across three seasons in the competition. One thing the Kangaroos did achieve was the highest-ever opening round percentage (788.9) in AFL/AFLW history, which inevitably aided the competition as a whole in managing the highest-scoring AFLW opening round.

ROUND 1 STAT LEADERS

Disposals:
Alyce Parker (GWS) – 28
Rebecca Beeson (GWS) – 28

Marks:
Gemma Houghton (FRE) – 9

Contested Marks:
Isabel Huntington (WB) – 5

Inside 50s:
Kirsty Lamb (WB) – 6

Rebound 50s:
Kiara Bowers (FRE) – 6

Disposal Efficiency (10+ disposals):
Ellie McKenzie (RIC) – 100%

Contested Possessions:
Alyce Parker (GWS) – 18

Intercept Possessions:
Janelle Cuthbertson – 17

Goals:
Gemma Houghton (FRE) – 3
Sabreena Duffy (FRE) – 3
Emma King (NM) – 3
Ellie Gavalas (NM) – 3

Clearances:
Jasmine Garner (NM) – 7
Isabel Dawes (BRI) – 7
Jaimee Lambert (COL) – 7
Alyce Parker (GWS) – 7

Tackles:
Hannah Button (ADE) – 13

Metres Gained:
Gemma Houghton (FRE) – 484.3

Hitouts:
Emma King (NM) – 30

Score Involvements:
Gemma Houghton (FRE) – 10

Featured Image: Docker Gemma Houghton was the dominant stat leader in Round 1 | Credit: Will Russell/AFL Photos

AFL Women’s draftee watch – Round 1: Nine of the top 10 make their debuts

ROUND 1 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season was won and done across four enthralling days of action, with a number of fresh faces making their mark on the competition. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared over the weekend, focusing on the players under 20 years of age from the most recent draft crop.

Carlton vs. Collingwood

Collingwood picked up an upset victory over its most fierce rival on Thursday night in a tense season opener, with three members of the Magpies’ 2020 draft haul making their debuts in black and white. Father-daughter selection Tarni Brown got her first taste of senior footy, making a steady start to life in the big league with nine disposals and two tackles.

Amelia Velardo donned Collingwood’s famous number five on her debut, fittingly the same amount of football games she has played – ever. The Western Jets graduate featured among a strong Magpies forward-line, but could not quite find the goals. 19-year-old South Australian coup Bella Smith also made her first appearance, a steep rise having been picked up as an undrafted free agent.

Mimi Hill was one of four Carlton debutants on Thursday, but the only one out of her side’s most recent draft intake. The former Oakleigh Chargers captain is already one of Daniel Harford‘s favourites and was productive moving forward from the outer, gathering 12 disposals in a promising maiden appearance for the Blues.

St Kilda vs. Western Bulldogs

St Kilda unveiled all four of its 2020 draftees in a Friday night victory over the Western Bulldogs, headed by number six selection Tyanna Smith. The Dandenong Stingrays standout was terrific on debut, slotting seamlessly into the Saints’ midfield and providing plenty of drive going forward. Among her 16 disposals was her first AFL Women’s goal from a quick chance inside 50, putting the cherry on top of her game.

One of the great feel-good stories out of Round 1 was Alice Burke making her debut against the Dogs, who are coached by her famous father, Nathan. Alice’s Saints got the result, as she got a taste for senior football coming off the bench. Renee Saulitis was the other 18-year-old Saints draftee to feature and looked relatively comfortable on the ball for her seven disposals.

The Bulldogs had a couple of exciting new faces make their mark too, with youth a key feature of the developing squad. Number two pick Jess Fitzgerald found the ball eight times and was lively on the attack from midfield, even earning a shot on goal for her side. Sarah Hartwig‘s game was better than her five touches suggest, with the versatile defender impacting on the intercept and constantly looking to rebound via her long left boot.

Gold Coast vs. Melbourne

Gold Coast and Melbourne put out the most total draftees of any matchup in Round 1, with seven in the Under 20 bracket as the Dees made a winning start to the season. Gold Coast blooded its first round draftee in Annise Bradfield, along with three other 18-year-old recruits. Along with Bradfield, Maddison Levi and Daisy D’Arcy were kept under 10 disposals, while Lucy Single had it 13 times in the loss.

Melbourne also unveiled its first pick as Alyssa Bannan donned the red and the blue up forward, managing a shot on goal and two marks among her five disposals. Megan Fitzsimon also got a crack first up, and Eliza McNamara put her hand up for rising star honours with an impressive 18-disposal display on debut. The tough Sandringham Dragons graduate lived up to the hype attached to her in preseason and looks to have already cemented her spot in the hardened Demons side.

West Coast vs. Adelaide

West Coast promised to throw its top young draftees straight into the deep end and did exactly that as number three pick, Bella Lewis featured in the cut and thrust of midfield. While the Eagles went down comfortably to Adelaide in the end, Lewis was a bright spot in the engine room alongside second year star Mikayla Bowen, while high-flier Shanae Davison featured further afield.

Teah Charlton was Adelaide’s sole representative in this category, with the fourth picked player in last year’s draft notching eight disposals and laying seven tackles. Her dynamism and explosiveness up forward bodes well for plenty of highlights to come, though she was unable to find the big sticks on debut.

Geelong vs. North Melbourne

Top 10 pick Darcy Moloney faced a baptism of fire in her first outing for the Cats, as they went down by 62 points to the rampant North Melbourne Kangaroos. Moloney managed six touches as the lone debutant in the hoops, among a young side which was outdone for strength and size.

Bella Eddey had a debut to remember as she snared her maiden senior goal in North’s big win. The Sandringham Dragons product, dubbed ‘Silk’, also gathered six disposals. Alice O’Loughlin was the other North draftee to feature, cracking the team first up but finding just two touches as an abundance of established stars ran the show.

Richmond vs. Brisbane

All eyes were on Punt Road Oval as number one pick Ellie McKenzie made her AFLW debut for Richmond, but the result did not go her way as Brisbane’s mix of youth and experience came up trumps. The Northern Knights graduate featured on a wing for the improving Tigers, showing glimpses of her best to finish with 12 disposals and four marks. 19-year-old draftee Luka Lesosky-Hay also made her senior debut in the yellow and black, kept to just three touches. The Lions did not field any of their 2020 draftees.

Fremantle vs. GWS

Both Fremantle and GWS handed debuts to their 2020 first round draft picks as the Dockers shook off their brave opponents after half time at Fremantle Oval. Sarah Verrier gathered five disposals for the team in purple, showing plenty of skill and class across half-forward in her short spurts on the ball. Tarni Evans showcased her running power with some terrific efforts on the outer for GWS, with versatility also a key part of her upside. She finished with nine disposals and two clearances.

Image Credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images via AFL Photos

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 1 preview – Traditional rivals to open the show in Thursday night blockbuster

AFL Women’s makes its long awaited return tonight, with teams hungry to make up for lost time and rectify the ‘what-ifs’ left in 2020. Traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood take the season-opening honours once again, with plenty of heat expected to come out of that clash at Princes Park. A fixture shake-up on the eve of season proper sees a few matchups altered, but Round 1 will still be stretched across a bumper four days of footballing action. We preview all seven games, capped with a prediction to (hopefully) aide your footy tipping campaign.

Note: All start times are as of AEDT

Carlton vs. Collingwood
Thursday January 28, 7:15pm
Princes Park

Carlton and Collingwood return to the season-opening slot in a clash which is sure to produce plenty of fireworks at Princes Park. The Blues are yet to lose to their fierce rivals in said fixture, but suffered a shock loss to the Pies on home turf in their Round 2 meeting last year. Carlton is a hot favourite to secure premiership glory in 2021, but will be tested by an emerging Collingwood side which went incredibly close to knocking off North Melbourne in last year’s finals.

The clash will be made all the more intriguing as Carlton spearhead Tayla Harris resumes hostilities with dour Collingwood defender Stacey Livingstone, who labelled the star goalkicker “useless” at ground level after their battle last year. Gun Pies utility Bri Davey is also set to face her old side for the first time, which she used to captain, poised to spend more time up forward. Chloe Molloy is another set to swing into attack, with both players capable of breaking Carlton’s usually sturdy defence.

Reigning competition best and fairest, Maddy Prespakis will inevitably attract plenty of attention in the engine room, but should have a good amount of support in the form of new recruit, Elise O’Dea. The former Demon is one of four debutants for the Blues, who will be without Lucy McEvoy. Collingwood father-daughter coup Tarni Brown is another debutant to watch, thrown straight into the senior side in her maiden campaign.

The Pies are a team to watch in 2021, but the Blues will be incredibly difficult to beat, especially with a point to prove.

Tip: Carlton by 10

St Kilda vs. Western Bulldogs
Friday January 29, 7:10pm
RSEA Park

The Western Bulldogs take on St Kilda once again in Round 1, with the Saints keen to make good on last year’s result. The expansion side brought football back to Moorabbin in its maiden campaign and exceeded expectations, while the young pups failed to register another win after its opening round triumph but spawned plenty of green shoots.

Youth promises to be a key feature of the clash, with number two pick Jess Fitzgerald poised to make her senior debut for the Dogs while St Kilda’s prime selection in Tyanna Smith could well run against her in midfield. Both are quick off the mark, have a terrific inside/outside balance and can find plenty of the ball, adding to either teams’ exciting young stocks.

Also pending selection is the debut of Saints father-daughter recruit Alice Burke, the daughter of Bulldogs coach Nathan. Having coached her and an abundance of other players set to take the field on Friday night, Burke will soon be on the other side. 2019 draftees Gabby Newton and Georgia Patrikios are also set to meet in midfield, while Saints leading goalkicker Caitlin Greiser could well prove a difference-maker in the closely matched contest and many eyes will be on Izzy Huntington, who is expected to swing forward with more frequency this year.

The Saints arguably turned out the better side last year and a season of experience will do wonders for them, but the Bulldogs’ potential is relatively untapped and could again carry them over the line here.

Tip: Western Bulldogs by 1

Gold Coast Suns vs. Melbourne
Saturday January 30, 3:10pm
Metricon Stadium

Melbourne will travel to face Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium in Saturday’s first fixture, making for a meeting between experience and emergence. The Suns were another expansion team to exceed expectations last year by qualifying for finals, but still proved a rung off the true premiership contenders. Melbourne’s hardened core carried it to a breakthrough postseason feature, which the Dees made good of with an epic come-from-behind victory over GWS.

The visitors have already named three debutants, with prized draftee Alyssa Bannan set to line up in the forwardline while Eliza McNamara and Megan Fitzsimon add some more youth to the starting side. Speaking of, Tyla Hanks is one to watch for Melbourne as she prepares to spend more time in the engine room having cut her teeth as an impact forward.

Gold Coast has plenty of youth to boast as well, but also added a good amount of experience in the off-season. Former Saints Sarah Perkins and Alison Drennan are both quality players and leaders; with the former slotting straight into her new side’s leadership group and the latter set to provide another reliable figure in midfield. Scoring looks a key area of improvement for the Suns, and these two should aid that with presence inside 50 and forward momentum respectively.

Gold Coast rattled a few of the top sides last year and have the youthful exuberance to do exactly that to Melbourne on home turf, but the Dees are always a tough team to beat and should have enough prime movers to seal victory.

Tip: Melbourne by 5

West Coast vs. Adelaide
Saturday January 30, 5:10pm
Mineral Resources Park

West Coast begins its second AFL Women’s campaign at home as Adelaide comes to town looking to start its year on the right foot. The Eagles struggled last season but managed to scrounge a memorable maiden win and have made the markers of improvement for 2021. Adelaide, technically still the reigning premier, timed its premiership hangover perfectly as everything which could have gone wrong, did in 2020. The Crows finished sixth in Conference A with just two wins, but had many a setback along the way.

At its core, the Crows’ squad is still elite and will be buoyed by the return of some outstanding talent. Skipper Chelsea Randall is set to slot straight back into the defence after her long-term knee injury, while a fully fit Erin Phillips looms ominously as a midfield/forward option. In their absence, the likes of Sarah Allan and Anne Hatchard produced All Australian seasons, though the Crows will sweat on Ebony Marinoff‘s availability as the ball magnet looks to overturn her monster three-game suspension.

It is no secret that West Coast’s strength lies in the midfield, which will be bolstered by trade coup Aisling McCarthy and prime draftee Bella Lewis. The promising pair will be thrown straight into the deep end, but have experienced movers in Dana Hooker and captain Emma Swanson to wax with through the engine room – all under the ruckwork of Parris Laurie. Scoring has been a sore point for the Eagles though, and Adelaide can do plenty of that.

With plenty to prove in 2020, the Crows loom as a fearsome force which could quickly rise back to the AFL Women’s summit. West Coast remains a step off the competition’s best and arguably its greatest weakness works into Adelaide’s hands, with the Crows’ scoring ability key to taking the game away from their opponents here.

Tip: Adelaide by 25

Geelong vs. North Melbourne
Sunday January 31, 12:10pm
GMHBA Stadium

Geelong hosts North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday afternoon, gunning for a return to finals action in season 2021. North looms as stiff opposition first up though, with the Kangaroos keen to strike gold while their remarkably deep squad remains hungry and intact – especially after missing out on premiership opportunities in their first two top flight campaigns.

The hosts went back to the well of local talent once again at this year’s draft, introducing a couple more gun midfielders in Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner with their top 20 picks. Caution surrounds Nina Morrison‘s return but Denby Taylor is poised to slot back into the lineup after her own injury woes, while Olivia Purcell has a full preseason under her belt and will again look to mix it with the game’s elite midfielders.

Geelong will need to be on its game in the engine room considering how deep North Melbourne’s midfield crop runs, with skipper Emma Kearney joined by Jasmine Garner, Jenna Bruton and co. The former two are also scoring threats from the middle and add to North’s firepower, while the returning Jess Duffin is another big name which will steady the Kangaroos in defence.

The Roos won by 46 points in the same fixture last year, but should be in for a more competitive dig if Geelong can manage to turn its spurts of form into four quarter showings. They should still be too strong for the young Cats.

Tip: North Melbourne by 9

Richmond vs. Brisbane
Sunday January 31, 2:10pm
Punt Road Oval

Richmond’s hunt for premiership points continues into year two, starting with a home outing against Brisbane on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers went winless in their inaugural AFL Women’s campaign and, needless to say, will hope to avoid the same fate by getting on the board quickly in 2021. The developing Brisbane side proved many doubters wrong in 2020 and made finals, but must win games like these to achieve the same result this time around.

Incoming Tigers coach Ryan Ferguson will have 2020 number one pick Ellie McKenzie at his disposal, along with a raft of experienced inclusions. Foundation Blue Sarah Hosking is an important addition to the engine room, while Sarah D’Arcy could be one to boost their key position stocks as the Tigers look to become a more competitive force.

Brisbane looks a much more settled lineup having been ravaged during the expansion era, with a core of foundation players leading the charge ahead of some promising young talent. The front half spearheaded by Jesse Wardlaw looks exciting, while Kate Lutkins‘ defensive troops make the Lions hard to crack. Having started so well last season, the Lions will be out to put wins on the board early once again and push for more finals experience. They should be too strong here, but expect to see the Tigers fight.

Tip: Brisbane by 15

Fremantle vs. GWS Giants
Sunday January 31, 4:10pm
Fremantle Oval

The final game of the round sees GWS travel to take on Fremantle at Fremantle Oval on Sunday, looking to break the Dockers’ undefeated streak which dates back to 2019. The Giants have faced many a challenge over the offseason, including relocation, but showed last year that they can stand up against the tide. The Dockers are a force to be reckoned with, especially on home turf, and will again be a bonafide premiership contender – if not, the favourite.

The Dockers’ free flowing style and many scoring threats should cause Giants coaches a few headaches, though the visitors’ experience will count for plenty in resisting the inevitable pressure Fremantle will apply. It all starts with Kiara Bowers in midfield, while the dynamic duo of Sabreena Duffy and Gemma Houghton is always difficult to stop up forward, along with Ebony Antonio on the outer.

Those kinds of attacking threats should be too much for the Giants to handle, especially in the current context and in front of home fans. It is the kind of game Fremantle is expected to win, but GWS will be plucky.

Tip: Fremantle by 21

Featured Image: Carlton captain Kerryn Harrington (left) and Collingwood’s Bri Davey (right) are set to face off in Thursday night’s season opener | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

VFLW previews: Round 1

IT is an exciting time in women’s football, with a new-look VFL Women’s competition and the penultimate week of TAC Cup Girls football being played in the same weekend. In this article, we will focus on round one of the VFL Women’s competition, which is full of unpredictable results.

 

SOUTHERN SAINTS VS CARLTON

Saturday 11.15am at Skybus Stadium

While both teams are new in the competition, the Southern Saints are the less experienced side, with the Blues including 10 AFLW players in their line-up.

However, the Saints have acquired the expertise of St Kilda development coach, Peta Searle. Searle has a brilliant footy mind and could be a beneficial role model to the new VFL Women’s team. The side’s inaugural captain, Georgia Walker would be raring to go, having tasted AFLW before. Walker is a former Collingwood player and was the club’s first signing.  Although the AFLW experience isn’t there, the new side could use their home ground to their advantage and really take it up to the Blues.

It may sound like a difficult task for the Southern Saints, but the Blues did finish eighth in the AFLW competition this year. However, this may motivate Carlton’s 10 AFLW players to make amends for it in their first taste of VFL Women’s. The Blues are not taking the first game lightly, putting captain, Sarah Hosking and the ever-improving Maddison Gay in the midfield. 2017 AFLW leading goal-kicker, Darcy Vescio is starting in the forward pocket, and would be keen to get some early majors on the board. Away from the AFLW talent, the Blues have named Rugby 7s World Series Representative, Brooke Walker in their round one side. Walker could be an aggressive asset in Carlton’s back line.

 

DAREBIN FALCONS VS NT THUNDER

Saturday 12pm at Preston City Oval

The Darebin Falcons come into the VFL Women’s competition as the team to beat after five straight premierships. But the Northern Territory (NT) Thunder have called on some well-known stars to help its sides chances this season.

Melbourne’s Maddy Guerin will be the only AFLW player suiting up for the Darebin Falcons on Saturday but she will definitely be complemented by some fantastic up and coming talent. One player that we haven’t seen in Victoria as of yet is Ainslie’s Hannah Mouncey, who is one of the most well-known female footballers. Mouncey will start at full-forward at Preston City Oval where she will be hoping to get off to a good start at her new club.

The Thunder have stacked their midfield for the round one clash, all too aware of the dominance that the Falcons have in this competition. Adelaide stars, Chelsea Randall, Eloise Jones and Deni Vernahagen will start on the centre line, in what is a new position for Jones, who spent her first year at Adelaide in the forward line. Meanwhile Crows sisters, Jess and Sarah Allan will start in the ruck and defence, respectively, in what could be a dominant start to the season for the NT side.

 

COLLINGWOOD VS WILLIAMSTOWN

Saturday 2.30pm at Warrawee Park

There will be a few Collingwood players going head-to-head in round one, as some players have elected to join Williamstown for the VFL Women’s season.

Former Calder Cannon, Sarah Dargan will start at half-back for the Magpies, after being accustomed to running around in the midfield during her first AFLW season. Former marquee player, Emma Grant will start at half-forward, where she will undoubtedly provide great experience and leadership. While Chloe Molloy won’t be in action for round one, Sarah D’Arcy will provide a pillar of strength at half-back in her place, hoping to nullify one of her AFLW teammates.

Jasmine Garner will start at full-forward for the Seagulls, where she began her solid AFLW career. Garner has had stints in both the forward line and in defence for the Pies, but in blue and yellow, she will be looking to kick some majors to kick-start her side’s season. Garner could have the ball delivered by her to Collingwood teammate, Jess Duffin, who is set to try her hand in the midfield after having a solid season in defence for the Pies. She will be assisted by Bulldogs premiership player, Jenna Bruton, who will also look to have an impact in the middle of the ground.

 

WESTERN BULLDOGS VS RICHMOND

Saturday 4pm at VU Whitten Oval

The Western Bulldogs have not included many of their AFLW players but would still keen to show off their young talent against the Tigers.

Kirsty McLeod and Hayley Wildes will both play in the forward line for the Dogs while experienced Spur, Sarah Jolly will play in the midfield. She will be joined by West Brunswick’s Erin McLaughlin, who will play in the ruck as well as Spurs teammate, Emma Mackay, who will play on the wing. In fact, the Bulldogs have recruited plenty of talent from the VU Western Spurs, who will all be key players to watch over the season.

The Tigers have gone one less than the Bulldogs, including none of their AFLW recruits in their round one side. However they have included Bendigo recruit, Jessica Kennedy in the midfield, who will be someone to keep an eye out for. Kennedy is the inaugural captain of the side and will be able to assist co vice-captains, Elise Hogan and Kate Dixon, who will both start on half-forward flanks. Hogan and Kennedy are both from Bendigo Thunder and could work in tandem to deliver the Tigers an historic win.

 

GEELONG VS MELBOURNE UNI

Saturday 12.30pm at GMHBA Stadium

While plenty of AFLW players have decided to play for their respected sides in the VFL Women’s competition, Melbourne Uni still has a potent line-up to match the Cats’ fire-power.

Geelong forward, Kate Darby has been in fine pre-season form, coming off a six-goal match and being one of two goal-kickers in the Cats’ practice match against the AFLW Academy. Someone who is used to playing forward is Melbourne AFLW star, Richelle Cranston. Cranston will line up for the Cats in the midfield on Saturday, and will be able to showcase her immense power through the middle of the ground. She will be joined by new recruit, Mia-Rae Clifford, who has also been in good pre-season form. Clifford was formerly on Melbourne’s AFLW list and would be keen to reach that peak again for the Cats.

In the Melbourne Uni forward line will be former Diamond Creek forward, Sophie Abbatangelo, who was a consistent player in 2017 and tested well in the AFLW Draft Combine. Although they are both starting on the bench, AFLW Best and Fairest, Emma Kearney and former Bendigo Pioneers talented midfielder, Aisling Tupper will be key cogs through the middle of the ground on Saturday. Kearney in particular would be hoping to continue her stellar AFLW season into the VFL Women’s season against a formidable Geelong outfit in round one.

 

ESSENDON VS HAWTHORN

Sunday 1pm at Windy Hill

While the men battle it out on the MCG, the women will hope to establish a new rivalry at Essendon’s spiritual ground, Windy Hill.

Inaugural captain, Lisa Williams will start in the midfield for the Bombers. She will be assisted by fellow former Diamond Creek players, Hayley Bullas and Tait Mackrill, who will hope to nullify Hawthorn’s influence. Although current AFLW player, Tanya Hetherington is not in the side, a former Bulldogs player in Lauren Morecroft will be taking her place in round one, lining up at full-back to match up against one of the AFLW’s leading forwards.

Greater Western Sydney (GWS) forward, Phoebe McWilliams and Adelaide 2017 All-Australian, Sarah Perkins will combine inside 50 in round one for the Hawks. In defence, experienced campaigner, Meg Hutchins will look to hold up the fort, as she did throughout her time at Collingwood. The midfield is stacked with talent, as captain, Emma Mackie will line up next to Collingwood’s Melissa Kuys and former Eastern Ranges talent, Olivia Flanagan.

Podcast: TAC Cup Girls – Episode Two

A NEW year marks all-new content and in 2018, AFL Draft Central will be producing a weekly podcast through the TAC Cup Girls season. Hosted by women’s football editor, Julia Montesano, the podcast will be posted each Wednesday night and will review the previous round’s games and look ahead to the following weekend. For the second episode, Julia is joined by AFL Draft Central chief editor Peter Williams to review the first round of TAC Cup action, as well as discuss some of the key issues raised over the weekend.

SoundCloud: TAC Cup Girls – Episode 2

Episode run down:

  • Key issues
  • Round 1 review
  • Quick look at Round 2

Keep an eye out each Wednesday for the next podcast, with Julia and Peter back next week for all things TAC Cup Girls.