Tag: ruby sargent-wilson

How the Southern Power continue to grow women’s footy in Sydney

THE Southern Power boast a strong women’s football program that they have been building every year since their inaugural season in 2010.

The Power are from the Sutherland Shire and they play in AFL Sydney’s competition. They have focused on their youth program in recent years, which now has three teams, while they also have three senior sides, with one team competing in the Premier Division.

Senior player and assistant coach Kathryn Hull has been at the club since the beginning, and she shed some light on how the Power have progressed from having one team to over 70 registered senior players.

“Female football wasn’t what it is today in Sydney … at that stage (2010) we were like the seventh or eighth team in the one competition, and it was still like ‘bring a mate down to game day’ sort of thing from a numbers perspective,” she said.

After a few years of development, the club took a big step in starting their youth girls program, entering their first team in the Sydney Harbour Youth Girls competition in 2014.

“Soccer and netball were very large in the shire for female sport… so we had to make our own way where female football was the first priority, and that’s why we started with the youth girls program… since then we’ve built our teams with youth girls,” Hull said.

Prior to Covid-19 affecting the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the Southern Power had four youth girls teams competing in the under 12’s, 14’s, 16’s and 18’s, before they reduced it to three teams when Covid interrupted at the start of last year.

Hull has been heavily involved in the development of many young girls at the Power through her various coaching roles, and she says the program has been a big success with many players continuing their football journey.

“We are seeing the fruits of the last seven years of that youth girls program, those players are coming through, and it’s quite scary or nostalgic that these girls that I’ve coached for years are now my teammates.”

Hull says the Power are continuing to build a strong culture around the club, with little things like senior players assisting with youth training sessions helping ensure girls can continue to play and enjoy their footy as they get older.

“If we look at youth retention… by the time the girls get to 14, 15, 16, the drop off rate is huge, so we just want to make sure they’re enjoying their footy, and we really help promote that environment with our coaches and with our culture.”

“We all get together at the beginning of each training session, just have a bit of a chat, like ‘how was the weekend? What was good, what was bad about our game? Okay, let’s go into a normal warm up’, and we do those sorts of things together, and it just really creates a welcoming and inclusive culture,” she said.

Being a non-AFL state, the challenge of making AFL stand out to young girls wanting to play sport is always there, but after the inaugural AFL Women’s (AFLW) season in 2017, Hull said the league is playing a “massive role”, giving the sport a lot more exposure to females in Sydney.

She said “completing the pathway” was another key factor in getting more women to play footy as opposed to netball, soccer, and other sports.

“You can’t be what you can’t see, so just having that exposure, and then that opportunity from finishing Auskick… and actually knowing that ‘oh, we’re not just playing a very local based competition’, and it’s just more progressing as girls (in the sport).”

When Kristy De Pellegrini was drafted to the Giants ahead of the first AFLW season it was a great example for girls around Sutherland, showing that it is possible to play footy and take it to the top level, and Hull described it as “absolutely monumental and huge to our movement”.

With this year’s pick 55 Brodee Mowbray also coming from the Southern Power, Hull said it’s another “huge movement” for the club, showing that exposure and the opportunity that players have.

The Sydney Swans and GWS GIANTS Under 19’s academies are also playing a big role in the progression of women’s footy in Sydney, and with Power players Kiara Beesley, Ruby Sargent-Wilson, Sarah Hepinstall, Kyla Tracey, Jessica Whelan, Kiana Davis-White, and Mowbray all having been involved in these teams, it shows the strength of the Power’s program, and the work ethic of Hull and the other coaches at the club.

“It was exciting seeing teammates playing against each other in the different academies, and just what the girls got out of it, and then seeing them week in and week out taking that back to club level… is really promising, not just having the girls potentially as draft prospects, but also how that’s affecting the league and will affect the league in Sydney.”

“It’s just been huge to see these girls have so many more touches of the footy years before I even started playing, so the quality of footy is just going to be amazing in a few years,” Hull said.

The Power were heading towards a successful 2021 with all three senior teams in premiership contention, but after the season was cut short by Sydney’s Covid-19 outbreak, Hull says the team is focused on coming back next season and maintaining the same level.

“We want to maintain that our prem’s team (Premier Division) is able to compete and we’re staying up there with those other clubs… that means everything from the players all the way up to the coaches.”

“Then looking at bringing those girls through, not just from the Power’s youth girls program, but from other junior clubs in the shire… and just making sure these girls are staying to continue that brand of footy in Sydney South,” she said.

Meanwhile, Hull and her teammates are eager to get back into training as soon as restrictions are eased.

“Hopefully, mid-October is looking like we might get some of the restrictions eased, so we’ll start an early pre-season for 2022.”

 

 

Picture credit: Southern Power Women’s AFL

AFLW Expansion look: Sydney

WITH four new teams accepted into the AFL Women’s competition, it means there will be at least 120 new players stepping up to the elite level. So just where might the clubs look outside the junior pathway? Draft Central casts an eye over each of the clubs through either their state league team or Academy that might help them get off to the best possible start.

Whilst the makeup of lists and how much compensation the expansion clubs will get is unknown, we take a look at it from a broader sense and who might be some names to remember. The series concludes with Sydney, a side that broke barriers last season to play its first NAB League Girls game – and win – allowing a number of future AFL Women’s talents to showcase their ability for when the Swans’ expansion side comes in.

Sydney’s list makeup will likely be the toughest to determine, as the Swans have some quality youngsters going about, but the main league in Sydney – the Women’s Premier League  – whilst having some AFLW experienced talent, do not have the same volume of elite-level players as other states. This means from an experience point of view, the Swans will need to attract players from other states – as well as convince some GWS GIANTS to come across the the Harbour City and pull on the red and white in the inaugural year.

One of those GIANTS high on the Swans list would be Academy captain Jess Doyle, who came through the Sydney Academy, though as a draft-eligible player this year, was picked up by the GIANTS in the most recent draft. A silky forward-midfielder, the young gun had a huge season and would no doubt be one that the red and white would so dearly love to have back in their colours for the 2022-23 season. Talented forward Georgie Fowler was the other Academy member to be picked up, having impressed as a lead-up forward in the AFL Sydney competition this year and landing at the GIANTS. Of the other Swans Academy players who impressed, Maddy Hendrie, April Devine and Isadora McLeay are all versatile tall talents that could be looked at, with Danika Spamer, Ella Heads and Ruby Sargent-Wilson among the others to show off what they have at Academy level.

Among those future names to keep an eye on, the father-daughter potential selections of Tallulah and Memphys Kirk have been front and centre around promoting the AFLW bid. The Kirk twins hope to follow in the footsteps of their father Brett, a 241-game Swans champion and premiership player. Southern Power player Kiara Beesley earned an AFLW Draft Combine invite in 2020, and whilst she ultimately missed out on being selected, could be another Academy member close to making the step up, while Hannah Cerezo is a late developer to the code and impressed in the Academy games.

Overall the Swans have some developing talents, and as shown by their upset of NAB League Girls grand finalists Geelong Falcons, are a well-coached and well-drilled unit despite having less exposure to high-level underage football compared to their opponents. Next year will be a big year for the club in the female football space, as they go to work to try and attract current and mature-age talent to join the junior ones coming through the Academy.

Picture credit: Sydney Swans FC

2021 AFLW U19 Championships state preview: Allies

IN the fifth of our 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships state preview, we take a look at the Allies, a team that has accommodated Northern Territory to join the Eastern Allies duo of NSW/ACT and Tasmania. Always a challenge to combine the best players across multiple states, there are a number of experienced NAB League players in the team, as well as four AFL Women’s Academy members making the squad.

2021 ALLIES AFLW U19 CHAMPIONSHIPS SQUAD:

NSW/ACT:

GIANTS Academy:
Eleanor Bishop
Teagan Germich
Cynthia Hamilton
Jayde Hamilton
Hayley Macdonald
Ally Morphett
Brodee Mowbray
Jessica Whelan

Sydney Swans Academy:
April Devine
Jessica Doyle
Ella Heads
Maddy Hendrie
Isadora McLeay
Ruby Sargent-Wilson

Northern Territory:
J’Noemi Anderson
Ashanti Bush
Kasey Marsden
Grace Mulvahil

Tasmania:
Jemma Blair
Meghan Gaffney
Perri King
Ella Maurer
Amy Bissett
Claire Ransom

QUICK SUMMARY:

The Allies head into the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships as the natural underdogs having the most difficult task of combining talented players from different states into a cohesive unit, but on sheer talent the side has plenty of depth around the ground, and with Northern Territory joining the Eastern Allies duo, there is an extra pathway feeding into the side. The four AFL Women’s Academy members will lead the way, but there are also a mix of 19-year-olds such as Charlie Vandenberg who received an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite last year, and bottom-age talent Claire Ransom who is shaping as one of the most talented players for next year.

FIXTURES:

R2 vs. Western Australia (April 12 @ Avalon Airport Oval)
R3 vs. South Australia (April 15 @ Trevor Barker Oval)

FIVE TO WATCH: (2003-BORN)

Perri King (Tasmania Devils/Tasmania)

The smooth-moving King has been a standout for the Devils in the NAB League Girls this season and will be a prime mover in the Allies’ midfield at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. King is a tackling machine, and despite being able to win the ball plenty herself, she does all the team things with her defensive pressure, blocks and shepherds to help her teammates move the ball in transition. As well as play onball, King can play an outside role and use her burst to advantage, as well as up forward as a pressure forward with some speed and knack for finding the goals, as she did last year when she became Tasmania’s first ever NAB League Girls goalkicker.

Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/GIANTS Academy/NSW-ACT)

A strong ruck who can also play forward, Morphett will provide the experience and strength around the contest for her lighter-built teammates. Able to pull down contested marks or provide a contest enough to bring the ball to ground, Morphett is a member of the GIANTS Academy who has represented both the GIANTS and Murray Bushrangers this season. She works hard at ground level with some fierce tackles and covers the ground well, but her ability to be that target down the line or leading out from goal is what makes her a player to watch at the championships.

Jess Doyle (Manly-Warringah/Sydney Swans Academy/NSW-ACT)

Impressing during the Sydney Swans Academy’s win over Geelong Falcons, Doyle is a talented midfielder-forward who has the athleticism to worry opposition sides, but also the goal sense to make it count when inside 50. She was able to kick a couple of goals in a low-scoring win over the Falcons in wet conditions, so on a dry deck, Doyle has the potential to light up a game. She can take a strong grab overhead, and whilst still raw, has plenty of upside having come to the sport later than others, but has well and truly showed why she has caught the eye of the AFL Women’s Academy.

Ashanti Bush (Darwin Buffettes/Northern Territory)

Running out for the Thunder in the win against the GWV Rebels, Bush is a dangerous forward who has deceptive athleticism and a neat sidestep with power that can shrug off would-be tacklers. She was able to effectively drive the nail into the Rebels’ coffin in that game with a couple of goals in a minute, and is often too strong for quicker opponents or too quick for bigger opponents. A real nightmare to try and match up on, Bush is the sole NT AFL Women’s Academy member, and will add to a versatile and damaging forward line.

Amy Bissett (Tasmania Devils/Tasmania)

One of the in-form small forwards of the Devils this season, Bissett is a crucial player inside 50 with her clean, balanced play and high footy IQ. She helped win the game against Northern Knights with a couple of late goals in the NAB League Girls competition, and has been a consistent source of scoring in 2021. If she is not kicking them, she is setting them up and will relish being inside 50 when the ball comes in given the amount of talls around the goals that she can crumb off, or run onto a loose ball.

OTHERS:

Jayde Hamilton already has VFL Women’s experience and is a hardnut on the inside, having played at the 2019 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. She will look to win the contested ball with Eleanor Bishop, J’Noemi Anderson, Ella Maurer and Cynthia Hamilton all able to roll through there. Jemma Blair will provide the run out of defence with Ella Heads and Ruby Sargent-Wilson both impressing in the back half during their matches at NAB League Girls level. Grace Mulvahil has some exciting speed around the ground to move the ball in transition with Meghan Gaffney, while Hayley Macdonald and April Devine could be targets, rotating with Morphett through the ruck.

SQUAD STRENGTHS:

  • Contested marking
  • Speed
  • Forward X-factor
  • Unpredictability

The Allies have a real mix of talents in all three thirds, and it will be how they all mix as to how the style will form. They have some speedy players at both ends and through the middle, with their abundance of contested markers likely to pose a problem for opposition sides. Once the ball hit the deck though, the Allies will be just as damaging with their forward X-factor to create something out of nothing and bring up scoring opportunities.

In terms of areas of improvement, the difficulty of gelling will always be the number one hurdle to overcome, with only portions of the various Academies having played before. It will be up to the leaders in order to help the more inexperienced players gel, and ensure they can enjoy a good carnival.

LAST WORD:

The Allies have a real mixed bag when it comes to talent. With their AFL Women’s Academy members all likely to be in the forward half – with a couple of them rotating through the middle at least – they should be able to try and take control of the stoppages and get the ball forward. In defence they have some strong rebounding types, and players who are happy to run with ball-in-hand. They will be ones to begin the movement in transition and really get the ball from the back half to the forward 50.

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 6

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition treated us to an extended weekend of fixtures in Round 6. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

A quiet game compared to her usual lofty standards, Rowbottom’s influence on the game still can’t be understated as she demanded a run with player around the ground throughout the game. Despite this, she still found ways to impact, especially up forward where she was played as the main target, able to hit the scoreboard for her troubles. Still had moments of brilliance where she’d get away from her player and win the clearance, leaving everyone in her dust. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Just finds ways to outdo herself throughout the game as it goes on. It felt like she was adding a new string to her bow each quarter with her ball winning early impressive, then adding her speed the next quarter, then adding her overhead marking the next and finally adding her composure in the final quarter, not that any of those were weaknesses earlier on, but became more apparent as the game went on. Really reads the play well and puts herself in great spaces all the time, highlighted by a patch in the third quarter where she got an intercept mark, kicked it back forward and then got another one intercept mark when Sandringham worked it back out. Worked hard throughout the game, with her two-way running being a desirable trait. 

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Has some really eye catching moments, especially around stoppages, where her in-and-under, unrelenting hunt of the ball, mixed with her burst of speed and equally quick use of the ball by hand, is a real strength. This game she had a presence as a forward as well, taking a few good grabs and setting up some good inside 50 opportunities with her kicks.

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Had a solid game splitting her time through the midfield and up forward as a deeper target. Did some good things in the first three quarters around stoppages in particular, where her acceleration was hard for Sandringham to deal with, but it was in the final quarter when the pressure started mounting that she really stepped up and shined, getting involved all around the ground with her in close pressure work, and taking a particularly crucial contested mark to slow down play and run down the clock in the final two minutes, showing a deep understanding of the game and how to deal with those situations. 

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Has been a consistent contributor in the Chargers defense and this game was no different, with her tendency to leave her opponent and making contests 2-on-1 in her teams favour, and her confidence to attack incoming balls at ground level and in the air, she’s a very well rounded attacking defender, that doesn’t neglect her defensive responsibilities. She stood up in the big moments, especially in the final quarter as Sandringham were clawing themselves back into the game.

#4 Alexandra McCulloch (Oakleigh Chargers)

Stood up again in the Oakleigh backline, where her willingness to back herself was on show, flying for marks in packs and taking on opponents when tucking the ball under her arm and running with it. Her reliability throughout the game allowed other Oakleigh defenders such as Brooke Vickers to run off their opponents to impact further up the ground, which made her a very valuable part of the win.

#10 Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons)

Had some really good moments, especially with ball in hand, where she’d use her agility to get around multiple opponents and then getting the ball to a teammate. Not overly crash and bash with her ball winning, but she’s very capable of winning a contested ground ball with her poise around contests, which means that more often than not she’s in a good position to handball off to a teammate effectively 

# 18 Mia Zielinski (Sandringham Dragons)

It’s hard to believe this was just her second game at this level, just plays in such a confident and assured manner, confident to take on opponents in a foot race, on the ground or in the air. Her aerial work is superb, rarely dropping a mark and not wasting a single disposal, she became Sandringham’s main target inside 50, flying for everything, very much one to watch for the 2023 draft. 

#11 Tayla Jones (Sandringham Dragons)

Despite playing as a winger, she got involved quite a bit down deep in defence, where she was winning herself a few free kicks through getting to the ball first. Followed up her kicks if they went wayward which obviously made her teammates much more assured. Further up the ground she was punishing Oakleigh for missed kicks when she was in the area, sweeping up loose balls and delivering accurately to teammates.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Followed up her brilliant game against Gippsland with another big performance against a physically stronger midfield, where her athleticism and footy IQ held her in good stead for the game, often selling candy or side stepping opponents with ease then delivering a long accurate kick forward or handballing off to a teammate on the outside, it really looks like her confidence is growing game by game. Was one of the main dragons to take that step up in the final quarter to get them within a kick.

OTHERS:

In such a well rounded performance there’s plenty of others worthy of a mention. From the victors, Erin Woodford and Lily Hart played a big role in pushing their side through for a win. Jemma Rigoni was also good around the ground, getting a goal in her usual forward spot but pushing up and impacting in the midfield, with talented bottom-ager Ameille Smith also having an impact up forward and in the ruck. Sandringham’s winger Charlotte Ryan won plenty of it and did some damage with her signature speed, Pia Staltari was again thrown around in all 3 sections of the ground, but used it well wherever she was. Abby Thompson was a solid aerial presence in defense with captain Kiana Lynch creating plenty going forward.

 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWS GIANTS ACADEMY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#36 Ally Morphett (GWS GIANTS Academy – but also Murray Bushrangers)

It must have been weird for Morphett lining up against her NAB League teammates, but she certainly had no qualms making an impact in the game. The opening bounce saw the ruck punch a thumping ball forward into the path of her teammates, and then had a number of shots on goal in the opening term. Her set shot from 50m shanked to the right and was intercepted, then her quick snap on goal was good, but went to to the left and stayed in. She kept putting her body on the line and winning her fair share of the ball, thumping it forward. She took a really strong overhead mark, clunking the ball and her ball movement inside 50 led to a goal.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Cynthia Hamilton (GWS GIANTS Academy)

A standout throughout the match for the GIANTS Academy providing run all over the ground. She played between the wing, forward and even dropping back into defence, finding plenty of the ball and keeping it moving in transition. Her work rate was a feature of her game, and she stepped up to kick two goals in the match; the first when she went to full-forward midway through the term thanks to a quick kick running back to it, and then booted a second goal in the third term with a snap out of nothing. Hamilton had a courageous marking attempt in the forward 50 and would continue to run hard throughout the match to be one of the GIANTS’ standout players.

#11 Jayde Hamilton (GWS GIANTS Academy)

Just cracked in for four quarters, and having been one of the AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitees from last season, and someone who has already debuted at VFL Women’s level, Hamilton showed her experience and ball-winning abilities. She can tend to throw the ball on the boot at times, but her vision and timing of handballs is quite good, able to release at the right point. She reads the stoppage work well and can get forward for some shots on goal.

#30 Jessica Whelan (GWS GIANTS Academy)

A lovely kick of the ball, Whelan has great technique and and played between midfield and forward, with a few eye-catching highlights. She laid a fierce tackle in the middle of the ground in the opening term, took a great intercept mark on the wing and hit a low dart of a pass inside 50 in the third term which led to a goal, then earned a 50m penalty to have a set shot from the goalsquare and made no mistake.

#31 Hayley Macdonald (GWS GIANTS Academy)

Booted two goals in the game and looked lively inside 50. She arguably could have finished with more majors, given her first set shot from 20m out straight in front missed to the right. She kicked her first early in the third term with a great snap around her body, and continued to present throughout the second half. Early in the fourth quarter Macdonald kicked her second, able to get her boot to the ball in the goalsquare to double her output.

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

Having some sort of season is the outside talent, with her speed and ball-winning capacity on show. At times she just needs that extra touch of composure or awareness to know she has more time than she thinks she does, but when she is up and going it is impressive. She is strong overhead and is not afraid to take on the opposition, at one stage evading two players, but then getting caught by the third. With her athletic traits and aggressive play with ball-in-hand, Smith is perennially an eye-catching player and has some attractive traits to her wing role.

#22 Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

An important player in the Bushrangers’ defensive setup, Hay generally uses the ball well aside from the odd kick, and is always mopping up deep in defence. She is a strong interceptor and takes the game on with running meterage, and then puts her body on the line such as a great smother to save a goal in the third term. She was clean off the deck and able to quickly transition from the pickup to a smooth handball in the final quarter, having put together and impressive overall performance.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

Another strong performance from the bottom-age talent with a penetrating left boot. She showed clean hands at ground level and her usual defensive pressure, with her sidestepping ability to get on her left side and then wind up with a powerful pass always something to enjoy. Skepper is able to take some strong overhead marks and cover the ground well, laying tackles in each of the thirds of the ground, and it is about refining the left boot to match the execution with the technique. Whilst she courageously went up for a mark late in the game, she landed a little awkwardly and was rested.

#46 Zara Hamilton (Murray Bushrangers)

Working with tandem with Smith as the prime ball mover in transition, Hamilton played an impressive game from both an offensive and defensive standpoint. Often she would apply pressure to the opposition to force a turnover such as a dropped mark inside defensive 50, and when she had the ball used it fairly well. Not afraid to use some athleticism to sidestep and opponent and kick long, Hamilton set up a goal to Olivia Cicolini who made no mistake from a free kick in the third term.

OTHERS:

Sophie Trewartha was impressive for the GIANTS, while Eleanor Bishop won plenty of the footy, and the likes of Georgie Jaques and Anita Manning were also solid. For the Bushrangers, Kristy Whitehead, Mindy Quade, Bonny McKean and Chloe Locke worked well in defence, and Mikayla Jones was also among the better players on the day for the losing side.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#7 Jessica Doyle (Sydney Swans Academy)

Whilst Doyle might be lightly built, she certainly packs a punch and plenty of talent with her work in the forward half. Working between midfield and forward as one of those taller mids who can provide a marking target inside 50, Doyle has that X-factor about her that catches the eye. She got the ball rolling for her side against the momentum in the first term with an important goal, then stepped up with her side’s third major of the contest, to finish with the two goals from an equal team-high 19 disposals. Moving well around the ground, Doyle was a key playmaker, driving the ball inside 50 on multiple occasions.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#20 Ella Heads (Sydney Swans Academy)

An absolute rock in defence, Heads was a terrific one-on-one opponent, and took a number of strong intercept marks. She would then take the game on and either go for a run or use her composure to go back and search out a target. As the defence was under siege early, Heads did well to hold the fort up and team up well with the likes of Ruby Sargent-Wilson, and think through the defensive transition into attack.

#10 Ruby Sargent-Wilson (Sydney Swans Academy)

Did not need to win a heap of the ball to have an impact, with five rebound 50s from 10 touches. She popped up from time to time during crucial moments, and was one of the Swans’ best on the day. She used the ball well by foot and was composed when she won it, often weaving away from an opponent to provide teammates with something to run onto.

#19 Maddy Hendrie (Sydney Swans Academy)

Hendrie was someone who caught the eye due to her movement in transition, putting the ball into dangerous spots going inside 50. She was not afraid to get her hands dirty with a number of tackles, and even had a chance on goal but missed. Winning the majority of her touches at ground level, Hendrie was a key playmaker in the front half for the Swans throughout the day.

#13 Danika Spamer (Sydney Swans Academy)

A tough competitor who won her fair share of the ball, Spamer laid the equal most tackles for the Swans and really dug deep at the clinches. She was able to extract the ball from the stoppage and keep it moving, and whilst still developing some areas of her game, she showed she could win the ball and cover the field really well, winning possessions in each third of the ground.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

The Draft Central Player of the Week was absolutely sensational with a competition season-high 31 disposals on the day. She was everywhere, even kicking a goal off a step from just inside 50 to keep the Falcons in the contest, and popped up constantly around the ground. On a number of occasions she just could not quite hold onto a few marks so could have had even more of the pill, but her complete work rate saw her pick up five or more marks, tackles, inside 50s and rebounds just to give a bit of an indication of just how impressive she was in the match. On the most in-form players in the 2021 season.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Another consistent performer with clean skills and balance, Schaap worked in tandem with Craven throughout the match to ensure the game was controlled out of the midfield. Whilst the Falcons ultimately fell short of victory, Schaap was someone who would put her body on the line, then create her own space and use it well in transition. She was often the player cracking in under multiple opponents to win the contested ball, and then applying her own defensive pressure.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

Continuing what has been a consistent season, Simpson is the third player in the trio of ball-winning midfielders, and used her strength to advantage in the contest. She was able to win the loose and hard balls, and thump the pill forward to give teammates best chance. At times she can rush with her disposal, but knows how to win the ball and how to protect the ball at ground level, as well as aide with defensive support.

#33 Taiya Morrow (Geelong Falcons)

Really stepped up in defence with the absence of Annie Lee to team up with Elizabeth Dowling back there. She was someone often mopping up on the last line of defence, and then clearing the ball through a long kick to half-back. She put together a four-quarter performance and really came into her own during the match, and is an underrated player in the Falcons’ back six, completing their array of consistent defenders.

OTHERS:

For the Swans, it really was an even team performance, with rucks, Eloise Morgan and April Devine catching the eye, while Kahli Gilchrist and Isadora McLeay also stood out. For the Falcons, Dowling was her reliable self in defence, while Gabbi Featherston and Mia Van Dyke were impressive, as was Analea McKee who played her best game of the season, and Ash Van Loon was fierce before coming off with an injury.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Hamish Spence

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

King finished off her third game in eight days among the best players on the ground once again. Her poise, speed and timing were impressive in the tough conditions, but she still managed to match it around the contest with her 16 disposals and six tackles. One thing that stands out in King’s game is her intent to keep the ball alive and move it forward. While it doesn’t always come off and can result in the occasional mistake, her attacking mindset would have North Melbourne (the AFLW club with her draft rights) excited.

TOP PERFORMERS:  

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Gaffney’s enjoyed a strong 2021 campaign this year, but Saturday’s game was her finest performance to date. Her gut-running and agility were a luxury for the Devils, as they could distribute the ball to her on the outside and get it away from the contest, where it lived for large parts of the day. She played a typical wingers game, covering the whole ground and racking up plenty of possessions with her line-breaking speed, ultimately finishing with 20 disposals, four tackles, three inside 50s and three rebound 50s.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

Starred at ground level and on the inside, making an impact at every stoppage she attended. Her contested game style was perfectly suited to the congested conditions at Dial Park, with Webster often distributing the ball from the bottom of the pack with her 11 handballs. She racked up 20 disposals in total and kicked a goal, continuing the excellent form that has seen her named in Draft Central’s Team of the Week for the second week in a row.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

It was another great game for Maurer through the midfield, but it was the impact she made up forward that will turn some heads. She was the only multiple goalkicker for the game; her first was a set-shot after being hit-up on a lead, and the second was a classy running goal out of the contest. If Maurer can keep adding this element to her game, it will serve her well going forward. She was also tough as usual around stoppages with her 18 disposals and six tackles, constantly absorbing tackles to hand the ball off one of her teammates.

#49 Charlotte Vandenberg (Tasmania Devils)

Was the most dominant ruck on the ground, easily winning the ruck battle with her game-high 17 hit outs. Dandenong rotated several different players against her, but Vandenberg didn’t lower her standards or tire out, asserting her physicality at each contest. What was equally impressive was her follow-up and second efforts at ground level, her six tackles represent her want to impact the game even after the ball’s been bounced.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

She worked tirelessly all game for the Stingrays, finishing as their leading possession getter with 19 disposals, despite playing out of the forward line. She pushed hard up the ground and used her speed to provide an option for her side, as evidenced by her game-high nine inside 50s. She had three scoring shots on goal, before finally getting some reward for effort with the last goal of the game.

#38 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

Was arguably Dandenong’s best midfielder in defeat on the weekend. She looked comfortable around stoppages in the wet conditions, constantly pushing past players and forcing her way through packs. While Emily Shepherd being out due to injury was a blow, it gave Crank a chance to step up in her absence, an opportunity she fully embraced with her 18 disposals.

#34 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)

Another key contributor through the middle, Richards impressed with her toughness and competitiveness around the ball. She featured at most stoppages and made an impact with her 12 disposals and three tackles. She didn’t seem to push forward as much as she has done in the past, possibly signalling a more midfield centric role moving forward.

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Hill continued her excellent form marshalling the Stingrays down back, reading the ball beautifully, despite the wet conditions, and keeping Tasmania’s forward line in check. She kept the likes of Amy Prokopiec accountable after Prokopiec kicked the first goal of the game, while impacting the contest in her own right with her 13 disposals, three tackles and three rebound 50s.

#27 Charley Ryan (Dandenong Stingrays)

She didn’t gather as much of the ball as some other players, but Ryan made an impact whenever she had it in her hands. Every one of her nine disposals was effective and laced with class, which stood in the tough conditions on Saturday. She drove her side’s attacks up forward with six inside 50s and wasn’t afraid to work defensively with her six tackles.

OTHERS:

Aprille Crooks (18 disposals and three rebound 50s) and Priscilla Odwogo (15 disposals, five tackles and five rebound 50s) were Tasmania’s two main movers out of the backline, constantly cutting off the ball and sending it back out. Amy Bissett was an important link-up forward, gathering 14 disposals and three inside 50s in a strong performance. While her fellow winger, Meghan Gaffney, took most of the attention, Madison Brazendale (15 disposals and five tackles) was good in her own right on the opposing wing. Abbey Jordan (17 disposals and two inside 50s) was strong through the middle for Dandenong, matching it with some of the Devils’ best onballers around stoppages. Jemma Radford (nine disposals, two inside 50s and two rebound 50s) and Mackenzie Eardley (13 disposals, six tackles and two rebound 50s) held up down back and constantly rebounded the ball. Olivia Robinson (13 disposals, five tackles and three inside 50s) was influential at half-forward, working up the field to impact the contest and applying constant pressure.

 

GWV REBELS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Positioned on the wing for the day, she really showed off her workrate and game reading ability, drifting into the backline to provide assistance down there, getting herself in the best spots to take intercept marks, but also pushing forward to provide pressure and scoring opportunities. It’s particularly impressive how aerially, even if she doesn’t hold the mark she’s never beaten with the follow up at ground level, where she’s composed and measured with her ball use as well.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Really impressive work creating drive from the backline and setting up outside of forward 50 to get the ball straight back in, making it difficult for the Jets to set themselves up defensively again. She showed she understands the game at a high level as well, always doing all she can with the ball in hand, like going for runs, but never pushing it and overestimating what she can do, that mixed with the distance and penetration of her kick can be really damaging.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Coming into the midfield from her usual back flank role, it was a seamless transition for Leonard who topped the disposal charts for the day. All the same attributes that make her such a danger off of half back; her speed, kicking and game sense, were well on show throughout the day as she was often standing beside the Jets Montana Ham around stoppages, and looked to do well in nullifying her whilst getting a lot of it herself. Her tackling around stoppages was really good as well, making it hard for Jets to break free at any stage 

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

Had an amazing game playing mostly as the main target for the Rebels inside deep 50, showing her potential to be one of those midfielders that can effectively rest forward. Standing at just the 166 cm, you would’ve thought she was 10 cm taller the way she was flying for every mark and getting a couple of them. It was her work at ground level and in congestion that was most impressive, able to dance around opponents to set up teammates going forward, or handball to an oncoming runner.

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

The top ball winner for the Jets, Baskaran was her usual composed and classy self throughout the game, with her ball use highly effective and damaging, which played a big part in the Jets second half surge. I really liked that she very rarely just kicks it down the line, she’s always looking to move the ball inside or across for a switch, making it easier for her forwards to get effective shots if they mark it.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

There’s something very entertaining about watching Ham run straight through stoppages to get the ball moving forward with a long bomb, and she’s just so hard for opponents to stop from doing it. Particularly impressed with how she set up behind the ball for the game, taking on a more defensive focus than we usually see from her, she really effective in creating contests rather than letting the rebels just go end-to-end

#6 Stella Bridgewater (GWV Rebels)

Lined up at centre half-forward to start with, but played one of those games where she could very well have been a midfielder as well, was just everywhere and involved in every area of the ground. Has some really good athletic traits which make her a difficult matchup, either faster or stronger than the opponents rotating on her throughout the game.

#52 Krystal Russell (Western Jets)

Improves more and more every game which is really good to see, and against the Rebels she started putting really direction and distance on her taps, putting it a few meters out in front of teammates already on the move, with her teammates rarely having to slow down for the ball. Her follow up work is good when it’s called upon as well.

OTHERS:

Lili Condon battled hard in the midfield all day for the Rebels, winning plenty of ball, with defensive duo Molly Walton and Stephanie Glover also putting in a good shift in the defensive half for the Rebels, while Kalani Scoullar won the most hitouts across the round. For the Jets, it was some regular contributors in Jemima Woods, Paige Ryan and Stephanie Asciak that battled hard all day in different areas of the ground, with all doing a lot of their work in the midfield.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

It’s kind of ridiculous that she can play half of the game away from the rover roles but still have such a high disposal count and impact everywhere around the ground. It’s obvious she’s been playing more forward and defense in the last couple of weeks, and her output hasn’t dropped at all which is a really great thing to see. Was really impressive especially when playing in the backline, with her willingness to attack the footy and move up the ground playing a big part in Calder’s constant pressure and ball movement forward. Throw in some of her usual side steps and composure under pressure and it was a top level performance where she made essentially no mistakes.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Had a good game in the ruck where she was tested against one of the best in the comp. What you’re getting with Gillard is a ruck that, even if she doesn’t win the tap her follow up work is unmatchable, with work below her knees being a major strength for someone as tall as she is. Throw on top of this her ability to impact up forward or around the ground as a really good aerially presence and user of the footy and she’s such a valuable player, which was on show against Power.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#25 Lily Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)

Her run-and-carry is a delight to watch, she’s got a good mix of power/strength as well as composure to understand what her limits are, so it was rare to see her get herself into trouble despite her tendency for that run-and carry. She’s really accountable in defense, even on the occasion her opponent does win the ball they won’t get an easy disposal afterwards with her tackling and relentless pressure. With more time in the midfield, I have no doubt she’ll become one of the stronger stoppage players in the competition.

#5 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

She has such a high impact with her disposal that even without racking up big numbers she’s one of the most damaging players during any given game, and her switch to the forwardline after spending the last few games as a defender proves that with her game high 3 goal haul. A really impressive part of her game was how much she worked up the ground as well, then worked harder than her opponent in transition to impact the play. Another impressive part of her game was her marking, taking a good contested mark in the first quarter.

#10 Olivia Manfre (Calder Cannons)

She’s been on the verge of having a breakout game for a couple of weeks and all it took was a game where she got a really good run in the midfield to do it. A lot of what she’s displayed up forward with her leading patterns, disposal skills and footy IQ shined in the midfield as well, making really good runs around stoppages to get in the best positions, and could then get the ball to outside runners or kick it forward.. She still had her stints up forward as well, getting a goal for her efforts, showing that she’s got that capability of a midfield/forward split going forward.

#2 Reese Sutton (Calder Cannons)

In a similar sense to Manfre she’s been on the verge of a breakout game for a couple of weeks, and with increased midfield time she took it with both hands, her footy IQ on display around stoppages where she does well to put herself where the ball is going to be. Her kicking is a real delight, finding the better options more often than not with well weighted kicks.

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Super impressive through the midfield all day, with her burst of speed in particular looking good coming out of stoppages or contests, always followed by a quality kick forward or handball to an outside team mate. Once again was impressed by her two-way running, where she’d be involved in the forwardline, and then pop up in the backline a minute later when Gippsland got a turn over.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Looking at her play a game, and she just understands it at a really high level. Despite not racking up huge numbers she has really good moments throughout the game where her game sense and footy IQ are on display with her positioning or runs she’s making, especially when reading the ball off of the rucks hands. Her disposal skills under pressure were also really impressive, and contributed to some really good passages for Gippsland

#1 Sunday Brisbane (Gippsland Power)

Really crafty midfielder, who despite her size isn’t afraid to get involved  in the contested side of the game, and that relentless attack on the ball is really advantageous for Gippsland, especially with her handballing being at a good level, even with Calder tightening up on her later on.

OTHERS:

Gippsland had a few admirable performers despite the loss, with Courtney Fletcher winning quite a bit of ball around the ground. Tall duo Matilda Van Berkel and Grace Matser were solid in defense and the Ruck respectively and Grace McRae still impacted well despite having a quieter game than usual. The Cannons had plenty of others that performed their role well, Zali Friswell again being a good ball winner and contributor in other areas around the ground, bottom-ager Abbey McDonald continues to work into her role as rebounding defender really well, and winger Mia Briedis was winning it plenty.

 

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Appleby was again promising in patches for the Knights, with her speed and running ability evident but not dominant over the course of a highly contested game. She could have been the perfect player to break the contest open on the outside and threatened to do so with ball in hand. Her class shone through with clean takes and use in possession, especially during the third and fourth quarters as Northern began to arrest momentum and mount its extraordinary comeback.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

The best player afield and at 15 years of age, one who has already set the bar high with many seasons left to prosper in the underage pathways. Jordan was a constant figure at the stoppages, using her zippy turn of speed to burst away with ball in hand and thrust Northern onto the front foot. She dug in hard despite her diminutive stature and was the standout performer across four quarters, while also standing up in the clutch moments. Her third term goal gave Northern a sniff, and her second put the Knights within striking distance during term four, capping off what was an outstanding individual performance which inspired her team to victory.

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

Eastern’s most outstanding performer on the day, Sherar worked furiously hard to ensure her side would boss the midfield battle early on. All bar one of her 16 disposals were kicks, highlighting Sherar’s ability to gain meterage from the coalface and make an impact where it matters most. Her marking prowess was also on show and the Ranges coaches would have been pleased by her work-rate to not only win possession in all areas of the ground, but to also tackle hard when required. After kicking the second goal of the game, Sherar was set up for a big day and followed through.

#15 Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)

With everything to gain late in the contest, Northern pulled the trigger and sent Delgado into the centre bounces – a move which ultimately played a massive part in the final result. Previously, the reliable top-ager was seen intercepting and rebounding in her usual defensive post, which proved key to Northern remaining a chance to turn around and win. At 173cm, her presence was then felt through midfield where she willed the ball forward and booted a crucial goal at the start of term four to spark Northern’s game-winning charge.

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Another of the 2005-birth brigade, Pisano continues to find the goals for Eastern and impact games up forward. An impressive 14 of her 15 disposals came via foot, and five of them were inside 50 entries, showcasing the creative threat that Pisano presents. Her two goals came with a touch of class and were taken in quick succession during the first term, helping Eastern skip out to what should have been a defining lead. The 15-year-old has plenty of time to develop further and potentially try her hand up the field, but looks so comfortable at the level as a forward.

#22 Ella Smallacombe (Northern Knights)

One of Northern’s key factors up forward, Smallacombe, or ‘Big Brush’ as she is referred to by teammates notched a career-high 17 disposals as she worked hard up the ground to provide a viable target and help link the Knights into their attacking 50. She may not have found the big sticks in this outing, but moreso played to a role which allowed Northern to keep its forward momentum going and have someone who could skilfully deliver the ball into dangerous areas.

#44 Grace Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

One of the competition’s most exciting ruck prospects, Campbell was able to showcase her athleticism and raw ability on the ball in this outing. At over 180cm, her aerial nous is an obvious strength and she brought it to the fore with a game-high 19 hitouts to go with three eye-catching marks. She is one of the few players who can take the ball at its highest point, but not one to admire her work for long, Campbell also showed a knack for playing on straight away and moving through traffic like a much smaller player. She missed the chance to cap off a promising outing with scoreboard impact, with one guilt-edge chance to put Eastern back ahead during the fourth term drifting into the post.

OTHERS:

Both sides had a raft of handy contributors during the day, with plenty of hard workers placed on each line. Eastern had the likes of Jess Grace and Isabelle Khoury return from VFLW duties with aplomb, while Grace Walsh was strong in defence alongside Cadhla Schmidli, and Bridget Deed was reliable in midfield. Northern leader Teleah Smart was also busy in the engine room, aided by the combativeness of stand-in ruck Monique Ramsay. Lulu Beatty was another to impress, while Rylie Wilcox was lively inside 50 and Trinity Mills popped up for a couple of clutch goals.

2021 Draft Central NAB League TOTW: Round 6

CALDER Cannons, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Northern Knights have all earned thee players in our Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Week for Round 6 after impressive wins over the weekend. There were 12 of the 13 sides in action, with this week’s team still only containing the full-time sides (rather than including Northern Academy representatives) for consistency’s sake throughout each week. Outside the top three featured teams, six sides all had two players in the team this week, with winners Oakleigh Chargers and Tasmania Devils, and losers Dandenong Stingrays Eastern Ranges, Geelong Falcons and Western Jets also recording two players this time. Gippsland Power, Murray Bushrangers and Sandringham Dragons had even performances across the board, but earned a single standout player to make the Team of the Week for Round 6. The team also features six Draft Central Team of the Week debutants who were yet to feature in a team this season.

Northern Knights had the comeback win of the season, almost down and out to run over the top of Eastern Ranges in the final term. The Knights had three players in the side this week, with Player of the Week runner-up Ava Jordan named vice-captain and on-ball for her match-winning efforts with two goals. At full-back is Tarrah Delgado whose move into the middle also swayed the game in the Knights’ favour, while Ella Smallacombe was a terrific leading target up forward. In such a close game on the day, Eastern Ranges also had two players making the side, with lively left-footer Alyssia Pisano in a pocket, and the classy Keeley Sherar making it onto the bench due to the strength of the midfield this week. Georgia Campbell was another player close to forcing her way into the side again.

GWV Rebels had plenty of names that could have made the side this week, but Kalani Scoullar picked up the most hitouts of any player this round and took it up to a quality opponent, to earn the starting ruck spot in the team. In defence, Nyakoat Dojiok and Chloe Leonard return to the side to provide plenty of run out of the back half which helped the Rebels put a win on the board. Goalsneak Paige Scott was one of the three emergencies, while Lilli Condon was again agonisingly close to making it after an impressive effort. They knocked off the Western Jets at MARS Stadium, and Charlotte Baskaran assumed her usual role on the wing, while Jemima Woods‘ efforts see her land on the bench and provide back-up ruck support to Scoullar in this hypothetical team.

Calder Cannons’ regular Team of the Week nominee Georgie Prespakis is back again, but this time she is joined by a couple of new faces in Olivia Manfre and Neve Crowley. Manfre played her best game of the season in the midfield, while Crowley slotted three goals as a target up forward. Their opponents Gippsland Power had the one nominee in Lily-Rose Williamson, though Grace Matser and Sunday Brisbane were both very close to making it into the side. Also close to making it into the side was emergency Grace Hay, with the Murray Bushrangers’ defender putting in a strong effort, but the depth of defence this week remarkable, and instead was named as an emergency. Bushrangers’ winger Aurora Smith did make it into the team after another eye-catching performance running around against the GIANTS Academy.

Down on the Apple Isle, Tasmania Devils duo Meghan Gaffney (wing) and Jemma Webster (interchange) were the representatives from the winning Devils side. Webster recorded back-to-back Team of the Week nominations, with Ella Maurer again close to squeezing in, named as an emergency again after a strong effort. They were too strong for Dandenong Stingrays who still had a couple of standouts in the lightning quick Amber Clarke, and reliable defender Zoe Hill who booked their places in the team. While that match was happening, Geelong Falcons had just got down to Sydney Swans Academy, though Tess Craven and Poppy Schaap were outstanding in the loss. Craven earned our Draft Central NAB League Girls Player of the Week for Round 6, and will captain the side for this week, while Schaap will start at half-forward to provide some pressure in attack.

Rounding out the side was the Thursday night blockbuster between Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons, with a total of three representatives in the team following an even split across the board. Stella Reid will return to half-back after another huge effort, while fellow rebounder Brooke Vickers also made the side, named on the bench. For the Dragons, Sofia Hurley earned a spot in the team, could not quite squeeze into the midfield but has been named at half-forward given her deserving starting status. Tayla Jones was another Dragon who came close to making the team this round.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 6

B: Lily-Rose Williamson (GP) – Tarrah Delgado (NK) – Zoe Hill (DS)
HB: Stella Reid (OC) – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV) – Chloe Leonard (GWV)
C: Meghan Gaffney (TD) – Georgie Prespakis (CC) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ)
HF: Poppy Schaap (GF) – Ella Smallacombe (NK) – Sofia Hurley (SD)
F: Amber Clarke (DS) – Neve Crowley (CC) – Alyssia Pisano (ER)
R: Kalani Scoullar (GWV) –  Tess Craven (GF) (c) – Ava Jordan (NK) (vc)
INT: Olivia Manfre (CC) – Keeley Sherar (ER) – Aurora Smith (MB) – Brooke Vickers (OC) – Jemma Webster (TD) – Jemima Woods (WJ)

EMG: Grace Hay (MB) – Ella Maurer (TD) – Paige Scott (GWV)

 

While we had to remain consistent with only naming the NAB League Girls full-time sides to ensure each week had 24 players from those teams for our end of year Team of the Year, it is worth mentioning the Northern Academy members who would have found a way into the team. Up forward, GIANTS duo Hayley Macdonald and the versatile Cynthia Hamilton were lively with a couple of goals each, while Jayde Hamilton was one of the biggest ball winners for the round. For the Swans, Jessica Doyle would have easily made it into the front six after her two goals, while Ella Heads, Danika Spamer and Ruby Sargent-Wilson were the other Swans players who really stood out in an even team spread.

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 6 wrap – Knights complete remarkable comeback

ROUND 6 of the 2021 NAB League Girls season saw the Sydney Swans and Greater Western Sydney (GWS) academies enter the fray, though fans will have to wait a little longer to see the Brisbane and Gold Coast squads in action. The postponement of their arrival made for a particularly memorable makeshift fixture though, as Northern Knights completed a remarkable comeback against Eastern Ranges on Sunday. That, and more in our weekend wrap.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 1.1 | 2.1 | 2.2 | 4.2 (26)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 3.0 | 4.1 | 5.1 | 5.2 (32)

By: Declan Reeve

Oakleigh Chargers continued their undefeated start to 2021 with a thrilling six-point win over local rivals, Sandringham Dragons at RSEA Park for Thursday night football. The Chargers led from the first goal and looked to have had the game wrapped up heading into the final quarter, but Sandringham were not going down without a fight, locking the ball in their forward half for the majority of the last quarter. Ultimately, the Dragons were unable to break through Oakleigh’s strong defence to get the final goal needed to split the points. 

Oakleigh has a lot to owe to its defence as a whole for the victory, with the ever consistent duo of Brooke Vickers and Alexandra McCulloch providing reliable options as rebounders and interceptors, and bottom-ager Lily Hart stepping up for a big performance. Midfielders Stella Reid, Eliza James and Amanda Ling were good throughout the game as well, with work-rate a common theme between the three of them. 

Sandringham bottom-ager and previous winner of the Draft Central Player of the Week, Sofia Hurley was once again a high level ball winner and driver from the Sandringham midfield, assisted well by Bridie Hipwell, who was playing her first game since suffering an ankle injury in Round 1, as well as Tayla Jones and captain Kiana Lynch. 2023 eligible Mia Zielinski was an aerial threat in the forward half and Abby Thompson was a similar presence in the Dragons’ defence

The next match for each club sees Oakleigh head to Ballarat’s MARS Stadium to play GWV Rebels on Sunday March 21, while Sandringham will play Dandenong Stingrays at a venue yet to be confirmed on Wednesday night, in the reshuffled Round 2 fixture.

GOALS:

Sandringham: M. Zielenski 2, C. Murphy, E. Angelopoulos.
Oakleigh: E. James, A. Smith, H. Kenealy, C. Rowbottom, J. Rigoni.

DC BEST:

Sandringham: S. Hurley, T. Jones, B. Hipwell, M. Zielenski, K. Lynch, A. Thompson
Oakleigh: S. Reid, B. Vickers, E. James, A. Ling, A. McCulloch, L. Hart

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)
4 – Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)
3 – Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)
2 – Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)
1 – Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 0.0 | 0.0 | 1.2 | 2.4 (16)
GWS GIANTS ACADEMY 0.4 | 1.8 | 4.9 | 7.13 (55)

By: Peter Williams

GWS GIANTS Academy stormed to a 39-point win over Murray Bushrangers in New South Wales, booting six goals to two in the second half to run away with the contest at Lavington. The GIANTS had 20 scoring shots to six, but the staunch Murray defence restricted them for as long as they could, before the game opened up after half-time. Cynthia Hamilton had a day out for the GIANTS, booting two goals and being a standout, while Hayley McDonald also impressed up forward with a couple of majors herself. Through the ruck, Ally Morphett caused headaches for her NAB League teammates, one of a number of Bushrangers donning the orange and charcoal on the day.

After making her debut with North Melbourne in the VFL Women’s last week, Jayde Hamilton had a busy day out, and Jessica Whelan was also lively. The Bushrangers had strong performances from Aurora Smith, Keeley Skepper and Zara Hamilton in the midfield, while Grace Hay, Kristy Whitehead and Mindy Quade were steadfast in the back 50. The results leaves the Bushrangers without a win thus far, but they take on fellow winless side Gippsland Power next weekend, while the GIANTS head back home to prepare for next months’s AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships.

GOALS:

Murray: N. Wilson, O. Cicolini.
GIANTS: H, Macdonald 2, C. Hamilton 2, A. Martin, J. Whelan, L. Anderson.

DC BEST:

Murray: A. Smith, G. Hay, Z. Hamilton, M. Quade, K. Whitehead
GIANTS: C. Hamilton, H. Macdonald, J. Whelan, A. Morphett, J. Hamilton

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Cynthia Hamilton (GIANTS Academy)
4 – Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
3 – Hayley McDonald (GIANTS Academy)
2 – Jessica Whelan (GIANTS Academy)
1 – Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

GEELONG FALCONS 1.1 | 1.1 | 2.2 | 2.2 (14)
SYDNEY ACADEMY 1.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 | 4.3 (27)

In what could be a fantastic argument for upset of the season, Sydney Swans Academy travelled to Geelong to face the unbeaten Falcons and came away with the 13-point win in an inspirational four-quarter effort. The Swans Academy had talent on their list, but having only begun to play competitive matches this season, and being the first NAB League Girls match in their history, were not expected to halt the run of the Falcons who had seen off some strong efforts from more experienced Victorian sides. No one told the red and white side that though, as the Swans stuck with the Falcons throughout four quarters, and ran out the stronger side, 4.3 (27) to 2.2 (14).

After Keeley Hardingham booted the first major for the Falcons and Geelong had all the play in its forward half, it was seemingly a matter of time before the dam wall burst. Instead, the Swans defence held firm, then grabbed a goal against the flow to AFL Womens’ Academy member Jessica Doyle – who would finish with two majors for the game – and with help from her teammates would boot four of the next five goals. Only a Tess Craven special would interrupt the Swans’ parade, but as the rain fell down, it was no surprise that the Swans flourished in the wet and recorded the most memorable of victories.

It was a strange old game with the Falcons missing bookends, Annie Lee and Renee Tierney who played in the VFL Women’s match straight after, but the usual suspects in Craven, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson all dominated possession in the middle of the ground. Eloise Morgan and April Devine both controlled the ruck taps, but it was the trio of Falcons who shared in 68 disposals between them. Taiya Morrow and Elizabeth Dowling were industrious as ever in the back half, while Hardingham stepped up as a target inside 50. The Swans had a real even contribution across the board, with Ella Heads and Maddy Hendrie catching the eye, and then the work of Ruby Sargent-Wilson and Doyle moving the ball in transition. Kahli Gilchrist and Danika Spamer were among the other Swans to fly in the win.

GOALS:

Geelong: K. Hardingham, T. Craven.
Swans: J. Doyle 2, A. Devine, R. Beuzeville.

DC BEST:

Geelong: T. Craven, P. Schaap, T. Morrow, K. Hardingham, C. Simpson
Swans: E. Heads, J. Doyle, R. Sargent-Wilson, D. Spamer, M. Hendrie

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
4 – Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)
3 – Ella Heads (Swans Academy)
2 – Jessica Doyle (Swans Academy)
1 – Ruby Sargent-Wilson (Swans Academy)

TASMANIA DEVILS 2.1 | 4.2 | 5.3 | 6.3 (39)
DANDENONG STINGRAYS 0.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 3.4 (22)

By: Michael Alvaro

Tasmania continued its sparkling season with a 17-point victory over the highly-fancied Dandenong Stingrays, marking two-straight losses for the Victorian region. Dial Park in Penguin set the scene for Tasmania’s terrific outing, with the win all but sewn up at three quarter time on the back of five goals to Dandenong’s one. Debutant Emilie Saward, who hails from the north-west, sealed the deal in the final term with a major to put the Devils 29 points ahead – a lead which proved unassailable.

Tassie pair Jemma Webster and Meghan Gaffney led all comers with 20 disposals apiece, impacting greatly in the win alongside Ella Maurer who managed 18 touches and two goals. Perri King was another standout, while Charlotte Vandenberg proved ominous in the ruck with 17 of the game’s 30 total hitouts.

It was no surprise to see Amber Clarke put her hand up for Dandenong as she topped the Stingrays’ disposal count and snared 1.2. Felicity Crank was again solid in the loss, while Zoe Hill was again a presence and Charley Ryan played a key role with six tackles and six inside 50s among her nine disposals.

The Stingrays’ next assignment comes on Wednesday as they complete a quick turnaround against Sandringham, while Tasmania will enjoy a Round 7 bye and return to action against Northern in another home outing the following week.

GOALS:

Tasmania: E. Maurerm 2, A. Auton, A. Prokopiec, E. Saward, J. Webster.
Dandenong: A. Clarke, G. Malkoun, C. Blair.

DC BEST:

Tasmania: M. Gaffney, E. Maurer, J. Webster, P. King, C. Vandenberg, A. Crooks
Dandenong: A. Clarke, F. Crank, Z. Hill, A. Richards, A. Jordan, C. Ryan

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)
4 – Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)
3 – Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)
2 – Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)
1 – Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

GWV REBELS 2.0 | 3.1 | 4.2 | 4.2 (26)
WESTERN JETS 0.0 | 1.1 | 1.4 | 2.5 (17)

By: Declan Reeve

It was a highly contested game at MARS Stadium, with the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels coming out on top of the Western Jets by nine points. The first half was largely controlled by the Rebels, doing well to keep the ball in their forward half and constantly pressure the Jets’ backline. However, the second half saw the Jets come out with a newfound fury, having the ball in their forward half for most of the time but just unable to properly capitalise on the opportunities they created.

The home side had a lot of contributors, with Chloe Leonard and Lilli Condon the major ball winners in the midfield. AFLW Academy duo Ella Friend and Nyakoat Dojiok topping the marks for the game with five each, bottom-aged star Paige Scott leading the game for goals with two, and the likes of Molly Walton and Stephanie Glover being solid in the backline, especially when under siege later in the piece.

The Jets were brave in defeat, with bottom-ager Charlotte Baskaran getting her usual high disposal numbers and being damaging with it heading forward. Montana Ham battled hard in the midfield all day to make the most of the ruck work from Krystal Russell. They were aided by Jemima Woods, Paige Ryan and Stephanie Asciak around the ground.

Round 7 will see the Jets hitting the road again, facing off against fellow Metro side Sandringham Dragons at RSEA Park on Sunday morning, with the Rebels welcoming undefeated powerhouse Oakleigh Chargers to MARS Stadium on the same day.

GOALS:

GWV: P. Scott 2, N. Dojiok, S. Bridgewater.
Western: C. Sargent, E. Tyson.

DC BEST:

GWV: C. Leonard, P. Scott, N. Dojiok, E. Friend, L. Condon, S. Bridgewater
Western: C. Baskaran, M. Ham, K. Russell, J. Woods, P. Ryan, S. Asciak

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)
4 – Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)
3 – Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)
2 – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)
1 – Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

GIPPSLAND POWER 0.2 | 1.2 | 2.2 | 2.2 (14)
CALDER CANNONS 2.0 | 4.5 | 5.8 | 7.13 (55)

By: Declan Reeve

A dominant Calder Cannons put away Gippsland Power by 41 points on Sunday, in a game where inaccuracy from the Cannons saw them almost double their goals kicked in behinds. Despite the scoreline, the Power battled hard and were unfortunate not get on the scoreboard more with the Cannons’ defence switched on all day despite it not being down there too often.

It is no surprise that superstar Georgie Prespakis was a big contributor for the day, leading all comers for disposals, and being assisted well by the likes of Olivia Manfre, Reese Sutton and Emelia Yassir, with Neve Crowley being moved forward and leading the game for goals with three. Gippsland had its contributors as well, with Lily-Rose Williamson in particular impressing with her work in the midfield and backline, assisted by the likes of Sunday Brisbane and Courtney Fletcher in the midfield, with ruck Grace Matser often giving them first use.

Both these teams have good match-ups coming up, with Calder preparing to face Eastern Ranges on Thursday night at Highgate Reserve in a game that could have huge finals implications. Gippsland will be playing at the same venue on Saturday afternoon, coming up against fellow winless side Murray Bushrangers in what should be a tight match.

GOALS:

Gippsland: A. Molesworth, I. Makai.
Calder: N. Crowley 3, A. Magri, O. Manfre, S. Ibrahim, T. Gillard.

DC BEST:

Gippsland: L. Williamson, S. Brisbane, G. Matser, Y. Duursma, M. Van Berkel, G. McRae
Calder: G. Prespakis, O. Manfre, N. Crowley, R. Sutton, T. Gillard, E. Yassir

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
4 – Lily-Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)
3 – Olivia Manfre (Calder Cannons)
2 – Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)
1 – Reese Sutton (Calder Cannons)

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 1.0 | 1.3 | 2.4 | 6.5 (41)
EASTERN RANGES 4.1 | 5.2 | 5.2 | 5.3 (33)

By: Michael Alvaro

In a contender for game of the season so far, the Northern Knights claimed a stunning come-from-behind victory over Eastern Ranges on Sunday afternoon. The conditions at La Trobe University were conducive to clean and fast footy, and the Ranges took toll with five goals to one in the first half. A third term stalemate was broken by Ava Jordan late in the piece, who gave Northern a sniff heading into the last. It was all the Knights needed, as they stormed home with four goals to nil to claim a stirring win.

Jordan won plaudits from a raft of high profile onlookers for her 24 disposals and two goals, which proved enormous in helping Northern edge back into the contest and eventually, ahead. Tarrah Delgado was strong in defence before a game-changing move to midfield, while Ella Smallacombe worked hard to urge her side into attacking positions and Monique Ramsay was combative in the ruck.

Keeley Sherar was Eastern’s standout player from midfield, spurring her side on with 16 touches and a goal. 15-year-old Alyssia Pisano was also dangerous forward of centre and booted two majors, while Georgia Campbell showed rare athleticism in bursts through the ruck and Ruby O’Dwyer was kept busy further afield.

The Ranges’ next task promises to be another ripping match-up as they face Calder on Thursday night in an all-Metro battle. Meanwhile, the Knights travel down the highway to take on Geelong at Deakin University on Sunday.

GOALS:

Northern: T. Mills 2, A. Jordan, T. Delgado, M. Ramsay.
Eastern: A. Pisano 2, S. Potter 2, K. Sherar.

DC BEST:

Northern: A. Jordan, T. Delgado, E. Smallacombe, T. Smart, M. Ramsay, L. Beatty
Eastern: K. Sherar, A. Pisano, G. Campbell, R. O’Dwyer, B. Deed, I. Khoury

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)
4 – Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)
3 – Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)
2 – Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)
1 – Ella Smallacombe (Northern Knights)

NAB League Girls Round 6 preview: Academy teams arrive for bumper clashes

ALL four Northern Academy teams will arrive in the NAB League Girls competition, with the Sydney Swans, Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns playing in Victoria, while GWS GIANTS meet the Murray Bushrangers in Lavington, New South Wales.

In a huge boost for the NAB League Girls, the clash between Geelong Falcons and Sydney Swans Academy, and the double-header featuring the Queensland Academy teams and Northern Knights and Eastern Ranges, will not only be streamed via the NAB League app, but also feature live commentary. We preview all the Round 6 games below.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWS GIANTS ACADEMY
Saturday, March 13 @ 10am
Lavington Sports Ground

The first NAB League Girls game of the year to be played in New South Wales takes place between Murray Bushrangers and GWS GIANTS Academy. It also marks the first game of what will be four across the weekend, introducing the Northern Academy sides to some Victorian opposition. Murray Bushrangers are yet to win a game in the NAB League Girls, and their AFL Women’s Academy player Ally Morphett will suit up in the orange and charcoal against the Bushrangers’ other towering ruck in Lily Kozuharoff. After making her debut for North Melbourne VFL Women’s last week, Jayde Hamilton will be back at Under 19s level, roving the taps and going head-to-head with bottom-age jet Keeley Skepper onball.

Grace Hay is a critical inclusion in defence for the Bushrangers, teaming up with the likes of Mindy Quade, Chloe Locke and Kristy Whitehead forming a strong half-back line. They will need to contain teammate Lily Sharp who also switches jumpers for this clash, while Hayley Macdonald slotted three goals in the big 49-point win over Sydney Swans Academy a fortnight ago. She was named best on ground in that victory, with Sophie Trewartha another impressive forward on the day, Eleano Bishop and wing Brodie Mowbray others named amongst the best. India Lehman will take to the field for the GIANTS against her Bushrangers teammates, while Murray will look to in-form wing Aurora Smith to go head-to-head with Jessica Whelan in a matchup to watch. Zara Hamilton, Sophia McCarthy and Olivia Cicolini are others who can create scoring opportunities for the home side.

Murray has the experience at this level, but the real contest will be the interesting factor watching the GIANTS Academy making their debut at NAB League level with a number of Bushrangers to face off against their NAB League teammates.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY
Saturday, March 13 @ 11am
Deakin University Waurn Ponds

Heading much further south, another Academy team arrives in Victoria for a clash against the red-hot Geelong Falcons. The Falcons are 3-0 so far this season and have taken care of all their opponents thus far. Sydney has played two matches against the GIANTS Academy, splitting the results with a 20-point win, before a 49-point loss. Given Geelong could take out the entire title, this will be a great challenge for the Swans to partake in as they hit the field for the first time at NAB League Girls level. The Falcons head in without the in-form Annie Lee in defence, or leading goalkicker Renee Tierney up forward as they look to continue their stints at VFL Women’s level. Otherwise the Falcons will be relatively stable across the field and look to continue their form against the Swans.

The Falcons midfield of Tess Craven, Ash Van Loon, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson has been rock solid this year, and will be hard to beat. It will be a fantastic test for the likes of Ruby Sargent-Wilson and Hannah Cerezo who both stood out in the Academy matches recently. Up forward, Jessica Doyle slotted four as the sole AFL Women’s Academy for her state, but also the only one in the match. She will be the crucial player to watch up forward, though Willow Smith, Kyla Tracey and Jade Jarrett have all proven to be scoring options for the red and white side. Elizabeth Dowling will be the player her teammates look to with distribution outside the defensive 50, while Analea McKee and Ava McKeegan will look to drive the ball down the field from half-back. Ingrid Houtsma provides some X-factor on the win, and Mia Van Dyke has been thrown forward for this game, with reliable targets, Lucy Were and Gabbi Featherston making life difficult for the opposition. Other Swans who impressed in the Academy games include Kiara Beesley – who received a Draft Combine invitation last year – Maddy Hendrie, Ella Morris, Kahli Gilchrist and Ella Heads who will hope to make a good impression in this encounter.

Geelong is one of the teams to beat this season, but the Swans will get a great hitout ahead of next month’s AFL Women’s Under-19 Championships.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 13 @ 12.30pm
Penguin Reserve

Playing in the third state for the day’s action, Tasmania Devils host Dandenong Stingrays at Penguin Reserve. The Devils are coming off back-to-back wins in Victoria after their narrow defeat at the hands of Oakleigh Chargers a fortnight ago. If there is one team that can sympathise with them about losing to the Chargers in a nail-biter it is the Stingrays, who went down to the Chargers by a solitary point a week ago. Tasmania sits at 3-1 for the season, while the Stingrays have one less game under their belts for a 2-1 start, but could draw level with a win here. The Devils really ran out the final term against Bendigo Pioneers last Saturday, then managed to restrict Western Jets to just one point, meaning in their last seven quarters, the Devils’ defence has conceded just one behind. That will be important against a dangerous Stingrays’ forward line that contains Amber Clarke (three goals against Oakleigh) and the rotating Ashleigh Richards and Mackenzie Eardley who can be thrown there too.

Much like the Devils, the Stingrays have a really strong defensive outfit, with Eardley and Zoe Hill the twin towers in the key positions and the likes of Jaide Anthony and Jemma Radford providing the run. Amy Prokopiec has looked lively up forward this season, with her season-best four goals coming in Round 1, while Amy Bissett and Amy Edmand have also proven to kick multiple goals in a game through tight contests. The Devils midfield has been firing on all cylinders, withe speed of Perri King, class of Claire Ransom and hardness of Ella Maurer providing a nice balance on the inside. Given the Stingrays will be without the injured Emily Shepherd, it will be up to Richards and Felicity Crank to step up with Abbey Jordan in that onball group. Aprille Crooks, Priscilla Odwogo and Jemma Blair can provide the run out of defence for the Devils, while Meghan Gaffney never stops running.

This has all the hallmarks of being a thriller and being at home, Tasmania Devils might have the slight edge, but it is hard to look past the Stingrays who are just as well balanced as any side, but it shapes as the match to watch this weekend.

 

GWV REBELS vs. WESTERN JETS
Sunday, March 14 @ 11am
MARS Stadium

Taking to the field for their second game in four days, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels will host the Western Jets – who only have a six-day break themselves – at MARS Stadium on Sunday morning. The Rebels trialled key forward Ella Friend on a wing and she has been named there again in what could be an absolute blockbuster of a matchup against Jets’ talent Charlotte Baskaran. The one-on-ones across the ground are superb, with Lilli Condon set to go up against Montana Ham, and though the height difference might be substantial, neither player will take a backwards step. Paige Scott booted three goals against the Bendigo Pioneers on Wednesday, her second three-goal haul of the year, and will be the danger player inside 50. The smaller defenders in Paige Ryan, Laura Elliott and Kate Maxwell have done well in moving the ball in transition, and will need to stem the flow of inside 50s from the Rebels midfielders.

Up the other end, Nyakoat Dojiok is a brick wall with her ability to read the ball in flight and intercept mark a treat, and Molly Walton is one of the more consistent bottom-age talents running around back there, already tasked with the kick-in duties. Chloe Leonard could slot back onto half-back, but will start onball against Trinity Skenderis, while Ally Trigg and Tahlia Meier both have the capacity to roll from the midfield forward. Kensley Ward has brought the defensive intensity up forward in her two games thus far, while Caitlin Sargent and Jemima Woods are the key forward targets inside 50. Krystal Russell has enjoyed a strong debut season as well through the ruck, and will go head-to-head against Kalani Scoullar.

If the Rebels get up, they move to 3-2 for the season, while the Jets sit at 1-3 currently and would join the Rebels with a 2-3 record if they can topple the home team up in Ballarat.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. CALDER CANNONS
Sunday, March 14 @ 11.30am
Ronald Reserve, Morwell East

Over east, Gippsland Power host Calder Cannons with the home team searching for its first win of the season, while the Calder Cannons are hoping to go back-to-back after a strong win over Northern Knights 10 days earlier under lights at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The Power have become comfortable at Ronald Reserve in Morwell East, with this fixture being their third consecutive match at the venue having played Northern Knights and Sandringham Dragons there in recent weeks. The Power put in their best effort last week against the Dragons, with their lowest losing margin of 58 points, but also slotting three goals in the process. The battle to watch will be in the midfield where Grace McRae could go head-to-head with fellow hard nut Emelia Yassir, while Yasmin Duursma and Macie Gilmour go up against Olivia Manfre and Reese Sutton onball. Georgie Prespakis has been thrown forward in a huge one-on-one contest with Lily-Rose Williamson which will be a great test for the bottom-ager given she possesses similar powerful traits.

Shanara Notman returns to the Power side to provide that tall intercepting target in defence, but could also be thrown forward, with Matilda Van Berkel and Holly Booth named in the key position forward spots though both have become reliable defenders in past years. Indiana Makai has been in good form of late, with Sunday Brisbane and Calder’s Mali McLeod also capable of taking grass with ball-in-hand a long a wing. Neve Crowley will be a crucial key tall for the Cannons up forward, with Alisa Magri (three goals against Northern) and Jessica Zakkour both damaging options inside 50. Up the other end, Kasey Lennox is rock solid at full-back, while Zali Friswell and Tahlia Gillard have both been named on the bench but can roll on and play in multiple positions, quite usually relieving the midfield.

Calder Cannons will be looking for a big win here, but Gippsland will be up for the fight, it will just be about keeping possession and getting the ball forward to their keys, then trying to capitalise on the transition.

 

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. BRISBANE LIONS ACADEMY
Sunday, March 14 @ 12.45pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora

In the first of a double-header at La Trobe University, Northern Knights will host Brisbane Lions Academy in what is poised to be a fantastic contest. The Lions Academy might be underrated, but they have three AFL Women’s Academy members out on the park, with Maggie Harmer, Mikayla Pauga and Bella Smith all running out for the Lions in their first NAB League Girls game. Harmer and Pauga will start through the midfield, though the latter could go forward and join Smith in the front six, while Harmer is more than capable of dropping back and being a reliable rebounding defender as well. The Lions have plenty of versatile players in their outfit, with Chelsea Chesterfield and Lucia Liessi both able to front up in the forward line, but will start in defence for this match.

The Knights have been able to create plenty of marking targets inside 50, with Megan Girolami enjoying a fantastic season this year, and the likes of Ella Smallacombe and Simone Mooney being the key talls in there. Trinity Mills has been a tough player to contain, while wings Maykaylah Appleby – Northern’s AFL Women’s Academy member – and Brooke Plummer have created driving runs and pumping the ball inside 50. Grace Wake returns from injury for the Knights for her first game of the season, teaming up with Tarrah Delgado in the back 50, while Ava Jordan has been a sensational find as an 05-born talent this season. An injury to Maeve Chaplin last week means she will miss out, but the Knights have plenty of depth through the side. Other Lions youngsters who have impressed in the Queensland colours or at QAFL Women’s level before include Macie Brown, Tiarna Jericho and Izzy Kotatis, while Phoebe Baird battling with Appleby as two smooth movers will be a matchup to watch.

Northern will be favourites for this clash, but Brisbane Lions could be the pick of the Academy sides this weekend, so if there is to be an upset, it could be this one.

 

EASTERN RANGES vs. GOLD COAST SUNS ACADEMY
Sunday, March 14 @ 2.45pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora

In the second game at the revamped La Trobe University, Eastern Ranges will hope to bounce back from their first loss two weeks ago when they take on the other Queensland Academy side in Gold Coast Suns. The Ranges will be without Olivia Meagher who will continue her stint at Collingwood’s VFL Women’s side tonight against Western Bulldogs, which means another midfielder will need to try and contain Queensland’s top draft prospect in Teagan Levi. The sister of Gold Coast’s Maddison, Levi is a terrific inside midfielder who can play in multiple roles, but will bullock the ball out of the stoppage with good burst and power. She is hard to match up on, but Bridget Deed looks to be the one set to go head-to-head with her. The Eastern midfield is a strong one, with in-form ruck Georgia Campbell, and midfielders Keeley Sherar and Ruby O’Dwyer both in good form ahead of this clash. A trio of Ranges return from VFL Women’s duty with Isabelle Khoury (wing), Matilda Hardy (half-forward) and Jess Grace (interchange) all named for the clash.

The Suns have some great talent across the board, with key forward at QAFL Women’s level Jasmyn Davidson named at full-back for this clash showing off her versatility. Up the other end is Lily Tarlinton, with her and Faith Alchin filling out the key position posts. Keyshia Matenga has speed to burn and expect her to come off the bench to roll onto a wing against either Khoury or Jorja Livingstone, while twins Laquoiya and Litonya Cockatoo-Motlop provide a family bond within the team. Alyssia Pisano is a name to keep in mind for the future as a damaging ball user in side 50, while Caitlin Thorne is another Suns player named at half-forward who could create some havoc inside 50.

Eastern Ranges have shown to have the depth to beat most teams and will be favourites here, but led by Levi, the Suns will hope to win plenty of clearances and get the ball forward for scoring opportunities.