Tag: ruby schleicher

Sharks youth set to shine in 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: East Fremantle Women’s Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

Image Credit: Sarah Reed/AFL Photos

Credit: Mike Owen/Getty Images via AFL Photos

MAGPIES SWOOP EARLY TO DOWN TRADITIONAL RIVALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Pies’ final quarter finishing too much for Cats

COLLINGWOOD made it two for two after a strong final term saw it take the four points against Geelong at Victoria Park, 6.9 (45) to 2.4 (16). It was a high pressure and hotly contested game throughout, with both teams’ backlines showing strong understanding of team structures and the opposition ball movement.

The Cats started off looking to rectify the result of Round 1, earning themselves the first goal, coming from first gamer Olivia Barber, within the first minute of the game. The opportunity came from a smother on a Ruby Schleicher kick by Richelle Cranston, setting the tone for the intensity of pressure the Cats would continue for the quarter. Schleicher would respond four minutes later, earning herself a free kick and 50-metre penalty after receiving high contact when attempting to intercept a wayward kick out of the Pies’ forward line. With both teams using the ball well and constantly looking threatening it was a quarter that saw the backlines shine.

The Cats clean ball use and preparation around stoppages ended up earning them their second goal from Madeline Boyd. The quarter ended with Collingwood’s Mikala Cann getting a back-to-back 50-metre penalties for herself and kicking a goal from the square right on the siren.

The second quarter started where the first left off, both teams maintaining the tackling pressure that was present earlier, and having their backlines set up well for any attack. Despite having majority of the early play in their forward half, the Pies were largely wasteful in the second, missing some clear cut opportunities with minor scores. The second half of the quarter saw the cats have control, constantly sieging the Pies defence who did well to not concede a goal. We wouldn’t see our first goal until the 14th minute, with Chloe Molloy kicking a brilliant snap out the back of a pack. The efforts of Brittany Bonnici, Brianna Davey, Olivia Purcell and Julia Crockett-Grills made it difficult for either team to have a clear run heading inside forward 50.

The start of the second half was a supreme defensive effort from Geelong, with Jordan Ivey, Meghan McDonald and Rebecca Webster doing everything they could to resist a relentless Pies attack. The Pies found scoring opportunities coming fairly often throughout the quarter, but were unable to capitalise only getting three minor scores for their hard work. It was Sophie Alexander getting herself involved in everything up forward, with one effort from outside of 50 being deemed a touched behind after being chased down by cats players, she also showcased her marking ability with a contested grab that, unfortunately, didn’t eventuate into a score.

With the margin just 10 points despite the Pies controlling most of the third, the Cats were still in with a chance to snatch the game away. The fourth started similar to the last three quarters, hotly contested footy, with both backlines dealing with entries without much trouble and the midfields being hot on each other, not allowing any easy disposal. The Pies got themselves the first of the quarter to extend their lead, Davey finding time in all the chaos to sneak one in. They quickly followed up, with the previous goal kicker booting the ball in long from the centre bounce, having teammate Sarah Rowe reward the effort in her return game. Collingwood’s defence didn’t get complacent despite the lead, consistently repelling Geelong attacks into the late end of the quarter, with Schleicher even using an intercept possession to set up teammate, Alexander for a late goal.

It was a strong game for Davey and with 25 disposals and a goal she’ll be happy with her impact around the ground, as well as teammate, Bonnicci with 24 disposals and nine marks.

Webster and Purcell led the way for the Cats with 18 and 17 disposals respectively, and Crockett-Grills leading all comers for tackles with six. Debutants Barber, Stephanie Williams (Geelong) and Joanna Lin (Collingwood) all had good moments throughout the match as well, showing promise for the future.

Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

COLLINGWOOD 2.0 | 3.4 | 3.7 | 6.9 (45)
GEELONG 2.2 | 2.3 | 2.3 | 2.4 (16)

GOALS:

Collingwood: S. Alexander, M. Cann, B. Davey, C. Molloy, R. Schleicher, S. Rowe
Geelong: O. Barber, M. Boyd

DC BEST:

Collingwood: B. Davey, R. Schleicher, B. Bonnici, J. Lambert, S. Livingstone
Geelong: R. Webster, O. Purcell, A. O’Connor, J. Crockett-Grills, A. McDonald

Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

DEMONS ACCELERATE AWAY FROM TOOTHLESS TIGERS

Melbourne’s perfect start to the season continued on Saturday as the Demons accelerated away from Richmond after quarter time to win by 28 points at Casey Fields. Having booted the opening goal of the game through Sabrina Frederick, the Tigers were kept goalless until the final term as Melbourne steadily increased its advantage, running out 7.2 (44) to 2.4 (16) victors on home turf.

The Demons snuck ahead in the second term via the boot of prize draftee Alyssa Bannan, who snared her first two senior goals in as many minutes to open up a handy buffer. Melbourne’s tall timbers up forward, which included the likes of Bannan, Tegan Cunningham, and Eden Zanker, proved a handful for the Richmond defence as the Dees’ midfield began to get on top of the seemingly single-string Tigers engine room.

Two-goal blocks per term saw Melbourne built insurmountable scoreboard pressure, advancing 34-points clear before new Richmond vice-captain Sarah Hosking claimed her first major in the yellow and black. The goal came with just a couple of minutes left on the clock after the former Carlton midfielder was caught in a dangerous tackle at the top of the goalsquare.

In the end, Melbourne’s hardness at the ball and greater avenues to goal saw them through, with bouncy transition in the second half also proving telling in the result. The Demons’ victory was only soured by what looked to be a serious hamstring injury to young forward Krstel Petrevski, who limped off in the ground in the third quarter.

At the core of Melbourne’s midfield success, the centre bounce combination of Lily Mithen (20 disposals, seven tackles), Tyla Hanks (19 disposals, six tackles), and Karen Paxman (19 disposals, one goal) worked wonders in the win. All Australian Kate Hore was typically productive forward of centre, booting a game-high two goals alongside Bannan.

Monique Conti was unsurprisingly back to her best for Richmond, leading all comers with 27 touches after a touch less opposition attention than last round. 2020 number one pick Ellie McKenzie was again prominent with her explosiveness on the attack, gathering 15 disposals, while talls Frederick and Harriet Cordner dug in at either end of the ground.

The result leaves Richmond 0-2 and with plenty to do to get something out of season 2021, while Melbourne is poised beautifully at 2-0 and looks every bit the finals contender having been thereabouts for many consecutive seasons.

MELBOURNE 1.0 | 3.1 | 5.2 | 7.2 (44)
RICHMOND 1.0 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 2.4 (16)

GOALS:

Melbourne: A. Bannan 2, K. Hore 2, T. Cunningham, S. Scott, K. Paxman
Richmond: S. Frederick, S. Hosking

DC BEST:

Richmond: M. Conti, E. McKenzie, H. Cordner, S. Frederick
Melbourne: L. Mithen, K. Hore, T. Hanks, K. Paxman, A. Bannan, E. Zanker

Pies shock Blues on AFLW’s return

THE long awaited return of AFL Women’s for season 2021 arrived on Thursday night, with traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood shaping up at Ikon Park for a huge start to season five. A tribute to Jacinda Barclay opened the match with a moment of silence, before football returned at full throttle with Victorian fans treated to their first live match since mid-2020. While a slow start from both sides kept a full house of fans on the edge of their seats, a stagnant Blues outfit and a huge four-goal second term from the Magpies saw the tides quickly turn as fast-paced footy began, with the Pies running out six-point winners 5.3 (33) to 4.3 (27) to open the season with a bang.

While the match may not have started with the bang many fans were expecting from the two sides, it was a tight battle early with neither side willing to give through the midfield and very little going the way of the scoreboard. Both backlines worked in overdrive limiting movement, with the first score of the game – a behind – going the way of Jaimee Lambert, rendered inaccurate by the continuous efforts of the likes of Mua Laloifi and Charlotte Wilson, who tracked the ball well. But much the same was happening at the other end, with the Blues missing targets and Ruby Schleicher proving a ball magnet and rebounded with ease.

But things quickly switched into gear for the Magpies in the second, with Chloe Molloy moved forward and turned on the foot candy with two goals from right out in front. It saw the Pies pile on the pressure as the Blues remained scoreless in the first half for the first time since 2019. Where the Blues’ defence had held strong in the first, they scrambled in the second term with no answers for the combination of Molloy and Bri Davey out the front, while Aliesha Newman turned on the speed – later reported for a dangerous tackle – and Lambert continued to fire on all cylinders as the Pies went four goals up, looking dangerous as the Blues wasted opportunities. Maddy Prespakis was unafraid of the contest, throwing herself at the footy and at former Blue Davey, while all eyes were on the matchup between Stacey Livingstone and Tayla Harris as the game hit the midway point, with the duo matching in intensity and hunt for the footy.

A talking to from Carlton coach Daniel Harford seemed to do the trick for the Blues, coming out with a renewed sense of intensity and pressure after half-time, hitting back with three straight goals. Nicola StevensDarcy Vescio and Jess Hosking all put majors on the board – with the third coming from a pinpoint precise Prespakis – as a scoring end shaped up. While the Baggers showed a lot more fight, the Pies retained the lead with an excellent running goal from Aishling Sheridan, courtesy of Lambert, seeing the Magpies head into the final change with an 11-point advantage.

After a busy second and third quarter, scoring dried up in the last with neither side able to really break through the fierce defensive buffers down back. While the Pies missed a couple of early chances to extend their lead, Carlton had their own fair share of opportunities too with the footy locked inside their forward 50 for much of the last five minutes. While the last score of the match was a goal to Kerryn Harrington after the siren, it was a sombre celebration as the Magpies started off their 2021 campaign with the solid 33-27 victory and plenty of confidence.

On the stats sheet, Britt Bonnici led all comers with 22 disposals, five marks and four tackles, while Lambert (18 touches, five tackles) and Prespakis (18 and three) were not far behind. Abbie McKay proved she has more in her wheelhouse leading the tackle count with seven to go with her 10 touches, while two players from each side racked up six tackles apiece in the physical battle.

Both teams have just over a week to prepare for their next respective matches, with the Blues heading to VU Whitten Oval next Friday night to take on the Western Bulldogs, while the Pies host the Gold Coast Suns in their first home match of the season next Saturday afternoon at Victoria Park.

CARLTON | 0.0 | 0.0 | 3.1 | 4.3 (27)
COLLINGWOOD | 0.1 | 4.2 | 5.2 | 5.3 (33)

GOALS
Carlton: Stevens, Vescio, Hosking, Harrington.
Collingwood: Molloy 2, Sheridan 2, Davey.

ADC BEST
Carlton: Prespakis, Laloifi, Wilson, Egan, Hosking
Collingwood: Bonnici, Lambert, Davey, Molloy, Schleicher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

ADC BEST:

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

Picture: Owen Davies/Peel Thunder

WAFL Women’s Preliminary Final: Peel Thunder vs. East Fremantle

IT is somewhat fitting that Peel Thunder and East Fremantle face off in the preliminary final of the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition. The red-hot Sharks, coming from nowhere needed to string three consecutive wins together in the final three rounds – which they did – and then another three in finals in order to take out the premiership. They are no stranger to success, having won the past two flags, including the last for the WAWFL and first for the WAFL Women’s last year. Peel Thunder on the other hand are playing their first ever finals series, and are searching for their first ever finals win.

A last round win to the Thunder over the Tigers helped Peel grab second spot, in no small part thanks to East Fremantle’s victory over Swan Districts. It saw the Sharks sneak into third spot on the table, leapfrog the Swans and end Claremont’s season all in one. Prior to the last few rounds of the season, the Sharks had only won the Round 1 match over newcomers, South Fremantle, and had not managed to find the grove since, losing to each of the other sides along the way. With the return of some key players, the reigning premiers are ready to go deep again, and standing in their way is a young Peel Thunder side that has been mighty impressive this season in what has clearly been a standout 2020 for them.

Kira Phillips again won the goalkicking for the Thunder, being a dominant force with 13 goals in eight games and a major target up there. Kate Bartlett (seven goals) and Krystal Carter (five) have also been prominent. For the Sharks, they have three players on five snags, with Sara Lewis, Katelyn Catalano and Stephanie Sparke all hitting the milestone despite six or less games this season. Now the teams will be relying on them to help kick a winning score, after Peel lost to Subiaco last week, and East Fremantle doubled up on its effort against Swan Districts.

The Peel defence up against the East Fremantle attack will be a battle to watch within the clash, as the likes of Tanisha Anderson and Shannon Whale lead the young Thunder outfit. For the Sharks, their experience up front such as Gabby O’Sullivan and Lewis is key, whilst in defence, the Sharks have Alex Williams and Ruby Schleicher who provide that AFL Women’s talent. They will need to find a way to stop Phillips who is a known goalkicker, as is another AFLW player in Kate Bartlett.

The Thunder have less experience, but make up for it in youthful exuberance. Sarah Verrier is one of Western Australia’s top prospects this year, and is one of 13 players named amongst the extended squad in last week’s match. Along with Verrier, Jade Briggs and Jaide Britton are both top-agers, while Courtney Rowley and Bella Mann are middle-agers showing some promising signs. The Thunder even have a couple of players in their 16th year, with Gracie Fenton and Ella Roberts – the latter of whom does not turn 16 until December. With all that youth, it makes it crucial for the likes of Cassie Davidson and Carter to stand up and settle the team down in big moments.

East Fremantle have no shortage of experience players, but still have some teenagers running around, such as 19-year-old Rosie Walsh who has been a target up forward since booting 11 goals in Round 1 for the Reserves. She earned an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitation, whilst over-agers Lily Bird, Kate Inglis-Hodge and Zoe Gillard are others who stand out week to week. A player to watch for next year from the Sharks is exciting forward, Chloe Reilly, who is the youngest player in the team, not turning 17 until next month. The Sharks luckily have plenty of experience in O’Sullivan, Kimberley Bowey, Sharon Wong, Madeline Ross and Larissa Versachi, whilst Julie-Ann Norrish has been superb in defence.

The game is hard to predict a winner, with the East Fremantle experience no doubt playing a factor, but the Thunder have so much young talent, they are always dangerous and after getting the first taste of finals out of the way last week, will be keen to post a win and earn a second crack at Subiaco in the grand final next week.

Final quarter frenzy sends Sharks into the prelim

A FINAL quarter frenzy by reigning premiers, East Fremantle has seen the Sharks bob up and defeat Swan Districts for the second consecutive week in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition. Last week’s win over the Swans was to secure home ground advantage – as well as a finals spot itself – while this week was putting the final nail in the black and whites coffin for the season. In what was an unpredictable contest – from the matchplay to the weather – East Fremantle got up just in the knick of time despite being held scoreless for two quarters.

The Sharks kicked the first two goals of the game thanks to a strong breeze favouring their end at New Choice Homes Park, with Samara Pluschke getting on the board via a snap just one minute into the contest. The Swans had chances of their own, with young guns Mikayla Morrison and Shanae Davison combining to give veteran, Fi Boucher a chance but could not quite control it, while Nyra Anderson kicked into the player on the mark from 20m out. The wind was making it difficult for the Swans, with even the football seemingly barracking for the Swans.

Ashley Sharp was running into an open 50, only for a Jack Crisp-like bounce to cause her to reassess, only to be caught by Pluschke at half-forward. Julie-Ann Norrish and Alex Williams were having sensational days down back, whilst Gabby O’Sullivan was doing Gabby O’Sullivan things, and setting up her teammates. A long bomb inside 50 only just missed the hands of Rosie Walsh, but O’Sullivan’s next touch was an intercept and handball to Lily Bird 30m out who made no mistake off a quick step from 30m. The Sharks led by 14 points, and it was only a Jess Cox chance – a snap towards goal – that was knocked through for a behind to make the deficit 13 points at the first break.

The second term was more of an arm-wrestle for both sides, as Mother Nature had a laugh at the players expense. The strange term began with Larissa Versaci winning a free for being polaxed – by her own teammate – much to the shock of Anderson who the umpire blamed for the contact. Light rain began falling a few minutes into the contest, and that became heavy rain seven and a half minutes through, before Mother Nature decided she wanted to go the full distance and just outright bucketed down in what was more of a good day for ducks rather than Swans or Sharks, but both sides adapted to the new conditions.

It was unlucky for the Swans who could not take full advantage of the wind like the Sharks had in the first term, but after a few chances from Anderson and Tara Stribley, Swan Districts broke through. Morrison had a set shot that looked like it was a dry day, putting through a vital major, the first of the contest for the visitors to draw within five points at half-time. The work of Mikayla Hyde and Hayley Cole had been impressive, as the Swans just kept within touch at the main break.

The rain lightened up after that, with the third term more wet conditions than consistent rain, and it was Swan Districts that emerged beneficiaries despite kicking into the wind. They booted three goals to zero, holding the Sharks goalless for a second straight quarter. Off the back of some great work by Anderson, Sharp was able to get ball to boot early despite slipping over, handing her side the lead. Not long after a multitude of 50s in an undisciplined effort by the Sharks, handed dour full-back Lauren Osborne with the most unlikely of set shots from the goalsquare. The defender delivered for the Swans, extending her side’s lead out to seven points at the 10-minute mark of the quarter.

A kicking in danger call against Ruby Schleicher gave Mikayla Hyde a set shot from 30m, with the talented top-age teenager making no mistake, judging the breeze perfectly. Along with Anderson, Davison and her sister Brianna Hyde, Mikayla was willing her side to victory. With the lead out to 14 points, East Fremantle needed a response, but unfortunately could not muster anything of note as Versaci had a good old fashioned worm burner in the Sharks’ only set shot of the term.

Having to match Swan Districts’ effort of three goals against the breeze in the last quarter, the Sharks got to work looking damaging from the get-go. Katelyn Catalano got them on the board for the first time since midway through the first term, albeit soccering through a behind. Swans had moved Boucher to defence in order to add some extra experience behind the ball, but she was caught holding Sara Lewis who made no mistake from 15m out and got the ball rolling for the home team. The Swans continued to attack, but the work of Norrish, Williams and Schleicher was keeping them at bay. Morrison missed an uncharacteristic flying shot at the goal six minutes into the term to make the margin eight points, which would end up being the Swans last score of the game.

East Fremantle dominated possession the next six minutes, but it would take a defensive effort from Versaci who laid a terrific tackle, to nail a set shot from 15 metres to draw within two points. In a surprise to no one, it was O’Sullivan who popped up with the game-winner. Receiving the handball out of a stoppage, O’Sullivan put ball to boot with a clever snap to create something out of nothing and hand her side the lead with five minutes to play. Chloe Reilly almost kicked a third goal in a few minutes with the outside of the boot, but it went through the wrong sticks.

The lead was still four points, and despite Mikayla Hyde and Davison pressing up the wing great defensive pressure from the Sharks kept the Swans from advancing any further. With a couple of repeat stoppages inside 50 – and an O’Sullivan set shot that chewed her 30 seconds off the clock – the reigning premiers were able to hold on in a game that was as unpredictable as the 2020 year, and move through to face Peel Thunder in the preliminary final next week.

EAST FREMANTLE 2.2 | 2.2 | 2.2 | 5.5 (35)
SWAN DISTRICTS 0.1 | 1.3 | 4.4 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS: 

East Fremantle: S. Pluschke, L. Bird, S. Lewis, L. Versaci, K. Catalano.
Swan Districts: M. Morrison, A. Sharp, L. Osborne, M. Hyde.

ADC BEST:

East Fremantle: G. O’Sullivan, S. Wong, M. Ross, J. Norrish, A. Williams
Swan Districts: M. Hyde, B. Hyde, S. Davison, J. Cox, A. Ralph

In an equally topsy-turvy game, minor premiers Subiaco were able to hold on in a low-scoring win over Peel Thunder to book a spot in the WAFL Women’s Grand Final. The Lions booted the only two goals of the first term to lead by 13 points, before the Thunder kicked three of the next four majors to hit the front at half-time. Trailing by two points at the main break, Subiaco edged ahead courtesy of a 1.2 to 0.0 third term, and in wet conditions held on in a no-score final term. The end result was a 4.4 (28) to 3.4 (22) victory in favour of the Lions who now have a week off to await the winner of Peel Thunder and East Fremantle in the preliminary final next weekend.

Kia Buckley (two goals), Aimee Schmidt (one) and Abbey Dowrick (one) all hit the scoreboard for the Lions, while Kate Bartlett (two) and Chloe Wrigley (one) were the major goalkickers for the Thunder in defeat. Subiaco’s best were Jessica Ritchie, Tiah Haynes and Ange Stannett, while the experience of Hayley Miller was crucial. For the Thunder, Wrigley, Courtney Rowley and Tanisha Anderson were all named amongst the best and will be important in their clash next week.

Picture: (via) East Fremantle Women’s Facebook

Peel Thunders to second spot and first finals appearance

PEEL Thunder has powered to their first finals series in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition, and left Claremont as the collateral damage, winning by nine points in a tight tussle on the weekend. Sitting in fifth coming into the round, but four points and percentage essentially separating second from fifth in various ways, all the teams were capable to making finals with only one to fall out. In this case, it was Peel’s 5.5 (35) to 3.8 (26) win over the then third placed Tigers to book a spot in the post-season series.

Claremont had the better start of the sides, using the wind to advantage and dominating time in forward half. By the first break, the Tigers would have six scoring shots to none on the scoreboard, but led by just 11 points, not capitalising on their chances as best they could. Both teams were missing some key players for the match, but it was Mhicca Carter who in the ninth minute of the term, got her side on the board from a free kick, playing on and snapping around her body to catch the Thunder defence off guard. It had capped off a strong first half of the term that up until that point, had not eventuated on the scoreboard.

Ella Smith was willing her team on multiple occasions, with Sasha Goranova and Brooke Whyte combining on a number of opportunities for the Tigers whilst the Thunder defence has to be given credit for holding up under heat. Tanisha Anderson was superb, particularly in the opening minutes playing off half-back, while Bella Mann on debut was lively, and the likes of Cassie Davidson and Ebony Dowson were doing well deep in defence. The Thunder were fortunate that a number of chances went begging including a late loose ball which saw the athletic Amy Franklin run onto the ball but it just escape her grasp and roll through for a behind much to the relief of Peel defender, Whitney Benson.

Turning their game around, the Thunder began to build their way back into the contest which started with a terrific Shannon Whale spoil at half-back on Whyte in opening minute. Anderson and Jade Briggs were working well in transition between defence to attack, while Laura Pugh was holding up at half-back for Claremont. On more than a number of occasions Sarah Garstone saved the day on the last line, walking it across the goalline off a tricky bounce. Soon Hannah Church got involved with a couple of shots for the Thunder missing a chance from the boundary line, but then working hard to find space 30m out on a better angle off a Tigers turnover to mark and goal at the 12-minute mark.

With Peel now on the board, it was not long before they added another with a free kick to Kira Phillips inside 50, and Kate Bartlett took the chance to play on and fire on the run to extend the lead to five points on the edge of half-time. The work of Whale, Bartlett and Ella Roberts was swinging the momentum in the home team’s favour, and while Emily Bennett and Krstel Petrevski were impressing through the midfield, it was the Thunder who were on top at the main break.

It was evident from early in the third that Peel had already adapted to kicking against the wind better in this quarter compared to the first term, and attacked from the outset. They had an early chance after an inside 50 from Chloe Wrigley to set up Krystal Carter, though the shot drifted. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise however, as Greta McKinley was paid a free kick on the line and with Bartlett hanging a couple of metres around, the AFL Women’s experienced forward knew what to do with the quick handball and snap around her body for her second.

Claremont was defending bravely, and then went on the attack, with Goranova running down Anderson at half-forward to pile on the pressure inside 50. Peel managed to clear the danger zone, but only as far as Tessa Doumanis who spotted a loose Petrevski all alone 40m straight in front. The Melbourne AFL Women’s listed player made no mistake in the eighth minute mark, kicking Claremont’s first goal since the opening term. Smith almost had a couple of chances herself close to goal after a rare Franklin set shot fell short, but a desperate Davidson rugby-tried it across the line for a rushed behind.

Peel took the momentum from the defensive efforts to again rush the ball forward and Krystal Carter had another chance from 40m which again fell short, but brought Roberts into the game with enough air to allow the talented forward to leap and pull down a grab. She made no mistake from 15 metres out and goaled for a 10-point lead. It could have been cut to less than a kick in the final moments of the term, but once again Anderson was there to save the day and cleared to safety.

Holding a handy buffer at the break it was Peel’s game to lose. The Thunder just needed to hold on for another 20 minutes and they would be through to their first ever finals series. Chewing 12 minutes of the clock by both teams defences standing up, the Thunder were gaining more confident by the minute. They just needed to create contest after contest and ensure the Tigers could not get their running game going. Whale provided another goal-saving moment when Mhicca Carter bit off a touch too much by fending off and sidestepping a number of Peel players before trying to do the same with Whale who stood her ground and won the free at half-back. It was one of those game-changing moments that summarised Peel’s efforts throughout the season.

Then despite the best efforts of Smith and Garstone in Claremont’s back 50, it was Phillips who fittingly drove the final nail in the coffin with a set shot goal in the 13th minute. Now the Tigers needed three goals in seven minutes, more than double their score to that point. They did break through with a clever snap for Mhicca Carter’s second of the day with two minutes remaining, but ultimately barring a miracle, their time had run out. Roberts had a massive run-down tackle in the final 30 seconds and when Whale charged off half-back to clear it for the Thunder it was fitting that Peel had charged into its first finals series.

PEEL THUNDER 0.0 | 2.5 | 4.5 | 5.5 (35)
CLAREMONT 1.5 | 1.6 | 2.7 | 3.8 (26)

GOALS:

Peel: K. Bartlett 2, H. Church, E. Roberts, K. Phillips.
Claremont: M. Carter 2, K. Petrevski.

ADC BEST:

Peel: S. Whale, T. Anderson, K. Bartlett, H. Church, E. Roberts
Claremont: S. Goranova, K. Petrevski, E. Smith, M. Carter, E. Bennett

In other matches, South Fremantle played out of its skin against top of the table Subiaco in what was by far its most impressive performance to date. While the Bulldogs ended the season winless, they showed great signs against the minor premiers, going down by just 14 points in the final round. They conceded just one goal in the second half whilst booting three themselves, though the Lions still got the job done, 6.11 (47) to 5.3 (33). Subiaco coach Amy Lavell made a surprise return from retirement to boot three goals in the win, with Tiah Haynes, Aimee Schmidt and Maggie Maclachlan kicking the other majors. Tarnica Golisano and Holly Hyder were nominated as the Lions best, whilst the Bulldogs had five individual goalkickers. Tahlia McRoberts, Lauren Vecchio and Kiara Templeton all impressed in the losing side, while Fremantle ruck Mim Strom got a game in before the end of the season.

In the crucial season-on-the-line clash, reigning premiers East Fremantle kept their 2020 hopes alive with the Sharks getting the job done in a three-point thriller over Swan Districts. Ironically the result meant the teams go at it next week again in a do-or-die semi-final, and the Sharks will hope to start better (goalless in the first half), whilst the Swans will hope to finish better (one goal after quarter time). Alex Williams, Katelyn Catalano and Gabby O’Sullivan all booted majors for the Sharks, as Ruby Schleicher and Maddy Ross stepped up to be named among the best. For the Swans, it was Ashley Sharp, Brianna Hyde and Mikayla Morrison who converted opportunities in front of goal, while Eliza Gelmi and Aimee Ralph were nominated as Swan Districts’ best.

WAFL Women’s weekly wrap: Round 6 – Sharks circle finals with eight-point triumph over wounded Lions

EAST Fremantle has kept its hopes of a West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s three-peat alive with another narrow win in Round 6 of the competition, this time over a previously undefeated Subiaco outfit. The Lions almost looked destined to go through the regular season undefeated – not that they had not been pushed by teams prior – with only last placed and winless South Fremantle next week, but the Sharks ensured that did not happen with a season-defining win. It was a remarkable game in more ways than one with the “visiting” Sharks running out at East Fremantle Oval after the game was switched from New Choice Holmes Park.

If the change of venue was not already an omen for the Lions, than a hamstring injury to playmaker Beatrice Devlyn in the opening two minutes was a second roll of bad luck. As the saying goes, bad luck can often strike in threes, and two minutes into the second term, former AFL Women’s talent Lara Filocamo injured her ankle and had to be stretchered off. So just 22 minutes into the 80-minute match, the Lions were two players down and facing a six-point deficit at the first break.

That is to take nothing away from the promising start of the Sharks, who weathered the early Subiaco storm as the Lions had the breeze. A battle within the overall scheme of things was Fremantle teammates, Philipa Seth and Hayley Miller going head-to-head all day in the middle, in what would turn out to be a hotly contested fight with little room to move for two sides that often thrived on creating space. The first eight minutes of the opening term was played entirely in Subiaco’s half, with Jessica Ritchie playing out of the ruck and doing well, while Tiah Haynes was pressing high after coming off half-back and having an influence.

When the ball went down the Sharks end, Rosie Walsh took a strong contested mark and then gave off the quick hands to Gabby O’Sullivan in another contest moments later for the East Fremantle forward to kick their first score of the game. It would be a theme in the first term, as the combination worked again, with Walsh contesting, the ball falling to ground and O’Sullivan pouncing with a great crumbing goal. By quarter time, East Fremantle led 1.2 to 0.2 as O’Sullivan had the entire team’s score.

Janelle Cuthbertson was having some sort of game at full-back, keeping the former Lion and dangerous goalkicker, Sara Lewis in check whilst providing great run from defence. Katelyn Catalano had an early chance in the second term but hit the post, and from then, both defences stood up well. The teams tried to open up the game as Ruby Schleicher foiled a potential goal-scoring opportunity for the Lions with a one-on-one, and went for a four-bounce run down the wing later in the term to set up a goal-scoring opportunity for her own side. The Subiaco defence led by Tarnica Golisano was up to the task, spoiling the taller Walsh well to rush it through for a behind.

Neither team ended up putting through a major in the second term with just three behinds kicked for the entire quarter, including a gettable miss from the reliable Angela Stannett whose tackling pressure had been a highlight. Like many others, her set shot drifted for a behind, while O’Sullivan was pulling out the party tricks off the outside of the boot up the other end. Another snap, this time from Kahra Sprylan went begging into the post, and then a second chance off Sprylan’s boot was touched on the line by Holly Hyder. Haynes and Cuthbertson were crucial in keeping the Sharks goalless with the breeze, but Subiaco was still yet to kick a goal in the match.

That breakthrough goal finally came in the ninth minute when the clear best on ground in terms of her impact in O’Sullivan pounced with a snap after great work from Sprylan up the ground. The latter had won the ball, bounced off a couple of would-be tacklers then spun out of the contest to five her teammate a chance. As Lewis and Cuthbertson clashed in the marking contest, O’Sullivan swooped on the ball and slammed through a clever goal nine minutes into the quarter.

As if that had spurred on the top of the table Lions, Subiaco had its chances now, and knowing it had to take some advantage with the breeze, had a few forward forays. Haynes and Lindal Rohde were particularly driving the ball long, with Liana Burchell having a shot, but the reliable Julie-Anne Norrish rushing through another behind for the Lions. Not long after, Subiaco finally broke through for the long-awaited goal thanks to a deep forward 50 entry off the boot of Ritchie giving Danica Pisconeri a great chance one-on-one with the 2019 league best and fairest winner clunking it and then slotting the goal with five minutes remaining.

Both Chloe Reilly and Lewis had chances down the other end to stretch the lead out, but both put it out on the full with Reilly’s from a tough angle flying across the face, and Lewis from a shank set shot. Sensing the importance of not conceding another goal, Miller floated back into defence to take a strong grab and settled down the team to allow time off the clock and siren to go with her side only eight points down with 20 minutes to play.

O’Sullivan continued her ripping performance with some dangerous kicks inside 50 that put the Subiaco defence under all sorts of pressure. After kicking a coupe of herself in the first three quarters, the Fremantle AFL Women’s talent set up Catalano with a perfectly weighted kick to her advantage as the forward read the ball in flight well to mark and then goal. Five minutes into the quarter, the Sharks led by 14 points and it looked like a tough job for Subiaco to come back, kicking into the breeze.

Both defences remained steadfast by repeat stoppages and getting back to help out, though the teams were not without highlights. Cuthbertson burnt off Lewis after winning a one-on-one and had a four-bounce run down the wing, and then Jacqueline Toth had a huge chance in the 12th minute with a brilliant snap around the body. It was on target, but overage defender, Zoe Gillard read it like a book and was on the line to knock it over for a rushed behind. Toth would get a second chance a few minutes later though, with some scrappy work forward by the Lions paying off as Ritchie just kept the ball moving forward for Toth to snap and put it home.

With four and a half minutes remaining in the match, Subiaco trailed by seven points and needed some luck. Miller tried everything for her side, taking a match-record five-bounce run forward to kick inside 50, but the reliability of Norrish was able to see it safely out. It led to East Fremantle keeping it up the other end with O’Sullivan again having a shot on goal, but her shot hit the post for a final behind as the siren sounded not long after for an eight-point win.

It was hard to determine bests in an even game, but Cuthbertson and Haynes were superb for the losing side, with Miller always trying hard. For East Fremantle, O’Sullivan was the difference, while Seth in the midfield and Norrish in defence was outstanding and consistent throughout, making it an awesome contest to watch. The win gives East Fremantle the pole position of fourth, but it will need to defeat Swan Districts in the final round and hope Peel Thunder goes down to Claremont, or does not gain the three percentage points required to steal fourth. Subiaco had already secured top spot, with more than a 100 per cent difference to the second placed Swans, but the Lions will be keen to finish off the season well and not hold back against the winless Bulldogs in the final round.

SUBIACO 0.2 | 0.4 | 1.5 | 2.6 (18)
EAST FREMANTLE 1.2 | 1.3 | 2.7 | 3.8 (26)

GOALS:

Subiaco: D. Pisconeri, J. Toth.
East Fremantle: G. O’Sullivan 2, K. Catalano.

ADC BEST:

Subiaco: J. Cuthbertson, T. Haynes, H. Miller, L. Burchell, J. Ritchie
East Fremantle: G. O’Sullivan, P. Seth, J. Norrish, K. Catalano, K. Bowey

In other results, Swan Districts further established its claims as a premiership contender, knocking Peel Thunder out of the four with a seven-point victory, whilst Claremont enjoyed a 56-point win over South Fremantle. It was all the youth who starred for the Swans in the victory over Peel, as Shanae Davison (three goals), Mikayla Morrison (two), Olivia Cripps (one), Bianca Webb (one) and Nyra Anderson (one) all aged 20 years or younger. For Peel, Courtney Rowley, Greta McKinley and Kira Phillips all booted multiple goals, while Bailey Molloy scored one in the loss. For the Tigers, Brooke Whyte and Amy Franklin both slotted three goals in the big win, Mhicca Carter kicked two, and Sasha Goranova slotted one, while Poppy Stockwell kicked the sole major for the Bulldogs in the loss.

Picture credit: JBC Studios

Lewis crosses country and rekindles love for Aussie rules

“I DECIDED I wasn’t really cut out for it or didn’t really like it too much.”

It is hard to believe that this is was what 10-year-old Bella Lewis thought when she played a one-off game with the boys back in Sydney. Fast forward eight years and the Western Australia State Academy and National Women’s Academy talent could not have a more different opinion. The Claremont midfielder is one of her state’s brightest AFL Women’s Draft prospects, and she credits that to her move to the western seaboard in her early teenage years.

It was definitely a change,” Lewis said. “I think it was at a point in my life going from primary school to high school was a big change in friends groups and pressure like that so it was definitely a big change. “I think it was definitely for the better, I don’t think I’d probably be playing footy if I hadn’t moved.”

It was not just the access to playing the game, but also the feeling amongst her peers. Lewis admitted she went from an area where very few talked about let along played Australian rules, to a school that cannot get enough of the oblong ball game.

I think nowadays with footy every time you go to school, someone’s talking about the game,” Lewis said. “Whereas in Sydney it was more, it wasn’t really talked about thing. “I guess even five or six years ago, female footy there wasn’t an AFLW, there wasn’t a competition. “Definitely now in WA and the difference in Sydney is definitely a big difference.”

While Lewis had the access to play Australian rules football again, it was not until the last couple of years that the tough speedster was looking anything beyond playing with her friends and enjoying the social aspect of the game.

“When I was playing 15s and I was playing 16s, footy was obviously a big part of my life but it wasn’t a main thing that I would obviously think about,” Lewis said. “It was definitely when I made 18s and National Academy, it was kind of becoming more of a real thing. “I thought ‘oh okay, maybe I can make something of this’. “It was for me all the way through just about playing the best footy that I can play and still enjoying it as well.”

Her determination to push herself to her limits and try and get to the elite levels of competition was helped along by seeing West Australian teammates step up to the next level after playing alongside them at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships.

I think it’s definitely surreal seeing a lot of those players,” Lewis said. “Even some of the players who were drafted last year, you know I knew some of those girls like Mikayla Bowen, and players like that. “That you know and play with them and you see them play at that level, and that inspires you and encourages you to play at a higher level, and playing in a state that has such a high standard of footy I think i would rather play, it would make you a better player and gives you better habits and makes you become the best player that you could.”

It was that kind of competition – the championships – that Lewis thrived on, and she certainly did not look overawed, being the only other played with Bowen to pick up at least 11 disposals in each of the three matches. From that week on the Gold Coast, Lewis took plenty of confidence from her performances to take back to West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s League matches.

I took that trip, went into it as this is a learning experience, if I want to keep playing the game and progressing to the higher levels, this is definitely the kind of competition I need to be familiar with,” Lewis said. “It was just very surreal to play on a stadium like that just to get that opportunity. It’s definitely something you never take for granted.

“Going from last year into this year, the one thing in my game that has lifted is definitely my confidence,” Lewis said. “Last year I was going ‘wow these girls are a lot older, they’re bigger, they’re better’. “I think consistency is something that I’d like to have in my game, just always trying to be consistent is something that’s definitely a powerful attribute so I think you go into the games nervous. “Once you’re out there you play that brand of footy and showcase your skills, but going into this year it’s definitely given me a lot more confidence.”

Lewis might only stand at 163cm, but the 17-year-old packs plenty of punch, with her running power, acceleration and pressure among her best attributes – even if as she concedes, it can sometimes work against her.

I love the physicality of the game, I’ll go into any contest,” she said. “Sometimes I probably should be a bit more careful, but tackling is just a good way to let it out on the field as well.”

For someone who loves tackling, it is no surprise to see who her inspiration at AFL Women’s level is, the tackling machine that is Kiara Bowers. Though not just because of her on-field traits.

“I think the one thing in her game as well is just resilience,” Lewis said. “Coming back from multiple injuries and that’s a big thing that I like to have in my game, not so much injuries but going really physical, bouncing straight back up. “That’s just something I see similar there. “She’s always been one that I’ve watched and looked up to.”

For Lewis, she is ironing out her kicking and decision making at full speed. While she can win the ball and burst away with it, she is keen to lower the eyes and pick out teammates down the field, or just make the best possible decisions with ball-in-hand.

I think my strength is my running, I’m able to use more handballs or be a bit less selfish and use handballs and stuff like that, but I really want to start being powerful by foot and I think that if I’m able to do that, I will improve quite a bit and that as well will give me a lot of confidence, being able to kick,” she said.

Her willingness to take the game on was exemplified in Claremont’s heartbreaking one-point loss to East Fremantle. In her first game back since January, Lewis showed some eye-catching bursts at half-forward, and while she was caught on a couple of occasions, admitted she did not mind it, and helped her adjust to the level again.

I don’t think I’ve broken through the barrier of the level of footy I can play yet, but of course that just comes with being a bit rusty, but I think in the first half I was thinking you always take people on, you’ve got to get more comfortable with doing that again,” Lewis said. “Being caught, I didn’t mind being caught because that gave me some realism, okay well what do you need to do better next time? Better decision making. “So in the second half I definitely I was like ‘okay so how do I use that to help my teammates and make the best decisions quickly in the moment and I think that I definitely got better as the game went on.”

She definitely achieved that with a perfectly weighted pass in the third term to the goalsquare for teammate Mhicca Carter to run onto and kick the Tigers’ first goal of the game and give them some life to roar back into the contest. But it was not just her offensive ability on show, but her defensive work as well. In on instant, she was opposed to Collingwood AFL Women’s player Ruby Schleicher, and while Schleicher fended her off and assumed she had done enough, Lewis lunged back, corralling her much bigger opponent and bringing her to ground.

I think definitely going up against someone like Ruby Schleicher, she’s very quality opposition, just trying to corral them instead of going full for the tackle. “Obviously I know her strengths, you’ve just got to understand how you’ll do better in that situation and for me that kind of just giving it my all but making sure I don’t go all in. “She’s got probably the better footy IQ and how to go around someone like me, but just not giving up that second effort I guess.”

From a team perspective, looking ahead to Claremont’s next game up against winless South Fremantle, Lewis said that the team just needed to make better decisions as a whole, and adapt to the conditions quicker in order to avoid the opposition getting off to a fast start.

“I think we’ve improved in our team since last year to do with structures and the way that we want to play,” she said. “I just think that especially with the wet weather conditions, we were a bit thrown off, we couldn’t play perfect footy. “We couldn’t give off too many handballs… I think as the second half was a lot better from us, the third quarter. “We just need to make a better decision in the moment even if that’s just picking the ball off the ground and kicking it to advantage rather than trying to make it look pretty. “I think that if we get that down, we’ll definitely play the way that we want to play and be successful.”

This week Lewis has a different game to approach, with the WA Academy hosting an intraclub match tonight. While some might prepare differently against younger opponents than a regular League match, Lewis said she would approach the game the same way given the quality running around.

With Western Australia’s best draft hopes taking to the field tonight, Lewis knew there were plenty who had the same aspirations as her – to get on an AFL Women’s list – but the Claremont midfielder said she was comfortable remaining in the moment.

I think going as close to the draft that some people would tend to get a little bit stressed out and who’s watching,” Lewis said. “But I think I just try to play the best footy that I can play and that’s being comfortable around my teammates and try and not think about it too much. “I think some ways that I would go from here is probably going to the gym a bit more. “Looking at the competition, a lot of the AFLW girls who are playing in the WAFLW, that really gives you a standard, they’re big-bodied girls and they’re still agile so I definitely think going to the gym a bit more but not really stressing too much. “You’ve got to think about the present which is something that I like to do quite a bit.”

As for her Tigers season ahead, Lewis is confident the team can reach the pointy end of the finals series if they can maintain their best form when it counted.

I think that if we start playing the way we want to play, I think we can potentially go pretty far. Our culture’s really good, our structure’s really good, we’re all really committed,” she said. “I think everyone in the team wants to be there and everyone deserves to be there, so I think if we play the way we want to play and not overthink and try and play good looking footy. “I think we should be a team to beat and that would be good.”