Tag: ruby svarc

2021 VFLW Round 10 preview: Pride on the line in more ways than one for huge round of action

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Pride Round kicks off in a Super Saturday stretching from the mid-morning to a game under lights, with plenty on the line and a number of virtual elimination finals or finals tuneups.

Saturday, May 8 @ 10:00am
Box Hill City Oval

Opening the round is a must-win clash for Hawthorn hosting the last placed Darebin Falcons. If the Hawks get up, they are still a chance for finals, but a loss will all but put a line through their chances. For the Falcons, finals is a bit beyond them, but they will be hoping to double their wins tally with a victory here, and finish strongly in the last five rounds. Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae made her debut in the brown and gold last week, and another young talent will join her this week with Ashanti Bush cracking through to team up with fellow Darwin Buffettes prospect Dominique Carbone. The AFL Women’s Academy member will start on the bench, whilst Calder Cannons’ Peppa Poultney is back in the team after her side was eliminated from the NAB League Girls competition, and ex-Pioneer Katelyn Hazlett back for her second game after a strong debut. Given the AFL Women’s experience that keeps building at the Hawks, the latest is Geelong Cats’ Phoebe McWilliams who teams up with fellow experienced tall Meg Hutchins in attack. The Hawks have plenty of present and former AFLW talents, so expect they will be too strong in this one.

Saturday, May 8 @ 12:00pm
Whitten Oval

A virtual elimination final takes place at midday on Saturday, with the loser of Western Bulldogs and Carlton effectively putting a line through their finals hopes. For the winner, they live to fight another day, which means there is plenty on the line for the teams. The Western Bulldogs have brought back Jess Fitzgerald to the team, with Kirsten McLeod and Naomi Ferres coming in for their first games of the season. Brisbane Lions’ Beth Pinchin is an interesting inclusion for the Dogs at centre half-back, while Western Jets’ Caitlin Sargent, Nikita Wright and Stephanie Asciak all remain in the side. For the Blues, they have kept fairly consistent wiht their lineups, getting games into Charlotte Hammans, Maddy Guerin and Serena Gibbs. Abbie McKay, Grace Egan and Daisy Walker all return for their second games back at the level, and Natalie Plane for her first, in what is a tough game on the road. The Dogs have that bit more class about them, but it will be whether or not they can win the midfield in what looks like a star-studded group on both sides.

Saturday, May 8 @ 1:00pm
Deakin University Waurn Ponds

Two teams headed for finals will clash in a blockbuster VFLW match at Deakin University. Geelong have been strong down there, and with Stephanie Williams, Sophie Van De Heuvel, Rebecca Webster and Richelle Cranston all in the side, there is enough AFLW talent to lead by experience. Carly Remmos remains but Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner are out of the side after suffering repeated leather poisoning each week. They take on an Essendon side that is building very nicely, bringing in Bendigo Pioneers’ Jemma Finning for her debut this week, switching in for another Pioneer in Elizabeth Snell. The Calder Cannons talents feature all through the emergencies with talls Kasey Lennox and Neve Crowley likely to come in the following week, while Mia-Rae Clifford and Georgia Nanscawen represent AFL Women’s experience. The defence is solid for the Bombers, as Eloise Gardner and Courtney Ugle will provide some run and carry, while Ruby Svarc is a natural ball-winner and will provide good defensive pressure inside 50. At home Geelong has the upper hand, though the Bombers are a chance in this one.

Saturday, May 8 @ 2:00pm
Arden Street

In the traditional timeslot on Saturday afternoon, North Melbourne host Collingwood in a must-win clash for the Roos. The Magpies are cruising along nicely at 9-0 and unless the wheels completely fall off, a top two spot – and likely minor premiership beckons. The Magpies have brought in Mikala Cann for her first VFLW game of the season, giving the Pies mostly an AFLW spine including Sophie Alexander, Abbi Moloney and Maddie Shevlin, whilst Jasmine Ferguson has been one of the most reliable defenders in the competition. Add in the dangerous Matilda Zander up forward and the ball-winning Marla Neal in midfield, and the Magpies have plenty of top VFLW talents as well. For North Melbourne, they remain determined to keep a fairly consistent VFLW lineup, with Alexia Hamilton and Reni Hicks a couple of former AFLW players while Sarah Skinner and Meagan Kiely join them in the midfield as in-form talents. Camilla Taylor returns to the level after Tasmania Devils’ exit from the NAB League Girls competition, while Molly Eastman is another Roo in great form. They have had a real mixed bag this season, but are not without a chance the Roos, though the Pies are deservedly favourites for this clash.

Saturday, May 8 @ 2:00pm
ETU Stadium

Southern Saints can go a long way towards securing a finals spot with an upset win over top two side, Port Melbourne at ETU Stadium on Saturday. The Saints hold the precious sixth spot, and still will after this round given their far superior percentage to the chasing pack, but cannot afford to drop too many or the lower teams will pounce. Dandenong Stingrays co-captain Ash Richards and versatile runner Jaide Anthony both make their debuts at VFLW level, but unlike many of their teammates, they will be running out for the opposition side Port Melbourne. They are joined in the side by Maddy Brancatisano who returns to the level for the first time this season, with a host of current and past AFLW talent, including Katherine Smith, Sophie Molan and Emily Harley who stood up last week with four goals. Zoe Hill has been named as an emergency for the Saints, with Jemma Radford retaining her spot in the back pocket for some Dandenong Stingrays flavour, and the AFLW talent led by Alice Burke, Tahlia Meyer and Renee Saulitis. Port Melbourne have more depth in the side and should win, with the Saints needing to make the most of their chances if they are to get up.

Saturday, May 8 @ 7:00pm
Downer Oval

Playing a special Saturday night game under lights for the Pride Round under lights at Downer Oval, Williamstown will be hoping to cause a boilover agains a strong Casey Demons side that is gearing up for finals. The Seagulls need to win the remainder of their games to qualify for finals just about, and have been able to welcome Gold Coast Suns’ Bess Keaney to the lineup. She will lineup in the back pocket, with Georgia Garnett also coming into the defence for her debut in the VFLW following the announcement that Williamstown had formed a link with the GWS GIANTS. Lisa Steane has also been named in the side, with Ella Baxter, Aimee Whelan and Ruby Tripodi among the in-form players. Casey Demons have a damaging forward line with Maddison Gay, Alyssa Bannan and Imogen Milford one of the strong forward trios going around. Libby Birch in defence, Eden Zanker and Megan Fitzsimon in midfield, and the newest debutant Grace Matser – a Gippsland Power ruck – will all provide plenty of talent and depth around the ground.

2021 VFLW Round 9 wrap: Contenders solidify the top six

EACH of the current top six Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s sides earned wins in Round 9, as the ladder positions grow increasingly rigid. Among the victors, Essendon, Geelong, and Collingwood all flexed their muscle to come away over 50 points to the good, hitting top form with finals time now just over a month away. We take you through the results from all six fixtures, five of which were played on a super Saturday.


ESSENDON 2.4 | 6.9 | 6.11 | 10.12 (72)
CARLTON 1.0 | 2.0 | 2.1 | 3.1 (19)

Essendon solidified its standing in the top six with a thumping win over traditional rival, Carlton on Saturday morning, coming away 53-point victors at Windy Hill. A six-goal to two first half meant the Bombers were well on top and while the Blues managed to bring it back to an arm-wrestle in term three, they had few answers for Essendon’s forward firepower and depth across the field.

Skipper Georgia Nanscawen continued her spectacular season with 24 touches and nine tackles to earn full votes for the Bombers, while Federica Frew led a brigade of eight individual goalkickers with three majors. Also among the goalkickers, Brisbane-listed gun Ruby Svarc returned in the red and black with aplomb, as Mia-Rae Clifford looked lively for her 1.3 from 12 touches.

On a tough day for the Blues, senior-listed midfield pair proved a class above the rest in midfield. Abbie McKay notched a game-high 26 disposals and 10 tackles in her first VFLW hitout for the year, supported well by Grace Egan who added 19 touches and a goal. Courtney Jones was another of Carlton’s three goalkickers, staying busy despite her side’s low score.


Essendon: F. Frew 3, M. Clifford, K. Heil, R. Svarc, J. Davies, L. Stepnell, T. Crook, N. MacDonald
Carlton: G. Egan, S. Lawrence, C. Jones


Essendon: G. Nanscawen, E. Hosking, F. Frew, R. Svarc, J. Davies, S. Nalder
Carlton: A. McKay, C. Jones, P. Trudgeon, C. Hammans, E. Honybun, G. Egan

DAREBIN FALCONS 2.2 | 4.2 | 5.3 | 5.4 (34)
PORT MELBOURNE 2.5 | 3.6 | 6.8 | 8.10 (58)

Port Melbourne bounced back onto the winners list on Saturday morning, but was made to earn it against a plucky Darebin Falcons outfit at Bill Lawry Oval. After the Falcons made better of their chances to draw level at half time, the Borough managed to edge ahead at the last break before kicking away in term four to secure the 24-point away victory. The result keeps Port firmly in second spot.

Richmond-listed youngster Sophie Molan earned full votes for the Borough with an equal-game high 20 disposals, matched by Courteney Bromage. Recently delisted Tigers forward Emily Harley served a reminder of her potential with four goals, as Katherine Smith slotted seamlessly into the Borough side with 17 touches and five tackles.

For the Falcons, Victoria Blackwood was the third player on the day to notch 20 disposals, supported well by those with AFLW experience in Jess Dal Pos and Nicole Callinan, who each managed 18 touches. Alice Caddy was Darebin’s sole multiple goalkicker, booting three to make up over half of her side’s overall score.


Darebin: A. Caddy 3, A. Reibelt, J. Dal Pos
Port Melbourne: E. Harley 4, S. Locke, L. McClelland, N. Borg, S. Molan


Darebin: V. Blackwood, K. Hazlett, J. Dal Pos, N. Callinan, A. Lister, A. Caddy
Port Melbourne: S. Molan, E. Harley, C. Bromage, C. Dyett, S. Frederick, M. Kuys

GEELONG 4.1 | 9.5 | 11.5 | 15.9 (99)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.1 | 0.1 | 1.1 | 2.2 (14)

Geelong fell just short of registering a ton in its comprehensive win over the Western Bulldogs on Saturday, extending the Cats’ win streak to five while ending the Dogs’ two-game run. Having shot out of the blocks with nine goals to nil in a first half romp at Deakin University, the Cats never looked back and rode out the match comfortable 75-point victors.

Four of the Cats’ eight individual goalkickers snared multiples, with Georgia Clarke and Richelle Cranston doing the most damage in a riotous outing. Single goalkicker Annabel Johnson was named Geelong’s best, as Laura Gardiner accumulated a game-high 27 disposals, and Madeline Keryk and Amy McDonald both had 23.

Debutant Caitlin Sargent was among the Bulldogs’ two goalkickers, as the likes of Angelica Gogos and Danielle Marshall (both 22 disposals) led the charge. Youngsters Isabelle Pritchard (17 disposals, eight tackles) and Sarah Hartwig (13 and 12) both got their hands dirty in the loss, with the latter playing just her second VFLW game after an outstanding first senior season.


Geelong: G. Clarke 4, R. Cranston 3, S. Williams 2, T. Smith 2, J. Woollett, D. Moloney, A. Johnson, P. Sheppard
Bulldogs: N. Morris-Dalton, C. Sargent


Geelong: A. Johnson, M. Keryk, C. Gunjaca, G. Clarke, A. McDonald, T. Smith
Bulldogs: A. Gogos, D. Marshall, S. Ruedin, S. Hartwig, I. Pritchard, G. Lagioia

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.1 | 2.1 | 2.1 | 4.2 (26)
CASEY DEMONS 3.3 | 7.4 | 10.6 | 10.8 (68)

Casey’s spot in the top six is looking more secure after a 42-point victory over North Melbourne at Arden Street Oval on Saturday afternoon. The Demons boasted a handy half time buffer and continued to apply scoreboard pressure thereafter, with the game all but over at three quarter time as they led by 53 points. North added a couple of consolation goals in term four, but were soundly beaten.

A three-pronged Demon attack of Alyssa Bannan, Imogen Milford, and Gabby Colvin produced six majors as the trio snared two apiece in a show of great firepower. Meanwhile, Eliza West led all comers with 26 disposals and also found the big sticks, as senior-listed players like Libby Birch continue to filter into the state league and make an impact.

Meg Sinclair proved North’s greatest form of response as she booted three of the Roos’ four goals in just her third game for 2021. Reni Hicks dug in to finish with 14 disposals and 10 tackles, while Meagan Kiely managed a team-high 25 touches. Currently a game outside the top six and with stiff competition behind, the Roos will have to dig deep to qualify for finals this season.


North: M. Sinclair 3, B. Lynch
Casey: G. Colvin 2, I. Milford 2, A. Bannan 2, M. Gay, E. West, K. Thompson, M. Harasimiuk


North: R. Hicks, M. Sinclair, B. Lynch, S. Wright, A. Runnalls, A. Smith
Casey: E. West, L. Birch, C. Sherriff, A. Kirkwood, M. Macdonald, B. Winbanks

WILLIAMSTOWN 0.1 | 0.1 | 0.1 | 0.2 (2)
COLLINGWOOD 2.2 | 4.2 | 7.2 | 11.3 (69)

Collingwood extended its perfect streak in season 2021 with an ominous 67-point thumping of Williamstown on Saturday afternoon, making it eight wins on the trot. The Magpies kept their opponents goalless throughout, and scoreless for half the game while feasting at the other end with ruthless accuracy. A seven-goal second half truly put the cherry on top of a dominant performance.

The Seagulls had no answer for Abbi Moloney, who snagged four goals from 16 disposals in a best afield display. The young tall was joined by Matilda Zander and Sophie Alexander in the goals as they both booted three and featured among the winners’ votes. Sarah King also battled hard in the ruck for 28 hitouts.

Speaking of the ruck, Eliza McGrath registered a whopping 58 hitouts, as Aimee Whelan was the only Seagull to tick over 20 touches on the day. Tahlia Merrett was named best-on in the losing effort, ahead of the likes of Whelan, and pair Eliza Straford and Ruby Tripodi who combined for 16 disposals and 17 tackles.


Williamstown: Nil
Collingwood: A. Moloney 4, M. Zander 3, S. Alexander 3, A. Newman


Williamstown: T. Merrett, A. Whelan, R. Tripodi, E. Straford, A. Dickie, L. Suleiman
Collingwood: A. Moloney, S. Alexander, K. Lee, J. Ferguson, M. Zander, S. King

SOUTHERN SAINTS 3.4 | 3.5 | 4.8 | 6.8 (44)
HAWTHORN 0.2 | 3.2 | 3.3 | 4.8 (32)

The Southern Saints remain clear in sixth spot after fending off a valiant Hawthorn side in Sunday’s standalone fixture, winning by 12 points at Trevor Barker Oval. Having shot to a three-goal lead at the opening break, the Saints were pegged back well in a low-scoring affair and could only edge just over a goal ahead going into the last. They held firm, extending that buffer for their fourth win of the year.

First year midfielder Alice Burke again topped the disposal charts with 21 in the red, white and black, but Alexandra Hynes (10 disposals, 15 hitouts) was named the Saints’ best. Claudia Whitfort registered a goal from her 19 touches, while the likes of Hannah Stuart and Rebecca Neaves also earned votes in the win.

Kristen Hay had arguably her best game of the year with 14 disposals and three marks, seeing her earn plaudits from the Hawthorn staff. Tamara Luke had as many hitouts as disposals (12), while Kristy Stratton again found the goals in her second game for the Hawks, and Grace McRae had a solid debut with 11 touches and five tackles.


Southern: T. Bohanna 2, R. Saulitis, K. Ripari, A. Harris, T. Kearns
Hawthorn: E. Gilder 2, K. Stratton, C. O’Malley


Southern: A. Hynes, C. Whitfort, R. Neaves, A. Burke, L. Burke, H. Stuart
Hawthorn: K. Hay, T. Luke, N. Garner, S. Bolding, K. Stratton, E. Gilder

Image Credit: Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos

QAFL Women’s Round 5 wrap: Sharkettes streak ahead with favourable results

BOND University has maintained its unbeaten run with a comprehensive 43-point victory over Aspley, to move a win clear of the rest of the competition, with a game in-hand. The win over the Hornets gave their opposition their second consecutive loss, whilst Yeronga South Brisbane and University of Queensland also lost in upset results on the road, meaning every side has at least two losses except for the Sharkettes.

After a tight first quarter, Bond University turned up the heat, booting five goals to zero over the next two quarters to race out to a 41-point advantage at the final break. Aspley did hit back in the last quarter, splitting the goals two apiece, but it was a case of too little, too late and the home team got up, 10.8 (68) to 4.1 (25).

Young guns Mikayla Pauga and Lily Tarlinton were the stars for the Sharks, slotting five goals between them in the victory, while Courtney Sexton and Lucinda Pullar were also impressive in what was an even team performance. For the Hornets, Courtney Daniec was named the best, one of four players to kick a goal on the day. Ashleigh Hales and Angela Lingard were others who stood tall in defeat.

The biggest upset was Coolangatta Tweed’s thrashing of University of Queensland in front of home fans. Averaging six points per game coming into the match, the youth of the Bluebirds was outstanding, running out 7.10 (52) to 2.5 (17) winners over the Red Lionesses. Leading by 14 points at half-time, the Bluebirds managed to keep their opposition scoreless, while booting 3.5 themselves to run out 35-point victors.

Kitara Farrar was the dominant goal kicker in the win with three majors, whilst the youth of Laquoiya Cockatoo-Motlop, Sophie Ure and Keyshia Matenga all stood out to be named amongst the best. For the Red Lionesses, Mia Teubler and Lucinda Benjamin hit the scoreboard, while Meagan Cook and Jane Childes were strong despite the loss.

Maroochydore handed reigning premiers Yeronga South Brisbane its second loss in three games with a hard-fought four-point win. The match was a topsy-turvy one with neither team able to gain any ascendancy and the siren sounded with the Roos four points ahead. Maroochydore led by a point at quarter time and seven points at the main break, but a two goals to zero third term resulted in the Devils hitting the front. Kicking the only goal of the last term, and restricting their opposition to one behind, the Roos won 4.7 (31) to 4.3 (27).

Brianna McFarlane, Maggie Harmer and Sara-Jane O’Grady all impressed, while Maroochydore also had four individual goalkickers to share the scoring load around in the performance. For the Devils, Adrienne Keeffe slotted two majors, with Jessy Keeffe among the best with a goal, teaming up well with Emmii-Lee Zanker-Close as some of the top performers on the day for the losing team.

In the other match on the weekend, Coorparoo won its third consecutive game, sentencing Wilston Grange to its fifth consecutive loss in the process. After back-to-back one-point wins where the Kings finished on 32 points, it might have looked almost a touch strange to see that being the three quarter time scoreline, but kicking two goals to one in the last, Coorparoo extended the final margin out to 14 points, 7.4 (46) to 3.4 (22).

Coorparoo had seven individual goalkickers to go with the Gorillas’ three individual ones for a total of 10 in the match. In terms of standout players, Jenae Govan, Kayla Geddes and Macie Brown (one goal) stood out, while for the Gorillas, it was Kaitlyn Day, Grace O’Donnell and Ruby Svarc (one) who tried hard throughout the match to no avail.

The teams will all have a break over the Easter weekend, with the teams returning for Round 6 on Saturday, April 10.


Coolangatta Tweed 7.10 (52) defeated University of Queensland 2.5 (17)
Bond University 10.8 (68) defeated Aspley 4.1 (25)
Coorparoo 7.4 (46) defeated Wilston Grange 3.4 (22)
Maroochydore 4.7 (31) defeated Yeronga South Brisbane 4.3 (27)


Picture credit: RF Photography

QAFL Women’s Round 4 wrap: Devils end Hornets streak as Kings pip Red Lionesses

THERE is just one remaining undefeated team in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Women’s competition, following defeats to top two teams, University of Queensland and Aspley. They went down to Coorparoo and Yeronga South Brisbane as the ladder tightened following Round 4 results. Coorparoo and Yeronga South Brisbane were on the better side of those respective results, while Bond University stood tall to snatch top spot thanks to another win, and Maroochydore secured their first victory of the season with a terrific win over Coolangatta Tweed.

The game of the round was easily Coorparoo’s upset victory over the previously undefeated University of Queensland. Backing up their win over Maroochydore by a point in Round 3, the Kings proved their can get it done in nail-biters, winning a second consecutive match by a solitary point, not to mention the exact scores. In an eerily similar result to the previous week, Coorparoo had to come back from an eight point deficit at the half-time and three quarter time breaks before securing the win with a final quarter flurry, two goals to zero and win 5.2 (32) to 4.7 (31).

Chelsea Winn slotted two goals in the win, while Jessica McLean, Jenae Govan and Emma McKenzie also slotted majors. Laura Blue was best on ground, while Charlotte Edmunds and Gold Coast Suns’ Georgia Bevan were also outstanding in leading their side to the narrow win. Rachael Vetter kicked two goals in a losing side, as Lucinda Benjamin hit the scoreboard once again, as did Grace Brennan. Megan Hunt, Stephanie O’Brien and Mia Teubler were standouts for the Red Lionesses in defeat.

The Red Lionesses were not the only undefeated team to go down in Round 4, with Aspley Hornets’ great start to the 2021 season hitting its first road bump in the form of a hungry Yeronga South Brisbane. The Devils flexed their muscles in a big 22-point victory to bounce back from a rare loss in Round 3, booting three goals to zero in the first term, and peppering the goals for the rest of the match against the Hornets. Whilst the home team was brave and showed they could compete with the best, it was the Devils who took home the points, 5.11 (41) to 3.1 (19).

Lexia Edwards and Christine Okesene were lively up forward for the Devils in the win, as Lyneeka Hollows, Madison Goodwin and Clancey Sutton were also impressive, as was Lucy Bellinger who continued her great form at state league level. For the Hornets, Morgan Lanigan led the way with a goal, while Courtney Daniec and Michaela Campbell also snagged majors. Along with Lanigan, Kadie Fletcher was amongst the best on debut, while Lucy Pengelly and Bree McKenzie also stood out.

After a narrow one-point loss last week, Maroochydore stepped up for a 33-point victory over Coolangatta Tweed in front of home fans.The Roos took a while to find their range, kicking 1.8 to 0.1 in the first three quarters to lead by 13 points with a quarter to play. It was not until then that the home team stepped up, kicking 4.2 to 0.0 to blow out the margin to beyond five goals. The 14 scoring shots to one showed that Maroochydore had most of the play in its forward half, and were deserving winners on the day to breakthrough for the four points.

Makeisha Muller was the sole goalkicker in the first three quarters, and was joined by teammates, Brooke Matheson, Zoe Langley and Sophie Bale in the final term burst. Jacqueline Dupuy, Maggie Harmer, Rachel Crack and Chloe Gregory were all amongst the best for the Roos. The Bluebirds may not have kicked a goal, but Casey Wynne, Selina Priest and Leigh Alder were among the best on the day, as well youngster Keyshia Matenga, and AFL Women’s listed Beth Pinchin.

In the final game of the round, Bond University enjoyed a huge win over Wilston Grange, handing the Gorillas a fourth straight loss. The Sharkettes had 25 scoring shots to one, kicking 14 scoring shots to one in the first half, and restricting the Gorillas to just one major for the entire game. Winning every quarter of the game, the top of the table Sharkettes showed their strength with a comprehensive 69-point victory.

Jordann Hickey put in a best on ground performances, slotting four goals in the victory, whilst Lily Tarlinton managed the two majors in the victory. Mikayla Pauga, Shannon Danckert, Molly Ritson and Ellie Herron all kicked goals and stood out, while Alessia Smythe and Georgia Brehmer were also impressive for the Sharkettes. Sophie Wheeler kicked the only goal for the home side, while the experienced Rheanne Lugg and Ruby Svarc were the top players in defeat.

Looking ahead to Round 5, all four games are on Saturday with Coolangatta Tweed taking on University of Queensland, and Bond University hosting Aspley in the early afternoon games. Later on, Coorparoo will gun for three in a row when they take on the winless Wilston Grange, whilst Maroochydore lock horns with Yeronga South Brisbane at the same time, 4:45pm.


Aspley 3.1 (19) defeated by Yeronga South Brisbane 5.11 (41)
Maroochydore 4.10 (34) defeated Coorparoo 0.1 (1)
University of Queensland 4.7 (31) defeated by Coorparoo 5.2 (32)
Wilston Grange 1.0 (6) defeated by Bond University 10.15 (75)


Picture credit: RF Photography

2021 QAFL Women’s Round 4 preview: Hornets and Devils to face-off in blockbuster clash

NOT too often do you get a scenario where the reigning premiers and reigning wooden spooners will create a highly-anticipated matchup the very next season, but the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Women’s competition offers just that. Reigning premiers, Yeronga South Brisbane will travel to Aspley where they face the Hornets at Graham Road, in a game that will be a measuring stick for both teams. In other matches, the unbeaten University of Queensland hosts Coorparoo fresh off its first win of the season, whilst Coolangatta Tweed – having been forced into a bye last round – will lock horns with the fellow winless side, Maroochydore. In the sole Sunday game, a fresh Bond University will head to Hickey Park where they take on Wilston Grange.

Unfortunately the recent COVID-19 scare in Queensland stopped the Under 19 State Academy members from flying down and competing in Victoria last weekend, which meant a number of top teenagers will have gone without the competitive match. Aspley has a number of talented youngsters in their ranks, with Lucia Liessi back in the side and named at half-forward, with Kadie Fletcher (wing) and Charlotte Mullins (half-forward) also earning state honours. They take on a Yeronga side stacked with talent, and goalscorer Zimmorlei Farquharson named up on a wing, allowing the likes of Emmii-Lee Zanker Close and Lexia Edwards to hit the scoreboard. Starting in the ruck, Queensland Under 19s representative Christine Okesene will be hoping to impress against Angela Lingard while the midfield battle because Luca Mason and Courtney Daniec, and Madison Goodwin and Jordan Zanchetta will also be key within in the match.

Lauren Middleton has earned Queensland Under 19s state honours and will be hoping her University of Queensland side can remain unbeaten up against Coorparoo in their clash. The Kings are coming off a thrilling one-point victory over Maroochydore last week, and they were made to work for the win, with the likes of Madi Crowley-Long and Lucinda Benjamin in great form. Macie Brown (interchange) and Kalista-Jayne Shiner (emergency) are the Kings’ representatives in the state side. The Red Lionesses had a great upset win over Yeronga South Brisbane last week, and Mia Teubler was impressive, as has been Megan Hunt all season. The Kings will look to Chelsea Chesterfield and the returning Emma McKenzie as a source of goals in the match as they hope to cause an upset themselves against the in-form Red Lionesses.

In the battle of the winless sides, Maroochydore has loaded up on its elite young talent, with AFL Women’s Academy members Bella Smith and Maggie Harmer back in the line-up and midfield for the clash. They will rove to the in-form Jacqueline Dupuy, while Chloe Gregory and Jya Epstein round out a strong midfield. Brianna McFarlane and Makeisha Muller are others up forward who could cause some headaches for the Bluebirds. Coolangatta Tweed have a ridiculous amount of Queensland Under 19 representatives, with eight making the final 29-player squad. Keyshia Matenga (onball), Imogen Evans (centre half-forward), Casey Wynne (onball), Faith Alchin (back pocket), Sally Evans (half-forward), Sophie Ure (forward pocket), and the Cockatoo-Motlop twins in Laquoiya and Litonya (midfield) all made the final cut this week. In terms of young talent, this is the game to watch.

In the final match of the round, all eyes will be on Bond University after a week off, with the young guns returning to the team to face Wilston Grange. AFL Women’s Academy member Mikayla Pauga is back at half-forward, with top talent Teagan Levi coming off the bench, but is sure to impact the contest. The inside midfield is stacked with Ellie Hampson returning to the side, and then the likes of Georgia Brehmer and Shannon Danckert also in. Jasmyn Davidson (ruck), Lily Tarlinton (forward pocket) and Giselle Davies (back pocket) are the other Sharkettes to make the state side. For the Gorillas, Abbey Hewett will look to have her say in the midfield with Mackenzie Findlay following Hewett being named in the state squad, as was full-forward Brooke Sheridan. Rheanne Lugg and Ruby Svarc are other Gorillas who could use their experience to have a real say on the result.


Saturday, March 20:
Aspley vs. Yeronga South Brisbane @ Graham Road, Aspley, 2pm
Maroochydore vs. Coolangatta Tweed @ Maroochydore Multisports Complex, 3.45pm
University of Queensland vs. Coorparoo @ UQ, 3.45pm

Sunday, March 21:
Wilston Grange vs. Bond University @ Hickey Park, 2.00pm

QAFL Women’s Round 3 wrap: Hornets and Red Lionesses fill top two spots

TWO of the bottom three sides in 2020 now occupy the top two spots on the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Women’s ladder after three rounds, with Aspley Hornets and University of Queensland both picking up their third consecutive victory. The Hornets won against the other bottom three side from last season Wilston Grange, while the Red Lionesses rocked the apple cart with an upset victory over the red-hot reigning premiers Yeronga South Brisbane. In the other match played, Coorparoo got up by a point over Maroochydore to get their first win on the board this season, while the Coolangatta Tweed and Bond University match was postponed until April 17 following heavy rain in the Sunshine State.

Aspley Hornets and Wilston Grange were neck-and-neck throughout the first half, with the unbeaten home side holding a narrow four-point lead at half-time. The Gorillas had been impressive up to that point in restricting the Hornets, but 4.5 to 0.2 in the second half resulted in the home team running away with the contest, 7.10 (52) to 3.3 (21). Mia Liddell slotted two goals in the win for the Hornets, while Lara Mason, Courtney Daniec, Maddy Kawa, Morgan Lanigan and Brooke Jarrott also hit the scoreboard with a major each.

Mason was one of the more impressive Hornets on the day, named amongst the best with the Pringles, Taylah and Jazmyn, as well as Alanna Perry. For the losers, Sophie Wheeler, Jessica McMullin Matthews and Holly O’Flaherty all added singles in the first half. Kylie Welsh, Kaitlin Day, Mackenzie Findlay and Ruby Svarc were among the better players in the match for the Gorillas who are still searching for their first win of the season after three consecutive losses to open 2021.

University of Queensland caused the upset of the round in the battle of the undefeated sides, taking care of Yeronga South Brisbane by 26 points. Lucinda Benjamin led the way with four majors in the 10.2 (62) to 5.6 (36) victory, as a five goals to one second term was the key to the boilover. The Red Lionesses kicked four goals to three in the other three terms, but it was the dominant second stanza that stood out for the winners. Benjamin was outstanding in the win, while Rachael Vetter slotted two goals, and Meagan Cook, Julia Dawson and Stephanie O’Brien all kicked the solitary major.

Mia Teubler, Jessi Henning and Megan Hunt were among the best players in the win for the home team, whilst the experienced talents of Jordan Zanchetta, Madison Goodwin and Lucy Bellinger were steadfast in defeat for the Devils. Zimmorlei Farquharson only kicked the one goal but was again in the top few players on the ground, as Lexia Edwards, Goodwin and Adrienne Keeffe slotted the other majors for the Devils.

The final game of the round was an absolute thriller with Coorparoo coming from behind at half-time to roll over Maroochydore by the final siren. The Kings trailed by 13 points at the main break after the Roos slotted 2.1 to 0.0 in the second term. Coorparoo clawed its way back into the contest, booting 3.1 to 1.1 to close to within a point at the final change, then kicked the final goal of the game to come over the top by one point, 5.2 (32) to 4.7 (31). Ellie Bowden was the only multiple goalkicker in the game, slotting two goals, while Caitlin Renner, Jessica McLean and Gabriella Abi-Fares also hit the scoreboard.

Hannah McLaughlin and Alexanderia Grace were also impressive in the Kings’ win. For the Roos, Chloe Gregory and Jacqueline Dupuy both kicked a goal and were amongst the best, while Kate Parkinson and Jennifer Carden-David also kicked majors. Taya Bowman, Rianna Sills and Rachel Crack were also standouts for the visitors in the narrow loss.

The match of the round next week sees Aspley up against Yeronga South Brisbane, while Maroochydore and Coolangatta Tweed eye off their first wins of the season. Meanwhile University of Queensland looks to remain undefeated against Coorparoo, and Wilston Grange takes on Bond University.


Aspley 7.10 (52) defeated Wilston Grange 3.3 (21)
University of Queensland 10.2 (62) defeated Yeronga South Brisbane 5.6 (36)
Coorparoo 5.2 (32) defeated Maroochydore 4.7 (31)
Coolangatta Tweed vs. Bond University (POSTPONED to APRIL 17)

Picture credit: RF Photography

2021 QAFL Women’s Round 3 preview: Ladder-shaping round to break up even split

AFTER the eight completed games went the way of four sides, and the ladder is split down the middle with half the competition at 2-0 and the other half at 0-2, the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Women’s Round 3 action is sure to close the gap between the top and bottom haves of the ladder.


Graham Road, Aspley @ 2pm

The first of two matches between teams with contrasting starts to the QAFL Women’s season, the reborn Aspley Hornets are sitting pretty at 2-0 and second overall on the ladder, coming up against Wilston Grange who are seventh with two losses coming into the clash. The Gorillas have conceded the most points of any side, allowing 165 at an average of 82.5 so far in the season, whilst averaging 25 points per game themselves. For the Hornets, their defence has held up by conceding just 17.5 points – ranked first – while averaging 51 points themselves, the clear second best in the competition. Courtney Daniec in midfield will be a crucial player for the Hornets they look to go to 3-0 this season, teaming up with Lara Mason up against Kaitlyn Day who returns after missing Round 2, and the in-form Mackenzie Findlay for the Gorillas. Ruby Svarc is an experienced player named on a wing with Rheanne Lugg also having top-level experience and will be strong in the clinches. Morgan Lanigan was impressive for the Hornets in the win over Coolangatta Tweed and will be hoping to build on that in Round 3, while Melissa McPhee has been in sensational form. The Hornets are favourites in this one, and while they will be missing some talent due to the Under 19s Academy being in Victoria, they have proven to be the real deal in season 2021.


Eximm Oval @ 2pm

The other 2-0 against 0-2 clash is when Bond University travels to Eximm Oval hoping to remain undefeated against Coolangatta Tweed. The Bluebirds are on the bottom of the table after a slow start to the season, averaging the 8.5 points for and 57.5 points against, but with a new-look side featuring plenty of fresh faces and less AFL Women’s talent from their run to the grand final last year, they are still finding their feet and gelling this season. Bond University have the two wins on the board, but have got the job done in a couple of close ones, averaging the 38 points for and 26 against, so the Bluebirds would fancy their chances, especially with the likes of AFL Women’s Academy member Mikayla Pauga out of the Sharkettes side for another week due to her Academy commitments. Nonetheless, the visitors have had plenty of contributions from a scoring perspective with Eloise O’Brien and Gabrielle Deller both kicking a goal a game in their first two matchers. Shannon Danckert has also proven to be an important player, as has Lucinda Pullar who has been named in the best on both occasions. For Coolangatta Tweed, AFL Women’s talent Beth Pinchin has been a star, while Selina Priest and Kitara Farrar provide that extra experience when running around. Unfortunately wholesale changes last week – just nine players have played both games – meant gelling was always going to be difficult early. Maggie O’Connell got her side on the board last week and will be hoping to add more this week. Bond University will be favourites, but the Bluebirds will click into gear soon enough.

Note: Since the preview was run, the game has been postponed due to a ruling from the Gold Coast Council about ground conditions.


UQ Oval 2 St Lucia @ 3.45pm

It is University of Queensland’s turn to have a crack at Yeronga South Brisbane, with both sides heading into the clash undefeated. It is easy to see why with dynamic forward lines and talent across the board, the teams are capable of notching up the wins. The Devils are averaging a ridiculous 86.5 points per game and only 20 points against to rank first and second in those areas respectively. The University of Queensland are not far behind, with 47 and 23.5 points respectively to sit third overall for both offence and defence. It is only a matter of time before young gun Zimmorlei Farquharson makes her way back up to the elite level, but the X-factor forward has been dominating for Yeronga South Brisbane and is a key player to try and contain. The likes of Lexia Edwards and Emmii-Lee Zanker-Close are also targets to kick to inside 50, while Lucy Bellinger and Madison Goodwin are others who continually put out impressive performances for the reigning premiers. Grace Brennan has been the key goalkicker for the Red Lionesses, slotting five goals in her first two games, while Lucinda Benjamin, Stephanie O’Brien and the red-hot Madi Crowley-Long – who has been named in the best in both matches – have also kicked multiple goals this season. Yeronga South Brisbane are favourites, but the Red Lionesses will be hoping the home ground advantage can come into effect.


Giffin Park @ 4.45pm

In the final game of the round, two sides searching for their first win in season 2021 will face off, as Coorparoo hosts Maroochydore at Giffin Park. The Roos sit in fifth with an average of 26 points for and 39.5 points against, whilst the Kings are 27.5 points for and 43 points against just behind in sixth. Maroochydore went down to Bond University by 19 points, and University of Queensland by eight points in competitive efforts, while Coorparoo have lost to Aspley (26 points) and Bond University (five points) in differing performance. Maroochydore will head into the game with Brooke Matheson leading the goalkicking with two majors, whilst ruck Jacqueline Dupuy has been named amongst the best in both games and hit the scoreboard. Ex Calder Cannons talent Makeisha Muller has slotted a goal but can play up either end, whilst Chloe Gregory and Jya Epstein form a formidable inside midfield for the Roos. Coorparoo’s Renee Teys has made a strong start to the 2021 season, named in the best twice, while Emma McKenzie and Jessica McLean have both slotted the two goals thus far. With a lot of changes in Round 2, the Kings will be eyeing off some continuity in Round 3, with a mix of experience and youth, as Chelsea Winn and Jenae Govan showed last week by hitting the scoreboard in critical moments.


Picture credit: RF Photography

2021 QAFL Women’s Round 2 preview: Round 1 winners to face Round 1 losers

THE four Round 1 victors in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Women’s competition will lock horns with the four losers from the opening weekend, with the chance to gain early separation between the sides.


Two competitive outfits in Round 1, but on opposite ends of the scale were Bond University and Coorparoo, who lock horns in a Round 2 clash. The Kings dropped their first game to the resurgent Aspley Hornets, while the Sharkettes overcame stiff competition from Maroochydore to get the victory. The visiting side today will be hoping to bounce back from that Round 1 defeat, and press forward with a strong effort against last year’s minor premiers.

Emma McKenzie was the Kings’ sole multiple goalkicker with two majors in the Round 1 contest, while Jenae Govan and Josii Hargreaves also hit the scoreboard. Laura Blue, Renee Teys and Meg Muir are others to watch for the visiting team, with the entire team needing to step up if they are to claim the victory on the road. Bond University had a great spread, with Caitlin Thorne snagging two goals, and a host of others including Shannon Danckert and Lily Tarlinton kicking majors. Danckert in particular is a key player for the Sharks, named best on ground in the win over Maroochydore. Mikayla Pauga is one of the top Queensland talents this year, while Annie Muir is another developing prospect who is a regular contributor. She might not have kicked a goal in the opening round, but Jasmyn Davidson is the player to try and contain after her super effort last year up forward for the Sharkettes. Both these teams started slow last round and will be keen to make amends from the get-go, with the home ground advantage to suit Bond University in the clash.


The Round 2 match between Aspley Hornets and Coolangatta Tweed has a very different lead-in to recent years, with the Hornets coming off a good win, and the Bluebirds struggling against reigning premiers Yeronga South Brisbane. Coolangatta Tweed kicked seven behinds in the second half against Yeronga South Brisbane, showing that they had their chances, but could not capitalise like their opponents who kicked 3.4 from the same amount of scoring options. For Aspley, the Round 1 win over Coorparoo was the Hornets’ first since 2019, and had all of their developing talent on display.

Lucia Liessi was named best-on for her performance, kicking a goal and standing out like fellow youngster Isabella Kotatis. Michaela Campbell has proven to be a danger player in the competition, and she slotted two goals in her opening round effort, while the likes of Courtney Daniec and Lucy Pengelly cannot be discounted when it comes to potential match-winners, though it was a team effort with seven debutants taking part in the win. For the Bluebirds, they also have a heap of young talent, with Brisbane’s Beth Pinchin standing up despite the loss, and other young players in Sophie Ure, Keyshia Matenga and Kitara Farrar all quality talents who provide speed and strength to the team. One would expect Coolangatta Tweed to be hungry to bounce back, so this will be a great test for the Hornets and their host of young players.


Another battle of teams coming off opposing results in Round 1, Maroochydore took it up to Bond University in their opening weekend clash, while University of Queensland put Wilston Grange to the sword during a 39-point victory on the road. The Red Lionesses were really impressive in their away win, blitzing the Gorillas in the first half with five goals to one to set up the victory, and will hit the road for a second consecutive weekend. Maroochydore just took too long to get started, and kicked all of its three goals in the final term after kicking four behinds to three quarter time in the 19-point defeat to Bond University.

Jya Epstein, Rachel Crack and Chloe Gregory were all among the best in the Roos’ defeat, with Jacqueline Dupuy kicking a goal and will be one the Red Lionesses need to watch. Ex-Calder youngster Makeisha Muller booted a goal in the defeat as well, and is one of a number of young talents coming through, as Brianna McFarlane will be hoping for a clean run this year after her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury at AFL Women’s level, and got the first game nerves out of the way. Grace Brennan was the key player for the Red Lionesses in their win, slotting three majors, while Madi Crowley-Long booted a goal and was named best-on in the victory. The Roos will need to be wary of the likes of Megan Hunt and Jane Childes impact on the game after the pair started strongly in Round 1. Expect it to be a tight contest, with the Red Lionesses favourites, but Maroochydore always a chance.


The final game of the round pits teams at opposite ends of the ladder against each other, with the top of the table Yeronga South Brisbane winning by 57 points over Coolangatta Tweed in a grand final rematch, while Wilston Grange suffered a 39-point loss at the hands of University of Queensland. The Devils showed why despite a breakthrough premiership, they will remain a title contender in 2021, while the Gorillas will have the opportunity to test themselves against the benchmark team on the road.

Zimmorlei Farquharson is the danger player and every game the Devils have her in the side away from her AFL Women’s duties is a huge positive. She is hard to match in the air or at ground level, and she slotted three majors in the Devils’ big Round 1 win. Mia Walsh was named the Devils’ best in that victory, while Lucy Bellinger has plenty of experience across multiple state leagues and is a crucial player. Madison Goodwin, Christine Okesene and Emmii-Lee Zanker-Close are among a host of young Devils who can impact a contest regularly. For Wilston Grange, the Gorillas will be looking for a better first half than their five-goal deficit last week, and it will be the likes of Ruby Svarc who provide the AFL Women’s experience. Holly O’Flaherty and Brooke Sheridan booted the home team’s goals last week, while Mackenzie Findlay and Abby Hewett started the season off strongly. Yeronga South Brisbane is the team to beat overall in the QAFL Women’s, so the Devils will be strong favourites here.

2021 QAFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Grand Final rematch to take place in blockbuster opening round

A GRAND final rematch in the last game of the round caps off a big week of action for the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Women’s competition that begins tomorrow.


Two top four sides that impressed in the regular seasons last year but just fell in the semi-final stage will do battle in the opening round of the QAFL Women’s season. Bond University finished on top of the table, but went down to a rampaging Yeronga South Brisbane in the semis as the Devils marched to the premiership. Meanwhile Maroochydore suffered defeat at the hands of Coolangatta Tweed after winning their elimination final in the week before.

Mikayla Pauga is the key player to watch having crossed from Maroochydore to Bond University over the off-season, and will now lead the Sharkettes onball brigade. The midfield group of Georgia Brehmer and Shannon Danckert makes it a tough group to beat, while Annie Muir on the wing is another talented midfielder who can bring the need for speed. Lily Tarlinton is a tall option to provide a target inside 50, named at full-forward for the clash.

For Maroochydore, a number of the AFL Women’s talents will not be avaialble so they will be looking to the likes of Brianna McFarlane and Chloe Gregory through midfield to give the Roos a spark with talented youngster Bella Smith named in the middle as well. Up the other end, Rianna Maloney and Brooke Matheson have been named as crucial forwards, and former Calder Cannons talent Makeisha Muller has joined the green and gold.

Bond University have enough experience in the lineup to suggest they will be difficult to beat, but Maroochydore still has talent even without its AFL Women’s players.



Next up on Saturday afternoon is a battle between two sides who finished in the bottom three of the competition last year. University of Queensland did make finals, but were knocked out by Maroochydore at the elimination stage, whilst Wilston Grange fell short of the post-season series by four points to be one behind the Red Lionesses in seventh.

The game should be evenly balanced, with Ruby Svarc a name to watch for the Gorillas out on a wing. She will provide the team with some great run and carry, and team up with fellow midfielders, Kylie Welsh, Mackenzie Findlay and Kaitlyn Day in the Round 1 team, with Abby Hewett and Brooke Sheridan named amongst the forwards.

Megan Hunt is a crucial player to have at state level and she will run out with the University of Queensland in the clash, while developing talent Tiarna Jericho has been named at centre half-back. Lucinda Benjamin and Grace Brennan are two of the targets inside 50 for the visitors, while Jane Childes on the outside is likely to have a great head-to-head with Svarc.

It is hard to pick a winner in this game with plenty of state league players on both sides, as well as a couple of young players to watch for.



Playing in the finals last season, Coorparoo will be keen to start off on the right note against an Aspley Hornets side that failed to claim a win in 2020. Ther teams are fairly fresh with some familiar names, but also some fresh faces which will make it difficult to predict how the game is going to go. The Hornets in particular have a few key talents to keep an eye on ahead of the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships in April.

Lucia Liessi is a young gun who will be key for the Hornets. She has been known to play in defence such as the AFL Women’s Under 18 All-Stars game last year, but has been named in a forward pocket for this clash. Off half-back, Isabella Kotatis, Lucy Pengelly and Hayley Moore make a young developing trio, while Courtney Daniec showed last season she is rock-solid in midfield. Phoebe Baird coming off the bench is another to keep an eye on from the wooden spooners who will no doubt be an improved side in 2021.

For the Kings, Lucy Blue remains a crucial player after being in contention to be drafted last season, but missed out, she has been named in the back pocket to potentially play on Liessi. Renee Teys will head up the followers with Jenae Govan and Jessica McLean in the midfield, while Danielle Cox is one of a number of forward options named in the side. The depth of the Kings is obvious with Macie Brown named off the bench.

Coorparoo will be favourites given the team’s respective formlines last season, but Aspley have a lot to like, particularly in the youth department so do not be surprised if the Hornets cause an upset.



The QAFL Women’s competition might have saved the best until last for Round 1, with a grand final rematch between Yeronga South Brisbane and Coolangatta Tweed. The Devils will be able to unfurl their flag in front of home fans against the team they upset last season in the decider. Coming all the way from fourth they managed to grab the title in a memorable game.

Given Brisbane’s impressive showing in the AFL Women’s this season, both these sides still have plenty of experienced talent, with young gun highlight-reel Zimmorlei Farquharson ready to back up her efforts in last year’s finals series and kick off 2021 on a big note. Lucy Bellinger is another Devils player to watch, though there are no shortage of them, with Madison Goodwin, Emmii-Lee ZankerClose, Christine Okesene and Lexia Edwards among those anticipated to impress in Round 1 of the competition.

The Bluebirds have their own stacked side, with Kitara Farrar set for a big year after having injury interruptions during her time in the AFL Women’s. Beth Pinchin was one who received the call-up to the AFL Women’s via the draft last year and will only get better as the weeks go by, while Keyshia Matenga, Sophie Ure and Ahlani Eddy are other players who have come through the State Under 18s program over the journey. The Bluebirds are going to be a contender once again, and will want to grab this scalp.

Yeronga South Brisbane have to be favourites given their X-factor up forward and the special occasion, but Coolangatta Tweed have so much young talent that is more than capable of spoiling the party.

Picture credit: RF Photography

2021 VFLW season preview: Essendon

ESSENDON’S Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side is now bearing the fruits of extended work over a tough 2020, according to VFLW operations manager, Charlotte Miller. The tight-knit team is set to maintain much of its core despite last year’s lost season, with plenty of hard work during the most recent off-season seeing the Bombers gel together nicely heading into Round 1.

Miller says the Bombers have built “a feeling of continuity” with so many players recommitting, while some fresh faces and exciting young talent prepare to add another dimension to the building standalone squad.

“It’s a pretty similar squad to 2020 with just a few new faces added in and not too many losses, so there’s a feeling of continuity from then,” Miller said. “We had Ruby Svarc picked up in the AFLW so we’ve lost her, but a lot of the players who were intending to play for us in 2020 are still here and we’ve picked up a few new players.

“It’s starting to feel like we’ve had a squad that maybe was a bit inexperienced in 2019 but even without a lot of games in between now and then, they’ve had that time and training together to connect really well as a team, there’s a really good energy amongst the group. “I think that’s really going to pay off for us.”

Essendon’s 2019 best and fairest Georgia Nanscawen was announced as captain earlier this month and will head a five-player leadership group ahead of former skipper, Courtney Ugle. Along with the handful of players officially at the helm, Miller outlined an extended core of leaders which will work to drive the Bombers forward in 2021.

“(Nanscawen) joined us in 2019 as she was delisted from the North Melbourne AFLW team, but was previously a Hockeyroo with 200-plus games for Australia,” she said. “She’s a quiet leader but she’s super professional. “She’s been playing professional sport since she was 16 and she knows how to manage herself on the ground, she knows how to prepare, she knows how to speak to people and how to get through games without letting things get to her.

“So she’s a really cool head out there which I think is going to be a great thing for the team. (Ugle) has been voted in as vice-captain. “They’ve very different people, very different players, very different ages, and (from) very different backgrounds, but they’re a really nice combination.

“In the rest of the leadership group, there’s Mia-Rae Clifford who’s been around in AFLW teams for a long time; she’s played at Freo, Geelong, and Melbourne in her time. “She’s come back into the VFLW with us this year and is a huge voice out on the field, she really gets the girls going and keeps them moving.

“Then we’ve got Kendra Heil who’s our Canadian player who was our runner-up best and fairest in 2019 as well, and Eloise Ashley-Cooper who’s an up-and-coming leader. “She was our young player of 2019, she came through the Murray Bushrangers NAB League program.

“‘C-Bomb’ Cecilia McIntosh is still around as well as Simone Nalder our ruck, who was in our leadership group in 2019. “She didn’t run for leadership this year because she has a few other things going on, but she’s always an outstanding leader whether she’s in that group or not.”

Along with the established stars of the squad comes a new batch of talent ready to take the competition by storm. With ties to a particularly strong talent region in the Calder Cannons, Essendon will have access to some of the finest young talent in the country through different points of the season.

While under 18 prospects are yet to enter the Bombers’ program as the NAB League season continues, top-age 19-year-olds have been training at The Hangar and will feature even more prominently throughout the VFLW competition. Among the most prominent words Miller used to assess such talent was “exciting”, and AFLW recruiters would arguably agree with that sentiment.

“We’ve signed quite a few from the 18th and 19th-year Calder group and a couple of Bendigo Pioneers players,” Miller said. “Georgie Prespakis from Calder Cannons, that’s a pretty exciting one there. “She’ll come through as the NAB League finishes up for the rest of the season and I imagine she’ll go pretty high in the AFLW Draft this year.

“Also from Calder, Emelia Yassir is a pretty exciting little player and Tahlia Gillard we’re quite excited about as well, so we’ll see a few of them start to flow through as we can across the season – we’ve had the top-age 19-year-old flow come through, not the 18s yet.

“We’ve got two girls from Bendigo who have been training with us quite a lot as well, Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning, they’re both 19th-year players with Bendigo. “They’re playing in the NAB League season but we’re going to try and get them in games down here as soon as we can. “They’ve been training really well, their attitude is great and they’re bringing everything they can to the sessions.”

While the Bombers have come away from preseason with a relatively clean slate on the injury front, Miller says a couple of promising returnees could also make an impact shortly into the early rounds.

“We haven’t really had any significant injuries during our preseason,” she said. “We’ve had a few concussions and niggles here and there for different players, but overall everyone is pretty fit and ready to go.

“We’ve potentially got Gloria Elarmaly coming through, she played at Calder a couple of years ago and I think pretty much in her last game she (suffered) a really severe foot injury – it was a Lisfranc (foot injury) but she also dislocated all her toes. “She was told she’d never run again, never play football again but it looks like we’ll have her back out there by about Round 4, we’re pretty keen to see her out there.

Nicole Julian as well just started with us, she was at North Melbourne previously but comes from more of a kickboxing background. She came over and in one of her very first training sessions with us she did a knee injury, so she’s kind of been in rehab since the start of November but we’ve been working through that with her and we’re hoping she’ll be ready by about Round 2.”

With a mountain of off-season work under their belts and team cohesion backed by a bed of experience, the Bombers are set to “play fast” in 2021 and impress with their pressure game. There may only be one practice game to go off thus far, but Miller says she “saw a lot of good things” from the 28 players trialled in their 60-point win over Darebin on Thursday night.

“What we’ve been working really hard on is to get that ball movement happening,” she said. “I think in 2019 we had players who could play really well but they were rushing and maybe making decisions too quickly and they weren’t coming off. What we saw last (Thursday) night was a much calmer frame of mind, girls who were able to take that pause before making a decision and keep moving.

“They’re not doing anything they couldn’t do a while ago, but they’re just executing it much better now. We’re going for a fast game, lots of pressure, we’re a tackling team and we’re hoping our fitness is actually going to pull us through and give us the edge this year.”

Plenty is happening at The Hangar with new women’s facilities finally finished ahead of season proper and an AFLW license for 2022 in the Bombers’ sights. Miller wished to shoutout the work of head coach Brendan Major, as well as the physio and high performance staff who stuck with the team purely out of care during last year. With the fruits of that work now coming to the fore, it is fair to say the commitment is paying off.

No official fixture has been released, but the Bombers are set to commence their VFLW campaign next weekend and play out of The Hangar until April due to ongoing developments at Windy Hill.

Image Credit: Kate Heath/Essendon FC