Tag: russell humphrey

Even spread of talent to lead Cannons in 2020

CALDER Cannons’ NAB League Girls list was finalised last last week as the Craigieburn-based side prepares to head into the 2020 season. Reaching the 2019 Grand Final before ultimately falling a win short at the hands of the Northern Knights, Female Talent Coordinator Russell Humphrey said there was roughly around a 10-player split across top, middle and bottom-age players. With a different coaching group coming on board, Humphrey said he is feeling more comfortable ahead of his second season in the role.

“It helps going around again,” Humphrey said. “I had a little bit of a handle on it beforehand but being in the coordinator’s chair you’ve got to have a bigger handle on it and I’ve gone out last year and watched a fair amount of local footy which I’ll do again this year just to see what’s out there. “With our list (compared to the boys) it’s a little bit harder because our season starts before the local season starts so it only gives them three or four weeks before our season finishes so it’s a little bit difficult that way. “We rely a little bit on going out and watching them during the year and things like that.”

Last year the Cannons had two players drafted, with captain Georgia Patrikios going in the top five to St Kilda – and already earning a Rising Star nomination – and Krstel Petrevski picked up by Melbourne later in the draft. Humphrey said Patrikios’ influence on the club as captain had been profound.

“It was interesting for Georgia, at the start of the year she hurt her ankle so it made her work a little bit harder to go through the injury issue, getting right and then to start playing,” he said. “I think that because of that, it gives her a good understanding of what’s required going into AFLW. I know that when she played state footy she played very well for Vic Metro and then when she played for Essendon VFLW she played well there as well so she gave the girls an understanding of what’s required and I think a lot of the top-agers followed that. “Krystal got drafted, Alana Barba, Felicity Theodore and Terira Fry and Zoe Hardiman all ended up playing VFLW footy, and Makeisha Muller as well. “At Williamstown, North (Melbourne), and Essendon. So I think that group was dragged along by themselves and the results showed with them all playing VFL footy. “Getting two drafted was fantastic, if we got three it would’ve topped it off.”

While Patrikios has already made an impact in her first game, Humphrey said Melbourne fans had plenty to look forward to with Petrevski when she gets her chance to don the red and blue.

Competitive, competitive, very competitive young lady,” he said. “Does the right things, everyone knows the story about her moving from Halls Creek, down to Sydney and then across here to Melbourne, that in itself shows resilience. “And I think that’s what they’ll get, they’ll get a hard-working person that understands what’s required.”

The future looks bright for the Cannons, who regularly have past players – such as Patrikios and Petrevski – dropping in at training to keep them informed of what’s happening in the world of AFL Women’s. Former Cannon, Sarah Dargan is an assistant coach at the club, which has plenty of future talent on the list at Under-17 and Under-16 level coming through.

We were lucky last year, we got an exceptional group of Under-16 players who are now Under 17s,” Humphrey said. “And like it does in the boys, it goes in circles like that and we were just lucky to get that group of probably 10 quality Under-16 players. “We’re hoping that the development of our top-age players this year sort of drags them along as well, the 17s came back in better shape than maybe previous years and I think that’s experience for them, learning what’s going on a bit more. “Around the whole competition the 16s and the 17s are now getting a better idea of what’s required when they come back from their 16th year to their 17th, and 17th again to 18th.” We don’t want to rely on our 17s but they will be part of the going forward.”

For such a young group to make the grand final was huge, but Humphrey said the Knights were too good on the day, and did not enable the Cannons to play with the same freedom they had against an equally strong Falcons side.

It was for our playing group, reward,” Humphrey said. “For the coaching group it was reward. “I know the work that they had put in to get to the final, to beat Geelong who are a quality side and had quality people around them, to be able to get past them was probably more important for the girls than the grand final. “That’s no disrespect to Northern because they played great footy on that day but that high of beating Geelong, it was hard for our girls to get back up and play Northern, and Northern didn’t allow us to play the footy that obviously we played the week before. “It was an exciting time for (the players), making the finals and then winning the game against Geelong and leading into grand final week we were positive but unfortunately we just couldn’t get the chocolates at the end of the day, but Northern were a quality side and so were Geelong. I think the competition’s getting closer and closer every year which is fantastic.”

The name that has been and will regularly be touted is Georgie Prespakis, the younger sister of Carlton’s Rising Star Madison, who is still a year away from being draft eligible. In one game against the Rebels last year, the Under-16 talent booted seven goals after moving to full-forward in the second quarter. Humphrey said while the hype was genuine, the Cannons had plenty of players to watch from that age group that were worthy of the same praise.

“I think we all get excited with Georgie and I understand that,” Humphrey said. “We don’t have any expectations on her, we just expect them to play.” The hardest part for Georgie is being a bottom-ager and how well Maddy (Prespakis) is going, the scrutiny on her is a fair bit from this sort of forum (media). “I think we’re missing out on Tahlia Gillard who’s in the Academy, Neve Crowley, (Emilia) Yassir, Kasey Lennox, Peppa Poultney that played in the Vic Metro 16s – we’ve got a group of six to eight players in that group who are possibly draftable, again they have to do the work and we have to do our end. But everyone’s all about talking about Georgie a lot and I understand that but I think they’re missing some quality players there. “Tahlia Gillard is 186cm tall and her birthday’s at the end of the year so she doesn’t turn 17 until December.”

Those names are still a year away from being draft-eligible, and to focus on this year’s crop, Humphrey said there were certainly some to keep an eye on.

“I think you’ll find that Laura (Cocomello) will play in the midfield, probably mid-forward. “Kiara (Delia) will probably play down back and through the middle as well. “Tamsyn Crook we’re going to probably start her off down back and let her play one position instead of throwing her around – similar to what the boys will do with Cody (Brand) – and just let her give her a spot down back and let her hold down centre half-back for a while. That’s not to say she won’t go forward or won’t go in the middle but we’ll probably look at her beginning down back.”

The Cannons have managed to have a top five pick in the first three years of the system, with Chloe Molloy, Monique Conti, Prespakis and Patrikios all going early in the AFL Women’s drafts. In 2020, the Cannons have a more even top-age spread without a clear standout.

“I think that’s a great call, (in) our top-agers we don’t have the standout,” Humphrey said. “We have a top-age group that’ve worked pretty hard and there’s no outstanding sort of touted draft prospect. “But I think again if we do the job properly with the coaching and everything else, we’re hoping again to get one or two (drafted). “Our aim is obviously to get minimum one a year so if we can do that, that’ll be great. It’s an even group, most definitely. “And we’ve brought a couple of girls in who’ve never played NAB League footy or TAC Cup footy before, top-agers so that’ll be interesting to see how that goes. “But again if they’ve got the talent, you need to have a look at them and give them the opportunity so that’s what we’ll do.”

The Cannons will bring in a couple of 19-year-old’s with Grace Dicker coming back after a year off to recover from a shoulder injury sustained in 2018, as well as Freda Puruntatameri who spent some time at Essendon VFL last season having travelled down from the Tiwi Islands. With Matthew O’Connor now taking the reins of the girls’ side, the team has a different leader, but a similar game style to the previous year. In preparation for the year ahead, the Cannons will head up to Yarrawonga to face Murray Bushrangers, before another match against Western Jets the following Friday in a lead-up to their Round 1 clash.

Calder takes on Northern in a grand final rematch, played on Saturday, February 29 at RMIT Bundoora.

U18 Girls season preview: Calder Cannons

NEW Calder Cannons Female Talent Manager, Russell Humphrey is buoyant about the future of the Cannons after a strong pre-season with plenty of standouts. After taking out the inaugural 2017 premiership with future AFL Women’s young guns, Chloe Molloy, Monique Conti and Sarah Dargan on the list, the Cannons had a lot of bottom-agers in 2018, winning only the two games but getting better with every match. Now with another season under their belts, the Cannons are expected to improve again and with plenty of Under 16s forcing their way into the line-up, the next few years are looking good for the Craigieburn-based side.

Humphrey said while new to the role, he was a familiar face around the club, having worked with the premiership-winning girls side in 2017, before assisting the boys last season.

“I was involved in the year before so 2017 when I coached the forward line, and then last year I was moved into a different role with the boys,” Humphrey said. “From afar obviously last season wasn’t as good as the year before. “I think we noticed and we’ve have rectified it with the shape of our bodies so you’ll notice this year hopefully. We’re a different shape; we’re a little bit taller, a little bit more athletic – the competition became like that.”

Humphrey said looking at the practice game against Western Jets, and the clash between Northern Knights and Sandringham Dragons, he felt the Cannons were in a good position.

“We had some games here on Sunday and I noticed we’re a lot closer to the other sides this year than we were last year, so we’re hoping that will help us get some results going our way. “Not that it’s a result-driven competition or things like that, but when you’re playing well that’s when you get a chance to get someone drafted. “The deeper we go in the season, if we can finish in the top four, and no doubt every other club is thinking the same thing, you give your players more of an opportunity, performing in front of recruiters and list managers and everything else that goes with it. “I think we’ll improve.”

This year, Madison Prespakis has joined Conti, Molloy and Dargan in the AFL Women’s competition and already showed why she was taken as the first Victorian metropolitan pick.

“She had a great year,” Humphrey said. “She had a good year the year before as well, we always knew she was a talent. “She’s proven that already in the three games she’s played at AFLW. “Much like Monique Conti and Chloe Molloy and even Sarah Dargan this year has really showed her improvement in the AFLW, which I find quite pleasing to see Sarah going so well. “Obviously we would have liked someone else get drafted but that didn’t happen. “Maybe this year we might get a couple, but Madi’s obviously doing the work and the reward is the way she is playing her AFLW footy at the moment which is fantastic. “Especially from our end.”

While the Cannons will be minus Prespakis in 2019, Humphrey hopes the ball magnet has left a legacy with the now top-age group. Humphrey said the Futures squad of Under 16s were already promising signs for the future.

“You hope that the older girls now being in the system for three years. They’ve gone through the system … and hopefully they can lead this next group coming though. I think every club will agree their under 16s are better than what their under 16s were two years ago and probably better than the under 16s were last year. That’s what I’ve found anyway.”

Stepping up into Prespakis’ shoes is never going to be easy, but AFL Women’s Academy member and All-Australian in her bottom-age year, Georgia Patrikios has been the clear standout over the past few years.

“I think that Georgia’s attributes and her willingness to improve over the three years shows her coachability, her understanding of what needs to be done, her skill up-skilling right across the board,” Humphrey said. “It gives her a great opportunity to be in the top five. “I think if it was an open draft she could go one or two. I’m not sure how that’s going to work next year.”

Humphrey said Patrikios has plenty of tricks that will attract AFL Women’s recruiters throughout the year.

“She does a couple of things that are little bit of a ‘wow factor’. She’ll get the ball out and not kick a high ball but kick a flat ball forward to their advantage which I think is how AFLW is going to head. They are going to look for players who can do that, similar to how the men do it. I think Georgia is on the right track for that.”

Having mixed between midfield and forward last year, Humphrey hopes to use Patrikios’ agility and pace as a run-and-carry player to create a “60-metre player”.

“I can see her playing both in the mid but on the wing as well,” Humphrey said. “I think she plays her best footy on the wing so she can use her agility to get out and her leg speed to get out. “I think that one of her major assets is her leg speed. “Being inside sometimes you don’t quite see that. “But on the outside if we can get it out to her quick enough, we know she’s going to carry it 20, we know she can kick it 40, so she becomes automatically a 60m player so if we can do that, for us that is a massive, massive bonus. “We may have missed that a little bit last year because we didn’t get it out as clean as we might have liked to, but hopefully this year we can.”

Other than Patrikios, Humphrey said the Cannons had a few other players to keep an eye on throughout the season.

Krstel Petrevski has got some good attributes,” he said. “She uses the ball well, she can get it … she needs to tidy up below her knees on ground balls, but she’s getting better at it, she just needs to keep improving. “Makeisha Muller is one we got from Gippsland last year who moved into the area. I think she’s draftable, she’s an X-factor player. “She’s worked really hard in the pre-season. “We’ve tracked her with the GPS pretty much the whole pre-season because she wanted that, she wanted to know how hard she was working.

“My smokey from our point of view is Alana Barba who can play in the middle, half-back and can go forward and probably even on the wing. “I see how hard she’s working, her kick’s not elite, but it’s better than okay. “Her leg speed and ability to get out of a pack is probably second to Patrikios at times. She seems to now understand that she’s got to run both ways … I think her playing down back has helped that too.

Felicity Theodore‘s another one who’s got good leg speed. “Her only downside may be her size, but apart from that, she’s in-and-under, she doesn’t get bumped off the ball a lot, she gets it a lot, her kicking needs a little bit more depth. “But having said that, the coaching staff have been working on that at training.”

Humphrey said the coaching staff was pleased with how the girls had prepared for the upcoming season, which begins on March 2 at RAMS Arena. The Cannons face Western Jets, a side they played on the weekend.

“The preparation so far has been pretty good,” Humphrey said. “They’ve bought in what Paul‘s (Tilley, head coach) tried to teach them and what all the coaching staff is trying to teach them, which is three quarters of the battle. “We had a practice match against Western on the weekend, I know they had a few girls out and we played everyone. “The coaching staff were happy with the way we played, so that was a bonus. “We played 18 (players) one quarter, 18 for a half and 18 for the last quarter, so it was a little bit different but we were all a bit closer to our list than what they are, I think they’re another week away and that’s okay.”

One thing to expect is plenty of Futures making their way into the Cannons squad, with Humphrey naming Tahlia Gillard – a 187cm centre half-back – and Georgie Prespakis – sister of Madison but with different attributes – among a host of Under 16s to watch this year.

“When we looked at our list this year, we looked at our under 16 girls as top-age players,” Humphrey said. “What are they going to be like in 2021? “How will they go there as top-age players rather than the now. “I know everyone says it, but you like to think of this Under 16 group we could get two or three drafted again. “Which is a possibility because it will be a bigger pool with other AFL clubs coming in other years.

“Our Under 16 group is a fairly talented group … if I was to have a guess, of the nine or 10 under 16s, eight could play Round 1. “Comfortably play Round 1. “We’re not going to go overboard in it, we’ll be smart about it. “We could quite easily have six under 16s play their first game in under 18 footy in Round 1 and be confident in them doing what they’ve shown at local level.”