Versatile Clifton converts on each line

THERE’S hardly a position Lauren Clifton hasn’t played over the years. The South Australian prospect transitioned from her usual wing role to be utilised down back, and even at full forward between her SANFLW and Under 19 National Championships campaigns.

While she was “quiet” in the early stages of the season, by her own humble estimation, Clifton rode each challenge and enjoyed being able to link up with her Panthers teammates at state level.

“Last year I played a bit more of an on-ball role, on the wing. They’ve moved me around a little bit to the backline this year and still on the wing,” Clifton said. “I’ve been moved into full forward for a couple of games, then against the Allies I played full back.

“(South Adelaide teammates) are probably my closest friends outside of school and footy as well, so it’s good to be away with them.”

At 171cm, the 17-year-old fits the mould of a hybrid type. Clifton’s versatility and outside run are strengths, but she is working on bringing more “aggression” and grunt to her game in contested situations.

“I’m not a very aggressive person, I’m a lover not a fighter,” she said. “I just try and be skilful on the ground or up high… (I’m improving) my aggression, to be more aggressive and work on my tackling because I’m not the strongest build.”

The Willunga junior came through the elite talent pathway in development squads and Port Adelaide’s Next Generation Academy, where she played against Adelaide’s Academy. Current AFLW star Chelsea Randall was among the Crows’ coaching set-up, and is a role model for many of SA’s budding draft prospects.

For Clifton, a Crows supporter, Randall’s versatility and courage are key traits she aspires to implement in her own game. There is plenty of time to work on just that, though the Year 12 student is also juggling her studies and work during the week.

While working towards Randall’s standard, Clifton also has some valuable mentors in her corner. She cited her parents as a “huge support”, as well as the South Adelaide coaches, including Ryan Skouborg who has been alongside her from back in the development squad days.

Draft day (July 27) will have proven a longer wait for Clifton than many others, considering she did not return to the SANFLW fold after Round 8. She is was of many South Australians vying for higher honours, in a talent-stacked pool.

Tenacious Tonon shows “massive” development

SO impressive was Brooke Tonon‘s form in 2021, she earned a call-up to the illustrious AFLW Academy. She was fresh off an impressive Under 19 National Championships campaign with South Australia, and en route to SANFLW premiership honours with Glenelg – showcasing a rapid rate of development across both competitions.

The SANFLW team of the year half-back proved more than capable at senior level, flicking a switch once past the white line with a blend of aggression and skill. After debuting last year, Tonon says she has “learned so much” in a variety of roles.

“My game has developed massively since I started playing,” Tonon said. “I’ve learned all positions. I started off forward, played on the wing, and now in defence so it’s been really good.

“I’m really loving half-back right now. I don’t mind the wing and I love playing forward, obviously kicking goals, but it’s a really hard position to play and I feel more naturally suited to the backline.”

The 17-year-old has truly found a home at half-back, a position which suits her strengths, but also allows her to properly assess key areas of improvement.

“I feel like I have the ability to read the play really well,” she said. “I can position myself in spots where I can impact the game and with my execution by foot, I can see where to kick to and hit targets.

“I need to learn when to not attack as much and kind of stay back, or settle myself and be more composed rather than rushing and playing on. It’s just switching between attack and defence as I’m playing half-back.”

Tonon’s game has grown throughout the junior talent pathways too, having been mentored by the likes of AFLW star Chelsea Randall in the Crows Academy, and eventually ending up among South Australia’s Under 19 squad. Having travelled over to Melbourne for the second National Championships leg, Tonon lauded the experience as “awesome”.

“Coming (to Melbourne) and playing against so many more talented girls, the competition’s amazing,” she said. “Then learning off everyone (in the SA team), I’ve never met a more talented group of girls ever. They’re amazing.”

Amazing is right, and competition for spots at the next level will be tough in 2021 for the South Australian crop as Adelaide is the state’s sole AFLW side. Tonon hopes to be one of a predicted four talents drafted in that bunch, but says she will remain optimistic if things pan out differently.

“I really hope to get drafted, but if that doesn’t happen I’d love to keep playing really good SANFLW footy and hopefully make my way up through there,” she said.

The 2021 AFLW National Draft is set to be held on Tuesday, July 27.

Breguet takes “learning opportunity” with both hands

BY her own account, Lauren Breguet‘s footballing journey is “a bit of a long story”, and the explosive Central District forward has come quite some way in a short period of time. The 18-year-old hopped codes and borders to get to where she is now, thriving at SANFL Women’s level and in the South Australian State Under 19s Academy.

“I originally started basketball in Mildura, then my mum was like ‘it’d be a great idea for you to play football’,” Breguet said. “I started doing the Bendigo Pioneers programs over there before we moved for family reasons. Then I made it to Centrals and now I’m in the state squad, so it’s pretty exciting.”

Breguet says she’s “loving” being part of Centrals’ senior side, with which she played seven games in 2021 through injury and representative interruptions. Above all else, it has proven a valuable “learning opportunity” both on and off the field – from learning new positions, to gaining life lessons.

“It’s been a great experience,” she said. “I’ve learned so much from all these different coaches. It’s just such a great learning opportunity that I can take on and hopefully better my football, and even life lessons. “I’m still learning the game. I’m starting to learn more positions which I find really useful. I’m still (improving) the defence side of it, and I’m almost finished learning forward which is great.”

Image credit: On the Ball Media

While still honing her defensive game in a positional sense, Breguet is “never shy of putting [her] body on the line”. With terrific speed both in possession and while chasing, she boasts some eye-catching traits in the forward half.

They show in her season averages too; managing 10 disposals and three tackles per each SANFLW outing, while lifting to 10.7 disposals and five tackles across three AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships games. All that, while most importantly hitting the scoreboard in both competitions.

It was little surprise, then, to hear just which current AFLW stars the youngster looks towards for inspiration.

“I look up to Darcy Vescio, I find her a great forward, and Monique Conti,” she said. “They’re both really great at what they do and that’s what I aspire to be like.”

With the season run and done, Breguet recently took part in South Australia’s AFLW Draft Combine, an event where selection indicates promising interest at the next level. The Centrals forward is taking nothing for granted though, simply aiming to “improve” and go “as far as [she] can” with her football.

“Even if I don’t make AFLW, it’s still a great opportunity… to meet some new people and love the game even more,” she said.

Breguet, along with hundreds of prospects from around the nation will hope to have her name called out at the fast-approaching AFLW Draft, on July 27.

Competitive Venning used to putting in the “extra effort”

WINNING your club’s best and fairest award over the league and state Under 19s MVP is no mean feat, but it’s exactly what West Adelaide midfielder Zoe Venning pulled off in 2021. The tenacious ball winner was part of a strong Westies side which surged to this year’s SANFL Women’s grand final, averaging 16.5 disposals, 4.7 tackles, and 2.1 clearances across 12 games.

Having previously played netball at a high level, the 17-year-old says she knew exactly what it would take to be able to put in the “extra effort” required to make such strides at senior level.

“I was quite high up with my netball so I was used to putting the extra effort in off the field,” Venning said. “I always did my running… I know what it takes to put in hard work so that wasn’t something I was inexperienced with, it was more the age gap because I had always played with girls my age.

“Moving to SANFLW and playing with older girls matured my level of training, being a bit more mature was the biggest challenge.”

Venning credited her footballing journey to her dad, who encouraged her to “give it a go” having already excelled in netball and basketball. After starting out with the Mitcham Hawks, she fell in love with the game and soon found team success closer to home.

“I got to where I am now through my dad,” she said. “I first played at Mitcham Hawks when I was 13 and I didn’t want to play at all but dad said ‘come on Zoe, give it a go’ and I really liked it. My first game I got a lot of it, kicking off my shin but I just loved it.

“My dad wanted to make a girl’s program where I live, so he started up the Blackwood Football Club girl’s program and I’ve played there ever since and every year we’ve won the premiership. It’s just been such a good culture, all my best friends play there so that’s really how I started footy.”

Having started out scrubbing the ball off her shin, Venning has since added some polish to her game but remains a tough sort of ball winner who thrives at the contest. When outlining her strengths, the versatile talent was quick to list “contested ball wins” atop the tree.

“I really back myself,” she said. “I don’t really get intimidated by who I’m (against). I control if I’m going to get the ball or not, I’m not an outside receiver.

“I also think my marking’s quite strong. As a midfielder I can take a strong mark and be a link-up player, even on the kick-outs.”

Zoe Venning on the move for West Adelaide | Image Credit: On The Ball Media

Venning’s strengths made her a lock for SANFLW Team of the Year honours, and she brought the same kind of vigour to her state representative duties. With averages of 23 disposals, seven tackles, and four clearances per her three National Championship games, she also earned Under 19 All Australian status.

Speaking amid April’s Victorian leg of the carnival, she had both individual and team goals in mind.

“It’s been a really good achievement and I’m really excited just to show people what I’ve got,” she said. “I’m looking at it as an opportunity for me and the team to really utilise the talent we have in SA because it’s our standalone year.

“I’m just looking forward to showing my teamwork with others and it’s not just me, I want everyone to do well. But I still want to show that I am a strong player and I’m here to get drafted.”

While finding her way onto an AFLW list is the end goal, Venning is also seeking to succeed in her current Year 12 studies and knows missing out may not be the “be all and end all”. She also has a strong source of inspiration to look up to at the next level.

“An inspiration is Rachelle Martin, who was in my Westies team,” she said. “She inspires me because she worked so hard to get where she is now, playing for the Crows. “She’s a really hard worker, really nice, always caring to her teammates and that’s mainly what inspires me to keep going. I see her work ethic and I want to be like that.”

Come July 27 at the 2021 AFLW Draft, Venning has the chance to join Martin at Adelaide.

“Go-getter” Swan brings leadership to the fore

STARTING her football career as a seven-year-old for the Bridgewater Raiders in the Adelaide Hills, Georgia Swan is still travelling on her “really fun and long journey,” a decade later.

The now 17-year-old Swan, known by her teammates as “Swanee”, is a part of the South Australian Academy.

Swan has recently completed her third season playing for Sturt in the SANFLW, where she averaged 9.1 disposals, 2.1 marks, 2 tackles, and 1.6 inside 50s. Swan credited her hard work in the off-season for her performances during the season.

“I think I had a really good pre-season this year. I worked on my fitness coming off last season and I think I’ve become a lot fitter which has really improved my game,” she said.

Despite the team only managing three wins and a draw from 11 games this season, Swan was not too disappointed about the year.

“It’s been pretty tough actually. [Sturt] haven’t had too many wins but it’s been really fun, we’re improving a lot since last year so that’s the main thing.”

At state level, Swan knows she must be on top of her game not only with the way she plays, but also to fulfil her role as a leader.

“I think I’ve got a bigger leadership role on-field in our state team as co-captain and one of our bigger players in the forward line, helping out with voice and instructions,” she said.

Playing predominantly up forward, she averaged 10 disposals, 2.7 marks, 2 tackles, and 2.3 inside 50s during the three NAB U19s Championship games showcasing just how much of a classy player she is.

Swan loves to get around the ground and attack as many contests as she can, a trait she believes she can offer at the top level.

“I like to think I’ve got a very go-getter attitude on the field. I want to get into contests, get into packs and keep going with two, three efforts. With the right coaches and teammates, I hope that could really compliment [an AFLW team] and I can keep improving from there.”

Swan remains determined to make it to the AFLW and is always wanting to get better.

“I want to work on my aggression, keep smashing through the packs and winning ground balls.”

She has relished the opportunity to be coached by Chelsea Randall, someone she says is a “very inspiring and amazing woman to look up to”, and Swan dreams of one day becoming just like her.

Away from footy, Swan is studying Year 12 and she also works in a restaurant, but for her “footy’s a big priority”.

Fierce Dolan chooses footballing “family”

A FIERCE competitor who tackles hard, brings her pressure game to each line, and doesn’t mind a scrap. On face value, you’d think Charlotte Dolan hails from a much different sporting background than her soccer and surf lifesaving past. The helmet-donning Woodville-West Torrens prospect is unmistakable on-field, though.

Dolan completed just her second SANFL Women’s campaign in 2021 after a promising debut season last year, with her choice to pursue Australian football paying off in the form of repeat state representative honours. It has proven quite a journey for the 18-year-old.

“I started playing football five to six years ago and it’s been non-stop since then,” Dolan said. “From SMOSH West Lakes, [to] Henley Football Club, to the Eagles, and now I’m here.

“I stopped playing soccer about four years ago… the honest truth is I had a soccer coach who said I had to choose. “I was doing surf lifesaving, soccer and football and it was all too much so my soccer coach told me to choose, and I chose football.

“I felt more of a family was around the football community and I was enjoying it a lot more, enjoyment comes before anything else.”

Dolan ponders her next move during this year’s AFLW U19 championships

In a season which Dolan modestly rated as “not too bad”, she averaged over seven disposals and four tackles across her nine SANFLW outings. The top-ager boosted those numbers come National Championships time, making it eight disposals to go with 2.3 marks and 2.7 inside 50s.

Having been utilised on both sides of midfield, up forward and down back, it is fair to say that Dolan’s punishing pressure game easily translates to all of the above. She says that kind of “versatility” is one of her strengths.

“I’d say I’m quite a fierce and aggressive player,” she said. “I like to lay the game-changing tackles and I believe I’m an alright kick, a long kick as well so I think they’re mostly my strengths.

“My marking has always let me down a fair bit but I have improved a lot from where I was – from playing soccer and being scared of having a ball in the face to where I am now, I think I’m doing alright.”

Outside of football, Dolan says there isn’t “a whole lot” going on. Shortly after her South Australian representative stint, she looked forward to the Australian surf lifesaving titles, but also fills her time working at AFL Max which is “a bit of fun”.

Ballard buoyed by “enjoyable” position switch

STURT utility Alex Ballard is a player capable of shining at either end of the field, with her versatility tested throughout state Under 19s and SANFL Women’s duties. The top-ager already has over 30 senior games to her name after debuting in 2018, utilised as an equally capable intercept marking defender and full forward in that time, as well as during her representative stints.

“Last season I played down forward and obviously that was sometimes hard to get the ball,” Ballard said. “This season I played down back, at half-back, and that’s been really enjoyable. Just being able to use my kick to penetrate the defence and get through the lines.

“I enjoy being able to play in different positions, different positions have different challenges.”

As an marking and rebounding defender, Ballard shares similar traits to one of the top level footballers she looks up to, her own brother, Charlie. The Mitcham Hawks junior says he is not the only inspiration for her football career, though.

“My brother Charlie is probably the most obvious [mentor], but also my dad,” she said. “He’s always been very supportive and never puts pressure on me. “If we’re looking at footy skills, looking at Charlie and how he plays, he’s a good intercepting defender and has a good kick so I look up to him.

Chelsea Randall [too], because she plays in defence and that’s my most preferred position. She’s courageous, always hard at the ball and is not afraid to drop off her player to impact the contest.

“In the defence I’m a bit tall so I play on the bigger bodies and float off my player when I can to take those intercept marks.”

Ballard’s aerial quality came to the fore during another strong SANFLW campaign, in which she averaged nine disposals and four marks per her nine outings. The 170cm prospect also averaged virtually identical numbers across three state games, with that form enough to land her a spot in the recent SANFLW All Stars showcase. There, she was among the best afield for Team Red.

Having started out in a nine-a-side carnival with the Mitcham Hawks, Ballard’s honours have stacked up over the years. While she was overlooked in the 2020 AFL Women’s draft, the 18-year-old continues to press on and is also kept busy by her life outside of football.

“I’m at Adelaide Uni, I’m studying health and medical science,” she said. “I’m interested in going into the cancer research field so that keeps me busy outside of footy, balancing [them] at the moment.”

Midfield transition makes for fitter and faster Halfpenny

A MIDFIELD transition has made Norwood’s Jade Halfpenny get “fitter” and work “faster” in 2021. The versatile prospect had previously cut her teeth as a forward, but at 175cm, staked her claim as a tall on-baller in the Redlegs’ most recent SANFL Women’s campaign.

“It’s definitely a lot faster,” Halfpenny said. “I’ve had to get a lot fitter, that’s what preseason was for obviously. “But it’s been really good because I feel like I’ve been able to show a different side of myself and work a bit harder in games.

“I do like forward because I like kicking goals – who doesn’t like kicking goals? “But I like midfield as well because you do get to be involved a bit more.”

As a top-ager who was overlooked at last year’s draft, the move has allowed Halfpenny to showcase improvement and added strings to her bow. While her strengths have come to the fore in the new role, Halfpenny also outlined some fundamental areas for improvement.

“Being a bigger player, definitely my speed [is a strength],” she said. “A lot of taller players aren’t able to move as quickly. My strength as well, being a bigger body has definitely helped out a lot.

“[I’m working on] the basics like kicking, one-percenters, handballing. Just fine-tuning.”

Halfpenny was a mainstay in Norwood’s minor premiership-winning SANFLW season this year, averaging 10.6 disposals, 2.5 marks and 3.1 tackles across 11 games. The Redlegs fell short of the flag, but Halfpenny said it was “really good to be winning” and “seeing some results for all the hard work” the team had put in.

Her outstanding individual form was also enough to see her represent her state at the AFLW Under 19 National Championships. Having played in the senior grade for multiple seasons now, the 19-year-old was pleased to play and train alongside a new bunch of teammates.

“It’s been really good because obviously it’s been a couple of years since I’ve solely been with a group of people who are similar in age,” she said. “It’s good to be exposed to that and also train alongside people that I generally play against, and get to know them personally.”

Halfpenny lauded the influence of of coaches along the journey, from those who “saw a lot of potential” in her as a junior, to the Norwood and state program staff who have helped accelerate her development. She has come a long way since starting out at local club, Golden Grove.

“I started playing local footy when I was 15 at Golden Grove,” she said. “From there I did the Under 17 development squads with Norwood for three years, and at the end of my last year they invited me to come out and train with the senior side and it just went (on) from there.

“My coaches from junior level saw a lot of potential in me from younger ages and helped me get to where I am now. The coaches at Norwood and even here in the state program have all been really helpful.”

Lishmund one of the Valley’s great hopes

WATCHING her brother play local football at Hope Valley spawned a thought for Alana Lishmund – “I can play that.”

She certainly can play, with the Norwood prospect utilised in a number of roles at SANFL Women’s and state Under 19s level throughout her draft-eligible season. The 17-year-old was part of the Redlegs’ side which won the 2021 minor premiership, enjoying a “smooth transition” into the senior grade over the last few years.

“Everything just flowed in from each other,” Lishmund said during the Under 19 national carnival. “I got to know my teammates and kept going with it, the fun was naturally there. “The expectations climbed, now I’m at Norwood and having a good time.”

Having spoken while Norwood sat atop the SANFLW ladder, Lishmund described the season as “anyone’s game”, and she was certainly correct as Glenelg took out the flag while her Redlegs were eliminated from a tough finals campaign.

The promising utility was made to learn on the job, employed on each line and building nicely throughout her state representative duties to show glimpses of her high potential. Having also donned South Australian colours in 2020, Lishmund says she enjoyed the experience a second time around as she got a taste of each different role.

“It’s been a good experience,” she said. “I’ve done it the last couple years and this one’s definitely a lot of fun, working with these girls as always. The contest is hard which is good.”

“Growing up I’d always be rover or in the centre, but through the years I’ve played here and there so [I’ve been] versatile. “I like the wing, you get to know and grow in the position but I’ll give it a go anywhere.”

That kind of “give it a go” attitude also translates to Lishmund’s on-field effort, as she applies terrific defensive pressure and proves strong it contested marking situations for a player of her 168cm stature. She averaged 1.2 marks and 1.9 tackles per her nine SANFLW games this season, numbers which highlight those strengths.

“I’d say I’m pretty strong in the contest and have pretty good marking ability,” she said. “[I am working on] just keeping up those one-percenters and skills, but maybe some more contested work too.”

Like most talents at her age, Lishmund’s end goal is to get drafted, though she says she will “find something else that [she] can still be involved in with footy” should that not immediately come to fruition. By “working hard for” her teammates and meeting their expectations each time she steps onto the field, Lishmund is certainly putting her best foot forward.

2021 SANFLW team review: Glenelg

IN summarising the 2021 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season, Draft Central will run through a team-by-team review of how each of the sides fared, and who some of the standout performers throughout the clubs were. The final team in the firing line is Glenelg.

Position: 2nd (Premiers)
Wins: 7
Losses: 3
Draws: 1
Points For: 379 (2nd)
Points Against: 261 (2nd)

Season in a Sentence: “A consistent team all season, the Bays stood tall at the pointy end of the year to claim their maiden SANFL Women’s premiership.


Jessica Bates

As consistent as ever, the midfielder had an outstanding 2021 season, earning a place in the SANFL Women’s Team of the Year. Averaging 15.4 disposals, 2.2 marks, 3.0 clearances, 2.2 inside 50s, 1.7 rebound 50s and 8.5 tackles, Bates was able to influence in multiple parts of the ground. Playing all 13 matches, Bates only dipped into single-digit disposals once, and had back-to-back games of 24 disposals against South Adelaide and North Adelaide, where she also averaged 6.0 clearances, 6.5 tackles and 5.0 inside 50s in those matches.

Ellie Kellock

Captaining the SANFL Women’s Team of the Year, Kellock proved she could play anywhere on the field in 2021, averaging 13.8 disposals, 1.6 marks, 3.5 clearances, 3.1 inside 50s, 1.2 rebound 50s, 2.9 tackles and booting six goals. She only had less than 10 disposals once, and had a memorable finals series, averaging 15.5 disposals, 6.0 clearances and 4.5 inside 50s against Norwood and West Adelaide. Kellock also made history by becoming the first Glenelg SANFLW captain and did it with a ray of consistency all season.

Brooke Tonon

The State Academy member had an outstanding season and really raised her draft stocks, proven by the fact she earned and AFLW Draft Combine invitation. Tonon earned a place at half-back in the SANFL Women’s Team of the Year, a role she made her own after playing in multiple positions in her debut season. Now in her draft-eligible year, Tonon provided great run out of the back 50 and could push up to a win to impact as well. In her 11 games, Tonon averaged 14.7 disposals – at 78 per cent efficiency – 2.5 marks, 3.1 tackles and 2.5 rebound 50s.

Tessa Kohn

After a solid debut season, Kohn stepped it up a notch in her second year at SANFL Women’s level, playing 13 matches and relishing the inside midfield role amongst some incredibly consistent performers. Kohn herself earned Draft Central SANFL Women’s Team of the Year honours, racking up 12.4 disposals, 5.4 tackles and 3.5 clearances, doing her best work at the coal face and impacting regularly for her side. In a purple patch between Rounds 8-10, Kohn averaged 18.7 disposals, 4.7 tackles and 6.3 clearances.


Glenelg earned the premiership off some terrific contributors across the board, as the returning AFL Women’s talents in Ebony Marinoff and Caitlin Gould bolstered the already impressive outfit. State Academy member Tamsyn Morriss, 15-year-old Piper Window and the versatile Madisyn Freeman all impressed, with Sam Franson, Chelsea Packer and Meara Girvan all amongst a host of Glenelg talents who stood up when it counted, and helped the Bays win their last seven games of the season and romp to a premiership.

Picture credit: SANFL