Tag: Sarah Hosking

AFL Women’s Saturday wrap: Prespakis, Vescio inspire almighty Blues escape

CARLTON overcame a horror start on Saturday afternoon to ward off a roaring Richmond outfit at Princes Park, escaping five-point victors against its traditional rival. The Tigers got the jump with the first four goals of the game, before reigning league best and fairest Maddy Prespakis sparked the Blues to life with two second term goals to help claim an unlikely half time lead. From there, the Darcy Vescio show took full toll to help Carlton kick a winning score, eventually reading 8.3 (51) to Richmond’s 7.4 (46).

While still winless in the AFL Women’s competition, green shoots are beginning to appear for Richmond after arguably its best performance to date. The Tigers’ poor conversion and attacking penetration have been a lead story thus far, but that was far from the case on Saturday as they surged forward with ruthless pace and efficiency to catch Carlton unawares on multiple occasions.

The Tigers’ pressure and early midfield dominance were other key signs of their upside, before Carlton’s prime movers began to take the game over. Having started the season at 0-2, the Blues’ finals hopes are still kicking as they sit just outside the top six, but a much more consistent run of form will be required from here on out.

Much of the hype coming into this clash surrounded the potential matchup of twins Jess and Sarah Hosking, who would take little time to acquaint themselves as opponents at the first centre bounce. It marked somewhat of another new role for Carlton’s Jess, who has been utilised up either end of the ground, while Richmond’s Sarah was typically reliable in midfield.

The Hosking in navy blue finished with 19 disposals, while her sibling managed 15 touches to go with six marks and seven tackles despite missing a chunk of action through concussion protocols. The Prespakis tackle which put Hosking out of action was deemed dangerous at the time, and could see Carlton’s star midfielder face more scrutiny from the match review officer this season.

Richmond’s Monique Conti was busy as ever, leading all comers with 26 disposals and seven inside 50s. Skipper Katie Brennan looked lively in the front half, notching two goals among her 17 touches and five marks with strong work in the air and across the ground. Others to impress in yellow and black included Ellie McKenzie (14 disposals, four marks) and the forward duo of Courtney Wakefield (three goals) and Tayla Stahl (two), who helped materialise each of their side’s momentum grabs.

Prespakis dragged her side back into the contest with 19 disposals, five tackles and two goals, aided by the forward 50 presence of Vescio, who clunked six marks and booted 3.2. Grace Egan was excellent as the Blues’ highest ball winner (21 disposals), while skipper Kerryn Harrington formed a wall in defence alongside Charlotte Wilson with seven rebound 50s.

CARLTON 0.2 | 4.2 | 7.3 | 8.3 (51)
RICHMOND 3.0 | 4.1 | 5.1 | 7.4 (46)

GOALS:

Carlton: D. Vescio 3, M. Prespakis 2, N. Stevens, L. McEvoy, T. Harris
Richmond: C. Wakefield 3, K. Brennan 2, T. Stahl 2

DC BEST:

Carlton: D. Vescio, M. Prespakis, G. Egan, K. Harrington, J. Hosking, L. McEvoy
Richmond: M. Conti, K. Brennan, S. Hosking, C. Wakefield, R. Miller, E. McKenzie

credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

Credit: Will Russell/AFL Photos

Dockers endure slow start to overrun Suns

FREMANTLE added another huge win to its premiership tilt as the Dockers overcame the Gold Coast Suns in convincing fashion in Perth, 7.13 (55) to 1.0 (6). Whilst the Suns got the early jump on the premiership contenders, leading for much of the first and boasting a close margin at half time as the Dockers failed to capitalise on opportunities, it was Fremantle that ran down its foes in an excellent six goal second half to maintain top spot on the ladder. 

In an opening term that was dominated by the underdogs, things began with plenty of excitement as an early goal from Leah Kaslar got the ball rolling with the Dockers seemingly unable to find purchase within a tight contest. But whilst Kaslar’s major was the only score of the quarter, it went on to be the Suns’ only major of the match as, from quarter time onwards, the footy was well within the home side’s grasps with plenty of intent and drive into attack. Whilst the Dockers were ultimately unable to provide the scoreboard danger to rival their offensive pressure, producing a 1.5 (11) to 1.0 (6) scoreline to marginally lead at the main change, a huge second half loomed with much of the momentum going the way of the Dockers with Ebony Antonio and Gabby O’Sullivan unsuccessful but proving dangerous inside 50.

The second half saw the match well and truly open up for Fremantle, as its pressing backline led by Janelle Cuthbertson gained further control and confidence to propel ball forward into its waiting forward line. Back-to-back majors from Antonio and O’Sullivan and a maiden goal from Sarah Verrier created a tough buffer for the Suns to crack as the scoreline extended to 25 points by the time the final change arrived. Despite being tagged for much of the contest, Kiara Bowers shone as the match opened up further, proving unstoppable as Suns’ Jamie Stanton worked up a storm for the opposition but to no avail. 

A huge final term saw the Dockers’ class complete their second half rundown of the opposition, piling on another three goals and six minors as O’Sullivan got her second on the board, whilst Hayley Miller and Ash Sharp piled on the offensive pressure. Another inaccurate term could have seen a huge margin from the premiership contenders – who have now won 11 straight – but the side will surely be content with the 49-point victory as they continue to lead the way atop the tables.

Despite being down in contested ball and clearances in the first quarter, once the Dockers stepped up their game there was no stopping them as the work-rate lifted with a whopping 73 tackles to 46, as Bowers stole the show with 15 tackles to go with her 17 touches (15 kicks). Bowers was only beaten on the possessions count by Stanton, who led her side with 18 and five tackles, while Lucy Single showed some glimpses of what she is capable of with a great tag on Bowers, completing the match with seven tackles as Lauren Bella dominated the ruck contest. O’Sullivan was the lone multiple goalkicker with two from her 16 touches, whilst Miller also showcased her ball-magnet ways with 17 disposals and six tackles to her name. 

FREMANTLE | 0.0 | 1.5 | 4.7 | 7.13 (55)
GOLD COAST | 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 | 1.0 (6)

GOALS:

Fremantle: G. O’Sullivan 2, R. Roux, H. Miller, A. Sharp, E. Antonio, S.Verrier
Gold Coast: L. Kaslar

DC BEST:

Fremantle: K. Bowers, J. Cuthbertson, G. O’Sullivan, H. Miller, R. Roux, J.Stewart
Gold Coast: J. Stanton, L. Bella, L. Single, K. Surman, K. Howarth

Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Hot Pies down shaky Roos in ladder-leading encounter

It was a showstopper waiting to happen, with a fired up North Melbourne side looking to right the wrongs of their Round 3 loss to Melbourne and put another win on the board, coming in hot favourites against an improved Collingwood outfit. But it seemed that once again, the Kangaroos could not compete with a hardened side bursting through the midfield. The side was unable to contain the hot Pies who sit undefeated on four from four, with a low-scoring contest seeing the Roos rendered goalless for the first time, going down 4-4 (28) to 0.8 (8).

An impressive opening term well and truly set the tone for the match, as the Magpies piled on the pressure around the ground to negate any easy forward 50 forays from the Roos. With so many excellent targets within the Kangaroos’ grasps, an Aishling Sheridan goal was exactly what the Magpies needed to spur the side into action as the contest across the field continued to grow, pressurising the midfield as Chloe Molloy looked the goods with an early major to her name. Whilst the Roos forced a tighter contest in the second quarter, it seemingly was already too little, too late as the Magpies had all the momentum and ran with it. Three minors the way of the Roos did little to worry the Pies as Jordan Membrey kicked truly at the other end, with Bri DaveyJaimee Lambert and Molloy running rampant and well and truly outclassing the Kangaroos.

Inaccuracy and a lack of opportunity were the themes of the second half as neither side was really able to exit the tight contest, with North keeping Collingwood to just 1.2 in the second half after a stellar start but also failing to find the big sticks with five more behinds on the board well and truly putting the nail in their own coffin. Despite huge efforts from Jasmine GarnerKait Ashmore and Jenna Bruton, it was not enough as Molloy sealed the deal with a final goal in the last to propel the Magpies up the ladder with the 20-point victory.

For the Magpies, Davey and Lambert led all-comers, with 31 and 27 disposals respectively, whilst Davey racked up six marks and Lambert piled on the pressure with six tackles. Britt Bonnici and Steph Chiocci rang true with 21 and 20 touches, while Molloy’s goal sense saw her finish with two from her 12 touches, four marks and three tackles. Stacey Livingstone was a moving barricade down back with eight marks and seven rebounds. For the flailing Roos, Garner’s 19 disposals led the pack while Bruton (18 and five tackles), Ashmore (17 and six, one behind) and Emma Kearney (15 and five, one behind) also plied their trade.

NORTH MELBOURNE | 0.0 | 0.3 | 0.5 | 0.8 (8)
COLLINGWOOD | 2.2 | 3.2 | 3.4 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:
North Melbourne: 
Nil
Collingwood: C. Molloy 2, A. Sheridan, J. Membrey

DC BEST:
North Melbourne:
J. Garner, K. Ashmore, A. Riddell, J. Bruton
Collingwood: B. Davey, J. Lambert, B. Bonnici, S. Livingstone, C. Molloy

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 4 preview – Victorian crowds return for blockbuster fixtures

RETURNING crowds are set to light up some blockbuster fixtures in Round 4 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season, with four top-six foes locking horns while inaugural sides Melbourne and Western Bulldogs play off for the Hampson-Hardeman Cup. The ladder is beginning to take shape with four teams remaining undefeated and another four still out to claim their first points, but things can change very quickly in the middle order – starting this weekend.

Note: All start times are local.

ST KILDA (9th, 1-2) vs. GEELONG (14th, 0-3)
Friday February 19, 7:10pm
RSEA Park

Geelong will be out to break its duck in season 2021, but faces a tricky task in doing so as an away trip to face St Kilda awaits on Friday night. The Saints got on the board at the first time of asking this year but have fallen short of strong opposition since. Still, a third outing at their home of RSEA Park in four rounds should serve them well against their winless visitors from up the highway.

Both sides are set to blood debutants, with another of Geelong’s 2020 draftees in Laura Gardiner named on the bench for her maiden senior appearance, replacing Rebecca Goring (managed). St Kilda injury replacement Rebecca Ott is the game’s other debutant, brought in as part of four total changes for the Saints. While they will miss the likes of Molly McDonald (quad) and Nadia von Bertouch (foot), defender Bianca Jakobsson is among the relieving inclusions.

The Cats rank last for points scored and while the Saints have not been all that flash in converting up forward either, they should have enough firepower to boot a winning score. Geelong’s defence is known to be reasonably reliable though, so capitalising on the midfield battle will be key to either team getting on top.

Tip: St Kilda by 10

CARLTON (8th, 1-2) vs. RICHMOND (11th, 0-3)
Saturday February 20, 3:10pm
Princes Park

Traditional rivals Carlton and Richmond lock horns at Princes Park on Saturday, with the hosts eager to shake off a rough start and begin their push towards finals. A premiership hopeful coming into the season, Carlton dropped its first two games but got back on track last week and will fancy its chances against the winless Tigers. Richmond has shown some added bite in 2021 though, shoring up in defence and streaming forward more dangerously.

The Tigers have conceded no more than seven goals against some stiff opposition across the first three rounds, but have a lingering sense of rawness when it comes to their efficiency in attack. A total score of seven goals and 17 behinds does not make for good reading, and such impotence will likely prove costly against the more polished Blues, who are also quite bullish in defence.

Carlton’s strong midfield is set to play a factor too, led by reigning league best and fairest, Madison Prespakis. She may well find herself matched up by former-Blue Sarah Hosking at the centre bounces, with star Richmond ball winner Monique Conti arguably her side’s biggest threat in that department. The Blues’ dynamism and depth across the ground will also prove telling, especially if Richmond put together a good patch.

Tip: Carlton by 28

FREMANTLE (2nd, 3-0) vs. GOLD COAST (13th, 0-3)
Saturday February 20, 2:10pm
Fremantle Oval

Fremantle will fancy its chances of extending its record winning run to 11 matches on Saturday afternoon, when the Gold Coast Suns come to town looking for their first points this season. The Dockers have been in irresistible form, picking up from where they left off in 2020 with three-straight wins – including a crucial one against Adelaide last week in what was their first true test for 2021.

After a promising start against Melbourne, Gold Coast has registered a combined 10 points in its last two outings; first suffering a Q-Clash drubbing and then being edged by GWS in torrential conditions. Needless to say, scoring is a sore point for the Suns, but they have decent stock in a forwardline led by Sarah Perkins, should the ball get there. That is not to mention All Australian Kalinda Howarth, who is yet to register a goal this season.

They will need all the firepower they can get to match that of Fremantle, who have an array of scoring options. Spearhead Gemma Houghton was held relatively well last week but still managed to live up to her two-goal average, while the likes of Sabreena Duffy and Kara Antonio have also proven handy avenues forward. Gold Coast will have its hands full in midfield as well, though the reliable partnership of Jamie Stanton and Alison Drennan should provide some resistance to the Kiara Bowers juggernaut.

Tip: Fremantle by 45

NORTH MELBOURNE (5th, 2-1) vs. COLLINGWOOD (3rd, 3-0)
Saturday February 20, 7:10pm
Marvel Stadium

Marvel Stadium hosts one of the games of the round as Victorian powerhouses North Melbourne and Collingwood do battle on Saturday night. Returning fans should be treated to a mouthwatering spectacle, with the elements set to play no factor in hindering North Melbourne’s slick ball movement by foot, or Collingwood’s flowing run-and-gun style under the Marvel Stadium roof.

The Magpies should come in with a great deal of confidence having passed every test put in front of them thus far, but this will easily be their biggest challenge yet. While they dropped points last week, the Kangaroos have the advantage of competing in one of the competition’s most high-level encounters, ever, putting them in good stead for this potential finals sighter.

Collingwood midfield brigade is one of the few which could well match it with North Melbourne at the centre bounces, with ball magnets Jaimee Lambert, Brittany Bonnici, and the dynamic Bri Davey all averaging over 19 disposals. North Melbourne’s depth runs a touch deeper though, with Emma Kearney, Ashleigh Riddell, and Jenna Bruton among five Roos to average over 16 touches. The other two, Jasmine Garner and Ellie Gavalas, have also booted five and four goals respectively.

Tip: North Melbourne by 5

BRISBANE (1st, 3-0) vs. ADELAIDE (6th, 2-1)
Sunday February 21, 12:10pm
Hickey Park

League frontrunner, Brisbane hosts Adelaide on Sunday afternoon in another game of the round contender, making for Brisbane’s first top six assignment this year. The Lions have been flawless thus far, albeit against three of the bottom four teams, with the league’s most potent attack and stingiest defence. Adelaide went down to Fremantle last week, but has shown its quality as a bonafide premiership threat. This, another clash of contenders, will prove telling.

The Lions’ key forward partnership of Dakota Davidson and Jesse Wardlaw has produced a combined 12 goals this season, as teams have struggled to combat their one-two punch. Add to that the speed of Greta Bodey (five goals) and Courtney Hodder at ground level, and Brisbane’s attack has plenty of bases which need covering.

Adelaide will always back its midfield, consisting of Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard, and Erin Phillips to set it on the right foot, while a defence set to be bolstered by skipper Chelsea Randall should combat Brisbane’s firepower well. Having been thrown deep forward with good success last week, Phillips looms as a handy wildcard for the Crows who were incredibly wasteful inside attacking 50 last week. They will need to be on song to kick a winning score in this one.

Tip: Brisbane by 3

WESTERN BULLDOGS (7th, 2-1) vs. MELBOURNE (4th, 3-0)
Sunday February 21, 3:10pm
Whitten Oval

Pioneer clubs Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will play off for the Hampson-Hardeman Cup at Whitten Oval on Sunday afternoon, with just one game separating them so far this season. Nathan Burke‘s young pups have been ultra impressive in registering their 2-1 record, but the hardness and class of Melbourne’s undefeated side should prove a steep mountain to climb.

The Dees’ new-found scoring power and free-flowing style has been built on the back of some continued solidity in midfield, with stalwart Karen Paxman reliable as ever in 2021 alongside Lily Mithen and Tyla Hanks – all of whom average over 20 disposals per game. Up forward, a tall attack led by Tegan Cunningham has been difficult to counter in the air, while Kate Hore continues to damage at ground level.

Bulldogs skipper Ellie Blackburn has been inspirational as ever this season, dragging her side over the line on two occasions and leading the Dogs for disposals, clearances, inside 50s, and score involvements. She is also top of the tree alongside Izzy Huntington for goals (both four), with the latter a contested marking phenomenon. Plenty of young guns, including Jessica Fitzgerald will have to step up for the Dogs here in what looms as an extremely daunting task.

Tip: Melbourne by 24

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY (10th, 1-2) vs. WEST COAST (12th, 0-3)
Sunday February 21, 5:10pm
Blacktown International Sportspark

Round 4’s final game sees Greater Western Sydney (GWS) hosting once again against the winless West Coast Eagles, who have proven quite plucky in patches this season. The Giants broke through last week with a 10-point win over Gold Coast, another winless side, to get some points on the board, but West Coast has thrice fallen short of the mark against quality opposition.

This presents as the Eagles’ best chance to get on the board so far in 2021, with a solid half of smothering tackling pressure against Brisbane fresh in their memory. The problems for West Coast have come via a lack of efficiency and class inside forward 50, while the Eagles’ defence has also conceded the most points of any side this season.

Young guns Bella Lewis and Mikayla Bowen have tried hard alongside Emma Swanson and ruck Parris Laurie at the centre bounces, but will be tasked with combating the dominance of powerhouse GWS pair Alyce Parker and Rebecca Beeson. Both have been among the top three disposal and contested ball winners in the first three rounds, but have seen their hard work come unstuck further afield. The Giants should be able to see the game out better on the basis of experience, but will have to be wary.

Tip: GWS by 11

Image Credit: (Retrieved from) North Melbourne FC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

Image Credit: Sarah Reed/AFL Photos

Credit: Mike Owen/Getty Images via AFL Photos

MAGPIES SWOOP EARLY TO DOWN TRADITIONAL RIVALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

DEMONS ACCELERATE AWAY FROM TOOTHLESS TIGERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOALS:

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

DC BEST:

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

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 1 preview – Traditional rivals to open the show in Thursday night blockbuster

AFL Women’s makes its long awaited return tonight, with teams hungry to make up for lost time and rectify the ‘what-ifs’ left in 2020. Traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood take the season-opening honours once again, with plenty of heat expected to come out of that clash at Princes Park. A fixture shake-up on the eve of season proper sees a few matchups altered, but Round 1 will still be stretched across a bumper four days of footballing action. We preview all seven games, capped with a prediction to (hopefully) aide your footy tipping campaign.

Note: All start times are as of AEDT

Carlton vs. Collingwood
Thursday January 28, 7:15pm
Princes Park

Carlton and Collingwood return to the season-opening slot in a clash which is sure to produce plenty of fireworks at Princes Park. The Blues are yet to lose to their fierce rivals in said fixture, but suffered a shock loss to the Pies on home turf in their Round 2 meeting last year. Carlton is a hot favourite to secure premiership glory in 2021, but will be tested by an emerging Collingwood side which went incredibly close to knocking off North Melbourne in last year’s finals.

The clash will be made all the more intriguing as Carlton spearhead Tayla Harris resumes hostilities with dour Collingwood defender Stacey Livingstone, who labelled the star goalkicker “useless” at ground level after their battle last year. Gun Pies utility Bri Davey is also set to face her old side for the first time, which she used to captain, poised to spend more time up forward. Chloe Molloy is another set to swing into attack, with both players capable of breaking Carlton’s usually sturdy defence.

Reigning competition best and fairest, Maddy Prespakis will inevitably attract plenty of attention in the engine room, but should have a good amount of support in the form of new recruit, Elise O’Dea. The former Demon is one of four debutants for the Blues, who will be without Lucy McEvoy. Collingwood father-daughter coup Tarni Brown is another debutant to watch, thrown straight into the senior side in her maiden campaign.

The Pies are a team to watch in 2021, but the Blues will be incredibly difficult to beat, especially with a point to prove.

Tip: Carlton by 10

St Kilda vs. Western Bulldogs
Friday January 29, 7:10pm
RSEA Park

The Western Bulldogs take on St Kilda once again in Round 1, with the Saints keen to make good on last year’s result. The expansion side brought football back to Moorabbin in its maiden campaign and exceeded expectations, while the young pups failed to register another win after its opening round triumph but spawned plenty of green shoots.

Youth promises to be a key feature of the clash, with number two pick Jess Fitzgerald poised to make her senior debut for the Dogs while St Kilda’s prime selection in Tyanna Smith could well run against her in midfield. Both are quick off the mark, have a terrific inside/outside balance and can find plenty of the ball, adding to either teams’ exciting young stocks.

Also pending selection is the debut of Saints father-daughter recruit Alice Burke, the daughter of Bulldogs coach Nathan. Having coached her and an abundance of other players set to take the field on Friday night, Burke will soon be on the other side. 2019 draftees Gabby Newton and Georgia Patrikios are also set to meet in midfield, while Saints leading goalkicker Caitlin Greiser could well prove a difference-maker in the closely matched contest and many eyes will be on Izzy Huntington, who is expected to swing forward with more frequency this year.

The Saints arguably turned out the better side last year and a season of experience will do wonders for them, but the Bulldogs’ potential is relatively untapped and could again carry them over the line here.

Tip: Western Bulldogs by 1

Gold Coast Suns vs. Melbourne
Saturday January 30, 3:10pm
Metricon Stadium

Melbourne will travel to face Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium in Saturday’s first fixture, making for a meeting between experience and emergence. The Suns were another expansion team to exceed expectations last year by qualifying for finals, but still proved a rung off the true premiership contenders. Melbourne’s hardened core carried it to a breakthrough postseason feature, which the Dees made good of with an epic come-from-behind victory over GWS.

The visitors have already named three debutants, with prized draftee Alyssa Bannan set to line up in the forwardline while Eliza McNamara and Megan Fitzsimon add some more youth to the starting side. Speaking of, Tyla Hanks is one to watch for Melbourne as she prepares to spend more time in the engine room having cut her teeth as an impact forward.

Gold Coast has plenty of youth to boast as well, but also added a good amount of experience in the off-season. Former Saints Sarah Perkins and Alison Drennan are both quality players and leaders; with the former slotting straight into her new side’s leadership group and the latter set to provide another reliable figure in midfield. Scoring looks a key area of improvement for the Suns, and these two should aid that with presence inside 50 and forward momentum respectively.

Gold Coast rattled a few of the top sides last year and have the youthful exuberance to do exactly that to Melbourne on home turf, but the Dees are always a tough team to beat and should have enough prime movers to seal victory.

Tip: Melbourne by 5

West Coast vs. Adelaide
Saturday January 30, 5:10pm
Mineral Resources Park

West Coast begins its second AFL Women’s campaign at home as Adelaide comes to town looking to start its year on the right foot. The Eagles struggled last season but managed to scrounge a memorable maiden win and have made the markers of improvement for 2021. Adelaide, technically still the reigning premier, timed its premiership hangover perfectly as everything which could have gone wrong, did in 2020. The Crows finished sixth in Conference A with just two wins, but had many a setback along the way.

At its core, the Crows’ squad is still elite and will be buoyed by the return of some outstanding talent. Skipper Chelsea Randall is set to slot straight back into the defence after her long-term knee injury, while a fully fit Erin Phillips looms ominously as a midfield/forward option. In their absence, the likes of Sarah Allan and Anne Hatchard produced All Australian seasons, though the Crows will sweat on Ebony Marinoff‘s availability as the ball magnet looks to overturn her monster three-game suspension.

It is no secret that West Coast’s strength lies in the midfield, which will be bolstered by trade coup Aisling McCarthy and prime draftee Bella Lewis. The promising pair will be thrown straight into the deep end, but have experienced movers in Dana Hooker and captain Emma Swanson to wax with through the engine room – all under the ruckwork of Parris Laurie. Scoring has been a sore point for the Eagles though, and Adelaide can do plenty of that.

With plenty to prove in 2020, the Crows loom as a fearsome force which could quickly rise back to the AFL Women’s summit. West Coast remains a step off the competition’s best and arguably its greatest weakness works into Adelaide’s hands, with the Crows’ scoring ability key to taking the game away from their opponents here.

Tip: Adelaide by 25

Geelong vs. North Melbourne
Sunday January 31, 12:10pm
GMHBA Stadium

Geelong hosts North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday afternoon, gunning for a return to finals action in season 2021. North looms as stiff opposition first up though, with the Kangaroos keen to strike gold while their remarkably deep squad remains hungry and intact – especially after missing out on premiership opportunities in their first two top flight campaigns.

The hosts went back to the well of local talent once again at this year’s draft, introducing a couple more gun midfielders in Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner with their top 20 picks. Caution surrounds Nina Morrison‘s return but Denby Taylor is poised to slot back into the lineup after her own injury woes, while Olivia Purcell has a full preseason under her belt and will again look to mix it with the game’s elite midfielders.

Geelong will need to be on its game in the engine room considering how deep North Melbourne’s midfield crop runs, with skipper Emma Kearney joined by Jasmine Garner, Jenna Bruton and co. The former two are also scoring threats from the middle and add to North’s firepower, while the returning Jess Duffin is another big name which will steady the Kangaroos in defence.

The Roos won by 46 points in the same fixture last year, but should be in for a more competitive dig if Geelong can manage to turn its spurts of form into four quarter showings. They should still be too strong for the young Cats.

Tip: North Melbourne by 9

Richmond vs. Brisbane
Sunday January 31, 2:10pm
Punt Road Oval

Richmond’s hunt for premiership points continues into year two, starting with a home outing against Brisbane on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers went winless in their inaugural AFL Women’s campaign and, needless to say, will hope to avoid the same fate by getting on the board quickly in 2021. The developing Brisbane side proved many doubters wrong in 2020 and made finals, but must win games like these to achieve the same result this time around.

Incoming Tigers coach Ryan Ferguson will have 2020 number one pick Ellie McKenzie at his disposal, along with a raft of experienced inclusions. Foundation Blue Sarah Hosking is an important addition to the engine room, while Sarah D’Arcy could be one to boost their key position stocks as the Tigers look to become a more competitive force.

Brisbane looks a much more settled lineup having been ravaged during the expansion era, with a core of foundation players leading the charge ahead of some promising young talent. The front half spearheaded by Jesse Wardlaw looks exciting, while Kate Lutkins‘ defensive troops make the Lions hard to crack. Having started so well last season, the Lions will be out to put wins on the board early once again and push for more finals experience. They should be too strong here, but expect to see the Tigers fight.

Tip: Brisbane by 15

Fremantle vs. GWS Giants
Sunday January 31, 4:10pm
Fremantle Oval

The final game of the round sees GWS travel to take on Fremantle at Fremantle Oval on Sunday, looking to break the Dockers’ undefeated streak which dates back to 2019. The Giants have faced many a challenge over the offseason, including relocation, but showed last year that they can stand up against the tide. The Dockers are a force to be reckoned with, especially on home turf, and will again be a bonafide premiership contender – if not, the favourite.

The Dockers’ free flowing style and many scoring threats should cause Giants coaches a few headaches, though the visitors’ experience will count for plenty in resisting the inevitable pressure Fremantle will apply. It all starts with Kiara Bowers in midfield, while the dynamic duo of Sabreena Duffy and Gemma Houghton is always difficult to stop up forward, along with Ebony Antonio on the outer.

Those kinds of attacking threats should be too much for the Giants to handle, especially in the current context and in front of home fans. It is the kind of game Fremantle is expected to win, but GWS will be plucky.

Tip: Fremantle by 21

Featured Image: Carlton captain Kerryn Harrington (left) and Collingwood’s Bri Davey (right) are set to face off in Thursday night’s season opener | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

2021 AFLW Preview: Richmond Tigers

RICHMOND entered a baptism of fire in its maiden AFL Women’s campaign, but will be hoping for marked improvements in each department after a busy offseason. The Tigers were granted concessions and used them to trade in established players, while also laying claim to pick one in a highly talented draft. After a winless start, the only way is up for last year’s expansion side.

2020 RECAP

The Tigers will remain on the hunt for their first set of premiership points in 2021 after failing to register any last time around. Year one did not exactly go to plan for Richmond, at all, starting with a 34-point drubbing at the hands of Carlton to open the season. While they got within two goals of fellow expansion team, Gold Coast a week later, the newcomers were trounced by over six goals in three of their final four outings. A high-scoring encounter with Geelong in Round 4 yielded 45 points but the Tigers were otherwise impotent in attack, restricted to two goals or less on every other occasion – including a goalless return against St Kilda in the final home-and-away round.

NEW FACES

Importantly, Richmond was able to bring in some experience with means beyond the concessions afforded by the AFL at season’s end. Pick 15 was used to snare inaugural Blue Sarah Hosking, who slots straight into the leadership group. She promises to bring some competitiveness and a hard edge to the Tigers’ midfield, which is heavily dependant on one or two players.

Sarah D’Arcy and Sarah Dargan crossed from Collingwood, along with former-Dee Harriet Cordner in a three-way trade which again bolstered Richmond’s stocks. D’Arcy is likely to be somewhat reinvented as a defender in the yellow and black, while Cordner will rotate through the defence and ruck, and Dargan provides some spark moving forward with the potential to play midfield.

First pick, Ellie McKenzie headlined the Tigers’ draft haul and is another who should move straight into the starting side. A tall midfielder/forward with terrific speed, overhead marking and x-factor, McKenzie is a future star of the competition and was long touted as the best player in her draft class. Renowned basketballer Tessa Lavey was selected with pick 43 and Luka Lesosky-Hay got her chance after being overlooked in last year’s intake. Hannah McLaren, the daughter of former AFL umpire Scott, also gets her chance as a replacement for Holly Whitford.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

McKenzie would be a relatively easy choice in this category, as is our selection in Hosking. The former Blue is yet to miss an AFLW game and will be exactly the kind of player Tigers fans warm to immediately. She is a tenacious midfielder who runs hard and loves to get her hands dirty, setting a standard which Richmond largely lacked last year.

Should she be thrust into the centre bounce mix, Hosking will inevitably take a load off Monique Conti in the ball winning stakes and can also work to shut down the opposition’s best midfielder. Should she play on the outer or up forward, her defensive pressure will help lock the ball in Richmond’s attacking half, another area which lacked in 2020. The Tigers’ most high profile signing in the offseason will be looking to repay the faith in full, especially as part of her new side’s leadership group.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

After a lacklustre maiden campaign, it would be easy for other teams to overlook Richmond heading into 2021. The Tigers have added well to their squad and should be far more competitive as a result, potentially allowing them to fly under the radar and sneak up on some highly fancied teams who become complacent. The experience and class of Conti, Hosking, and a fully fit Katie Brennan in midfield will count for a lot of that competitiveness, while some much-needed spark up forward comes through McKenzie and the defence will be bolstered by Cordner. A handy spine is forming for Richmond and is something which could see the second-year side get some wins on the board.

QUESTION MARK

The Tigers were severely ineffective in the forward half last season and while a stronger group further afield will help their cause, the attacking movers have plenty to do to help Richmond kick winning scores. Bar a flash in the pan seven-goal game against Geelong, the Tigers failed to boot over two goals in 2020 and were too reliant on too few. That in itself is another factor which the Tigers will have to address, but more experienced heads will help ease pressure on their top-class talent.

FINAL WORD

Snaring a win will be the primary goal for Richmond in 2021 and from there, the sky should be the limit. It is likely the Tigers will be more competitive throughout games and the season as a whole this time around, with some solid talent added to the squad and greater depth beginning to emerge. Like any good Richmond side, fans will undoubtedly like to see some fight from this emerging team which is now better placed to produce exactly that.

Image Credit: Richmond FC

2021 AFLW 10 under 10 to watch: #9 Maddy Brancatisano

IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We continue the countdown at number nine with Richmond’s Maddy Brancatisano.

The former Northern Knights captain found her groove in 2020 after an unlucky 2019 season with Melbourne. Having been picked up with pick 15 in the 2018 AFL Women’s National Draft, Brancatisano was unable to crack into an experienced Demons’ midfield unit, and instead opted to join Richmond in the expansion period. There, she immediately had an impact, making her AFL Women’s debut in Round 1 and played six games for the season.

Possessing some terrific speed and a desire to win the ball in congestion, Brancatisano had a solid start to her elite level career, averaging 5.3 disposals, 1.2 marks and 1.2 tackles in her six games. She will look to build on that in 2021, and crack into an ever-strengthening Tigers midfield. Alongside the likes of Monique Conti and Sarah Hosking, Brancatisano will be reunited with former Knights’ teammate and 2020 AFL Women’s Draft number one selection, Ellie McKenzie for the 2021 season.

Having gone winless in 2020, Richmond is still searching for its debut win, and Brancatisano is expected to be a big part of the side going forward, which has bulked up on youth in year one, and now added a fair bulk of experience in year two. Unlike in 2020, the Tigers have the midfield depth to get it to tall forwards Katie Brennan and Sabrina Frederick, and all of a sudden, Richmond’s forward half looks all the more damaging.

Whilst the extra depth through the midfield might make it more challenging for Brancatisano, the natural leader has the right attitude and inside ability to make it work. In a side still building its identity, Brancatisano knows how to set the tone by example, and now that the Tigers have enough talent to worry some teams, expect the ex-Knights captain to be one of a number of players to step up in 2021 and show exactly why she is on this list.

Picture credit: Richmond FC

Top 5 AFLW recruits for 2021

THERE were several important off-season trades that will impact AFL Women’s, as some big names moved to premiership contenders and others relocated in search of a fresh start.

We at Draft Central have decided to name what we consider the top five AFLW recruits ahead of the 2021 season.

Elise O’Dea (Carlton)

Former Melbourne co-captain O’Dea was the biggest coup of the trade period, as she will immediately boost the Blues’ midfield and provide valuable leadership. In her four years at the Demons, O’Dea averaged 17 disposals, four tackles, three inside 50s and three marks per game. It will be daunting for opponents to have to deal with O’Dea playing alongside the likes of AFLW best and fairest Maddy Prespakis and Darcy Vescio at Ikon Park.

Grace Campbell (North Melbourne)

Campbell was a surprise inclusion for North Melbourne over the trade period and will add important depth to their midfield. Coming from Richmond, Campbell has strong contested ball traits and makes good decisions under pressure at stoppages. She averaged 12 disposals, five tackles and two inside 50s in her debut season. Learning from the likes of Jasmine Garner and Emma Kearney will only help elevate the 24-year-old’s game, so expect her to help the Kangaroos contend for the 2021 premiership.

Sarah D’Arcy (Richmond)

One of three Sarah’s moving to Richmond in 2021, D’Arcy will bring significant experience and football smarts to Punt Road. The 28-year-old played 24 games and kicked ten goals for Collingwood while averaging 10 disposals, three marks and two tackles across her four seasons. Richmond’s Head of Women’s Football Kate Sheehan said that the club hopes to reinvent D’Arcy as an attacking half-back. This will be an interesting development to keep an eye on.

Sarah Hosking (Richmond)

Hosking has not missed a match since AFLW’s launch in 2017 and will be a major addition to the Tigers’ lineup. Crossing from Carlton, the 24-year-old midfielder is brilliant at the contest and will provide fantastic support for Richmond’s reigning best and fairest winner Monique Conti. Hosking averaged 11 disposals, three tackles and three marks in 2020, and she is also capable of hitting the scoreboard.

Aisling McCarthy (West Coast)

McCarthy is an important addition to West Coast’s midfield, as they prioritised increasing their midfield depth in the off-season. The Irishwoman started her AFLW career as a forward but transitioned into the Bulldogs’ engine room in 2020, averaging 13 disposals, four tackles, three marks and two inside 50s across the six matches. For her efforts, McCarthy finished fourth in the Victorian club’s best and fairest. Do not be surprised if she features heavily in West Coast’s count at the conclusion of 2021.

Picture credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

Opinion: Could the AFL Women’s 2021 season be the most competitive yet?

IT is still just over two months until the first bounce of the 2021 AFL Women’s season, but the excitement is growing. The abrupt end to the 2020 season – with no premiership awarded and indeed no last two weeks of finals – left a mixture of disappointment and wondering of what could have been in many minds of AFL Women’s fans. Once the initial disappointment was over, clubs got to work on either re-signing, trading or heading to the draft in what has set up a more even competition next year.

The top sides will contend again, and whilst Fremantle and North Melbourne showed that they arguably deserved to be in the 2020 decider, they were pushed by opponents at times, and those opponents will be battling for a spot. The young pups at the Western Bulldogs and talented bunch at St Kilda will also improve, and even the cellar dwellers in Richmond and West Coast have made net gains over the off-season. Realistically the only club likely to fall next season – through design in many ways – is Melbourne, as the Dees play the long-term game as we have seen with the Dogs who are now building back up the ladder. Here are the contenders, outside chances and rebuilders:

CONTENDERS:

Fremantle

At the top of the list is the side that went unbeaten in 2020 and have no reason not go go there again. They have a really strong defensive unit, and consistent midfield, as well as an attacking front six that were able to regularly hit the scoreboard. Throw in another year of Roxy Roux and the X-factor of Mikayla Morrison and Sarah Verrier, and despite being one of the teams to beat, the West Australian team remain as one of the best in the competition.

North Melbourne:

Similarly to Fremantle, the main loss over the off-season was Jess Trend, though the Roos just continue to stock up on incredibly talented players. They went to the draft and someone like Bella Eddey will slot into an already potent forward line, which was hard to contain. The Roos were pushed by the Magpies in the elimination final, which will give them extra motivation to improve. It is hard not seeing North Melbourne up there at the pointy end of the season.

Adelaide:

The resurgence of the Crows will be swift. They might not have had the year they wanted, but it was no wonder with their two best players out on long-term injuries and a number of others having delayed preseasons. They have added readymade talents in Teah Charlton, Ashleigh Woodland and Rachelle Martin who will compete for spots from Round 1. It would not be unreasonable to think with all the inclusions and returnees, the Crows are favourites again.

Carlton:

A Grand Final two seasons ago and finals last season, the Blues were the only team to knock off North Melbourne last season. You cannot help but feel they are within touching distance of the premiership cup, and have an abundance of youth to go with their talent. Do not forget they added someone called Elise O’Dea over the off-season, and if that elite talent was not enough, they stocked up on captains in Mimi Hill and Winnie Laing from the NAB League who will stop at nothing for success.

OUTSIDE CHANCES:

Collingwood:

It seemed not that long ago that there was a mass exodus at the Pies and people were wondering what the future held. In 12 months the Pies managed to turn it around and surprise with a good 2020 season to almost stun North Melbourne in the elimination final. The loss of Sarah D’Arcy among others will hurt, but they have picked up some versatile players in the draft, and with Tarni Brown joining her brothers at the Magpies, it will be an exciting time for Magpies fans who need something to cheer for next year.

Western Bulldogs:

This might seem like a surprise, but trust me when this group has enough development, they will go through the roof. The amount of sheer X-factor, upside and versatility in the team that added to its stocks at the draft table again, the Dogs can go deep and if you like an outside chance winning the flag, the Dogs could be that bet. They added Jess Fitzgerald, Sarah Hartwig and Isabelle Pritchard to the ever-growing list of former Vic Metro stars, and they will push for spots early on. Expect them to be the most exciting team running around.

Geelong

On paper the Cats have the cattle to compete against the best sides, and added some unbelievable talents in the AFL Women’s Draft, such as Darcy Moloney and Olivia Barber. They have not lost a great deal over the off-season with Mel Hickey of course retiring with big shoes to fill in the captain’s absence. The Cats have a well-balanced list and honestly there is no reason they should not be an outside chance for the flag. Their young talents might need another year, but feel they have the jump on the other expansion sides thanks to that extra season.

Brisbane:

A little more outside than the others, but have enough talent to contend if they all click. It will be a competitive group wherever the Lions land as they will be placed with Gold Coast Suns and both should be fairly even. Zimmorlei Farquharson is the draftee to watch next season with her high-flying ability and ground level work, but let us not forget that Lily Postlethwaite, Isabel Dawes and co. will have another year of experience and ready to take the Lions back to the decider.

GWS GIANTS

Arguably the hardest team to place, because they are always competitive, but just off the pace of the top teams. With another year into the younger players such as Alyce Parker, and then adding in Tarni Evans amongst the top teenagers coming in, they should do enough to put themselves in a position to compete against anyone. Whether or not they have enough top-end talent to knock off a Fremantle or North Melbourne, it is yet to be seen, but they make it into this group.

ANOTHER YEAR NEEDED:

St Kilda

Without a doubt the Saints will be in the next bracket in 2022, but for 2021, they will be in a similar position to the Dogs last season. They might not get the wins on the board that they deserve all the time, but they have more than enough talent to worry any side on their day. Once their young guns develop – adding the likes of Tyanna Smith, Alice Burke and Renee Saulitis to an already talented list – they will be a scary proposition. They will fast-track their development in the AFL Women’s too.

Gold Coast

The other expansion team from last year that showed promising signs and made finals, the Suns might be somewhat unlucky not to be in the next bracket up, but depending on the pool they land in, and the finals structure, they still might need the extra year. They have the talent to step up again, with Annise Bradfield coming in and Sarah Perkins providing experience through the draft. It would not be a shock to see them push sides for a finals spot, but willing to give them an extra year to do it.

REBUILDERS:

Melbourne

For the first time since the start of the AFL Women’s, the Demons are in full rebuild mode. They were always thereabouts in terms of competing for a flag, but just could not get it done. Going down this route is the right avenue, particularly with the drafts always getting stronger. The Demons have added some great youth through the draft, led by Alyssa Bannan, and might suffer a few more losses next season than past years, but will reap the benefits long-term.

Richmond

The winless Tigers added some much needed experience to help Monique Conti through the midfield over the break, then grabbed Ellie McKenzie with the top pick in the draft. The Tigers opted for an immediate experience boost, and seem to have everything in place to be more competitive in 2021. In saying that, the other teams are still ahead of them, but the Tigers will not be the easy-beats of 2020 with the trio of Sarah‘s in Hosking, D’Arcy and Dargan among the inclusions next year.

West Coast

The team out west will step up next season to be more competitive in 2021, but have not been able to add as much experience as the Tigers. Bella Lewis and Shanae Davison are a couple of young guns who will have an immediate impact if given the chance, and add to the growing list of young talents like Mikayla Bowen. They are still firmly in the rebuilding phase, but the Eagles should show further signs of development in 2021 and will be one to watch in the future.

2020 AFLW Draft review: Carlton Blues

NOW that the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked, and what each player might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with Carlton, a side which had few glaring weaknesses to cover, but selected a versatile trio of Vic Metro-based midfielders, two of whom are former NAB League captains.

Carlton:

#12 – Mimi Hill (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
#28 – Daisy Walker (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)
#36 – Winnie Laing (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro)

A club moving into its premiership window, Carlton chose to stick with Victorian youth to bolster its squad heading into season 2021. Positioned well with their three picks, the Blues selected players with the character and upside to make an impact on the senior side as soon as in their debut season. Having held picks two and three in the last couple of drafts, the Blues were able to select ‘best available’ talent from the rich Victorian pool.

First up was Mimi Hill, a two-time Oakleigh Chargers captain who has led the fast-improving region to with aplomb. She, along with Sandringham Dragons skipper Winnie Laing, directly address the loss of Sarah Hosking to Richmond during the sign and trade period. Hill’s ground level game and hard-running style, combined with Laing’s attack on both ball and carrier make for a terrific couple of selections at picks 12 and 36 respectively.

While pegged as a natural midfielder who can play both inside and out, Hill is still quite light-on and found herself more often employed across half-back as a top-ager. As she develops her strength and tackling, she could well rotate through the midfield and emulate her idol, Sam Mitchell. Laing is a tough midfielder who, fittingly enough, idolises Patrick Cripps. As another leader in the bunch, she will look to drive standards and contribute to the culture, while impacting physically on-field.

In between those selections, Daisy Walker was snapped up with pick 28. She also hails from the Sandringham Dragons talent program, and is more of a developing type who comes from a basketball background. Her love of football grew as she watched her older brother, Will rise to AFL Draft selection with North Melbourne. Her agility and endurance make for a good athletic platform to develop upon, with clean hands and improving fundamentals making her a high-upside choice who could come on rapidly in an elite environment.

Overall, the Blues have been able to bolster their already-strong midfield group with three shrewd selections at this year’s table. Coach Daniel Harford obviously sought to bring in a balance of hardened types with plenty of upside who can develop on the outer or flanks before filling the engine room in years to come. Character is another important trend in this cohort, with two junior captains selected to help keep Carlton’s premiership tilt on track.