Tag: Sarah Hosking

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Round 9

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition returned for its ultimate home-and-away round ahead of finals, with seven games filling out a bumper weekend. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

CALDER CANNONS vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis 

There comes a point when watching a prospect where they genuinely do everything, and Prespakis has well and truly reached that point in her junior career. After putting in two very good performances for Vic Metro in the past couple of weeks, Prespakis came back to NAB League level without missing a beat, continuing to just dominate in the middle. She could be forgiven for taking it easy at times defensively, but it’s constantly a highlight of her game, with her tackling pressure in close top notch. Playing a team orientated game, there were multiple times where Prespakis gave it off to teammates in an attempt to get them more involved, even throwing up a few full wingspan shepherds for her teammates to run past unpressured. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

Calder Cannons:

#3 Emelia Yassir

Has time and time again proven her work rate is at the highest standard, with this game being no exception. One instance in the second quarter highlighted this well, where she impacted the ball off the rucks hands, unable to grab it, but then followed up with three/four efforts, including a bump on an opponent to then win the ball and boot it inside forward 50. She also again impressed with her aerial strength, taking clean marks consistently even when under direct pressure, then following up with good ball use by foot to hit up forwards leading at her. 

#34 Tahlia Read 

Worked hard as a forward, streaming out to meet the ball and impact centre stoppages, where her speed was on show, often getting plenty of separation on her opponent. Moved well in the forward 50, getting to some hacked kicks forward to mark or make them work out. Almost got a goal in the first quarter after taking what appeared to be a good grab just before the siren, but it was called touched play on. Around the ground she used it well, being one that would look to move into the centre of the ground to open up the options going forward. 

#39 Abbey McDonald 

Put in two really impressive shifts for the Metro U17’s through all thirds of the ground, with that ‘utility’ role continuing into the NAB League return. Started the game in the midfield where she moved well around the stoppages, getting herself some early clearances where her hands in close were really impressive, often finding Yassir who was already moving at speed to break away. She moved up forward at times where her composure got her a couple of nice marks, where she would control the tempo and look for a properly leading teammate.

Geelong Falcons:

#4 Poppy Schaap 

Finishing the game with two goals and plenty of touches in the forward half, Schapp continues to put her name up as one of the premiere pressure forwards in the competition, playing mostly in the forward line and having some really opportune moments, as well as managing to create her own opportunities through hard work and determination, with that tackling pressure forcing turnovers inside their forward 50. Pushed up the ground at times when Calder had the momentum to impact contests, trying to pull the Falcons back into it.

#11 Tess Craven 

Just involved in everything once again, despite playing a bit more of  a defensive role in the midfield often starting on Prespakis around stoppages. Positioned well around contests and worked hard to regain possession for the Falcons when it came out of forward 50. Again looked to spread across the ground getting free and making herself a switch or inside 45 option, used it well, looking to keep it central.

#23 Elizabeth Dowling 

Dowling continues to impress with her work in and coming out of the backline, meeting loose balls with speed and aggression, meaning she wins the ball herself or she seriously wraps up whoever does. With her aggression and speed, she does not just use brute force with the ball, she moves smoothly through traffic, able to standup against anyone trying to tackle her, keeping her hands free and getting it off to a teammate. She is a clear leader in the defensive half as well, telling her teammates where to be. It was really impressive to see her have an impact on most of the contests in the defensive half for the Falcons, either laying a tackling, carrelling an opponent, put up a shepherd, taking a mark or getting the ball off the deck and moving it herself, she truly did everything she could to ensure a Falcons victory.

#26 Ingrid Houtsma

Whilst she had quite a few good moments through the game, it was her rising to the occasion in the third quarter, when the game was in real contention, that ultimately got the Falcons rolling again to go on to victory. Started with some nice plays around the forward 50 mark that led to a goal against the tide of play, where not long after she managed to get the ball in a contest, find her way out and hit up a leading Renee Tierney who kicked their second of the quarter. That ability to go through contests and come out clean, whilst traditionally a winger, was impressive and showed a versatility to her game that has not come out too often.

OTHERS:

Both sides had some lesser contributors that are deserving of a mention, two more dual goal kickers in Renee Tierney and Jessica Zakkour, both in their 19th year, hit the scoreboard when the opportunity presented itself. Annie Lee and Taiya Morrow were consistent aerial threats in defence, with Lee’s ball use especially good. Gabbi Featherston showed off her athleticism as a forward and ruck as well. Neve Crowley was a strong mark in the forward line, using it well when she had the ball, as did Zali Friswell in the midfield.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Dandenong Stingrays:

#10 Abbey Jordan

Very few players going around would be able to match the work rate of Jordan who covers the ground with ease from midfield to defence and pushing forward. She looks to run and carry any chance she gets, and if she does make mistakes by hand or foot, she will get across to help out her teammates. Her hands on the inside are impressive and her footy smarts are right up there with clever knocks at ground level into the path of her teammates. Whilst at times she could rush her kicking, she intercepted a number of passes by reading the play off the opposition’s boot, marking and then taking the game on.

#11 Emily Shepherd

Had a tale of two halves in the sense that her first half she was racking up the ball with will and was hitting targets left, right and centre, whilst in the second half she remained involved and her hands in close were still good, but a number of her kicks were intercepted. She loves to snap around her body to get out of trouble, and is at her most dangerous when having space to size up options and kick long inside 50. Some of her passes in the opening half were superbly weighted, and combined with her clean hands at round level and pressure acts, Shepherd was certainly a busy bee around the ground. Still finding her fair share of it in the second half, it was more her execution that was not as consistent, though she was still pressuring the opposition.

#12 Alisha Liddle

A strong one-on-one player, Liddle took a number of great grabs both contested and uncontested around the ground. Liddle showed off some good speed on the lead and had a number of chances including kicking two goals for the match, with one coming from a 30m set shot on a 45-degree angle after plucking the mark over the top of her opponent, and her second coming from point blank after a 50m penalty, though she had taken another strong grab prior to that. She had a chance earlier in the game from 40m but the set shot just fell short. Liddle is one who competes time and time again in the air and is generally clean above her head.

#34 Ash Richards

The Stingrays co-captain almost had four goals on the board in five minutes with a really fast start. She slotted two goals in the opening three minutes, with a set shot on goal from a tackle 30m out, then an uncontested mark 20m out both going through the big sticks. She had a running shot and then another set shot on goal that followed, though both missed. She rolled through the midfield at times through the game, laying some strong tackles, and took a great intercept mark against two opponents in the second term. Strong above her head and looking dangerous inside 50, she clunked grabs with ease and had a couple of late chances in the fourth term with one from 50m opting to pass off to the danger zone, then ran around 35m out but just fell short with five mins left.

#38 Felicity Crank

Rotating between midfield and defence, Crank was able to get boot to ball quickly, and whilst she could occasionally rush her kicks, she was able to position herself well around the field to get into ball-winning positions. A highlight was a strong intercept mark in the third term with pressure coming from behind, then she had a clearance out of the middle in the final term, also had an intercept mark, and worked back into defence to win the ball at ground level and shovel it out.

Northern Knights:

#1 Phoebe Nelson

Showed strength throughout the game to stand up in tackles and spread across the ground well, often positioning herself a kick behind play or anchoring herself at the back of the stoppages where she could run. What was impressive was her spread and willingness to move the ball on, laying some good tackles and looking to switch where possible. She did rush some of her disposals, but got in the right positions to intercept and then keep moving in transition.

#7 Teleah Smart

Had a touch of class in the first half by hitting the scoreboard twice, albeit from a total of 20m out. She had a nice passage of play in the first term where she marked on the wing, her kick was short so she went and mopped up the ball, won a free kick and then was given a 50m penalty where she converted the goal. In the second term, her great defensive work in the goalsquare earned her a free kick and nailed the goal from point blank. She took a few good marks in defence and was able to hit her targets later in the game, and seemed composed with ball-in-hand.

#9 Maeve Chaplin

A standout for the Knights and just kept pushing throughout four quarters whether it be at the stoppages or roaming in the back half to assist her defence. She mopped up loose balls and charged through stoppages with intent, using her quick hands in close to advantage. While at times her kicks might not go directly to teammates, they would be put to space, and she would work hard to add an extra number to the contest. Her strength whilst being tackled was another feature in the game, getting her hands free to give the ball over, and then able to cleanly pick up at ground level on multiple occasions.

#36 Ava Jordan

The pocket rocket 05er was lively around the stoppages and just borrowed in time and time again. Whilst she has had bigger games, Jordan was constantly cracking in, winning the ball and firing out handballs to teammates, with a fantastic gather spin and delivery to the forward side of the centre to Ella Smallacombe. She spread well and was able to win a fair share of uncontested possessions as well as contested ones, and often chipped around with short passes and ran hard to try and win the ball back.

#37 Rylie Wilcox

A lightly-bodied player who kicked a goal from a great contested mark, clunking a grab and nailing the set shot from 30m out, then roaming around the ground to gather the ball in all thirds of the ground. A couple of times Wilcox’s spatial awareness could have improved given she was run down before she could dispose of it cleanly, or she had to rush, but her gathering at ground level and third term in particular was a highlight. She looked to play on when she could and open up the angles, then ran-down an opponent in the fourth quarter to force a spill and ran to the next contest.

#40 Tannah Hurst

The defender put together a really solid performance in the back 50, positioning herself in the right places to win the ball and take it out of defence. She won the ball under pressure on a number of occasions and had to give the ball off quickly, but also provided the defensive aspects such as shepherds or locks. Hurst burst through a stoppage late in the first term to be a standout on the field at that stage, and laid a massive front-on tackle to stop a potential goal. Whilst not as busy after that, Hurst did have a number of highlight plays, mopping up at half-back off opposition plays, and laying some strong tackles. A clean gather in defence to run out and kick to the wing was good, though it did get turned over. Overall one of the better Knights throughout the match.

OTHERS:

Dandenong Stingrays had an even spread across the board with Charley Ryan, Sarah Hosking, Olivia Robinson and Zoe Hill all winning their fair share of the ball, while Bianca Lyne kicked a goal rolling through the ruck. For the Knights, Molly McErlain was impressive for a 14-year-old, while Lulu Beatty, Megan Barnes and Brooke Plummer stood out, and Trinity Mills slotted two goals.

GWV REBELS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Showed true versatility throughout the game as someone that played on the wing, through the middle and down back at times, able to impact in all three positions consistently. Her usual strengths such as ball use and marking were well utilised by her throughout the game, taking good marks above head, especially in defence, to steady the ship at times and get the Rebels some time to compose themselves. What was most impressive, and possibly a new string to her bow, was how well she played her role through the middle of the ground, consistently clean below her knees even when under immediate pressure from an opponent. This theme was also present when she was stationed on the wing, able to hold her space and time her runs well to try and receive a handball from a pack.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Coming off two really strong U19’s Country performances, Dojiok played like a player with the confidence to take on the world, and that is what she did at times streaming out of the defensive 50 to attack the ball and provide as an option laterally for teammates. One particular instance of this came in the third quarter where she got onto the end of a kick into the middle of the ground, and already being at full pace, went straight through a Tasmanian opponent to deliver inside 50. Along with this, she showed her usual strength in the air, taking a few quality intercept marks in the defensive 50 above her head, where she would usually look to get running with it immediately to quickly get GWV transitioning. 

#11 Perri King (Tasmania)

Had a really well rounded game through the midfield, being the main Tasmanian midfielder looking to nullify the ruck dominance of Kalani Scoullar with her positioning and runs through the stoppages. She has a really eye-catching game style, playing as an inside mid with genuine outside mid speed, as well as an impressive leap that makes her such a dangerous marking target around the ground, even taking a contested mark against the previously mentioned Scoullar in the defensive 50. With these athletic traits and position it is no surprise she finds herself consistently winning the ball, where she tends to favour kicking it long forward out of the pack, or handball if there is a clear option there

TOP PERFORMERS:

GWV Rebels:

#1 Lili Condon 

Coming back with some more VFLW experience, Condon looked much better for the experience at that level, just looking too good in the midfield at times seemingly having an unlimited amount of time with the ball through contests. Seemed more assured of herself as well, often backing her speed and agility rather than rushing a disposal, even finding space from that additional run to find a few bounces, with the extra time she took seeing her ball use at its best for the season.

#2 Tahlia Meier

Looked so clean with the ball and just a step above with her speed through the midfield, looking particularly damaging around stoppages where she would out run opponents and weave around the contest to get a clean disposal going forward. Also was not afraid to smack away the hands of attempted tacklers and then got it moving, often by hand, to teammates that were in less contested situations. Not letting her lack of height impact her aerial game, she flew for quite a few marks throughout the game. Another impressive part of her game was how willing she was to initiate contact throughout, often pushing opponents around stoppages to try and get an extra meter or so of separation.

#27 Molly Walton 

You can just tell that she has a massive impact to the Rebels defensive structure, and how much Tasmania actively looked to nullify that by putting a player on her when Walton was pushed up as a higher defender, and then very happy to put stronger opponents on her one on one down deep. She finds ways to impact, whether it is providing a shepherd for a teammate to take a mark uncontested, taking an intercept mark herself or drifting across to spoil, then following up with good ball use to teammates, usually ones about 20 meters away that aren’t under pressure.

Tasmania Devils:

#7 Meghan Gaffney

The winger showcased her trademark speed through the game, attacking spilled balls out of contests or stoppages no matter who was in her way, or even heading directly towards her, showing immense courage. Was smart with her use by foot going forward as well, never really delivering bullet kicks but placing them just in front of teammates to run into.

#9 Claire Ransom

Finding herself in the forward line a bit more often than usual, Ransom more than held her own in a newer position, able to provide as a genuine option when Tasmania were going forward and she was there. When in her usual midfield role, Ransom brought a level of composure not many others could, finding some impressive options in close with her quick hands, or delivering well forward by foot, she just manages to find those options not many others can under the pressure she usually is under. 

#13 Olivia Smith

Lining up on the wing for majority of the game, Smith played a fantastic game where she filled the role of a traditional winger perfectly with her positioning, making herself a switch option when the ball was on the other side of the ground, and sitting just behind when it was on her side. Her positioning outside of the forward 50 as well led to consistent pressure on the Rebels defence, able to make a contest and usually get the ball back inside 50 either herself or by getting it to a teammate.

#15 Jemma Webster 

Found herself involved in some of Tasmania’s best pieces of transitional play for the day, usually being the central option and passing off to a running teammate she played her role really well, positioning well outside forward 50 as well to create contests and keep the threat of another inside 50 entry going.

#33 Shania Saward 

Playing up both ends throughout the contest, Saward utilised her strength to win essentially every marking contest she was involved in, taking them strongly without much trouble. Looked very comfortable as a defender, not afraid to run off her opponent and set up outside the forward 50 to take some intercept grabs up there and bomb the ball straight back in

OTHERS:

Tasmania were not without their solid role players in the win, Ella Maurer being one of them that continued her form from the U19’s Championships to have a good game through the middle. Amy Prokopiec kicked two goals when the game was tight early on to give Tasmania the early advantage. Briana Oates did well to nullify her direct opponents as a defender as well. For the Rebels, Chloe Leonard and Kalani Scoullar were involved through the midfield and ruck respectively, with Scoullar having the clear win in the ruck duals. Jenna Burke also looked strong throughout the game, marking herself as another to watch for the 2022 draft from the Rebels

EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Eastern Ranges:

#4 Keeley Sherar

A standout across the game, Sherar showed a touch of class through the midfield and was strong in standing up when tackled to still get her handball away. A highlight was the first centre bounce of the second term when she read the Grace Campbell tap, charged away and kicked inside 50 well. Her defensive pressure on opponents was admirable, battling hard at ground level, whilst her ability to move through heavy traffic was a great trait. She occasionally fumbled a little bit at ground level, but once she was able to get ball-in-hand she was clean with her hands. She took a number of good marks around the ground showing off her work rate.

#5 Jorja Livingstone

The wing had some eye-catching moments, and found enough of the ball to pose a problem for the opposition. She won a free kick for in the back in the third term and take off and use her trusty left to put it to a dangerous spot close to goal. She was clean at ground level, and whilst at times she rushed, she was generally one player who could utilise the ball in transition.

#9 Mia Busch

A standout player off half-back and one of the best on the ground, she was terrific intercepting the play and moving it forward. Even if she dropped a mark, her second efforts would help her win the ball for her teammates and stay upright in a tackle to give it off to a free teammate. She laid a great tackle in the goalsquare to save a certain goal, and then was an anchor at half-back with her marking. Once in the third term she was a bit too ambitious by playing on and was rushed after stepping off her line in between two opponents, but otherwise was fairly composed throughout the match.

#16 Isabelle Khoury

Lively throughout the match, Khoury never stopped trying to run with the ball and break the lines. Sometimes she would get caught, but when it paid off, she was able to open up the angles and get it forward. She showed clean and quick hands off the deck, and was able to get boot to ball quickly in order to get it forward.

#18 Bridget Deed

Put together a consistent four-quarter performance and her hard running and work rate ensured she won a truckload of the ball. Finishing with easily the most disposals on the ground, Deed was often held at stoppages or carefully guarded because of her ability to read the ball off hands. She was strong under pressure and was able to just bomb the ball forward to provide her teammates with scoring opportunities, whilst having quick hands in close.

#21 Ruby O’Dwyer

Similar to Deed, O’Dwyer worked hard across the ground and looked to spread when she could, able to get boot to ball whilst under pressure, including in the third term when she was being tackled. She won a free kick for going in hard and drove the ball forward then gave quick hands from a stoppage to a teammate on the outside in the fourth term.

#44 Georgia Campbell

An absolutely dominant performance from Campbell in terms of her ruck work, and whilst she did not have as much impact across the ground as usual – dropping a few marks she would usually clunk early – she was able to really take control at the stoppages. Sharing the work load with Jess Grace, Campbell opened up angles and space for her midfielders to run onto.

Northern Territory:

#2 Djimila Totham

One of the most productive players in the match, Totham did a good job from defence, often opposed one-on-one with the talented Alyssia Pisano. She held her own in that contest and restricted Pisano to just the one goal, whilst being a prolific interceptor. She was clean at ground level and had a slick sidestep through traffic in the third term to pick the exit and kick away, and whilst she sometimes was rushed with her kick, she was able to hold up under pressure in the back 50 during the second half.

#11 Grace Mulvahil

The smooth-moving player was able to roll off half-back and down the wing, breaking away with her speed from stoppages. In the third term, she shrugged off a tackle in the midfield to get hands free to a teammate, then would get her own hands dirty not long after with a good tackle at ground level.

#25 Bella Clarke

Showed her experience in the game by accumulating the ball regularly, particularly in the first half. Clarke was quick to get boot to ball and won a free kick for a great tackle on Deed in the middle. She then got to the next contest after kicking it to assist her teammates, whilst had another good play in the third term running out of a stoppage.

#28 Kasey Marsden

One of the better Northern Territory players, Marsden stood out with her persistence in tackling opponents, even if sometimes they gave away free kicks. She mopped up at half-back worked up and down the ground, and was able to win it on the inside or outside. She even had a crack undersized in the ruck in the second term, and continued to stockpile possessions around the ground. In the final term, she rebounded well out of the back 50, and then won the ball on the wing as well to send it inside 50.

OTHERS:

Youngster Ava Campbell and co-captain Eloise Chaston both found double-figure disposals, Cadhla Schmidli worked hard on the last line, and Jess Grace shared the ruck load with Georgia Campbell for the Ranges. For the Thunder, Shanoah Leedie, Georgia Johnson and Matisse Hunter were others who worked hard throughout the game.

WESTERN JETS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

On what was an indifferent day for the star AFLW Academy member and her Pioneers, you could not put it down to a lack of effort. Fresh off a National Championships campaign where she spearheaded Vic Country’s attack, Slender reverted back to her defensive duties early in this match. She broke hard off the line at the first centre bounce to try and set the tone, but was unlucky to be caught holding the ball. Slender’s marking came to prominence with a trademark intercept grab in the opening term, though it was her intent and tackling efforts throughout the game which stood out most. The versatile talent also cracked into the midfield for a blockbuster matchup against Montana Ham, and while she was not overly prolific, still had her moments of strength at the contest.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Western Jets:

#1 Charlotte Baskaran

The hard-working bottom-ager returned another performance to remember, collecting a round-high 31 disposals as a constant in the Jets’ midfield. A tenacious ground level player, Baskaran was in the thick of the action and again enforced her accumulative effect with terrific spread from the contest and repeat efforts to help thrust Western forward. She often won or received the ball in ideal positions to deliver inside attacking 50, where she had potential to inflict plenty of damage. Baskaran also showcased her speed in open spaces, particularly with a four-bounce run through the corridor during term three which saw her side go from centre half-back to centre half-forward in a flash. Overall, a top game from the top 10 2022 prospect.

#27 Caitlin Sargent

Sargent was the dominant forward on the ground and looked ominous during a three-goal first half showing. She got on the board almost immediately with the opening goal of the game, finishing quickly after receiving by hand close to goal. A holding the ball free kick saw Sargent add another in the same quarter, before a terrific overhead mark allowed her to convert a third in term two. Sargent would go on to compete well and even scrounge some more shots on goal, before showing good confidence to mark strongly once again and convert a fourth major in the third quarter.

#38 Montana Ham

In what was an imposing performance, Ham was able to highlight some of the traits which have her pegged as a top five prospect among the 2022 crop. She was able to get first hands on the ball in midfield, where she started the game, while also using her power to burst onto the outer and gain good penetration by foot. Ham’s aerial marking was another real feature, rising time and time again to intercept Bendigo’s rebounding kicks as a formidable wall across the front half. Going forward, Ham also mixed it up by actively lowering her eyes more than usual and hitting targets in front of her, rather than constantly blazing away long. Scarily enough, she already looks a class above the competition.

#41 Ciara Singleton

In her final game for the Western Jets, Singleton swung forward to good effect and was a large part of her side’s hot start to the game. Her marking and reading of the ball in flight are among her strengths, and they both came to the fore as Singleton set up well across the 50-metre arc and enjoyed a productive first half. She also booted her first Under 18s (now 19s) goal for Western, coming in the opening quarter and now bows out as one of the rare 2001-births to have remained in the NAB League this year.

#42 Jemima Woods

Woods was part of the Jets’ dynamic forwardline which boasted plenty of height and marking power, but was able to remain busy when the ball hit the deck. The 18th-year prospect hit the scoreboard early with a set shot conversion, before adding a second goal in the third term via the same method. She presented well on the lead and proved mobile when taking on ruck duties, looking to have gained a good amount of confidence from her three-goal VFLW debut. With some nice athletic tools and a good work rate, Woods has plenty to work with.

Bendigo Pioneers:

#15 Drew Ryan

Ryan was one who played an important role in an under-siege area of the ground for Bendigo, able to intercept and repel from her defensive post. She started off with a solid pack mark inside defensive 50 during term one, an act which would be repeated again in the second and third terms. Ryan showed good strength to be able to stand up in tackles and despite enormous scoreboard pressure, was not afraid to take on the game with attacking intent. Once she marked or mopped up, Ryan would look to move quickly on most occasions and generated a massive seven rebound 50s. While others rotated heavily, she was a constant down back and proved steady in tough positions.

#18 Jemma Finning

Starting in midfield, Finning brought a good amount of physicality to the ground level contests and managed to set her game up with an early centre clearance. She hunted the ball well and was able to apply defensive pressure when necessary, including in the second half when she shifted to defence and earned a holding the ball decision inside the back 50. Finning set up nicely behind the ball to sweep up and provide some composure on the rebound, with her use by foot a solid feature on the day. The top-ager will likely now move on to Essendon’s VFLW side having gone close to a debut earlier this year.

#30 Octavia Di Donato

An exciting prospect for next year’s draft class, Di Donato was tried in a couple of roles but started in defence. She showed some good toe breaking into open space and looked to be productive with ball in hand, seen directing traffic ahead of her before delivering by foot. She would eventually rotate further afield and continued to look to chain her possessions or move the ball forward quickly, hoping to provide her side with a creative spark.

OTHERS:

Both sides finished with a number of strong contributors despite the scoreline discrepancy. 2005-born prospect Kiera Whiley again showed nice traits on the outer for Western, while Trinity Skenderis was productive in midfield and Laura Elliott also impacted. For Bendigo, Lila Keck and Lucia Painter proved they will be ones to watch for years to come, while Scarlett Orritt cracked in around the ground and Tegan Williams was a key pillar at either end of the ground.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

There is not many superlatives that have not been used when describing Rowbottom, she just constantly impresses with what she does around the ground. Found herself up forward a lot more than usual and proved that she can fill in as a key forward to great effect, finishing with three goals. Her athleticism and strength above her head made her an extremely difficult match up, with Gippsland unable to find a proper answer for her as a deep target, with some being able to match her in the air but not on the ground, and others able to match her on the ground but not in the air. Unsurprisingly won a heap of it when she did move into the middle, with her burst around stoppages leading to plenty of clearances and long kicks forward.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Oakleigh Chargers:

#9 Brooke Vickers 

Stationed on the wing after her impressive Vic Metro performances, Vickers used it well all through the game even when the rain started pelting down in the final quarter, with that reliability of disposal helping Oakleigh going forward or across the ground. Positioned well on the outside of the forward 50, taking a few intercept marks when Gippsland attempted to bomb the ball out, even making contests with much taller opponents to then win it at ground level. 

#14 Eliza James

Involved in a lot going forward, seemingly being the main target up forward for the chargers, with her marking prowess being impressive during the day, being able to get separation on the lead to take it comfortably on the chest or out in front, if it had not been for her unselfish ways she could have very well ended up with six or seven goals, however the constant effort to share the ball around and get other teammates on the scoresheet was impressive. She had a few gettable shots float off to the side or drop short, showing that once her goalkicking is more polished she’s very capable of being a consistent scoring threat.

#15 Ameile Smith

Returning for her first game since breaking her collarbone earlier in the year against Sandringham, Smith impacted in the forward half, with her marking and use by foot especially impressive, often looking to give the ball off to a teammate, working hard to help them if they did not take clean possession. Was another one that very well could have had a few more goals if she was a little more selfish, but decided to do the team thing and share it around. Filling in as ruck in the forward 50, she held up well against the experienced and much taller Matser, getting front position a few times to even the contest.

#23 Caitlin Matthews 

Spent her time between the ruck and backline, playing more and more in the ruck as the game went, really taking it up to Matser and began to get on top late in the piece. Where she clearly won though was her impact around the ground, able to win it at ground level without much trouble and get it out well. Especially in the backline she played a massive part in keeping Gippsland goalless, looking to switch the play often and run it further up to get extra distance behind the kicks. 

#29 Amanda Ling 

Similar to Rowbottom, Ling found herself spending a lot more time forward in an effort to give Oakleigh’s youngsters more of a go in the midfield, where she proved that she can impact as a forward, using her speed, strength and agility to get herself on the scoreboard three times, as well as setting up some pretty good scoring opportunities as she got around opponents and kicked to the advantage of her teammates. She looked good when she played that link up role, pushing up the ground to get possession from a teammate moving it out of defence, then running and delivering long.

#33 Jasmine Fleming 

In for her debut game, which has been delayed due to cricket commitments and injuries, the bottom-ager was dominant throughout the contest, spending her time between the midfield and the forward line, she managed to impact wherever she was. Possesses a really good burst of speed which made her particularly dangerous around the stoppages, where she got two or three really clean centre clearances purely from that burst of speed, with no one able to match those first five or six steps. Going forward, she was particularly dangerous in the air, taking grabs comfortably and converting one in the second quarter. In a game where Oakleigh’s bottom-agers were given every chance to shine, she took the opportunity and marked herself as one to watch for next year.

#34 Lily Hart

Not often that a bottom-ager is the most experienced player in her teams midfield group, but Hart stepped up to lead well through the rover group. She showed some really high level positioning around stoppages, not taking long to realise where the opposing ruck, Grace Matser, was favouring with her tap placement, and just sitting there to win some easy clearances and really nullifying the ruck dominance Matser showed at times. Getting those clearances was not the end of it, as the usually classy Hart continued to use it well throughout the day, often running and kicking to the same spots going forward but having it pay off every time.

Gippsland Power:

#9 Taylah Bourne

Consistently involved throughout the day in the Gippsland defence, pushing up to impact at the top of the defensive 50 and attempting to stop Oakleigh getting inside forward 50. When it got deep she was one that was always competing at ground level, constantly applying pressure to the ball carrier and forcing opponents to the boundary. 

#26 Grace McRae

As she has done all season McRae battled hard on the inside all day, cracking in and winning the ball well, usually just to be met by a swarm of Oakleigh players attempting to rip the ball from her hands or cut off an attempted handball or kick. She never dropped off her effort though, battling right to the end. 

OTHERS:

Despite not coming away with the win, Gippsland saw a fairly even contribution across the board, with bottom-agers Leesa Guastella and Yasmin Duursma particularly impressive in defence and midfield respectively, along with Tyla Angwin, Alexei Guy-Toogood and Chloe Bailey. Oakleigh naturally saw quite a few players involved, with Stella Reid, Charlotte Van Der Vlies and Charlotte Taylor in that group that contributed at times. 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

The dominant tall afield, Morphett was simply too big, tall and strong in the ruck. She racked up a whopping 28 hitouts, soaring above and through each opponent at the centre bounces and out-bodying them around the ground. What was most pleasing about Morphett’s play was her ability to follow up, imposing herself at ground level to tackle and bomb forward a few clearances. The GWS Academy member was also a marking force around the ground, while resting forward to good effect despite not hitting the scoreboard. The next step in her development will be to more consistently direct her taps, rather than purely win them and thump into space.

Murray Bushrangers:

#1 Olivia Cicolini

One of the most dangerous forwards on the day, Cicolini was lively inside forward 50 for the Bushrangers. She set the tone with good defensive pressure from the get-go, while also clicking into gear via an early opportunist’s goal. The bottom-ager was a real pest for Sandringham’s defence, able to somehow get snaps away towards goal and make them think about her presence when nearing the big sticks. Cicolini booted her second goal after a strong pack mark in the second term, before making it three in the following quarter from a tripping free kick.

#2 Aurora Smith

Utilised in a slightly different role to her usual wing posting, Smith was afforded some good time in the middle and ended as one of her team’s top ball winners. The 2021 Murray best and fairest was busy at ground level, doing her best to win the ball at each contest and burst away with a nippy turn of speed. Smith looked a touch more comfortable on the outside, where she started the game, but added a handy string to her bow in this outing.

#17 Keeley Skepper

Arguably the best player afield, Skepper racked up a game-high 24 disposals – including 23 kicks and 13 inside 50s. The bottom-ager was unrelenting in her pursuit to push Murray forward, seen marking across half back or in the corridor before wasting no time to get on the move and pump the ball down the line with her punchy left foot. Those repeat acts proved the story of Skepper’s game, with her intent and willingness to take the game on proving key to the Bushrangers’ highest score for the season. She capped off a day out fittingly, streaming into goal and slotting home the game’s final major during the last minute of play after yet another good read to intercept.

#25 Sophia McCarthy

McCarthy was another to cause Sandringham some headaches aerially, with her contested marking a real highlight inside attacking 50. The 18-year-old started brightly with a first term goal, before bringing that aerial marking into effect during term two, when she kicked her second. She repeated the act in the following quarter, stamping her case as one of the more ominous talls afield. McCarthy also rotated through the ruck and while she was caught on the ball a couple of times, did well to stay involved. Her growing confidence to leap and clunk big marks was clearly the best feature, though.

Sandringham Dragons:

#10 Bridie Hipwell

Sandringham’s prime ball winner on the day, Hipwell showed a developing dimension to her midfield craft with strong burst away from congestion. She has the tendency to be caught at times, but did well to break the packs open and do so with confidence, before delivering long by foot or keeping the ball rolling onto the outside by hand. Hipwell’s kicking is another area of improvement, but she was able to get good purchase at times and saw more ball on the outer, which allowed for more time to deliver. On top of strong contested ball winning, the bottom-ager also rose to take a couple of solid marks, which she has great potential to do at 174cm.

#17 J’Noemi Anderson

Fresh off her National Championships campaign with the Allies, Anderson translated the confidence gained there to impact in Sandringham’s forwardline. The sister of former Carlton player Joe, she worked up the ground with authority and presented as a viable leading target. When the ball hit the deck or came to her in open play, Anderson looked to burst into attack with powerful movement through traffic and long kicks inside forward 50. On the defensive end, she tackled typically hard to provide a dual threat for the Dragons.

#19 Ella Sciberras

Another 2004-born player to impact in Round 9, Sciberras was an absolute rock in Sandringham’s defence. Her attack on the ball was fearless, allowing for some eye-catching intercepts when others would be more concerned with their direct opponent. She was proactive in her attempts to cut off Murray’s attacks, hitting the ball at speed to mark and mop up the ground balls, before pumping long kicks away from danger. Her run out of those zone and sound decision making on the ball were both terrific attributes she showcased, proving attack is sometimes the best form of defence.

#30 Pia Staltari

Having been tried in a range of positions for Sandringham and Vic Metro, Staltari was a permanent midfield fixture on Sunday and showed her class at times. She had little trouble getting first hands to the ball at stoppages, but still looks a touch more comfortable on the outer where she can better utilise her classy disposal. Staltari had a good moment in the final term, running down Sophia McCarthy in the corridor for a holding the ball free kick, ending her game on a high.

#37 Ebony Angelopoulos

With a bit of luck to go with her undeniable forward nous, Angelopoulos ended up with three goals as Sandringham’s main source of inspiration inside attacking 50. She was able to gain good separation on the lead and constantly looked to wheel and go when in possession, allowing the Dragons to go deeper into attack. She found scoring form after half time, with two snaps bouncing home over the back during term three, before she converted a free kick in the final quarter to cap off a promising game. Add a couple more shots on goal to the equation, and she was unlucky not to finish with more.

OTHERS:

Tasked with the kick-ins for Sandringham, Emma Stuber registered 15 disposals from defence, while the likes of Keely Coyne and Kiana Lynch battled hard in midfield. Zara Hamilton was her productive self for the Bushrangers, as bottom-ager Cassidy Mailer made her return from injury with a goal, showing some promise in the front half.

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 9 wrap – Finals places locked in

THE ultimate 2021 NAB League Girls home-and-away round was completed over the weekend, with finals fixtures locked in as each region returned after nearly a month away from competition. For some teams, Round 9 presented the opportunity to finish their season of a high, while those in the postseason hunt were able to get back up to speed on the eve of finals. Catch up on the action from all seven games in our weekend wrap.

GEELONG FALCONS 3.3 | 3.3 | 5.5 | 7.6 (48)
CALDER CANNONS 0.1 |  1.4 | 3.5 | 4.5 (29)

By: Declan Reeve

One of the most important matches in regards to finals for the round did not disappoint for viewers, as Geelong Falcons continued their good pre-break form to topple Calder Cannons by 19 points. The Falcons ended with 7.6 (48) to 4.5 (29) against a determined Calder side, who despite the scoreboard looked right in it throughout the contest, with some passages of slick ball movement through the midfield.

With a total of 16 girls playing for Country or Metro in the recent U17’s and U19’s representative games between these two sides, it comes as no surprise that the game was entertaining viewing, with both teams having plenty of contributors throughout the game. 

The Falcons can thank Renee Tierney and Poppy Schaap for their multiple goals, with Schaap also noticeable around the ground as a pressure player and ball winner. Ingrid Houtsma also bobbed up at some crucial moments, using it well along with midfielder Tess Craven who again found ways to control the tempo. Elizabeth Dowling and Annie Lee were rock solid in defence, moving it well into the middle of the ground, with bottom-aged defender Taiya Morrow also taking some strong intercept marks.

The Cannons were unsurprisingly served well by the ever consistent midfield trio of Georgie Prespakis, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell who all battled hard around the ground to create anything they could. Bottom-agers Tahlia Read and Abbey McDonald also had good performances splitting their time between the forwardline and the midfield, both showing that they’re ready to step up into a more permanent move next season, whilst Jessica Zakkour contributed two goals for Calder.

GOALS:

Geelong: R. Tierney 3, P. Schapp 2, K. Hardingman, I. Houtsma
Calder: J. Zakkour 2, O. Manfre, G. Prespakis, 

DC BEST:

Geelong: E. Dowling, P. Schapp,  I. Houtsma, T. Craven, R. Tierney, A. Lee
Calder: G. Prespakis, E. Yassir,  T. Read, A. McDonald, Z. Friswell, J. Zakkour

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons)
4 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
3 – Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)
2 – Poppy Schapp (Geelong Falcons)
1 – Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons)

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.1 | 3.3 | 5.3 | 7.3 (45)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 3.0 | 6.1 | 6.3 | 9.5 (59)

By: Michael Alvaro

The Northern Knights flexed their muscle ahead of the most important stage of their premiership defence, defeating the highly fancied Dandenong Stingrays by 14 points on Saturday. While the Knights lead at every break, three-goal efforts in the second and fourth terms saw them break away at crucial stages, especially after the Stingrays cut the margin to a single straight kick at three quarter time. In the end, the reigning premiers notched a terrific pre-finals win on the road, 9.5 (59) to 7.3 (45).

Both sides had an even spread of contributors, comprising of usual suspects and prospects on the rise. Maeve Chaplin returned from an excellent Under 19 national carnival in good form, enjoying more time around the ball with Ava Jordan. Tannah Hurst stood up in an important repelling role, while tall Phoebe Nelson clunked five marks and the 2005-born Molly McErlain notched her best performance to date. Three Knights finished with two goals, as Rylie Wilcox snared one and performed well.

For Dandenong, bottom-age standout Emily Shepherd led all comers with 24 touches in a top outing, while Ashleigh Richards booted two majors from her 15 touches and five marks. Elsewhere, Felicity Crank‘s rich vein of form continued, as Abbey Jordan and Charley Ryan pitched in well, and Mikayla Williamson and Sarah Hosking also earned votes from the Stingrays staff for their efforts.

In the first week of finals, Northern will take on Eastern Ranges on Saturday afternoon at Warrawee Park, while the Stingrays will host Geelong Falcons in a second-straight game at Shepley Oval.

GOALS:

Dandenong: A. Liddle 2, A. Richards 2, C. Blair, H. Monk, B. Lyne
Northern: C. Laurie 2, T. Mills 2, T. Smart 2, L. Jatczak, R. Wilcox, M. Girolami

DC BEST:

Dandenong: A. Richards, E. Shepherd, F. Crank, M. Williamson, A. Jordan, S. Hosking
Northern: M. Chaplin, T. Hurst, P. Nelson, A. Jordan, M. McErlain, R. Wilcox

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)
4 – Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)
3 – Tannah Hurst (Northern Knights)
2 – Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)
1 – Phoebe Nelson (Northern Knights)

GWV REBELS 1.2 | 1.5 | 2.6 | 2.6 (18)
TASMANIA DEVILS 2.0 | 3.0 | 4.0 | 6.5 (41)

By: Declan Reeve

In a rare contest where the two sides will be facing each other again just a week later, Tasmania Devils knocked off the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels by 23 points, for what they’ll be hoping is the first of two wins over their opposition. The result secured the top spot in the Tasmania/Victoria Country pool for the Devils, earning them a match against the fourth-placed Rebels in the first week of the NAB League Girls finals series. The final scores were 2.6 (18) to 6.5 (41).

Amy Prokopiec was well assisted by her midfield teammates, with Perri King, Claire Ransom, Olivia Smith, Meghan Gaffney and Ella Maurer all performing well through the contest against a strong and contested GWV midfield group, along with Shania Saward who impacted up either end. The Rebels had their fair share of contributors as well, with Lilli Condon and Tahlia Meier standing up through the midfield, using their speed to get the ball moving. Nyakoat Dojiok and Molly Walton were solid in defence all day, rebounding and intercepting well whilst Ella Friend was also strong when down there, but also played on the wing and through the midfield at times.

GOALS:

GWV: P. Scott, Z. Larkins
Tasmania: A. Prokopiec 2, A. Bisset 2, E. Maurer, G. Clark

DC BEST:

GWV: L. Condon, T. Meier, E. Friend, N. Dojiok, M. Walton
Tasmania: P. King, C. Ransom, O. Smith, S. Saward, A. Prokopiec 

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Perri King (Tasmania)
4 – Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)
3 – Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)
2 – Claire Ransom (Tasmania)
1 – Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

EASTERN RANGES 0.0 | 3.1 | 5.2 | 5.2 (32)
NORTHERN TERRITORY 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 (7)

By: Peter Williams

Eastern Ranges have secured a comfortable 25-point victory over Northern Territory Thunder to lock up seconds spot in the metropolitan pool as a result. After the Thunder got the jump on the Ranges thanks to a goal from Madison Harris in the first term, it was all Eastern from then on, scoring 5.2 to 0.0 for the remainder of the game. The Ranges led by 12 points at half-time, and kicked on to win by just over four goals.

Georgia Wilson slotted two majors for the winners, while Jorja Livingstone joined regular scoreboard contributors Alyssia Pisano and Matilda Hardy as goalkickers. Keeley Sherar was her productive self, as Ruby O’Dwyer, Bridget Deed and Livingstone all found plenty of the footy. Georgia Campbell and Jess Grace took control to dominate the ruck, while Mia Busch and Isabelle Khoury were also impressive.

For the Thunder, Djimila Totham was named best-on for her defensive work, while Tatyana Perry and Shanoah Leedie were also impressive with Allies representatives, Kasey Marsden and Grace Mulvahil, and past representative Bella Clarke. The result marks the end of the two-game campaign for the Thunder, whilst the Ranges will go on to play Northern Knights in the first week of finals next weekend.

GOALS:

Eastern: G. Wilson 2, J. Livingstone, A. Pisano, M. Hardy
Northern Territory: M. Harris

DC BEST:

Eastern: M. Busch, K. Sherar, R. O’Dwyer, B. Deed, J. Livingstone
Northern Territory: D. Totham, K. Marsden, T. Perry, B, Clarke, G. Mulvahil

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)
4 – Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)
3 – Ruby O’Dwyer (Eastern Ranges)
2 – Djimila Totham (NT Thunder)
1 – Kasey Marsden (NT Thunder)

WESTERN JETS 4.0 | 5.1 | 7.6 | 8.8 (56)
BENDIGO PIONEERS 0.2 | 0.3 | 0.4 | 1.6 (12)

By: Michael Alvaro

Western Jets capped off their season with a belting win over the Bendigo Pioneers on Saturday afternoon, soaring 44 points to the good by the final siren of both sides’ campaigns. The Jets lead from the first goal and hardly gave the Pioneers a sniff at the other end, keeping them without a major score until the final term. Forward firepower was a key factor for the winners, with their 8.8 (56) total one point shy of a season high, while notching their best defensive effort to restrict Bendigo to 1.6 (12).

Bottom-age gun Charlotte Baskaran returned alongside Montana Ham from Under 19 representative duties in fine form, leading all comers as both players made a sizeable splash. The marking of Caitlin Sargent was a feature up forward as she booted a game-high four goals, while the dynamic Jemima Woods snared two. Usual defender Ciara Singleton also got on the board with skipper Leah Spargo, while Trinity Skenderis, Kiera Whiley, and Laura Elliott were also solid in a terrific team effort.

For the Pioneers, it was an almost-day for 2006-born prospect Lucia Painter, who managed three behinds from 12 disposals in just her second NAB League appearance. Drew Ryan and Octavia Di Donato were among Bendigo’s best and led the disposal count, as the likes of Jemma Finning, Scarlett Orritt, and Tegan Williams also stood up at times in the heavy loss.

GOALS:

Western: C. Sargent 4, J. Woods 2, L. Spargo, C. Singleton
Bendigo: C. Mitchell

DC BEST:

Western: C. Baskaran, C. Sargent, M. Ham, J. Woods, T. Skenderis, C. Singleton
Bendigo: L. Painter, D. Ryan, O. Di Donato, S. Orritt, T. Williams, J. Finning

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)
4 – Caitlin Sargent (Western Jets)
3 – Montana Ham (Western Jets)
2 – Jemima Woods (Western Jets)
1 – Lucia Painter (Bendigo Pioneers)

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 4.3 | 8.8 | 15.9 | 15.11 (101)
GIPPSLAND POWER 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.1 | 0.1 (1)

By: Declan Reeve

The final game of the year for Gippsland Power ended in a disappointing loss to ladder leaders Oakleigh Chargers at Warrawee Park, with Oakleigh holding the Power goalless for the game and scoreless for the first half in an unforgiving performance. The comprehensive display saw the Chargers run out 100-point victors, 15.11 (101) to 0.1 (1).

In an impressive display of teamwork, the Chargers had a total of nine individual goalkickers, as Charlie Rowbottom and Amanda Ling led the way with three each. Rowbottom in particular looked dangerous all game, she could’ve had five or six had she been more accurate in front of goal, with Stella Reid and debutant Jasmine Fleming also getting multiple goals for the Chargers.

The Power, despite not having any goalkickers, will be proud of the work of Taylah Bourne in the defensive 50, along with Grace McRae in the middle, not giving up despite the margin. Looking strong for next year, bottom-aged pair Yasmin Duursma and Leesa Guastella were also impressive throughout with their efforts.

GOALS:

Oakleigh: C. Rowbottom 3, A. Ling 3, S. Reid 2, J. Fleming 2, E. James, A. Smith, H. Kennealy, K. James, B. Vickers
Gippsland: Nil

DC BEST:

Oakleigh: J. Fleming, C. Rowbottom, L. Hart, A. Ling, E. James, B. Vickers
Gippsland: T. Bourne, G. McRae, L. Guastella, Y. Duursma, T. Angwin, A. Guy-Toogood

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Jasmine Fleming (Oakleigh Chargers)
4 – Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
3 – Lily Hart (Oakleigh Chargers)
2 – Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)
1 – Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers) 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 2.5 | 5.9 | 8.10 | 9.11 (65)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 0.0 | 2.1 | 4.1 | 5.3 (33)

By: Peter Williams

Finishing the season in style, Murray Bushrangers won three of their last four games to head into the post-season with plenty to take from 2021. The Bushrangers proved too good for Sandringham Dragons, having 20 scoring shots to eight and piling on nine goals to win by 32 points up in Wangaratta. With the Bushrangers’ strongest side on the park all season – also thanks to the return of Cassidy Mailer from a long-term injury – the Bushrangers booted five goals to two in the opening half, and led by 33 points at the final break, holding that margin firm to secure the 9.11 (65) to 5.3 (33) victory.

Olivia Cicolini was damaging up forward with another three goals to her name alongside Sophia McCarthy, while Vic Country representatives – and top two in their best and fairest award – Aurora Smith and Keeley Skepper – also shone in the victory. Allies representative Ally Morphett had a day out in the ruck, while Lucy Anderson was also named among the Bushrangers’ best. For the Dragons, Bridie Hipwell stood up in defeat, with Ebony Angelopoulos being the key goalkicker with three of her team’s five majors. J’Noemi Anderson, Ella Schiberras, Kiana Lynch and Natasha Morris were also named amongst the Dragons’ best in the loss.

GOALS:

Murray: O. Cicolini 3, S. McCarthy 3, T. Gray, K. Skepper, C. Mailer.
Sandringham: E. Angelopoulos 3, M. Mottram, L. Mitchell.

DC BEST:

Murray: K. Skepper, A. Morphett, A. Smith, O. Cicolini, S. McCarthy
Sandringham: B. Hipwell, E. Angelopoulos, J. Anderson, E. Schiberras, K. Lynch

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)
4 – Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)
3 – Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
2 – Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons)
1 – Olivia Cicolini (Murray Bushrangers)

Dogs overcome hungry Tigers in respective final runs of the season

THE final round of AFL Women’s home and away season action started with a bang on Friday night, as the Western Bulldogs and Richmond Tigers went head to head in a huge clash that would see both clubs run out for the final time in season 2021. Whilst it was the Dogs that got off on the right foot with a huge opening quarter, the Tigers would not relent and came out during the second half to really test their opposition. It was not enough though, as the Bulldogs ran home with a 7.3 (45) to 5.2 (32) victory to complete their season on a high.

A four goals to one first term set up the clash, with the Dogs flying out of the blocks and proving accurate as they did so, whilst the Tigers appeared lacklustre as Kirsty Lamb put on a show booting the first goal and was shortly followed by Kirsten McLeod‘s first of two in quick succession. Whilst Tigers’ Tayla Stahl found time for a running goal in the middle, a fourth Doggies goal put the icing on the cake for the home side’s first quarter effort, effectively using the breeze to top off an excellent start.

A tight second quarter was characterised by just two majors as the contest heated up, with little separation as the Bulldogs forced errant kicks downfield but struggled to hit the scoreboard. While goals to Richmond’s Katie Brennan and Bulldogs’ Izzy Huntington broke the stalemate through the middle of the quarter, the third term was where it got busy across the ground as the Tigers lifted.

With a three-goal half-time margin, the Dogs just had to retain their defensive pressure to have the match in the bag. But Brennan and 2020 number one draft pick Ellie McKenzie had other ideas, with the duo putting on a masterclass. Brennan booted two goal in quick succession to reduce the margin to just four points, and while the Dogs had their chances three behinds were added to the scoresheet as the Tigers were on the hunt, not letting anything near the big sticks uncontested.

But Lamb booted an all-important goal within the first five minutes of the final term, and that was what the Dogs needed to lift as the side stepped up across the ground with little time left in a trying season. While a Courtney Wakefield major kept the Tigers in the race, Bonnie Toogood slammed one home with four minutes on the clock to drive the Doggies to the 13-point win and 5-4 win ratio for the season.

Whilst usually a significant contributor, Mon Conti was nowhere to be seen for much of the contest credit to a hard tag from Elisabeth Georgostathis, as Harriet Cordner led the Tigers’ charge down back with 15 touches and four rebounds. Kate Dempsey (15 touches, four marks) also found plenty of the footy, whilst Brennan’s three goals were crucial and earned a bests nod. McKenzie was limited to 13 touches but starred when she had ball in hand, producing one of the marks of the season in the second term. Sarah Hosking was one of the side’s top performers, finishing with 14 touches and seven tackles to equal-lead the tackle count alongside Lamb, who finished with 23 touches and four marks to add to her tally. Brooke Lochland also shone under pressure, piling on 23 touches and five marks, as McLeod’s two goals and four tackles proved useful and Nell Morris-Dalton put on her best performance to-date, finding the footy 14 times, including four marks and her first AFLW major. Ellie Blackburn (20 touches, six tackles) and Eleanor Brown (19 and six) both also proved crucial in the clash.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 4.0 | 5.0 | 5.3 | 7.3 (45)
RICHMOND 1.0 | 2.1 | 4.2 | 5.2 (32)

GOALS
Western Bulldogs: K. McLeod 2, B. Lochland, N. Morris-Dalton, I. Huntington, K. Lamb, B. Toogood
Richmond: K. Brennan 3, T. Stahl, C. Wakefield

BEST
Western Bulldogs: K. Lamb, E. Blackburn, B. Lochland, E. Brown, N. Morris-Dalton, N. Ferres
Richmond: S. Hosking, G. Seymour, K. Brennan, E. McKenzie, K. Dempsey

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Inaccurate Tigers outlast Eagles for maiden home win

RICHMOND won its first ever match on home soil at Punt Road, holding out in a dreary and tough slog against the West Coast Eagles. With proceedings marred by continuous rain and Eagles injuries, the Tigers held on under pressure for the 5.12 (42) to 5.4 (34) victory.

It was an inaccurate win but a win nonetheless for the Tigers, with the yellow and black faithful treated to a dominant first half from the rapidly improving side. Ellie McKenzieMon Conti and Sarah Hosking were critical through the midfield as Tayla Stahl found her form early, booting two quick goals to pile on the pressure as the Eagles struggled to press forward. But the Tigers’ inaccuracy and missed opportunities allowed West Coast to capitalise in the third, booting three in quick succession as Grace KellyImahra Cameron and Mikayla Bowen all got on the board, with Bowen executing an impressive snap from the boundary to put some hunt into the Eagles.

But whilst the Eagles committed to their second half comeback with Niamh Kelly and Maddy Collier also stepping up to the plate to drive the footy forward, a second Katie Brennan major enabled the Tigers to retain the lead, as a smattering of behinds closed out the match with an eight-point margin and plenty to take out of the tight contest.

For the losing side, Bowen was amongst the best with 21 touches and six marks to go with her two majors, whilst Bella Lewis (18 touches, five tackles), Hayley Bullas (12 touches, six tackles) and Amber Ward (22 disposals) led the charge. For the Tigers, Conti (24 touches), McKenzie (22) and Brennan (two goals, 14 touches) were instrumental, while Stahl (two goals), Christina Bernardi (nine tackles, eight touches, one goal) and Sarah D’Arcy (16 touches, three marks) also proved influential in the side’s third win of the season.

The Tigers will take the field in their final match of the season under Friday night lights against the Western Bulldogs at VU Whitten Oval, whilst the Eagles will finish off their home-and-away season in the final match of the round, hosting St Kilda at Mineral Resources Park on Sunday night.

RICHMOND 2.2 | 3.6 | 4.9 | 5.12 (42)
WEST COAST 0.1 | 0.2 | 3.3 | 5.4 (34)

GOALS
Richmond: T. Stahl 2, K. Brennan 2, C. Bernardi
West Coast: M. Bowen 2, G. Kelly, I. Cameron, K Pope

BEST
Richmond: M. Conti, E. McKenzie, T. Stahl, K. Brennan, S. D’Arcy
West Coast: M. Bowen, M. Collier, N. Kelly, I. Lewis, K. Gibson

Image credit: Daniel Pockett / Getty Images

 

Image credit: Sarah Reed / Getty Images

High-flying Crows swoop on Dogs

By: Taylah Melki

IT was a blowout over in the South with the Adelaide Crows trouncing the Western Bulldogs 12.6 (78) to 3.4 (22). The one-sided affair really came to the fore in the final term with the Crows piling on four goals to produce a 56-point win. The Bulldogs struggled to generate scoring power throughout the contest booting just three goals for the match and going goalless in the third term, while the Crows had no troubles finding the big sticks.

It did not take long for the Crows to land the first blow with Chloe Sheer making her presence immediately felt on the scoreboard with a major. Her energy trickled through to her teammates as Adelaide moved the ball with tenacity and ease before Erin Phillips slotted her first major of the game moments later. Trying to keep her side afloat Bonnie Toogood stepped up to the plate for the Doggies kicking a major of her own but her efforts were quickly overshadowed by Caitlin Gould.

Playing with confidence the Crows amped up the pressure in the second term forcing turnovers from the Western Bulldogs and capitalising with Gould and Sheer registering their second majors for the game. Applying scoreboard pressure and stifling the Dogs’ ball movement, the home side extended their lead out to as much as 33 points at half time.

Scoring dried up for both sides in the third quarter with only one goal added to the tally coming off the boot of Ash Woodland. Western Bulldogs could not find the big sticks in the third quarter, unable to slot a single goal as the game turned into an arm wrestle of sorts. Despite holding a commanding lead heading into the final change, Adelaide still had plenty to pprove replicating that hot form from earlier in the game and getting down to business in the fourth. Piling on four goals to one in the last stanza the Crows flexed their muscles, spearheaded by Sheer who seemed to have her kicking boots on while Danielle Ponter sent tongues wagging with a stellar mark.

It was a good day at the office for Sheer who managed three goals from her 13 touches while Gould was also electric nailing two majors and picking up 10 touches. Woodland was the other player to score multiple goals with two as five other players managed to add a sole goal to the Crows winning margin. Ebony Marinoff could not be denied with the star midfielder involved in just about everything to top the table with 25 disposals and six marks. Partner in crime, Anne Hatchard was at her usual dominant best recording 19 touches, five marks and six tackles while 21-year-old Eloise Jones left her mark thanks to her 14 touches, four marks and goal. Stevie-Lee Thompson and Phillips managed 14 disposals apiece as Teah Charlton also threw her weight around to walk away with 12 touches and an impressive seven tackles.

Unfortunately it was a tough day at the office for the Dogs but the efforts of Toogood and Brooke Lochland did not go unnoticed. Toogood was the main port of call inside 50 nailing two goals while Lochland racked up the possessions with a team-high 20. Ellie Blackburn was a strong force for the Dogs amassing 19 touches as Eleanor Brown finished with 15 touches and six tackles. Kirsty Lamb chimed in across the ground, not afraid to put her body on the line and tackle hard in what was a solid outing by the 26-year-old who managed 14 touches, a goal and five tackles.

ADELAIDE 3.1 | 7.3 | 8.4 | 12.6 (78)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.0 | 2.0 | 2.2 | 3.4 (22)

GOALS
Adelaide: C. Scheer 3, C. Gould 2, A. Woodland 2, E. Phillips, E. Jones, R. Martin, H. Button, C. Randall
Western Bulldogs: B. Toogood 2, K. Lamb

BEST
Adelaide: C. Scheer, E. Marinoff, A. Hatchard, E. Phillips, A. Woodland, E. Jones
Western Bulldogs: E. Blackburn, B. Lochland, K. Lamb, B. Toogood

 

Image credit: Getty Images

Dees nab finals spot with clutch win over Dockers

By: Sophie Taylor

MELBOURNE has cemented its finals chances with a clutch win over a fast-finishing Fremantle outfit, leading for majority of the contest and holding on in a hugely pressurised final few minutes to run out victors 5.7 (37) to 4.8 (32).

It was an explosive start from the Dees that allowed them to hang on under pressure, with a four goal half time lead whittled down to just five points at the final siren. Two first half goals to Kate Hore set the tone as the Demons commanded ball from the get-go on enemy soil, as Karen Paxman led the way around the ground, with the support across the ground allowing the side to maintain control during the hard fought and physical battle. Tempers fired during the third as Roxy Roux intercepted and kicked truly inside 50, as the likes of Kiara Bowers and Hayley Miller worked their way into the match, setting up a huge final term as the margin closed between the two sides. While Bowers was well held early by a rotation of taggers, proceedings seemed to be getting going on the Dockers’ terms during the final quarter with the Dees soon down a rotation as Sinead Goldrick went down with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, as Roux booted a second and Gemma Houghton put Fremantle in front for the first time with less than 10 minutes on the clock. But Lauren Pearce‘s consistency and ability to take control through the centre continued to pay off, with the Dees benefiting off her vision and taps with Eliza McNamara and Maddi Gay rarely far from the action, with the latter booting the final goal of the game to seal victory and a spot in the top six a week shy of finals.

To the Demons’ credit, it was not just their first half forward pressure that won them the match, but also the side’s ability to maintain pressure during the Dockers’ excellent comeback, controlling proceedings and creating stoppage after stoppage to whittle down the clock and force Fremantle to take risks downfield. Paxman (24 disposals, six marks), McNamara (21 disposals, four tackles, one goal) and Pearce (20 touches, 16 hitouts) were amongst the best for the Dees, while Gay and Hore stepped up during crucial moments and Eden Zanker had some excellent passages under pressure. For the Dockers, Bowers was kept to just 12 touches but still laid 11 tackles, while Miller (13 touches, seven tackles), Tiah Haynes (16 and six) and Roux (two goals, eight touches, five tackles) also showcased some great form.

Both sides head to Victoria for the final round, and while neither require a Round 9 win given they have secured finals positions, both the Dees and Dockers will look to capitalise on their form ahead of the post-season when they come up against fellow finals-bound sides in North Melbourne and Brisbane on Saturday afternoon.

FREMANTLE 0.1 | 0.5 | 2.7 | 4.8 (32)
MELBOURNE 3.2 | 4.5 | 4.7 | 5.7 (37)

GOALS
Fremantle: R. Roux 2, G. O’Sullivan, G. Houghton
Melbourne: K. Hore 2, D. Pearce, E. McNamara, M. Gay

BEST
Fremantle: R. Roux, H. Miller, E. Antonio, G. O’Sullivan, T. Haynes
Melbourne: L. Pearce, K. Paxman, S. Scott, D. Pearce, M. Gay

Tigers bite back with feisty win against ailing Suns

AFL Women’s Round 7 started with a bang with a huge friday night matchup at Metricon Stadium between the Gold Coast Suns and Richmond, as one side was hoping to put a win on the board in 2021, and the other looking to build off its maiden victory just two weeks ago. Despite a couple of exciting moments from the home side it was the Tigers that won their second match to make their historic 2021 even better, with a 6.5 (41) to 4.2 (26) victory.

It seemed to be the Suns that had much of the early control, and whilst the Tigers had plenty of the footy, their early chances were wasted as the tight pressure through midfield kept the footy moving. Lauren Ahrens had the tough task of taking on Katie Brennan, with Suns’ Maddison Levi and Lucy Single putting in the hard yards early as Mon Conti, Sarah Hosking and Harriet Cordner did the job for the Tigers. But it was Levi who ran in for an open goal to kick off the scoring ledger, as the constant Suns buffer across half forward became too much for the Tigers to cope with. Sloppy delivery from both sides saw neither team really control proceedings, and while a Brennan conversion saw the score go back to even, it would be the side that found separation in midfield that would really control the match with tight bodywork making it tough to clear the footy. 

A Hosking minor score opened the second quarter, marginally leading the term with the Suns’ tackling efforts not quite doing the job and instead drawing too much attention from the umpires. Plenty of hustle saw neither side able to take control through the centre, with the footy rebounding between the two 50m lines and little relief on the marking front. After a couple of strong efforts Courtney Wakefield got a chance on goal from directly in front and did not disappoint, taking the margin out to seven points as the Tigers were rewarded for their constant efforts inside 50 across the first half of the quarter. Jade Pregelj made her mark though with her tight pressure on Wakefield, limiting the forward from easy marking chances, but under siege inside 50 there was only so much the Suns defensive unit could do to limit scoring chances as Brennan put her second on the board. The foot race between Cody Jacques and Kalinda Howarth was fascinating with both players putting their hand up to control the footy through the centre, but it seemed the Tigers had all the momentum credit to continuous efforts from Conti, Brennan and Ellie McKenzie. A 2.1 second quarter saw the Tigers lead the charge at half time by 15 points. 

The Suns needed to command control in the second half, and that was exactly what they did within the first 30 seconds of the third quarter, as Levi booted her second for the match credit to an early clearance and inside 50. Despite the fast start the two sides entered a stalemate with neither side really able to change the scoreline, both tackling hard but once more unable to find separation through the centre of the ground. But a Kate Surman major tipped the ledger back the Suns’ way, with the 15-point lead whittled down to three points midway through the term, with their marking efficiency getting better as the match continued. The Suns home crowd began to make itself known as the contest heated up, with better passages of play giving the Suns fans plenty to be excited about. But a Christina Bernardi goal credit to a great setup from Tessa Lavey soon put the crowd to rest, extending the Tigers lead once more to nine points with a couple minutes left on the clock before the final break. The Tigers added another minor score to their tally before the quarter ended, with the hard-fought term setting up a huge fourth quarter. 

A tough first five minutes on the clock saw McKenzie pile on the pressure with another Tigers major to open up the scoreline, before Brennan followed it up with her third major of the game as the Tigers ran away with victory. One last Suns goal upped the spirits for the home side but it was short lived, as the Tigers ran away with a 15-point victory, 6.5 (41) to 4.2 (26).

For the winless Suns, Ahrens and Alison Drennan were workhorses with 21 touches apiece, whilst Howarth (18 disposals), Surman (16 and a goal) and Levi (two goals and nine tackles) also made their mark on the match. On the Tigers front, Conti (25 touches) alongside Kate Dempsey (22 disposals), Hosking (21) and McKenzie (20 and a goal) controlled proceedings. Lavey had plenty of impressive moments in just her fifth match, while Brennan’s three goals were crucial.

The Suns will look to go one better here next Friday night when they host Carlton, whilst the improving Tigers will have a chance to go back-to-back when they host West Coast Eagles next Sunday afternoon.

GOLD COAST SUNS | 1.0 | 1.0 | 3.1 | 4.2 (26)
RICHMOND TIGERS | 1.0 | 3.3 | 4.5 | 6.5 (41)

GOALS

Gold Coast: M. Levi 2, K. Surman, S. Virgo
Richmond: K. Brennan 3, C. Wakefield, C. Bernardi, E. Mckenzie

ADC BEST

Gold Coast: A. Drennan, L. Ahrens, M. Levi, L. Single, K. Surman
Richmond: M. Conti, K. Brennan, E. McKenzie, S. Hosking, K. Dempsey

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