Tag: sarah verrier

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 4 – Saint Smith sustains shining performance

ROUND 4 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season reverted back into it’s three-day stretch over the weekend, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition and establish their roles in each team. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared across the latest set of fixtures, focusing on players in every match under 21 years of age and from the most recent draft crop.

St Kilda vs. Geelong

St Kilda shook off a youthful Geelong outfit on Friday night to kick off Round 4, with a star Saints draftee continuing to prove her worth. Number six pick, Tyanna Smith has somewhat flown under the radar thus far but is as consistent a performer as any draftee this year, especially after notching her third 16-disposal performance in four games. Having slotted seamlessly into her side’s midfield, it seems inevitable that Smith will soon be recognises with a rising star nomination. Why not now?

Laura Gardiner became Geelong’s newest debutant in the same game, registering three disposals and breaching either arc in her work on the outer. Fellow first year players Stephanie Williams and Olivia Barber also retained their places in the senior side, with the latter again showing some promise as the Cats were kept to just one goal for three terms. She finished with a minor score from her six touches and one mark.

Carlton vs. Richmond

Carlton scraped home in a thriller on Saturday afternoon, overcoming a horror start to beat Richmond by five points at Princes Park. Mimi Hill has was the Blues’ first selection in last year’s draft and continues to be their pick of the first year players, contributing some excellent moments on the wing. She finishes with 13 disposals and two marks, showing great poise and clean hands in the process.

Daisy Walker again featured for Carlton after her Round 3 debut and was under the pump down back. She registered virtually identical stats to her maiden outing (four kicks, three handballs) but also stepped up to the plate with four tackles. Number one pick Ellie McKenzie was also excellent for Richmond, proving all-class on the ball as she gathered 14 touches and four marks rotating through midfield.

Fremantle vs. Gold Coast

Fremantle flexed its muscle in the second half to see off Gold Coast on Saturday, extending the Dockers’ unbeaten streak once more. First round selection, Sarah Verrier finished with three disposals and four tackles, but had a moment she will never forget in the third term when she slotted her maiden senior goal. The 18-year-old kicked truly after earning a holding the ball free kick inside 50.

An inexperienced Gold Coast side fought hard and was within striking distance for half of the game, but could not match Freo’s firepower with its only score, a goal, registered in the first term. Lucy Single got her hands dirty for the Suns with seven tackles, while Maddison Levi laid four in her six-disposal display. Meanwhile, Daisy D’Arcy had it three times as the young Suns continue their learning curve.

North Melbourne vs. Collingwood

Saturday night’s Marvel Stadium blockbuster saw Collingwood swoop on North Melbourne, with the Magpies holding their highly-touted opponents goalless to remain undefeated. Collingwood father-daughter coup, Tarni Brown continues to impress in black and white, cementing her spot in the side with another 13 touches (11 handballs), two marks and three tackles.

Joanna Lin has enjoyed a three-game stretch since debuting for the Magpies and managed her highest disposal haul (five) in this game, while Bella Eddey produced the same numbers for North Melbourne in what was a tough day forward of centre for the Roos. Having played all four games so far, she is another to have cracked a top side to good effect.

Brisbane vs. Adelaide

Two South Australian draftees featured as Brisbane and Adelaide locked horns in Sunday’s all-important clash at Hickey Park, which the Crows took out. Lions debutant Indy Tahau was promising in her maiden appearance, managing a mark among her eight touches. Teah Charlton has shown flashes of brilliance for Adelaide, but did not produce too many more highlights for her reel in a six-disposal outing up forward.

Western Bulldogs vs. Melbourne

Whitten Oval has proven a fortress for the Western Bulldogs this season and they claimed another big scalp on home turf after beating Melbourne on Sunday. Number two pick, Jess Fitzgerald continues to shine with her scoreboard impact and fierce two-way attack, booting a pair of crucial goals among her 12 touches while also laying eight tackles. Teammate Sarah Hartwig is also growing in confidence and managed 13 disposals, including two marks and two rebound 50s.

The Demons did not quite click up forward, at least from a conversion standpoint, but it was not for a lack of trying. Star draftee Alyssa Bannan again troubled the scorers, just not in the majors column as she snared a behind from her three disposals and two marks. Further afield, Eliza McNamara is another draftee to have grasped an early senior opportunity and finished with nine disposals and four tackles this time out.

GWS vs. West Coast

Greater Western Sydney (GWS) made it two wins on the trot by overcoming West Coast on Sunday, boosted by the return of a key draftee. Tarni Evans is the player in question and added some spark to the Giants’ lineup in her first game back from suspension. She finished with 12 disposals, three rebound 50s and a couple of tackles in a swift reminded of her value.

Bella Lewis continues to be thrown in the deep end for West Coast and again stood up to the rigours of senior midfield play, finishing as her side’s highest ball winner (16 disposals) behind a raft of Giants. The 18-year-old also dug in for a career-high nine tackles, defying her frame. 19-year-old Amber Ward also chimed in with six touches, as the South Australian remains among senior calculations.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

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

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 3 – McKenzie arrives at the double

ROUND 3 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season went ahead over a four-day stretch after even more late fixture improvisation, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared over the weekend, focusing on the players under 21 years of age from the most recent draft crop.

Geelong vs. Western Bulldogs

In a fixture which feels like it was so long ago, 2020 number two pick Jess Fitzgerald again lit up the field in a Western Bulldogs win. The Northern Knights graduate was a little quieter throughout the game than in her opening two outings, but sealed the game for her side with a highlight reel running goal late in the piece to leave onlookers with their jaws to the floor.

Somewhat flying under the radar, fellow Bulldogs draftee Sarah Hartwig was again impressive, rebounding confidently off half-back and up to the wing. Geelong tall Olivia Barber continued her promising start to life at the elite level, clunking a terrific contested mark and proving mobile in her work up forward. Northern Territory native Stephanie Williams was also lively in patches, but kept to four touches and two tackles.

Greater Western Sydney vs. Gold Coast

Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney (GWS) again did battle in horrendous conditions, with the Giants prevailing on the back of greater experience and class. It showed on the team sheet too, with no under 21 draftees from last year taking the field, but 19-year-old Georgia Garnett making her debut. On the other hand, four of Gold Coast’s young first year players were selected with Janet Baird making her maiden senior appearance.

The Territorian was relatively quiet with two disposals, with all of her fellow under 21 draftees – Maddison Levi, Lucy Single, and Daisy D’Arcy kept to under 10 touches each. Nonetheless, each of them got their hands dirty in the wet conditions as they were spread on all three lines, displaying the green shoots Gold Coast will require to get on the board this season.

St Kilda vs. Carlton

Carlton got on the board for the first time in 2021 with a steady victory over the competitive St Kilda Saints, with players making their debuts on either side. Daisy Walker became the Blues’ second 2020 draftee to crack the senior team and looked lively in defence with her speed on the rebound. Jessica Matin, a promising junior cricketer, also broke her duck and had a couple of touches for St Kilda.

Elsewhere, the Saints’ prized pick in Tyanna Smith was again impactful from midfield with 11 disposals, four marks, and six tackles, but came up against some pretty stiff competition in the Carlton engine room. After a very good showing last week, Mimi Hill was kept to just six touches for the Blues but looks settled in the starting lineup on a wing.

Melbourne vs. North Melbourne

One of the best AFL Women’s matches of all time saw Melbourne get the hop on North Melbourne with a captivating nine-point win. The cream rose to the top but there was still some young talent roaming Casey Fields on the day, with Melbourne continuing to blood Alyssa Bannan and Eliza McNamara. Both had promising spurts in the red and blue, while North’s prized draftee Bella Eddey booted a goal from her six touches – five of which were handballs.

Adelaide vs. Fremantle

Fremantle and Adelaide locked horns at Norwood Oval on Sunday, with the Dockers coming away 30-point victors and handy premiership favourites. Their mature members were fantastic as ever, but that did not stop the likes of Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Hyde from providing a glimpse into the future.

Verrier was typically assured in defence and played to her strengths with all nine of her disposals coming via foot. Hyde was not far behind on six touches and a couple of marks, also playing her role in the win. For Adelaide, Teah Charlton lit up the final term with some exciting passages, exploding in forward charges to eventually end with 14 disposals and five tackles.

Richmond vs. Collingwood

A trio of 2020 draftees all secured their maiden senior goals on Sunday as Collingwood defeated a fast finishing Richmond by 17 points at Punt Road Oval. Richmond’s number one pick Ellie McKenzie was at the forefront, snaring a double which included a three-bounce effort consistent with her junior form. She was outstanding, finishing with 12 disposals and five tackles.

Collingwood ruck Bella Smith stood up in the absence of Sharni Norder, taking on the primary ruck duties and fighting hard against in-form opposition. Father-daughter coup Tarni Brown booted her first goal and was matched by Joanna Lin, but both players were relatively quiet otherwise. Brown was the pick of the pair, finishing with eight touches and seven tackles.

Brisbane vs. West Coast

Brisbane roared back into top spot with a 45-point win over West Coast, dominating after half time and flexing its muscle. Courtney Hodder was the sole under 21 draftee from last year in the Lions’ lineup and continued her lively start to the season, finishing with 12 disposals and five tackles as she constantly looked to break forward quickly.

Bella Lewis was arguably the pick of West Coast’s young first year players, ending up as her side’s second highest ball winner with 15 touches. Her ability to cleanly win the contested ball and constantly burrow in suited the Eagles’ first half intensity. Shanae Davison popped up in the front half for four disposals, while Amber Ward had double that tally up the other end to go with three rebounds.

Image Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Peel prepares for 2021 after “whirlwind” season

TWELVE months ago, Peel Thunder was coming off a wooden spoon with bucketloads of young talent and little expectations on them ahead of the 2020 West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s season. Fast forward to 2021, and the Thunder have turned from the hunter into the hunted, having experienced a “whirlwind” of a season to storm from last to first and claim their inaugural WAFL Women’s premiership.

For Peel Thunder coach Steve Markham, it has been a remarkable past 12 months, but there was little time to rest on their laurels as the reigning premiers got back to work for the new season which had been brought forward to run concurrently with the AFL Women’s.

It’s been a whirlwind to be honest, obviously we’ve had the flag and then the season was brought forward,” Markham said. “The girls really haven’t had a break but there’s the excitement and energy around the place has been unbelievable. It’s been really, really exciting.”

“We’ve got the (West Australian) State Program on and we’ve got 12 girls engaged in that at the moment. “Obviously Demi Liddle and Sarah Verrier got drafted so it’s been really successful for us and we’re building for Round 1 next week.”

Like every football team in the country, Peel Thunder was forced to alter its plans over the past 12 months, and managed to manoeuvre its way through the challenges of a global pandemic to lift the premiership cup. With the threat of COVID-19 still in the air, Markham said his side was prepared to adjust with the times and what ever was needed to evolve.

“It’s always evolving,” he said. “Obviously last year we had COVID so we went into the pods. “This year it’s been a challenge in a respect it was hard getting the whole squad together as the state girls are up at state, and the South West girls only come up once a week. “So we do have to do repetitive drills a little bit so we’re all on the same page and get to how each other’s playing.”

“Nothing too much, last week was obviously shut down with COVID. “The girls are engaged, we gave them a running plan, we have a chat group through Messenger and they’re all posting what they’re doing and the repertoire and the team harmony in there has been really, really good. “It shows that they’re all engaged and ready so they’re all in a pretty good place.”

At this stage just two players – Shannon Whale and Kate Ditchburn – from the premiership-winning side will not be around in 2021, with Aisha Wright to step up from the State Academy as a key inclusion, alongside former State 18s player Kerrilee Brown. Others who Markham has earmarked as “inclusions” are those who have either missed years through injury – such as Shantae Freeman – or those who predominantly played Rogers Cup but will have an increased role – such as Beth Schilling.

Markham said young gun Bella Mann will have a greater chance to impact this year as well, after promising signs later in the year for the Thunder, but one player expected to take another step forward in her development is top-age young star, Courtney Rowley. When asked what role the versatile Rowley could play, Markham admitted he wished he did not have to choose.

“Yeah Courtney’s an interesting one, I’d like to have four or five of her because she can play all over the ground, but I love her on the outside because she runs and spreads and delivers inside 50,” Markham said. “We’ve used her a little bit last year forward when she copped an injury and she was able to hit the scoreboard.” So at points we’ll drift her forward and she’s done some impressive things inside 50, so we’ll throw her around a little bit this year and just see what suits us best on the day.”

Coming off a flag, the overall balance of the team is clearly strong enough to be a contender, but for Markham, he said the squad prided itself on its defence, and described them as “hard to score against”.

“I think our backline was strong last year, we obviously lose Demi Liddle and Shannon Whale but the replacements in Kerrilee Brown and a couple coming through is going to be really strong, it’s going to be hard to score against. “So I think that will be a real strength, and with Ella Roberts up forward and KP (Kira Phillips), Jaide Briggs I think our forward line looks pretty potent, but I think our defence will be rock solid.”

Markham said the side had been counting down the days until Round 1 for the best part of a couple of months. Now the first match was just over a week away, and he said his team – which would face perennial challengers East Fremantle in Round 1 – was “really excited and ready to go”.

“We’ve done a really big preseason, the girls really didn’t have much time off, they only had about six weeks, so for some of them that week was good for them,” he said. “I think we’re in a pretty good place, you never know where the opposition is at, but playing East Freo as the premiers the year before, if you can challenge East Freo at any time you’re going pretty well so we’re excited to have them first up.”

Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder

AFL Women’s draftee watch: Round 2 – Fitzgerald adds to Bulldogs’ bite

ROUND 2 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season got underway after some late fixture improvisation, with a number of fresh faces continuing to make their mark on the competition. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared over the weekend, focusing on the players under 20 years of age from the most recent draft crop.

Western Bulldogs vs. Carlton

The Western Bulldogs’ stunning upset win over Carlton brought some of the most promising young pups to the fore, none more so than Jess Fitzgerald. The number two pick pumped her side with a team-lifting goal in the second term, followed by her best double cobra celebration. Fitzgerald’s 15 disposals, four marks, and intensity inside forward 50 made her difficult to ignore for a Rising Star nod this week, a richly deserved honour for the Northern Knights graduate.

Sarah Hartwig was the other Bulldogs draftee afield, doubling her disposal output from last week with 10 touches and five marks. The defender set up well behind the ball and utilised her trusty left boot to send the Dogs into attack on the rebound. Carlton’s top draftee, Mimi Hill also had a good night at the office, finishing as her side’s second-top ball winner with 19 disposals – 16 of which were handballs. The winger provided good run and was typically handy at ground level for the Blues.

Collingwood vs. Geelong

Both Collingwood and Geelong blooded fresh talent in their clash at Victoria Park on Saturday, building on the debuts handed to their respective draftees in Round 1. Geelong tall Olivia Barber stood out immediately, nabbing her first senior goal in unconventional style within the first minute of the game. She finished with six touches, joined by fellow debutant Stephanie Williams up forward. The Territorian had five touches and a couple of tackles, including a nice run-down effort early on. Darcy Moloney remained in the Cats’ lineup after cracking it immediately, ending with five disposals.

Collingwood also continues to put trust in its rising prospects, with Joanna Lin the latest first-year player to earn a senior gig. She joined fellow 2020 draftees Tarni Brown and Amelia Velardo in the Magpies’ winning side, though all three players were kept to under eight disposals. Undrafted free agent Bella Smith also held her spot in the Round 1 team, improving her output with seven disposals and two marks from defence.

Melbourne vs. Richmond

Melbourne midfielder Tyla Hanks might have earned the second Rising Star nod in the end, but she had good competition for the honour on Saturday. Teammate Alyssa Bannan broke the game open against Richmond within a couple of minutes, booting back-to-back goals in the second term for her first major scores in senior football. Bannan’s former Northern Knights teammate Ellie McKenzie was outstanding in the yellow and black, finishing with 15 disposals and three marks as Richmond’s second highest ball winner.

The number one pick has quickly become arguably Richmond’s most impactful player behind Monique Conti, taking the game on along the outer with terrific speed and confidence. Back in the red and blue, Eliza McNamara backed up her excellent AFLW debut with nine kicks and four tackles, while Megan Fitzsimon also kept her spot and managed virtually identical stats to her first outing with five kicks, three handballs, and two tackles.

North Melbourne vs. St Kilda

St Kilda pushed North Melbourne in a competitive outing at Arden Street Oval on Sunday, with prized draftee Tyanna Smith again impressing after her outstanding Round 1 performance. The 18-year-old again found the goals and collected 16 disposals, while also laying seven tackles for the Saints. Renee Saulitis was another opening round debutant to retain her spot, managing three touches in her second appearance. The Roos also maintained some youth in their squad, with their top picks Bella Eddey and Alice O’Loughlin building on their maiden appearances. Both players managed under six touches in the 26-point win.

Brisbane vs. Gold Coast

Brisbane’s record-breaking win over Gold Coast proved an insightful telling of the Lions’ maturity and progression, while also laying bare the improvement to come from the Suns’ youthful side. 20-year-old Brisbane rookie Courtney Hodder was again outstanding for the victors, bringing her speed and line-breaking ability to the fore in an exciting 12-disposal performance.

Top Gold Coast draftee Annise Bradfield went down with what looked like a serious injury in the third term, rubbing salt into the wound of the 62-point loss. Maddison Levi laid six tackles to go with as many touches of the ball, with Daisy D’Arcy managing the same amount of disposals and Lucy Single collecting nine touches on a tough day for the inexperienced Suns.

GWS vs. Adelaide

Things did not exactly go to plan for top-end GWS draftee Tarni Evans on Sunday. Not only did the Giants go down by 47 points, but Evans faces a week on the sidelines after she laid a dangerous tackle on Ailish Considine. The 19-year-old’s driving tackle from behind forced Evans’ Adelaide opponent off the field, with Considine playing no further part in the game. Meanwhile, Crows young gun Teah Charlton was again promising up forward, notching another eight touches and laying four tackles as her side excelled in the front half.

Fremantle vs. West Coast

A rain-soaked Western Derby hardly made for the best spectacle to showcase young talent, but there was a good amount of up-and-coming performers in action at Fremantle Oval as the Dockers won out by nine points. Freo draftees Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Hyde finished with nine and eight touches respectively, while star Eagles newbies Bella Lewis and Shanae Davison were kept to under half-a-dozen disposals each in the soggy conditions. Lewis still got her hands dirty, laying five tackles. Undrafted free agency coup Amber Ward built on her Round 1 showing, with the 19-year-old repaying the Eagles’ faith in her.

Featured Image: Bulldog Jess Fitzgerald earned a Rising Star nomination in Round 2 | Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images via AFL Photos

AFL Women’s draftee watch – Round 1: Nine of the top 10 make their debuts

ROUND 1 of the 2021 AFL Women’s season was won and done across four enthralling days of action, with a number of fresh faces making their mark on the competition. We run you through how Generation W’s generation next fared over the weekend, focusing on the players under 20 years of age from the most recent draft crop.

Carlton vs. Collingwood

Collingwood picked up an upset victory over its most fierce rival on Thursday night in a tense season opener, with three members of the Magpies’ 2020 draft haul making their debuts in black and white. Father-daughter selection Tarni Brown got her first taste of senior footy, making a steady start to life in the big league with nine disposals and two tackles.

Amelia Velardo donned Collingwood’s famous number five on her debut, fittingly the same amount of football games she has played – ever. The Western Jets graduate featured among a strong Magpies forward-line, but could not quite find the goals. 19-year-old South Australian coup Bella Smith also made her first appearance, a steep rise having been picked up as an undrafted free agent.

Mimi Hill was one of four Carlton debutants on Thursday, but the only one out of her side’s most recent draft intake. The former Oakleigh Chargers captain is already one of Daniel Harford‘s favourites and was productive moving forward from the outer, gathering 12 disposals in a promising maiden appearance for the Blues.

St Kilda vs. Western Bulldogs

St Kilda unveiled all four of its 2020 draftees in a Friday night victory over the Western Bulldogs, headed by number six selection Tyanna Smith. The Dandenong Stingrays standout was terrific on debut, slotting seamlessly into the Saints’ midfield and providing plenty of drive going forward. Among her 16 disposals was her first AFL Women’s goal from a quick chance inside 50, putting the cherry on top of her game.

One of the great feel-good stories out of Round 1 was Alice Burke making her debut against the Dogs, who are coached by her famous father, Nathan. Alice’s Saints got the result, as she got a taste for senior football coming off the bench. Renee Saulitis was the other 18-year-old Saints draftee to feature and looked relatively comfortable on the ball for her seven disposals.

The Bulldogs had a couple of exciting new faces make their mark too, with youth a key feature of the developing squad. Number two pick Jess Fitzgerald found the ball eight times and was lively on the attack from midfield, even earning a shot on goal for her side. Sarah Hartwig‘s game was better than her five touches suggest, with the versatile defender impacting on the intercept and constantly looking to rebound via her long left boot.

Gold Coast vs. Melbourne

Gold Coast and Melbourne put out the most total draftees of any matchup in Round 1, with seven in the Under 20 bracket as the Dees made a winning start to the season. Gold Coast blooded its first round draftee in Annise Bradfield, along with three other 18-year-old recruits. Along with Bradfield, Maddison Levi and Daisy D’Arcy were kept under 10 disposals, while Lucy Single had it 13 times in the loss.

Melbourne also unveiled its first pick as Alyssa Bannan donned the red and the blue up forward, managing a shot on goal and two marks among her five disposals. Megan Fitzsimon also got a crack first up, and Eliza McNamara put her hand up for rising star honours with an impressive 18-disposal display on debut. The tough Sandringham Dragons graduate lived up to the hype attached to her in preseason and looks to have already cemented her spot in the hardened Demons side.

West Coast vs. Adelaide

West Coast promised to throw its top young draftees straight into the deep end and did exactly that as number three pick, Bella Lewis featured in the cut and thrust of midfield. While the Eagles went down comfortably to Adelaide in the end, Lewis was a bright spot in the engine room alongside second year star Mikayla Bowen, while high-flier Shanae Davison featured further afield.

Teah Charlton was Adelaide’s sole representative in this category, with the fourth picked player in last year’s draft notching eight disposals and laying seven tackles. Her dynamism and explosiveness up forward bodes well for plenty of highlights to come, though she was unable to find the big sticks on debut.

Geelong vs. North Melbourne

Top 10 pick Darcy Moloney faced a baptism of fire in her first outing for the Cats, as they went down by 62 points to the rampant North Melbourne Kangaroos. Moloney managed six touches as the lone debutant in the hoops, among a young side which was outdone for strength and size.

Bella Eddey had a debut to remember as she snared her maiden senior goal in North’s big win. The Sandringham Dragons product, dubbed ‘Silk’, also gathered six disposals. Alice O’Loughlin was the other North draftee to feature, cracking the team first up but finding just two touches as an abundance of established stars ran the show.

Richmond vs. Brisbane

All eyes were on Punt Road Oval as number one pick Ellie McKenzie made her AFLW debut for Richmond, but the result did not go her way as Brisbane’s mix of youth and experience came up trumps. The Northern Knights graduate featured on a wing for the improving Tigers, showing glimpses of her best to finish with 12 disposals and four marks. 19-year-old draftee Luka Lesosky-Hay also made her senior debut in the yellow and black, kept to just three touches. The Lions did not field any of their 2020 draftees.

Fremantle vs. GWS

Both Fremantle and GWS handed debuts to their 2020 first round draft picks as the Dockers shook off their brave opponents after half time at Fremantle Oval. Sarah Verrier gathered five disposals for the team in purple, showing plenty of skill and class across half-forward in her short spurts on the ball. Tarni Evans showcased her running power with some terrific efforts on the outer for GWS, with versatility also a key part of her upside. She finished with nine disposals and two clearances.

Image Credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images via AFL Photos

2021 AFLW Preview: Fremantle Dockers

FREMANTLE snuck up on the competition and put together a near-perfect season, eventually only being stopped by a global pandemic and a controversially premature ruling.

2020 RECAP

Fremantle might have lost a number of players to cross-state expansion side West Coast – led by star Dana Hooker – but showed they had more than the required depth to get the job done. Kiara Bowers went from strength to strength, averaging a ridiculous 14.1 tackles per game and falling one short of her century in a short season, while Hayley Miller, Ebony Antonio, Kara Antonio and Gemma Houghton all provided great support. Young guns, Mim Strom and Roxy Roux were among those who caught the eye in standout debut seasons, while Sabreena Duffy backed up her first season with a strong season.

NEW FACES

A quiet trade period in terms of inclusions showed the side to be relatively settled and ready for a second crack at the title, with the Dockers heading to the AFL Women’s Draft instead. They grabbed two elite young talents in Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Morrison, while also bringing in the likes of Maggie Maclachlan and Tiah Haynes who had shown great form throughout the WAFL Women’s season.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Providing she can have a run of luck, it will be exciting to see what Sarah Verrier can provide at the next level. Unfortunately, the teenager had injury issues that impacted her 2020 season, but she has terrific balance between inside and outside traits, and can play just about anywhere on the field. Long-term, Verrier can settle into an already impressive midfield group, and hold her own with her ball-winning ability and high-level skills.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

It is fairly straightforward to suggest the Dockers can go all the way in 2021, having been in the best position to do so in 2020 before it was called off. The only undefeated side heading into the 2020 finals series, Fremantle was destroying teams like few others, and while no doubt they could have been pushed by some – as shown by Collingwood – they were a tough, united squad.

QUESTION MARK

Could the Dockers repeat history? Any football season is long and tough, and for Fremantle, they did all the work to go undefeated and then be two wins away from a premiership that few externally saw coming. Internally the belief was clearly through the roof, but now the challenge is getting them back to that position again. They should have the hunger which is a great tick, but how will other clubs adapt to their style that saw their success ultimately unrewarded by season’s end?

FINAL WORD

Fremantle should be considered one of, if not the team to beat. Adelaide, North Melbourne and Carlton in particular all have claims to be a title contender, but the Dockers have not lost since 2019, and have such a well-balanced team that has lost little, but gained some superb young talents. Expect the purple army to be in full force this season, because it would be a shock not to see Fremantle at the pointy end of the season.

AFLW: Players to watch from your club in 2021 – Part 1

WHEN the 2020 AFL Women’s (AFLW) season ended abruptly in March, all 14 clubs immediately shifted their focus to 2021. In the off-season, numerous high-profile names switched clubs and October’s national Draft reinvigorated lists across the country. Some injured AFLW stars are aiming to return in time for Round 1, and pre-season has now commenced for 13 of the 14 clubs. With all of this in mind, here are our top players to watch from each club in 2021.

Adelaide: Chelsea Randall
Randall is arguably the most courageous defender in the league and, at her best, she can impact games as potently as any player in the competition. She did not play at all in 2020 after going down with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury during the first pre-season training session of the season. Adelaide sorely missed her skills, courage and leadership, as they went from 2019 premiers to missing the 2020 finals series all together. The 29-year-old will immediately bolster Adelaide’s defence and should help them catapult back into finals contention.

Brisbane: Orla O’Dwyer
O’Dwyer looked exciting at AFLW level in her first season, averaging eight disposals as a half-forward. Inaccuracy in front of goal cost her the chance to have a bigger influence, as she kicked 1.4 across seven matches. She showed her capabilities in her debut against Adelaide, when she snapped an incredible goal on her left and picked up some nice touches around the ground. O’Dwyer has fantastic fitness, agility and speed, so expect her to make a greater impact in 2021 now that she has some experience at AFLW level.

Carlton: Elise O’Dea
Former Melbourne co-captain O’Dea made the switch to Ikon Park at the conclusion of last season. She was an important part of Melbourne’s midfield, averaging over 17 disposals, four tackles, three inside 50s and three marks during her four years at the club. With the move to Ikon Park, she now gets to work with the likes of AFLW best and fairest Maddy Prespakis and Darcy Vescio at the Blues, a daunting proposition for opposition sides. Expect Carlton to be near the top of the 2021 ladder and O’Dea to be leading the charge.

Collingwood: Chloe Molloy
After missing all of the 2019 AFLW season with a serious foot injury, Molloy came back firing in 2020. She kicked six goals in seven matches and averaged 13 disposals, four marks and two tackles per game. The 2018 Rising Star winner was dangerous in her new role up forward and proved that she is a vital part of the Magpies’ spine no matter what position she plays in. At just 21-years of age, Molloy’s best is yet to come.

Fremantle: Sarah Verrier
Fremantle’s side went undefeated in 2020 and looks even stronger after the drafting of Peel Thunder youngster Verrier. Taken with pick 14, Verrier is a reliable half-back with great footy smarts and kicking ability. She should slot nicely into Fremantle’s defence, but there will be plenty of jostling for spots with Alex Williams and Stephanie Cain (who can both play in defence) hoping to return from injury in 2021. No matter what stage of the season Verrier breaks into the Dockers’ side, she will bring consistency and a high level of skill to their already talented outfit.

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

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

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

CONTENDERS:

Fremantle

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

North Melbourne:

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

Adelaide:

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

Carlton:

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

OUTSIDE CHANCES:

Collingwood:

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

Western Bulldogs:

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

Geelong

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

Brisbane:

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

GWS GIANTS

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

ANOTHER YEAR NEEDED:

St Kilda

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

Gold Coast

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

REBUILDERS:

Melbourne

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

Richmond

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

West Coast

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

2020 AFLW Draft review: Fremantle Dockers

NOW the AFL Women’s Draft is over, we take a look at each club, who they picked and what they might offer to their team next year. We continue our countdown with Fremantle, a team that went undefeated in 2020 and were able to add a couple of classy teenagers and a former Docker back on their list.

Fremantle:

#14 – Sarah Verrier (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)
#30 – Mikayla Morrison (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
#46 – Tiah Haynes (Subiaco)

Fremantle went into the draft with the luxury of being able to pick best available after not losing a game in 2020. With their three selections the Dockers were able to add two of the most talented kids in Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Morrison, as well as running defender, Tiah Haynes. All three have different traits and provide some exciting capabilities at the top level.

Haynes is a former Fremantle player, drafted way back in the inaugural 2016 AFL Women’s Draft with Pick 36. She played six games across two seasons before being unfortunately delisted at the end of 2018. She went back to the WAFL Women’s competition where she was able to ply her trade and become a standout for runners-up Subiaco, and now the 27-year-old gets a second crack at the elite level.

Verrier has been long touted as a top West Australian prospect. The balanced midfielder has clean skills but can play inside or outside, and even off a flank if required. Her ability to win the ball is superb, and whilst she had some setbacks through injury in 2020, she was still a key member of Peel Thunder in their remarkable premiership year. She was raised as the Dockers’ first pick for some time given the link through their Academy, and once she was left on the table by the Eagles, it was an easy choice.

Morrison has been building for a couple of years now not only at WAFL Women’s level, but through the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships too. The East Perth product went to Swan Districts this season in order to play League with the Royals just having an Under 18s side. There she showed enough to suggest it will not be long before she breaks through in the AFL Women’s, with velcro-like hands at ground level or in the air, and hardly impacted on wet days.

As a whole, the Dockers were able to bring in three players that fitness providing, will push for a spot in the best side, but as a tough team to crack into, they will be made to work for it. Expect the Dockers to again challenge for a flag in 2021.

Picture: Fremantle FC