Tag: saskia nannes

NAB League Girls Round 1 preview: Undefeated 2020 sides to face off in huge round of action

AT least one of the three undefeated sides from the 2020 NAB League Girls season will extend their winning run to 18 months or more, when the competition returns this weekend. Starting tomorrow, the NAB League Girls will have six games across four different venues – including one double-header – in a new footballing landscape for 2021. For Dandenong Stingrays, they will have to tack on an extra week to their extended break that saw the 2020 season come to an unfulfilled end last year, after they were handed the bye. For the 12 other teams, it will be a chance to start the season off on the right note. For the likes of Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, they look to continue what they started last year, having not lost since 2019, or in the Knights’ case, the 2018 grand final.

Eastern Ranges vs. Western Jets
Saturday, February 6 @ 12pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

In what is officially the first NAB League Girls game in almost 12 months, Western Jets will cross the West Gate Bridge and head down to Kilsyth Recreation Reserve where the Eastern Ranges will be waiting for them. These teams last played way back in Round 4, 2019, when the Ranges easily accounted for the Jets by 43 points. A dominant second half where they booted 6.2 to 0.0 saw them run out 7.4 to 0.3 winners, with Olivia Meagher picking up 17 disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s.

Meagher has been named for the match tomorrow, with last year’s captain to play as a 19-year-old prospect in 2020. She is the only Ranges player from that match to remain on the list, whilst a trio of then 15-year-old talents in Caitlin Sargent, Trinity Skenderis and Jemima Woods – as well as now top-age and over-age talents respectively, Nikita Wright and Ciara Singleton – all remain on the Jets’ list having played in that match.

Looking at the teams, the match will be won and lost in the middle, with the Jets having some great height, whilst the Ranges have speed to burn. That is not to say the respective teams do not have the opposite as well, but they are damaging in their respective areas. For the home team, Jorja Livingstone was a player who really shone last year and is a clean ball user and able to work her way out of stoppages. She will team up with the likes of Meagher and Bridget Deed in the middle, roving Georgia Campbell‘s taps. Up forward, Matilda Hardy, Jade Hutchison and Isabella Khoury are ones to watch, whilst Saskia Nannes will be a potential big improver with more matches after having the season cut short last year.

For Western, their under-age group is brimming with talent, though now with extra experience, Sargent, Skenderis and Woods will be among those to watch. Montana Ham and Charlotte Baskaran present as two of the top 2022 prospects, with Ham’s versatility and size through the midfield hard to match, while Baskaran’s run and carry – as well as her elite use by foot – will provide a one-two punch that is always difficult to combat.

This is a game that could go right down to the wire, and difficult to predict with so many new players, but Eastern might have the upper hand at home.

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.15pm
JC Lowe Oval, Yarrawonga

From the east to the far north, Murray Bushrangers will host Bendigo Pioneers in a terrific spectacle for the country regions at Yarrawonga. Both these teams have a talented tall in the AFL Women’s Academy which makes things exciting. These two teams have also not played since March 30, 2019 when the Pioneers – during their most successful season to-date – toppled the Bushrangers by 14 points in Wangaratta.

That day it was Annabel Strahan (now Bulldogs) who had 20 touches, seven tackles, five inside 50s and a goal) and Brooke Hards (17 disposals, three marks, 11 tackles, four inside 50s and three rebounds) who teamed up to cause havoc on the Bushrangers, while Millie Brown (now Geelong) racked up 27 disposals and six rebounds, and Abby Favell (22 disposals, five marks eight tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds) were the best for the losing side.

A then 15-year-old Ally Morphett had 11 disposals, two marks, 14 hitouts and two inside 50s, with the now AFL Women’s Academy member looming as the key player for the Bushrangers. Bendigo’s Academy member Tara Slender also played in that match, picking up seven disposals and having six hitouts, though the pair are unlikely to spend too much time one-on-one considering Slender will roll through a key position role and Morphett will be one of the dominant rucks in the competition.

Looking at the overall squads, Murray’s defence is strong given the likes of Mindy Quade and Kristy Whitehead provided plenty of run down there – though could be utilised further up the ground this season. Lily Sharp has been touted as one to watch by the Bushrangers’ coaching staff following a big off-season, and Keeley Skepper remains one of Vic Country’s top talents for 2022. Kate Adams returning as co-captain and providing experience and strength in the midfield will also be important.

For the Pioneers, Slender could be the top Vic Country prospect this year and will always be difficult to beat in the air, with the Pioneers’ captain not having to shoulder the ruck load given Madeline Marks‘ efforts in 2020. She will have her hands full against Morphett but it could be a fascinating battle, while Jayda Richardson, and now top-age talents Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning provide much needed experience to a really young Pioneers outfit.

Murray is excited about the depth of its squad in 2021, and while the Pioneers have some great young talents coming through, the extra experience for the Bushrangers – and what they started to show last year – should have them favourites at home in Yarrawonga.

Gippsland Power vs. Tasmania Devils
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.30pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In a battle between two teams that are building exciting programs, Gippsland Power “hosts” Tasmania Devils at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The furthest south east side travel up the highway to welcome the league’s newest team that only managed to taste one game in Victoria last year. The Devils had a rough introduction to the NAB League Girls competition – though the improvement from their brutal loss to Oakleigh Chargers to being competitive for the most part against Eastern Ranges has plenty of people buoyant about what they could produce in 2021.

These teams have never played before, and both have younger lists, sprinkled with some top-age and over-age experience. Key position players Camilla Taylor and Shanara Notman are the 20-year-old allowances in those sides, and have the size to cause a matchup dilemma for their respective opponents. Tasmania Devils have the sole AFL Women’s Academy member in this match, with the speedy Perri King looking to breakdown the Power’s zones and create some important run and carry for her side.

Aside from King, Amy Prokopiec remains a player to watch, having predominantly played as a last-line defender in previous seasons for the Devils, but became a reliable goalscoring threat in the TSL Women’s for Clarence. Other players who stood out 12 months ago include Jemma Blair, Aprille Crooks, Chelsea Thomas, Zoe Bourne and Meghan Gaffney. Having received an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite without managing to get on the park in the NAB League Girls, Charlie Vandenberg will get a great opportunity in the ruck and rotating forward with Taylor against one of Vic Country’s top ruck prospects.

Grace Matser is going to be difficult to stop, with the ruck battle set to be a duel within the match not to be missed. As the only Power player above 180cm, she will look to control the airways. The Gippsland midfield has some nice depth to it, with Grace McRae returning to the fold after being unlucky to miss out on the draft in 2020, and will get a good chance to play consecutive games this season. Matilda Van Berkel is another one with experience and able to play a number of roles, while Holly Booth and Sunday Brisbane are among those tipped to cause problems for the opposition. One name to remember for next year is Lily-Rose Williamson who has come through the V/Line Cup program and been one ready to step up at the level.

This game is as 50/50 as they come, so as is often the case in 50/50 games, we will lean towards the “home” team in Gippsland Power, though Tasmania Devils will be keen to sniff out their first win in the competition.

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Deakin University – Geelong

The final country game of the round occurs down in Geelong at Deakin University when the Falcons host the GWV Rebels. Much like the earlier two Saturday games, these two teams last played back in Round 4, 2019, when the Falcons – on their way to another finals series and coming off a premiership in 2018 – defeated the young Rebels by 36 points at City Oval in Ballarat. Luka Lesosky-Hay (31 disposals), Darcy Moloney (23) and Lucy McEvoy (22) all suffered leather poisoning and showed why they were capable of playing at the top level, whilst Nekaela Butler picked up 21 disposals and had six rebounds bravely defending for the home team.

There are a sprinkling of players from that day that remain on the lists in 2021, such as AFL Women’s Academy member Ella Friend, and Chloe Leonard and Crystal Summers (GWV Rebels), and Zoe Garth, Renee Tierney, Poppy Schapp and Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong). Those players will provide great experience for their respective sides in that clash, in what is sure to feature some of the best talent in the NAB League Girls competition.

The Falcons might not have an Academy member, but have plenty of developing young players, with Dowling a presence in the back half but can play anywhere, Annie Lee beside her in defence, Keeley Hardingham controlling the ruck, and Mia Van Dyke a bottom-age prospect who will be one to watch for next year able to roll through the midfield. Geelong has always been a team flushed with depth, and 2021 appears to be the same, with no shortage of talent across all three lines.

Alongside Friend – who will be that taller marking target at half-forward – Nyakoat Dojiok is the other AFL Women’s Academy member on the Rebels’ list. The running defender could start off half-back or roam along a wing depending on the team’s needs, able to add that mix of power and acceleration to breakaway from would-be tacklers. Leonard returns to the club as a new top-ager and one who will settle down the defence, while Stephanie Glover, Lilli Condon and Summers are some of the names to watch in the match.

Geelong have had such success over the past few years, it is hard to look past them at home. The Rebels will provide a great contest, but we will find out where both these teams are at following the Round 1 encounter.

Calder Cannons vs. Sandringham Dragons
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In the first double-header of the year, a star-studded Calder Cannons outfit hosts an ever-growing talent base in the Sandringham Dragons. The last time these two met was in 2019 back in Round 3, as the Cannons went on to make the grand final that year. They only scored two behinds in the first half and trailed by five points at the main break, before booting the last four goals of the game to win 4.8 (32) to 1.3 (9) over the Dragons at Trevor Barker Oval.

Alice Burke (St Kilda) and Sarah Hartwig (Bulldogs) were among the top players for the Dragons, whilst it was Georgia Patrikios (St Kilda) and Krstel Petrevski (Melbourne) who shone from those who have been drafted. Best on ground that day was Georgie Prespakis who lit it up with 23 disposals, three marks, eight tackles, four inside 50s and two rebounds. The now-Cannons captain will look to have an equally big impact this year, while Emelia Yassir, Kasey Lennox, Alisa Magri, Zali Friswell and Neve Crowley are just a handful of the talented names who also played as 15/16-year-old talents on that day.

The Cannons have proven to have such great development over the past few years, and all the above names along with Mali McLeod, Peppa Poultney and Jessica Zakkour makes them a rock solid team across the board. Though their opponents are no slouches either. Back in the 2019 clash, now-captain Kiana Lynch, as well as the likes of Charli Murphy, Summer Trim, Emma Stuber, Isabella Stutt, Ebony Angelopoulos and Chloe Saultry all took to the field, so the Dragons have a core of players with plenty of experience under their belt.

Murphy will provide that marking target up forward, while Lynch will lead a host of bottom-agers with future potential. Bridie Hipwell and Sofia Hurley are just a couple of names who still have another year to go after this one, but are becoming key players in the Dragons outfit going forward. They made great strides last season and play what would be considered the benchmark team in the competition first-up here.

Calder Cannons deserve to be favourites for the overall title, so it is hard to tip against them in any game. The Dragons will be up and about and likely to be among the contenders this season too, so buckle up for an exciting contest.

Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers
Sunday, February 7 @ 12.45pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Wrapping up the weekend might just be the tightest of the lot, with both Northern Knights and Oakleigh Chargers going undefeated last year, and technically the Knights are still the reigning premiers from 2019. Both these sides had a host of players drafted in 2020, with the Knights having the first three Victorian players taken in the draft. These two sides played back in Round 2, 2019, when they played out a thrilling draw in what would be the only match where the Knights did not collect the full points that season.

Future AFL Women’s talents, Ellie McKenzie, Britney Gutknecht, Gabby Newton and Alyssa Bannan were the best for the Knights, while Mimi Hill, Joanna Lin, Alana Porter and Emily Harley all shone for the Chargers. Also playing that day was now AFL Women’s Academy member, Maykaylah Appleby who leads the Knights charge in 2021, with Teleah Smart, Mikayla Plunkett, Jessica Simpson and Tallia Pulcino among the current-listed Northern players running around that day.

Appleby is the one to watch this season, but the Knights have brought back a host of top-age players such as Plunkett, Pulcino, Maeve Chaplin, Trinity Mills and Gulia Ceravolo, so have plenty of experience to guide the next crop of Knights talents. Some names to watch this year aside from the above group with a point to prove are the likes of defender Tarrah Delgado and ruck Georgia Kitchell who showed some promising signs in the short 2020 season.

The Chargers had the likes of Taylah Morton, Kalarni Kearns, Charlie Rowbottom, Eliza James and Emma Chamberlain running around in the draw with the Knights, and have been growing some phenomenal depth of late. Rowbottom is the AFL Women’s Academy talent and if she crosses paths with Appleby, it will provide plenty of highlights. Add in the likes of top-ager Amanda Ling, middle-ager Stella Reid, and bottom-ager Rianna Thiele, and the Chargers have built an exciting list.

Another 50/50 split game that could go either way. It is hard to look past the Knights’ success rate, but what the Chargers were starting to do last year, the depth is among the best going around so Oakleigh could become the first team to knock off Northern in almost three years.

Ranges grab first win in 2020 with victory over determined Devils

EASTERN Ranges shook off a determined Tasmania Devils outfit to win by 57 points at the renovated Kilsyth Recreation Reserve in Round 3 of the NAB League Girls competition. In a fiery clash with plenty of fierce tackles, the Devils were much improved on their 102-point loss to Oakleigh Chargers last week, but the Ranges had a bit too much class with the last nine goals of the game, four of which came in the final term. The Devils had much to be pleased about too, keeping the Ranges to just one goal in the first and third terms during the 10.6 (66) to 1.3 (9) loss.

The opening term was a real tussle between the sides, with Eastern having more of the ball, but Tasmania refusing to allow them easy chances. Tahlia Bortignon set the tone early with a run-down tackle on an opponent to save a certain goal, while later in the term, it was Claire Ransom who received a huge roar from the Devils’ bench for stopping an Eastern opponent in her tracks. The Ranges were not to be outdone bringing the heat in the contest, led by captain Olivia Meagher who produced a front-on bruising tackle inside her defensive 50 to worry the Devils forwards into turning it over. Both Meagher and Tarni Brown were busy in the opening term, while Jorja Livingstone was peppering the goals. She could not get one to connect through the big sticks, but Matilda Hardy did after receiving a 50m penalty and kicking it from point-blank range. The Devils levelled the score with their first ever major in the competition with a memorable snap off a step from Perri King that sailed home without the goal umpire moving. A late push in midfield prompted a downfield free for the Ranges with less than 30 seconds on the clock, but the ball fell short and rushed through for a behind – the exact lead the home team held at quarter time. While Brown, Meagher and Livingstone were busy, so too was Bridget Deed who had a game-high nine disposals in the first quarter working hard around the ground. King and Meghan Gaffney shared the load for Tasmania with four disposals each in a real team effort.

Eastern Ranges found some better entries inside 50 in the second term, making it difficult for Tasmania to defend. Saskia Nannes had an unbelievable chance from deep in the pocket with her end-over-end snap bouncing over the one-on-one contest in the goalsquare but it kept bouncing out of bounds. Moments later a nice snap off the right from Kate Ridley gave the Ranges a relieving goal early in the term. Meagher continued to set the tone with a huge bump on Ella Maurer to help her teammate win the ball and deliver to Jess Grace who marked and converted the set shot straight after. Jemma Blair took a strong intercept grab as the danger signs from the week before were starting to show, but the defensive pressure of the Devils was still there with King having multiple defensive efforts at a stoppage to exemplify the work. A big clunk from Eloise Chaston and then a great set kick straight to Hardy who put through her second of the afternoon and all of a sudden the margin was out to 19 midway through the term. Brown was breaking the game open with her burst from a stoppage, and really creating scoring opportunities for her forwards. Isabelle Pollock had a running chance on goal by shrugging off a would-be tackler but pushed it wide at full speed. Just as it looked like the teams would head into the break with a 20-point differential, a density free kick in the dying seconds – which had a 50m penalty associated with it – handed Cassy Wilsmore a goal from the set shot and made the half-time margin 27 points.

A terrific blind-side run-down tackle from Kiara Mills set up Tasmania with an early chance, but it was smothered off the mark and cleared by the Ranges. Meagher was starting to get on the end of some fierce tackles herself, but the captain kept bouncing up and earned a free kick for her troubles early in the term. The Ranges were able to lock the ball in their forward half for a stoppage and the roving Isabelle Khoury pounced with a great clean take at speed to snap and put it through for the home team’s first of the half. A good piece of play down the wing for the Devils midway through the term led to another opportunity but the set shot from Amy Bissett went to the right. Angelica Clark had a nice piece of play through the midfield to burst away and kick deep but it went past the one-on-one and went over the line. The Devils were able to nullify the scoring however, and gain some serious territory locking it inside 50. The siren sounded with a bit of heat in the game as both sides were told to separate by the umpires going into the final break. Eastern had a commanding 32-point lead, but Tasmania had restricted them to just one goal in a much-improved defensive effort.

Tasmania’s momentum from late in the third term continued with the first inside 50 of the final term and the Devils managed to score an early behind to show they were not going to fade away. A terrific tackle from Gaffney at half-forward off the kick out signalled their intentions to keep the pressure gauge at extreme, but the Ranges were equally up for the challenge. A strong intercept mark on the last line by Deed stopped a likely goal playing at full-back, as the likes of Bissett kept attacking the forward 50. In their first meaningful entry for the term, a series of handballs ended up with Pollock who had a chance but missed to the left on the run. Moments later though, Khoury capitalised with a terrific snap around her body for her second almost identical to her third term major. For some icing on the cake, Nannes roved the pack well and converted a major running into goal, with Khoury giving the home fans an extra reason to cheer with her own running goal – her second of the term and third of the match – shortly after and the Ranges were now running away with the contest. As if fitting, Brown would finish off the huge last quarter with a towering contest mark and goal to cap off a best on ground performance. With the four-goal final term, the Ranges had blown out the margin from 32 points to 57 to register a win and bounce back from the disappointing Round 1 loss.

EASTERN RANGES 1.2 | 5.4 | 6.4 | 10.6 (66)
TASMANIA DEVILS 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 (9)

GOALS:

Eastern: I. Khoury 3, M. Hardy 2, T. Brown, C. Wilsmore, K. Ridley, S, Nannes, J. Grace.
Tasmania: P. King.

ADC BEST:

Eastern: T. Brown, O. Meagher, I. Khoury, M. Hardy, B. Deed, J. Livingstone
Tasmania: P. King, M. Gaffney, J. Webster, A. Crooks, C.Lovell, J. Blair

DC Medal:

5 – Tarni Brown (ER)
4 – Olivia Meagher (ER)
3 – Isabella Khoury (ER)
2 – Matilda Hardy (ER)
1 – Perri King (TD)

Stingrays stun Ranges with 50-point win

DANDENONG Stingrays have produced one of their best performances in the NAB League Girls competition to-date, downing Eastern Ranges by 50 points at Holm Park Reserve in Beaconsfield. In warm conditions without a lot of breeze, the Stingrays went into the contest with a heavy bottom-age presence with talls up either end supported by a couple of more experienced players around them. It was an arm-wrestle for the most part in the first half, with Dandenong eventually turning the tables on Eastern thanks to an inspired performance by AFL Women’s National Academy member, Tyanna Smith.

While she was solid in the first quarter, it was the second term where Smith came to life, having multiple inside 50s – including three consecutive – and booting a remarkable goal from the boundary line to blow out the half-time margin to 33 points at the break. The first five minutes of the match was spent between the arcs, but a quick kick inside 50 gave debutant overager, Serene Vudiniabola the opportunity with her strong hands to dish off to Jess Matin who slotted the easiest of first goals. The Stingrays double up late in the term when Ashleigh Richards converted from 30m out straight in front, but it was off the back of a huge Mackenzie Eardley tackle, stopping Lily Peacock in her tracks on the wing. Both Smith and Olivia Meagher were battling hard for their respective sides, throwing their bodies on the line to win the contested ball despite being outnumbered.

Eardley continued in the second term where she took a huge contested one-on-one mark inside defensive 50, while Smith’s dominance came to the fore. After a couple of dropped marks by teammates and Vudiniabola’s missed chance for a goal herself, Smith gathered the ball right by the boundary line amongst traffic and snapped it across her body off a step to put it through the middle in a remarkable effort. Meagher and Jorja Livingstone were trying hard for Eastern, with Livingstone bearing similar traits to Smith with her ability to sidestep opponents and kick it clear. The Stingrays’ defence kept holding up however, and both Georgia Grimmer and Vudiniabola got on the board late in the term. Tarni Brown had a chance in the dying seconds right on the boundary but was knocked over as she kicked it, with the ball cannoning into the behind post ensuring the Stingrays were in firm control of the contest.

It did not take long in the second half for Dandenong to keep building the lead with Richards converting her second in the opening few minutes. The drought was broken for the Ranges in response when a contest deep in the Eastern forward line produced something out of nothing with Victorian Netball League (VNL) netballer, Saskia Nannes making her mark on the game with a clever snap which bounced past a couple of defenders and home. Richards almost had a third for the Ranges, but it was touched on the way there. Meagher’s defensive work and contested ability was there throughout the four quarters, wrapping up Zoe Hill to win a free kick and subsequent 50m penalty, but her set shot drifted to the right. Not to be outdone, Smith then ran down an opponent with five minutes left in the quarter to save a certain goal, then moments later marked inside 50, 30m out on an angle. She too missed the chance to add to the lead, but Jaide Anthony did not, when a fortuitous fumble close to the line saw an opponent overrun the ball and collect her high with a subsequent snap from the free kick sailing through and the margin was 39 at the final break.

The last quarter started with more promise for the Stingrays as Vudiniabola booted her second major just 51 seconds into the contest, and Grimmer made it two for herself with a goal midway through the term with a remarkable long bomb off a snap. Unfortunately Eastern copped two injuries in the final term with players having to be helped off, but the game was done and dusted by that stage, and while a number of Ranges had impressed, it was a terrific performance from the Stingrays. Dandenong head coach, Dave Carden said it was a terrific effort from the playing group to put out the performance it did.

“It’s interesting, because you’re not really sure what to expect,” he said. “We’re such a new squad. “We had 11 debutants play their first game for the Stingrays today and we’re pretty much a brand new coaching staff. “So we’ve worked on a lot of things over the summer and it’s really been about the fundamentals. “Making sure we’re getting our kicking right under pressure. Massive focus on clean hands, but also them having the courage to take the game on. “We talked about it as players, we want them to bring their strength to the game, rather than a whole heap of structural stuff and be you. “You know what? I think they did a really, really good job right across the ground doing that.”

Smith finished with 26 disposals, four marks, five tackles, six inside 50s, two rebounds and a goal, leading the way perfectly from Amber Clarke (12 disposals, two marks and four tackles), while Grimmer, Richards and Vudiniabola all booted a couple of majors each as a damaging forward combination. Eardley was superb in defence with a couple of marks, four rebounds, five tackles and seven touches, while Matin missed a couple of chances in the third term to boot a handy three majors, but finished with 1.2 from 10 disposals and four tackles. Captain Abbey Jordan also produced a lot of one percenters, recording nine disposals and two inside 50s with a lot of hard running throughout the contest. For Eastern, Meagher was the standout with 16 disposals, two marks, five tackles and three inside 50s, well supported by Livingstone (13 disposals, two tackles) and Brown (20 disposals, three tackles). Ruby O’Dwyer (12 disposals, three inside 50s and two tackles) and Jess Grace (seven disposals, 12 hitouts) were also among Eastern’s best in the loss.

Next week the Stingrays head to Cragieburn to take on the Calder Cannons, wile Eastern has a bye in Round 2 ahead of a home match at Kilsyth against Tasmania Devils.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.0 | 5.3 | 7.4 | 9.4 (58)
EASTERN RANGES 0.0 | 0.0 | 1.1 | 1.2 (8)

GOALS:

Dandenong: A. Richards 2, S. Vudiniabola 2, G. Grimmer 2, J. Matin, J. Anthony, T. Smith.
Eastern: S. Nannes.

BEST:

Dandenong: T. Smith, M. Eardley, G. Grimmer, A. Jordan, S. Vudiniabola
Eastern: O. Meagher, J. Livingstone, T. Brown, R. O’Dwyer, J. Grace

DC Medal:

5 – Tyanna Smith (DS)
4 – Olivia Meagher (ER)
3 – Mackenzie Eardley (DS)
2 – Georgia Grimmer (DS)
1 – Jorja Livingstone (ER)

New-look Ranges’ coaching group ready to tackle 2020

A NEW-LOOK coaching panel at the Eastern Ranges will lead the NAB League Girls’ into the 2020 season, as a number of girls enter their top-age year having been in the program for three seasons. Female Talent Coordinator, Jessie Mulholland said it was an exciting off-season with so many returning and fresh faces adding depth to the squad.

“We trialled about 120 girls … and so to see that talent is in our area now is really exciting,” she said. “Last year we were pretty bottom-age heavy in talent and the girls that have been in the program for three years, finally get their turn to be top agers, so we look pretty good. “Staffing has changed completely as well new head coach, all of our line coaches are new into that line as well so for us at Ranges we’re really excited for the year.”

It is not just the playing group that has a new look, with line coaches and even a fresh head coach taking over the role. Chris Pope might be a new name in that role, but has been a highly valued member of the Ranges’ coaching staff for some time.

Chris has been in our program as a senior assistant for the past three seasons and is very well known within the group and obviously the Ranges community,” Mulholland said. “He has come in and taken it by the horns and is doing a really great job pulling all the girls together and the staff as well as I mentioned a few of the staff members have changed or moved on to bring us as close as we have in the three months he has done a really incredible job with the group.”

On the field, Eastern has a number of standouts including a couple of players in the AFL Women’s National Academy who have been working hard building on their already identified talent as they work towards the biggest year in their footballing journey do-date.

“We have two academy girls in Liv (Olivia) Meagher and Tarni Brown, they’re doing really well on and off the field,” Mulholland said. “Everything they are doing with the academy and with us, their football skills it’s finally their year to be top-agers, so they are really exciting to watch. “We’ve also got Mietta Kendall and Jess Grace who have been in the program three or four years as well. “Mietta down back who you know is always reliable and always willing to pick up the ball and run. “Grace with her ruck work as well and we’ve got a 19-year-old as well with Lily Peacock who played six games of senior footy last year within the region and never played any before and is an elite runner. “So we are pretty excited to have her in the squad as well.”

In the past, Eastern Ranges have been able to help develop players from other codes and help them live out their AFL Women’s dream. Two years ago, former sprinter Mikala Cann went to Collingwood, and last year it was Victorian Netball League (VNL) netballer, Serena Gibbs who landed at Carlton. In 2020, Mulholland said there were a few cross-coders in the program, including VNL netballers with plenty of development left in them, Saskia Nannes and Keeley Sherar.

“Yeah Lily with her running off the wing, at the moment trying to get all the footy IQ into her as fast as possible, but probably not with Serena’s height,” she said. “We’ve got a few VNL netballers as well but they’ve got two more years in our program. “A lot of it has to do with the girls and their mindset so they know what an elite program looks like and what is expected from them on and off the field and they are willing to learn and they want to soak it up if not more than anybody else that comes into the program. “So a lot of the credit goes to those two girls and every dual athlete that comes into our program.”

Last year the Ranges made the finals, going agonisingly close to knocking off eventual premiers, Northern Knights in the preliminary final but just falling short. While the players were naturally disappointed after the game, Mulholland said the club could not be more proud of the way they represented themselves out there on Shepley Oval.

“Yeah it was bittersweet,” Mulholland said. “It was probably the best game we played the entire year, so to go out like that we were really proud of the way that we played and the result obviously didn’t go our way but you know that’s football. “We were super proud and you know obviously they’ll (players) be upset, but looking at the vision … we played the best we could and you know it was great.”

The season is nearing this weekend and Mulholland said the club had ramped up its preparation with a practice match providing the perfect place for trialling players in various positions. The Eastern Ranges’ Female Talent Coordinator described the match as “full on” with trying to manage the workloads and even spread of the players.

“We took a full list of 50 through to last week so the rotations were pretty heavy,” she said. “For us it was more seeing where girls can play, we’ve been a big focus on the athletes so trying to give them more than one position and pigeonholing them. “For them to sort of understand that you can learn more than one position because where you play for local you might not play for us, wherever your journey takes you, you may need to learn more than one position on the field. “So we’ve been super happy with the way everything has happened on and off the field with everything that has been going on.”

Meagher will lead the squad in 2020, becoming the first sole captain at the Ranges, while Kendall will be vice-captain, as part of a six-player leadership group.

“For the past three/four seasons we’ve had dual captains so this year we’ve gone with just Liv Meagher as our captain and Mietta Kendall as our vice captain,” she said. “We’ve got Jess Grace, Eloise Chaston who’s a newbie coming into the program after having ankle surgery at the back of local season last year, Bridget Deed and Tarni Brown in the leadership group as well.”

Now with the pre-season done, Mulholland said all the players and staff were excited about tackling Round 1 on the weekend when they head to Beaconsfield to take on the Dandenong Stingrays.

I think everything we have done on and off the field at Ranges is completely different to the past three seasons,” she said. “We went to camp and worked on our culture and our values so that was something the girls probably haven’t owned for themselves and [it’s] much tighter group I think than previously, so we are just playing the week as per normal. “We have had three praccy matches leading into so it has sort of become the norm and we wont put any pressure on the girls for the win. “That’s not what we are here to do, if the girls can develop as players then we’ve done our job.”