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Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Round 3

A NEW NAB League Girls season means even more fresh coverage of the elite pathways, with the weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delving into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. Round 3 produced plenty of highlights as players returned to competitive action after an unexpected week’s break. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting opening set of fixtures.

Calder Cannons vs. Oakleigh Chargers

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

The Oakleigh midfield bull may not have been as outwardly productive on the stat sheet as her Round 1 performance, but contributed a mountain of work against stiff opposition. Matched up against Georgie Prespakis at the opening bounce, Rowbottom warmed to the contest and provided her patented physicality as the stakes heightened. Her lift in intensity during the second half gave Oakleigh a real boost at the coalface, with the midfielder’s grunt work to break away from each contest a damaging feature throughout. Armed with good game sense, she looked to take ground quickly and pump the Chargers inside 50 with decent depth. 18 disposals, five inside 50s and 11 tackles show a strong two-way performance.

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Prespakis has set the bar so high, it is difficult for her to outdo herself each week. That was hardly the case on Saturday as the Calder standout lifted when her side needed her, against very strong opposition. Her clean hands and ability to stand up in tackles were key features early on, when the pressure was at its peak among a raft of rolling scrums. Prespakis had a couple of uncharacteristic lapses in that facet as the game wore on, but again, has set the bar very high. Her work to impact going forward was noticeable in this outing, especially with more time resting inside 50. On a couple of occasions, she danced away from congestion and bombed long into the forward arc, with one kick rolling over the back and into the goal post. Her inside/outside balance was also on show; able to dig in for a round-high 18 tackles and flick out releasing handballs on the inside, while using her penetrating peg once on the outer to snatch vital meterage. Another top performance.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Having shown promising glimpses throughout her time at Calder, Gillard is beginning to put the pieces together with greater frequency. Rotating deep forward from the ruck, she used her height advantage to dominate the hitouts while also providing a marking threat in the front half. Gillard stationed nicely ahead of the ball when taking up the centre half forward role and looked even more ominous when occupying space closer to goal. A big clunk in the fourth term was one of her highlights for the day, but she could not quite bend the ball around to convert the resultant shot. She has all the tools to excel, with a sound aerial game and promising athleticism.

STANDOUTS:

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Once again a staple of Calder’s midfield, Yassir worked beautifully in tandem with Prespakis to drive the Cannons forward. Her ground level game is what stands out most, with the ability to cleanly extract and put on a five-step burst to escape the clutches of would-be tacklers. Busy would be a fitting way to describe Yassir’s game on Saturday, as she constantly looked to put Calder on the front foot and link through the middle with handball chains. She managed five inside 50s among her 20 disposals, a good return from the diminutive midfielder.

#4 Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons)

The talented tall defender faced some tough work as Oakleigh turned up the heat after half time, but stood tall under pressure. Trusted with the kick-in duties, all nine of Lennox’s disposals came via foot and many of them were long kicks from deep in defence. At times, it made for repetitive work and the ball did come back quickly when a mark was not found, but the 17-year-old is typically assured on the ball and can gain decent ground. One facet which was outstanding throughout the game was Lennox’s defensive work, showing great closing speed and athleticism to spoil at the ideal time when others would just about concede the mark. She is hardly beaten one-on-one and only really lost out on one key occasion, but was otherwise reliable as ever.

#8 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

Another key cog in the Calder engine room, Friswell provides a touch of class in everything she does. One particular moment of brilliance was her set shot conversion in the second term, which showcased enormous skill to utilise the wind and help the ball home from deep on the boundary line. Friswell often proved difficult to catch with her bursts of speed and agility, and was even credited by her opponents for just that post-match. 15 disposals, seven tackles and a goal makes for good reading – she may be one to watch as the season unfolds.

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Vickers is another player with great class on the ball and her 14 disposals from half-back proved exactly that on Saturday. She was constantly positioned in just the right place to intercept and then incite her typical rebound, even moving up the ground aggressively to be that quarterback-style kicker on the attack. It meant that whether she was taking the kick-ins or booting long forward 50, Vickers was able to impact via foot. Her running goal from range in the third term was an outstanding bit of play, and one which went close to being Draft Central’s memorable moment of the match.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Reid has had a blinding start to the season and was arguably one of the best two player afield for a second week running. The winger has a happy knack of roaming into all the right areas forward of centre, proving near-impossible to keep track of. She again hit the scoreboard and did so early, which was crucial to Oakleigh’s chances of staying in the game. Her left foot has good range and accuracy and is a weapon when utilised in time and space. As the game wore on, Reid was forced to bomb long a touch more than she would have perhaps liked, but most of her decisions were made well and with great class. Her clean hands also bode well for more time spent pushing hard off the line at centre bounces, as well as increased time up forward. 24 disposals, six marks, five inside 50s and two goals – Reid could soon be a player of the week candidate with such form.

#12 Jemma Rigoni (Oakleigh Chargers)

The daughter of former Melbourne player, Guy Rigoni, Jemma is a raw and athletic centre half forward with enormous potential. The bottom-ager showed lively pace off the mark and presented brilliantly high up on the attacking arc. Whether competing in the air or mopping up ground balls, Rigoni looked like making something happen when the play entered her area and while she did not find the goals, was still impactful as Oakleigh charged home in the final term.

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

James put in another strong shift from midfield and only added to the grunt that Rowbottom provided at each contest. Much of her work was done at the coalface, but James also made an impact when stationed up forward in the final term. Stationed deep in a one-on-one, she managed to latch onto a long kick over the top as her opponent fell and kicked a crucial goal to help seal the deal for Oakleigh. Earlier, her best moments in midfield came through explosive runs with ball-in-hand, though her disposal was a touch raw at times. Still, there are some great tools to work and James has proven a strong competitor.

#15 Ameile Smith (Oakleigh Chargers)

Having made a splash on debut last week, Smith showed a few different strings to her bow with a solid game rotating forward through the ruck. Slightly undersized against pretty stiff opposition, the bottom-ager competed well both in the air and at ground level with a springy leap and clean hands. She reverted to a forward role more frequently in the second half and very nearly made an immediate impact, showing her smarts to win a clutch one-on-one but narrowly missing her running shot on goal. Smith would later be gifted such reward, converting from a 50-metre penalty to give Oakleigh the lead early in term four.

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Perhaps an unheralded member of the Chargers’ midfield brigade, Ling played an important role in setting the tone early for her side. Her ground level work was terrific and perhaps even more pleasing were her defensive efforts with unrelenting tackles and brave smothers. She saw plenty of the ball with 23 disposals, 17 of which were handballs to release her running teammates. A strong player for her size and hard worker to boot, Ling deserves plenty of credit for helping Oakleigh compete in the early proceedings.

OTHERS:

Oakleigh’s Charlotte Van der Vlies and Calder’s Tahlia Read enjoyed a tough battle on the wing for much of the game, both cracking in hard and looking to move their side forward. Neve Crowley showcased a wonderful intercept game, particularly in the first half, while Olivia Manfre was another strong contributor for the Cannons. Alexandra McCulloch absorbed plenty of pressure in the Chargers’ defence, while Taylah Morton looked to play her role as a small forward up the other end.

Bendigo Pioneers vs. Geelong Falcons

By: Peter Williams

STANDOUTS:

#41 Tegan Williams (Bendigo Pioneers)

The young key defender was steadfast on the last line and stood out far beyond what the stats might suggest. Still yet to turn 17 until next month, Williams held down the fort and took a strong intercept mark to then hit-up a teammate at half-back. Some of the traits that caught the eye included her composure, clean hands and positioning, especially when under pressure.

#27 Jayda Richardson (Bendigo Pioneers)

The versatile tall had a go at both key forward and ruck, but also found herself in defence early in the game when the Pioneers’ defence was under siege. She has a strong set of hands and is difficult to beat in the air. Her fierce attack on the ball is admirable as well, with a vertical leap which troubles a lot of taller opponents. Towards the end of the game she gave away back-to-back free kicks from a block and late contact, but never stopped giving her all.

#5 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers)

The midfielder/forward showed clean hands and a clean set of heels with high-level agility around the stoppages. She rushed some of her kicks under pressure at times, but she put together yet another four quarter performance. Snell is one of those players who once she can find an exit, is hard to stop due to her speed/agility combination. Just continued to crack in and do what she could on the inside for her team.

#1 Lila Keck (Bendigo Pioneers)

The 2005-born Keck is projecting as a promising talent for a few years, with natural footy IQ and athleticism. Couple that with the fact she can kick on either foot and the signs are promising. Some of her highlights include a terrific run down tackle on the strong Elizabeth Dowling in the third term, and then was able to spin one way, then the other and snaps off her foot in traffic to hit a target. She has the confidence to take the opposition on, and while she was brought down by Mia Van Dyke on the wing, she backed herself to fend off a couple.

#11 Lily Den Houting (Bendigo Pioneers)

The top-ager was quite busy early in the match, cracking in and winning the contested ball, also taking a good intercept mark at half-back. She pushed up to the wing at times and then provided an option for the switch, and while was quieter in the second half, still featured on some plays out of defence.

#37 Madeline Marks (Bendigo Pioneers)

For a ruck prospect, Marks shines when the ball is in transition and her work rate is something of a strength. She was able to compete well in the ruck, and then receive the ball on the run in a 1-2 in the second term, willing to present as a transition option. Whilst she has clean hands with her taps, the next step is clunking a few more marks inside 50 to become a dangerous target.

#39 Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)

A huge contender to be the leading goalkicker this year, Tierney is just a reliable source of scoring. With the capacity to push up the ground and impact the midfield, Tierney is good one-on-one and gets to the right position more often than not. The forward not only slotted four majors on the day, but set up at least a couple more as well, and hit the behind post later in the game.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Arguably the in-form defender of the competition, Lee is the composed player every defence needs. Possessing a variety of traits from strength in the air and on the ground, to skill and decision making, Lee is one of the few players that ticks a lot of boxes across the board. She might come in at sub-170cm (169cm) but she plays like a key position defender, and her athleticism coupled with her strength makes her hard to beat on any given day. One to watch this year.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

A player who is consistent as they come, Schaap just keeps attacking the ball and driving it forward when required. Her in-and-under work is always there, but it was her perfect hitup to Renee Tierney for the first goal of the second term that caught the eye. Defensively she stacks up against anyone, producing a great smother early in the third term and took a contested one-grab mark later in the quarter.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Another strong outing for the midfielder who just finds ways of being involved in the play. She was continually busy. across the ground and kicked an important goal on the half-time siren after receiving a free kick for a Pioneers density violation. She read the play well in defence to take a terrific one-on-one grab, and covered ground sensationally.

#15 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Always threatening to kick a bag, Featherston has the contested marking ability, fierce attack on the ball and penetrating kick to make her a danger for any defender. Time and time again she put her body on the line, and was able to finish off with a powerful set shot goal early in the third term. At times she could be a little more composed when taking shots on goal, but when she has time and space, she just makes things happen.

OTHERS:

Charlotte Simpson had another strong outing across the board, working hard to win plenty of the ball and cover the ground well, whilst Zoe Garth‘s two goals back-to-back early in the match really put her team in a commanding position. Elizabeth Dowling and Ingrid Houtsma were other Falcons who provided size at opposite ends. For the Pioneers, Octavia Di Donato used her run to advantage, while Scarlett Orritt was also among the Pioneers’ best.

Eastern Ranges vs. Gippsland Power

By: Michael Alvaro

STANDOUTS:

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

A deserving Draft Central Player of the Week nominee, Pisano returned a breakout performance in just her second NAB League outing. The 15-year-old is not draft eligible until 2023, but proved more than up to speed with her elder counterparts with four terrific goals. She set the tone after five minutes of play by slotting the game’s first major, but came to life in the third term with two goals within the opening 90 seconds. She added another later in the same stanza to further compile Gippsland’s misery, more significantly putting her name on the radar as one to watch for the future.

#11 Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges)

One of the leaders among Eastern’s side and a player gunning to prove her worth as an elite level prospect, Meagher continued her strong start to the season with 22 disposals (17 kicks) and seven inside 50s. While capable of doing the tough stuff through midfield, the top-ager was able to find a bit of freedom in moving the ball forward to good effect. She is the kind of player who will prove a barometer for this Ranges outfit, which is currently in very good form.

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

After a strong showing in Round 1, Deed again took her game to another level with her impactful performance from midfield. She did just about everything in this game; racking up 22 disposals, laying five tackles, notching three inside 50s, and booting two goals as her side ran riot. Much of Eastern’s ability to apply scoreboard damage came down to its better spread across the ground, but also the work of players like Deed who set the Ranges on the right foot from where it matters most.

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

A promising top-age ruck, Campbell put up great numbers for a player of her position. She made her mark in terms of hitouts with 25 – building on her effort of 20 in Round 1 – but also got her hands dirty with three tackles and impacted the Ranges’ forward momentum with two inside 50s from her nine touches. The cherry on top, and perhaps the most pleasing aspect of Campbell’s game was her ability to hit the scoreboard, notching a hat-trick of goals spread across three different quarters.

#35 Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power)

Stationed in the under-siege Gippsland defence, Van Berkel was her side’s standout player and a pillar of the Power’s resistance. All 14 of the top-ager’s disposals came via foot, showcasing an urgency to help ease pressure on the Power’s backline. Seven of those kicks registered as rebound 50s too, with meterage key to allowing her side some time to reset. She also used her height to clunk six marks and showed great versatility to hold down such an important role in defence after spending plenty of time rucking in Round 1.

OTHERS:

There were plenty of terrific contributors for Eastern in its record-breaking win. Matilda Hardy, Isabelle Khoury, Keeley Sherar, and Jorja Livingstone all earned their fair share of possessions while also hitting the scoreboard with a goal each, making for a damaging team effort. Courtney Fletcher was a fighting member of Gippsland’s defence with six rebound from her 10 disposals, while the likes of Sunday Brisbane, Yasmin Duursma, and Grace McRae were up against it among the engine room.

Dandenong Stingrays vs. Western Jets

By: Declan Reeve

STANDOUTS:

#10 Abbey Jordan (Dandenong Stingrays)

Often playing as a down the line midfield option or a kick behind the play, her read of the ball was on full display as she was going for grabs and impacting contests anytime she was around. Her work in close was superb, and with ball in hand there were few that used it better, often placing her kicks in front of teammates in dangerous positions

#11 Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)

Dangerous in the first quarter kicking the Stingrays only goal, but having two very good shots resulting in behinds as well, just looks dangerous in the midfield especially when unchecked, getting first or second possession from the ruck fairly easily. Also presented as a main target up forward at times, showing her versatility and threat in multiple areas of the ground

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looked electric up forward, the type of player you genuinely feel like can kick a goal from anywhere or make anything happen. Her speed and leap are obviously a class above, often running past 2-3 Jets players to give herself space for a kick. Often looks to bring team mates into the game when going forward as well, instead of blazing away. Her speed is an asset in the midfield, with a burst of acceleration not many can match

#27 Charley Ryan (Dandenong Stingrays)

Playing through the midfield she was able to showcase her composure and skill with the footy, finding time in every situation she was in to get the footy out to the advantage of her teammates. This was highlighted in the 3rd quarter when she found herself with the ball after a centre bounce and side stepped a Western player to deliver a lace out kick to a teammate waiting on the wing

#44 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

Her work wrapping up loose balls in the backline went a long way to keeping the Jets on a short leash in the first half,  the ball really well and works hard to ensure all her teammates are backed up in the backline. Her foot skills were an obvious strength through out the game

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

Whilst not racking up the numbers she did against Eastern, Bakaran’s class with the footy was on show on the day when she had her chances, with her fantastic ball use, especially via foot, still a highlight of the game. She often holds the footy in and draws the opposition player in before releasing to a teammate, giving them more time than they otherwise would have.    

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

Was a presence everywhere on the ground throughout the game, with her foot skills, aerial strength and tackling on full display as she was best on for the Jets. Her tackling pressure around the contest is exceptional for a girl of her height, and her athleticism is a big strength,she backs herself to beat most opponents and rarely makes a poor decision in those judgements. When she moved up forward in the 4th as a main target she showed her versatility, handling it well and often found herself winning 2 on 1 situations inside forward 50

#24 Laura Elliott (Western Jets)

Knows where to be when positioning herself behind the ball, took some very good grabs throughout the game to stop fast coming Dandenong attacks, showing off her knack for transition work as well her skills on the rebound are also good, often hitting inside 45 kicks to get Western moving Kick ins were all effective

#42 Jemima Woods (Western Jets)

Good at closing down space between her and opponents, making her an extremely efficient and dangerous tackling threat, often got herself free kicks for holding the ball around the midfield leading to inside 50’s

OTHERS:

19-year-old tall defender Zoe Hill (15 disposals, 4 inside 50’s) had a good performance, with her efforts in the air and follow up work at ground level impressive for a tall. Defender Brooke Smith (12 disposals, 4 rebound 50’s) was also influential in the Dandenong’s defensive half. Ashleigh Richards (13 disposals) was a strong ball winner on the inside as well. For Western, Caitlin Sargent (7 disposals, 3 marks) showed her aerial work with some nice grabs, and a goal over the top of the pack showing her forward craft, whilst 2022 eligible ruck Krystal Russell (6 disposals, 28 hitouts) had another dominant display in the ruck

GWV Rebels vs. Murray Bushrangers

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

The contested marking talent stepped up from her first game to be more of a threat in the forward half and up the ground, though most of her good work was done at ground level. She still took her fair share of marks, but her work to spin out of trouble or keep the ball moving in transition was a highlight. She kicked a goal snapping off the left foot in the second term.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Playing predominantly on the inside but still enjoying run on the outside, Dojiok had a big three quarters after a quieter first term. Her power and acceleration out of the stoppage was yet again a problem for the opposition, and while she occasionally bombed it forward, she was gaining important metres for her side, and in the second half particularly she was having the ball on a string.

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

The ruck stepped up from Round 1 to provide a target inside 50 when she drifted down, a strong presence around the ground at stoppages. She had a couple of early shots on goal which missed, before earning a set shot and making no mistake in the first term. Her ruckwork was clean and she just competes in the air or at ground level, battling hard against some quicker opponents at times.

STANDOUTS:

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

A match-winner with three important goals, Scott enjoyed herself on the weekend feasting on a range of intercepts and loose checking by the defence, she looked dangerous every time she went near the ball. The bottom-ager is progressing nicely and has a fierce attack on the ball with a passion for tacking and then benefiting off defensive work, to play that mid/forward role well.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

The tough mid really started getting going from the second term on and then brought her own ball with her after that. She kept popping up in all thirds of the ground and showed a cleanliness at ground level which was important. Condon is constantly looking at ways to tuck the ball under the arm and take off, catching the opposition on the hop from a stoppage.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Unassumingly just does her job in the defensive half of the ground, racking up the ball with ease and driving it out of defence and down the ground in transition. Leonard has that natural leadership trait and is able to find space, and always has a crack not worried about copping contact.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

There are penetrating left foot kicks, and then there is Skepper’s left foot. Playing on the inside and then looking to get to the outside, Skepper enjoys getting on the move and putting in a powerful bullet inside 50 to teammates. She starred on the weekend and just drills passes in, with opponents trying to knock her off balance or put her under pressure. She has some great defensive attributes as well to match her athleticism, but her lightning quick hands and penetrating boot are what make her so damaging.

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

The speedy winger backed up her strong Round 1 game with another impressive performance on the outside. She wins the ball and backs herself with some unbelievable speed and ability to release by hand. At times she does not realise she has more time than she thinks and can rush with her disposal or pass it off prematurely, but when she gets going, she is hard to stop. Smith even laid a great run-down tackle late in the game to force her opponent to rush a handball.

#32 Mindy Quade (Murray Bushrangers)

Rock solid in the back 50, it was clearly noticeable the Bushrangers defence is much more settled with Quade in there. She is strong overhead, competes and can hit targets, but it is her ability to intercept and then drive the ball out of the back 50 that catches the eye. Quade has great courage and does not panic under pressure, always giving 100 per cent.

OTHERS:

GWV Rebels’ Crystal Summers found plenty of the ball through midfield and created some run through the middle, Tahlia Meier was busy early with two goals and then provided immense defensive pressure, while Jorja Jones, Rosie Pickles and Ally Trigg were also strong across the board. Olivia Cicolini created two goals up forward for the Bushrangers, while Molly Kennedy was strong in the air with her spoiling, Lily Sharp pushed hard in the forward half and Chloe Locke picked up in the second half with a number of good defensive efforts.

Sandringham Dragons vs. Northern Knights

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby

Once again her strength in the run and carry was on show utilising the space she got on the wing to take space with a couple of bounces and damaging kicks. IN the second quarter she managed a run from the mid win to half way inside the forward 50, out running two Sandringham players on the way. She played a big part in the last quarter as well, at times controlling the tempo and steadying the play for Northern on the way out of defence.

STANDOUTS:

#2 Keely Coyne (Sandringham Dragons)

Playing a range of roles from, half forward, rover and winger, she again won plenty of the footy, throughout the day. She started off playing as the link up player in the first half for Sandringham, then moved into the midfield and did well around the stoppages. Her skills were clean, with her decision making and handballing hurting Northern often. She also showed composure when under immediate pressure, willing to take contact to ensure a high quality disposal

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Moving into the rover spot after spending round 1 on the wing, Hurley showed her game sense around stoppages, getting herself into dangerous areas in close and getting distance behind her kicks when she won the ball. She was clean with the ball when in space, but also showed composure under pressure

#37 Ebony Angelopoulos (Sandringham Dragons)

Was versatile in her playstyle up forward all day, making hard leads when the space was in front of her and she was required to but also showing off her natural crumbing sense with her read of the ball off hands of the taller players, highlighted by her getting herself a goal out the back of a contest in the 3rd

#30 Pia Staltari (Sandringham Dragons)

Playing off the half back her ball use, especially by foot, was once again exceptional, getting plenty of penetration and distance which got Sandringham some quick rebound opportunities. She moved into the forwardline in the first quarter and managed to create some scoring opportunities, showing she’s capable of playing either end of the ground.

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Was a standout contested ball winner through the midfield and a danger around the stoppages because of it. Sandringham didn’t have an answer for her ball winning which allowed her to have it on a string all day, damaging in the midfield, but also working hard in the backline and getting herself on the scoreboard in the 3rd quarter, it was complete performance from Chaplin, looking untouchable at times.

#20 Georgia Kitchell (Northern Knights)

Took advantage of the relative lack of height in the Sandringham ruck division and won most ruck contests with ease. Her ability to out body the opposition ruck in stoppages around the ground went a long way to making the contests a sure thing, giving her midfielders prime position for winning clearances

#22 Ella Smallacombe (Northern Knights)

A gifted natural forward, her instinct with ball in hand is impressive, often taking on multiple opponents and getting past them inside 50 means she’s a constant threat to the opposition. Kicked two goals in the first quarter to put early pressure on Sandringham

#4 Brooke Plummer (Northern Knights)

Stationed on the wing, Plummers work around the ground was exceptional, playing as essentially another rover she was a danger as a back release option around stoppages, but also as a switch option in open play. She also showed a high work rate, getting involved in play deep in Northern’s defensive 50

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

A 2023 draft eligible player, Jordan’s composure and skill for her age and size is an asset that’ll hold her in good stead going forward. Fitting in seamlessly into the Northern midfield she was a key cog in moving the ball forward efficiently, taking on players much taller than her in ground and aerial duels.

#10 Megan Girolami (Northern Knights)

Playing as Northern’s main target up forward for the majority of the game, her contested marking and ball use damaged Sandingham every time she got near it. Took a contested pack mark in the 3rd quarter to kick a goal on the siren. She ended the day with a game high 3 goals for efforts, where she was a danger in the air and ground level

OTHERS:

Sandringham captain Kiana Lynch (20 disposals) and Charlotte Ryan (15) were the major ball winners for the Dragons, playing through the midfield and on the wing for the day, whilst 19-year-old Chloe Saultry was again an obstacle for her opponents with 8 tackles. Teleah Smart (14 disposals, 5 tackles) was influential for Northern through the midfield, finding separation from stoppages with ease, Trinity Mills (13 disposals, 1 goal) enjoyed a good day for a forward.

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 3 wrap – Falcons, Ranges and Chargers go two from two

ROUND 3 of the 2021 NAB League Girls season saw the Geelong Falcons, Eastern Ranges, and Oakleigh Chargers go two-from-two in this year’s competition, firming as early frontrunners. Players hit the ground running after a week away due to the postponement of Round 2, though four of the six fixtures were decided by over six goals. We take you through all the weekend’s action from what was an exciting return to elite pathways football.

Calder Cannons vs. Oakleigh Chargers

By: Michael Alvaro

Oakleigh Chargers came out on top in a battle of premiership contenders, kicking away from the Calder Cannons during an inspired final term to salute by 16 points. The wind favoured Calder in the fourth quarter, who looked primed to ride out a tense win as scores were tied at three quarter time, but the Chargers took full toll with an irresistible surge to stamp themselves as a bonafide flag threat. Now 2-0, they sit second and boast a number of draftable prospects currently taking the league by storm.

Outside midfielder Stella Reid was crucial in helping Oakleigh establish an early foothold, booting two goals in the first half before finishing as the game’s leading ball winner. Charlie Rowbottom, Amanda Ling, and Eliza James contributed some strong work at the stoppages, with the latter also snagging a crucial late major. Brooke Vickers was also terrific off half-back and Ameile Smith competed well as a slightly undersized ruck/key forward.

The midfield trio of Georgie Prespakis, Emelia Yassir, and Zali Friswell was also impactful for Calder, as they all lifted at important times to give the Cannons a fighting chance. Charlotte Clayton booted two opportunistic goals while stationed deep inside 50 as Tahlia Gillard also proved dangerous when rotated from the ruck, while Kasey Lennox tried hard alongside Neve Crowley in defence and Olivia Manfre put her hand up in the loss.

The Cannons will look to reload and fire again when they take on the Bendigo Pioneers in a tough road trip, while Oakleigh is booked for a meeting with Tasmania on the Apple Isle in Round 4.

CALDER CANNONS 0.0 | 3.2 | 4.2 | 4.4 (28)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 1.3 | 2.3 | 3.8 | 6.8 (44)
 

GOALS:

Calder: C. Clayton 2, Z. Friswell, O. Manfre
Oakleigh: S. Reid 2, E. James, A. Smith, H. Kenealy, B. Vickers

DC BEST:

Calder: G. Prespakis, E. Yassir, Z. Friswell, K. Lennox, T. Gillard, O. Manfre
Oakleigh: S. Reid, C. Rowbottom, B. Vickers, A. Ling, E. James, A. Smith

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)
4 – Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
3 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
2 – Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)
1 – Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Oakleigh forward Taylah Morton speaks to Draft Central’s Michael Alvaro post-match:

 

Bendigo Pioneers vs. Geelong Falcons

By: Peter Williams

Two Round 1 winners headed north up to Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve to face off in warm conditions, which organisers allowed for by moving the game half an hour earlier to 10am. It was the visitors who raced off to a dominant start through Renee Tierney and Zoe Garth (two goals), and never really looked back. The Pioneers had a good second quarter thanks to goals from Jemma Finning and Charli Dorrity, but the Falcons maintained control in the second half, booting four goals to zero to run out comfortable 50-point winners on the road.

Tierney was a huge turning point for the Falcons with her four goals and setting up another few, while defenders Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling were again consistent. Through the midifield Tess Craven and Poppy Schaap did the bulk of the heavy lifting in a team effort, while Gabbi Featherston had multiple shots on goal and looked damaging every time she went near it. For the Pioneers, future stars in Tegan Williams and Lila Keck really stood out, while Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson were again consistent across the match roaming hard and covering ground.

BENDIGO PIONEERS 0.0 | 2.1 | 2.3 | 2.4 (16)
GEELONG FALCONS 3.1 | 6.3 | 9.4 | 10.6 (66)

GOALS:

Bendigo: J. Finning, C. Dorrity
Geelong: R. Tierney 4, Z. Garth 2, E. Perrett, L. Were, K. Stacey, T. Craven

DC BEST:

Bendigo: T. Williams, E. Snell, J. Richardson, L. Keck, M. Marks, L. Den Houting
Geelong: R. Tierney, A. Lee, P. Schaap, T. Craven, G. Featherston, E. Dowling

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)
4 – Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)
3 – Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)
2 – Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
1 – Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Eastern Ranges vs. Gippsland Power

By: Peter Williams

Eastern Ranges sent a message to the rest of the NAB League Girls competition after flexing their muscles during a 19.3 (117) to 0.3 (3) romp of Gippsland Power. The huge win broke the all-time high score and winning margin records, with 12 individual goalkickers contributing 19 goals for the match. Their accuracy of 19 majors from just 22 shots also helped their case, and while the Power did manage to contain them to three goals in the second and fourth quarters, could not manage to put through a major themselves on the day.

Alyssia Pisano was best on ground with four majors in the match, while Georgia Campbell took control of the ruck for Eastern, and then went forward to deliver three majors too. The midfield pair of Bridget Deed and Olivia Meagher was ticking over, while Georgia Wilson (two) goals, Isabelle Khoury and Matilda Hardy were all prominent on the scoring front. For the Power, Matilda Van Berkel put in a four quarter effort from defence, combining well with Courtney Fletcher back there, while Sunday Brisbane and Yasmin Duursma won their fair share of the ball despite the defeat.

EASTERN RANGES 7.1 | 10.2 | 16.2 | 19.3 (117)
GIPPSLAND POWER 0.0 | 0.2 | 0.3 | 0.3 (3)

GOALS:

Eastern: A. Pisano 4, G. Campbell 3, G. Wilson 2, B. Deed 2, J. Livingstone, K. Sherar, C. Wilsmore, S. Humm, J. Grace, I. Khoury, L. Stone, M. Hardy
Gippsland: Nil.

DC BEST:

Eastern: A. Pisano, G. Campbell, O. Meagher, B. Deed, M. Hardy, I. Khoury
Gippsland: M. Van Berkel, C. Fletcher, I. Makai, A. Molesworth, S. Brisbane, Y. Duursma

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)
4 – Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)
3 – Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges)
2 – Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)
1 – Matilda Hardy (Eastern Ranges)

Dandenong Stingrays vs. Western Jets

By: Declan Reeve

A three-goal third quarter saw the Dandenong Stingrays win by 10 points in their first game of the year over an improved Western Jets outfit at Bluescope Recreation Centre. Dandenong’s inaccuracy in the first term saw Western remain within striking distance, even taking the lead by two points at half time. But the third quarter saw the Stingrays drift away from the Jets, with the latter unable to get the difference back as the game finished 6.6 (42) to 5.2 (32) in Dandenong’s favour.

2022 draft eligible trio Montana Ham (Western), Emily Shepherd and Amber Clarke (Dandenong) led the goalkicking with two apiece, with Ham getting both of hers playing as a forward target in the last quarter. The trio was also highly influential through the midfield throughout the day, with Abbey Jordan and Charley Ryan also working hard for the Stingrays in the engine room. Laura Elliott and Jaide Anthony were two standouts in their respective teams’ defences for the day, with Elliott showing off her ability to read the ball in flight and position herself to cut off Dandenong attacks, and Anthony doing similarly down the other end, sweeping up any dropped marks and rebounding quickly.

Next week sees the Stingrays hit the road to face GWV Rebels at MARS Stadium, whilst the Jets head to Cathedral College in Wangaratta to take on the Murray Bushrangers.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS 1.4 | 2.4  | 5.6  | 6.6 (42)
WESTERN JETS 1.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 | 5.2 (32)

GOALS:

Dandenong: A. Clarke 2, E. Shepherd 2, J. Radford, H. Monk
Western: M. Ham 2, A. Gray, C. Sergeant, A. Anthony

DC BEST:

Dandenong: E. Shepherd, A. Clarke, J. Anthony, A. Jordan, B. Smith
Western: M. Ham, L. Elliott, J. Woods, C. Baskaran, P. Ryan 

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)
4 – Montana Ham (Western Jets)
3 – Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)
2 – Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)
1 – Laura Elliott (Western Jets)

GWV Rebels vs. Murray Bushrangers

By: Peter Williams

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels stormed to a dominant, high-scoring win over Murray Bushrangers to bounce back from a narrow Round 1 defeat at the hands of the Geelong Falcons. Both teams were no doubt feeling the heat at Epsom Huntly, but both played with a fierce brand of football. The Rebels got off to a fast start and never looked back, piling on seven goals to two by half-time. The Bushrangers managed to arrest the momentum somewhat and make it more of an even contest after the main break, though some late majors to the Rebels blew the margin out to 44 points by the final siren.

Paige Scott stood out with three important goals up forward, while Nyakoat Dojiok was simply sensational after quarter time. Her work around the stoppages and teaming up with Lilli Condon and Crystal Summers really made life difficult for the Bushrangers. Ella Friend looked lively at ground level this week after a dominant marking effort the week before, while Chloe Leonard was again consistent for the winners. Aurora Smith and Keeley Skepper were the dominant players through the midfield for the Bushrangers, while Molly Kennedy did well one-on-one against Friend, and Ally Morphett provided a target up forward while also rolling through the ruck.

GWV REBELS 4.0 | 7.1 | 8.4 | 11.6 (72)
MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 1.1 | 2.2 | 3.2 | 4.4 (28)

GOALS:

GWV: P. Scott 3, T. Meier 2, P. Kissel 2, I. Cullenward R. Pickles, E. Friend, K. Tomkins
Murray: O. Cicolini 2, L. Sharp, A. Morphett

DC BEST:

GWV: P. Scott, L. Condon, E. Friend, N. Dojiok, C. Leonard, C. Summers
Murray: K. Skepper, A. Smith, M. Kennedy, A. Morphett, M. Quade, L. Sharp

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)
4 – Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)
3 – Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)
2 – Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)
1 – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Sandringham Dragons vs. Northern Knights

By: Declan Reeve

A composed and determined Northern Knights came out 37-point winners over the Sandringham Dragons at Trevor Barker Oval on Sunday, with a four-goal first quarter setting up the high-level team performance. The Dragons had their opportunities throughout the day but were unfortunately inaccurate in front of goal, with the Knights defenders able to move the short dropping balls out of defence quickly and seeing out the 10.6 (66) to 4.5 (29) result.

Maeve Chaplin was the standout performer for the Knights, leading the way in the midfield with her relentless hunt for the footy which the Dragons just did not have any answers for. She was well assisted by Ava Jordan who showed composure with the ball throughout, setting up team mate Megan Girolami for one of her game-high three goals. The Dragons still showed plenty of fight through the likes of 2022 draft eligible Keely Coyne and Sofia Hurley, who did hard work around the ground, and Ebony Angelopoulos who snared two of her own goals.

The Knights will be looking to make it two on the trot when they come up against Gippsland Power at Churchill Football Ground next round, whilst Sandringham will have time to recoup with a bye before it faces Gippsland in Churchill the following week.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 2.1 | 3.4 | 4.4 | 4.5 (29)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 4.1 | 4.4 | 7.5 | 10.6 (66)

GOALS:

Sandringham: E. Angelopoulos 2, S. Pribil, C. Murphy
Northern: M. Girolami 3, E. Smallacombe 2, M. Chaplin, T. Mills, R. Wilcox, C. Laurie, M. Papachristos

DC BEST:

Sandringham: K. Coyne, S. Hurley, P. Staltari, E. Angelopoulos, K. Lynch
Northern: M. Chaplin, M. Girolami, A. Jordan, B. Plummer, E. Smallacombe

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)
4 – Megan Girolami (Northern Knights)
3 – Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)
2 – Brooke Plummer (Northern Knights)
1 – Keely Coyne (Sandringham Dragons)

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.

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Sandringham Dragons

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at the Sandringham Dragons, who after losing their opening game to the GWV Rebels by five points, bounced back to have a couple of impressive wins in Rounds 2 and 3.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to GWV Rebels by 5 points
R2: defeated Bendigo Pioneers by 44 points
R3: defeated Gippsland Power by 52 points

Missed opportunities prevented the Dragons from finishing the first three rounds undefeated, as inaccuracy plagued them in Round 1, going down to the Rebels. They sorted that out the week after with a big win over Bendigo Pioneers, and then set up a 52-point win over Gippsland Power thanks to a dominant first half performance in Morwell.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Alice Burke (19.0 disposals, 2.7 marks, 4.0 tackles, 1.7 inside 50s, 2.7 rebounds)

The back-to-back club best and fairest winner continued her terrific NAB League Girls career with another sensational start to the season. She averaged 19 disposals per game and continued to apply the tackling pressure she has been known for over her time. Along with that, she showed she can play inside or outside roles, moving the ball well in transition from defence to attack.

Sarah Hartwig (15.0 disposals, 4.3 marks, 3.0 tackles, 1.3 inside 50s, 2.7 rebounds)

The reliable defender was able to taste some action up the field this season and showed she has the capacity to play in the midfield if required. Her reading of the ball, intercept marking and attack on the ball are among her strengths, with one highlight play in the opening round against the Rebels showing what she can do. Winning the ball at full speed at half-back, she managed to evade a number of opponents and take a bounce, putting it lace out inside 50.

Bella Eddey (17.7 disposals, 3.0 marks, 4.3 tackles, 3.7 inside 50s, 2 goals)

The classy forward is ever-damaging when inside 50 and is one of better ball users in the competition. She booted the two goals in her first three games, able to rotate between midfield and forward, and often used to hit up difficult kicks inside 50 to make life easier for her forwards. She can play multiple roles in the forward half and offers a point of difference to many other mid-forwards with her extra class and kicking ability.

Eliza McNamara (17.3 disposals, 2.3 marks, 5.7 tackles, 3.3 inside 50s, 2 goals)

The tough midfielder/forward attacks the ball with no regrets and is not afraid to take on opponents much taller than herself. She is a work horse when it comes to her repeat running and ability to just make contest after contest. In terms of 2020, she showed great forward pressure and capped off her hard work with two goals, while being able to rotate through the middle and find plenty of the ball herself on the way to almost six tackles per game.

Abbi Moloney (10.3 disposals, 3.3 marks, 2.0 tackles, 1.3 inside 50s, 8 goals)

The competition’s second leading goal kicker bounced back from not getting on the board in Round 1, to booting bags of three and five in Rounds 2 and 3. She provided a strong target inside 50, and averaged the 3.3 marks to go with her 10.3 disposals as her side’s main source of scoring. A traditional forward who has a kick-first mentality having 30 kicks from 31 disposals, Moloney has been a big improver this season as a top ager.

Others who have stood out: Winnie Laing, Sofia Hurley, Bridie Hipwell, Daisy Walker

The Dragons captain was unlucky not to be in the top group and deserving if we extended it out to a top six because she has been just as impressive as those above. Averaging a team-high 20 disposals, she has just put in four quarter performances and been consistent from the first game to the last winning plenty of the ball. Whilst those six, and Walker (who has enjoyed a strong start to the season averaging 15.7 disposals and 4.0 tackles per game) are top agers, the remaining two named are in their first seasons. Hurley and Hipwell are among a host of Dragons who are two years away from their draft year, though they have had a big impact already, averaging a combined 26 disposals, five marks and six tackles between them.

Dragons overpower Gippsland for second-straight win

THE Sandringham Dragons have emerged victorious against the Gippsland Power by a thumping 52-point margin after a dominant first half display. Despite travelling to Morwell for the encounter, the Dragons looked right at home from the opening bounce and kept the Power scoreless for the entire first half.

The stoppage work of the Dragons was second-to-none as the visitors managed to get more numbers around the ball and attack with speed. The likes of Winnie Laing and Abbi Moloney proved to be potent goal threats in the early stages, with the latter finishing with five on the day. While the Power struggled to clear their defensive 50 at the best of times, any threat eventually making it toward Sandringham’s defence was dealt with by the poised Pia Staltari in the first term. However, it was the forward line pressure and midfield of the Dragons which was the highlight of the quarter. Bridie Hipwell was a key contributor for the visitors, with nimble footwork and penetrating use of the ball making her a threat.

In comparison, Gippsland lacked the same structure and at times were overwhelmed by Sandringham’s running power. A boundary thrown-in at the eight-minute mark of the term was emblematic of the quarter for the Power, as miscommunication allowed the Dragons three unmarked players surrounding the stoppage in the centre of the wing. Luckily, the dogmatic pressure of Gippsland’s Megan Fitzsimon saved the Power from another penetrating Dragons attack on this occasion. Fitzsimon continued this fighting spirit throughout the contest and finished with 23 touches and two goals in a valiant display in midfield. In combination with the dominant ruckwork of Matilda Van Berkel, Fitzsimon managed to provide the Power with almost their only forward movement of the half, with two impressive centre clearances early in the second term.

Yet these were easily repelled, as the Power were unable to lay a finger on the rebounding potency Sandringham again in the second stanza. At times it looked like circle work for the visitors as their midfield dominance was put on full display. Sandringham finished the term dominating in almost every statistic, including holding a 25 to six advantage in marks over the Power, outlining the control and time given to the Dragons midfield. Alice Burke started to impose herself on the contest during the quarter, with her damaging kicking being put to good use as she finished the match with three inside 50’s and four rebound 50’s along with 23 touches and 10 tackles. Eliza McNamara kicked both of her two majors in this quarter as she proved to be a handful for the Gippsland backline. Moloney was also the grateful recipient of some easy goals thanks to the work of Hipwell and Laing. The former impressively burst forward from the centre in early stages of the term and unleashed a damaging kick inside 50 into the waiting arms of Moloney. Laing’s highlights were more based around terrific tackling pressure up forward, creating chances for her teammates. At the main break, the Dragons held a crushing 53-point advantage.

In the second half, the Power were more competitive and managed to win the third quarter as the likes of Grace McRae and Sunday Brisbane stepped up to help the fighting efforts of Van Berkel and Fitzsimon. Fitzsimon received reward for her effort as she booted two goals in the half, while Van Berkel dominated the hitouts to give Gippsland a 35 to 12 advantage by the end of the match.

Despite being beaten in the third on the scoreboard by seven points, the Dragons still found some bright spots. Daisy Walker had 15 of her 22 touches for the match in the quarter and Sofia Hurley won some contested ball in midfield. In the fourth, Sandringham again showed their class to finish a more limited number of chances. Moloney capped off an excellent performance with her fifth major on the back of a strong mark up forward. Burke and Laing again spent much of the term proving themselves to be a class above, with Burke controlling stoppages with poise and Laing causing havoc up forward with pace and tenacity.

As the final siren sounded in Morwell, the Dragons had recorded 82 more disposals than the Power and controlled the tempo for most of the affair. Moloney’s five goals and 90 fantasy points make her appear as a likely contender for best-on-ground for the Dragons, yet many of her majors were relatively straightforward finishes. Burke’s game-high 23 touches puts her in contention, however, when the game was there to be won in the first term, Laing proved to be key in breaking the game open for the victorious Dragons, while Sarah Hartwig was busy once again across the ground.. Despite a crushing first half, a competitive second half will give Gippsland hope for the rest of the season.

GIPPSLAND POWER 0.0 | 0.0 | 2.2 | 3.4 (22)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 3.3 | 8.5 | 9.6 | 11.8 (74)

GOALS:

Gippsland: M. Fitzsimon 2, J. Sochackyj.
Sandringham: A. Moloney 5, E. McNamara 2, W. Lang, B. Hipwell, K. Lynch, N. Borg.

ADC BEST:

Sandringham: A. Burke, A. Moloney, W. Lang, S. Hartwig, B. Hipwell, D. Walker
Gippsland: M. Fitzsimon, M. Van Berkel, G. McRae, S. Brisbane, S. Notman

DC Medal:

5 – Alice Burke (SD)
4 – Abbi Moloney (SD
3 – Winnie Laing (SD)
2 – Megan Fitzsimon (GP)
1 – Sarah Hartwig (SD)

2020 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 2

IN a new-look amalgamation of Draft Central‘s Team of the Week and player notes, we name our Round 2 NAB League Girls’ Team of the Week and explain why each player has been chosen. The 24-player team returns with three emergencies this year and all notes are opinion-based of the individual Draft Central writer. For Round 2, Dandenong Stingrays leads the way with four players in the side, followed by Round 2 winners, Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons all had three, whilst the two drawn sides in Murray Bushrangers and Western Jets, as well as Geelong Falcons also had three. Calder Cannons and Bendigo Pioneers had one representative with the former also earning an emergency, whilst Tasmania Devils had the one emergency after their big loss in their inaugural game.

BACKS:

Kasey Lennox (CC) – 14 disposals, 3 marks, 1 tackle, 6 rebounds
Calder’s top player on the day, Lennox was a lynchpin at half-back where she was able to rebound time and time again and run the ball out of the back 50. She won her fair share of possessions with 14, but had the six rebounds which was crucial in her side staying in the contest for as long as it did. The Cannons have a strong defence and Lennox is a key cog in that unit.

Zoe Hill (DS) – 11 disposals, 3 marks, 3 tackles, 5 rebounds
A rock in defence and not only does she beat her opponents one-on-one, but she provides offensive rebound and usually hits her targets out of the back 50. Rarely looking stressed on the last line, she is one of Dandenong’s most important players given her role and she played it brilliantly on the weekend.

Annie Lee (GF) – 18 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 7 rebounds
Was a rock in defence despite the overwhelming force of the ball coming in, and recorded the most rebounds on the day of any player. Often getting back under pressure, Lee was able to win plenty of the ball and propel it forward. Still only 16, the 168cm player has a nice offensive game to go with her defensive capabilities.

HALF-BACKS:

Grace Hay (MB) – 19 disposals, 7 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 8 rebounds
The standout Bushie on the day, Hay was instrumental in ensuring Murray came away with some points. With the game tight and on the line, it was the defence that stood out, and Hay was a massive part of that with 19 disposals. seven marks and eight rebounds. Across the course of the day, Hay refused to let her opponent get the better of her, and really stood tall amongst a whopping 36 inside 50s and was a huge reason why Murray drew.

Annabel Strahan (BP) – 18 disposals, 3 marks, 4 tackles, 1 inside 50, 5 rebounds
A solid option for the Pioneers in a tough match, Strahan was the leading disposal winner for Bendigo off half-back with her ability to find the footy a real credit to her vision and willingness to take on the play to win ball back. Collecting five rebounds, she lead the way with her tenacity and ability to hit up targets to propel the footy downfield.

Sarah Hartwig (SD) – 20 disposals, 6 marks, 7 tackles, 1 inside 50, 2 rebounds
With class and speed to match, Hartwig is a real instigator on the field, ready and willing to get right into the contest and is able to cleanly hit up targets with her clever ball use. Her tackle count was among the best on field, leading the charge for the Dragons while her overall dominance off the half back created plenty of opportunities for the side to run away with the win.

CENTRES:

Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – 25 disposals, 7 tackles, 3 hitouts, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Another prolific day for the AFL Women’s Academy member who laid an impressive seven tackles in the Jets’ draw with Murray. She had a game-high 25 disposals on the day and was a dominant inside player throughout the contest with her clean hands and creativity. Whilst in this team she has been forced out to a wing given the strength inside, she would be a handy player with her skills and run.

Tyanna Smith (DS) – 29 disposals, 5 marks, 7 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 1 rebound
The star of the show on the weekend and another Best on Ground performance with her ability to burst away from the contest and  impact the game with her slick skills. Smith earned out Draft Central NAB League Girls Player of the Week award for her unbelievable effort which saw her rack up 29 touches, seven inside 50s, five marks and seven tackles despite being closely watched by the opposition at stoppages. The standout player from teh weekend and a natural match-winner.

Montana Ham (WJ) – 23 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 2 hitouts, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound
Another standout on the day for Western in the Jets’ draw with Murray, Ham provides great run through the midfield and is able to pump the ball long inside 50. She has that touch of class and with some extra height compared to other midfielders, she has as much ability above her head as below it. Can just about play anywhere and still has a couple of years in the program which is exciting.

RUCKS:

Ally Morphett (MB) – 9 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 15 hitouts, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
There was a noticeable low in hitouts across the competition as ruck duties were shared around, but what earned Morphett the spot as the starting ruck was her ability to cover the ground. She can play as a key forward, but her work rate on the weekend was strong, also picking up a number of rebounds and inside 50s to go with her 15 hitouts and in a game where the performance was evenly spread, she did well.

Ellie McKenzie (NK) – 17 disposals, 5 marks, 3 inside 50s, two rebounds
Judged the Knights’ best in their win over the Falcons, McKenzie was a star through the midfield with her power and class around the ball. She was able to pump the ball forward and win it across all areas of the ground. Her offensive game really got the Knights going and were able to set up opportunities inside 50.

Laura Gardiner (GF) – 31 disposals, 3 marks, 9 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 5 rebounds
Racked up a competition-high disposals for the second consecutive week and was prominent on the inside with 31 touches, nine tackles and an even five inside 50s and five rebounds. Those kind of numbers are hard to ignore and she is easy to spot on the inside with her ability to get the ball out to teammates and set them up with quick handballs. Having a ripping start to the season.

HALF-FORWARDS:

Bella Eddey (SD) – 22 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 goals
Eddey put up an impressive effort against the Pioneers, proving a key target both inside 50 and up the ground with her clean hands, and putting goals on the board to establish a clear option in the forward line. She used her body well to bring ball to ground while her tackling pressure was up there, winning precious ball back when required.

Alyssa Bannan (NK) – 14 disposals, 8 marks, 5 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
Another outstanding performance from the tall forward who clunked a whopping eight marks to go with her 14 touches and two goals. She booted five majors last week, but her work rate up the ground and ability to use her clean hands and footy IQ to her advantage is a strength. She also laid five tackles which is a huge bonus for a taller player who is predominantly impressive in the air.

Charlie Rowbottom (OC) – 17 disposals, 3 marks, 5 tackles, 1 hitout, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
The talented middle-ager was best on ground in Oakleigh’s victory over Tasmania, constantly popping up with two goals from 17 touches and laying five tackles. She moved between the midfield and forward lines well and not only converted some chances of her own, but also set up her teammates. Her work close to goal was clean and she always looked like she was going to create something special.

FORWARDS:

Taylah Morton (OC) – 12 disposals, 3 tackles, 3 goals
Had a huge impact close to goal and was rewarded with three majors against Tasmania. She often got to the right spots and had a number of chances, three of which she converted as well as a couple of behinds that could have made it an even bigger haul. She provided a dangerous option at ground level and was able to be a key part of the Chargers’ front six in the big win.

Abbi Moloney (SD) – 10 disposals, 5 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 3 goals
With an ability to hit the scoreboard, Moloney proved she has the means to be a real danger inside 50 if left unattended. While she did not rack up the possessions, she used the footy well and proved she can do more than just provide a tall option inside 50 with her clean hands making her a real key cog in the forward line, while her ability to kick straight certainly helped out the Dragons.

Jessica Matin (DS) – 14 disposals, 5 marks, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
A danger close to goal, Matin also works up the ground and can get it inside the 50, with her work rate often leading to a payoff on the scoreboard. After missing a couple of gettable chances last week, Matin booted a couple of majors in Round 2 and acts as well as a deep smaller forward or higher up the ground getting the ball in and allowing forwards to run into space.

INTERCHANGE:

Kate Adams (MB) – 19 disposals, 3 marks, 6 tackles, 1 inside 50, 4 rebounds, 1 goal
The versatile utility put in a strong performance and managed to get the work done through midfield, in defence and up forward. She has the the athletic capabilities to be a slippery customer in close, but the hardness to win the ball back from an opponent as shown by her six tackles. She works hard when playing in the back half, and can go forward and be damaging around goal as well.

Charlotte Baskaran (WJ) – 25 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Another strong performance from the bottom-ager who found plenty of it in Western’s draw with Murray. She can play off half-back or through the middle and allowing her to use her skill and footy IQ to set up teammates is an advantage for the Jets. Despite having another couple of years in the program, Baskaran has already shown smarts beyond her years and will be an exciting prospect to watch develop in the future.

Tarrah Delgado (NK) – 14 disposals, 4 marks, 5 rebounds
The Knights’ top defender on the day, Delgado was able to repel a number of attacks, particularly during the middle stages of the game when the Falcons were trying to get on top. Forced back deep at times, the Knights defender held up strongly, and along with her teammates, kept a potent Geelong forward line to just one goal for the day.

Amber Micallef (OC) – 14 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 2 inside 50s
One of Oakleigh’s best on the day. Micallef was able to balance her offensive and defensive abilities on her way to a strong 14 disposals and six tackles. She was ever-present in an even team performance and was constantly harassing the opposition throughout the four quarters despite the result being well beyond doubt.

Darcy Moloney (GF) – 25 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
The Geelong Falcons’ midfielder found plenty of the football despite the loss, racking up an equal-third highest achievement of disposals for the round with 25. She tried her best throughout the four quarters and whilst the efforts did not get the ‘W’ on the scoreboard, she was as hard of a worker as anyone else on the field.

Emily Shepherd (DS) – 18 disposals, 4 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Arguably the second best behind Smith, Shepherd just goes about her business and keeps working hard throughout the four quarters. She won the second most touches on the ground in Dandenong’s win over Calder and was able to provide some run through the middle and work well with the other Stingrays mids to get the ball forward and set up scoring opportunities.

EMG:

Georgie Prespakis (CC) – 17 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
The most unlucky player not to make the starting line-up, Prespakis had a solid game after being rundown a couple of times in the first half. She showed her competitiveness by nailing a couple of opponents as well with fierce tackles, whilst getting around the ground and doing her thing and bombing it long either out of danger or into the danger zone inside 50. Kept running throughout the contest.

Amy Prokopiec (TD) – 9 disposals, 1 tackle, 1 hitout, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
This could have gone to a number of Tasmania players who could have squeezed into the starting line-up, but ultimately it is difficult when involved in a 100-point loss. In saying that, Prokopiec was terrific down back, working well as a leader of the group with Camilla Taylor who also could have earned a spot here. Prokopiec’s defensive ability and toughness make her difficult to beat one-on-one and she is not afraid to put her body on the line for her side.

Rianna Thiele (OC) – 15 disposals, 3 tackles, 1 hitout, 3 inside 50s, 2 goals
Another Chargers player who could have squeezed into a competitive forward line, Thiele stood out with her work at ground level and just popping up at different times with some nice work around goals. She kicked two of her own majors and put it into positions to assists teammates which helped her side get to the position it was in by the end of the game.

DRAFT CENTRAL’S NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 2

B: Kasey Lennox (CC) – Zoe Hill (DS) – Annie Lee (GF)
HB: Sarah Hartwig (SD) – Annabel Strahan (BP) – Grace Hay (MB)
C: Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – Tyanna Smith (DS) – Montana Ham (WJ)
HF: Bella Eddey (SD) – Alyssa Bannan (NK) – Charlie Rowbottom (OC)
F: Taylah Morton (OC) – Abbi Moloney (SD) – Jessica Matin (DS)
R: Ally Morphett (MB) – Ellie McKenzie (NK) – Laura Gardiner (GF)
INT: Kate Adams (MB) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ) – Tarrah Delgado (NK) – Amber Micallef (OC) – Darcy Moloney (GF) – Emily Shepherd (DS)

OTHERS CONSIDERED:

The strength of the midfield group this round was ridiculous to try and squeeze into a team, needing to maintain the balance of players across other lines as well. The next in line to come into the team included Northern Knights’ Ash Snow, Dandenong Stingrays’ Amber Clarke and Sandringham Dragons’ Winnie Laing who were all close to making the cut. Also on the short list from a midfield perspective were Calder Cannons’ trio Laura Cocomello, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell, Murray Bushrangers’ duo Mikayla Jones and Lily Sharp, Bendigo Pioneers’ duo Brooke Hards and Maeve Tupper, Sandringham Dragons’ Alice Burke and Oakleigh Chargers’ Kalarni Kearns. Those who kicked goals and were considered included Sandringham’s Sofia Hurley, Oakleigh’s Amanda Ling and Western’s Caitlin Sargent, while Tasmanian duo Jemma Webster and Camilla Taylor were also in consideration.

Sandringham Dragons ready to roar in 2020

SANDRINGHAM Dragons are excited about the development from their existing players and the potential for future development of the entire list, ahead of the 2020 season. The NAB League Girls head coach, Tamara Hyett said the pre-season had been a successful one and now with a strong core group of top-agers and some promising middle and bottom-agers, the Dragons were in a good position for the foreseeable future.

“It’s been good, we’ve been able to get the full squad out on the track throughout the full pre-season,” Hyett said. “We’ve been lucky enough, we’ve had a good squad of top-agers as well as some really strong bottom-agers coming into the system so we’ve got a really good balance across all three age groups which has been good. “We’ve had a really solid pre-season, we’ve been able to build on what we’ve been able to do the last couple of years. “We’ve got a similar coaching group so a lot of the top-age girls have been with us – this will be their third year – so we’ve been able to build on and educate a little bit more and educate and filter in new additions to our game plan and game style which is allowing them to show off their strengths now they’ve been in the program for three years.”

Hyett identified four players at top-age level as ones to watch, but said there were a number of players who continued to improve having been in the program for a number of seasons at the elite junior level.

I think being able to have girls like Alice (Burke), Eliza (McNamara), Sarah Hartwig, Winnie Laing,” Hyett said. “There’s probably six to eight girls who have been in the program for three years now – this will be their third year – so they’ll have an understanding. “They all set elite training standards and behaviours so they’ll all be a really good group at the top-age group. “The rest of the group is buying into what they’re doing and that’s assisting in the development of the new additions to the squad.”

While the top-agers prepare for the final year in the NAB League journey, for a number of 16-year-olds it is only the beginning. They 2004-born players have stepped up over the pre-season, and while they are technically not eligible to be drafted until 2022, are already showing promising signs. Hyett said this was credit to their football journey, saying the group coming through at a bottom-age level had a “really sound” understanding of the fundamentals for Australian rules, and it meant the coaching staff could accelerate the development of the program and go into more in-depth areas to improve players on the list.

We’ve got some really good bottom-agers, and so much so that we’ve got five bottom-agers with one being an emergency that will play Round 1, which I think is really exciting for our program,” Hyett said. “We’re seeing the benefit of girls who have played football from an underage or Auskick level. “They’ve grown up with football and we’re reaping the benefits of that, they’re coming to us with really sound fundamentals and hence why we’re able to progress them a little bit quicker, because in previous years they have had exposure to football from a young age. “We’re seeing some really good signs from Bridie Hipwell, Lucy Mitchell, Sofia Hurley, Tayla Jones and Holly Tysoe as well. “All of those girls will play their first game and they’re all bottom-agers. “I think it’s exciting for the competition, but for our club that we have these girls who are good enough and ready for Round 1.”

On the track over the pre-season, Hyett said there was a noticeable difference as to just how prepared the bottom-age players were to adapting within the group. She said it was credit to the players both returning and new to the club for “investing in their own development” and doing the extra yards to improve in any way possible.

I guess it’s probably how quick the bottom-age girls have adjusted,” Hyett said. “We have a young girl, Tayla Jones who from the Talent ID we knew very little about, but her training standards and her game sense was just really exciting. I think she’ll be one to watch down forward. “Someone like Eliza McNamara who has worked really hard on her football component – she’s always been an elite runner – but it’s using that running power as a weapon and a strength. But it’s funny, the girls who have been in the program for a little bit have definitely added and grown in the off-season. “That’s just by investing in their own development and wanting to learn so, we try and run a 12-month program, but we’ve always got coaches on hand to assist so any extra work the girls want to do, we tend to have big numbers who want to do more, which is great. “Constantly investing in their own development outside of Dragons training.”

Hyett also named Abbi Moloney as one to watch this season, with the 171cm forward possessing a “beautiful pair of hands”, capable of clunking some good marks and a “work horse” who crashes packs and brings the ball to ground. The Sandringham Dragons coach said if the team could provide the top-ager with good service inside 50, then Moloney could be in for a good year. She said good service inside 50 would require strong defensive pressure up the ground and fast ball movement.

We want to be fierce,” Hyett said. “We want to be a really fierce and aggressive team, but I guess that’s no surprise to the other team’s that we’re quite small, so we’ll still be looking to run and carry and move the ball quickly and that’s just because we’re not an overly tall side so we want to play to our strengths which we think is that run and carry and quick ball movement. “Get the ball out into space, so I guess whether that’s giving up our secrets or not, it will be visible after Round 1 anyway. “We just want the players to have the freedom to play really attacking football and play on instincts as well. “We’ve got some team structures that we want to maintain, but we also don’t want to take away that natural instinct and gut feel. “The players sometimes get over-educated and lose that creativity and instinct from their game so we want to encourage that.”

In terms of players having new roles, Hyett said there would be no “drastic” changes, but a number of the Dragons’ top-agers would be moved around to further their development and showcase their versatility in a variety of positions.

What we’ve also tried to do is we don’t want girls to get bogged down in one position,” she said. “We think that clubs are definitely looking for that dual position player, and with 16-a-side now it’s really important that they have a couple of strings to their bow. So we’ll see someone like Sarah Hartwig spend some time in the midfield, Alice Burke might spend a little bit more time across half-back and someone like Eliza McNamara spending a little bit more time spending forward rather than just mid because we want to expose their offensive skills as well as their other attributes. “We want them to be creative, so we’ll slip a few players around here and there, but nothing too surprising. “For us it’s about showing off the players strengths, so that’s what we’ve been all about this pre-season.”

Heading into Round 1, Hyett said the Dragons have had a couple of practice matches along with some intra club games, which has enabled them to put some of the aspects they had been working on over the pre-season into practice. She said it was “really pleasing” to see the players willing to implement the new tools into their game and that the side was ready to tackle the new season which starts this Saturday against the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at City Oval in Ballarat.

From our end we’ve been really happy with the preparation,” Hyett said. “We’ve got some things we want to tick off on Saturday and if we can do that, we’ll be really happy. “Our objective is to stick to what we know, we can’t control what the other side does, but we just want to play our brand of football. “We think that has the potential to get us small wins and losses, but if we can show continual growth, that’s all we’re asking of our players.”