Tag: sophie molan

2020 AFL Women’s season review: Richmond

A BAPTISM of fire awaited Richmond in its highly-anticipated inaugural AFL Women’s campaign, going winless in the shortened six-round season despite having made one of the more eye-catching expansion team recruiting drives. Skippered by veteran former-Bulldog marquee Katie Brennan, the Tigers began life in the elite competition with a 34-point thumping at the hands of Carlton, and never quite recovered.

Brennan missed the last month of the season, leaving much of the on-field leadership down to Monique Conti‘s brilliance through midfield, while a relatively inexperienced list exterior needed time to settle in. Starting from the bottom, relive the highs and lows of Richmond’s maiden AFLW run in our first of 14 club-by-club reviews, with key players highlighted throughout.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Carlton by 34 points
R2: lost to Gold Coast by 11 points
R3: lost to North Melbourne by 56 points
R4:
lost to Geelong by 22 points
R5:
lost to GWS by 45 points
R6:
lost to St Kilda by 39 points

Five losses by over 22 points tell the story of Richmond’s efforts this season, which were capped off by a record breaking effort in Round 6 – for the wrong reasons – in becoming the first AFLW side to be held goalless for an entire match. There were a total of 17 goalless terms for the Tigers in a season where they clearly struggled for territory and thus, goals. The closest the Tigers came to victory was in Round 2 against fellow expansion team, Gold Coast on the road, but they kicked themselves out of the contest with 0.8 after quarter time. It was tough going from that point with a 56-point loss to North Melbourne coming next, but an entertaining game against Geelong was a relative high point, as the Tigers booted a season-best 7.3 (45).

SEASON HIGH: The four-goal third term against Geelong

While it may not sound like much of a high, Richmond’s big third term effort against Geelong gave fans a taste of what may be to come once the Tigers can jell. In a game where Richmond eclipsed its goal effort from the entire first three rounds, over half of them came in that third quarter and gave the Tigers a sniff of victory. While it was not to be, the four majors across a scintillating 10 minutes contributed to the side’s greatest AFLW score in what was Brennan’s final game for the year.

SEASON LOW: Posting the first ever goalless game against St Kilda

Becoming the competition’s first side to go through a game without a goal is disappointing enough, but to do it against a fellow expansion side would have compounded the hurt following Richmond’s Round 6 fixture. The Tigers were also held scoreless for half the match, with their three points scored over the second and fourth terms at Moorabbin. Credit must go to the fantastic Saints, who were simply on fire on home turf against the lacklustre Tigers.

FIVE KEY PERFORMERS:

Katie Brennan (12.3 disposals, 1.5 marks, 4 tackles, 1 rebound 50, 1.8 inside 50s, 0.25 goals)

A transition to midfield beckoned for Brennan as her fresh start began, with the experienced former-forward looking to lead from the engine room. While her leadership and invaluable experience put the Tigers in good stead, Brennan unfortunately struggled to get her own game going at times with a season-high disposal haul of 14. Brennan’s season was unfortunately cut short in Round 4 due to concussion, with her best form evading her.

Monique Conti (19.8 disposals, 2.7 marks, 4.8 tackles, 2.7 rebound 50s, 3.2 inside 50s)

Far and away Richmond’s best performer across the whole season, Conti was simply phenomenal as the Tigers’ prime ball winner. In just her third AFLW season, the former prize draft pick became an out-and-out star in returning her greatest disposal average across the six games, while also showing her tenacity on the defensive side. An ever-present for the Tigers, Conti can hold her head up – particularly for her form in the final three weeks when her side struggled most in Brennan’s absence.

Akec Makur Chuot (9.5 disposals, 1.3 marks, 2 tackles, 3.7 rebound 50s, 0.8 inside 50s)

One of the great finds for Richmond this season was 27-year-old Makur Chuot, who worked to provide a cool head among Richmond’s back six in her maiden AFLW season. The 178cm defender impressed on debut in Round 1 against Carlton with her positioning and ability to impact a number of contests, while her rebound 50 numbers across the entire season serve as a reminder of her willingness to turn defence into attack. Full credit for playing a difficult role well.

Phoebe Monahan (17.2 disposals, 2.7 marks, 2.8 tackles, 6.8 rebound 50s, 1.8 inside 50s)

Perhaps one of the less-heralded recruits for Richmond among a raft of big names was Monahan, who played arguably the most important and difficult role in the struggling Tigers side. After two seasons with GWS, the 26-year-old upped her numbers massively in shouldering the brunt of her side’s defensive duties. Monahan mopped up as well as any defender this year and was aggressive on the rebound with much of the ball spent in her own half. A fantastic pick-up, who is now a pivotal leader in the side.

Courtney Wakefield (6.4 disposals, 3.8 marks, 2.6 tackles, 4 goals)

One of the great success stories out of this season is that of Wakefield, who flourished upon being involved in the Richmond set-up as early as in its VFLW campaign. The 180cm key forward combined well with marquee recruit Sabrina Frederick close to goal, providing a target but with limited opportunity. She finished as the Tiger’s leading goalkicker (four) in their inaugural season, with her personal best of three majors coming against Geelong in Round 4.

YOUNG GUN:

Kodi Jacques (8.2 disposals, 1.2 marks, 5.3 tackles, 1.2 rebound 50s, 1.2 inside 50s)

Another to be picked up out of Richmond’s VFLW list, Jacques took her opportunity at the elite level with both hands after being overlooked in her draft year. The tenacious midfielder may not have won bucketloads of the ball, but contributed around the contest with her fierce defensive work to keep the Tigers in the hunt. The 19-year-old led her side for tackles (32), and looked comfortable in her debut top flight season with a good base to now improve upon.

SURPRISE PACKET:

Grace Campbell (12.4 disposals, 5.6 tackles, 1 rebound 50, 2 inside 50s)

Yes, another who represented the Tigers at VFLW level. Campbell more than justified her berth in the AFLW squad and captured fans’ attention with a spirited Round 2 debut against Gold Coast. Thrust straight into the midfield, Campbell’s speed and courage at stoppages made her an instant hit and while she may still possess very raw skills, has plenty of time to improve upon a promising first year at just 24 years of age. Another who can work both ways, and works hard.

Others who have stood out: Christina Bernardi, Sabrina Frederick, Sophie Molan

An odd combination of players among the others to have stood out, with big-name recruits Bernardi and Frederick showing glimpses of their outstanding best, while prize draftee Molan had a solid debut campaign. Frederick could arguably have been in the top five performers group on the back of a three-goal season where she led the club for contested marks, but perhaps did not deliver on lofty standards set. Bernardi was a touch unlucky throughout the season in front of goal and had limited opportunities as a permanent forward, but definitely had more expected of her – especially after the first two rounds. Molan, as diligent a worker as any draftee, worked into her first taste of elite senior football well, applying good work at the contest to round out the group.

AFL Women’s Young Gun Watch: Round 6

IN our sixth edition of the Young Gun Watch, we take a look at some of the top young performers across the AFL Women’s competition in Round 6 focusing on those players born in the 21st century (2000 or 2001). We analyse match-by-match just how they performed and what they did well.

Geelong vs. North Melbourne

North Melbourne ended up coasting to a comfortable victory over Geelong on Friday night to maintain top spot on the Conference A ladder. However, star Cat Nina Morrison’s devastating injury would be the main takeaway from the game as she unfortunately ruptured the ACL in her right knee for the second time in two seasons. As things went from bad to worse for Geelong fans, Olivia Purcell gave them something to smile about having collected 18 disposals and five tackles. Millie Brown (nine disposals) and Sophie Van De Heuvel (eight disposals) were also serviceable in what was a tough night for the Cats. Daisy Bateman again provided pressure up forward for the Kangaroos resulting in a goal for her five mark and five tackle effort. Making the most of a high-scoring team performance was Mia King, who managed her first career goal after gathering 12 disposals and an impressive seven tackles.

Brisbane vs. Collingwood

Collingwood collected a dominant road win against Brisbane, keeping them in the hunt for finals footy. Much like the rest of the team, Brisbane’s young talent couldn’t quite get into the game with their first draft pick in 2019, Lily Postlethwaite, collecting just the two disposals. Natalie Grider showed some positive signs out of defence, collecting 10 disposals and laying four tackles having to contend with the sharp and abundant inside 50 use from the Magpies. Full-forward Jesse Tawhaio-Wardlaw had seven disposals, three marks and six hit outs while Isabel Dawes managed five disposals in what was a quiet night for Brisbane’s forward stocks. Collingwood’s experience led the way as their young talent played roles in the win. Jordyn Allen had nine disposals and five marks while Lauren Butler also collected nine disposals off the half back-flank. Mikala Cann (five disposals, four tackles) and Alana Porter (five disposals) were also useful.

St Kilda vs Richmond

St Kilda boasted contributors across the board as they held Richmond goalless at Moorabbin on Saturday, a first in AFLW history. The Saints’ youth again impressed as their first draft pick, Georgia Patrikios, had 14 disposals and a couple of tackles out of the middle, unfortunately also just missing out on a goal. Dandenong product Molly McDonald showed large improvement with 12 disposals, six marks and three tackles, while Isabella Shannon was serviceable with four disposals and two tackles. Nicola Xenos again applied solid pressure in the centre with six tackles, as she enjoyed a well-rounded 11 disposal performance to go with a goal. The Tiger’s young talent endured a tough day with the rest of the team, with Kodi Jacques (seven tackles) and Sophie Molan (eight disposals) the stand-out players. With finals footy out of the question for Richmond, Nekaela Butler (five disposals, three tackles) and Ciara Fitzgerald (two disposals, two tackles) both debuted in the loss.

Melbourne vs. Carlton

Alice Springs brought the heat on Saturday in more ways than one, with the Blues enjoying a 16-point win over the Demons, propelling them to second on Conference B’s ladder. Sticking with mature-aged players, Melbourne again played just the two players born this century. Tyla Hanks has been the most impressive all season and started in the centre, collecting 11 disposals and laying six tackles. Hanks now averages five tackles per game on the season. Carlton’s youth again showed why they are arguably the best in the league, with Madison Prespakis leading the crop in a typical Prespakis performance of 23 disposals, four marks and a goal. Lucy McEvoy put up impressive numbers with 19 disposals, while last week’s Rising Star nominee, Charlotte Wilson, had 11 disposals and six marks out of defence. Murray product Grace Egan was also important, popping up with a goal to go with her 11 disposals and three tackles.

Western Bulldogs vs. Fremantle

Fremantle maintained its perfect record off the back of a dominant final quarter which saw them outscore the Bulldogs 25 to six at Whitten Oval on Sunday. The highest-scoring game in AFLW history was littered with admirable performances from youth on both sides as fans were treated to the future of the competition. The Bulldogs’ young talent improved greatly on last week’s performance with Gabby Newton (16 disposals, eight tackles) and Elisabeth Georgostathis (13 disposals, four tackles) leading the way. Gemma Lagiola (10 disposals) and Eleanor Brown (11 disposals, three tackles) were also important for the Bulldogs, as Hannah Munyard returned nine disposals, three tackles and a goal. Britney Gutknecht (seven disposals, four tackles) played her second game for the season, while fellow former Northern Knight Nell Morris-Dalton debuted with eight disposals and five tackles. Fremantle’s Mim Strom backed up last week’s effort with an even more dominant 25 hitouts, playing a lone hand in the ruck with Roxanne Roux out. Though it was not four goals, Sabreena Duffy managed to keep the Bulldogs defenders under pressure with five tackles, while Emma O’Driscoll managed seven disposals.

Adelaide vs. GWS GIANTS

The GIANTS defeated the Crows for the first time in franchise history behind closed doors on Sunday, running out five-point victors. Adelaide continue to showcase their young talent as finals footy feels like a long way for them having suffered this loss, with Montana McKinnon again the most impressive. The six-foot ruck again provided the Crows midfielders with deluxe service with 17 hitouts. Danielle Ponter collected six disposals out of full-forward to go with her two tackles, while Jaimi Tabb managed just the five disposals. GWS again opted with just the one player born in this century and you cannot blame them. Star midfielder Alyce Parker enjoyed a best-on-ground performance with 30 disposals, seven marks and three tackles. She led all players in the disposal count as she now averages just over 20 disposals on the season. With just two more 21st century-born players on the list, you hardly expect the GIANTS to change the formula heading toward finals.

West Coast vs. Gold Coast SUNS

The SUNS enjoyed a 25-point win on Sunday against the Eagles after having kept West Coast without a goal for the first three quarters. The Eagles will be looking forward to next year’s draft to secure more young talent as McKenzie Dowrick and Sophie McDonald were both out this week, leaving winger Mikayla Bowen the sole 21st century-born representative. Bowen gathered nine disposals and three tackles in what was a tough day for the Eagles. Inversely, Gold Coast’s youth all enjoyed solid outings as they kept their season alive. Lauren Bella dominated the ruck on her way to 16 hit outs, sharing the load with debutant Taylor Smith who was useful with 10 disposals and four hit outs. Gold Coast’s pressure was pivotal throughout the game with Jacqui Yorston (12 disposals, four marks, nine tackles), Ellie Hampson (12 disposals, six tackles) and Dee Heslop (five disposals, 10 tackles) all driving factors in that aspect.

AFL Women’s Young Gun Watch: Round 5

IN our fifth edition of the Young Gun Watch, we take a look at some of the top young performers across the AFL Women’s competition in Round 5 focusing on those players born in the 21st century (2000 or 2001). We analyse match-by-match just how they performed and what they did well.

Gold Coast SUNS vs. Geelong

A convincing win saw Geelong climb above Conference rivals Gold Coast to claim their second win on the trot, however, some impressive performances from Gold Coast youngsters would give the Suns fans something to smile about. Jacqui Yorston continued her good form with 16 disposals, 10 tackles and a goal, while Lauren Bella was impressive again in the ruck with 19 hit-outs. Queenslanders Ellie Hampson and Dee Heslop both brought physicality to the contest with three and four tackles respectively. Geelong’s Nina Morrison was back to her best gathering a team-high 22 disposals and seven tackles, while fellow 2018 graduate Olivia Purcell collected 21 disposals. Rebecca Webster (12 disposals, two tackles) and Sophie Van De Heuvel (nine disposals) were both serviceable for the cats in the victory. Georgia Clarke played a role off the bench with two tackles and a goal, as did father-daughter draftee Millie Brown who found the ball nine times.

North Melbourne vs. Adelaide

North Melbourne secured their spot on top of the Conference A ladder with a commanding win over Adelaide where the Kangaroos experienced players took the reigns. Daisy Bateman was useful up forward without impacting the scoreboard with her nine disposals and four marks. Launceston product Mia King brought plenty to the contest with four tackles but was down on her disposal count from last week with just the six. Adelaide showcased a lot of young talent again with Montana McKinnon the most impressive, accumulating 16 hit-outs in the ruck to go with her nine disposals. Nikki Gore was again kept off the scoreboard but managed seven tackles up forward, however, centre half-forward Danielle Ponter was able to kick a goal after also being held scoreless last week. Jaimi Tabb was able to make an impact out of full-forward despite not kicking a goal with eight disposals, four marks and three tackles.

GWS GIANTS vs. Richmond

GWS’ young talent is scarce with just the one player born this century, yet Alyce Parker and the Giants do not care for that with a dominant display against Richmond keeping them up near the top of the ladder. Parker backed up another impressive outing last week with 24 disposals and four tackles, a performance which could have seen her receive a rising star nomination if she had not have received a Round One nomination. The winless Tigers have blooded plenty of youth this season but again it was Sophie Molan leading the way for Richmond’s young talent with nine disposals and four tackles. Kodi Jacques laid six tackles and collected six disposals, as did Ella Wood. Northern Knights pair Maddy Brancatisano and Sarah Sansonetti had four and two disposals respectively, while Laura McClelland collected four disposals and two tackles.

Carlton vs. St Kilda

Carlton’s accuracy in front of goal led them to a 21-point win over St Kilda with valuable contributions from their young talent. After narrowly missing nomination last week, Charlotte Wilson became Carlton’s third Rising Star nomination for the season after putting in an impressive 12 disposal and eight-mark performance down back for the Blues. 2019 Rising Star Madison Prespakis impressed as usual with 26 disposals to go with three tackles. To continue with the Rising Star trend, fellow 2020 nominees Grace Egan (12 disposals, six tackles) and Lucy McEvoy (four disposals, eight tackles) kicked a goal each. Number five draft pick, Georgia Patrikios continued her stellar debut season collecting 18 disposals while Isabella Shannon gathered 10 disposals and three tackles. Nicola Xenos’ six tackles was important to keep the pressure on the Blues, as Molly McDonald had seven disposals.

Collingwood vs. Western Bulldogs

Collingwood stayed in the race for finals with a strong win over the Bulldogs, led by their more experienced stars. With room for the Magpies youngsters to improve, it was a relatively quiet outing for all of them. Lauren Butler collected nine disposals off the half-back flank, while Mikala Cann collected eight disposals and laid two tackles out of the middle. Jordyn Allen (six disposals) and Alana Porter (four disposals, two tackles) had less output than last week and will be looking to bounce back this week against the Lions. The Bulldogs youth also experienced quieter performances than last week as number one draft pick Gabby Newton picked up nine disposals and six tackles. Fellow top ten draft picks Gemma Lagiola (seven disposals, two tackles) and Elisabeth Georgostathis (six disposals, four tackles) will both also be looking to get back to the form they have displayed throughout the season.

Melbourne vs. West Coast

Melbourne enjoyed an outstanding day out to come out 59-point winners against the Eagles out at Casey Fields on Sunday, in an outing with the least amount of 21st century representatives. Consistently picked for a reason, Tyla Hanks played her role again in Melbourne’s forward rotation collecting 10 disposals and laying two tackles in a well-functioning forward line, while New South Wales product Brenna Tarrant gathered five disposals in the win. Mikayla Bowen was again the standout Under-20 Eagle as she backed up last week’s effort with similar numbers, posting 11 disposals and five tackles. Claremont product Sophie McDonald improved again, putting up another season-high disposal count with 10, while tall McKenzie Dowrick come off the bench for four disposals and three tackles. Despite not enjoying the success in the wins columns this season, West Coast fans would enjoy the performances from their youth.

Fremantle vs. Brisbane

Fremantle secured their place atop the Conference B ladder with a three-goal victory over the Brisbane Lions. Sabreena Duffy became the team’s leading goal-scorer with a terrific four-goal effort which very well could have been eight if she kicked straight. Duffy also had 10 disposals and five marks in her day out, while Emma O’Driscoll collected seven disposals and three tackles. Tall prospect Roxanne Roux found the footy five times to go with three hit outs in a day where fellow tall Mim Strom dominated the ruck with 17 hit-outs with her seven disposals. Key forward Jesse Wardlaw was the standout youth performer for the Lions with seven disposals, four marks, three hit-outs and a goal. Brisbane’s first draft pick, Lily Postlethwaite in 2019 had seven disposals and three tackles, as Natalie Grider (seven disposals) also contributed.

AFL Women’s Young Gun Watch: Round 4

ROUND 4 of the 2020 AFL Women’s saw a number of young guns shine, with top-end first year draftees continuing to come into their own among a raft of 2000 and 2001-born prospects at the top level. The 2019 number one and 13 picks each earned Rising Star nominations, showcasing the true depth of talent in the next generation of future stars.

Collingwood vs. Melbourne

The Dees got up impressively in this one on the back of superior experience and depth, but Collingwood’s developing list has shown some noted signs of improvement in 2020 coming off a wooden spoon season. Tyla Hanks has, for the most part, been Melbourne’s sole under-21 representative thus far, and continued her solid form in the forward rotation with 15 disposals and five tackles. The Magpies’ youngsters were a touch quieter, but Mikala Cann was the pick of the bunch with 12 disposals, two marks and four tackles, while Alana Porter (11 disposals), Jordyn Allen (nine disposals, two marks), and Lauren Butler (eight disposals, five tackles) were also serviceable. With key defender Ash Brazill going down with an ACL injury on the weekend, the strong list of developing Pies will need to stand up in the back-end of the season.

Richmond vs. Geelong

An extra year in the system is the key difference between much of Geelong and Richmond’s teenage crops, and 2018 draftee Olivia Purcell proved the prime example of that theory with her leading hand in the Cats’ high-scoring win over the Tigers in Bendigo. Purcell gathered a team-high 20 disposals and booted a goal, while fellow class of 2018 graduate Georgia Clarke was effective close to goal with two majors from eight disposals. The Cats’ first 2018 pick, Nina Morrison continues to play into form and collected 12 touches in more of a forward role, with Rebecca Webster (eight disposals, six tackles) a touch down on her own much-improved form but still influential. Sophie Molan led a handful of first-year Tigers with her 10-disposal effort, while Kodi Jacques and Laura McClelland also held their own with a goal each. Former Northern Knights pair Maddy Brancatisano and Sarah Sansonetti had five touches each, but struggled to have the impact required to get Richmond over the line.

North Melbourne vs. Gold Coast SUNS

A winning debut for Tasmanian draftee, Mia King headlined a solid game for a bunch of quality prospects as the Kangaroos trumped Gold Coast at Arden Street. King collected 11 disposals and two marks while laying three tackles in a steady display of her talent, while 2018 draftee Daisy Bateman notched her second two-goal tally for the season, booting majors at crucial times to keep the SUNS at bay. For Gold Coast, Jacqui Yorston was terrific with 15 disposals, five marks and six tackles, leading a talented handful of 2000/2001-born SUNS guns. Fellow former-Lion Lauren Bella continued her rise in the ruck with 10 touches and three marks, while academy products Ellie Hampson and Serene Watson each claimed eight touches in roles at opposite ends. The exuberant SUNS have been a surprise packet this season, with their hunger for the contest helping them hang with the best of sides, and that will put them in good stead going forward in accelerating their growth.

West Coast vs. Western Bulldogs

West Coast’s maiden AFL Women’s victory may have been the main takeaway from this fixture for neutrals, but those on the Dogs’ side will be thrilled by the game of 2019 number one draft pick, Gabby Newton. The Northern Knights graduate gathered 16 touches, five marks and laid 10 tackles – all season-high numbers – to earn a Rising Star nomination, while fellow class of 2019 alumni Gemma Lagioia (12 disposals, three marks) and Elisabeth Georgostathis shone at either end, and debutant Hannah Munyard found the ball eight times. Second year player Eleanor Brown also put up her clear-best numbers for the year with 12 disposals and five marks on the outside, with plenty to work on for the former top-10 pick. Mikayla Bowen was the standout Under-20 Eagle, notching 11 disposals and laying six tackles, with prized tall recruit McKenzie Dowrick returning a steady three touches while Sophie McDonald managed nine – a season-high for her.

Adelaide vs. Carlton

The other Rising Star nomination came out of a monumental Blues’ win, with physical 19-year-old midfielder Grace Egan being rewarded for a strong string of performances. The Murray Bushrangers and Richmond VFL product managed her second 18-disposal game for the season, adding six marks and four tackles to the effort. 2019 Rising Star Madison Prespakis went about her usual business with a team-high 20 disposals and one goal, while Round 1 nominee Lucy McEvoy had it 14 times to go with seven tackles, and Charlotte Wilson enjoyed a breakout game of 19 disposals and nine marks after missing last week. For the depleted Crows, Danielle Ponter failed to find the big sticks after a four-goal effort in Round 3, kept to a season-low of six disposals. Fellow forward Nikki Gore stayed true to her seasonal form with eight disposals and three tackles, but was also kept out of the scoreboard as Carlton’s defence stood firm.

St Kilda vs. Fremantle

A strange and undeniably tense contest between St Kilda and Fremantle saw pre-listed Dandenong Stingrays graduate Molly McDonald play a massive part in the outcome of the game, while a host of other first and second year players had promising cameos. St Kilda looked arguably the better side and like being the eventual winner when McDonald snapped through a wonderful goal in the last term, but a costly 50-metre penalty against the 2019 draftee cruelly gifted Fremantle a chance to stay in the game. Prized pick Georgia Patrikios (11 disposals, two marks) was down on her disposal output but still strong, while Nicola Xenos‘ pace and repeat efforts proved menacing, but the promising signs in a tight loss were somewhat soured by a serious knee injury to 19-year-old Tarni White, who immediately knew of the severity. Fremantle’s generational tall prospects were a touch quieter, with Mim Strom and Roxanne Roux having a combined 11 disposals, while Sabreena Duffy had seven touches and two behinds and Emma O’Driscoll (six disposals, two marks) enjoyed a steady first game for the season.

Brisbane vs. GWS GIANTS

Brisbane’s young guns enjoyed some success in front of goal in their big win over GWS, led by exciting key forward Jesse Wardlaw. The 185cm tall booted two goals from 10 disposals and five marks, showcasing her sticky hands, fluent set shot routine, and love for a celebration. Prized 2019 draftee Lily Postlethwaite (11 disposals, five marks) also snapped home her first ever AFLW goal to cap off another solid outing, with Natalie Grider (11 disposals, three tackles) also coming on well. On the other hand, GWS’ young talent is a touch more sparse, but the GIANTS have an out-and-out gun in Alyce Parker. The Lions knew that coming in too, and had mature-age draftee Catherine Svarc put a physical tag on the 19-year-old to quell her midfield output. Still, Parker managed to collect 11 disposals and lay three tackles, while also hitting up Yvonne Bonner late on to assist one of the GIANTS’ three goals.

AFL Women’s Young Gun Watch: Round 3

IN our third edition of the Young Gun Watch, we take a look at some of the top young performers across the AFL Women’s competition in Round 3 focusing on those players born in the 21st century (2000 or 2001). We analyse match-by-match just how they performed and what they did well.

St Kilda vs. Melbourne

It was a historic night for the Saints at Moorabbin, and it was no surprise to see the youth standing up again. Tarni White had another great game out of defence with 10 disposals, two marks, two tackles and a match-high seven rebounds – just five shy of the entire Melbourne outfit. Georgia Patrikios did what she does best and worked hard with extra class for 15 disposals, four tackles and two rebounds, while Molly McDonald had seven touches, three marks, three tackles and two rebounds in the win. Nicola Xenos also showed off her pace out of the defensive 50 with seven touches, two marks and three rebounds, as former Dandenong Stingrays’ utility, Isabella Shannon made her debut for four touches, two marks and two tackles. It meant all five 21st century-born players on St Kilda’s list ran around in the team’s inaugural win. For the Demons, Shelley Heath had eight disposals and three tackles, while Tyla Hanks laid a massive match-high nine tackles to go with seven disposals and two inside 50s.

Western Bulldogs vs. Carlton

The top two picks from last year’s AFL Women’s Draft showed just why they were taken so highly in a huge match at Whitten Oval. Number one draft pick, Gabby Newton amassed 14 touches, three marks, four tackles and an inside 50 for the Dogs, while Carlton’s Lucy McEvoy had 19 disposals, three marks, three tackles, three inside 50 and booted her first AFL Women’s goal in a big win. She teamed up perfectly with second-year player, Madison Prespakis who had a game-high 24 disposals, three marks, six tackles and nine inside 50s. Grace Egan was influential again for the Navy Blues with 15 disposals, while Brooke Vernon made her debut and did not look out of place in defence for Carlton, amassing eight touches and three rebounds. Aside from Newton, the Dogs also had Gemma Lagioia and Elisabeth Georgostathis who both picked up eight touches, with the latter booting a ripping running goal on the night. Eleanor Brown played and had four touches, four tackles and two rebounds for the Dogs.

Gold Coast vs. Brisbane

In the first draw of the 2020 AFL Women’s season, the Q-Clash lived up to expectations as a ripping contest. The SUNS’ Lauren Bella continued to impress in the ruck with 18 hitouts from five touches, while Jacqui Yorsten managed 12 touches, two inside 50s and two rebounds with both players going hard against their former side. From the first-year perspective, Queensland Most Valuable Player (MVP) last year, Ellie Hampson had 11 disposals, three tackles and two rebounds building on her debut from last week, while Serene Watson (seven disposals, two tackles) and Dee Heslop (six touches, three tackles and two inside 50s) also showed nice moments. Looking at the Lions list, Isabel Dawes played her best game of her career to-date with 12 disposals and two marks, while fellow first-year player Lily Postlethwaite had five disposals, two marks and two rebounds. Nat Grider managed 10 disposals and three inside 50s playing up the ground from her usual defensive post.

Fremantle vs. Collingwood

Fremantle became the only team to have won all three games thus far with a great win over Collingwood, and a number of the Dockers’ young talents shone. Roxy Roux had seven disposals, two marks, four tackles, three hitouts, two inside 50s, kicked a goal and set up another to a teammate in a productive day for the tall forward. Mim Strom had 13 disposals, five tackles, two inside 50s and two rebounds battling hard against the much stronger Sharni Layton, while Sabreena Duffy (six disposals, four tackles and two inside 50s) and Bianca Webb (four disposals, four tackles) enjoyed the win. For the Magpies, Jordyn Allen had nine disposals, two marks and two tackles, and Mikala Cann had five tackles to go with her eight touches. It was quieter games for Alana Porter and Lauren Butler who still had a couple of nice plays, both recording three touches while Butler also had a couple of rebounds and tackles.

GWS vs. West Coast

The GIANTS had a comfortable win against the Eagles and it was no surprise to see young gun, Alyce Parker leading the way. The second-year talent had a team-high 22 disposals to accompany three marks, two inside 50s and three rebounds as the sole GIANTS player born this century. West Coast had all of its three available young guns running around with Mikayla Bowen (14 disposals, three tackles and one goal) leading the way, while Sophie McDonald (five disposals, two tackles) and McKenzie Dowrick (three disposals, three tackles and two inside 50s) also played their third games.

Richmond vs. North Melbourne

Two teams with very different age profiles went at it when North Melbourne smashed the Tigers by 56 points. The Kangaroos had just the one player – Daisy Bateman – who was born this century, with the small forward booting two goals from 12 touches and two tackles in the huge win. The Tigers on the otherhand had a number of young talents, led by Kodi Jacques who picked up 12 disposals, two marks, two tackles and three inside 50s, while Ella Wood made her debut and had the six touches. Also running around in the yellow and black was Wood’s Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ teammate, Sophie Molan who had five disposals, three tackles and two inside 50s, as former Eastern Ranges captain, Laura McClelland managed seven touches and five tackles in the defeat. Also out there were Maddy Brancatisano (five disposals, three marks) and Sarah Sansonetti (one disposals, five tackles).

Geelong vs. Adelaide

Adelaide had an impressive win on the road against Geelong, and had a trio of rising stars running around. Danielle Ponter picked up 10 disposals, four marks, two tackles and two inside 50s, but booted a career-high four goals in a dominating performance inside 50. Nikki Gore managed eight disposals, nine tackles and a goal in the win, while Madison Newman had the two touches and two tackles. For the Cats, their host of second-year players continue to have an impact with Olivia Purcell (19 disposals, two tackles and a goal) and Nina Morrison (15 disposals, three marks, seven tackles and three rebounds) ever-busy. Rebecca Webster continued her good form with 13 disposals, three marks, three tackles, two inside 50s and two rebounds, teaming up well with another former Murray Bushrangers captain in Millie Brown (six disposals, three marks). Sophie Van De Heuvel (five disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s) and Georgia Clarke (two disposals) were also out there, while Rene Caris continued her development as second ruck with six disposals, two tackles, 10 hitouts and three rebounds.

AFL Women’s preview: Round 3 – Make or break games set the scene for third round of action

IT is now or never for a number of teams who sit on a knifes-edge when it comes to their finals aspirations. While some sides will finish the round undefeated with three wins, other teams will head into Monday doing the maths as to how many wins they need to make finals. With many teams at 1-1, this is the earliest junction in the season where sides can make a getaway from the sides around them, or fall back and have to play catch-up football in the run home.

Friday, February 21

St Kilda v. Melbourne at RSEA Park, 7:10pm, AEDT

Taylah Melki

With St Kilda still looking for their first win in AFLW history, Melbourne will be hoping to keep the good times rolling and make it three from three. it has been a tricky initiation for the Saints who have been competitive for large chunks of time but lack that little bit of finesse and experience in the crucial moments as opposed to the Demons. Melbourne have been in hot form downing premiership favourites North Melbourne in Round 1 and dismissing the Dogs by 20 points last round proving just how damaging they can be when on song.

It is hard to deny that Melbourne look like a much better side with Daisy Pearce back in the mix. The skilful footballer can extract the footy out of congestion and use the ball efficiently by hand or foot adding that touch of class to an already strong side. Teammates, Karen Paxman and Elise O’Dea provide an experienced head across the field something they will be hoping to use against a relatively young and inexperienced Saints side. Libby Birch is a ball magnet and will be hoping to once again have a profound impact across the ground with her silky skills. In their second year of AFLW youngsters Tyla Hanks and Shelley Heath have been building into some hot form with their tackling pressure the key aspect of their game play.

Despite taking it to the Crows last round, St Kilda let it slip when it counted and will be hoping for a more rounded four quarter performance against some tough opposition. The Saints have plenty of young talent with Rising Star nominee Georgia Patrikios leading the pack with her cleanliness below her knees, quick hands and spatial awareness. Patrikios has made a seamless transition into AFLW with fellow draftee Tarni White also making a splash with an impressive 18 disposals last round while Molly McDonald and Nicola Xenos will be hoping to leave a lasting imprint this round. Expect the young guns to look to the likes of Tilly Lucas-Rodd, Jessica Sedunary and Rhiannon Watt to lead the way and provide some guidance given their experience and high footy nous.

Tip: Melbourne by 22 points.

ST KILDA

B: T.White 29 T.Luke 22
HB: H.Priest 14 A.Brown 2 T.Lucas-Rodd 18
C: N.Exon 15 J.Sedunary 10 M.McDonald 1
HF: C.Munn 13 K.McCarthy 9 C.Greiser 17
F: K.Shierlaw 12 G.Patrikios 21
Foll: R.Watt – C 7 O.Vesely 23 C.Phillips 35
I/C: D.Guttridge 5 R.Dillon 25 A.Drennan 8 N.Xenos 27 I.Shannon 11

Emerg: S.Johnson 6 P.Kelly 16

In: T.Luke, I.Shannon
Out: C.Fitzpatrick (concussion), C.Whitfort

MELBOURNE

B: L.Birch 9 M.Downie 2
HB: S.Lampard 8 S.Goldrick 23 D.Pearce – C 6
C: S.Heath 30 T.Hanks 28 C.Emonson 11
HF: K.Hore 10 E.Zanker 29 S.Scott 12
F: T.Cunningham 1 A.Newman 16
Foll: H.Cordner 21 K.Paxman 4 M.Gay 3
I/C: G.Colvin 32 C.Sherriff 18 N.McEvoy 17 M.Guerin 22 E.O’Dea 5

Emerg: B.Tarrant 20 K.Petrevski 31

In: M.Guerin
Out: A.Kemp (knee)

Saturday, February 22

Western Bulldogs v. Carlton at Whitten Oval, 3:10pm, AEDT

Taylah Melki

The Western Bulldogs will be hoping to take advantage of their home ground and inflict pain on the Blues who were well and truly shocked last round by Collingwood. The Dogs have had an up and down start to the 2020 season getting an easy win in the opening round and then well held in Round 2 much like their opposition making for an interesting battle on Saturday. Both sides will be vying for their second win and given it is a short season a win here means everything. But after a seething comment last round expect the Blues to come out firing on all cylinders.

After a relatively disappointing outing the Dogs will be hoping to right their wrongs and get back on the winners list. Once again Bonnie Toogood provided the pressure up forward and will have to keep that going if they are to topple the Blues. The likes of Aisling McCarthy and Naomi Ferres have stepped up to the plate with their ball winning ability on full display while the likes of best and fairest winner Ellie Blackburn is in ripping form. Blackburn is a machine in the midfield able to dig deep and provide a constant threat. Both Elisabeth Georgostathis and Gemma Lagioia still have plenty to develop but have shown promising signs with their physical pressure and ability to hunt the footy.

Carlton have a plethora of stars across the ground, none bigger than ball magnet and bull Maddy Prespakis with the 20-year-old not afraid to burrow in. She struggled at times throughout Round 2 given the heavy tag but has shown that she has the class, strength and smarts to think her way through challenges pairing with the likes of fellow youngster Grace Egan. The two proved to be a dominant force last round and will be seeking to replicate their form again this round. After an early goal Tayla Harris faded out of the game against Collingwood something that she won’t let happen twice with the talented footballer able to pluck balls from the sky and kick truly. Another one in the forward brigade that will be seeking retribution is Darcy Vescio who failed to find the big sticks but has shown that she is a force to be reckoned with her goal sense and forward pressure.

Tip: Carlton by 14.

WESTERN BULLDOGS

B: A.Gogos 36 L.Spark 11
HB: K.Herron 31 E.Gamble 14 N.Ferres 16
C: B.Hunt 21 K.Lamb 27 G.Lagioia 12
HF: G.Newton 5 B.Toogood 8 K.McLeod 6
F: E.Georgostathis 17 D.Berry 7
Foll: K.Rennie 24 E.Blackburn – C 2 A.McCarthy 15
I/C: E.Brown 9 D.Marshall 26 I.Huntington 4 H.Scott 22 B.Lochland 1

Emerg: N.Callinan 10 H.Munyard 20

In: I.Huntington, B.Lochland
Out: N.Callinan, A.Van Oosterwijck

CARLTON

B: G.Pound 6 C.Wilson 20
HB: K.Harrington – C 9 V.Laloifi 8 N.Stevens 21
C: C.Dalton 15 K.Loynes 2 S.Hosking 10
HF: B.Walker 14 T.Harris 7 N.Plane 32
F: A.Downie 30 D.Vescio 3
Foll: B.Moody 16 G.Egan 1 M.Prespakis 4
I/C: J.Hosking 11 L.McEvoy 13 L.Brazzale 12 G.Gee 19 J.Edwards 25

Emerg: B.Vernon 31 C.Jones 22

In: J.Edwards
Out: J.Doonan

Gold Coast v Brisbane, Metricon Stadium, 4.10pm AEST

Tom Cheesman

The first ever AFLW Q Clash will be played on Saturday in the Sunshine State, as expansion side Gold Coast look to topple their undefeated Conference A rival Brisbane. The Lions are sitting pretty on top of the table thanks to a dominant round one victory over Adelaide and a come-from-behind win on the road against Geelong. Meanwhile, the Suns evened their ledger at 1-1 last weekend with an 11-point victory over fellow newcomers Richmond. Both sides have strong percentages to work with and are building momentum heading into round three, so this contest should be a belter.

Ex-North Melbourne and Brisbane midfielder Jamie Stanton has been Gold Coast’s most reliable player through the opening two rounds, rated best for the SUNS by Draft Central in both matches. She averages 18 disposals, four tackles and two marks so far this season. Leah Kaslar was great last week with 15 disposals and four tackles, while Kate Surman is proving to be an excitement machine for the Suns up forward. Northern Territory recruit Tayla Thorn will look to make an impact in defence for the hosts in what will be her first match of the season.

Brisbane NAB rising star nominee Jesse Tawhiao-Wardlaw plans on replicating last week’s entertaining three-goal performance. She trails Fremantle’s Sabreena Duffy by one in the race for the AFLW Leading Goalkicker award and would love to take the lead through a dominant performance against the Suns. Lion midfielders Emily Bates and Ally Anderson led from the front in Geelong with 38 disposals between them, while Lily Postlethwaite is showing plenty of physicality early in her debut season. She has amassed 11 tackles over the first two rounds and with a physical clash set to take place on Saturday, this number should continue to rise.

Tip: Brisbane by 9.

GOLD COAST

B: J.Pregelj 42 J.Hickey 4
HB: S.Virgo – C 22 L.Ahrens 7 S.Watson 14
C: T.Ernst 19 H.Dunn 24 C.Hammond 29
HF: B.Perry 16 L.Kaslar 11 K.Surman 26
F: E.Hampson 21 K.Howarth 23
Foll: L.Bella 2 J.Yorston 5 J.Stanton 17
I/C: J.Hewett 20 D.Heslop 25 P.Parker 1 M.Ritson 12 T.Thorn 15

Emerg: S.Riley 8 A.Hamilton 30

In: T.Thorn
Out: S.Riley

BRISBANE

B: C.Svarc 25 S.Webb 4
HB: R.Lugg 11 K.Lutkins 13 S.Campbell 20
C: E.Zielke – C 8 B.Koenen 3 N.Grider 10
HF: L.Arnell 16 J.Wardlaw 30 G.Bodey 15
F: D.Davidson 14 S.Conway 12
Foll: J.Keeffe 27 A.Anderson 18 E.Bates 1
I/C: I.Dawes 17 O.O’Dwyer 9 L.Postlethwaite 6 G.Collingwood 7 M.Moloney 28

Emerg: J.Ellenger 5 J.Zanchetta 2

In: None
Out: None

Fremantle v. Collingwood at Fremantle Oval, 7:10pm

Taylah Melki

The top of the table clash will bring plenty of excitement with both sides undefeated and looking to make it three straight wins. It is fair to say that both the Dockers and Collingwood have shocked the competition with just how well they are going with Fremantle romping it home last round against cross-town rivals. Collingwood have found a new lease on life with their running style of play paying dividends and often giving them first purchase on the footy whereas the Dockers have a more attacking style.

Scoring has proven no issue for the Dockers posting some hefty totals already this season with the likes of leading goal kicker Sabreena Duffy doing a wealth of damage on the scoreboard. Both Kara Antonio and Ebony Antonio have proven to be a deadly duo with their tackling pressure and intensity a constant feature of their game. Roxy Roux bounded into Rising Star contention last week with a couple of impressive grabs and two goals to her name an effort she will want to repeat again this week while Mim Strom is continuing to ply her trade. Kiara Bowers had a best on field performance last week getting her hands to ball with ease and disposing of it cleanly with teammates Evangeline Gooch and Katie-Jayne Greive others who can inflict pain on the Pies if left unattended.

The return of Magpies star Chloe Molloy has been everything the club could have asked for with her running ability, hard edge and cleanliness along with her versatility a key aspect to the line-up. Molloy is a real excitement machine while livewire Jaimee Lambert has gone from strength to strength already and it is only entering Round 3. The potential return of the injured Bri Davey could further bolster Collingwood’s midfield stocks making them an ominous threat for the Dockers. Defensively the Pies have stood up to the task with damaging duo Stacey Livingstone and Ash Brazill acting as a wall down back and propelling anything that comes their way while in the ruck Sharni Layton has taken her craft to a whole other level. Brittany Bonnici and Mikayla Cann have been in ripping form for the black and white army and will be hoping to front up once again to get their side over the line.

Tip: Fremantle by 10.

FREMANTLE

B: J.Cuthbertson 29 E.Gooch 8
HB: A.Stannett 24 P.Seth 18 L.Mascall 14
C: K.Grieve 13 H.Miller 19 B.Webb 26
HF: E.Antonio 12 R.Roux 17 A.Sharp 1
F: S.Duffy 6 G.Houghton 27
Foll: M.Strom 21 K.Bowers 2 K.Antonio – C 15
I/C: K.Flood 44 J.Stewart 7 L.Pugh 32 L.Rohde 11 G.O’Sullivan 22

Emerg: E.O’Driscoll 3 M.Clifford 4

In: None
Out: None

COLLINGWOOD

B: A.Porter 9 S.Livingstone 12
HB: L.Butler 23 A.Brazill 10 C.Molloy 2
C: S.Rowe 7 S.Casey 22 S.Chiocci – C 17
HF: A.Sheridan 14 J.Lambert 13 B.Bonnici 8
F: M.Cann 25 R.Schleicher 18
Foll: S.Layton 1 E.Fowler 15 S.D’Arcy 4
I/C: S.Dargan 46 B.Davey 3 J.Allen 6 J.Membrey 21 K.Stratton 41

Emerg: M.Shevlin 35 E.O’Dea 50

In: R.Schleicher, B.Davey, K.Stratton
Out: E.O’Dea, S.Alexander, M.Shevlin

Sunday, February 23

Greater Western Sydney v West Coast, Blacktown International Stadium, 1.10pm AEDT

Peter Williams

Kicking off proceedings on Sunday, one of the expansion clubs makes its longest trip yet when West Coast crosses the country to face GWS GIANTS at Blacktown. The Eagles have shown signs in their opening two games, but have ultimately been overwhelmed, while the GIANTS survived an almighty scare in Round 1 to just get the points against Gold Coast, before going down to North Melbourne last week. It was lucky the GIANTS did get the win against the SUNS, or they could be all but out of the finals race if they dropped this match as well. As it stands, that is the predicament facing West Coast, with realistically three losses the maximum a team could have and still make finals, though not many would expect West Coast to make the post-season series in its first season. The GIANTS on the otherhand are desperate to get there having not yet tasted finals action in three seasons.

The GIANTS have a consistent list across the board with a lot of underrated stars. Alicia Eva and Alyce Parker are a damaging duo in the competition, with Parker one of the top few talents in her second year. She has worked well winning the hard ball out of the middle and using her skills, while Eva’s evasion and speed make her a damaging prospect out of congestion or in space on a wing. The GIANTS have an experienced defence that just nullifies opposition forwards, with Tanya Hetherington and Pepa Randall back on the last line, and Jess Dal Pos providing the touch of class off half-back. Up forward, Cora Staunton is always a player you have to watch out for as an opposition defender, while Rebecca Privitelli is enjoying career-best form. Also in good form is ex-Crow Jess Allen, who becomes even more crucial in this clash in the absence of All-Australian ruck Erin McKinnon.

Parris Laurie will look to continue her great form through the middle as the leading tap ruck, amassing more than 20 hitouts a game so far. She has a very strong midfield at her feet, with Dana Hooker a top five player in the league, and captain Emma Swanson a real talent with ball-in-hand. Imahra Cameron has genuinely lit up moments in games with her breakaway speed and has been a huge inclusion into the side as a mature-age recruit. Mikayla Bowen provides the toughness around the contest, and McKenzie Dowrick adds the class and skill playing off half-back. While the Eagles forward line is still learning to function as a unit, former Dockers, Kellie Gibson and Ashlee Atkins make a damaging duo, and once the midfield and forward lines can link-up regularly, they will be a strong force.

Tip: GWS by 20.

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY

B: P.Randall 21 T.Hetherington 9
HB: J.Dal Pos 7 E.Bennetts 22 A.Lister 14
C: Y.Bonner 27 A.Eva – C 2 R.Beeson 6
HF: A.Schmidt 11 C.Staunton 13 J.Hicks 5
F: I.Nielsen 25 R.Privitelli 19
Foll: J.Allan 39 B.Tully 36 A.Parker 3
I/C: N.Barr 8 L.Steane 20 J.Barclay 34 L.Stephenson 12 H.Zreika 24 T.Mackrill 32 S.Halvorsen 30

In: J.Barclay, T.Mackrill, S.Halvorsen
Out: E.McKinnon

WEST COAST

B: C.Perera 27 T.Radan 26
HB: B.Smith 14 S.McDonald 35 M.Dowrick 5
C: M.Bowen 1 I.Cameron 19 N.Kelly 12
HF: A.Atkins 9 K.Gibson 2 M.Collier 8
F: G.Kelly 15 T.Tester 23
Foll: P.Laurie 25 D.Hooker 17 E.Swanson – C 13
I/C: B.Devlyn 7 C.Guard 4 H.Bullas 24 E.Bonser 6 K.Orme 32 C.Davidson 33 D.Pisconeri 11

In: E.Bonser, C.Davidson
Out: None

Richmond v North Melbourne, Ikon Park, 3.10pm AEDT

Peter Williams

The Sunday mid-afternoon game pits an expansion side against one of last year’s expansion teams when Richmond plays host to North Melbourne at Ikon Park. The Tigers enter this game without a win on the board just yet, and suffered defeats at the hands of Carlton and Gold Coast SUNS who are also 1-1 having lost their other respective matches. North Melbourne also sits at 1-1 from its two games, having gone down to Melbourne in a tight one out at Casey Fields, before bouncing back with a win over the GIANTS in Tasmania last week. It is fair to say the star-studded talent of North Melbourne will head in as strong favourites for this game, but with a number of fresh faces coming into Richmond’s team, it will be interesting to see how they line-up.

Joining Richmond’s extended squad in the game are debutant Ella Wood – with the former Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels midfielder named on the wing – as well as potential debutants, Ciara Fitzgerald and surprise non-listed call-up, Hannah McLaren. Both have been named on the extended bench in case of any injuries, while Tayla Stahl misses with a hamstring problem. The Tigers have a strong top-end with Monique Conti and Katie Brennan leading the midfield. Brennan copped flak throughout the week in the media and is likely to come out firing to silence the critics, which the North Melbourne midfield will have to be aware of for this game. Up forward, Sabrina Frederick provides a tall marking target, while Christina Bernardi and Kodi Jacques have been in good form this season. In defence, Akec Makur Chuot and Phoebe Monahan are just quietly going about their business but are statistically the top one-two duo when thinking about marks and rebounds. Wood adds extra hardness at the contest, and joins GWV teammate Sophie Molan, and a number of other youngsters, such as Laura McClelland and Sarah Sansonetti in the team.

North Melbourne’s depth is one of the envies of the competition and there is a reason the Roos headed into the 2020 season as the premiership favourites. With a strong list despite missing one of its stars in Jess Duffin (maternity leave), North Melbourne has more players that stand up in big moments than any other side. Emma Kearney is a Most Valuable Player (MVP) winner a couple of seasons ago and well heralded, but the work of Jenna Bruton and recently, Ash Riddell should not be underestimated. With Jasmine Garner in career-best form – which is saying something – and Kaitlyn Ashmore roving at the feet of Emma King up forward, the Roos have plenty of scoring options.They are missing that Duffin-type role off half-back, though Tahlia Randall and Danielle Hardiman have provided good strength in the air for the midfielders who drop back and help out to run the ball down the field. Overall, this North Melbourne side on paper should win this game fairly easily, but as we know with any match, games are not won on paper.

Tip: North Melbourne by 28.

RICHMOND

B: S.Sansonetti 18 A.Makur Chuot 34
HB: L.McClelland 16 P.Monahan 2 G.Seymour 28
C: E.Wood 17 K.Brennan – C 3 R.Miller 15
HF: S.Frederick 14 K.Jacques 10 C.Bernardi 6
F: C.Wakefield 8 M.Brancatisano 5
Foll: A.Edmonds 11 M.Conti 4 G.Campbell 43
I/C: L.Tesoriero 7 L.Bailey 12 S.Molan 1 A.Woodward 13 H.Burchell 9 H.McLaren 29 C.Fitzgerald 26

In: E.Wood, H.McLaren, C.Fitzgerald
Out: T.Stahl (hamstring)

NORTH MELBOURNE

B: T.Randall 16 B.Gibson 18
HB: T.Nestor 24 D.Hardiman 31 J.Grierson 19
C: J.Trend 21 A.Riddell 7 E.Kearney – C 9
HF: S.Abbatangelo 1 K.Gillespie-Jones 5 E.King 4
F: E.King 60 K.Ashmore 10
Foll: V.Saad 39 J.Garner 25 J.Bruton 35
I/C: A.Gilroy 8 D.Bateman 11 S.Wright 17 B.Lynch 20 E.Gavalas 22 M.King 23 A.Green 26

In: B.Lynch, M.King
Out: None

Geelong v Adelaide, GMHBA Stadium, 5.10pm AEDT

Peter Williams

The final game of the round might well be the best of the lot, perhaps barring the top of the table clash between the Dockers and Magpies. Geelong is hungry for a win, sitting at 0-2 despite statistically looking pretty good across the board and plenty of their teenage talents stepping up already in season 2020. Adelaide has been the walking wounded, having to bring in a top-up player back in Round 1 due to the multitude of injuries, and then bouncing back with a win – albeit not entirely convincing – over newcomers St Kilda. This feels like a game that could make or break both these side’s seasons. Geelong win, and the Cats are back in contention, while they lose and it is pretty much curtains for season 2020 unless they really get on a roll. Adelaide win, and the Crows are flying high on confidence and can sustain it long enough to receive some extra troops in the run home to finals, while they lose and the reigning premiers will be in a bit of trouble for their title defence aspirations.

Geelong lost at home last week to Brisbane, and will want to give the home fans who turn up for the second week in a row something to cheer about. The Cats have lost promising youngster, Denby Taylor to an ankle injury, but have regained All-Australian defender Meg McDonald, which would be a huge relief for coach Paul Hood. Maddy Boyd and Rebecca Goring have been added to the squad as well for the clash, as Geelong understands the importance of a win here for its finals calculations. The core group of second year players in the blue and white hoops have been simply sensational and a blueprint for clubs going forward. Olivia Purcell is in the top five ball winners across the league, while Rebecca Webster has been a marking machine and is the most improved player in the competition. Along with Sophie Van De Heuvel and 2018 AFL Women’s number one draft pick Nina Morrison, the Cats have a plethora of talent across the board. They still have more to get out of some of the depth around the ground, but with McDonald back, it releases some of the pressure off captain Mel Hickey, while Phoebe McWilliams will enjoy having Boyd back in the side as another target up forward.

The Crows go in with top selection from last year’s draft, Montana McKinnon – who dominated in the SANFL Women’s competition last week – and Courtney Cramey of whom both have been added to the extended side. The midfield duo of Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff is ranked first and second in terms of disposals won, while Eloise Jones have gained some important minutes in the absence of star, Erin Phillips. Up forward, Nikki Gore and Danielle Ponter have improved in their second year, adding extra dimensions to the side, while Courtney Gum‘s new role as a deep forward has been important in providing leadership around the young players. The midfield battle between these teams will be fascinating, and if the Crows can continue their ball-winning and stoppage ways, then expect their forwards to have a good day in Geelong. But if the Cats can neutralise the midfield, then they will also have a huge chance of taking out the contest.

Tip: Geelong by 4.

GEELONG

B: M.Brown 19 M.McMahon 24
HB: M.Keryk 45 M.McDonald 11 M.Hickey – C 18
C: S.Van De Heuvel 27 R.Webster 21 N.Morrison 9
HF: J.Crockett-Grills 6 P.McWilliams 23 J.Ivey 5
F: M.Boyd 26 R.Garing 12
Foll: A.O’Connor 14 R.Cranston 30 O.Purcell 16
I/C: M.Maguire 7 D.Higgins 2 G.Rankin 10 R.Caris 1 G.Clarke 17 R.Goring 44 A.McDonald 3

In: M.McDonald, M.Boyd, R.Goring
Out: D.Taylor (ankle)

ADELAIDE

B: D.Cox 31 S.Allan 39
HB: S.Li 19 M.Rajcic 32 C.Cramey 22
C: A.Foley – C 3 A.Hatchard 33 J.Mules 23
HF: N.Gore 7 C.Gould 1 S.Thompson 14
F: C.Gum 5 D.Ponter 15
Foll: J.Foley 24 E.Marinoff 10 E.Jones 2
I/C: A.Considine 16 M.McKinnon 21 C.Biddell 12 N.Allen 8 M.Newman 17 N.Campbell 20 R.Forth 27

In: C.Cramey, M.McKinnon
Out: None

ROUND 3 TIPS: [Total tips in brackets]

Michael Alvaro [10]: Melbourne / Carlton / Brisbane / Fremantle / GWS / North Melbourne / Adelaide
Taylah Melki [12]: Melbourne / Carlton / Brisbane / Collingwood / GWS / North Melbourne / Adelaide
Sophie Taylor [10]: Melbourne / Carlton / Brisbane / Fremantle / GWS / North Melbourne / Adelaide
Peter Williams [9]: Melbourne / Carlton / Brisbane / Fremantle / GWS / North Melbourne / Geelong

AFL Women’s Young Gun Watch: Round 2 – Bottom-age All-Australian shines in South Australia

IN a new weekly piece, we take a look at some of the top young performers across the AFL Women’s competition in Round 2, focusing on those players born in the 21st century (2000 or 2001). We analyse match-by-match just how they performed and what they did well.

ONES TO WATCH:

Millie Brown (Geelong)

A seemingly ready-made player entering the elite system, Brown showed exactly why she was thrown into the team from the first match, picking up 18 disposals, three marks, four tackles and three rebounds in Geelong’s 19-point loss to Brisbane at GMHBA Stadium. While her side lost, Brown gave fans an indication of what to expect from the smooth moving tall who can play a variety of roles all across the ground. With a penetrating kick and an ability to intercept the ball at its highest point, Brown is a crucial cog in Geelong’s line-up.

Tarni White (St Kilda)

Simply sensational, the AFL Women’s All-Australian representative at 15-years-old showed the signs that she did prior to injury interruptions heading into her top-age year last season. The Queenslander began to build some nice form at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, and copped a knock in Round 1 which limited her influence. Back out on the park and looking strong, White had 18 disposals, 10 marks and five rebounds, causing all sorts of headaches for the opposition who struggled to contain the athlete with some terrific upside going forward.

Western Bulldogs vs. Melbourne

The Western Bulldogs brought in a couple of extra young talents in second year player, Eleanor Brown and latest debutant, Amelia Van Oosterwijck to the fold against the Dees. While they might have just had the combined four disposals between them, they laid an impressive nine tackles, which really set the tone for the home side under lights. Continuing on from her strong Round 1 form, Gabby Newton picked up another 11 disposals and laid six tackles, while Gemma Lagioia (nine disposals, two inside 50s) moved the ball well. Elisabeth Georgostathis was the other young gun to play in the match, and similar to Brown and Van Oosterwijck had just four touches, but laid six tackles to no doubt impress the coaches with her defensive pressure. As cited in last week’s article, Melbourne do not have a lot of 21st century-born players, but Tyla Hanks (seven disposals, four tackles) and Shelley Heath (seven disposals, seven tackles) both played well in the Dees win at Whitten Oval.

North Melbourne vs. GWS

The Kangaroos managed to get on the board in season 2020 with a good win over GWS GIANTS, and second year player, Daisy Bateman again looked dangerous around goals. While she only had the four disposals and two tackles, she has plenty of implied pressure and provides an option at the feet of the talls. Neither of these teams have a lot of players who fall under the category for this piece, but Alyce Parker is one of the best ones going around. The uncompromising midfielder with the superb left boot ranked up 16 disposals, two marks, three tackles and three rebounds to be second best-on for her side.

Gold Coast vs. Richmond

It was a memorable day for the Gold Coast SUNS, picking up their first win in their AFL Women’s history by downing fellow inaugural side, Richmond. In contrast to the above game, these sides have plenty of youth running around and having an impact. Serene Watson looked impressive coming out of the back 50 with nine disposals, four tackles and two rebounds. The dual Under-18 All-Australian was one of a number of talents who stood out, along with Jacqui Yorsten (seven disposals, seven tackles and one goal), debutant and Queensland AFL Women’s Under-18 Most Valuable Player (MVP), Ellie Hampson (seven disposals, five tackles) and Dee Heslop (five disposals, six tackles and three inside 50s). Second year ruck, Lauren Bella is thriving as the number one ruck in the team, amassing 20 hitouts to win the ruck battle against multiple opponents. For the Tigers, Sarah Sansonetti showed just why she was highly sought after, with the Northern Knights’ premiership defender racking up 20 disposals, two tackles, one mark and one inside 50 to be the equal-second biggest ball winner on the ground. Kodi Jacques (13 disposals, four tackles, three marks and three inside 50s) was crucial in the midfield, working well with Sophie Molan (12 disposals, three marks, two tackles and one inside 50), Laura McClelland (10 disposals, four marks and two hitouts) and Maddy Brancatisano (eight disposals, two marks and three tackles).

West Coast vs. Fremantle

West Coast’s trio of young talent on the list continued to play big roles on the weekend despite the Eagles’ huge loss to their state-based rivals, Fremantle. Mikayla Bowen had nine touches and laid four tackles playing through midfield, while McKenzie Dowrick‘s work out of defence was strong, picking up seven disposals, five tackles and three rebounds, and even got forward booting her side’s first major of the contest. Sophie McDonald also stood tall in defence with four touches, two marks and two rebounds. Playing against an experienced ruck in Parris Laurie, Mim Strom still battled hard despite not winning the ruck battle, picking up eight touches, two marks, four tackles and 14 hitouts, while Roxanne Roux booted another two goals from four disposals and chipped in with five hitouts to win the Rising Star nomination for Round 2. On debut, Fremantle’s Bianca Webb had six touches and three tackles, as well as a mark and a rebound, while last week’s four-goal hero Sabreena Duffy had a quieter day out but still managed seven disposals, a mark and a goal.

Geelong vs. Brisbane

In a win on the road, the Lion cubs kept producing big when it counted, as a number of teenagers were able to stand up and play important roles in the win over the Cats. Lily Postlethwaite was crucial through midfield with seven disposals, six tackles and two inside 50s, as the Queensland Under 18s captain ran out with Isabel Dawes who had six disposals, four tackles and an inside 50 in the match. From the second year players, Jesse Tawhaio-Wardlaw provided a huge target up forward and assisted in the ruck, booting three goals and amassed eight disposals, three marks and seven hitouts on her way to a Rising Star nomination in the process. Nat Grider also played for the Lions, picking up four disposals, two marks and four tackles. For the Cats, Brown was the standout, but a number of second year players who are ineligible for the Rising Star award also impressed. Nina Morrison continues to build into the form she showed in her only game last season, picking up 18 disposals, four tackles, two inside 50s and three rebounds with more midfield minutes than Round 1. Olivia Purcell would be leading the Cats’ best and fairest in the early stages, following up her 27-disposal effort from Round 1 with a 16-disposals, four-rebound and two-goal effort against the Lions. Rebecca Webster had the 13 touches, six marks and four inside 50s doing well through the middle, while Georgia Clarke, Sophie Van De Heuvel and Denby Taylor all had limited touches but were able to build into the match. Rene Caris stepped up as second ruck to Aasta O’Connor with four disposals two tackles, 13 hitouts and two rebounds.

Carlton vs. Collingwood

It might have been in a loss, but the pairing of Grace Egan and Madison Prespakis looks like one for the next decade. Egan was simply sensational in her second AFL Women’s game, picking up 18 disposals, 11 tackles, four inside 50s and two marks, constantly working hard around the ground. Prespakis was her usual self despite some heavy attention from the opposition, finishing with 17 disposals, three tackles, five inside 50s and a rebound. Lucy McEvoy had a solid game with 10 touches, three tackles and two inside 50s after her Rising Star nomination last week, while Charlotte Wilson also played managing six disposals, two marks and two tackles. For the Magpies, after a busy Round 1 match, Alana Porter had just the one touch and one mark, but showed some dash and dare with three tackles and two rebounds. Second year players, Jordyn Allen and Sarah Dargan both had 10 touches, with Allen playing her first game of the season. She also booted a first quarter goal to get her side going. The pick of the group was Lauren Butler who played her best AFL Women’s game through the back half, recording 17 disposals, six marks, three tackles, one inside 50 and one rebound, while Mikala Cann was also strong with 16 disposals, five marks and two tackles in the win.

Adelaide vs. St Kilda

Madison Newman lived out a popular childhood dream with the second-gamer kicking a match-winning goal late in the game. While the Crows kicked another one for good measure, it was Newman’s goal with scores level that broke the last quarter deadlock. She finished the game with an impressive 13 touches, four marks, two tackles and two inside 50s as well as that goal.  Also playing a role in the team as second year players were Danielle Ponter (10 disposals, six marks and three inside 50s) and Nikki Gore (nine disposals, three marks, seven tackles and one rebound). For the losing side, White was the far and away standout this round, but it is not to discount last week’s Rising Star, Georgia Patrikios who picked up 18 disposals, five marks, four tackles, three inside 50s and a rebound by covering the ground well. Improving from her first game, Nicola Xenos looked at home for the Saints with 12 disposals, four marks, three tackles, two inside 50s and a rebound, while Molly McDonald had 11 disposals, two marks, two tackles and three rebounds working hard in the back half.

AFL Women’s Young Gun Watch: Round 1 – McEvoy and Patrikios earn Rising Star noms

IN a new weekly piece, we take a look at some of the top young performers across the AFL Women’s competition in Round 1, focusing on those players born in the 21st century (2000 or 2001). We analyse match-by-match just how they performed and what they did well.

RISING STAR NOMINEES:

Lucy McEvoy (Carlton)

The Carlton young gun had an eye-opening first half where at one stage she was the leading disposal winner on the ground, reaching double figures. Being a prime mover in the middle, McEvoy finished her debut with 12 touches, five marks, four tackles and five inside 50s to show just why she was a top two pick in the AFL Women’s Draft. Readymade to play at the level and a leader to boot – premiership skipper at Geelong Falcons where she was a captain since 16 – she took a huge contested mark on the wing and was not afraid to crack in when required.

Georgia Patrikios (St Kilda)

Last year’s AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships Most Valuable Player (MVP) was enormous during St Kilda’s loss to the Western Bulldogs. Putting together a four quarter effort, Patrikios was the clear star for the Saints and really thrust herself into Rising Star calculations in a performance that showed she meant business playing against some star players such as Ellie Blackburn. She recorded a game-high 18 disposals, as well as two marks, five tackles and three inside 50s, as well as a goal assist.

Carlton vs. Richmond

Last year’s Rising Star winner, Madison Prespakis had an absolute day out in Carlton’s 34-point victory over Richmond. She racked up 21 disposals, three marks, five tackles, two inside 50s, two rebounds and booted a goal in a best on ground performance. Along with McEvoy, Grace Egan was also prolific, recording 11 disposals and laying six tackles in a fierce effort on the inside. Charlotte Wilson was the other young star who played, picking up nine disposals. The Tigers had a tonne of young guns filter through the team, with Kodi Jacques perhaps the most prolific, recording seven disposals and three rebounds, while laying a massive seven tackles. Northern Knights premiership player, Sarah Sansonetti bested her with a game-high 10 tackles to go with five touches in the loss. Maddy Brancatisano, Laura McClelland and Sophie Molan also played and had some strong moments across the course of the match on debut.

GWS vs. Gold Coast

GWS GIANTS’ first pick in 2018 AFL Women’s Draft was a star once again, stepping up to be her side’s highest disposal winner. Alyce Parker was the only one born this century for the GIANTS, and she represented the Millennium well with 22 touches, two marks, five tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds. The SUNS had a number of first and second year players, with former Lion, Jacqui Yorsten the pick of the bunch after 13 touches, three rebounds and a huge 12 tackles in torrential rain. Serene Watson had six disposals and four tackles on debut, while Lauren Bella (19 hitouts) held her own against All Australian ruck, Erin McKinnon. Dee Heslop and Lexi Hamilton also played, with Heslop also recording three rebounds and four tackles coming out of the back half.

Melbourne vs. North Melbourne

Both these sides are in the premiership window with experience galore and therefore are unlikely to have too much to say in this piece each week. In saying that, the ones they have are quality, with Tyla Hanks and Shelley Heath running out for Melbourne in the upset two-point win at a windy Casey Fields. Hanks was one of the best throughout, picking up 11 touches, two rebounds and laying four tackles, while Heath did a lot more than her seven touches may suggest, winning a couple of high frees and bursting away to give the Dees some pace with her run and carry. For the Roos, Daisy Bateman booted an important goal in the first term but had just four touches in a role that saw her predominantly play deeper forward.

Brisbane vs. Adelaide

The young Lions were ultra-impressive against a depleted Adelaide outfit, showing they can knock over anyone when on-song. Among the young guns running out in the match, Queensland Under 18s captain, Lily Postlethwaite had nine touches and laid five tackles to show she could match it with more experienced opponents. Nat Grider had nine touches and four tackles in her first game of her second year, while Isabel Dawes and Jesse Tawhaio-Wardlaw also played up forward, with the latter booting a goal – equalling her one goal from seven games in her debut season last year. The injury list at the Crows allowed a number of youngsters to step up at the elite level, led by second year talent, Danielle Ponter who had four inside 50s from her 15 touches. Of the first years, Madison Newman looked comfortable at the level thanks to 10 touches, two marks, two tackles and two inside 50s, while Nikki Gore and Jaimi Tabb also were able to earn their stripes.

Collingwood vs. West Coast

Returning to Collingwood’s spiritual home at Victoria Park, the Magpies grabbed their first win in Round 1 from four attempts in the AFL Women’s competition. Mikala Cann and Jordyn Allen both showed why they warranted top 15 selections in 2018, with strong performances in the 27-point victory. Cann laid five tackles, had 13 touches as well as two marks and two inside 50s. Allen was a target inside 50, intercepting a number of defensive 50 exits to finish the match with 11 disposals, four marks and five inside 50s. Alana Porter made her debut in the black and white, signalling her intent early with a run-down tackle on Eagles’ speedster Imahra Cameron and providing some dash around the ground. She had nine touches and two tackles in the victory, while Lauren Butler also played and picked up a solid seven touches. Former Brisbane talent, McKenzie Dowrick‘s return to her home state of Western Australia looks to have been a success so far with the second year player recording 10 touches, two marks, two inside 50s and two rebounds on the weekend. Mikayla Bowen captained Western Australia at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships last year and brought all of that tenacity to the game with 10 tackles and eight disposals. Sophie McDonald also played, holding down a key role in defence.

St Kilda vs. Western Bulldogs

Patrikios was the clear standout from the young guns in this match, but there were plenty to pick from as the future of the AFL Women’s was on full show at Moorabbin. Number one pick and Northern Knights premiership skipper, Gabby Newton played her first game and did not disappoint, rotating in the forward half of the ground and getting some midfield minutes on her way to 13 touches and a game-high eight tackles. The other two pups to earn a debut in Round 1 were Elisabeth Georgostathis and Gemma Lagioia, who were also members of the Vic Metro side that impressed in last year’s AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships. Georgostathis had eight disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s in the win, getting better as the game went on, while Lagioia looked classy with her six touches, two marks, two tackles and two rebounds. For the losing side, Molly McDonald would have arguably earned a Rising Star nomination had it not been for such dominant performances from Patrikios and McEvoy. The former Dandenong Stingrays’ skipper booted the club’s inaugural goal and had 12 kicks for 12 disposals, also amassing four marks, three tackles and two rebounds. Caitlin Greiser played up forward and provided a target with six touches and three inside 50s, while Nicola Xenos and Tarni White both earned debuts and stood up with some classy moments.

Fremantle vs. Geelong

Sabreena Duffy was not eligible for a Rising Star nomination, but her performance was arguably the best of any Rising Star player. The second year former Western Australia captain booted four goals from 12 touches in a match-winning performance to help the Dockers sink the Cats in the west. Alongside her up forward and rotating through the ruck was first round pick and future star, Roxanne Roux who booted 1.2 and showed off her booming kick on her way to seven disposals and 15 hitouts. Her partner-in-crime through the ruck, Mim Strom stood up and had 14 hitouts and seven disposals also on debut to show the pairing is likely to cause some headaches for the opposition in the future. The Cats’ second year players picked up where they left off and look to be an elite core going forward. Olivia Purcell had leather poisoning with 27 touches, five marks, four tackles and five inside 50s, teaming up well with Rebecca Webster (21 touches, seven marks and three rebounds). Denby Taylor (12 touches, three inside 50s and two rebounds) covered plenty of ground, Nina Morrison returned from a long-term knee injury to boot a goal from nine touches in just her second game, while Sophie Van De Heuvel had seven touches and five marks, spreading across the ground well. The Cats’ sole teenage debutant was father-daughter pick, Millie Brown who was solid with eight touches in defence.

AFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Four new teams begin elite journey

AFTER nine months of waiting, AFL Women’s 4.0 is here and four more teams enter the fray in a bid to take home the 2020 premiership. Adelaide won its second title in three years last season, with the Western Bulldogs the only other premiership winner in the competition. With the Crows wounded and plenty of movement over the off-season for the four news side – Gold Coast, Richmond, St Kilda and West Coast – this round is set to answer quite a few questions.

Friday, February 7

Richmond v Carlton at Ikon Park, 7.45pm AEDT

Peter Williams

The opening night of AFL Women’s 4.0 is under lights at Ikon Park with a familiar feel, but a bit of a twist. Yet again, Carlton opens the season, but instead of Collingwood (as it was in the first two seasons), it will now be Richmond – mirroring the AFL Men’s competition season opener. A lot can change in 12 months, and this time last year Carlton was coming off a wooden spoon with a new coach in charge looking for some respect in the competition. Now looking ahead to 2020, the Blues are fresh off a Grand Final appearance and hungry to go one better.

The big question mark for the Blues in this match will be how they go without their inaugural captain in Brianna Davey who switched to Collingwood for a war chest of draft picks. They should not have to look too far for a replacement with Geelong Falcons premiership skipper, Lucy McEvoy immediately entering the fray for her debut alongside Richmond VFLW and former Murray Bushrangers’ utility, Grace Egan. Both provide a hard edge to the side and crack into a team that is hard to find a spot. Their defence is still relatively inexperienced compared to others, so Kerryn Harrington will be crucial in settling them down back there. Interestingly, exciting forward Darcy Vescio has been named in the centre, which makes for a dynamic contest against fellow traditional forward, Katie Brennan.

The Tigers have a tonne of debutants which does not come as a surprise considering it is Richmond’s inaugural match. First year draftees, Sophie Molan (GWV Rebels), Sarah Sansonetti (Northern Knights) and Laura McClelland (Eastern Ranges) headline the young talent, but the depth of the midfield from the likes of Kodi Jacques (Bendigo Pioneers) and Maddy Brancatisano (Northern Knights via Melbourne AFLW) will be great to see. Monique Conti and Christina Bernardi are the class players, and Carlton will need to find a way to limit their influence. In saying that, with Madison Prespakis and Sarah Hosking in midfield, expect the Blues to get on top through the middle with that extra hard edge. Carlton should win this game based on experience and more readymade players, but Richmond should show some fight and give their fans something to smile about for 2020.

Tip: Carlton by 15.

RICHMOND

B: R.Miller 15 G.Seymour 28
HB: S.Sansonetti 18 P.Monahan 2 A.Makur Chuot 34
C: S.Molan 1 K.Brennan – C 3 H.Burchell 9
HF: S.Frederick 14 C.Bernardi 6 T.Stahl 24
F: C.Wakefield 8 L.McClelland 16
Foll: A.Edmonds 11 M.Conti 4 A.Woodward 13
I/C: L.Tesoriero 7 L.Bailey 12 K.Jacques 10 M.Brancatisano 5 H.Whitford 20
Emerg: C.Fitzgerald 26 E.Wood 17

CARLTON

B: N.Plane 32 C.Wilson 20
HB: K.Harrington – C 9 V.Laloifi 8 J.Van Dyk 36
C: S.Hosking 10 D.Vescio 3 C.Dalton 15
HF: N.Stevens 21 T.Harris 7 J.Doonan 26
F: A.Downie 30 B.Walker 14
Foll: B.Moody 16 K.Loynes 2 M.Prespakis 4
I/C: L.Brazzale 12 G.Pound 6 G.Egan 1 L.McEvoy 13 G.Gee 19
Emerg: J.Edwards 25 A.McKay 5

Saturday, February 8

Greater Western Sydney v Gold Coast, Blacktown International Sportspark, 1.10pm AEDT

Peter Williams

While these two sides are the newest teams in AFL Men’s, GWS GIANTS are the far more experienced team in AFL Women’s. One of eight inaugural sides in the competition, they welcome the Gold Coast SUNS to the league at Blacktown in a Saturday afternoon blockbuster. While most Victorian fans might be more focused on games either side of his match, the game is expected to answer a lot of questions, particularly about Gold Coast and where they might be at in their preparation for their inaugural season.

The SUNS on paper have talent, it is just trying to piece it all together and gel, which might take some time for it to work. Jamie Stanton remarkably plays in her third inaugural game for a side, having previously represented Brisbane (2017) and North Melbourne (2019). She will need to use all of her experience to lead a young team into battle, with essentially Tiarna Ernst in midfield, Leah Kaslar down forward and Sam Virgo in defence as the others who can provide that extra experience. Former Crows, Sally Riley and Jasmyn Hewett will no doubt give insight into their last club’s success, but the ones to watch are more so the young talent. Alexia Hamilton is a high-flying tall who can take a grab, Lauren Bella is a developing tap ruck, and both Serene Watson and Dee Heslop are talented young defenders who will only get better with more exposure. You cannot discount Hannah Dunn either, with the former Norwood ball winner thrown straight into the midfield.

Bella will have her work cut out for her against arguably the best pure ruck in the competition – Erin McKinnon. She leads a loaded midfield of Rebecca Beeson, new captain Alicia Eva, young gun Alyce Parker, Jes Dal Pos and Nicola Barr. Despite the last minute retirement of Amanda Farrugia, the GIANTS look as strong as ever on paper, with just the question marks coming over whether they can continue their form from last season on a more consistent basis. Pepa Randall is a great asset to have off half-back, and their experienced defence should be able to contain the SUNS like it did against Brisbane in the practice match not long ago. Cora Staunton continues to be a dangerous option wherever she plays, while Haneen Zreika showed promising signs in her games last year. You would imagine the GIANTS will kick their season off with a strong win here, as the SUNS are young and while they will get there, are not quite in the same window as the GIANTS – but watch out when they are fully developed.

Tip: GWS by 35.

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY

B: L.Stephenson 12 T. Hetherington 9
HB: P.Randall 21 E.Brush 10 E.Bennetts 22
C: J.Dal Pos 7 A.Eva – C 2 N.Barr 8
HF: H. Zreika 24 C.Staunton 13 A.Schmidt 11
F: J.Hicks 5 R. Privitelli 19
Foll: E.McKinnon 23 R. Beeson 6 A.Parker 3
I/C: Y.Bonner 27 I.Nielsen 25 J.Allan 39 A.Lister 14 B.Tully 36
Emerg: L. Steane 20 T. Mackrill 32

GOLD COAST

B: J.Pregelj 42 J.Hickey 4
HB: S.Virgo 22 L.Ahrens 7 C.Hammond 29
C: T.Ernst 19 J.Stanton 17 M.Ritson 12
HF: B.Perry 16 A.Hamilton 30 P.Parker 1
F: L.Kaslar – C 11 K.Surman 26
Foll: L.Bella 2 J.Yorston 5 H.Dunn 24
I/C: S.Watson 14 J.Hewett 20 S.Riley 8 D.Heslop 25 K.Howarth 23
Emerg: T.Thorn 15 M.Roberts 10

Melbourne v North Melbourne, Casey Fields, 3.10pm AEDT

Michael Alvaro

Two of last season’s most unlucky finals absentees meet in a cross-conference grudge match, as Melbourne and North Melbourne go head-to-head at Casey Fields. One of the inaugural AFLW sides, the Demons will be seeking to add ultimate glory to an already storied history this year, but an opening fixture against one of the flag favourites makes for a tough initiation. While the Dees’ four wins were only good enough for fourth place in Conference A, the Roos’ can count themselves even more unfortunate as two losses at the end of their maiden campaign saw them heartbreakingly miss finals. Still, with a stacked squad and added depth, North Melbourne have a great opportunity to bounce back in 2020 – starting here.

Scott Gowans‘ side fared well in the off-season to bare no major changes, losing only three players to newly-established clubs and bringing in some mature-aged depth come draft time to hint at a real flag tilt. Sarah Wright and Ellie Gavalas are two VFL Women’s standouts who landed on the Roos’ list and are set to debut off the bench on Saturday, adding some grunt to the already hardened North Melbourne midfield led by skipper, Emma Kearney. There may be some goals to make up inside attacking 50 given 2019 equal-leading goalkicker Mo Hope was unceremoniously delisted, but ruck-forward Emma King has shown her worth in front of the big sticks, while Kate Gillespie-Jones is a capable tall foil and Kaitlyn Ashmore could rotate through the forward line from midfield alongside Jasmine Garner. With the midfield battle a relative stalemate, depth across the ground will be key to the cause of either side.

The Dees will be buoyed by the long-awaited return of captain and women’s football pioneer, Daisy Pearce, who is set to be eased in off half-back given her side’s strength through the middle. Her presence in the back five alongside boom recruit, Libby Birch will be important given the danger North’s forward flankers present, with her trademark ball use sure to make a difference. Further afield, and Melbourne is one of the few sides which boasts an engine room to match the grunt of North’s, with Karen Paxman set to lead the line next to Elise O’Dea and young gun, Tyla Hanks while further depth lies on the bench. The forward half was seldom an issue for the Dees last year too, so their even spread points toward a cracking contest. While Melbourne will come in as a slight underdog, the Demons’ experienced movers and the fact they managed just one fewer win than North during last campaign without Pearce means they stand a real chance here, and could become an instant frontrunner in Conference B with a win. But North Melbourne has proven had to look past despite struggling against the top sides, so should come up trumps.

Tip: North Melbourne by 7.

MELBOURNE

B: L.Birch 9 M.Downie 2
HB: G.Colvin 32 S.Goldrick 23 D.Pearce – C 6
C: C.Sherriff 18 T.Hanks 28 C.Emonson 11
HF: K.Hore 10 E.Zanker 29 S.Scott 12
F: T.Cunningham 1 A.Newman 16
Foll: H.Cordner 21 K.Paxman 4 E.O’Dea 5
I/C: S.Heath 30 M.Gay 3 M.Guerin 22 A.Kemp 36 S.Lampard 8
Emerg: B.Tarrant 20 K.Petrevski 31

NORTH MELBOURNE

B: T.Randall 16 B.Gibson 18
HB: T.Nestor 24 D.Hardiman 31 B.Lynch 20
C: J.Trend 21 A.Riddell 7 J.Bruton 35
HF: S.Abbatangelo 1 K.Gillespie-Jones 5 El.King 4
F: Em.King 60 K.Ashmore 10
Foll: V.Saad 39 J.Garner 25 E.Kearney – C 9
I/C: D.Bannister 2 A.Gilroy 8 D.Bateman 11 S.Wright 17 E.Gavalas 22
Emerg: N.Bresnehan 12 J.Grierson 19

Brisbane v Adelaide, Hickey Park, 4.10pm AEST

Michael Alvaro

Inaugural AFLW sides and Conference A rivals, Brisbane and Adelaide are primed to kick off their seasons in the Sunshine State, with the visiting reigning premiers out to defend their 2019 flag in 2020. The Crows were nothing short of dominant during last year’s campaign, going down only in the first regular season round before deservedly being crowned premiers in front of an adoring Adelaide Oval crowd – packed to the brim, no less. Adelaide has only added to its already deep squad over the off-season, despite being dealt a cruel blow weeks out with star defender Chelsea Randall ruled out for the year, but will come as the clear competition benchmark. On the other hand, Brisbane struggled throughout 2019 to notch just two wins having been repeatedly depleted throughout the off-season, but can lean on a reliable spine despite another 15-player coming out of its squad.

The Lions will field eight debutants in its Round 1 side, with top draftees and Academy graduates Lily Postlethwaite and Belle Dawes set to make theirs off the interchange bench. The 2018 best and fairest, Kate Lutkins leads the back six alongside mature-age recruit, Cathy Svarc, while skipper and stalwart Emma Zielke lines up on the wing outside of midfield jets, Ally Anderson and Emily Bates. Recent lightning strike survivor Jess Wuetschner will lead the forward line with Sophie Conway bringing some youthful exuberance and Lauren Arnell, the hard-edged experience. The Lions’ inability to put massive scores on the board will need to be rectified given Adelaide’s strength in that area, with added midfield strength – albeit through draftees – key to ensuring the forwards are given enough opportunity.

The Crows have had to adjust heavily, naming five debutants of their own with further injuries seeing the magnets shuffled before Round 1. Angela Foley and Marijana Rajcic will hold up the defence as Ebony Marinoff moves into midfield to replace recovering reigning MVP Erin Phillips, with Randall’s absence leaving a gaping hole in the back five. Stand-in skipper Jessica Foley is set to ruck with Montana McKinnon also unavailable, while a couple of late changes see emergencies Jaimi Tabb and Caitlin Gould slot in as Sophie Li and Courtney Cramey come out. It is a lot to make good for and while if any side has the depth to cover such losses, it is the Crows, Adelaide proved slow starters against a team it would normally beat last year – making for a bad omen. But even so, the Crows’ depth seems enough to overcome the changes, with a wealth of experience and the confidence of a premiership side holding up their chances. The Lions may struggle this season, but expect them to give it a red hot crack early on.

Tip: Adelaide by 30

BRISBANE

B: N.Grider 10 S.Campbell 20
HB: R.Lugg 11 K.Lutkins 13 C.Svarc 25
C: E.Zielke – C 8 B.Koenen 3 S.Webb 4
HF: L.Arnell 16 J.Tawhiao-Wardlaw 30 S.Conway 12
F: D.Davidson 14 J.Wuetschner 23
Foll: J.Keeffe 27 A.Anderson 18 E.Bates 1
I/C: G.Bodey 15 M.Moloney 28 I.Dawes 17 O.O’Dwyer 9 L.Postlethwaite 6
Emerg: J.Zanchetta 2 G.Collingwood 7

ADELAIDE

B: D.Cox 31 S.Allan 39
HB: A.Foley 3 M.Rajcic 32 N.Campbell 20
C: R.Forth 27 E.Marinoff 10 J.Mules 23
HF: D.Ponter 15 C.Gum 5 C.Gould 1
F: S.Thompson 14 E.Jones 2
Foll: J.Foley – C 24 A.Hatchard 33 N.Allen 8
I/C: 22 M.Newman 17 A.Considine 16 C.Biddell 12 N.Gore 7 J.Tabb
Emerg: R. Martin, C. Cavouras

Sunday, February 9

Collingwood v West Coast, Victoria Park, 1.10pm AEDT

Peter Williams

Heading back to Collingwood’s traditional home, the Magpies will no doubt give one of the AFL Women’s newest sides a hostile environment from which to make their debut in the competition. Fresh in supporters minds will be the Eagles’ men’s side triumph a couple of years ago in the AFL Grand Final, and with the new kids on the block entering the Magpies nest, it will certainly be a match to watch. Collingwood has been far from successful so far in its short history, failing to make finals and picking up a wooden spoon each year, leading to a coach change in Steve Symonds. West Coast join Fremantle in the west and picked up a host of recycled players to try and get them off to the best possible start.

For the first time in some time, the Magpies head into a match as favourites, having finished the year on a high last year following a victory over Brisbane. They came close against a number of sides, but showed they were gradually working as a cohesive unit following a massive upheaval over the previous off-season. After targeting youth the year before, the Magpies picked up the recruit of the off-season in Davey, who immediately adds grunt and class to an onball group that lacked a bit of pizazz. Sharni Layton‘s improvement in the ruck has been phenomenal, and along with VFL Women’s leading goal kicker and disposal winner, Jaimee Lambert, the Magpies will back themselves to win against most midfields. The only possibly bigger name to don the black and white this round is Chloe Molloy who returns after missing the entire 2019 season due to injury. The 2018 AFL Women’s Rising Star has been named in attack after making her name in defence during that season. With Ash Brazill‘s stunning transformation from netballer to footballer, it has allowed Molloy to play in attack and along with Sarah D’Arcy create some scoring opportunities. Oakleigh Chargers’ speedster Alana Porter makes her debut in the side, so watch for her set of wheels as along with the likes of Sarah Rowe and captain Steph Chiocci, give the Magpies some outside run.

While the Magpies will start favourites, the Eagles have gone about recruiting some important players to their line-up. Former Fremantle star Dana Hooker is every bit an equal to the Magpies’ Davey, while former GIANTS’ onballer Emma Swanson and Lambert will have an equally important head-to-head. Kellie Gibson and Ashlee Atkins will be looked upon to provide some goals, while Talia Radan will try to hold down the defence, with the former Adelaide and Melbourne player amongst a host of young stars. McKenzie Dowrick will be better for last year crossing back to her home state from Queensland, while Mikayla Bowen is as talented as any other player entering the AFL Women’s from the Under 18s last year. Former hockey player, Sophie McDonald has been thrown in the deep end to hold down centre half-back, while former Hawthorn VFL Women’s premiership player and best on ground in the premiership, Chantella Perera also has been named on an extended interchange to make her potential debut. The Eagles will give the Magpies a run for their money, and it would not be a complete shock to see the new side get a win, but the Magpies have built more depth, have more experience and are at home, so expect them to get up in a close one.

Tip: Collingwood by 12.

COLLINGWOOD

B: A.Porter 9 S.Livingstone 12
HB: L.Butler 23 A.Brazill 10 S.Casey 22
C: M.Shevlin 35 B.Bonnici 8 S.Chiocci – C 17
HF: C.Molloy 2 S.D’Arcy 4 S.Dargan 46
F: M.Cann 25 J.Allen 6
Foll: S.Layton 1 B.Davey 3 J.Lambert 13
I/C: E.O’Dea 50 E.Fowler 15 S.Alexander 24 J.Membrey 21 S.Rowe 7 E.Hynes 11 A.Sheridan 14

WEST COAST

B: B.Smith 14 T.Radan 26
HB: M.Dowrick 5 S.McDonald 35 A.Hill 16
C: M.Bowen 1 I.Cameron 19 N.Kelly 12
HF: K.Gibson 2 A.Atkins 9 M.Collier 8
F: G.Kelly 15 D.Pisconeri 11
Foll: P.Laurie 25 D.Hooker 17 E.Swanson – C 13
I/C: T.Tester 23 C.Guard 4 H.Bullas 24 B.Devlyn 7 C.Perera 27 E.Bonser 6 K.Orme 32

St Kilda v Western Bulldogs, RSEA Park, 3.10pm AEDT

Michael Alvaro

St Kilda is set to become the fourth of the expansion clubs to take centre stage in Round 1, facing a tough Conference B initiation against inaugural AFLW club, Western Bulldogs. Fielding a side which combines plenty of experience and a blooding of exciting youth, the Saints will have to work for their maiden elite-level win with the Bulldogs a potential season 2020 climber. Under the guidance of new coach, Nathan Burke and with a number one pick in tow, the Bulldogs are primed to rectify the two-win season which saw them finish last in Conference A.

There could be as many as six Western Bulldogs debutants with draftees Gemma Lagioia and Hannah Munyard among seven players named on an extended bench. Confirmed in the starting line-up are star draftee Gabby Newton and internally-hyped Western product Elizabeth Georgostathis; both primed to initially make an impact up forward, with the potential to move further afield – somewhat in the place or mould of now-Tigers, Katie Brennan and Monique Conti. The pair will join stalwarts Bonnie Toogood and Deanna Berry inside forward 50, with Ellie Blackburn and Isabel Huntington making up the remainder of a very strong spine. The Dogs will lean on those experienced movers to keep themselves in games, but a much-welcomed injection of youth will make them a team which proves easy on the eye.

For the Saints, all three co-captains in Cat PhillipsKate Shierlaw and Rhiannon Watt have been named to lead out the new team, with plenty of recognisable names to keep an eye on among each line. Top five draftee Georgia Patrikios has been named up forward, but will likely drift up to a wing or into the midfield given her undeniable class on the ball, while pre-listed draftee Molly McDonald takes up one of those starting wing spots. With an extended bench of seven also set to be narrowed down, there could be even more pace and young stars to come into the fold immediately. An unknown entity, the Saints should come in with nothing to lose and throw caution to the wind with most expecting the Bulldogs to salute in this fixture. We are in that boat.

ST KILDA

B: T.White 29 C.Fitzpatrick 24
HB: H.Priest 14 C.Phillips 35 T.Lucas-Rodd 18
C: K.O’Neill 20 J.Sedunary 10 M.McDonald 1
HF: N.Exon 15 K.McCarthy 9 C.Greiser 17
F: K.Shierlaw 12 G.Patrikios 21
Foll: R.Watt – C 7 O.Vesely 23 E.Mackie 3
I/C: N.Von Bertouch 28 P.Kelly 16 R.Dillon 25 A.Drennan 8 C.Whitfort 4 N.Xenos 27 A.Brown 2

WESTERN BULLDOGS

B: A.Gogos 36 L.Spark 11
HB: E.Gamble 14 I.Huntington 4 N.Ferres 16
C: B.Hunt 21 K.Lamb 27 N.Callinan 10
HF: G.Newton 5 B.Toogood 8 K.McLeod 6
F: E.Georgostathis 17 D.Berry 7
Foll: C.Moody 13 E.Blackburn – C 2 A.McCarthy 15
I/C: D.Marshall 26 K.Rennie 24 G.Lagioia 12 H.Scott 22 K.Herron 31 E.Brown 9 H.Munyard 20

Tip: Western Bulldogs by 20.

Fremantle v Geelong, Fremantle Oval, 2.10pm AWST

Peter Williams

In the final game of the AFL Women’s Round 1, last year’s preliminary final losers go head-to-head at Fremantle Oval. The Dockers host Geelong with a renewed optimism that they can match it with the top sides in the competition, and it will be a good test to see how they have recovered after being pillaged by West Coast in the off-season. The Cats were up and down last season, but have remained relatively untouched, and should go in as favourites based on the list changes. In a quirk, Mia-Rae Clifford will run out in the purple against her former side following her delisting and then free agency acquirement.

The home side will thrive on running out in front of a home crowd, and have named a number of young stars in the team who will drive the team forward over the next few years. Kara Antonio (nee Donnellan) will captain the side, and alongside partner, Ebony Antonio will try and maintain some balance to a team that has lost a number of quality players, led by the departure of star talent, Hooker. Tackling machine, Kiara Bowers and goal sneak Ashlee Sharp still remain as dangers to any opposition, while Gemma Houghton will have big shoes to fill with Parris Laurie leaving for the Eagles among a number of rucks departing the club. Sabreena Duffy got used to the level by season’s end in 2019, and is a future leader of the club, and now she is joined by a number of talented Under 18s stars. Roxanne Roux is a high-flying forward who will provide plenty of highlights over the next few years, while Mim Strom is an athletic ruck who has developed rapidly. While the Dockers side might have lost some star talent, they have also headed to the draft to pick up some more, and you can imagine they will be competitive in 2020.

Geelong might have stayed relatively untouched over the off-season, but have welcomed back a rising star in Nina Morrison. The number one pick in the 2018 AFL Women’s Draft was unbelievable on debut against Collingwood 12 months ago, but then injured her knee and missed the next 12 months. She returns to the Round 1 side and has been named on a wing, hoping to repeat the effort from 2019. She is joined in the midfield by fellow 2018 draftees, Sophie Van De Heuvel and Olivia Purcell. Denby Taylor, Rebecca Webster and debutant, Millie Brown are all in the back five, held down by experienced skipper, Mel Hickey. Richelle Cranston has that X-factor about her in midfield, and Georgia Clarke looks set for a role change up forward with the former GWV Rebels’ defender named there with goalkicking machine, Phoebe McWilliams. The Cats will be confident heading into this match, with coach Paul Hood no doubt having them ripe and ready to go after a finals appearance in their inaugural season last year. The road trip can be a challenge, but if you are going to do it, at least they have it first up off a long break.

Tip: Geelong by 2 points.

FREMANTLE

B: J.Cuthbertson 29 L.Pugh 32
HB: A.Stannett 24 E.Gooch 8 E.Antonio 12
C: S.Cain 20 L.Rohde 11 K.Flood 44
HF: K.Grieve 13 A.Sharp 1 H.Miller 19
F: G.O’Sullivan 22 S.Duffy 6
Foll: G.Houghton 27 K.Bowers 2 K.Antonio – C 15
I/C: P.Seth 18 L.Mascall 14 B.Webb 26 R.Roux 17 J.Stewart 7 M.Strom 21 M.Clifford 4

GEELONG

B: M.Brown 19 M.McMahon 24
HB: D.Taylor 28 M.Hickey – C 18 R.Webster 21
C: S.Van De Heuvel 27 R.Cranston 30 N.Morrison 9
HF: D.Higgins 2 G.Clarke 17 R.Garing 12
F: P.McWilliams 23 J.Ivey 5
Foll: A.O’Connor 14 J.Crockett-Grills 6 O.Purcell 16
I/C: A.McDonald 3 G.Rankin 10 A.Teague 40 R.Goring 44 R.Caris 1 M.Maguire 7 M.Keryk 45

ROUND 1 TIPS:

Michael Alvaro [0]: Carlton / GWS / North Melbourne / Adelaide / Collingwood / Western Bulldogs / Fremantle
Taylah Melki [0]: Carlton / GWS / North Melbourne / Adelaide / Collingwood / Western Bulldogs / Fremantle
Sophie Taylor [0]: Richmond / GWS / Melbourne / Adelaide / Collingwood / St Kilda / Fremantle
Peter Williams [0]: Carlton / GWS / North Melbourne / Adelaide / Collingwood / Western Bulldogs / Geelong

Rebels to focus on fundamentals ahead of 2020 season

FUNDAMENTALS have been the focus for the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ NAB League Girls side as the Ballarat-based club prepares for the 2020 season. Head coach Rhys Cahir said his second full pre-season in charge – having taken over from Jeff Whittaker in March, 2018 – had gone well as the players looked to step it up a notch in the skills department.

“It’s been a pretty solid pre-season again,” Cahir said. “We’ve been pretty big on getting the fundamentals right early so we had a lot of kicking early, specifically to get it right. “It’s such a big skill to master in the game and the girls, we allowed them to work as much at it. “We haven’t done a lot of fitness stuff but the fundamentals were our biggest thing we looked at this year. “We are seeing that it is a vast improvement straight away.”

Now the top-agers have adjusted to a number of pre-seasons, Cahir said it was clear the talent pool across not only the region, but the country was growing.

“Each bottom age group seems to get better and better than the year before,” he said. “It’s just that girls footy is growing and not just in this region, but all over so girls from Auskick can play all the way through instead of stopping three or four years and just coming in because their friends are playing. “It’s their number one sport now and the talent shows right through pretty early.”

Last year the Rebels had three players land on AFL Women’s lists – in fact just the one list – with Sophie Molan, Ella Wood and Nekaela Butler all selected by Richmond in last year’s AFL Women’s Draft. Cahir credited the off-field nature of the trio, and the Rebels’ program itself for providing its players with the terrific support needed to impress at the next level both on and off the field.

“Very exciting. For the second year in a row, we had three girls go to Geelong the year before, then three go to Richmond,” Cahir said. “For us, it’s good for our program that clubs are seeing that we are creating a good environment where the girls can play good footy, but they’re good characters as well and it’s exciting that clubs think that we can produce good footballers and good people. “Last year I was a part of Vic Country and had a bit of a say but Ella and Sophie probably picked themselves with the main lot,” he said. “You try and push your own wheelbarrow a little bit and get a few girls there, but the whole comp is getting too talented. “If AFL clubs ring up, I’m happy to talk all our girls up, not just about their football, but about their character. “I think that’s why Richmond were so keen to get the three of them. “More their character and what they could get out of them on-field and off-field. “They’re building something at Richmond so we are looking at building and pushing them on-field and off-field.”

Some of that character was evident with Molan’s extra responsibilities as captain, such as leading the warm-up before the coaches got on the ground, pre-game. Cahir said while the coaches gave her the green light to take that responsibility, it was not hard for the natural-born leader.

“It was part of me encouraging Soph to be herself,” he said. “Yes, she was the best player in the side and a natural leader but that was mostly on her a few times. “Good players can do that, they can sense when the whole side is down and need a spark or need a rev up or a bit of a cuddle to settle them down. “Terrific leader just naturally. It wasn’t something we had to push or tell her to do, we just helped her with it.”

While Molan and Wood both earned places on Vic Country’s list, Butler missed out but did not give up on her dream, earning a place on the Western Bulldogs’ VFLW list with support from her coaches and her own sheer determination.

“Nekaela was the one we thought early we could really push and highlight what she could do,” Cahir said. “She was terrific off half-back, we tried her in the midfield a bit early. Played well, but just played consistently off half-back. Unlucky to miss Vic Country but she got down to the Bulldogs’ VFL. “We kept pushing her to say ‘do everything right, get to every training, doesn’t matter if you don’t get games, do all the little things, someone’s always watching’. “Got a game of VFLW, played really well her first game and as I said there’s always someone watching you’ve just got to do the right things, and terrific character as well too. “She wanted to work, she has a bit of a laugh, but she can obviously play football as well.”

Looking ahead to 2020 and there are another three talents in the top-age bracket that have already been identified as members of the AFL Women’s National Academy. All three are very different players, but each add a unique element to the line-up.

“I’ve been pretty excited to see the three top-age Academy girls in Maggie Caris – who is really good in the ruck, went away and played for the Vic Country side and played some really good games. “Same with Isabella Simmons and Renee Saulitis, really excited for them to take the next step because they’re all super talented. “But now they drive the whole group because they’re the leaders as well so they can take their game to the next level. “We’ve also got a couple of younger ones that are just super talented coming through because they are naturally playing football from a young age now.”

Caris has a big year herself across multiple sports, representing Australia at Under 19s level in netball while entering her most important year of schooling. Cahir said the club was working with her to support her both on and off the field wherever possible.

“Well at the moment she’s extremely clever too, she’s gone into Year 12,” Cahir said. “I’ll let Maggie not run her own race, but monitor what she does. Tell her to have a break when she needs. “It’s a big commitment to be an elite AFL footballer or NAB League footballer, in the Australian Under 19 Netball side and going into Year 12, so we are pretty big on welfare and players looking after themselves and footy comes second, third and fourth if we need be.”

Along with the top-agers, Cahir said the talent at the bottom of the list in terms of age was constantly improving, with 16 and 17-year-olds always stepping up to challenge the 18-year-olds and try and force their way into the starting side.

“A couple of girls in Vic Country last year,” Cahir said. “Nyakoat Dojiok is just going to take leaps and bounds when she finally figures out she can play the game. “Ella Friend similar, Vic Country last year and in the bests. “Growing into her football and just keeps working. “Lilli Condon‘s flying, and even the bottom-bottom-ager in Paige Scott who’s going to come into the program from V/Line Cup last year is just a natural tough country footballer but will grow and grow for the next two years.”

Having recorded the two wins last year, Cahir said it was always nice to win, but at the end of the day, the focus – as it has always been – will be on development. With seven girls drafted in two years, the Rebels are one of the most successful organisations from the NAB League Girls competition when focusing on a development standpoint, and the Rebels coach hoped that would continue.

“We just want girls to have a crack,” Cahir said. “Yes they might not play in their favourite position all the time but it’s about development in themselves and outside if we win games it’s great, but it’s about pushing them and getting better and giving them a chance of playing AFLW. “If we lose no games and get three or four drafted, great. “If we win every game and get none drafted we probably haven’t really done our job, so it’s just keep developing in themselves, give them a bit of help with what we think could get them there, and not worry too much (about) what they can’t do.”

The GWV Rebels have a couple of trial games coming up, including a match against the Geelong Falcons in Ballarat. Following the trial games, the final list will be decided and a leadership group will be formed. Cahir said the players would vote for those leaders, but admitted there were a number of players who could easily lead the side.

“The next couple of weeks, we’ll give them a list and they can vote for four or five girls and announce it on the camp who will be our leaders,” Cahir said. “We’ve got some terrific leaders, Maggie, Renee, Chloe Leonard who is similar to Sophie Molan, is just a natural leader. “Whoever the girls pick we’ll be more than happy to support them and push them through.”