Tag: stephanie asciak

Ones to Watch: Non-AFLWU19s VFLW Performers

WHILST the conclusion of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season is yet to be sorted with two rounds and finals remaining, Draft Central has taken a look at a few of the draft-eligible (2003-born) NAB League Girls players who might have missed out of the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, but have looked comfortable at VFL Women’s level. We named five players who have stepped up at the grade, as well as named a few others who have begun getting some consistent minutes for their respective clubs.

Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)
25/11/2003 | 155cm
Inside Midfielder | Western Bulldogs VFLW

One of the top talents not to represent Vic Country at the AFLW U19s Championships, the pocket rocket inside midfielder and hard-running talent has enjoyed a really promising NAB League Girls season, which translated into some good form in two games for the Western Bulldogs at VFL Women’s level. Condon is a renowned ball-winner and her progression from an Under 16s player – where she was a regular across seven games averaging 83 disposals – to her draft-eligible year – averaging 21.5 disposals across 10 games – is evident. While she only stands at 155cm, Condon ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to accumulation, work rate and defensive pressure, and she stands up in big moments such as the final term against Tasmania Devils in the elimination final win.

>> PLAYER PROFILE

Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)
31/07/2003 | 167cm
Medium Utility | Southern Saints VFLW

Another player who has been a regular in the Dandenong Stingrays’ outfit since V/Line Cup, Radford was unlucky not to be selected for Vic Country due to the ridiculous depth in defence, but the Stingrays medium utility showed this season she can play up forward just as well. Slotting five goals in eight games – keeping in mind she spent the majority of her time in defence – Radford is flexible enough to switch between ends and provide a target. On face value, Radford did not take as many marks in the NAB League Girls as she is capable of, but as she showed at VFLW level with the more experienced players around her, Radford clunked eight grabs and looked comfortable against the Western Bulldogs and Port Melbourne. She is a player with some good upside and can slot into multiple lines.

>> PLAYER PROFILE

Jemima Woods (Western Jets)
28/05/2003 | 174cm
Tall Forward | Western Bulldogs VFLW

A raw forward talent who showed in glimpses what she is capable of this year, Woods plays her best football as that high half-forward leading out, then kicking back inside 50. She averaged more than three inside 50s a game, pinch-hit in the ruck and was able to provide a leading target for the Western Jets in 2021. She kicked the four goals in eight games, but it was mostly her work up and down the ground that caught the eye, knowing when to move and provide a target. At VFL Women’s level, Woods played closer to the big sticks, slotting three majors on debut against Darebin Falcons, and has featured in two matches since. Whilst her numbers are lower, her role has also been changed, and she is capable of playing high or low inside forward 50.

>> PLAYER PROFILE

Isabelle Khoury (Eastern Ranges)
10/03/2003 | 164cm
Balanced Midfielder | Hawthorn VFLW

A rock of consistency through the midfield, Khoury is an inside-leaning midfielder who can spread to the outside and have an impact. She actually averaged more touches at VFL Women’s level than NAB League Girls level, with 14 disposals per game in three matches for the Hawks. Her tackling pressure – she has averaged six per game at the level – is one of her strengths, but her ability to move through traffic and create something from speed is certainly eye-catching. She might be on the smaller side of some midfielders, but she is one who combines power and speed to set up teammates going forward, averaging a couple of inside 50s per game for the Ranges and just having that capability of creating separation on her opponents from congestion is a handy skill to have.

>> PLAYER PROFILE

Caitlin Sargent (Western Jets)
22/12/2003 | 172cm
Tall Forward | Western Bulldogs VFLW

Another Western Jets forward who has managed the three games with the Western Bulldogs in the VFL Women’s, Sargent kicked the most important goal of her season against the Southern Saints late to seal the win for the Dogs and ensure their finals hopes remained alive. She is a good mark, knows when to lead and a reliable set shot, kicking a goal a game for the Jets this year, and clunking three grabs per match over her 11 games the past two seasons. She is a little smaller than some other key forwards at 172cm, but her hands are safer than most, and she knows where the goals are, usually consistent for a goal or so a game.

>> PLAYER PROFILE

OTHERS:

Ruby O’Dwyer has proven to be a really consistent midfielder for Eastern Ranges, averaging 13.2 disposals at NAB League Girls level, then playing a more outside role by comparison at the Hawks to lift her marks from 2.4 to 5.5 against bigger bodies in two matches. Teammate, Matilda Hardy can be a dangerous forward who pushes up to impact further up the ground, and has already had that experience at VFL Women’s level. Western Jets duo Stephanie Asciak and Trinity Skenderis have been able to step up to senior level with the Western Bulldogs, and Calder Cannons’ Peppa Poultney has provided a target for Darebin Falcons.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 12

A HEAP of young prospects continue to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. As the NAB League season has now drawn to an end, Round 11 saw plenty more young talent scattered across each state league side. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in, or have recently graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 12

There were a number of debutants across the VFL Women’s competition in Round 12, but two of the most anticipated ones were the inclusions of Calder Cannons’ Georgie Prespakis (Essendon) and Tasmania Devils’ Perri King (North Melbourne). The pair went head-to-head in the opening game of the round at Windy Hill, with King coming away with 15 disposals and seven tackles, while Prespakis had the 10 touches and seven tackles. The other Devils running around were Ella Maurer (11 disposals, one goal), Camilla Taylor (five disposals, eight tackles and three hitouts) and Jemma Blair running around for the Roos. The other Cannons donning the sash were Emelia Yassir (11 disposals, four marks and four tackles), Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell who all gained great experience. Recent Cannons graduate Alana Barba continued her ripping season with 16 disposals, five tackles and two goals, while ex-Bushranger Eloise Ashley-Cooper had the 15 disposals and 11 tackles in the loss.

Port Melbourne had a number of NAB League talents running around, led by best on ground in last week’s grand final, Oakleigh Chargers’ Amanda Ling (10 disposals, three tackles). Her premiership teammate Taylah Morton had her best game at VFLW level with 12 disposals and six tackles, while ex-Bushranger Sophie Locke managed the seven touches, three marks and five tackles in another solid performance. Ex-Eastern Ranges talent Emma Horne was the main graduate out of the NAB League Girls that was VFLW-listed for the Demons.

In Carlton’s upset win over Geelong, Maeve Chaplin played her second VFLW game, joining Northern Knights teammate Tara Delgado and ex-Oakleigh talent Amber Micallef (nine disposals, nine tackles). Tamara Smith put in another good tackling performance of 18 disposals and eight tackles, while ex-Falcon Paige Sheppard had the 17 disposals and eight tackles. Darebin might have gone down in a heavy loss to the undefeated Collingwood, but Northern Knights’ Trinity Mills played her second game for the Falcons.

On Sunday, Hawthorn enjoyed an important win over Williamstown, with a number of Eastern Ranges players having an impact. Ranges’ co-captain Eloise Chaston had the 10 touches and three marks, Bridget Deed laid four tackles with eight touches, and Keeley Sherar had six touches, two marks and two tackles. AFL Women’s Academy member Ashanti Bush slotted two majors from six disposals in a promising effort up forward. Past Ranges graduate Jenna Richardson had a solid outing with 10 disposals, six marks and three tackles. For the Seagulls, Sydney Swans Academy member Jess Doyle was named best-on with 13 disposals, three marks and three tackles, while ex-Pioneers midfielder Megan Williamson had the 18 disposals, five marks and four tackles to continue her strong season.

Western Bulldogs kept their finals hopes alive with a number of young talents coming through the team. Western Jets graduate Caitlin Sargent (nine disposals, two marks, two tackles and a goal) kicked a clutch goal, whilst Jemima Woods, Stephanie Asciak and Nikita Wright all played their roles. Former Bendigo Pioneers co-captain Brooke Hards pieced together another impressive effort from her seven touches, six tackles and an important third term goal, while ex-Sandringham Dragon Molly Denahy Maloney returned from injury.

2021 VFLW Round 12 wrap: Finals picture still unclear after upsets

AS it draws closer to the end, Round 12 of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s saw some important wins from North Melbourne, Port Melbourne, Carlton, Collingwood, Hawthorn and Western Bulldogs.

ESSENDON 1.3 | 2.5 | 3.6 | 3.7 (25)
NORTH MELBOURNE 0.2 | 1.2 | 3.4 | 4.5 (29)

For fifth placed Essendon, their main aim was a win after their defeat to Western Bulldogs in round 11. Quarter one saw them with a rushed behind before North Melbourne booted the first goal of the game thanks to Daria Bannister. The rest of first quarter went Essendon’s way, as they took the lead early on with 1.3. Essendon continued with their lead in both the second and third quarters. However, North Melbourne slowly began to catch up towards the end of the third and ultimately causing disappointment for Essendon to secure the win.

Alana Barba who scored two goals and had 16 disposals for the Bombers in the loss, while Alex Morcom had 10 disposals and six handballs to her name, however it was not enough to stop a strong North Melbourne outfit. Meagan Kiely dominated for the winning side with 25 disposals, 17 kicks and eight handballs. North Melbourne’s score was also bolstered by their two goal scorers of Daria Bannister and Ella Maurer.

GOALS:

Essendon: A. Barba 2, A. Marcom.
North Melbourne: M. Sinclair 2, D. Bannister, E. Maurer.

BEST:

Essendon: E. Yassir, L. Ahrens, L. Caruso, E. Ashley-Cooper, N. MacDonald, G. Nanscawen
North Melbourne: B. Brown, M. Kiely, V. Saad, A. Hamilton, A. Smith, M. King

_


CASEY DEMONS 1.3 | 3.3 | 4.4 | 5.5 (35)
PORT MELBOURNE 2.0 | 3.0 | 7.0 | 8.1 (49)

Port Melbourne caused a finals-defining win for Casey Demons last weekend at Casey Fields, knocking off the Demons to keep the Borough in contention for a top two spot. Right from the start of the first quarter, Casey held onto a strong start with a goal and two behinds scored. A response of two goals from Port Melbourne was not keeping Casey away from the tight contest. A string of goals in the third quarter from Port saw the Borough dominating the scoreboard, snatching the lead away from Casey. A even final term saw the Borough’s lead enough to win by 14 points on the road.

Emily Harley and Katherine Smith played a significant part in Port Melbourne’s win, both scoring two goals in the match. Kodi Jacques also was important for Port. 17 disposals, 1 goal and 12 tackles during her second VFLW game. Meanwhile, Eliza McNamara had a stellar performance for Casey with 23 disposals and 17 kicks.

GOALS:

Casey: L. Milford 2, C. Emonson, E. West, E.Zanker.
Port Melbourne: E. Harley 2, K. Smith 2, O. Barton, M. Brancatisano, K. Jacques, L. Stutt.

BEST:

Casey: E. Birch, M. Macdonald, G. Colvin, E. McNamara, M. Harasimiuk, C. Conroy
Port Melbourne: H. Cordner, K. Smith, C. Dyett, A. Edmonds, K. Jacques, I. Stutt

_

CARLTON 0.3 | 2.4 | 2.6 | 4.7 (31)
GEELONG 1.2 | 1.2 | 2.2 | 3.4 (22)

Second placed Geelong Cats were looking to keep up their streak after their win last week against the Southern Saints. Despite an early lead from Carlton with two behinds added to the scoreboard, Geelong’s Georgia Clarke snagged the first goal of the game. Both teams responded with behinds until the second quarter where the game slowly began going Carlton’s way. By the time the third quarter came around, Carlton had already started to make a comeback and snatched the lead from their opponent. It was not long until Carlton had sealed the deal with a win at the end of the fourth quarter, leading Geelong to be defeated.

The winning side showed a strong force during the match with Abbie Mckay and 27 disposals. Grace Egan’s 21 disposals and Bry Gurr’s 10 kicks proved valuable for Carlton as well. Whilst Geelong came short from the win, they showed promising signs. Renee Garing impressed with 23 disposals, 15 tackles and 13 handballs. Meanwhile, Laura Gardiner had 22 disposals and 12 tackles.

GOALS:

Carlton: C. Jones, S. Lawrence, L. McEvoy, E. Wood.
Geelong Cats: G. Clarke 2, A. Johnson.

BEST:

Carlton: N. Plane, P. Trudgeon, E. Honybun, L. McEvoy, D. Walker, J. Borg
Geelong Cats: P. Sheppard, C. Gunjaca, R. Garing, T. Meissner, A. Johnson, J. Foley

_

Darebin Falcons 0.0 | 0.2 | 2.3 | 3.3 (21)
Collingwood 4.0 | 6.1 | 7.2 | 11.6 (71)

Collingwood secured a 51-point win over the Darebin Falcons at Bill Lawry Oval. The win came as a result of a slow start from Darebin, which Collingwood were able to take advantage of immediately during the first quarter with four goals. Darebin’s struggle to get in the game continued during the second quarter, only managing to get in three behinds. It was not until a string of goals from Georgia Hammond and Stephanie Simpson which saw the Falcons finally get some majors on the board during the third quarter. Collingwood’s dominance over Darebin continued in the final quarter with Joanna Lin emerging as the side’s main goal scorer, alongside Mikala Cann who each kicked six goals between them.  For Darebin, Nicole Callinan led with the most disposals. Gena Lawson-Tavan had the most tackles for the side.

GOALS:

Darebin Falcons: S. Simpson 2, G. Hammond.
Collingwood: M.Cann 3, J.Lin 3, I.Barnett 2, C.Molloy 2, S. Livingstone.

BEST:

Darebin Falcons: N. Callinan, A. Mifsud, S. Simpson, J. Dal Pos, G. Lawson-Tavan, K. Roe
Collingwood: M. Cann, I. Purcell, J. Lin, J. Guy, N. Weston, C. Molloy

WILLIAMSTOWN 0.1 | 1.1 | 2.5 | 2.9 (21)
HAWTHORN 2.0 | 4.4 | 6.4 | 6.7 (43)

Hawthorn took control of the game from early on, leaving Williamstown struggling to get only a point on the board for the entirety of the first quarter. Hawthorn’s lead continued well into the second quarter with Sarah Perkins and Ashanti Bush among the side’s goal scorers. Heading into the third quarter, the Seagulls attempted to make a comeback, however, it was not enough as Hawthorn kept holding the lead in the third quarter. The Seagulls had begun to slowly crawl back into the game, but it did not have much impact on the outcome at the end of the final term.

Alison Drennan had a stellar performance for Hawthorn with 22 disposals. Meg Hutchins and Tamara Luke each proved pivotal for the winning side, with 18 and 12 disposals respectively. Although a win was not in the cards for Williamstown, Eliza Straford and Erin Todd were significant for the Seagulls, with both scoring a goal for their side, while young gun Jess Doyle was named best-on for her 13 disposals, three marks and and three tackles.

GOALS:

Seagulls: E. Straford, E. Todd.
Hawthorn: A. Bush 2, N. von Bertouch, S. Perkins, T. Luke, K. Stratton.

BEST:

Seagulls: J. Doyle, E. Graham, E. Baxter, E. Meade, E. Straford, L. Steane.
Hawthorn: C. Perera, G. Bevan, A. Bush, A. Drennan, J. Richardson, K. Stratton.

_

Southern Saints 1.0 | 2.2 | 2.7 | 3.9 (27)
Western Bulldogs 1.0 | 2.0 | 4.3 | 5.3 (33)

In the battle between sixth and seventh, both the Southern Saints and Western Bulldogs started the game off evenly, as Anna Harris and Stephanie Asciak helped their teams get a goal on the board. Despite a slow start to the match and Elisabeth Georgostathis’ goal for the Bulldogs, the Southern Saints responded with a goal from Tyanna Smith and several behinds in the second quarter. The Western Bulldogs had a comeback in the third quarter with Annabel Scott among the players who scored a goal. Although the Saints had managed to have the lead in the first half, they failed to regain the lead once more as the Bulldogs were set for the win.

The tight contest with the Southern Saints was helped by the efforts of Caitlin Sargent, who scored a goal and had nine disposals to her name. Brooke Hards, another goal scorer for the Western Bulldogs was significant for the side’s win with some impressive plays, as well as Elisabeth Georgostathis who managed 15 disposals, 10 kicks and 10 tackles. For the Southern Saints, Hannah Stuart, Jayde Van Dyke and Alice Burke proved important for the side.

GOALS:

Southern Saints: G. De Angelis, A. Harris, T. Smith.
Western Bulldogs: S. Asciak, E. Georgostathis, B. Hards, C.Sargent, A. Scott.

BEST:

Southern Saints: M. McDonald, H. Priest, A. Burke, J. Van Dyk, M. Capsalis, T. Smith
Western Bulldogs: D. Marshall, E. Vale, S. Hartwig, E. Georgostathis, A. Scott, I. Pritchard
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2021 NAB League Girls team review: Western Jets

NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Western Jets, a squad with plenty of promising prospects for the future and solid top-agers to boot. We recap the Jets’ season, and take a look at some of the top performers across the various age groups.

Wins: 3
Losses: 5
Position: 8th

SEASON SUMMARY:

A largely competitive side throughout the season, Western was able to translate that form into three wins on the board in 2021. The Jets opened their account with a Round 4 victory over Murray Bushrangers in a performance which yielded their highest total score to that point. Another two losses came before their next win, a thrilling one-point triumph over Sandringham in wet and windy enemy territory. They remained competitive against the finals-bound Calder Cannons, before capping off the campaign with a third victory, against Bendigo Pioneers. In a sign of great growth, Western notched its highest total in that final outing.

DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS:

Stephanie Asciak | Midfielder
18/09/2003 | 163cm

A consistent midfielder who has gone on to gain VFLW experience with the Western Bulldogs, Asciak was a key cog in the Jets’ engine room throughout 2021. She only twice fell below 11 disposals and managed to maintain a solid standard of performance, extracting on the inside and looking to put her side on the front foot. Asciak also worked hard on the defensive end, getting her hands dirty with an average of 3.4 tackles per game.

Caitlin Sargent | Key Forward
22/12/2003 | 172cm

A forward target who can be dominant on her day, Sargent found the goals in five of her eight outings in 2021 and capped off her year with a bag of four against Bendigo. The 172cm talent boasts terrific hands overhead and, needless to add, marks the ball well in contested situations. She seemed to gain confidence as the season wore on and finished four majors clear atop Western’s final goalkicking charts.

Jemima Woods | Tall Forward/Utility
28/05/2003 | 174cm

Woods is a wonderfully dynamic footballer with eye-catching athleticism and clean hands, traits which allowed her to fluently mix time between the forwardline and midfield. She finished second in Western’s goalkicking count with four majors, and averaged a tick over 12 touches per game as an impactful player forward of centre. Along with Sargent and Asciak, Woods is another who benefitted from gaining VFLW experience.

FUTURE ONES TO WATCH:

Charlotte Baskaran | Midfielder
9/12/2004 | 162cm

Already one of her side’s best and most consistent assets, Baskaran thrived with a more permanent move into midfield this year. She led the Jets for disposals, kicks, tackles, and inside 50s in 2021 having been among their best players in just about every game. The classy ball user also won berths in the Vic Metro Under 17 and 19 representative squads, with her talent already at the top-end with another season of NAB League to play.

Montana Ham | Midfielder/Forward
29/03/2004 | 178cm

Potentially the best player for next year’s draft at this early stage, Ham was a dominant force for the Jets with her contested ball winning and aerial prowess. Her mix of strength and athleticism is deadly, allowing her to make a major mark both at the stoppages and around the ground with penetrative play and plenty of upside to be met. She was not far behind Baskaran across a range of stats,  and also turned out for Vic Metro at Under 19 level.

Krystal Russell | Ruck
22/09/2004 | 179cm

Another dominant type credit to her size and ability to impose on the contest, Russell lead the league for hitouts by the end of the regular season. Her average of 23.8 per game points towards good knowledge of the ruck craft, and Russell was an important part of the Jets’ side given the guns they have to utilise in midfield. She will inevitably be vital in that role once again, next season.

OTHERS:

Down back, over-ager Ciara Singleton was a good influence in the air, with skipper Leah Spargo a cool and competitive charger at ground level. The likes of Kiera Leare and Paige Ryan were also productive members of the side, with Trinity Skenderis a favourite on the inside of midfield. Kiera Whiley is among the 2005-births to watch, as she shone on the wing.

2021 VFLW Round 12 preview: Finals on the line for several sides

THREE rounds remain and some results could ultimately determine finals spots, with last chances in play for a couple of teams, and a top against bottom clash featuring this weekend in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition.

ESSENDON vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Saturday, May 22 @ 10:00am
Windy Hill

Potential top pick Georgie Prespakis has been named for Essendon in a game where the Bombers can lock up a finals spot, and snuff out North Melbourne’s chances at the same time. The Roos will make history with a record 11 Tasmanians in the side, and a debutant in fellow AFL Women’s Academy Perri King making her debut at VFLW level against Prespakis. Joining King in the side for their second games are Ella Maurer and Jemma Blair at opposite ends, whilst fellow Tasmanians, Sarah Skinner and Meagan Kiely make it a distinct Apple Isle feeling through the middle. They will have a huge job containing the midfield combination of Prespakis, Georgia Nanscawen, Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper of whom the latter trio have been in great form at the level. The forward line of Daria Bannister, Meg Sinclair, Camilla Taylor and Mia King adds to the Roos’ Tasmanian presence, with Calder’s Kasey Lennox, as well as Zali Friswell and Emelia Yassir up the other end among the talented juniors running around in the red sash.

CASEY DEMONS vs. PORT MELBOURNE
Saturday, May 22 @ 10:30am
Casey Fields

Fresh off a best on ground performance in the NAB League Girls Grand Final, Amanda Ling will run out for Port Melbourne in the Borough’s clash with fellow finals-bound side, Casey Demons. The Oakleigh Chargers midfielder will join AFL Women’s talents Katherine Smith and Kodi Jacques, and past AFL Women’s talent Mel Kuys in the midfield, up against an equally stacked onball brigade of AFL Women’s midfielders Megan Fitzsimon and Casey Sherriff, and ball-winning star Eliza West. The Borough have other youngsters including Oakleigh Chargers’ Taylah Morton and ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Sophie Locke in the forward pockets, whilst the Demons have a stacked outfit including AFL Women’s stars Eden Zanker and Libby Birch, and young guns Brenna Tarrant and Eliza McNamara. Potentially the match of the round, both these sides are coming off disappointing losses, and both will be keen to make amends against quality opposition.

CARLTON vs. GEELONG
Saturday, May 22 @ 11:00am
Ikon Park

Following an upset win over Casey Demons, Carlton return home to Ikon Park against a Geelong side that cashed in its get out of jail free card in the final term last week. The Cats were in real danger against the Southern Saints, but managed to step up with four late goals to get over the line in fantastic style and remain in the top two. This week they take on a Carlton side that is as strong as it has been all season, featuring a core midfield of Lucy McEvoy, Abbie McKay and Grace Egan, as well as Maddy Guerin and Daisy Walker. Northern Knights’ full-back Tarrah Delgado will make her VFL Women’s debut with the Blues, joining teammate Maeve Chaplin in the side, in what will give the consistent talents a good run at state league level. For the Cats, the AFL Women’s midfield of Rene Caris, Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner and Sophie Van De Heuvel is unbelievable, while Olivia Barber has built some great form this season, and the likes of Tamara Smith and Paige Sheppard are also playing well at the level. Expect Geelong to really step up here, but the Carlton midfield is just as good making there plenty of terrific head-to-heads to watch.

DAREBIN vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, May 22 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

A top against bottom clash featuring Darebin Falcons and Collingwood at Bill Lawry Oval has the potential to be one-sided, but the Falcons will be hoping that a draw against Williamstown has helped build some momentum into the game. Collingwood are rotating through their AFL Women’s talent, and Chloe Molloy, Elise O’Dea and Stacey Livingstone both play their first VFLW games this season, whilst Jaimee Lambert is back for her second game of the year. The Magpies team looks stacked and should be too strong for a Falcons outfit, though Georgia Hammond comes back into the club as the tall target up forward, forming with Samara David, Stephanie Simpson and teenager Trinity Mills. Jess Dal Pos is the prime mover in midfield and could have a tantalising head-to-head with Molloy in there, while Sidney Cubasch will look to take control in the ruck. The Falcons have some good experience in there including Nicole Callinan, but expect the Magpies to have too much depth across the field.

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. HAWTHORN
Sunday, May 23 @ 11:00am
Downer Oval

In the first of two matches on Sunday, Williamstown hosts Hawthorn in a huge Sunday morning clash at Downer Oval. The Seagulls are coming off a draw with Darebin, whilst the Hawks had their wings clipped by North Melbourne at Box Hill last week. Coach Bec Goddard just keeps finding AFLW talent to slot into the lineup, and this week Sarah Perkins returns to the club having missed the second half of the AFLW season due to injury. The key forward will team up with Chantella Perera and Kristy Stratton, whilst Jessie Williams has been a damaging goalkicker all season. In defence, Meg Hutchins announced she would hang up the boots at the end of the season, meaning the versatile legend will likely have just three games remaining in her career. Alison Drennan, Georgia Bevan and Nadia von Bertouch are among the other AFLW experienced talents running around in the brown and gold, while Eastern Ranges’ Keeley Sherar, Bridget Deed and Eloise Chaston retain their spots in the side. The Seagulls have some GWS GIANTS talents such as Emily Pease and Lisa Steane, whilst Sydney Swans Academy member Jess Doyle will look to hit the scoreboard alongside Gold Coast’s Bess Keaney up forward. Erin Meade and Aimee Whelan are in good form this year, with Elizabeth McGrath set to have a great contest with opposing ruck Tamara Luke. Hawthorn should win this game, but no doubt the Williamstown breeze will make life difficult in front of the big sticks.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Sunday, May 23 @ 12:00pm
Trevor Barker Oval

The final match of the round is the most important for the league as a whole, with the result potentially determining the finals series. Southern Saints hold sixth spot as it stands, but are only percentage ahead of the seventh placed Western Bulldogs. In reality, that percentage will be too difficult to make up for the Bulldogs or other chasing sides, so as long as the Saints win two of the last three – playing North Melbourne and Carlton in the final two rounds – they will get there. The Bulldogs can temporarily grab sixth spot with a win here, though they would need to knock off Casey Demons and Collingwood in the final fortnight – or hope the Saints lose to one of the other teams – in order to stay there. The Saints are not mucking around with a number of elite young talents through the midfield including Tyanna Smith and Georgia Patrikios – the latter of whom returns for her first VFLW game this season. Molly McDonald has been named off half-back, whilst Tarni White makes her VFLW debut for the Saints. All things considered the midfield battle will decide the result, with the Bulldogs having Jess Fitzgerald, Britney Gutknecht, Isabelle Pritchard and Elisabeth Georgostathis running around. Molly Denahy Maloney returns from injury to start in the ruck, whilst full-back Simone Ruedin has been named at full-forward, and forward Danielle Marshall has been named at full-back. Western Jets quartet Caitlin Sargent, Jemima Woods, Stephanie Asciak and Nikita Wright will provide the NAB League Girls factor, with the Saints focusing on VFLW talent for this game, such as the in-form Tara Bohanna, whilst Jayde Van Dyk makes her debut in defence for the red, white and black. This game could go down to the wire, and will have plenty riding on it.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 10

A HEAP of young prospects continue to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. As the NAB League season draws to an end, Round 10 saw plenty of young talent scattered across each state league side. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in or have recently graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 10

Hawthorn second-gamer Grace McRae was one of the more impressive current NAB Leaguers to ply their trade at senior level in Round 10, collecting 21 disposals and laying nine tackles in the Hawks’ win over Darebin. Eastern Ranges graduate Jenna Richardson was also solid with 10 touches, as Maddi Shaw and Chloe O’Malley also contributed in brown and gold. For Darebin, Calder Cannons tall Peppa Poultney turned out for her second game and managed nine hitouts.

A good number of Western Jets products continue to get a look-in for the Western Bulldogs, making an impact in their new side’s win over Carlton. Second-gamer Stephanie Asciak earned votes for her nine disposals, while Nikita Wright had 12 and took three marks, and Caitlin Sargent registered two behinds up forward. Former Bendigo Pioneers skipper Brooke Hards continues to be a mainstay in red, white and blue, as Marnie Jarvis enjoys an extended run for Carlton.

Geelong’s winning streak rolled on with a sixth-straight triumph on Saturday, this time over Essendon. The likes of Paige Sheppard (18 disposals, four marks) and Tamara Smith (16 disposals, 10 tackles) again made an impression among a host of AFLW-listed talent. For Essendon, Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba each managed 15 touches, with the latter also booting a goal. Bendigo Pioneers top-ager Jemma Finning also made her debut in the sash with five disposals and five tackles.

Despite going down in an upset loss to Southern Saints, Port Melbourne managed to field some promising youngsters on Saturday. Dandenong Stingrays pair Jaide Anthony (10 disposals, four marks) and Ash Richards (one goal) made their debuts, playing against NAB League teammate Jemma Radford. Emily Harley was named best afield for the Borough as one of a few former NAB Leaguers in this game to have also been drafted. Meanwhile, Gabby De Angelis impressed for the Saints with 15 disposals, four marks, and five tackles.

In Collingwood’s big win over North Melbourne, tall utility Neve O’Connor took on some added ruck duties to finish with a game-high 23 hitouts, far and away her best return in that department for 2021. North was served well by Ciara Fitzgerald (13 disposals, three marks), as Jayde Hamilton earned consecutive appearances, and Tasmanian Camilla Taylor made her return.

Casey was served well by a couple of young talls in Bridie Winbanks (30 hitouts) and debutant Grace Matser (16), while the latter named among her side’s best players. Emma Horne also got her hands dirty for the Demons with six tackles, while Ruby Tripodi was among Williamstown’s better performers as a bunch of GWS-listed talent hit the state league.

2021 VFLW Round 10 wrap: Bulldogs remain in the top six hunt

ROUND 10 of the 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition saw three sides claim wins by over nine goals, as the top six continues to solidify. Outside challengers are lingering though, headlined by the Western Bulldogs who beat Carlton to remain within striking distance of those all-important finals places. All six fixtures were played out on Saturday this past round, making for an intriguing set of results as the state league action begins to heat up. With senior-listed guns and NAB League talents continuing to filter through, things are building nicely with four rounds left to play.

>> ONE-STOP SITE: VFLW page

HAWTHORN 3.0 | 4.3 | 7.5 | 10.9 (69)
DAREBIN FALCONS 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 (7)

Hawthorn registered its second win in three weeks, dismantling the Darebin Falcons to the tune of 62 points at Box Hill City Oval on Saturday morning. The Hawks kept their opponents scoreless after the opening term and proved relentless in the second half, pouring on six goals from 10 scoring shots to run out comfortable winners, 10.9 (69) to 1.1 (7). The result sees Hawthorn sit two games outside of the top six, but with the best bottom-six percentage.

Kristy Stratton led a kettle of nine Hawks who found the goals, finishing with two in a best afield outing. The likes of Tamara Luke (24 disposals, 37 hitouts) and Alison Drennan (24 disposals, nine tackles) were also impactful in the win, while second gamer Grace McRae featured in her side’s votes having won 21 touches and laid nine tackles in brown and gold.

Hayley Munro was Darebin’s sole goalkicker on the day, as the ever-reliable Kath Roe topped her side’s disposal charts with 21 (17 kicks) in a gallant display. Victoria Blackwood‘s good form continued for the Falcons, as did that of Alyssa Mifsud. Meanwhile, Annalyse Lister showed no let-up in the heavy loss, laying a whopping 19 tackles for the Falcons as they dropped to 1-9 at the foot of the ladder.

GOALS:

Hawthorn: K. Stratton 2, A. Bush, K. Cox, K. Newton, N. von Bertouch, P. McWilliams, T. Luke, C. O’Malley, D. Carbone
Darebin: H. Munro

BEST:

Hawthorn: K. Stratton, G. McRae, K. Newton, A. Drennan, J. Richardson, T. Luke
Darebin: K. Roe, G. Lawson-Tavan, V. Blackwood, A. Mifsud, A. Lister, S. David

WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.4 | 1.9 | 2.11 | 4.14 (38)
CARLTON 1.1 | 1.2 | 3.2 | 3.6 (24)

The Western Bulldogs’ top six charge got back on track with a 14-point win over Carlton, in what was a high-stakes clash at Whitten Oval on Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs constantly threatened to break clear in the low-scoring tussle, but their inaccuracy kept Carlton in the contest. Having led at every break, the home side managed to double its goal tally in term four to come away 4.14 (38) to 3.6 (24) winners, sitting just a game outside the top six.

The continued flow of AFLW talent into the state league again proved prominent, with first year Bulldog Jess Fitzgerald putting in a best afield performance from midfield. She topped her side’s disposal chart with 21 alongside Gemma Lagioia, while Eleanor Brown earned full votes from her coaches with 20 touches and eight marks. Second-gamer Stephanie Asciak also got a look-in for the votes, as the Western Jets product notched nine disposals.

Unsurprisingly, the midfield duo of Grace Egan and Abbie McKay played a crucial role for Carlton, as another senior-listed jet in Maddy Guerin led all comers with 32 disposals (28 kicks). Steph Lawrence finished as the game’s sole multiple goalkicker with two majors, while Natalie Plane could only manage two behinds from 13 touches in her first game at the level for 2021.

GOALS:

Bulldogs: E. Morrison, S. Ruedin, K. Betts, C. Moody
Carlton: S. Lawrence 2, S. Gibbs

BEST:

Bulldogs: E. Brown, E. Vale, A. Gogos, E. Morrison, G. Lagioia, S. Asciak
Carlton: G. Egan, A. McKay, M. Guerin, S. Lawrence, E. Honybun, B. Gurr

GEELONG 0.3 | 2.5 | 3.7 | 5.9 (39)
ESSENDON 0.0 | 0.2 | 1.4 | 2.4 (16)

Geelong’s winning streak extended to six games on Saturday, as the Cats accounted for Essendon to the tune of 23 points at Deakin University. The deadlock of a goalless opening quarter was broken by a pair of majors to the hosts in the following period, with Essendon taking until term three to get on the board in a major way. Geelong maintained the scoreboard pressure though, boosting up to second spot with the 5.9 (39) to 2.4 (16) victory.

Sophie Van De Huevel was terrific in the hoops, booting two goals from 19 disposals, with Richelle Cranston finishing as the only other multiple goalkicker afield. Claudia Gunjaca gained full votes from the Geelong staff, as Renee Garing and Rebecca Webster led all comers with 23 disposals apiece. Garing also laid a game-high 13 tackles, while tall prospect Rene Caris led her side for hitouts with 16.

Essendon skipper Georgia Nanscawen continued her brilliant season and was the only Bomber to tick over 20 touches, with goalkicker Alana Barba among a trio of players to reach 15. Eloise Ashley-Cooper was also in that group alongside Gold Coast’s Lauren Ahrens, while Alex Morcom played an important role for her team in the loss.

GOALS:

Geelong: S. Van De Heuvel 2, R. Cranston 2, O. Fuller
Essendon: A. Barba, L. Stepnell

BEST:

Geelong: C. Gunjaca, R. Caris, J. Foley, S. Van De Heuvel, R. Webster, M. Keryk
Essendon: A. Morcom, E. Ashley-Cooper, A. Barba, M. Anthony, E. Hosking, G. Nanscawen

PORT MELBOURNE 0.1 | 2.3 | 3.4 | 4.4 (28)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 3.3 | 5.4 | 8.4 | 8.7 (55)

Southern Saints remain a game clear in the top six, after knocking off Port Melbourne by 27 points on enemy territory in the upset of the round. The Saints stamped their authority early with a three-goal to nil opening quarter, before adding another three majors in the third term to set up an even five-goal lead at the final break. It proved a bridge too far for the Borough, who dropped just their second game, 8.7 (55) to 4.4 (28).

The efforts of Alexandra Hynes (eight disposals, 10 tackles, 17 hitouts) was recognised with full votes from her coaches, as the Saints proved their finals credentials. Meanwhile, Hannah Stuart and Alice Burke both notched over 20 disposals as expected, as Tara Bohanna booted a game-high two goals from her 18 touches, and Rebecca Neaves also got on the scoresheet. Hannah Priest played an important role, clunking five marks and laying six tackles to go with 17 disposals.

Emily Harley, one of Port’s four individual goalkickers, was named best afield for her side, while Hannah McLaren registered an equal game-high 21 disposals. Dandenong Stingrays pair Jaide Anthony (10 disposals, four marks) and Ash Richards (three disposals, one goal) also had their moments on debut, as Richmond-listed midfielder Maddy Brancatisano fared well in her first VFLW appearance for 2021, with 17 touches and four marks.

GOALS:

Port Melbourne: A. Richards, C. Bromage, E. Harley, H. Bailey
Southern Saints: T. Bohanna 2, T. Meyer, T. Kearns, R. Neaves, K. Ripari, A. Harris, M. Capsalis

BEST:

Port Melbourne: E. Harley, J. Anthony, M. Brancatisano, H. McLaren, M. Kuys
Southern Saints: A. Hynes, A. Burke, H. Stuart, T. Bohanna, K. Ripari, H. Priest

NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0 | 2.1 | 2.1 | 2.1 (13)
COLLINGWOOD 5.3 | 6.6 | 9.9 | 10.15 (75)

Collingwood’s unblemished run rolled on with a comprehensive 62-point drubbing of North Melbourne at Arden Street Oval, making it 10 wins in a row for the black and whites. Signs were ominous as the Magpies posted five goals to one in the first term, while taking advantage of the scoring end once again after half time as the Kangaroos failed to add to their total, making for the lopsided 10.15 (75) to 2.1 (13) final scoreline.

A trio of Magpies snared two goals each, in Sophie Alexander, Imogen Barnett, and Georgia Ricardo. Alexander could well have finished with a bag, having also registered three behinds. Mikala Cann managed a game-high 28 disposals, but it was Jennifer Guy (15 disposals, one goal) who was adjudged her side’s most valuable player in the big win.

Meagan Kiely had her usual say with a team-high 23 touches, as Molly Eastman was the only other ‘Roo to notch over 20 disposals. Tall recruit Alexia Hamilton made an impact with 13 disposals, 17 hitouts and one of her side’s two goals, while Airlie Runnalls and Nadia Moore also returned solid shifts as North fell to 3-7, with their hopes of making finals getting slimmer.

GOALS:

North Melbourne: A. Hamilton, L. Taylor
Collingwood: G. Ricardo 2, S. Alexander 2, I. Barnett 2, L. Durante, K. Colborne-Veel, M. Cann, J. Guy

BEST:

North Melbourne: N. Moore, A. Hamilton, M. Eastman, R. Hicks, A. Runnalls, S. Skinner
Collingwood: J. Guy, S. Alexander, I. Barnett, M. Cann, E. Jackson, H. Bowey

WILLIAMSTOWN 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 | 0.0 (0)
CASEY DEMONS 1.0 | 3.1 | 6.4 | 9.5 (59)

Casey became the first team to hold its opponent scoreless throughout an entire game in 2021, defeating Williamstown by 59 points on Saturday night at Downer Oval. Despite being buoyed by GWS-listed talent, the Seagulls were soundly beaten by a finals-bound outfit which poured on six goals from 11 scoring shots after half time. The Demons now sit pretty in fourth after the 9.5 (59) to 0 triumph.

Maddison Gay finished with a game-high three goals and Eden Zanker led all comers with 25 disposals for Casey, but it was Casey Sherriff (16 disposals, two goals) who claimed best afield honours in the win. Meg McDonald also hit the scoreboard from her 20 touches, as Gippsland Power talent Grace Matser got in the votes with seven disposals and 16 hitouts in her state league debut.

Lisa Steane had a team-high 18 disposals as she suited up for the Seagulls, also laying nine tackles. The likes of Elizabeth Keaney (17 disposals) and Georgia Garnett (14) also impressed in their maiden outings, while mainstays Ella Baxter and Aimee Whelan stood up in what was a tough outing for Williamstown.

GOALS:

Williamstown: Nil
Casey: M. Gay 3, C. Sherriff 2, J. Parry 2, A. Kirkwood, M. Macdonald

BEST:

Williamstown: E. Baxter, L. Steane, E. Graham, E. Keaney, G. Garnett, E. Straford
Casey: C. Sherriff, E. Humphries, M. Macdonald, A. Brown, G. Matser, M. Gay

2021 VFLW Round 10 preview: Pride on the line in more ways than one for huge round of action

THE Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s Pride Round kicks off in a Super Saturday stretching from the mid-morning to a game under lights, with plenty on the line and a number of virtual elimination finals or finals tuneups.

HAWTHORN vs. DAREBIN
Saturday, May 8 @ 10:00am
Box Hill City Oval

Opening the round is a must-win clash for Hawthorn hosting the last placed Darebin Falcons. If the Hawks get up, they are still a chance for finals, but a loss will all but put a line through their chances. For the Falcons, finals is a bit beyond them, but they will be hoping to double their wins tally with a victory here, and finish strongly in the last five rounds. Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae made her debut in the brown and gold last week, and another young talent will join her this week with Ashanti Bush cracking through to team up with fellow Darwin Buffettes prospect Dominique Carbone. The AFL Women’s Academy member will start on the bench, whilst Calder Cannons’ Peppa Poultney is back in the team after her side was eliminated from the NAB League Girls competition, and ex-Pioneer Katelyn Hazlett back for her second game after a strong debut. Given the AFL Women’s experience that keeps building at the Hawks, the latest is Geelong Cats’ Phoebe McWilliams who teams up with fellow experienced tall Meg Hutchins in attack. The Hawks have plenty of present and former AFLW talents, so expect they will be too strong in this one.

WESTERN BULLDOGS vs. CARLTON
Saturday, May 8 @ 12:00pm
Whitten Oval

A virtual elimination final takes place at midday on Saturday, with the loser of Western Bulldogs and Carlton effectively putting a line through their finals hopes. For the winner, they live to fight another day, which means there is plenty on the line for the teams. The Western Bulldogs have brought back Jess Fitzgerald to the team, with Kirsten McLeod and Naomi Ferres coming in for their first games of the season. Brisbane Lions’ Beth Pinchin is an interesting inclusion for the Dogs at centre half-back, while Western Jets’ Caitlin Sargent, Nikita Wright and Stephanie Asciak all remain in the side. For the Blues, they have kept fairly consistent wiht their lineups, getting games into Charlotte Hammans, Maddy Guerin and Serena Gibbs. Abbie McKay, Grace Egan and Daisy Walker all return for their second games back at the level, and Natalie Plane for her first, in what is a tough game on the road. The Dogs have that bit more class about them, but it will be whether or not they can win the midfield in what looks like a star-studded group on both sides.

GEELONG vs. ESSENDON
Saturday, May 8 @ 1:00pm
Deakin University Waurn Ponds

Two teams headed for finals will clash in a blockbuster VFLW match at Deakin University. Geelong have been strong down there, and with Stephanie Williams, Sophie Van De Heuvel, Rebecca Webster and Richelle Cranston all in the side, there is enough AFLW talent to lead by experience. Carly Remmos remains but Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner are out of the side after suffering repeated leather poisoning each week. They take on an Essendon side that is building very nicely, bringing in Bendigo Pioneers’ Jemma Finning for her debut this week, switching in for another Pioneer in Elizabeth Snell. The Calder Cannons talents feature all through the emergencies with talls Kasey Lennox and Neve Crowley likely to come in the following week, while Mia-Rae Clifford and Georgia Nanscawen represent AFL Women’s experience. The defence is solid for the Bombers, as Eloise Gardner and Courtney Ugle will provide some run and carry, while Ruby Svarc is a natural ball-winner and will provide good defensive pressure inside 50. At home Geelong has the upper hand, though the Bombers are a chance in this one.

NORTH MELBOURNE vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, May 8 @ 2:00pm
Arden Street

In the traditional timeslot on Saturday afternoon, North Melbourne host Collingwood in a must-win clash for the Roos. The Magpies are cruising along nicely at 9-0 and unless the wheels completely fall off, a top two spot – and likely minor premiership beckons. The Magpies have brought in Mikala Cann for her first VFLW game of the season, giving the Pies mostly an AFLW spine including Sophie Alexander, Abbi Moloney and Maddie Shevlin, whilst Jasmine Ferguson has been one of the most reliable defenders in the competition. Add in the dangerous Matilda Zander up forward and the ball-winning Marla Neal in midfield, and the Magpies have plenty of top VFLW talents as well. For North Melbourne, they remain determined to keep a fairly consistent VFLW lineup, with Alexia Hamilton and Reni Hicks a couple of former AFLW players while Sarah Skinner and Meagan Kiely join them in the midfield as in-form talents. Camilla Taylor returns to the level after Tasmania Devils’ exit from the NAB League Girls competition, while Molly Eastman is another Roo in great form. They have had a real mixed bag this season, but are not without a chance the Roos, though the Pies are deservedly favourites for this clash.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Saturday, May 8 @ 2:00pm
ETU Stadium

Southern Saints can go a long way towards securing a finals spot with an upset win over top two side, Port Melbourne at ETU Stadium on Saturday. The Saints hold the precious sixth spot, and still will after this round given their far superior percentage to the chasing pack, but cannot afford to drop too many or the lower teams will pounce. Dandenong Stingrays co-captain Ash Richards and versatile runner Jaide Anthony both make their debuts at VFLW level, but unlike many of their teammates, they will be running out for the opposition side Port Melbourne. They are joined in the side by Maddy Brancatisano who returns to the level for the first time this season, with a host of current and past AFLW talent, including Katherine Smith, Sophie Molan and Emily Harley who stood up last week with four goals. Zoe Hill has been named as an emergency for the Saints, with Jemma Radford retaining her spot in the back pocket for some Dandenong Stingrays flavour, and the AFLW talent led by Alice Burke, Tahlia Meyer and Renee Saulitis. Port Melbourne have more depth in the side and should win, with the Saints needing to make the most of their chances if they are to get up.

WILIAMSTOWN vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, May 8 @ 7:00pm
Downer Oval

Playing a special Saturday night game under lights for the Pride Round under lights at Downer Oval, Williamstown will be hoping to cause a boilover agains a strong Casey Demons side that is gearing up for finals. The Seagulls need to win the remainder of their games to qualify for finals just about, and have been able to welcome Gold Coast Suns’ Bess Keaney to the lineup. She will lineup in the back pocket, with Georgia Garnett also coming into the defence for her debut in the VFLW following the announcement that Williamstown had formed a link with the GWS GIANTS. Lisa Steane has also been named in the side, with Ella Baxter, Aimee Whelan and Ruby Tripodi among the in-form players. Casey Demons have a damaging forward line with Maddison Gay, Alyssa Bannan and Imogen Milford one of the strong forward trios going around. Libby Birch in defence, Eden Zanker and Megan Fitzsimon in midfield, and the newest debutant Grace Matser – a Gippsland Power ruck – will all provide plenty of talent and depth around the ground.

Bulldogs out of the dog house and off the leash

A FORTNIGHT is a long time in football, and for the Western Bulldogs, the past two weeks have seen their fortunes change from bottom two side in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, to potential finals contenders. Prior to the past two weeks, the Western Bulldogs had not won a game since Round 1, losing five consecutive matches to head into the Easter break with a 1-5 record. Fast forward two weeks later, and the Bulldogs are still behind the ledger, but at a much more manageable 3-5, and only percentage outside the top six.

So, what was the catalyst for the change?

It would be easy to say that the injection of AFL Women’s talent is a massive part of it. The Western Bulldogs season finished by the Easter break, so the likes of Eleanor Brown, Gemma Lagioia, Isabelle Pritchard, Isabella Grant, Nell Morris-Dalton, and on Friday night, Elisabeth Georgostathis and Sarah Hartwig filtered through the side. But all bar the standalone sides in Darebin and Williamstown have the flexibility to bring back their AFLW talent, and therefore the team still relies a lot upon its VFL Women’s talent.

Statistically, the Bulldogs do better when they can move the ball by foot and transition between defence and offence. Thanks to Nicole McMahon in the ruck, the Whitten Oval-based side will hardly ever lose the hitouts. In fact, just the once has she lost the hitouts to a direct opponent in Collingwood’s Sarah King, and the Bulldogs were smashed that day, going down by 60 points. Molly Denahy-Maloney is the young up-and-coming ruck to help McMahon in that department, but with her overhead marking and athleticism, she has been deployed predominantly as a forward. But considering the inside 50s were 48-9 in an almost unheard off discrepancy, the home team was lucky not to suffer a worse defeat. The other match where the Bulldogs lost the hitouts was against Port Melbourne where McMahon was not playing.

Indeed, games are said to be won and lost in the midfield, and that is true for the Bulldogs. Whilst clearances are not tracked, there is a correlation between winning clearances and getting inside 50s. Against Hawthorn in Round 1, the Western Bulldogs had 20 more inside 50s and forced the Hawks to be chasing them all day (Hawthorn had 43 more tackles). Most importantly, the Bulldogs finished with a 65.9 per cent kicking ratio from their disposals.

When they are able to use the ball by foot 63 per cent or more, the Bulldogs are 3-1. The only exception was in the loss to Port Melbourne, where, despite going down by 35 points, showed that there was some improvement by sticking with the Borough for large periods of the match. Even the statistics reflected that the teams were fairly even, with the home team on that day just getting nine more looks inside 50.

So where do the Western Bulldogs’ strengths lie?

The defence of the Bulldogs has stood up time and time again this season, even in the disappointing losses. Simone Ruedin is having an outstanding season in the back 50, and remains one of the most consistent performers in the competition. The move of traditional midfielders, Brooke Hards and Katelyn Betts into defence has also proved to be a turn of fortune for the Bulldogs.

Betts was a prime mover onball during the first half of the season, and Hards predominantly played forward but has now gone back to her Under 16s days of playing off half-back after spending several years in her preferred position of inside midfield – where she made Vic Country – at Bendigo Pioneers. The pair have complemented the work of the AFL Women’s talents returning, with Brown and first Grant and then Hartwig filling out the other running positions.

Katelyn Betts bursting away against Darebin.
Brooke Hards using her speed against North Melbourne.

Up forward, the return of Morris-Dalton helped straighten the side up in the past couple of weeks, with Mary Sandral also able to be supported with an extra tall down there, though unfortunately Sandral was injured during the win against Darebin. The class of Lagioia  teaming up with the speed and toughness of Amelia Van Oosterwijck in the forward half provides a well-balanced unit.

Perhaps the biggest return in the past fortnight was that of Angelica Gogos, who has averaged 20 disposals and five tackles playing through the midfield. Ellyse Gamble‘s first game against the Saints was also a massive boost, racking up a game-high 27 touches, five marks and two tackles in that match. Then it is these returns of players that flow on to help lift those around them, such as Danielle Marshall who has slotted 5.2 in the past two weeks after 0.2 in the prior two weeks. Having more entries inside 50, and having the flexibility to push up the ground has aided them.

The Bulldogs have also brought in a few youngsters along the way, with Jemima Woods slotting three goals in the win over Darebin on debut, and the Western Jets season is now done and dusted, with teammates Nikita Wright and Stephanie Asciak among others who could return to the team if selected. Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ Lilli Condon is another who looked very comfortable at the level, and speedster Nyakoat Dojiok who is among the potential Rebels to debut at state league level in the final month and a half once the Rebels season is over.

Lilli Condon gets her kick away against Port Melbourne.
Jemima Woods celebrates one of three goals on debut.

What do they need to do to keep it going?

Having the flexibility to rotate through their AFLW talent is important, not only for those players match fitness, but for filling little gaps that the team might not be able to fill with the VFLW-listed talents. A perfect example was Hartwig who provides that intercepting ability combined with the run and carry. The Bulldogs best interceptors are talls, whilst the best runners are smalls, where Hartwig provides the best of both worlds. The class of Lagioia and the hands and leading work of Morris-Dalton, as well as the poise and smarts of Brown make the Bulldogs well-stocked across all thirds of the ground.

The top-performing VFLW-listed talent of Betts and Hards in defence should be allowed to use their mix of power and speed respectively to breakaway and take grass to drive the ball forward. Both are capable of using the ball well when in space, and with the tall targets now inside 50, the Bulldogs have players to aim at. Eliza Morrison is another versatile talent in the forward half who has enjoyed a solid season in 2021, whilst the ruck is an area the Bulldogs will always take control in. If their midfield can win the ball and limit the flow into the defensive 50, then they will be every chance to knock off top sides on their day.

WESTERN BULLDOGS RUN HOME:

Round 9: vs. Geelong @ Deakin University
Round 10: vs. Carlton @ Whitten Oval
— Below fixtures to be confirmed —
Round 11: vs. Essendon @ Windy Hill
Round 12: vs. Southern Saints @ Whitten Oval
Round 13: vs. Casey Demons @ Whitten Oval
Round 14: vs. Collingwood @ Victoria Park

The Western Bulldogs do not have the easiest run home, with Carlton being the only side outside the top six. They face five of the other top six sides, so will truly earn a finals spot if they can win enough games. Hungry to overturn losses to Geelong and Collingwood – their worst two performances of the season – the Bulldogs get the first chance of revenge this Saturday down at Deakin University this weekend, before first-time clashes with Carlton and Essendon. One would think the Bulldogs need to win at least three, but more likely four games in order to make finals, but if they do not, it will be the start of the season that cost them.

NAB League Girls Round 9 preview: Final round to determine post-season order

THE FINAL round of NAB League Girls action gets underway over the weekend with six games played across Saturday, and a standalone Anzac Day fixture on Sunday. With the eight teams already locked in for finals – and only the ladder order able to change – it means a number of contests have important outcomes, whilst for others, it marks the end of the 2021 season.

Perhaps the most intriguing matches are early tomorrow, with the first three games all deciding the makeup of next week’s finals series. In the metropolitan pool, Calder Cannons sit third, but could leapfrog Eastern Ranges with a victory over Geelong Falcons at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The Falcons are locked into third spot in the country division, so will either play Dandenong Stingrays or Tasmania Devils in the first week of finals. If the Falcons win, it will effectively secure the metropolitan finals series, with Oakleigh Chargers taking on Northern Knights, and Eastern Ranges taking on Calder Cannons. If the Cannons win, they will temporarily take second spot awaiting the Eastern ranges result.

If the Ranges take care of Northern Territory later in the day, the Ranges will regain second spot, and even temporarily have top spot in the pool, though Oakleigh take on Gippsland Power and will be expected to get the points there to grab the minor premiership. Assuming that happens, the metropolitan pool is set anyway, with Oakleigh taking on Northern and Eastern taking on Calder, with just the home team to be determined from the day’s results. If the Knights win, they still grab fourth on the NAB League Girls metropolitan pool, but also lock in the country finals fixtures too. If Dandenong Stingrays defeat the Knights, then the Stingrays temporarily go to the top of the country division, and the onus will be on Tasmania Devils to defeat the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels for the top spot.

The Rebels themselves are locked into fourth in the country division, and in a fixture quirk will face Tasmania in the first week of finals again – for the second consecutive week – if they lose to the Devils. If they defeat the Devils, and the Stingrays knock off the Knights, the Rebels will instead face the Stingrays in the first week of finals, and the Devils will lock horns with the third placed Falcons. The Chargers and Ranges are predicted to win their respective games, which if they do that, will remain in the same finals spots as they sit heading into Round 9. The two remaining games – Western Jets and Bendigo Pioneers, and Murray Bushrangers and Sandringham Dragons – have no bearing on the finals series with the teams all preparing for their final game of the season.

For the teams out of the finals race, it will be one last chance for their players to get a run at NAB League level before transitioning into the VFL Women’s, local leagues or for some, the final matches of the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships.

CALDER CANNONS vs. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, April 24 @ 10:00am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell return to the side after a stint with Essendon VFL Women’s, and the Cannons’ Metro contingent also return to the side. Abbey McDonald, Georgie Prespakis and Friswell round out the onball ground, with Darebin Falcons’ Peppa Poultney coming back after a solid performance in the Falcons’ loss to the Western Bulldogs. The Falcons have also loaded up on talent with Poppy Schaap, Tess Craven, Gabbi Featherston, Renee Tierney, Ingrid Houtsma, Elizabeth Dowling and Annie Lee all returning to the side after their AFLW Under 19s commitments, with Tierney and Lee also gaining great experience through Geelong’s VFL Women’s side.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Saturday, April 24 @ 11:00am
Shepley Oval

The midfield battle between the Stingrays and Knights will be fascinating with Abbey Jordan, Felicity Crank and Emily Shepherd going up against Maeve Chaplin, Ava Jordan and Teleah Smart. Stingrays’ Zoe Hill returns after her debut with the Southern Saints, while Georgia Kitchell is back in the ruck for the Knights. Dandenong’s Jaide Anthony will be one crucial omission following her concussion suffered last week at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, while Jemma Radford is making her debut with the Saints.

GWV REBELS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS
Saturday, April 24 @ 12:30pm
Warrawee Park

Tasmania Devils will blood a couple of debutants for their match against the Rebels, as Ruby Pacey and Kiira Johns come into the side. Their Allies contingent, led by Perri King, Ella Maurer, Meghan Gaffney and Claire Ransom through the midfield are back in action, with goalsneak Amy Bissett the threat inside 50. The GWV Rebels have also brought back their Vic Country representatives, with Paige Scott hot off a three-goal game against South Australia, and Ella Friend, Nyakoat Dojiok, Tahlia Meier and Chloe Leonard all returning. Lilli Condon also comes back to NAB League Girls level after a couple of games with the Western Bulldogs VFL Women’s side.

WESTERN JETS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS
Saturday, April 24 @ 1:00pm
Avalon Airport Oval

The result might not have a bearing on the finals series, but both the Western Jets and Bendigo Pioneers are set to to try and win the final game of the season. The Pioneers will be without Elizabeth Snell (Essendon), but otherwise will have a fairly strong outfit, with Tara Slender returning from the championships after playing forward. She will lineup at centre half-back in this game, with other Vic Country representatives, Jemma Finning and Octavia Di Donato also there, alongside bottom-age and Under 16s talents, Tegan Williams and Lila Keck respectively. For the Jets, Montana Ham and Charlotte Baskaran are back in the midfield, with Jemima Woods coming back to NAB League Girls level after three goals with the Western Bulldogs last week, and Stephanie Asciak also testing herself at VFLW level.

EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY
Saturday, April 24 @ 1:00pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

A host of AFLW Under 19s representatives and VFL Women’s players will return to the Ranges outfit, taking no changes after Northern Territory who upstaged the Rebels just prior to the break. Isabelle Khoury, Matilda Hardy, Eloise Chaston and Ruby O’Dwyer all return from Hawthorn’s VFL Women’s side last week, while Jorja Livingstone and Georgia Campbell were among the Eastern Ranges’ representatives at the recent carnival. The Thunder will look to make it two from two with Bella Clarke standing out in the opening game, as did Georgia Johnson, though they will be without key goalkickers, Freda Puruntatameri and Ashanti Bush. Other Allies representatives in Grace Mulvahil and Kasey Marsden are named in defence.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, April 24 @ 2:15pm
Warrawee Park

The top of the table Oakleigh Chargers have brought in Vic Metro representatives, Charlie Rowbottom, Amanda Ling and Stella Reid straight into the team with Rowbottom named in the forward pocket, and the other two in the midfield. Eliza James showed she can be dangerous inside 50, and whilst her kicking boots were not quite on in Metro’s narrow in over Western Australia, she certainly got to the right spots and has to be watched carefully. The Power welcome back Grace Matser and Grace McRae who missed the club’s first win against Bendigo Pioneers due to Vic Country duties, while Sunday Brisbane returns from an injury she sustained a while back against Murray Bushrangers. Alisha Molesworth impressed at Under 17s level for Country, with Yasmin Duursma another Country bottom-ager to keep an eye on, while Charlotte Van der Vlies and Brooke Vickers are others who have impressed this year for the Chargers.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Sunday, April 25 @ 1:00pm
WJ Findlay Oval

Murray Bushrangers welcome back bottom-age talent Cassidy Mailer for her first game of the season coming off a long-term injury. With the Bushrangers putting in arguably the strongest team they have all season – with the Vic Country and Allies representatives all lining up – they will be keen to put in a great showing ahead of their final game against the Dragons. Ally Morphett in the ruck, with Aurora Smith and the in-form Zara Hamilton on the wings, Keeley Skepper in the midfield, and plenty of depth and strength around the ground, and the Bushrangers are a good chance in this game.