Tag: steve markham

Rowley’s “crazy” rise only getting started

COURTNEY Rowley might only be in her top-age draft year, but the West Australian teenager already has an enviable résumé. Having joined Peel Thunder in the team’s first season when it was the West Australian Women’s Football League (WAWFL) – now West Australian Football League Women’s (WAFLW) – Rowley was the club’s equal games record holder heading into 2021, and had a best and fairest and premiership medal to her name.

“Basically I pretty much played netball when I was younger,” Rowley said of her journey. “I kicked the footy with my dad and my brother all the time because he played footy and I always wanted to play footy so I went down to Mandurah Mustangs, the local club and ended up playing then next year went to Peel.”

Only 15-years-old at the time, Rowley was just excited about the prospect of playing against senior women, some of whom had already reached the elite level. Instead, the talented teenager announced herself on the big stage, coming away with a best and fairest as the youngest in the senior side.

“That was just crazy,” Rowley said. “They called my name up and I was like ‘what the hell? How?’ I was like 15 and I was like I don’t’ know, I was pretty proud of myself, but it was insane, I had no words.”

The outside midfielder admitted it was a clear step up when she moved from the local leagues to the WAFLW, but she quickly adapted to the tempo of the competition and said she would not have it any other way from now on.

“First game it was like the change of pace was the hard thing and I was like ‘woah this is so much quicker’ but playing against better players makes me play better so I love it,” Rowley said. “The competition, everything, if I went back I don’t feel like I’d be able to play as good because I play better against better people.”

When asked about her favourite position, Rowley said she had become used to the wing – having also played on either flank – but a new lease on life playing inside midfield gave her a new perspective on where she might like to play in the future.

“I don’t know hey? I don’t mind,” she said. “I’ve been trained to be playing on the wing, but for this state carnival I’ve been going inside mid and I like it so much better, winning my own ball. But either or.”

The modest talent described her strengths as her speed and marking, though if you talk to anyone out west, her composure with ball-in-hand, ability to find space and hit targets, and her run-and-carry are all areas where she excels. But like any aspiring AFL Women’s talents, Rowley said she had plenty of areas she wanted to improve on going forward.

“I’d say I’m fit but I just want to be fitter, like working on that over the off-season and then probably my opposite foot kicking,” she said. “I want to be able to kick on both feet. I can do it standing still, but I need to be able to do it in a game I reckon.”

In the preseason, coach Steve Markham said he would like to have “four or five” Rowley’s.

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

Speaking of Markham, Rowley had plenty of praise for the coach that took her side from wooden spooners to premiers within a season, describing the feeling from going bottom to top as “insane”.

“It was so good,” Rowley said. “Because that year we had so much hope when became wooden spooners, we were like ‘we can do it’ but then we got the new coach and he was just drilling confidence into us and ‘you can do it, I can feel it, you just need to believe in yourselves’ and we just took that belief into the season and then won the premiership.”

Rowley said Markham was her first coach at the Thunder – having led the Rogers Cup girls to the same success – and was the main influence on her football journey. As for an AFL Women’s leader to look up to, a recently crowned league best and fairest was a standout choice for the teenager.

“It’s hard because there’s so many,” Rowley said. “I do love Kiara Bowers from Freo, everyone does, that’s a bit typical, but just the way she goes about it, she’s so good. “Even Georgia Patrikios from St Kilda, her run and carry and everything like that.”

A member of the AFL Women’s Academy, Rowley said the trip with the nation’s most talented prospects to the Top End was “sick” and something she would never forget.

“When I went to Darwin, I learnt so much about professionalism and it made me want to make it to the top level so much more,” Rowley said. “Just about what you learn.”

Now edging closer towards achieving her dream of being picked to play at the top level, Rowley said she had no intention of slowing down. While playing AFL Women’s was the “obvious” goal, she did not want to just make it, but continue to improve her game in any way she could.

“Well obviously the main one is to make AFLW, but just be the best player I can and keep improving better every week,” she said. ‘I don’t want to just get there and stop, just want to keep getting better.”

2021 WAFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Reigning premiers to host Sharks in opening game

PEEL Thunder will kick-start its premiership defence against perennial challengers, East Fremantle in a blockbuster standalone Saturday evening clash at David Grays Arena tomorrow. Starting at 5pm local time on Saturday (8pm AEDST), the Thunder will be keen to start off the season on the right note, whilst the Sharks will enjoy, for the first time in a while, not being the hunted and instead having the first crack at their successor.

Speaking to Peel Thunder coach Steve Markham during the week, the team will again be incredibly strong defensively, as it was last year. Though they also have plenty of talent up forward.

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

For East Fremantle, talented young ruck Rosie Walsh said the team as a whole was looking on improving their skills under new coach, and former Subiaco mentor, Simon Quayle.

“Hitting those targets, working on our kicking, on our handpasses, just those really basic skills that those little things that will get you to where you want to be,” she said. “Mia Schleicher, it’s her first year playing League as well, she played Colts last year and I definitely think she is a gun to look out for.  “Mylee Leitch – she has come up from the Colts, she has gone into the League team, she’s a small forward, really kick and knows how to put the ball through the sticks, she is pretty good.”

PEEL THUNDER COACH STEVE MARKHAM:

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

EAST FREMANTLE RUCK ROSIE WALSH:

“We’re working on switching lanes and just playing fast,” she said. “Obviously not too fast, but when we take a mark to push back and only kick it to when they know they have that separation from their defender, but everything else is working really fast. “So switching lanes, working down the corridor, and we know that Peel like to play really good body, so they will not let you get that separation, so we’re working really hard on getting that separation, especially in the forward line and keeping that body in the backline, so not letting them go.”

Both Peel Thunder and East Fremantle are strong one-on-one and like to move the ball quickly, which makes this the match of the round. While the Thunder will be missing some of their premiership talent, the Sharks will also be without crucial AFL Women’s experience. It all adds up to a fascinating battle and one not to be missed.

In the other two matches, reigning grand finalists Subiaco travel to Fremantle Community Bank Oval where they take on a vastly different looking South Fremantle. The Bulldogs did not manage to grab a win in their inaugural season last year, but they showed promise towards the end of the season, and have brought in a ton of experience for 2021. Bulldogs coach Beau McCormack said they would continue the brand of football from last year and build on it this season.

“I think our brand football we set out last year to play a brand football of high impact football and being known for a hard hitting team, and I think we, we definitely set that example last year and it’s something that we take on and have taken in again to this year, as I said, you know, tackling pressure from my point of view is a huge part of the game and we don’t have it, we get it back,” he said.

“We’ve got some really good runners, that are in the side, just trying to get it out and quick movement of the football from, one end of the ground to the other sort of fast flowing, free flowing football.”

Subiaco will head in with a new coach too after Michael Farmer took over the role from Amy Lavell this off-season. The Lions are preparing for another tilt at the flag after narrowly falling short in the 2021 decider.

Meanwhile Swan Districts will be hoping to back up a successful year where they not only made finals, but had a number of players drafted in Mikayla Morrison, Shanae Davison and Mikayla Hyde. The Swans take on Claremont in the opening round at Steel Blue Oval, with the Tigers hoping to improve on their narrow finals-missing campaign last year. With the likes of Ella Smith and Jess Low among those standing out last year, the Tigers should be another tough team in 2021.

Swan Districts will welcome a new head coach in Adam Dancey for the opening game, with team manager Jo Taylor excited about what the team could produce in 2021.

“We have a really young list again, we’ve got some more youngsters through, which is something that we’ve always sort of strived to do,” she said. “So we’re excited to see what they can do as well.”

Claremont coach Andrew Di Loreto has focused on areas that the Tigers could improve in season 2021 after narrowly missing out on finals last year.

“We had some areas we wanted to focus on in terms of evolving the way that we play,” Di Loreto said. “We’ve obviously got a bit of a shorter run up but with all that in mind I’m really happy with the commitment level and the development of our girls, I’m really keen to see them in action and obviously have a test and see where we’re at in a couple of weeks.”

WAFL ROUND 1 MATCHES:

Peel Thunder vs. East Fremantle @ David Grays Arena, Sat Feb 20, 5pm
South Fremantle vs. Subiaco @ Fremantle Community Bank Oval, Sun Feb 21, 1pm
Swan Districts vs. Claremont @ Steel Blue Oval, Sun Feb 21, 2pm

Picture credit: WAFL

Peel prepares for 2021 after “whirlwind” season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder