Tag: sturt

2021 SANFLW team review: Sturt

IN summarising the 2021 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s season, Draft Central will run through a team-by-team review of how each of the sides fared, and who some of the standout performers throughout the clubs were. The next team in the firing line is Sturt.

Position: 7th
Wins: 3
Losses: 7
Draws: 1
Points For: 311 (6th)
Points Against: 343 (6th)

Season in a Sentence: “Sturt had some eye-catching performances throughout the season, and were able to control the midfield battle largely in games, but were just not quite consistent enough to push for finals in 2021”

TOP PERFORMERS:

Zoe Prowse

The AFL Women’s Academy ruck came into the season as South Australia’s brightest draft prospect and she did not disappoint, playing a multitude of roles in nine games for Sturt in between her State Academy duties for the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. Starting out in the ruck and rotated through the midfield, Prowse also had stints up forward later in the season. She was injured in her second last game but returned to play a week later against North Adelaide. A genuine utility with plenty of upside and great athleticism and mobility.

Isobel Kuiper

The inside midfielder put together a really consistent season on the inside, earning Team of the Year honours for her efforts. In 11 games this season, Kuiper averaged 15.4 disposals, 2.9 marks, 3.6 clearances, 2.1 inside 50s, 1.5 rebound 50s and 6.5 tackles in what was a reliable season across most matches. Not dipping below 12 disposals, Kuiper picked up at least three clearances in eight games, and had a season-high seven against Central District in Round 8. A taller midfielder who can use her strength to advantage, it was hard to fault Kuiper’s 2021 season.

Alisha Gepp

Another inside ball-winner like Kuiper but as a smaller midfielder who won the majority of her touches in tight, Gepp averaged the 17.6 disposals, 3.9 tackles, 3.2 clearances and 2.1 marks. A stunning debut season was highlighted by a 36-disposal effort against Woodville-West Torrens Eagles in Round 5, while her clearance work was consistent with multiple clearances in every game. Gepp still has development to come but was eye-catching in her first SANFL Women’s season.

Jess Good

Coming into the side from Round 4, Jess Good became one of the most dominant tap rucks going around, with 28.5 per game, and after only 12 on debut, Good did not dip below 20 for the rest of the season. This included 46 and 42 hitout efforts against Glenelg and North Adelaide respectively, whilst finding 10 or more disposals in five of her matches. Good allowed Prowse to play in other roles, and really became that impressive starting ruck, finishing with 11.8 disposals, 2.3 marks, 3.0 tackles, 2.6 clearances and 2.3 inside 50s.

OTHERS:

The Double Blues are one of the youngest sides going around, with State Academy members Georgia Swan, Alex Ballard and Hannah Prenzler all having their impressive games, whilst the likes of Jaimee Wittervan, Kate Harris and Maya Rigter stood out throughout the season. Kiera Mueller‘s influence late in the year was also eye-catching.

Picture credit: SANFL / Cory Sutton

Prowse excels from being thrown into key role

ZOE Prowse was certainly thrown in the deep end when she first pulled on the Double Blues’ jumper in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition a few years back. The then 15-year-old had come from a local football club and successfully earned a spot on Sturt’s Under 15s list, but soon found herself rucking against opponents twice her age.

“I started playing school footy so two of my teachers actually played SANFL and from there they just said ‘come try out at school’ and then from there one of my friends played at a local football club, went to that club and then Sturt invited me out just to do the Under 15s and then from that started playing in the women’s league,” Prowse said.

It’s been a lot, so I started when I was 15 and I was thrown into the ruck pretty much straight away so I was pretty young, but it was exciting and I learnt a lot very quickly.”

Prowse held her own then, and it has held her in good stead for her junior football career, rising up through the South Australian development programs to begin training with the State Academy, something she has enjoyed. Playing and training alongside the best young talent in the state, Prowse said she noticed the difference in speed at trainings and Academy games.

“It’s been really good, been training once a week, really good to get around a different group of people, so used to training with our normal SANFL clubs, playing against each other and then coming together,” she said. “It’s a lot faster than SANFL so that’s good as well.”

Having been noticed from a young age as a prestigious talent, Prowse was the sole bottom-age AFL Women’s Academy member last year, and was joined in the Academy by South Adelaide’s Gypsy Schirmer this year. While the Sturt ruck said there was not much that had been done to-date (at the time of the interview mid-champs), Prowse was looking forward to future camps alongside the other members of the Academy.

“It’s been really good,” Prowse said. “I haven’t completed much yet, but after this trip we have camps so we can just stay here until Saturday and then we have another camp further later in the year, but hasn’t been a lot yet so far.”

Being an athletic ruck who has expanded her game into playing through the midfield or even up forward of late, Prowse noted her strengths as her timing of her jumps, and then contesting in marking situations. As for her improvements, Prowse was blunt about her most recent performance at the time during South Australia’s loss to Vic Country.

“Very simple but just my kicking,” she said. “In my last game my kicking was horrible, I really need to improve it.”

Now playing alongside plenty of youth at the Double Blues, Prowse said she was enjoying the youth influx at the club, as well as the experienced players who have aided in both her, and her teammates’ development.

“It’s been really good, so there’s a few other girls that are my age as well who are doing it, so having them around has been really good, but I’ve learnt so much off the older players and it’s just been really exciting,” she said.

As for an inspiration, the budding AFL Women’s talent – who said reaching the elite level was the dream goal – Prowse said she could not pinpoint a sole individual as inspiration, but rather a support network around her.

“There hasn’t been one specific person, there’s just people like my sister, as well as a few of my friends, as well as my parents, so little bits from a lot of people, not one person specifically,” she said.

Prowse and her Sturt side are hoping to continue their rise up the ladder and push for finals, currently sitting in sixth on the SANFL Women’s table with two rounds remaining in the regular season.

2021 SANFL Under 16s Semi Finals wrap – South, Bays progress to decider

MINOR premier South Adelaide will meet Glenelg in the 2021 SANFL Under 16 Grand Final, after both sides won out in their preliminary bouts in a Sunday double-header at Hisense Stadium. Both sides finished the regular season with 5-2 records, before progressing through the first post-season week in style. We recap both results, highlighting some of the best players afield from all four finalists.

South Adelaide 16.11 (107) def. North Adelaide 12.3 (75)

South Adelaide became the first side to qualify for this year’s Under 16 decider, via a 32-point defeat of North Adelaide on Sunday morning. The Panthers led from the first goal and managed to break away after an even opening term. Having skipped to a three-goal buffer at half time, South made it five by the next change of ends, and maintained its scoreboard pressure to run out comfortable 16.11 (107) to 12.3 (75) victors.

Competition leading goalkicker Jack Delean had a blinder with 7.2 from 15 disposals, backing up a six-goal effort last week. Like Delean, Phoenix Hargrave also bagged his personal season-high in goals with four, as leading ball winners Tom Wheaton (24 disposals) and Sid Draper (23) also snared goals and had 17 clearances between them. Ryan Pearsons was another to have a say with nine marks, eight inside 50s and 19 disposals, while Jace Davis got his hands dirty with 10 tackles and Benny Barrett laid eight, also kicking 1.2.

Jed Dignan was North’s best form of reply with three goals, he also managed to clunk three contested grabs. Roosters’ leading goalkicker Dj Smith was one of two players to kick two goals, making for his fifth haul of multiple majors for 2021. Gun midfielder Kane McAuliffe capped a remarkable year with 36 disposals, nine marks and seven clearances, with Toby Turner (27 disposals, 14 rebound 50s) kept busy as the only other Rooster to tick over 25 touches. Mackenzie Boxall and Louie Montgomery were others to get amongst it, finishing with 15 disposals and one goal apiece.

Sturt 6.7 (43) def. by Glenelg 12.8 (80)

Glenelg earned passage to this year’s Under 16 Grand Final with a comprehensive performance against Sturt, defeating the Double Blues by 37 points on Sunday afternoon. The Bays led from the get-go and never looked back, opening up a handy buffer at the first break and applying too much scoreboard pressure for Sturt to surmount. The game was all but over at three quarter time with Glenelg 45 points clear, and the Tigers would end up doubling their opponents’ goal tally in the 12.8 (80) to 6.7 (43) drubbing.

Lucas Camporeale led all comers with 32 touches (25 kicks) and six inside 50s in the win, as Bodie Ryan managed 26 (20 kicks), nine marks and eight r50. Anders McShane booted a goal from his 23 touches, while skipper Ben Ridgway clunked seven marks and laid six tackles in a hard-working display. Eli Redman booted two goals from his 21 disposals, finishing only behind the haul of three from tall, Harry Francis. Ashton Moir was also strong in the air, clunking 11 marks (four contested).

Sturt finished with six single goalkickers, and leading ball winner Luca Slade was among them. He racked up 25 touches and five clearances, while Thomas McCourt was the only other Blues to tick over 20 disposals and kick a goal. George Pope had it 23 times, and Lachlan Murphy was another to keep busy with 21 as the second-ranked side fell short of reaching the season’s final week.

Image Credit: Cory Sutton/SANFL

SANFL Player Focus: No first round blues for Sturt’s Morgan Ferres

ATHLETIC Sturt youngster Morgan Ferres is a member of the 2021 State Talent Hub, and one of the most highly-rated South Australian forwards in this year’s draft class. His season commenced on Friday at Unley Oval when Sturt came up against Woodville-West Torrens, and he started the year in blistering form. With six goals, ten marks (two contested), 17 disposals and two inside 50s, it was a day out against reasonable opposition. With four behinds and multiple unselfish goal assists during the contest, it is fair to say that he could have kicked nine or ten. Regardless, he leads the SANFL Under 18 goalkicking tally after Round 1 and has set himself up for a strong season.

Ferres started the match by taking a nice mark on the lead, but sprayed his first shot on goal. He quickly redeemed his miss by juggling a mark, playing on and snapping the Double Blues’ second major in the opening six minutes. This was the first of many instances where Ferres read the flight of the ball far better than the Eagles defenders and got himself into ideal positions. Later in the first term, Ferres pushed up to half-forward to create a higher option for teammates streaming off half-back. He showed that he has quick hands when his handball released a teammate into space and led to a goal from Kai Tucker. Ferres should have kicked his second from the next centre bounce, but he missed an open shot from 35 metres out. Soon after, he worked hard to get open, marked and quickly delivered to Henry Read inside 50, who kicked Sturt’s fourth goal of the day. Ferres’ score involvement numbers were very high on Friday, and he regularly attempted to give the ball to teammates who were in better positions to kick at goal. Another example of this occurred late in the first term when, after earning a free for a hold on the 50-metre arc, Ferres looked like he was going to have a shot but instead passed it off. This unselfish play led to a goal by Cormac Dwyer.

Ferres linked up well with wingman Tucker throughout the match, who used his accurate foot skills to find the leading Ferres on numerous occasions. In the second term, after Ferres got on the end of a pass from Tucker, he was tight on the boundary and attempted to pass it off, but the kick fell short of his target. Ferres is naturally unselfish and passing was the right option on this occasion, it was just the execution that missed the mark. Four minutes in, Ferres completed a beautiful fat-side lead to earn an uncontested mark and he drilled his set shot from 35 metres out. His marking appears to have gone to another level this year, as demonstrated when he took a tough contested grab after a long kick down the line from Brad Jefferies. Ferres immediately looked inside and found Jordan Hein in the corridor, thus opening up the other side of the 50 for Sturt forwards to lead into. At the 22-minute mark, as the deepest forward, Ferres outbodied his opponent, marked and strolled into an open goal for his third. Sturt went into half time with a two-point lead, thanks in large part to Ferres’ three majors and numerous score involvements to that point.

The Eagles got well on top at the start of the third, so the ball did not enter the Blues’ forwardline much during that period. With Sturt ten points down, Ferres claimed a mark but was penalised for a push in the back. It was not until the 23-minute mark that Ferres got another opportunity to make an impact, and he did not waste it as he took a chest mark on the lead and booted through his fourth. He had another chance to goal from the next centre bounce after picking up the ball cleanly and turning sharply around his opponent, but his snap went through for a behind. Sturt reclaimed the lead just before three-quarter time and looked to have the momentum at the break.

Early in the last quarter, Ferres led into the pocket to took a strong overhead mark. With his impressive vertical leaping ability and long reach, it is difficult for his opponents to get a spoil in without chopping his arms. These traits will assist him as he rises up the grades, and this is why coaches will encourage him to take more marks overhead or out in front as he continues his development. After his grab, Ferres went back and kicked a beautiful snap around the body for his fifth. Ferres said in his preseason interview that he has been working on his goalkicking during the offseason, and this hard work clearly paid off in this instance. Ferres is very good at letting his man play in front and calling for the kick over the top into space, thus allowing him to take comfortable uncontested marks. He did this again at the 12-minute mark, which led to his sixth and final goal of the day from approximately 35 metres out. Soon after, Ferres crumbed a contest in the forward pocket, sidestepped an Eagles defender and attempted to dribble through a goal, but he just missed to the near side. As the siren sounded, Sturt ran out winners by 40 points. Ferres would have been happy with the result and his performance, as he proved that he is already a class above Under 18 level.

The scoreboard flattered Sturt in the end, as it kicked the final nine goals of the match to come away with the points. Ferres was certainly their most prominent contributor throughout, and the side required his contributions to be able to score consistently. Although Ferres will also be playing school football at St Peter’s College for much of 2021, he could earn an opportunity to play at SANFL League level depending on how Sturt’s senior side fares. Playing against bigger bodies would be a fascinating challenge for Ferres, and he will seek to compete and shine at the Under 19 National Championships in September and October. It will be interesting to see how Ferres’ game develops throughout the year as he attempts to impress AFL scouts en route to the 2021 AFL Draft.

Image Credit: Mel Faull/Get Snapt

2021 Academy Watch: SANFL Women’s Round 4

IT was a tight round of South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s action in Round 4, and we took a look at the State Academy players once again in what was their last preparation ahead of the first AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships match against Western Australia next Sunday. All notes are the opinion of the individual writer.

WWT EAGLES vs. CENTRAL DISTRICT

By: Peter Willams

Eagles:

#8 Charlotte Dolan

Attacked the contest hard throughout the four quarters and is always heavily involved with the umpires both ways; receiving free kicks for getting to the ball first and being tackled high, then going overzealous with a tackle herself and giving one away. You know exactly where to find her – at the bottom of a pack, on top of an opponent or ready to receive the ball in close. Throughout the match she showed good strength to run the ball in transition and drove the ball inside 50 on a number of occasions, having a purple patch early in the fourth term, as well as showing clean hands at ground level.

#25 Jamie Parish

Winning the ball at both half-forward and half-back, showed off her versatility which will come in handy at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. She had strong hands to clunk grabs around the ground and is quick to dispose of the ball, such as when she was close to the boundary line on the wing, five minutes into the third team.

Central:

#40 Madison Lane

Having a great season in 2021, the rebounding defender has found her niche in defence with clean hands, good footy IQ and clean kicking out of the back half. She did have a moment to forget when giving away a 50m penalty for not handing the ball back sooner in the second term resulting an opposition goal, but otherwise had a superb performance. Time and time again she would mop up for her side, show a clean pair of heels, pick up the ball at full speed and deliver to a free teammate at half-back or down the wing. She put up a four-quarter performance and was one of the Bulldogs’ best on the day.

#41 Laitiah Huynh

The small forward might not have had the impact she has in past weeks, but kept working hard throughout the four quarters. Huynh had a few almost-moments with an almost-grab at half-forward early in the match, then burst out of a pack inside 50 but was run down. Throw in a terribly unlucky bounce early in the fourth term, and the luck was not on her side. However in saying that, her defensive pressure all day was still red-hot and she had a good final term with quick hands and tracking an opponent at half-forward to force a turnover. Another highlight came late in the first term when an opponent attempted to fend her off but she denied that and locked up the ball in a tackle.

 

WEST ADELAIDE vs. GLENELG

By: Peter Williams

West Adelaide:

#8 Keeley Kustermann

Played an aggressive running game off half-back and along the wing with quick disposal and using her lovely long kicking to advantage. Possessing a penetrating kick and great balance on either side, Kustermann routinely beat her opponent to the ball and would either win, or nullify the contest. The bottom-age talent was utilised kicking out of defence, and then in the third term had a number of long kicks from the top of 50 deep to the danger zone to try and create scoring opportunities in the second half.

#9 Zoe Venning

Stringing together a really good 2021 season, Venning was once again very prominent for the Bloods throughout four quarters. A fierce inside midfielder who has the capacity to spread to the outside and get it forward, she packs a punch by throwing herself at the hard ball and shovelling it out to teammates. She won a free kick late in the first term, and with no one on the mark ran to 55m out and delivered perfectly to Lauren Young inside 50 for a goal. She read the ball well in flight 11 minutes into the second term and read it off hands well midway through the third to snap inside 50 off a stoppage, as some of her other highlights for the match.

#30 Lauren Young

After dominating in the air in defence in Round 1 – whilst still playing as a midfielder – and then racking up big numbers through the middle the last two weeks, it was only natural for the 179cm 15-year-old to go forward and slot three majors to desperately try and haul her side over the line. Still roaming through the middle and just finding the right spots in the forward 50, she kicked two goals in six minutes in the opening term with a strong mark and set shot 20m out, then a free kick 15m out to give her team a perfect start. Just as Glenelg was getting on top with momentum, Young bobbed up again with another contested mark four minutes into the final term to put the Bloods back in front by six points. She also had her fair share of touches around the ground and would pump it out of defensive 50 throughout the match too.

Glenelg:

#7 Brooke Tonon

Has really developed into a consistent midfielder running on the outside and accumulating the ball with ease. While at times she can rush, when she knows she has the time and space, she can take the game on, break it open and gain some serious meterage. Her sidestepping and ability to get out of trouble is a treat, and despite being lightly-built compared to some opponents, just lays fierce tackles. As versatile as they come, able to play in all thirds of the ground.

#12 Tamsyn Morriss

Had another solid outing with her consistent foot skills and reading of the play on show. She worked hard on the last line, and provided defensive pressure such as a big tackle on Chelsea Biddell early in the match to force a stoppage, and then a potential match-winning effort on the goal-line to go back at speed, cleanly grab the ball before it bounced through and kicked clear.

 

NORWOOD vs. NORTH ADELAIDE

By: Peter Williams

Norwood:

#15 Alana Lishmund

Quickly got involved in the contest with a kick out of midfield 35 seconds into the game, and then dropped back to help out the defence with a nice kick to half-back. In the second term she did well in a one-on-one contested at half-forward to force the ball to ground, then laid a big dumping tackle early in the final term. She showed her strength midway through the fourth quarter by wrestling the ball out of an opponents’ grasp and got her boot to ball.

#22 Jade Halfpenny

The versatile forward found herself inside the centre square at the start of each quarter and spent substantial time up the ground around the stoppages. Despite being known for her forward leading and strength overhead, Halfpenny was just as influential around the ball and took to it with ease, having played in the midfield before, but this was an increased role. She was able to utilise her speed and athleticism in the first term, bursting out of the stoppages and kicking inside 50. Whilst she was still able to go forward and have an impact, there were a number of highlights to point out throughout the match. Her best was her goal in the fifth minute where she competed against two defenders, smothered an opponent, kept tracking it and ran into an open goal to seal the deal for the Redlegs. She also did well 10 minutes into the third term where she shrugged off a would-be tackler, spun out and was tackled again but got her hands free well to the outnumber. Usually a player whose impact is far greater than her stats, her Round 4 performance was no different.

North Adelaide:

#33 Julia Clark

Had a really impressive game, arguably her best of the season, and maybe SANFL Women’s career. She still brought the heat with her tackling pressure, but it was her work rate and ability to push up and down the ground and win more of the ball than previous matches, whilst showing composure under pressure which all stood out. Clark always puts her head over the ball and tries to run in space to create some movement in transition, and whilst she will always be tough to beat one-on-one, Clark showed her offensive traits to match her defensive ones.

#38 Kate Case

A quieter game for the smooth mover who still worked around the ground but could just not quite get into the action. Had a couple of important touches and in the 15th minute of the final term went up for a mark, could not quite bring it down but showed good recovery to handball to a teammate.

#47 Jorja Eldridge

Returning to the Roosters side for her first game in 2021, Eldridge played in close and helped chop out in the ruck. She was undersized at the ruck stoppages, but is able to use her strength to move her opponent, whilst her second efforts – which included a tackle at ground level after losing the tap – was what helped provide a “fourth midfielder” there. She showed good defensive pressure and laid some strong tackles, as well as quick hands at ground level.

 

SOUTH ADELAIDE vs. STURT

By: Liam Badkin

South Adelaide:

#1 Tahlita Buethke

Had a strong game and particularly strong last quarter. Took two intercept marks in the final term when Sturt was trying to create some run out of its backline. Put her head over the ball in multiple contests and was rewarded for doing so.

#5 Sarah Wright

Played her role well throughout all four quarters. She was reliable by foot whenever she had the ball and would be pleased with her three rebound 50’s as she created some run for her teammates.

#36 Gypsy Schimer

Did not have too much of the ball, but did not need to as she was damaging whenever she got it. Used her pace brilliantly out of the backline and seemed to be always creating for her team. Absolutely crunching an opponent during a bump in the last quarter proved a particular highlight.

#41 Lauren Clifton

A quiet day but had her moments. Found herself involved in play even when she did not have the ball in her hands.

Sturt:

#3 Georgia Swan

Had an absolute field day, racking up a season-best 20 disposals. She was electric around the stoppages and took excellent marks in the air. Used her explosiveness to hurt the opposition and create opportunities for her teammates. Did her work on the defensive end too, laying four tackles for the day.

#19 Alex Ballard

Was fantastic in the defensive half, using the ball well and taking a game-high seven marks to go with her 13 disposals. Constantly tried to create for Sturt in the last term, even though the ball was constantly being sent back in. Took on her opponent on the mark on multiple occasions in some exciting passages.

#20 Hannah Prenzler

Was crucial in driving the ball out of Sturt’s backline, finishing with an equal game-high five rebound 50’s from her ten disposals. Consistently found herself in space and worked well in tandem with her backline teammates to rebound the ball out of defence.

#30 Zoe Prowse

Faced a tough task against Montana McKinnon, and did not get her usual amount of hitouts, but was exceptional at ground level. Finished with 10 disposals and four clearances as she tormented her opponents with her follow up work after the ruck contest. Spent time as an on-baller and was explosive out of the stoppages.

 

Picture credit: SANFL / Peter Swan

Q&A: Morgan Ferres (Sturt/South Australia)

STURT forward Morgan Ferres has already made a name for himself as one of the most damaging junior goalkickers, with his sights set on breaking through for a League berth in 2021. The St Peter’s student will juggle his time between Under 18s football, school football and hopefully League selection, as he looks to cement his status as a bonafide draft prospect. The athletic tall is a force in the air, but also covers the ground well with a strong speed-endurance mix.

Draft Central correspondent Tom Cheesman chatted to Ferres at the recent South Australia preseason testing event for a question and answer (Q&A) special.

Q&A:

Q: How’d you test today?

A: “Not bad actually. It’s pretty fun being out here with all the boys and doing a bit of professional testing. It’s good to get amongst it pretty early on in the year and get a few tests done to see where you sit. But I felt pretty happy with how I went today.”

 

Tell me a bit about your footy journey so far

“I started juniors at Payneham pretty young and then went over to St Peter’s College and I’ve played there since Year 7 – I’m in Year 12 now. I joined Sturt at about Under 15s level so I’ve there played from about Under 15s to Under 18s now.”

 

How’s your offseason been, what kind of things have you been working on?

“I did this testing early last year and I was pretty happy with my fitness numbers. I’ve spent a lot of the offseason working on my kicking, it’s definitely something I want to improve on – field kicking and a little bit of goalkicking as well. I also need to hit the gym a little bit and put on a few kilos.”

 

What are your main strengths on the field?

“I think for a tall, marking ability and agility and speed are things I use to my advantage to run up and get a few kicks up the ground, but also try and beat my opponent back to goal. So, outworking my opponent and aerial marking are my main two strengths I think.”

 

Do you see yourself as a mid-forward?

“I’ve played key (forward) last year but I haven’t done a lot of growing over the summer so I think if I were to play at the higher levels I’d be a hybrid half-forward sort of player.”

 

Is moving up the grades one of your main goals for the year?

“I’ve talked a bit to our Under 18s coach and we’re trying to figure out where is a good spot to play, whether it be the 18s, Reserves or seniors. I think the plan is to start in the 18s, hopefully get comfortable and get a few kicks and marks before moving up to the seniors later in the season if possible. I’ve also got college footy… so I’ll mostly play with St Peter’s with a bit on SANFL Under 18s and League if I can get there.”

 

How do you go about balancing footy with those other commitments?

“Being in Year 12 this year it’s definitely something new with the extra studies. But I’ve shortened my subjects a little bit now, I’m only doing three at school so I did that in preparation for this year to free up a bit more time so by the time I get home at 3:30 I can get straight into my footy without having any homework to worry about. So far it’s working well.”

 

How supportive has St Peter’s been with your footballing commitments?

“They’re very supportive. I’ve told them football is something I want to do and they helped me get through that with my schoolwork so they’re pretty helpful.”

 

How would you compare school footy to SANFL level?

“They’re very different styles of footy. School is obviously really fun playing with your mates and people you work in a classroom with during the day, then you get to go out and have a bit of fun on the footy field with them on the weekend. SANFL I like the high quality and the skill and things like that.”

 

Are there any players you model your game on?

“I’ve watched a bit of Charlie Curnow from Carlton, a pretty exciting forward. Him and a bit of Tom Lynch from the Crows are the two I kind of find myself in the middle of – exciting at times but also pretty strict with the way I lead with patterns. Tom Lynch I watch how he leads a lot, the way he moves around the ground is pretty elite. Charlie Curnow is an exciting forward who’s pretty cool to watch so I’d like to find a balance between those two.”

Image Credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL

Prowse set for a positional change in 2021

ZOE Prowse is one of South Australia’s leading Under 18 Women’s football prospects. The promising Sturt youngster will be eligible for the AFL Women’s Draft at the end of the 2021 season, and she has generated plenty of buzz in women’s football circles in a short space of time.

While Prowse did gain some football exposure as a junior, she did not begin playing competitively until 2017.

“I started by doing Auskick with my brother, but then I stopped for ages,” she said. “It wasn’t until I went to school in Year 8 and there was a girl’s knockout team for me to join. I played and developed my game from there.”

The Mercedes College student said the school has been fantastic for her football development, and she identified two key people that have helped her progress.

“Mercedes have been really good to me, two of my teachers Mr. Caire and Mr. Hill played SANFL League at Westies, so they basically got my footy career started,” Prowse said.

After taking a cheeky dig at her brother Spencer, Prowse said all members of her family have been helpful throughout her football journey.

“My family has been very supportive, she said. “My sister Arabella has come out to every game, so she’s really encouraged it, as well as mum and dad. They all get around it.”

When asked how she thought she went at the South Australian Preseason Testing Day on Sunday, Prowse was her typically modest self.

“I think I did alright, I probably could have done better in some tests, but I think I did okay,” Prowse said. “My jumps are my strength on a day like this, especially my running jumps.”

On the footy field, Prowse is known for her incredible rucking ability and follow-up work, a “fourth-midfielder” style of role that she enjoys. However, she will be looking to develop a new side to her game this season.

“I think I’m not playing in the ruck this year, I’m actually playing as a midfielder, so that will mean a lot more running around,” she said. “Sturt have two new ruckmen this year, so I think we’ll try and get them to take that role so that I can move around, try new positions and continue to develop my game.”

Prowse believes this change will provide a unique opportunity for her to enhance her aerobic base.

“I’m looking to improve my fitness this season, just being able to consistently run out a full game,” she said.

Overall, Prowse has one objective in mind for 2021, and locals will be ecstatic about where she wants to end up.

“My goal for the year is to get drafted, I want to be drafted by the Crows,” Prowse said.

 

Picture credit: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

 

For more SANFLW news, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

Scouting Notes: 2020 SANFL Grand Finals

GRAND Final week in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) brings along with it another edition of our scouting notes, focusing on the top draft-relevant performers from around the competition this weekend. In this instalment, we widen our scope to cover the prospects running around across all three grades, with a particular focus on State Academy based talentNational Combine invitees, and others who may push for selection along the line.

Please consider that each set of notes showcase the opinions of our scouts individually, and there are only so many players we can keep an eye on each week.

>> Power Rankings: October Edition

LEAGUE/RESERVES

WWT Eagles vs. North Adelaide

By: Tom Wyman

WWT Eagles:

#9 Rhyan Mansell (League)

The young defender again played an integral role down back for the premiers. The Tasmanian combined well with Lachlan Jones and veteran Patrick Giuffreda in the back half, finishing with three rebounds. Mansell used the ball with precision and orchestrated a number of successful attacks. He showcased his sound vision, composure, and decision making and positioned himself well to take a number of intercept marks. Mansell finished the game with 19 disposals, eight marks and five tackles.

#16 James Rowe (League)

As has been the case all season, the excitement machine looked threatening whenever he was near the footy. He demanded attention all day and capitalised on his opportunities, as all good small forwards do. North’s Mitch Clisby was given the big job on Rowe and kept him quiet early on as the Roosters started strongly. However, when the Eagles were well on top, he nailed a goal in the dying minutes of the first half. The son of former-Crow Stephen, Rowe kicked a fantastic goal from 40 metres out after his Eagles teammates forced a turnover in the third term. Whenever he wasn’t lurking around the forward line, Rowe was getting under the skin of his Roosters opponents. He used the ball to terrific effect in general play and finished the day with 15 disposals and four inside 50s to go with his two goals. After a dominant season, Rowe is becoming increasingly difficult to overlook for a spot at the elite level.

#28 Jacob Wehr (League)

The 22-year-old from Balaklava in South Australia’s mid-north was excellent for the Eagles. Wehr was able to get the ball in some time and space, allowing him to cut up North’s defence with his pin-point foot skills. The wingman worked hard both ways between the arcs and continuously provided an outlet for Woodville-West Torrens. He finished the contest with 19 disposals, six marks, five tackles, two inside 50s and three rebound 50s. Wehr has been a revelation for the Eagles this season and is one of several mature-aged prospects who could attract some AFL attention over the coming months.

#34 Lachlan Jones (League)

The bull-like defender produced another sensational performance on the big stage and once again showed class beyond his years. As he has shown time and time again throughout the year, Jones refused to be beaten one-on-one. He was deployed as the loose defender for much of the day and read the play exceptionally well. He positioned himself like a seasoned veteran, taking a number of important intercept marks. He showed great composure and poise both with and without the ball, using it efficiently by hand and foot. He produced a number of terrific defensive actions which didn’t show up on the stats sheet, but will have impressed coach Jade Sheedy. Jones finished with 18 disposals, five marks, four tackles and three rebound 50s. A premiership medal is a fitting way to end a wonderful season for Jones, who appears likely to be a first round selection come draft night.

#51 Lachlan McNeil (League)

In a game where all the Eagles youngsters contributed well, McNeil was the best of the bunch. He provided relentless run along the wing and used the ball as well as anyone. McNeil’s high work rate allowed him to take a host of marks on the outer side. He used the ball well and his teammates clearly looked for him to hit a target going inside 50. But the clear highlight of his game was a terrific running goal in the second quarter, which featured two bounces and a beautiful finish. He concluded the match with 23 disposals, nine marks, two tackles, three clearances and six inside 50s. The Clare product missed out on being drafted as an 18-year-old last year, but after a great performance on Grand Final day and a consistent season at senior level with the Eagles, McNeil could find himself a home at AFL level at the second time of asking.

>> MORE WWT EAGLES CONTENT

North Adelaide:

#37 Karl Finlay (League)

It was a difficult day for the Roosters, who struggled to get anything going after quarter time as Finlay and his fellow backmen had their backs against the wall all day. However Finlay was one of North’s best, particularly in the air. He spent some time on dangerous Eagle forward Jack Hayes and also rolled onto Jake Von Bertouch at times. Given the duo’s ability to clunk big contested marks, Finlay held his own. He was thrown up forward by coach Jacob Surjan for a brief stint when the Eagles were in full control and took one of his three contested marks. Finlay tackled hard at ground level and also provided some rebound. He finished with 13 disposals, three marks, five tackles and two inside 50s.

#38 Dyson Hilder (Reserves)

Much like Finlay in the League game, fellow teenaged defender Hilder was similarly strong in the air for the Roosters’ Reserves. He took a couple of strong contested marks and finished the game with seven grabs overall. Hilder, who played a couple of senior games with North Adelaide earlier in the season, provided some clear rebound by foot and was among his side’s best players, despite the loss. He also gave number one ruckman James Craig a break by rotating through the ruck and winning seven hitouts. He finished with 16 disposals and four rebound 50s.

>> MORE NORTH ADELAIDE CONTENT

UNDER 18s

Norwood vs. Sturt

By: Michael Alvaro

Norwood:

#1 Cooper Murley

With Norwood at full strength and solid top-age operators roaming through the engine room, Murley has been squeezed out a touch in this finals series after an outstanding regular season. Nonetheless, the speedy bottom-ager managed to have an impact with bursts of pace and some crafty plays forward of centre. His instinctive attacking runs allowed him to find space inside 50 from the get-go, sinking one of two first term set shots. His kicks were a touch rushed on the outside under the heat of battle, but most of his running game came in that kind of fashion. He missed a few more chances to hit the scoreboard, albeit from tough positions and distances, with a two-bounce dash through the corridor during the final term ending in a flying shot which just did not have the legs. It was more a game of glimpses for Murley compared to his previous form, but he looms as a first round prospect for next year’s draft.

#4 Henry Nelligan

Nelligan is the kind of player you want on your side during a big game, with his consistency and work rate up there with the best of players. Starting in midfield and rotating forward, the diminutive ball winner ended with a game-high 28 disposals to go with six inside 50s and 1.3 in an inspired display. Not only did Nelligan showcase his clean hands and quick skills at ground level, but he was also able to accumulate around the ground and provide a reliable outlet in all areas. A lot of his clearances were booted over his shoulder, but still gained good meterage in the high-stakes contest. While stationed forward, Nelligan stayed busy and used his smarts to position beautifully upon Norwood’s inside 50 entries. His lone goal came in the first term from a strong mark close to goal, and he put two other chances just wide with another touched before bouncing through the big sticks. After some massive performances for the Redlegs, he remains an outside chance to be drafted as a natural footballer with great smarts.

#5 Ethan Schwerdt

Donning the knee brace once again, Schwerdt was a very handy part of Norwood’s midfield-forward rotation. His first big contribution came inside attacking 50, as he put a quick snap wide, but followed up with a shrewd crumb and dribble goal in the opening term. Schwerdt’s skills were neat in the short range and his little bursts of speed away from congestion proved key in setting Norwood on the front foot. His second goal, which came in the final term, was undoubtedly his highlight of the day. Schwerdt bravely marked between two opponents, moved on immediately to burn both of them, and slotted home a long-range bomb on the run.

#11 Xavier Tranfa

Another of Norwood’s prolific midfielders who also impacted in the front half, Tranfa’s two third term goals truly broke the game open. His first came via a strong mark directly from the centre clearance against a couple of opponents, with the set shot converted emphatically from around the 50-metre arc. Shortly after, he found himself on the end of another forward chain, wheeling on his favoured left side and sinking a powerful shot through the big sticks. That kind of impact was complimented by some strong work at the contest, as Tranfa attacked both the ball and carrier with intent. He was clean at ground level and while not overly quick, he would get his legs pumping or buy enough time to eventually send Norwood into attack. 19 disposals, six tackles, four clearances, and a couple of goals made for a terrific all-round game.

#15 Harlee Chandler

Chandler has proven somewhat of a finals wildcard for Norwood, slotting into the midfield with aplomb and providing great balance at the contest. He began proceedings with a sharp run through the middle and goal assisting pass inside 50, with that kind of run and movement through the corridor a sign of things to come. He was able to fend off opponents and break free, with much of his work as clean as and impactful as anyone else afield. A rush of blood saw Chandler miss his final term attempt on goal after a terrific play to win the ball, but it hardly took away from what was an eye-catching performance from the youngster. He finished with 19 disposals, six tackles, and three clearances.

#27 Nathan Hearing

The 2020 Alan Stewart Medal winner was best afield, Hearing was his usual heroic self through the ruck. Hardly a one-dimensional bigman, the 195cm prospect won a game-high 11 clearances, one more than his 10 hitouts throughout the day. His 21 disposals all-up came in various positions and fashions, but the majority of his work was done at the fall of the ball at stoppages to release his runners at ground level. Hearing’s imposing figure was also sighted down back where he took a couple of relieving marks close to goal, using his reach and timing to stand tall amid forming packs. He may have been beaten vertically at times at the centre bounces, but fared well around the ground and even took balls directly out of the ruck to send the Redlegs forward.

Others:

As is often the case for Norwood, an even team spread saw many contributors stand up across the day. Mitchell Trepka stood up early from defence, with Billy Haebich providing some dash and Sam Duke proving an important aerial figure on the same line. Daniel Fairbrother, who gained senior experience this year was also part of Norwood’s sturdy defence. Marcus Roberts fared well up forward with a couple of goals while big Finn Heard spearheaded the attack, and Michael Cavallaro provided a classy outlet on the wing.

>> MORE NORWOOD CONTENT

Sturt:

#9 Malachy Carruthers

Usually one of the more attacking defenders who is capable of impacting through the corridor, Carruthers’ rebounding efforts mostly came from inside own defensive 50. While his long-range kicking was as sound as ever amid the breeze and Norwood’s pressure, Carruthers seldom had reliable targets to kick to as the ball would often eventually find its way back to his area. He was one of Sturt’s only consistently cool heads down back, but was too often forced too far away from positions in which he would normally attack. Carruthers seemed to lift in the third term as the Double Blues’ hopes began to fade, with his intercept marking, urgent running, and weighted kicks all coming to the fore. It would end up being an effort in vein, but the potential draft bolter finished with a very handy 21 disposals, nine marks, and nine rebound 50s as one of Sturt’s best.

#17 Mani Liddy

Arguably Sturt’s most impactful midfielder in the first half, Liddy was particularly prolific at the centre bounces. His core strength and clean hands gave the Double Blues numerous opportunities to attack first, though some grubber kicks out of congestion on Liddy’s end did his side few favours in that sense. His disposal on the move was a touch untidy in those opening stages despite finding the ball at will, apart from his obvious proficiency via hand. Not shy of a bit of niggle, Liddy’s lone goal for the game came in the second term after being crunched inside 50, with his set shot conversion proving sound. He attempted to force some forward momentum in the latter stages, finishing with 18 disposals, seven clearances, and a goal.

#18 Tom Powell

Powell may have seen the most ball for Sturt with 25 disposals and six marks, but had a touch less than his usual impact around the stoppages. His ability to extract and quickly release via hand was still on show, with numerous drawing handballs and well-timed distributive touches showcasing his best assets. It also lent to his high-level vision and decision making, especially amid the contested Grand Final chaos. Powell’s clean hands were also shown as he gathered well below his knees and snapped home a sharp goal in the second term, something he is increasingly bringing to the fore. With a couple of goal assists to cap off his outing, that attacking prowess is something which will be important in shaking that one-dimensional accumulator tag. He lived up to his billing for the most part, but could not quite help Sturt get over the line.

#25 James Borlase

Borlase was in the thick of the action as tensions boiled over in the third term, not afraid to throw his large frame around and get involved in the biff. He was hardly the only one, but got very heated and seemed to be a prime target for Norwood as ill discipline crept into Sturt’s game. Outside of that, Borlase once again proved a class above many of his Under 18 competitors with terrific reading of the play down back and strong intercept marking. His ball use was often sound and allowed Sturt to retain possession, without being overly damaging. He had a purple patch in the second term with a string of aerial marks, while also bringing his kick penetration into play. He was thrown into the centre bounces during the final quarter in hopes of turning the midfield battle with his physicality, but would have little impact there and revert back to his defensive duties in open play. The Crows Academy prospect finished with 22 disposals and eight marks (three contested) as arguably Sturt’s best player afield.

#32 Morgan Ferres

Ferres finished his bottom-age season strongly, providing a much-needed target leading up from the forward half. It proved a tough gig as Sturt struggled to transition the ball, with Ferres forced to search all the way up to defensive wing at times to find the ball. Half of his six marks were contested, and he was also able to make an impact closer to goal with some touches inside 50. Ferres ended the game with 1.1, sinking a set shot in the final term after seeing multiple attempts either go wide, fall short, or end up out of bounds. If he can tidy up that conversion, Ferres may well prove to be a force in next year’s competition.

Others:

Will Spain‘s efforts to win the ball and tackle at ground level were noted by his coaches, while fellow bottom-ager Brad Jefferies also gave it his all while rotating forward through midfield. Blake Higgins provided his usual run on the outside, while skipper Ned Walter was valiant in defence. Declan Hortle‘s 33 hitouts in the ruck also proved a big effort against the player judged best afield.

>> MORE STURT CONTENT

Featured Image: Norwood’s Under 18s celebrate their 2020 SANFL premiership | Credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL

AFL Draft Watch: James Borlase (Sturt/South Australia)

IN the midst of football’s long-awaited return, Draft Central takes a look at some of this year’s brightest names who have already represented their state in some capacity leading into 2020, or are bolting into draft contention. While plenty has changed between now and then, we will provide a bit of an insight into players, how they performed at pre-season testing, and some of our scouting notes on them from last year.

Next under the microscope in our AFL Draft watch is Sturt prospect James Borlase, an Adelaide Crows NGA hopeful who is also the son of 246-game Port Adelaide champion, Darryl Borlase. The key position utility is arguably best suited to a defensive role, but is versatile enough to also impact up forward. After cutting his teeth in the Reserves, Borlase has also cracked League level in this year’s SANFL competition and recently earned the best afield award in Prince Alfred College’s All Schools Cup Grand Final victory over Henley High. While slightly below true key position height, the 191cm prospect uses his strong frame to compete aerially before delivering soundly via foot.

PLAYER PAGE:

James Borlase
Sturt/South Australia

DOB: July 18, 2002

Height: 191cm
Weight: 94kg

Position: Key Position Utility

Strengths: Aerial/contested marking, strength, competitiveness, versatility
Improvements: Speed/athleticism

2020 SANFL League averages: 3 games | 11.0 disposals | 4.3 marks | 1.0 contested mark | 2.3 tackles | 1.0 clearance | 1.3 inside 50s | 2.3 rebound 50s
2019 SANFL Reserves averages: 8 games | 10.8 disposals | 84% efficiency | 4.4 marks | 1.6 tackles | 1.4 rebound 50s
2019 SANFL Under 18s averages: 5 games | 10.8 disposals | 74% efficiency | 3.8 marks | 2.4 tackles | 1.0 inside 50 | 1.2 rebound 50s

>> Q&A: Sturt U18s

PRESEASON TESTING RESULTS:

Standing Vertical Jump: 58cm
Running Vertical Jump (R/L): 66cm/74cm
Speed (20m): 3.27 seconds
Agility: 8.78 seconds
Endurance (Yo-yo): 20.4

>> Full Testing Results:
Jumps
20m Sprint
Agility
Yo-yo

SCOUTING NOTES:

2020 All Schools Cup Grand Final vs. Henley

By: Ed Pascoe

A worthy winner for best on ground, the talented Crows NGA prospect missed out on father-son qualifications for Port Adelaide and it would frustrate those supporters seeing Borlase playing so well this year. Borlase has had a strong year, earning a senior game for Sturt and also being a strong contributor for PAC, where he has played forward and back. But it was down back where he dominated on this occasion, with his impressive ability to take intercept marks. Borlase was a wall for PAC and he would have had around 10 intercept marks for the game as he read the ball better than anybody and he had the frame to stand strong and take them cleanly.

He also did well on the rebound and despite not being super quick, he still moved the ball on in a timely fashion and often used it well by hand and foot. His second quarter in particular was massive, taking five marks with just about every one of them impressive or contested in some way. His composure and sure hands really helped PAC steady the ship whenever Henley came charging through the middle, and his influence made him a clear choice for best on ground in the end, with Harry Tunkin another strong performer for PAC.

2020 SANFL League Round 13 vs. North Adelaide

By: Eli Duxson

The key position Borlase returned to the senior side and showed glimpses of why people are so excited about him. The Crows Next Generation Academy prospect split his time between forward and back, although he has been touted as a defender during his time in the pathway programs. As a forward, he presented up the ground well and continued to create contests. His marking looked a little bit inconsistent and he seemed to struggle to find space on leads except for one occasion in the second quarter. After a beautiful delivery, he leant back on the set shot kick from around 40 metres and put it out on the full.

He moved back for the second half and did not get much of a chance to show off his defensive traits in one-on-one contests. He looked to be accountable and found himself on a few different opponents, both taller and shorter than him. He became more attacking in the final quarter; seeming to grow in confidence, clearing the ball, and looking to mark. He reads the flight of the ball well but looked a little tentative with his overhead marking at times. A miskick from a kick-out in the final quarter sent the ball straight back over his head for a goal. His first game back showed he was still a bit rusty, and perhaps he has some development left. There is still a lot to like about him with his versatility and size.

2020 SANFL League Round 11 vs. South Adelaide

By: Peter Williams

Much like Jed McEntee was not as prolific as the week before when he shone on debut. What stood out was his ability to pick himself up after an early mistake – he dropped an uncontested mark leading to a South goal – to remain composed under pressure coming out of the back 50. Some of his kicks were superb, with one elite kick coming in the third term off the back of a one-on-one intercept mark to hit up McEntee in the middle on that 45-degree angle. He read the ball flight in the final term to take a strong mark 20 metres out from defensive goal, and showed great pressure to force a turnover just moments earlier.

2020 SANFL League Round 10 vs. West Adelaide

By: Peter Williams

Making his debut at League level, the Adelaide Next-Generation Academy prospect was one of the more impressive players, particularly early in the game. While many debutants might look and hope for an easy first few touches, Borlase held up with a handball under pressure then took a contested intercept mark. He used the ball well and was good in his positioning throughout the game, and while he did not always take every mark he went for, he still racked up quite a few – six in total – and also applied plenty of pressure both through tackling and implied pressure that would have impressed the coaches. In the final term in particular with the game in the balance, Borlase laid a massive tackle, but what was the most impressive fact was he grabbed him once, his opponent almost got free, but Borlase went again and brought him down in a 360-degree tackle. To finish with 14 touches, six marks, three tackles and five rebounds on debut, that was a big tick and Adelaide would have been pleased with his development.

2020 SANFL Reserves Round 1 vs. Central District

By: Tom Wyman

The potential Crows NGA prospect was named at full-back for the Sturt reserves, having played eight matches at the level last year. At 191cm and 88kg, Borlase is strongly-built and able to hold his own against the bigger bodied forwards – a trait which will certainly help his case for senior selection later in the year.

Against a relatively strong Central Districts outfit, Borlase’s performance was encouraging. He spent considerable time matched-up against athletic 196cm tall forward Leek Alleer. While Alleer possesses serious speed and a high leap, he was largely nullified by the lock-down abilities of Borlase. He took a number of kick-ins as well, a testament his improving skillset.

2019 Under 17 Futures All-Stars

By: Michael Alvaro

Borlase is in the rare position of being a player whose father played more than 250 games for Port Adelaide, while also being an Adelaide Crows academy member, and he may cost either club a pretty penny at this stage. Drifting across the defensive 50, Borlase took a couple of strong intercept marks in the third term and chased the ball up well at ground level. He is that in-between size – not quite having key-position height but possessing a strong frame – and can play both tall and small roles. While his marking game was strong, Borlase had a couple of less comfortable moments on the ground, getting caught holding the ball on two occasions despite a solid overall game.

Featured Image: James Borlase gets a kick away during the 2019 Under 17 Futures All-Star clash | Credit: Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos

>> 2020 AFL National Draft Combine List
>> 2020 South Australia U18s Squad Prediction

>> August 2020 Power Rankings
>> July 2020 Power Rankings
>> September 2020 Power Rankings

>> CATCH UP ON OUR DRAFT WATCH SERIES

Allies:
Tahj Abberley
Charlie Byrne
Jackson Callow
Blake Coleman
Braeden Campbell
Alex Davies
Oliver Davis
Errol Gulden
Joel Jeffrey
Maurice Rioli Jnr
Patrick Walker

South Australia:
Kaine Baldwin
Bailey Chamberlain
Brayden Cook
Zac Dumesny
Corey Durdin
Luke Edwards
Lachlan Jones
Tariek Newchurch
Caleb Poulter
Tom Powell
Taj Schofield
Henry Smith
Riley Thilthorpe

Vic Country:
Sam Berry
Tanner Bruhn
Cameron Fleeton
Jack Ginnivan
Oliver Henry
Elijah Hollands
Zach Reid
Nick Stevens
Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

Vic Metro:
Jake Bowey
Jackson Cardillo
Nikolas Cox
Connor Downie
Eddie Ford
Max Heath
Bailey Laurie
Finlay Macrae
Reef McInnes
Archie Perkins
Will Phillips

Western Australia:
Jack Carroll
Heath Chapman
Denver Grainger-Barras
Logan McDonald
Nathan O’Driscoll
Zane Trew
Brandon Walker
Joel Western
Isiah Winder

Ankle injury can’t stop Kuiper rekindling love for footy

STURT over-ager Izzy Kuiper‘s top-age year might have come to a sour end due to an ankle injury last year culminating in her missing the 2019 AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, but it has not deterred the inside midfielder.

It was just her first year in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition after spending a season with her local club, Mt Lofty Devils. Her pathway to where she is today is not too dissimilar to most young female footballers, who were forced to stop playing the game they loved due to limited opportunities growing up.

“I grew up playing netball since the age of seven or as early as you’re allowed to, up until about two years when I first played (football) games for Mt Lofty Devils,” Kuiper said. “Then just enjoyed that and loved that so much and from there decided to quit netball, played at Lofty for the season and then went down to Sturt.

“Then just had heaps of other opportunities arise from that like the Crows Academy, State (Under 18s Academy) all of that. “But i did play footy when I was younger with my brothers so I was at Onkaparinga Valley club which was my local footy playing with my twin brother Zachary. “That’s where it all started and yeah just got back into it about two years ago.”

“I think after Under 13s or something the girls couldn’t keep playing with the boys only because at that age there were no options for a girls teams, so I just had to decide to stop playing and had to go with netty because that was about it for footy, so yeah started back up and we got back into it,” Kuiper said.

For her first season at the top level in South Australia, Kuiper said she immediately noticed the difference and knew she would have to adapt to the faster, more challenging style of play.

“It was just a big step up from Mt Lofty, the skills-wise of everyone was that next level above so it was really exciting you get to play with a good bunch of girls,” Kuiper said. “Love playing with ‘Bevo’ (Georgia Bevan) because she had obviously been drafted to the Crows and come back so it was really exciting to be able to play with her. “Unfortunately I only got to play the four games before I injured my ankle but up until then I was loving it.”

The ankle injury only spurred her on more for what would become an over-age season in the Double Blues, keen to remain fit and play out every game. She managed to do that, but instead this time instead of her ankle, it was a global pandemic that prevented Kuiper from playing at the national championships.

“I guess I was really determined to come back because I obviously missed six games on the SANFL last year so I was just really excited to come back and have an impact on the game and really just get back into footy because I had so much time off so I was just keen to get back into it, play with all the girls and have a really good season with Sturt,” Kuiper said.

The Sturt contested ball-winner said fitness was a key component that was able to transition from the netball courts to the football field, but otherwise it was a completely different ball game. That suited Kuiper to a T though, finding it easy to pick up where she left off as a child.

Nah it was really easy getting back into it,” Kuiper said. “I think footy suited me more than netty, like I love to run and be aggressive and lay tackles and stuff, and with netball you can’t do that. “So it was really easy to get into footy and do all those things.”

Kuiper said her tackling pressure and fitness are among her best traits on the field. Certainly a couple of important traits to have when you are an inside ball winner wanting to clear the ball from a stoppage. She did concede she was keen to improve her kicking further and work on her speed off the mark, but her talent was noticed when she was awarded a Breakthrough Player of the Year Award in Round 3.

In the Double Blues’ first win of the season, the then 18-year-old had 18 disposals, five marks, six tackles and four clearances against Woodville-West Torrens. Kuiper said she was thrilled to be nominated for the award.

“It was awesome to get that,” she said. “To be recognised and have a little write-up and a video (on the SANFL website), I just thought it was.. I really loved that. “All the parents loved that.”

While Kuiper is known for her pressure and her role as an inside midfielder, the 172cm contested ball winner used to play on a wing. That was Mt Lofty, but then coaches began to quip “you’re always laying tackles” which is not always the first thought for a winger, prompting her move to the inside, and she has never looked back.

In the time since she has returned to the game, and in particular from her disrupted 2019 season through to her 2020 season, Kuiper said her awareness was one area that had developed in her time with Sturt under new coach, Bruce Dawes.

“My Sturt coach really just harped on being aware of the game and where your person is,” she said. “So it’s about recognising ‘okay someone is already in what else can I do to impact the game?’. “I never really had much thought when it came to footy, I would always see ball, get ball and that was it. “But now I can really see the game and impact the game in other ways if you’re not in at the ball.”

Kuiper has been thankful for her return to football, and none more so than the person she named as her inspiration throughout her journey, Sturt teammate and best friend, Allani Dawes.

“She was the first one who got me back into footy,” Kuiper said. “She was like ‘oh just come out to Lofty, have a run, have a kick see how you go’ just to have a kick. “I was playing netball but I wasn’t enjoying it too much so she was like ‘come out and enjoy it’ and ever since then she’s always encouraged me and been proud of all my success. “She’s someone I can always go to to talk about my game. “So she’s definitely my biggest inspiration.”

Picture: Supplied

Whilst her football career is blossoming, Kuiper was heading down a similar path with her netball, representing Matrix in the South Australian Premier League. While she could have continued down that path, she said she was happy for a number of teammates and opponents who had progressed on to play in the Suncorp Super Netball.

“I love seeing them out there and continuing their netball pathway,” Kuiper said. “it’s super exciting and really good for them that they’ve been able to keep progressing through. “It’s been really good to see.”

While it might have been a calling at some stage for Kuiper, now she firmly has her sights set on the elite level of the AFL Women’s.

“My long-term goal is naturally I’d love to get drafted,” Kuiper said. “But at this point just continue playing in the Sturt side and hopefully going well in there next season.”