Tag: tahlia gillard

2021 AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Rucks

AFTER announcing the inaugural AFLW Draft Power Rankings Victorian Pool, Draft Central is starting a new series – Positional Analysis. It takes a look across the nation and those players within a certain position, and the impact they have. First up is rucks, where versatility and upside comes into play, though a number of the pure rucks have plenty of standout traits and everyone on this list is more than capable at the next level. All opinions are of the individual author.

#1 Zoe Prowse (Sturt/South Australia)
03/07/2003 | 177cm
Ruck/Key Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Athleticism, versatility, clean hands, tackling pressure

The standout ruck across the nation is AFL Women’s Academy talent, Zoe Prowse. Though if you had just tuned in to the 2021 SANFL Women’s season, you might have mistaken her for being a ruck, having also played as a key forward and remarkably, a midfielder. She is the ultimate utility, whom at 177cm can play anywhere. Her athleticism around the ground is superb, and she can find the football as well as any midfielder which makes her one of the more readymade rucks coming through junior programs. Prowse’s vertical leap is massive, but she can also get her hands dirty, laying plenty of tackles and causing a real nuisance at ground level. At the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, Prowse had to carry the ruck load given the Croweaters’ lack of talls and injuries to fellow rucks, to average 18.3 disposals, 2.3 marks, 22.3 hitouts, 4.0 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s and 2.0 rebound 50s in a complete performance across the board.

#2 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
01/09/2003 | 182cm
Ruck/Key Forward

Key strengths: Ruck work, mobility, forward presence, high impact

The upside for father-daughter eligible prospect Georgia Campbell is quite impressive, with the talented ruck able to rest up forward for parts during games due to Eastern Ranges’ abundance of rucks. There she was still able to kick five goals in eight games to go with her 20.9 hitouts, and also slotted a goal for Vic Metro while averaging a higher 12 disposals, and 12 hitouts at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. The Western Bulldogs supporter is eligible to go to the Dogs, or Melbourne, and will be nominated in the near future. She has great mobility for a ruck and can get around the ground and be an option, and also provide a good presence when inside 50 which makes her difficult to contain. Compared to Prowse, Campbell is not as high of a ball-winner, but is a stronger presence one-one-one, is slightly taller and has been able to spend more time up forward.

#3 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
12/12/2003 | 190cm
Ruck/Key Forward

Key strengths: Mobility, versatility, size, athleticism

The towering ruck/forward’s AFL Women’s Academy season makes it into the top 20 overall (third on these rankings) on the back of a solid overall season. Whilst she still needs to work on clunking more grabs above her head, Gillard’s work around the ground and ability to get to repeat contests for a ruck and running as a midfielder is really impressive. Often towering over her opponents, Gillard moves incredibly well, and is a tall that teammates are not afraid to use in transition, as she rotated between the ruck and full forward to average 11.3 disposals and 14.1 hitouts, as well as a couple of inside 50s per game. A December birth, Gillard has plenty of upside that with time could develop into a damaging tall. There is a running theme with athletic and versatile rucks, and Gillard might have some development to go, but with the extra height – 13cm more than Prowse for example – she can certainly dominate with her mobility.

#4 Sarah Lakay (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
20/02/2003 | 186cm
Ruck/Key Forward

Key strengths: Athleticism, vertical leap, clean hands, overhead marking

A little more raw than the three others, Lakay has developed her game coming from a basketball background at quickly learning the ropes at Swan Districts. The talented tall is just as athletic as the others in this list, and one of the stronger contested marks in the ruck crop. Both West Australian teams would have to be considering Lakay for her upside, particularly given she has the clean hands both at stoppages and around the ground. She moves well and has competed strongly at WAFL Women’s level, and whilst her ruck craft is still always improving and her fitness is another area she cited as a way to build her game, she is a player with exciting potential. At 186cm, Lakay is taller than most rucks, and whilst she even admitted that coming up against Prowse was a challenge at the AFLW Under 19 Championships, she acquitted herself well in the second game against Vic Metro, sharing the ruck load with Lauren Wakfer.

#5 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/GWS GIANTS Academy/Allies)
11/11/2003 | 188cm
Ruck

Key strengths: Ruck craft, strength, one-on-ones, work rate

The AFL Women’s Academy ruck is the strongest one on the list, able to compete against senior players with ease. Rather than beating them through athleticism like many of those in this group, Morphett has a point of difference in the fact that she is able to win through strength and power, happy to engage in one-on-ones. Whilst not likely to burst away quickly from a contest, Morphett will wear down opposition rucks with her work rate, and is one of the more pure rucks in the draft crop. She came second in the AFL Canberra Best and Fairest last year as a 16-year-old, and has not done too much wrong for the Bushrangers, GIANTS or Allies in their respective campaigns. Morphett has natural leadership to-boot, captaining the Allies at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, and with her superb ruck work, she is one that many can learn off at stoppages.

#6 Grace Matser (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
03/01/2003 | 186cm
Ruck

Key strengths: Footy IQ, ruck craft, endurance, kicking

If we are talking about points of difference, then Gippsland Power ruck Matser certainly has that in a ruck. Standing at 186cm, Matser is an early 2003 birth, but has been involved in the Power program since the V/Line Cup days, even as a developing tall back then. What really makes Matser stand out compared to other rucks is her footy IQ and her kicking. Being a left footer, Matser uses the ball well around the ground, so is a player that teammates are happy to give the ball to and dispose of, with her ball drop, technique and delivery inside 50 quite impressive. When watching Matser at stoppages, she always gets to the right position, and whether or not she wins the tap, she has made life difficult for her opponent. The area of improvement for Matser is her overhead marking, mostly because she does everything right – positioning, timing the ball drop and protecting the zone – but needs to hold onto the grabs. Around the ground in play, Matser is as influential as any ruck, and when she can clunk those grabs, will become a more influential key position tall at either end.

#7 Leah Cutting (Norwood/SANFL Women’s)
14/03/1992 | 185cm
Ruck

Key strengths: Tackling, strength, one-on-ones, consistency

Last but certainly not least of the AFLW Draft Combine invites is mature-age ruck Cutting out of Norwood. If the list was on readymade ability, Cutting would be number one by a long way, with the 29-year-old having cut her teeth in the SANFL Women’s level for many years. Obviously it goes without saying she had more than a decade on her contemporaries, so Cutting is perfect for a team looking for a readymade ruck replacement and someone who can slot straight into a side. Every time a Norwood player is mentioned it is hard to ignore the link with ex-Redlegs coach Steve Symonds, whose Magpies have lost two rucks – Sharni Norder and Abbey Green – for one coming in – Alison Downie – so they could look to another experienced body to join the program. At SANFL Women’s level, Cutting averages 12.7 disposals, 2.6 marks, 2.5 clearances, 2.2 inside 50s, 8.2 tackles and 30.1 hitouts at senior level, with remarkable consistency.

SUMMARY:

There are seven genuine ruck options available for AFL Women’s clubs from an AFLW Draft Combine invite perspective, with three of them being more pure rucks, and the other four a mix being rucks who rotate forward, and genuine utilities around the ground. In terms of overall Power Rankings, Prowse would be a top five pick such is her overall talent and upside, which she showed at the AFLW Under 19s Championships. The most readymade ruck is Cutting, and the cleanest ball user is Matser, with Morphett being the strongest, and Gillard, Campbell and Lakay being the most versatile after Prowse. In the end, it comes down to what type of ruck clubs are looking for, as they all offer different traits which makes it fascinating.

Draft Central AFLW Draft Power Rankings – Victorian Pool: June 2021

IN a Draft Central first, the inaugural edition of our AFL Women’s Draft Power Rankings highlights the some of the top AFL Women’s Draft prospects ahead of the 2021 draft on July 27. Between then and now there will be the two editions of the Power Rankings; this one a final one ahead of the draft following the state-based combines and completion of a number of state league competitions. Note that the Power Rankings to do not take into account any draft selections, and are more an opinion-based ranking system on the draft prospects.

For this Power Rankings, we have focused purely on the Victorian pool, so does not include those likely to zone to other states due to the limited teams and selections in those states. We have also not included any players who have previously been on an AFLW list, just undrafted or now draft-eligible players. Please note the rankings are the opinion of the author.

Georgie Prespakis

#1 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
13/03/2003 | 168cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Ball-winning, tackling, quick hands, footy IQ

The most consistent prospect across the board and has been touted as a star from her debut as a 15-year-old two and a half years ago. There she dominated up forward with 13 goals in 10 games, averaging a massive 22.6 disposals and 5.6 tackles to win the league best and fairest at just 16 years of age. Her numbers have remained consistent going into the middle, and whilst she almost always gets close attention from the opposition, Prespakis is a renowned tackler with 8.8 per game in her top-age season. Her ball winning ability and strength to win the pill at the stoppage and extract it away, as well as have an impact forward of centre, are among her strengths. In terms of improvements, sometimes she can rush the kicks around her body, but she is able to get to enough repeat stoppages, to have more influence than most others.

Charlie Rowbottom

#2 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
22/01/2003 | 178cm
Inside Midfielder/Tall Forward

Key strengths: Contested marking, tackling, strength, upside

The powerful, tall inside midfielder has already proven to be a difficult player to try and contain across four quarters, able to win a game off her own boot when up and about. So strong in the air and at ground level, Rowbottom averaged 7.1 tackles to go with 17.6 disposals and 2.8 marks in season 2021, also booting 10 goals in 11 games. Whilst long-term the sister of Sydney’s James will become a midfielder, expect her to be a tall forward who can kick multiple goals in a game. Her upside is one of the best in the draft crop, and her versatility makes her damaging. Her kicking both in-field and on goal is an area of improvement, but her ability to do all the hard stuff – from winning the ball, tackling and clunking the important marks – more than makes up for the ironing out process that will happen with time. An exciting talent for the future.

#3 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
03/11/2003 | 175cm
Tall Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, contested marking, footy smarts, positioning

Despite a somewhat interrupted season for the AFL Women’s Academy member, playing only the five games due to injury and AFLW Under 19s Championships commitments, Slender still showed why she is a top-end prospect; stepping up from her role as a rebounding intercept defender, to be a forward and midfielder this year in a remarkable display of versatility. Arguably the NAB League Girls’ Most Valuable Player for her side, the Pioneers were a far better team with her in it, and averaging a massive 4.2 marks as well as 5.2 tackles along with her 16.2 disposals shows she has no trouble winning the ball in the air, one-on-one or at ground level. A natural leader co-captaining the Pioneers, Slender could fill any role at AFL Women’s level and has some great upside for the future as well.

#4 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
10/09/2003 | 173cm
Medium Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, spread, skills, goal sense

A natural ball-winner with a slick left foot and smooth-moving ability, Reid has proven she can play on all three lines of the field. Starting off half-back and pushing up to a wing, Reid finished her season up forward and ended up slotting 15 goals in 11 games, including three in Oakleigh’s premiership win. She averaged 1.4 goals for the season from 20.1 disposals, 4.5 marks and 3.2 inside 50s per game, looked to as a key player to move the ball in transition. She used it well by hand or foot and was able to find space with ease. Multiple times a game Reid would make you wonder how she got in so much space even when tearing it up, but credit to her work rate and smarts to be able to find the open space and then punish the opposition through either her disposal or on the scoreboard.

Ella Friend

#5 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
30/12/2003 | 175cm
Tall Forward/Wing

Key strengths: Contested marking, mobility, upside, penetrating kick

The top contested marking player in the draft crop, Friend will be a highly sought after talent for her ability to not only clunk the big grabs, but use her penetrating left boot in both the midfield and forward lines. Transitioning from centre half-forward to a wing in the second half of the season, Friend showcased her mobility and her knack for for winning the ball in multiple areas of the field. Only two days away from being a bottom-ager, expect Friend to have plenty of upside left in her and would be a great target for a team needing a key target up forward who can also work hard up the ground. She averaged the 16.0 disposals, 4.3 marks and 2.9 tackles per game in the 2021 season, and slotted two goals on debut for the Western Bulldogs’ VFLW side. A good size at 175cm to play anywhere on the ground.

#6 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
20/11/2003 | 166cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Kicking, marking, courage, footy IQ

A really smart player who knows the game well and reads the play behind the ball, Anthony was a member of the AFL Women’s Academy as a bottom-age talent last year. She showed why through an outstanding yet interrupted season, copping a couple of concussions – including in Vic Country’s win over South Australia at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships – to still perform at a high level. She won Vic Country’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, and proved through her actions to be an incredibly courageous player. Whilst standing at 166cm, Anthony is not afraid to go up in the marking contest and bring the ball down, and when she does have ball-in-hand, her kicking is outstanding. A talent who teammates can trust with ball-in-hand, and she has spent time up forward as well at times, kicking a goal in the Stingrays’ loss to the Geelong Falcons in finals.

#7 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
23/12/2003 | 163cm
Inside Midfielder

Key strengths: Clearances, accumulation, consistency, footy IQ

Arguably the best pure inside midfielder in the Victorian pool, Craven has had quite the season for the Falcons. She won the Falcons’ best and fairest award, averaging 21.1 disposals, 4.4 marks, 3.3 inside 50s, 2.0 rebound 50 and 3.9 tackles, then played the two games with Vic Country for 20.5 disposals, 6.0 clearances and 5.0 tackles. She is an inside ball winner and one who can extract it out of the contest going forward. She is smaller than other inside midfielders at 163cm, but she can gain separation at the stoppage and has the footy smarts to be able to use the ball well under pressure. She is also clean and gets her hands dirty at ground level, which is something that stands out in her game at any level.

#8 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
09/07/2002 | 161cm
Inside Midfielder

Key strengths: Clean hands, acceleration, endurance, work rate

The first 19th year prospect to feature in this list, Ling has had an outstanding season and shown why the move to an Under 19s competition was important. Despite standing at just 161cm, she is hard to bring down, very slippery in tackles and always able to get her hands free. She is really clean with her hands, and can burst away with a mix of acceleration and endurance, capped off by a high work rate through the midfield. She averaged 17.9 disposals, 2.2 marks, 6.5 tackles and 3.2 inside 50s in season 2021 for the Oakleigh Chargers, whilst playing the two games for Vic Metro thus far, averaging 16 disposals and six tackles. Already managing a game at VFLW level for Port Melbourne and not looking out of place, Ling showed she is a big-game player by taking home the best afield medal in the 2021 NAB League Girls Grand Final.

Annie Lee

#9 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
28/08/2003 | 169cm
Medium Defender

Key strengths: Marking, rebounding, consistency, composure

The reliable rebounding defender barely put a foot wrong all season and was a player her teammates could rely upon to use the ball well out of defence. Her strengths were clearly her intercept marking, where she latched onto 5.1 marks per game to go with 16.9 disposals and 4.5 rebound 50s. Already she has managed the two games at VFLW level, and was outstanding for Vic Country in her three games, holding up the fort in defence well and providing some good rebound with almost five rebound 50s per game there. At 169cm she can play against tall or small opponents because she reads the ball well in flight and shows good composure when with it. As a whole, Lee just ticks a lot of boxes in terms of what she is capable of doing.

#10 Perri King (Tasmania Devils/Allies)
25/08/2003 | 170cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Acceleration, tackling, clearances, accumulation

The sole Tasmanian AFL Women’s Academy member has the best balance between offensive and defensive capabilities, not only able to average 19.7 disposals and 4.2 inside 50s, but she amassed a whopping 9.4 tackles per game for the Devils in the NAB League Girls competition. On debut for North Melbourne VFLW she laid another seven tackles to go with 15 touches, and had the 10.5 tackles with 14.5 disposals, at the AFLW Under 19 Championships. But there is more to King than just ball-winning and tackling, with the athletic talent able to burst out of the stoppage and extract from tight situations. At times could add a touch more composure with her kicking, but her upside compiled with her well-balanced, two-way running is what makes her an outstanding prospect and rounding out the top 10.

#11 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country)
13/12/2003 | 165cm
Wing

Key strengths: Speed, work rate, accumulation, outside game

The premier pure wing in the NAB League Girls competition bounced back from a quiet game against Vic Metro in the AFLW Under 19 Championships, to really dominate in her final two outings against South Australia and Queensland. She knows how to find the ball and is a natural running wing which she showcased all year for Murray Bushrangers. Another player whom given an extra month would be a bottom-ager, really impressed in her draft-eligibly year, averaging 20.7 disposals – almost double what her prior two seasons were. She drove the ball inside 50 four times per game, and had more than two rebound 50s per match as well, providing great run and carry down the wing going forward, something that really caught the eye on a regular basis.

#12 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
01/09/2003 | 182cm
Ruck/Key Forward

Key strengths: Ruck work, mobility, forward presence, high impact

The upside for father-daughter eligible prospect Georgia Campbell is quite impressive, with the talented ruck able to rest up forward for parts during games due to Eastern Ranges’ abundance of rucks. There she was still able to kick five goals in eight games to go with her 20.9 hitouts, and also slotted a goal for Vic Metro while averaging a higher 12 disposals, and 12 hitouts at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. The Western Bulldogs supporter is eligible to go to the Dogs, or Melbourne, and will be nominated in the near future. She has great mobility for a ruck and can get around the ground and be an option, and also provide a good presence when inside 50 which makes her difficult to contain.

#13 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
07/01/2003 | 175cm
Tall Defender/Wing

Key strengths: Speed, power, reading the play, intercepting

The running defender has some seriously eye-catching traits with her combination of acceleration and power making her hard to slow down when she is up and about. A traditional half-back, Dojiok can read the ball in flight with ease and float across contests to intercept, or drop into the hole when a high ball comes into defence. She knows where to stand when the play is headed towards her and her metres gained are massive compared to a lot of her contemporaries. She is often a get-and-go player, always looking to move on the ball, and whilst her kicking at times needs sharpening up, her development over the past few years at the Rebels has certainly improved and makes her one of the better intercept defenders going around.

Emelia Yassir

#14 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
25/09/2003 | 160cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Contested work, aggression, disposal, high impact

Bursting onto the scene as a 15-year-old during Calder Cannons’ run to the 2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final, Yassir played 11 games in her debut season to hold her own against much older opponents. In her top-age year, Yassir lifted her numbers to 16.7 disposals, 3.9 tackles and 3.1 inside 50s to be a crucial player in the Cannons’ forward half of the ground. Her contested work and aggression around the football makes her a player that would do anything to win the football and shows a high level of football nous, along with high impact in the games. She will generally use it well going forward, and whilst she might only be the 160cm, could settle as a midfielder or defensive forward with her traits and skillset.

#15 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
12/11/2003 | 169cm
Medium Forward/Ruck

Key strengths: Vertical leap, penetrating kick, aggression, upside

Standing at 169cm you would not expect someone to be listed as a ruck, but such is Featherston’s leaping ability that she has indeed become a secondary ruck at NAB League Girls level. Pinch-hitting in there to average 4.3 hitouts per game, Featherston is at her most dominant around the half-forward line where she can lead out, clunk grabs and show great courage in the air or at ground level. Whilst she could improve her composure around goal – she had plenty of chances that were opportunities which went begging – her ability to have so many chances and create opportunities is impressive. She is a raw talent with plenty of upside, and with a long, penetrating kick and strong hands, she is a valuable addition to any forward line.

#16 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
28/07/2003 | 153cm
Small Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Clean hands, goal sense, composure, accumulation

A really impressive small midfielder, Schaap might be the smallest one going around at 153cm, but she packs a punch and has some unbelievable traits. Her best trait is her clean hands, rarely making a fumble at ground level and able to dish off to teammates in order to create goal-scoring opportunities. As a forward, Schaap slotted eight goals in nine games, often finding space where few could to snap around her body in big moments. She also slotted three goals in her three Vic Country games at the AFLW Under 19 Championships, and laid plenty pf tackles along the way. Her defensive pressure is right up there with her other key strengths, though it is hard to look past her ball-winning skills, composure and goal sense, and is a perfect pressure forward who can push up into the midfield.

Meagan Kiely

#17 Meagan Kiely (North Melbourne/VFLW)
15/12/1994
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Footy IQ, kicking, clean hands, consistency

The first mature-ager and VFLW player to make it into the Power Rankings, Kiely would have to be one of the favourites for the Lambert-Pearce Medal after a dominant display for North Melbourne this season. Relocating from Tasmania, the Roos would be keeping a close eye on the 26-year-old, who could slot straight into any midfield with her natural ball-winning skills, work rate and leadership. As good as any readymade midfielder outside the AFLW, the North captain has lead the competition across disposals and marks this year, showing she can win it at the coal face, or on the outside, with her clean hands and kicking impressive, but most of all her footy IQ shining through. Averaging a massive 22.8 disposals, 4.7 marks and 5.6 tackles from her 12 games, she is the premier VFLW player at this stage.

#18 Ingrid Houtsma (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
20/11/2003 | 176cm
Tall Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, X-factor, athleticism, marking

A player with plenty of upside, Houtsma becomes the remarkable fifth Falcon in the top 18 players showing just how deep the Falcons’ side was this season. She does not need to win a lot of the ball to have an impact, her Houtsma’s athleticism across the ground as a 176cm enabling her to play on a wing, or in a key position player at either end. Strong overhead, and able to win it at ground level, Houtsma attacks the ball at speed on a lead, and generally uses it well when in possession. Still ironing out consistency within games, the versatile utility has already spent time at centre half-back, centre half-forward and on the wing, which is a huge feather in the cap for the teenager.

#19 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
12/12/2003 | 190cm
Ruck/Key Forward

Key strengths: Mobility, versatility, size, athleticism

The towering ruck/forward AFL Women’s Academy season makes it into the top 20 on the back of a solid overall season. Whilst she still needs to work on clunking more grabs above her head, Gillard’s work around the ground and ability to get to repeat contests for a ruck and running as a midfielder is really impressive. Often towering over her opponents, Gillard moves incredibly well, and is a tall that teammates are not afraid to use in transition, as she rotated between the ruck and full forward to average 11.3 disposals and 14.1 hitouts, as well as a couple of inside 50s per game. A December birth, Gillard has plenty of upside that with time could develop into a damaging tall.

Brooke Hards

#20 Brooke Hards (Western Bulldogs/VFLW)
19/07/2002 | 167cm
Medium Utility

Key strengths: Footy smarts, versatility, athleticism, kicking

The former Bendigo Pioneers co-captain rounds out the top 20 in our Power Rankings and the second VFLW player to feature. The soon-to-be 19-year-old excelled as an inside midfielder at junior level, but chose to step up to VFLW level where she improved on the areas that saw her overlooked. Hards moved to the outside playing every role under the sun from forward, to back and wing, able to win the ball and most importantly build up metres gained with her run and carry. Boasting enormous upside and great footy smarts, when able to get-and-go, Hards is damaging with ball-in-hand and has well-balanced athleticism, mainly her acceleration. While her numbers might be lower than at junior level, her game-impacting moments have been higher making her a valuable prospect.

#21 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)
29/10/2003 | 170cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: X-factor, upside, clearances, tackling

The Eastern Ranges talent was one who really stepped up in 2021 after only managing the one game in the shortened season last year, so not much was known about what she was capable of. Sherar not only stepped up to be a prime ball-mover for the Ranges – particularly in the absence of Olivia Meagher in the second half of the season and Tarni Brown after she was drafted last year – but earned a Vic Metro jumper for her troubles. Averaging 14.8 disposals, 3.4 inside 50s and 4.8 tackles, Sherar is a forward runner with great tackling skills and extraction out of the contest, can move the ball quickly and get it inside 50 well to set up scoring opportunities. One to watch who can add a point of difference to a midfield.

#22 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)
06/03/2003 | 171cm
Medium Defender/Wing

Key strengths: Skills, composure, versatility, reading the play

A medium defender who runs off half-back, hits up targets and then roams along a wing, Vickers is a player with some great upside, and is another Oakleigh Chargers’ premiership player. She averaged the 13.5 disposals, 3.3 tackles and a well-balanced two inside 50s and rebound 50s per game, such was her ability to cover the ground. The Chargers did not see as much of it in their defence as other teams, so Vickers had to hold a high line at times and be that kick behind the ball ready to intercept. She is not a renowned marker, but she is one to receive the handball and go, and uses the ball well in transition. Still developing areas of her game, as an overall prospect Vickers has some great talent.

Maeve Chaplin

#23 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
22/08/2002 | 167cm
Inside Midfielder/Defender

Key strengths: Inside work, clearances, strength, reading the play

A dominant ball-winner who became the focal point of the Knights’ midfield brigade this year, Chaplin is a natural contested ball winner, and someone who can slot straight into an inside midfield. Only playing VFLW post-NAB League Girls, Chaplin has managed the three straight games for the Blues at the level, also juggling Vic Metro commitments as well. Able to play off half-back as she did in past years, Chaplin did it for Vic Metro, whilst playing the inside ball winner for the Knights. She averaged the 17.3 disposals and 5.0 tackles, with a lot of her possessions coming in close, and then working hard to spread to the outside and thump the ball forward to give her team the advantage.

#24 Sarah Skinner (North Melbourne VFLW)
15/10/1999
Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Forward craft, accumulation, versatility, consistency

Another VFLW player who might not have earned a Draft Combine invite but simply has to be in the mix to be drafted is a second Tasmanian playing for North Melbourne in Skinner. She has transitioned from being a forward and the TSLW’s best player and consistent talent, into one of the best in the VFLW, showing she can lift at any level. Still only 21-years-old, Skinner has had some huge numbers since primarily staying in the midfield, picking up 18.1 disposals, 3.8 marks and 4.8 tackles for the Roos. It is her ability to play forward or through the midfield and adapt to the play, creating goal scoring opportunities for either herself or her teammates. Skinner is a plug-and-play typer who the Roos would be considering, but other teams would have to be keeping an eye on too.

Elizabeth Snell

#25 Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)
14/03/2002 | 165cm
Inside Midfielder/ Medium Forward

Key strengths: Tackling, speed, evasion, forward craft

After not getting a Draft Combine last year, Snell stepped up to have a huge season with the Bendigo Pioneers, showing off the traits she has always had, but with greater consistency week to week. The thing with Snell has always been having some seriously top-end traits when it comes to her athleticism – particularly her speed and evasion – and tackling pressure, but it is about building on other areas of her game such as her accumulation and kicking. Whilst her kicking is still an area to keep building on, her numbers went through the roof this year, averaging 20 disposals to go with her 8.8 tackles per game, prompted by a move into the midfield. She showed she can handle any level, averaging 16.5 disposals and 8.5 tackles for Vic Country, and 12.8 disposals and 8.0 tackles for Essendon VFLW. Simply a tackling machine.

#26 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
01/02/2002 | 168cm
Medium Defender/Midfielder

Key strengths: Consistency, accumulation, work rate, tackling

As safe as a player as you could find, Leonard’s 2021 season was consistency bonafide. She hardly put a foot wrong all year for the GWV Rebels, averaging 19.4 disposals, 2.4 marks, 7.1 tackles and 4.0 rebound 50s playing between half-back and through the middle. Possessing courage and a hard edge with a high work rate, Leonard kept cracking in for four quarters every game and was amongst her team’s best players regular. A 2002-born talent who missed out last year, Leonard certainly stepped up this season, and has already made her VFLW debut, and looked good out of defence for Vic Country with 4.7 rebound 50s to go with 14.7 disposals and 5.0 tackles.

#27 Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges/Collingwood VFLW)
21/12/2002 | 157cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Contested work, balance, strength, accumulation

Another player who went back to her NAB League Girls club Eastern Ranges after missing out on being drafted despite a Draft Combine invite, Meagher spent three games with the Ranges before making the transition into Collingwood’s VFLW team. There she improved her versatility to play inside and outside after being a dominant contested ball-winner for the Ranges in 2020. She is damaging forward of centre, and despite not having high mark numbers, she is strong overhead for her sub-160cm size. She is someone who could play in transition between midfield and forward, and is a fierce player with a great attitude and would be one the Magpies – or another team – could consider calling up to their AFLW list.

#28 Sophie Locke (Port Melbourne VFLW)
24/04/2001 | 166cm
Medium Utility

Key strengths: Versatility, goal sense, high-impact, one-on-ones

Much like Hards, Locke has transformed her game at VFLW level with Port Melbourne, but in a different way. Playing as a reliable lock-down defender who had enough traits to suggest she could develop into a more offensively-minded player, Locke switched ends from her days in defence with the Murray Bushrangers and Vic Country, to become a prominent forward for the Borough this season. A year off did not impact Locke who showed she can be damaging inside 50 and has the capacity to play at both ends, averaging the 9.3 disposals, 2.2 marks and 1.1 goals per game. She was even further ahead prior to a mid-season injury, leading the competition goalkicking at that stage, and before the return of the AFLW players. Received a Draft Combine invite for her season.

Zali Friswell

#29 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
30/12/2003 | 165cm
Inside Midfielder/Forward

Key strengths: Kicking, balance, footy smarts, defensive pressure

A well-balanced midfielder who thrives on the inside of the contest, Friswell has been thrown around all over the field across multiple levels. She has played as a forward for Essendon VFLW and as a back pocket during her game with Vic Metro, but the midfield role is where she is best suited to. The impact difference is noticeable, with Friswell genuinely among the better midfielders in the draft crop, averaging 15.6 disposals, 6.9 tackles and 2.9 inside 50s for the Cannons in the NAB League Girls. Only two days away from being a bottom-ager, Friswell has nice balance, uses the ball well and good footy smarts to hit pinpoint passes down the field. If drafted to be a midfielder, then Friswell is an exceptional talent.

#30 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)
18/07/2003 | 171cm
Wing

Key strengths: Athleticism, speed, upside, hurt factor

The AFL Women’s Academy member continued her trajectory of showing some serious highlights, whilst still trying to build some consistency in her game. Not a huge ball winner, Appleby usually has at least one run down the wing with a couple of bounces a game to break open the opposition zones and rack up the metres gained. She moves well, uses the ball well and really hurts the opposition when she gets it. If she begins to get it more consistently, then she will be an even bigger threat, but on the outside, Appleby has strong hands and can impact playing off a wing.

OTHERS IN CONTENTION:

The evenness of the AFL Women’s Draft in the Victorian pool makes it very difficult to judge, but expect some of the taller options to be considered such as Gippsland Power ruck Grace Matser, key defenders Tarrah Delgado and Cadhla Schmidli, and versatile talents Neve Crowley and Jemima Woods thereabouts. Geelong Falcons’ Elizabeth Dowling is one of the more reliable defenders running around, with Ash Richards, Tahlia Meier and Eliza James the forward options in the mix. From a VFLW standpoints, Casey Demons’ forward Imogen Milford, Collingwood’s Matilda Zander, and Essendon’s Alana Barba are also considered as ones to keep an eye out for in the upcoming draft.

2021 NAB League Girls team review: Calder Cannons

NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Calder Cannons, a typically strong region which again fielded a bunch of strong top-agers, and have some talent on the way up. We recap the Cannons’ season, and take a look at some of the top performers across those various age groups.

Wins: 5
Losses: 3
Position: 7th (4th Metro)

SEASON SUMMARY:

A highly touted team coming into the season, Calder started as it meant to go on with a 16-point win in its opening fixture, against Sandringham. While the Cannons were shocked on home turf by eventual premier Oakleigh in their next outing, three-consecutive wins got their season well and truly back on track. A win against Western was Calder’s sole triumph in its final four outings though, with a second defeat at the hands of Oakleigh spelling an end to their campaign in the elimination final stage.

DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS:

Neve Crowley | Tall Defender/Forward
23/06/2003 | 175cm

Well known for her work as an intercept marking defender, Crowley was able to swing up the other end with great success a few weeks into season 2021. She translated a similar aerial dominance to her forward craft, presenting as a dangerous option up the ground and linking Calder into attacking 50. She was also utilised in that role for Vic Metro, showcasing a good amount of potential with her flashes of brilliance in each game.

Zali Friswell | Midfielder
30/12/2003 | 165cm

Friswell quickly became one of the competition’s most consistent midfield performers, combining well with the stars in Calder’s engine room to provide solid ball winning power and defensive work at the stoppages. A no frills type of talent, the 17-year-old ticked over 20 disposals in each of her last three outings. She has been tried in a couple of different roles for Essendon VFLW and Vic Metro, but looks most at home among the centre bounce rotation.

Tahlia Gillard | Ruck/Key Forward
12/12/2003 | 189cm

Pegged as one of the most promising key position options coming into the season, Gillard was another to hint at her potential as she waxed through the ruck and forwardline in 2021. She was difficult to beat in the ruck due to her sheer height, and proved just as potent aerially in her time up forward – showcasing good contested marking ability. Her athleticism is another big tick, and it is easy to see why she was selected in this year’s AFLW Academy intake.

Georgie Prespakis | Midfielder
13/03/2003 | 168cm

Arguably the best player available in this year’s draft pool, Prespakis enjoyed another stellar season in Calder colours, as captain. Having already set a ridiculously high standard, the midfielder was able to meet it each week and was a reliable asset at each level she played. Her understanding of the game and ability to win the ball is unmatched, with the defensive acumen to go with that penetration going forward. She is a superstar in the making and will quickly shake the ‘Maddy’s sister’ tag – if she hasn’t already.

Emelia Yassir | Midfielder
25/09/2003 | 160cm

Another important and constant figure in Calder’s midfield mix, Yassir was the speedy ground level type who helped set her side on the front foot with good run-and-carry away from the contest. A tough competitor, the 17-year-old is also not afraid to compete for and win her own ball, but benefitted from being released onto the outer via hand. In seven of her nine outings, Yassir notched over 15 disposals and that form was more than enough to warrant Vic Metro selection.

FUTURE ONES TO WATCH:

Abbey McDonald | Midfielder
5/02/2004 | 162cm

A bottom-ager who was selected in both the Vic Metro Under 17 and Under 19 squads, McDonald rose to the standard well with competitive efforts in a few roles. Around the ball, she can extract for herself or be released on the outer, while also offering good defensive efforts in the way of hard tackling. Depending on how many are drafted from the current crop, McDonald should slot straight into Calder’s permanent midfield mix in 2022.

Reese Sutton | Small Forward/Midfielder
22/06/2004 | 159cm

Sutton is a lively type who brings great speed and pressure to the contest. Her ability to break forward or make things happen at the fall of the ball proved handy traits in Calder’s midfield-forward rotation, with her manic defensive pressure another desirable trait in both positions. Sutton should be set for even more time in the engine room going forward, and was part of Vic Metro’s Under 17 squad this year.

OTHERS:

Complementing a strong brigade of inside ball winners, Mali McLeod showed great class on the outer. Peppa Poultney proved solid fold for Gillard in the ruck, while Kasey Lennox was a mainstay down back and Alisa Magri finished as the region’s top goalkicker (10) up the other end. Olivia Manfre was one who rotated forward from midfield, while Tahlia Read put her hand up as another to watch for the future.

2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year

GRAND finalists Geelong Falcons and Oakleigh Chargers, and losing preliminary finalists Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels have led the way with the 2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year. The trio have combined for 11 players in our 24-player side, with other losing preliminary finalist Eastern Ranges, as well as finalists Tasmania Devils and Calder Cannons, and Western Jets each having two players apiece. Dandenong Stingrays and Northern Knights were unlucky to only have the one player this year, with the other non-finals sides in Murray Bushrangers, Sandringham Dragons and Gippsland Power having the one, and Bendigo Pioneers not having a first team representative.

Calder Cannons’ Georgie Prespakis has been named captain of our NAB League Girls Team of the Year after a record eight nominations this year. The potential top pick will share leadership duties with Geelong Falcons’ Poppy Schaap, who after six nominations, was handed the vice-captaincy. Prespakis is joined in the side by ruck/forward and fellow AFL Women’s Academy member, Tahlia Gillard. The Falcons have the equal most representatives in the team, with consistent midfielder Tess Craven, key forward Renee Tierney and defender Annie Lee all making the starting side in the most represented side in the starting 18.

Rounding out the starting onball group is another AFL Women’s Academy member in Perri King, with the Tasmania Devils talent standing up this season through the midfield. She will team up with bottom-age talent Claire Ransom in our Team of the Year, whilst another onballer who has also played on the wing at the start of the year and previous years, Charlotte Baskaran is one of two Western Jets representatives. Montana Ham is the other Western representative in the first team, making the half-forward flank. On the other wing to Baskaran is Murray Bushrangers’ best and fairest winner and Vic Country representative Aurora Smith who was the best pure wing this season.

Looking deeper forward, Oakleigh Chargers’ dynamo Charlie Rowbottom has been named at full-forward where she often starts games before rotating through the midfield. She is one of three Chargers in the team, alongside Stella Reid (half-back) and Amanda Ling (interchange) who have both been consistent performers this season. Also deep forward is the Dandenong Stingrays’ sole representative in what was a real even team spread this year for the Stingrays, as Amber Clarke makes the side having impressed both midfield and up forward. In the other forward pocket is the youngest member of the team, 2023-draft eligible talent Alyssia Pisano, who had four Team of the Week nominations and also won the leading goalkicker award in her debut season, named in the side along with teammate and bottom-age defender, Mia Busch.

The remainder of the defence features a couple of GWV Rebels in Chloe Leonard and Nyakoat Dojiok, with a couple more in Lilli Condon and Paige Scott also squeezing onto the bench in a huge result for the club this season. Northern Knights’ Maeve Chaplin slots into half-back where she is capable of playing, as the sole representative for the Knights. The last two players rounding out the bench are sole representatives in Sandringham Dragons’ Sofia Hurley and Gippsland Power’s Grace Matser, with the latter being the rotating ruck with Gillard in the side.

The 24 players who missed out on the Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year were automatically filled into the Draft Central Second Team of the Year, with special mention to Bendigo Pioneers’ Elizabeth Snell, Oakleigh Chargers’ Brooke Vickers and Calder Cannons’ Emelia Yassir who were named as the emergencies for the starting team.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE YEAR:

B: Chloe Leonard (GWV) – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV) – Mia Busch (ER)
HB: Maeve Chaplin (NK) – Annie Lee (GF) – Stella Reid (OC)
C: Aurora Smith (MB) – Perri King (TD) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ)
HF: Poppy Schaap (GF) (vc) – Renee Tierney (GF) – Montana Ham (WJ)
F: Alyssia Pisano (ER) – Charlie Rowbottom (OC) – Amber Clarke (DS)
R: Tahlia Gillard (CC) – Georgie Prespakis (CC) (c) – Tess Craven (GF)
INT: Lilli Condon (GWV) – Sofia Hurley (SD) – Amanda Ling (OC) – Grace Matser (GP) – Claire Ransom (TD) – Paige Scott (GWV)

EMG: Elizabeth Snell (BP) – Brooke Vickers (OC) – Emelia Yassir (CC)

The remaining 24 players filled out the impressive Second Team of the Year, with five emergencies who were the next ones just outside the squad – and received two Team of the Week nominations – all named as emergencies. These were Northern Knights duo Tannah Hurst and Ella Smallacombe, Dandenong Stingrays’ tall Mackenzie Eardley, and ruck duo, GWV Rebels’ Kalani Scoullar and Western Jets’ Krystal Russell. Captaining the side is Snell with Yassir being the vice-captain as two of the emergencies of the first team.

Eastern Ranges have four players in the side with Georgia Campbell, Keeley Sherar, Bridget Deed and Cadhla Schmidli all making the Second Team, the equal most of any side. Dandenong Stingrays also have four players in the side, as defenders Zoe Hill, Jemma Radford and Jaide Anthony – who all have VFL Women’s experience – squeeze into the back six. The leadership combination of Snell and Yassir have a teammate each in the side, with bottom-ager Octavia Di Donato, and midfielder Zali Friswell both in the starting teams.

The Gippsland Power have two players in Matilda Van Berkel and Lily-Rose Williamson, as do the GWV Rebels, with Ella Friend and Molly Walton making it in. Murray Bushrangers’ duo Ally Morphett and Keeley Skepper, and Northern Knights duo Tarrah Delgado and 2023-draft eligible Ava Jordan all represent the Second Team, with Vickers being the sole Oakleigh representative, and the team having no Falcons due to all four nominees making the First Team.

Tasmania Devils are represented by the two players in Jemma Webster and Amy Bissett, while Jemima Woods rounded out the 24-player squad by being named in the opposite forward pocket to Bissett. Sandringham Dragons did not have a representative in the side.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS SECOND TEAM OF THE YEAR:

B: Jemma Radford (DS) – Tarrah Delgado (NK) – Zoe Hill (DS)
HB: Molly Walton (GWV) – Matilda Van Berkel (GP) – Jaide Anthony (DS)
C: Jemma Webster (TD) – Zali Friswell (CC) – Brooke Vickers (OC)
HF: Elizabeth Snell (BP) (c) – Ella Friend (GWV) – Octavia Di Donato (BP)
F: Jemima Woods (WJ) – Georgia Campbell (ER) – Amy Bissett (TD)
R: Ally Morphett (MB) – Keeley Sherar (ER) – Emelia Yassir (CC) (vc)
INT: Felicity Crank (DS) – Bridget Deed (ER) – Ava Jordan (NK) – Cadhla Schmidli (ER) – Keeley Skepper (MB) – Lily-Rose Williamson (GP)

EMG: Mackenzie Eardley (DS) – Tannah Hurst (NK) – Krystal Russell (WJ) – Ella Smallacombe (NK) – Kalani Scoullar (GWV)

2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year squad

FOLLOWING the conclusion of the 2021 NAB League Girls season, Draft Central has named its extended 48-player squad for its Team of the Year. The 48 players are comprised of those NAB League Girls talents who compiled the most Team of the Week nominations throughout the season, with three or more nominations earning automatic selection into the squad, and then the majority of the two or more nominations also earning a place in the squad.

From here the 48-player squad will be divided up into two teams – the Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year and the Second Team of the Year, recognising the efforts of the most consistent performers in 2021. The players with the most nominations will earn the captaincy and vice-captaincy for the Team of the Year, with the team to be released line-by-line on social media.

Of the team-by-team nominations, finalists Eastern Ranges and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels have the most with six players, ahead of fellow finalists, Dandenong Stingrays (five). Four of the remaining five finalists had the four representatives with Oakleigh Chargers, Geelong Falcons, Calder Cannons and Tasmania Devils having a quartet of players in the squad. Northern Knights had the three as the other finalist, while Murray Bushrangers, Gippsland Power and Western Jets had the three players. Bendigo Pioneers (two) and Sandringham Dragons (one) had the least representatives, mostly due to injuries or absences to key players – such as Tara Slender and Bridie Hipwell – at different points during the season.

In terms of constructing the Team of the Year, those players with four or more Team of the Week nominations will automatically make the side. With 16 players having received four or more nominations, they will be the centrepieces in the side, and the remaining eight players chosen from the other 32 available players. Those not selected in the Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year will be in the Second Team.

Of the 48 players, 33 are eligible for the draft, in their 18th or 19th year this season, with a further 13 eligible for the draft next year and remarkably, two players – Alyssia Pisano and Ava Jordan – not eligible until the 2023 AFL Women’s Draft. There was also a minimum five-game limit for players to make the squad, with the likes of Emily Shepherd just missing out due to injury having played just the four games (prior to finals).

Bendigo Pioneers [2]: Octavia Di Donato, Elizabeth Snell
Calder Cannons [4]: Zali Friswell, Tahlia Gillard, Georgie Prespakis, Emelia Yassir
Dandenong Stingrays [5]: Jaide Anthony, Amber Clarke, Felicity Crank, Zoe Hill, Jemma Radford
Eastern Ranges [6]: Mia Busch, Georgia Campbell, Bridget Deed, Alyssia Pisano, Cadhla Schmidli, Keeley Sherar
Geelong Falcons [4]: Tess Craven, Annie Lee, Poppy Schaap, Renee Tierney
Gippsland Power [3]: Grace Matser, Matilda Van Berkel, Lily Rose-Williamson
GWV Rebels [6]: Lilli Condon, Nyakoat Dojiok, Ella Friend, Chloe Leonard, Paige Scott, Molly Walton
Murray Bushrangers [3]: Ally Morphett, Keeley Skepper, Aurora Smith
Northern Knights [3]: Maeve Chaplin, Tara Delgado, Ava Jordan
Oakleigh Chargers [4]: Amanda Ling, Stella Reid, Charlie Rowbottom, Brooke Vickers
Sandringham Dragons [1]: Sofia Hurley
Tasmania Devils [4]: Amy Bissett, Perri King, Claire Ransom, Jemma Webster
Western Jets [3]: Charlotte Baskaran, Montana Ham, Jemima Woods

The 2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Year and Second Team will be announced next week in the lead-up to the NAB League Girls Grand Final.

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Elimination Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition rolled on into finals action over the weekend, with three games played on Saturday and one on Sunday. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

Each game’s top performers are the opinion of the individual writer.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve 

AFLW Academy:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Unsurprisingly Prespakis lead all comers for disposals for the day. She often sharked first possession off the rucks’ hands and then followed up with her classic long kicks forward, or the drew in opponents to handball it off to a teammate she just relieved of pressure. The real highlight of her game was how well she competed on the inside against one of the strongest midfield groups in the competition, racking up a game high 12 tackles and showing she wasn’t letting the Chargers mids walk it out of stoppages easily. Spectators were fortunate enough to see her and fellow AFLW Academy star Charlie Rowbottom go head-to-head at times, with each of them getting a few bragging rights moments through the contest.

 #18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Started the day as the deepest Calder forward, with the coaching staff looking to take advantage of the Chargers’ lack of height in defensive 50. She competed well when the ball entered attacking 50 and interestingly, despite being 190 cm, she looked at her best when the ball hit the ground as she followed up extremely well to get quick hands up to teammates. Unfortunately she dropped a few marks she would’ve usually held, perhaps due to the increased pace and pressure of finals. 

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Finding herself split between the midfield and forwardline evenly across the contest, Rowbottom’s influence on the game, particularly through the midfield, can’t be overstated, with her burst of speed being difficult for Calder to deal with. She looked to move the ball by hand a lot as opposed to blindly kicking the ball which led to some nice passages of play for Oakleigh. However, you could say she was too team centric at times, looking to pass off inside 50 most of the time she got it which kept Oakleigh off the scoreboard more than they could’ve been. A real point of difference is her overhead marking which she got to display a couple of times, taking one particular pack mark that, despite getting tackled by Georgie Prespakis, resulted in a dangerous inside 50.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Consistently found ways to show off her burst of speed and agility, weaving through packs and getting away well weighted kicks forward, or handballing to teammates under less pressure. The hard working midfielder provided plenty of spark around stoppages. She found her way around the ground as well, with a defensive focus to her game, getting down back to help out her team under siege, where she even managed an impressive intercept mark which led to a dangerous piece of transitional play that almost resulted in a goal.

#8 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

Has possibly flown under the radar this season with Prespakis and Yassir arguably flashier, but Friswell’s contribution to the strong midfield trio has been monumental throughout 2021 and the game against Oakleigh was no different. She returned a rounded game where she did everything well; unselfish with her ball use, looking to find teammates in space to spread Oakleigh’s defence, and switching the ball across the forward 50 often to create a bit of chaos. Similar to other teammates, her hybrid style of play in the midfield made Calder dangerous, able to crack in and win the contested ball and clearances, but also just as capable at holding her space and receiving a handball out the back or when running past.

#4 Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons)

Putting in arguably her best performance for the year, Lennox had a game to be proud of as a key defender. Usually playing on Oakleigh’s resting midfielders like Charlie Rowbottom or Amanda Ling, she adjusted to each opponent promptly and looked assured throughout the contest, not conceding a goal at any point. Taking the kick-ins for the day, she’d always run the ball out 15-20 meters and then kick a long bomb well out of the defensive 50 in an attempt to get Calder moving quickly in transition.

#15 Mali McLeod (Calder Cannons)

Getting her highest disposal count for the season in the contest, McLeod chose the right game to show her proficiency as a winger. Often the target of the kick-ins for Calder, or playing on the ‘dead wing’, McLeod was always an option, putting herself in the right spots all day to receive the ball on the outside and holding her space well. She also used the ball well by foot, looking to spot up targets in more central parts of the ground or inside 50.

#39 Abbey McDonald (Calder Cannons)

Playing in all thirds of the ground, McDonald showed that she’s got the scope to play anywhere going forward, and at a high level. She’s proven throughout the season that she understands how to play her role, and works well within the Calder structure to adjust what she does to suit her teammates. When she gets the ball, she just uses it so well, never asking too much of her teammates with well weighted kicks or handballs put just in front for them to run onto. As a 2004 birth, she’s one that looms as a major part, in any area of the ground, of the Cannons’ 2022 campaign.

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Ling had a performance to remember. Whilst not winning as much of the ball as she usually does, the moments she had with and around it were extremely influential. What was perhaps most impressive was her lateral movement, even under pressure, able to maintain top speed even when evading opponents. It wasn’t uncommon to see her run straight towards opponents and then take a side step, with the opponent unable to do anything about it. She used the ball well to follow up on those side steps too, hitting a few kicks to the top of the goalsquare to give her teammates the best opportunity to score.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing forward for what felt like the entire game, Reid didn’t let that hurt her disposal numbers. Pushing up the ground to act as a high-half forward link up player, she was involved in everything in the front half of the ground; taking marks, winning loose balls and setting up teammates. She was also one of two multiple goalkickers, with the opportunity to get two or three more on the board as well, but she chose to move the ball on to better positioned teammates showing a sense for teamwork – a common theme amongst the Oakleigh squad that played a big part in the win.

#31 Sarah Morley (Oakleigh Chargers)

Putting in her best shift for the year, Morley was one of the benefactors from the team focus that the Oakleigh squad played with, getting involved in some chain bits of play that led to either her getting on the scoreboard or her team getting a scoring opportunity. Morley threw herself at everything, not letting the Cannons defenders have anything easy, while also taking a couple of nice marks that led to her setting up teammates for shots on goal. 

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Perhaps most impactful in the final quarter where she got an extended run through the midfield, James’ burst of speed, agility and toughness at the footy were real sparks to keep Oakleigh going forward consistently through the middle of the ground. She did well to win first possession off of the ruck taps and then quickly handball off to teammates under less pressure. If she got it in space herself, she measured her kicks well, looking to get them more central. 

#37 Charlotte Van der Vlies (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing in her usual wing role, Van der Vlies was able to impact contests on her side of the ground well, generally winning the contest by getting the ball herself, or putting in a bump/shepherd that allowed a teammate to get it out and keep going forward. She proved a nuisance for the Cannons defence, often at the fall of the ball when they rushed a kick out of the Chargers’ forward 50, using the ball well by foot to get it central or back inside 50.

#23 Caitlin Matthews (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing an underrated role in the defensive 50 for the Chargers, Matthews was impressive in her defensive craft; winning one-on-ones with a spoil, or drifting across and impacting contests to get the ball loose and then follow up at ground level. From there, she picked it up cleanly off the ground and then got distance behind her kicks outside of defensive 50. She was also confident to push off her opponent and just sit behind contests to quickly pick up spilled balls.

OTHERS:

For the victors, the influence of defender Erin Woodford can’t be overstated, winning multiple two-on-ones in the final quarter to stop Calder scoring, and doing well to nullify Gillard throughout the contest. Lily Hart was again a big part of the midfield for the Chargers, as Mia Clift and Charlotte Taylor were impressive as rebounding defensive options. For the Cannons, Trilby Sheppard did well in defensive 50, whilst Reese Sutton was also lively through the game, having some good moments in the forward half.

EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Declan Reeve

TOP PERFORMERS:

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Put in a solid performance in what will be her last NAB League appearance. Chaplin’s strength on the inside and around stoppages is one of her standout traits, being able to win contested possession without much issue even with opposition hanging off her. This goes hand in hand with her composure and smooth moving through traffic to make her a really damaging ball winner, where she’ll win it, get free and kick well forward. When playing a role in the defensive 50, she has natural defensive nous, with just little things like standing goal side of her opponent or having an arm across them giving her the advantage when the ball comes in.

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

It has become glaringly evident that Jordan is a seriously good ball winner through the midfield, and she’s only going to get better. Despite being shorter than most, she’s got such a hunger to win the footy that leads to her being involved in everything. She manages to get the ball in contested situations and work her way out to give it off to a teammate under less pressure. What’s most impressive is her tendency to move the ball on by hand, it’s not uncommon for the highest ball winners in NAB League to look to bomb long, so that composure and maturity at such a young age is an extremely good trait. 

#23 Lulu Beatty (Northern Knights)

Had a difficult job through the game with the ball constantly around the Northern defensive 50, but Beatty held up under the pressure to be arguably the best defender on ground. She positioned well in contests to be at an advantage almost every time, giving her the best opportunity to use the ball well going forward and start a dangerous counter attack. Pushed up the ground as well to help lock the ball inside the Northern forward 50, setting up just outside to create a contest with Eastern players waiting for a rebound. 

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Continued her goalkicking ways from the home-and-away season, booting three on the way to a brilliant victory. Two of her goals came at vital moments; when the game was still there to be won by Northern, it was Pisano that would step up and put the nail in the coffin after having missed a few easier shots earlier on. It wasn’t just the goals that impressed and impacted from Pisano, she was able to push up the ground and win possession as far as the defensive 50 mark, following up with her trademark penetrating left-foot kick, usually a good 35-40 meters down the line. Her work through traffic was also eye-catching, able to side step her way around opponents to get separation.

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

The super athletic ruck had a day out for Eastern, playing a big part in their ability to get first hands on the ball and clear it forward to keep pressure on the Northern defence. She has developed and improved her ruck craft throughout the season. Having the athletic advantage more often than not, she’s worked on her tap work to be one of the premiere rucks in the league in that regard, putting it right in front of her teammates every time.

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Has improved game on game, and it has led to her being one of the standout defenders in the competition, with her ability to run both ways and offer plenty in both offensive and defensive play making her a consistent part of the Ranges’ transitional passages. Her ball use around the ground is exceptional, composing herself before getting the ball to a teammate, usually further up the ground. She was involved in one particular bit of play, where she won a one-on-two at the top of the defensive 50, swept up the loose ball and delivered long to a teammate, who then kicked it onto Alyssia Pisano for her third goal of the day. 

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

The major ball winner for the contest, Deed was constantly involved in play around the ground. However, what was most noticeable was her work rate to get down and assist in the backline, with her positioning in particular being the key reason to her good performance, even getting herself some quick uncontested intercept marks during the latter stages in the game. She was strong on the inside as a ball winner that fed out to other midfielders or kicked long forward into dangerous spots.

#5 Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges)

Playing arguably her best game of the season in her standard wing role, it was Livingstone’s endurance running and ability to work both ways that stood out and put her name in contention for best on ground. She held her space really well throughout the game, being a much needed outlet for the Ranges as seemingly everyone else on the ground wanted to get into the contested scraps.

OTHERS:

Keeley Sherar, Ruby O’Dwyer and Isabelle Khoury were all big parts in the Ranges’ win, bringing spark around the midfield. El Chaston was a dangerous forward target, setting up a few of the goals, whilst Grace Walsh was consistent down back. For the Knights, Phoebe Nelson, Riley Wilcox and Teleah Smart all had good moments in the midfield and around the ground, all bringing positive run to Northern’s side.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

TOP PERFORMERS:

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Since returning from the Under 19 Championships matches, Schaap has played extended stints forward to great success, again getting on the scoreboard against Dandenong, but playing a much more team orientated game, looking to pass off essentially every time she got the ball rather than take the shot herself. She found a good balance between pushing up the ground acting as an extra midfielder, and staying down forward as a crumber which played a big part in the Falcons’ dominance, with her natural ball winning and quick hands in-close opening the game up often and leading to scoring shots for Geelong.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

A game to put on the resume, Craven showed that she has the ability to impact the scoreboard heavily when allowed a little more freedom to move forward. Her first of the day came just 30 seconds into the match from about 40 meters out, after getting the clearance, handing it off and getting it back straight away. Her ball use was at its usual high standard, being one of the few to look to use the width of the ground rather than always moving straight forward, finding unopposed teammates that allowed them to get a clearer path forward. She looked to be a handy outlet option for her teammates as well, getting into the short inside 45 spots and often being used, then hitting teammates up to keep the chain going.

#9 Ash Van Loon (Geelong Falcons)

Played as the most permanent part of Geelong’s midfield for the game, with her positioning around the ground, especially stoppages, being the highlight for her. She’d manage to win the first possession off the rucks’ hands and then flick it off by hand to a teammate that was already close to top speed, giving the Falcons quick ball movement entering the forward half of the ground. Used it well by foot as well to hit some good targets, even when under pressure.

#15 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Featherston benefitted from the quick ball movement coming forward at times, making her a dangerous figure. As a player that possesses great speed and athleticism in general, she was able to react quickly and leap to try and take the ball high or quickly turn and run onto a ball over the top, beating her opponent in the foot race. She used the ball well, hitting targets in better spots than her if she wasn’t in a good position to go for goal, but also comfortable to back herself in and take some shots herself. Acted as the relieving ruck for the game as well, with the previously mentioned athleticism coming out.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

The 2022 Geelong and St Kilda father-daughter prospect is the embodiment of an inside bull, utilising her strength and relentless hunt on the footy to win the contested ball and get it going forward by foot. She also looked good with her marking, providing contests with her bodywork really solid in those marking jostles, nudging players off balance to get the advantage as the ball flew in. 

#31 Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)

Fresh off her VFLW debut with the Southern Saints, Radford returned to Dandenong looking more confident and happy to take the game on. As she has so often done this year, Radford was thrown about into all areas of the ground as Dandenong tried to plug the holes as they popped up. Looked good with her positioning all day, making herself a genuine option wherever she was, then using the ball well when she got it – proving well balanced between kicking and handballing. Looked most impressive in defence where she made plenty of contests to stop certain Geelong goals, and rebounded well. Radford also got herself on the scoreboard for her hard work. 

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looked the most aerially dangerous in Dandenong’s defence and moved the ball out of defensive 50 with speed, looking to take the game on with her run-and-carry at times, then delivering a long kick forward into space for the forwards to run onto. Hill was defensively sound throughout, making opposition forwards work hard with their leading and work at ground level to win the ball.

#44 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looked solid as a rock for Dandenong in defence, being one of the few defenders that were happy to push up out of the defensive 50 and impact further up the ground, which led to her taking some impressive runs on the wing and delivering inside 50 with her well weighted kicks, even getting herself on the scoreboard as a reward for effort. She used the ball well coming out of defence too, looking to spot up targets rather than bomb down the line, in an attempt to stop Geelong’s constant stream of inside 50s.

OTHERS:

Zoe Garth and Ingrid Houtsma were also good for Geelong Falcons, with Garth getting a goal playing predominantly as a high half-forward and Houtsma playing the wing role well before going off in the fourth quarter, after a rough tackle. Annie Lee looked assured in defence when it came down, often pushing out to impact play on the wing. For Dandenong, bottom-agers Felicity Crank and Olivia Robinson looked solid and worked hard all day, playing a variety of roles but still popping up everywhere. Ashleigh Richards also had some good moments playing mostly forward. 2023-draft eligible tall Bianca Lyne was the standout in the ruck all day, leading the game for hitouts and regularly jumping higher than her opponents.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

Had another strong performance throughout the four quarters by winning her fair share of the ball in-close and extracting it out of the stoppage to try and get it forward. Once again it was her tackling pressure that really shone in the match, and whilst she might have rushed some of her earlier kicks, she put in a good kick to Amy Prokopiec in the second term, and worked hard moments later to slide in and mark the ball 35 metres out straight in front. Whilst the set shot fell short, she continued to push hard throughout the game and had one of the last inside 50s of the game.

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Rotating between forward and the wing – and even dropping back into defence to provide an aerial presence at centre half-back, Friend was one of the more prominent players in the game. A couple of times both she and Paige Scott led to the same spot which saw the ball knocked to ground, but Friend was incredibly lively up the ground, setting up Scott and her teammates inside 50 with scoring chances thanks to her booming left boot. Continually looking to thump it deep, Friend kept winning the ball through the midfield.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Providing good run out of defence and positioning herself well in the back 50 to gobble up any high balls, Dojiok was a difficult player to stop in transition. Her bombing down the field was hit and miss in terms of accuracy, but her ability to just get in the right spots to intercept and then drive it forward as she has all season was uncanny. She ran all game long and became a real problem for the opposition forwards who had to try and stop her in the air to try and contain her, which they focused on doing later in the game.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#1 Brooke Barwick (Tasmania Devils)

The pocket rocket 15-year-old looked experienced beyond her years, having some eye-catching plays throughout the match. In particular, during a couple of back-to-back plays in the third term where she won the ball on the wing and drove it forward on multiple occasions. For a smaller player she has a fierce attack on the contest and is not afraid to get stuck in, making for plenty of upside in her game.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Was particularly busy early, winning plenty of the ball. She provided hard running and fierce defensive pressure, taking a couple of good marks and spreading into space to move the ball in transition. She showed good strength at one stage to fend off an opponent and handball inside 50, as well as taking a good mark late in the game at the top of the forward 50. Had a fair impact on the contest as a whole.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

The classy midfielder used her clean hands through the middle and composure under pressure to be one of the best Tasmanians on the day once again. Her ability to have the footy smarts whilst being tackled on the ground in the goalsquare to firstly keep the ball in, and then give it off to the moving Prokopiec to kick a goal from point blank was terrific. Ransom herself kicked a clever early goal to get the Devils on the board, and then had a flying shot in the fourth term which just bounced into the post. As a whole her attacking plays were impactful from the get-go. She did get caught once holding the ball which is very rare, but otherwise had another impressive performance.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

Covered the ground really well, winning the ball in the midfield, attack and in defence. She showed off her deep long kick going inside 50, and then worked hard on the outside to receive the handball and keep running. In the fourth term, Maurer won a free kick at half-forward but her kick was smothered, though she kept pushing and finished the game with a well-balanced array of touches all over the field, as well as high-level defensive pressure.

#23 Charlotte Dennis (Tasmania Devils)

Played a rock solid role in defence, especially when the Rebels had the ascendancy, standing up under pressure and taking a number of strong marks, then moving the ball out of the danger zone in transition. Perhaps her best moment was a courageous grab with contact coming in the third term, backing herself to win the ball and save a potential goalscoring chance for the opposition.

#24 Amy Prokopiec (Tasmania Devils)

Was a really lively forward and could have had a huge day out, finishing with 2.3 for her troubles from eight touches. Forgetting the stats, her impact on the game was certainly high, working hard to lead to spots and then doubling back to try and worry the opposition on the last line. She kicked a goal from the square thanks to a handball from Ransom, then kicked a second with a set shot 30 metres out straight in front, a quarter later. Taking a couple of strong grabs in the second half, Prokopiec uncharacteristically missed a couple of chances, including one late in the contest, but could be proud with the work rate she produced.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

Good players stand up when the game is on the line, and while Scott booted the four goals to put them in front, Condon’s last term – in particular the last 10 minutes – was absolutely outstanding. She had a flying shot on the goal herself which missed, but her ability to keep running hard throughout the entire match, including when many were tiring was unbelievable. She seemed to find space with ease and brought as much defensive pressure as she did offensive work. Showing clean hands on the inside, Condon had the ball on a string and was really influential throughout the match, but was particularly noticeable when every touch mattered late in the game.

#2 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)

Stepped up with another strong performance after a good one in Round 9. The talented midfielder had a powerful kick early in the game from half-back to the wing and then pushed deeper back to smother a set shot on goal which forced a ball-in. Her intensity at the contest earned her a number of free kicks, and she teamed up well with Condon by extracting the ball from in-close to get it outside. A huge tackle on Ransom when very few can catch her was impressive, and she finished with a solid four-quarter effort with some nice plays in each term.

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

The match-winner and like she did for Vic Country, showed just what she is capable of when on-song. Kicking the team’s four goals, Scott could have had an even bigger day out with three behinds as well. She played a lot deeper than she has in other outings, often utilised as the player to isolate one-on-one deep, and she took advantage of her strength and footy IQ to create separation from her opponent – be it one-on-one, on the lead, or getting to the right place for an uncontested grab. After three goals in the space of five minutes during the second term, she capped off her day with a fourth from 25 metres out in the third term, narrowly missing one after a tough mark shortly after.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Consistent as they come, Leonard was again easily one of the Rebels’ best, laying some fierce tackles and just bullocking her way on the inside to win the ball and get it out to teammates. She provided good run when on the outside and covered the ground well by winning the ball in all thirds of the ground. She stood up in tackles and won free kicks for her attack on the contest, and just did what she had to do in crunch moments to be a leader amongst the group and really impact the contest.

OTHERS:

From Tasmania’s standpoint, Jemma Webster, Priscilla Odwogo, Aprille Crooks and Candice Belbin all had some impressive moments throughout the match, while Charlie Vandenberg worked well around the ground early. For the Rebels, Stella Bridgewater, Jorja Jones and Ally Trigg had some nice moments throughout the game, Kalani Scoullar took control at the ruck stoppages, and Molly Walton was reliable when needed in defence.

2021 NAB League Girls preview: Elimination Finals

AFTER nine rounds of home-and-away tussles, the 2021 NAB League Girls season rolls on into its first week of finals. The eight qualifying teams hail from two seperate pools, with four from the Metro regions and four from the Country selection, including Tasmania.

Oakleigh Chargers, who finished first in their pool and top overall, will take on fourth-ranked Metro side Calder, while the Northern Knights’ premiership defence goes on the line against Eastern Ranges. Both games will be played in a Saturday double-header at Warrawee Park, Oakleigh.

On the Country side of things, top-ranked Tasmania faces the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels in a standalone Sunday fixture on the Apple Isle. The Devils’ and Rebels will go in already knowing their next opponent, as Dandenong and Geelong lock horns on Saturday afternoon for what looms as the game of the weekend.

We preview all four games with a look at form and the key matchups.

METRO POOL

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS (1st, 7-1) vs. CALDER CANNONS (4th, 5-3)
Saturday May 1, 10:00am
Warrawee Park, Oakleigh

Two of the competition’s premier teams tussle when Oakleigh Chargers and Calder Cannons open this year’s finals series on Saturday morning. While Oakleigh’s top-end talent has seen it charge to frontrunner status, Calder had long been poised as a finals fancy coming into the season. The two sides’ Round 3 meeting saw Oakleigh prove its credentials with a 16-point win on the road, via a three-goal to nil fourth quarter. This time around, the Chargers are on their home deck and come in having dismantled Gippsland by 100 points post-break. Calder’s run in is less ideal having lost to Geelong last week, making for two wins in its last four games. Oakleigh also lost to Geelong in Round 8, but won in every other outing this season.

Where it’s won: 

Calder boasts enormous strength down the spine; with Kasey Lennox down back, Tahlia Gillard rotating forward from the ruck, Neve Crowley able to swing up either end, and Georgie Prespakis leading a balanced midfield trio which includes Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell. There is an enormous amount of experience and class within that group alone, with all six part of the Cannons’ 2019 grand final side.

Oakleigh also has a strong engine room, but the dynamism of their squad as a whole could prove key here. Charlie Rowbottom can kick goals when resting forward, Brooke Vickers is a terrific generator of momentum from half-back or the wing, and Stella Reid is a consistent ball winner who can play on each line. The flexibility of those key players, along with a raft of up-and-comers makes the Chargers an ominous force moving forward. Speaking of, keep an eye out for Jasmine Fleming and Ameille Smith. Fleming made a stunning debut last week, while Smith returned from injury with aplomb in the same game.

Marquee matchup: Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers) vs. Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

It is only fitting to pit these two up against each other, having recently waxed to good effect in Vic Metro’s midfield. Both captains of their respective sides, expect to hear their names in close proximity for a long time yet as they loom as the top two picks in the Victorian draft pool. They may well feature in close proximity to each other on the field too, despite Rowbottom being named at full forward for Oakleigh. She is known to rotate deep and hit the scoreboard, but will likely be key to setting an early tone for her side against a well-balanced Calder midfield. Prespakis is the centrepiece there, with unmatched ball winning ability and two-way relevance. In their Round 3 duel, Rowbottom finished with 18 disposals, 11 tackles and five inside 50s, while Prespakis had 20 touches, 18 tackles, and four inside 50s. Let’s see who takes centre stage this time out.

EASTERN RANGES (2nd, 6-2) vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS (3rd, 5-3)
Saturday May 1, 12:00pm
Warrawee Park, Oakleigh

The Eastern Ranges will be out for redemption when they lock horns with Northern Knights on Saturday afternoon, with the Metro rivalry producing a couple of thrilling contests in the last three seasons. Northern remains the reigning premier and will look to continue its defence here, having ranked third in the Metro pool with a 5-3 record. Eastern bested them in that aspect to finish second at 6-2, but one of those losses crucially came at the hands of their weekend opponents. back in Round 6, the Knights came from nowhere to snatch an eight point victory over Eastern, aided by a four-goal final term. The result should be fresh in the memory of both sides, who come into this clash on the back of solid Round 9 victories.

Where it’s won:

The midfield. If their Round 6 meeting is anything to go by, this game rests on which side can wrestle momentum in the engine room. Eastern beat Northern in that department for three quarters of their earlier clash this year, but came unstuck as Northern moved Tarrah Delgado on the ball and got on top at the death. The Knights did not have Maeve Chaplin to rely on in that match, so she is a key inclusion to lead the line alongside Teleah Smart and Ava Jordan, who had 24 disposals and two goals in Round 6.

The Ranges have a good bunch of ball winners who have been ultra consistent this season, with Bridget Deed and Keeley Sherar among the key movers who can benefit from Georgia Campbell‘s ruckwork. All three were impactful last time out against the Knights, with Campbell combining with Jess Grace to win 35 hitouts, while Deed and Sherar finished atop their side’s disposal chart.

Experience may also play a factor, with Grace among a handful of Ranges to have gained VFLW experience with Hawthorn this year. Of course, Northern will claim their own ascendancy in that regard with the same number of players from their 2019 premiership team set to line up once again on Saturday.

Marquee matchup: Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges) vs. Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

With the midfield battle so important to this result, what better place to look for the marquee matchup. Put forward here are two 167cm inside types who can win their own ball and set the tone for their side. Deed has averaged 19.4 disposals and 5.8 tackles across eight consistent games in 2021, while Chaplin has played seven times for averages of 17.1 and 4.9 in the same categories – though was twice rubbed out with injury in those outings. Both players are fresh off representing Vic Metro at the Under 19 National Championships and worked back into form nicely upon the NAB League’s return. Expect to see them in the thick of things at the coalface.

COUNTRY POOL

DANDENONG STINGRAYS (2nd, 5-3) vs. GEELONG FALCONS (3rd, 5-3)
Saturday May 1, 2:30pm
Shepley Oval, Dandenong

Potentially the game of the weekend sees Dandenong Stingrays shape up against Geelong Falcons at Shepley Oval, rounding out Saturday’s fixtures. Both sides finished their regular seasons with 5-3 records, but remain one of the rare pairs not to have crossed paths since 2019. The Stingrays made a hot start to their 2021 campaign with three-straight wins, but have since gone 2-3 in their last five outings. That third loss came last week to Northern, with the silver lining a competitive hitout on the eve of finals. Geelong looks to be in terrific shape having become the only team to beat Oakleigh in Round 8, before returning to knock off Calder last week. The Falcons have lost some winnable games too, but are always a massive threat at full strength. Whichever team survives is in with a great chance at taking out the ultimate glory, among a tough group of competitors.

Where it’s won:

Both sides are strong on each line, but boast particularly sturdy defences. Among Dandenong’s back six, it won’t be hard to miss (and mistake) key pillars Zoe Hill and Mackenzie Eardley, while Jaide Anthony makes a welcome return and Jemma Radford also comes back into the side having gained some VFLW experience. Those are just names among the starting group, with plenty more movers likely to rotate back and help blanket some lively Geelong forwards.

For the Falcons, the combination of Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling is a real star turn, with their mix of intercepting and rebounding proving a nice catalyst from the back. Again they are just a couple of outstanding figures in the wider structure having recently served Vic Country in a similar fashion. Whichever defence can resist the attack which comes their way for longer, while also providing the better spark in transition, will likely come away as the winner.

Marquee matchup: Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays) vs. Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Another pair of midfielders in the marquee matchup slot, these two have often proven the prime ball winners for either side. They are virtually identical in height and while Shepherd is a year younger, just as capable of starring at this level. Part of Dandenong’s leadership group, Shepherd has played five games in 2021 for averages of 17.8 disposals, 3.2 tackles, and 4.8 inside 50s. It is worth noting, she came off injured in Round 5 and was rotated heavily upon her Round 8 return. Last week, she notched 24 touches in a terrific outing.

Craven has two more games under her belt and is an ultra consistent figure; averaging 21.7 disposals, 3.0 tackles, and 3.3 inside 50s this season. Not only does she win the ball at the coalface, but also works around the ground to have an all-round impact. Shepherd, who seems to have so much time on the ball, can also rotate forward and tends to make things happen.

Tasmania Devils (1st, 6-2) vs. GWV Rebels (4th, 3-5)
Sunday May 2, 12:30pm
Windsor Park, Launceston

The Tasmania Devils will take part in their first-ever NAB League Girls final this weekend, taking on the GWV Rebels on Sunday afternoon. The Devils earned the right to host on the back of a remarkable campaign, showing marked improvement to register a 6-2 record and top the country pool. While GWV finished ninth overall, the Victorian side snuck into the postseason as the fourth-ranked country side. You won’t have to look too far back to see how these teams stack up against each other, as they played just last week. The Devils won that game by 23 points, meaning this clash looms as somewhat of a reverse fixture. Tasmania’s winning streak is also now at four games, while the Rebels will have some work to do to bring their three-game losing skid to an end.

Where it’s won:

This contest looms as an interesting one in terms of styles – it goes without saying that whichever side can play the game on their terms for longer will likely win, but it rings true here. The Devils have shown they are a potent unit, managing scores of over 35 points on six occasions this season. They move the ball well in transition and may look to dismantle the Rebels in that way again. GWV plays a slightly different style and was shown to kick-mark, or kick long more than Tasmania last week. The Devils used the ball far more by hand in that outing, so will have a good idea of what works and how they can break open the usually congested finals feeling. GWV also has some strong aerial players, which come into effect when the ball is kicked in long. At ground level, both sides are tough and are not afraid to get their hands dirty defensively.

Marquee matchup: Amy Prokopiec (Tasmania Devils) vs. Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

On paper, this is one of the best pure matchups across the entire round of action. Named alongside each other on the team sheets, Prokopiec and Dojiok have already had a sighter against one-another. Tassie Devils forward, Prokopiec has been a reliable figure for her side, booting 10 goals in her seven games and being held goalless just once. She snared 2.2 last week and looked dangerous having been overlooked for Allies selection. Fresh off her carnival with Vic Country, exciting Rebels defender Dojiok had 18 disposals and five rebound 50s last week. A kick-first player who also marks well and gains serious meterage, it is little wonder why she was included in the AFLW Academy this year given her potential. She will again be a key player for GWV here, matched up against a player similar in size and in just the right position for both players to truly test themselves.

Vic Metro survives West Australian fightback at the death

VIC Metro survived a dramatic late fightback from Western Australia on Thursday morning, holding on to win by four points at Trevor Barker Oval after Chloe Reilly‘s post-siren set shot drifted wide in the Sandringham wind. The Big V led from the first goal and were in the box seat to coast to a straightforward victory, until WA turned up the heat in a dramatic last-ditch lunge.

Over two goals down heading into the final break and throughout much of the fourth quarter, the Black Ducks were at long odds to sneak ahead, but made a real fist of it as Amy Franklin and Ella Roberts got them back to within a goal. Metro looked to have the result locked up as Tahlia Gillard held the ball inside Metro’s defensive 50 with 30 seconds left, but a miscued kick across goal sent players into a scramble, as the second-last kick of the game landed in Reilly’s lap.

While her resultant shot went wide, the West Australians got around their number 25 and could be proud of the effort they showed to play out the game to the death. In the end, Metro’s win was perhaps the deserved result for their effort across the first three terms, though it was very nearly snatched from them. Either way, inaccuracy reigned amid heavy wind in the 4.13 (37) to 4.9 (33) result.

West Australian bottom-ager and MVP, Roberts was clearly the best afield in a losing effort; collecting a game-high 31 disposals, five marks, six inside 50s, and booting two goals. Her teammate Courtney Rowley dug in for 23 touches (18 handballs) and seven clearances through midfield, and Reilly had 15 touches. Lauren Wakfer did some good work in the ruck, and the spark of Makaela Tuhakaraina was eye-catching.

It was hardly surprising to see Georgie Prespakis (23 disposals, six clearances) and skipper Charlie Rowbottom (20 disposals, eight inside 50s) lead Metro’s count from midfield, supported well by small ball winners Amanda Ling and Emelia Yassir. Tall prospect Georgia Campbell showed good signs up forward and in the ruck, as Maeve Chaplin held up in defence, Stella Reid ran the outer, and Eliza James (four behinds) had plenty of chances deep forward.

The result sees Metro earn its first win of the carnival, while Western Australia has its one victory over the Allies in the bag. The Vics will go on to play Queensland, while the Black Ducks’ championships come to an end after wonderfully competitive outings.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA 0.3 | 2.3 | 2.6 | 4.9 (33)
VIC METRO 1.3 | 2.8 | 4.10 | 4.13 (37)

GOALS:

Western Australia: E. Roberts 2, M. Tuhakaraina, A. Franklin
Vic Metro: P. Staltari, A. Ling, G. Campbell, T. Gillard

DC BEST:

Western Australia: E Roberts, C. Rowley, L. Wakfer, C. Reilly, M. Tuhakaraina
Vic Metro: C. Rowbottom, G. Prespakis, S. Reid, E. Yassir, M. Chaplin

Vic Country team effort secures win against inaccurate Metro rivals

VIC COUNTRY has put on a fantastic all-around performance to defeat Vic Metro at Trevor Barker Oval on Saturday afternoon. In the 28-degree weather, Country had strong contributors all over the ground, as their fast-paced, attacking brand of football became too much for their opponents.

The game proved to be excellent watching, with end-to-end footy on display for countless periods of the match. Metro’s midfield dominance was fierce for all four quarters as ruck, Tahlia Gillard gave her midfielders first use, but Country’s signature rebound game was in full flight as they defended every inside 50 and attacked with fast ball movement.

The game started with Country on top in the opening minutes of the game, locking the ball in their forward half but not getting any reward on the scoreboard, with Metro’s backline holding strong despite countless attacks. Country’s Amber Clarke started the game strong but was unfortunately sidelined with a leg injury in the first term. The deadlock was broken by two brilliant goals from Poppy Schaap to give Country the ideal two-goal lead at the first break.

The second quarter saw Metro take control of the game, as their midfield supremacy translated into locking the ball in their half of the ground. Country’s backline held strong, but could only withstand so much pressure before a Stella Reid long bomb got Metro their first goal of the day. Country returned serve not long after with a goal coming from some brilliant play up the field from Jaide Anthony and Schaap. A goal to Elizabeth Snell saw Country take a seven-point lead into the main break.

The second half kicked off with a tightly contested start to the third term as both teams scrapped for territory. Paige Scott’s long goal opened scoring for the quarter as Country started to regain the run that served them so well in the first half. A brilliant set shot from Country’s Renee Tierney in the pocket hurt Metro as they trailed at three quarter time by 19 points despite having one more scoring shot. The fourth quarter opened in similar fashion as the third quarter ended with Scott kicking her second of the day. A Tara Slender goal in the last term sealed the win for Country, as they emerged victorious by 24 points.

For the victors, Anthony was tremendous in defence, providing dash and damaging ball use all day. She was a part of a backline that set up this side’s win with their fantastic work as a unit. Elsewhere on the ground, Emily Shepherd was great around the contest, tackling hard all day and creating something whenever she had the ball. Up forward, Schaap and Scott were the standouts with their two goals apiece, while setting up teammates for scoring opportunities in a great team win.

For Metro, Charlie Rowbottom was a force inside the centre square. She burst clear of stoppages on countless occasions and really stamped her authority on the game when the ball was in her hands. She was well aided by Georgie Prespakis who found plenty of the ball, particularly in the first half. Reid put in a solid performance with her two goals and constant inside 50’s, along with Maeve Chaplin in defence.

VIC METRO       0.2   2.5   2.7   3.8   (26)
VIC COUNTRY   2.0   4.0   6.2   8.2   (50)

GOALS:

Metro: S. Reid 2, P. Staltari
Country: P. Schaap 2, P. Scott 2, E. Snell, R. Tierney, T. Slender

DC BEST:

Metro: G. Prespakis, C. Rowbottom, M. Chaplin, S. Reid, G. Campbell A. Ling
Country: J. Anthony, P. Schaap, T. Slender, P. Scott, A. Lee, G. McRae

2021 AFLW U19 Championships match preview: Vic Metro vs. Vic Country

THE all-Victorian battle at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships is not to be missed, with stars across all thirds of the ground and Metro going head to head with Country in a massive game at Trevor Barker Oval, Sandringham from midday tomorrow. Country has named its lineup for the Round 1 clash of the championships, whilst Vic Metro has listed its squad for the match, though the lineup provided here is predicted/potential.

LINEUPS:

VIC METRO:

B: Cadhla Schmidli – Kasey Lennox – Kiana Lynch
HB: Brooke Vickers – Tarrah Delgado – Pia Staltari
C: Maykaylah Appleby – Maeve Chaplin – Stella Reid
HF: Emelia Yassir – Neve Crowley – Keeley Sherar
FF: Eliza James – Tahlia Gillard – Montana Ham
R: Georgia Campbell – Charlie Rowbottom – Georgie Prespakis
INC:  Jorja Livingstone – Bridget Deed – Chloe Saultry – Charlotte Ryan – Zali Friswell – Amanda Ling

VIC COUNTRY:

B: Jaide Anthony – Mackenzie Eardley – Chloe Leonard
HB: Elizabeth Dowling – Nyakoat Dojiok – Annie Lee
C: Ella Friend – Grace McRae – Aurora Smith
HF: Amber Clarke – Tara Slender – Poppy Schaap
F: Gabbi Featherston – Renee Tierney – Tahlia Meier
R: Grace Matser – Tess Craven – Elizabeth Snell
INT: Jemma Finning – Ingrid Houtsma – Abbey Jordan – Ashleigh Richards – Paige Scott – Emily Shepherd

QUICK SUMMARY:

Looking across the line-ups, the sides have strengths in different areas, with Vic Metro’s midfield, and its size and key position talent among its strength, whilst Vic Country’s defence is its strongest line, but also its balance and even spread of players providing different roles. Metro has picked a team that has stars across multiple lines, whilst Country have the talent in there, but have also picked players that are unique in the way they can fill a role within a certain team, and very few players are too similar. The midfield battle will be crucial, whilst both sides have versatile players who can fill multiple positions.

 

FIVE KEY QUESTIONS:

Can the smaller Vic Country midfield match the bigger-bodied Metro side?

Both midfields are strong and talented, but it is clear straight away that Vic Metro has a midfield of taller, bigger-bodied players that will look to take advantage of the smaller Vic Country midfield. Tess Craven, Elizabeth Snell and Grace McRae have been named to start onball for Country and they will not take a backwards step up against the taller Charlie Rowbottom, Georgie Prespakis and Maeve Chaplin. The bigger bodies inside will help Metro around the contest in getting it out, so the smaller Country mids will have to use their extra few quick steps – particularly Snell – in extracting the ball from the contest.

How will all the Vic Metro midfielders fit in the side?

The Metro midfield is so deep, they have around 15 players who would call the midfield their preferred position. The question mark will come over how they fit them all in, and some have been learning other roles over the past month or so in order to impact the contest. Kiana Lynch and Chloe Saultry have been holding firm in defence for the Dragons, with the likes of Keeley Sherar and Emelia Yassir both capable of starting forward and hitting the scoreboard. One would expect the sole bottom-ager in Montana Ham to play forward and be a marking target, whilst Pia Staltari, Stella Reid and Brooke Vickers have been playing off flanks throughout the year in between pinch-hitting in the midfield from game-to-game. One thing is for sure, midfield rotations will not be a problem for Metro.

Can Grace Matser work over the Vic Metro tag team through the ruck?

The hard-working and endurance-based ruck of Grace Matser will have her work cut out for her in this game, being the only pure ruck in the team for Vic Country. The Gippsland Power player can run all day, and she will need to, up against the equally mobile Georgia Campbell and Tahlia Gillard who will get breathers forward when the other is rucking. Even outside those two the Metro side has talls that can jump in, while for Country, they are a shorter side, and might just get the likes of Mackenzie Eardley and Renee Tierney up opposite ends to help give Matser a chop out and save her running. Either way, a big game awaits for the ruck.

Where are the key strengths in each side?

Whilst neither side has a “weak” line, the strongest third for Country is its defence, whilst Metro’s strength is in its midfield. Metro’s four AFL Women’s Academy members in Georgie Prespakis, Charlie Rowbottom, Maykaylah Appleby and Gillard could lineup as a midfield group with the two inside ball-winners, outside runner and ruck. They will likely have first hands to it given their aforementioned strength and size in there, whilst Country will be well set up behind the play to prepare for inside 50s. The metro forward line has some quality talls, as well as midfielders who will play the role of forwards, which will give the Country defence – of whom all have good footy IQ – an advantage. They need to bring the ball to ground, but are equally comfortable in intercepting in the air, particularly Elizabeth Dowling, Annie Lee and Nyakoat Dojiok.

How can each team exploit the other?

Vic Country can use its well balanced lineup to keep it simple and each player play their role they are used to at NAB League Girls level. Looking at the side named, there is no-one in the team out of position from where they have been playing, which immediately means there is little to learn. Some might play a little deeper than they have been, but it is easily adaptable, and the players are versatile. With every forward a different type of player, the Country forward line is so well balanced and impressive. Metro can try and take control to exploit the smaller Country team, and with longer boots on them, Metro can put pressure on the famed Country defence, and really aim to put the ball into the danger zone regularly.

 

FIVE KEY MATCHUPS:

Grace Matser (Country) vs. Georgia Campbell & Tahlia Gillard (Metro)

As previously mentioned, this matchup could be a massive one, with Matser the sole number one ruck in the side, and will no doubt be ready for a great challenge on the day. Both Campbell and Gillard move well around the ground and are not afraid to take a bounce before distributing, and then go deep forward and provide a marking target. First hands will be crucial in the midfield, so the winning ruck can try and aid their midfields with clean hands.

Maykaylah Appleby/Stella Reid/Jorja Livingstone (Metro) vs. Ella Friend/Aurora Smith/Ingrid Houtsma (Country)

The need for speed and class on the outside is crucial, and both these teams have some talented players likely to roll out on the wing. Appleby is the Academy member who has the experience in big games, while Reid has been in ripping form, capable of playing anywhere. Livingstone is another wing who has that touch of class in moving the ball in transition, whilst the height of Friend and Houtsma – as well as the versatility – and the speed and ball-winning nous of Smith, will make it a couple of matchups to watch.

Georgie Prespakis/Charlie Rowbottom/Maeve Chaplin (Metro) vs. Tess Craven/Elizabeth Snell/Grace McRae (Country)

The smallest Metro midfielder is the same height as the tallest Country midfielder, which shows a bit of a size differential in there. Whilst Rowbottom is 10cm taller than any of the others, each of the players are likely to have an advantage in size over their respective opponents. A total 18cm different in favour of the Metro side is impressive, but it is also the strength in there which will look to win the ball in contested situations. McRae, Craven and Snell are all renowned tacklers and quick with ball-in-hand to exit stoppages, which is where they have the advantage. Prespakis, Rowbottom and Chaplin can all roost the ball and can back their talls inside 50 if they bomb it from a stoppage.

Tara Slender (Country) vs. Tarrah Delgado (Metro)

It might not be the matchup Metro send to Country’s top prospect, but Delgado is the most reliable in the air one-on-one, and is the only tall in the Metro defence who could go with Slender no matter where she goes. The Northern Knights tall has played in defence, attack and through the midfield, so it would be less rotations for Delgado to just try and nullify the well-balanced Slender, whilst the Bendigo Pioneers tall will no doubt play a number of roles on the day, and be tough to stop in the air or at ground level, but Delgado is the most suitable matchup.

Amber Clarke (Country) vs. Pia Staltari/Kiana Lynch/Zali Friswell (Metro)

One of the danger players across the ground is the speedster in Clarke who opens up the space behind herself so well to run into open goals and hit the scoreboard regularly. It will be tough to find a matchup for speed, with Staltari and Lynch likely to be rolling through the back half of the ground. In terms of athletic traits, perhaps the regular midfielder Friswell is the closest in terms of speed, finishing 10th in the preseason 20m sprint, to try and combat Clarke’s clear top billed ranking what was 0.6 seconds quicker than anyone else.

 

OVERALL:

The match is set to be a cracker, with both sides littered with talent and among the top teams in the championships as they are each year. Last time they faced off back in 2019, Vic Metro got the job done, so Country will be hungry to reverse the result here. The Country side has enough balance across the board to really worry Metro, whilst Metro has the top-end talent, particularly in the midfield and key position to stretch the Country side, making for an absolute beauty of a contest.