Tag: Tamsin Crook

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Calder Cannons

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at last year’s grand finalists, Calder Cannons.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to Northern Knights by 6 points
R2: lost to Dandenong Stingrays by 18 points
R3: defeated Bendigo Pioneers by 43 points

The Cannons had a rough start to the season with fixturing, pushing reigning premiers Northern Knights all the way in the Round 1 grand final rematch, before facing a red-hot Dandenong Stingrays in Round 2. With an 0-2 start to the season, the Cannons got back on track with a commanding 43-point victory over Bendigo Pioneers on the road in the last round played.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Georgie Prespakis (22.7 disposals, 1.3 marks, 4.3 tackles, 4.3 inside 50s, 2.7 rebounds)

The middle-age star and reigning NAB League Girls Most Valuable Player (MVP) has had a promising start playing through the midfield, winning a truckload of the ball on her way to impressing despite Calder’s 1-2 start. She had almost 23 disposals per game, but it is her tenacity and ability to break through tackles and pump the ball forward which is important.

Jessica Zakkour (13.7 disposals, 1.3 marks, 5.4 tackles, 0.7 inside 50s, 1.5 rebounds, 2 goals)

The midfielder/forward had a real impact in Round 1 and was Calder’s best, booting two goals in the loss to Northern that day. Zakkour lays some fierce tackles and manages to find space inside 50 and around the ground where she can have an influence. A lot of her touches have come in dangerous areas, close to goal or where she can pass it to a teammate in space out of a stoppage.

Emelia Yassir (14.3 disposals, 3.0 tackles, 2.0 inside 50s, 1 goal)

Building on the work she did late in the year last season, Yassir has been another prominent member of Calder’s midfield. She has the added string of being able to go forward and kick a goal, whilst being a slippery customer in midfield to break away from opponents and get the ball forward.

Freda Puruntatameri (7.7 disposals, 2.3 marks, 1.0 tackles, 3.0 inside 50s, 4 goals)

Coming into the team as an overager from Palmerston Magpies in the NTFL Women’s Premier League, Puruntatameri has been a strong target close to goal. She works hard leading out of the forward 50, but then drifts back to be too strong one-on-one at the top of the goalsquare. Having booted four goals in her three games, she has proven to be a reliable goalkicker for the side.

Kasey Lennox (8.7 disposals, 1.7 marks, 1.0 tackles, 3.7 rebounds)

Another player who has built on her impressive form at the back of last season, the middle-age key defender has had a strong start to the season with almost nine disposals and four rebounds out of defensive 50. She can also push up the ground and does not mind going for a run, but has impressed as the option out of defence to hit a target with her foot skills.

Others who have stood out: Laura Cocomello, Grace Dicker, Tahlia Gillard, Tamsin Crook

There were a number of others who could well have made the above list, including captain Cocomello, and Dicker who have had an impact through midfield, and Gillard and Crook who have been targets up either end. They have a lot of flexibility in their line-up and the Cannons have the capacity to move players around which is important.

NAB League Girls preview: Round 3 – Undefeated sides clash on Saturday

A COUPLE of undefeated games open the weekend in a top three clash between Northern Knights and Dandenong Stingrays at RMIT Bundoora, before the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels tackle the Western Jets in Ballarat. The Sunday trio of games has a couple of sides searching for their first wins of the season with Calder Cannons and Bendigo Pioneers going head-to-head and Eastern Ranges hosting Tasmania Devils, while Gippsland Power returns from a week off to face the breakeven side of Sandringham Dragons.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

Round 3 – 14/03/2020
11:00am
RMIT University Bundoora

A top three clash between the second placed Dandenong Stingrays and third ranked Northern Knights opens the round with the Stingrays having had impressive wins over Eastern Ranges (50 points) and Calder Cannons (18). The Knights also knocked off the Cannons the week before (six points) before enjoying a more comfortable win over Geelong Falcons (25). Both sides have made a number of changes, with Saige Bayne returning to the side after a long layoff, while Georgia Grimmer and Jemma Radford are also back into the side up opposite ends of the ground. The Knights have also made a number of changes to the side in anticipation for the clash with at least four confirmed changes and an additional three added to the extended bench. Already the head-to-head that could decide the result is between in-form forward, Alyssa Bannan (seven goals) and reliable defender, Zoe Hill inside the Knights’ forward half. An equally eye-catching matchup will be Knights’ co-captain Jess Fitzgerald going head-to-head against Dandenong star, Tyanna Smith with the pair sharing similar skill and footy IQ making it a must-watch clash. Abbey Jordan has been thrown around a bit this season but now the Stingrays captain is in attack to potentially lock the ball in at every opportunity, while Maeve Chaplin‘s ability at half-back should provide some good run. In the midfield, Ellie McKenzie and Ash Snow will provide power onball, while Amber Clarke and Emily Shepherd have added speed to run the ball down the field. The Knights will be favourites but the Stingrays have shown an ability to run the ball and not back down from a challenge.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. WESTERN JETS

Round 3 – 14/03/2020
11:30am
MARS Stadium

In a second game between undefeated sides, fourth placed Western Jets travel to Mars Stadium to meet the sixth placed GWV Rebels from 11.30am. Both these sides have some great young talent coming through and the Jets have had a win against Bendigo Pioneers and a draw with Murray Bushrangers over the first two rounds, whilst the Rebels’ come-from-behind victory against Sandringham Dragons in Round 1 was their only game so far this season following a bye in Round 2. Renee Saulitis proved the get-out-of-jail free card in Round 1 with a couple of last quarter goals to sink the Dragons, and she has been named back in her damaging position inside 50. Fellow AFL Women’s National Academy member, Isabella Simmons is also in the forward half, while Maggie Caris will look to take advantage of the height difference over the Jets’ smaller ruck division. Amelia Velardo has the athleticism to get the job done at ground level even if she does not win the tap and provides a “fourth midfielder” around the stoppages. Alongside her is top-age AFL Women’s National Academy member, Isabelle Pritchard who is coming off an impressive 25-disposal game last week, as is Charlotte Baskaran who plays off half-back but can push up the ground to impact the midfield. In the middle of the ground is fellow bottom-ager Montana Ham who has been the Jets’ best across the two games this season. Caitlin Sargent has been a target inside 50 for the Jets, while she will likely have Rebels’ Crystal Summers for company after the defender was a star in Round 1 for the Ballarat-based side. The Rebels’ half-back line is quite strong with Nyakoat Dojiok providing speed and dare out of defence, while Lilli Condon impacts the game through the midfield and up forward. At home the Rebels have an advantage, but both sides have an entertaining brand of end-to-end football.

GIPPSLAND POWER v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
12:00pm
Morwell Recreation Reserve

With three games on Sunday, the first is a clash between Gippsland Power and Sandringham Dragons at Morwell Recreation Reserve after the game was moved from Churchill. The Power will be well rested after a spirited fight against Geelong Falcons in the opening round and a bye in Round 2. The Dragons on the other hand let slip a real chance in Round 1 with inaccurate kicking to go down to the GWV Rebels, before bouncing back with an impressive win over Bendigo Pioneers last week. Back at home, the Power showed their have a number of strengths through the ruck and in defence, and if they are able to quell the Dragons’ scoring or force them into making mistakes, then they are a real chance of victory. Sandringham impressed last week and have plenty of ball-winning midfielders who step up when required and if they convert their chances inside 50, then they will go a long way to taking home the points in the contest. Matilda Van Berkel was best-on for the Power in their Round 1 win over Geelong Falcons and will look to take advantage against the Dragons. The key for the Power will be to try and win the clearances against an experienced Dragons midfield, as captain Winnie Laing, Alice Burke and Bella Eddey round out a strong starting core. Megan Fitzsimon is the Power’s sole AFL Women’s Academy member, but Grace McRae is another player not afraid of winning contested ball, while Lily-Rose Williamson is a bottom-ager to watch over the coming years. Shanara Notman is a strong overhead mark and will look to chop off any Dragons forward thrusts, while Leyla Berry had a successful return in Round 1 after taking the 2019 season off. Sarah Hartwig has been named on the wing for the second successive week, while Eliza McNamara provides forward pressure inside 50, and key target Abbi Moloney booted three goals in the Dragons win last week and could be one to watch.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. CALDER CANNONS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
1:00pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve

Calder Cannons hits the road to face Bendigo Pioneers from 1pm at Epsom Huntly Reserve on Sunday. Last year’s grand finalists are yet to get a win on the board, but have had a tough draw to open the season, falling to reining premiers Northern Knights, and a vastly improved side, Dandenong Stingrays in the first fortnight. The Pioneers are also yet to taste victory with losses to Western Jets and Sandringham Dragons in the opening couple of rounds. Given the loss of co-captain Brooke Hards for the clash, Bendigo will be up against it taking on a determined Calder side that could well have won its two games had it had a bit more luck. The Pioneers do welcome back Elizabeth Snell into the fold with the midfielder/forward adding some class and skill to the midfield group, while Annabel Strahan has pushed up into the midfield after being a reliable source in the back 50 last week. Tara Slender and Jemma Finning provide good intercept and rebounding capabilities, while Madeline Marks has had an impact through the ruck this season. The Cannons have a strong combination named at the key defensive posts with Kasey Lennox and Tamsin Crook, while Crook is also able to rotate with AFL Women’s National Academy member, Tahlia Gillard who will start forward as both can play at either end. Georgie Prespakis, Laura Cocomello and Jessica Zakkour have all been in good form this season, while Emelia Yassir is a clever forward who can push into that midfield rotation. Calder should breakthrough for its first win, but the Pioneers do have the home ground advantage which counts for something.

EASTERN RANGES v. TASSIE DEVILS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
1:00pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

At the same time as the Bendigo game, two sides searching for their first win battle it out at the newly renovated Kilsyth Recreation Reserve. The Eastern Ranges will enjoy playing where they train and welcoming the less-familiar Tasmania Devils will give them a huge confidence boost. The Devils were overwhelmed by a rampaging Oakleigh side that could well contend for this year’s NAB League Girls flag in Round 2, marking a tough initiation to their first full-time season. The Ranges had a bye in Round 2 after a 50-point defeat at the hands of another undefeated side in Dandenong Stingrays. Given the experience the Ranges have at the NAB League level – making the finals last season and pushing the Northern Knights in the preliminary finals – they should have the wood over the competition newcomers, though the Devils’ defensive pressure was impressive despite the heavy Round 1 defeat. Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown provide hardness and class in equal measure on the inside, while Jorja Livingstone showed impressive athleticism bursting out of stoppages in the Round 1 loss. Key target, Jess Grace has been named at full-forward, while three players will make their debut in the game for the Ranges. Amy Prokopiec could not have done much more at full-back last week, saving a number of goal-scoring opportunities for the Chargers, and she along with Camilla Taylor provided some composure in the match. Jemma Webster provided some speed out of defence in Round 2, while Kara Hennessy rotated through the ruck and could be a target inside 50 for the Apple Isle based side.

NAB League Girls preview: Round 2 – Huge clashes book-end Super Saturday

A HUGE Super Saturday takes place in the NAB League Girls competition this weekend with five games across three venues – two double-headers – including a couple of blockbusters book-ending the round and a clash between two winless sides. Tasmania Devils also make their debut in the league and host Oakleigh Chargers, whilst Western Jets could record back-to-back wins and keep in touch with the top couple of sides.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. GEELONG FALCONS
Saturday, March 7, 11:30am
RMIT University Bundoora

The opening game of the round pits the 2018 grand finalists against each other, with Northern Knights going one step further last year, whilst the Geelong Falcons fell in the semi-finals stage. In Round 1, the Knights held off a determined Calder Cannons outfit at this venue by a goal, whilst in the game immediate after, Geelong Falcons ran out 33-point victors over Gippsland Power. Both these teams have stars across the park and were forced to play very different gamestyles in Round 1. The Knights were impressive across the board in the way they were able to defend and then move the ball down the field to set up their forwards such as Alyssa Bannan (five goals). Led by co-captains Ellie McKenzie and Jess Fitzgerald in midfield, the Knights were able to use a nice blend of power and speed to get the ball inside 50, whilst the underrated Maeve Chaplin was tipped to have a big game by Fitzgerald in the Final Siren podcast this week. Competing against them in the midfield is an equally damaging midfield, with AFL Women’s National Academy members Laura Gardiner and Darcy Moloney making the matchups something to behold onball. Gardiner racked up 38 touches and had 14 tackles in Round 1 to be the Draft Central Player of the Week, whilst Moloney (28 disposals, six tackles) and Poppy Schaap (24 disposals, six tackles) also brought the heat. What was most impressive about the way the Falcons went about it was the fact they racked up a whopping 271 disposals, but also laid 94 tackles with their defensive pressure amongst the best in the league. They could have been more effective in front of goal, which is an area to build on, and something they cannot afford to suffer from in this clash against arguably the benchmark team this season. Expect this match to be another close one with both sides missing players from their encounters over the past couple of seasons, but the Knights deserve favouritism at home.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS v. BENDIGO PIONEERS
Saturday, March 7, 12pm.
RAMS Arena

From two sides looking to extend their strong starts to the season, we head to Craigieburn where two teams go head-to-head in a bid to get off the mark in season 2020. Sandringham Dragons will be ruing missed opportunities against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels where they arguably had plenty more chances to kick a big score, but were let down close to goal. Their defensive pressure was a highlight however and is something that will be a trademark of this game. Both sides are renowned tacklers, and whilst Sandringham can play a possession style of game as well, the Dragons are more than happy to get their hands dirty in pursuit of a win. The Pioneers are not a high possession style team but look to be efficient with ball-in-hand, running the ball down in transition and getting it inside 50 as effective as possible. An area the Pioneers can get on top in this clash is in the ruck, with the Dragons having just two hitouts last week against the number one ruck in the competition, Maggie Caris. They still won their fair share of clearances though, and led by Eliza McNamara (20 disposals, eight tackles and six inside 50s) and Winnie Laing (18 disposals, five tackles and five inside 50s), were able to pump the ball inside 50 enough to suggest that if they do that consistently enough and improve their finishing ability then the results will come. The Pioneers had co-captain Brooke Hards waste no time influencing the contest off the back of her middle-age best and fairest year, winning 18 disposals and laying seven tackles. With Elizabeth Snell out of the side, the Pioneers will look to other experience around the ground, with co-captain Annabel Strahan and Jemma Finning‘s work out of the back 50 as a way of getting control of the ball. The two centre-half backs in Sarah Hartwig and Tara Slender are some of the best in their age groups and the teams cannot afford to put it down their throat too often or the ball will come straight back out. Sandringham should be favourites in this game given the amount of chances they can generate, but the Dragons must be clean around goal.

TASMANIA DEVILS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, March 7, 12.30pm
North Hobart Oval

Crossing the Bass Strait to the Apple Isle, Tasmania Devils enter the NAB League competition for the first time, taking on a red-hot Oakleigh Chargers. Whilst the Devils sat out Round 1 watching on, they would have been impressed by what they witnessed at Wangaratta when the Chargers ran wild in a 50-point win over Murray Bushrangers. The Chargers have no problem possessing the ball, and they had a massive 40 inside 50s, giving their forwards a multitude of chances inside 50. For Round 2 the Chargers have lost some of their Round 1 firepower, with Amelia James and Alice O’Loughlin both out of the side after combining for five goals between themselves. The captain Mimi Hill led from the front during the Chargers’ win, racking up 29 disposals and five inside 50s, while vice-captain Joanna Lin had 17 disposals and six inside 50s. Eliza James showed plenty of talent during the match with an impressive 18 disposals, four marks, five tackles and match-high seven inside 50s. For the Devils, it is hard to judge just where they sit in terms of the competition just yet, with plenty of developing youngsters coming through the ranks. Amy Prokopiec is the one to keep an eye out for with the middle-age defender already having experience in the NAB League Girls after playing in the Devils’ few games last season. Overager, Camilla Taylor provides height at 180cm and will look to dominate the ruck battle with her extra experience, whilst drifting forward to provide a target inside 50 for the Devils midfielders to aim at. Another overager sure to provide that added experience is Tahlia Bortignon with the 19-year-old named on a wing for this match. You would be a brave person to tip against Oakleigh given the Chargers’ Round 1 match, but this game will be more about seeing a host of new young stars living out their dreams of playing in an elite youth competition by the Devils making their debut in the competition.

WESTERN JETS v. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Saturday, March 7, 1.15pm
RMIT University Bundoora

Following on from the Knights-Falcons clash at Bundoora is the battle between Western Jets and Murray Bushrangers. In Round 1, the Jets triumphed for the first time in their history when they toppled Bendigo Pioneers at Queen Elizabeth Oval by 22 points. The next day, Murray succumbed to a rampaging Oakleigh side by 50 points. Though one positive that could come out of that game from a scoreboard perspective was the fact that after conceding seven consecutive goals, the home team booted the last three goals of the match to avoid it being a potentially worse scoreline. Heading into this match minus their top key forward in Olivia Barber (concussion), the Bushrangers will need to utilise their smalls to hit the scoreboard and cause havoc for a Western defence that is well drilled based on the first round. The Jets were able to balance their ball use from the back 50 to the attacking 50 with some nice running ability, and did well around the stoppages despite conceding height in the ruck and thus the hitouts. Both teams favour a kick-first gamestyle which means we could potentially witness plenty of end-to-end football in this game. Leading the way last week for the Jets were bottom-agers, Montana Ham (19 disposals, seven marks, five inside 50s and three rebounds) and Charlotte Baskaran (19 disposals, seven tackles, four inside 50s and five rebounds), while new top-ager Amelia Velardo looked impressive with her athletic ability on her way to 16 disposals and three inside 50s, as well as four hitouts going up against taller opponents. With Isabelle Pritchard playing across all thirds of the ground, she is the star prospect for the 2020 group at Western and will be hard to combat in the middle. The Bushrangers also have some AFL Women’s Academy members with top-ager Abby Favell working through the midfield and Ally Morphett switching between ruck and forward. Mindy Quade will play an important role down in defence, whilst Mikayla Jones and Zali Spencer were another couple of players who stood up in defeat last round. Western brings winning form into this match and would be a good chance to go 2-0, though the Bushrangers always find something special.

CALDER CANNONS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 7, 1.45pm
RAMS Arena

The final game of the round is another huge clash between two sides with good form. Calder Cannons fell a goal short of victory against Northern in the first round of action, and return to their homeground, RAMS Arena to take on a Dandenong Stingrays side that was the surprise packet of Round 1. It was not necessarily the fact that the Stingrays won that was the surprise, but the fact that they did it so convincingly in the end – 50 points – against an Eastern Ranges side with plenty of talent. Stingrays coach, Dave Carden said post-game that it was important the club looked to improve from the Round 1 performance in terms of their stoppage position, but he was impressed with their clean hands and ball movement – something that will be crucial if they are to cause an upset against last year’s grand finalists. The Cannons midfield is well established, with middle-ager Georgie Prespakis and fellow 2003-born Emelia Yessir assisting captain, Laura Cocomello in the middle. Jessica Zakkour was the Cannons’ best last round with two goals from 18 touches and eight tackles, whilst the key defensive combination of Tamsin Crook and Kasey Lennox one of the best in the competition. It will also be important to combat the Stingrays’ talls with Georgia Grimmer out of this match, but Serene Vudiniabola (two goals in Round 1) able to crunch packs and bring the ball to ground for the likes of Ashleigh Richards (two goals) and Jaide Anthony (one). Tyanna Smith is the midfielder to watch on the Stingrays’ side, dominating last week and along with Abbey Jordan, provides some incredible running power out of that onball group. The Cannons have some targets inside 50 themselves with Charlotte Clayton (three goals) and Freda Puruntatameri (one) both looking dangerous last week. These teams are very evenly matched based on the first round statistics with no more than six differential between any of the major stats heading into the Round 2 clash. This is a buckle-up and get ready game because both these teams will take it right up to the other making it a real spectacle for the onlookers.

2020 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 1

IN a new-look amalgamation of Draft Central‘s Team of the Week and player notes, we name our Round 1 NAB League Girls’ Team of the Week and explain why each player has been chosen. The 24-player team returns with three emergencies this year, and it was an even spread across the board. All notes are opinion-based of the individual Draft Central writer. Round 1 winners, Oakleigh Chargers, Northern Knights and Geelong Falcons all had three players in the Team of the Week, while fellow winners, Dandenong Stingrays, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Western Jets had two apiece. Narrow losers in Round 1, Calder Cannons and Sandringham Dragons had two each as well, as did Gippsland Power, while Bendigo Pioneers, Eastern Ranges and Murray Bushrangers had the one representative. Factoring in emergencies, Oakleigh Chargers had the most players overall with four, while Sandringham and Western moved up to three.

BACKS:

Crystal Summers (GWV Rebels) – 13 disposals, 5 marks, 3 tackles, 1 inside 50, 6 rebounds
The rebounding defender was lively throughout the contest, being a constant threat coming off half-back and pushing up the ground to be a key reason behind the Rebels’ success on the weekend. She was calm and composed with ball-in-hand and generally made the right decisions as one of the standouts.

Mindy Quade (Murray Bushrangers) – 9 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 1 inside 50, 8 rebounds
Her vision off half-back and spotting the ball in transition was a highlight, as she stood up under fierce pressure from the Chargers during the Bushrangers’ loss. She was often the first to intercept and disrupted the offensive flow inside defensive 50.

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels) – 10 disposals, 3 marks, 7 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Always having more impact than the statistics might suggest, Dojiok had a number of impressive runs down the ground and took the game on with eye-catching speed and evasion. She still has plenty of development left in her, but has clearly improved over the past couple of seasons and is hard to stop when she gets going.

HALF-BACKS:

Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons) – 14 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebounds
The standout player on the day despite being on the losing side, Hartwig was a force in defence with a number of intercept marks and rebounds, with one passage of play in particular standing out where she hit the ball at full speed, collected it cleanly, sidestepped an opponent and kicked neatly inside 50.

Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays) – 9 disposals, 2 marks, 5 tackles, 4 rebounds
The centre half-back certainly stood tall in the back six despite being a bottom-ager, taking a number of contested grabs, or providing a contest where she was able to calmly clear the ball under pressure. She also laid a massive tackle to win a free kick and it led to her side kicking a goal off that chain of possessions.

Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets) – 19 disposals, 1 mark, 7 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 5 rebounds
A clean user of the ball, Baskaran would roam up and down the ground providing great service between the arcs and dropping back to help her defenders with the natural half-back another bottom-ager in the side.

CENTRES:

Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons) – 28 disposals, 6 tackles, 2 inside 50s
She was a force in midfield for the Falcons during their win, often releasing teammates in space with her run and carry and quick handballs to open up passages of play down the field. A dominant player early, Moloney finds space where very few can and is quick to release by hand or foot, and equally as damaging defensively, laying some big tackles.

Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays) – 26 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebounds, 1 goal
Absolutely outstanding performance, particularly in the second quarter where she constantly attacked going inside 50, then snapped one of the goal’s of the round close to the boundary line. Also did a number of defensive things right with some big tackles around the ground.

Mimi Hill (Oakleigh Chargers) – 29 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 5 inside 50s
The captain starred in her side’s big win over Murray with a second-high round of 29 disposals, and was often seen pumping the ball inside 50, showing clean hands and precision disposal. One of the top performers across the entire weekend.

HALF-FORWARDS:

Jessica Zakkour (Calder Cannons) – 18 disposals, 2 marks, 8 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds, 2 goals
Rotated between midfield and forward, often sneaking out the back to find space and capitalise, whilst showing some terrific defensive pressure. Was arguably Calder’s best in the narrow loss to Northern, and found plenty of the football while laying eight tackles.

Montana Ham (Western Jets) – 19 disposals, 7 marks, 2 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
Got our full votes for her performance in Western’s win over Bendigo, looking impressive across the ground with her movement and ability to drive the ball forward in transition. She seemed to be everywhere on the ground and despite being a bottom-ager racked up a game-high 19 touches, and had the play of the game with a multiple-bounce effort down the wing kicking forward which almost led to a goal.

Eliza McNamara (Sandringham Dragons) – 20 disposals, 3 marks, 8 tackles, 6 inside 50s
Played between midfield and half-forward, McNamara had the most disposals on the ground in Sandringham’s loss to the Rebels. Her defensive pressure and running ability is elite, and she just keeps pushing throughout the four quarters to try and do everything she can for her side. She worked tirelessly for the Dragons applying tackles and looking inside 50.

FORWARDS:

Alice O’Loughlin (Oakleigh Chargers) – 18 disposals, 3 marks, 1 inside 50, 3 goals
Her timing and speed off the mark caught the eye inside 50, making the most of her opportunities in front of goal. She used the space around her well to find the football and took advantage of the loose ball inside 50 to capitalise with three majors.

Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights) – 11 disposals, 4 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 5 goals
Kicked a round-high five goals and looks a good candidate for one of the top goalkickers this season, taking a number of good grabs with her vertical leap and athleticism the highlight. It was clear that defenders cannot allow Bannan to get goalside or she will create something out of nothing with a couple of clever snaps close to goal adding to her tally on the day.

Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons) – 24 disposals, 3 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 goal
Started forward and roamed up the ground to be the third highest disposal winner with her ability to lay some strong tackles and show a high work rate. She just pushes time and time again across four quarters, and was rewarded with a goal, while setting up a number of teammates with scoring opportunities.

RUCKS:

Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power) – 15 disposals, 6 marks, 4 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 2 rebounds, 28 hitouts
The standout Gippsland Power player in the loss to Geelong Falcons, Van Berkel had to step up to play ruck and was ultra-impressive with a round-high 28 hitouts, as well as finding plenty of the football around the ground with strength overhead and an ability to cover the ground well with hard running.

Brooke Hards (Bendigo Pioneers) – 18 disposals, 4 marks, 7 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
The Pioneers’ co-captain picked up where she left off last season, being a shining light in her side’s loss to the Jets. Hards was constantly getting involved either offensively or defensively, and was fierce around the stoppages. She had a team-high 18 touches and as she has become known for, laid a truckload of tackles in the process.

Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons) – 38 disposals, 1 mark, 14 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 1 goal
Our Draft Central Player of the Week for Round 1, Gardiner was simply unstoppable with a ridiculous 38 touches and 14 tackles, pumping the ball in time and time again, and helping free up her teammates around the ground. She ran at a 50 per cent balance between kicks and handballs, and while most of her touches were often in possession chains, her work rate showed just how much she works around the ground.

INTERCHANGE:

Jess Fitzgerald (Northern Knights) – 15 disposals, 1 mark, 2 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
Last year’s best-on in the grand final started her 2020 year with a strong performance, moving well around the ground and showing off her speed in close and precision kicking. She possesses good footy IQ and was one of the best Knights on the day during their win over the Cannons.

Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers) – 18 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 1 goal
Showed clean hands and vision by propelling the ball inside 50 and finding targets in there with a massive seven inside 50s. She also provided plenty of defensive pressure with strong tackling and forcing errors from the Bushrangers, working well through the midfield to drive the ball in transition.

Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges) – 16 disposals, 2 marks, 4 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
It was not a great day for Eastern, but Meagher never gave in as she battled and bruised her way through four quarters for her side. She showed great leadership and tried to will her side on, laying crunching tackles and bumps, often bouncing straight up or off opponents with a hungry desire to win the ball. Meagher also tried getting the ball down the field to set up scoring opportunities and was a standout for her team.

Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights) – 12 disposals, 4 marks, 3 tackles, 4 inside 50s
Another player who had a great impact that stats might suggest, McKenzie kept battling on the inside and then going forward with her strength and power a highlight during Round 1. She adds a great dimension to the Knights’ midfield and she was able to win the ball in tight, extract it and get the ball out, going on a couple of short runs to try and break down the opposition defensive structures.

Shanara Notman (Gippsland Power) – 11 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 5 rebounds, 2 hitouts
The Gippsland Power overager showed why she was a terrific choice to come back as a 19-year-old player this year, standing tall in the face of a wave of Falcons attacks, with great strength in the air and ability to move the ball out of defence. She sold a bit of candy in the process and was rock solid back there in defeat.

Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons) – 19 disposals, 1 mark, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
The highly-touted prospect had a solid game to start the season, not often getting too much free space, but still finding her fair share of the ball through the midfield. She was thrown around into different positions but still had an impact, and her work rate between the arcs was really impressive.

EMERGENCIES:

Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons) – 15 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 3 rebounds
The potential St Kilda father-daughter selection stood up in big moments and makes the trio of most unlucky to miss players after a solid performance. She can play just about anywhere and is able to break up the play with her ability to find space and short kick to teammates on angles to disrupt the opposition’s zones.

Amelia James (Oakleigh Chargers) – 19 disposals, 1 tackle, 3 inside 50s, 6 hitouts, 2 goals
We could have included a heap of Oakleigh Chargers and James was the next one in line after an impressive two-goal performance inside 50. She is in her top-age year and showed she can pinch-hit in the ruck as well.

Amelia Velardo (Western Jets) – 16 disposals, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 4 hitouts
An eye-catching player across the ground and new into the team, Velardo showed some good athleticism coming out of the ruck at times and had a really busy start to the game in Western’s win against Bendigo. She was able to drive the ball forward and be amongst it in close, often firing out quick handballs to teammates in space.

DRAFT CENTRAL’S NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 1

B: Crystal Summers (GWV) – Mindy Quade (MB) – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
HB: Sarah Hartwig (SD) – Mackenzie Eardley (DS) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ)
C: Darcy Moloney (GF) – Tyanna Smith (DS) – Mimi Hill (OC)
HF: Jessica Zakkour (CC) – Montana Ham (WJ) – Eliza McNamara (SD)
F: Alice O’Loughlin (OC) – Alyssa Bannan (NK) – Poppy Schaap (GF)
R: Matilda Van Berkel (GP) – Brooke Hards (BP) – Laura Gardiner (GF)
INT: Jess Fitzgerald (NK) – Eliza James (OC) – Olivia Meagher (ER) – Ellie McKenzie (NK) – Shanara Notman (GP) – Georgie Prespakis (CC)
EMG: Alice Burke (SD) – Amelia James (OC) – Amelia Velardo (WJ)

OTHERS CONSIDERED:

It was a really even round of performances this weekend, with a number of players making the shortlist for the team but just missing out. Among them were Calder Cannons’ duo Tamsin Crook and Emelia Yassir, Sandringham Dragons’ duo Winnie Laing and Pia Staltari, GWV Rebels’ duo Renee Saulitis and Lilli Condon, Northern Knights’ Ash Snow, Geelong Falcons’ Elizabeth Dowling, Bendigo Pioneers’ Jemma Finning, Eastern Ranges’ Jorja Livingston and Dandenong Stingrays’ Georgia Grimmer.

NAB League Girls preview: Round 1 – New talent to shine in opening round of action

NAB League Girls action is back on the agenda this weekend with a grand final rematch among a host of expected tight contests with all sides back on level pegging at 0-0 to start the season and hoping to kick-off their seasons with wins.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. CALDER CANNONS
Saturday, February 29, 10:15am
RMIT University Bundoora

The first game of the round is a fitting opener to the new NAB League Girls season, with Northern Knights hosting Calder Cannons at a refurbished RMIT University ground in the 2019 Grand Final rematch. The Knights had five players drafted last year, with the remainder signed up for state league level football in 2020, while the Cannons just had the two, but had a number of players on the periphery. Both these sides have plenty of talent with the Knights potentially a year ahead in development, finishing runner-up in 2018 before winning last year, while the Cannons made the grand final last season, and will be hoping to build on that this year. The Knights have five players in the National AFL Women’s Academy, led by Ellie McKenzie and last year’s grand final best on ground medallist, Jess Fitzgerald who are both amongst a strong midfield core. Fellow Academy member, Maeve Chaplin is also named onball, while Maykaylah Appleby will run down the wings as the sole middle-age Academy member. Alyssa Bannan is a leading target and strong overhead named at centre half-forward, and a battle with the likes of key backs, Tamsin Crook and Tahlia Gillard – the latter of whom is in the AFL Women’s Academy too will be a match-up to watch. The name that will always catch the eye is Georgie Prespakis, a 2021 draft prospect and sister of Carlton Rising Star, Madison. She is capable of anything and her battle with McKenzie will be intriguing. The Cannons also have some serious depth at their disposal, with Emelia Yassir and Kasey Lennox another couple of youngsters who made their debuts last season and looked at home. With Freda Puruntatameri playing with Palmerston in the NTFL Women’s competition up forward for the Cannons, there is plenty of X-factor there too.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Saturday, February 29, 11:30am
City Oval Ballarat

Up in Ballarat, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels host the Sandringham Dragons in a battle between two sides who should improve on their 2019 placings. Both sides have a number of AFL Women’s Academy member with the Rebels (five) and the Dragons (three) both having some serious top-end talent. The Rebels have a strong spine with Maggie Caris likely to be the top ruck in the competition this year with her height and tap work causing problems for the opposition. Renee Saulitis has played up forward and down back, but is named in the middle, with her athleticism and ability to sidestep opponents a feature of her game. Along with Isabella Simmons who has also been named through the midfield, all three Academy members are very different and add varied elements to the game style. They will face an equally impressive midfield of Dragons’ captain Winnie Laing, potential St Kilda father-daughter selection, Alice Burke and Bella Eddey who provide a real hard edge to the onball brigade. Sarah Hartwig is one of a couple of premier rebounding defenders, reading the ball in flight so well and able to create a lot of offensive run while nullifying her opponent defensively. Playing at half-forward is Eliza McNamara who is a tackling machine and elite runner, who will work her opponent over, while Abbi Moloney lines up at full-forward to try and clunk a few grabs by outmuscling her opponent one-on-one. The Rebels will look to run the ball out of defence through Nyakoat Dojiok who is a 2021 draft prospect in the Academy, while Chloe Leonard has been named at full-forward for the Rebels who will look to have a spread of goalkickers rather than a dominant target.

GEELONG FALCONS v. GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, February 29, 12:00pm
RMIT University Bundoora 

After its first finals loss last season, Geelong Falcons return to the NAB League Girls with a hunger to get back to the heights of 2018, starting off the 2020 season with a clash against Gippsland Power. The Power have a lot of players who were able to run out last season and will be more experienced in 2020, so they will no doubt look to push the Falcons who have plenty of young players themselves. Geelong’s duo of Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner will be damaging through the midfield as the Falcons’ two AFL Women’s National Academy members. Joined in the middle by basketballer Carly Remmos, the Falcons have a strong foundation to continue the success of past years. Elizabeth Dowling is a name that will be raised over the next couple of years, and along with Renee Tierney as targets up forward and Poppy Schaap‘s defensive pressure, the Falcons are in a good shape going forward. Mia Van Dyke is one of a number of prospects who have come through the club’s V/Line Cup program and despite being just three days away from being a 2023 draft eligible prospect (only turned 15 in December), she is one of a number who have come through the pathway with some high wraps from the coaching staff. Gippsland has some familiar names in its line-up, led by midfielder and AFL Women’s Academy member, Megan Fitzsimon. She, along with Grace McRae forms a strong midfield duo in there, and will compete strongly for the contested ball. In defence, Shanara Notman returns as a 19-year-old named at centre half-back and will provide some good rebound there, right alongside Leyla Berry who played for the Power back in 2018. On the other flank is a familiar Power name with Yasmin Duursma (sister of Port Adelaide’s Xavier), while when talking about bottom-age talent, Lily-Rose Williamson is one who will be a standout along a win having starred for the club through the V/Line Cup in past years.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 29, 12:50pm
Queen Elizabeth Oval 

Turning the attention to Bendigo, the Pioneers host Western Jets in a curtain raiser to the AFL Women’s clash between Richmond and Geelong. Bendigo has the one official AFL Women’s National Academy member in key defender Tara Slender, but have a midfield that will trouble opposition onballers. Brooke Hards and Annabel Strahan have both been named onball and the co-captains will provide a hard-edge to the midfield and be difficult to beat there. Along with Maeve Tupper who has some impressive athletic skills and great goal sense when up forward, the midfield is a strength for the Pioneers. Jemma Finning has been named at half-back to provide some run out of defence with Slender, while up forward, Hannah Stewart is a target inside 50 as a 19-year-old. The Jets have opted to throw rebounding defender, Isabelle Pritchard into the midfield to counteract the Pioneers’ onball and develop her game even further. Along with bottom-age tall, Montana Ham and Nikita Wright in the middle, the Jets have some good height and ball-winning ability in there with upside. A highly rated bottom-ager with Ham is Charlotte Baskaran who is considered elite with her foot skills and decision making, so will be one to watch coming off half-back where she has been named. Both these sides are going to go close to winning in this tight contest with a fair few bottom-agers on show, though Bendigo should be more prepared after their top-agers had consistency through the team as middle-agers last season.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS v. EASTERN RANGES
Sunday, March 1,  11:00am
Holm Park Recreation Reserve 

In a rewind to 2018, Dandenong Stingrays and Eastern Ranges return to Holm Park in Beaconsfield to open their seasons on Sunday. While both played different opponents on that day two years ago, they will both be hoping for more ideal temperatures than the 37 degrees on that day. The Stingrays are coming off a solid season in 2019. just missing out on finals, while Eastern reached the post-season series and pushed eventual premiers, Northern Knights all the way in the preliminary final clash. The Stingrays’ standout prospect in 2020 is Tyanna Smith, with the AFL Women’s National Academy member having the combination of speed and strength in the middle, which she will use to burst out of the stoppages and create scoring opportunities for her team. Abbey Jordan showed last season she can win the ball through the middle, while young talls, Jaide Anthony and Georgia Grimmer up forward provide a glimpse into the future for the Stingrays having come through the V/Line Cup program. Down back, the ever-reliable Zoe Hill is alongside Jemma Radford, while Serene Vudiniabola comes highly rated as an overager who played school footy last year and is tied to Old Haileybury. Eastern Ranges pack a punch in the midfield as well, with Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown the club’s two AFL Women’s Academy members. With ruck, Jess Grace likely to get first hands to them more often than not, the contested ball-winning Meagher and slick Brown will give their forwards some nice feeds inside 50. Matilda Hardy has been named at half-forward as one to watch, while Mietta Kendall is a reliable source of calmness in the back pocket, and Lily Peacock named as one to watch with her run along the wing.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Sunday, March 1, 1:00pm
Norm Minns Oval 

The final game of the round is another curtain raiser, this time for the Collingwood and Richmond AFL Marsh Series clash at Wangaratta. A big crowd is expected in attendance for the game, with two teams expected to improve in 2020 to battle it out. Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers both had some superb performances last season, but had to iron out some consistency issues at times. Both having a number of talents coming through the ranks this season, the Bushrangers had a lot of middle and bottom-agers last season who have progressed through to the next year of their youth careers. The Charges had five players drafted and will be looking to replace them through a team approach. The Chargers have three players in the AFL Women’s National Academy with captain Mimi Hill and middle-ager Charlie Rowbottom named on-ball to rove the work of ruck, Kalarni Kearns. Also in the midfield is Joanna Lin on the wing, working the ball forward to an even front six. The Bushrangers have a two-pronged tall attack with AFL Women’s Academy members, Olivia Barber (top-age) and Ally Morphett (middle-age) rotating between ruck and forward. Abby Favell is a natural ball winner and will rotate between midfield and forward, while Kate Adams is another player who can be slippery around the stoppages and find the goals when inside 50. Keeley Skepper showed last season in the Under 16 Championships that she has a lot of upside, while a number of players on both teams loom as surprise packets in what could be one of the games of the round.

Scouting notes: National AFLW Under 16s Championships

IN what was a great opportunity for the most talented Under 16s girls, Vic Country took on Vic Metro at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday morning as a curtain raiser to their Under 18s counterparts. Vic Metro got the job done in an entertaining contest, and Peter Williams (Vic Country) and Julia Montesano (Vic Metro) took notes on each of the players who took part. Note all reviews are opinion-based.

Vic Country:

#1 Jerusha Devarakonda

Throughout the match she showed a fierce attack on the footy, particularly in the third term where she was involved in a number of plays. She was often deep in defence or running off the half-back flank, she had quick hands and did not take a backwards step. She gave away a free kick to Tarni Brown in the third quarter, but it was her attack to win the footy that was most impressive.

#2 Leila Raymond

Raymond showed great defensive pressure in the back half, laying a number of strong tackles. It was almost déjà vu for the Gippsland Power player, who had no problems burying her opponent in a fantastic tackle in both the third and fourth quarters. She also saved a goal with a great tackle as an opponent ran towards the big sticks.

#3 Holly Andrews

Attacked the contest hard and had a good first term where she laid a couple of great tackles – unfortunately giving away a free for holding on too long. She created run out of defence in the second term, and was reliable with her disposal, including a good kick from half-back to the wing in the third term.

#4 Elizabeth Snell

Had a couple of nice passages of place including a good handball at ground level under pressure in the first term, and quick hands out of a stoppage in the third term.

#5 Megan Fitzsimon

Fitzsimon showed quick hands under pressure and a cleanliness at ground level to collect and go. She had a good kick to the wing after picking the footy up cleanly off the deck in the second half. She continued to stay involved along the wing.

#6 Renee Saulitis

Along with Tyanna Smith, was a driving force in the midfield. She won the footy throughout the four quarters and put in a really consistent effort. She did the defensive things well, laying tackles and providing bumps, while taking a courageous mark on the wing in the second term. She kicked well off half-back and had a fantastic run-down tackle on Ellie McKenzie after copping a don’t argue in the third term and earned a free kick for her troubles. She covered the ground well, also winning possessions in the forward half of the ground.

#7 Jemma Finning

Unfortunately Finning was injured early in the second term and did not get to play the game out.

#8 Kate Adams

Took a lovely mark at half-back in the final term and had a good centering pass to a teammate. She also showed a quick kick out of a stoppage late in the game.

#9 Emily Nicholson

Played in defence and constantly went in hard. She took a good one-on-one mark early and was able to quickly dispose of the ball under pressure. Nicholson had a highlight laying a strong tackle on Olivia Meagher, not fooled by Meagher’s attempt to sidestep her inside 50.

#10 Abbey Jordan

Jordan stood under a high ball in defence and despite contact coming did not waiver. She was unlucky not to get a free, showing good courage. In the third term she had a piercing kick inside 50 after moving through traffic, and then took a good intercept mark on the wing. Jordan laid a fierce bump on her opponent in the final term.

#11 Brooke Hards

Hards showed a willingness to back herself at all times coming off half-back. She got caught a couple of times, but for the run and ability to crash through opponents, it was worth it. She charged out of defence a number of times and was often under pressure. She laid a great tackle at half-back early in the game and hit-up Maggie Caris on the wing.

#12 Tyanna Smith

The Vic Country captain was one of the best with Renee Saulitis. Smith spread well to the outside and worked hard back into defence to help out. On a number of occasions, Smith read the loose ball in the air superbly, sticking out a hand and grabbing it cleanly before disposing of it by hand. She showed great acceleration out of a stoppage and kicked a goal on the run in the second term, really starting to dominate through the midfield. She laid some strong tackles and also took intercept marks at half-back.

#13 Chloe Leonard

Played in defence and had a number of kicks from half-back to the wing, rebounding where possible. She showed a good long kick and took a great mark dropping back in the first term to intercept.

#16 Sharmaine Reilly

Showed good courage going back with the flight at half-back to impact a contest despite copping body contact. She also applied good defensive pressure at half-back, applying a good shepherd to allow a teammate to run on.

#17 Sophie Milsome

A quieter first half, but took a great mark on the lead 35m out for a set shot in the third term. The shot drifted right, but she was presenting to the midfielders. She also laid a great smother at half-forward to put the ball out of bounds in the final term and force a throw in.

#18 Zoe Hill

Had a very nervous start to the day with some fumbles and caught holding the ball once for Alyssa Bannan to goal. Once she settled in she got back to what we have come to expect from her with a couple of strong intercept marks and was reliable by foot.

#19 Matilda Van Berkel

A quiet game, but always attacked the contest hard. She had a fantastic kick in the third quarter with a perfect pass to Sophie Milsome on the lead.

#20 Stephanie Glover

Busy early in the game, showing good vision to handball to a teammate at half-back through a couple of opponents. She has really good evasion and is able to step around opponents well. She threw it on the boot once, but is often more composed with the ball, and is quite athletic.

#21 Isabella Robson

Had a good moment to knock Ellie McKenzie off balance and drop the ball as she streamed towards 50 in the first half.

#22 Renee Tierney

Just continues to pop up at times despite not having a lot of opportunities. She had a clean pick-up off an awkward bounce at half-forward and was able to maintain composure to give it off to a teammate while she was under pressure. Tierney’s highlight came in the third term with the goal of the match after picking it up, snapping quickly from the boundary and dribbling it home. She also took a huge contested grab in the forward 50 later in the term, clunking the mark and looking dangerous.

#23 Isabella Simmons

When the ball went in her forward zone she showed good defensive pressure and was able to lock the ball up with a good tackle.

#24 Olivia Barber

Barber’s second efforts are noticeable in her ruck work, often winning her own ball from the taps. She laid a number of fierce tackles at ground level and continued to work hard. She snapped at goal off a couple of steps but just missed to the left.

#25 Maggie Caris

A raw but talented ruck who is smart with her hitout work. She was strong overhead and often marked at the highest point. A learning curve for her would be the game smarts when Alyssa Bannan was having a set shot from 40m and she stood at the top of the goal square instead of on the line and it bounced through with no-one to stop it. A really solid game all round, however.

VIC METRO:

#1 Olivia Meagher

Meagher was really lively up forward and was not afraid to take the game on. This was shown when she kicked a long bomb from just inside 50 that sailed through the goals. Before that, she read the ball well out of a stoppage and snapped through a goal from just outside the goal square. She was able to generate good acceleration and cleared the ball well after tackling a Country player. Meagher was not afraid to run the ball through the corridor and used her long kick to advantage on multiple occasions. Hacked a kick nicely out of a stoppage. Meagher kicked her third goal with a beautiful pick-up and snap and utilised excellent closing speed to chase down the Country player and earn a free kick. 

#2 Mietta Kendall

Chased the ball well in defence, as she attempted to tackle three players. Nicked one of the jumpers and won a dropping the ball free kick, thanks to her desperation at back half. Laid a goal-saving tackle and always gets involved in the right moments.

#3 Taylah Morton

Morton followed the footy with purpose and intent throughout the day. She was able to trap the footy well and often used the ball well by foot. She also displayed great clean hands while being tackled, showing her strength in the contest.

#5 Mary Daw

Took a nice mark in defence to stop Country running forward and then hit a target with her kick.

#6 Abigail Bennett

Bennett competed hard throughout the match and displayed some great work inside 50. Kicked two goals for the day. Her first was a snap from an angle while being slung to the ground, which got the momentum swinging in Metro’s favour after a slow first quarter. Bennett has great composure with the ball in hand and when she does not have it, she follows it up well, laying strong tackles to prevent any opposition forward movement.

#7 Jessica Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald followed the footy nicely throughout the match and got plenty of it, which was a credit to her efforts around the stoppages. Executed a good pick-up and laid off a nice handball out of a stoppage while on hands and knees. The Northern Knights product always followed up her efforts well, through tackling hard.

#8 Bella Eddey

Gave off a nice quick-fire handball out of a stoppage inside 50. Picked the ball up with ease off the deck and got a quick handball away to Alyssa Bannan. Played well on the wing considering her normal spot is up forward while playing for the Dragons.

#9 Winnie Laing

Laing read the play well and hunted the footy with intent. She got a lot of the ball and did everything she could to get the ball out of a stoppage. Often used her speed to break away and get the ball forward for Metro.

#10 Ashleigh Snow

Snow had great hands out of stoppages and showed good strength while doing so. While being pursued by two players, she got a clean handball out to a teammate on the outside. Snow got the ball away while being tackled multiple times, giving her teammates first opportunity to get onto the football.

#11 Eliza McNamara

Executed many nice kicks to the top of the square, giving them good height and allowing her forwards to jump at the footy. Also had the ability to pinpoint kicks, displaying good all-round footwork throughout the day. McNamara accelerated well with the ball in hand, clearing it out of the centre square in one instance. Also did well defensively when she laid a strong wrap-around tackle on a Vic Country player then followed it up with another aggressive tackling effort.

#12 Tarni Brown

Had a sensational first half for Metro then played consistently for the rest of the game. Brown created so many scoring opportunities for Vic Metro with her clean hands and accurate kicking. She was able to boot the ball forward when needed to or she would get the play started with a strong handball out of a stoppage. Brown did nicely to find space and utilised it with lovely acceleration. Her blind turns were a highlight of her game, as one ended up in a handball to Abigail Bennett on the outside, who kicked her second major of the day as a result. Brown also demonstrated a high footy IQ when she lowered her eyes to spot Alyssa Bannan on the outer side, who then kicked a goal while being tackled. 

#13 Alice Burke

Took a good leading mark on the wing and read the ball well off a tap. She then moved the ball well with a nice clearing kick out a stoppage.

#15 Mimi Hill

Gave off a good handball on hands and knees to get the ball out of congestion.

#16 Alice O’Loughlin

O’Loughlin laid a great tackle that prevented a Vic Country breakaway. Did most of her hard work up forward with a good kick towards goal that was on line but just didn’t make the distance. O’Loughlin’s defensive efforts were sound as she laid a strong tackle to earn a free kick. She then pinpointed the pass perfectly to Olivia Meagher for a set shot, giving her prime opportunity to kick a goal.

#17 Alisa Magri

Magri displayed strong hands throughout the day. She took a great mark off an Alice O’Loughlin kick inside 50, but she just missed the set shot. Took another miraculous mark inside 50 in a one-on-one contest, grabbing the ball with one hand and moving it forward. She is an exciting player with the ball in hand.

#18 Amber Micallef

Micallef pursued the ball with intent and then kicked it well around her body towards the boundary line. This showed great composure as it helped to slow the play down for Vic Metro.

#19 Sarah Hartwig

Hartwig gave off a good handball while being tackled strongly. Also took a strong contested mark and followed it up with a pinpointed a kick to Bennett at half-forward.

#20 Ellie McKenzie

McKenzie played a blinder of a game, particularly showing off her strong hands and exciting dash. She often found herself on the wing and created excitement when she fended off a player and streamed towards the forward 50. She did this in two separate points in the game, displaying her X factor and strength with the ball in hand. In many instances, she showed good situational awareness, as she knew she had space and used it to her advantage. In the forward half, she laid a good smother and attempted an almighty speccy. McKenzie leapt for every ball that came her way, and was fearless in attack. Demonstrated excellent run and carry when she streamed inside 50 to get the ball towards goal and creates a scoring opportunity. Showed class when she executed a great one-two with Alice O’Loughlin.

#21 Tamsin Crook

Crook did well in the ruck and followed up her work. She showed good intent to keep the ball moving when she dribbled the ball on the ground instead of just diving on it. This was smart play by her to keep it moving and then pick it up when she had the space to do so. Crook also tackled well on the day.

#22 Isabelle Pritchard

Ball didn’t go down her end that much but showed good intent when it came her way. At one point, she displayed good use of the body to shrug the tackle then executed a good second effort to create a stoppage.

#23 Jess Grace

Grace played in the ruck and contested well with Maggie Caris.

#24 Alyssa Bannan

Bannan was prolific in the forward line, demonstrating her high footy IQ. Took a good mark lace-out and then executed a perfect kick for goal from about 40 metres out. At this point, she backed herself and the ball bounced through. Bannan even had a stint in the ruck and competed well thanks to her height and footy smarts. A highlight of her game was when she punched the ball forward in the air to prevent a stoppage, then got the ball back off her punch and gave off a quick handball to Ellie McKenzie. Bannan also displayed clean hands throughout the game. Her kicking was on display too when she kicked a brilliant centering ball to Jessica Fitzgerald, giving Fitzgerald’s opponent no chance to compete. The Northern Knights forward finished with two majors for the day. 

#25 Isabel Young

Young tackled well and displayed good strength to stand up in the stoppage and get a handball away over the top.

Victorian squads named for National AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships

VICTORIA’S top youth girl prospects have been selected to represent Vic Metro and Vic Country at the upcoming AFL Women’s Under 18 and Under 16 National Championships.

The players will begin training immediately after the TAC Cup Girls Grand Final on Saturday, May 19, with the first training session to be held at Ikon Park the following day. A second training session will be held at Windy Hill on June 3 ahead of the competition with Vic Country Under 16s hosting Vic Metro on May 27 in both Albury and Horsham. On June 16, both Under 16s and Under 18s will face off against each other at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong. The teams then fly north to compete in the AFL Women’s Under 18 National Championships with three games held on July 9, July 11 and July 13.

Murray Bushrangers’ coach Sam Ahmet and Eastern Ranges’ coach Tom Humphrey will lead Vic Country and Vic Metro respectively. Geelong Falcons’ Jason Armistead and Geelong VFLW assistant coach Natalie Wood were named as Vic Country assistants, while Northern Knights’ coach Marcus Abney-Hastings and Calder Cannons’ coach Paul Tilley will be the Vic Metro assistants.

AFL Victoria Female Talent Manager Darren Flanigan said it is pleasing to have a number of current TAC Cup Girls head coaches overseeing the U18 teams.

“Both Sam and Tom have good knowledge of the competition and the players within it,” Flanigan said. “We have been able to attract strong assistant coaching staff as well, which the players will benefit from.

“The Academy program provides players with the perfect opportunity to test themselves against the best players at this level, and start to showcase their capabilities to recruiters for the upcoming AFLW draft later in the year.

“Draftees such as Darcy Guttridge, Eden Zanker, Bridie Kennedy and Maddy Guerin all performed well at the 2017 championships, which certainly helped their draft chances later in the year. “It is a great learning experience to be part of the U18 Academy program, learning from other players and coaches in the competition.”

At Under 16 level, players selected will benefit from being mentored by current and former AFLW and VFLW players Mel Hickey, Emma Grant, Katherine Smith and Lauren Morecroft.

“The ability of these players to provide their time will only benefit the those selected in our program,” Flanigan said.

“Playing at the highest level possible, they will be able to share their experiences from the various levels of the female talent pathway, and help educate and develop these players to be ready to take the next step with their football.

In the under 18s, the Vic Metro midfield could contain the likes of top prospect Madison Prespakis, and fellow AFLW Academy teammates Emerson Woods and Gabby Newton, while the likes of Georgia Patrikios, Britney Gutknecht and Daisy Bateman add some X-factor up forward. Mikala Cann, Maddy Brancatisano, Katie Lynch and Eleanor Brown are a number of other players likely to roam through the midfield, while in defence, Georgia Macpherson, Molly Warburton and Hannah McLaren will hold up the fort.

For Vic Country, their midfield will include an AFLW Academy littered centre line featuring Tyla Hanks, Nina Morrison, Rebecca Webster and Olivia Purcell, who will rove to fellow AFLW Academy ruck Rene Caris. Lucy McEvoy, Georgia Clarke, Lucy Cripps, Denby Taylor and Jordyn Allen provide some strong numbers in defence, while up forward, Courtney Jones, Nikia Webber and Sophie Van De Heuvel will be key targets.

Under 18s:

Vic Metro:

Calder Cannons: Grace Dicker, Georgia Patrikos, Madison Prespakis, Carla Rendelmann, Felicity Theodore, Molly Warburton
Eastern Ranges: Mikala Cann, Gabriella De Angelis, Sarah Kendall, Georgia Macpherson, Laura McClelland, Jenna Richardson, Lauren Szigeti, Charlotte Wilson, Emerson Woods
Oakleigh Chargers: Daisy Bateman, Gemma Lagioia, Katie Lynch, Hannah McLaren, Bridie Winbanks, Nicola Xenos,
Northern Knights: Maddy Brancatisano, Britney Gutknecht, Marnie Jarvis, Neve O’Connor, Gabby Newton, Sarah Sansonetti
Sandringham Dragons: Holly Bate, Eleanor Brown, Molly Denahy Maloney, Abbie McKay, Jemma Owen, Jasmine Tait
Western Jets: Elisabeth Georgostathis, Isabella Grant, Cleo Saxon-Jones

Vic Country:

Bendigo Pioneers: Maddie Baldwin, Kate Douglass, Kodi Jacques, Megan Williamson
Dandenong Stingrays: Jordyn Allen, Lucy Cripps, Shelley Heath, Courtney Jones, Molly McDonald, Isabella Shannon
Geelong Falcons: Abbey Chapman, Zoe Inei, Tarryn Love, Lucy McEvoy, Nina Morrison, Olivia Purcell, Denby Taylor
Gippsland Power: Amy Dunn, Emily Haeusler, Tyla Hanks, Nikia Webber
GWV Rebels: Lauren Butler, Rene Caris, Georgia Clarke, Nyakoat Dojiok, Sophie Molan, Sophie Van De Heuvel, Ella Wood
Murray Bushrangers: Julia Harvey, Millie Brown, Tamara Smith, Rebecca Webster

The championships will begin June, with list reductions made in the lead-up to the first game.

The full Under 16s squads will be named on Wednesday.