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 the Northern Knights, who have made an unblemished start to their premiership defence with wins over Calder, Geelong, and Dandenong on home turf.
The 3-0 record may look ominous along with the average winning margin of 18 points, but the Knights were made to earn each of their first three victories. First up was a grand final rematch against the Calder, who looked the most direct threat to Northern’s flag defence. After holding the Cannons at bay, long-time closest rival Geelong was up next, but the Falcons hardly got close with just one goal on the board. Arguably the biggest test of Northern’s character came against another finals threat, Dandenong, where the Knights fought back from two goals down to win with a five-goal second half.
FIVE STRONG STARTERS:
Jess Fitzgerald (18.7 disposals, 1.3 marks, 3.7 tackles, 2 rebound 50s, 2.7 inside 50s, 2 goals)
Coach Marcus Abney-Hastings described Fitzgerald as his side’s most important player after last year’s grand final, and she is proving as much in her top-age season as one of the competition’s most well-rounded prospects. The Knights co-captain has stood up at critical times across all three testing games thus far, showcasing the ability to generate run while also digging in hard at the contest. Fitzgerald’s standout game came against Dandenong, where she collected 28 disposals and booted two goals.
Ellie McKenzie (19 disposals, 5 marks, 2.3 tackles, 4.7 inside 50s, 1 goal)
Arguably the front-runner to be taken first off the board come draft time at this early stage, McKenzie has lived up to the hype generated by her under-age seasons. Leading the Knights for disposals and inside 50s as it stands, the dynamic left footer showcased her ability to tear games apart when she combined with co-captain Fitzgerald to drag Northern over the line against Dandenong. As a more permanent midfield fixture, her goals from further afield have become all the more valuable. She currently leads the Draft Central Medal standings alongside Tyanna Smith.
Alyssa Bannan (14.3 disposals, 5.7 marks, 3.3 tackles, 2.3 inside 50s, 9 goals)
Another out-and-out gun along the spine of this Northern side is Bannan, who has thrived as the primary key forward in her top-age season. Leading the competition for goals (nine) and marks (17), Bannan is equally damaging at ground level with her searing pace as she is in the air with her height. A five-goal effort against Calder in Round 1 got the ball rolling, with the 177cm prospect bagging consecutive hauls of two over the next fortnight. Could well be the new key forward prototype.
Maeve Chaplin (11.7 disposals, 1 mark, 2.3 tackles, 1.3 rebound 50s, 1.3 inside 50s)
After impressing as an effective two-way defender in her middle-age year, Chaplin has transitioned into a midfield ace this season credit to her ability to find the ball and use it cleanly. Discounting her three disposals against Dandenong, Chaplin had consecutive 16-touch efforts to open the campaign, showing virtually identical numbers in a typical mark to her consistency. With game winners around her in midfield, Chaplin has proven to be the reliable rock who can perform an important role each week.
Ashleigh Snow (15.7 disposals, 2.3 marks, 3 tackles, 1 rebound 50, 3.3 inside 50s)
Another who has featured prominently in the Northern lineup over the past couple of seasons is Snow, who has stepped up her ball winning numbers in 2020. Averaging over 15 disposals per game, the nuggety utility continues to go hard at the ball an inspire her side in transition, pushing further afield to penetrate the forward 50 arc after being used in more defensive roles previously. Despite her 158cm standing, Snow is not one to be overlooked and holds her own in the contest.
Others who have stood out: Georgia Kitchell, Tarrah Delgado, Abigail Bennett, Maykaylah Appleby
There are a number of players who can stake their claim here, starting with dominant ruck Kitchell, who has handily won the hitout battle in each of Northern’s three games. Able to follow up at ground level, the middle-ager’s tackle average of five is impressive given her 180cm frame. Another middle-age tall, Delgado has also impressed with her calm work down back, while hard-edged outside movers Bennett and Appleby continue to provide that bit of spark. Bennett, an experienced top-ager, also leads the competition for tackles with 24 over her three games.