Tag: tasmania devils

Maurer thrives on Tasmanian “team bond”

RETURNING for her second season of Tasmania Devils representation in 2021, there was a rise in “enjoyment” levels for tough midfielder-forward, Ella Maurer. The 19-year-old thrived across nine NAB League outings in her top-age campaign, averaging a tick under 17 disposals and five tackles as an integral part of the starting squad. She put much of her own, and the team’s success down to a rising “team bond”.

“We’ve really come together,” Maurer said. “We’ve been really united and it’s just been really enjoyable. Sometimes in previous years I found that it was a big sluggish getting to training but this year every training was enjoyable. All the coaches, staff and girls were great to be around.

“I love team sports, just the whole vibe and being out there with the girls.”

Through a consistent and much-improved NAB League campaign, Maurer was able to bring her own strengths to the fore and lean on her senior experience to provide a hard edge. She’s a player who loves the “aggression” of the game, which shows in the traits she says are her strengths, and areas for improvement.

“[My strength] is probably my attack on the ball,” she said. “Just being able to get in and get the ball out from contests and get the hands off to a teammate… [I’m working on] being cleaner and my skills, especially when I go down forward.

“I love to play in the midfield and rotate forward, I love to play down there as well. Even in the backline, I like to play some defensive footy so a bit of everything really.”

Maurer’s 2021 form saw her selected in the Allies squad, where she remained a constant ball winner and tough competitor, averaging 18 disposals, six tackles, and three clearances per her three games. The representative honours matched Maurer’s goals constantly “improving [her] game” and playing “at the highest level” possible.

She has plenty of examples to follow too, with former North Launceston captain Jodie Clifford a particular source of inspiration for the rising teenage prospect, having been there almost every step of the way.

“[Clifford] is just a really inspiring person and player as well,” Maurer said. “She’s one of the coaches for the Devils, the midfield coach, and I got to play footy with her at North Launceston. She was our captain and best and fairest both years that we played together.”

“I started playing footy when I was 14 in the junior youth girl’s team at North Launceston Football Club. I played there for two years, then went on to play in the TSLW team for North Launceston for the two years we had that. Unfortunately that folded so now I’m at Old Scotch in the NTFA.”

A raft of Tasmanians also joined Maurer in North Melbourne’s VFLW side this year, with as many as 11 of them getting out on the park at one time in blue and white. There are certainly big things happening out of the Apple Isle and if Maurer’s development is anything to go by, the rate of improvement will be steep.

Image Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos

2021 NAB League Boys Player of the Week: Round 10

TASMANIA Devils midfielder Baynen Lowe has taken out the Draft Central NAB League Player of the Week vote for Round 10. The 17-year-old was overlooked for Allies selection, but served a timely reminder of his talents with 33 disposals, six marks, nine tackles, and 10 inside 50s in the Devils’ 33-point win over Dandenong Stingrays on Sunday.

Lowe narrowly beat Eastern Ranges skipper Josh Clarke in yesterday’s poll, despite some vocal support, sneaking two votes ahead to get this week’s nod. Clarke was also exceptional in Round 10, racking up 38 disposals, seven marks, six inside 50s and a goal as the Ranges powered past Western. Both players will co-captain the Draft Central Team of the Week.

Upon returning to the Tasmanian side, Lowe has been in exceptional form with averages of 30 disposals, five marks, five tackles, and seven inside 50s across his last three outings. He becomes the first Tasmanian to earn Player of the Week honours this season and is the fifth 2003-born prospect to do so, joining quite a high-level list of talent.

2021 DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE BOYS PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

Round 1: Tyler Sonsie (Eastern Ranges)
Round 2: Connor Macdonald (Dandenong Stingrays)
Round 3: Nick Daicos (Oakleigh Chargers)
Round 4: Fraser Marris (GWV Rebels)
Round 9: Ben Hobbs (GWV Rebels)
Round 10: BAYNEN LOWE (TASMANIA DEVILS)

Image Credit: Andrew Woodgate

Webster enjoying teamwork and physicality in footy

TASMANIAN Jemma Webster might be from a different sporting code to her now Australian rules football pathway, but it is not one you would expect – gymnastics. The former gymnast spent her childhood in the sport, then opted to transition into the oblong-shaped ball game and follow in the footsteps of her cousin, St Kilda’s Jimmy Webster.

“I was actually a gymnast for nine years then made the decision to go over to junior football at Claremont,” Webster said. “I played two years at junior level and then I made the transition to the state wide at Glenorchy and have played another two years there and now I’m in the state (team).”

Crossing from an individual sport like gymnastics, it was a change to be one small part of a big team, but something that Webster really enjoyed about football, along with the physicality that came packaged with the sport.

“The physicality is one of my main enjoyments of the game, especially coming from a gymnastics background, everything is different within the two sports but the teamwork as well,” Webster said. “Gymnastics is very individual sport so I love the enjoyment you get around the girls.”

Playing in a variety of roles, Webster said she is happy to slot in any of the three lines, but loves to run through the midfield or up forward. It helps with what she considers to be her strengths, which she named as her ground balls and contested work below the knees, as well as her ability to hit targets. As for her improvements, Webster said she was looking to improve her marking and confidence to be able to win more marks across the field.

Webster is one of a number of Tasmania Devils players who have come through the pathway, experienced the beltings on 2020 in the NAB League Girls, and come through the other side better for those losses. When asked what was the difference between the 2020 season and the incredible 2021 season – where they finished on top of the Vic Country/Tasmania pool, Webster said it was now former coach and Gold Coast Suns AFL Women’s senior coach Cameron Joyce.

“Our girls are very connected this season,” she said. “It’s hard because we’re in different states, but ‘Joycey’ really brought the team together and we had those Campbelltown sessions where we got to meet up and the connections I’ve built with the girls through this year have been amazing and something I’ll take along with me for the rest of my career.”

It is no surprise that Webster named her cousin Jimmy as her inspiration, and said he worked hard to reach the elite level, something she hopes to do long-term if it’s possible, but if not, then she just wants to develop into the best possible footballer she can and enjoy the ride that comes with it.

“I always wanted to play at the highest level I can, but just really enjoying the footy while I can,” Webster said.

2021 NAB League Boys snapshot: Round 8

THE 2021 NAB League season is slowly returning to normalcy, with four games played across a pair of double-headers on Saturday. Geelong and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) picked up points in all-country showdowns, while Tasmania returned to the fold with a win over the Sydney Swans Academy, and the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Academy trumped Northern Territory Thunder. Check out the key figures and stats in our weekend snapshot, with Scouting Notes to follow tomorrow evening.

SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY 13.6 (84) def. by TASMANIA DEVILS 14.4 (88)

IN A SENTENCE:

Tasmania Devils marked a captivating return to the NAB League, winning by four points via a Will Splann goal with six minutes left to play having trailed at the first three breaks.

TEAM STATS:

  • Swans Academy won the handballs (161-133) and tackles (61-55)
  • Tasmania Devils won the kicks (162-146) and marks (62-34)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Marco Rossmann (Swans Academy) 31 disposals, 5 marks, 7 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 2 goals
  • Felix Rogers (Swans Academy) 26 disposals, 3 marks, 5 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 goals
  • Pierce Roseby (Swans Academy) 25 disposals, 5 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50
  • Baynen Lowe (Tasmania Devils) 28 disposals, 2 marks, 5 tackles, 8 inside 50s
  • Sam Tilley (Tasmania Devils) 22 disposals, 4 tackles, 2 rebound 50s
  • Jye Menzie (Tasmania Devils) 22 disposals, 6 marks, 2 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 2 goals

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Marco Rossmann (Swans Academy)
4 – Baynen Lowe (Tasmania Devils)
3 – Felix Rogers (Swans Academy)
2 – Jye Menzie (Tasmania Devils)
1 – Sam Tilley (Tasmania Devils)

NEXT UP:

TBC.

GEELONG FALCONS 9.10 (64) def. BENDIGO PIONEERS 7.12 (54)

IN A SENTENCE:

Geelong Falcons toppled higher-ranked opposition for the second week running, edging the Bendigo Pioneers by 10 points after giving up the lead in term four.

TEAM STATS:

  • Geelong Falcons won the handballs (121-110), inside 50s (47-41) and hitouts (55-21)
  • Bendigo Pioneers won the kicks (179-157) and rebound 50s (36-33)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Mitch Knevitt (Geelong Falcons) 28 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 goal
  • Noah Gribble (Geelong Falcons) 28 disposals, 9 marks, 4 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s
  • Cooper Whyte (Geelong Falcons) 22 disposals, 2 marks, 5 tackles, 6 inside 60s
  • Harvey Gallagher (Bendigo Pioneers) 24 disposals, 5 marks, 3 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 goals
  • Sam Conforti (Bendigo Pioneers) 24 disposals, 5 marks, 8 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 3 behinds
  • Harley Reid (Bendigo Pioneers) 6 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 3 goals

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Mitch Knevitt (Geelong Falcons)
4 – Noah Gribble (Geelong Falcons)
3 – Harvey Gallagher (Bendigo Pioneers)
2 – Sam Conforti (Bendigo Pioneers)
1 – Cooper Whyte (Geelong Falcons)

NEXT UP:

TBC.

GWV REBELS 16.20 (116) def. GIPPSLAND POWER 6.1 (37)

IN A SENTENCE:

The GWV Rebels overwhelmed Gippsland Power with 36 scoring shots to seven, returning to the winners list via a 79-point thumping on home turf.

TEAM STATS:

  • GWV Rebels won the disposals (398-245), inside 50s (65-26), and marks (93-55)
  • Gippsland Power won the rebound 50s (49-20), tackles (68-65) and hitouts (43-20)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Sam Breuer (GWV Rebels) 30 disposals, 3 marks, 7 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s, 1 goal
  • Sam Butler (GWV Rebels) 27 disposals, 6 marks, 7 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 goals
  • Fraser Marris (GWV Rebels) 38 disposals, 5 marks, 4 tackles, 5 inside 50s
  • Jai Serong (Gippsland Power) 18 disposals, 7 marks, 4 tackles, 5 rebound 50s, 2 goals
  • Max Walton (Gippsland Power) 17 disposals, 7 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebound 50s
  • Mitchell Moschetti (Gippsland Power) 16 disposals, 12 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound 50

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Sam Butler (GWV Rebels)
4 – Charlie Molan (GWV Rebels)
3 – Sam Breuer (GWV Rebels)
2 – Kai Lohmann (GWV Rebels)
1 – Vincent Huf (GWV Rebels)

NEXT UP:

TBC.

GWS GIANTS ACADEMY 15.14 (104) def. NT THUNDER ACADEMY 3.8 (26)

IN A SENTENCE:

The GIANTS Academy proved far too strong for their Northern Territory counterparts, piling on scoreboard pressure after quarter time and running out comfortable 78-point victors in Blacktown.

TEAM STATS:

  • GIANTS Academy won the disposals (285-198), inside 50s (50-25), and marks (70-63)
  • NT Thunder won the rebound 50s (34-22)

KEY PLAYERS:

  • Sam Frost (GIANTS Academy) 28 disposals, 4 marks, 3 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 6 rebound 50s
  • Matthew Hamblin (GIANTS Academy) 24 disposals, 7 marks, 1 tackle, 3 rebound 50s
  • Maximus Monaghan (GIANTS Academy) 19 disposals, 2 marks, 4 tackles, 4 inside 50s
  • Andy Moniz-Wakefield (NT Thunder) 24 disposals, 7 marks, 4 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 6 rebound 50s, 1.3
  • Lloyd Johnston (NT Thunder) 21 disposals, 6 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 7 rebound 50s
  • Ronald Fejo Jnr (NT Thunder) 19 disposals, 7 marks, 5 inside 50s, 3 rebound 50s

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Matthew Hamblin (GIANTS Academy)
4 – Angus Curry (GIANTS Academy)
3 – Luke Lawrence (GIANTS Academy)
2 – Maximus Monaghan (GIANTS Academy)
1 – Andy Moniz Wakefield (NT Thunder)

NEXT UP:

TBC.

Image Credit: Martin Keep/AFL Photos

Pressure and development key for Devils in 2021

TASMANIA Devils have a key focus for the 2021 season and that is to be a team that is renowned for their pressure and intensity according to coach and talent manager Cameron Joyce. After only managing to play two games last season prior to the NAB League Girls cancellation the Devils are raring to go and have a real buzz about them.

“We certainly want to be a respected team in the competition. We certainly want to be a team that will go forward with the ball and be able to hit the scoreboard. But at the same time probably a hallmark of our game will probably be our pressure, and the way we are able to apply layers of pressure to the opposition,” Joyce said.

With the season opener around the corner, Joyce highlighted the overall level of enthusiasm amongst the group as they prepare for Round 1 on Saturday and the season as a whole.

“Yeah they’ve been super excited wanting to learn and wanting to improve and we’ve had a really good preseason and yeah just looking forward to getting into it,” he said.

“It’s been a long wait, for staff and players included in terms of the NAB League that you know there was only two games last year for the girls. It’s been a long wait and then you know obviously training in the lead up to it, but I think everyone just wants to get out there,” he said. “Hopefully we’ve done enough work to be able to produce some good football and the girls can play it, the way we want to play but everyone’s just looking forward to playing the game of footy.”

Although pre-season training was hindered due to the COVID-19 protocols – albeit not as tight as Victoria – the Devils still found a way to keep their spirits high and engage in some form of training to iron out any kinks in the armour.

“Yeah, they certainly had a little break off the back of their season at the end of last year,” Joyce said. “We probably had a good month before Christmas and then they had three weeks off and then we’ve been able to build up over the last three or four weeks.”

One of the most promising signs was the Devils ability to get out on the park and enjoy an intraclub match to test out the combinations across the ground and really solidify the unit heading into the opening round of action.

“We had a hitout out on the weekend, which was great and we had an intraclub the week before so we feel like we’re ready to go against opposition and just see where we’re at,” Joyce said.

Tasmania has an “extensive leadership group of eight players” this season showcasing the number of talented players coming through the ranks at the club with the Devils announcing their captain and vice captains in Olivia Smith, Jemma Webster and Jemma Blair respectively.

“We’ve got Jemma Webster, and Jemma Blair both our vice captain’s, Jemma Webster in the midfield, and Jemma Blair across half-back both had good preseasons and Olivia Smith our captain on the wing. “She runs all day and keeps getting the footy so she’s been going well.”

Highlighting pressure as a key focal point for the upcoming season Joyce also expressed his pleasure with the midfield highlighting the depth of the squad and most importantly touted the notion of continued development throughout the Devils unit.

“Our midfield has been has been pretty strong, which is been good so we’re certainly hoping for that just continuous improvement from those players,” Joyce said.

With a number of exciting prospects set to take the field, one name in particular that is gearing up for a big season is Perri King with the AFL Women’s Academy member a lynchpin for the side.

“She’ll (Perri King) probably play predominantly in the midfield this year, but she’ll also spend some time forward as well seeing because she is quite good above the head, in terms of marking ability and we hope she’s going to be able to hit the scoreboard as well when she’s down there, so yeah I think mainly those two roles, for Perri at this stage,” Joyce said.

Ella Maurer is another one that has been performing really well. “She’s another midfielder, she gets a lot of the ball, she’s also been a goal kicker in our games, thus far. “We’re hoping for big, big things from Ella.”

“We’ve got quite an even spread of players that are performing well. “We’ve got a couple of 20-year-old’s that have come back as overagers in Camilla Taylor and Priscila Odwogo. One is playing at one end, Camila’s playing forward at the moment and Priscilla is playing back and both of them are playing good football at the moment.”

The list of players to watch did not stop there with Joyce highlighting the likes of Amy Prokopiec, Charlie Vandenberg and Claire Ransom as some faces to look out for in the upcoming season given their skillset and ability to run all day.

Despite being in another state, travel does not seem to faze Tasmania who are more than up to the challenge given the number of players that travel from all parts of the state in order to play at the top level.

“To be honest, it takes longer in the car to drive to some of those places than it does to fly to Melbourne,” Joyce said. “It is fair to say that the 50-minute plane ride isn’t going to be too much of an issue for the girls and the staff.”

The Devils kickstart their season against Gippsland Power at Highgate Recreation Reserve from 12.30pm.

Basketballer Viney has team-first mindset

AFTER injuring herself at the start of her middle-age year, dual-sport athlete India Viney is hoping for a clean run. Not only is she hoping to have some luck in 2021, but put her best foot forward to help the Tasmania Devils pick up a few more wins than in their maiden season, regardless of the on-field role she plays.

“I’ve been playing football for three seasons now and absolutely loving it,” Viney said. “I came from basketball in the state development program and then one of the girls, Jemma Blair who’s here today actually said ‘come along let’s have a bit of a game in juniors’ and I ended up sticking it out and I’m absolutely loving it.”

Having been more than capable to play either sport, there was an intrinsic pull to the oblong-shaped ball game and Viney said the “culture” was something special amongst women’s football.

“Definitely the culture and all the girls getting around each other as it’s a fairly new sport for women, and it’s quite empowering and makes you feel very confident about yourself,” Viney said of what made her fall in love with the sport.

Her long-term goal is to “play at the highest level that I can as an individual” and said former Tasmania Devils’ star and now North Melbourne AFL Women’s midfielder, Mia King was a key inspiration through her journey.

“She (King) is one of my good friends from home, so we went to the same school, had a mutual friend and became close friends, did a few things together,” Viney said.

Being a smaller player, Viney enjoys applying pressure to the ball carrier and is willing to do whatever it takes to get her team across the line through second and third efforts.

“(My strengths are) definitely heat around the ball and I love playing that defensive role and really going all out and trying to nail down that target and just make sure that our team has possession,” Viney said. “And always just doing that density thing we do with Tassie Devils, so it’s great.”

As for her improvements, it was all about getting a clean run and then taking it one step at a time to chase the ultimate goal of following in King’s footsteps to make it to the AFL Women’s competition.

“Definitely not injuring myself at the start of the season, and just really focusing on trying to get a game and sticking out in the squad and trying in future, I’d love to play at the highest level because I love the competition that the game brings,” Viney said.

While individual aspirations are one thing, Viney’s main focus was having some success with the Devils this year in the NAB League Girls, even if she not in the team.

“I’d love the team to win, just Devils doesn’t matter if I’m playing or not,” Viney said. “Just see them get up there in the finals and come from last season as the underdogs and just really rule the competition so that would be great.”

Tasmania Devils open their season against Gippsland Power at Highgate Recreation Reserve on Saturday, February 6.

King eyes improvement beyond achievements

DESPITE making history by becoming Tasmania Devils’ first ever goalkicker, and then backing up her NAB League Girls season with entry into the AFL Women’s Academy for 2021, Perri King is not content to rest on her laurels. Instead of worrying about what is out of her control in terms of draft contention, King has set her sights on improving areas of her game to be the most complete player she can be.

My improvements and what I really want to work on would definitely be, getting the hands out more rather than kicking straight away,” King said. “Use my teammates to handball and get it back, so that’s what I’m trying to improve on this year for this season.”

Having come through the Tasmanian football pathway, King has always been involved in football one way or another given her family’s connections to the sport. It was not until a few years ago that King finally took the plunge once a female football pathway opened up and she started on a journey that would lead her to the elite junior level.

I started football in 2017, so four years I’ve been playing,” King said. “But I’ve always been around my brother and my dad’s team since I was little. “I’ve always wanted to play since then, but since female footy wasn’t really around then I waited until 2017 because I did other sports. “When it was introduced to Tassie, that’s where I got introduced to it a year later.”

Having arrived at the Devils, King was about to find out just how high-level the program was, with plenty of extra requirements and standards that help develop aspiring AFL Women’s players to be the best possible player on and off the field.

“I started as juniors and I’ve been going to seniors and then the Devils and the standards just keep getting higher and higher each year,” King said. “Devils is high standards, more testing, it’s more serious, more opportunities from the Devils from what we would normally get in Tassie than we would get in the state league. “There’s more opportunities for us in this program than what it would be like through juniors and the state league as well.”

King is known for her speed and strength, which allows her to be a powerful player around the ground, but will likely be a prominent midfielder when the Devils take to the field in the 2021 NAB League Girls competition.

“I see my strengths as speed and my aggression to the football,” King said. “Really just speed, so I have the capability to get the ball and give it to my teammates, and my aggression when in defence, when I attack or I fight to get the ball.”

Already having tasted NAB League Girls action last year, King became the first – and given the season was cut short before the Devils could play another game – only goalkicker, writing her name into the history books. It was a feat that was not lost on King, who praised her teammates for helping her achieve the feat.

“I was actually quite gobsmacked because I never thought I’d be the first Tassie girl to kick a goal,” King said. “It was such an honour, but without the help of my teammates it wouldn’t have happened either. “It was such a big moment because it was our first year in the actual NAB League. “It was sad that it got cut short, but I’m keen for this year with the girls.”

King has always had support from her family, who she said are among her inspirations on her football journey that is only a few years in.

“My biggest inspiration would probably be my dad and my cousin, because they’ve always helped me with football and always pushed me and pushed me to do better, and made me believe myself when I didn’t,” King said.

As for her ultimate goal, King wants to play at the elite level, but also wants to enter the system as prepared as she can be, so 2021 looms as a massive year for the teenager who is solely focused on herself and improving areas of her game.

“I would really like to get drafted, but I would like to improve my footy abilities more, and get to know the girls more because it’s a new team,” King said. “But one day I would like to get drafted so that’s what I’m aiming for.

“I need to obviously do more skill work, so I can improve on that. “The main one for me would be my mental state, because sometimes I can’t believe I can do it when I probably could, so I need to improve on that so then I can go to the next step and not doubt myself.”

Bourne eyes team success with Devils

ZOE Bourne enjoyed her experience with Tasmania Devils in the NAB League Girls last season, however brief it might have been. The team lost both its games, but it was a memorable time for the talented teenager who now has a team-oriented goal for the 2021 season.

“As a team goal I think just to win some games,” Bourne said. “Obviously we didn’t get much of a chance last year, but I think we have a really strong team this year so hopefully we can get over there and win a few.”

The top-age player has come through the development pathways in the Apple Isle, following her brother into the code, and making her way all the way to the Devils’ program at the elite junior level.

“I started footy when my brother played a lot of football when he was growing up and I sort of got around it then, and then I started playing for North Launceston Juniors,” Bourne said. “So this will be my fourth season of footy. “I played for them for two years, and then went to North (Launceston) TSLW for a year, and then unfortunately that collapsed. I started playing Devils last year, and this year obviously Devils and playing for Old Scotch in the NTFA.”

Predominantly a pressure high half-forward, Bourne is a fierce player who is clean at ground level and eyes off crumbing the tall forwards when inside 50. Using her speed and agility at ground level, Bourne is able to create scoring opportunities through separation from her opponent. In 2021, the North Launceston now Old Scotch-aligned talent is looking to improve her fitness in a more challenging competition.

“Being able to get the ball a lot more, then using it a bit more and using it a bit more smarter with the ball,” Bourne said. “It’s (pathway) definitely been a big change, last year playing Devils was a lot different to playing club football. “The standard is very different, I find it a bit more challenging, but it’s a good challenge. “It’s really eye-opening and you get to know that kind of standard so it makes you a better player.”

Her brother has been someone she has looked up to throughout her football journey and now as she enters her top-age year, she is looking to perform to her best to just see where her football can take her.

“He’s the one I’ve watched playing footy and I wanted to get into it because of him, and he taught me all the foundations and skills that I’ve been able to bring to club footy,” Bourne said. “I guess I’ll just see how far I can go through the Devils program and maybe the draft and see where that goes.”

Gaffney follows pathway into Devils

INITIALLY not having the ability to play local Australian rules football in her younger years, Meghan Gaffney tried her hand at soccer. When a pathway finally did open up in Tasmania’s North West, she took the plunge and has not looked back.

“When I was about 12 I started playing soccer at a club level,” Gaffney said. “Then from there as football wasn’t on the North West Coast, it wasn’t really established as female football pathways for anything. “So I started playing as soon as that came which was when I was 13. “I’ve been playing for four years with Ulverstone. “Last year I was lucky enough to get selected into the Devils squad and I played the two games that we had before COVID. “This year I’m in the Devils as well.”

Gaffney said making the switch – which then included travelling to not only different parts of the state but also interstate – was made possible thanks to her father, who she said has been her inspiration throughout her football journey.

“He’s really helped me with that, really supportive and taken me to trainings before I had my licence, just little things like that, it’s been really helpful to have someone there,” Gaffney said.

In 2021, Gaffney is looking to improve a number of aspects of her game, but is among the more powerful athletes when it comes to a combination of her strength and endurance.

“(I) Probably (want to work on) more of my skill work so kicking and hand work and just being quick to pick up the ball, clean,” Gaffney said. “My strength and endurance (are strengths). It helps me to get to the contests and just be an option for other players.”

Coming through the local junior teams and state league, Gaffney noticed the difference in quality when it came to the Tasmania Devils program.

“I think the standard’s a lot better, and also the girls, their mindset towards it,” Gaffney said. “It’s really good to have teammates that are like-minded and want to improve and get around each other, (they are a) really supportive group of people I think.”

Her goal in 2021 is to “just keep improving” and see how far she could go. Whilst her dream is not unlike many other talented teenagers aspiring to get to the highest level, Gaffney is just enjoying her football and looking forward to an uninterrupted season this year.

“Obviously it would be really cool to play in the AFLW, but I mean only a few people get selected,” Gaffney said. “If I did get selected it would be awesome, but otherwise just playing footy for fun, I really enjoy it.”

Defender Blair manages to juggle dual-sport commitments

A TALENTED dual-sport athlete, Australian rules football defender Jemma Blair knows the toll that travel takes on someone expected to hit the road multiple times a week. Having taken up the sport in the Northern Tasmania Junior Football Association (NTJFA) with East Launceston, Blair balanced her fledgling football career with a netball one that took her all across the Apple Isle.

“I’d have two or three netball games a week, and one or two football games a week, so that would probably be about five trainings a week as well,” Blair said. “On the weekend I’d always be around the state with netball and footy.”

Blair’s football journey began five years ago, and soon she moved through the pathway in the NTJFA, then joined North Launceston, and was selected for Tasmania Devils.

“This is going into my fifth year of football, so I was fortunate enough to start my second year when the junior and NTJFA started up in Launceston so I joined East Launceston Football Club,” Blair said. “Then played there for a few years, my dad ended up coaching there as well, so I was fortunate enough to have my dad there as well.

“I grew to love the game and also played a bit of netball as well, so playing side by side with those two sports. “Then last year I was fortunate enough to start with Devils, and also North Launceston Football Club in the TSL, which has unfortunately collapsed so I’ve now gone to Old Scotch this year as well.”

The travel was “quite difficult” for the teenager, with the sports often clashing, and Blair having to pick between training sessions for both sports.

“A lot of the time I had to choose between which training to go to because it did clash a bit, and both playing at state leagues as well, it was a bit of travelling as well,” Blair said. It was all across the state.”

Having tasted NAB League Girls action last year for the Devils, Blair has enjoyed running out of defence and creating plays in transition down the field.

“I like looking around the ground, getting to know the play, reading the play, just repelling the ball back into our forward line,” Blair said. “My strength is around the ball. “My composure and definitely reading the ball as well. “Definitely leadership, I love getting the voice around the girls, helping them, direct them.”

In 2021, Blair is eyeing off improving her skills and hitting targets more often, as well as becoming a more consistent mark. Her goal is to play more games and become an established player at NAB League Girls level.

“Last year we didn’t have much, it was quite a quick season with Devils, so hoping for a longer season this year and to get a few games over in Melbourne,” Blair said. “And definitely meeting new people and seeing how far I can go.”

Blair’s father has been her inspiration over the years, and the teenager considers him her idol. Looking forward, Blair is aiming to achieve everything she can in the sport and just go as far as possible.

“My dad has definitely supported me and pushed me to start football so he’s definitely my idol,” she said. “I just enjoy the sport really, so as far as I can get, to reach as far as I can go, just keep pushing and take every opportunity that I have.”