Tag: tayla harris

AFL Women’s Sunday wrap: Dockers come from behind in final quarter showcase

FREMANTLE proved just how good they are with a huge final quarter effort against Carlton on Sunday, downing the Blues by four points credit to a three goal final term. The 6.9 (45) to 6.5 (41) outcome was not a reflection of majority of the match however, with Carlton’s explosive start and continuous pressure well and truly shutting down the Dockers.

In a must-win for Carlton, the side came out firing from all cylinders with three goals to nil in the first as experienced trio Nic StevensDarcy Vescio and Tayla Harris were quick to get on the board, as Charlotte Wilson and Mua Laloifi well and truly shut down the Blues backline and relegated the Dockers to just the one behind. A tighter second quarter was credit to Fremantle’s increased pressure around the footy, lifting in intensity and contesting much better as Kiara BowersHayley Miller and Sabreena Duffy stepped up to win the quarter. The winning end continued in the third as the Blues once again lifted, adding another two majors to their tally, but it was an outstanding final quarter from the Dockers that saw the side really showcase what they are made of and their winning form, booting 3.2 to Carlton’s 1.0 to take their first and only lead of the day at a vital time in the match and coming away with the four point win.

For the winning side, it was a two goal effort from both Jasmin Stewart and Duffy that helped get the side over the line, whilst Gemma Houghton was kept quiet for much of the contest bar a late conversion to seal the win. Bowers was exceptional with 28 disposals and 10 tackles, while Miller (13 touches and 10 tackles), Ebony Antonio and Steph Cain also had an impact. For the Blues, Stevens booted two from 14 touches, whilst Kerryn Harrington was kept busy with 22 touches and Breann Moody collected 19 and six marks, as Maddy Prespakis stepped up once more to create chaos through the middle.

Bar fixture changes due to COVID-19 protocols interstate, Carlton will hope to take on Gold Coast next Friday night in Queensland, while Fremantle will host Melbourne next Sunday night in a do-or-die encounter for the red and blue.

CARLTON 3.4 | 3.5 | 5.5 | 6.5 (41)
FREMANTLE 0.1 | 2.3 | 3.7 | 6.9 (45)

GOALS
Carlton: N. Stevens 2, D. Vescio, T. Harris, S. Gibbs, G. Gee
Fremantle: J. Stewart 2, S. Duffy 2, S. Cain, G. Houghton

BEST
Carlton: M. Prespakis, N. Stevens, B. Moody, D. Vescio, K. Harrington, V. Laloifi
Fremantle: K. Bowers, E. Antonio, S. Duffy, S. Cain, L. Pugh, J. Stewart

Image credit: AAP: James Ross

Image credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images

LIONS DISRUPT HOT PIES

A last minute fixture change saw the Brisbane Lions take on the Collingwood Magpies on neutral territory in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon to complete the round, with the Lions taking to Whitten Oval and its lack of crowd like a duck to water, exposing the Magpies in a relatively inaccurate encounter from two of the top sides. The Lions dealt the Pies their first loss of the season, running out three-point victors in the 4.11 (35) to 4.8 (32) matchup in windy conditions.

It was a shocking first quarter from the Lions, booting eight behinds in a huge start that they really did not capitalise upon. The Magpies, to their credit, kept their foot on the accelerator and proved that they could cope defensively but it was realistically Brisbane’s inability to convert off set shots that shot them in the foot, only leading by 13 at the first change despite dominating the inside 50 count. Despite the Magpies applying better pressure for the remainder of the match, their first quarter struggle was too much for the side to come back from even as they kept the Lions to a goal per quarter in the second and third, and put just the one behind on in the last. The Magpies rallied in the final term after losing Jordyn Allen and Lauren Butler before the second half began, mounting their comeback and booting 2.4 in the final term. But it was too little, too late as the Lions held on for the three-point victory, knocking the Magpies out of top spot with huge performances from Ally Anderson (26 disposals and four marks) and Cathy Svarc (10 disposals, five tackles and a goal) topping off a solid day at the office.

Svarc was largely responsible for keeping Bri Davey quiet as Chloe Molloy was also relegated to a quiet performance with just five touches to her name. Sophie Conway (15 touches, three behinds), Nat Grider (13 and six tackles) and Emily Bates (13 and nine) were all impressive for the Lions as Bree Koenen locked down the backline, while for the Pies it was Britt Bonnici (28 touches, five marks and four tackles), Jaimee Lambert (22 touches) and Sharni Norder (Nee Layton, 17 touches, four tackles) who kept the ball rolling.

Next week the Magpies will play yet another match in Victoria as they host St Kilda on Saturday afternoon, while the Lions intend to host North Melbourne during Saturday’s twilight fixture, pending COVID-19 protocols in Queensland.

BRISBANE 2.8 | 3.8 | 4.10 | 4.11 (35)
COLLINGWOOD 1.1 | 2.4 | 2.4 | 4.8 (32)

GOALS
Brisbane: C. Hodder, S. Campbell, J. Wuetschner, C. Svarc
Collingwood: A. Sheridan 2, S. Alexander, J. Lin

BEST
Brisbane: A. Anderson, S. Conway, E. Bates, C. Svarc, K. Lutkins
Collingwood: B. Bonnici, S. Norder, R. Schleicher, J. Lambert, S. Chiocci

Exciting Schirmer strives for consistency in 2021

SOUTH Adelaide high-flyer Gypsy Schirmer is striving to become a more consistent player in 2021, with the exciting prospect now firmly on the draft radar after a breakthrough 2020 campaign. Schirmer’s X-factor and versatility helped her crack South’s senior lineup and her state’s Under 18 All-Star fixture last year, with inclusion in this year’s AFL Women’s Academy a richly deserved honour based on great potential.

The soon-to-be 18-year-old is known for her ability to play just about anywhere, but is looking to nail down a spot up forward while rotating through midfield. With outstanding athletic traits such as a sizeable vertical leap and swift closing speed, it was no surprise to hear Schirmer say she wants to “play more like” a certain iconic Carlton spearhead.

“It’s kind of a generic one but I think what Tayla Harris has, we share similarities,” Schirmer said. “We’re both tall players, but we both work really hard up and down the ground, and we’re quite dangerous wherever we play. “I want to play more like her.”

“I don’t really know (where my best position is), I’ve been thrown around a little bit. “I love the forward line, I really love the craft there and feel like I could really develop as a player but I’m also looking forward to developing my midfield abilities. “I got introduced to the wing last year which was a bit different but I really enjoyed it there too, so probably up forward and in the midfield is my best position.”

Perhaps much like Harris, Schirmer is also looking to more consistently showcase her talent having moved past interruptions and shaken off some injury concerns. Currently known as more of an impact player who takes full toll with each possession, the South Adelaide product also has eyes on a more grand end prize.

“I think (my goal) is just to play some consistent footy,” she said. “I have had some injury interruptions so getting some consistency, playing my role and getting to do what they want me to do at South. “Then progressing into this (AFLW Academy), playing some state footy and travelling if we’re allowed to, kind of progressing from there and if all goes to plan hopefully the draft at the end of the year.”

It has been a steep rise for Schirmer, who has only been playing football for four years. Having started out being coached by her father at Christies Beach Football Club, the youngster quickly made her way into representative squads and is now thriving under South Adelaide’s tutelage – with plenty more to come.

“I started footy four years ago,” she said. “I wasn’t really interested in playing with the boys so I waited until my local club got a women’s team, which was 2017 I think. “I was lucky enough to have my dad as my coach which was really cool as it made it easy to get driven to things.

“I started at Christies Beach Football Club down south and then got into the Under 15 state All Schools League. “I enjoyed that a lot, that was my second year of footy.

“From there started making more sides and play for South Adelaide women’s now, I’m really excited – we’ve got a good squad there. “I’ve had a few injury blows with my ankles that have kind of been screwing me up a bit but I’ve really enjoyed programs like this and hopefully I’m fit for a whole year and see what’s to come.”

With commitment to the game and pathway opportunities now at an all-time high, juggling football with studies amidst a pandemic has been admittedly “challenging” for Schirmer. With the transition to university in her sights, she says regaining a manageable balance will be an interesting prospect.

“I finished Year 12 last year so going in and out of school all the time depending on what the situation was, but also having to balance training and stuff like that, I feel like I did get quite a good training-school balance by the end of it,” she said. “But definitely with uni I’ll be interested to see how it goes.”

If preseason testing is anything to go by, Schirmer is ready to hit even greater heights in 2021 as one of South Australia’s most promising female draft prospects. Her next point of call will be in South’s hoops as they take on North Adelaide at Coopers Stadium, opening the season on February 26 in a grand final rematch.

Image Credit: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Dogs bite late to overrun Blues

AFTER a heartbreaking Round 1 loss to St Kilda, the Western Bulldogs have bounced back to take a huge scalp by defeating title contenders Carlton in a massive Pride Round win. The Bulldogs looked down and out through parts of the match, particularly at the final break, but the inspirational effort from captain Ellie Blackburn saw the skipper drag her team over the line and win 6.6 (42) to 5.6 (36).

When the young Dogs needed a hero, Blackburn stepped up, kicking two majors in the final term, as Carlton had a lot of possession in the front half of the ground but could not muster up a score. They had looked good after leading at every break prior to the final term, with a three-point quarter time lead, five-point half-time lead and 10-point three quarter time lead.

Despite the Melbourne weather threatening to cause all sorts of havoc on the game, it was fitting that in Pride Round a rainbow emerged from behind the clouds, and provided hope for a Dogs side that just found a way to get off the canvas and muster a win. The home team also had to overcome an early injury to Bailey Hunt who went down with a calf injury and forced coach Nathan Burke to reshuffle the magnets.

There were no shortage of memorable moments in the match, such as Jess Fitzgerald‘s remarkable first goal after great work, and then a Kirsten McLeod running special into an open goal. Despite Tayla Harris finding her range – including a long-bomb, Carlton could not step up when it counted, and once again lost a game by a narrow margin.

Blackburn was easily best-on for her 22 disposals, five marks, three tackles and two gaols, while Madison Prespakis could hardly be faulted in a herculean effort. The reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP) won 24 touches, took two marks and laid six tackles, well aided by Georgia Gee (17 disposals, eight tackles and a goal) and first-year talent Mimi Hill (19 disposals).

For the Dogs, Fitzgerald showed why the club had faith to use pick two on her with a 15-disposals, four-mark, four-tackle and maiden goal game. Gabby Newton (14 disposals, two marks and six tackles) and Kirsty Lamb (16 disposals, two marks and eight tackles) were also impressive, while McLeod made the most of her eight touches with two goals.

The result means the Bulldogs move to 1-1 for the season, while the Blues ponder how they can capitalise when it counts. The year they made the AFLW Grand Final the Blues were 0-2 and found a way to get there, and Daniel Harford will need to pull out something special again in the nine-round season.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.3 | 2.4 | 3.6 | 6.6 (42)
CARLTON
1.0 | 3.3 | 5.4 | 5.6 (36)

GOALS
Western Bulldogs:
 Blackburn 2, McLeod 2, Huntington, Fitzgerald
Carlton: Harris 2, O’Dea, Loynes, Gee

BEST 
Western Bulldogs:
 Blackburn, Fitzgerald, Lamb, Newton, McLeod
Carlton: Prespakis, Gee, Hill, Harris, Hosking

Picture credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Pies shock Blues on AFLW’s return

THE long awaited return of AFL Women’s for season 2021 arrived on Thursday night, with traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood shaping up at Ikon Park for a huge start to season five. A tribute to Jacinda Barclay opened the match with a moment of silence, before football returned at full throttle with Victorian fans treated to their first live match since mid-2020. While a slow start from both sides kept a full house of fans on the edge of their seats, a stagnant Blues outfit and a huge four-goal second term from the Magpies saw the tides quickly turn as fast-paced footy began, with the Pies running out six-point winners 5.3 (33) to 4.3 (27) to open the season with a bang.

While the match may not have started with the bang many fans were expecting from the two sides, it was a tight battle early with neither side willing to give through the midfield and very little going the way of the scoreboard. Both backlines worked in overdrive limiting movement, with the first score of the game – a behind – going the way of Jaimee Lambert, rendered inaccurate by the continuous efforts of the likes of Mua Laloifi and Charlotte Wilson, who tracked the ball well. But much the same was happening at the other end, with the Blues missing targets and Ruby Schleicher proving a ball magnet and rebounded with ease.

But things quickly switched into gear for the Magpies in the second, with Chloe Molloy moved forward and turned on the foot candy with two goals from right out in front. It saw the Pies pile on the pressure as the Blues remained scoreless in the first half for the first time since 2019. Where the Blues’ defence had held strong in the first, they scrambled in the second term with no answers for the combination of Molloy and Bri Davey out the front, while Aliesha Newman turned on the speed – later reported for a dangerous tackle – and Lambert continued to fire on all cylinders as the Pies went four goals up, looking dangerous as the Blues wasted opportunities. Maddy Prespakis was unafraid of the contest, throwing herself at the footy and at former Blue Davey, while all eyes were on the matchup between Stacey Livingstone and Tayla Harris as the game hit the midway point, with the duo matching in intensity and hunt for the footy.

A talking to from Carlton coach Daniel Harford seemed to do the trick for the Blues, coming out with a renewed sense of intensity and pressure after half-time, hitting back with three straight goals. Nicola StevensDarcy Vescio and Jess Hosking all put majors on the board – with the third coming from a pinpoint precise Prespakis – as a scoring end shaped up. While the Baggers showed a lot more fight, the Pies retained the lead with an excellent running goal from Aishling Sheridan, courtesy of Lambert, seeing the Magpies head into the final change with an 11-point advantage.

After a busy second and third quarter, scoring dried up in the last with neither side able to really break through the fierce defensive buffers down back. While the Pies missed a couple of early chances to extend their lead, Carlton had their own fair share of opportunities too with the footy locked inside their forward 50 for much of the last five minutes. While the last score of the match was a goal to Kerryn Harrington after the siren, it was a sombre celebration as the Magpies started off their 2021 campaign with the solid 33-27 victory and plenty of confidence.

On the stats sheet, Britt Bonnici led all comers with 22 disposals, five marks and four tackles, while Lambert (18 touches, five tackles) and Prespakis (18 and three) were not far behind. Abbie McKay proved she has more in her wheelhouse leading the tackle count with seven to go with her 10 touches, while two players from each side racked up six tackles apiece in the physical battle.

Both teams have just over a week to prepare for their next respective matches, with the Blues heading to VU Whitten Oval next Friday night to take on the Western Bulldogs, while the Pies host the Gold Coast Suns in their first home match of the season next Saturday afternoon at Victoria Park.

CARLTON | 0.0 | 0.0 | 3.1 | 4.3 (27)
COLLINGWOOD | 0.1 | 4.2 | 5.2 | 5.3 (33)

GOALS
Carlton: Stevens, Vescio, Hosking, Harrington.
Collingwood: Molloy 2, Sheridan 2, Davey.

ADC BEST
Carlton: Prespakis, Laloifi, Wilson, Egan, Hosking
Collingwood: Bonnici, Lambert, Davey, Molloy, Schleicher

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 1 preview – Traditional rivals to open the show in Thursday night blockbuster

AFL Women’s makes its long awaited return tonight, with teams hungry to make up for lost time and rectify the ‘what-ifs’ left in 2020. Traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood take the season-opening honours once again, with plenty of heat expected to come out of that clash at Princes Park. A fixture shake-up on the eve of season proper sees a few matchups altered, but Round 1 will still be stretched across a bumper four days of footballing action. We preview all seven games, capped with a prediction to (hopefully) aide your footy tipping campaign.

Note: All start times are as of AEDT

Carlton vs. Collingwood
Thursday January 28, 7:15pm
Princes Park

Carlton and Collingwood return to the season-opening slot in a clash which is sure to produce plenty of fireworks at Princes Park. The Blues are yet to lose to their fierce rivals in said fixture, but suffered a shock loss to the Pies on home turf in their Round 2 meeting last year. Carlton is a hot favourite to secure premiership glory in 2021, but will be tested by an emerging Collingwood side which went incredibly close to knocking off North Melbourne in last year’s finals.

The clash will be made all the more intriguing as Carlton spearhead Tayla Harris resumes hostilities with dour Collingwood defender Stacey Livingstone, who labelled the star goalkicker “useless” at ground level after their battle last year. Gun Pies utility Bri Davey is also set to face her old side for the first time, which she used to captain, poised to spend more time up forward. Chloe Molloy is another set to swing into attack, with both players capable of breaking Carlton’s usually sturdy defence.

Reigning competition best and fairest, Maddy Prespakis will inevitably attract plenty of attention in the engine room, but should have a good amount of support in the form of new recruit, Elise O’Dea. The former Demon is one of four debutants for the Blues, who will be without Lucy McEvoy. Collingwood father-daughter coup Tarni Brown is another debutant to watch, thrown straight into the senior side in her maiden campaign.

The Pies are a team to watch in 2021, but the Blues will be incredibly difficult to beat, especially with a point to prove.

Tip: Carlton by 10

St Kilda vs. Western Bulldogs
Friday January 29, 7:10pm
RSEA Park

The Western Bulldogs take on St Kilda once again in Round 1, with the Saints keen to make good on last year’s result. The expansion side brought football back to Moorabbin in its maiden campaign and exceeded expectations, while the young pups failed to register another win after its opening round triumph but spawned plenty of green shoots.

Youth promises to be a key feature of the clash, with number two pick Jess Fitzgerald poised to make her senior debut for the Dogs while St Kilda’s prime selection in Tyanna Smith could well run against her in midfield. Both are quick off the mark, have a terrific inside/outside balance and can find plenty of the ball, adding to either teams’ exciting young stocks.

Also pending selection is the debut of Saints father-daughter recruit Alice Burke, the daughter of Bulldogs coach Nathan. Having coached her and an abundance of other players set to take the field on Friday night, Burke will soon be on the other side. 2019 draftees Gabby Newton and Georgia Patrikios are also set to meet in midfield, while Saints leading goalkicker Caitlin Greiser could well prove a difference-maker in the closely matched contest and many eyes will be on Izzy Huntington, who is expected to swing forward with more frequency this year.

The Saints arguably turned out the better side last year and a season of experience will do wonders for them, but the Bulldogs’ potential is relatively untapped and could again carry them over the line here.

Tip: Western Bulldogs by 1

Gold Coast Suns vs. Melbourne
Saturday January 30, 3:10pm
Metricon Stadium

Melbourne will travel to face Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium in Saturday’s first fixture, making for a meeting between experience and emergence. The Suns were another expansion team to exceed expectations last year by qualifying for finals, but still proved a rung off the true premiership contenders. Melbourne’s hardened core carried it to a breakthrough postseason feature, which the Dees made good of with an epic come-from-behind victory over GWS.

The visitors have already named three debutants, with prized draftee Alyssa Bannan set to line up in the forwardline while Eliza McNamara and Megan Fitzsimon add some more youth to the starting side. Speaking of, Tyla Hanks is one to watch for Melbourne as she prepares to spend more time in the engine room having cut her teeth as an impact forward.

Gold Coast has plenty of youth to boast as well, but also added a good amount of experience in the off-season. Former Saints Sarah Perkins and Alison Drennan are both quality players and leaders; with the former slotting straight into her new side’s leadership group and the latter set to provide another reliable figure in midfield. Scoring looks a key area of improvement for the Suns, and these two should aid that with presence inside 50 and forward momentum respectively.

Gold Coast rattled a few of the top sides last year and have the youthful exuberance to do exactly that to Melbourne on home turf, but the Dees are always a tough team to beat and should have enough prime movers to seal victory.

Tip: Melbourne by 5

West Coast vs. Adelaide
Saturday January 30, 5:10pm
Mineral Resources Park

West Coast begins its second AFL Women’s campaign at home as Adelaide comes to town looking to start its year on the right foot. The Eagles struggled last season but managed to scrounge a memorable maiden win and have made the markers of improvement for 2021. Adelaide, technically still the reigning premier, timed its premiership hangover perfectly as everything which could have gone wrong, did in 2020. The Crows finished sixth in Conference A with just two wins, but had many a setback along the way.

At its core, the Crows’ squad is still elite and will be buoyed by the return of some outstanding talent. Skipper Chelsea Randall is set to slot straight back into the defence after her long-term knee injury, while a fully fit Erin Phillips looms ominously as a midfield/forward option. In their absence, the likes of Sarah Allan and Anne Hatchard produced All Australian seasons, though the Crows will sweat on Ebony Marinoff‘s availability as the ball magnet looks to overturn her monster three-game suspension.

It is no secret that West Coast’s strength lies in the midfield, which will be bolstered by trade coup Aisling McCarthy and prime draftee Bella Lewis. The promising pair will be thrown straight into the deep end, but have experienced movers in Dana Hooker and captain Emma Swanson to wax with through the engine room – all under the ruckwork of Parris Laurie. Scoring has been a sore point for the Eagles though, and Adelaide can do plenty of that.

With plenty to prove in 2020, the Crows loom as a fearsome force which could quickly rise back to the AFL Women’s summit. West Coast remains a step off the competition’s best and arguably its greatest weakness works into Adelaide’s hands, with the Crows’ scoring ability key to taking the game away from their opponents here.

Tip: Adelaide by 25

Geelong vs. North Melbourne
Sunday January 31, 12:10pm
GMHBA Stadium

Geelong hosts North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday afternoon, gunning for a return to finals action in season 2021. North looms as stiff opposition first up though, with the Kangaroos keen to strike gold while their remarkably deep squad remains hungry and intact – especially after missing out on premiership opportunities in their first two top flight campaigns.

The hosts went back to the well of local talent once again at this year’s draft, introducing a couple more gun midfielders in Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner with their top 20 picks. Caution surrounds Nina Morrison‘s return but Denby Taylor is poised to slot back into the lineup after her own injury woes, while Olivia Purcell has a full preseason under her belt and will again look to mix it with the game’s elite midfielders.

Geelong will need to be on its game in the engine room considering how deep North Melbourne’s midfield crop runs, with skipper Emma Kearney joined by Jasmine Garner, Jenna Bruton and co. The former two are also scoring threats from the middle and add to North’s firepower, while the returning Jess Duffin is another big name which will steady the Kangaroos in defence.

The Roos won by 46 points in the same fixture last year, but should be in for a more competitive dig if Geelong can manage to turn its spurts of form into four quarter showings. They should still be too strong for the young Cats.

Tip: North Melbourne by 9

Richmond vs. Brisbane
Sunday January 31, 2:10pm
Punt Road Oval

Richmond’s hunt for premiership points continues into year two, starting with a home outing against Brisbane on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers went winless in their inaugural AFL Women’s campaign and, needless to say, will hope to avoid the same fate by getting on the board quickly in 2021. The developing Brisbane side proved many doubters wrong in 2020 and made finals, but must win games like these to achieve the same result this time around.

Incoming Tigers coach Ryan Ferguson will have 2020 number one pick Ellie McKenzie at his disposal, along with a raft of experienced inclusions. Foundation Blue Sarah Hosking is an important addition to the engine room, while Sarah D’Arcy could be one to boost their key position stocks as the Tigers look to become a more competitive force.

Brisbane looks a much more settled lineup having been ravaged during the expansion era, with a core of foundation players leading the charge ahead of some promising young talent. The front half spearheaded by Jesse Wardlaw looks exciting, while Kate Lutkins‘ defensive troops make the Lions hard to crack. Having started so well last season, the Lions will be out to put wins on the board early once again and push for more finals experience. They should be too strong here, but expect to see the Tigers fight.

Tip: Brisbane by 15

Fremantle vs. GWS Giants
Sunday January 31, 4:10pm
Fremantle Oval

The final game of the round sees GWS travel to take on Fremantle at Fremantle Oval on Sunday, looking to break the Dockers’ undefeated streak which dates back to 2019. The Giants have faced many a challenge over the offseason, including relocation, but showed last year that they can stand up against the tide. The Dockers are a force to be reckoned with, especially on home turf, and will again be a bonafide premiership contender – if not, the favourite.

The Dockers’ free flowing style and many scoring threats should cause Giants coaches a few headaches, though the visitors’ experience will count for plenty in resisting the inevitable pressure Fremantle will apply. It all starts with Kiara Bowers in midfield, while the dynamic duo of Sabreena Duffy and Gemma Houghton is always difficult to stop up forward, along with Ebony Antonio on the outer.

Those kinds of attacking threats should be too much for the Giants to handle, especially in the current context and in front of home fans. It is the kind of game Fremantle is expected to win, but GWS will be plucky.

Tip: Fremantle by 21

Featured Image: Carlton captain Kerryn Harrington (left) and Collingwood’s Bri Davey (right) are set to face off in Thursday night’s season opener | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

Draft Central’s 2021 AFLW season predictions

WITH the 2021 AFL Women’s season bouncing down tomorrow night, the Draft Central editors have penned their predictions for this year’s proceedings. Below are our favourites in the premiership race, the potential risers and sliders, leading goalkicker candidates, rising star contenders, and the competition best and fairest contenders.

>> SCROLL to see our full predictions

Among the trends, three of the four tipsters predicted grand final heartbreak for North Melbourne, with Fremantle the favourite choice for premiership glory. Carlton and Adelaide were also tipped for top two finishes, with the Crows also a popular selection in the riser category after their disappointing 2020 campaign. Melbourne and GWS will be out to prove the Draft Central crew wrong, selected twice each as this year’s most likely slider.

In terms of individual honours, Carlton midfielder Madison Prespakis was backed to take out consecutive best and fairest awards, with Bulldogs skipper Ellie Blackburn and Collingwood gun Jaimee Lambert also in the conversation. Another in contention is North Melbourne’s Jasmine Garner, who was also a surprise leading goalkicker tip. Iconic Carlton high-flyer Tayla Harris was the most popular choice though, while Chloe Molloy could prove a shrewd pick as she looks to swing forward this year.

It was no surprise to see the 2020 number one pick, Ellie McKenzie backed most often for the rising star award, with other identified challengers including former Northern Knights teammate Jess Fitzgerald and fellow NAB League graduate Tyanna Smith. All three were taken within the top six selections and are primed for full seasons of first team football.

Outside of the nominated entires, Fremantle’s Kiara Bowers will almost inevitably feature highly in the league best and fairest count, while Karen Paxman is also a good shout depending on how Melbourne fare this time around. North skipper Emma Kearney is still considered by many to be the competition’s best player, while Adelaide ball magnets Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff (if cleared), Erin Phillips, Bri Davey, Monique Conti, and Dana Hooker could also be thereabouts. Do not be surprised to see young guns Alyce Parker and Olivia Purcell move into the elite category too, if they had not already.

2020 regular season leading goalkicker Caitlin Greiser was surprisingly overlooked for the same award by our editors this time around, while dynamic Fremantle duo Gemma Houghton and Sabreena Duffy. will be sure to trouble the scorers aplenty. Brisbane spearhead Jesse Wardlaw should be up there again alongside teammate Jess Wuetschner, while North’s Emma King will hope for an improved season in front of goal, Kalinda Howarth is always dangerous, and Kaitlyn Ashmore should not be forgotten either. Geelong’s Phoebe McWilliams is another in that boat, primed for a big season.

SEASON PREDICTIONS

Michael Alvaro
AFL(W) Draft Editor

Premier: Carlton
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: GWS
B&F: Jaimee Lambert
Leading goalkicker: Tayla Harris
Rising star: Jess Fitzgerald
Headline: Morrison makes a midseason splash as Cats push for finals

Taylah Melki
Managing Editor

Premier: Fremantle
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: Melbourne
B&F: Madison Prespakis
Leading goalkicker: Tayla Harris
Rising star: Ellie McKenzie
Headline: Prespakis wins back-to-back best and fairest awards

Sophie Taylor
Senior Editor

Premier: Fremantle
Runner up: Carlton
Riser: Collingwood
Slider: GWS
B&F: Madison Prespakis
Leading goalkicker: Jasmine Garner
Rising star: Ellie McKenzie
Headline: Dees dump doubters to make finals

Peter Williams
Chief Editor

Premier: Adelaide
Runner up: North Melbourne
Riser: Adelaide
Slider: Melbourne
B&F: Ellie Blackburn
Leading goalkicker: Chloe Molloy
Rising star: Tyanna Smith
Headline: Triple treat for Crows as Adelaide wins third flag

Featured Image: Madison Prespakis is the clubhouse best and fairest favourite | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

2021 AFLW Preview: Carlton Blues

CARLTON proved its rise from wooden spooner to grand finalist was no flash in the pan, establishing itself as one of the competition’s powerhouses with another strong campaign in 2020. This year, the Blues are primed for another premiership tilt under much-loved coach Daniel Harford, starting with a season-opening blockbuster against traditional rival, Collingwood at Princes Park.

2020 RECAP

2020 ended as a ‘what if’ season for each preliminary finalist, but the Blues looked like a side daring to dream after their surprise grand final appearance the year before. Having finished second in Conference B at 5-1, Carlton fended off a pesky Brisbane outfit in the first week of finals to cap a five-game win streak at the ideal time.

A first-ever loss to fierce rival, Collingwood in Round 2 came as a shock but only seemed to click the Blues into gear thereafter as they answered every challenge with aplomb. Harford’s Blues became known for their fighting spirit, stringent yet dynamic structures, and the ability to take over games when it mattered.

Madison Prespakis was among those to enjoy stellar individual seasons, taking out the AFLW best and fairest award in just her second campaign. Spearhead Tayla Harris and co-captain Kerryn Harrington earned All Australian honours alongside the star midfielder, showcasing Carlton’s strength through the spine and just why the Blues remain bonafide premiership contenders.

NEW FACES

The acquisition of Elise O’Dea, one of the competition’s premier midfielders, headlined a bumper trade and draft period for the Blues. Their squad depth, particularly through midfield is among the best in the league and O’Dea will work to take a load off Prepakis in the engine room.

Another former Demon in Maddy Guerin looks to be past her injury troubles having come through a preseason hitout unscathed, with her pace something the Blues valued before she landed at Princes Park. Charlotte Hammans, formerly of the Gold Coast was the third in-league signing, again bringing some dash and dare on the outer and up forward. Those kind of traits were clearly ones the Blues targeted heavily at the trade and draft tables.

Carlton welcomed a trio of Victorian guns through the draft too, adding to the already fearsome dynamism and versatility of its midfield group. Mimi Hill is already one of the coach’s favourites credit to her work ethic and adaptability, making her a chance to feature in the senior side early on. Daisy Walker has also taken well to senior level and fellow Sandringham Dragons graduate Winnie Laing is an exciting runner who, like Hill, captained her NAB League team.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Carlton players and staff alike have lauded the condition Abbie McKay has returned in for season 2021, with the league’s maiden father-daughter selection set to take on some added responsibility in her third senior campaign. Expect to see even more of her through the Blues’ star-studded midfield; with her work-rate, conditioning, and hardness at the ball all traits which bode well for dominance at the contest.

Darcy Vescio is an established name but could take the competition by storm as she spends more time in the engine room, and livewire Georgia Gee is another who is looking to do the same. Inaugural Blue Jess Hosking will take on a new role as well having trained with the forwards during preseason.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

The Blues have become renowned for their ability to adjust to different gameplans under Harford, who has such a dynamic squad at his disposal. The versatility of Carlton’s crop makes it a scary proposition for all opposition coaches and players, able to flick a switch on gameday and play to a range of styles. In the midfield mix alone, the ball winning prowess of Prespakis, O’Dea, and Grace Egan will be complimented with the x-factor of Vescio and Gee, with a heap of moving parts able to impact at the coalface. While other teams excel in one style, the Blues can triumph in a range of ways and that is exactly why they can win it.

QUESTION MARK

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? The Blues are so strong through midfield and have a raft of options who can move through there when needed, but it raises the potential problem of overchoice. While versatility and adaptability are key strengths of this Carlton side, it could be a factor which works in the opposite way at the selection table or in crunch moments. Premiership teams are typically steady and know the exact structure which yields a winning formula, so does that leave Carlton with too many makeups? We may find out in 2021, especially with some of the added depth.

FINAL WORD

Carlton is arguably one of the top three premiership contenders in 2021 and will fancy itself to book in another finals appearance, with a postseason win the marker of a successful campaign. Given the lofty standards set, the Blues will hope to go even better than that mark and gun for the ultimate prize, something well within their reach.

Featured Image: Madison Prespakis breaks with ball in hand | Credit: Michael Klein

2021 AFLW: All the practice game results

AFL WOMEN’S sides got their first taste of competitive action for 2021, with a series of scratch matches played behind closed doors around the nation and giving a glimpse into what to expect from the upcoming season. We go around the grounds to bring you the results and key points out of each game as Round 1 edges closer.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

Saturday January 16:

West Coast 4.3 (27) def. by Fremantle 5.7 (37) @ Lathlain Park

Fremantle edged local rival, West Coast in a Western Derby sighter at Mineral Resources Park, despite a hot start from the Eagles. The two sides could not have finished any further apart among Conference B in season 2020, but West Coast showed promising signs of improvement by bolting to an Aisling McCarthy-inspired lead in the first half. The former Western Bulldogs Irishwoman booted three of her side’s four goals for the match, all coming within the opening term. In the end, Freo’s experience and depth across the field won out in the 10-point victory, a result which was expected of the premiership contender. Star midfielder Kiara Bowers was at her typical best, while the Eagles looked solid through midfield as prize draftee Bella Lewis got her first taste of senior football.

Geelong 5.4 (34) def. by Melbourne 8.7 (55) @ Kardinia Park

Melbourne shook off some preseason cobwebs with a 21-point win over Geelong on the road, overcoming a hefty first term deficit to run over the top of the Cats. The home side bolted out of the gates with four-straight majors, but saw its lead quickly dissolve as Melbourne piled on five goals in the second term. Geelong only managed one more major thereafter, seeing Melbourne ride home a reasonably comfortable victory. The return of young gun Denby Taylor will buoy Cats players and fans alike, while fellow 2018 draftee Tyla Hanks starred for Melbourne as she looks to nail down a spot in midfield. Her development looms as all the more important as lynchpin Karen Paxman nurses a leg injury sustained on the day, with Meg Downie (sprained ankle) another unfortunate casualty.

Carlton 6.4 (40) def. St Kilda 5.8 (38) @ Princes Park

A late Breann Moody goal saved Carlton’s blushes against St Kilda, helping the Blues come away with a two-point victory at Princes Park. The two sides shared spurts of momentum throughout a closely-contested game, with Carlton leading by eight points at the main break before falling behind and eventually fighting back to claim a last gasp win. St Kilda’s young talent was on full show with speedy midfielders Georgia Patrikios and Tyanna Smith returning good shifts opposed to the dynamic Georgia Gee and Darcy Vescio, who will look to push into the engine room this year. Tayla Harris watched on from the sidelines, but Carlton unveiled its boom recruit in Elise O’Dea alongside Maddy Guerin and Charlotte Hammans. Bianca Jakobsson suffered a broken collarbone in a big blow to the Saints on the eve of the season, though Tarni White made a strong return from her long-term knee injury.

Richmond 3.11 (29) def. by Western Bulldogs 6.7 (43) @ Punt Road Oval

Five final term goals saw the Western Bulldogs roll Richmond by 14 points at Punt Road Oval, as the top two 2020 draftees went head-to-head in their new colours. The young pups trailed at every break before an inspired last dig produced the desired effect, with skipper Ellie Blackburn chiming in from a more forward-oriented role and prized draftee Jess Fitzgerald showing her wares through midfield. Fellow Northern Knights graduate Ellie McKenzie was also promising for the Tigers, while Bulldogs father-daughter gun Issy Grant was unleashed after missing her entire maiden season. As promised, 2020 Rising Star Izzy Huntington featured up forward in the red, white, and blue but was contained by a well-drilled Richmond defence, though there was no stopping Monique Conti as she dominated in the yellow and black.

Gold Coast 4.2 (26) def. by Brisbane 6.7 (43) @ Metricon 2

Brisbane came out on top in its preseason Q-Clash with Gold Coast, creating a greater wealth of opportunities to come away the 17-point victor. Away from home up at the Metricon Stadium facilities, the Lions’ scoring effort was led by Greta Bodey (two goals), who finished as the game’s sold multiple goalkicker. Prolific young forwards Jesse Wardlaw and Kalinda Howarth also found the big sticks for the respective sides. The Suns named surprise coup Sarah Perkins for her first game in new colours, while another former Saint in Alison Drennan also made her maiden appearance for Gold Coast. While Brisbane young gun Lily Postlethwaite was not named, exciting draftees Zimmorlei Farquharson and Indy Tahau were among the squad which took home a solid win ahead of Round 1.

Sunday January 17:

Collingwood 7.5 (47) def. North Melbourne 5.5 (35) @ Princes Park

Collingwood picked up an upset victory over North Melbourne at Princes Park on Sunday, signalling even more improvement to build on that of 2020. The Magpies were left a couple of talls short after Sharni Norder (late withdrawal, finger) and Erica Fowler (cheekbone) sustained injuries, but conjured enough fluency away from the midfield battle to run away 12-point winners. The magnets were shuffled a touch as Bri Davey spent some time up forward, where fast-developing draftee Amelia Verlardo booted two majors. Father-daughter coup Tarni Brown impressed further afield in her first outing, while usual suspects Emma Kearney and Jasmine Garner were among North’s best. Returning star Jess Duffin (adductor) was a late out for the Roos, but looms as a high-level inclusion this season.

Adelaide 2.21 (33) def. GWS 2.1 (13) @ Norwood Oval

Severe inaccuracy did little to stop Adelaide from picking up a confidence-boosting win over GWS on Sunday, with just two of the Crows’ 23 scoring shots resulting in majors. Despite finishing with an equal amount of goals, the Giants were comfortably adrift both in general play and on the scoreboard, going down by 20 points. Newly-named Crows captain Chelsea Randall made a pleasing return from injury in the win, but the game was cut short in the final term as Giants Irishwoman Brid Stack was taken to hospital with a potential spinal injury. Elsewhere, defender Sarah Allan was trialled up forward and returned one of her side’s two goals, pointing towards her potential versatility this year as the Crows look to bounce back to premiership contention.

Featured Image: St Kilda’s Tyanna Smith fights for a clearance | Graham Denholm/Getty Images via AFL Photos

Knights star Bannan leaves it all out on the field

BUDDING AFL Women’s draftee Alyssa Bannan came into her top-age year looking to “put everything out onto the field with every game.” Little did she, or any of her fellow NAB Leaguers know that their season would be cut short to just three games, but an increase in work-rate, work ethic, and intensity certainly payed off for the Northern Knights key forward.

“I was actually very proud of how I went,” Bannan said. “Knowing that this was my last year as a top-ager and it was my opportunity to get drafted, I went out thinking that I had to play my best game, every single game. “How I felt coming off the field definitely made me think that I did myself proud, did my family proud, and did my friends proud with how I played.”

Nine goals in three outings, including a bag of five in the season-opening Grand Final rematch goes a long way to instilling such pride. It even saw Bannan shift her original end goal of being drafted, to being selected within the first round. But more significantly than simply being a great player on-field, the 18-year-old is determined to prove her worth as a quality person, off it.

“It’s definitely not so much about being a good player on the field, but also being a good person off the field,” she said. “I’ve found that clubs have been very big on not only being a very skilful player, but being kind, being caring, being motivated, and that’s what has been the focus throughout the year.”

Alyssa Bannan gets a kick away during this year’s NAB League season

The break from football has somewhat proven a blessing in disguise. While Bannan admits the early unknown was “difficult”, she says the time off has allowed her to find a greater balance in life.

“At the start it was definitely very difficult not knowing if we were going to be able to finish off our season,” she said. “But I think having this break has allowed me to develop individually on aspects of my game that I wouldn’t normally focus on, such as my mental heath with wellness sessions and being able to (practice) mindfulness. “Although it has been disappointing not being able to finish, I’ve definitely been able to work on those different aspects of my life to balance it out.”

Having played a key part in Northern’s unbeaten NAB League premiership last year, Bannan has risen through the ranks alongside some of the greatest players the competition has seen. Namely, 2019 captain and current Western Bulldogs rising star Gabby Newton has had a major impact on the Knights’ no. 6, helping establish a healthy and competitive environment to improve in.

In line with the standard such players set, Bannan says she also sought to become a leading figure in her side’s setup.

“Having played alongside Gabby Newton and personally getting to know her, her qualities and attitudes as a player have definitely been something that I look up to,” she said. “Her teamwork, her (desire) to do really well and continue to improve are definitely qualities that really strike home to me as ones I want to present.”

“The new role as a top-ager really made me want to lead and present myself as someone who people can look up to and can think ‘She’s a really good player, I want to aspire to be like her.’ That’s been my overall goal throughout, especially this season.”

The Northern Knights celebrate their 2019 NAB League premiership

Bannan, a Carlton supporter also looks up to AFL Women’s trailblazer Tayla Harris. If a player comparison is what you are after, an easy link can be made between the two high-flying forwards.

“Tayla Harris is a big player who I wanted to model my game style on,” Bannan said. “Playing in similar positions, having a similar style of play, she’s definitely been a player that I really look up to and who I would like to emulate when I hopefully get to play AFLW.”

Football has also impacted the youngster in terms of her other potential career options, too. As she completes her Year 12 studies, Bannan has one eye on a vocation in the sporting realm, helping athletes get the best out of their game. It is a theme she says her football career has helped bring out.

“Sport is definitely on the list,” she said. “I’d love to do anything to do with strength and conditioning, high performance, even if it’s performance analysis. “Just improving players and their performance, because that’ll definitely help me see how to improve my performance as well. I think footy’s definitely brought that side out in me.”

With her first round draft dream in tow, Bannan is seeking to hit the ground running once her shot at the big-time is sealed, out to prove not only to herself and clubs, but to fans that she is “on the field for a reason.” The Northern Knights graduate also sought to thank the “long list of people” to have influenced her footballing journey; from her supportive family, to her coaches, teammates, staff, and everyone in between who helped her get to where she is.

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Carlton & Collingwood

THE AFL Women’s Draft is fast approaching and in the lead-up to the draft, we take a look at each of the AFL women’s sides in pairs and see what they might look for, and who might be available with the selections they have. Next up in our series are the two sides from Victoria, in powerhouse clubs Carlton and Collingwood.

Carlton Blues – Victorian Pool

Draft selections (Vic # in brackets): 12 (7), 28 (20), 36 (25)

Off-season summary:

Carlton was involved in a couple of major trade deals during the off-season, with inaugural Blue Sarah Hosking‘s move to Richmond one of the most notable exchanges of the trade period. It was the first confirmed deal made, and would allow the Blues to then land Melbourne gun Elise O’Dea and fellow former-Demon Maddy Guerin, offloading the pick 15 they received for Hosking. The Blues moved up the draft order ahead of a bumper crop, as defender Jayde van Dyk and pick 46 were swapped for pick 36. Add former Gold Coast youngster Charlotte Hammans to the mix, and Carlton remains one of the big winners out of a busy off-season as it enters the premiership window. Four players – Joanne Doonan, Katie Harrison, Sharnie Whiting, and Emerson Woods – were delisted.

A draft look:

While the O’Dea coup will undoubtedly bolster Carlton’s already elite midfield group, Hosking’s departure arguably leaves room for a fast, outside midfielder to enter the fold. With their first selection back at pick 12, the Blues will have access to the seventh Victorian pick.

There are a bunch of high-end hopefuls in the mix; Northern Knights co-captain Jess Fitzgerald would provide a like-for-like Hosking replacement, able to bring speed on the outside and good balance with her inside toughness, while Alyssa Bannan could be a shrewd pick to develop under her idol, Tayla Harris – though the Blues are well stocked in the key forward department. Carlton has a great relationship with the Northern region, and could continue the trend with their latest crop.

The likes of Winnie Laing, Abbey Jordan, and the silky Bella Eddey could all be in the mix for a share in those later two picks. Laing is a leader at the Sandringham Dragons and is a terrific runner, Jordan fits the bill for outside run, while Eddey is a terrific user of the ball who can rotate through the midfield from up forward.

Collingwood Magpies – Victorian Pool

Draft selections (Vic # in brackets): 19 (12), 25 (17), 26 (18), 31 (21), 33 (22)

Off-season summary:

With an incoming father-daughter selection and a forwardline to bolster, the Pies had a mixed off-season. Sarah D’Arcy and Sarah Dargan were packaged up to Richmond in exchange for picks in the later rounds, with Katie Lynch also headed to the Bulldogs. It leaves Collingwood a touch lacking in that forward department, with D’Arcy and Lynch doubling as tall depth lost. Abbey Green was nabbed from North Melbourne to support Sharni Layton in the ruck, while exciting Melbourne forward Aliesha Newman is another good get. With four retirees – Emma Grant, Kalia Bentvelzen, Eliza Hynes, and Machaelia Roberts – only one player (Georgia Gourlay) was delisted, with a decent turnover rate meaning the Magpies will have to gel quickly in order to continue their steep rise. It was hardly the big-name signing period Collingwood had last time out, but should set the club up well in future and for the upcoming draft.

A draft look:

Parting with their first round pick means the Pies will likely only have to pay a second round price for gun father-daughter selection, Tarni Brown. She is daughter of 254-game former captain, Gavin and sister of current players Callum and Tyler. The Eastern Ranges product has long been on the elite level radar, and is clearly cut from the same cloth as her brothers with terrific footy smarts and agility through midfield.

Elsewhere, Collingwood may look to re-stock its forwardline with whatever picks remain. Greater Western Victoria (GWV) utility Renee Saulitis would be a handy fit to replace Dargan with some x-factor, while Rebels teammate Isabella Simmons may also be a good fit at 185cm. Incidentally, both are Magpies fans. Another GWV tall, Maggie Caris could also be the developing ruck type Collingwood is after, while Mimi Hill is a classy midfield option should the Pies look to continue their Oakleigh link. Norwood’s Matilda Zander could prove a smokey having played under Steve Symonds in South Australia. She was poised to play for Collingwood’s VFLW side this year.