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The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 14

IN the final round of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, a number of NAB League graduates stood up and impressed be it via debut, or continuing their form from throughout the season. We recap how they performed.

Essendon had a plethora of Calder Cannons talents past and present, led by Georgie Prespakis who amassed a game-high 24 disposals, as well as nine tackles, seven clearances and three inside 50s. Current Cannons teammates Emelia Yassir (18 disposals, two marks, three tackles, two clearances and four inside 50s), Tahlia Gillard (nine disposals, 13 hitouts and six tackles) and Kasey Lennox all played in the game.

Ex-Cannons, Alana Barba (23 disposals, 11 tackles, six clearances and three inside 50s), Grace Dicker and Tamsin Crook. Former Murray talent Eloise Ashley-Cooper continued her form with 10 disposals four clearances and two inside 50s. For the Falcons, Trinity Mills had six touches and laid three tackles, whilst Northern Knights teammate Mikayla Plunkett also took to the field. Katelyn Hazlett amassed seven disposals, three clearances and five inside 50s in the loss, whilst the sole Cannon on the Darebin side in Peppa Poultney had four touches and three tackles.

In Collingwood’s top of the table win over Geelong, Eliza James put together another impressive performance with the Oakleigh Chargers talent picking up 13 disposals, five marks, three tackles, two clearances, three inside 50s and kicking her debut VFLW goal. Olivia Meagher also ran out again for the Magpies for seven disposals and two tackles. Current Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels player Chloe Leonard managed the nine disposals six tackles and three inside 50s to be named among the Cats’ best, whilst ex-Falcons Paige Sheppard (15 disposals, six marks, seven tackles, three clearances and two rebound 50s) and Sachi DeGiacomi (two disposals, four tackles) both played, as did ex-Bushranger Tamara Smith (seven disposals, 11 tackles).

Western Bulldogs got the chocolates over the Casey Demons in their clash, with a trio of current GWV Rebels players running around. Nyakoat Dojiok (11 disposals), Tahlia Meier (11 disposals, three marks, four tackles and two inside 50s) and Lilli Condon (10 disposals, two tackles and three inside 50s) all impressed, with Western Jets talent Trinity Skenderis having the 10 disposals, four tackles and kicking a goal. Ex-Bendigo Pioneers skipper Brooke Hards had the seven touches, six tackles, two inside 50s and three rebounds in another strong performance in the back half. Meanwhile Gippsland Power ruck Grace Matser was a standout with 11 touches, 16 hitouts, seven tackles, four clearances and two rebound 50s for the Demons.

Hawthorn’s eight-point triumph over Port Melbourne saw a ton of Eastern Ranges end their VFL Women’s season. Isabelle Khoury was the standout, named best on ground for her nine disposals, seven tackles, six clearances, three inside 50s, two rebounds and one goal. Eloise Chaston (11 disposals, two marks and two inside 50s), Keeley Sherar (nine disposals, three tackles, three clearances and two inside 50s), Bridget Deed (eight disposals, three tackles and two rebound 50s), Cadhla Schmidli, Sarah Humm and Jess Grace all played. Former Ranges talent Jenna Richardson managed the 14 touches, four marks, three tackles, two clearances and four rebound 50s, while Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae had the 13 touches, six tackles and five clearances.

Port Melbourne had a few talented youngsters running around for the Borough, with Murray Bushrangers’ Aurora Smith making her debut for nine disposals, three tackles, two clearances and three inside 50s. Oakleigh Chargers duo Amanda Ling (11 disposals, three marks, 10 tackles and four inside 50s) and Brooke Vickers (15 disposals, two tackles and two rebound 50s) also stood out, whilst Dandenong Stingrays’ Jaide Anthony managed the five touches. Ex-Murray player Sophie Locke returned to good form with 13 touches, five tackles and two goals in the game.

Southern Saints had a trio of Dragons in their win over North Melbourne, as Charlotte Ryan made her debut at VFLW level for five disposals and a couple of tackles. Emma Stuber (10 disposals, two marks and four inside 50s) impressed in her second game alongside Pia Staltari. Dandenong Stingrays’ Jemma Radford managed the six touches and four tackles in another game with the Saints, as Abbey Jordan returned to put out nine touches in a solid effort. Former Eastern forward Gabi De Angelis produced her best game of the season with 24 touches, nine marks, three tackles, eight inside 50s and two goals to be the star. For the Roos, GIANTS Academy talent Jayde Hamilton had 10 disposals, five tackles and two clearances.

In the final game of the season, Carlton got up over Williamstown with a distinct Northern Knight flavour again. Maeve Chaplin was named in the bests for her seven disposals and three tackles, as Tarrah Delgado had five touches, four marks and five tackles in the win. Ex-Knight Marnie Jarvis had the four disposals and three tackles, while form Oakleigh defender Amber Micallef managed seven touches and two marks. Williamstown handed Dandenong’s Sarah Hosking a debut, with the top-age talent having six disposals and three tackles. Former Bendigo skipper Megan Williamson was busy with nine touches, 10 tackles and five clearances, whilst current Geelong Falcons forward Zoe Garth managed five touches and five tackles. Ex-Western Jets midfielder Ruby Tripodi was clearly the standout of the graduates with 23 touches, five tackles and five clearances in the loss.

2021 VFLW Round 14 preview: Dogs, Saints eye last finals spot in vital weekend of action

MATHEMATICALLY every game in the final round of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season has some bearing on the makeup of the top six. What is certain, is the top four teams are locked in – realistically top five but we are just “mathematically” speaking – with the sixth spot to be determined. Barring massive 20-goal-plus wins to Carlton or North Melbourne – or double that for Essendon to lose, then it will realistically be the Saints or Dogs filling out the last spot on the table.

DAREBIN vs. ESSENDON
Saturday, June 26 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

Opening up the round is a game that has the potential for Essendon to host a final if they win by enough and the Western Bulldogs take care of Casey Demons, coming up against Darebin Falcons. The last placed Falcons will take home the wooden spoon barring a massive win over the Bombers, but Essendon will be keen to head into finals with a full head of steam. Georgie Prespakis returns for the Bombers in what will be a Calder-flavoured team, as the young Cannons are spread across the field. Tahlia Gillard and Kasey Lennox are named up opposite ends, with Emelia Yassir also named onball. The Falcons have a Cannon of their own with Peppa Poultney named at centre half-forward and could go head-to-head with Lennox at some stage, whilst Trinity Mills and Mikayla Plunkett from the Northern Knights are in the side.

COLLINGWOOD vs. GEELONG
Saturday, June 26 @ 12:00pm
Victoria Park

The top of the table clash might normally see the teams hold back a little because of the potential for a rematch, but there is plenty on the line with Port Melbourne capable of snatching Geelong’s second spot. Collingwood has won its third straight minor premiership, and will be looking for its second straight flag, having gone through the season thus far undefeated. The Cats have been mighty impressive themselves with a 10-3 record, with the first of those losses coming at the hands of the Magpies. That game was a thriller, and a return serve here would set up another clash next week for a spot in the VFL Women’s Grand Final, whilst a loss would open the door for Port Melbourne with the Borough likely to beat Hawthorn and grab the double chance. That means Geelong would have to fight in an elimination final against either Southern Saints or Western Bulldogs the next week. Collingwood has kept a relatively stable side, with Lauren Butler coming into the team, and Eliza James retaining her place in the Magpies squad. Olivia Meagher up forward and Matilda Zander are other crafty talents to keep an eye on, with Imogen Barnett likely to win the leading goalkicker, and Marla Neal in great form too The Cats have plenty of AFLW talent and are not taking any chances, whilst from a youth perspective, Chloe Leonard is in the side from GWV Rebels. The Cats midfield of Darcy Moloney, Bec Garin, Darcy Moloney and Sophie Van De Heuvel is one that will tackle the Pies well.

WESTERN BULLDOGS vs. CASEY DEMONS
Saturday, June 26 @ 1:00pm
Whitten Oval

The task is simple for the Western Bulldogs, as with all potential mathematical possibilities, at the end of the day, they can put the pressure back on Southern Saints with a victory. The Saints will be favoured to beat North Melbourne the next day, but the stakes will be raised if the Bulldogs can knock off Casey Demons and temporarily take sixth spot. Not only that, but it also eliminates the more ridiculous 20-goal-plus wins that Carlton and even more-so North Melbourne would need in order to grab a top six spot. The Dogs win, they wait on the Saints, they lose and they are out of the running. The Western Bulldogs have retained GWV Rebels’ trio Nyakoat Dojiok, Tahlia Meier and Lilli Condon, with Western Jets’ Trinity Skenderis staying in the team. Brooke Hards has been named in the back pocket returning to the last line again, whilst the Bulldogs have a star-studded midfield of Elisabeth Georgostathis, Isabelle Pritchard, Britney Gutknecht and Jess Fitzgerald. The Demons have their ball-winning talents in Eliza West and Megan Fitzsimon, with Grace Matser getting another crack against an experienced ruck, whilst Alyssa Bannan and potential leading goalkicker Imogen Milford line-up in a strong forward line.

HAWTHORN vs. PORT MELBOURNE
Sunday, June 27 @ 11:00am
Box Hill City Oval

Port Melbourne will know if it can secure a top two spot by the time the Borough take the field on Sunday. If the Magpies have knocked off the Cats, then a win will see them grab second spot and the right to face the Magpies next week in a qualifying final. If the Cats win, the percentage difference is too great to make up, and Port will finish third, win, loss or draw. Though a defeat against bottom four side Hawthorn will not be great for the confidence heading into the post-season series. The Hawks might not have finals on the line, but have plenty of motivation with Meg Hutchins playing her final game, retiring at the end of the season after an illustrious career. The Hawks have a great percentage, so a win and losses to Carlton and North Melbourne will see the brown and gold overtake both sides and slot into eighth. Hawthorn continue to back in some great Eastern Ranges talent, with Cadhla Schmidli, Bridget Deed, Keeley Sherar, Eloise Chaston, Sarah Humm and Jess Grace named in the team, as is Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae for the Hawks’ final game of the season. Port Melbourne has handed Murray Bushrangers’ Aurora Smith a debut, running out alongside three other classy talents in Jaide Anthony, Amanda Ling and Brooke Vickers.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Sunday, June 27 @ 12:00pm
Trevor Barker Oval

All eyes will be on this game if the Western Bulldogs do upset Casey Demons on Saturday, with all on the line for the Southern Saints. A loss, and it is curtains on the finals series, whilst a win would see them retake sixth spot and play finals. However if the Bulldogs do lose, then the Saints are all but home, barring the Kangaroos handing them an absolute shellacking, where North or slightly more likely Carlton, could take sixth spot. Realistically though barring apocalyptic type winning margins, it’s the Dogs or Saints for sixth spot. Southern Saints have named their trio of AFLW Draft hopefuls in Sandringham Dragons duo Emma Stuber and Pia Staltari, and Dandenong Stingrays’ defender Jemma Radford. With plenty of talent across the field, the Saints will be looking to capitalise against the Roos. North Melbourne has been able to welcome back Sarah Skinner to the fold, lining up at full-forward with Meagan Kiely looking to take control through the midfield, and the sister act in Jayde and Alexia Hamilton hoping to have an impact in the game.

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. CARLTON
Sunday, June 27 @ 1:00pm
Downer Oval

Carlton will be favoured to finish off the season in style, and the Blues will overtake Western Bulldogs in seventh with a win. Mathematically the Blues can play finals with a huge 20-odd-goal turn around compared to the Southern Saints, though realistically the percentage gap is a bridge too far. Winning and ending the season on a high will be something to take into the off-season for the Navy Blues, whilst Williamstown cannot move from eleventh barring a big loss and Darebin shocking Essendon the day before. Williamstown have named Geelong Falcons’ Zoe Garth for the Seagulls’ final game of the season, as the home team will still be without any GWS GIANTS AFLW assistance. Megan Williamson and Aimee Whelan will lead the midfield brigade, with Erin Meade a reliable rebounding talent from defence. The Blues have Northern Knights duo Maeve Chaplin and Tarrah Delgado in the team once again, with Amber Micallef, Ally Bild and Akayla Peterson forming a strong defence.

The Graduates 2021 VFLW – Round 13

AFTER a long-awaited three-week break, the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition returned to action in Round 13, with several sides ruled out of finals contention, whilst others secured their spot in the post-season series. A number of NAB League Girls made their debuts in the competition, as we took a look at how they performed, as well as some of the others who have graduated the elite junior competition.

Geelong held off Hawthorn in a tight battle between the rival clubs, with the Hawks’ plethora of Eastern Ranges talents getting a run around. Isabelle Khoury (12 disposals, eight tackles) was the pick of the bunch, with current teammates Cadhla Schmidli (seven disposals), Eloise Chaston (six disposals and one goal), Keeley Sherar (six disposals, six tackles), Bridget Deed and Sarah Humm all donning the brown and gold.

Former Ranges player Jenna Richardson had the 13 disposals, six marks and four tackles in an impressive effort, whilst Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae (12 disposals, four tackles) and Northern Territory young gun Dominique Carbone (nine disposals, three marks and five tackles) also impressed. For the Cats, ex-Murray midfielder Tamara Smith continued her impressive season with 13 disposals and seven tackles, while former Falcon Paige Sheppard (nine disposals, two marks, three tackles and a goal) and current GWV Rebels utility Chloe Leonard (seven disposals) also played in the tight contest.

Collingwood dominated the Western Bulldogs in the second half on their way to a huge 64-point victory, and had plenty of young talents coming through. Oakleigh’s Stella Reid (13 disposals, two marks) and Eliza James (10 disposals, three tackles) both held their own in the contest, with former Gippsland Power defender Jasmine Ferguson standing up on the last line, and Olivia Meagher also playing through some early soreness to finish the game.

The Western Bulldogs had a trio of GWV Rebels return to the side, led by Ella Friend (seven disposals), Lilli Condon and Tahlia Meier (both five), with Western Jets midfielder Trinity Skenderis picking up the eight touches and ex-Bendigo Pioneers skipper Brooke Hards laying 13 tackles and having three clearances from her four kicks.

Another former Bendigo skipper in Megan Williamson ran around for the Seagulls again laying five tackles with her five touches, whilst the current Bendigo skipper was on the opposite side – Essendon – with Tara Slender making her debut, picking up six touches, two marks, three tackles and a behind. Calder Cannons’ Zali Friswell booted a goal from three scoring chances for the Bombers, as Calder teammates Emelia Yassir (13 touches, seven tackles) and Kasey Lennox (seven disposals, two marks) also impressed.

Former Cannons Alana Barba (17 disposals, 11 tackles), Grace Dicker and Lauren Caruso also played in the match, with ex-Bushrangers talent Eloise Ashley Cooper picking up 10 touches and laying four tackles in the win.

A couple of former NAB League talents in Emma Horne (seven disposals) and Bridie Winbanks (five disposals, 12 hitouts and five tackles) ran around in Casey Demons’ win over Darebin. For the Falcons, Northern Knights duo Trinity Mills (11 disposals, five marks and four tackles) and Mikayla Plunkett (10 disposals, two marks and eight tackles) were named the best for the losing side. Calder Cannons’ Peppa Poultney and Katelyn Hazlett were among he present and former NAB Leaguers to pull on the Darebin jumper.

Southern Saints enjoyed a tight win over Carlton to give themselves best chance at a finals spot, and they had a number of young guns running around. Sandringham Dragons’ duo Pia Staltari (nine disposals, four tackles) and Emma Stuber both got their chance at VFLW level, whilst Jemma Radford had another game coming out of the Stingrays’ program. Ex-Ranges forward Gabi De Angelis had 15 disposals, two marks and nine tackles, whilst former Chargers tall Amelia Peck booted a goal from eight touches and four marks. Ex-Stingray Grace Hodder continued her stint at senior level for the Saints.

The Blues welcomed back Northern Knights duo Maeve Chaplin (10 disposals, five tackles) and Tara Delgado (six disposals, two tackles), while ex-Charger Amber Micallef stood up with 11 disposals, three marks and three tackles in the loss.

Port Melbourne had no shortage of young stars running around in its big win over North Melbourne, lead by Oakleigh Chargers’ Brooke Vickers (13 disposals, two marks) and Dandenong Stingrays’ Ashleigh Richards (11 disposals, four marks and a goal). Chargers’ Amanda Ling had another impressive outing with 10 touches, three marks, four tackles and a goal, whilst Dandenong Stingrays’ Jaide Anthony (seven disposals, two marks) and ex-Bushranger Sophie Locke (seven disposals, two marks and five tackles) also worked hard. North Melbourne had GIANTS Academy hard nut Jayde Hamilton back onball for nine touches, four marks and three tackles.

2021 VFLW Round 13 wrap: Saints grab sixth spot as Dogs drop to set up final round ultimatum

THE penultimate round of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition saw several sides ruled out of finals contention, and just two sides set to fight it out in separate Round 14 matches to determine the last finals spot.

HAWTHORN 0.0 | 1.0 | 2.1 | 4.2 (26)
GEELONG 1.5 | 3.6 | 4.6 | 4.8 (32)

Geelong Cats threw the gauntlet down to Port Melbourne with a hard-fought win over a plucky Hawthorn to put themselves in best position for a top two spot ahead of a top-of-the-table clash with Collingwood in the final week. The Cats looked to be on top early, but could not split the big sticks, slotting just one goal from six scoring shots in the opening term. They found their range after that to slot 3.1 over the next two quarters, but a three goals to one second half in favour of the home team had the Hawks come within a whisker of victory. It was not to be however as Geelong held on to win by six points, 4.8 (32) to 4.2 (26). The Geelong AFLW midfielders in Laura Gardiner (33 disposals, three marks, four tackles and a goal), Darcy Moloney (29 disposals, eight tackles and a goal) and Renee Garing (20 disposals, three marks and 10 tackles) all had big days out, while Jess Foley was named best-on for 16 touches, seven marks and three tackles. Annabel Johnson, Madeleine Boyd and Olivia Fuller were also named among the Cats best in the victory. For the Hawks, plenty of the young brigade stood up, with Eastern Ranges’ Isabelle Khoury named best-on for her 12 disposals and eight tackles, with Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae (12 disposals, four tackles) also among the best. In her penultimate game, Meg Hutchins led from the front with 20 disposals, four marks and six tackles, while Tamara Luke had 33 hitouts to go with 13 disposals, three marks and five tackles. Sarah Perkins slotted two goals, and Dominique Carbone and Jenna Richardson were also named amongst the best in the loss.

GOALS:

Hawthorn: S. Perkins 2, D. Carbone, E. Chaston.
Geelong: L. Gardiner, D. Moloney, P. Sheppard, J. Woollett.

BEST:

Hawthorn: I. Khoury, T. Luke, D. Carbone, J. Richardson, K. Hay, G. McRae
Geelong: J. Foley, M. Boyd, A. Johnson, O. Fuller, R. Garing, L. Gardiner

COLLINGWOOD 2.1 | 5.3 | 6.3 | 11.6 (72)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.2 | 0.2 | 1.2 | 1.2 (8)

Collingwood has put a massive dint in the Western Bulldogs’ finals chances after a dominant 64-point thrashing at the Holden Centre on Saturday. The Bulldogs had patches where they contained the Magpies and even held possession in their forward half for long periods of time, but the ease with which the Magpies scored on transition – particularly after the Bulldogs had all the momentum – drove a dagger into red, white and blue hearts. Collingwood slotted five final quarter goals which ultimately saw them run out more than 10-goal winners, but the result was done and dusted by the final break, answering every challenge thrown at them, and then storming to a big win. Imogen Barnett did her AFLW Draft chances no harm with three first half goals to go with eight touches, five marks and passing off a couple of chances too. She teamed up well with Joanna Lin who won it all over the ground but slotted two goals from 12 touches and five marks. The Magpies had eight individual goalkicker in the big win, as Mikayla Cann (25 disposals, three marks and four tackles), Ebony O’Dea (18 disposals, two marks, four tackles and a goal) and Alana Porter (14 disposals) showed their AFLW experience. Matilda Zander was terrific in the black and white with 17 touches, four marks, four tackles and a goal, whilst Stella Reid made a promising VFLW debut with 13 disposals and two marks rotating between defence and midfield. For the Bulldogs, Sarah Hartwig (17 disposals, five marks) and Danielle Marshall (13 disposals, six marks and three tackles) did well out of defence, while Britney Gutknecht (13 disposals, two marks and seven tackles), Jess Fitzgerald (12 disposals, three tackles) and Isabelle Pritchard (13 disposals, two marks, seven tackles and one goal) found their fair share of the pill in the loss.

GOALS:

Collingwood: I. Barnett 3, J. Lin 2, C. Bunker, A. Newman, E. O’Dea, G. Ricardo, A. Velardo, M. Zanker.
Western Bulldogs: I. Pritchard.

BEST:

Collingwood: I. Barnett, A. Newman, E. O”Dea, M. Cann, M. Zander, S. Reid
Western Bulldogs: B. Gutknecht, J. Fitzgerald, A. Strahan, I. Pritchard, D. Marshall, S. Hartwig

WILLIAMSTOWN 1.1 | 2.1 | 2.1 | 2.2 (14)
ESSENDON 1.3 | 2.6 | 3.9 | 4.11 (35)

Essendon has booked its finals spot with a strong second half performance to see off a determined Williamstown. The Bombers only led by two points at quarter time and five points at the main break, but then had seven scoring shots (2.5) to one (0.1) to run out 4.11 (35) to 2.2 (14). Mia-Rae Clifford was the only multiple goal scorer in the match with a couple of majors, as Zali Friswell and Ruby Svarc both slotted one apiece. Georgia Nanscawen (20 disposals, 14 tackles) lead the way, with Courtney Ugle (18 disposals, two marks and four tackles) and Alana Barba (17 disposals, two marks and 11 tackles) both lively. Emelia Yassir impressed from the teenage talents with 13 disposals and seven tackles, while Tara Slender had six disposals, two marks and three tackles on debut. Eloise-Ashley Cooper, Cecilia McIntosh and Jessie Davies were also among the Bombers’ best in the win. Paige Naish was best-on for the Seagulls, booting a goal from 12 touches and two marks, while Ashlea Melnikas (14 disposals) and Lana King (12 disposals, two marks and 14 hitouts) were also amongst the best for the losers. In terms of top ball-winners, Erin Meade and Ruby Tripodi both finished with the 22 touches, while Aimee Whelan (19 touches, eight tackles) was also impressive.

GOALS:

Williamstown: P. Nash, E. Fox.
Essendon: M. Clifford 2, Z. Friswell, R. Svarc.

BEST:

Williamstown: P. Nash, A. Melnikas, L. King, S. Dunell, G. Biedenweg-Webster, R. Tripodi.
Essendon: A. Barba, C. Ugle, J. Davies, C. McIntosh, E. Ashley-Cooper, R. Svarc

CASEY DEMONS 3.3 | 4.3 | 7.4 | 9.6 (60)
DAREBIN 0.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 (7)

Casey Demons locked up their finals place in emphatic style with a 53-point victory over last placed Darebin Falcons at home. The Demons had control at the main break with a 20-point lead, but a dominant 5.3 to 0.0 second half saw them run out big winners, 9.6 (60) to 1.1 (7). Imogen Milford kicked a couple of goals to keep in touch with Barnett at the top of the goalkicking leaderboard, whilst Jacqueline Parry also snagged a couple of majors as part of seven individual goalkickers. Meg Macdonald was named best afield for her 16 touches, three marks and three tackles for the Demons, as Eliza McNamara (22 disposals, three marks, three tackles and a goal), Eliza West (22 disposals, two marks, seven tackles and a goal) and Megan Fitzsimon (21 disposals, two marks, seven tackles and a goal) all impressed with big numbers and hitting the scoreboard. Kate Gillespie-Jones and Winnie Laing contributed in their first run for the Demons. For the Falcons, Northern Knights duo Trinity Mills (11 disposals, five marks and four tackles) and Mikayla Plunkett (10 disposals, two marks and eight tackles) were named as the best, whilst the experience of Nicole Callinan (17 disposals, five marks and three tackles) and Alyssa Mifsud (14 disposals, three tackles and five hitouts) shone through. Gena Lawson-Tavan (13 disposals, three marks and five tackles) was also solid in defence, whilst Lucy Schneider topped the match for disposals, with 23 as well as eight marks.

GOALS:

Casey: I. Milford 2, J. Parry 2, E. West, M. Fitzsimon, K. Gillespie-Jones, G. Colvin, E. McNamara.
Darebin: R. Hibbert.

BEST:

Casey: M. Macdonald, E. McNamara, M. Hogg, G. Colvin, A. Brown, K. Gillespie-Jones
Darebin: T. Mills, M. Plunkett, G. Lawson-Tavan, K. McNiece, K. Roe, N. Callinan

CARLTON 1.0 | 1.2 | 6.5 | 6.5 (41)
SOUTHERN SAINTS 2.0 | 4.3 | 4.3 | 7.5 (47)

Southern Saints have held off a fast-finishing Carlton side to kick away in the last term and give themselves pole position for a finals spot. The Saints needed a win to realistically have the best chance of making finals, and they did just that, pouncing on the Bulldogs’ loss to the Magpies to defeat the Blues by a goal and all but end the Blues’ chances. After the visitors booted four goals to one in the first half, Carlton slotted five goals in the third term to roar to a 14-point lead with a term to play. Just as the points looked to be headed the Blues’ way, the Saints kicked into gear in the final term, booting 3.2 to 0.0 to run over the top of the home team and win, 7.5 (47) to 6.5 (41). The AFL Women’s trio of Tyanna Smith (22 disposals, eight marks, six tackles and two goals), Alice Burke (18 disposals, four marks and eight tackles) and Jess Matin ( eight disposals, three marks, four tackles and two goals) wrecked havoc on the Blues, whilst Deanna Jolliffe (19 disposals, five marks and 12 tackles), Madison Capalis and Gabi De Angelis were also among the better players for the red, white and black. Lucy McEvoy was outstanding for the Blues with a team-high 21 disposals and seven tackles to lead the way for the home team, whilst Bry Gurr (15 disposals, three tackles) and Paige Trudgeon (14 disposals, four marks and seven tackles) were next best, and both Steph Lawrence and Jennifer Lew had 14 disposals, two marks and slotted two goals. Northern Knights’ Maeve Chaplin also played her best VFLW game with 10 touches and five tackles.

GOALS:

Carlton: J. Lew 2, S. Lawrence 2, M. Wilson, E. Wood.
Southern Saints: J. Matin 2, T. Smith 2, T. Bohanna, A. Peck, K. Ripari

BEST:

Carlton: L. McEvoy, P. Trudgeon, E. Honybun, A. Klingbeil, M. Chaplin, B. Gurr
Southern Saints: A. Burke, T. Smith, M. Capsalis, J. Matin, G. De Angelis, F. Hocking

PORT MELBOURNE 1.0 | 3.2 | 3.4 | 8.7 (55)
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0 | 1.0 | 2.0 | 2.0 (12)

In the final match of the round, Port Melbourne snuffed out North Melbourne’s chances of making finals with a dominant 43-point win at ETU Stadium yesterday. At the same time, the Borough kept their hopes alive of finishing inside the top two and getting a double chance to take on Collingwood in the first week of finals, thanks to a five goals to zero final term. It was neck-and-neck for the most part, with the Roos understrength due to border restrictions and therefore missing a host of Tasmanian talents, but North kept the fight up for three quarter to be within 10 points at the final break, before the home team kicked away win the last with 5.1 to 0.0, to win 8.7 (55) to 2.0 (12). Sarah D’Arcy was sensational up forward with two goals from 17 disposals, seven marks and nine tackles, as Alice Edmonds (14 disposals, four marks, two tackles and 33 hitouts) and Claire Dyett (15 disposals, three marks, seven tackles and one goal) also impressed. On VFLW debut, Ellie McKenzie (14 disposals, four marks) and Brooke Vickers (13 disposals, two marks) both stood out, while Amanda Ling kicked a goal from 10 touches, three marks and four tackles, and Ash Richards had 11 disposals, four marks and a goal. For North, Meagan Kiely led from the front yet again with a ridiculous 34 disposals, seven marks and six tackles, matched by Airlie Runnalls who also had 34 touches, as well as eight marks and two tackles, Molly Eastman (27 disposals, seven marks) and Reni Hicks (22 disposals, three marks and 16 tackles) were ball magnets, while Alexia Hamilton (13 disposals, four marks, eight tackles and 12 hitous) and Laura Wright (seven disposals, four marks, two tackles and two goals) did their part for the Roos.

GOALS:

Port Melbourne: S D’Arcy 2, C. Dyett, A. Edmonds, A. Ling, L. McClelland, A. Richards, E. Wilson.
North Melbourne: L. Wright 2.

BEST:

Port Melbourne: A. Edmonds, C. Dyett, S. D’Arcy, B. Vickers, C. Bromage, O. Barton
North Melbourne: M. Kiely, R. Hicks, A. Hamilton, A. Runnalls, L. Wright, M. Eastman

2021 VFLW Round 13 preview: Future stars return as teams limited by border restrictions

THERE might not be crowds this weekend, but the stakes are as high as ever for the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s teams, as the penultimate Round 13 finally gets underway after a three-week hiatus due to the Victorian lockdown. Three teams cannot be moved out of the finals race – Collingwood, Geelong and Port Melbourne – though only one of the latter two can secure a double-chance.

The other three spots are up for grabs, though Casey Demons and Essendon effectively need one win to book their spots – with the Demons even needing to just not be smashed in their final two matches to make it given their ridiculously high percentage. Western Bulldogs currently holds sixth spot and is the most in danger of missing out, taking on the Magpies and Demons, needing at least one win – but potentially two – to grab a finals place with Southern Saints, Carlton and North Melbourne all knocking down the door.

HAWTHORN vs. GEELONG
Saturday, June 19 @ 12:00pm
Box Hill City Oval

A battle between traditional rivals, Hawthorn and Geelong takes place at Box Hill City Oval from midday tomorrow. The Hawks unfortunately not only need to win their games and have results go their way in other matches, but realistically need a draw in one of the Southern Saints games and the other three teams around them – Western Bulldogs, Carlton and North Melbourne – to lose in the game that isn’t a draw. Geelong on the other hand need to keep winning in order to book a double chance, with third placed Port Melbourne just percentage behind and ready to earn a spot against Collingwood in the qualifying final if the Cats do slip up.

Both teams have past and present AFLW talent, with Rene Caris, Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner forming a huge midfield for the Cats. The Hawks have some experience tall timber with Meg Hutchins, Tamara Luke and Sarah Perkins among the names in the side. In terms of AFLW Draft hopefuls, Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae returns for another game in the brown and gold, joining Eastern Ranges’ Bridget Deed, Keeley Sherar, Isabelle Khoury, Eloise Chaston and debutants, Cadhla Schmidli and Sarah Humm in the side. For the Cats, Chloe Leonard returns to the blue and white hoops again, named on the bench for this match, whilst Jess Foley, Madelyn Keryk and Madisen Maguire are among the other Cats experienced talents.

COLLINGWOOD vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday, June 19 @ 12:00pm
Olympic Park Oval

It might have been a long time for football to return, but luckily for the Magpies, they sewed up top spot and their third consecutive minor premiership last round. They can now play the role of managing players leading into finals, with Chloe Molloy, Jaimee Lambert, Sophie Livingstone and Sophie Casey among the outs for Round 13. In come the younger group in Amelia Velardo, Abbi Moloney and Alana Porter to face a hungry Western Bulldogs side needing a win. The Bulldogs can put themselves in pole position for a finals spot with an upset win, and have not held make in doing so with their team selection.

The Bulldogs have a mix of AFLW and NAB League Girls talents, with the midfield of Jess Fitzgerald, Britney Gutknecht and Isabelle Pritchard, as well as Isabella Grant, Gemma Lagioia and Sarah Hartwig around the ground, there is plenty of top-end talent that could cause a boil-over to the top of the table Magpies. From an AFLW Draft perspective, potential Top 10 pick Ella Friend is back in the side with Rebels’ teammates Lilli Condon and Tahlia Meier, whilst Brooke Hards and Simone Ruedin remain the only players to not miss a game for the red, white and blue. The Magpies have a couple of top talents making their debuts too, with Stella Reid and Eliza James – both out of the Oakleigh Chargers’ program – coming into the black and white stripes whilst another AFLW Draft Combine invitee in Olivia Meagher is also in the team. With six players in Draft Central’s recent AFLW Draft Power Rankings playing in the game, it is a must-listen via WARF Radio.

The Magpies deserve to be favourites as an unbeaten side, but the Western Bulldogs could arguably have the stronger team on paper for this clash, so it should be a really big contest.

>> AFLW Draft Power Rankings

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. ESSENDON
Saturday, June 19 @ 1:00pm
Downer Oval

Across at Downer Oval, Williamstown and Essendon will look to control the elements and the game, when the Bombers hit the road for a must-win clash. They take on the bottom two sides in the last two rounds and need just one win, so have the easiest draw in the final fortnight. They still need to get it done though, and the Seagulls still have plenty about them coming up against a Bombers side with a lot of talent. Another potential Top 10 selection in Tara Slender will make her debut in this game for the Bombers, with the Bendigo Pioneers’ utility named at centre half-forward.

Slender will join Calder Cannons’ Emelia Yassir, Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell in the starting team, with the experience of Georgia Nanscawen, Cecilia McIntosh and Mia-Rae Clifford across the three lines. Williamstown have had some consistent performers over the time, but the current border restrictions between Victoria and NSW/ACT has limited the GWS GIANTS AFLW players from taking part. The likes of Erin Meade, Scarlett Dunnell, Aimee Whelan and Megan Williamson have all enjoyed solid seasons and will be looked upon to step up in what is ultimately a tough game for them. Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper are recent NAB League Girls graduates and will be keen top put their best foot forward to impress, while the Bombers as a whole just have to win. Williamstown can play the role of party pooper in this game, and have the advantage of knowing the ground well.

CASEY DEMONS vs. DAREBIN
Saturday, June 19 @ 2:00pm
Casey Fields

Casey Demons are a win away from booking a spot in the VFL Women’s finals series, and providing the last placed Darebin do not roll them by a considerable amount, the Cranbourne-based team can potentially secure a home final in the process. They have a mix of past and present AFLW talents – including some recent delistings hoping to earn a second chance – whilst the Falcons will rely on some youngsters and their VFL Women’s players to try and cause an upset at windy Casey Fields.

Former Carlton player Winnie Laing and ex-Roo Kate Gillespie-Jones are lining up for Casey this weekend following their recent delistings from the Blues and North Melbourne respectively, alongside Mietta Kendall who is hoping for another chance in the red and blue, and then the most recent addition to the Demons’ rookie list in midfielder Eliza West. The latter has been a prominent ball winner for the VFL Women’s side and earned a promotion, whilst Imogen Milford is one player with plenty to prove after receiving an AFLW Draft Combine invite. Shelley Heath, Eliza McNamara and Megan Fitzsimon are also in the side, though there is an abundance of VFL Women’s talent in the team for the clash with the Falcons. Darebin have the experience of Nicole Callinan and Alyssia Mifsud who have played at the top level, but otherwise have the NAB League Girls talents of Trinity Mills and Peppa Poultney, as well as another former NAB League Girls player in Katelyn Hazlett. Samara David and Stephanie Simpson have enjoyed impressive seasons up forward, whilst Victoria Blackwood and Gena Lawson-Tavan are reliable players with Callinan in the back 50. Expect Casey to be too strong, but Darebin will be keen to cause an upset.

CARLTON vs. SOUTHERN SAINTS
Sunday, June 20 @ 11:00am
Ikon Park

A virtual elimination final in many ways, the loser of Carlton and Southern Saints will need to rely on other results in order to make finals, with the Blues in particular having a line put through their name given the percentage difference. If the Saints lose, they will need the Bulldogs to also lose to the Magpies in order to make the finals, or if they win and the Bulldogs win, it will come down to the final round. The Blues cannot overtake the Bulldogs unless they win big and the Bulldogs lose, but it will keep them in the finals hunt with a clash against Williamstown in the final round.

Carlton know the stakes by winning the match, with Lucy McEvoy named once again alongside some AFLW talent in Daisy Walker and Charlotte Hammans. They do have a lot of VFLW talent in the side still, with Amber Micallef, Ally Bild, Jennifer Lew and Jorja Borg among those who have had some impressive moments this season. Northern Knights duo Maeve Chaplin and Tara Delgado are in the side again to try and stake their claims ahead of the AFLW Draft, while ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Teagan Brett returns to the Navy Blues. The Saints have not fully confirmed their side at the time of publishing, but they were favoured to take it up to the Blues, with Alice Burke, Tyanna Smith, Jess Matin and Alice Burke all named in the side that narrowly went down to Western Bulldogs last round. Dandenong Stingrays’ Jemma Radford has really held her own in the side, with Sandringham Dragons’ Pia Staltari and Emma Stuber among those on the extended list for the Saints.

PORT MELBOURNE vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Sunday, June 20 @ 1:00pm
ETU Stadium

Completing Round 13 of action is a game with plenty on the line for both teams in different ways. Port Melbourne is gunning for a second chance if the Borough can get up and hope Geelong loses, whilst North Melbourne can keep their hopes of finals alive with an upset win on the road at ETU Stadium. Much like Williamstown with the GIANTS, the Roos have been impacted by not being able to utilise their Tasmanian contingent, which has meant plenty of changes for the blue and white stripes. Port Melbourne on the other hand have not held back in their selection, with experience and young guns galore in what will be an exciting contest.

Roos captain Meagan Kiely is based in Victoria and the Tasmanian talent will look to continue her ripping form this season teaming up with Brooke Slaney and Reni Hicks in midfield. They have a tough job with Ellie McKenzie making her VFLW debut for the Borough, and Courteney Bromage and Mel Kuys rounding out a strong midfield. The Port Melbourne bench is as exciting as one could be, with Dandenong Stingrays duo Jaide Anthony and Ashleigh Richards, and Oakleigh Chargers duo Amanda Ling and Brooke Vickers – all who received AFLW Draft Combine invites – playing in the match. Sarah D’Arcy also makes her debut up forward for the Borough, alongside Emily Harley and Sophie Locke. The Roos will have Alexia Hamilton through the ruck and Jayde Hamilton and Elisha King up forward, whilst Molly Eastman and Beth Lynch are among those likely to create some run out of defence for the visitors in the Sunday afternoon clash. The Borough have the advantage at home and can snuff out the Roos’ finals chances with a win, but North have proven to put up a fight most weeks so should give the game a shake.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 12

A HEAP of young prospects continue to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. As the NAB League season has now drawn to an end, Round 11 saw plenty more young talent scattered across each state league side. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in, or have recently graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 12

There were a number of debutants across the VFL Women’s competition in Round 12, but two of the most anticipated ones were the inclusions of Calder Cannons’ Georgie Prespakis (Essendon) and Tasmania Devils’ Perri King (North Melbourne). The pair went head-to-head in the opening game of the round at Windy Hill, with King coming away with 15 disposals and seven tackles, while Prespakis had the 10 touches and seven tackles. The other Devils running around were Ella Maurer (11 disposals, one goal), Camilla Taylor (five disposals, eight tackles and three hitouts) and Jemma Blair running around for the Roos. The other Cannons donning the sash were Emelia Yassir (11 disposals, four marks and four tackles), Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell who all gained great experience. Recent Cannons graduate Alana Barba continued her ripping season with 16 disposals, five tackles and two goals, while ex-Bushranger Eloise Ashley-Cooper had the 15 disposals and 11 tackles in the loss.

Port Melbourne had a number of NAB League talents running around, led by best on ground in last week’s grand final, Oakleigh Chargers’ Amanda Ling (10 disposals, three tackles). Her premiership teammate Taylah Morton had her best game at VFLW level with 12 disposals and six tackles, while ex-Bushranger Sophie Locke managed the seven touches, three marks and five tackles in another solid performance. Ex-Eastern Ranges talent Emma Horne was the main graduate out of the NAB League Girls that was VFLW-listed for the Demons.

In Carlton’s upset win over Geelong, Maeve Chaplin played her second VFLW game, joining Northern Knights teammate Tara Delgado and ex-Oakleigh talent Amber Micallef (nine disposals, nine tackles). Tamara Smith put in another good tackling performance of 18 disposals and eight tackles, while ex-Falcon Paige Sheppard had the 17 disposals and eight tackles. Darebin might have gone down in a heavy loss to the undefeated Collingwood, but Northern Knights’ Trinity Mills played her second game for the Falcons.

On Sunday, Hawthorn enjoyed an important win over Williamstown, with a number of Eastern Ranges players having an impact. Ranges’ co-captain Eloise Chaston had the 10 touches and three marks, Bridget Deed laid four tackles with eight touches, and Keeley Sherar had six touches, two marks and two tackles. AFL Women’s Academy member Ashanti Bush slotted two majors from six disposals in a promising effort up forward. Past Ranges graduate Jenna Richardson had a solid outing with 10 disposals, six marks and three tackles. For the Seagulls, Sydney Swans Academy member Jess Doyle was named best-on with 13 disposals, three marks and three tackles, while ex-Pioneers midfielder Megan Williamson had the 18 disposals, five marks and four tackles to continue her strong season.

Western Bulldogs kept their finals hopes alive with a number of young talents coming through the team. Western Jets graduate Caitlin Sargent (nine disposals, two marks, two tackles and a goal) kicked a clutch goal, whilst Jemima Woods, Stephanie Asciak and Nikita Wright all played their roles. Former Bendigo Pioneers co-captain Brooke Hards pieced together another impressive effort from her seven touches, six tackles and an important third term goal, while ex-Sandringham Dragon Molly Denahy Maloney returned from injury.

2021 NAB League Girls team review: Northern Knights

NEXT up in our NAB League Girls team review series are the Northern Knights, the 2019 premiers who came in defending their crown with a very new-look squad. We recap the Knights’ season, and take a look at some of the top performers across the various age groups.

Wins: 5
Losses: 3
Position: 5th (3rd Metro)

SEASON SUMMARY:

The Knights were handed an absolute thumping in their first outing for 2021, going down to eventual premier Oakleigh by 62 points. The pieces were picked up in quick time though, as Northern opened its account with consecutive wins over lowly sides – including a season-high 72-point victory over Gippsland. The Knights waded through a tough stretch of games to close out the campaign with a mixed bag of results, toppling the likes of Eastern, Geelong and Dandenong, but going down to another couple of finalists in Calder and Tasmania. Come finals time, Eastern exacted revenge with a 28-point win to see an end to Northern’s premiership defence.

DRAFT-ELIGIBLE TOP PERFORMERS:

Maeve Chaplin | Midfielder/Defender
22/08/2002 | 167cm

One who was arguably unlucky to have missed out on being drafted last year, Chaplin returned as a top-ager and was consistently Northern’s top performer when afforded a clean run at it. Injury saw a couple of outings cut short, but the strong ball winning midfielder showcased her class in possession and also reverted back to her old defensive post at times. She also played across half-back for Vic Metro during the Under 19 championships, proving up to the level with her reading of the play and outstanding composure.

Tarrah Delgado | Defender
22/08/2003 | 173cm

Delgado was a pillar in Northern’s defence for most of the year, able to take on the opposition’s best forward one-on-one or be set loose to intercept and spark rebounding forays. She was often tasked with taking the kick-ins and boasts a booming boot, which saw the Knights clear their lines time and time again. Like Chaplin, Delgado went on to represent Vic Metro and the pair have also turned out for Carlton’s VFLW side this season.

Teleah Smart | Midfielder
2/05/2003 | 165cm

One of the leaders of this side, Smart was a reliable figure through midfield and often dug in to set the tone at the source. The 18-year-old was also able to get her hands dirty with an average of 4.9 tackles per game, working hard both ways as Northern began to build into the season. She was also able to find the big sticks in the final two regular season games, finishing with consecutive two-goal hauls to cap off a solid campaign.

FUTURE ONES TO WATCH:

Tannah Hurst | Defender
8/04/2004 | 163cm

Hurst was one who built into the season well and ended up showing her wares as one to watch for the future. The 17-year-old proved an easy selection each week among the backline, providing good drive off half-back and showcasing desirable traits in that role, with potential to move further afield. She was also a Vic Metro Under 17 representative, credit to her NAB League form.

Ava Jordan | Midfielder 
29/04/2005 | 150cm

Already one of the region’s standout players with two seasons left in the system, Jordan was a mainstay in midfield and one of Northern’s more consistent performers. There may not be much of her, but Jordan is hard to miss as she weaves out of the contest with class and puts the Knights on the front foot. Arguably her best performance came in Round 6 against Eastern, as she helped drag Northern to a remarkable comeback win with two goals from 24 disposals. Another early Vic Metro representative, she is a star in the making.

Brooke Plummer | Wing
12/10/2004 | 165cm

Plummer is another bottom-ager who locked down a clear role in Northern’s lineup and played it well each week, making the wing her own. Still only 16, Plummer proved she was up to the level in 2021 with a string of consistent performances – only dropping below 10 disposals once in eight appearances. She proved a good driver of the ball going forward and should again play an important role for Northern next year.

OTHERS:

AFLW Academy member Maykayla Appleby showcased her trademark dash on the wing and off half-back, as another Vic Metro representative. The forward trio of Megan Girolami, Ella Smallacombe and Trinity Mills proved productive for much of the season, while the likes of Lulu Beatty, Rylie Wilcox, and Phoebe Nelson will be ones who can play key roles again next year.

2021 VFLW Round 12 preview: Finals on the line for several sides

THREE rounds remain and some results could ultimately determine finals spots, with last chances in play for a couple of teams, and a top against bottom clash featuring this weekend in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition.

ESSENDON vs. NORTH MELBOURNE
Saturday, May 22 @ 10:00am
Windy Hill

Potential top pick Georgie Prespakis has been named for Essendon in a game where the Bombers can lock up a finals spot, and snuff out North Melbourne’s chances at the same time. The Roos will make history with a record 11 Tasmanians in the side, and a debutant in fellow AFL Women’s Academy Perri King making her debut at VFLW level against Prespakis. Joining King in the side for their second games are Ella Maurer and Jemma Blair at opposite ends, whilst fellow Tasmanians, Sarah Skinner and Meagan Kiely make it a distinct Apple Isle feeling through the middle. They will have a huge job containing the midfield combination of Prespakis, Georgia Nanscawen, Alana Barba and Eloise Ashley-Cooper of whom the latter trio have been in great form at the level. The forward line of Daria Bannister, Meg Sinclair, Camilla Taylor and Mia King adds to the Roos’ Tasmanian presence, with Calder’s Kasey Lennox, as well as Zali Friswell and Emelia Yassir up the other end among the talented juniors running around in the red sash.

CASEY DEMONS vs. PORT MELBOURNE
Saturday, May 22 @ 10:30am
Casey Fields

Fresh off a best on ground performance in the NAB League Girls Grand Final, Amanda Ling will run out for Port Melbourne in the Borough’s clash with fellow finals-bound side, Casey Demons. The Oakleigh Chargers midfielder will join AFL Women’s talents Katherine Smith and Kodi Jacques, and past AFL Women’s talent Mel Kuys in the midfield, up against an equally stacked onball brigade of AFL Women’s midfielders Megan Fitzsimon and Casey Sherriff, and ball-winning star Eliza West. The Borough have other youngsters including Oakleigh Chargers’ Taylah Morton and ex-Murray Bushrangers talent Sophie Locke in the forward pockets, whilst the Demons have a stacked outfit including AFL Women’s stars Eden Zanker and Libby Birch, and young guns Brenna Tarrant and Eliza McNamara. Potentially the match of the round, both these sides are coming off disappointing losses, and both will be keen to make amends against quality opposition.

CARLTON vs. GEELONG
Saturday, May 22 @ 11:00am
Ikon Park

Following an upset win over Casey Demons, Carlton return home to Ikon Park against a Geelong side that cashed in its get out of jail free card in the final term last week. The Cats were in real danger against the Southern Saints, but managed to step up with four late goals to get over the line in fantastic style and remain in the top two. This week they take on a Carlton side that is as strong as it has been all season, featuring a core midfield of Lucy McEvoy, Abbie McKay and Grace Egan, as well as Maddy Guerin and Daisy Walker. Northern Knights’ full-back Tarrah Delgado will make her VFL Women’s debut with the Blues, joining teammate Maeve Chaplin in the side, in what will give the consistent talents a good run at state league level. For the Cats, the AFL Women’s midfield of Rene Caris, Darcy Moloney, Laura Gardiner and Sophie Van De Heuvel is unbelievable, while Olivia Barber has built some great form this season, and the likes of Tamara Smith and Paige Sheppard are also playing well at the level. Expect Geelong to really step up here, but the Carlton midfield is just as good making there plenty of terrific head-to-heads to watch.

DAREBIN vs. COLLINGWOOD
Saturday, May 22 @ 12:00pm
Bill Lawry Oval

A top against bottom clash featuring Darebin Falcons and Collingwood at Bill Lawry Oval has the potential to be one-sided, but the Falcons will be hoping that a draw against Williamstown has helped build some momentum into the game. Collingwood are rotating through their AFL Women’s talent, and Chloe Molloy, Elise O’Dea and Stacey Livingstone both play their first VFLW games this season, whilst Jaimee Lambert is back for her second game of the year. The Magpies team looks stacked and should be too strong for a Falcons outfit, though Georgia Hammond comes back into the club as the tall target up forward, forming with Samara David, Stephanie Simpson and teenager Trinity Mills. Jess Dal Pos is the prime mover in midfield and could have a tantalising head-to-head with Molloy in there, while Sidney Cubasch will look to take control in the ruck. The Falcons have some good experience in there including Nicole Callinan, but expect the Magpies to have too much depth across the field.

WILLIAMSTOWN vs. HAWTHORN
Sunday, May 23 @ 11:00am
Downer Oval

In the first of two matches on Sunday, Williamstown hosts Hawthorn in a huge Sunday morning clash at Downer Oval. The Seagulls are coming off a draw with Darebin, whilst the Hawks had their wings clipped by North Melbourne at Box Hill last week. Coach Bec Goddard just keeps finding AFLW talent to slot into the lineup, and this week Sarah Perkins returns to the club having missed the second half of the AFLW season due to injury. The key forward will team up with Chantella Perera and Kristy Stratton, whilst Jessie Williams has been a damaging goalkicker all season. In defence, Meg Hutchins announced she would hang up the boots at the end of the season, meaning the versatile legend will likely have just three games remaining in her career. Alison Drennan, Georgia Bevan and Nadia von Bertouch are among the other AFLW experienced talents running around in the brown and gold, while Eastern Ranges’ Keeley Sherar, Bridget Deed and Eloise Chaston retain their spots in the side. The Seagulls have some GWS GIANTS talents such as Emily Pease and Lisa Steane, whilst Sydney Swans Academy member Jess Doyle will look to hit the scoreboard alongside Gold Coast’s Bess Keaney up forward. Erin Meade and Aimee Whelan are in good form this year, with Elizabeth McGrath set to have a great contest with opposing ruck Tamara Luke. Hawthorn should win this game, but no doubt the Williamstown breeze will make life difficult in front of the big sticks.

SOUTHERN SAINTS vs. WESTERN BULLDOGS
Sunday, May 23 @ 12:00pm
Trevor Barker Oval

The final match of the round is the most important for the league as a whole, with the result potentially determining the finals series. Southern Saints hold sixth spot as it stands, but are only percentage ahead of the seventh placed Western Bulldogs. In reality, that percentage will be too difficult to make up for the Bulldogs or other chasing sides, so as long as the Saints win two of the last three – playing North Melbourne and Carlton in the final two rounds – they will get there. The Bulldogs can temporarily grab sixth spot with a win here, though they would need to knock off Casey Demons and Collingwood in the final fortnight – or hope the Saints lose to one of the other teams – in order to stay there. The Saints are not mucking around with a number of elite young talents through the midfield including Tyanna Smith and Georgia Patrikios – the latter of whom returns for her first VFLW game this season. Molly McDonald has been named off half-back, whilst Tarni White makes her VFLW debut for the Saints. All things considered the midfield battle will decide the result, with the Bulldogs having Jess Fitzgerald, Britney Gutknecht, Isabelle Pritchard and Elisabeth Georgostathis running around. Molly Denahy Maloney returns from injury to start in the ruck, whilst full-back Simone Ruedin has been named at full-forward, and forward Danielle Marshall has been named at full-back. Western Jets quartet Caitlin Sargent, Jemima Woods, Stephanie Asciak and Nikita Wright will provide the NAB League Girls factor, with the Saints focusing on VFLW talent for this game, such as the in-form Tara Bohanna, whilst Jayde Van Dyk makes her debut in defence for the red, white and black. This game could go down to the wire, and will have plenty riding on it.

The Graduates: 2021 VFLW – Round 11

A HEAP of young prospects continue to filter through the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, with the revamped structure allowing Under 18 and 19 NAB League players to align with state league sides as both seasons run concurrently. As the NAB League season has now drawn to an end, Round 11 saw plenty more young talent scattered across each state league side. We take a look at how VFLW-listed players who currently compete in or have recently graduated from the NAB League, performed.

>> Results: VFLW Round 11

Geelong’s winning run towards the postseason continued on Saturday, as the Cats found a way to edge past the Southern Saints on enemy territory. Usual suspects Tamara Smith (17 disposals, seven tackles) and Paige Sheppard (15 disposals, five marks) were among the winners’ best players, as Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels gun Chloe Leonard landed her VFLW debut in the hoops.

Meanwhile, Leonard’s Vic Country teammate and Dandenong Stingrays product Abbey Jordan marked her maiden game for the Saints with a goal, while Gabby De Angelis also found the big sticks in red, white and black.

Northern Knights standout Maeve Chaplin was another to debut in Round 11, turning out for Carlton in the Blues’ epic win over Casey. She managed six touches, as teammate and former Oakleigh Charger, Amber Micallef booted a goal. Talls Bridie Winbanks (eight tackles, 12 hitouts) and Grace Matser (six disposals, six hitouts) suited up once again for Casey, as did Emma Horne (nine disposals).

Collingwood moved another step closer to an undefeated regular season after accounting for Port Melbourne on the road, though it was the Borough who fielded more NAB League graduates. Dandenong pair Jaide Anthony (10 disposals, four marks) and Ash Richards (seven disposals) again impressed in their second outings, as the only current NAB Leaguers afield.

The likes of Bridie Kennedy, Sophie Locke, and Cleo Saxon-Jones also turned out for the Borough, while tall Neve O’Connor continues her extended run in the black and white.

Standalone sides Williamstown and Darebin played off in the season’s first draw, kicking to 16 points apiece at Downer Oval. Both teams fielded debutants and were served well by each. Sydney Academy skipper and Allies representative Jessica Doyle (15 disposals) suited up for the Seagulls and was one of their best alongside Ruby Tripodi (18 disposals, 11 tackles, one goal), while Northern Knights’ Trinity Mills booted a goal and laid eight tackles in her first outing for Darebin.

A host of past and present NAB Leaguers were scattered across the Essendon and Western Bulldogs lineups on Saturday, as the Bulldogs won out by 18 points. GWV products Nyakoat Dojiok (15 disposals, three marks), Ella Friend (two goals), and Tahlia Meier (10 tackles) were all productive on debut for the Dogs, as the likes of Nikita Wright and Brooke Hards also got on the park once more.

Essendon debuted Calder Cannons prospects Emelia Yassir and Neve Crowley, who joined teammates Kasey Lennox and Zali Friswell at state league level. Graduates Eloise Ashley-Cooper and Alana Barba were among the Bombers’ best, while Tamsin Crook again got a run in red and black.

Sunday’s sole fixture saw North Melbourne topple Hawthorn, with a host of Eastern Ranges and Tasmanian talents getting a chance for either team. Hawthorn fielded four current Ranges, with Bridget Deed the latest to debut. Teammates El Chaston, Tilly Hardy, and Keeley Sherar all returned, running out with graduates Chloe O’Malley and Jenna Richardson, while Gippsland’s Grace McRae earned plaudits for her efforts in brown and gold.

North Melbourne gave debuts to a trio of Tasmanians, in Amy Bissett, Jemma Blair, and Ella Maurer, with more still to come. Jayde Hamilton, another Allies representative, also turned out for the Roos in their win.

Image Credit: Kelly Defina / AFL Photos

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Round 9

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition returned for its ultimate home-and-away round ahead of finals, with seven games filling out a bumper weekend. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

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

CALDER CANNONS vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis 

There comes a point when watching a prospect where they genuinely do everything, and Prespakis has well and truly reached that point in her junior career. After putting in two very good performances for Vic Metro in the past couple of weeks, Prespakis came back to NAB League level without missing a beat, continuing to just dominate in the middle. She could be forgiven for taking it easy at times defensively, but it’s constantly a highlight of her game, with her tackling pressure in close top notch. Playing a team orientated game, there were multiple times where Prespakis gave it off to teammates in an attempt to get them more involved, even throwing up a few full wingspan shepherds for her teammates to run past unpressured. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

Calder Cannons:

#3 Emelia Yassir

Has time and time again proven her work rate is at the highest standard, with this game being no exception. One instance in the second quarter highlighted this well, where she impacted the ball off the rucks hands, unable to grab it, but then followed up with three/four efforts, including a bump on an opponent to then win the ball and boot it inside forward 50. She also again impressed with her aerial strength, taking clean marks consistently even when under direct pressure, then following up with good ball use by foot to hit up forwards leading at her. 

#34 Tahlia Read 

Worked hard as a forward, streaming out to meet the ball and impact centre stoppages, where her speed was on show, often getting plenty of separation on her opponent. Moved well in the forward 50, getting to some hacked kicks forward to mark or make them work out. Almost got a goal in the first quarter after taking what appeared to be a good grab just before the siren, but it was called touched play on. Around the ground she used it well, being one that would look to move into the centre of the ground to open up the options going forward. 

#39 Abbey McDonald 

Put in two really impressive shifts for the Metro U17’s through all thirds of the ground, with that ‘utility’ role continuing into the NAB League return. Started the game in the midfield where she moved well around the stoppages, getting herself some early clearances where her hands in close were really impressive, often finding Yassir who was already moving at speed to break away. She moved up forward at times where her composure got her a couple of nice marks, where she would control the tempo and look for a properly leading teammate.

Geelong Falcons:

#4 Poppy Schaap 

Finishing the game with two goals and plenty of touches in the forward half, Schapp continues to put her name up as one of the premiere pressure forwards in the competition, playing mostly in the forward line and having some really opportune moments, as well as managing to create her own opportunities through hard work and determination, with that tackling pressure forcing turnovers inside their forward 50. Pushed up the ground at times when Calder had the momentum to impact contests, trying to pull the Falcons back into it.

#11 Tess Craven 

Just involved in everything once again, despite playing a bit more of  a defensive role in the midfield often starting on Prespakis around stoppages. Positioned well around contests and worked hard to regain possession for the Falcons when it came out of forward 50. Again looked to spread across the ground getting free and making herself a switch or inside 45 option, used it well, looking to keep it central.

#23 Elizabeth Dowling 

Dowling continues to impress with her work in and coming out of the backline, meeting loose balls with speed and aggression, meaning she wins the ball herself or she seriously wraps up whoever does. With her aggression and speed, she does not just use brute force with the ball, she moves smoothly through traffic, able to standup against anyone trying to tackle her, keeping her hands free and getting it off to a teammate. She is a clear leader in the defensive half as well, telling her teammates where to be. It was really impressive to see her have an impact on most of the contests in the defensive half for the Falcons, either laying a tackling, carrelling an opponent, put up a shepherd, taking a mark or getting the ball off the deck and moving it herself, she truly did everything she could to ensure a Falcons victory.

#26 Ingrid Houtsma

Whilst she had quite a few good moments through the game, it was her rising to the occasion in the third quarter, when the game was in real contention, that ultimately got the Falcons rolling again to go on to victory. Started with some nice plays around the forward 50 mark that led to a goal against the tide of play, where not long after she managed to get the ball in a contest, find her way out and hit up a leading Renee Tierney who kicked their second of the quarter. That ability to go through contests and come out clean, whilst traditionally a winger, was impressive and showed a versatility to her game that has not come out too often.

OTHERS:

Both sides had some lesser contributors that are deserving of a mention, two more dual goal kickers in Renee Tierney and Jessica Zakkour, both in their 19th year, hit the scoreboard when the opportunity presented itself. Annie Lee and Taiya Morrow were consistent aerial threats in defence, with Lee’s ball use especially good. Gabbi Featherston showed off her athleticism as a forward and ruck as well. Neve Crowley was a strong mark in the forward line, using it well when she had the ball, as did Zali Friswell in the midfield.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Dandenong Stingrays:

#10 Abbey Jordan

Very few players going around would be able to match the work rate of Jordan who covers the ground with ease from midfield to defence and pushing forward. She looks to run and carry any chance she gets, and if she does make mistakes by hand or foot, she will get across to help out her teammates. Her hands on the inside are impressive and her footy smarts are right up there with clever knocks at ground level into the path of her teammates. Whilst at times she could rush her kicking, she intercepted a number of passes by reading the play off the opposition’s boot, marking and then taking the game on.

#11 Emily Shepherd

Had a tale of two halves in the sense that her first half she was racking up the ball with will and was hitting targets left, right and centre, whilst in the second half she remained involved and her hands in close were still good, but a number of her kicks were intercepted. She loves to snap around her body to get out of trouble, and is at her most dangerous when having space to size up options and kick long inside 50. Some of her passes in the opening half were superbly weighted, and combined with her clean hands at round level and pressure acts, Shepherd was certainly a busy bee around the ground. Still finding her fair share of it in the second half, it was more her execution that was not as consistent, though she was still pressuring the opposition.

#12 Alisha Liddle

A strong one-on-one player, Liddle took a number of great grabs both contested and uncontested around the ground. Liddle showed off some good speed on the lead and had a number of chances including kicking two goals for the match, with one coming from a 30m set shot on a 45-degree angle after plucking the mark over the top of her opponent, and her second coming from point blank after a 50m penalty, though she had taken another strong grab prior to that. She had a chance earlier in the game from 40m but the set shot just fell short. Liddle is one who competes time and time again in the air and is generally clean above her head.

#34 Ash Richards

The Stingrays co-captain almost had four goals on the board in five minutes with a really fast start. She slotted two goals in the opening three minutes, with a set shot on goal from a tackle 30m out, then an uncontested mark 20m out both going through the big sticks. She had a running shot and then another set shot on goal that followed, though both missed. She rolled through the midfield at times through the game, laying some strong tackles, and took a great intercept mark against two opponents in the second term. Strong above her head and looking dangerous inside 50, she clunked grabs with ease and had a couple of late chances in the fourth term with one from 50m opting to pass off to the danger zone, then ran around 35m out but just fell short with five mins left.

#38 Felicity Crank

Rotating between midfield and defence, Crank was able to get boot to ball quickly, and whilst she could occasionally rush her kicks, she was able to position herself well around the field to get into ball-winning positions. A highlight was a strong intercept mark in the third term with pressure coming from behind, then she had a clearance out of the middle in the final term, also had an intercept mark, and worked back into defence to win the ball at ground level and shovel it out.

Northern Knights:

#1 Phoebe Nelson

Showed strength throughout the game to stand up in tackles and spread across the ground well, often positioning herself a kick behind play or anchoring herself at the back of the stoppages where she could run. What was impressive was her spread and willingness to move the ball on, laying some good tackles and looking to switch where possible. She did rush some of her disposals, but got in the right positions to intercept and then keep moving in transition.

#7 Teleah Smart

Had a touch of class in the first half by hitting the scoreboard twice, albeit from a total of 20m out. She had a nice passage of play in the first term where she marked on the wing, her kick was short so she went and mopped up the ball, won a free kick and then was given a 50m penalty where she converted the goal. In the second term, her great defensive work in the goalsquare earned her a free kick and nailed the goal from point blank. She took a few good marks in defence and was able to hit her targets later in the game, and seemed composed with ball-in-hand.

#9 Maeve Chaplin

A standout for the Knights and just kept pushing throughout four quarters whether it be at the stoppages or roaming in the back half to assist her defence. She mopped up loose balls and charged through stoppages with intent, using her quick hands in close to advantage. While at times her kicks might not go directly to teammates, they would be put to space, and she would work hard to add an extra number to the contest. Her strength whilst being tackled was another feature in the game, getting her hands free to give the ball over, and then able to cleanly pick up at ground level on multiple occasions.

#36 Ava Jordan

The pocket rocket 05er was lively around the stoppages and just borrowed in time and time again. Whilst she has had bigger games, Jordan was constantly cracking in, winning the ball and firing out handballs to teammates, with a fantastic gather spin and delivery to the forward side of the centre to Ella Smallacombe. She spread well and was able to win a fair share of uncontested possessions as well as contested ones, and often chipped around with short passes and ran hard to try and win the ball back.

#37 Rylie Wilcox

A lightly-bodied player who kicked a goal from a great contested mark, clunking a grab and nailing the set shot from 30m out, then roaming around the ground to gather the ball in all thirds of the ground. A couple of times Wilcox’s spatial awareness could have improved given she was run down before she could dispose of it cleanly, or she had to rush, but her gathering at ground level and third term in particular was a highlight. She looked to play on when she could and open up the angles, then ran-down an opponent in the fourth quarter to force a spill and ran to the next contest.

#40 Tannah Hurst

The defender put together a really solid performance in the back 50, positioning herself in the right places to win the ball and take it out of defence. She won the ball under pressure on a number of occasions and had to give the ball off quickly, but also provided the defensive aspects such as shepherds or locks. Hurst burst through a stoppage late in the first term to be a standout on the field at that stage, and laid a massive front-on tackle to stop a potential goal. Whilst not as busy after that, Hurst did have a number of highlight plays, mopping up at half-back off opposition plays, and laying some strong tackles. A clean gather in defence to run out and kick to the wing was good, though it did get turned over. Overall one of the better Knights throughout the match.

OTHERS:

Dandenong Stingrays had an even spread across the board with Charley Ryan, Sarah Hosking, Olivia Robinson and Zoe Hill all winning their fair share of the ball, while Bianca Lyne kicked a goal rolling through the ruck. For the Knights, Molly McErlain was impressive for a 14-year-old, while Lulu Beatty, Megan Barnes and Brooke Plummer stood out, and Trinity Mills slotted two goals.

GWV REBELS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Showed true versatility throughout the game as someone that played on the wing, through the middle and down back at times, able to impact in all three positions consistently. Her usual strengths such as ball use and marking were well utilised by her throughout the game, taking good marks above head, especially in defence, to steady the ship at times and get the Rebels some time to compose themselves. What was most impressive, and possibly a new string to her bow, was how well she played her role through the middle of the ground, consistently clean below her knees even when under immediate pressure from an opponent. This theme was also present when she was stationed on the wing, able to hold her space and time her runs well to try and receive a handball from a pack.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Coming off two really strong U19’s Country performances, Dojiok played like a player with the confidence to take on the world, and that is what she did at times streaming out of the defensive 50 to attack the ball and provide as an option laterally for teammates. One particular instance of this came in the third quarter where she got onto the end of a kick into the middle of the ground, and already being at full pace, went straight through a Tasmanian opponent to deliver inside 50. Along with this, she showed her usual strength in the air, taking a few quality intercept marks in the defensive 50 above her head, where she would usually look to get running with it immediately to quickly get GWV transitioning. 

#11 Perri King (Tasmania)

Had a really well rounded game through the midfield, being the main Tasmanian midfielder looking to nullify the ruck dominance of Kalani Scoullar with her positioning and runs through the stoppages. She has a really eye-catching game style, playing as an inside mid with genuine outside mid speed, as well as an impressive leap that makes her such a dangerous marking target around the ground, even taking a contested mark against the previously mentioned Scoullar in the defensive 50. With these athletic traits and position it is no surprise she finds herself consistently winning the ball, where she tends to favour kicking it long forward out of the pack, or handball if there is a clear option there

TOP PERFORMERS:

GWV Rebels:

#1 Lili Condon 

Coming back with some more VFLW experience, Condon looked much better for the experience at that level, just looking too good in the midfield at times seemingly having an unlimited amount of time with the ball through contests. Seemed more assured of herself as well, often backing her speed and agility rather than rushing a disposal, even finding space from that additional run to find a few bounces, with the extra time she took seeing her ball use at its best for the season.

#2 Tahlia Meier

Looked so clean with the ball and just a step above with her speed through the midfield, looking particularly damaging around stoppages where she would out run opponents and weave around the contest to get a clean disposal going forward. Also was not afraid to smack away the hands of attempted tacklers and then got it moving, often by hand, to teammates that were in less contested situations. Not letting her lack of height impact her aerial game, she flew for quite a few marks throughout the game. Another impressive part of her game was how willing she was to initiate contact throughout, often pushing opponents around stoppages to try and get an extra meter or so of separation.

#27 Molly Walton 

You can just tell that she has a massive impact to the Rebels defensive structure, and how much Tasmania actively looked to nullify that by putting a player on her when Walton was pushed up as a higher defender, and then very happy to put stronger opponents on her one on one down deep. She finds ways to impact, whether it is providing a shepherd for a teammate to take a mark uncontested, taking an intercept mark herself or drifting across to spoil, then following up with good ball use to teammates, usually ones about 20 meters away that aren’t under pressure.

Tasmania Devils:

#7 Meghan Gaffney

The winger showcased her trademark speed through the game, attacking spilled balls out of contests or stoppages no matter who was in her way, or even heading directly towards her, showing immense courage. Was smart with her use by foot going forward as well, never really delivering bullet kicks but placing them just in front of teammates to run into.

#9 Claire Ransom

Finding herself in the forward line a bit more often than usual, Ransom more than held her own in a newer position, able to provide as a genuine option when Tasmania were going forward and she was there. When in her usual midfield role, Ransom brought a level of composure not many others could, finding some impressive options in close with her quick hands, or delivering well forward by foot, she just manages to find those options not many others can under the pressure she usually is under. 

#13 Olivia Smith

Lining up on the wing for majority of the game, Smith played a fantastic game where she filled the role of a traditional winger perfectly with her positioning, making herself a switch option when the ball was on the other side of the ground, and sitting just behind when it was on her side. Her positioning outside of the forward 50 as well led to consistent pressure on the Rebels defence, able to make a contest and usually get the ball back inside 50 either herself or by getting it to a teammate.

#15 Jemma Webster 

Found herself involved in some of Tasmania’s best pieces of transitional play for the day, usually being the central option and passing off to a running teammate she played her role really well, positioning well outside forward 50 as well to create contests and keep the threat of another inside 50 entry going.

#33 Shania Saward 

Playing up both ends throughout the contest, Saward utilised her strength to win essentially every marking contest she was involved in, taking them strongly without much trouble. Looked very comfortable as a defender, not afraid to run off her opponent and set up outside the forward 50 to take some intercept grabs up there and bomb the ball straight back in

OTHERS:

Tasmania were not without their solid role players in the win, Ella Maurer being one of them that continued her form from the U19’s Championships to have a good game through the middle. Amy Prokopiec kicked two goals when the game was tight early on to give Tasmania the early advantage. Briana Oates did well to nullify her direct opponents as a defender as well. For the Rebels, Chloe Leonard and Kalani Scoullar were involved through the midfield and ruck respectively, with Scoullar having the clear win in the ruck duals. Jenna Burke also looked strong throughout the game, marking herself as another to watch for the 2022 draft from the Rebels

EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

Nil.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Eastern Ranges:

#4 Keeley Sherar

A standout across the game, Sherar showed a touch of class through the midfield and was strong in standing up when tackled to still get her handball away. A highlight was the first centre bounce of the second term when she read the Grace Campbell tap, charged away and kicked inside 50 well. Her defensive pressure on opponents was admirable, battling hard at ground level, whilst her ability to move through heavy traffic was a great trait. She occasionally fumbled a little bit at ground level, but once she was able to get ball-in-hand she was clean with her hands. She took a number of good marks around the ground showing off her work rate.

#5 Jorja Livingstone

The wing had some eye-catching moments, and found enough of the ball to pose a problem for the opposition. She won a free kick for in the back in the third term and take off and use her trusty left to put it to a dangerous spot close to goal. She was clean at ground level, and whilst at times she rushed, she was generally one player who could utilise the ball in transition.

#9 Mia Busch

A standout player off half-back and one of the best on the ground, she was terrific intercepting the play and moving it forward. Even if she dropped a mark, her second efforts would help her win the ball for her teammates and stay upright in a tackle to give it off to a free teammate. She laid a great tackle in the goalsquare to save a certain goal, and then was an anchor at half-back with her marking. Once in the third term she was a bit too ambitious by playing on and was rushed after stepping off her line in between two opponents, but otherwise was fairly composed throughout the match.

#16 Isabelle Khoury

Lively throughout the match, Khoury never stopped trying to run with the ball and break the lines. Sometimes she would get caught, but when it paid off, she was able to open up the angles and get it forward. She showed clean and quick hands off the deck, and was able to get boot to ball quickly in order to get it forward.

#18 Bridget Deed

Put together a consistent four-quarter performance and her hard running and work rate ensured she won a truckload of the ball. Finishing with easily the most disposals on the ground, Deed was often held at stoppages or carefully guarded because of her ability to read the ball off hands. She was strong under pressure and was able to just bomb the ball forward to provide her teammates with scoring opportunities, whilst having quick hands in close.

#21 Ruby O’Dwyer

Similar to Deed, O’Dwyer worked hard across the ground and looked to spread when she could, able to get boot to ball whilst under pressure, including in the third term when she was being tackled. She won a free kick for going in hard and drove the ball forward then gave quick hands from a stoppage to a teammate on the outside in the fourth term.

#44 Georgia Campbell

An absolutely dominant performance from Campbell in terms of her ruck work, and whilst she did not have as much impact across the ground as usual – dropping a few marks she would usually clunk early – she was able to really take control at the stoppages. Sharing the work load with Jess Grace, Campbell opened up angles and space for her midfielders to run onto.

Northern Territory:

#2 Djimila Totham

One of the most productive players in the match, Totham did a good job from defence, often opposed one-on-one with the talented Alyssia Pisano. She held her own in that contest and restricted Pisano to just the one goal, whilst being a prolific interceptor. She was clean at ground level and had a slick sidestep through traffic in the third term to pick the exit and kick away, and whilst she sometimes was rushed with her kick, she was able to hold up under pressure in the back 50 during the second half.

#11 Grace Mulvahil

The smooth-moving player was able to roll off half-back and down the wing, breaking away with her speed from stoppages. In the third term, she shrugged off a tackle in the midfield to get hands free to a teammate, then would get her own hands dirty not long after with a good tackle at ground level.

#25 Bella Clarke

Showed her experience in the game by accumulating the ball regularly, particularly in the first half. Clarke was quick to get boot to ball and won a free kick for a great tackle on Deed in the middle. She then got to the next contest after kicking it to assist her teammates, whilst had another good play in the third term running out of a stoppage.

#28 Kasey Marsden

One of the better Northern Territory players, Marsden stood out with her persistence in tackling opponents, even if sometimes they gave away free kicks. She mopped up at half-back worked up and down the ground, and was able to win it on the inside or outside. She even had a crack undersized in the ruck in the second term, and continued to stockpile possessions around the ground. In the final term, she rebounded well out of the back 50, and then won the ball on the wing as well to send it inside 50.

OTHERS:

Youngster Ava Campbell and co-captain Eloise Chaston both found double-figure disposals, Cadhla Schmidli worked hard on the last line, and Jess Grace shared the ruck load with Georgia Campbell for the Ranges. For the Thunder, Shanoah Leedie, Georgia Johnson and Matisse Hunter were others who worked hard throughout the game.

WESTERN JETS vs. BENDIGO PIONEERS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#28 Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)

On what was an indifferent day for the star AFLW Academy member and her Pioneers, you could not put it down to a lack of effort. Fresh off a National Championships campaign where she spearheaded Vic Country’s attack, Slender reverted back to her defensive duties early in this match. She broke hard off the line at the first centre bounce to try and set the tone, but was unlucky to be caught holding the ball. Slender’s marking came to prominence with a trademark intercept grab in the opening term, though it was her intent and tackling efforts throughout the game which stood out most. The versatile talent also cracked into the midfield for a blockbuster matchup against Montana Ham, and while she was not overly prolific, still had her moments of strength at the contest.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Western Jets:

#1 Charlotte Baskaran

The hard-working bottom-ager returned another performance to remember, collecting a round-high 31 disposals as a constant in the Jets’ midfield. A tenacious ground level player, Baskaran was in the thick of the action and again enforced her accumulative effect with terrific spread from the contest and repeat efforts to help thrust Western forward. She often won or received the ball in ideal positions to deliver inside attacking 50, where she had potential to inflict plenty of damage. Baskaran also showcased her speed in open spaces, particularly with a four-bounce run through the corridor during term three which saw her side go from centre half-back to centre half-forward in a flash. Overall, a top game from the top 10 2022 prospect.

#27 Caitlin Sargent

Sargent was the dominant forward on the ground and looked ominous during a three-goal first half showing. She got on the board almost immediately with the opening goal of the game, finishing quickly after receiving by hand close to goal. A holding the ball free kick saw Sargent add another in the same quarter, before a terrific overhead mark allowed her to convert a third in term two. Sargent would go on to compete well and even scrounge some more shots on goal, before showing good confidence to mark strongly once again and convert a fourth major in the third quarter.

#38 Montana Ham

In what was an imposing performance, Ham was able to highlight some of the traits which have her pegged as a top five prospect among the 2022 crop. She was able to get first hands on the ball in midfield, where she started the game, while also using her power to burst onto the outer and gain good penetration by foot. Ham’s aerial marking was another real feature, rising time and time again to intercept Bendigo’s rebounding kicks as a formidable wall across the front half. Going forward, Ham also mixed it up by actively lowering her eyes more than usual and hitting targets in front of her, rather than constantly blazing away long. Scarily enough, she already looks a class above the competition.

#41 Ciara Singleton

In her final game for the Western Jets, Singleton swung forward to good effect and was a large part of her side’s hot start to the game. Her marking and reading of the ball in flight are among her strengths, and they both came to the fore as Singleton set up well across the 50-metre arc and enjoyed a productive first half. She also booted her first Under 18s (now 19s) goal for Western, coming in the opening quarter and now bows out as one of the rare 2001-births to have remained in the NAB League this year.

#42 Jemima Woods

Woods was part of the Jets’ dynamic forwardline which boasted plenty of height and marking power, but was able to remain busy when the ball hit the deck. The 18th-year prospect hit the scoreboard early with a set shot conversion, before adding a second goal in the third term via the same method. She presented well on the lead and proved mobile when taking on ruck duties, looking to have gained a good amount of confidence from her three-goal VFLW debut. With some nice athletic tools and a good work rate, Woods has plenty to work with.

Bendigo Pioneers:

#15 Drew Ryan

Ryan was one who played an important role in an under-siege area of the ground for Bendigo, able to intercept and repel from her defensive post. She started off with a solid pack mark inside defensive 50 during term one, an act which would be repeated again in the second and third terms. Ryan showed good strength to be able to stand up in tackles and despite enormous scoreboard pressure, was not afraid to take on the game with attacking intent. Once she marked or mopped up, Ryan would look to move quickly on most occasions and generated a massive seven rebound 50s. While others rotated heavily, she was a constant down back and proved steady in tough positions.

#18 Jemma Finning

Starting in midfield, Finning brought a good amount of physicality to the ground level contests and managed to set her game up with an early centre clearance. She hunted the ball well and was able to apply defensive pressure when necessary, including in the second half when she shifted to defence and earned a holding the ball decision inside the back 50. Finning set up nicely behind the ball to sweep up and provide some composure on the rebound, with her use by foot a solid feature on the day. The top-ager will likely now move on to Essendon’s VFLW side having gone close to a debut earlier this year.

#30 Octavia Di Donato

An exciting prospect for next year’s draft class, Di Donato was tried in a couple of roles but started in defence. She showed some good toe breaking into open space and looked to be productive with ball in hand, seen directing traffic ahead of her before delivering by foot. She would eventually rotate further afield and continued to look to chain her possessions or move the ball forward quickly, hoping to provide her side with a creative spark.

OTHERS:

Both sides finished with a number of strong contributors despite the scoreline discrepancy. 2005-born prospect Kiera Whiley again showed nice traits on the outer for Western, while Trinity Skenderis was productive in midfield and Laura Elliott also impacted. For Bendigo, Lila Keck and Lucia Painter proved they will be ones to watch for years to come, while Scarlett Orritt cracked in around the ground and Tegan Williams was a key pillar at either end of the ground.

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

There is not many superlatives that have not been used when describing Rowbottom, she just constantly impresses with what she does around the ground. Found herself up forward a lot more than usual and proved that she can fill in as a key forward to great effect, finishing with three goals. Her athleticism and strength above her head made her an extremely difficult match up, with Gippsland unable to find a proper answer for her as a deep target, with some being able to match her in the air but not on the ground, and others able to match her on the ground but not in the air. Unsurprisingly won a heap of it when she did move into the middle, with her burst around stoppages leading to plenty of clearances and long kicks forward.

TOP PERFORMERS:

Oakleigh Chargers:

#9 Brooke Vickers 

Stationed on the wing after her impressive Vic Metro performances, Vickers used it well all through the game even when the rain started pelting down in the final quarter, with that reliability of disposal helping Oakleigh going forward or across the ground. Positioned well on the outside of the forward 50, taking a few intercept marks when Gippsland attempted to bomb the ball out, even making contests with much taller opponents to then win it at ground level. 

#14 Eliza James

Involved in a lot going forward, seemingly being the main target up forward for the chargers, with her marking prowess being impressive during the day, being able to get separation on the lead to take it comfortably on the chest or out in front, if it had not been for her unselfish ways she could have very well ended up with six or seven goals, however the constant effort to share the ball around and get other teammates on the scoresheet was impressive. She had a few gettable shots float off to the side or drop short, showing that once her goalkicking is more polished she’s very capable of being a consistent scoring threat.

#15 Ameile Smith

Returning for her first game since breaking her collarbone earlier in the year against Sandringham, Smith impacted in the forward half, with her marking and use by foot especially impressive, often looking to give the ball off to a teammate, working hard to help them if they did not take clean possession. Was another one that very well could have had a few more goals if she was a little more selfish, but decided to do the team thing and share it around. Filling in as ruck in the forward 50, she held up well against the experienced and much taller Matser, getting front position a few times to even the contest.

#23 Caitlin Matthews 

Spent her time between the ruck and backline, playing more and more in the ruck as the game went, really taking it up to Matser and began to get on top late in the piece. Where she clearly won though was her impact around the ground, able to win it at ground level without much trouble and get it out well. Especially in the backline she played a massive part in keeping Gippsland goalless, looking to switch the play often and run it further up to get extra distance behind the kicks. 

#29 Amanda Ling 

Similar to Rowbottom, Ling found herself spending a lot more time forward in an effort to give Oakleigh’s youngsters more of a go in the midfield, where she proved that she can impact as a forward, using her speed, strength and agility to get herself on the scoreboard three times, as well as setting up some pretty good scoring opportunities as she got around opponents and kicked to the advantage of her teammates. She looked good when she played that link up role, pushing up the ground to get possession from a teammate moving it out of defence, then running and delivering long.

#33 Jasmine Fleming 

In for her debut game, which has been delayed due to cricket commitments and injuries, the bottom-ager was dominant throughout the contest, spending her time between the midfield and the forward line, she managed to impact wherever she was. Possesses a really good burst of speed which made her particularly dangerous around the stoppages, where she got two or three really clean centre clearances purely from that burst of speed, with no one able to match those first five or six steps. Going forward, she was particularly dangerous in the air, taking grabs comfortably and converting one in the second quarter. In a game where Oakleigh’s bottom-agers were given every chance to shine, she took the opportunity and marked herself as one to watch for next year.

#34 Lily Hart

Not often that a bottom-ager is the most experienced player in her teams midfield group, but Hart stepped up to lead well through the rover group. She showed some really high level positioning around stoppages, not taking long to realise where the opposing ruck, Grace Matser, was favouring with her tap placement, and just sitting there to win some easy clearances and really nullifying the ruck dominance Matser showed at times. Getting those clearances was not the end of it, as the usually classy Hart continued to use it well throughout the day, often running and kicking to the same spots going forward but having it pay off every time.

Gippsland Power:

#9 Taylah Bourne

Consistently involved throughout the day in the Gippsland defence, pushing up to impact at the top of the defensive 50 and attempting to stop Oakleigh getting inside forward 50. When it got deep she was one that was always competing at ground level, constantly applying pressure to the ball carrier and forcing opponents to the boundary. 

#26 Grace McRae

As she has done all season McRae battled hard on the inside all day, cracking in and winning the ball well, usually just to be met by a swarm of Oakleigh players attempting to rip the ball from her hands or cut off an attempted handball or kick. She never dropped off her effort though, battling right to the end. 

OTHERS:

Despite not coming away with the win, Gippsland saw a fairly even contribution across the board, with bottom-agers Leesa Guastella and Yasmin Duursma particularly impressive in defence and midfield respectively, along with Tyla Angwin, Alexei Guy-Toogood and Chloe Bailey. Oakleigh naturally saw quite a few players involved, with Stella Reid, Charlotte Van Der Vlies and Charlotte Taylor in that group that contributed at times. 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#33 Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers)

The dominant tall afield, Morphett was simply too big, tall and strong in the ruck. She racked up a whopping 28 hitouts, soaring above and through each opponent at the centre bounces and out-bodying them around the ground. What was most pleasing about Morphett’s play was her ability to follow up, imposing herself at ground level to tackle and bomb forward a few clearances. The GWS Academy member was also a marking force around the ground, while resting forward to good effect despite not hitting the scoreboard. The next step in her development will be to more consistently direct her taps, rather than purely win them and thump into space.

Murray Bushrangers:

#1 Olivia Cicolini

One of the most dangerous forwards on the day, Cicolini was lively inside forward 50 for the Bushrangers. She set the tone with good defensive pressure from the get-go, while also clicking into gear via an early opportunist’s goal. The bottom-ager was a real pest for Sandringham’s defence, able to somehow get snaps away towards goal and make them think about her presence when nearing the big sticks. Cicolini booted her second goal after a strong pack mark in the second term, before making it three in the following quarter from a tripping free kick.

#2 Aurora Smith

Utilised in a slightly different role to her usual wing posting, Smith was afforded some good time in the middle and ended as one of her team’s top ball winners. The 2021 Murray best and fairest was busy at ground level, doing her best to win the ball at each contest and burst away with a nippy turn of speed. Smith looked a touch more comfortable on the outside, where she started the game, but added a handy string to her bow in this outing.

#17 Keeley Skepper

Arguably the best player afield, Skepper racked up a game-high 24 disposals – including 23 kicks and 13 inside 50s. The bottom-ager was unrelenting in her pursuit to push Murray forward, seen marking across half back or in the corridor before wasting no time to get on the move and pump the ball down the line with her punchy left foot. Those repeat acts proved the story of Skepper’s game, with her intent and willingness to take the game on proving key to the Bushrangers’ highest score for the season. She capped off a day out fittingly, streaming into goal and slotting home the game’s final major during the last minute of play after yet another good read to intercept.

#25 Sophia McCarthy

McCarthy was another to cause Sandringham some headaches aerially, with her contested marking a real highlight inside attacking 50. The 18-year-old started brightly with a first term goal, before bringing that aerial marking into effect during term two, when she kicked her second. She repeated the act in the following quarter, stamping her case as one of the more ominous talls afield. McCarthy also rotated through the ruck and while she was caught on the ball a couple of times, did well to stay involved. Her growing confidence to leap and clunk big marks was clearly the best feature, though.

Sandringham Dragons:

#10 Bridie Hipwell

Sandringham’s prime ball winner on the day, Hipwell showed a developing dimension to her midfield craft with strong burst away from congestion. She has the tendency to be caught at times, but did well to break the packs open and do so with confidence, before delivering long by foot or keeping the ball rolling onto the outside by hand. Hipwell’s kicking is another area of improvement, but she was able to get good purchase at times and saw more ball on the outer, which allowed for more time to deliver. On top of strong contested ball winning, the bottom-ager also rose to take a couple of solid marks, which she has great potential to do at 174cm.

#17 J’Noemi Anderson

Fresh off her National Championships campaign with the Allies, Anderson translated the confidence gained there to impact in Sandringham’s forwardline. The sister of former Carlton player Joe, she worked up the ground with authority and presented as a viable leading target. When the ball hit the deck or came to her in open play, Anderson looked to burst into attack with powerful movement through traffic and long kicks inside forward 50. On the defensive end, she tackled typically hard to provide a dual threat for the Dragons.

#19 Ella Sciberras

Another 2004-born player to impact in Round 9, Sciberras was an absolute rock in Sandringham’s defence. Her attack on the ball was fearless, allowing for some eye-catching intercepts when others would be more concerned with their direct opponent. She was proactive in her attempts to cut off Murray’s attacks, hitting the ball at speed to mark and mop up the ground balls, before pumping long kicks away from danger. Her run out of those zone and sound decision making on the ball were both terrific attributes she showcased, proving attack is sometimes the best form of defence.

#30 Pia Staltari

Having been tried in a range of positions for Sandringham and Vic Metro, Staltari was a permanent midfield fixture on Sunday and showed her class at times. She had little trouble getting first hands to the ball at stoppages, but still looks a touch more comfortable on the outer where she can better utilise her classy disposal. Staltari had a good moment in the final term, running down Sophia McCarthy in the corridor for a holding the ball free kick, ending her game on a high.

#37 Ebony Angelopoulos

With a bit of luck to go with her undeniable forward nous, Angelopoulos ended up with three goals as Sandringham’s main source of inspiration inside attacking 50. She was able to gain good separation on the lead and constantly looked to wheel and go when in possession, allowing the Dragons to go deeper into attack. She found scoring form after half time, with two snaps bouncing home over the back during term three, before she converted a free kick in the final quarter to cap off a promising game. Add a couple more shots on goal to the equation, and she was unlucky not to finish with more.

OTHERS:

Tasked with the kick-ins for Sandringham, Emma Stuber registered 15 disposals from defence, while the likes of Keely Coyne and Kiana Lynch battled hard in midfield. Zara Hamilton was her productive self for the Bushrangers, as bottom-ager Cassidy Mailer made her return from injury with a goal, showing some promise in the front half.