Tag: trinity mills

NAB League Girls Round 8 preview: Penultimate round for last pre-championships showing

ROUND 8 of the NAB League Girls marks the final round before a break with the Easter weekend and AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships taking place over the next couple of weekends. One more round will be completed later in the month, with finals to take place after that for the top four teams in the metropolitan and country regions.

EASTERN RANGES vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Saturday, March 27 @ 10:00am
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

Up first to open the weekend is an all-metropolitan battle between the Eastern Ranges and Sandringham Dragons. The Ranges are back at home at Kilsyth for an early start against the Dragons, with back-to-back wins against Calder Cannons and Tasmania Devils since capitulating in the final quarter against Northern Knights. They head in as strong favourites against a Dragons side that has been unlucky in recent weeks, pushing the undefeated Oakleigh Chargers and going down to Western Jets by a point either side of the loss to Dandenong Stingrays at Casey Fields. They still remain at 1-5 from six games compared to the Ranges’ 4-2 record.

The Dragons defence has held firm in recent weeks with Chloe Saultry dropping back with Kiana Lynch to win plenty of intercept possessions and drive the ball up the ground. They will need to do just that with the dangerous forwards of Alyssia Pisano and Scarlett Potter, as well as Matilda Hardy running around in there. In the midfield, Bridie Hipwell and Sofia Hurley are likely to face the consistent Bridget Deed and Keeley Sherar in there, whilst up forward, Charli Murphy and Ebony Angelopoulos have the goal-scoring ability, and will lock horns with one of the more consistent defences featuring Grace Walsh, Cadhla Schmidli and Mia Busch.

 

CALDER CANNONS vs. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, March 27 @ 10:30am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Also up for an early start, Calder Cannons host Western Jets at Highgate Recreation Reserve. Live commentated via the NAB League app, the match will be the first of a double-header at the ground, with the NAB League Boys up at 1pm. The Cannons sit at 4-2, with the Jets at the opposite 2-4, but both have had plenty of close results over the journey. Western held on in a thriller against Sandringham Dragons at a wet RSEA Park last week, while the Cannons suffered defeat at the hands on Eastern Ranges at Highgate. While the Cannons are sitting pretty for finals, they will want to make sure they take the points her to secure the spot with Western the only team that can mathematically knock out one of the top four sides.

Charlotte Baskaran and Montana Ham have been in exceptional form of late, with the former heading onball to win a lot more touches in close. The forward line functioned well despite only kicking the two goals last week, with Jemima Woods and Kiera Leare in particular standing out, and Kensley Ward looking dangerous. Up against the Cannons, they have the likes of Kasey Lennox and Kiara Delia back there to settle them down, but it is the midfield battles that will be the ones to watch. Georgie Prespakis, Emelia Yassir, Zali Friswell and and Olivia Manfre all present worries to the opposition, whilst the ruck battle between Tahlia Gillard and Krystal Russell will be another head-to-head to watch.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Saturday, March 27 @ 12:30pm
Prospect Park, Launceston

Returning home to the Apple Isle, Tasmania Devils will have another tough challenge, this time up against the Northern Knights. Both sides are at 4-2, with the Devils having gone down to Eastern Ranges at Craigieburn last week in a make-up of the Round 2 fixture, whilst the Knights impressed in a big win over Geelong Falcons at Deakin University. Northern has found form since their Round 1 disappointment, posting four wins in five games and taking their win-loss record to 4-2 from six matches. They will have their hands full with a Devils outfit that is yet to be blown away, going close in both losses to Oakleigh Chargers and the Ranges, whilst taking care of Dandenong Stingrays on the Apple Isle.

The Devils have a really deep midfield that has held them in good stead this season, led by Perri King and Claire Ransom through the middle and running forward, the likes of Meghan Gaffney, Ella Maurer and Jemma Webster have all enjoyed strong seasons to-date. Amy Prokopiec has proven she can kick multiple goals up forward, and Amy Bissett is another goal-scoring threat inside 50. The Knights have plenty of goal-scoring threats of their own with bottom-ager Megan Girolami, Trinity Mills and Under 16s talent Ava Jordan – from the midfield – all able to hit the scoreboard. Maykaylah Appleby and Brooke Plummer provide the hard running on the outside, and Tarrah Delgado has been someone who can play on the last line or mix it up by being thrown into the middle.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Saturday, March 27 @ 2:30pm
Deakin University, Waurn Ponds

Hoping to snap a two-game losing streak – unfortunately both at the very venue they hope to snap it at – the Geelong Falcons host Oakleigh Chargers at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds. The Falcons went down to Sydney Swans Academy a few weeks back, then suffered a loss at the hands of Northern Knights last week, and just need to refocus for the Round 7 clash. It will be a tough assignment though, coming up against the red-hot Oakleigh Chargers who are yet to drop a game and will be hungry to add another victory to their name.

The Falcons have a consistent side across the board, with a midfield core of Tess Craven, Charlotte Simpson and Ashleigh Van Loon providing the heat in close, and Poppy Schapp rotating through and adding clean hands and pressure around the ground. The Chargers have a stacked midfield as well, as Charlie Rowbottom and Stella Reid provide the inside and outside talent, whilst Amanda Ling is winning the ball at will currently. With Brooke Vickers having an impact all over the ground, the Chargers are in a good spot going forward. Geelong will look to Renee Tierney and Lucy Were to hit the scoreboard and apply pressure to the Oakleigh defence, whilst Keeley Hardingham could take control in the ruck, and Annie Lee and Liz Dowling drive the ball out of defence. Oakleigh have Alexandra McCulloch and Taylah Morton up opposite ends to provide some run and class as well in a strong unit.

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Sunday, March 28 @ 11am
Trevor Barker Oval

In the first of a double-header at Trevor Barker Oval, Dandenong Stingrays host Murray Bushrangers from 11am on Sunday, which will feature live commentary via the NAB League app. The Stingrays will look for their third consecutive win against a Bushrangers outfit who got up for their first points of the season against Gippsland Power last week at Craigieburn. Whilst finals is likely to be just out of their grasp unless results go favourably their way, the Bushrangers do have three matches remaining to close the gap on some rivals. This game will be a tough one against a Dandenong side that accounted for Sandringham Dragons and Bendigo Pioneers in the past week and a half.

Dandenong Stingrays will be keen to welcome Jaide Anthony back from concussion to shore up a defence that was already doing its job pretty well, keeping the Dragons to just three behinds at Casey Fields. Jemma Radford and Zoe Hill will be key players in the absence of Mackenzie Eardley in defence, while the midfield and forward options will look different without Abbey Jordan, Ashleigh Richards and Amber Clarke in there. The Bushrangers defence is also able to contain sides, keeping the Power goalless in their clash, and only conceding one behind. Mindy Quade, Grace Hay and Kristy Whitehead can all win the ball in the defensive half of the ground, whilst the form of wings, Aurora Smith and Zara Hamilton is impressive. Keeley Skeeper in the midfield has also continued her bottom-age form, whilst Lily Sharp and Olivia Cicolini both hit the scoreboard multiple times last game. Dandenong will look to Felicity Crank through the middle to win her fair share of the footy.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS vs. NORTHERN TERRITORY
Sunday, March 28 @ 1:00pm
MARS Stadium

Their season delicately poised at 3-3 from six games, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels come up against a side that will have a lot of unknowns entering the match in the Northern Territory Academy. For the Top End side, it will be a chance to get a run around against a quality Victorian opposition ahead of the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships on the Gold Coast when they team up with NSW/ACT and Tasmania to create the Allies. The Rebels have been a solid mid-table team with some great wins, and then falling to the top sides to enter the contest with a 50 per cent win-loss record.

The Rebels will test a number of their players giving the likes of Ella Friend, Chloe Leonard and Nyakoat Dojiok will be out for this match. Lilli Condon is one natural ball-winner who could be key for the Rebels to get up in this one, as Molly Walton has been a shining light as a bottom-ager in defence. For the Thunder, Bella Clarke comes into the side off experience at state level before, and from her WAFL Women’s debut last week, as ex-Calder Cannons forward Freda Puruntatameri has been named in the ruck. Kaitey Whittaker is one to watch inside 50, whilst one of the biggest names to keep track of is Grace Mulvahil who has a prestigious junior career in the NTFL Women’s Premier League, and will lineup at half-back. Ashanti Bush at half-forward can also kick multiple goals, while Oakleigh Chargers’ J’Noemi Anderson will represent her state in this clash.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GIPPSLAND POWER
Sunday, March 28 @ 1:30pm
Trevor Barker Oval

With the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships five days away from the Sunday clash between the Bendigo Pioneers and Gippsland Power, both teams will be without their representatives. Both these teams have just the one win between them, with the Pioneers’ coming in Round 1 against the Murray Bushrangers, and have since had a lot of close outings but are yet to be successful. A one-point defeat to the Stingrays last week had them agonisingly close, and will be hoping to get over the line in this one.

Both teams will be without some of their top talents ahead of the championships, with Grace McRae and Grace Matser both out for the Gippsland Power, whilst Tara Slender, Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning will miss for Bendigo Pioneers. In their place, Maddy Marks returns for her second game back, teaming up with Tegan Williams as the key forward targets. Jayda Richardson and Drew Ryan are in the midfield alongside Country emergency Octavia Di Donato, while Lily den Houting and Lila Keck have been named up forward. For the Power, Lily-Rose Williamson will look to lead from defence, with Matilda Van Berkel thrown into the ruck in what will be a small team for the Power. Yasmin Duursma is still in midfield, whilst Jordan Sochackyi has been named in a forward pocket. After injuring herself last week, Sunday Brisbane has been named as an emergency for the Power.

NAB League Girls Round 7 preview: Country games on show, while Power and Bushrangers battle for first points of the season

A BATTLE of the two winless sides, Gippsland Power and Murray Bushrangers, as well as the Sandringham Dragons and Western Jets must-win contest will be the two commentated games streaming on the NAB League app this weekend. The matches are all set to be beauties with plenty of 50/50 contests and difficult to predict how they will go down in Round 7 of the NAB League Girls competition.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 20 @ 12.30pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve

Backing up from an impressive Wednesday night victory under lights at Casey Fields, Dandenong Stingrays make the trek up the highway to Epsom Huntly Reserve to take on Bendigo Pioneers. After snapping their two-game losing streak, the Stingrays have moved to 3-2 on the table, with a chance to join Calder Cannons on 4-2 fo the season if they get the win against the Pioneers. For Bendigo, they could move back within four points of the top eight sides and remain in contention for finals, having lost four straight games since their Round 1 win over Murray Bushrangers.

Captain Tara Slender is anticipated to return for the Pioneers for the big clash, with Octavia Di Donato and Tegan Williams among the more in-form players at the Pioneers in her absence a couple of weeks back when they last ran out on a Wednesday night themselves against Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at Epsom Huntly. Jayda Richardson has been utilised all over the field, while the Pioneers will be hoping to regain some of their top talents back from injury at some point, with Jemma Finning and Madeline Marks also out of the last game due to injury.

Dandenong Stingrays have now adjusted without midfield gun Emily Shepherd in there, and with Jaide Anthony also out of the side due to concussion – and will miss this clash – they have seen others step up. Charley Ryan was sensational for the Stingrays in the win against the Sandringham Dragons mid-week, while Zoe Hill showed she could play at both ends, and Ashleigh Richards and Amber Clarke looked ever-dangerous inside 50. Add in Abbey Jordan and Felicity Crank who are finding plenty of the ball of late, and the Stingrays have a well-balanced list.

Dandenong will head in as favourites against the Pioneers following the Stingrays’ defensive efforts during the week, though with the Pioneers back at home, they have the capacity to push any side as they showed a few weeks back against Calder Cannons.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS
Saturday, March 20 @ 12.30pm
Highgate Reserve

A bottom two clash of the sides yet to grab a win in season 2021, at least one of the Gippsland Power and Murray Bushrangers must take home some points in this round. The Power have been gradually building over the first month, and – with the exception of their 114-point smashing at the hands of Eastern Ranges – have reduced the losing margin each week, whilst adding more scores on the board. The Bushrangers have been pretty solid across the season, competitive through most parts of the game, but just having a quarter or two here or there that sees the opposition add quick goals to blow out the margin. With the two teams to face-off, it will be fascinating to see who two young teams go at it.

The ruck battle immediately catches the eye, with Grace Matser and Ally Morphett set to go head-to-head in a clash of different styles. Matser has been finding more of the ball and moving well around the ground, while Morphett is hard to stop when she gets front position in a marking contest with safe hands. Key defender who can also play up the other end, Matilda Van Berkel has enjoyed a strong top-age season, while midfielder Grace McRae just keeps winning the ball. She will have a great battle on the inside with Keeley Skepper who has been building nicely in her bottom-age year, whilst Aurora Smith has been one of the most consistent players this season out on the wing.

Sunday Brisbane, Yasmine Duursma and Lily-Rose Williamson have provided the Power with plenty of run from defence and through the midfield, and they will be important in trying to bring the ball down in transition. The Bushrangers have a strong defence when it is all together, with Chloe Locke, Mindy Quade and Grace Hay among those capable of playing both offensive and defensive roles. Murray will look to Olivia Cicolini who has now kicked three goals in two games as a potential goal-scoring option, with Morphett also capable of dropping deep and converting set shots. Kristy Whitehead and Courtney Fletcher are among others who have impressed for their respective sides, often helping out in the back 50.

It is hard to pick a winner in this game because both have progressed throughout the year, but one thing is for sure, the winner will have plenty to celebrate.

 

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. WESTERN JETS
Sunday, March 21 @ 10.15am
RSEA Park

An early morning game at RSEA Park pits Sandringham Dragons up against Western Jets in a must-win match for both sides with just two rounds remaining after this game. They are both 1-4 for the season and a loss will ned their chances of a finals birth, while a win puts them back in the conversation if they can build the momentum in the final fortnight. Both these sides come into the game off the back of low-scoring losses, with the Jets getting close to the GWV Rebels, and the Dragons pushing the Chargers before losing out to the Stingrays midweek.

Scoring will be a premium for these sides who have stacked up well defensively, but, with the exception of Sandringham’s win over Gippsland – has seen them both restricted from putting big scores on the board. The Dragons have the capacity to score big when they get the fast ball inside 50, with Charli Murphy (eight goals) and Ebony Angelopoulos (seven) being among the top goalkickers in the league. Mia Zielinski has slotted four goals in three games to be a talented Under 16 player and a third option in attack. For the Jets, they have shared their goals around, with Annie Gray and Caitlin Sargent both slotting three goals apiece, while Kensley Ward and Montana Ham have the two each.

Charlotte Baskaran combines with Ham as some of the better metres-gained players in the competition, with the head-to-heads against the likes of Charlotte Ryan and Tayla Jones who provide the same run for their sides. Sofia Hurley and Kiana Lynch win a lot of ball on the inside, with Hurley able to burst out of the stoppage, but also win the ball back through tackling. Now having two games under her belt, Bridie Hipwell will be looking to make a statement here, while the defensive duo of Abby Thompson and Ella Schiberras were steadfast against the tie on Wednesday night. The Jets will be looking to bring the ball quickly in transition, such as Paige Ryan in defence and Jemima Woods up forward and through the ruck.

Another 50/50 game, the winner is difficult to pick, but both teams can move the ball pretty quickly which makes for an exciting game.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Sunday, March 21 @ 11.00am
Deakin University, Waurn Ponds

Down the highway at Waurn Ponds, the Geelong Falcons will be keen to put last week’s disappointment behind them, when they were beaten by newcomers Sydney Swans Academy. The Falcons were without key bookends, Renee Tierney and Annie Lee who played in the VFL Women’s match, but were just not able to generate enough effective scores to take down the determined Swans. Northern Knights are coming off a spirited come-from-behind win over Eastern Ranges following a tight loss to Calder Cannons the week before. Northern will hope it can bring the same momentum into the start of the game against the Falcons rather than rely on a late final quarter flurry to grab the points.

The Falcons midfield brigade of Tess Craven, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson has been one of the most consistent trios running around, with Ash Van Loon being the most dominant tackler in the NAB League Girls competition. She came off sore last match, but the Falcons have plenty of depth across the field with Elizabeth Dowling and Taiya Morrow in defence, and Gabbi Featherston and Lucy Were in attack. Keeley Hardingham and Analea McKee both had strong games in the Swans’ loss, while Ingrid Houtsma missed out on the match and is another player to watch going forward.

Northern Knights’ Under 16s talent Ava Jordan has put together a really promising debut season this year, being one of the most consistent ball-winners through midfield. With Maeve Chaplin missing through injury, Jordan stepped up through the midfield against the Ranges, teaming up well with Tarrah Delgado who switched from full-back into the middle late in the game. Brooke Plummer has provided some great run and carry on the outside, and having Ella Smallacombe, Trinity Mills and Megan Girolami up forward as targets, gives the Knights midfield – including AFL Women’s Academy member Maykaylah Appleby – players to look for inside 50.

Geelong Falcons will be hungry to bounce back in this game, while the Northern Knights will be riding high on their last quarter from Round 6, and keen to back it up from the first bounce in Round 7.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Sunday, March 21 @ 11.30am
MARS Stadium

The last game to kick off for the round is the big clash between GWV Rebels and Oakleigh Chargers at MARS Stadium. The Rebels will be hoping a home ground advantage can sway the game in their favour against an unbeaten Chargers outfit that has completed every challenge thrown at them. Oakleigh looks down on the rest of the competition with five wins from five games, while the Rebels have won three of five – including their past two – and will be heading in as underdogs to try and take down the premiership favourites.

Oakleigh Chargers have an array of midfield talent, led by inside ball-winner and powerful forward, Charlie Rowbottom who has not only been one of the better contested players, but has gone forward and kicked crunch goals, slotting six majors in five games this season. On the outside, Stella Reid has done a wealth of work across the ground, and slotted into half-back or half-forward when required as well as the wing where she predominantly plays. She has also hit the scoreboard with four majors, third behind Rowbottom and tall, Ameille Smith (five goals) in that areas. Up the other end, Alexander McCulloch and Brooke Vickers have won their fair share of ball and driven it outside 50, while Amanda Ling has become another prominent ball-winner for the Chargers.

The Rebels are a well-balanced side with great versatility, and have had some outstanding performers this season. A massive 11 players have averaged more than 10 disposals this season, with 10 of them playing at least four games. Chloe Leonard has patrolled the half-back line with Nyakoat Dojiok, while Lilli Condon has been a reliable accumulator in close and spreading well. Up forward, Paige Scott keeps kicking goals and now has eight to her name, while Tahlia Meier is averaging a goal a game, and their forward line spread has enabled Ella Friend to play up on a wing. Molly Walton has been a find for the Rebels on the last line as well, able to bring the ball from the danger zone to safety in her bottom-age season.

Oakleigh Chargers head in as favourites, but the GWV Rebels are every chance of causing an upset if they can continue their recent form and even team spread across the field.

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 6

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition treated us to an extended weekend of fixtures in Round 6. 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 AFL 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.

SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

A quiet game compared to her usual lofty standards, Rowbottom’s influence on the game still can’t be understated as she demanded a run with player around the ground throughout the game. Despite this, she still found ways to impact, especially up forward where she was played as the main target, able to hit the scoreboard for her troubles. Still had moments of brilliance where she’d get away from her player and win the clearance, leaving everyone in her dust. 

TOP PERFORMERS:

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Just finds ways to outdo herself throughout the game as it goes on. It felt like she was adding a new string to her bow each quarter with her ball winning early impressive, then adding her speed the next quarter, then adding her overhead marking the next and finally adding her composure in the final quarter, not that any of those were weaknesses earlier on, but became more apparent as the game went on. Really reads the play well and puts herself in great spaces all the time, highlighted by a patch in the third quarter where she got an intercept mark, kicked it back forward and then got another one intercept mark when Sandringham worked it back out. Worked hard throughout the game, with her two-way running being a desirable trait. 

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Has some really eye catching moments, especially around stoppages, where her in-and-under, unrelenting hunt of the ball, mixed with her burst of speed and equally quick use of the ball by hand, is a real strength. This game she had a presence as a forward as well, taking a few good grabs and setting up some good inside 50 opportunities with her kicks.

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Had a solid game splitting her time through the midfield and up forward as a deeper target. Did some good things in the first three quarters around stoppages in particular, where her acceleration was hard for Sandringham to deal with, but it was in the final quarter when the pressure started mounting that she really stepped up and shined, getting involved all around the ground with her in close pressure work, and taking a particularly crucial contested mark to slow down play and run down the clock in the final two minutes, showing a deep understanding of the game and how to deal with those situations. 

#9 Brooke Vickers (Oakleigh Chargers)

Has been a consistent contributor in the Chargers defense and this game was no different, with her tendency to leave her opponent and making contests 2-on-1 in her teams favour, and her confidence to attack incoming balls at ground level and in the air, she’s a very well rounded attacking defender, that doesn’t neglect her defensive responsibilities. She stood up in the big moments, especially in the final quarter as Sandringham were clawing themselves back into the game.

#4 Alexandra McCulloch (Oakleigh Chargers)

Stood up again in the Oakleigh backline, where her willingness to back herself was on show, flying for marks in packs and taking on opponents when tucking the ball under her arm and running with it. Her reliability throughout the game allowed other Oakleigh defenders such as Brooke Vickers to run off their opponents to impact further up the ground, which made her a very valuable part of the win.

#10 Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons)

Had some really good moments, especially with ball in hand, where she’d use her agility to get around multiple opponents and then getting the ball to a teammate. Not overly crash and bash with her ball winning, but she’s very capable of winning a contested ground ball with her poise around contests, which means that more often than not she’s in a good position to handball off to a teammate effectively 

# 18 Mia Zielinski (Sandringham Dragons)

It’s hard to believe this was just her second game at this level, just plays in such a confident and assured manner, confident to take on opponents in a foot race, on the ground or in the air. Her aerial work is superb, rarely dropping a mark and not wasting a single disposal, she became Sandringham’s main target inside 50, flying for everything, very much one to watch for the 2023 draft. 

#11 Tayla Jones (Sandringham Dragons)

Despite playing as a winger, she got involved quite a bit down deep in defence, where she was winning herself a few free kicks through getting to the ball first. Followed up her kicks if they went wayward which obviously made her teammates much more assured. Further up the ground she was punishing Oakleigh for missed kicks when she was in the area, sweeping up loose balls and delivering accurately to teammates.

#15 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)

Followed up her brilliant game against Gippsland with another big performance against a physically stronger midfield, where her athleticism and footy IQ held her in good stead for the game, often selling candy or side stepping opponents with ease then delivering a long accurate kick forward or handballing off to a teammate on the outside, it really looks like her confidence is growing game by game. Was one of the main dragons to take that step up in the final quarter to get them within a kick.

OTHERS:

In such a well rounded performance there’s plenty of others worthy of a mention. From the victors, Erin Woodford and Lily Hart played a big role in pushing their side through for a win. Jemma Rigoni was also good around the ground, getting a goal in her usual forward spot but pushing up and impacting in the midfield, with talented bottom-ager Ameille Smith also having an impact up forward and in the ruck. Sandringham’s winger Charlotte Ryan won plenty of it and did some damage with her signature speed, Pia Staltari was again thrown around in all 3 sections of the ground, but used it well wherever she was. Abby Thompson was a solid aerial presence in defense with captain Kiana Lynch creating plenty going forward.

 

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWS GIANTS ACADEMY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#36 Ally Morphett (GWS GIANTS Academy – but also Murray Bushrangers)

It must have been weird for Morphett lining up against her NAB League teammates, but she certainly had no qualms making an impact in the game. The opening bounce saw the ruck punch a thumping ball forward into the path of her teammates, and then had a number of shots on goal in the opening term. Her set shot from 50m shanked to the right and was intercepted, then her quick snap on goal was good, but went to to the left and stayed in. She kept putting her body on the line and winning her fair share of the ball, thumping it forward. She took a really strong overhead mark, clunking the ball and her ball movement inside 50 led to a goal.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Cynthia Hamilton (GWS GIANTS Academy)

A standout throughout the match for the GIANTS Academy providing run all over the ground. She played between the wing, forward and even dropping back into defence, finding plenty of the ball and keeping it moving in transition. Her work rate was a feature of her game, and she stepped up to kick two goals in the match; the first when she went to full-forward midway through the term thanks to a quick kick running back to it, and then booted a second goal in the third term with a snap out of nothing. Hamilton had a courageous marking attempt in the forward 50 and would continue to run hard throughout the match to be one of the GIANTS’ standout players.

#11 Jayde Hamilton (GWS GIANTS Academy)

Just cracked in for four quarters, and having been one of the AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitees from last season, and someone who has already debuted at VFL Women’s level, Hamilton showed her experience and ball-winning abilities. She can tend to throw the ball on the boot at times, but her vision and timing of handballs is quite good, able to release at the right point. She reads the stoppage work well and can get forward for some shots on goal.

#30 Jessica Whelan (GWS GIANTS Academy)

A lovely kick of the ball, Whelan has great technique and and played between midfield and forward, with a few eye-catching highlights. She laid a fierce tackle in the middle of the ground in the opening term, took a great intercept mark on the wing and hit a low dart of a pass inside 50 in the third term which led to a goal, then earned a 50m penalty to have a set shot from the goalsquare and made no mistake.

#31 Hayley Macdonald (GWS GIANTS Academy)

Booted two goals in the game and looked lively inside 50. She arguably could have finished with more majors, given her first set shot from 20m out straight in front missed to the right. She kicked her first early in the third term with a great snap around her body, and continued to present throughout the second half. Early in the fourth quarter Macdonald kicked her second, able to get her boot to the ball in the goalsquare to double her output.

#2 Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)

Having some sort of season is the outside talent, with her speed and ball-winning capacity on show. At times she just needs that extra touch of composure or awareness to know she has more time than she thinks she does, but when she is up and going it is impressive. She is strong overhead and is not afraid to take on the opposition, at one stage evading two players, but then getting caught by the third. With her athletic traits and aggressive play with ball-in-hand, Smith is perennially an eye-catching player and has some attractive traits to her wing role.

#22 Grace Hay (Murray Bushrangers)

An important player in the Bushrangers’ defensive setup, Hay generally uses the ball well aside from the odd kick, and is always mopping up deep in defence. She is a strong interceptor and takes the game on with running meterage, and then puts her body on the line such as a great smother to save a goal in the third term. She was clean off the deck and able to quickly transition from the pickup to a smooth handball in the final quarter, having put together and impressive overall performance.

#17 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)

Another strong performance from the bottom-age talent with a penetrating left boot. She showed clean hands at ground level and her usual defensive pressure, with her sidestepping ability to get on her left side and then wind up with a powerful pass always something to enjoy. Skepper is able to take some strong overhead marks and cover the ground well, laying tackles in each of the thirds of the ground, and it is about refining the left boot to match the execution with the technique. Whilst she courageously went up for a mark late in the game, she landed a little awkwardly and was rested.

#46 Zara Hamilton (Murray Bushrangers)

Working with tandem with Smith as the prime ball mover in transition, Hamilton played an impressive game from both an offensive and defensive standpoint. Often she would apply pressure to the opposition to force a turnover such as a dropped mark inside defensive 50, and when she had the ball used it fairly well. Not afraid to use some athleticism to sidestep and opponent and kick long, Hamilton set up a goal to Olivia Cicolini who made no mistake from a free kick in the third term.

OTHERS:

Sophie Trewartha was impressive for the GIANTS, while Eleanor Bishop won plenty of the footy, and the likes of Georgie Jaques and Anita Manning were also solid. For the Bushrangers, Kristy Whitehead, Mindy Quade, Bonny McKean and Chloe Locke worked well in defence, and Mikayla Jones was also among the better players on the day for the losing side.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#7 Jessica Doyle (Sydney Swans Academy)

Whilst Doyle might be lightly built, she certainly packs a punch and plenty of talent with her work in the forward half. Working between midfield and forward as one of those taller mids who can provide a marking target inside 50, Doyle has that X-factor about her that catches the eye. She got the ball rolling for her side against the momentum in the first term with an important goal, then stepped up with her side’s third major of the contest, to finish with the two goals from an equal team-high 19 disposals. Moving well around the ground, Doyle was a key playmaker, driving the ball inside 50 on multiple occasions.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#20 Ella Heads (Sydney Swans Academy)

An absolute rock in defence, Heads was a terrific one-on-one opponent, and took a number of strong intercept marks. She would then take the game on and either go for a run or use her composure to go back and search out a target. As the defence was under siege early, Heads did well to hold the fort up and team up well with the likes of Ruby Sargent-Wilson, and think through the defensive transition into attack.

#10 Ruby Sargent-Wilson (Sydney Swans Academy)

Did not need to win a heap of the ball to have an impact, with five rebound 50s from 10 touches. She popped up from time to time during crucial moments, and was one of the Swans’ best on the day. She used the ball well by foot and was composed when she won it, often weaving away from an opponent to provide teammates with something to run onto.

#19 Maddy Hendrie (Sydney Swans Academy)

Hendrie was someone who caught the eye due to her movement in transition, putting the ball into dangerous spots going inside 50. She was not afraid to get her hands dirty with a number of tackles, and even had a chance on goal but missed. Winning the majority of her touches at ground level, Hendrie was a key playmaker in the front half for the Swans throughout the day.

#13 Danika Spamer (Sydney Swans Academy)

A tough competitor who won her fair share of the ball, Spamer laid the equal most tackles for the Swans and really dug deep at the clinches. She was able to extract the ball from the stoppage and keep it moving, and whilst still developing some areas of her game, she showed she could win the ball and cover the field really well, winning possessions in each third of the ground.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

The Draft Central Player of the Week was absolutely sensational with a competition season-high 31 disposals on the day. She was everywhere, even kicking a goal off a step from just inside 50 to keep the Falcons in the contest, and popped up constantly around the ground. On a number of occasions she just could not quite hold onto a few marks so could have had even more of the pill, but her complete work rate saw her pick up five or more marks, tackles, inside 50s and rebounds just to give a bit of an indication of just how impressive she was in the match. On the most in-form players in the 2021 season.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Another consistent performer with clean skills and balance, Schaap worked in tandem with Craven throughout the match to ensure the game was controlled out of the midfield. Whilst the Falcons ultimately fell short of victory, Schaap was someone who would put her body on the line, then create her own space and use it well in transition. She was often the player cracking in under multiple opponents to win the contested ball, and then applying her own defensive pressure.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

Continuing what has been a consistent season, Simpson is the third player in the trio of ball-winning midfielders, and used her strength to advantage in the contest. She was able to win the loose and hard balls, and thump the pill forward to give teammates best chance. At times she can rush with her disposal, but knows how to win the ball and how to protect the ball at ground level, as well as aide with defensive support.

#33 Taiya Morrow (Geelong Falcons)

Really stepped up in defence with the absence of Annie Lee to team up with Elizabeth Dowling back there. She was someone often mopping up on the last line of defence, and then clearing the ball through a long kick to half-back. She put together a four-quarter performance and really came into her own during the match, and is an underrated player in the Falcons’ back six, completing their array of consistent defenders.

OTHERS:

For the Swans, it really was an even team performance, with rucks, Eloise Morgan and April Devine catching the eye, while Kahli Gilchrist and Isadora McLeay also stood out. For the Falcons, Dowling was her reliable self in defence, while Gabbi Featherston and Mia Van Dyke were impressive, as was Analea McKee who played her best game of the season, and Ash Van Loon was fierce before coming off with an injury.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Hamish Spence

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

King finished off her third game in eight days among the best players on the ground once again. Her poise, speed and timing were impressive in the tough conditions, but she still managed to match it around the contest with her 16 disposals and six tackles. One thing that stands out in King’s game is her intent to keep the ball alive and move it forward. While it doesn’t always come off and can result in the occasional mistake, her attacking mindset would have North Melbourne (the AFLW club with her draft rights) excited.

TOP PERFORMERS:  

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Gaffney’s enjoyed a strong 2021 campaign this year, but Saturday’s game was her finest performance to date. Her gut-running and agility were a luxury for the Devils, as they could distribute the ball to her on the outside and get it away from the contest, where it lived for large parts of the day. She played a typical wingers game, covering the whole ground and racking up plenty of possessions with her line-breaking speed, ultimately finishing with 20 disposals, four tackles, three inside 50s and three rebound 50s.

#15 Jemma Webster (Tasmania Devils)

Starred at ground level and on the inside, making an impact at every stoppage she attended. Her contested game style was perfectly suited to the congested conditions at Dial Park, with Webster often distributing the ball from the bottom of the pack with her 11 handballs. She racked up 20 disposals in total and kicked a goal, continuing the excellent form that has seen her named in Draft Central’s Team of the Week for the second week in a row.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

It was another great game for Maurer through the midfield, but it was the impact she made up forward that will turn some heads. She was the only multiple goalkicker for the game; her first was a set-shot after being hit-up on a lead, and the second was a classy running goal out of the contest. If Maurer can keep adding this element to her game, it will serve her well going forward. She was also tough as usual around stoppages with her 18 disposals and six tackles, constantly absorbing tackles to hand the ball off one of her teammates.

#49 Charlotte Vandenberg (Tasmania Devils)

Was the most dominant ruck on the ground, easily winning the ruck battle with her game-high 17 hit outs. Dandenong rotated several different players against her, but Vandenberg didn’t lower her standards or tire out, asserting her physicality at each contest. What was equally impressive was her follow-up and second efforts at ground level, her six tackles represent her want to impact the game even after the ball’s been bounced.

#6 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays)

She worked tirelessly all game for the Stingrays, finishing as their leading possession getter with 19 disposals, despite playing out of the forward line. She pushed hard up the ground and used her speed to provide an option for her side, as evidenced by her game-high nine inside 50s. She had three scoring shots on goal, before finally getting some reward for effort with the last goal of the game.

#38 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)

Was arguably Dandenong’s best midfielder in defeat on the weekend. She looked comfortable around stoppages in the wet conditions, constantly pushing past players and forcing her way through packs. While Emily Shepherd being out due to injury was a blow, it gave Crank a chance to step up in her absence, an opportunity she fully embraced with her 18 disposals.

#34 Ashleigh Richards (Dandenong Stingrays)

Another key contributor through the middle, Richards impressed with her toughness and competitiveness around the ball. She featured at most stoppages and made an impact with her 12 disposals and three tackles. She didn’t seem to push forward as much as she has done in the past, possibly signalling a more midfield centric role moving forward.

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Hill continued her excellent form marshalling the Stingrays down back, reading the ball beautifully, despite the wet conditions, and keeping Tasmania’s forward line in check. She kept the likes of Amy Prokopiec accountable after Prokopiec kicked the first goal of the game, while impacting the contest in her own right with her 13 disposals, three tackles and three rebound 50s.

#27 Charley Ryan (Dandenong Stingrays)

She didn’t gather as much of the ball as some other players, but Ryan made an impact whenever she had it in her hands. Every one of her nine disposals was effective and laced with class, which stood in the tough conditions on Saturday. She drove her side’s attacks up forward with six inside 50s and wasn’t afraid to work defensively with her six tackles.

OTHERS:

Aprille Crooks (18 disposals and three rebound 50s) and Priscilla Odwogo (15 disposals, five tackles and five rebound 50s) were Tasmania’s two main movers out of the backline, constantly cutting off the ball and sending it back out. Amy Bissett was an important link-up forward, gathering 14 disposals and three inside 50s in a strong performance. While her fellow winger, Meghan Gaffney, took most of the attention, Madison Brazendale (15 disposals and five tackles) was good in her own right on the opposing wing. Abbey Jordan (17 disposals and two inside 50s) was strong through the middle for Dandenong, matching it with some of the Devils’ best onballers around stoppages. Jemma Radford (nine disposals, two inside 50s and two rebound 50s) and Mackenzie Eardley (13 disposals, six tackles and two rebound 50s) held up down back and constantly rebounded the ball. Olivia Robinson (13 disposals, five tackles and three inside 50s) was influential at half-forward, working up the field to impact the contest and applying constant pressure.

 

GWV REBELS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Positioned on the wing for the day, she really showed off her workrate and game reading ability, drifting into the backline to provide assistance down there, getting herself in the best spots to take intercept marks, but also pushing forward to provide pressure and scoring opportunities. It’s particularly impressive how aerially, even if she doesn’t hold the mark she’s never beaten with the follow up at ground level, where she’s composed and measured with her ball use as well.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Really impressive work creating drive from the backline and setting up outside of forward 50 to get the ball straight back in, making it difficult for the Jets to set themselves up defensively again. She showed she understands the game at a high level as well, always doing all she can with the ball in hand, like going for runs, but never pushing it and overestimating what she can do, that mixed with the distance and penetration of her kick can be really damaging.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Coming into the midfield from her usual back flank role, it was a seamless transition for Leonard who topped the disposal charts for the day. All the same attributes that make her such a danger off of half back; her speed, kicking and game sense, were well on show throughout the day as she was often standing beside the Jets Montana Ham around stoppages, and looked to do well in nullifying her whilst getting a lot of it herself. Her tackling around stoppages was really good as well, making it hard for Jets to break free at any stage 

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

Had an amazing game playing mostly as the main target for the Rebels inside deep 50, showing her potential to be one of those midfielders that can effectively rest forward. Standing at just the 166 cm, you would’ve thought she was 10 cm taller the way she was flying for every mark and getting a couple of them. It was her work at ground level and in congestion that was most impressive, able to dance around opponents to set up teammates going forward, or handball to an oncoming runner.

#1 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)

The top ball winner for the Jets, Baskaran was her usual composed and classy self throughout the game, with her ball use highly effective and damaging, which played a big part in the Jets second half surge. I really liked that she very rarely just kicks it down the line, she’s always looking to move the ball inside or across for a switch, making it easier for her forwards to get effective shots if they mark it.

#38 Montana Ham (Western Jets)

There’s something very entertaining about watching Ham run straight through stoppages to get the ball moving forward with a long bomb, and she’s just so hard for opponents to stop from doing it. Particularly impressed with how she set up behind the ball for the game, taking on a more defensive focus than we usually see from her, she really effective in creating contests rather than letting the rebels just go end-to-end

#6 Stella Bridgewater (GWV Rebels)

Lined up at centre half-forward to start with, but played one of those games where she could very well have been a midfielder as well, was just everywhere and involved in every area of the ground. Has some really good athletic traits which make her a difficult matchup, either faster or stronger than the opponents rotating on her throughout the game.

#52 Krystal Russell (Western Jets)

Improves more and more every game which is really good to see, and against the Rebels she started putting really direction and distance on her taps, putting it a few meters out in front of teammates already on the move, with her teammates rarely having to slow down for the ball. Her follow up work is good when it’s called upon as well.

OTHERS:

Lili Condon battled hard in the midfield all day for the Rebels, winning plenty of ball, with defensive duo Molly Walton and Stephanie Glover also putting in a good shift in the defensive half for the Rebels, while Kalani Scoullar won the most hitouts across the round. For the Jets, it was some regular contributors in Jemima Woods, Paige Ryan and Stephanie Asciak that battled hard all day in different areas of the ground, with all doing a lot of their work in the midfield.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve

AFLW ACADEMY:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

It’s kind of ridiculous that she can play half of the game away from the rover roles but still have such a high disposal count and impact everywhere around the ground. It’s obvious she’s been playing more forward and defense in the last couple of weeks, and her output hasn’t dropped at all which is a really great thing to see. Was really impressive especially when playing in the backline, with her willingness to attack the footy and move up the ground playing a big part in Calder’s constant pressure and ball movement forward. Throw in some of her usual side steps and composure under pressure and it was a top level performance where she made essentially no mistakes.

#18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Had a good game in the ruck where she was tested against one of the best in the comp. What you’re getting with Gillard is a ruck that, even if she doesn’t win the tap her follow up work is unmatchable, with work below her knees being a major strength for someone as tall as she is. Throw on top of this her ability to impact up forward or around the ground as a really good aerially presence and user of the footy and she’s such a valuable player, which was on show against Power.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#25 Lily Rose Williamson (Gippsland Power)

Her run-and-carry is a delight to watch, she’s got a good mix of power/strength as well as composure to understand what her limits are, so it was rare to see her get herself into trouble despite her tendency for that run-and carry. She’s really accountable in defense, even on the occasion her opponent does win the ball they won’t get an easy disposal afterwards with her tackling and relentless pressure. With more time in the midfield, I have no doubt she’ll become one of the stronger stoppage players in the competition.

#5 Neve Crowley (Calder Cannons)

She has such a high impact with her disposal that even without racking up big numbers she’s one of the most damaging players during any given game, and her switch to the forwardline after spending the last few games as a defender proves that with her game high 3 goal haul. A really impressive part of her game was how much she worked up the ground as well, then worked harder than her opponent in transition to impact the play. Another impressive part of her game was her marking, taking a good contested mark in the first quarter.

#10 Olivia Manfre (Calder Cannons)

She’s been on the verge of having a breakout game for a couple of weeks and all it took was a game where she got a really good run in the midfield to do it. A lot of what she’s displayed up forward with her leading patterns, disposal skills and footy IQ shined in the midfield as well, making really good runs around stoppages to get in the best positions, and could then get the ball to outside runners or kick it forward.. She still had her stints up forward as well, getting a goal for her efforts, showing that she’s got that capability of a midfield/forward split going forward.

#2 Reese Sutton (Calder Cannons)

In a similar sense to Manfre she’s been on the verge of a breakout game for a couple of weeks, and with increased midfield time she took it with both hands, her footy IQ on display around stoppages where she does well to put herself where the ball is going to be. Her kicking is a real delight, finding the better options more often than not with well weighted kicks.

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Super impressive through the midfield all day, with her burst of speed in particular looking good coming out of stoppages or contests, always followed by a quality kick forward or handball to an outside team mate. Once again was impressed by her two-way running, where she’d be involved in the forwardline, and then pop up in the backline a minute later when Gippsland got a turn over.

#5 Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Looking at her play a game, and she just understands it at a really high level. Despite not racking up huge numbers she has really good moments throughout the game where her game sense and footy IQ are on display with her positioning or runs she’s making, especially when reading the ball off of the rucks hands. Her disposal skills under pressure were also really impressive, and contributed to some really good passages for Gippsland

#1 Sunday Brisbane (Gippsland Power)

Really crafty midfielder, who despite her size isn’t afraid to get involved  in the contested side of the game, and that relentless attack on the ball is really advantageous for Gippsland, especially with her handballing being at a good level, even with Calder tightening up on her later on.

OTHERS:

Gippsland had a few admirable performers despite the loss, with Courtney Fletcher winning quite a bit of ball around the ground. Tall duo Matilda Van Berkel and Grace Matser were solid in defense and the Ruck respectively and Grace McRae still impacted well despite having a quieter game than usual. The Cannons had plenty of others that performed their role well, Zali Friswell again being a good ball winner and contributor in other areas around the ground, bottom-ager Abbey McDonald continues to work into her role as rebounding defender really well, and winger Mia Briedis was winning it plenty.

 

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. EASTERN RANGES

By: Michael Alvaro

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Maykaylah Appleby (Northern Knights)

Appleby was again promising in patches for the Knights, with her speed and running ability evident but not dominant over the course of a highly contested game. She could have been the perfect player to break the contest open on the outside and threatened to do so with ball in hand. Her class shone through with clean takes and use in possession, especially during the third and fourth quarters as Northern began to arrest momentum and mount its extraordinary comeback.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

The best player afield and at 15 years of age, one who has already set the bar high with many seasons left to prosper in the underage pathways. Jordan was a constant figure at the stoppages, using her zippy turn of speed to burst away with ball in hand and thrust Northern onto the front foot. She dug in hard despite her diminutive stature and was the standout performer across four quarters, while also standing up in the clutch moments. Her third term goal gave Northern a sniff, and her second put the Knights within striking distance during term four, capping off what was an outstanding individual performance which inspired her team to victory.

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

Eastern’s most outstanding performer on the day, Sherar worked furiously hard to ensure her side would boss the midfield battle early on. All bar one of her 16 disposals were kicks, highlighting Sherar’s ability to gain meterage from the coalface and make an impact where it matters most. Her marking prowess was also on show and the Ranges coaches would have been pleased by her work-rate to not only win possession in all areas of the ground, but to also tackle hard when required. After kicking the second goal of the game, Sherar was set up for a big day and followed through.

#15 Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)

With everything to gain late in the contest, Northern pulled the trigger and sent Delgado into the centre bounces – a move which ultimately played a massive part in the final result. Previously, the reliable top-ager was seen intercepting and rebounding in her usual defensive post, which proved key to Northern remaining a chance to turn around and win. At 173cm, her presence was then felt through midfield where she willed the ball forward and booted a crucial goal at the start of term four to spark Northern’s game-winning charge.

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Another of the 2005-birth brigade, Pisano continues to find the goals for Eastern and impact games up forward. An impressive 14 of her 15 disposals came via foot, and five of them were inside 50 entries, showcasing the creative threat that Pisano presents. Her two goals came with a touch of class and were taken in quick succession during the first term, helping Eastern skip out to what should have been a defining lead. The 15-year-old has plenty of time to develop further and potentially try her hand up the field, but looks so comfortable at the level as a forward.

#22 Ella Smallacombe (Northern Knights)

One of Northern’s key factors up forward, Smallacombe, or ‘Big Brush’ as she is referred to by teammates notched a career-high 17 disposals as she worked hard up the ground to provide a viable target and help link the Knights into their attacking 50. She may not have found the big sticks in this outing, but moreso played to a role which allowed Northern to keep its forward momentum going and have someone who could skilfully deliver the ball into dangerous areas.

#44 Grace Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

One of the competition’s most exciting ruck prospects, Campbell was able to showcase her athleticism and raw ability on the ball in this outing. At over 180cm, her aerial nous is an obvious strength and she brought it to the fore with a game-high 19 hitouts to go with three eye-catching marks. She is one of the few players who can take the ball at its highest point, but not one to admire her work for long, Campbell also showed a knack for playing on straight away and moving through traffic like a much smaller player. She missed the chance to cap off a promising outing with scoreboard impact, with one guilt-edge chance to put Eastern back ahead during the fourth term drifting into the post.

OTHERS:

Both sides had a raft of handy contributors during the day, with plenty of hard workers placed on each line. Eastern had the likes of Jess Grace and Isabelle Khoury return from VFLW duties with aplomb, while Grace Walsh was strong in defence alongside Cadhla Schmidli, and Bridget Deed was reliable in midfield. Northern leader Teleah Smart was also busy in the engine room, aided by the combativeness of stand-in ruck Monique Ramsay. Lulu Beatty was another to impress, while Rylie Wilcox was lively inside 50 and Trinity Mills popped up for a couple of clutch goals.

NAB League Girls Round 6 preview: Academy teams arrive for bumper clashes

ALL four Northern Academy teams will arrive in the NAB League Girls competition, with the Sydney Swans, Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns playing in Victoria, while GWS GIANTS meet the Murray Bushrangers in Lavington, New South Wales.

In a huge boost for the NAB League Girls, the clash between Geelong Falcons and Sydney Swans Academy, and the double-header featuring the Queensland Academy teams and Northern Knights and Eastern Ranges, will not only be streamed via the NAB League app, but also feature live commentary. We preview all the Round 6 games below.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. GWS GIANTS ACADEMY
Saturday, March 13 @ 10am
Lavington Sports Ground

The first NAB League Girls game of the year to be played in New South Wales takes place between Murray Bushrangers and GWS GIANTS Academy. It also marks the first game of what will be four across the weekend, introducing the Northern Academy sides to some Victorian opposition. Murray Bushrangers are yet to win a game in the NAB League Girls, and their AFL Women’s Academy player Ally Morphett will suit up in the orange and charcoal against the Bushrangers’ other towering ruck in Lily Kozuharoff. After making her debut for North Melbourne VFL Women’s last week, Jayde Hamilton will be back at Under 19s level, roving the taps and going head-to-head with bottom-age jet Keeley Skepper onball.

Grace Hay is a critical inclusion in defence for the Bushrangers, teaming up with the likes of Mindy Quade, Chloe Locke and Kristy Whitehead forming a strong half-back line. They will need to contain teammate Lily Sharp who also switches jumpers for this clash, while Hayley Macdonald slotted three goals in the big 49-point win over Sydney Swans Academy a fortnight ago. She was named best on ground in that victory, with Sophie Trewartha another impressive forward on the day, Eleano Bishop and wing Brodie Mowbray others named amongst the best. India Lehman will take to the field for the GIANTS against her Bushrangers teammates, while Murray will look to in-form wing Aurora Smith to go head-to-head with Jessica Whelan in a matchup to watch. Zara Hamilton, Sophia McCarthy and Olivia Cicolini are others who can create scoring opportunities for the home side.

Murray has the experience at this level, but the real contest will be the interesting factor watching the GIANTS Academy making their debut at NAB League level with a number of Bushrangers to face off against their NAB League teammates.

 

GEELONG FALCONS vs. SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY
Saturday, March 13 @ 11am
Deakin University Waurn Ponds

Heading much further south, another Academy team arrives in Victoria for a clash against the red-hot Geelong Falcons. The Falcons are 3-0 so far this season and have taken care of all their opponents thus far. Sydney has played two matches against the GIANTS Academy, splitting the results with a 20-point win, before a 49-point loss. Given Geelong could take out the entire title, this will be a great challenge for the Swans to partake in as they hit the field for the first time at NAB League Girls level. The Falcons head in without the in-form Annie Lee in defence, or leading goalkicker Renee Tierney up forward as they look to continue their stints at VFL Women’s level. Otherwise the Falcons will be relatively stable across the field and look to continue their form against the Swans.

The Falcons midfield of Tess Craven, Ash Van Loon, Poppy Schaap and Charlotte Simpson has been rock solid this year, and will be hard to beat. It will be a fantastic test for the likes of Ruby Sargent-Wilson and Hannah Cerezo who both stood out in the Academy matches recently. Up forward, Jessica Doyle slotted four as the sole AFL Women’s Academy for her state, but also the only one in the match. She will be the crucial player to watch up forward, though Willow Smith, Kyla Tracey and Jade Jarrett have all proven to be scoring options for the red and white side. Elizabeth Dowling will be the player her teammates look to with distribution outside the defensive 50, while Analea McKee and Ava McKeegan will look to drive the ball down the field from half-back. Ingrid Houtsma provides some X-factor on the win, and Mia Van Dyke has been thrown forward for this game, with reliable targets, Lucy Were and Gabbi Featherston making life difficult for the opposition. Other Swans who impressed in the Academy games include Kiara Beesley – who received a Draft Combine invitation last year – Maddy Hendrie, Ella Morris, Kahli Gilchrist and Ella Heads who will hope to make a good impression in this encounter.

Geelong is one of the teams to beat this season, but the Swans will get a great hitout ahead of next month’s AFL Women’s Under-19 Championships.

 

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS
Saturday, March 13 @ 12.30pm
Penguin Reserve

Playing in the third state for the day’s action, Tasmania Devils host Dandenong Stingrays at Penguin Reserve. The Devils are coming off back-to-back wins in Victoria after their narrow defeat at the hands of Oakleigh Chargers a fortnight ago. If there is one team that can sympathise with them about losing to the Chargers in a nail-biter it is the Stingrays, who went down to the Chargers by a solitary point a week ago. Tasmania sits at 3-1 for the season, while the Stingrays have one less game under their belts for a 2-1 start, but could draw level with a win here. The Devils really ran out the final term against Bendigo Pioneers last Saturday, then managed to restrict Western Jets to just one point, meaning in their last seven quarters, the Devils’ defence has conceded just one behind. That will be important against a dangerous Stingrays’ forward line that contains Amber Clarke (three goals against Oakleigh) and the rotating Ashleigh Richards and Mackenzie Eardley who can be thrown there too.

Much like the Devils, the Stingrays have a really strong defensive outfit, with Eardley and Zoe Hill the twin towers in the key positions and the likes of Jaide Anthony and Jemma Radford providing the run. Amy Prokopiec has looked lively up forward this season, with her season-best four goals coming in Round 1, while Amy Bissett and Amy Edmand have also proven to kick multiple goals in a game through tight contests. The Devils midfield has been firing on all cylinders, withe speed of Perri King, class of Claire Ransom and hardness of Ella Maurer providing a nice balance on the inside. Given the Stingrays will be without the injured Emily Shepherd, it will be up to Richards and Felicity Crank to step up with Abbey Jordan in that onball group. Aprille Crooks, Priscilla Odwogo and Jemma Blair can provide the run out of defence for the Devils, while Meghan Gaffney never stops running.

This has all the hallmarks of being a thriller and being at home, Tasmania Devils might have the slight edge, but it is hard to look past the Stingrays who are just as well balanced as any side, but it shapes as the match to watch this weekend.

 

GWV REBELS vs. WESTERN JETS
Sunday, March 14 @ 11am
MARS Stadium

Taking to the field for their second game in four days, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels will host the Western Jets – who only have a six-day break themselves – at MARS Stadium on Sunday morning. The Rebels trialled key forward Ella Friend on a wing and she has been named there again in what could be an absolute blockbuster of a matchup against Jets’ talent Charlotte Baskaran. The one-on-ones across the ground are superb, with Lilli Condon set to go up against Montana Ham, and though the height difference might be substantial, neither player will take a backwards step. Paige Scott booted three goals against the Bendigo Pioneers on Wednesday, her second three-goal haul of the year, and will be the danger player inside 50. The smaller defenders in Paige Ryan, Laura Elliott and Kate Maxwell have done well in moving the ball in transition, and will need to stem the flow of inside 50s from the Rebels midfielders.

Up the other end, Nyakoat Dojiok is a brick wall with her ability to read the ball in flight and intercept mark a treat, and Molly Walton is one of the more consistent bottom-age talents running around back there, already tasked with the kick-in duties. Chloe Leonard could slot back onto half-back, but will start onball against Trinity Skenderis, while Ally Trigg and Tahlia Meier both have the capacity to roll from the midfield forward. Kensley Ward has brought the defensive intensity up forward in her two games thus far, while Caitlin Sargent and Jemima Woods are the key forward targets inside 50. Krystal Russell has enjoyed a strong debut season as well through the ruck, and will go head-to-head against Kalani Scoullar.

If the Rebels get up, they move to 3-2 for the season, while the Jets sit at 1-3 currently and would join the Rebels with a 2-3 record if they can topple the home team up in Ballarat.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. CALDER CANNONS
Sunday, March 14 @ 11.30am
Ronald Reserve, Morwell East

Over east, Gippsland Power host Calder Cannons with the home team searching for its first win of the season, while the Calder Cannons are hoping to go back-to-back after a strong win over Northern Knights 10 days earlier under lights at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The Power have become comfortable at Ronald Reserve in Morwell East, with this fixture being their third consecutive match at the venue having played Northern Knights and Sandringham Dragons there in recent weeks. The Power put in their best effort last week against the Dragons, with their lowest losing margin of 58 points, but also slotting three goals in the process. The battle to watch will be in the midfield where Grace McRae could go head-to-head with fellow hard nut Emelia Yassir, while Yasmin Duursma and Macie Gilmour go up against Olivia Manfre and Reese Sutton onball. Georgie Prespakis has been thrown forward in a huge one-on-one contest with Lily-Rose Williamson which will be a great test for the bottom-ager given she possesses similar powerful traits.

Shanara Notman returns to the Power side to provide that tall intercepting target in defence, but could also be thrown forward, with Matilda Van Berkel and Holly Booth named in the key position forward spots though both have become reliable defenders in past years. Indiana Makai has been in good form of late, with Sunday Brisbane and Calder’s Mali McLeod also capable of taking grass with ball-in-hand a long a wing. Neve Crowley will be a crucial key tall for the Cannons up forward, with Alisa Magri (three goals against Northern) and Jessica Zakkour both damaging options inside 50. Up the other end, Kasey Lennox is rock solid at full-back, while Zali Friswell and Tahlia Gillard have both been named on the bench but can roll on and play in multiple positions, quite usually relieving the midfield.

Calder Cannons will be looking for a big win here, but Gippsland will be up for the fight, it will just be about keeping possession and getting the ball forward to their keys, then trying to capitalise on the transition.

 

NORTHERN KNIGHTS vs. BRISBANE LIONS ACADEMY
Sunday, March 14 @ 12.45pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora

In the first of a double-header at La Trobe University, Northern Knights will host Brisbane Lions Academy in what is poised to be a fantastic contest. The Lions Academy might be underrated, but they have three AFL Women’s Academy members out on the park, with Maggie Harmer, Mikayla Pauga and Bella Smith all running out for the Lions in their first NAB League Girls game. Harmer and Pauga will start through the midfield, though the latter could go forward and join Smith in the front six, while Harmer is more than capable of dropping back and being a reliable rebounding defender as well. The Lions have plenty of versatile players in their outfit, with Chelsea Chesterfield and Lucia Liessi both able to front up in the forward line, but will start in defence for this match.

The Knights have been able to create plenty of marking targets inside 50, with Megan Girolami enjoying a fantastic season this year, and the likes of Ella Smallacombe and Simone Mooney being the key talls in there. Trinity Mills has been a tough player to contain, while wings Maykaylah Appleby – Northern’s AFL Women’s Academy member – and Brooke Plummer have created driving runs and pumping the ball inside 50. Grace Wake returns from injury for the Knights for her first game of the season, teaming up with Tarrah Delgado in the back 50, while Ava Jordan has been a sensational find as an 05-born talent this season. An injury to Maeve Chaplin last week means she will miss out, but the Knights have plenty of depth through the side. Other Lions youngsters who have impressed in the Queensland colours or at QAFL Women’s level before include Macie Brown, Tiarna Jericho and Izzy Kotatis, while Phoebe Baird battling with Appleby as two smooth movers will be a matchup to watch.

Northern will be favourites for this clash, but Brisbane Lions could be the pick of the Academy sides this weekend, so if there is to be an upset, it could be this one.

 

EASTERN RANGES vs. GOLD COAST SUNS ACADEMY
Sunday, March 14 @ 2.45pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora

In the second game at the revamped La Trobe University, Eastern Ranges will hope to bounce back from their first loss two weeks ago when they take on the other Queensland Academy side in Gold Coast Suns. The Ranges will be without Olivia Meagher who will continue her stint at Collingwood’s VFL Women’s side tonight against Western Bulldogs, which means another midfielder will need to try and contain Queensland’s top draft prospect in Teagan Levi. The sister of Gold Coast’s Maddison, Levi is a terrific inside midfielder who can play in multiple roles, but will bullock the ball out of the stoppage with good burst and power. She is hard to match up on, but Bridget Deed looks to be the one set to go head-to-head with her. The Eastern midfield is a strong one, with in-form ruck Georgia Campbell, and midfielders Keeley Sherar and Ruby O’Dwyer both in good form ahead of this clash. A trio of Ranges return from VFL Women’s duty with Isabelle Khoury (wing), Matilda Hardy (half-forward) and Jess Grace (interchange) all named for the clash.

The Suns have some great talent across the board, with key forward at QAFL Women’s level Jasmyn Davidson named at full-back for this clash showing off her versatility. Up the other end is Lily Tarlinton, with her and Faith Alchin filling out the key position posts. Keyshia Matenga has speed to burn and expect her to come off the bench to roll onto a wing against either Khoury or Jorja Livingstone, while twins Laquoiya and Litonya Cockatoo-Motlop provide a family bond within the team. Alyssia Pisano is a name to keep in mind for the future as a damaging ball user in side 50, while Caitlin Thorne is another Suns player named at half-forward who could create some havoc inside 50.

Eastern Ranges have shown to have the depth to beat most teams and will be favourites here, but led by Levi, the Suns will hope to win plenty of clearances and get the ball forward for scoring opportunities.

NAB League Girls Round 2a & 5 preview: Footy feast sees six games across seven days

IN a very different footballing landscape, change has become something that everyone has had to deal with in one way or another, and in 2021, the NAB League Girls competition has managed to find a way to make up for lost time. The Round 2 fixtures which were cancelled due to Victoria’s snap lockdown will be played over a few weeks, in midweek fixtures, including three of the six matches over the next six days. These three matches will coincide with the three regular Round 5 matches which were scheduled to take place anyway, meaning fans will be able to attend all six games across six different days.

CALDER CANNONS vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS
Thursday, March 4 @ 7pm
RAMS Arena, Craigieburn

Kicking off the long weekend is the first of the Round 2 rescheduled fixtures with Calder Cannons hosting Northern Knights at prime time on a Thursday night. It is arguably not what the grand final rematch of 2019 was expected to be, but the teams will be able to strut their stuff in the first night game of the season. Daylight savings help the players with light for most of the match, though expect both these teams to have to adapt to the conditions – much like the ever-changing fixture. Both these sides come in with 2-1 records, having both lost to Oakleigh Chargers, whilst both have also accounted for Sandringham Dragons. On the weekend, Calder scraped across the line in a thrilling comeback against Bendigo Pioneers, whilst Northern put Gippsland Power to the sword in Morwell East.

After their respective Round 1 matches, coming into the initial Round 2 fixtures, it was seeming like Calder Cannons were red-hot favourites for the grand final rematch. Having just taken care of Sandringham Dragons while the Knights were blitzed by Oakleigh, it was no better time for the 2019 runners-up to strike. A week – let alone two – is a long time in football, with a stirring final term from the Cannons up at Epsom Huntly saving them from back-to-back losses since that Round 1 win. The Knights on the other hand booted three goals in six minutes against the Dragons in the opening term of their Round 3 encounter, and have not stopped kicking them since, winning both their games by large margins. Megan Girolami is the in-form player of the competition, booting nine goals from her two games and seems to be the lucky charm the Knights needed since the Round 1 defeat.

The Cannons defence is well-balanced across the board, with Kasey Lennox the rock at the back, and Peppa Poultney and Neve Crowley both capable of dropping back and helping out, while Tahlia Gillard can play at either end. It will need to be a team effort to try and contain the Knights’ forward line which includes the likes of Trinity Mills (three goals on the weekend) and Ella Smallacombe, who have become leading targets inside 50. Maeve Chaplin copped a knock early in the win against Gippsland Power and sat out the entire second half as a precaution, but has been named to face the Cannons. She is crucial in there to face the likes of Georgie Prespakis and Emelia Yassir who win plenty of the ball in close. Maykaylah Appleby returns to the side in a crucial inclusion for the Knights to provide some extra run, whilst for the Cannons, Zali Friswell will join Gillard, Prespakis and Yassir in the middle to form a deadly onball combination.

This is set to be a cracker, and it will come down to whether or not Calder can control the ball through the midfield to limit the supply to Northern’s damaging forwards, or if the Knights can use the ball well enough going forward to isolate the well-organised Cannons defence.

 

DANDENONG STINGRAYS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Friday, March 5 @ 7.45pm
Linen House Centre, Seaford

A top-of-the-table clash between unbeaten sides, Dandenong Stingrays and Oakleigh Chargers takes place at prime time on Friday night down at Linen House Centre in Seaford. The Stingrays have only played the two games but have not put a foot wrong, accounting for the Western Jets and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels in Rounds 3 and 4 after a bye in Round 1, and the lockdown in Round 2. Oakleigh Chargers easily saw past Northern Knights in the opening round, then took out one of the title contenders in Calder Cannons, before having to fight tooth-and-nail on the Apple Isle after Tasmania Devils took it right up to them for four quarters in an absolute epic contest. Now the sides come in unblemished, and with ridiculous depth across all the lines, making it a must-watch contest from the get-go.

The Stingrays come in with one of the strongest back six combinations going around. With Zoe Hill and Mackenzie Eardley holding down the fort – and the latter also going forward and kicking two goals last week – and Jaide Anthony in ripping form, Dandenong is hard to score against. Brooke Smith provides the classy run out of the back half, while in the front half, Amber Clarke has the speed to burn and hits the scoreboard as well. The Chargers do not rely on one source for goals, with Ameille Smith slotting three in the opening game, and Holly Kenealy being the key scorer with three of her own on the weekend in a low-scoring contest. Stella Reid has impacted the scoreboard off a wing, while Charlie Rowbottom can do it all from the inside midfield.

The matchup to watch has to be between two of the most in-form midfielders in the competition in Rowbottom and Emily Shepherd, who have natural ball-winning skills and the ability to go forward and have a huge impact on the scoreboard. With Amanda Ling and Abbey Jordan sharing similar athletic traits, there are plenty of matchups throughout the middle to keep an eye on. In defence, Brooke Vickers has been a reliable player, while Reid has been one to drop back and provide an extra number when required, which might be so against a Stingrays outfit that can attack quickly. Jemma Radford leads the Stingrays goalkicking with four majors in her two games, whilst Clarke and Ashleigh Richards have both slotted three this season.

It is near-impossible to predict a winner in this one, the Stingrays are at home which might give them the upper hand, but one thing is for sure, this is set to be a beauty, and based on form, one of the potential grand final previews.

 

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS
Saturday, March 6 @ 2pm
LaTrobe University, Mill Park

Nothing is better for motivation than coming within a whisker of a huge upset but falling narrowly short. Luckily for spectators heading to LaTrobe University on Saturday, both these teams are in a similar boat. Bendigo Pioneers looked about a goal away from being home against Calder Cannons, only for a stunning last term fightback and the Cannons to storm home with three majors and the win in what was a brave, but ultimately disappointing loss for the players who showed just what they were capable of. No doubt during the week what they achieved for three quarters will have been emphasised, and they will be ready to go against a Tasmania Devils outfit that pushed the unbeaten Oakleigh Chargers to the limit. Perhaps the most impressive aspect was the fact the Devils were smashed by the Chargers to the tune of 102 points 12 months ago, and they were neck-and-neck with them to the final siren this year.

Tara Slender continues to defy the realms of positional possibilities, after the key defender turned key forward developed into a midfielder on the weekend where she racked up a round-high 28 disposals. It showed the high-end Vic Country prospect can be utilised in any role, and it helped nullify the impact of the Cannons midfielders. Against the Devils, she will likely be added as a target again, but Tasmania have some quick players who can move the ball in transition, led by Perri King and Claire Ransom in the mid-forward half of the ground. The key for the Pioneers will be winning the ball at the stoppages and using it well when extracting it, with the likes of Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson – when rolling through the ruck – those contested ball winners.

Up forward, Amy Prokopiec booted four goals against Gippsland Power in Round 1 and can be a danger against most opposition, with a potential head-to-head with the in-form Tegan Williams something to keep an eye on. Some of the more in-form players over the first few weeks for the Pioneers include Jemma Finning and Octavia Di Donato in the back half, as well as Drew Ryan and Lily den Houting who know how to find the football. Tasmania’s Ella Maurer had a strong performance with 20 touches in Round 4, whilst Meghan Gaffney and Madison Brazendale accumulate the ball on a regular basis. Candice Belbin has been used to distribute in the back half, while Aprille Crooks is another defender who can play up the ground as well.

Another 50/50 contest, it is hard to pick which side gets up in this game, with both teams clearly improved on their 2020 seasons, and it means that for one of them, they will grab their second win of the season.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Sunday, March 7 @ 12pm
Ronald Reserve, Morwell East

Two winless sides clash on Sunday in a midday battle at Ronald Reserve in Morwell East. The Sandringham Dragons are rested and ready to go after a break in Round 4, having lost to Calder Cannons and Northern Knights in Round 1 and Round 2 respectively. They now make the trek down the highway to face a Gippsland Power side that is coming off three consecutive losses to start the season. The 62, 114 and 72-point losses do not look favourable on paper, but for patches throughout those games the Power were able to remain competitive and match it with the opposition. That being said, with lapses costing goals, it is hard to win games, and Gippsland will be hoping another home game at Ronald Reserve will help them push the Dragons here.

The Dragons will see this as a crucial game to win and kick-start their season given the busy schedule coming up which will feature a Wednesday night fixture against Dandenong Stingrays in a couple of weeks. Pia Staltari has been a ray of consistency for the Dragons, coming out of defence and being a steady head with ball-in-hand. She will be tasked with clearing the defensive zone, given the Power can match the Dragons on the inside with bigger bodies such as Grace McRae and Lily-Rose Williamson, which could mean more clearances and inside 50s. While the Power have strength, the Dragons have speed, and a number of outside players who can run the ball in transition such as Kiana Lynch, Keely Coyne and Charlotte Ryan.

Bridie Hipwell has been a huge loss for the Dragons as that bigger body at the stoppages, and against the Knights, it was the likes of Chaplin who took full advantage. Gippsland Power will be favoured to get first hands to it at the stoppage through Grace Matser who played her best NAB League game last week, while Sofia Hurley and Chloe Saultry will bring the tackling pressure required in there. Ebony Angelopoulos will look to get on the end of a few goals, leading the team with three majors and key forward Charli Murphy having two. The Power have only booted the two goals, but have some promising talent coming through for next year led by Williamson and Yasmin Duursma in midfield.

Sandringham Dragons are favourites in this one given the team’s respective losses, but Gippsland should be able to get first hands on it through the ruck and bigger bodies inside, so it will be up to how they use the ball going forward that will be key.

 

WESTERN JETS vs. TASMANIA DEVILS
Monday, March 8 @ 11am
RAMS Arena, Craigieburn

Preview to come Sunday.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. GWV REBELS
Wednesday, March 10 @ 6pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve, Epsom

Preview to come Tuesday.

Top Performers: NAB League Girls – Round 4

ANOTHER NAB League Girls season means even more fresh coverage of the elite pathways, with the weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delving into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. Round 4 produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFL Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of weekend fixtures.

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

EASTERN RANGES vs. GEELONG FALCONS

By: Alex Venning

Geelong:

#37 Annie Lee

The Draft Central Player of the Week for Round 4, Lee was once again consistent in driving the ball out of defence multiple times and providing a source of rebound in transition. She won a heap of the ball, was strong in the air and is reliable by hand or foot, the latter of which is her choice of disposal. Having been one of the most consistent performers this season, it was no surprise to see Lee again perform strongly and earn the Player of the Week nod.

#44 Charlotte Simpson

Simpson made a very strong start, especially in contested situations. She played an integral part in setting the game up and driving Geelong forward, showing excellent vision to break the game open. She then went forward in the second half and provided option, and when moved to the midfield late in the game proved once again hard to beat, making a comeback hard for Eastern.

#11 Tess Craven

Craven shows an excellent football brain, running to positions to take intercept marks and create a link from defence to the forward line. She stayed on the move all day to keep providing Geelong an option and spread Eastern out. Shows good courage backing into packs to take marks and laying essential tackles throughout the game.

#4 Poppy Schaap

Stays engaged throughout the game, giving her the ability to keep getting to contests and providing an option for Geelong. Gives multiple efforts when around the ball, making it hard for the opposition even when beaten one-on-one. Excellent kicking ability with good penetration to help Geelong take ground throughout the day.

#39 Renee Tierney

Started slow but really built into the game to be a match winner. Was excellent in the midfield when she was moved there, driving the ball forward for Geelong. Proved to be a match winner up forward, kicking late goals to seal the game for Geelong.

Eastern:

#4 Keeley Sherar

With outstanding kicking ability with an excellent football IQ to match, Sherar kept presenting all around the ground for Eastern. She shows ability to win her own ball or get on the outside to set up attacks. A very unselfish player, she is happy to lay tackles or block for her teammates. Kicked to teammates in excellent positions which kept Eastern in the game for a long time.

#44 Georgia Campbell

Shows ability to beat multiple opponents and come out on top. Took some huge contested marks, being too strong for the opposition on the day. Excellent kick, proven by kicking goals to keep Eastern in the game. Was running well, winning a lot of the ball late before being taken off by the trainers.

#11 Olivia Meagher

Keeps finding herself in ball winning positions all day. Gives multiple efforts to try to win the ball, leading to her extracting the ball or slowing the opposition down. Can also break away from opposition when she has the ball. Has excellent kicking ability over short-medium distances.

GIPPSLAND POWER vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Peter Williams

Gippsland:

#40 Grace Matser

Played the best game of her NAB League career to-date, not only having an influence in the ruck, but also getting forward and kicking Gippsland’s sole major of the contest. Matser was busy around the ground and earned a free kick which put her within scoring range in that second quarter. Able to go back and slot it, the Power players were up and about, and it gave her confidence throughout the rest of the game. Clearly the standout Power player on the day.

#25 Lily-Rose Williamson

Did not win a heap of the ball, but is very noticeable when she does. A run-and-carry player, Williamson fends off opponents regularly, and whilst sometimes it can get her into trouble, the bottom-ager shows great strength inside the contest, and has a penetrating kick which she also uses to mop up in defence as she did on multiple occasions on the weekend.

#5 Yasmin Duursma

A touch of class in the midfield and someone who is still learning her football craft, Duursma took a step forward in the game and was winning more of the football than she has in past weeks. She also stepped up to lay some strong tackles, and her work rate to get from defence to offence was good. Yet to turn 17 until the end of the month, Duursma has some good upside for the future.

#26 Grace McRae

The consistent inside midfielder provided great experience at the clinches, as well as strength around the ball. She was a tackling machine to try and mow down opposition players, and while she did not get a lot of time and space during the game, she was someone who continued to push hard and give it a crack despite the lop-sided margin.

Northern:

#10 Megan Girolami

After three goals last week, Girolami went and doubled that effort in Round 4 with a bag of six. Her half a dozen majors were from a range of sources, including in-play and from set shots, and her accuracy was fairly reliable as well with 6.1 from 10 disposals. She is still a bottom-ager with a year to run, but if her first two games are anything to go by, she looms as a talented and reliable scoring option inside 50 for the Knights.

#15 Tarrah Delgado

The reliable full-back had a stint in the midfield and further up the ground late in the game when the result was known. Providing her usual service in the back 50 with intercept marks and spoils, Delgado was a driving force to keeping Gippsland at bay when the Power did enter their forward 50.

#3 Trinity Mills

Booting three goals to be the second act to Girolami’s six majors, Mills was hard to stop with her strength and power inside 50. She would work hard up the ground to win her touches, then rest deep and through smarts and strength, fended off the opposition and not only hit the scoreboard herself, but opened up play for teammates to have scoring chances.

#4 Brooke Plummer

The bottom-age runner is a kick-first player. Her long, driving passes going inside 50 and run-and-carry attitude is what separates her from a number of the Knights inside midfielders. She was the player that teammates released into space and she took the game on, even hitting the scoreboard with a good goal to cap off another impressive performance.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS vs. WESTERN JETS

By: Michael Alvaro

Murray:

#2 Aurora Smith

Smith was Murray’s leading possession winner on the day and showcased some nice traits through midfield. She has a handy bit of speed which allows her to not only collect the ball at full flight, but also carry that momentum to break away from her opponents in the same motion. The 17-year-old ran straight through the ball and worked to chain possessions, working hard to try and generate some momentum for the Bushrangers.

#14 Molly Kennedy

Perhaps not as prolific in terms of ball winning as some of her teammates, but one of Murray’s hardest workers nonetheless. Kennedy was a competitive member of the Bushrangers’ side and worked well in one-on-one situations, while ensuring her presence was felt in her defensive acts. She laid a game-high 10 tackles to ensure the Jets would not have things all their own way in the second half, providing a much needed physical presence when the ball entered her area.

#17 Keeley Skepper

Still with another year left to go in the talent pathways, Skepper was once again one of Murray’s best. Starting at the centre bounces and continuing through midfield, the 16-year-old showcased her smooth movement and ability to accelerate the play forward. She has great potential at the stoppages with her agility and speed, with the wheel-and-go type of play often her modus operandi. Her disposal and decision making was a touched rushed at times, but Skepper has all the tools to be an exciting player for the future.

#22 Grace Hay

Another hard worker for Murray, Hay had the tough job of stationing in the Bushrangers’ defence. She positioned well behind the ball when Murray was attacking and gave herself every opportunity to compete one-on-one back inside the defensive arc, while also taking on some ruck duties back there. She chimed in with a couple of nice intercept possessions and did her best to get the ball moving back in the right direction for her side.

Western:

#1 Charlotte Baskaran

Another outstanding display from the 2022 draft-eligible talent saw her lead Western’s disposal count once again, showcasing a raft of desirable traits. Before looking at her common strengths, it is worth noting that Baskaran competed well aerially with a handy standing leap, while also working well to tackle hard despite her light frame and obvious outside quality. Stationed on the wing, the 16-year-old came off the line hard and ran even harder in general play, able to work into dangerous positions forward of centre and create scoring opportunities. Her usually precise radar was a touch off at times heading inside 50, with the final kick at speed just coming unstuck on occasion. She managed to get reward for effort in the final term though, laying a tackle and spearing home a classy goal from range after collecting the scraps.

#22 Kensley Ward

One of the many promising under-age prospects coming out of Western, Ward made her mark on debut with some nice work inside attacking 50. She booted the first goal of the game with a dribbled finish, converting under heavy duress from behind as the ball skipped over the back. After some quiet patches, she popped up once again in the final term with another couple of shies at goal, before capping her day with a terrific snap goal from deep in the pocket.

#27 Caitlin Sargent

Operating in the forward half, Sargent has good presence when the ball is in her area and is capable of claiming strong contested marks. She did so against Murray, starting with a one-on-one effort during the first term which helped secure her only major of the game. She missed a couple more chances thereafter, but was overall a solid target who looked to be productive in the front half.

#38 Montana Ham

One of the most exciting talents for next year’s draft, Ham continues to put all her potential on the table. Starting in midfield and pinch-hitting forward, the under-age prospect proved a competitive beast over the ball with her strength and repeat efforts. While she would have liked to be a touch cleaner at ground level, Ham’s hands were again strong overhead – especially in one instance where she worked back to clunk an intercept mark. She showed great spacial awareness to explode and turn her opponents numerous times, breaking forward with intent and only just putting a couple of flying shots wide. Her dynamism and ability to create exciting passages in a flash meant she was one of the more impactful players overall.

#41 Ciara Singleton

Singleton’s role was an important one in Western’s defensive structure, acting as the intercept and rebounding outlet. She set up well behind the ball and showed terrific anticipation to cut off Murray’s aerial attacks, before looking to get on the move and deliver forward in good time. Singleton’s disposal by foot was a little awkward, but by no means hurt the Jets in terms of costly turnovers. With a touch more work in that area, she could be a very effective player on the half-back line and still has some development left as a 19-year-old.

BENDIGO PIONEERS vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve

Calder:

#41 Georgie Prespakis

Prespakis was thrown about positionally all day, finding herself up either end more often than in the midfield. It didn’t stop her from having her usual brilliance at times though. When positioned in defence she produced dangerous drive through run-and-carry, attacking loose balls from stoppages near her, not to be outdone by her brilliant positioning behind the ball to be an intercepting threat in the air as well. Up forward she would play as a target, and then look to bring other team mates into the game with handballs or short kicks. When the game needed to be won she was thrown back into the midfield for the quarter and really stepped up when the Cannons needed her, forming a good one-two punch with Reese Sutton around stoppages. A highlight of her final quarter was when she won a clearance in the forward 50, shook off two would-be tacklers and kicked Calder’s second goal.

#8 Zali Friswell

Calder’s most prolific ball winner behind Prespakis, she was another one that got thrown around quite a bit for the day. Doing her usual high level midfield work when she was in there, she also showed she’s a capable defensive option, running off the half-back a few times to generate drive for Calder and setting herself up behind the play to take some intercept marks.

#3 Emelia Yassir

Used her athleticism and burst from contests well throughout the game, but also seemed to get more of the ball around the ground rather than from stoppages like usual. She was aerially strong despite only getting three marks, she should’ve come out with more but often found herself getting spoiled by multiple Pioneers players.

#5 Neve Crowley

Became a real rebounding threat in the second half of the game, presenting as a loose marking option on the other side of the ground and behind the play. Moved well with the ball out of the backline when she started taking kick-ins, running out and getting extra space.

Bendigo:

#28 Tara Slender

Had a great performance where she was thrown into just about every position at one stage or another, with her contested marking being a highlight throughout the game – there wasn’t anyone able to challenge her in the air. She roamed up the ground when she was playing forward, being a great link up option for the Pioneers moving forward. When she was in the midfield she just knew where to be to win first possession, and her composure with the ball meant she took her time and kicked well from the centre, playing a big part in the Pioneers’ early dominance. A particular highlight came in the first quarter when she took a contested mark over the top of Calder’s Yassir, reaching around her to mark the ball in front.

#37 Madeline Marks

A really solid game for a ruck, where she was strong in the stoppages, but a real highlight was her follow-up work at ground level and how she made herself a marking threat around the ground. She more often than not finds an option to kick long to which makes her dangerous with the ball in hand. Was stationed in defence for much of the fourth term and was difficult for Calder to get through in their attack.

#27 Jayda Richardson

Showed versatility around the midfield, starting as a rover and being a tackling presence in-close. She would also provide as a chop out in the ruck and compete well when in there. When she was up forward she was a dangerous option, kicking a goal in the second quarter.

#30 Octavia Di Donato

Gets involved in everything she can when Pioneers are on the offensive, getting good run out of the backline but it’s her aerial game that really shined against the Cannons. She flew for everything that went near her which provided a consistent nuisance for Calder going forward, and when she held onto them she used it well to get the ball moving forward again.

#5 Elizabeth Snell

Won plenty of footy on the inside throughout the day, quickly getting the ball moving with kicks forward out of the contest, allowing Bendigo’s outside runners to get onto it or their marking forwards to make a contest. Snell was also the standout tackler for the day.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS

By: Hamish Spence

Tasmania:

#11 Perri King 

King’s class and poise shone through in such a congested and highly pressured game. She wasn’t necessarily the player winning the ball at the coalface, but separating herself and getting the second or third touch off the contest. What set her apart from everyone else was the space and time she managed to find in these situations, using it to lace out or set-up her teammates. She ran all over the ground and worked hard to support her forwards and defenders. She finished with a game-high 21 disposals, nine tackles and six inside 50s in an impressive outing.

#16 Ella Maurer 

Maurer picked up from where she left off two weeks ago, continuing to find a way to accumulate possessions with 20 disposals. The inside midfielder has an innate ability to gather the ball and distribute it to one of her teammates, as indicated by her 12 handballs. She often forced her way through tackles and absorbed pressure, while still finding a way to move the ball forward.

#9 Claire Ransom 

The tough midfielder optimised Tasmania’s game style, applying constant pressure and being aggressive with her ball movement. She stood out early in the match when she rallied her side after its slow start in the first term. She ultimately finished with 15 disposals, five tackles and three inside 50s in a strong performance.

#29 Jemma Blair 

Blair’s six disposals don’t tell the totality of her game, with the half-back playing an important structural role for the Devils. She constantly repelled Oakleigh’s attacks down back and was used as a loose player at the top of Tasmania’s forward 50 to bring the ball back inside whenever the Charger’s tried to exit. Her work allowed the Devils to lock the ball at their end of the ground in the second half.

#7 Meghan Gaffney

Her primary task was to carry and use the ball on the outside, which she repeatedly did by utilising her impressive speed. Gaffney played an important game on the wing, collecting 13 disposals and participating in several run-and-carry plays. She shirked off and evaded opponents by using her acceleration to separate from them.

#18 Georgia Clark 

The half-forward had a magic minute in the first quarter when she kicked two quick goals to ignite her side and the Twin Ovals crowd. But her game went beyond that, working hard to impact the contest and providing a link into the forward line with her 12 disposals, three marks and five tackles.

Oakleigh:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom 

The star on-baller was the ultimate competitor, dominating around stoppages, competing up forward and even putting her hand up in the ruck. Her 20 disposals, seven tackles and two inside 50s already illustrate a strong game, but she added another string to her performance. She went up forward late in the third quarter, taking two strong marks near the goalsquare and converting the latter, which ended up being the difference between the two sides. She also got the better of fellow AFLW Academy member, King when the pair lined up at stoppages.

#24 Holly Kenealy 

Kenealy played a prototypical small forward’s game, making the most of any opportunity she received. She only had four touches, but turned three of them into goals. Her efficiency stood out after Oakleigh struggled with inaccuracy early on and her goals came at clutch times to either spark her side or break Tasmania’s momentum.

#10 Stella Reid

The winger continued her excellent 2021 campaign, having another productive day where she worked all over the ground. There were ominous signs for Tasmania when she started the game on fire and she didn’t let-up, finishing with 20 disposals, six tackles and five inside 50s. She always seemed to put herself in the right position to help drive her team inside 50, finding open space around the field. If she had converted her two first quarter behinds into goals, it would have made for an even more prolific game.

#9 Brooke Vickers 

The half-back flanker was Oakleigh’s main outlet out of defence, repeatedly intercepting the ball and taking the game on with her daringness and evasiveness. Her 15 disposals and four rebound 50s show her ability to gather touches and set her team up coming out of the backline. Her efforts were particularly important late in the game, when the Chargers’ back six was under immense pressure and repeatedly stifling Tasmania’s surges on goal.

#29 Amanda Ling

The inside midfielder did all the groundwork for Oakleigh, going into the trenches and winning the ball at the coalface. The fact that 11 of her 13 disposals were handballs shows that her main role was to get the ball and distribute it to one of her teammates. She also thrived in the congested nature of the contest, laying 10 tackles and producing multiple one-percenters.

#5 Mia Clift 

Stationed down back, Clift was not afraid to use her bursts of speed to take the game on. It sometimes sold her into trouble, like when she was pinned for holding the ball inside Tasmania’s forward 50, but she generally gave Oakleigh another strong avenue out of defence with her 10 disposals and two rebound 50s.

GWV REBELS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

GWV:

#20 Ella Friend

Was relatively quiet in the first half where she played mostly as a stay at home forward, but took some nice grabs when it came into her area earlier on. She started working her way up the ground more in the second half where her marking was too good for any Dandenong player to compete with.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok

Was up forward early on in the game where she wasn’t getting a whole heap of it, but still had some nice moments and marks that showed that she could play as a forward with some more time. Moved into the backline for the second half where she got a lot more involved and was a crucial part of the backline from there. Her run-and-carry out of defence is as dangerous as anyone in the league, while her kicks have good length and penetration to spot up targets on the wing or through the midfield with ease.

#1 Lilli Condon 

Condon was hard at the ball and opponent in the midfield which caused Dandenong some headaches. She’s a second effort machine as well; no matter how hard she’s hit she’ll keep going for it until the whistle is blown.

#15 Chloe Leonard 

Does some really good work off the half-back line, and outruns opponents to get good drive as well. Her kicking is good on the run which makes for a very dangerous attacking defender that almost requires the forwards to play as defenders on her, especially when she has such a knack for positioning behind the ball as well.

#5 Paige Scott 

Hard at it in the midfield and smart around the ground, Scott set herself up well to take uncontested marks around the ground. She is not afraid to take opponents on with ball in hand either, which makes her dangerous in one-on-one situations. She has clean skills and with a long kick she provides plenty of dangerous plays for GWV.

Dandenong:

#34 Ashleigh Richards

Playing a split role between the midfield and the forwardline, Richards she had a game to remember, showing her versatility as not just a ball winner but a goal kicking option in attack. She finished the day with an equal game-high of three goals, while her work rate and pressure around the forwardline was a key part of many Stingrays goals.

#27 Charley Ryan

Super composed throughout the game, it’s rare to see a player at any level not flinch even a little bit under immediate pressure, but she’s nailed it well, even willing to cop a hard tackle to get a quality kick or handball out. She played more on the wing than she did against Western the week prior, but played the outside space well and really controlled her side of the ground.

#11 Emily Shepherd

Just like last week was a key cog in the Dandenong midfield. Her mix of inside and outside game is well balanced, performing well as either a first possession getter or a handball out option. Shepherd plays a natural game, and you can see how trusted she is with Dandenong looking to get the ball into her hands. She regularly ran past teammates that had earned free kicks or marks to get a handball receive and deliver a dangerous kick forward. Her forward craft is exceptional too, doing some crucial work to lead to Dandenong goals when she’s resting down there.

#5 Mackezie Eardley

Super reliable throughout the day in the backline as the last defender. She’s naturally strong in the air being a taller player, but her work at ground level is really top quality even in contested situations. Hard working as well, she often pushed over to any contest in the defensive 50 and had an impact, whether it be winning the ball or tackling. Her positioning when the ball was inside Dandenong’s forward 50 led to some crucial intercept marks throughout the day. Not stopping there, she got herself involved forward with two goals to round out what can only be described as a complete performance.

#31 Jemma Radford

Playing mostly as a forward for the day, she took the most of her opportunities when they came, finishing the day with three goals. Worked well in tandem with both Amber Clarke and Richards to cause headaches for the GWV defence as the game progressed.

#6 Amber Clarke 

Spent more time in the midfield than last week but impressed in similar ways. She’s just an exciting player to watch, with her speed and leap making her a threat in any situation she finds herself in. Works very well as an inside midfielder, bursting out of stoppages.

2021 Draft Central NAB League Girls TOTW: Round 4

DANDENONG Stingrays and Geelong Falcons have picked up a Round 4 competition-high three players in the Draft Central NAB League Girls Team of the Week, in the most difficult week to split players across the board thus far. Every team had a representative, with the evenness between the last 26 so even that we opted for a fourth emergency. Whilst the Stingrays and Falcons had three players each, eight other sides had two representatives a piece, with so many close games, while Gippsland Power and Tasmania Devils had one representative for various reasons.

Dandenong Stingrays’ big win over Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels saw them cover each of the three areas on the field, with one defender, midfielder and forward in the Team of the Week. Heading up centre half-back – though she also played forward – is bottom-ager Mackenzie Eardley, who is joined by midfielder Emily Shepherd – for the second time – as well as forward, Jemma Radford. Another talented bottom-ager in Amber Clarke was close to making it but just missed out and was named as one of the emergencies. Despite the 10-goal deficit, the Rebels had two standout players on the day, with Nyakoat Dojiok and Chloe Leonard making the back six.

Geelong Falcons had another trio of players after their third straight win, with Annie Lee making a third straight team and becoming only one of four players to make the team every week thus far. As Draft Central Player of the Week, Lee will captain the hypothetical side. Other Falcons in the team are returning Team of the Week members, Renee Tierney at full-forward, and Tess Craven coming off the bench. Their opponents Eastern Ranges saw ruck Georgia Campbell making the team again, with Keeley Sherar named on the bench as well.

The vice-captain of the team went to Player of the Week runner-up Megan Girolami who slotted six goals up forward for the Northern Knights in their big win over Gippsland Power. She was joined in the team alongside full-back Tarrah Delgado, with an even team performance meaning the likes of Trinity Mills (emergency) were unlucky to miss out. Gippsland Power ruck Grace Matser was the most impressive performer from the losing side, and will come off the bench to team up with Campbell through the ruck.

Calder Cannons and Bendigo Pioneers had a thrilling contest up at Epsom Huntly Reserve, with Georgie Prespakis making her third straight Team of the Week, named on the half-forward flank. Fellow Cannons midfielder Zali Friswell enters the team this week, while from the Pioneers, Tara Slender played a bit of everywhere and will suit up at centre half-forward this week, while Jemma Finning was named in a back pocket for her efforts despite the loss. Another tight encounter between Oakleigh Chargers and Tasmania Devils saw the Chargers’ duo of Charlie Rowbottom and Stella Reid make the team for a third straight week, while Perri King joined Rowbottom in the starting midfield. Ella Maurer (emergency) was very close to making the side and was nominated as one of the next best from her impressive performance on the weekend in what was an even Devils performance.

Up in Wangaratta, the usual suspects in Aurora Smith and Keeley Skepper impressed once again for Murray Bushrangers. While the Bushrangers lost, Smith again slotted onto a wing, while Skepper made the bench with both players entering the team for the second time in three games. For the Western Jets, Charlotte Baskaran and Montana Ham both made it in on the wing and half-forward, with Kensley Ward so close we created a fourth emergency spot given her two goals and five tackles on debut.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 4

B: Jemma Finning (BP) – Tarrah Delgado (NK) – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
HB: Annie Lee (GF) (c) – Mackenzie Eardley (DS) – Chloe Leonard (GWV)
C: Charlotte Baskaran (WJ) – Emily Shepherd (DS) – Aurora Smith (MB)
HF: Montana Ham (WJ) – Tara Slender (BP) – Georgie Prespakis (CC)
F: Megan Girolami (NK) (vc) – Renee Tierney (GF) – Jemma Radford (DS)
R: Georgia Campbell (ER) – Charlie Rowbottom (OC) – Perri King (TD)
INT: Tess Craven (GF) – Zali Friswell (CC) – Grace Matser (GP) – Stella Reid (OC) – Keeley Skepper (MB) – Keeley Sherar (ER)
EMG: Amber Clarke (DS) – Ella Maurer (TD) – Trinity Mills (NK) – Kensley Ward (WJ)

2021 NAB League Girls: Round 4 wrap – Chargers, Falcons remain undefeated

ROUND 4 of the 2021 NAB League Girls season saw Oakleigh and Geelong keep their perfect records in tact, handing Tasmania and Eastern their first losses respectively. Calder joined the Chargers in surviving a scare, while Northern, Western, and Dandenong all registered comprehensive wins. Catch up on all the action and find out which players stood out in our weekend wrap.

Eastern Ranges vs. Geelong Falcons

By: Michael Alvaro

Geelong Falcons remained in the ranks of the undefeated on Saturday, when they outlasted the Eastern Ranges to win by 24 points at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve. The Falcons led at every break but Eastern remained within striking distance during the first half, before Geelong made better of its chances with four goals to one after half time to run home 7.5 (47) to 3.5 (23) victors.

Geelong’s Annie Lee put in a blinding performance from defence, collecting 22 disposals, eight marks, and 10 rebound 50s as a deserving Draft Central Player of the Week nominee. Tess Craven and Charlotte Simpson were also among those to find plenty of the ball, while Renee Tierney continued her scoring form up forward (two goals) and Ash Van Loon set the tone with a whopping 15 tackles.

For the second week running, Eastern tall Georgia Campbell booted multiple goals (two) and registered over 20 hitouts in the ruck, proving a difficult figure to halt. Olivia Meagher was again her side’s top ball winner, while the likes of Keeley Sherar, Cadhla Schmidli, and Ruby O’Dwyer also contributed well in the Ranges’ first loss for 2021.

Both sides will enjoy bye rounds this week, with Geelong’s next assignment coming against the Sydney Swans Academy on March 13, while Eastern returns on the following day against Gold Coast’s academy.

EASTERN RANGES 1.1 | 2.1 | 3.4 | 3.5 (23)
GEELONG FALCONS 2.1 | 3.3 | 5.4 | 7.5 (47)

GOALS:

Eastern: G. Campbell 2, A. Pisano
Geelong: R. Tierney 2, L. Were 2, P. Schaap, K. Stacey, T. Lewis

DC BEST:

Eastern: G. Campbell, K. Sherar, R. O’Dwyer, O. Meagher, C. Schmidli
Geelong: A. Lee, T. Craven, R. Tierney, A. Van Loon, C. Simpson

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)
4 – Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)
3 – Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)
2 – Ash Van Loon (Geelong Falcons)
1 – Renee Tierney (Geelong Falcons)

Gippsland Power vs. Northern Knights

By: Peter Williams

Northern Knights have gone back-to-back in the 2021 NAB League Girls competition, posting a comprehensive 12-goal win over Gippsland Power at Morwell East on Saturday. The Knights could not miss in the first half, as they piled on nine goals straight to lead by 45 points at the main break. Megan Girolami was the key architect up forward with four first half goals, whilst Grace Matser was the sole goalkicker for the Power. The Knights control continued after half-time, though Gippsland was able to restrict the scoring, keeping the visitors to 4.4 in the second half, as the Knights were still able to pick up a 13.4 (82) to 1.4 (10) victory.

Girolami finished with half a dozen goals in a superb effort for the Knights, while Trinity Mills (three) and Simone Mooney (two) also snagged multiple majors. Maeve Chaplin kicked a crucial goal in the opening term, but did not see out the match, copping a knock and being put on ice for the entire second half, and fair chunks of the first half. Tarrah Delgado was once again instrumental in defence, whilst Brooke Plummer and Ava Jordan won plenty of the ball, as did Tallia Pulcino and Phoebe Nelson.

For the Power, Matser was the clear standout with a big effort not only in the ruck, but around the ground and to kick that second quarter set shot goal. Grace McRae put in another hard-working performance, while Yasmin Duursma, Indiana Makai and Macie Gilmour were among their team’s top ball winners. Lily-Rose Williamson caught the eye with her drive out of defence and was arguably second best behind Matser on the team, while Alisha Molesworth also had some impressive moments.

Next round, Northern Knights will take on Calder Cannons in a repeat of the Round 2 match which did not go ahead, whilst Gippsland Power head back to Morwell East where they host Sandringham Dragons.

GIPPSLAND POWER 0.1 | 1.3 | 1.4 | 1.4 (10)
NORTHERN KNIGHTS 5.0 | 9.0 | 11.2 | 13.4 (82)

GOALS:

Gippsland: G. Matser.
Northern: M. Girolami 6, T. Mills 3, S. Mooney 2, B. Plummer, M. Chaplin.

DC BEST:

Gippsland: G. Matser, L. Williamson, Y. Duursma, G. Macrae, C. Fletcher
Northern: M. Girolami, T. Mills, T. Delgado, B. Plummer, A. Jordan

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Megan Girolami (Northern Knights)
4 – Trinity Mills (Northern Knights)
3 – Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights)
2 – Grace Matser (Gippsland Power)
1 – Brooke Plummer (Northern Knights)

Murray Bushrangers vs. Western Jets

By: Michael Alvaro

Western Jets powered to a 40-point win over the Murray Bushrangers at Wangaratta on Saturday, saluting for their first win of season 2021. The Jets led at every break and overwhelmed their opponents forward of centre, eventually breaking down the dam walls with five goals to one in the second half. While Western celebrates a breakthrough victory, the Bushies remain winless after the 8.9 (57) to 2.5 (17) result on home turf, one of three sides without points so far.

16-year-old Jets debutant Kensley Ward made a splash with two goals, including the first of the game to put her side on the front foot. Annie Gray also found the big sticks twice to round out the game’s multiple goalkickers. Charlotte Baskaran again took hold of the contest in a damaging performance, getting on the scoreboard late while the likes of Montana Ham, Caitlin Sargent, and Ciara Singleton also played key roles in the win.

Murray did not quite have enough to match Western’s firepower and strength through the middle, but had some strong contributors. Aurora Smith was the Bushies’ leading ball winner and continued her promising start to the season, while Keeley Skepper and Chloe Locke were also productive throughout. Mindy Quade was another to stand up, booting one of her side’s two goals while Molly Kennedy got her hands dirty with 10 tackles and Grace Hay was busy down back.

After a bye, Murray’s next assignment will come against the GWS GIANTS Academy, while Western is set to catch up on its Round 2 fixture against Tasmania on Monday morning.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS 0.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 | 2.5 (17)
WESTERN JETS 2.0 | 3.5 | 4.7 | 8.9 (57)

GOALS:

Murray: C. Power, M. Quade
Western: K. Ward 2, A. Gray 2, J. Farrugia, C. Baskaran, K. Whiley, C. Sargent

DC BEST:

Murray: A. Smith, K. Skepper, C. Locke, M. Kennedy, G. Hay
Western: C. Baskaran, M. Ham, C. Singleton, C. Sargent, K. Ward

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)
4 – Montana Ham (Western Jets)
3 – Aurora Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
2 – Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)
1 – Ciara Singleton (Western Jets)

Bendigo Pioneers vs. Calder Cannons

By: Declan Reeve

Calder Cannons managed to claw back a 16-point deficit with a four-goal final quarter to put away the Bendigo Pioneers at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve. The first half was played entirely on Bendigo’s terms, dominating the key midfield battle and showing strength in defence when Calder did get on the attack. After what must have been an inspiring half time speech, the Cannons came out with a newfound intensity, which eventually was too much for the Pioneers and resulted in the nine-point win.

AFLW Academy member Tara Slender was prolific in her return from concussion, leading the disposal and marks count for the game, whilst Georgie Prespakis still found plenty of it despite being thrown into a bunch of different positions all day. Jemma Finning, Elizabeth Snell and Jayda Richardson were the next best in disposal count, with Richardson being particularly damaging and getting herself a goal. Zali Friswell and Emelia Yassir each won a bit for Calder as well. Neve Crowely was strong in defence for the Cannons, with Octavia Di Donato and Tegan Williams holding strong in the Pioneers’ backline

The Cannons will be playing their postponed Round 2 fixture against the Northern Knights at Highgate Recreation Reserve this coming Thursday Night, with the Pioneers taking on Tasmania two days later at Arden Street Oval.

BENDIGO PIONEERS 0.1 | 2.1 | 3.2 | 3.2 (20)
CALDER CANNONS 0.1 | 0.3 | 0.4 | 4.5 (29)

GOALS:

Bendigo: M. Marks, J. Richardson, M. Elliott
Calder: O. Manfre, G. Clayton, G. Prespakis, P. Poultney

DC BEST:

Bendigo: T. Slender, O. Di Donato, J. Richardson, M. Marks, J. Finning
Calder: G. Prespakis, Z. Friswell, N. Crowley, E. Yassir, E. Nickolaus

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers)
4 – Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
3 – Octavia Di Donato (Bendigo Pioneers)
2 – Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)
1 – Jayda Richardson (Bendigo Pioneers)

Tasmania Devils vs. Oakleigh Chargers

By: Hamish Spence

Oakleigh Chargers remain undefeated after prevailing by six points in a tight and thrilling contest, overcoming a gallant performance from the Tasmanian Devils. The Chargers got on top early by locking the ball inside their forward 50, but failed to convert their opportunities. The Devils flipped the script from midway through the first term though, playing a more aggressive and pressure-based game style that ultimately saw them take a five-point lead into half-time.

Tasmania was arguably the more dominant side in the second half with its unrelenting tackling and pressure, but Oakleigh’s class came to the fore in the latter half of the third term with two quick goals, which ultimately proved to be the difference in the game. The final margin represents a 96-point turnaround from when the two sides last met just over 12 months ago, when Oakleigh kept Tasmania goalless in a 102-point thrashing.

Charlie Rowbottom held sway around stoppages and made an impact when she went up forward in the third quarter. Amanda Ling and Stella Reid backed her up with important performances in the midfield. Holly Kenealy made the most of her opportunities by kicking over half her side’s goals, while Brooke Vickers and Mia Clift held firm down back under constant pressure in the second half.

Perri King’s ball use and timing stood out in such a congested contest, driving the Devils’ performance after half-time. Ella Maurer, Claire Ransom and Meghan Gaffney were also strong through the middle against Oakleigh’s star-studded engine room. Jemma Blair impressed with her rebounding off half-back and the wall she set-up at the top of forward 50, while Georgia Clark turned the game early on with two goals in under a minute.

TASMANIA DEVILS 2.0 | 4.0 | 4.4 | 4.6 (30)
OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 2.5 | 3.5 | 5.6 | 5.6 (36)

GOALS:

Tasmania: G. Clark 2, K. Hennessy, M. Edwards
Oakleigh: H. Kenealy 3, C. Rowbottom, J. Rigoni

DC BEST:

Tasmania: C. Ransom, P. King, M. Gaffney, J. Blair, G. Clarke, E. Maurer
Oakleigh: C. Rowbottom, H. Kenealy, M. Clift, A. Ling, B. Vickers, S. Reid

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)
4 – Perri King (Tasmania Devils)
3 – Holly Kenealy (Oakleigh Chargers)
2 – Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)
1 – Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels vs. Dandenong Stingrays

By: Declan Reeve

The Dandenong Stingrays made their intentions clear to the rest of the competition with a comprehensive 10-goal win against the GWV Rebels at MARS Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Rebels managed to keep it close to quarter time, but the Stingrays ran away with it after that, kicking 11 goals straight to the Rebels’ 1.2 for the remainder of the game, in an impressive display of accuracy.

Dandenong 2022-eligible draft prospects Emily Shepherd and Mackenzie Eardley were superb in the victory, having a massive impact around the ground and showing why they are two to watch for the future. Jemma Radford and Ashleigh Richards were the focal points in attack for Dandenong, kicking three goals each. The Rebels would be pleased with the efforts of Chloe Leonard and Nyakoat Dojiok out of the backline, who did all they could to repel Dandenong’s constant attacks. 

Dandenong’s next game will be a top four clash against the Oakleigh Chargers on Friday night at Bluescope Recreation Reserve, whilst the Rebels will come up against Bendigo Pioneers on Wednesday March 10 at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve.

GWV REBELS 1.0 | 2.2 | 2.2 | 2.2 (14)
DANDENONG STINGRAYS 1.2 | 4.2 | 8.2 | 12.2 (74)

GOALS:

GWV: P. Kissel, E. Friend
Dandenong: A. Richards 3, J. Radford 3, M. Eardley 2, J. Hillas 2, A. Jordan, A. Clarke

DC BEST:

GWV: Leonard, Dijiok, Scott, Condon, Meier
Dandenong: Shepherd, Eardley, Radford, Clarke, Richards

DC MEDAL VOTES:

5 – Emily Shepherd (Dandenong Stingrays)
4 – Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)
3 – Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)
2 – Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays) 
1 – Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

NAB League Girls Round 1 preview: Undefeated 2020 sides to face off in huge round of action

AT least one of the three undefeated sides from the 2020 NAB League Girls season will extend their winning run to 18 months or more, when the competition returns this weekend. Starting tomorrow, the NAB League Girls will have six games across four different venues – including one double-header – in a new footballing landscape for 2021. For Dandenong Stingrays, they will have to tack on an extra week to their extended break that saw the 2020 season come to an unfulfilled end last year, after they were handed the bye. For the 12 other teams, it will be a chance to start the season off on the right note. For the likes of Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, they look to continue what they started last year, having not lost since 2019, or in the Knights’ case, the 2018 grand final.

Eastern Ranges vs. Western Jets
Saturday, February 6 @ 12pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

In what is officially the first NAB League Girls game in almost 12 months, Western Jets will cross the West Gate Bridge and head down to Kilsyth Recreation Reserve where the Eastern Ranges will be waiting for them. These teams last played way back in Round 4, 2019, when the Ranges easily accounted for the Jets by 43 points. A dominant second half where they booted 6.2 to 0.0 saw them run out 7.4 to 0.3 winners, with Olivia Meagher picking up 17 disposals, three tackles and three inside 50s.

Meagher has been named for the match tomorrow, with last year’s captain to play as a 19-year-old prospect in 2020. She is the only Ranges player from that match to remain on the list, whilst a trio of then 15-year-old talents in Caitlin Sargent, Trinity Skenderis and Jemima Woods – as well as now top-age and over-age talents respectively, Nikita Wright and Ciara Singleton – all remain on the Jets’ list having played in that match.

Looking at the teams, the match will be won and lost in the middle, with the Jets having some great height, whilst the Ranges have speed to burn. That is not to say the respective teams do not have the opposite as well, but they are damaging in their respective areas. For the home team, Jorja Livingstone was a player who really shone last year and is a clean ball user and able to work her way out of stoppages. She will team up with the likes of Meagher and Bridget Deed in the middle, roving Georgia Campbell‘s taps. Up forward, Matilda Hardy, Jade Hutchison and Isabella Khoury are ones to watch, whilst Saskia Nannes will be a potential big improver with more matches after having the season cut short last year.

For Western, their under-age group is brimming with talent, though now with extra experience, Sargent, Skenderis and Woods will be among those to watch. Montana Ham and Charlotte Baskaran present as two of the top 2022 prospects, with Ham’s versatility and size through the midfield hard to match, while Baskaran’s run and carry – as well as her elite use by foot – will provide a one-two punch that is always difficult to combat.

This is a game that could go right down to the wire, and difficult to predict with so many new players, but Eastern might have the upper hand at home.

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.15pm
JC Lowe Oval, Yarrawonga

From the east to the far north, Murray Bushrangers will host Bendigo Pioneers in a terrific spectacle for the country regions at Yarrawonga. Both these teams have a talented tall in the AFL Women’s Academy which makes things exciting. These two teams have also not played since March 30, 2019 when the Pioneers – during their most successful season to-date – toppled the Bushrangers by 14 points in Wangaratta.

That day it was Annabel Strahan (now Bulldogs) who had 20 touches, seven tackles, five inside 50s and a goal) and Brooke Hards (17 disposals, three marks, 11 tackles, four inside 50s and three rebounds) who teamed up to cause havoc on the Bushrangers, while Millie Brown (now Geelong) racked up 27 disposals and six rebounds, and Abby Favell (22 disposals, five marks eight tackles, three inside 50s and two rebounds) were the best for the losing side.

A then 15-year-old Ally Morphett had 11 disposals, two marks, 14 hitouts and two inside 50s, with the now AFL Women’s Academy member looming as the key player for the Bushrangers. Bendigo’s Academy member Tara Slender also played in that match, picking up seven disposals and having six hitouts, though the pair are unlikely to spend too much time one-on-one considering Slender will roll through a key position role and Morphett will be one of the dominant rucks in the competition.

Looking at the overall squads, Murray’s defence is strong given the likes of Mindy Quade and Kristy Whitehead provided plenty of run down there – though could be utilised further up the ground this season. Lily Sharp has been touted as one to watch by the Bushrangers’ coaching staff following a big off-season, and Keeley Skepper remains one of Vic Country’s top talents for 2022. Kate Adams returning as co-captain and providing experience and strength in the midfield will also be important.

For the Pioneers, Slender could be the top Vic Country prospect this year and will always be difficult to beat in the air, with the Pioneers’ captain not having to shoulder the ruck load given Madeline Marks‘ efforts in 2020. She will have her hands full against Morphett but it could be a fascinating battle, while Jayda Richardson, and now top-age talents Elizabeth Snell and Jemma Finning provide much needed experience to a really young Pioneers outfit.

Murray is excited about the depth of its squad in 2021, and while the Pioneers have some great young talents coming through, the extra experience for the Bushrangers – and what they started to show last year – should have them favourites at home in Yarrawonga.

Gippsland Power vs. Tasmania Devils
Saturday, February 6 @ 12.30pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In a battle between two teams that are building exciting programs, Gippsland Power “hosts” Tasmania Devils at Highgate Recreation Reserve. The furthest south east side travel up the highway to welcome the league’s newest team that only managed to taste one game in Victoria last year. The Devils had a rough introduction to the NAB League Girls competition – though the improvement from their brutal loss to Oakleigh Chargers to being competitive for the most part against Eastern Ranges has plenty of people buoyant about what they could produce in 2021.

These teams have never played before, and both have younger lists, sprinkled with some top-age and over-age experience. Key position players Camilla Taylor and Shanara Notman are the 20-year-old allowances in those sides, and have the size to cause a matchup dilemma for their respective opponents. Tasmania Devils have the sole AFL Women’s Academy member in this match, with the speedy Perri King looking to breakdown the Power’s zones and create some important run and carry for her side.

Aside from King, Amy Prokopiec remains a player to watch, having predominantly played as a last-line defender in previous seasons for the Devils, but became a reliable goalscoring threat in the TSL Women’s for Clarence. Other players who stood out 12 months ago include Jemma Blair, Aprille Crooks, Chelsea Thomas, Zoe Bourne and Meghan Gaffney. Having received an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite without managing to get on the park in the NAB League Girls, Charlie Vandenberg will get a great opportunity in the ruck and rotating forward with Taylor against one of Vic Country’s top ruck prospects.

Grace Matser is going to be difficult to stop, with the ruck battle set to be a duel within the match not to be missed. As the only Power player above 180cm, she will look to control the airways. The Gippsland midfield has some nice depth to it, with Grace McRae returning to the fold after being unlucky to miss out on the draft in 2020, and will get a good chance to play consecutive games this season. Matilda Van Berkel is another one with experience and able to play a number of roles, while Holly Booth and Sunday Brisbane are among those tipped to cause problems for the opposition. One name to remember for next year is Lily-Rose Williamson who has come through the V/Line Cup program and been one ready to step up at the level.

This game is as 50/50 as they come, so as is often the case in 50/50 games, we will lean towards the “home” team in Gippsland Power, though Tasmania Devils will be keen to sniff out their first win in the competition.

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Deakin University – Geelong

The final country game of the round occurs down in Geelong at Deakin University when the Falcons host the GWV Rebels. Much like the earlier two Saturday games, these two teams last played back in Round 4, 2019, when the Falcons – on their way to another finals series and coming off a premiership in 2018 – defeated the young Rebels by 36 points at City Oval in Ballarat. Luka Lesosky-Hay (31 disposals), Darcy Moloney (23) and Lucy McEvoy (22) all suffered leather poisoning and showed why they were capable of playing at the top level, whilst Nekaela Butler picked up 21 disposals and had six rebounds bravely defending for the home team.

There are a sprinkling of players from that day that remain on the lists in 2021, such as AFL Women’s Academy member Ella Friend, and Chloe Leonard and Crystal Summers (GWV Rebels), and Zoe Garth, Renee Tierney, Poppy Schapp and Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong). Those players will provide great experience for their respective sides in that clash, in what is sure to feature some of the best talent in the NAB League Girls competition.

The Falcons might not have an Academy member, but have plenty of developing young players, with Dowling a presence in the back half but can play anywhere, Annie Lee beside her in defence, Keeley Hardingham controlling the ruck, and Mia Van Dyke a bottom-age prospect who will be one to watch for next year able to roll through the midfield. Geelong has always been a team flushed with depth, and 2021 appears to be the same, with no shortage of talent across all three lines.

Alongside Friend – who will be that taller marking target at half-forward – Nyakoat Dojiok is the other AFL Women’s Academy member on the Rebels’ list. The running defender could start off half-back or roam along a wing depending on the team’s needs, able to add that mix of power and acceleration to breakaway from would-be tacklers. Leonard returns to the club as a new top-ager and one who will settle down the defence, while Stephanie Glover, Lilli Condon and Summers are some of the names to watch in the match.

Geelong have had such success over the past few years, it is hard to look past them at home. The Rebels will provide a great contest, but we will find out where both these teams are at following the Round 1 encounter.

Calder Cannons vs. Sandringham Dragons
Sunday, February 7 @ 11am
Highgate Recreation Reserve

In the first double-header of the year, a star-studded Calder Cannons outfit hosts an ever-growing talent base in the Sandringham Dragons. The last time these two met was in 2019 back in Round 3, as the Cannons went on to make the grand final that year. They only scored two behinds in the first half and trailed by five points at the main break, before booting the last four goals of the game to win 4.8 (32) to 1.3 (9) over the Dragons at Trevor Barker Oval.

Alice Burke (St Kilda) and Sarah Hartwig (Bulldogs) were among the top players for the Dragons, whilst it was Georgia Patrikios (St Kilda) and Krstel Petrevski (Melbourne) who shone from those who have been drafted. Best on ground that day was Georgie Prespakis who lit it up with 23 disposals, three marks, eight tackles, four inside 50s and two rebounds. The now-Cannons captain will look to have an equally big impact this year, while Emelia Yassir, Kasey Lennox, Alisa Magri, Zali Friswell and Neve Crowley are just a handful of the talented names who also played as 15/16-year-old talents on that day.

The Cannons have proven to have such great development over the past few years, and all the above names along with Mali McLeod, Peppa Poultney and Jessica Zakkour makes them a rock solid team across the board. Though their opponents are no slouches either. Back in the 2019 clash, now-captain Kiana Lynch, as well as the likes of Charli Murphy, Summer Trim, Emma Stuber, Isabella Stutt, Ebony Angelopoulos and Chloe Saultry all took to the field, so the Dragons have a core of players with plenty of experience under their belt.

Murphy will provide that marking target up forward, while Lynch will lead a host of bottom-agers with future potential. Bridie Hipwell and Sofia Hurley are just a couple of names who still have another year to go after this one, but are becoming key players in the Dragons outfit going forward. They made great strides last season and play what would be considered the benchmark team in the competition first-up here.

Calder Cannons deserve to be favourites for the overall title, so it is hard to tip against them in any game. The Dragons will be up and about and likely to be among the contenders this season too, so buckle up for an exciting contest.

Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers
Sunday, February 7 @ 12.45pm
Highgate Recreation Reserve

Wrapping up the weekend might just be the tightest of the lot, with both Northern Knights and Oakleigh Chargers going undefeated last year, and technically the Knights are still the reigning premiers from 2019. Both these sides had a host of players drafted in 2020, with the Knights having the first three Victorian players taken in the draft. These two sides played back in Round 2, 2019, when they played out a thrilling draw in what would be the only match where the Knights did not collect the full points that season.

Future AFL Women’s talents, Ellie McKenzie, Britney Gutknecht, Gabby Newton and Alyssa Bannan were the best for the Knights, while Mimi Hill, Joanna Lin, Alana Porter and Emily Harley all shone for the Chargers. Also playing that day was now AFL Women’s Academy member, Maykaylah Appleby who leads the Knights charge in 2021, with Teleah Smart, Mikayla Plunkett, Jessica Simpson and Tallia Pulcino among the current-listed Northern players running around that day.

Appleby is the one to watch this season, but the Knights have brought back a host of top-age players such as Plunkett, Pulcino, Maeve Chaplin, Trinity Mills and Gulia Ceravolo, so have plenty of experience to guide the next crop of Knights talents. Some names to watch this year aside from the above group with a point to prove are the likes of defender Tarrah Delgado and ruck Georgia Kitchell who showed some promising signs in the short 2020 season.

The Chargers had the likes of Taylah Morton, Kalarni Kearns, Charlie Rowbottom, Eliza James and Emma Chamberlain running around in the draw with the Knights, and have been growing some phenomenal depth of late. Rowbottom is the AFL Women’s Academy talent and if she crosses paths with Appleby, it will provide plenty of highlights. Add in the likes of top-ager Amanda Ling, middle-ager Stella Reid, and bottom-ager Rianna Thiele, and the Chargers have built an exciting list.

Another 50/50 split game that could go either way. It is hard to look past the Knights’ success rate, but what the Chargers were starting to do last year, the depth is among the best going around so Oakleigh could become the first team to knock off Northern in almost three years.

Knights keep undefeated streak intact

NORTHERN Knights have stretched their winning streak to three in 2020 after overcoming a plucky Dandenong Stingrays outfit, running out 23-point victors, 8.8 (56) to 5.3 (33). In a testament to their development and high defensive intensity the Stingrays managed to keep the Knights goalless in the opening term, a feat that not many would have expected given the array of talent across the field. But with the game on the line and Knights ruck Georgia Kitchell being stretchered off the field with a suspected concussion in the third the Knights kicked it up a gear, finding a spark inside 50 and kicking six unanswered goals to be runaway winners.

Dandenong kicked the first goal of the match with Tyanna Smith releasing Amie Carroll out the back of a pack just outside the goal square nailing a regulation goal. Minutes later Emily Shepherd kicked the Stingrays second goal in quick succession after being rewarded a holding the ball free kick to give them the early ascendancy. The Knights had two chances late in the quarter to reduce the margin, although were unable to convert with both Maykaylah Appleby and Jade Ventura‘s shots going astray leaving the side goalless in the first term something they would not be used to. Northern’s Ellie McKenzie dominated through the midfield with her brutal attack at the footy although her kicking efficiency was lower then normal credit to the heightened pressure of Dandenong.

The game started to break open in the second term with players lifting their intensity and asserting themselves on the contest. Smith was electric, with her agility on show in the second term. While McKenzie continued to shine in the midfield, assuming her role as a clearance bull. Jess Fitzgerald also started to have a presence for the Knights with her pin-point kicking on full display finding teammates in space. Both teams kicked two goals apiece in the second quarter, with Carroll’s second for the Stingrays the pick of the bunch. Ruck, Phoebe Canning managed to get the ball to Carroll with some great follow up efforts, followed by a solid set shot from the boundary, 40 metres out.

The third quarter started with Dandenong’s Abbey Jordan kicking truly from the goal line after a 50-metre penalty extending their lead to a game high 13 points. Moments later, Knights’ Kitchell was taken high and had to be taken off the ground on a stretcher, halting the game for over ten minutes. This lit a spark in the Knights who would proceed to kick six goals. Appleby effectively took Kitchell’s high free kick, as she kicked the ball passed a pack of players into the arms of proven goal kicker Alyssa Bannan who hammered home the goal. The Knights controlled the momentum for the rest of the quarter with Fitzgerald kicking two goals including a great snap from the pocket and Trinity Mills additionally getting on the scoreboard. A highlight for the Stingrays in the third quarter was midfielder Amber Clarke completing a Marlion Pickett-esque turn in an attempt to evade opponents with just over a minute left.

Appleby brilliantly set up McKenzie for the only goal of the last quarter and the Knights sixth in a row to all but put a nail in the Stingrays’ coffin. Northern peppered the ball inside 50 throughout the final term applying a mountain load of pressure to try and trap the ball in their attacking half. Bannan was busy throughout the term contesting the ball in the air and bombing it deep to create scoring opportunities. Canning dominated the ruck with her opponent off the ground, while Smith continued her hot form although they could not replicate their proficiency on the scoreboard.

Smith was arguably the best player for Dandenong with 21 disposals, while ruck Canning was also serviceable through the middle of the ground. Tall forward, Carroll was able to convert her chances, although she was not able to get the ball enough. While Clarke provided a spark up forward for the Stingrays with her speed worrying Knights defenders. Jordan and Mackenzie Eardley also stood up for the Stingrays across half back. Tarrah Delgado and Megan Barnes (16 disposals) were at their intercepting best in defence while Barnes, was not afraid to take the game on at half back. McKenzie (one goal, 28 disposals) and Jess Fitzgerald (two goals, 28 disposals) were superb for the Knights through the midfield combining seamlessly to dice up the opposition. Abigail Bennett was very quick through half forward, while  Bannan (two goals, 18 disposals) and Mills provided good targets up forward for the Knights.

Next week the Northern Knights will face the Eastern Ranges at RMIT University, Saturday at 11am, while Dandenong will travel to Mars Stadium to face the GWV Rebels next Saturday at 10:45am.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS 0.2 | 2.5 | 7.6 | 8.8 (56)
DANDENONG STINGRAYS 2.0 | 4.0 | 5.2 | 5.3 (33)

GOALS:

Northern: A. Bannan 2, J. Fitzgerald 2, M. Appleby, T. Mills, E. McKenzie, T. Pulcino.
Dandenong: A. Carroll 2, A. Jordan, J. Matin, E. Shepherd.

ADC BEST:

Northern: E, McKenzie, J. Fitzgerald, A. Bannan, M. Ramsay, M. Barnes, A. Snow
Dandenong: T. Smith, A. Clarke, J. Matin, J. Radford, Z. Hill, C. Ryan

DC Medal:

5 – Ellie McKenzie (NK)
4 – Tyanna Smith (DS)
3 – Jess Fitzgerald (NK)
2 – Alyssa Bannan (NK)
1 – Amber Clarke (DS)