Tag: VFL Women’s

2021 VFL Women’s Grand Final cancelled

AFTER multiple attempts to play out the final game of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season, the AFL has officially pulled the pin on the competition, meaning the 2021 season will join 2020 as years without an official premier. Collingwood and Geelong had both reached the grand final and were hopeful of playing off at some stage to determine a champion, but with the inconsistent community lockdowns, it had become too difficult.

Aside from the obvious restrictions of lockdowns preventing fans from celebrating a grand final, and the difficulty in finding a suitable venue that met requirements, the fact that neither team had played in over a month – Geelong July 31 and Collingwood July 10 – meant the sides would need suitable time to prepare for a match to determine a premiership. Collingwood being situated in metropolitan Melbourne was particularly impacted by the community lockdowns, with regional Victoria getting a couple of reprieves to train, though on a whole both sides have had limited opportunities.

In the end it was the clubs who confirmed to the AFL saying it would prove too difficult to field a VFL Women’s team given the lengthy break and preseason requirements for the AFL Women’s listed players, as well as those needing post-season treatment such as surgeries. It is heartbreaking for both sides, and particularly unfortunate for the Magpies who went through the season undefeated as minor premiers, and defeated Geelong three times – including in the first week of finals – to reach the decider. None of their head-to-heads were blowouts however, and the Cats were confident of a fourth time lucky had they been given a chance.

Collingwood VFL Women’s captain Caitlin Bunker said she was proud of the group that produced the Magpies’ third consecutive minor premiership season.

“Our whole group is absolutely devastated that we won’t be able to play the VFLW Grand Final this year and have the opportunity to play for the Premiership in front of our Collingwood fans, but we understand and are supportive of the decision,” she said. “The decision was best to ensure for the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and the broader community. “Having missed last year’s season and having to adapt with further lockdowns this year has been hard for our players, coaches, staff and fans who have all shown immense dedication and commitment to our program and the competition.

“For the third season in a row, Collingwood were crowned minor premiers and remained undefeated throughout the season and finals series. While our group is disappointed that we won’t have the opportunity to play the Grand Final, I’m still extremely proud of what our group has been able to achieve in 2021.”

Geelong VFL Women’s captain Claudia Gunjaca said the Cats were heartbroken, also understood the bigger picture.

“As a group, we have remained hopeful and focused throughout the uncertainty and while it’s not the outcome we were hoping for, we understand and support the decision that’s been made,” Gunjaca said. “As disappointing as it is, it doesn’t take away from how proud we are of what we’ve been able to achieve this season.”

AFL Head of Talent Pathways and State League Competitions Tristan Salter expressed sadness at the decision after what had been a terrific and resilient year of football.

“The rebel VFLW Competition has been a foundation league in Victoria for many years and an exciting pathway for young girls. The 2021 season has been a challenge to everyone connected to football. The AFL is very proud of how all VFLW clubs, players, officials, supporters and corporate partners managed through a difficult year and kept their communities connected,” Salter said.

“To play 90 VFLW games during a COVID-interrupted season is a testament to the resilience and commitment of the whole industry – all clubs, players, coaches, umpires and officials. “Our clubs and the League have made a difficult decision and we sympathise with their players and coaches and their legion of fans and supporters. Everyone is aligned and united in this decision and we will come through this together.

“In 2021 we celebrate 40 years of women’s football in Victoria and we reflect on the contribution of all women to our great game. Participation for women and girls has exploded and the VFLW has added a vibrancy and excitement to our game that we have sorely needed in these challenging times. “We congratulate all clubs on a successful year of football and look forward to returning for the 2022 season.”

Planning will commence for the 2022 VFL Women’s season, with the next year anticipated to start earlier than usual to align with the pushed forward AFL Women’s competition.

Picture: AFL Photos

AFLW Expansion look: Hawthorn

WITH four new teams accepted into the AFL Women’s competition, it means there will be at least 120 new players stepping up to the elite level. So just where might the clubs look outside the junior pathway? Draft Central casts an eye over each of the clubs through either their state league team or Academy that might help them get off to the best possible start.

Whilst the makeup of lists and how much compensation the expansion clubs will get is unknown, we take a look at it from a broader sense and who might be some names to remember. The series continues with Hawthorn, a side that was highly competitive in the VFLW and have already announced the return of AFLW premiership coach Bec Goddard as the one to lead the brown and gold into the 2022-23.

Hawthorn has long being an ultra-competitive neutral VFLW team, able to bring in ex-AFLW talent that help develop the younger core around it. In 2021, Tamara Luke was a huge influence in the ruck since coming from the Saints, alongside Alison Drennan, whilst ex-Magpies Kristy Stratton and ex-Roo Katelyn Cox also stepped up to suggest the Hawks could pre-list quite a bit of experienced talent ahead of the season.

Firepower up forward is never an issue for the brown and gold, able to get Cats key forward Phoebe McWilliams back for a couple of games at the end of the season, whilst Georgia Bevan continued her playing stint under Goddard. Jess Trend unfortunately tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Round 1, but a full season behind her in 2022 – depending on VFLW dates – and she could be an immediate inclusion.

From a VFLW perspective, Jenna Richardson, Olivia Flanagan and Jessie Williams are names that would have to be considered to make the jump as they cover each respective third of the ground in defence, midfield and attack. Catherine Brown produced a consistent season in her nine games, while Dominique Carbone keeps getting better with more senior football, and Maddi Shaw is another natural leader who has been a rock in defence when running around.

From a top-age perspective missing out this year, Grace McRae showed she can match it with experienced players and held her own in the midfield, with fellow Ranges, Jess Grace and Matilda Hardy joining Vic Metro representatives Bridget Deed and Cadhla Schmidli as others who have tested themselves at senior level.

It would be a surprise not to see Goddard use her South Australian contacts and premiership experience not to ask the question to some Crows or top-line SANFL Women’s talents who are willing to relocate, with the power of working under someone with Goddard’s experience the pulling power for the brown and gold.

Overall the Hawks should not have any troubles building a competitive list, with plenty of ex-AFLW talent running around in the brown and gold, and with links to Eastern Ranges, the Hawks could add some eye-catching talent to the experienced core to be up and running almost immediately for the 2022-23 season.

AFLW Expansion look: Essendon

WITH four new teams accepted into the AFL Women’s competition, it means there will be at least 120 new players stepping up to the elite level. So just where might the clubs look outside the junior pathway? Draft Central casts an eye over each of the clubs through either their state league team or Academy that might help them get off to the best possible start.

Whilst the makeup of lists and how much compensation the expansion clubs will get is unknown, we take a look at it from a broader sense and who might be some names to remember. The series begins with Essendon, a team that reached the preliminary final of the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition and have some great state league players to pick from.

The worst kept secret for the red and black sash when it comes to pre-listing players is current VFL Women’s captain Georgia Nanscawen. The readymade star already has AFL Women’s experience with North Melbourne, and being an elite athlete and professional, Nanscawen is anticipated to get a second crack at the top level, and will be able to gel a group likely made up of young talents entering the system for the first time.

There is no doubt some St Kilda and Carlton fans have been a little nervous with Essendon’s entry given the close ties that Georgia Patrikios and Madison Prespakis have to the club, and whilst there is still a season in between, it would be surprising for the Bombers not to ask the question about bringing that kind of talent into the club. They could immediately have an elite readymade midfield, though there are still those at VFL Women’s level

Alana Barba would be the next choice currently in the red and black behind Nanscawen, with the former Calder Cannons talent always thereabouts for AFLW Draft contention, and would be a prime candidate to don the sash at the elite level. Providing a one-two punch with Nanscawen would give the Bombers plenty of toughness around the ball, but Barba can also go forward and hit the scoreboard.

Courtney Ugle has plenty of class and speed to boot, which gives her a nice point of difference from the Bombers group, and she can play in multiple position as well. Winning the third most disposals behind the aforementioned Nanscawen and Barba, Ugle just makes sense, and she will still only be 26-years-old by the start of the 2022-23 season.

Eloise Ashley-Cooper rounds out a strong core midfield if the former Murray Bushrangers talent gets a call-up, providing good run and carry down the ground, capable of dropping back to help out the defence, or pushing the ball forward and sending it inside 50. She is a readymade talent who could match it with the experienced players now she has had some great form at VFLW level.

Some other names to remember from the red and black VFL Women’s program include ex-Collingwood player and Canadian talent Kendra Heil, as well as defenders Eloise Gardner and Alex Morcom. In the front half, Marianna Anthony became a staple through the middle, whilst Mia-Rae Clifford is a monty to get a fourth chance at AFLW level if the veteran – 36-years-old by the time the 2022 season roles around – chooses so. She is still a damaging forward and one capable of being a source of goals at the top level.

Along with ruck Simone Nalder, midfielder Elisabeth Hosking and Calder Cannons graduates Tamsin Crook, Kasey Lennox and Neve Crowley, the Bombers have a plethora of state league talents to look at, and could upgrade a number of them to the next level. Many will look in anticipation at the Bombers to see what their list shapes like in 12 months time, but one thing is for sure, they will not be short on internal talent.

2021 VFLW team review: Essendon

IN summarising the 2021 Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) season, Draft Central will run through a team-by-team review of how each of the sides fared, and who some of the standout VFLW-listed performers throughout the clubs were. The next team in the firing line is Essendon.

Position: 5th
Wins: 8
Losses: 6
Draws: 0
Percentage: 155.7%

Season in a Sentence: “Essendon was essentially a half of footy away from competing in this year’s grand final, capping a terrific maiden finals campaign as the competition’s best pure standalone side.”

TOP PERFORMERS (VFLW-LISTED):

Alana Barba

A young gun who continues to stake her claim for higher honours, Barba stamped herself as a key cog in Essendon’s midfield-forward rotation. The 19-year-old is a hard-working team player and contributed going both ways with averages of 16.5 disposals and 7.3 tackles while also snaring 11 goals.

Mia-Rae Clifford

A player who was part of the Bombers’ leadership group and brings AFLW experience, Clifford made an impact with each touch up forward. She finished as her side’s leading goalkicker (16) and played every game, proving a consistent scoring threat who made things happen inside attacking 50.

Georgia Nanscawen

The Bombers’ most outstanding and consistent player, Nanscawen hit new heights in 2021 as a standard-setting skipper. The former Hockeyroo averaged 23.5 disposals, 10.5 marks, and 6.2 clearances across 15 games, leading her side to a historic finals berth.

Courtney Ugle

A veteran of the Bombers’ VFLW set-up, Ugle was another who featured in every game this season and brought even more strength to the engine room. The vice-captain averaged 14.2 disposals, 4.6 tackles, and 2.8 clearances in 2021 as an integral leader of the overall group.

AFLW TALENT:

While Essendon is set to enter the AFLW in 2022/23 and thus gain alignment to its VFLW program, there were still a couple of top level players who returned to don the sash. Gold Coast’s Lauren Ahrens was terrific across her handful of games, while Brisbane’s Ruby Svarc turned out nine times in red and black. There were also six recent AFLW draftees who were part of the Bombers’ ranks in 2021, in Georgie Prespakis, Zali Friswell, Emelia Yassir, Tara Slender, Elizabeth Snell, and Tahlia Gillard.

OTHERS:

As a settled and established VFLW outfit, the Bombers had a great team spread throughout 2021. Cecilia McIntosh and Kendra Heil were both reliable down back, while the likes of Alex Morcom, Natalie McDonald, Jesse Davies, and Eloise Ashley-Cooper were among the list of eight players to feature in all 17 games. Elsewhere, ruck Simone Nalder had a strong campaign, as did Federica Frew up forward.

2021 VFLW team review: Southern Saints

IN summarising the 2021 Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) season, Draft Central will run through a team-by-team review of how each of the sides fared, and who some of the standout VFLW-listed performers throughout the clubs were. The next team in the firing line is Southern Saints.

Position: 6th
Wins: 7
Losses: 7
Draws: 0
Percentage: 115.2%

Season in a Sentence: “2021 offered a bit of everything for the Southern Saints, who produced both three-game winning and losing runs in what was ultimately a satisfyingly even 7-7 season.”

TOP PERFORMERS (VFLW-LISTED):

Tara Bohanna

The 26-year-old key forward returned sensational numbers as the Saints’ focal point in attack, averaging 16.8 disposals, 4.4 marks, 7.2 hit-outs and booting 19 goals in her 16 games. Bohanna was held goalless just four times in 2021, and her efforts culminated in richly deserved best and fairest honours.

Gabriella De Angelis

From tall to small, De Angelis was another important part of the Saints’ forwardline. The speedy 20-year-old snared 11 goals in her 15 appearances this season, booting two on four seperate occasions to showcase her constant attacking threat. She ended up third in her side’s best and fairest count.

Deanna Jolliffe

One of three co-captains who means plenty to the Southern Saints squad, Jolliffe lead from the front in her 15 outings this season. She averaged 14.3 disposals and 5.7 tackles and 2.8 clearances as a tough member of the midfield group, capping her season by taking out the Saints’ coaches award.

Hannah Stuart

Another of the Saints’ prime midfield movers, Stuart hardly missed a beat in her 15-game campaign with strong averages of 18.5 disposals, 5.9 tackles, and 3.8 clearances. The 27-year-old was named among her side’s best players on nine occasions in 2021, enough to be the runner-up best and fairest.

AFLW TALENT:

So consistent was Alice Burke‘s form at VFLW level, she finished fourth in the best and fairest count with averages of 21 disposals and 6.5 tackles in 11 games. Fellow youngster Renee Saulitis also fared well with an extended run, while Jess Matin was another who earned a senior berth on the back of strong form. The likes of Hannah Priest, Tyanna Smith and Molly McDonald impacted in their short stints, and Nadia Von Bertouch played nine games before being delisted and suiting up for Hawthorn.

OTHERS:

The Saints had a nice spread of contributors from their VFLW-listed group. Alexandra Hynes emerged as a promising ruck option throughout the season, while Lucy Burke held down her post in defence, and Rebecca Neaves earned plaudits alongside Madison Capsalis and Melanie Bertuna. Co-captain Frankie Hocking was another valuable member of the squad across her six appearances, as Kayla Ripari rounded out a trio of players to feature in all 16 games.

Image Credit: Darrian Traynor/AFL Photos

2021 VFLW team review: Port Melbourne

IN summarising the 2021 Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) season, Draft Central will run through a team-by-team review of how each of the sides fared, and who some of the standout VFLW-listed performers throughout the clubs were. The next team in the firing line is Port Melbourne.

Position: 3rd
Wins: 10
Losses: 4
Draws: 0
Percentage: 128.9%

Season in a Sentence: “The Borough’s maiden VFLW campaign started like a house on fire with seven-straight wins, culminating in a terrific regular season and finals qualification.”

TOP PERFORMERS (VFLW-LISTED):

Olivia Barton

Fresh out of the Oakleigh Chargers NAB League program, Barton slotted comfortably into Port Melbourne’s defence and became an important member of the side throughout her 11 appearances. The 20-year-old averaged 12.3 disposals and 2.9 rebound 50s in a solid 2021 campaign, often standing up under immense pressure.

Courteney Bromage

One of the league’s most punishing and prolific tacklers, Bromage averaged 9.5 across 15 outings in 2021 – laying as many as 14 on two occasions and no less than five. She was one of just three Borough players to have featured in all 15 games, and found a good amount of her own ball as she set the tone where it mattered most.

Claire Dyett

Dyett found a home on the wing for Port Melbourne and made it her own with terrific two-way running. A noted team player who gave her all across 14 appearances in 2021, the 23-year-old averaged 11.7 disposals and 4.4 tackles per game while also snaring a handful of goals spread individually across the season.

Melissa Kuys

Kuys was the Borough’s big coup for their maiden VFLW season and an outstanding candidate for captaincy, a role which she carried with class. The former Collingwood and St Kilda-listed midfielder proved reliable in 2021 across all 15 games, averaging 14.3 disposals and a tick over three clearances as a key driver out of the engine room.

Sophie Locke

Another who thrived in her first year out of the NAB League, Locke transitioned to somewhat of a new role up forward and was incredibly effective. While injury halted her early run of form, the 20-year-old still turned out 12 times for the Borough and booted 13 goals, including two hauls of three. She earned an AFLW Draft Combine invite for her exploits.

AFLW TALENT:

While still a proud standalone club, Port Melbourne benefitted greatly from its link with Richmond’s AFLW side. Delisted forward Emily Harley lead the Borough’s goalkicking with 14 goals, and fellow tall Cleo Saxon-Jones also fared well once fit. Hannah McLaren, Sarah Sansonetti, and Laura McCelland all ticked up to 10 games, while youngsters Ellie McKenzie, Maddy Brancatisano, and Sophie Molan, and new Collingwood forward Sabrina Frederick also enjoyed impactful late stints at the level.

OTHERS:

Holly Bailey was the third Borough player alongside Kuys and Bromage to feature in every game, averaging just under 10 touches per game. Ruck Abbey Tanner was part of the leadership group and played her role well, while Philippa Peschke proved another strong contributor. Recent AFLW draftees Aurora Smith, Ashleigh Richards, Brooke Vickers, and Amanda Ling also gained good experience at the level in 2021.

2021 VFLW team review: Hawthorn

IN summarising the 2021 Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) season, Draft Central will run through a team-by-team review of how each of the sides fared, and who some of the standout VFLW-listed performers throughout the clubs were. The next team in the firing line is Hawthorn.

Position: 9th
Wins: 5
Losses: 9
Draws: 0
Percentage: 94.2%

Season in a Sentence: “Hawthorn provided competitiveness throughout the year, with a high percentage for a 5-9 team, the highest of the non-finalists, with plenty of impressive performers in the brown and gold.”

TOP PERFORMERS (VFLW-LISTED):

Meg Hutchins

Leading from the front in what would be her final season at VFLW level after a glittering career, Hutchins passed 250 senior games and was reliable up both ends throughout the 2021 year. Predominantly stationed in defence, her sure hands and leadership were crucial for the Hawks who witnessed a lot of change throughout the season with more than 50 players donning the brown and gold. Hutchins averaged 15.8 disposals, 2.3 marks, 3.2 tackles and 5.1 rebound 50s, whilst also slotting four goals in her 13 games.

Jessie Williams

Another Tasmanian prospect in the VFLW who has really impressed is Williams, who led the Hawks’ goalkicking in 2021 with 11 majors in 14 games. Not missing a beat all season, Williams was damaging in the forward half, averaging more than two inside 50s per game to go with her 11 disposals and two marks per match. Remarkably was the only player to run out in every game.

Jenna Richardson

As reliable as they came in defence, Richardson is a developing talent who has stepped up at senior level. She averaged 11.5 disposals, 3.4 marks, 2.1 tackles and 2.1 rebound 50s to be a mainstay in the back 50 alongside Hutchins and some high profile names. The former Eastern Ranges talent is staking her claim to step up to the next level with a similar path to that of recently drafted Jasmine Ferguson.

Catherine Brown

Only played the nine games, but had an impact across the ground, averaging 17.0 disposal, 5.6 tackles, 4.0 rebound 50s and 2.1 inside 50s to be a prolific ball-winner. She averaged the most disposals of any player in her team with more than one game to their name, and provided some good run across the ground.

AFLW TALENT:

The Hawks were brimming with AFLW talent both currently on lists, but also primarily cut and looking for second chances. Phoebe McWilliams (two games) and Mikayla Morrison (four games) were the ones who retained her spot for next season, with the likes of retiring Chantella Perera (four games) returning to the club, Katelyn Cox returned after her stint with North Melbourne to be another important cog in the midfield, as did Gold Coast’s Georgia Bevan, whilst Tamara Luke, Alison Drennan and Nadia von Bertouch all came across from the Southern Saints, and Kristy Stratton from Collingwood.

OTHERS:

The Hawks rotated through a lot of players in season 2021, with Keeley Sherar (Carlton), Eloise Chaston (Collingwood) and Ashanti Bush (Gold Coast) all getting picked up. Kristen Hay, Emily Gilder, Dominique Carbone, Chloe Bain and Kate Dudley were the other players to run out in 10 or more games, providing some continuity for the side. Some young Vic Metro and Country talent that donned the brown and gold included Grace McRae (Gippsland Power), Bridget Deed and Cadhla Schmidli (Eastern Ranges).

2021 VFLW team review: North Melbourne

IN summarising the 2021 Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) season, Draft Central will run through a team-by-team review of how each of the sides fared, and who some of the standout VFLW-listed performers throughout the clubs were. The next team in the firing line is North Melbourne.

Position: 10th
Wins: 5
Losses: 9
Draws: 0
Percentage: 63.0%

Season in a Sentence: “North Melbourne was right in contention for a finals spot in the last couple of rounds, but ultimately a few heavy losses hurt the Roos’ percentage compared to their rivals”.

TOP PERFORMERS (VFLW-LISTED):

Meagan Kiely

Leading the competition in disposals and marks, Kiely was incredibly consistent across the board and one of the best players throughout the course of the season. The Tasmanian averaged a massive 24.5 disposals, 5.3 marks, 5.4 tackles, 3.6 clearances, 3.2 inside 50s and 3.2 rebound 50s to lead the way through every game. Her efforts earned her a call-up to AFLW level with Richmond selecting her in the draft.

Sarah Skinner

Producing a consistent season, Skinner easily stepped up from TSLW to VFLW without any issues, averaging 18.0 disposals, 4.1 marks, 4.6 tackles and 3.8 inside 50s. Capable of playing as a forward or through the middle, Skinner possesses an elite kick, and is someone who can still keep improving at the level, unlucky not to be picked up by and AFLW side, though is not too far off.

Airlee Runnalls

Earned interest out west and was picked up by Fremantle in the AFLW Draft which should see the hard-running midfielder provide some outside carry for the Dockers. Runnalls averaged 18.0 disposals, 5.0 marks and 4.1 tackles in her 12 games, predominantly playing down a wing, but also capable of pushing inside if required, giving her side plenty of versatility.

Molly Eastman

Another consistent performer all year, Eastman was one of the most dominant defenders in the VFLW. Averaging more than five rebound 50s per game to go with her 21.0 disposals, 3.9 marks and 4.0 tackles, Eastman was a high accumulator and responsible, accountable defender as well. She caught plenty of eyes with her run out of defence and keeping the ball moving in transition.

AFLW TALENT:

They might have only played a few games all up, but Bella Eddey, Alice O’Loughlin, Mia King and Daria Bannister all impressed, whilst Brooke Brown booted a goal a game at the level. Amy Smith continued her development at the club, with the Roos focused on their VFLW talent throughout the 2021 season. Tasmanians Perri King (15 disposals, five clearances and seven tackles) had a debut to remember, and will join Ella Maurer (9.5 disposals, 2.0 tackles) in the blue and white stripes after being picked up in the AFLW Draft.

OTHERS:

Alexia Hamilton was a reliable ruck/forward for the Roos all season, averaging 13.8 disposals, 3.3 marks, 14.2 hitouts, 4.3 tackles and booting six goals in 12 games. Reni Hicks used her AFLW experience in nine games to pick up 16.2 disposals, 3.8 marks and 8.6 tackles, while Jessica Mourney, Kira Price and Ciara Fitzgerald all played in double-figure games throughout the season.

2021 VFLW team review: Williamstown

IN summarising the 2021 Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) season, Draft Central will run through a team-by-team review of how each of the sides fared, and who some of the standout VFLW-listed performers throughout the clubs were. The next team in the firing line is Williamstown.

Position: 11th
Wins: 2
Losses: 11
Draws: 1
Percentage: 44.4%

Season in a Sentence: “Williamstown was competitive for large portions of games against most sides, only falling away with less experience overall, though a win against Western Bulldogs early in the season proved fatal for the Dogs’ finals intentions.”

TOP PERFORMERS (VFLW-LISTED):

Erin Meade

Leading from the front, the Williamstown captain had a really strong season, averaging 15.7 disposals, 3.3 tackles and 3.4 rebound 50s coming off half-back. Able to settle the team down with her experience and composure in the defensive half of the ground, Meade was able to bring teammates into the game, and often mopped up messes, playing 12 of the 14 possible games.

Megan Williamson

It was another outstandingly consistent season from the contested ball-winning midfielder who cracked in over four quarters for 12 games. She averaged 14.8 disposals, 3.9 clearances and 5.2 tackles, working hard running both ways for the Seagulls. As a player with natural leadership traits, Williamson is not afraid to get her hands dirty and was a leader in the midfield working well alongside Aimee Whelan and Rubi Tripodi.

Aimee Whelan

Won more disposals than any other Seagull (223) and was one of only five players to play every match in season 2021. A fierce competitor through midfield, Whelan averaged 15.9 disposals, 7.3 tackles and 4.3 clearances in an enormous effort in the engine room. Rarely getting out into too much space, Whelan was always shovelling it out to teammates or clearing it from the congestion.

Rubi Tripodi

Tripodi worked well with Whelan as another big inside midfielder, but was able to work outside the stoppages when required too. She averaged the 15.8 disposals, 5.6 tackles and 3.9 clearances, though had the second most inside 50s (24) and third most rebound 50s (26) putting herself top three in those statistics, disposals, tackles and clearances, making it an all-round performance and another strong competitor all season.

AFLW TALENT:

The Seagulls did not have too much in the way of AFLW talent early in the season, but had an influx of GIANTS for a couple of games late in the year, with Erin Todd (18.5 disposals in two games) re-drafted, and Jess Doyle (14 disposals, two marks and three tackles in two games) showing her future talent at VFLW level. Emily Pease, Bess Keaney, Georgia Garnett and Tarni Evans were among the great talent filtering through the Williamstown program.

OTHERS:

The other two players to run out in every game for the Seagulls were Eliza Straford (9.9 disposals, 3.9 tackles) and Ella Baxter (8.6 disposals, 1.9 rebound 50s). Ashlea Melnikas (13.6 disposals, 8.9 tackles) was a tackling machine, while ruck Elizabeth McGrath had 58 hitouts in one match for an average of 23.8 for the season, to go with her 6.8 disposals and 2.8 tackles per game. Sasha Long, Gabrielle Biedenweg-Webster and Scarlett Dunnell were others who played 12 of a possible 14 games to provide some continuity to the side.

Picture credit: Williamstown FC

2021 VFLW team review: Darebin Falcons

IN summarising the 2021 Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) season, Draft Central will run through a team-by-team review of how each of the sides fared, and who some of the standout VFLW-listed performers throughout the clubs were. The first team in the firing line is Darebin Falcons.

Position: 12th
Wins: 1
Losses: 12
Draws: 1
Percentage: 31.1%

Season in a Sentence: “Darebin Falcons took out the 2021 VFLW wooden spoon having the one win (North Melbourne) and one draw (Williamstown) who sat in the other bottom three spots, and while the Falcons showed some promise early the lack of AFLW talent ultimately exposed them on the run home against affiliated sides.”

TOP PERFORMERS (VFLW-LISTED):

Nicole Callinan

The experienced AFLW premiership player was one of the few Falcons players with that elite level experience, making her composure and decision making in the back half crucial. Averaging 17.9 disposals, 4.0 marks and 5.1 tackles, Callinan was a reliable player with ball-in-hand. Most importantly, in her seven games, Callinan was able to be a driving force out of defence to team up with regular back six members, Kathleen Roe, Victoria Blackwood and Gena Lawson-Tavan.

Sidney Cusbatch

One of the premier rucks in the competition, Cusbatch was a ruck that the Darebin midfield could rely upon, averaging 21.6 hitouts per game. She also got around the ground well to lay 3.3 tackles and average just under two inside 50s and two rebounds per match, though it was her tap work that helped her midfielders out.

Samara David

Provided a real marking target inside 50 and when she pushed into the midfield. Strong hands and tough at the contest, David averaged 11.9 disposals, 3.8 marks and 7.4 tackles with a high level of contested possessions. She played her role to a T and was often a good outlet kick to win the ball on the wing and keep it moving in transition. Might have only finished with the five goals for the season, but was second overall at the Falcons.

Victoria Blackwood

One of a number of defenders who deserve a mention here along with Lawson-Tavan and Roe who were often under siege in the back 50. Blackwood had the second most rebound 50s of any Falcons player (45) and laid 3.8 tackles to go with her 11.0 disposals and 2.1 marks. Playing all bar one game, Blackwood was someone who put in effort week-in, week-out and was strong across the board.

AFLW TALENT:

Just the one current AFLW player pulled on the boots for the Falcons this season, with GWS GIANTS and now Carlton midfielder Jess Dal Pos playing five games at the club. She averaged 15.8 disposals, 2.4 marks, 5.6 tackles and 2.8 inside 50s, certainly making a splash. The recently delisted Georgia Hammond returned to the club from North Melbourne to play three games later in the season and averaged the seven disposals, three marks and two inside 50s.

OTHERS:

The likes of Roe (13.8 disposals, 2.6 marks, 2.7 tackles and 4.7 rebound 50s) and Lawson-Tavan (11.1 disposals, 4.1 tackles and 3.0 rebound 50s) spring to mind in the back 50. Others include former AFLW listed Alyssa Mifsud (11.5 disposals, 4.4 hitouts, 3.9 tackles) and Stephanie Simpson (8.1 disposals, 3.0 tackles, eight goals) who impressed.