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Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Preliminary Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls grand finalists were decided on Saturday, via an enthralling double-header at Avalon Airport Oval. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

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

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS 6.10 (46) def. EASTERN RANGES 1.9 (15)

AFLW ACADEMY:

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Starting each quarter up forward as she has done for the past few games, Rowbottom continues to be a commanding presence wherever she lines up on field. She lead well in the forwardline, and whilst not always holding the mark she would generally knock it to the advantage of teammates to run onto. When she got a clean opportunity inside forward 50, she was far more keen to pass it off to other teammates than take shots herself. She showed off her power around stoppages and on the inside with some good burst to run onto and win the contested ball, even delivering a few fend-offs in the third quarter. She came out comfortably on top over any player that tried to run with her through the midfield, able to cover the ground and work hard to get back and help in defence better than her opponents.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Looked dangerous in the forward 50, with her past two games having been good performances, just missing the finishing touch at times. James looks really good with her leap, and whilst not dragging in every mark, she managed to get a touch on more often than not, tapping it to players on the ground. She is no slouch with her own work at ground level either, having a few clean one-grab pick ups in the forward 50.

#33 Jasmine Fleming (Oakleigh Chargers)

It is unbelievable to think that this was just her second appearance at this level. Looking comfortably one of Oakleigh’s best players and biggest ball winner for the game, Fleming was a force through the midfield. Her work around stoppages was particularly good, winning the first of the day with a good burst of speed straight through the pack, before continuing that throughout the game. She had one of the plays of the day where she won the ball on the wing, took a bounce whilst burning an opponent and kicked it to the top of the 50, then ran past to receive the handball and then delivered it well to Charlie Rowbottom, who unfortunately missed the goal. That precision kicking and hard running for handball receives was a constant through the game, making all of her disposals damaging.

#16 Erin Woodford (Oakleigh Chargers)

After an impressive showing last week against a taller Calder forwardline, Woodford followed up, playing a crucial part in the backline. She positioned well behind the play, taking a few intercept marks without much issue before looking to kick long forward to numbers. Woodford also positioned well in contests to get front position, meaning she could run onto the ball if it was spoiled by opponents.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Having moved up forward for gradually longer stints over the season, it appears Reid is fully comfortable as a mainstay in the Chargers’ forwardline now, becoming a regular and reliable goal kicker, and target in the forward 50. Her leading patterns are impressive, particularly given she does not need much time or space to make things happen, reacting quicker than her opponents to get to good spots without much pressure, while also working them over. She was also good at looking for teammates inside 50 rather than blazing away.

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Busch has been a highlight for Eastern over the season and continued to live up to that against the Chargers, once again showing exceptional positioning behind the ball. She constantly moved towards it to get an intercept possession higher up the ground, taking it at speed and then kicking forward, looking to put it in front of leading teammates. The bottom-ager moved into the midfield in the final quarter and looked more than comfortable, suggesting a positional switch for season 2022.

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

Whilst she struggled to have the impact around the ground she has become renowned for, Campbell took advantage of her superior athleticism in the ruck to win almost every ruck contest she was involved in, with a game high 27 hitouts being her biggest return for the year. Even though she did not win a whole heap of ball around the ground, her follow up work around stoppages was impressive, getting low a few times and firing out handballs to teammates running past.

#4 Keeley Sherar (Eastern Ranges)

A few factors have set Sherar out as a prospect for this season, with her burst of speed and ability to find the ball two of them. She managed to show those off once again in her last NAB League game for the season. What was also impressive from Sherar was the fact she was an aerial threat around the ground, showing off an impressive leap when required. While she seems to favour kicking, her hands in close are really impressive, with the ability to spot teammates through traffic and find a way to get it to them.

OTHERS:

Alexandra McCulloch was impressive in defence for the Chargers, almost playing as an extra midfielder at times with how high she got up the ground. Amanda Ling and Brooke Vickers, whilst not as prolific as usual, were still influential for Oakleigh in the win, as was Charlotte Van der Vlies. For the Ranges, Bridget Deed was a strong winner on the inside for the day, offering assistance in defence as well. Matilda Hardy had arguably her best performance for the season on the wing, having some moments where she showed off her pace.

GEELONG FALCONS 5.6 (36) def. GWV REBELS 3.4 (22)

AFLW ACADEMY:

#20 Ella Friend (GWV)

Had a difficult day looking for ways to get in it, being thrown about from the forwardline, to the wing, to the backline on multiple occasions. Although she struggled to get much of the ball or show off her usual high-level marking, Friend still commanded a player constantly on her and used the ball well when she did find it.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)

Starting the game in her usual backline role, Dojiok tried her best to intercept and impact the ball to different levels of success early on. She nabbed one particularly memorable intercept possession in the second quarter along the wing, where she went for a run and bombed it deep inside forward 50 to give GWV a chance to score. She moved into the midfield for a short period in the second half which worked wonders for her, and the Rebels, winning the contested ball with ease as a taller player through the engine room. She even got herself a goal for her troubles. That move looked to have given her confidence, as she returned the backline and looked far more assured and confident in her attack on the ball.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

It may have been her final game of the year at NAB League level, but fans and recruiters alike should be excited that we get one more year of Scott with the Rebels. After an impressive showing in the Country representative games, she came back to the NAB League in hot form, kicking five goals prior to the match with Geelong. She started the game in the midfield, winning the first clearance with ease and setting the tone for a really strong display. She continued to show her strengths, taking some contested grabs as a forward and looking dangerous on the lead. What was most impressive about this game was her increased work-rate and intensity, where her second and third efforts got her a second goal. In that instance, she dropped a mark but followed up with a tackle, knocking the ball loose and then putting it through the middle. She looked strong as a contested ball winner, running in and bursting out of the pack, then kicking long to get space.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

Would have to be the form player of the competition currently, and is timing her run superbly as she helped book the Falcons spot in the grand final next week. Craven showed off immense stoppage craft all game, as one who regularly timed her runs to hit the ball with speed when it left the rucks’ hands, taking advantage of knowing where the ball was going each time. Once she started, she looked near impossible to stop. It has been noted previously that she is good at hitting those shorter kicks rather than bombing long, and she continued doing that this game, looking for and finding those kicks that would’ve been no more than 15 or 20 meters. They put the Falcons in a better spots to move forward. Craven showed she knows when to handball or kick as well, balancing well between them and not being overly reliant on either skill.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

A really consistent ball winner and strong inside player for the game, Simpson’s strength and ability to stand strong in tackles was extremely impressive. She would also get her arms free in those situations, where she was able to handball off to a teammate in space, or throw it on the boot to keep the Falcons moving forward. She was sound defensively around stoppages as well, regularly wrapping up Rebels players that broke free with the ball.

#2 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)

Meier is one of those zippy small players that just excites with her speed, agility and work-rate around the ground, especially the forward 50. That work-rate was highlighted constantly, as she kept going for second, third, and fourth efforts when around the ball, and it led to some almost moments in the forward half, where she almost broke away and got a goal at times, but the Falcons’ defensive setup kept her from snaring a major score.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Leonard has been one of the most consistent performers for GWV this season, and she stood up through the midfield for them against the Falcons in what will be her last game for the Rebels. Leonard positioned well throughout the game, sweeping up or marking uncontested hack kicks forward from the Falcons, but also attending stoppages to be a handball receive option before delivering well measured kicks forward.

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Schaap struggled to get into the game early, held well by the bottom-aged Rebel Molly Walton in the first quarter, not something she has had to deal with of late. It did not last long though, as Schaap started to work more and more up the ground to get involved outside the forward 50, impacting every contest she was near – either winning the ball herself or laying a tackle to get it to spill for a teammate. Once again she looked good using the footy, with her quick hands to teammates in space particularly impressive.

#37 Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons)

Lee continued on from her good home-and-away season form. As arguably the biggest aerial threat afield, she punished the Rebels early on when they attempted to kick inside 50 without penetration behind their kicks. As usual, she used the ball effectively by foot as well, being another one that looked to move the ball into more central spots to open up the ground going forward.

OTHERS:

Molly Walton and Lilli Condon were two more that stood up at times through the contest for GWV, with Walton continuing to be an essential part of the Rebels’ defence and Condon showing off her speed and inside ball winning. For the Falcons, there were plenty of others that contributed well. Kara Stacey and Ash Van Loon were two that went through the midfield at times and provided a bit of spark. Renee Tierney was opportunistic in the forwardline, rewarding well placed kicks from midfielders and hitting the scoreboard.

2021 NAB League Girls preview: Preliminary Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls premiership contenders have been whittled down to four after an enthralling opening week of finals, with the knockout bouts setting up this week’s preliminary final stage. As the postseason draw remains split into Country and Metro pools, Saturday’s double-header at Avalon Airport Oval will decide which regions are left standing to play off for ultimate glory.

In the day’s opening game, minor premier Oakleigh will look to flex its muscle against the Eastern Ranges, after both regions progressed through the elimination round in style. The Chargers remain the team to beat having dropped just one game this season, but Eastern cannot be counted out after knocking off the reigning premiers.

Looking at the Country equation, the third and fourth ranked regular season sides mixed it up last week to create an intriguing matchup this time around. The Geelong Falcons and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels are those teams in question, both with some terrific top-end talents to be showcased at midday.

We preview both fixtures with a look at form and the key matchups.

METRO POOL

Oakleigh Chargers vs. Eastern Ranges
Saturday May 8, 10:00am
Avalon Airport Oval

Top seed, Oakleigh Chargers will lock horns with Eastern Ranges to decide which side will represent the Metro regions in this year’s NAB League grand final. The Chargers have set the benchmark in 2021 having only lost once during the regular season, but have not yet been able to test themselves against the Ranges. Eastern finished as Metro’s second-ranked team with its 6-2 record, with either loss coming to fellow finals contenders. Both teams are on win streaks, with the Ranges riding high on four-straight victories, while Oakleigh returned from the break well to get up twice in the last fortnight.

Oakleigh’s squad dynamism will be a feature to watch in this clash, with many of their top-end talents able to shift and impact across multiple lines. Skipper Charlie Rowbottom is often at the heart of their cause, starting at full forward in recent weeks before bullocking her way into the game through midfield. Stella Reid is also among the starting forwards and has added a goalkicking string to her bow this season alongside Eliza James. Another in that midfield-forward rotation could be Amanda Ling, who is so tough and consistent at ground level. Further afield, ‘Chook’ Brooke Vickers and Charlotte Van Der Vlies run the wings, as Charlotte Taylor forms the centrepiece of a sturdy defence.

If there is one Metro region which can compete with Oakleigh for inside midfield strength, it may be Eastern. The one-two punch of Bridget Deed and Keeley Sherar has been wonderful to watch, with the likes of Jorja Livingstone benefitting on the outer. Isabelle Khoury has also entered the centre bounce mix, which is capped off by athletic ruck Georgia Campbell. Tilly Hardy and El Chaston, who have both gained VFLW experience this year, are forward threats, along with competition leading goalkicker Alyssia Pisano. The 15-year-old talent has proven she is not afraid of the big stage and can kick a bag if afforded too much leeway.

The minor premiers should rightly enter as the favoured side in this match, but will be given a good shake by Eastern’s competitiveness and even spread across the ground. It all starts with the midfield battle, which should prove a tight one, as both teams like to make an impact at the contest. Whichever side can get on top at the coalface and provide greater opportunities for the match-winners in the front half, will go a long way to being crowned this year’s top Metro region.

COUNTRY POOL

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Saturday May 8, 12:00pm
Avalon Airport Oval

The Geelong Falcons and GWV Rebels battle it out at midday on Saturday to decide which team will not only be crowned the top Country region in 2021, but also progress to this year’s NAB League grand final. Both teams took out higher ranked opposition in last week’s elimination final round, with Geelong powering past Dandenong while the Rebels caused a momentous upset over top seed, Tasmania. The Falcons got the better of their weekend rivals all the way back in Round 1, winning by 10 points on home turf in what was a competitive hitout throughout. Plenty has change since then though, and there will be plenty of confidence bouncing around both squads given their recent exploits.

Geelong was pegged as one of the teams to beat during preseason and have not disappointed, boasting high-level talent on each line. Starting in defence, the Falcons are rock-solid with the likes of Annie Lee and Elizabeth Dowling among those who repel nicely across half-back, impacting aerially and with their disposal. Up the other end, Renee Tierney is the spearhead with dynamite athlete Gabbi Featherston ahead of her as another marking target. At ground level, Poppy Schaap has rolled forward a lot more in recent weeks and Zoe Garth is impartial to a goal. Delivering the ball to them often times is Tess Craven out of the middle, who will once again be supported by bottom-agers Charlotte Simpson and Ash Van Loon at the centre bounces.

GWV lays claim to a head of top end prospects, with arguably none more exciting that its two AFLW Academy members Ella Friend and Nyakoat Dojiok. The pair are capable of bookending this lineup with aerial dominance, but Friend is wonderfully versatile and could well end up waxing with Dojiok in defence. Last week’s match winner, Paige Scott is capable of tearing the game apart at any moment, named in midfield but likely to head forward where Tahlia Meier is also a threat. In the middle, Kalani Scoullar makes for an imposing ruck figure, while Lilli Condon is as hard-working as they come with her run and ball winning ability at ground level. Add the experience of Chloe Leonard to that midfield rotation, and GWV are ultra competitive.

If their Round 1 meeting is anything to go by, this clash should be an absolute belter. Geelong is a side which seems to be peaking at the right time, with their form built on a wall-like defence and reliable figures where it matters most, complemented by forwards who consistently convert. The Rebels have the potential to be equally as damaging on their day and will look to control possession, but should be tested well in their usually strong aerial department. This is a clash where you cannot rule either side out, and both should bring a true finals intensity to the fore.

Top Performers: 2021 NAB League Girls – Elimination Finals

THE 2021 NAB League Girls competition rolled on into finals action over the weekend, with three games played on Saturday and one on Sunday. Our weekly (self explanatory) Top Performers series delves into some of the best individual feats across each weekend of action. This week produced plenty of highlights as players continue to impress in the elite talent pathway. Starting with AFLW Academy-listed prospects, we take a look at the top performers out of an exciting set of fixtures.

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

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS vs. CALDER CANNONS

By: Declan Reeve 

AFLW Academy:

#41 Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons)

Unsurprisingly Prespakis lead all comers for disposals for the day. She often sharked first possession off the rucks’ hands and then followed up with her classic long kicks forward, or the drew in opponents to handball it off to a teammate she just relieved of pressure. The real highlight of her game was how well she competed on the inside against one of the strongest midfield groups in the competition, racking up a game high 12 tackles and showing she wasn’t letting the Chargers mids walk it out of stoppages easily. Spectators were fortunate enough to see her and fellow AFLW Academy star Charlie Rowbottom go head-to-head at times, with each of them getting a few bragging rights moments through the contest.

 #18 Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons)

Started the day as the deepest Calder forward, with the coaching staff looking to take advantage of the Chargers’ lack of height in defensive 50. She competed well when the ball entered attacking 50 and interestingly, despite being 190 cm, she looked at her best when the ball hit the ground as she followed up extremely well to get quick hands up to teammates. Unfortunately she dropped a few marks she would’ve usually held, perhaps due to the increased pace and pressure of finals. 

#8 Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers)

Finding herself split between the midfield and forwardline evenly across the contest, Rowbottom’s influence on the game, particularly through the midfield, can’t be overstated, with her burst of speed being difficult for Calder to deal with. She looked to move the ball by hand a lot as opposed to blindly kicking the ball which led to some nice passages of play for Oakleigh. However, you could say she was too team centric at times, looking to pass off inside 50 most of the time she got it which kept Oakleigh off the scoreboard more than they could’ve been. A real point of difference is her overhead marking which she got to display a couple of times, taking one particular pack mark that, despite getting tackled by Georgie Prespakis, resulted in a dangerous inside 50.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#3 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons)

Consistently found ways to show off her burst of speed and agility, weaving through packs and getting away well weighted kicks forward, or handballing to teammates under less pressure. The hard working midfielder provided plenty of spark around stoppages. She found her way around the ground as well, with a defensive focus to her game, getting down back to help out her team under siege, where she even managed an impressive intercept mark which led to a dangerous piece of transitional play that almost resulted in a goal.

#8 Zali Friswell (Calder Cannons)

Has possibly flown under the radar this season with Prespakis and Yassir arguably flashier, but Friswell’s contribution to the strong midfield trio has been monumental throughout 2021 and the game against Oakleigh was no different. She returned a rounded game where she did everything well; unselfish with her ball use, looking to find teammates in space to spread Oakleigh’s defence, and switching the ball across the forward 50 often to create a bit of chaos. Similar to other teammates, her hybrid style of play in the midfield made Calder dangerous, able to crack in and win the contested ball and clearances, but also just as capable at holding her space and receiving a handball out the back or when running past.

#4 Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons)

Putting in arguably her best performance for the year, Lennox had a game to be proud of as a key defender. Usually playing on Oakleigh’s resting midfielders like Charlie Rowbottom or Amanda Ling, she adjusted to each opponent promptly and looked assured throughout the contest, not conceding a goal at any point. Taking the kick-ins for the day, she’d always run the ball out 15-20 meters and then kick a long bomb well out of the defensive 50 in an attempt to get Calder moving quickly in transition.

#15 Mali McLeod (Calder Cannons)

Getting her highest disposal count for the season in the contest, McLeod chose the right game to show her proficiency as a winger. Often the target of the kick-ins for Calder, or playing on the ‘dead wing’, McLeod was always an option, putting herself in the right spots all day to receive the ball on the outside and holding her space well. She also used the ball well by foot, looking to spot up targets in more central parts of the ground or inside 50.

#39 Abbey McDonald (Calder Cannons)

Playing in all thirds of the ground, McDonald showed that she’s got the scope to play anywhere going forward, and at a high level. She’s proven throughout the season that she understands how to play her role, and works well within the Calder structure to adjust what she does to suit her teammates. When she gets the ball, she just uses it so well, never asking too much of her teammates with well weighted kicks or handballs put just in front for them to run onto. As a 2004 birth, she’s one that looms as a major part, in any area of the ground, of the Cannons’ 2022 campaign.

#29 Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers)

Ling had a performance to remember. Whilst not winning as much of the ball as she usually does, the moments she had with and around it were extremely influential. What was perhaps most impressive was her lateral movement, even under pressure, able to maintain top speed even when evading opponents. It wasn’t uncommon to see her run straight towards opponents and then take a side step, with the opponent unable to do anything about it. She used the ball well to follow up on those side steps too, hitting a few kicks to the top of the goalsquare to give her teammates the best opportunity to score.

#10 Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing forward for what felt like the entire game, Reid didn’t let that hurt her disposal numbers. Pushing up the ground to act as a high-half forward link up player, she was involved in everything in the front half of the ground; taking marks, winning loose balls and setting up teammates. She was also one of two multiple goalkickers, with the opportunity to get two or three more on the board as well, but she chose to move the ball on to better positioned teammates showing a sense for teamwork – a common theme amongst the Oakleigh squad that played a big part in the win.

#31 Sarah Morley (Oakleigh Chargers)

Putting in her best shift for the year, Morley was one of the benefactors from the team focus that the Oakleigh squad played with, getting involved in some chain bits of play that led to either her getting on the scoreboard or her team getting a scoring opportunity. Morley threw herself at everything, not letting the Cannons defenders have anything easy, while also taking a couple of nice marks that led to her setting up teammates for shots on goal. 

#14 Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers)

Perhaps most impactful in the final quarter where she got an extended run through the midfield, James’ burst of speed, agility and toughness at the footy were real sparks to keep Oakleigh going forward consistently through the middle of the ground. She did well to win first possession off of the ruck taps and then quickly handball off to teammates under less pressure. If she got it in space herself, she measured her kicks well, looking to get them more central. 

#37 Charlotte Van der Vlies (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing in her usual wing role, Van der Vlies was able to impact contests on her side of the ground well, generally winning the contest by getting the ball herself, or putting in a bump/shepherd that allowed a teammate to get it out and keep going forward. She proved a nuisance for the Cannons defence, often at the fall of the ball when they rushed a kick out of the Chargers’ forward 50, using the ball well by foot to get it central or back inside 50.

#23 Caitlin Matthews (Oakleigh Chargers)

Playing an underrated role in the defensive 50 for the Chargers, Matthews was impressive in her defensive craft; winning one-on-ones with a spoil, or drifting across and impacting contests to get the ball loose and then follow up at ground level. From there, she picked it up cleanly off the ground and then got distance behind her kicks outside of defensive 50. She was also confident to push off her opponent and just sit behind contests to quickly pick up spilled balls.

OTHERS:

For the victors, the influence of defender Erin Woodford can’t be overstated, winning multiple two-on-ones in the final quarter to stop Calder scoring, and doing well to nullify Gillard throughout the contest. Lily Hart was again a big part of the midfield for the Chargers, as Mia Clift and Charlotte Taylor were impressive as rebounding defensive options. For the Cannons, Trilby Sheppard did well in defensive 50, whilst Reese Sutton was also lively through the game, having some good moments in the forward half.

EASTERN RANGES vs. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

By: Declan Reeve

TOP PERFORMERS:

#9 Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights)

Put in a solid performance in what will be her last NAB League appearance. Chaplin’s strength on the inside and around stoppages is one of her standout traits, being able to win contested possession without much issue even with opposition hanging off her. This goes hand in hand with her composure and smooth moving through traffic to make her a really damaging ball winner, where she’ll win it, get free and kick well forward. When playing a role in the defensive 50, she has natural defensive nous, with just little things like standing goal side of her opponent or having an arm across them giving her the advantage when the ball comes in.

#36 Ava Jordan (Northern Knights)

It has become glaringly evident that Jordan is a seriously good ball winner through the midfield, and she’s only going to get better. Despite being shorter than most, she’s got such a hunger to win the footy that leads to her being involved in everything. She manages to get the ball in contested situations and work her way out to give it off to a teammate under less pressure. What’s most impressive is her tendency to move the ball on by hand, it’s not uncommon for the highest ball winners in NAB League to look to bomb long, so that composure and maturity at such a young age is an extremely good trait. 

#23 Lulu Beatty (Northern Knights)

Had a difficult job through the game with the ball constantly around the Northern defensive 50, but Beatty held up under the pressure to be arguably the best defender on ground. She positioned well in contests to be at an advantage almost every time, giving her the best opportunity to use the ball well going forward and start a dangerous counter attack. Pushed up the ground as well to help lock the ball inside the Northern forward 50, setting up just outside to create a contest with Eastern players waiting for a rebound. 

#14 Alyssia Pisano (Eastern Ranges)

Continued her goalkicking ways from the home-and-away season, booting three on the way to a brilliant victory. Two of her goals came at vital moments; when the game was still there to be won by Northern, it was Pisano that would step up and put the nail in the coffin after having missed a few easier shots earlier on. It wasn’t just the goals that impressed and impacted from Pisano, she was able to push up the ground and win possession as far as the defensive 50 mark, following up with her trademark penetrating left-foot kick, usually a good 35-40 meters down the line. Her work through traffic was also eye-catching, able to side step her way around opponents to get separation.

#44 Georgia Campbell (Eastern Ranges)

The super athletic ruck had a day out for Eastern, playing a big part in their ability to get first hands on the ball and clear it forward to keep pressure on the Northern defence. She has developed and improved her ruck craft throughout the season. Having the athletic advantage more often than not, she’s worked on her tap work to be one of the premiere rucks in the league in that regard, putting it right in front of her teammates every time.

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)

Has improved game on game, and it has led to her being one of the standout defenders in the competition, with her ability to run both ways and offer plenty in both offensive and defensive play making her a consistent part of the Ranges’ transitional passages. Her ball use around the ground is exceptional, composing herself before getting the ball to a teammate, usually further up the ground. She was involved in one particular bit of play, where she won a one-on-two at the top of the defensive 50, swept up the loose ball and delivered long to a teammate, who then kicked it onto Alyssia Pisano for her third goal of the day. 

#18 Bridget Deed (Eastern Ranges)

The major ball winner for the contest, Deed was constantly involved in play around the ground. However, what was most noticeable was her work rate to get down and assist in the backline, with her positioning in particular being the key reason to her good performance, even getting herself some quick uncontested intercept marks during the latter stages in the game. She was strong on the inside as a ball winner that fed out to other midfielders or kicked long forward into dangerous spots.

#5 Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges)

Playing arguably her best game of the season in her standard wing role, it was Livingstone’s endurance running and ability to work both ways that stood out and put her name in contention for best on ground. She held her space really well throughout the game, being a much needed outlet for the Ranges as seemingly everyone else on the ground wanted to get into the contested scraps.

OTHERS:

Keeley Sherar, Ruby O’Dwyer and Isabelle Khoury were all big parts in the Ranges’ win, bringing spark around the midfield. El Chaston was a dangerous forward target, setting up a few of the goals, whilst Grace Walsh was consistent down back. For the Knights, Phoebe Nelson, Riley Wilcox and Teleah Smart all had good moments in the midfield and around the ground, all bringing positive run to Northern’s side.

GEELONG FALCONS vs. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

By: Declan Reeve

TOP PERFORMERS:

#4 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons)

Since returning from the Under 19 Championships matches, Schaap has played extended stints forward to great success, again getting on the scoreboard against Dandenong, but playing a much more team orientated game, looking to pass off essentially every time she got the ball rather than take the shot herself. She found a good balance between pushing up the ground acting as an extra midfielder, and staying down forward as a crumber which played a big part in the Falcons’ dominance, with her natural ball winning and quick hands in-close opening the game up often and leading to scoring shots for Geelong.

#11 Tess Craven (Geelong Falcons)

A game to put on the resume, Craven showed that she has the ability to impact the scoreboard heavily when allowed a little more freedom to move forward. Her first of the day came just 30 seconds into the match from about 40 meters out, after getting the clearance, handing it off and getting it back straight away. Her ball use was at its usual high standard, being one of the few to look to use the width of the ground rather than always moving straight forward, finding unopposed teammates that allowed them to get a clearer path forward. She looked to be a handy outlet option for her teammates as well, getting into the short inside 45 spots and often being used, then hitting teammates up to keep the chain going.

#9 Ash Van Loon (Geelong Falcons)

Played as the most permanent part of Geelong’s midfield for the game, with her positioning around the ground, especially stoppages, being the highlight for her. She’d manage to win the first possession off the rucks’ hands and then flick it off by hand to a teammate that was already close to top speed, giving the Falcons quick ball movement entering the forward half of the ground. Used it well by foot as well to hit some good targets, even when under pressure.

#15 Gabbi Featherston (Geelong Falcons)

Featherston benefitted from the quick ball movement coming forward at times, making her a dangerous figure. As a player that possesses great speed and athleticism in general, she was able to react quickly and leap to try and take the ball high or quickly turn and run onto a ball over the top, beating her opponent in the foot race. She used the ball well, hitting targets in better spots than her if she wasn’t in a good position to go for goal, but also comfortable to back herself in and take some shots herself. Acted as the relieving ruck for the game as well, with the previously mentioned athleticism coming out.

#44 Charlotte Simpson (Geelong Falcons)

The 2022 Geelong and St Kilda father-daughter prospect is the embodiment of an inside bull, utilising her strength and relentless hunt on the footy to win the contested ball and get it going forward by foot. She also looked good with her marking, providing contests with her bodywork really solid in those marking jostles, nudging players off balance to get the advantage as the ball flew in. 

#31 Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays)

Fresh off her VFLW debut with the Southern Saints, Radford returned to Dandenong looking more confident and happy to take the game on. As she has so often done this year, Radford was thrown about into all areas of the ground as Dandenong tried to plug the holes as they popped up. Looked good with her positioning all day, making herself a genuine option wherever she was, then using the ball well when she got it – proving well balanced between kicking and handballing. Looked most impressive in defence where she made plenty of contests to stop certain Geelong goals, and rebounded well. Radford also got herself on the scoreboard for her hard work. 

#17 Zoe Hill (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looked the most aerially dangerous in Dandenong’s defence and moved the ball out of defensive 50 with speed, looking to take the game on with her run-and-carry at times, then delivering a long kick forward into space for the forwards to run onto. Hill was defensively sound throughout, making opposition forwards work hard with their leading and work at ground level to win the ball.

#44 Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays)

Looked solid as a rock for Dandenong in defence, being one of the few defenders that were happy to push up out of the defensive 50 and impact further up the ground, which led to her taking some impressive runs on the wing and delivering inside 50 with her well weighted kicks, even getting herself on the scoreboard as a reward for effort. She used the ball well coming out of defence too, looking to spot up targets rather than bomb down the line, in an attempt to stop Geelong’s constant stream of inside 50s.

OTHERS:

Zoe Garth and Ingrid Houtsma were also good for Geelong Falcons, with Garth getting a goal playing predominantly as a high half-forward and Houtsma playing the wing role well before going off in the fourth quarter, after a rough tackle. Annie Lee looked assured in defence when it came down, often pushing out to impact play on the wing. For Dandenong, bottom-agers Felicity Crank and Olivia Robinson looked solid and worked hard all day, playing a variety of roles but still popping up everywhere. Ashleigh Richards also had some good moments playing mostly forward. 2023-draft eligible tall Bianca Lyne was the standout in the ruck all day, leading the game for hitouts and regularly jumping higher than her opponents.

TASMANIA DEVILS vs. GWV REBELS

By: Peter Williams

AFLW ACADEMY:

#11 Perri King (Tasmania Devils)

Had another strong performance throughout the four quarters by winning her fair share of the ball in-close and extracting it out of the stoppage to try and get it forward. Once again it was her tackling pressure that really shone in the match, and whilst she might have rushed some of her earlier kicks, she put in a good kick to Amy Prokopiec in the second term, and worked hard moments later to slide in and mark the ball 35 metres out straight in front. Whilst the set shot fell short, she continued to push hard throughout the game and had one of the last inside 50s of the game.

#20 Ella Friend (GWV Rebels)

Rotating between forward and the wing – and even dropping back into defence to provide an aerial presence at centre half-back, Friend was one of the more prominent players in the game. A couple of times both she and Paige Scott led to the same spot which saw the ball knocked to ground, but Friend was incredibly lively up the ground, setting up Scott and her teammates inside 50 with scoring chances thanks to her booming left boot. Continually looking to thump it deep, Friend kept winning the ball through the midfield.

#30 Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels)

Providing good run out of defence and positioning herself well in the back 50 to gobble up any high balls, Dojiok was a difficult player to stop in transition. Her bombing down the field was hit and miss in terms of accuracy, but her ability to just get in the right spots to intercept and then drive it forward as she has all season was uncanny. She ran all game long and became a real problem for the opposition forwards who had to try and stop her in the air to try and contain her, which they focused on doing later in the game.

TOP PERFORMERS:

#1 Brooke Barwick (Tasmania Devils)

The pocket rocket 15-year-old looked experienced beyond her years, having some eye-catching plays throughout the match. In particular, during a couple of back-to-back plays in the third term where she won the ball on the wing and drove it forward on multiple occasions. For a smaller player she has a fierce attack on the contest and is not afraid to get stuck in, making for plenty of upside in her game.

#7 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)

Was particularly busy early, winning plenty of the ball. She provided hard running and fierce defensive pressure, taking a couple of good marks and spreading into space to move the ball in transition. She showed good strength at one stage to fend off an opponent and handball inside 50, as well as taking a good mark late in the game at the top of the forward 50. Had a fair impact on the contest as a whole.

#9 Claire Ransom (Tasmania Devils)

The classy midfielder used her clean hands through the middle and composure under pressure to be one of the best Tasmanians on the day once again. Her ability to have the footy smarts whilst being tackled on the ground in the goalsquare to firstly keep the ball in, and then give it off to the moving Prokopiec to kick a goal from point blank was terrific. Ransom herself kicked a clever early goal to get the Devils on the board, and then had a flying shot in the fourth term which just bounced into the post. As a whole her attacking plays were impactful from the get-go. She did get caught once holding the ball which is very rare, but otherwise had another impressive performance.

#16 Ella Maurer (Tasmania Devils)

Covered the ground really well, winning the ball in the midfield, attack and in defence. She showed off her deep long kick going inside 50, and then worked hard on the outside to receive the handball and keep running. In the fourth term, Maurer won a free kick at half-forward but her kick was smothered, though she kept pushing and finished the game with a well-balanced array of touches all over the field, as well as high-level defensive pressure.

#23 Charlotte Dennis (Tasmania Devils)

Played a rock solid role in defence, especially when the Rebels had the ascendancy, standing up under pressure and taking a number of strong marks, then moving the ball out of the danger zone in transition. Perhaps her best moment was a courageous grab with contact coming in the third term, backing herself to win the ball and save a potential goalscoring chance for the opposition.

#24 Amy Prokopiec (Tasmania Devils)

Was a really lively forward and could have had a huge day out, finishing with 2.3 for her troubles from eight touches. Forgetting the stats, her impact on the game was certainly high, working hard to lead to spots and then doubling back to try and worry the opposition on the last line. She kicked a goal from the square thanks to a handball from Ransom, then kicked a second with a set shot 30 metres out straight in front, a quarter later. Taking a couple of strong grabs in the second half, Prokopiec uncharacteristically missed a couple of chances, including one late in the contest, but could be proud with the work rate she produced.

#1 Lilli Condon (GWV Rebels)

Good players stand up when the game is on the line, and while Scott booted the four goals to put them in front, Condon’s last term – in particular the last 10 minutes – was absolutely outstanding. She had a flying shot on the goal herself which missed, but her ability to keep running hard throughout the entire match, including when many were tiring was unbelievable. She seemed to find space with ease and brought as much defensive pressure as she did offensive work. Showing clean hands on the inside, Condon had the ball on a string and was really influential throughout the match, but was particularly noticeable when every touch mattered late in the game.

#2 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels)

Stepped up with another strong performance after a good one in Round 9. The talented midfielder had a powerful kick early in the game from half-back to the wing and then pushed deeper back to smother a set shot on goal which forced a ball-in. Her intensity at the contest earned her a number of free kicks, and she teamed up well with Condon by extracting the ball from in-close to get it outside. A huge tackle on Ransom when very few can catch her was impressive, and she finished with a solid four-quarter effort with some nice plays in each term.

#5 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)

The match-winner and like she did for Vic Country, showed just what she is capable of when on-song. Kicking the team’s four goals, Scott could have had an even bigger day out with three behinds as well. She played a lot deeper than she has in other outings, often utilised as the player to isolate one-on-one deep, and she took advantage of her strength and footy IQ to create separation from her opponent – be it one-on-one, on the lead, or getting to the right place for an uncontested grab. After three goals in the space of five minutes during the second term, she capped off her day with a fourth from 25 metres out in the third term, narrowly missing one after a tough mark shortly after.

#15 Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels)

Consistent as they come, Leonard was again easily one of the Rebels’ best, laying some fierce tackles and just bullocking her way on the inside to win the ball and get it out to teammates. She provided good run when on the outside and covered the ground well by winning the ball in all thirds of the ground. She stood up in tackles and won free kicks for her attack on the contest, and just did what she had to do in crunch moments to be a leader amongst the group and really impact the contest.

OTHERS:

From Tasmania’s standpoint, Jemma Webster, Priscilla Odwogo, Aprille Crooks and Candice Belbin all had some impressive moments throughout the match, while Charlie Vandenberg worked well around the ground early. For the Rebels, Stella Bridgewater, Jorja Jones and Ally Trigg had some nice moments throughout the game, Kalani Scoullar took control at the ruck stoppages, and Molly Walton was reliable when needed in defence.

2021 NAB League Girls: 4 Memorable Moments – Elimination Finals

THE NAB League Girls competition has completed its first round of finals, with four games across the weekend narrowing down the premiership contenders. In continuing our new weekly series, we take a look at the top moments from each match – whether they be game-defining feats, big marks, glorious goals, or otherwise. There was plenty of eye-catching action in the elimination finals, as some of the nation’s best youngsters churned out another batch of impressive feats.

Oakleigh Chargers vs. Calder Cannons

“With pick one…”

By: Declan Reeve

Finals footy requires very little help to get people excited, but the Oakleigh-Calder clash got a meteoric boost with two Victorian Pool pick one fancies, Charlie Rowbottom and Georgie Prespakis, going head-to-head for the second time this season. The two AFLW Academy Members and club captains didn’t disappoint, lining up on each other quite a few times in the midfield with neither getting the clear win in their match up. Both players would be happy with how they performed, as Rowbottom finished with 16 disposals, four tackles and three inside 50s, while Prespakis led all comers with 22 touches, 13 tackles, and a goal.

Eastern Ranges vs. Northern Knights

Pisano proves she’s top of the Range’

By: Declan Reeve

Eastern Ranges forward Alyssia Pisano has had a big debut season in the NAB League Girls, despite still being only 15-years-old. She has taken to the challenge like a duck to water, being a key player in Eastern’s campaign and rise into finals, even leading the goalkicking charts during the home-and-away season. When the game was still in the balance in the final quarter, it was Pisano who stood up, kicking two exciting goals under pressure to help secure the victory for the Ranges and put the cherry on top of their progression. She finished the game with 3.3 from 14 disposals and seven marks.

Dandenong Stingrays vs. Geelong Falcons

Craven a quick start

By: Declan Reeve

If it was a quick start the Geelong Falcons were ‘Craven’, it was a quick start they would get – via Tess. The star midfielder set an ideal tone for her side with a booming goal from the 50-metre mark, coming at officially 30 seconds into the opening term. The Falcons would continue their early jump of the higher-ranked Dandenong Stingrays, breaking to a 20-point lead after 11 minutes and continuing their application of scoreboard pressure throughout. Tess Craven finished the day with 2.3 from her 19 disposals, five marks, and four inside 50s – a top finals effort.

Tasmania vs. GWV Rebels

“Great Scott!”

By: Peter Williams

There was nothing more that stood out on Sunday than Paige’s Scott‘s five-minute purple patch in the second term. Having conceded the only goal of the game to-date early in the second quarter, Scott took it upon herself to take control of the match. She booted her first major at the 3:39 minute mark, and then in almost identical circumstances back-to-back, took clutch marks and snagged two more at the 6:55 and 8:30 minute marks. It blew the margin out to 14 points, and whilst the Devils did their best to catch up, it was Scott’s three-goal burst – then a fourth along with multiple misses – that turned the game as she finished clear best on ground in the victory.

Capable Chaplin knows believing is achieving

HER coaches know it, her teammates know it, anyone who has observed her journey through the NAB League pathway knows it, but only now is Maeve Chaplin realising that she truly belongs among the best women’s football has to offer.

The Northern Knights defender has come a long way since starting football at age seven; originally playing alongside boys, then moving to girl’s sides at West Preston Lakeside and the Darebin Falcons, while also advancing through Northern’s elite talent program.

As a middle-ager, Chaplin was part of the Knights’ undefeated premiership team, shining across half-back with her mix of physicality and class on the ball. An injury in Round 3 of her top-age campaign was unideal, though it would matter little in the grand scheme of things as the season would eventually be scrapped amid a global pandemic.

By her own estimation, Chaplin was “travelling pretty well” and was as fit as she had ever been. She was in the midst of a move into the midfield, joining co-captains Ellie McKenzie and Jess Fitzgerald at the centre bounces and waxing well with the probable first-round draft talents.

While the 18-year-old and her teammates may have had plenty more to give in 2020, Chaplin says the break in play has allowed her to work on the mental side of her game.

“I definitely tried to use (the lockdown period) to my advantage and I really worked on myself mentally,” Chaplin said. “It was a big thing for me because I didn’t really have the time like I do now to just focus on myself. “It was a time for me to understand that I really do want to get far in footy and that I am prepared to play at a professional level. “In order to do that I really wanted to mature in those areas.

“I just wish I did believe in myself… but it’s something that I really want to work on and I have been working on throughout this isolation period. Just knowing mentally that I am good enough and I can get to that next level, it’s just all about pushing myself.”

The friendship of a Knight-turned-Bulldog who has also been part of the Darebin football family, Nell Morris-Dalton has helped Chaplin thrive. Chaplin says she has remained in constant contact with her former teammate throughout the lockdown period.

“A big (mentor) for me has definitely been Nell,” she said. She’s really helped, inspired, and guided me a lot throughout the season because we’ve got the same personality in a way. “I’ve been texting her quite a bit during isolation so she’s a really good friend.

“It’s pretty amazing to play with (the Northern Knights), they’re all so talented. “You really grow off each other and challenge each other, so it helps everyone get better at the end of the day. “Playing with them, you don’t really think about how good they are, they’re just more your friends.”

Maeve Chaplin moves through traffic

Northern’s cohesive team and a family-like atmosphere has certainly played a part in Chaplin’s rise. The aforementioned midfield move was one bought on by coach Marcus Abney-Hastings and talent manager Nat Grindal, allowing Chaplin to bring her defensive nous to a rather potent midfield group.

She says the move was somewhat of a natural progression from the defensive post she owned throughout 2019, though she still harbours hope of returning to half-back in future.

“It was kind of expected,” she said. “Nat and Marcus let me know that they were going to put me up into the midfield and get me a bit more of the ball which was good to have.

“I definitely brought some of my defensive traits into the midfield, using my bodywork, so that was a bonus. “I felt like in doing that, I helped Ellie and Jess play their best footy as well. “It was definitely a good move up the ground, it was fun.

“I would prefer to play on the half-back flank (at AFLW level) but playing in the midfield does come naturally to me just as much as the backline. “But I’ll obviously put my best effort in playing there and it’d be a really good opportunity.”

The versatile prospect, who models her game on Richmond defender Phoebe Monahan, has not only improved herself off-field, but has reaffirmed some of the improvements to be made through contact with AFLW clubs. While “feeding off” their directive, Chaplin has also put the onus back on the recruiters and coaches during their meetings.

“They have given me some things that I need to work on, or they’ve mentioned them and I’ve fed off them a little bit,” she said. “But I’ve been more self-directing, I’ve just told them what I feel like I need to work on and ask them how they’re going to support me and all that kind of stuff.”

“Obviously there’s a few things (to improve on). My aerobic endurance I definitely want to work on, I want to be the fittest that I can be because that was definitely me at the start of the year. “With the right support staff I can definitely get to that level again and even better than that.

“A few other things that I really want to work on are just my mentality, that’s a big thing for me. Just knowing that I am at that level physically to play, and getting myself there mentally as well.”

Outside of football, Chaplin is working through her Year 12 studies and hopes to move into either nursing or paramedicine next year. She sought to thank all the people at the Northern Knights for all the support and life lessons she has received from them, as well as her teammates Fitzgerald, McKenzie, Alyssa Bannan, Ash Snow, and Abigail Bennett.

“They’re all just really good teammates, I really love them.”

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Richmond & St Kilda

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

Richmond – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 1, 42 (28), 52 (33)

Off-season summary:

There’s no way around it, Richmond’s maiden AFL Women’s season was a disaster. But the fast-moving nature of the competition means the Tigers can quickly turn it around, and they have started anew (again) by targeting some more mature talent, with help from concessions.

Richmond’s end-of-first-round pick (15) granted by the AFL was used well, transferred to Carlton in exchange for heart-and-soul inaugural Blue, Sarah Hosking. The hardened midfielder adds some much-needed grunt to the engine room alongside long-term midfielder/forward Sarah Dargan, with fellow former-Magpie Sarah D’Arcy and Harriet Cordner (ex-Melbourne) within the experienced age bracket.

Grace Campbell, a pacy raw midfielder was lost to North Melbourne for not much, with 19-year-old Ella Wood a shock retirement to go with that of Laura Bailey and Lauren Tesoriero. Nekaela Butler, Ciara Fitzgerald, and Emma Horne were all delisted too, sealing what was a relatively big turnover in players for the second-year club.

A draft look:

All eyes will be on what the Tigers decide to do with pick one. The two frontrunners are Northern Knights midfielder/forward Ellie McKenzie, and Dandenong Stingrays midfielder Tyanna Smith. McKenzie, a mercurial type who boasts a well-rounded game may edge out her country counterpart at this stage, but both would be fine selections. As expected from such high draft picks, particularly of late, both will be able to immediately impact the Tigers’ side from Round 1 and provide a much-needed spark to the unit. They could also be generational players for all the loyal Tigers fans to adore for years to come.

With their later picks, 28 and 33 in the Victorian pool, the Tigers may look to consolidate their midfield even further, potentially freeing Katie Brennan up to spend more time forward, while taking some pressure off the shoulders of Monique Conti, and the incoming pick one. In a team which lacked goals in 2019, Richmond could also do with some firepower up forward – mostly in the medium/small category.

St Kilda – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 6 (4), 24 (16), 34 (23), 49 (26), 51 (32)

Off-season summary:

After a strong maiden AFL Women’s season, the Saints have came away with plenty of promise to build on. While the losses of Alison Drennan (Gold Coast) and Jess Sedunary (Adelaide) will be felt along with the retirement of Courteney Munn, St Kilda managed to bring in a couple of solid defenders to bolster the team. Bianca Jakobsson and Jayde van Dyk are those defenders set to make an impact, with the Saints’ draft hand also looking strong. That hand, as discussed below will help them secure father-daughter selection, Alice Burke at not too pretty a penny. Overall, the new Victorian team looks in good shape, boasting a solid core and some exciting members of the next generation.

A draft look:

Given the balance on St Kilda’s side, recruiters and coaching staff can look at taking the best available throughout – particularly with pick six (four). With one of McKenzie or Smith poised to be taken first off the board, the Saints can look at the likes of Alyssa Bannan and Sarah Hartwig as realistic targets. Of course, the Bulldogs may well opt to secure a key forward with pick two, meaning that Smith could even fall to St Kilda pending what Melbourne do with pick three.

The first pair mentioned are both dynamic midfielders with plenty of weapons and game-breaking abilities, while Bannan is an athletic key forward, and Hartwig a defensive marking machine. Of course, St Kilda has also already confirmed the addition of Alice Burke, the daughter of club legend and current Bulldogs coach, Nathan. The tough midfielder will likely cost the Saints one of their later picks. With the others remaining, the strong Dandenong Stingrays ties could also be maintained, given pre-listed players such as Molly McDonald and Isabella Shannon both came from the region.

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Geelong & North Melbourne

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

Geelong Cats – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 10 (5), 20 (13), 21 (14), 27 (19)

Off-season summary:

As if often the case, Geelong was rarely sighted throughout the sign and trade period, through the Cats made the bold move of bolstering their draft hand by parting with pick five. In return for said pick, along with number 35 and a fourth rounder, Geelong received selections 10, 20, 27, and 39. The move was in line with the Cats’ strong youth focus and trend of growing from within, with a bumper draft likely to see them build on a two-win 2020 season. Mel Hickey was a major retiree along with Anna Teague, while Gemma Wright and Cassie Blakeway were delisted. A steady turnover of players bodes well for squad stability, and the lure of local players should see some fit right in come draft time.

A draft look:

The forwardline is arguably Geelong’s greatest priority, in need of both tall and small options. Some key position depth up the other end wouldn’t hurt either, while the midfield is a known strength of the squad at full capacity. Local Geelong Falcons guns Laura Gardiner and Darcy Moloney are likely first-rounders, but hardly fit the bill in terms of squad needs as ball winning midfielders. With the Geelong nomination zone scrapped, the Cats can look to a wider Victorian pool with their selections. They’d be thrilled if Alyssa Bannan gets through to the fifth Victorian pick, an athletic key forward who is raring to play Round 1 in 2021. Fellow key position outlets Sarah Hartwig, Olivia Barber and Isabelle Pritchard could also suit a need, while the likes of Maggie Caris, Nikia Webber and Shanara Notman loom as other long-term tall options.

North Melbourne – Victorian Pool

Draft selections: 13 (8), 22 (15), 43 (29), 48 (31), 55

Off-season summary:

The Roos didn’t need to add much to their stacked list, but went about securing Grace Campbell as yet another midfield option – nabbing her from Richmond in exchange for pick 43. Slightly improving their draft hand in a three-way trade was also shrewd, moving up to pick 22 from 29 to have two picks within the top 15 in terms of the Victorian pool. North lost two players to other clubs in Abbey Green (Collingwood) and Jess Trend (Fremantle), while Taylor Mesiti was the sole retiree, and Chloe and Libby Haines were among four players to be delisted. Jess Duffin should also act as somewhat of a new recruit as she returns to the fold.

A draft look:

As mentioned, the Roos lay claim to a couple of picks within the top 15 of the Victorian pool. With no real pressing list needs, they can essentially select the best available at that range and get some great value from a strong local crop. With their later selections, a project ruck option could be the way to go in lieu of Green’s departure, with Tasmanian tall Charlie Vandenberg a likely suitor late in the draft. Of course, North Melbourne has also secured an historic father-daughter selection in Amy Smith, the daughter of Shaun. The athletic midfielder was a bolt from the blue among this year’s nominees, with the Kangaroos committing to her despite not being able to play at VFLW level in 2020.

Featured Image: New North Melbourne father-daughter recruit Amy Smith | Source: NMFC.com.au