Tag: west adelaide

2021 SANFLW team review: West Adelaide

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

Position: 3rd (lost in Grand Final)
Wins: 6
Losses: 5
Draws: 0
Points For: 360 (4th)
Points Against: 352 (7th)

Season in a Sentence: “West Adelaide stood tall when it counted, putting in some remarkable home and away performances – as well as some disappointing ones – to fire at the right time and make its inaugural grand final.”

TOP PERFORMERS:

Lauren Young

About as good as a debut season as anyone could ever have, especially being just 15-years-old. The League Best and Fairest award, Team of the Year honours and Breakthrough Player of the Year nod, Young had her hands full after the season awards, to go with her Most Valuable Player (MVP) gong at the AFL Women’s Under 19s Championships. In season 2021, Young averaged 18.7 disposals, 4.3 marks, 5.6 tackles, 2.6 clearances, 3.3 inside 50s, 2.1 rebound 50s and slotted seven goals, finding the ball in every third of the ground. Her lowest disposal tally was 15, and her highest 25, in a remarkable feat of consistency.

Sharnie Whiting

As rock solid as anyone in defence for her 14 games Whiting earned Team of the Year honours at centre half-back and was clearly one of the top recruits to the SANFL Women’s this season. A powerful kick, good overhead mark and one player who was versatile enough to go forward forward for a few weeks and kick three goals, Whiting had a memorable year. She finished the season with 14.6 disposals, 2.7 marks, 1.6 tackles, 1.6 inside 50s and 4.1 rebound 50s, picking up double-digit disposals in all bar three of her matches, having a season-high 24 disposals and 14 rebound 50s in the grand final.

Zoe Venning

Another State Academy member who put together a better season than her last earned a Breakthrough Player nomination and averaged 16.5 disposals, 2.3 marks, 4.7 tackles, 2.1 clearances, 2.8 inside 50s and 1.2 rebound 50s per game. Predominantly playing inside midfield and then later on as a high half-forward, Venning brought the pressure and work rate that saw her really standout for the Bloods. Receiving an AFLW Draft Combine invite and earning a sport at half-forward in the SANFL Women’s Team of the Year, Venning had a really impressive season.

Chelsea Biddell

Playing 10 matches for the Westies in between her AFLW commitments, Biddell slotted 10 goals and was a force through the ruck as well as forward. Often pinch-hitting in the middle, Biddell was a strong contested mark, taking 15 of them in the season, as well as 4.3 marks total per game. She had the 13.1 disposals, 2.4 tackles and 3.5 inside 50s at SANFL Women’s level, and was a tough player to contain on any given day. After going goalless in two of her first four games, Biddell kicked a goal in each of her last six, including 1.3 in the grand final.

OTHERS:

West Adelaide had plenty of strong contributors throughout the year, with Sarah Dargan coming midseason to bolster the midfield, Keeley Kustermann and Abbie Ballard impressing when they were not injured, and Bec Owen being a rock as captain until suffering a heartbreaking injury in the preliminary final. Madi Russell and Taylah Jayne did some nice things in defence, Ailish Considine starred when in the team, and Louella McCarthy and Kate Walsh were among others who had some impressive games.

Picture credit: SANFL

SANFLW Player Focus: Brooke Tonon (Glenelg)

GLENELG took out the 2021 SANFL Women’s premiership on Saturday afternoon, bossing the game to come away 5.10 (40) to 2.5 (17) victors over West Adelaide. An even team spread helped the Bays claim ultimate glory, with a mix of experience and youth observed across the squad. 17-year-old Brooke Tonon was among the younger prospects to play a part, setting up well in the back half and even enjoying an early tussle with fellow state Under 19 representative, Zoe Venning.

Tonon is the prospect placed under our SANFLW Player Focus microscope this week; we run you through her game quarter-by-quarter, and bring you the key stats out of her Grand Final showing.

 

Brooke Tonon
Glenelg/South Australia

DOB: 19/09/2003
Height: 166cm
Position: Half-Back/Wing

2021 SANFLW Averages:

11 games | 14.7 disposals | 11.2 kicks | 3.5 handballs | 2.5 marks | 3.1 tackles | 1.0 clearances | 0.8 inside 50s | 2.5 rebound 50s

Image Credit: SANFL

2021 SANFLW Grand Final | Glenelg 5.10 (40) def. West Adelaide 2.5 (17)

#7 Brooke Tonon (Glenelg), Half-Back

Stats: 14 disposals (10 kicks, 4 handballs), 2 marks, 2 tackles, 2 clearances, 2 rebound 50s

Quarter-by-quarter:

Q1:

Starting in defence, Tonon was given an early taste of the Grand Final intensity when she dived on a ground ball and was sieged upon, conceding a holding the ball free kick. Her state Under 19s teammate Zoe Venning earned the possession for Westies, and proved a testing matchup in the first half.

Tonon got her own game going shortly after, backing her pace on the wing to burn an opponent and kick long down the line. She was also clean off the deck to flick a handball up to a runner inside defensive 50, showing she can play both sides of the contest.

The 17-year-old often lurked around for handball receives and knew when to run off her opponent, but was forced to kick under pressure and overcooked some of her disposals. Still, she matched Glenelg’s aggressive forward run and looked to take the game on that way, finishing the term with three kicks and one handball.

Q2:

Term two was somewhat of an ‘almost’ term for Tonon, who was done in by dodgy bounces of the ball and heavy pressure from Westies. She remained involved in the play, able to get her hands on the ball in congestion despite being wrapped up or knocked off it quickly as the intensity lifted.

She rose to the level as the quarter wore on, laying a hard joint tackle on Venning, before preventing a West Adelaide shot on goal by applying good body to the kicker. She also forced a ball out of bounds on the wing and did the tough stuff, but was not able to provide her usual drive on the outer – finishing with one kick and one handball.

Q3:

After being crunched in the opening exchanges of term three, Tonon bounced back well and got her usual game back up-and-running. She positioned a little deeper in defence and cut off a long kick inside defensive 50 as Westies broke quickly, holding the relieving mark.

She invited pressure with the resultant kick, but was sure to tighten that area of her game with a couple of better efforts via the kick-ins, sending one long outside 50 and the other short to an easy target.

Tonon’s speed came to the fore with her last two touches; the first was a handball receive at the front of a defensive 50 stoppage, which she used to power away and kick long, while the second was a clean gather in the corridor before dishing off a quick handball all in one motion. The latter contest was a particularly key ball to be won, with Tonon’s reading of the play helping Glenelg maintain possession and territory. She finished a productive quarter with four kicks and one handball.

Q4:

While Glenelg was not made to absorb as much pressure in the second half, Tonon finished solidly and setup shrewdly behind the ball. She attacked the contest well when called upon, taking a full-chested intercept mark on the wing, before kicking quickly over the top.

Her last kick for the day came from a last touch turnover at half-back, which she used to boot long down the line to a contest. Tonon’s last touch overall was a handball in the defensive 50, mopping up over the back with poise and dishing off quickly to set the Bays on the rebound.

There was not too much to be done in the end as the clock ran down, but Tonon capped her day positively and played her role superbly. She managed two kicks and one handball in the final term.

In closing…

Tonon has shown plenty of development in 2021 to become one of South Australia’s most promising Under 19 prospects, performing well at each level and in a variety of roles. Having cut her teeth on the wing, the 17-year-old has also been able to impact in defence with a good balance of line-breaking run on the rebound and defensive acts when required. She was able to open up the hotly contested Grand Final at times but did not shy away from the tough stuff, which should prove another handy tick for her versatility. Her positioning behind the ball as a sweeper and reading of the flow of play saw her win the ball in a variety of ways, able to intercept or be released on the outer.

2021 Academy Watch: SANFL Women’s Grand Final

IN the conclusion of the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s finals series, Glenelg defeated West Adelaide by 23 points to take home the Bays’ inaugural women’s premiership. We took a look at the State Academy players running out for the four sides, with all notes the opinion of the individual writer.

Glenelg:

#7 Brooke Tonon

Wrapped up a sensational season with a fitting grand final playing off half-back, providing plenty of run and clean hands throughout the contest. She was good at ground level, and whilst sometimes she would be rushed by foot, she would fire off quick handballs around the contest to keep the ball moving in transition. Defensively she was strong and never took a backwards step, working well in tandem with her other defenders. Whilst she had a quiet third term due to the ball being tup the other end, she stepped up in the final term with a couple of intercepts and driving balls down the line, or quick hands to be an impressive performer in Glenelg’s win.

#12 Tamsyn Morriss

Did not find a lot of the football, but used her trademark skills and long kicking to advantage. Morriss took the first kick out from defence, and put it 60m out to hit a teammate. She had a good pickup on the wing in the second term, and then rotated between pushing up to half-back when there was a high line defence, and dropping back to the last line to mop up when required. Was solid with ball-in-hand.

West Adelaide:

#3 Abbie Ballard

The acting captain on the day played the way you would expect with her attack on the ball and opposition first class. She did not have much space like many of her teammates, but she would win the contested ball and shovel it out well. When in space she used her kick to advantage to get it forward, and never gave up, wrestling the ball out of a stoppage just before the final siren despite the game being done and dusted. A real captain’s performance with her work rate and intensity.

#7 Scarlett Griffiths

Did not manage a touch on the day, but laid a couple of tackles. Her defensive intensity when near the footy was good with a shepherd to allow Chelsea Biddell to have a shot on the ball, then dived on the ball and laid a tackle to her opponent in the third term, despite an overall quiet outing.

#8 Keeley Kustermann

Provided good run out of defence and tried to use her kicking to advantage going down the field. Did not have the space she could have to utilise all her traits, but put together a pretty solid performance. Laid a few good tackles and whilst sometimes she was out-bodied or overran it, Kustermann still was one of West’s more prominent ball winners on the day and kept fighting hard.

#9 Zoe Venning

In many ways was symbolic of West Adelaide as a whole. Had a huge first half with good intent and was one of the Bloods’ most prominent ball winners early, before a quiet third term which followed a busy fourth quarter. As a whole Venning kept having a crack, often under pressure or rushed, but really applied fierce defensive pressure, won some free kicks and was able to get her hands free on a couple of occasions. She did drop a couple of marks she should have taken, but her second efforts were admirable, and she laid some fierce tackles all over the ground, covering the field with ease.

#30 Lauren Young

To no-one’s surprise, Young was never going to have it too easy, with Glenelg ensuring there was a body on her at all times around the stoppages. She was prominent in the first term, then really won a lot of it in the second half, taking some huge contested grabs and winning it in all thirds of the ground. On a number of occasions she won free kicks for being pushed out of marking contests, with the umpires very aware of her height and the opposition’s willingness to nullify her. She made a few mistakes by foot, but then her best included a pinpoint pass inside 50 to Biddell, and was an intercept machine in the defensive half of the ground up to the wing.

2021 SANFL Women’s Grand Final preview: Glenelg vs. West Adelaide

THE ultimate glory awaits one side in the 2021 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s Grand Final, with either Glenelg or West Adelaide to be crowned premiers after Saturday’s decider. The two teams ranked second and third on the table, knocking off Norwood in straight sets on their way to the final game of the season, though Glenelg comes in with a week’s break, whilst the Westies have played through after eliminating two-time premier South Adelaide in week one of the finals series. We preview the massive clash between two exciting sides in the competition, and how the game might go.

GLENELG vs. WEST ADELAIDE
Saturday, June 5 @ 12:40pm
Thebarton Oval

CHANGES:

Glenelg:
In: Sarah Wilton, Lucy Armitage, Molly Affolter
Out: Nil.

West Adelaide:
In: Sadie Lienert, Tiana Fernandez, Madelyn Zacher
Out: Bec Owen (injured)

The bittersweet preliminary final win for West Adelaide was only soured by an early injury to captain Bec Owen. Unfortunately it ruled her out not only for the rest of the game, but the the grand final as well. Teenager Abbie Ballard will step up into the captaincy role as a current vice-captain, while Glenelg’s captain Ellie Kellock will lead an unchanged side which has included three additional players to its lineup on an extended bench.

SEASON RECORD:

Glenelg:
R1: def. Sturt by 32 points
R2: lost to North Adelaide by five points
R3: lost to WWT Eagles by three points
R4: def. West Adelaide by six points
R5: lost to Norwood by two points
R6: drew with Sturt
R7: def. Central District by three points
R8: def. South Adelaide by three points
R9: def. North Adelaide by five points
R10: def. WWT Eagles by 68 points
R11: def. Central District by 11 points
SF: def. Norwood by 23 points

Glenelg fans might not have had any fingernails left between Rounds 2 and 9, with each of the eight games decided by six points or less. They could not seem to close out many of them early, losing three of the first four and then drawing a fifth, before finding what they needed to win their last couple of games, before the return of both the AFLW talents and State Academy players saw them trounce Eagles, and set themselves up for an automatic Grand Final spot thanks to a win over Norwood in the semi-final.

West Adelaide:
R1: def. Norwood by 14 points
R2: def. WWT Eagles by 26 points
R3: lost to North Adelaide by 19 points
R4: lost to Glenelg by six points
R5: lost to Central District by 22 points
R6: def. South Adelaide by 37 points
R7: lost to Sturt by 45 points
R8: lost to Norwood by 10 points
R9: def. Central District by 12 points
R10: def. North Adelaide by 20 points
R11: def. South Adelaide by one point
SF: def. South Adelaide by four points
PF: def. Norwood by 24 points

West Adelaide by contrast have only had three games decided by six points or less and the only one in the first 10 rounds was the loss to Glenelg by a straight kick. Two back-to-back nail-biters against South Adelaide steeled the Bloods for a big win over Norwood last week, and earning the right to challenge Glenelg for the 2021 SANFL Women’s premiership.

THE KEY PLAYERS:

Ebony Marinoff (Glenelg)

It is hard to look past the experienced Adelaide Crows talent who is not only one of the best players in the competition, but one of the best in the country. She is hard to stop and remarkably Glenelg has the flexibility to throw her around the ground, also starting her forward at times, simply because of the strength of the Bays’ midfield.

Lauren Young (West Adelaide)

The youngest player on the field and the most heralded in season 2021, the 15-year-old rising talent won the SANFL Women’s League Best and Fairest, Breakthrough Player Award and Coaches Award, as well as made the Team of the Year. Despite being two years away from being draft-eligible, Young has already proven to be a player the opposition tries to quell, with the teenager receiving the same attention from Norwood tagger Elisha Gallagher last weekend that Marinoff did the week before.

DRAFT PROSPECTS:

From a Glenelg perspective, Brooke Tonon has really enjoyed a promising season with the Bays, after being thrown here, there and everywhere in her debut SANFLW season last year, she has settled at half-back with some time on the wing. Her ability to move the ball in transition and make the right decisions has really caught the eye, and she earned a place in the Team of the Year for her efforts.

Teammate, Tamsyn Morriss is another defender who uses the ball well and is a member of the State Academy, whilst Tessa Kohn is a 20-year-old who continues to improve having been a late arrival to the code. If it were not for the remarkable exploits of Young, then 15-year-old Piper Window might be gaining more attention, with the teenager holding her spot to play 10 games this season, averaging 9.7 disposals, 2.6 inside 50s and 3.0 tackles in her debut year at senior level..

From a 2021 AFLW Draft perspective, Zoe Venning has done her chances no harm this season with a consistent year playing inside and then rolling out to half-forward. She is one who attacks the contest and works hard through four quarters to win plenty of the ball. Another youngster who earned Team of the Year honours, expect her to be a player who wins her fair share early in the game and provide the pressure required on the big stage.

Whilst Young is the obvious name thrust into the spotlight and deservedly so after winning the Most Valuable Player (MVP) for South Australia at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships and breaking the disposal record in a game (37) among her SANFL Women’s accolades, the Westies have plenty of other teenagers running around. In fact, 12 of the 24 players named were born this century, and of those in the State Academy, Keeley Kustermann is an exciting prospect to watch out for next year with her composure, poise and balance, as well as versatility across the field. Scarlett Griffiths (2003-born) and Ballard (2002-born) are others in the State Academy, whilst it is easy to forget that reliable centre half-back Sharnie Whiting is still only 20-years-old and would be more than capable to stepping up to the top level if required.

STRENGTHS:

Glenelg’s strength lies in its onball group, with a ridiculous amount of midfielders that can roll off onto flanks and spread around the ground. Kohn, Kellock and Jess Bates are all prominent clearance players, with the latter two able to play off flanks at either end. Add in Marinoff and Window who can roll through there, and the team has the flexibility to throw players around. The experience and leadership from some of those more senior Bays players will ultimately be a huge boost against a younger West Adelaide outfit.

West Adelaide just has all the pieces to have a genuine crack at the flag. They have the midfield, key position players and scoring options, but it is their ability to take contested grabs – be it Young, Whiting or Chelsea Biddell – that really sets themselves apart from the other sides. They can control the airways, and will look to back themselves in running from defence to attack with good speed and movement.

OPPOSITION OPPORTUNITIES:

Glenelg is a pretty consistent outfit, but the area where West Adelaide could get them is in the height department with so many players safe overhead. The Bays have most lines covered, but with size and safe hands of many of the Westies players, some of Bays might be playing undersized. For West Adelaide, they are young and exciting, but certainly less experienced than their opponents, and without captain Owen, the Bloods will need to play beyond their years because Glenelg will play a four-quarter consistent brand of football, so West will need to match that.

WHO WINS?

It all comes down to the midfield. The Glenelg onball group as a whole is outstanding, though you can never discount a West Adelaide side that not only features Young, but the likes of Sarah Dargan, Ballard and Venning. The Bays have more experience in there and one would expect they take out the clearances, but Kate Walsh is an experienced ruck and expect her to put up a fight against Caitlin Gould who has proven to tear teams apart be it in the ruck or down forward.

Glenelg is coming off a week off, so it will be interesting to see how that plays a part compared to the Westies running out last week, with perhaps the Bloods able to use that momentum to start off the grand final, and the fresh legs being a factor later in the game. Glenelg is the side you know what you are going to get and you know the level they will put out. West Adelaide’s youth and excitement means anything could happen, and one thing seems certain a nail-biter will ensure.

Tip: West Adelaide by 4 points

 

Picture credit: SANFL

SANFLW Player Focus: Zoe Venning (West Adelaide)

LEADING the game for disposals, West Adelaide young gun Zoe Venning played a major role in her sides win against Norwood in the recent SANFLW Preliminary Final, where the Wests’ secured their maiden Grand Final berth against Glenelg, who are also appearing on the big stage for the first time. An Under 19s South Australian representative at the recent AFLW National Championships, Venning was a major ball winner, particularly strong around stoppages and on the inside, where her toughness and speed were major weapons, she carried on that style into the game. 

ZOE VENNING | WEST ADELAIDE
4/11/2003 | MIDFIELDER/FORWARD

PLAYER PROFILE:

Arguably one the top South Australian draft prospects for the upcoming 2021 AFLW Draft, Venning is possibly best known for her toughness around the contest and elite endurance, allowing her to run out games without needing an extended break on the bench. She is comfortable either up forward or through the midfield, positioning well to get in front of opponents and create separation, which is particularly handy for her leading and clearance work. Venning is often balanced with her disposal, rarely blazing away and just kicking without assessing her options, where she looks for outside runners to handball to. 

PRELIMINARY FINAL SANFLW v NORWOOD

Q1:

Starting the game in her usual spot at half forward, Venning was involved early, pushing up the ground to be a link up option from the defensive half for West Adelaide, able to get separation a few times and take the marks uncontested and on the chest. The Norwood defence did well to create packs down the line, limiting the effectiveness of her kicks when she did not move the ball quickly. She hung around her ruck when she got a mark or free and attempted to get the handball receive and utilise her kick. She set up Wests first goal, getting the ball from a teammate just inside 50, then kicking into the hot spot about 35 meters in front of goal for a teammate to mark.

With the first term getting her a return of 6 kicks, 2 marks, 1 tackle and 1 free for, she was involved a fair bit and one of the main drivers heading into the forward 50. When she was in the midfield she had the opportunity to win a few clearances but had an opponent tight on her at all stoppages, making it difficult to get separation.

Q2:

With the heightened pressure, in the second term, it was hard for forwards to get clear leads or marks, meaning Venning found it harder to get involved early on playing the link up role. When the ball went in deeper forward 50 she looked dangerous, putting her head over the footy and getting the free kick for a high tackle, taking a shot on goal that was accurate but unfortunately dropped short. She was once again involved around stoppages and got first possession a couple of times, but the Norwood midfield were not giving an inch and were right onto her as soon as she did. Got a free kick for a holding the ball tackle later in the quarter, kicking deep to a contest.

Racked up 5 kicks, 1 handball, 1 tackle and 2 frees for in what was a good quarter overall, playing more midfield than she did in the first and making the most of that opportunity, unfortunately not getting clearances she probably deserves given her positioning work around stoppages, just unable to get through the other side at times.

Q3:

A good display as a balanced type of midfielder for Venning in the third quarter, she played her role really well in the midfield, positioning behind the ball to take an uncontested chest mark early on, and looking to use her kick to get Wests moving quickly. Looking to balance her disposal more she was not so quick to just bomb the ball long, rather assessing if there was a handball option first and then making the decision quickly.

Finishing the quarter with 4 kicks, 2 handballs, 1 mark and 1 free for she was again consistently involved and one of the more noticeable ball winners for the quarter. Again being rewarded for her courage with her head over the ball and drawing the free.

Q4:

A more quiet final term than her first three did not mean Venning had a lesser impact, almost more involved around the play with her pressure work and one-percenters, just unable to convert that into stats. Received a free kick when she was held without the ball in the centre of the ground, with a long kick inside 50 for a teammate to run onto and kick the final goal of the game.

The final quarter saw a return of 1 kick, 2 handballs, 1 free for and 1 clearance as Wests came home strong, securing the win and their maiden Grand Final berth within the SANFLW.

SUMMARY:

21 Disposals, 16 Kicks, 5 Handballs, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 1 clearance, 5 frees for
(Note: Discrepancies from official stats may come down to different interpretation or events happening off screen)

Splitting her time about 50/50 in the forward line and midfield, it was impressive how Venning was able to impact to a high standard in both positions, with her pressure work and run particularly impressive. She was not afraid to go in for the contested footy, and the willingness to go in and put herself on the line resulted in her drawing some free kicks she otherwise would not have gotten. With the likes of Richmond listed Sarah Dargan and recently crowned SANFLW League Best and Fairest Lauren Young, in the side, to come out of the game as the leading ball winner for her side is an impressive result and will certainly catch the eyes of recruiters, not just in SA.

2021 Academy Watch: SANFL Women’s Preliminary Final

IN the second week of the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s finals series, West Adelaide secured its place in the 2021 Grand Final, bundling out Norwood in straight sets. We took a look at the State Academy players running out for the four sides, with all notes the opinion of the individual writer.

West Adelaide:

#3 Abbie Ballard

Great performance from a hard-working midfielder, using her great left foot to hit up her teammate Lauren Young, laying some hard tackles to create stoppages to give her team time. As someone who always will create something forward of centre, the small midfielder was able to set the tone to finish with eight tackles to go alongside her nine disposals. Ballard just finds space and works it so well to give her teammates scoring chances, such as putting it on her non-preferred side to put it to the danger spot where Biddell marked and goaled to put the team 18 points up late in the second term. Her footy smarts with ball-in-hand and without it – such as diving on the ball seven minutes into the final term to stop a last-touch – are very evident for all to see.

#7 Scarlett Griffiths

Tracked a ball seven minutes into the second term, could not quite get it over-running it, but laid a good tackle to drag down her opponent. Provided a target inside 50 at the 14-minute mark but the kick from Zoe Venning drifted to the right. Showed terrific attack at the ball contest by winning it midair and getting tackled, disposing of it quickly under pressure as she landed. Played up on the wing to start the fourth term and immediately got a touch running at half-back to cleanly pick up and handball to a teammate, then worked well a moment later.

#8 Keeley Kustermann

Starting early with good pressure on the ball carrier and getting involved in the first term with quick hands. Held her position around the ball very well in space to get the back hand release pass. Used her strong hands to mark at the highest point to then deliver accurate kicks to her teammates with having nine kicks for the game, and took a strong mark in defensive 50 one-on-one to intercept six minutes into the third quarter. Not afforded the same space as she would love, but did not take a backwards step around the contest. A really strong performance out of defence pushing up the ground.

#9 Zoe Venning

An outstanding performance from the teenager who was clearly a standout across the board. She racked up the ball with ease and was a dominant ball-winner across the ground. While still ironing out some parts of her game, there were some really noticeable traits that set her aside in this game and it was clearly one of her best efforts all year. Venning a great marking style whilst using her strong hands. Venning uses her athleticism to keep powering through stoppages and never gave up. Her footy smarts come into play when the mark was taken and exploded to play on and run and carry, then deliver a nice kick inside 50. With 23 disposals, 17 of them being kicks, her endurance was always there throughout the four quarters of the game. Keep an eye out this week for our SANFLW Player Focus for a detailed account of Venning’s performance.

#30 Lauren Young

Early throughout the game, Young was pinged holding the ball, but as the game progressed, the young 15-year-old showed her talent through her football smarts. Using to her advantage with her great hands, marking it inside 50m, then almost kicked a goal from 45m out only eight minutes into the game. Young fiercely chased the ball and stuck the tackle inside their 50 and created a ball up, hardworking through the use of her endurance and athleticism made herself a standout. A highlight was a hit-up kick to Chelsea Biddell at the top of 50 midway through the second term.

Norwood:

#15 Alana Lishmund

Quiet game playing forward after spending games off half-back this season which did not help, but tried to track it at half-forward in the second term, kicking along the ground but could not quite grab it and was knocked off it, then almost took a mark but just slipped between her hands. Her sole kick came three minutes into the third term on the wing rushed quickly going forward. Lishmund did show good pressure close to the line to force a rushed behind early in the fourth term.

#22 Jade Halfpenny

With a tough game on their hands, it made it very hard for Norwood to win the ball themselves, luckily Halfpenny used her legs to keep attempting at the second efforts after fumbling the ground ball, but continued to track the ball, this showing the willingness to never give up and to keep going even if it may not be going your way, and that was shown. She kicked long inside 50, almost gave off a goal assist with a deep long kick 14 minutes into the third term, but Erika Sporn could not quite cleanly kick it off the boot. Halfpenny took an intercept mark at half-back and delivered short to Leah Cutting in the final minute of the match.

#30 Sarah Branford

Laid a great tackle on Lauren Young at half-back early in the game but her kick was intercepted on the wing. Clean pickup in the opening 15 seconds of the second term and had a quick kick off half-back going into the middle under pressure. She spent time on the wing as well, showing off her versatility. Her intent at the ball, even when she could not win it, was really admirable. Branford took a mark at half-back early in the third term and kicked to the wing well, then took the game on a moment later running off half-back.

SANFL Women’s Preliminary Final wrap: West Adelaide books Grand Final spot

WEST Adelaide has booked its spot in the 2021 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s Grand Final following a 24-point victory over Norwood on Saturday at Coopers Stadium. The Bloods lead at every break, and secured their first grand final spot to ensure that a first-time premier will be crowned next week. In defeat, Norwood was bundled out in straight sets, which meant a sixth straight finals loss for the Redlegs.

It was the home team that looked good to atone for its semi-final loss last week, with Rosette Zerella getting a goal on the board through a clever snap, and then having a second chance to give her side a seven-point advantage in the opening six minutes. However over the next two quarters it was all West Adelaide as talls Melanie Elsegood and Chelsea Biddell slotted two majors apiece heading into half-time to give the visitors a 19-point lead.

The third term was more of an arm-wrestle but Ashlea James made it five consecutive majors for the Westies, with Erika Sporn missing Norwood’s sole scoring chance later in the term. Holding a 26-point lead and restricting Norwood to just one behind since the sixth minute of the first term, West Adelaide was in firm control. It was not until Sporn finally saluted in the last five minutes of the game that Norwood cut it back to 18 points, but it was a case of too little, too late as Louella McCarthy kicked the sealer a minute later and the Bloods booked their spot into the SANFL Women’s decider, 6.4 (40) to 2.4 (16).

West Adelaide controlled the ball with 28 more disposals (166-138) and had three more marks (22-19). Despite Norwood dominating the hitouts (40-24), the Westies midfield took control with seven more clearances (30-23). The inside 50s were fairly even with West Adelaide marginally ahead (24-22), but the Bloods also had three additional rebound 50s (20-17) in an impressive effort. Norwood’s tackling pressure remained strong with nine more than its opponents (75-66).

Zoe Venning produced an outstanding performance of 24 disposals, three marks, three tackles, four clearances and five inside 50s in the win, with fellow State Academy member Lauren Young (15 disposals, three marks, seven tackles, three clearances and two rebound 50s) also lively. Sarah Dargan (19 disposals, four tackles, five clearances and two inside 50s) impressed, whilst the likes of Sharnie Whiting (13 disposals, two marks, five tackles, two clearances, three inside 50s and four rebound 50s) and Biddell (13 disposals, three marks, seven hitouts, two tackles, two clearances and two goals) stepped up in the absence of captain Bec Owen who went down early through injury.

For the Redlegs, Tesharna Maher continued her great form of late to rack up 18 disposals, four marks, seven tackles, two clearances, three inside 50s and three rebound 50s. Fellow midfielders, Jess Macolino (13 disposals, eight tackles, three clearances and three inside 50s), Sophie Armitstead (10 disposals, four tackles and five clearances) and Sachi Syme (10 disposals, three tackles, three clearances and three inside 50s) were also lively. Morgan Johnston (nine disposals, two marks and three rebound 50s) and Alison Ferrall (seven disposals, three rebound 50s) tried hard in defence, while Leah Cutting dominated the hitouts on her way to five disposals, 14 tackles, 39 hitouts and two clearances.

The loss marks the end of the season for Norwood, while West Adelaide sets its sights on Glenelg next weekend to determine the 2021 SANFL Women’s premier.

NORWOOD 1.1 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 2.4 (16)
WEST ADELAIDE 2.1 | 4.2 | 5.4 | 6.4 (40)

GOALS:

Norwood: E. Sporn, R. Zerella.
West: C. Biddell 2, M. Elsegood 2, A. James, L. McCarthy.

DC BEST:

Norwood: T. Maher, J. Macolino, S. Armitstead, S. Syme, L. Cutting
West: Z. Venning, S. Dargan, C. Biddell, L. Young, S. Whiting

Picture credit: Cory Sutton / SANFL

Griffiths grasps “fantastic opportunity” with State Academy

WEST Adelaide’s Scarlett Griffiths has loved being a member of South Australia’s State Academy program, describing it as a “fantastic opportunity” to test herself alongside and against the best players in the country. The teenager plies her trade in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition for the Bloods, having come from a different background and transitioning into the pathway from a young age.

“I started playing football when I was quite young,” Griffiths said. “I was a ballerina and I just saw a sign that my local footy club needed girls so I joined in, fell in love with it, and yeah since I was young I’ve always been invited to these programs, and one thing’s led to another and now I’m here.”

Predominantly a forward having kicked a goal in each of her last two SANFL Women’s games, Griffiths tasted a new role further up the ground at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19s Championships, able to run out for the Croweaters against both Vic Country and the Allies.

“My favourite place is playing in the forward line, I’ve loved learning about that role and playing it,” Griffiths said. “And up here I’m playing on the wing, so it’s a big change, and I’m learning more about the role as the week goes on.”

Despite losing both the clashes in Victoria, the teenager said she had loved the opportunity she had been given, and was always looking to improve aspects of her game such as reading the play and knowing when to run and properly execute her speed and athleticism.

“It’s been such a fantastic opportunity to play with the Academy squad and back at home everything’s been really, really great and it’s just been getting better,” Griffiths said.

Having come from West Adelaide, it is little surprise to see Griffiths’ role models and inspirations being a pair of pocket rockets from the Bloods who have overcome various adversities from knee injuries to being overlooked to play at the elite AFL Women’s level.

“I really look up to Hannah Button and Rachelle Martin, they’re sisters from the Crows,” Griffiths said. “They’re my biggest inspirations. “They’ve been mentoring me for the past three years, so I’m so grateful to have them and they’re so awesome.

“It’s so good to see them on the TV, especially Rachelle, they’re just incredible, they totally deserve to be there.”

Like may players in their top-age draft year, Griffiths said her life was fairly busy between the three key aspects of life.

“I’m in the middle of Year 12 so that’s been really busy,” she said. “Work, school footy, that’s my life.”

With West Adelaide on the verge of backing up their maiden finals series last year by grabbing fourth spot heading to the final round this week. The Bloods will need to topple third placed South Adelaide in order to secure a finals berth, but if they do, then Griffiths will be hoping to have an impact on the scoreboard in the post-season series.

Scouting Notes: 2021 SANFL Under 18s – Round 2

THE South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Under 18s rolled on into Round 2, with the latest weekend of action producing some excellent performances from plenty of 2021 AFL Draft prospects. In the second SANFL Scouting Notes edition for 2021, we again narrow in on SA’s Under 18s competition, with a particular focus on the state’s Under 19 talent hub members. All notes are the opinion of the individual author.

GLENELG vs. WWT EAGLES

By: Liam Badkin

GLENELG:

#32 Oscar Adams

Worked hard through the midfield all day to give his team ascendency. Fought all game in the poor conditions to give his midfielders first use with his hitouts around the ground.

#20 Lewis Rayson

Found plenty of the ball and rarely wasted it. A game-high 29 disposals showcased his creativity with the ball as he set up countless plays with his hard work from half-back. An excellent performance as he continues to impress and demonstrate the quality talent coming out of South Australia.

#5 Hugh Stagg

Didn’t get a heap of the ball, but made the most of it when he did. Kicked a nice goal from a snap in the first quarter to extend his side’s strong lead. Spent time on the ball where he used his big frame to put others in better positions.

#13 Hayden Brokensha

A quieter performance than last week, the hard runner only found the ball eight times but there were still plenty of bright spots. His disposal could’ve been cleaner, but the effort was never in doubt as he looks to build on this performance.

#10 Lachlan Scannell

Another who didn’t accumulate the ball as much as last week, but showed his endeavour and willingness to work hard for his touches. With a solid 15 disposals, Scannell ran tirelessly all day and found himself an integral link up player as his side rebounded the ball out of defensive 50.

EAGLES:

#12 Brayden Calvett

The lethal left footer once again proved his worth to his side. Working around the midfield, he took the game on plenty of times and used his damaging skills to hurt the opposition and incite fantastic ball movement. Missed a shot on goal at the start of the last quarter but would be pleased with his performance overall.

#4 Jase Burgoyne

A handy link-up player who did his best work on the half-forward line. Always crafty, Burgoyne was a key cog in a lot of good Eagles ball movement. Found the ball 23 times and should hold his head high despite the loss. One of his side’s best on the day, and should built into competition well after an interrupted preseason.

#17 Lukas Cooke

A quieter game than last week, Cooke was the victim of the ball not entering his forward 50 enough. It’s hard to judge a key forward on a game where his side is beaten around other areas of the ground. Kicked his sole goal to open the scoring account for the second quarter as he tried to pull his side back into the game. Other than that, lack of opportunities hurt his output.

#2 Jay Watson

Found the footy plenty of times in a game where his side struggled to get their hands on it. Constantly drove the ball forward with his quality kicking skills, and tried until the final bounce to get his side back into the game.

#15 Adam D’Aolia

Another solid performance for the midfielder, as he fought bravely in a losing battle. Was dangerous around the stoppages, where he managed to find a game-high five clearances, despite his forwards not finishing his hard work and being beaten. Also worked his way to six tackles as he forced plenty of stoppages with his ability to stop opponents in their tracks.

 

CENTRAL DISTRICT vs. WEST ADELAIDE

By: Liam Badkin

CENTRAL:

#3 Isaiah Dudley

One of his side’s strongest performers on the day, the highly touted mid-forward lived up to the high expectations he has set for himself. Working through the midfield and forward of the ball, Dudley provided a spark on a dour day for his side. His explosiveness was hard to ignore around the contest, as he burst through packs and finished the day with 17 disposals and two goals. His stocks continue to rise.

#37 Cody Gilchrist 

It was a day that could have yielded so much more for the aerial specialist, but his inaccuracy cost him a bag of six as he finished with 1.5. His marking skills were more efficient as he brought down five grabs, with some contested. His ability to set himself up for a scoring opportunity is a real stand out, and if his accuracy can improve, he will be a nightmare for defenders.

#16 Shay Linke 

The SANFL Academy member once again continued his promising start to the year, and demonstrated his ability to win the footy all around the ground. His work around the stoppages was marvellous as he worked his way to 30 disposals and four clearances. His third quarter goal showcased his ability to hit the scoreboard, and he performed strongly on a tough day at the office.

#28 Luca Whitelum 

Backed up last week’s solid showing with another, consistently competing in a losing side. Missed two shots on goal that he could’ve kicked if he had his time over, but never gave up. Another step in the right direction.

WEST ADELAIDE:

#10 Cade Kennedy 

One of his side’s best performers, Kennedy found plenty of the ball and gave opposition coaches headaches as he continued to rack up possessions. His work at the contest was high-level, extracting three clearances, and he hit the scoreboard with a handy second quarter goal, when the opposition were making a strong run. Fantastic.

#36 Tyson Coe

While gathering slightly less of the ball than last week, Coe still showed his talent as a big-bodied midfielder, finding the ball 15 times. His two goals would’ve pleased his coaches as he continues to add strings to his bow.

#54 Harry Lemmey 

The developing key forward continues his improvement with another nice game. The ball movement inside 50 at times suited his skillset as he reeled in five marks. Could’ve finished with five goals but instead settled for 2.3 in an important performance for his side.

#9 Kobe Ryan

A star in the making, Ryan put in a best on ground performance with his outstanding effort in the midfield. Seemingly always around the play, the bottom ager was herculean for his team, winning eight clearances to drive his team forward. His defensive work was just as strong, laying eight tackles as he refused to be beaten by an opponent. Strong in the air and on the ground, he was impossible to stop, as he remarkably went at 90 per cent disposal efficiency from his 33 touches. An outstanding performance.

 

SOUTH ADELAIDE vs. NORTH ADELAIDE 

By: Tom Wyman

SOUTH ADELAIDE:

#33 Arlo Draper

One of SA’s most highly rated draft prospects, Draper had some nice moments where he appeared a cut above Under 18 level, but didn’t star as the Panthers were beaten by a strong North Adelaide side. Starting at the centre bounce but drifting forward for parts of the match, Draper is a great size for the modern game at 186cm.

His quick snap on goal from the stoppage was soccered through on the goal-line for a major, but highlighted his high-level forward craft. An impressive overall athlete, Draper’s stoppage nous was terrific, reading the taps well and gliding through congestion on a number of occasions. He didn’t attend every stoppage but still won a game-high seven clearances – highlighting his smarts in the midfield. Draper’s hands in-tight were sound and he hit some tricky targets by foot, particularly when looking to centre the ball.

Although the Willunga product didn’t dominate proceedings or find lots of the ball, he had an impact just about every time he touched it. Draper is clearly an aerial threat and his strong midfield craft and ability forward of centre will no doubt have scouts monitoring him closely. He concluded the game with 16 disposals, a goal (10 kicks and six handballs) and four tackles.

Others: 

Angus Bradley was likely best-on-ground for the Panthers. Although South Adelaide were beaten in the midfield, Bradley didn’t back down, winning a team-high 31 disposals (25 kicks and six handballs) to go with seven marks and eight rebound-50s. A kick-first type of player, Bradley used the ball cleanly by foot.

Half-back flanker Lachlan Hayes showed a nice bit of zip from defence. He took the game on wherever he could and appears to be a smart player. He finished with 22 disposals and three rebounds. Key defender Dylan Miller was opposed to talented Roosters forward Isaac Keeler and kept the Adelaide NGA product goalless, after he booted five majors the week before.

Wingman Isaac Birt produced a balanced game, finishing with 19 disposals, six marks, six tackles, three inside-50s and a goal, with fellow midfielder Cooper Rogers (22 disposals, six tackles and three clearances) also busy. Koby Cockshell booted three goals for the home side.

NORTH ADELAIDE:

#4 Isaac Keeler

After kicking five goals in a dominant display against Central District last week, the tall forward was well-held by the South Adelaide backline. The bottom-aged Adelaide NGA product still showed some nice glimpses, with his ability to gain separation on the lead, natural athleticism and impact at ground level all evident.

However, Keeler was slightly off despite the Roosters’ win, dropping a simple chest mark in the opening term and turning the ball over a couple of times by foot. His cleanliness below his knees was a real highlight though. Keeler finished with 11 disposals, three marks, three tackles and a couple of clearances when given a run in the ruck. Expect him to return to the scoresheet against the Redlegs next week.

#12 Hugh Jackson

Jackson has stated the season in dominant fashion and would have to be one of the early favourites to take out the McCallum-Tomkins Medal (SANFL Under 18 best and fairest), after a strong showing against the Panthers. His hands in traffic, on both sides of his body, were not only lightening fast, but they always found their target. Playing as an inside midfielder, Jackson won a lot of his possessions in congestion but, impressively, was still able to hit his targets by foot.

However, like many of his North Adelaide teammates, Jackson has the ability to spread well from the stoppages and get involved in general play, which allows him to best exploit his clean skillset. His running patterns allowed him to get on the end of handball chains and be the one to deliver the ball inside-50. The teenager, from Crystal Brook in the heartland of the Roosters country zone, drew teammates towards him with his kicking and was able to slice through tricky gaps in the play.

He did all the defensive stuff too, laying a game-high ten tackles. He was caught holding the ball a couple of times, however the smooth-mover again looked in complete control, finishing the clash with 33 disposals, five marks, five clearances, five inside 50s. He was unlucky to have a snap at goal hit the post in the fourth quarter too.

#15 Harvey Harrison

Blayne O’Loughlin’s 44-touches are hard to overlook, but the performance of Harrison had a similar influence over the game. Harrison was typically productive around the ground, consistently winning the ball in-tight at the coal-face, but it was his spread from the contest and the run and carry that he provided which proved deadly. Involved in countless handball-chains through the middle of the ground, Harrison was instrumental in turning defensive into attack.

Many players tend to waste their possessions when travelling at full speed, but not Harrison. His delivery by foot was outstanding and his running goal in the third-term triggered a flurry of Roosters majors, however he could have had an even bigger game if he had converted some of his chances in-front of the big sticks (kicking five behinds). The Golden Grove junior looks to have established himself as one of the leading midfielders in the state, after accumulating 64 touches across the first fortnight of action.

A high metres-gained type of midfielder, Harrison finished the round two clash with 31 disposals (21 kicks and ten handballs), four marks, six tackles, six clearances, five inside 50s and a goal. He sits third in the competition for disposals (trailing only teammates Blayne O’Loughlin and Hugh Jackson), equal-fourth for marks and second for clearances – highlighting his well balanced game.

#18 James Willis

Willis returned to the Roosters’ Under 18s set-up and wasted no time in getting involved. He spent time rotating through the midfield and forwardline, where his speed, run-and-carry, and ability to win the contested ball featured prominently. He applied plenty of defensive pressure around the ball and tackled with genuine intent. The SANFL Academy member also bobbed up for two goals late in the game, to go with 18 disposals, three marks, four tackles and five inside 50s.

#22 Blayne O’Loughlin

The skipper led from the front for the Roosters, setting up the play beautifully from half-back. Another Rooster who is tied to the Adelaide Crows via NGA rules, O’Loughlin had the ball on a string right from the start. Although he did accumulate many of his touches from kick-ins, his skills when exiting the defensive-50 were exceptional. Always calm and composed with ball in hand, the SANFL Academy member was largely pin-point with his disposal by foot, weighing up the situation and thinking his way through things.

O’Loughlin reads the game so well and possesses a rare understanding of how the play appears to be unfolding in-front of him, then consistently makes the right decision and executes by hand or foot. The crafty defender is a deep thinker on the field and is equipped with the skillset to match, but he also showed a willingness to crack in hard for his side and win some contested ball, which will have impressed scouts and recruiters watching on.

O’Loughlin’s footy smarts were again on display when he sprinted 30 metres to plug the gap in-front of a leading South Adelaide forward and prevent a near-certain shot on goal. Blayne finished with a game-high 44 disposals (30 kicks and 14 handballs), nine marks, four tackles and eight rebound 50s in what could well be his best performance at Under 18s level to date.

#29 Zyton Santillo

The speedy Santillo was typically industrious for the red and whites through the midfield and in attack. He had no trouble finding the ball and used it really well. One of several North Adelaide midfielders with some speed and skill, Santillo was precise with his kicking, particularly when heading inside 50, and ran hard both ways. Not unlike Brisbane star Dayne Zorko in the way he moves, Santillo once again showed he is an important cog in what appears to be a very strong Roosters squad, accumulating 31 disposals, seven marks, six tackles, six clearances and six inside 50s in an impressive outing.

Others:

Whilst the North Adelaide midfield unit will receive much of the attention and plaudits for their dominance, defender Lewis Saint played an important role in defence, breaking up several Panthers attacks. Medium-forward Thomas Cusack had a blistering third term, booting four goals in six minutes to break-open the game and more-or-less put the game beyond reach. Elliott McNamara was an important target up forward, finishing with 20 disposals, four marks (including two contested), six tackles and five inside 50s.

 

NORWOOD vs. STURT

By: Tom Wyman

NORWOOD:

#1 Tyson Walls

After making a strong start to the season last weekend, the bottom-aged midfielder was again among the best players on the ground in Norwood’s victory. He spent the game in his customary midfield role, where he won his fair share of contested ball and showed an ability to look for the right options in congestion, rather than blaze away.

He possesses a very quick first couple of steps and, importantly, he used this to advantage, often speeding away from stoppages in his bright yellow boots. A well-balanced midfielder who shares some similarities in playing style to Essendon’s Darcy Parish, Walls’ vision and skill execution were also commendable. He banked himself a well deserved goal in the closing stages of the final term and finished with 24 disposals (19 kicks and five handballs), seven marks, six tackles, four clearances and five inside 50s.

#9 Alastair Lord

The speedy half-back/wingman took a while to get going, but worked into the game nicely and proved to be the most damaging player on the ground after quarter time. Primarily stationed in the defensive 50 but pushing up onto the wings when required, Lord provided plenty of his trademark run-and-carry. For a player of just 177cm, he displayed good strength above his head and took a couple of timely intercept grabs.

Lord’s attacking mindset was clear from the outset, as he looked to break lines with his speed whenever possible. At times, he made things more difficult for himself by running into traffic, however his aggressive mindset was pivotal in the Redlegs 32-point win. In what was a scrappy game for the most part with both sides struggling to execute their skills, Lord’s ball use stood out. He finished with 28 touches (17 kicks and 11 handballs), seven marks and four inside 50s.

#25 Matt Dnistriansky 

The athletic defender was once-again Norwood’s designated kicker down back. Often charged with the kick-in duties, Dnistriansky looked to set up the play with his precise kicking. He has a racking right foot kick and was accurate across long and short distances. He positioned himself well throughout the game, dropping in front of the Sturt forwards to cut off several Double Blues attacks. Although many of his touches were accumulated deep in defence, his clean ball-use was important. Concluded the game with a game-high 29 disposals (24 kicks and five handballs), nine marks and eight rebounds.

Others:

SANFL Academy Hub member Taj Rahui showed a couple of nice glimpses in-tight, with his breakaway speed and agility on show. Connor Kent missed a couple of shots on goal but was prolific, accumulating 27 touches and seven marks. Bottom-aged defender Riley Verrall was inconsistent by foot but found plenty of it and provided some handy rebound across half-back, finishing with 26 disposals, seven marks and seven rebounds.

STURT:

#7 Nick Sadler

Bottom-aged midfielder/forward was one of Sturt’s best performers in what proved to be a scrappy contest at Coopers Stadium. Sadler was unlucky to hit the post with a set-shot from a difficult angle in the first term, but made up for it just moments later by sending a piercing kick through for a major. He went head-to-head with Norwood’s Alastair Lord and held his own, even managing to beat the speedster to the ball on the outer wing on one occasion. He looks to have a long and penetrating kick and appears clean on both sides of the body. He finished with 20 disposals (14 kicks and six marks), six marks, three clearances and six inside 50s.

#11 Will Spain

The inside midfielder didn’t set the world alight but was solid through the engine room. He is one of the best tacklers in the competition and a capable ball winner at stoppages, however Spain also ran some nice patterns which allowed him to pick up uncontested possessions. He worked tirelessly, often going head-to-head with Norwood’s Tyson Walls, and used the ball well by hand. He finished with 19 disposals, four marks, nine tackles and four inside 50s.

Others:

With talented key forward Morgan Ferres not playing, the Double Blues clearly lacked a focal point in attack. Powerful medium-forward Jacob Lochowiak had his moments and competed well. Jake Aish (20 disposals, one goal, six clearances and six inside-50s) found plenty of the footy through the midfield and Jordan Hein (24 disposals and ten rebounds) used it well out of defence. Jamie Taylor kicked a goal and had 20 disposals while the ruck-duo of Hugo Kittle and Jackson Bishop provided the Sturt midfielders with first use, winning 17 and 15 hit-outs respectively. Down back, the clean-kicking Zac Becker (20 disposals, five marks and 15 rebounds) provided some handy rebound from defence.

Image Credit: Hannah Howard/SANFL

Ballard ready to take next step

BETWEEN her football commitments and working on her family farm, Abbie Ballard does not have much time to relax. However, while on the cusp of achieving her AFL Women’s dream, we offered Ballard the opportunity to reflect on her football journey so far.

“I started playing at the Peake District Football Club when I was 10,” Ballard said. “I mainly played with the boys in the Auskick at half time of the A Grade, but every now and again the boys needed me to fill in for the Under 13s. I did that for a year, then played full-time for the boys until I was 15.”

Unlike female footballers who competed in the boys’ competitions because it was their only option, Ballard actually preferred playing against the boys.

“I loved it, it was a much cleaner game to play and just so much more fun,” she said. “The boys weren’t afraid to tackle me and I wasn’t afraid to tackle them, it was the best.”

Ballard moved to West Adelaide to play against the girls when she was 15. Although the competition was not originally played at a great standard, Ballard says the league has made significant progress.

“[SANFLW footy] has definitely been improving, everyone’s getting better and the competition’s becoming great,” she said. “It’s a really good quality of football now, the speed of the game is quicker and the skills are much better than they used to be.”

Ballard has achieved extraordinary continuity and consistency during her time in SANFLW, having played 31 out of 32 games over the past three years. She missed her first game this year due to an unfortunate concussion.

“I’ve been really lucky with injuries and have never really had one until this year, and I’ve always played consistent football so I’ve been picked every week,” Ballard said.

At just age 17 in 2019, Ballard won West Adelaide’s SANFLW Best and Fairest and finished sixth in the SANFLW League medal count. Very few AFLW prospects have attained this level of success prior to their draft year.

“These were huge achievements,” she said. “I was so proud that, at such a young age, I was playing such good football in the women’s league. “I’ve worked so hard to get where I am and it really just made everything worth it. “The Best and Fairest is definitely the best accolade in my career so far.”

This season, Ballard finished fifth in the SANFLW medal count and led the Bloods to their first SANFLW Finals appearance. In a convincing semi-final victory over Norwood, Ballard collected 12 disposals, laid eight tackles and kicked a goal. Their season ended the following week with a 30-point Preliminary Final loss to South Adelaide.

“Everyone was so proud of how well we did this season,” Ballard said. “We worked so hard to get there and we wanted to go out and put everything we had left on the field, which is definitely what happened.”

Ballard has learnt plenty from teammates that have already made the leap from SANFLW to AFLW. She is delighted that they continue to play at West Adelaide when they are available.

“Some Westies girls who are now at the Crows like Maddi Newman, Chelsea Biddell and Rachelle Martin have been major inspirations for me,” she said. “It’s been amazing to watch what they’ve been able to do and see them improve so much. I want to follow their pathway.”

Ballard highlights Martin, the joint 2020 SANFLW League Best and Fairest, as the player that has helped her the most.

“Rachelle has taught me a lot about how to become a better midfielder, how to tackle better, how to body people and how to get into the right positions at stoppages,” she said.

As Ballard has stated, her career goal is to follow in these girls’ footsteps.

“I’d love to get into AFLW, that is my aim,” she said. “Hopefully that will be achievable this year, but we will see what happens. “I’ve put my name down for this year’s draft.”

Although Ballard is primarily an inside midfielder, her booming left-foot kick makes her a weapon on the outside as well.

“I take a lot of pride in my kicking,” she said. “My kicking accuracy and ability to get in the contest and hit the ball hard are my biggest strengths, probably my handball accuracy as well. I work hard to improve my skills every year.”

In order to elevate her game to the next level, Ballard has a specific focus over the next few months.

“I need to improve my fitness and speed to be able to dominate games more often,” she said.

Since finishing school at the end of 2019, Ballard has juggled full-time work with her football commitments. She is based on her family’s farm in Coomandook.

“It’s full-time so I’m working every day with mum, dad and grandpa,” she said. “We’ve got pigs and sheep, and we do a bit of cropping.”

Ballard says her family has been incredibly supportive of her football over the journey.

“Mum and dad would always spend hours taking me to football and watching me train,” Ballard said. “They’ve been a huge support and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

As much as Ballard loves the farm, she would have no problems moving away to make her AFLW aspirations come true.

“It would be great to stay in SA but if I could go anywhere I would take the opportunity,” she said. “Moving away to play football would be worth it.”

Picture: SANFL

 

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