Tag: Winnie Laing

2020 NAB League Girls team update: Sandringham Dragons

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition is on break, we take a quick recap of each team, how the first three rounds have panned out for them and who has already stood up in the short time. In this edition we look at the Sandringham Dragons, who after losing their opening game to the GWV Rebels by five points, bounced back to have a couple of impressive wins in Rounds 2 and 3.

2020 RESULTS:

R1: lost to GWV Rebels by 5 points
R2: defeated Bendigo Pioneers by 44 points
R3: defeated Gippsland Power by 52 points

Missed opportunities prevented the Dragons from finishing the first three rounds undefeated, as inaccuracy plagued them in Round 1, going down to the Rebels. They sorted that out the week after with a big win over Bendigo Pioneers, and then set up a 52-point win over Gippsland Power thanks to a dominant first half performance in Morwell.

FIVE STRONG STARTERS:

Alice Burke (19.0 disposals, 2.7 marks, 4.0 tackles, 1.7 inside 50s, 2.7 rebounds)

The back-to-back club best and fairest winner continued her terrific NAB League Girls career with another sensational start to the season. She averaged 19 disposals per game and continued to apply the tackling pressure she has been known for over her time. Along with that, she showed she can play inside or outside roles, moving the ball well in transition from defence to attack.

Sarah Hartwig (15.0 disposals, 4.3 marks, 3.0 tackles, 1.3 inside 50s, 2.7 rebounds)

The reliable defender was able to taste some action up the field this season and showed she has the capacity to play in the midfield if required. Her reading of the ball, intercept marking and attack on the ball are among her strengths, with one highlight play in the opening round against the Rebels showing what she can do. Winning the ball at full speed at half-back, she managed to evade a number of opponents and take a bounce, putting it lace out inside 50.

Bella Eddey (17.7 disposals, 3.0 marks, 4.3 tackles, 3.7 inside 50s, 2 goals)

The classy forward is ever-damaging when inside 50 and is one of better ball users in the competition. She booted the two goals in her first three games, able to rotate between midfield and forward, and often used to hit up difficult kicks inside 50 to make life easier for her forwards. She can play multiple roles in the forward half and offers a point of difference to many other mid-forwards with her extra class and kicking ability.

Eliza McNamara (17.3 disposals, 2.3 marks, 5.7 tackles, 3.3 inside 50s, 2 goals)

The tough midfielder/forward attacks the ball with no regrets and is not afraid to take on opponents much taller than herself. She is a work horse when it comes to her repeat running and ability to just make contest after contest. In terms of 2020, she showed great forward pressure and capped off her hard work with two goals, while being able to rotate through the middle and find plenty of the ball herself on the way to almost six tackles per game.

Abbi Moloney (10.3 disposals, 3.3 marks, 2.0 tackles, 1.3 inside 50s, 8 goals)

The competition’s second leading goal kicker bounced back from not getting on the board in Round 1, to booting bags of three and five in Rounds 2 and 3. She provided a strong target inside 50, and averaged the 3.3 marks to go with her 10.3 disposals as her side’s main source of scoring. A traditional forward who has a kick-first mentality having 30 kicks from 31 disposals, Moloney has been a big improver this season as a top ager.

Others who have stood out: Winnie Laing, Sofia Hurley, Bridie Hipwell, Daisy Walker

The Dragons captain was unlucky not to be in the top group and deserving if we extended it out to a top six because she has been just as impressive as those above. Averaging a team-high 20 disposals, she has just put in four quarter performances and been consistent from the first game to the last winning plenty of the ball. Whilst those six, and Walker (who has enjoyed a strong start to the season averaging 15.7 disposals and 4.0 tackles per game) are top agers, the remaining two named are in their first seasons. Hurley and Hipwell are among a host of Dragons who are two years away from their draft year, though they have had a big impact already, averaging a combined 26 disposals, five marks and six tackles between them.

Smith and McKenzie lead DC Medal count in postponed NAB League Girls

WHILE the NAB League Girls competition players, staff and families wait for confirmation on whether or not any more football will go ahead due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Draft Central thought it would update the leaderboard of the DC Medal count we have been taking throughout the first three rounds of the season. While we had hoped that this would end up being a full season count, there are two clear leaders who have emerged from the pack. It might have been difficult with some teams only playing two games compared to three, but no player that played two games could have caught the equal leaders even with a full five votes in a hypothetical third game.

Dandenong Stingrays’ Tyanna Smith and Ellie McKenzie lead all-comers in what could realistically be the end result of the Medal count, which means in the inaugural DC Medal, two players will share the award. Both players polled 14 votes in their first three games, including two best-on-grounds and one four-vote game to ensure that no one else could catch them. If the season is potentially called off in the future, then both the players will be announced winners. Two of the stars of the competition, Smith has helped Dandenong Stingrays to a ripping start in the NAB League Girls season, with her side winning its first two games against Eastern Ranges and Calder Cannons, before running into a McKenzie-inspired Northern Knights outfit in Round 3. The Knights’ co-captain was sensational and picked up her second best on ground to tie with Smith in the same game after the Stingrays speedster picked up the four votes.

After the two clears in McKenzie and Smith clears is another Northern Knights player, and a couple of Sandringham Dragons. McKenzie’s teammate and forward, Alyssa Bannan sits three votes behind in third with 11 to her name and the player responsible for picking up the best on ground votes back in Round 1 against Calder Cannons for McKenzie to receive the four. Rounding out the top five are Sandringham Dragons’ duo, Sarah Hartwig (10 votes) and Alice Burke (nine) who were both enjoying terrific starts to the season. Behind the top five are a pack of players all on eight votes, including Western Jets’ duo, Montana Ham and Isabella Pritchard, Eastern Ranges’ Olivia Meagher and the only player who has played the two games inside the top 10 – Laura Gardiner. Calder Cannons’ Georgie Prespakis and Sandringham Dragons’ Winnie Laing sit on seven and six votes respectively.

DC Medal:

[14] Tyanna Smith (DS), Ellie McKenzie (NK)

[11] Alyssa Bannan (NK)
[10] Sarah Hartwig (SD)
[9] Alice Burke (SD)

[8] Laura Gardiner (GF), Montana Ham (WJ), Isabelle Pritchard (WJ), Olivia Meagher (ER)
[7] Georgie Prespakis (CC)
[6] Winnie Laing (SD)

[5] Jess Fitzgerald (NK), Charlotte Baskaran (WJ), Tarni Brown (ER), Alice Astbury (GWV), Grace Hay (MB), Charlie Rowbottom (OC), Bella Eddey (SD), Mimi Hill (OC)
[4] Grace Dicker (CC), Abbi Moloney (SD), Maggie Caris (GWV), Amber Micallef (OC), Kasey Lennox (CC), Alice O’Loughlin (OC), Brooke Hards (BP), Darcy Moloney (GF), Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
[3] Amelia Velardo (WJ), Jemma Finning (BP), Isabella Khoury (WJ), Taylah Morton (OC), Zoe Hill (DS), Eliza James (OC), Mackenzie Eardley (DS), Poppy Schaap (GF), Jessica Zakkour (CC)
[2] Elizabeth Snell (BP), Megan Fitzsimon (GP), Matilda Hardy (ER), Ella Friend (GWV), Rianna Thiele (OC), Annabel Strahan (BP), Tarrah Delgado (NK), Emily Shepherd (DS), Amelia James (OC), Georgia Grimmer (DS), Matilda Van Berkel (GP), Eliza McNamara (SD)
[1] Freda Puruntatameri (CC), Perri King (TD), Amber Clarke (DS), Kate Adams (MB), Amanda Ling (OC), Annie Lee (GF), Zali Spencer (MB), Jorja Livingstone (ER), Shanara Notman (GP), Renee Saulitis (GWV)

 

2020 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 3

EASTERN Ranges’ big win over Tasmania Devils has seen the side earn the most players in our Draft Central NAB League Girls’ Team of the Week with four representatives from Round 3. Other winners, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, Northern Knights and Sandringham Dragons had three apiece, as did the Western Jets. Calder Cannons put in an even team performance to record two players, alongside Round 4 losers, Bendigo Pioneers and Dandenong Stingrays. Gippsland Power and Tasmania Devils both had one apiece, with the latter recording their first ever player in our Team of the Week.

The Ranges’ quartet is spread across the three areas of the ground, with defender Bridget Deed, midfielders Tarni Brown and Olivia Meagher, and forward Isabella Khoury all named in this week’s team. For the opposition team in the Ranges’ win is Tasmania Devils’ Amy Prokopiec who was named at full-back in the team becoming the first Tasmanian to make the starting side. Also in the defence is Sandringham Dragons’ Sarah Hartwig, who is in the team alongside five-goal forward, Abbi Moloney and captain, Winnie Laing. Alice Burke and Eliza McNamara were both close to making it a massive five players in the side, but narrowly missed out and were named as emergencies. Gippsland Power’s AFL Women’s National Academy member, Megan Fitzsimon also made the side after an impressive performance, with Matilda Van Berkel named as the third emergency in the team.

Up in Ballarat, the game between the GWV Rebels and Western Jets had a combined six players make it into the side, with three from each team. Debutant, Alice Astbury and fellow mid-forward, Ella Friend made the 24-player side, as did ruck, Maggie Caris. Her opponent, Amelia Velardo made it into the side along with Montana Ham in defence, and Isabelle Pritchard through midfield. The last remaining team with three players represented was the Northern Knights, as co-captains, Jess Fitzgerald and Ellie McKenzie both slotted onball, while Alyssa Bannan was named at centre half-forward yet again.

The remaining six players come from the Bendigo Pioneers, Calder Cannons and Dandenong Stingrays, with Draft Central Player of the Week, Georgie Prespakis leading the way for the winning Cannons, along with teammate Grace Dicker. Pioneers’ Jemma Finning and Elizabeth Snell were named in the side, as were Stingrays, Tyanna Smith and Jessica Matin. There were a couple more Stingrays among the unlucky players to miss out, with Jemma Radford the last omission from the 27 total named, while Amber Clarke was also considered. Eastern duo, Mietta Kendall and Matilda Hardy, GWV Rebels’ Lilli Condon, Gippsland Power’s Grace McRae, Sandringham Dragons’ Daisy Walker, Calder Cannons’ Freda Puruntatameri, Bendigo Pioneers’ Dakota Villiva and Tasmania Devils’ Perri King.

BACKS:

Bridget Deed (ER) – 21 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 1 inside 50, 5 rebounds
The Eastern Ranges utility had a huge first term, picking up nine touches, before holding up the fort deep in defence and repelling a number of key attacks. Deed ended up totalling 21 disposals for the match, as well as five rebounds and was one of a number of Ranges who really impressed in their first game at Kilsyth.

Amy Prokopiec (TD) – 11 disposals, 2 tackles, 6 rebounds
The sole Tasmanian player to make the side, the AFL Women’s National Academy member held up in defence well. In a week where a lot of the top defenders were more half-backs, Prokopiec was strong on the last line, rarely losing one-on-ones and being strong at ground level. Prokopiec saved a number of goal-scoring opportunities in a Devils outfit that improved on their week one output and the middle-age defender was a vocal leader in that side.

Sarah Hartwig (SD) – 11 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 1 inside 50, 2 rebounds
Not as many disposals as in past weeks, but Hartwig played a terrific team game, laying an impressive six tackles throughout the match as she is experimented further up the ground. She still had 11 touches, a couple of marks and got back for a couple of rebounds, but was one of a number of Dragons who stood out in the win over Gippsland Power.

HALF-BACKS:

Tyanna Smith (DS) – 21 disposals, 3 marks, 6 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 7 rebounds
The Dandenong speedster makes our Team of the Week again after being another strong performer through the Dandenong Stingrays midfield against the Northern Knights. Given she was able to work back into defence and repel the ball seven times, Smith has earned a spot off half-back, and would do well in the position back there. She also set up an early goal for the Stingrays up the other end.

Montana Ham (WJ) – 19 disposals, 3 marks, 5 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 7 rebounds, 1 goal
Similar to Smith, Ham played through the midfield but often camped back a kick behind the ball at times to assist the defence on a windy day at Mars Stadium. She was a consistent four quarter performer, and also amassed a round-high seven rebounds after kicking the first goal of the game from just inside 50. A traditional utility who can slot in anywhere on the field and is still a bottom-ager.

Jemma Finning (BP) – 20 disposals, 6 marks, 6 tackles, 4 rebounds
Finning continued her promising form with another important defensive role in an under-siege Bendigo back five, positioning expertly to intercept and rebound with surety. The 165cm defender collected personal season-highs in marks, tackles, disposals, and rebounds – a good measure of the way she went about repelling Calder’s attacks. Not only did Finning compete well in the air, but she also chased hard to lay tackles at the fall of the ball, while also keeping tabs on the dangerous Freda Puruntatameri inside defensive 50.

CENTRES:

Tarni Brown (ER) – 28 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 1 goal, 1 behind
A terrific performance from Brown who was a standout from the first bounce to the final siren, the potential Collingwood father-daughter selection had a match-high 28 disposals, four marks, four inside 50s and a goal, using her skill and awareness to win the ball in close and slow time as she would sidestep opponents and hit targets going forward. A playmaker in the front half with ball-in-hand.

Jess Fitzgerald (NK) – 28 disposals, 3 marks, 4 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
A dominant player on the ground working with co-captain Ellie McKenzie, Fitzgerald shone in her best game of the year so far, racking up 28 disposals, three marks, four inside 50s and booting two goals from the midfield to really apply pressure in a tight game to be one of the key reasons the Knights were able to run away with the win in the second half.

Georgie Prespakis (CC) – 32 disposals, 8 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 2 rebounds, 2 hitouts
An absolute lock for this week’s team given she also earned a Player of the Week nod, Prespakis put on a typically brilliant display of her best skills. The 17-year-old is one of, if not the best exponent of the handball going around, but also penetrates by foot when given the space to burst clear and deliver. Her 32-disposal effort was made even more remarkable by the fact she sat out a quarter of the game after being crunched in a marking contest, which failed to deter her from getting first hands on the ball.

RUCKS:

Maggie Caris (GWV) – 15 disposals, 1 mark, 1 tackle, 4 inside 50s, 33 hitouts
The dominant GWV Rebels’ ruck racked up a round-high 33 hitouts making the most of her height advantage against her opposition rucks. She also amassed an impressive 15 disposals and had four inside 50s during the match and while she was caught holding the ball after raising it above her head, she was a class above in the air around the contest.

Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – 25 disposals, 4 marks, 11 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebounds, 2 hitouts
One of three Jets’ midfielders to make the side, Pritchard was instrumental early and then kept up her intensity even when the scoreboard was mounting up against her side later in the game. She had 25 touches and laid a round-high 11 tackles in the game, showing her defensive approach as well, rotating with Ham a kick behind play when the Rebels were attacking. Pritchard’s work in the air and reading of the play helped her propel the ball forward.

Ellie McKenzie (NK) – 28 disposals, 6 marks, 4 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 1 hitout, 1 goal
The Knights’ co-captain was best on ground in the Knights’ come-from-behind victory over the Stingrays and makes her way into the side once again. She racked up the equal second most of any player disposals over the weekend with 28, and also had a round-high seven inside 50s and booted a goal. McKenzie has been as consistent as anyone so far this season and makes her way into the side for a third consecutive week.

HALF-FORWARDS:

Alice Astbury (GWV) – 15 disposals, 3 marks, 1 tackle, 6 inside 50s, 2 goals
Rarely does a debutant win best on ground honours, but that is exactly what Astbury did against the Western Jets at Mars Stadium. The midfielder had an influence through the middle and then spent time forward, booting two critical goals later in the game during a low-scoring contest. Astbury also had six inside 50s and created for her teammates, including one to Ella Friend late in the game to ice the match.

Alyssa Bannan (NK) – 18 disposals, 5 marks, 4 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 2 hitouts, 2 goals
Another player who has earned a place in our Team of the Week for all three rounds of the NAB League Girls season, Bannan booted another two goals to her total for 18 touches and five marks. Bannan also provided defensive pressure in the game to lay four tackles, but her work on the lead and in the air was as good as anyone’s going around on the weekend.

Megan Fitzsimon (GP) – 23 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 goals, 1 behind
The AFL Women’s National Academy member was the top Gippsland Power player during their loss to Sandringham Dragons, notching up 23 touches, four inside 50s and two goals for her side. While she was solid in the first week without being outstanding, Fitzsimon lifted her game to another level in Round 3 and really made her impact felt across the ground.

FORWARDS:

Isabella Khoury (ER) – 12 disposals, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 goals
A forward target for the Ranges during their win over Tasmania, Khoury ended up booting the second most goals of any NAB League Girls player last weekend. She had her fair share of touches working hard up the ground with 12, and pumped the ball inside three times, setting up teammates or going long, but Khoury made her most impact felt on the scoreboard with three majors.

Abbi Moloney (SD) – 12 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 5 goals, 2 behinds
The Dragons forward backed up from her impressive game last week to boot another five goals this round and be in the top two for goalkicking behind Bannan. Her total of eight this season has been a strong start to her top-age year, and with four marks and six tackles – as well as seven shots on goal – Moloney is certainly providing a scoring target close to goal.

Jessica Matin (DS) – 19 disposals, 3 marks, 5 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 goal
The classy forward who roams up the ground was able to put together another strong game, kicking just the one goal, but applying five tackles and pumping the ball inside 50 on five occasions. She also won the second most touches of any Stingrays’ player during their loss to Northern, and continued to provide a presence in the forward half.

INTERCHANGE:

Alice Burke (SD) – 23 disposals, 4 marks, 10 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 4 rebounds
The potential St Kilda father-daughter selection was at her best when she laid a whopping 10 tackles laid during the Dragons’ win over Gippsland Power. Burke played through the middle and worked hard around the ground to pick up 23 touches and keep pushing throughout the game to apply pressure to the opposition.

Grace Dicker (CC) – 20 disposals, 1 mark, 3 tackles, 4 inside 50s
Second only to Prespakis in terms of impact on the weekend, Dicker set the tone from midfield with her attack on the ball and willingness to take the game on. Under a bright pink helmet, the 19-year-old was hard to miss in her clear-best game for the season to date, lighting up the corridor with bursting pace and a hard edge going the other way.

Ella Friend (GWV) – 19 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 1 goal
Provided a strong presence at half-forward and working through the middle to help set up her teammates inside 50 before finishing off with a goal of her own in the game. She clunked a number of really strong marks and was able to pump the ball into the forward 50 six times on her way to an impressive 19 disposals and four marks.

Olivia Meagher (ER) – 27 disposals, 2 marks, 2 tackles, 2 rebounds
The Eastern Ranges captain had a bruising encounter at Kilsyth on Sunday, leading from the front with her pressure and teamwork. Whilst only two tackles were attributed to her, it was Meagher’s hardness at the contest and pressure on the ball-carrier that really stood out. She laid a fair front-on bump on an opponent early in the game and then won a few frees for fierce tackles, but fought through it on her way to an impressive 27 disposals, most of which were in close.

Elizabeth Snell (BP) – 17 disposals, 2 marks, 10 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 1 behind
The diminutive Pioneer is an absolute workhorse in midfield, and dug in against bigger-bodied opponents to have an impact going both ways. While her ability to find the ball – 17 times – was handy, it was Snell’s 10 tackles which truly saw her make an impact as she showcased her tenacity at the stoppages. You cannot fault her effort, and a big leap into the back of Georgie Prespakis almost put her out of the game, such is the ferocity of Snell.

Amelia Velardo (WJ) – 25 disposals, 2 marks, 8 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebounds, 5 hitouts
The Western Jets’ ruck might be undersized compared to others – and certainly compared to Caris – but her athleticism around the ground is a real danger to the opposition. Not only does she move well around the contest, but she does all the defensive things as well, laying eight tackles in the game, getting back to help out the defence and then providing an option in midfield to either kick long or open up the play with a quick handball to a teammate.

EMG:

Winnie Laing (SD) – 21 disposals, 2 marks, 2 tackles, 1 goal, 1 behind
A Dragon who earned a spot in the side amongst a host of top ball winners, the captain was outstanding with her attack on the footy and work on the inside. She led from the front and even got on the scoreboard with a major. The Dragons are not short of players to make this week’s team and her leadership is terrific.

Eliza McNamara (SD) – 15 disposals, 4 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
The Dragons’ small plays a perfect game at half-forward and through the midfield with her defensive pressure and ability to hit the scoreboard at the same time, a real benefit for her team. She booted two goals from 15 disposals, four marks and six tackles, while also getting the ball inside 50 four times. Having a great start to the season.

Matilda Van Berkel (GP) – 17 disposals, 5 marks, 4 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds, 27 hitouts
Enjoying a really strong start to the season through the ruck with another 27 hitouts from 17 disposals, five marks and four tackles. Van Berkel is a target around the ground and provides clean hands when leading or when tapping down to her teammates at stoppages. The Power tall can be utilised anywhere on the ground but is playing well through the ruck role.

DRAFT CENTRAL NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 3

B: Bridget Deed (ER) – Amy Prokopiec (TD) – Sarah Hartwig (SD)
HB: Tyanna Smith (DS) – Montana Ham (WJ) – Jemma Finning (BP)
C: Tarni Brown (ER) – Jess Fitzgerald (NK) – Georgie Prespakis (CC)
HF: Alice Astbury (GWV) – Alyssa Bannan (NK) – Megan Fitzsimon (GP)
F: Isabella Khoury (ER) – Abbi Moloney (SD) – Jessica Matin (DS)
R: Maggie Caris (GWV) – Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – Ellie McKenzie (NK)
INT: Alice Burke (SD) – Grace Dicker (CC) – Ella Friend (GWV) – Olivia Meagher (ER) – Elizabeth Snell (BP) – Amelia Velardo (WJ)
EMG: Winnie Laing (SD) – Eliza McNamara (SD) – Matilda Van Berkel (GP)

Dragons overpower Gippsland for second-straight win

THE Sandringham Dragons have emerged victorious against the Gippsland Power by a thumping 52-point margin after a dominant first half display. Despite travelling to Morwell for the encounter, the Dragons looked right at home from the opening bounce and kept the Power scoreless for the entire first half.

The stoppage work of the Dragons was second-to-none as the visitors managed to get more numbers around the ball and attack with speed. The likes of Winnie Laing and Abbi Moloney proved to be potent goal threats in the early stages, with the latter finishing with five on the day. While the Power struggled to clear their defensive 50 at the best of times, any threat eventually making it toward Sandringham’s defence was dealt with by the poised Pia Staltari in the first term. However, it was the forward line pressure and midfield of the Dragons which was the highlight of the quarter. Bridie Hipwell was a key contributor for the visitors, with nimble footwork and penetrating use of the ball making her a threat.

In comparison, Gippsland lacked the same structure and at times were overwhelmed by Sandringham’s running power. A boundary thrown-in at the eight-minute mark of the term was emblematic of the quarter for the Power, as miscommunication allowed the Dragons three unmarked players surrounding the stoppage in the centre of the wing. Luckily, the dogmatic pressure of Gippsland’s Megan Fitzsimon saved the Power from another penetrating Dragons attack on this occasion. Fitzsimon continued this fighting spirit throughout the contest and finished with 23 touches and two goals in a valiant display in midfield. In combination with the dominant ruckwork of Matilda Van Berkel, Fitzsimon managed to provide the Power with almost their only forward movement of the half, with two impressive centre clearances early in the second term.

Yet these were easily repelled, as the Power were unable to lay a finger on the rebounding potency Sandringham again in the second stanza. At times it looked like circle work for the visitors as their midfield dominance was put on full display. Sandringham finished the term dominating in almost every statistic, including holding a 25 to six advantage in marks over the Power, outlining the control and time given to the Dragons midfield. Alice Burke started to impose herself on the contest during the quarter, with her damaging kicking being put to good use as she finished the match with three inside 50’s and four rebound 50’s along with 23 touches and 10 tackles. Eliza McNamara kicked both of her two majors in this quarter as she proved to be a handful for the Gippsland backline. Moloney was also the grateful recipient of some easy goals thanks to the work of Hipwell and Laing. The former impressively burst forward from the centre in early stages of the term and unleashed a damaging kick inside 50 into the waiting arms of Moloney. Laing’s highlights were more based around terrific tackling pressure up forward, creating chances for her teammates. At the main break, the Dragons held a crushing 53-point advantage.

In the second half, the Power were more competitive and managed to win the third quarter as the likes of Grace McRae and Sunday Brisbane stepped up to help the fighting efforts of Van Berkel and Fitzsimon. Fitzsimon received reward for her effort as she booted two goals in the half, while Van Berkel dominated the hitouts to give Gippsland a 35 to 12 advantage by the end of the match.

Despite being beaten in the third on the scoreboard by seven points, the Dragons still found some bright spots. Daisy Walker had 15 of her 22 touches for the match in the quarter and Sofia Hurley won some contested ball in midfield. In the fourth, Sandringham again showed their class to finish a more limited number of chances. Moloney capped off an excellent performance with her fifth major on the back of a strong mark up forward. Burke and Laing again spent much of the term proving themselves to be a class above, with Burke controlling stoppages with poise and Laing causing havoc up forward with pace and tenacity.

As the final siren sounded in Morwell, the Dragons had recorded 82 more disposals than the Power and controlled the tempo for most of the affair. Moloney’s five goals and 90 fantasy points make her appear as a likely contender for best-on-ground for the Dragons, yet many of her majors were relatively straightforward finishes. Burke’s game-high 23 touches puts her in contention, however, when the game was there to be won in the first term, Laing proved to be key in breaking the game open for the victorious Dragons, while Sarah Hartwig was busy once again across the ground.. Despite a crushing first half, a competitive second half will give Gippsland hope for the rest of the season.

GIPPSLAND POWER 0.0 | 0.0 | 2.2 | 3.4 (22)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 3.3 | 8.5 | 9.6 | 11.8 (74)

GOALS:

Gippsland: M. Fitzsimon 2, J. Sochackyj.
Sandringham: A. Moloney 5, E. McNamara 2, W. Lang, B. Hipwell, K. Lynch, N. Borg.

ADC BEST:

Sandringham: A. Burke, A. Moloney, W. Lang, S. Hartwig, B. Hipwell, D. Walker
Gippsland: M. Fitzsimon, M. Van Berkel, G. McRae, S. Brisbane, S. Notman

DC Medal:

5 – Alice Burke (SD)
4 – Abbi Moloney (SD
3 – Winnie Laing (SD)
2 – Megan Fitzsimon (GP)
1 – Sarah Hartwig (SD)

NAB League Girls preview: Round 3 – Undefeated sides clash on Saturday

A COUPLE of undefeated games open the weekend in a top three clash between Northern Knights and Dandenong Stingrays at RMIT Bundoora, before the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels tackle the Western Jets in Ballarat. The Sunday trio of games has a couple of sides searching for their first wins of the season with Calder Cannons and Bendigo Pioneers going head-to-head and Eastern Ranges hosting Tasmania Devils, while Gippsland Power returns from a week off to face the breakeven side of Sandringham Dragons.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

Round 3 – 14/03/2020
11:00am
RMIT University Bundoora

A top three clash between the second placed Dandenong Stingrays and third ranked Northern Knights opens the round with the Stingrays having had impressive wins over Eastern Ranges (50 points) and Calder Cannons (18). The Knights also knocked off the Cannons the week before (six points) before enjoying a more comfortable win over Geelong Falcons (25). Both sides have made a number of changes, with Saige Bayne returning to the side after a long layoff, while Georgia Grimmer and Jemma Radford are also back into the side up opposite ends of the ground. The Knights have also made a number of changes to the side in anticipation for the clash with at least four confirmed changes and an additional three added to the extended bench. Already the head-to-head that could decide the result is between in-form forward, Alyssa Bannan (seven goals) and reliable defender, Zoe Hill inside the Knights’ forward half. An equally eye-catching matchup will be Knights’ co-captain Jess Fitzgerald going head-to-head against Dandenong star, Tyanna Smith with the pair sharing similar skill and footy IQ making it a must-watch clash. Abbey Jordan has been thrown around a bit this season but now the Stingrays captain is in attack to potentially lock the ball in at every opportunity, while Maeve Chaplin‘s ability at half-back should provide some good run. In the midfield, Ellie McKenzie and Ash Snow will provide power onball, while Amber Clarke and Emily Shepherd have added speed to run the ball down the field. The Knights will be favourites but the Stingrays have shown an ability to run the ball and not back down from a challenge.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. WESTERN JETS

Round 3 – 14/03/2020
11:30am
MARS Stadium

In a second game between undefeated sides, fourth placed Western Jets travel to Mars Stadium to meet the sixth placed GWV Rebels from 11.30am. Both these sides have some great young talent coming through and the Jets have had a win against Bendigo Pioneers and a draw with Murray Bushrangers over the first two rounds, whilst the Rebels’ come-from-behind victory against Sandringham Dragons in Round 1 was their only game so far this season following a bye in Round 2. Renee Saulitis proved the get-out-of-jail free card in Round 1 with a couple of last quarter goals to sink the Dragons, and she has been named back in her damaging position inside 50. Fellow AFL Women’s National Academy member, Isabella Simmons is also in the forward half, while Maggie Caris will look to take advantage of the height difference over the Jets’ smaller ruck division. Amelia Velardo has the athleticism to get the job done at ground level even if she does not win the tap and provides a “fourth midfielder” around the stoppages. Alongside her is top-age AFL Women’s National Academy member, Isabelle Pritchard who is coming off an impressive 25-disposal game last week, as is Charlotte Baskaran who plays off half-back but can push up the ground to impact the midfield. In the middle of the ground is fellow bottom-ager Montana Ham who has been the Jets’ best across the two games this season. Caitlin Sargent has been a target inside 50 for the Jets, while she will likely have Rebels’ Crystal Summers for company after the defender was a star in Round 1 for the Ballarat-based side. The Rebels’ half-back line is quite strong with Nyakoat Dojiok providing speed and dare out of defence, while Lilli Condon impacts the game through the midfield and up forward. At home the Rebels have an advantage, but both sides have an entertaining brand of end-to-end football.

GIPPSLAND POWER v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
12:00pm
Morwell Recreation Reserve

With three games on Sunday, the first is a clash between Gippsland Power and Sandringham Dragons at Morwell Recreation Reserve after the game was moved from Churchill. The Power will be well rested after a spirited fight against Geelong Falcons in the opening round and a bye in Round 2. The Dragons on the other hand let slip a real chance in Round 1 with inaccurate kicking to go down to the GWV Rebels, before bouncing back with an impressive win over Bendigo Pioneers last week. Back at home, the Power showed their have a number of strengths through the ruck and in defence, and if they are able to quell the Dragons’ scoring or force them into making mistakes, then they are a real chance of victory. Sandringham impressed last week and have plenty of ball-winning midfielders who step up when required and if they convert their chances inside 50, then they will go a long way to taking home the points in the contest. Matilda Van Berkel was best-on for the Power in their Round 1 win over Geelong Falcons and will look to take advantage against the Dragons. The key for the Power will be to try and win the clearances against an experienced Dragons midfield, as captain Winnie Laing, Alice Burke and Bella Eddey round out a strong starting core. Megan Fitzsimon is the Power’s sole AFL Women’s Academy member, but Grace McRae is another player not afraid of winning contested ball, while Lily-Rose Williamson is a bottom-ager to watch over the coming years. Shanara Notman is a strong overhead mark and will look to chop off any Dragons forward thrusts, while Leyla Berry had a successful return in Round 1 after taking the 2019 season off. Sarah Hartwig has been named on the wing for the second successive week, while Eliza McNamara provides forward pressure inside 50, and key target Abbi Moloney booted three goals in the Dragons win last week and could be one to watch.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. CALDER CANNONS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
1:00pm
Epsom Huntly Reserve

Calder Cannons hits the road to face Bendigo Pioneers from 1pm at Epsom Huntly Reserve on Sunday. Last year’s grand finalists are yet to get a win on the board, but have had a tough draw to open the season, falling to reining premiers Northern Knights, and a vastly improved side, Dandenong Stingrays in the first fortnight. The Pioneers are also yet to taste victory with losses to Western Jets and Sandringham Dragons in the opening couple of rounds. Given the loss of co-captain Brooke Hards for the clash, Bendigo will be up against it taking on a determined Calder side that could well have won its two games had it had a bit more luck. The Pioneers do welcome back Elizabeth Snell into the fold with the midfielder/forward adding some class and skill to the midfield group, while Annabel Strahan has pushed up into the midfield after being a reliable source in the back 50 last week. Tara Slender and Jemma Finning provide good intercept and rebounding capabilities, while Madeline Marks has had an impact through the ruck this season. The Cannons have a strong combination named at the key defensive posts with Kasey Lennox and Tamsin Crook, while Crook is also able to rotate with AFL Women’s National Academy member, Tahlia Gillard who will start forward as both can play at either end. Georgie Prespakis, Laura Cocomello and Jessica Zakkour have all been in good form this season, while Emelia Yassir is a clever forward who can push into that midfield rotation. Calder should breakthrough for its first win, but the Pioneers do have the home ground advantage which counts for something.

EASTERN RANGES v. TASSIE DEVILS

Round 3 – 15/03/2020
1:00pm
Kilsyth Recreation Reserve

At the same time as the Bendigo game, two sides searching for their first win battle it out at the newly renovated Kilsyth Recreation Reserve. The Eastern Ranges will enjoy playing where they train and welcoming the less-familiar Tasmania Devils will give them a huge confidence boost. The Devils were overwhelmed by a rampaging Oakleigh side that could well contend for this year’s NAB League Girls flag in Round 2, marking a tough initiation to their first full-time season. The Ranges had a bye in Round 2 after a 50-point defeat at the hands of another undefeated side in Dandenong Stingrays. Given the experience the Ranges have at the NAB League level – making the finals last season and pushing the Northern Knights in the preliminary finals – they should have the wood over the competition newcomers, though the Devils’ defensive pressure was impressive despite the heavy Round 1 defeat. Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown provide hardness and class in equal measure on the inside, while Jorja Livingstone showed impressive athleticism bursting out of stoppages in the Round 1 loss. Key target, Jess Grace has been named at full-forward, while three players will make their debut in the game for the Ranges. Amy Prokopiec could not have done much more at full-back last week, saving a number of goal-scoring opportunities for the Chargers, and she along with Camilla Taylor provided some composure in the match. Jemma Webster provided some speed out of defence in Round 2, while Kara Hennessy rotated through the ruck and could be a target inside 50 for the Apple Isle based side.

2020 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 2

IN a new-look amalgamation of Draft Central‘s Team of the Week and player notes, we name our Round 2 NAB League Girls’ Team of the Week and explain why each player has been chosen. The 24-player team returns with three emergencies this year and all notes are opinion-based of the individual Draft Central writer. For Round 2, Dandenong Stingrays leads the way with four players in the side, followed by Round 2 winners, Northern Knights, Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons all had three, whilst the two drawn sides in Murray Bushrangers and Western Jets, as well as Geelong Falcons also had three. Calder Cannons and Bendigo Pioneers had one representative with the former also earning an emergency, whilst Tasmania Devils had the one emergency after their big loss in their inaugural game.

BACKS:

Kasey Lennox (CC) – 14 disposals, 3 marks, 1 tackle, 6 rebounds
Calder’s top player on the day, Lennox was a lynchpin at half-back where she was able to rebound time and time again and run the ball out of the back 50. She won her fair share of possessions with 14, but had the six rebounds which was crucial in her side staying in the contest for as long as it did. The Cannons have a strong defence and Lennox is a key cog in that unit.

Zoe Hill (DS) – 11 disposals, 3 marks, 3 tackles, 5 rebounds
A rock in defence and not only does she beat her opponents one-on-one, but she provides offensive rebound and usually hits her targets out of the back 50. Rarely looking stressed on the last line, she is one of Dandenong’s most important players given her role and she played it brilliantly on the weekend.

Annie Lee (GF) – 18 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 7 rebounds
Was a rock in defence despite the overwhelming force of the ball coming in, and recorded the most rebounds on the day of any player. Often getting back under pressure, Lee was able to win plenty of the ball and propel it forward. Still only 16, the 168cm player has a nice offensive game to go with her defensive capabilities.

HALF-BACKS:

Grace Hay (MB) – 19 disposals, 7 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 8 rebounds
The standout Bushie on the day, Hay was instrumental in ensuring Murray came away with some points. With the game tight and on the line, it was the defence that stood out, and Hay was a massive part of that with 19 disposals. seven marks and eight rebounds. Across the course of the day, Hay refused to let her opponent get the better of her, and really stood tall amongst a whopping 36 inside 50s and was a huge reason why Murray drew.

Annabel Strahan (BP) – 18 disposals, 3 marks, 4 tackles, 1 inside 50, 5 rebounds
A solid option for the Pioneers in a tough match, Strahan was the leading disposal winner for Bendigo off half-back with her ability to find the footy a real credit to her vision and willingness to take on the play to win ball back. Collecting five rebounds, she lead the way with her tenacity and ability to hit up targets to propel the footy downfield.

Sarah Hartwig (SD) – 20 disposals, 6 marks, 7 tackles, 1 inside 50, 2 rebounds
With class and speed to match, Hartwig is a real instigator on the field, ready and willing to get right into the contest and is able to cleanly hit up targets with her clever ball use. Her tackle count was among the best on field, leading the charge for the Dragons while her overall dominance off the half back created plenty of opportunities for the side to run away with the win.

CENTRES:

Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – 25 disposals, 7 tackles, 3 hitouts, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Another prolific day for the AFL Women’s Academy member who laid an impressive seven tackles in the Jets’ draw with Murray. She had a game-high 25 disposals on the day and was a dominant inside player throughout the contest with her clean hands and creativity. Whilst in this team she has been forced out to a wing given the strength inside, she would be a handy player with her skills and run.

Tyanna Smith (DS) – 29 disposals, 5 marks, 7 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 1 rebound
The star of the show on the weekend and another Best on Ground performance with her ability to burst away from the contest and  impact the game with her slick skills. Smith earned out Draft Central NAB League Girls Player of the Week award for her unbelievable effort which saw her rack up 29 touches, seven inside 50s, five marks and seven tackles despite being closely watched by the opposition at stoppages. The standout player from teh weekend and a natural match-winner.

Montana Ham (WJ) – 23 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 2 hitouts, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound
Another standout on the day for Western in the Jets’ draw with Murray, Ham provides great run through the midfield and is able to pump the ball long inside 50. She has that touch of class and with some extra height compared to other midfielders, she has as much ability above her head as below it. Can just about play anywhere and still has a couple of years in the program which is exciting.

RUCKS:

Ally Morphett (MB) – 9 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 15 hitouts, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
There was a noticeable low in hitouts across the competition as ruck duties were shared around, but what earned Morphett the spot as the starting ruck was her ability to cover the ground. She can play as a key forward, but her work rate on the weekend was strong, also picking up a number of rebounds and inside 50s to go with her 15 hitouts and in a game where the performance was evenly spread, she did well.

Ellie McKenzie (NK) – 17 disposals, 5 marks, 3 inside 50s, two rebounds
Judged the Knights’ best in their win over the Falcons, McKenzie was a star through the midfield with her power and class around the ball. She was able to pump the ball forward and win it across all areas of the ground. Her offensive game really got the Knights going and were able to set up opportunities inside 50.

Laura Gardiner (GF) – 31 disposals, 3 marks, 9 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 5 rebounds
Racked up a competition-high disposals for the second consecutive week and was prominent on the inside with 31 touches, nine tackles and an even five inside 50s and five rebounds. Those kind of numbers are hard to ignore and she is easy to spot on the inside with her ability to get the ball out to teammates and set them up with quick handballs. Having a ripping start to the season.

HALF-FORWARDS:

Bella Eddey (SD) – 22 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 goals
Eddey put up an impressive effort against the Pioneers, proving a key target both inside 50 and up the ground with her clean hands, and putting goals on the board to establish a clear option in the forward line. She used her body well to bring ball to ground while her tackling pressure was up there, winning precious ball back when required.

Alyssa Bannan (NK) – 14 disposals, 8 marks, 5 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
Another outstanding performance from the tall forward who clunked a whopping eight marks to go with her 14 touches and two goals. She booted five majors last week, but her work rate up the ground and ability to use her clean hands and footy IQ to her advantage is a strength. She also laid five tackles which is a huge bonus for a taller player who is predominantly impressive in the air.

Charlie Rowbottom (OC) – 17 disposals, 3 marks, 5 tackles, 1 hitout, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
The talented middle-ager was best on ground in Oakleigh’s victory over Tasmania, constantly popping up with two goals from 17 touches and laying five tackles. She moved between the midfield and forward lines well and not only converted some chances of her own, but also set up her teammates. Her work close to goal was clean and she always looked like she was going to create something special.

FORWARDS:

Taylah Morton (OC) – 12 disposals, 3 tackles, 3 goals
Had a huge impact close to goal and was rewarded with three majors against Tasmania. She often got to the right spots and had a number of chances, three of which she converted as well as a couple of behinds that could have made it an even bigger haul. She provided a dangerous option at ground level and was able to be a key part of the Chargers’ front six in the big win.

Abbi Moloney (SD) – 10 disposals, 5 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 3 goals
With an ability to hit the scoreboard, Moloney proved she has the means to be a real danger inside 50 if left unattended. While she did not rack up the possessions, she used the footy well and proved she can do more than just provide a tall option inside 50 with her clean hands making her a real key cog in the forward line, while her ability to kick straight certainly helped out the Dragons.

Jessica Matin (DS) – 14 disposals, 5 marks, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 2 goals
A danger close to goal, Matin also works up the ground and can get it inside the 50, with her work rate often leading to a payoff on the scoreboard. After missing a couple of gettable chances last week, Matin booted a couple of majors in Round 2 and acts as well as a deep smaller forward or higher up the ground getting the ball in and allowing forwards to run into space.

INTERCHANGE:

Kate Adams (MB) – 19 disposals, 3 marks, 6 tackles, 1 inside 50, 4 rebounds, 1 goal
The versatile utility put in a strong performance and managed to get the work done through midfield, in defence and up forward. She has the the athletic capabilities to be a slippery customer in close, but the hardness to win the ball back from an opponent as shown by her six tackles. She works hard when playing in the back half, and can go forward and be damaging around goal as well.

Charlotte Baskaran (WJ) – 25 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Another strong performance from the bottom-ager who found plenty of it in Western’s draw with Murray. She can play off half-back or through the middle and allowing her to use her skill and footy IQ to set up teammates is an advantage for the Jets. Despite having another couple of years in the program, Baskaran has already shown smarts beyond her years and will be an exciting prospect to watch develop in the future.

Tarrah Delgado (NK) – 14 disposals, 4 marks, 5 rebounds
The Knights’ top defender on the day, Delgado was able to repel a number of attacks, particularly during the middle stages of the game when the Falcons were trying to get on top. Forced back deep at times, the Knights defender held up strongly, and along with her teammates, kept a potent Geelong forward line to just one goal for the day.

Amber Micallef (OC) – 14 disposals, 2 marks, 6 tackles, 2 inside 50s
One of Oakleigh’s best on the day. Micallef was able to balance her offensive and defensive abilities on her way to a strong 14 disposals and six tackles. She was ever-present in an even team performance and was constantly harassing the opposition throughout the four quarters despite the result being well beyond doubt.

Darcy Moloney (GF) – 25 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
The Geelong Falcons’ midfielder found plenty of the football despite the loss, racking up an equal-third highest achievement of disposals for the round with 25. She tried her best throughout the four quarters and whilst the efforts did not get the ‘W’ on the scoreboard, she was as hard of a worker as anyone else on the field.

Emily Shepherd (DS) – 18 disposals, 4 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Arguably the second best behind Smith, Shepherd just goes about her business and keeps working hard throughout the four quarters. She won the second most touches on the ground in Dandenong’s win over Calder and was able to provide some run through the middle and work well with the other Stingrays mids to get the ball forward and set up scoring opportunities.

EMG:

Georgie Prespakis (CC) – 17 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
The most unlucky player not to make the starting line-up, Prespakis had a solid game after being rundown a couple of times in the first half. She showed her competitiveness by nailing a couple of opponents as well with fierce tackles, whilst getting around the ground and doing her thing and bombing it long either out of danger or into the danger zone inside 50. Kept running throughout the contest.

Amy Prokopiec (TD) – 9 disposals, 1 tackle, 1 hitout, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
This could have gone to a number of Tasmania players who could have squeezed into the starting line-up, but ultimately it is difficult when involved in a 100-point loss. In saying that, Prokopiec was terrific down back, working well as a leader of the group with Camilla Taylor who also could have earned a spot here. Prokopiec’s defensive ability and toughness make her difficult to beat one-on-one and she is not afraid to put her body on the line for her side.

Rianna Thiele (OC) – 15 disposals, 3 tackles, 1 hitout, 3 inside 50s, 2 goals
Another Chargers player who could have squeezed into a competitive forward line, Thiele stood out with her work at ground level and just popping up at different times with some nice work around goals. She kicked two of her own majors and put it into positions to assists teammates which helped her side get to the position it was in by the end of the game.

DRAFT CENTRAL’S NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 2

B: Kasey Lennox (CC) – Zoe Hill (DS) – Annie Lee (GF)
HB: Sarah Hartwig (SD) – Annabel Strahan (BP) – Grace Hay (MB)
C: Isabelle Pritchard (WJ) – Tyanna Smith (DS) – Montana Ham (WJ)
HF: Bella Eddey (SD) – Alyssa Bannan (NK) – Charlie Rowbottom (OC)
F: Taylah Morton (OC) – Abbi Moloney (SD) – Jessica Matin (DS)
R: Ally Morphett (MB) – Ellie McKenzie (NK) – Laura Gardiner (GF)
INT: Kate Adams (MB) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ) – Tarrah Delgado (NK) – Amber Micallef (OC) – Darcy Moloney (GF) – Emily Shepherd (DS)

OTHERS CONSIDERED:

The strength of the midfield group this round was ridiculous to try and squeeze into a team, needing to maintain the balance of players across other lines as well. The next in line to come into the team included Northern Knights’ Ash Snow, Dandenong Stingrays’ Amber Clarke and Sandringham Dragons’ Winnie Laing who were all close to making the cut. Also on the short list from a midfield perspective were Calder Cannons’ trio Laura Cocomello, Emelia Yassir and Zali Friswell, Murray Bushrangers’ duo Mikayla Jones and Lily Sharp, Bendigo Pioneers’ duo Brooke Hards and Maeve Tupper, Sandringham Dragons’ Alice Burke and Oakleigh Chargers’ Kalarni Kearns. Those who kicked goals and were considered included Sandringham’s Sofia Hurley, Oakleigh’s Amanda Ling and Western’s Caitlin Sargent, while Tasmanian duo Jemma Webster and Camilla Taylor were also in consideration.

Sandringham too strong for tackle-heavy Bendigo

SANDRINGHAM Dragons bounced back well from their Round 1 loss to come out impressive winners against Bendigo Pioneers, rocketing into fifth with the 44-point victory.

It was a hard and fast start for the Sandringham Dragons, peppering the posts but to no avail early, denying Bendigo any opportunity at scoring but missing chances at extending a solid margin. The sole goal of the quarter to Abbi Moloney (her first of three) was sandwiched by minor scores on either side, with the Dragons influential across the ground but not making the most of it inside 50. Sandringham’s defensive unit was hungry for the ball, making it tough for Bendigo to get clean hands to the footy. But while Bendigo had a tough time marking, especially under pressure from the Dragons, their tackling intensity was dialled up to 100 and collecting 10 more tackles overall thanks to the side attacking the ball well at ground level.

Dragons had a much better start to the second, with a lucky goal from Isabella Eddey putting her first on the board early in the second to stem the flow of behinds before backing it up with her second for the day moments later, at the end of an impressive chain from the centre bounce. While Sandringham had a much better quarter, so did Bendigo, collecting their first of the day to Tara Slender who took a great grab for a set shot. But despite continuing with the same tenacity for the rest of the quarter, the Pioneers had a tough time getting the ball cleanly inside 50 thanks to smothering defensive pressure up the ground from the Dragons. 

The third term saw the pressure from the Pioneers lift a notch, with each side only putting the one behind each on the board in an overall defensively minded quarter. Dominating the hitouts at half-time thanks to a dominant combination of Madeline Marks (13 hitouts, 11 disposals) and Abbey Barber (11 hitouts) the Pioneers side began to limit Sandringham’s clean disposals and denying them chances at breaking away from the pack to clear the footy, limiting precious run down the field for the Dragons and enabling Bendigo to put more pressure in their offence. 

The final quarter saw Sandringham well and truly run away with it, finding the goals with relative ease after a tough slog in the third. While Bendigo’s tackling pressure was monumental, Dragons worked through it with their cleanliness to break through the pack and clear the ball out to open space. While the Pioneers had some good chances defensively to turn the tables and propel the footy back up the field, messiness in the midfield allowed Sandringham too many opportunities intercept marking, rendering Bendigo unable to get out of the back 50.

In an all-round dominant performance from Sandringham, there were a number of key players who got the job done. Eddey’s two goals sparked the side into action while her 22 touches, six tackles and four inside 50s proved vital to run the ball downfield alongside ball magnets Sarah Hartwig (20 disposals, seven tackles, six marks) and Winnie Laing (22 touches, three marks, three tackles, three inside 50s), while Alice Burke also put in a strong effort with 19 touches and six tackles. For the Pioneers, the effort on field far outweighed the scoreline, with three players picking up seven tackles apiece proving the defensive pressure across the field. Brooke Hards and Dakota Villiva (both 15 disposals and seven tackles) were influential stopping easy access through the midfield, while Annabel Strahan was the side’s top ball user with 18 touches, five rebounds, four tackles and three marks in a solid all-round effort. While the goals dried up for Bendigo after Slender’s major, the side still put in a solid effort that was not indicative of the scoreline

Next round Sandringham travel to take on winless Gippsland Power on Sunday morning at Churchill Football Ground while Bendigo host last season’s grand finalists, Calder Cannons on Sunday afternoon at Epsom Huntly Reserve.

SANDRINGHAM 1.5 | 5.5 | 5.6 | 7.10 (52)
BENDIGO 0.0 | 1.0 | 1.1 | 1.2 (8)

GOALS

Sandringham: A. Moloney 3, I. Eddey 2, S. Hurley, B. Hipwell.
Bendigo: T. Slender.

ADC BEST

Sandringham:  I. Eddey, S. Hartwig, W. Laing, A. Burke, A. Moloney
Bendigo: A. Strahan, B. Hards, D. Villiva, R. Stubbings, M. Marks 

DC Medal:

5 – Isabella Eddy (SD)
4 – Sarah Hartwig (SD)
3 – Winnie Laing (SD)
2 – Annabel Strahan (BP)
1 – Alice Burke (SD)

2020 NAB League Girls Team of the Week: Round 1

IN a new-look amalgamation of Draft Central‘s Team of the Week and player notes, we name our Round 1 NAB League Girls’ Team of the Week and explain why each player has been chosen. The 24-player team returns with three emergencies this year, and it was an even spread across the board. All notes are opinion-based of the individual Draft Central writer. Round 1 winners, Oakleigh Chargers, Northern Knights and Geelong Falcons all had three players in the Team of the Week, while fellow winners, Dandenong Stingrays, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Western Jets had two apiece. Narrow losers in Round 1, Calder Cannons and Sandringham Dragons had two each as well, as did Gippsland Power, while Bendigo Pioneers, Eastern Ranges and Murray Bushrangers had the one representative. Factoring in emergencies, Oakleigh Chargers had the most players overall with four, while Sandringham and Western moved up to three.

BACKS:

Crystal Summers (GWV Rebels) – 13 disposals, 5 marks, 3 tackles, 1 inside 50, 6 rebounds
The rebounding defender was lively throughout the contest, being a constant threat coming off half-back and pushing up the ground to be a key reason behind the Rebels’ success on the weekend. She was calm and composed with ball-in-hand and generally made the right decisions as one of the standouts.

Mindy Quade (Murray Bushrangers) – 9 disposals, 2 marks, 1 tackle, 1 inside 50, 8 rebounds
Her vision off half-back and spotting the ball in transition was a highlight, as she stood up under fierce pressure from the Chargers during the Bushrangers’ loss. She was often the first to intercept and disrupted the offensive flow inside defensive 50.

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels) – 10 disposals, 3 marks, 7 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
Always having more impact than the statistics might suggest, Dojiok had a number of impressive runs down the ground and took the game on with eye-catching speed and evasion. She still has plenty of development left in her, but has clearly improved over the past couple of seasons and is hard to stop when she gets going.

HALF-BACKS:

Sarah Hartwig (Sandringham Dragons) – 14 disposals, 5 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 4 rebounds
The standout player on the day despite being on the losing side, Hartwig was a force in defence with a number of intercept marks and rebounds, with one passage of play in particular standing out where she hit the ball at full speed, collected it cleanly, sidestepped an opponent and kicked neatly inside 50.

Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays) – 9 disposals, 2 marks, 5 tackles, 4 rebounds
The centre half-back certainly stood tall in the back six despite being a bottom-ager, taking a number of contested grabs, or providing a contest where she was able to calmly clear the ball under pressure. She also laid a massive tackle to win a free kick and it led to her side kicking a goal off that chain of possessions.

Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets) – 19 disposals, 1 mark, 7 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 5 rebounds
A clean user of the ball, Baskaran would roam up and down the ground providing great service between the arcs and dropping back to help her defenders with the natural half-back another bottom-ager in the side.

CENTRES:

Darcy Moloney (Geelong Falcons) – 28 disposals, 6 tackles, 2 inside 50s
She was a force in midfield for the Falcons during their win, often releasing teammates in space with her run and carry and quick handballs to open up passages of play down the field. A dominant player early, Moloney finds space where very few can and is quick to release by hand or foot, and equally as damaging defensively, laying some big tackles.

Tyanna Smith (Dandenong Stingrays) – 26 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 6 inside 50s, 2 rebounds, 1 goal
Absolutely outstanding performance, particularly in the second quarter where she constantly attacked going inside 50, then snapped one of the goal’s of the round close to the boundary line. Also did a number of defensive things right with some big tackles around the ground.

Mimi Hill (Oakleigh Chargers) – 29 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 5 inside 50s
The captain starred in her side’s big win over Murray with a second-high round of 29 disposals, and was often seen pumping the ball inside 50, showing clean hands and precision disposal. One of the top performers across the entire weekend.

HALF-FORWARDS:

Jessica Zakkour (Calder Cannons) – 18 disposals, 2 marks, 8 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 3 rebounds, 2 goals
Rotated between midfield and forward, often sneaking out the back to find space and capitalise, whilst showing some terrific defensive pressure. Was arguably Calder’s best in the narrow loss to Northern, and found plenty of the football while laying eight tackles.

Montana Ham (Western Jets) – 19 disposals, 7 marks, 2 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
Got our full votes for her performance in Western’s win over Bendigo, looking impressive across the ground with her movement and ability to drive the ball forward in transition. She seemed to be everywhere on the ground and despite being a bottom-ager racked up a game-high 19 touches, and had the play of the game with a multiple-bounce effort down the wing kicking forward which almost led to a goal.

Eliza McNamara (Sandringham Dragons) – 20 disposals, 3 marks, 8 tackles, 6 inside 50s
Played between midfield and half-forward, McNamara had the most disposals on the ground in Sandringham’s loss to the Rebels. Her defensive pressure and running ability is elite, and she just keeps pushing throughout the four quarters to try and do everything she can for her side. She worked tirelessly for the Dragons applying tackles and looking inside 50.

FORWARDS:

Alice O’Loughlin (Oakleigh Chargers) – 18 disposals, 3 marks, 1 inside 50, 3 goals
Her timing and speed off the mark caught the eye inside 50, making the most of her opportunities in front of goal. She used the space around her well to find the football and took advantage of the loose ball inside 50 to capitalise with three majors.

Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights) – 11 disposals, 4 marks, 1 tackle, 2 inside 50s, 5 goals
Kicked a round-high five goals and looks a good candidate for one of the top goalkickers this season, taking a number of good grabs with her vertical leap and athleticism the highlight. It was clear that defenders cannot allow Bannan to get goalside or she will create something out of nothing with a couple of clever snaps close to goal adding to her tally on the day.

Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons) – 24 disposals, 3 marks, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 1 goal
Started forward and roamed up the ground to be the third highest disposal winner with her ability to lay some strong tackles and show a high work rate. She just pushes time and time again across four quarters, and was rewarded with a goal, while setting up a number of teammates with scoring opportunities.

RUCKS:

Matilda Van Berkel (Gippsland Power) – 15 disposals, 6 marks, 4 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 2 rebounds, 28 hitouts
The standout Gippsland Power player in the loss to Geelong Falcons, Van Berkel had to step up to play ruck and was ultra-impressive with a round-high 28 hitouts, as well as finding plenty of the football around the ground with strength overhead and an ability to cover the ground well with hard running.

Brooke Hards (Bendigo Pioneers) – 18 disposals, 4 marks, 7 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
The Pioneers’ co-captain picked up where she left off last season, being a shining light in her side’s loss to the Jets. Hards was constantly getting involved either offensively or defensively, and was fierce around the stoppages. She had a team-high 18 touches and as she has become known for, laid a truckload of tackles in the process.

Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons) – 38 disposals, 1 mark, 14 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 1 goal
Our Draft Central Player of the Week for Round 1, Gardiner was simply unstoppable with a ridiculous 38 touches and 14 tackles, pumping the ball in time and time again, and helping free up her teammates around the ground. She ran at a 50 per cent balance between kicks and handballs, and while most of her touches were often in possession chains, her work rate showed just how much she works around the ground.

INTERCHANGE:

Jess Fitzgerald (Northern Knights) – 15 disposals, 1 mark, 2 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
Last year’s best-on in the grand final started her 2020 year with a strong performance, moving well around the ground and showing off her speed in close and precision kicking. She possesses good footy IQ and was one of the best Knights on the day during their win over the Cannons.

Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers) – 18 disposals, 4 marks, 5 tackles, 7 inside 50s, 1 goal
Showed clean hands and vision by propelling the ball inside 50 and finding targets in there with a massive seven inside 50s. She also provided plenty of defensive pressure with strong tackling and forcing errors from the Bushrangers, working well through the midfield to drive the ball in transition.

Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges) – 16 disposals, 2 marks, 4 tackles, 4 inside 50s, 2 rebounds
It was not a great day for Eastern, but Meagher never gave in as she battled and bruised her way through four quarters for her side. She showed great leadership and tried to will her side on, laying crunching tackles and bumps, often bouncing straight up or off opponents with a hungry desire to win the ball. Meagher also tried getting the ball down the field to set up scoring opportunities and was a standout for her team.

Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights) – 12 disposals, 4 marks, 3 tackles, 4 inside 50s
Another player who had a great impact that stats might suggest, McKenzie kept battling on the inside and then going forward with her strength and power a highlight during Round 1. She adds a great dimension to the Knights’ midfield and she was able to win the ball in tight, extract it and get the ball out, going on a couple of short runs to try and break down the opposition defensive structures.

Shanara Notman (Gippsland Power) – 11 disposals, 3 marks, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 5 rebounds, 2 hitouts
The Gippsland Power overager showed why she was a terrific choice to come back as a 19-year-old player this year, standing tall in the face of a wave of Falcons attacks, with great strength in the air and ability to move the ball out of defence. She sold a bit of candy in the process and was rock solid back there in defeat.

Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons) – 19 disposals, 1 mark, 3 tackles, 3 inside 50s, 3 rebounds
The highly-touted prospect had a solid game to start the season, not often getting too much free space, but still finding her fair share of the ball through the midfield. She was thrown around into different positions but still had an impact, and her work rate between the arcs was really impressive.

EMERGENCIES:

Alice Burke (Sandringham Dragons) – 15 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 3 rebounds
The potential St Kilda father-daughter selection stood up in big moments and makes the trio of most unlucky to miss players after a solid performance. She can play just about anywhere and is able to break up the play with her ability to find space and short kick to teammates on angles to disrupt the opposition’s zones.

Amelia James (Oakleigh Chargers) – 19 disposals, 1 tackle, 3 inside 50s, 6 hitouts, 2 goals
We could have included a heap of Oakleigh Chargers and James was the next one in line after an impressive two-goal performance inside 50. She is in her top-age year and showed she can pinch-hit in the ruck as well.

Amelia Velardo (Western Jets) – 16 disposals, 3 inside 50s, 1 rebound, 4 hitouts
An eye-catching player across the ground and new into the team, Velardo showed some good athleticism coming out of the ruck at times and had a really busy start to the game in Western’s win against Bendigo. She was able to drive the ball forward and be amongst it in close, often firing out quick handballs to teammates in space.

DRAFT CENTRAL’S NAB LEAGUE GIRLS TEAM OF THE WEEK: ROUND 1

B: Crystal Summers (GWV) – Mindy Quade (MB) – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
HB: Sarah Hartwig (SD) – Mackenzie Eardley (DS) – Charlotte Baskaran (WJ)
C: Darcy Moloney (GF) – Tyanna Smith (DS) – Mimi Hill (OC)
HF: Jessica Zakkour (CC) – Montana Ham (WJ) – Eliza McNamara (SD)
F: Alice O’Loughlin (OC) – Alyssa Bannan (NK) – Poppy Schaap (GF)
R: Matilda Van Berkel (GP) – Brooke Hards (BP) – Laura Gardiner (GF)
INT: Jess Fitzgerald (NK) – Eliza James (OC) – Olivia Meagher (ER) – Ellie McKenzie (NK) – Shanara Notman (GP) – Georgie Prespakis (CC)
EMG: Alice Burke (SD) – Amelia James (OC) – Amelia Velardo (WJ)

OTHERS CONSIDERED:

It was a really even round of performances this weekend, with a number of players making the shortlist for the team but just missing out. Among them were Calder Cannons’ duo Tamsin Crook and Emelia Yassir, Sandringham Dragons’ duo Winnie Laing and Pia Staltari, GWV Rebels’ duo Renee Saulitis and Lilli Condon, Northern Knights’ Ash Snow, Geelong Falcons’ Elizabeth Dowling, Bendigo Pioneers’ Jemma Finning, Eastern Ranges’ Jorja Livingston and Dandenong Stingrays’ Georgia Grimmer.

Saulitis bags two last quarter goals to sink Dragons in thriller

BACK-to-back goals in the final term from AFL Women’s National Academy member, Renee Saulitis has helped Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels get over the line against an unlucky Sandringham Dragons outfit, 4.2 (26) to 2.9 (21). From the get-go the fierce tackling pressure of the Dragons was evident with all of their onballers and forwards applying crunching tackles and bumps. It was just cleanliness and finishing ability inside forward 50 that was ultimately the difference in the game, with both defences holding up well, but the Rebels making the most of their chances. For most of the match it looked like Sandringham’s dominance in its forward half would surely be enough, with the Dragons having 13 more inside 50s (37-24) and five more scoring shots (11-6) but no matter how much pressure was applied, the Rebels were there to mop it up. It was indeed a strange game, with many of Sandringham’s top players among the best on the ground, but it was such an even team performance from the home team that got them up by five points in the contest.

Throughout the match, Rebels’ ruck Maggie Caris was too tall for her opposing rucks, almost exclusively giving her midfielders first chance at the footy. Despite this, the Dragons mids were more prevalent, led by the likes of Alice Burke, Eliza McNamara and skipper, Winnie Laing. All three found plenty of the ball, and their defensive pressure set the tone for the rest of the team. The bad luck for the visitors started early when Tayla Jones did everything right to soccer a ball inside 50 and run onto it a couple of metres out from goal, only to rush the kick and put it into the post. The Dragons held the ball inside their forward half for the first six minutes as their defensive line held strongly in the middle of the ground. When the Rebels went in however, it looked clean and direct, but the Dragons still were able to mop it up. Led by Sarah Hartwig in the back 50, the Dragons repelled inside 50 time and time again, and Jones had another chance whilst being tackled but her snap went to the right. With just their second inside 50, the Rebels drove the dagger in with a well positioned mark from Lilli Condon who turned around and slotted the opener of the match 11 minutes in. The ball spent a lot of time in between the arcs as Hartwig and her opposite half-back, Nyakoat Dojiok kept mopping up and creating run to set the play up for their respective teams. Late in the term, the Dragons smothered a ball from a kick-in but the next handball missed the target and allowed the Rebels to get numbers back and head into quarter time with a three-point lead.

The Dragons finally got reward for effort in the second quarter, with Laing, McNamara and Hartwig all impressing, and it only took 90 seconds for Pia Staltari to slot her side’s first with a nice goal on the run and composure to-boot. In contrast to the Rebels success from limited entries in the first term, they were getting more inside 50s in the second, but Hartwig continually came across to spoil or intercept mark and get the ball moving down the ground. In one instance, the half-back won a one-on-two contest, kicked out of the back 50, then backed up to win the next touch once it came back to hit-up Burke on the wing. The play was breaking down for the Dragons at half-forward with the Rebels defence providing pressure and the Dragons not able to break through. Ironically, the hap-hazardous play helped Sandringham to its second goal, with McNamara marking, stepping around her opponent and just putting it inside 50 for Nayely Borg to swoop on, spin and kick it through the goals in the dying seconds to hand the Dragons a well deserved 11-point lead having held the Rebels’ scoreless in the term. The third quarter was much of the same, but with both defences holding up. Neither forward line could breakthrough for another score without a bit of luck, and running back towards goal, Hartwig copped a horrible bounce which went past her back into her opponent’s path for Tahlia Meier to boot the ball through and give GWV a sniff once again. It was the only score of the entire quarter despite the influence of McNamara and Laing who were picking up big numbers.

The final term belonged to Saulitis who when everyone around her was fumbling under pressure and missing achievable shots at goal, she was clean and accurate. Edging close to the five-minute mark of the final term, the talented utility scooped up the ball turned and snapped as she was being dragged down for it to dribble home off a bounce from 30m and put her team in front. Her teammates flocked to her, but it would not be the last time, as despite both side having chances – including one to Meier which went through but was touched by the pack in the goalsquare – it was not until Saulitis found space again inside 50 and marked with three and a half minutes left in the match. Her shot on a 45-degree angle was perfect and she handed her team what looked to be a game-winning seven-point lead. The last three minutes of the match were owned by Sandringham with the pressure gauge at full, but in a summary of the match, the Dragons could not kick one through the big sticks from two chances. Borg had an opportunity for her second off a contested mark but it drifted to the left, much like Chloe Saultry‘s chance in the last minute with a breeze impacting the kick at that end. By the time the Rebels had kicked out, it was five seconds on the clock and Chloe Summers – who had been another impressive Rebel on the day – marked and the siren sounded.

It was difficult to pick out best players, with Dojiok being a standout for her run and impact per possession, finishing with 11 disposals – 10 kicks – three marks and five tackles, while it was also hard to ignore Saulitis’ last quarter which won her side the game. Others who had moments for the winning side were Summers (13 disposals, four marks, six rebounds), Condon (13 disposals, two marks, six inside 50s and four rebounds) and Isabella Hill (19 disposals, five tackles and three rebounds). Caris was naturally dominant in the ruck with 24 hitouts to go with her eight disposals and three inside 50s, while for the Dragons, Hartwig was the clear best, thanks to 14 disposals, five marks two inside 50s and four rebounds. The midfield trio of McNamara (20 touches, three marks, four tackles and six inside 50s), Laing (19 touches, five tackles, five inside 50s and four rebounds) and Burke (15 disposals, two marks, four tackles and four rebounds) were all strong throughout, as both Eddey (15 disposals, three marks, three tackles and four inside 50s) and Staltari (15 disposals, two marks, two inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal) also showed class in the game.

GWV REBELS 1.1 | 1.1 | 2.1 | 4.2 (26)
SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS 0.4 | 2.6 | 2.6 | 2.9 (21)

GOALS:

GWV: R. Saulitis 2, T. Meier, L. Condon.
Sandringham: N. Borg, P. Staltari.

BEST:

GWV: N. Dojiok, R. Saulitis, L. Condon, C. Summers, I. Hill
Sandringham: S. Hartwig, A. Burke, E. McNamara, W. Laing, P. Staltari

DC Medal:

5 – Sarah Hartwig (SD)
4 – Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV)
3 – Alice Burke (SD)
2 – Eliza McNamara (SD)
1 – Renee Saulitis (GWV)

*The DC Medal is a new initiative Draft Central is running where we vote for five players we thought had the most influence on the match. In this match there were more than 10 possible players who could have squeezed in there, but the standouts were the half-backs and midfielders, while Saulitis’ match-winning efforts saw her make it into the votes.

NAB League Girls preview: Round 1 – New talent to shine in opening round of action

NAB League Girls action is back on the agenda this weekend with a grand final rematch among a host of expected tight contests with all sides back on level pegging at 0-0 to start the season and hoping to kick-off their seasons with wins.

NORTHERN KNIGHTS v. CALDER CANNONS
Saturday, February 29, 10:15am
RMIT University Bundoora

The first game of the round is a fitting opener to the new NAB League Girls season, with Northern Knights hosting Calder Cannons at a refurbished RMIT University ground in the 2019 Grand Final rematch. The Knights had five players drafted last year, with the remainder signed up for state league level football in 2020, while the Cannons just had the two, but had a number of players on the periphery. Both these sides have plenty of talent with the Knights potentially a year ahead in development, finishing runner-up in 2018 before winning last year, while the Cannons made the grand final last season, and will be hoping to build on that this year. The Knights have five players in the National AFL Women’s Academy, led by Ellie McKenzie and last year’s grand final best on ground medallist, Jess Fitzgerald who are both amongst a strong midfield core. Fellow Academy member, Maeve Chaplin is also named onball, while Maykaylah Appleby will run down the wings as the sole middle-age Academy member. Alyssa Bannan is a leading target and strong overhead named at centre half-forward, and a battle with the likes of key backs, Tamsin Crook and Tahlia Gillard – the latter of whom is in the AFL Women’s Academy too will be a match-up to watch. The name that will always catch the eye is Georgie Prespakis, a 2021 draft prospect and sister of Carlton Rising Star, Madison. She is capable of anything and her battle with McKenzie will be intriguing. The Cannons also have some serious depth at their disposal, with Emelia Yassir and Kasey Lennox another couple of youngsters who made their debuts last season and looked at home. With Freda Puruntatameri playing with Palmerston in the NTFL Women’s competition up forward for the Cannons, there is plenty of X-factor there too.

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS
Saturday, February 29, 11:30am
City Oval Ballarat

Up in Ballarat, the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels host the Sandringham Dragons in a battle between two sides who should improve on their 2019 placings. Both sides have a number of AFL Women’s Academy member with the Rebels (five) and the Dragons (three) both having some serious top-end talent. The Rebels have a strong spine with Maggie Caris likely to be the top ruck in the competition this year with her height and tap work causing problems for the opposition. Renee Saulitis has played up forward and down back, but is named in the middle, with her athleticism and ability to sidestep opponents a feature of her game. Along with Isabella Simmons who has also been named through the midfield, all three Academy members are very different and add varied elements to the game style. They will face an equally impressive midfield of Dragons’ captain Winnie Laing, potential St Kilda father-daughter selection, Alice Burke and Bella Eddey who provide a real hard edge to the onball brigade. Sarah Hartwig is one of a couple of premier rebounding defenders, reading the ball in flight so well and able to create a lot of offensive run while nullifying her opponent defensively. Playing at half-forward is Eliza McNamara who is a tackling machine and elite runner, who will work her opponent over, while Abbi Moloney lines up at full-forward to try and clunk a few grabs by outmuscling her opponent one-on-one. The Rebels will look to run the ball out of defence through Nyakoat Dojiok who is a 2021 draft prospect in the Academy, while Chloe Leonard has been named at full-forward for the Rebels who will look to have a spread of goalkickers rather than a dominant target.

GEELONG FALCONS v. GIPPSLAND POWER
Saturday, February 29, 12:00pm
RMIT University Bundoora 

After its first finals loss last season, Geelong Falcons return to the NAB League Girls with a hunger to get back to the heights of 2018, starting off the 2020 season with a clash against Gippsland Power. The Power have a lot of players who were able to run out last season and will be more experienced in 2020, so they will no doubt look to push the Falcons who have plenty of young players themselves. Geelong’s duo of Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner will be damaging through the midfield as the Falcons’ two AFL Women’s National Academy members. Joined in the middle by basketballer Carly Remmos, the Falcons have a strong foundation to continue the success of past years. Elizabeth Dowling is a name that will be raised over the next couple of years, and along with Renee Tierney as targets up forward and Poppy Schaap‘s defensive pressure, the Falcons are in a good shape going forward. Mia Van Dyke is one of a number of prospects who have come through the club’s V/Line Cup program and despite being just three days away from being a 2023 draft eligible prospect (only turned 15 in December), she is one of a number who have come through the pathway with some high wraps from the coaching staff. Gippsland has some familiar names in its line-up, led by midfielder and AFL Women’s Academy member, Megan Fitzsimon. She, along with Grace McRae forms a strong midfield duo in there, and will compete strongly for the contested ball. In defence, Shanara Notman returns as a 19-year-old named at centre half-back and will provide some good rebound there, right alongside Leyla Berry who played for the Power back in 2018. On the other flank is a familiar Power name with Yasmin Duursma (sister of Port Adelaide’s Xavier), while when talking about bottom-age talent, Lily-Rose Williamson is one who will be a standout along a win having starred for the club through the V/Line Cup in past years.

BENDIGO PIONEERS v. WESTERN JETS
Saturday, February 29, 12:50pm
Queen Elizabeth Oval 

Turning the attention to Bendigo, the Pioneers host Western Jets in a curtain raiser to the AFL Women’s clash between Richmond and Geelong. Bendigo has the one official AFL Women’s National Academy member in key defender Tara Slender, but have a midfield that will trouble opposition onballers. Brooke Hards and Annabel Strahan have both been named onball and the co-captains will provide a hard-edge to the midfield and be difficult to beat there. Along with Maeve Tupper who has some impressive athletic skills and great goal sense when up forward, the midfield is a strength for the Pioneers. Jemma Finning has been named at half-back to provide some run out of defence with Slender, while up forward, Hannah Stewart is a target inside 50 as a 19-year-old. The Jets have opted to throw rebounding defender, Isabelle Pritchard into the midfield to counteract the Pioneers’ onball and develop her game even further. Along with bottom-age tall, Montana Ham and Nikita Wright in the middle, the Jets have some good height and ball-winning ability in there with upside. A highly rated bottom-ager with Ham is Charlotte Baskaran who is considered elite with her foot skills and decision making, so will be one to watch coming off half-back where she has been named. Both these sides are going to go close to winning in this tight contest with a fair few bottom-agers on show, though Bendigo should be more prepared after their top-agers had consistency through the team as middle-agers last season.

DANDENONG STINGRAYS v. EASTERN RANGES
Sunday, March 1,  11:00am
Holm Park Recreation Reserve 

In a rewind to 2018, Dandenong Stingrays and Eastern Ranges return to Holm Park in Beaconsfield to open their seasons on Sunday. While both played different opponents on that day two years ago, they will both be hoping for more ideal temperatures than the 37 degrees on that day. The Stingrays are coming off a solid season in 2019. just missing out on finals, while Eastern reached the post-season series and pushed eventual premiers, Northern Knights all the way in the preliminary final clash. The Stingrays’ standout prospect in 2020 is Tyanna Smith, with the AFL Women’s National Academy member having the combination of speed and strength in the middle, which she will use to burst out of the stoppages and create scoring opportunities for her team. Abbey Jordan showed last season she can win the ball through the middle, while young talls, Jaide Anthony and Georgia Grimmer up forward provide a glimpse into the future for the Stingrays having come through the V/Line Cup program. Down back, the ever-reliable Zoe Hill is alongside Jemma Radford, while Serene Vudiniabola comes highly rated as an overager who played school footy last year and is tied to Old Haileybury. Eastern Ranges pack a punch in the midfield as well, with Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown the club’s two AFL Women’s Academy members. With ruck, Jess Grace likely to get first hands to them more often than not, the contested ball-winning Meagher and slick Brown will give their forwards some nice feeds inside 50. Matilda Hardy has been named at half-forward as one to watch, while Mietta Kendall is a reliable source of calmness in the back pocket, and Lily Peacock named as one to watch with her run along the wing.

MURRAY BUSHRANGERS v. OAKLEIGH CHARGERS
Sunday, March 1, 1:00pm
Norm Minns Oval 

The final game of the round is another curtain raiser, this time for the Collingwood and Richmond AFL Marsh Series clash at Wangaratta. A big crowd is expected in attendance for the game, with two teams expected to improve in 2020 to battle it out. Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers both had some superb performances last season, but had to iron out some consistency issues at times. Both having a number of talents coming through the ranks this season, the Bushrangers had a lot of middle and bottom-agers last season who have progressed through to the next year of their youth careers. The Charges had five players drafted and will be looking to replace them through a team approach. The Chargers have three players in the AFL Women’s National Academy with captain Mimi Hill and middle-ager Charlie Rowbottom named on-ball to rove the work of ruck, Kalarni Kearns. Also in the midfield is Joanna Lin on the wing, working the ball forward to an even front six. The Bushrangers have a two-pronged tall attack with AFL Women’s Academy members, Olivia Barber (top-age) and Ally Morphett (middle-age) rotating between ruck and forward. Abby Favell is a natural ball winner and will rotate between midfield and forward, while Kate Adams is another player who can be slippery around the stoppages and find the goals when inside 50. Keeley Skepper showed last season in the Under 16 Championships that she has a lot of upside, while a number of players on both teams loom as surprise packets in what could be one of the games of the round.