Tag: womens football

2021 VFL Women’s Round 2 preview: Pies, Saints battle to keep perfect records

THE 2021 Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s season rolls on into Round 2 this weekend, with six fixtures spread evenly across Saturday and Sunday. Southern Saints and Collingwood clash in the only meeting between two week one winners, while the likes of Casey Demons and Port Melbourne will look to build on the strong starts which have them poised atop the ladder. We take you through all the key players and factors across each game in our weekend preview.

Collingwood vs. Southern Saints
Saturday March 6, 12:00pm
Victoria Park

Collingwood and Southern Saints will make up the sole clash between two Round 1 winners when they lock horns at Victoria Park on Saturday. The Magpies held on to win by two points last week, while the Saints also held strong to beat Essendon and start 2021 on just the right note.

After a four-goal performance, Collingwood forward Imogen Barnett will look to back up her early form alongside the likes of Matilda Zander and senior-listed ruck Bella Smith. Eastern Ranges midfielder Olivia Meagher looms as a promising inclusion for the Magpies, named at the heart of the side after making three NAB League appearances this season.

The Saints will have at least three changes with St Kilda-listed guns Jess Matin, Poppy Kelly, and Rebecca Ott all in line for senior call-ups after promising VFLW displays. Canadian small forward Valerie Moreau is one to watch in the red, white and black having booted two majors on debut last week, but the going will be tough with some key outs against a dangerous Collingwood side.

Geelong vs. Williamstown
Saturday March 6, 12:00pm
Deakin University, Waurn Ponds

Williamstown will hope to continue its winning form as it travels to take on Geelong at Deakin University on Saturday afternoon. The Seagulls, who won by two points last week, meet a side in Geelong which lost by the same margin in Round 1 despite a strong finish and the formidable young talent afield.

As an AFLW-aligned team, the Cats will see some key changes to their opening round lineup – starting with the absence of Olivia Barber, Rene Caris, Laura Gardiner, and Darcy Moloney. Senior-listed forwards Stephanie Williams and Maddie Boyd provide some relief, while Geelong Falcons product Renee Tierney also enters the fray as another exciting option.

Williamstown also has some promising young talent to call upon, with its own Falcons coup in Zoe Garth named in defence. Tahlia Merrett is another handy inclusion and promises to provide a touch more firepower up forward, while Danika Di Santo may also get a look in from an extended interchange bench. Despite their current records, Geelong looks the team to beat in this clash.

Casey Demons vs. Essendon
Saturday March 6, 1:00pm
Casey Fields

Casey returns home for its Round 2 clash with Essendon on Saturday afternoon, looking to keep its perfect record in tact. The Demons were comprehensive after half time in their win over Carlton last week, while the Bombers showed some good fight and maturity in their opening round loss to Southern Saints.

Five-goal hero Brenna Tarrant is a key out for Casey after helping kick her side into gear, but the Demons will inject Niamh McEvoy into their forwardline this week. Maggie Caris and Megan Fitzsimon are other senior-listed players to watch through the spine of the side, while Samantha Johnson will again lead from midfield.

The Bombers look to be combining well after experiencing a touch more continuity than other teams, with the likes of Courtney Ugle and Cecilia McIntosh senior players who made a difference last week. They will go around once again, with Mia-Rae Clifford one to watch after a goalless outing and Grace Dicker a promising youngster also entering the fray. The test of another aligned team will be good for the Bombers, who can hopefully compete strongly.

North Melbourne vs. Western Bulldogs
Sunday March 7, 9:30am
Arden Street Oval

Sunday’s first fixture sees North Melbourne host a second-straight home game, as the Western Bulldogs come to town in a morning meeting. The Kangaroos were outdone by new team, Port Melbourne in Round 1, but the Bulldogs fared much better with an impressive win over Hawthorn.

Former Richmond-listed youngster Ciara Fitzgerald will make her first appearance for North, who have also called upon Jayde Hamilton and will make at least two changes. Tasmanian Sarah Skinner is one to keep an eye on after her opening round performance, providing terrific drive on the outer.

A trio of senior-listed Bulldogs make way this week through injury and otherwise, but Britney Gutknecht remains after her best afield showing. Louise Bibby and Megan Chadwick are a couple of handy inclusions in the red, white and blue, with at least three changes to be made. The Dogs have some quality running about, but should face a hungry North side looking to bounce back quickly.

Darebin vs. Hawthorn
Sunday March 7, 11:30am
La Trobe University, Bundoora

Two standalone sides are set to do battle in the first game of a La Trobe University double-header, with Darebin taking on Hawthorn at its Bundoora home. Both sides suffered losses in Round 1 but showed promise, with the Falcons falling just short of Williamstown in a low-scoring slog, while Hawthorn fell to a strong Western Bulldogs outfit.

Darebin’s lineup will remain fairly steady following its opening effort in 2021, with just one change expected. Rachel Harris comes into the lineup via the interchange bench, hopefully making a difference for the women’s footballing pioneers. Finishing will be a key area of focus for the Falcons, so watch for Hayley Munro to impact should she be able to capitalise on her chances.

Hawthorn will be forced into a raft of changes this week, with none bigger than skipper Jess Trend missing through injury. The experienced Abbey Holmes is also out along with Dominique Carbone. The likes of Chloe Bain and Olivia Flanagan should provide some respite along with Maddi Shaw, while Eastern Ranges prospects Isabelle Khoury, Tilly Hardy and Jess Grace are promising inclusions. Should they settle amid said changes, the Hawks should prove tough to beat.

Carlton vs. Port Melbourne
Sunday March 7, 2:30pm
La Trobe University, Bundoora

The round’s final game sees Carlton take on Port Melbourne at La Trobe University on Sunday afternoon, with the Blues out to claim their first points in 2021. Their opening round loss to Casey was a far cry from Port’s momentous maiden win over North Melbourne, which makes this contest a tough one to call.

The Blues will make a couple of changes, building on their initial lineup. Experienced senior player Jess Edwards should serve the defence well alongside leaders Jen Lew and Ally Bild, while Paige Trudgeon looks to impact once again after her two-goal outing and Winnie Laing promises to provide plenty of outside run.

The Borough will lose their Round 1 spearhead in Christina Bernardi as she looks to crack the Richmond side, but former Carlton utility Bride Kennedy is a promising inclusion. Melissa Kuys will again be Port’s key player at the heart of the lineup, helping lead some promising young talent listed at AFLW and VFLW level.

Image Credit: Collingwood FC Media

Weekend preview: 2020/21 NTFL Women’s Premier League – Round 17

THE PENULTIMATE round of Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Women’s Premier League action bounces down on Saturday, with all games spread out across the day and set to be played at four separate venues. A top-of-the-table clash between Pint and Darwin headlines the fixtures list, while Southern Districts’ meeting with Nightcliff serves as the sole other top five battle. That, and more in our weekend preview.

SOUTHERN DISTRICTS (4th, 9-3-2) vs. NIGHTCLIFF (5th, 7-6-1)
Saturday February 13, 12:00pm
Norbuilt Oval

Nightcliff will be out to make its top five safety concrete when it travels to face Southern Districts at Norbuilt Oval on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers are two games clear in fifth with as many games left, with this clash against the fourth-placed Districts potentially serving as an elimination final preview. If the Round 8 meeting between these sides is anything to go by, we should be in for a belter. They were unable to be separated after a high-scoring affair in that instance, but face much different propositions seven match-days later. The Crocs have won six of their last seven games, while Nightcliff has lost thrice in that period and cannot climb any higher than its current ladder position. Still, plenty remains up for grabs – especially for the Crocs as they could advance their position with a handy percentage booster given St Mary’s (second) enjoys a bye.

PALMERSTON (7th, 3-12) vs. WANDERERS (8th, 1-13)
Saturday February 13, 3:00pm
Cazalys Arena

Two sides in close proximity to each other on the ladder in Palmerston and Wanderers will be battling for consolation points on Saturday afternoon when they lock horns at Cazalys Arena. The Magpies have won just three games in season 2020/21, but that is still enough to put them eight points clear of their weekend opponents. With that factor, and a four-goal triumph over Wanderers in the back of their minds, the Magpies should come in confidently despite losing in six of their last seven outings. The Eagles have not tasted victory since Round 2, but have a couple of late opportunities to come away from this campaign with better memories and some bonus premiership points.

TRACY VILLAGE (9th, 0-14) vs. WARATAH (6th, 5-8-1)
Saturday February 13, 4:00pm
Tracy Village

Waratah’s finals hopes hinge on securing victory in the final two rounds, starting with an away clash against the winless Tracy Village on Saturday. The Warriors sit two games outside of the top five and will be hoping that fifth-placed Nightcliff slips up at the death, with their slim postseason chances potentially decided this weekend. Tahs have been in good form since the break despite a 2-2 record in 2021, defeating teams below them but falling just short of top three opposition. Their 176-point drubbing of Tracy Village in Round 8 remains the biggest score and win of the season, meaning signs are ominous for the competition’s cellar dweller. With their entire campaign to play for, Waratah should come out firing in this one.

DARWIN BUFFETTES (2nd, 12-2) vs. PINT (1st, 14-0)
Saturday February 13, 7:35pm
TIO Stadium

A top-of-the-table clash between Darwin and the undefeated Pint headlines Round 17, with the two sides set to provide a finals preview at TIO Stadium on Saturday. Pint is just two wins away from completing a flawless regular season and should come in the fresher side having enjoyed a bye last round. Darwin has won seven-straight games as the other form side of the competition, edging some stiff competition and feasting on the bottom sides. But the Buffettes’ last loss came at the hands of Pint in Round 8, with a thriller at DXC Arena decided by just two points. With revenge and confidence to be gained heading into finals, the Double Blues should be up for a terrific contest against the league’s benchmark team. The Queenants have risen to every challenge thus far though, so will be tough as ever to beat.

Bye: St Mary’s

Image Credit: Tymunna Clements/AFLNT Media

Promising Jets easing back into competitive action

WHOLESALE changes have hit the NAB League ahead of season 2021, no less at the Western Jets where a turnover of staff and players alike has the region taking a “gentle approach” to the upcoming girls campaign, according to operations coordinator Alexandra Agrotis.

The former female talent coordinator is now overseeing both the boys and girls programs in support of Regional Talent Operations Lead Luke Williams, and said players are getting back to competitive action “at their own pace”.

“We did have a complete turnover of staff in terms of coaches and some support staff as well,” Agrotis said. “We just took a really gentle approach I suppose, inviting the girls down to training and just getting (them) used to seeing each other again.

“It’s really about getting their confidence back to socialise with new people and old people and there was definitely no pressure to try and get girls to come down.

“We made it a really warm, welcoming and inclusive environment with the support of our new wellbeing coordinator Jack Rhodes, who has done a fantastic job as well of trying to rally the girls together. “The challenges that everyone has faced have been really difficult so we didn’t want to put any pressure on anyone, and just getting them to go at their own pace was our philosophy.”

Having returned for preseason under COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, Jets staff were “excited” to see what their troops could do in larger groups this year. With limited time before season proper, many NAB League sides have adopted plenty of match simulation practice to ready players for their first official outings in almost 11 months.

Amid sweltering conditions last Sunday, the Jets hit Arden Street for an intraclub hit-out. Agrotis says the girls showed “some promising signs” while shaking off the cobwebs and learning a new game style.

“(There was) a little bit of rust to work out but Robbie (Chancellor) and the coaches are doing a great job at getting them to understand a new gamestyle and structure,” she said. “It was really about giving them the freedom to play, which is what we did on Sunday and threw the magnets around just to give them a bit of a taste all over the field.

“The intraclub was a really great opportunity to see where we’re at competitively, especially given at training we’ve been quite restricted with COVID policies. ” We got to see what they could do in much larger groups and it was really exciting to see.”

A running theme throughout each region of late has been the younger generation of talent emerging ahead of time, something which is hardly different on the Western side of town. Charlotte Baskaran and Montana Ham are just a couple of under-age players who impresses as early as last season, impacting on the Under 18 competition against players sometimes three years their senior.

That is not to say the Jets are not also high on their top and over-ager talent eligible to be drafted in 2021, with a number of prospects looking to stamp their elite level credentials.

“I think there’s a real mix (between the age groups),” Agrotis said. “Not taking anything away from the top-age girls – I think with those girls if they put their minds to it, they apply themselves, and they have a really good year then anything is possible – but I am really excited about the young crop of girls.

“We have quite a few coming through and we’re starting to see now that the girls in that younger group have probably played Auskick from pretty much when they could first walk, so that’s what’s really exciting.

“I hate singling them out… but Charlotte and Mon (are) both really important and exciting players for us. “I also really like Marli Klaumanns-Moller, who is one of our top-age girls. She’s currently training with North VFLW as well Nikita Wright, another top-age girl is currently training with the Western Bulldogs VFLW side. “They’re both really exciting prospects.

“Then there’s anther crop of players. Laura Elliot (2004-birth) I think is really exciting – she’s really tall, a strong overhead mark and kicks truly; Caitlin Sargent as well, who is capable of much more than I think she’s aware of; Trinity Skenderis, she shows really great leadership on and off the field; and Leah Spargo, who’s coming back from an ACL, she showed really good signs in her first hit-out at our Sunday intraclub. “I think those are some really key players to watch.”

Charged with binding the group back together after such a sustained period away from the program are the coaches and support staff, whom Agrotis gave a particularly glowing review of.

“Robbie’s been supported by four really fantastic assistant coaches,” she said. “They’ve really pulled together with not much notice at all to form a really tight-knit coaching group and I’m just really proud of their efforts to get both the boys and the girls on the track. “It’s going to be quite a challenge with them overseeing both programs but I think they’ve done a fantastic job so far. “Luke Williams as well, who’s really our captain steering the ship through this very different season. “I really want to thank all those guys for all their effort and input so far.”

The Jets’ next point of call will be at the NAB League preseason testing event on Sunday, just a week before they begin their 2021 NAB League Girls campaign.

Weekend preview: 2020/21 NTFL Women’s Premier League – Round 15

ROUND 15 of the Northern Territory Football League (NTFL) Women’s Premier League bounced down on Tuesday as Waratah thumped Wanderers by 73 points, but there are still three more fixtures left to play on Saturday. The top four sides will all be in action, with the game of the round pitting St Mary’s (second) against Southern Districts (fourth) under lights at TIO Stadium. Elsewhere, Pint takes on Tracy Village in a top-versus-bottom clash, while Darwin will look to win big against the seventh placed Palmerston Magpies. That, and more in our weekend preview.

Palmerston Magpies (7th, 3-10) vs. Darwin Buffettes (3rd, 10-2)
Saturday January 30, 3:00pm
Cazalys Arena

Darwin will be looking for a percentage boost as it continues to push for second spot, but the seventh placed Palmerston Magpies stand in the Buffettes’ way on Saturday afternoon. While the Magpies are fresh off a breakthrough 44-point win over Tracy Village, a 40-point loss to the Buffs in Round 9 sparked a run of five consecutive losses before that. On the other hand, Darwin sprung off the Round 9 result to win five-straight games and gain a foothold in the top three. The Buffs will hope to bolster their finals positioning with just four rounds left, but Palmerston is all but officially out of the postseason running at this point. Darwin’s prime movers should be riding the high of last Saturday’s representative victory and are in good shape to continue that form here, with a big margin in mind.

Pint (1st, 13-0) vs. Tracy Village (9th, 0-12)
Saturday January 30, 4:00pm
DXC Arena

First meets last as Pint takes on Tracy Village at DXC Arena on Saturday, with plenty separating the two sides in season 2020/21. The Queenants remain undefeated across 13 outings and have been far and away the best side thus far. On the other hand, Tracy Village is yet to claim premiership points at 0-12 and has long been planted to the bottom of the ladder. Only confirming the gap between these teams, the points for and against totals show that Pint boasts the best attack and defence, while Tracy Village ranks last in both categories. Their previous meeting saw Pint triumph 20.10 (130) to nil, with the Queenants’ only higher score coming just last round as they hit the ground running post-break. Tracy Village conceded its first total under 100 points since Round 4 last time out and also managed its first major in 2021, but remain a step off the competition and will again find the going tough in this fixture.

St Mary’s (2nd, 10-3) vs. Southern Districts (4th, 7-3-2)
Saturday January 30, 7:35pm
TIO Stadium

The game of the round sees St Mary’s lock horns with Southern Districts in the weekend’s lone top four clash, with plenty to play for in terms of the finals race. The Saints are currently locked into second at 10-3 and look back on track having accumulated four-straight wins after a couple of surprise losses. One of those came against the Crocs, who took out the two sides’ Round 9 meeting by 10 points en route to winning four of their last five games. The Crocs have only played once in 2021 though and while they are undefeated after beating the eighth placed Wanderers, are also coming off a bye. With such a high-stakes game ahead, that kind of context is perhaps unideal. Expect the Saints to either come out hot or take over in the latter stages, but the Crocs should prove plucky customers as they look to cement fourth spot.

Bye: Nightcliff

Image Credit: Celina Whan/AFLNT Media

2021 AFL Women’s: Round 1 preview – Traditional rivals to open the show in Thursday night blockbuster

AFL Women’s makes its long awaited return tonight, with teams hungry to make up for lost time and rectify the ‘what-ifs’ left in 2020. Traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood take the season-opening honours once again, with plenty of heat expected to come out of that clash at Princes Park. A fixture shake-up on the eve of season proper sees a few matchups altered, but Round 1 will still be stretched across a bumper four days of footballing action. We preview all seven games, capped with a prediction to (hopefully) aide your footy tipping campaign.

Note: All start times are as of AEDT

Carlton vs. Collingwood
Thursday January 28, 7:15pm
Princes Park

Carlton and Collingwood return to the season-opening slot in a clash which is sure to produce plenty of fireworks at Princes Park. The Blues are yet to lose to their fierce rivals in said fixture, but suffered a shock loss to the Pies on home turf in their Round 2 meeting last year. Carlton is a hot favourite to secure premiership glory in 2021, but will be tested by an emerging Collingwood side which went incredibly close to knocking off North Melbourne in last year’s finals.

The clash will be made all the more intriguing as Carlton spearhead Tayla Harris resumes hostilities with dour Collingwood defender Stacey Livingstone, who labelled the star goalkicker “useless” at ground level after their battle last year. Gun Pies utility Bri Davey is also set to face her old side for the first time, which she used to captain, poised to spend more time up forward. Chloe Molloy is another set to swing into attack, with both players capable of breaking Carlton’s usually sturdy defence.

Reigning competition best and fairest, Maddy Prespakis will inevitably attract plenty of attention in the engine room, but should have a good amount of support in the form of new recruit, Elise O’Dea. The former Demon is one of four debutants for the Blues, who will be without Lucy McEvoy. Collingwood father-daughter coup Tarni Brown is another debutant to watch, thrown straight into the senior side in her maiden campaign.

The Pies are a team to watch in 2021, but the Blues will be incredibly difficult to beat, especially with a point to prove.

Tip: Carlton by 10

St Kilda vs. Western Bulldogs
Friday January 29, 7:10pm
RSEA Park

The Western Bulldogs take on St Kilda once again in Round 1, with the Saints keen to make good on last year’s result. The expansion side brought football back to Moorabbin in its maiden campaign and exceeded expectations, while the young pups failed to register another win after its opening round triumph but spawned plenty of green shoots.

Youth promises to be a key feature of the clash, with number two pick Jess Fitzgerald poised to make her senior debut for the Dogs while St Kilda’s prime selection in Tyanna Smith could well run against her in midfield. Both are quick off the mark, have a terrific inside/outside balance and can find plenty of the ball, adding to either teams’ exciting young stocks.

Also pending selection is the debut of Saints father-daughter recruit Alice Burke, the daughter of Bulldogs coach Nathan. Having coached her and an abundance of other players set to take the field on Friday night, Burke will soon be on the other side. 2019 draftees Gabby Newton and Georgia Patrikios are also set to meet in midfield, while Saints leading goalkicker Caitlin Greiser could well prove a difference-maker in the closely matched contest and many eyes will be on Izzy Huntington, who is expected to swing forward with more frequency this year.

The Saints arguably turned out the better side last year and a season of experience will do wonders for them, but the Bulldogs’ potential is relatively untapped and could again carry them over the line here.

Tip: Western Bulldogs by 1

Gold Coast Suns vs. Melbourne
Saturday January 30, 3:10pm
Metricon Stadium

Melbourne will travel to face Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium in Saturday’s first fixture, making for a meeting between experience and emergence. The Suns were another expansion team to exceed expectations last year by qualifying for finals, but still proved a rung off the true premiership contenders. Melbourne’s hardened core carried it to a breakthrough postseason feature, which the Dees made good of with an epic come-from-behind victory over GWS.

The visitors have already named three debutants, with prized draftee Alyssa Bannan set to line up in the forwardline while Eliza McNamara and Megan Fitzsimon add some more youth to the starting side. Speaking of, Tyla Hanks is one to watch for Melbourne as she prepares to spend more time in the engine room having cut her teeth as an impact forward.

Gold Coast has plenty of youth to boast as well, but also added a good amount of experience in the off-season. Former Saints Sarah Perkins and Alison Drennan are both quality players and leaders; with the former slotting straight into her new side’s leadership group and the latter set to provide another reliable figure in midfield. Scoring looks a key area of improvement for the Suns, and these two should aid that with presence inside 50 and forward momentum respectively.

Gold Coast rattled a few of the top sides last year and have the youthful exuberance to do exactly that to Melbourne on home turf, but the Dees are always a tough team to beat and should have enough prime movers to seal victory.

Tip: Melbourne by 5

West Coast vs. Adelaide
Saturday January 30, 5:10pm
Mineral Resources Park

West Coast begins its second AFL Women’s campaign at home as Adelaide comes to town looking to start its year on the right foot. The Eagles struggled last season but managed to scrounge a memorable maiden win and have made the markers of improvement for 2021. Adelaide, technically still the reigning premier, timed its premiership hangover perfectly as everything which could have gone wrong, did in 2020. The Crows finished sixth in Conference A with just two wins, but had many a setback along the way.

At its core, the Crows’ squad is still elite and will be buoyed by the return of some outstanding talent. Skipper Chelsea Randall is set to slot straight back into the defence after her long-term knee injury, while a fully fit Erin Phillips looms ominously as a midfield/forward option. In their absence, the likes of Sarah Allan and Anne Hatchard produced All Australian seasons, though the Crows will sweat on Ebony Marinoff‘s availability as the ball magnet looks to overturn her monster three-game suspension.

It is no secret that West Coast’s strength lies in the midfield, which will be bolstered by trade coup Aisling McCarthy and prime draftee Bella Lewis. The promising pair will be thrown straight into the deep end, but have experienced movers in Dana Hooker and captain Emma Swanson to wax with through the engine room – all under the ruckwork of Parris Laurie. Scoring has been a sore point for the Eagles though, and Adelaide can do plenty of that.

With plenty to prove in 2020, the Crows loom as a fearsome force which could quickly rise back to the AFL Women’s summit. West Coast remains a step off the competition’s best and arguably its greatest weakness works into Adelaide’s hands, with the Crows’ scoring ability key to taking the game away from their opponents here.

Tip: Adelaide by 25

Geelong vs. North Melbourne
Sunday January 31, 12:10pm
GMHBA Stadium

Geelong hosts North Melbourne at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday afternoon, gunning for a return to finals action in season 2021. North looms as stiff opposition first up though, with the Kangaroos keen to strike gold while their remarkably deep squad remains hungry and intact – especially after missing out on premiership opportunities in their first two top flight campaigns.

The hosts went back to the well of local talent once again at this year’s draft, introducing a couple more gun midfielders in Darcy Moloney and Laura Gardiner with their top 20 picks. Caution surrounds Nina Morrison‘s return but Denby Taylor is poised to slot back into the lineup after her own injury woes, while Olivia Purcell has a full preseason under her belt and will again look to mix it with the game’s elite midfielders.

Geelong will need to be on its game in the engine room considering how deep North Melbourne’s midfield crop runs, with skipper Emma Kearney joined by Jasmine Garner, Jenna Bruton and co. The former two are also scoring threats from the middle and add to North’s firepower, while the returning Jess Duffin is another big name which will steady the Kangaroos in defence.

The Roos won by 46 points in the same fixture last year, but should be in for a more competitive dig if Geelong can manage to turn its spurts of form into four quarter showings. They should still be too strong for the young Cats.

Tip: North Melbourne by 9

Richmond vs. Brisbane
Sunday January 31, 2:10pm
Punt Road Oval

Richmond’s hunt for premiership points continues into year two, starting with a home outing against Brisbane on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers went winless in their inaugural AFL Women’s campaign and, needless to say, will hope to avoid the same fate by getting on the board quickly in 2021. The developing Brisbane side proved many doubters wrong in 2020 and made finals, but must win games like these to achieve the same result this time around.

Incoming Tigers coach Ryan Ferguson will have 2020 number one pick Ellie McKenzie at his disposal, along with a raft of experienced inclusions. Foundation Blue Sarah Hosking is an important addition to the engine room, while Sarah D’Arcy could be one to boost their key position stocks as the Tigers look to become a more competitive force.

Brisbane looks a much more settled lineup having been ravaged during the expansion era, with a core of foundation players leading the charge ahead of some promising young talent. The front half spearheaded by Jesse Wardlaw looks exciting, while Kate Lutkins‘ defensive troops make the Lions hard to crack. Having started so well last season, the Lions will be out to put wins on the board early once again and push for more finals experience. They should be too strong here, but expect to see the Tigers fight.

Tip: Brisbane by 15

Fremantle vs. GWS Giants
Sunday January 31, 4:10pm
Fremantle Oval

The final game of the round sees GWS travel to take on Fremantle at Fremantle Oval on Sunday, looking to break the Dockers’ undefeated streak which dates back to 2019. The Giants have faced many a challenge over the offseason, including relocation, but showed last year that they can stand up against the tide. The Dockers are a force to be reckoned with, especially on home turf, and will again be a bonafide premiership contender – if not, the favourite.

The Dockers’ free flowing style and many scoring threats should cause Giants coaches a few headaches, though the visitors’ experience will count for plenty in resisting the inevitable pressure Fremantle will apply. It all starts with Kiara Bowers in midfield, while the dynamic duo of Sabreena Duffy and Gemma Houghton is always difficult to stop up forward, along with Ebony Antonio on the outer.

Those kinds of attacking threats should be too much for the Giants to handle, especially in the current context and in front of home fans. It is the kind of game Fremantle is expected to win, but GWS will be plucky.

Tip: Fremantle by 21

Featured Image: Carlton captain Kerryn Harrington (left) and Collingwood’s Bri Davey (right) are set to face off in Thursday night’s season opener | Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

2021 AFLW Under 18s Ones to Watch

NOW the curtain has closed on the 2020 AFL Women’s off-season period, we turn our attention to the next group of budding stars across the country who will be vying for a spot on an AFL Women’s list. We have named 25 players who have already shown some great signs in their bottom and middle-age seasons, as well as a number of others to watch out for in 2021.

Georgie Prespakis (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

A name that has been circulating for a number of years now, it is hard to believe the all-round talent was robbed of what she could potentially do in her middle-age year. She looked more than comfortable at the level in her bottom-age year as a 16-year-old and caught plenty of attention with a seven-goal haul against Greater Western Victoria Rebels. Taller than her sister – AFL Women’s league best and fairest winner Madison – Prespakis is hard at it, has great athleticism and is ridiculously strong one-on-one. A highlight-reel package nearly any time she steps out on the field, Prespakis is a future star and could play just about anywhere, but expect her to play inside midfield and rest forward.

Teagan Levi (Bond University/Queensland)

The sister of recently drafted Gold Coast Suns’ talent Maddison, Levi is 11cm shorter and plays onball rather than forward. Her athletic traits are similar to that of Georgia Patrikios in the way that she can seamlessly get herself out of trouble by wrong-footing and side-stepping opponents with ease. Not only is she able to beat them in congestion, she can run and take the game on down a wing, and then when the opponent wins it, she is the first to lay a strong tackle. Similar to Prespakis, Levi has so many weapons and is as effective defensively as she is offensively, and is the standout Queensland prospect for next year and in the clear top few talents running around.

Courtney Rowley. Picture credit: Owen Davies / Peel Thunder

Courtney Rowley (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)

A player who has been building very nicely over in Western Australia over the past two seasons and then was the most impressive of the middle-agers in the WAFL All-Stars game. A really smooth mover, Rowley often plays off a wing and knows how to distribute the ball so well, winning Peel Thunder’s League best and fairest last year as a 16-year-old competing against senior opponents including AFL Women’s talents. Whilst she had more support in 2020 as the Thunder rose from wooden spooners to premiers in a remarkable turnaround, it is hard not to admire what the talented midfielder could be in her top-age season next year.

Zoe Prowse (Sturt/South Australia)

The standout ruck prospect in next year’s draft, Adelaide will have another promising talent on their radar in Prowse. Winning Sturt’s best and fairest award this year, Prowse was just about the best in nearly every game she played for the Double Blues, particularly in the second half of the season. Despite standing at just under 180cm, Prowse has ridiculous athleticism with a high vertical leap and is almost like a fourth midfielder. She can get down and apply second and third efforts to ground level players, and is one who could also play forward if required. With great ruck nous, she can outwork her opponents around the ground, and it was easy to see why she was the sole South Australian AFL Women’s Academy member in her middle-age year.

Charlie Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

An absolute star in the making. Capable of playing midfield or forward, Rowbottom just knows how to set scoring opportunities up in transition. The sister of Sydney’s James, Rowbottom has similar ball-winning abilities and defensive attributes, but has a lot to offer offensively as well. She showed in the Chargers’ win over Tasmania that she is not only able to hit the scoreboard herself – kicking two goals – but set up a number of chances for her teammates. One that will really surprise in 2021 as a leader for the Chargers.

Charlie Rowbottom. Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Tara Slender (Bendigo Pioneers/Vic Country)

With quite a few tall defenders in this year’s AFL Women’s Draft, Slender would be putting her hand up as potentially the pick of the bunch. Her intercepting capability and reading of the ball in flight is exceptional, and while she did miss her middle-age year, Slender is one who could catch the attention pretty quickly. Having played alongside some Vic Country representatives in the past – and playing at Under 16s level for her state – Slender is good in one-on-ones and looms as a key lynchpin for the Pioneers. It would also not be too surprising to see her take a similar transition to Isabelle Pritchard and move into the midfield given she has the traits to slot right in there.

Makaylah Appleby (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

Class personified. Appleby has managed to catch the eye on more than a few occasions over the past few seasons despite playing in such a stacked team at the Northern Knights. She often played off a wing or provided run on the outside like during the 2019 NAB League Finals Series. Appleby is now the top prospect at the Knights for the upcoming season as a member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, and as a damaging ball user, Appleby is one that teammates want to get the ball in the hands of in order to create scoring opportunities up the field.

Charlotte Thomas (Subiaco/Western Australia)

A dangerous forward half player with clean skills and a nous for goals, Thomas is the other AFL Women’s Academy member from Western Australia in her middle-age year along with Rowley and has a big future. Playing in an experienced team like Subiaco, Thomas was able to still stand out, regularly hitting the scoreboard. Standing at 175cm, Thomas has good size and good hands and having made her League debut in 2020, big things are predicted for 2021 with a lot of AFL Women’s talent, and more experienced heads around her.

Nyakoat Dojiok. Picture credit: Draft Central

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

A player who is not afraid to take the game on and really take it to the opposition is GWV Rebels’ Dojiok who has been developing year-on-year over the last few years. Playing as a 15-year-old a few years back, Dojiok is one who when she gets going is hard to contain, and she has that rich blend of power and speed. She is utilised best as that outside runner, playing off half-back or along a wing, but is eye-catching in the way she plays and the way she can bring teammates into the game. Entering her top-age year, expect her to see even more midfield time as she has some seriously great traits.

Elizabeth Dowling (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

A player who might be flying under the radar that has some casual NAB League Girls watchers reaching for the team lists next year is Dowling. An incredible talent who showed progression in her two games this year, she has only managed to fly under the radar due to the enormous amount of talent coming out of the Falcons’ football factory. She played in defence as a bottom-ager then got time more up the field last year, and expect her to play through the midfield in 2021. She can play anywhere, at that hybrid 171cm-plus size and can be too athletic for talls and too strong for smalls, Dowling is one who should not be forgotten when talking about Vic Country prospects.

Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)

The standout NSW/ACT prospect for 2021, Morphett is the sole AFL Women’s Academy member from her state. The developing 189cm-plus ruck is one who improved from her bottom-age season and it would have been fantastic to see her going up against the Melbourne-drafted Maggie Caris if their teams had met in the NAB League Girls before the season ended. She is commanding overhead and able to drift forward if required, Morphett is one of the few NAB League Girls prospects to play this year. Representing Belconnen Magpies in the AFL Canberra League, Morphett finished second in the league best and fairest, and then won best on ground in the Magpies’ premiership win. Not bad for a 17-year-old and she is one anticipated to take a huge step in 2021.

Maggie Harmer (Maroochydore/Queensland)

Stood tall at senior level in the QAFL Women’s competition for the Roos and is one of a remarkable three players in the AFL Women’s Academy from the side. Harmer showed in the Queensland All-Stars game that she looms as a strong prospect in 2021 with her overhead marking, read of the play and powerful kicking standing out in a tight game. A member of the Brisbane Lions Academy, Harmer is 170cm and could play at half-back as that intercepting rebounder, or through the middle, seemingly able to break down opposition defences on transition by getting in the way and then pumping it long.

Maggie Harmer. Picture credit: Deion Menzies, Highflyer Images

Amy Franklin (Claremont/Western Australia)

If we are talking upside, then Franklin, not too dissimilar to her West Australian namesake, has plenty of that for the future. A tall marking forward, Franklin has speed that makes smaller opponents envious, and standing at 180cm, she is big enough to outmark most opponents. Still quite raw and lightly built compared to more experienced WAFL Women’s defenders she came across, Franklin is one that once the ball gets goalside, you can almost put the glasses down. Terrific athleticism and one who is threatening to be an even bigger threat in 2021, she is yet another exciting tall forward to come out of Western Australia.

Tahlia Gillard (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

If you are talking upside and potential in next year’s AFL Women’s Draft crop then take 186cm Gillard as an example. Only turning 17 in December this year, the key position utility can play in all three lines, starting off as a key defender, spending time up forward and has the size if required to play ruck. For a player of her size, Gillard is so good at ground level and able to create something out of nothing. While she is still a raw and developing talent, she is another from the Cannons’ program who has already had plenty of NAB League Girls experience that will only make her better.

Ella Friend (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)

A second GWV Rebels player making the list, Friend did not get many chances this season to show what she is capable of, but what she did in that short space of time was quite remarkable. Another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy, Friend looked comfortable in the tight contest against the Western Jets back in Round 3, racking up a ton of the ball – 19 touches – and having a real influence in the forward half. Not only that, but she iced the game for the Rebels with a match-winning goal, and provided as much offence (six inside 50s) and defence (five tackles) to suggest she is a gamechanger and one to look out for next season.

Jorja Livingstone (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro)

Made her debut in the NAB League Girls competition and just has that X-factor about her that makes you sit up and take notice. Elite acceleration out of the stoppage and some really top-end traits, Livingstone came into the Ranges’ midfield and assimilated easily that it was hard to believe she was not a top-ager. Behind the experienced Olivia Meagher and Tarni Brown, Livingstone was the next biggest performer onball, and with another preseason behind her, it will be exciting to see just what she can produce with her athletic traits and ability to get forward and look dangerous.

Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

Yassir is just a fierce competitor who can play through the midfield or as a small forward. Standing at just 161cm, Yassir defies her size and is not afraid to take on bigger opponents, laying multiple tackles and is a contested ball winner. She stood up during Calder’s NAB League Girls finals series as a bottom-ager in 2019, and started strongly in 2020. She will have a bigger role in 2021 and has a bucketload of talent that will have opposition players wary of when she is in the zone.

Mikayla Pauga (Maroochydore/Queensland)

Another small forward and member of the AFL Women’s Academy, Pauga might just stand at 161cm like Yassir, but packs plenty of punch as a damaging forward. The second Maroochydore player in this list, Pauga finished second in her club’s goalkicking with 13 majors in 14 games, and was a clear standout. With an eye for goal and a large endurance base that sees her outwork opponents, Pauga is one who could step up again in 2021 and will be one to watch at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships having shown her wares at senior level in the QAFL Women’s already.

Zoe Venning. Picture credit: SANFL

Zoe Venning (West Adelaide/South Australia)

A hard-nosed midfielder/forward from West Adelaide, Venning came on in leaps and bounds throughout her second season in the red and black. She became a crucial member of the Bloods’ midfield, playing between wing and forward, though her attack on the ball shows she can easily translate into an inside midfielder. Providing great assistance to equal league best and fairest winner, Rachelle Martin as well as young talent Abbie Ballard, Venning is one who is dangerous around goals. She is still developing some areas of her game such as her kicking, but her work rate and intensity in play is superb.

Kasey Lennox (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)

A reliable key defender for the Cannons, Lennox is a fourth member of the Calder side to make this list, and shows just how strong their top-age group will be next season. Lennox is one who is good at ground level for a taller player, being one of the most dominant rebounders in the competition to start the 2020 NAB League Girls season. As a player who stood out on the big stage of the 2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final, Lennox is not afraid of big moments, and will team up well with Gillard as a couple of talls in a really strong Cannons outfit.

Amy Prokopiec (Clarence/Tasmania)

The sole Tasmanian prospect in the AFL Women’s National Academy, Prokopiec became one of the standout defenders for Tasmania Devils, albeit in just a handful of games in her bottom and middle-age years. As she showed with Clarence in the TSL Women’s competition this year and in the Tasmanian All-Stars game, Prokopiec is capable of playing at either end, and becoming that versatile tall utility. As a long kick and strong overhead, she is a crucial cog in the both the Roos and Devils sides, and will be hoping for a full season next year to test herself against the best in the NAB League Girls.

Amy Prokopiec (right). Picture credit: Solstice Digital & Photography

Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide/South Australia)

There are quite a few talls in this list with potential, and Schirmer is another one who just has that look about her that she could be in for a big 2021. In her middle-age season with reigning premiers South Adelaide, she acquitted herself well and while she did have some really outstanding performances, even when she was quieter, there was always a moment or two within games where you could see she was capable of kicking a couple of goals and winning the match for her side. Not far off 180cm, Schirmer can push up to a wing or even in defence, but she always looks damaging inside 50 and a real target for her teammates to kick to.

Eliza James (Oakleigh Chargers/Vic Metro)

A good size and capable of hitting the scoreboard, the 176cm James is a damaging prospect. She showed in her two games this year how she has developed both her offensive and defensive traits, and even as an Under 16s player for the Chargers, stood up in nine games and booted five goals. As one of a number of Chargers who were able to provide support to the top-end talent this year, James is another leader in the group to standout in her own top-age year in 2021.

Alana Lishmund (Norwood/South Australia)

Was a prominent member of the Norwood side in her debut SANFL Women’s season, then really stepped up as one of the best in the All-Stars match last month. She is predominantly a forward talent who can push up the ground into the midfield, and then play high or deep forward when required. A reliable kick for goal, she has that X-factor about her inside 50 and can be a leading or crumbing target, playing taller than her 166cm size, and one who will be another South Australian jostling for a spot as one of the more prominent talents in the state.

Alana Lishmund. Picture credit: AFL Media

Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)

A multi-sport talent for the Stingrays, Anthony also has that something special about her game playing as a forward. She can play at either end, and has progressed through the pathway from V/Line Cup to the NAB League Girls. One who has shared her football journey with cricket duties – she has only managed the five games for the Stingrays – she knows how to hit the scoreboard and provide a presence. Despite standing at just 166cm, Anthony plays like a taller forward and finds space, and will be a top talent to watch out for from the Stingrays in 2021.

Others:

Maroochydore’s Bella Smith is another member of the AFL Women’s National Academy who stood up for Maroochydore this season in the QAFL Women’s, whilst Georgia Hutton and Caitlin Thorne are a couple of Gold Coast Academy members who showed some top-end traits during the All-Stars match.

The South Australian group has been sensational with plenty having senior experience, led by South Adelaide’s Lauren Clifton who stood out in the All-Stars match up forward. Central District’s Madison Lane, North Adelaide’s Kate Case, Glenelg’s Brooke Tonon and Woodville-West Torrens’ Jamie Parish are others who have been ones to watch at SANFL Women’s level this season.

Over in the west, Chloe Reilly remains a dangerous forward option for East Fremantle with her work at ground level and around goals, whilst Swan Districts’ Emma Nanut, and South Fremantle trio, Tayla Whincup, Taylah Cruttenden and Poppy Stockwell are also great talents.

Looking to the NAB League and there are plenty of names to throw up, but a few in the mix include Mikayla Jones (Murray Bushrangers), Jemma Radford (Dandenong Stingrays) and Annie Lee (Geelong Falcons) who have shown to be natural players in their respective areas. From the Vic Metro perspective, Peppa Poultney (Calder Cannons), Stella Reid (Oakleigh Chargers), Caitlin Sargent (Western Jets) and Tarrah Delgado (Northern Knights) were terrific this year, while a host of middle-age Sandringham Dragons got their starts and will no doubt produce a number of surprise packets alongside their elite bottom-age talents.

Perri King is another Tasmanian prospect behind Prokopiec to watch, making history as the Devils’ first goalkicker last season and will be keen to build on that again. From Northern Territory, there is a heap of great young talents coming through from 2022 onwards, with one 2021 draft prospect being Georgia Johnson, a 160cm talent from Waratah who stood out in the NT All-Stars match last month. Playing in defence, she was one to take note of as she regularly mopped up and got the ball down the field for Team Hewett.

Alongside the top-age talents, a number of over-age talents who missed out on being drafted this year will no doubt be trying to stake their case against be it via the NAB League or state leagues, including Brooke Hards, Jemma Finning and Annabel Strahan (all Bendigo Pioneers), Zoe Hill, Abbey Jordan and Jess Matin (all Dandenong Stingrays), Ash Snow and Maeve Chaplin (both Northern Knights), Amber Micallef (Oakleigh Chargers), Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges) and Grace McRae (Gippsland Power) who all received AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but were unlucky to miss out.

In Western Australia, Maggie MacLachlan (Subiaco), Brianna Hyde and Mikayla Hyde (both Swan Districts) head into 2021 as over-agers, while mature-agers Ella Smith and Jess Low (both Claremont), Rosie Walsh (East Fremantle) and Sarah Wielstra (Swan Districts) are others who missed out on the AFL Women’s Draft but will remain ones to watch.

Elsewhere, Northern Territorian Mattea Breed continues to develop for Norwood in South Australia, whilst Abby Favell (Murray Bushrangers), Jayde Hamilton (Queanbeyan Tigers) and Kiara Beesley (Southern Power) were draft combine invitees from NSW/ACT.

In Queensland, Beth Pinchin has shown great resilience as a mature-ager coming back from multiple injuries, while Courtney Bromage and Brooke Spence are other mature-agers who caught attention this year. Christine Okesene, Ebony Peterson, Laura Blue, Chloe Gregory and Madison Goodwin were also in the mix this year with Draft Combine invites so will be kept on close watch in 2021. The other two players to receive AFL Women’s Draft Combine invites but miss out were the exciting Freda Puruntatameri (Calder Cannons/Northern Territory) and Charlie Vandenberg (Wynyard/Tasmania) who have plenty of development left in them.

AFL Women’s Draft preview: Richmond & St Kilda

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

Richmond – Victorian Pool

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

Off-season summary:

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

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

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

A draft look:

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

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

St Kilda – Victorian Pool

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

Off-season summary:

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

A draft look:

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

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

Future is bright for women’s football

IF anyone ever had any doubts about the future of AFL Women’s, then they need look no further than this week’s V/Line Cup. The best 14-16 year-olds from across regional and rural Victoria tackled each other in Gippsland in the annual tournament held at Moe, Morwell and Traralgon. Walking away from the event, I was blown away by the quality of the competitors, not just in terms of skill development, but in terms of game smarts and decision making.

Put it down to coaching, natural development or other factors, the women’s game is growing, fast. Having watched the inaugural TAC Cup Girls competition in 2017, you had your absolute standouts like Chloe Molloy and Monique Conti tearing it up for Calder Cannons, and everyone had been talking about Isabel Huntington for years. Then there were the next group of talented players that made their way onto AFL Women’s lists such as Maddy Guerin, Sarah Dargan, Iilish Ross, Bridie Kennedy and Georgia Gee, plus others.

Fast forward 12 months, and attending the TAC Cup Girls competition in 2018, I attended 26 matches in the nine round season, and instead of having two or three unbelievable players, that had grown into double figures – that is, of players who could seriously impact at senior level almost immediately. Geelong Falcons duo Nina Morrison and Olivia Purcell were outstanding against their peers, and had no troubles finding the ball at higher levels. Mikala Cann is a perfect example of how players from other sports can adapt in such a short amount of time, while Emerson Woods joined Cann as a premiership player at senior level.

Even at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, having witnessed all the games on the Gold Coast, you saw those players who had starred at TAC Cup Girls level, go up to face the best players from across the country. Talents like Alyce Parker, McKenzie Dowrick, Nikki Gore, Nat Grider, and Chloe and Libby Haines showed why they had been held in such high regard in their respective states. All of the above earned invites to the National Draft Combine.

But what was just as pleasing at those championships, was the development of the bottom-age players who shone through. It is hard to believe the likes of Georgia Patrikios, Gabby Newton, Lucy McEvoy, Lily Postlethwaite, Montana McKinnon, Mia King and Mikayla Bowen should all be running around on the Gold Coast for their respective states again next year. Remarkably, the 2020 draft crop already has names that are worthy of representing their state, as Abbey Dowrick, Abbie Ballard, Netty Garlo and Zimmorlei Farquharson were among those double bottom-agers who still matched it with more experienced players. Add in the likes of Ellie McKenzie, Isabelle Pritchard, Renee Saulitis and Tyanna Smith who were all impressive for the Victorian Under 16s outfits, and the foundations for the future are certainly there. An extra element will be the possible father-daughter selections, with Abbie McKay (Carlton) being the first possible case study this year, while Tarni Brown (Collingwood) and Alice Burke (St Kilda) loom as two more.

While we will go into more detail about the V/Line Cup recap next week, the overall standard of the competition was arguably equal to or even better than the 2017 TAC Cup competition. Or in other words, the players are two to three years more advanced than their predecessors. In the Geelong Falcons game against Bendigo Pioneers, there were two players that were worth highlighting even early on in the game. In one instance, a player was against two opponents just inside 50 and the easiest option would have been to bring the ball out and cause a forward stoppage. Instead, she tapped the ball in front of her, not taking possession, but maintaining speed, and kept dribbling it ahead of her pursuing opponents, then without even taking possession, managed to kick it off the ground into the goal square, where a teammate soccered it through.

The second example was even better, and exemplified the game sense that players have developed over time. A player had the ball tight against the boundary line under pressure not far from the behind post. In year’s gone by, regardless of competition, most young players, especially at the age where goals are usually the only statistical measure you can brag about to your mates on the league website, would blaze away and go for the miracle snap. With so many opposition players inside 50, it would have been the easy option, and no-one would have blamed her for doing so. Instead, she calmly assessed her options and spotted a teammate amongst the chaos about 25m out, sending a nice kick to her advantage, setting up an easy shot on goal. Without being their live, you do not see these things, but it is little moments like that, which make all the difference.

Another example, just to show it was not just one game, was on the second day when a Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy (GWV Rebels region) player won the ball at half-back. She won the ball in defence, had an opponent chasing her from a 45-degree angle to close her down, and backed her speed to take her on and get around her. She did just that, but looking ahead, the opposition had blocked up the easiest option along the wing. She would have to kick long to a contest, probably outnumbered. Instead she briefly glanced inside and in one of the toughest kicks to do, managed to hit that kick around her body to the defensive 50 where a teammate marked, and not only was it an effective kick, but it opened up the corridor, and the game, with the opponents already set in running towards the wing.

Aside from the few examples, there was more contested marking, more protecting of ball drops and ground balls, more fend-offs, more deft taps to teammates. Areas in which players generally do not always think of as first options. But the past week, it was happening more and more. There is no doubt there has been some serious critics of women’s football, and no doubt that will continue, but if you can stop and look hard enough, you do not have to look too far to see the game is blossoming, and I for one, am excited for what 2019 and beyond holds.

Life of a Footballer: Chloe Molloy Part 3

Life of a footballer is a personal insight by Calder Cannons and Diamond Creek footballer Chloe Molloy. The Life of a Footballer series follows on from last year’s edition which saw Bendigo Pioneers’ midfielder Jamieson Sheahan provide us insights into the inner workings of a TAC Cup club. In 2017, Chloe Molloy has joined the AFL Draft Central team and will give readers an insight into how she juggles university studies with her football at Diamond Creek, and her pathway to follow her dream into the AFLW. You can find her last instalment here

Monday is the determiner of how the rest of your week is really going to plan out…

So I am back at university now, with a different timetable, and if Monday’s couldn’t get any worse, then hear this. I live an hour and a bit out of the city, so I have a lecture from 6pm-9pm (YES that says PM) at Holmesglen St Kilda campus. So please show me sympathy for that! I’m only kidding, although by 7pm I hit a wall, so the concentration level decreases slightly… And I am usually ready for bed by 8:30pm. But amongst all the complaining that I just rambled on about, the course is grouse and the night class is taken by Peter Rolfe, a Herald Sun journalist, which I think, is such a privilege.

I am back at Uni again the next day for a later class 2pm-5pm, then straight after class I have to get moving to head off to Diamond Creek training! And I am sure that everyone knows that around 5pm, is peak time traffic, and I love…. being…stuck…in…traffic.

But great news, Diamo are currently (hope it stays that way) sitting on top of the VFLW ladder, after good wins against Melbourne Uni, Eastern Devils and St Kilda. I am absolutely loving the Creekers, training is great. Scotty (Gowans) our coach works his backside off for us, feeding us statistics about ourselves, the team and also about our opponents. At Tuesday night trainings, we spend about 30 minutes reviewing our game, rating our game and also going through the teams ‘what we can work on’ and also ‘what we want to keep doing’ in our games.

Throw back to the matches that have passed – Round 8 we faced Melbourne Uni in what was a great game. It was a great 42-point win and gave us a real confidence boost. We had a ripper start and just continued from there, with Muggars only scoring a single point after the half. Reni Hicks played well for us, shutting down one of the Muggars key forwards. I was lucky enough to kick three goals for my team, just to put the icing on the cake for the hard work we had all done during the game.

Next match for us was the Eastern Devils, I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy game – no game is easy really! Despite their position on the ladder, it was always going to be a tough game. Personally for me it was tough, I was quiet heavily tagged all day by Pepa Randall and I had a quite game, despite managing to sneak a few touches in the last quarter.

We started off very sluggish, and lost the first quarter, but pulled ourselves into line after that and dominated the game from there on in. Kerryn Harrington had a good game for us, kicking a cheeky goal! She also did a lot of work from the backline, with the support from Lauren Morecroft. Emma Grant is also such a consistent player for us, and may go unnoticed at times, but that girl is always influencing our games. We managed to keep the Devils to just five goals, with our skip Steph Chiocci snagging two great goals. A big mention goes to Tanya Harrington, who despite being named in the backline, managed to have a set shot on goal and slot one through the big sticks! We finished with 10.12 (72), which collectively we weren’t happy with as our scoring efficiency wasn’t where we wanted it to be – but of course we were happy to take home the points!!

Round 10 saw us face St Kilda Sharks, who last time got away from us, so it was our time to make a statement to them. I was put into a different role having to tag Carlton AFLW player Bri Davey. I was nervous to say the least, having played forward or midfield for my whole football career (about 15 games) and then having to be thrown into the deep end to see how I could go in a different role. And hey – why not go all out and make me tag Bri Davey!

But, I was very keen because I really had nothing to lose and I looked at it as a great challenge, which it was and I took a lot out of it. And as Rob Chiocci said to me, “another bow to you arrow.” I had no snags that game, but I felt like I had played my role, as Bri didn’t have a huge impact on the game as she normally would. The contests were tough, but I’d help her up from them and she’d help me up, so I really enjoyed going up against such a great athlete.

The final quarter was a nail biter, but we got the win, 37-32, with Lisa Williams kicking the final goal with four minutes left in the game. Steph Chiocci played great for us; her efficiency with the ball was crucial in our win. Emma Grant went hard at it as always, and Katie Loynes had a great game for us, tackling like a machine, having plenty of the ball and stood out for us.

Next round is going to be AWESOME! (Really need to extend my vocabulary) We have Darebin on Saturday at Preston City Oval at 10am, which is going to be a cracker of a game! Such a rivalry between the two clubs, and really I’m looking forward to Saturday morning for another tough game of football.

Also I have to do this, huge shout out to Jacqui Graham, hell of a person and player. If you see her in my Instagram stories make sure you chuck her a follow! And if you don’t follow me, then you should @cchloemolloyy. She has been a great support and friend to me, and I think with the big things that are ahead for me it’s important to have someone like Jac to support me.

s/o to @russ.canham for the grouse work behind the lens on the weekend #Creekers ????

A post shared by Chloe Molloy (@cchloemolloyy) on

Life of a Footballer: Chloe Molloy

Life of a footballer is a personal insight by Calder Cannons and Diamond Creek footballer Chloe Molloy. The Life of a Footballer series follows on from last year’s edition which saw Bendigo Pioneers’ midfielder Jamieson Sheahan provide us insights into the inner workings of a TAC Cup club. In 2017, Chloe Molloy has joined the AFL Draft Central team and will give readers an insight into how she juggles university studies with her football at Diamond Creek, and her pathway to follow her dream into the AFLW. Without further adue, here’s an introduction into the life of Chloe Molloy.

Introduction:

Finding that happy medium for me between football, university, working and ‘me time’ hasn’t been the easiest of tasks for me. To introduce myself, I am Chloe Molloy, I am a woman, and I am a footballer. I recently represented Calder Cannons in the girls 2017 TAC Cup and I am also a ‘baby creeker’ at the Diamond Creek Women’s Football Club.

I have a long background in basketball, representing at a state level, before swapping codes and rekindling my passion for the oval shaped ball.

I currently study full time at Holmesglen University, in a Bachelor of Sports Media course. I work two jobs, local café and a Game Development officer with the AFL. So that’s enough about me, lets get into the footy talk.

So to kick it off, I’m going to relive the first girls TAC Cup season, which was short, but sweet. We played at total of five matches, the last being held at RAMS Arena. Which for the Calder Cannons was historical. Because for the first time ever, the Cannons girls had taken out the TAC Cup in its inaugural year. It was a grouse day to win a premiership might I add, all the teams were there, and from what I can recall it actually wasn’t too windy. We battled out of last match against Bendigo Pioneers, that was a very congested game, but the final score recounted as 10.16 (76) (Calder) to 2.1 (13) (Bendigo). I was fortunate enough to win the leading goal kicker award, as well as joint Best and Fairest of the league alongside a talented Stingray, Bridie Kennedy.

 Chloe Molloy running around for the Calder Cannons (l) and then Diamond Creek (r) Pic: Craig Dilks Photography

After the Cannons had concluded, I was to start my senior football career with the Diamond Creek women’s team. It was crazy to think that I’d be playing along side AFLW players, like Steph Chiocci. I go from watching her run amok with Collingwood on TV, to being her leg swing partner at training. Crazy. Little sidenote too, Steph and I share a birthday!

So there have been four rounds so far in the VFLW, and fortunately enough I’ve been able to play in all these games! Snagging a few goals here and there, but our most recent game was against the Geelong side, who had been #undefeated, but little did they know that their hashtag was soon to be taken away from them. We dominated the whole game, I played up forward, and then in the next half moved up the ground a bit to play a different role. We got away with a dominant victory, 11.11 (77) to 2.3 (15). We now were the #undefeated team, and have perched ourselves up on top of the ladder. We battle it out against Bri Davey and her St Kilda Sharks next week!

But in saying all this, I also study and work. It is hectic to say the least. To define hectic here is a little insight to what my previous week looked like:

Monday –

  • 10:30am meeting on Chapel
  • 1:30pm-3:30pm AFL Clinic
  • Recovery from weekend
  • Study for upcoming Uni exam

Tuesday –

  • 9:30am-4:00pm work at café
  • 6:30pm-8:30pm Diamond Creek Training

Wednesday –

  • 11:30am-12:15pm – AFL clinic
  • 1:30pm-2:30pm- AFL clinic
  • Study for upcoming Uni exam

Thursday –

  • Breakfast with a friend
  • Study for upcoming Uni exam
  • 6:30pm-8:30pm Diamond Creek Training

Friday –

  • 10am work at café
  • “Me time”

Saturday –

  • 10am-4:00pm work at café

Sunday –

  • GAME DAY

So my weeks are a little busy, as you can see, not a lot of ‘me time’, but I wouldn’t change my lifestyle for the world. Football has been in my blood since I was a young tacker.

Keep updated on my posts, read them, judge them, comment on them, but if you’re going to judge than I better see you at one of Diamond Creeks games, so we can blow you away with our talent.

@chloemolloy

FUTURE INSTALMENTS:

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4