THE opening round of the TAC Cup Girls competition was exactly what we expected it to be. The games were competitive, and the stars of last year continued to shine. There were also some new players on the horizon, making names for themselves at their new teams. Northern Knight, Alyssa Bannan almost single-handedly won the game for her side, with three goals in the first few minutes of the last quarter. Meanwhile at Deakin, Geelong’s Lucy McEvoy enjoyed her new role up forward, contributing two goals to her side’s win. But perhaps the sweetest victory was at JC Lowe Oval, where the Murray Bushrangers secured a huge win over reigning premiers, Calder Cannons, making them the only undefeated team in the TAC Cup Girls Competition.
Geelong Falcons 7.3 (45) defeated Sandringham Dragons 4.1 (25)
By Julia Montesano
Deakin University provided the perfect ground for the Falcons to execute their running game, as many players were able to kick the ball into space on the large field. Ruckman Zoe Inei excelled, playing the role of a rover at multiple times to get the ball forward. She was accompanied by explosive midfielder, Nina Morrison, whose speed stood out on the day. Morrison chased down players of all sizes, with her excellent closing speed and aggression in the heart of the contest. These two players were vital in the middle of the ground, helping the Falcons claim a 20-point win in their first game of the year.
Geelong’s Lucy McEvoy had a shaky start in her new role up forward, which was evident in the first quarter. The former defender missed two set shots on goal, but was presented with some great kicks by half-forward, Sachi DeGiacomi. The Geelong captain did get the hang of it as the game went on, and lead from the front inside 50, converting two goals at crucial moments in the game. Meanwhile, her partner-in-crime, DeGiacomi was involved in plenty of the Falcons’ scoring shots, and got three majors on the board off her own boot.
Winnie Laing and Eliza McNamara were Sandringham’s best, winning the ball multiple times in the middle of the ground. The two midfielders complemented each other’s ball use, and were crucial when Sandringham tried to push the Falcons. Sophie Rothfield also had a few good moments, particularly when she followed up a good kick with an important shepherd on the wing, allowing her teammate to run forward into space. Holly Bate was a clear target up forward, kicking two of Sandringham’s four goals. But with the lack of company, and amazing pressure by Geelong’s Denby Taylor and Abbey Chapman in defence, the Dragons were just not able to get over the line in a hard-fought contest under the sun.
Dandenong Stingrays 3.2.20 defeated by Northern Knights 8.7.55
A stunning three-minute purple patch by Northern Knights’ forward Alyssa Bannan turned the game on its head, booting three goals in as many minutes to ice the game for the Knights against the momentum. Dandenong had controlled the game in the third term and looked to be coming hard, booting three of the last four goals to get within three points at the final break. Enter Bannan, who stunned the crowd and lifted her teammates as the Knights booted five goals to zero in the final term to run away with the contest.
Northern had plenty of contributors on the day, with bottom-age star Gabby Newton, captain Maddy Bracantisano and small midfielder Abigail Bennett among them. Bennett booted the fourth goal of the Knights’ final quarter rush to put the final nail in the Stingrays’ coffin. Others that stood up for the Knights included Britney Gutknecht and Alex Pronesti, who both showed their class at times during the 35-point victory.
For the Stingrays, midfielder/defender Shelley Heath was enormous, playing a huge four-quarter game and was best on ground before Bannan’s heroics. Heath was a lynchpin the defensive half, and worked well in tandem with captain Jordyn Allen who marked everything from half-back to the midfield, doing everything in her power to haul her team over the line. Others that impressed included book-ends Isabella Shannon (who played through the midfield as well as up forward) and Lucinda Cripps, who played a staunch defensive game, rarely letting her opponent have an inch.
Eastern Ranges 7.5.47 defeated Greater Western Victoria Rebels 4.4.28
One of the premiership fancies, the Eastern Ranges had a strong opening round performance against another solid side in the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. The Ranges led from start to finish, but could never quite feel comfortable. They led by 19 points at half-time and weathered the best the Rebels had to offer in the third term to still extend the lead to 26 by the final break. While Eastern did not score in the final term, the Rebels managed just the one goal which resulted in the Ranges saluting by 19 points.
Ruck/forward Sarah Kendall starred for the Ranges, providing a target around the field and standing tall among her teammates. At the other end of the ground, Georgia Macpherson produced a performance many have come to expect, with the AFLW Academy member rebounding everything she could get her hands to on the weekend. Others that impressed were fellow Academy member Emerson Woods, and sprinter Mikala Cann. Potential Collingwood father-daughter selection Tarni Brown was another who had a few tricks up her sleeve.
For GWV Rebels, the AFLW Academy duo of Georgia Clarke and Sophie Van De Heuvel impressed with their obvious class on show. Captain Lauren Butler put together a great four-quarter performance roaming the entire field and named among the Rebels best by her coaches. Defender Sophie Molan was a rock in the back fifty, while Denver Henson had some impressive moments between midfield and the forward 50.
Bendigo Pioneers 8.12.60 defeated Western Jets 3.5.23
By Julia Montesano
At Epsom Huntly Reserve, it was the Pioneers who were able to start their season off with a win. The Western Jets were competitive at times, but ultimately could not keep up with Bendigo’s scoring. This was particularly evident in the last quarter, where the Jets went scoreless, compared to Bendigo’s three majors.
Sophie Kerridge was a standout for the Pioneers, kicking three goals for the day. Kerridge is the sister of Carlton midfielder, Sam Kerridge, and looks like she could match him in front of goals. Draft prospect, Kodi Jacques also impressed with two goals to follow up her hard work in the midfield. Megan Williamson’s leadership was on show for Bendigo, as she played a vital role in the Pioneers’ 37-point victory.
For the Jets, Essendon and District Football League (EDFL) Youth Girls best and fairest, Elisabeth Georgostathis made a promising start to her season. She was complemented by VU Western Spurs teammate, Payton Ozols, whose speed was a positive sign for the Jets. The Western Jets’ experienced players also dug in deep, with Cleo Saxon-Jones and AFLW Academy member, Isabella Grant each kicking a goal.
Gippsland Power 1.2.8 defeated by Oakleigh Chargers 11.9.75
Oakleigh Chargers won their first game in the TAC Cup Girls’ competition, defeating Gippsland Power by 67 points to sit atop the ladder after the first round. The Chargers moved the ball with speed and were slick with their ball skills to show they have improved rapidly on last year with a number of contributors throughout the four quarters. They were tested in the second term when the Power booted 1.1 to the Chargers’ 1.1 but Oakleigh held the Power scoreless in the second half, storming away in the final term to win by a large margin.
Forward, Daisy Bateman booted three goals and was as dangerous as any forward could be, snapping goals from the pocket, set shots and handing them off to teammates, finishing the day with three majors. Gemma Lagioia was sensational through the midfield, using her elite footskills to hit up targets inside the forward 50. Others that were impressive were the versatile Katie Lynch, defender Emily Harley and captain Hannah McLaren who played in every area of the ground.
For the Power, there was a clear standout in AFLW Academy member Tyla Hanks. At just 158cm, the inside midfielder stood tall throughout the four quarters, constantly willing herself to every contest and bringing her teammates into the match. Classy midfielder, Emily Haeusler was impressive by hand or foot, while Nikia Webber, Chandra Abrahams and Jazz Ferguson showed promising signs.
Murray Bushrangers 10.13.73 defeated Calder Cannons 4.3.27
Murray Bushrangers have made an early statement about their premiership aspirations after defeating reigning premiers Calder Cannons by 46 points. The Bushrangers managed to break clear in the second half as their midfield took control to run away with a strong victory. Calder became the walking wounded with star and captain Maddi Prespakis off with concussion and an ankle injury, while Felicity Theodore was also ruled out of the rest of the game after an ankle injury in the third term.
For the Bushrangers it was a vintage display from stars Rebecca Webster in the midfield and Grace Egan in defence, while Sophie Damon and Julia Harvey stretched the Calder defence with a strong tall-small one-two combo. They might not have won the flag last season, but the Bushies have found plenty of depth over the off-season and are now the only club to remain undefeated in the TAC Cup Girls competition since its inception.
For the Cannons, Prespakis was the star before sitting out the last quarter, while fellow AFLW prospects, Georgia Patrikios and Molly Warburton – who had played a combined half of match practice over the pre-season due to injury – got valuable minutes in their legs. Calder will assess the injury damage and look to rebound in a fortnight.