AFLW U18 Championships previews: Central Allies

SOUTH Australia and Northern Territory’s top footballers will form the Central Allies in a formidable outfit for the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. In the first series, South Australia won both its clashes against Northern Territory, but the top-end talent in both sides is clear. We took a look at the side’s key players and its upcoming fixture ahead of round two of the National Championships on the Gold Coast.

Key players:

Nikki Gore

An unbelievable young talent who took out the SANFL Women’s Rising Star award after a terrific season. The 17 year-old South Adelaide midfielder was named in the best a massive seven times out of a possible nine for her side, five of which she was deemed to be in the best two players in the side. Considering her team won the premiership and had the likes of GWS GIANTS star Courtney Gum in the side, it was a massive achievement for Gore to standout and expect her to be a shining light for the Central Allies in the upcoming national carnival. Not surprisingly, she made the SANFL Statewide Super Women’s League Team of the Year. In what was not a surprise to anyone, Gore was named South Australia’s top player from the first series against Northern Territory. Also joined NT Thunder for the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition and made her debut on the weekend, booting a goal against Collingwood.

Danielle Ponter

Already shining in the VFL Women’s competition for Essendon, Ponter has become a reliable mid/forward who predominantly spends time at half-forward while pinching minutes through the middle at times. A member of the AFL Women’s Academy, Ponter is looking to carry over her good form from the Victorian state league to be a crucial key up forward for the Central Allies. She has represented Northern Territory on 11 occasions so far and has won the Sharyn Smith Medal (best and fairest) every year in the Youth Girls. Ponter has famous bloodlines being a niece of Essendon legend Michael Long.

Katelyn Rosenzweig

The dominant goal kicker in the side, Katelyn Rosenzweig is the fifth tallest player in the Central Allies squad, and uses her height to advantage in the forward line. Against Northern Territory, she was the main target, booting three goals in both games to cause all sorts of headaches. Now in an even stronger team, expect her to work well with Ponter in the forward half. At senior level in the SANFL Statewide Women’s League, Rosenzweig booted a massive 15 goals from 11 games, including bags of four (Sturt) and three (Glenelg and South Adelaide). It will take a good defender to stop her and she will be one of the contenders for leading goal kicker in the carnival next week.

Janet Baird

Like Gore, Baird is an NT Thunder player in the VFL Women’s, making her debut earlier in the season against Darebin Falcons where she recorded 11 disposals, two marks and laid six tackles. Her defensive pressure is a highlight of her game and one of the key Northern Territory players to watch. She has great speed and is an exciting youngster who is a December-born player meaning still plenty of development left in her. At 160cm, she will be a pocket rocket around the ground that opposition sides will need to watch.

Esther Boles

A standout for North Adelaide this season, Boles was voted captain of the Croweaters ahead of the two-game series with the Northern Territory. In the SANFL Statewide Super Women’s League, Boles booted eight goals in 11 games, including six goals across four matches, named in the best on a couple of occasions. She has been know in the South Australian youth girls system since booting three goals against Norwood in the Under 16s competition back in 2015.

Abbie Ballard

If there is one South Australian girl to keep an eye on for the 2020 National AFL Women’s draft, it is Abbie Ballard. Before her 16th birthday, Ballard was already standing out in the SANFL Statewide Super Women’s League for West Adelaide, booting two goals in the final game of the season to be named best by her coaches. It was the fourth consecutive game she was named among the bests for West Adelaide, including two majors the week before. She might be the second youngest in the squad – born nine days earlier than fellow Croweater Teah Charlton – but she is expected to make a big contribution at the national carnival.

Rachel Dunstan

The vice-captain of the South Australian team played for Sturt in the SANFL Statewide Super Women’s League given her aligned club of Woodville-West Torrens were yet to have a side. She managed nine games with the Double Blues, named in the best on a couple of occasions and booting a goal. Her leadership will be important, as will her height in a side which is predominantly smaller – Dunstan is 168cm with 19 players below 165cm. In 2017, she played at the National Championships at half-back and is one of the better playmakers in the side, with impressive skills that hurt opposing sides.

 

Fixture:

Game 1: vs. Eastern Allies

Monday July 9 at Metricon Stadium

The first day will see the Central Allies take on fellow combined side Eastern Allies in a game they will go in confident they can win. The Eastern Allies have some serious top-end talent in Alyce Parker, as well as Chloe and Libby Haines, but the likes of Janet Baird and Abbie Ballard will look to counteract the taller side and use pace to run them off their legs. If they can control the ball through the midfield it gives their strong forward line a huge chance to kick a winning score on the big ground at Metricon Stadium.

Game 2: vs. Victoria Country

Wednesday July 11 at Broadbeach

Heading over to Broadbeach, the game against Vic Country will prove to be a challenging one. The likes of Tyla Hanks, Nina Morrison and Olivia Purcell in the middle will always cause headaches for opposition sides, and the good defensive outfit will be touch to kick a score against. Danielle Ponter could find herself lining up against Emily Haeusler – a defender who’s strength is in her one-on-ones and is quick, while Katelyn Rosenzweig might find Lucy McEvoy wears her like a glove. To beat Vic Country, you just have to be smart with the ball and make the most of your opportunities.

Game 3: vs. Victoria Metro

Friday July 13 at Bond University  

The final game of the week does not get any easier, with likely title favourites Vic Metro standing in the Central Allies’ way at Bond University. Madison Prespakis vs. Nikki Gore should be a thrilling midfield battle, while the Metro side is littered with class such as Georgia Patrikios up forward – who could well be a great head-to-head with Rachel Dunstan. The speed of Metro through Mikala Cann and Marnie Jarvis is sure to be a big consideration in team selection for the Central Allies, with perhaps Tabitha May and Janet Baird among those looking to cause havoc with speed the other way.

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