Author: Peter Williams

Walmsley grabs opportunity with both hands

IT was no surprise that Geelong Falcons’ Sophie Walmsley took to Australian Rules without much work, having already rowed, played local netball and school soccer.

“It started last year, I was playing netball with Newtown & Chilwell and I was in Year 12 and the girls that were playing footy on Sunday just said ‘come have a kick’ so that’s where it sort of started,” Walmsley said. “Then the season went and I just loved it and it was sort of my not-as-competitive sport because I was new to it. “Then just got a call from Jase (Jason Armistead, Geelong Falcons Girls coach) in October and then just came down to Falcons and it’s taken off from there.”

Walmsley is no stranger to switching codes, but why choose Australian Rules?

“Probably just the fact it was a new sport and something I hadn’t done before and there was lots of opportunities going around and Falcons is probably the top level I’ve been involved in a sport,” Walmsley said. “The community was really good and I just thought I’m going to take this opportunity and see where it goes to.”

Unlike many others in the TAC Cup Girls, Walmsley has not had the pressure of her final school year weighing down on her, instead focusing on her university studies and enjoying the freedom of football on the weekends.

“Yeah I’ve really loved Falcons,” Walmsley said. “It’s my first year at uni up at Melbourne, so it was sort of just new, footy was new, uni was new too. “It was just a good way to get involved and it’s been great and I’ve been lucky enough to play all the games.”

Walmsley was only nine days away from being a top-age player this season, and while Vic Country could only take one overage player to the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships (Rene Caris), the Falcons’ utility has enjoyed every opportunity thrown her way.

“I was really lucky in that there’s lots of girls who have been in Falcons for a while that are so experienced and play very mature and act very mature,” she said. “I guess I was just lucky I’ve been involved with sport for a while so I’ve been able to know how to step through it all, but just for every other girl that’s young, just have a crack. “Don’t let anyone else stop you, there’s so many other opportunities and pathways. “Girls footy is a prime example. “Who knew that there’d be an AFLW team now there’s VFL teams, there’s TAC Cup which is amazing. “We’re being included in so much. “It’s definitely good for me I’ve been able to get involved with it being older, but for everyone else there’s so many opportunities to take from it.”

Having joined the Western Bulldogs in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, Walmsley could hardly believe her luck.

“I’m so super excited about that,” she said post- TAC Cup Girls season. “I really didn’t know much about footy since it was my first year and then Katie (Geerings, Geelong Falcons Female Talent Manager) and Jase have really got me through TAC Cup and have talked to me about the possibilities and then now starting joining with the Bulldogs is just really exciting. Just happy to see where it takes me.”

A super athlete, Walmsley said her fitness has helped her adapt to the new sport, and having supportive teammates has been a bonus.

Mainly endurance has really helped me being consistent across the game,” she said. “Just being able to sit back and watch and get into it, has helped me understand that being in the sport my first year, it doesn’t always come first round, you don’t always have the best game but as we got more into the season I’ve been a lot happier with how I’ve been going. “It’s still new, you’ve just got to accept that and lots of the other girls have helped me realise just how to play it.”

Instead of trying to do too much, the Falcons coaching staff have kept it simple for Walmsley, something she has enjoyed while trying to develop the fundamentals and improve.

“(I’m) Just learning how to play the position and accepting that sometimes your role is just to play a position and not really so effective on every single ball you get,” Walmsley said. “So I’m just focusing on understanding at these levels that’s just how you go about your game, but (all the) coaches have been so helpful with that and helped me understand that it’s the best you can do and all you need to do to play your position.”

Walmsley is taking it one step at the time and as a sports addict she enjoys playing football in the winter and rowing in the summer. In her own words, “Sport is my main hobby.”

Weekend Wash-up: TAC Cup – Round 15

IN an action packed weekend with six games across two venues, it saw the top two lock up their position, leaving just three teams in the race for third and fourth spot. 

Gippsland Power 9.13 (67) defeated Murray Bushrangers 5.8 (38)

Gippsland Power locked up a top two spot on the weekend with an impressive 29-point win over fellow top four side Murray Bushrangers. The Power held the Bushrangers scoreless in the opening term, opening up a 16-point lead by quarter time. They extended the margin to 22 by the main break, before a Zane Barzen-inspired Bushrangers outfit hit back. They missed a few opportunities but cut the deficit to 16 by the final break, before Gippsland booted the only two goals of the final term to record a comfortable win and lock up second spot on the TAC Cup table.

Riley Baldi was sensational for the Power, racking up 31 disposals, seven marks, seven clearances, five tackles, two rebounds and a goal. Captain Xavier Duursma continued his good form with 26 disposals, three marks, six inside 50s and a goal, while key forward Noah Gown slotted three majors from 14 disposals and five marks (three contested), but could have had more, slotting four behinds. Brock Smith played one of his best games of the year in defence amassing 22 disposals, four marks, two inside 50s and seven rebounds. In defence, Kyle Reid did a great job on the competition’s leading goal kicker Hudson Garoni, while Matt McGannon was clean with his 11 touches, three marks and five rebounds.

For Murray, Mat Walker was really strong across the four quarters, picking up 18 disposals, seven marks, five tackles, four clearances and five inside 50s, while Barzen was the excitement machine up forward, booting 3.2 from 11 disposals and six marks. Bottom-ager Jimmy Boyer found plenty of the ball with 28 disposals, seven marks, six tackles, four clearances, six inside 50s and four rebounds, while ruck Floyd Bollinghaus covered the ground really well from 23 disposals, two marks, 14 hitouts and five clearances. Nick Murray (18 disposals, five marks and four rebounds) and Ed Adams (24 disposals, seven marks and five rebounds) were a couple of defenders who were busy on the day.

 

Geelong Falcons 5.7 (37) defeated by Dandenong Stingrays 7.13 (55)

Dandenong Stingrays showed why they have taken out the TAC Cup minor premiership, but not without a genuine challenge from Geelong Falcons in wet conditions at MARS Stadium. The Falcons burst out of the blocks to boot three goals to one, and lead by nine points despite the Stingrays having an extra scoring shot. From quarter time the game was more on the Stingrays’ terms, but the Falcons refused to go away. When Geelong scored the first goal of the final term, just a kick separated the sides, before Sam Sturt put the game to bed with a couple of late majors.

Captain Campbell Hustwaite was prominent for the Stingrays, racking up 24 disposals, one mark, six clearances, five tackles and four inside 50s, while Lachlan McDonnell also found his fair share of the football with 22 disposals, three marks, four clearances and a goal. Sturt was the main man up forward with three majors from 14 disposals and four marks, while Bailey Williams kept presenting amassing 10 touches, two marks, seven tackles and three behinds. Potential 2019 top pick Hayden Young had another good showing with 15 disposals, five clearances, three inside 50s and nine marks in the 18-point win.

Geelong Falcons star, Sam Walsh had another day out with 25 disposals, three marks, two clearances, three inside 50s, three rebounds and two goals, while Blake Schlensog was terrific early in the ruck for 14 disposals, six marks, seven hitouts, three inside 50s, three rebounds and a goal. Brayden Ham stood out off half-back with 18 disposals, six marks, three tackles and five rebounds, while bottom-ager Cooper Stephens had 22 disposals (16 contested), two marks, eight clearances and four inside 50s.

 

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels 11.9 (75) defeated Bendigo Pioneers 5.9 (39)

In the final game of the Country Triple Header, GWV Rebels stormed home to boot nine goals to one after half-time and run over the top of Bendigo Pioneers. The Pioneers looked good early and adapted to the conditions better than the home side, booting four goals to two in the first half to lead by eight points at the main break. But with Charlie Wilson and Tylar Watts forward, the Rebels powered home finding their kicking boots and scoring 9.3 to 1.7 to win by 36 points.

Wilson booted two goals from 26 disposals, five marks, six clearances, five inside 50s, three rebounds and nine tackles in another best on ground performance. While, Watts played one of his best games of the year, booting two goals – including a nice long-range goal off a couple of steps – from 12 disposals 10 hitouts, three clearances, three inside 50s and six tackles. Mitch Martin also worked between midfield and forward booting three goals from 21 disposals, three marks, five clearances and six inside 50s, while Jed Hill continued his good form with 19 disposals, two marks, seven clearances, six inside 50s and 1.3. Bottom-ager Toby Mahony (18 disposals, three clearances and a goal) and Ethan Harvey (23 disposals, two marks and five clearances) were others who were prominent on the day.

Noah Wheeler was Bendigo’s best player on the day, racking up 28 disposals, six marks and seven rebounds working hard throughout the four quarters, while Bailey Henderson (27 disposals, eight marks and 10 rebounds) and Brodie Kemp (26 disposals, five marks, eight clearances and a goal) were also impressive for the losing side. Hunter Lawrence had another 22 touches, while Riley Ironside, Jacob Atley and Flynn Perez all had 18 disposals.

 

Western Jets 8.6 (54) defeated by Northern Knights 9.6 (60)

In what was a thrilling contest, and the closest of the weekend, Northern Knights just got over the line against a determined Western Jets outfit. The Knights took the early ascendancy with the breeze, booting three goals to zero in the first term. Western hit back with a massive five goals to one second term to take a six-point lead into half-time. Northern regained control with a slightly inaccurate 5.4 to 2.0 term to lead by 16 points with a quarter to go. Kicking with the breeze, the Jets stormed home with five scoring shots, but could only convert the one goal, to fall six points short at the death.

Adam Carafa was huge on the inside with 20 contested possessions from his 33 disposals, and also had 10 clearances, three inside 50s and four rebounds. Bottom-ager Josh D’Intinosante booted a goal from 19 disposals, four marks, two clearances and five inside 50s, while Joel Naylor booted for goals from eight touches and four marks. Braedyn Gillard returned for his first game back from injury playing forward and had 16 disposals, three marks, two inside 50s and a goal, while Stefan Uzelac was strong at full-back with 15 disposals, five marks, four tackles and two rebounds.

For the Jets, Darcy Cassar was strong with 27 disposals, four marks, eight tackles, three clearances and eight inside 50s, while Connor Thar continues to pump out consistent performances, notching up 25 disposals (16 contested), nine clearances, nine tackles, three rebounds and a goal. Jack Watkins (26 disposals, seven clearances and nine tackles) was the other big ball winner, while Daly Andrews (14 disposals, five tackles and three rebounds) and Buku Khamis (14 disposals, three marks and three rebounds) were others who impressed

 

Eastern Ranges 5.15 (45) defeated by Calder Cannons 14.3 (87)

Calder Cannons used the strong breeze to their advantage in the win over Eastern Ranges, booting 12 goals to zero with the wind to set up a 42-point win. While the Ranges had more scoring shots, they missed time and time again with the troubling breeze, scoring 5.15, while the Cannons were deadly in front of goal booting 14 goals from 17 scoring shots. While the Cannons did not score in the second term, they booted two goals in the final term as the Ranges struggled to capitalise, only scoring two majors from their eight scoring shots. 

Jake Riccardi booted 5.1 including three in the first term, finishing with 20 disposals, 10 marks (three contested), five hitouts and four inside 50s. Lucas Cavallaro was prominent in the defensive 50 with another 10 rebounds – he was already more than 20 ahead of the next highest rebounder in the competition – from 24 disposals and three marks. Daniel Mott (22 disposals, three clearances and three inside 50s), Rhylee West (22 disposals, eight clearances and three inside 50s) and Mitch Podhajski (21 disposals, three marks, three clearances, five inside 50s and a goal) were strong through midfield and forward, while Harrison Jones had 21 hitouts from 18 disposals, three marks and three clearances.

For Eastern, Kye Quirk had 31 disposals, three marks, five clearances and three inside 50s, while Cooper Leon (28 disposals, six marks, two clearances, six inside 50s and three rebounds) and Lachlan Stapleton (24 disposals, three marks, nine tackles, three clearances and seven inside 50s) were judged Eastern’s best. Mitch Mellis had another good game with 26 disposals, two marks, two clearances, two inside 50s and two rebounds, while Caleb Quirk booted 2.3 from 13 disposals and six marks (three contested).

 

Oakleigh Chargers 13.10 (88) defeated Sandringham Dragons 4.8 (32)

Oakleigh Chargers have stamped their authority as a genuine premiership contender with a thumping 56-point victory over fellow contender Sandringham Dragons. Sandringham booted the first goal through Ben King, but it was the Chargers who dominated from then on, piling on 13 of the next 16 goals to run away with a surprisingly comfortable victory, restricting the Dragons to just 23 inside 50s and beating them at their own game, having 42 more disposals and a massive 33 more marks.

Jack Ross was Oakleigh’s best with 25 disposals, eight marks, six clearances, five inside 50s, three tackles and a goal, while Trent Bianco had 27 disposals, six marks and four inside 50s. Dylan Williams booted four goals up forward – three consecutively in the second term – from 13 disposals and three marks, while Isaac Quaynor was busy once again with 17 disposals, six marks and three inside 50s. Will Kelly was good against King in the few one-on-ones they had. Will Golds (27 disposals, seven marks and five inside 50s) and James Rowbottom (26 disposals, five marks and six clearances) were also impressive for the Chargers.

For the Dragons, Liam Stocker was strong on the inside, picking up seven clearances from 22 disposals (13 contested – a team high), while Alastair Richards provided run on the outside with 24 touches, four marks, two clearances, two inside 50s and two rebounds, while Josh Worrell stood up in defence with four rebounds and nine marks from 22 disposals. Corey Watts was Sandringham’s best with 12 disposals, three marks and seven rebounds, while James Rendell worked hard in the ruck from 26 hitouts, four clearances, nine disposals and two marks.

QWAFL weekly wrap: Preliminary finals

IT was a great day for Coorparoo as both the Queensland Women’s Australian Football League (QWAFL) and Queensland Women’s Football Association (QWFA) Division One sides made it through to their respective grand finals after close wins in the preliminary final stage.

 

QWAFL:

COORPAROO 2.0 | 7.5 | 9.5 | 9.5 (59)
UNI OF QUEENSLAND 1.1 | 6.2 | 6.7 | 6.7 (43)

GOALS:

Coorparoo: T. Groves-Little 4, J. Wuetschner 2, M. Ingram 2, K. Geddes.
Uni of Queensland: D. Davidson , M. McGorm, E. Pericic, R. Vetter, S. Frederick-Traub, G. Collingwood.

BEST:

Coorparoo: L. Blue, J. Ellenger, K. Lawrence, S. Young, T. Groves-Little, K. Geddes
Uni of Queensland: S. Frederick-Traub, M. Hunt, A. McNabb, S. Webb, E. Pericic, G. Brennan

Coorparoo is through to the QWAFL Grand Final, earning the right to face minor premiers Wilston Grange once again after defeating University of Queensland by 16 points in an exciting contest. The Blues made the most of limited opportunities in the first term to boot 2.2 to the Red Lions’ 1.1. The second term was the complete opposite to the first quarter with a massive 10 goals scored between the sides, as both teams scored five apiece. Coming out in the second half, it was the Blues who made the most of their chances, booting the only two goals of the half, while the Red Lions peppered the goals with five behinds. Neither side scored in the final term which saw the second-placed team set up a meeting with their semi-final conquerors.

Tori Groves-Little was the difference up forward on the day for the Blues, booting four of the game’s 15 goals, while Brisbane Lions’ AFL Women’s star Jess Wuetschner finished the game with two majors, as did Matilda Ingram. The Red Lions had six individual goal kickers including Brisbane AFLW players Sabrina Frederick-Traub and Gabby Collingwood who each scored a major. Frederick-Traub was named the losing side’s best player, along with Megan Hunt, Alana McNabb and Sharni Webb. For the winners, Laura Blue was named the best on ground, along with Queensland Under-18 representative Jade Ellenger and Kylie Lawrence.

 

QWFA Division One:

COORPAROO 3.2 | 3.2 | 8.7 | 9.7 (61)
BURLEIGH 1.2 | 4.5 | 5.5 | 6.7 (43)

GOALS:

Coorparoo: M. Pullinger 6, M. Farmer 2, C. Osler.
Burleigh: Not supplied.

BEST:

Coorparoo: E. Rose, E. Dillon, K. Day, M. Walkington, M. Farmer, M. Pullinger
Burleigh: Not supplied

Coorparoo made it the double in the top two women’s grades, after running out winners over a determined Burleigh by 18 points to advance through to the QWAFA Division One Grand Final. The Blues finished top of the table after the regular season, but had a shock loss to second-placed Aspley Hornets in the semi-final stage to be forced to earn their way back into the decider. On the weekend, they fought back from a half-time deficit to record a three-goal win. Coorparoo started strongly, booting three goals to one in the opening term, but then the Bombettes hit back with the only three goals of the second term to head into half-time with a nine-point advantage. Coorparoo powered their way into the Grand Final with a five goals to one term in the premiership quarter, holding off the visitors to win and have another crack as Aspley. Meg Pullinger starred with six goals to be the difference between the sides, while Emily Rose and Emma Dillon were named the Blues’ best on the day.

Player of the Week: TAC Cup – Round 15

IT was a case of standing up in the wet weather for Gippsland Power midfielder, Riley Baldi. The bottom ager was lively in Gippsland’s win over Murray Bushrangers on the weekend, and won the Facebook poll vote against Oakleigh Chargers’ Jack Ross to be named the AFL Draft Central Player of the Week for Round 15.

In the Power’s win over the Bushrangers, Baldi amassed 31 disposals at 71 per cent efficiency, seven marks, seven clearances, seven inside 50s, five tackles, two rebounds and one goal. He has been in ripping form over the past month, named among the Power’s best on multiple occasions, while also impressing at the recent Under 17 Futures game. Baldi joins teammate, Sam Flanders as a nomination, with both in the rare bottom-age club along with Jamieson Rossiter, and last week’s winner, Trent Bianco.

 

AFL Draft Central’s TAC Cup Player of the Week:

Round One: Bailey Smith (Sandringham Dragons)

Round Two: Max King (Sandringham Dragons)

Round Three: Sam Flanders (Gippsland Power)

Round Four: Hudson Garoni (Murray Bushrangers)

Round Five: Joel Burleigh (Eastern Ranges)

Round Six: Mitch Podhajski (Calder Cannons)

Round Seven: Jamieson Rossiter (Eastern Ranges)

Round Eight: Matthew Day (Oakleigh Chargers)

Round Nine: Jake Riccardi (Calder Cannons)

Round 10: Ely Smith (Murray Bushrangers)
Round 11: Charlie Wilson (GWV Rebels)
Round 12: Jake Gasper (Oakleigh Chargers)
Round 13: Mat Walker (Murray Bushrangers)
Round 14: Trent Bianco (Oakleigh Chargers)
Round 15: Riley Baldi (Gippsland Power)

Young leader tackles challenges head-on

WEST Australian, Shannon Whale knows how to deal with fresh challenges. Since starting her football career at Pinjarra Tigers, Whale has played for four local clubs, captaining two of them, and winning two flags in the process. Her story, which includes making the cross-country trek to Victoria in search of improvement – is one of a teenager who has adapted to change. Now, in her top-age year, Whale is hoping all her hard work can pay off with a spot on an AFL Women’s list.

“I started my football down in Pinjarra Tigers,” Whale said. “I ended up being captain for it as well. “We won the premiership, and then the next year I was asked to join Peel Thunderbirds where I played there for that year. “Then we got to the premiership and won that.”

Determined to improve further, the West Australian teenager found an opportunity. It would mean a lot of travel and dedication, but it was an opportunity that was too good to pass up. 

“Mum found a site called Rookie Me and went and I did a bit of training with Rookie Me,” she said. “They moved to Melbourne … and I went there four times a year and then after Peel Thunderbirds, I moved to East Perth just to get away from it a bit. “I played half a year there and then due to family stuff I had to move to South Fremantle which was closer to home, less of a travel. “The next year I went to Rookie Me again, got more training, a lot more. “It helped so much, Robbie Campbell and ‘Goughy’ (Lachlan Gough) and all of them, they’re just so good. “It’s a great thing; Rookie Me is so good.”

Whale is still at South Fremantle this year, but is now captain of the side. She earned a place in the West Australian team for the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, playing an impressive opening game before fracturing a small part in her right wrist early in the second match, ending her carnival. Whale said it was a great experience to play against the most talented players in the country, and enjoyed tackling Vic Metro on Metricon Stadium.

“It was a bit harder because they were a lot taller than us,” she said. “But it was good to compete in something that was so hard. “They put up a good fight, obviously we lost, but not by much (eight points). “It was good to be able to be in it, knowing what the next step is going to be, how hard it’s going to be, but it’s just working towards it and having fun while you do it.”

Whale said the enjoyment she gained out of playing football was something special and always looked forward to going to training.

“It’s just fun,” she said. “Doing something you love every weekend and being able to take it further into a career. “It’s just enjoyable, every part of it’s enjoyable. “I actually love going to training because your friends are there as well and you’re all doing something you love and it’s great.”

The full pathway for young girls to transition into a national competition is something that Whale is glad has arrived and has her even more determined to play at the highest level.

“I’m actually quite happy that it’s come up and it’s still rising because it’s something that I can work towards and hopefully I’ll get in one day,” she said. “It’s just a good thing for all the young girls to start, knowing that there’s something in the end of their career for them to do.”

According to Whale, her coaches have been impressed with her ability to read the play, and position herself in marking situations. She was able to use these strengths when playing in defence at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. But it also gave her a new improvement to focus on.

“I want to get more into it,” Whale said. “At the moment I’m playing backline so I don’t really get much touch of the ball unless it’s down there a lot. “But I’m always working towards trying to keep my player out of it.”

As for her ultimate goal?

“Obviously I want to get drafted into a team, if that doesn’t work then well I want to do something with coaching,” Whale said. “Then help everyone out, all the little kids out.”

Whale returned to South Fremantle in their preliminary final extra time loss to East Fremantle, managing to play the one game since her injury before the end of the season.

Weekend Previews: TAC Cup – Round 15

TAC Cup football is back and with two rounds left, the end of the season is near. For the penultimate round of action there are some big guns back, while others head out to play the Herald Sun Shield Grand Final on the MCG tomorrow.

 

GIPPSLAND POWER v. MURRAY BUSHRANGERS

Round 15 – Saturday, August 18, 10am
MARS Stadium, Ballarat

In the opening game of the round, two top four sides go head-to-head in a season-defining clash for both teams. Gippsland will lock away second spot with a victory, while Murray will need to win to put itself in the best position for a top four position as Oakleigh Chargers sit just two points adrift of the Bushrangers. The Power has only had the two losses this season, with two draws in season 2018 – against Calder Cannons and Northern Knights. It will be a good opportunity for the Power to grab the four points as the Bushrangers have a number of key outs. The side has lost Kyle Clarke and Jacob Koschitzke to injury, as well as Ely Smith to the VFL. The previous two head-to-head clashes between the teams have also gone the way of the Power, winning both by more than seven goals. Gippsland come into the game in good form coming off a victory against the Chargers. With Noah Gown and Fraser Phillips causing headaches up forward, Xavier Duursma in midfield and Kyle Reid in defence, they will be tough to beat. Their bottom-age brigade of Riley Baldi, Josh Smith and Brock Smith among others form a strong group, but Murray is a side that can topple anyone on its day. Hudson Garoni and Jye Chalcraft are always capable to creating scoring opportunities, while Jordon Butts is a very handy inclusion, patrolling the airways and finding plenty of the football. Jimmy Boyer, Willson Mack and Will Chandler are just a handful of talented bottom-agers for the Bushrangers who could have an impact against the Power. Gippsland head into the game as deserving favourites, but you can never write-off the Bushrangers.

 

GEELONG FALCONS v. DANDENONG STINGRAYS

Round 15 – Saturday, August 18, 12.30pm
MARS Stadium, Ballarat

The midfield battle between Geelong Falcons and Dandenong Stingrays is poised to be a battle within a battle. Sam Walsh, Ned McHenry and Oscar Brownless will go head-to-head against the likes of Campbell Hustwaite, Sam Fletcher and Finlay Bayne, while Baxter Mensch and Cooper Stephens rotate through there, as will the likes of Zac Foot and Jamie Plumridge. Dandenong’s advantage has always been in the ruck, with Bailey Schmidt joining Riley Bowman and Bailey Williams between there and the key forward posts. The Falcons are in great form after a big win last round and will love the challenge of testing themselves against the benchmark in this game. For the Stingrays, they’re not in so much good form as they have never been in anything other than good form this season, dropping just the one game – by a kick no less. Now they travel up to MARS Stadium with top spot locked up, and will look to have a good win against the side that knocked the Stingrays out of the finals series last year. Expect this game to be a cracker and the likes of Dane Hollenkamp, Connor Idun and Blake Schlensog to have their work cut out against quality talls, while Brayden Ham continues to impress by hitting the scoreboard on a regular basis. Up the other end, Toby Bedford is sure to cause a few headaches with his tackling pressure and goal nous.

 

GREATER WESTERN VICTORIA REBELS v. BENDIGO PIONEERS

Round 15 – Saturday, August 18, 3pm
MARS Stadium, Ballarat

The final game up in Ballarat is a battle between the country rivals in Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels and Bendigo Pioneers. The teams have played twice, with the head-to-head split one each. The Pioneers won the round one game by a point coming home strongly in the final term, before the Rebels accounted for them in the next clash. With the Herald Sun Shield Grand Final on at the MCG, the GWV Rebels’ depth will be tested, making at least 10 changes to their line-up, losing the likes of Scott Carlin, Matty Lloyd, Lochie Dawson, Josh Chatfield and Izaac Grant among others, while Tom Berry is of course out for the season through injury. For the Pioneers, they have strengthened their line-up massively with the inclusions of bottom-age tall Brodie Kemp, brothers Flynn and Oscar Perez, and the ever-consistent Bailey Henderson. If there was a game the Pioneers would go in as favourites despite being bottom of the ladder, it would be this one. Spectators will get a great indication of the strength of the Rebels’ depth, while also seeing if the Pioneers can utilise their speed and bottom-age talent to get the job done. While Jye Caldwell is still not out on the park, the Pioneers go in with one of their strongest line-ups this season and will back their chances here. GWV Rebels’ forward Charlie Wilson has been named in the middle, with he and Jed Hill the keys to putting scores on the board with so many outs in the team. Mitch Martin showed some great signs in the Under 17 Futures game and has a big opportunity in the midfield here, while Harris Jennings and Ben Annett are others who have shown signs throughout the season this year.

 

WESTERN JETS v. NORTHERN KNIGHTS

Round 15 – Sunday, August 19, 10am
Avalon Airport Oval (Chirnside Park), Werribee

Moving to the Sunday games, two sides in the bottom half of the eight do battle with Western Jets hosting Northern Knights. Captain Xavier O’Halloran will swap Avalon Airport Oval for the MCG when he runs out for St Bernards in the Herald Sun Shield Grand Final. His leadership is a big loss on-field and with Zak Butters out for the year, the Jets will look to their strong inside midfield of Connor Thar, Jack Watkins and Jaden Rice to win the footy at the coal face and distribute to their runners on the outside in Stefan Radovanovic and Daly Andrews. Northern welcomes back its captain Braedyn Gillard after a long-term lay-off due to injury. He is one of a number of crucial inclusions along with Oscar White and Lachlan Potter in defence, and Josh D’Intinosante up forward. Tom Hallebone will be a loss in the ruck, especially against Darren Walters, but the Knights will back themselves in against the Jets’ midfielders with Adam Carafa in good form, and Justin McInerney and Ryan Gardner providing good run on the outside. This is expected to be a great contest and important in the scheme of finals. While the Knights cannot make top four and the Jets need all the luck in the world, positioning in the bottom half of the eight is still important because it determines their opponents in the Wildcard Round. Both sides are well coached, well drilled line-ups so expect a hard fought battle and no-one giving an inch across the four quarters.

 

EASTERN RANGES v. CALDER CANNONS

Round 15 – Sunday, August 19, 12.30pm
Avalon Airport Oval (Chirnside Park), Werribee

In the middle game, Eastern Ranges will be hoping to bring its A-game against a Calder Cannons team that keeps getting the job done each week. The Cannons lose a number of players to the St Bernards team in the Herald Sun Shield Grand Final, but welcome back top 30 draft prospect Rhylee West, forward Josh Kemp and Vic Metro representative Jack Evans among others. Eastern also has a number of inclusions, as Lachlan Stapleton and Caleb Quirk strengthen the side in their bid to upset the Cannons in this clash. Calder’s choice of overagers this year has been very clever with Mitch Podhajski patrolling the midfield, Daniel Hanna strengthening the defence and Jake Riccardi providing a reliable target up forward. Curtis Taylor provides the X-factor up forward and Lucas Cavallaro continues to rebound the ball at will, and are two players Eastern has to keep under wraps. For the Ranges, the midfield of Kye Quirk, Mitch Mellis, Adrian Kalcovski and Stapleton is a consistent core, they just need more out of the next tier. Key defender, James Blanck will have an important role in defence for the Ranges, while Billy McCormack will keep a Cannons defender accountable up the other end. In the earlier match between these two teams, Calder got the job done under lights at RAMS Arena in chilly conditions. With the weather hit and miss this weekend, the Cannons will be hoping for a similar result.

 

OAKLEIGH CHARGERS v. SANDRINGHAM DRAGONS

Round 15 – Sunday, August 19, 3pm
Avalon Airport Oval (Chirnside Park), Werribee

The last game of the round is arguably the best, with everyone looking forward to practically full-strength Oakleigh Chargers and Sandringham Dragons outfits going head-to-head in a battle between two genuine premiership contenders. Earlier in the year prior to his knee injury, Max King had a day out with eight majors against the Chargers at RAMS Arena in the Dragons’ come-from-behind win. This time around, it could be twin brother Ben who will hope to repeat the feat, with Will Kelly playing in defence this time around and a likely opponent for King. The Dragons are still missing captain Bailey Smith to injury, but Liam Stocker, Ryan Byrnes and Darcey Chirgwin is a strong core on the inside, while Alastair Richards and Angus Hanrahan provide good run and skill up either end. Draft watchers will get a first look at Harry Reynolds who makes his debut in Dragons colours, similar to Nathan Murphy last season – rewarded for school football form with a TAC Cup debut. Will Kennedy has been named forward with James Rendell in the ruck which should keep the Chargers’ talls busy. Oakleigh has its own top-end talent and depth which will test the Dragons outfit. Isaac Quaynor, Joe Ayton-Delaney and Trent Bianco is a ridiculously good small defensive trio, while Riley Collier-Dawkins, James Rowbottom, Jack Ross, Will Golds and Matt Rowell in the middle is as strong as it has been all season. They do not have the key position forwards Sandringham do at the top-end, but with Will James coming in from APS football and Dylan Williams and Noah Anderson capable of kicking multiple goals, it is likely to result in an absolute classic.

The run home: Western Jets

WESTERN Jets have had an up-and-down season to date, but still loom as a dark horse in the finals series. They sit sixth, and while they would need both Murray Bushrangers and Oakleigh Chargers to lose both games to finish top four, they have enough about them to secure a top six spot and play a bottom two team in the Wildcard Round. The Jets have looked very good at times, and realistically, the blowout 20-goal loss to Dandenong Stingrays makes their points against look worse than it actually is. Defensively they stand up well, and they rate around where they sit offensively, which makes them unpredictable and good enough to cause headaches for the top sides.

Wins: 8
Losses: 6
Draws: 0
Position: 6th
Points For: 899 (6th)
Points Against: 1001 (9th)
Percentage: 90
Points: 32

Fixtures:

R15: vs. Northern Knights – Avalon Airport Oval
R16: vs. Bendigo Pioneers – Queen Elizabeth Oval

National Combine Invitations: [4] Daly Andrews, Zak Butters, Buku Khamis, Xavier O’Halloran

State Combine Invitations: [1] Stefan Radovanovic

Five players received combine invitations, with the speedy Daly Andrews and Stefan Radovanovic, intercept machine Buku Khamis, and the X-factor in Zak Butters, all earning the right to test at the National and State combines. Along with the quartet, they have consistent midfielders Connor TharJaden Rice and Jack Watkins roaming through the midfield, talls Aaron Clarke and Hamish Murphy up either end, and a host of bottom-agers who have shown enough to suggest they will have plenty of draft potential next year. Steven KyriazisLucas Rocci and Emerson Jeka provide a forward presence, while Darcy Cassar and Josh Honey link between midfield and forward.

Top Fives:

Disposals:

1 – Connor Thar – 355 (1st overall)
2 – Jack Watkins – 284
3 – Darcy Cassar – 239
4 – Jaden Rice – 221
5 – Daly Anderws – 214

Marks:

1 – Darcy Cassar – 58 (eq. 20th overall)
2 – Connor Thar – 53
3 – Buku Khamis – 52
4 – Aaron Clarke – 51
4 – Steven Kyriazis – 51

Contested Possessions:

1 – Jack Watkins – 155 (2nd overall)
2 – Connor Thar – 147 (5th overall)
3 – Jaden Rice – 142 (8th overall)
4 – Xavier O’Halloran – 104
5 – Darcy Cassar – 103

Tackles:

1 – Jack Watkins – 111 (1st overall)
2 – Connor Thar – 77 (6th overall)
3 – Lucas Rocci – 57
4 – Josh Honey – 54
5 – Jaden Rice – 53

Hitouts:

1 – Darren Walters – 285 (2nd overall)
2 – Tom Warner – 59
3 – Aaron Clarke – 58
4 – Ayden Tanner – 31
5 – Emerson Jeka – 15

Clearances:

1 – Jack Watkins – 67 (3rd overall)
2 – Connor Thar – 62 (4th overall)
3 – Xavier O’Halloran – 58 (5th overall)
4 – Jaden Rice – 52
5 – Darren Walters – 28
5 – Zak Butters – 28

Inside 50s:

1 – Xavier O’Halloran – 62 (eq. 1st overall)
2 – Jack Watkins – 50 (9th overall)
3 – Connor Thar – 47
3 – Daly Andrews – 47
5 – Darcy Cassar – 45

Rebounds:

1 – Spencer Johnson – 38 (12th overall)
2 – Hamish Murphy – 37
3 – Jack Papachatzakis – 34
4 – Stefan Radovanovic – 32
5 – Daly Andrews – 30

Goals:

1 – Steven Kyriazis – 16 (eq. 13th overall)
2 – Aaron Clarke – 13
3 – Josh Honey – 12
4 – Daniel Pantalleresco – 9
5 – Darcy Cassar – 8

The run home: Sandringham Dragons

ANYTHING to do with statistical analysis on the Sandringham Dragons this season – or most seasons to this point of the year – is largely irrelevant. The majority of the Dragons list plays school football, making at times as many as 17 changes when it starts or stops, and up to nine or 10 changes each week depending on which school has the bye, and other injuries or omissions. To sit third after 14 rounds ahead of getting their top-end talent back is remarkable. After storming to three wins with a full-strength side, the Dragons dropped the next few games as they tinkered with their line-up. But since then, their form has been as good as any side in the competition, and now they face two genuine premiership contenders in the final two rounds. The Round 16 showdown between the Dragons and Dandenong Stingrays could well be a Grand Final preview, in what will be a fantastic spectacle to watch.

Wins: 10
Losses: 4
Draws: 0
Position: 3rd
Points For: 874 (8th)
Points Against: 976 (8th)
Percentage: 90
Points: 40

Fixtures:

R15: vs. Oakleigh Chargers – Avalon Airport Oval
R16: vs. Dandenong Stingrays – Trevor Barker Beach Oval

National Combine Invitations: [7] Joel Crocker, Angus Hanrahan, Will Kennedy, Ben King, Max King, Bailey Smith, Liam Stocker

State Combine Invitations: [4] Harry Houlahan, James Rendell, Harry Reynolds, Alastair Richards

Sandringham had the second most invitees of any side to the National Combine, receiving an impressive seven invitations. Given two of them have been injured practically the entire year – Joel Crocker (since last year’s finals) and Max King (first round of school football) – it shows the quality that could have been in this finals series coming up. With Ben King and Bailey Smith linking up, and the likes of Liam Stocker on the inside and Angus Hanrahan on the outside, the Dragons pose a huge threat to any side hoping to claim the flag this year. Will Kennedy and James Rendell are strong bookends, while Harry Houlahan and Alastair Richards have proven to be handy this season. We will get a much better idea of where the Dragons sit in the next two weeks with wholesale changes returning to the line-up for Sunday’s game.

Top Fives:

Disposals:

1 – Liam Stocker – 216 (43rd overall)
2 – Nicholas Stamatis – 189
3 – Ryan Byrnes – 176
4 – Corey Watts – 168
5 – Kai Owens – 162

Marks:

1 – Corey Watts – 55 (21st overall)
2 – Nicholas Stamatis – 35
2 – James Rendell – 35
4 – Kai Owens – 33
5 – Liam Stocker – 32
5 – Will Kennedy – 32

Contested Possessions:

1 – Liam Stocker – 115 (18th overall)
2 – Ryan Byrnes – 95
3 – Kai Owens – 68
4 – James Rendell – 67
5 – Nicholas Stamatis – 58

Tackles:

1 – Kai Owens – 51 (eq. 31st overall)
2 – Dawit McNeish – 50
3 – Liam Stocker – 49
4 – Ryan Byrnes – 44
5 – James Rendell – 41

Hitouts:

1 – Andrew Courtney – 183 (6th overall)
2 – James Rendell – 104
3 – Joe Griffiths – 99
4 – Ethan Casey – 69
5 – Fischer McAsey – 28

Clearances:

1 – Liam Stocker – 52 (eq. 12th overall)
2 – Ryan Byrnes – 33
3 – Kai Owens – 30
4 – Bailey Smith – 23
5 – Dawit McNeish – 22

Inside 50s:

1 – Liam Stocker – 53 (7th overall)
2 – Alastair Richards – 38
3 – James Rendell – 30
3 – Nicholas Stamatis – 30
5 – Ryan Byrnes – 27

Rebounds:

1 – Corey Watts – 36 (eq. 15th overall)
2 – Liam Stocker – 21
2 – Jackson Voss – 21
4 – Nicholas Stamatis – 19
4 – Miles Bergman – 19

Goals:

1 – James Rendell – 12 (eq. 25th overall)
2 – Nicholas Stamatis – 8
2 – Harry Bede – 8
2 – Max King – 8
5 – Jack Denborough – 7

WAWFL weekly wrap: Semi-finals

SUBIACO has knocked off the reigning premiers and sent them packing, while advancing to the preliminary final themselves to take on Peel Thunderbirds. Minor premiers, East Fremantle moved on to book a spot in the decider and await the winner of the preliminary final.

 

WAWFL:

SWAN DISTRICTS 1.2  | 1.2 | 4.3 | 4.8 (32)
SUBIACO 3.0 | 5.0 | 8.1 | 9.2 (56)

GOALS:

Swan Districts: A. Sharp 2, R. Williams, E. McGuire
Subiaco: A. Lavell 4, L. Filocamo, M. Dowrick, T. Lake, C. Stubbs, L. Jeffers.

Subiaco took it up to the third-placed Swan Districts side early and made a statement against its highly fancied opponents, booting 5.0 to 1.2 in the opening half to hold a 22-point advantage at the main break. Swan Districts hit back in the third term with three goals, including a clever couple of pieces of play from Rhonda Williams and Emily McGuire to keep the home side in it, but it was still a 22-point deficit at the final change after another late goal to the Lions. Subiaco then booted the only goal of the final term, with Swan Districts ruing missed opportunities – booting five behinds for the game to go down by 24 points. Amy Lavell booted four majors for the winners, while Lara Filocamo and McKenzie Dowrick each got on the scoreboard and were among the best on the day. Ashley Sharp finished with two majors for the losing side. Now Subiaco heads to the preliminary final to face Peel Thunderbirds, while last year’s premiers are now out of the flag race.

 

EAST FREMANTLE 4.4 | 7.5 | 9.9 | 12.11 (83)
PEEL THUNDERBIRDS 0.0 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 3.3 (21)

GOALS:

East Fremantle: J. de Melo 4, B. Smith 2, K. Sprlyan 2, R. Roux, A. Atkins, C. Edwards, G. O”Sullivan.
Peel Thunderbirds: K. Phillips, E. Hardie, B. Molloy

East Fremantle advanced to the 2018 WAWFL Grand Final after a stunning win over Peel Thunderbirds in the semi-final. Despite the Thunderbirds holding the X-factor goalscoring machine in Kira Phillips, it took until late in the second term for Phillips to nail her first, and by then, the Sharks had piled on seven majors and led by 40 points. Their dominance continued after half-time, booting five goals to two – both of which came in the last term. Jade de Melo booted four goals to be the dominant goal kicker on the ground, while Belinda Smith and Kahra Sprlyan managed two majors each. Teenager, Roxanne Roux and former Collingwood AFL Women’s player Caitlyn Edwards both hit the scoreboard in the big win. For Peel. Ebonee Hardie and Bailey Molloy booted late goals to join Phillips as the only goal kickers on the day for the Thunderbirds. Now Peel heads into a do-or-die preliminary final with Subiaco.

 

Reserves:

Swan Districts 3.3 (21) defeated by East Fremantle 7.6 (48)
Peel Thunderbirds 2.1 (13) defeated by Claremont 9.15 (69)

A six-goal haul to Stephanie Sparke has handed East Fremantle a fantastic 27-point win to keep its premiership hopes alive. The Sharks defeated Swan Districts after a three goals to one final term meant that the visitors were too good for the third-placed side, led by Sparke’s fantastic effort up forward. Claremont peppered the goals, but proved too strong for minor premiers Peel Thunderbirds, booting nine goals from 24 scoring shots on their way to a 56-point win. Amber Ugle-Hagan booted three goals for the winners, while Holly Cattermole finished with two majors to see Claremont advance through to the Grand Final.

 

Rogers Cup:

East Fremantle 3.4 (22) defeated Swan Districts 3.3 (21)
Peel Thunderbirds 6.9 (45) defeated South Fremantle 0.2 (2)

East Fremantle has survived a huge scare to remain alive in the 2018 finals series, defeating Swan Districts by a solitary point in the do-or-die semi-final clash. Trailing at half-time, the Sharks booted two of the three second half goals to get over the top of Swan Districts to face South Fremantle next week. In the other game, Peel Thunderbirds overcame a tight first half to boot four second half goals and record a 43-point win and book a spot in the Rogers Cup Grand Final. Leading by just 14 points at half-time and 20 at the final break, the Thunderbirds showed why they were the premiership favourites, booting three goals in the last stanza to win comfortably.

Lifelong footballer Szigeti edges closer to AFLW dream

WHEN Lauren Szigeti ran out on a football field for the first time, there was no elite pathway for women in Australian Rules. Unlike many contemporaries, the fact there was no national competition did not douse her desire to get the best out of herself. In fact, she grabbed every opportunity she could, playing all through her teenage years and now, in her top-age season, won a club best and fairest and earned state representation – a fitting honour for someone who never stopped believing.

“I started back in Auskick when I was probably about five or six and then just got into that through my brother playing footy and my dad as well,” Szigeti said. “Then I played juniors with the boys until I was 13 or 14 and then went to girls footy and then went from there.”

Szigeti had dipped into a number of different sports in her young life, but believed the close bond you share with your teammates in an Aussie Rules team trumps anything else.

“I just love the culture,” Szigeti said. “I’ve played basketball and tennis, I’ve played a lot of that when I was younger, but I always loved footy the most. “Just the environment, friendships that you make and I feel like you make a real special connection with the girls in your team and I’ve loved that.”

The Eastern Ranges defender enjoys the challenges of playing at half-back, because she gets to balance between “attacking a bit” and defending. Szigeti said her skills and game-related attributes were among her strengths, having played for all her life, while her aerobic fitness was something she was keen to build. She ensured she worked closely with those Ranges girls who crossed from other codes to help improve each other.

“I guess I sort of go to those girls because they’re always the real athletic ones,” Szigeti said. “So I go to them for that side of things, but they come to me to be able to read the game and things like that. “I do have that experience, so I enjoy helping in that way.”

Szigeti said the depth of talent at not only TAC Cup Girls level, but across the entire region was noticeable, even in the short time she had been involved in the eastern region programs.

“I can’t put into words how much I reckon it’s lifted, even since last year,” Szigeti said. “It’s just crazy, the overall standard has just raised heaps. “Even just the under 15s interleague before. “Just thinking back when I was 15, playing interleague. “Their level is just so much higher than what we were, it’s just awesome.”

It is no surprise the talented Ranges leader had a big top-age year, earning selection for Vic Metro and playing against some of the nation’s top players on the Gold Coast, as well as taking out the Eastern Ranges best and fairest award.

“It (getting selected for Vic Metro) was incredible,” Szigeti said. “You kind of have it in the back of your head throughout the season, it was such a relief to finally get that letter. “To not always have that lingering, it was awesome.”

Szigeti said she was disappointed when the TAC Cup Girls season came to an end after everything the team had gone through together week-in, week-out.

“(I) loved it,” she said. “Absolutely loved it. “I’m so sad that it’s done. “I always loved coming to training every week, playing the games. “We’ve got a real good group of girls, we made all good connections.”

Since finishing up at Eastern, Szigeti has been working hard with Darebin Falcons in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s, having already played a handful of games this season.

“I know a few girls there and obviously it’s a real successful club with a really good culture,” Szigeti said.

She almost had the opportunity to play against Ranges’ teammates Emerson Woods and Sarah Kendall when the Falcons clashed with Hawthorn, but just missed out as an emergency. Szigeti said prior to the season it would be an interesting challenge to face-off against some of her close friends.

“It would be pretty funny,” she said. “We talked about it a couple of times how we might end up coming up against each other. “It would be pretty weird, after becoming so close here, but would be good fun.”

Like most top-age TAC Cup Girls, Szigeti has had to find the balance between her sport and studies. She said she has used football as a way of taking a mental break from the book work.

“I’m in Year 12 so I’ve got school and then training here and now for VFL and then going to the gym and stuff, usually I’ve got something on everyday,” Szigeti said. “It’s just finding that balance between sport and school. But I kind of use sport as a release from school but I enjoy having a lot of things on, because it gets you to smash out your work quickly.”

For Szigeti, playing AFL was a dream when it “didn’t even exist” so it was always her “number one long-term goal”. She said she cannot believe how much women’s football has grown in recent years and how close she could be to her dream, should it come true.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “It’s crazy how far it’s come. “Knowing how it actually is a real thing that could happen in the next six months. “It’s really exciting, a bit scary, but it’s exciting.”