Category: TAC Cup Girls

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.”

AFLW dream burning bright for DeGiacomi

A LATECOMER to the sport, Geelong Falcons’ key forward Sachi DeGiacomi has come a long way in a few years since taking up Aussie Rules, and now she cannot let it go.

“I started football in Year 9,” she said. “When one of my friends asked me to come play at a club and originally my parents said no, but then they finally let me play. “So I started for a bit of fun. “Then after about four weeks of playing, I got chosen to play interleague and then I’ve just taken  footy a bit more serious from then.”

DeGiacomi said she was not exactly sure how she made her way to the Falcons – no doubt found through her performances at a local level – but she is glad she did. DeGiacomi spoke of overcoming adversity and growing stronger as a group to propel themselves into the grand final, and take out the premiership on the back of an unbeaten year.

“I think that last year we faced a lot of hurdles together I guess you could say,” she said. “It definitely brought us closer as a team and it’s given us a lot of motivation to do well. “I’ve loved every minute of it, it’s been just a great experience. “Especially the girls. “They’re the best group of girls this year, and last year as well.”

The centre-half forward became a mainstay in the Falcons forward line, occasionally pushing up the ground, but became the main target inside 50. Her efforts throughout the year earned her the Leading Goalkicker Award, something she is proud to win.

“It was a pretty good feeling to win the leading goal kicker,” DeGiacomi said. “It was alright that I could help get score on the board for the team.”

But it was the other award she won – Amy Gorell #30 Award – that she cherished the most. The award was established this year after Amy Gorell, a Falcon last year was tragically killed in a car accident last year. It was to be awarded to a top-age player who demonstrates the behaviours that Gorell displayed as a player and leader of the Geelong Falcons: Commitment to the team’s success; relentless in their pursuit to getting the best out of themselves; lead by example on and off the field; positively add to the team’s culture; and constantly look for ways to improve as a player and leader.

“I’m so privileged to be able to be the first person to win that award,” DeGiacomi said. “To know that the coaches see the same characteristics in me as they saw in Amy as a player, makes me extremely humbled. “I also want to say thanks to the Gorell family for sharing the award with us, and have that, because it’s a really great way to honour Amy.”

DeGiacomi said through the tragedy, the group had grown stronger and formed a close bond throughout 2018.

“Yeah definitely (it made us closer), you could tell the way we played together this year,” she said. “We definitely played like we cared for each other and I guess that really came to show in all the wins, and us taking out the premiership as well. “The big situation brought us all together and made us appreciate each other.”

For DeGiacomi, she missed out on making Vic Country’s squad for the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, but it has not slowed her desire to make the most of her football career at the highest possible level.

“Yeah I’d love to keep taking my footy further and hopefully play a few more games in the VFL, or hopefully look to play AFL in the next couple of years,” DeGiacomi said.

The Geelong Falcons forward has been pleased with her contested marking and goalkicking ability in 2018, focusing on building her confidence and improving her decision making this season. DeGiacomi said she felt her development has not only come on the field, but off the field as well thanks to the club’s development staff.

“Yeah heaps of development,” she said. “I think just even just as a person. I think Jason (Armistead, TAC Cup Girls coach) focused on building us as a person, not just as a footballer. “I guess that really helped just with every day life. “I thought I really developed as a footballer as well.”

The Year 12 student has also been carefully balancing her workload, able to focus on her studies now the football season is coming to a close.

“It’s been alright (the workload),” DeGiacomi said. “The Falcons was more towards the start of the year, so now that footy has backed off a little bit, I can focus more on school towards the end of the year, and exams and stuff like that.”

DeGiacomi said her passion in sport transcended her on-field exploits and she hoped to get into the sporting industry and give back to the sport that she loved.

“I’d love just anything in sport really,” she said. “I did gymnastics for 12 years outside of footy and played basketball and I’d probably like to be a physio at a footy club once I finish playing footy.”

It might have seemed like an impossible career when she was young, but now her sights are firmly set on making the AFL Women’s in the future.

“I’ve always been supporting footy with my dad and always thought it would be great to play,” DeGiacomi said. “But I never even really played at a local level so once I started doing that in Year 9, and then I started to take footy seriously. “I think it was maybe a few years ago when all the talk of the AFL Women’s league came about, I thought that it would actually be possible and then I really aspired to do it.”

Humble O’Connor learns a lot from her football opportunities

NORTHERN Knights ruck, Neve O’Connor did not think she would be a part of the TAC Cup Girls program. Nor did she think she would be selected for Vic Metro.

The 18 year-old ticked both those boxes this year and is enjoying learning about Australian Rules through these opportunities. Before she played at the Knights, O’Connor was selected to play for the Calder Cannons, which kick-started her positive football experience.

“I first started at Calder Cannons when I was a youth before there was TAC,” she said. “I didn’t think that would happen (getting selected for Calder). “It was really good and definitely a great experience, and playing two seasons at the Knights has been amazing for my development and it’s just such a good culture. “I’ve learnt so much about my footy.”

O’Connor has continued to learn about her own game at the Northern Knights, but has also benefited from learning about her teammates’ style of football. Despite being one of the older players at the club, the 18 year-old says she has learned just as much off the younger players at the Knights and sees a bright future ahead for them.

“A few times at training, they’d (younger players) show me up and I would just kind of sit back and say ‘woah’,” O’Connor admitted. “Especially Ellie McKenzie, I wonder what she’ll be like in a couple of years. “I just think it was really great to see that we had depth for the future, I can’t wait to see where they go.”

Combining older and younger talent has been very beneficial for the Knights, who reached the maiden TAC Cup Girls Grand Final. Although they fell short to the Geelong Falcons, O’Connor says she is extremely proud of the achievement of getting to the big stage.

“To be in the Grand Final was phenomenal and to lose by a pretty small amount was pretty annoying,” she said. “But I’m still so proud of the fact that we had such a young team and we went really well against a developing natural team like Geelong.”

O’Connor is not surprised that her side made the Grand Final, as she sensed good things from her teammates just from training with them.

“I knew from the start that we had a really good team,” she said. “When the girls trained, we all bonded really quickly and worked pretty well together.”

Although she is focused on football now, O’Connor’s childhood consisted of many sports. As a junior, she participated in basketball, dancing, cricket and also trampolining. But when she stumbled across football, it was hard for her to look back, as she enjoyed the sport immediately.

“I first started (playing football) when I was 14,” the 18 year-old said. “I played basketball and a mix of other sports. “Then I played footy in PE (Physical Education) for two weeks. “My coach was starting a girls team and he sent me down there.”

Little did she know that four years later, she would be selected to represent her state. O’Connor met the opportunity with emotion, and was very grateful to have received the coveted invite to play for Vic Metro.

“It was such a relief, this season especially, because there were a lot of excellent rucks in the competition,” she said. “When I got the letter, I did cry a little. “I was so relieved to just get it. “I teared up, I couldn’t help it.”

Currently in Year 12, O’Connor’s career path is different to some other Under 18 players, but she shares the same focus with them.

“I think I’ll be taking a gap year to get out of school and try something new,” she said. “I’ll definitely be pursuing footy and see how I go. “Next year would be great but I’ll take each week as it comes and that sort of thing.”

Father’s influence inspired Jemma Owen’s love for Aussie Rules

BEING the daughter of a man that has played and coached over 500 games in Melbourne’s south east region is no easy feat to live up to.

Throw in an uncle who is a former Victorian Football Association (VFA) player for Oakleigh, and you have one talented football family. But perhaps the most talented of them all is Sandringham Dragons captain, Jemma Owen.

Owen’s name became well-known when she booted a bag of 16 goals for her local team, Highett, and since that moment, has grown in leaps and bounds. The 18 year-old credits her improvement to the dedication of her late father, Kevin.

“So I got into footy through my dad,” Owen said. “My dad coached and played over 500 games. “Just going down to the ground with him and watching the boys play, I was like that’s what I want to do when I grow up, I want to play footy.”

Owen first picked up a football in a competitive environment at Auskick, where many TAC Cup Girls players discovered their love for the game. After playing with the boys for many years, the Sandringham skipper grasped the rising opportunities for females at the time, and reflected on how the pathway has grown over the years.

“Definitely coming through the ranks and going through Auskick and everything to playing with the boys, they’re kind of like oh there’s a girl!,” Owen said. “Now seeing that there’s so many girls playing and having the opportunity to come through is really great.”

Before she started to take her opportunities in football, Owen did athletics for 11 years. She competed in discus and loved playing that sport, as well as many other sports, but football was always in the back of her mind.

“I wanted to do every sport under the sun,” Owen said. “Athletics was always there and I wasn’t bad at it, my thing was discus. “Obviously as I got older, the body started to get bigger and I was still small, and so I couldn’t compete at that level so definitely footy was the big thing for me.”

This year, Owen has been able to grasp an opportunity that not many players get to have. After four years playing in Dragons colours, she led the side in 2018 and was thrilled to do so.

“I’m very honoured to be picked as captain,” Owen said. “I’ve been playing with Sandringham for four years and finally getting the chance to captain them and playing under awesome captains is definitely a proud moment for me and definitely one I’ll remember.”

Another memorable moment for Owen came this year when she was selected in Vic Metro’s AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships squad. Owen featured in Metro’s match against Vic Country at GMHBA Stadium and was just glad to be selected in the first place.

“It’s definitely a massive honour (being selected),” the Dragons captain said. “I’ve probably worked for four years to have this opportunity and to be selected to play. “It’s an amazing opportunity and something I’ve wished for for a long time.”

The hard work has paid off as Owen is now a member of the Southern Saints’ Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s team. The 18 year-old has played six games for the Saints this season and has thoroughly enjoyed the transition to VFLW.

“It’s been an awesome opportunity,” Owen said. “The girls down there have been really great. “They’re really supportive of the TAC girls coming down. “It’s been an awesome opportunity to play at that elite level.”

Passionate McLaren leads by example in football journey

PERSEVERANCE and grasping opportunities have helped Oakleigh Chargers captain, Hannah McLaren reach the highest level of her junior football career. From somewhat sulking on the sidelines at Auskick, to leading the TAC Cup Girls side out each week, McLaren is a player who has grown throughout her football journey.

“I started playing Auskick,” she said. “I used to stand on the sidelines and watch my brother and I was so jealous. “Mum used to give me a sausage just to make me be quiet. “But I said to her ‘I want to be out there’ so I started playing Auskick with him and then all through juniors we played together and then finally it got to the stage I couldn’t play anymore and I was devastated. “Then finally my club got a girls team together so I was lucky enough to be able to play with Surrey Park for a couple of years.”

McLaren recalls the moment she joined the Chargers.

“I actually got a call from Luke (O’Shannessy, Oakleigh Chargers Girls coach) and he said ‘we’d like to have you on our list’ and I said ‘that sounds like a great opportunity to grow as a person, grow as a footballer’ and that’s how it all started really,” she said. “I’ve loved it (captaining). “It was a good opportunity to grow as a leader, as a person, I found it coming into this year I was a bit nervous, but yeah really settled down and was able to lead the girls out for the nine games.”

Her performances throughout the TAC Cup Girls season warranted selection in the Vic Metro squad, earning her place in the final 24-player side which travelled to the Gold Coast for the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, something she was looking forward to in the lead-up to the championships.

“It does mean a lot (Vic Metro selection),” she said. “I’m very excited. “The group of girls we’ve got this year is absolutely fantastic. I think we will do really well this year. Hopefully we will just keep ticking by the training sessions and see how it all goes.”

McLaren credits her parents for giving her the opportunities to play at the level she does.

“Really I wouldn’t be able to play footy without my parents, you know Mum drives me absolutely everywhere just to play the game I love,” McLaren said. “Dad (Scott McLaren, AFL umpire) watching him growing up, I always loved watching him on the MCG umpiring. “It is a bit different playing, but I always had that goal to be at that elite level.”

While when she was younger the pathway was not what it is today, McLaren always aspired to play at the highest level.

“(I’ve) always had footy there,” McLaren said. “I’ve played it constantly through my junior years so it’s only now that the opportunity can arise. “For girls now my age and younger, have all got that to aspire to in the future.”

McLaren has also noticed the clear rise in quality in the TAC Cup Girls competition as players improve and clubs build depth in the ranks.

“Yeah absolutely, the standard the TAC lifted a lot this year,” McLaren said. “I think from where it was last year, it’s higher intensity, it’s a lot faster and the talent is growing just incredibly.”

Right now McLaren is focusing on her studies as she comes to the end of her 13-year school journey.

“I am studying Year 12 at the moment, so it’s a good balance between the two,” McLaren said. “I am looking to study at university next year, hopefully paramedicine or nursing, so that’s a little goal of mine, but it’s obviously a little difficult to balance the two, but I do think having footy there does keep me on top of my school work.”

A member of Collingwood’s Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side, McLaren has already tasted senior action early in the year and is looking forward to more.

“It was really good, I absolutely loved it,” she said. “It was good intensity and the group at Collingwood they really get around the new girls so it was really good.”

Country girl Caris passing on lessons from “amazing experiences”

WHEN the siren sounded at the end of last year’s Herald Sun Shield Grand Final, Ballarat Grammar’s Rene Caris joined her teammates in rejoicing the win. It was not just a one-point victory, it was the result of many years of hard work and a close bond between the players.

“I first started when I moved away to boarding school in Year 10 and then a few of us all us boarders from farms in the country, we all just decided to start playing footy,” Caris said. “So we just joined the footy team at school, it wasn’t very high standard or anything but we just did it for a bit of fun. “When we were in Year 12 and we worked for three years to win the Herald Sun Shield and I was with all my best friends that I’d been in the boarding house with, and we ended up winning that game by a point – that was probably one of my most favourite experiences.”

Hailing from Quantong, a small town 15km west of Horsham, Caris knows the challenges associated with living in a rural area more than most.

“I did Auskick as a kid obviously,” she said. “Dad was the coach so I went along to that, but kind of stopped when I was about 12 I think. “You couldn’t obviously play girls footy past 14 so obviously that limits a lot of opportunities but yeah moving to Ballarat was the next best step I think so now I’ve eventually moved to Melbourne and there’s even more opportunities there.”

Caris is using the experience of playing with the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels, Vic Country and the AFL Women’s Academy to help teach others how to improve and play to their full potential.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” Caris said. “I’ve learnt so much and I think it’s just great how us three girls from the Academy (Caris, Sophie Van De Heuvel and Georgia Clarke) can learn stuff at such a high level and teach these girls when we come back. “Even take it even further back when we go back to our clubs at home, like in Horsham. “So I feel like the word about playing girls footy has spread out a bit which is good.”

The strength in girls football is improving rapidly, and Caris cannot help but smile at how many aspiring female footballers are taking up the sport at her home club.

“Yeah definitely (it’s improving),” Caris said. “Last year I was part of Horsham girls. “Horsham Saints had a team, and you can already see how much the girls love it, they want to play, but there just really isn’t much of an opportunity and now there is. “There’s so many little Year 7s running around, it’s amazing.”

Caris is an athletic ruck who has stood out since returning from a back injury that kept her out of the early games in the TAC Cup Girls season. She played for the AFL Women’s Academy against Geelong Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side at GMHBA Stadium, and represents Carlton in the same league.

The 19 year-old recalls her first training session at Ikon Park.

“It will be incredible (playing for Carlton),” she said. “Just been at the trainings, I was already star-struck with Darcy Vescio being my training partner in the warm-up. It’s going to be incredible to learn from these girls.”

After a successful stint as Vic Country’s ruck at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, and showing off her versatility around the ground, Caris is hoping to finish the year on a high and improve her strength and marking, something she admits will come “hand-in-hand”.

With height and athleticism at a premium in the AFL Women’s, like every talented Victorian representative, everyone will be keeping a close eye on the country girl who is turning heads in the big smoke.

From “definitely not” interested in footy; Woods eyes off an AFLW career

FROM never intending to play football at all let alone at the highest level, Eastern Ranges co-captain Emerson Woods has certainly changed her tune of the past couple of years, going from strength to strength. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Woods found her love for the game after a while and now her sights are firmly set on achieving the AFL Women’s dream.

“No definitely not (always wanting to play Australian rules),” Woods said. “I didn’t really have any intentions of playing footy at all, it’s probably I didn’t really think about it playing it at Mount Evelyn. “But as soon as I got up in the ranks and playing at Eastern Ranges I thought it could be something to work towards.”

Having started out at Mount Evelyn and playing there a couple of seasons, Woods was just enjoying getting used to the sport, then things ramped up.

“Obviously I wasn’t expecting much from just playing local,” Woods said. “Obviously i was just there for a bit of fun but everything came on top of each other. “Eastern Ranges and Vic and everything. “It was pretty full on and pretty fun.”

Woods represented Vic Metro at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, something she has cherished having played alongside so many talented players.

“It’s been really good obviously getting to know the girls and getting to play against them,” she said. “They are some of the best talent in the state, it’s been amazing playing with them.”

Woods said her athletic ability – her endurance, speed and agility – have helped her adapt faster to the increasing pace of the game. She also identifies her kicking and fundamental skills as the biggest focus for her improvement. The midfielder-forward has embraced everything that football has given to her and she now feels involved in the community as well as the club.

“The community, the club, everyone’s super nice,” she said. “You can really get to know heaps of people, it’s not just about the sport, it’s about the community around you and the people you get to know as well.”

Representing the AFL Women’s Academy against the Geelong Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s side at GMHBA Stadium was a surreal experience, much like her call-up to Hawthorn’s VFL Women’s team.

“It’s (Hawthorn call-up) pretty amazing,” Woods said. “It feels a bit surreal, but I’m really excited to get out there with them. “It was a really good experience, obviously first time playing against women, great to get to know the feel of the bodies and what I have to come up against in the future playing at Hawthorn.”

Her workload has also been a challenge, juggling between school and football, at one stage having five SACs in the week following Vic Metro training on the Sunday. Woods is also still unsure of a career path just yet, purely focusing on getting through her final year of schooling.

But has the player who had no interest in playing football at the highest level changed her mind?

“Yeah definitely,” she said. “I’m working towards it (being drafted), it’s a long road ahead still but I think there’s a lot of opportunities out there for me.”

Thirty-six invited to AFL Women’s Draft Combine

THE next wave of AFL Women’s talent will strut their stuff at Etihad Stadium in October after the 10 AFLW clubs selected the players for the AFL Women’s Draft Combine. Thirty-six players were selected from across Australia, with Victoria unsurprisingly having 22 invited – 12 from Vic Country and 10 from Vic Metro. Western Australia and Queensland both had three players picked to test, while New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania all had two nominees. Australian Capital Territory’s Alexia Hamilton and Northern Territory’s Danielle Ponter were the sole nominees from their respective states.

Of the Victorian nominees, Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels had four invited – Rene Caris, Georgia Clarke, Sophie Van De Heuvel and Lauren Butler – ahead of Eastern Ranges, Oakleigh Chargers and Geelong Falcons who both had three. Of the other states, Tasmanian twins Chloe and Libby Haines will be at Etihad, as will South Australian duo, midfielder, Nikki Gore and forward Katelyn Rosenzweig. New South Wales’ duo Brianna McFarlane and Alyce Parker will represent their state, while Lauren Bella, Nat Grider and Jacqui Yorston will be there for Queensland. Western Australia’s trio of McKenzie Dowrick, Sabreena Duffy and Jasmin Stewart have also been invited. The only two over-age players invited are Caris and Stewart. Potential top picks Madison Prespakis, Nina Morrison and Tyla Hanks are also set to test at the combine.

The AFL Women’s Combine will be held at Etihad Stadium from October 2-3.

ACT: (1)

Alexia Hamilton (Belconnen Magpies)                           

NSW: (2)

Brianna McFarlane (Coolangatta)
Alyce Parker (Thurgoona)

NT: (1)

Danielle Ponter (St Mary’s)                                             

QLD: (3)

Lauren Bella (Bond University)
Nat Grider (University of QLD)
Jacqui Yorston (Wilston Grange)    

SA: (2) 

Nikki Gore (South Adelaide)
Katelyn Rosenzweig (Central District)       

TAS: (2)

Chloe Haines (Burnie)
Libby Haines (Burnie) 

VIC COUNTRY: (12)

Jordyn Allen (Dandenong Stingrays)
Lauren Butler (GWV Rebels)
Georgia Clarke (GWV Rebels)
Rene Caris (GWV Rebels)
Tyla Hanks (Gippsland Power)
Julia Harvey (Murray Bushrangers)
Courtney Jones (Dandenong Stingrays)
Nina Morrison (Geelong Falcons)
Olivia Purcell (Geelong Falcons)
Denby Taylor (Geelong Falcons)
Sophie Van De Heuvel (GWV Rebels)
Rebecca Webster (Murray Bushrangers)

VIC METRO: (10)

Daisy Bateman (Oakleigh Chargers)
Madeline Brancatisano (Northern Knights)
Eleanor Brown (Sandringham Dragons)
Mikala Cann (Eastern Ranges)
Katie Lynch (Oakleigh Chargers)
Abbie McKay (Sandringham Dragons)
Hannah McLaren (Oakleigh Chargers)
Madison Prespakis (Calder Cannons)
Charlotte Wilson (Eastern Ranges)
Emerson Woods (Eastern Ranges)  

WA: (3)

McKenzie Dowrick (Subiaco)
Sabreena Duffy (Peel Thunderbirds)
Jasmin Stewart (Claremont)      

Raw ruck talent learns to juggle workload

FINDING diamonds in the rough are what every recruiter and talent manager looks for, and if Geelong’s VFL Women’s and Geelong Falcons’ trial days are anything to go by, they are finding plenty of future footballers. For ruck Zoe Inei, it was about swapping the round ball for it’s oblong counterpart.

“I played soccer for six years and then I went to the VFL Cats Women’s Trial Day and then from that I just got into it for a bit of fun with one of my friends from school,” she said. From that (Trial Day), [Geelong Falcons Female Talent Manager] Katie (Geerings) came up to me and asked if I wanted to play and was talking to me a bit about the soccer. “Then I got an email asking if I wanted to play Falcons, so that was my first season and then I played local last season and now I’ve played my second season of Falcons.”

In 2018, Inei has been a key contributor to the Falcons’ outfit, providing a strong presence around the ruck contests, but also covering the ground with her athletic nature on show. Having had the extra season under her belt, Inei is feeling more comfortable playing at the level.

“It’s been really good.,” Inei said. “It’s very good because it’s longer, last season was five weeks and now it’s nine. “So it’s been really good just so we can have extra time with the other girls, and the coaching has been really good as well, the team’s really fun.”

A raw talent with plenty of improvement left, Inei said she knew there was plenty to work on, and she was striving towards becoming the best possible player she could be.

“I think (what I’m) looking to improve on is just a bit more skills and bit more speed and decision making with the skills,” she said. “Then I think a strength of mine is more encouraging my teammates and going hard at it.”

Her decision making and balancing is something she has had to get better at, as the workload between school and football increases and she learns how to deal with everything thrown her way.

“It’s alright because I have quite a few spares at school so I get most of my stuff done at school,” Inei said. “It’s good because I just come to footy and I just squish in whatever else around other times.”

Still unsure of what she wants to do as a career pathway, she knows where she wants to go with her football.

“Well so far, I just know after that (Vic Country representation) finishes I’ll be going to play local Under 18s comp and from there I’ll just see what happens,” she said.

Her dream is to play AFL Women’s like so many others, and she has been building a nice resume in the process as she looks to become as versatile as possible.

“So I have been playing ruck mostly,” she said. “But this season Jason (Armistead, Geelong Falcons Girls coach) has been putting me forward for a rest. “That’s been good, I’m happy to just go wherever they want.”

Now Inei will focus on finishing off the year and hopefully chasing that dream she has followed since she jumped codes.

Football wins over netball convert Rendelmann

CALDER Cannons ruck Carla Rendelmann might have always seen netball as her number one sport, but when the opportunity arose to join her family in Australian Rules, she jumped at the opportunity. She has not stopped jumping since, playing a vital role in the ruck for the Cannons in the TAC Cup Girls and Vic Metro in the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships.

“My brothers always played, and dad was in the VFL,” she said. “So I began in the first Aberfeldie Football Club girls team probably three years ago and that’s pretty much where I started. “After the first year of playing footy I got scouted to Cannons and I played last year with them and I was lucky enough to be invited back this year.”

After the Calder Cannons finished unbeaten on top of the TAC Cup Girls ladder in 2017, they dropped back to the pack, with plenty of younger prospects shining through setting them up for future years.

“I throughly enjoyed both years,” she said. “Last year we obviously came up on top. “This year was a little different, having a lot of girls bottom-aged but it was all just about development and having the opportunity to be their role model so it was a lot different, but really exciting.”

Rendelmann supported the longer season because she had more time to develop and more time spent with her teammates.

“I enjoyed it,” Rendelmann said. “I think every week personally I developed a lot better. “I was just playing good football and it was good to see the team coming together every week.”

She admits the initial jump to the TAC Cup Girls last season caught her off guard, but by 2018, she was settled into the pace and standard of the competition.

“I think definitely I took a step back and it was like just a jump for me,” Rendelmann admitted. “But this year I’m actually going and impacting the contest and being able to actually make a difference in the game which has just really helped.”

Rendelmann was picked among the 24-player squad to head to the Gold Coast, playing two games and performing well in the ruck.

“I’m loving it,” she said pre-AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. “I’m loving having this opportunity this year and I can’t wait to see what I can bring to the team. “Hopefully if I make the Gold Coast squad, I can’t wait to show what I have and show how much I’ve developed throughout the season. “I just hope I come out on top.”

She ticked that box and continues to tick boxes at senior level, juggling a challenging workload between school and football.

“I’m in Year 12 at the moment so I have a lot of school work,” Rendelmann said. “I have Essendon VFLW training twice a week and I also head down to my local club and help them out and obviously I have my own gym sessions and kicking the footy with my dad so it’s pretty full on every week. “Then trying to balance school with it all, so it’s just finding that balance and just working it out.”

Rendelmann has been pleased with her output in her preferred position of ruck, seeing her competitiveness as a strength.

“Being able to compete at the contest and having that vertical jump and being able to impact around the ground (is a strength),” she said. “My marks have been getting a lot stronger recently so that’s really where I start to impact the game a lot.”

Her game has been piecing together over a matter of years, having come from a netball background.

“For me it was always netball,” Rendelmann said. “I played netball for 11 years and was in the state team with that and then joining football was just, I found that just so much more enjoyable. “The people I’ve met along the way has just made the experience amazing.  “At first it was so social as well as fitness. “I had friends who had been playing at other clubs with the girls and they’d been playing with the boys and they said you just have to join, it’s just incredible.”

Now Rendelmann is focused on studying law and business at university and as for her football, she plans to just see “wherever my footy takes me next year.”