Category: TAC Cup Girls

Team of the 2018 V/Line Cup Girls’ announced

TWENTY seven young female stars have been recognised for their effort in last month’s V/Line Cup, named in the Team of 2018 V/Line Cup announced yesterday. Three players from each team were named in the squad, which is focused on just promoting the great talent coming through the football ranks. After a superb tournament, plenty of names to watch out for the future emerged, for the six country teams, including two sides for Murray Bushrangers and Dandenong Stingrays catchment. The Geelong Falcons was awarded the Team Development Award for their performances across the competition. The players named in the team are as follows:

Bendigo Pioneers:

Maeve Tupper
Tara Slender
Katelyn Hazlett

Geelong Falcons:

Poppy Schaap
Mia Van Dyke
Darcy Moloney

Gippsland Power:

Kiana Te Huai
Lily-Rose Williamson
Siarra Peters

Goulburn Murray: (Murray Bushrangers catchment)

Aurora Smith
Charli Dorrity
Georgia Gall

North East Border: (Murray Bushrangers catchment)

Keeley Skepper
Sophia McCarthy
Zali Spencer

Southern Stingrays 1:

Jemma Radford
Paige Stone
Georgia Grimmer

Southern Stingrays 2:

Rhiannon Murray
Rhianna Clemow
Alisha Liddle

Western Bulldogs NGA: (GWV Rebels catchment)

Ella Friend
Crystal Summers
Jemima Woods

From young admirer to footballer: Patrikios lives out her dream

CALDER Cannons star, Georgia Patrikios was simply following in her brother’s footsteps as a youngster.

Now, she is one of Calder’s key players, a multiple Vic Metro representative and a member of the AFL Women’s Academy. Patrikios admits she cannot believe that young admirer of football is now a player herself.

“Ever since I saw my brother step onto the field, it’s sort of been a dream of mine to do what he does,” she said. “Now, it’s become a reality.”

Part of the reality has included being selected to travel to the Gold Coast for this year’s AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships back in July. Although she’s pulled on the ‘Big V’ before, the 17 year-old is still honoured to do it again.

“It’s pretty special to me, playing with the best girls at Cannons and playing with the best girls in Victoria,” Patrikios said. “I’m glad I got the opportunity to do so.”

This has been largely thanks to her development at the Cannons. Playing under the likes of top-agers, Madison Prespakis, Carla Rendelmann and Molly Warburton has really helped Patrikios develop her game.

“Being a bottom-ager, playing with the older girls, it’s been real good learning off them,” she said. “The coaches and the facilities are also amazing.”

Out of this development, Patrikios has developed some clear strengths.

“I’d probably say maybe my speed and agility, they’re probably my best assets,” she said.

Being eligible for next year’s draft, Patrikios has a year to finesse her skills, noting an improvement she’d like to make in her game.

“I’d probably say my overhead mark and probably my one-on-one contest, just getting my body a bit stronger and a be able to win those one-one contests,” the 17 year-old said.

Now with some time off football, Patrikios will get away, but she will not exactly relax.

“I like to go away so I do a lot of work at my beach house, a lot of running, go to the gym with my brother, kick the footy with them,” she said.

This work will undoubtedly help Patrikios play a big part in the Cannons’ 2019 season, and help her relive her favourite football memory, which was lifting up the premiership cup with her Calder teammates. She admits this year was a tough one to endure, but it started to come together towards the back half of the season.

“It’s just how it goes, the older girls move up, the younger girls just have to step up,” the Vic Metro representative said. “I had a pretty interrupted pre-season. “I found the start of my season a bit shaky but then coming to the last few weeks of the season, I put a few good games together.”

Despite the TAC Cup Girls season being over, Patrikios still went back to her local club, Pascoe Vale in a bid to turn a couple of good games into a solid season.

“I’ve gone back to local club, just working on my skills there and a bit of fitness,” she said. “Then we go back to the Cannons every second week and just do some training, fix up what we need to.”

The Pascoe Vale Football Club has played a big part in Patrikios’ football development, making the transition from boys football at West Coburg to female football seamless. Now approaching her top-age year of football, Patrikios hopes to combine her career choice of being a personal trainer with football.

“I’m hoping to maybe do a course after school after Year 12, so that would be good,” she said. “But I’ll probably hone down on going to the gym, getting my body right and just working on those basic skills.”

Brown learning off others to succeed

MURRAY Bushrangers bottom-ager, Millie Brown loves to learn.

She has had the privilege in being able to learn in one of the leading TAC Cup Girls sides, alongside coach, Sam Ahmet and AFL Women’s Academy member, Rebecca Webster. Brown says people like this not only help her learn, but make the learning process an enjoyable one.

“It was a bit slow when I was starting because I just transitioned from the boys and I found it a lot different but I’ve had some really good people around me like Sam Ahmet, he’s been my coach at the Bushies for the whole time of being here so him and a lot of the older players like Becky Webster are great to have around,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”

This learning attitude still exists for Brown even though she HAs been playing football for a long time. Her football journey started as a youngster and has now flourished into a thriving career.

“I have (played footy all my life),” the 17 year-old said. “I started Auskick in Grade One, I missed Grade Prep, I was always messing around with the boys at school playing footy and through up until top-age 14s then transitioned over to the girls.”

Since transitioning to the girls, Brown has enjoyed plenty of game time with Murray, playing eight games this season. Brown also made the Vic Country squad for this year’s AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. Even before knowing she was in the team, Brown was excited nonetheless.

“I am looking forward to a chance at that (playing nationals),” the Vic Country representative said. “They’re always a great time, a really great standard of footy with all the girls and coaches so yeah I’m looking forward to that. “I’m pretty comfortable with a lot of the girls now, I probably won’t be too nervous heading into that. “I’ll just give it my best shot and see how I go.”

This would not have been possible if Bushrangers coach, Sam Ahmet did not get into contact with Brown’s father, Paul Brown, who played 84 games for Geelong.

“I think Sam got in contact with my Dad actually and I went down and watched one of the trainings when they (Bushrangers) were still with the Bendigo Pioneers,” the 17 year-old said. “Then I joined fully in the next year and I think I played a bit of the V/Line cup.”

Murray endured a difficult TAC Cup Girls campaign this year, and Brown says although she’s disappointed, she was impressed about the attitude shown in the side’s losses.

“We’ve had a few losses and we were expecting to go a bit better than we did,” she said. “But you know, that’s footy, that happens. “I think our team still showed a lot of courage in the games that we did lose so the effort was still really there.”

Looking back, Brown believes that the long travel time was sometimes a factor in the side’s losses.

“Sometimes it can be difficult with long trips, I think we had to travel three hours to go to Oakleigh so that can be a factor but it makes it hard more so with training,” she said. “We’ve got a very spread out squad so we have to travel and an hour and we can only train once a week so it does make it more difficult but you work with it.”

Brown has been able to work with the scattered training, where she has been able to develop her versatility. She believes this is a strength in her game.

“I think I’m quite a versatile player, I think I can pop into different positions comfortably and just do what the coach asks me,” Brown said. “I love to learn and play off the other people around me.”

But being the trademark learner that she is, Brown still has skills in her minds that she would like to improve on.

“I’m really working on my overhead marking at the moment because I’ve grown a lot recently,” she said. “So now that I’m a bit of a bigger body on the field, I need to clunk them.”

Brown is eligible for next year’s AFL Women’s Draft and could be picked up as a father-daughter selection, given her father played for Geelong.

V/Line Cup Girls: Team by Team summary

WE headed down to Gippsland last week to check out the V/Line Cup competition for the Under 16s Girls, with draft eligibility ranging from the 2020 to 2022 draft. We summarised each game, mentioning some of the players from each team which caught the eye.

 

Bendigo Pioneers:

lost to Western Bulldogs NGA by 16 points

Bendigo had some standouts with Tara Slender being the pick of the bunch on the day. Her courage in defence was terrific, taking a number of strong contested marks, and positioned herself well in marking contests. With ball-in-hand, Slender tried to move the ball quickly and take the game on as well. Katelyn Hazlett was another who impressed, showing off her hard running and long kicking. In one instance she sidestepped an opponent and handballed to a teammate while copping contact to allow a teammate to goal, then hit the scoreboard herself. Lily Denhouting and Shelby Hooker were others who caught the eye at times, with Denhouting trying to break the lines off half-back, and Hooker having a nice kicking action and strong defensive pressure. Maeve Tupper played last season with the Bendigo Pioneers as a small forward, and again was prominent in the loss.

lost to Geelong Falcons by 36 points

Tupper was named best by the Pioneers was her impressive work again, while one that stood out was Imogen O’Neil. She took a courageous mark going back against multiple opponents and was strong in defence in her efforts to clear the defensive zone through rebounding. She just patrolled Bendigo’s backline superbly. Slender was one again a standout, starting in the ruck and moving well around the ground with clean hands, good defensive positioning and a strong mark. Eliza Bell had a few really nice highlights, including a thumping kick out of the middle but just bounced the wrong side of the post, and she was also really strong one-on-one. Hooker was good at half-back and pushing up through the middle with some strong intercept marks, while Denhouting showed good speed and skills.

 

Geelong Falcons:

defeated Southern Stingrays 2 by 81 points

For Geelong, it was a huge team effort, but Kara Stacey was named best on from a top performance on the wing. She read the play well and attacked the footy, creating space for her teammates. Darcey Moloney started onball and did a good job up forward in the second half, creating opportunities and setting up goals. Annie Lee played at half-back, then moved into the midfield in the second half, showing off her clean skills and smarts. Mia Van Dyke is remarkably three days away from only being eligible for the 2023 draft, but still the late 2004 born tall half-forward kicked two goals and stood out, while Elizabeth Dowling was also impressive starting down back before going forward and booting three goals.

defeated Bendigo Pioneers by 36 points

Another impressive team performance from the Falcons who powered out of the blocks early, and raced to a 45-point lead by the final break, while they conceded three goals in the final term, they were clearly the best team on the day. Tess Craven was one that impressed, showing great strength overhead and at ground level, a really nice kick and a good mover. She was not afraid to take the opposition on and fend-off opponents, while remaining composed. Moloney was once again impressive, with her highlight being a powerful kick from 30m out straight in front to boot a goal off general play. Van Dyke showed off a textbook kicking action, finding space and always looking dangerous inside 40. Rhiarn Shaw was impressive with her game smarts, dribbling the ball along the ground and beating two opponents to set up a teammate for a goal. Tamika Lewis showed great game smarts with her decision not to blaze away tight against the boundary line near the behind post, instead looking into the corridor and hitting up a target for a goal assist. Lucy Were was also prominent inside 50 with three goals.

 

Gippsland Power:

lost to Southern Stingrays 1 by 33 points

Gippsland’s Kiana Te Huia who showed great acceleration and power off the mark, taking the game on with some runs along the wing, while also applying good defensive pressure. Lily-Rose Williamson was terrific in the first half before copping a knock. Williamson showed great run out of defence, looked to break lines and take the game on. She also showed good strength to shrug off the tackler. Holly Booth was admirable in defence with her body positioning and pressure, taking either the mark or clearing the ball under pressure. Macie Gilmour booted the Power’s only goal in the first term off a step in what was an impressive effort, while Abbey Hardwick was strong in defence. Charli Abbott showed her smarts to be able to not take possession but kick into space to try and gain some extra time, while Laura Meneilly showed good pressure.

lost to North East Border by 80 points

In Gippsland’s second game of the carnival, the same three that stood out in game one were also impressive in game two, with Williamson the best with her great combination of power, speed and composure. She does not feel rushed and seems to use the ball well whenever she has it. What she does that very few at her age do, is she directs traffic while on the move, telling her teammates to move in a certain direction so she can put it to their advantage. Te Huia copped a knock to her leg late in the game, but her acceleration and power is superb, as is Holly Booth’s strength and consistency in defence. Ruck, Grace Matser was good above her head and a consistent kick playing between the middle and up forward. Others who had some promising signs included Siarra Peters, who was a good mark and solid kick, and Taylah McNaughton who moved well through traffic.

 

Goulburn Murray:

lost to Southern Stingrays 1 by 24 points

It was a low-scoring game and while Goulburn Murray were strong defensively, they went down to Southern Stingrays by four goals. Charli Dorrity was named Goulburn’s Murray best in their loss to the Southern Stingrays, along with Alana McMillan who has some great speed and acceleration. McMilan has that agility to weave through opposition players and is a really eye-catching player. Georgia Gall‘s height and strength around the ground proved important, while Ruby Davies and Maya Ingram were also named among the best. Maddison Bloor was Goulburn Murray’s sole goal kicker on the day.

lost to Western Bulldogs NGA by 36 points

In the final game of the round that was reduced to 10-minute quarters due to a player in the previous match being taken to hospital, Goulburn Murray went down to the Bulldogs by six goals. But one player who was unbelievable was Gall, who played a terrific four quarter effort. Gall hauled in contested marks in each third of the ground and would create run through her booming kick. She had the kick out duties, as well as provided a marking target through the middle, then had a shot on goal late in the game but just missed. Jemma Jeffrey kicked the only goal of the final term after being awarded a free kick for too high, and converted the set shot. Mani Foubister was really impressive with a run-down tackle to stop a certain goal early on, then also created some offensive drive out of the backline with run and carry along the wing. Chloe Locke was equally impressive running both ways, showing good composure under pressure to step around an opponent and kick long, then save a certain goal 20m out with a fantastic tackle.

 

North East Border:

defeated Gippsland Power by 80 points

Picking best players in the North East Border side was very difficult, with so many impressive players in the team’s 80-point win. Elly Robilliard was one who stood out, particularly in the second half with some long kicks and great defensive tackles. She was also strong one-on-one the marking contest. Keeley Skepper was also very good out of defence, with a nice penetrating kick and good movement from the back half. Leela Rosser proved to be a handful up forward, booting a few goals and having another few opportunities with her strength a handful for opposition defenders. Sarah Egan showed off her lightning quick set of wheels with a huge run down the wing in the second term, while Madison Gray had a very classy moment where she picked up the ball in the second quarter, put on the after burners and kicked a goal under pressure.

defeated Southern Stingrays 2 by 52 points

Egan’s speed and X-factor was on show in the second big win, booting three goals and named among North East Border’s best in victory over the Southern Stingrays’ second side. Rosser booted another two goals and is shaping as a promising forward, while Skepper’s continual impressive work from the defensive 50 stood out to be named North East Border’s best on the day. Meg Allan has proved to be strong overhead and was impressive in the second game, while Gray and Zali Spencer were also named among the best.

 

Southern Stingrays:

defeated Gippsland Power by 33 points

For Southern Stingrays, Georgia Grimmer was dangerous up forward for four quarters. She just booted the one goal early on, taking a strong mark and using her powerful kick. She has clean hands and gave her team scoring opportunities, missing a few chances but always looking a chance to score. Paige Stone looked slick through the midfield, a player who moves well and was impressive by foot, while Jennifer MacDonald laid a great run-down tackle on the wing and also had very nice speed. Alexei Guy-Toogood and Jaide Anthony both hit the scoreboard with multiple goals.

defeated Goulburn Murray by 24 points

Grimmer was again busy against Goulburn Murray in the Stingrays’ four-goal win, booting two goals and acting as a presence up forward. Jemma Radford was named the Stingrays’ best, and she stood out in the back half, while Guy-Toogood and Jessica Stepanavicius both booted a goal in the win. Maddison Stained has good strength and power out of a stoppage to be able to kick forward, while Isabella Ciavola is strong defensively and able to lay some good tackles. Alexandra Smith has some eye-catching speed, while Ashleigh Richards provides a target, with strong hands overhead.

 

Southern Stingrays 2:

lost to Geelong Falcons by 81 points

While they were well beaten on the day by Geelong Falcons, Southern Stingrays’ second side had a few strong contributors named in their best. Abbie Power was named the losing side’s top player, while Georgia Pabst and Skye Haslem were also impressive. Zali Hazledine hit the scoreboard with the Stingrays’ only major in the second term.

lost to North East Border by 52 points

The Stingrays’ second side had another comprehensive loss to another strong side in North East border, but there were still some solid highlights in the match. Rhianna Clemow was named the Stingrays’ best in the win, while Alisha Liddle booted the sole Stingrays goal and provided some excitement up forward. Haslem and Rhiannon Murray were also named among the Stingrays’ best, as was Aurora Smith.

 

Western Bulldogs NGA:

defeated Bendigo Pioneers by 16 points

Western Bulldogs Next Generation Academy had a number of impressive players, with Jemima Woods standing out with her ability to play anywhere. She showed some great offensive and defensive traits, and in one instance she was able to kick across her body under pressure and hit-up a target laterally. She spent the second half in the back line and provided good run out of there, and just has a level head with good composure. Crystal Summers was busy in the opening term, booting two ripping goals both from general play, with her second being from a tough angle without much time. She moved well and also played in defence in the second half. Ally Trigg was also impressive and looked to have the smarts and kicking ability to put it to the right spots and was another standout on the day.

defeated Goulburn Murray by 36 points

It was another impressive performance from the Bulldogs as they overcame a strong defensive unit in Goulburn Murray to record a six-goal win. A really strong team performance, there seemed to be very few standouts with so many good little efforts from a lot of the players – 12 of which were worthy of notes from our end. Shelby Nolte caught the eye with a terrific intercept mark from a kick-in 40m out early, then nailed the long-range set shot goal. She got involved in the back half winning the football and kicking long, and used her body to be a presence at half-back as well. Summers and Woods were among the better players again, with Summers booting two goals and taking some strong marks, always thinking ahead of time, while Woods was so clean above her head and kicked a very nice goal from a clean grab and turn. Ella Friend was clinical in front of goal with two majors, showing good courage in the air, strong hands and a textbook action. She kicked one goal from a set shot and one from general play with a quick snap under pressure. Others who were impressive were Jorja Hammond who created some good opportunities inside 50 and constantly looked dangerous, Dina Gattek who moved well at half-back and had a couple of great defensive efforts with tackles and blocks, and Tahlia Meier, who moved well through traffic and was strong overhead for a smaller player. Victoria Jewell showed great acceleration out of the stoppage, but had a funny moment at one point, bursting away from the centre clearance and kicking inside 50, the only problem? She had run the wrong way, but it was luckily marked by her teammate in defence.

 

Note: Names were taken from the V/Line Cup Record, with SportsTG results system overriding them where they differed.

Future is bright for women’s football

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Eastern to Hawthorn, Ranges duo celebrate flag

EASTERN Ranges duo Mikala Cann and Emerson Woods have basked in the glory of a Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s premiership yesterday. The Ranges and now Hawthorn midfielder/forwards just “played their role” as they said, in Hawthorn’s 13-point victory over Geelong. Cann finished the game with 14 disposals, one mark and a team-high nine tackles, while Woods’ defensive pressure saw her also lay five tackles to go with two touches.

Both players were thrilled after the game, hardly believing the moment.

“It’s just surreal,” Woods said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting this, just coming at such a young age as well coming into the team, just to get a spot (is good) I suppose.” Cann was equally as excited. “You can’t describe it,” she said. “Winning a premiership with the best group of girls, it’s indescribable”

Woods said the speed of the game was the crucial difference between the TAC Cup Girls and VFL Women’s.

“It’s much faster, quick ball movement, pretty hard to keep up at times, but it’s good,” Woods said. Cann said she felt the bigger presence of opponents out there and stronger bodies. “(It’s) a lot more physical, the bodies are larger, but I guess you want to be playing at the highest level so this is one step closer.”

The last quarter saw the game on a knife’s edge and Geelong was attacking fiercely throughout the second half. Cann said the team knew the Cats would come at them, and had prepared for the momentum swing.

“We prepared what we had to do at training with our composure,” she said. “We just knew what we had to do and we implemented it.”

Woods said the most amazing feeling was with the clock counting down, knowing they would soon be premiership players.

“Yeah towards the end of the game, it was a bit of a surreal feeling with 30 seconds to go knowing that we’d won it,” she said.

Now both draft-eligible players will prepare for the AFL Women’s Draft Combine next week ahead of the AFL Women’s Draft in late October.

Football culture wins over Denby Taylor

DESCRIBED as “Dad’s only son”, Denby Taylor has forged her own sporting pathway after growing up balancing both football and netball. Taylor said he father was a “footy nut” and could not be prouder that the Geelong Falcons star had followed football.

“I’d probably say my dad has been the biggest influence,” she said. “I suppose getting four daughters, given he’s a footy nut, wasn’t the best thing I suppose, for him, I think now he’s pretty happy and proud of where I’ve come. “I finished netball last year so I was playing that for about maybe nine years or so. “I followed my sister’s footsteps in the netball path, and sort of made my own pathway in the football. ‘Dad’s only son’ I get called.”

Taylor said she loved the fact that football just focused on the sport itself, and enjoyed the physical nature of the contest compared to other codes she had tried.

“The difference in the games obviously so much more physical and there’s the culture as well,” she said. “I think netball and a lot of other sports can get a little bit political, but footy just focuses on the footy and I really like that. “Footy for me is probably the culture that keeps me coming back, I really like how much of the culture and the tight knit community that the club provides. I suppose the physicality of the game as well, it’s quite different to most other games, it’s quite enjoyable.”

Taylor was kicking a football around from a young age, but then gave up the sport to pursue netball, before returning once Youth Girls had begun to rise in popularity.

“I started with Auskick, dad brought me down to the local club and started playing there and then after a couple of years I wasn’t very keen on playing with the boys so I gave up the footy and then started again when I was about 13 with the youth girls,” Taylor said. “Then I continued playing Youth Girls up until last year, and then representative footy as well along the way. “(I) did Geelong Falcons for the past couple of years and the national carnivals for a couple of years as well. “Between that I was playing netball as well for Newtown and Chilwell.”

While Taylor had been known best as a rebounding defender this season, her stints up forward were actually a throwback to where she had played the last few seasons.

“I’ve only recently started playing back and I’ve been loving it so, it’s a really great experience to switch up roles, but I suppose I’m comfortable down forward, it’s where I played a lot of my footy,” Taylor said. “It’s quite a big transition but I’m really happy being down back now.”

Upon reflection, Taylor said she and the rest of her Geelong Falcons teammates had enjoyed the 2018 premiership following a perfect, undefeated season, but now her focus was purely on the draft. In particular, the versatile utility said she was working hard to build her fitness ahead of the AFL Women’s Draft Combine next month. She knows the competition has intensified at both TAC Cup Girls and AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships.

“I think some of my family comes and watches the games,” Taylor said of the TAC Cup Girls. “They say every year it lifts so much, the quality and the community and how everyone’s getting around it is just getting a lot better. “It (the AFL Women’s Championships) was in Queensland again. “I had family up there who hadn’t seen football for a whole year between the last championships and they pretty much just said ‘wow, that’s unbelievable how much it’s changed and how much it’s changed since last year’ so I think that really put it into perspective, because i get to see it every day I suppose.”

Outside of her football, Taylor enjoys spending the majority of her time outdoors getting plenty of fresh air.

“I do woodwork as a subject at school, that’s something I really enjoy doing outside of school as well,” Taylor said. “That and I’m also into bike riding and skating so yeah, pretty much all the outdoorsy sort of things. “Next year I’m going to take a gap year and just work and sort out what I might want to do and I think sort of what’s on the plate at teh moment, is a teaching degree. maybe teaching sport or something along those lines, something I’m comfortable with.”

But the most immediate goal for Taylor is clear – get drafted onto an AFL Women’s list.

“I think for me footy was more of a social thing for a long thing and then once I started playing rep footy and started getting a bit better, I was like ‘oh this could be fun’,” Taylor said. “I might keep going, and once I got put in the National Academy I thought ‘alright I might as well give it a go’. “I’ve got the opportunity, I didn’t want to let it go.”

Prespakis overcomes initial pressure for impressive top-age year

THERE are plenty of talented players who have followed the Youth Girls pathways, but the name Madison Prespakis is one that has been frequently mentioned within the pathways. With accolades that include TAC Cup Girls Best and Fairest, two-time Vic Metro Most Valuable Player, joint overall Most Valuable Player at the National Under 18 Championships and Calder Cannons Best and Fairest – all of that coming in the past 18 months, Prespakis is building a CV that is equal to any junior footballer, boy or girl. But just where did it all begin for the talented Cannons captain?

“It all really started when I was about four years old,” Prespakis said. “I started playing Auskick and I was always going down there and hanging out with all the boys and some of the girls who were playing. “I started from there and then when I was seven, I went and started playing Under 9s for Romsey Football Club with the boys and I think my dad really got me into footy from there. “He was a big footballer when he was young and he loved footy and I think the pathway I’m going, I’m trying to be that one step ahead of him. “I think my dad’s had the biggest influence on me and after starting Auskick and junior footy I just haven’t looked back, I’m just looking ahead to future now.”

With the passion for football always around her in the household, Prespakis said there were very few moments where she was not analysing some part of her footballing life.

“There’s not really that describes football to me, it’s kind of everything to me really,” she said. “When I go to school in the morning and all that, I don’t think about anything else throughout the day, I just think about what I’m going to do at footy training tonight and who we’re playing on the weekend and things like that. “For me, I just love footy and there’s nothing that would not make me not love it.”

In the two years of the TAC Cup Girls, Prespakis has experienced both the highs of a premiership, and the rebuilding stage in 2018, leading a number of talented bottom-agers this season.

“It’s been a lot different having a younger side and obviously being the top-age, one of the top-age girls, for me, I’ve found it a little bit hard at the start of the year,” Prespakis said. “I felt a little bit of pressure at the start of the year because we were such a young side, but to get the opportunity to captain the girls, I really took on board and I really took that opportunity well and for those girls I think for them, to have a role model in myself and a few other of the top-age girls was something for them really special to have for the first year so when they go on they can hopefully be role models to younger girls. “I think as well, not so much on-field, but off-field having a younger side the girls just gelled better. “Everyone was friends and as soon as we got onto the field, everyone just wanted to improve and hopefully by the end of the year we’d win a few games. “By the end of the year we did, we showed improvement. “We did win two games overall, but we did bring it up to top sides and I think the girls are really proud of themselves throughout the year. “Obviously we didn’t get wins on the scoreboard, but we got individual wins as a team, so that was the highlight.”

Prespakis has as much humility as she does natural talent, and for the tough onballer, winning the Vic Metro MVP in her bottom-age year was a learning curve in regards to external noise.

“Yeah for me, obviously I wasn’t expecting awards like that to be won at Nationals last year, I wasn’t going into that thinking that,” Prespakis said. “Then coming out of that, there was a lot of pressure I found on myself. “I did have to try and deal with it after a while because there was a lot of speculation in the media and that sort of stuff, so I unfollowed a lot of pages to get away from that because it was putting a lot of stress on me in my pre-season and how I have to perform this year. “So going into Nationals there has been that bit of speculation as well, coming off with that award last year, but like I said I just don’t put pressure on myself. “I don’t think about that stuff, i just think about the team things.”

The Vic Metro captain had put expectations to the back of her mind ahead of this year’s AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, so much so she was just taking it one step at a time.

“(The) goal this year is probably hopefully make the squad,” Prespakis said. “Just wait for that to be announced, and if so, head off to Gold Coast and then just play good footy. “(I) don’t really put too much pressure on myself or anything like that, just play good footy.”

Unsurprisingly, Prespakis did more than just make the squad, she shared the captaincy, and took out both the Vic Metro and tournament MVP awards, standing out across the midfield and going forward when required. Across all levels, Prespakis felt more prepared for what was coming, as did the other girls on her respective teams.

“It’s definitely lifted,” Prespakis said. “I remember the last few years it’s definitely lifted heaps. “The girls know what to expect when they come into pre-season and they know how to deal with pre-season, get themselves fit and right for the games. “Even VFL and all that, the girls are just getting better every year and the standard’s just lifting and lifting, it’s really good for female footy.”

Prespakis also stood out against the senior players in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition, learning a lot at Melbourne Uni and being named in the best every game she played.

“I loved it, something I can’t wait to do again,” she said. “I’ve trained with them for the last couple of years in that team has been great. “Learning off some of the best like Emma Kearney, Ellie Blackburn, all those sorts of girls has helped me be a better footballer. “I think I adapted well to the bigger bodies, but definitely a lot of room for improvement but I can’t wait to keep playing senior footy.”

Last season the Calder Cannons had three players drafted – Chloe Molloy, Monique Conti and Sarah Dargan – all of whom tasted AFL Women’s action in season 2018, with Molloy taking out the Rising Star award, while Conti was best on ground in the grand final.

“I definitely went to a few games and watched either Sarah, Chloe or Monique play to support them after playing with them for a few years,” Prespakis said. “Watching them for a few years, it was just crazy to think I was playing with them last year and look where they are, playing AFLW. “I definitely speak to Monique more about the way she balances. “I just watch the way she balances both her basketball and footy and she did Year 12 last year as well. “If she can do it, then I suppose I can balance it to, she’s a good athlete and someone that I look up to in that perspective.”

Prespakis described her key strengths as her power through stoppages and her kicking – something that was evident in season 2018 across all competitions.

“Some of my strengths are my actual strength, I’m a pretty powerful player, I’ve got a lot of strength in me,” Prespakis said. “I work hard, I like to think i work hard running both ways, doing anything to lift the team. “Room for improvement obviously just keep working on fitness, overall fitness, getting myself right for every game, recovering right. “Just keep improving that the coaches say, but definitely a strength for me is my disposal and power through packs.”

Like most girls, Prepakis has balanced her football with study and work, something she has got the hang of the past few years. With October’s National AFL Women’s Draft approaching, Prespakis is hoping to live out her ultimate dream.

“I was actually talking to my parents about it and ever since I was a little girl, I said I wanted to play AFL footy and now that us girls have that pathway, we have that spot in AFL footy, it’s definitely a dream and if my name does get called out on the draft day, it will probably be the most overwhelming thing,” Prespakis said. “I will just be so excited for a start.”

Women’s Young Guns to shine at Port Melbourne

SOME of the top AFL Women’s hopefuls will strut their stuff in a curtain raiser to the Victorian Football League (VFL) preliminary final between Casey Demons and Essendon on the weekend, in a bid to put their case forward to be drafted. Casey Demons’ Damian Keeping and Collingwood’s Chloe McMillan will coach the respective sides, which feature a range of players from both the VFL Women’s and local competitions. Among the players are TAC Cup Girls players, Oakleigh Chargers’ Isabella Gietzmann and Western Jets’ Caitlin Greiser.

The match begins at 11.45am on Saturday at Stannards Stadium.

BLACK JUMPERS

Coach: Damian Keeping (Casey Demons)

No.NAMEDOBHTCLUB
2Danielle Calautti04-Nov-91160Kew
3Ruby Svarc28-Sep-93161St Mary’s Salesian
4Deanna Jolliffe16-Mar-93162Mornington
5Sophie Phillips30-Jul-99163Casey Demons
6Danielle Sibosado04-Jul-94164Kew
7Annaleise Xanthos15-Oct-99165Marcellin
8Courteney Bromage18-Feb-99165Carlton VFLW
18Rebekah Watson05-Nov-99172Mazenod
10Millie Klingbeil10-Nov-98167Geelong VFLW
11Charlotte Pooley27-Jul-98167Collegians
12Olivia Vesely06-Dec-99167Carlton VFLW
13Isabel Currenti12-Feb-92167Geelong VFLW
15Kayla Ripari14-May-98165Southern Saints
16Amy Silver23-Oct-97168Southern Saints
17Amy Arundal20-Jul-97171Old Scotch
19Jordan Mifsud29-Nov-96174Oakleigh Districts
20Madelaine Shevlin21-Sep-97174Casey Demons
21Tara Bohanna02-Mar-95178Southern Saints
22Selena Karlson13-Aug-98180Southern Saints
23Alison Brown21-Sep-97182Southern Saints
24Courtney Munn10-Dec-98182Southern Saints
25Alice Edmonds31-May-98189Richmond VFLW

 

PINK JUMPERS

Coach: Chloe McMillan (Collingwood AFLW)

7Clare Fernandes03-Oct-99161Whitefriars
8Georgia Ricardo09-Jul-99162Southern Saints
9Isabella Gietzmann08-Oct-00163Carlton VFLW
10Eliza Straford13-Dec-97164St Kevin’s
11Erin Meade13-May-96165Williamstown
12Eilish Boyd04-Jul-96165Whitefriars
15Hayley Bullas23-Sep-96165Essendon VFLW
16Georgia Gourlay23-Mar-99167Casey Demons
17Molly Eastman10-Jun-98167Darebin Falcons
18Lucy Kerr30-Jan-94168Fitzroy
19Dalia Edward25-Mar-99169Melbourne Uni
21Paris Davey27-Nov-95173Collingwood VFLW
22Kaila Bentvelzen05-Apr-97176Casey Demons
23Marli Wilkinson29-Jun-00177Old Carey
24Imogen Barnett11-Jul-95178Old Trinity
25Hannah Stuart24-Dec-93160Old Mentone
26Sally Lynch14-Jan-97181Thurgoona
28Madi Capsalis05-Oct-99173Old Mentone
30Jorja Borg18-Nov-98182Carlton VFLW
31Amelia Peck13-Jan-00183Old Collegians
33Caitlin Greiser17-Feb-99179Melbourne Uni

Webber rises to success against the odds

AS a youngster who loved to watch her brother play football, Nikia Webber asked her dad if she could do the same.

He was against the idea because he perceived football as a masculine sport at the time. But after persistence from a young Webber, she got the opportunity to kick a footy around in a local team.

“Dad wouldn’t let me play because I was a girl,” she said. “Then I sort of just kept asking and asking and he sort of just gave in so then I played my first game in under 12s and then from there on, I just loved the game.”

Webber concedes that her father was not happy with the idea of his little princess playing football, but came around to it eventually.

“Because I’m his little princess, obviously he was pretty upset when I said I wanted to play footy, it wasn’t a girls sport at the time,” she said. “But now that he’s seen how far I’ve gone, he sort of agrees with what I’m doing now so that’s probably a positive out of that one.”

Her Dad also now takes time out of his weekend, along with her Mum, to take her wherever she needs to be, helping her to achieve her dream of playing AFL Women’s. Webber said that representing Vic Country at this year’s AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships made her want to seriously chase this dream and make it a reality.

“That experience made me want to pursue my dream and play AFLW,” the 17 year-old said. “It was a really good confidence-builder.”

She also admits that the experience was surreal, as she got to play with and against some of the most talented female footballers in the country.

“It was overwhelming up there” the Gippsland forward said. “It didn’t feel real until I was actually up there playing in those colours against all the other teams. “It was a really good experience because I’m such a young age so it was really good.”

Despite being a young age, Webber found herself stepping up as a leader in the Gippsland Power side. Although it was a big step-up, she benefited from being able to pass on her knowledge to the young, up-and-coming players.

“This year was a big step-up,” she said. “Obviously I was one of the older ones so all the new girls that we had come into the program, I sort of got to show them around, (show them) what I did and where I started from. “It gave them an opportunity and gave them an open mindset to be who I am.”

She realised she had leadership capabilities thanks to a stellar year in the forward line where she kicked 12 goals in eight games.

“In previous years, I was sort of quiet and now this year, I sort of realised that I can be one of those players who stands up and obviously kick a few goals and be a team leader, even though I wasn’t in the leadership group,” the 17 year-old said.

Webber has certainly come a long way since her first year in the Power program as a 14 year-old. She admits that it was pretty daunting to start playing for an elite side, but is thankful that she had an older player, who was her mentor, to show her the ropes.

“In that environment with the older girls, I didn’t know what to do or what I was in for,” the Vic Country representative said. “It was pretty weird. “I had a mentor so one of the older girls took me under their wing and sort of showed me around, what to do, what not to do. “It was really good. “If I didn’t have the mentor, I would be lost. “I was so nervous going in through those doors, seeing all those high-skilled girls and they were all older than me, so yeah I was pretty nervous.”

Before receiving this opportunity, Webber was a dedicated basketballer, venturing off to the sport after her Dad said she couldn’t take up football. She says her training was intense, and after getting sick of the high-pressure environment, she decided to pursue a career in football instead.

“I was training for that (basketball) non-stop,” Webber said. “I had a personal trainer, I went into all the basketball camps and then decided that I didn’t want to play basketball anymore so that’s when I took on footy.”

She has not looked back since then, and has had a breakout year in 2018. After being the Power’s leading goal kicker during the TAC Cup Girls season, she went on to represent Vic Country up on the Gold Coast to cap off a wonderful football season.