Tag: TAC Cup Girls

Taking opportunities pays off for Katie Lynch

IN the midst of Year 12, Katie Lynch had a lot on her plate.

She featured in the TAC Cup Girls competition, represented Vic Metro, played for Collingwood in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition and balanced school sport commitments as well. Although it was a difficult situation to be in for Lynch, she says she had no choice but to take those opportunities that came her way.

“Obviously I was a bit under the pump earlier in the year, well at least I put myself under the pump,” Lynch said. “I had the opportunities come my way and I just had to take them and I thought I did that pretty well so it’s got me here. “I’m proud of myself.”

Now, she finds herself on Collingwood’s AFL Women’s list, with the club selecting her with pick 10 in the draft. Lynch says although it was unexpected, she was relieved to hear her name being called out on draft day.

“It was obviously really exciting, probably something I didn’t expect either,” she said. “But I heard my name get read out and yeah it was just a real relieving feeling I guess but I’m excited to get started.”

Lynch has already experienced playing for the Magpies, having played with them in the VFLW, meaning she will be able to continue playing with some familiar faces. This also signals a new opportunity for Lynch to mingle with the new draftees, who she regards quite highly.

“There’s some really exciting players that we’ve drafted as well,” Lynch said. “We’ve got Jordy Allen so I’m just excited, everyone’s great, I know a lot of the faces there which will really help.”

The 18 year-old admits the VFL experience, along with the TAC Cup Girls and AFL Women’s Under 18 competitions, have helped her adapt to different game styles. This is something that she hopes will hold her in good stead for her upcoming stint in the AFL Women’s.

“TAC Cup, Metro, VFL, they all bring a different kind of game,” Lynch said. “They’re each unique in their own way so it was kind of interesting trying to adapt to each game style. “But at the end of the day, you’re just playing footy so it was good.”

Despite the simplicity of playing the game, Lynch admits she is is still coming to terms with being an AFL Women’s footballer, not accustomed to the prestigious title.

“It’s pretty surreal, hard to believe, really,” she said. “But I guess I’ll start believing it once everything really kicks off into pre-season but at the moment, it’s really surreal.”

Growing up as a Richmond supporter, Lynch has quickly adapted to the black and white, donning the stripes for both the Oakleigh Chargers and Collingwood Magpies this year. Now she will have the opportunity to continue to dominate in those colours at the highest level.

Collingwood draftee, Jordyn Allen “couldn’t think of a better club to be at”

JORDYN Allen had been in contact with a couple of clubs heading into the AFL Women’s Draft.

But she had no idea which club would pick her up. The Pies ended up selecting Allen at pick five, and the 18 year-old is overwhelmed about her opportunity to pull on the black and white.

“I kind of just burst into tears when my name got called out,” Allen said. “I didn’t expect to have that sort of reaction but I honestly couldn’t think of a better club to be at and absolutely stoked to be in the black and white.”

Allen plays a similar role to Collingwood’s reigning Best and Fairest winner, Chloe Molloy. Both are attacking half-backs, but offer versatility through the midfield as well. The Dandenong Stingrays captain hopes she can make a similar impact to Molloy.

“I offer the half-back, a bit of attacking so I look up to Chloe in terms of her versatility,” Allen said. “So just like she got put forward and through the midfield, I hope that I can perform the same role for Collingwood.”

Allen led the Stingrays this year in the TAC Cup Girls competition and was named in the best in seven out of the eight games she played. She says Dandenong has played a huge part in helping her get to where she is today.

“The Stingrays have given me so much support,” Allen said. “It’s been phenomenal. “It’s sad to leave them I guess but I’ll always be connected to the Stingrays and always be a Stingray girl at heart.”

Being the club captain enabled Allen to add a new element to her game. She developed her leadership skills remarkably and was rewarded with a chance to captain Vic Country this year. Now, she has the opportunity to one day be a leader at the Pies.

“Being a leader’s definitely another aspect of my game that you have to kind of bring beyond your footy skills and it’s been awesome, you get to know people really well,” Allen said. “You get to see a different side of people that you don’t get to really see and create those bonds you don’t usually get to make so it’s been awesome and the footy’s been amazing this year. “We’ve had some really awesome opportunities and couldn’t be more thankful for all of the people who got me here.”

At Collingwood, Allen has the opportunity to play alongside former Vic Country representative, Darcy Guttridge. The 18 year-old is looking forward to playing alongside one of her favourite teammates at an elite level.

“I played a fair bit of junior football with her and watched her get drafted last year,” Allen said. “She didn’t play due to injury but played a bit of VFL (Victorian Football League) with her this year and she’s probably one of the best teammates I could have. “She’s definitely someone I look up to and I can’t wait to play with her again.”

As a junior, Allen knew that she was always going to do whatever her brother did. So when he picked up a football, so too did Allen. Now, she will be picking up a football in the highest level of female football in Australia, in what is truly a dream come true for the talented leader.

Lifelong footballer Prespakis finally gets to pull on an AFLW jumper

Madison Prespakis’ football journey began at her local club, Romsey as a four year-old.

She played Australian Rules with the boys from Auskick level up to Under 14s, where she was told she had to stop playing football. Now, Prespakis has grasped an opportunity she never thought she would receive. She was selected at pick three in the AFL Women’s Draft, and was the first metropolitan player selected. Prespakis is over the moon to be playing at Carlton, admitting this opportunity looked dead and gone four years ago.

“It’s been a long time coming and for me,” she said. “I thought my career was going to be cut short with the boys. “I didn’t think I’d get this opportunity. “Now that it’s come ahead, I really jumped at it with both hands and worked as hard as I could. “Dreams come true, it’s not fake because it actually happens and for me, it’s come true. “I’m just so happy.”

Prespakis admits she still remembers her time at Romsey, and is thankful for not only her experience at that club, but all of her junior clubs.

“I reflect on those days a lot,” she said. “I went down there (Romsey) a few weeks ago. “For me, that was my home and I was always down there playing with the boys and yeah, I just love everything about that club. “I’m very thankful for them and thankful for every pathway I’ve had to come through to get where I am today.”

Since playing at Romsey, Prespakis has enjoyed time at the Sunbury Lions and the Calder Cannons, excelling at both clubs. At the Lions, she was named best-on-ground in her last Under-18 premiership with the club, while at the Calder Cannons, she won the Best and Fairest this year. Prespakis’ family has been there all the way through, and she is extremely grateful for their support through her football journey.

“For my family, I think it’d mean everything to them to see me achieve the dream that I’ve always really wanted to since I was a little girl,” Prespakis said. “I know my Dad will be so proud of me. “He’s been there from the start to now and unfortunately for my Dad, he has to take that little step back and let me do what I’m doing but it’s all thanks to them.”

Her family was also the reason why she decided to nominate for the Victorian metropolitan region. The decision knocked back her chances of being selected at number one to head to Geelong, but Prespakis says she doesn’t regret her decision.

“Geelong did obviously come into talk and for me, my family comes first,” she said. “For me to be close to the home, I felt that I had to be in a Melbourne-based team. “After nominating metropolitan for the draft, I didn’t have any regrets. “Now I’m a ‘blue bagger’ so I’m really excited.”

The player that did get selected at pick number one, Nina Morrison, has been right up there with Prespakis all year. The pair were the joint winners of the TAC Cup Girls Best and Fairest and shared the AFL Women’s Under 18 Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. Prespakis couldn’t speak more highly of the Geelong midfielder, and believes she will excel at the Cats.

“Obviously we go back to back with a few things together,” the Vic Metro midfielder said. “She’s a package player. “She is where she is today because of hard work and yeah, she deserves everything that comes her way.”

Focusing on her own football future, Prespakis wants to keep playing her style of football in Carlton colours.

“I suppose just for me, I just want to play good footy and keep playing the footy I play and play my role,” she said. “My first goal probably now is to get through pre-season and hopefully tick off Round 1.”

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.

AFL Women’s Draft Combine wrap

AN Eastern Ranges duo and the potential number one pick in the Under 18 AFL Women’s Draft have emerged as the top performers from the AFL Women’s Draft Combine yesterday.

Geelong Falcons star, Nina Morrison walked away with two combine records, smashing the Yo-Yo test with an 18.2 score, as well as clocking 7:14 in the 2km time trial. Morrison remarkably finished top five in six of the possible seven events. Eastern duo, Emerson Woods and Charlotte Wilson won their respective events in the 20m sprint and standing vertical jump, with Woods easily breaking the previous record when she produced a dazzling 3.129-second sprint. Wilson achieved a 56cm standing vertical jump, two centimetres more than any other participant.

Wilson finished second in both the running vertical jumps, and finished third in the 20m sprint and Yo-Yo test. Woods finished second to Morrison in the Yo-Yo test, third in the agility and 2km time trial, and equal fifth in the standing vertical jump. Both Eastern girls produced top five finishes in five of the seven tests.

Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ Sophie Van De Heuvel and Murray Bushrangers’ Rebecca Webster recorded the next best overall results, finishing top five in three events, with the pair taking out the left and right running vertical jumps respectively. In the other events, Gippsland Power co-captain, Tyla Hanks clocked up 8.788 in the agility to break the record in that test ahead of Geelong Falcons onballer, Olivia Purcell.

Of those participants outside Victoria, Queensland ruck, Lauren Bella was impressive with top five finishes in the running vertical jumps, while Tasmania’s Libby Haines finished fifth in the 20m sprint with a time of 3.299 seconds, and fourth in the 2km time trial. Others who achieved top five finishes were GWV Rebels, Rene Caris, Lauren Butler and Georgia Clarke, Sandringham Dragons’ Eleanor Brown, Northern Knights’ Madeline Brancatisano and Dandenong Stingrays’ Jordyn Allen.

20m sprint:

1 Emerson Woods (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro) 3.129 seconds
2 Sophie Van De Heuvel (GWV Rebels/Vic Country) 3.242
2 Charlotte Wilson (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro) 3.242
4 Madeline Brancatisano (Northern Knights/Vic Metro) 3.25
5 Libby Haines (Burnie/Tasmania) 3.299

Yo-Yo Test:

1 Nina Morrison (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country) 18.2
2 Emerson Woods (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro) 16.7
3 Charlotte Wilson (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro) 16.5
4 Lauren Butler (GWV Rebels/Vic Country) 16.3
5 Tyla Hanks (Gippsland Power/Vic Country) 16.2

Agility:

1 Tyla Hanks (Gippsland Power/Vic Country): 8.788
2 Olivia Purcell (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country): 8.809
3 Emerson Woods (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro): 8.859
4 Nina Morrison (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country): 8.878
5 Jordyn Allen (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country): 8.891

2km time trial:

1 Nina Morrison (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country) 7:14
2 Eleanor Brown (Sandringham Dragons/Vic Metro) 7:29
3 Emerson Woods (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro) 7:39
4 Libby Haines (Burnie/Tasmania) 7:51
5 Lauren Butler (GWV Rebels/Vic Country) 7:52

Standing vertical jump:

1 Charlotte Wilson (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro) 56cm
2 Rebecca Webster (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country) 54cm
2 Sophie Van De Heuvel (GWV Rebels/Vic Country) 54cm
4 Georgia Clarke (GWV Rebels/Vic Country) 52cm
5 Emerson Woods (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro) 50cm
5 Nina Morrison (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country) 50cm
5 Rene Caris (GWV Rebels/Vic Country) 50cm

Running vertical jump (right):

1 Rebecca Webster (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country) 63cm
2 Charlotte Wilson (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro) 62
3 Rene Caris (GWV Rebels/Vic Country) 61
4 Lauren Bella (Bond University/Queensland) 59
5 Nina Morrison (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country) 59

Running vertical jump (left):

1 Sophie Van De Heuvel (GWV Rebels/Vic Country) 70cm
2 Charlotte Wilson (Eastern Ranges/Vic Metro) 68cm
3 Nina Morrison (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country) 66cm
4 Lauren Bella (Bond University/Queensland) 65cm
5 Rebecca Webster (Murray Bushrangers/Vic Country) 65cm

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.

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. 

Power play drives Hanks to pass on lessons learnt

WORK ethic and team cohesion was the cornerstone of Gippsland Power’s season, and for co-captain Tyla Hanks, the unbelievable improvement in season 2018 compared to last year was clear. Hanks said the growth of women’s football was exciting for everyone involved.

“I think everyone’s excited,” she said. “But to see myself, and what it felt like to play with Gippy last year, it’s still an amazing experience, but to see girls come back better and us be competitive in the league was, it was first hand you see how people are growing and how much the game is growing so you pass on that knowledge and teach the others has been really incredible. “I think it’s awesome to see where we’ve come from considering last year we lost quite a lot of game, we lost all our games, but by big margins and we weren’t really as competitive as we liked and then to come into this season and get a few wins and the ones we lost we were close as well, so it was really good.”

Gippsland indeed went from a winless season to one where they not only had three wins and a draw – against the previously undefeated Murray Bushrangers – but they were competitive in every match outside of the Round 1 heavy defeat to Oakleigh Chargers. Once they found their rhythm, they really got going, and for Hanks, like many of the other passionate footballers, it was about taking lessons from their TAC Cup Girls experience and using it to promote the game locally.

“I think with the TAC season being so short, it’s really important whatever the girls have learnt here,” Hanks said. “To keep growing the game we go back to our local clubs where we came from and we spread that knowledge. “As we have with the younger girls at Gippy, they now go back and they start teaching the younger girls at their clubs so trying to just improve the training and all of that.”

For Hanks, the season provided plenty of promise for the players, and the improvement internally drove the playing group to high standards throughout the year. The Power midfielder said the players could be proud of what they produced and it is something to take away from the year.

“Probably just that effort (we can take away),” Hanks said. “We had pressure and I think we were competitive with teams, we just gave it our all. “We weren’t the most talented, we didn’t have amazing players like some of the other teams do, but we all really tried hard and we put in all we could so if they could take that back to their local clubs, that’s really good.”

It all started with the drought-breaking win at Casey Fields, where the two previously winless sides faced off and it was the Power that felt the sense of relief wash over them by the final siren.

“Probably Western Jets win (was my favourite moment),” Hanks said. “That was our first win. “We kicked a couple of goals against the wind at Casey, we were in a good position but we held on and that was the first time we’ve ever sung the song, so not many of us knew it, but that was a really special experience.”

It has been a while since Hanks’ football journey started, and it was not always on the horizon as a future pathway, but with the rise of AFL Women’s, Hanks has had the luxury of focusing on the one sport since choosing Australian Rules over basketball.

“I started Auskick in Prep, so I was five,” Hanks said. “Then I played footy and basketball for a couple of years. “Then I stopped at under 13s because I obviously couldn’t play with the boys anymore and then I chose basketball for one or two years. “When the AFL got announced I thought I’m not really enjoying basketball anymore so I changed over and kept playing in Beaccy (Beaconsfield) Youth Girls.”

Now studying at university, Hanks makes the trip home between her games, and while the season is over for her, the season was a memorable one. She earned All Australian honours, was named vice-captain in that side, and was also named in the TAC Cup Girls Team of the Year.

“I’m in Melbourne at ACU,” Hanks said. “I’m still living at home, it was a little harder, but I chose to stay at home because I was going back to Morwell. “So I’ll probably still drive into the city, but financially I’m still happy to stay at home, it’s only 45 to an hour so it’s not too bad, and a lot of the other girls do the same thing, so I don’t work full-time, so I’ve got a bit more time on my hands. “Travel’s not too big of a deal for me now, but depending on what happens in the next few years, that will probably dictate more of where I’m living.”

Prespakis, Morrison look to future after sharing TAC Cup Girls Best and Fairest

WHEREVER one of Madison Prespakis and Nina Morrison goes, the other seems to follow, with the duo backing up their AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships Most Valuable Player (MVP) award by being crowned dual winners of the TAC Cup Girls Best and Fairest.

Prespakis has long been touted as one of the best Under-18 female footballers while Morrison has had an outstanding 2018 season. This has allowed the duo to develop a strong friendship, despite being fierce competitors on the field. They played alongside in each other on a rare occasion in Adelaide on Friday night, and Prespakis admits that it would be nice to do it again. Although the Cannons captain was proud to take out the awards, she couldn’t think of a better person to do it alongside than Morrison.

“Coming off the winner of the carnival with Nina across Australia was obviously a very big honour and something you’ve sort of got to wrap your head around,” she said. “Those little wins, you’ve got to be proud of yourself at the end of the day and to do it with Nina, I couldn’t think of another person more deserving of Nina. “To come in tonight and to take it out with Nina once again was a very big honour and hopefully in the future we can play alongside each other. “I’m just excited to see where Nina goes and I’m very proud of the way she’s gone about it.”

There is a chance that Morrison could end up in her hometown, Geelong, next year with the new expansion team coming into the AFL Women’s competition. The Falcons premiership player is excited about this prospect.

“It’s obviously really exciting that an expansion club is coming in,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity for the AFLW to build and talent to expand so it’ll be exciting if I get to play down there. “I’m just looking forward to playing next year and just see what happens but yeah, it’ll be pretty exciting.”

Prespakis on the other hand is still keeping her options open in terms of what AFL Women’s club she will nominate for.

“I suppose obviously it plays on your mind a little bit when people ask you where you want to go and stuff,” the Vic Metro representative said. “I’ve sort of kept it between me and my family and one of the ladies looking after me. “Obviously, nominations do open soon and that’s when those conversations sort of come into play.”

Morrison is honoured to not only have drawn comparisons with Prespakis, but to win some prestigious awards alongside her too.

“Maddy’s obviously a very good player,” she said. “She has been all year and years past as well so I guess to be compared to her is like a big honour. “I really respect her as a player on the field and off the field, she’s a great person as well. “I’m privileged to get these awards but I think it’s just sort of an added bonus that comes with the team success.”

The talented duo have both tried their hand in the Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s competition this year and have enjoyed matching it up against some of the finest AFL Women’s players. Prespakis noted the faster pace of the game compared to TAC Cup Girls, and experienced more running in a Melbourne University jumper compared to a Calder Cannons one.

“For me, I played against NT in my first game and I thought they were amazing, they were so fit and I ran almost two k’s (kilometres) more than what I would run in a Youth Girls game so for me, the running and the speed of the game was really high,” she said.

At the Cats, Morrison identified the increased physicality of the competition as the biggest difference compared to playing in the TAC Cup Girls competition.

“I think probably the biggest difference is probably the step up in physicality,” the Falcons midfielder said. “Obviously, you’ve got a lot of bigger bodies running around so it’s always going to be a bit more physical so I think the skill level can correlate a little bit. “There’s probably a bit more depth in the VFLW and you’ve got some really quality AFLW players playing in there so it’s a great opportunity to test yourself against that next level up.”

Morrison has admired AFL Women’s players such as Daisy Pearce and Emma Kearney while Prespakis has modelled her game around Kearney, Ellie Blackburn and Karen Paxman. These players have played a huge part in AFL Women’s and Prespakis says the up and coming talent will continue to make the competition a hugely successful one.

“They’re definitely players to watch but you know, upcoming players such as Nina is another one to watch so the future’s looking bright for AFLW and it’s only just getting better,” she said.