Tasmanian Statewide Women’s Player Focus: Candice Belbin (Ulverstone)
IN our latest Player Focus, we take a look at the Tasmanian Women’s Statewide Preliminary Final, where Ulverstone defeated Launceston by 19 points at Dial Park in Penguin on the weekend. The teams had a number of top-age and draft-eligible players running around, but the main focus was on a 2022 AFLW Draft talent in Candice Belbin, who was one of the Robins’ best in the win.
CANDICE BELBIN PROFILE:
Club/s: Ulverstone/Tasmania Devils
Strengths: Power, strength, contested ball, versatility, clearance work
Key Improvement: Execution by foot
Candice Belbin was one of those players who improved as the 2021 NAB League Girls season went on, catching the eye with her work across the ground. Her ability to win the contested ball and power out of a stoppage – despite often playing outside in the season – is what she does so well. Even though she is smaller compared to some inside mids, she has the ability to read the taps well and also provide run-and-carry. Her quick hands and versatile athleticism – a nice mix of speed and agility, as well as her work rate and competitiveness – helps her remain strong throughout matches. She only had one game below 10 touch for the Devils (and that was nine) in a season where she was ultra-consistent, and showed that she had plenty of give for next year. If she can tidy up her execution by foot, then she ticks a lot of boxes.
2021 NAB League Girls stats (averages):
Inside 50s: 0.9
Rebound 50s: 1.0
Match in focus: Ulverstone 3.12 (30) defeated Launceston 1.5 (11)
Candice Belbin Quarter by Quarter analysis:
Stats: 3 kicks, 3 handballs, 6 disposals, 2 tackles, 1 inside 50, 1 behind
Belbin started the game with a prominent first quarter as expected being the top talent eligible for next year’s draft in the game. She laid a great early tackle and then won her first kick in close out of a stoppage and scrubbed it forward to the advantage of her teammates. Her movement through traffic was evident inside 50 when she won the ball inside a stoppage, could not get rid of it cleanly, but then produced a second effort to win the contested ball again and fire away a quick handball, kept her feet to get it back and spun through traffic to have a kick towards goal, albeit for a behind.
Another highlight of the term was her second efforts and work rate of back-to-back handballs where from half-back she ran onto it, kept her eyes on the ball, won it with oncoming pressure and opted to handball over her opponent so Belbin could run onto it again. She handballed a second time, and whilst opponents were able to halt her run there, she had gained great meterage from the play along the wing. Her last touch of the quarter was a kick off the ground, followed by another great tackle.
Stats: 2 kicks, 4 handballs, 6 disposals, 1 mark, 1 tackle, 2 frees against
Belbin’s ground coverage and overall pressure was really good as her second quarter built on that of her first. Not finding much space in close, Belbin used her power time and time again to breakthrough congestion and get it forward, with only the execution being the area to sharpen up. She did get caught holding the ball trying to break through a tackle late in the second term, and gave away an earlier free kick for a tackle on an opponent for slinging, but was perhaps a little unlucky for that one. Her first touch was a quick handball in close, and her cleanliness at ground level for the most part was good, often having a split second to pickup the ball and tackle off, which she did at one stage on the wing. Belbin had pressure coming with a two-on-one situation, cleanly grabbed the ball on the wing close to the boundary, drew the contact and produced the handball, which enabled her team to go forward and set up the team’s first goal of the day.
Belbin’s clean pickups and run-and-carry were certainly highlights, though she did tend to rush her kicks even once she had gained the space. Taking a strong uncontested mark 40m out after sneaking into the perfect spot, she looked to hit up Amy Bissett in the pocket but just overcooked the kick and went over her head. Back in the midfield, Belbin won another contested ball on the wing, but was immediately tackled, then a second effort saw her win another touch and this time get her handball off, to finish the first half with a really prominent 12 disposals, one mark and three tackles.
Stats: 5 kicks, 4 handballs, 9 disposals, 1 mark, 1 inside 50, 2 frees for
Belbin’s best quarter by far was her third term, spending the entire quarter right where the action was in midfield. Whilst she played through the midfield around the ground in the first half, she was a permanent fixture at each stoppage in the third, and it showed on the stats sheet with her ball-winning ability. She won a free kick in the opening few seconds for being taken high, but her kick again missed the target and was intercepted. Her ability to win the ball under pressure and still be able to dispose of it through power and strength is eye-catching, and she produced an elite tackle four and a half minutes into the quarter. Her execution on the tackle was fantastic to win the holding the ball free kick, but again the spin on the ball from the free kick did not go the right way and the opposition took advantage. Playing more inside, Belbin was able to read the taps off the ruck hands well, often being the one to get into the right spot to win it, and then either power away or quickly dish off, which she did on a number of occasions.
Belbin pushed forward to about 20m out and while the mark was not paid, she quickly handballed forward under pressure, and won the ball another two times in the chain, keeping the ball locked inside the forward 50 as Ulverstone really put scoreboard pressure on Launceston. Winning the ball over and over again in the contest, Belbin was clean when she was able to go inside 50 and then ran on to win another contested ball off the ground before being immediately tackled. Showing off her one-on-one bodywork, late in the quarter Belbin nudged her opponent off the ball, grabbed the ball but was immediately tackled winning a free kick for being taken high. Her kick was intercepted, though Belbin won the ball back off that next possession through a mark herself, before another turnover. By the final break, Belbin was one of the best on ground with 21 disposals and two marks.
Stats: 1 kick, 3 handballs, 4 disposals
It was Belbin’s quietest quarter of the game in the last, with most of the time in possession being in Launceston’s forward half, and Ulverstone struggling to clear it from the defensive 50 for large portions of the game. The bottom-age talent spent time around the ground, and when she was in the at defensive 50, won a contested ball, tried to charge away, was tackled but still got her handball off. She almost had an identical moment not long after, but lost control of it – without giving away a free kick – as it was knocked out of her hands. Her clearance work had been on show the game and once again she did well with her hard running to kick it forward, and then got to the next stoppage to do it again by reading the tap well, but was immediately tackled.
Being immediately tackled before being able to possess of the ball from the stoppage was more often than earlier in the game, with Launceston ramping up the defensive pressure to try and get back in the game. Belbin did win a last touch late in the match, with her trademark contested ball win from the stoppage, charging off, being tackled but still getting her hands free for a handball to teammates.
TOTAL STATS: 11 kicks, 14 handballs, 25 disposals, 2 marks, 3 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 2 frees for, 2 frees against, 1 behind
Candice Belbin’s game was impressive, with the 2022 AFL Women’s Draft prospect having some draftable traits, particularly with her running, contested ball-winning ability and power from a stoppage. She does need to continue to clean up the execution by foot, but aside from that, there was not too much to fault in her performance, with her hands through contact and decision making by hand both good. She also found space well, able to win the ball inside or outside, and in each third of the game. With plenty of time until the NAB League Girls season starts, Belbin has the raw attributes to show promise next year.
Picture credit: Simon Sturzaker via The Advocate