PREVIEW | Top end Dragons set to lead the way

SANDRINGHAM Dragons’ 2022 NAB League Girls season bounces down on Saturday afternoon, with the metropolitan region taking its best and brightest talents down to the Apple Isle to battle Tasmania Devils at Prospect Oval.

Considered a young squad with up-and-comers to keep tabs on last year, the Dragons notched only one win and did not have their usual drafting success, but are now set to reap the benefits from a strongly laid foundation.

Incoming coach Wayne Cripps, formerly an Oakleigh Chargers assistant, will take on his maiden lead role at the level, slotting in after long-time Dragon Jackson Kornberg jetted off to lead the Gold Coast SUNS’ VFL outfit.

With three AFLW Academy selectees, strong Vic Metro hub representation, returning gems, and a couple of father-daughter candidates among their list of 60, we preview the Dragons’ 2022 season by setting the scope on their many players to watch.

Generation now:

It is no secret that Sandringham lays claim to a couple of genuine top-end prospects. Arguably top of the pile is Sofia Hurley, a classy and fleet of foot midfielder-forward who was the Dragons’ club champion last season. She will no doubt be joined at the hip by fellow AFLW Academy member Bridie Hipwell this year, and the two make for a dynamic midfield duo.

While Hurley has the class and quick step through traffic, Hipwell brings the element of explosiveness and loves to break her way through tackles. Both players are more than capable of rolling forward to impact the scoreboard, but will likely form the crux of Sandringham’s engine room. Vic Metro duties also call, and they have already gained representative experience at Under 17 and 19 levels.

Another member of the AFLW Academy is J’Noemi Anderson, a Northern Territory native who only recently jetted down to Melbourne ahead of season proper. She looms as the NT’s best draft prospect this year and attacks the play hard when possible, moving forward from midfield. Like her aforementioned teammates, Anderson also played in last year’s Under 19 National Championships, for the Allies.

Elsewhere, namely in the leadership group, the Dragons’ extension of depth will be on show. Hipwell is joined by 2021 Vic Metro Under 17 representatives Keely Coyne and Tayla Jones, as well as the promising Ella Sciberras and Lucy Mitchell. All five members are top-agers (born in 2004) and gained valuable league experience last year with a combined 35 games – not including some in 2020.

The returnees:

Pia Staltari headlines a solid list of returning 19th-year players looking for a second crack at being drafted. The 2021 Vic Metro representative, who plied her trade on each line, was also due to train with Fremantle during the off-season having garnered next level interest in her home state of Western Australia.

Another former Metro member, Charlotte Ryan is also back for another season in Sandringham colours. The balanced midfielder gained VFLW experience last year with the Southern Saints alongside Emma Stuber, who also returns for the Dragons. Over-agers on VFLW lists will split their time between the competitions. Summer Trim is another familiar face in the mix, as is Holly Tysoe.

Keep and eye on…

After Abbie McKay made history as the AFLW’s first ever father-daughter selection, Carlton fans have another waiting in the wings. Her younger sister, Sophie is a 174cm prospect born in 2006 – making her eligible for the 2024 draft. Of course, both are daughters of 244-game Blues champion Andrew.

Another club-tied talent is Francesca Newport (daughter of Steve), who is eligible to join both Melbourne and St Kilda at the end of the year. In terms of the future brigade, the Dragons have a good bunch to keep tabs on and Mia Zielinski (2005-born) is one, after three promising outings last year.

2021 Fixture:

Round 1 – Tasmania Devils @ Prospect Park, Jan 22
Round 2 – Oakleigh Chargers @ Trevor Barker Beach Oval, Jan 30
Round 3 – Eastern Ranges @ Kilsyth Reserve, Feb 5
Round 4 – Bye
Round 5 – Western Jets @ Trevor Barker Beach Oval, Feb 20
Round 6 – Gippsland Power @ Churchill Football Ground, Feb 27
Round 7 – Dandenong Stingrays @ Trevor Barker Beach Oval, Mar 4
Round 8 – Northern Knights @ Parade College, Mar 14
Round 9 – Calder Cannons @ Highgate Recreation Reserve, Mar 20
Round 10 – GWV Rebels @ RSEA Park, Mar 27

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