Scouting Notes: 2022 NAB League Girls – Round 1

THE 2022 NAB League Girls season got underway this past weekend, with six games spread across two days and as many states. A couple of probable contenders flexed their muscle, and fans were treated to a variety of outcomes – from high scoring shootouts, to low scoring thrillers. There were plenty of top individual performances along the way, which we outline in our first Scouting Notes edition for the year.

Note: All comments are opinion of the individual writer.

  • Team
  • Eastern Ranges
  • Calder Cannons

By: Declan Reeve

Eastern Ranges:

#9 Mia Busch

Coming in as the one to watch, Busch showed why she’s been so highly spoken about in the lead up to the season. Splitting her time between the midfield and defensive 50, there wasn’t a moment that Busch wasn’t working to get the ball to teammates. Utilising her read of the game, she was always in position to intercept stray Calder kicks and move the ball on into dangerous areas, providing a consistent rebounding threat. Busch was consistently aggressive with her ball use and positioning, pushing to intercept higher up the ground and effectively move the ball into the attacking half. Busch was arguably most impressive during her time in the midfield, unafraid to go in and win a hard ball but also smart enough to hold space and act as a release option when it was the best choice.

#13 Alyssia Pisano

Despite not registering as many goals as people had become accustomed to in 2021, Pisano was a constant danger in the attacking half and commanded an opponent, or more, at all times. Pisano’s biggest strengths were on display from the beginning of the match as she secured an early goal after reading the ball over the back of a pack, accelerating away from an opponent, then collecting the ball off the ground at top speed and kicking it truly through the big sticks. Whilst she didn’t kick another goal, her work inside 50 secured scores for her team, with that same ground ball proficiency and speed creating headaches for Calder and opportunities for Eastern. Pisano wasn’t all attacking flair for the game however, with her commitment to second efforts and creating contests helping play into the pressure that Eastern was producing.

#15 Bridget Deed

Being one of the most experienced players to take the field, it was no surprise for onlookers as Deed picked up right where she left off in the 2021 season, with her dominance on the inside and consistent attack on the ball around stoppages being crucial to the Ranges’ dominance on field. Whilst bringing the same strengths as she has previously, it was evident throughout that Deed had set about improving on her ball use over the break, with her use by foot in particular looking more direct and daring than she has previously shown. To wrap up an impressive performance, Deed got herself on the scoreboard after winning a clearance inside the forward 50. 

#20 Scarlett Potter

Potter was positioned mostly across the half-forward line for the game but found her way up the ground regularly, with her work rate and intent to pressure opponents into mistakes a key part of her game, and her tackling creating attacking opportunities for Eastern inside 50.

#44 Ava Campbell

Whilst Campbell didn’t necessarily win a whole heap of possessions, her work in the defensive half at times stopped some of the most promising Calder counter-attacks, mostly credit to her positioning and competitiveness when outnumbered. Her understanding of structure was obvious with her ball use when under pressure, occasionally forced to kick the ball blindly but putting it into safe spots where a teammate was commonly waiting.

Scarlett Potter
Eastern’s Scarlett Potter breaks with the ball

Calder Cannons:

#3 Abbey McDonald

The Cannons’ sole Vic Metro hub representative didn’t disappoint in the opening game of the season, playing a more permanent midfield role than she has done previously. McDonald was consistent in her application and ferocity at the contest, jumping onto opponents in tight to create repeat stoppages, but also managing to break away at times and utilise her damaging ball use to try and get Calder forward. Whilst it wasn’t an easy day for any Calder midfielder, McDonald had a few purple patches where she managed to win a couple of consecutive clearances but was met immediately by an Eastern midfielder.

#15 Mali McLeod

One of a few returning overage players for Calder, McLeod was unsurprisingly impressive with her command of the wing, showing off her running capacity and work rate as she had done so often in 2021. McLeod showed a lot of her previously noted strengths; her positioning as an outlet option from the backline, her kicking in space, and her willingness to take the game on with her running, but it was clear she had been working on her work under pressure or in the contest over the break with those being notably improved parts of her game.

#16 Tahlia Read

Playing mostly as a high half-forward, Read was the main link up player for Calder going forward, pushing down the ground to win possession and then running it up to try and create opportunities for her side. Read was a strong defensive presence in the forward half as well, laying a few key tackles to continually give Calder opportunities on the scoreboard. She moved well with ball in hand, even managing to use the ball well under pressure and often pinpointing her handballs to teammates in space.

#24 Amy Gaylor

The 2005-born debutant was impressive with how she constantly provided pressure whenever she was around the ball, forcing mistakes for her teammates or herself to capitalise on. When Gaylor was able to win the ball she was reliable with her ball use, putting it in front of teammates to run onto when she wasn’t hitting them directly.

Abbey McDonald
Calder’s Abbey McDonald gets a kick away
  • Team
  • Tasmania Devils
  • Sandringham Dragons

By: Declan Reeve

Tasmania Devils:

#1 Brooke Barwick

The bottom-aged star was a threatening presence from the start, getting a rebound 50 and an inside 50 within the first minute of the match to set the tone for what was to follow. Despite being a shorter player, Barwick was one of few that consistently put herself in harm’s way to win the ball, at times running straight towards opponents to win a ground ball. Barwick’s balance around the contest was a big reason she was one of the prime movers for her side, able to hold space well and then use her exceptional pace to accelerate from opponents and deliver the ball forward.

#9 Claire Ransom

It took Ransom some time to work into the game, looking a little rushed early on with ball in hand, but once the second half started she was back to her classy best. It was Ransom’s composure and read of the game that gave Tasmania so many opportunities in the last quarter to get on the scoreboard, able to put the ball into areas for her teammates to run onto and collect easily. As Ransom started getting into the game more in the second half, her positioning around stoppages shone, putting herself into opportune spots to run past for a handball receive on the outside and reward the work of the contested ball winners.

#14 Candice Belbin

In a game without many in-and-under specialists, Belbin was constantly at the bottom of packs or close in the stoppages to win the hard ball and pass it out quickly by hand to teammates on the outside. Belbin complimented this inside prowess well with her defensive accountability, often being the one applying the initial tackle or pressure to opponents that had won first possession at stoppages.

Sandringham Dragons:

#2 Keely Coyne

Continuing her role with split time between the forwardline and midfield, Coyne played a far more inside leaning game than she has previously and excelled with her composure in the contest. Coyne’s instinct to keep her hands free when being tackled meant she could reliably take on opponents with her agility and speed, and in the rare circumstances where she got caught, quickly fire the ball off via hand with precision. Her ability to maintain speed when changing direction caused the opposition headaches, and led to her backing herself in more and more as the game continued.

#15 Sofia Hurley

Hurley played like she hasn’t had any time off footy at all, looking dangerous around stoppages from the start and working hard around the ground to rack up possessions. Hurley did her most damage out in space, able to use her speed to get away from opponents, take her space and then kick long forward to give Sandringham opportunities in the forward half. With her kicking looking improved from last year, it’s no surprise that they were generally well placed for her teammates. Hurley worked hard throughout the game, pushing hard into the defensive 50 to aid her defenders but also managing to get forward and hit the scoreboard with two behinds.

#19 Ella Sciberras

Making a move from the backline to the midfield, Sciberras fit into the new role seamlessly as an inside player, able to use her strength to her advantage and beat most opponents at ground level and around stoppages, and then quickly firing out handballs to her teammates. For a player that hasn’t played much of the role at this level, it was impressive to see how well Scibberas managed to spread from the contest and switch to a receiving player on a dime, able to utilise her long and direct kick to get deep inside 50s to dangerous spots.

  • Team
  • Murray Bushrangers
  • Bendigo Pioneers

By: Peter Williams

Murray Bushrangers:

#2 Tamika Rourke

The 2006-born Rourke showcased plenty of talent on debut, with a nice blend of athleticism and footy smarts. She showed clean hands at ground level with several good pickups off the deck, and was able to fire off some quick handballs to teammates. Later in the game she took a nice intercept mark in the fourth term at half-forward and had a clean kick inside 50 to set up a goal.

#3 India Lehman

Played a smart small forward’s role, pouncing on her opportunities to deliver four goals from eight touches. She had a nice smooth running shot on goal midway through the first term, then converted a set shot from the goalsquare after a high tackle and subsequent 50-metre penalty. Quick thinking saw her kick another goal with a clean pickup off the ground and quick kick on her left boot, before her fourth came in the final term with a tight angle conversion five minutes into that quarter.

#4 Cassidy Mailer

Providing some run off half-back and predominantly getting stuck in through the midfield, Mailer reminded onlookers of what she produced as an Under 16s talent for Vic Country. At times she could have used a touch more composure by hand or foot, but a lot of her possessions came at the coal face or under heavy pressure. When she had time to run, she was able to take grass and provide some dash in transition.

#5 Zarlie Goldsworthy

An absolutely outstanding game, and right up in the top echelon of NAB League Girls performances. She showed a mix of strength, skill and athleticism to rack up 33 touches and boot 4.4 in a best on ground performances. Some of Goldworthy’s highlights were so eye-catching it was hard to believe she was making her debut at NAB League Girls level, and she capped off the performance with a well earned Player of the Week nomination.

Rookie Me Central will provide a full Player Focus article on Goldsworthy’s performance on Thursday.

#9 Zara Hamilton

Used her hard-running to advantage her team, constantly finding space and possessions around the ground. Outworking her opponents, Hamilton won the ball between the arcs and was able to present a target for defenders and midfielders alike, and played a consistent four quarter performance. Her final execution could still sharpen up, but Hamilton does all the hard work to get into the right spots and does not stop running.

#17 Keeley Skepper

The Bushrangers co-captain rotated between midfield and defence, where she was able to find enough of the ball to impact the game. Her defensive pressure was really good for a player who can provide a lot of offensive run, and she continued to crack in throughout the match. She had a flying shot on goal in the second term but it went across the face, and Skepper was able to rest forward on occasions to experience that as well. Her trademark penetrating kick was on display to keep the ball moving in transition. Not one of her more dominant games, but she still played her role and was particularly impressive defensively.

#24 Madison Gray

The other Bushrangers co-captain stepped to the plate out of defence and showed off her footy smarts and decision making. She was able to create some run out of the back 50, recognising when to play offensively and when to remain accountable. Though she had one dribble kick after bursting out of a stoppage in the middle, Gray was generally damaging with ball-in-hand, and she was clean at ground level.

Bendigo Pioneers:

#1 Lila Keck

Spending more midfield time than she did in her Under 16s year last year, Keck had a promising game throughout the four quarters. She started with a good intercept mark inside the forward 50 to kick to the danger spot, and had a couple of shots on goal. Nine minutes into the third term she snapped a terrific goal from a stoppage, and her composure when under pressure was strong. Possessing lovely skills and strong hands above her head for her size, Keck started the year on a high with her performance.

#3 Octavia Di Donato

A quieter game by her standards, Di Donato still had her moments that caught the eye. In the third term she marked the ball leading out at half-forward, delivered into Painter with precision, then received the ball back by hand and hit up Demi Greenwood leading out from the square which resulted in a goal. Her long kicking and work up and down the ground still featured throughout the game.

#5 Lou Painter

Best-on for the Pioneers, the 2006-born Painter is one to watch given she’s still in her Under 16s year. She got stuck in right from the start, showing no fear to attack the contest despite being lighter bodied compared to many of her opponents. She kicked a brilliant goal in the first term, only for it not to be counted due to a free kick in the goalsquare, but she still looked damaging inside 50. She had a couple of chances from general play but could not capitalise, finishing with two behinds, but a team-high 19 disposals, and eight tackles. Her delivery to Williams inside 50 in the second half was sublime.

#32 Tia Davidge

The Pioneers talent was not afraid to take the game on, and ended up racking up 17 disposals, the second most of any player on her side. When having time and space Davidge was one who provided run in transition, and was strong overhead. Though clean at ground level, she still has areas to work on, stepping into two opponents’ tackles rather than away. As a whole she still put in a solid performance.

#41 Tegan Williams

As earmarked in the preseason by coach Danny O’Bree, Williams played forward and showcased her strong hands and impressive long kick. She took five grabs and kicked a long goal in the opening term. Even if she does not mark it, Williams competes strongly in the air and always provides a contest, able to either take the ball or bring it to ground, rarely losing a one-on-one. Had she connected cleaner with a set shot in the final term, Williams would have been a multiple goal kicker, though she competed well at ground level which is impressive for a tall.

  • Team
  • GWV Rebels
  • Gippsland Power
Ruby Stephens
GWV’s Ruby Stephens showed great improvement in Round 1

By: Peter Williams

GWV Rebels:

#1 Lilli Condon

The Rebels captain produced a typical game that everyone would have expected of her, leading from the front. She won more disposals than anyone else on the ground and remained lively throughout the contest. Condon’s work rate across the game remained high, and even took some hits while attacking the ball with vigour.

#2 Tahlia Meier

One of the standout Rebels on the day, Meier got the game going with a clever goal in the first term. Winning the ball in a contest via a turnover, she used her nice athleticism and agility to work herself into space and nail a goal from long range. throughout the contest she was looking lively and trying to break the lines. A couple of times she did a bit too much and was caught, but when she got free, she opened up the game for teammates.

#5 Paige Scott

Really could have finished the day with four or five goals, but ended up with the 2.3 including one running into goal in the first term. She spent some time further afield rather than deep as she often did last year. Though she got run down a couple of times, her powerful burst caught the eye. The AFLW Academy member brought an upbeat vibe to the forwardline and got around her newer teammates too.

#7 Ruby Stephens

Best-on in our eyes, Stephens just continued to be involved throughout the contest. She showcased her ability to run down the middle and set up a goal to Scott early, then had a couple of chances herself. Eventually, Stephens kicked a couple of goals from her 14 touches and though her hands at ground level could be a little cleaner, when she had ball-in-hand she was able to create plays in transition going forward.

#10 Paige Glover

Certainly made a splash on debut, kicking a couple of goals and looking dangerous inside 50. Though the goals themselves were not overly difficult – one running straight into goal and the other from a high free kick in the goalsquare – she got to the right positions and read the ball well in the air. She showed quick hands as well to keep the ball moving and looks a potent part of the Rebels forwardline.

#14 Tyla Crabtree

Playing a strong game throughout the four quarters, the debutant kicked a nice goal in the third term to start the second half, but still amassed 15 touches for the match. Her movement through the middle and transition work to get the ball forward caught the eye, and is one that could have some nice future development.

#22 Molly Walton

Played a new role in the midfield after being almost exclusively a defender last season, and took it up with aplomb. She became known for her footy smarts in defence, and whilst she was centered more around the coalface this time, she showed a nice balance of offensive and defensive traits as she had in the back 50. A fierce player with clean hands.

#24 Jamie-Lee Speakman

Coming out of defence, Speakman was often tasked with kicking out, or being that last line in defence. Though many might look at the score and think a defender would not have needed to do much, Gippsland won the inside 50 count, so Sparkman’s eight disposals, four marks and five rebounds speak to her rock solid work in the defensive 50 to intercept and drive the ball down the field.

#39 Kalani Scoullar

Did exactly as one would expect and dominated the ruck with a massive 28 hitouts. Though still working on her impact around the ground, Scoullar’s ability to get first hands to the ball gives the Rebels midfielders a big plus. Once she gets forward and impacts the scoreboard more often, she will become more damaging outside the ruck stoppage which she already has down pat.

Gippsland Power:

#1 Sunday Brisbane

The tenacious outside midfielder played one of her better games, working hard throughout the four quarters and amassing an equal game-high 21 touches. Often having to win the ball under pressure, Brisbane had to flick off quick handballs but was generally clean. A couple of times she was forced into marking contests with taller opponents which is not her go, but once the ball hits the ground, she does not take a backwards step.

#5 Yasmin Duursma

Not the most notable game from the talented midfielder, often finding herself accompanied by an opposition player – be it at stoppages or when resting forward. She still won her fair share of the ball (11 disposals) and was clean when she was able to get her hands free, but could not get that time and space where she can do a lot of damage.

#8 Alisha Molesworth

One of the better Power players on the day, Molesworth brought the heat and laid an equal team-high seven touches in the loss. She worked hard to get into positions, and pushed right up the ground and then tried to use her run to get the ball inside 50. It was more her hardness and desire to win the ball that caught the eye.

#16 Ash Centra

Despite still being a couple of years away from being draft-eligible, Centra had a memorable debut. She has a nice sidestep and a long kick, trying to set up a possible goal-scoring opportunity at one stage kicking long to the goalsquare. She was able to win 20 touches in a strong first-up game, also laying four tackles and having four inside 50s in the process.

#19 Ella Stoddart

On debut, Stoddart definitely caught the eye with her work through the middle. She had a nice shot on goal that just drifted left early, then laid a brilliant tackle on Condon in the middle of the ground. Her defensive work was on par with anyone, and she had the athleticism to match it with smaller opponents. She brings the pressure and has a long kick, and is one to keep an eye on for the future.

#20 Indiana Makai

The top-age midfielder found her fair share of the ball, quite often in close. She laid a great tackle on Scott at one stage to win the free kick, and would consistently pop up to find plenty pf the ball. She finished with 19 touches, seven tackles and four inside 50s, trying to drive her team forward after winning the ball in contested situations.

Yasmin Duursma
Yasmin Duursma was competitive for Gippsland

  • Team
  • Northern Knights
  • Oakleigh Chargers

By: Michael Alvaro

Northern Knights:

#4 Brooke Plummer

A real driver of the ball for Northern on Sunday, Plummer did so with leg-pumping runs and a kick first approach. Eleven of her 12 disposals were delivered by foot, and the 17-year-old launched attacks with intent from her customary win position. Plummer was not afraid to use her step and operate on the outside, but also showed her strength with a nice contested mark in term two.

#14 Ava Jordan

The impressive bottom-ager picked up right from where she left off in 2021, leading all comers with 27 disposals in a crafty performance. Jordan’s ability to not only win the ball at stoppages, but find the exit each time or draw a high free kick was exceptional, and gave her side a fighting chance in the midfield battle. On the outside, Jordan’s decision making was sound, as was her kicking technique. She also worked hard to shut down the opposition and would’ve left the ground with red hands after numerous smothers in a well-rounded outing. She’ll be a match-winner this season.

#24 Jessica Nursey

The over-aged Knights captain was another who sought to generate a bit of drive on the uptake, running the ball forward when she could or wheeling around to kick long inside 50. She found plenty of the pill in the opening term and almost always looked to take off straight away when in possession, making her hard to contain at times.

#37 Rylie Wilcox

The energetic forward, compared by Northern staff to Carlton’s Georgia Gee, saw just about all the Knights’ attacking play move through her. Wilcox’s speed off the mark allowed her to be the first option off centre clearances, gathering with separation from her opponent and using that pace to stream forward in space. She was near impossible to tie down with tackles, stepping both ways and making opponents look silly. Ultimately, she put speed on the ball and gave Northern plenty of looks up forward with nine inside 50s from 24 touches.

#40 Tannah Hurst

Another member of the Knights’ leadership group, Hurst stood up down back with her cool head in many a crisis. She was solid, reliable and confident in her defensive 50 duties, showcasing enough strength to break tackles and force spills on the last line when Oakleigh looked like scoring. Her intercept and rebound balance proved important, as she notched three marks and five rebound 50s on a busy day.

Oakleigh Chargers:

#4 Alexandra McCulloch

One of many premiership players afield and one who is often underrated, McCulloch was solid as ever in defence. The over-ager was seldom beaten in each contest she arrived at, positioning well behind the ball and making sure none of her opponents had it easy in an aerial sense. All 12 of her disposals were kicks, and she set Oakleigh in motion going forward with five rebound 50s.

#7 Charlotte Taylor

In arguably a best afield performance, Taylor put to practice much of what she had been working on during preseason. The 18-year-old started in midfield and looked a force around the ball, using her size and strength to star with 20 disposals, nine tackles, and five inside 50s. Her defensive acumen came to the fore, showcasing a strong appetite for two-way work and the one-percenters as she maintained a real presence around the ground. Taylor also took a couple of strong marks and generally looked clean, but complimented that class with aggression and a bit of a mean streak – all fair, of course.

#10 Jasmine Fleming

Touted as one of this year’s top prospects, Fleming took a term to get going, but lifted to play a key part in her side’s victory. The midfielder started there and also spent a good amount of time up forward, doing her best work when breaking towards goal. Even at full tilt, Fleming’s execution by foot was a wonder to watch and she hit many a target with her 11 kicks. Her 13 handballs showed a potential area for improvement, and her desire to move on quickly sometimes sold her into trouble. Still, she was incredibly damaging and had no trouble impacting the game with eye-catching bursts.

#15 Amelie Smith

The hard working tall forward got to show a bit of her versatility on Sunday, starting in attack before a late move to the midfield. She snared Oakleigh’s first goal, displaying a handy bit of athleticism and awareness to side-step her opponent before converting. Smith was a reliable target who was made to present higher up the ground as the game wore on, before impacting with strong clearances in term four and nabbing a set shot goal in the same period.

#16 Erin Woodford

Another key member of Oakleigh’s rock-solid defence, Woodford’s cool head across the last line and sound reading of the play certainly came in handy. Her dexterity was impressive, with the over-ager stretching for intercept marks and generating some nice momentum from defensive 50 while also doing the tough stuff in some tricky defensive situations.

#23 Caitlin Matthews

The third of a defensive trio to feature here, Matthews’ efforts were indicative of the Chargers’ backline as a whole. Time, and time again, she worked into ideal positions to intercept and pushed up aggressively when setting a wall across Oakleigh’s forward half. She was able to adjust quickly as the play came her way and looked comfortable alongside the likes of Woodford and McCulloch.

#27 Kristen Smith

A real surprise packet on the day, Smith is a shrewd local football coup who proved more than up to the level with four goals on debut. The top-age forward made the most of each opportunity inside 50, looking a natural finisher and deadly opportunist. She got into good positions around the contest to pick up spills and made her impact with two bouts of back-to-back goals. The first pair came in the second term to kickstart Oakleigh’s surge, and the second pair released a heap of pressure come term four. A game changer.

  • Team
  • Geelong Falcons
  • Dandenong Stingrays
Grace Purcell
Grace Purcell bursts away for Geelong

By: Declan Reeve

Geelong Falcons:

#7 Sara Howley

One for the future as a 2006 birth, Howley worked into the game more and more as it went on and became a dangerous outside mover for Geelong by the end of the match. Howley used the ball well when she had it, but what impressed the most was her movement and evasiveness with ball in hand, able to side step an opponent and quickly accelerate away to deliver inside 50 at one stage. Whilst stationed largely on the wing, Howley wasn’t afraid to get into the thick of things when required, often looking to get dangerous around stoppages.

#8 Mekah Morrissy

Another 2006-born Falcons prospect, Morrissy had a similarly slower start to the game as Howley, but worked into the game in the second half and made an impact with her manic approach to applying pressure through the midfield and courage to attack ground balls. An impressive aspect of Morrissy’s game was how her disposal cleaned up gradually as she got more and more used to the pace of the game.

#9 Ash Van Loon

Van Loon played in a manner she’s become renowned for, ferociously attacking the ball around stoppages and speeding away from her opponents when she wins the ball, or laying a strong tackle if she didn’t. Whilst not necessarily racking up huge numbers she was still a constant presence around the contest, she worked hard to impact in any way she could. Van Loon got some time up forward, earning a shot on goal after an impressive mark but having it fall just short.

#10 Grace Purcell

Acting as a high half-forward in the first half, Purcell was the main driving force going forward for Geelong early on with her tendency to push up the ground, win the ball and run it down herself. She proved a handful once she got hold of the ball, troubling opponents with her evasiveness and quick reactions. She was forced deeper in the second half and didn’t quite have the same level of impact, but competed well and acted as a solid target.

#19 Johanna Sunderland

The 16-year-old was a standout in defence for the Falcons alongside McGrath, providing great run and carry out of the back 50. She amassed 17 disposals and seven rebound 50s in what was an eye-catching performance on debut. Though not overly tall, Sunderland was able to get into ball-winning positions and link-up, kicking long out of defence.

#30 Mackenzie McGrath

The North Melbourne and Geelong father-daughter prospect was an impressive figure in the Falcons’ defensive half and a big reason the Falcons didn’t concede more despite the onslaught of Dandenong inside 50’s. McGrath excelled with her positioning behind the ball, seemingly at the drop of majority of Dandenong’s inside 50s, regularly spoiling or marking as the ball came in, or reading the ball well off hands, not too dissimilar to former teammate Annie Lee. McGrath was composed with her ball use as well, balancing her use of the safest option and more attacking choices well.

Dandenong Stingrays:

#4 Olivia Robinson

A player marked as one to watch in the preseason, it’s not hard to see why Robinson has earned high wraps. Splitting her time between the forwardline and midfield, Robinson was one of the few players to remain consistently composed and efficient with her ball use, particularly impressing with her piercing kick. Robinson was able to move freely through congestion with her evasion skills, making her a headache for the Falcons midfielders and defenders to try and negate.

#5 Mackenzie Eardley

Whilst it wasn’t a high possession game for any of the Stingrays defenders, Eardley was one that made hers count with her daring run and carry with ball in hand. Whilst a little quiet early on, Eardley had some particularly key moments in the third quarter, where she took two contested intercept marks in quick succession; one on the goal line, demonstrating her body work in one-on-ones really well.

#6 Amber Clarke

The AFLW National Academy member left no doubt in anyones mind why she was selected for such a high level squad, managing to get four goals to her name before halfway through the second quarter, and ending the game with five with the opportunities to have many more. It was as close to the definition of an all round performance as you can get from Clarke, who had an impact in all thirds of the ground, not neglecting her defensive responsibilities as it would’ve been easy to do with such an impressive offensive display. This was best highlighted when Clarke made a gut run from the centre of the ground to lay a shepherd for a teammate moving the ball out of the defensive 50, buying her teammate more time to take a bounce and get extra distance behind the kick. Being the fastest player in the league, it’s no shock that Clarke’s bread and butter is leading up at the ball carrier and then burning her opponents on the way back to goal if it goes over the top, and whilst not the only way she kicked her goals, it was certainly evident that it was her most comfortable method. She demonstrated her footy smarts throughout the entire game, with her natural forward craft and stoppage craft showing a strong understanding of the game and her own abilities. 

#11 Emily Shepherd

Playing a somewhat new role as she spent more time up forward than through the midfield, Shepherd still showed off her smarts, contested skill and ball use, setting up plenty of opportunities inside the attacking of the ground for her teammates. It took Shepherd some time to look fully comfortable up forward, but once she did she was a lively presence, contesting in the air and at ground level well and applying pressure to anyone she was close to. Whilst she spent more time up forward, she still impressed when she got her time in the midfield, being a constant danger arounds stoppages and linking up well with teammates.

#13 Taylah Gatt

Making the wing her own, Gatt showed she was a natural for an outside role with how well she held her space and timed her runs in an effort to get handball receives from the inside ball winners. There weren’t many that could match her in space, with her speed and use by foot consistently breaking the lines of the Falcons defensive set up, she was often looked for out of the Dandenong defense to link up and transition the ball quickly.

#14 Felicity Crank

Spending essentially the entire game in the midfield, Crank was Dandenong’s prime inside ball winner, at the bottom of what felt like every pack and trying to run through every stoppage, her constant attack on the footy and opponent created plenty of opportunities for herself and teammates to get the ball moving forward. Crank was quick to steady herself out of contests and deliver well weighted kicks forward.

#21 Mikayla Williamson

Stationed on the opposite wing to Gatt, Williamson worked well into the game and started consistently offering the same things that Gatt did, giving Dandenong two key and clean movers on both sides of the ground. Williamson was also an impressive aerial presence, taking a couple of marks over the top of opponents and quickly moving the ball forward once she had done so.

Mackenzie Eardley
Dandenong’s Mackenzie Eardley finds some space

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