Player Focus: NAB League Girls – Montana Ham (Western Jets)
THE FUTURE is now in the NAB League Girls, with Montana Ham thriving in her top-age season after being pegged as one to watch at 15-years-old. Now 17, the Western Jets midfielder has a wealth of experience under her belt and with draft eligibility now in her sights, is getting back to her ominous best.
Ham is an imposing force in full flight, able to rack up plenty of the ball in midfield with her combination of smarts and size. At 179cm, she is a powerful athlete who can burst through packs, take contested marks, and carry the ball forward in damaging fashion. All of those traits were on show during her Round 4 performance, which we place under the Player Focus microscope.
SEASON SO FAR:
Averages: 24.3 disposals, 3.7 marks, 3.0 tackles, 7.3 inside 50s, 1.0 rebound 50
After a quiet 11-disposal start in a loss to Tasmania, Ham has notched up consecutive 30-plus disposal performances in the NAB League Girls competition. The first was a good sighter of her talent, registering 32 touches, eight inside 50s and four behinds against the winless Northern Knights to get Western on the board.
She backed that up emphatically this past Saturday in arguably a better performance, this time finding the ball an even 30 times and notching two behinds, but pouring pressure on Greater Western Victoria (GWV) with 13 inside 50s. It did not take long, but Ham is right back at the bar she set as an under-ager, and looks like exceeding it.
Western Jets 10.14 (74) def. GWV Rebels 2.3 (15)
Stats: 30 disposals (15 kicks, 15 handballs), 5 marks, 5 tackles, 13 inside 50s, 2 behinds
Registering the first score of the game for the second week running, Ham made her presence felt from the get-go. But as was the case in week one and two, that score was a minor as Ham’s finishing touch on the fly required a bit more polish.
In what became a real feature of her game, the top-ager worked well in tandem with her fellow midfielders to surge the ball forward by hand, working out swift combinations to get to the outside and then take metres with run and carry.
She began to find more inside ball and released her centre bounce partners well, but also went on a dash of her own with two running bounces and a forward handball through the corridor. In full flight, she’s as unstoppable as a winner dashing down the Flemington straight. Her start was a sighter for things to come.
Ham began to utilise a couple of really handy tweaks in her game, at least from what she had shown in her first two outings. Her composure was much improved, as she opted to go by hand much more often out of the contest instead of breaking through a tackle and blazing away by foot.
The Jets star also displayed a touch of finesse in her kicking, hitting a short weighted pass inside 50. Usually, Ham gets the ball around the arc and sends a booming kick to the hot spot, or on goal, but that decision was the right one.
Her ability to set up Western’s wall when attacking also came to the fore, as she chimed in for a couple of intercept marks in quick succession. Although, she reverted back to that long kicking inside 50 in a rush of urgency.
In a term where she continued to rack up the footy and help cement Western’s forward half dominance, Ham’s on-field presence looked to be well and truly back – if it ever left in the first place.
Ham picked up from where she left off after half time, continuing to help her side dominate the midfield battle. One of her better contributions was another case of lowering her eyes, finding partner-in-crime Charlotte Baskaran inside 50 with a well-hit kick and goal assist.
The powerful midfielder’s explosiveness continued to put her at a class above, as she bustled forward and gained good meterage time after time for the Jets. She got into her stride quickly, proving near impossible to pin down with ball in hand.
Her running bounce forays were again a highlight, as she needed no invitation to take grass in front of her through the corridor, suiting Western’s exciting brand of footy. Consistently nailing that final disposal continued to be elusive, but Ham wreaked havoc with her ability to charge into attack within seconds.
With the game all but wrapped up as the Jets lead by over six goals, Ham and her troops finished strongly. At risk of repetition, her ability to break forward in a flash from the defensive half was unmatched, and proved the effectiveness of a route-one approach.
In one particularly memorable play, Ham dashed through the centre square, bounced, weaved through a pair of opponents, had her kick smothered, gathered again and slammed away a shot on goal. It missed, but was a moment which highlighted her unstoppable athleticism and high potential. It was a nice way to end another ominous performance – though hopefully a goal is next in the offing after six behinds in the last two games.