Metro clash kicks off Round 5 under Friday night lights
ROUND 5 of the 2022 NAB League Girls season bounces down on Friday night, as Metro combatants Eastern Ranges and Oakleigh Chargers go head to head at Kilsyth Recreation Reserve. A trio of Saturday games will be spread from Corowa to Craigieburn and Ballarat, while Sandringham and Western clash to kick off Sunday’s proceedings. We preview all six matches ahead.
A crucial matchup in the Metro pool pits the unbeaten Eastern Ranges against reigning premiers, the Oakleigh Chargers on Friday night. Kilsyth Recreation Reserve will host the clash, a venue which the Ranges have won at twice this season en route to their 3-0 record. On the other hand, Oakleigh is coming in off a shock one-point loss to Geelong, and another defeat here would turn the Chargers’ record into the negatives.
Eastern’s hardened engine room, lead by in-form skipper Bridget Deed has proven tough to beat in 2022. Along with the likes of fellow over-ager Isabelle Khoury, and the rotational impact of Mia Busch and Alyssia Pisano from either end, Deed’s Ranges are formidable at the contest. Their talls are athletic and dynamic too, but with VFLW starting up, the Ranges’ squad depth may be tested for the first time.
Speaking of depth, the Chargers were stretched last week in the absence of Jasmine Fleming and rely heavily on Charlotte Taylor‘s strength in midfield. Although, the likes of Charlotte van der Vlies and Lily Hart have been stepping up lately, as well as recent futures promotee Maggie Mahony. They will all have plenty to do on Friday night if they are any chance of returning to the winners list.
Riding high off last week’s come-from-behind triumph over Oakleigh, the Geelong Falcons travel to face Greater Western Victoria (GWV) at Mars Stadium in Saturday’s opening bout. The Falcons are now 3-1, and have the opportunity to draw level with Dandenong on points atop the Country standings. Meanwhile, the Rebels have fallen to 1-3 and will be scrambling to regain the form they showed in Round 1.
Geelong’s key forward wombo combo consisting of Analea McKee and Elizabeth Dowling has proven menacing, and resolute Rebels defender Jamie-Lee Speakman will likely have her hands full with one of the two. Speaking of talls, Kalani Scoullar (GWV) and Keeley Hardingham (Geelong) should provide a solid battle in the ruck for two midfields groups who love to have a crack.
The Falcons will have their fingers crossed for Ash Van Loon and Charlotte Simpson to get up, as their size along with the likes of Grace Purcell could give GWV some trouble. That won’t stop Rebels skipper Lilli Condon from playing her part, with Tahlia Meier and Paige Scott a couple of lively types who could work to break the game open when rotating through the middle.
The Northern Knights’ search for win number one in 2022 rolls into Round 5, as they host the Tasmania Devils at Highgate Recreation Reserve on Saturday. While competitive for large parts of their first four games, the Knights have fallen short of a four-quarter performance each time. Meanwhile, the Devils have seen both sides of the ledger with their 2-2 record, the last result being a breakaway win over Bendigo.
Tasmania will be buoyed by the return of Jemma Blair among three changes, with the skipper named to start at centre half-back. Vice-captain Claire Ransom has been in awesome form along with fellow AFLW Academy member Brooke Barwick. They’ll both start in midfield, along with 2007-born talent Priya Bowering. Up forward, the combination of Bellah Parker and Georgia Clark has plenty of promise.
The Knights’ defence has been busy across each round, with midfield centrepiece Ava Jordan working overtime to compete around the ball. Green shoots have appeared in the form of Mia Haas and Molly McErlain, while the experience of Tannah Hurst and Tarrah Delgado has proven vital thus far. As always, the speed and pressure of Rylie Wilcox should be a good watch, with potential to combat Tassie’s style of play well.
An early road trip over the New South Wales border awaits the Calder Cannons on Saturday, as they travel to face Murray Bushrangers in Corowa. The hosts have shown better form than their 2-2 record suggests, and should bring a high-scoring approach as the third most potent team thus far. Calder boasts the same amount of wins from one less game, with both coming in the Cannons’ last two outings.
Top Cannons prospect Abbey McDonald went down with injury last week, but will be an important figure if she can get up as a potential adversary for Murray’s Zarlie Goldsworthy, who is in fine form. Through midfield, Reese Sutton (Calder) and Keeley Skepper (Murray) have been reliable drivers of the ball, and could form another key matchup to look out for.
The mid-forward rotation of Goldsworthy and Calder co-captain Olivia Manfre should add some dynamism to the match, while the contested games of bottom-aged Cannons Kayley Kavanagh and Amy Gaylor will go a long way to locking up the expansive Bushrangers. On the outside, watch for Zara Hamilton and Mali McLeod to go blow for blow with their running prowess.
The Western Jets will look to make Sandringham Dragons’ return off a bye as difficult as possible, when the two Metro sides meet at Trevor Barker Oval on Sunday morning. Having dropped their first game, the Jets have looked formidable in reply, culminating in their 2-1 record. The Dragons were also in good shape pre-bye, winning two competitive scraps before going down to the undefeated Eastern Ranges.
Many eyes will be fixed on the midfield battle, with Charlotte Baskaran in competition-best form and set to face a familiar foe in Sofia Hurley. Both are well balanced and well matched, but also have handy support acts. The Jets have been dominant at the stoppages with Montana Ham clicking into gear and Stephanie Asciak reliable as ever, while the likes of Keely Coyne, Bridie Hipwell, and Ella Sciberras provide dynamic Dragons depth.
There should be a couple of key figures at either end of the ground, too. Sandringham’s Georgia Foran has been an absolute titan down back this season, but could be tested with more of a direct role with Western’s Caitlin Sargent a dangerous goalkicker. Speaking of goals, Mia Zielinski will look to convert a few more after her promising start to the season for Sandy.
Two of the more exciting Country sides lock horns in the final fixture of the weekend, as Gippsland Power host the Bendigo Pioneers in Churchill on Sunday. The Power remain winless but continue to improve from game to game, with their youthful exuberance on show. Bendigo also has its share of future talent, and has shown much more than its 1-3 record would suggest.
Among the main events is a potential battle between under-agers Lucia Painter (Bendigo) and Ash Centra (Gippsland). Both are 2006-born prospects but have proven to be more than up to the Under 18 level thus far. Also in the futures category for either side are Lila Keck (midfielder) and Ella Stoddart (defender), while leading Pio’ Octavia Di Donato and Gippsland standout Yasmin Duursma should make for a ripping midfield matchup from the get-go.
Above all else, expect both of these sides to have a real crack and showcase some of the best traits that country footballers have to offer. Whichever team displays a finer touch in the forward half should get the chocolates, but will compete either way.