Scouting Notes: 2022 AFLW U18s – Vic Country vs. Vic Metro

THE 2022 AFL Women’s Under 18 National Championships got underway on Sunday, as Vic Metro downed their ‘Big V’ counterpart, Vic Country by 53 points in Ballarat. With a raft of top-end talent afield, there was plenty for club recruiters to jot down ahead of this year’s full national carnival. We also took note of some of the more impressive individual performances, outlined in this week’s Scouting Notes.

>> MATCH REPORT: Metro blitzes Country in opening AFLW U18s clash


#2 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)
15/04/2004 | 163cm | Defender

Stationed primarily in defence, Skepper was often looked to by her teammates to run past for a handball and then kick the ball out long from the defensive 50, seeing her gather 18 disposals across the four quarters, with 15 of those being kicks. Skepper took most kick-outs for Country and did well to run the ball offensively, often beating the opponent on the mark, and kicking onto the wing where she’d often have teammates ready to run onto the ball heading forward.

#7 Jamie-Lee Speakman (GWV Rebels)
6/05/2004 | 162cm | Defender

The Rebels defender has been a surprise packet this year, having missed 2021 due to a long-term injury. Speakman has made a name for herself as a reliable interceptor in the backline, and that was no different against Metro. Despite finishing the game with nine disposals, it wouldn’t have surprised most viewers if she had numbers in 20s, such was her influence on the game. Speakman’s most eye catching moments were when she was flying for marks, able to consistently clunk them even when copping contact, and following up with really sound disposal – generally going for safer options that allowed her teammates to receive the ball in space and keep running. The absolute highlight of Speakman’s game came in the second term, where the ball was delivered high to a big pack in her defensive goal square, and she took the opportunity to get up on an opponent’s shoulders and hold onto the mark over the pack.

Jamie-Lee Speakman’s overhead marking was a highlight for Vic Country

#8 Paige Scott (GWV Rebels)
25/06/2004 | 160cm | Forward

Despite the lack of forward 50 entries for Country, Scott managed to impact the game well when the opportunity presented itself. In the early stages of the game, Scott was making an effort to push up the ground and impact contests around the centre, where she’d look to spoil the ball and then follow up at ground level to get it out to a teammate by hand, or sometimes just tapping the ball in front. Scott flew for the marks she could, and whilst not holding them all, she always did enough to recover the ball or help teammates swoop onto it. There was a bit of a purple patch from Scott in the third quarter, where she took a good contested mark inside 50 and played on, unfortunately shanking the kick under pressure. Unfazed, she continued moving inside 50 to position well in front of the goalsquare when the ball was sent back in, drawing a push in the back free kick and converting.

Paige Scott added her usual flair up forward

#13 Taylah Gatt (Dandenong Stingrays)
1/11/2004 | 169cm | Wing

The winger somewhat burst onto the scene this year and has quickly become one of the best outside players in the NAB League, and transferred her good club level form into her Country performance. Gatt played a pretty classic game of hers, holding her space well and presenting as a wide option for her teammates, where she’d be able to go for damaging runs along the wing when used, usually taking one or two bounces on the way and kicking forward for teammates to run onto. Gatt arguably looked as solid at ground level as she has all year, rarely fumbling even when under pressure, making her near unbeatable when out in space.

#14 Felicity Crank (Dandenong Stingrays)
19/01/2004 | 168cm | Inside Midfielder

The most consistent performer for Country through the game, Crank was just in and under at every opportunity, being her usual reliable self through any role she was playing. Having played mostly as an inside ball winner for the Stingrays this season, Crank was played in the backline through stages of the game and proved a valuable part of the back six when stationed there, but really shone when given the freedom to roam as a midfielder. Crank was everywhere and accumulated well, ending the game with an equal team-high 18 disposals.

Felicity Crank did all the typically tough stuff for Country

#17 Charley Ryan (Dandenong Stingrays)
9/02/2004 | 171cm | Midfielder

Arguably the cleanest of all Country players on the day, Ryan didn’t waste any of her 14 disposals, consistently picking out the best option each time she had it and looking to quickly move the ball forward. Ryan balanced her play with good inside and outside work, demonstrated with her ferocious approach to winning the ball and taking down opponents in close, but also her ability to hold space, get the ball when free and run her distance to deliver the ball further. Ryan was well on track to be Country’s best-on, but her day was unfortunately cut short in the fourth quarter after a heavy marking collision saw her come off with a knee injury.

#22 Molly Walton (GWV Rebels)
5/06/2004 | 171cm | Defender

Returning to a defensive post after spending majority of the season in the midfield, Walton looked natural with her positioning and craft in the backline, but did at times lack some polish with her disposal – though that rarely resulted in direct turnovers. Where Walton stood above the other players on field was with her repeated defensive efforts, often laying multiple tackles in the same passage of play, or smothering an attempted kick and then tackling an opponent that swept it up.

#25 Mackenzie Eardley (Dandenong Stingrays)
13/01/2004 | 181cm | Tall Defender

Not having as easy of a time in the air as she typically does, Eardley still managed to provide some excellent interceptions with her positioning and ability at ground level for her height. Similarly to Walton, Eardley showed some real grit with her repeat efforts in the same passages of play, particularly with a smother in the first quarter, followed by her throwing herself at the ground ball and quickly handing it off to an outside teammate. Eardley’s ball use was also strong through the game, looking to run the ball where she could and then kick long for teammates to run onto, which unlocked a few promising attacking plays for Country.


Geelong Falcons over-ager Elizabeth Dowling played in all thirds of the ground through the contest, highlighting her versatility and playing a big part in Country’s midfield when the opportunity arose. Co-captains Yasmin Duursma and Octavia Di Donato worked hard all day, with Di Donato’s composure under pressure seeing her use the ball well in close, and Duusrma’s gut running and speed seeing her be involved in a few link up chains. Whilst the ball didn’t spend much time forward, Tegan Williams looked to make the most of her opportunities, displaying good leading patterns and work rate to get up the ground at stages. A switch into the midfield late in the game allowed Amber Clarke to show off her breakaway speed from congestion.


#3 Rylie Wilcox (Northern Knights)
12/03/2004 | 158cm | Wing

Wilcox is one who had earned high praise coming into the season, even being compared to Carlton star Georgia Gee by Northern Knights staff, and she proved those comparisons correct against Country. Wilcox filled a role on the wing for majority of the game, and excelled with her speed, precise kicking and ability to hold her space to be arguably one of the most influential players on field. Wilcox’s ball use was supreme all day, rarely picking an option that wasn’t the best available to her, but also happy to run the ball the full distance she could – utilising her evasiveness when moving through traffic to open up more options further up the ground. Wilcox’s competitiveness was on display as she drifted across the ground to spoil marking attempts of players much taller than her, proceeding to beat opponents at ground level and quickly hit targets by hand or foot. A good point of difference in Wilcox’s game is her ability to spread well from the contests and present as a wide option at most times, working hard to get free and be the best option for teammates to use.

#6 Charlotte Baskaran (Western Jets)
9/12/2004 | 162cm | Midfielder

Perhaps not given the freedom by opponents she has become accustomed to, Baskaran didn’t necessarily win as much of the ball after half time as many would’ve expected as she shifted forward, but found other ways to impact the contest by upping her defensive work. Laying a game high 13 tackles, Baskaran was constantly keeping opponents accountable and acting as a roadblock out of stoppages, but also demonstrating her gut running ability to lay a few run down tackles in open play. Despite a slightly quieter game disposals wise, Baskaran still managed to damage with her disposals and looked ominous around stoppages where she looked unstoppable at stages, out-positioning and out-running opponents.

#8 Sofia Hurley (Sandringham Dragons)
30/01/2004 | 165cm | Midfielder

Hurley started the game in an almost perfect fashion, winning the first two centre clearances in similar fashion where she was able to break away from her opponent. On both occasions, she collected the loose ball and held her composure under pressure whilst moving towards the wing, then releasing the winger with a sharp handball and follow-up shepherd. Hurley spent the first half playing mostly through the midfield and continued to demonstrate her read of the game and ability to accumulate throughout, even hitting some impressive kicks under pressure and setting up promising scoring opportunities. Hurley was moved forward for the second half, seeing her numbers drop off, however she was still involved in some promising forward plays, unfortunately unable to hit the scoreboard despite her efforts.

Sofia Hurley was a crucial part of Metro’s dominant midfield

#9 Mia Busch (Eastern Ranges)
18/05/2004 | 166cm | Defender/Midfielder

A tale of two halves for one of Metro’s leaders for the day, Busch played the first half off of half-back where she looked composed with ball in hand, but sometimes struggled in the thick of the contest and in approaching marking attempts. Despite this, Busch still got herself involved in everything she could, pushing up to impact contests in the middle of the ground and trying to get the ball forward quicker. She moved to the wing in the second half where she looked more comfortable, with her work rate and ability to spread around the ground seeing her win more of the ball and utilise her clean skills to effectively move it forward.

#10 Jasmine Fleming (Oakleigh Chargers)
5/11/2004 | 165cm | Midfielder

It’s no surprise that a player of Fleming’s caliber led the game for disposals, racking up 25 in a truly faultless performance. Fleming was everywhere all game, winning clearances in the defensive 50, centre and forward 50, following up with her typically sound ball use by foot to clear the ball to teammates. Fleming’s work rate to get from contest-to-contest and link up in attacking chains at multiple stages stood out, often passing the ball off and then working hard to get it back on the run and deliver the ball forward. Fleming’s balance around the contest was impressive, making quick decisions as to whether she would go in and under to win the ball and pass it out by hand, or whether she’d hold out and be the next possession winner from the pack. That decision making and repeat effort saw her get on the scoreboard in the second quarter after an impressive one-two play close to goal.

Jasmine Fleming was Metro’s top ball winner on the day

#12 Zoe Barbakos (Sandringham Dragons)
28/11/2003 | 170cm | Forward

The exciting small forward was at her best against Country, bringing her usual flair and pressure inside the forward half, but also managing an equal game-high three goals in a well rounded performance. Whilst early on Barbakos looked somewhat shaky, giving away a couple of holding the ball free kicks, once she had hit the scoreboard she looked nothing but dangerous. Utilising her speed and agility well all game, Barbakos was a constant threat around the forward half with her courage proving troublesome for opponents. Of her three goals, the most impressive came from a hard-ball win in the centre square, where she burst away from the pack and took four bounces towards goal and slotted it from about 35 metres out.

#17 Bridie Hipwell (Sandringham Dragons)
15/06/2004 | 174cm | Forward

Spending most of her time on ground in the forward half, with a brief stint in the defensive 50, Hipwell brought her usual aerial presence and composure through traffic to the game. Whilst it was tough early for the athletic forward, Hipwell made an impact with her work at ground level and ability to stand up in tackles, holding well until a good option presented itself, with one such moment leading to a well weighted kick for a forward to mark in the goalsquare. Hipwell tried hard to lead effectively all day, and whilst that was difficult against a sound Country defence, she managed to take a mark just out of the goalsquare thanks to her quick reaction time to convert on a slight angle. Oddly enough, Hipwell’s work in the defensive half was arguably where she impressed the most, looking comfortable pushing up from behind the ball and getting aggressive with her running and positioning. This confidence in her run saw her get the ball out of defensive 50 late in the game, going on a four-bounce foray to deliver the ball to the forward end of the centre square.

#18 Caitlin Sargent (Western Jets)
22/12/2003 | 174cm | Forward

One of a few over-aged prospects in the clash, Sargent was arguably the most consistent and impressive across the four quarters. Sargent’s forward craft was obvious from the start, looking proactive in the attacking 50 with her leading patterns, always on the move to make her difficult to match-up on. It did not take long for her to reap the rewards for these efforts, taking some early marks in the forward 50, with one seeing her convert from not far out on a slight angle. Sargent only looked to grow in confidence from there on out, flying for everything and looking assured when approaching packs, even pushing up the ground to play a bit more of a link up role at times where her work rate made her difficult to shut down.

#25 Charlotte Taylor (Oakleigh Chargers)
18/01/2004 | 173cm | Forward

Playing exclusively in the forward 50, Taylor was often looked to as the main target for Metro’s entries into the forward half, as she pushed up and looked to play a high half-forward role. Taylor was damaging particularly in transition, where she could use her power and speed to her advantage to beat opponents to the ball and send it forward with a long kick. Whilst Taylor wasn’t as clean at ground level as she typically is, her competitiveness saw her even any contests she looked beaten in as she threw herself at opponents or on loose balls to lock them in and then try and fire them out by hand. Taylor didn’t hit the scoreboard herself, but the work she did further afield or high in the forward 50 played a crucial role in a few of Metro’s goals.

#27 Montana Ham (Western Jets)
29/03/2004 | 179cm | Midfielder

Playing the most amount of time in midfield of any Metro on-baller, it’s no surprise that Ham was one of the most influential performers on the day, with her power and size proving too difficult for opponents at times as she did as she pleased. Ham was unsurprisingly in and under through much of the contest, highlighting her quick hands in close where she rarely missed her intended target. Ham still found the space and time required to pull out a few of her classic long bombs around the ground, at times getting a good 40-55 meters behind her kicks to get her side moving quickly.

Montana Ham’s dynamism was impressive on Sunday


Bottom-agers Ava Jordan and Jess Vukic looked comfortable at the representative level for Metro, with Jordan spending more time forward than she’s used to but still managing 13 disposals, setting up a few good scoring opportunities along the way, whilst Vukic looked too athletic for the Country rucks to compete with, leading the game for hitouts with 12. Keely Coyne spent most of her game on the wing but still managed to demonstrate her cleanliness and composure through traffic when under pressure.

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