Finals spots to be decided in ultimate NAB League Girls round
REPRESENTATIVE stars will return to NAB League Girls action, with the ultimate home-and-away round set to decide the finals picture. The Northern Territory Thunder Academy enters the fray this weekend, meaning all 13 mainstay regions are in action across a bumper seven games of elite talent pathway football. We preview each fixture.
In what is effectively a Metro pool dead rubber, the Calder Cannons and Oakleigh Chargers go head-to-head at Highgate Recreation Reserve to open Round 10 on Saturday morning. The match will see Oakleigh’s premiership defence come to an end, and Calder can look to compound that fact as it searches for a seventh win this season.
The Chargers come in fresh off a bye, though part of their experienced core turned out for Vic Metro last week. Oakleigh is a region known to manage top-end prospects, and rightly so, but fingers crossed we get to see the likes of Jasmine Fleming and Charlotte Taylor run out one last time in Chargers colours ahead of the national carnival.
Calder had just two players miss last week due to representative action, but both of them – Abbey McDonald and Reese Sutton – are in line to return. Only one game off the top two in their conference, the Cannons can draw level with Eastern or Western depending on the result of that clash, but have an unassailable percentage gap to bridge. They should also have too much for the valiant Chargers.
With two regions lurking just outside the top two, the Geelong Falcons will look to cement their finals qualification when they host Bendigo Pioneers at Deakin University on Saturday. The Falcons copped a fair percentage whack last week and need to win to keep both Tasmania and Murray at bay, should they both get up. Bendigo also suffered a heavy loss in Round 9, but will look to play spoiler and finish the season on a high.
The Falcons sorely missed some of their experienced heads against a strong Eastern Ranges outfit last week. They promise to return on the eve of finals, with over-agers Elizabeth Dowling, Analea McKee and Keeley Hardingham all fresh off their representative venture, along with Mia Van Dyke.
Bendigo unveiled even more youth in a 106-point loss to Tasmania last time out, but should be buoyed by the return of Octavia Di Donato and Drew Ryan in midfield, as well as Tegan Williams and Emily Everist as key figures at either end of the ground. Under-ager Lucia Painter is another to watch, she is in ripping having shifted roles recently.
A clash of the bottom sides from either conference goes down in Churchill on Saturday afternoon, as the Gippsland Power and Northern Knights lock horns. The Power’s search for a win in 2022 comes down to the wire, while Northern will look to grab a second set of points having already taken down one Country opponent this season.
Both sides battled hard in Round 9 but were bested by Country regions. Gippsland was only slightly weakened last week but Vic Country representative Yasmin Duursma is in line for a return, while Northern’s experienced brigade is set for a boost after three players turned out for Vic Metro. Among them, Rylie Wilcox has not played since Round 4 and will be a welcome addition to the side.
Despite their relative inexperience, at the core of Gippsland’s DNA is being a team which is difficult to play against. With arguably a touch more top-end class in elder age brackets, Northern has a slight edge but will have to bring its best against the Power after they narrowly missed out on beating Murray last week. The hunger remains.
Tasmania’s slim finals hopes hinge on a couple of other results, but the Devils must win in any scenario to qualify for the final four. The task ahead of them is a daunting one, with top Country side Dandenong awaiting at The Hangar on Saturday afternoon. Undefeated across nine games, the Stingrays will look to cap off a perfect regular season with one more win.
After getting the job done against Northern last week, the Stingrays will likely be boosted by the inclusion of their eight Vic Country squad members. While unaffected by last week’s representative action, Tasmania also has some quality to return to the side after star midfielder Claire Ransom and under-ager Priya Bowering missed last week’s big win over Bendigo.
As always, it is difficult to look past Dandenong’s depth and should its top-line players come right back into the fray, getting a win on Saturday looms as a lofty task for Tasmania. Though after a confidence boosting win last time out, and with their season to play for, the Devils cannot be counted out.
Northern Territory Thunder will become the 16th team to compete in this year’s NAB League Girls season, when they face off against the Murray Bushrangers at Highgate Recreation Reserve on Sunday morning. Somewhat of an unknown quantity, the Thunder will look to play an exciting brand against a Victorian region which also likes to move the play forward quickly.
While the likes of Zarlie Goldsworthy, Zara Hamilton and league leading goalkicker Mindy Quade were present in Murray’s Round 9 win, the returns of four important figures from the Vic Country squad will be massive for the Bushrangers. They narrowly got past Gippsland last week, and are still a chance to make finals if both Geelong and Tasmania lose on Saturday. If not, they can finish the season on a positive note.
A finals preview is upon us in the Metro pool on Sunday, as the Eastern Ranges and Western Jets battle it out in the first of two consecutive games against each other. Sitting first and second in their conference respectively, these two regions boast 7-1 records and will play off for early bragging rights just a week out from their knockout finals clash.
Both teams got the job done last week despite missing some top-end talent to Vic Metro duties. Western’s depth shone through with skipper Charlotte Baskaran, star midfielder Montana Ham, and leading goalkicker Caitlin Sargent among the absentees, while Eastern was without Mia Busch and plenty of tall timber – including the injured Mia Austin.
Should all or most representative talent return to either side, this promises to be one of the games of the year. Despite the loss, Eastern proved itself worthy against the best of the best in Dandenong, but Western faces its toughest challenge to date having taken down every adversary since a shock Round 2 loss. Strap yourselves in.
Seeing out the 2022 home-and-away fixtures is a clash between the Sandringham Dragons and Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels at RSEA Park on Sunday afternoon. Neither side can make finals in their respective pools, but a positive record is on the line for the Dragons, as the Rebels look to secure their second win for the season.
The Dragons will be buoyed by the news of over-age talent Zoe Barbakos being pre-selected by Hawthorn in the AFLW. On top of that, a raft of top-age talent is in line to slot back into the side after a loss to Calder. Essentially the entire starting midfield brigade was absent last week, but the Dragons were able to showcase some emerging under-agers.
GWV was a region which lost less players to representative action than others, but lost them in key areas of the ground. Molly Walton and Paige Scott add a bit of size and flair to the midfield rotation. With both sides turning out for the last time in 2022, plenty of players will be keen to prove themselves in a final audition.