NAB League Girls Player Focus: Jasmine Fleming (Oakleigh Chargers)
AFTER making a dream run into the Oakleigh Chargers’ 2021 premiership team, Jasmine Fleming has lived up to the hype she generated as a bottom-ager. Building on the three games she managed last year, the 17-year-old has cemented her status as one of Victoria’s leading AFLW Draft prospects in 2022.
Having shifted forward from her usual midfield post at times this season, Fleming tried her hand off half-back on Sunday. While the move proved a successful showing of her versatility, she was not quite able to drag Oakleigh over the line against Calder. We put her Round 10 performance under the Player Focus microscope this week.
SEASON SO FAR
Averages: (6 games) 25.7 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.8 marks, 4.2 inside 50s, 2.3 rebound 50s, 0.5 goals
Despite being managed steadily throughout the season, missing four games, Fleming has been a beacon of brilliance for Oakleigh in each outing. The top-ager has not dropped under 21 disposals all year and hit a peak of 29 twice – in Rounds 3 and 7 – for a very respectable average of 25.7.
She has rotated forward from midfield as usual, but booted all three of her goals for the season in Round 6 with a more permanent attacking role, before showing her wares off half-back most recently. With a representative game under her belt too, Fleming has lived up to the promise shown in her short bottom-age campaign as Oakleigh’s, and perhaps Victoria’s top talent.
Calder Cannons 5.5 (35) def. Oakleigh Chargers 5.4 (34)
Stats: 27 disposals (17 kicks, 10 handballs), 2 marks, 3 tackles, 2 inside 50s, 5 rebound 50s
Talent pathways are all about giving players as much opportunity to showcase exactly what they can offer, and in that sense it was a pleasant surprise to see Fleming line up in defence come the opening bounce – and no less, for the remainder of the match.
She chose to take up attacking positions, seemingly given a license to roam the defensive half and become the catalyst for Oakleigh’s transitional play. Her reactions were on point early, with Fleming using her midfield nous to read the flow of play and impact as many contests as possible.
The top-age star got her ground level game going, splitting her decision making with instances where she would hold her width on the outside, compared to fighting for the ball and bursting out of congestion herself.
In either case, her priority seemed to be finding the ball, and not necessarily an opponent, to help Oakleigh move the ball forward with energy and positivity.
In what was overall a strong opening term, Fleming notched seven touches and looked lively, with her first kick of the day being a pin-point pass to Charlotte van der Vlies on the fly as she jetted out of defensive 50.
The second quarter was a touch quieter for Fleming, having already put a lot of energy into starting on a positive note. Her work rate and hunger for the footy were undeniable though, and clearly evidenced by Fleming’s tireless chasing of the play – like a kid in the backyard.
At times, it looked as if she could have been better served conserving that output, but Fleming’s willingness to harass the opposition with her closing speed and defensive intent put some heat on the ball, as Oakleigh momentarily snuck ahead.
One of her best moments came with a pick-up on the wing, which was followed by a ridiculously good example of Fleming’s powerful acceleration to burst away from two opponents in a flash. The glimpses remained.
One of Fleming’s tendencies is to dump handballs out under pressure, as she often backs her speed to take on opponents but sometimes finds herself caught in tight spots. With a couple of early touches in the third term, she showed much better composure in that sense.
Her attacking mindset remained, as she looked to find more green ball on the outside and take meterage when possible, streaming past for handball receives on several occasions. She proved impossible to catch off her first few steps too, allowing her to do damage by foot.
With Oakleigh pressing for a goal in the second half of the quarter, Fleming helped her side build a wall outside attacking 50 but had fewer chances to unleash her offence from defence across a tense 20 minutes of play.
The relentless nature of Fleming’s play did not cease in the fourth quarter, as she continued to attract the ball and break onto the attack. While she often looked to run straight through congestion in the first three terms, one of her early touches in term four saw her wheel around laterally onto her trust right side. It paid off.
As became the norm, she was the player who chased up loose balls with more hunger than anyone else and did so with incredibly clean handling off the deck. She also allowed herself to play the receiver role at stoppages but began to dump a few kicks forward.
That was perhaps the product of the game’s context, with territory at a premium, but Fleming could have pumped her legs a touch more to navigate the congestion. Still, she finished strongly and overall had one of her higher output games for the season, playing a different role than usual.
In terms of how she stacks up against the top Victorian prospects, Fleming is a player whose athleticism and elite right-foot kicking make her able to adapt to multiple positions. She can certainly work on better utilising her handballs, but is so effective when setting off into space and going by foot. Those traits combined make her a clear top three talent.