Scouting Notes: 2022 NAB League Girls – Preliminary Finals
THE BEST players stand up on the big stage, and that is exactly what happened as finals time arrived in the 2022 NAB League Girls competition. Dandenong Stingrays and Western Jets won through in their respective bouts, setting up their first meeting of the season in Friday’s decider. We highlight the weekend’s top individual performers in our next edition of Scouting Notes.
Note: All comments are opinion of the individual author.
By: Peter Williams
Stepped up to play a variety of roles after starting in her usual midfield position. With a strong breeze blowing down one end, Baskaran spent time in defence to try and lift her side over the line. Though the captain has had more influential games, she was a clear leader across the match. Her composure under pressure and ability to be in the right spots at the right time was noticeable. She had the ball on a string at one stage and was working well in tandem with Ham around the stoppages and kept having an influence throughout the match to still be among the best Western players.
The athletic tall continued her good form of late with some exciting moves inside 50. Though she only finished with one goal – and that was a very nice snap in the opening moments of the third term – Weston-Turner was still able to look dangerous throughout the match. She presented well, and though occasionally could have been a touch cleaner, she had a number of chances on goal, especially in the first term. Had they been a little smoother, she could have hit the scoreboard in a big way.
#24 Laura Elliott
The reliable intercept defender did as she has all season and was a rock in the back 50. She positioned herself well, took strong grabs and was able to deliver the ball well enough to safety time and time again. She laid a great tackle in the middle of the ground as well to dispossess an opponent early in the match, and she stood up under lights and the big occasion without any issues, especially when the wind was heavily favouring one end.
#27 Caitlin Sargent
After seemingly being well held for the majority of the first term and getting a bit frustrated, Sargent snapped a goal out of nothing to get her side on the board. It broke open a massive armwrestle of a first term, and she would finish the match with a couple of majors to be the standalone top goalkicker for the season if finals had counted. She kept presenting and working hard, and though Walsh wore her like a glove when they were opposed to each other, Sargent never stopped trying.
#38 Montana Ham
Easily best on ground, Ham was a four-quarter performer and put in her best game of the season, in a year that was far from one devoid of huge outings. But despite her big games before the finals series, there was little doubt Ham saved her best (so far) for the finals series, with a game-high in disposals and contested possessions, racking up the ball with ease throughout the four quarters. She spun and bullocked her way out of traffic, laid a run-down tackle at half-back, and tried to create a highlight reel run down the wing but was pinged for running too far. Ham’s game certainly had it all, and she never gave in, well deserving of a best on ground performance and a key reason why the Western midfield remained on top throughout.
#9 Mia Busch
The classy talent stepped up through the midfield as well as playing her familiar half-back role, working hard throughout and riding the bumps. She was lively from the get-go winning plenty of touches, and she spun and weaved out of traffic to get the ball out of danger, and even did the defensive things right. One of her biggest moments came when she ran down Baskaran in the forward 50 early in the fourth quarter, but unfortunately her set shot went to the right. As a whole Busch was one of the standout Ranges and really tried hard against the momentum.
#14 Grace Walsh
The reliable last-line defender was one of, if not the most consistent Eastern Ranges player with her tireless work out of the back 50. She did so well on Sargent early and kept driving the ball from the danger zone into the midfield or half-back, and rarely lost a one-on-one contest. She was unlucky when Sargent kicked a magical goal out of nothing, but it did not deter her, as she dug deep and used the ball well going long to targets presenting from either kickouts or in transition.
#16 Isabelle Khoury
The over-age midfielder racked up more of the ball than any other player on her side and battled well against the overwhelming momentum going to the other team. Though it was not a surprise given her hardened style of play, Khoury laid double-digit tackles (10) and won the ball in each third of the ground as she tried to keep the ball moving in transition from both stoppages and on the run. She balanced her touches between contested and uncontested and put up a four-quarter effort on the night.
#44 Ava Campbell
Worked in tandem with Walsh but higher up in defence, Campbell was a reliable source of rebound and one who kept at it throughout the four quarters. The bottom-age tall competes in the air and if she does not mark it, she at least brings it to ground and forces the opposition to win it at ground level, but her consistency in reacting well and rebounding it time and time again ensured the Ranges were fluent out of the defensive 50. One of the standouts for the Ranges in the loss, and a key player to watch next year.
By: Declan Reeve
Robinson enjoyed a pretty lengthy stint in the midfield early on in the game, showing off her capabilities around stoppages with a few good clearances and nice show of speed out of congestion. Robinson worked hard through the game to get to the right positions to aide her teammates, whether that was to put on a shepherd or get in the right spot for a handball receive. Robinson really impressed with how she used both sides of her body comfortably; whilst not always the best kick when forced onto her left side, she was happy to use it without hesitation which played a role in a few early Dandenong opportunities.
#6 Amber Clarke
Clarke didn’t spend as much time up forward as has over the course of the season, instead taking her flair up the ground and creating drive from the midfield with her speed and agility. Clarke’s work rate when running through the midfield stood out, as she got in the backline to assist when the ball was down there, and sacrificed her own game at times to assist a teammate in winning the ball. Her ball use was head and shoulders above at times, particularly out of the defensive half where she looked to move the ball into the corridor with darting kicks.
#10 Brooke Smith
Although Smith didn’t necessarily win a lot of the ball, her efforts behind the play were instrumental in stopping Geelong counter attacks at times, with her positioning and courage seeing her have an impact in almost every contest she could get to. Smith was one who looked to run past teammates for a handball when the option was there, typically taking her space well and following up with strong use by foot going forward.
#26 Charlotte Blair
Arguably Dandenong’s most consistent player through the game, Blair’s work rate often saw her targeted from kick-ins, where she’d get herself free in a back pocket and then back her speed to continue carrying the ball and deliver long. She didn’t get to show off her speed as often as she would’ve liked with the conditions forcing the game to be congested, but when she did she blew opponents away with her burst.
#44 Jaide Anthony
Playing through the midfield and forwardline, the experience of Anthony was obvious early on in the piece as she won it with ease and stood out with her ball use. When she moved further forward, she impressed with her leading patterns as she managed to free a few times despite tight marking from the opposition. When she wasn’t the target of a kick, she still managed to be in the right spot to impact, kicking an impressive goal after sweeping up on a ground ball from the boundary line and snapping it right through.
#7 Sara Howley
It took Howley a bit of time to work into the game, but as it opened up more in the second half she started to make her impact felt more and more. Howley filled a role on the wing for much of the contest and was impressive in her ability to hold space, but balanced that with knowing when to make a run really well. Her ball use was typically sound and decision making at a high standard, seeing her play a key part in a few of Geelong’s scoring opportunities in the final term
Hardingham put in a courageous effort all game, from the first bounce her desperation and follow up work to the ruck contests was clear and continued through the game. Even when she was beaten in the ruck she was always the first to be on the move and try to sweep the ball up off the deck, generally looking to move it long when she won it.
Simpson just worked hard all game, constantly throwing herself into the contest in a bid to win the ball and get it out to runners, but knowing where to position to cut off stray Dandenong kicks out of packs. That work rate extended to the defensive stuff as well, managing eight tackles in the end but playing a role in her teammates securing plenty more with how she held up opponents at times.