Preview | AFLW U18s – Queensland vs. Allies
IN the space of a month, the 2022 AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships have come and gone, with the final match of the carnival to take place tomorrow at Metricon 2. Kicking off from 2pm, the Sunshine State will look to go back-to-back with victories, having knocked off Vic Country last Friday after losing to Vic Metro at Metricon last Tuesday. The Allies suffered a narrow defeat at the hands of Western Australia, with the Tasmanian and Northern Territory portion of the squad celebrating a win over the NSW-ACT representatives four days earlier.
KEY TALKING POINTS
Midfield battle is key
On paper both these sides have incredibly strong top-end midfielders in the group, though Queensland’s does run far deeper. Perhaps almost a touch too midfield-heavy, the home side in this clash has done well to rotate the magnets to free up some of their star on-ballers to play forward or in defence. The likes of Jasmyn Smith and Imogen Evans have both spent time in the attacking half, with Ella Smith playing just about every role, and Alana Gee impacting at both ends too be it running off half-back or slotting a goal from a mark inside 50.
The Allies on the other hand have the hard inside hitters of AFLW Academy members Cynthia Hamilton and J’Noemi Anderson, as well as the dynamic Zarlie Goldsworthy. All three have had the ability to rest forward, and have hit the scoreboard in the series. What is abundantly clear with the Allies is the nice blend of midfielders, with the more classy types in other AFLW Academy members Claire Ransom, Brooke Barwick and Dakota Mason.
Ruck duo to cause headaches
The Queensland ruck duo of top-age talent Fleur Davies and 2006-born tall Havana Harris have combined well this series to take control in those areas. Both incredibly athletic, they won the hitouts 28-17 against Vic Country. Though they lost the clearances (22-24), they took control in the inside 50s count with 43-29. Similarly, they dominated the ruck against Vic Metro at home, winning 27 hitouts to 16, whilst they won the clearances 25-21 in somewhat of a surprise given Metro’s incredible midfield depth. It showed just how strong the Queenslanders can be in there.
Looking at the Allies side, Georgie Jaques took it right up to AFLW Academy ruck Lauren Wakfer. Though not winning the overall battle, she did well to not let her opponent get off the chain, and rotated well with Cassie McWilliams. Up against the taller, yet equally athletic Davies and Harris it will be a much tougher task, and the Allies midfield will have to be ready to shark some hitouts, whilst Jaques and McWilliams will hope to stretch their opponents around the field.
All-Australian honours up for grabs
As it is the final game of the series, the 2022 AFL Women’s Under 18 All-Australian team will be announced at some point in the conclusion of the carnival. Hamilton earned All-Australian honours last year, but everyone else who will run out on the field for the final game of the championships is yet to do so. Expect Hamilton to be a likely inclusion once again with a big performance in this game, whilst Goldsworthy and Anderson have both played some incredible football. Though not always focused on middle-agers, if Brooke Barwick brings the same talent she did last game then she would be a huge chance.
For Queensland, one can just about pencil in Gee and Davies, but both Smith’s would be a great shout as well. Jasmyn has been among the leading clearance players this carnival, whilst Ella stepped up in that role last start. Also having a good carnival, Charlotte Mullins should be considered, whilst the plethora of 2006-born talents including Tara Harrington and Nyalli Milne have been exciting, but very few bottom-age players earn spots.
Queensland should be too strong in this one, with the midfield depth and extra height and athleticism in the ruck the keys to victory, With some exciting forwards including Milne, Caitlin Miller and Laquoiya Cockatoo-Motlap, they will cause plenty of headaches for the Allies. In saying that, any midfield that contains Hamilton and Goldsworthy is a chance, with Zara Hamilton another consistent ball winner. Add in the rebounding talents of Tasmanian’s Mackenzie Williams and Courtney Hingston, and the defence has the ability to keep the ball moving in transition.