2022 AFLW U18s team review: Western Australia
WESTERN Australia bounced back from a forgettable loss to South Australia first up to be competitive against the WAFL Women’s All Stars, then collect the points against the Allies. The Sandgropers won their final game by a thrilling five points after trailing at half-time and being level at the final break. They had some standouts across the board and had to deal with injuries and Health and Safety Protocols throughout the three weeks.
MVP: Ella Roberts (Peel Thunder)
One of the easiest MVP award winners to predict coming into the tournament, the reigning overall champion from last year had another strong carnival. Though perhaps a touch underdone in game one – just her second match coming off a long-term injury – once she found her groove she was back to her best. She simply dominated the match against the WAFL Women’s All Stars, racking up 30 touches, seven marks, two clearances, five inside 50s and a goal. Then, after playing forward for three quarters against the Allies, moved into the midfield and was the difference for the Sandgropers, having 22 touches, seven marks, five tackles, two clearances, four inside 50s and booting 2.2.
Bella Mann (Peel Thunder)
The over-age state captain really stepped up over the carnival and would arguably be the next best behind Roberts for four-quarter impact. She was fierce, put her body on the line and by the end of the tournament, was a real threat to the opposition with her ability to read the ball in flight and get to the right spots. Her improvement from last year was noticeable across the board, having spent time in the midfield as she has done for Peel Thunder this year.
Alli Nokes (East Fremantle)
The rebounding defender was outstanding in her consistency, playing on the last line, and after totally 19 disposals and seven rebound 50s in her first two games, had 19 and eight in the final match of the carnival. Nokes provided great drive and was able to mop up in the defensive half, providing reliability in kicking from the back 50 to midfield.
Jaime Henry (Swan Districts)
One of the most consistent midfielders who just had a real crack each and every game, Henry was up there with Roberts and Mann for consistently winning the ball. In the loss to South Australia, Henry had 16 disposals and 11 tackles, but only managed the one clearance, before having 22 disposals and two clearances against the WAFL Women’s All Stars. In the win over Allies, she had 18 and four, with the majority of her touches across the carnival being contested handballs.
Lauren Wakfer (South Fremantle)
After dominating against stronger, older, but less athletic rucks, Wakfer had a new challenge at the championships, taking on a number of equally athletic rucks who actually had more height than her. The 180cm tall did her best and certainly looked impressive around the ground, even when she was beaten in the hitouts. Though there were times when the opposition rucks got on top, Wakfer was always able to influence the game in some way and finished the carnival with some ultra-impressive all-round stats, covering the ground incredibly well.
Kayla Van Den Heever (West Perth)
The West Perth bottom-ager was one of the surprise packets of the carnival, going in hard and having a consistent effort. She did not always rack up big numbers, but she gave it a real crack and had plenty of noticeable moments across the three matches. Likely to play onball consistently next year, Van Den Heever is one to keep an eye on throughout the next 12 months.