Scouting Notes: AFLW Under 18 Academy vs. Under 23 All Stars
A FOURTH quarter flurry saw the AFLW Under 18 Academy kick away from their Under 23 counterparts on Sunday, running out 41-point victors at Punt Road Oval. With essentially the nation’s best young talent on show, there were plenty of outstanding individual performers who displayed their class. We highlight them in the latest edition of Scouting Notes.
All notes are the opinion of the individual author.
AFLW UNDER 18 ACADEMY:
#10 Amber Clarke (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
Rolling through midfield from her starting post up forward, Clarke showcased her turn of speed and goal sense across a terrific outing for the Academy. She got on the board within a minute, pouncing on a forward 50 turnover to set a nice tone for the day. The Dandenong Stingrays talent nabbed a second goal in term two off a classy snap, and always looked dangerous when breaking forward on the fly. She was hard to catch, backing herself to burn opponents and produce something eye-catching with the final disposal going inside 50.
#11 Alana Gee (Suns Academy/Queensland)
The Sunshine State standout was squeezed out to the wing after stamping herself as one of Queensland’s prime midfield movers during the Under 18 championships. She still managed to display her patented polish, looking as clean and composed as anyone afield in possession. Gee got her hands on the ball early and looked to get involved in stoppage play, mopping up spills which came her way or gladly receiving on the outer. From there, she strung together some nice one-two passages and moved the ball forward without fuss, using it well and looking stylish in most feats she pulled off.
#15 J’Noemi Anderson (Sandringham Dragons/NT Thunder)
As far as impact per possession goes, Anderson can certainly produce eye-catching moments even when she is not accumulating high numbers. She did that once again on Sunday, slotting into the midfield-forward rotation and bagging two second-half goals. Both were set shot conversions which she celebrated in a big way, as her teammates got around her. Anderson also put forward her marking prowess, clunking a couple of strong contested grabs and using her booming kick to put the Academy into attack.
#23 Ella Roberts (Peel Thunder/Western Australia)
An absolute standout each time she plays, Roberts again produced some sparkling form as one of the Academy’s centrepieces. She looked a touch sore and took time to get into the game, but was irresistible once she hit full flight. The Peel Thunder product displayed clean skills and sound decision making, which boded well for her shift into midfield after half time. After again taking some time to warm to that secondary role, Roberts turned it on and ended up with game-high numbers of 22 disposals and six clearances. Her lace out field kicking was a touch offline when shooting on goal, ending with 1.3 as she nicked Zarlie Goldsworthy’s bouncing shot in the goalsquare to register a well-deserved major.
#24 Georgie Cleaver (East Fremantle/Western Australia)
The promising bottom-aged tall showed just why she was a prospective AFLW Academy pick, producing nice moments up forward among an attack which saw plenty of opportunity. Coming from a high-level netball background, Cleaver’s strengths lie aerially and her five marks on Sunday attest to that. While matched on smaller opponents, the 183cm talent took her grabs cleanly and looked fluent in her movement. Further impacting at ground level will be an improvement area, and the left-footer’s unorthodox kicking action yielded 1.1 from a couple of set shots.
#25 Fleur Davies (Suns Academy/Queensland)
The dominant ruck afield, Davies won a monster 28 hitouts as she took over said role for the Academy. She started out up forward though, and got involved close to goal to play a hand in Amber Clarke’s first-minute major. She has presence wherever she goes and was a physical force who not only impacted her opponents in the ruck battle, but also got her hands on the ball as the Academy moved out of congestion. Though she missed out on All Australian selection, the Queenslander may well be the leading Under 18 ruck-forward available.
#27 Montana Ham (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
Ham took home yet another medal on Sunday, this time as best afield for the Academy in a dazzling display of her power. The Western Jets midfielder got her usual run on the inside and up forward, but even had a rest down back in the final term. She showcased her strong marking ability on all three lines, but looks most comfortable playing the role of distributor through the middle. She even found her shooting boots for the occasion, snaring two goals in quick succession during term two with slick finishes. She can do it all, and capped off a remarkable run in the back-end of her season.
#38 Zarlie Goldsworthy (Murray Bushrangers/NSW-ACT)
The Allies MVP was part of the Academy’s starting midfield mix, and got to work by finding plenty of the ball in dangerous positions. With her penetrative kicking and power to break from congestion, Goldsworthy provided positive drive on the attack and had a real crack in contested situations. There were plenty of times where she stayed with the play and put in repeat efforts, which were rewarded in term three with a handy checkside goal. She almost had another in the fourth, but Ella Roberts made the score a sure thing as Goldsworthy’s shot bounced in the goalsquare.
UNDER 23 ALL STARS:
#2 Meghan Gaffney (Tasmania Devils)
Gaffney has enjoyed a successful over-age campaign, and continued her form with spurts of her best work on Sunday. The diminutive Tasmanian injected her speed to the contest and backed herself to wheel out of trouble before getting a disposal away. She took the space in front of her well and looked sharp whenever she got a handle on the ball, providing a bit of spark for the Under 23s.
#3 Rylie Wilcox (Northern Knights)
Starting like a house on fire, Wilcox was far and away the best All Star afield across the first 20 minutes. Her speed and agility made her difficult to pin down, and the Northern Knights standout accumulated plenty of possessions off her starting wing spot. She then shifted forward and proved she could impact there too, snaring goals in the second and third terms. With her side battling to stay in the contest, Wilcox saw less of the ball late on but tried everything to get something going in the front half, obviously possessing the weapons to do so.
#5 Keeley Skepper (Murray Bushrangers)
A player who brings consistent effort, Skepper did so in a tough spot down in the All Stars defence. She produced a couple of important plays there, marking on the last line during term two and repeatedly looking to move the ball on quickly in transition. She later moved up to the wing, giving up about 10cm to Murray Bushrangers teammate Zara Hamilton, but arguably beating her in one-on-one tussles when the two competed among the expanses of Punt Road Oval.
#6 Jamie-Lee Speakman (GWV Rebels)
Speakman was rock solid in defence, a place she has called home in GWV Rebels colours, before swinging forward to good effect. The Vic Country representative matched up on usual teammate Paige Scott and did a wonderful job to not only quell the forward’s influence, but peel off and get her intercept marking game going. Speakman’s hands were vice-like at both ends of the ground, though she could not quite translate her marking power to goals once thrown into attack. Overall, her solid shift went a long way to keeping the Under 23s competitive in the first half.
#11 Tahlia Fellows (Casey Demons VFLW)
Somewhat of a surprise packet on the day, Fellows caught the eye plenty of times with her speed and daring dash on the outside. She carried the ball forward with confidence and backed herself to burn opponents off the mark, driving the All Stars into attack with a touch of flair. Fellows also snared a goal in the first term and went on to contribute some handy contested efforts to go with that outside play, pushing her name as a mature-ager to watch out of Casey’s VFLW program.
#17 Tamara Smith (Geelong VFLW)
Named best afield for the Under 23s, Smith had a real crack onball to finish with strong numbers of 19 disposals, 11 tackles, and six clearances against fearsome, albeit younger opponents. The 160cm midfielder won possession in all expanses of the ground, bringing a high level of intensity that has seen her far well in Geelong’s VFLW side. As the second-oldest player afield, Smith was able to impose herself on the contest and come away as one of the more consistent four-quarter performers.