WAFLW Player Focus: Bella Mann (Peel Thunder)
OVER-AGE state Under 18 representative Bella Mann rose when Peel Thunder needed it on Saturday. The 171cm defender stood tall in a thrilling five-point win over Subiaco, helping the Thunder set up their semi-final meeting with Swan Districts.
After impressing last year for the dual reigning premiers, and in Western Australia’s famous black and gold, Mann has backed it up throughout 2022 from her usual defensive post. She has added weapons to her game, proving a sharp kick and reliable reader of the play from behind the ball.
The dual AFLW Draft Combine invitee put up season-high stats in her Round 17 outing, seen whisking the ball away from a besieged Peel Thunder backline time and time again. We put Mann’s performance under the Player Focus microscope.
Peel Thunder 2.9 (21) def. Subiaco 2.4 (16)
Stats: 18 disposals (15 kicks, 3 handballs), 2 marks, 4 tackles, 2 inside 50s
QUARTER BY QUARTER:
Mann made a strong start to her Round 17 outing, stationed at the heart of a Peel defence which conceded just two behinds in the opening term. Intercept marking was the feature of her first 18 minutes, with a couple catching the eye early on.
Her first grab was clean, taken from a good position behind the ball to snaffle up Subiaco’s clearing ball forward. Mann’s willingness to play a high line and peel off aggressively paid off in that instance, before she wheeled away with a penetrative kick.
Two bites of the cherry was all it took for Mann to reel in her second mark, taking it on the stretch with a bit of closing pressure inside defensive 50. With the game played at a high intensity, the defender’s intercept acts helped Peel regain control and nullified Subiaco’s scoring threat.
While a touch quieter in term two, as Subiaco broke through for its first major of the day, Mann hardly put a foot wrong. She continued to take up positions where she could impact contests, but also looked to drive out of defence and by getting her legs pumping and primarily disposing by foot.
Back at the same end of the ground as the first term, Mann and her fellow Thunder defenders went one better than keeping Subiaco goalless – completely shutting out the Lions in term three. Up forward, Peel’s attackers went to work and snatched the lead.
Mann started out with a great display of repeat effort, chasing up a loose ball on the wing against several opponents, and riding the bumps to eventually end up with possession. It set the tone for her third term, arguably the 18-year-old’s best patch for the match.
Her ability to split contests, mop up, and spark Peel’s transition with rebound run was terrific. On the end of her work were wonderfully composed kicks over both short and long distances, proving punchy and penetrative.
Mann was also not afraid to burst through traffic and buy that extra bit of time and space on the move, looking authoritative in possession and confident when viewing the play in front of her. Leading by 10 points at the final break, Peel was now in control of the low-scoring tussle.
Across a fourth quarter where Subiaco piled on pressure and got within a goal of snatching victory, Peel was made to showcase its premiership mettle. Mann was part of that, helping her side hold on in the face of conceding two more total inside 50s, but producing three more rebounds.
It was more of the same from Mann, who continued to display her power as a defensive asset. Finishing with 15 kicks from 18 disposals, she has turned that part of her game into a real strength and used it to good effect on Saturday.
Her season-high numbers in the final home-and-away round point towards a step up when the competition rises, and Mann will continue to be an important figure for Peel come finals time. The Thunder are gunning for three-straight flags, with many of its stars in line to reach the top level of women’s football.