Top Performers: AFLW U16s – Suns Academy

GOLD Coast Suns Academy enjoyed a couple of big wins over Brisbane Lions Academy in two very different games last week for the AFLW Under 16 Championships. There were a number of impressive eye-catchers and we took a look at a high number of talented players from the Suns Academy who caught the eye.


#1 Sienna Burnham

An attacking talent with some lively moves, Burnham was able to create plenty of opportunities inside 50 for her teammates. Though a touch more composure could have seen the winger/forward really do damage on the scoreboard, she is not afraid to take the game on and once having ball-in-hand, can burst away to create separation on her opponents. Not only managed to kick a goal but set up several scoring plays for her teammates.

#2 Heidi Talbot

Only playing the second game in the pouring rain due to her commitments with the Woomeras down at Casey Fields the Saturday before, Talbot racked up a whopping 34 disposals to make up for lost time. She had 12 disposals in the first term and was able to show clean hands under pressure. She was not completely pinpoint by foot which is understandable given the conditions, but her footy IQ to get to the right spots was impressive and almost kicked a ripping goal in the final term that was just touched off the boot for a behind. Found the ball in all thirds of the ground and didn’t do a lot wrong.

#3 Annabelle Foat

Not necessarily as productive as others from a numbers perspective, Foat caught the eye with her ability to pick the ball up cleanly off the deck, even in the wet. She used the ball well by hand or foot generally and had enough vision at times under pressure to centre the ball to teammates. Though her offensive ball handling was a feature of her game, Foat still applied great defensive pressure with some good tackles on opponents.

#7 Sunny Lappin

‘Dangerous’ is probably the best word to describe Lappin who just seemed to have some of those eye-catching traits that fans love to watch. She has a crack first and foremost and can adapt to the conditions, but generally used the ball well when she had it. Lappin stands up in tackles and has enough strength to bustle through opponents, but also that touch of class that makes her a more rounded player. She kicked a goal in each game, both of which came off a quick step and snap. One to remember for the future.

#8 Ava Usher

A multi-sport athlete who is ridiculously good at everything she does, Usher is a Charlie Rowbottom clone. Her strength at the stoppage – and burst from the first few steps – is reminiscent of the Gold Coast Suns number eight. Much like Rowbottom, Usher is not only strong in the contest, but can play as a forward and beat her opponents aerially or one-on-one, with nice footy smarts to get to the right spots and look incredibly damaging inside 50. Add in Usher’s outstanding defensive efforts including a couple of huge run-down tackles, and then a moment in the first game where she beat two opponents by fending off one and sidestepping another just showed all the tricks in her kit bag. Like Rowbottom, Usher’s kicking consistency is the main area to improve, and if she can tidy that up, then watch out because she has a huge future ahead of her.

#12 Evy Reeves

Reeves is another player who does not need to necessarily need the high production to have an impact with several key traits standing out. Firstly, her clean hands in the wet, particularly at ground level, was a highlight, able to grab the ball as if it was a dry day. Then to win the ball at the coalface and spin out of trouble then compose herself before disposing of it not once, but twice was footy IQ beyond her years. She did well intercepting off half-back in the first game, and with time and space used the ball pretty well, but the next step is just that consistency throughout games.

#13 Tara Harrington

Already one who was known as a future star after her work with both the Suns Academy Under 17s last year and Under 18s this year – despite being a 2006-born talent – Harrington played exclusively through the midfield in the matches. Though the increased pressure and reduced time and space did impact her usually elite kicking, Harrington still showcased her natural footballing ability and tenaciousness with the opposition. She got to the right spots time and time again, and finished with 24 disposals in both matches, proving the weather conditions had no bearing on her output. She kicked a goal in the first game on the three quarter time siren, and should have had one in the final term of the second match but uncharacteristically sprayed the set shot from straight in front. Overall, Harrington controlled the stoppages in the first game and when given time and space was able to do a lot of damage by hand or foot.

#14 Evie Emmett

Yet another Suns Academy member who caught the eye despite not needing a ton of disposals to do so. Her hands in close were clean, as was generally her kicking when going on the outside. She was able to remain composure whilst under pressure or being tackled, and ran hard at one stage to be involved in a one-two with Davies on the wing in the first game. Her second game in the wet was not as efficient with a few kicks going astray, but given the conditions that was understandable. Emmett can win the ball at speed and is good at collecting the ball off the deck.

#20 Nyalli Milne

The electrifying speedster showed greater versatility than in her Under 16s year, with Milne spending time in midfield for game one before going back to her more familiar forward position for game two. It is hard not to notice the helmeted number 20, because once Milne gets goalside then it is near-impossible for any player to get near her on the chase. She picked up 20 disposals and still booted a goal off the deck soccering it through in the first term.When forward in the second game, Milne booted two goals from equally impressive situations, firstly picking up a ground ball and putting on the after burners to kick a goal, then in the second term won a ground ball spun from the contest and slammed home a major. Still has some ironing out to do for the future and needs to develop an opposite (left) boot, but certainly has a lot of eye-catching traits.

#22 Alannah Welsh

A consistent player across both games, Welsh was particularly noticeable in the sunshine of game one. She has a nice sidestep and clean hands at ground level, whilst being neat with her sills around the ground. She attacks the ball at speed, and though she can give away a few free kicks – five and three across both games -she is not afraid to lay some big tackles. She pressures the opponent whilst in defence to force mistakes, and when winning the ball has enough strength to standup in tackles. She kicked a great goal in the first game through sheer work rate, kicking inside 50 in forward transition, then getting to the next touch to win it closer to goal and snagged a major.

#23 Siobhan Ross

A versatile type who seemed to play multiple roles across the two games, with time in the midfield and forward half pushing up to present, then going back in the second game to play an intercepting role. She also rolled through the midfield at times in both games, and was good to not panic under pressure. Her execution itself could still improve, but she presents well, attacks it hard and possesses a thumping kick. She has good hands both in the air and at ground level, and with more game time could be similar to a Kiara Hillier.

#24 Georja Davies

Remarkably the fourth of the Davies family to play at the level, Georja is hoping to follow in the footsteps of drafted sisters Giselle and Fleur, and soon-to-be Darcie. The youngest of the quartet is cut from the same cloth, with ridiculous athleticism for a tall and good second efforts at ground level. Her first game in perfect conditions was outstanding, rotating between forward and the ruck and just dominated from start to finish. She possesses tricks that talls just have no right to have, sidestepping and selling candy to opponents, then bursting away and having shots on goal burning off the opposition. She has the footy smarts combined with that outstanding athleticism and versatility to role through multiple positions. If she does not mark it, she provides a contest, and though her second game was not as influential – due to the wetter conditions – Davies first game saw her rack up numbers of 25 disposals, four marks, five hitouts, three clearances, six inside 50s and a goal.

#26 Havana Harris

The standout talent across both games, the 2006-born Harris bears similar traits to Davies in the sense that she is a tall with ridiculous athleticism and a knack for influencing games. In game one, Harris recorded 25 disposals, four marks, three tackles, five hitouts, seven inside 50s and booted 2.3, before finishing with 22 disposals, three hitouts and three inside 50s in the second game. Though not as prolific in the wet, she still caught the eye with her presenting and clean hands off the deck. Harris will be the series’ Player Focus tomorrow.

#27 Dekota Baron

The Suns Academy full-forward will enjoy having the likes of Davies and Harris around her for the next few years because Baron has plenty of talent in her own right. Though not quite as tall, Baron has a nice vertical leap that she showed off on a number of occasions. Despite not consistently able tp pull down marks, she flew high and when she did hold them, she really clunked them often with opponents around her. Baron ran hard when inside 50 and kicked two goals in the first match, and certainly has enough about her that suggest she could be one to watch in the future.

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