Academy notes: 2023 SANFLW Round 1
SOUTH Australia’s top AFL Women’s draft prospects gained their first taste of action on the weekend with Round 1 of the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s taking place. As always, we took a look at each of the state academy athletes running around in the League competition and made notes on their individual performances.
*Each note is the opinion of the individual author.
#51 Coby Morgan
Playing forward, Morgan was limited in winning touches throughout the game, and while she ultimately would just finish with the two, she produced one of the plays of the night. Competing one-on-one in a marking contest during the third term, Morgan did well to get the ball goalside, then used her incredible burst speed to burn off an opponent and convert from the goalsquare. The major drew her side to within a point midway through the third quarter.
#9 Laela Ebert
Had her fair share of the play and moved well on the outside, often finding the ball as a hard-running wing/half-back, based on her field positioning. She has neat skills and her short kick is very impressive. At one point in the back 50 during the second term, Ebert weighted a perfect short 25m pass to a teammate. She was composed under pressure and backed her footskills each and every time. Still lightly built, Ebert could tend to get bumped off the ball a bit, but once in her hands she really impressed.
#30 Jayde Visser
In a terrific debut for the Roosters, the 2007-born Visser stepped up to League level without any issues. Her clean hands at ground level were a feature, but when she could not grab it, she was quick to recover, and then in the second term had a highlight-reel moment. Coming off the wing, Visser received the handball, fended off Tahlita Buethke and burst forward to deliver a pinpoint pass on the run. Visser continued to provide width across the ground and though like Ebert could be out-bodied in marking contest, was incredibly quick to pounce on a loose ball.
#2 Lucy Boyd
Produced an outstanding game in defence, often opposed to either Brooke Tonon or Piper Window and holding her own. Though aerially she had some troubles against Window at times, Boyd has deceptive speed to match her fellow Academy member, and even produced a highlight play in the second term to run down the blistering fast Violet Patterson early in the second term as she ran into goal. Time and time again Boyd would be a settling force in the defensive 50 and intercept or provide an outlook option to kick long down the ground. Her second term was the standout quarter, but Boyd would go on to have 16 disposals, two marks, six tackles and three rebound 50s in a promising first up effort.
#30 Lauren Young
Playing forward, the star AFLW draft prospect returned without any hiccups, and managed to make her mark on the game. She had a couple of chances in the opening term and almost kicked a remarkable goal close to the boundary line which hit the post. A goal certain to sail through in the third term was marked on the line by Kelly Barltrop, and then another set shot in the third term hit the post. Young finally broke her goalless streak by marking in the middle of the ground, hitting up Tredwell inside 50 then going all the way to the square, outplaying her opponent and regaining possession to kick an easy one from a metre out. Only the 1.3 from 15 disposals, but took seven marks and easily could have kicked four or five with a bit of luck given that included two posters.
#42 Steph Tredwell
The 2007-born talent on debut had some impressive moments, putting her body on the line and finding space on the outside. Often rolling between the half-forward and then pushing up to a wing when Glenelg had control, Tredwell kept presenting and showed clean hands. While the youngster still has a couple of fundamentals to build on as well strength one-on-one, when she was able to play the game on her own terms, she looked incredible dangerous. Her aerial ability and kicking technique was sound. A seven-disposal, two-mark and six-tackle outing.
#43 Emma Kilpatrick
After a strong debut season last year, Kilpatrick continued on from where she left off playing at half-back. The one noticeable aspect about Kilpatrick’s game is her composure and vision. Though often in pressure situations, Kilpatrick is not one to panic and has terrific peripherals where she can assess the situation effectively. Aerially, Kilpatrick can more than match anyone, and she has both the offensive and defensive traits that fit with a defence. Her kicking was a joy to watch and with 13 disposals, six marks and three rebound 50s, was one of the better players on the day.
#51 Ruby Ballard
The apple does not fall too far from the tree when it comes to Ballard from her older sister Abbie. Possessing a similarly damaging kick and tenacity for the contest, the forward/wing has the evasive tricks and natural ability to be a worry to opponents. In the early stages of the match, she produced a dazzling sidestep to step around an opponent then have the composure to nail a perfect 25m pass to Paige Allan in front of goal for West Adelaide’s first. She continued to have a crack – laying a great tackle on Bays’ captain Ellie Kellock, and while she did not win a heap of it – just the six disposals – did not look out of place at the level in her second season at the club.
A hard-running performance from Patterson who holds her width well on the wing, and provides assistance in both 50s when required. She took a good mark in the middle of the ground in the opening term and was able to dispose of it well, then had a chance to kick Glenelg’s first in the second term running into goal but did not account for Academy teammate Lucy Boyd to run her down. Patterson has lost none of her aggressive nature, and though she played exclusively outside in the game, she tried to break it open with her pace. Midway through the final term, she ran inside 50 and shrugged off a would-be tackler close to the top of the 50. Still has that composure when kicking to sharpen up, but gets to the right spots. Won 16 disposals, four marks, four inside 50s and two rebound 50s in the loss.
#8 Piper Window
With each passing game from Window, one cannot help but feel if she could nail her kicking, she could be competing for top spot in the country. Her aerial ability is ridiculous for a non-key position player even if she does not take the mark, she cracks in, has the explosive pace to burn and can play both inside and outside, midfield or forward. Everything she seems to do is a ‘wow’ moment, and while she can occasionally give away from free kicks from going in a little too hard, the ball just finds her and she has an impact. To give an glimpse of how switched on she was, Window laid a mind-boggling 17 tackles in the match which was nine more than any other player. Aside from the finished product with her kicking which remains a work in progress, she still had the smarts to chop off a number of plays with good marks, then crashed and bashed her way through stoppages to make the West Adelaide midfielders question when she was going to be coming through. Along with 17 tackles, Window picked up 17 disposals, two marks, four clearances and three inside 50s.
#19 Matilda Wilmore
Another 2007-born player on debut who looked good in the trials, Wilmore just stepped up to the level without an issue. She does tend to favour her right foot and has an invincibility aspect to her game where she can tend to try and take on everyone when needing to settle, but the way she goes about her football is eye-catching. She is a pressure-first player who is always looking to move the ball on. Though she does that, Wilmore is still a team-first player, with one play seeing her mark the ball, handball to a running teammate and go to apply the shepherd. In a ‘wow’ moment, she was one-on-one with former AFLW player Iilish Ross in attack and read the aerial ball in to a t, winning the contest out the back. Her smarts, speed and defensive pressure are very exciting for a player who has three seasons at SANFLW level. If she can develop a left foot or avoid going for the checkside snaps under pressure towards goal, then watch out. Wilmore recorded 12 disposals, two marks, four tackles and five inside 50s on debut.
#20 Poppy Scholz
Playing in defence, Scholz had a quieter game after a promising start. She flew for a big mark early and ended up crashing into Ruby Ballard in the middle, then laid a great tackle on Paige Allan at half-back when Allan was oblivious she was there. Her body positioning in marking contests was good, getting to the front in the second term to win it off the deck. Though not a massive production winner, Scholz showed her glimpses early and finished with four disposals, one mark, three tackles, one inside 50 and two rebound 50s.
#8 Elaine Grigg
The North Adelaide premiership player fitted in seamlessly with the Bulldogs and was one of the better players on the day, bringing her typically aggressive, yet energetic nature to her new club. Grigg’s defensive work is her standout trait along with her speed and evasion, and while she often has a lot of ‘almost moments’ where she can run herself into trouble, when she is up and about, her enthusiasm is contagious. At one stage she shrugged off a would-be tackler at the top of the forward 50 to give the handball to her captain Shelby Smith, then fended off a couple of players outside 50 ducking and weaving out of oncoming traffic. Though she can make mistakes with ball-in-hand at times, Grigg’s positives far outweigh the negatives, and she is lifting her production rate which is a promising sign. One who will only get better with more midfield minutes. Grigg finished with 16 disposals, four marks, eight tackles and four inside 50s.
The athletic tall is one of those players that could be anything. Boasting a ridiculous leap and smarts to get into the right position to intercept, she can kick effectively when given time and space such as a dagger into Grigg inside 50. Her profile is not 100 per cent formed yet, having a few errors here and there, but when she is up and going, particularly taking a massive hanger or going on a run that players of her size do not often do, then it is poetry in motion. With another year of development next year, the bottom-ager is tracking nicely and just has all the X-factor to capture fan attention. Riggs managed 15 disposals, five marks and two tackles.
#12 Sophie Eaton
A lively player who played forward after impressive performances in the two trial matches. Eaton was clean and quick by hand and when using the ball by foot was able to hit targets well. She sidestepped opposing captain Annie Falkenberg at one stage in the third term to kick inside 50, and covered the ground well to even win possessions in the back half of the ground. Eaton has the ability to produce those low-darting bullets inside 50, and is a player capable of filling the Georgia McKee role inside 50. She also laid a good run-down tackle on the wing in the third term. Eaton recorded 13 disposals, four marks, five tackles, three inside 50s and kicked two behinds.
#27 Jasmine Evans
Another 2007-born debutant who stepped up to League level in Round 1, Evans played further afield compare to Eaton, winning the bulk of her ball on the wing or half-back. Her ability to get into the right spots was impressive for a young player, and it is clear Evans is highly competitive with a good level of pressure. Her execution is outstanding, and with confidence her decision making will improve and help her become even more impactful at the senior level. With 2023 being the first of three seasons in the League, expect her to benefit massively from League experience. Evans helped herself to 12 disposals, four marks, three tackles and two inside 50s.
#30 Marlie Fiegert
The potential Port Adelaide father-daughter draft prospect was solid in her first game of 2023. She brought her typical high level of competitiveness to the contest, and showed the leadership that earned her a place in the leadership group. She worked hard up and down the ground playing between midfield and half-forward, doing her best work in a contest. She dropped a couple of marks she would normally take, but was strong at ground level, standing up in tackles or providing second and third efforts to set up teammates inside 50. Fiegert worked to pick up 12 disposals, two marks, two tackles, two clearances and three inside 50s.
#34 Shineah Goody
Goody has had better games, but even an okay Goody game still places her among the best, and the natural talent did just that, going about amassing 18 disposals – the equal most for her team. She had a bit more freedom than her trial game against the Bulldogs, and had her moments where she would spin one way, then the other to get out of trouble, or release one of her perfectly weighted handballs, but her kicking was a little down on her usual impact. Her work rate and smarts were still evident, covering the ground with ease and providing pressure at both ends, looking to drive the ball in transition. At times she was harshly dealt with – be it at the stoppage or in marking contests – earning her free kicks, and while she was not at her best level, there was still that natural class that shone through. Goody finished Round 1 with 18 disposals, three marks, six tackles, three clearances, four inside 50s and two rebound 50s.
#1 Bella Rigby
On debut after two goals in each of her trial games for the Panthers, Rigby found the going tougher in a strong defensive match, but still showed promising signs. She had a few chances early, but inexperience showed with a push in the back first up, before failing to gather the ball cleanly on the next occasion. Rigby settled into the game and had a good second half, often competing against far more experienced defenders. She only had the two disposals, but her eight tackles show she was up for the fight.
#2 Holly Ifould
Though she showed potential last season, Ifould is one name to mark down as a surprise packet this season after a promising Round 1 performance. She picked up 19 disposals on the wing, but also took six marks, had two clearances and three rebound 50s. Her game sense and ability to make up ground when a teammate – or even opponent – has put the ball away from her desired zone, was incredible. She has deceptive speed to blaze across the grass and slide in to take it, or just find a way to be under the drop of the ball. Her work rebounding from defence, or getting forward trying to keep the ball active in transition was eye-catching. She is still a bit rough when it comes to consistent execution, particularly under pressure, but she possessed a nice short kick and is a natural ball-winner thanks to her smarts.
#23 Esther Schirmer
Playin defence often opposed to Abbey Rigter, Schirmer had a solid performance from start to finish. Keeping Rigter relatively under wraps for the most past, the bottom-ager provided strong pressure and then offensive run when required. She did well one-on-one against the more experienced Georgia Bevan in the second term and then would often mop up in the back half of the ground to drive the ball forward. At one point in the third term, Schirmer took an important reliving mark in the middle, only for her kick to be smothered. She quickly recovered off that to kick it forward but again turned it over. Tidying up that kicking will be the next step for Schirmer, but she brings the strength and smarts to go with her defensive nous. The younger Schirmer to co-best and fairest winner Gypsy, picked up 14 disposals, two tackles and three rebound 50s.
#37 Brooke Boileau
The tough top-ager will be our Player Focus for the week coming out on Thursday so expect a full run down of her performance then, however with 21 disposals, two marks, eight tackles, four clearances and seven inside 50s, needless to say she was busy the entire match. Her kicking under pressure and composure are the two areas that could still improve, but her defensive pressure, size and contested ball-winning ability is immense, and she is able to cover ground easily with long strides.
#56 Lily Baxter
The other 2007-born debutant for the Panthers was promising playing off a wing, and covered the ground incredibly well. She has a nice technique and gets into the right positions, looking lively from start to finish. Under pressure she can sometimes put the ball to boot a little too quickly, but she showed she belongs at the level by backing herself to compete against more experienced opponents. A deft tap to a teammate at the top of 50 late in the game gave an insight into her smarts, and while she is still light, she will be another who will benefit from more League gametime. Overall it was a really promising debut for the youngster. Baxter picked up 10 disposals, five marks and three inside 50s in the win.
#60 Kyanne Campbell
The AFLW Academy member kicked a goal upon debut for the Panthers, with the major coming off some clever roving in the goalsquare just 30 seconds into the second half. She saw the ball going deep and got on the same wavelength with Lucy Northcott who tapped it into her path. Unfortunately her day ended later in the third term where she limped off, picking up three disposals and laying two tackles in the match.
#11 Abbey Rigter
In a tough day to find space, Rigter still managed to have some moments and did finish off some well deserved work with a set shot goal in the final term. It proved to be Sturt’s only major of the day, and Rigter realistically could have had a couple more, with a poster from a 20m set shot. That came after a strong tackle on Gypsy Schirmer, and then earlier in the match, Rigter was running towards an open goal after great bodywork one-on-one inside 50 but could not quite collect the ball cleanly. Her balance of offensive and defensive traits are right, and though she did not have a lot of luck, was still on of Sturt’s most productive players. Rigter recorded eight disposals, four tackles and two inside 50s to go with her 1.1.
#16 Monique Bessen
The recently turned 16-year-old started quietly in the first term, but came alive in the second term and finished with an impressive 10 disposals on debut. At first she was unable to find too much space to work with inside 50, but bringing her pressure game up to the wing, she laid some strong tackles. In the second term, Bessen almost converted her first goal in the seventh minute as it bounced towards goal, but was touched on the line. When she did have time and space, Bessen showcased a lovely kicking action going from half-back to the wing after a mark, putting it lace out. She won a free kick midway through the final term for a great tackle on fellow Academy member Holly Ifould, and she kicked it to the hotspot but unfortunately her side was unable to capitalise. Bessen laid five tackles to go with her 10 touches.
#24 Lily Whitcombe
Playing in her familiar defensive role, Whitcombe did not see a lot of the ball, but just played her role as she always has. In the second half, the defender won a bit more of the ball, getting up to the wing where she was able to kick down the line and thanks to an incredibly lucky bounce, the ball went at right angles to stay in play and not be last touch out of bounds. She marked in the defensive goalsquare later in the term but missed the subsequent kick, however was a reliable switch option when required. Whitcomb managed the eight disposals and two marks for the match.