2023 Coates Talent League R1 preview: Tasmania Devils vs. GIANTS Academy

A NEW name, and a new era of elite female footballing pathways begins tomorrow on the eastern seaboard, with Round 1 of the Coates Talent League kicking off for season 2023. Previously NAB League, the Coates Talent League begins with a four-game round, and welcomes the NSW-ACT academies into the fold. Each week we will take a deep dive into one particular match for the week ahead, and in Round 1 that is Tasmania Devils hosting GWS GIANTS Academy.

  • Team
  • Tasmania Devils
  • GIANTS Academy

Tasmania Devils open the new league with an early morning clash down on the Apple Isle at UTAS Stadium in Launceston where they welcome the GWS GIANTS Academy. The Devils have had plenty of success of late in terms of punching above their weight and it will be a case of their third coach in as many seasons with Jodie Clifford at the helm in 2023. She replaces Jeromey Webberley (full-time boys’ coach) and now Gold Coast Suns’ AFLW coach Cam Joyce who was the Devils’ inaugural full-time season coach.

GWS GIANTS Academy – like the Northern Academies – do not play a full season, and instead use the early matches in the Coates Talent League as a way of firstly testing themselves against the Victorian talent, but also assisting in selecting a NSW-ACT squad for the AFLW Under 18 Championships. The GIANTS team up with Sydney Swans Academy at first, before then getting familiar with the Devils players as the two regions combine – with Northern Territory – to form the Allies.


Tasmania Devils:

B: #6 Temo Robertson – #12 Ellie Poke – #32 Ella Nast
HB: #29 Mackenzie Williams – #37 Tunisha Kikoak – #7 Jasmyn Thompson
C: #35 Keely Morrison – #14 Candice Belbin – #10 Meg Harrison
HF: #4 Madi Lamb – #24 Georgia Clark – #13 Lucy Thompson
F: #20 Maggie Chen – #39 Grace White – #2 Ava Read
R: #41 Jaslyn Freestone – #33 Mackenzie Ford – #15 Priya Bowering
INT: #17 Natasha Furjanic – #19 Heidi Preshaw – #23 Lily Nast – #31 Eva Downie

GIANTS Academy:

B: #15 Chloe Smith – #29 Grace Painting – #14 CharlotTe Canavan
HB: #24 Indi Cook – #28 Amy Frost – #35 Cleo Buttifant
C: #19 Ava Barraclough – #27 Melanie Staunton – #10 Amelie Prosser-Shaw
HF: #18 Tamika Rourke – #9 Bridget Corcoran – #21 Megan Mifsud
F: #30 Jaimee Kitchener – #37 Ryeli Fleming – #8 Freyja Bacskai-Ruffolo
R: #36 Ammie Vamah – #16 Ashley Patton – #25 Sophia De Castella
INT: #34 Tasmyn Davies – #33 Hannah Kearney – #31 Jayda Barnett – #5 Savannah Codd – #23 Emma Suckling


Tasmania Devils:

#24 Georgia Clark (Tasmania Devils)
11/12/2005 | 173cm | Tall Forward

Assuming the mantle as Tasmania’s top AFLW Draft talent who will take the field in 2023, Clark is a strong marking key forward with a strong endurance base and work rate to work up and down the ground if required. Though she rests deep forward, Clark does her best work around the 50m metre mark, with a penetrating kick and footy smarts to-boot. A member of the AFLW Academy and crucial cog in the Devils’ lineup.

#4 Madi Lamb (Tasmania Devils)
09/05/2005 | 165cm | Midfielder/Forward

Earning an inclusion in the Under 17s Futures match last year at GMHBA Stadium, Lamb did not look out of place among the best in the AFLW Draft crop, and looks to be one to watch in 2023. She attacks the ball hard and thrives on the competitiveness of footy, and while she will often be the one working up the ground and then setting up scoring opportunities, expect her to hit the scoreboard more in 2023.

#27 Melanie Staunton (GIANTS Academy)
24/01/2005 | Midfielder/Forward

Tough as nails, Staunton replaces Cynthia Hamilton in the midfield of the GIANTS Academy as that player who can bullock her way through stoppages, then go forward and take a strong grab. A raw talent compared to most having only come into the GIANTS pathway last season, Staunton has come on in leaps and bounds and is another member of the AFLW Academy, and the top GIANT to watch this season.

#36 Ammie Vamah (GIANTS Academy)
13/03/2005 | 174cm | Tall Forward

Vamah provided a presence inside 50 against the Swans, kicking two goals in each of the games to finish with the equal most goals for that series. She is strong overhead, positions herself well and can find the space to lead. Though still building other areas such as technical fundamentals, Vamah is one who could cause a headache for the Devils defence.


#14 Candice Belbin (Tasmania Devils)
14/07/2004 | 164cm | Midfielder/Defender

After unluckily missing out on being picked up in the 2022 AFLW Draft, Belbin is the player to keep an eye on from this game to make the step up at the second chance of asking. Though she is only the 164cm, she packs a punch, and can play inside or outside with a fierce competitive streak. She has been working on cleaning up her kicking and decision making with ball-in-hand, but has the power, clean hands and versatility to be a valuable asset to an elite level club.


#29 Mackenzie Williams (Tasmania Devils)
26/06/2006 | 171cm | Tall Defender

The bottom-age talent came into her own last season when she took her game to another level fo the Allies. She was impressive for the Devils throughout the NAB League season averaging 11.3 disposals, 2.3 marks and 3.0 tackles, but rose to the level at the AFLW Under 18 Championships. Despite being one of the few 2006-born talents for the Allies, Williams was outstanding, taking eight marks in two games and averaging 14 disposals and three rebound 50s in that time as well.

#16 Ashley Patton (GIANTS Academy)
26/09/2006 | 171cm | Midfielder/Forward

An exciting player who did well roaming through the midfield and half-forward for the GIANTS against the Swans, who has good technical skill and high impact. With a nice burst to go with that impressive technical skill, Patton will be a player who can only improve against the higher quality players, and being a 2024 AFLW Draft hope, she has the time to round out other areas of her game.


Top Tasmanian AFLW Draft prospect and AFLW Academy member Brooke Barwick will miss the 2023 season due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, while key forward Bellah Parker is also not playing Round 1. For the GIANTS, Bonnie McKean impressed in the opening trial game against the Swans Academy a fortnight ago but will miss the opening round.


Tasmania Devils look to be the team to beat here, at home on the Apple Isle against a GIANTS team that looked impressive against the Swans a couple of weeks back, but then fell to the same outfit by three points in the second outing. Expect both sides to move the ball quickly with a number of runners, as well as having key targets inside 50, but the depth of the Devils, and the home crowd advantage should see them home.


Dandenong Stingrays vs. Sydney Swans Academy
Saturday, March 18 @ Bluescope Recreation Centre
, 12pm

Last year’s grand finalists head down to Hastings to host the other NSW-ACT based Academy from midday. The Stingrays are loaded with talent including AFLW Academy members Mikayla Williamson and Bianca Lyne, while the Swans have a pair of AFLW Academy members themselves in Marnie Robinson and Olivia Morris. The depth of the Stingrays should be too much in this one.

Geelong Falcons vs. GWV Rebels
Saturday, March 18 @ Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, 12:30pm

A good old fashioned battle between the south west regions sees the GWV Rebels travel down the highways to face Geelong Falcons at Waurn Ponds. Geelong Falcons captain Chloe Adams is one to watch from the home side and will lead by example, while Sara Howley is a future name to remember. For the Rebels, Jessica Rentsch makes her long-awaited return from an ACL injury, and Laila Lappin is a talented tall to rotate through the ruck-forward positions.

Murray Bushrangers vs. Bendigo Pioneers
Sunday, March 19 @ Rumbalara Recreation Reserve, 2pm

A standalone clash up in Shepparton marks the conclusion of Round 1 for the Coates Talent League and it sees the Bendigo Pioneers face fellow country side, Murray Bushrangers. AFLW Academy member Lila Keck will lead the Pioneers out, while bottom-ager Lucia Painter is one of the most naturally gifted players in the competition. For the Bushrangers, remember the name Ellie Hall as a player for the future, while defenders Grace Hay and Paige Duffy will be key in the Bushrangers’ hopes of keeping opposition teams to low scores.

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