Preview | WAFLW R2: AFLW Academy reps return
WESTERN Australia’s two AFLW Academy members are back in their respective sides for Round 2 of the WAFL Women’s, as the third – Kaitlyn Srhoj – unfortunately misses due to injury. We take a look at the four games played across two days this weekend including three tomorrow.
South Fremantle is coming off a draw with Subiaco in Round 1 and will be disappointed in not being able to close out the game. The Bulldogs had every chance to kick a winning score in the dying minutes but each chance just went wide or fell short. Now up against an East Perth outfit that was competitive enough after quarter time against West Perth, South Fremantle should control proceedings and ensure it comes away with the four points.
The Bulldogs have made four changes for the match, with young gun Molly O’Hehir missing alongside Kloe Bassett, Heidi Hughes and Ella Ward. Coming in for her first game in the red and white is ex-Peel player Megan Bain, while Leila Fotu, Dakoda Hallam and Cali Hunt are the others into the team.
East Perth will be minus the silky Mel Hardy for the Round 2 match, while Kelsey Lang and the Royals’ only goalscorer in Round 1, Tristin Ogonoski are out of the side. Coming in is talented state representative Holly Gill on half-back, as well as Makayla Cocking and Gabrielle Canicosa.
South Fremantle mosquito fleet up front with Makaela Tuhakaraina and Noa McNaughton makes life difficult for opposition defences, while Zoe Huggett provides a strong target inside 50. Captain Lauren Vecchio is rock solid each and every week, while Casey Byrne has been named at full-back despite having played forward over the preseason and in Round 1, showing her versatility.
Gill will be one to watch for the Royals as a State Academy member, standing at 180cm-plus but capable of playing a rebounding defensive role. Sarah Madden looked solid in Round 1 under pressure in defence, while ruck Matilda Bennett was the standout for the Royals, and captain Jess Valvasori unsurprisingly putting in a four-quarter effort.
South Fremantle will be too strong in this one, but given the signs of the Royals after being jumped by West Perth in the first term, it will hopefully not be a blowout like expansion teams of the past.
West Perth enters a match coming off a win for the first time after a comprehensive victory over East Perth in Round 1. The Falcons got the win they wanted, and no step up in class against the reigning grand finalists, and a side that went undefeated in the regular season last year. East Fremantle lost last week after going down to reigning premiers Claremont, in the Sharks’ first loss outside of finals since 202.
West Perth has made just the one change with talented top-ager Liliana Grassenis coming into the side for Angelina Wodcke but otherwise the team remains unchanged. For the Sharks, AFLW Academy member Georgie Cleaver headlines a massive list of six inclusions named on an extended bench. Among those are Nadya Browne and Caylen Crook who the Sharks are keen to unveil in season 2023.
The added experience of Emily Bennett made a world of different for the Falcons, with the experience of Brooke Hongell in defence crucial. Ex-Docker Bianca Webb had that touch of class on-ball, while Tia Bergin and Grace Betti combining for five goals in the Round 1 win.
Cleaver’s return provides extra height and headaches for the Falcons to worry about, with the Shark top-ager to combine up forward with fellow state representative, Anjelique Raison. Dhara Kerr Medallist Sharon Wong started her season off on the perfect note with a huge first-up effort, while Zippy Fish slotted into half-back seamlessly. Jae Flynn also found plenty of it and used it well in transition for the Sharks.
East Fremantle should be too good here, and while West Perth will be buoyed from the Round 1 win and clearly better than 12 months ago, the minimal, if any, holes around the ground for East Fremantle will see it grab the points.
Swan Districts went down in a tight loss to Peel Thunder at Mandurah in Round 1, and now return home to host a Subiaco side that grabbed two points against South Fremantle. The Lions will use Round 1 as a springboard to go on to bigger and better things after successfully grimly defending in the final term.
Swan Districts is minus West Coast midfielder/forward Abbygail Bushby and Megan Carron in Round 2. AFLW Academy member Jaime Henry returns for the black and whites, as well as elite level talent Sarah Wielstra. Kaitlyn Beaton, Teyharna Curry and Chanti McHenry are among the other inclusions to the side.
Subiaco has made the three changes for the match, with the injured Madizen Wilkins out alongside Dahna Lee and double bottom-ager Olivia Wolmarans. Fremantle representative Amy Mulholland returns with new inclusions, Hali Epis and Meadhbh Moloney.
The inclusion of Henry into the midfield alongside fellow teenagers, Tyla Fitzgerald and Daisy Rigby will help strengthen the side, while captain Jessica Cox is coming off a strong Round 1 performance. Carys D’Addario stepped up on debut last week, while Eliza Gelmi provided that much needed experience in defence.
Subiaco was able to still win its fair share of ball in midfield through captain Tarnica Golisano, while Olivia Crane was outstanding on debut coming out of the back half. Joanne Cregg was also outstanding as a mature-age debutant, and Mulholland will add that speed and danger in the forward half of the ground this week.
The game is a tight one, with the inclusions critical to the respective sides. At home Swan Districts gets the tip, but there is nothing in it, with both teams having a balance of experienced and up-and-coming players who could sway the match in their favour.
Both these sides are coming off Round 1 wins and sit second and third on the WAFL Women’s ladder. Claremont knocked off East Fremantle last week in a grand final rematch, while Peel Thunder toppled Swan Districts in a rematch of last year’s do-or-die semi-final clash. The winner of this will more than likely grab top spot, so there is plenty on the line.
Claremont will be without defender Mackenzie Webb and exciting Eagle Krstel Petrevski for the Round 2 match, but has received a boost in former Tigers captain Ella Smith and skilful small Emily Elkington both returning to the team. As part of an extended bench, Matilda Husband and Charlotte Tompkin have also been included in the side.
Peel Thunder loses some key players from Round 1, with the injured Srhoj joined by ball-winning midfielders Jaide Britton and Chloe Wrigley as the outs. Coming into the side are fresh faces Emma Grundy and Jessica Ruland alongside Ebony Bilcich.
Claremont is stacked with talent across the board, though the wing combination of Elkington and Katherine Orme, and with Jacinta Valentini and Jasmin Stewart in form, the midfield is humming perfectly. Brooke Whyte is that target inside 50 for the Tigers, while Jayme Harken and Smith are the experienced heads alongside other young players rotating through there.
Peel Thunder will look to Krystal Carter and Jade Briggs to provide some experience through that midfield, with state representatives Jorja Haines and Dakota Sexton rolling through there. Round 1 debutant Evie Cowcher was sublime in Round 1, and she and captain Ebony Dowson will play critical roles in Round 2.
Given the Peel Thunder outs and the overall less experienced side compared to the Tigers, Claremont looks too strong in this clash. The depth of the reigning premiers is pretty scary, and expect them to resume programming from the final game of last year to take top spot after two rounds in the competition.