Talent League Girls Round 8 preview: Bendigo Pioneers vs Northern Territory Academy

NORTHERN Territory will join the two Queensland Academies once again in action for Round 8 of the Coates Talent League, with the Suns and Lions Academies back at home. The Thunder will travel to Craigieburn to face the Bendigo Pioneers in our featured preview, wile the metropolitan teams return in a massive eight-game card this weekend.

  • Team
  • Bendigo Pioneers
  • Northern Territory Academy

Both sides are coming into Round 8 off heavy losses to their respective opponents. Bendigo went down to Geelong Falcons by 91 points, while Northern Territory trailed Gippsland Power by as much as 11 goals at one stage before a couple of late ones trimmed the final margin to 54.

It will only be Northern Territory’s second match of the season, while Bendigo has dropped four straight since winning against Murray Bushrangers in Round 1. With some promising future talent on both sides, we take a look at how they might shape up in this clash.


#1 Lila Keck (Bendigo Pioneers)
20/10/2005 | 162cm | Small Forward/Midfielder

After missing last week, the top-age AFLW Academy member returns to the Pioneers side and will use her experience against the Northern Territory. She should be that class above with footy smarts that will help her find plenty of the ball. As she did against Murray earlier in the year, if the defence is not closely keeping tabs on her, she can find the ball with ease and hit the scoreboard multiple times to help her team to a win.

#14 Bryde O’Rourke (Bendigo Pioneers)
28/11/2005 | 175cm | Tall Forward/Midfielder

Boasting outstanding athletic traits for her size, O’Rourke is that blank canvas for AFLW clubs who could help develop her game and take it to the next level. Her production and full profile is not there just yet, but her highlights – which can include running goals from 45m – are enough to suggest she is only scraping the surface of her potential. She is one to watch this season and could have a big game here.

#17 Sophie Berry (Northern Territory Academy)
16/010/2005 | 166cm | Medium Forward

Though the Northern Territory has a couple of AFLW Academy members, Berry is a player who catches the eye just as much. She is evasive and knows where the goals are, and also brings the defensive pressure inside 50. Though it can often be tough playing in the forward half of the ground, Berry can move into the midfield and bring a similar heat around the coalface.


#5 Lucia Painter (Bendigo Pioneers)
23/02/2006 | 174cm | Medium Utility

A damaging player who can slot in any third of the ground, Painter is coming off a 30-disposal haul in a defeat to the Falcons. Her best work through midfield can see her explode away or win it on the outside, then drive it forward on either foot. She drops back into defence and looks equally as comfortable, or rolls forward and prepares to hit the scoreboard. One of the top prospects for 2024.

#6 Tatyana Perry (Northern Territory Academy)
28/02/2006 | 170cm | Wing/Medium Defender

A genuine star prospect and one of, if not the most exciting bottom-age talents to come out of the Northern Territory over the journey. The Palmerston talent was a star in the NTFL Women’s last season, and her clean hands, footy IQ and ability to sell candy as well as find space where very few could makes the centrepiece of a developing Northern Territory side. A Top End prospect for next year in home state and draft range.

#4 Emma Stark (Northern Territory Academy)
01/02/2006 | 163cm | Wing

The smooth-moving Stark might have come to the public’s attention by becoming the youngest umpire to take the field in the AFL Women’s match between Essendon and Hawthorn at the start of the year, but she is a talented player in her own right. Not quite as advanced as Perry, she has similar traits with her athleticism and footy smarts right up there and is a natural outside mover with some promising ability for next year.


Bendigo Pioneers should have too much experience, especially with Keck returning to the side, though Northern Territory held its own for patches against Gippsland Power. The Pioneers do not have as many talls for the defence to worry about, but they do have some speed which should make it a fast game and one to watch.


Gippsland Power vs. Calder Cannons
Saturday, May 27 @ Morwell Football Ground, 11am

Both these sides are coming off polarising results that do not necessarily resemble their otherwise very different seasons. Calder Cannons were firing on all cylinders as an undefeated team before failing to score and being blown away by fellow contenders Oakleigh at Warrawee Park over a month ago. Gippsland Power were winless heading into the first community break, but came out with a stack of new talent and blew away the Northern Territory Academy. The respective Victorian Under 16s MVPs should go head-to-head in this game, with Ella Stoddart and Chloe Baker-West likely to cross paths.

Northern Knights vs. Oakleigh Chargers
Saturday, May 27 @ Preston City Oval, 1:30pm

Northern Knights have been a really competitive unit this season, winning three of their four games, and not being exposed too badly against Eastern Ranges. Oakleigh Chargers present a similar threat to the Ranges in this game, but the Knights are back at home at Preston City Oval. Ava Jordan will be looking for a big performance on her home deck, while for the Chargers, Lara Hausegger has led from the front out of defence.

Brisbane Lions Academy vs. Sandringham Dragons
Sunday, May 28 @ Brighton Homes Arena, 12pm

Straight off a win in wet conditions against Murray Bushrangers, the Lions Academy take on another winless side in Sandringham Dragons. The Dragons make the trip up to the Sunshine State with the chance to leapfrog at least one team if they can get the job done, with Mia Zielinski finding form since returning up forward. Up the other end, AFLW Academy member Rania Crozier looked lively last week and will be one to watch again.

GWV Rebels vs. Tasmania Devils
Sunday, May 28 @ Mars Stadium, 12:30pm

Two mid-table sides go to battle up at Mars Stadium on Sunday as the Tasmania Devils arrive in town. Having lost their past two games, the Devils will be keen to bounce back against the Rebels, while GWV went down to Gold Coast Suns Academy at Ikon Park in Round 7. The matchup to watch by far is the battle between Devils star forward Georgia Clark and Rebels bottom-age defender Millie Lang who loom as top-end talents in the next two drafts.

Gold Coast Suns Academy vs. Western Jets
Sunday, May 28 @ Brighton Homes Arena, 2pm

Back at home after grabbing the four points against the Rebels, Gold Coast Suns Academy hosts the winless Western Jets. The reigning premiers are yet to get on the board in the 2023 season, but have played in some tough conditions over the journey. The potential ruck battle between over-age Essendon VFL ruck Krystal Russell and bottom-age promising talent Havana Harris will be one to watch with the former returning back to Talent League level and the latter dominant last week.

Geelong Falcons vs. Murray Bushrangers
Sunday, May 28 @ Avalon Airport Oval, 3pm

Based off last week’s results, this game looks headed for one result, with Geelong Falcons cruising to a 91-point win, while Murray Bushrangers were soundly beaten by Brisbane Lions Academy. The Bushrangers showed fight to the final siren though, and the eye-catching Tamika Rourke stepped up and will be suited in the game. It will be all about limiting the influence of star midfielder Sara Howley though, with the Falcons onballer racking up 40 touches against the Pioneers in Round 7.

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