Sister Act as Ballard, Scholz among top SA talents at internal trial

SOME familiar names stood out at South Australia’s Under 18 Girls State Academy internal trial this week, as the players had one last hitout prior to the Christmas break. While a host of players from the reigning two-time national champions were absent, the game was still played at an incredibly high standard and marked the final day of a three-day camp for the Summer squad members.

Split into two teams of Blue and Yellow, the former got the chocolates comfortably in the end, winning 6.3 (39) to 1.7 (13) with inaccuracy from Team Yellow proving costly given the side only had one less scoring shot. The result was largely irrelevant, and more used as a measure for the coaching staff – such as new head coach Brad Snell – to see how players fared in multiple positions.

There were plenty of standouts on the day, with Northern Territory talent Popi Gikas – who has relocated to South Australia – a fresh face amongst the Academy. Each player was thrown around in a couple of positions where possible, with the match reduced to 17-minute quarters given there was only the 18 players per side.

Half of the 36 players are draft-eligible next year, with one over-ager – Georgina Birchall – and one bottom-ager – Miyu Endersby – taking part in the trial. Team Blue and 2023 AFLW Under 18s All-Australian Jemma Charity was one of the more impressive players, with mid-forward Ruby Ballard – sister of Adelaide’s Abbie – and Poppy Scholz – sister of Port Adelaide’s Matilda – among the best for Team Blues and Yellow respectively.

Among those unavailable for the clash were reigning MVP, Sturt star India Rasheed, and the duo recovering from anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, Georgia McKee and Shae Archbold. However the likes of AFLW Academy member Jasmine Evans and versatile West Adelaide tall Lucy Boyd also produced impressive performances.

From the 2007-born players, Imogen Trengove really caught the eye for Team Yellow coming off an impressive instrastate tournament this year, while small forward Sarcha Taylor and West Adelaide tall Chloe Tonkin had their moments for Team Blue.

Some of the others who caught the eye and feature in our notes include Collingwood father-daughter prospect Violet Patterson, West Adelaide winger Asha Dufour, Sturt bottom-ager Sophie Thredgold and South Australian Under 16s MVP, Sophie Eaton.


Team Blue:

#2 Ruby Ballard (West Adelaide)

One of the best, if not the best, on ground, Ballard really got her hands dirty around the stoppages, as she has some of the cleanest and quickest pairs available. A one-touch player who reads the game well, she is as tough as they come, but also has the extraction skills and smarts to hit targets around the ground.

#4 Jasmine Evans (Central District)

Her understanding of the game continues to grow and she just gets better nad better. A few kicks were turned over because she went for those high-risk, high-reward passes, but has the licence to do so given how brilliant she usually pulls it off. Covered the ground well, was clean and still directed some ripper passes to e among the more consistent Team Blue players.

#6 Sarcha Taylor (North Adelaide)

Playing forward, Taylor kicked the first goal of the game following a free kick for being held and then nailed the set shot six minutes into the game. She set up potential scoring chances with her vision inside, then handed off a goal to Endersby incredibly unselfishly after shrugging off her opponent just a few metres for goal. Instead of running the extra five metres to put it through, she handed it off for her teammate to score.

#8 Popi Gikas (Woodville-West Torrens)

A raw talent but has the athleticism to really become something exciting. Gikas just got into the right spots and was able to benefit, while spending time up the ground on a wing as well. Having relocated to the City of Churches following in the footsteps of her sister, Erini, Popi only turns 17 next week, so is a very late year birth, indicating plenty of improvement to come.

#16 Jemma Charity (North Adelaide)

One of the more potent kicks in the team, Charity spent time all over the ground, from using her strength in the middle, to helping out in defence, and even kicking a set shot goal in attack. She has the traits that translate to any position, and her execution is top notch. One of the more unlucky players to miss out on the AFLW Academy, Charity remains one to watch, having made the move from the Eagles to North Adelaide over the off-season.

#18 Miyu Endersby (Central District)

The sole 2008-born player in the match, Endersby has a versatile utility who, like Charity, spent time all over the ground. Starting in defence, Endersby provided some nice run from the back half, then moved into the middle and even got forward to kick a goal thanks to unselfish play from Taylor. She had an earlier flying shot from 40m in the third term, but it bounced to the left. Possesses some clean hands and athleticism.

#19 Chloe Tonkin (West Adelaide)

The versatile tall rolled through the ruck and often found herself in the defensive half of the ground, using her strength well both at the stoppage and in marking contests. Though she turned over a few of her kicks, she has a penetrating boot and is strong overhead, while not being afraid to impact at ground level with fierce tackling. Some strong potential as she showed at the Under 16 Championships this year.

Team Yellow:

#3 Sophie Eaton (Central District)

Already a SANFL Women’s premiership player and state MVP, the highly regarded Eaton did not need a lot of the ball to do plenty of damage. Her ability to glide past opponents and create space for herself was outstanding, and she is as clean as they come. Her pinpoint delivery by hand or foot really stands out, and is one of the best kicks for her age comfortably.

#4 Violet Patterson (Glenelg)

As tough as they come, Patterson worked hard across the ground and used her ability to weave through traffic to her advantage. Still a little rough on the final execution, her vision and understanding of the game was great, and her defensive pressure is always outstanding. When lowering the eyes with a spot kick inside 50, Patterson can make precise passes to leading targets.

#5 Sophie Thredgold (Sturt)

Had some nice moments across the course of the game, starting with a mark in defence and great second effort to win another touch. She pushed up the ground and was generally clean by hand and neat by foot, with her work both in the air and ground level impressive. Though Thredgold did not win as much of it as some others, the 2007-born Double Blues talent showed an array of draftable traits.

#6 Asha Dufour (West Adelaide)

Working hard in her familiar role as a tall winger and covering the ground, Dufour did well between the arcs, taking a number of strong marks in space. Her short kicking was effective, and impressively bounced back from copping a knock in the second term to build into the game. A hard runner who helps out the defence as well by dropping into the hole or being a switch option.

#8 Imogen Trengove (Woodville-West Torrens)

A player who had plenty of notable moments, though is still a developing work in progress. Defensively, she was not afraid to work hard, and she moves well through traffic. With ball-in-hand, she has a very aggressive style to try and take grass, with just that final execution an area to improve on, particularly from a composure element. Given Piper Window has moved on to the AFLW, Trengove is a much rawer talent, but plays in a similar style and could fill out that role.

#16 Lucy Boyd (West Adelaide)

Boyd spent her time forward then had stints in the middle even taking a few stoppages as ruck when inside 50. She kicked Yellow’s only goal of the game in the first term, but should have finished with three or four for the day. That little bit of composure at the end when having chances – including hitting the post in one instance from 15m out on a tight angle – is a way to improve, but her hands and ability to get involved still stood out.

#18 Poppy Scholz (Glenelg)

When she is up and going, Scholz is one of the most eye-catching players to watch, even if her daring runs and fend-offs can occasionally get her into trouble. On more than a few occasions she backed herself in to sidestep opponents and take a bounce or release by hand to a free teammate after drawing an opponent. Her marking was outstanding all game, and though she did turnover more kicks than she would have liked, Scholz’s positioning and reading of the play was naturally fantastic.

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