2018 Women’s Premier Division Season Review

Image courtesy of Zak Kaczmarek.


Just like that, the AFL Sydney’s Women’s Premier Division competition has come to a close.

The 17-round home-and-away season concluded last week – and what a season it was. It came down to the final round for the top four to be decided.

Macquarie University, UNSW Eastern Suburbs, Auburn-Penrith and Southern Power will compete in this year’s finals series starting this weekend.

However, before we get to that, let’s go over how each team performed across the season and have a look at each team’s key players and goal scorers.

Macquarie University Warriors
Ladder Position – 1
Ladder Position 2017 – 3
Wins – 16
Losses – 1
Best Players – Ellie Herron (14 times in best), Lisa Steane (11), Meagan Lawrence (8), Phillipa Smyth (8)
Leading Goal Kicker – Laura Russell (28)

Easily the standout side of the competition in 2018, the Warriors went undefeated for 11 matches before their one and only loss of the season against the Auburn-Penrith Giants in Round 12.

The Warriors had some handy recruits this year with Lisa Steane and Phillipa Smyth coming on board from the Nelson Bay Marlins, and Ellie Brush and Kristy Sutcliffe moving over from Sydney University. Brush and Smyth strengthened their side’s defence, whilst Sutcliffe and Steane were extremely consistent in the midfield alongside the hard-tackling Ellie Herron.

Another new recruit forward/ruck Laura Russell won the competition’s goal kicking medal with 28 goals for the season. Seven of those goals came in the final round. Russell has been assisted in the forward line by lead-up forward Simone Freeman (16 goals) and Aislinn Albury (14 goals).

The Warriors welcomed back skipper Amanda Farrugia with three rounds remaining, giving the Warriors side another boost heading into finals.

UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs

Ladder Position – 2
Ladder Position 2017 – 1
Wins – 14
Losses – 3
Best Players – Ingrid Nielsen (10), Sandra Janjetovic (10), Alison Parkin (8), Meagan Kiely (8)
Leading Goal Kicker – Rebecca Privitelli (26 from 10 games)

UNSW Eastern Suburbs changed from the Stingrays to the Bulldogs in 2018. Not only were there name and uniform changes, there were also a number of changes to their premiership winning side in 2017.

GWS Giants players Maddy Collier (Essendon Bombers), Rebecca Beeson (Hawthorn Hawks) and Phoebe Monahan (Richmond Tigers) all played down south in the Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW) this year, making way for their new recruits.

Rebecca Privitelli moved to the Bulldogs from the Eastern Devils (VFLW) this season and was outstanding up forward kicking 26 goals in just 10 games. Privitelli worked extremely well alongside fellow GWS Giants player Jacinda Barclay, small forward Roxy McGee and marking target Jemma Still.

Another recruit for the Bulldogs was midfielder Meagan Kiely who came to UNSW Eastern Suburbs from Macquarie University. Kiely accumulated possession, after possession, after possession and her clearance work throughout the year was first class.

Add to the mix ruck Ingrid Nielsen whose confidence grew each game she played and the consistently performing backline of Sera Kaukiono, Alison Parkin and Sandra Janjetovic, the Bulldogs are a very strong side.

The Bulldogs lost just three games this season – twice to Macquarie University and a shock loss to UTS Shamrocks in Round 10 when a number of their key players were missing due to GWS Giants Winter Series commitments.

Auburn-Penrith Giants

Ladder Position -3
Ladder Position 2017 – 4
Wins – 11
Losses – 5
Draws – 1
Best Players – Renee Tomkins (13), Lael Kassem (10), Margot Vella (9), Sarah Yatim (8), Melissa Brydon (7), Haneen Zreika (7), Angela Priftis (7)
Leading Goal Kicker – Melissa Brydon (19)

Auburn-Penrith is the only team to have beaten flag favourites Macquarie University in 2018. That win was one of their 11 victories for the season.

Renee Tomkins was their most consistent player being named in the Giants’ best in 13 of the 15 matches she played. This was a great return to form for the utility considering she fractured her vertebrae late last year during pre-season with the GWS Giants.

Assisting Tomkins were midfielders Lael Kassem and Haneen Zreika – both very different players. Kassem is an outside-mid with excellent decision making skills. Zreika is a gutsy in and under mid with no fear.

Angela Priftis is a rising star who will continue to improve the more matches she gets under her belt. Tall forward Melissa Brydon also has got a bright future. Her leading and marking abilities contributed to her kicking 19 goals this season.

Southern Power

Ladder position – 4
Ladder Position 2017 – 6
Wins – 7
Losses – 10
Best Players – Michelle Podnecky (13), Katheryn Hull (8), Brooke Curren (7), Brooke McGuire (7), Jemima Wrigley (7), Natalie Murray (7)
Leading Goal Kicker – Rheanna Lotter (23)

Southern Power made their way into finals this year having finished sixth on the ladder the previous year.

The Power had a number of close matches, however they haven’t yet beaten a top three side – Macquarie, UNSW Eastern Suburbs or Auburn Penrith.

Defender Michelle Podnecky has been their most consistent player, often assigned to the most dangerous forward from the opposition. Podnecky was assisted in defence by Brooke McGuire.

At the other end of the ground, forward Rheanna Lotter was their highest scorer with 23 goals for the season finishing third on the goal kicking tally for the competition. Ash McClure was the next highest scoring forward on eight goals, meaning Lotter was very important to her side’s scoring capabilities.

Sydney University Bombers

Ladder position – 5
Ladder Position 2017 – 2
Wins – 6
Losses – 11
Best Players – Kristen Hay (12 from 13 games), Pippy Clegg (11), Jennifer Lew (9)
Leading Goal Kicker – Amber Laven (17)

The Bombers very narrowly missed out on finals despite a slow start to the season. Last year’s Grand Finalist were only able to win two of their first 10 games this season. Two of these losses were by an agonising one-point.

A strong second half to the season nearly saw them slip into finals, however a three-point loss in the final round to UNSW Eastern Suburbs denied them of fourth spot on the ladder.

The Bombers secured the biggest name recruit – GWS Giants’ Best and Fairest Alicia Eva. She joined fellow GWS players Louise Stephenson, Nicola Barr and Erin McKinnon, however, these players were limited in the number of games they were able to play. Eva only played the one game, Stephenson four and Barr five. McKinnon was able to play 12.

Kristen Hay had an excellent season, named in the best in every game she played except for one. Stalwart Jennifer Lew was also consistent, named in the best nine out of her 14 games.

Amber Laven was their leading goal kicker with 17 for the season. Stephanie Gillon and Amy Foo kicked nine goals each.

Newtown Breakaways

Ladder position – 6
Ladder Position 2017 – 5
Wins – 5
Losses – 12
Best Players – Anna Ruut (14), Francesca Hocking (13), Alex Schroeder (10), Codie Briggs (9)
Leading Goal Kicker – Codie Briggs (12)

The Newtown Breakaways started their season with a bang defeating last year’s semi-finalists the Auburn-Penrith Giants by 32-points. This was probably their biggest scalp for the season. Their other four wins came from beating the UTS Shamrocks on three occasions and the Western Wolves once.

Their win against the Western Wolves in Round 14 showed what the Breakaways are capable of. The dynamic duo of Codie Briggs and Laura Holdsworth were unstoppable, between them kicking nine goals of the game’s 10 goals.

Briggs finished the season as her side’s leading goal kicker with 12 followed closely by Holdsworth with eight.

Anna Ruut, Francesca Hocking and Alex Shroeder were reliable players for their side, intercepting marks in defence and rebounding back into attack. They provide experience and composure. Another player who had a good season was Patricia Wright who plays on the wing. Wright was named in the best on seven occasions.

Western Wolves

Ladder position – 7
Ladder Position 2017 – 8
Wins – 4
Losses – 12
Draws – 1
Best Players – Melissa Freckelton (11), Amelia Causley-Todd (11), Rebecca Miller (9), Luisa Marzotto (8)
Leading Goal Kicker – Michaela Eckman (13)

The Western Wolves, like the Breakways, started the season firing with an impressive win over Sydney University in Round 1.

They also put together one of the best team performances witnessed in the competition all year. Their win against UTS Shamrocks in Round 12 was outstanding. Their whole team contributed with unbelievable tackling pressure and they converted some exceptional goals.

Melissa Freckelton was captain courageous week-in, week-out, putting her body on the line. Her consistency winning the ball around stoppages led to her being named in the best in 11 games. She had Amelia Causley-Todd supporting her. Causely-Todd and talented ruck Rebecca Miller were the Wolves’ next most consistent players.

Michaela Eckman lead the goal kicking with 13 goals. Jessica Urquhart was behind Eckman with seven goals. Five of Urquhart’s seven came from their Round 1 match against the Bombers.

Unfortunately, the Wolves weren’t able to continue with their momentum after their Round 12 win. The following week they drew to Auburn-Penrith but then finished the season with four losses.

The Wolves have proven their best is very good and they will surely be looking to build on that for next year’s competition.

UTS Shamrocks

Ladder position – 8
Ladder Position 2017 – 7
Wins – 4
Losses – 13
Best Players – Gillian Behan (9), Carol Breen (8), Alexandra Hewson (7), Elly Jenkins (6), Kate Heal (6), Rachel Hardy (6), Tully McDonough (6)
Leading Goal Kicker – Gillian Behan (14)

Like the Wolves, the UTS Shamrocks secured four wins for the season. They had two particularly impressive victories – their Round 7 win against the Southern Power and their Round 10 win against the UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs.

Their win against the Power was by an astonishing 85-points. The Shamrocks kicked 16 goals on this day and shared the load with eight individual goal kickers.

In Round 10, the Shamrocks made the most of an under-manned Bulldogs outfit defeating UNSW Eastern Suburbs by 20-points.

Gillian Behan was one of her side’s best players. Behan is extremely quick (as are a lot of the Shamrocks players) and was able to take on players to create shots on goals. She finished the season with 14 goals to her name. Carol Breen assisted Behan by contributing 11 goals for the season.

Phoebe McWilliams is a current AFL Women’s player, recently signed by the Geelong Cats after two years spent with the GWS GIANTS. McWilliams is also a freelance writer for publications such as Inside Football Magazine. Following the 2018 NAB AFL Women’s season, McWilliams is playing for Hawthorn in the Swisse VFL Women’s competition in Victoria, while writing for AFL Sydney.

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