Saturday Preview – AFLHCC Women’s Representative Challenge

Written by Ryan Stanton


All eyes will focus on Ferodale Park this Easter Monday for the much awaited AFLHCC Women’s Representative Challenge. As a showcase of Women’s AFL talent in our region it had a magnificent debut last year but it promises to be even better this year.

All teams began with a 40 plus squad which has now been whittled down to the final 22 players plus one emergency.

Defending champions Newcastle will go into the day confident with an experienced and talented squad. In a bid to have their team cherry ripe Newcastle sought the added advantage of a practice game before they finalised their squad.

“I think we have a great balance of young talented players as well as more experienced girls that have been around the sport since it began in Newcastle in 2015.” Newcastle coach Kate Handley said. “The pressure is obviously on us to regain the title after winning last year but we are up for the challenge.”

Combinations with club team mates are important and none more than Cardiff duo Claudia Russell and Tayla Grazules who will provide Newcastle with excellent height through the ruck contests but then become a headache for the opposition as they push deep into the forward line.

The same goes for big improvers Tayla Joyce and Rosie Ronan Yates, both from Newcastle City, who will both be valuable contributors to the team as it streams out of the back line.

The big selection news has been the withdrawal of Sarah Halverson from the Newcastle team. Sarah left the field in the first quarter last week against Wyong with a reported back injury and did not return. It seems Sarah did not recover in time for the regional clash which will be a major loss for Newcastle. As two guns of the league, Sarah Halverson and Meaghan Macdonald have been through recent AFL talent programs and were expected to dominate the forward line together. Meaghan will now have to do it alone.

However this loss for Newcastle does not spell disaster. Last year’s Hunter co-captain Amy Pittman changed clubs during the offseason and will now represent Newcastle. Amy will be joined by Molly Simpson and sisters Maddie and Annalise Norton who all will soon be dual region representatives. Expect some extra spite in game 2 when the Hunter come up against their former team mates. This game should not be missed.

The Hunter have been performing well on the training ground under the watch eye of coach Craig Golledge who will also coach the AFLHCC Women’s representative team next month. The final Hunter squad as announced yesterday is no doubt lacking the representative experience of the other teams but this will not deter the Hunter from going all out and giving their very best to represent their region.

“Our squad will rely heavily on our more experienced players like Kate Holland and Sarah Burns to lead the way however I’m also excited to see how some of our younger talent like Cheyenne Neu and Tahlia Thompson handle the added responsibilities.” said Craig Golledge.

“If enthusiasm counts for anything we will be ready to compete on the day” Craig added.

The Hunter squad has a good balance coming across the 5 clubs in their region. Maitland and Singleton are both undefeated after 3 rounds and it is no surprise they will provide 14 members of the squad between them. If they can combine well with players like powerhouse defender Kate Holland the other teams will know they are in a game of football.

The Central Coast outfit will have reason to believe they can turn the tables on last year’s result with some solid recruiting. Netball cross-coder Kayla Reed (TEBB) not only shares a very famous local name but possesses the skills and game sense of someone well beyond her years. Watch Kayla to use her height to dominate the open space of the wings when she isn’t thumping the ball in the ruck. Central Coast supporters will look forward to seeing Sasha Edwards (Killarney Vale) who has transferred up from Victoria and also form player Holly Gibbons (Wyong Lakes) on the wing. Both will add some of the bite they lacked last year.

But it has not been all smooth sailing for the team from the Coast. Their team list is missing quality names including Skye Bailey(shoulder), Tash Gregory(neck) and junior state representative Dixie Butler(knee) all to injury.

Luckily for the Central Coast, three of their clubs who remain undefeated thus far this year have quality line ups that they will hope will come together to provide the depth necessary to make up for these unfortunate losses.

“Ash Page (Killarney Vale) is dominating, Bec Ives (Wyong Lakes) is reaching form after injuries last year and Kanesha Murray (Wyong Lakes) is looking fit and mean” explained Co-Coach Peter Kelleher. “Our team is extremely fit and mobile which we hope will be the difference.”

Fitness will be an important component to this year’s carnival more than ever with the addition of a final to crown the champions. The extra game is likely to test the stamina of the players early in the season. The decision to include a final has been received well.

“Yes I think the day needs to have a final. It will bring that next level of interest to the carnival and will definitely build excitement and really reinforce the winning team” Kate Handley said.

The carnival will not only produce a champion region for 2019 but also act as player trial in its purest form leading up to the representative game scheduled for May 18th vs. AFL South Coast at the newly built Pasterfield Sports Complex.

Craig Golledge was particularly excited about the carnival.

“Given we have the opportunity this year to play a representative fixture as the HCC against a South Coast I’m also looking forward to the opportunity of coaching the “best of our best” and this weekend’s carnival will give a number of our players the prefect opportunity to put their best foot forward for further selection honours.”

Port Stephens Power will host the event and AFL HCC wish to thank the club for their support.

First match starts at 10am. For those who cannot make it be sure to tune in to BarTV as all games from the AFLHCC Women’s Regional Representative Carnival are beamed live from Ferodale Park.