VFLW Game Day VFLW 2021 Season - Preliminary Final loss to Geelong


Moderator ❀
Dec 14, 2015
AFL Club
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1Southern Saints (H)10:30am, Sunday, February 28NEC HangarLOSS: Match Report
2Casey Demons (A)1pm, Sunday, March 7Casey FieldsWIN: Match Report
3Hawthorn (H)11am, Saturday, March 13NEC HangarWIN: Match Report
4Darebin (H)10:30am, Sunday, March 21NEC HangarWIN: Match Report
5Port Melbourne (H)10:30am, Sunday, March 28NEC HangarLOSS: Match Report
6Hawthorn (A)10:30am, Saturday, April 10Box Hill City OvalWIN: Match Report
7Williamstown (H)11am, Saturday, April 17NEC HangarWIN: Match Report
8Collingwood (A)11am, Sunday, April 25NEC HangarLOSS: Match Report
9Carlton (H)10am, Saturday, May 1Windy HillWIN: Match Report
10Geelong (A)1pm, Saturday, May 8Deakin (Geelong)LOSS: Match Report
11Western Bulldogs (H)11am, Saturday, May 15Windy HillLOSS: Match Report
12North Melbourne (H)10am, Saturday, May 22Windy Hillpostponed/abandoned
13Darebin (A)12pm, Saturday, May 29Bill Lawry Ovalpostponed/abandoned
14Williamstown (A)1pm, Saturday, June 19Downer OvalWIN: Match Report
15Darebin (A)12pm, Saturday, June 26Bill Lawry OvalWIN: Match Report
EFCasey Demons (A)12pm, Saturday, July 3Casey FieldsWIN: Match Report
SFCollingwood (A)12pm, Saturday, July 10Victoria ParkLOSS: Match Report
PFGeelong (H)12pm, Saturday, July 31Windy HillLOSS: Match Report
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Club Legend
Feb 26, 2015
North of the border
AFL Club
Disappointing end to the season for the girls, but they should be proud of themselves for getting as far as they did.

Can't wait for us to enter the AFLW, I enjoy watching the ladies play. They go in hard and the skills are getting better each year, particularly with the young girls coming through the junior ranks.

All the best to those fortunate enough to get picked up in the recent draft. Hopefully they come home when we enter the comp.


Premiership Player
Oct 10, 2007
AFL Club
Other Teams
Port Melbourne (VFL)
Why would they move it? So it can function as AFLW reserves?

Correct. The aim is for them to operate as the AFLW reserves, and be finished before the start of the VFL Men's season.

This would allow AFL clubs to have staff (like some assistant coaches, physios, etc) work with their women's teams, then their men's team.

Some got a bit caught out when the AFLW and AFLM overlapped this year, thus the move to separate seasons.
Preliminary Final: Loss to Geelong


Moderator ❀
Dec 14, 2015
AFL Club
Preliminary Final write up;

VFLW Bombers beaten in prelim final
Essendon's historic VFLW season comes to an end against Geelong.
By Celie Hay - Just now

The VFLW Bombers’ maiden finals series has ended after Geelong ran away with a 28-point victory in Saturday’s preliminary final at Windy Hill.

It was a tale of two halves as the Bombers were level with the Geelong at the main break, but the Cats' experience proved too strong in the 6.9 (45) to 2.5 (17) win.

Geelong came out firing to kick the opening major, but the Bombers’ intensity lifted as they fought hard to maintain possession.

It took until the last minute of the opening quarter for the Bombers to hit the board through No.2 AFLW draft pick Georgie Prespakis, who broke through a contest to snap a goal.


Star midfielder Georgie Prespakis gets busy in the engine room. (Photo: Celie Hay)

Like the first quarter, Geelong opened the second term with a quick major, but the Bombers continued to fight hard and took control of the game.

A long kick from Zali Friswell found Alana Barba in open space and she weaved through multiple opponents before waltzing into an open goal square.

The two sides couldn’t be separated heading into the main break with a late behind from Barba levelling the score.

After the main break, Geelong’s intensity lifted and it broke away with consecutive goals.

But the Bombers’ defenders in Tamsin Crook and Eloise Ashley-Cooper stood strong under immense pressure, cutting off multiple Geelong forward entries.

Momentum turned in the final minutes of the third term with the Bombers’ locking the ball in their forward half, but unfortunately they couldn’t convert.

Geelong dominated the final quarter, but the Bombers’ intent didn’t waiver as the home side fought hard to reduce the deficit.

Essendon conceded multiple goals in the final minutes, sealing the Cats’ 28-point victory to advance to the VFLW Grand Final.


The VFLW Bombers can hold their heads high after an outstanding season. (Photo: Celie Hay)

Tale of two halves

Despite waiting three weeks in between games, both sides started the game with fast ball movement and clean skills.

While the Bombers kept up with the Geelong’s intensity for the first half, the Cats stepped up after the main break and took control of the game.

Essendon captain Georgia Nanscawen said the Bombers started the game well but struggled to stop Geelong’s momentum throughout the second half.

“It was a pretty tight for first half and I think we matched it with them really well. They got off to a bit of a start and we pulled them back extremely well. I thought we were actually on top of the contest, feeling really good going into half-time,” Nanscawen said.

“I think their class just showed through in that second half. They got a bit of a run on and a bit of momentum, and it was hard to stop. In the end credit to them, they've had a great season and played the game really, really well.”

Nanscawen said the Bombers struggled to overcome the pressure from the Cats which meant they couldn’t utilise their own structures and capitalise on their outside speed.

“We looked at the stats at three-quarter time and they started to get on top in the contested possessions,” Nanscawen said.

“They use the players around the back of the stoppage really well and we weren't able to number off as well as we would have liked, so they were able to get that bit of a run on and unfortunately we didn’t have the answers to them today.”

Disappointing end to a historic season

Although it was a disappointing end to the season, the VFLW Bombers can reflect on the season with pride as they were a part of the team which led the club to a maiden finals series.

Nanscawen said her side never gave up throughout the season and embraced any challenge that came their way, including the disruptions caused by COVID lockdowns.

“Obviously I'm extremely proud of the group, proud of the club and I think the club's proud of us as well,” she said.

“One thing is we've never backed down and we've always enjoyed doing it as a group. I'm extremely proud to be part of this group and proud to stay with the Bombers going forward and developing us to hopefully go one step better next year.”

ESSENDON 1.1 2.2 2.5 2.5 (17)
GEELONG 1.2 2.2 4.4 6.9 (45)

Goals: Prespakis, Barba
Best: Prespakis, Nanscawen, Gillard, Barba, Crook, Ashley-Cooper
Disposals: Nanscawen 26, Barba 18, Prespakis 17, Heil 13


Moderator ❀
Dec 14, 2015
AFL Club
Nanscawen (Captain)'s interview from the prelim loss/season review:

Ashley-Cooper's interview from the prelim loss/season review:


Brownlow Medallist
Oct 22, 2008
AFL Club
Interesting to see how the lay off affects the Grand final. Was hoping it'd just push it back far enough to put Collingwood out of touch and fitness. At this rate it probably favours them as both sides would be finding it hard.

Hopefully the Geelong team is getting a much less disrupted preparation, I really like the idea of Collingwood getting rolled in a granny after dominating a season.


Moderator ❀
Dec 14, 2015
AFL Club
7 VFLW players now signed to AFLW clubs...

Barba earns AFLW chance with Suns
By Celie Hay - 7 hrs ago

Star midfielder Alana Barba becomes the seventh Bomber to join an AFLW list ahead of next season.

Another Essendon VFLW star will join the AFLW with Alana Barba today signing with the Gold Coast Suns.

Following the success of July's draft, Barba is the seventh player to go through the Bombers’ women’s football program and on to an AFLW list.

Barba first joined the Bombers for four games in 2019 as a top-age player from Calder Cannons and signed with the club ahead of the 2020 season.

Due to COVID-19, she had to wait an extra year for a full season in the red and black but quickly solidified her spot in the Bombers’ midfield and impressed the Suns’ coaching staff.

For Barba, it feels surreal that she has made her way on to an AFLW list and was in shock when she received the call from Gold Coast head coach Cameron Joyce.

“It hasn't really set in yet. I think once I know it's really official and I get up there that's when it will probably sink in a bit more but it’s pretty surreal at the moment,” Barba said.

“I received a call from Cam and he basically just said that there’s a position available and that it was mine to fill so when I found I was kind of shaky and it was all a bit of a blur in the moment.”

It was Barba’s work ethic through the midfield and her determination at contests that stood out to the Suns.


Alana Barba celebrates a goal with Nat MacDonald this season. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Barba was a key part of the Bombers’ engine room this season with the 19-year-old averaging 16.4 disposals and 7.5 tackles per game.

Showing her versatility, Barba was also dangerous up forward where she scored 10 goals, including Essendon’s first major in the elimination final against Casey which sparked the Bombers’ come-from-behind victory.

“They liked that I was a hard ball-winner in the middle and that I cover the ground very well,” Barba said.

“But what stood out to me was the way they went about things. They were very honest with me from the get-go and they had a very warm feeling about them. I felt pretty comfortable instantly with them."

Although Barba believes her time at VFLW level has prepared her for the physical side of AFLW, it was the Bombers’ women’s program that has equipped her for the move to the top level.

“Coming up against the bigger bodies in the VFLW has definitely helped me prepare a little bit more,” she said.

“But just the elite environment that Essendon has provided for me has really set me up for when I do move to AFLW level.”

A key part of the Bombers’ program is head coach Brendan Major, who saw potential in Barba from when she was at Calder Cannons and instilled belief in the midfielder that she could perform at AFLW level.

“Brendan Major, he is the one coach throughout my whole football journey who has really wholeheartedly supported me and believed in me to go the next level,” Barba said.

“He took a chance on me when signing me as a VFLW player and I’m very grateful for him doing that because he is one of the only coaches who have believed that I could play at AFLW level.”


Alana Barba says she owes a lot to Essendon's VFLW head coach Brendan Major. (Photo: AFL Photos)

As Barba prepares to take the next step into the AFLW, she is embracing the opportunity to develop as a player and a person when she moves up north from her home state of Victoria.

“It's just a new experience and chance to up my game at the next level. When you’re playing against quality players, you’re only going to improve for the better so that’s what I’m excited about," she said.

“I think a new experience for me will be good. I’ll grow as a person and a player and I think that’s exactly what I need, a bit of a change.”

When Barba moves to the Sunshine State, she will be greeted by a familiar face at the Suns.

Fellow Bomber and reigning Gold Coast club champion Lauren Ahrens joined the Suns two years ago and played a role in Barba's decision to sign with the Suns.

“She definitely has had her input to try and persuade me but she is a great person and I’m excited to be teammates and run out with her again,” Barba said.

“Having Lauren at the Suns definitely eases my nerves a bit. It’s always nice to have a familiar face when you go into a new environment, let alone moving interstate, so I’m grateful I know at least one person.”

When Barba runs out as a Sun in the next AFLW season, there will be some familiar faces lining up against her, something she believes will feel strange to begin with but is looking forward to the challenge.

“Definitely Georgie Prespakis and Zali (Friswell), they were both drafted to Geelong so they will be tough to come up against," she said.

“But also Georgia Patrikios from St Kilda, she’s one of my best friends so I think there will be a bit of banter on the field with her.”

Barba joins Georgie Prespakis, Zali Friswell, Emelia Yassir, Tara Slender, Elizabeth Snell and Tahlia Gillard as VFLW Bombers drafted to the AFLW this year.
Best & Fairest Award Night


Moderator ❀
Dec 14, 2015
AFL Club


B&F - TOP 10

After each game this season, each of the five Essendon VFLW coaches allocated 1-5 votes per player. The maximum votes a player could receive each game was 25.

1st - Eloise Ashley-Cooper (259 votes)
2nd - Alex Morcom (242)
3rd - Alana Barba (234)
4th - Mia-Rae Clifford (215)
5th - Cecilia McIntosh (213)
6th - Marianna Anthony (212)
7th - Kendra Heil (205)
=8th - Nat MacDonald, Courtney Ugle (204)
10th - Georgia Nanscawen (203)

Best Club Person
Winner: Eloise Ashley-Cooper
Determined by: Trainers

Don of the Year
Winner: Eloise Ashley-Cooper
Determined by: Players' votes
Prize: $500 + $1000 to local club, thanks to Fujitsu

Best Finals Player
Winner: Georgia Nanscawen
Determined by: Coaches
Prize: $500, thanks to Fujitsu

Leading Goalkicker
Winner: Mia-Rae Clifford
Prize: $500 Amart voucher

Most Valuable Young Player
Winner: Alana Barba
Determined by: Coaches
Prize: $500 Coles voucher

Liberty Legend
Winner: Celie Hay
Determined by: Players' votes
Prize: $500 Red Balloon voucher

Ashley-Cooper crowned 2021 VFLW Best and Fairest
Young leader Eloise Ashley-Cooper caps a remarkable rise to win a maiden VFLW Best and Fairest medal.

Versatile youngster Eloise Ashley-Cooper has capped a remarkable rise to earn a maiden Essendon VFLW Best and Fairest medal.

Ashley-Cooper, who turned 21 earlier this month, claimed the Bombers' highest individual honour on 259 votes ahead of consistent defender Alex Morcom (242), star midfielder Alana Barba (234) and former AFLW players Mia-Rae Clifford (215) and Cecilia McIntosh (213).

Ashley-Cooper becomes the youngest winner of the Bombers' VFLW Best and Fairest in its short history, in a season that also saw her elevated to the team's leadership group as the youngest in the contingent.

She has been held in the highest regard by her peers this season, having also claimed the player-voted Don of the Year award and trainer-voted Best Club Person award for best upholding the team's values.


Eloise Ashley-Cooper is a much-loved and respected teammate. (Photo: Celie Hay)

Growing up in Finley in regional New South Wales, Ashley-Cooper's focus was on netball until in 2017 a close friend convinced her to join the local girls’ football team.

In her first football game for Finley, Ashley-Cooper’s talent was identified by Murray Bushrangers in the then-TAC Cup, seeing her quickly progress into the Eastern Allies side for the 2018 AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships.

After relocating to Melbourne to study a Bachelor of Law at the Australian Catholic University, Ashley-Cooper was then convinced by Essendon's head coach Brendan Major to join his VFLW side ahead of the 2019 season.

She became one of the first picked in Major's side this season, performing consistently as an inside midfielder and then half-back to feature in every game as the Bombers reached a preliminary final in their maiden finals series.

Major said Ashley-Cooper was a worthy winner.

"She's worked really hard over the last couple of seasons to really develop her game," Major said.

"Her professionalism has shone through and her fitness has improved dramatically. She's always had a good base in that and a strong work ethic, but she's taken that to another level this year.

"Her consistency across all games was probably what got her over the line. She's one of those players who turns up every week, does her job and competes really hard. When you combine that with neat skills, it makes her a deserving winner.

"She's an exceptional young leader. She acquitted herself really well and that just shows her maturity, which is far ahead of her age. She's really well respected among the playing group for many reasons."

Fellow youngster Barba, who last week earned an AFLW contract with Gold Coast, was duly recognised for her stellar season in midfield, claiming the Most Valuable Player award in addition to her third-placed finish.


Alana Barba starred this season to claim multiple awards. (Photo: AFL Photos)

Captain Georgia Nanscawen earned Best Finals Player honours, having averaged 27 disposals and 12 tackles across the Bombers' three finals matches.

Clifford dominated her first season in the red and black, booting 16 goals to win the Leading Goalkicker award.

Dons Digital intern Celie Hay was recognised for her outstanding output and cultural impact, voted by the players as the Liberty Legend - an award dedicated to the incredible and selfless volunteers who give their all to the team.

The club congratulates all award winners in what was a history-making season for the VFLW Bombers.