VFLW 2023 Squad

Sarah Grunden has much more experience in footy, having started at Keilor FC at 8 years old and being the first girl to play 100 games for them (five years ago).

She’s a medium forward who pushes up the ground (lots of disposals, lots of inside fifties, 3.2 her best score for this year) and if Peter Williams is accurate below then NICE.

Grunden has been arguably the most eye-catching player in the Talent League who would not have been on any draft boards before the season. Having been on the Western Jets list in 2021 without playing a game – but now in the Calder side, the Keilor prospect has made a barn-storming start to her top-age year. Playing in atrocious weather conditions in her first three matches, Grunden averaged 18 disposals, four inside 50s and booted four goals. But her impact on-field far outweighs her stats sheet impact, with ridiculously clean hands at ground level and impressive skill execution and impact-per-possession.

Side information noted while I was searching for data: Alex Quigley is leading the EDFL Premier goalkicking ladder, with 12 from 5 games. Manfre is stranded on 5 goals from her 1 game.

@theDJR What happened to Lila Keck this year, after a lot of publicity she seems to have disappeared.

She lasted almost 50 minutes with us.


Pioneers are playing this weekend, but I can’t find the named team to see if she’s playing again.

Go to 49:05 to see how Keck did her ankle.

Found the Bendigo team for Sunday, 4 weeks after this injury: she’s not in it.

Kicked 4 goals this week to extend her lead.


Apparently now back training with the Pioneers.

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23 of 26 remembered to bring their/an origin jumper (we’ll give Ashley-Cooper a pass given she clearly isn’t training).


Calder kicked 5 of their 6 goals in the last quarter to narrowly beat Gippsland.

Grunden 9 disposals and 6 tackles.

Kayley Kavanagh remains the best Cannon, with 23 disposals and a goal.

Western Jets got destroyed by the Suns Academy: 21.4.130 to 3.2.20, and Russell was one of those victims.

NT Thunder jumped Bendigo before getting cold and not goaling in the second half. In the end, the Pioneers won 46-23: Keck was a late withdrawal, and Lucia Painter topped disposals with 32. Jemmika Douglas had 25 and kicked two goals.

Laura Bashford, long-time VFLW Strength & Conditioning head and team board holder extraordinaire, is moving to a similar role at Footscray AFLW (did not get the recently advertised position for our AFLW team).

Has done some handy videos over the years, too – click through for her departing example.



Bittersweet to be saying goodbye to this amazing team :white_heart:

I’ve been so lucky to have worked with the most incredible people over my time at Essendon. To the amazing high performance team, coaches and support staff, thank you for all your hard work this (and every) season. It truly takes an army!

To everyone who has passed through the @essendonwvfl team, I am so proud of every single one of you. I cannot wait to see what the rest of this season will bring!! The thought of leaving you was the hardest part of this decision, which is a testament to the beautiful people you are! Thank you for the laughs, tears and 10 second dance parties, I’ve enjoyed every second working with you all!

To the amazing mentors and colleagues, past and present who continue to provide me with the most invaluable support and advice, thank you will never be quite enough to express how grateful I am for your support and encouragement.


Maddie Boyd was #2 to reach 100 games, this past weekend?

I don’t recall us ever playing an under-ager. But what the hell, BRING. HER. IN.

30 and 31 disposals the last two weeks.

Relevant to us:

  • Lila Keck at #16 (played half a game for us before injury intervened)
  • Bryde O’Rourke (also Bendigo, 176cm goal-kicking midfield jet) at #20
  • Honourable mention also made of Sarah Grunden, who has also played one game with us already.

To complete the initial Top 20 is another Vic Country representative in Bendigo Pioneers’ O’Rourke. Like Williamson, O’Rourke is a player who has all the pieces to be a very good player, and is starting to put them together in her top-age year. Standing at 176cm, O’Rourke has largely been among the best Pioneers in each of her side’s games, and until the weekend’s heavy loss to Dandenong, had hit the scoreboard in each one. Able to be a threat aerially, as well as play midfield or forward, O’Rourke has that explosive speed out of the blocks and a high upside for the future.

In 2023, O’Rourke has averaged 13.8 disposals, 3.2 marks, 3,8 inside 50s and booted 6.1, with a lot of her goals coming from long-range on the run. She does have a booming kick and a long stride able to create separation on her opponents, and is rated highly internally by the Pioneers for her work within the group. Her defensive game is still one that is developing though she laid a career-high five tackles on the weekend – and her endurance has a long way to go – but her bursts allow her to impact games.

Why O’Rourke?

Another pick for the future more so than for the now, O’Rourke is a very exciting player from an athletic profile sense, and to be 176cm and move like the wind is outstanding. She does have areas to work on, but it is hard to ignore of those areas alone, and the fact that playing as a half-forward, O’Rourke can still find her fair share of the ball, and clunk some great marks.



Grunden goaled for Metro Blue.

Krystal Russell (who I completely missed in my previous post, as I was scanning for our two affiliates) pretended she wasn’t old, snuck into Metro Green, and also goaled.

#18 Kayley Kavanagh (Calder Cannons)
06/07/2005 | 169cm | Midfielder/Defender

The natural ball-winning midfielder had the ball on a string in the first half, racing to 13 touches by half-time to lead all-comers on the field. Despite starting at half-back, Kavanagh got her chance moving into the midfield after that, and even took a strong one-on-one mark. After rotating out of midfield in the second half, Kavanagh had a quieter half with just the five additional touches. Still, she staked her case to earn a spot in the Metro midfield rotation, cracking in across the three quarters.

Vic Country White destroyed Vic Country Red 70-5


#10 Keely Fullerton (Bendigo Pioneers)
30/01/2005 | 161cm | Wing/Defender

Fullerton ran hard all day and got some important midfield minutes off the wing and then rolling back to defence where she found plenty of the ball. She had an eye-catching burst along the wing in the second term, but her best quarter by far was her final one. Quite often coming out of defence and pushing up the ground, Fullerton finished with 10 disposals in the quarter, also clunking three marks and being the prime ball-winner for the period. She even kicked a classy goal on the run from a handball receive in a really impressive performance.

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

Though not the finished product just yet, O’Rourke continues to rise in draft calculations with a lot to like about her performances. On the weekend, she was able to glide down the ground be it out of a centre stoppage or from half-back, then would go forward. She finished with a couple of majors including a very impressive goal on the run, and though she could have had even more with 2.2 and being a little cleaner in the air and at ground level, she is flashy when she can get moving.


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

Starting forward then rotating into the middle in the second half, Keck worked her way back into the match in what was just her second game back from injury. A total of 10 of her 16 touches came after half time and she even had a couple of chances on goal in the final term that went a little astray. But she looked lively and was able to sidestep a couple of opponents at different points.

#2 Steph Demeo (Bendigo Pioneers)
10/05/2005 | 162cm | Defender/Midfielder

Holding her own throughout the match and finishing strongly, Demeo was able to spend valuable minutes in the midfield. Though her polish could be tidied up at times, she was good around the stoppages and able to pick up a team-high four clearances, and also lay four tackles. Quite often she was utilised in mopping up and clearing the danger.

Tick Amy Gaylor (Calder) off the list of potential debuts in the final two H&A weeks: done an ACL.

In the AFLW Academy vs U23 game on the weekend, Lila Keck was exactly what we don’t have: a creative goal-kicking small. Bring her (back) in.

FWIW, Bendigo have four weeks of games until their next bye. Cannons have the three weeks booked in.

Players need to get their one H&A game in to qualify for finals. We’re currently dangerously limited, with ~25 to choose our team of 21 from (injury status of some is vague).

Given I’d prefer to put a line through 3 of those 4 “spare” players… eek.

Played in 2023 Type Available
Maddison Ford junior yes
Sarah Grunden junior yes
Lila Keck junior yes
Maddi Wilson VFLW yes
Sophie Molan VFLW yes
Bella Clarke VFLW yes
Chloe Prpic VFLW yes
Eloise Chaston VFLW yes
Kendra Heil VFLW yes
Reese Sutton VFLW yes
Manaia Huta VFLW yes
Mia-Rae Clifford VFLW yes
Olivia Manfre VFLW yes
Melanie Bateman VFLW yes
Zoe Hurrell VFLW yes
Madison Gray VFLW yes
Eleanor Cornish VFLW yes
Maddy Pearson VFLW yes
Krystal Russell VFLW yes
Jayda Richardson VFLW yes
Jaimee-Lee Morrow VFLW yes
Scarlett Orritt VFLW yes
Annabel Strahan VFLW yes
Sophie Ure VFLW yes
Lily Bateman VFLW yes
Tayla Hart-Aluni VFLW ???
Leah Spargo VFLW ???
Eloise Ashley-Cooper VFLW ???
Caitlin Sargent departed no
Alana Barba AFLW no
Stephanie Wales AFLW no
Georgia Clarke AFLW no
Joanne Doonan AFLW no
Amelia Radford AFLW no
Amber Clarke AFLW no
Mia Busch AFLW no
Paige Scott AFLW no
Ash van Loon AFLW no
Danielle Marshall AFLW no
Sophie van de Heuvel AFLW no
Renee Tierney AFLW no
Ellyse Gamble AFLW no
Kodi Jacques AFLW no
Alex Morcom AFLW no
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The obvious next question is “who is on our VFLW list but has not played a game this year?”

It’s quite a short list:

  • Natalie Macdonald – exact role we need, but not available
  • G.L.O.R.I.A. Elarmaly – ???
  • Shelby Meyers – ???
  • Caitlin Grech – played during the pre-season

The below players are likely playing for Vic Metro during VFLW round 14 – so if not named this week, Kavanagh and Forbes will not be available during VFLW finals.

Grunden and Russell have already qualified, of course.

14 Kayley Kavanagh 169 Calder Cannons Strathmore
17 Kyla Forbes 167 Calder Cannons Aberfeldie
23 Sarah Grunden 168 Calder Cannons Keilor
30 Krystal Russell 180 Western Jets Yarraville Seddon Eagles