22/04/2024

Essendon's Steph Wales (right) celebrates one of her three goals in the win over West Coast. (Photo: AFL)

Young ruck/forward Steph Wales led the charge in Essendon’s attacking blitz on Sunday, kicking three goals, including her first in AFLW.

In a performance worthy of a Rising Star nomination this week. Wales ended the game with eight disposals, two marks and ten hit-outs, accompanying her three goals.

After facing a huge challenge in Carlton’s Breann Moody last week, it was a breakout performance by the youngster, who typified the desperate attack the Bombers played with all afternoon.

A basketball convert, Wales was picked up by Essendon with pick 32 in this season’s draft. She showed off her full potential, and what she can add in attack.

The youngster could be seen all over the ground, playing in the ruck and forward line.

Wales burst onto the scene alongside twin sister Lucy for the Casey Demons in the VFLW. Steph started the season swinging between the arcs, but eventually joined her sister in sharing the ruck load towards season’s end.

Speaking post-game, Essendon coach Natalie Wood was pleased to see the development of one of her many youngsters.

“Steph has been building week by week, she had a challenging job last week [and] played four quarters against [Breann] Moody from Carlton,” the coach said.

“Steph is a really intelligent athlete coming from a basketball background, [and] really thinks her way through scenarios.’

‘We thought she really she grew into the game and learnt a lot from the Carlton game.”

She could be set to notch up another Rising Star nomination for the Bombers, after Paige Scott earned her own in Round 1.

Scott had a day out in front of goals too, kicking three majors, including the last of the game on the siren.

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Travelling for the first time, the Bombers never looked like losing against the Eagles. A dominant first-half display included nine goals, which set up a big away victory.

The Bombers had multiple inside 50s during the first two quarters to achieve the highest ever first-half score in AFLW history, with 58 points.

Their fast exciting brand of footy proved to much for the Eagles. Alongside Wales and Scott was star midfielder Maddy Prespakis, who kicked two goals along with gather 22 disposals and four clearances.

The influential midfield trio of Daria Bannister, Jacqui Vogt and Steph Cain followed Prespakis’ brilliant display, with each of them racking up disposals, marks and goals. Ex-Lion Jessica Wuetschner supported the team with two classy goals of her own.

Typically a small forward, it was another evolution in Bannister’s game, and her best showing in the sash so far.

Wood was pleased with the club’s first interstate win, and said it was a focus to start the game so well.

“Our first two rounds we had really strong third and fourth quarters, so we really wanted to go back and focus on what we were doing at the start,” she said.

“We tweaked a few things within our program and put the onus back on the players to have a bit of a different approach to start.

“[I’m] really rapt with the playing group to get the result, particular in the first quarter and to go in at half-time with the highest score in AFLW history.”

It took the Eagles until the 16 minute mark of the second quarter to register their first goal through Imahra Cameron. They would quickly add another from Aimee Schmidt on the half-time siren, giving them some hope heading into the half-time break.

While there were positive signs after half time, they were unable to put pressure onto the scoreboard. 2022 top draft pick Ella Roberts had 17 possessions and very nearly kicked two goals, showing just why she was so highly touted.

Eagles captain Emma Swanson worked hard to earn 25 possessions, while Sophie McDonald kept the dangerous Bonnie Toogood quiet and goalless.

Essendon will take on Richmond next weekend at ETU Stadium, while West Coast will aim to bounce back as it travels to Sydney to play GWS.

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