IT has been a stellar year of Under-18 female football across the country and it showed on Friday night when the best of the best went head-to-head at the Adelaide Oval. From the Victoria vs. All Stars clash, the initial All Australian squad of 48 was reduced to a team of 24. We describe the attributes of each player which led them to being an All Australian.
Serene Watson – Queensland
A member of the Gold Coast Suns Academy, Watson is an impressive player who is composed under pressure. She has strong hands in the contest and can find the ball in space. Despite not being the biggest-bodied player, Watson is able to excite with her run and carry across the defensive 50, where she was able to get her Queensland side out of trouble many times during the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships.
Lucy Cripps – Vic Country
One of the most consistent players for the Dandenong Stingrays in the TAC Cup Girls competition, Lucy Cripps rarely missed a beat during the season. She continued her good form into the Under 18 Championships, often playing a good lock-down role on some of the star forwards from the other states. She could run the ball out of defence in a flash and was pivotal in Vic Country’s success during the tournament.
Natalie Grider – Queensland
The Queensland captain and Most Valuable Player (MVP) was very unlikely to miss the final cut of the All Australian squad after a sensational Under 18 Championships. Grider had strong hands in defence and her endurance was impressive as she was able to move up and down the ground with ease. Grider’s tackling is also a feature in her game, as it often saved crucial forward thrusts from opposition teams.
Jordyn Allen – Vic Country
One of the best on-field leaders, Allen never disappointed during the TAC Cup Girls competition. She was an intercept marking machine, creating a wall of her own across half-back multiple times. She continued to do this in the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, and complemented her marking with great run and carry and tackling. Allen is also a versatile player who can head into the midfield when required, where she able to have the same damaging influence.
McKenzie Dowrick – Western Australia
Dowrick is one of the most talented West Australian (WA) Under 18 players and is no stranger to making the All Australian team. A member of the AFL Women’s Academy, Dowrick has been able to show what she has learnt from the academy with slick skills and smart ball-use. She is a clever left-footer who can kick precisely to hit any target, and like Allen, can make an impact in any position. Dowrick’s footy smarts are elite as she is able to read the play and execute the one percenters to get the ball forward for her side.
Sabreena Duffy – Western Australia
Like Grider, Sabreena Duffy was unlikely to miss the final All Australian cut due to her great performance as WA captain during the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. She was named WA’s MVP of the tournament due to being a rock in defence. Duffy’s hands were solid as she was able to mark the ball well and give off quick handballs to running teammates, opening up the game for her side. She was one that her team relied on, as she would often kick the ball out of full-back and steady the ship for her side with her precise kicking. This is Duffy’s fifth All Australian jumper in what has been an amazing career for her in Under 18s football.
Georgia Patrikios – Vic Metro
Another player who can make an impact in any position, the All Australian selectors could have put Patrikios in any position on the field. During her time at the Calder Cannons, Patrikios played mostly in the forward line and creates excitement when combining her great run and carry with her elite agility. During the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, she often floated back into defence where she was able to use her quick hands and accurate kicking to get the ball forward for Metro. The AFL Women’s Academy member arguably does her best work on the wing though and the selectors have recognised that. This is due to her outside speed and long kicks creating forward momentum for her team.
Madison Prespakis – Vic Metro
What a year it has been for Madison Prespakis. She was awarded the Calder Cannons’ captaincy, won the Best and Fairest for her club, was named MVP for Vic Metro in the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, as well as joint MVP of the tournament, and she now has an All Australian spot under her belt. It’s hard to fault Prespakis’ year as she has dominated across all competitions with her high footy IQ. Her kicks are booming, her hands are clean and swift and her tackling is ferocious. She is also an accurate kick for goal, and often made an impact up forward both for the Cannons and Vic Metro. In her last Under 18 game, she racked up 21 disposals, five clearances and four inside 50s to cap off an unbelievable year. She was also the joint TAC Cup Girls best and fairest.
Nina Morrison – Vic Country
Nina Morrison can be talked about on the same level as Prespakis, as she too was the joint MVP of the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships and was named as the MVP of Vic Country. Morrison has made the wing her own during the TAC Cup Girls season, providing blistering speed and aggressive tackling to stop any player in their tracks. Her football smarts allowed her to use quick hands and long kicks to get the ball forward for her side. She is an exciting player to watch and is one of the most promising draft prospects this year. She was also the joint TAC Cup Girls best and fairest.
Sophie Van De Heuvel – Vic Country
A cricketer, an AFL Women’s Academy member, a Vic Country representative and now an All Australian – Sophie Van De Heuvel’s year has been a solid one. Van De Heuvel played a great role up forward for the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels this season, taking some strong marks and kicking six goals from seven games. Her role was more dynamic in the Under 18 Championships as she was able to rack up plenty of the football as well as get the goals on the board. She was named in the best in all three matches on the Gold Coast, highlighting her consistency in the ‘Big V’.
Gabrielle Newton – Vic Metro
She is only 17, but Gabrielle Newton is already tearing the TAC Cup Girls competition to shreds. Newton is a versatile player who does her best work in the midfield, but finds herself up forward on plenty of occasions. She has one of the cleanest sets of hands in the TAC Cup Girls competition and when she’s on, she is one of the most influential players as she can turn the game on its head. She was one of Vic Metro’s most consistent players across the Under 18 Championships as she consistently racked up high disposals and complemented this with goals, making her an exciting prospect next year.
Belle Dawes – Queensland
Dawes is an exciting forward who provides plenty of X-factor with the ball in hand. She applied sensational forward pressure during the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, highlighted by her strong tackling. She’s a player that loves to get amongst the goals and is a versatile mover inside 50. Dawes is a member of the AFL Women’s Academy as well as the Brisbane Lions Academy, and is eligible for the draft next year, meaning she will be able to go to Brisbane or the Gold Coast Suns if she elects to stay in Queensland. She also became a premiership player for Wilston Grange, playing a key role through the midfield.
Daisy Bateman – Vic Metro
If there’s a game with Daisy Bateman in it, you can almost be certain that she will kick a goal. She kicked 14 goals from seven games in the TAC Cup Girls season this year and five goals from four games in the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. She has also been kicking goals with Collingwood’s Victorian Football League (VFL) Women’s team, showing that she has been able to match it up against the bigger bodies. Bateman is a great mark of the footy and is a great leading target. She can also crumb the footy off the back of the pack, sneaking in plenty of goals to make her one of the most dangerous draft-eligible forwards.
Lucy McEvoy – Vic Country
Lucy McEvoy played as a defender in the TAC Cup Girls competition, but led the way in goals during the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. The Geelong premiership captain ended up with nine goals from four games, including a five-goal haul to kick-start her Gold Coast tournament. McEvoy is known for her strong hands and smart kicking under pressure. She can also bring her teammates into the game with quick hands, making herself known as a great team player. At just 17 years-old, McEvoy captained the Falcons to a premiership this year and still has one more year to show what she is made of before she is eligible to be drafted.
Montana McKinnon – South Australia
A well-deserved addition in the side, McKinnon was extremely impressive during the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. She had arguably the best hands in the tournament, marking everything that came her way. McKinnon could make an impact at either end of the ground and also worked hard in the ruck when needed. She is a player with a high footy IQ, as her kicks and smooth hands are second to none. Her tackling pressure was also high throughout the tournament and as a result of all these attributes, she backed up her MVP award with an All Australian spot.
Lauren Bella – Queensland
It is no surprise to see Lauren Bella in the All Australian ruck position, as she carried the load in style for Queensland. She gave her midfielders prime use of the football with her clever taps and she also was able to rove her own ball, giving off quick hands to running teammates. Bella is a member of the AFL Women’s Academy and the Gold Coast Suns Academy. She also made the 2017 Under 18 AFL Women’s All Australian team, highlighting her consistency in the ruck position.
Alyce Parker – NSW/ACT
A proficient ball-winner and a bonafide star, it is hard to look past Alyce Parker when watching her play. She is an inside brute, as she is able to extract the ball out of tight contests and boot it out of trouble, opening up the ground for her teammates. She also provides great run and carry with the ball in hand and can float up forward to get some goals on the board too. She was named as NSW/ACT’s MVP after the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships and backed up her All Australian appearance last year with another spot this year. Parker is also a member of the AFL Women’s Academy and she has most recently become a premiership player at her local club, Thurgoona. She was named best on ground in the Grand Final and kicked 18 goals from her six games.
Tyla Hanks – Vic Country
Hanks was the dominant player for the Gippsland Power this year, with the co-captain being named in the best in every game she played this year. A member of the AFL Women’s Academy and a 2017 All Australian, Hanks has now backed up her good form in the perfect way with another All Australian jumper. She is a class above with her clean hands and long kicks, which was a huge reason why the Power experienced plenty of success this season. Her tackling pressure is immense and she can also float up forward to put some scores on the board, showing how versatile she is.
Jacqueline Yorston – Queensland
Jacqueline Yorston impressed in the Under 18 Championships with her precise kicking and tackling pressure. Her hands were also clean on the inside and she was able to extract the ball out of tight contests and create space with her run and carry. She also can match it up with the bigger bodies, playing with Wilston Grange in the Queensland Women’s Australian Football League (QWAFL) and enjoying a premiership alongside fellow Queensland All Australian Belle Dawes.
Lily Postlethwaite – Queensland
Lily Postlethwaite could have also received the MVP award for Queensland at the end of the AFL Women’s Championships, as she was named as best-on-ground in each of the three matches at Gold Coast. Her run and carry in the midfield was exquisite as she was able to clear the ball out of congestion and break away from opponents. Her clean hands and accurate kicks were also a highlight of her game and were pivotal in Queensland’s success in the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships. Postlethwaite is just 17 and a member of the AFL Women’s Academy, making her eligible for next year’s draft.
Olivia Purcell – Vic Country
The Geelong premiership player is a midfield star who knows how to continually rack up the possessions. She was one of the strongest tacklers in the TAC Cup Girls competition, running down opponents with ease and aggression. Her hands on the inside were elite and her kicks allows teammates to find space. Purcell is also a great clearance player and can get the ball out of trouble for her side. She has most recently won the Geelong Falcons’ top award, being named the Best and Fairest.
Eleanor Brown – Vic Metro
Rounding out the side is Sandringham’s Eleanor Brown, who has been a revelation for the Dragons this season. Brown’s run and carry in the midfield has been elite and her kicks were long and created plenty of space. Her quick hands made an impact on both the inside and the outside and she loved to use the space she had to run. Brown played mostly in the midfield during the TAC Cup Girls season but floated back to defence during the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, where she was still able to make an impact with her strong hands and precise kicking. She has already had a taste at a high level, playing VFLW with the Southern Saints in the TAC Cup Girls off-season.