DANDENONG Stingrays’ captain and Vic Country leader Molly McDonald was in a different situation to most draft hopefuls coming into her top-age year. The talented midfielder did not have the question marks hanging over her head as to where she might be in 12 months time, having already been snapped up by St Kilda as a pre-listed player – along with Stingrays’ teammate Isabella Shannon – well ahead of the AFL Women’s 2020 season. The greater certainty over her playing future did not deter McDonald from having a starring role in Stingrays’ team, and being a key contributor in Vic Country’s AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships campaign.
McDonald originally started football after crossing from basketball when a pathway became clear.
“I was playing basketball and then I quit rep’ because I always wanted to play footy,” she said. “I was with my brother, and then just started playing footy.”
The Stingrays’ leader said she relished the captaincy this year describing it as “really exciting”.
“I just like to get around the girls and lead as an example for them,” McDonald said at the NAB League Fitness Testing Day, hosted by Rookie Me in March.
Whilst McDonald enjoyed basketball and even reached representative levels in the sport, she always had the passion for football and said she enjoyed the “freedom” she had on the footy field, enabling her to run across the ground. Unfortunately the Stingrays did not make the finals of the NAB League Girls which McDonald had hoped for, but they showed plenty of promising signs, particularly early in the season when they pushed a number of teams. Individually, McDonald identified a number of areas for her to improve her game this year.
“Probably working on the aspects of my game that are not so strong,” McDonald said. “So working through the forward line and working on my opposite foot.”
In season 2019, McDonald averaged 13.7 disposals, 1.6 marks, 3.7 tackles and 3.9 inside 50s, while also booting a couple of goals spending time between midfield and half-forward. On debut for the Southern Saints, McDonald showed she was more than capable in the Saints’ win over Casey Demons, amassing 16 disposals, three marks and six tackles to be one of the best players on the field.
Following her VFLW commitments, McDonald headed north to assist Vic Country in going undefeated in Round 2 of the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships after they initially lost to Vic Metro. McDonald averaged 12.0 disposals, 4.3 tackles and 4.3 inside 50s and booted a goal across her three games, then returned to play her second VFLW match last weekend – oddly against Casey again – and booted her first goal in the competition.
Of all the achievements this season, McDonald’s greatest came during the week when she was named in the 2019 Under-18 AFL Women’s All-Australian side for her efforts during the national carnival. While many other top-age girls are hoping they can find a home in the AFL Women’s Draft later this year, McDonald’s fate is known, but it is not stopping her aiming to have a huge impact on the Southern Saints’ finals campaign with her side currently sitting second on the ladder, two games clear of third.