AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Abbie Ballard (West Adelaide/South Australia)

IN a new series focusing on the up and coming AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls, we take a look at some names who would be among their respective states’ top draft prospects for the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft.

Next under the microscope is West Adelaide talent, Abbie Ballard who had a massive game at South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s level in the opening round of the 2020 season, and despite her smaller size, attacks the ball with fierce intent and is not afraid to get her hands dirty.

Abbie Ballard (West Adelaide/South Australia)

Height: 159cm
Position: Inside Midfielder
Strengths: Contested work, tackling, clearances, consistency, accumulation

2020 SANFL Women’s stats: 4 games | 18.3 disposals | 2.0 marks | 4.0 tackles | 4.0 clearances | 2.5 inside 50s

2019 SANFL Women’s stats: 10 games | 16.1 disposals | 1.5 marks | 5.4 tackles | 4.1 clearances | 2.1 inside 50s | 1.0 rebounds | 1 goal

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 2 games | 5.5 disposals | 1.0 marks | 2.0 tackles | 1.0 clearances | 1.0 inside 50s | 1.0 rebounds

The pocket rocket from West Adelaide had a breakout season in 2019 as a middle-ager when she won the West Adelaide best and fairest award. In 10 games she averaged 16 disposals, five tackles, four clearances and almost three inside 50s for the Westies, really announcing herself as one to watch coming into her top-age year. If anyone wondered if her exploits in 2019 were going to continue in 2020, fans did not have to wait long as Ballard racked up a competition-high 27 disposals and nine clearances in Round 1, as well as five marks, four tackles and three inside 50s leading her side to an impressive win over Sturt.

While she did not achieve the same numbers in the next three games, she still provided a fierce tackling presence and was able to win the ball in close and shovel it out to teammates on the outside. Her contested ball winning ability, and the knack of getting in the right spot to extract the ball from stoppages are among her strength, as well as her tackling. She is not a noted goal kicker – kicking just the one in 10 games last season – but she plays to her strengths and is not afraid to take on players much bigger than her.

Like many middle-agers at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, she was used sparingly across two games to give top-agers the best shot at being drafted in their 18-year-old year. Fast forward to 2020 though and expect she will have a much larger role assuming the carnival goes ahead.

With the SANFL Women’s set to kick off this weekend again, Ballard is one of a number of talented young guns in the league, and earned a place in our SANFL Under 22s side earlier in the year. Expect her to continue her form returning to competition after the long break.

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