IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We continue the countdown at number two with North Melbourne’s Ash Riddell.
It is always satisfying when researching the list and finding a star player that qualifies by just one game. North Melbourne’s Riddell is just that, having played nine games since coming to the club in 2019. Unfortunately after a star debut in Round 1 of that season, Riddell only managed a part game in her second before missing the rest of the season with an ankle injury.
In case anyone had forgotten just how good Riddell was in the 2019 debut, she had a starring season, averaging 21.3 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.6 tackles and 3.9 inside 50s, finding her place in North Melbourne’s star-studded midfield. Having finished third in North Melbourne’s best and fairest behind Jasmine Garner and Emma Kearney, Riddell showed she belonged at the top level, having missed out when she was in her teenage years. Instead, it took until she was 22 for her to be picked up by North Melbourne.
She has not wasted any time since then, and while she had that interrupted debut season, her 2020 season was superb and she ranked 11th overall in the Draft Central Top 50 Rankings for the season. Given that was effectively her first full season, it is exciting to think of what she is capable of in 2021 and beyond, and just how far she can reach having been overlooked for a number of seasons prior to North Melbourne coming into the league.
A natural ball winner, Riddell showed time and time again she was far too good for state league level, winning ridiculous amounts of disposals at VFL Women’s level, and being a hardnut at the contest, whilst spreading well and creating plays down the field. A real consistent player across the board, Riddell will only be strengthened by the return of Jess Duffin as North Melbourne remains a huge contender for the AFL Women’s flag.
Unlike most players on this list, Riddell could no longer fall into the category of “underrated”, and is easily amongst the Top 20 talents in the league on her day, and will be looking to continue her 2020 form into 2021.
Picture credit: AFL Women’s