2021 AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Small Midfielders/Forwards/Defenders

AFTER announcing the inaugural AFLW Draft Power Rankings Victorian Pool, Draft Central is starting a new series – Positional Analysis. It takes a look across the nation and those players within a certain position, and the impact they have. Next up are those players at or below 160cm be it through the midfield, forward or in defence. All opinions are of the individual author.

>> AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Rucks

>> AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Tall/Medium Forwards

>> AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Tall/Medium Defenders

#1 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
25/09/2003 | 160cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Contested work, aggression, disposal, high impact

Bursting onto the scene as a 15-year-old during Calder Cannons’ run to the 2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final, Yassir played 11 games in her debut season to hold her own against much older opponents. In her top-age year, Yassir lifted her numbers to 16.7 disposals, 3.9 tackles and 3.1 inside 50s to be a crucial player in the Cannons’ forward half of the ground. Her contested work and aggression around the football makes her a player that would do anything to win the football and shows a high level of football nous, along with high impact in the games. She will generally use it well going forward, and whilst she might only be the 160cm, could settle as a midfielder or defensive forward with her traits and skillset.

#2 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
28/07/2003 | 153cm

Key strengths: Clean hands, goal sense, composure, accumulation

A really impressive small midfielder, Schaap might be the smallest one going around at 153cm, but she packs a punch and has some unbelievable traits. Her best trait is her clean hands, rarely making a fumble at ground level and able to dish off to teammates in order to create goal-scoring opportunities. As a forward, Schaap slotted eight goals in nine games, often finding space where few could to snap around her body in big moments. She also slotted three goals in her three Vic Country games at the AFLW Under 19 Championships, and laid plenty pf tackles along the way. Her defensive pressure is right up there with her other key strengths, though it is hard to look past her ball-winning skills, composure and goal sense, and is a perfect pressure forward who can push up into the midfield.

#3 Abbie Ballard (West Adelaide/South Australia)
16/04/2002 | 160cm

Key strengths: Kicking, tackling, footy smarts, contested work

Only turning 19 earlier this year, Ballard captained West Adelaide into the 2021 SANFL Women’s Grand Final, stepping up to the plate after injury struck regular captain Bec Owen in the preliminary final. The teenager has experience beyond her years, having previously played at the national championships, and would have represented South Australia again in 2021 had it not been for injury. She has a potent left foot that is her major weapon around the ground, often going in hard and using it to go forward and hit targets. She has great footy smarts and can win the ball inside or out, but is lauded for her composure with ball-in-hand and able to pinpoint passes going inside 50. As a smaller player, Ballard is often able to win free kicks for being first to the ball and would apply great pressure at the next level.

#4 Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges/Collingwood VFLW)
21/12/2002 | 157cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Contested work, balance, strength, accumulation

Another player who went back to her NAB League Girls club Eastern Ranges after missing out on being drafted despite a Draft Combine invite, Meagher spent three games with the Ranges before making the transition into Collingwood’s VFLW team. There she improved her versatility to play inside and outside after being a dominant contested ball-winner for the Ranges in 2020. She is damaging forward of centre, and despite not having high mark numbers, she is strong overhead for her sub-160cm size. She is someone who could play in transition between midfield and forward, and is a fierce player with a great attitude and would be one the Magpies – or another team – could consider calling up to their AFLW list.

#5 Matilda Zander (Collingwood VFLW)
03/04/1998 | 160cm

Key strengths: Accumulation, speed, competitiveness, goal sense

The tenacious small midfielder/forward finally made the cross-border trek to join the Magpies from Norwood after intending to do so in 2020. Her former coach Steve Symonds heads up the senior AFLW side, so Zander will be one that even when in South Australia caught the eye as a hard worker and one who can impact in the midfield or forward. She knows how to get into ball-winning positions, is highly competitive with good speed and evasion, and a great goal sense she can use to hit the scoreboard regularly. Not afraid to take down opponents bigger than her, Zander just has a crack, and she has those extra traits that make her capable of stepping up to the next level. Despite not having a AFLW Draft Combine invite expect her to be another player in contention.

#5 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels/Western Bulldogs VFLW)
19/10/2003 | 151cm

Key strengths: Speed, defensive pressure, versatility, contested work

The smallest player on this list and with an AFLW Draft Combine invite, Meier has come on in leaps and bounds this year. She has not only been able to hit the scoreboard as a forward, but progressed into the midfield where she finished the NAB League Girls season averaging 14.6 disposals, 2.6 marks and 3.0 tackles, as well as booting four goals in seven games. Stepping up to represent Vic Country, Meier did not look out of place back inside 50 and pushing up the ground, kicking three goals in her two outings. She has strong defensive pressure and good speed to evade opponents, with her contested work and versatility – being able to play both forward and midfield – a key to her success in 2021 and earning herself an AFLW Draft Combine invite.

#6 Melisha Hardy (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
24/04/2003 | 158cm

Key strengths: Competitiveness, one-on-ones, overhead marking, kicking

For a sub-160cm player, Hardy is strong overhead, and good in one-on-one situations against much taller opponents. There might not be much of her, but Hardy packs a punch with her competitive nature and impressive ability to never give in. She uses the ball well when having time and space, and whilst she is not a huge accumulator, she has a strong pair of hands and is able to intercept the ball both in the air, and at ground level. She is a reliable player to utilise, and she can even go forward and hit the scoreboard as she did at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. Showing an ability to play around the ground, Hardy is superb at locking down on an opponent and refusing to be beaten.

#7 Nyra Anderson (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
24/11/2001 | 160cm

Key strengths: Evasion, goal sense, scoreboard impact, footy smarts

The oldest player at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, Anderson played as a top-ager a couple of years ago, and is now two years removed from her first draft-eligible season. That being said, Anderson continues to remain a name to watch, having been a train-on player at West Coast, and continuing to standout in the WAFLW. She is so crafty inside forward 50, with her ability to create her own space and punish opponents for turnovers, be it through a mark and set shot, or on the run. She has high-level football smarts and just knows where to go, having provided great leadership at the championships, and also been able to play back or through the midfield, such is her versatility.

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