AFLW Draft: 10 Top-agers to watch in 2022

EVERY year there are some unlucky players who missed out on being picked up in the AFL Women’s Draft. The good news is, there is always another year, and with the likes of Abbie Ballard, Ashanti Bush, Dana East, Ella Maurer, Elizabeth Snell and Amanda Ling among those all being selected across the nation, there is more reason than ever to suggest that just because a player misses out on the first chance of being drafted, the dream is far from over. Here are 10 top-agers to watch in 2022 with their draft summary, and what they might need to do to take their game to the next level.

Jaide Anthony (Dandenong Stingrays/Vic Country)
20/11/2003 | 166cm
Medium Defender

A really smart player who knows the game well and reads the play behind the ball, Anthony was a member of the AFL Women’s Academy as a bottom-age talent last year. She showed why through an outstanding yet interrupted season, copping a couple of concussions – including in Vic Country’s win over South Australia at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships – to still perform at a high level. She won Vic Country’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, and proved through her actions to be an incredibly courageous player. Whilst standing at 166cm, Anthony is not afraid to go up in the marking contest and bring the ball down, and when she does have ball-in-hand, her kicking is outstanding. A talent who teammates can trust with ball-in-hand, and she has spent time up forward as well at times, kicking a goal in the Stingrays’ loss to the Geelong Falcons in finals. Without a doubt the biggest surprise not to be picked up, but a big preseason behind her and Anthony could prove a lot of people wrong in 2022.

Nyakoat Dojiok (GWV Rebels/Vic Country)
07/01/2003 | 175cm
Tall Defender/Wing

The running defender has some seriously eye-catching traits with her combination of acceleration and power making her hard to slow down when she is up and about. A traditional half-back, Dojiok can read the ball in flight with ease and float across contests to intercept, or drop into the hole when a high ball comes into defence. She knows where to stand when the play is headed towards her and her metres gained are massive compared to a lot of her contemporaries. She is often a get-and-go player, always looking to move on the ball, and whilst her kicking at times needs sharpening up, her development over the past few years at the Rebels has certainly improved and makes her one of the better intercept defenders going around. While it was a bit of a surprise to see Dojiok still on the board at the end of the draft, her areas to continue to improve are still there, and an extra year in the Under 19s could do her wonders.

Abby Hewett (Wilston Grange/Queensland)
12/04/2003 | 162cm
Medium Utility

There might not be much of Hewett at 162cm, but the talented utility can play anywhere on the field. She knows how to win the ball inside or outside, reads it well in the air or ground level, and whilst she does her best work in close, can play as an outside player too. There are questions over where she will slot in at AFLW level, and she does have to learn to find the ball more often, but that is only because she can do so much damage with ball-in-hand, be it winning it in close and distributing it to the outside, using it in transition, or finding it close to goal and hitting the scoreboard. Hewett was unlucky not to be picked up, but perhaps being able to solidify a position in 2022 and raising her accumulation will put her in a better position.

Grace Matser (Gippsland Power/Vic Country)
03/01/2003 | 186cm
Ruck

If we are talking about points of difference, then Gippsland Power ruck Matser certainly has that in a ruck. Standing at 186cm, Matser is an early 2003 birth, but has been involved in the Power program since the V/Line Cup days, even as a developing tall back then. What really makes Matser stand out compared to other rucks is her footy IQ and her kicking. Being a left footer, Matser uses the ball well around the ground, so is a player that teammates are happy to give the ball to and dispose of, with her ball drop, technique and delivery inside 50 quite impressive. When watching Matser at stoppages, she always gets to the right position, and whether or not she wins the tap, she has made life difficult for her opponent. The area of improvement for Matser is her overhead marking, mostly because she does everything right – positioning, timing the ball drop and protecting the zone – but needs to hold onto the grabs. Around the ground in play, Matser is as influential as any ruck, and when she can clunk those grabs, will become a more influential key position tall at either end. Like many talls, having an extra year in the system will help her develop her marking and become a more complete player.

Grace Mulvahil (Southern Districts/Northern Territory)
18/04/2003 | 172cm
Medium Defender/Utility

The Northern Territory talent has been a junior star in the NTFL Women’s competition, becoming the second youngest player to win the best on ground in the senior grand final last year. She also won the Rising Star award, and has been touted as a talent to watch for many years. Still developing and constantly getting better, Mulvahil’s standout trait is her kicking, able to pinpoint passes around the ground both under pressure and when in space. Her acceleration off the mark, and evasion makes her hard to stop, with a high work rate to boot. Standing at 172cm, Mulvahil is a good size to play as a half-back or even push up to the wing, but knows where the goals are too if thrown forward. She averaged the 10.5 disposals, 2.0 marks and 3.5 tackles at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, holding her own against stronger opponents and providing great run for the Allies. Mulvahil has all the ability to become a really strong player at a high level, it is about building her game and potentially playing as much as she can, potentially in the SANFL Women’s or QAFL Women’s.

Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
28/07/2003 | 153cm
Small Forward/Midfielder

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 of 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. Along with Anthony she was the next most unlucky one not to be picked up from the Victorian pool, but no doubt will go back and continue to get better and be a quality Under 19s player next season, and get more VFLW games under her belt too.

Gypsy Schirmer (South Adelaide/South Australia)
18/02/2003 | 178cm
Tall Utility

A versatile tall with terrific athleticism, Schirmer is capable in all thirds of the ground, Starting as a forward throughout her bottom-age years, Schirmer proved she could be damaging around goal be it winning possession in the air or at ground level. Over the past 12 months, Schirmer pushed into the midfield, predominantly on the wing, but also won plenty of contested ball in close. Being able to win the hard or loose ball, Schirmer then went into defence late in the year for South Adelaide where she showcased her breakneck acceleration and was able to create fast ball movement in transition. Expect her to be more of a forward to start with at the top level, but she certainly has potential to become a midfielder long-term. One of only two AFLW Academy members not to be picked up, it was a surprise given her rapid development, but with the expansion of the AFLW and Port Adelaide set to come in very soon, Schirmer – along with the abundance of South Australian talent capable of stepping up to the next level – will be in the Power’s sights.

Chloe Reilly (East Fremantle/Western Australia)
12/10/2003 | 163cm
Medium Forward/Medium Defender

When you watch Reilly for the first time, you do a double-take at the listed 163cm height, because whilst she might be smaller than her opponents, quite often she is able to either leap higher than them, read the ball better than them, or clunk grabs better than them. Her one-on-one ability is quite impressive as is her overhead strength. Couple these traits with her powerful kicking, and Reilly has enough about her to suggest she could play at either end, which she has done this season at WAFL Women’s level for East Fremantle. Primarily a forward though, Reilly has great aggression at the ball and does not take a backwards step, almost having the chance to win the game for Western Australia against Vic Metro after the siren, and whilst that did not work out, Reilly still had a solid carnival, booting two goals and averaging 11.3 disposals, 2.0 marks, 1.7 inside 50s, 2.0 rebound 50s and kicking a couple of majors in an all-round effort. Ironing out some consistency and building her endurance further could be the key for Reilly who was not too far off in her draft-eligible year. Only turning 18 in October, Reilly is one who can stand up and have a big 2022 and put her hand up to be drafted like a number of mature-age WAFL Women’s players did this season.

Zoe Venning (West Adelaide/South Australia)
04/11/2003 | 168cm
Inside Midfielder/Forward

Venning is a player who enjoyed a terrific season, not only standing out for West Adelaide in the SANFL Women’s, and representing South Australia at the AFLW Under 19 Championships, but picking up a host of accolades along the way. Venning won All-Australian honours as well as the West Adelaide best and fairest – claiming the latter ahead of teammate and league best and fairest winner Lauren Young – to be one of the more consistent players all season. Her inside game and defensive pressure is superb, and whilst still working on her kicking, Venning has improved over the past couple of years, and has a great balance of athleticism between endurance, speed and agility to impress at the top level. Similar to Schirmer, Venning was more the victim of such a strong draft pool, and with Port Adelaide on the horizon, it seems a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ to get to the elite level. Another year of developing the areas of her game to improve and Venning could be more potent with ball-in-hand in 12 months time.

Jemima Woods (Western Jets/Vic Metro)
28/05/2003 | 174cm
Tall Forward/Utility

The talented tall forward has come on in leaps and bounds this season, developing her game to play further up the ground in season 2021, and even pinch-hitting in the ruck. At 174cm she is able to compete well one-on-one with a high work rate and clever leading patterns to find the ball inside 50 thanks to her athleticism. More often than not though, Woods has found herself being the first target in the forward half, then looking for options inside 50, with more than three inside 50s per game to go with her four goals from eight matches. Averaging almost 12 touches per game at NAB League Girls level, Woods burst onto the VFLW scene with three goals on debut for the Western Bulldogs, and whilst the going has been tougher since, still has some great upside for the future. Definitely the raw talent in the group, but Woods could be a promising top-age talent next season, and spending more time in a VFLW program like she did for a few games with the Bulldogs, will further fast-track her growth.

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