AS we edge closer towards the start of the AFL Women’s pre-season, Draft Central will analyse a number of individuals we believe could take the next step in their development in 2022. Be it through opportunity, returning from injury or perhaps a role change late in the 2021 season, we predict players who might take that next step up in their AFL Women’s careers.
Our first player to look at is Geelong ruck, Rene Caris.
RENE CARIS BIO
DOB: March 18, 1999 (22-years-old)
Rene Caris is an exciting ruck who has come out of the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels. Originally from the Horsham region, Caris was also an elite-level netballer going through the Netball Victoria pathways, representing her state at junior level. Caris was a member of the AFL Women’s Academy, earned the honour of TAC Cup Team of the Year, played for Carlton in the VFL Women’s, and was selected with Pick 35 in the 2018 AFL Women’s Draft.
Caris has always had a great leap that has helped her win the hitouts, and towered over opponents at junior level. With her leap and mobility to move around the ground, as well as a higher endurance level due to her multiple elite level sports, Caris has always been someone that from a physical attributes standpoint, has been able to compete for long periods of time.
Compared to many AFL Women’s rucks, Caris came in with a lighter frame, and whilst her athleticism would help her get a jump on perhaps less mobile rucks, around the ground stronger bodies could knock her off it. Taller players always take longer to adapt to senior level, and the Cats have eased her into the program, instead allowing her to hone her craft at VFLW level.
AFLW CAREER TO-DATE:
Caris has played nine games thus far in her AFL Women’s career. In her three seasons in the blue and white hoops, Caris managed two, two and five games respectively from 2019-2021. Learning under Aasta O’Connor – whom Caris worked closely with as part of the AFLW Academy – the up-and-coming ruck has been able to be exposed to the elite level, without being thrown in the deep end too early. In 2021, her numbers rose across her five games, averaging 8.6 disposals – at around a 50/50 split for kicks and handballs, with her hitouts standing at 6.8 per game. It might not sound like a lot, but what stood out was her clearance numbers, where she had more than two per game, showing off her confidence, and even kicked her first AFLW goal.
WHAT IS IN STORE FOR 2022?
The reason Caris fits the bill is the recent retirement of O’Connor, which naturally opens the door for the apprentice to take over the master’s role. What the Cats have done which is very clever, is allow Caris to work alongside Olivia Fuller at VFL level, who is that similar marking option to O’Connor, and then rewarded Fuller with a senior list spot. Whilst not experienced at AFLW level, Fuller provides the additional ruck cover and stronger body at the elite level. The only other player to record double-figure hitouts was Olivia Barber, who will be better suited as that key forward.
Rene Caris has an opportunity to grab the number one ruck role at the Cats, with support from Fuller who she has paired with well at VFL Women’s level this season. With Barber able to pinch-hit when required, the Cats have a couple of genuine young talls who will only flourish further with greater exposure and increased responsibility.
Picture credit: Geelong Cats