2022 AFLW Draft focus: Tasmania

TASMANIA completed its annual North against South clash on Tuesday, with the latter getting up over the former in an impressive win. Whilst the teams had plenty of players to keep an eye out on the future, there were still a number of AFLW Draft talents missing from that match, who will largely be on the forefront of the Devils’ campaign in the NAB League Girls and pushing for selection in the Allies squad. With North Melbourne’s link to the Apple Isle through the AFLW Draft, we take a look at some of the names next year the Roos might be keeping a close eye on as they develop, having picked up Perri King and Ella Maurer this year.

Claire Ransom is the player that will take over King’s role as the face of Tasmanian draft-eligible talents next year. The midfielder oozes class and was the sole bottom-age Tasmanian who was selected in the Allies’ squad this year. Whilst pairing well with King in 2021, Ransom is a different player to her older teammate, with both having athletic gifts, but in different ways. King has the pure burst out of the stoppage that could burn off opponents, whereas Ransom, whilst able to show some toe, is more able to have the spatial awareness to avoid would-be tacklers. It has commonly become referred to as “slowing down time”.

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Both King and Ransom are great offensive players, and the key difference is that King was a heavily defensive player as well, with great tackling pressure and the ability to run-and-carry the ball. Ransom is different, she can move in transition, but does not have the tackling pressure King had though still bring around three tackles per game. The thing is, you do not want Ransom tackling, you want her receiving, and seizing up options forward of centre because her kicking and decision making is what sets her apart. Her composure was something that really caught the eye in her bottom-age year and expect her to be the one that teammates get the ball in the hands of.

Whilst Ransom will be the top talent for 2022, the Devils have a number of others who impressed in 2021 and will be hoping to stake their case across the course of 2022. Candice Belbin is one such talent who had some impressive outings and then finished off her 2021 season well with strong performances for Ulverstone in the Tasmanian Statewide Women’s Finals series. Not playing in the All-Stars game, Belbin averaged the 11.3 disposals and 4.1 tackles in the NAB League Girls this season, second behind only Ransom. Expect her to take over King’s role as that crash-and-bash midfielder with good power and strength from the stoppage.

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While not quite possessing the unstoppable burst that King had, Belbin does have the power and strength to breakaway and shrug off tacklers. She has a fierce attack on the football with contested ball work and her clearance ability among her strengths. If she can iron out her execution by foot, then she can add an extra string to her bow through that midfield. She spent time off half-back in 2021, averaging a rebound 50 per game, but expect her to roll straight into the on-ball group for 2022.

A few other draft-eligible talents got their chance in 2021 to show their wares, with Shania Saward a fierce tackling player who had an outstanding finish to the season and managed the six games in her bottom-age year. She shared the experience with Maisie Edwards who played the eight games and is the outside runner who is likely to receive at half-back and provide some dash in transition. Amy Edmand (six games), Victoria Fish (three) and Remi Smith (three) both played multiple games as bottom-agers as well.

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Of that group, Edwards and Fish were strong in their respective North and South sides for the Tasmanian All-Stars clash. Edwards had the 15 touches, six tackles, three clearances, three rebound 50s and two inside 50s working up and down the ground, whilst Fish was a rock in defence with a game-high 10 rebound 50s (her team had 16), as well as 13 disposals and seven tackles. Smith (10 disposals, four tackles) and Ruby Pacey (17 disposals, three marks, three clearances, four inside 50s and a behind) who also played a game for the Devils in 2021, were also solid for their sides.

Not playing for the Devils last year, Meg Thompson is a player who might be one to watch, with high-level defensive traits and the ability to read the ball in flight. The Ulverstone talent is a natural leader, captaining her senior women’s side despite only being 16 at the start of the year. She had a team-high 19 touches, as well as nine tackles and three rebound 50s in North’s loss this week.

Tasmania Devils also have a number of talents for future years to keep an eye on, with Georgia Clark (still yet to turn 16) and pocket rocket Brooke Barwick both establishing themselves as ones to watch going forward, whilst Tunisha Kikoak was impressive this week for North, and played the three games last year, with some good athleticism and scope. It is early days, but 2024 AFLW Draft hopefuls, Priya Bowering, Meg Harrison, Mackenzie Williams, Halle Whitehead and Eva Downie all impressed against older opponents for Team South.

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