Author: Peter Williams

Charlton prepared to live out “dream come true”

A PASSIONATE Crows fan and talented teenager who has been touted as one of South Australia’s top young talents in recent years, Teah Charlton is not far away from living out her dream of playing at the elite level. One of four players to receive an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitation, Charlton is not expected to last too long on the board having already come through the Crows Academy, and won All-Australian honours in her middle-age year as well as a premiership and a Breakthrough Player Award during her debut season in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition.

The talented midfielder/forward followed her brother into the sport and has gone from strength to strength and to the top of the elite junior pathway as an AFL Women’s National Academy member and representing both South Australia and Central Allies at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships.

“I started off watching my brother when he was younger, and I kind of just got a bit interested in it,” Charlton said. “Started playing when I was 11 for the boys team in under 12s and then once I was too old for the boys, I kind of waited around for like a girl’s team to pop up. “That happened to be the Under 14s South tournament that happened. “It’s just kind of gone on from there. “I played at Christie’s (Beach) for two years in Under 18s and then I got involved with the state program from 15 years-old.”

From the moment of picking up a ball, not even spending a “year or so” out of the game could deter her from rejoining the code.

“Once I started playing, I knew I wanted to get as high as possible,” Charlton said. “Obviously that’s become an opportunity now, and hopefully I can take that.”

Along with her football, Charlton also grew up playing netball, and did surf lifesaving for a large portion of her life. But it was football that called to her thanks to the “rough side of it”.

“I love getting in tackling and, you know, kinda letting my anger out a little bit,” Charlton said. “But also just like the community and getting to know so many new girls and yeah, I don’t know. “Life pass.”

Charlton said coming through the South Australian State Academy and National Women’s Academy was a massive boost, able to not only learn the on-field skills, but the off-field attributes that were required to take the step up to the elite level.

As I’ve progressed in a state program, it’s really taught me a lot of professionalism and how to act in an elite environment, which has been really beneficial,” Charlton said. “And obviously, with the NAB Academy going on, that really showed me what it takes to become an AFL player and that step further, you have to take to achieve at the highest possible level.”

Charlton started off playing purely through the midfield due to her “long distance kind of fit” which boded well with running out games. But in recent years, she has spent more time forward and plays as that high forward to be able to impact both the contest and the scoreboard in games.

Earning a spot with the Central Allies last season, Charlton was one of the most impressive middle-agers with her ability to fly for huge marks, but also lay some bone-crunching tackles. It was her second year at the championships, and she said she had gained confidence from her first year up on the Gold Coast where she showed she could belong.

“Well, obviously, in the first year I did it, I was like in the under-age group, and I was very nervous to go up there because I didn’t know whether or not I could bring it up to that level,” Charlton said. “But I just knew having that one year of experience the next year proved to myself that I could bring it. “I don’t know, like I was able to compete at that level, and I could play like the game I wanted to play up against the best in Australia.”

She described being named in the All-Australian side as a “surprise” but said it was great to know that you could be any age to achieve that. The successful championships came off the back of a South Adelaide premiership, where she played a crucial role in the Panthers’ run to their second title.

“It was very good, because it was with all of my friends,” Charlton said. “I was I able to celebrate with all, like, the closest girls that I kind of had that football journey with and yeah, just celebrating it with girls that, like I’m the most close with.”

Not only did she take home a premiership medallion, but was declared the Breakthrough Player of the Year – effectively the Rising Star Award – which is something she enjoyed.

“I was very nervous because I knew I had been nominated,” Charlton said. “But yeah, taking that home, I was just incredibly humbled and proud of my achievements. “And yeah, just things where I could take my football from that point.”

Fast forward to 2020 and Charlton was again playing a big role for the Panthers as they reached yet another SANFL Women’s Grand Final. Unfortunately for them, this time it would end in defeat as the side they defeated in the 2019 decider, North Adelaide, would reverse the result in 2020 and complete an undefeated season.

“I feel like South, we kind of lost a few people (over the off-season),” Charlton said. “A few people went to different clubs, but we definitely picked up all of that talent back again from all the local leagues. “But yeah, going into the season, we were confident that we could make it back to the grand final. “But on the day North was just too strong for us.”

Charlton has an array of strengths, including her overhead marking, goal sense, X-factor and tackle pressure, not to mention her athleticism. For the top prospect herself, it is her aggression at the football, and taking the game on that she sees as her best strengths. As for her improvements, she is always looking to build up her ability to kick on her opposite foot, as well as her movement around the stoppages.

No doubt the Crows supporter cannot wait for AFL Women’s Draft night, with Adelaide having a monopoly on the South Australian group and Charlton is widely tipped to be the first selection in the group, For the teenager, it is something she has always dreamed of, reaching the elite level for the side she supports.

“Ever since I started watching football, it’s always been Adelaide Crows,” Charlton said. “And then when the women’s teams came in, obviously I went straight for a South Australian team, and yeah, I’ve been following them ever since.”

Charlton said there were plenty of teammates who helped her throughout her career, but one in particular stood out when she entered the Crows Academy.

“I don’t know, probably because from a young age, like I was involved a lot around with Ebony Marinoff,” she said. “When I started training out at the Crows, she really brought me in and showed me around and made sure all the girls got to know who I was and make sure I could slot right in.”

Having to play against Marinoff and the likes of Crows’ club champion Anne Hatchard in the SANFL Women’s, Charlton said it was a little surreal at first, but then once the ball is bounced, they are just like any other opponent.

“Definitely before the game you always kind of think to yourself like, ‘Oh, these girls are from the next level, like, how hard is it gonna be against them?’ Charlton said. “And I don’t know, just feel like that extra bit of nerves standing next to them on the field. “But obviously, once the game starts, you kinda fall back into your own game and just play how you wanna play.”

While Marinoff has been her on-field mentor, Charlton said her father had been her off-field one. The Panthers youngster said he had the most influence on her career coming through the various programs.

“I may be a little biased, but my dad has always been there for me from the start during games. “He will come up to me and just give me a few pointers and I feel like I’ve really benefited from that. “So yeah, my dad’s been a huge influence on my game.”

As for her goals this year, Charlton said she often tries to set game-to-game goals be it disposals or tackles depending on her role and position, but at the end of the day, there is only one main goal and it is just over a week away from being accomplished.

“Honestly, it would just be like a dream come true (to be drafted),” Charlton said. “Like I’ve been wanting this for a very long time now and if that happens, honestly, I’ll be over the moon.”

Team-first Laing sees positives in season cancellation

AT first it was heartbreaking. Being told that the NAB League Girls season was put on hold and then eventually cancelled. For a top-age player it was the news no one ever expects coming into the most important year of their football career, and for someone like a club captain, it burns deep. But for Sandringham Dragons’ leader Winnie Laing, once she got over the immediate disappointment, she turned to the positives.

“I remember at the training where we got told, a lot of us just ran to the bathroom and cried,” Laing said. “But after a while I was able to see the positive side of everything. “It was more of an opportunity to develop more as a player individually with my skills and my fitness everything and really taking it to that next level.

“So I think being able to build a schedule which I did, really helped get through everything and have a positive outlook that there will always be something to work towards whether that be the combine, whether that was that we got to play games, or even just preseason for the next year, that was always going to be something that we needed to prepare for. “I think it was a good opportunity to develop individually.”

There was extra motivation for Laing, who missed out on representing Vic Metro as a middle-ager in 2019, but rather than let that get her down, she used it as extra ammunition to attack the 2020 year.

“Not making it (Vic Metro) last year was very disappointing and I was quite upset and I think that was a real motivator for my preseason,” Laing said. “Obviously individually in the time off just working on my skills and my running. “Not making it kind of motivated me more to play better this year and then in preseason just trying to get the most out of the coaches and the team.” Trying to play good as a team, so we could all and myself, play better individually.

“I think what helps motivate me is when you miss out on spots like that and that definitely helps motivate me this year to play a good first three games. “I consider myself a pretty positive person. “Whenever something bad does arise which it always will. “Just trying to find the positive out of that and how I can get the most out of that, whether that be training harder, developing better skills. I think there is always a positive even in the bad.”

Rewinding back to the beginning the Dragons leader initially did not start her football career until a few years ago in year 9, having played a few other sports including basketball. However, as often has been the case with basketballers turned footballers, friends noticed that perhaps her attack on the ball carrier would be better suited in a game with tackling and contested ball-winning.

“I first started playing basketball and athletics and because I was pretty competitive on the basketball court, a lot of people just kept saying ‘you need to go try out, go watch a game’ so yeah we went down to the local oval, watched a game and I knew from then that I wanted to play straight away,” Laing said. So joined Port (Melbourne) Colts then the next season joined Sandy and moved over to East Malvern playing junior footy. “Then Sandy just started to develop my want to play AFLW even more.”

For the “big Richmond fan”, football has always been a fundamental part of her life, but like others who aspired of playing elite-level sport, there was no pathway for young girls coming through the programs. Once the AFL Women’s popped up – coincidentally the same year Laing switched into the code – the tough midfielder was all-in for her dream of reaching the top.

“I think the competitiveness for me really drew me in,” Laing said. “But also the culture of footy clubs is really different other sport. “You don’t find that anywhere else. “So just being around the girls and the coaches and the culture footy clubs have really drew me in.”

In what would be her second football season, Laing made 2018 Vic Metro Under 16s squad and ran out on GMHBA Stadium with some of the best young talents in Victoria.

“It was pretty exciting to see an elite pathway early and obviously it was a very talented group so being able to see the type of talent that my age group has and learning all the different skills and even just pregame techniques with everyone,” Laing said. “Being in that elite environment was pretty special and the coaches were obviously very highly looked out for so that was good as well.”

Laing’s running ability – from her athletics background – moulded perfectly with becoming a midfielder, something she did from very early on in her career. While she predominantly stayed in the role, she did spend time off half-back in 2018, and then up the other end of the ground in the few games this year.

“I had that running capability so I was drawn to the midfield because I think my best attribute would be competitiveness,” Laing said. “So both them meshing together really helped me play in the midfield but this year obviously being versatile was really important, so trying to build different positions. “Like playing forward this year I really enjoyed, but also being able to play on the wing, or I did play half-back in my first season at Sandy so I think being versatile is really important.”

Prior to the 2020 season, Laing was announced as captain of the Dragons, an achievement she said was “pretty honourable”.

“Obviously the girls at Sandy are a very high talented group so being named captain was very honourable to be able to represent all the girls and the team and the coaches and everything,” she said. “It was a pretty exciting experience, I didn’t expect it at all, just being able to build that culture more at Sandy is what I was looking for and I think that’s why we got to play really well in the first three games because we were such a tight-knit group and had all the desire to win.”

It helped her add more strings to her bow in terms of her ability with or without the ball and also broadened her focus further to try and not only get the best out of herself, but also the best out of her team.

“I think being captain I’ve really flourished as a player,” Laing said. “Individually I think I have quite clean hands, being able to get it on the inside and fire it out to the good runners and good players on the outside but also having everyone’s back as a team is a really good attribute so everyone can play with confidence because everyone plays well individually but we’ve got to play well as a team.”

Transferring codes from basketball to football, Laing said her hand-eye coordination was great, but it was her kicking that needed the most work. With the time off, Laing was able to hone down on that and really try to perfect both her kicking out of a stoppage and kicking inside 50.

Laing enjoyed a really strong season in 2019, capping off a stellar NAB League year with a third placing in the Dragons’ best and fairest which she describes as a “pretty big honour”. When she went back to East Malvern, she finished second in the League Best and Fairest, and won best on ground in a premiership-winning grand final. Laing said it was a “pretty rainy, crappy day” but being able to perform on the big stage and celebrate with her team made it worth it and her best football memory.

As for her on-field inspirations, Laing said her Dragons’ teammates continue to inspire her, but also a current AFL player who she said has “changed the culture” at his club, something she always aspires to live up to.

“Everyone has good attributes,” Laing said. “Like Bella Eddey silky hands, Sarah Hartwig good marking, Eliza Mac (McNamara), all of them have really good attributes which help inspire me to play. “Then obviously more famous players like Patrick Cripps. “He’s my favourites, he’s exactly what I want to be as a player. “His leadership, he was able to change the culture at the Carlton Football Club and that’s made them a better team and playing better this year, but also his individual game, he plays on the inside but plays on the outside and can finish with a couple of goals. “So I think his gamestyle as a person and a player has really helped inspire me.”

Laing’s goals coming into the season were team-focused. When the season was called off, her ways of achieving the goals might have changed, but the motivations behind them did not.

“I think before the season was cancelled, my aim was quite team-focused,” Laing said. “I wanted the team to play the best footy we could for ourselves to play better as well, all the top-agers. “I obviously wanted to play a good season to give myself the best opportunity to be drafted at the end of this year and I think once the cancellation of the season did happen, my goals didn’t really change as such.

“I still want to be drafted and give myself the best opportunity so that really motivated me the cancelling of the season to keep training really hard and practicing my skills and my running when we did have guns at the end or the combine that I was putting my best foot forward.”

Being a positive person, Laing knows that it is not the “be all and end all” if she does not get drafted in just over a week. While that would be the main goal, there is little doubt the Dragons captain will dig deep and do whatever it takes to make the next level.

“I think obviously being drafted this year would be the goal,” Laing said. “But I think that’s really good thing about women’s footy that any age if you play a couple of good games somewhere you’ll get noticed, and you’ll have a chance to be picked up so I think that’s definitely the positive about women’s footy that there really isn’t an age limit to start your footy career. “So for all girls, this year isn’t the be all and end all, we know if it doesn’t go our way that there is always other opportunities.”

Successful basketballer Eldridge focuses on footy

FORMER national representative basketball player, Jorja Eldridge made a decision last year to give up years of basketball and focus on an Aussie rules career. The talented baller had been playing since she was 11-years-old and represented the South Australian state country team on five occasions, then went to a national championship a further three times. Despite this, Eldridge realised the lack of opportunities in the sport and went down a different path.

“In the middle of last year, the middle of 2019, was my last national tournament as a top-age under 18 player,” Eldridge said. “So from there, there’s not too many opportunities from basketball. “Other than like the under 20 state team, which includes SA country and metro. “But from there, I kind of fell out of love with the game and then, yeah, one of my mates was just like, ‘Oh, do you wanna come trial for this football? like, play in a Whyalla combined girls’ team?’. “So I did that. “And then yeah, from there, I loved it. I got more into the system, I have just been getting better from then.”

While her decision to change codes was one thing, playing at a North Adelaide Under 17 girls carnival in Port Augusta in August last year was another. The Roosters liked what they saw and Eldridge slotted into the youth side.

“I played in the Under 17 North Adelaide team in 2019 mainly as a centre half-back and then I was selected in the Under 18s state squad and ended up being in the M36 before COVID happened,” she said. “Then I was also travelling for the women’s North Adelaide team. “But from there, I made the train-on squad and then moved up into the squad during the COVID time. “And then the shut down of the SANFL season happens. “But then when it came back, I actually debuted in Round 5 in 2020 and also played in Round 6.”

Whilst she might have had a lack of senior experience heading into the season, Eldridge worked hard during the COVID-19 pandemic break to earn a debut and finish with two games playing for the undefeated Roosters in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s.

Yeah, honestly, it was quite a surprise to me,” Eldridge said of her selection. “But I did work extremely hard in the COVID off-season time, because I thought I might as well try as best as I can. “And then even if I didn’t get a game, I was planning on moving to Adelaide next year and hoping to get more into it. “Then from that Krissie (Steen, North Adelaide coach)… I got a FaceTime call from North Adelaide on a Wednesday night when they were announcing the team and yeah I made the team for my first game, so that was pretty exciting for me.”

Travelling from Whyalla to Adelaide is around a four-hour drive, something that is never easy. Luckily for Eldridge, she had supportive parents and they had familiarised themselves with the drive due to the teenager’s basketball commitments.

“It definitely has that drive that will kill you, and especially when I was playing basketball, my national trainings were actually at Murray Bridge. So that was even further,” Eldridge said. “We had to go, but then because of the basketball, my parents were used to doing that. “So then they were more than happy to do that with football as well. “So even though I’ve got my licence and I am 18 they’re still taking me down because they love it. “Just as much as I do.”

While Eldridge had made a decision that the 2019 basketball season would be her last, she decided to still take to the floor for one last dance prior to her big move to the capital city.

I actually wasn’t going to (play another season),” Eldridge said. “So when I was playing football, I was just playing football. “I did play netball locally but if I ever like the two games I played (clashed), I just missed out on playing netball that weekend. “But I wasn’t going to play another season of basketball. “But it’s just recently started, and I am playing one last season before I moved to Adelaide next year. “But that’s that’s just at a local level. “That’s not anything higher.”

Basketball has also helped Eldridge adapt to football with a number of different traits she was able to transition from the court to the field.

“My strength, I would say as, like, my agility, my athleticism and my speed and I actually do have good hand-eye coordination as well,” Eldridge said. “So I’m able to use those skills that I’ve developed over the years to then put that into it Just the football aspect. “It is a different knowledge of the game. “Definitely there are some parts of similar like, but basically like in defence, if you’re like man on man or, if you like, in zone like, it’s kinda similar. “But yeah, it’s definitely some things that I mean to keep looking into more for football to strengthen my knowledge of the game.”

For Eldridge, the COVID-19 pandemic put her new footy career on hold for a while, and while she admitted it was “difficult” during that time, she was determined to make the most of the time off and come back better than ever.

It was probably harder for the girls who started off playing in the season because I didn’t have my game until after the COVID break,” Eldridge said. “However, we still did zoom calls with Krissie and the strength and conditioning coaches and we had our road running and strength programs made up that we still had to continue with and I think that’s why I did get a run because I followed through with those schedules and what she wanted us to do. “And I worked closely on my skills and yeah, I think I have definitely improved my fundamental skills over the course of that time as well.”

The debutant said while she was new to the sport and did not have a huge inspiration from a football perspective, she admired the likes of Tayla Harris and Erin Phillips. As for her journey, she could not be more grateful for the path she had taken, and owed it to a number of people and clubs who had supported her along the way.

“I would also like to thank North Adelaide, particularly Sambo (Emma Sampson) and Krissie for the amazing opportunities they’ve given me. “When I actually couldn’t go down and train with North Adelaide, I was luckily enough to train with the Roopena football club in Whyalla. “And then my local club, my family club was North Whyalla who actually sponsored me for the 2020 season of North Adelaide.”

Eldridge is currently studying her Certificate IV in Fitness as she aspires to become a personal trainer. By making the move to Adelaide, she will extend her knowledge in the area by studying exercise physiology. But the additional benefit of the move would be closer to Prospect Oval where she can focus on her football and trying to cement herself in the side each week.

“Next year, I’m wanting to really concentrate on getting in every game in the SANFLW like in the North Adelaide team. and from there, I’ll see where it takes me,” Eldridge said. “But I would really love to play in the AFLW whether that’s starting the end of next year. “So the start of the 2022 seasons or maybe it might be a little bit longer because I’m still only new to playing.”

Picture: AFL Media

TSL Women’s Round 11 wrap: Blues secure minor premiership with penultimate round win

LAUNCESTON has secured top spot in the Tasmanian State League (TSL) Women’s competition with a crucial win over Clarence in both sides’ final matches of the regular season. In the other of two matches played, North Launceston sentenced Tigers to the wooden spoon handed the Tigers an eighth loss and see the Bombers lock up fourth spot ahead of the final round.

The Blues never had it all their own way, leading by two points at quarter time and three at the main break, but neither team could apply too much scoreboard pressure. Launceston kicked a couple of crucial goals in the third term to stretch the lead out to 17 points, before Clarence came home to kick the final goal of the match. It would not be enough for the home side however, as Launceston recorded a memorable 3.7 (25) to 2.3 (15) win.

Daria Bannister booted a couple of goals and was named among the Blues’ best, with Brooke Brown also superb, kicking the other major and was prominent across the ground. Young gun Mia King was named best on ground in the 10-point victory, while Kelsie Hill and Cecilia Cameron were also among the top players on the day. Jessie Williams and Grace Mitchell booted the two goals for Clarence, as Nicole Bresnehan, Natalie Pearce and Charlotte Kenny all shone in the victory.

In the other match, North Launceston won its second game of the season, holding Tigers to one goal in a 33-point triumph. The Bombers kicked 3.4 in the first half and kept the home side scoreless to head into the half-time break 22 points ahead. Tigers gave their fans a glimmer of hope in the third quarter, kicking 1.1 to cut the deficit to 15 points, before the Bombers ran out stronger with their best quarter of the match, kicking 3.0 and getting up, 6.4 (40) to 1.1 (7).

Ella Maurer was best on ground for the Bombers, also converting two goals, while Ruby Slater and Sophie Townsend were also named amongst the best and hit the scoreboard. Zoe Bourne and Hayley Breward impressed in the victory, while Bonnie Farrell and Emily McKinnell kicked majors. For Tigers, Gillian Millar kicked the only goal, while Hailee Baldwin, Bianca Bell and Bianca Phillips were all strong despite the loss.

In the final round of the season next weekend, Glenorchy returns from a bye to face North Launceston, with the Magpies gunning for second spot. Either way the finals are locked in, with North Launceston having to take on Launceston the week after, and the Magpies taking on the Roos. If Glenorchy gets up, then the Magpies will secure second spot and a home final against Glenorchy.

TSL WOMEN’S ROUND 11 RESULTS:

Clarence 2.3 (15) defeated by Launceston 3.7 (25)
Tigers 1.1 (7) defeated by North Launceston 3.7 (25)

Picture: Solstice Digital & Photography

Anderson stars as Under 18s get job done over WAFL Women’s

WESTERN Australia’s brightest young stars put on a show and made the most of their opportunities to come away with a 17-point win over the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s All-Stars side in terrible conditions. The Under 18s All-Stars held up well defensively considering the WAFL Women’s side maintained large portions of forward half possession but could not capitalise on the scoreboard with just one goal from eight scoring shots. It was the work of over-age talent Nyra Anderson who was a clear best on ground, starring for the winners and showing her strength and clean hands at ground level.

Along with Anderson, middle-ager Courtney Rowley had a massive first half, and another young talent in Jaide Britton had a huge second half, to assist Anderson and help the teenage side get over the line. For the WAFL Women’s team, Tessa Doumanis was lively up forward and should have had a few more than her one major, as well as had a hand in a few other scoring chances. Along with Doumanis, Sarah Garstone tried hard out of defence, while Tiah Haynes and Chloe Wrigley were also prominent.

Rowley had a huge first term for the Under 18s, seemingly everywhere on the ground and winning it with ease. Despite her performance in the back half and along the wing, it was the All-Stars who looked dangerous early with back-to-back behinds after a rushed behind and missed set shot from Deni Broadhurst had them with the early lead. Liusaidh Gilchrist had a great spoil at half-back as the Under 18s were attacking through the likes of Amy Franklin and Rosie Walsh, but it would be a nice contested mark from Chloe Reilly that earned the first set shot on goal.

Her set shot looked good in the driving rain, but cannoned into the post. It changed the momentum of the game however, as Shakira Pickett and Anderson were busy around the stoppages. Garstone was doing her best under pressure but the wall at half-forward was set up for the Under 18s to control forward half possession. After not much movement on the scoreboard, it took a nice snap from Emily Bennett out of nothing with an open goalsquare to seize the moment and hand her side the quarter time lead.

The second term was almost a counter contrast early after it took 13 minutes for the first goal in the opening quarter. This time, it was some magic out of the middle from Mikayla Morrison leading to a nice Poppy Stockwell mark not long after who made sure of her set shot from 30m out straight in front. It was scrappy, contested footy considering the conditions, but Lou Knitter Medallist, Wrigley was working hard on the inside. Breanne Spencer was a rock in defence with a number of intercept marks, and despite Rowley having a massive game at half-back, it would be the All-Stars who responded on the scoreboard.

Doumas won the ball nine and a half minutes into the term, sidestepped an opponent and was helped via a Zoe Gillard shepherd to put one home off her slick left boot. The WAFL Women’s were back within a kick at half-time with Maggie MacLachlan and Brianna Hyde both having some great defensive moments to keep the opposition at bay considering the possession dominance in that term.

The third term started like the second ended, with the WAFL Women’s team having plenty of chances attacking. Sara Wielstra and Jayme Harkin combined for a quick snap on goal and then Wrigley had one two, but both failed to register a score. A costly 50m penalty handed Dana East plenty of meterage and the Under 18s’ first look forward, but the WAFL Women’s defence was again up to the task. Rowley looked to set Anderson a task in a one-against three contest, but the 19-year-old seemingly did well, bringing it to ground and then using her clean hands off the next stoppage.

Anderson was not only working into the game, she was having a huge say in it. A sharked ball by Grace Wilkie at half-forward saw her pump it inside 50 midway through the term to a one-on-one. In slippery conditions, Anderson kept her feet and just managed to get boot to ball for it to dribble home and extend the lead out to 10. MacLachlan nearly had a goal of her own with a quick snap which missed, but it was Anderson again who bobbed up with a great effort against two opponents at ground level to collect and calmly spin, giving off the handball to the loose teammate in Lauren Quaife who kicked the easiest of goals for her side with two minutes on the clock.

The deficit could have been even greater for the WAFL Women’s side had it not been for Garstone’s intercepting in defence, with the Fremantle delistee certainly putting her hand up to be reconsidered. With a 17-point deficit to their name, the WAFL Women’s team needed something special in the last term, but much like the second term, it was all the Under 18s early. Britton was having a purple patch with a number of good touches, and Franklin pushed forward again had a snap but just missed to the right. Another rushed behind followed and it was the Under 18s peppering the goals now with consecutive behinds.

In the nine-and-a-half-minute mark of the final term, Reilly tried something special off the outside of the boot in the forward pocket, but was touched off the boot before it sailed home. It was her side’s fourth consecutive behind, but they were all but home and hosed. Despite this, the WAFL Women’s side rallied in the last seven minutes to have multiple scoring opportunities that had they gone through, could have seen them steal the win. Unfortunately despite Doumanis having a couple of set shots, and handing a couple more off, all four set shot chances either fell short or missed marginally.

In the end, the Under 18s made more of their goal scoring chances and were the only side to kick multiple goals in a term. Despite neither team kicking a major in the final term, it was tense and hard fought with both sides giving it a red hot crack in challenging conditions. With the AFL Women’s Draft Combine coming up, those players invited will be keen to put their best foot forward after another strong outing in what is their last of the season.

U18S ALL-STARS 1.1 | 2.1 | 4.2 | 4.6 (30)
WAFLW ALL-STARS 0.2 | 1.3 | 1.3 | 1.7 (13)

GOALS: 

U18s: E. Bennett, P. Stockwell, N. Anderson, L. Quaife.
WAFLW: T. Doumanis.

ADC BEST:

U18s: N. Anderson, C. Rowley, J. Britton, E. Bennett, A. Franklin
WAFLW: T. Doumanis, S. Garstone, T. Haynes, C. Wrigley, J. Low

Picture: AFL Photos

Hard work the key to success for Eddey

IF you work hard, then anything is achievable. That is the mindset of talented Sandringham Dragons top-ager Bella Eddey who named NBA star Jimmy Butler as one of her major inspirations throughout her footballing career. While she has gone from strength to strength, excelling at the Dragons at NAB League and representing Vic Metro at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, the former basketballer said Butler’s story of resilience and determination was something that really resonated with her.

“I’d probably have to say just one person I’ve really looked up to is Jimmy Butler in the NBA,” Eddey said. “Just when he was little he had a bit of a rough upbringing and he was homeless for a bit there and things like that. “He was like that and if you think he can go from being homeless to an NBA All-Star it just shows you how working hard can get you. “Hard work beats talent and he’s just proven that and I just take a lot from that story and if you just work hard you can get wherever you want to go even if you had nothing in the beginning.”

It is that determination and self-drive that has allowed Eddey to keep focused on her game and always improving no matter what.

“(It’s) definitely something I always like to tell myself,” she said. “If I’ve got an area of improvement in my game I want to get better at or even an area I’m good at, I just think and you look at players like Madi Prespakis and she’s had that immediate impact as soon as she gets into the club. “You just think if you keep working hard and keep going at it there’s absolutely no reason why that couldn’t be you as well.”

Eddey did have a predominant basketball background, but like a lot of passionate Aussie rules fans, once the AFL Women’s pathway became a reality, the midfielder/forward had no hesitation in making the switch.

“I think like most girls we kind of started with a different pathway,” Eddey said. “Similar to them as well I started with basketball because there was no pathway for girls in footy so I kind of figured there wasn’t much point playing because I wanted to play a professional sport so I started with basketball. “Did that for a few years. “Did a bit of touch footy as well and then in the year that AFLW was made I pretty much quit all that straight away and jumped across to footy because I always loved it and wanted to have a kick with my brothers at the park, watch and stuff. Now it was actually a real possibility for girls so I just jumped across.”

Eddey said the “big team environment” attracted her into the sport and said the uniqueness of the game, from having so many teammates to the way it was scored just made it so special. She admitted her bond with a lot of Dragons teammates, and growing up through the pathway alongside them and sharing success with them, made it such a special experience.

“Yeah playing at Sandy’s been awesome,” Eddey said. “There’s a massive group of us who started together three years ago and I think seven of that group have gone on to be invited to the combine which is just awesome. “And a couple of girls got drafted when I was in my bottom year and they were in their top year, they got drafted and that was awesome to see and a real motivating factor to show that it’s a possibility and there’s no reason why you couldn’t do what they’ve done.”

Unfortunately for Eddey, she missed a portion of the season with a bad flu which restricted her to the five games. Whilst she was resigned to sitting on the sidelines and frustrated she could not be out there despite “feeling pretty good physically”, she still managed to have the positive mindset to cheer on her teammates each week.

Despite missing that part of the season, Eddey earned a Vic Country jumper and travelled with her side up to the Gold Coast to run out at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, an experience the teenager loved.

“That was so good,” she said. “Again just playing with those girls from the other clubs is such a good experience. “Meeting all those players and the standard even just in Metro is a step up from NAB and that was such a great experience for all of us and getting that exposure is really good.”

From there, Eddey continued to shine and had the rare feat of being named in the AFL Women’s National Academy. The then 17-year-old could hardly believe it, describing the feeling as “awesome”.

“I was absolutely shocked to be honest,” Eddey said. “The year before i hadn’t played many games before because I had the flu, so I wasn’t really expecting too much and then got the email and that was awesome. “Such a good experience. “We got to go on a camp earlier this year before COVID which was great. “Connecting with all those girls from the other clubs was so cool and playing with them was awesome.”

Eddey has a keen eye for detail and working in conjunction with Dragons’ coach Tam Hyett, focused on improving her versatility on the inside as well as up forward to complement her silky outside game.

“I think with me something with me a lot in the preseason with Tam our coach was just contest work and I think that was a big change in my game, really stepping it up in the contest,” she said. “I go for Hawthorn so I watch a lot of Tom Mitchell, so I’ve watched a lot of how he goes about it because he’s obviously a bit of a ball magnet and it’s just trying to pick up how you get to those inside positions to get the ball.”

Her footy IQ, her ability to read the game and make great decisions are among her best traits, suited perfectly to that outside midfield role.

“I’d probably see myself as more of an outside mid, but Tam and I didn’t want to just limit myself to just being on that outside role,” Eddey said. “You need to kind of have that impact on the inside as well and have that versatility to be able to do a bit of both.”

At about 162cm, Eddey also has the capability of playing as a small forward, which is another area she is looking to focus on for the future, citing the rapid improvement of a St Kilda recruit as a player she could model her game around.

“Probably being a smaller player and playing a bit more time in the forward line probably just being able to read the contests, if there’s a big mark contest being able to read that time off the pack like Dan Butler, he’s been so good at that this year so yeah trying to bring a bit of that in,” Eddey said.

Having effectively “straight swapped” basketball for football, Eddey said she did not take too long to adapt to the game, and it was a lot of thanks to her family for regularly having kick-to-kicks in their spare time, even before she ran out on the footy field.

“I might have just gone down to the park with my brothers and kicked a footy so making that switch across was really exciting because I’d played a couple of games here and there for school but never really done a full season or been a part of a club so it was obviously super exciting and it’s obviously worked out pretty well for me so far and see where it can take me in the future,” she said.

Each year Eddey likes to set goals for herself like any player, but her main aim is to land on an AFL Women’s list. Having made Vic Metro and the National Academy, her next big goal was to reach the elite level, but she also looks at little goals along the way from game to game.

“I set both to be honest,” she said. I have some little goals that I like to chip away at and then I obviously have a big goal in mind which is obviously to get drafted in the next coming weeks. But during the season there are just little goals that I had every game. “Maybe get  x amount of tackles or something like that which I find just keeps me motivated all the time.”

Eddey praised the team at Sandringham Dragons and said she hoped everyone throughout the NAB League Girls competition could achieve their goals be it making it into the league or forging their own paths on their football journey.

“Everyone down at Sandy all the coaches and stuff, they’ve been so amazing helping us all out, especially through COVID,” Eddey said. “I just wish the best of luck to all the girls in NAB League for everything that they’re trying to achieve.”

As for her own goal of being drafted, when asked what it would mean to land on an AFL Women’s list, there was little doubt in her mind of how much of an achievement that would be.

“Yeah it would mean everything,” Eddey said. “It’s definitely something I’ve wanted ever since the AFLW was made. “I’ve just thought about how much it would be awesome to be drafted and to be given the opportunity that not every girl would be able to have the opportunity that we’ve had and it’s really exciting to see even all the younger girls getting around it so much. “It just means a lot to the females in sport.”

Saulitis rides wave of success on the back of hard work and determination

WHEREVER South Warrnambool’s Renee Saulitis goes, generally premierships follow. She tasted success at Ararat Storm, then at Lake Wendouree, and at Ballarat Grammar in the Herald Sun Shield. Now the Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels prospect is hoping that all those long treks from the Shipwreck Coast to the Goldfields will pay off at next month’s AFL Women’s Draft.

The natural small forward who has played in multiple positions across the field, had a relatively straightforward pathway to the elite junior levels of Australian rules football, but it was not without a heap of dedication.

“I started with Auskick level back in the day when I was about five,” Saulitis said. “My brother was playing as well and was playing with a few others and that was really good fun. “Then I moved up with the boys in the Under 12s and Under 14s and then moved on with the girls with South Warrnambool and then Ararat Storm which was in the Ballarat league. “I’m from Warrnambool so we had to travel there, but that was a more developed league and found my footing there and now that I’ve started boarding at Ballarat Grammar I started with Lake Wendouree. “That was really good.”

“But then I’ve also played with the Rebels for a few years now and was a rookie back in the day and we used to just travel to trainings but didn’t actually have the opportunity to play games because I was too young. “So I’ve come through and obviously represented Vic Country and Team Vic a couple of years so that’s been really good.”

Travelling regularly from Warrnambool up to Ballarat, Saulitis said it was a lot of hours in the car for her parents, but everyone was onboard and supportive of her determination to reach the elite level.

“Yeah it was tough for my parents I think but we did for the love of it,” she said. “They loved doing it for me as well so was really thankful for that. “But I think we got used to it, but in the end travelling to Rebels trainings and stuff when I wasn’t in Ballarat and to games. “We did sort of get used to it and sometimes I didn’t travel to training to Ararat, I just did my own stuff here in Warrnambool or trained with South Warrnambool to help with that.”

When Saulitis ended up boarding in Ballarat it saved plenty of travelling, but it also opened the door to a whole new football competition – the Herald Sun Shield – where she enjoyed the title playing last year, after coming runner-up in 2018.

“Yeah that was really exciting because I came from Warrnambool College and there really weren’t any footy teams so when I got up there it was really exciting having a really successful team,” Saulitis said. “Obviously making a few grand finals and winning a few as well. “It was a really good group of girls through those years and we were just really disappointed we couldn’t see what we could do this year as well.”

Alongside her school football commitments, Saulitis was making inroads at the Rebels and earned a place in the Vic Country side at Under 16s level a couple of years ago and played as a middle-ager at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships last year. The talented small said she loved going up to the Gold Coast and playing in a multitude of roles.

“Yeah that was a really good experience, I really enjoyed that,” Saulitis said. “We started off by playing in the forward line and they gave me a game in the backline so that was a really good experience. “It was a really great group of girls where I made some really good lasting friendships and those friendships will continue forever.”

Off the back of that and her performance throughout the 2019 NAB League Girls competition, Saulitis was invited to the AFL Women’s National Academy, something she admits she was not expecting.

“Yeah having that first camp was really exciting,” she said. “I was kind of shocked to see my name get called out for that because last year I obviously wasn’t in it and it was really exciting to have an opportunity to go on three camps but only having one. “It was a little bit disappointing seeing as though the first camp was really awesome and I learnt a lot of things.”

Earlier this year Saulitis put in a match-winning performance against Sandringham Dragons, booting two goals in the final term to help her Rebels side get over the line in a close match.

“I started off as a high forward and playing as the sixth rule that Rhys (Cahir, Rebels coach) wanted me to, which was moving up and being more of a midfielder which is good to see my hands on the ball and get into the game early,” Saulitis said.

“I think he saw I was in the game, but when it came down to that fourth quarter I got thrown into the forward pocket. “I was sort of hoping that the ball would come down and it did so I was able to have an impact so that was really exciting to kick those two goals.”

Among Saulitis’ strengths are her goal sense, kicking, running and agility with the small forward often being the one turned to in order to create something out of nothing inside 50. She has been working on her fitness lately and wants to be able to have a bigger defensive game, especially applying pressure inside 50. Unfortunately that aspect was cut short by the season’s cancellation.

“Yeah I was kinda disappointed having being a vice-captain and we had a really good Rebels side this year compared to other years and obviously we were quite successful this year,” Saulitis said. “So yeah it was sort of disappointing, but I guess you could see it coming and it was a bit of a shock as well. “I wasn’t sure that could actually happen, that it could get cancelled but it did so it was a bit of a shock. “We’ve just got to cop it on the chin and move on because it’s something we can’t control.”

Saulitis said she preferred her forward pocket role and being able to impact the scoreboard, but also liked testing herself across the ground and being as versatile as possible. While she cannot remember exactly when she wanted to reach the elite level, she has certainly set her sights on it since the AFL Women’s was founded.

“I can’t really remember exactly what I thought when I was younger,” Saulitis said. “But even playing on the MCG and all those stadiums when you were younger with the Auskick stuff. “It was really awesome running out in front of the crowd, so yeah I definitely think it was something I strived for, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do because there wasn’t the women’s competition at the time.”

Helping her along the way was her inspiration and Rebels teammate now Tiger, Sophie Molan.

“Playing along people like Sophie Molan, who has definitely been a mentor of this time and I can chat to her whenever I feel like it and you know when I was in Ballarat I was able to kick the footy with her and just chat to her about everything and what’s coming up and really good to lean on,” Saulitis said.

While her season has not been able to be as consistent as she hoped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Saulitis showed enough over the past few seasons to earn a AFL Women’s National Draft Combine invitation.

“This year I just really wanted to play consistent games and make sure I put myself out there and tried to have an impact in each game and working on that,” she said. “But also the end of the year goal was definitely just to get drafted for sure.”

Hill finds her voice at Stingrays

DANDENONG Stingrays defender Zoe Hill admits she started the program back in 2017 as a softly-spoken 15-year-old who was still new to football. After all, the year prior was her first season running around with the oblong ball, crossing from basketball to play with some friends at Mt. Eliza. Fast forward three years, and Hill has been able to find her voice through confidence and credits the Stingrays and Vic Country program for enabling her to do that.

“Well I started playing basketball domestic and then I moved up to rep basketball and played for Frankston Blues,” Hill said. “Then a lot of my girl friends were playing footy and I was like ‘oh that sounds pretty cool, seems pretty contact’ because I’m pretty aggressive when I play sport. “So I think I started playing domestic footy for Mt Eliza in 2016 and then the year after is when I got picked up by Stingrays and then it just went on from there.”

Yeah that (Under 16s Vic Country) boosted my confidence a lot more and made me realise that maybe I am a better player than I actually thought I was,” she said. “That made me strive to work harder and train harder and get the best place I could so I could develop further.”

Hill admits that, the support of her Stingrays teammates and coaching staff, gave her the confidence to speak up and lead others. It led her to become a vocal component of Dandenong’s backline in the NAB League Girls competition.

When I first started because I was new, I didn’t really speak much,” Hill said. “I was pretty quiet, I didn’t really feel like I should speak. “But as I got into higher level of footy, I started to use my voice a lot more and that’s when coaches realised I have some good qualities for leadership.”

Like many of her cross-coding cohort, Hill said it was initially a bit daunting getting into football because of the competitiveness, but it did not take long for her to adapt.

Yeah it was definitely a massive jump just how competitive everyone was and just how much more skilled they were,” she said. “But I felt like I fit in pretty easily because I had the skills from basketball and just developed pretty quick with the girls.”

Hill has become renowned as a key position defender who does not only nullify her direct opponent, but can provide offensive rebound out of the back half. Despite her obvious ability inside the defensive 50, Hill had not always been a key defender.

“For my local club at Mt Eliza, I usually played onball because that was the best use for me on the field,” Hill said. “And then once I moved up into high level so Dandenong, they placed me in the backline and that’s when I started to get pocketed into that position because they saw that I worked well and I had the qualities for that position so that’s when they kept me there.”

Hill recognises her second and third efforts and aggressiveness at the contest as some of her major strengths. Her attack on the ball and new-found voice help her lead both by her actions and her words. These traits, coupled with her intercept marking – that she credits crossing from basketball – has allowed her to become a damaging prospect.

Along with those strengths, Hill said her peripheral vision and ability to read the play and know when to intercept was important, but she was still looking to work on her kicking, being a latecomer to the game.

“I got brought into the game later than everyone else so that’s a skill that I never really got to focus on, so I’ve had my coaches work on that with me,” Hill said. “That’s one of the biggest areas I need to work on.”

In the shortened 2020 season, Hill increased her tackling pressure for her numbers to rise to an average of five per game from her three matches, an impressive feat for a defender who is often involved in aerial contests. It further backed up her claims of second and third efforts being a key area of her style.

“That’s (tackling) something that I love doing and that’s my favourite thing about footy, tackling,” she said. “Just from last year, even with training I started working on that and that’s when I started increasing my tackle count this year, which is unfortunate it had to get cut short I guess but that was a main thing to my game this year.”

Indeed the NAB League Girls season and AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships were cut short and cancelled respectively, leaving Hill like many other aspiring draftees, in a state of uncertainty and disappointment.

“I was devastated, just not being able to see the girls,” Hill said. “Not having that team aspect in my life anymore, so I just have to motivate myself and get myself into running on my own. “That’s when I started to get into running and training on my own and having to motivate myself but yeah it was massive. “It was part of my life taken away.”

Hill has been able to keep motivated with her sights set on the upcoming AFL Women’s Draft. With the new found voice and belief in herself, Hill knows she has what it takes to make it to the next level, it just takes hard work. Extra inspiration are the three Stingrays drafted last year in Molly McDonald, Isabella Shannon and Brooke Vernon who led the way for the middle-agers like Hill.

The Stingrays defender, who has won a local league best and fairest, as well as two Mt Eliza best and fairests and a best on ground in a grand final – one of two premierships which she marked as one of her favourite memories – has done plenty in her short football career. Now she is looking long-term to hopefully get picked up in the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft and take her game to another level and beyond.

“(I) Definitely (set) long-term (goals) so I can look to the future and know that I can strive to and throughout the whole year have to try my best and achieve them which this year was to make the draft,” she said.

Ponter claims impressive win in NT All-Stars match

DOMINIQUE Carbone celebrated her 19th birthday in style with an impressive performance that helped Team Ponter record a 28-point victory over Team Hewett in humid conditions for the Northern Territory AFL Women’s All-Star game on Friday night. The over-ager won plenty of the ball and was prolific throughout the four quarters, and clearly one of the best on ground. Top-age forward Ashanti Bush deserved that honour, looking ever dangerous, booting a goal and almost having a few more as the inaccurate Ponter dominated for most of the contest to record an inaccurate, but effective 5.11 (41) to 2.1 (13) win.

The age of talent on display was a real mix from mature-age players who have already tasted AFL Women’s football in Jasmyn Hewett – who captained the team named after her – to the 15-year-old Maria Rioli who certainly caught the eye as a future Richmond father-daughter selection. But it was the work of Bush, Carbone and the classy Janet Baird who caught the eye, as well as future stars Grace Whittaker and Annabel Kievet who are in the Under 16s and Under 15s respectively.

For Hewett, it was the work of middle-age talent Georgia Johnson alongside Morgan Johnston who provided good dash from the back half and through the midfield. Hewett did all she could with some contested ball-winning ability in each third of the ground. Along with the experienced AFL Women’s talent, Freda Puruntatameri showed why she earned an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitation, kicking a second quarter goal and then going into defence and showing class.

Aside from the first half of the opening term where Team Hewett had a number of attacking players, it was predominantly Team Ponter, with a broken tackle by Katie Streader at half-forward helping lead to a Baird goal on the fun despite the best efforts of Hewett in defence. It was the only major of the term, with Kyanne Campbell kicking a behind for Hewett not long after, but missed a set shot, as did Hewett, who could have edged the margin closer than the seven points at quarter time.

Carbone was ever prolific and soon it was Kievet who added to the lead in the opening minute when she was awarded a free kick and an opposition player ran straight through the mark. On the back of a 50m penalty she made no mistake and put it straight through, and then Sarah Ingram made it two majors for the term. Johnston had a highlight passage of play five minutes in by dancing around not one, not two but three opponents and kicking forward, while Johnson continually mopped up in defence. Soon the hard work on defence resulted in a goal for Hewett as Puruntatameri intercepted a ball at half-forward, sold some candy and sidestepped an opponent to kick her side’s first major on the run.

Whittaker was really stepping up through the midfield with some great athleticism, with her and Kievet trying to break the game open. The experience of Hewett and former Western Bulldogs VFL Women’s captain Mickayla Ward was telling in the back half, stemming the flow and reducing the scoreboard impact for Ponter.

The game was all but put to bed early in the third with back-to-back goals to Team Ponter as Bush took a strong mark out in front, then after missing a target, ran hard forward, roved the pack and kicked it to the square where Molly Althouse did the rest on the line. After an assist, Bush went it alone, read the ball of the bounce perfectly inside 50, running goalside, took it cleanly and put it home. Another chance by the exciting top-ager just missed to the right in what could have been a huge performance from her. While Hewett was unable to score in the term, Ponter missed a number of opportunities after kicking 2.0 to start the term, then kicking 0.6 for the rest of it.

Nonetheless, Ponter was all but home with a 33-point lead at the final break. Baird’s class in patches was telling and with the work of Whittaker and Carbone still have an influence, Ponter was able to hold on despite just kicking the one behind in the final term. J’Noemi Anderson – sister of North Melbourne’s Jed – showed class with a clever spin and kick forward early in the last, but it was Campbell who kicked the easiest of goals off the back of great work from Kaitey Whittaker who got it goalside for her teammate.

Just one behind was scored in the last 10 minutes of the game, but the likes of Johnston and Ward in defence, and Hewett across the ground was important. Team Ponter had plenty of winners across the field, with Bella Clarke another one who had a couple of opportunities playing forward, unfortunately dropping a mark a split second before the siren and as she went to play on and snap for goal in the forward pocket, the siren sounded. In the end, Team Ponter had got up, 5.11 (41) to 2.1 (13) in a showcase of the Northern Territory’s best talent.

TEAM PONTER 1.2 | 3.4 | 5.10 | 5.11 (41)
TEAM HEWETT 0.1 | 1.1 | 1.1 | 2.1 (13)

GOALS:

Ponter: J. Baird, A. Kievet, S. Ingram, M. Althouse, A. Bush.
Hewett: F. Puruntatameri, K. Campbell.

ADC BEST:

Ponter: A. Bush, D. Carbone, J. Baird, G. Whittaker, A. Kievet
Hewett: M. Johnston, G. Johnson, J. Hewett, F. Puruntatameri, M. Ward

Picture credit: AFL Photos

AFLW U18s to Watch: Bella Lewis (Claremont/Western Australia)

IN a new series focusing on the up and coming AFL Women’s Draft hopefuls, we take a look at some names who would be among their respective states’ top draft prospects for the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Next under the microscope is Claremont midfielder Bella Lewis who despite standing at 186cm, has the ability to roam through the midfield as well as present up forward.

Bella Lewis (Claremont/Western Australia)

Height: 163cm
Position: Midfielder
Strengths: Endurance, acceleration, defensive pressure, strength

2019 AFLW U18 Girls Championships: 3 games | 12.0 disposals | 1.3 marks | 4.3 tackles | 2.3 inside 50s | 1 goal

Lewis is a small midfielder who packs plenty of punch. A natural athlete with high-level endurance and speed, Lewis makes the most of her abilities to be a consistent defensive midfielder who can also use her athletic traits to hurt opposition sides on the counter attack. Lewis trained with Fremantle over the summer and would now be eyeing off a step up to the elite level with the Dockers, and has used that determination to really set herself apart from the competition.

Representing Western Australia in the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, the then middle-ager stood out, being one of the stronger performers at the carnival behind three of the higher drafted/pre-listed players in Roxanne Roux, Mim Strom and Mikayla Bowen. She consistently cracked in and laid plenty of tackles, winning the contested ball and getting it forward to kick a major during the week too.

Her strong endurance base helps her run out games, and her midset to win the ball and dispossess the opposition makes her a danger when running both ways. As Claremont’s top prospect this year, and also alongside fellow youngsters Ella Smith and Jess Low, Lewis unsurprisingly earned an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invite.

She has battled with injury problems over the years but has always pulled through to make herself better at the end, Lewis looks up to Dockers’ tackling machine, Kiara Bowers. Possessing similar traits, Lewis has shown she can match it with taller players and whilst she admits she has areas to work on such as her decision making – particularly at speed – her athletic traits and mindset make her a strong prospect for this year’s draft.

Overall Lewis provides what you want from a midfielder. An ability to run both ways, apply defensive pressure and hit the scoreboard when needed. She is not afraid of any challenge and can play inside, outside or up forward with great versatility.