Author: Peter Williams

Exciting new content coming soon on Draft Central

BIGGER. Better. Bolder.

Draft Central‘s Australian rules football coverage is about to ramp up, with some exciting new content coming soon.

It has been a shorter wait than usual for the return of Australian rules football, but it is less than a week away until the AFL Women’s competition kicks off. The state leagues across the country will follow suit, with the WAFL Women’s joining the SANFL Women’s and QAFL Women’s as February-starting competitions, as does the VFL Women’s which will recommence after a year on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NAB League Girls is also nearly here, which will see the best talents from Victoria and Tasmania battle it out.

Over the next couple of months, we are dedicated to not only reporting on the competitions, but chatting to the top up-and-coming talents and future stars of the AFL Women’s. Starting next week, we will begin having our AFL Women’s Under 18s features, and will feature a number of interviews on our Final Siren podcast. Furthermore, we will have video content via our YouTube channel where you can put faces to names on those players you will be hearing a lot more about over the coming months.

Each week we will aim to add some brand new visual content, and be able to add player interviews to player profiles. We are excited to begin with Tasmanian content starting from next week, with the other states to follow, as competitions begin to get underway. In 2021, Draft Central is determined to go bigger, better and bolder and provide the most comprehensive coverage of not only the upcoming women’s football competitions, but the Under 18 boys leagues and state leagues across the country.

Some of the content includes:

  • Team-by-team previews
  • Exclusive interviews
  • Video chats
  • Player diaries
  • Draft Central shows via YouTube

Make sure you’re following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and on our brand new YouTube channel that will have some exciting content added as we go around the country and interview the brightest talents.

In 2021, make sure Draft Central is your one-stop shop for everything draft related.

2021 AFLW Preview: Fremantle Dockers

FREMANTLE snuck up on the competition and put together a near-perfect season, eventually only being stopped by a global pandemic and a controversially premature ruling.

2020 RECAP

Fremantle might have lost a number of players to cross-state expansion side West Coast – led by star Dana Hooker – but showed they had more than the required depth to get the job done. Kiara Bowers went from strength to strength, averaging a ridiculous 14.1 tackles per game and falling one short of her century in a short season, while Hayley Miller, Ebony Antonio, Kara Antonio and Gemma Houghton all provided great support. Young guns, Mim Strom and Roxy Roux were among those who caught the eye in standout debut seasons, while Sabreena Duffy backed up her first season with a strong season.

NEW FACES

A quiet trade period in terms of inclusions showed the side to be relatively settled and ready for a second crack at the title, with the Dockers heading to the AFL Women’s Draft instead. They grabbed two elite young talents in Sarah Verrier and Mikayla Morrison, while also bringing in the likes of Maggie Maclachlan and Tiah Haynes who had shown great form throughout the WAFL Women’s season.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

Providing she can have a run of luck, it will be exciting to see what Sarah Verrier can provide at the next level. Unfortunately, the teenager had injury issues that impacted her 2020 season, but she has terrific balance between inside and outside traits, and can play just about anywhere on the field. Long-term, Verrier can settle into an already impressive midfield group, and hold her own with her ball-winning ability and high-level skills.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

It is fairly straightforward to suggest the Dockers can go all the way in 2021, having been in the best position to do so in 2020 before it was called off. The only undefeated side heading into the 2020 finals series, Fremantle was destroying teams like few others, and while no doubt they could have been pushed by some – as shown by Collingwood – they were a tough, united squad.

QUESTION MARK

Could the Dockers repeat history? Any football season is long and tough, and for Fremantle, they did all the work to go undefeated and then be two wins away from a premiership that few externally saw coming. Internally the belief was clearly through the roof, but now the challenge is getting them back to that position again. They should have the hunger which is a great tick, but how will other clubs adapt to their style that saw their success ultimately unrewarded by season’s end?

FINAL WORD

Fremantle should be considered one of, if not the team to beat. Adelaide, North Melbourne and Carlton in particular all have claims to be a title contender, but the Dockers have not lost since 2019, and have such a well-balanced team that has lost little, but gained some superb young talents. Expect the purple army to be in full force this season, because it would be a shock not to see Fremantle at the pointy end of the season.

2021 AFLW Preview: Collingwood Magpies

COLLINGWOOD is on a mission to go deeper in the AFL Women’s finals after a promising first season under a new head coach, bouncing back from a last placed finish in 2019.

2020 RECAP

After a disastrous 2019 season which saw the club handed the wooden spoon with just one victory to their name, new coach Steve Symonds turned it around in 2020 for the black and white to play finals for the first time. Brianna Davey lived up to all expectations crossing from arch rivals Carlton, having an impact throughout the season, while Jaimee Lambert had an unbelievable season to win the club best and fairest. Had in-form defender Ash Brazill not torn her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) against Melbourne, it is not against the realms of possibility to suggest Collingwood could have gone even deeper than falling to North Melbourne by a kick in the elimination finals.

NEW FACES

The Magpies lost a couple of key players over the off-season, particularly Sarah D’Arcy and Sarah Dargan who both headed to Richmond, while Aliesha Newman (Melbourne) and Abbey Green (North Melbourne) came to the club. Whilst not like-for-like, the Magpies targeted size and speed in the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft. Father-daughter selection, Tarni Brown, and Joanna Lin provide the outside class and skill, while Amelia Velardo, Abbi Moloney and Bella Smith add height to the side. Talented sports star Imogen Purcell also joined the club to add natural athleticism to the mix.

ONE TO WATCH IN 2021

There are plenty to keep an eye on, but perhaps none more exciting than the versatile Chloe Molloy. Expected to return forward like she did in her junior days and in her return season off a long-term injury in 2020, Molloy will be better for the run last season and expected to continue her form from her debut season. Now four preseasons in at the Magpies, the high X-factor marking talent has all the ability to tear games apart and will be crucial in hitting the scoreboard regularly.

WHY THEY CAN WIN IT

The Magpies showed rapid development from 2019 to 2020, even with the loss of Brazill midway through the season, and Molloy returning from injury having missed so much football. The likes of Sharni Layton, Sarah Rowe, Mikala Cann and Alana Porter all made huge strides last season, and throw in career-best seasons from experienced duos of Brittany Bonnici and Steph Chiocci, it is little wonder why the Magpies could get it done.

QUESTION MARK

Consistency is the big question mark for the Magpies in 2021. Their best was by far good enough to challenge the best sides, as shown by their upset of Carlton, and pushing Fremantle and North Melbourne all the way in finals. Unfortunately it was more lapses within games that cost them, having had chances to win those close ones, and then having the disappointing outing against Melbourne in Round 4. If they can iron out that consistency, particularly four quarter consistency, then they are a side to watch this season.

FINAL WORD

Collingwood is more than capable of challenging the big sides in 2021, and while D’Arcy in particular will be a massive loss for the black and white, they have recruited and drafted well, and will hopefully be at full strength again for a finals tilt.

Picture credit: Kelly Defina/Getty Images

2021 AFLW 10 under 10 to watch: #1 Nina Morrison

IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We conclude our countdown with our top player, Geelong’s Nina Morrison.

The top two players in our 2021 AFL Women’s 10 under 10 to watch list were clearly the standouts of the eligible talents. Both North Melbourne’s Ash Riddell and Geelong’s Morrison have the potential to be top 10 players in the competition if they live up to their potential. Unfortunately like most players in this list, injury has just impacted them thus far over their short careers, and only had one full healthy season.

For Morrison, the first pick in the 2018 AFL Women’s Draft and inaugural selection at the draft by expansion club Geelong, she had a starring debut against Collingwood in Round 1 of the 2019 season. She picked up a Rising Star nomination thanks to a whopping 22 disposals, eight tackles and kicking the match-winning behind in a clear best on ground effort.

Then it was like a nightmare that no one saw coming. The incredibly talented Morrison was gone for the year, having ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at training during the week without playing another game. It meant the player many had already dubbed as the Rising Star winner and next big thing, would need to wait another 12 months before truly making a sustained impact on the competition.

While her 2020 season was very good – she played all six games – the nightmare reoccured again, with the talented midfielder doing her second ACL in the final match of the season. It was terribly bad luck for such a determined and focused young player, but instead the teenager went to work on recovering again, and just last month, she was back at full speed running as she “eyed an early return” according to coach Paul Hood in the Geelong Advertiser.

Erin Phillips managed to return in 12 months without complication, and whilst Geelong are likely to be overly cautious with the teenager given her age and having done it a second time in 12 months, there is little doubt Morrison will leave anything out there to try and get back.

It might be slightly questionable Morrison being at the top of this list if she cannot get back on the park, but on talent alone, you have to admire what she is capable of, and when she does return – which many hope is sooner rather than later – it will only be good news for everyone involved.

2021 AFLW 10 under 10 to watch: #2 Ash Riddell

IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We continue the countdown at number two with North Melbourne’s Ash Riddell.

It is always satisfying when researching the list and finding a star player that qualifies by just one game. North Melbourne’s Riddell is just that, having played nine games since coming to the club in 2019. Unfortunately after a star debut in Round 1 of that season, Riddell only managed a part game in her second before missing the rest of the season with an ankle injury.

In case anyone had forgotten just how good Riddell was in the 2019 debut, she had a starring season, averaging 21.3 disposals, 3.3 marks, 4.6 tackles and 3.9 inside 50s, finding her place in North Melbourne’s star-studded midfield. Having finished third in North Melbourne’s best and fairest behind Jasmine Garner and Emma Kearney, Riddell showed she belonged at the top level, having missed out when she was in her teenage years. Instead, it took until she was 22 for her to be picked up by North Melbourne.

She has not wasted any time since then, and while she had that interrupted debut season, her 2020 season was superb and she ranked 11th overall in the Draft Central Top 50 Rankings for the season. Given that was effectively her first full season, it is exciting to think of what she is capable of in 2021 and beyond, and just how far she can reach having been overlooked for a number of seasons prior to North Melbourne coming into the league.

A natural ball winner, Riddell showed time and time again she was far too good for state league level, winning ridiculous amounts of disposals at VFL Women’s level, and being a hardnut at the contest, whilst spreading well and creating plays down the field. A real consistent player across the board, Riddell will only be strengthened by the return of Jess Duffin as North Melbourne remains a huge contender for the AFL Women’s flag.

Unlike most players on this list, Riddell could no longer fall into the category of “underrated”, and is easily amongst the Top 20 talents in the league on her day, and will be looking to continue her 2020 form into 2021.

Picture credit: AFL Women’s

2021 AFLW 10 under 10 to watch: #3 Darcy Guttridge

IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We continue the countdown at number three with St Kilda’s Darcy Guttridge.

When thinking about players who have played less than 10 AFL Women’s games, there was a certain double-take when it came to the third ranked player on the list. St Kilda’s Guttridge crossed to the expansion club from Collingwood over the previous off-season, where she played five games in the red, black and white. It was two more than her three matches in the black and white, having had a first year curtailed by injury in 2018.

Having now played three seasons, Guttridge has only managed the eight games, but with a clean run at it, expect the talented utility to add plenty more over time. Having made her debut in Round 5, 2019 and playing the remaining matches for the Magpies before opting to join the Saints, Guttridge played up forward after being a defender for her junior career.

Coming out of Gippsland Power where the Magpies picked her up with selection nine in the 2017 AFL Women’s National Draft, Guttridge has the versatility to play anywhere as she showed with both St Kilda and in the VFL Women’s. What makes Guttridge such a valuable player is her run and dare to take the game on, using the ball well, and having the composure to pick out targets down the field.

A nature leader having captained her club and state sides at junior level, Guttridge is one player that has so much upside and could become one of the top players in the competition. A key cog in St Kilda’s line-up, given the Saints have so much talent up forward, the ex-Power player could slot in off half-back or along a wing and use her precision skills to deliver cleanly inside 50. The fact she got forward and booted two goals for the Saints last season further shows off her versatility.

While she is still adapting to the elite level after injury issues early on in her career, Guttridge is one of those underrated players who could be a huge surprise packet in 2021 with her second consecutive full preseason behind her.

Picture credit: St Kilda AFLW

2021 AFLW 10 under 10 to watch: #4 Chloe Scheer

IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We continue the countdown at number four with Adelaide’s Chloe Scheer.

The talented forward is the second Crow in our countdown, following on from midfield sensation, Nikki Gore at number seven. Scheer averages a goal a game having booted eight in as many matches, all of which came in the 2019 AFL Women’s season. Unfortunately for Scheer, her ninth game was put on hold after injuring her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the 2019 AFL Women’s Grand Final.

Whilst many remember Erin Phillips‘ ACL injury in that match, Scheer also went down in a bittersweet day for the Crows where they claimed their second flag by defeating Carlton, but lost two unbelievable players to long-term injuries. Scheer is one to watch in 2021, having signed a two-year contract following the 2019 season.

Unfortunately for Scheer, the ACL tear was not the first ACL she had suffered, having done her knee late in the 2017 season. That year she was one of North Adelaide’s best players throughout the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s, and was named in the initial AFL Women’s Under 18s All-Australian squad.

The injury delayed her journey to the AFL, with the teenager then set to miss the 2018 season. Instead being a one-club state, the Crows waited a year for Scheer to recover, then picked her up with selection 37 in the 2018 AFL Women’s National Draft. She rewarded them with a great 2019 season prior to injury striking, and will be hoping to pick up where she left off.

While two ACL injuries is always a cause for concern – on opposite knees – Scheer has the determination and resilience to bounce back and play a crucial role in 2021. She returned to local football last year with Payneham Norwood Union to get match fitness in ahead of the AFL Women’s season this year. Now just under two years since she injured her knee, Scheer is ready to carry on from where she left off and add to her eight games.

A known high-flyer with goal sense and X-factor, Scheer is one of a number of talented Crows who will make their front six the most exciting in the league, and everyone will be hoping the talented youngster can get a clean run at an AFL Women’s career.

Picture credit: Adelaide Crows

2021 AFLW 10 under 10 to watch: #5 Nat Grider

IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We continue the countdown at number five with Brisbane’s Nat Grider.

The Lions’ young gun is the second Brisbane player in the list, following on from Jade Ellenger at number 10. Grider has played the maximum games to qualify for the 10 under 10, with nine matches in her two seasons. Playing off half-back and through the midfield, the 171cm prospect made her debut back in Round 4, 2019 against the Western Bulldogs after being selected with Pick 22 in the 2018 AFL Women’s National Draft.

Grider entered the league as an All-Australian representative and Queensland state captain. After two games in her debut season, Grider really stepped up in 2020, playing all seven matches and becoming a mainstay in a Lions outfit brimming with great young talent. She has quite the junior accolades having won the Rising Star Award and Team of the Year in the Queensland Australian Football League (QAFL) Women’s competition in 2018, and earned back-to-back Team of the Year honours the following season.

In her seven games, Grider averaged 8.1 disposals, 1.0 marks, 2.9 tackles and crucially, 4.9 intercept possessions. She became a crucial cog in the Lions’ back six, ranking second overall in that statistic behind All-Australian star full-back, Kate Lutkins. Grider’s impact was profound for her side, joining Lutkins and Emily Bates as her side’s top valued players, nominated for the 2020 AFL Women’s Players’ Association MVP Award.

While unlike many on the list that might have not had as many chances as they would have liked to-date, Grider has taken her chances but will look to go even further in 2021. Able to still make this list, expect Grider to be one of the first picked to start the new season, and provide plenty of run out of defence. She is a reliable player with natural leadership traits, and a special talent who will continue to improve.

The Lions might still be building towards something special as a young unit, but development is key and the likes of Grider will drive the next generation as they look to go one better than their efforts in 2017 and 2018.

Picture: Brisbane Women’s

2021 AFLW 10 under 10 to watch: #6 Rene Caris

IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We continue the countdown at number six with Geelong’s Rene Caris.

The Cats’ ruck has played four games in two seasons, being a member of the foundation squad in 2019, having been picked up with selection 35 in the 2018 AFL Women’s National Draft. The 184cm tall – who has now been joined at the elite level by her sister Maggie – made her debut in Round 5 of the 2019 season and played one additional game in that year, before doubling her career games tally with another two games in 2020.

Playing alongside experienced ruck Aasta O’Connor – who oversaw Caris’ development through the AFL Women’s Academy – the former Greater Western Victoria (GWV) Rebels’ talent is expected to make great strides in 2021 and spend more minutes through the ruck, and gradually transition into the role full-time over the coming seasons as the 33-year-old O’Connor rounds out a decorated career.

Whilst Caris is far from alone in terms of talent that has played under 10 games for the Cats, the ruck has an obvious opportunity and role that could be filled, learning from the best when it comes to youth development. O’Connor has overseen plenty of star youngsters coming through the pathway, and to get additional one-on-one coaching at the elite level will only make the 21-year-old all the more ready to have a long-term impact on the game.

Whilst Caris will turn 22 during the season – having been 19 when she was selected in 2018 – rucks always take longer to develop when taking on bigger bodies. As has been the case in her family with sister Maggie, Caris is equally talented at netball, but is firmly focused on the oblong ball game.

Despite only playing the two games last season, Caris averaged 11.5 hitouts to go with 2.5 rebounds and 5.0 disposals, showing an innate ability to run both ways and get back into defence to help out. Half of her disposals were rebounds, and with two-way running such an important trait for rucks, Caris has plenty of potential to go a long way. When she can begin hitting the scoreboard regularly playing a permanent role in the side, she will be a dual threat.

Picture credit: Geelong FC

2021 AFLW 10 under 10 to watch: #7 Nikki Gore

IN a unique series for the lead-up to the 2021 AFL Women’s season, Draft Central will look at 10 players who have played under 10 games to watch this year. Whilst it would be easy to pick those who finished high in last year’s Rising Star, or top picks this year, we have opted to look at players who have been around at least two seasons but have only managed to play nine games or less. We continue the countdown at number seven with Adelaide’s Nikki Gore.

Being a one-club state and the most successful club in the AFL Women’s history, there are plenty of Adelaide talents yet to really stamp their authority at the elite level. The club is brimming with depth, more so than just about any other club, and it is especially difficult to crack into the midfield of the Crows, with so much experience rolling through there. For recently turned 20-year-old Gore, the 164cm midfielder is one who could really make the transition from prospective talent into star quality.

The eighth selection in the 2018 AFL Women’s National Draft made her debut in Round 6 of the 2019 season, and has managed seven games in her two seasons, booting two goals. Having emerged through the South Australian pathway – playing in a premiership with Christies Beach and then back-to-back flags at South Adelaide – the ball magnet is no stranger to success. It has been Adelaide’s success that has kept the talent biding her time in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) Women’s competition.

Gore is a huge tackler which matches her offensive attributes, not afraid to throw herself at the contest and win the hardball, as well as spread to the outside and use her unbelievable pace to burst away from congestion. Having only played the one game in the Crows’ second premiership season of 2019, Gore started to establish herself in the AFL Women’s side more often, earning six games in 2020, where she averaged the 6.5 disposals.

Her preferred role is on the inside, but when the likes of Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff are there, it makes it difficult to have permanent minutes onball. However with Erin Phillips returning to have a proper full season, the likes of Gore playing through the midfield allows the talented Phillips – and players such as Eloise Jones who can play midfield – to play forward and use their strength overhead to dominate opposition defenders.

Whilst South Adelaide fell short of the flag in 2020, Gore was a key contributor to the side, particularly once the competition resumed later in the season, and the midfielder never took a backwards step. With the youth at the Crows continually growing – now including South Adelaide teammates such as Hannah Munyard and Teah Charlton – Adelaide is a huge chance to win its third flag, and the likes of Gore stepping up will only help achieve that goal.