Category: AFLW National Championships

Q&A: Ebony Peterson (Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Queensland)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last week, we head back to the pre-season where we chatted to a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Taylah Melki chatted with Queensland’s Ebony Peterson at the state testing day hosted by Rookie Me.

Q&A:

 

TM: How did you get into football, Ebony?

EP: “One of my school friends needed players for their club team, so I thought I’d go a long and try out and now I’m here.”

 

How long ago was that?

“That was about four-five years ago.”

 

What is it that has kept you in the game for those years?

“Definitely the people and the coaches as well, they’re a really good help. And it’s fun, it’s just fun.”

 

What’s the most fun part?

“It’s what, 16 against 16 and you just go ham.”

 

You mentioned the coaches, how much of an influence have they had on your development?

“Oh, heaps. They just know what they’re talking about and with anything, you can ask them whatever you need and they’ll give you the right answer.”

 

How’s the preseason been going?

“Very well actually. No injuries, no setbacks yet.”

 

Are there any particular areas you’re hoping to improve on this year?

“Just knowing how I play more. Understanding the positions and improving in every position.”

 

Is there an area you’re particularly strong in?

“I think I’m an alright leader. I can talk, tell everyone what they need to do.”

 

What are you hoping to get out of this season?

“To improve as a footballer, definitely. And my knowledge of the game.”

 

What’s it like being involved with the Gold Coast SUNS Academy?

“It’s a good opportunity. The facilities are pretty good so we are in a good position, especially because how girls footy is growing. It’s really good for us to be (here).”

 

Do you find there’s any difference between playing with the Academy and at club level?

“It’s actually very different. We’ve been training academy since November and when we got back to club, we could see the difference from the academy girls to the club girls. It’s boosted our performance levels majorly.”

 

Have you got any role models you look up to?

Melissa Hickey. She’s got very good muscles… you’ve got to see a photo of her.”

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Zimmorlei Farquharson (Brisbane Lions Academy/Queensland)

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 Brisbane Lions Academy high flyer, Zimmorlei Farquharson.

Zimmorlei Farquharson (Brisbane Lions Academy/Queensland)

Height: 172cm
Position: Forward
Strengths: Athleticism, aerial ability, X-factor, clean hands, tackling pressure

2019 AFLW U18 Championships stats: 6.0 disposals | 1.3 marks | 5.0 tackles | 1.0 inside 50s | 2 goals

There are plenty of Australian rules players past and present who people proverbially say they would come to watch. Players that can do the unthinkable or those who just consistently look dangerous with ball-in-hand, and unpredictable to the opposition as to what happens next. These players often have athleticism or footy smarts that opposition players are wary of. That is exactly the case with Queensland forward, Zimmorlei Farquharson.

Ignore the stat line from last year’s AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, because like so many excitement machines, statistics do not do justice to the impact that players can have on a match. Having already played multiple national championships, Farquharson has risen through the ranks and was identified as a special talent some years ago. Her aerial ability and defensive pressure is what catches the eye, but she just has that nous to do something special.

At 172cm, Farquharson is that in between height and has the skills that make her too athletic for the taller players, but strong enough in the air and at ground level to make her hard to match up on for the smaller players. So what makes her a match winner?

Rewind to the 2018 AFL Women’s Championships where Queensland was facing off against Vic Metro and a side that contained the likes of Madison Prespakis, Georgia Patrikios and Gabby Newton. The most unlikely situation found the Sunshine State going toe-for-toe with the undefeated Metro team for the most of the match. Queensland had never beaten Metro in a championships clash, but no one told Farquharson whose two last quarter goals – including a miracle from the boundary – helped her state to the most unlikeliest of wins.

Her 2018 championships campaign was a breakout tournament for her, and while her 2019 one might have been more inconsistent, she still showed the signs of being such a damaging prospect inside 50. She also displayed that she could play further up the ground if required, but more importantly, the fact that she was willing to get her hands dirty. Farquharson laid five tackles a game at the 2019 championships,

So just how athletic is the talented footballer? She clocked a 20m sprint time that was 0.09 seconds faster than anyone else, and an agility test time .30 faster than the next best. Both times were considered elite, and so when it comes to movement, she is among the very best.

If the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships go ahead at some stage, Farquharson is one to watch as a highlight machine.

Q&A: Lilly Pearce (Gold Coast SUNS Academy/Queensland)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last week, we head back to the pre-season where we chatted to a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Taylah Melki chatted with Queensland’s Lilly Pearce at the state testing day hosted by Rookie Me.

Pearce hails from a high-level athletics background, and initially came into football as a means to get fit upon recovering from a back injury. The top-ager has not looked back since and is now part of the Gold Coast SUNS Academy having played just two full seasons of Australian rules football. An athlete who thrives on being busy, Pearce certainly has a lot on her plate in 2020; juggling academy commitments, club football, and her Year 12 studies.

Q&A:

 

TM: Lilly, how did you get into footy?

LP: “I did athletics for 10 years and I got a back injury. So I was off for about two years and then I joined up at my local (Australian rules football) club to get fit because there’s heaps of running involved. I haven’t gone back to athletics since.”

 

What kind of events were you doing in athletics?

“I was doing heptathlons at a national level. Nationals was two years ago, my last one. I haven’t had time to go back, I would like to but I’ve been so busy with academy training and club (football) that I haven’t had time to go back yet.”

 

What was it like being at nationals?

“I’ve competed at nationals since I was 10. It’s just an amazing experience, just getting to that level and making new friends from different states, I think that’s really amazing. It’s really shaped a lot of who I am today, I believe. Obviously travelling with my mum, it’s been great, I loved doing athletics.”

 

Have you been able to transfer some of the skills required in athletics to football?

“Athletics is an individual sport and it’s such a different atmosphere to football. It’s like training seven events individually and it’s so structured; you go to training, you know you’re there to do your training, then you leave and you rest and train the next day. I live and breathe spot, I feel like any rest day is just a step back… I love keeping busy so that’s good.”

 

How have you found being part of the Gold Coast SUNS Academy?

“I’m in year 12 this year and thinking about it stresses me out because I have academy three times a week, club two times a week, gym every other day, and gamedays on Sunday. And I have a job. So I feel like every single day of the week I go from one (to the other) and it takes me an hour and 10 minutes to get to training. It’s kind of full-on but I know what I’ve got to do and I’m keen for it to become a routine. I think that’s going to be exciting.”

 

How do you manage it all and the stress involved?

“I couldn’t tell you. I think I just forget about it when I’m on the field or in the gym. I thrive off keeping busy and I feel like I’ll come home and I’ll do my homework and if I keep up to date with everything, then I’ll be fine.”

 

What are you hoping to get out of 2020?

“Probably the experience, mostly. I’ve only been (playing football) for two years so I think mainly the experience.”

 

Are there any particular areas you’re looking to improve on?

“I’d like to be better at marking. I broke my finger in my first season and it’s been on my mind. I haven’t gotten past it.”

 

How’s the injury now, did you recover well?

“I had surgery on it and was off for the whole first season – I did it in the second game. So it’s my third year of (football) but my second season. But yeah, I think it’s just a mental barrier that I think I need to overcome and hopefully I can do that this year.”

 

On the flip-side, what do you see as some of your strengths?

“Probably general fitness. Coming from an athletics background and obviously I train every day, I feel comfortable with how I am in the fitness area. Obviously there’s always room to improve but I don’t struggle as much as I could.”

 

You mentioned before that your mum was a big part of your athletics life, has that been the same with football?

“Definitely. She’s the one who pushes me and if I feel like I can’t do it, she’ll make me do it, then I feel accomplished afterwards. She’s been an amazing role model for me.”

 

Are there any other role models you look up to at the moment?

“I think there are some amazing influencers. Not really any that I really aspire to be like, I think it’s all about making a name for yourself and having your own brand. I think that definitely other people do influence that.”

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

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 Northern Knights’ Ellie McKenzie, a dynamic midfielder/forward with an incredibly high ceiling.

Ellie McKenzie (Northern Knights)

Height: 173cm
Position: Midfielder/Forward
Strengths: Clean hands, high marking, scoreboard impact, decision making, run-and-carry

2020 NAB League Stats: 3 games | 19 disposals | 5 marks | 2.3 tackles | 4.6 inside 50s | 0.3 goals (1)

2019 NAB League Stats: 10 games | 15 disposals | 3 marks | 2.4 tackles | 3.4 inside 50s | 0.7 goals (7)

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 2 games | 16 disposals | 2.5 marks | 3.5 tackles | 4 clearances | 1.5 inside 50s | 1 rebound 50

Northern Knights co-captain Ellie McKenzie has long been billed as one of her region’s top prospects after breaking into the side as a bottom-ager in 2018. Since her three-goal debut, McKenzie has developed into more than just a mainstay for the Knights, proving her worth as a game-changing figure over the past three seasons.

The 173cm midfielder/forward stood out last year even among a raft of top-age stars in Northern’s undefeated premiership side, catching the eye with high-flying marks inside forward 50, and tearing up the outside once employed further afield. That same form was transferred into the Under 18 National Championships, where McKenzie would feature thrice for the again, undefeated Vic Metro team.

Like many players in the elite category, McKenzie has a vast array of strengths which are adaptable to multiple positions. When stationed up forward, her clean hands and sizeable leap give her an edge aerially, with smarts around goal boding well for her damaging scoreboard impact.

But like many chasers have learned, McKenzie can also hurt the opposition with her run-and-carry on the outside. She showed as much in a couple of memorable moments throughout 2019, tearing up a wing with multiple bounces against Queensland while on representative duties, and capturing the crowd’s attention on NAB League grand final day with a similar feat.

For all the frills in her game, McKenzie also excels in the fundamentals. While she tends to favour her stronger left side when disposing by foot, McKenzie is a sound decision maker and can gain some serious meterage with her penetrating boot. Her clean hands have also served her well in congestion having picked up more midfield minutes, allowing her to be there and gone in a split second.

The sister of former North Melbourne rookie, Tom, McKenzie is developing a similar ball winning capacity, and has become one of her side’s premier extractors as a top-ager. Alongside co-captain Jess Fitzgerald, McKenzie turned the game against Dandenong around in quick time this season, as both players collected 28 disposals apiece.

It was that kind of form which saw the 17-year-old lead our DC Medal count after the first and only three NAB League Girls rounds in 2020, tied with Dandenong star Tyanna Smith. Along with the two aforementioned prospects, McKenzie is one of the leading candidates to be taken first off the board come draft time.

Q&A: Lucy Pengelly (Aspley/Queensland)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last week, we head back to the pre-season where we chatted to a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Taylah Melki chatted with Queensland’s Lucy Pengelly at the state testing day hosted by Rookie Me.

A product of the Aspley junior ranks, Pengelly’s rate of development has been exceptional as a relative newcomer to the sport. The Brisbane Lions Academy member took out the Hornets’ senior QWAFL best and fairest award in 2019, her debut season, pointing toward a bright future in the game.

Q&A:

TM: Lucy, how did you get into Australian rules football?

LP: “I actually started pretty late, through high school. “I started playing through the school team, then my friend was like ‘You should just come join club (football)’. “She brought me to club, then I just fell in love with it, started playing and have been playing ever since then.”

 

What is it about footy that you’ve fallen in love with?

“I think it’s just something different to what other people do every day. “It’s a good outlet for all the stress and just getting around, having a big team is also really good because you make a lot of friends.”

 

And you started playing around the latter half of high school?

“Yeah, it was about Grade 9 that I started playing.”

 

Were you playing any other sports before that?

“I was actually a dancer before that.”

 

That’s a big change, how have you found it?

“Honestly, it wasn’t as hard because I’ve always loved sport and I’ve just always tried lots of different sports.

“But dancing was my main sport, then it changed to AFL and I just loved it straight away because it’s just a really different thing, but I found that dancing also helped me with things like flexibility and the strength that you need for certain things like kicking in AFL.”

 

How did you adapt to the physicality and contact?

“At first I think I was a little bit scared about it but as soon as I started playing, it just felt natural to me.”

 

Is there a particular area you think you’re really strong in?

“I think my perseverance in the game is pretty good. “I just like to keep going, no matter if we’re losing or winning I always want to put in my best effort and no matter what the outcome is, I just want to know that I’ve tried my best.”

 

Is there a particular area of your game that you’re looking to strengthen this season?

“I’m really hoping to just strengthen my kicking and my marking, so just the little skills. Build on those, and a bit more knowledge of the game as well. “Because I’m a pretty new player I’m just hoping to build some more knowledge.”

 

And how are you finding the Brisbane Lions Academy?

“I’m loving it. “It’s been really good for my personal development and also to make friends, it’s been really good.”

 

How do you go about balancing club football, the Academy, your studies and everything else?

“It takes a bit of effort to balance but you’ve just got to make sure you communicate with lots of people and communicate with the coaches. “They’ll tell you (where) you need to be at, and what you can afford to miss.

“It’s been a bit of an issue since I’m starting uni and have also started working but I’ve managed to sort it out now I think.”

 

What are you studying at uni?

“I’m studying sports and exercise science.”

 

And how’s the preseason been for you?

“It’s been really fun. “I’ve done all of my preseason mostly with the Academy because club (training) is on the same nights as the Academy. “But it’s been good, I’m happy with where I’m at, at the moment and hopefully I can keep building on it throughout the year.”

 

Do you find there’s a difference between what you do at the Academy and at club level?

“Not as much as I noticed between Under 17s girls and the Academy but with the Women’s football, it’s kind of on the same level.

“Academy is just a bit more individualised, you always have the coaches coming up and telling you what you need to work on. “It’s good to have a bit of both, it’s just two different teams and two different environments.”

Q&A: Tahlia Mead (Maroochydore/Queensland)

AS the postponement of all seasons commenced over the last week, we head back to the preseason a month earlier where we chatted to a number of athletes across the country. In a special Question and Answer (Q&A) feature, Draft Central‘s Taylah Melki chatted with Queensland’s Tahlia Mead at the state testing day hosted by Rookie Me.

Q&A:


MELKI: How did you get into footy, Tahlia?

MEAD: “It was kind of an accident to be honest. I wanted to go to a high school and the only way I could get in was through a scholarship or through an academy and it was either dancing or AFL. So I thought ‘Oh, AFL is close to touch football’ – I come from a touch footy background so I tried it, was the only girl in the class and yeah, just picked it up from there and just loved it.”

How have you found the transition from touch to Australian rules football?

“It was good, it was hard because obviously they’re two different sports. “But I used my speed from touch and transitioned to AFL so it was good, I liked it.”

What is it that you love about footy?

“Just the atmosphere. “It’s so unpredictable and you’ve got to adapt to everything and you just never know what’s going to happen.”

How’s the pre-season been?

“I mean, it’s always hard to try and get into fitness and running again but it’s been good. “You definitely have to work hard for it.

Is there a particular area that you feel you’re really strong in?

“Probably speed, running around.”

Is there an area you’re hoping to improve on?

“Yeah, there’s always room for improvement in everything but I feel like skills, I need to start to perfect (them) and everything needs to be sharp.”

And what are you hoping to get out of the season?

“I’m hoping to make the state team.”

What would it mean for you to make the state team?

“It would mean a lot. “It would be an ultimate goal.”

Have you had any particular footballing inspiration or are there any athletes you aspire to?

Tayla Harris. “I think she’s a big influencer, “I’d like to be like her and move up there.”

Is there a particular position you’d like to play?

“Midfield, I’d like to be around the ball.”

Exciting Farquharson leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of dream

IF you have caught any action from the last two AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships, chances a high-flying Queenslander in a helmet might have caught your eye. Zimmorlei Farquharson played her first championships at 15-years-old – three years ago – and is now entering her top-age draft year as one to watch from the northern state. Much like Roxy Roux at the 2019 championships, Farquharson will be the one that spectators turn to for something special, particularly in the air.

My strength is my run-and-carry and my marks in the air,” Farquharson said. “When I was younger I did athletics too, I did a lot of running and that can be adapted to any sport so I was like ‘I’ll take it up in AFL and see what I can do with that’ when I was younger. “Sprints were my go-to thing, now (it’s) just running, getting the ball and carrying.”

The 172cm forward has no trouble using her athletic gifts to her advantage, but her natural instincts for the football have come over time. Farquharson said she has tried – and is still trying – a number of other sports for the enjoyment of running around with friends.

“Originally, when I was younger – around five, six, seven – I was doing soccer,” she said. “When I turned eight, Auskick came along and my brother went for it and because I was the little sister I looked up to him and I thought I’d go for it (too). “Ever since then I’ve been playing until now. I play (still) other sports. “I play basketball, volleyball and netball for school. “But my Mum wanted me to start up athletics again but the AFL just seems to be the go-to every time because it always clashes with other sports.”

Farquharson said the atmosphere was the reason for choosing football every time when there was a clash, and representing her state was a huge buzz.

It’s just more entertaining and fun, being around people from different cultures and backgrounds and having the same perseverance and creativity in the game inspires me to get into the game more,” she said. “Representing Queensland means a lot. “Because I was born in the state, I live and breathe the state, and show what Queensland was really made for – being tough and really being a team sportsperson.”

Naturally by juggling so many outside commitments, it has been tough for the teenager, and she has had to negotiate with all those around her – who of course support her decision to chase her AFL Women’s dream.

It’s very difficult, but last year I made the decision to move schools and go to a boarding school that had AFL opportunities for me to be in the game more,” Farquharson said. “They helped me with my school work and gave me time for school, AFL and different things and they always had my wellbeing first before AFL so if I felt like it was too much for me I would just step back from footy and just take a moment to just breathe in what I’m doing and then start over. (My time is) usually all taken up by sports and travel. “My days are; Monday to Friday I go to boarding school, Friday afternoon I travel back home and do all my boarding school stuff and then I have footy on Saturday and Sunday. “Then on Monday at 6:30am I travel back to school. “It’s tiring but it’s all worth it, doing school, getting an education and doing sport with it.”

Despite her own personal abilities to juggle commitments, the Queenslander admitted she could not have done anything without the support of her family.

My family is really supportive of what I do and they always have my back 24/7,” Farquharson said. “They always give me a call or text message to see how I’m going and especially because they take me to football training. “I’m three hours (away) from where we train and I’m two hours from school where I train so them being really committed to me and me being committed to them, always telling them what’s going on in footy and my personal life is really helping them help me.”

Already a member of the AFL Women’s National Academy having come through the program, Farquharson has aimed to improve her work ethic and staying in the contest longer rather than “being an observer”. Hailing from a town a few hours west of Brisbane, she understands the importance of sport within community and how it keeps everyone engaged.

“There was a bunch (of players) in Dalby (home town),” Farquharson said. “But since I moved to Toowoomba there’s so many different cultures and races and just a lot of girls playing footy and engaging. “Even though there’s only small clubs there, the girls really do try to engage and get into footy and really help out the community in any way, shape or form to spread the word out and come be a collective group in sport.”

Now in her draft year, Farquharson has a clear, ultimate goal – with an added desire for returning the favour.

Getting drafted,” she said. “If I get drafted, (I want to) to inspire younger girls like me who are from rural areas to really try and engage with their sport and not give up just because you live so far away. “And also different cultures, being Papua-New-Guinean-Australian to really try and get other cultures involved in the sport, not just one particular group.”

Levi always learning as she targets elite level

NEW to the Australian rules football code, Queensland talent Maddison Levi has made an impression in a short amount of time. Only a couple of years ago she had never played before, but opted to give the sport and a go and has gone from strength to strength since. A member of the AFL Women’s National Academy for 2020, Levi has plenty of upside at 177cm, and will play out her top-age year this year. But football has not always been on the agenda.

“Two years ago our school team was short on numbers for our AFL team and being in the PEex (Physical Education Extension) program I put my hand up just to fill in and started from there,” Levi said. “Then last year I was like ‘I really enjoy this sport’ so then I joined Burleigh Bombers and it’s just taken off from there, to the SUNS Academy and now through to Queensland.”

Levi knew the step up from casually playing for her school to being on track through the elite pathway would be a challenge, but instead of getting ahead of herself, she tried to embrace as much knowledge as she could from more experienced players.

It’s been a major learning experience,” Levi said at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships last year. “There’s a lot of room for improvement and as I’m still a bottom-ager. “Learning from all the older girls has been a massive eye-opener and developer.”

Coming from a rugby background, there were some similarities, but also a number of changes that had to be made to adapt to the new sport, though Levi has made it work.

“I think they both work hand-in-hand,” Levi said. “The tackling from rugby made me a stronger player in AFL. “And the ball skills you need from rugby, but just the kicking and the little finer skills are a bit different.”

The choice to switch from rugby to football was not an easy one, but Levi said she enjoys the ability to run off and take the game on, with greater freedom from game-to-game. Her attack on the football is one of her self-proclaimed strengths, while the fine turning of that skill transition from rugby to football is still an area of improvement for the teenager.

“(My strengths are) attacking the football and my efforts,” Levi said. “I believe I can contribute to the team. “Just the desperation for the football, winning it to get it out. “Definitely kicking (is an improvement), because I came from rugby, kicking has been my biggest area for improvement. “And hands, just refining the finer skills.”

Now heading into her top-age year in 2020, Levi said she was excited for everything that was to come. Speaking at the championships last year, she knew there was time on her side to continue her development, but she would not leave a stone unturned in achieving it.

That’s my goal (to go as far as I can with footy),” she said. So [2020] gives me a whole other year to improve and get ready for draft season which will be in a year’s time so hopefully, fingers crossed that’s where I’m looking to go.”

Before then, Levi will aim to run out with Queensland again at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships and gain greater experience and exposure. In 2019, she averaged 11.5 disposals and five tackles per game showing just why she has been so highly rated in her state.

It’s a massive opportunity to represent your whole state, a massive experience and definitely an honour,” she said.

Tarlinton to focus on footy in 2020

HAVING completed her Year 12 studies in 2019, Queensland ruck Lily Tarlinton has an advantage over a number of her teammates when it comes to juggling her life priorities. It certainly helps considering the amount of travel the North Queenslander has had to do over the years, and speaking to her at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships last year, you can sense she does not regret a thing.

I started playing juniors when I moved to Mackay from a smaller town when I was seven, so this is my tenth year of footy,” Tarlinton said. “I played with the boys and did all the boys (representative) programs until I was about 14, and then the girls program started coming in and I got to come down here and do all the academy and Queensland stuff. “I really like it (Academy). “We have the academy programs in Mackay but coming down here it’s on a whole other level so it’s really good that the girls especially get to go down pretty frequently and get to experience how it is down here and sort of compare ourselves and get the experience of the different level that it is down south.”

The travel was no doubt a challenge for the teenager who just turned 18 last month.

I was coming down (to state training) every couple of weeks or at one stage I was coming down every week for about three to four weeks, which I can’t complain about, it’s an amazing opportunity to be able to come down and to be awarded the opportunity to come,” Tarlinton said. “So I’m not really bothered by it, it’s just a hassle with school and everything like that but it’s really good.”

Even with her schooling last year, Tarlinton was on top of what she needed to do to keep up with her studies, while still focusing on a developing Australian rules football career.

It was a bit hard, I’m in (Year) 12 now so it’s sort of just really important to organise everything, pretty much down to the hour or minute,” Tarlinton said at the championships last year. “So yeah, you’ve just got to cut out all the unnecessary stuff and focus on what you really need to do which is school and footy and that’s just about it.”

Tarlinton has plenty of reasons to remain in football with her strong family ties to the sport getting her into it, and then making friends along the way, who have inspired her.

I fell in love with it when I was younger because I got to play with my brother, my older brother and it was something that we got to do together and we were always together when we were younger,” Tarlinton said. “And the amazing opportunities that have come from it, I just really like the game and I have always. “Definitely the older girls in the academy (are my inspiration), like the girls that have got drafted through the SUNS Academy and just all the girls I’ve gotten to learn off.”

Standing at 180cm at her bottom-age championships, Tarlington aims to use her height to her advantage, but understands she still has to build muscle and develop other parts of her game to make her a more complete player.

I’m quite tall, so I can use that a little bit, I can pick the ball up off the ground pretty well, my leading I try to use as much as I can and try to kick goals whenever I can,” Tarlinton said. “Definitely my strength and my fitness (are improvements), I just want to put that up to the next level so I can compete here. “I’d like to improve my leadership because I’ve always been the youngest one in the group, so as I’m coming up I think that’s something I need to work on and something I’d like to do.”

Her goal of improving certain areas is clear, and she will push herself to compete at the highest possible level she can obtain.

I’d like to move down south to the Gold Coast and be able to play at the highest level I can,” Tarlinton said. “Whether that’s in the QAFL and doing well or potentially looking at entering the draft, but hopefully just improving as much as I can and being the best footy player I can.”

Atmosphere the key for rugby player, Daisy D’Arcy

COMING from North Queensland, it is no surprise that growing up, Daisy D’Arcy took up rugby. Right in the heartland state of the sport, D’Arcy naturally went into that code. It was not until her mother suggested another code that was ever-growing in Queensland, particularly in the female space.

“I got into AFL two years ago,” D’Arcy said. “Back in Townsville my mum told me about this ‘come and try’ day so I thought I might go over and have a crack because I’ve played rugby before and I wanted to see if it was similar. “I enjoyed the contact side of it, so I went to that and I pretty much fell in love with it from there.”

D’Arcy might have fallen in love with the sport’s technical side, but it was the social atmosphere that kept her around, thriving on both the on-field and off-field benefits of the team sport. D’Arcy said those people you meet along the way are what makes the journey so special.

“Just the people,” she said. “It’s a great atmosphere and the teams, I dunno – when you have a love for a sport it’s pretty obvious, I just enjoyed it.”

Reliability is her self-proclaimed number one strength, while ironically strength is her main focus of improvement in order to provide greater physical support to her teammates on the field.

“My strengths I feel are being reliable,” D’Arcy said. “I feel as if I can get in a position to help support or create something. “Something I’m looking to improve on is my strength, just because I’m not as big a build. Just the strength so I can support my teammates by making either a shepherd or a tackle.”

D’Arcy is one of four top-age Queenslanders in the AFL Women’s National Academy this year, coming off a strong bottom-age year that saw her feature at the AFL Women’s Under-18 Championships. Despite coming into her draft year, D’Arcy still finds the time for both Australian rules and rugby, along with her school commitments.

I still play both,” D’Arcy said at the championships last year. “But I enjoy them both at an equal level, but there’s just something about AFL that sort of overtakes the factor of rugby.”

The North Queensland teenager admitted there was a fair bit of travelling involved to compete not only in her state, but across the country and it had been a big two years on the road and in the air. But it would not have been possible without the ongoing support of her family.

“My family would be my biggest inspiration because they know I can do better so they push me to my limits and it’s worked out pretty well so I’m thankful for that,” she said.

Now her sights are set on reaching the elite level – AFL Women’s – and while she understands it is a difficult goal to obtain – she is well on her way to making the most out of herself and her football career, at whatever level that may be.

“(My goal is to) hopefully to achieve high things like getting drafted would be amazing but just pushing to try my hardest and make teams like these which is pretty amazing for me,” D’Arcy said.