Category: AFLW National Championships

Favell’s sacrifices worth it for chance at AFL Women’s

WHEN talking about sacrifices made to play Aussie rules football, there is not much that Murray Bushrangers and Eastern Allies’ Abby Favell has not done to pursue her dream of playing AFL Women’s. 

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Abby Favell

“I started playing AFL in a primary school competition called ‘Paul Kelly Cup’ in year 5 and 6,” Favell said. “There was no outside of school competitions for girls in my area and there still isn’t today! “Once I got to high school I played in my school team, filled with girls that just wanted to give the sport a go or get out of school for a couple of days. In year 8 I was asked to go trial for CCC and was lucky enough to be selected.”

With significant road trips to and from not only games but also training, there is no denying that Favell is committed to making her dream a reality and has had a huge football journey that has led her to where she is today.

“During the pre-season and in-season, my parents drive me three hours (one-way) once or twice a week just to get to training in Wangaratta,” she said. “Playing in Melbourne meant a six-hour drive and an overnight stay which was taking a lot of time out of their lives just so that they could let me play the game that I love. “The travel for me isn’t so bad as I’m not the one driving and now with a few more girls from the Leeton area playing with the Bushies, the road trips are very eventful with weekly competitions on who could provide the best snacks. “The commitment wasn’t easy but many amazing people made it possible.”

“Football for me is just something different. “It is a game that allows me to run around with very few restrictions which is what I enjoy most. “With a lot of experience in other sports and other pathways, football has been the one that has made me look forward to going to camps and the one that has given me the best experience. I also love the bit of contact that you don’t really get in other sports.”

Like many, Favell has had her setbacks – missing out on selection and making tough decisions about other sports – but says that she has come out of it stronger, credit to her drive to continue to build her game but also fulfil her commitment to the sport.

“At the next level, trialling for NSW, everyone from my school that trialled was selected, except for my friend and I,” Favell said. “It was a setback in my football journey but it just made me stronger as I went away and trained harder to be selected in the team the next year. “After playing for NSW at the school nationals in Perth, I was certain that I wanted to play AFL.

“In 2018, I was selected through the Southern Sports Academy to play for NSW against VIC in under 16s. “The Bushrangers also asked me to play a few games for them at the end of the season. “In 2019, the Bushrangers asked me to join them for a full pre-season and I was honoured to be selected which resulted in the tough decision to give up the many other sports I was playing. “But luckily it was the right decision as this led to my selection in the NSW team and the Eastern Allies under 18 teams as a bottom-age player.”

When it comes to her footy journey, Favell’s consistency in the Murray Bushrangers saw her get a bottom-age berth at the AFL Women’s Under 18s National Championships, recording an average of 11.0 disposals, 2.7 marks and 2.7 tackles for the Eastern Allies and finding her footing against many familiar Murray faces who took the field for Vic Country. 

“Playing in the Eastern Allies team was an experience that I didn’t really know what to expect and it was one like no other,” Favell said. “The girls on my team were absolutely amazing and made the on field and off-field time fun. Playing against my Bushies team mates was actually really fun but very different.”

Playing against strong opposition from across the country, Favell proved that she could handle the pressure and used her clean hands and high work rate to impact both on and off the ball. Her efforts across both the NAB League competition and Under 18s Championships saw Favell entered into the AFL Women’s Academy, participating in training camps with the Academy squad.

“I remember the phone call and feeling very shocked,” she said. “I definitely thought that Ash (Moeller, AFL NSW/ACT Female Talent Manager) was just telling me he put my name in but nothing was certain. “The academy camp in Darwin was definitely not easy but overall it was a lot of fun and I learnt a lot that has and will help me along my football journey. “We had spent a week training with the GIANTS beforehand and that was certainly something that I am never going to forget as I was privileged to meet so many amazing players and people.”

Speaking of players Favell felt privileged to meet, GIANTS midfielder Alyce Parker has had a profound impact on the youngster, and is someone that Favell says she admires both on and off the field.

“She is an amazing player that is always working hard and trying to become better,” Favell said. “As a rural girl, she has shown me that anything is possible and it doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s the opportunities that you make. “Not only is she an absolute gun but she is also a wonderful person as she has also taken time out of her day to message me or stay in touch.”

A speedster with the ability to rotate through a number of positions – though ultimately looking most comfortable winning ball through the midfield – Favell also has clean hands to win the ball across the field and has great run and carry in transition credit to her endurance and never say die attitude.

“My strengths I feel would be my running and decision making skills,” she said. “I have been a cross-country runner and I guess a combination of all my other sports has enabled me to love to run and cover a lot of the ground… I’ve been focusing on doing the basics really well like taking the ball cleanly with my ground balls and giving it off on the up, hitting targets by both hand and foot. “I completed the NAB League training program we were all given and continued to work on the basic fundamentals, kicking, clean hands, ground balls etc along with playing netball and training with my local footy team.”

Favell said that while her commitment to her football dream has certainly impacted on her studies and other commitments, she has managed to balance it fairly well with plenty of commitment and strategies in place to ensure her schoolwork did not suffer.

“My strategy was to complete assignments and homework on the road between training or games as it was my only free time,” she said. “It was challenging when we were in the middle of nowhere with no service … but I managed to make it work and hand all my assessments in on time, just. “My family and friends mean a lot to me and they understand just as much as I do the commitment that I’ve made as I have had to miss my best friend’s birthday and my grandparents anniversary, just to name a few, due to playing or training. “I try my best to keep everyone happy but those that mean most to me understand the dedication I have made and usually save me a piece of cake.”

Verrier set for a Thunderous September

FOOTBALL has always been a constant for Peel Thunder youngster Sarah Verrier. Unlike many other potential AFLW draftees who were introduced to footy later in life, Verrier has been involved in the sport for as long as she can remember.

“I’ve been playing football since I was in Auskick,” Verrier said. “I was about five years old and have been through it all with my family, so that’s how it started off and I just kept going.”

Sporting ability runs deep in Verrier’s DNA, as her three older siblings have all made their own mark in different fields.

“My eldest brother Steven got drafted to Richmond back in 2012 and played there for a bit as a rookie,” she said. “My sister Haylee is pretty good with boxing and went to the World Championships for that, and my other brother Brendan played football locally for South Freo but was forced to stop due to concussion symptoms – he is now a personal trainer and loves doing that.”

Steven was taken by Richmond at pick 43 of the 2012 Rookie Draft and was at the club until the end of 2013. Going through the AFL experience has made him a great person for Verrier to turn to for advice.

“[Steven] has taught me to love the game,” she said. “If you want to get somewhere, you have to work for it, it’s not just going to come to you.” “He says the AFL experience is hard work, and you just have to do the work.”

Verrier’s parents have also been incredibly supportive of her AFLW dream.

“My dad has been training me and helping develop my footy, and my mum has been taking me to trainings and letting me do what I love doing,” Verrier said. “They have both been a massive support for my career and I appreciate them a lot.”

Verrier initially played the sport to engage with friends, but eventually her enjoyment of the game took over.

“At the start, the friends and social side of footy was what appealed to me, but now I just love the sport and the people around me love the sport as well,” she said.

Like a lot of other girls, Verrier was forced to play mixed competition at a young age to develop her craft. She played for the Kwinana Knights, who did not have a girls team at the time.

“I started with the boys, but had to stop when I was about 11 or 12,” she said. “I went in the girls competition from there with a move to Peel [Thunder]. “Luckily Peel had a girls team at the time!”

Verrier has stayed loyal to Peel through her whole junior career and appreciates what the club has done for her.

“Peel have helped me a lot with how I play my footy and, especially being there since I was 12, I have stuck around and a couple of the girls that I started with are still around as well,” she said. “Everyone still loves it.”

Verrier is a member of the 2020 National Women’s Academy and has previously represented her state at the AFL Women’s Under 18 Championships, an experience that she treasured.

“It was amazing,” she said. “Not a lot of people get to compete on an AFL-sized ground like Metricon, especially girls, so having that experience was great.”

With kicking ability and footy smarts being Verrier’s two biggest on-field strengths, there is an obvious position that she is suited to.

“I’d say half-back is my best position, it’s where I’m playing at the moment,” she said.

Being a Fremantle supporter for AFLW, Kiara Bowers is a major inspiration for Verrier given the physical and mental challenges she went through en route to becoming the elite player that she is today.

“She’s been through a couple of knee reconstructions and was unable to play for a while,” Verrier said. “Her pushing to get that first AFLW game thanks to her commitment through those years is why I’d say she’s my biggest inspiration.”

When asked what the future holds for Verrier and her footy, there was only one possible answer.

“AFLW is where I want to get to,” she said. “I’ve been dreaming since I was five years old and hopefully soon I’ll get there.”

At this stage, Fremantle and West Coast appear to be her options.

“I’m happy to stay in Perth and stick fat with my family, maybe later on I can start thinking about moving and that kind of stuff, but for now I would be happy to stay here,” she said.

For the next month, Verrier’s AFLW dream is on the backburner as she is focused on trying to win a premiership at Peel. Her side went into the final round fifth on the ladder, but a tight nine-point win over Claremont propelled them to second spot. This will be their first finals series in the WAFL women’s competition.

“In the last year we’ve come from the bottom of the ladder and now we’ve finished second, so we’ve been happy with the improvement and it’s been fun, just playing footy and being able to win some games,” she said. “All the girls are loving it and hopefully we can keep it going and get to the grand final.”

Peel faces minor premiers Subiaco for a chance to play in the decider. The Lions got the better of Peel three weeks ago by just over a goal, but Verrier has faith that her side can get the job done.

“We only just lost to them, so we are pretty confident going into this week’s game on Sunday afternoon.”

Verrier was among those named to test in the AFL Draft Combine, which will be held on September 30 in Western Australia.

For more AFLW news, follow Tom Cheesman on Twitter.

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

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 Geelong Falcons’ midfielder Laura Gardiner, one of the most prolific ball winners of this year’s cohort.

Laura Gardiner (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)

Height: 165cm
Position: Midfielder
Strengths: Contested ball, accumulation, tackling, consistency

2020 NAB League stats: 2 games | 34.5 disposals | 2.0 marks | 11.5 tackles | 5.0 inside 50s | 3.0 rebound 50s | 0.5 goals (1)

2019 NAB League stats: 10 games | 13.1 disposals | 1.0 marks | 5.3 tackles | 1.7 inside 50s | 0.3 rebound 50s | 0.1 goals (1)

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 3 games | 11.7 disposals | 0.3 marks | 5.3 tackles | 2.0 clearances | 2.3 inside 50s | 0.3 rebound 50s

Like many prospects heading into their top-age seasons, Gardiner has thrived upon being unleashed in a more primary role for her NAB League side. After being utilised out on a wing and rotating through the engine room across 10 outings in 2019, Gardiner has blossomed into a bona fide elite inside ball winner – albeit from what a two-game sample size suggests.

Her form last year was enough to earn a berth in the Under 18 Vic Country squad, where she ran out thrice for the ‘Big V’ alongside a raft of fellow Falcons, averaging of over 11 disposals and five tackles per game. Again, with the likes of Lucy McEvoy almost permanently running through the middle of the park, Gardiner was made to find form in other positions.

In 2020, she and Darcy Moloney found their groove as the prime movers in Geelong’s side, returning dominant individual performances against good opposition. Gardiner’s two-way work rate was evident, able to dig in and extract her own ball, while ensuring the opposition would have little time in possession with her tackling pressure.

Against Gippsland in Round 1, the 165cm prospect racked up a round-high 38 disposals and laid 14 tackles, with a goal serving as the cherry on top as the Falcons got up by 33 points. The monster performance earned Gardiner the first Draft Central Player of the Week nod for 2020, and she backed it up with 31 touches against reigning premier, Northern in Round 3.

That kind of ball winning consistency is rare, especially within 15-minute quarters. While her ability to extract and release from the stoppages is terrific, Gardiner’s value does not just stop there, with a sound work rate and added dimension of outside accumulation making her a well-rounded midfield prospect.

Should the NAB League Girls get back on the park in 2020, expect Gardiner to be at the forefront of Geelong’s forward drive once again, picking up right from where she left off.

>> NAB League Girls Rd 1 POTW: Laura Gardiner

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Alyssa Bannan (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 forward Alyssa Bannan, one of the leading key position prospects of this year’s cohort and a NAB League premiership player.

Alyssa Bannan (Northern Knights/Vic Metro)

Height: 177cm
Position: Key Position Forward
Strengths: Speed, scoreboard impact, marking/clean hands, versatility

2020 NAB League stats: 3 games | 14.3 disposals | 5.7 marks | 3.3 tackles | 2.3 inside 50s | 0.7 hitouts | 3.0 goals (9)

2019 NAB League stats: 9 games | 9.8 disposals | 2.2 marks | 3.3 tackles | 2.5 inside 50s | 1.2 hitouts | 1.7 goals (15)

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 2 games | 6.5 disposals | 3.5 marks | 1.5 tackles | 1.0 goals (2)

A position which has somewhat been lacking in dominance at the AFL Women’s level is that of the key forward. That trend could quickly change should Northern star, Bannan have a say in the matter, with her mix of aerial presence and speed at ground level making for a dangerous package at 177cm, heading into the 2020 draft.

As a middle-ager last year, Bannan was a steady contributor among the Knights’ stacked premiership side, averaging just under two goals per her nine games while also pinch-hitting in the ruck. She booted two majors from eight disposals in the Grand Final to cap off a consistent campaign, in which she also managed to bag two goals on five occasions and three goals, once. Bannan’s form was good enough to earn a berth at the Under 18 National Championships, where she claimed yet another two majors against Western Australia at Metricon Stadium.

In 2020, the athletically gifted forward has taken her game to new heights, upping her output inside 50 on all levels. Bannan has been dominant aerially with an average of 5.7 marks, credit to her height and clean hands, while continuing to utilise her speed across the ground to create diverse avenues to goal, apply forward pressure, and find more of the ball. She started the year off with a bang, booting a game-high five goals against Calder in Northern’s triumphant Round 1 Grand Final rematch, while carrying her form on to claim multiple goals in the following two outings.

Despite having assumed the role of Northern’s primary target inside attacking 50, Bannan’s ability to provide an outlet over the back and read the play as it unfolds means she isn’t merely a benefactor of the silver service her dominant side provides, but a bona fide star in her own right. Her versatility as a forward sets her apart from many other prospects over 175cm, and she is further developed than many of the raw products in the same category – certainly in her smarts and skills.

Should the NAB League Girls competition return in 2020, expect Bannan to pick up from right where she left off, as a spearhead for Northern and one of the more promising forwards of her draft class.

AFLW U18s Ones to Watch: Jessica Fitzgerald (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’ Jessica Fitzgerald, a balanced midfield prospect whose NAB League head coach described as their side’s most important player.

Jessica Fitzgerald (Northern Knights)

Height: 166cm
Position: Balanced midfielder
Strengths: Inside/outside balance, run-and-carry, leadership, defensive pressure, accumulation

2020 NAB League stats: 3 games | 18.7 disposals | 1.3 marks | 3.7 tackles | 2.6 inside 50s | 2.0 rebound 50s | 0.7 goals (2)

2019 NAB League stats: 11 games | 14.1 disposals | 1.6 marks | 5.6 tackles | 3.5 inside 50s | 1.3 rebound 50s | 0.3 goals (3)

2019 Under 18 National Championships stats: 2 games | 14.0 disposals | 1.5 marks | 1.0 clearances | 4.0 inside 50s | 0.5 goals (1)

Fitzgerald and her Northern Knights teammates have known only one way over the last 18 months – winning. In an inspired 2019 campaign, the metropolitan region went undefeated en route to its maiden NAB League Girls premiership, and Fitzgerald was a key cog in the stacked squad as a middle-ager. Her form was enough to warrant selection in the Vic Metro Under 18 side, another team which Fitzgerald helped to go undefeated last year.

The elite talent pathways are not purely results-based, but it is nice to be able to boast such a record. Arguably the more pleasing factor over the course of Fitzgerald’s junior career has been her ability to impact each side she lines up for, and her rate of development – even from a high level to begin with.

There is no questioning the drive and penetration Fitzgerald brings to the table, able to carve up opposition sides with her line-breaking speed and long boot. While she spent a touch more time on the outside and up forward in 2019, the 18-year-old has thrived in a more permanent inside midfield role thus far as a top-ager. In obtaining the primary ball winning role, Fitzgerald has adapted her pressure around the ball and creative mindset to become one of the more balanced midfielders of her cohort.

It is that exact balance that yielded the ‘most important player’ comment from Marcus Abney-Hastings after Northern’s 2019 grand final triumph, where Fitzgerald was also named best afield. The 166cm goer was her side’s leading ball winner with 15 disposals on that day alongside eventual number one draft pick, Gabby Newton, with her ability to stand up at the important moments an invaluable trait.

Talent aside, it is that kind of form which saw Fitzgerald named the Knights’ co-captain with good mate and midfield partner, Ellie McKenzie for 2020. The pair proved their leadership qualities in Round 3 of this year’s NAB League Girls season against a red-hot Dandenong side; dragging the Knights over the line after trailing at half time with 28 disposals each, while Fitzgerald also bagged two goals.

That game-breaking ability not only makes Northern a fearsome side, but puts Fitzgerald right up there in the top five discussion for her cohort. Her speed-endurance combination, sharpened finish product, and ball winning attributes make for a rare package of talent, with those immeasurable leadership qualities the cherry on top.

Q&A: Sophie Ure (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 Sophie Ure at the state testing day hosted by Rookie Me.

TM: Sophie, how did you get into football?

SU: “All my family has been involved in it and I’ve just played it since primary school, so it’s just been a big part of my life.”

 

You didn’t really have a choice?

“Well I was always there. I thought it looked fun so I may as well join in.”

 

What is it that you love about footy?

“Just the people around it. Everyone’s so genuine and nice and everyone’s there for each other, trying to make everyone better.”

 

How are you finding being part of the Gold Coast SUNS Academy?

“I’m really enjoying it. Especially over the summer, it’s helping me to keep on improving my fitness. I’m from up North so it’s a bit smaller up there, but it’s still really good – good coaches.”

 

How different is it from your experience up North?

“There’s definitely a lot more boys up there, especially from my region so I’m a bit isolated from the girls in the academy sense but it’s still good to see what you’re up against and see how you can improve just from watching the boys.”

 

How old were you when you started playing?

“(I started at) AusKick when I was about five or six, and then played Under 9s.”

 

So did you play mostly against boys back then?

“Yes. I played with and against boys until I was 14, then I only played women’s in the last two or three years.”

 

How have you found that change?

“Playing with boys definitely helped improve my skills more. I had to be better to actually get a kick, so I feel like when I moved over to women’s, it was a bit less about your skills and more about how hard you can hit.”

 

Is there a particular area you’re looking to improve on this season?

“Probably my tackling and defensive pressure… I’m not the most solid person so I want to try and get a bit more involved with tackling pressure so I have a presence.”

 

And what do you see as your strengths on the field?

“I don’t reckon my kicking is too bad. But I haven’t really compared it to people down here.”

 

Do you have any goals for 2020?

“Just to get as far as I can with my footy, whether that’s just the academy, the Under 18 team, or whatever happens.”

 

How have you been travel-wise over the journey?

“It definitely is a lot balancing all the footy on top of Year 12, but it’s good because I enjoy it, so it’s not a chore.”

 

Do you have any role models or mentors you look up to at the moment?

“My parents have been pretty good, they’ve always encouraged me so I just want to be as positive as them.”

Q&A: Nyengela Mwajuma (Brisbane Lions 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 Nyengela Mwajuma at the state testing day hosted by Rookie Me.

Q&A:


TM: Nyengela,
how did you get into footy?

NM: “I think I got into footy through my teacher. We had a gala day and no one wanted to do it, but he just encouraged me and my friends to do it.

“(We said) ‘Well okay’, we did it and it was actually really good, we were winning every game. These (recruiters) came to school to talk to us about preseason and training and I guess that’s how I got into it.”

 

How old were you at that point?

“It was primary school, I think I was in Grade 5.”

 

That’s a long time, how have you found the evolution from then to now?

“I keep improving every year which is really good. At the beginning I was like ‘Do I really want to do this?’ but then my friends kept doing it and I thought that I might as well keep doing it.”

 

What is it that you love about footy?

“I guess making friends and travelling as well, because you do get to go to a lot of places. Just the skills that you learn throughout as well, life skills and how to keep healthy.”

 

Is there a particular area you’re hoping to improve on this year?

“Probably my defending. Most times I just get carried away with following the ball and I forget that I have to go back and defend when the ball gets switched.”

 

On the flip side, what are some of your strengths?

“Probably running. I’m really consistent with running, I make an effort to get to the ball every time.”

 

What are your hopes for 2020?

“I haven’t really thought about my hopes for 2020 but probably to make the next level in the Academy.”

 

How are you finding being part of the Brisbane Lions Academy?

“Really good, because this is my first year and I felt really welcomed. I feel like I belong and I’m improving as training goes on.”

 

Is the training a bit more intense that what you’re used to, how have you found it?

“Yes. At local (football) I play for the women’s team because there’s no Under 17 team and there’s a big jump, there’s a different age range so we have to adjust to the women. But here it’s more intense, it’s hard, it’s consistent.”

 

Is there a particular position you like to play on the field?

“I like playing midfield.”

 

Why is that?

“I’ve just always played midfield. When I play other positions I don’t play my best like I do when I play in midfield.”

 

Do you have any AFL Women’s heroes or inspirations?

“No, I don’t really watch AFL. I don’t really watch the game, I just play.”

 

And how has the preseason been overall?

“I feel like I gained a bit of weight over the holidays and preseason’s up there, (it’s) really good.”

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.”