Category: Feature Articles

Thomas well supported during injured season

SUBIACO’S Charlotte Thomas would have no doubt preferred to have run out in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s competition more than once this season, but unfortunately has not been able to get on the park due to a wrist injury. The AFL Women’s Academy member has certainly had the runs on the board in previous years to have her well and truly in the draft mix, but it has still not been the easiest year.

Thomas thanks the rehabilitation staff at Subiaco, as she eyes a proper return to full fitness. Initially there was hope she would make it back in time to represent Western Australia at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, but it was not to be. However, the talented teenager still have an important role.

“I was running water yesterday (against Allies) so that was good to stay involved but really grateful I still got to come and get around the girls and support them,” Thomas said.

Her journey started quite young, involved in backyard kicks with her family, Thomas said it was only natural she followed her brother into Australian rules football as it was a sport that always came natural to her.

“I have an older brother four years older than me,” she said. “He played Auskick and was kicking with dad in the backyard and it just felt normal to just join in with him. “So started playing Auskick when I was pretty young like six-years-old.”

Fast forward from her days at Auskick, and Thomas found herself at Subiaco, where she has played plenty of matches in the WAFL Women’s League side, praising the Lions for their professionalism and experienced teammates who have helped in her development.

“It’s been really good,” Thomas said. “Down at Subi, all the AFLW girls there, really good experience training with them and playing a couple of games with them. “A really good club down.”

Having shown serious potential from a young age, Thomas has been a member of the AFL Women’s Academy, something that the Subiaco youngster has been “really good”.

“(It’s) just a great base of coaches and support network that I can really rely on and get information from,” Thomas said.

With her kicking and skills named amongst her strengths – as well as reading the ball well and having the footy smarts to know the play before it happens – Thomas said she had a key area of improvement in mind in order to continue developing.

“Probably just my overall fitness and strength,” she said. “(I) just want to get a bit stronger around the contest.”

When looking at her inspirations over the journey, Thomas said a trio of AFL Women’s players in Collingwood’s Chloe Molloy, West Coast’s Bella Lewis and Fremantle’s Gabby O’Sullivan were all talents that she looked up to throughout her career due to the way they went about their football. One day. Thomas said she hoped to join them in the AFL Women’s ranks.

“Hopefully get drafted and just play the best that I can throughout my career and have a good, long healthy career hopefully playing AFLW,” she said.

Webster enjoying teamwork and physicality in footy

TASMANIAN Jemma Webster might be from a different sporting code to her now Australian rules football pathway, but it is not one you would expect – gymnastics. The former gymnast spent her childhood in the sport, then opted to transition into the oblong-shaped ball game and follow in the footsteps of her cousin, St Kilda’s Jimmy Webster.

“I was actually a gymnast for nine years then made the decision to go over to junior football at Claremont,” Webster said. “I played two years at junior level and then I made the transition to the state wide at Glenorchy and have played another two years there and now I’m in the state (team).”

Crossing from an individual sport like gymnastics, it was a change to be one small part of a big team, but something that Webster really enjoyed about football, along with the physicality that came packaged with the sport.

“The physicality is one of my main enjoyments of the game, especially coming from a gymnastics background, everything is different within the two sports but the teamwork as well,” Webster said. “Gymnastics is very individual sport so I love the enjoyment you get around the girls.”

Playing in a variety of roles, Webster said she is happy to slot in any of the three lines, but loves to run through the midfield or up forward. It helps with what she considers to be her strengths, which she named as her ground balls and contested work below the knees, as well as her ability to hit targets. As for her improvements, Webster said she was looking to improve her marking and confidence to be able to win more marks across the field.

Webster is one of a number of Tasmania Devils players who have come through the pathway, experienced the beltings on 2020 in the NAB League Girls, and come through the other side better for those losses. When asked what was the difference between the 2020 season and the incredible 2021 season – where they finished on top of the Vic Country/Tasmania pool, Webster said it was now former coach and Gold Coast Suns AFL Women’s senior coach Cameron Joyce.

“Our girls are very connected this season,” she said. “It’s hard because we’re in different states, but ‘Joycey’ really brought the team together and we had those Campbelltown sessions where we got to meet up and the connections I’ve built with the girls through this year have been amazing and something I’ll take along with me for the rest of my career.”

It is no surprise that Webster named her cousin Jimmy as her inspiration, and said he worked hard to reach the elite level, something she hopes to do long-term if it’s possible, but if not, then she just wants to develop into the best possible footballer she can and enjoy the ride that comes with it.

“I always wanted to play at the highest level I can, but just really enjoying the footy while I can,” Webster said.

Mann part of the Peel “family”

PEEL Thunder prospect Bella Mann is a talented multi-sport athlete. A former basketballer and netballer, the 17-year-old has taken to the Australian football code quickly after getting her introduction as a “fill in”.

“I started playing basketball and netball since I was little,” Mann said. “When I moved to Baldivis, my friends had a local footy team and they needed me to fill in, they were just one player short. So I went and filled in and I loved it.

“Especially coming from basketball and netball, I loved getting more aggression into it and stuff like that. “I played at Baldivis for a bit and then got picked up by Peel at the end of it.”

Now part of the Peel Thunder “family, Mann has taken quickly to senior football with aplomb. She has been a mainstay for the finals-bound Thunder, with her form enough to earn selection in Western Australia’s Under 19 squad. Within the two squads, she has been able to thrive in multiple roles and showcase a development of key traits.

“I’ve been thrown around a bit this year,” she said. “I played back, mid, forward. I was a mid at Baldivis but I think I’m starting to go down back a bit more now.

“One of my strengths would be my contested marking and tackling. I’m working on my fitness, that’s probably the major [improvement] for me.”

As the type who can play both tall and small in terms of roles, Mann proved a reliable interceptor across WA’s Under 19 defence. She looks towards an elite midfielder for inspiration though.

“Monique Conti from [Richmond],” she said. “She [played] basketball, she does it all as well. And she’s not just such a good player, she does so much for her club as well… she’s just a good person.”

With a terrific trail to follow, Mann is looking to simply be “the best footballer” she can, with landing at an AFLW club the ultimate goal.

Lishmund one of the Valley’s great hopes

WATCHING her brother play local football at Hope Valley spawned a thought for Alana Lishmund – “I can play that.”

She certainly can play, with the Norwood prospect utilised in a number of roles at SANFL Women’s and state Under 19s level throughout her draft-eligible season. The 17-year-old was part of the Redlegs’ side which won the 2021 minor premiership, enjoying a “smooth transition” into the senior grade over the last few years.

“Everything just flowed in from each other,” Lishmund said during the Under 19 national carnival. “I got to know my teammates and kept going with it, the fun was naturally there. “The expectations climbed, now I’m at Norwood and having a good time.”

Having spoken while Norwood sat atop the SANFLW ladder, Lishmund described the season as “anyone’s game”, and she was certainly correct as Glenelg took out the flag while her Redlegs were eliminated from a tough finals campaign.

The promising utility was made to learn on the job, employed on each line and building nicely throughout her state representative duties to show glimpses of her high potential. Having also donned South Australian colours in 2020, Lishmund says she enjoyed the experience a second time around as she got a taste of each different role.

“It’s been a good experience,” she said. “I’ve done it the last couple years and this one’s definitely a lot of fun, working with these girls as always. The contest is hard which is good.”

“Growing up I’d always be rover or in the centre, but through the years I’ve played here and there so [I’ve been] versatile. “I like the wing, you get to know and grow in the position but I’ll give it a go anywhere.”

That kind of “give it a go” attitude also translates to Lishmund’s on-field effort, as she applies terrific defensive pressure and proves strong it contested marking situations for a player of her 168cm stature. She averaged 1.2 marks and 1.9 tackles per her nine SANFLW games this season, numbers which highlight those strengths.

“I’d say I’m pretty strong in the contest and have pretty good marking ability,” she said. “[I am working on] just keeping up those one-percenters and skills, but maybe some more contested work too.”

Like most talents at her age, Lishmund’s end goal is to get drafted, though she says she will “find something else that [she] can still be involved in with footy” should that not immediately come to fruition. By “working hard for” her teammates and meeting their expectations each time she steps onto the field, Lishmund is certainly putting her best foot forward.

Bishop enjoying GIANTS pathway

WHILST getting drafted is the ultimate goal for Canberra’s Eleanor Bishop, the talented teenager would have no qualms about going through the GIANTS Academy pathway again in 2022 if needed. Bishop, who represents Ainslie in the AFL Canberra, said the structure and atmosphere of the GIANTS had been really enjoyable and had given her plenty of opportunities to showcase her football on the big stage.

“It’s been really easy,” Bishop said. “The whole management of it has just made it so easy, and I understand what I need to do, and I’m really enjoying it. “I’d really love to get drafted, that’s definitely what I’m working for. If not this year, then I’ll go through the GIANTS again next year because I’ve really been enjoying it.”

Bishop’s journey through Australian rules football started a few years ago where she followed a friend to the Gungahlin Jets, before making the switch to Ainslie after 12 months. From there, one thing lead to another and Bishop was able to run out in the orange, white and charcoal and eventually the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships.

“I started in Year 9 at the Gungahlin Jets in Canberra,” Bishop said. “I played there for a year and then I decided to move to Ainslie Football Club which is more of a family thing for me. “I first stated at Jets because my friends were, and I didn’t have any friends at Ainslie and then played against Ainslie and I knew the whole team, so then I just moved the next year.

“Then I didn’t start doing any rep stuff until last year and then from that I kept getting invited to the GIANTS stuff, and I’ve been training with the GIANTS Academy boys which has really developed me as a player and I’m just getting so much better. “Now I’m here and I’m really appreciative of my opportunity.”

Bishop played both the Allies games, recording nine disposals per game, as well as 2.5 inside 50s, 2.0 rebound 50s and 3.5 tackles. Whilst usually an inside midfielder, Bishop’s ability to hit a target and track the ball to win it regularly for her team resulted in her playing an important role in defence.

“I love playing onball, in the middle,” she said. “But in this (AFLW Under 19 Championships) I’ve been thrown in the backline which is very different for me and I’ve adapted pretty well and I haven’t been playing bad.”

Whilst her disposal and accumulation skills are her self-proclaimed strengths, Bishop said she is hoping to improve her endurance, saying she just needs to “run a bit more” in order to increase her fitness. As for inspirations to look up to, the Essendon fan named one of the midfield talents there, as well as a more local inspiration who she hopes to follow in the footsteps of one day.

“In the men’s space I really enjoy watching Zac Merrett because I go for Essendon,” Bishop said. “But in the women’s space Britt Tully because I play with her at my club. She’s captain-coach at Ainslie and I really look up to her because she plays a similar style of game to me.”

Whilst the future might not yet be known, one thing is for sure – Bishop is doing everything she can to improve her game and get on the radar of AFLW clubs.

Fast learning Lakay takes her game to new heights

AMONG the many code-jumping athletes gunning for the height of women’s football is Swan Districts ruck Sarah Lakay, one of Western Australia’s 15 National Combine invitees in 2021. The 186cm prospect has taken to Australian football with aplomb since crossing from basketball, rising from a local club which “lost every game”, to becoming a key part of her state’s Under 19 championships squad.

“My friend invited me to go down and play down at my local footy club,” Lakay recounted. “It was me in the ruck, my friend who was a rover, and my little sister. “It was a small footy club at the time, we lost every game but I loved it, I fell in love with it instantly… from there I’ve only played club level footy up until this year. “This year I decided to try get into the state team and here I am.”

There has been plenty of learning along the way for Lakay, who has adapted on the job against quality opposition. Having cracked the senior WAFLW grade, her first assignment at the Under 19 carnival was to go head-to-head with South Australian ruck, Zoe Prowse, arguably the best pure ruck in this year’s draft pool.

“Playing [South Australia] was awesome,” Lakay said. “It was a good wake-up call for me because obviously the other ruck was really good, so that challenged me and I was like ‘okay, these are some things I need to work on’. She contested with me really well.

“I had to work on my fitness, getting around the ball and I think I definitely improved on that [in the next] game. “I think in terms of ruckwork I need to work on going up and using my knee as well. “Obviously coming from a basketball point of view I’m used to jumping straight up and not really using my knee to get up and propel myself to get up to the ruck taps.”

The hands-on learning curve has not only helped Lakay identify areas of growth, but also what her key strengths are. She humbly put down her “mind-blowing” selection in this year’s state team to a “significant advantage” in height, but Lakay’s athleticism and contested marking ability have her pegged as a versatile tall talent.

“My height and my overhead grabs [are key strengths],” she said. “I can take a few good marks overhead, and I think that my ruck work is actually really good – being able to tap it directly to people and getting over people with my jump and reach to get it down to the rovers.”

With two AFL Women’s teams in her home state, there are plenty of current top level players to look up to. There are arguably few better for a young key position player to idolise than Fremantle’s Mim Strom.

“I’ve been watching the football more recently, especially AFLW football and Mim Strom is a definite standout,” Lakay said. “She’s in the position where she wasn’t first pick, but she’s just worked really hard to be where she is now and she’s doing amazing now, so I look up to her a lot.”

As far as her own journey and goals, the 18-year-old simply wants to become “the best player [she] can be.”

“Let’s see how far that takes me,” she said. “I definitely want to play AFLW and if that is what I accomplish, that’ll be so awesome.”

Versatile Parish thrives on physicality

WHEN asked of the key traits she wanted to present at the AFL Women’s Under 19 National Championships, the answer was pretty straightforward and ominous for Jamie Parish.

“Definitely my physicality,” Parish said. “I love bumping, hitting, shepherding.”

The versatile Woodville-West Torrens talent has enjoyed a swift journey into the South Australian talent pathway, crossing from other codes and being thrust into the SANFL Women’s system.

“I started off as a basketballer and a netballer,” she said. “I ended up having to fill in for a local club, I played one game and they were like ‘why don’t you give SANFL a try?’… so then I basically hopped straight into the SANFL, played a couple of years and ended up playing state.”

Parish described her 2021 state league form as “up and down”, but is enjoying the “learnings” of being tested in a variety of roles. Having cut her teeth as a key defender, the 171cm prospect was also thrust into the middle at the National Championships and can even swing forward or provide a handy ruck fold.

“(My coaches) are playing me in a lot of new positions and not just keeping me down back, so that’s been really good.” she said. “I am a key defender but I have been swapping through the midfield recently. “Hopefully I get a run in the midfield but it really just comes down to game day, because sometimes they’ll chuck me up forward as well, so who knows.”

While the 17-year-old was a mainstay throughout the Eagles’ SANFLW campaign, she was restricted to two of a possible three state representative games. Parish took on Western Australia in game one and was “pretty happy” with her performance, before returning for game three against the Allies down in Victoria, after being isolated due to COVID-19 precautions as her side battled Vic Country.

Parish looks up to the likes of Adelaide women’s captain Chelsea Randall and Western Bulldogs superstar Marcus Bontempelli, who she said are “hard at it and great players (she) always looks up to”. Boasting a similar competitive edge and the ability to play on multiple lines, Parish is also clean by hand in tough situations like her two idols. On the flip side, she says she is “motivated” to keep improving her fitness.

In true impartial fashion, the South Australian supports both Adelaide and Port Adelaide in the men’s AFL competition, while backing “all of them” in the women’s league. With expansion continuing at the top flight, there will be greater opportunities for developing prospects like Parish to crack the elite level and potentially run out alongside those she cheers on.

Outside of football, the current Year 12 student says she is one who “enjoys the sunshine”.

“Other than that, I’m just a casual sleep in until 12 o’clock and think about doing something sort,” she said.

Analysis | The importance of fitness testing in modern football recruiting

THERE has been plenty of debate when talking about potential AFL prospects pertaining to the differences between judging ‘athletes’ against ‘pure footballers’. There is an argument that fitness testing should be taken with a grain of salt and that the eye test is most important, but when it comes to players being drafted – especially in the first round – prospects are often at the pointy end in at least one fitness test.

For anyone still unfamiliar with the main fitness tests conducted during preseason and at the AFL Draft Combine, they are as follows:

  • Agility Test
  • 20m Sprint
  • Standing and Running Vertical Leap
  • Yo-Yo Test
  • 2km Time Trial

Last year’s number one pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan excelled in the 20m sprint and vertical leap tests, with his on-field speed off the mark and jump at the ball highlighting just why he excelled at those tests. The combine, if anything, gives reassurance that those traits are indeed elite and will help try and separate talents like Ugle-Hagan from any other key forwards in that year’s crop. Athleticism is very important in modern football, with players quicker and bigger than what most talented youngsters are used to at the development levels. One club which has seemingly identified this in modern times is the fast-rising Essendon Football Club.

Since 2014, Essendon seems to have had a clear strategy with the types of players they have looked at with their high picks. Below is a list of the Bombers’ top 40 selections since 2014 and which tests those players excelled at. In a lot of cases, they were top 10 in those tests at the end-of-year combine.

2014:

Pick 17 – Jayden Laverde
(Didn’t test but athleticism was a highlight of his game)

Pick 20 – Kyle Langford
Agility

2015:

Pick 5 – Darcy Parish
Average in most tests

Pick 6 – Aaron Francis
(Didn’t test but like Laverde, athleticism was a highlight in games)

Pick 29 – Alex Morgan (Since delisted)
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 30 – Mason Redman
3km time trial

2016:

Pick 1 – Andrew McGrath
Vertical Leap, Agility

Pick 20 – Jordan Ridley
20m Sprint

2017:

Nil

2018:

Pick 38 – Irving Mosquito
Vertical Leap

2019:

Pick 30 – Harrison Jones
Vertical Leap, Yo-Yo, 20m Sprint

Pick 38 – Nick Bryan
Vertical Leap, 20m Sprint

2020:

Pick 8 – Nik Cox
20m Sprint, 2km TT

Pick 9 – Archie Perkins
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

Pick 10 – Zach Reid
Vertical Leap

Pick 39 – Josh Eyre
20m Sprint, Vertical Leap

There is one big outlier here and that’s one of this year’s Brownlow contenders in Darcy Parish, who was only average in test results during his draft year. This could be seen as the biggest clue as to why athletic testing shouldn’t be so important, but it can also be argued that one of the main reasons for Parish’s form is due to improving his running capacity to an elite level.

Even their most recent mid-season selection, Sam Durham tested well for vertical leap and endurance, so its no surprise at least in Essendon’s case that athletic traits are a huge influence in whether the player gets taken. The current favourite for the Rising Star, Nik Cox has taken the competition by storm with his mix of athleticism and height, with that height another factor in the early Essendon selections. It was a matter of time before Cox got his nomination for the Rising Star award and in retrospect, we should have all seen his selection by Essendon coming considering all the traits he possesses are key indicators in the Bombers’ recent draft strategy.

Using this history, we can even try to narrow down the possible field of players that Essendon will look at with its first round pick in 2021. A trio of Sandringham Dragons instantly come to mind with Campbell Chesser, Josh Sinn and Finn Callaghan. All three players tested well for the 20m sprint and vertical leap during preseason, highlighting their power and athleticism. With all measuring at over 185cm, they even fill a midfield need for the Bombers. They have another prospect right under their noses in Josh Goater who made his Essendon VFL debut not long ago and is an athletic beast. His speed and leap tests were all elite and at 190cm, he would be another Essendon style selection.

The modern footballer is taller, faster and can run all day, and it is getting harder and harder for pure footballers to make it at the top level. If young, pure footballers can start to develop athleticism in their game, even if it’s an elite endurance base, that’s at least a start in the right direction.

Height used to be a detractor for clubs but now with the likes of Caleb Daniel, Kysaiah Pickett, Brent Daniels and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, that is no longer the same obstacle for potential draftees as it used to be – though you also need to have that speed and class. If you are small and have the athletic traits and determination to make it as an AFL player, then you will be on the right track. If you are tall and have those traits, your chances of making an AFL list are even higher.

Fitness testing is an important tool, not just for clubs and recruiters, but also for up and coming players – especially those at the very early level. I’m hopeful coaches of junior football are able to set up some of these tests to help young players find their best traits, enhance them and embrace them. Understandably, it takes time, money and effort on their part and not every junior club or parent has that available. Programs such as Rookie Me, the official fitness testing partner of the AFL, allow junior athletes to experience professional environments at an early age, proving another handy head-start for budding footballers.

Image Credit: Graham Denholm/AFL Photos

Bennett enjoying season after “difficult” 2020 season

WHEN your first draft-eligible year rolls around and you are in the State Academy, the AFL Women’s Championships are the pinnacle of state representation. For Claremont’s Emily Bennett, last year – her second in the Academy – was meant to be the year where she tested herself against the best in the country and put her best foot forward.

Instead, like most of the country, travel was restricted, seasons were cut short, and the championships completely abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fast forward 12 months, and Bennett has finally got to represent her state, running out in each of the three games for Western Australia at the championships.

“It (2020) was definitely difficult because it was my second year of state was last year and I was so keen to just smash it out and it was like a year I was hoping for because I could have been drafted last year as well,” Bennett said. “It was pretty tough, because fitness had dropped off because I didn’t have many people to train with so I’m glad it’s happening this year, but it was definitely hard.”

Bennett cited fitness as an ongoing improvement she could make to her game, to be able to “last the full game”, whilst her ability to clunk grabs and run off half-back – be it through or around people – as some of her impressive traits.

“I would say my main strength would be my clean hands, so being sure I’m still able to get some clean marks and under foot I’d say it’s definitely one of my strengths, going through people,” Bennett said.

The talented teenager was like many other sports-mad people growing up, testing herself at a variety of sports before focusing on Aussie rules where she progressed from local football to her WAFL Women’s club.

“I started footy when I was in Year 7 so high school,” Bennett said. “It was just a fun carnival and I was playing netball, basketball and I did a little bit of athletics at the time. “I just thought I’d give it a go, loved it, so I started at my community club and then got invited to go to West Perth, one of the WAFL clubs and have been recently playing for Claremont for League.”

Bennett said while the step up to League might have been daunting, the fact she had entered the State Academy prior to playing a game made the transition all the more easier for her to adapt and feel like she belonged at the level before stepping on-field.

“I was quite a fresh player only having four years behind me,” she said. “It was pretty nerve wracking, but getting in the State Academy before League, I felt really ready and it was such a great experience.”

Being able to not only train with the State Academy, but to travel to South Australia and Victoria with them to finally get a taste of the national carnival, Bennett said she enjoyed every minute of it, and was as much about having fun with like-minded people as it was about developing to be the best possible player.

“I would say all the time it’s such a fun place, people to play with, being able to play with people you can trust because they’re just all so elite and they’re all such nice girls,” she said. “It’s definitely what I look forward to and come back each year and do the same.”

As for her inspirations, Bennett said she had to thank her parents for enabling her to achieve what she had so far, and if she can make it to the top level, it would be as pleasing to somewhat repay the faith as it would be exciting for Bennett herself.

“Mum and dad, I would just love to show them what I got,” she said. “I want to prove to them, they’ve always been there for me in any sport I’ve ever done. “They’re definitely people who inspire me.”

As for her goals in football, naturally AFL Women’s is the ultimate goal for the tough defender, but if her career remains at WAFL Women’s level, then Bennett will still have the one goal within her control – becoming the best footballer she can.

Team-oriented Prenzler “honoured” to lead state

WHEN Sturt teenager Hannah Prenzler was told she would be leading South Australia out against Western Australia at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, the natural leader said she was equally shocked as she was honoured to be handed the co-captaincy alongside SANFL Women’s teammate, Georgia Swan.

Totally shocked when I got announced captain, but I feel very honoured from both the coaching staff and the girls voting me in,” Prenzler said. “I love to show leadership, but I believe everyone’s a leader in the team and everyone could have done the role so well, but it’s pretty awesome to be able to captain the state, and as a standalone for the first time which is pretty cool.”

Prenzler’s journey to captaining her state started off as a young aspiring footballer who had some roadblocks along the way in continuing the pathway, but when she was able to join her beloved Double Blues, the leadership group member quickly switched her focus to the oblong ball game.

“I started off playing Auskick when I was pretty young,” Prenzler said. “There wasn’t really a massive pathway for girls football (and) I really enjoyed my basketball, so basketball all growing up as a kid. “Then about four or five years ago played a bit of school footy and then trialled for Sturt Under 17s and being at Sturt ever since.”

When asked how she had found the two teams seasons with Sturt in the SANFL Women’s, and South Australia in the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, it was no surprise that Prenzler took a team-orientated approach.

“For the SANFLW as a team, Sturt’s not doing as we would have liked to, but it’s good to get back after a year of mixup last year, so obviously as a team we’d love to do better,” Prenzler said midway through the championships. “For the State Team, I think we had a great first game up against WA which was really good, tougher game against Vic but I think it was expected, they’re definitely the team to look out for and I reckon the best, but still great fun, I really enjoyed it.”

As for her own personal performances, Prenzler said she had an up-and-down season with some good individual games, and some quieter ones. She was hoping to improve her run and carry to do it more consistently, whilst also building her endurance to add extra kilometres “under (her) belt”. Considering her kick as one of her strengths, Prenzler enjoyed playing in defence for both levels of football, but admitted she had to step up at the championships as an undersized key defender.

Definitely in the defensive six for both teams,” Prenzler said. “Sometimes in this state team either a full-back or centre half-back switching as a bit more of a taller player which is more of a shock because I don’t consider myself that tall but I guess in this program, but anywhere in the backline is where I sit.”

As a South Australian, Prenzler follows the Adelaide Crows in the AFL Women’s and said there were a number of talents on field that she admires, and has also been lucky enough to play against some of them in the SANFL Women’s at times.

“As a similar position wise, I reckon Sarah Allan (is a player Prenzler looks up to),” she said. “Great defender, composed with it, has a really good kick.” Able to run through to the backline to deliver up and then I guess girls like Chelsea Randall and Ebony Marinoff for their gutsy work.”

In terms of off-field inspirations, Prenzler could not go past the “popular” choice of parents, with the support network allowing her to follow her dreams. In particular, the Sturt talent said her father had helped with the football side of things, aiding her growth and development alongside the variety of coaches she has had coming through the pathway. As for her future ambitions outside of chasing her ultimate goal of getting the most out of football, Prenzler said she was happy with juggling university and sport.

“I finished Year 12 last year and first year uni, I’m doing nursing, so I’m enjoying that,” she said. “Thought I wanted to do something completely footy related but want to save that as a hobby, so something in the health medical field. “I’d love to travel a bit, but obviously with the restrictions, I’m focusing on uni and footy.”