Category: SANFL Women’s

SANFL Women’s League

Versatile Clifton converts on each line

THERE’S hardly a position Lauren Clifton hasn’t played over the years. The South Australian prospect transitioned from her usual wing role to be utilised down back, and even at full forward between her SANFLW and Under 19 National Championships campaigns.

While she was “quiet” in the early stages of the season, by her own humble estimation, Clifton rode each challenge and enjoyed being able to link up with her Panthers teammates at state level.

“Last year I played a bit more of an on-ball role, on the wing. They’ve moved me around a little bit to the backline this year and still on the wing,” Clifton said. “I’ve been moved into full forward for a couple of games, then against the Allies I played full back.

“(South Adelaide teammates) are probably my closest friends outside of school and footy as well, so it’s good to be away with them.”

At 171cm, the 17-year-old fits the mould of a hybrid type. Clifton’s versatility and outside run are strengths, but she is working on bringing more “aggression” and grunt to her game in contested situations.

“I’m not a very aggressive person, I’m a lover not a fighter,” she said. “I just try and be skilful on the ground or up high… (I’m improving) my aggression, to be more aggressive and work on my tackling because I’m not the strongest build.”

The Willunga junior came through the elite talent pathway in development squads and Port Adelaide’s Next Generation Academy, where she played against Adelaide’s Academy. Current AFLW star Chelsea Randall was among the Crows’ coaching set-up, and is a role model for many of SA’s budding draft prospects.

For Clifton, a Crows supporter, Randall’s versatility and courage are key traits she aspires to implement in her own game. There is plenty of time to work on just that, though the Year 12 student is also juggling her studies and work during the week.

While working towards Randall’s standard, Clifton also has some valuable mentors in her corner. She cited her parents as a “huge support”, as well as the South Adelaide coaches, including Ryan Skouborg who has been alongside her from back in the development squad days.

Draft day (July 27) will have proven a longer wait for Clifton than many others, considering she did not return to the SANFLW fold after Round 8. She is was of many South Australians vying for higher honours, in a talent-stacked pool.

Tenacious Tonon shows “massive” development

SO impressive was Brooke Tonon‘s form in 2021, she earned a call-up to the illustrious AFLW Academy. She was fresh off an impressive Under 19 National Championships campaign with South Australia, and en route to SANFLW premiership honours with Glenelg – showcasing a rapid rate of development across both competitions.

The SANFLW team of the year half-back proved more than capable at senior level, flicking a switch once past the white line with a blend of aggression and skill. After debuting last year, Tonon says she has “learned so much” in a variety of roles.

“My game has developed massively since I started playing,” Tonon said. “I’ve learned all positions. I started off forward, played on the wing, and now in defence so it’s been really good.

“I’m really loving half-back right now. I don’t mind the wing and I love playing forward, obviously kicking goals, but it’s a really hard position to play and I feel more naturally suited to the backline.”

The 17-year-old has truly found a home at half-back, a position which suits her strengths, but also allows her to properly assess key areas of improvement.

“I feel like I have the ability to read the play really well,” she said. “I can position myself in spots where I can impact the game and with my execution by foot, I can see where to kick to and hit targets.

“I need to learn when to not attack as much and kind of stay back, or settle myself and be more composed rather than rushing and playing on. It’s just switching between attack and defence as I’m playing half-back.”

Tonon’s game has grown throughout the junior talent pathways too, having been mentored by the likes of AFLW star Chelsea Randall in the Crows Academy, and eventually ending up among South Australia’s Under 19 squad. Having travelled over to Melbourne for the second National Championships leg, Tonon lauded the experience as “awesome”.

“Coming (to Melbourne) and playing against so many more talented girls, the competition’s amazing,” she said. “Then learning off everyone (in the SA team), I’ve never met a more talented group of girls ever. They’re amazing.”

Amazing is right, and competition for spots at the next level will be tough in 2021 for the South Australian crop as Adelaide is the state’s sole AFLW side. Tonon hopes to be one of a predicted four talents drafted in that bunch, but says she will remain optimistic if things pan out differently.

“I really hope to get drafted, but if that doesn’t happen I’d love to keep playing really good SANFLW footy and hopefully make my way up through there,” she said.

The 2021 AFLW National Draft is set to be held on Tuesday, July 27.

Breguet takes “learning opportunity” with both hands

BY her own account, Lauren Breguet‘s footballing journey is “a bit of a long story”, and the explosive Central District forward has come quite some way in a short period of time. The 18-year-old hopped codes and borders to get to where she is now, thriving at SANFL Women’s level and in the South Australian State Under 19s Academy.

“I originally started basketball in Mildura, then my mum was like ‘it’d be a great idea for you to play football’,” Breguet said. “I started doing the Bendigo Pioneers programs over there before we moved for family reasons. Then I made it to Centrals and now I’m in the state squad, so it’s pretty exciting.”

Breguet says she’s “loving” being part of Centrals’ senior side, with which she played seven games in 2021 through injury and representative interruptions. Above all else, it has proven a valuable “learning opportunity” both on and off the field – from learning new positions, to gaining life lessons.

“It’s been a great experience,” she said. “I’ve learned so much from all these different coaches. It’s just such a great learning opportunity that I can take on and hopefully better my football, and even life lessons. “I’m still learning the game. I’m starting to learn more positions which I find really useful. I’m still (improving) the defence side of it, and I’m almost finished learning forward which is great.”

Image credit: On the Ball Media

While still honing her defensive game in a positional sense, Breguet is “never shy of putting [her] body on the line”. With terrific speed both in possession and while chasing, she boasts some eye-catching traits in the forward half.

They show in her season averages too; managing 10 disposals and three tackles per each SANFLW outing, while lifting to 10.7 disposals and five tackles across three AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships games. All that, while most importantly hitting the scoreboard in both competitions.

It was little surprise, then, to hear just which current AFLW stars the youngster looks towards for inspiration.

“I look up to Darcy Vescio, I find her a great forward, and Monique Conti,” she said. “They’re both really great at what they do and that’s what I aspire to be like.”

With the season run and done, Breguet recently took part in South Australia’s AFLW Draft Combine, an event where selection indicates promising interest at the next level. The Centrals forward is taking nothing for granted though, simply aiming to “improve” and go “as far as [she] can” with her football.

“Even if I don’t make AFLW, it’s still a great opportunity… to meet some new people and love the game even more,” she said.

Breguet, along with hundreds of prospects from around the nation will hope to have her name called out at the fast-approaching AFLW Draft, on July 27.

Draft Central announces release of first ever AFLW Draft Guide

IN an AFL Women’s Draft first, Draft Central is excited to announce its inaugural AFL Women’s Draft Guide set to be released next week.

After three successful editions of Draft Central‘s AFL Draft Guide over the past few years, the team has expanded to include an 80-page guide focused purely on the AFL Women’s Draft. The guide features profiles of every AFLW Draft Combine invite, as well as plenty of others who are in contention, ahead of the draft on Tuesday, July 27.

Draft Central‘s AFLW Draft Guide features player vitals, profile, key stats and links to further information on each of the key draft prospects in what is a must-have guide for any AFL Women’s Draft enthusiast.

The 2021 AFL Women’s Draft Guide features:

  • 54 full page profiles
  • More than 100 total AFLW Draft profiles of players yet to be on an AFLW list
  • Profiles include key numbers, fun facts and detailed profiles to get to know the potential draftees

The next batch of AFL Women’s stars will make their way to the elite level in the next fortnight, and having followed them along their journey over the years, Draft Central is releasing the FREE and downloadable draft guide.

Like the AFL Draft Guide, the AFLW Draft Guide will require just an email to download the guide, with the option of becoming a free subscriber for monthly updates.Those already subscribed to Draft Central and receive the AFL Draft Guide will automatically receive the AFLW Draft Guide.

Stay tuned to Draft Central for the official release date early next week, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our YouTube channel for more content.

Competitive Venning used to putting in the “extra effort”

WINNING your club’s best and fairest award over the league and state Under 19s MVP is no mean feat, but it’s exactly what West Adelaide midfielder Zoe Venning pulled off in 2021. The tenacious ball winner was part of a strong Westies side which surged to this year’s SANFL Women’s grand final, averaging 16.5 disposals, 4.7 tackles, and 2.1 clearances across 12 games.

Having previously played netball at a high level, the 17-year-old says she knew exactly what it would take to be able to put in the “extra effort” required to make such strides at senior level.

“I was quite high up with my netball so I was used to putting the extra effort in off the field,” Venning said. “I always did my running… I know what it takes to put in hard work so that wasn’t something I was inexperienced with, it was more the age gap because I had always played with girls my age.

“Moving to SANFLW and playing with older girls matured my level of training, being a bit more mature was the biggest challenge.”

Venning credited her footballing journey to her dad, who encouraged her to “give it a go” having already excelled in netball and basketball. After starting out with the Mitcham Hawks, she fell in love with the game and soon found team success closer to home.

“I got to where I am now through my dad,” she said. “I first played at Mitcham Hawks when I was 13 and I didn’t want to play at all but dad said ‘come on Zoe, give it a go’ and I really liked it. My first game I got a lot of it, kicking off my shin but I just loved it.

“My dad wanted to make a girl’s program where I live, so he started up the Blackwood Football Club girl’s program and I’ve played there ever since and every year we’ve won the premiership. It’s just been such a good culture, all my best friends play there so that’s really how I started footy.”

Having started out scrubbing the ball off her shin, Venning has since added some polish to her game but remains a tough sort of ball winner who thrives at the contest. When outlining her strengths, the versatile talent was quick to list “contested ball wins” atop the tree.

“I really back myself,” she said. “I don’t really get intimidated by who I’m (against). I control if I’m going to get the ball or not, I’m not an outside receiver.

“I also think my marking’s quite strong. As a midfielder I can take a strong mark and be a link-up player, even on the kick-outs.”

Zoe Venning on the move for West Adelaide | Image Credit: On The Ball Media

Venning’s strengths made her a lock for SANFLW Team of the Year honours, and she brought the same kind of vigour to her state representative duties. With averages of 23 disposals, seven tackles, and four clearances per her three National Championship games, she also earned Under 19 All Australian status.

Speaking amid April’s Victorian leg of the carnival, she had both individual and team goals in mind.

“It’s been a really good achievement and I’m really excited just to show people what I’ve got,” she said. “I’m looking at it as an opportunity for me and the team to really utilise the talent we have in SA because it’s our standalone year.

“I’m just looking forward to showing my teamwork with others and it’s not just me, I want everyone to do well. But I still want to show that I am a strong player and I’m here to get drafted.”

While finding her way onto an AFLW list is the end goal, Venning is also seeking to succeed in her current Year 12 studies and knows missing out may not be the “be all and end all”. She also has a strong source of inspiration to look up to at the next level.

“An inspiration is Rachelle Martin, who was in my Westies team,” she said. “She inspires me because she worked so hard to get where she is now, playing for the Crows. “She’s a really hard worker, really nice, always caring to her teammates and that’s mainly what inspires me to keep going. I see her work ethic and I want to be like that.”

Come July 27 at the 2021 AFLW Draft, Venning has the chance to join Martin at Adelaide.

2021 Under 19 AFLW All-Australian team announced

THE NAB AFL Women’s Under 19 Championship All-Australian Team has just been announced with a number of talented players making the cut after exceptional performances throughout the Championships.

There is a strong mix of talent from across the country but it is Victoria once again that holds the monopoly with a combined 11 players named in the team. There are six players hailing from Vic Country and five from Vic Metro, a testament to the strength of the Victorian developmental pathways despite a wealth of players missing last year due to the COVID-19 enforced lockdown.

Western Australia is also well represented with three player named, with youngster Ella Roberts leading the pack and well and truly making a name for herself despite only being the ripe age of 16-years-old. She also took out the 2021 NAB Player of the Championships Medal given her star power and impressive performance against Vic Metro where she suffered leather poisoning racking up 31 touches, six inside 50s and two goals. South Australia and the Allies also have three representatives apiece while Queensland managed the two.

It is no surprise to see the likes of Georgie Prespakis, Charlie Rowbottom, Maggie Harmer, Teagan Levi, Jess Doyle, Courtney Rowley, Zoe Prowse, Tahlia Gillard and Tara Slender named in the side given they are all 2020-21 AFLW Academy members. All nine players showcased their wares throughout the tournament, putting their best foot forward and doing no harm to their AFLW Draft potential in the process.

Chloe Leonard is the only top-ager named in the 18-player squad while there are a number of bottom-agers with the likes of Roberts, Lauren Young, Cynthia Hamilton and Paige Scott who made their way into the team, despite not being eligible for the draft this year. Although on the younger side, Hamilton took home the MVP award for the Allies highlighting the bright future the youngster has and her sheer dominance throughout the Championships.

AA Team:

B: Chloe Leonard – Isadora McLeay – Jaide Anthony
HB: Maggie Harmer – Lauren Young – Annie Lee
C: Aurora Smith – Teagan Levi – Courtney Rowley
HF: Jess Doyle – Ella Roberts – Stella Reid
F: Paige Scott – Cynthia Hamilton – Georgia Campbell
R: Zoe Prowse – Charlie Rowbottom – Georgie Prespakis
INT: Makaela Tuhakaraina – Tahlia Gillard – Tara Slender – Zoe Venning

“Go-getter” Swan brings leadership to the fore

STARTING her football career as a seven-year-old for the Bridgewater Raiders in the Adelaide Hills, Georgia Swan is still travelling on her “really fun and long journey,” a decade later.

The now 17-year-old Swan, known by her teammates as “Swanee”, is a part of the South Australian Academy.

Swan has recently completed her third season playing for Sturt in the SANFLW, where she averaged 9.1 disposals, 2.1 marks, 2 tackles, and 1.6 inside 50s. Swan credited her hard work in the off-season for her performances during the season.

“I think I had a really good pre-season this year. I worked on my fitness coming off last season and I think I’ve become a lot fitter which has really improved my game,” she said.

Despite the team only managing three wins and a draw from 11 games this season, Swan was not too disappointed about the year.

“It’s been pretty tough actually. [Sturt] haven’t had too many wins but it’s been really fun, we’re improving a lot since last year so that’s the main thing.”

At state level, Swan knows she must be on top of her game not only with the way she plays, but also to fulfil her role as a leader.

“I think I’ve got a bigger leadership role on-field in our state team as co-captain and one of our bigger players in the forward line, helping out with voice and instructions,” she said.

Playing predominantly up forward, she averaged 10 disposals, 2.7 marks, 2 tackles, and 2.3 inside 50s during the three NAB U19s Championship games showcasing just how much of a classy player she is.

Swan loves to get around the ground and attack as many contests as she can, a trait she believes she can offer at the top level.

“I like to think I’ve got a very go-getter attitude on the field. I want to get into contests, get into packs and keep going with two, three efforts. With the right coaches and teammates, I hope that could really compliment [an AFLW team] and I can keep improving from there.”

Swan remains determined to make it to the AFLW and is always wanting to get better.

“I want to work on my aggression, keep smashing through the packs and winning ground balls.”

She has relished the opportunity to be coached by Chelsea Randall, someone she says is a “very inspiring and amazing woman to look up to”, and Swan dreams of one day becoming just like her.

Away from footy, Swan is studying Year 12 and she also works in a restaurant, but for her “footy’s a big priority”.

2021 Draft Central AFLW Draft Top/Mature Age Team to Watch

BE it 19-year-old talents who for one reason or another missed out last year, or mature-age players who have put together breakout seasons, there are plenty of player vying for a spot on an AFL Women’s list. The AFL Women’s Draft occurs on July 27, and plenty of players from almost 19 to 29-year-olds, we have put together a team of players who are in contention for this year’s draft. We have also named a number of others who are also in contention beyond the 24-player limit. The team features only 2002-born or prior players.

BACKS:
Emily Bennett (Claremont/WA)Matilda Dyke (Claremont/WA)Teagan Germech (Belconnen/NSW-ACT)

The deepest three features a Claremont duo who have put together a couple of good seasons, with Emily Bennett providing some one-on-ones and ability to hit targets further afield, and Matilda Dyke being a lockdown player who can move around the ground and not only intercept but provide some drive as proven at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. Teagan Germech is a tall who not only can run off half-back, but provide an intercepting option and one who could roll into the ruck as well as she does at the Magpies.

HALF-BACKS:
Maeve Chaplin (Northern Knights/Victoria)Maddy Hendrie (UNSW/NSW-ACT)Brooke Hards (Western Bulldogs/Victoria)

Chaplin is capable of playing inside or off half-back, providing good versatility as one of the more consistent ball-winners in the NAB League this season. As a year older, Northern Knights’ Maeve Chaplin showed her experience throughout the season, having opted to head back to the junior age comp then progress into the VFL Women’s. Going straight there was Western Bulldogs’ Brooke Hards who went from being that predominant inside midfielder to a bit of everywhere, but has settled on half-back as someone who can provide great run and carry and uses it well going forward. The other tall rounding out the back six is NSW-ACT’s Maddy Hendrie, a versatile utility for Sydney Swans Academy.

CENTRES:
Tahlita Buethke (South Adelaide/South Australia)Amanda Ling (Oakleigh Chargers/Victoria)Chloe Leonard (GWV Rebels/Victoria)

Through the middle there is a mix of speed, hardness and versatility with a trio of 19th-year prospects running around. On one wing is South Adelaide’s Tahlita Buethke who has one of the best athletic profiles going around with her blistering speed and strong endurance. On the other wing is the versatile Chloe Leonard who could play off half-back, inside or outside, and had an ultra-consistent season for the GWV Rebels in NAB League Girls before representing Geelong in the VFLW. In the centre is Oakleigh Chargers’ best on ground in the grand final, Amanda Ling who has a nice balance of inside and outside traits, as well as consistency.

HALF-FORWARDS:
Elizabeth Snell (Bendigo Pioneers/Victoria)Imogen Milford (Casey Demons/Victoria)Sarah Skinner (North Melbourne/Tasmania)

Three players who have run around at VFL Women’s level – and two as permanent fixtures this season – start off the forward line. The youngest is top-age talent Elizabeth Snell who has represented Essendon as well as Bendigo Pioneers and Vic Country, playing as a midfielder who can go forward and provide great pressure as well as creativity inside 50. North Melbourne’s Sarah Skinner is one of the top mature-age prospects going around, hailing from Tasmania and stepping up in the VFLW to go from a reliable goalkicker to a dominant midfielder. Imogen Milford finished second in the VFLW goalkicking and is still young and developing as a 190cm key position talent.

FORWARDS:
Abbie Ballard (West Adelaide/South Australia)Imogen Barnett (Collingwood/Victoria) Sophie Locke (Port Melbourne/Victoria)

A real mix of sizes and versatilities rounds out the forward line, with VFL Women’s leading goalkicker Imogen Barnett hardly putting a foot wrong, and putting her hand up as a key position mature-age option. She is flanked by another VFLW player in Sophie Locke, with the ex-Murray Bushrangers talent and now Port Melbourne goalkicker leading the goalkicking at the midway point of the season prior to injury. She can also play in defence as she did for Vic Country a couple of years ago, whilst Abbie Ballard is a pocket rocket with a potent left foot who can play midfield or up forward and provide some high-level pressure, as well as scoreboard impact when running around at SANFLW level for the Bloods.

RUCKS:
Leah Cutting (Norwood/South Australia)Meagan Kiely (North Melbourne/Victoria)Dana East (Swan Districts/Western Australia)

The two oldest players in this team are onball, with 29-year-old Leah Cutting the most readymade of any AFLW Draft Combine invite to slot straight into a ruck spot. She was the clear choice for the role in this team, as was North Melbourne’s Meagan Kiely for the ruck rover spot. Kiely was the most dominant ball-winner in the VFLW, and played consistently well each and every week to be amongst the best player in the competition, with the Tasmanian having relocated to Victoria. She is joined in the side by Swan Districts’ Dana East, whose transformation onball at WAFLW level this season has been sensational and really put her hand up for the AFLW Draft.

INTERCHANGE:
Nyra Anderson (Swan Districts/Western Australia)Ashanti Bush (Hawthorn/Northern Territory)Tessa Doumanis (Claremont/Western Australia)Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges/Victoria) … Brodee Mowbray (Southern Power/NSW-ACT)Christine Okesene (Yeronga/Queensland)

The interchange is always the hardest place to pick as it rounds out the side with plenty more still capable of fitting in. Alphabetically-listed on the bench, there are a couple of West Australians in Nyra Anderson and Tessa Doumanis – both of whom do their best work forward, whilst Ashanti Bush is a classy AFLW Academy member inside 50. Brodee Mowbray is a tackling machine through midfield, with Olivia Meagher expanding her game to play outside this year to go with her inside talents, and Christine Okesene able to play off half-back or through the midfield.

OTHERS:

A few other names who were in contention for a spot include Queensland duo Madison Goodwin and Steph O’Brien, and Northern Territory’s Bella Clarke who all received AFLW Draft Combine invites. In Tasmania, Ella Maurer put together a consistent season, with Matilda Zander and Alana Barba the next two VFLW players to keep an eye on. Over in Western Australia, Jess Low is one known for winning the ball and having an impact, whilst Jade Halfpenny has developed into a versatile tall in the SANFLW for Norwood.

DRAFT CENTRAL’S 2021 TOP/MATURE AGE TEAM TO WATCH:

B: Emily Bennett (CL/WA) – Matilda Dyke (CL/WA) – Teagan Germech (Belconnen/NSW-ACT)
HB: Maeve Chaplin (NK/VIC) – Maddy Hendrie (UNSW/NSW-ACT) – Brooke Hards (WB/VIC)
C: Tahlita Buethke (SA/SA) – Amanda Ling (OC/VM) – Chloe Leonard (GWV/VC)
HF: Elizabeth Snell (BP/VIC) – Imogen Milford (CD/VIC) – Sarah Skinner (NM/TAS)
F: Abbie Ballard (WA/SA) – Imogen Barnett (CM/VIC) – Sophie Locke (PM/VIC)
R: Leah Cutting (NW/SA) – Meagan Kiely (NM/VIC) – Dana East (SD/WA)
INT: Nyra Anderson (SD/WA) – Ashanti Bush (HAW/NT) – Tessa Doumanis (CL/WA) – Olivia Meagher (CM/VIC) – Brodee Mowbray (Southern Power/NSW-ACT) – Christine Okesene (Yeronga/QLD)

Fierce Dolan chooses footballing “family”

A FIERCE competitor who tackles hard, brings her pressure game to each line, and doesn’t mind a scrap. On face value, you’d think Charlotte Dolan hails from a much different sporting background than her soccer and surf lifesaving past. The helmet-donning Woodville-West Torrens prospect is unmistakable on-field, though.

Dolan completed just her second SANFL Women’s campaign in 2021 after a promising debut season last year, with her choice to pursue Australian football paying off in the form of repeat state representative honours. It has proven quite a journey for the 18-year-old.

“I started playing football five to six years ago and it’s been non-stop since then,” Dolan said. “From SMOSH West Lakes, [to] Henley Football Club, to the Eagles, and now I’m here.

“I stopped playing soccer about four years ago… the honest truth is I had a soccer coach who said I had to choose. “I was doing surf lifesaving, soccer and football and it was all too much so my soccer coach told me to choose, and I chose football.

“I felt more of a family was around the football community and I was enjoying it a lot more, enjoyment comes before anything else.”

Dolan ponders her next move during this year’s AFLW U19 championships

In a season which Dolan modestly rated as “not too bad”, she averaged over seven disposals and four tackles across her nine SANFLW outings. The top-ager boosted those numbers come National Championships time, making it eight disposals to go with 2.3 marks and 2.7 inside 50s.

Having been utilised on both sides of midfield, up forward and down back, it is fair to say that Dolan’s punishing pressure game easily translates to all of the above. She says that kind of “versatility” is one of her strengths.

“I’d say I’m quite a fierce and aggressive player,” she said. “I like to lay the game-changing tackles and I believe I’m an alright kick, a long kick as well so I think they’re mostly my strengths.

“My marking has always let me down a fair bit but I have improved a lot from where I was – from playing soccer and being scared of having a ball in the face to where I am now, I think I’m doing alright.”

Outside of football, Dolan says there isn’t “a whole lot” going on. Shortly after her South Australian representative stint, she looked forward to the Australian surf lifesaving titles, but also fills her time working at AFL Max which is “a bit of fun”.

2021 AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Small Midfielders/Forwards/Defenders

AFTER announcing the inaugural AFLW Draft Power Rankings Victorian Pool, Draft Central is starting a new series – Positional Analysis. It takes a look across the nation and those players within a certain position, and the impact they have. Next up are those players at or below 160cm be it through the midfield, forward or in defence. All opinions are of the individual author.

>> AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Rucks

>> AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Tall/Medium Forwards

>> AFLW Draft Positional Analysis: Tall/Medium Defenders

#1 Emelia Yassir (Calder Cannons/Vic Metro)
25/09/2003 | 160cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Contested work, aggression, disposal, high impact

Bursting onto the scene as a 15-year-old during Calder Cannons’ run to the 2019 NAB League Girls Grand Final, Yassir played 11 games in her debut season to hold her own against much older opponents. In her top-age year, Yassir lifted her numbers to 16.7 disposals, 3.9 tackles and 3.1 inside 50s to be a crucial player in the Cannons’ forward half of the ground. Her contested work and aggression around the football makes her a player that would do anything to win the football and shows a high level of football nous, along with high impact in the games. She will generally use it well going forward, and whilst she might only be the 160cm, could settle as a midfielder or defensive forward with her traits and skillset.

#2 Poppy Schaap (Geelong Falcons/Vic Country)
28/07/2003 | 153cm
Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Clean hands, goal sense, composure, accumulation

A really impressive small midfielder, Schaap might be the smallest one going around at 153cm, but she packs a punch and has some unbelievable traits. Her best trait is her clean hands, rarely making a fumble at ground level and able to dish off to teammates in order to create goal-scoring opportunities. As a forward, Schaap slotted eight goals in nine games, often finding space where few could to snap around her body in big moments. She also slotted three goals in her three Vic Country games at the AFLW Under 19 Championships, and laid plenty pf tackles along the way. Her defensive pressure is right up there with her other key strengths, though it is hard to look past her ball-winning skills, composure and goal sense, and is a perfect pressure forward who can push up into the midfield.

#3 Abbie Ballard (West Adelaide/South Australia)
16/04/2002 | 160cm
Midfielder/Forward

Key strengths: Kicking, tackling, footy smarts, contested work

Only turning 19 earlier this year, Ballard captained West Adelaide into the 2021 SANFL Women’s Grand Final, stepping up to the plate after injury struck regular captain Bec Owen in the preliminary final. The teenager has experience beyond her years, having previously played at the national championships, and would have represented South Australia again in 2021 had it not been for injury. She has a potent left foot that is her major weapon around the ground, often going in hard and using it to go forward and hit targets. She has great footy smarts and can win the ball inside or out, but is lauded for her composure with ball-in-hand and able to pinpoint passes going inside 50. As a smaller player, Ballard is often able to win free kicks for being first to the ball and would apply great pressure at the next level.

#4 Olivia Meagher (Eastern Ranges/Collingwood VFLW)
21/12/2002 | 157cm
Balanced Midfielder

Key strengths: Contested work, balance, strength, accumulation

Another player who went back to her NAB League Girls club Eastern Ranges after missing out on being drafted despite a Draft Combine invite, Meagher spent three games with the Ranges before making the transition into Collingwood’s VFLW team. There she improved her versatility to play inside and outside after being a dominant contested ball-winner for the Ranges in 2020. She is damaging forward of centre, and despite not having high mark numbers, she is strong overhead for her sub-160cm size. She is someone who could play in transition between midfield and forward, and is a fierce player with a great attitude and would be one the Magpies – or another team – could consider calling up to their AFLW list.

#5 Matilda Zander (Collingwood VFLW)
03/04/1998 | 160cm
Midfielder/Forward

Key strengths: Accumulation, speed, competitiveness, goal sense

The tenacious small midfielder/forward finally made the cross-border trek to join the Magpies from Norwood after intending to do so in 2020. Her former coach Steve Symonds heads up the senior AFLW side, so Zander will be one that even when in South Australia caught the eye as a hard worker and one who can impact in the midfield or forward. She knows how to get into ball-winning positions, is highly competitive with good speed and evasion, and a great goal sense she can use to hit the scoreboard regularly. Not afraid to take down opponents bigger than her, Zander just has a crack, and she has those extra traits that make her capable of stepping up to the next level. Despite not having a AFLW Draft Combine invite expect her to be another player in contention.

#5 Tahlia Meier (GWV Rebels/Western Bulldogs VFLW)
19/10/2003 | 151cm
Forward/Midfielder

Key strengths: Speed, defensive pressure, versatility, contested work

The smallest player on this list and with an AFLW Draft Combine invite, Meier has come on in leaps and bounds this year. She has not only been able to hit the scoreboard as a forward, but progressed into the midfield where she finished the NAB League Girls season averaging 14.6 disposals, 2.6 marks and 3.0 tackles, as well as booting four goals in seven games. Stepping up to represent Vic Country, Meier did not look out of place back inside 50 and pushing up the ground, kicking three goals in her two outings. She has strong defensive pressure and good speed to evade opponents, with her contested work and versatility – being able to play both forward and midfield – a key to her success in 2021 and earning herself an AFLW Draft Combine invite.

#6 Melisha Hardy (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
24/04/2003 | 158cm
Defender

Key strengths: Competitiveness, one-on-ones, overhead marking, kicking

For a sub-160cm player, Hardy is strong overhead, and good in one-on-one situations against much taller opponents. There might not be much of her, but Hardy packs a punch with her competitive nature and impressive ability to never give in. She uses the ball well when having time and space, and whilst she is not a huge accumulator, she has a strong pair of hands and is able to intercept the ball both in the air, and at ground level. She is a reliable player to utilise, and she can even go forward and hit the scoreboard as she did at the AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships. Showing an ability to play around the ground, Hardy is superb at locking down on an opponent and refusing to be beaten.

#7 Nyra Anderson (Swan Districts/Western Australia)
24/11/2001 | 160cm
Utility

Key strengths: Evasion, goal sense, scoreboard impact, footy smarts

The oldest player at the 2021 AFL Women’s Under 19 Championships, Anderson played as a top-ager a couple of years ago, and is now two years removed from her first draft-eligible season. That being said, Anderson continues to remain a name to watch, having been a train-on player at West Coast, and continuing to standout in the WAFLW. She is so crafty inside forward 50, with her ability to create her own space and punish opponents for turnovers, be it through a mark and set shot, or on the run. She has high-level football smarts and just knows where to go, having provided great leadership at the championships, and also been able to play back or through the midfield, such is her versatility.